CALLING THE TWELVE

Mark 3:13-19

NOT SO BRIEF AN INTRO: As Jesus continues to heal the sick that are brought to Him, the multitudes continue to follow Him. Many are looking for healing for themselves or someone close to them, others are intrigued at the miracles He performs, yet many are still attracted to His teaching.

Because there are so many people following them, Jesus instructs the disciples to have a boat ready for Him to get into so that He wouldn’t be crowded or crushed by the multitude of people. As the crowds grew, many “pressed about Him” to touch Him. They appear to believe that they only had to make physical contact with Him, and they would be healed. Forget looking Him in the face; forget talking to Him, petitioning Him, or asking Him for mercy and healing! *They appear to “have little interest in Jesus other than as a miracle-worker.”

In verse eleven, we again witness the demons recognizing and confirming who Jesus is! The gospels record where this took place (whenever v. 11). Think about that fact for just a moment. Over and over again, the demons looked at Him, observed Him, and thought about the truth of His character, nature, and identity; BUT always rejected Him. It was not the time for Christ to be made “fully known,” so He warned them not to make Him known.

Our following study will be focused on Jesus calling the disciples to Himself and “appointing” them as Apostles!

13 And He *went up on the mountain and *summoned those whom He wanted, and they came to Him. 14 And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach, 15 and have authority to cast out the demons. 16 And He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter), 17 [a]James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of [b]James (to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means, “Sons of Thunder”);18 and Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, [c]James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, and Simon the [d]Zealot;19 and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.

FOCUS ONE: The occasion

Each section of scripture that we study together or that you meditate on yourself has incorporated its own unique set of questions that we need to ask and answer as we study it. In this case, we should ask ourselves:

  1. Why did Jesus go up to the mountain rather than remain by the sea?
  2. What did He appoint these twelve men to accomplish?
  3. What authority did He give to them to fulfill this role?
  4. Why did He change some names?

These are just a sample of the questions we should ask ourselves as we study this portion of Mark’s gospel.

It seems clear that Jesus goes up to the mountain to be away from the people and to spend time in prayer (Luke 6:12) before He calls, perhaps we can say ordains, these men for the ministry. This was an important meeting and a solemn ceremony, to say the least, and having multitudes of people around, with all the noise, activity, and situations, would prevent such an undertaking from happening. 

It shouldn’t seem weird that He goes up to the mountain. Jesus often went into the wilderness or mountaintops to be alone so that He could pray to the Father. It should be apparent by now that Jesus has two areas of ministry before Him. One to the “multitudes,” and the other with the disciples. It is the latter where we often find Jesus taking them somewhere with Him to be alone.

Jesus “summoned those whom He Himself wanted” (v. 13). A significant fact I don’t want you to miss. Jesus called to Himself the men He decreed to be His Apostles! These men graduate, if you will, from discipleship (learners) to Apostles (sent ones) to proclaim to others all that they heard, saw, and experienced being with Jesus! Jesus spoke and ministered to many daily, BUT not everyone was chosen to be Apostles. Why? 1″ He could have appointed sixteen or eighteen or some other number. Why twelve? It could be that the number twelve is significant in that it symbolically represents the twelve tribes of Israel.” The number twelve is prominent in Revelation (21:12-14). 

FOCUS TWO: The men

The other gospels list these men as well, and those lists are similar (Matthew 10:2-4; Luke 6:13-16; Acts 1:13). Some are fishermen, others tax collectors, a zealot, and some professions are unknown (Thomas, Nathanael, and Judas). Some of these men had their names changed by Jesus at this time. Simon is the most obvious one. We know him better as Peter, the man with the confession that the church is built upon (Matthew 16:13-20)!

Until this time, Peter had been known as “Simon son of Jonah (John 21:15-17; Matthew 16:17). Jesus gives Him a new name “Cephas” (Peter), which means rock. “2 The name is predictive of not only what Peter would be called but also declarative of how Jesus would transform his character and use him in relationship to the foundation of the church (Matthew 16:16-18).”

He also changed the names of James, the son of Zebedee, and John, his brother, to “Boanerges,” which means sons of thunder. However, Jesus does not change all of their names, but that does not diminish their roles in proclaiming the gospel of Christ and building up the His church! What qualities or character traits did He see in them? 3 “Perhaps they were remarkable for a loud commanding voice, they were thundering preachers; or rather it denotes the zeal and fervency of their spirits.”

These men were now summoned to Himself so that: “they should be with Him constantly, to be witnesses of His doctrine, manner of life, and patience, that they might fully know it; they must be with Him, to receive instructions from Him, that they might be qualified to give instructions to others. It would require time to fit them for that which He designed them for.”

