Acts: For the Cause of Christ – Sermon #2

For the Cause of ChristActs: For the Cause of Christ – Sermon #2

Acts 1:12-26 – Waiting and Working

Prayer: “Let it be my life’s refrain: To live is Christ, to die is gain; deny myself, take up my cross and follow the Son”

Intro:

Last time we finished by staring after Jesus ascending into heaven being told by a couple of angels, that He would return to that spot in the same way He left. Christ had told the Eleven Apostles that they were to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem and then to begin witnessing in Jerusalem, then reaching out to ends of the world. So, we pick up this week continuing in chapter 1 with them doing just that, waiting…and then doing some work.

1. Waiting vv 12-15

Luke picks up right after the angels tell the Eleven that Christ would return in the same way He had just left, with “they returned to Jerusalem”. Then Luke gives one of the little details that we will see throughout the book. He tells us that the Mount of Olives is “about a Sabbath day’s journey” away from Jerusalem. So what does that mean, well here Luke is just giving us distance. Interpreting of the Law, people could travel about 2000 cubits (which was the distance of pastureland for the Levites had around the cities of refuge) 2000 cubits is roughly 1 kilometer. Now if your like me and not up on your kilometer to mile formulas, I already looked it up. 1 kilometer is just over half a mile.

So here in verse 13 we see that the Apostles went back to Jerusalem and then back to the upper room. This upper room is where they have been staying, one source called it their “base of operations” or headquarters in Jerusalem. We are not sure where exactly this room was. It is possible it was the same upper room in which they had the Last Supper with Christ, where He inaugurated the Lord’s Table and Judas had left to betray Christ; or whether it was the upper level of a large house of another follower of Jesus’.  Here Luke gives roll call. He lists the Eleven Apostles, partly I think because Luke hadn’t yet named these men in this volume, and, I think, because it sets up the rest of the chapter. Luke goes through the list of names, this list is almost identical to the one in Luke 6:14-16, when Christ had chosen them roughly three years before, the only differences are a few variations of name order (on source specifically mentions how John is listed before his brother James here), and that Judas Iscariot is no longer listed. An interesting item to note is that from here on, only Peter, John, and James are ever mentioned again in the New Testament.

Verse 14 starts by telling us what the Apostles were doing. They were praying. I think it is safe to say that they were worshipping God and that it is even possible that they had gone to the Temple for regular service. But, they did it unified. Some translations say, “they were in one accord”. But you didn’t know that Honda was building cars in the first century now did you? The Apostles were unified in their prayer and worship together. They were unified in their prayer and waiting together. Remember, they are still waiting for the Holy Spirit to come, but we see that they weren’t alone.

Verse 14 continues with listing who is there in the upper room with the Eleven. “The women”, this is a reference back to godly women who had followed Christ from Galilee (Luke 23:55), this group contained Mary the mother of Jesus. We should note that, first, this is the last specific mention of Mary in the New Testament, second we see that she is worshipping along with the Apostles. No one there was praying to Mary or kneeling before her. What does that tell us? That tells us that she is in no way central to the gospel message. She was a faithful and good servant of God for what she was called to do, but to ascribe to her more than what Scripture records is wrong.

