Malachi 1:6-2:9 pt 2 The Church is a Defender of Truth

Malachi 1:9-2:6 pt 2

The Church is a defender of the Truth

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to the Book of Malachi. If you do not have or own a Bible, please remember to grab a Bible from the back table as our gift to you. One of our missions here at Bangor Community Church is to get the Word of God in the hands of as many people as possible.

So, the book of Malachi is where we are. Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament and is split up in to 6 different sections. Over simplifying, 6 different dialogues that God is having with Israel. We started last week looking at the second and longest of those last week, looking at Malachi chapter 1, verse 6, all the way on through to Malachi chapter 2, verse 9.

We saw how God calls us to put Him first. We are here in church to worship and glorify God first and foremost. If we are not fully focused on God and his glory, then God says, dont bother. Church is a poor hobby. Dont play Church.

And we saw what we are to be, as a practical outpouring of our glorifying God, what we are to be as the church. We are to edify and build up the body of Christ, we are to evangelize those that dont know Jesus Christ, and to disciple those who do, so they grow in the wisdom and knowledge of the LORD. And we are to contend earnestly for the faith.

We are to give God our first and our best, of our time, our money, our thoughts, our actions and our life. God is talking here to Israel in general but also, specifically to the priests, those who are called to do the work of the LORD. They have been dropping the ball, and giving cheap, diseased sacrifices. God is going to remind them of what their calling is.

So, before we jump into that part, we are going to read the text that we are looking at this morning. Again, it is a longer section, the same section we read last week. Malachi 1:6-2:9. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. I do encourage you to follow along in whichever is your preferred translation. So starting in Malachi, chapter 1, verse 6, God, speaking through His prophet, says:

 “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ 7 By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the Lord‘s table may be despised. 8 When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts. 9 And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the Lord of hosts. 10 Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand. 11 For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be[b] great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts. 12 But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised. 13 But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord. 14 Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations

 “And now, O priests, this command is for you. 2 If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the Lord of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart. 3 Behold, I will rebuke your offspring,[a] and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings, and you shall be taken away with it.[b] 4 So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may stand, says the Lord of hosts. 5 My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction[c] was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. 7 For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people[d] should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. 8 But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts, 9 and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.”

So, I mentioned last week too, that specifically God is talking to the priests of Israel. Those who were called to teach the law, to run the temple, to perform the sacrifices, those who are to serve God and spread the Word and his Will throughout the nations. And so, that may seem like it means that he is not talking to us, that he is only talking to a certain segment today.

However, we read in 1 Peter 2:9, that this includes us, as Peter writes:  But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

God created this world with order, not chaotically, not randomly. He created things to go in a certain order and to work in a systematic way. It started as a paradise, but man sinned and chaos was brought into the world. Thats why the world is as it is today, because of our sin and disobedience. Because we are totally depraved. We have a sin nature that enslaves and control us.

But God is a graceful God. He is a God who cares about his creation. So he has poured his grace on the entire world. Some of that is whats called common grace. This is all of the good things that we see around us. God is still giving blessings to the world around us.

This is everything from rain to help plants grow, swamp coolers and Air Conditioning. This is the colors that we see around us, the beauty of nature. This is pet dogs and our favorite books or movies. This is art in general, this is way that our favorite food tastes. This is our friendships and our marriages and our relationships. This is everything Good and lovely in this world. And this includes the revelation of how to live right and the standard of our Holy and Perfect God.

And then there is specific, special grace. This is what God pours out on those whom he calls to believe in him and to save from the consequences of our sin. And it is only through the grace of God that we get this. He chooses to pour his specific, saving grace through the vehicle of faith, and only faith that is in God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

God is very clear in His Word. There is only one way and there is only two choices. Salvation by God is through his grace alone. Jesus shows us the two destinations possible in his parable of the Goats and the Sheep in Matthew 25. Starting in verse 31, he says:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

These sheep are those whom he has called, those whom he has poured his saving grace out on. Those who have turn to him in faith, trusting in Jesus Christ to forgive them of their sins and repenting of their sins. The sheep are those whom He calls His children.

He continues on down in verse 41, speaking to the Goats:

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

This is referring to those who have not turned to Him. Those who trust in themselves or any other god rather than the One true God. Those who think that they can be righteous enough, or can be holy enough. These are those who, as Paul puts it in Romans chapter 1:18, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. The Truth of Scripture and of who God is is made plain and clear by God through His creation. We have no excuse for not recognizing the truth except that our own rebellious, unrighteous attitudes reject the truth for what we want the truth to be instead.

And one of the biggest points that is made by Jesus in the parable is that these are the only two options. There is no partially saved. There is no temporarily saved. There is no used to be saved. You are saved by grace through faith in Christ or you are not. Period.

We looked last week at the sufficiency of Scripture. How we are to defend the doctrine that as Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16 & 17:  All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[b] may be complete, equipped for every good work.

We looked at that the Word of God is the foundational book and rock that we can base our faith on and how it is when we get away from the truth of scripture that we fall into heresy, blasphemy, apostasy, compromise, and so much more. Gods word is living and active, sharper than any two edged sword. Hebrews 4:12. Nothing is more important, or helps us stay In the truth or focused on God more than defending and affirming the Word of God.

One of the most important, if not THE most important truths contained in the Word of God is the exclusivity of Christ, the need that we have for a savior and that Christ is the only savior.

And one of our jobs as the church, as a royal priesthood is to defend that truth. We are to share that truth. We are to help as many people as possible know that truth. And we need to remember to do so out of and with love. We can say the right things, we can say the exact words of the Bible, but if we are not speaking the truth in love, we are wrong.

Speaking the truth in and with love is very different than compromising the truth. We need to hold firm to the truth. We need to grab Jesus and the Bible with both hands and go full speed ahead. But, one of the most common reasons we start speaking the truth in the wrong way is that we are frustrated that people don’t get it. Or because we want them to see the truth so bad. Or whatever the motivation, it can typically be narrowed down to not trusting God to take care of the results. We are called to be faithful and God is called to take care of the results.

In Chapter 2 of Malachi, God tells the priests about being faithful to what God has called them to. And he points out the difference between true, obedient priests, and the false priests who fail to obey the commands of God.

In Malachi 2, verses 2 & 3:

If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the Lord of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart. 3 Behold, I will rebuke your offspring,[a] and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings, and you shall be taken away with it.[b]

One of the things we need to make sure we remember is the order that these things transpire. We are either sheep or goats. That determination is the first thing. Are we children of God or are we not? First, Gods grace is poured out in us and we repent of our sins and we turn to Christ. Then we receive the blessings that come with it. Also after we become a child of God, we are able to follow and obey his commands.

Without Gods saving grace, without the Holy Spirit changing us from the inside and regenerating us, we are not able to obey God. Hebrews 11:6, And without faith it is impossible to please him. So, without faith, we are the Goats, to be cursed, to be thrown into the eternal fire. If we do not honor his name, which can only be done through true spiritual worship that comes through faith, than God will send curses down on us.

But, if we come through faith and enter into covenant with God, he says in Malachi 2, verse 5 & 6: My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction[c] was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity.

Life, peace, full of awe towards Him. Jesus says that he came to give us life and life abundantly. John 10:10 And John says towards the end of his Gospel, John 20:31, these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

True instructions are to be in our mouths. We are to speak the truth. We have to know our Bible, and now it in context in order to do this. Right doctrine matters. Gods Word matters. I love this quote by Jared Wilson:

The Bible is so revealing, so penetrating, so calibrating, so explanatory and upending. The Bible is God himself telling us the what, where, when, why, and how of everything that ultimately and eternally matters.

Malachi 2:7 says:  For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people[d] should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. Again, thats every believer. We are a royal priesthood. And we are called, both individually and as a corporate group, as a church gathering, to guard knowledge. Not to keep it away from others, on the contrary, to make sure that right knowledge is passed out to all.

Let me ask this. Those that have been a Christian for longer periods of time, Do you guard knowledge? And do people ask you for instruction? I think we can bring this around to discipleship and mentorship. Titus chapter 2 says that the older are to teach the younger.

This is not exclusively referring to age, bit to maturity in the LORD and his word. Are you teaching those newer in the faith, those who are curious or have questions, are you sharing true, biblical knowledge and instruction with them? Are you able? Or do you need to spend time in the Word and with someone sharing knowledge and instruction with you?

Want to know a secret? We should always be in both camps. As you grow and mature in the faith, you should be looking for those around you whom you can invest in and you can teach, once you have a solid foundation in Gods Word.

Once you become a Christian, you should never not be learning and growing. You should be seeking our fellow Christians, brothers and sisters, depending on the context, who are willing to teach, to invest in you. Who are willing and able, thats important too, to guard knowledge and share it with you and to share right instruction with you, helping you grow in wisdom and knowledge of the LORD. That should never stop, no matter how long you have been a Christian. There will always be someone more mature, some one who knows more, and even if you dont recognize it, someone who you can learn from.

Now, you should not start mentoring and discipling someone else as soon as you become a Christian. When you start out, you take time to sit under right biblical teaching and learn from those who have gathered and acquired a lifetime of biblical, godly, knowledge.

And all this plays into, how do we know what teaching, what knowledge and what wisdom is right to give and right to listen to. It all comes back to the Bible and what it says about Jesus Christ.

