Lesson 128: Review and Perspective
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A Blending of The Four Gospel Records. This is lesson # 128, the last lesson in this series. Welcome to our final session in this study. May I congratulate you on your interest and your tenacity in completing this study? I'm SURE, it got a little routine and a little tedious at times. We have read, together the entire text of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in this study. There is so much more that I would have liked to have included in almost every lesson; but, I've tried to be practical and include just enough discussion to help you sort through the text and sift out the nuggets without overburdening you with all the theological rhetoric that has filled so many shelves in go many libraries. I repeat again what I said at the beginning; these lessons were NOT DESIGNED for preachers and the collegiate elite. The idea was to develop a simple study at the level of the man on the street, and get it to those who live up the holler, out the ridge, over the hill and across the trades. The people that are the salt of the earth. I apologize for making the course so long; but, this is the way it came out. I salute you! If you have read as I read, listened and done the questions on every lesson, I believe you have surely learned something. I have learned a lot in preparing the course. You are a person with a lot of courage and a lot of determination to complete a study this long. Studying God's word is not easy. In the book of Second Timothy, the apostle Paul exhorted the young preacher, Timothy, to "Study to show thyself approved unto God." (II Tim. 2:15). Thus, the apostle indicated that study is one of the requirements for being approved, or accepted by God. And then the apostle added to that thought: "A workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." So, if you've worked hard on these four books, Paul said: don't be ashamed. That's a left handed way of saying, rejoice in your accomplishment. But, I would especially like to call your attention to the last part of that statement, one more time: "rightly dividing the word of truth." To rightly divide the scriptures means to keep ever passage in context, avoid confusion, and apply it to the right class of people at the right time in history. Thus, Paul said the time you spent in doing THAT certainly is no shame. It can help bring God's approval. But, the old apostle knew what he was talking about, when he said, it is work. Paul said to Timothy earlier in that same chapter: "Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things." However, before we leave that thought; the apostle also WARNED the young preacher, up in v.5, "if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he NOT crowned, except he strive lawfully." Paul's illustration came from the athletic games played in those days. Some put a great effort into winning a crown, a trophy or a souvenir in athletic events like running; which was a great sport in Paul's day. But, the apostle points out that even in those athletic games; there are rules to play by. In our national past-time of baseball, there are rules to play by. The same is true in the Christian life. In other words, it doesn't matter how much you learn, how hard you work, or how much you appreciate the scriptures; the thing that counts is striving LAWFULLY, i.e. working obediently and observing the rules. God has given us a plan and we must follow that plan to get to heaven. The Bible is our rule book.
It's unfortunate, but if you did this study with the hope of identifying the Lord's requirements to become a Christian; you didn't find it in this study. Almost every element in God's plan is touched on in these four books; but, the question: What must I do to become a Christian? i.e. to be saved, is not asked AND, thus, not answered in a systematic way in these four books. You WILL FIND that question, more than once, along with a number of examples in the book of Acts, that follows. But, to understand the book of Acts and keep it in proper context; one must first have a working knowledge of the four gospels. Because, the four gospels tell us the good news about Jesus. You cannot properly understand Jesus without, at least, a working knowledge of the O.T. I trust you shall shortly find that question, and the answer to that question, in its proper context, in the first few chapters of the book of Acts. That which you lack, I urge you to complete in obedience to the requirements of King Jesus.
Please, remember that the four gospel records we have just completed; are biographies of Jesus; inspired biographies of Jesus. Remember that Jesus was born, lived and died under the Mosaic •period of Bible history. Christ's kingdom was prophesied in the O.T., John the Baptist came preaching THAT kingdom was at hand, and Jesus taught: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God." (Matt. 6:33) AND to enter the kingdom one must do the will of God (Matt. 7:21). Talking about the end of this world, Jesus said: "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." (Matt. 13:43). Jesus told the twelve apostles, "I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven...", i.e. the apostles would receive the authority to open the kingdom. (Matt. 16:19). Jesus further told the apostles, "There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom." (Matt. 16:28). Jesus gave the apostles authority (or a commission) to go into all the world and teach, establishing a kingdom (Matt. 28:18). But, the apostles were to wait in Jerusalem until they were endued with power (Luke 24:49), i.e. until they were filled with the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit as Jesus had promised them that night in the upper room. The apostles tarried in Jerusalem and that promise was fulfilled. You can read about it in Acts ch. 2, and the apostles, used the keys Jesus gave them, and opened the kingdom in Jerusalem, on the day of Pentecost, AD 33. Jesus, the King of that kingdom, established that kingdom, fifty days after he arose from the dead that Sunday morning and ten days after he ascended from Mt. Olivet. He is NOW in heaven, on the right hand of God, reigning as King of his kingdom. No one entered that kingdom until the day of Pentecost.
