The Ceremony of Water Baptism

.... In this posting we'll discuss a very special response to the gospel that will tie all of its implications together. It is the ‘official ceremony’ of our covenant with Jesus, the outward seal of the faith we’ve gained in our hearts, and our open declaration to the world of the same. It is the testimony of water baptism.

.... Water baptism represents the four points of the gospel, and it allows us to relate to them through an open, personal application. This begins with our recognition of Jesus as our Lord. Through baptism we are then lowered into the water, as into a grave, in the likeness of His death (the Greek word baptisma literally means ‘immersion’), then we are quickly raised again in the likeness of His resurrection.
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.... The whole ceremony signifies that we have been joined with Jesus in what He has done for us, because we have believed the testimony of His witnesses. And in this we, too, will become witnesses of His resurrection:

.... "Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."

(Romans 6:3-4)

.... Baptismal ceremonies are performed by persons who have already believed in Jesus, who are now acting as His representative (John 4:1-2; Acts 2:38). As such they will baptize in the name of Jesus, meaning that they will baptize by His authority. But the new Christian themselves will be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost:

.... "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, 'All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.'"
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(Matthew 28:18-19)

.... Therefore, a proper baptismal statement may go something like this:

.... "By the authority of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

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............................................................... Daily Bible Reading: Matthew 18

Our Response to the Gospel

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.... If you’ve followed this online discipleship forum over the last several postings, you should know the four points of the gospel by now. Here they are again, for your review:

1. An understanding of who Jesus is (see Romans 10:9)
2. Jesus died for our sins, according to the Scriptures.
3. Jesus was raised again on the third day, according to the Scriptures.
4. Jesus was seen, after His resurrection, by many witnesses.
.... In one previous posting we discussed how deeper truths could be derived from the same four points, and this posting will begin with something similar. Based on those same four truths of the gospel, what might be an appropriate response on our part? Because this will be our side of turning the gospel into a relationship. Below is sample question, along with some possible answers and their corresponding Scriptures:
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1) Given that Jesus died for our sins, how might we show that we understand the magnitude and implications of this truth?

A. We should confess ours sinful deeds to Him. This humble application will help us appreciate what He has done for us (Psalm 51:4; Mark 1:5; 1 John 1:9; 1 Corinthians 15:54-57).

B. It is also appropriate to confess that we were sinners by our nature, so we would probably have kept on sinning without Him. Thus, our need for Him is continual (Ephesians 2:3).

C. Since our sins separated us from God, we should express our regret by repenting of them. In a reciprocal way, if our sins made us farther, this would make us closer, and would also help us set a new course in life (Matthew 3:2; Luke 15:7, 10; James 4:8).

D. Since Jesus died to redeem us from sin, the form of our debt has changed. We are no longer indebted to God for our sins, but for the life of His Son. We should therefore respond by committing our own lives to Him in believing (John 3:18; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

E. Just as Jesus took His stand for us publicly, to bear our sins, we should publicly make it known that we’ve accepted the gospel (Romans 1:16; Acts 2:41; Mark 8:38)
.... Once again we see how a little thoughtfulness and meditation, in a prayerful attitude, can reveal some further truths that are easily within our reach! In Christ, the truth is dynamic in his way because it mirrors a living Person rather than a religious system or code of beliefs, and it is interactive because it reflects our relationship with Him (John 14:6; 1 John 2:27).

.... This list above is by no means exhaustive. Below are three more prompting questions for you to think about. In the ‘comments’ section you will find some possible answers, but please try to come up with some implications on your own before checking. And if you happen to come up with some new ones, please feel free to add them in further comments!

2) Given that Jesus rose from the dead to give us a new life, what should be our resolve as we follow Him?

3) Given that Jesus saves us through the preaching of the gospel, what should be our general attitude in receiving this message?

4) The motive behind Jesus’ death and resurrection was His love for us. What would be an appropriate response to this love? .

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Daily Bible Reading: Matthew 17 .

