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Excerpts follow, emphases mine:
First chapter: genealogy. That attested to the legal qualifications of the Messiah. Second chapter: birth, and all of the fulfillment of prophecy attested to the prophetic qualifications of the Messiah. And then you come to His baptism: attested to the divine approval of His messiahship. Then you come to the temptation: attested to His spiritual qualifications to be the Messiah. Then you come to the sermon [on the Mount]: His theological qualifications. And now you come to the miracles, the most essential qualification of all, the proof that He is God. He’s God.
By the way, chapter 8 begins where chapter 4 left off; the sermon is stuck in the middle. But when we closed chapter 4, do you remember what He was doing? Verse 23? “And Jesus went all about Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And His fame went throughout all Syria. And they brought unto Him all the sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those who were possessed with demons, those who were epileptic, those who had paralysis, and He healed them. And there followed Him great multitudes of people from Galilee and Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and beyond the Jordan.” You see, this is right where He left off, isn’t it? He went up in a mountain, preached a sermon, came down, and started it all over again. Thousands, uncounted numbers of healings, and He healed all who came to Him.
The first miracle recorded in Matthew’s Gospel is the healing of the leper. MacArthur describes the pattern of miracles in Matthew 8 and 9 and the narrative through Matthew 13:
The 8th chapter through the 12th chapter is really, in many ways, critical to the understanding of the life of Christ and the message of Matthew. For in this section, Matthew records a series of miracles performed by Jesus Christ. There are countless thousands of miracles that are done, nine of which he singles out as examples of the power of Jesus Christ. They are really His credentials as the Messiah. They are those signs which point convincingly to His deity, for only God can do the things that He does. The sad part is that, after the miracles in chapters 8 and 9, after the preaching that occurs following that, the Jews conclude in chapter 12 that Jesus is of the devil. That was their conclusion. So in many ways this becomes the heart of Matthew’s message. Christ does everything possible to manifest His deity, and they conclude exactly the opposite. And then in chapter 13, He turns from the Jews toward the establishment of a Gentile church. This is a monumental section of Scripture. Now you’ll notice that it begins with three miracles: miracle of healing the leper in the first four verses; healing the man with paralysis, verses 5 to 13; and the woman with fever in verses 14 and 15. This is the opening triad of miracles. There are nine miracles in these two chapters. They come in three sections of three: three miracles, then a response; three miracles, then a response; three miracles, then a response; all designed to manifest the deity of Jesus Christ.
Miracles, you see, were God’s way of attesting to the deity of His Son. They are creative miracles. They manifest power that is only defined by the essence of God. They are things that man could never do. They are supernatural.
I will continue to write about the miracles in Matthew 8 as they have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary, widely in use for public worship.
However, understanding more about how Matthew structured his Gospel will help those of us new to the Bible to better understand and appreciate it.
My past few posts have explored what the Revd James A Fowler of Christ In You Ministries calls Resurrection theology. I first borrowed his sermons in 2012. Past posts in the 2015 series — summaries — can be found here, here, here, here and here.
Fowler’s essay, ‘The Extension of the Resurrection’, neatly ties together God’s purpose for creation, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, the Ascension, Pentecost, the growth of the Church and the Christian life — with a word or two on the afterlife. It is well worth reading in full.
Emphases mine in the excerpts below. Note Fowler’s distinction between ‘remedial’ and ‘restorative’, as they relate to the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, respectively.
