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The 8th Commandment, Property, and the Early Church

June 3, 2016 1 comment

In Tom Chantry’s “Ten Commandments” series, the section on the 8th commandment looks at the overall issue, the precept behind the wording “do not steal,” of ownership and property.  A study of this topic in both the Old and New Testaments affirms God’s purpose that people own individual property.  The fact that we are commanded to not steal, means that some items must belong to another person and that those items do not belong to you.

As pointed out in this lesson, Genesis 1:26 gives the dominion mandate to the human race

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Implied in this command is the reality that this could not be done by Adam alone:  Adam is a finite individual with limited resources.  Genesis 2 follows up with the specific situation for Adam: he as an individual, along with Eve, would have responsibility for one specific location, the garden – a particular location.  He was made the proprietor of a particular piece of land with defined boundaries.  The overall mandate of Genesis 1 could only be fulfilled through the mechanism of property ownership, of giving particular pieces of land to specific individuals.

Then, with the only country that truly could be called “God’s Country” – the Old Testament nation of Israel – we again see God’s concern and interest in individual property.  Leviticus 25 in particular tells us that the land belongs to God (“the land is mine,” verse 23) – and God’s ownership of the land was the basis on which the Israelites would own the land, and very specific laws were setup concerning the buying and selling of their property, within the context of the year of Jubilee.  The people of Israel were to live as the people of God, living out the commands, the moral precepts, of God.  Their living out these commands required that they have dominion over something, in order to use it for God and to bring glory to God.  As also brought out in scripture, the Israelites had to be free men – freeholders; they were not to be slaves, as slaves cannot fulfill this purpose of possessing something in order to use it for God.

To own something is not to grasp at something.  There is no practicality, and no virtue, in giving away all right and title to what is ours.  This brings the study to the issue of what was going on in the early church in Acts – a case which some have cited to claim support for communism and communal living.  After all, so the claim goes, the text says that the believers “had all things in common.”

But a close look at the texts – Acts 2:44, then Acts 4:32-33, and the first part of Acts 5 – clears away two common errors:  1) an assumption that the Acts texts are providing a legal definition of property, and 2) the idea that this situation was normative.  The first idea – a legal definition of property – ignores the use of language.  For instance, when someone visits us in our home, and we say “my house is your house” or “make yourself at home,” such expressions do not mean that we are relinquishing ownership – but rather a show of hospitality.  Peter’s words to Ananias in Acts 5 make it clear that Ananias’ sin was of lying, and not anything pertaining to the property itself.  The land, while unsold, belonged to Ananias, to do with as he pleased – it was his own, at his disposal; and when Ananias sold it, he then owned some money, which also was at his own disposal.  Thus, scripture itself proves that the early church was not a commune and was not some type of cult in which everyone gave up ownership to the “common pool.”

The early church in Acts was also a unique and unusual situation – and an opportunity for those who were wealthy to be generous and give of what they owned in order to help others.  At this point the church consisted of Jewish converts: people who had been part of the Jewish system and belonged to synagogues, yet now experienced persecution– which included excommunication from Judaism and possibly having their means of livelihood taken from them.  Thus the need to care for many poor people, including many only recently impoverished.  The situation opened a ministry need, which Barnabas (in Acts 4) and likely others as well, stepped into with their generosity.

Chantry also observes another aspect I had not considered, that perhaps is true; the early church had received the prophecy, the words from Jesus, that Jerusalem would be judged and destroyed at some point in the relatively near future.  Thus, the people who sold land had knowledge that the place would be destroyed, and that now was a good time to sell their property while it was still worth something.  Certainly if the land they sold was in or around Jerusalem, this well may have been the case.  Study through commentaries and historical research would better answer this question, of whether the people in Jerusalem were actually selling land that existed in that area or if they were engaging in sales of property that existed outside of that area.

Even aside from the question of the impending judgment upon Jerusalem, though, this lesson is a good study on the biblical issue of individual ownership and support for this point throughout the Bible: from earliest creation for all mankind, in Israel’s own government and civil laws, and the same teaching for us in the New Testament era.

