1 Timothy 5:1-16 Life in the Local Church: How to Treat Those in the Church

1 Timothy 5:1-16

Life in the Local Church

How to Treat Those in the Church

          Good Morning! Go ahead and grab your Bibles with me and turn to 1 Timothy, chapter 5. As you are turning there, I know there have been some tough times recently with some of us here, but I do pray that we were all able to take some time these last few days and remember at least a few of the things that God has blessed us with, that we can be thankful for.

Today, we are going to continue in our series through 1 and 2 Timothy, titled “Life in the Local Church.” It is titled this because one of the things that Paul is doing in writing this letter is he is teaching and reminding Timothy, both what he needs to do to lead the Church, but also, what the church needs to do in order to be faithful to Christ, who is the head of the Church.

In the passage we looked at last week, we saw Paul telling Timothy to make sure to look at himself, to be introspective. He was showing that none of us have ever, “arrived.” That we need to be continually striving to grow deeper in Christ and make sure that we are grounding ourselves in the truth of the Word.

Remember the three points we emphasized last week that Paul shared with Timothy. Read your Bible. Read Your Bible. Read Your Bible. That’s first, above everything. Second, don’t let your personality be an excuse to sin. God gave us our personalities for a reason, to use us for his purposes, but we are never to fall back on, that’s just how I am. Lastly, Pay attention to your thoughts, your actions and your teachings. If you are not purposeful about them, they will veer off course.

Paul starts writing what we know as Chapter 5 of his letter by focusing a little less on the personal aspect with Timothy. Its not completely gone, but he turning to some more practical teaching and advice for ministry in the local church.

So, lets go ahead and read this week’s scripture before we go any further. Ill be reading 1 Timothy, chapter 5, verses 1 through 16. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version, and I encourage you to follow along, in what ever version you happen to have with you. Again, 1 Timothy 5:1-16, Paul writing the very Words of God, writes:

 Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.

Honor widows who are truly widows. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband,[a] 10 and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work. 11 But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry 12 and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. 13 Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. 14 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. 15 For some have already strayed after Satan. 16 If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows.

          May God bless the reading of his word.

 

So, we start with verses 1 & 2, and we see that a prat of what these verses are is a response and a balance to chapter 4, verse 12, where Paul tells Timothy not to let anyone look down on him because of his youth. And Paul is kind of saying, don’t give any one a reason to look down on you because of your youth. Treat those older than you with respect.

Timothy was called to this position by God because of and during his youth. His youth is a part of why he was called by God to Ephesus at that time. But that position does not put him above those whom he is serving and leading. It does not put him above those who have been faithfully serving God for many, many years.

As we established last week, I am the youngest adult in this church. I have been called by God to pastor Bangor Community Church. And as such, I have a lot to teach you and share with you all. At the same time, it would incredibly arrogant of me, incredibly dismissive of me to think that you all don’t have a lot to teach me as well.

Even bigger than that though, in these two verses, we see the family of God and how they are to interact with each other. The church is a place of safety and love, but also a place of accountability, where everyone will be admonished in their sin. And the point of the church is for both of those things to exist in the same place, in the same actions.

In order to do so, we can’t treat everyone the same. Again, back in 4:12, Paul tells Timothy to be an example to believers, among other things… In Purity.

And here, in verses 1 and 2, Paul is showing us that we are to treat each other as family,…In Purity. Again, this letter is written from Paul to Timothy, but it is not only for Him, or not only for Pastors and Church leaders, but this letter, in God’s Word, is for all believers everywhere, always.

We all are to treat those who are older than us, with the respect and honor we would treat our parents with. We are to treat those who are younger than us as we are supposed to treat brothers and sisters, protecting, teaching, and so on. Notice somethings the scripture does not say. It does not say that we are to treat those older than us as old, out of touch, out to pasture, or anything else dismissive. It also does not say that we are to treat those younger than us as our children, which implies an authority and a reason to not listen.

Paul’s point here, and therefore Gods point in this is that we are indeed a family, with Christ as the head. And within that family, we all have things to share and contribute. And we need to listen to each other regardless of our age and our standing. We do so differently however, based on our age and our standing. WE will all also sin. We need to address that in everyone, no matter age or standing. But how we do so differently based on age and standing. For those who cry out, that’s not fair to treat each person differently, think of it like this. For those with kids, you can treat each and every one of your kids equally, but that does not mean that you will treat them all the same. You parent to the child, based on the guidelines of scripture. If you treat each of your kids the same, it would end being not fair to at least the majority, if not all of them.

So, we make sure that each person is treated equally, with love, honor, respect and purity. And that starts right here in this very room. It starts with you, me, the person sitting next to you and the person, that you may not have wanted to see this morning. It starts here in this room, but it certainly does not end in this room.

Now, Paul goes from these two verses and goes into a situation where, once again, he is sharing timeless truths that cross all generational and cultural boundaries and using the biggest example of his time and cultural to share it.

In Johns Gospel, Jesus tells the disciples in chapter 13, verse 35: By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

James, the brother of Jesus, writes in his letter, chapter 1, verse 27, Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

          In the 1st century, things were very different than they are now in many ways. In this context, there were no safety nets. There were no savings accounts, or 401ks, there was no retirement or Social Security. If some one was in need, they didn’t have the resources available that we are used to now and take for granted. In the best cases, someone in need had only family to rely on and help support them.

Paul tells us that we are to look at for and to take care of widows in need. He says to honor widows who are truly widows. This refers to those who have no family to help them. They have no kids to support them, there parents are already passed and of course their spouse is now gone. In this case, the church is to take the place of her family and take care of her needs.

But Paul also says something interesting. He says that the church is obligated to tangibly take care of those in need, BUT it must not preempt the family when there is family to take care of them. This may seem strange, one could think, “Who cares, as long as the needs are being met, who cares who is doing the taking care of?”