We also that Jesus’ brothers are listed here. Now there is some debate whether the term means brother in the normal or natural sense or does it mean “other relatives”, something like cousins. The burden of proof for any other meaning is on those promoting the different meaning. From my study I found that many of the old arguments for this was to promote what the Roman Church calls the “perpetual virginity of Mary”, meaning that Mary had no other children after Jesus and some would go as far as including Joseph in that position as well. This is another example of going to far in ascribing aspects to Mary that aren’t there. I believe that the meaning here is Jesus’ half-brothers. The other children of Mary by Joseph. There’s an old saying, “When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense, lest it result in nonsense.” Up until this point Jesus brothers were unbelievers (John 7:3-5). This probably changed after Christ’s resurrection. We are told in 1 Cor 15:7 that Jesus appeared at least to His half-brother James, who would take on a role of leadership in the Jerusalem Church later on (12:17; 15:13-21; 21:18). It seems that Christ’s brothers would remain a distinct group in the early church as Paul grouped them together in 1 Cor 9:5. The beginning of of verse 15 tells us that there were about 120 people in the upper room, this is probably not all the disciples though; remember 1 Cor 15:6 tells us that Christ appeared to over 500 disciples before His ascension. So where are the rest of them? One source suggests that many of them are still in Galilee. Wherever they are, only 120 were here in the upper room in Jerusalem. I’m sure that the Eleven had told the others what happened on the Mount of Olives, what Christ had told them, how He ascended and what the Angels told them. These 120 people were unified in their prayer and worship while they were waiting.

They were waiting. They were obeying. They were praying and worshipping together. Four years ago I was tired of waiting. I started sending out my resume to churches, I had used the college (FBBC) and the GARBC resources to get my resume out. These resources are there for that purpose. We were contacted by a church in upstate New York, we went out and loved the people, the church, the area. But I wasn’t obeying. We had many difficulties getting out there, delayed flight, missed connecting flight and having to stay overnight in Chicago. The church didn’t call us. Looking back, I can see that the Lord was shutting the door, but I was trying to force it open. That lesson hurt. But now after another four years of waiting the Lord opened the door.  What are you waiting for? Are you waiting in obedience? Are you waiting with prayer and worship?

2. Working vv15-26

Even though they were waiting, they saw the need to do some work. We see here in the second half of verse 15 that Peter is again stepping into a leadership role. There doesn’t seem to be any concern or issue of his denial of the Lord before His crucifixion. It appears that everyone has accepted the Peter’s restoration by the Lord has put that in the past. Peter stands up in a position of leadership and verse 16 we see that he is getting down to business to replace Judas, so the Apostles would be back to twelve.

This seems like it would be a big deal, but Peter is going to quote passages from the Psalms to establish that the replacement of Judas was prophesied by David. He doesn’t want to name anybody an Apostle as he lays out qualifications in verses 21 and 22, but we’ll get there. It should be noted that Luke only refers to the Twelve as Apostles, except in 14:4,14. In these verses I think Luke is the more general meaning of apostolos, which is messenger. While I hold to Apostleship of Paul, I don’t think Luke was naming Barnabas as an Apostle in the sense we think about the Twelve or Paul. I think it is possible that he may have been using the term “messenger” since “missionary” wasn’t a term in the First Century.

Verses 18-19 Luke interrupts Peter’s speech and inserts some information. Basically you could draw parentheses marks around verses 18 and 19. What Luke is doing is just giving some background to his readers, since Peter wouldn’t have had to recount what happened with Judas. There is a slight variation between the account given here and in Matthew 27. In Matthew 27 we are told that the Chief priests bought the field. Probaby what happened was that the priests bought the land in Judas’ name. Matthew calls the field “Blood Field” because the land was purchased with blood money, while Luke calls it the “Field of Blood” because Judas’ corpse burst open on the field. Either way, the name is fitting. It is possible that the chief priests bought the field where Judas hanged himself and then turned the field into a cemetary for foreigners.

In verse 20 Luke picks back up with Peter’s speech. Here Peter uses two passages from Psalms as a prophetic basis to replace Judas’ position within the Apostles. The first passage is Psalm 69:25 which is used to show that Judas had been removed and the vacancy was created, then he uses Psalm 109:8 to show that a replacement is needed. We should note that Judas’ death is not what required his replacement. Nobody sought to replace James, the brother of John, after he was executed for the cause of Christ in Acts chapter 12. Judas’ death was only added to the fact that he had defected to and betrayed Christ to His enemies.