FOCUS THREE: Their function

What is their role?

  1. To be with Him
  2. To preach
  3. To cast out demons

These three things are the sole functions of these newly commissioned men. Jesus called them unto Himself so that they would be with Him constantly, as I mentioned above in my last focus point. These twelve were brought into the *”closest association possible with the life of the Son of God. They were to live with Jesus, travel with Him, and learn from Him.” Much of Jesus’ time was occupied with their training. 

The salvation Jesus brings involves the defeat of Satan and his demons! Their training was necessary because, before His ascension, Jesus would send them out to continue the work He had begun “proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom” (Acts 1)! Their ministry of casting out demons and proclaiming the Good News is closely associated. How so?

It is a strange group of men, isn’t it? “* Four of them were fishermen, one a hated tax collector, another a member of a radical and violent political party. Of six of them, we know practically nothing. ALL were laymen. There was not a preacher or an expert in the Scriptures in the lot. YET it was with these men that Jesus established His church and disseminated His Good News to the end of the earth.”

*The Expositors Bible Commentary, pg. 640

1 Bible study website

2 John MacArthur

3 Matthew Henry Commentary, pg. 1370

THE VALUE OF ONE ON ONE BIBLE READING

I hope that you are involved in a small group bible study. If not, why not? List your valid excuses here:

1.

2.

3. 

(Please use the back of the paper for additional excuses)

Yes, I m being a bit facetious in hopes of helping you see that there is NO excuse for not being a part of a group bible study that is already formed or creating one yourself!

At this point in my post, I know you are feeling some emotions that you probably wish you didn’t—feelings of anger, fear, and perhaps conviction. I am not apologetic for that. However, I am thankful for these feelings because they might help me get my point across in a more meaningful and helpful way.

My purpose in this post, what I hope comes across as you read it, is simply this: There is great value and blessings in our spending time reading the Bible with someone else (I know, that’s the scary part).

Perhaps you have had some bad experiences in bible studies that you never want to repeat; I get it. I had several myself. I will share one of those with you now.

Back in the day (26 years ago, ahem), I began a ministry in my workplace to bring together and encourage other Christians in their walk of faith in the workplace environment. After about a year, I started a small group bible study, once a month, with several men who joined my ministry. It wasn’t long before I became discouraged with the group. 

If I remember correctly, all but one never took the time (throughout the month) to read over the scriptures for that study, much less think about them. The conversations always seemed to turn into “what do you think it means?” One person thought this, another that. Often, what these men brought forth had nothing to do with the text! And what really troubled me was that they did not appreciate an exegetical study of what the verses in their context meant. Eventually, I ended the study, discouraged and a bit bitter. 

Blessings become numerous when we gather together to seek, above all else, what God says about things, and willingly submit to it! So, I understand your reluctance to pursue such a thing again. But I want to lay out several reasons and blessings that come from a small group or one2one bible study when it functions under the premise that God’s word is sufficient.

So, let me begin sharing with you several reasons I think this is true in the hope that you will “circle back” on your current view and pursue, once again, something that our Lord means for our good and desires to bless us and others with.

God’s word is profitable for all things, and ours are limited (training).

Yes, I am stating the obvious here, but it needs repeating. 16 “All Scripture is [a]inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for [b]rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness;17 so that the man or woman of God may be [c]fully capable, equipped for every good work.”

The Book that we have in our possession is a divine wonder, given to us so that we may know our God, ourselves, and How He expects us to live. We can only “Know truth” by being in His word, which is truth (John 17:17). Our desire as “Christ followers” should be to have our “eyes open, that I may behold wonderful things from thy law (Word)” (Psalm 119:18). Not just for ourselves, but others as well!

God’s Holy Word trains and equips us to “walk by faith and not by sight,” and as “iron sharpens iron, so one man to another” (Proverbs 27:17). 

  1. People get to read it for themselves with others (relationships)

Interaction is the breeding ground for conversation! People are more comfortable within a small group in a less formal setting than in broader contexts. Within a small group or one2one, there are opportunities to question and discuss scripture and its meaning honestly. Such an interchange of thoughts on a particular passage within a group can often lead a person to think on it in far more profound ways than they would have otherwise. This helps them grow in Christ OR move one step closer to Him (sanctification)!

  1. An excellent and powerful way to evangelize (salvation)

Small groups or one2one bible reading affords a more incredible opportunity to share the gospel with someone else (evangelism). Rather than witnessing being so dreaded or being the “one thing” so feared by the vast swath of Christians, this setting naturally leads to deeper spiritual conversations without struggling with how to get someone else to talk about spiritual things. 

