How Is the Mystery of Christ Made Known?

TODAY’S READING: EPHESIANS 1-3

“How the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ.” (Ephesians 3.3-4)

Jesus used the Greek word for mystery, mysterion, one time, although it is record in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In Matthew 13.11, Jesus said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets [mysteries] of the kingdom of heaven.” Mysterion is used a few times in Revelation, but, for the most part, mysterion is exclusive to Paul’s writing.

Here is a sampling of what Paul says about mystery.

  • “I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers.” (Romans 11.25)
  • “The mystery that was kept secret for long ages.” (Romans 16.25)
  • “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” (1 Corinthians 4.1)
  • “This mystery is profound.” (Ephesians 5.32)
  • “Of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.” (Colossians 1.25-26)
  • “To reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ.” (Colossians 2.2)

The mystery is Christ.

The mystery is the word of God, Jesus, not the Bible, which was hidden for ages but can now be fully known.

What exactly is this mystery that is Christ?

Jesus told us himself in Luke 24.46-47, saying, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations.”

It should be no surprise that Paul writes so much about this mystery since it is the one thing he was occupied with.

It is quite interesting to know that the Greek word for mystery, mysterion, is derived from  the Greek word muo, which means to shut the mouth. Perhaps this is why Paul said, “Now we know that whatever the law speaks it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped and the whole world may be held accountable to God.” (Romans 3.19)

What does the law speak?

According to Jesus in Luke 24, the law speaks that he had to suffer, die, and rise from the dead. This mystery of Christ was meant to shut every mouth. The mystery of Christ crucified, God suffering and dying, was meant to shut us up so that we behold God in utter amazement that he would do such a thing.

How is such a mystery made known?

Luke 24.27 says, “And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

Luke 24.45 says, “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.”

A mystery cannot be known through effort, hard work, reading, study. The mystery of Christ cannot be seen and understood no matter how much time and effort you put into reading and studying the Bible. The mystery can only be shown to by Jesus. He has to interpret and open up the scriptures so that you can know the mystery.

Paul says “the mystery was made known to me by revelation.” According to Merriam-Webster’s, this is the very definition of the word mystery – something profound and inexplicable, something beyond understanding, a religious truth that one can know only by revelation but cannot be fully understood.

So, what is revelation?

The Greek word for revelation is apokalypsis, which literally means the act of uncovering. A mystery is covered. Revelation uncovers it. Jesus opens it.

The holy of holies, the place of God’s presence, was covered by a veil. When Jesus was crucified, the veil that covered God’s presence, God’s true character and nature, was torn. Through the crucifixion of Christ, God was uncovered.

In Ephesians 3.4-5, Paul says. “When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.”

The sons of men in other generations had the Bible, scriptures, writing, letters. But, none of these made the mystery of Christ known to anyone. But, the mystery has known been revealed, uncovered, opened, by the Spirit. More literally, Paul says it has been revealed “in spirit.”

Therefore, in 2 Corinthians 3.6, Paul says he is a minister “of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit.” He literally says “not of letter but of spirit.” Again, the new covenant, the mystery of Christ, cannot be known by letter, writing, scripture, the Bible. It can only be known, only be revealed, by spirit. This is why God caused the Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts. It is  our only hope for knowing him. The Bible is useless, a collection of dead letters, without the Spirit revealing, opening, and interpreting the true meaning of the mystery of Christ to us.

In 2 Corinthians 4.3-4, Paul says. “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Here Paul alludes to the veil in the temple that covered the true nature and character of God from us. And, again, it was Christ’s crucifixion, which is shorthand for his suffering, death, and rising from the dead, that removed the veil and uncovered, revealed, who God really is.

We must keep in mind that we are not talking about knowing about God. We are talking about knowing God, experiencing God in a practical way. The deepest knowing of anything is always by experience.

And, we must never forget the one writing to us that says the true knowledge of God could not be known by the literal letter of scripture. Paul was a Pharisee. I would venture that he spent more time studying, memorizing, and practicing the scriptures than anyone of us could ever dream of. Surely, his understanding of the scripture was far greater than any of ours.

So, if Paul says that you cannot know God by a literal reading of scripture by the letter, through effort, hard work, diligent study, but that you can only know God, the mystery of Christ, by revelation through the Spirit who dwells in our hearts, then we probably should take him at his word.

