In Acts 1:8, Luke records the resurrected Jesus saying to his disciples: “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.” (ESV) One of the fundamental mistakes that many people make (Sadly, some preachers make this mistake also!) as they are reading the Bible and want clarity, is to first consult an English dictionary to look up the meaning of English words in the text. When studying the Bible, to seek clarity of meaning, you DON’T START WITH THE ENGLISH WORD in the version you are reading. That is a fundamental exegetical mistake! You should start with the meaning of word in the original language in which the text was written! For the Old Testament, that would primarily be Hebrew and for the New Testament, it would be Greek! Hence, you don’t start with a Webster’s dictionary, but rather with a Hebrew and Greek lexicon!
I mention that because the Greek word that is translated as
‘witnesses’ in Acts 1:8 has a completely different primary meaning than the
English word! A witness in English is someone who can attest to a fact or an
event. It is someone who testifies, thereby provides verbal evidence to support
the validity of a fact or an event. However, the primary meaning of the Greek
word that is translated as ‘witnesses’ in Acts 1:8 is the word from which we
get the English word; ‘martyr.’ The witnesses Jesus talked about were those who
didn’t just ‘talk’ about him, but rather those who ‘died’ for the faith and the
testimony of Jesus!
Now, I may be splitting hairs here, but I also noticed, as I read Acts 1:8, that the Greek word that is translated as ‘witnesses’ is not a verb, but rather a noun! The verb is the word that shows action; it is what you do, but the noun is the word that names, it is who you are! I believe Jesus was not telling them primarily to ‘do witnessing’ but rather to ‘be witnesses’ in the sense that they were not just to talk about him and give testimony of what they had seen and heard, but rather to also ‘be the evidence’ of Him! In other words, although telling people about Jesus was and is part of it, I think the primary point was and is for the followers of Jesus to actually be the evidence or the proof of Jesus and His claims! This point is illustrated in Acts 4:13, when Peter and John stood before the Council. The Bible says: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” (ESV) How did they recognize that Peter and John had been with Jesus? Not primarily because Peter and John had told them, but rather because Peter and John themselves were the evidence; the proof; the witness of that fact! Yes! Peter and John testified about Jesus, but the convincing evidence was their ability to heal the man who was lame! Not only did they ‘talk’ about Jesus, but they ‘did’ what Jesus did; they made the lame walk again!
I believe the Lord is looking, not just for people who ‘talk’ or give testimonies about Him, but rather for people who are living examples (evidence; living witnesses) of His power to transform lives! It’s like when you are thinking about buying a product! No matter how many commercials you see advertising the product, the evidence that really convinces you is the people who have already bought the product! When you see what the product has done for them, you have evidence, you have witnesses of what the product can do for you! So, I believe Jesus was telling his disciples then, and those who would believe later on, that when you are empowered by My Spirit, you yourselves will be the witnesses; the evidence (exhibit: A), the convincing proof, that I AM who I say I AM!
Jesus made a statement, recorded in John 14:6, that puts all who would seek to sincerely believe in and follow him in a precarious position with the world! He said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 ESV) Now sometimes, when we read the Bible, the various other translations have variations of the text that leave room for different interpretations, but that is not the case with this text! Sometimes, a difference, such as a definite article used in one language as opposed to an indefinite article used in another language might leave room for a slightly different interpretation, but that is not the case with this text! With this verse; all of the English translations and versions agree with the various Greek texts, as to what Jesus said! He didn’t stutter! Jesus said he was, not ‘a’ way, but ‘the’ way! Jesus said he was, not ‘a’ truth, but ‘the’ truth! Jesus said, he was not ‘a’ life, but ‘the’ life! Jesus said, the only way to come to the Father (God) was through him! Oh! What a bold and audacious statement! Now, there are only three legitimate responses to what Jesus said! There are only three ways we can process what he said and only three conclusions we can reach:
We could conclude that Jesus was mentally unstable and that he was a mad-man! Now before you label me as a heretic for even raising such a possibility; it has been raised before! In the Gospel account recorded by Mark, we read: “Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind.’ And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebul,’ and ‘by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” (Mark 3:20-22 ESV) At one point, his own family thought he was crazy and his religious opponents accused him of being possessed by the devil! So this idea of Jesus being insane is not a new concept! Now, if Jesus was indeed mad, then we have nothing but the rambling statements of a deranged lunatic and we can dismiss all of his statements as ludicrous! But, there was too much that he said and did that made sense for us to dismiss him as crazy because of the things he said and did that did not make sense to us!
