the BIG story: Matthew 20

The resurrection of Christ is absolutely essential. It is the proof of his deity and Lordship and is indispensable evidence of the power of the cross. If he did not rise from the dead, then he is not the Son of God; and it follows that his death on the cross is the death of an ordinary man and of no value to others. If, on the other hand, Christ actually rose from the dead, it not only demonstrates that he is all He claims to be but that his work has achieves all he said it would; a substitutionary sacrifice on behalf of the sins of the whole world.

Scripture links the resurrection of Christ to his work on the cross, as in Romans 4:25: “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification..” In Romans 10:9 we read: “If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” The resurrection of Christ and his death are twin doctrines which stand or fall together.

A. The resurrection of Christ has not only a backward look toward the cross demonstrating the power of God in salvation, but it is also the doorway to his present work in heaven.

1. He sends the Holy Spirit.
The promise of Christ that he would send the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7) depended upon His resurrection and His return to glory.  The ministry of the Spirit, is therefore dependent upon Christ’s resurrection from the grave and his return to glory as the triumphant Saviour.

2. He gives eternal life.
Through the Spirit, the Lord gives eternal life on all those who put their trust in Him (John 11:25; 12:24-25 ). If Christ did not literally rise from the dead, God’s plan of giving life for spiritual death through faith in Jesus Christ would become invalid.

3. He intercedes for us.
The resurrection of Christ is specifically linked with his work in intercession: “Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”

4. He gives us gifts
According to Ephesians 4:11-13, Christ gives gifted men to the church such as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, because “when He ascended on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men (Eph 4:8).

5. He gives spiritual power. 
The deliverance of Israel from Egypt was God’s divine standard of power in the Old Testament, so the resurrection of Christ from the dead is a divine standard of power in the New Testament, especially in relationship to His work for the church. “All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth.”

This power is described in Ephesians 1:17-23:

That’s why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!

All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the centre of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.

6. He raises believers to a new position in Christ. 
It is because of the resurrection that the believer can now be triumphant in his new position, no longer being dead in sin, but raised to newness of life in Christ Jesus.

7. He is the first fruits from among the dead.
In His resurrection from the dead, Christ fulfils the Old Testament anticipation in the feast of the first fruits in that he is the first to be raised from the dead in anticipation of the future resurrection of all believers (1 Corinthians 15:20-23

8. He is now preparing a place.
An important aspect of the present work of Christ is that he is preparing a place for his bride in heaven.

9. His universal Lordship over all creation.
Christ is not only Head of the church because of his resurrection and ascension, but because he has resumed his position of Lord over all creation.

B. The future work of Christ is also dependent upon His resurrection.

1. The resurrection of all men.
Christ by the power of his own resurrection will raise the dead. Regardless of time and character of resurrection, all resurrection is attributed to the power of Christ (John 5:28-29; 1 Cor 15:12, 22) and depends upon the historical fact of His own resurrection.

2. The marriage of the Bridegroom and the bride.
We look forward to the eternal union and fellowship of Christ and his church. The church now a bride waiting for the coming of her husband (2 Cor 11:2; Rev 19:7).

3. The judgment of all creatures. 
Christ will also be the final judge of all moral creatures, whether men or angels (John 5:22; Acts 10:42; Rom 14:10; 2 Tim 4:1).

4. The final deliverance of the world to the Father.
At climax of history, Christ will deliver a conquered world to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24-28). It is not too much to say that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a link in the total chain of God’s sovereign program without which the whole scheme would collapse.

the BIG story: Hebrews 2:10-15

1. God the Father sent the Son to the earth to be the “pioneer” of salvation. The term “pioneer” is explained by Julius Scott:

Given its full range of meaning, the word designates an individual who opened the way into a new area for others to follow, founded the city in which they dwelt, gave his name to the community, fought its battles and secured the victory, and then remained as the leader-ruler-hero of his people.

In bringing many sons and daughters to glory” might well refer to salvation as the solution to man’s dilemma of lost authority and glory, as a result of the fall.  The incarnation and our Lord’s sufferings were a fitting thing for the Father to purpose for the Son because we gain a family. In verse 11 the text literally reads “all are of one.” and translated “family”:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility (Ephesians 2:13-16).

Hebrews is simply this: All who believe in Jesus Christ for salvation have been united with Christ, and we have also become one with all other believers. We are all “of one” and thus we are one family. Christ is “the Son,” a unique identity and role, while we who believe in Him are all “sons of God.”

2. The incarnation also made it possible for the Son of God to defeat Satan and thus to remove the “fear of death,” with which Satan dominates men. After the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, we read these words:

So the LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this,
       "Cursed are you above all livestock
       and all wild animals!
       You will crawl on your belly
       and you will eat dust
       all the days of your life.

And I will put enmity
       between you and the woman,
       and between your offspring and hers;
       he will crush your head,
       and you will strike his heel." (Genesis 3:14-15).

The One who will destroy Satan is from the “seed of the woman.” There, the Son had to take on humanity before He could defeat the devil. In order to save mankind (who are “flesh and blood”), the Son had to take on “flesh and blood.” As Jesus said,

“Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out” (John 12:31).