Why Was the Bible Written?

TODAY’S READING: ROMANS 15-16

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Romans 15:4-6

Many Christians believe that Bible was written to give us the word of God. Therefore, because the Bible is the word of God, we should believe and obey it, every single jot and tittle of it, literally.

Where do Christians get this idea?

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:14-16)

These Christians believe that the Bible should be taken literally because it was breathed out by God. Therefore, if we want righteousness, which generally means perfect moral behavior to these Christians, then we should literally believe and obey the Bible because it teaches, reproves, corrects, trains you in righteousness.

But, is that why the Bible was written?

My answer is absolutely not.

First, 2 Timothy 3:16 says that all scripture is theopneustos. This is the only time that the word is used in the Bible. And, it is believed that Paul coined this term himself. Theo means God, and pneustos comes from the word pneuma, which means spirit, breath, or wind.

Therefore, Paul could be saying that “all scripture breathed out by God” or “all scripture is God breathed.” In this way, all scripture comes by God’s breath or God’s Spirit. As a student of the Old Testament, Paul would know that God’s spirit was also God’s breath. The Hebrew word ru’ah was used for both.

However, Paul could also be saying “all God-breathed scripture.” If we translated it this way, then we come away with a slightly different understanding in English. This would imply that there is scripture, but there is also God-breathed scripture. In other words, there is an understanding of scripture, but there is another understanding of scripture when God breathes his Spirit into it.

This latter idea, that there are different understandings of Scripture, fits exactly with what Paul says in 2 Corinthians. There, Paul says that there is a literal understanding of scripture by the letter that leads to death and there is an understanding of scripture by the Spirit, a God-breathed understanding, that leads to life. The Spiritual understanding of scripture comes because Christ’s crucifixion, his suffering, tore the veil that blinded us to this true Spiritual meaning of scripture.

Further, Paul uses two key words – faith and righteousness – that help us understand what he means by God-breathed scripture. Over the last week, I have written about the meaning of faith and righteousness in “What Is Faith?” and “What Is the Righteousness of God and Its Effect?

The key to understanding both words is to know the one thing that Jesus said all scripture spoke about. Twice in Luke 24, Jesus says that the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms, that is all scripture, spoke about one thing – that the Christ should suffer and rise from the dead three days later so that repentance and the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed to all nations.

For 40 days, from his resurrection to his ascension, Jesus taught the disciples the necessity of his suffering and rising from the dead. He told them this was what all scripture was about. But, to do this, Jesus had to interpret and translate the scriptures for them. In other words, the necessity of his suffering and rising from the dead was not the obvious literal meaning.

Further, Jesus told his disciples the night before he died that he would ask his Father to “give you another Helper, to be with you forever.” (John 14:16)

This “Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26)

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13-14)

So, the Holy Spirit was given to us to be with us forever. The Holy Spirit teaches all things and brings to our remembrance what Jesus said. Jesus said it was necessary that he suffer and rise from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins. Because Jesus spoke these words, the Holy Spirit speaks these words since the Holy Spirit only speaks what Jesus speaks.

Therefore, God-breathed scripture, Spirit-filled scripture, is all about the necessity of Christ suffering and rising from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins. Remember, this cannot be understood literally from the scriptures themselves as Jesus had to interpret, translate, and open our minds to them. The Holy Spirit, through God-breathed scripture, does exactly the same thing.

While the meaning and understanding of theopneustos is contested, Paul says something very similar in Romans 15:4-6.

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Just like in 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul says that the things written were written for our instruction.

In 2 Timothy 3:14-16, Paul used the words faith and righteousness to speak of the necessity of Christ suffering and rising from the dead.

In Romans 15:4-6, Paul uses the word endurance instead of faith and righteousness to imply suffering. Endurance means the ability to withstand hardship or adversity, the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity.

The very meaning of the word endurance implies that suffering is involved. In fact, earlier in Romans, Paul says links suffering and endurance. Romans 5:3 says, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that sufferings produces endurance.”

According to Romans 15:4, one way scripture instructs us is through suffering.

Also, Paul says that another way scripture instructs us is through encouragement. The Greek word for encouragement is paraklesis. It also means comfort and exhortation.

