The church has a New Testament foundation ( Eph. 2:19-20) but Old Testament roots; the very cornerstone of the foundation first spoken of by King David ( Psa. 118:22) and quoted 6 times in the New Testament is none other than the Lord Jesus. But it was God and not the king who first spoke of this One who would change the world.
Gen. 3:15And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”
Gen. 28:14Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
Gal. 3:16Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ.
God promised Adam he would send someone who would subdue the serpent; he promised Abraham that through him all families of the earth would be blessed; God clarified through Paul the precise fulfillment of those promises. Since the blessing was to occur through a particular descendant of Abram, he had to be born and accomplish his mission. His mission:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed;to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”Luke 4:18-21
But in the first Servant Song recorded in Isaiah 49:1-7 we read at Christmas that the Lord’s Servant was to have a ministry that reached far beyond the tribes of Jacob, indicating that he would indeed bless all families of the world. For families throughout the whole world to be blessed through him, to become part of the worshiping community of saints, they somehow would need to come within his sphere of influence – either interacting with him directly or with his ambassadors.
And that’s where our text today comes in – God’s plan for ambassadors of Christ to impact the world with His message of Good News. Here’s the plan in a nutshell: God came into the world; God sent his Son into the world: his Son sent his church into the world. Remember Peter’s confession, his declaration of who he believed Jesus to be? And what Jesus said immediately following that?
Matthew 16:13-19When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar – Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
A year from that time and the disciples would be “on their own”; Jesus had returned to heaven but he didn’t leave them unprepared. He would entrust to them and later generations of leaders the responsibility of being his people on the ground facilitating the building of his church. For them to be effective in that role, they needed to be equipped for leadership. They must understand how Jesus truly was the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy, how to properly interpret Scripture, what his program was for bringing blessing to all families of the earth, and how they would be empowered for the job.
A. Prophecy v.44
Jesus appeared on the pages of Scripture long before Matthew’s Gospel; but until he appeared in the flesh, his followers were limited in their ability to connect the dots. What they had really done was connect dots incorrectly – getting them out of order and missing some – as they tried to gain an understanding of the Messiah.
Many of the Jewish people had correctly understood that God would send someone to deliver them; they correctly placed the time frame during Jesus’ day. But,… they failed to connect (for example) Gen. 3:15 with Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 – the One who must suffer in order to be a Savior.
The disciples had lived and walked and talked with the One they believed represented the fulfilment of many Old Testament prophecies and promises found in Law, Prophets and Psalms. For them to carry on the work Jesus had begun required they understand Jesus’ work and ministry in the big scope. Jesus graciously pointed himself out sentence by sentence, passage by passage, from Genesis to Malachi – to the discicples on the road to Emmaus and again to the Eleven.
B. Proper interpretatation vv.45-46
In these final training sessions of the Eleven, Jesus patiently instructed his 1st century ambassadors regarding two areas of interpretation:
teaching them how to teach others from the OT, fulfilled prophecy v. 45
demonstrating proper hermeneutics – correctly determining what prophecies apply to Christ
teaching them what to teach others from the OT v. 46
the concept of salvation/deliverance present in the Old Testament as well as New
OT application primarily deliverance from physical danger, enemies, oppressors, slavery; the Messiah will save us from the Romans
NT expanded application – deliverance from greatest enemy, greatest oppression, slavery to sin; the Messiah will save us from the wrath of God poured out against sin
the full Gospel message
in the eternal scope of things there is no Good News, no Gospel apart from the message of salvation from sin and condemnation through faith in Jesus Christ
repentance – turning from sin to Christ and the new life he gives
Acts 17:30 “these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent”
confession – calling our sin what God calls it
Psalm 32:5 “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”
forgiveness – sin no longer credited to our account, no longer held against us
Psalm 32:5 “…and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.”
freedom – from bondage to sin; no longer the slave of sin but rather the slave of Christ; freedom and an accompanying desire to do what is right in God’s eyes
Rom. 6:16-18Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
hope – eternal existence unhindered by sin and its corruption, lived in the immediate presence of our Savior
1 Pet. 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”
C. Program vv. 47-48
public proclamation of the Gospel v. 47
What is it that will bless all families, add members of every people group to the body of Christ? The loud public heralding of the message entrusted to Christ’s ambassadors accompanied by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. Following in the footsteps of the apostles, Christian missionaries are first and foremost preachers of the Gospel, proclaiming God’s Word of hope and salvation in Christ to all who will hear. It all takes place in the context and by the efforts of Christ’s church as she sends men out to plant new churches where the Gospel will be proclaimed.
The church is central to God’s plan on this side of the Incarnation – Christ promised he would build it upon the rock of Peter’s confession; that is where he is to receive glory as Paul stated in Ephesians 3:20-21:
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be gloryin the churchby Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
the disciples to all nations Acts 1:8
commissioned by Christ to be ambassadors to all nations, establishing churches and reaching the lost; by the time Paul wrote Colossians, all nations of the known world had been reached
“Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel,which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing–as it also does among you,”Col. 1:5-6
successive generations to all families of the earth
based on eyewitness confidence – communicated personally or in writing v. 48
the church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets – found in the heritage of the church and the contents of the New Testament
D. Promise vv. 49-51
promised the accompanying ministry of the Holy Spirit, without which – no eternal results
measured by faithful proclamation of the message, not the response to it – see Acts 1:8
It’s a question of obedience, of faithfulness – will we carry out the commission entrusted to us, working as consecrated servants of Christ and leaders in the church to do our part as he builds his church? That is the challenge presented in the form of a prayer by Fanny Crosby in the words of our closing hymn.