Mom Emails II: The Full Gospel

Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna funded Jesus’ ministry. Priscilla and Aquila were co-workers with Paul and taught Apollos about Jesus. Mary the mother of Jesus and several other women were present in the upper room at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon the believers. Surely, women had shared the Passover meal with Jesus for the two previous years, but not this time? Really?

Sermon Series: Mom Emails, Part II ~ The Full Gospel ~ September 23, 2018 ~ Acts 18:24-26

The amount of time we actually spend on the phone these days, I think, has decreased significantly, and we’re doing mostly email and texting, and it is mostly the way I communicate with my own mom, for good or for worse.

Recently, this past summer, I had been talking with her about possibly including some women with our Last Supper worship service that we do every Holy Thursday – not just a part of the presentation, like we did last year, but actually sitting at the table with the other disciples. I had my reasons to think about that. She disagreed. Our conversation back and forth became this sermon series, Mom Emails.

Now, last week, the reason I mentioned Joseph and Mary’s betrothal, their engagement, was to point out that although the Bible does specifically talk about their engagement, it does not mention any subsequent wedding, which we do believe took place, because God would not have Joseph and Mary living together for however long, he would have them want to get married. So, we assume that they got married, in fact, they are referenced as husband and wife after that point. It was simply to point out that not everything that happened during Jesus’ lifetime was written down in the Scriptures. It’s the same reason I mentioned Joseph and Mary accidentally leaving Jesus behind in Jerusalem. Although that’s a pretty cool story and I enjoy that, it wasn’t because they left Jesus behind, but because after that story, Joseph disappears. He mysteriously is no longer mentioned in the biblical narrative whatsoever from that point forward. We are assuming, correctly, I believe, that he died. But again, that is not written down anywhere in here. As I said, not everything that happened during Jesus’ lifetime was written down in the Bible. I’m trying to build an argument, a position, that some things took place which are true but were not recorded. In fact, the Bible admits it. It admits it’s the case. Remember I mentioned in John 21:25:

Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written. (John 21:25)

So, my overall point last week was that some things did take place, some things did happen which are true, that we are left to figure out on our own, based upon our logic and our common sense. So, when I asked the question, could women have been at the table at the Last Supper and that was another thing that was just not written down as well? I don’t know. As I said last week, in a male dominated culture, Jesus was a champion of women. He included them, he lifted them up. So, would he then exclude them from the most important Passover celebration ever? Welcome to part 2 of Mom Emails: the Full Gospel. Please join me in the unison prayer as we prepare to study the Word of God. Let us pray.

Lord, upon the pages of this book is your story. It is also our story. Open our eyes that we may see, our ears that we may hear, our minds that we may understand, and our hearts that they may be transformed. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

We’re looking at the book of Acts this morning, chapter 18, beginning in verse 24.

Meanwhile, a Jew named Apollos, an eloquent speaker who knew the Scriptures well, had arrived in Ephesus from Alexandria in Egypt. He had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy. However, he knew only about John’s baptism. (Acts 18:24-25)

Now, it is now AD 54. It’s been 21 years since Jesus ascended to heaven and said to his followers:

“You will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere; in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

And accordingly, the apostle Paul is now on his third missionary journey. Paul becomes the most significant character in all of the New Testament, save Jesus himself. Fourteen of the 27 books in the New Testament were written by Paul.

So, Paul is off, not keeping the gospel locked up in a safe, but sharing it; traveling to Galatia and Phrygia on his third journey. Other people were doing the same, such as Apollos, a Jewish Christian, meaning he was a Jewish believer who did come to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. So, he was a Jewish Christian and a powerful and elegant preacher. Like Paul, Apollos is also on the road, traveling.

Seventeen hundred miles, all over the eastern Mediterranean basin. And he ends up here, in the city of Ephesus.

He had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy. However, he only knew about John’s baptism. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him preaching boldly in the synagogue…

… they were impressed…

… they took him aside and explained the way of God even more accurately. (Acts 18:25-26)

You see, Apollos only had half of the story. Apollos only knew about John’s baptism. What does that mean? Well, let’s go back to discover what John’s baptism is. In Matthew, chapter 3, John the Baptist says, beginning in verse 11:

“I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am – so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gather the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.” (Matthew 3:11-12)

So, John’s baptism is a baptism of repentance. “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God.” Repentance is an action. Repentance means turning from the direction you were going, which to most of us is walking away from God. When you repent, you do a 180. You turn and you walk back towards God; listening to him, following him, believing in his word, and being obedient. That’s what repentance means.