When Jesus said the Father would send us a helper, a comforter, he said the Father would send us a parakletos. The Holy Spirit brings the encouragement of the scripture to us. He is the helper, the comforter, the exhorter of the scriptures.

But, what does the Holy Spirit say?

Exactly what Jesus said.

It was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

And, it cannot be emphasized enough, this meaning of the scriptures had to be interpreted and translated to us. Our minds had to be opened to it. It is not the literal, obvious, plain meaning of the scriptures.

In the very next verse, verse 5, Paul calls God the God of endurance and encouragement. God is the God of suffering that produces life for repentance and forgiveness of sins. As this God, he grants, or gives, you “to live in such harmony with one another.”

The phrase “to live in such harmony” is “to auto phronein” in the Greek. The word auto means his. And, the word phronein means think, set one’s mind on, to be minded.

Paul is saying that God of endurance and encouragement, the God that suffers to give life, is giving us his mind. We are to have God’s mind toward one another. We are to think like God towards another.

How does God think towards us?

It was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead.

God suffers for us, his enemies, to bring us life.

God gives us his mind “according to Christ Jesus.”

God gives us his mind, which is the mind of Christ. And, the mind of Christ was to glorify God. In John 17:1-4, Jesus said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given me authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.”

Why did God give us his mind to suffer to bring forth life, which is the same mind that Jesus had?

“That together you may with one voice glorify God.”

The Greek word for together is homothymadon. Homo means the same. And, thymadon comes from the word thymos, which means passion (as if breathing hard).

Breathing?

Like God breathed?

God gives us the mind of suffering to bring life so that we can have the same passion as Christ to glorify God.

It was in his hour, his crucifixion, the necessity of his suffering, which led to his rising from the dead, that Jesus glorified God.

We are to have this same passion so that we can all glorify God together in one voice.

Or, present your bodies a living sacrifice as Paul says in Romans 12:1.

Look how similar this is to what Paul says in Philippians 1:29-2:8.

“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe [that is have faith] in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. So if there is any encouragement [paraklesis] in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy be being of the same mind [to auto hina phronete], having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

The Bible was written for our instruction. It was God-breathed, inspired, so that we would know what God was really saying.

God was really saying that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

But, this is not the literal meaning of scripture. The true meaning of scripture can only come to you if Jesus translates and interprets scripture for you. He has to open your mind to this meaning.

And, Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit forever to teach us and tell us exactly what Jesus taught the disciples. It is the Holy Spirit’s interpretation and translation of the scriptures that makes them God-breathed.

This non-literal, Holy Spirit filled meaning is how the scriptures “are able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.”

This non-literal, Holy Spirit filled meaning is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.

This non-literal, Holy Spirit filled meaning causes us to know it is suffering for our enemies that leads to life for us and our enemies.

The literal meaning of scripture just produces death.

What Is Faith?

TODAY’S READING: ROMANS 11-14

“The were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith.” – Romans 11:20

Paul’s statement above is in the midst of his argument regarding Jews and Gentiles and who will be saved. He says the Jews were cut off because of unbelief but the Gentiles stand through faith.

The Greek word for faith is pistis. The Greek word for unbelief is apistia. The prefix a means not. More literally, Paul is saying that the Gentiles stand in faith while the Jews were cut off in not faith.

Pistis is a noun. The related verb is pisteuo. It is almost always translated believe because it wouldn’t make sense in English to say “I faith in you.”

Romans uses pistis more than any other book in the Bible.

So, what exactly is this thing we call faith?

The dictionary says that faith is an allegiance to duty or a person, belief and trust in and loyalty to God, belief in the traditional doctrines of religion, firm belief in something for which there is no proof, complete trust, and something that is believed especially with strong conviction.

Okay. Faith is a belief or a trust. And, we are to put our faith, belief, or trust in God.

That is still very nebulous and abstract.

Why am I to put my faith, belief, or trust in God?

If you see God as a homicidal, genocidal killer as he is depicted in the Old Testament and as many Christians proclaim him to the world, then why would someone who does not have faith suddenly put their faith, belief, or trust in God?

Perhaps the scripture that most Christians to turn to get a definition of faith is Hebrews 11:1. It says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” But, that is not really any clearer that the definition from the dictionary above.

This is still far too nebulous and abstract for me.

