Daniel 8 God of All Nations: Knowing the Future in Advance

Daniel 8
God of All Nations
Knowing the Future in Advance

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Daniel Chapter 8. As usual, if you do not own a bible or do not have a bible, please grab one from our table in the back as our gift to you.
This morning we are looking at Daniels second vision as recorded in his book. This vision is going to be different from the first in that this is going to much more historical, more specific and have a more speck and given interpretation.
Because this is going to be more focused on what, for us, is contained in the past, and it may seem to have less practical application. But it was all taking place in the future for Daniel and so we will see two major points that we can take from today. These two points are two major points that we have been looking at over the past number of weeks. There is not anything new in these two points that we haven’t been seeing.
First, God knows the future. He reveals the future in many instances in the Bible, one of the reasons He reveals the future is to show that He is indeed God. And God knows the future because he determines the future. And that leads to our second point. God is in control of all Nations. This is why we have named this sermon series “God of All Nations.” God is not just the God of Israel. He is not the God of only those who believe in Him. He is the God of everyone, everything and every nation. He is behind the rise and the fall of all nations. He orchestrates the rise and fall of all nations until, His Kingdom will be the only Kingdom left and will reign forever.
But back to the first point for a moment. God often in the scriptures “predicts” or prophecies the future, or he unveils specific details of the future that will come to pass in history hundreds or sometimes thousands of years in the advance.
He does this with the Israelite Exile that Daniel is in the midst of here in the book of Daniel. He does this with the birth of Christ. He does this with the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. And what we will see this morning, he does it with the Greek empire and Alexander the great and another ruler, a type, or foreshadowing of the antichrist.
This vision is going to take a look at this morning in chapter 8 will fill in some of the gaps that were left in the 2 and 3 kingdoms of last chapters vision.

So, let’s go ahead and read the first part of Daniel chapter 8, we will look at the vison first, verses 1-14. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along in your preferred translation. Daniel 8:1-14, Daniel records:

In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me, Daniel, after that which appeared to me at the first. 2 And I saw in the vision; and when I saw, I was in Susa the citadel, which is in the province of Elam. And I saw in the vision, and I was at the Ulai canal. 3 I raised my eyes and saw, and behold, a ram standing on the bank of the canal. It had two horns, and both horns were high, but one was higher than the other, and the higher one came up last. 4 I saw the ram charging westward and northward and southward. No beast could stand before him, and there was no one who could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great.
5 As I was considering, behold, a male goat came from the west across the face of the whole earth, without touching the ground. And the goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes. 6 He came to the ram with the two horns, which I had seen standing on the bank of the canal, and he ran at him in his powerful wrath. 7 I saw him come close to the ram, and he was enraged against him and struck the ram and broke his two horns. And the ram had no power to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground and trampled on him. And there was no one who could rescue the ram from his power. 8 Then the goat became exceedingly great, but when he was strong, the great horn was broken, and instead of it there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven.
9 Out of one of them came a little horn, which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the glorious land. 10 It grew great, even to the host of heaven. And some of the host and some[a] of the stars it threw down to the ground and trampled on them. 11 It became great, even as great as the Prince of the host. And the regular burnt offering was taken away from him, and the place of his sanctuary was overthrown. 12 And a host will be given over to it together with the regular burnt offering because of transgression,[b] and it will throw truth to the ground, and it will act and prosper. 13 Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to the one who spoke, “For how long is the vision concerning the regular burnt offering, the transgression that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and host to be trampled underfoot?” 14 And he said to me,[c] “For 2,300 evenings and mornings. Then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.”

May God Bless the Reading of his Holy and inspired Word.

So, we are moving around in time again, as we pick up 2 years after the vision in chapter 7, before the events of chapter 5 take place. Remember that unless it is specified otherwise, rarely do the events of the Bible take place chronologically. We can get ourselves into trouble when we read through certain sections and try to take them chronologically. The other keynote is that Chapter 8, starting with this vision, is where Daniel switches back to Hebrew from Aramaic. There are some ideas as to why, though no consensus, but on surface level investigation, it seems to have to do with whether Daniel is addressing Israel or the nations as a whole.

Now, onto to the vision itself. Daniel saw himself, not aside some general sea, as he did before, but in a very specific location. This helps show that the vision is not in general about the future, but about specific events to come.
Daniel saw two animals. The first was a ram with two horns, the second horn being bigger than the other. This, we will find out, represents the Meado-Persian empire that was conquered Babylon and that Daniel was serving at the end of the historical section of the book. This was the empire symbolized by the bear in the vision in chapter 7.
One of the things we see with the two horns is that the horn that came second was bigger and stronger. Historically, this is quite accurate for the Meads and the Persians. The Persians came along second but were much bigger and much stronger than the other part of the alliance. This is also possibly alluded to in the bear where it says that he was raised up on one side.
The Meads and the Persians would come from the east and they would be all powerful. None, not even the all-powerful Babylon could end up standing against the powerful Ram with two horns.
Then, we see a goat coming from the west. He is not touching the ground, a reference to his great speed and striking power. Out of the goat was a great horn, representing a great leader. And they demolished the Ram with two horns.
In reality, this big horn would become Alexander the Great, whom he mentioned briefly last week. He became exceedingly great and he conquered the know world at the time. He only ruled for 10 years, dying young. And it only took him 4 years to crush the great and mighty Persian empire. But His empire did not last long. The Great horn was broken, to be replaced by four little horns. Out of one of those 4 horns, a little horn grew that is what much of our focus will be on this morning.
This horn, out of the four horns that had come up would be an evil and powerful, a cunning and ungodly ruler. He would wag ware on God and terrorize the Jews. WE will get into more specifics in a little bit, but he would deface and make unclean the Temple and he would put an end to the sacrifices for 2300 days.
Now, there is a lot of unknows about this number, including whether its literal or symbolic. There are no exact matchups in terms of time frames and dates matching, that we know of. Iain Duguid suggests that is a significant but limited period of suffering. I concluded that it is either symbolic or God has not revealed to us the exact fulfillment.
We see in verse 12 that it will be because of transgression that this ruler will be able to do the things that he does. Some see this as the ruler himself is transgressing by doing what he is doing. More likely this is the transgressions of Gods people that cause him to raise up this ruler and allow him to do his evil, for a time.
So, a lot of what we see here, a lot of the details that Daniel sees we will touch on after we read the next section, the interpretation of this vision, verses 15-27. Daniel continues:
When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it. And behold, there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. 16 And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, and it called, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.” 17 So he came near where I stood. And when he came, I was frightened and fell on my face. But he said to me, “Understand, O son of man, that the vision is for the time of the end.”
18 And when he had spoken to me, I fell into a deep sleep with my face to the ground. But he touched me and made me stand up. 19 He said, “Behold, I will make known to you what shall be at the latter end of the indignation, for it refers to the appointed time of the end. 20 As for the ram that you saw with the two horns, these are the kings of Media and Persia. 21 And the goat[d] is the king of Greece. And the great horn between his eyes is the first king. 22 As for the horn that was broken, in place of which four others arose, four kingdoms shall arise from his[e] nation, but not with his power. 23 And at the latter end of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their limit, a king of bold face, one who understands riddles, shall arise. 24 His power shall be great—but not by his own power; and he shall cause fearful destruction and shall succeed in what he does, and destroy mighty men and the people who are the saints. 25 By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall become great. Without warning he shall destroy many. And he shall even rise up against the Prince of princes, and he shall be broken—but by no human hand. 26 The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true, but seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now.”
27 And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king’s business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it.

All right, so we see again that Daniel doesn’t understand what he just saw! Now, yes, he understands some of it, and he will understand the big points. But this should be a big neon sign reminder that most often, WE WON’T UNDERSTAND PROPHECY AHEAD OF TIME! Please, let’s all remember that.

But the arch angel Gabriel comes along. Gabriel, who is only named here in Daniel and in Luke chapter 1, is going to interpret this vison for Daniel.
First, when is this vision for? Verse 17 tells us this is for the time of the end. This means the end of a time. This does not mean the end of time or the “end times.” This is the end of the time that is prophesied about in this chapter.
The Bible has a lot to say about the end times and the end of time. But just because it says a lot about that doesn’t mean that we should think that everything is about then. What happens is that Christians often end up looking like kids on a long car ride, continually asking God, “Are we there yet?” We will get there, there is no question about that, but we are not there yet, and only God knows when we will be.
This vision is not looking a few thousand years into the future. It is looking a few hundred years into the future. This vision is looking to the end of the Greek empire and the reign of Antiochus IV and there should be no less amazement at that just because the timing is different.
Gabriel identifies the ram with two horns as the Meads and Persians as we already looked at a few moments ago. Then he identifies the Goat as Greece. It has the great horn, which breaks. Then four horns grow out of it. Four kingdoms come out of the Greek kingdom.
The Greek kingdom is divided between 4 of Alexanders generals, Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus and Ptolemy. It is out of the Seleucid line that this other little horn will grow. None of these will be as powerful as the first, as Alexanders rule.
But at the end of the time of the Greek empire a King arises who would become a type, a foreshadowing of the antichrist. Antiochus IV, also referred to as Antiochus Epiphanes (given to himself, which means The Illustrious God) would rise up and become king. His power and his authority would not be his own we see in scripture.
Sam Storms comments on this, saying, “is an allusion either to God’s providential role in putting him in place or a reference to Satan’s energizing presence in his oppressive rule.”
It could also be both. Either way, he gets a glimpse of the spiritual warfare going throughout history. Satan was using this ruler to wage war on the people of God, and through them God himself. God ultimately is on control of all these things and allowed it to happen for a season and for a purpose.
The Jewish people have faced a lot of persecution over the years. When the persecution under Antiochus took place, it was by far the worst they had seen yet. I mentioned earlier that he ended the sacrifices in the temple for 2300 days. HE replaced the high priest with one of his own and then later had the real one assassinated. He ordered all ceremonial observances of Yahweh forbidden. He murdered and butchered untold thousands of Jewish men, women and children, many mighty men and saints.
In December of 167 BC, he performed what we would come to know as the Abomination of Desolation. He erected an altar to Zeus on the sacrificial altar in the Temple of God and sacrificed a pig on top of it.
He was God in his own eyes. But when you go against God, there is only one outcome. You will lose. 3 years after desecrating the temple, Antiochus would die. He was not killed by man. He did not die in battle. He died, tradition tells us, from some sort of combination of a physical malady and mental issues.
More detailed, but non inspired by God, non-scriptural, accounts of Antiochus’ reign can be found in 1 & 2 Maccabees. This is the time and the events that led to the creation of Hanukah. As the Jews, led by Judah Maccabee fought back against the persecution from Antiochus, they were able to reclaim the temple and 3 years to the day after the desecration, the temple was rededicated with a new altar for burnt offerings. At the rededication, as they lit the menorah, there was only enough oil to keep the candles burning for 1 day. Through Gods grace and miraculous intervention, it burned for 8 days while they found a new supply of oil.