The Meaning of ‘Born Again’

... Jesus has always existed in heaven with the Father, even before His birth in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). In the fullness of time He entered our world, being conceived by a virgin as the prophets foretold of Him (Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 7:14; Jeremiah 31:22). Thus, through His mother, He obtained a human nature like our own, though He remained fully Divine as well (Romans 1:3; Micah 5:2). According to the flesh, He was born of the descendants of Adam, and this is referred to as His 'Adamic' life (Luke 3:23,38). But when He was crucified for our sins, that Adamic life came to an end.

.... When He was raised from the dead on the third day, Jesus appeared to us with a new life that was no longer descended from Adam (for that life, remember, had ended on the cross). Instead, He had become the first of a new race of mankind, being called 'the firstborn from the dead' (1 Corinthians 15:45-47). We might even say that He was ‘born again’, if that helps us to understand the phrase (Acts 13:33). And in like manner, those who believe in Him will die to themselves to live through Jesus, to become children of God through His resurrection. In other words we, too, will be ‘born again’ through our faith in Him (John 3:3).

.... "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."

(John 1:12-13)

.... To understand the implications of our rebirth in easy-to-understand terms, let’s consider a natural division that is formed between Jesus' own death and resurrection, and see how it is reflected in us:
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.... Just as Jesus' old (Adamic) life ended on the cross, everything that He accomplished through His death pertained to our old man (our original life,) and was done in relation to our past, to settle our account with God in that regard. His death offered a just conclusion to our lives, allowing God to 'close the books' on our case. Thus, through His death comes the forgiveness of our sins, justification, reconciliation, peace with God, and many other things, all having to do with settling the old score which was contrary to us, that we may leave our old, broken, hurt, and sinful ways behind us forever (Colossians 1:14; 1:20-22).

.... And just as Jesus returned with newness of life through His resurrection, everything that was accomplished through His resurrection provides for our new, future state: Salvation, a new creation, our own resurrection, our inheritance in heaven, the adoption as sons, and many other things that speak of a new, ongoing life that we may share with Him (Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:16-17; 1 Peter 1:3-4; Romans 6:5; 8:13-15).
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.... Between ourselves and Jesus, through what He has done, a sharing of life, of death, and of life anew has taken place. Through our faith in this gospel message, our lives become completely bound up in His as one. Each of the ‘benefits’ we've mentioned are actually facets of the death and new life that we will begin to share with Him, coming only through the gospel, and are not attainable in any other way (
Galatians 1:1-4).
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.... Like Jesus Himself, we have become children of God through His resurrection, and members of the same new race of mankind:

.... "Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure."

(1 John 3:2-32)

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Daily Bible Reading: Matthew 16

The Exaltation of Christ

.... Before He was born in Bethlehem -- before time itself began -- our Lord Jesus enjoyed a natural glory that He shared with our heavenly Father (John 17:5). Yet He willingly surrendered this equality, took the form of a servant as He came into this world, and making Himself of no reputation; Jesus came in the likeness of sinful flesh that He might live among us as one of us, and ransom sinful man by dying in our place (Romans 8:3; Hebrews 2:9).

.... Therefore God has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and that every tongue should confess that He is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).

.... "Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles."

(Isaiah 42:1)

.... After His resurrection and ascension, Jesus regained the glory He had with the Father before time began. So this raises a question. If His glory at first and His glory as the end were the same, what did He gain through His death and resurrection, and all of that suffering?

.... In the end, what He gained was us.

.... So this brings us to the question of His motive. The Scriptures tell us that Jesus is the One "who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood." (Revelation 1:5). His motive in suffering so greatly was His everlasting love for us all; and when we hear the gospel proclaimed, God is asking for our faith in response:

.... "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

(John 3:16)

.... It is not that we first loved God, but that He loved us; and if, while we were enemies because of our sin, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life (1 John 4:19; Romans 5:10). It is all about the relationship that forms through believing in God's Son Jesus who loves us so much, and by learning to cling to Him in return by our abiding in Him, that God might be glorified in us.