Verses 21 and 22 Peter lays out qualifications needed to fill the vacancy. I think that the Peter and the rest of the Eleven had been discussing this amongst themselves for awhile. But the qualifications given are: 1. The man had to be a follower of Jesus since John’s baptism (essentially from the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry), and 2. the man had to have seen Jesus after His resurrection. Whether the reference to John’s baptism is a reference to Jesus being baptized by John or the time period of John’s ministry is unknown. But the man should have been a committed follower from the beginning of Jesus ministry although through to His ascension.

In verse 23 we are given the two men’s names. (we’re going to call the first one Joseph). Neither Joseph or Matthias are mentioned in any of the Gospel accounts. It is possible that these were the only two in that 120 that met the qualifications. In verses 24 and 25 we see the prayer of the Apostles. We don’t know exactly who did the praying, it is likely that if Peter was leading the procedure he prayed over the choice here. It is very likely that the group felt that the Lord already had a man chosen, so they prayed for clarity and guidance that they might recognize and call the right man. They didn’t want to choose the wrong man. Then after the prayer the cast lots to determine God’s will of which of these men would be chosen. Casting lots was a common Old Testament way of determining God’s will. This was not out of the ordinary. This was not voting. Casting lots was used in Israel for centuries. It was used to choose which goat was to be the scapegoat for the Day Atonement (Lev 16). The lots indicated Matthias and he was added to the Eleven. I should mention that after the Holy Spirit descends, there are no more examples of casting lots by the church in the New Testament.

It has been said that Peter and the others acted rashly and incorrectly, that the lots showed some lack of faith or reliance upon the Holy Spirit. That Paul was to be the one to take Judas’ place and the Lord would bring him in at the right time. If that is the case then: 1. Why doesn’t Scripture condemn the Matthias or the action taken here in the upper room? 2. If this was wrong, then Peter misused and misinterpreted Old Testament passages. That calls into doubt everything Peter does in Acts and his use of Old Testament Scripture in his epistles. And 3. Paul was unique and had a separate ministry from the Twelve and didn’t counted himself in that group (1 Cor 15:5, 8) and Paul doesn’t fit the qualifications listed in verses 21 and 22. I believe the Apostles and the others acted correctly. I also believe that Paul is an Apostle, though he would have distinct and separate ministry from the Twelve. Peter and the others did things orderly and with prayer. John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress once said, “You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.”

Is there some work the Lord is leading you to do? Is there some work you have been praying over?

Closing:

We saw how the Apostles and the others waited, with prayer, worship, and obedience. We saw how they handled work that needed to be done, with prayer, by Scripture, and orderly. We should always follow this example of periods of waiting we will face and the decisions we may have to face. Let me close with a quote.

Elizabeth Elliot wrote in her book Shadow of the ALmighty,

“William R. Newell says kneeling is a good way to pray because it is uncomfortable. Daniel prayed on his knees. Jim Elliot said, ‘God is still on His throne, we’re still His footstool, and there’s only a knee’s distance between!’ He also said, ‘That saint who advances on his knees never retreats.’”


This sermon was originally preached at First Baptist Church of Brownsdale, Minn on July 29, 2018.

Acts: For the Cause of Christ Sermon #1

The Book of Acts: For the Cause of Christ

Acts 1:1-11 – Commission and Ascension

Intro:

Today we are starting a new series on the Book of Acts. I’ve decided to call this series “For the Cause of Christ” and we’ll see the passion and endurance the Apostles had in spreading the Gospel of Christ around the world. So we’ll start at the beginning, and as the song says, it’s “a very good place to start”. Acts chapter 1, verses 1-11.

