The two greatest life-changing words ever!
"... Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith ..."
"A voice came out of the cloud, saying,
'This is my beloved Son,
in whom I am well pleased.
These two life-changing words were spoken when Jesus took Peter, James and John up "on a high mountain" to pray (Matthew 17'1-8, Mark 9'2-8, Luke 9'28-36). Little did they know what they were about to experience.
Frequently the Lord's Disciples saw great things take place and heard great words spoken as they travelled around Israel with Him.
But on this occasion the absolute importance of the things that they had been hearing was about to be dramatically emphasised.
To their amazement, the Lord was "transfigured" so as to radiate dazzingly in front of them. Moses and Elijah appeared and spoke with Him and a bright cloud began to descend.
The three men were startled.
Nevertheless, Peter thought that something should be said. He began saying the first thing that came to him.
But almost like a reaction, "a voice came out of the cloud" (Matthew 17'1-8).
It was the voice of the Father. He declared: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased". Then He added these two crucial words: "Hear Him!”.
It was not the first time this command had been heard, It had first been foreshadowed by Moses. And the Israelite people of the first century knew his words well:
"The Lord said to me: ... ‘I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren and will put my words in His mouth and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.
And it shall be that whoever will not hear my words, which He speaks in my name, I will require it of him’”, Deuteronomy 18’17-19.
Following Pentecost Peter reminded them of these words, saying that Moses' prophecy had been fulfilled in Jesus Christ of Nazareth :
"For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you.
And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people'.
To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities’," Acts 3'22-23.
And Stephen, on the day he was stoned to death, also pointed back to Moses' words when he challenged the murderous Jews confronting him:
"This is that Moses who said to the children of Israel, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear',” Acts 7'37.
SO WHAT DID PETER SAY?
On that mountain, Peter just had to say something to the Lord. He did! Luke points out that he spoke, "Not knowing what he said" (Luke 9'33).
So reacting to what he saw he blurted out the first thing that came to him:
“If you wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”.
But if Peter didn't know the implications of what he what was saying, the Father did:
"While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them;
and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying,
'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!'"
The Father made Himself very clear!
"And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid," Matthew 17'5-6.
Peter was suggesting that these Prophets, great though they were, would be on the same level as Jesus, God the Son, which was completely against God's will.
It would mean that their words would carry the same authority as His. So the Father interrupted to command them, and all future Believers, to “Hear Him!”.
Of course, the word of Christ is above Moses and Elijah or Jeremiah or Malachi especially regarding life and godliness (more on that later).
Had he/they forgotten?
The Disciples, and more particularly Peter, had heard Jesus place His word above all others before.
He had said: “I say to you” nine times in Matthew 5 alone (18, 20, 22, 26, 28, 32, 34, 39, 44).
There are His phrases too, like "he who hears these sayings of mine and does them”.
Also these words: "Heaven and earth will pass away but My words will by no means pass away,” Luke 21'33.
And, "No one comes to the Father except through Me,” John 14’6.
So when the Lord said, “but I say to you”, He meant it. Also, He asserted that His true followers would hear Him: “My sheep hear my voice" (John 10’27).
Reading, listening and doing the word of Christ is how a Believer comes to know the Father's will.
THE SPIRIT CONFIRMS
Having received the man Jesus as their Messiah, Jews needed some special guidance and assurance about the command to "Hear Him!".
The New Testament letter to the Hebrew Believers was the Holy Spirit's way of doing that for them (and for all other Believers as well, of course).
In this letter the truths of Jesus, the New Covenant and the Kingdom are revealed and compared and contrasted to the Old Covenant.
The Spirit inspired the writer to start with this strong declaration:
"God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, Hebrews 1'1.
It is unmistakeable:
God spoke in time past to the fathers - by the prophets.
In these last days He speaks to us - by His Son.
These are history-making words. Someone reading them today might think that they make the Old Testament is irrelevant.
At the least this question arises: "What, then, is the place of the Old Testament?"
THE PLACE OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
"How should we read the Old Testament?" was the question a certain Bible College lecturer posed. He answered himself with the statement: “Ask Jesus!”
This is how Believers are to relate to and be involved with everything in the Old Testament, relating to it as Jesus did:
1. He asserted that Old Testament prophecies and types predict and foreshadow Him:
"’ ... all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me’ ... He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures,” Luke 24’44-45.
"The Scriptures ... are they which testify (bear witness) of Me,” John 5’39.
“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up,” John 3'14.
