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 Timothy 2:1-7 Life in the Local Church: Give Grace because we recieved Grace

1 Timothy 2:1-7
Life in the Local Church
Give Grace because we Received Grace

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to 1 Timothy chapter 2. We are continuing through our series through 1 & 2 Timothy that I am calling, Life in the Local Church. The Apostle Paul is writing to his spiritual son, Timothy, whom he has been discipling and whom he sent to Ephesus to pastor and shepherd the flock, and to protect them from the wolves that are False Teachers.
Last week, we look at one of the ways that we deal with False Teachers. Essentially, as we made clear last week, as the last resort of dealing with them is that we are to separate from them, to remove False Teachers from the fellowship of believers in our local church. This is specifically the last resort for those who refuse to repent and those who work towards disunity and discord and continue to spread a False Gospel.
And again, the purpose for this seemingly extreme position is not to punish, it is not to repay evil with evil, but it is, as Paul wrote, so they would learn not to blaspheme. Jesus tells in Matthew 18 that every opportunity should be made for a person to repent and turn back to the true Gospel. When we confront someone, we do so lovingly, to bring them about to repentance.
With that in mind and established, lets start looking at this week’s text. Overall, 1 Timothy chapter 2 is going to be a look at what prayer and worship look like in the local church. This week we will be looking at 1 Timothy 2:1-7. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I greatly encourage you to read along in your preferred translation in front of you. 1 Timothy 2:1-7, Paul under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writing the holy, inerrant, infallible and immutable Word of God writes:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,
for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,
who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.
For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

