“Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:
‘The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles:
The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,
And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death
Light has dawned.’
From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ They immediately left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him. And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them. Great multitudes followed Him—from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.”
When the Lord came to this earth, He bore all the sins of the entire human race by being baptized by John the Baptist. After receiving this baptism, the Lord was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and upon completion of this fasting He was tempted by Satan. When the Lord faced Satan’s temptation in various forms, He stood up against him and overcame him by trusting in the will of God the Father and His Word.
He then came to hear that John the Baptist had been put in prison for criticizing King Herod for his sins. Upon hearing this news Jesus left Nazareth, which had been His hometown, and went to Capernaum, a seaside town in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali. This was done to fulfill what the Prophet Isaiah had prophesied:
“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles:
The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,
And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death
Light has dawned” (Matthew 4:15-16).
As this passage shows, the New Testament records the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament. But it’s quite possible for us to take this too lightly, thinking in simple terms and not really appreciating its profound implications. However, the Lord’s work of salvation was not completed hastily, but it had been planned meticulously from long ago, and that’s why the Lord Himself completed this work of salvation when the time came.
When the Lord came to this earth, He was born in Bethlehem, a small town in Israel, and grew up in Nazareth. When He heard that John the Baptist was imprisoned, He left Nazareth and went to Capernaum, a town on the shore of the Sea of Galilee in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali. The region of Galilee was a Gentile land. Why did our Lord then go to Galilee personally even though it was a Gentile land? It was to save us the Gentiles from all our sins. You may think that it’s no big deal that the Lord went to the land of the Gentiles, but the fact that He went to the region of Galilee implies that He came looking for us the Gentiles to save us from all our sins.
In fact, the people of Israel did not accept Jesus Christ as their Lord. That’s because they failed to recognize that Jesus was the Son of God and the Savior of all humanity even though the Lord walked among them. Refusing to recognize Jesus Christ as their Savior, the people of Israel rejected Him and glorified some idols instead. The Lord had sent many servants of God to the people of Israel to admonish them to return to God in order that He might embrace them in His arms and bless them. But the people of Israel had refused to return to God. Therefore, our Lord came to this earth incarnated in the flesh of man as the Savior of the entire human race, and in obedience to the will of His Father, He bore all our sins by being baptized by John the Baptist. In other words, the Lord revealed Himself on this earth as the Savior of every human being rather than just for the people of Israel. Jesus revealed Himself as the Son of God to all human beings, and He was also tempted by Satan as the Savior of the entire human race. And He overcame all the temptations of the Devil, holding on to the Word of God the Father with reverence. He then went to the Gentile land of Galilee in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali and dwelt there to continue on with His work of salvation.
But the Jews rejected our Lord. So, instead Jesus went looking for the Gentiles. In other words, Jesus turned to the Gentiles because He was rejected by His own people, the people of Israel. The Bible records that it’s from this point on that Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). This is because the people of Israel rejected the will of the Lord. The Lord came looking for the Gentiles to become their Savior, and He has indeed become their Savior. Why did the Lord then come to this earth looking for us the Gentiles despite the fact we are not the chosen people of Israel? He did this because the people of Israel rejected Him just as the Apostle Paul said. This has an enormously important implication, showing that even the Gentiles now have an opportunity to reach their salvation and any of them can become God’s child if he just accepts the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ has fulfilled the righteousness of God the Father. Put differently, because Jesus Christ bore all the sins of the entire human race once and for all through His baptism, death on the Cross, and resurrection from the dead, anyone who believes in the righteousness of God wholeheartedly can now be saved. The Lord has given this chance and blessing of becoming God’s own people to all who will accept the gospel of the water and the Spirit into their hearts. It’s because the people of Israel rejected Jesus Christ that this opportunity to reach true salvation has been granted to us the Gentiles. Even though the Law of God originated from Jerusalem, because the people of Israel refused to accept Jesus Christ, all of us living in this present age now have the opportunity to reach our true salvation by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit.
God Called All of Us to Repent
Why did God call us to repent? He called for our repentance so that we would all obey and follow His will. To put this in another way, God called all human beings to repent because they would all be destroyed if they continued to disobey God and refuse to accept His will. God wanted to become their own God and bless them all, but many of them were still refusing to accept God’s love and His righteousness. That’s why the Lord called for repentance. And the Lord grants God’s blessings upon only to those who repent. True repentance is all about turning around from your own mistaken, self-righteous way and returning to God.