1. The Prologue and Background: vv 1-3

As we begin let me give you some background of the book itself. Most scholars believe that Acts was written by Luke, the same author of the third gospel. It is also believed that both books were probably written very close to the same time and that they were one book Luke-Acts. This combined volume was split up when the church was recognising the gospel accounts that were canonical, or what should be considered inspired of God. Some of the evidence used for Luke’s authorship of the book is in both introductions (1:1-2) and Luke 1:3-4. Both books are dedicated to the same individual, Theophilus. There are also a number of times in Acts where the author switches from third person narrative (he, she, they) to first person, these are referred to as the “we passages”. The purpose of the book to is have a written record of the Christ’s continued teaching and work through His Apostles and other believers in Jerusalem, the Judean region, and then to the ends of the world. The date this book was written is debated. Some believe it wasn’t written until the second century (100-199 AD), others believe it was written in the 70s AD, and still others believe that is was written earlier between AD 62-64 (shortly after the narrative of the book closes). Something to keep in mind is that the book covers, roughly, a 30 year time span, form about 30/31 AD to about 62 AD. I hold to an early writing between 62-64 [For more reading on some of the evidences of an early writing to Acts, check out the New International Commentary of the New Testament: The Book of Acts written by F. F. Bruce, which can be purchased here]. So, now let’s get into the book.

Luke begins his book linking back to his first “narrative”, which we call the Gospel of Luke, he is even writing to the same person, Theophilus. There has been some debate over this name. Since the name literally means “friend of God”, it has been suggested that these books were not written to a single person, but that Theophilus was being used to address christians in general. However, in the opening of his gospel, Luke calls, “most honorable” or “most excellent”, this phrase is always used in Scripture (including the book of Acts) as a title of respect to a specific individual. It is also thought that the Theophilus is just a pseudonym or code name if you will to hide the real identity of who the books were written too. It is also possible that Theophilus is the real name of an individual Luke was writing this accounts for, whether he was a wealthy patron helping to publish and distribute the work or not we do not know. Scripture is silent and we should avoid filling gaps like this with imagination and idle talk. As far as I am concerned Luke wrote these to a specific person named Theophilus for reasons known only to God and history.

Verses 1 and 2 briefly summarize what Luke wrote about in his gospel account, “all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was take up, after he had given instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. (1:1b-2). This is like the saying “previously on” when you watching part 2 of a cliffhanger TV episode, or when listening to radio preachers that have split the sermon for the radio program starting out with “last time on [Turning Point with David Jeremiah or Truth for Life with Alistair Begg]”. But did you catch a word in there? “All that Jesus began to do and teach”. Jesus had taught everything He wanted to, so look at verse 3.

“After he had suffered”, this obviously refers to His beatings and death on the cross, “he presented himself alive to them”, this is after the resurrection. We know from other scripture Jesus appeared to many disciples and followers from his earthly ministry after His resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15:5-7, Paul accounts how Christ had appeared to Peter, the rest of the twelve, His half-brother James, and to over 500 people at one time all, apparently, during this 40 day window all with convincing proofs to reassure them that it was really Him having been raised from the dead. But Christ still had work to do with the Apostles apparently as Luke tells us He was “speaking about the kingdom of God.” We don’t know for sure what exactly He was explaining and teaching to them at these appearances. The reference to the kingdom of God could have been a proof of His resurrection for them or He may have been explaining the suffering Messiah and the future glorious kingdom to come. F.F. Bruce puts it this way, “This same Good news as Jesus Himself had announced earlier, but now given effective fulfillment by the saving events of His Passion and triumph (Bruce, F.F.; New International Commentary of The New Testament:The Book of The Acts; ©1988, p 32).”

So we see the purpose of this book here. In Luke’s first volume, his Gospel account, he covered Jesus life and teachings up to His ascension. Here in his second volume we see that the implication in these first few verses is Christ’s continued work by the Holy Spirit in His followers. In essence this book is the beginning work of the Great Commission given in Matthew 28:19-20, which by the way has never been countermanded in Scripture. We as followers of Jesus Christ must still follow that direction of “Go” given in the Matthew 28. We as followers of Christ have been given the Holy Spirit, we therefore have strength and power to share the Gospel, to plant seeds for the Lord to harvest.