The conversations happen naturally because you are already in the word of God together! God’s word not only instructs, rebukes, and corrects us along the way; it is the mechanism by which God saves sinners (Romans 10:9-17)! We read it together, discuss what it says, and His Spirit convicts, gives understanding and leads sinners to repentant faith!

So, there it is, my reasons to challenge and encourage you to rethink the value and purpose of a small group or one2one bible study. If you are interested in learning more about this, you can go on Amazon and purchase a small book by David Helm entitled: ONEtoONE Bible reading, a simple guide for every Christian.

GOD OF OPPOSITES

As I sit in my warm home on this cold, snowy day, I have been reflecting, remembering so many things that I have asked God for in prayer. I dare say that I did not receive many of those things, at least in the manner I expected. By reading my title, you may be thinking that I am a bit sarcastic or negative regarding my expectations of my Heavenly Father; I assure you that I am not being so minded.

I often tell people, well, at least those close to me, that in my experience, God has proven to be a “God of opposites.” When I say that to them, I only mean to express how He answered my prayers, most often opposite of what I thought would be best for me! Have you experienced this at all in your prayer life? 

I pray for one direction, and He leads in another. I ask for healing, and He allows me more time in my immobility. I pray for more godly men to rise in the church and serve Him, and He works in such a way that some leave the church. I ask for this or that, and He sees fit to give me something else or nothing at all.

Years ago, this troubled me. I struggled with praying at times because it seemed futile. I often thought and even joked with others that perhaps I should pray for the opposite of what they ask me to pray for on their behalf. Maybe then they will have a better chance at receiving their petitions!

I have learned over the years that God does answer my prayers in far better ways than I could have dreamed of. He knows my frame, my thoughts, my needs, my heart, and with such divine knowledge, He works all things for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

He knows when my motives are impure. He knows when what I am asking for is not truly what I need at the time. He knows what purpose He has created me for and is actively working to equip and strengthen me for the road ahead. 

However, there are still times when I pray for things near God’s heart, things He tells us to pray for in His holy Word. Things like unity within the body; souls being saved through the church’s ministry. And yet, these things do not seem to happen, and the months, perhaps years of praying, affect no difference. I may be sounding critical to you again, but honestly, that is not my purpose. I am not alone in this area of prayerfulness. I have talked with and counseled others struggling with the “why” questions. Why does God tell me to pray for this or that but does not seem to answer those prayers? Why wouldn’t He grant these requests? After all, He tells us to pray to Him for them? Why would He allow such adverse outcomes when so many pray for godly ones?

I am older now than I once was and have been graciously redeemed for the vast majority of my adult years, and I still do not have an answer to those questions. I do know that He is sovereign over all things. His character is goodness, faithfulness, wisdom, love, justice, holiness, forgiveness, and much more. And as such, He is unchangeable! That is where I draw my encouragement to keep on praying, asking, and petitioning. I am not God, and the Bible tells us that He is not like us; His thoughts are far above ours. Whatever He is doing OR not doing (from our perspective) ultimately results in “the praise of His glory.” 

He will receive glory in and through all things, and He is worthy of such praise. I have learned in my short life as a Christian what Charles Spurgeon stated so well:

“When we cannot trace God’s hand, we must trust His heart.”

A LONELY PLACE

Mark 1:35-39

BRIEF INTRO: According to Mark’s account, Jesus has been pretty busy after leaving the wilderness (v.13). He began gathering His disciples, a group of fishermen by the Sea of Galilee (vv. 16-17). He began preaching the gospel of the kingdom (v.15), teaching in the synagogue, healing people, and casting out demons (vv. 21-27, 30-34). It would appear that Jesus was not able to get “alone time” that often, if at all. No matter where He went, He was followed by His disciples and the people from the towns that He was visiting. We found that our Lord needed and desired quiet time to communicate with the Father in these verses.

35 “And in the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and prayed there for a time. 36 Simon and his companions eagerly searched for Him; 37 and they found Him and *said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” 38 He *said to them, “Let’s go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may also [a]preach there; for this is why I came.”

FOCUS ONE: JESUS LEAVES TO BE ALONE TO PRAY

When I read these words in verse 35, I get the sense of how busy Christ was when He came, and we have only begun to read the accounts of His ministry among men! He was so busy that the most important thing, the most desired thing, communication with His Father, was negatively impacted by the multitude of the physical and spiritual needs of the people. 

So many people were suffering in manifold ways that no matter where Christ went, He was followed by the people. People who needed physical healing from various diseases; people who needed demons dispelled and deliverance from their bondage to sin. And with great compassion, he healed them!

