1 Corinthians 1:20 – 30 says. “So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength. Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God. God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.”
Vs 21: Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe.
This passage is a great reminder of how God uses whomever he pleases, regardless of education, financial status, social status, or intellect to accomplish his will and purposes. We have seen this time and again in our current series titled “Ordinary Rebels”. We have seen how God used an ordinary virgin teenage girl to be the mother of the Savior, some fishermen, a tax collector, and zealots to turn the world upside down for his kingdom. Today we will look briefly at two men that we know literally nothing about but in the few verses we do have about them we can God’s bigger picture his plan for his people.
James, the Son of Alphaeus
Why would anyone consider preaching part of a message about a man who is mentioned in the Bible four-times and every time he is mentioned it is in the list of the names of the Apostles? Funny, I asked myself that same question. So, here it goes…
James was a very common name. In the N.T. alone there are several men named James who are associated with Jesus. There is James, the son of Zebedee (more about him in later messages). James, Jesus’ half-brother and author of the Epistle James and eventual leader in the church of Jerusalem. The James we will talk briefly about today is known as James the son of Alphaeus and that is pretty much all we know about him. However, this title does tell us one interesting fact, James was most likely the brother of Levi/Matthew the tax collector (Mark 2:14). There is also speculation that James was also a member of the zealot group (who we learned about last week) and that would be interesting then if Matthew (the tax collector) was his brother. This would have certainly been a problem for the brothers since zealots considered tax collectors traitors and would have been natural enemies. I am just throwing it out there for informational purposes.
That’s pretty much all we know about James the son of Alphaeus.
Thaddeus is known by early church fathers as Thaddeus Trinomius, which means “Man with three names”. In Mark he is called Thaddeus (Mark 3:18), in Matthew he is called Labbaeus (Matthew 10:30) and Judas the brother of James (Luke 6:16, Acts 1:13). This last name is significant because it most likely identifies him as the Apostle who asks Jesus in John 14:22, “Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?” And I would like to spend the remainder of our time looking at this passage and what it means for us today.
John 14:22 - 31
Verse 22: Judas (Thaddeus) is perplexed by Jesus’ talk about the Helper and how he is manifesting himself to the disciples (Jesus introduces the “Helper” Holy Spirit in the first part of John 14). Thaddeus wonders how Jesus will be able to make himself known and seen only to his disciples and not to the world? He may have thought that Jesus was referring to him returning as the victorious conquering Messiah to Israel which they knew would be a very public display.
Scripture tells us that Jesus will indeed return and manifest himself to the whole world as the victorious Messiah at his Second Coming. We are told everyone will bend the knee before him as Lord and Savior. However, this is not the manifestation Jesus is speaking about. He tells his disciples that he will come back to them after his death, and he will manifest himself to them. He will physically return to the disciples after his death in his resurrected body. We see this in many accounts in both the Gospels and Acts.
Verse 23: Jesus says love and obedience go hand in hand. He says, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.” Here we see that obedience is the outward expression of true love for Jesus. Jesus says, “If you love me, you will…
Verse 24: Disobedience, on the other hand, is the evidence of unbelief and rebellion towards God. A person who has rejected Jesus is obviously not in love with Him. One who is disobedient will…
Verse 25 - 26: These are important words Jesus wants his followers to hear. He speaks to them while he is still here on earth.
However, the time is drawing near for his departure, and he will not be around much longer to teach and remind his followers of the words he has spoken. Thus, the Father will send The Helper, the Holy Spirit, to teach them all they need to know and remind them of his words. When Jesus and the Father dwell in the believer through the Holy Spirit the believer will then be guided by the Spirit. He will become the teacher, He will be the one to bring to remembrance the words Jesus Spoke, and He will guide them in all truth.
Jesus gives these words of comfort to the disciples because when he leaves this world the disciples will be left on earth to be Christ’s representatives. The world is usually depicted as hostile towards God. The world represents the created order and the people who live in it and many of whom have rebelled against God and have no cares or concerns about God and His Kingdom. While still on earth the disciples (and believers throughout history for that matter) will depend on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God. The Spirit will be in the believer to help, comfort, exhort, encourage, and empower him as they (we) dwell here on earth to be true representatives for Jesus Christ. The Spirit is given for our benefit and God’s glory.
Verse 27: The next promise given is peace. Peace (shalom) – The peace Jesus speaks of has a deeper meaning than what we have come to know peace in modern history. We generally think of peace as the absence of conflict, but this is the unstable peace the world has to offer. Those of you who lived in the 60s and early 70s are aware of the temporal and faux peace the world promoted. There was a movement of peace, love, and happiness but everything about the peace (and love and happiness for that matter) was temporary, selfish, and disingenuous.
The shalom Jesus speaks of is a peace that surpasses all understanding and is rooted in salvation. It is an inward peace; a peace of mind and a security in knowing your future destiny. It’s a peace that comes when you know you have been forgiven of your sins, where you can lean on the promise of the indwelling of the Spirit, in knowing you are redeemed and will be restored, and in having security in knowing whether in danger or safety you are in the arms of the Father.
Jesus not only leaves us peace, but he gives us His peace. He tells his us that we are to take comfort in this. To the disciples he tells them not to let their hearts be troubled or afraid. There will be tumultuous times ahead because after his death their persecution will increase. So he tells them to take hold of that peace and let it reign in your hearts.
Today we have this same promise given to us. Jesus has left us with and given us his peace that is far greater than the artificial peace of the world. We are still living in tumultuous times… The future is uncertain. We are reminded that we do not have complete control over all things… In fact, we have very little control in our lives… Yet we should not allow our hearts to be troubled, nor be afraid. We are to rest in the peace that Jesus has left and given us. As followers of Jesus, we can know true (shalom) even amid uncertainty, persecution, and turmoil.
Verse 28: Jesus re-assures and reminds his disciples that he is leaving. If the disciples truly understood what this meant, then they would be rejoicing with him. If they knew the reality of what Jesus was going to accomplish, then they would be behind him 100%. In his death and resurrection Jesus is beginning the restoration process and He is going back to the Father, and this is cause for celebration, not sadness.
Verse 29: He tells the disciples this beforehand so when the time of his crucifixion comes and when he is raised from the dead their faith would remain strong. I am sure there were times of doubt among the disciples as Jesus hung on the cross and now, he tells them, “Remember what I am doing and why I am doing it and let this strengthen your faith.”
Verse 30, 31: The ruler of this world could refer to Caesar but also refers to the one who is behind all acts of evil... Satan. Jesus assures this ruler has no claim on him. Satan is the accuser, and he has nothing on Jesus. His plan is to try and destroy the works of God but cannot succeed.
Just as the believer shows love to Jesus through faithful obedience, Jesus shows love to the Father through faithful obedience. God has called Jesus to the cross of Calvary, and He goes voluntarily and obediently because he loves the Father. His obedience (even obedience to the cross) will speak volumes of his love for the Father.
As we conclude today, we have a lot to be reminded of and promises to hold on to.
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Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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