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Eyes Opened…

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When Nicodemus visited Jesus in John 3, Jesus never let Nicodemus state what he was seeking Jesus out for.  From the moment Nicodemus finished saying, “Rabbi, we know You are a Teacher who has come from God.  For no one could perform the miraculous signs You are doing if God were not with him,” [John 3.2] Jesus began to tell him about the Kingdom of God, saying, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again,” [John 3.3] then, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” [John 3.5] It was when Nicodemus, still not understanding what Jesus had said, asked, “How can this be?” [John 3.9] that Jesus spoke the famous John 3.16-17 verse so often quoted, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” Thus revealing to Nicodemus what John the Baptist had witnessed – that God is a Father, for He has a Son, as well as God’s plan of salvation for the world and not just for Israel through that Son.

As such, the priority of Jesus as He spoke to Nicodemus was first to tell him of the existence of the Kingdom of God [John 3.3] and its first condition of entry into that kingdom, [John 3.5] and then the truth that God is a Father, and thirdly, God’s plan of salvation for the world.  As such, contrary to traditional belief and doctrine, salvation was and is not the foremost concern in the mind, or rather, heart of Jesus… for whatever the heart is full of, the mouth speaks.

The first thing Jesus spoke of to a man, who was learned and well practised in the Jewish religion, is the Kingdom of God, which means the first thing on His heart, that is, Jesus’ heart, is the Kingdom of God… the kingdom, as Paul testified, that is the kingdom of power and not just of talk [1 Corinthians 4.20], the kingdom of joy, peace and righteousness and not just of eating and drinking. [Romans 14.17] The righteousness that would come by faith through God’s grace, as Paul so eloquently preached as his gospel… a righteousness that is a gift to all who repent and believe the good news.  The peace that Jesus gave His disciples, not as the world gives but as He gives, not the peace of the world but His peace… the peace of eternal righteousness with God.  And the joy, the joy of knowing the Father’s good pleasure… as at that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.  Yes, Father, for this was Your good pleasure.” [Luke 10.21]

As such, the ‘gospel’ or the ‘good news’ is not about salvation only.  It is firstly about the kingdom that belongs to God who is a Father, then about His plan of salvation through the Son.  So when Jesus told the disciples, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation (every creature [KJV; AMP]; everyone everywhere [NLT 1996 edition]),” [Mark 16.15] it is not just about salvation, but rather, it is first about the kingdom whose King has a Son through whom will effect the salvation.  Which means that when the Lord said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come,” [Matthew 24.14] that gospel is not John 3.16-17, but rather, is John 3.3 and 3.5… that the Kingdom of God can be seen if you are born again and the kingdom, which you may enter if you are born of water and the Spirit… an entry that is completed when you receive the kingdom like a child.  That is, a kingdom that cannot be seen by those who are not born again, and a kingdom that cannot be completely entered into if you will not receive it like a child, even if you are born of water and the Spirit.  For it is the good pleasure of the Father to withhold it from the wise and learned and reveal it only to the children… that is, to be able to receive the baptism of water for the repentance of sins and receive the Holy Spirit like a child, humbly and honestly.  The Kingdom of God is hidden from those who are the wise and learned because this too is the Father’s good pleasure… to keep it from those who are too sure of their own ways to appreciate that God’s ways are not their ways, and too proud to accept that the best of man’s wisdom and learning is as low as the ground compared to the sky.

As such, the end cannot come unless “…this gospel of the kingdom…” is defined and preached in the world not as a theory, not as a suggestion, not even as something a person believes, but as a testimony… that is, as what a person knows of the Kingdom of God by his experience of having seen it and entered it completely as a witness.

For as Jesus has already told us where the Kingdom of God is – “…within you” [Luke 17.21] – and we are in the midst of it, for He also said, “…the Kingdom of God is among you,” [Luke 17.21 and its footnote] it has already been all around us… but we have not seen it because we were not born again and had not complied with its condition of entry.  And it has remained invisible because the ministry of the disciples was focused on the salvation and the society known as the church that would manifest amongst those saved rather than the Kingdom of God that would be revealed through those who use their salvation to become sons of God who know the Father revealed by Jesus.

However, there were a few who did preach the good news of the Kingdom of God and of the Name of Jesus Christ, the Name the Father had given the Son, such as Philip in Acts 8.12 and of course, Paul.  Consider the short account of Philip who was chosen as one of the seven in Acts 6.5 to wait on tables to serve food so that the twelve could devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word. [Acts 6.4] We do not know from scripture if this Philip of Acts 6.5 is the same Philip who was one of the twelve… whatever tradition may say.  But Philip of Acts 6.5 is the one who first went to Samaria to preach in Acts 8.5 in obedience to the command of Jesus, “…and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth.” [Acts 1.8]

Now see what Philip proclaimed and preached in Samaria.  Luke recorded that he proclaimed the Christ [Acts 8.5], and he preached the good news of the Kingdom of God and the Name of Jesus Christ [Acts 8.12], and as a result, the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. So there was great joy in that city. [Acts 8.6-8]

Philip held a one-man campaign that was the closest imitation of the work of Jesus ever recorded in the scriptures… for the others worked in pairs.  And as you read of Philip through the rest of Acts 8… you will find that Philip’s ministry attracted Simon the sorcerer, a forerunner of the false prophet, who wanted the power of the Holy Spirit to boost his reputation.  However, Philip was also the first to be used to preach the gospel of Jesus to an Ethiopian so that through him it would be taken to Africa. [Acts 8.26-39] And he was the only one of the disciples recorded to experience travel in the Holy Spirit… as the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again… Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and travelled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea. [Acts 8.39-40]

Indeed, if our missionary adventures have all been of the standard set by Philip where signs and wonders accompanied the proclamation of Christ, and the gospel of the Kingdom of God and the Name of Jesus were preached every time… and the disciples (the preachers) themselves could travel in the Holy Spirit… it would not have taken 1,800 years for the gospel to reach Australia and New Zealand – “…the ends of the Earth…” [Acts 1.8] as Jesus said.

Philip’s ministry, as recorded in Acts 8, set the standard for taking the gospel, the whole gospel, out of Jerusalem.  And his campaign was accompanied by such power because he proclaimed Christ… that is, the salvation and the Kingdom of God as well as the Name of Jesus Christ, which not only speaks of the salvation, but of the Father… for the Name of Jesus is the Name of the Father that He gave His Son.  Philip’s ministry fulfilled the preaching of the full gospel – the kingdom of the God who is the Father who sent the Son to save the world – the tripartite gospel of the kingdom, the Father and the Son who is the Saviour.  And his was the first outside Jerusalem that had an abundance of miracles, signs and wonders, and he was the first to experience personal miracles that we can only dream of now.

Peter and John went down to Samaria to see what was happening and helped with the baptism of the Holy Spirit… but they then went back to Jerusalem preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages… [Acts 8.25] yet Luke did not record nor did the Holy Spirit credit their effort as one accompanied with signs and wonders.  Why?  Perhaps, elect, they were travelling in the wrong direction… for they went back to Jerusalem rather than continuing to the ends of the Earth.

As such, the lesson to be learnt, elect, is to know the work that is to be done and how it is to be done.

The gospel of the kingdom must be preached as a testimony to all nations and then the end shall come… the gospel, as Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3.3, 3.5 and 3.16-17, by those who are witnesses not believers… and preached by those who are taking it in the right direction… like Philip who took it to Samaria and then to Azotus and then to Caesarea.  But unfortunately for Philip and for the Lord, he stopped and settled in Caesarea where he was known as Philip the evangelist. [Acts 21.8] How different this world might have been had Philip continued to travel in the Holy Spirit.  Certainly, the Holy Spirit would not have hesitated to bring him to the Great Southland to preach the gospel to its inhabitants without having to wait for the Europeans to come.

Now, is this Philip the same Philip as the one who is one of the twelve?  By what Luke wrote in Acts, it would appear not.  However, if he were the same, the tragedy is then an apostle became only an evangelist.  Who knows?  The Spirit knows.

Now then, see if you can the lesson of Philip, Peter and John in Acts 8 and learn… now that you have the full gospel restored to you.  Where are you heading with it?  By the direction you take this gospel, will the degree of power of the Holy Spirit be given to you.  If you learn to be like Philip, you will travel by the Holy Spirit.  If you learn to be like Peter and John, you will travel by foot.

“Let those who have eyes to see, see what the Holy Spirit is showing you.”

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NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION [NIV]

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taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®,
NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™  Used by permission of Zondervan.  All rights reserved
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Scripture quotations marked “AMP” are taken from the Amplified Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.

KING JAMES VERSION [KJV]

Scripture quotations marked “KJV™” are taken from the King James Version.

NEW LIVING TRANSLATION [NLT]

Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004.  Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189.  All rights reserved.

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