As Gabriel finished up the interpretation of the vision, he told Daniel to seal it up, for it refers to many days from now. Duguid points out that to sela up is not to keep it a secret, but instead Daniel is to keep it safe during turbulent and troublesome times.
And this vision does take place many days from then. The time that Daniel received this vision was somewhere in the 550 BC range. Alexander the Great reigned and conquered from 333-323 BC. Antiochus IV ruled from roughly 171 BC till his death in 163.
Daniel obviously would not live to see the fulfillment of these visions and prophecies. Daniel, as we all are, are in time. We are a part of time. We go along in our lives in a chronological time flow and we can’t do anything in regard to that. God however is outside of time.
He created time. He is in the future, he is with us here today and he is with Adam in the Garden of Eden, and everywhere and every time in between, all at the same time. Time is more like a movie film, the actual film itself, spread out in front of him where he can see all the scenes all at once. So, these prophecies and visions where he “predicts” events hundreds and thousands of years in advance should not surprise us. It isn’t surprising him after all.

In the last verse if the chapter, we see that Daniel was sick over what he saw in these visions and that he didn’t fully understand it. Remember this is the guy who understood and interpreted two dreams by Nebuchadnezzar and the Handwriting on the wall (though that event would not have happened yet when Daniel got this vision). My point is that if anyone would understand this vision, we would expect Daniel to. Again, we are not going to understand all of or even much of the prophecies that we are looking at in Gods Word.

But Daniel wasn’t going to harp on and get down on himself based on what he saw. He had work to do. He had his life to live. He had to get up and continue on about the Kings business. I love the dual meaning here. First, Daniel was working in service of the King of Babylon, who was Belshazzar. That was his job and he had served three kings up till this point with at least one more to come. But this also alludes to out going about Gods business. He is our King and we serve him above all and any others.
God has put us here and now for a reason. For such a time as this, as Esther is told. One commentator says that to go about the business of our king is to “serve the culture with all the Ability that God gave us.”
And this is my big takeaway from Daniel chapter 8. We learn and we read, and we see these things going on around us and going to happen in the future and much of it is terrible and terrifying. And the end result will be glorious and will be worth it all. As Paul says in Romans 8:18, For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. And those are super important things because they will help answer the big question. What does that mean for us here and today?

Sinclair Ferguson says this: Daniels attitude illustrates an important biblical principle: In view of what the future holds, we must live holy lives now. He caught a glimpse of realities that would take place centuries later. These events were shadows of the last conflict between the kingdom of Christ and the kingdoms of this world.
He continues: How then shall we live? Passage after passage gives the same answer: Do the Kings business, walk in obedience, live in holiness, purify yourselves as He is pure.

God has called us for here and now and he has promised that he is coming, and he has won. But he has warned us that our focus should be on Him and today.
The other question I ask as I read this chapter is What was the purpose and reason for God sharing this vision he had given to Daniel?
Sone, I believe is to show the true nature of good vs evil. We see this vision, including some of the behind the scenes parts so that we would take spiritual warfare seriously. We remember that Paul writes that our battle is not with flesh and blood, but powers and principalities. Sinclair Ferguson says that this vision gives insight to the nature and causes of the conflict. We see the true nature of evil and how far it will go to try to win. As one theologian says, evil Finds attractive what is offensive to God precisely because it is offensive to God.
The other thing I think we see here is the consistent pattern of opposition that comes against the work of God. We see Antiochus trying to eliminate the sacrifices made to God. And he did for a stretch. We see that Satan was doing everything he could to eliminate the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
We see the desecration of the Temple of God by Antiochus. Today, we look around and what do we see, desecration of the temple in every sense of the word. Our bodies, giving in to every lust, ever temptation, every desire. Houses of God slandering the character of God, dismissing his word, deceiving and preaching as true what is false and evil. And Jesus Christ himself, dismissed as a fairy tale, as a good moral teacher instead of God, instead of the Messiah and the savior that he is.
We see lastly, the weakness of even the greatest and strongest of men. None can do anything, none can rule anything, none can live, without God. We have seen throughout this book that Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar and Darius all ruled their kingdoms because God allowed them too and set them up to rule. We see today the rule and reign of Alexander the Great and Antiochus Epiphanes are allowed, determined and set up by God, well ahead of time.
This isn’t just our physical lives either. Spiritually we are born dead into sin. Spiritually we are born dead and will remain dead unless and until God intervenes. And our God is a good and loving God who of course knew this ahead of time and God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit put into effect their rescue plan. The Messiah coming and redeeming us. Saving us by Gods grace, from the wrath of God. His blood shed, the penalty of sin, paid. Death defeated. We are then saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.
And that salvation is what allows us to live the life that God has called us to live as we wait on the coming of Christ. We focus on and find our fulfillment, not in waiting, but in doing what God has called us to do, serve him and his kingdom. To use our gifts for his glory and the glory if the kingdom. To love our neighbors as our selves and to spread the good news of the Gospel.
Todd Friel has a Christian radio program called Wretched Radio and I’m going to steal his sign off call this morning before praying. Every day at the end of his show, without fail, you hear him say, Now, Go Serve Your King!
Let’s Pray

2 Corinthians 5:16-21 Ambassadors for Christ

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Ambassadors for Christ

 

 

 

          Good Morning everybody! If you would, please grab your Bibles and turn with me to 2 Corinthians chapter 5. We are just going to take a few minutes today to look at some scripture. This is intended to be more of a short devotion or maybe a sermonette, than a full sermon.

What I want to do is show you one of things that I’ve seen over the past 2 plus months. I have seen a lot of Christians fighting and tearing each other apart over what’s right, over what’s wrong, and over how they think we should respond and react to the wrongs going on in the world around us.

And my point is not going to be that one way is clearly right or that one way is clearly wrong. I’m not here to say that one method or one decision or one reaction is clearly right or clearly wrong. I think there is a lot of leeway for Christian Liberty here.

But with the passage I’m going to share this morning, what we will see is that in all times, in all circumstances, in all situations, that we are to model Christlikeness to all people.

Its easy to forget that, as Christians, we are held to a higher standard than this world adheres to. Actually, kind of the point is that we are all held to the standard, but we acknowledge the eternal truth and reality of that standards, whereas no Christians do not recognize the authority of God to set that standard.

We are not held to the standard of the world. We are not held to the standard of society and culture. We are not held to the standard of America and the Constitution even. We are held to higher standards than that. We are held to harder standards. WE are called to die to our selves daily. We are called to bear our cross.

We are called not to respond to people and groups in the same way that they talk to us, how they act to us, or how they treat us. We are called to the standard of Christs righteousness.

This is a foreign concept to much of the world. This is a concept born of the flesh. The prevailing instinct is to treat others how they treat you, or worse, and often, before they get a chance to.

 

 

Every single life, every single human being is born in the image and likeness of Christ. This goes for Americans and non-Americans. This goes for Democrats and Republicans. This goes for Christians, Muslims, and Atheists. This goes for liberals and conservatives. This goes for black, white, brown, red, yellow, purple, green, polka dot and chartreuse.

Every single human life on earth is created in Gods image and likeness. This is the entire basis and the entire and full foundation of our pro-life position. If we do not believe this, we have no right to say anything is regards to the whole sale slaughter of millions of unborn babies.

Now, born in the image and likeness does not equal a child of God. It does not mean that all are saved. That is reserved for those who have repented of their sins and trust in Jesus Christ.

But we are not called to only be nice and to only treat well other Christians. We are called to treat every single human being in this world with the same dignity and respect that we want others to treat us with and the Bible does not give us any exceptions. We are to remember that our battle, our war is not with flesh and blood, but in the spiritual realm, against powers and principalities.

That brings us to our text this morning. 2 Corinthians chapter 5, verses 16-21. In this passage, Paul writes:

 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[b] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling[c] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 

May God Bless the Reading of his Holy Word.

 

 

So, we start with Paul showing us that our duty is t treat others around us with Christs Spiritual standards, as opposed to the worlds physical, fleshly standards. We used to live, believe in and act according to those standards. We are born into those actions and beliefs.

But God… Remember, what I considered one of the greatest truths of the Bible. But God, through his grace alone, delivered through our faith alone in his Son Jesus Christ alone changes us. It brings us out from death to life. It changes us from the inside out. It changes our heart. It changes our identity and it changes our nature.

We are then New Creations. We are now reconciled to God, through Jesus Christ. Once we are reconciled to him, we are new creations, the old identity is gone, though habits, temptations and actions will remain.

Charles Spurgeon, in one of his devotions says: In every believer’s heart there is a constant struggle between the old nature and the new. The old nature is very active and loses no opportunity of employing all the weapons in its deadly arsenal against newborn grace: while on the other hand, the new nature is always on the lookout to resist and destroy its enemy.

 

          When we are new creations in Christ, the change in us should be clear and noticeable. And when that happens, we have one single job to do. We are to be Ambassadors for Christ, Ambassadors on the behalf of the Kingdom of God.

We speak and share the official position and official view of the kingdom of Heaven. Now what we want the official view to be. Not what we think it might be or should be. But we are a conduit. We are to funnel the Word of God to the people who need to hear it.

We present and announce what our King has already decreed. We do not make laws. We do not determine official positions. We share Christ and he crucified. We Preach the Word and We Love the People. We fulfill the Great commission, making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all the Christ has commanded.

Jesus Christ is our King. He is reigning today, here and now. He is not waiting to reign. He reigns now and forever. There is no waiting for tomorrow. Christ is King. And he will be our savior if, by Gods grace we put our faith in his son.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man[a] Christ Jesus,

Jesus says, repent and believe in the gospel.”

So, faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

These are the Words of Christ, written down in the Bible you hold in your hand, that is accessible to so many, so many more than ever in history. He is our King; He is our savior. We literally owe our eternal life to him. He does this free and clear, nothing we can do to earn it or to influence it or to cause it or to bring it to bear.

Jesus does, however, tell us, after we are saved, we have certain responsibilities. Top of that list and I think summing up all the others is that we are to be Ambassadors of Christ and all that this means. I encourage you to reflect on this. To think about what it means to be an Ambassador.

How are we supposed to act? IS it how we have always been taught? Or is it more complex and nuanced. How influenced are we by our family, our society, our culture, our nation, our history, our morality, our nation? Or are we influenced by the Bible, the written and inerrant and inspired and sufficient word of our King, of God himself, creator of Heaven and Earth, creator of the universe and the ultimate authority of all that is?

 

 

Now, Speaking of Jesus as our King, He was more than that as well. He condescended from Heaven, still God, was born a man, a human baby and lived the perfect, sinless life that we needed to and were unable to live. HE paid the penalty, paid the wages for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God. He paid that penalty with his life. In an act of pure, perfect love, Romans 5:8 says:  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

This act of pure love goes beyond natural human understanding. Hymnwriter Charles Wesley wrote, Amazing love! how can it be, That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Before he performed this act, Jesus told us to remember this and to celebrate it as often as we get together. We do this in a monthly basis and no matter when our first week back was going to be, we were going to celebrate communion as a church family.

We remember and we follow the commands of Jesus that he gave his disciples during the Last Supper.

Matthew records this in Matthew 26, verses 26-29, where he writes: 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.