To a point that is very true. To understand this point, I think, what is being pointed out here, is that we need to understand and remember what the purpose of the family unit is. God created us to be in a family. Mom, Dad, brother, sister, son, daughter, and so one, and rippling outwards, aunts, uncles, cousins and so on.

He did this as an example, especially manifested in the covenant of marriage, to be a glimpse of what true, pure, godly relationships are supposed to be like. Family is to be a glimpse of, a shadow of, a type of the relationship between God the Father, God the Son, and God the holy Spirit and of the relations between ourselves and the trinity as well.

We live in a world filled with sin, filled with broken families and broken relationships. In those instances, the church, which is to act like a family in the way that God created it, is to step in and be the family to the family less. I also, in that see allusions and references to God the Father adopting us as children. And what that looks like in this world. You are not going to go take a kid out of a happy, complete, godly home and adopt them into your family. That would be taking them out of the godly, healthy situation that God created for them and would not be loving or beneficial to them. But a child who has no family, or has a dysfunctional, unhealthy family, in many instances, the loving, godly thing to do for them would be to adopt them into a healthy, loving, godly family.

The same things seem to be what Paul is saying here regarding the church. We are here to be a family together, but also to be a family to those who have no family. We are not to take the place and the responsibility from the family of those who have family. What’s right in the eyes of God is for family to take care of family.

Now, in this, we see two principals laid down next to each other. First, Honor thy father and thy mother. A part of family taking care of family is kids taking care of their parents as they get older and are in need. This is partly repaying for that our parents did for us to raise us, keep us alive and love us. Its also in keeping with the biblical principal woven all throughout scripture, from beginning to end. The principal, again, gets broader than that as well, to family taking care of family.

The second principal we see laid out, next to and parallel to the first is this; the church is to take care of those who are truly and really in need. And one thing that is pointed out is this, if there is a person in the church who is truly in need, they are likely and often truly dependent on God, and prayer, and the church. For those who are disciples of Christ, the two go hand in hand.

Paul knows that there are those who will refuse to take on the responsibility of caring for their family and he doesn’t cut them any slack. He says that if you have family, and the closer the family, the more extreme this is, but if you have family that is in need, genuine need, and you do not do what you are able to do for them, then you have rejecting and disobeyed the teachings of Jesus himself and the Bible.

The Bible is clear on this point about what’s right and what’s wrong. James says in his letter, ch 4, verse 17: So, whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. So, if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. Our actions show where our faith is. Jesus says that if we love him, we will follow his commands. Pretty simple right there.

The principal here is that we are to start somewhere, and we start with our family, those closest to us. The bigger context is that it is up to each of us and the church as a whole to take care of those who are unable to provide for themselves, specifically and especially widows and orphans.

Paul then goes into what are the qualifications, for lack of a better term, for the widows that the church should be taking care of. He says that a widow to be taken care of by the church must be of an age where she is unlikely to remarry. It doesn’t mean she is forbidden or won’t remarry, but she can’t count on that to be taken care of. She must be hospitable and taking good care of those around her. She must have raised her kids well, been a good mother. She must be well thought of and above reproach. And finally, devoted to God, to the church, and to good works.

The reason Paul lays these traits out is not because some people deserve love and help and others don’t, but what Paul is saying here goes back specifically to the widow being devoted to God, the church and to good works. And to be honest, qualifications might be too strong of a word. Guidelines is better. What Paul is saying is strive be and live like this.

And this is actually a very big commitment that Paul is asking for here from the widows. He is calling them to serve and to be committed to the local church. And that’s why this list is there. Paul listed out qualifications for those who would serve as elders and deacons in chapter 3 of this letter. And here is showing that this list of qualifications or guidelines is for those who are volunteering along side the officers and assisting them in serving the church. Again, a very big commitment.

To contrast that, he refers to younger widows and gives them different directions. Younger widows should look to get married again. Marriage is good, it is a gift from God and the desire for marriage is good as well.

And Paul is saying, you don’t have to serve the church in the same way as the older widows. Don’t make that commitment to serve God by dedicating your life to the church. Instead, you can serve God by having a godly marriage, raising kids in the faith and serving in other areas. As a quick aside, I saw a great comment this week. It asked, “What’s the best church growth strategy?” and it answered, “Have a lot of kids and raise them in the faith.”

Now the reason Paul tells the younger widows to serve in this way instead, is that, if you do not have the gift of singleness, that without marriage, it is too easy to get focused on the wrong things instead of staying committed to the church. So younger widows, Paul says, marry, bear children, manage your household well and live a righteous life.

Without marriage, being single without the gift of singleness, idleness can all too easily creep in. Without the commitment of marriage, it is too easy to get used to doing whatever you want, whenever you want. Passions can grow unchecked. Gossip and busy bodiness can take over and other sins can distract from serving God wholly and completely.

Jesus says that we are to not have even the appearance of evil. The old proverb often holds true, “Idle hands are the devil’s playthings.” With too much free time comes idleness, with idleness, with nothing specific to live for, we can be ripe for the pickens. 1 Peter 5:8 warns us, be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

False teachers will be quick to jump on this opportunity as well. Just as Paul has been warning about in this letter. They will be quick to get you distracted of off the Bible, off the church, telling you to live how you want, you deserve it. You’ve already done and given so much, why bother right now? You’ll have plenty of time later. YOLO! You only live once!

Those are the kinds of things that can take our focus off God the Father, off Jesu Christ and his sacrifice for us and off the Bible as the very Word of God.

Paul finishes up the section we are looking at this morning by summing up his main point of the whole section.  If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows.

To take care of those who are truly in need, whom no one else will take care, this is the church’s duty. This is how we show the love of Christ. Of course, we know that its not enough to just show the love of Christ, but we must share the Gospel, the Good news with words. That there is one mediator between God and man, Christ Jesus. God became man to save sinners. Jesus Christ, God the Son, came down, born a man, lived a perfect life, died a death in the place of us, rose from the dead, defeating sin and death and is sitting at the right hand of God the Father right now in Heaven. Our salvation, God refraining from pouring out his holy wrath on our sin, is only because of his grace alone. The vehicle he uses to pour out his grace is through faith alone. The object of that faith is in Jesus Christ alone. That is not simply shown through our actions, it needs to be told in order to be believed.

But we are also commanded to show that love to those we encounter. And in this case, we, the church, are to take care of those who truly need it. But we are also to prioritize. If there is someone else, a family member for example, who can meet the needs of someone, we let them do it. This frees up the church resources and time to take care of those who do not have someone close to them that can take care of them.

Practicality alone is not a reason to do something, that is one of the ways that the culture has watered down and diluted the Gospel and our actions and our witness. But God is a God of practicality and he this is one of those instances. Let us remember what he has called us to do and why we are compelled to obey. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:10, For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

 

 

 

 

Today, we remember Christs workmanship, prepared before time existed. We remember the love of God and what it did for us. 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 bloodshed. 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, 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 you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 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 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 Timothy 3:1-13; Life in the Local Church: Qualifications for Elders and Deacons

1 Timothy 3:1-13

Life in the Local Church

Qualifications for Elders and Deacons

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to 1 Timothy chapter 3. If you do not have a Bible, we do have some on the back table and their specific purpose is to give to those who do not have a Bible. Please help yourself as we strive to get Gods Word into everybody’s hands.

Now, we are continuing our series through 1 & 2 Timothy that we have entitled “Life in the Local Church.” And this week, as we look at most of Chapter 3, we see Paul continue with some of the big themes we looked at last week, picking up a specific thread and answering questions before they get a chance to be asked.

In Chapter 2, Paul showed us some of the roles that He has called certain people to and how they are based on the creation order itself. One of the things that Paul mentions, that today is causing the most ruckus, and likely then, is that the role and office of pastor is not for design by God for women, but for called and qualified men. Which begs the question, what does it mean to be qualified. And that’s what Paul is going to answer in chapter 3.

Chapter 3 lays out the qualifications for elders and deacons. Pastors are called from within the elders, the same qualifications apply. Deacons and Elders are those who are called by God to serve and lead the church in an authoritative role. And if a man does not meet these qualifications, he is not called to be an elder or a deacon.

Let’s go ahead and read the text, the whole text straight through. We will be looking at 1 Timothy 3, verses 1-13. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please do follow along with you in your preferred translation. 1 Timothy 3:1-13. Paul through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, sharing the very Word of God, writes:

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer[a] must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,[b] sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued,[c] not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise[d] must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

Paul, while going into specific examples, is emphasizing some main points here. To me, the biggest point I see being made by Paul is the importance of character when it comes to one who is called. This takes absolute and total precedence over the ability to do tasks and the accomplishments one may have achieved.

Paul starts by saying that the office of overseer, used interchangeably with elder and pastor in our Bibles, is a noble one. Therefore, because of that, because of the office, because of what God has said about it and what He has called it to be, stemming from his created design, this is what an overseer must be.

We are not going to go into full detail in each and everyone of the things that Paul has listed here. But we are going to hit the high points and the themes. Some individually, some as a group. I also want to mention that Pail, in his letter to Titus, also includes a list of qualifications for overseer. Titus1:6-9, Paul writes:

If anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination.   For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain,

but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.

He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

We are not going to look at that text this morning, but its important to see the parallels and the consistency in the different texts. And what we are going to do is make our way through the attributes and qualities that Paul lists in 1 Timothy 3.

First, an elder must be above reproach.

Above Reproach. This does not mean, of course, to be sinless. RC Sproul says this would be more accurate to the meaning saying, “above scandalous reproach.” This means that elders are to have a good standing in the community, that they are to have a good witness amongst those outside the church.

We see many stories of scandals from pastors or church leaders who fall from their position. Sex, drugs, money, etc. It doesn’t matter what it is, when the pastor falls, the scandal breaks, there is a collective response from the outside world of, “see? What hypocrites! And they pretend to be so much better than us!” That pastor is now disqualified. That elder is now disqualified. Don’t get me wrong, forgiveness is still possible. Restoration to their local church is still hoped for and prayed for. But he is no longer above reproach.

Now, one of the themes, throughout these qualifications, and I don’t know if I’ll mention it multiple times or just leave it hear as a reminder. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

I know that there are some that would disagree on me about this, but I don’t believe what happened in our lives before we came to know Christ has any bearings on our qualifications. We know clearly from scripture that it has no bearing on our standing before God. Paul writes in Romans 8:1, There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

          But I believe that our lives, specifically our sins from before our coming to Christ, do not disqualify one from a position of leadership. Often, it makes for a better witness and testimony to see how far God has brought us. The last point on this is that being above reproach is also to be looked at as a summation of all the rest of the things that Paul lists here in 1 Timothy 3. It is the essence of character on those whom God has called.

That plays also into the next thing that Paul lists. He says that an elder must be a husband of one wife. The Greek literally reads a one-woman man. Historically, there have been three ways this is interpreted.

First, some say that this is making a prohibition on polygamy. This is possible and polygamy is clearly prohibited in other passages in scripture. Marriage is clearly defined in scripture as between a man and a woman, starting all the way back in the Garden of Eden, before the fall. But I don’t think that’s what this verse is referring to.

Second, some say that this is in reference to unbiblical divorce and remarriage. Scriptures are clear about what God thinks about Divorce. God hates divorce. Jesus said in Mark 10:9, What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.

          All scholars and commentators agree that the Bible lays out Biblical exceptions that allow for divorce, most specifically in Matthew 5 and 1 Corinthians 7. And most scholars and commentators agree that within those circumstances, those exceptions, then there is freedom to remarry as well, though there are a few notable exceptions on that point.

But we know that we live in a state and a society that is willing and encourages divorce for no reason whatsoever and does not hold to the sanctity or the fidelity of the covenant of marriage. So, there are many divorces and remarriages that are there for non-biblical grounds.

