Scripture reading for July 4th: Acts 22:17-23:10
The next day, Paul was brought before the Sanhedrin. Their attitudes had not been changed. When Paul told them that he had fulfilled his duty to God with a good conscience, the High Priest order Paul struck in the mouth! This body of elders were so prejudiced against Paul that they would not let him explain. To them, he was speaking blasphemy and deserved death!
“Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others were Pharisees called out in the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee. I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead.” When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided.” (Acts 23:6-7) Paul knew these rulers and how they thought. He knew how to bring about a division over religious issues. The Pharisees had a strong belief in the supernatural and resurrection and the Sadducees were skeptical about anything they could not understand, especially the resurrection.
The dispute and arguments between Pharisee and Sadducee became so violent that the commander was again afraid for Paul. He ordered Paul taken back to the barracks. “The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about Me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” (Acts 23:11) God again stood by His servant and strengthened him with a word of knowledge that would help Paul endure imprisonment and persecution.
The divide between those who believe in the supernatural and those who are skeptical is still in the church today! Many who claim to believe in Jesus Christ and His resurrection argue vehemently that the miracles of Jesus ceased with the early church and apostles. Those who do believe are looked on as crazy or fanatical. Sometimes there is even heated arguments and division of entire churches! But God is not shaken by this and doesn’t want His servants to lose their courage to declare truth and be used in the supernatural! He comes supernaturally to strengthen and encourage! Take time today and thank Him that He is the God of resurrection and miracles!
Scripture reading for April 21st: Luke 20:27-47
Are we eternal beings or just here on earth by time and chance? What happens when we die? Will there be life after death? If so, what will life after death be like? Jesus had such a discussion with the Saducees in today’s reading. These Saducees were sad you see, because they did not believe in the resurrection or heaven! (Luke 20:27)
These religious leaders called the Saducees were the ancient equivalent of the anti-supernatural believers of our day. They had trouble in thinking about the subject of resurrection because when a person died, it looked to them that it was all over. The body went into the ground and when a person was dead, they were gone forever! This view has serious implications for how we live our lives here on earth.
They came to Jesus to debate this question and try and trap Him. They asked about a situation where a man who was married had seven brothers. He passed away and according to the Law of Moses, a brother was to marry the widow and have children for his dead brother. In their story, each died in turn after having married the widow, until all seven and the widow had died and left no children. Their question for Jesus was: “Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?” (Luke 20:33)
“Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry or be given in marriage, and they can no longer die: for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. …He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to Him all are alive.” (Luke 20:34-36,38)
Jesus challenged their lack of faith in the resurrection. He explained that those who would take part in that age and the resurrection were alive. He explained from the books of Moses that God was the God of the living and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were alive! Have you accepted God’s offer to be a “child of the resurrection?” Today is the best day to respond by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ!
Scripture reading for October 10th: Matthew 16-19
The Pharisees and Sadducees are two groups of religious people that were often in conflict with Jesus. They often came to Jesus to test Him and to try to make themselves look good by discrediting Him. (Matthew 16:1-4) One day, they came asking Jesus for a sign from heaven to confirm that He was Messiah. Jesus had just fed the 5000 with the loaves and fishes and had been doing many other miracles. (Matthew 14:16-21) He had offended the Pharisees earlier by warning the people about the hypocrisy of those religious leaders. He called them blind guides that if someone would follow them, they would both fall into a pit! (Matthew 15:12-14) Now they were testing Him again!
Jesus’ response was to rebuke them and leave them quickly. He told them that a wicked and adulterous generation would seek a sign. They would only be given the sign of Jonah, the prophet. He then warned his followers to watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees. They didn’t understand. Jesus explained that the yeast was their teaching that would lead them and others away from the truth He was sharing.
They then traveled to Caesarea Philippi, an area at the mouth of the Jordan River at the foot of Mount Herman. There Jesus asked His disciples two key questions. Jesus asked them, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16:13) They told him various answers that were common among the people of that day. Jesus then asked them the most important question, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15) Simon Peter immediately answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16) Jesus commended him for his answer. He had come to the right conclusion, but not by man’s opinion or his own reasoning and mental ability. The Father had revealed this truth to him!
How have you answered Jesus’ question? What conclusion have you come to regarding the identity of Jesus Christ? Is He someone who must show you one more “sign” before you will believe? Are you skeptical that He is the Son of God? Do you just feel that He is a prophet sent from God or someone famous who has come back from the dead? Do people’s opinions shape your thoughts on Jesus Christ? All of these responses were present when Jesus walked the earth and was doing miraculous signs. Human reasoning and visual proof are well and good, but truth comes by revelation from God the Father. Revelation comes when we are humble and teachable enough to believe. Faith is the key ingredient, and that is a gift from God! (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Jesus concluded his remarks to Peter and the disciples after this discussion with a promise to build His church on ‘this rock’ and told them that the gates of hell would not prevail against that church. The “rock” was Peter’s confession of who Christ was, not Peter himself. Jesus is still building His church on that rock! It is a secure foundation for eternal life!