False teachers never accurately portray who Jesus Christ is. They either diminish or demean Jesus humanity or his deity. These can be subtle. These teachings can be hard to notice at first. But if you look and use the Bible to test the spirits, to test all things by scripture, even bible verses that are quoted, the fruit will become apparent. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Matthew 7:17 & 18.

If and when we see teachings that say things like Jesus was just a man while here in earth, That should be a red flag. That start can lead to many different endings, but as you may have learned in school, a faulty premise always leads to a faulty conclusion. Its false and unbiblical and cuts away saving faith. Or if you here that Jesus was God, be only appeared to be a man. This is wrong too. He was truly God and Truly Man. Thats part of why it could only be Him that had the ability to be our savior. If you hear that Jesus mission, his main purpose, his goals and his priorities were anything other than to save sinners, then run. This could even be things that sound good. But the Gospel is simple, God became man to save sinners. Anything else is a false Gospel.

The Gospel is not physical healing. The Gospel is not miraculous signs and winners. The Gospel is not being happy, or being wealthy, or being healthy. The Gospel is not you testimony. The Gospel is not our political sides winning. The Gospel is not our nationality or ethnicity. The Gospel is not living moral, good upstanding lives. The Gospel is not being on the right side of History. The Gospel is not equality. Those are false Gospels. What does Paul say about these? Galatians 1:6-9:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Heres why those things are able to get a foothold even though they are false Gospels. Because often, the can be a result of the true Gospel. When the true Gospel is preached and received, it can, at times, as a secondary matter, result in healing, or miracles, or equality, or prosperity, or whatever. But it is not promised, necessary or required. And the reverse is true to. If that is absent, it does not mean that the Gospel is absent as well.

False teachers wont hear this. If you point out false teaching or false Gospels, it is highly likely that you will be called divisive, that you are fostering disunity or that you are dividing up the body of Christ. But God points out here that it is the False teachers that are divisive.

Malachi 2:8 & 9:

But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts, 9 and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.”

Our job as the church is to defend the truth. Our job as the church, both individually and as a group, is to be a pillar, a buttress of truth, as Paul says in 1 Timothy 3:15. We are to know Gods Word, trust Gods Word and preach Gods Word. We are to share Gods Word and leave the results with him. We have the word of God, the sword of the spirit and thats all we need.

Ill leave you with a Charles Spurgeon Quote, The Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself.

Lets Pray.

Malachi 1:6-2:9 pt 1 Dont Play Church

Malachi 1:6-2:9 Pt 1

Dont Play Church

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to the Book of Malachi. Malachi is the last book of the Old testament. If you do not have a Bible of your own, please grab on from the back table and consider it our gift to you.

So, we started looking at the book of Malachi last week. Remember, Malachi was a prophet whose ministry was towards the end of the ministries of Ezra and Nehemiah. Malachi was the last of the prophets recorded in the Old Testament, before God brought about over 400 years of silence, where he did not spreak to Israel through the prophets until the birth of John the Baptist.

And God has some harsh words for Israel at this point. We are going to look at some of those words here this morning. But God started off reassuring Israel that He does in fact love them. They dont feel that love, but Gods Word assured them it was true, Jacob he loved but Esau he hated.

That was the first of the disputations, or, essentially, dialogues that God ahas with Israel here in Malachi. This morning we will look at the second one, the longest of the 6 that we are going to look at in this series.

So we are going to be reading Malachi, starting in Chapter 1, verse 6, all the way through to chapter 2, verse 9. Before we go any further, lets go ahead and read this week text. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along in your prefered translation. So, again, Malachi 1, verse 6, on through chapter 2, verse 9.

The Word of God says:

A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ 7 By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the Lord‘s table may be despised. 8 When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts. 9 And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the Lord of hosts. 10 Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand. 11 For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be[b] great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts. 12 But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised. 13 But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord. 14 Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.

And now, O priests, this command is for you. 2 If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the Lord of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart. 3 Behold, I will rebuke your offspring,[a] and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings, and you shall be taken away with it.[b] 4 So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may stand, says the Lord of hosts. 5 My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction[c] was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. 7 For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people[d] should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. 8 But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts, 9 and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.”

God continues speaking here as we start of in verse 6. The first thing we see here is that God is deserving of and we are to give him much honor. The Westminster Catechism teaches that the chief end of man is “To Glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

God is Holy, Holy, Holy. Scriptures says this twice, first in Isaiah 6 and then in Revelations 4. The use of repeating the word three times shows how significant this attribute is in knowing who God is. We are to give him all glory, all honor and praise.

God here gives us two real life examples here. Sons are to honor their fathers. Thats simple enough. “Children, obey your parents, for this is right.” Ephesians 6:1. “Honor your Father and Mother.” Exodus 20:12. One of the most fundamental commands in scripture.

The other one we see is that a servant is to honor his Master. Jeremiah 3:14 says, Return, O faithless children, declares the Lord for I am your master;. All throughout Lukes Ghospel, the disciples continually refer to Jesus as their master. The other Gospel record this as well, but it is especially evident in Lukes Gospel. Paul writes in Colossians 4:1, Masters, treat your bondservants[a] justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.

We are to give honor to our earthly Masters, and there is always an earthly Master. But Gods point here is that these types of relationships where we give honor to each other, to our Fathers and to our Masters is a type, a shadow of the infinite honor and glory and praise that we are to gven our heavenly father and our heavenly Master.

God is asking, where is my honor? Why are you not showing me the honor and fear and respect I deserve? Why do you hate me? This is one of the cases where there are no degrees between love and hate. There is one, Love, that we are called to, where we read God is Love. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:13, So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

And the opposite of love is hate. God demands our all encompassing love and devotion and faith and trust. And if we give him any thing less than all of us, than we give him nothing and we show him hate instead of love. There is no such thing as partially loving God or loving him with part of our hearts, part of our lives, part of our bodies, or part of our time. If we do not love all of God, all of the time, with all of us, we are hating Him.

God says that we are to honor our fathers and our masters. He says that they deserve our honor and respect. But he says how much more is he deserving of our honor and respect. And we are to give Him more honor and respect than we give our fathers and masters. Essentially think of it like this. Try giving your Dad, try giving your boss try giving police, and authorities in this world the same amount of respect and reverence that you give God, and then see how poorly that goes in your life.

God deserves our first fruits. He deserve our first and our greatest and our highest honor. Are you giving him your firstfruits? Are you giving him your best? Your time. Your money. Your heart. Your effort. Your commitment. Your life. Your Words. Or are you giving him whats left over? Are you giving him whatever is on hand? Are you giving him what you happen to have, after you do all the other things first, after the rest of your time has been filled up, after the rest of your money has been spent?

God says, Do not Disrespect Him. His word is clear on what his expectations are. Do not pretend to give him anything or even everything. Do not come in here and give God your false worship. God will not be mocked.

I want to take a second here to clarify one point. God here in Malachi is talking to Israel. In the greater scheme of things here, in context, he is talking to the visible church. In other words, he is specifically talking to those who profess to be Christians. If you have come in and you are not sure about God, if you are not sure about Christianity, this is not speaking to you. Your are here and we want you to do nothing but sit back, feel welcomed and learn who the one, true God is and how he gave us his Son to save us from our sins, and more specifically, the eternal consequences there of. He does that, by the way through his Grace and only through his grace. He pours his grace out on us, saving us, when we put our faith, and only when we put our faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, himself God, who was born a human baby, lived a sinless life and died to pay the punishment for sin. This is all revealed in his Words, in the Holy Scripture and he does this, at the head of it all for His Glory. So, think on that, we pray that you make the decision to put your faith and trust in Christ and repent of your sins, but unitl then, dont worry about your worship or if your doing enough or any of that. Sit back and listen and read your Bible.

But for those of us here that claim to be folowers of Christ, and there for, the one true God, and read, believe and follow his Words to us, his commands that he has given us, we are called to repent of our hypocrisy when it rears its ugly head and to esure that we are putting our entire focus on Christ.

I gotta tell you. Church is a terrible hobby. What would be the point of it? There is a reason that some many people in the world today, and specifically in our country today, dont bother to go to church on Sunday Mornings. They have better things to do. Thats it. Simply put. We all can fall into that occasionally. Beautiful weekends like this, that lake sounds real good. We have 6 young kids, so there isnt a morning where sleeping in doesnt sound good. We could think about and I bet everyone of us could come up with a whole list of reasons that sound better than getting up early, putting on nice clothes, wrangling up kids, getting them dressed, and driving down here.

OF course there is something better. Church is not a social club. The purpose of us being here is not to get together and talk and hang out. Church is not a place to come and waste time. We are not here for vague, undefined community related social reasons.

The church exists not for us and this world primiarily, but it exists primarily to glorify God. Thats why we are all here individually. Thats why we are all here societally. And thats why we are all here as the body of the church and the church corporately. To glorify God.

Some of the ways this is designed to take place are identifyed in scripture. We exist to edify the body as Paul lays out in Ephesians cchapter 4. We build each other up. We see Paul write in Epehsians 4:11 & 12, And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds[c] and teachers,[d] 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.

