Matthew 4:12-17, Jesus begins His public ministry
General Idea: Repentance is the central pronouncement of ministry! The backdrop is the area of Nazareth, which people thought for centuries was a small agricultural village. Recent archeology digs have found it actually to have been a large city 20 miles from Capernaum, which too has been found to be much larger than previously thought. It seems the Herods had built a very large city hub at both places, which were also "motel" centers for Gentile travelers. It was this area that Jesus had spent the past 30 years of His earthly life experiencing humanity, all that man is, does, goes through, and can become. Then, He fulfilled His duty in baptism, and the Triune God acknowledged and endorsed who He is and what He will do. Then, Jesus defeated Satan in round one, and now set out on a journey to Galilee to invade Satan's territory. It is here that our Lord embarked on His mission to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven. This was after John the Baptist's ministry ended due to his arrest (see Matthew 3:1-11 theological note).
A. This is the turning point of Jesus, and His embarkation into public ministry, which was foretold by the prophecy of Isaiah (Isa. 9:1-2). He went from His preparation to proclamation.
1. His preaching began on the seashores of the Sea of Galilee by Capernaum.
a. Preach means "to herald, or to proclaim"
b. Jesus called upon people to repent, just as John the Baptist did prior (Mark 6:12; Matt. 9:13).
c. It was here that He called His first disciples.
2. Jesus' focus was to the Jews first, not because they were the chosen people or were better than anyone else, but because it was their responsibility to be the Ambassadors of God to the world (Gen 12:1-3; Matt. 28:19)! The Gentiles were always in God's plan, never an afterthought!
B. Repentance is the central pronouncement of Jesus' earthly ministry!
1. Repentance is not just sorrow or regret for what we have done or even to change our minds. Rather, it is the changing of all we are, our goals, aspirations, values, and behaviors, so that we turn a complete 180 degrees from the way we were (2 Cor. 7:9-
10). Repentance is a life that has been changed!
a. Repentance and conversion are two different things (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30; 20:21). Repentance is our response to who and what Christ did on the cross. Conversion is our salvation given to us through grace (Eph. 2:8-9). It is not by our efforts, but by the Holy Spirit. They go together as the Spirit gives us our salvation and we respond to it by turning from sin and turning to God. This is followed by a changed life!
b. We, as a Church, are called to preach as Christ did on Repentance to all nations (Matt. 3:8; 28: 18-20; Luke 24:46-47; Ac 26:20; 17:30) It is as needed today, if not more so, than in Jesus' time!
C. Jesus preached the "Kingdom of Heaven," which is here and is to come (Matt. 3:2; 4:23; 5:3,10,19-20; 6:10; 33; 7:21; 10:7; 13:24-47).
1. "Kingdom of Heaven" is the same thing as the "Kingdom of God." They both mean God's rule and sovereignty. They both point to the church today as well as our eternal future.
a. Matthew used the expression "Kingdom of Heaven" almost exclusively, whereas the other gospels use the term "Kingdom of God." The distinction is who the audience was. The Jew, to whom Matthew wrote, was reluctant to say the name of God because of his high reverence to His Name. To the Gentiles and Greeks, it did not matter.
b. The Kingdom of Heaven will culminate with our Lord's second coming and a new heaven and earth (2 Pet. 3:13-14; Rev. 21-22).
2. The Jews were expecting a literal physical kingdom, but it is spiritual in nature and eternal in scope (John 18:36; Rom. 14:17).
3. We are now in the Kingdom of Heaven (Col. 1:13; 4:11; 2 Thess. 1:5; Heb. 12:28; James 2:5; 2 Pet. 1:10-11; Rev. 1:9)!
a. The Church as a whole, the Body of Christ (not the buildings!), whose people are the elect, saved by grace, and submissive to His Will, serves as its repetitive and physical manifestation on Earth (Matt. 7:21-23; 16:18; Col. 1:13; 1 Thess. 2:12).
b. The same message Christ gave must be our central message in the church today, not merely "feel good" messages, but who we are in sin and our need for a Savior (Acts. 2: 36-41; 47; 8:12; 14:22; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 15:24-26; 50; Gal. 5:21; Eph 5:5).
D. What we need to learn for today:
1. We all need to repent. There are no people outside and above this need!
2. The Kingdom is now, and is to come!
3. We have a responsibility to live our lives as His ambassadors of truth with the great commandment (Mark 12:28-31) and see the hope we have to come!
4. We have the call to fulfill the great commission by making disciples, not just converts and pew sitters (Matt. 28: 18-20)!
Have you submitted yourself to the Kingdom of Haven, which is the Good News of the Gospel proclaimed by our Lord, His disciples, and His Word?
- What was it like to leave your parents and home, and be on your own for the first time?
- Have you thought through the fact that Jesus, the Disciples, and Paul spent considerable time in preparation for their public ministries?
- How does it affect you that many people today will start preaching and teaching God's Word without or with very little learning, training, or preparation?
- Does "The Kingdom of God" seem real and tangible to you now? What is in the way from your letting it be a driving force in your life?
