Yesterday’s devotional concluded by looking at the first two elements of faithful Christian teaching. Today we will consider four others.
3. The depravity of man. Church people are willing to speak of sin in the sense that all are “less perfect than God” and need help to live a godly life. That is not offensive to anyone. But it is not the full biblical teaching. The Bible teaches that men and women are in rebellion against God (Ps. 2:1–3). It says, not that they are marred by sin, but that they are dead in it (Eph. 2:1–3). It says they have been so affected by sin that even their thoughts are thoroughly corrupted: “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (Gen. 6:5). So great is this depravity that a person cannot even come to Christ unless God first renews His soul and thus draws Him (John 6:24).
The second of these is “all nations.” It refers, as I indicated in the last section, to the universal authority of Jesus and the worldwide character of Christianity. It is surprising that Matthew, of all the Gospels, should end on this note. Each of the Gospels has its unique character, as commentators have long noted. John’s is most universal; it presents Jesus as “the Savior of the world” (5:42). Luke is a Gentile or Greek book; it is usual to think of Luke presenting Jesus to Greeks as the perfect or ideal man (as well as God incarnate). Mark seems to have been written for a Roman audience; it stresses Jesus as a miracle worker, giving less attention to His discourses than the others.
Yesterday we ended by mentioning the first part of Christ’s authority, which is his authority in heaven. Today we look at the other three.
2. Authority over spiritual forces. Jesus’ claim to have been given all authority in heaven probably extends also to what in other passages are described as principalities and powers, that is, all spiritual forces, including those which are demonic. Paul wrote about these in Ephesians 6 in his classic description of the Christian’s warfare: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (v. 12).
In that great challenge to evangelism just before His ascension, known as the Great Commission, Jesus commanded that His disciples disciple others. They were to lead them to faith through the preaching of the gospel, bring them into the fellowship of the church through the initiatory rite of baptism, and then, within that fellowship, continue to teach them all that Jesus had commanded them. He promised that He would be with them always as they did this.
Christ’s words to the disciples in Mark 10:29, 30 are not just an encouragement to serve Christ, important as that is. They are also an encouragement to trust Him through difficult times. We can hardly escape this point since the Lord links His promise of blessings to the phrase “and with them, persecutions,” thereby indicating that although He undertakes to bless us abundantly with homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and even fields, we will not enjoy these without the persecutions that inevitably come to any true follower of Christ. We will continue to have hardships until we come to possess our full inheritance in the presence of Jesus Himself in heaven.
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