Author: Stephen McDonald

Broadcaster, teacher, bibliophile, armchair political commentator, theologue, Christian (still in beta)

The Most Important Truth (1 Corinthians 15:1-11)

What’s the difference between Christmas and Easter?

Christmas is the start of the story, where God comes to mankind. Easter is the culmination of the story, where it is made possible for mankind to come to God.

The early church didn’t mark Christmas, but from the earliest days, the death of Jesus has been noted every week as Christians meet to worship on the Lord’s Day.

So, why is Easter so important? And what does it mean for us?

  1. Know and Receive This Good News (v1-9)
  2. Stand On It, Or You Have Believed In Vain (v1, 9-11)
  3. You Will Be Saved By It (v2)

Easter Sunday 21st April 2019

Review questions:

  •  _____________ & ___________ predicted Jesus’ death (Ps 16, Isa 52-53).
  • Without ___________________ there can be no forgiveness of sin (Heb 9:22)
  • Abraham said, “God will provide the _______ for the __________” (Gen 22:8)
  • What does Jesus’ burial prove (Mk 15:42-45)?
  • Because Jesus is the “firstfruits”, our resurrection will be ___________ (v49)
  • Where is the resurrection predicted in the OT?
  • Did Jesus expect to rise from the dead (Mtt 16:21, Mk 8:31)? Yes/No
  • To stand means ___________________ (v1)
  • If we don’t stand, we are in danger of ___________________________ (Heb 2:1)
  • The difference between knowing and believing is _____________________(v2)
  • A question I have:
  • A truth to share:
  • Something to pray about:
  • How I should live:

 

God Forsaken? (Matthew 27:45-54)

The cross is the enduring symbol of Christianity. But why would you choose an instrument of execution as the identifying marker of your religion?

The Roman historian Tactitus and modern skeptical historians agree that Jesus was executed. That’s despite the repeated ‘not guilty’ verdicts from the Roman governor, Pilate (v18-19). That’s despite the man who handed him over admitting that He was innocent (v4). That’s despite the crowd who demanded His crucifixion giving no explanation for why He should die (v23).

So, why is Good Friday called ‘good’? What happened on the cross is the central event of Christianity. And the cry Jesus made shortly before His death helps to explain why.

Jesus’ Cry Proves:

  1. Sin is Serious (v46)
  2. God is Holy (v51)
  3. Jesus Trusted God to Save (v49)
  4. We Cannot Be Saved Any Other Way (v46)
  5. So Trust Yourself to the Son of God (v51-54)

Good Friday 19th April 2019

Review questions:

  • Why is Good Friday good?
  • Did Judas, Pilate, or the crowd think Jesus deserved to be executed (v4, 18-19, 23)? Yes/No
  • Why did Jesus die (Isaiah 53:4-6)?
  • Sin is ____________________________________
  • How does God relate to sin?
  • Had God abandoned Jesus forever (v46, Psalm 22)?
  • Jesus’ death brings ___________ (v52)
  • Tearing the Temple curtain proves He made people ________ with God (v51)
  • The earthquake convinced the soldiers He was _______________ (v54)
  • A question I have:
  • A truth to share:
  • Something to pray about:
  • How I should live:

The Church in Controversy (Acts 15:1-21)

We love a story of transformation.  There are any number of great stories of people who have risen to be something than what they were.

At the moment, one of the bigger films of this year is a remake of A Star is Born, starring Stefani Germanotta, who I’m sure you all know as Lady Gaga. It’s a remake of the Barbara Streisand film, which was a remake of the Judy Garland film of in the ’50s, which was a remake of another film back in the 1930s. Which just goes to show how much the thought of someone coming from one place, from being small and insignificant to being this great superstar really grabs our attention.

You might be more familiar with films like My Fair Lady, where this rough Cockney girl in London learns how to speak proper, and drink her tea with her finger up in the air, or whatever it is that qualifies you to live in the high-class society of London.

We love those stories where people learn to say the right thing and do the right thing, and suddenly they are a great success. It’s a story of rounding off the rough edges. But in films such as My Fair Lady, the kicker comes at the end, where after months and months and months of learning to do the right thing, it is revealed that she is still the same person at heart. And we find that the things we do don’t change the real you.

We can learn to be charitable, to do good things, say the right things, without transforming the soul. And we see that problem here in the book of Acts. It is a problem that Christians wrestle with all the time. We think that if we get the outside right, then we’ll be okay.

