Sin and Righteousness – Romans 6

Read the Passage: Romans 6

Dead to Sin (6:1–14)

Having explained the doctrine of justification in Rom. 3:21–5:21, beginning in Rom. 6:1 Paul unfolds the doctrine of sanctification as he explores the impact of the gospel upon the life of a believer. In Rom. 6:1–2 Paul anticipates his critics’ objection to his teaching on salvation by faith alone as he asks two rhetorical questions. Continue reading Sin and Righteousness – Romans 6

Three Healings – Mark 5

Read the Passage: Mark 5

Requests (5:1–34)

Mark 5 narrates three separate miracles of Jesus, which are the ninth, tenth, and eleventh miracles of Christ that Mark records. Note that each of these miracles is also found in Matthew and Luke. The first miracle reported is the healing of the Gadarene demoniac. This miracle is significant in that it is the first miracle in Mark’s Gospel done outside of Galilee, it is the first miracle done for a Gentile, it is the first miracle that provokes fear among the crowd, and it is the first miracle that Jesus’ commands should be made public. Observe that the casting out of demons into a heard of swine, who then abruptly kill themselves, is meant to communicate: (1) the uncleanness of that from which the man had been delivered (cf. Lev. 11:7; Deut. 14:8); (2) the immense number of demons whom had been cast out (cf. Mark 5:9); and (3) the fact that the end result of all sin is death (cf. Gen. 2:17; Rom. 6:23).

Mark’s account of the healing of Jairus’ daughter is noteworthy, for while each of the Synoptic Gospels narrates this miracle, Mark—the shortest of the Gospels—gives the longest and most detailed account of this event. Note that five of the nine previous miracles that Mark records involved healing. Therefore, Jairus’ request that Jesus heal his daughter is not unreasonable. However, given Jairus’ position as a ruler of the synagogue, as well as the other religious leaders’ general hostility toward Christ (cf. Mark 2:24; 3:6), Jairus’ faith is somewhat unexpected. Observe that Jesus’ earlier healing of a demon-possessed man (cf. Mark 1:21–28), which is the first miracle that Mark records, likely occurred in Jairus’ synagogue. As we’ll see in this narrative, Jairus’ daughter becomes the first person Jesus’ raises from the dead, and the fourth of nine individuals who are resurrected in the Bible.

Perhaps in order to highlight his emphasis upon faith in this chapter, Mark interrupts his narrative about Jairus’ daughter in order to give an account of the healing of a woman with an incurable flow of blood. Interestingly, both Matthew and Luke interrupt their accounts about Jairus’ daughter in order to narrate this same event. In comparing these two intertwined miracles we can draw several conclusions. First, it is clear that Jesus treats those with weak faith (cf. Mark 5:36) or strong faith (cf. Mark 5:28, 34) the same. Second, Christ ministers to leaders (cf. Mark 5:22) and to outcasts (cf. Mark 5:25) alike, showing equal kindness to both. Third, while physical healing and resurrection are great miracles, since both the woman and Jairus’ daughter eventually died, we can conclude that Jesus’ healing miracles are but a temporal earthy preview of an eternal heavenly glorification.

Ridicule (5:35–39)

At Mark 5:35, news reaches Jesus and Jairus that his daughter had passed away. Matthew indicates that this news was not unexpected, for Jairus—anticipating his daughter’s death—had earlier said to Jesus, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hands on her and she will live” (Matt. 9:18). In response to the news, Jesus encouraged Jairus, saying, “Do not be afraid; only believe” (Mark 5:36). Interestingly, at this point, Mark notes that Jesus “permitted no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John” (Mark 5:37). This is the first of four times that Mark references this special inner circle of disciples (cf. Mark 9:2; 13:3; 14:33). Next, with these three men in tow, Jesus came to Jairus’ house and saw “a tumult and those who wept and wailed loudly” (Mark 5:38). When the crowd saw Jesus and heard His declaration that Jairus’ daughter was sleeping (cf. Mark 5:39), they ridiculed him.

Response (5:40–43)

After being ridiculed by the crowd, which indicates scorn and laughter, Mark records that Jesus put the crowd outside of the house. Then, in the presence of only Peter, James, John, Jairus, and Jairus’ wife, Christ “took the child by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha, cumi,’ which is translated, ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise.’ Immediately the girl arose and walked, for she was twelve years of age. And they were overcome with great amazement” (Mark 5:41–42). Interestingly, only Mark records the actual Aramaic words that Jesus spoke on this occasion, which is further evidence of Mark’s reliance upon Peter for information, for Peter was one of only six people present at the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter. Note that when Jesus raised the widow of Nain’s son (cf. Luke 7:14), as well as Lazarus (cf. John 11:43), He also spoke directly to the decedent, commanding each to arise from the dead.

Application Questions:

  1. After telling others not to spread news of His miracles (cf. Mark 1:34, 44; 3:12; 5:43), why does Christ command the healed man differently (cf. Mark 5:19–20)?
  2. What do you think prompted such faith within Jairus? Would he have listened to and sought out Jesus if his daughter had not fallen ill?
  3. Why, at Mark 5:41, did Jesus ask, “Who touched Me?” Was Christ unaware that the woman with the flow of blood had been healed by His power?
  4. Why did Jesus only permit Peter, James, and John, as well as her parents, to witness the great miracle of the of raising Jairus’ daughter?
  5. Why are most people scared, or even terrified, of death? Are you scared of death? What are some commonalities between biblical accounts of resurrection?