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Daily Bible Reading: Matthew 15 .

The Gospel in the Heavenlies

.... How does God view the good news of Jesus Christ, in applying it to man? His perspective is simple yet overwhelming -- and the Book of Revelation offers an illustration for expressing it:

.... In the beginning of this book, the Apostle John is caught up into heaven where God is seated on the throne of His glory. The Prophet Isaiah describes a similar scene in which smoke fills the temple and four living creatures, each having six wings, praise God night and day without ceasing:
.... "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come! The whole earth is full of His glory!"

(Isaiah 6:1 with Revelation 4:8)

.... So powerful is their praise that the very foundations of heaven are moved at the sound of their voices! And when they give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, twenty-four elders fall down and worship Him, casting their crowns before His throne and saying: "You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created." (Revelation 4:9-11).

.... These are the high praises of God in His very presence forever, and even the apostles and prophets are overwhelmed before it. But the next thing they notice is themselves in their sinfulness, and this produces a contrast that is staggering: .

.... "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts."

(Isaiah 6:5)

.... In this passage the prophet is overwhelmed, and something similar happens to the Apostle John. For as the vision continues, God holds up a scroll that is sealed with seven seals; and a strong angel proclaimes with a loud voice, saying, "Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?" (Revelation 5:2). In contrast to the ear-splitting praise, the sudden silence is deafening. And John weeps greatly, because no one in heaven or on earth is found worthy to open the scroll or even to look at it (Revelation 5:3-4).

.... Through this illustration, the underlying concept of the gospel begins to emerge. For on one side of this great separation is God Himself in all of His holiness, and on the other side is every person who has ever lived, each in their own sinfulness, all put together in one place at one time for God to look upon. The contrast is staggering! What a huge gulf has formed between us! "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). And Who is able to bridge such a gulf?

.... God sought for one worthy man, a mediator, who could stand in this gap on behalf of us all (Isaiah 63:5). If we allow our minds to race through history and we search as diligently as we can, we too, will weep as one potential champion after another falls short. But even from this historical perspective, our search will suddenly end as we happen upon a man who walked the shores of Galilee long ago. From out of the depths of time, our champion could only be the man known as Jesus of Nazareth. And so it was said to John:

.... "Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals."

(Revelation 5:5)

.... Into the immeasurable gulf between God and man stands Jesus Himself, as a lamb that was slain, and He takes the scroll from the One who sits on the throne. And the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fall down before Him, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense which are the prayers of the saints. And they sing a new song, saying:.

.... "You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth."

(Revelation 5:9-10)

.... Please consider these lyrics carefully. It was not ‘given’ to Jesus to open the seals, nor was it said that He opened them ‘for the glory of God’ or by some other concession. But in the very presence of God, whose holiness is forever proclaimed, it is said of Jesus, "You are worthy to open the scroll . . . you have prevailed to do so." And this statement is made in the context of His humanity, having lived on the earth as a man!

.... Now let's understand what their song actually means. In order to ‘redeem’ something, the price that is offered must be equal to or greater than the object that is being redeemed. This is why we had to understand the huge contrast between God’s holiness and our own sinfulness. For when it is said of Jesus, "You are worthy . . . for You have redeemed us . . ." essentially they are saying of Him, "You are more HOLY than all of us, put together, are sinful."
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.... How holy Jesus must be!

.... Beloved, each of us knows the sins we’ve committed in our lifetime and how ugly they must be, if put together in one place at one time for God to look upon. To understand that Jesus was holy enough to redeem each of us from all of our sins is a staggering thought! Nevertheless, it is so. To consider that He was able to redeem not only us, but every person in the entire world, from the beginning of time until the day He returns – it must be more than any person could ever fathom. But for now, it is enough to understand this:
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.. If Jesus Christ is the One died for your sins – if He is the one who died for your sins – then He truly was enough. No matter what you’ve done in your lifetime, God's great champion has given His own, holy life in your place, so that your ransom is truly complete and you have been fully, utterly redeemed:.

.... "Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him."