We do this in remembrance of Him. Paul speaks about communion in 1 Corinthians 11 and before we get into it, I have one thing to share that Paul tells us, first, communion is for believers. It is in remembrance for what he has done for us. It is us obey his commands by our faith in him. Communion itself does not save. It does not forgive sins; it does not impart righteousness or cleanse your soul. If you are not a follower of Christ, we just ask that you pass the elements along and then, if you have any questions or want to take that step, you can talk to myself or one of the deacons after the service.

 

Now, we are going to do things a little bit different this morning, due to taking some precautions. We have individual cups that contains both the wafers, which symbolize Jesus’ broken body on the cross. His Death that pays the penalty for our sins. It also contains the juice, symbolizing the shed blood of Christ, which purchases our eternal life in Christ, through faith.

First, we will take the wafer together. Afterwards, we will take the juice together and we will be united together under the cross and blood of Jesus Christ. I will pray and we will come to the LORDs table.

 

1 Timothy 3:14-16 Life in the Local Church: The Purpose of the Local Church

1 Timothy 3:14-16

Life in the Local Church

The Purpose of the Local Church

 

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to 1 Timothy chapter 3. IF you do not have a Bible, there are some on the back table designed to be our gift to you. We are continuing our series through 1 & 2 Timothy that we are calling, “Life in the Local Church.”

Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, who was pastoring the early church in Ephesus. And he wrote to encourage, challenge and instruct Timothy on how to deal with some of the issues in the local church. These letters ended up being Gods inspired Word about what the local church should look like.

As we finish up Chapter 3 here, Paul has, for now, finished talking about prayer, worship, and church offices and what those things look like in the local church. And for these couple of verses he is turning his attention to three very interconnected things. First, he will address why he is writing this letter to Timothy. Second, he will the purpose and mission of the local church. Last, he will give a poetic summation of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

So, we will read this week’s text before we go any further. We will be reading 1 Timothy 3, verses 14-16. Ill be reading out if the English Standard Version though I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation that you should have in your hands. Once again, 1 Timothy 3:14-16. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, God Himself, writes holy scripture, telling Timothy:

I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. 16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

He[e] was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated[
f] by the Spirit,[g]
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.

 

          And all his church says Amen!

You know what’s interesting to me? Gods perfect timing. Paul is writing a letter to Timothy. A letter that survived many, many years. A letter that was inspired by God to be the very Word of God. A letter that we now have written and copied in the Bibles you are holding in your hands. And he tells here why he wrote that letter.

Paul wanted to come and talk to Timothy in person. He was trying to come to him, but what Paul was telling Timothy was much too time critical to wait for Paul to physically get there. And in that time, there were no phones. Paul and Timothy couldn’t just call each other and talk about what’s going on. There was no email, no skype, no way at all of communicating except through face to face contact or via letter.

And this is what I want to point out here. If Paul had access to any of those other forms of communication, we would not have these letters in the Bible. We would have an incomplete scripture. There would have been no record of what Paul wrote to Timothy and we would not have Gods entire word to us today.

But God knew what he was doing, God had his perfect timing and orchestrated it so that Paul wrote this letter to Timothy and we know have the full council of God’s Word, infallible, inerrant, immutable, sufficient.

This is not todays big point, but someone may need not hear this. God orchestrates life in a way that brings glory to himself 2000 years later. You may think you should be doing something that you think would benefit the kingdom of God and bring glory to God, but he is closing that door and you can’t understand why. Trust him anyway. Paul wanted to go see Timothy but had to write this letter instead so that we could read it all these years later.

But, back to the text, the reason that Paul wants to go see Timothy is to share “how one ought to behave in the household of God.” This is the same idea that is behind the title of our series, “Life in the Local Church.” Paul has already mentioned prayer, worship, Church offices, the Glorious Gospel, church leaders, along with authority and submission.

Paul is going to transition back into talking about combatting the false teaching that is pervasive in the early churches back then, and in our churches today. But first, notice something else.

What is the church? Now, we all know the saying, “The church is the people, not the building.” And there is truth to that. The point is that the building is not something to be worshiped. The goal with that saying is that we don’t shirk our responsibility to live out the Gospel when we leave the church after Sunday mornings.

But Paul makes it clear here that the Church is the household of God. The Church is the local body of Christ, gathering, and fellowshipping, equipping the saints, teaching the Word of God, worshipping the one true Eternal God. Is there more than that as well? Of course. But it is never less than what Paul is saying. The church is the equal mixture and additions of the body itself, where we meet and us doing what God has called us to.

Now, of course, where we meet is not important. In church buildings, in local granges, community centers and halls, in houses across the world, in wide open spaces, in campgrounds, in parking lots, in big stadiums, wherever. Where we meet, as the body of Christ is the household of God, the church of the living God.

And the household of God, the church of the living God, is to be a pillar and a buttress of truth. Those words mean literally to provide support. The church is Gods chosen instrument to fight against the False Teaching in this world and to share and spread and teach the truth of the Gospel. RC Sproul writes that, “the truth of the Gospel is found in and sustained by Gods Church.”

          So, Paul is doing two things here. He is showing us how important it is to know how to live and how to act in the local church, the household of God. And that’s why we see these instructions on what prayer and worship should look like. That’s why we see the restrictions and qualifications on who is to lead and have authority in the local church. Paul is not trying to be a micromanager. He is not trying to be a control freak. He is saying, this is important because this is how God designed it and this is His house!

That’s why Paul will always teach and affirm justification by grace through faith in Christ alone. That works play no part in our salvation in any way shape or form. But he will also in his letters, often talk about the way to live rightly, follow the commands and directions of God, to live by the moral law that God has passed down. Because that is how we are to live and act in the household of God. It’s a respect thing. It’s a part of our worship. Our entire lives, everything we do, think and speak are, whether we want them to be or not, an act of worship. It may be worship to the living God, or it may be worship to the gods of this world, but it is worship.

Second, Paul is showing us how important it is to have right teaching, right doctrine, right understanding of the Word of God. He is showing where that truth comes from and what our role in it is. We are to provide support for the truth that goes out from amongst us. This is why Paul started out so strong against the false teaching that is going on in Ephesus. And this is why he will be talking against the false teaching again coming up.

One of the things we can take from this is that we need to be in a local church for us to be able to stand against the false teaching. The church body, the local church, is a pillar and buttress of the truth. If we are not a part of a local church, we are isolated from the truth.

Watching preachers on TV or listening to them online or on the radio, if they are biblically solid, can be a great resource for growing our knowledge in the LORD. I will caution you that many who are on TV or on the radio are indeed NOT biblically sound. But ones that are can be a great resource. However, if that is the extent of your “Church participation,” you are in grave danger of being led astray from the truth.

The same thing is the case if you are a part of a church that is to far away. I’ve heard of pastors and their families who “pastor” churches that are over 50 miles away from where they live. If you live that far away, you can’t shepherd the flock. You are a weekly guest speaker at that point. And the congregation doesn’t have any one they can go to when they need to.

This is, of course, not to say that you have to go to whatever church is the closest to you geographically. First off, that would be incredibly legalistic and second, its not practical. Just because a church is closest, doesn’t mean its is a Bible believing, Gospel preaching church. They might differ from you on important things. Sadly, they may differ from you on core things as well. But you should be a part of a local church, where you can be involved and a part of the body.

Being a part of the local church helps people know you, see your life, see your wins and your struggles, and help to stay out of the crevices of sin that temptation brings. And the Local church helps people know you so that they can help guard against the influence of false teaching. If all your biblical input is coming from the guys on TV, you will be susceptible to falling for false teaching and for allowing false teachers to define your theology. With no one to correct and counteract false teaching we are all able to be deceived.

The local church, providing discipleship, fellowship, protection against false teaching and teaching truth is, second only to the Bible itself, the most important thing we can actively do to mature and grow in Christ Jesus.

Listen to what Ligon Duncan says about the local church from this passage:

Paul is saying that the local church is the place that God has appointed to be essential to the propagation and protection of the truth in the world. Paul’s saying there can be no “Lone Ranger Christianity.” You can’t be off on your own–you Jesus, and your Bible–and expect for the truth to prosper in your life. We need one another as believers. We need one another as encouragement, we need to see one another’s lives. We need to see the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of other believers, to encourage us to love and good deeds. We need to be saying the word to one another, memorizing the word with one another, hearing the word of God together, serving the word of God together. Together the church serves as the pillar and support of the truth, in the sense that it is essential, it is God’s essential vehicle for evangelism, for discipleship, for missions, for the defense of the faith. Paul is just pointing out that the church is absolutely crucial. It is vital in preserving and propagating the gospel. It is the local church, Paul is saying, where God meets especially with His people in the New Covenant era, and it is the local church which is the essential instrument through which God propagates His truth.

 

So many people today miss the importance of the local church. Of sitting under sound teaching and authority, of the accountability, of the understanding and proclaiming of the Truth!

And Paul shares with us that very truth that we are to proclaim as he writes to Timothy:

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

He[e] was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated[f] by the Spirit,[g]
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.

 

This is the truth that the local church is to stand and to proclaim and to protect. The mystery of Godliness. The mystery of the gospel. This mystery that I mentioned last week. The mystery that we heard during the scripture reading early from Ephesians 3.

God shared the Gospel all the way back in Genesis 4, right after the fall. The people of the Old Testament knew that there was a savior, a messiah coming. God promised it. And they had some insight, through the Prophets who spoke the Word of God, what that savior would look like, who that messiah would be. But overall it was a mystery to them.

When Christ arrived, it was no longer a mystery, but was revealed. At first, it was revealed in part, during Jesus’ earthly ministry, then revealed in full after his resurrection and ascension.

Paul writes to the Colossians, chapter 1, verses 25-28:

I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

Paul has said that the mission of the local church is to stand for and protect the truth. And he says in that passage in Colossians his mission is to the local churches, to make sure that they know and make known the full Word of God and that they known and share the revealed mystery, Christ in you.

And that’s how Paul ends this section with the revel of what that mystery was and what the truth is that we are to stand firm on. Many speculate that this poetic waxing of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ is an early Christian hymn.

Paul lists 6 truths about Christ that we are to proclaim and protect. First, Christ was manifested in the flesh. This is his incarnation. Jesus, eternally God from eternity past, 2nd part of the trinity, was made man, put on flesh and is fully God and fully man.

Second, he was vindicated by the Spirit. I’ve seen this taken to refer to either the resurrection, where as the Holt Spirit, fully God, vindicated Jesus, declaring him righteous, innocent and not guilty of any sin, or about his baptism, where the Holy spirit, in the form of a dove descended upon him and vindicated the start of his earthly ministry.

Third, Jesus was seen by the Angels. This is in reference to his ascension. Jesus Christ physically, literally died on the cross and was buried. He was physically, literally brought back to life. He was dead, then he was alive. After that, we see recorded in the beginning of the book of Acts that Jesus, back alive again, did not die again, instead he ascended into Heaven, and where He is now, we will see in the last statement.

Fourth, after his ascension, we see that Jesus disciples went out into the world and proclaimed this very truth. The same truth that we are tasked and blessed with continuing to spread throughout the world. The book of Acts is a record of how the Apostles first began spreading the Gospel.

