The Test for Truth — Acts 2:16-21 — January 31, 2021

“No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:16—NRSV).

On the Day of Pentecost, many followers of Jesus who were all in one place received the gift of the Holy Spirit that Jesus had promised them. The Holy Spirit appeared as a tongue of fire that rested on each individual believer. The Holy Spirit enabled them to speak in other tongues so Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem could understand in their own native language what the disciples said. These Jews expressed amazement that these Galilean Jews could speak in all of their different languages. Some who heard wondered what it all meant, while others sneered at the disciples and impugned their character.

Following the example of Jesus as the Holy Spirit filled and led him, the Apostle Peter boldly stood in their midst and explained what they experienced in the context of what the scriptures taught and the Prophet Joel had foretold. Peter insisted that the scriptures must be their authority for evaluating whether or not a spiritual experience was from the true God or not. Later, the Apostle John wrote, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). Jesus and the apostles taught that the scriptures, and not just people’s experiences, needed to be the basis for discerning spiritual truths from error. Later, as the good news of Jesus spread, Luke commended the Bereans for using the scriptures as the test for truth, saying, “These Jews were more receptive than those in Thessalonica, for they welcomed the message very eagerly and examined the scriptures every day to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

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by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

The Everlasting Joy in Jesus’ Friends

I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father (John 15:15—NRSV).

Why did Jesus make known to us through His first disciples everything that He heard from His Heavenly Father? Jesus himself gave the answer in John 15:11, saying, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” Jesus came and taught people how to live joyfully even during struggles that seem impossible to bear. When Jesus gives eternal life to all who believe in Him, He also gives them everlasting joy. Because the presence of Jesus Christ remains within them, His disciples can face this world with joy. Christians remain joyful in this troubled world because they trust in Jesus who abides within them, because they trust the truths He taught in the Bible, and because they receive love, joy, peace, and other fruit from the Holy Spirit. Like Jesus’ followers today, His first disciples obeyed Jesus because they loved Him. As they loved and obeyed their Master, He taught them more until He could call them friends and say to them, “I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” Before Jesus called His disciples His friends, He took three years to teach His disciples everything. Eleven of them responded with obedient love for Jesus, and Jesus made them friends who learned His goals and purposes. Today, Jesus’ followers still teach by word and example, and Jesus chooses new disciples and friends as new fruit on the branches of the vine.

Thinking Further

1. What examples did Jesus say He had given us as His disciples?

2. What commandments did Jesus give us as His disciples?

3. Why did Jesus show and tell us, His disciples, what He did?

4. What did Jesus call those who knew what He was doing? What does Jesus expect from those who know what He is doing?

5. What two names did Jesus use when He spoke of His disciples? What did He mean when He changed what He called them? What are we to Jesus? Why?

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by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

The Holy Spirit Overcomes Our Troubles — John 14:24-31

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you (John 14:26—NRSV).

No follower of Jesus Christ goes through life abandoned or alone. Jesus still gives His faithful followers the gifts and promises He gave His first disciples. As followers of Jesus Christ encounter an unknown future, they have Jesus’ assurance that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit dwell within them, work within them, and go with them. They have the assurance that the Spirit of Holiness and Truth will help them stand firm and keep loving Jesus, obeying Jesus, and trusting Jesus no matter what they encounter. They know that as they continue doing what they have learned from Jesus that the Holy Spirit will teach them how to act in every situation. As they read and study the Bible day-by-day, they know that the Holy Spirit will remind them of all the truths they need to remain strong and do right—even if they suffer afflictions or persecutions. In the world, Jesus’ followers have always encountered enemies and the one Jesus called “the ruler of this world,” but through His death and resurrection Jesus promised and proved that the ruler of this world has no power over Him (John 14:30). The enemies of Jesus have no ultimate power over Jesus’ followers. Through his faithful obedience, John learned that, “the One who is in you (believers) is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Because Jesus has given believers His peace and many precious promises, we can trust Him when He said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid” (John 14:27).

Study the International Bible Study Commentary and Lesson on The Gospel of John by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

How To Live in the Power of the Spirit — Luke 4:14-22

“Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country” (Luke 4:14)

Jesus and the Holy Spirit worked closely together. In chapter four of his gospel, Luke wrote that Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit after He was baptized. Jesus obeyed God and followed the Holy Spirit when the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness, where Jesus was tested by the devil. After Jesus passed every test, He was filled with the power of the Spirit and began His public ministry. Jesus honored His heavenly Father by doing everything the Father wanted Him to do and by living according to every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). Jesus honored the Holy Spirit and declared that the Holy Spirit worked within Him when He preached from the prophet Isaiah and proclaimed, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” (Luke 4:18). Jesus honored His Father, the Holy Spirit, and himself by keeping His focus on doing the will of God according to the Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit honored Jesus by working signs, miracles, and wonders through Him. At the conclusion of His public ministry, the Father honored Jesus when He raised Him from the dead. Jesus’ disciples learned from listening to Jesus and from watching Jesus work in the power of the Holy Spirit. They learned the importance of obeying and trusting in God. They obeyed the teachings of Jesus; for Jesus told them, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). However, they could not do Jesus’ work effectively until the Holy Spirit came and filled them on the Day of Pentecost.