The second possibility is that Jesus was a deceiver or an imposter! This was the position of the scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the established religious order of his day. In the Gospel recorded by Matthew, we read: “Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, Saying, ‘Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.’ Pilate said unto them, ‘Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can.’ So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.” (Matthew 27:62-66 KJV) Now, the ironic thing about that whole situation is that the very ones who accused Jesus of being a deceiver were, in fact, deceivers themselves! The very guards they posted at the grave, witnessed the resurrection, but they paid those guards to lie about what they had seen! The fact that they paid the guard to lie is a proof of the resurrection because if the resurrection didn’t happen, why lie about an event that didn’t happen? (See Matthew 28:11-15) From all accounts, Jesus was certainly not a deceiver! In fact, he was so upfront and honest that he discouraged people from following him. (See Matthew 8:19-22; Luke 9:57-62) He told potential followers upfront the hardships they would have to endure and the price they would have to be prepared to pay to follow him! He wasn’t like so many of us, who tell all of the benefits first and reluctantly share the drawbacks, only if asked!
Now, before I share the third possibility, let’s look at some of the implications if Jesus was indeed a lunatic or a fraud and if Jesus is not ‘the,’ but merely ‘a way,’ ‘a truth,’ and ‘a life.’ Let’s look at the implications if there are indeed ‘other ways’ to the Father, other than Jesus. If that was indeed the case, then, Jesus came and died for nothing! And if that were true and Jesus came and died for nothing, then he was indeed a lunatic! It makes no earthly or heavenly sense to go through all that Jesus went through if there was another way! And surely, if there was another way, he would have taken it! He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39 ESV) Jesus was asking the Father, if it were possible, to provide another way so that it would not be necessary for him to go to the cross! Do you see that? Those who reject the claims of Jesus say there are other ways; well in the garden, Jesus wished there were other ways also! So don’t you think if there were other ways, he would have taken them? He would have been a fool and a lunatic if he didn’t! But, there were no other ways; that’s why he went to the cross, to secure the only way! So, when people say or suggest there are other ways, they are in a sense, saying that Jesus was a lunatic, because it would have been the epitome of stupidity and insanity to go to the cross if there were other options! So, if there were and are other ways; Jesus was crazy and those who follow him are crazy also!
But, what if he was right? What if, he indeed paid the price and God indeed validated his claim by raising him from the dead? If that is the case (and I believe with everything within me that it is; in fact, I am staking my eternal destiny on it!), then that means we owe him our gratitude, loyalty and ultimate allegiance! People today do not want to accept the fact of Hell and punishment because they say that God is a God of love. Well, God is a God of love! That’s why he sent Jesus! John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (ESV) God is also a Holy God and a God of justice, that is also why God sent Jesus! The Apostle Paul declared: “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5 KJV) John, the Elder, declared: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation [the atoning sacrifice] for our sins.” (1 John 4:10 KJV)
Now, there may be some who might read this and dismiss my claims because I use the Bible as my source. They do not think an ancient book of doctrines is valid in a modern world. What an absurd proposition! The Bible is even more valid than today’s newspaper! Besides that, aren’t we, in America, governed by a set of laws taken from an old document called the Constitution? And by the way, most of the precepts and ideas within the Constitution came directly from the Bible, as did most of the legal codes for all nations!
