Teaching (Part 3)

Casket Empty   •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  1:12:31
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This is our 3rd week in the teaching portion of our EMPTY acronym, our flyover of the New Testament. It’s a 40,000 foot flyover, but its giving us a sense of the overarching message of redemption and seeing the connections of the New Testament back to the Old, and the flow of the story from Genesis on.
So, as we’ve done each week I want to give you our pre-flight instructions:
Don’t get frustrated by the pace.
Try and see the connections.
Enjoy your flight.
We’re in the T of our acronym EMPTY
E - Expectations - 430BC - 6BC
M - Messiah - 6BC-AD33
P - Pentecost - AD 33-65
T - Teaching
Y - Yet to come.
And I want to remind you of the dates involved here:
Expectations was basically 430BC - 6BC
Messiah is the period of Jesus 6BC - AD 33
Pentecost is AD 33- c. 65, and is the story we see told in the book of Acts as the church expands.
Teaching overlaps with Pentecost and goes forward towards the end of the first century as the church expands; we’re looking at the teaching of the early church from AD 33 - c. 95
Yet to come will be the years AD95 - the return of Christ.
For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been flying over 7 books at a time as we look the 21 letters that make up the bulk of our New Testament.

Teaching (Part 3)

Today we’re going to fly over 1-2 Peter, Hebrews, Jude, and 1-3 John. You’ll note that these are not in the order that they appear in our New Testaments, and we talked about the order of the books a couple of weeks ago.
As we dive into this, we have to have some historical context as to where we are. You may remember that we left Paul in Rome, he’s under arrest at this time.
During this early time of history “Christian teaching provokes persecution from two very different directions. On the one side, many religious Jews take offense at the cross and despise the inclusion of the nations. On the other side, many idolatrous pagans scorn the cross and refuse to glorify the God of Israel. The Christian community stands in the midst of these worlds with the teaching of Christ. God’s people proclaim his death and resurrection according to the Scriptures. They offer forgiveness of sins for all who believe in his name. They invite all nations into the people of God as co-heirs with Christ. Christian teaching thus confronts both religious nationalism and Roman imperialism with the Lordship of Christ over all the earth.”
Palmer, David. Casket Empty: God's Plan of Redemption through History: New Testament Study Guide (p. 263). Casket Empty Media LLC. Kindle Edition.

James, brother of Jesus.

In AD 62, James the brother of Jesus, is arrested and brought before the people gathering for the Feast of Passover. He is commanded to rebuke those in Israel who openly confess Jesus is the Messiah. He goes directly against their command and boldly testifies that Jesus is the promised Messiah that Israel was expecting, and that he is seated at the right hand of God and will come again in glory. Not what they expected. So what do they do?
The loving thing of course - Please note the sarcasm.
No, they don’t do the loving thing, his accusers begin to stone him to death. It’s during the stoning he follows the example of Christ and prays for them, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
You also have persecution coming from Imperial Rome, where Paul is imprisoned.

Meanwhile, in Rome…AD 64

In AD 64 there is a great fire in Rome that devastates three central districts. You’ve perhaps heard the phrase “Nero played the fiddle while Rome burned,” well fiddles hadn’t been invented yet, but Rome did burn. Rumors circulate and Nero is quick to blame it on Christians. He orders them to be burned alive as human torches to illuminate his evening parties at the palace.
Remember, this is the man that Paul has made his appeal to and is now awaiting trial. The manner of these deaths does garner some compassion, yet Roman writers continued to fuel the persecution with popular slander accusing Christians of atheism, cannibalism, and incest. Atheism because they did not honor the traditional gos or deified emperors; cannibalism upon hearing that they “eat the body and drink the blood of their god;” and incest because of what the writers refer to as “love feasts” because everyone is called “brother” and “sister.”
Peter has also joined Paul in Rome about this time.

1-2 Peter

As we begin to look at these general epistles in our 40,000 foot flyover we come to Peter’s letters to the church. He’s writing these during this great time of persecution near the end of his life. His first letter is addressed to those believers scatters through the five provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia. If we look at our timeline these are provinces that encompass the northern and western parts of modern day Turkey. The letters are sent from Babylon which is a veiled reference to Rome.
Peter writes as a first hand eyewitness of Christ, and speaks of Christ as “the true grace of God”. He challenges the church to “stand firm”, to be “faithful” until Christ’s return. There are almost 40 imperatives in these two letters. “Be sober minded,” “be holy,” “Put off the old self”. He refers to the church as, “God’s chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God’s own possession.”
The second letter was written a short time later and shares many of the same concerns from his first letter. He continues to urge believers to keep growing in holiness and godliness.
Our summarizing statement for 1-2 Peter on the timeline is “Shepherd the flock of Christ,” following our key verse 1 Peter 5:2
1 Peter 5:2 (ESV)
Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly;
Remember how Peter was restored after his denials of Christ to become a leading apostle in the early church.

c. AD 65 - the end of an era

Around AD 65, we have the end of an era. It is about this time that Paul is beheaded in Rome and Peter is crucified. The New Testament is silent as to the exact place and manner in which these executions take place, but several sources confirm their deaths. As a Roman citizen Paul would have been exempt from the humiliation of the cross; and as a member of the subject people Peter would endure the cross and at his request he war crucifies upside down outside the city of Rome.