Fifth, the Gospel was believed throughout the world. And that is one of Gods promises. We spread the seed; he will give the growth. Where the pure, simple Gospel is preached, people will be believing. Paul writes in Romans that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. That is how God has chosen to pour out his grace.

Lastly, Jesus was taken up in glory. When he ascended, he was then seated at the right hand of the Father. Christ is reigning in Heaven and is waiting for his return. He is exalted and worshipped and exactly where he is deserved to be.

One of Paul’s points is that we would do well to remember theses things. These are truths that false teachers will deny or twist. These are the truths that we are to protect. These are the truths that will guide us in how to behave in the household of God.

When we have trouble dealing with stuff, or getting frustrated with certain situations or circumstances, when we want to throw in the towel or take things into our own hands, we would do well to remember these things.

And when we hear something go against these things, we would do well to speak up. Paul will pick back up with the false teachers next week, but right now, here today. This is the truth. This is Christ. This is the mystery revealed. Let us remember and rest in that. Let us remember and rest in Him.

I leave you with the very words of Jesus himself, from Matthew 11:25-30:

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.[g] 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

 

Let’s Pray.

1&2 Timothy: Life in the Local Church, 1 Timothy 1:8-11 The Law is Good

1 Timothy 1:8-11

The Law is Good

Good Morning! Lets grab our Bibles and turn to 1 Timothy, chapter 1. As I say every week, if you do not own a Bible, please take one from the back table as our church’s gift to you.

So, we started going through Paul’s first letter to timothy last week and the context surrounding it. We saw that Timothy was sent by Paul to pastor and shepherd the famous (Infamous?) church at Ephesus. One of his primary tasks was to protect the flock from false teaching that was come from both within and without. We touch on some of that false teaching last week and we will be looking at it many weeks as we go through these letters from Paul.

These false teachers would come in and simply, they would teach contrary to biblical teachings. They would teach different than what the Bible teaches. Not always obvious either, sometimes very subtly and very persuasively.

Paul has in many places addressed legalists. Very similarly, Jesus often addressed the Pharisees during his ministry. These two groups had a common trait. Their world view was all law, it was very rigid, focusing solely on obedience, without any regard to love and grace.

But we have and see the opposite problem in scripture as well. It was prevalent then and its rampant now as well. All “love,” and all “grace,” and no law. The idea that is all over our culture, “Do what ever you want.”

“God wants you to be happy.”

“He has already forgiven all sin.”

“Its not that big of a deal.”

“That was for a different time, and more primitive culture, not for now, when we are enlightened.”

All these and more are a part of the false doctrine, false teaching called antinomianism. It means anti law. And Paul addresses that here in the passage we are looking at this morning.

SO lets go ahead and read our passage for this morning. We will be reading 1 Timothy 1:8-11. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along in your preferred translation. Again, 1 Timothy, chapter 1, verses 8-11.

Paul, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit writes to Timothy:

 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers,[b] liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound[c] doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

One of the most common misunderstandings in Christianity is that the law is no more. Yet, Jesus says in Matthew 5:17, Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. So the law has not gone away. It is still there. Others also have the misunderstanding that the law is bad, that is too hard, that it is antiquated, that it is just there to punish those who break it.

And yet Paul says right here that the law IS good, IF you have a right and accurate understanding of what the law is and what it is designed to do. That misunderstanding is rampant and it reminds me of parts of the Sermon on the Mount.

In Matthew 5:21-48, 6 times Jesus says, “You have heard it said…” Jesus points out the common, contemporary understanding and then corrects it from what the scriptures actually said or what the true meaning of the scriptures was. It feels like Paul is doing that here too.

“You have heard it said that the Law is bad, or old, but I say to you that the Law is good if one uses it lawfully.”

And Paul does and has shown exactly what that looks like. The law is a mirror, that, when we look into it, points out our blemishes, our sin. It points out our unrighteousness so that we can understand that we ourselves need someone else’s righteousness. See what Paul writes in Romans 7:7-12:

 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

Again, the law is a mirror to point out our unlawful behavior. The best description I have heard, Ive shared this before, but the law is the diagnostic tool. You go into the Doctors office and they give you an Xray or an MRI and the find something wrong with you. Did the MRI cause the issue? No, it helped identify the issue. The Law is the MRI. It identifies our issues. Sin is the disease. It is already in there, festering, growing, killing. If we don’t identify it, it will grow unchecked and it will kill us without us even realizing it. That’s one form of False teaching though, the one Paul is addressing here. The Law does not cause sin. The Law is not bad. The law is good.

But we also have to not swing too far the other way. The MRI does not cure the disease. The Law does not eliminate sin. The Law is not the cure. The law does not provide righteousness. It points out unrighteousness. As Paul does here in verses 9 & 10. He lists a small number of sins, small compared to the other lists he provides in his New Testament letters.

This list of sins is not exhaustive, and is not meant to be. It ends on verse 10, with the phrase “And whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.” So, if its not meant to be exhaustive, then what is the purpose of this list. Paul is showing both what happens, what we easily fall into and justify when we have a wrong understanding of the law, but also, he is showing what False teachers teach is ok, what they encourage. Remember the last line in Romans 1, verse 32, Paul says, 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.

False teachers will make your favorite sin, your specific temptation be ok. They will twist it so that what ever it is that you struggle with, Guess What? You don’t have to struggle with it any more because its not really a sin, or its not really that bad. They make sin and lawlessness subjective. Right and Wrong are culturally determined.

Bethel Church, up in Redding put out this statement recently:

God loves all people, LGBTQ+ and straight. The message has never been “All Must Change.” We share these stories specifically for Christians who are unfulfilled in identifying as LGBTQ+. For those of you who feel fulfilled and happy as you are, we love you!

God doesn’t force people to change, and people – including Christians – shouldn’t force others to change, either. We stand against any and all forms of shame, manipulation, force, humiliation, or physical harm in so-called “ministry” or therapy.

CHANGED is a safe space for Christians seeking an alternative to LGBTQ+ as they follow their faith according to their personal convictions.

You see that? However you want to live, is fine. You can follow Jesus and you dont even need to change anything! You can stay living exactly the same as you always have; disobedient, unholy, profane, not honoring mothers and fathers, murder, sexually immoral, homosexual, enslavers, liars, oath breakers, and everything else contrary to sound doctrine, everything listed in Romans 1:24-32, in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, in Galatians 5:19-21.

Free and easy, cheap grace that demands nothing of you. Instead, all you have to do is replace Jesus as God with your own desires, your own passions, your own sins as your god.

Thats the exact opposite of what the Gospel calls us to. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[b] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. The Gospel calls us to repent. It is the first thing mentioned in regards to the Gospel, Jesus says repent and believe the Gospel. Martin Luther says that a Christians life is one of repentance, meaning continual, lifelong change and growth. False doctrine says you are good just how you are.

False doctrine and false teaching is what is contrary to sound doctrine. And how do we know what sound doctrine is? Sound Doctrine is in accordance with the Gospel. Ligon Duncan tells us “The Gospel itself is the measure of sound teaching.” The measure of the law and whether it is used lawfully, the measure of whether we are accurately and correctly keeping the law is Jesus Christ and his Gospel.

Sin is the disease. The law is the MRI and the Gospel is the cure. Our disease, our sin results in death, eternal death, eternal seperation from Gods glory and grace and mercy. The only cure is the Gospel. We cant cure ourselves, not by keeping the law nor by changing and ignoring the law.

So, again, what is the law for? Paul writes in Galatians 3:19-22:

Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.

21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

The law was not given as a cure for sin, but given in response to sin, to show the way to the cure, Jesus Christ. The law cannot make one righteous. But what the law can do, what the moral guidelines that are handed down from God to Moses, written on stone and that are now written on our hearts, they do help restrain and identify sin.

Jesus tells two back to back parables on Luke 18, that point out that show that just physically, superficially keeping the law is not enough to make us rightouess. First, with the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. The Pharisee often gets a bad wrap in this story and he should, but I dont think we really see him clearly. He does all the right things. He obeys all the rules and then some. He acknowledges that God is the one who makes him not like the tax collector. But he thinks that he earned or was good enough to keep Gods grace. He attributes Gods grace to himself as his own righteousness. The point of the prable is not to show that the pharisee was acting or living wrong, or even that his prayer in the temple was wrong, but it was to point out that, despite what the pharisee thought, he was not righteous.

The next parable was the rich young ruler. This guys thought he had lived a good enough life and was searching out various religious teachers and leaders to confirm his goodness and to affirm his righteousness. Jesus pointed out some commands that he did not keep. First, lying, saying he had kept all the commandments since he was a kid. Second, his money and his possessions were an idol in his heart. His was trusting in his own goodness instead of in Gods grace.

Both of these parables are designed to point out that we have no saving righteousness of our own, but need to trust in Christ for his. The law is the way that points to Christ.

False teachers will shove the law out of the way, therefore obscuring the way to and need for Jesus Christ. Or they will focus on the law and teach our ability to keep it enough that we dont need Jesus Christ.

The law is there, again, not as a solution to sin, but as a response to sin. The solution to sin is the Gospel. Pure and simple. Thats what the sound teaching is, the Gospel.

Jesus Christ, truly God and truly Man, sinless and died and pied the penalty for our sins. Gods wrath poured out on Him so that his grace will be poured out on us. The vehicle he uses to pour his grace out on us is our faith in his son, Jesus Christ. God became man to save sinners. Marks Gospel says that Jesus came to be a ransom for many. He paid the price to purchase our salvation.

The change in us, it does change us, and it gives us a heart to serve and obey God. For believers, the law serves as a guide. It gives us perameters to stay within so that we can live right, live the way that God intended and the way that he designed it.

I love how John writes it in his first letter, 1 John 5:1-5, he writes:

 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Paul, in his letters to Timothy, will continue to harp on emphasizing sound doctrine, on right, biblical teaching. It is a repeating theme that Paul will pound on again and again, because oit is so important. Sound doctrine, sound teaching are the only ways to combat and fight false doctrine and false teaching.

Ligon Duncan points out, “We are not just teaching so you’ll know more things, we’re teaching so that you will have a healthy Christian embrace of doctrine and experience and practice.”

And that’s the important part, that’s a part of why the law in and of itself is not able to save. Because head knowledge, simply knowing the truth, simply knowing how to live, the physical act, doesnt do anthing. But our heart change, that the Holy Spirit does inside of us, the faith that is a gift from God, the faith that leads to the heart to keep his commandments, that is what saves us.

One of the commands Christ gives us is to be united in the truth. We are to be united as the church, as the body of Christ.

The thing that unites us together is the cross of Jesus Christ. Today we 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. But, 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.

1 & 2 Timothy: Life in the Local Church – 1 Timothy 1:1-7 Built on Solid Doctrine

1 Timothy 1:1-7

Life in the Local Church

Built of Sound Doctrine

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to the New Testament letter of 1 Timothy. And today, we start a new Series, as we study and teach through books of the Bible, line by line, verse by verse.As always, if you do not own a Bible, or do not have a Bible, please help yourself to one from the back table as our gift to you.

