God’s New Temple, part 5

Worship

This five-part series explores how the early Church separated from the Jerusalem temple, where the first Christians often met (Luke 24:53; Acts 2:46; 3:1; 5:20-21). Part 5 is about God’s new temple, the Church.

The Church is God’s house

In the early days of the Church, the new believers continued to meet in the temple (Luke 24:53). But in A.D. 70 Rome demolished the Jerusalem temple just as Jesus had foretold: “‘Do you see all these great buildings?’ replied Jesus. ‘Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down’” (Mark 13:2 NIV). (See also Matt. 24:2; Luke 21:6.)

The ceremonial observances—animal sacrifices—finally were abolished. God had ensured that those who worshiped Him would do so not with regard to place, but in spirit and in truth (John 4:23).

God’s presence was no longer confined to the temple; God would now reach into all the world to build a new temple where the Holy Spirit could dwell and fill all the earth (Eph. 1:22-23).

The Church, the true temple of God

Under the new covenant, the Spirit of God dwells not in any building or structure of wood and stone, but in the spiritual house of the Church—the corporate Body of Christ.

4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—
5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. …
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
–1 Peter 2:4–5, 9–10 NIV

The Church is a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, a spiritual house and temple with Jesus Christ as its Chief Cornerstone.

Paul’s teaching echoes the Body-as-temple motif:

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household,
20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.
22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
–Ephesians 2:19–22 NIV

The Church is a spiritual building made of living stones, whose foundation is Christ Himself. It is a temple where the Spirit of God dwells.

9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.
10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care.
11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. …
16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.
–1 Corinthians 3:9–11,16–17 NIV

Paul informed the Corinthians that, as a local body of believers, they were God’s temple, a local expression of the Body of Christ where God dwelled by the Spirit.

Later in this same letter, Paul revealed that each believer was also a temple of the Holy Spirit:

15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? …
19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;
20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
–1 Corinthians 6:15a,19–20 NIV

As Spirit-filled believers, we are the temple of the living God—personally and corporately. (See 2 Cor. 6:16; 1 Tim. 3:15.)

God no longer dwells in buildings made of stone. When we step into a church building, we should no longer quote Psalm 122:1: “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’” (NIV).

A church building is not God’s house or temple; “…WE are his house” (Heb. 3:6 NIV).

Let’s recognize the Lord’s house for what it is—the Body of Christ—and not human structures. Jesus died to set us free from temple worship, and so did Stephen.

Be that temple of the Living God where the Holy Spirit lives and moves and has being. This is new testament Christianity.

More information:
God’s New Temple, part 1
God’s New Temple, part 2
God’s New Temple, part 3
God’s New Temple, part 4

God’s New Temple, part 4

Tabernacle

This five-part series explores how the early Church separated from the Jerusalem temple, where the first Christians often met (Luke 24:53; Acts 2:46; 3:1; 5:20-21). Part 4 is about the persecution of the Church and the house of the Lord.

Stephen’s death results in persecution

In a strange way, Stephen’s message was confirmed. Place no longer mattered for Jews who had accepted Jesus as Messiah.

Proof of this became apparent when persecution broke out against the fledgling Church, and they scattered everywhere (Acts 8:1-4).

The “house of the Lord”

In the Old Testament it was the tabernacle and then the temple—the “house of the Lord”—where the people gathered to worship God and experience God’s presence.

The phrase “house of the Lord” occurs 234 times in the King James Version of the Bible. All of these references appear in the Old Testament, and they refer to the building of the temple. Here are a few examples:

One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.
–Psalm 27:4 NIV

I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
–Psalm 122:1 NIV

1 Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord who minister by night in the house of the Lord.
2 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord.
–Psalm 134:1-2 NIV

The house of the Lord was a physical building where the Israelites were required to gather and worship the Lord. It was there that God met the people by God’s Spirit, as in the days of Solomon.

10 When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord.
11 And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled his temple.
12 Then Solomon said, “The Lord has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud;
13 I have indeed built a magnificent temple for you, a place for you to dwell forever.”
14 While the whole assembly of Israel was standing there, the king turned around and blessed them.
–1 Kings 8:10–14 NIV

God had designated Jerusalem as the place of worship where God’s people must bring their sacrifices. (See Deut. 12:4-7,11-14; 2 Sam. 7:5,13; 1 Ki. 11:36; 14:21.) But God could never be confined to any building.