Thus, when the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18 asked, "Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus told him to keep the commandments and Jesus recited five of the 10 commandments, to identify which commandments the rich young ruler was to keep. But, when those on the day of Pentecost, asked that same question, what they must do to be saved (Acts 2:37); they were NOT given the same answer as that rich young ruler was given about sixty days before. Why? Because the kingdom or the church was NOT in existence at time the rich young ruler asked that question. And the rules are now different for citizenship in that kingdom than they were for citizens of the Israelite nation to whom the Mosaic code was given. And the last verse in Acts ch. 2 says that "The Lord added to the church daily, such as should be saved", signifying that the church or the kingdom was then in existence.
I'm sure you are aware, there are many confusing and conflicting doctrines taught in this old world. But, those who are willing to WORK AT IT can rightly divide God's word. Jesus told the 'Pharisees in John 7:17, "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine..." So, if you are willing to dig it out, Jesus' doctrine can be known.
Someone wrote these words about the Bible many years ago. The author is unknown. But, I would like to take the time to read this little article. That anonymous writer said this, (and I quote): "This book [i.e. the Bible] contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrine is holy, it precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe in it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains the light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler's map, the pilgrim's staff, the pilot's compass, the soldier's sword, and the Christian's charter. Here paradise is restored, heaven opened, and the gates of hell disclosed. Christ is its grand object, our good its design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and river of pleasure. It is given you in life, will be opened in the judgment, and be remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, will reward the greatest labor, and will condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents." (unquote!). Amen!
I would like to encourage you to continue your study of the Bible. Take it verse by verse, take your time, read and re-read, learn the contents of the Bible. Obey God and enjoy the best life that can be had on this earth and enjoy eternity for ever. It's the greatest investment you will ever make. It can give your posterity more than anything else you can do.
Now, there is a study available in the book of Acts, in the same format as this study. The ACTS Study has 52 lessons and can be obtained from the same place where you got this study. In studying Matthew, Mark, Luke and John you have covered about 46 or 47 % of the volume of the N.T. The book of Acts makes up about 13 or 14 % by volume. So, when you cover Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts, you will have covered about 60% of the N.T. May, I encourage you to enroll in that study immediately. Beyond that, I would like to make an appeal to you; as one who has a knowledge of this study, to help enroll others in these courses. We rely very heavily upon those who have taken these courses to enroll others. By that means the number of enrollees have continued to grow. So, may I appeal to you to take the time to spread the word, encourage your friends and neighbors to study? Keep the tract rack where you worship supplied with enrollment cards. Keep a few cards on hands. Put them in letters and greeting cards, leave them in doctor's offices, nursing homes and other likely places. Just send us a note any time telling us how many enrollments cards you need. This course is being sponsored by Christians who care and see the need for more Bible study. For you to have completed this study shows that you share in understanding that need. But, we need your help. If you are an average person, you know perhaps a dozen or more people that need this course AND that will take the course, if you appeal to them to take the course AND supply them with an enrollment card. Would you please do that? But, please do not send in names without their knowledge and consent. They will probably resent it and consider it junk mail when they get it. We're not interested in bugging and harassing people. We want to help them. But, there ARE PEOPLE in your community and every community, who would enjoy studying the Bible in this way, if they ONLY knew how to go about it. Please find those people, help those people and encourage those people. It's an opportunity for you to do a great service. Then, please keep an ear tuned for those that you can encourage in the weeks and months ahead. I would like to thank you for your help and fellowship in this work, in advance.
If you have never obeyed the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, may I appeal to you NOW to obey the Lord's invitation and become a Christian, a citizen of his kingdom? If you have a need or questions about this, you may call me personally. Or, I will do my best to help you locate other Christians in your community that will be glad to help you. If you once obeyed the gospel; but, since have fallen away and would like to be restored, as the Bible teaches you can be. Please take the initiative to do it now! After the Lord Jesus had been on his throne in heaven for more than 60 years, the Lord appeared to the apostle John when John was undoubtedly over 90 years old and dictated a letter to John, and commanded John to send the letter to the church at Laodicea. I speak of the last appearance of Jesus until his final coming. In that letter, Jesus gave the most beautiful invitation to those at Laodicea that can undoubtedly be found in the Bible. Jesus said, to that church in Western Asia Minor, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear..." (Rev. 3:20-21). Jesus depicted himself as being at the door of your heart, knocking. Will you open the door? Jesus wants you as a citizen of his kingdom. You are invited!
And finally, may I say to you, I hope you have enjoyed these lessons. In this day of electronic transfer, air travel, cassette tapes and all the hustle bustle; it's ironic that we can study 128 lesson together and possibly never meet each other. I'm more than a voice in a box! You, are more than 128 test scores. So, don't be intimidated! Often someone who makes a low score learned much more than some who already knew the material and made a higher score. Thus, don't be intimidated by a low score, if that should be the case. The real test is how you use what you learn. I would like to meet you personally. So, if you ever come my way, please take the time for us to meet and shake hands. If I can help you in any way, please let me know. But, if we never meet this side of heaven; have a save trip AND have a good day.