Translated by Allan Liang
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, after the Sunday worship on March 15th of this year, our church, according to the government mandate on social distancing, began online worship, for almost four months to this day. In order to prevent brothers and sisters from feeling impoverished and spiritually lonely in this time of isolation, starting from March 19th, our church began the devotions on the Gospel of Mark, with the aim of “walking with God, being built up together”. This ministry was placed in the responsibility of the pastoral team, with six pastoral members taking turns writing the devotions, six days a week (excluding Sunday), providing the devotional sharings on the Gospel of Mark. This ministry finally reached its conclusion on this day (devotion 97). Here, I thank God for every member of the pastoral team for trusting in the Lord’s grace and completing this work with one heart and mind; at the same time, I thank our God also for the brothers and sisters of the 3 campuses of FCNABC, for the prayer support they gave to the pastoral team, and the benefits they received from the devotions during this time. The Lord Christ Jesus, the One who created all things and sustains all things, and who used his blood to redeem us, is worthy of praise. May all glory be given to God, for ever and ever! Amen!
The Scripture today for our last devotion on the Gospel of Mark consists of only two verses: “After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” Although the words here are not many, but with regards to the completeness of the gospel of Jesus itself, they are indispensable. For the Lord Jesus’ resurrection from the dead was only the start of his receiving of glory; the Lord Jesus, after resurrecting, ascended to heaven, seated at the right hand of God the Father, and will come from there to judge the living and the dead - this is the fullness of the Lord Jesus’ receiving of glory, and the proof of his complete divinity and the power of the gospel. Due to the space limit, the meaning of Jesus’ ascension to heaven cannot be discussed comprehensively. Here, one point will be mentioned, that is, the relationship between the coming of the Holy Spirit and the ascension of the Lord to heaven. If the resurrected Jesus did not ascend to heaven, he would be unable to, together with the Father, send down the Holy Spirit. Jesus said to his disciples, “It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). We all know that the church was able to be established because of the Holy Spirit’s descending from Heaven, on the day of Pentecost, once and for all. This way, the disciples received power, allowing for the proclamation in the final verse of the Gospel of Mark: “then the disciples went out and preached everywhere”. Although the Lord Jesus at that time had already ascended to heaven, the Holy Spirit, with the power of the Lord’s resurrection, worked with the disciples, “and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” Nowadays, some radical pentacostal churches have misinterpreted the original meaning of this text. They are more interested by the miracles that occur during the preaching of the Word, rather than the proclamation in the Scriptures, that the Word which was preached was already confirmed. They pray to God, asking for these kinds of miracles to accompany them left and right in the present age, so that faith may be built. Yet, they neglect the fact that God gave the apostles the ability to perform miracles for the purpose of confirming his word (see Mark 16:20). For at the time, the canonical new testament had not yet been written, and the apostles in the eyes of the world were “unschooled, ordinary men” (Acts 4:13). Who can prove that they were called by God, and that the Word they preached came from God? Because of such a need, God used miracles to open the path for their preaching of the Word, “so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:5). Presently, what we preach is the Holy Word, confirmed by the miracles performed then by the apostles, which has furthermore, become the New Testament Bible held in our hands. The authority of God’s Word has not only been made certain, it has also been made manifest. Since we uplift the banner of “Sola Scriptura” (By Scripture alone), raised by the Reformation, we no longer need to rely on miracles to believe the already confirmed Word of God recorded in the Bible. Dear brothers and sisters, let us in prayer, meditate on why the entire book of Mark would use “confirmed his word” as the concluding words. This Word, having been confirmed, how can we still dare to not truly believe and obey from our hearts (see Hebrews 2:3)? May God have mercy on us!
Dear brothers and sisters, the devotion sharing on the Gospel of Mark, provided by our church in this time of isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic, has reached its conclusion today. But this does not mark the end of our lives of Bible reading and devotion. May all our brothers and sisters pray for whether our church should continue this kind of devotional ministry, and may the Lord protect the pastors, missionaries and members of FCNABC and of the entire church, and have us, with one heart and mind, spread the gospel of God, until we see the Lord face to face. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria!