Thursday, April 23, 2009

Easter Message 2009: Christ Could Not Be Overcome by Death

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong on 12 April 2009 in Newton Life. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

There is a relationship between Christ’s death and resurrection. The purpose of His death is show that He cannot die. The Psalmist said that God will not allow His Holy One to see corruption. Although He entered the realm of death, death could not conquer Him. His death became the purpose of his birth. And His resurrection is the purpose of His death. This has never been taught or spoken by any other religion because all other religious leaders never die for the sin of others, and never resurrected from the dead.

The wages of sin is death and all have sinned. From His resurrection we can tell that Jesus Christ is not from the earth. When death came upon Him, He did not receive the wages of His own sin. The Bible say that He died for the sake of sinners. He entered the realm of death to defeat Satan who held the power of death. His death is the death that could not be sustained so surely He would resurrect, and through Him God gave us new life.

Acts 2 recorded about the coming of the Holy Spirit based on the promises Jesus gave to the apostles. When filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter boldly preached the gospel of Christ.

Before His ascension, Jesus told His disciples not to leave Jerusalem. This was very different from the Great Commission given earlier. Before His ascension, He asked them to tarry in Jerusalem. He died and resurrected in Jerusalem, and ascended from Jerusalem. But when He was about to share the Great Commission, He did not do it in Jerusalem, but in Galilee, although the events were only days apart.

Before sharing the Great Commission, He asked His disciples to go to Galilee instead. What is the reason? Because they were originally called in the land of Galilee. Christ did not call them in Jerusalem. He wanted them to return to Galilee to think about their original calling. It was not by the seaside or on the plain this time but on the hill. They were asked to go up to the mountain to receive their original mission. Many people still had doubt then. When they were on top of the hill, they saw that Jesus was already there. It took about 2-3 days walk (approximately 200 km) from Jerusalem to the mountain of Galilee.

Why did Jesus demand this of them? Why did He not just do everything in Jerusalem? We need to pay a price for discipleship. But many people who follow Jesus just want everything to be given to them conveniently. When Christ saw them in Galilee, he recognized the effort they had made to get there. He spoke to them the Mandate from heaven. “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you, and I will be with you to the end of age.”

No religious leader ever gives such a great mandate. This is the Greatest Commission, which contains the eternal preaching, which is the most trustworthy gospel and paid with the greatest price. It is the mandate to speak to all the people of the world about how God has saved us. No plan in the world, whether religious or political is so great as the great Mandate of the Lord.

At the ascension, He spoke to the disciples not to go anywhere but to wait in Jerusalem. He asked them to go to all the world in the Great Commission, yet now He said not to go at His ascension. This is often the struggles of preachers. When you want to go, He command you to wait. When you want to stay, He commands you to go. It is a very important lesson to learn. Many people think that to be equiped as a preacher they only need to go to seminaries. Jesus had trained His disciples personally for 3.5 years and they had observed His life intimately in every way. Yet Jesus said they were not ready and they had to wait until they receive power from on high.

When they received the Holy Spirit, they were no longer concerned about their own safety and security. They were empowered to be the witnesses for Christ. The Great Commission compels you to go, but you are not allowed to go without the power of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit came, the disciples spoke and were no longer afraid.

At the Day of Pentacost, there were Jews from scattered places around the world, speaking in 15 different places. They came to Jerusalem to honor their tradition but they could no longer speak their forefathers’ language. Peter still preached in his own language, but miracle of tongues happened. The listeners heard the gospel preached in 15 languages at one time. That day was the birthday of the Church. 3000 people were baptized. It marked the beginning of the New Testament Church, the beginning of Living Word producing living Church.

On the day when the Law was given in the Old Testament, 3000 people died. When the Spirit was given on the day of Pentacost in the New Testament, 3000 people received a new life. Why were 3000 saved? Because they believed. How did they come to believe? Because they heard the Word which they could understand. How did the disciples manage to preach in language people could understand? Because the Holy Spirit gave them the gift of tongues. The apostles spoke their own language but the listeners heard in their own tongues.

The purpose of the gift of tongues on this Day of Pentacost was two-fold. The first was to prove that the gospel is not meant for the Jews alone, but for people of all nations – hence this addressed the narrowmindedness of the Jews. The second purpose was that through the gift of tongues, those who do not understand were enabled to understand the message of the gospel.

When we grasp these principles, we will not be stumbled with phenomena. In contrast, in the 20th century this message has been distorted. The Charismatics catch the phenomena but discard the principles. They only observe the phenomena that there was Holy Spirit and there were tongues and then make the conclusion that if you have Holy Spirit you will speak in tongues. In the end people seek tongues and not Holy Spirit. And further error continues as they start classes to teach others to speak in tongues. But in the Bible there are no courses for tongues speaking.

On the day of Pentacost, people who did not understand come to understanding because of the gift of tongues. Nowadays it is the opposite. People who understand become confused due to the gift of tongues.

The Holy Spirit wants to give us understanding and the heart of purity through repentance and faith in Christ. In the Old Testament, at the Tower of Babel God came down and confused the tongue because their motive was selfish. At the day of Pentacost, God united the tongues and people came to the Lord.

When we preach ourselves and seek our own glory, God is not pleased and will confuse us. On the Day of Pentacost, Peter only preached Christ, not himself. Hence the theology of tongues is to let us preach Christ so that all people will understand and return to God.

Peter boldly preached that the Jews delivered Christ to be crucified, but God raised Him up because it is impossible for death to hold Him. In Acts 3:15, he went on further to say that the Jews had killed the Author of Life. The Author of Life is the Source of Life, the basis of all life. How dare they even killed the Author of Life. But God raised him from the death because death cannot hold Him.

1 Cor. 15 gave triangular principle: Law, sin and death. The power of death is sin. And the power of sin is the Law. Many powerful figures in the world could boast about the greatness of their power and glory, but had to concede to the shortness of their lives. They are all controlled by the power of death.

Paul said that the sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law. If you sin, you must die. But in the next sentence he declared praises unto God because through Jesus Christ we have victory over death. He could declare, “O Death where is your victory? Where is your sting?” No other religious leaders said that before because apart from Christ nobody conquered death. The curse of the Law is upon all humanity because all have sinned.

Thosse who believe in the sovereign will of God know that lives are in the hands of God. When loved ones return to the Lord and they submit peacefully to God, it shows who truly have victory over death. May we will be obedient to God in faith. Because our Lord has died for us, we should live for Him and be prepared to die for Him.