- What was the message Jesus was proclaiming? Is it a message that should be proclaimed today?
- What is the role of repentance?
- Why would repentance give glory to our Lord?
- What can the church do to change the ways of disobedient Christians?
- How do you keep repentance in your "cue," that is, on top of your mind?
- If Jesus personally visited you, what do you think He might call or ask you to do?
- How have you seen the Jews? Why do you think God called them to be set apart or chosen?
- Have you ever met someone who thinks they were not a part of God's plan and just an afterthought? Most Muslims in the Middle East have this philosophy, hence why they hate the Jews so much!
- Repentance is not just sorrow or regret of what we have done, or even to change our minds, but it is the changing of who we are, our goals, aspirations, values, and behaviors. So, when did repentance become real in you? If it has not, what would it take to make it real?
- Repentance is a life that has been changed! How have you been changed?
- Did our "Theology Thought" surprise you? It goes against a lot of popular Christian thinking, so if it does over challenge you, just read the Scriptures yourself!
- We, as a Church, are called to preach as Christ did on Repentance to all nations. So, what has your church done about this?
- Do you think repentance is as needed today, if not more so, than in Jesus' time? Then, why do most churches fail to proclaim and teach this?
- Have you submitted yourself to the Kingdom of Heaven, which is the Good News of the Gospel proclaimed by our Lord, His disciples, and His Word? What can you do to make it more real and impacting in your daily life?
- How can you make the Great Commandment more impacting in your neighborhood (Mark 12:28-31)? Remember, we have a responsibility to live our lives as His ambassadors of truth, and see the hope we have to come!
- What can your church do to help fulfill the Great Commission by making disciples, not just converts and pew sitters (Matt. 28: 18-20)?
Theology Thought: What is Repentance?
Hey you - "Repent and be saved!!" We often hear this phrase, but have you considered its origins? Is this in the Bible? Surprise…NO! It is not! We may say it with genuine good intentions, for both ends of this phrase are very biblical and essential. We need to repent and we need to be saved. However, this phrase is backwards! It should read, "be saved and then repent!"
Repentance is the result of the acknowledgment of what Christ has done for us, and not the cause of Christ giving you grace. If the latter were true, we would not need a Savior, as our ability alone would be sufficient. However, we do not have anything to do with our salvation other than to accept it, and live it by faith. We do not initiate or cause it, or just receive it in some way alone. Something else happened to cause it, that being what Christ did on our behalf on the cross. His righteousness transferred onto us. We then receive His salvation, and the proof of that receiving is our repentance. Our receipt of His purchase of our soul is in our repentance. Thus, repentance does not save us. It is the proof that we have been saved, and only Christ saves us.
Repentance in Scripture (Psalm 51; Jer. 23:22; 25:4-5; Zech. 1:3-6; Mark 6:12; Matt. 4:17; Luke 13:1-8; 3:8; 24:47; Acts 2:38; 17:30; 26:20; Rev. 2: 5-22) means to under go a complete and great change, a 180 degree turn, that changes our heart and mind, such as turning from sin to Christ. Repentance does not save us. Repentance is only the realization of our salvation. Repentance is not just sorrow or regret of what we have done, or even to change our minds, but it is the change of all we are, our goals, aspirations, values, and behaviors. We turn a complete 180 degrees from the way we were (2 Cor. 7:9-10). Repentance is never remorse without the resolve to change (Psalm 51; Luke 3:8; Acts 26:20)! Repentance is a life that has been changed! Grace is the gift He gives by His choosing (Election), because God is pure and His decisions are just, and way beyond our understanding.
Most Christians misunderstand this and say, because I have repented and prayed a special prayer, I am saved. Maybe they are, maybe not. It is God who judges. However, this quick prayer is "cheap grace," and is not found in Scripture. (An evangelist named Finey in the late 19th century, who had good intentions but very bad theology started this.) Repentance and conversion are two different things (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30; 20:21). Repentance is our response to who Christ is and what He did on the cross. Conversion is our salvation given to us by grace (Eph. 2:8-9)--not by our efforts, but by the Holy Spirit. They go together as the Spirit gives us our salvation and we respond to it. We then turn from sin and to God, and then follows, a changed life! Yes, repentance is necessary for salvation, and will entail full confession, restitution, and the will to turn and not burn! Again, repentance does not cause our salvation! Know that people do respond to evangelism with prayer, with repentance that is genuine. Remember, it is not of our doing, our repentance, or even prayer. It is of Him alone.
We are still to witness, prayer, evangelize, do missions, and put forth every effort we can to expedite His Word. We as a Church are called to preach, as Christ did, on Repentance to all nations (Matt. 3:8; 28: 18-20; Luke 24:46-47; Ac 26:20; 17:30). It is as needed today, if not more so, than in Jesus' time! In addition, as a Christian saved by His grace, we have to remember we still need to repent, even though He paid it all, because we love Him and want to obey His decree. Repentance will be to our Lord's glory, as we turn away from our wicked ways to His best (Matt. 1:16; 3:19-23)!
© 2002, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org