Dr. John Hartmann

Proclaiming the Whole Counsel of God

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Our Message and Mission in the Work of the Lord

March 27th, 2011 · No Comments

In this study we look at the Message and Mission Jesus gave to the Apostles, with special emphasis on the revelatory understanding of Scripture and empowerment of the Holy Spirit He gave them for the accomplishing of their task in the work of the Lord.

At the end of a long chapter (1 Corinthians 15) that deals with the resurrection of Christ and our future resurrection with Him, Paul gives this instruction to the church in Corinth: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor 15:58). This is what we are to be about … always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that our toil is not in vain. Compare here Hebrews 6:10; Matthew 24:45-47.

The gospel of Luke and the book of Acts go together, and should be read as one running narrative. While the gospel of Luke focuses on “all that Jesus began to do and teach” (Acts 1:1), Acts begins with Jesus by the Holy Spirit giving orders to the apostles, who will carry on His work after His ascension to heaven (Acts 1:2). Thus, during the 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to heaven, the Holy Spirit helps the apostles understand the nature of the redemption Jesus had accomplished in His death and resurrection, and the nature of their mission, to proclaim the good news of salvation in all nations, beginning in Jerusalem.

All four canonical Gospels give significant attention to Jesus’ passion, which includes all the events that transpired during the last week of His life after His triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday: His cleansing of the Temple and conflicts with the Jewish authorities; His last instructions to His disciples and the Last Supper; His betrayal by Judas, and His agony and arrest in Gethsemane; His unjust trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin and Pontius Pilate, at whose hands He finally suffered scourging, mockery, and death by crucifixion; His death on the Cross, in which He bears Yahweh’s wrath against the transgressors, in fulfillment of the Scriptures; and finally, His burial in the tomb of a rich man, again, in fulfillment of the Scriptures.

Isaiah foretells Jesus’ sufferings in the Song of the Suffering Servant, which appears in Isaiah 52:13-53:12. This “song”, which contains 5 stanzas, 3 verses each, may be outlined as follows:

52:13-15 The Servant’s Exaltation and the effect this will have on the nations

53:1-3 The Servant’s Rejection by those who do not believe or discern Who He is

53:4-6 The Centerpiece of the Song: the Servant’s Sufferings, portrayed as a Substitutionary, Sin-bearing death for the transgressions of others

53:7-9 The Servant’s Rejection, viewed as unjust and misunderstood, but ultimately a supreme act of meekness and submission to God

53:10-12 The Servant’s Exaltation, now viewed in terms of the people He redeems by rendering His soul “a guilt-offering”, through which He “justifies the many” who will be His offspring.

We here see that stanza 1 and 5 speak of the Servant’s exaltation, functioning as “bookends” that frame the whole song. Stanzas 2 and 4 speak of the Servant’s rejection and humiliation, as necessary to His eventual exaltation. Stanza 3 is the centerpiece, with it’s emphasis on the Servant’s substitutionary death for the transgressors He comes to redeem. With this outline in place, we proceed to analyze the 3rd and 4th stanzas more closely, taking note of how they are cited in the NT (for example, Matthew 8:17; 1 Peter 2:24, etc).

Jesus, after His resurrection, opens the apostles’ minds to understand the Scriptures, and, in particular, what the Scriptures had foretold about His substitutionary death for the transgressors (Luke 24:45 ff). This seems to be the culmination of an eye-opening process that had begun just a few months before Jesus death, after Peter, by revelation from the Father, confessed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:13-20). Matthew 16:21 then says: “From that time, Jesus Christ began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up the third day”. Peter’s reaction to this announcement indicates just how foreign and distasteful this was to a pious first-century Jew, whose eschatology looked for a triumphant Messiah from the house of David, along the lines of what appears in Psalms of Solomon 17. Jesus reveals a part of God’s plan that everyone apparently had missed: that Messiah must suffer rejection and die in the place of the transgressors, that He must then be raised from the dead, that He must ascend to heaven to be seated at the right hand of God, as Lord of all, and that He must come again, at which time He would fulfill all the rest of the what the Scriptures had foretold about Him, the re-gathering and restoration of Israel, and the in-gathering of the Gentiles.

And so the apostles after Jesus’ resurrection come to understand what the Scriptures had foretold about Jesus and His work of redemption. This then becomes their message: forgiveness of sin, and release from captivity, through the substitutionary death of Jesus the Messiah, Who was raised the 3rd day, seated at the right hand of God and coming again. Their mission: to proclaim this message to the farthest ends of the earth.

Jesus promised the apostles and the church that we receive power, through the baptism with the Holy Spirit, to be His witnesses unto the ends of the earth, to do His work in all nations. The Holy Spirit, as promised, was poured out on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), in fulfillment of Joel 2 (Acts 2:17-21), in which God proclaims that He, in the last days, will pour out His Spirit upon all flesh. The Holy Spirit baptism anoints His sons and daughters to prophesy, giving them supernatural utterance as they bear witness of Jesus in the proclamation of the gospel, since “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10).

We end where we began. John 7:37-39 pictures believers as partakers of the gift of the Spirit in such a measure that “out of your belly will flow rivers of living waters”. God anoints us with power for the ministry of the gospel …. let us then do as Paul says: “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord”.

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