The last possibility is that this is referring to being faithful to your marriage bed. No affairs, no extra marital sex. Men only begin with the woman that you are married to. This is where a lot of commentator’s land based on the culture in the Roman empire of the day.

I think however, it’s a combination of the last two at least. I think that the point that Paul is making is that to be a pastor, an overseer, an elder, you must be faithful and fully submitted to what God calls marriage. The author of Hebrews writes in Hebrews 13:4, Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

God has ordered his creation in a certain way. This applies to gender roles between men and women. This applies to what is and not marriage. This applies to what is and is not sin. This applies to life. To be a leader in the church, you must be faithful to the role and order of Gods creation.

Third, Paul lists self-controlled, sober minded, respectable and hospitable. These come together and speak to a person’s character. These are areas where elders need to lead. Ligon Duncan describes these attributes thusly: He is a temperate, or sober-minded man. He’s possessed of a wakeful, alert, vigilant habit of mind, and he’s opposed to all sorts of excess. He’s prudent, he has mastery over his natural reactions. He’s got some self-control. He’s respectable. He lives a life that bears up under public scrutiny. He’s hospitable; that is, he’s possessed of that hospitality that is required of all Christians. Elders are to take a lead in that.

I’m hoping your noticing something about many of these things that Paul is listing that I’m going to tie together at the end of this.,

Fourthly, he must be able to teach. This is especially important given Ephesus’ problem and our current day problem of dealing with False Teachers. Elders must be able to combat these teachings that go against the Gospel.

This, again, does not mean that all elders must be great or gifted teachers. But what it means is that they can get up and they can teach the Gospel, simply and accurately. They can what a scripture passage means and while they will not always be perfect, they will be studious and knowledgeable.

As a member of the church, you should be able to bring a person who has never heard the gospel or doesn’t know the Gospel and bring them to anyone of the elders and know that the Gospel and salvation message will be clearly and faithfully presented. It may be better stated that an elder is to be able to disciple. To teach those around him who to grow and mature in Christ, to teach them about life and the Bible. Some do it from up front here, all do it done there, amongst the people, in one on one situations, small groups and anywhere the need and opportunity arise.

Fifth, Paul says that Elders are to be not drunkards, not violent, not quarrelsome and not greedy. This is kind of the mirror image in some ways of the third section. There, Paul said this is what they are to be. Here, he is saying what they are not to be.

And the point is that they are not to be giving in and controlled by these earthly, fleshly temptations. These sins are common sins to man, and they are often, though not always, easy to see from both outside a person and outside the church.

This fits right along with what Paul writes in Galatians 5, regarding the works of the flesh and the fruit of the spirit. Galatians 5: 16-25, he writes:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.  Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.   And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

 

Sure, Paul could have told Timothy and the Ephesians to read what he wrote to the Galatians, but that’s not the way things worked back then. They didn’t have all the scriptures collected and ready to read in one fell swoop. Paul couldn’t depend on the church at Ephesus to know what he wrote to the Galatians.

And so, he often says the same thing in different ways in his letters. IF we don’t pay attention, it can seem that he is just repeating himself, but it is in these areas where we see what the most important things is that Paul was led to address and teach.

Sixth, Paul makes the correlation between managing one’s own household and the house of God. Again, some try to make this mean something more than what Paul is saying. This does not mean that an elder is to have perfect and sinless kids, looking at the comparison being made, that would also mean that we are to have perfect and sinless church members.   And it doesn’t disqualify an elder of his adult children are not walking with the LORD. That would disqualify a surprising amount of godly, qualified and faithful elders in churches today.

I have told this story before but I’m not sure how recently. I was at a Pastors conference many years ago. The speaker asked this room full of pastors, how many there had children who were not walking with the LORD. Well over 75% of the men in that room raised their hands.

It reminds that even when we are faithful to manage our households and to raise our kids the right way, they can’t just take our faith. At some point, they are solely responsible for their own faith.

So, whether the kids are or become saved is not what Paul would use to determine whether one’s household is managed well. One commentary brings home the point when it states, only a man capable of virtuously leading his own family can lead members of Gods family. To do one, one must first prove he can do the simpler. And yes, managing one’s own house is simpler than managing Gods house. When one is faithful with a little, God will give him more.

Seventh, Paul says that an elder, an overseer must not be a recent convert. This has to do with spiritual maturity, not physical age or maturity. Its easy, as a new convert, for us to think that, as we get to know things in and about the Bible, that we know it all. It is not uncommon to enter what’s called “Cage stage.” One article explains the term this way: Cage-stage” describes an all too common phenomenon wherein a believer comes to embrace (the LORD) and for a time becomes an obnoxious lout in defending the doctrines to all comers, whether they are interested or not. It suggests that such a newbie should spend some time in a cage until they calm down.

The article continues: The Cage Stager seems to forget the battle with sin he not only continues to have, but the battle he only recently won, by God’s grace, in coming to embrace the doctrines of grace. He seems to reason, “What is wrong with those terrible, awful, good-for-nothing sinners that they refuse to see what I only recently came to see?”

The biggest issue that comes out of being a recent convert is pride. Pride has no place in leading the people of God. Connected to this, we are never more susceptible to false teaching and sin than when we are first growing.

The more we know Gods Word, the more we mature, the more we should be resisting sin and remaining humble. We know how little we deserve to receive from God. And We know how much He has given us, His grace and His mercy and his forgiveness.

Lastly, and in summation of what Paul has already written, an elder is to be thought well by outsiders. If a pastor, or an elder, church leaders, if they fall, it should be incredibly hard for him to be restored to office. Again, forgiveness can and should come with repentance and it should come quickly. But restoration should come very, very slowly if at all, because, among other reasons, how it would look to the outside world. This is directly tied to the very first thing that Paul wrote, about overseers being above reproach.