Hebrews - c. AD 65

The epistle to the Hebrews was written differently than the other epistles we encounter in the New Testament. The author does not identify themself, though perhaps the best suggestion is Barnabas the Levite from Cyprus who was an early partner in missions with the apostle Paul.
This epistle is written to Christian Jews spread throughout the known world. What is absolutely is that the author is committed to Jesus as the Christ. The author refers to the Christ and the Christian life with an incredibly rich vocabulary using 169 words that do not occur anywhere else in the New Testament. The author is intimately familiar with the Old Testament, especially it’s Greek translation.
The central thesis of Hebrews is that Jesus Christ is God’s climactic word to his people. It is a powerful epistle, especially given it is written around the same time as the execution of two of the leading proponents of this new faith in the world. The author tells us if we want to know what God is like all we need to do is look to Jesus.
The entire book unfolds like a carefully constructed sermon. The author builds through 7 scriptural expositions presenting the excellence of Jesus Christ as God’s climactic Word (with a capital W).
Our summarizing statement for Hebrews on our timeline is “Christ is above all,” and our key verse Hebrews 1:2
Hebrews 1:2 (ESV)
in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
Our next epistle is Jude, a very short book, also written around AD 65.

Jude - c. AD 65

This letter is written by Jude, one of Jesus’ brothers specifically to the church in Jerusalem. It’s worth noting that though Jesus’ earthly brothers did not believe in him early on in his ministry, James and Jude were present with those gathered at Pentecost and they became leaders in the early church.
This short yet very powerful letter exposes the lie of those teaching that the grace of God was in fact a license for sin. Jude asserts that those who pervert the grace of God into sensuality will face judgment for denying Jesus, who is Master and Lord. He like others warns against false teachers, and points believers to stay true to Christ.
Our summarizing statement for Jude is “Keep yourself for Christ” and our key verse is Jude 1:3
Jude 3 (ESV)
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
Contend for faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

1-3 John - c. AD 65-95

These last three letters of the General Epistles are short letters from the apostle of John written towards the end of his life and ministry near Ephesus. We don’t know the exact date, and these letters were circulated among the early Christian communities throughout Asia Minor.
One of what I believe to be the great testimonies of the reality of the person of Jesus is the way that John opens his first pastoral letter when he writes: 1 John 1:1
1 John 1:1 ESV
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—
John writes to believers and recognizes them as born from above; he writes with urgency, knowing that spiritual danger abounds in the latter days. He warns against the spirit of the antichrist and that believers must abide in Christ and the truth they have received bering fruit in anticipation of Christ’s return.
Our summarizing statement for 1-3 John is,
“Love one another in Christ.”
And our Key verse is from 1 John 4.7
1 John 4:7 ESV
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

Rising Tensions

So we’re talking about the time around AD 65, in AD 66 the Jewish War against Rome erupts in Caesarea. The conflict between Jewish and Roman worship and sacrifices, mixed with racism proves to be a violent mix. The tensions continue for several years culminating in the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in AD 70. The city of Jerusalem is surrounded by Roman troops and those fleeing are executed. Roman soliders out of boredom, hatred, and rage, amuse themselves by nailing prisoners in various positions on crosses.
On the 29th of August in AD 70, the Romans launch a full assault and destroy the Temple built by Solomon. Jerusalem is left utterly desolate. You will note on our timeline in the lower right the burning of the temple.
As we conclude our Teaching portion in our survery of the New Testament letters you will notice a key on the lower left corner under teaching. We’re going to very quickly look at 7 key New Testament Beliefs that compel Christian mission and unite christian teaching.
Seven Key Beliefs:
Jesus is the Messiah, Christ the Lord
Justification by faith in Christ
Indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit
Jews and Gentiles are “one in Christ”
Obedience of faith among the nations
Living sacrifices, “holy to the LORD”
Return of Christ in glory as Judge.
The primary and most important distinguishing belief in the all of the New Testament leaders is the conviction that Jesus is Israel’s promised Messiah.
The second key to New Testament belief that we’ve discussed is justification by faith in Christ. The New Testament letters affirm the death of Christ provides substitutionary atonement for the sin of the world.
Thirdly, we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Throughout the Old Testament, the prophets looked forward to a time when God would pour out his Spirit upon all peoples. We saw at Pentecost and we see throughout these letters the Holy Spirit being spoken of as present within the believers themselves.
Fourth that Jews and Gentiles are one in Christ. The Bible begins in Genesis 1 with the entire world in view. We see the sin of Adam brought condemnation to the world - Genesis 3, and Romans 5. Later in Genesis you have the tower of Babel and the multiplication of languages, the division of peoples. God’s redemptive plan began with Abraham and Sarah and spreads to all nations. Now we have the uniting of the nations at Pentecost (everyone heard in their own language), and the clear spreading of the gospel throughout the Roman empire to people of all nations.
Fifth is obedience of faith among the nations. Paul opens his letter to the Romans with “we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of [Christ’s] name among all the nations.”
“Transformation in Christ-likeness over time evidences the reality that God’s renewed humanity has truly begun.”
Palmer, David. Casket Empty: God's Plan of Redemption through History: New Testament Study Guide (p. 292). Casket Empty Media LLC. Kindle Edition.
Sixth - Living Sacrifices Holy to the Lord. The call to holiness permeates these letters. We have been “set apart for God” for his service in the world. Romans 12:1
Romans 12:1 ESV
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
We are to be constantly dying to our own desires and living for Christ.
Finally, Christ’s return in Glory as Judge. We have seen throughout our study that the end times have begun with the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus.
This is the culmination of the teaching section. As you read through these epistles I want to encourage you to notice the unity with which they present their understanding of the person of Jesus. Who he is as Messiah, and Son of God, and what he does as Redeemer and Savior. It is by no other name, it is through no other means that we are saved. That is the message of the New Testament.
In conclusion I simply want to share from 1 John 3.1-2
1 John 3:1–2 (ESV)
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are...Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
To God be the glory. AMEN

Teaching (Part 3)

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