Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: Fulfilling the Grace Commission

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fulfilling the Grace Commission

“1 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2 Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: 3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: 4 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. 5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. 6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. 9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; 11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:1-11).

The book of Acts is often referred to as the Fifth Gospel. It was written by Luke and it continues where he left off in the Gospel of Luke. The Gospel of Luke is what Luke is referring to by the statement, “[t]he former treatise have I made” in Acts 1:1.

Secondly, the book of Acts is directed to someone named “Theophilus.” The Greek word “theophilus” simply means friend of God. I believe the word “theophilus” is used as a general term addressing this narrative to all people who consider themselves friends of God, or Christians. The term friend of God is used to describe faithful believers who live “the faith.” It was first used to describe Abraham.

“17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. 19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God” (James 2:17-22).

Later, in the Epistle of James, he would extend this friendship terminology into a contradistinction in teaching that anyone who was a friend of the world was not a friend of God, but an enemy of God.

“1 From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? 2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. 3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. 4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. 5 Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? 6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. 9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:1-10).

There is a simplicity to grace-living and, yet, there is a complexity to it. Grace-living is simply yielding all that we are, all that we can be, and all our desires to the indwelling Spirit of God. If the quality of our faith in the reality of God’s existence and our understanding of the scope of His existence was where it ought to be, the simplicity of yielding to Him and allowing Him to live through us would not be so complex. That is what James is dealing with in his epistle; the reality of our faith in God.

The reality of our faith in God is also what Luke is dealing with in his introduction to his continuation of the Gospel of Luke that we have come to call the Acts of the Apostles. The title Acts of the Apostles is a man-made title and not really accurate to the scope of the intent of this historical account of the first generation of the Age of Grace. This purpose is given to us in the first two verses of Acts chapter one; “1b all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2 Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen.” Do not rush by this statement. In this statement, we have the whole Church Age defined as well as the scope of the “work of the ministry” as a continuum of the Christ-life through every Spirit enabled believer throughout the Church Age. This historical account would be better entitled the Acts of Jesus Christ Lived through the Priesthood of All Believers. David Thomas 1 gives us the following note on the statement “all that Jesus began both to do and teach:”

“ . . . from the arrangement of these words in the original Greek, two things are plain which escape the English reader: First, there is an emphasis on the verb ‘began;’ secondly, there is none on the word ‘Jesus.’ The contrast is not that the former treatise related what Jesus began, and this relates what some other person or persons continued; but it is that the former treatise related what Jesus began to do and teach: and this relates what He, the same Jesus, continued to do and teach.”

The question immediately then is raised, How could Jesus continue to “do and teach” after He was dead? Answering this question gives us the supernatural nature of God’s intent beyond salvation from Hell and what we see fleshed out in the lives of those recorded in the book of Acts. The answer is simple: Christ lives supernaturally through the yielded life of the believer indwelled and “filled” with the Spirit of God. What Jesus began to do on the Day of Pentecost was something the world had never seen before. Jesus would supernaturally live THROUGH those “born again” of the Spirit of God and who were completely yielded to Him.

This understanding of the historical record of the book of Acts gives us the supernatural perspective that must be included in our perspective of the history of the Church that has been written in the book of Acts and is being written each day through the historical events of the lives of believers. The work of evangelism and teaching that Jesus began in His incarnation is continued through the hypostatic union of God in all believers. That work is divinely energized when hypostatic unity (Eph. 4:1-7) is supernaturally created in the life of a believer completely yielded to the indwelling Christ. The history of the book of Acts is the record of what Jesus did as He lived His life THROUGH the life of His disciples. ALL THAT HAPPEN IN THEM IS POTENTIALLY STILL AVAILABLE TO ALL BELIEVERS!

The willingness of these believers to risk everything, even life itself, to completely yield themselves to Christ was based upon the reality of their faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and in the reality of their faith in their own glorification and exaltation in the coming Kingdom Age. This is the central reason we have 10 recorded appearances of the resurrected Jesus to His disciples.

“3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: 4 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father {referring to the indwelling; John 15:26-27}, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. 5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence” (Acts 1:3-5).

The words “infallible proofs” are translated from the Greek word tekmerion (tek-may'-ree-on), which simply means criteria for certainty. There was no doubt, none whatsoever, about the resurrection and glorification of Jesus. For the early Christians, this was an established FACT that gave them a living FAITH that trusted in the promises of God regarding yielding their lives to the supernatural workings of God. That did not mean that their lives would be without persecutions, difficulties, spiritual warfare, temptations, trials, hunger, pain, or sufferings. In fact, all of these types of things would increase in their lives due to satanic opposition in his attempt to discourage and corrupt/defile them for God’s supernatural workings through their lives. The only way these early believers would be able to survive the horrendous onslaught of satanic opposition would be a real, living faith in the reality of their own resurrection/glorification.

Another important aspect of Christ’s post resurrection appearances that David Thomas points out is that Jesus never speaks to the lost multitudes in any of those 10 different appearances. Jesus appeared and communicated only with His disciples after His resurrection (with the exception of His call of the Apostle Paul). The emphasis in this fact is that after the Day of Pentecost and the indwelling of, and baptism with, the Holy Spirit, Jesus would from that time forward in the Church Age speak TO His disciples through His inspired Word and TO the lost world THROUGH His disciples. That is why we can truly call the Great Commission the GRACE COMMISSION.

“26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: 27 And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27).

“7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. 8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 Of sin, because they believe not on me; 10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; 11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. 12 I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. 13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. 14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. 15 All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you” (John 16:7-15).

After the Day of Pentecost (beginning the Church Age or the Age of Grace), reaching the lost would become the sole responsibility of local churches and individual, faithful believers making up those local churches. Believers individually, and local churches (believers corporately), were to be the distribution centers of Truth through the supernatural enabling of the indwelling Holy Spirit (II Corinthians 5:17-21). The Great Commission required that reaching the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ become the accepted and lived responsibility of the Church and every individual Christian “born again” of the Spirit of God.

Yet, the Great Commission was not to be, and could not be, accomplished through human will power, strength/might, or through human wisdom. Fulfilling the Great Commission would need to be a cooperative, supernatural work done in synergism with the indwelling Holy Spirit of God and with a network of other believers of like precious faith in various local churches. Fulfilling the Great Commission would require an in depth knowledge of the Word of God, an intimate relationship with the God of the Word, and a living, vibrant faith that is willing to make enormous personal sacrifices and take enormous personal risks to insure that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed throughout the world.

“15 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, 16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; 17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1:15-23).

Fulfilling the Great Commission would require a partnership with God in “the work of the ministry.” This partnership is available to every believer and is communicated by the word “fellowship” in our English Bibles. The availability of this partnership to every believer is communicated in the last phrase of the Great Commission: “and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:20). This “work of the ministry” was never intended to be done apart from a partnership with the indwelling Christ. Yet, the “work of the ministry” is the Great Commission and is commanded to every believer.

1 David Thomas, Acts of the Apostles Expository and Homiletical, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI; reprint of the 1870 ed. Published by R.D. Dickinson, London, under title: Homiletic Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles

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Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist.
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

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