So, we will be going through and looking at Pauls so called Pastoral Letters. These are his letters to Timothy and Titus, his proteges and pastors of local churches. These letters lay out exactly what God has in mind for the local church. We will look at the importance of doctrine, the inportance of order. We will look at the qualifications for who will lead the church and, just as importantly, who is not qualified to lead the church. And there is so much more. We will see what God had in mind for living life in the local church.

So, I do want to start by reading our text for this morning, though after we read it, we will also spend some time looking at the context and who Timothy was, inlcuding who he was to Paul.

So, lets start by reading together, the first 7 verses of this Pauls first letter to Timothy. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version, and I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. 1 Timothy 1:1-7.

Paul, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, opens his letter:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,

2 To Timothy, my true child in the faith:

Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship[a] from God that is by faith. 5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

Man, I love that opening, as much, maybe more than any of Pauls other letters. And I want to start there, because one of the things it does, is that it identifies who, both Paul and Timothy are and it focuses the letter squarely on what, where and on who the focus should be, God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Lets start with who is Timothy and who is he to Paul? We first get introduced to Timothy back in Acts 16. In Acts 16, verse 1, we see Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. 

So, Timothy was half Jew, half Gentile. We will see later in Pauls letters to Timothy that it was his Grandmother and mother who shared the scriptures with him, which were able to make Him wise for salvation. (2 Timothy 3:15). We dont know anything else about his Father, other than he was Greek. We dont kow if he was there or not, if he left the family or stayed, if he was dead or alive even. Scripture doesnt deem fit to make that important.

We also see a bit about Timothy’s character in Acts 16:2, that he was very well spoken of by the other believers in Lystra. Tradition holds that Paul is the one who brought Timothy to Christ, and can be inferred by scripture. (Timothy 1:5, etc.) And as Paul came to Timothy in Lystra in Acts 16, Paul had Timothy join him on his missionary journeys.

So, Even at this point, Paul and Timothy had a close and personal relationship. We know Paul was picky about who accompanied him on his journies and here, he asked Timothy to come with him. Timothy had a lifelong foundation in our Old Testament scriptures, to them, the Hebrew scriptures. And from there, being saved through and being taught by Paul, his knowledge would have grown tremendously.

We see two practical things that Paul and timothy did, as well, before headed out to spread the gospel. The first is mentioned back in the verses in Acts 16. Paul had Timothy circumcised. Again, Timothy was half Greek, and on his Fathers side. And its important to recognize that this was not done for religious purposes. This was not done to make him rightoues, or to make hm right in Gods eyes. If you want to know Pauls views on those, read Galatians. He is pretty clear about what circumcision does and does not do. But Timothy was circumcised for practical, ministry purposes. Paul was going from city to city and he was going to the synagogues first, preaching Christ to the Jews. Part of his testimony was that was a Jew of Jews, a Hebrew of Hebrews. But Timothy was not, and so it would have been more difficult for him to gain entrance and to be heard, and even more so, to be listened to. So, as a practical step to gain an audience, they circumcised him.

And thats not THE takeaway from this today, but its something important to remember. Is there something that doesnt matter, that it getting in the way of someone hearing the Gospel? Get it out of the way. Dont be a stumbling block. Our Christian Liberty, our freedom only goes far enough as long as it does not get in the way of our witness and bringing others to Christ.

The second thing we see happen in Lystra before Paul and Timothy leave on their missionary journey, is that Paul and the elders laid hands on Timothy and prayed over him. Dont forget prayer. Not only when you are going through something, but more importantly, before you go through something. Pray for the things that are coming up. Pray for deisions, discernment, wisdom and planning. Pray for the seeds to be planted, and then pray for God to bring the increase, for him to water the seeds. And pray for your own role in the ministry in Bangor Community Church and the other witnesses and outreaches you may have. And pray for those in leadership of the church. Pray for the trustees and the elders. Pray for those who are volunteering and working in and around the church. And Heaven knows I could use as much prayer as you could possibly give. As Dave continually says, prayer is the backbone of the church. Once a church stops praying, a church starts dying.

So, Paul and Timothy go on their journeys and grow close, as if a father and a son. This section of 1 Timothy is not the only place these references are made. But this is where we see how close their relationship is. And we see that Paul left Timothy to be the Pastor at the church in Ephesus.

So, not wanting to get too fsar off track, a real quick look at the timeline of the church of Ephesus. It was founded by Paul, likely in the early 50’s AD. Timothy arrived to be their pastor in the early 60’s. Tradition holds that the Apostle Johnmade the Ephesian church his home in the mid to late 60s. We also know that Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians and that was probably right before Timothy arrived. So the Ephesians had a pretty standout group of teachers and pastors and influences. And yet, by the mid 90’s, Jesus tells them, relayed through John, thst while they did good works, while had the right actions, and even right doctrine, they no longer had a love for Christ, and they were told to repent in Revelation 2:1-7.

And yet, we see in Pauls opening and greeting that a love and passion for Christ are front and center. Paul, as in usual for him, opens with his name and calling. He is an Apostle of Christ Jesus. And he is an Apostle at the command of God. See, when God calls you to something, He is telling you that you will do it. His commands are not gentle suggestions. They are not optional and they are not one of many possibilities. They are also very rarely our first choice, what we would choice for us. You may fight against it for awhile. You may ignore for a period of time. You can try everything else you can think of. I did all that. But, just like Jonah, eventually God will spit you out of a fish, right where you are supposed to be. His will will be done, whether you cooperate or not. But, trust me, it will be much more pleasant if you cooperate.

Now, look at what Pauls focus is on in these first two verses. God is mentioned specifically twice and Christ Jesus is named three seperate times in these two verses. Dont miss this. Dont gloss over this as just some perfunctory greetings. Remember what Paul is writing this letter for. He is writing it to encourage Timothy in how to lead the church and what the practical life in the local church should look like. And he starts it by focusing entirely and fully on The Father and the Son who they are. And who are they?

First, we see that Christ is the head of the church. Paul writes in Colossians 1:18 about Jesus, he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. As we look at what we are to be doing as a church, how we are to be living in the local church, the thing that we need to remember above all else is that this is not your church. This is not our church. This is not my church, as the Pastor. This is Christ’s church. Every choice we make, every action we take, every thing we do, is for and because of Christ.

And then we see ways that Paul describes God and Jesus. God is our savior and Christ Jesus is our hope. Our salvation is through no one but God. He is our salvation. It is his grace poured out on us, and only through his grace that we are able to escape the perfect and just wrath of God and to enjoy perfect communion with God for eternity. God pours his grace out, giving us the gift of faith. And it is only through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, that we gain access to the forgiveness of sins.

And so Jesus is our hope. He is God. One third of the trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. When he created the world, it was created perfect, in perfect harmony with God. Man was created and was created to be in perfect relationship with Him, with Christ. And yet our sins keep us seperated from Him, unable to be in that same perfect relationship. And yet, Jesus is our Hope.

He came down, born a human baby. Lived a perfect life that we couldnt live. Died a death that we deserved, took the wrath of God on himself from OUR sins, so that, through our faith in Christ, we can be reconciled with him. We can have our sins forgiven, our slate wiped clean. We can escape the wrath that we so rightly deserve and enjoy the perfect and eternal love and fellowship of God, as Paul writes here, the Grace, mercy and peace of God the Father and our LORD Jesus Christ. Christ Jesus is our hope and he is our only hope.

And he is something else as well. He is God. Ligon duncan, A pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, Mississippi makes the point here that this is one of the spots where the Bible makes clear that Jesus is God. Here is what he said in a sermon he gave on this passage:

Think of it, my friends. Paul says to Timothy, “Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Now isn’t that an interesting way of speaking? 

What if I were to say to you, “Friends, I am called by God and by Billy Graham.” You might think, boy, that second level was a few steps down from the first one! I mean, Billy Graham’s a great man, but God he is not. Or what if I were to say, “I am called by God and John Calvin.” Well, you might say, “I always thought that he cared too much about Calvinism!” You would never think that I would group together John Calvin with the triune God. At least, I hope that you wouldn’t think that I would group together John Calvin on the par with the Triune God! But here’s Paul saying, “blessings to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus the Christ.” Now how can he do that? Because Jesus is of the same substance, equal in power and glory with God! It’s a testimony to His deity. 

Again, Christ as the head of the church. The church universal, all believers in all places, but also the head of the church, His church, the local church. Where we come together, with Him as the head, us as the body, and we live out His will. We do so because of who he is and we do so because of our love for him.

Now, after Paul opens his letter to Timothy, we see why he left Timothy at Ephesus. Read again verses 3 & 4:  As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.

Timothy was put in Ephesus to protect the flock, to protect Gods People. Its obvious that people were coming in, likely well respected in the church, maybe even higher ups. They were coming in and they were teaching false teachings, false doctrines. They were focusing on extra biblical and un biblical hypotheticals. They have rejected the authority and the sufficiency of scripture. They have trusted in man made philosophies and earthly wisdom instead of Gods plainly written word and Godly wisdom.

And the first thing, the very first thing that Paul tells Timothy, what Paul tells the church at Ephesus, what God is telling us is that we need to be aware of and to oppose false teaching. Thats the very first thing that he says for the local church to focus on.

Because the church is built on what? Christ as its head of course. And what is Christ, Jesus is the Word, He is the living Word. He is the Truth. And so the local church is built on the Truth, the Word, which we have in our hands as the Bible. It is built on Christ.

False teaching leads to spending time on anything and everything other than the true and written down, clear Word of God. One commentary says this: Heresy is to the church what treason or sedition is to the state–a divisive force made treacherous by the fact that it begins within the organization and exploits lines of trust and positions of authority.

False teaching is incredibly divisive. It will divide a church, and thats part of its purpose, to divide us, to divide the people of God. False teaching is designed and purposed to get us off mission. To make us not trust each other, or to make us not trust the Word of God itself. All the way back to the very first false teaching, Genesis 3, when the serpent asked Eve, “Did God say?” And thats the very same attack thats coming in today. Did God really say? Is that really what the Bible says? Is that really what it means?

False teaching prevents us from uniting together in worship. It makes minor things very major, causing freindships to be divided, causing churches to split, causing feelings to get hurt and leave. Sometimes its innocent congregants, sometimes its the false teachers, sometimes its those who believe the teaching and are not willing to hear the truth.

My job here as a Missionary Pastor with Village Missions, serving here at Bangor Community Church is to Preach the Word and Love the People. Preach and teach and share the Bible, its clear and life changing message of the Gospel. To sheild against false doctrine and to teach and promote right and true doctrine. And Im to love the people. I love you guys. Each and every one of you. And part of how I love you is by prtecting you and teaching you.

I rarely name names, but I have often mentioned specific false teachings that are going through from popular Bible teachers and preachers and churches that have influence. This is something I will continue to do. And I do it because I love you.

Look at what Paul writes next, in verse 5 to Timothy:

The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

Our beliefs and our practice, the practical application are necessarily intertwined. As James famously writes, faith without works is dead. To say that we love God, that we have faith in Christ, without belive in the Word of God, Christ himself and his recorded Word, our Bible, means that we dont really love God like we think and say we do.

We must believe in the truth. We must believe in and live that truth. Remember that Jesus is the Truth and it is that Truth, Jesus Christ that will set you free. But just believing the truth is not enough to drive out and protect against the lies.