How, then, is God’s ultimate objective for mankind achieved and accomplished in the resurrection of Jesus Christ? The death consequences of man’s sin were dealt with in the crucifixion when Jesus vicariously and substitutionally took mankind’s sin upon Himself on our behalf. In the redemptive act of His death Jesus accomplished the remedial work necessary to remedy the consequences of man’s sin before God. In that it was “impossible for Him to be held in death’s power” (Acts 2:24) for He was personally “without sin” (Heb. 4:15), He was raised from the dead in resurrection. In the resurrection expression of life out of death Jesus accomplished the restorative work of God, allowing the life of God to be restored to man. He took our death in crucifixion that we might have His life by resurrection …
Jesus repetitively promised His disciples in the upper room that He would send “another Helper, the Holy Spirit, who would be in them” (cf. Jn. 14:16,17,26,28; 15:26; 16:7,13-17). The word He used for “another” was not heteros, meaning “another of a different kind”, but He used the word allos, meaning “another of the same kind”, because He was promising a Helper who would be just like Him since the Helper would be Him in Spirit-form. Crucified, buried and raised from the dead, Jesus then ascended to the Father (Acts 1:8-11) saying, “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you;…” Soon thereafter, on Pentecost (Acts 2:14), the Holy Spirit was poured out upon mankind allowing the Spirit of Christ to invest mankind with His life (cf. Acts 2:31-33) … Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life” (Jn. 11:25) and told His disciples, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (Jn. 14:6). The divine life of God is available to man in Jesus Christ. “He that has the Son has life; he that does not have the Son of God does not have life” (I Jn. 5:11,12) …
We must see beyond the historicity of the empty tomb on that first Easter day, and understand the extension of the resurrection-life and resurrection-power of Jesus Christ in every Christian. Christianity is not just the remembrance of an historical resurrection, but is comprised of the vital dynamic of the risen Lord Jesus functioning in the activity of the Holy Spirit of God by enlivening Christians with the “saving life of Christ” (Rom. 5:10). Christianity is Christ the resurrected Lord Jesus living out His life in Christians every day, to the glory of God.
I hope that you have found this brief series as enlightening and profitable as I have. I also hope that it informs the remainder of our Eastertide 2015 and beyond.
My past few posts have explored what the Revd James A Fowler of Christ In You Ministries calls Resurrection theology. I first borrowed his sermons in 2012. Past posts in the 2015 series — summaries — can be found here, here, here and here.
Fowler’s essay excerpted below is entitled ‘Resurrection: the Key to Understanding the Gospel’. I highly recommend reading it in full. It addresses how people, Christians included, perceive the Bible, God and the life of Christ.
Because we fail to properly understand and appreciate the Resurrection, our evangelisation is weak. Fowler tells us how to overcome these weaknesses and become fuller Christians. We must come to realise that the Risen Christ is working through us.
It is time that we find the Resurrection stone, and discover the “key” to unlock these religious mysteries, to interpret the gospel as it was intended. The resurrection is a far more important discovery for mankind than the Rosetta Stone was to Egyptologists. The resurrection is the “key” to understanding the gospel and its import for all peoples …
The concept of resurrection must first be decoded. The resurrection is not just an historical event, not just a theological truth. The resurrection is a living, personal reality in the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I AM the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25)
Jesus was indeed raised from the dead historically on that “first day of the week.” The theological significance of “life out of death” and eventual bodily resurrection is truly important. The present significance of the resurrection is recognized when Christians understand that the risen Lord Jesus ascended to heaven and the very resurrection-life of Jesus was poured out on Pentecost to dwell in the spirits of Christian people. That spiritual reality, the indwelling of the living Lord Jesus, the dynamic function of His resurrection-life in and through our lives, is the essence of the gospel. Jesus, the “resurrection and the life,” is living out His resurrection-life in us, the Christ-life expressed in the Christian.
Many of the “things of God” remain hieroglyphics to many Christian people because the reality of the resurrection-life of Jesus is not applied to Biblical truth.
… The resurrection of Jesus Christ defines the “church of God” as those who are “called out” to be all God intends them to be by His activity of resurrection-life in and through them. Jesus Christ is the “head of the Body, the church” (Eph. 5:23; Col. 1:18,24). The church is the “Body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12), the collective expression of the life of the risen Lord Jesus, the resurrection community, the “church of the living God” (I Tim. 3:15). The world is supposed to see the out-working of the life of Jesus Christ on earth today as the resurrection-life of Jesus functions in the interpersonal relationships of Christian peoples.
I sometimes wonder if our postmodern interpretation of Christianity — from both sides of the socio-political spectrum — characterised by niceness, the social gospel, good works, legalism, liberation theology and theonomy, is marring that one-on-one relationship we have with Christ.