But we see here that the transformation God brings doesn’t come from the influence of well-meaning people around us, who help us to stand up straight and dress right and speak right and do the right things. The change that God brings must begin in the heart, with the work of the Holy Spirit. And it beings with the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And so we see here, in Acts 15, there is a problem. And the problem is legalism.

  1. Recognise the Problem of Legalism (v1-5)
  2. Hear What God is Doing (v6-21)
  3. Don’t Update the Message (v16-17)
  4. Apply it to Us (v19-21)

Sunday 14th April 2019

Review questions:

  • Legalism: You must _________________ __________ to be able to be saved (v1)
  • Why did Paul object (v2)?
  • Why were the first Gentiles saved (v7)?
  • Why is anyone saved (v11)?
  • Did the way to be saved change from the OT to the NT (v15-17)? Yes/No
  • Can there be another Jerusalem Council like this? Why/Why not (v17-18)?
  • Who leads the Church now?
  • Decisions: ____________what God has done, ______________ the Scriptures, & engage in ___________________ debate.
  • Acts 15 is P_______________ in action.
  • Truth sometimes demands _________.
  • A question I have:
  • A truth to share:
  • Something to pray about:
  • How I should live:

Easter: The Centre of Christianity

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The Easter season reminds us of the central events of the Christian faith. None of us will know the breadth and depth of the good news about Jesus in this life, but anyone can know the key points.

Paul underlines them for us in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4:

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…”

These truths are the most important truths of the Christian message. That is not to say that the rest are dispensable, but that these are the facts without which the message about Jesus would be worthless.

Jesus Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3). His death on the cross was no accident. It was not just an example of love. It was an effective and sufficient sacrifice for all who repent and trust in Him. That is what the Old Testament Scriptures told believers to expect: God’s anointed, chosen Saviour would suffer and die, not because He deserved to, but for the forgiveness of the sins of others (Isaiah 52-53).

So, the message of Easter goes back far before the death of Jesus. It reminds us of the sovereign plan of God from all eternity to save a people for Himself (Genesis 17:7-8, Exodus 6:7, Jeremiah 7:23, 11:4, 30:22, Ezekiel 36:28, Revelation 21:3). It highlights the faithfulness of God in keeping His promises of salvation. It emphasises the obedience of Jesus in coming to earth, submitting to life as a servant and enduring temptation every day so that He would have a perfect life to offer as the sacrifice for sin (Philippians 2:8).

Our salvation could not be achieved by anyone deciding to become the Saviour, or to sacrifice Himself for the good of others. The sacrifice had to be perfect (1 Peter 1:18-19). The obedience had to be lifelong. And the offering had to be of unmeasurable value, otherwise it would not be enough for anyone but the one who died (Romans 5:15, 19).

Without the sacrificial, atoning death of Jesus Christ, there is no Christian message. We are still in our sins and unable to be forgiven. As Hebrews 9:22 says, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”

The truth of each of these claims is proved by the other point of Paul’s Gospel summary: “He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:4). The resurrection is spoken of in the Old Testament (Psalm 16:9-11, Isaiah 53:10-12, Jonah 1:17). Jesus clearly understood so (Matthew 12:40, 16:4, Luke 24:26-27). And so too did the first believers (Acts 2:34).

The resurrection is an amazing miracle, proving the power of God over sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). It is a declaration that Jesus is the Son of God (Romans 1:4). It is the source of spiritual life for all who believe (John 8:28, 10:10, 17-18, 12:32). It is where lasting moral transformation comes from (Philippians 3:10).

Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, there is no Christian message. It is useless to trust in a dead Saviour. As 1 Corinthians 15:17-19 says,

“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

So, this Easter, let us meditate on and rejoice in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as promised in the Scriptures, as testified to by the eyewitnesses of His glory (2 Peter 1:16). It may seem that God’s plans for the world are not yet finished, “but we see Jesus, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”

Yours in Christ’s service,

Stephen McDonald

Who Are Missionaries & What Do They Do? (Acts 14:19-28)

When James Cook returned to England from his voyage through the South Seas, his journals were published. As well as inspiring significant scientific advances, they also stirred up the Christian missionary movement. A shoemaker in Northamptonshire, William Carey devoured the Endeavour journals. They fanned into flame his passion for the good news about Jesus to be brought to all the unconverted people of the world. His essay, An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens, led to the founding of the Baptist Missionary Society. Carey himself went to India, where he translated the Bible into Bengali, Oriya, Assamese, Marathi, Hindi and Sanskrit.