The Holy Spirit, The Incarnation And Pentecost

July 24, 2015 2 comments

The 1689 Exposition Series has several lessons regarding the Christological view of what happened at Pentecost, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Some of this material, regarding the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament age as compared to now, was also addressed and in more depth, in David Murray’s blog post series (reference this previous blog post):  the quantitative difference, that the indwelling Holy Spirit in OT saints was like a water-dropper as compared to a pressure washer.

From this 1689 series lesson, another interesting difference between the work of the Holy Spirit in the OT versus now:  The Holy Spirit came in an Official, Formal sense at Pentecost; Christ also made His official/formal entrance at His incarnation.  Christ, the second Person of the Trinity, always existed and was active and present in the Old Testament (before His formal entrance at the incarnation).  Christ even appeared, in the many theophanies/Christophanies of the “Angel of the Lord,” in visible form many times to the Old Testament saints — such as to the patriarchs, Moses, and later Joshua, as well as later appearances (such as to Samson’s parents in Judges 13).  1 Corinthians 10:4-5 further tells us that Christ was the Rock that followed the people of Israel in the wilderness.

In like manner, we can know that the Holy Spirit existed before Pentecost (no error of Sabellianism, a type of modalism), was active and present in that age, and indwelled believers.  What came at Pentecost, that had not occurred before, included the greater quantity (a great outpouring, seen in the later massive number of believers saved in the book of Acts, as compared to the relative trickle of believers before that time) as well as this formal, official entrance — an entrance that occurred in connection with the other historical events of that time.  Following after Christ’s incarnation, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, came what Christ had promised would come, what He told the disciples to wait for (Acts 1:4-5).

 

 

 

The Gift of (Supernatural) Healing Along With Medical Help (Acts 28)

November 27, 2013 4 comments

From S. Lewis Johnson’s “Life of Paul” series, an interesting observation regarding the events on Malta in Acts 28:

Verses 8 and 9 describe two sets of healing.  In the first case, Paul laid his hands on Publius’ father and healed him – an apostolic sign, miraculous healing.  The next sentence describes how “the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured.”  Dr. Johnson here notes that the Greek words used for healing differ: the first word simply means “to heal” with no particular connotations, thus something supernatural.  But the word in verse 9 is different: therapeuo, from which comes our English words therapy and therapeutic:  healing through the use of medicine.  We also consider who was there:  Paul the apostle, and also Luke the physician.

As S. Lewis Johnson notes, we cannot be absolutely certain, but this text gives at least a “strong possibility” of an instance where the “gift of healing” was used alongside ordinary means of medical help.  Even during the apostolic age, and with the apostle Paul present (though later in his ministry), God still used the natural means of healing as He continues to use the ordinary means of accomplishing His purposes.

There are people who have, unfortunately, thought that the Scriptures taught that they must depend only on supernatural means for healing.  But there seems to be evidence here, not only that the apostles did perform supernatural acts of healing, but that it was perfectly harmonious for medical attention to be given, when available, and when it might be useful.  In fact Paul wrote to Timothy, you know, and said, “Take a little wine for your often infirmity’s sake.”

The Priests that Became Obedient to the Faith (S. Lewis Johnson Speculation)

November 1, 2013 2 comments

My recent Bible genre reading has included several references to lepers and leprosy.  In one day’s reading: the ten lepers healed in Luke 17:11-19, Leviticus 14 (the cleansing for the leper); and the four lepers (who were not healed) in Samaria in 2 Kings 7.  This reminds me of a little-noticed statement (also in my recent readings) in Acts 6:7, “and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.”  In the context (Acts 6), the apostles have performed many great miracles of healing, as recorded for instance in Acts 5:12-16 : Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. … And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women,15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

S. Lewis Johnson engaged in a little speculation concerning this point: what was it about the priests, that they became obedient to the faith?  Here we consider the significance of the great miracles that took place in Jesus’ gospel ministry and then continued (“what Jesus began to do and teach”) through the apostles’ ministry in the book of Acts.  Dr. Johnson’s observation here:

How is it, do you think, that the priests are especially singled out for faith?  In the Old Testament, in the Levitical prescriptions, two chapters are devoted to the way in which Israel should take care of the lepers.  Now remember, when the preaching of the gospel is to take place, Isaiah said, lepers are going to be healed.  And then, our Lord Jesus, when He comes on the scene, lepers are healed by Him.  It was a Messianic sign; that is, that He was the Messiah.  He was fulfilling what Isaiah set out in the Old Testament.