Paul then moves to verse 8, saying, Deacons, likewise. Now, some see this as being an interchangeable continuation of his list regarding elders. Paul will use different terms interchangeably, so I get it. But I see this as a differentiation of the two offices of Elders and Deacons.

They are very similar, as we see with Paul saying, likewise, and as we see with the similarities between the two lists. We are going to burn through this list really quick and focus, mostly on how they parallel the list of qualifications of elders.

That Deacons must be dignified parallels #’s 1 and 3 especially of what we just looked at. Not addicted to much wine, or greedy for dishonest gain, parallels number 5, that elders are not to be drunkards or greedy.

Next Paul mentions the mystery of the faith. This is the Gospel. This is the mystery that was yet to be revealed in the Old Testament about who and what the Messiah would be. This is that God became man, to die for our sins and offer grace for the forgiveness of sins.

Deacons do not have to be able to teach as elders are required to be. However, they must be solid in the faith. They must have a solid theological background, not swaying on some of the core tenets of the faith. They do have to know and be able to express the clear Gospel.

Deacons are to be test first and found blameless. This parallels with # 7 in ways. Of course, we know that blameless does not equal sinless. They are to let their lives, over time, through the course of trials and testing, show fruit of the Gospel. Taking a course over time shows that they also cannot be a recent convert. Fruit takes time to grow and develop.

A quick aside in v 11 shows that the wives must also be mature Christians showing fruit of the spirit, as Paul declares they are to be dignified, not slanderous, sober minded and faithful.

Paul returns to the deacons as he mentions that they are to be the husband of one wife, just like #2 and that he must manage his household well, just like #6. Those 8 qualifications for deacons are very similar to those qualifications for elders as you can see.

They are positions of authority in the church, of leadership. But they are first and foremost positions of servanthood. Our lives and our service are to a testimony to the life and work of and our faith in Jesus Christ. All that we do, we are to do unto the LORD.

And here is the connecting thread I was wondering if you picked up on earlier. This is a passage listing the qualifications of elders and deacons in the local church. Does that mean this is a passage that is only intended to be for myself and the elders of the church? Does this mean that there isn’t any takeaway or application for you? Nope. Sorry, not that easy for you.

These are qualifications and requirements for Deacons and Elders. But this is the goal for ALL believers. Each and everyone of us, this is a list that we should strive to live out as we grow and mature in our faith in Christ Jesus.

Also, the elders and deacons of Bangor Community Church are voted on by the members of Bangor Community Church. In order to vote, you must know what you are voting for. So, this passage, this list of qualifications, is so much more than just that.

This is a list of what Gods is doing in our lives, through sanctification and through growth. This is what we should see developing in each and every one of us. This is the fruit that grows and develops over time because of what Christ has done for us.

 

1&2 Timothy: Life in the Local Church- 1 Timothy 1:12-17 The Glorious Gospel

1 Timothy 1:12-17

Life in the Local Church

The Glorious Gospel

 

 

Good Morning. Please grab your Bibles and turn with me to 1 Timothy, chapter 1. If you do not have a Bible, if you do not own one, please help yourself to one off the back table as our gift to you.

Paul is writing this letter to Timothy, who he left in Ephesus to be the Pastor, the head shepherd over the flock of the local church there. And he is writing as a Call to Arms, as it were. There was much false teaching, many false teachers coming in and spreading lies and falsehoods amongst the believers in Ephesus.

And what Paul is going to show Timothy and us this morning is that the way to combat false teaching and false teachers, the remedy, the cure, as I said last week to the disease is the Glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. Or as he says it back in verse 11, the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

This Gospel is life changing and transforming and ultimately, is the Ultimate truth that brings Glory to God. Paul knows this from firsthand experience as he often shares as his witness and testimony. Before we read his letter to Timothy, I want to go back and look at Paul’s testimony. Turn over to Acts chapter 22, while we read, in Paul’s own words the story of God’s grace and mercy on him. Acts 22:3-21, Paul recounts:

I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel[b] according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. 4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, 5 as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.

6 “As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. 7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ 8 And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ 9 Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand[c] the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well-spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

 

Part of what makes this applicable to what Paul has already told Timothy was that we see that Paul was exactly what we saw him teach against last week. He was overzealous for the law. He misunderstood what the law was, and he strove for and demanded obedience to it. There was no grace, no compassion and no mercy. He was 1 Timothy verses 8-11, teaching that the law was the means and the way to salvation. He was that, until…

Until Paul’s experience on the Road to Damascus, also recorded in Acts 9. Paul literally had Jesus knock him down, struck him blind and spoke out loud to him. It took all that for Paul to get the message. And in that, he experienced the life changing grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

And Paul writes about that here in 1 Timothy, verses 12-17. That’s our text for the week that I’m going to read for us now. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I do encourage you to read along with your preferred translation. 1 Timothy 1:12-17, Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes to Timothy:

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service,

  though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief,

and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

  But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

So, in this section of this letter, we see Paul lay out the Glorious Gospel. And basically, we are just going to look at this section bullet point by bullet point. We start, as those who have also experienced the perfect and holy grace of God, that we are to Be Thankful.

We are to be thankful to God. Because the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins, is not about us and more importantly, its in no way because of us. Salvation is a gift from God. Ephesians 2:8-10,

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

So not by us or from us, but all by Gods grace, through faith, which is also from Him in Christ, as the Bibles says and all to Gods glory, not our glory.

