What is Man?

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, The moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him but little lower than God, And crownest him with glory and honor (Psalm 8:3-5).

For generations man has looked upward toward the heavens and have marveled. The stars seem to go on forever! Not a few ancient cultures considered the moon to be divine. Many believed that the stars represented divinized ancestors. The night sky has always been a source of myths and wonder.

David also looked up into that night sky and marveled at the mighty hand of the One True God. That night sky caused him to reflect on his own existence and he is struck by his relative insignificance. He marvels that God would even give pause to consider such a little creature as man since He created such massive and distant objects.

That feeling is entirely understandable, and for many people, extremely uncomfortable. We do not like being reminded that we are insignificant and small– we like to think of ourselves as something significant, important, and meaningful, and have done so since the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:4). But all it takes is one look back up into the heavens to bring us back down to earth. We are small. We are insignificant. We do not deserve the time or the attention of the most holy Creator of the universe.

And yet, as David understands, God has considered our estate. He has granted us glory and honor even though we do not deserve it. We have been given the opportunity to rule over the earth and all that lives in it (cf. Psalm 8:6-8). We have been made a little lower than God, having the ability to think and reason and create (cf. Genesis 1:27-28).

Unfortunately, sin has devastated that relationship and has marred our ways of thinking (Isaiah 59:1-2, Romans 5:12-18). Too many are willing to arrogate for themselves the position of the “greatest in all the universe” after attempting to remove God from the equation. As opposed to realizing how small and insignificant we are, and therefore to give thanks for the opportunity to even be recognized by God, too many are willing to stand and believe that they are the masters of the present universe and refuse to humble themselves.

The creation around us, however, manifests the power of its Creator, as David confesses here and Paul in Romans 1:19-20. We have not deserved any of the blessings God has given us– life, stature, salvation, and even association with Him (cf. Romans 5:1-11, Ephesians 1:3). God has done all these things for His glory and His praise, and it is right to honor and glorify Him for His wonderful work. Let us remember who we are and praise the God who gave us life and stature!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Having Favor With the People

And day by day, continuing stedfastly with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread at home, they took their food with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to them day by day those that were saved (Acts 2:46-47).

When Christians consider the relationship that exists between them and the people in the world around them, it is easy to focus on the difficulties they present.  Since people in the world are living according to the flesh and are therefore hostile to God, unable to fulfill His law, and unable to please God (Romans 8:6-8), many such people will persecute and revile Christians (Matthew 10:17-18, 22-23; 1 Peter 3:16), not understanding why Christians set themselves apart and do not engage in licentious debauchery (1 Peter 4:4).

There are times in our lives when we will be compelled to deal with such people, and we must prepare ourselves to reflect the love of Christ even to them (cf. 1 Peter 4:12-16).  But if we were to project these negative reactions upon all people, we would go too far.  Yes, the New Testament reveals that many Christians suffered terribly at the hands of their fellow men.  But there are many other examples of times when people respected Christians!

At the end of Acts 2 we discover that the new Christians were “having favor with all the people” (Acts 2:47).  This was possible because they devoted themselves to the Apostles’ doctrines, fellowship, prayer, and the breaking of bread (Acts 2:42), were together and had all things in common, selling all that they had and giving to any who had need (Acts 2:44-45), and assembling in the Temple together daily, eating in each others’ houses, receiving their food with glad and generous hearts, and praising God (Acts 2:46-47).  The people around them saw the great transformation in these Christians and were respected and appreciated for it.  Granted, it would not be long before the religious authorities would begin to persecute the Christians (cf. Acts 4-7), yet the Christians here have favor among the people.

Dorcas, or Tabitha, was full of good works and acts of charity, and when she died, all the widows mourned for their loss (cf. Acts 9:36-39).  It is also interesting to note that one of the qualifications for an overseer/elder in 1 Timothy 3:7 is that he must have “good testimony from them that are without.”  This says as much about Paul’s expectations of “outsiders” as it does about his expectation of the overseer.  Even if many people do not believe in God or obey Jesus Christ, they can respect and appreciate a man who lives by a high ethical standard, and what ethical standard is higher than the standard of Christ?  Even if they do not agree with him on religious matters, they recognize the benefit of living by conviction.

People in the world yearn to see the image of Christ reflected in Christians.  Gandhi said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ,” and quite a number of people in the world entirely agree with him.  Those who claim to follow Jesus Christ ought to strive to act like Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1, 1 John 2:6).  Those who do no such thing will not obtain the blessing, and represent a hindrance to God’s purposes (Matthew 7:21-23).

Christians can have favor with the people when they reflect Christ and show the love, mercy, and compassion of Christ while remaining His humble servants.  When people are confronted with the message of Jesus Christ spoken to them by one whom they know is living that message, they will surely be impacted by the experience.  Yes, some will turn away, convicted of their sin, and will seek to justify themselves.  But many others may want to learn more because they see that the Christian has something they do not.  But this is only possible when Christians act like Christ– if Christians think and act like the world thinks and acts, there is nothing distinctive there, and therefore the person in the world cannot find the advantage to being a Christian (cf. Matthew 5:13).

The greatest testimony to the message of Jesus is the Christian whose life reflects the love, mercy, compassion, and humility of his Master.  One of the greatest hindrances to the cause of Christ are the many who profess belief in Jesus but do not reflect that love, mercy, compassion, and/or humility.  Notice the conclusion of the matter in Acts 2:47: the early Christians, being active in their association with one another, devotion to the teaching of the Apostles, love for one another, and praise toward God, have favor with all the people, and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.  It worked in the first century, and it can work today.  It is true that when Christians are like their Christ, many worldly forces stand up to resist them and persecute them.  Yet, by being like Christ, those Christians will gain favor with other people, many of whom will be receptive to the Gospel of Christ, and God will add to the number of those being saved.  All of this is contingent, however, on Christians acting like Jesus!

Let us, therefore, gain favor with those with whom we are able to gain favor through reflecting the love and humility of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Unity

“Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that believe on me through their word; that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us: that the world may believe that thou didst send me” (John 17:20-21).

Jesus’ petition for unity among His followers as part of His “High Priestly prayer” has reverberated throughout the generations. Many who confess the name of Christ seek that unity, even though it has proven to be quite the challenge throughout time.

Normally, when people consider what Jesus is saying regarding unity, they immediately think of matters of doctrine. It is true that God desires for believers to be one in doctrine and judgment (1 Corinthians 1:10). This unity must be real and substantive unity, for the standard of the unity is the Father and the Son. As far as we are aware, the Father and Son are not one despite significant disagreements about the means of salvation, the nature of the church and its work, or regarding other such matters of doctrine! Real, significant doctrinal unity must exist for fellow believers to work together and be one as Jesus intends for them.

Yet it is important for us to recognize that the unity under discussion involves far more than doctrine. Jesus, after all, did not say, “that they all may believe the same things, as You, Father, and I believe the same things.” Instead, Jesus said, “that they may be one, even as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You” (John 17:21). Doctrinal unity is certainly included in that, but just because you have a group of people who believe the same things does not mean you have a truly unified group. As those who enjoy happy and successful marriages know, unity involves much more than belief (cf. Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:4-5)!

How, then, are believers to be “one”? We are given the standard: just as the Father and the Son are one (John 17:20-22).

The Father and Son are one in nature and substance, and we must recognize that as fellow human beings, we are all of the same nature and substance (Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11). The Father and Son are one in purpose and will (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:18, etc.), and believers ought to have the same purpose and will: to do the will of God and to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-29, Galatians 2:20).

This unity was only possible because of the godly characteristics of the Son: He was willing to humble Himself to do the will of the Father, becoming a man and dying on a cross (Philippians 2:5-11). In all things He sought the will of the Father and not His own will (cf. Matthew 26:39). The Son understood His role relative to the Father and did all things for the glory of the Father, because the Son loves the Father (John 14:31). And, lo and behold, the same commandments are given for us so that we may be able to work together. We are to humble ourselves and seek to do good for our fellow man (Philippians 2:1-4). We must be willing to subordinate our own desires and intentions in order to work with others. We must know our role within the group, and be satisfied with it (1 Corinthians 12:12-28). We do all these things because we love God, our fellow man, and especially our fellow believers (Romans 13:8-10, 1 John 4:7-21).

