Miracles & Spiritual Needs

Isaiah 61 is a prophecy of hope and redemption. It is a passage of spiritual healing and promise of a Redeemer. Selections from this chapter are read from by Jesus in Luke 4:16, and He tells those listening that these verses are fulfilled in Him. He heals the blind and the lame. He gives comfort to those in grief. He proclaims the year of the Lord. In all of this, His focus remains intent upon the spiritual needs of the people He came in contact with every day.

In Matthew 9:35-38, as He is teaching and performing miracles, we see Jesus’ compassion on those around Him and the urgency He feels for their souls. While healing their bodies, He recognizes their need for spiritual healing. We know of Jesus weeping over the state of Jerusalem in Luke 13:34, their rejection of Him and their denial of their own spiritual sickness. He cares for the people, not just for their physical troubles, but for their souls and their need to be spiritually healed.

Spiritual Healing in Physical Miracles

John 9 records the apostles wondering over sin leading to blindness, and Jesus redirects their attention to where they should be focused – on doing God’s work, on being a light in this world. When the events surrounding the healing of this blind man draw to a close, Jesus addresses the man’s spiritual needs in verses 35-41. Yes, he heals the man’s blindness, but He is first concerned about the man’s soul.

In Mark 2, some friends bring a paralyzed man to Jesus, so determined to reach Jesus they lower him through the roof of the house Jesus is in. Before healing the man, Jesus proclaims his sin forgiven. Jesus then heals him of his physical ailment to demonstrate His authority over spiritual ailments.

John 5:6 has Jesus approaching another paralyzed man, this one wishing to find healing within waters believed to have healing powers. Jesus asks the man, “Would you be whole?” Jesus then both heals the man of his paralysis and, in verse 14, He tells the man he is now whole, instructing him to sin no more. In making the man whole, Jesus heals both body and soul.

In John 11, Lazarus is ill and dies before Jesus makes it to his home. As Jesus approaches the home, Lazarus’ sister Martha comes out, despairing that Jesus had not arrived soon enough. In the conversation to follow, Jesus calls Himself the source of all resurrection and life. Any who believe on Him will live eternally.

The Gratitude of the One

In Luke 17:11, ten lepers cry out to Jesus for mercy. Jesus tells them to go present themselves to the priests, and, as they journeyed, they find themselves healed. Ten cry for mercy. Ten are healed, but only one returns to give thanks and glory to God. Nine are interested in what God can do for them. One recognizes what he now owes God for deliverance. He recognizes the spiritual implications of the miracle that healed him.

We come to Jesus unclean, blind, crippled, and dead in our sins. Jesus says to each of us, “You are healed. You are cleansed. You are alive.” What do we do then? Do we go on living our lives for ourselves, or do we understand the deeper spiritual devotion we now owe? Jesus shows His glory in us. Now it is ours to demonstrate His works in our lives. Will we be like the nine who go their own ways, or will we be the one who returns to praise and honor His name, gladly willing to serve and obey?

lesson by Tim Smelser

John’s Picture of the Messiah

Each of the gospel writers have a slightly different representation of the Messiah. Matthew, Mark, and Luke bear several similarities in their presentations and focus, but the Gospel of John stands out from the others. John records only seven miracles in his gospel, and five of those are unique to John. He portrays Jesus in a very specific way, but, unlike Matthew, he does not continually refer to Levitical scripture to reinforce his points. Rather, he focuses on Jesus’ words describing Himself.

Imagery from John

  • In John 2, we see Jesus driving the merchants and money changers from the temple, condemning them for corrupting His father’s house. When asked for a sigh, He said He would rebuild this temple in three days once destroyed, but He has changed subjects. He is not speaking of the physical temple so much as His own body. Jesus here is pictured as God’s true temple.
  • John 3 records Nicodemus and Jesus conversing about the meaning of being born again. In verses 14-15, Jesus draws a parallel between Himself and the serpent in the wilderness, lifted up to save people. Where the serpent’s salvation would be physical and temporary, Jesus’ would be spiritual and eternal.
  • In John 6:29, after Jesus has fed several thousand from meager portions, the people ask Jesus for another sign once He retreats from them. He speaks to them of a bread from Heaven – to them, a reference to manna. Jesus, however, applies this personally and calls Himself the Bread of Life. He is the true manna.

John 7:37 has Jesus calling those who thirst for life-giving water to come to Him as Moses brought water from a rock in the wilderness. John 8:12 records Jesus calling Himself the light of the world, possibly referring to the pillar of fire the children of Israel followed through the wilderness. In John 15:1, Jesus calls Himself the true vine that bears fruit, and this compares to the vineyard song of Isaiah 5. Finally, John 19 records the events surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion, and, starting in verse 31, John describes how Jesus’ bones would remain unbroken as a Passover lamb was to remain unbroken.