2. The Commission vv 4-8

The command Christ gave the Eleven here in verse four may have happened during this 40 day period, or this could have happened while they were going to or already on the Mt of Olives outside of Jerusalem. Christ first tells them to wait in Jerusalem until what was promised from the Father arrived. This promise was familiar to them as Christ points out by saying, “you have heard me speak about”. This is a reminder of Christ’s final instructions to them before He was arrested. This is the promise of the Holy Spirit, or Comforter, that is discussed in the Gospel of John chapters 14-16. In verse 5 He reminds them of the ministry of John the Baptist and that he baptized with water after repentance to prepare Israel for Christ’s coming. John’s baptism of water foreshadowed the coming of the Holy Spirit which baptize them and the rest of the believers in a few days time.

In verse 6, Luke’s language changes, this seems to show that the command and promise in verses 4-5 happened during that 40 day period, but now here, we say a transition to the last conversation the apostles would have with Christ while He was on this earth. They had apparently still been hoping for the Kingdom of God being set up physically and Israel’s independence to be restored to them. It’s possible that since the Lord was discussing the coming of the Holy Spirit, the sign of the coming age, they were thinking that Christ was going to set up His kingdom. Can you blame them? But they remind me of my daughter when we’ve promised her something, time play or to let her help with something. She’ll ask 15 or more times within the next 20 minutes, “Now is it time?” “Is it time now Daddy?”

Here in verse 7 the Lord doesn’t give them a direct “no”, but gently rebukes them by reminding them that matters like this belong solely to the Father. F.F. Bruce says, “Whatever purposes of His own God might have for the nation of Israel, these were not the be the concern of the messengers of Christ (Bruce, p35)”. The Apostles were to focus on proclaiming the Gospel of God and His grace in Christ. To the Apostles’ credit, whatever they were thinking, from this time on they devoted themselves to proclaim Christ and Him crucified.

In verse 8, Christ promised them power from the Holy Spirit when He came, power to perform mighty works and effectively preach the Gospel. He tells them that they will be witnesses for Him.The word witness here is the idea giving testimony or bearing-witness, this is the same root word in Hebrews 12:1

“such a large cloud of witnesses”. The idea of “witness-bearing” is a theme throughout the book of Acts. Verse 8 is also the key verse for the book, as it gives a broad outline for the rest of the account. The Apostles and believers would be witnesses first in Jerusalem (the city to reach) in chapters 1-7, next in Judea and Samaria (the region to reach) chapters 8-11:18, and then to the ends of the earth (the world to reach) chapters 11:19 through the end of the book. How are we doing in our city, our region?

3. The Ascension vv 9-11

Luke’s account here gives us the most detail of Christ’s ascension. Matthew and John don’t discuss it in their gospels. Mark talks about it and gives some detail about what Christ was telling the Apostles, then mentions that Christ “was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God” (Mk 16:19b). Luke obviously mentions it in his gospel account, but here in Acts we are told about the cloud and we see that the Apostles watched Him rising up into the sky. Now this forty day period Christ had appeared and disappeared before them several times, but this was different. This was final. After the ascension there were no more visits from the resurrected Lord, where they could touch Him, where He ate with them which was to show them He had physically resurrected. This time was to impress on them His heavenly glory.

The cloud that is mentioned is similar to the one in Luke 9:34-36 that removed Elijah and Moses from the Mount of Transfiguration, as well as Christ’s description of his return in Mark 13:26 and 14:62. It is thought that in each of each of these descriptions, the cloud mentioned should be understood as the Shekinah. The cloud that showed God’s glory and represented His divine presence with the Nation of Israel. This cloud led them through the wilderness before entering the land, it rested above the Tabernacle and filled Solomon’s Temple (1 Kg 8:10-11). This is the same cloud that, after years of disobedience and sin from Israel as a nation, left the Holy of Holies in the Temple, went through the streets of Jerusalem, up a mountain east of the city and ascended into heaven as the nation was taken into captivity and Jerusalem was destroyed (Ezekiel 10:4-5,18-19, 11:22-23). Probably leaving the same place Christ left and will one day return.