Becoming one as the Father and Son are one, therefore, is a trying task indeed! It does mean that we must all accept God’s truth and be one in our belief. Yet it also requires humility, hard work, seeking the best interest of our fellow Christians, and being content with our place in the whole. If we are able to do those things we will have true unity, and the world will be forced to confess that there is something special and different about those Christians, and realize that there is a greater power at work with them.

Let us work diligently to obtain the unity that God desires– not just in teaching, but also in attitude and conduct– so that the church may be built up, and God be glorified (cf. Ephesians 4:15-16)!

Ethan R. Longhenry

The House of Mourning

It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart (Ecclesiastes 7:2).

The Bible exposes the vast gulf between the perspectives of human beings and God. Humans tend to focus on the short-term and that which seems beneficial in the short-term: pleasure is always preferable over pain, and that which is easy and comfortable is valued over what may be more difficult and painful. Humans also tend to forget that their perspective and views are limited and, to at least a small extent, self-delusional. God, as author of our present reality, takes the longer view, fully understanding the limitations of mankind. We always do well to learn more from Him.

This gulf is evident in the ways people look at feasting versus mourning. If you asked most people which was better, to go to the house of feasting or the house of mourning, the answer would be the former. Feasting is fun– it provides all kinds of short-term benefits, can allow one to at least temporarily forget the future, and to enjoy the good life for at least a little while.

The house of mourning, however, is much more painful and difficult. In the house of mourning, we must confront our own mortality. In the house of mourning, we come face to face with human limitation and weakness: we are not as strong as we would like to think we are, and there is not one person among us for whom it would be impossible to be dead in a matter of moments (cf. James 4:14). In the house of mourning, we have to come to grips with the pain of separation and losing those whom we know and/or love. In the house of mourning, all of our pretensions are stripped away from us. We can feel like Adam in the Garden, trying to hide his shame/nakedness from God (Genesis 3:8-10).

The house of mourning, therefore, is extremely uncomfortable. It is little wonder why many people avoid the house of mourning at all costs– it can really put a damper on the “good life”!

If we stop and think about it, however, we can see the wisdom in the words of the Preacher. Even though man has attempted to fend off his weakness and mortality for generations, man remains weak and mortal. And this creation, which God declared to be “very good,” (Genesis 1:31), has been corrupted by man’s sin (Romans 8:20-22). Therefore, this world is fundamentally in “dis-ease,” for things are not exactly right with the world. This world is not an easy and comfortable place.

Therefore, it is good for us to become uncomfortable with our present existence. It is not a bad thing for us when we are confronted with our own weakness and mortality. It is good to be reminded that we are as a vapor and will not last. The pain of separation, while difficult. reminds us that this world should not be our home (cf. Philippians 3:20-21, Hebrews 11:14-16).

Man in his arrogance and self-delusion attempted to build the Tower of Babel (cf. Genesis 11:1-4); Jesus, the God-man, in His humility and love died on a cross so that man could be reconciled with his God (Romans 5:1-11). Man, in his arrogance and self-delusion, thinks he is the greatest power in the universe and serves the works of his hands. God, in His love and mercy, created all things and has allowed us to participate with Him in His eternal plan in Jesus Christ (cf. Ephesians 3:11). But we cannot participate in that plan while constantly living in the house of feasting– we must come to grips with the house of mourning and our own weaknesses and limitations. When we can learn the humility that comes from the awareness of our fragility and complete dependence on God, then we can become most effective servants of God for His Kingdom.

There is a time for the house of feasting and a time for the house of mourning, but indeed, it is better to go to the house of mourning. Let us come to terms with our own weakness and mortality, serve the Living God, and obtain eternal life!

Ethan R. Longhenry

What Jesus Saw in Zacchaeus

And he entered and was passing through Jericho. And behold, a man called by name Zacchaeus; and he was a chief publican, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the crowd, because he was little of stature. And he ran on before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.
And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and said unto him, “Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to-day I must abide at thy house.”
And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.
And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, “He is gone in to lodge with a man that is a sinner.”
And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor, and if I have wrongfully exacted aught of any man, I restore fourfold.”
And Jesus said unto him, “To-day is salvation come to this house, forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:1-10).

Zacchaeus is famous for being a “wee little man,” a character that small children learn about in Bible classes. Yet there is much that grownups can learn from Zacchaeus and his interaction with Jesus.

When the Jews saw Zacchaeus, they saw a little weasel who sided with the oppressor against them. As a publican, or tax-collector, he was equivalent to a Gentile, and probably seen as much worse (cf. Matthew 18:17). If you were trying to find the ultimate example of a sinful person in first century Judea, you would speak about the publican (cf. Luke 18:9-14)!

The publicans were seen as evil because the job attracted some of the least reputable and most corrupt persons in society. They were told to go and collect a given amount from the people, and their salary was whatever they could obtain beyond that amount. Not a few tax collectors would extort double, triple, or even quadruple the necessary funds from the people in order to line their own pockets. You can certainly understand why they were universally disliked!

Therefore, we can understand that when the people of Jericho saw Zacchaeus, they saw one of the most insufferable sinners in their midst– he is not just a tax collector, but is the chief tax collector! The people of Jericho likely could barely stomach the idea that he was a child of Abraham like they were. They would, no doubt, be assured that he would suffer greatly in the pit of Sheol because of his profession and extortion. To them, he was a good-for-nothing tax collector!

But what did Jesus see in Zacchaeus?

Did He see a sinful man, one who was quite guilty of sin? Undoubtedly. Did Jesus understand how Zacchaeus would be perceived by his fellow man? Absolutely.

But Jesus saw a side of Zacchaeus that the rest of the people refused to see. He saw the possibility of repentance in such a man despite his great sin. He perceived how Zacchaeus was extremely interested in seeing Him. Jesus, therefore, did the most unbelievable and amazing thing, at least in the eyes of the inhabitants of Jericho: He decided to lodge with Zacchaeus, of all people!

Were there not many more righteous men in Jericho? In the eyes of the people, certainly. There were probably a few Pharisees in town, maybe a priest or Levite or two. But Jesus stays with the ultimate sinner! Tongues began to wag. People begin to question. If Jesus really was the Son of God, why would He stay with such a man?

Jesus is vindicated by Zacchaeus’ response. Since Jesus was willing to show Zacchaeus love, compassion, and mercy, and to give him a chance, even if entirely undeserved, Zacchaeus responded with repentance. Jesus gently rebukes the crowd by demonstrating how salvation has come and that Zacchaeus is a child of Abraham, even if the people saw him as “too sinful” to “deserve” that status. And we see how Jesus’ ultimate purpose was fulfilled: He came to seek and save the lost.

There is a lot that we can learn from this story. For those who are in sin and separated from their Creator (Isaiah 59:1-2), you can take courage by the example of Zacchaeus, and know that Jesus has provided you love, compassion, and mercy, even though you do not deserve it (Romans 5:5-11, Ephesians 2:1-10). You also can change your ways and begin serving the Lord and be saved, no matter what you have done (1 Timothy 1:12-16).

All of us, however, can learn from Jesus and what He saw in Zacchaeus. If we are honest with ourselves, we will recognize that we have played the part of the people of Jericho far too often. We have seen terribly sinful people and believe that there was almost no chance for them to be saved. We have despised such people in our heart, especially if those people have oppressed us or harmed us in some way. We certainly could not see how any truly righteous person would have anything to do with such people!

The witness of Scripture is clear: all have sinned, all have fallen short of the glory of the Father (Romans 3:9-23), and that means that none of us have the right to so judge and condemn anyone (Matthew 7:1-5, Romans 14:11-12, James 4:12). The only reason that any of us have a prayer is because God showed us love, compassion, and mercy, and that despite ourselves (Romans 5:5-11, Titus 3:3-8). Those “terrible sinners” have just as much right to obtain God’s grace, repent of their sins, and be obedient as any of the rest of us do. God shows no partiality (Romans 2:11)!