2. He confirmed that Old Testament persons were real persons:
Like Abel and Zechariah: "from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple,“ Luke 11’51.
And Abraham: “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM,” (John 8’56-58).
3. He confirmed that Genesis chapters 1-11 are historical:
" ... from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female,” Mark 10'6.
"Remember Lot’s wife”, Luke 17’32.
"For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark," Matthew 24’38.
Jesus presents the Old Testament as:
literal, historical, prophetical, typological, poetical
and its people are real persons and their lives are real examples.
All these things go to show that the Old Covenant/Testament is absolutely indispensable!
A copy of the complete Bible can be bought by people in many parts of the world and read for the first time.
However, readers who are familiar with it know that there are differences to consider. Understanding them is crucial to growing in Christ.
True clarification of the Bible differences became possible after the Holy Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost.
First were the differences and relationship between the Old and New Testaments (which contain the Old and New Covenants).
As we have seen earlier, God spoke exclusively to Israel by the Prophets. But "in these last days" He has spoken exclusively to us by His Son (Hebrews 1'1).
Understanding this primary difference had many implications for the Hebrew Believers and also has many for Believers today too.
The simple idea of Scripture being for or to (or both) is helpful:
1. The Old Testament carried the revelation of God and was for Israel to possess and to them to obey.
(The Old is also for Believers to possess but it is not to Believers to obey. More later.)
2. The New Testament carries the revelation of Jesus Christ who is Himself the revelation of God. It is for His People to possess and to them to do.
On the Day of Pentecost Peter led the Apostles and began preaching and teaching Jesus Christ and the New Covenant Kingdom of God.
Many of his listeners received Christ and went on to receive the Apostles' teachings and began grow in Christ.
In time these New Covenant Kingdom teachings were written down and the majority of them are found in the scriptures of Acts 2'1 to Revelation 3'22.
Consequently, the main Old-New Covenant difference can be understood in the light of these teachings.
And it is an elementary and absolute difference. 2 Corinthians 3'7-11 makes it clear. While the Old Covenant is "Glorious", the New Covenant is "More Glorious":
The Old is:
the "ministry of death"
the "ministry of condemnation"
The New is:
the "ministry of the Spirit
the "ministry of righteousness"
"much more glorious"
This very clear difference is what Christ's New Covenant Kingdom word is all about. His Disciples can possess it, know it, hear it, do it and then grow by it.
And this amazing statement is at the centre of the difference:
"His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness".
These are wonderful things. And they come only through Christ. Here's the context:
"Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,
as His divine power has given to us
all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him
who called us by glory and virtue," 2 Peter 1'2-3.
It's important to keep this in mind: while the Old Testament is indispensable, it cannot minister life and godliness.
To emphasise, it is also important to keep this in mind: the Old Testament presents the great truths of creation, history (man, the world, Israel), prophecy, typology, the lives of the people of faith.
And above that, the OT foreshadows Christ and His New Covenant Kingdom. And together, the Old and the New form the wonderful "whole counsel of God".
A NEW COVENANT FOR ALL
To the Jews first
Moses prophesied of the Prophet who would come and Jeremiah prophesied of the New Covenant that He would bring.
The context of the Prophet's New Covenant is highlighted in Hebrews 8'6-11 referring to Jeremiah's prophecy (31'31-34):
"But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.
For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second.
Because finding fault with them, He says: 'Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah
- not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
None of them shall teach his neighbour, and none his brother, saying, "Know the Lord," for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.
For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more'.
In that He says, 'A new covenant,' He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away".
Then to the Gentiles
Romans 4 is all about faith. And verse 17 relates God as saying to Abraham: "I have made you a father of many nations". Galatians 3'8 amplifies it:
"And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, 'In you all the nations shall be blessed'", Galatians 3'8.
Acts 26'23 states "that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles."
Luke in 2'32 reports Simeon's prophecy of Jesus being "A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel".
"God so loved the world"!
ONE NEW MAN
There is now a new relationship for humanity to experience. Animosity and hatred can be replaced with unity and love.
It comes about when someone, anyone, receives Christ. Through Christ both Jew and Gentile have become part of a new nation:
"He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation,
having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace,
and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.
And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.
For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father," Ephesians 2'14-18.
"Looking unto Jesus,
the author and finisher of our faith,"
Prayer. Father, thank you that Jesus is the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls.
Thank you, too, for giving us the Holy Spirit so we can possess, experience and rejoice in Christ's New Covenant Kingdom teachings and understandings.
In Jesus' name. Amen.