The church exists for evangelism and discipleship. Jesus gives us the Great Commision in Matthew 28:19 & 20, telling his disciples, and all of us, 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

We go and make disciples, both sharing the Word of God, to let people who dont know the Gospel see the wonderful truth and promises of God, but also to make each and every one of us continue to grow deeper into his Word, to grow spritually, to become more mature in the faith. So that we can more and more observe all that Jesus has commanded us.

And we study the word and submit to godly, contextual, true teaching of the Word of God as we, as is written in Jude, contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. This all is our spiritual worship. This all is how and why we come together as a church and glorify and honor God. This is what we are here to do.

Anything else instead of this is giving false honor and glory to God. It is despising God. In the context of what Malachi is saying here, they offered up lame animals, blind and diseased animals. They offered up garbage. They offered up a farce of what God wanted them to and had commanded them to as an act of true worship and sacrifice. They gave their last fruits. They gave their leftovers.

And if thats what they are going to do, God says, dont bother. Look at verse 10,  Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand.

God says, if this is what you are going to offer, dont bother. Dont bother with the sacrifices. Dont bother pretending to follow the Law. Dont bother rebuilding the Walls around Jerusalem, and dont bother rebuilding the temple. Theres no point. Just shut the doors.

You know, you often here a challenge that usually goes something like this. “If your church closed down and shut the doors, would your community miss you?” There is some truth to that. Part of loving our neighbors and a part of sharing the Good News of the Gospel to to present a good witness, a good testimony and that includes loving and serving our community. In fact, one of Village Missions goals or purposes is to ensure that every community has a Gospel presence, in other words, to make sure that there is a Bible teaching, Gospel preaching church in every community.

However, even if we are serving our community, if our focus is not first and foremost on God and worshipping him, serving him, honoring him and glorifying him, then, God will say the same thing to us, Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! There is no point in us being here, if we are not going to do what God has told us to do.

So, reading this and hearing this, we should have one question and one question only on our mind, How do we make sure this doesnt happen to Bangor Community Church and to us individually? The answer is simple and clear and difficult. We hold high the sufficiency of Scriptures. We hold in the highest regard what God has already said to us and told us.

There are a lot of, what are called, “Seeker sensitive,” churches out there. And the idea behind these churches is that they will do whatever it takes to get people through those doors, to get them inside the church. They will compromise and justify just about anything that they think will get people in the seats. The first and biggest thing that gets compromised is the Word of God.

The teaching gets watered down because they dont want to offend anyone. They stop talking about sin, instead, maybe just talking about Jesus, but not the context that made his death necessairy for the salvation he provides. We see shallow theology. Improper or incorrect teaching of Gods word, sometimes downright heresy. We get churches and pastors that teach that we need to unhitch from the Old Testament, that it doesnt apply to Christians and that it should never be used when discussing the Bible with non believers. Or you get teachings like Jesus wasnt God when he was on earth, that if he was God and did all his miracles, that would not be impressive, but since he was a man, and we are men, if we live like Jesus did, we can do the miracles that Jesus did.

These are real teachings from real so called pastors that are reaching thousands if not millions of listeners around the world.Some of these churches, and more, figure if they give enough things away, that more people will come in. So you see, especially at the big holidays, like Christmas, Easter, etc, you these big churchs hold drawings, giving away t shirts, books, TVs, laptops, even cars. There is a saying out there, What you win them with is what you win them to. Meaning that whatever it is that you use to get them in the door and to even maybe give a comitment, is what you need to keep doing in order to get them to stay. At the forefront of these churches is what Ron Sallee refers to as Nickels, Noses and Noise. How much many did we bring in? How many people did we bring in and How many programs did we run?

Yet, we dont often enough see churches following scripture. What does the bible say? In 2 Timothy 3:15, Paul referes to the scriptures as, the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. The Bible tells us all we need to know about how to be forgiven of our sins and saved from their penalty.

Paul also tells us in Romans 10:17 that Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ. The scriptures, Gods Words are what he uses to save us. We hear what he has said about sin, grace, Jesus, forgiveness and salvation, and the Holy Spirit opens our eyes and changes our hearts, We put our faith in Jesus Christ and God, in his infinite grace now sees us as rightouess.

There, that was a lot easier than trying to juggle fire whil riding a unicycle. It was much easier than saying that if you have enough faith, God will make you healthy and rich, otherwise known as lying. It was much easier than coming up with bigger and bigger primzes to give out next time.

The Word of God is sufficient. Its all we need. God made sure we had all we need to edify and build up, to make disciples of all nations and to contend for the faith. Its all right here in this book.

And it is also, as is written in hebrews 4:12 & 13, living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

When we read Gods Word, with the hear, with the intent of glorifying God and growing closer to him, his Word will convict us of what we have done wrong, what are doing wrong and what we thought about doing wrong. And so, this will help us to make sure that we are not just playing church, not offering up empty and vain worship to God, that we are not despising him, but we are in fact giving him all honor, all glory and all praise.

Now, the first Sunday of every month, we follow the commands of Jesus and we celebrate communion in remembrance of him. We remember and we celebrate what unites us and brings us together. The thing that unites us together is the cross of Jesus Christ. Today we come together to celebrate that unity. To pursue that unity by remembering. We remember and celebrate Christ’s death for us, that act on the cross, that act of pure love, grace and goodness. That perfect act of mercy. God holding out his hands to us, disobedient and contrary people.
We remember the sacrifice, the blood shed. We remember what that means to us, as those who have turned to follow Jesus Christ. It means that we have been declared righteous in his sight and we get to spend eternity with Jesus Christ and God the Father.
We often take this time somberly and soberly, because of what it cost Jesus, what he had to go through. We celebrate because Jesus is alive and we get to partake in eternal life with him if we chose to follow him.
Now, Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 11 some things about partaking in communion. First of all, this is for those that have made a commitment to Jesus. This is a celebration and remembrance for what he won, what he purchased when he paid the penalty for our sins and rose from the grave. If you have not made that commitment, out of respect, please pass the plate.
Paul also makes it clear that we need to be in the right state of mind, that we need to be honest with ourselves and with God and about our sins.
I greatly encourage you, as we are passing out the items for communion, take that time to talk to God. Make sure you are examining yourself and you are taking it for the right reasons. Again, please do not be afraid to pass the plate along. There will be no glances, no judgments. What is important is for each of us to make sure that we are in right standing with God.
Paul gives us a picture of Communion in 1 Corinthians chapter 11. In verses 23-25 he writes:
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for[f] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[g] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
So, what we are going to do here, is Mike and Jim are going to come up here. One will pray for the crackers, which symbolize the broken body of Jesus on the cross. They will pass them out and when we are finished we will take the cracker together as a church family.
Then, the other will pray for the juice, which symbolizes the blood of Christ, shed for the forgiveness of sins. They will pass them out and again, we will take it together as a church family.

Malachi 1:1-5 Gods love is Unbreakable

Malachi 1:1-5
No Doubting Gods Love

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to the Minor Prophet, Malachi. He is the last book in the Old Testament. If you do not have or own a Bible, please help yourself to one from the back table there as our gift to you.
So, does it feel weird not to be turning to Romans? So as some of you may already know, my philosophy in preaching is to preach Line by Line, Verse by Verse through books of the Bible, what’s called Expository Preaching. My ideal is to alternate between New Testament books and Old testament books. We just finished Romans, which is in the New Testament and so now, we are going to go through Malachi, a book in the Old Testament. This will be a shorter(ish) series, at least that’s my plan, and no, I don’t yet know where we will go after Malachi.
This week, we will look at the first verses in Malachi, but even before that we will introduce ourselves to this book of the Bible, grouped with the so called minor prophets. So, some background first.
The name, Malachi means ‘Gods Messenger.” Now, because of this, there is some debate as to whether Malachi is a title or a name in this instance. For me, I will always lean towards the historical answer, or in this case, I will always believe it is a name as opposed to a title unless and until there is compelling evidence to the contrary.
Regardless, Malachi is a messenger of God. He wrote down the oracles, the words that God gave to him. Historically, timeline-wise, he is a contemporary of Ezra and Nehemiah. Its likely though not guaranteed, coming along towards the end of their ministries of rebuilding the temple and the wall and reestablishing Gods Word and a remembering of Gods covenant among the Jews coming back from Exile.
And we are going to see that Gods covenant is one of the major themes throughout Malachi. Gods covenant, his Word is unchanging, it is unbreakable. It is the same, just as God him self is, yesterday, today and tomorrow. And Gods covenant does not go away. God is faithful even when we are not. And not only that, but God is faithful, especially when we are not. He is Holy, Holy, Holy and all that that entails. Gods faithfulness and our lack of faithfulness will be on full display in this book.
Again, this is the last book in the Old Testament. After God finishes speaking to Malachi, it ushers in the 400 years of silence. God stops speaking to and through the prophets. John the Baptist and at almost the exact same time, Jesus of Nazareth broke the silence and ushered in the New Testament time. Hebrews 1:1 & 2 speaks to this, saying,
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
We don’t have prophets anymore. John the Baptist was the last of what are considered the Old Testament prophets. And from then on, God spoke to us through his Son, The Word made Flesh, The Word of God, Jesus Christ. And his Words are what we have written in our hands, in the Bible you are holding. Every word in the Bible is the Words of Christ.
The Book of Malachi has a unique style to it. It is written in a “disputational” style. Not to be mistaken with dispensational, which is a theology system specifically regarding the end times. But this back and forth disputation style is like a dialogue between God and the people of Israel.
There are 6 of those in this book and the plan is that we are going to follow them in our series, so 6 sermons through Malachi. This first one, we will be looking at Malachi, chapter 1, verses 1-5. So I will read our text for this morning, and I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along in your preferred translation while I read. Again, Malachi, chapter 1, verses 1-5.
Malachi, The prophet of God writes:
The oracle of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi.[a]
2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob 3 but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” 4 If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the Lord of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the Lord is angry forever.’” 5 Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!”