Therefore, when we encounter “terrible sinners,” let us remember that just as Jesus would show them love, mercy, and compassion, even though they do not deserve it, so we should also show them love, mercy, and compassion. It may very well be that we have little influence on their actions or their lives. But you never know when the person that you have written off as a “terrible sinner” may turn out to be a Zacchaeus, one who will hear and change his ways. Let us all strive to maintain humility and reflect the love of Christ!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Our Days in Sin

And you did he make alive, when ye were dead through your trespasses and sins, wherein ye once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the powers of the air, of the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience; among whom we also all once lived in the lust of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest (Ephesians 2:1-3).

In general, people do not like to dwell upon their failures, mistakes, and sins. When we look back at our past days, we look back at our accomplishments, successes, and good deeds fondly. If we choose to remember some of the bad things we’ve done, or some of the failures we’ve experienced, we have those feelings of despondency and unhappiness return.

Thankfully, in Christ, we can be forgiven of those past sins, and have them stand against us no more (Romans 4:6-9, 5:1-8). We can get a fresh start of sorts. We can become a “new creature,” walking according to Christ and not the flesh (2 Corinthians 5:14-17).

But, if this is the case, why does Paul dredge up our old lives of sin? We were supposed to put that behind us. We’re certainly not supposed to “resurrect” that man of sin (Romans 6:3-7)!

Neither are we to glory in our sinful past. Some people seem to get a little too excited when they talk about their sinful past, as if somehow they are gaining some pleasure in recounting those deeds. Such is itself part of the worldliness under condemnation in 1 Corinthians 2-3, 1 John 2:15-17. It should never give us joy or excitement to talk about our lives of sin; instead, it is something regarding which we should be ashamed.

Nevertheless, there are good reasons for being reminded of our past. Humans have a tendency to “re-imagine” the past to suit their own liking– we like to think of ourselves as a little less sinful, a little better of a person than we really were. While this may be natural, it can become quite dangerous, because it really minimizes the redemption we have gained through Christ Jesus. We more easily forget the value of our salvation when we forget what we were and how badly it was (and still is) needed. Yet, when we keep in mind that we were quite sinful and without hope in the world, and then we learned of the message of salvation in Christ, it will be easier to constantly value the salvation God has wrought on our behalf.

Furthermore, it keeps us humble. The pursuit of holiness is a path constantly fraught with the dangers of sanctimony and Phariseeism. When we keep in mind how sinful we once were, it allows us to sympathize with our fellow man still in his sin. When we remember how sinful we were, we recognize that we have no right to get on any judgment-seat against our fellow man (cf. James 4:12, Matthew 7:1-5). After all, it is only by God’s grace that we are what we are, and that grace can reach our fellow man, also (1 Timothy 2:4). Remembering that we were sinful ought to keep us from being too “righteously indignant” against all of those “sinners,” since we fell under the same condemnation!

Finally, it is to goad us to good works (Titus 3:8, Ephesians 2:10). Why should we serve God, promote the Gospel, show love, mercy, and compassion, abhor sin, and cling to the good? Because we were all once without Christ, without a covenant, without a state, without hope, and without God, but have now gained all these things through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:1-18).

If we are still in our sins, let us come out from them and be reconciled to God through Christ, lest we suffer the eternal consequences of our rebellion. If we have been redeemed from our sinful ways, and yet our zeal for the Lord and His Kingdom wanes, let us return in our thoughts to the days of our sin, and consider our ultimate outcome had we never learned of salvation in Jesus Christ. Then let us be thankful for what God has done for us through Jesus, and seek His will.

But God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus: for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:4-10).

Ethan R. Longhenry

The Prodigal Son

And he said, “A certain man had two sons: and the younger of them said to his father,
‘Father, give me the portion of thy substance that falleth to me.’
And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together and took his journey into a far country; and there he wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that country; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.
But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight: I am no more worthy to be called your son: make me as one of thy hired servants.”‘
And he arose, and came to his father. But while he was yet afar off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
And the son said unto him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight: I am no more worthy to be called thy son.’
But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring forth quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring the fatted calf, and kill it, and let us eat, and make merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’
And they began to be merry (Luke 15:11-24).

He was a young man who was likely raised well and had a comfortable living. When he comes of age, it is time for him to get up and have a good time; he obtains his share of the inheritance, and goes off. He has a great time “living it up” in the world. That is, until the difficult days came.