Jesus claimed exclusivity! “No one comes to the Father except by me!” He said! So, the ones who follow him are not being arrogant, intolerant, or trying to be more than others when they make that claim; they are just merely repeating what Jesus said and claimed! And just as Jesus was rejected and ridiculed then, his sincere followers will be rejected and ridiculed now! So, thanks Jesus! Thank you for the pickle you’ve put us in! But, those of us who sincerely believe in you and love you are more than willing to go to you outside the camp (of political correctness and social esteem) and bear the abuse that you endured! (Hebrews 13:13)
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 ESV)
“Wow, Jesus! Why did you have to say those words? Now, following you puts me in a pickle! It puts me at odds with my coworkers and friends because your statement is just not politically correct or socially sensitive!” If we are to be honest with ourselves, that’s the statement that many Christians today would like to tell our Lord! In a world that insists upon moral inclusiveness and religious plurality, Jesus calls us to exclusiveness and singularity! He didn’t say he was ‘a’ way! He didn’t say he was ‘a’ truth! And he didn’t say he was ‘a’ life! The articles are not indefinite; they are definite! Jesus made the claim and if we are to truly follow him, we must echo the claim of his exclusive and unique status.
Now logically speaking, if Jesus is indeed, just a way and there are indeed other ways to get to the Father, then his suffering on the Cross was not necessary! If there are indeed, other ways, then his life, suffering, death, and resurrection were pointless! When I was young and one of my siblings would try to exercise parental authority over the rest of us, we would ask them: “Who died and left you in charge?” That’s the question the world is asking of Jesus! As the Pharisees asked him: “Who gave you this authority?” Well, the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 2:6-11: “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and 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.” (KJV) On the day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter preached in Acts 2:36: “Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (KJV) It’s uncomfortable and it puts us at odds with the current consciousness, but if we are to be true to our Lord, then we must be willing to, as the Hebrew writer says, “. . . go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.” (Heb. 13:13 KJV) We must remember, Jesus said: “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38 KJV) If we are ashamed of him now before the world, he will be ashamed of us before the Heavenly Father.
Now there is another aspect of this statement of Jesus that I don’t think many of us have really thought about! Look at the metaphors Jesus used. First of all, he said “I am the way!” What is the way? The way is the means of access! The way is the route, road, or the pathway! The way is not the destination; the way is the means to get to the destination! Many of us have made Jesus the destination, but in his owns words, Jesus said: “I’m not the destination you’re trying to reach! I am the means. I am the access. I am the way to get you to your destination!” And what is the destination? The Father God! Jesus came, lived, died, and was resurrected so that we might have a means of access to God!
When we really look at this, the meaning is profound! Jesus was saying to us: “Don’t stop at me! Keep going! I’m just the way! I’m just the access!” He said to his disciples in John 16:23, “In that day (the day when the Holy Spirit comes to take permanent residence within you) you will ask me nothing, but whatsoever you ask the Father in my name and He will give it to you!” Now that is profound! Jesus was saying that, through me, you have the same access to God the Father that I have!
That is, I believe, one of the greatest statements in all of Scripture! Jesus didn’t come to bring men a new religion; men already had plenty of religion! Jesus came to renew the way, the means, the access, the truth and the life that leads to the Father that had been broken and destroyed by sin at the Fall in the Garden of Eden! We look at the life of Jesus as a means of salvation; and it is! But more importantly, the life of Jesus was and is a model for us to study and imitate! Everything he did was an example for us! Most theologians and commentators say that when Jesus calmed the storm, by saying; “Peace be still,” he was using his divine power. That might have been so, but I believe that when Jesus was on earth in the flesh, he didn’t function primarily as Son of God, but rather as son of man! In other words, I believe that when Jesus was on earth, he did not use any of his Divine prerogatives or attributes, but rather functioned as a man fully empowered and led by the Holy Spirit! For if Jesus functioned on earth as Son of God, then the statement recorded in John 14:12 makes no sense. There, he said; “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” (KJV) Therefore, I believe that when Jesus calmed the stormed, he wasn’t displaying his divinity, but rather he was showing his disciples and us, through parabolic action, how to calm the storms in our lives!