Jesus predicted that temple worship would come to an end (see John 4:21-24). Those who would worship God would worship “in spirit and in truth.”

Before his stoning, Stephen argued that “‘the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands’” (Acts 7:48 NIV).

When Jesus hung on the cross and surrendered His spirit to the Father, the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies in the temple was rent in two—from top to bottom—showing that this was the work of God, not people. (See Matt. 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45.)

It was the initiation of prophetic fulfillment of this passage from Ezekiel:

26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
–Ezekiel 36:26-27 NIV

See also Jeremiah 31:31-34.

Through Christ’s sacrifice, God opened “a new and living way… for us through the curtain, that is, [Christ’s] body” (Heb. 10:20 NIV).

This new access was not only to lead believers into a deeper worship experience within a special building. Rather, it signified that God was letting His Spirit out to touch the entire world.

How?

Through God’s new house, the Church. We’ll learn more next time.

More information:
God’s New Temple, part 1
God’s New Temple, part 2
God’s New Temple, part 3

God’s New Temple, part 3

Stoning of St Stephen

This five-part series explores how the early Church separated from the Jerusalem temple, where the first Christians often met (Luke 24:53; Acts 2:46; 3:1; 5:20-21). Part 3 is about Stephen’s rejection and execution.

The rejection of the religious leaders

At his trial, Stephen lambasted the religious leaders: “‘You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit!’” (Acts 7:51 NIV). Stephen accused them of betraying and murdering their Messiah.

The Sanhedrin’s rejection of Stephen’s teaching was merely characteristic of their rebellion against all the prophetic messages God had sent them in the past. Jesus had prophesied,

50 “Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world,
51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.”
–Luke 11:50-51 NIV

Ultimately, they refused the One to whom the prophets pointed. In the same way they condemned Stephen, they had executed God’s one true Messenger—the Christ, the Son of God.

Stephen accused them of the utmost hypocrisy: receiving what they considered to be the word of God, but refusing to obey what it said (7:53).

This climax of Stephen’s diatribe was ill received.

The stoning of Stephen

54 When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him.
55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
–Acts 7:54–56 NIV

The focus of Stephen’s teaching had been that God is not confined to buildings. He had quoted Isaiah 66:1: “‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.’” (Acts 7:49a NIV).

The moment he finished speaking, Stephen was overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit and, looking up, beheld what he’d been teaching about: He saw the throne of God and Christ standing at God’s right hand.

Stephen had preached that God’s place was in heaven; the Holy Spirit confirmed the word and unveiled the Lord in His heavenly glory.

7:57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him,
58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
8:1 And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. …
–Acts 7:57–60; 8:1a NIV

In essence, Stephen proclaimed that worshiping at the temple and observing the ceremonial laws associated with temple worship were no longer necessary for Jews who had received Christ (Heb. 9:8-14 NIV).

As God revealed this to the early Church, the divine plan for them began to unfold. Yet there was a price for progress; Stephen gave his life for the word of the Lord.

In their sin, the people who stoned Stephen rejected his message and refused to accept what their Scriptures already stated—that God could not be contained in human-made structures. God was building a new house to dwell in.

We’ll learn more about this house next time.

More information:
God’s New Temple, part 1
God’s New Temple, part 2

God’s New Temple, part 2

temple

This five-part series explores how the early Church separated from the Jerusalem temple, where the first Christians often met (Luke 24:53; Acts 2:46; 3:1; 5:20-21). Part 2 is about the history of “place” and Stephen’s prophetic rebuke of the Sanhedrin.

The history of “place”

Stephen recounted the history of Israel for his listeners in the Jerusalem Sanhedrin, an assembly of rabbis appointed to sit as a tribunal or court system.

He spoke about God’s call to Abraham, who left Ur and traveled to Canaan, and of the hardships the patriarch’s descendants would endure.

6 “God spoke to [Abraham] in this way: ‘Your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years.
7 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves,’ God said, ‘and afterward they will come out of that country and worship me in this place.’”
–Acts 7:6–7 NIV

Stephen echoes his accuser’s words, mentioning place, a special location where the Israelite people one day would worship God.