Now, it was said in the Old Testament that a certain prescribed ritual was to take place, when a leper was cleansed.  He was to bring a certain kind of offering; I cannot go into detail.  The only thing unusual about it, if you want to look at it in chapter 14 of the Book of Leviticus, it had to do with two birds.  He had to bring this prescribed ritual and there was a prescribed ritual for which the priest was to go; and then, the priest was to pronounce the individual clean who had been cleansed of leprosy.   [Now, remember: For fifteen hundred years before the time of our Lord, no leper, so far as the record is concerned, had been healed in Israel.  Naaman had been healed, but he was a Syrian.  Miriam, back in the earliest days, had leprosy.  No other person had been healed.]  Now, here, the apostles come on the scene, our Lord comes on the scene, and the lepers are being healed.  And so, what do they do?  Well, they go to the priests and they say, ‘We’ve been healed.  Isn’t there something in the Law about a ceremony we are to carry out?’   And the priests say, ‘the professors in our theological seminary didn’t tell us anything about that.’  They didn’t know what to do.  So, they had to do what a young preacher has to do when somebody comes and says, ‘Will you marry us next Wednesday?’  And he’s never married anybody before.  He rushes off and asks an older preacher, ‘What in the world shall I do?  What kind of ceremony can I give?’  And he is feverishly preparing for his marriage ceremony, which he’s never carried out.

So these priests — and in the course of these people who are streaming to the priests — they discover this in the Old Testament.  They discover also that the Messiah was said to be one who would heal leprosy.  And, during the course of these lepers coming to the priests, many of those priests are brought to the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  They recognize that this is really the Messianic ministry, and so ‘a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.’

The Apostle Paul: The Silent Years

October 18, 2013 2 comments

I’m now going through one of S. Lewis Johnson’s topical series on the Life of Paul, a sort of “biography” approach in chronological sequence through Paul’s life.  The “silent years,” in between Paul’s conversion and Acts 11:25-26 (when “Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch”) are also considered, especially in this message.  We don’t know the exact sequence of events, but from Paul’s statement in Galatians 1:17-21, at some point Paul left Damascus (Acts 9) and went to Arabia , then back to Damascus.  Then, after a brief time in Jerusalem to visit Peter (and he also met the Lord’s brother James), he “went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.”

But what did Paul do during those years, a period of perhaps 7 or 8 years? It’s possible that he spent the time in some solitude, to learn from the Lord.  Some have also suggested that he was useful in some evangelistic ministry.  Perhaps it was a public reason, because of Paul’s divisive character, that he was well known and his life in danger from the Jews in Jerusalem.  Dr. Johnson suggests all of these factors  may have been involved, observing:

Those silent years were years of preparation of our Lord on the human side for the ministry that he was to perform.  So Paul’s seven or eight years or more, how long they were we’re not absolutely certain, but they were a good many years, may have had some connection with the discipline of God, that the Lord wanted to put him, who is to be the great apostle of the Gentiles through.

That does not mean, of course, that he was not useful at all, but it was a necessary thing for him even through he was useful.  There is some reason to believe that when he was in Tarsus he did carry on some ministry.

Perhaps also, there is a more public reason why the apostle spent six or eight years away from the land.  After all Paul was too divisive a character.  He was the one who had advanced in Judaism beyond his contemporaries.  He was the great defender of Judaism against the newly rising Christian cult.  And so, for this one upon whom they depended on for the defeat of Christianity to turn to Christianity, that would provoke them much more than some disinterested third party, or some third party in whom they were not interested, turning to Christianity.  So it may have been that he was thought too divisive.  His life was in danger wherever he went in the land.  They sought to kill him in Jerusalem.  They sought to kill him in Damascus.  And therefore, it may have been that he was sent back to Tarsus for a period of time in order to allow that situation to die down a bit.

The New Testament gives us a few hints that Paul also did some evangelistic work while he was in Tarsus and Cilicia, though it is not recorded in the book of Acts.