If we focussed more on the Resurrection, as Fowler says, we would move away from the ‘me, me’ aspects of Christianity and really devote our lives to the living, risen Christ.
Tomorrow: From remediation to restoration
Without Christ’s resurrection, our religion is but a commemoration of history.
To many people, Christ died and that’s the end of the story. However, at Easter we remember His fulfilment of Scripture by rising from the dead, defeating the tomb and, by extension, bringing us the promise of life eternal in Him.
I have been writing about what the Revd James A Fowler of Christ In You Ministries calls Resurrection theology. I first borrowed his sermons in 2012. Past posts in the 2015 series — summaries — can be found here, here and here.
Fowler warns us that we risk making our faith a historical one, especially if we neglect the Resurrection. His article, ‘A Call for Resurrection Theology’, explains much more and I would recommend reading it in full.
For now, here are the principal excerpts, emphases mine:
The church throughout the centuries has often failed to recognize the significance of the resurrection of Jesus. Despite the fact that the Easter celebration has been regarded as the culmination of the Christian year of worship, the full meaning of the resurrection has often been undeveloped or diluted in Christian teaching and preaching. Christian theology has emphasized numerous legitimate Biblical themes, but has seldom made the resurrection the focal point or fulcrum on which all other Christian subjects depend …
Because of this neglect and the common misemphases of Christian theology, I am compelled to write this article and to make “a call for resurrection theology” …
If the incarnation and crucifixion were the only historical acts of God on man’s behalf, then the gospel would cease to be “good news”. If the gospel narrative was only that “Jesus was born. Jesus died. God said to man: ‘There is the remedy! I came. I fixed the problem. Now you are fixed. The slate is wiped clean. Now, go and do a better job next time.’” That is not good news! That is damnable doctrine. That is tragic teaching!
The incarnation and crucifixion alone serve only to condemn man all the more. The story would go like this: “A man came who was God-man. He did not share the spiritual depravity of the rest of mankind. He did not develop the “flesh” patterning of selfish desires like other men. He lived life as God intended, allowing God in him to manifest His desire and character at every moment in time for thirty-three years. He was the perfect man! He did not deserve to die, but He was put to death unjustly. In dying undeservedly, He died in our place, as our substitute, and paid the price of death to satisfy God’s justice, and forgive mankind of their sins.” Is that the whole of the story? If so, He lived and died perfectly which we cannot do. If the incarnation and crucifixion were the whole of the story, then we would have been better off without Him! Why? Because He could live and die as He did; we cannot. And the fact that He did only condemns us all the more by His matchless example, for we do not have what it takes to live like that.
Only in the resurrection do we have the message that God has given us the provision of His life in order that we might be man as God intended man to be; in order that the resurrection life of the risen Lord Jesus might become the essence of spiritual life in the Christian; in order that we might live by His life and the expression of His character. The resurrection is the positive provision of life in Christ Jesus, around which all other theological topics must be oriented …
If Christian theology does not get beyond the cradle and the cross, the birth and the death of Jesus, then all we have to offer is a static history lesson with no contemporary consequence. If Christian theology does not get beyond apologetic defense for what “was”, and longing expectation for what “will be,” then it becomes an irrelevancy of temporalized “bookends” that fails to address what “is” and “should be” presently …
What a tragedy that the Christian religion has itself blockaded people from life in Christ by projecting the implications of the resurrection to an historical event of the past or to an anticipated expectation of the future.
If we do not properly understand or appreciate the relevance of the Resurrection, can we be proper Christians? Fowler does not believe so.
May we contemplate Resurrection theology in the approach to Ascension Day and Pentecost Sunday.
Tomorrow: Understanding the Resurrection is understanding the Gospels
For many of us, Easter is but one day, when, in fact, it is the most important part of Christianity.
In 2012, I excerpted several of Mr Fowler’s sermons on the Risen Christ, including ‘Christianity is Resurrection’. It is well worth reading in full, because not only does Fowler address what we remember on Easter Sunday but ties it into the events of the Bible and Christian theology.