Stephen also mentions place elsewhere in his speech. He refers to the presence of the Lord in the burning bush:

“Then the Lord said to [Moses], ‘Take off your sandals; the place where you are standing is holy ground.’”
–Acts 7:33 NIV

Stephen then recounts a short history of the tabernacle:

44 “Our ancestors had the tabernacle of the covenant law with them in the wilderness. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen.
45 After receiving the tabernacle, our ancestors under Joshua brought it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before them. It remained in the land until the time of David,
46 who enjoyed God’s favor and asked that he might provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob.
47 But it was Solomon who built a house for him.”
–Acts 7:44–47 NIV

The tabernacle was a temporary dwelling place for God among the Israelites during their wilderness sojourn. David’s dream was to provide a permanent place for God to dwell among His people. David gave his son Solomon plans for this “house,” the temple.

Stephen then reaches the crux of his argument:

48 “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says:
49 ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be?
50 Has not my hand made all these things?’”
–Acts 7:48–50 NIV

The Jews of that time considered place of utmost importance, but God was never confined to a place, whether it be a tabernacle, a temple, or a house (1 Ki. 8:27).

In the past God had mocked their cries of “the temple of the Lord! the temple of the Lord! the temple of the Lord!” Israel gave lip service to God’s great temple, but they desecrated it by their evil deeds, showing they had no heart relationship with God (see Jer. 7:3-15).

Stephen’s prophetic rebuke

Stephen recounted Israel’s rebellion in the desert (Acts 7:39-43). Even though Israel had the tabernacle, the place where God dwelled with them, they rejected God and refused to obey.

Stephen spoke the truth and accurately assessed the hearts of his listeners. Like their forebears, they “reverenced” the temple but denied their faith in God by spurning what God was saying by the Holy Spirit through Stephen.

Stephen rebuked them.

51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit!
52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him—
53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”
–Acts 7:51–53 NIV

Strong words. What happened? We’ll find out next time.

More information:
God’s New Temple, part 1
God’s New Temple, part 3

God’s New Temple, part 1

temple

This five-part series explores how the early Church separated from the Jerusalem temple, where the first Christians often met (Luke 24:53; Acts 2:46; 3:1; 5:20-21).

Some time after Pentecost (Acts 2), God began to move by the Spirit in a new way in the fledgling Church.

It was time for the new believers to be pushed out of the nest into the world to fulfill the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20). This developed through persecution, brought on by the preaching of Stephen, the first Christian martyr.

Stephen, a man full of God

Stephen was not an apostle, but Acts 6 describes him as a disciple “full of the Spirit and wisdom” (v. 3), “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (v. 5), and “a man full of God’s grace and power” (v. 8).

Stephen was elected as a deacon—someone who waited on tables and distributed food to widows (Acts 6:1-6)—yet he was on fire for God, moving in the revelation of the Holy Spirit and preaching the gospel boldly.

Stephen “did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people” (Acts 6:8 NIV). These signs were God’s confirmation of the message he was preaching.

Whatever the message was, miracles and healings should have brought rejoicing. Instead, Stephen’s message met with opposition.

Stephen’s controversial message

9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia. These men began to argue with Stephen,
10 but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.
–Acts 6:9–10 NIV

What Stephen preached was controversial. Some people opposed his message and argued with him.

Stephen wasn’t sharing personal opinions, though. He spoke the wisdom of God by the Spirit of God.

11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God.”
12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin.
13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law.
14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”
–Acts 6:11–14 NIV

These religious leaders persuaded some men to testify falsely against Stephen so they could condemn him. (This is the same tactic the Sanhedrin used on Jesus [see Matt. 26:60-61].)

Jesus had prophesied that the temple would be reduced to rubble (Matt. 24:1-2; Mark 13:1-2; Luke 21:5-6). He also said, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (John 2:19 NIV; see also Mark 14:58). But He was referring to the temple of His body.

The accusations of the synagogue men contained a measure of truth. However, if Stephen spoke the wisdom of God by the Spirit of God, he certainly wasn’t blaspheming Moses or God.

But the message he was spreading did pertain to abolishing worship in the temple—which they called “this holy place” (v. 13), and “this place” (v. 14).

As a result, “they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin” (Acts 6:12 NIV).

Stephen’s prophetic speech before the Sanhedrin is recorded in Acts 7. Next time, we’ll study this passage to discover what exactly Stephen was preaching.

More information:
God’s New Temple, part 2

The Nullifying Power of Tradition

Nullifying Power of tradition

Jesus came first for his own people. For thousands of years his coming had been destined, prepared, foretold. No other nation had prophecies concerning the Messiah like Israel did; no other nation had the Scriptures of truth as Israel did.

