Jesus Christ is God. He has always existed. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1. It can be difficult to wrap our human minds around this fact, but there is no doubt about what John is telling us. We live within time restraints so we can only look back into history, be aware of our present, and look forward into the future. God has no such restriction. He knew that Adam would sin and that the only cure for the death that resulted from that sin was for God Himself to enter creation as a human and become our once for all sacrifice. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” John 1:14.
There are many false gods that people worship but they’re all dead (i.e. Buddha) or are demons (i.e. Allah). Jesus was crucified and His blood was shed for the remission of sins, but He rose from the grave. “And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Matthew 26:27-28. Jesus said these words at the last meal He ate with His disciples, soon after which He was crucified. He would have just been another man who claimed to be a god except He was God and three days after His crucifixion His tomb was empty. It had been sealed and a Roman guard was there to be sure no foul play took place. After the Resurrection Jesus appeared to many people and when He entered a closed room where Thomas saw Him, Thomas was overwhelmed. “And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.” John 20:28. Yes, Jesus is alive and He is our Lord and our God.
The New Testament gives many accounts of Jesus being seen after His Resurrection. For instance, two disciples travelling to Emmaus had a long talk with Him and He gave them an Old Testament study about how it all points to Him. He entered a locked room where His disciples were and a week later re-entered that same room to dispel any doubts that Thomas had. Jesus needed to be sure that the men He had chosen understood what they were to do so He continued to teach them “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: 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.” Acts1:2-3. There’s no doubt that Jesus conquered death and lives. His last words to His disciples before He ascended into Heaven was to spread the Gospel. “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be damned. ” Mark 16:15-16. Baptism won’t save, but it is a work of obedience. Only unbelief will condemn a person. We must share the Gospel.
Our Saviour is alive and has purchased our salvation at a great cost to Himself so we need to serve Him well. Salvation is a free gift, but it comes with responsibility. Because Jesus did so much for us we need to show our gratitude by doing good works. Jesus directed us to share the Gospel with the world, and those first Christians did a great work as they went out and witnessed to others. The persecution in Jerusalem forced them to flee, but that helped to spread the Gospel to many places that wouldn’t have been so easily reached. “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city..” Acts 8:5-8.
We shouldn’t be surprised that people respond when the Gospel is preached. Today we hear of so many “missionaries” who go into the “mission field” but preaching the Gospel is somewhat of an afterthought. I once knew a man who was a missionary to India. He told stories of how dangerous it was there for a Christian. Then he began telling what his “mission” truly was. Instead of preaching the Living Saviour to people who needed to hear it, he was converting those who had already accepted Christ to his particular denomination. He had dead faith. Many others will try to blend in with the culture and timidly bring up Christ if an opportunity opens up. Philip “preached Christ unto them“, and that’s what missionaries should do. He preached the living Saviour and got results. Make no mistake, the Gospel is to be preached to the lost even if they’re in your own neighborhood.
Persecution against Christians was great, but they wouldn’t be silenced. Multitudes of people came to faith through the preaching of the Gospel and their love for each other was evident in their works. “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things in common.” Acts 4:32.
These people cared for each other. They helped each other when there was a need, which was a great witness to unbelievers. Instead of telling fellow Christians to depend upon the government or outside resources for help, Christians took care of Christians. No wonder there’s so much dead faith today…Christians don’t care for each other as demonstrated to us in the Bible. The early Christians preached the Gospel to unbelievers but directed their works towards fellow Christians. “Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.” Acts 4:34-35. Don’t misunderstand, it isn’t wrong to do good towards unbelievers, but we seem to forget that it’s the Gospel we’re directed to give them…introduce them to the Living Saviour.
Many Christians today get confused when it comes to faith and works. We have faith that Jesus is alive and works should follow our faith. “And these signs shall follow them that believe; in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” Mark 16:17-18.