God starts off with a simple, concise, clear statement. “I have loved you.” The people of Israel, however, didnt feel this was true. When you read all that they had been through over the previous 500 years or so, they felt like there was no way that God could love them. Their country was split in two. Each one, at seperate times was conquered and taken into captivity. Even before that, they were constantly being invaded, oppressed and attacked by their neighbor countries. Even more immediate to when this was written, Ezra came back, brought many Israelites with him and they started rebuilding Jerusalem. There were some complications there, to put it mildly if you read through the book of Ezra. Nehemiah came back and rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem but also had some problems. And if that timing is correct, that this was written and prophecied towards the end of Ezra’s and Nehemiah’s ministries, than the Israelites would not yet have been fully restored to their home back in Israel. It would have still been on ongoing process.
The Israelites didnt see the blessings, the Israelites didnt see the proof of Gods love. They only saw the negative. They only saw what they felt. And so this book starts off with the clear truth that we need to hear. God has loved you.
The Word of God is clear. It is what it is and it says what it says. There is no ambiguity and there is no grey area here. God gives a factual, true statement. The truth of Gods word is not dependant on how we feel. We may not always feel that God loves us, just like the Israelites didnt feel like God loved them. But that doesnt make it any less true.
Gods word, both written and spoken, means exactly what it says. And we have it here written down. We have the written Word of God. Israel didnt have it written down, all ready for them. They hear from God through the prophets. Now the words of those prophets are written down and they are just as clear as they were then. (Clearer if you understand the context of the New Testament being the fulfillment of the Testament and, as we have learned in our Bibliology class, The New is in the Old Concealed, the Old is in the New Revealed. This means simply that if there are things we dont understand in the Old testament, then the New Testament will speak to it and explain it.)
Gods Word, as revealed then and as written down is true, it is complete, it is comprehensive and it is sufficient. Because of all that, it is also Final.
So, at this point in History, Israel does not feel the Love from God. Their response to Gods Word was to question it based on their feelings and disbelief. They dont believe what God is saying. “I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have you loved us?”
Have you noticed that we all go through different and difficult times, times when we feel removed from God. We all have times where we are not seeing him work, not seeing the evidence of God around us. During times like those, we are spiritualy weaker. We get extra aggitated. We take offenses easier. We give offenses easier. We are more prone to giving in to sin and temptation. When we either feel temptations more and more or when we give in and sin, it exacerbates the problem and we feel Gods presence and love less and less.
But we have a factual anchor to keep us safe in the storms of life when our feelings are blowing us all over the place. Gods Word says that if you are in Christ, you are loved. Period. Those who are in a covenant relationship with God, those whom he has foreknown & predestined, those whom he has called by his grace, to believe, through faith, in his Son, Jesus Christ, and repent of their sins, to those God says, I love you.
Now, the Israelites during the time of Malachi did not know who Jesus was. He had not come down from Heaven, born a baby, truly God and Truly man. But, they knew that God had promised a savior and a messiah. They knew he was coming and they knew that Gods promises would be fulfilled. We read through Hebrews 11 and we see that in the Old Testament, those who, as Hebrews 11:2, puts it, “received their comendation,” received it through faith. Faith in the One True God and faith in the coming savior and Messiah. They had faith in Christ, even though they had not yet seen him. They too, were under a Convenant of Grace. And the vehicle God has designated to pour out his grace is through that faith, the same faith that was counted to Abraham as rightoeusness is the same faith that saves us today. Faith in Christ alone.
But because not everyone has that saving faith in Jesus Christ, Gods love, his saving love is not received by everybody. We need to remember that Gods language, his definitions differ from what our society and our feelings want words to mean. God loved the world, loved the world so much that he sent his one and only son to die for the sins of the world. God is a God of Love. God is Love. God is perfect and complete. But that doesnt mean that Love is the only thing that God is and it doesnt mean that love is God.
Within our Good and Perfect and Holy and Complete God, also exists hatred. God hates sin. He says here, Jacob I loved, but Esau I have hated. Thats hard for us to understand and believe and accept. But its there in the Bible, in his Words, in Black and White. And so he have to do something with this. We have to try to understand what God means by this.
There will be two parts of this that we will look at. First is the definition and the use of the word hate, and second, what is God saying here in Malachi? So I looked up in Bible dictionaries and all that what the root word, what the word “hate” meant in the original languages and definitions and its not good news.
The word simply means hate in the dictionary, but it can also be translated as enemies, or foes, so there is an advesarial role that plays into this. There is a tendency to simplify and say that when God hates, it is simply that he loves less. There are times in the Bible where the word hate is used this way. Specifically with Jacob hating Leah but loving Rachel. But that is not the entirety of the definition of this word, hate. We see for example in the the New Testament, one of the words translated “hate,” means to “hate, detest or persue with hatred.”
Gods hatred is not tame. It is a perfect and complete hatred as well. It does us no good to water down his hatred. But we do need to balance it and contrast it with his perfect and complete love. For us, when we say we hate someone or something, it either means that we dont particularly care for it, or more likely, its filled with mean spiritedness and we wish bad, we wish ill will for those whom our hate is directed at.
But on Gods end, its not mean spirited, his hate and the consequences there of are a part of his perfect love and justice. They are a part of his perfect grace and mercy. Due to our natural, sinful nature, our sinful rebellion against God, we are justly in his wrath. That is what we deserve, what we are due. Because God is God, he can do this but at that point we are on the receiving end of both Gods love and his hatred. We do know that Paul wrote in Romans 5:8: God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
For those he hates, for those outside of Christ, God withholds his grace and his mercy. For those outside of Christ are on the receiving end of Gods wrath and judgement. Esau and his descendants, mentioned here in Malachi, they are no more because Gods mercy and saving grace where withheld from them. Because they chose to not live and obey through faith.
And we need to remember that it wasnt that God took away his love, his grace, his mercy, but instead that he pours those things out on whom he choses. When his specific, intentional, saving grace and love are poured out on a sinner, we are unable to resist the call and draw of God and his love, grace and mercy. And it is only through that love of God poured out on us, allowing is to have faith in Christ, that lets us respond in faith and repentence. Without that saving fatih, Gods saving grace, we will go the way of Esau. Hebrews 11:6 says that without faith it is impossible to please God. Those whom God hates wll not prosper, not in eternity. Those whom God loves, the specific, saving love, will be with him and will have Gods perfect wrath and judgment pass over them.

But I also want to look at the context of what God is telling Israel here in these first few verses of the book of Malachi. God says, I have loved you. They dont see it and say how have you loved us? Essentially, God is saying, in a more perfect and loving way than I am know, “If you dont think I love you, see what happens to those whom I hate.” Him bringing up Esau and the fact that his descendants are no more is him saying, I dont hate you, I love you and this is part of the proof of the difference.
And again, we have this factual, tangible proof, then, through the words of the prophet who spoke the words of God, and now, through the words of God written down in the Bible, that God does indeed love us. Regardless of our feelings. Regardless of what we are able to see. Regardless of our current or past circumstances. God loves us.
Becasue of Gods love and because of Gods judgment, our previously closed eyes to the wonders and works of God, are now open. If we see the works of God in our lives and around us in the world, we will shout out and exclaim how great God is. “Great is the LORD beyond the border of Israel!”
God, the one True God, the God of the Bible, The Father, the Son, The Holy Spirit, God is not just the God if Israel, as many in the Old Testament world thought of him, but is the God of Heaven and Earth, the God of all creation, The God of each and every one of us. He is the God of not just a small group of people but of who so ever shall believe.
This is where we see that Christianity, the worlds one true religion, is both the most inclusive and the most exclusive religion in the world. Christianity is exclusive in this sense. Only those who walk through the narrow door that is Jesus Christ are saved and welcomed in to the family of God, to be called his children. There is no other way, there is no other path, there is no other door to walk through that leads to the one true God. Jesus says in John14:6, “I am the Way, the Truth, the Life. No one comes to the Father exceot through me.”
But as exclusive as Christianity is, it is also the most inclusive religion. It is inclusive in that though the path is narrow and there is only one door, the invitation to walk that path, the walk through that door, the invitation to believe and repent is giving to every single person in the world. We just finished going through Pauls letter to the Romans, and what was one of his main points? Your background does not matter. Your ethnicity does not matter. Your ppast sins dont matter. Your previous religious or spiritual beliefs dont matter. Your parents and grandparents dont matter. Your church attendence and your morality dont matter. Your politics dont matter. Everyone is invited to come to saving faith in Jesus Christ.

God is sovereign over those who believe and those who dont. God is sovereign over heaven and hell. God is sovereign over those who he loves and those whom he hates. His grace, his love and his mercy are all poured out, ultimately, to bring glory to himself. His wrath and his judgment, his hatred, are ultimately poured out to bring glory to himself.
See, thats another part of Gods love and hatred that we havent yet mentioned. God is holy. The scriptures say he is Holy, Holy, Holy. He hates what goes against his nature. He hates what and who sins against him. He hates what takes away from his rightful glory. He hates what is not Holy, Holy, Holy.
If it were not for the sacrifice, the shed blood of Jesus Christ, he would hate us. And yet, there is what is called a Great Exchange. When Christ gave his life and took on the punishment for our sins, he only was able to do so because of his perfect righteousness. With no sin of his own, he took Gods wrath and punishment for our sins on himself. In exchange, those who repnet of their sins and turn in faith to Jesus Christ, we receive his perfect righteousness. We receive the forgiveness of sins, so that when we all stand before God at the end, and we will all stand before before God in judgement at the end, when we do, He will either see and judge uw for our sin or he will see and judge us for being wrapped up in Christs righteousness. Both outcomes speak to his glory.
That doesnt make earthly sense, does it? That doesnt make worldy sense, that punishing people, that judgment and wrath, that Hell can speak to the glory of God. But what is hell? A common response, that sounds real good, is that Hell is simply seperation from God. And that would be an extreme punishment, thats for sure. And there may be aspects of that, in regards to God withholding his love, grace and mercy.
But heres what society and much of the Christian church forget. Hell is not where Satan rules supreme. God doesnt send us to a spot where Satan rules over us. God rules over Hell just as much as he rules over Heaven. God is the God of Heaven and Hell. And he is a holy God. Sin goes against his holiness and therefore it is to the glory of gods holiness to punish sin.
And of course, Gods saving grace and mercy, through faith in Christ, show the glory of God, who changes hearts of stone to hearts of flesh. Who brings us from death to life. That is all done to and shows the might and supremem Glory of God.
Now, again, we dont always feel or see this. But we can stand on the Solid Rock of Christ and his word. We can stand on the promises of God our Savior. RC Sproul says I don’t always feel His presence. But God’s promises do not depend upon my feelings; they rest upon His integrity.
If we are living for the Glory of God. If his love and mercy have been poured out on us, making us children of God. Then the simple and clear fact is that, whether we feel it or not, whether we think it or not and whether we believe it or not, the simple and clear fact is “I have loved you,” says the Lord.

Lets Pray

Throwback Sermon Roman 2:1-11 All Men are Created Equal

Throwback Sermon: Romans 1:18-23, The Truth of God Suppressed

Romans 16:25-27 Pauls Doxology

Romans 16:25-27
Pauls Heart for the One True God

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to the very last few verses of Paul’s letter to the early churches in Rome. Chapter 16. Well, we did it. We made it to the end of Romans! This is the 46th message in our series and today we finish. And if you have read this mornings passage ahead of time, what a finish Paul has to end this letter with.
Before we get to the end, lets review. Paul wanted to come see the churches in Rome, but had so far been unable to get there because God was using him further east to srpead the Gospel, plant and develop churches and to disciple those who did come to Christ.
He went through and wrote the most comprehensive systematic theology that hwe have in the Bible. Covering everything from sin, that we all know God instinctively, but suppress the truth and reject God, to One People and one plan of God, both jews and Gentiles. He showed that none of us are rightoues, none of us seek God according to our own will, and none does good on their own. We looked at the who Jesus is and how he secures our slavation. He spoke on the processes of regeneration, and justification. He spoke on the process of sanctification and his struggle with sin.
He looked at the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the role he plays in our walk with Christ. We looked at glorification and our security in our eternal destination. We looked at the Gentiles being grafted into the people of God and we looked at the practical application of all this theology; submitting our lives to God as living worship, setting aside our differences to unite in and by love. We put things in the right priority. Jesus first, others second, ourselves last.
Paul spent a couple of chapters make that point and how it looks practically and then pours his heart out in these last two chapters; his heart for Gods Gospel, for sdiscipleship, for missions, for unity, for his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, for protecting Gods people against false teaching and finally, as we look at these last couple of verses, his heart for worshipping the One, True God.
So, before we go any further, lets go ahead and read this weeks text, the last three verses in Romans. Romans 16:25-27. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version, and I encourage you to follow along in your prefferred translation. Romans 16:25-27, Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit finishes his letter, writing:
25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

So, real quick, before we move on, some astute readers amy have noticed that we didnt cover verse 24 last week or this week. Your Bible should have a note in it about Romans 16:24. It should be bracketed or italicized or something and the note will say that This verse is not Included in some earlier manuscripts, or something along those lines. Others of you, the verse wont be in the regular portion of the text, but instead will be printed in the footnotes, saying something along the lines of, some manuscruipts include… and then put the verse. Romans 16:24 says The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen
There is no theological impact to whether this verse is in there or not and the truth is that if my Bible had the verse in it with the rgular verses and then a footnote that mentioned it, instead of putting it in the footnotes, I would have included it last week and probably made little mention of it. As it is, I mostly just want to acknowledge it so that in case any one wondered. If you have questions about verses like this, I really do recommend our Bibliology class Sunday nights. We will be going over how we can trust the Bible, he we get our translations, all those different sorts of things.
But, moving on to this weeks text, We see Paul pour his heart out in worship in these last lines of the letter and show who and how important God is in our hearts and minds and our lives. This section is likely given the sub heading of the Doxology in your Bibles. The definition of a Doxology, broken down from its original greek wording is Glory or Splendor Words. It is a formula of Praise to God. The occur occasionally throughout the New Testament Letters, this obviously purposely put together as, not just a prayer, which we also see in scripture, but instead almost like a psalm or a hymn, specifically lifting up praise and worship to the Glory of God.

Lets look at what Paul says here in this Doxology. It really is powerful and awesome. And it brings together and brings to a culmination everything tha Paul has written so far. And as a conclusion, Paul draws all attention off of everything else and straight on to God Almighty. “Now, to Him who is able…” God is able. God is completely able to do anything and everything, and specifically God is able to strengthen us. Both the NASB and the King James say that God is able to establish us. God is able to establish us! Paul has spent quite a bit of time showing his readers and us that we need to be established and that we are not able to do it ourselves. He can establish us justified before him. God and God alone can do that.
And Paul has shown throughout this letter that none of it is through us, our works, our thoughts, our national, familial or spiritual heritage, none of it is through our own rightouesness. Instead Paul showed us that it is Christs and Christs alone rightousness that is able to stand up against the holy and rightouesness judgement of God. And it is God alone who can transfer, or impute as Paul puts it, Christs righteousness on to us.
Paul has already share how God has designed to do it. It is Gods grace that allows us to be clothed in Christs rightouesness. He chooses to pour out his grace in a specific manner and through specific methods. Faith is the vehicle which He Chooses to deliver his saving Grace.
Paul already shared in Romans 10:17, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ.” We also see in Ephesians 2:8,  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, So not only is grace a free gift, delivered through fatih, but the faith itself is a free gift from God. And God has decided to deliver it through the hearing of the Word, through the Gospel as Paul says here in the Doxology, through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Through preaching, teaching, reading and hearing of the very words of God, the Holy Bible. Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh.
This next part is interesting, looking at the last part of verse 25, and verse 26, Paul mentions the mystery that was a secret but has been disclosed through the prophetic writings, which is another word for the Scriptures. The Scriptures, the Bible, the Word of God, they have revealed to all of us and all nations the truth of the mystery revealed, the Gospel, the life and works of Jesus Christ. IT was a mystery to those in the Old Testament and to many in New Testament times, thats why Paul, Peter, the other apostles are writing these letters and the Gospels. Sadly, its still a mystery to many today even though we have it revealed to us in the Bible. One of the sayings that you will here Ron Sallee say often in our Bibliology class is that, speaking of the Old and the New Testaments or Covenants, “The New is in the Old concealed, the Old is in the New Revealed.”
Again, even with it being revealed, its still a mystery to many. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:4, In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
All throughout the Old Testament, starting in Jesus 1, Jesus has been present. Starting in Genesis 3, God promised the coming of a savior, a messiah. Those who were looking forward to his coming didnt exactly know who they were looking for. The coming Messiah was expected to be a mighty warrior, one who came down and militarily, politically overthroew all who were against the nation of Israel and especially those who were oppressing them. He would set himself up as a physical King on the throne and rule over the physical nation of Israel, Gods chosen and loved people.
Thats not how Jesus came, however. Look to Isaiah 53 to see some descriptions of the coming Messiah that would apply to Jesus that were not corporately expected. Jesus is God, truly God. Eternal and not created. Part of the perfect, eternal, holy trinity. One God, three persons. Before the creation of time, the trinity, co-equal, determined a plan that would rescue us, save us, redeem us, justify us from our sins and reconcile us back into perfect fellowhip with God.
And God foretold it all throughout the Old Testament, they were all looking forward to him. And he came down, still God, born a human baby, with no earthly father, so as not to inherit our sin nature. He grew up, lived a perfect, sinless, life. He taught truth and clarity where there had previously been confusion and unknownness. He called out sin where people thought they had none. He pointed out that we have no rightousness of our own and that the needed rightousness was more than we expected. He pointed us to a correct understandingof the Law given in the Old Testament, challengeing our assumotions and traditional understandings. He was sentenced and put to death on the cross, paying the wages for our sin. He died, was buried and then, on the third day, was raised from the day, in accordance with the scriptures. It is his sinless life and his work on the cross that forgives sin and defeats death. By the grace of God and through the faith that God has given us in that very work of Jesus, we are able to be called Children of God. When we become a part of the whosoever shall believe in Jesus, we gain forgiveness of sins, and we are adopted into his family and we get to spend eternity back in perfect relationship with God, worshipping him and glorifying him forever.
And all of that is free! God gives it graciously and generously. Faith in Christ allows us to recievethe gift of eternal life, again, the forgiveness of sins. But what do we do with our lives after we come to faith and we repent of our current and past sins?
Paul mentions here the obedience of faith. I mentioned last week what our purpose is here on this earth. What we are created to do in this mortal life. We are created to bring glory to God. All things are to be done to the glory of God and to the glory of God alone.
Again, Paul is using this Doxology, this praise and worship of God at the close of this letter and it brings the themes from throughout this letter into it. Notice we see this phrase, the “obedience of faith” back in the very beginning of the letter. Lets read again, Romans 1:1-6:
Paul, a servant[a] of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David[b] according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