Many commentators say that Paul changes subjects at this point and moves on to something different than he was just talking about. I think that’s only partly true. He does indeed move on from talking specifically about false teachers and moves on to prayer and worship. But I think that Paul is also showing the other side of the coin, so to speak.
And so, therefore, First then. These are all ways that Paul transitions in his letters. Including what he just wrote and using that to give context to what he is saying next. We just went back over what Paul said last week, at the end, in the extreme, that is how we deal with False Teachers. In the meantime, this is how we treat people until that point.
Here’s a little bit of information, some behind the scenes info on your pastor by the way. I still have a kids sense of humor. I have 5 boys at home, their sense of humor is prevalent and will continue to be for several years. So I’m reading this passage and writing my notes and I realized something. The Bible is telling us to spit on people!
Bear with me for a moment. I know the list is slightly different in different translations, but it is telling us that we are to give all Supplications, All Prayers, all Intercessions, and all Thanksgivings for all people. The first letter of each of those words is SPIT! Now, don’t literally go out and spit on anybody, but if that is able to help you remember the list, then it’s a funny pneumonic device.
Now, in all seriousness. Paul is telling us something very difficult right here. We are to do these things FOR ALL PEOPLE! This is, of course, the people we like, our family, our church family, our co workers and the people we choose to have in our lives. But, maybe more importantly, and more challenging, this includes those we looked at last week, it includes those in a position of power over us in this world. It includes our enemies, our hated and those who do us wrong. It includes those who we chose not to include in our life.
Paul refers here to Kings and those in high positions. Often, and especially when Paul was writing this letter, those who assume power, those in physical power, most often will not believe in our orthodox Christian beliefs. Many who claim to, will not stand up to uphold or defend our orthodox Christian beliefs.
Caesars, such as Nero at the time this letter was written, kings, presidents, Generals, governors. All these positions are more likely to fight against our beliefs than for them. And sometimes it turns into physical persecution, such as we have not yet experienced, but Paul, Timothy and those in Ephesus would have been intimately aware of. Remember that Paul was writing this letter as a prisoner of the Roman Empire.
Are there some leaders who believe what we believe? Yes, I believe there are. Are all who say that they are, really believers, of course not. Even when they agree with us politically, that does not mean that their faith is real.
So many on both sides of the aisle claim to be Christians, claim to have faith, and yet how many do we see upholding and living what the bible says?
There has never been a president of the United States that has not identified themselves as some denomination of Christian or in the case of John F Kennedy, as Catholic. There have been 0 Jewish, 0 Muslim, 0 Mormon, 0 atheists that have been president. Kings and those in high positions will claim to be for us and with us, but rarely will share our beliefs and protect us.
And yet we are called to pray for them. And not just pray for them, but we are urged that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for All people and Paul specifies Kings and those in high places as those who especially needs these things.
Ligon Duncan says that the reason that Paul uses so many words for prayer here in this section is so we can’t just walk through our prayers. We can’t just tack on a quick prayer for them at the end of the things that matter to us. Do you really hear this? We are to be praying for AND TO BE THANKFUL for people like Caesar Nero. People Like Presidents Obama and Trump. We are to be praying for and giving thanksgivings for men like Governor Newsome.
I know that’s not easy to hear. And its even harder to do. But we go back to the Words of Jesus. In the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus tells his followers:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,[i] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
We are called to a higher standard than we want to be called to. We don’t get to respond to people the way that they respond to us. The attitude that we have towards the world, towards false teachers, towards heretics, to those in power who oppose the church, to those who have personally wronged us; our attitude towards them is called by God to be one of supplication, one of prayer, one of intercession and one of thanksgiving.
We don’t have the right to respond with rancor. We don’t have the right, as followers of Christ, to respond in the same way that people treat us. Remember, our lives do not belong to us. When we surrender to Christ, our lives are not our own, but instead, we belong to Christ. We move from being slaves to sin, to be a slave to Christ.
Paul continues and says that we are to lead a peaceful and quiet life, one that is godly and dignified, for this is pleasing to God. This comment leads me to remember a few passages that Paul also wrote, all of them in 1 Thessalonians.
First, Paul twice mentions clearly what is the will of God in our lives. In 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7, Paul writes this:
For this is the will of God, your sanctification:[b] that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body[c] in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
Lest we think that the will of God is all about outward actions, Paul also says in 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18:
See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Gods will is not hidden. He has been very clear. What His word says, we are to do. Period. It may not be as detailed or specific as we want it to be. We may not see how it applies to each minute decision that we make, but that doesn’t mean that He has not already told us how to proceed. And when he says, to live a peaceful and quiet life, that should be our goal.
Now, how does this relate to verses 1 & 2? Well, I think it comes back to us having a right heart, and a right attitude. With us being in the right place spiritually, it will allow us to focus on what important. Doing God-glorifying, kingdom work for God. It will allow us to not get caught up in the quarrels, the hatred, the discord that comes from, first, false teachers teaching falsely, and second, from wanting others who have wronged us to “get what they deserve.”
Those issues, those attitudes and those actions continue to escalate unless they are dealt with and they most certainly are not peaceful. They are not quiet. They are not godly, and they are not dignified.
Those are the things that are pleasing to God, to God our Savior. To God who desires ALL people to be saved. This speaks to the love, compassion and mercy that accompanies the grace of God. But this does not negate the justice and wrath of God as well. We know that Scripture does not contradict scripture.
So, we know that this does not mean universalism, where false teachers teach that ALL people will be saved and all people will go to heaven, no matter what their faith and no matter what they belief about Jesus Christ. False teachers will focus on the love of Christ to the detriment of all Gods other attributes.
This also does not mean that God rejoices in the destruction of some, or that he was a blood thirsty monster. False teachers will often teach that God of the Old Testament and God in the New Testament, manifested in Jesus Christ are, essentially, two different gods. They will teach that the Old Testament god was an angry, vengeful God. And that Jesus came along in the New Testament and replaced that angry, vengeful god with love, mercy and grace. We know, however that The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one God, three persons. There is only one God and God is unchanging. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
And this also does not mean that we can be saved from any other source or method than by the grace of God alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. There are not many paths. There are not many gods who can forgive or offer salvation. It does not matter how sincere and genuine the faith of a Muslim, or a Hindu or any other religion is, without faith in Jesus Christ, there is no salvation. The gods of other religions are not all the same god with different names or seen from different perspectives. There is one God. And Has chosen to reveal himself through His Son Jesus Christ as recorded in Gods Holy Word, the Bible.
We can only be saved with knowledge and faith in the truth. The truth that Paul lays out right here in verses 5 & 6. “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”
Again, Paul is using the truth to address and combat false teaching, both of his day and of our day as well. There is only one God. Not many like the Romans and various cultures from then worshipped. There is a God, unlike what many in our culture today say. And many today as well believe that the idea that there is only one God is egotistical of us. Specifically, the fact that we can claim to know who among al the gods that are worshipped out there is the true God. Who are we to say? Well its not us to say, its God himself who says, right here in his Word.
There is also only one mediator between God and men, and that is the man, Jesus Christ. One mediator, one path, one method. As we just addressed a moment ago, not many paths, many mediators, many saviors. This also means that there are not many go betweens. Saints are not mediators between us and God. Angels and spirits are not mediators between us and God. Pastors, Priests and ministers are not mediators between you and God. I do not have “an in” with God that you don’t have. I am not closer to God or having any sort of influence with him that requires you to come to me to pray to God.
There is but one. One commentary describes a mediator as “one who brings together parties who are out of communication, and who may be alienated, estranged or at war with each other.”
Well, if you know anything about human nature, about our sins, if you have read the Bible and seen what God has said about us, you know that this describes us and God. We are in rebellion against him and his sovereignty. Our sins have estranged us from Him.
But God. But God wasn’t satisfied with our estranged relationship and sent his son. He who was himself God, but he who was himself man as well. Again, Paul addressing false teaching here.
There were many teaching that Jesus was not actually a man. He was God, but he was not a man. He only appeared to be a physical human. His resurrected body was just an apparition, almost a ghost. Paul is emphasizing here that Jesus was indeed a man, a physical, literal man. This is essential for his mission to mediate, to bring together humanity and God, because he was both.
In order to bring us and God together, our sins needed to be atoned for. Because we were sinful, any atonement we tried to bring forth, would be woefully insufficient. If Christ was not a man, he would not be able to atone for mans sins. And because he was God, he was able to live a sinless life so that his atonement would indeed be sufficient, and not only for himself because he had no sin that needed atoning for, but sufficient for all those whom He has called.
The fact that Jesus was both God and man is absolutely essential to our faith. If a church is teaching that Jesus is not one or the other, it is a false church. One of the ways one church is teaching this today is by saying that while Jesus was here on earth, he was not God. He was only man while he was here. The teaching goes that this means that the miracles that Jesus did during his earthly ministry, we can also do as well, since he did them as just a man.
Please do not listen to or fall for this unbiblical heresy. If someone teaches this, run! This is a false Gospel that Paul, in scripture, in Galatians 1 curses to the depths of hell.
And so, Jesus, being able to atone for our sins, being man, gave himself as a ransom for all our sins. Marks Gospel uses Jesus own words that he came to be a ransom for many.
This is the truth that we are to come to knowledge of. This is the truth of salvation. This is the truth of God and his mission and his word. This is what Paul, Timothy and all believers have been called to believe and to share with others. It is what Paul and Timothy and I have been called to teach and defend from attacks from all directions. To teach in faith and truth.
Remember the grace that you have received, the gift of faith that has been given to you by God. And remember that if not for that grace, that we did nothing to deserve or to receive, that we are just as worthy of Gods wrath as those we don’t want to pray for and for those, we don’t want to give thanks for. But God.
What an amazing two words. Paul shows the importance of those two words in his letter to the Ephesians, chapter 2:1-7, he writes:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.[b] 4 But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
So when we think of those kings and those in high places that are antagonistic at best to our faith and the way we live it out, when we see those who are actively trying to work against our faith, we remember that God tells us that we are to not only pray, but pray honestly and earnestly and give thanks for them as well.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Let’s Pray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Malachi 2:17-3:5 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 2:17-3:5 Sin is still Sin

Malachi 2:17-3:5

Gods Response to Sin

 

Good Morning! Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to the Minor Prophet of Malachi. As always, if you do not have a Bible, or do not own one, we would love for you help yourself to one from the back table as our gift to you.

Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament, and starting today, and through the rest of the book, we will see how close to the New Testament this book really is. During this time in Jerusalem, Gods People had lost a lot of Hope and they were tired of playing by the rules and they were tired of seeing those who didnt play by the rules not being punished.

God is continually reaffirming his Covenant with them and letting them know that nothing is out of his control and that he keeps his promises. We saw in the passage we read last week that marriage was given to us as a gift and as a type, a shadow and a mirror of what Gods covenant with us actually looks like. It is made to be an unending, complete, total and permanent covenant.

Anything that breaks our end of the convenat is sin. And all sin and any sin breaks our end of the covenant. And we are going to see some reactions to that this morning. First we will see how we tend to react to covenant breaking sin and then we will see how God is going to and has responded to covenant breaking sin.

So, lets go ahead and read our passage for this morning. Malachi 2:17-3:5. Ill be reading out of the English Standard Version and I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation. Again, Malachi chapter 2, verse 17 through chapter 3, verse 5. God, speaking through his prophet and through his Word, 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, we start by seeing that we weary God. And we do this by having one of two different reaction to the sin in this world. First, is our actions and even sometimes our words say that everything you want to do is good and fine and that there is no such thing as sin. “This is just the way that I am. That may have been wrong then, that may have been a sin then, but we know better now. You dont understand my situation, Its just easier this way. You dont know what Ive been through or what others have done to me. No one will ever know. Or, but its my child, grandchild, cousin, spouse, parent, whatever.”