For now, a brief excerpt outlining what we should understand and appreciate about Easter. Emphases mine:
The gospel is the message of the resurrection. The Gospel IS resurrection. Christianity is the expression of the resurrection. Christianity IS resurrection. Someone might say: “But Christianity is Christ!” That is true, but Jesus Christ said, “I AM the Resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). Jesus Christ is the content, the essence of resurrection-life. Jesus never said, “I AM the Cross”, but He did say, “I AM the resurrection”. The resurrection is the expression of the dynamic of all that Jesus IS. In fact, the resurrection is the reality of all that Christianity IS. The vital understanding of everything that is Christian is in the resurrection. Resurrection-life is the focal point of all Christian teaching the starting point from which everything must be appraised, evaluated and interpreted, EVERYTHING! Everything prior in time, time itself, and everything that follows chronologically, logically and theologically can only correctly be understood in light of the resurrection; all human history, all human thought …
All of history, and especially Biblical history, must be interpreted by the resurrection. Those who preceded the resurrection were who they were, and did what they did, because of what was, Who was, to happen in the resurrection …
Christianity IS resurrection. At Easter time we do not just celebrate another event in history even if it be regarded as the greatest event in history. Resurrection is not just an historical event; it is an on-going dynamic of the life of God in Jesus Christ. We do not just assent to the historicity or theological accuracy of the resurrection of Jesus Christ; we encounter resurrection. We encounter and have personal relationship with the One who is “the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25). One cannot count themselves a “Christian” unless they have encountered, received, and are participating in the resurrection life of Jesus Christ.
The season is not over yet, by the way. Eastertide runs until Pentecost Sunday, still a few weeks away.
May we use this time to make the Risen Christ a very real part of our lives.
Tomorrow: Without the Resurrection, Christianity is only history
Yesterday’s post pressed for a greater appreciation of our Lord’s resurrection and Eastertide.
The Revd James A Fowler of Christ In You Ministries inspired that plea. He calls for a ‘Resurrection theology’ in our churches.
His Easter sermons are some of the best I have ever read. We would be better Christians if we took on board what he has to say.
Fowler says that we are all at fault for not emphasising the Resurrection more in our churches and evangelisation.
He includes Christian humanists, theonomists, Church growth advocates and churchgoers of misrepresenting the Resurrection.
He says that we bypass it when we:
– Make Christianity a ‘book-religion’ and neglect to accept
the Resurrected Lord as having “all authority in heaven and earth” (Matt. 28:18), and the One in whom life is found (John 5:39,40).
– View reconciliation as a communitarian concept instead of
a relational reconciliation wherein the “I AM” of the resurrected Jesus (John 11:25) enters into spiritual union with the Christian (I Cor. 6:17), and reconciles all things to Himself (Col. 1:20).
– Misrepresent faith as a purely intellectual or historical assent instead of
allowing for the out-working of His life (James 2:19,26).
– Live according to legalistic good works and mandated morality instead of
as the imitation of Jesus’ example, rather than Jesus Christ, the Risen One, living out His life in the Christian (II Cor. 13:5; Gal. 2:20; Col. 1:27).
– Present heaven as a human utopia instead of
the presence of a perfect God who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places (Eph. 1:3) that we might participate in the “kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 4:17) by the indwelling of the Perfect Risen Jesus Christ.
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed whenever we fail to recognize the full import of how God has restored humanity by the raising of His Son, Jesus Christ, whereby His “finished work” continues to bring to pass all that God intends to accomplish by His grace.
Let us pray for a greater appreciation of the Resurrection, particularly in the weeks approaching the Ascension and Pentecost.
Coming soon: The Resurrection as the focal point of faith
Many Christians spend weeks preparing for Christmas but think less of Easter.
At Christmas, we have presents to buy and wrap, cards to send, a tree to decorate, a menu to plan and so on. All to remember the cute baby in the manger!
Easter is a different story. We hear about the empty tomb, the road to Emmaus and whilst we’re happy Christ rose from the dead, it’s less of a big deal.