The Apostles were standing there heads back to watching Jesus ascending, and though He had disappeared they were still staring after Him, possibly still expecting Him to return and wanting to be there when He did. But while they were watching the clouds, two men appeared next to them. It is commonly thought that these men are angels from God, and I don’t doubt that. Luke’s description of the two men here is similar to his description of the angels that appeared to Mary and the other women at the tomb on Easter morning (Lk 24:4). Here again we see the theme of witnesses being brought out. F.F. Bruce puts it this way, “In both instances the fact that there were two suggests that they were viewed as witnesses, two being the minimum number for credible witness-bearing (Deut 19:15). On the former occasion the two men bore witness to Jesus’ resurrection; here they bear witness to forthcoming [return]” (Bruce, p38).

The angels didn’t come to find shapes in the clouds with the Apostles, they came with a message for them.Their message was one of reassurance to the Apostles, but I don’t wonder if it wasn’t also one to get them moving. The angels addressed them, which would have snapped them back to the moment. The message reassured the Apostle that Christ would return, and they gave them a piece of information they may not have had, Christ would return the same way. From here they leave. We aren’t given an account of the angels leaving, but in verse 12 we see that the Apostles returned to Jerusalem to await the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Closing:

So what can we take from this account? First we see that the commission was to the Apostles, but through their teaching, their writings which have handed down over 2000 years, that this commission was passed along to each follower of Christ. As I mentioned earlier the Great Commission in Matthew 28 and the commission here in Acts 1 has never been countermanded in any of the following Scripture. We are still commanded to “Go”. But we also need to be mindful of Christ’s return. It is evident here and throughout the rest of the New Testament that the Apostles and early church were ready and waiting for the Lord’s return.

So how are you doing with going? How are you doing with waiting for the Lord’s return? We cannot focus on one and neglect the other. We wait, but we labor while we wait.


I partly got the title for this series from Keith and Kristyn Getty’s song “For the Cause” which you can watch the lyric video of the song here. You can find out more about theire music here at www.gettymusic.com.

This is the current series I am just beginning to preach at First Baptist Church of Brownsdale, Minn. I will try to keep these posts coming as we work through the Book of Acts in our church.

…But God(Part 2): The Proof of God’s Romans 5:7-8

Romans 5:7-8 

How do we know God’s love? How did He show us His love? Well the Sunday School answer is Jesus, God’s Son, came to earth and died on the cross for humanity. So what does that look like? What’s the big deal? Let’s walk through Romans 5:7-8 to get a better understanding.

I. Righteous or Good? v7

Paul starts these two verses by saying that most men are not willing to risk their lives for others. But there is more to that. He says, “for rarely will someone die for a just person…”. So what is a “just person”? A just person, other translations say “righteous man”, is someone who obeys the rules. They follow the Law and keep the Commandments. Their actions, attitude, and behaviour are correct and upright. However this person may be cold or follows the rules for the sake of following the rules.

What about the second type of person Paul mentions here in verse 7. “…though for a good person perhaps someone may even dare to die.” What does this “good person” look like? A good person is one who does all the things that the righteous man does, but goes further. This person will act out of love while following the rules, obeying the commandments, etc. This person just isn’t correct, they go beyond being correct. The good person will, because of love, do as Christ instructed in Matthew 5:40-41 “As for the one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two.” The good person will go the second mile and not even think about it.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones illustrates the difference like this:

A man may play the piano correctly, strike the right note every time, and keep the right time, and yet all you can truthfully say about his playing is that it is just correct. But there is another man who plays the piano and plays the same piece; yet you realize at once that there is something more. He is an artist, he puts life into the performance, he does it in such a way that it moves you and thrills you. The first man was quite correct, but he lacked this extra something that the second man has got. That is the kind of difference between a righteous man and a good man. (Romans: An Exposition of Chapter 5: Assurance, p.121, Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, ©1971)

First we need to realize that throughout the rest of this chapter Paul is talking about the doctrine of assurance (being sure that your salvation is true and secure in the Lord) to believers. So here, early in the chapter he is reminding these believers of the glory of salvation and in the previous chapter he discussed the glory of justification (the declaring of God that a sinner is righteous before Him because of Christ’s work on the cross). In the previous verse he discussed that scarcely someone might die for a just or righteous person and someone more likely would risk their life for a good person. “You do not find people laying down their lives for a man who is just righteous or correct; but people love a good man and are so attached to him that they say, ‘I would die for him’ (Lloyd-Jones, p.121)”.

