Have you ever wondered what message Jesus would have for you if He stopped by for a visit?
Or if you had a chance to talk with one of the apostles of our Lord, what message of hope and inspiration would they share with you.
One suspects that a lot of people would end up being rather shocked by the message they heard, for when Jesus and His apostles talked with men, their initial messages tended to be rather blunt and to the point.
Consider for example the apostle Paul’s interactions with the governor, Felix, while Paul was a prisoner in Caesarea Phillipi. Antonius Felix is said to have been a cruel man, and openly corrupt. When Paul talked with Felix about the faith of Christ, he was apparently quite pointed.
We read in the Scriptures: “And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, ‘Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.’” (Acts 24:24-25; NKJV)
Paul had an opportunity to speak to a sinner and he strove in the time allowed him to put the fear of God into the other. Apparently he succeeded somewhat, but not to the changing of the other man’s life.
It seems quite likely that were Paul given an opportunity to speak with men today, his message would be much the same; and that message was but a reflection of the message of Christ. Jesus wanted His apostles preaching about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come – for that was the very message that Christ had preached.
Jesus said concerning righteousness: “unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20). He urged men to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness,” and “blessed are those that hunger and thirst for righteousness.” (Matthew 5:6, 6:33) It was in pursuit of righteousness that Jesus commanded men frequently to repent. Sin was anathema to what God wanted in men, and any man who wanted to be pleasing to God had to seek to do the right things.
Concerning the importance of self-control in the pursuit of righteousness, it was Jesus who advised that if your right hand was causing you to sin, cut it off; or if your eye was causing you to sin, to pluck it out. (cf. Matthew 5:29-30; 18:8-9). Sin begins in the heart, and the removal of a hand will not actually prevent sin from occurring. Rather Jesus was using a figure to illustrate the vital urgency of learning self-control. If a man does not possess sufficient self-control, he will give in to the impulses of sin, and so condemn himself.
The reason righteousness and self-control were of such importance to Jesus was because of His fervent belief in a judgment to come: a judgment wherein it would be He who sat upon the throne of God separating the sinful from the righteous. (cf. Matthew 25:31-33) Jesus is recorded to have preached more about hell then just about any other preacher in the Bible. It was Jesus who used the words of Isaiah the prophet to describe hell as the place where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched. (cf. Mark 9:44-48) It was Jesus who said concerning hell that there would be much weeping and gnashing of teeth, and who described it as a place of outer darkness. (Matthew 8:12, 22:13, 25:30)
People don’t like to hear such a message preached. Felix certainly did not. It made him nervous and scared. Most people would rather hear soft words of comfort which assure them that everything will be all right for them. But while Jesus preached words of comfort to His followers, He first made it clear that to be His follower meant learning self-control, in the pursuit of righteousness, in order to escape the judgment that was to come.
The church of Christ invites you to come learn more of the message of Christ, taught in the Bible, through studying and worshiping with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.