B. Preaching the resurrected and reigning Lord Christ:
We must remember that in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost, that which cut the people to the heart was the gospel message of the resurrected and reigning King. “This Jesus God has raised up” (At 2:32). “Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this same Jesus whom you have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (At 2:36). This message keeps the chicken before the egg.
After the resurrection of Jesus, Jesus was no longer just the good Teacher from Nazareth. He was no longer just Jesus who walked with the disciples on the roads of Galilee. He was no longer just the brave Teacher who stood up and taught in the temple and the synagogues. He was now the resurrected, raised and reigning King Jesus at the right hand of God (Hb 8:1). This was the gospel message that cut the people to the heart on the day of Pentecost (At 2:37). This was the message that turned the world upside down. It will do the same today if we once again restore gospel preachers among us.
We seem to miss this point, even today among those who only want to know Jesus simply as the good teacher with His disciples on the road to and from Galilee. Such is brought out in the request of many who seek a more “personal relationship with Jesus,” which often translates into a “mere” relationship. At least it gives the appearance that if one behaves correctly he or she can have and maintain a “personal relationship” with Jesus. But this often becomes religious behavior because it is based on self-appointed merits by which one seeks the personal relationship.
One often concludes that if his or her relationship is to be “personal,” then one must bind on oneself “personal works” to perform in order to “measure up” to what he or she thinks Jesus would expect of us. When one fails in his or her own self-imposed standards of expectation, then he or she feels emotionally unworthy. This is performance-oriented religion. It leads to a lack of confidence in the sanctifying power of the blood of Jesus because our confidence is focused on our own self-imposed performance.
It is certainly a noble desire to feel close to Jesus. But our meritorious behavior is somewhat misguided if we seek such a relationship that is based on our own performance of self-imposed laws. It is somewhat misguided because the object of our relationship is no longer the man Jesus whom we seek to know according to the flesh in the records of the gospel. The man Jesus is now King and Lord over all things.
Paul certainly knew Jesus as a man while Jesus was in the flesh, for he lived in Palestine during the ministry of Jesus. He even persecuted those who followed the Nazarene called Jesus. He persecuted these followers even unto death because he believed that Jesus was only a rebellious leader of a sect of Nazarenes.
But Paul’s understanding of Jesus changed from Jesus the man to Jesus the resurrected and reigning Son of God. After the gospel of the ascension of Jesus, he once wrote the following words to some who possibly considered Jesus as only a renown teacher from of Galilee:
“Therefore, from now on we know no man according to the flesh [including Jesus]. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no more” (2 Co 5:16).
If we are preaching that people must have a personal relationship with Jesus according to the flesh, then we are not preaching the gospel message that we must establish a gospel covenant relationship of peace with King Jesus. We are preaching an earthly message because we are seeking to attach people to a concept of Jesus while He was yet in the flesh. But now we do not know Him as such.
What the people understood from the message of Peter on Pentecost was that it was no longer Jesus according to the flesh. It was the resurrected Jesus who was reigning as Lord and Christ. And being at the right hand of God and reigning on David’s throne meant that the resurrected Jesus is now King and Lord over all things (See Mt 28:18; Ep 1:21-23). He is now as Isaiah prophesied of Him:
“For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given. And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Is 9:6).
Church existed in the first century because people believed in the gospel message of the reigning King Jesus. If we would speak of personal relationships with this King, therefore, we must seek out how we would establish a covenant relationship with King Jesus who is now reigning over all things. He is now Lord and King! He is the One before whom all of us will eventually give account.
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that everyone may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Co 5:10; see Jn 12:48).
Jesus is now the King about whom He spoke when He taught His disciples. He is the King with whom each one of us must make peace before He comes again with His mighty angels (Lk 14:32; see 2 Th 1:6-9). Whatever relationship one might seek to establish with this coming King, it must be a relationship of reverence, awe and submission. We must establish a covenant with this King before He comes. In order to do this, we must obey the gospel of King Jesus in order to come into the realm of His grace (Gl 3:26-29). This is what those who were cut to the heart on the day of Pentecost realized, and thus were willing to do what Peter instructed: “Repent and be baptized every one of you” (At 2:38).
- Preach Christ: We preach Jesus the Christ and King. This was the message of the early disciples. Some have had difficulty understanding Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 1:17 when he referred to this message: “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel.” Those who are of a legal heritage have reversed the order. They would conclude from their catechism of identity that evangelists must first be sent to be legally baptized, and then the baptized believer must be discipled in matters of knowing the Christ. This is revealed by those who preach church in meetings without mentioning Christ.
This is the reverse order of what Peter preached on Pentecost. It was the reverse order of all the evangelists who obeyed the commission to go into all the world and preach the gospel. It was the reverse order of what Paul preached in Corinth upon his initial arrival in the city. He later wrote to the Corinthians, and all those in the province of Achaia, “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received” (1 Co 15:3). And that which he received was a risen Christ who died for our sins and was resurrected to reign as King of kings (1 Co 15:3,4). This is the gospel message that we must first preach as we go into all the world.
When Philip encountered the eunuch on his way back home to Ethiopia, he preached “Jesus” to him (At 8:35). It was only later, and after hearing this gospel message, that the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What hinders me from being baptized” (At 8:36). And herein is the difference between preaching a legal catechism of restoration, and the gospel of the incarnate Son of God who lived on earth under the name of Jesus. This Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected, and is now reigning as the King who will come again. It is, therefore, as Paul wrote, “We preach Christ crucified” (1 Co 1:23).
Our message to draw people to the cross is the good news of the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, reign and final revelation of King Jesus from heaven. It is this message that cuts people to the heart. It is this message to which people gravitate away from institutional religiosity to a relationship with the One who is now reigning over all things. This is the power of the gospel to change the lives of those who realize that they will eventually give account of themselves before a returned King (Jn 12:48; At 17:30,31). This is the right and only mediator through whom we must call all men in order to reconnect with the God who is over all things.
[End of series.]