Why, then, when Jesus arrived on the scene, did the religious leaders not recognize him as their Savior and Deliverer?

When Jesus finally came in the power of signs and wonders as never before seen, his own people rejected him. Why? Mark tells us.

1 The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and
2 saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were “unclean,” that is, unwashed.
3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders.
4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)
5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?”
–MARK 7:1–5 NIV

The Pharisees diligently studied the Scriptures (John 5:39). But they also kept their own traditions.

There’s nothing wrong with tradition per se, but observing human rules had become more important to them than obeying in love and faith the simple word of God. They chose their traditions over what God had originally said. Jesus told them, “‘You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions” (v. 8 NIV).

Just as no one can serve two masters, no one can hold on to two things at once. Unless a tradition is based accurately on God’s word, we cannot observe it and still honor God’s commands.

God honors His word, not human tradition or interpretation of that word. When tradition and the word diverge, we cannot follow both!

God’s word is powerful, but Jesus told the religious leaders something astonishing:

[Y]ou are nullifying and making void and of no effect [the authority of] the Word of God through your tradition, which you [in turn] hand on. And many things of this kind you are doing.”
–MARK 7:13 AMPC

Jesus said that the all-powerful word of God is…

  • Nullified—cancelled, zeroed out
  • Made void—empty
  • Made of no effect—rendered powerless

…because of tradition.

This nullifying power refers not only to the written Scriptures, but the prophetic word revealed to our hearts or to the corporate church by the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’” (Matt. 4:4 NKJV).

If elevating tradition as primary makes God’s revealed word ineffective, then obviously the word is supposed to have an effect—it was designed to do something, to change things.

Hebrews 4:12 says the word of God is “quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword” (KJV), but tradition makes it more like a butter knife. As powerful as God’s word is, it is rendered powerless if not honored over tradition.

If how you interpret any portion of Scripture bring no practical effect to bless you, change you, or make you more like Christ, that interpretation is worthless. Perhaps its power has been nullified by tradition.

Paul advises on this matter:

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
–Colossians 2:8 NIV

Paul warned Timothy to beware those who hold to a “form of godliness but deny its power”:

They may pretend to have a respect for God, but in reality they want nothing to do with God’s power. Stay away from people like these!
–2 Timothy 3:5 TPT

Because the Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ time chose their traditions over Jesus, the Word made flesh, their Messiah’s coming availed them nothing.

How could Jesus benefit them if they did not acknowledge him for who he was? Because they rejected him, they received the consequences—desolation (Luke 13:35). It’s no wonder Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44).

Today, the Church also substitutes tradition for the word written or revealed. We hold to doctrinal positions and denominational rules and procedures. But do we obey the simple statements of Scripture?

Do we hear and heed the prophetic Spirit that would apply the Scriptures to our present situation? Do our worship gatherings even allow the Spirit to speak through prophecy? (1 Cor. 14:1,4,24-25,29-31,39).

Paul explains how he presented the gospel:

4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power,
5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
–1 Corinthians 2:4-5 NIV

Many religious traditions are fine. But when they replace and nullify God’s word, we must decide which we will follow.

The true gospel is attended by the Spirit’s power. Let’s not deny it, but embrace and promote it, for this gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16).

Inclusivity of the Holy Spirit

inclusivity

The Holy Spirit is the spirit of inclusivity, gathering from all nations and every walk of life those to be filled with prophetic power. This is explicit in the volume of Luke-Acts.

The Spirit of inclusivity poured out

On the day of Pentecost following the ascension of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is poured out on the praying disciples. The sound of a violent wind and the 120 declaring the praises of God in tongues draws a crowd of the curious.

The listeners—Jews from many nations—declare, “‘Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?’” (Acts 2:7b-8 NIV)

The people ask, “What does this mean?” (v. 12).

Inspired by the Spirit, Peter preaches an explanation, quoting the prophet Joel:

17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants [doulos], both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.’”
–Acts 2:17-18 NIV

All people. Sons, daughters. Prophesying. Young men. Visions. Old men. Dreams. Servants (slaves, bondslaves). Prophesying. All these are signs of the new age of the Spirit’s inclusivity.

We first see Luke’s theme of Spirit-filled prophetic inclusivity in his gospel.

Zechariah: An old man who sees a vision

Zechariah was an old man (Lk 1:7). During the course of his priestly duties, he is called to burn incense in the temple (1:9).