The enemy is smart. He is the most cunning of any of the creatures. His tactics may have changed over the last 2000-6000 years, but only superficially. The lies disguise themselves as truth. Satan appears disguised as an angel of light. The false teachings will not be obvious at first. In fact, they often start off as not false. And then slowly, discreetly, and incrementally, it becomes more and more false and it becomes more and more divisive. So we can not protect against false teaching ONLY by believing the truth.

Let me put it this way as well, actually one pastor used this example, put out as a critique of another pastor. He said: “Let me tell you something about that teacher. He’ll draw a horse and say to his students ‘this is a horse,’ but he won’t draw a cow next to that horse and say to his students ‘this cow is not a horse!’

Jude tells us that we are to contend for the faith. We are to actively fight for the truth and against the lies. And we know its the truth because I tell you its the truth. No? No! We know its the truth because the Bible tells us, because Jesus tells us its the truth.

That brings us to the last two verses here this morning on what these false teachers will be like. They will say that “This is the truth because I say its the truth.” Paul writes: Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

There are people, who move away from the charge Paul mentioned in verse 5, pure heart, good conscience and a sincere faith. They pull away from that and they want to be a teacher. Almost exclusively, they want to do so for fame, for fortune, for power or for influence. They want you to follow them exclusively. Instead of going to your Bible, go to them. Instead of listening to these other guys as well, listen only to me. Instead of listening to Dave when he fills in, just dont worry about being here and stay home when Im not in the pulpit.

James reminds us in his letter, Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. Only those whom God has called should become teachers.

Because if you have not been called, you will not accurately and succesfully, in Gods eyes at least, do the job you are trying to do. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:12-16,

 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.[d]

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

False teaching and False teachers will be a common theme in Pauls letters to Timothy, so we will get into more of these things then, bit we see how important it is the the local church based on Paul putting this right at the front of the letter.

And so we remember and ensure that Christ is the head of the church, and not just the churc but this church, Bangor Community Church. And one of our job is to protect the church and live as the body and pray for each other Toidentfy and call out false teaching when we see it. Our job is to worship and serve God as a united body of Christ, manifested here in the local church. Lets Pray.

Malachi 3:13-4:6 The Cynical and the Faithful

Malachi 3:13-4:6
The Cynical and the Faithful

Good Morning! Lets go ahead and grab our Bibles and turn to Malachi chapter 3. IF you do not have a Bible or own a Bible, please help yourself to one from the back table as our gift to you.
Today we look at the last section of Malchi, finishing up our time with this Old Testament minor prophet. Next week we are going to start a series going through 1 & 2 Timothy, Pauls letters to his Son in the Faith, showing us how God designed the Church to run and to act. Whats right and wrong and what the truth is that we are command to keep and stand up for.
Ut, today, as we come to an end of our series through the book of Malachi, we see Malachi, or God speaking through Malachi, Malachi writing down the words of God. We see the theme of the rest of book, come together and be wrapped up in the last sections of this book. And part of the themes of this book could be ripped from todays headlines.
If you follow the news at all, and if you dont, good for you. But if you follow the news at all, this past week you saw that Jefferey Epstein died in prison last weekend of a reported suicide. He was an evil man, charged with many account of human trafficking and other horrible, unspeakable crimes. When his death was reported, the Newspaper headlines shouted out that he had escaped Justice.
The world has the thinking that if you die before you are punished for your crimes and sins, you have escaped justice. And we, inside the church fall into that same thinking. If we dont see people around us facing the consequences for their sins, we get upset with God, because justice is not being served.
Malachi addresses that and more as we look at this last section. Before we go any further, lets read this week’s text. Reading Malachi 3:13-4:6. Ill be reading out of the English standard Version and I do encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation here today. Again, Malachi chapter 3, verse 13, through the end of the book, chater 4, verse 6. God, our Father, speaking through his prophet, Malachi, says:
“Your words have been hard against me, says the LORD. But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’ You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts? And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.’”
Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.
“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts.“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

The first thing we see here is the last accusation God makkes iof Israel in this prophetic book. We have spoken hard words against Him. And of course, as with every accustation in this book, Israel’s and our response to him is HOW? We dont see things through Gods eyes. We dont see accurately what we are doing, how we are acting and what we are saying. We ceratinly dont see what our words mean, especially to those around us. By responding in this way, Israel is playing the victim. “Thats no what we said!” Or “Thats not what we meant!”
But each time God responses with exactly what they have done wrong. And he says, when you look around and you see evil doers prospering, when you see them test God and seeming to escape punishment, when you see that happen and you say, “Theres no Justice!” or “Theres no Point!” When you see those things and you figure that there is no point in serving God, those are our hard words against God.
And to be clear, you can have the ideas, the thoughts that those who do evil are getting away with it and you can wonder why God isnt punishing them and continue to serve God with all your heart, mind body and soul. You can see those things and still trust that God And those are not necessarily hard words against God in and of themselves. But when you say that BECASUE justice is not being served, BECAUSE you see these issues that there is no point in serving God then you are turning back from God.
We see Job cry out quite a bit about the perceived injustices and he continues to trust in God. We see Habakkuk cry out about the violence and asking why God is allowing it to continue. Jesus cries over the city of Jerusalem and their hard hearts. But when we see people sin openly and freely, and blaspheme God in their hearts and their actions, God tells us to trust him even more and to be faithful to what he has called us to do. Serve him, obey him, trust in him and share him with the world.
God says that he will be faithful to those who are faithful. As a quick aside, sparked by the text, this shows, as well, the importance of fellowship. Of getting together on a regular basis, both on Sunday mornings and otherwise. Talking wth each other, meeting together, getting to know each other deeper, knowing our struggles and our triumphs.
Our church family will help us stay faithful and comitted. It can be very easy to feel isolated. It can be very easy to feel like we are the only ones. Both as individuals and as a church. We have talked a lot recently on Wednesday mornings AND Sunday nights of churches in Northern California and cross America that are being unfaithful to their designed purpose of Preaching the Word of Gods, teaching the Bible and discipling Christians to follow the commands of God. And with that it can easy for us to get prideful and think we are the only faithful church left.
Individually, we look around us, look at the multitudes across America that identify as Christians and yet, seem to be living as the world or have poor theology and it can be very easy for us to get prideful that we are true christians when they are not or we are better, more mature, righter christians, while they are still immature or believe false teachings. And we do so as though either of those have anything to do with our efforts , as opposed to our faith being a gift of Gods grace.
But, again, it can very easily feel like we are the only ones left in this world. And yet, God has addressed this all throughout scripture. In 1 Kings 19, we see Elijah frustrated about the things going on around him and the lack of faithfullness from israel. He says in verse 14, talking to God: “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”
Essentially, I am the only one faithfully serving you, LORD. Everyone else has abandonded you and I and only I am the one doing right in your eyes! Well, there is a lot we could go into there, but Suffice it to say that Elijah feels isolated and like there is not much hope left in anyone but himself. God response to him in verse 18, telling Elijah: Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.
We are not alone. Despite what we see around us, or what society and the prevailing culture present to us, God always keeps a remnant and it is always larger than we expect. This of course does not cntradict what Jesus says in Matthew 7:13 & 14. Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount: Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
Many will think that they are Christians and they are decieved. And yet, many more than we can see will also be along side of us in heaven. The truth is, Christianity is not shrinking. Let me say that again, more accurately. True, biblical Christianity is not shrinking.
True, biblical Christianity is protected by and preserve by God. True, biblical Christianity, the Invisible and universal church is not what the world sees as Christianity. Studies over the last few years have shown that over 90% of Americans believe in “god”. There is ot a definition to who or what god is in that question, just, “Do you believe in god?” It goes further to show that somewhere around 75% of Americans claim to be Christians.
And yet, as we have discussed before, many who claim to be Christians dont actually now what Christianity is. They dont actually know what the Bible says. They hold to what is, by definition, heretical beliefs. And those are who we see walking away, leaving the church and John writes in his letter that they went out from us because they were never really one of us.
But those who fear the LORD, they shall be mine, says the LORD. Those who have been saved by God, through his grace, manifested in our faith in Christ and his finished work on the cross, assured of their salvation through a doctrine called “Perserverence of the Saints.”
Got Questions describe the doctrine this way:
God, by His own power through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, keeps or preserves the believer forever. This wonderful truth is seen in Ephesians 1:13-14, where we see that believers are “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchase possession, to the praise of His glory.” When we are born again, we receive the promised indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit that is God’s guarantee that He who began a good work in us will complete it (Philippians 1:6). In order for us to lose our salvation after receiving the promised Holy Spirit, God would have to break His promise or renege on His “guarantee,” which He cannot do. Therefore, the believer is eternally secure because God is eternally faithful.

Gods people are his treasured possesions. They, we, will be spared our much deserved wrath of God and instead be declared rightouess in His sight and promised eternity with a prefect, holy and loving God.
The thing that God is showing us is the distinction between the rightouess and the unrightouess. That can be very hard to see. Its not always clear. Jesus shows us this in the prable of the wheat and the tares, in Matthew 13:24-30:
He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds[c] among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants[d] of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”
Our churches in America, in this world are filled with both believers and non believers. Coming together, growing up intermixed, with nobody but God able to tell who is who.
Not only is America one of the biggest mission feilds in maerica, the reason Village Missions exists, but churches are one of the biggest mission fields in America. Many think that if they attend church regularly, or if their parents or grandparents brought them to church or Sunday School as a kid, or if they raised their hand or walked down to an altar and said a prayer, that they are saved. Too many think that if they live moral lives, bring their kids to church and vote Republican that they will have check off enough items on the chrck list that God uses to determine if we are good enough to get into heaven.
However, Jesus is quite clear in Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
This is important. What we claim, what we identify as, how we act, none of it does anything to save us. Salvation is by the grace of God alone, through Fiath alone in His Son, Jesus Christ alone, to and for the glory of God alone, as He has revealed in the Sciptures alone.
So, regardless of what we would like to think, there are only two distinctions. The rightouess and the wicked. And the Day of the LORD is coming. And on that day, we will see the seperation, the distinction between the rightouess and the wicked.
On that day, the arrogant and the wicked, those who reject Gods covenant and his grace and mercy, those who know the truth but supress it by their unrightouesness, they will be subject to the judgment fire. The lake of fire, that never quenches.
This is unfortunately not the refining fire that we see back in Chapter 3, verse 2. This is an eternal punishment. Perfect and Holy Justice will be served. Man like Jeffery Epstein, who many think have escaped justice, cannot escape the Justice and wrath of God. And because of our sins, that is what we all deserve. I came upon this wupte this week: “Nobody wants a God who declines to deal with evil. They just want a God who declines to deal with their evil.”
But for Gods covenant people, for those who fear him, for those who serve him, for those whose faith is in Him, The Son of Rightouesness will come with healings. This is not necessarily speaking of physical healing in this world, in this life. God came to save sinners. He will heal us of our sins. We will be healed of our sins to spend eternity in our perfect, glorified, physical bodies.

Gods message in the scriptures is often a dual message with one purpose. Malachi shows that as well. Malachi starts with a declaration of the love of God. And it ends with the threat of a curse. Paul writes in Romans 11:22: Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness.