1)       Acts 15:23 and Acts 15:41 – After the Jerusalem council, they wrote a letter to send out to all of the churches.  The letter was addressed to the brethren “who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia.”  Now, notice that, Syria and Cilicia, now Tarsus was in Cilicia.  So evidently there were brethren there.  Now, we will assume that perhaps the apostle is responsible for the brethren being there in Tarsus.  Then in verse 41, after Paul’s break with Barnabas and choosing to go out with Silas, we are told that “he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.”  These churches were already there, in that very region where Paul had spent several years.

 So there were churches in Syria and there were church in Cilicia.  So we can just imagine that the apostle, even though he was confined to Tarsus, was not inactive.  He was busy in that particular area preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and assisting in the formation of churches.  And that’s part of the silent period of the apostle’s life.  It would be very interesting to hear exactly what had transpired with the apostle during those years.  I presume that when we get to heaven, this is one of the things that we shall hear about.  We will be brought up-to-date concerning the activities of the saints not recorded in the word of God, and not found also in the histories that have been written of the Christian church since that time.

2)    2 Corinthians 11:22-33 – In this well-known passage Paul describes his sufferings to the Corinthians, in the process of defending his ministry to them. Here he tells of experiences not recorded in the book of Acts, and we can note that “the apostle evidently had a lot of experiences that caused him to be beaten”: the five times that he received the 40 stripes less 1 from the Jews, and three times beaten with rods.  Three times that he was shipwrecked, but the book of Acts only tells us of one such time.

‘A night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren.’  There’s no need to read the whole list.  You can see the apostle had many Christian experiences that are not recorded in the Book of Acts nor found in his epistles.  So he must have had a rather rich experience over that period of time in Tarsus.

 

 

Priscilla: Women Teaching Outside the Church — S. Lewis Johnson Observations

February 20, 2013 5 comments

Sharing some great observations from S. Lewis Johnson, concerning a topic relevant today: the role of women in instructing others, including men, outside of the church.  Since our modern-day world includes many opportunities not only for face-to-face but also “virtual” online conversations (in online groups, blog comments, facebook posts, etc.), this issue still comes up from time to time.

So for future reference, here are S. Lewis Johnson’s observations concerning Priscilla’s role in Acts.

First, a character description from SLJ’s Acts series:

Most Bible students, however, believe that Priscilla is mentioned more frequently before Aquila, because of the fact that she evidently was a very well instructed woman in the doctrines of the word of God.  And, later on, in this very chapter, we shall see some evidence of it.

Concerning Priscilla’s role in teaching:

And so we read, “And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.”  Now, the woman did part of that exposition, too.  And incidentally if you will look at this in the Greek text, my Authorized Version here has the order Aquila and Priscilla, but the Greek text at this point in verse 26 reads that Priscilla and Aquila took him to themselves and taught him the way of the Lord more accurately.  So the implication from that, it’s only an implication, is that she took the lead.  And I’m willing to agree that when they got in the house she did more of the talking than Aquila [Laughter].  I will not debate that at all.  So I am willing to believe that she probably did take the lead.  And part of the effectiveness of this man Apollos was because Priscilla, who was instructed in the word of God, taught him more perfectly the things of the Lord.  The apostle says nothing about that in 1 Timothy chapter 2.  He talks about teaching in the church.  So ladies, the field is open outside the church.  Go ahead and pick on some of these fellows that don’t understand the doctrines of the sovereignty of God like they ought to, and instruct them in the great doctrines of the faith.  Do it, I need your help.  So do it.

S. Lewis Johnson Teachings

March 31, 2010 1 comment

Here is a brief excerpt from the first message in S. Lewis Johnson’s “Life of David” series, an 8-part series he taught in the late 1970s.  He did this series at the same time as the Genesis series, which he makes reference to.  He had recently preached through the section on Esau and Jacob, as here he likens Saul to Esau, the more likeable guy that we could relate to  — in contrast to Jacob and David.  Johnson also makes reference to the Dallas Cowboys’ Roger Staubach.