Luke records that when the multitudes found Him, they “tried to keep Him from going away from them” (Luke 4:42). But as both Mark and Luke record, He told them that He must leave them and go to other cities as well because His gospel was not only for them but many others as well!

It seems like the only time he could get away and spend time alone with His Father was in the early morning before the sun began to rise. I don’t know about you, but it has become apparent in my own life that the “early morning hours” would be the time to enjoy the most solitude with Him as well.

Seclusion, quiet, and no interruptions sound’s good, doesn’t it? Couple that with one-on-one time with our Heavenly Father put’s the icing on the cake! But we struggle with that, don’t we? Not being alone with our Father, but making the time for it! Maybe you currently wake up at 5 AM to get ready for work; the thought of 4 AM is distressing. After all, you NEED that sleep time; you EARNED that rest. But where else among the busy hours of your day may you be able to spend quality time with the Father? If not, then when? 

We need to give this serious thought; after all, “a servant is not above his master” (Matthew 10:24). We have a tremendous encouragement in this verse to evaluate our own prayer time with God. 

FOCUS TWO: A HUNTED MAN

Others can thwart even the best of efforts! 

The first to locate Jesus was Simon and his companions (Mark 1:36-37). But close behind them were the “multitudes.” Even leaving quietly in the dark of night was not enough to give Jesus His desired time alone in prayer! He was hunted down and found while in the middle of His praying. 

The “tyranny of the urgent” was thrust upon Him, at least in the eyes of the multitude. More people needed healing, needed demons removed, etc., so why did you sneak away? Most likely is what the disciples are thinking (v.37). 

I imagine that His response to that statement, to their interruption, surprised them. 

38 He *said to them, “Let’s go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may also [a]preach there; for this is why I came.”

FOCUS THREE: WHAT I CAME FOR

This reply reveals a potential lack of understanding on the disciple’s part regarding the purpose of Christ coming. He tells them that he came not just to be a “miracle worker” among men but to preach the gospel of the kingdom to many people in various places, not just Capernaum. 

Jesus was sent by the Father on a divine mission. *”His purpose was to proclaim the “good news of God” (v.14), and confront people with the demand to ‘repent and believe’ it (v.15). Since the Capernaum crowd sought Him as a miracle-worker, He deliberately  departed to preach elsewhere.”

And as verse 39 shows, that is what he did. Throughout ALL Galilee, he went into the synagogues, “preaching and casting out demons.”

*The Bible knowledge Commentary

A PICTURE OF UNITY

Extended reading: Psalm 133:1-3

Devotional reading: verse 1

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to live together in unity!”

This Psalm of David probably had its inspiration around the time the nation had come together, unified, at his coronation. It NOT ONLY praises unity; it shares two very picturesque qualities of it, as seen in the remaining verses. The oil and the dew seem to be a picture of spiritual and material blessings that come forth as a by-product of true unity among brethren.

Which one of us can deny that unity with others: our families, church, and friends, is a great blessing to us and very pleasing in the eyes of our Heavenly Father? Paul expressed it well when he said: “Be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness (humility) of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Philippians 2:2-3 NKJV). Unity through humility!

How much different would our lives be if such unity was the norm throughout our lives? How much more robust and fulfilling would our relationships be if such peace, love, and like-mindedness were a predominant reality in them?

As sweet as they would be, they are only a faint picture of what believers have and experience in Jesus Christ (John 17:21)! Because of Jesus, we have full participation in all the attributes and essence of God through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit(MacArthur).

We may not always share a like-mindedness with others in our lives, but there can always be like-mindedness of Spirit and focus, which comes through Jesus Christ.

A NARROW GATE AND A DIFFICULT ROAD 

13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is constricted (narrow, difficult) that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

Many Christians in the church had been taught to believe that the “Christian life” would be all blessings and prosperity. That they can “have their best life now” because God is for them and will give them what their hearts desire. Well, there is some truth to all that, but these same Christians move forward in their life only to become confused, discouraged, and depressed that what they were taught, what they expected, hasn’t happened in their experience.

Are there blessings that God graciously bestows on those He saves? Absolutely! Is this life the ultimate best we have to look forward to? Absolutely not! These verses help us to understand this a bit better.

In these verses, we have TWO gates that everyone will enter:

  1. The narrow gate (which speaks of salvation in Christ), OR
  2. The wide gate (which speaks of destruction, eternal damnation)

And we have TWO roads to travel:

  1. The difficult road (which speaks of the Christians path of sanctification), OR
  2. The broad way (which speaks of being wider, more accessible, more pleasing)

Our creator (author of the Bible) encourages each of us to enter, i.e., look for and pursue the narrow gate, not the wide gate. That goes against the grain, doesn’t it? We would much rather take the “path of least resistance,” and if we’re being honest about it, we would admit it, right? After all, we’re pretty good people aren’t we?