The Kindness AND the severity of God, all designed to bring us to repentence and faith. His kindness poured out on those who respond to this message. His severity poured out on those who reject it.
Christianity is both, at the same time, the most inclusive AND exclusive religion in the world. Exclusive because there is only one way to salvation, only through Christ. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the only door that we can go through to get to God the Father. Period, There is no other way. It is inclusive more that any other religion, because the invitation to walk through that door goes out to anyone and everyone. It is going out to everyone here this morning. If you have not responded to this message of love and salvation, now is the time. If you thought youw ere safe and realized that you are trusting In your own works and rightouesness, now is the time to believe the Gospel and repent. If you have already respended to this message and trusted in Christ alone, now is the time to share with those around you and to rejoice in the coming of the LORD to dole out his perfect and Holy justice and his perfect and holy mercy and grace.
The Message of Malachi, the Message of this book is Gods Faithfullness and his love and his compassion and his mercy. And the message is his wrath and his justice, all perfect, all complete and all holy just as God himself is. The covenant God has made is perfect, complete and Holy just as He is and it will never end, it will never be broke by God and we can place our complete and total trust in him and his commands.
Lets finish this book off by reading what The psalmist writes in Psalm 84:11 & 12:
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
12 O Lord of hosts,
blessed is the one who trusts in you!

Malachi 2:10-16 Gods Covenant and the Marriage Covenan

Malachi 2:10-16

Gods Covenant and the Marriage Covenant

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to Malachi, chapter 2. As always, if you do not have or own a Bible, please help yourself to one from the back table as our gift to you.

This week we are looking at a much smaller chunk of the Malachi than we have over the last two weeks. Malachi was written during, but towards the end of the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. We see some of the same issues pop up here in Malachi has Ezra and Nehemiah addressed in their books.

And this section today was written because Israel was failing to follow what God had made clear to them regarding marriage. They have been breaking Gods commands in to explicit ways. First, we will look at in verses 10-12, they have been taking women for wives that had been off limits to them. Second, in verses 13-16, that had been divorcing their wives, against what God had been telling them.

But we are also going to look at the relationship between Gods covenant with his people, those who belong to him, those whom have been saved by grace, through faith, and the covenant of marriage that God has given to mankind as a gift and as a way to see His goodness and His love. Now, this is not your typical sermon on marriage. This is not 7 ways to have a great Marriage or anything like that. This is about God, his love, his covenant with his bride, his people, the church, you and I.

So, now we are going to go ahead and read our passage for this week, Malachi 2:10-16. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version though I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. Malachi, chapter 2, verses 10- 16. God, speaking through his prophet, says:

 Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? 11 Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. 12 May the Lord cut off from the tents of Jacob any descendant[e] of the man who does this, who brings an offering to the Lord of hosts!

13 And this second thing you do. You cover the Lord‘s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. 14 But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union?[f] And what was the one God[g] seeking?[h] Godly offspring. So guard yourselves[i] in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. 16 “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her,[j] says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers[k] his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

All right, so we start off, brieflyy, with something so simple, yet so foundational that it needs to be repeated and retaught and reminded of time and time again. God is our Father. He is the Father of All Believers, He is the creator of all, If you are not a believer, a Christian, you are not considered a child of God because you are not an heir to the Kingdom, a co heir with Christ. (Romans 8:17)

And as our Father, he is faithful in his Word to all. He has establish a covenant with his Children, summarized and represented by Israel in the Old Testament and summarized and represented by the Church in the New Testament. He has established a covenant of grace, by which he saves his children, offers forgiveness of their sins. He works in us to change us from death to life and to change our hearts of stone to hearts of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)

And as we see throughout the scriptures and throughout history, God gives us ways to see greater truths. He has given us examples, types and shadows to help us better understand Gods truths. In this case, we see that God gave us the gift of marriage, in part, to help us understand and to see Gods covenant with us. He has given us this gift to help us relate to it and as an example to follow.

I want to touch on real quick, some of the difficulties we have when we read through the Old Testament. I think we can all be honest here right? The Old Testament is not as easy to read through and apply accurately as the New Testament. We tend to make one of two mistakes, or sometimes both actually.

The first tendency we can fall into is that we can over spiritualize what we are reading. We remove the historical reality of the stories in the Old Testament. We forget that these were real live people, in real live circumstances. Nothing has context and the only meaning of the text is allegorical for today, for modern day believers. It ends up being less, “What does Gods Word say?” and more, “What is God revealing to me individually, for my individual life?”

The second mistake we make, the second tendency we fall into is the over moralizing of the text. It puts the context back, but removes God as its author in this sense. It has no types, shadows or looking forward to Jesus Christ or the Church, but is essentially a guide book, a bunch of examples of good and bad, of right and wrong. It ignores the fact that the Bible is one unified book, with one unified story, the story of Gods redemption plan of us. It ignores that God has been pointing toward the coming Messiah and Savior since the beginning of the Bible, with the first prophecy of Jesus being in Genesis 3.

Both of those, on their own are wrong. The Old Testament is both of those and it is so much more than that. These are real, literal people, in real, literal events. The Old Testament is God telling a story, His Story, through real life history, The people and the stories are just as real as you and I sitting here.

And so our challenge is, as we read through the sections of the Old testament is to balance those two things, not  over spiritualize it and to not over moralize it, but to read the Truth of Gods Word and to pull out what God has intended to share with us.

One of the biggest themes in Malachi, one of the biggest things He has intended to communicate with us is showing how Israel has broken the covenant that was established between God and Israel. And as God is pointing this out to them, he is reminding them of who He is. In Malachi 1:2, He makes it clear,  I have loved you,” says the Lord. He has loved them and has been faithful and He has kept His end of the covenant. He is a God of His Word.

But in Malachi 2, verses 10-12, we see that Israel has broken their end of the covenant. You dont have to read much of the Old Testament to Israel breaking their covenant one way or another. In this instance, Israel breaks their Covenant with the one true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God if Israel, the God of the Bible, they break their covenant by marrying foreign women.

Now, to clarify what the issue is here, we can point to most obviously the book of Ruth to see that it is not simply the fact that these foreign women were born somewhere outside of Israel that is the issue. This is not about nationality, ethnicity or anything else like that. What the issue here is that the women that the Israelites were marrying were worshipping foreign gods. They were not within, but were outside of the covenant with God. They were not following or worshipping the True God of Israel.

We are reminded that Malachi was a later contemporary of Ezra and Nehemiah. Coing at the end of their ministries, Malachi has seen what Ezra and Nehemiah have had to deal with. We saw specifically, but not limited to Ezra 9 & 10, and in Nehemiah 13 that they too had to deal with the Jewish exiles returning to Jerusalem with foreign wives and marrying foreign wives once they have returned as well.

Some of them had multiple wives as well. We see that this unbiblical practice went all the way back to Genesis 4. Genesis 4:19, it records that Lamech took two wives, the first instance of polygamy in the Bible. Unfortunately, it would not be the last, as we see even otherwise Godly men such as Abraham, Jacob, David and Solomon having multiple, and in some cases, many wives.

As we bring these things together, I want to read the first few verses of the 10 commandments as recorded in Exodus chapter 20. Verses 1-3 read:

 And God spoke all these words, saying,

2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

3 “You shall have no other gods before[a] me.

There is One, True God, and there is only One True God. God created marriage to mirror this point, that we are to marry one person, and only one person. One man, one woman. And that we are intended to marry only someone who worships the One True God, as we do.

This principal continues on and is shown that it applies to us today by showing up in the New Testament as well. We see this in 2 Corinthians 6:14, where Paul writes: Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. And while thats not the limit for what it means, this is, in part, referring to having the same spiritual views as the one that we will marry.

RC Sproul gives us some insight as to why, saying, “Intimacy at its deepest dimension is impossible when the partners are not united in faith.”

Our faith should be the foundation of your entire identity. It should the foundation of who you are. And if you dont and/or cant share that with your spouse then you wont be able to have the deepest connection that God has desired for you.

And in this, we see the parallels between Gods covenant and relationship with us and with the covenant and intention of marriage. God doesnt want us to have a casual relationship with him. He doesnt want us to like him. He doesnt want us to come to him only when its convenient or when we are in trouble. He wants all of us all the time. And thats how we are supposed to be with our spouses as well.

Now, does this mean that two non believers cant be married and have a happy, a faithful, and a long lasting marriage? Does that mean that a believer and a non believer cant be married and have a happy, faithful, and long lasting marriage? Of Course not! As many of you can attest, either personally or by those who are close to you, family, friends and the like.

We see all around us, through Gods common grace, that people can have a happy, successful marriage without both being completely and solely focused on Christ. But its not how God intended it. Just like if Someone says they are a Christian, but never reads their Bible. The intimacy in the relationship will never be able to be as deep and as complete as its supposed to be.

And so we worship One God, the True God and we are intended to become one with someone we can share that worship with. Now, scripture also addresses how to respond if we find ourselves in a situation which was not the intended ideal. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16, starting in the middle of verse 12:

if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you[b] to peace. 16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

If you are married, you are married. Dont throw away what you have to try and go back in time. God uses all things for good, more specifically, for his glory. Romans 8:28 Paul says here that we are never to give up hope that an unbelieving spouse may come to know the LORD, whether partly or mostly from our lives we are living, loving and living with them, modeling the love of Christ and the dedication to Christ that we are to have.

God hates divorce. We are to worship only the One True God and we are to marry one our one spouse. One God enters into a covenant with us and we are to enter into a covenant with only one partner. Gods covenant is never ending. The Jesus storybook Bible calls it an Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.

Once we are in covenant with Him, we are sealed into that covenant with the Holy Spirit. That covenant is salvation. Salvation from the consequences of our sin, from the failure to keep our end of the covenant, from failing to live up to the perfect and Holy Standard that One true and perfect God has set. That salvation is by grace alone. The vehicle that grace is poured out is by faith alone. The object of that faith is in Jesus Christ alone.

Once the Holy Spirit has sealed us in the covenant with God, it is forever. It is unbreakable and it is permanent. In the same way, as a shadow of that covenant, our marriage covenants are intended to be unending, unbroken and full of grace being given to sinners.

Romans 5:8 God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. And we see teachings and directions about how to model that love to our spouses. One such example is Ephesians 5:22-33:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.[a] 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Again, we see that Marriage was an incredible gift that God has given to us. In Genesis 2:24, God says:  Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh Men, you and your wife are one flesh. Women, you and your husband are one flesh. We are to love and serve each other in the manner that Christ has loved and served us.

You may have often heard that marriage is designed not to make us happy, but to make us Holy. And that is true, and its true because marriage is designed to help us to see God more clearly. It is designed for us lean on God more intensely, more dependently, because those things Paul just listed in Ephesians 5, we cant do those with out the help of God. Marriage is designed to remind us of Gods love, his service and his sacrifice.

Marriage is designed to be the human equivalent of the covenant that God has established with his people, his church, his bride. Exodus 34:6 & 7 is one of my favorite parts where God speaks his covenant, saying to Moses:

The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands,[a] forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty,

Marriage is not always easy. Fights will take place. Arguments, disagreements, misunderstandings… Both parties of a marriage are still sinners and they are now thrown in super close proximity to each other. Those faults and sins will manifest themselves and often.

With God, only one side is sinful. Thats our side. Our sin will manifest itself and often. We will misunderstand God. We will argue with God. We will walk away or puch him away. But he will never leave. He will never forsake us. He will never abandon or break his covenant with us and that deserves our full and everlasting praise and thanks.

I also love the way that John Piper sums up this passage, writing:

He is the God of Israel. The fellowship may be broken. There may be exile and separation. There may be anger and tears. But when whole story is told, the sum of the matter is Isaiah 54:4–8:

Your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called. For the Lord has called you like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, like a wife of youth when she is cast off, says your God. For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing wrath for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says the Lord, your Redeemer.

God will never nullify his marriage to the elect. Christ will never forsake his bride, the church. He is a covenant maker and a covenant keeper. And that is the meaning of marriage.

Lets Pray

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 1:1-5 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

Romans 13:8-10 Love fulfills the Law

Romans 13:8-10
Love fulfills the Law

Good Morning. Lets grab our Bibles and turn in them to Romans chapter 13. As a reminder, if you do not own a Bible, we have some on the back table as our gift to you. We are indeed back in Romans after a kind of, sort of, not really, detour last week.
Paul here, in his letter to the churches in Rome has been showing what being a follower of Christ practically looks like. Right application and right action necessarily come from right understanding of doctrine. And Right understanding of doctrine should lead to right application and action.
But just simply having the right doctrine and the right application, might not be enough. In order for the doctrine to be put into practice, our heart needs to be changed. In order for our actions to be rooted in right doctrine, we need the right motivation. And that is one of the things that we are going to see Paul talk about this morning.
This section, chapters 12 & 13, are one big thought by Paul, following up on his long, extended treatise on the Christian doctrine and faith, from chapters 1 through 11. Pastor Ligon Duncan reminds us of the connective thought process Paul has been developing over the last two chapters, as he says:
This whole section of Romans in chapter 12 and chapter 13 is Paul’s fleshing out of what it means to live your life in light of the realities that you are to be a living sacrifice to the Lord as your spiritual service of worship. This is what it means to put your life on the altar. It’s what it means to die for the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s what it means to live the whole of life as an act of worship.
(https://www.fpcjackson.org/resource-library/sermons/a-call-to-fulfill-the-law-through-love)

So, with that said, we look at our verses from this week, Romans 13:8-10. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version, and please follow along in whatever version you have with you. Romans 13:8-10, Paul writes:
8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

So, right away here, Paul continues on from verse 7 and follows it up in verse 8. Summing up, verse 7, Paul told us to give to everyone what is owed to them. He went into the specifics about some of the ways that looks like. Taxes, revenue, honor and respect. And here, he writes out the general principle. All of those things fall under how we treat each other and how we treat each other falls under the heading of love.
We know the Great Commission, Matthew 28:19 & 20:
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.
However, we often forget about the great commandment. This is what we looked at last week in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Remember in Luke 10, Jesus asks the lawyer, starting in verse 26, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
Love God and Love your neighbor. This is the Great Commandment. All other commands, principles, and applications fall under these umbrellas. And Paul says that here in verse 9, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There are a couple of aspects that flow out of what Paul is saying here. Two main ones actually. The first is that all are owed love. We are to owe no one anything except love. This has to come from some place. If we are owed something, it implies something. If we are owed something, it implies that we deserve it. If we deserve it, our minds imply that we did something to deserve it. If we are owed love, it implies that we are loveable.
We know by reading Romans specifically and the bible in General that we are, indeed not lovable. Thats the whole beautiful thing about the Gospel, about what God the Father sent God the Son to do, to love us when we were at our most unlovable. And when we become followers and children of God, through the Power of the God the Holy Spirit, we are to love all those around us who are unlovable. By that still implies that there is a reason for us to love those who are unlovable. And there is.
Imago Dei. Genesis 1:27 tells us So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. We, as in all of us, as in all human beings ever, as in people. We were all created in the image of God. We were made reflecting the glory and image of God. We are evidence of the reality of God. That does not mean that we are all children of God, that we are all followers of Christ or that we all will go to heaven. But we were all created in His image and therefore, through Gods goodness, and nothing we have done, we are all worthy of the dignity and respect, and In this context, love that comes with being made in his image.
As we saw last week, neighbor is not a limited term. It is everyone. That includes all of our enemies. It includes our religious enemies. It includes our political enemies. It includes our personal enemies. It includes our workplace enemies. It includes our friends. It includes our family. It includes each other in this very room. Each of those categories is our neighbor and we are commanded to love them. None of those categories is easy to love.
DA Carson says that Christians are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus’ sake.” Think about this, Any group, any association you have, any friends, you all spend time together because there are common interests. You get to know people and you spend time with them, “Hey, you like horses? I like horses! You like working on cars? I like working on cars! You like knitting or crocheting? I like knitting or crocheting!” There is a common bond that brings us together.
Now look around this room. We are here together whether we have anything in common or not. We look around this room and we are all different. If we have things in common, great! Added bonus! The Bible says that we don’t need anything in this world in common. Jesus tells us that he is enough.
We talked last week about loving those we don’t like, those who we don’t know. But we need to remember to love one another, even when and especially when its hard and especially when we don’t want to.
The Apostle John writes in his second letter:
And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. 6 And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. (2 John 5&6)
He reiterates the Great Commandment. He points out how we are supposed to be with one another. Peter writes that love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8) We are brothers and sisters in Christ, those of us who are children of God. We are family. Think about your family. Nobody can get on your nerves, nobody can irritate you more than your brothers and sisters. You know its true. But they are still family and there are few that we love as much as or more than our family.
The same with our church family. I’m sure there are people in this room that can, at times, annoy us, grate on us, do things we don’t particularly care for. Thais a part of life on earth. Anytime you gather a group of people together in a room, there is 0 chance that at some point, there wont be something that happens in that room where one, two or more are annoyed, hurt or mad.
But the Bible reminds of us that often, we are on the giving end of that hurt. Get a handful of sinners together, we are still sinners.
That brings us to the second main point here in our passage this morning. Paul says that Love is the fulfilling of the law. The law needs to be fulfilled. It especially needs to be fulfilled if we want to be let in to the Kingdom of Heaven. But we are unable to fulfill the law. We cannot live up to the perfect and holy standard that God has set. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:20, during the Sermon on the Mount, what I see as the entire point of the Sermon on the Mount summed up in one statement, I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
The scribes and Pharisees were the most righteous of the Jews in their day. God handed down the law to Moses back in Exodus. Forgetting that Abraham was justified by faith and not fully understanding the Great Commandment, which was given in the law and was where the Pharisees got that from, the tried so hard to follow the letter of the law and even added rules and laws on top of Gods laws. But they thought that, by following the commands of God, that their own righteousness could be enough to earn them salvation and eternal life. They were not only wrong, because our righteousness on our own can never be enough, we don’t have perfect righteousness. Only Christ had that. But also, as they trusted in their own righteousness, by following the letter of the laws, they lacked the very love that God command them to have.
We see numerous times in the Old Testament prophetic books that God admonishes Israel for doing the things, the religious rituals, the sacrifices, and offerings and the pageantry in the temple, but doing them without love, with wrong hearts and motivations. God says, through the prophet, in Malachi 1, 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.
This is just one of many examples. The priests were making the offerings they were supposed to, but wrong hearts and motivations, without love and in this case too, offering unsuitable animals and gifts for the offerings.
With what Ezekiel calls a heart of stone, (Ezek. 36:26) our outward actions don’t add up to anything in Gods eyes. Moral actions without a heart of flesh, does nothing but make us white washed tombs. (Matt. 23:27) Nice looking on the outside, but dead on the inside.
Paul talks about what it means to do all sorts of good things but to do it without love. 1 Corinthians 13, verses 1-3:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.

We cannot love with a heart of stone. We cannot love in and of ourselves. And we can’t change our heart of stone to a heart of flesh. It takes the holy Spirit to do that. And it took Jesus, his perfect life, perfect righteousness and death and resurrection to secure forgiveness from our sins and clothe us in His righteousness.
That forgiveness is a key thing here. Love covers a multitude of sins, right? Paul writes in Romans 5:8 that God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
We are forgiven, we are clothed in Christs righteousness. We are made a new creation. Our heart of stone is change to a heart of flesh. Because God loved us and Jesus secured our forgiveness.
God gives us all this through by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Nothing we do can earn it, nothing about us can be good enough. Our forgiveness and salvation is based and solely based on Gods love for us.
God loved us first, and now calls us to love him, to love God with all out heart, soul, strength and mind. He also calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves. And just have to be careful we put things in the right order. Again, it bears repeating often, we don’t do anything to earn our salvation. We don’t follow the commands of God in order to earn his good graces. We are saved by grace through faith. When we are saved, we follow his commands to show our love for God who loved us first.
Jesus says it clearly in John 14:15: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And love is the fulfillment of the commandments. Jesus says, just about a chapter later, John 15:10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
Love is the first of the fruit of the Spirit that Paul lists in Galatians 5. It is the first and foremost of the visible evidences of our salvation, of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. And through love, we show others the love of Christ. Again, in Johns Gospel, 15:35, Jesus says: By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Again referencing Ligon Duncan, he shows the love that God gives us as debt to be paid. We pay our debt by pouring out love to those around us. He says the following:
The interesting thing about the exercise of this debt is that you get richer as you pay the debt. Listen to what Robert Haldane says, “The more they pay off this debt, the richer they will be in the thing that is paid.”
You pay off this debt with love, and as you pay off this debt, you don’t end up with less love, you end up with more love.
But just talking about loving each other and loving our neighbor is not enough. 1 John 3:18, John writes: Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. Paul lists a few of the Ten Commandments in this passage, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” And says that these are all reduced and simplified to Love your neighbor.
Heres what he is not saying. No longer follow the Ten Commandments. We are not bound by them, as in required to keep them to achieve or earn salvation. But God gave them for a reason. We have looked at that recently too. The law was given for our benefit. For our holiness. But we are called to be Holy as God Our Father is Holy (Matt. 5:48) We are called to know and follow the word of God. Jesus tells us to repent and believe the Gospel. (Mark 1:15)
But as we also saw just a few moments ago, we can follow the commands the wrong way and missing the point, missing God in that. And so Love God and love our neighbors gives us the umbrella from which we filter all things. Again from 1 John, 5:3: For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
We love God, we love his word. inerrant, sufficient and complete. No new revelation, no picking and choosing what we like and what we don’t. But to love God means to love all of him, including what he has revealed to us in the Bible.
And We love our neighbors, we love each other by acting on his commands, by following them. We reject the worlds definition of what love is and we act on the Bibles definition. We owe all people around us love, it is a debt that can never be fully repaid, a debt from God. Since all people are created with the Imago Dei, creation in the image and likeness of God, they deserve love and respect.
The two aspects of the Great commandment are intrinsically related. I like and Ill finish with the way John Piper sums it all up these verses: Christ will be my focus, love will be my fruit.”
Lets Pray