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by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

WHO WERE the MAGI? — Matthew 2:2

“The Magi asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him’”

Some believe that the Magi were Gentile wise men and the first Gentiles to worship Jesus. But the Magi could easily have been descendants of the Jews who did not return to Jerusalem after their seventy years of captivity in Babylon. Daniel and his three friends rose to high positions in the Babylonian court, and there is every reason to believe that they and others like them advised King Cyrus of Persia and many other subsequent rulers in the East where their descendants made their homes for the next 500 years. Some Jewish Magi probably knew to look for the Messiah and His star. The Hebrew Scriptures prophesied: “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel” (Numbers 24:17). When some of them saw the special star that announced the Messiah’s birth, they traveled perhaps 800 miles to find and worship Him. Upon their arrival in Jerusalem, King Herod, the high priests, the teachers of the law, and the people were disturbed to learn of the Magi’s expectation of finding the newborn Messiah. The chief priests told King Herod and the Magi about the prophecy that predicted the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. King Herod wanted to murder the Messiah, and we have no indication from Matthew that anyone other than these Magi sought Him to find Him to honor Him. When the star appeared again, the Magi found the house where Jesus and His family stayed. They were overjoyed, and they worshiped Him.

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GOD WITH US — Matthew 1:18-25

International Bible Lesson Commentary

(Matthew 1:18) Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

Matthew’s gospel includes a short summary of facts about the birth of Jesus that highlighted important truths: the Messiah was to be named “Jesus;” He was born of a virgin named Mary; He was conceived by the Holy Spirit (not Joseph, who was only engaged to her at that time). Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father, but Joseph took Mary as his wife and adopted her Son as his own son. Jesus was sent by God to save His people from their sins. Mary must have told Joseph about the angel’s appearance to her; perhaps after she had visited Elizabeth (as recorded by Luke).

(Matthew 1:19) Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.

Though Joseph and Mary were engaged to be married and were not living together, the community considered their engagement as binding as a marriage. Perhaps Joseph felt unworthy to become the adopted father of the Messiah and wanted to dismiss her quietly so God could do what was best for Mary and His Son. Perhaps he was afraid (see Matthew 1:20) he would offend God if he went ahead and took Mary as his wife if God had other plans. Perhaps he wanted to open the way for God to care for His Son in the way God wanted without being a hindrance to God.

(Matthew 1:20) But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

Joseph had Mary’s testimony to him as one fact to consider with regard to how he should proceed. As a righteous man, Joseph lived by faith, prayer, and true love for God and others; therefore, he probably thought he had made the right decision according to the law of God. In this verse, Matthew reaffirmed through the words of the angel that the adopted father of Jesus was of the line of David. The angel told Joseph that what Mary had told him was accurate and no delusion. Truly, Jesus really had been conceived by the Holy Spirit; and Mary and Jesus were both were also wholly within the will of God. Joseph should not be afraid to take Mary as his wife, because God the Father wanted him to raise the Son of God as his and Mary’s son. Knowing that Jesus was adopted by Joseph should encourage all who are adopted, and in the Bible all of Jesus’ true followers are called adopted children of God.

(Matthew 1:21) She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

The angel said specifically that Mary would give birth to a male child. When Joseph took Him as his son, he was to name him “Jesus,” which means “God is salvation.” When the Messiah came, His primary purpose was to save God’s people from their sins (not overthrow the Roman Empire).  Jesus would save God’s people not only from the eternal consequences of their sins but also free them from slavery to sin and empower them to love and obey God according to the Bible’s teachings.

(Matthew 1:22) All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

 What the angel told Joseph would take place had been planned and prophesied for centuries before God scheduled Jesus to be born. Jesus came and throughout His life He fulfilled various prophecies, and He said that He had come to fulfill the law and the prophets. Jesus did what the Scriptures said the Messiah would do, and more remains for Him to do as priest and king in heaven between now and after He returns.

(Matthew 1:23) “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”

Mary was more than just a young woman. In fulfillment of the Bible’s prophecies, she had never done anything toward the physical conception of a child before the Holy Spirit overshadowed her as the angel told her and she conceived Jesus. Her Son would be “Emmanuel.” From what Jesus said about himself and did, He convinced people that He was God with them, the Son of God. When God the Father raised Jesus from the dead, God affirmed and endorsed all that Jesus said about himself and did. Jesus, God with us, humbled himself, came to serve us, and saves believers from their sins.