The money ran out. A famine happened. Desperate times called for desperate measures. This Jew now stoops to the level of feeding unclean swine, yearning to be fed with the food he provides for them. In the Jewish mind, there was no further to fall.

He finally comes to his senses. Even if he humiliates himself and degrades himself before his father, and becomes a servant, he will at least have food. Humiliation with bread is better than pride with starvation! So off he goes, back to the house of his father. His father sees the change of heart in his son, and is willing to receive him back as a son!

This, the parable of the prodigal son, resonates with many people. In some sense or another, we have all played the part of the prodigal. We all have taken our share of the inheritance of our Father– the blessings of this world– and used them to satisfy our own desires and lusts, regardless of what God said. Things may seem great for awhile, perhaps even for many years. Blessings abound.

But then the difficult days come. Perhaps the money runs out, the spouse leaves us, a loved one dies, or some other disaster. Maybe our habits finally catch up with us. What are we going to do?

We could remain in our pride, refusing to admit error. We could stubbornly hold on to the ways that got us to where we are. But how well has that gone for us?

Perhaps we know that we should humble ourselves and return to our Father, but we fear that He will be harsh and cruel with us. We ought not to fear: God makes it clear that He will pardon us and redeem us (Romans 8:1-17).

We would do well to be like the prodigal son in this story: come to our senses, humble ourselves, and return to our heavenly Father as a servant, so that we can be adopted as sons (Romans 8:14-17). Humiliation with eternal life is far better than pride with eternal condemnation, no?

We all, at some point, are the prodigal son. Will we remain in our uncleanness, and never bother to consider our fate? Will we have that moment when we come to our senses and realize what we have done? And if we do, will we be willing to humble ourselves and turn to God? God stands willing to receive you again and forgive– but only if you will come!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Christ the Lord

And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, “All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18).

“Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified” (Acts 2:36).

When we consider Jesus and His life, death, and resurrection, and begin preaching the message of salvation in His name, we make much of the atoning aspect of His death. We preach how Jesus died for our sins, and how His death allows for the reconciliation of God with man.

The atoning power of Jesus’ death is quite significant, and we are not trying to minimize its force or its value. Yet, when Peter stands up and begins preaching to the Jews on the day of Pentecost, his message focused not on the atoning aspect of Jesus’ death but what Jesus’ death and resurrection meant for the power structures of the day: God has made Jesus the crucified both Lord and Christ!

The message was inescapable: Jesus, as the son of David, was the one prophesied to come and sit on David’s throne forever (cf. 2 Samuel 7:16; Acts 2:34). Through His death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus accomplished these things, and all authority in heaven and on earth was granted to Him. Therefore, the Jews on the day of Pentecost were to see that Jesus was their Lord, and they needed to serve Him!

Yes, Tiberius was still Emperor of Rome, yet in truth the great Rock had crushed the nations into pieces (Daniel 2:44). All were then made subject to Jesus and His Word, and would be judged accordingly on the last day (John 12:48, Acts 17:30-31), no matter what the Emperor might say.

Rome has passed, along with plenty of other nations and powers, and yet nothing has really changed since that day. Perhaps there may be many who refuse to submit to Jesus as their Lord in life, but Paul makes it perfectly clear in Philippians 2:9-11 that a day is coming upon which every knee will bow and every tongue confess the great power and majesty of Christ the Lord. The only question will be whether you will do so gladly, as one falling before one’s Savior, or mournfully, realizing the folly of sin when it is too late (cf. Matthew 25:1-13).

Americans, especially, have difficulties understanding authority and the need to submit to the proper authorities. Perhaps that is why it seems so much easier to preach Jesus as the Lamb of God: there is something in it for the one who hears. Nevertheless, it is good for us to remember and make clear that because Jesus died and is now risen, Jesus is Lord. And since Jesus is Lord– in fact, Lord of lords (cf. Revelation 19:16)– He deserves our homage and service, even if there was nothing in it for us (cf. Luke 17:7-10)! If we would show proper deference to an earthly ruler or king, how much more obedience should we continually show before the King of kings and Lord of lords? If we would be willing to obey one who has power over our lives, why would we refuse to obey the one who has power over our souls (Matthew 10:28)?