Paul also thankful for the strength that is given to us by God. Because, again, it is a gift from God. And the strength that He gives us is His strength, it is not our own strength. One of the clearest things that scripture teaches, and one of the hardest things for us to learn is that we have no inherent strength of our own. We are wholly and solely dependent on Him.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he (God) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

And what Paul is specifically referring to here is the strength to be and to stay faithful. And faithful to the service that God has called us to. We see that again as well back in the Ephesians 2 passage we read a moment ago. That we were created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

And God has done all of this, been this generous, been this faithful, given us these incredible gifts despite who we were, if we are now in Christ. We were sinners. If we are not in Christ, we are still sinners. Paul writes in Romans 3, All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. All of us are in need of a savior. We not only sinned and separated us from God, but the Psalms say that we were sinners even in our Mothers Womb. Romans 6:26 tells us, For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And when Paul says that he received mercy because he acted ignorantly in unbelief, I want to make sure we are clear on what that meant. Make no mistake, the adage is still true with God, “Ignorance is no excuse for the law.” Paul is not saying, I didn’t know the law, so God took it easy on me. First, we all know the law, it was written on stone and given to Moses, and written on our hearts and written in nature, as we see in Romans 1. So, we know that he is not saying that ignorance of the law makes us innocent or righteous.

And so, what he was saying, is that “I did not know I was not righteous. I thought I was good enough to be righteous. I was ignorant to my unrighteousness. And despite that, even because of that, God gave Paul the grace and mercy that he did not deserve, instead of the wrath and judgment that Paul did deserve.

And that grace that God gave him resulted in the faith and love of Jesus Christ. Jesus actions, his incarnation, coming down from heaven and being born a human baby, his purposeful and intentional death on the cross, the forgiveness of sins, his resurrection and his ascension, even his yet to come Second Coming, all of these were done from an overflow of His love.

We know that, as Paul writes in Romans 5:8, God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. God didn’t need us. God wasn’t lonely and created man for our company. He didn’t create us because he lacked anything. He didn’t need us and still does not need us. Instead, out of the overflow of the perfect, complete love that eternally existed between the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, out of that overflow, His love poured out and flowed down and God created us out of that overflow.

And as we have seen, especially in recent weeks, love manifests itself in truth. Love speaks truth. Love reveals truth. And when Paul says, the saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, he is not saying that other things he has said are not true or trustworthy. Instead, this is one of those rare statements that we can lift out of context and allow to stand on its on two feet. Paul is essentially writing this purposely as a stand-alone statement, a summary of what the Gospel is. What he is really saying is “Hey, if you read nothing else, I’ve written, read this statement!” Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

This was the purpose of Christs actions was solely to save sinners. That’s the Gospel. 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 your 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.

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

Another important aspect is that we need to have a right and true understanding of who we truly are. We are sinners from birth. We are unrighteous. We are totally depraved. That doctrine, Total Depravity can be easily misunderstood. I like how one resource clarifies it, writing:

There is a common misconception regarding total depravity. Total depravity does not mean that man is as wicked or sinful as he could be, nor does it mean that man is without a conscience or any sense of right or wrong. Neither does it mean that man does not or cannot do things that seem to be good when viewed from a human perspective or measured against a human standard. It does not even mean that man cannot do things that seem to conform outwardly to the law of God. What the Bible does teach and what total depravity does recognize is that even the “good” things man does are tainted by sin because they are not done for the glory of God and out of faith in Him (Romans 14:23; Hebrews 11:6). While man looks upon the outward acts and judges them to be good, God looks upon not only the outward acts but also the inward motives that lie behind them, and because they proceed from a heart that is in rebellion against Him and they are not done for His glory, even these good deeds are like “filthy rags” in His sight. In other words, fallen man’s good deeds are motivated not by a desire to please God but by our own self-interest and are thus corrupted to the point where God declares that there is “no one who does good, no not one!”

(https://www.gotquestions.org/total-depravity.html)

That is who we are when we are born. That’s who we are naturally, corrupted by our sin nature. That’s who we are without Christ. Paul says that he is the foremost of sinners. He is clear about who he was before Christ. We need to know who we were, and what our identity was. For many, this is still who they are as well.

But, if you are in Christ, if you have believed the Gospel and repented of your sins, then you are born again into the Holy Spirit and you are now a Child of God.

You are loved.

You are chosen.

You are Redeemed.

You are a saint.

You are Forgiven.

You are declared Righteous.
You have received mercy.

Paul then says why he received mercy. It is so that Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. Christ displays his perfection as an example to his followers. Yes, an example of how to act and how to live, but more than that.

If God could save Paul, with all that he did in persecuting the early church. If He could save the Disciples, who continually missed the point of Jesus teaching and abandoned Him in his time of need and after his death. If he could save sinners like you and I, then He could save anyone he chooses.

Again, having a right view of ourselves and having a right view of God is vital to understanding the Gospel. It is said that a high view of self leads to a low view of God. Invertly, a low/right view of self leads to a High/right view of God.

When we see him right, when we see who he is, his holiness, his righteousness, his goodness and love, when we see all of that correctly, as revealed to us in the bible, we can not help but cry out in worship. We cry out in exaltation and we lift up praises and cry out Glory to God!

Paul finishes his point here in this section of his letter, the passage we are looking at this morning by doing exactly that. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever.[d] Amen.

Its funny to me, this section by Paul, as he cries out in praises and shouting out Glory to God, it reminds me of the clip I played, I think it was Easter. An old Baptist preacher named SM Lockridge shouting, “That’s my king!” That kind of inspired this last section here.

Jesus is the King of Ages, the King of Kings, and the LORD of LORDS. He is at the top of all things and he is the highest one there is.

He is immortal. He always was, he always is, and he always will be. He is alive. He will live forever at the right hand of God the Father.

He is invisible. Jesus is the image of the invisible God. He is in all times, all places and all everything, all at the same time.

He is the only God. Deuteronomy 6:4 tells us: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. There are no other gods. Any other god that people call upon, they don’t exist. They are false gods. They are fallen angels disguising themselves as and with lights.

The Triune God is one and only one. And to him go all honor and glory. And as Lockridge finishes up: And Thine is the Kingdom the power and the glory forever and ever
and ever and ever.
And ever and ever.
And when you get through all the forever’s, then
Amen!

