Our topic for today is a statement made by Christ in the judgment hall. The Jews plotting His death first passed the death sentence on Him in their council, then sent Him to the Roman court with the indictment that He claimed to be king of the Jews.
1) To be king of the Jews should be a good thing. How did it turned out to be a crime worthy of death?
Answer: Events in this world can often turn out to be strange. The scene in Pilate's judgment hall is in fact ironic. For 2000 years the Jews had longed for a promised Savior, who finally did arrive, but they failed to recognize Him. Instead, they accused Him of claiming to be king of the Jews and asked Pilate to kill Him.
For centuries the Jews had no freedom of independence. In Jesus' time they bore shame as a vassal nation in the Roman empire. Every patriotic Jew hoped for the advent of the Messiah (Hebrew term for "king", called "Christos" in Greek) foretold by the prophets. "Messiah" means "the anointed One", as Jewish monarchs were anointed with oil when assuming power. In Jesus' day the Roman authorities were on the alert for Jewish patriots who might stir up strife. Every one who claimed to be "Messiah" was a rebel ringleader deserving capital punishment. Hence the Jewish leaders accused Jesus of claiming to be king of the Jews.
Pilate asked Him, "Are you king of the Jews?" Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews, but now My kingdom is not from here." Jn 18:36.
2) Oh yes, I see. Jesus meant that He had no armed forces, so did not constitute a threat to Rome. He could not be a rebel.
Answer: Correct. Pilate saw this, so made the remark, "I find no fault in Him at all." John 18:38. Then he asked Jesus, "Are You a king then?" Jesus said, "You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." John 18:37. Jesus is a king. He reigns in the kingdom of truth, and boldly calls on all who are of the truth to hear His voice. What a courageous assertion of sovereignty!
3) What great significance do you see in this declaration?
Answer: This declaration indicates that the world is now enshrouded in the darkness of superstition, on dire need of the light of truth. If you want to restore communication with God, you need to break through the encircling darkness and see the light of truth. .Jesus' words to Pilate announced His mission. Hear how His words ring with courage and strength! Jesus faced the agony of crucifixion, yet He would take this opportunity to declare His mission to the whole world: "to bear witness to the truth!" What a powerful declaration! "Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice!" He firmly believed that there are men who are of the truth in this world. And He wanted to give the Roman judge a chance to know the truth. And the judge was apparently impressed by the question, for he asked, "What is truth?" But how sad that he did not continue to ask!
4) Yes. We know that Jesus came to be crucified to save us from our sins, but His mission was apparently multiple.
Answer: Yes. Please note that He once said to the disciples, "I am the way, the truth and the life." Jesus was uniquely fitted to bear witness to the truth, because He was the personification of the truth. He was best qualified as its witness. And His witness is most worthy of our attention. It attracts all who have a love for the truth.
5) I've been thinking that the purpose of Jesus in saying these words is to have us follow Him in bearing witness to the truth.
Answer: Yes. He says to us, "Follow Me." Matt. 4:19. "'As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.' And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." John 20:21-23. In these words we note three truths: a) the great task of representing Christ, b) the power of the Holy Spirit needed for the task, and c) the meaning of forgiving and retaining people's sins.
Christ's mission was multiple. We are concerned now with His bearing witness to the truth. He Himself is the personification of truth. So if we would also bear witness to the truth, we need first to know of the truth by becoming acquainted with Jesus Christ. In order to know Him, we need, aside from prayer, to share His thoughts and affections as seen in the Bible. We must think His thoughts, love what He loves, hate what He hates, and be concerned over what He is concerned over. Jesus prayed, "Sanctify them by Your truth, Your word is truth." John 17:17. In our prayer life we need to realize the magnitude of the task He has given us: "As the Father has sent Me, I also send you." How can we frail mortals undertake such a weighty task? Exod. 3:2 says, "The bush burned with fire, but the bush was not consumed." We are the bush; the Holy Spirit is the fire.
6) Oh, I see. Because we frail mortals are not equal to the task, Jesus tells us to receive the power of the Holy Spirit!
Answer: You are right. He breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit." By this He meant that we must depend on the power of the Holy Spirit to finish our sacred task. In Acts 1:8 Jesus said, "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." 2 Cor. 4:7 says, "We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us."
7) Please tell us what are the conditions for receiving this power of the Holy Spirit?
Answer: Acts 1:14 says that before the disciples received the Holy Spirit, "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication." Because they all felt their own insufficiency to meet the great task the Lord had entrusted them with. As they thought of Christ's words, "As the Father has sent Me, I also send you," they saw the high standards this task demanded of them. In order to accomplish the task, every one of them saw that he had to make a complete dedication and be sanctified. Because they felt their unworthiness, they pleaded with God for the power of the Holy Spirit to fill them. As they prepared in this way to welcome the Holy Spirit, the gift was poured out.
8) Can modern disciples also receive the power of the Holy Spirit?
Answer: Not only can modern disciples receive this power, but they must, in order to finish the work entrusted to them. The challenge we face is exceptionally grim. The billions of souls who have not yet heard the end-time gospel number far more than the people to whom the early church gave witness. So we need all the more to pray earnestly with one accord, to receive the power of the Holy Spirit and finish this sacred task. That we "might by all means save some." 1 Cor. 9:22
9) Aside from earnest prayer, should we not also search the Scriptures?