The bottom line is that when Jesus made the statement: “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes unto the Father but by me.” Not only was he saying that he was the only way to the Father, he was encouraging us to see him, not as the end, but rather as the means to the end! He did not come to glorify himself; he came to glorify the Father! Therefore, by looking at and using his life as example, a model, or a blueprint and by being empowered by the same Spirit that was in him and having the mind of Christ, we can also fulfill the specific purpose for which we were created. Most people, even so-called Christians, think that life is all about them, but it’s not! Humanity was created to be the physical, visible and practical expression of the Spiritual God in the material world! Whatever God does in this world, God does it through human agency! Man was created to glorify God! And how do we glorify God? Perhaps the answer is found in high priestly prayer Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane on the eve of his passion. Jesus said: “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” (John 17:4 ESV) We bring glory to God by completing our assignment! Our assignment is our life’s purpose; our reason for being! Jesus had a specific assignment and so do you and I and every person in the world! Whether it’s preaching the Gospel, or helping people discover their talents, gifts, and potential, or working at the bank, every work is a divine endeavor! Every work is a means by which God seeks expression through our human personality!
Yes! In the statement, Jesus was saying he was the only way to get to the Father, but he was also saying that he was the way, his teaching was the truth, and his life was the example of how we might truly live the abundant life here and now on earth!
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” (Matt. 28:18 KJV)
“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” (Matt. 28:18 NKJ)
I recently posted a synopsis of this teaching about the ‘power’ God gave Jesus at His resurrection on my FaceBook page. But, because of its theological significance, I want to expand and explain it here.
You see, the bottom line is that historically and traditionally, we have and we do preach this text incorrectly! I’ve done it numerous times myself in the past! Now, it makes for a good ‘whoop!’ (Those of us who are African-Americans and grew up in church know what the ‘whoop’ is! For those who don’t know, it is the climatic celebration at the end of a preacher’s sermon. It is the part where the preacher begins to chant, moan, and sing the message. Now there are some pseudo-intellectuals in the Black community who say the ‘whoop’ is unnecessary and a sign of ignorance, but as of late, there are many preachers of European descent who are beginning to recognize and incorporate its communicative genius into their sermonic delivery! But, I digress! So, let me get back to my point) Yes! The traditional way we’ve preach it makes for good whooping material! I can hear it now: “Yes! When He got up early that Sunday morning; He rose with all power in His hands! Can I get a witness here? Power to raise up a bowed-down head! Power to make me walk right! Power to make me talk right! Power to hit a straight lick with a crooked stick! Oh! Y’all don’t hear me! I said; When He got up; He had all power in His hands!” Yes, that’s the way we preach it, but we’ve been preaching it wrong!
We’ve been preaching it as if the Greek word for ‘power’ in the text is dunamis but it is not! The Greek word in the text is exousia! Now, although both of these Greek words can rightfully be translated into English as ‘power,’ they have two different meanings! Dunamis has the meaning of ‘might, ability, and strength.’ Exousia has the meaning of ‘authority, privilege, rule, choice, government, and right.’ Jesus already had all dunamis-power! That’s the power He used to raise Lazarus from the dead! That’s the power He used to open the eyes of the blind, to turn water into wine, and to perform all of the miracles! We might ought to notice that the miracles are called; dumamis (mighty works) in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), but they are called; semeion (signs) in the Gospel of John. No! God didn’t give Jesus all dunamis-power at His resurrection! Jesus already had all dumamis-power!
At His resurrection, God gave all exousia-power to Jesus! That’s the power to rule! That’s the power, the right, and the authority to be in charge! That’s the power to govern! That’s authority! That’s the power of right, as in the power of attorney; the power to transact business in someone else’s name! That’s the all-power that God gave Jesus at His resurrection! When God raised Jesus from the dead, God made Jesus the CEO of the Kingdom of God!