The death of our Lord was the “death of death” for all who trust in him, and released us from “fear of death” is Satan’s stronghold over us. Unbelievers should dread death, for judgment will follow. But those who have trusted in the Lord Jesus death becomes simply the doorway to heaven:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The fear of death can be understood in two different ways:

“the fear of death” = our fear of dying/death or
“the fear of death” = our fear which death produces.

It is true that there is in man a fear of death, a fear of dying and what lies thereafter. But Satan has done an excellent job of blinding the eyes of men, so that many think that death is just the end of it all, with no heaven or hell to follow.

But in addition, the  “fear of death” is fear caused by our “separation from God.” After Adam and Eve sinned, they hid themselves from God. Why? Adam tells us:

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God moving about in the orchard at the breezy time of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the orchard. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” The man replied, “I heard you moving about in the orchard, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid” (Genesis 3:8-10).

Now, rather than wanting to enjoy fellowship with God, they feared  him and hid from him. This is the fear that keeps men from seeking God. If it was not for a God who seeks out sinners, we would never come to faith. The death of Jesus removes this fear, freeing us to fellowship with God.

the BIG story: Romans 3:21-26

We all view life from our own perspective, which is shaped by our experiences, our decisions, and our character.  The death of the Lord Jesus on the cross is the most important event in all of human history. It can be understood in many different way. Here, Paul speaks primarily of the righteousness of God which is demonstrated in the redemption of fallen sinners. Man’s unrighteousness is evident in his rejection of the revelation of who God is, of what he is like, and of his standards for our conduct. God’s righteousness is evident in his response to man’s rejection of the truth and his rebellion; God’s righteousness is manifested in his wrath toward sin.

But, from God’s perspective, he saves people by judging their sin in the Jesus Christ. God provides the righteousness of his Son, received by faith, so that people may be justified in his sight. 

1. The Law bears witness to the righteousness of God.
The Law defines righteousness and unrighteousness.  The Law condemns all mankind, for no one will ever meet God’s standard of righteousness.But it also promises a righteousness God himself provides. The Law continues to bear witness that Jesus is righteous, and that he is the Righteous One whom God promised would come to save his people from their sins.

2. Being right with God is not accomplished by keeping the Law.
Keeping the Law cannot justify people or reveal the righteousness of God.

The Law’s function is something like the role of the Olympic judges. The judges recognize the best performance and announce the winner, but the winning performance is achieved apart from the judges. The judges cannot perform that which they praise; they can only identify that which is praiseworthy. The judges can take no credit for the excellence of the performer.

3. The righteousness of God was seen “apart from Law” and independently of Judaism.
The Jews boasted in their possession of the Law. They should not have done so. It made them neither more righteous nor better than the Gentiles. The Law was a standard far too high for any Jew to live up to.  The Law condemned the Jews as sinners just like the Gentiles.

Paul emphasises not only that God has supplied the righteousness which all people lack, but also the way in which God has supplied it. God’s righteousness has been provided in a way that is righteous. In Paul’s own words, “… that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26b).

God’s righteousness is given to everyone as a gift, on the basis of faith, and not on the basis of works. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Everyone fails to meet God’s standards for righteousness.

Redemption” (v24) refers to the price that was paid and the debt that was cancelled, due to our Lord’s sacrificial death on Calvary.

Atonement” (v25) refers to the satisfaction of God’s righteous anger, so that He can now deal with people graciously and benevolently.

The concepts of “redemption” and “atonement” are used to demonstrate and draw our attention to the justice of God. God has set the sinner free through Christ, but He has not done so by setting aside the rules. He has set the sinner free in Christ by satisfying the demands of God’s justice in Christ. Due to sin, a penalty was to be meted out and a price was to be paid. Christ paid that price and suffered that penalty (“redemption”). God’s divine wrath had to be appeased, due to man’s sin; Christ has appeased that wrath (“atonement”).

So, God condemns us, to demonstrate his righteousness. Likewise, God saves us, to demonstrate his righteousness. The determining factor in God’s choices and actions is not man’s salvation, but the declaration of his righteousness. God’s righteousness is displayed in everything He does and in everything He does not do.

Amazingly, God chooses to save, because all we deserve is his wrath. We gladly receive his grace, knowing that it suits and serves his purposes.

We will soon celebrate the resurrection of our Lord on Easter Sunday. The resurrection is not only a fact of history, it is a truth with profound significance. It is the demonstration of our Lord’s righteousness. The empty tomb of our Lord continues to testify to his righteousness!

the BIG story: John 19:16-30

John’s Gospel is unique in its record of Jesus’ death: John was an eye-witness!

“The King of the Jews” (19:16-22)

John takes us swiftly to the “Place of the Skull.” Crucifixion was the most cruel form of execution devised by man. But John focuses on the sign over the Lord’s head. Indicating the charges for which the condemned was crucified was common practice. In this way, those who witnessed the crucifixion would be warned as to which offenses the Romans took that seriously. The charge against Jesus was: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

This notice upset the Jewish religious leaders. They especially did not like the inference of Pilate’s words which implied that Jesus’ claim to be the “King of the Jews” was true. They wanted the notice to indicate only that Jesus claimed to be “King of the Jews,” . But Pilate had had enough of them for one day. His words would stand!

If God can speak through a dumb animal (i.e. Balaam’s donkey), he can speak through men who do not even believe in him. What Pilate wrote was true!

Loyalty and Lottery (19:23-27)
William Hendriksen says:

The clear implication of the passage … is this: Jesus bore for us the curse of nakedness in order to deliver us from it! (Gen. 3:9-11, 21; 2 Cor. 5:4; Rev. 7:12, 13. Surely if what Ham did to his father Noah is singled out for special mention because of its reprehensible character, what the soldiers did when they disrobed Jesus and then divided his garments among themselves, casting lots, should cause us to pause with horror.”

Hanging upon that cross, our Lord was almost naked as He bore our punishment for sin. After man first sinned, nakedness became shameful. Can we imagine the humiliation our Lord endured as He hung upon that cross, half-naked, with hundreds of people looking on?

For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me” (Psalm 22:16-17).

It Is Finished! (19:28-30)
Jesus knew that everything was completed. He was no helpless victim, powerless, and therefore subject to the whims of those who had arrested Him. Jesus  notes that every prophetic detail has been fulfilled to this point and now he may proceed to complete the mission. So, the “wine” that Jesus refused at the outset of His crucifixion would have been mixed with a pain killer. Jesus refused this so that he could experience the “cup of God’s wrath” to the full (John 18:11). Jesus now accepts cheap wine which again fulfils Scripture:

My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
       and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
       you lay me in the dust of death. (Psalm 22:15).

I am worn out calling for help;
       my throat is parched.
       My eyes fail,
       looking for my God. (Psalm 69:3).

They put gall in my food
       and gave me vinegar for my thirst. (Psalm 69:21).

Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. Not one of you shall go out the door of his house until morning. (Exodus 12:22).

Now, he can end his life triumphantly, with a cry:  “It is completed.” Jesus declares that his work is completed, and then he gives up his Spirit. His life is not taken away from him; he voluntarily gives it up. Pilate will be surprised to hear that Jesus has died so soon (Mark 15:44). The timing of his death was indicative of his sovereignty over all things. Because Jesus died when He did, His legs would not be broken, thus fulfilling yet another prophecy.

The physical suffering of our Lord was but a small part of what he endured at Calvary. The great suffering which our Lord endured at Calvary was the spiritual suffering as he became sin for us and suffered in our place to save us from our sins. He suffered the eternal wrath of God. I am taken by this bit is speculation:

It is my opinion that God “turned out the lights” so that no one would be able to see the bulk of the spiritual suffering our Lord endured at the Father’s hand. Do you remember in the Book of Exodus, when Moses asked God to see His glory (Exodus 33:18)? God allowed Moses to see a portion of His glory, but not the totality of it. God covered Moses with his hand, so that he would not die beholding His unveiled glory. I wonder if God did not do something similar with the darkness, as our Lord suffered on the cross. Would men have survived if they beheld the wrath of God being poured out in full measure upon the Son? How good God is to keep us from knowing any more of the suffering of the Son than He has revealed, than He wants us to know.

The cross is reveals the truth. The cross is the measure of the magnitude of our sin. The cross is the measure of God’s hatred of sin. The cross is also the measure of God’s love and grace, poured out upon those whom He saves.

“The Three Battlegrounds” by Francis Frangipane

image This is a definitely a sit down and read in one sitting type of book.   Helpfully, Frangipane outlines the three battlegrounds that are in every believer’s life: The Mind, the Church, and the Heavenly Places. In my view, the best section deals with the areas of personal darkness.  These strongholds include thoughts and opinions, unbelief, past failures, and fear. The response needs to be a Spirit-led Christ-like life which demonstrates the peace of God.  “The more peace you have in adversity”, he says, “the more you are truly walking in Christ”

The second section picks up one Frangipane’s other key themes – the city wide church as the true expression of church.  He therefore focuses on the establishment of positive relationships between pastors.  Not everyone will agree with that view, but the principle of building up other churches by pastors having a servant heart towards each other, is surely essential,

The final section with warfare in the heavenly places. To do this he suggests once again that the main battle is by focusing on Jesus and taking ground in our own lives. He exposes the works of the enemy through the spirit of Jezebel (encouraging apostasy, control others, attacking male leadership, targeting embittered women, humiliation, sexual immorality) and guides the reader through prayer, how to address this stronghold.  Lots of valuable insights!

Frangipane can be a bit of a love him or not character, although those who don’t often have a long list of others they also don’t approve of!  What I read in this book echoes in my heart the comment of Jack “Majesty” Hayford:

I know of few prophetic voices to the body of Christ that match the consistency of wisdom and balance of truth that Francis Frangipane represents. His pastor’s heart and biblical solidity flavour his writing and nourish souls unto health while calling us all to God’s purposes in this present hour.

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