The gate or “door” is how a person can get into a home, building, or automobile. So, Jesus is saying, very directly, that there is ONLY ONE entryway into eternal life (which includes forgiveness of sin and peace with God), and that is through this one very exclusive entry point! And, so we wouldn’t be in the dark about what door this is, Jesus, in John 10:7, told those listening, including some Pharisees, that He is the door!

Coming to repentant faith in Jesus grants us entry into what the Bible calls “eternal life.” Positionally regenerated believers live in what Paul called “newness of life,” even now, although not yet to its fullest extent!

Before a person comes to Christ by faith or rejects His kind offer of forgiveness, they have before them two roads. One leads to eternal life, and one leads to eternal destruction (see above verses). But what about after we enter in the narrow gate (Jesus)? Those that will not repent and “look unto Jesus” enter the wide gate and travel the broad way that leads to their eternal condemnation. BUT, those who believe in Christ and His finished work at Calvary enter eternal life through Him and are now walking on the difficult road. The road is also known as experiential sanctification.

This road is the pathway in which God, through His Spirit and His word, conforms us to be more like our savior (Romans 8:29; Philippians 1:6)! We must be conformed unto Him because we have “been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father so that we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). 

This road is not easy. As we walk through this world, we will witness and suffer the consequences of sin, ours, and other people. We will have trials and tribulations in this life (James 1:2; John 16:33; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 1 Peter 4:12; Romans 8:18). BUT, through them God, through His Spirit and Word and with the intercession of Christ (1 Timothy 2:5), in His grace makes even these seemingly bad things work out for good (Romans 8:28), and that includes our “transformation” into the beautiful image of our savior!

WHEN WE DON’T UNDERSTAND 

Extended reading: John 1-44

Devotional verses: 21, 32 _ “ Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 32 So when Mary came to the place where Jesus was, she saw Him and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Many things in life happen that we don’t understand. The loss of a teenager in a car accident in the prime of their life. The loss of a father or mother with a growing family. A baby in the womb not able to make it full term. We are at a loss for understanding in these times. We grieve, we question, and we ask why?

Such is the situation that Mary and Martha find themselves in at the death of their beloved brother, Lazarus. Jesus was notified about Lazarus (11:3), but he stayed two days longer where he was (v.6). Jesus eventually travels to Bethany with the disciples. Lazarus has been dead now, four days!

Mary and Martha were grieved at Christ’s delay in coming. In these verses, both ladies question His timing. Not in an outright manner, but more subtle: “if you would have only been here, my brother would not have died.” If only, Lord. We feel the weight of their grief and, at times, experience it ourselves.

“We question God’s timing, God’s seeming lack of concern, His seeming refusal to answer. But Jesus is never late. Jesus is never unconcerned. Did you notice how gentle He is with them? How gracious He is in reminding them of His deity, sovereignty, and power! He then calls their brother out from from the grave (vv. 43-44), and just as He said: “Your brother will rise again” (v. 23), He came forth bound hand and foot in grave cloths, to live yet again on this earth for a time! Jesus never refuses to answer.”

Are you struggling with a lack of understanding? “Are you asking the why questions? Remember, Jesus is always exactly on time. We may not understand, but maybe that’s the point.We aren’t supposed to understand. Instead, we must have faith. Whatever happens has a reason that can reveal His glory if we let it” (v.40).

PRAYER: Father, we find it hard to understand your working among us at times. We struggle with so many questions that seem to go unanswered. Please help us to trust you more wholly. Aid us in our desire for your glory to be on display, especially in those times we are the most conflicted in our thoughts and emotions. Amen.

Some parts adapted from the Travelers devotional Bible

CHRIST’S MINISTRY AMONG MEN BEGINS

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Mark 1:14-15 

BRIEF INTRO: In our study of Mark’s gospel so far, we have been introduced to John the Baptist, his message, his purpose, and then his baptism of Jesus (1-11). Mark begins telling his story of Jesus at the beginning of God’s preparatory works for God, the Son, to minister among men, not at the incarnation as Matthew and Luke do. This is only one “obvious” difference from Mark’s message compared to the other gospel writers.

Another striking difference relates to Mark’s lack of any information regarding John the B’s ministry after the baptism of Jesus, so, for that layout, I included this chart to help us with a “timeline” of sorts relating to what we read in v.14 of John being taken into custody. 

In these following two verses (14-15), I have a few things that I want to emphasize. The first is Jesus starting to proclaim “the Gospel of God” and what that is. Second, I want to think through what “time” has been fulfilled and what it means that “the kingdom of God is at hand.” And, lastly, I want to focus on the only response to this preaching of the gospel of God that saves!

