Thursday, January 29, 2009

What is the significance of Acts 1:8?

Prior to Christ’s ascension to Heaven, He gave His apostles a command which has popularly become know as “the Great Commission.” This commission is contained in Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15, and Acts 1:8. MacArthur notes, “The apostles’ mission of spreading the gospel was the major reason the Holy Spirit empowered them.” We see that this is evident throughout the book of Acts as we recount the missionary endeavors of the early Church. An important addition, however, is afforded us by Henry, who comments that, “They had not strength of their own for it, nor wisdom nor courage enough; they were naturally of the weak and foolish things of the world; they durst not appear as witnesses for Christ upon his trial, neither as yet were they able (emphasis in original).” So then, while it is true that Christ has given all believers a commission to share their faith with unbelievers (we are included here for two reasons: First, if only the apostles were commissioned to evangelize, the Church would have died out with them; and second, Romans 10:17 demonstrates God’s promise that faith comes through hearing the Gospel), He has also given them a means of power to accomplish this task, namely, the Holy Spirit.

What kinds of tongues were being spoken at Pentecost? Were any of them unknown (so-called “heavenly”) languages?
The context of Acts 2:1-13 demonstrates that the passage speaks of tongues as known human languages. This is evident from vv. 8-11 which list many lands with many languages whose occupants were hearing the Gospel in their own language. Although verse 13 may be used as an example of ecstatic utterance, this is not a valid argument for two reasons: First, Peter in verse 15 indicates that the assumption of those from verse 13 is inaccurate as they, as Jews, would not be drunk so early and certainly not at a time of prayer at the Temple; Second, the fact that those who heard in their own languages were “amazed and perplexed” (verse 12) demonstrates that the languages were indeed communicable to human beings. It is my determination that these scoffers were local to Jerusalem and did not experience the familiarity with language as those who were present from the Diaspora.
Concerning the nature of tongues here, MacArthur agrees by stating these were “Known languages, not ecstatic utterances. These languages given by the Spirit were a sign of judgment to unbelieving Israel. They also showed that from then on God’s people would come from all nations, and marked the transition from Israel to the church.” Further, Robertson indicates that, “Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 14:22 that ‘tongues’ were a sign to unbelievers and were not to be exercised unless one was present who understood them and could translate them. This restriction disposes at once of the modern so-called tongues which are nothing but jargon and hysteria. It so happened that here on this occasion at Pentecost there were Jews from all parts of the world, so that some one would understand one tongue and some another without an interpreter such as was needed at Corinth.” Considering these points as well as my own, it is my conclusion that the “kinds” of tongues spoken at Pentecost were again, known human languages, and the idea of possible heavenly languages is not considered here nor mentioned in Scripture until Paul’s first epistle to the church at Corinth.

MacArthur, John F. The MacArthur Study Bible. Thomas Nelson: La Habra, 2006.
Henry, Matthew. Complete Commentary on Acts 1. Matthew Henry Complete
Commentary on the Whole Bible.
com/view.cgi?book=ac&chapter=001. 1706.
Robertson, A.T. Commentary on Acts 2:4. Robertson's Word Pictures of the New
r=002&verse=004. Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What is the significance of Jesus’ resurrection for Christians?

In 1 Corinthians 15:16-20, Paul comments, “For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.” Scripture makes it quite clear that the resurrection of Christ from the dead is absolutely significant to the faith of believers. Without it, as Paul stresses, not only is our faith worthless, but the expression of this faith should be greatly pitied. Paul goes on further in verse 21 to explain why resurrection is necessary to the Christian’s faith. Death came through Adam, a man, and so resurrection from death came through Christ, a man (and yet also God). This expression demonstrates God’s love and justice. Because God must punish sin, which had its origin in Adam, the Cross is necessary. Because God loves those whom He has predestined to faith, He takes the punishment upon Himself in His Son Jesus Christ.
The Greek verb used in chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians is “egeiro.” This term means “to waken, to raise up.” So then, it is not merely that God requires justice by punishing sin, or that God demonstrates His love by providing the propitiation for that sin, but that in the resurrection, Christ demonstrates His conquering of both sin and death and provides a future hope of life for those who believe in Him.
What are your thoughts on who Theophilus was? Was he a real person?
In consideration of the identity of Theophilus, Bock comments that he “is unknown but that he appears to be a person of high social standing and could well be a Christian Gentile wavering in his faith because of the pressure placed on the church…He could be a patron or simply the most important intended reader. Barrett (1994: 65) notes that the name is common and that Luke 1:3 with ‘most excellent’ in its address speaks to a person, not an ‘ideal’ figure.” There seems to be an argument that “Theophilus” is not a real person, but rather a symbolic representation of believers in Christ. As the name means “friend of God,” it is argued that this refers to those who by faith are indeed friends of God. However, as Bock notes, it seems more likely that Theophilus is a real person, an individual to whom can be attributed the title “most excellent” from Luke 1:3.
Coffman has more to say on this issue as he states, “The use of ‘excellent’ denominates Theophilus as a man of equestrian rank, that is a knight, the term being used of such officials as the governor of the province…there is no reason to suppose that Luke used this name otherwise than as the personal cognomen of his friend, who might also have been his patron.” With the use of an official title and the study of Acts 23:26, it would appear that the words “most excellent” can only refer to a real individual. It is therefore my conclusion that Theophilus was a real person, likely a governor or some other government official. Coffman further adds that “The omission of the title ‘excellent’ in Acts 1:1 supports the speculation that Theophilus was governor of an unnamed province when Luke was written, but that he was no longer governor when Acts was penned.”4 This comment further supports my conclusion as the giving of an honorific title as well as a later reference to this same recipient without said title indicates, as Coffman points out, an individual who perhaps held a high office for a term and later did not. This could also indicate an individual of importance who later became a closer friend of Luke, allowing for the comfort in communication with him (Theophilus).

MacArthur, John F. The MacArthur Study Bible. Thomas Nelson: La Habra, 2006.
Thomas, Robert L., ed. The Strongest NASB Exhaustive Concordance. Grand Rapids, MI:
Zondervan, 2004.
Bock, Darrell L. Acts. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand
Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007.
Coffman, James Burton. Commentary on Luke 1. Coffman Commentaries on the Old and
New Testament. hapter=001>. Abilene, TX: Abilene Christian University Press, 1983-1999.