Is it because there is no infant to contemplate? No presents to receive? No decorations in and around the home?
I know of churchgoers who actually dislike Easter because a beloved relative died around that time. Wow.
For many years I had problems with Christmas for that very reason but could not talk about it: ‘Don’t mention death at such a happy time. Everybody loves Christmas.’
Yes, Christmas is all about us: ‘my family around me’, ‘going away on holiday’, ‘great presents’ and so on. The list is endless.
Christmas does play into our carnality in the worst possible ways, most of which revolve around unmet expectations which are the highest at that time of year. Think of the disappointment manifesting itself in arguments, divorces, domestic abuse, suicides and so on.
That is our fault, nothing to do with the feast of the Nativity in and of itself. If we truly honoured the Christ Child, we wouldn’t place such an emphasis on our own needs.
One cannot help but wonder if churchgoers and clergy help to encourage this. How many Christian pages on the Internet concern Christmas and Easter? The number of entries for Christmas no doubt outnumber the latter. (I’m guilty of this.) In the offline world, how many Easter cards do we send and receive? Very few.
Yet, Easter is our greatest Christian feast. Without it, we would not be able to share in eternal life. Anyone whose relative has died around this time might take time to contemplate that their loved one would not be able to enter the Kingdom of God were it not for our Lord’s resurrection. As such, it should be a time of reassurance and comfort.
Eastertide lasts 50 days — until Pentecost, which is the Church’s birthday. Perhaps now that the 40 days Lent are over we can spend the coming weeks contemplating the significance and the joy of the Resurrection.
This can — and should be — a tremendous time of happiness for Christians, not one to be forgotten quickly. We would do well to make it part of our lives.
In 2012, I read — and excerpted — several sermons from the Revd James A Fowler’s Christ In You Ministries site. He is a pastor of the Neighborhood Church in Fallbrook, California, and, prior to that, had a teaching ministry in several countries around the world.
Fowler would like to see more of a ‘Resurrection theology’ in our churches. Yes, please!
If the cross is an end in itself, i.e. “God’s final answer,” then all the gruesome execution of Jesus can do is create a martyr figure that allows people to focus on the death of this individual in order to perpetuate a particular ideology. Granted, that is how much of the Christian religion operates in our day, but is that what Christianity was intended to be?
What happened on the cross, the death of Jesus, represents a remedial action …
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead was God’s “Yes” to the restoration of His divine life in humanity. If our theology does not go beyond redemption in the death of Jesus on the cross, to the restoration of God’s life in humanity by the resurrection, then it ceases to be Christian theology. God’s “final answer” was not the cross. God’s final answer was (and is) the resurrection! In the resurrection of Jesus divine life overcame death, God overcame Satan (I Jn. 3:8; Heb. 2:14). That was historically enacted on that third day when Jesus arose from the dead and exited the tomb, but it was for the purpose of resurrection being personally and spiritually enacted in those receptive to Christ by faith.
It is a sad indictment of contemporary Christian religion to observe how the resurrection is regarded and taught in the churches today. It has become but a token recollection in the annual church calendar …
The need of fallen mankind is the restoration of the presence of God’s life in their spirit to energize their behavior in soul and body. The Spirit of Christ is that life. Life is a Person. “I AM the life” (Jn. 14:6), Jesus said. Divine life, spiritual life, eternal life, resurrection life are all the life of the risen and living Lord Jesus. The Apostle John explained, “He that has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life” (I Jn. 5:12).
This is not to diminish our Lord’s tremendous sacrifice in His crucifixion. Not at all.
However, the story did not end there.
Fallen humanity’s salvation requires both the cross and the resurrection.
Tomorrow: Bypassing the resurrection
One of my readers, Pastor Ashcraft of Mustard Seed Budget, has a great post on forgiving and forgetting.
He suggests we get ‘Holy Spirit Alzheimer’s’:
What I mean by Holy Spirit Alzheimer’s is to forget what we must forgive, to heal the wounds in our hearts, to remember the good and forget the bad, to move on, to stay in relationship with people who have hurt us deeply. When God forgives, He forgets. Would we could do likewise.
