Things that divide us (and unite us)

Immediately before Jesus ascended into heaven he spoke with his apostles. Remember, they had witnessed his death, burial and resurrection. They had sat under his teaching and watched him perform miracles. They knew who Jesus was. And so, they had an opportunity here, right before he returned to heaven, to ask him pretty much anything. According to Acts 1:6 this is what they asked…

“Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” — Acts 1:6b

You may recall that prior to Christ’s coming many Jews expected the Messiah to be a military and political leader who would throw off Roman rule in Israel. They were looking for someone to restore the kingdom of Israel to the status it had enjoyed under kings David and Solomon. But, of course, this was never God’s plan. One would think the apostles, above all others, would get this by now. But they don’t. Even after everything that has happened they are still wondering if the moment has finally come when Jesus will restore Israel.

>sigh<

Before we get too frustrated with the apostles, perhaps a little perspective is in order. Here goes…

Empire10Our world is divided. This fact should be clearly evident. Just pay attention to the news every once in a while — or just step outside and look — the evidence is everywhere. We have different nationalities, ethnicities, and languages. And, because man is fallen and hopelessly corrupted by sin, it inevitably follows that our pride converts these differences into deep divisions…

“My (country, language, culture, philosophy, race) is the greatest one in the world.”

Our hubris takes this notion a step further…

“Surely God is more concerned with my (country, language, culture, philosophy, race) than he is with others, because he has clearly blessed my (country, language, culture, philosophy, race) more than others.

This sad, sin-corrupted, way of thinking has always plagued man. That is why the apostles were still thinking about their earthly kingdom of Israel, when Jesus was teaching them about the Kingdom of God. Note Jesus’ response to their question…

He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” — Acts 1:7-8

Their mission was not to defeat the Romans and reestablish the kingdom of Israel. It was to spread the only message that has the power to cure men from their perverted thinking — to free them from their bondage to a sin-corrupted worldview. Their message was to spread the Gospel — not only to their own countrymen, but to every single nation, ethnic group and language group in the entire world.

The apostles were still thinking in terms of earthly kingdoms and all the divisions they imply. They wanted their kingdom restored. Yet, God was (and is) in the process of establishing quite a different Kingdom — one that bridges the chasms between nations, ethnic groups, and languages. His Kingdom transcends all of these things. God’s Word even provides us with a glimpse of how this works out. The apostle John, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, recorded a vision he was granted of heaven.

Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped. — Revelation 5

empire2The apostles did not yet have this kind of Kingdom perspective. You can almost understand how they kept missing the point. We, on the other hand, have the benefit of John’s vision. We’ve been granted a Kingdom perspective. And, if we end up focusing on our own little worldly kingdom and spending all of our time asking God when he is finally going to restore our earthly kingdom to its former glory, then aren’t we more to blame than the apostles?

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About Chip
Chip is a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, AR and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis, TN. He served more than five years on the staff of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana as Director of Communications and Public Relations, editor of the Indiana Baptist newsjournal, and regular contributor to the Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. He currently earns his living as a writer. He serves his local church as a teacher and deacon and his local Baptist Association as a Seminary Extension instructor and supply preacher.

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