 

For those of us who have been declared righteous and saved from eternal wrath and judgment, today is a day we rejoice, and we celebrate. We celebrate the fact that we have been assured of our right standing with God and we remember what Christ did to achieve this for us. We come together as a church family, once a Month and we celebrate communion. We come together, setting aside any differences, any pettiness, all that stuff that does not matter, anything other than our standing in Christ and we unite together as brothers and sisters in 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 bloodshed. 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, 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.” 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 1:8-11 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.

Malachi 2:17-3:5 Part 2 Gods Response to Sin

Malachi 2:17-3:5 Pt 2

Gods Response to Sin

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with and turn to the Book of Malachi. Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament. And if you do not have or own a Bible, please help yourself to one on the back table as our gift to you.

So, as we turn to Malachi, we are going to continue looking at the same passage we looked at last week. And the theme covering both weeks is “Response to Sin.” Last week, essentially, we looked at out own response to sin. We either justify it, both in ourselves and others, saying that God is ok with sin, because… whatever. Or we look around and figure that God is not going to respond to sin because we don’t see him responding to it around us right now.

But we see in this passage that God will indeed respond to sin, indeed he has to. But we will look at the two ways that the LORD responds to sin. One of the things that I didn’t mention last week the book of Malachi is especially showing us, and we say it some in Romans as well, we see it through out the scriptures, is that the Chapter breaks and the verse numbers are not inerrant. They were developed and inserted into the text much later. The chapter breaks were designed and inserted in the 1200s, and the verse numbers were inserted in the 15th and 16th centuries, for the Old and the New testament Respectively.

This section is a section that fits together overreaching the chapter break that was put in there. The Chapters and the verse are incredibly useful and they are a gift from God, to allow us to memorize certain sections of scripture even to locate and find certain passages easier than if it was just one long paper, book or letter with no markations. So, I also don’t want you to hear that the chapter and verse breaks are bad. Of course they are not. But, we can also remember that they are not infallible, it is the Words of God that are infallible.

So, we will go ahead and read our passage for this week, Malachi 2:17-3:5 and we will look at what the Work of God says. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version, and I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. Malachi chapter 2, verse 17, through Malachi chapter 3, verse 5.

God, speaking through his prophet, Malachi says:

You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, Where is the God of justice?”

 “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.[a] 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

5 “Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.

So, in chapter 2, verse 17, where we spent most of our time last week, we see how we, how you and I respond to sin, as I explained in the beginning. And starting in Chapter 3, verse 1, we see how God is going to respond to sin, and in fact, from our perspective of time, how he already has.

All through out the Old testament, God has been preparing his covenant people for a coming Messiah, a savior. One who would, as God foretold back in Genesis 3:15, one who would crush the head of the enemy.

See, because of the Holiness of God, sin is not something that He can overlook or ignore. It is an affront to his holiness, his character, his God-ness. RC Sproul refers to sin as Cosmic Treason. And so, something has to be done about it. One of the things we also see in Genesis 3, specifically in verse 21, it says,  And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. Seems nondescript and innocuous enough, right?

But if we look at what’s going on here, we see that Adam and Eve had been naked and unashamed in the Garden. After their sin, the realized they were naked and they were very ashamed. Now, there’s a whole lot we could get into there, but the point we are looking at today is that God made them clothes to cover themselves. And what were those clothes made of? It says out of skins. It took the death of the animal. Adam and Eves sin caused the death of an animal just like it cause death to enter into this world. This is the first instance and example of our sin requiring blood, requiring death to atone for it, to pay for it.

So, our sin requires a blood payment to make things right. Paul tells us famously that the wages of sin is death. The problem is that our sinful blood, our death is not enough to cover our sins. And even if it was, it would only cover sins that had already been committed, it would not cover sins yet to come. So, after Adam brought sin in to the world, and through Adam we have all sinned, Romans 5 something or rather, we have become separated from the goodness and holiness of God. Our relationship with him is broken. And we have no ability to reconcile it, no hope of fixing our relationship, no chance of making things right with him. Gods holiness, his fairness demands that he respond to sin by punishing sin, by pouring his just and holy wrath out on it.

As John MacArthur puts it, “Fair would send everyone to Hell. You dont want fair, you want Mercy.” And we see Gods mercy even back in the garden when he made the clothes for Adam and Eve. Yes, Had to expel them from the garden, and yes, death was required, but don’t miss that even in that, God made clothes for them and provided them with the means to make clothes for themselves. God reached out in mercy and provided for them what they couldn’t provide for them selves.

And He has promised the One who could do for us what we cant do for ourselves. The One who would restore our broken relationship with God, who would save us from the consequences of our sin, who would be mercy to those who need mercy.

Throughout the Old Testament, God sent a series of prophets, speaking His Words. Most of their primary purpose was to call Israel to repent of their sins, to turn back to God and through that, they also prophesied and prepared the way for the coming savior.

Remember that Malachi is the last of the prophets that we have in the Old Testament. Now, Israel didn’t know that at the time, they didn’t know that Malachi would be the last one to hear from God for over 400 years. They didn’t know that the next prophet of God would be the one whose main purpose was to prepare the way, a prophet whom Isaiah 40:3, calls “A voice cries: in the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”

John the Baptist is this prophet that God was foretelling. He was a prophet in the order of Elijah. He was the last of the Old Testament prophets and he was the one whom who introduce the world to the Savior. The Gospel of John records in John 1:29, John the Baptist saying, of Jesus, Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Johns’ Message, as Matthews Gospel records is ““Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The Kingdom at hand because The Son of God have arrived. Jesus of Nazareth was the promised, the foretold, the prophesied messiah and Savior. God became man to save sinners. Jesus said, in Mark 1:15; The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

One of the things we need to see and recognize is that there are two ways to read the scriptures. And some of the differences we can have in our theology can come from which of these two hermeneutics we use.