An angel appears to him, delivering a message that Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth, who was barren, would have a son. They must name him John. John will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in the womb, and he will be a prophet preparing the way of the Lord (1:11-17,76).

The vision leaves Zechariah unable to speak (1:22).

Mary: A young woman bondslave

Gabriel, the angel who appeared to Zechariah, next visits a young woman in Nazareth. Gabriel declares that Mary will give birth to a boy named Jesus, who “will be called the Son of the Most High” (Lk 1:26-32).

Mary asks, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (1:34)

Gabriel answers, “‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.’” (v. 35) He reveals that her relative Elizabeth is presently with child (v. 36).

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answers. “May it be to me as you have said” (v. 38). The Greek word for “servant,” doulē, is the same used in Acts 2:18.

Elizabeth: An old woman who prophesies

39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea,
40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.
41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!”
–Luke 1:39-42 NIV

At Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and begins to prophesy (1:42-45). The unborn John is filled with the Spirit also, leaping in her womb for joy (v. 44).

Mary: A young woman who prophesies

Mary is likewise filled with the Holy Spirit and begins to prophesy of her Son’s prophetic destiny (1:46-55).

Zechariah: An old man who prophesies

When his son is born, Zechariah is asked what the child should be named. When he writes “John,” his tongue is loosed, and he begins to speak, praising God and prophesying (1:62-79).

Simeon: An old bondslave who prophesies

After the days of purification, Joseph and Mary take Jesus to the temple to present him to the Lord.

An old man named Simeon, righteous and devout, has been told “by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Lk 2:26).

27 Moved by the Spirit, [Simeon] went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required,
28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant [doulos] in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
–Luke 2:27-32 NIV

This old bondslave prophesied to Mary and then looked forward to being dismissed, the prophetic promise of the Holy Spirit being fulfilled.

Anna: An old woman prophetess

Also in the Temple, the aged prophetess Anna approaches Jesus’ parents and “gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (2:38).

John: A young prophet

Next we see John the Baptist as a young man, beginning his prophetic ministry: “the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Lk 1:80; 3:2-3).

Jesus: A prophet who includes the outcasts

Jesus, “a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people” (Lk 24:19) regularly fellowships with those that the religious leaders of his day consider “sinners” (5:29).

1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.
2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
–Luke 15:1-2 NIV

In response, Jesus tells parables about God rejoicing over the lost being found and included in the fold.

Martin William Mittelstadt, summarizing Murray Dempter’s focus, states:

[T]he Lukan Jesus exemplifies social concern as he encounters the burning moral issues of his day—the treatment of aliens, the exploitation of women, the economic exploitation of the oppressed, underemployment and unemployment, and the dignity of children. Similarly, Spirit baptism enables the charismatic community to break down walls of partition between men and women, rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, and even demarcations of religious backgrounds within the Christian community itself.
[Martin William Mittelstadt, Reading Luke-Acts in the Pentecostal Tradition (Cleveland, TN: CPT Press, 2010), 117.]

The early Church grows through Spirit-inspired inclusivity

In the book of Acts, Luke reports inclusivity in the prophetic life of the Spirit among God’s people:

  • The Hebraic/Hellenistic problem of feeding widows is solved by appointing those “full of the Spirit and wisdom” to oversee fair distribution of food (Acts 6:1-5).
  • A new mission is established to the Samaritans with the preaching of the Gospel and the baptism in the Spirit (8:4-25).
  • Philip ministers to the Ethiopian eunuch (8:26-40).
  • God pours the Spirit out upon the Gentiles at an Italian’s home, thus opening Jewish table fellowship to the Gentiles (10:24-11:18).
  • A Gentile ministry team is formed after deliberation about how best to instruct them (15:1-33).
  • Philip has four daughters who prophesy (21:8-9).

Jesus preached a gospel open to all who will come. The Holy Spirit ratified His message and empowered the disciples to reach out in new ways to all peoples. Mittelstadt says that “Luke presents the alternative way of peace, a message of radical love based on God’s desire for communities built upon human inclusivity” (124).

Jesus said:

“I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”
–John 10:16 NIV

Are you filled with the Spirit of God as on the day of Pentecost? If not, ask Jesus to baptize you with the Holy Spirit (Lk 11:13). Then leave the ninety-nine to find the one who is lost and rejected. Include them in God’s love. This is the gospel we are commanded to share with everyone.