That’s what John was yelling at the Pharisees and the Sadducees in verse 7.

He says:

“You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee the coming wrath?” (Matthew 3:7)

What’s the coming wrath? Preaching God’s wrath isn’t very popular nowadays because it makes us uncomfortable. We just want to preach about joy, love, peace, everlasting happiness… The wrath is one day, we will all stand before God. That’s called Judgment Day. And he, and only he (not me), only he will judge what we have done with our lives. If we are found guilty, if we are found to be sinners, we will suffer the punishment we deserve, which is hell. If we have Jesus standing next to us, pleading our case, we will not. That’s the wrath of God – delivering justice deserved.

“Who warned you to flee the coming wrath? Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. (Matthew 3:7-8)

It’s something we should be able to see. When someone says, “I’m now a Christian, I’m a believer, I’ve accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior,” but you don’t see any behavior change in them whatsoever – they’re still angry, they’re still bitter, they’re still vindictive, they’re still judgmental – they haven’t changed one iota that you notice from before they knew Jesus, then guess what? I don’t think they really knew Jesus. It was all just words. Talk, not action. He says:

“Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’”

I know lots of people who say, “Well, I’m safe, I go to church.” “I’m safe, I pray.” “I’m safe, I’ve been baptized.”

“That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit…”

– you can see fruit –

“…will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.” (Matthew 3:8-10)

And there is that analogy again, into the fire. He said later that Jesus will gather the wheat into his barn, burning the chaff with never-ending fire. There’s an illusion here, an analogy that there is a hell! I know that’s not very popular to mention nowadays either, but it’s true. There is a heaven, and there is a hell. So, they needed to change their ways. We all need to change our ways, but even that is only part of the story. Even if I was able to change my ways from this point forward, if I was able to go and sin no more. Remember that phrase, that verse? It was from when Jesus was confronted by the woman caught in the act of adultery. She was brought to the wall, and she was ready to be stoned to death, which was according to the law – would have been deserved justice. And what does Jesus do? Mercy. Grace. Forgiveness. That scene is a precursor to every single one of our Judgment Days, for those who believe in Christ. Now, he does say to her, “Go and sin no more.” Now, do you think she never sinned again, ever? I don’t. That’s not humanly possible. I don’t think she ever committed adultery again, because he said, go, and do not do THAT sin anymore. But it’s not possible for her to be perfect from that point forward. So, even if I was able to go and sin no more, even if I was able to never sin again, from today forward, what about all of my past sins? What about all the times in the past that I have lied, that I have stolen, that I have blasphemed – used the name of God as a curse word? I have a record! And, I know I’m going to fall in the future. So, yes, I have repented. Yes, I have turned my direction 180 degrees and I’m walking with the Lord now. From this point on I’m going to be ok. But I have a record! Not in Civil court (not yet), but in the heavenly court, he knows everything I’ve ever done. He knows everything I’ve ever said. He knows everything I’ve ever thought. And he’s got a record of it all, and I’m going to have to face all of that on Judgment Day. And if I receive that which I deserve, I will be found guilty. And when I am found guilty, heaven is not my destination.

I want to be saved from eternal damnation. I want to be saved from hell. See, people, we use that phrase all the time, don’t we? “I’m saved! Are you saved? She’s saved, he’s saved. When did you get saved? How did you get saved?” Stop and think: saved. From what? We have something to be saved from: the fire. Hell. You see, John’s baptism is only part of the story. We need to have our record expunged, both past and future! And John’s baptism doesn’t do that. What does? What is it that is going to save us on the day of judgment? I’ll tell you what won’t: your resume.

You know when you make out a resume? Who wouldn’t get hired, ever, any position you’ve ever applied for based on your resume? We’re all superstars on our resume! But when we go through life, we’re not checking off blocks: “Oh, I did that, that’s a good thing.” “Oh, I did this, that’s a good thing.” And then at the end of our life we’re going to present this list of good things to Peter at the gates, and he’s going to say, “Oh, you’re basically a good person! You get to go in!” That’s not how it works! There is nothing we can do to earn our way into heaven. So what is going to save us on Judgment Day? Not our resume. Jesus. He’s the one that said, “This is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.” Jesus is the sacrifice. He is the one who will expunge our records. He is the one who will forgive our sins – past, present, and future – and he is the only hope for our salvation. That’s why it’s so important to share that message with folks. There are too many people out there who think they’re going to heaven because they’re basically a good person. I’m sure they are! But that’s not what gets us there. We will always fall short. Romans 3:23:

We all fall short of the glory of God.