Thanks be to God that we have such a wonderful Lord and Christ, One who loved us so that He was willing to die for us, to provide us with all spiritual blessings, and to provide the hope of the resurrection and eternal life for all who would obey Him (John 3:16, Ephesians 1:3, 1 Corinthians 15). Let us confess that Jesus is our Lord, and be His servants today!

Ethan R. Longhenry

Strength in Weakness

And [Jesus] hath said unto me, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Wherefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

It is a general axiom that strength is good and weakness is bad. “Only the strong survive.” Humans idolize strength and figures of strength. Weakness is universally maligned. No one wants to be seen as puny, sissy, cowardly, or anything else that normally is associated with weakness.

Yet Jesus and His Kingdom turn many aspects of “conventional wisdom” on their head. In the Kingdom, if we want to be strong, we must be weak!

Strength, after all, has its down side: it often leads to arrogance and self-reliance. Weakness also has its value: those who are weaker are generally more humble and more dependent on others.

Paul himself needed to understand this reality, as is made evident in 2 Corinthians 12. So that he would not get puffed up on account of the revelations given to him, a “thorn in the flesh” beset him, even though he appealed to God for its removal. Whatever this “thorn in the flesh” was, it significantly weakened Paul.

And yet that is how Paul– along with every disciple of Jesus– learns the source of true strength. It is not within our own endeavors or capabilities. We only find strength through difficulty, duress, and weakness. When we have to face our own inadequacies and realize that we by our own efforts can do very little, that is when we humble ourselves and submit to God’s strength and God’s ability.

And that is when wonderful things happen. That is when we find the ability to persevere and grow (cf. James 1:2-5). When we give up our pride, our pretension of self-reliance, and ourselves, God can then use us for His purposes and His glory and imbue us with His strength (cf. Ephesians 6:10).

If we cannot imagine ourselves as weak, humble, lowly, and reliant on others, how can we picture Jesus, who was God in the flesh, and yet humble, lowly, and reliant on the Father (John 1:1; 14, John 6:38, Philippians 2:5-11)? By His weaknesses we are saved. We do not have the time or opportunity to pretend that we are strong and in need of nothing. Let us be weak so that we may overcome through God’s strength!

Ethan R. Longhenry

The Greatness of Jesus’ Accomplishments

For while we were yet weak, in due season Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: for peradventure for the good man some one would even dare to die. But God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8).

Part of the greatness of what Jesus has accomplished involves the profound contrasts between who He is and what we are. He humbled Himself mightily by becoming a man, let alone a carpenter’s son in the backwoods of Galilee (Philippians 2:5-11). While we humans prize strength, power, glory, learning, and might, Jesus came in weakness, humility, and relative insignificance (Isaiah 53, 2 Corinthians 12:9, Matthew 11:28-29). When humans would expect the Son of God to conquer with the sword, Jesus conquered through dying and being raised again (1 Corinthians 15:57-58).

And even though we are sinners, and deserve nothing but death and condemnation for what we have done, Jesus died for us.

He by whom all things were created died so that we could live (John 1:1-3).

The Author of Life laid His down so that we could live in Him (Acts 3:15, John 10:17, 2 Corinthians 13:4).

He who has all strength took on weakness to deliver us from our own weaknesses (2 Corinthians 13:4).

He who loves beyond measure experienced mockery and derision so that we could be reconciled to God (Matthew 27, Romans 5:11).

The High Priest became the sacrifice so that we could minister to God (Hebrews 7).

And this was all accomplished not because we were holy, not because we were righteous, and not because we deserved it.

It was accomplished despite our sinfulness, despite our unrighteousness, and despite our own lack of love and mercy.

It was finished so that we could learn to love through Jesus Christ. Jesus suffered, and we are to suffer (Romans 8:17). The Word became flesh so that flesh could obey the Word (John 1:14).

Jesus died for sinful man so that man could be restored to His image (Romans 8:29).

When we ponder on these things, it is hard not to be humbled, astonished, and greatly thankful for all that was accomplished despite ourselves.

And it should provide sufficient motivation to go and reflect that love to all men (Matthew 5:13-16)!

Ethan R. Longhenry