Familiar, parallel themes include that this is done for ALL nations, something Paul has been quite clear on through out the letter. We also know that it is for Gods name and glory among the nations, that he gets ALL the glory. And we see the obedience of faith.
Many churches, many Christians today dont want to think this. They dont want to believe this. Todays American Gospel is cheap, free grace. Grace that gives us everything we ever wanted and requires nothing from us. Gods gift of grace is indeed free, but that is very different that saying it doesnt require anything of us.
Faith brings about obedience. Obedience is one of the main aspects of sanctification. Sanctification is the process, after justification, after we come to faith in Christ, whereby God, specifically through the works and ministry of the Holy Spirit, works on making us Holy.
We kill the sin inside of us, no longer gratifying the desires of the flesh. Instead we work on being conformed to the image of Gods Son, Jesus Christ as Paul writes in Romans 8:29. The process of sanctification is a necessary part of being adopted into the family of God. Our identity when we are born is that of fallen man, of sinners seperated by God. God, who has the right, seeing as he created us, changes our identity when we are born again, or born of the spirit. We are now called “Saints” by God. We are forgiven, we are redeemed, we are set apart and we are now waiting for our glorification, when our sanctification is complete and we leave this life to enter our perfect bodies in Gods perfect presence and perfectly worship and glorify him for perfect eternity.
But that we all want ot skip right to that part. We want the end result without going through the work that it takes. We want to be iron that is sharpened, without the hammer banging us against the anvil and without being purified through the refining fire.
Ultimately, our actions, our lives give testimony to who we see God as and how we see his character. Got Questions.org say:
Prior to salvation, our behavior bore witness to our standing in the world in separation from God, but now our behavior should bear witness to our standing before God in separation from the world. Little by little, every day, “those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14, ESV) are becoming more like Christ.
Paul writes in Galatians 5 the difference between the two. The works of the flesh contrasted with the fruit of the Spirit. We should be seeing both an incredible, drastic change inn our lives before and after Christ, but also a gradual growing and maturing of our faith and obedience in Christ. Paul writes in Galatians 5, verses 19-24:
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy,[d] drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do[e] such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
The work that happens, the refining fire, the process of discipline that Father lovingly doles out on his children. It doesnt always make sense. It often hurts. We can easily question what the purpose is or why God is putting us through this. Of course we see that in many instances in the Bible, but Paul ends this Doxology, by calling God wise, to the only wise God, as a matter of fact. God knows all. He created all. He is in all times at the same time. And so, he is wise beyond all of our understanding. Our God is a God of wisdom.
Paul draws the entire letter of Romans into this praise and worhsip of God and lifts up to him all Glory and sums up so much here. Lets read it one more time, as a whole:

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

Amen indeed! Now, we mentioned Jesus being the key, the lynchpin on which our faith hangs. His sinless life, his death on the cross. His resurrection. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:3 & 4:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

While Jesus was here, during his life, he knew what was coming. He knew what his mission here was. He warned his disciples, and promised his disciples that not only would his death take place, but he also promised that he would return. On the night before his death, we see recorded in Matthew 26:26-28,  Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the[c] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
We are called to come together as a church family and celebrate the LORDs Supper. And we are called to come together and remember. Dustin Benge is a Pastor in Kentucky and he walks through the different aspects of communion. He says:
The Lord’s Supper is an act of: 1. Obedience “In remembrance of Me” 2. Thanksgiving “When He had given thanks” 3. Representation “This is My body…My blood” 4. Examination “Examine yourself” 5. Proclamation “You proclaim the Lord’s death” 6. Anticipation “Until I come.”

Now, We remember the sacrifice, the blood shed. We remember what that means to us, as those who have turned to follow Jesus Christ. It means that we have been declared righteous in his sight and we get to spend eternity with Jesus Christ and God the Father.
We often take this time somberly and soberly, because of what it cost Jesus, what he had to go through. We celebrate because Jesus is alive and we get to partake in eternal life with him if we chose to follow him.
Now, Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 11 some things about partaking in communion. First of all, this is for those that have made a commitment to Jesus. This is a celebration and remembrance for what he won, what he purchased when he paid the penalty for our sins and rose from the grave. If you have not made that commitment, out of respect, please pass the plate.
Paul also makes it clear that we need to be in the right state of mind, that we need to be honest with ourselves and with God and about our sins. So take the time we are passing the elements to reflect on our sins and Gods grace and forgiveness.
So, what we are going to do here, is Mike and Jim are going to come up here. One will pray for the crackers, which symbolize the broken body of Jesus on the cross. They will pass them out and when we are finished we will take the cracker together as a church family.
Then, the other will pray for the juice, which symbolizes the blood of Christ, shed for the forgiveness of sins. They will pass them out and again, we will take it together as a church family.

Romans 16:17-23 Pauls Heart to Protect Against false Teachers

Romans 16:17-23

Paul’s heart against False Teaching

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Romans chapter 16. If you do not have a Bible, or do not own one, please grab one from the back table as our gift to you.

So, we are wrapping up our journey through the Apostle Paul’s letter to the churches in Rome. Next week is when we finish up with our last message in Romans. The next couple of weeks after that, I will be out of the pulpit. We will be at the Village Missions staff conference and then a week of vacation after that. When I return, we will start on a short series through one of the minor prophets, we will go through Malachi. There is a lot of stuff in there that is very appropriate and applicable to us today. So that’s what’s coming up in the next number of weeks.

But, before then, back to Romans. As Paul is wrapping up his letter, as he is coming to a close, in these last two chapters of Romans, Paul is laying his heart out, opening up completely and putting his whole self into the words in this letter. We saw his heart for the Gospel, his heart for missions and discipleship, his heart for fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, for his fellow workers in Christ and his heart for unity and love to bring the church together.

Today we turn and we see Pauls heart for protecting the flock, for protecting the gospel, Pauls heart for the truth, and standing against False teaching and false teachers. As I said, Paul has put out an earnest call for unity above almost anything. That if we are united in Christ, all the other things should fall to the wayside. But the key word there is United in Christ.

We have talked about the difference in closed handed and open handed issues. Essentially, Open handed issues are the ones that we can disagree about while still standing together and worshipping together. Things like Bible translations, musical preferences, end times views, political preferences, some of the things that Paul mentioned in Romans 14, food preferences, day or worship, stuff like that.

Close handed issues are the opposite. They are the things that define the Gospel. These are the things that are necessary to believe for the Gospel. Things like the trinity, Jesus as man and God., we are sinners, God saves us through no action of our own. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. And those close handed issues, we are not called to unite despite those differences, instead, we see this morning, we are called to protect each other, to protect Gods church from false teaching, false teachers and from sin creeping in.

Lets go ahead and read this weeks passage, Romans chapter 16, verses 17-23. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version, though I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation in your hands. Romans 16:17-23. The Apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit writes:

 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites,[f] and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. 19 For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

21 Timothy, my fellow worker, greets you; so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen.

22 I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord.

23 Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you.[g]

So, real quick, with all that we are going to look at, we also see Paul passing along greetings from some of those with him, to those he is writing to. And on the surface, we wonder, why wasn’t this put with the list of names a few verses earlier, the verses we looked at last week? Honestly, Im not entirely sure. There are a lot of reasons you can find if you read the commentaries or listen to other sermons on these verses, but Im not going to tell you something I dont know, and I dont know.

But, what we do see, whether this was the reason or not, is that, with the list of names and greetings and all that that we looked at last week, part of the point was the Paul was calling for unity and togetherness. He addresses false teaching and divisiveness here and then again, lists a couple of names and greetings. Is he bracketing the warnings about false teaching, including the call to divide from those false teachers, reminding us that there are those whom we do not partner with or worship with and most certainly do not unite with, and bracketing that with parallel calls for unity? Maybe, maybe not, buts its interesting to me.

The biggest thing that jumps out to me about the context and the form that this section of the letter takes is that Paul shows how much he loves these people he has listed, both before and after and how much he loves the various churches, specifically the churches in Rome. And he loves them enough to warn them about people who come in and will cause divisions and obstacles.