Why? Because God’s glory, God’s standard is perfection. And none of us are perfect. We will always fall short. Jesus makes up the difference. He is the one who saves us.

Apollos knew about Jesus, I mean, it said in here that he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit. But apparently he just knew that Jesus was the one John was talking about as the one who was coming, the one who was so much greater than he, that he wasn’t worthy even to be his slave or carry his sandals. Apollos knew that Jesus was going to baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. But he didn’t know what that meant. He didn’t know about expunging our records. He didn’t know about forgiveness of sins, past, present, and future. That’s kind of the most important part of the story to share with someone, wouldn’t you think?

So, who then – and here’s what I’m driving at – who then does God give that responsibility? Who then does God assign this responsibility, this task, of teaching Apollos the rest of the story? A scholar? An apostle? A rabbi? No. Priscilla and Aquila.

And don’t blow by the fact too quickly that Paul listed Priscilla’s name first. That is both intentional and important. At a time when women were seen as second class citizens, God uses Priscilla to teach Apollos the full gospel, the whole story. A woman (and her husband). And after they explain to Apollos the whole story, the full gospel, verse 27:

Apollos had been thinking about going to Achaia, and the brothers and sisters in Ephesus encouraged him to go. They wrote to the believers in Achaia, asking them to welcome him. When he arrived there, he proved to be of great benefit to those who, by God’s grace, had believed. He refuted the Jews with powerful arguments in public debate…

 – who were trying to explain that Jesus was not the Messiah –

… Using the Scriptures, he explained to them that Jesus was the Messiah. (Acts 18:27-28)

Who knows how many thousands of people became disciples, became followers of Christ, because of the ministry of Apollos now that he had the full gospel, the whole story, because of Priscilla and Aquila. Once again, there seems to be this theme of God using women powerfully. In fact, what about the rest of Jesus’ ministry as a whole?

Remember a few weeks ago we read Luke chapter 8:

Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples. (Luke 8:1-3)

So, here you have – I remember last week I promised I would talk more about these ladies this week – and here we have Mary Magdalene and Joanna, Susanna and other women funding Jesus’ ministry out of their own pocket. Without them, Jesus and his disciples would not have been able to buy food, or clothing, or even transportation. How many times do you read in the Bible, “Jesus crossed to the other side of the lake.” Did you think that happened for free, that all these boat captains down near the seashore are watching Jesus, his twelve disciples, a bunch of other women, 20-25 people, “Come on, get on my boat, I’ll bring you all the way to the other side of the lake for nothing!” No! Absolutely not! Nobody’s running a charity back then. They see a big gaggle of people, they’re thinking, huh, half a sheckle per…

They didn’t travel all over the place free of charge. They needed money, they needed resources. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna’s financial support made Jesus and his disciples’ ministry possible. They needed those women. No differently than South Church needs you today. Without you, we would not have a Tree of Life Ministry – a Tree of Life Ministry that reaches out to women who find themselves with an unplanned pregnancy and who are contemplating terminating that pregnancy because of the circumstances they found themselves in. Our Tree of Life Ministry reaches out to them, encourages them to consider choosing life for the child growing in them. And then if they do, we don’t just pat them on the back and say, “Good for you!” and let them go, because they’re still alone, they’re still scared. No, we walk alongside them. We become their mentor and their friend. We share the gospel with them. We invite them to come to our fellowship; to join this family if they so choose; to encourage them to have a relationship with Christ; to walk beside them, help them out however we can, maybe with some diapers, formula, whatever we can provide – through the birth of the child and then through the first birthday. So, we celebrate a baby shower and then we have a first birthday party. None of that happens without you.

We wouldn’t have our Sparrow Ministry on Saturday, where hundreds of people come for a hot breakfast. All kinds of people, we don’t care – black, white, Hispanic, Asian, gay, straight – we don’t care if you’re addicted or clean, whether you’re democrat or republican. We don’t check! Are you hungry? Come, have a meal. That doesn’t happen without you.