It’s possible that a man like Abraham excelled David in faith because when we think of Abraham we think of the great exemplar of faith.  He was the great man of faith, and he is the one who is used as the illustration of faith in the New Testament.  Probably Elijah excelled him in forcefulness because Elijah was the prophet of fire, and no doubt some could make a good case for Moses excelling him in communion with the Lord.  But when you look at David as a versatile man, it’s probably doubtful that any of these men excelled David in versatility for he was a man who had numerous talents and gifts given him by God.  He was a man of faith.  He was a forceful man.  He was a warrior.  He also was a man who spent a great deal of time in fellowship and communion with the Lord.  And so he’s a well rounded man of God.

From S. Lewis Johnson’s Acts series, Acts 21, on the matter of Paul’s attitude towards the Mosaic law:

To put it in the words of one of the finest New Testament commentators, “A truly emancipated spirit, such as Paul’s is not in bondage to its own emancipation.”  We are free to put ourselves under law, for a particular reason, Paul says.  But that doesn’t mean that we are not free.  We are free.  We are free to be under the law.  We are free from the law, or we are free for the exercise of the law upon occasion.

But, now, when it comes to the gospel that’s a different matter.  If, for example, our action of being under law compromises the principle of grace, then the apostle will not submit to a legal requirement.  And the finest illustration of this is the passage in Galatians chapter 2, and Titus’ circumcision.  Timothy is desired to be circumcised, in order that they might have ministry and freedom of it.  But in Titus’ case, where the issue was circumcision as a means of salvation, listen to what Paul says about that.

Galatians 2, verse 1, “Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.  And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them, which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.  But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:  And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage.”

Acts 15: James’ words to the Jerusalem Council

February 8, 2010 4 comments

In my daily Bible Study time in S. Lewis Johnson’s Acts series, recently I listened to SLJ’s exposition of Acts 15, including the passage where James quotes from Amos 9.

It’s a familiar passage — and one often abused by amillennialists who claim that James is here claiming fulfillment of Amos 9 in the Church Age. As I learned through later study, and seriously looking at the actual words, James never makes any claim for fulfillment. He merely says that what is happening now is “in agreement with” what the prophets spoke of, about Gentiles being saved.

But S. Lewis Johnson brings up a few interesting things beyond what I had considered, as to why James is saying what he says in the first place. The context is the council, with an audience that includes believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees (verse 5). These evidently were true believers (unlike the Judaizers that Paul later contended with) who still had some confusion and error in their understanding. By this point in the chapter, Peter has spoken up, as have Paul and Barnabas. So now James speaks, with gentleness instead of a proud, sharp “I told you so” attitude. James does this by quoting from Amos, to point out that the prophets all spoke of a time of Jewish rejection; but the restoration will still occur. When James says “after this,” the “this” speaks of the current situation (the Jewish rejection of the Messiah), with assurance to the Jewish Christians regarding what is yet to come.

The next part, verses 19 – 21, relates to the matter of weak versus strong believers — also referenced in Paul’s epistles regarding meat sacrificed to idols, and Paul’s continual zeal to never offend a weaker believer. The whole point about the letter sent to the Gentile churches, telling them to abstain from certain things (meat sacrificed to idols, meat with blood in it, and sexual immorality), is based on the principle of not offending the weaker Jewish believers — and for consideration of Jewish unbelievers, matters that might hinder the spread of the Gospel. When James says in verse 21, “For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath,” that is a reference to the fact that Jews were spread about everywhere in the Gentile world — and thus to not damage the consciences of weaker Jewish believers.

I found these observations interesting, and a great example of how we can sometimes, just quickly reading through a passage over and over, without in-depth study and the commentaries of Bible teachers, miss the significance of the words of the text. I was well familiar with the passage itself, but had never delved deeper into “why” James and the others said some of the things mentioned here. Yet the greater explanation, regarding the weaker Jewish believers and their consciences, certainly fits with the text and makes sense.

Lessons from Acts: The Life of Stephen

December 17, 2009 2 comments

In my study through the book of Acts, S. Lewis Johnson points out a lot of interesting things. The last few messages have dealt with the short life of Stephen: Acts 6 and Acts 7.