Are you good or are you righteous? Well without Christ, before God we are neither. Without Christ we are the third type of person Paul describes in verse 8.

II. Sinner! v8b

Paul continues his argument here by starting with two of the sweetest words in all of Scripture, “But God”. “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” Such a wonderful verse that should make any believer rejoice and praise God! We are going to look at the second part of the verse first. Paul says that Christ died for us while we were sinners. What is a sinner? A sinner is the exact opposite of the good person and the just person. The word gives itself to moral failure. A sinner has missed the mark and come short, they are an offender without any righteousness.

Paul spend most of the first three chapters of Romans describing the sinful nature of every person on Earth. Those who have never heard of God: sinners. “For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth,” (Romans 1:18). God’s chosen people: sinners. “For circumcision benefits you if you observe the law, but if you are a lawbreaker, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, and true circumcision is not something visible in the flesh. On the contrary, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart — by the Spirit, not the letter. That man’s praise is not from men but from God.” (Romans 2:25,28-29) Those who have heard and turned away: sinners. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”(Romans 3:23) The fate of sinners? Eternal separation from God in a place of eternal torment. What is the remedy for such a disastrous state for humanity? God’s offer of salvation. “They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a propitiation through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His restraint God passed over the sins previously committed.” (Romans 3:24-25) The fact is that as believers we were sinners before God, but the wonder of justification is that though we may fail and still sin while we are live in this world God sees us as righteous and holy.

III. God’s Love = Christ’s Death v8a

“But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” Christ’s death was the only way for humanity to be saved. But humanity is so sinful that the there is nothing we can do to make God save us. We cannot save ourselves. We can do no work to change God’s mind or change our stance before Him. God had to act. God put the salvation of humanity on His own shoulders, this burden was His to bear. Why? Because God loves us. We are created in His image, and God loves His creation. God word’s clear, there be a time of judgement on the earth and every person will stand before God to be judged as a sinner or as follower of Christ. “The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

Let’s look what Christ endured to on the cross for our salvation. John 19 gives the account of some the beating (flogging or scourging) as well as the crucifixion of Jesus.

Let’s start with the flogging. Roman flogging was part of the crucifixion, however in the Gospel of John we see that Pilate sent Jesus to be flogged before he passed judgement and gave in to the Jewish leaders. This may have been a way to appease the mob and get out of actually condemning a man he didn’t want to execute. However this didn’t keep the soldiers from mocking Jesus and beat Him cruelly.

flagrum9The Roman flogging used “a short whip with several single or braided leather thongs of variable lengths, in which small iron balls or sharp pieces of sheep bones were tied at intervals. For scourging, the man was stripped of his clothing, and his hands were tied to an upright post. The back, buttocks, and legs were flogged either by two soldiers (lictors) or by one who alternated positions” (https://www.cbcg.org/scourging-crucifixion.html).

“Deep lacerations, torn flesh, exposed muscles and excessive bleeding would leave the criminal ‘half-dead.’ Death was often the result of this cruel form of punishment though it was necessary to keep the criminal alive to be brought to public subjugation on the cross. The Centurion in charge would order the ‘lictors’ to halt the flogging when the criminal was near death” (http://www.bible-history.com/past/flagrum.html).

