Editor’s note: This is the third excerpt from a much longer article based on Acts 28:17-31. (Parts one and two were posted earlier.) Christ himself is the Word of God, and he is stronger than any earthly authority. Modern believers do not need to be afraid when they face persecution or pressure, because the resurrection of Jesus, the Word made flesh, proves that God has already won.
This article was first published, in its entirety and in the original Chinese, on the Grace to City site in April 2022.
The Word’s Power
The word and the sword will meet. When they meet, the proclamation of God’s word reveals God’s kingdom, which spreads among those who believe. In this passage, Paul “expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus.” (v. 23) Paul was a Pharisee and an apostle. He was not an aggressor who won over others by the sword. Instead, Paul opened the Old Testament. Using the historical books of the prophets, he argued with his accusers, trying to show that Jesus was Israel’s foretold hope.
This is also what Jesus did to strengthen his disciples after his resurrection: “Jesus said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.’”
In the spirit of the Old Testament, both Jesus and Paul testified to who Jesus was and what he did. Jesus is Logos, the word of God. Jesus is not the abstract, universal spirit of reason described by the Greeks; he himself is the personal word of God. All things, visible and invisible, were created by him. God’s word is the foundation of all things, and therefore all things – including the sword – are subject to his rule.
Jesus, the “Word made flesh,” was with God in the beginning. The Word became man. Jesus reveals that God identifies with his created world. When God became man, he took on all the fragile characteristics of human nature, although he did not sin.
Because flesh is so fragile, the unbelieving Jews and the Roman government were able to use the sword’s power to kill Christ’s flesh. But Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!”
If Christians today are filled with fear when they face the sword’s authority, it is because we fear the wrong object. God, who has the authority to destroy both body and soul in hell, is the one we ought to fear.
The Word’s Victory
Although Jesus’s body was killed by the sword’s power, he rose from the dead. The Savior who was crucified on the cross ascended to reign in heaven. All authority, both in heaven and on earth, has been given to him. Through Christ’s gospel, the kingdom of heaven has come to earth. This is the hope and assurance of all who trust in his gospel.
Would You Pray With Us Today?
When the word and the sword clash, some sinners will believe the word, and turn from the world to Christ’s kingdom. This is a gospel blessing. Yet others will continue in rebellion, showing gospel judgment. Whether through salvation or through judgment, God receives the glory he is due. Jesus and his word are the church’s foundation and weapon as she engages in spiritual warfare. When Christians dare to preach the word, hearts are changed as its power is revealed.
The Word’s Witness
In Chengdu, a non-believer regularly attended church alongside his wife. After searching for his wife following her arrest on December 9 [referring to the December 9, 2018 raid on Early Rain Covenant Church], he was also detained. At the detention center, he shared the gospel he heard in church with his inmates. Following his release, he truly believed in the Lord. He repented for not seriously listening in the past. Last year, he listened to Pastor Wang Yi’s testimony, and posted an online response to that sermon. This response ended up landing him in criminal detention for 30 days.
Only the truth of God’s word can produce heart change and soul revolution. Threats of the sword cannot produce permanent, fundamental change. The early Christian church did not have courage because they possessed the sword’s power. They were courageous because they saw God’s promise to Israel fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus.
From Acts 13 on, the apostles took steps to expand the kingdom gospel to the ends of the earth. Both Peter and Paul argued that David saw corruption, but Jesus’s body did not see corruption. (New Testament scholar Greg Perry notes that both refer to Psalm 16:10, written by David.) Paul clearly connected Jesus’s resurrection and ascension to the renewal of the hope of David experienced during the Israelite exile.
According to Isaiah, God’s did not withdraw or abolish his “steadfast, sure love” for David when his people went into exile. Because of the eternal covenant God made with David, those who listened to the prophets during Israel’s exile will surely live again. Paul shows that God’s promises were realized in the resurrection of Jesus, Son of David.
Christ’s resurrection not only revived Israel’s hope, it also ignited the eternal hope of all nations and peoples, offering freedom from sin and death. May God allow us to see, in his church and his people, the incomparable power of Christ and his word. His power assures us that not only did Jesus live, die, rise again, and ascend – but Christ, who now reigns at the Father’s right hand, has brought the kingdom of heaven to earth. God’s mighty word has decisively prevailed over the sword’s earthly power.
Dr. Ben Chen is the director of Chinese language ministries at Third Millennium Ministries.
FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION
Pray for Christians now to have courage because they know God is more powerful than any earthly sword.