|Volume 22 Number 4 April 2020||
There was persecution in Jerusalem! The whole city was in an uproar. The Jewish leaders wanted to stamp out Christianity! When that persecution broke out, the Bible says that the Christians in Jerusalem were scattered abroad. Well, instead of cutting out what they perceived as cancer, the Jewish persecutors only served to scatter the Christian message throughout the land. Christians went everywhere preaching the Word. “Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them” (Acts 8:5 NKJV). What did Philip preach when he “preached Christ” to them?
We meet Philip earlier in the Book of Acts. He was a partner with Stephen who was killed in the Jerusalem persecution. We call Stephen the first Christian martyr. Philip and Stephen, and five other men, were chosen by the church to oversee the daily distribution the church was collecting for and giving to poor, needy widows. Philip also had been given the power to work miracles. God gave the early church such gifts as these in order to confirm the message that they were preaching—the message of Christ. Acts 8:5 says that Philip preached Christ to the Samaritans; what does it mean to “preach Christ”?
Acts 8:12 tells us more about Philip’s preaching. “But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized” (Acts 8:12). The result of Philip’s preaching is summed up in the words, “both men and women were baptized.” After Christ is preached “men and women” will want to be baptized. Notice also from this verse 12 that when Christ is preached something is said about the things concerning the kingdom of God. Philip also preached the “name of Jesus Christ.” You can’t preach Christ without preaching the name of Christ.
What does it mean to preach Christ? We conclude that preaching Christ must mean preaching the kingdom of God and preaching the name of Jesus Christ. Let’s study more closely these two expressions so we can learn what it means to preach Christ.
When Jesus came preaching in Galilee, He was preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” In the New Testament, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Heaven are the same kingdom. Jesus also called it “my kingdom” when He was standing before Pilate. When Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews,” Jesus replied, “It is as you say” (Matthew 27:11). Then Jesus added, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from here” (John 18:26 KJV). Three times in that one verse, Jesus called the kingdom “my kingdom.” We read more about this “kingdom” in Colossians 1, where the apostle Paul wrote to Christians he had never met. We begin reading in the middle of a long sentence. In the KJV, this sentence stretches from verse 9 all the way down to verse 17. In verse 12 we read, “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Colossians 1:12-13).
Christians can partake of the inheritance because they have been made fit. The “meet” means “fit.” The Heavenly Father has made us fit to share in the inheritance of the saints. This inheritance is in the “light.” There is no darkness where the Christian’s inheritance is located.
Well, how did the Father make us “fit” to be partakers? The Father delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of His dear son. The power of darkness is death. Not the first death, but the second death. That’s the one we should fear. The second death is the one that holds such dread. Do you remember the time when Jesus told His disciples what to expect when they preached Christ? He said I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves. Yet, Jesus told his disciples not to be afraid of those who can kill the body. Rather, fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28). That’s the second death, the one that will separate us from the Heavenly Father forever. People who have believed and obeyed Jesus Christ have been delivered from the second death, the power of darkness. That right!
After being delivered from the power of darkness, the Heavenly Father translated these believers into “the kingdom of His dear Son.” Ah, those church members at Colossae were in the kingdom of God’s dear Son, Jesus Christ. Friends, the church of Christ is the kingdom of Christ. Jesus made this connection in Matthew 16 when He and His disciples came into the coast of Caesarea Philippi. Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man am?”
And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell [hades] shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 16:14-19)
You see, Jesus used the terms “church” and “kingdom” interchangeably. Jesus’ church is His kingdom. When Philip preached Christ in Samaria, he was preaching the things concerning the church of Christ. Some people say they want Jesus but not the church. The church is the body of Christ; how can anyone separate Christ from His body, His people? When we obey the Gospel of Christ, the Heavenly Father translates us into the kingdom of His dear Son. That’s what happened to the Samaritans when both men and women were baptized. Acts 2:47 says, “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” The Samaritans were added to the church of Jesus Christ. Friends, preaching Christ means that the things concerning the church of Christ will be preached.
Furthermore, when Philip preached Christ, he preached the name of Jesus Christ. What did Philip preach when he preached the name of Jesus Christ? Philip preached the lordship of Jesus. Earlier in the Book of Acts, we read about Peter and John being brought in for questioning by the Jewish Sanhedrin. Peter had healed a crippled man. The Sanhedrin asked, “By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?” Peter replied, “…by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth…” (Acts 4:10). Then he added, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Friends, the Bible reports that “God has highly exalted” Jesus “and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-10). When Philip preached Christ to the Samaritans, he preached the authority of Jesus Christ. No wonder! After His resurrection and before His ascension, Jesus gave the Great Commission to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. Did Jesus have the authority to give such an order? Jesus told His apostles, ’All authority in heaven and in earth has been given to me.’ Wow! Neighbor, “all” authority is all there is!
The writer of Hebrews wrote that “when he had by himself purged our sins, [Jesus] sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3). Even more information was revealed to the apostle Paul, for he wrote that Jesus
is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. (Colossians 1:15-18 NKJV)
Friends, we cannot preach Christ without preaching His preeminence, and that’s what the Samaritans heard when Philip preached Christ to them. However, many people don’t want to hear about the preeminence of Christ! That’s right! Even in our country there are those people who say that to preach Christ as the only name under Heaven is too arrogant! It is not politically correct to say that Christ is the only name under Heaven whereby we must be saved. I’m hearing people say there are many paths to Heaven. People like diversity. They think it is impolite to tell other people that there is only one way! Friends, if there is only one exit out of a burning house would you tell the people inside to find their own way out? Wouldn’t you point them to the door, the only exit available?
There are religions in the world that attempt to compete with Christ, but none of them tell you about God’s justice being satisfied with the sacrifice of His own Son. When God’s justice was satisfied by Christ on the cross, God could then freely grant forgiveness and still remain a just Judge.
Friends, when Christ is preached, we must say something about the great assembly of Christians, the church of Jesus Christ, the kingdom of God. Furthermore, we cannot overlook the preeminence of the One to whom we must bow. May God bless you in wanting to serve this Exalted One—Jesus Christ.