Johnson discusses and speculates concerning the relationship between Stephen and Saul of Tarsus; one of the sermons for this part is even titled “The Paul Before Paul.” The text tells us that Saul was there giving approval to Stephen’s death, and that those who stoned Stephen laid their coats at Saul’s feet. Yet Acts 6 also tells us that the Jews tried arguing against Stephen, though unsuccessfully. It is very likely that the apostle Paul was one of those leading Jewish debaters trying to defeat Stephen in such arguments. Paul was also a Hellenistic Jew, hanging out in the Hellenistic syngagogues as Stephen was, and by Paul’s own later admission he had been a leader, unequalled and advancing far beyond the understanding of other Jews of his age. So, SLJ points out, it was very likely that Saul of Tarsus was the point man for the events of Acts 6; none of the other Jews could defeat Stephen, so they called on Saul to do so. The apostle Paul had been schooled by the Pharisee Gamaliel, yet it’s very likely that he learned more from Stephen.

In reference to Acts 7, Stephen’s speech to the Jews, Johnson notes something I’ve heard a few times before: that the New Testament does not give us the example of expository preaching, verse-by-verse through a Bible book. That fact is interesting, very different from the common advice today to preach sequentially through a text–and I certainly do enjoy the expository preaching “book series” sermons. Yet as SLJ points out, the sermons given in Acts are more of an overview of God’s redemptive work and God’s purposes throughout Israel’s history. From browsing the MP3 titles on the websites (Believers Chapel and the SLJ Institute), I have noticed that S. Lewis Johnson also preached several non-expository, non-sequential, doctrinal overview series — for instance, “Basic Bible Doctrines,” “God’s Plan for the Ages,” “The Divine Purpose”, and “The Divine Purpose in History and Prophecy.” I am considering one of these series for my next lesson plans (after this Acts series), and this encourages me toward that idea.

SLJ notes some of the distinctives of Stephen’s speech, and briefly notes one I had heard previously: that Stephen especially points out the incidents that occurred in locations outside of Israel, to show that God is present in many places outside of Israel. He does not make more of it than is warranted (such as one preacher who tried to justify Church Replacement theology from this text), but notes it as it relates to Stephen’s purposes in the speech: God’s sovereignty over the people in all locations and times, and that throughout all of these experiences outside the land, the Israelites had persistently rebelled against their leaders including Joseph and Moses. Stephen’s speech also emphasizes that for God the tabernacle was the only thing commanded; the temple was thought of by men, not something commanded by God.

Now to the end of Acts 7: Stephen sees Jesus “standing” at the right hand of God. Elsewhere we are told in the Bible that Jesus is “sitting” at the right hand of God; of course He isn’t chained there, as though He cannot get up. SLJ pictures the “standing” as Jesus’ special gift to Stephen, that Stephen sees before his death that Jesus is especially greeting him, Stephen, as the first martyr of the Christian Church.

Stephen was apparently a young man, one of many since that time who burned brightly for a time–and to us their early death seems a great loss. Surely such a gifted man as Stephen would have been of great benefit to the early church. Yet God has His purposes when He takes such men at a young age. We really don’t know the time of our death, and we cannot take for granted a long life from God. S. Lewis Johnson relates that many times in his seminary classes, he would tell his young students that he would go to heaven before they would, and admit his enjoyment about it (that he would be in heaven before they). Yet, he now observed that it turned out that he was still here (he was 69 when he did the Acts series in late 1984), and some of those seminary students had already died and gone to heaven before he did; he mentioned that one of his students had died 25 years ago. So indeed basic things, such as normal life span, do not always work out as we suppose they will.

Interestingly enough, I must confess that I have recently had similar joyous thoughts. Now that I’m in my mid-40s, I am thankful that, if the Lord tarries in His return, I will go to be with Jesus that much sooner than the younger believers I know, and consider this as one advantage of being older–that many fewer years left dealing with this evil world. So here too I can better appreciate SLJ’s later words of wisdom. I really cannot say with certainty that I will go to heaven before the twenty-something believer. SLJ must have had similar thoughts as I, when he was in his forties (twenty five years before the Acts series), and I can take heart that such thoughts are at least somewhat common for my age.

The Stephen-series within the book of Acts is a nice look at this part of Acts, at the great life of Stephen, who died a harsh death but with great reward. He lived well, died well, and he has been remembered throughout the centuries even to our time.