These are the works that should follow faith. The first Christians took Jesus seriously and shared the Gospel with everyone. As they stepped out in faith they were honest and straight forward. Their mission was to share the Gospel with the lost and Jesus said signs should follow. They didn’t hide behind works to share the Gospel but were upfront. They didn’t build houses or give gifts hoping for an opportunity to mention Jesus, but they immediately spoke of the Gospel. The Living Christ was preached and people responded.
Many people today don’t rely on the Holy Spirit. “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Acts 2:4. That power of the Holy Spirit is lacking today, not because it isn’t available but most Christians don’t care. Instead of serving the living Lord daily, we settle for dead faith. We sit in a pew for an hour on Sunday and call it good. Life wasn’t easy for those first believers. They were rejected by their families, their jobs were jeopardized, and speaking about Jesus was forbidden. That sounds a lot like today. A young man named Stephen was one of those early believers. “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.” Acts 6:8.
That same faith and power should fill us today. We’re too easily discouraged and distracted by the world. Stephen didn’t allow opposition to stop him, even when he was stoned to death for speaking of Jesus. Stephen’s faith was alive and his love for Jesus was heard by the Jewish leaders who accused him of blasphemy. “When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. But he being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing of the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” Acts 7:54-56
. He saw the living Saviour! The eyes of the others around him were blind to the sight, but that didn’t stop Stephen from speaking truth. Neither should we be intimidated by the blindness of those around us. Our faith in our Living Saviour should never be stifled by the attitudes of others. Someone just might respond to our faith and accept Christ for salvation. In fact Saul, the man who would later be known as Paul, was holding the cloaks of those throwing the stones at Stephen. He witnessed Stephen’s faith.
The Apostle Paul is a great example of how the Gospel should be spread. Once he met Jesus Christ he was impelled to spread the Gospel. He made many missionary trips and introduced innumerable people to Christ. Paul didn’t hide the Gospel behind “good works” toward the lost but went directly into synagogues and met in pagan surroundings to share his faith. Some Christians supported his mission journeys by giving directly to him, but when he asked for money to be collected it was to aid fellow Christians. “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye…And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.” 1 Corinthians 16:1 & 3. Collecting money to directly help needy Christians (saints) with no middleman is the example we should follow. Paul didn’t collect money to give gifts to non-believers but preached the Gospel to the lost and did what he could to help fellow Christians. Today our widows, orphans, elderly, and brethren in need are expected to depend upon “Big Brother” for help. Government assistance has replaced Christians helping Christians so it’s no wonder faith is dead. We put other gods before our Living Saviour and where our treasure is our heart follows.
When a person accepts Christ a change should happen. Paul said “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20. If you don’t recognize that Christ lives in you then how can your faith thrive? You won’t accomplish anything for Christ and your joy in the Lord won’t exist. That’s exactly what Satan wants, dead faith evidenced by angry, sad, and depressed Christians who act like the world rather than a child of God. A person who has truly accepted Christ for salvation can’t lose that salvation by anything they do or don’t do. On the other hand, if your faith is dead then you’re working for the enemy. If you’re not living for Christ then you’re living for the world and mocking Jesus. “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” James 2:20.
James wrote about faith and works and we need to pay attention. Doing good should be a result of our faith. Works won’t save us, but we serve Christ by aiding fellow Christians and sharing the Gospel with the lost. “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart n peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?” James 2:14-16. James is speaking about how we treat “brethren”. We have a family commitment to aid our brothers and sisters in Christ. “Even so faith, if it hath not works is dead, being alone.” James 2:17.
Oddly enough, most Christians neglect our obligation to fellow Christians and forget we are to care for each other. There are plenty of Christians in your town who could use some help. I’ve recently been in need and been shown tremendous generosity from some fellow Christians. I may never be able to repay their kindness to me, but I can certainly pass on blessings to fellow Christians. Jesus is alive and lives in each of us but dead faith helps no one.
Salvation is a gift of God but it comes with responsibility. Brothers and sisters, let’s spread the Gospel to the lost and take care of the brethren.
God bless you all,
Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived at http://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html
All original scripture is “theopneustos” God breathed.
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