Now, there are two distinct things that we are to keep an eye out for here in the church. Sometimes its the same people, sometimes its different. The first person Paul says to be on a look out for is one who causes division. There are many actions and attitudes that can lead to division.

Some of the main things that we can do, sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally to foster division with in the church, are things that, if we are Christians, we inherently know are wrong.

A couple of them are also interrelated. Gossip, slander, talking behind peoples backs, being a power broker of information. Go back to Romans chapter 1 for a moment. Paul writes about some of these very things and look at how he describes them. In Romans 1:29-32, Paul writes:

They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

These things listed here, not the least of which mention gossip, slander, haughtiness, boastful, these are all manners of unrighteousness. These are things that are sins and therefore, scriptures says, those who sin, and who do thiese things deserve to die. These aren’t the sins we usually thing of when we talk about the wages of sin being death. These are things that we think of as minor. They are some of those so called, “acceptable” sins. And yet, thats not what Gods word says. Gossip, slander, boastfulness, haughtiness, things that cause division within the church and are filled with all manner of unrighteousness.

Some of these are easily avoidable. Some of these, Gossip and slander for example, are because we talk to other people about someone instead of to the person them selves. That can be avoided by going to the person straightaway instead of talking to others. And what happens then. We talk to our friends, who are going to believe and agree with us anyway. From that, we begin, or continue to feel better than those we are talking about. We get haughty. The Spirit of unity is dissolved and Christ is not being worshipped and God is not being glorified.

But see the other part of what Paul said too? Not only those who do these things, but those who give approval to them are just as guilty. If you are listening to Gossip and slander, without confronting it, you are just as guilty at causing division as the person doing the gossiping and slandering, and its just as much of a sin, according to Paul in romans 1 to give approval to those who do those things.

This is not something we should be taking lightly. This is the Body of Christ we are talking about. I go back again to The Westminster Shorter Catechism, in its first question asks, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” And if our actions are not glorifying God then we are in sin.

A few of the other things that cause division in the church include but are not limited to lack of prayer, not confronting sin, not forgiving, or asking for forgiveness, power grabs, criticalness, and compromising the Gospel.

And its that last one that leads to the other part of Pauls warning; specifically looking out for false teachers and false teaching. Again, as we get into this, we look at the contrast of two very clear and very loud commands from the new Testament. Jesus, the Apostles, Paul, all call very clearly for church unity. For loveing each other through our differences. So we have a love for others. And on the other side of that, we are called as Paul says here to Mark and avoid those who teach doctrine contrary to what the Bible says, what Jesus and the Apostles taught. We are to love the Truth, capital T Truth that Jesus brought to us.

Love people and love the truth. Thats is what we are to do. We are to do both of those. But today, in the world outside our church walls, that is virtually impossible. In order to love people, we have to compromise on the Truth. We make truth relative, or just plain wrong. In the worlds eyes, in order to love the truth, we cant love people.

Heres part of the thing. The world, those who are not in Christ and those outside the walls and spiritual boundaries of Christ, have a wrong and shallow and man pleasing definition of love. I attempted to define love from their perspective, probably unknowingly borrowing from any number of people in this definition. I can up with this:

To love, according to the world, is to Actively affirm AND support every decision AND lifestyle that someone chooses to live by, no matter the truth regarding The Gospel and no matter the consequences such as eternal destinations.

But true love works differently. True love has more respect for the person that worldly love. Ephesians 4:15 address this, with Paul writing, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.

We both love the truth and we love people. But there are those in the church, as far back as Jesus time, who do not love people or the truth. They love themselves and they will tell us things they think we want to hear. They will tell us things that will benefit them. They will tell us things that sound ALMOST right.

Many of you already know this example, but we look to the Secret Service as an example for us. One of their biggest jobs is to track down counterfeiters and identify counterfeit money. As they go through their training, they are shown bill after bill trying to figure out the minute differences between the real and the fake, or the almost real. But heres the trick, they are only ever shown real bills. The get to know those real bills so well that no matter what they come across, no matter how minute the difference is, something off, something fake will jump out immediately and glaringly to the secret service agents.

Charles Spurgeon has said that “Discernment is not telling the difference between right and wrong, but telling the difference between right and almost right.” Biblical truth is clear, but sometimes, if we are not careful, biblical untruth is not quite so clear.

The best and only way to make sure that we are sticking to biblical truth is to stick to the Bible. There are a number of ways that false teachers can come in or we can fall for false teachings. We need to identify those who teach non truths. Those who come and make non essentials and elevate them to salvation issues. Those who speak almost truths.

Look at what some of the scriptures say about false teachers.

We will start with Jesus, speaking in Matthew 7, verses 15-20:

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

2 Peter 2:1-3, Peter warns of the judgment that is coming and waiting for these false teachers, writing:

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

And those heresies that the false teachers teach, they are destructive heresies, Many will be led astray.

Paul writes to Timothy, in 1 Timothy 6:3-5:

If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound[b] words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.

What Paul writes there sounds an awful lot like what he was writing in Romans. But he writes again to Timothy, where we see that we are wanting these false teachings, that, for lack of a better way of saying it that False Teachers are a part of Gods judgment on those who are looking for their ear to be itched. 2 Timothy 3:1-9, he writes:

 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. 9 But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.

And then Jude 4, instead of writing to celebrate their common salvation, instead Jude had to write to them a warning, saying:

For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Ther are many, many more passages in the New Testament that speak to false teachers and false teachings and all that. 2 Corinthians 11, Titus 3, Colossians 2, 2 John to name just a few, and the last one Ill share with you, Galatians 1:6-9, where Paul writes to them about their falling for the deceptions of false teachers.

 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

At its core, at its base, all false teachings, all false teachers, all they do is distort and present a different Gospel. But there is but one Gospel. Jesus tells us in Johns Gospel, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus is the way, the only way. He is the Truth, the only truth. He is the truth that will set us free, the only source of non counterfeit love. He is the Life. He came to give us life and life abundantly. He came to secure for us eternal life.

There is only one way to know this. Only one way to have both truth and love. Only one way it has been revealed to us. And that is through the Word of God, through this Bible right here.

It so important to study the Bible. And not just know the Bible and the verses it says. Any of us can pick out a few verses here and there and make it say what we want. But we need to know how to read it and study it and know it IN CONTEXT. Without context, none of it means anything. Without context, truth flies out the window. without context we have nether truth or love.

And thats why its so important to know how to study the Bible. That’s why classes like we are starting tonight are so important. Bibliology: How to Study the Bible. In order to recognize false teaching, we need to be intimately familiar with the real thing. And because its so easily twisted, we need to use the resources available to us.

Satan, the devil, the enemy, what ever you call him, he is smart and cunning and will use scripture against us just as he tried to do with Jesus. John Piper writes:

I have been struck recently at how well Satan knows the Bible and how he loves to quote Scripture in order to destroy faith. Remember how he tried to persuade Jesus to throw himself down from the temple roof? He argued from Scripture! “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you’” (Matthew 4:6). Note well! Satan does not always try to ruin faith by saying, “The Bible isn’t true.” He often tries to destroy our faith by affirming some passage and using it to lead us into disobedience.

He knows scripture, but we have scripture and what does Paul tell us in Ephesians 6? He talks about putting on the armor of God to protect us from spiritual warfare, but all the things he mentions are defensive. All of them except one. We have an offensive weapon to use against Satan, against false teachers, against anything that is not the Truth. In Ephesians 6:17, Paul tells us that we have the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.

And just like you cant expect to wield a sword and do anything with it without practice, without discipline, without training. The same is true with Gods Word. We need to not just read and know the words, but to study, to practice, to train ourselves. 2 Timothy 3:14-17:

 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom[a] you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[b] may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Ultimately, this is Pauls appeal to us to make sure that we are on our toes, that we are staying aware, studying and making ourselves intimately familiar with Gods Word. And despite the warning associated with the division and divisiveness Paul leaves that section with encouragement and looking forward to a bright and promised future. Ill leave you once again with Romans 16, verses 19 & 20:

 For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Lets Pray.

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Romans 16:1-16 Pauls heart for his fellow workers

Romans 16:1-16

Paul’s Heart for His Fellow Workers

Good Morning! Grab your Bibles with me, if you will, and turn to Romans chapter 16. If you do not have a Bible, please help your self to one from the back table there.

Well, we have reach the very last chapter of Romans. How many of you, as we started this book, knew that there were 16 chapters? And how many of you have actually read purposely and focused through it? We have reached the end of Romans and Paul is closing up his letter. But he is not done yet. He has three things yet to say, the first of which we will look at this morning.

But before that, I want us to take a bigger look at these last two chapters of Romans. There is a mini theme in Romans 15 & 16 that we have been seeing. And that is that Paul has been pouring his heart out about the things that are important to him. We have seen over the last few weeks Paul speak his of his passion and love and heart for Christ, We have seen him express his heart for spreading the Gospel and growing disciples. We have seen him express his love for Rome and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Today we see him show his heart for his fellow workers in Christ. The next two weeks will show Paul show his heart for protecting the flock, protecting Gods Children, and his heart for worshipping the One True God.