Are you ready to jump in with me? Let’s begin!

14 Now after John was [a]taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, [b]preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God [c]is at hand; repent and [d]believe in the gospel.”

FOCUS ONE: Jesus came preaching (v.14)!

Mark doesn’t share anything about John’s ministry. He just moves on to his imprisonment. But what he does share with us is the emphasis of Christ’s ministry: the preaching of the gospel of God (Mark 1:38; John 18:37). For that information, look a John 1:15-37; John 3:22-36; Matthew 14:3-5.

That verse above, Mark 1:38, clearly expresses that Jesus intended to proclaim this gospel in Galilee and other places. Yes, He did perform many miracles, but those, as much as they helped people with physical maladies and removed demons from some, were meant to provide validity of His authority, and also His message. One commentator notes as much: 

“In spite of all the miracles evidenced in Christ’s life, the predominant characteristic of His ministry is described by the words Jesus came . . .preaching.

What did He preach? This is probably a more important question to answer than you might currently think. Why? Because it has implications for us today and all succeeding generations if the Lord tarries! Such as:

  1. Is the gospel of God for the Jew only or gentile as well?
  2. Is the gospel of God the same as the gospel of Jesus Christ or the gospel of the Kingdom or the gospel of the grace of God, and other “gospel” uses throughout scripture (Matthew 4:23; Mark 1:1; Acts 20:24)?

So, let’s begin by addressing these questions in order. Is the gospel only for the Jews or only for the Gentiles? The answer:

“But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for ALL those who believe; for there is NO distinction; for ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. . . (Romans 3:21-23; vv. 28-30).

I could cite more references, but I won’t at this time because I want to encourage you to search the scriptures and see if these things are so.

The next question could have severe implications for humanity if the references I cited above are different gospels. Romans alone uses the phrase “gospel of God” approximately 60 times, and its definition is good news! It is the message that God will forgive sins, deliver from sin’s power, and give eternal hope” (Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

The next term, “the gospel of the kingdom,” is used often in connection to the Lord Jesus and His work on the earth. We already know from above that the word gospel means good news and hear; the word kingdom (basileia) implies the realm in which a sovereign king rules. “Throughout the New Testament, the word kingdom consistently refers to the rule of Christ in the hearts of believers, since, for the time being, Christ’s kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

So, to sum this definition up with the help of one commentator who is more precise than I could be: “The gospel of the Kingdom is the good-news message of repentance, redemption, and restoration offered by God to all who will receive Christ. It is by grace alone that this offer is available to those who will receive it! Those who accept this offer become part of His eternal Kingdom (John 1:12).”

Our last term to look at (I am aware that I am not citing Paul’s “my gospel” in this section) is the gospel of the grace of God. Excitingly though, we find Paul’s concise definition of that very term my gospel in Acts 20:24. 

2But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of God’s grace.

This makes me reflect on what Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8-9. It is by His grace that we are saved. He imparts to us the gift of faith to believe in the finished atoning work of the king of the Kingdom, Jesus. And he draws us near the father by His shed blood (v. 13). 

All of these terms speak of the same gospel and its effect on those who receive it! I hope you have.

FOCUS TWO: The time is fulfilled

When we read these words, the question that should arise in our minds is: what time has been fulfilled? How exactly is the “kingdom of God at hand?” So, let’s begin by answering the first question.

Mark is emphasizing a point in time of God’s decisive action, in which, in the past, He foretold what would happen and by whom. In this case, the coming of the Messiah, the king of the eternal, heavenly Kingdom! In the gospel of Luke, Luke testifies to an event in Christ’s public ministry, in which He went to Nazareth and into the synagogue, as His custom, and stood up to read. The book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him, He opened it to where He wanted to read from, and read this: (Luke 4:16-21)

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,

Because He anointed Me to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent Me to proclaim release to captives,

And recovery of sight to the blind,

To set free those who are oppressed,

19 To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”

Paul rightly understood what was meant by the statement of Mark “fullness of time,” He used it as well. Take a look at what he says: And then, so as not to be misunderstood, He say’s: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (v. 21).

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under [a]the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under [b]the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons and daughters. Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba! [c]Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir [d]through God.

There was a God-appointed time in history for the preparation and expectation of a people to be fulfilled. The Old Testament era was that time. When that appointed time, according to His providence, was complete, Christ came into the world, the incarnation! And He would fulfill all things (Ephesians 1:9-10). Don’t. Miss Paul’s usages of “fullness of the times” in those scriptures as you read it!