Therefore, if you have been waking on the wrong way, then you must repent without fail, regardless of whether you are a Jew, a Gentile, or even a Christian. Even if you are a Christian, unless you believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, you have actually been oblivious to the righteousness of God and disobeying His will all this time. So, if you really want to repent, then you must admit all your mistakes and accept Jesus Christ who has come by the water and the Spirit as your personal Savior. You must grasp the righteousness of God and accept it into your heart, for the Bible says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). You ought to then realize that you belong to the Lord, and that the Lord has saved you from all the sins of this world through the gospel of the water and the Spirit. And once you understand this true gospel, you must return to it by faith. Only then can you be truly saved.
Today’s Scripture passage shows us that it was God’s will for the Lord to come to this earth to save the people of Israel who were worshipping idols. But the vast majority of the Israelites rejected Him in His days. And even today, countless people, Jews or Gentiles alike, continue to refuse to accept that Jesus Christ is actually their God and Savior. All these people will be seated in the place of destruction. It’s very important for us to realize here that we the Gentiles have also been given the opportunity to reach our salvation by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. We, too, now have the chance to know and believe in the righteousness of God. This opportunity to reach our salvation by faith was given to us because the people of Israel rejected Jesus as their Savior. This was according to the infinite wise plan of God. Because God loves everyone in this world, He made all human beings in the likeness of His own image regardless of their race or ethnicity. And in doing so, God has given this opportunity to believe in His love to every human being. It’s because the Lord wants everyone to be saved from all his or her sins that He has now come looking for us also. It’s for the same reason that our Lord went to Galilee looking for Peter, Andrew, James, and John, and said to them as they were fishing, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). This is equally true for all the other disciples as well.
The Lord Has Blessed Us the Believers in the Gospel of the Water and the Spirit to Carry out God’s Work
We the born-again saints now have the power to save each and every sinner from their sins. The Lord has empowered us to save every sinner, just as He said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). The inhabitants along the shores of the Sea of Galilee were living in a Gentile region. The Lord had come to a Gentile land and called Peter and Andrew who were fishing in the Sea of Galilee, saying to them, “I will make you fishers of men. Follow Me.” Upon hearing this, Peter and Andrew threw away their nets and followed Jesus. This implies that God has given us the Gentiles to become Jesus’ disciples. Here we can see that the blessing of carrying out God’s work is actually granted to the Gentiles rather than the people of Israel. So you and I can also find this grace of God today in our lives.
I am not saying here that Peter was not a Jew. He was in fact a Jew, just as the Lord was also a Jew in His flesh. Rather, my point is that the Lord went to the Gentile region of Galilee despite the fact He was a Jew in His flesh. This was the fulfillment of the prophecy made by God’s servant in the age of the Old Testament: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles” (Matthew 4:15). As shown here in this passage, the land of Galilee was not a Jewish land. It was a Gentile land, but the Lord nevertheless went there and called Peter and Andrew while they were fishing in the Sea of Galilee, and later on He also called James and John. He then made them His disciples to carry out His work. This shows us just how deeply the Lord cares about the Gentiles, how He has given us the Gentiles the gospel of salvation, and how He wants to preach the gospel of the water and the Spirit all over the world through us. This is God’s will toward all of us.
When we look at the people of Israel and their history, we can see that their faith actually had a very poor record. They worshipped golden calves so stubbornly that they did not return to God even when they were punished for their idolatry. It was in such a time that Jesus was born on this earth in the town of Bethlehem. Bethlehem was a tiny rural village, just as the region of Nazareth was considered backward in those days. Jesus was born and spent His childhood in such backward towns.
When Jesus turned 30, He went to the Jordan River and bore all the sins of the entire human race by being baptized by John the Baptist. Having thus borne all the sins of this world through the baptism He received from John the Baptist; Jesus then called the twelve disciples while shouldering these sins, and He made them preach the gospel to the Israelites first. But He often went to the Gentile regions to preach the gospel to the Gentiles as well. Our Lord then chose the Apostle Paul as His messenger to the Gentiles. And today, He has made us preach this very same gospel of the water and the Spirit.