Bu this week, as I said, we are looking at Pauls heart for his fellow workers in Christ. We are going to read this weeks passage and its a bit of a long one. There are a lot of names in the 16 verses we are going to read, 30 people named or referenced. Its not quite like reading a genealogy, but it can be very easy to just gloss or skim over. What I want to show you though, is that there is a depth and wealth of wisdom and information in this passage. Before we continue, lets read this mornings passage, Romans 16:1-16. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along with your preferred version in your hands. Romans chapter 16, verses 1-16. The apostle Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit writes:

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant[a] of the church at Cenchreae, 2 that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.

3 Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 4 who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. 5 Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert[b] to Christ in Asia. 6 Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junia,[c] my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles,[d] and they were in Christ before me. 8 Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. 10 Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. 11 Greet my kinsman Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus. 12 Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers[e] who are with them. 15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. 16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.

Amen. All right, so as I said, thats a long list of names. We are going to look at a few of them real quick, not all of them of course, but highlight a few of them and see what we can learn from these names. We start, of course, at the beginning, with Phoebe. And there is actually quite a bit we can know about her based on these couple of verses. She served in the church of Cenchreae, which was essentially in Corinth. Paul was writing this letter to the romans from… Corinth. And so it is very likely that she was who carried the letter from Paul to the Roman churches. Paul obviously had a great amount of trust and respect for this lady.

We see Prisca and Aquila mentioned here as well, and we have seen them before. We arent going to dive into their whole story, but if you turn to Acts 18, you can read about some of their story. But again, worked alongside Paul, risked their lives for him, utmost trust by Paul.

We also see Rufus mentioned here. This is very likely the same Rufus that was mentioned in Mark’s Gospel. Mark writes in chapter 15, verse 21: And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.

Many scholars think that the entire reason why Simon was even mentioned in marks Gospel is because his son, Rufus was well known at the time of the writing. Its very possible that Rufus and his family, notice that his mom is mentioned here as well, that they were one of the first to bring the news and Gospel of Jesus Christ from Jerusalem to Rome.

And so, we see some familiar names here in this last and many unfamiliar names as well. Jewish names, and Gentile names, both Roman and Greek names. And its interesting that a full third of these names are women. This during a time when women have little to no rights. When a woman’s testimony was not admissible in court. When women were not regarded as equal to the men of the day.

And we hear today that people call Paul sexist, they call him a misogynist and a woman hater. Yet we see form scripture this is not the case. We hear people say that the Bible, that Christianity, goes against women. And yet we see throughout scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, that women are shown to serve God with strength, honor, faithfulness, trustworthiness and they are quite literally, irreplaceable.

But because the Bible affirms that men and women are different, because they are created for different roles and purposes, yet equal in worth and value and in spiritual standing in the sight of God, both created in his image and likeness, but created for different roles, many thing that the Bible and Christianity discriminates or holds down women.

Scripture could not be more clear on this issue. Yes, men and women are in fact different. Men can do things women cant and/or shouldn’t do. And the other way around as well. Women can do things men cant and/or shouldn’t do. Scripture makes clear that the roles of elders and pastors are to be fulfilled by men. This is especially clear in 1 Timothy 2:12 & 13.

Its just like God made men and women different in regards to childbirth. The function and role of Mom & Wife is reserved for and designed for and to be fulfilled by women. The function and role of Father & Husband is reserved for and designed for and to be fulfilled by men. Is a mom better than a dad or a dad better than a mom? No, but they have different functions and roles. Both need to rightly raise up children the way that God designed it.

Are the men in this church, or any other church for that matter, including the churches that Paul wrote to and visited, are the men better than the women? No. Are the women better than the men? No. But they had different roles and functions. And anyone who things that because God called men to be elders and pastors means that women are not vital or capable to the ministry of the church simply has not read what Paul is saying here.

The New Testaments churches would have fallen apart if not for the women and the roles that they played. God made sure that women were used in wonderous and incredible ways. I said earlier that in that day and age, a woman’s testimony was inadmissible in court. Yet, who did God first have discovering the empty tomb and tell the apostles? Mary. And did the Bible conveniently omit that so that the story was more acceptable and believable? No. She played a vital and incredible role in the early church.

We see in churches today and specifically in our church right here. This church would fall apart and be a shell of itself with out the work and ministry of the ladies right here in this room. All of you do so much, and different stuff, things that often no body sees, sometimes things that people do see. For all those times you work and nobody sees it, Thank you, from all of us.

And that leads to another thing that we can take away from this list of greetings, encouragements, and exhortations. Sometimes we do a lot of work for God. We do a lot of work for the church. And often times when we do, we don’t think anyone is noticing. No one says thank you or Good Job. We don’t feel appreciated. Some people don’t notice. We often don’t notice when others do certain things at certain times. We should, but we sometimes don’t. Even when Paul here does acknowledge theses, they aren’t immediate recognitions, but things that have happened over time. Sometimes recognition and thanks is more of a long game than an immediate play.

But regardless, when we feel like no one sees what we are doing, like maybe we are not making a difference, or affecting anything. Take heed. God notices. God sees. And we need to be careful of our own hearts and attitudes. The reason we do the work that we do is not to be seen and recognized by each other, or by man, as the Bible puts it. Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6, verses 1-4:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

And with that warning we need to make sure that we are looking for our reward from our Father who is in Heaven, rather than looking for our rewards from man here and now. And so, we lift our heads high, we do what God has called us to do and we let God worry about the rest. Easier said than done, I know, but that’s our call.

As clarification, this does not mean that you don’t have to recognize when people do things. This does not mean that you don’t have to say Thank you or appreciate when you see people doing things. Again, we see that Paul is recognizing and showing appreciation and making sure that others also knew and appreciated what these fellow workers were doing. But what it means is that the LORD is our provider, it is he who will deal with all things A ND we know that he sees all and is fair and just.

So, we do what God has called us to. We become, as Paul describes here, “workers in Christ,” “servants of the Church,” “working hard for you,” “in Christ,” Gods beloved, fellow workers in Christ, those of us who are in the LORD, and who worked hard for the LORD.

Our work, what we do, we do to the Glory of God. We do it to serve God. We do it for Him and that is its own reward. And God sees. We see here names written in Paul’s letter to Rome. He thanks and greets and acknowledges and recognizes and I’m sure they felt good about that. I’m sure they felt loved from Paul and felt love for Paul. They didn’t know it at the time but their names ended up being written in the Bible, Gods Word for us to all see and read about. But ultimately, we know that we would rather have our names written in Gods Book of Life than in this book to be read by men.

The grass withers, the flowers fade, the Word of God endures forever.

Maybe the last thing I want pull out of this text this morning is I want you to see that we are supposed to greet fellow workers in Christ, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, fellow believers.

We greet these brothers and sisters. We greet those who work in Christ.. We recognize those who work hard for the LORD. We welcome fellow workers in Christ. Paul exhorts them, greet one another with a Holy Kiss. And all the churches in Christ greet you.

Now, the Holy kiss is one of those situations, where we separate the principal from the literal. Do we have to all greet each other with a kiss? No. First, that’s not our culture. That wouldn’t work, nor should it If I were to greet each of you that walk through the door with a kiss. But there are cultures and times where this was a normal greeting custom.

The principal of what is being said here is that we greet each other genuinely. We are to greet each other warmly, with love. We are to greet each other openly.

Heres the thing, we walk through that door back there, what are you here for? You are here to worship and serve the one true God, our king, our savior Jesus Christ. WE give all we have to him. We bask in his holiness, lifting our lives up to him. We focus on him, and the Holy Spirit working in us, sanctifying us, changing us, starting with out hearts, changing them from hearts of stone to a heart of flesh, becoming a new creation, working all things in us for his good and his glory.

We are not here for ourselves. So we walk through that door, we greet each other openly, genuinely, warmly. We are not to avoid each other. We are not to ignore each other. We are not to hold grudges. We are not to be fake with each other. And are most certainly not to cause division in the house of the LORD.

If there is an issue, Paul has said multiple times, as much as it is possible, as much as it is up to us, live at peace with one another. Forgive each other. Worship together. I have found in my experiences that if there is an issue between two people and they are able to truly worship their God together. That issue becomes so little, so unimportant, that it falls away.

So once again, Paul is, in this list of greetings, encouragements, recognition, in these list of names that we normally would just gloss right over, Paul is calling for unity. He is calling for us to put aside our differences, put aside our disagreements. He is calling us to come together and unite under the one thing that can change people. The one thing that can change situations and scenarios. The one thing that can change hearts and offer forgiveness and that s the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is the grace of God alone, poured out through our faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. This we see reveal through the pages of scripture alone. And all of it, all things, all everything, to be done for the Glory of God alone.

We see next week that those who do not come together in unity, or more specifically who call for unity outside the Gospel, or without the Gospel or worst of all, through compromise of the Gospel, those we do not greet warmly. Those we do not unite with. Those we do not worship together with. Those are wolves, they are enemies of God and they are false teachers and false disciples. But we will get to that next week.

Right now, after I pray, I ask that we all come together. We all stand, as we are able. WE lift our voices together and we worship together. We worship our King. We worship the all powerful creator of the universe. We worship our all knowing supreme being, who called us for his glory before he created time. We worship the all loving God who came up with a plan of redemption, a way to reconcile our sinful and unholy selves back to the only one who is good, the only one who is worthy, the only one who is Holy, Holy, Holy. Lets come together and worship God.

Lets Pray