The question is, how do we understand, how we filter the things that are not crystal clear. Do we filter what we read in the New Testament by what the Old Testament says? Or Do we interpret the mysteries and the prophecies, the promises that God has made through what the New Testament says. I contend that the Bible itself and the writers of the New Testament use the New Testament to explain and interpret the Old Testament. And this explains parts of why Jesus did not look like what Israel was expecting the Messiah to look like. It helps explain the confusion over who the messenger was that would prepare the way for the Messiah and who John the Baptist was. It explains a lot about the blind eyes of the Pharisees and other religious leaders in the Gospels.

It also means that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the types and shadows of the Old Testament. Malachi writes that after the messenger, another messenger will come, the LORD who comes to his temple, the messenger of the covenant. He is coming, says the LORD of Hosts.

And he is coming, as the fulfillment of prophecy, as the fulfillment of types and shadows, in this case, as the fulfillment of the temple. He is coming because someone needs to be held accountable for our sin. Someone needs to pay the price of atoning for our sins. Some one needs to shed blood and pay with their life for our sins. That’s how serious our sin is. If we don’t understand that, we can never truly appreciate Jesus.

It is either us that has to be held accountable for our sin, or we give it all to Jesus. For those whom He has called, Jesus has already been held accountable for our sin. He has already paid the price for our sin. He paid by shedding his blood and dying on the cross, so that our sins may be forgiven. He rose from the dead to prove his dominion over sin and death in eternity past, present and future.

He is coming. In Malachi’s context, this was mainly talking about His first coming. His Incarnation. God became Man. Immanuel, God with us. He came, he lived, he never sinned though he was tempted in all ways. Hebrews 4:15, says it this way: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

And Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4:

Now I would remind you, brothers,[a] of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

One of the things we dont tend to see as much anymore in the church is Creeds and Confessions. These were used through out all the denominations of the coarse of the history of the church and were essentially used to boil things down to the essentials. In the minds of the people, or groups of people, of councils of learned men, they wrote these things to have a line in the sand, basically, against what is needed to be believe in order to be a Christian. I want to eventually find a way to incorporate some of these moving forward, but that’s neither here nor there and is also a long term goal. All of that to say that I love what the Nicene Creed says about Jesus, God the Son:

One Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.

And that last line there, he shall come again with glory. He will judge the living and the dead. And his kingdom will have no end. He will come again and when he does, none will be able to stand against him. When Jesus comes back, we will all stand before him and give an account for our sins. We will be separated, as we looked a few weeks ago, separated in to the sheep and the goats. Scriptures talks elsewhere about the wheat and tares, growing together, entangled and not able to be identified as separate or different. (Matthew 13:24-30) And in that parable, what is it that ends up separating them? Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew 13:30:  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.”

And who can stand against him? None will be able to. From those of us who are falling on our faces, worshipping him, to those who thought they did enough good works to be surprised at their rejection, (Matthew 7:21-23) to those who have spent their lives fighting against him, Paul writes in Philippians 2:10-11:  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

And the LORD will come as a Refining fire. And thats a relief if we understand it correctly. The LORD is not coming as just any fire. John Piper describes the fire this way:

He is a refiner’s fire, and that makes all the difference. A refiner’s fire does not destroy indiscriminately like a forest fire. A refiner’s fire does not consume completely like the fire of an incinerator. A refiner’s fire refines. It purifies. It melts down the bar of silver or gold, separates out the impurities that ruin its value, burns them up, and leaves the silver and gold intact. He is like a refiner’s fire.

God is doing a good work in us. He is working all things for our good, that we may be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. (Romans 8:29) All of his creation will be refined. This earth will be put through his refining fire. And all the impurities, all the sin, all the chaos and corruption will be burned away, leaving the New Heavens and the New Earth and God dwelling with his people, our concept of Heaven. Where will spend eternity in our glorified, physical bodies, (1 Corinthians 15)

And this is where we will enter into true, perfect, pleasing worship of God. Jesus tells us the woman at the well, in John 4:23&24: But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

Paul appeals to us in Romans 12:1, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

This is our offering in righteousness, this is our offering of Judah and Jerusalem that will be pleasing to the LORD. This is the side of mercy and grace of God. Jesus Christ, God becomes man to save sinners. To save you and I. And If you have been called, if you have been clothed in Christs righteousness instead of trusting in our own, we get to partake in this gift of eternal life with him.

But God isnt done here. Not all are called Children of God. Johns Gospel, chapter 1, verses 12 & 13:  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

God says that those who do not trust in him, who do not receive His Son will receive the full force of his wrath and holiness. Look at the last verse of our section in Malachi here, Malachi 3:5: Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.

Those who do not fear Him, or those who say that every who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD. Those who live in and love and partake in the sins of this world, the desires of our flesh. Our heart breaks for these and grieves theses people. These are often our close friends, our close family, people that are incredibly important to us, whom we love so much. And Revelation 20:15 says if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Hell is real, it is hot and eternity is a long time. Today, and hopefully every day, we beg, plead and pray, that if you have not received Jesus Christ, not recognized that he is the way and the only way to true, eternal life, please, now is the time. Please believe the Gospel, please believe in and receive in Jesus Christ. Repent of your sins and turn to the One True God. After this life, there are no second chances and we can never know when this life will end. Salvation is by the grace of God alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. Your goodness, your morals, even your church attendance, cannot save you. Only Christ can do that. Please.

For those of us who have been delivered from the eternal punishment of our sins, today is a day we rejoice and we celebrate. We celebrate the fact that w have been assured of our right standing with God and we remember what Christ did to achieve this for us. We come together as a church family, every first Sunday of the Month and we celebrate communion. We come together, setting aside any differences, any pettyness, anything other than our standing in Christ and we unite together as brothers and sisters in 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.

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 1 Dont Play Church

Malachi 1:6-2:9 Pt 1

Dont Play Church

 

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

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

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

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

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

The Word of God says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Malachi 1:1-5 Gods love is Unbreakable

Malachi 1:1-5
No Doubting Gods Love

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

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

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

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

Lets Pray

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