Our children’s ministry. Because of you, we have the ability to have a Miss Vicki, and a Miss Moneca. To begin to plant seeds in these young children, teach them the love and compassion and mercy and grace in the cross, and forgiveness. We’re planting seeds in them and nurturing them, and watering them, and watching them grow into people who get it. We wouldn’t be able to do that without you.

What about our brothers and sisters in Haiti? Pastor Francois and his congregation is trying to do the exact same thing in Camp Perrin that we’re trying to do in Hartford – share the full gospel, the whole truth, with his community.

Get people saved so they don’t have to worry about the day of judgment. The day of judgment is of no concern to me, because I have Christ in my corner! They are doing this on a far smaller budget than ours, in a building that looks significantly different than this. That wouldn’t happen without you.

See, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna were vital to the success of Jesus’ mission, throughout Galilee, Samaria and Judea, just as you are vital to the success of Jesus’ mission here at South Church. So, God depended on those ladies. He knew they would step up, and they did.

Then there’s the story in Acts that we read about after witnessing Jesus ascend into heaven, the disciples return to the upstairs room where they were staying. In Acts 1:13 it says:

Here are the names of those who were present: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James (son of Alphaeus), Simon (the zealot), and Judas (son of James). They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus. (Acts 1:13-14)

They’re all there in the upper room. Seven weeks go by, and then in chapter 2:

On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present…

– everybody who was there –

… was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability. (Acts 2:1-4)

Now, this is the promised arrival, I’m writing to my mom, of the Holy Spirit. We also recognize this as the birth of the Christian church. And who was there? Mary the mother of Jesus, and several other women! Again, Gosh! There just seems to be a consistent theme with God here. He sees men and women as equals. He treats them the same! You are correct, mom. Nowhere specifically in the Bible does it say that women were at the table at the Last Supper. I don’t mean to imply that to be a fact. It’s just a theory of mine, I think with some good reasoning behind it. I mean, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna funded Jesus’ ministry. Priscilla and Aquila were co-workers with Paul and taught Apollos about the full gospel, the important part – that Jesus died for your sins. I can’t emphasize that enough. Christmas is wonderful, one of my favorite times of the year, but if we just had Christmas, we’re still all condemned. We need Easter! We need Jesus to go to the cross! We need Jesus to die for our sins! If we don’t have that, we’re lost. So, if you’re preaching a message of ONLY Jesus’ love, which is true, but you forget the second half, you’re still lost! Besides, think about it: The message of Jesus is love, or Jesus said, “Love one another.” “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Great advice. Wonderful sentiment. Does that piece of advice warrant gathering together every Sunday and saying, “Oh, thank you Jesus for those words of wisdom to love one another and do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.” Really? How many other religions say a very similar thing? It’s all about love. That’s not going to drive me to be here every Sunday. You know what’s going to drive me to be here every Sunday? I am thankful and appreciative that that is going to keep me out of hell. That’s why I come every Sunday! Thank you Jesus, for taking my sins to the cross, putting them to death in the grave, and leaving them there. I am saved from what I deserve. That’s why I come every Sunday. Praise God, thank you Jesus. That’s the full gospel. It’s not just about loving one another.

But the point is, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna funded Jesus’ ministry. Priscilla and Aquila were co-workers with Paul and taught Apollos about the full gospel. Mary the mother of Jesus and several other women were in the room at Pentecost when the church was born. Women were highly involved in Jesus’ ministry. They were highly involved in the disciples’ ministry. They were highly involved in the church’s ministry. But let me get this straight – they weren’t allowed to come to Jesus’ Seder meal at Passover. Does that sound right to you mom? Love, Adam. Send.

(Actually, I really don’t want to tell you this, but she calls me Adam-y. See, my older brother is George, so his nickname growing up was Georgie. My youngest brother is John, so he’s Johnny. There’s nothing to do with Adam, it just kind of stops. Adam. So she used to call me Adam-y. Don’t you dare. I should never have said that, but I had to tell you the truth. That’s how I sign my emails to her. Love, Adam-y. Send.)

None of this is absolute verifiable proof that there were women at the table at the Last Supper, but next week we will read about whether or not the Bible itself actually mentions a female apostle. Not disciple, apostle. You do not want to miss the exciting conclusion of Mom Emails. And all God’s people said, AMEN!

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