What Did the First Christians Care the Most About?

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March 19, 2022

1 Peter 3:18-22 NIV

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— 20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

CONSIDER THIS

O.K., I get it. Maybe my “Most important doctrine of the whole Bible” claim may have been a bridge too far. I am aware I can be a bit of a provocateur at times, overstating my case to make a point. It’s a bit of my style and strength, yet my mentor and friend, Steve Moore, always reminds me, “An unguarded strength can be a double weakness.” So can we explore this together another minute? And yes, we will get to the “descent into hell” material in another day or so so bear with me. I will say how much I appreciate the level of real engagement we are finding together in 1 Peter. I sense we have gone to the next level in our relationship and reading together. 

I’ll ask a question I have probably asked here before. What is the most quoted verse from the Old Testament in the New Testament? Is it A. Be holy as I am holy; B. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength . . .; C. The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone . . . 

The answer is D. None of the above. ;0) 

The most quoted text from the Old Testament in the New Testament is Psalm 110:1, which says:

“The Lord says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” 

Yes, the Holy Spirit inspired writers of the New Testament reference Psalm 110 over twenty times. There is not even a close second. 

This is the basis for my claim about the Ascension being the most important doctrine in the Bible. All the things concerning Jesus Messiah have happened (save one). They are the history—his conception, birth, words, signs, deeds, miracles, suffering, crucifixion, burial, and his bodily resurrection. The Ascension is the right here, right now reality of our life and time. The other right here, right now, (super neglected) core essential doctrine of the New Testament is the Sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. 

Jesus Himself stresses the significance of his Ascension multiple times noting that unless he goes to the Father, he can’t send the Spirit. “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (see all of John 14 and 16). 

In light of this let me refine my position on the ascension. I’ll pull back on the “most important doctrine” hyperbole and instead call the Ascension the “Lynch-pin doctrine of the Bible.” It is the essential (and mostly forgotten in our time) link between the Resurrection of Jesus, the sending of the Holy Spirit, and the return of Jesus, the only yet remaining movement of the Gospel of the Kingdom. 

If Jesus’ resurrection is just a spiritual resurrection, the Ascension doesn’t really matter so much. But if his resurrection is a physically embodied resurrection—which is what any Christian worth their salt has believed since the first eye witnesses reported it and on which they later staked their martyrdom—the Ascension becomes the essential completion of the Resurrection resulting in his enthronement and glorification. Then where is he an what is he doing? Answer:

“The Lord says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” 

This is the most quoted text from the Old Testament in the New Testament because this mattered most to the Apostles, Evangelists, Prophets, Shepherds and Teachers. The bodily Ascension of Jesus Messiah to the right hand of the throne of God meant everything to the earliest Church, which continues to this day as the Church Jesus is building. It’s why I am becoming more and more concerned the churches of our lifetime may diverging from from the Church Jesus is building because we seem not to care much at all about what they seemed to care most about.

“The Lord says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” 

The Ascension of Jesus signaled something cataclysmically massive to the first followers of Jesus Messiah. Two words: GAME ON! It must come to register the same with us. 

Oh yes, and this: Wake up sleepers, and rise from the dead! 

Your turn: (hint)

We will go one more day on this tomorrow and then make the turn toward hell. ;0) 

THE PRAYER

Jesus, you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. You are risen and ascended, reigning and ruling, the Son of God and the son of Man, seated. . . . physically seated in the heavens. We can’t fathom it. We lack both the worldview and metaphysical categories. Stretch the fabric of our imaginations by the sanctifying presence of the Holy Spirit—which is to say open the eyes of our hearts that we might see you, behold you, indeed—live and move and have our being in you—for then we will be truly and fully alive. Praying in Jesus’ name, Amen.

THE QUESTION

Is the fabric of your imagination being stretched? sanctified? enlivened? emboldened even? 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

P.S.  355/365

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

4 COMMENTS

  1. JD, I perceive that the full revelation of Jesus’s resurrection and ascension should give us complete confidence to “fight the good fight “ with all our might. We’ve been given everything we need to have full fellowship with the Triune God restored, to be able to “participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Peter 1:3-4)

  2. Yes. Almost every day you stretch and inspire my imagination, J. D. Thank you.

    When I got saved and began to read the New Testament (especially the book of Acts) it stretched the fabric of my mind, and I began to see much divergence between the “spectatorship” of the contemporary century church and the discipleship of the first century ekklesia. In Acts, God is actively and powerfully using ordinary Christians to help make Jesus’ enemies His footstool as the body of Christ is growing and expanding and transforming hearts and lives on every page. The early Christians were in the game to proclaim and demonstrate the power and presence of the living, resurrected Jesus to everyone they met. They “turned the world upside down.” Today we’re seeing the reverse: the world is turning Christian morals and values upside down.

    You ask: “What did the early Christians care about most?” It took me an entire book to answer that question. Google: “The Joy Of Early Christianity.” But here’s the short answer: The early Christians cared most about courageously and boldly following and obeying the living, ever-present Jesus.

  3. I was blown away that Psalm 110:1 is the most quoted OT verse in the NT. That brings home how much the focus and expectation of the early church was on the fact that Jesus is in a place of authority and has the final victory over the powers of darkness. But it’s not fully realized yet and we have to be patient. I shared this DT with a Ukrainian friend who is in Poland right now while her husband remains in western Ukraine and her son is fighting in Kiev. They are followers of Jesus, but I can see how the trauma of the situation can turn their focus to the the evil of the war and Putin. My prayer for our friends in Ukraine is that they would be steadfastly focused on Jesus, sitting at the Father’s right hand, making all their enemies His footstool.

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