Today, it is through us the Gentiles that God is preaching the gospel of the water and the Spirit to everyone. This is God’s will. Why, then, did God decide to carry out His work through us the Gentiles instead of the people of Israel? This was all according to God’s wisdom.
It’s often said that the best and the most astute merchants in the world are Jewish. There is a widespread perception that the Jews excel at commercial ventures, and in the course of gaining this reputation, the Jews have also earned some unsavory prejudices as cold, calculating merchants. The Merchant of Venice is a typical example of this stereotypical portrait of the Jews that prevailed for much of the European history. But there is a historical background to this: The Jews relied on commerce because they were discriminated against and shut out of all other means from making a living. Commerce in general was looked down upon in Europe until the advent of capitalism, while there were innumerable obstacles that made it impossible for the Jews to pursue any professional occupation. As a result, the Jews were forced into relying on commercial activity, particularly in finance, as their only means of making a living. Their success then became a breeding ground for resentment, which served to fuel even more discrimination and bigotry against them. Although anti-Semitism is not as prevalent now as it was before, it has not been entirely extinguished. Even in the United States, there still are some people who are resentful of the Jews and the perceived influence they hold.
Another reason of God’s choice of the Gentiles to replace the Israelites as His servants is that the Jews were not obedient to His Word even when God Himself came to them and admonished them to repent from their wicked ways. They were worshipping golden calves while pretending to worship God. They actually were seeking worldly values such as power, prestige, and property, and these were their golden calves. So God wants to spread the gospel of the water and the Spirit through the Gentiles. Just as Jesus called His disciples from the inhabitants of the Gentile region of Galilee and entrusted them with God’s work, so has God called you and me today to carry out His work.
Preaching the gospel of the water and the Spirit is indeed a wonderful blessing that God has given to all of us. Most Christians nowadays think that it was just an accidental coincidence that Jesus happened to be on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and called His disciples from there. But this actually shows us that Jesus wanted to preach the gospel of the water and the Spirit not just to the Israelites but also to every other nation, and that He was interested in the Gentiles even more keenly. That Jesus cared so deeply about the Gentiles living by the Sea of Galilee means that He wanted to save the Gentiles and preach the gospel of the water and the Spirit all over the world through them; and this is why God has made us preach this genuine gospel throughout the whole wide world. God has a great plan for you and me. This is an amazing blessing and all of us have received a tremendous blessing from God.
Everyone in this world must repent. The people of Israel must also repent, turn around, and return to God of their ancestors of faith. All human beings living throughout the whole world must accept Jesus Christ the Savior of humanity as their own personal Savior. Even if one is a Christian, so long as this person believes in useless doctrines instead of the Truth of salvation, he is worshipping idols in vain. Such misguided Christians must all turn around from their idolatry and return to the real Christian faith, one that is placed only in the righteousness of the Savior of humanity. The gospel of the water and the Spirit is the Truth of salvation, and everyone must believe in this gospel with all their heart. This is why we are preaching this gospel of true salvation, the gospel of the water and the Spirit. And this is God’s will for all of us.
It seems that the Jordan River was a very important place for Jesus’ ministry. It was here in the Jordan River that Jesus bore all the sins of the human race by being baptized by John the Baptist. And it’s because the Lord bore all the sins of the world on His own body that He went to the Cross. Jesus was baptized to begin His ministry.
Jesus then went to the vicinity of the Sea of Galilee to actually initiate His ministry of salvation. Why did Jesus go to the Sea of Galilee specifically as the very first place to minister, when He had lived most of His life in Nazareth? The shores of the Sea of Galilee were completely foreign. It was in this land of the Gentiles that Jesus called Peter, Andrew, John, and James. This means that although God did carry out His work through the people of Israel, He was ultimately more interested in the Gentiles. In other words, God wanted the gospel to be preached all over the world through us the Gentiles.
Which is greater in number, the Jew and the Gentiles? There are far more Gentiles than the Jews. It’s estimated that there are only about 13.2 million Jews worldwide. Compared to this, China alone has over 1.3 billion people, while the world population is around 7.7 billion at this point. And the Lord loves each and every one of them. He wants to save everyone regardless of race or nationality, and this is why He told us the believers in the gospel of the water and the Spirit that we shall be the witnesses of His gospel to Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. The preaching of gospel of the water and the Spirit started from Israel, but when this gospel is completely preached to the Gentiles, it will again return to Israel. When the people of Israel finally accept Jesus as their Savior, the will of the Lord will be completely fulfilled.
However, because the people of Israel were so stubborn, we the Gentiles were also given an opportunity to believe in the gospel. The Lord has granted the gift of His true salvation to all who believe in His righteousness, just as John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”
The people of Israel had disobeyed God for over a thousand years. The Gentiles had also disobeyed God. But despite this, God still preached the gospel of the water and the Spirit to the Gentiles through His servants, and thanks to this, they reached their salvation and received God’s blessings by believing in this gospel. In other words, the Gentiles accepted as their own salvation the baptism that Jesus received from John the Baptist and the blood that He shed on the Cross. So both their hearts and God’s heart were full of joy. That is how God’s will was fulfilled. And this is why the Lord said, “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). God indeed loved everyone in this world without any distinction. We should always remember in our hearts that our Lord has loved us like this.
Let’s turn to Matthew 4:23-25 here: “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them. Great multitudes followed Him—from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.” As this passage indicates, Galilee was the main area of Jesus’ ministry while He was on this earth.
The Lord fulfilled the salvation of the human race while He was on this earth. The very first thing that the Lord did in His ministry was to fulfill the righteousness of God. Everyone’s salvation was already prepared solely by our Lord. Now, turning around from one’s mistaken way is the first step to returning to God.
What should we then do to return back to God? First of all, we must turn around from our mistaken beliefs and return to the gospel of the water and the Spirit. Put differently, we must turn around from our worship of golden calves and return to Jesus Christ who has come by the gospel of the water and the Spirit. Otherwise no one can be saved from all their sins. This is why all of us must return to the gospel of the water and the Spirit and believe in it. We must all believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit that the Lord has given to us. It’s with this gospel of the water and the Spirit that our Lord has blotted out all the sins of all humanity and His people once and for all.
We Are Now Preaching the Gospel of the Water and the Spirit All Over the World
Just as Jesus healed countless people He had met, we are also healing countless people spiritually. By preaching the gospel of the water and the Spirit to all the people who want to believe in God wholeheartedly according to His Word, we are healing them from their illness of sin.
People all over the world are now suffering from an unprecedented cultural malaise of sin. Some people even think that they have committed such vile sins that they could never be remitted from them. It is therefore our duty to heal these desperate people from all their sins with the gospel of the water and the Spirit. We have the ability to heal them all from their spiritual illness of sin. We are all capable of this as the believers in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, for we are Jesus’ disciples.
Just as our Lord cared deeply about the Gentiles, so must we also care about them. And just as our Lord healed countless sick people suffering from all kinds ailments, so must we also heal today’s sinners from their spiritual illness. This is the very work that we are doing now. Although we have been carrying out this work of God to this very day, we must be even more diligent in the days to come. When we realize that it’s God’s will for us to carry out this work, it’s then that we can see the Holy Spirit working in our hearts. It’s thanks to the Hoy Spirit in our hearts that we can preach the gospel of the water and the Spirit to all the spiritually ill people around us.
Now, I’d like to spend the next few minutes to reiterate my points and bring this sermon to a close. Our Lord is indeed carrying out God’s work through us the believers in the gospel of the water and the Spirit.
John the Baptist had faithfully fulfilled all his duties until he was embraced in God’s arms. What did John the Baptist do on this earth then? He did two very important things: Firstly, he passed to Jesus Christ all the sins of not only the people of Israel but also everyone throughout the whole world, and secondly, he bore witness of this Truth of salvation. What he testified was that Jesus was the Messiah and that He was the Son of God. Through his testimony, John the Baptist made it known to the whole world that just Jesus came to this earth as the Lamb of God, bore all the sins of the entire human race by being baptized by John the Baptist, blotted them all out by sacrificing Himself, just as the Old Testament’s scapegoat had died to make atonement for the sins of the people of Israel.
Another role that John the Baptist played was pointing out people’s sins. He rebuked even King Herod so harshly for his sins, and because of this he was martyred. At the same time, John the Baptist was so humble that when his disciples told him about how everyone was flocking to Jesus, he said to them, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:27-30). Like this, John the Baptist humbled himself before the Lord and gave all glory to Him. He deserved to be called by God as the representative of all of mankind to pass all the sins of the world onto Jesus Christ.
As the Lord bore all the sins of the world by being baptized by John the Baptist, He died on the Cross while shouldering these sins and rose from the dead again; He has thus become the Savior of all who believe in this Truth. The Lord has made it possible for all of us to be saved from all our sins only if we believe in God’s righteousness. In other words, we can all be saved if we just accept and believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior. And it was to bear witness of this that John the Baptist had come.
Once John the Baptist finished all his works, from then on Jesus began to shout out by the Sea of Galilee, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Everyone must return to the righteousness of Jesus by faith. Whoever does so can enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever believes in the Lord’s righteousness can go to Heaven.
How about you then? Do you really believe in the righteousness of Jesus Christ? This world is on the verge of a terrible storm. Although it’s quiet for now, we can all feel that impending disasters of various kinds are just around the corner. More and more natural disasters are occurring all over the world, and the aftermath of severe famines around the world will surely result into global food crisis, and countless people will soon be starving to death. There are also many diseases threatening to spiral out of control turning into pandemics, from SARS to avian flu and even malaria. More and more ominous signs are appearing all over the world. We are now living in the age that is like the calm before the storm.
Earlier today I spent some time to write a few words that would go into the front flap of my five-volume sermon series on the Gospel of Matthew, and in it I discussed the disasters that would come with the end of the world. As I wrote, I noted down that this present age is the age of the black horse described in the Book of Revelation. Four ages are mentioned in the Book of Revelation—the age of the white horse, the age of the scarlet horse, the age of the black horse, and the following age of the pale horse—and of these, we are now living towards the end of the age of the black horse. I noted this on the front flap of my sermon series on the Gospel of Matthew, discussing how we are now living in such a dangerous age. We are indeed living in a difficult and dangerous age. Once we preach the gospel of the water and the Spirit completely, what is to come will surely come.
Now is surely the age of black horse. Prices of basic food have skyrocketed recently. One of the causes behind this is the ever-increasing price of gas, which has led many countries to seek alternative sources of energy. Corn, for instance, has seen its demand jump sharply due to the fact that it can be processed into ethanol. So, instead of being used as a source of food, more and more corn is being processed into an alternative fuel, and as a result, its price has gone through the roof making it less affordable for the poor in developing countries. Even more worrisome than the current global food crisis is global warming. Scientists warn that unless something is done to arrest global warming, climate changes will result into catastrophic consequences. We really are living in such a dangerous age.
Therefore, everyone in this world must return to Jesus Christ and believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit before it’s too late. That’s the only way to be delivered from the impending destruction. All must return to Jesus Christ who has come by the gospel of the water and the Spirit, and all must believe in Him. Only then can everyone enter and live in the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Lord is saying to us that this present age will become like the days of Noah. This world, in other words, will be destroyed all of a sudden. Yet even as the destruction of the world is just around the corner, countless people are still too busy going about their own business that they are not ready to believe in the salvation that the Lord has brought to them through the gospel of the water and the Spirit. The Lord said that all these people will be destroyed for their failure to prepare the faith that could have delivered them.
But to the sons of God, the Lord said that He will not come as a thief. We the believers in the gospel of the water and the Spirit can know when the Lord will return. Just as we are preaching the gospel of the water and the Spirit, the Word of God concerning the end times will be fulfilled in tandem. Although some people will believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, others will reject it. However, the Lord is still offering everyone a chance to believe in this genuine gospel.
The door is now opening for us to preach the gospel all over world. It won’t be long before the gospel of the water and the Spirit makes its way into every country. As the disciples of Jesus, you and I who believe in this gospel of the water and the Spirit must work hard to bring the remission of sins to everyone else in the world. Our duty is healing people’s souls. Put differently, we must help everyone else to receive the remission of sins through the gospel of the water and the Spirit. They will go to Heaven then.
It’s absolutely imperative for all of us to preach the gospel of the water and the Spirit to everyone in this world. So let us all wake up to the Lord’s calling, and let us all fulfill His work by the faith of believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. Instead of looking at this world that will soon be destroyed, let us all look towards the Lord and faithfully carry out every work He has entrusted to us.