Therefore, I believe the best definition of faith comes from what Jesus taught the disciples all scripture was witnessing to and the one thing Paul was occupied with.

“Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:26)

“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations.” (Luke 24:46-47)

From the foundation of the world, the Father and the Son’s plan to save us was that the Christ would suffer, die, and rise from the dead.

Jesus partook of flesh and blood. He was made flesh, fully man. (Yes, he was fully God too.)

As fully man, what would it take for Jesus to go along with the plan of him suffering, dying, and rising from the dead?

Faith.

Jesus had to have faith that even though he emptied himself to be born in the likeness of men to suffer and die on the cross (Philippians 2:6-8) for the salvation of others his Father would raise him to life.

From the one thing that is necessary – that the Christ should suffer and die but be raised on the third day – we get our definition of faith.

Faith is to trust God that even though I suffer and die for my enemies God will raise me up to life as well as raise my enemies to life with me.

In “What Is the Righteousness of God and Its Effect?“, I provided my own translation of Romans 3:21-26 based on Paul’s obsession with the necessity of the Christ suffering and being raised from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

“And now the righteousness of God has been manifested without law, but the righteousness of God is being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets through the faith of Jesus Christ to all the believing. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are being justified for no reason by his grace in proof of his righteousness. Because in his divine forbearance he tolerated former sins to prove his righteousness in the appointed time, in being him the just and the justifying one of Jesus’ faith.”

The righteousness of God was manifested on the cross through the faith of Jesus that the even though he would suffer and die his Father would raise him up three days later. Therefore, God justified Jesus’ faith.

This is why Jesus can save believe in me. He can say, “Look at what God did for me. I suffered and died for you. Yet, the Father raised me from the dead. Believe in me. Therefore, pick up your cross and follow me. Suffer with me for others and the Father will raise you from the dead too.”

This is why, after an entire chapter devoted to faith, the author of Hebrews wrote, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Now, go back to what Paul said in Romans 11:20, “They were broken off because of their unbelief [not faith], but you stand fast through faith.”

Why were the Jews broken off?

They did not believe it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins. They had no faith.

Why were the Gentiles standing, grafted into God’s family?

They believed that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins. They had faith.

Now, every time I read the word faith I think to myself that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead. Doing this brings incredible meaning to the passages that use the word faith (or believe).

As just one example, Romans 12:6-8 says, “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”

Why does say that the gift of prophecy should be used in proportion to our faith?

“For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Revelation 19:10)

To prophesy is to witness to Jesus, which is to say that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins. And, therefore, it is necessary for you to suffer and rise from the dead to have eternal life too.

That is a dangerous message to prophesy. No community, no culture, no country, wants to hear that message.

Jesus was a prophet. And, when he prophesied that message, it got him crucified.

Therefore, we can only prophesy, witness to, Jesus in proportion to our faith, to the extent that we trust and believe God that was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

If we have only a little faith, then we truly prophesy only a little.

But, if we have great faith, knowing without a doubt that God raises to life those that suffer for their enemies, then we can truly prophesy greatly.

So, what is faith?

Believing and trusting God that he raises to life all those that suffer for their enemies and brings their enemies to life with them.

How Did Paul Worship God According to the Way?

TODAY’S READING: ACTS 24-26

“But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets.” – Acts 24:14

The Way was the first name given to the group of apostles and disciples who believed and followed Jesus. The name implies that believers in Jesus are on a journey, a road, from one place to another.

In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

The apostles and disciples were on the narrow way that leads to life. They were called the Way because they were on a journey from death to life.

“In the path of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.” (Proverbs 12:28)

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24)

“Present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life.” (Romans 6:13)

“We know that we have passed out of death into life.” (1 John 3:14)

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness [death] and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son [life].” (Colossians 1:13)

Paul was once on the easy way that led to broad gate that opened to destruction, to death. “But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. (Acts 9:1-2)

As Paul confessed to King Agrippa, “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.” (Acts 26:9-11)

Paul went about threatening, persecuting, approving of, voting for, and seeking the murder of those he disagreed with. He was on the broad way, entering the wide gate, going to death and destruction and destruction.

But, something happened to change that changed his way from death to life. “At midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me.” (Acts 26:13) Paul encountered Jesus. And, it was Jesus, the Lord, that Paul himself was persecuting, seeking to murder, and putting to death.