Answer: Yes. We search the Scriptures to receive the Holy Spirit. In John 6:63 Jesus equates His word with the Holy Spirit, saying, "It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life." The "flesh" here refers to material things. In verse 49 He said, "Your fathers ate manna in the wilderness, and are dead." Though manna fell from heaven, it was, after all material food. That's what Jesus meant in saying, "The flesh profits nothing.." Only the words Christ speaks to us "are spirit, and they are life." The words of Christ are in the Bible, so as we assimilate His words, we are eating His flesh and drinking His blood. He says, "Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." Here is natural law at work, as well as supernatural. The words of Scripture are the means for us to receive the Holy Spirit on our own initiative. Christ equates His words with the Holy Spirit because the words of Scripture are all Spirit-breathed truth. See John 17:17. Only after we have personally experienced the sanctifying power of truth are we qualified to bear witness to the truth.
10) In what ways is the power of the Holy Spirit manifest?
Answer: It is manifest principally in two ways: (a) On the person of one used by the Lord, as Paul wrote in Col. 1:29, "To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily." This kind of might inspires one to warn and teach every man "in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus." Col. 1:28. The power of the Holy Spirit greatly increases one's enthusiasm, so that every word he speaks takes effect in winning souls for Christ.
(b) On persons the Lord saves. Acts 2:37 says, "Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter, . . "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" 2 Cor. 7:10, 11 says, "For godly sorrow produces repentance to salvation, not to be regretted; . . . For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all these things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter." Matt. 7:13,14 says, "Enter by the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many that go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it."
11) What is the meaning of Jesus' words, "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained"? John 20:23.
Answer: This text can be easily misinterpreted. People may ask, Did Jesus give the disciples the authority to forgive sins? No. The tenses of the verbs "are forgiven" and "are retained" are not in the simple future, but in the future perfect tense. A more exact rendering would be "will have been forgiven" and "will have been retained.' This grammatical construction is important. It means that the forgiving and retaining is not to be decided by the disciples, but to be declared by them. They are to teach sinners to repent and confess their sins. To all who do so, the disciples may declare their sins forgiven. As they receive the Holy Spirit, they will be able to discern between truth and error, and point out to others how to repent and obtain forgiveness.
In Matt. 16:19 Jesus made a similar statement to Peter: "And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." This seems to give Peter unlimited power, even to the extent of making Heaven follow his orders. Not so. The Chinese translation is in the simple future tense, but the Greek is in the future perfect tense, so should be translated to mean, "will have been bound or loosed." That is, what you declare to be bound on earth will be what has been bound in heaven, and what you declare to be loosed on earth will be what has been loosed in heaven. The "keys of the kingdom" are the words of Christ. Under the direction of the Holy Spirit, men see what the Bible reveals regarding God's will. In Luke 11:52 Jesus speaks of the "key of knowledge."
12) The task of bearing witness to the truth is inseparable from the guidance and revelation of the Holy Spirit.
Answer: You are right. The guidance and revelation of the Holy Spirit stresses God's forgiveness of sin; the center of gospel truth is the cross of Christ. If we use two words to epitomize the message of the cross, it is "forgive sin." Acts 5:30-32 says, "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him." Note that the Holy Spirit is given to those who obey Him. The spirit received by those who consciously disobey Him cannot be not the Holy Spirit.
13) When Jesus told His disciples to receive the Holy Spirit, He mentioned the forgiveness of sins, showing that He highly regards the truth of repentance. In bearing witness to the truth He would naturally begin from repentance.
Answer: Yes. Mark 1:15 says that when Jesus first preached the gospel, His message was, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel." At the close of His work on earth, Christ sent forth the disciples even as the Father sent Him, telling them to receive the Holy Spirit and help in His work of forgiving sin, stressing the value of this truth. Under the Holy Spirit, we must also teach sinners to see their sins, repent, obtain forgiveness and be born again, wisely handling the "keys" of God's word to open for them the gates of His kingdom. How can some preachers teach people only to believe in Jesus to have eternal life, and not to repent? They fail to study God's commandments, so do not know what sins they have committed.
14) When preachers teach men to believe in Jesus and be baptized, isn't that opening the gates of heaven for them? Mark 16:16 says, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned." Isn't that the truth?
Answer: That is truth, but not all of the truth. The substance of the truth must not be lost. A believer needs at least three keys First is the knowledge of sin. Rom. 3:20 says, "By the law is the knowledge of sin." So the first key is the Ten Commandments. Second is repentance. After one sees he is a sinner, he comes to the cross of Christ to gaze on the Lamb of God, repent and ask for pardon. So the second key is the cross of Christ. Third is to be born again; Acts 2:38 says, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." John 3:6 says, "He that is born of the Spirit is spirit." So the third key is the Holy Spirit.
15) Do you have Scripture to prove that there are three "keys of the kingdom"?
Answer: "Keys of the kingdom" occurs once in the Bible. It is a plural noun, but the number of keys is not given. On the basis of the texts quoted, we conclude there are at least three keys: the Ten Commandments, the cross of Christ and the Holy Spirit. One who enters the kingdom must take three steps: He must know he is a sinner, repent and be born again. Baptism is a form; without a change of heart, it would be meaningless. Christ wants every believer to handle well the keys of the kingdom and bear witness to the truth, leading sinners to repent, be born again and enter the narrow gate of His kingdom to enjoy everlasting life.