Hopefully, the above makes sense to you as you read scripture. But along with that question is another; how is the “Kingdom of God at hand?  The Kingdom is a big slice of Christ’s message, and this statement is a key feature of that message. Remember that word kingdom (Basileia)? We touched on it early on in this study. It means “kingship” or “royal rule.” This term also involves the sovereign authority of a ruler, the activity of his ruling, and the realm and rule, including its benefits (Theological Dictionary of the NT).

The concept of Kingdom was familiar to the Jews of His day. In light of all the Old Testament prophecies they were aware of, they expected a future messianic (Davidic) Kingdom to be established on earth (Matthew 20:21; Mark 10:37). Jesus’ statement in verse 15 informs them that the long-awaited king, the Messiah, has arrived. Jesus, the king of the Kingdom, the one with authority, has come, as John states in John 1:1!

FOCUS THREE: Christ” s imperative: repent and believe the gospel.

Repentance and faith are not as hard to understand as some people make them out to be. Repentance is when we come to understand that we are not as good as we thought we were, which can be very troubling to our hearts. This “acknowledgement” of our sinfulness before God is not merely a cognitive reality but involves the heart and will as well. 

The Holy Spirit convicts sinners of their guilt, danger, helplessness, and the way of salvation through Jesus Christ. When a sinner understands and agrees with God regarding their sin and turns to Christ, the only one who can save them, for His mercy and grace, they receive it because God does not lie or change His mind!

8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and [a]this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

9 “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

10 “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance [a]without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). 

The word believe in this verse is (Pisteuo), meaning to believe or to put our whole trust in something. In this case, the text directs our belief, our faith, to be in the good news of Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith can be seen as two sides of the same coin. They can not be separated. “Both these must go together: we must not think either that reforming our lives will save us without trusting in the righteousness and grace of Christ, or that trusting in Christ will save us without he reformation of our hearts and lives. Christ has joined these two together, and let no man think to put them asunder (break apart).”

This is the message Jesus proclaimed. This is the message Peter proclaimed, Paul proclaimed, and preachers, missionaries, and everyday Christians declare today. 

This work is a supernatural work accomplished by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of sinful creatures. A “new nature” is given by Him a divine nature (John 3:3-8). Genuine salvation is manifested in the lives of those who proclaim faith in Christ. The way they now live their lives, the way they think, talk, and act, will evidence that they genuinely have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit within. And such a walk of faith and obedience will cause the believer to be increasingly like His savior: “conformed to the image of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 3:18)!

But the simple fact remains that sin fallen people cannot respond. In some manner, divine revelation must be made known to us before we can respond to it and agree or reject it. Paul wrote in Romans 10:14-17 of this very truth. God uses people like you and me to share the gospel that saved us with others. Just like us, they need to hear this divine truth before responding to it. And friends, there is only one thing that God uses to do this work of bringing repentant faith into our lives: “So, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (v. 17).

EXEGETICAL FALLACIES: BY D.A CARSON 


I have been trying to read this book for some time but have often found myself laying it aside amidst the ever-present pressures of priorities. Finally, I did it! I have finished Carson’s book and have now sat down to type my thoughts about this writing into my IPad.

I assume that many of you know who D.A Carson is, but I insert this brief bio from the back of this book for those of you who don’t.

“D.A. Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (book written in 1996, 2nd ed.). He has written or edited a variety of contributions, including commentaries on both Matthew and John and The King James Version Debate.”

This book is well written and easy to read, but I would have to read through it possibly two more times thoughtfully to grasp all the wisdom in it. If you are a pastor or teacher, I strongly recommend reading this 148-page paperback. I say that because correct hermeneutics, including but not limited to word studies, grammatical studies, and correct or incorrect presuppositions, are extremely important in faithfully expositing the Word of God accurately.

Honestly, I know that I have made many mistakes in my approach to exegesis over the years in my attempt to “rightly divide the Word of truth.” D. A.’s book reminded me of several. Sadly, many of those were from trusting some commentator’s conclusions, which may not always be wise, as this book points out. Everybody has a theological structure they work from, and sadly, some have to make sure everything lines up with what they believe, thereby falling into some of the fallacies that D.A Carson is writing about.

D.A includes a small but comprehensive index of subjects, authors, and scriptures cited.

In the introduction, the writer clarifies how vital a study like this is for those who want to understand God’s Word and relate it clearly and accurately to others. “Exegetical fallacies are painfully frequent among us-among us whose God-given grace and responsibility is the faithful proclamation of the Word of God.” He rightly opines: “A critical interpretation of scripture is one, that has adequate justification-lexical, grammatical, cultural, theological, historical, geographical, or other justification” for our interpretation of the text.

