It’s all about Jesus, dummy.
JANUARY 18, 2023
It’s all about Jesus, dummy. Let’s talk about it, on Key Life.
This is Key Life. We are here to communicate the freeing truth that God’s not mad at his children. Steve invited our friend Justin Holcomb to teach us all this week. Justin is a priest, seminary professor, and he’s written, co-authored, or edited more than 20 books.
Thank you Matthew. Hi Justin.
Justin Holcomb: Hey Steve.
If you’re just joining us, Dr. Justin Holcomb, who has written a great book on Acts, plus a thousand other books, every time he burps, they publish it.
Justin Holcomb: I follow your lead.
That’s true. And what Justin is doing and what we’re doing is taking a little bit of time with an overview of the Book of Acts. Now, next week we’re going to look at a new book that I wrote and spend some time with those themes and eventually we’ll come back to the final chapters of Acts. But I thought it would be a good thing for us to get an overview of Acts from an expert. And that would be Justin Holcomb, Dr. Justin Holcomb. So, thank you for doing this.
Justin Holcomb: Oh, it is my joy and pleasure to.
Mine too. So, well, okay, we’re up now to Christology in the Book of Acts. Isn’t that true? And you wrote a great book on heresy. Heresy’s really about this, isn’t it?
Justin Holcomb: It’s all about Jesus.
If they get that wrong, they are heretics. If they get it right, they’re not.
Justin Holcomb: Yeah. And that book is called Know the Heretics. And what we found, what I found in doing the research in writing that is that all of the early debates and discussions were about the person and work of Jesus Christ. So, the early debates were, is he fully God? There isn’t a heretic named Arias. And he said, Jesus is the first thing God created. And then Jesus created everything else. And so, he was like, he wasn’t there. There was a time when Jesus, the Son was not, and Jesus came into being. And of course, Jesus Christ, the man came into being at his birth. But God the Son, the second person of the Trinity is eternal. So anyway, there was one that said Jesus is not divine. He’s not God. And then, you know, Athenasius and some others said, yes he is. And then there was a whole nother group that said, well, he’s divine, but he’s not really human. And so, they went to the other extreme. So, the first few centuries of the church after the New Testament were debates about Jesus Christ, who is he? That’s the person of Jesus. And then what did he do? Did he bear sin? Did he come just to be an example? And we’re supposed to follow him? Did he, what did he do? What did the perfect life, death, resurrection, ascension and return. What does that mean for us? And if you get that messed up, then you’re, and the reason that’s so important, if you get the person and work of Jesus Christ messed up and wrong, you’re, that’s the gospel.
So, that’s what this is about.
Justin Holcomb: The good news is that Jesus came as God and took on human flesh and was not sinful and fulfilled the law and took our consequences, gave us his righteousness, conquered sin, and he’s seated on his throne and he’s coming back. Like, that’s the whole point in, that’s why it’s important in Acts 1. Acts is, and we can go back to the heresies. Acts is volume two by Luke, the author. So, Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke is volume one and Acts is volume two. I know you covered this early on when he got started, but he starts out Acts with this.
In my former book Theophilus.
The gospel of Luke.
I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.
And then he starts out saying, I started talking about Jesus and now I’m going to continue talking about Jesus. And Jesus is working through sending the Holy Spirit in the church now, and this is the work of Jesus. So, the whole point is that Acts is really all about Jesus Christ. And we know that because one third of the book of Acts, like literally, like by word count, one third are sermons or lectures, talks about Jesus Christ by apostles and followers of Jesus. And so, I mean, one third are it’s not just about Jesus in the sense of like, Hey, what are some principles that Jesus talked about? The heartbeat of it is his death and resurrection. I mean, that’s the bullseye of the gospel and so that, what we don’t want to do is just look at Acts and talk about neat historical stuff that happened. That is very important. I mean, God works through the drama of history. It’s redemptive history. But it’s not, Hey, this is what Jesus did, and this is what the apostles did, be like them. It is, no, the whole book of Acts of the apostles is really their main act is preaching about Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection.
Oh man, that’s, that is so good and so important. And we see it, you know, when I was in graduate school, in seminary, in Boston, it was, do it the way they did, be nice the way they’re nice, be just the way they’re just, and they miss the gospel and it showed. And I almost lost it at that graduate school except that the Jesus who died, and who was resurrected for me, fixed it. And wouldn’t let me go and Acts is a story about people that he wouldn’t let go. Talk about it.
Justin Holcomb: Let’s go back to the gospel part real quick cause that that relates to it. I mean, I’m not avoiding the him holding onto us, but in Acts there’s a few words. Grace is used a lot. I mean, the reason you teach about grace so much isn’t because, only because you need it, because you’re so bad at being a Christian.
Justin Holcomb: But because it’s actually the main theme through all of Scripture is God’s gracious disposition to broken and harmed people. He wants to make things right, he wants to make them right. So, grace is parallel in Acts for the gospel, for salvation. So, Jesus’s message is summarized as the words of his grace and believers are said to have received grace, be full of grace. And so, the missionaries in Acts are proclaiming the grace of God by his mighty redemptive deeds, specifically in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And it’s through this grace that people are able to respond to faith. And so, the Book of Acts, like we said, it’s all about Jesus, but it does not primarily provide us a human pattern to emulate or negatively, like negative examples to avoid. Like, be like them, but don’t be like them. Instead, it repeatedly calls us to reflect upon the work of God fulfilled in Jesus Christ, establishing the church by the power of the Holy Spirit, and we’re invited to enter and participate in a story that’s much bigger than we are. Part of that story, as we talked about in the previous episode, are great wins. You know, he’d add thousands to the church, but also huge barriers in suffering. So, part of that story is exactly what you said, that our strengths are empowered by him, in the middle of our darkness and weakness, whether the darkness we’ve created or that someone else or something else has created for us, shipwreck, snakes, something like that, that he’s holding onto us and is actually sometimes in those darkest moments that the brilliance of the light of the gospel shines through, and we see his faithfulness even more. And which then moves us to the idea of witness cause it’s all about Jesus. That gospel applies to us when it empowers our strengths and it’s especially there for our weaknesses. But we are witnesses, not witnesses, we’re not pitching our own life transformation. We’re witnesses to what God has done.
The primary task of the people of God is to bear witness to God’s great deeds.
Justin Holcomb: And that’s what the disciples were doing. The language of witness is I John 1:1 through 3 that you know, this Jesus Christ we’ve seen with our own eyes. We are proclaiming to you. So, the idea of witness, I mean the joy that the listeners, sure many of them have pastors or people that teach them. And that’s important. I’m a minister, I think pastors are very important, but they have a testimony, they have a testimony of God’s faithfulness to them in Jesus Christ, and it is very powerful. You don’t need to just bring your neighbor or family member to church to hear it from someone else. Sure, invite them to church. That’s the number one way people go to church, but you are a witness. You as a listener are a witness to God’s faithfulness and kindness and gentleness and forgiveness to you. And that’s going to be some of the most, if not the most powerful testimony people will hear before they ever get to church. So, many people think the professionals need to do it, and that’s what I love about Acts is the idea that anyone who has been redeemed is a witness. Even though if you don’t work for the church, you’re not in an ordained capacity. You are a witness. You’re a disciple.
That is so good, and sometimes we forget. You know, it’s very easy if you are a religious professional to get bogged down into so much stuff. That might even be good stuff about the Christian faith and forget the essential, the essence, that Jesus loves me, he’s forgiven me, he’s going to get me home before the dark. And if I had been him, I would not have done it, but he did. And the Book of Acts is the story of that.
Justin Holcomb: That’s the whole point. Jesus does not command disciples to perform certain rituals to act according to certain rules or to refrain from certain activities. He promises them that they would testify to his power. When the Holy Spirit is given to you, you will be witnesses to the entire world, and this is not a new concept. God has always used the most unlikely people. I mean, God flips it on it’s head in the Bible, but he’s always using the weak, the lost, the little and the least to be his witnesses for his mighty deeds.
Oh man, that is so good and it’s so comforting. It’s so freeing and it also gives me a reason to live. Guys, if you’re listening to this, that means that you are called to witness about what Jesus has done for you. So, do it. And think about that. Amen.
Man, that is so good. Thank you Steve and Justin, and hey, great news. This conversation about the Book of Acts continues for one more day. We’ll wrap it all up tomorrow, so join us for that, won’t you? Hey, by the way, thank you for visiting us at keylife.org. We really do work to keep the website fresh with new features and I’d love to tell you about some of those. If you go to keylife.org/biblereading you will find a very cool ongoing project. Steve, reading entire books of the Bible, and I’m not sure if I’m supposed to say this or not, but we’re just about to launch the Gospel of John. Also, be sure to check out keylife.org/simplysermons that’s our latest podcast and it features digitally remastered, full link sermons from Steve. Oh, and if you are looking for a new read, stop by keylife.org/store you’ll find Steve’s newest book there, Laughter and Lament, plus a whole bunch of other good stuff. And of course, all of these features are free, thanks to the generous support of listeners like you. If you’d like to donate, just call us at 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. If you’d like to send your donation by mail, just go to keylife.org/contact to find our addresses for the U.S. and Canada. Or e-mail [email protected]. You can charge a gift on your credit card or include a gift in your envelope. And of course, you can now give safely and securely just by texting Key Life to 28950. Key Life is a member of ECFA in the States and CCCC in Canada. And we are a listener supported production of Key Life Network.