(Matthew 1:24) When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife,

Joseph believed what the angel told him. He acted in faith when he did what the angel told him to do. Joseph showed that he was a righteous man when he obeyed God. Joseph did not act only on the basis of what the angel said. The angel referred Joseph to what the Bible said through the prophets and the promises of God. So, Joseph had not only the words of the angel and Mary before he acted in faith; Joseph also had the words of God’s prophets. Joseph believed the Bible, the Word of God written, and the Bible confirmed what the angel told him; then, he acted in faith.

(Matthew 1:25) but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

As a righteous man, Joseph did not do anything that might hurt Mary or compromise the birth of the Son of God. The Bible certainly implies that Joseph and Mary maintained a normal, healthy marriage after Jesus was born, and they raised Jesus as devoted parents. Joseph named their Son “Jesus” as the angel commanded, and they raised Him in a devout home (for example, taking Jesus to the temple when He was 12).

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Commentary and Lesson
by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

The Epitome of True Love — John 13:34

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another (John 13:34).

After Jesus had shown His disciples how much He loved them, and after Jesus had loved them perfectly for three years, Jesus gave them a new commandment. When Jesus gave His disciples this new commandment, He also expected them to love the LORD their God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love their neighbors as themselves. Unhappily, we all love ourselves imperfectly and this affects how we love others. Jesus made His way of loving the perfect standard for Christian love. Jesus said that those who believe in Him needed to love their fellow believers as He loved all those who believe in Him. Jesus said that everyone should recognize Christians by the way they love one another. Christians love one another differently from the way they love others. For example, Jesus loved everyone, including the ones who wanted to kill Him or betray Him. He wanted what was best for everyone, so He told everyone the truth about God, the world, and how His Father loved them so much that He sent His Son to help people overcome their self-destructive tendencies and ways. Christians love others when they share this good news about God’s love in Jesus for everyone. When the followers of Jesus maintain a common faith in Jesus and the Bible, they love one another. They praise God and share their God-given joy and love with their fellow believers. Christian love enables Christians to feel heartfelt happiness when they gather to worship and work together. When serving others, Jesus’ love within Christians draws others into the circle of God’s love.

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and Lesson by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

Have A Blessed Day! — John 13:17

If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them (John 13:17)

As I walked out of a store recently, a customer behind me said to me, “Have a blessed day!” Though I have received that blessing before, I was truly blessed to hear it and receive it again, and I turned and thanked her. In today’s world where we hear so many cursing others, it is truly a blessing to hear someone bless you, for the blessing can send happiness into your heart. “Have a blessed day” is a Christian blessing; so how can we always enjoy a blessed day? After Jesus humbly washed His disciples’ feet, in John 13:13, Jesus said to them, “You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am.” Jesus taught and showed His followers how to serve others, and He said, “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” Three fundamental or key elements in the Christian faith bring blessings to Christians. First, Christians accept Jesus as their Teacher. They believe what He taught about God, himself, and reality as revealed in the Bible. Second, Christians accept Jesus as their Lord. Christians believe Jesus is the Lord over all of life, and they kneel before Jesus because they have received Him as the Lord over all their life. Third, Christians face the world and all they see and hear with hope and happiness because they know their everlasting future is secure in the hands of their Savior. Building their lives on these foundational truths, Christians receive God’s blessing when they live according to what they know and believe to be true; when they love and serve others as Jesus commanded. Have a blessed day!

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by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

Consequences for Loving Money — Acts 4:32-5:11

‘Ananias,’ Peter asked, ‘why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land?’” (Acts 5:3).

Not everyone who claims to be a Christian is a Christian. Ananias appeared to be a Christian. He went to church with the Apostle Peter, and he even gave some of the proceeds from a land sale to the church, but he sold the land for more than he said and kept the difference. Peter then explained that personal property and money belong to Christians to save, spend, or share as they choose. No Christian is under compulsion to give any of his money or property to the church. Ananias and Sapphira lied and gave because they wanted people’s praise for their giving, but Jesus taught that the best giving is done secretly (Matthew 6:3-4). Ananias committed a great sin by lying to the Holy Spirit and to the church, but why did Satan fill his heart to lie? Jesus taught, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24). Ananias loved money; so he came to hate and despise God just as Jesus warned. Therefore, Satan filled his heart and left no room for the love of God. Ananias became similar to Judas. Because Judas loved money he came to hate and despise Jesus; therefore, Satan entered him (John 13:27). Both proved that “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:10).

International Bible Lesson Commentary
Acts 4:32-5:11 Archive

for November 22, 2020
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