The writer states that this book has limits: “this is not a highly technical discussion.” However, it was designated for seminary students who take their responsibility seriously. So, since it is not a “technical” study, the writer has not provided extensive bibliographical information. 

This book studies exegetical fallacies, not historical or theological ones. I did appreciate his attempt at even-handedness when he used examples of other’s fallacies. D.A included his errors as well. One I quickly remember is on page 41 relating to his careless appeal to background material. 

Under the heading “word study fallacies” he includes:

  1. The root fallacy
  2. Semantic anachronism
  3. Semantic obsolescence
  4. Appeal to unknown or unlikely meanings
  5. Careless appeal to background material
  6. Verbal parallelomania
  7. Linkage of language and mentality
  8. False assumptions about ethnically meaning
  9. Problems surrounding synonyms and componential analysis 

10. Selective and prejudicial use of evidence

11. Unwarranted semantic disjunction and restrictions

12. Unwarranted restrictions of the semantic field

13. Problems relating to the Semitic background of the Greek New Testament

14. Unwarranted neglect of distinguishing peculiarities of a corpus

15. Unwarranted linking of sense and reference

Chapter one, by far, is the longest chapter in the book. For example, chapter two is only half as long as chapter one, 22 pages.

Chapter two is a discussion on “grammatical fallacies,” Chapter three “logical fallacies,” and chapter four “presuppositional fallacies.”

The book closes with D.A’s “concluding reflections on what he has just presented. I appreciated his encouragement as he completed his writing. I was encouraged because such writing can lead us to the false conclusion that we are wholly inadequate and may want to sit down and shut up. Perhaps we should if it weren’t for the Lord Jesus Christ and His effectual calling upon our lives; first, in our salvation, second, in our service! Listen to D.A:

“but I do not want to end on so negative a note. There is a danger that readers will conclude their perusal of this little book enslaved to deep fears about their own inadequacies for the task of exegesis. A little self-doubt will do no harm and may do a great deal of good: we will be more open to learn and correct our mistakes. But too much will shackle and stifle us with deep insecurities and make us so much aware of methods that we may overlook truth itself.

I have no easy answer to this dilemma. But we will not go far astray if we approach the Bible with a humble mind and then resolve to focus on central truths. Gradually we will build up our exegetical skills by evenhanded study and a reverent, prayerful determination to become like the workman “who correctly handles the word of truth” (1 Timothy 2:15).

With that encouragement in mind, I commend this book for your reading list. I have had this book in my library for several years, but I recently saw it on Amazon, the second edition, for $13.79.

This book has been helpful to me in three ways:

  1. D.A reminded me how important humble discernment is in my attempt to interpret scripture correctly. Sometimes we can fall into the pitfall of “just going through the motions,” which is detrimental to our well-being and others as well. 
  2. No matter how blessed we may be with the many theologians, commentators, and professors available to us today, no one is more important to inquire of than the Holy Spirit. You have heard the quip, “discernment is key;” well, the Holy Spirt is the One who gives wisdom to those who ask for it. Much more time in prayer will allow greater interpretation accuracy than much more time in our inquiry of others.
  3. I am inadequate. Left to myself and my wisdom, I will not be able to divide His Word rightly. I need help, His help, and an abundance of it! Preaching and teaching God’s word to others is holy work. It is a heavenly work; it is a work that we who are called to preach and teach are compelled to do: “for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16). I want to get it right in so far as His Spirit leads me, and I trust you do as well.

This book can help in more ways than just meditating on exegetical fallacies! 

My reading suggestions

I thought it might be helpful to give you some reading ideas for the new year that may help expand your bible knowledge and foster a greater application of the truths taught. So, here are some of my recommendations:

Relating to the Doctrine of God:

  1. J.I. Packer; knowing God (A classic)
  2. Arthur W. Pink; The Attributes of God (one of my favorites, very helpful).

Relating to the Inspiration of the Scriptures:

  1. Edward J. Young; Thy Word is truth (very readable)
  2. Theodore Engelder; Scripture cannot be broken

Relating to Divine Providence:

  1. Calvin’s Calvinism: Treatises on the Eternal predestination of God and the secret providence of God. Translated by Henry Cole

Relating to the incarnation:

  1. Calvin’s Institutes are a great go-to for an overview of theology. In this case Book 2 chapters 12-14.

Relating to Justification:

  1. Charles Hodge; Justification by faith alone
  2. R.C. Sproul; Faith Alone: The evangelical doctrine of justification.

Relating to the Gospels:

  1. Tom Weaver; The Gospel Dilemma (helps to explain the transitional nature of the NT).

Hopefully, you find these suggestions helpful. Happy reading!