We come up with every reason under the sun to justify our sins and the sins of others around us. Isaiah writes, Isaiah 5:20:

Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!

Right is right and wrong is wrong. And sin is always wrong. And Gods Word is clear about what sin is. We see many lists throughout the scriptures about what sin is. And we see here in Malachi, what RC Sproul referes to as “a cyninical rejection of Gods oral government and the attendant insolent spirit that constantly puts God on trial.”

This might hurt some of our prides, but essentially this comes down to pride. Pride is far and wide considered the sin from which all other sins flow. Ezekiel 28:17 reads: Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor.

Pride is one of the so called 7 deadly sins. We are bombarded with the message that we are to take pride in ourselves. We are to take pride in everything we do. We are to take pride in our sins especially. We are told to take pride in a abe loud and proud about our immorality. About our greed. About Idolotry. We are to be loud and proud about our self idolotry. We take pride in our openmindedness. We take pride in how enlightened we are, that we dont have to believe in these antiquated, racist, sexist, narrow views of who God is.

Not only are we told and shown to take pride in our sins and our rebellion against God, but we are to encourage all the rest of the people around us to do the same. In fact, tday, your kind of an outcast if you dont. If you dont take pride in your sins and you dont tell others to take pride in their sins, you are a closed minded bigot. Period.

Paul writes in Romans chapter 1, he lists a whole long list of sins that we do that are rebellion against God. The list is a list of sins that are worthy of death. And at the very end of that list, the very last verse of Romans chapter 1, he writes: Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

These sorts of things are not just limited to those “out there,” this is not just those that are outside the church. Not just those that are on the “other side” of us. But a lot of this is coming from within the church as well. There are church signs all over this county, this state and this country that say things allong the lines of, “All are Welcome,” and “Come as you are.” Those are true words in and of them selves.

No one with a bilical understanding of salvation and evangelism and discipleship would, or should say that only certain people, or only people with their lives put together, or even nly people who struggle with this sin instead of that sin, are welcome to come to church. We should want and encourage and invite all people in all walks of life, in all lifestyles and all seasons of life to walk through those doors on any given Sunday Morning and here the life changing Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

But thats not what those church signs actually mean. Those are code statements that really mean something else. Those statements really should read “Come as you are and stay as you are.” or “All are Welcome, no need to change.”

Thats not what the Bible calles us to. The Bible does not affirm our sins, instead it calls us to repent. Martin Luther says that a Christians life is one of repentence. Meaning that our repentence is a life long process. We are to spend our life in Christ continually growing and changing and continuing to repent. Our sins are not to be our identity.

And yet thats exactly what they are when our life begins. Before we come to a saving knoweldge and faith in Jesus Christ, our identity is sinners. Thats who we are and its not something that we can can change by our own power. When we leave this life and we stand before God in judgement, if we have not submitted to him and repented of our sins, we will be seen in his eyes as sinners.

God nows all that. He nows it all and has planned for this and has created a redemption plan before the beginning of time. This was a plan to save us. It was a plan to redeem us. It was a plan to reconcile us sinners with his holiness. And we see this plan prophecied all the way back in Genesis 3. God could send a saviour, he would send someone who would accomplich our salvation, our redemption and our forgiveness.

And it is through his son, through Jesus Christ, his perfect, sinless life, his death on the cross, his resurrection, we can have our sins forgiven. We can have our hearts changed from stone to flesh. Our identities can be changed. Through the Holy Spirit inside of us when we come to faith, our identity is changed from sinner, to saint.

But that requires dying to self. That requires stopping doing what we like doing, what our flesh craves. Gods love and mercy and grace trump our desires though. And as he he changes our heart, he also changes our desires. We still stumble, we still give in to temptation, though the longer we walk with Christ, the less we should be struggling with that. But what does Romans 8:1 say? There now is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Gods forgiveness, his mercy, the death of Jesus, those are not partial things. Christs death is sufficient for all the sins his children will commit, past, present and future. You cannot sin away your salvation. Jesus says in John 10:28: I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

The Key pillars of the Reformation that you have heard me repeat often, that Salvation is by Grace Alone, through Faith Alone, in Jesus Christ Alone, as revealed by the Scriptures Alone and to the Glory of God alone. These doctrines make it clear that God is the one and the only one who saves us, And that our salvation, eother receiving it or keeping it is not dependant on anything that we can offer.