Why did Jesus appear to Paul?

“For I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and the Gentiles – to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” (Acts 26:16-18)

Jesus appeared to Paul so that Paul could turn Jews and Gentiles from darkness to light.

Jesus appeared to Paul so that Paul could turn Jews and Gentiles from the power of Satan to God.

What is the power of Satan?

“The one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.” (Hebrews 2:14)

Jesus appeared to Paul so that Paul could turn Jews and Gentiles from death to life, the way of death to the way of life.

Paul would turn people from death to life by worshiping God according to the way.

How would Paul worship God according to the way?

“By believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets.”

Does this mean that Paul believed everything written in the scriptures, the law and the prophets, literally?

Does this mean that Paul believed everything written in the scriptures, the law and the prophets, word for word?

Does this mean that if the scriptures said then Paul believed it, no questions asked?

The answer to each of these questions is no.

Emphatically no.

“And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit [life] have even more glory? For there was glory in the ministry of condemnation [death], the ministry of righteousness [life] must far exceed it in glory.” (2 Corinthians 3:3-9)

At one point in time, Paul believe the scriptures according to the literal letter, word for word. If the scriptures said it, then he believed it. But, Paul said this is a ministry of condemnation and death for the letter, the literal reading of scripture, kills. Indeed, this is exactly what testified to  in front of King Agrippa.

But, not Paul reads the scriptures by the Spirit instead of the literal letter. The Spirit has a ministry of righteousness that gives life. Paul no longer literally read the scriptures word for word. Instead, Paul read the scriptures by the Spirit.

How did this change come about in Paul?

“Since we have such hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:12-18)

Paul no longer read the scriptures literally, word for word, by the letter because Christ removed the veil that was over them. Christ removed the veil over the scriptures when he was crucified. This was when the veil in the temple that prevented anyone from seeing the most holy place was torn in two.

Therefore, it was Christ’ suffering on the cross and rising from the dead that allowed Paul to read the scriptures by the Spirit instead of literally, word for word, by the letter.

What did reading the scriptures by the Spirit instead of literally, word for word, by the letter, do to Paul’s reading of the scriptures?

Regardless of what the scriptures said, Paul now read all death and destruction as coming from Satan. Paul now saw it just as Jesus said in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Paul even gives us an example of how he assigns death and destruction to Satan even if the Old Testament literally says that God is responsible for it.

Numbers 21:6 says, “Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit people, so that many people of Israel died.”

Numbers 14:26-35 says, “And the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, ‘How long shall this wicked congregation grumble against me? I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel, which they grumble against me. Say to them, “As I live, declares the Lord, what you have said in my hearing I will do to you: your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and of all your number, listed in the census from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me, not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. But your little ones, who you said would become a prey, i will bring in, and they shall know the land that you have rejected. But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness. And you children shall be shepherds in this wilderness for forty years and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness. According to the number of the days in which spied out the land, forty days, a year for each day, you shall bear your iniquity forty years, and you shall know my displeasure.” I, the Lord have spoken, Surely this will I do to all this wicked congregation who are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall come to a full end, and there they shall die.'”

Who did Moses say sent the fiery serpents that bit the people and caused them to die?

God.

Who did Moses say would kill all the people in the wilderness that grumbled against God?

God.

Paul at one time believed this. But, now he sees it differently because the Christ that suffered and rose from the dead has removed the veil.

“We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.” (1 Corinthians 10:9-10)

While Moses said these deaths were caused by God, Paul says the deaths of the people in the wilderness were caused by the serpents and the Destroyer. The deaths were caused by Satan.

Remember, Jesus told Paul he was going to turn people from the power of Satan to God. Paul’s ministry is to open the eyes of Jews and Gentiles to the fact that darkness and death belong to Satan but light and life belong to God.

Therefore, Paul interprets the scriptures by the Spirit, who is life and gives life, to show that the Old Testament is wrong when it literally attributes actions that brought death to God. Those actions were actually done by the power of Satan, who is the one with the power of death.

So, Paul concludes his testimony to King Agrippa, saying, “To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and the Gentiles.” (Acts 26:22-23)

Here we are again at the theme of the last week – the Christ must suffer and rise from the dead. This is what we are to see and know from the scriptures. This is what Christ shows the disciples in the scriptures in Luke 24.