Notice also that, according to the Bible, Jesus didn’t rise up from the grave on His own power! No! In the act of the resurrection; Jesus wasn’t the actor, Jesus was acted upon or rather, Jesus was the recipient of the action: It was God who raised Jesus from the dead!
Now, at this point you might be asking: What difference does it make? Well, it’s a matter of biblical accuracy and correct theology because there is a difference between power and authority! Power is the strength, might, or ability to do something, whereas authority is the right to do it! It’s quite possible to have the strength to do something, but that doesn’t mean you have the authority to do it! You can also have the authority or the right to do something, but yet not have the ability or the power to do it! It’s possible to have power without authority and authority without power! But Jesus already had the power and when God raised Jesus from the dead, God gave Him the authority!
That means, Jesus has the right! He has the authority to make demands upon our lives! After He died and God raised Him from the dead; God put Him in charge! In Philippians 2:8-11, the Apostle Paul says: “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and 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.” (KJV)
Now there are those who are refusing to bow and acknowledge Jesus as Lord today! But, in thinking about them, I’m reminded of an old television commercial for a transmission repair shop, I think it was Aamco. A lady brought her car into the shop to be checked because it was making so weird noises. The mechanic checked her car and told her she needed some work done on her transmission. When the lady heard how much it was going to cost, she decided she wouldn’t pay it. It was at that point that the mechanic told her: “Ma’am, you can pay me now, or you can pay me later!” Now he wasn’t offering her a service-now-pay-later plan. No! What he was telling her was that she could either pay a low price now and get the transmission fixed, or she could wait until the problem got worse and have to pay an even greater price later on! Well, you can either voluntarily bow and acknowledge Jesus as Lord now, or you can refuse and be forced to bow and acknowledge Him as Lord later! You can bow now or you can bow later, but eventually every knee (even the demons in Hell) will bow and acknowledge Jesus as Lord because God has placed all authority in His hands!
The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:45: “. . . The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” The first Adam (Adam of Adam and Eve) received life; the last Adam (Jesus the Christ) gives life. In the first Adam, all die because of sin, in the last Adam, all can live because of righteousness. Jesus is referred to as “the last Adam” because he was and is the Genesis of a new humanity; human beings who have been “born again” by the Spirit of God. Consequently, those who have been born again, or saved, or who are true Christians, have the Spirit of Christ (Holy Spirit) dwelling within them. Therefore, just as Jesus; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit, those who are in Christ are, in a sense, life-giving spirits.
Note, I said; “in a sense.” A person who is indwelt by the Spirit of Christ is not a life-giving spirit in the exact sense that Jesus is because of the unique and sinless character of Christ. However, since the Spirit of Christ dwells within that person, and that Spirit has life-giving qualities, then it stands to reason that the person or people who have that same Spirit should also have some life-giving qualities in some limited way.
So, if you are a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, a person who has been born again and is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, do you give life to those around you? Are you a life-giving spirit? Let me further clarify: There are many people in the world who are takers and vampires! They are always trying to get what they can get and if you are not careful, they will suck the very life out of you! These are the people who leave you depleted and drained, after just a brief encounter or conversation with them. They are always needy and always want something from you. Do you know anyone like that? Well, they are just the opposite of a life-giving spirit.
When a person is a life-living spirit, they make you feel better about yourself and about life when you are around them. They are encouragers and motivators and they help to make you a better person. They pour into you; life, joy and happiness. They speak life into your life! That’s what I’m talking about when I refer to life-giving spirits. There are too many users, drainers, blood-suckers, and vampires in life! We need more people who are life-giving spirits. That is exactly what the followers of the Last Adam, who became a Life-Giving Spirit should be! Those who have the Spirit of the One who is a Life-Giving Spirit should themselves be; life-giving spirits.