I love the way Paul Washer says it, You are not saved because your faith and your repentence are perfect. You are saved because the work of Christ is perfect and you are clinging to that in your fraility and your helplessness.

Ultimately right is right and wrong is wrong. Period. Gods Word says so. God says so. And we weary him by saying otherwise. God does not celebrate in our sin. It grieves him. It is cosmic treason against an all holy God. Adam and Eve’s sin is what fractured our relationship with God. God doesnt need us. He doesnt need anything. If he did, he wouldnt be God. But in the outpouring, in the overflow of his love, he created us to be with him and to glorify him. Our sin changed that. Our sin brings dishonor to him. JC Ryle reminds us [Don’t mistake] God’s patience with sinners for the idea that God is tolerant of sin.

He is not going to do nothing about that. He is not going to sit idly by. If He celebrates our sin, that makes him a liar and unholy. So sin is still sin and always will be. He is not going to do nothing about it and allow sin to come into fellowship with Him. First He cant, because His holiness cant be in communion with sin. But also, even if He could, He wouldnt because that would take away from His Holy Justice.

God will deal with sin. He will deal with our sins. We dont always, or sometimes, often see it. We cry out as is said in Malachi 2:17 “Where is the God of Justice?” Of Course this is not the only place we see Israel cry out in this way. We see the prophet Habakkuk starts out his book, chapter 1, verse 2-4 crying out,

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save? 3 Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.

We even look around us today and wonder why all of this is allowed to go on. Death, disease, murder, stealing, corruption, all the things listed in the various lists of sins in the New Testament, lists in Romans 1, Galatians 5, 1 Corinthians 6 and Revelation 21 just as a few examples. I marked them down in the notes and I encourage you to look them up on your own later.

But we see those things going on and it can be easy to wonder where God is in all this, why he is waiting to act or why are we feeling or receiving Gods discipline. Well, the author of Hebrews deals with that second part, writing in Hebrews 12:7 & 8:  It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

God pours out his discipline on us to help sanctify us. He disciplines us because he loves us. Those who are not his children, they will feel his wrath and his judgment, sometimes in this world, but always in the next. We, his children will sometimes have to deal with the negative consequences of sin in this world, but never in the next.

We dont know when that will be, our transition from this world to the next. And many of us will often pray, “LORD come quickly.” The motivation behind this prayer is we see whats going on around us in this world, the corruption taking place, the hurt and the death, and we read about the promises that are coming, we read about Jesus Second Coming. We read about what eternity future will look like, at least the glimpse we get to see. John records in His revelation, Revelation 21:1-7:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place[a] of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,[b] and God himself will be with them as their God.[c] 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment

And we are rightly excited to finally experience that for ourselves. Everything in this world is a a shadow, a broken mirror of what is to come. But why hasnt God brought this about to fruition? Why is He allowing this world to continue as it is? Peter addresses this in his second letter, 2 Peter 3:3-9 he writes:

scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,[a] not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

We remember that God is God. He is omniscient, all knowing, he is omnipresent, all places and times, and omnipotent, all powerful. He is sovereign and in control of all things. He has all of eternity past and eternity future already planned out. He is patient, knowing that not all who will come to him have yet come to him. There is still hope that we can share the Gospel with those who have not yet been saved. And we dont know when that moment will be.

Since the time of Jesus resurrection, we have been in the alst days. And we dont know the time nor the the hour that Christ will return. So there should be some urgency when we are sharing the Gospel.

We dont know who will and who wont respond. We are to have faith that those we share it with will respond while knowing that not all will. God is the one who knows who will respond. There is a great quote from Charles Spurgeon about evangelism, saying: If God would have painted a yellow stripe on the backs of the elect I would go around lifting shirts. But since He didn’t I must preach “whosoever will” and when “whatsoever” believes I know that he is one of the elect.

When I started writing my sermon, did not expect this sermon to go on as long as it would have, God obviously wants us to hear some things this morning and so we are going to look at how God says he is going to respond to sin next week.

Israel is crying out, “Where is the God of Justice!” And God has an answer for them. Sin is sin and the wages of sin is death. Thats part of how He will respond. But the other way he responds is with a free gift that is eternal life in Jesus Christ our LORD. And much of the rest of Malachi will be looking ahead at the coming of the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, and the messenger that God will send ahead of his son. So, lets go ahead and pray, and get some water and let you all get out of the heat and we will continue on in Malachi and specifically finishing this section of Malachi next week.