That the Christ must suffer and rise from the dead is the meaning of the scriptures.

The Christ must suffer.

God suffers.

The Christ dies.

God dies.

The Christ does not cause suffering.

God does not cause suffering.

The Christ does not kill.

God does not kill.

It was necessary that the Christ suffer and rise from the dead must be firmly rooted in our hearts and minds. It must be written on our hearts by the Spirit. We must have no doubts about this.

If we do doubt this, then we are blinded by Satan, led down the wide way to the broad gate that leads to destruction, to death, which Satan has the power of.

By saying the Old Testament is wrong when it ascribes death to the hands of God, by saying we need to reinterpret the the Old Testament by the Spirit instead of reading it literally, word for word, by the letter,

  • I know I will be mocked
  • I know I will be told I’m wrong
  • I know my salvation will be questioned.
  • I know I will be told I’m leading people astray
  • I know I will be called a false teacher
  • I know I will be told I’m out of my mind

But, that’s exactly what happened to Paul.

“And as he was saying these things in his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, ‘Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.'” (Acts 26:24)

Festus told Paul that all his learning and all his study was making him say crazy things. Perhaps, Festus even meant that Paul was creating his own God.

“But Paul said, ‘I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking true and rational words.'” (Acts 26:25)

I am not of out my mind.

I am not creating my own God.

I am speaking true and rational words.

I am speaking the only words that make sense when you know that is was necessary that the Christ suffer and rise from the dead.

I am speaking the same words as Paul.

I am speaking the same words as Jesus.

I will worship God according to the way, believing the scriptures say that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead.

What Is the One Thing Jesus Spoke Plainly?

TODAY’S READING: MARK 10-11

“And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.'” – Mark 10:32-34

This is the third and final time in Mark that Jesus tells the twelve disciples that he was going to be delivered to his death and rise three days later. Mark writes something very interesting the first time Jesus speaks about his death and resurrection.

Mark 8:31-32 says, “And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly.”

“And he said this plainly.”

The Greek word for plainly is parresia. It means boldness, confidence, plainly, frankness. According to the Theological Lexicon of the New Testament parresia means freedom of speech, candor, boldness, public speech, categorical affirmation. It was originally a political term, which was the sign of one’s political liberty. The very act of speaking with such freedom implied the truth of what was being said. But, speaking with such freedom exposed the speaker to significant danger.

So, when Jesus spoke of his death, he spoke boldly, confidently, plainly, frankly. He did not mince words. Jesus was clear. He was not trying to obfuscate what he was saying or making it hard to understand.

His suffering, death, and resurrection is the one thing that Jesus spoke about plainly.

Mark 4:2 says, “And he was teaching them many things in parables.”

Mark 4:33-34 says, “With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.”

Why would Jesus speak so plainly about his suffering, death, and resurrection with his disciples but only speak in parables to everyone else?

Mark 4:11 says, “And he said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables.”

Jesus gave the secret, the mystery, of the kingdom of God to his disciples. He spoke to them plainly about it. The secret, the mystery, of the kingdom of God is that the Christ must suffer, die, and be resurrected three days.

Why did Jesus tell his disciples this one thing – his suffering, death, and resurrection – so plainly?

I believe because it is so antithetical, so opposite, to the way we naturally think.

Mark 8:29 says, “And he asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, ‘You are the Christ.'”

It was immediately after Peter’s confession, on behalf of all the disciples, that Jesus began to teach that he would, be killed, and rise three days later. But, even though Peter had just confessed Jesus as the Christ, this plain teaching of Jesus made no sense to him.

Mark 8:32 says, “And he [Jesus] said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.”

The one thing Jesus taught plainly, Peter said no way.

Jesus taught about his suffering, death, and resurrection a second time in Mark 9:30-32. Immediately after the second teaching, Jesus and the disciples journeyed to Capernaum. Along the way, the disciples argued, not about Jesus’ teaching that he would suffer, die, and rise even though they did not understand it, but about who would be the greatest in the kingdom. So, Jesus told them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

The third and final time Jesus teaches that he will suffer, die, and rise, James and John ask Jesus that he would grant them to sit on his right and left hand. Yet, again when Jesus teaches plainly the secret of the kingdom – that the Christ, the Messiah, the king would suffer, die and rise – the disciples are still trying to be great according to the way of the world. They want to rule.

The other disciples became indignant at James and John. They are still arguing about who is going to be the greatest. In Mark 10:42-45, Jesus responded, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus had to speak the secret, the mystery of the kingdom, plainly to his disciples because it was completely the opposite of everything they thought and believed about the way the world worked, who the Christ was, and what he would do.

Not only did Jesus speak plainly that he would suffer, die, and rise, but he acted plainly. In John 16:25, Jesus said, “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly [parresia] about the Father.”

Jesus would tell them plainly about the Father in the hour. The hour is a reference to Jesus’ crucifixion. It was on the cross that Jesus’ actions would plainly reveal the Father just as he had spoken plainly to the disciples about his suffering, death, and resurrection.

Colossians 2:13-15 says, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to an open [parresia] shame, by triumphing over them in him.

The crucifixion of Jesus was God disarming the rulers and authorities, those that had all mankind bound in sin and death. The crucifixion was Jesus plainly showing us who God is.

Did you catch the significance of this plain speaking about the Father in Colossians 2:13-15?

“Having forgiven us all our trespasses.”

Jesus taught his suffering, death, and resurrection clearly because he wanted to boldly, confidently, frankly tell us that God forgives us.

Why did Jesus speak clearly to the disciples the secret of the kingdom yet in parables to those outside?

Mark 4:11-12 says, “and he said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that ‘they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.'”

Here Jesus links his plain speaking as opposed to his teaching in parables with forgiveness.

When Jesus was on the cross, when his actions most plainly told us about the Father, what did Jesus say?

Luke 23:34 says, “And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'”

The secret, the mystery, of the kingdom is so foreign to us that despite Jesus’ plain teaching and acting out his teaching on the cross, the disciples still did not understand.

Luke 24:25-27 says, “And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

So, Luke 24:44-48 says, “Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled,’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for [the correct word is and] the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

Why did Jesus speak plainly about his suffering, death, and resurrection?

So, that repentance and forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed.

How did you Jesus start his ministry?

Jesus first words in the gospel of Mark are, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Repentance is the first message of the kingdom.

How did Jesus end his ministry?

Luke 23:34 says, “And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'”

Forgiveness is the last word of Jesus’ ministry.

So, Jesus told the disciples to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to the whole world. This was the evidence that the disciples had been transformed. See yesterday’s post.

Proclaiming repentance and forgiveness of sins to the world is just what the disciples did. And, they did it plainly.

In the first sermon, Peter preached “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raise him up.” Peter preached that the Christ must suffer, die, and be resurrected. Peter did not preach, “Believe in Jesus, get saved, or you are going to burn in hell forever.”

The disciples never once preached hell. They preached the secret, the mystery, of the kingdom – Jesus Christ suffered, died, and was resurrected. They preached the gospel.

In acts 2:29, 32, Peter said, “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence [parresia] about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb us with us to this day…This Jesus God raised up, and of that we are all witnesses.”

When confidently, boldly, plainly taught the secret of the kingdom, the gospel, those who were gathered were cut to heart and asked what should they do?

“And Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)

The disciples knew the secret of the kingdom, the gospel – Jesus Christ suffered, died, and was resurrected. Therefore, they proclaimed repentance and the forgiveness of sins to all.

Acts 4:13 says, “Now when they saw the boldness [parresia] of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.

Acts 4:29-31 says, “‘And now, Lord, look upon their hearts and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with boldness [parresia], while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ And when they had prayed, the place in which there gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness [parresia].”

Acts 28:30-31 says, “He [Paul] lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness [parresia] and without hindrance.”

To speak the word with boldness is not

  • proclaiming the ten commandments
  • quoting the law and the prophets literally
  • telling people to obey rules and moral commands
  • preaching get saved or burn in hell forever.

To speak the word, the word of God, Jesus Christ with boldness is to proclaim that Jesus is the Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords. And, as the Christ, the true king of the world, Jesus became the least of all, a servant, a slave. He willingly suffered and was crucified at your hands. But, God raised Jesus up. Jesus did this so that you could repent of your violence, your desire for vengeance, and receive God’s forgiveness for your sins and proclaim God’s forgiveness to the world.

This is what Jesus spoke plainly.