(Hebrews 7:25)

.... And this is why we have to understand that the good news is found in a Person. Our salvation is found in the One who died on the cross, who rose again, who loved us and washed us in His own blood, and not simply in a plan or a procedure. Or had it been one of us who died, we could not even have redeemed ourselves. God’s illustration is simple, yet it conveys more than words ever could.

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Daily Bible Reading: Matthew 14 .

The Glorified Savior

.... In our previous posting we began a discussion on the gospel concept, but its main point always seems to need elaboration. Jesus saved us from our sins, but who is Jesus Himself, and why is He able to accomplish all of this?

.... To explain this most important of truths, we should examine the good news of Jesus Christ from God’s own perspective. To do this, let’s turn to the final book of the Bible, which is aptly called The Revelation of Jesus Christ:

.... " . . . Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood . . ."

(Revelation 1:5)

.... In the opening of this book (the premise), which is quoted above, you'll see the four points of the gospel that we have been discussing in our previous articles, but from God’s own point of view. He is telling us who Jesus is, that He died for our sins, that He was raised from the dead – and in this case, that Jesus Himself is the faithful witness (see 1 Corinthians 15:1-5). But we cannot help noticing that Jesus is also far more than this:

.... "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End," says the Lord, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."

(Revelation 1:8)

.... "Then I turned" said John, "to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength." (Revelation 1:12-16).

.... Here was a glimpse of Jesus as He appeared before the ages, and the true picture of His glory as He appears today: here is the Christ unveiled, the persona of our Lord Himself as we should perceive Him now in all our devotion to Him (2 Corinthians 5:16; Hebrews 10:20). Even John, who knew Him so well, was utterly overwhelmed in His Divine presence and fell at His feet as one dead (v 17).
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In like manner Saul of Tarsus, on the occasion of his conversion, had approached Damascus ‘at about noon,’ as the mid day sun filed the eastern sky. Then suddenly Jesus appeared, and that sun became the second brightest object in the sky: "for along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me." (
Acts 22:6; 26:13). He, too, was overwhelmed and fell to the ground, trembling.

.... We often think of Jesus as He was in this world, walking among us in a veil of flesh. And indeed, He was fully human during that time. Yet He never ceased to be fully Divine as well, and we must grasp this more fully in our relationship with Him today:

.... "Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer."

(2 Corinthians 5:16)

.... Through the breaking of His flesh on the cross, the veil has been removed, so that a new and living Way has been consecrated for us to enter the holiest place of all (Hebrews 10:20). And the true power and glory of His person provides a stunning context for the gospel as the Book of Revelation unfolds (which we will continue is our next posting).

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Daily Bible Reading:Matthew 13

The Gospel Concept

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.... In our previous postings we've explored the message of the gospel, beginning with an actual definition of the term. As a recap, the gospel includes four basic points:

1. An understanding of who Jesus is (see Romans 10:9);
2. That He died for our sins, according to the Scriptures;
3. That He was raised again on the third day, according to the Scriptures;
4. And that He was seen, after His resurrection, by many witnesses.

(1 Corinthians 15:1-5)

.... In this posting we'll go a little deeper to explore the underlying gospel concept. Concepts are the middle step between head knowledge and a true, spiritual understanding. With help from the Holy Spirit, they can move us from knowing to applying, from understanding to appreciating, from believing to transforming, when the Lord’s perfect work is done in us.

.... In a classroom setting, this concept can be presented in the form of a drill that will get the class thinking. We’ve already discussed the four points of the gospel, but further truths can be derived from these same points if we’ll meditate on their meaning. This is the sort of approach Paul liked to use, beginning with easy points, then finding evidence of deeper truths within them. For example, if Jesus died for our sins we see evidence of a deeper truth that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).

.... To bring out these underlying lessons, the class may be promtped with leading questions, such as: "What does it mean that Jesus died for our sins?" putting emphasis on certain points on which they are invited to elaborate. When this has been done, here are some of the answers that earlier classes have come up with:
- Jesus died for our sins; so the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).
- Jesus died for our sins, so we are the ones who really deserved the penalty of death (Ezekiel 18:4)
- Jesus died for us, which means He did not die for Himself; He was not in the same situation as we. In other words, Jesus Himself was sinless (John 8:46).
- Jesus died for us, which means He loved us and cared for us (Revelation 1:5).
- Jesus died for our sins; so without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins (Hebrews 9:22).
.... As you can see, a little meditation in a prayerful attitude, with the encouragement of Christians who are learning together, based on things they may already know, can bring some life-changing revelations! But several more implications have been added in the ‘comments’ section. If we may ask this of you, please think about this on your own and try to reach some further conclusions before comparing your thoughts to the rest of the items on the list; and if you come up with further items that we’ve missed, please add them in additional comments and include a brief explanation.

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Daily Bible Reading: Matthew 12 .

The Cross and the Mystery of God

.... As we’ve discussed in our previous postings, Paul’s definition of the gospel contains four elements, which were included each time the gospel was proclaimed:

1. An understanding of who Jesus is (see Romans 10:9)
2. that He died for our sins, according to the Scriptures;
3. that He was raised again on the third day, according to the Scriptures;
4. and that He was seen, after His resurrection, by many witnesses.

(1 Corinthians 15:1-5)

.... Whenever we see the term "the gospel" used in the epistles, it will always bear the specific meaning of this definition. It is not simply a generic term for all Christian teaching! In fact, each time this term is used, the entire passage will make much more sense if we purposely associate this meaning with the term, and read it into our flow of understanding. For example, in 1 Corinthians 4:15, Paul uses the term ‘the gospel’ to describe the message that allows believers to be born again.

.... Conversely, when we see the Bible addressing any aspect of the death or resurrection of Christ, we may readily associate the term ‘gospel’ with that passage and it will help us understand the intention better. For instance, Paul outlined the gospel in Galatians 1:1-4, then used this position to reprove the Galatians, who had started to follow ‘another gospel’. (Do you catch that flow a little more clearly now?)

.... "The gospel" is interchangeable with another Biblical term, "the cross", which carries the exact same meaning unless it refers to the actual, wooden cross on which Jesus was crucified. For example, when Jesus foretold His death and resurrection, He proclaimed the gospel to the apostles (Matthew 16:21). He then showed them that they must follow Him with the hope of the gospel in their hearts – and in this case, He referred to the gospel as ‘the cross’:

.... ‘Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.’

(Matthew 16:21-24; see also Colossians 1:23)

.... Furthermore, when the Bible speaks of ‘the mystery of God’ or ‘the kingdom of God in a mystery’, or something with similar wording, this, too, is a synonymous term for the gospel. In fact, it is used even more frequently than ‘the cross’ (see Romans 16:25). We hope this insight will prove helpful in your future Bible studies.

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Daily Bible Reading: Matthew 11

The Gospel Proclaimed Boldly

.... In 1 Corinthians 15:1-5, Paul defined the gospel message to include four elements, which were always present when the gospel was proclaimed. Those elements were as follows:

1. An understanding of who Jesus is (see Romans 10:9)

2. That Jesus died for our sins, according to the Scriptures;

3. That He was was raised again on the third day, according to the Scriptures;

4. And that He was seen, after His resurrection, by many witnesses.

(1 Corinthians 15:1-5)

.... In the passage below, God worked through the apostles to heal a lame man at the temple. This episode brought them into conflict with the Sanhedrin, the religious governing body of Israel -- the very same group who had that earlier condemned Jesus, and had Him crucified. The apostles have just been allowed to speak for themselves, so they have boldly proclaimed the gospel to these men (Acts 4:8-13,20). Please read their message and see if you can locate the four points of the gospel within the apostle's words. The answers and some further commentary will appear in the ‘comments’ section:

8. Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: 9. If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, 10. let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. 11. This is the 'stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.' 12. Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." 13. Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus . . . 20. "For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."

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Daily Bible Reading: Matthew 10