Lets Pray

Romans 16:25-27 Pauls Doxology

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Romans 16:1-16

Paul’s Heart for His Fellow Workers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lets Pray

Even the rocks cry out

Nature astounds me.  The trees in autumn are so wonderful to watch, I can get lost in watching a single leaf fall to the ground.  And the fact that nature, from the earth, to animals, to nature as a whole, while not predictable, follows such a beautiful, harmonious pattern makes me understand, at least for a moment or two, those that worship nature.

Now we know to worship the Creator, not the created.  That God himself orchestrated the cosmos, the wind and waves, the leaf I follow to the ground.  but the bible clearly states that the heavens display His handiwork.  That if we don’t give God his full worship, that even the rocks will cry out.  I have often pondered this.  Many hours have thought and prayed, “Lord, let me worship you in your glory, and keep the rocks silent.”  But tonight, driving home, through the wonder that is the Pacific Northwest tonight, while listening to a sermon on God’s authority, I think I finally caught a glimpse of what this all means.

“And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed,  each according to it kind, on the earth.” and it was so.  The earth brought forth vegetation…(Gen. 1:11-12a)  The earth sings God’s glory and it’s God’s glory that people hear and worship.  They are enticed by what the earth does, but miss why the earth does so.  It is because it’s creator deemed it so.   The earth pronounces God’s glory because it is doing what it was commanded.  Because in doing what God commanded, it can show true obedience to the One who has ultimate control.  It can reflect the Master.  That is how nature has it’s power.  It’s in the obedience to the master that it’s true purpose is revealed.  And it’s that way with us.

 

Why does the blossoming apple tree hold our fascination?  How is it that even though we know that after harvest season come winter and snow, and yet we still find beauty in the flakes falling???  One could think that their very predictability would cause us to lose interest in the whole process. But it’s the very predictable pattern of God’s creation that sings His praise.  The wind and the waves, the snow and apple tree are subject to God, and do exactly what He commanded at the beginning of time, and that’s it.  They do what He wants, regardless of their own will.  Now the apple tree doesn’t have will, but we do.  When do we reflect the glory of our God?!?!  When we are subject to Him, and are doing the will of our loving father, regardless of our own will.  Instead of garnering favor for ourselves, like we try to from time to time, let’s think of the apple tree, the dandelion, the oak losing it’s leaves every year.  They don’t shout about the mighty acts they have accomplished, they simply show the world, all who see, what God instructed them of, and thereby give glory to their creator.

 

In every day, there are times when we feel the Spirit calling us to something.  How about we don’t fight it, but like the snowflake falling, or the rose blossoming, we follow the authority of our Creator, and do His will, giving Him the glory He deserves.  And keep those rocks silent one more day.

Hope Holencik

Busy Summer

It has been a very busy summer for the Fire Department in our area. I say this because of what Ive been told, not because I have any other summers to compare it to. This is a rural fire district that stretches down x number of miles along a windy mountain highway and one other major spur of about 5 miles of the same sort of road. We are approximately 1 hr from the Portland Vancouver metro area and about an 1 and ½ hours from population centers such as Beaverton, Hillsboro, Tigard, Wilsonville, etc. We have three lakes that people come to fish, swin, hang out, etc. Lots of camping and hiking. Lots of people not from here coming up for the day or the weekend or whatever.

Most of the calls for the Fire department are medical in nature, as first responders. Whether its some one who has a bad back or asthma or faints or falls and hits his head or has a car accident or boating accident, we are the first responders until the ambulance gets there. In July, we had 29 calls in the 31 days of the month. But two calls we dont get very often are actual fires and drownings in the lakes.

From what Ive been told, we get a drowning call, once every few years or so. The last structure fire they had was about 5 years ago, when Jack’s a local landmark of a restaurant burned down and was not rebuilt. This year we have had 2 fires and three drownings. Needless to say, that’s been super busy, higher than average.

The fires are unusual but no one was hurt in either one. They are, however, physically and emotionally draining. The drownings however, are another story. Two young men and a little kids lost there lives this summer in the lakes and it hits everybody very hard. The responders I work with are some of the hardest, toughest, “manliest” men I know and many of them would hold back tears when thinking back on them or when talking with the family.

Please pray for these men and women who put their lives on hold when someone in our district calls 911. They rush out of dinner, out of bed and out of church when they get the call. They need and deserve some prayers. Next time you see some one in your community who is a paramedic or a fire fighter, thank them for the work they do. They really do literally save lives.

 

Casey

1 Samuel 2:9-10