Toward Jerusalem – Acts 20

Read the Passage: Acts 20

Travels in Greece (20:1–12)

In Acts 19 we studied Paul’s three-year ministry in Ephesus, which filled up most of the time on Paul’s third missions journey, which lasted from AD 53–57. Toward the end of Paul’s ministry in Ephesus, before the civil riot that is recorded in Acts 19:23–41, Luke reported that “Paul purposed in the Spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem” (Acts 19:21). Paul had even sent Timothy and Erastus into Macedonia to prepare the churches there (i.e. Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Corinth) for a relief offering for the churches in Palestine. Acts 20:1–6 records that Paul spent three months traveling and ministering in Macedonia, before eventually having to depart on account of his knowledge of planned persecution by the Jews. Note that seven of Paul’s traveling companions are listed in this passage, which included Luke, who had likely been ministering in Philippi.

Continuing to show parallels with the ministry of Peter, who had raised Dorcas to life (cf. Acts 9:36–43), in Acts 20:7–12 Luke reports that God used Paul to bring about the raising of a young man named Eutychus who had tragically died during one of Paul’s messages. Early churches met in homes. Apparently Eutychus had fallen asleep due to fumes from multiple oil lamps, Paul’s lengthy message, and the late hour of his teaching. While this was an extraordinary event, this passage contains two other important pieces of information—namely, (1) that believers were worshiping “on the first day of the week” and (2) that believers were together “breaking bread” (Acts 20:7). Note this is the first mention of Christian worship on a Sunday (cf. 1 Cor. 16:2; Heb. 4:9–10; Rev. 1:10) and the first mention of Gentile believers observing the Lord’s Supper (cf. Acts 2:42, 46).

Ministry in Asia (20:13–16)

Acts 20:13–16 records Paul’s stops in Galatia on his way to Jerusalem, as he ministered in several coastal towns on the way to Jerusalem. Recall that when in Philippi in Macedonia Paul had intended to travel straight to Jerusalem in Syria, probably in order to be there for the Passover; yet, because of the Jews’ plot against his life, a longer route through Galatia was a more practical and wiser course. Paul, however, still wanted “to be in Jerusalem, if possible, on the Day of Pentecost” (Acts 20:16). Therefore, Paul passed by Ephesus, knowing that a stop there would have necessitated a lengthy stay and further delay his reaching Jerusalem. However, Paul was compelled to minister to the believers in Ephesus. Thus, Acts 20:17 reports that Paul disembarked in Miletus, a city roughly 30 miles south of Ephesus, and summoned the elders of the church to briefly meet with him.

Exhorting the Ephesians (20:17–38)

Paul summoned and met with “the elders of the church” (Acts 20:17) of Ephesus, who are later referred to as “overseers” (Acts 20:28) who shepherd the church. Clearly, these men whom Paul met with in Miletus were pastors of the church in Ephesus. In Acts 20:17–24, Paul’s message to the elders touched upon two main themes. First, by way of encouraging the church leaders in right conduct, Paul reviewed his own example in Ephesus, as he reminded them that he served God with humility, faced trials and persecution, and proclaimed the gospel publicly and privately (cf. Acts 20:18–21). Second, Paul told the elders of his plans to travel to Jerusalem and informed them that he knew that persecution awaited him. Yet, Paul stated he was “compelled by Spirit” (Acts 20:22) and went to discharge “the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:24).

As he continued instructing the Ephesian elders, in Acts 20:25–38 Paul reminded the church leaders of his general ministerial example. Paul’s rationale here was not to give a personal self-defense, but to encourage the elders to imitate him. Paul reminded them that he had faithfully preached the gospel (cf. Acts 20:25–26), that he had taught the Bible (cf. Acts 20:27), that he had warned believers and unbelievers alike (cf. Acts 20:31), that he had not coveted money (cf. Acts 20:33), and that he had labored for his own support and for the care of others (cf. Acts 20:34–35). Further, in concluding his teaching, Paul told the Ephesian elders that he would not see them again (cf. Acts 20:25, 38), exhorted the leaders to faithfully shepherd the church (cf. Acts 20:28), and warned them that false teachers would arise within the church to attack believers (cf. Acts 20:29–30).

Application Questions:

  1. Why did Paul face persecution in every city in which he ministered? What is it about the gospel message that provokes a hostile response from some people?
  2. Why was Paul so desirous to repeatedly re-visit the cities in which he had earlier ministered? Given the constant persecution he faced, was this a wise practice?
  3. Given the infinite possibilities for ministry, and the finite availability of resources, how do we decided when, where, and to whom we should minister?
  4. Why do you think Paul was determined to visit Jerusalem, since, as he told the Ephesian elders, he knew that persecution awaited him there?
  5. How could Paul be sure that false teachers would both attack the church, and arise from within the church? Is this still happening today?