But what about us? What do Christians like you and me have to do with missions? Are we missionaries? What part does the local church have in missionary work?

We read from Matthew 9-10 that there is a plentiful harvest ready to be brought in, and that we are to pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. But is that it? Is our share in missionary work done when we have prayed for missionaries?

So, we need to turn to God’s Word. Here in Acts 14:19-28, we see:

  1. Missionaries are Sent Ones (v26)
  2. Missionaries Do God’s Mission (v19-26)
  3. Are We Supporting, Sending, & Being Biblical Missionaries? (v27-28)

Sunday 7th April 2019

Review questions:

  • ____________________ sent ___________ who sent ______ (Luke 4:43 & 24:47).
  • Just as it was necessary for Jesus to suffer, die, and rise, so ______________ & _______________ must be ___________ to _____________________ (Luke 24:47)
  • What is God’s mission? New ________, new ______________ & new __________.
  • Where is the mission field?
  • Why did Paul & Barnabas return (v21-24)?
  • What do we need to live a Christian life (v22-23)?
  • A church must have __________ (v23).
  • Our church does mission: True/False
  • How can I be a missionary?
  • A question I have:
  • A truth to share:
  • Something to pray about:
  • How I should live:

Baptised Into His Death (Romans 6:1-14)

When you are confronted with someone who is hard to deal with, how do you respond? When you run into someone, and you find that they treat you badly, and they may be a Christian person, and perhaps you ask some people who know them, and they say, “Well, you know, that’s just Gertrude! That’s just who she is.” You know, that’s just the way they are. And we sort of shrug at sin and go, “That’s that person, and you can’t really expect them to be any different, because that’s who they are.”

That’s the sort of situation Paul is imagining here as we come to Romans 6. He has laid out in Romans 5 the great riches of Christ, and the benefits that we receive from Him (His perfect obedience given to us), and he imagines that the people in Rome would say, “Well, if God’s grace is so great, does it matter if we just keep sinning? You know, if we never actually manage to grow in grace, is that a big problem? Because God’s grace will be shown to be all the greater!” And we just shrug and say, “Well, that’s who I am.”

We see here that that is not the attitude that Christian people should take to their own sin or to other people’s sin. We see here that everyone who believes is baptised into Jesus Christ, and because of that, we are united with Him, and so we are to live like that.

  1. Everyone Baptised into Christ Jesus (v1-3)
  2. Is United with Him (v4-10)
  3. So, Live Like You Know It (v11-14)

Sunday 31st March 2019

Review questions:

  • Is our sin not so bad because God will forgive us (v1-2)? Yes/No
  • Does being baptised with water unite us to Christ?
  • How are we baptised into Jesus (v3)?
  • Who has been baptised into Christ Jesus (v3)?
  • Why are believers free from sin (v7)?
  • When are believers united to Jesus’ resurrection (v8)?
  • How do we know Jesus is not under the reign of sin (v10)?
  • Do Christians stop sinning? Yes/No
  • Can Christians resist temptation (v11, James 4:7)? Yes/No
  • How can I offer myself to God (v13)?

Same Nature, Better News (Acts 14:8-18)

Today, if there is one thing we can be absolutely certain about, it is that no one can ever be absolutely certain about anything. ‘Truth is whatever I believe it to be.’ That’s called subjectivism.

Our culture says that anyone who claims to know something for certain is both proud and wrong. So, we can’t really know anything about what is good or bad, and we can’t know what is really true about life, the universe, and everything.

So, how can followers of Jesus tell the message of Jesus to a world that says, “You can’t know anything about God. And if you say you can, you think you’re better than the rest of us.”?

What can we say when people think we’re being morally superior if we claim to know about God? We can say:

  1. We Have the Same Nature (v8-15a)
  2. But We Bring Better News (v15b-18)
  3. So We Must Turn From Empty Things to the Living God (v15c)

Sunday 24th March 2019

Review questions:

  • Subjectivism: ‘The truth is whatever I believe it to be.’ True/False
  • What sorts of people can believe the Gospel?
  • Healing a lame man meant God had come to _________ (v8-10, Isaiah 35:4-6)
  • What did the crowd think it meant (v11-12)?
  • “We become what we ______________”
  • What does everyone know that God has done (v15-17, Romans 1:18-23)?
  • God’s patience gives us time to _______________________ (Romans 2:4)
  • How do we turn from idols (v15)?
  • A question I have:
  • A truth to share:
  • Something to pray about:
  • How I should live: