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EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 20)

Everyone there was an Israelite—the good guys, the bad guys, and those in between. The entire story, from Abraham to Pentecost, was the saga of a single, small, obscure nation on a sliver of land in the Middle East. This nation was chosen by God two millennia before, long before it ever was a nation, when it was only prophesied as such, when it only existed of a man, a woman, and a hoped-for miracle child. Isaac was his name. Within him were all the future participants, including the greatest One of all.     

INTRODUCTION   
Ch 1:  LESSON 1    LESSON 2    LESSON 3    LESSON 4    LESSON 5    LESSON 6    LESSON 7
Ch 2:  LESSON 8   LESSON 9   LESSON 10   LESSON 11   LESSON 12   LESSON 13   LESSON 14   LESSON 15
Ch 2:  LESSON 16  LESSON 17  LESSON 18  LESSON 19      

LESSON 20

Acts 2:36-37

36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” [1]

Among the Israelites before him, shock and awe plastered on their faces, were undoubtedly some of those who directly participated in clamoring for the Lord’s crucifixion fifty-three days before. The conspiracy that started in the cold, hollow darkness of a few dark hearts, those with great influence, those with the ability to pull strings on a whim, had extended to down line roll players, each playing a part. For these wicked ones it truly was a passion play. They wrote the script, they chose a director, they set the scene, and they hired actors. They even hatched a diabolical plan to compromise the Roman government which otherwise had the power to shatter their dream through laws against such supreme injustice and vendetta politics.

Pontius Pilate, though one who often flaunted his power in taking personal liberties with Roman law, sometimes to the edge, was well versed in such jurisprudence. He was certainly in authority and didn’t shrink from it, but was also under authority. He would have to answer for his actions. Having been called on the carpet before due to prior acts of government malfeasance, most notably in excesses against the native population he presided over, Pilate faced enough perceived threat from his superiors that he was ripe for compromise. And the plotters knew it. They knew they had cards to play that could tie him in a knot. And they did. And their plot worked perfectly. Until, that is, a little resurrection problem.

But you see, in their warped minds, the Man they crucified was just another nutcase nuisance who believed Himself to be somebody—another pretender—a false prophet—a magician. He was a violator of the Torah, they said, while they, of course, obeyed every jot and tittle. If they had to resort to an evil backstabbing conspiracy to take Him out, so be it.

And now Peter was looking directly into their hearts. His eyes flashed with the power of heaven. It was a familiar look to them. They had seen it before in another Man’s eyes…

Powerful, unrelenting conviction came upon them like a load of dirt from the sky. “He knows I’m guilty!” some thought. Peter did not lay the blame just on those direct participants but the whole lot of them. They opposed the Lord to a man. And now in a sudden rush it all came together in their previously deceived and distorted minds. They no longer saw a magician but their Messiah! We killed our Messiah!      

Peter was not merely preaching to the instigators in the crowd before him, or the crowd itself, but directed his message to the whole nation:

“Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made Him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” [2]

Imagine being given a great promise. And imagine getting direct clues in the interim that the promise was greater than previously imagined. Then imagine finally receiving it and… Do you see? The promise never changed. The people did. Their sin and rebellion warped their minds and blackened their hearts. But praise God He gives us second chances! Praise God He is forgiving and compassionate! Praise God He is sincere and loving! Because this wasn’t the end for these morons, but a new beginning! Their rocky hearts had been busted wide open by the powerfully anointed sledgehammer preaching of Peter. He kicked their backsides black and blue. He mopped up the parking lot with them. They were left absolutely defenseless and destroyed. Exactly how the Lord drew it up.

Hearing this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “What are we to do, brothers?” [3]

They were all brothers! These were all Israelites! —The apostles, all the Upper Roomers, the entire crowd—they were all members of the same nation. Not everyone in the crowd took the message to heart but thousands did, and there would be many thousands more. The prophesied Remnant was coming forth.

National destiny was granting yet another chance for the children of Isaac.

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

[2] © New Revised Standard Version

[3] © The New Jerusalem Bible

Entering The Miracle Realm (Part 3)

         Abraham chose to believe God’s promise and Isaac was the result, though it happened 25 years later.

         Mary, the Lord’s mother, told everyone in the beginning that her Son was the result of a miracle pregnancy and birth, but no one believed her. Some did believe, however, when the Lord performed His first miracle, 30 years later.

         This means that faith in God’s promises also requires time. The one to whom the impossible promise was made must remain faithful until the impossible promise happens—in God’s timing.

         Joseph remained faithful and pure throughout his 13 years in captivity after a great betrayal. His father thought he was dead. No one knew where he was. No one came looking for him. He was completely cut off from his family.

         But prior to all the abject misery he was subjected to, God gave him a couple of dreams revealing his future and his future standing. He knew these dreams were God’s Word to him and he never lost sight of their implications and future occurrence.

         Therefore, before anything happened or even began to, God gave Abraham a promise—God’s promise to Abraham came first. The angel Gabriel told Mary all about her Son before she conceived. God gave Joseph dreams before the challenging, lonely sojourn he was sent on that resulted in the salvation of his family.

         We thus cannot simply believe in something happening unless it first involves God’s promise of its occurrence. We may have specific promises made to us specifically by God, or we may have the promises He makes in His Word, such as abundant life. Though Abraham lost faith halfway toward the promise, he regained it and returned to The Miracle Realm:

         Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. Therefore IT WAS ALSO CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. [Romans 4:19-22]

         The Lord Jesus is THE DOOR to abundant life and the coming true of every promise He makes. But one cannot say he believes in God without also believing in His promises and in His miracle power. Isaac was a miracle. The Lord’s birth was a miracle. Joseph rising from the lowest pit to become the effective ruler of Egypt was obviously miraculous. 

         If one DOES believe in God, according to the Lord’s definition, the evidence of that faith will be there—miracles will happen. This is why miracles followed the ministries and lives of real believers in the first century. It is also why NO MIRACLES follow the ministries and lives of non-believers, whether they claim to be Christians or not.

         Unreal Christianity engages in much fakery and pretension. It insists on its authenticity though the fruit is not there. If the spiritual fruit is not there then the grapevine is either not producing or it likely does not exist in that place.  

         IF THERE IS REAL BELIEF, THERE WILL ALSO BE REAL MIRACLES. THESE TWO ALWAYS GO TOGETHER. THIS IS THE UNDENIABLE PROOF OF GOD’S PRESENCE.

         “…For no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” [John 3:2]

         The miracles, power, and demonstration of the Spirit of God are the evidence of real believers who refuse to believe in circumstances that disagree with God.

         “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

         “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.

         “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

         “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” [John 15:5-8]

         When the presence of the Lord has been rejected, there must be a substitute to give the illusion of authenticity. The Pharisees were absolute masters at doing this. They were incredibly brilliant in putting on fake spiritual performances and this was exactly why the Lord called them stage players. Their speaking ability, intelligence, knowledge, and pageantry was unmatched. They constructed a large, highly detailed living deception, a veritable temple, due to not having the presence of God. They knew most people are greatly impressed by such surface manipulations and the appearance of religious authority. As a result they reveled in the adoration and respect it gained them, including the social standing and wealth.

         The apostle Paul had been one of these but did a complete 180 when he gave his life to the Lord. Because of his real faith the Lord Jesus took away all the fake props and resulting religious pride, and blessed him with Himself and the actual evidence of His presence.

         And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.

         For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

         I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. [1Corinthians 2:1-5]

         If one is a Christian that does not believe in miracles, power, and demonstration of the Spirit, then one is a Christian that does not believe in God, even if he claims to. The claim itself is worthless. It must be confirmed by evidence.

         The life of Abraham contained this evidence. The Lord’s ministry contained this evidence. The ministry of the early believers contained this evidence.

         As a further test of his faith, Abraham was told by God to sacrifice Isaac. Remember, if there’s no Isaac, there is no future Savior of the world and we all go to hell.

         WHEN GOD MAKES A PROMISE HE THEN SPEAKS DEATH TO IT. HE DOES THIS SO THE PROMISE WILL NEVER COME TRUE UNLESS IT IS ACTIVATED AND RESURRECTED BY FAITH, AND IN HIS TIME.

         Abraham obeyed the Lord’s instruction and set out to sacrifice his son.

         By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, “IN ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED.” He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type. [Hebrews 11:17-19]

         Abraham believed in the power of faith and practiced it. He believed in sacrifice and practiced it. He believed in giving and practiced it. He believed in the concept of circumcision and practiced it. He even believed in resurrection from the dead. ABRAHAM OBEYED GOD AND THE MIRACULOUS EVIDENCE OF HIS FAITH WAS DEMONSTRATED IN HIS LIFE.

         He lived in The Miracle Realm. His eyes were opened. He saw what no one else could see. Out in the desert he peered almost 2000 years into the distant future and understood the blood covenant. He understood the gift of righteousness. He understood the reason why. Because he believed God He SAW Salvation:

         “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”

         So the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?”

         Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM.” [John 8:56-58] [1]

         © 2014 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.        

RELATED POST: The Edge of Faith

Entering The Miracle Realm (Part 2)

         The Gospel of John mentions that the children of God, like Isaac, are each miracle children:

         But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. [John 1:12-13]

         Again, the Lord must be first and there must be a covenant with Him before anything else can possibly happen. The old must die so the new can be born.

         “Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” [John 3:7]

         WHENEVER GOD BRINGS FORTH A NEW BIRTH IT IS ALWAYS A MIRACLE.

         Christians who have never had a new birth experience but claim to be believers are only believers in a religious sense. They are believers according to the will of man, or according to religious man or religion. Without a new birth there is no heart change. There is no circumcision of the heart. If they oppose the new birth they are Ishmaels who mock Isaac and fight against the people of God.

         But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. [Galatians 4:29]

         The Pharisees who fought the Lord were Ishmaels. Ishmael fought Isaac. He made fun of Isaac. There was no possible way these two could ever be in fellowship. It was impossible—UNLESS ISHMAEL REPENTED AND BECAME A MAN OF FAITH AND OBEDIENCE LIKE HIS FATHER ABRAHAM. Some Pharisees repented, for example, and became real believers.

         What God impressed upon me regarding the inspiration of this article is that in order to enter The Miracle Realm one must choose to believe God and not believe circumstances that do not agree with God’s promise.

         For example, the Lord said he came to give us abundant life:

         “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” [John 10:10]

         Therefore, any circumstances that disagree with that life must not be accepted or believed in. He kept telling the people He healed that their FAITH made them well. Their faith, though, had to be combined with God’s POWER (dunamis) and one cannot be the recipient of God’s power without first being the recipient of God:

         ONE MUST FIRST BELIEVE AND OBEY GOD BEFORE THE MIRACLE CAN HAPPEN, WHICH MEANS ONE MUST ALSO STOP BELIEVING IN ANYTHING THAT DISAGREES WITH GOD.

         When people came to the Lord seeking healing, those who were healed were those who first believed the Lord and believed IN the Lord. The Lord was already there, and His miracle power was already there. His great love and compassion were already there. What they needed was faith in God. If they added their faith in the Lord, believed what He said, believed in what He could do and wanted to do for them, and gave themselves to Him, A MIRACLE HAPPENED. ABUNDANT LIFE HAPPENED.

         “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” [Luke 6:38]

         ONE CANNOT GET LIFE FROM GOD UNLESS ONE FIRST GIVES LIFE TO GOD.

         If one wonders why the miracle never happens, it is most likely because one has faith in the circumstances or beliefs that oppose God and thus cancel out the power of God. And there is an element of selfishness somewhere. In other words, one practices subtraction instead of addition (giving).

         Such UNBELIEF (apistia) is an actual power. It is a kind of anti-faith—a miracle killer—a force that fights against faith. It will support circumstances and beliefs that oppose the Word of God. It is based on what the natural eye can see and not on what the spiritual eye can see. It is based on the comprehension of the natural mind and not on that of the spiritual mind which is aligned and in agreement with the mind of Christ. It stems from an uncircumcised heart.

         And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He wondered at their unbelief. [Mark 6:5-6] [1]

         Since righteousness is a gift and not something that a person can earn or work up or buy, one can only receive righteousness by receiving the Lord and by first submitting to Him 100%.

         Again, one must enter The Miracle Realm to receive righteousness just like receiving any other miracle. AND BECOMING RIGHTEOUS BEFORE GOD IS A MIRACLE! This is what being born again entails: New birth—the death of the old (unbelief) and birth of the new (faith).

         IF THIS IS TO HAPPEN, ONE MUST NO LONGER BELIEVE IN THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF LIFE THAT DISAGREE WITH THE MINISTRY OF THE LORD JESUS AND DENY LIFE TO ISAAC.

         He came in part to heal physically blind eyes, for example. Unbelievers claim such healing is impossible. The circumstances of life say such healing cannot happen, and that no one has the power to make it happen. The Lord Jesus disagrees and says He can make it happen.

         He can make anything happen. One must choose, therefore, who to believe. One cannot believe both.

         They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?”

         And he said, “From childhood. It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!”

         And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” [Mark 9:20-23]

         © 2014 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued]


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.