Conclusion

John paints a picture of Jesus as a fulfillment of many Old Testament objects and events. He sends a message that there is more to Jesus than what they thought they saw, and He could be more to us if we open our eyes and hearts. When we begin to comprehend the extent of Jesus’ ministry and sacrifice, how can we not love Him and obey Him?

lesson by Tim Smelser

Lessons from the Transfiguration

Mark 9:2 begins a recording of the transfiguration of Jesus before Peter, James, and John. This story is also recorded in Matthew and Luke, and most of us are pretty familiar with this event. This event teaches about Christ’s authority and glory as well as the transformation we should go through as his followers.

What Can We Learn from the Transfiguration?

Authority

Jesus is in the presence of Moses and Elijah. Moses is the liberator of the Jews. He brought the law to the people. Elijah is one of the most powerful and dramatic prophets of the Old Testament – demonstrating God’s power and authority time and again. Even at the end of his life, Elijah does not die. Rather, he is taken up.

In the presence of these two individuals, Peter suggests the building of three tabernacles, but the voice of Heaven elevates Jesus above Moses and Elijah. There is room for only one tabernacle. In II Peter 1:16-17, Peter recalls this event and reaffirms the authority placed upon Jesus in this event.

Glory

Jesus is transformed on the mountain. His spiritual glory becomes visible to those with Him, and Mark even seems to struggle in describing this event. This visually reinforces Jesus’ role as God among us. (See also John 1.) God’s glory is revealed in Jesus.

John 14:7-10 records Jesus equating Himself with the Father, and He claims that knowing Him is akin to knowing God the Father. Learning more about Jesus is learning more about God. In II Corinthians 4:6, Paul writes that Jesus is the light of God’s glory.

Our Own Transformation

II Peter 1:2-4 invites us to become partakers of God’s divine nature. As we learn more about Christ, we should become more like Him. Ephesians 2:19-22 describes Christians as growing into a temple of God – a place within God lives. To what extent do we allow God to live in us? In, Galatians 2:20, Paul describes himself as internally controlled by Jesus. He has remained unchanged physically, but his behaviors and attitudes are now more inline with what Christ would expect of His followers.

Finally, II Corinthians 3:7 contrasts the glory of the second covenant with the first, with the brilliance of the new covenant’s glory overwhelming that of the old. (This references Exodus 34:29-35 where Moses’ face would assume some of God’s glory after speaking with Him, requiring Moses to veil his face when speaking to others.) Paul uses veils to represent blindness in knowledge, but turning to God removes that veil. This culminates in verse 18 with us looking to God and the unfading reflection of His glory we should have within us – unhidden from those around us.

Conclusion

We can look at the glory of Jesus and God through His word, and our reflection of His glory should be growing every day. Jesus is elevated to a position of authority unattained by any other Bible figure, but, in all things, He remains dedicated to the will of the Father. He is unconcerned about worldly standards of success. He demonstrates kindness and concern toward others, regardless of external factors. Our lives should reflect that determination and these attitudes if we are reflecting Him in our lives with the goal of attaining that final transformation that will come on the last day.

lesson by Gary Fisher

Soldiers & the Gospel

As we study the life of Christ, we study his interaction with various individuals – children, the sick and needy, the woman at the well, the scribes and the Pharisees. This lesson is going to focus on some soldiers in the New Testament and how they responded to Christ or his message.

Four Soldiers and Christ

  • A centurion and his servant. In Matthew 8:5-11, we have recorded a centurion who pleads to Jesus on behalf of a servant. However, he does not ask Jesus to come to the servant, expressing faith that Jesus is capable of healing this servant without seeing him. This faith astonishes Jesus, and He grants the man’s request. Luke 7:4-5 records this man as respected by the Jews, but Matthew 8:10 is a profound verse – Jesus stating that none have shown faith paralleling this Gentile. Then, verse 11 foreshadows salvation for all Gentiles, all non-Jews.
  • Cornelius and Peter. Acts 10 records the tale of Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian cohort. He is described as devout, fearing God, generous, prayerful, and well-respected. An angel comes to Cornelius, and this angel tells Cornelius to send for Peter. This Peter will tell him words by which he can be saved. Note that Cornelius needs to be saved despite all the good qualities he demonstrates, and Cornelius follows this advice and sends for Peter. He waits for Peter with his household, relatives, and close friends. This is something he wants to share with others.
  • The Philippian jailer. Acts 16 tells us of a jailer set over Paul and Silas. Around midnight, while Paul and Silas are singing and praying, an earthquake comes and frees the prisoners. Seeing this potential escape, the jailer prepares to kill himself, but Paul intervenes. As a result, this jailer takes the gospel message to heart and shares this message with his family.
  • The soldier at the cross. In Matthew 27, Jesus is in the process of being crucified, and verses 50-54 record the reaction of a Roman centurion as he sees the miraculous events surrounding Jesus’ death. He sees the evidence, and he sees the authority of God behind the events.