He also says that his mother had Alzheimer’s, therefore, using this terminology is not one of disrespect to those who might directly or indirectly be affected by this horrible disorder.
However, last year, I had the opportunity to get Holy Spirit Alzheimer’s and was very glad I did. I also reached out to someone who decided to keep her memory for the time being, if you get my drift. That was disappointing, but I have forgiven her — and forgotten the past.
Life is too short to be holding grudges that have lasted for decades, particularly when they become irrelevant over time.
In October 2014, the controversial Evangelical pastor Mark Driscoll resigned from the network of Mars Hill churches which he founded 18 years ago.
The last service at the original church in Ballard, Washington, took place on Sunday, December 28, 2014 (H/T: Dr Gregory Jackson of Ichabod).
Sadly, the interim pastor and congregation seemed happy to listen to and watch a 45-minute sermon from Baptist pastor Rick ‘Purpose-driven Church’ Warren. Will people never learn?
Mars Hill comprised a number of churches in five states in the western US. On New Year’s Day 2015, these were either closed or assumed new independent identities. The Ballard church is now known as the Cross & Crown. It still meets in the converted hardware store.
Not surprisingly, between October and December, many congregants left the Mars Hill church network. Many of us pray that they find suitable congregations where the leadership is truly faithful to the Gospel, instead of exhibiting a macho-man aggression.
I echo Seattle Times reader Ugmo’s sentiment in the comments following the paper’s December 28 article on the Ballard church’s final service:
Those left looking for a new home for their faith might want to consider returning to a mainline Protestant church… Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist… No rants, no big video screen, no “Jesus rock and roll.” Instead, clergy with actual seminary educations, a focus on thoughtful, complex theology, good music, social outreach, tolerant politics, charity and community.
May God’s grace guide the Mars Hill people towards the true Good News — and a good church community.
One of John MacArthur’s recent blog posts discussed the importance of private Bible reading and meditation in line with Scripture.
His method for understanding the New Testament is to read each chapter 30 times. He has done this himself successfully.
Alternatively, one can always read the whole Bible over the course of a year. Grant Horner, one of MacArthur’s employees — a professor of English at The Master’s College — has a reading schedule which takes only 30 minutes a day. The various passages read like newspaper or magazine articles. Old and New Testament readings are interspersed. I followed this myself and it works beautifully. I read the whole Bible a few years ago and only regret I didn’t do so earlier.
MacArthur is correct in saying that the more we read the Bible, the better we grasp its meaning. I would recommend the Grant Horner method first, then, after having read the whole Bible, read each chapter of the New Testament 30 times. The same can then be done with the Old Testament.
Now onto MacArthur’s thoughts on private Bible reading and personal meditation. Excerpts follow, emphases mine:
… you ought to have God’s Word running around in your mind all the time. If you’re reading a portion of the New Testament thirty times in a row, as previously suggested, it will penetrate and shape your thinking. It should lead to meditation …
The word meditate can evoke thoughts of empty minds and eastern religions. But it is more likely that Hindus and Buddhists borrowed the term from the Bible … From the time of Joshua’s military conquest of Canaan, we hear the Lord instructing His people to meditate on God’s Word (Joshua 1:8). So what does meditate mean? Biblically, it means to focus your mind on one subject.
In Deuteronomy, God tells His people that they should bind His words, “as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals to your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:8–9). God says He wants His Word everywhere.
David highlighted the role meditation plays in our sanctification when he wrote the first Psalm. The blessed man is one who meditates both day and night on God’s law rather than seeking counsel in the fellowship of unbelievers (Psalm 1:1–3). It is the key to his perseverance and fruitfulness as a child of God.
Meditation is no less needed today. We live in a culture that continually assaults us with distractions through billboards, television, the Internet, and more. God says that we should keep His Word perpetually in front of our eyes, filling our minds and conversations wherever we go.
This is marvellous advice for the week ahead. May it become a lifelong practice.