Dear Student of the Word,
It's time once again for a dose of good medicine from God's word. This year we have been studying Acts together and this week we go more deeply into Peter's encounter with Cornelius, the Roman military leader and God-fearer. This is an encounter Peter did not want, for Cornelius was a Gentile, but which God ordained, for obvious reasons. In looking at this encounter, I wrote this in part six of this seven-part study:
Study Thirteen, Part Six
39 "We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen — by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."
10:39&40 – The apostles were indeed witnesses, and that word in Greek is where we get the word “martyr.” The apostles saw and then spoke about what they saw. They left us a historical record of Jesus’ life that is as legitimate as any other recorded history. When you visit Israel, you hear the Jewish tour guides refer to Jesus as a historical figure. It was so strange to hear them talk like that. When I questioned them on it, they assured me that in their mind, Jesus had been alive. They just don’t believe He is still alive or that He is the Messiah. But their own historian Josephus wrote about Jesus life and death.
You don’t ever have to be hesitant to talk about Jesus with anyone. They may not agree with your theology, but Jesus is a much a part of history as Napoleon or Alexander the Great. And certainly you don’t have to succumb to any of the modern so-called theologians who speak of the Bible in terms of it being a myth. It is not. Once you open the door to any part of Scripture being a myth, where do you stop? Is the resurrection a myth? Jesus’ miracles? Those performed by the apostles?
The historic position of the Church is that the Scriptures are an accurate, firsthand account of God’s work among men. It is reliable and while not containing all the truth there is, is as much truth as God chose to reveal to us about Himself. The Bible isn’t an science or history book, but archaeology continues to verify the Bible’s accuracy where those disciplines are concerned. We cannot judge the Bible according to our western mindset, for it was written by a Middle-Eastern mind that didn’t always value an absolute accuracy of math, genealogies or chronology of events.
10:41 – You may wonder why Jesus didn’t appear to the masses when He came back from the dead. He chose certain men and women who would bear accurate witness and spent His time prior to His ascension with them. You may think that more would have believed if they had seen Him, but that isn’t necessarily the case:
"He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead “ (Luke 16:31).
There is a blessing for those who didn’t see Jesus, but believed the report of His followers:
Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
10:42&43 – Peter tied his witness to two things: Jesus’ commandment to do so and the prophetic voice of the Old Testament. Peter’s message of repentance and forgiveness of sins wasn’t a new message, but a continuation of the prophetic promise made through the ages. The apostles didn’t see themselves as doing a new thing, but continuing an “old thing” in a new way.
Do you see what you are doing and your faith as tied not just to the book of Acts, but to the book of Genesis? Can you see that you faith isn’t a New Testament thing, but an Old Testament one? This is an important perspective, for God didn’t start something new with the apostles or with your conversion. We are all a continuation of God’s salvation work throughout history. While God does new things, His work remains the same: Establishing His kingdom and redeeming fallen creation. You and I are privileged to carry on that work, basing our work on the foundation of the prophets and the apostles.
As always, I welcome your comments to this week's study. For additional Bible studies, check out my website archive, which contains a complete collection of all my verse-by-verse New Testament studies, along with the unpublished volume of The Faith Files.
KENYA UPDATE: The final tally for the Crisis in Kenya appeal was $8,946! What a fantastic response, for which I am grateful to you for your prayerful support. You can read a series of thank you emails I received here, along with the latest thank you from Pastor Francis here, to whom I gave an additional $2,000 last Saturday. Just so you know, I distributed $1,000 to Pastor Peter at WAPIS, $5,000 to Pastor Francis at Upako Centre, $1,800 to Alice at Each One Touch One Orphanage, and $1,150 to Edith at WEMA Widows. You can read a short synopsis of each one of these ministries here.