Welcome to Becomning Closer! 

Life of Christ (2007-2009)

Farewell

Various Scriptures

Lesson audio

We come to the final lesson in this series on the life of Christ. The sections of Scripture which tell us of events after the resurrection often seem fragmented and of little importance. But we shall see there are some grand themes here.

Great Commission

Matthew 28:16-20 NIV Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. (17) When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. (18) Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (19) Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[1] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (20) and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

All authority

It is well for us to review the basics of authority. We know from this passage that all authority belongs to Christ. It is therefore well to remember that in the kingdom of God authority comes with responsibility (to him who created the universe is given the task of sustaining it and providing for it) – and with matching power. This authority is rightly his for two reasons:

  • First, by right of creation. It’s his universe; he made it. He therefore is responsible for maintaining it – and from responsibility flows authority.
  • Second, by right of conquest. The terror of this universe is death, and he has conquered that usurping ruler. Satan is defeated.
Make disciples

There is some confusion that arises here. Disciples of whom? Disciples of my particular church, or of Christ? The answer seems simple until you remember that the disciple in question is getting his answers from you. There is only one way in which this will work – they must be disciples of Christ shown in you. Follow me, as I follow Christ.[1]

We are told to baptize[2] them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It seems like a formula, something to pronounce during the ceremony, but it is actually very important. To do this is to acknowledge the unity of the Trinity. There are not three gods, but God – three in one. This is fundamental to the faith, and we should get it right from the start.

Teach them

Regrettably, the church today largely neglects this aspect. In older times the restorationist churches were accused of “dunk ‘em and drop ‘em.” Today, it seems that we cannot risk suggesting to the new convert that there is anything he or she really needs to learn. It’s not that we don’t want to teach them, but we have good reasons for not teaching them, to wit:

  • Teaching implies the discipline of learning. Consumer Christianity asks what the people want, and gives it to them. That usually doesn’t include the hard work of study. So it is that I have heard (for over fifteen years so far) that “Sunday School classes are obsolete and will wither away within five years.”[3]
  • Teaching implies the existence of a progression of learning. New Christians have different needs that older ones. That implies careful planning on the part of the staff of a church – and it also implies that learning will take years. Our time horizons don’t stretch that long; hence it can’t be done, right?
  • Teaching implies the existence of teachers (note the plural). In the new theory of mega-churches, teachers are replaced with people who can operate a DVD player, so that all instruction will be lockstep the same. This is very convenient for the new format, which allows only one “star” in the local church. The consequences of this development are, I submit, much more perilous than realized.

That last is particularly important. “Teaching” by its very nature involves setting an example. People are used to seeing “examples” like rock stars only from a distance – which might explain why those growing up under the new system seem to have such a mild affection for Christ.

Note, too, that we are to teach the disciples to “observe all things” which Christ commanded. It is not given to us to pick and choose. It is no great trick to prepare a list of neglected things.[4] If followed, this alone would keep us in the world, not of the world.

Waiting

Acts 1:4-8 NIV On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. (5) For John baptized with[1] water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." (6) So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" (7) He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. (8) But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

The reader must understand that the author has a good deal of experience in the art of waiting, if not waiting patiently. My wife was an hour late for our wedding, and her promptitude has not really improved over the last forty years. My tolerance, however, seems to have mellowed a bit with age.

We are told, as the disciples were here, to wait. How does one go about “waiting on the Lord?”

While waiting

Waiting is not simply filing yourself away in the file cabinet until someone chooses to open the drawer. Indeed, we are commanded to do some things while we wait:

  • We are commanded to be strong and take heart while waiting.[5]
  • Also, we are commanded to put our trust in his word.[6] Waiting for the Lord involves reading the Scriptures, so that we will know in whom we trust.
  • And, of course, we are to trust in Him.[7]
What He does while we wait

So many Christians feel that waiting on the Lord means watching nothing happen, with no sign from God. It is not so.

  • He tells us, explicitly, that he will deliver us from that which threatens. This is particularly true in the context of personal revenge – the temptation to say that God isn’t doing anything about that jerk, so I will.[8]
  • He will uphold and comfort us; we shall “renew our strength.”[9]
Rewards of waiting

He tells us also that at the end of the wait good things will happen.

  • When our wait for his return is over, he will have mercy upon us.[10] We need not fear the judgment; he is merciful.
  • To the ancient Jew he promised the inheritance of the land; but also he promised that we would see the wicked cut off. Where are the Nazis now? How about the Soviets? And where will American humanism be?

Of course, the ultimate reward is his return.[11]

Ascension

Acts 1:9-12 NIV After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. (10) They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. (11) "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."

(12) Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day's walk[2] from the city.

Why the Ascension?

In one sense, the reason for the ascension of Christ is simple: He is possessed of the new body – and he must go somewhere. But there are less obvious reasons as well:

  • It is fitting to his honor, power and authority that he arise to the supreme place. This is, after all, the one who created the world.
  • He tells us, explicitly, that it was necessary that he go in order that the Holy Spirit would come.[12]
  • This one may surprise you: his ascension was necessary so that spiritual gifts would come. [13]
Benefits to us

It’s well that we review just what benefits come from the ascension – benefits to us.

  • One fairly obvious one is to prepare a place for us.[14]
  • Another is a bit more subtle – to be our High Priest.[15] To us this seems somewhat less than important. But in the time in which it happened, only the High Priest had access to God. In short, at the Ascension our High Priest opened up direct access to God.
  • As such, he serves as our intercessor with God.[16] Sometimes direct access to God is not what we want – we need someone to speak up for the sinner.
His return

He ascended – and the angels assure us that he shall return in the same way. In his first advent he came in weakness; he must leave to return again in power. On that day shall come the judgment of mankind. When is that day? Only the Father knows. But we shall find out soon enough. In the meanwhile, wait upon the Lord.


[1] See 2nd Timothy 1:13

[2] I skip the usual argument for immersion here, reminding the advocates of sprinkling and pouring that virtually every church accepts immersion. It’s the one way we all know is correct.

[3] One might examine the classes to see how many people under 30 are in them. Is this self-fulfilling prophecy?

[4] When was the last time you heard a sermon on the evils of divorce? Did you know it is considered a sin in most circumstances?

[5] Psalm 27:14

[6] Psalm 130:5

[7] Isaiah 8:17

[8] Proverbs 20:22

[9] Isaiah 40:31 – see especially in the King James Version

[10] Psalm 123:2, KJV

[11] 1st Thessalonians 1:10

[12] John 16:7

[13] Ephesians 4:7-12

[14] John 14:2

[15] Hebrews 6:20

[16] Romans 8:34

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