Our Application

Every one of these men recognized and respected what it meant to have authority and to respond to authority. The centurion pleading on behalf of his servant even illustrates this point using himself as example. These individuals understood committing to a cause and taking responsibility for their actions. When they were faced with God’s authority, they understood what had to be done, and we should have the same reaction to the gospel message.

lesson by Tim Smelser

Unity & Corinth Part 4: Understanding “Tongues”

In these chapters, we sometimes tend to pass over some of these passages and note that some of these verses do not apply to us anymore. We’ve gone over I Corinthians 12-14, looking at what we can learn from these chapters, and, in this lesson, we are going to look at the nature of spiritual gifts, look at their purpose, and examine what the “partial” and the “perfect” are from this passage.

The Nature of Gifts

In I Corinthians 12:8, many of the spiritual gifts are specifically named (in context of 12:1). These are grace gifts, bestowed by the Spirit.

  • Romans 12:6-8 – Paul emphasizes the role grace plays in the bestowment of these gifts.
  • I Peter 4:7-10 – Again, Peter brings God’s grace into the gifts.

The argument is made that, since the enumerated grace gifts from Romans and I Peter, are still done today, those of I Corinthians must be also. However, in context, the gifts of Romans and I Peter are not miraculous gifts while the gifts of I Corinthians are. These are not parallel passages, and comparing these gifts is comparing apples to oranges. Specifically, in I Corinthians 13, Paul names miraculous knowledge, prophecy, and tongues, as those passing away.

Clarifying “Tongues”

What are “tongues?” In the charismatic moment today, many would say speaking in tongues is speaking in a language that is purely spiritual and foreign to any mortal. What we see in the Bible, though, is that the tongues of the New Testament are in fact human languages that the speaker had no prior knowledge of.

Acts 2:4-8 – The apostles are gifted hear with the ability to speak in the languages of their listeners, and this amazes the hearers. John 18:20, Matthew 12:46, Matthew 10:19-20 – all of these occasions use the same “speak” as in Acts 2:7 when the apostles “speak” in tongues. It is just the use of language to communicate. Acts 2:4-6, 11 – Luke uses the Greek for language and dialect interchangeably through this chapter. Much of the vocabulary describing the tongues of Acts 2 is also used in I Corinthians 13.

Acts 10:46-48 – If these “tongues” are ecstatic, how would have Peter’s companions known those in Cornelius’ household were magnifying God.  Also, in I Corinthians 14:21, Paul quotes Isaiah 28, saying that “strange tongues” will be used to communicate, and “strange” is used like the “strange woman” of Proverbs – one that is foreign or unknown.

Interpreting means to translate from one language to another. It is taking a meaning one understands and providing meaning to another. Interpreting is not giving meaning to that which is meaningless. For example John 1:42, Hebrews 7:2 – In both of these examples names are being interpreted based on the language their names were in.

What is the Perfect?

The partial are those miraculous spiritual gifts whose time is limited. In I Corinthians 13:10, Paul references the coming of the perfect as that which would cause these to pass away. Many interpret this as being Jesus.

  • II Timothy 3:16-17, I Corinthians 13:9-10 – perfect = complete, entire, or whole.
  • Some think it is the maturation of the church, the Second Coming, or the completion of God’s revelation.

Through I Corinthians 13, Paul has two main points: love never fails, but miraculous gifts will. Why? Gifts only provide a partial picture, and a point of completion is coming. He uses a maturation process as an illustration of this concept. His second illustration is the use of a dim mirror to try to see something clearly.

What was becoming clearer and helping the first-century Christians mature? It is reasonable to conclude that he is speaking of the revelation of God’s word. In Romans 16:25-26, I Corinthians 2:7, Ephesians 1:9, Ephesians 3:3, and many others passages speak of a mystery that is being revealed. Now take II Peter 3:15-16. Peter references a collection of Paul’s epistles as well as other scriptures. The revelation was already in the process of being compiled and completed.

Returning to I Corinthians 13, Paul uses “in part” at least three times. The gospel was being revealed in pieces. Once the message was fully revealed, the fragmented manner of instruction would no longer be needed. Everything Christians would need would be recorded in whole, no longer a dark mystery but a clear image of that which makes us complete.

Conclusion

II Peter 1:3-4 – All things that we need for spiritual growth is given. We have no need for these spiritual gifts to confirm or add to our faith. The blessing of being Christians today is the fact that we have a complete word to study from and that our knowledge can be complete should we put forth the diligence to learn and apply that word.

lesson by Tim Smelser