“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.”
(Isaiah 53:5 NKJV) Christ was beaten in, probably, the worst way devised by sinful man. After Jesus received this beating the soldiers looking to mock Him before Pilate called for Him again, and knowing Jesus was accused of calling Himself a king placed a purple robe on His back, then placed a crown made of thorns on His head.51022-Crown_of_Thorns

“The severe scourging, with its intense pain and appreciable blood loss, most probably left Jesus in a preshock state. Moreover, bleeding from the skin particularly from the capillaries around the sweat glands from severe stress had rendered his skin particularly tender. The physical and mental abuse meted out by the Jews and the Romans, as well as the lack of food, water, and sleep, also contributed to his generally weakened state. Therefore, even before the actual crucifixion, Jesus’ physical condition was at least serious and possibly critical” (https://www.cbcg.org/scourging-crucifixion.html).

After this beating He was lead away to the actual crucifixion. The following is from an article on cbcg.org:

It was customary for the condemned man to carry his own cross from the flogging post to the site of crucifixion outside the city walls. He was usually naked, unless this was prohibited by local customs. Since the weight of the entire cross was probably well over 300 lb. (136 kg), only the crossbar was carried. The crossbar, weighing 75 to 125 lb. (34 to 57 kg), was placed across the nape of the victim’s neck and balanced along both shoulders. Usually, the outstretched arms then were tied to the crossbar. The processional to the site of crucifixion was led by a complete Roman military guard, headed by a centurion. One of the soldiers carried a sign on which the condemned man’s name and crime were displayed. Later, the sign would be attached to the top of the cross. The Roman guard would not leave the victim until they were sure of his death.

Outside the city walls was permanently located the heavy upright wooden post, on which the crossbar would be secured. To prolong the crucifixion process, a horizontal wooden block or plank, serving as a crude seat, often was attached midway down the post.

At the site of execution, by law, the victim was given a bitter drink of wine mixed with myrrh (gall) as a mild pain reliever. The criminal was then thrown to the ground on his back, with his arms outstretched along the crossbar. The hands could be nailed or tied to the crossbar, but nailing apparently was preferred by the Romans. The nails were tapered iron spikes approximately 5 to 7 in (13 to 18 cm) long with a square shaft 3/8 in (1 cm) across. The nails commonly were driven through the wrists rather than the palms.

After both arms were fixed to the crossbar, the crossbar and the victim, together, were lifted onto the post. Next, the feet were fixed to the cross, either by nails or ropes. Nailing was the preferred Roman practice. Although the feet could be fixed to the sides of the post or to a wooden footrest, they usually were nailed directly to the front of the post. To accomplish this, flexion of the knees may have been quite prominent, and the bent legs may have been rotated outward.

When the nailing was completed, the sign was attached to the cross, by nails or cords, just above the victim’s head. The soldiers and the civilian crowd often taunted and jeered the condemned man, and the soldiers customarily divided up his clothes among themselves. The length of survival generally ranged from three or four hours to three or four days and appears to have been inversely related to the severity of the scourging. However, even if the scourging had been relatively mild, the Roman soldiers could hasten death by breaking the legs below the knees.

The horrid death on a cross was an excruciating death. What Christ did to provide the nailsonly way of salvation for humanity was to die in one of the worst of forms of execution in the ancient world. This is why Paul in Philippians 2 says “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death — even to death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).

God’s love for humanity and His desire to save His creation from the curse of sin was to send Jesus, His own Son, to die a horrendous death at the hands of sinners. The only way to God is accept this gift of salvation.

If you don’t know if you have accepted God’s gracious gift of salvation then follow this link for an explanation of how you can know for certain from Dr David Jeremiah or this link to walk down the “Romans Road” on biblegateway.com.

…But God (Part 1): From Death to Life – Ephesians 2:1-10

…But God (Pt 1): From Death to Life

This is another sermon I did during my college internship at my home church in Colorado in the summer of 2010. I have updated it a little and am kicking off a series taking the “…but God” passages.

Ephesians 2:1-10

Intro:

Have you ever seen a dead body before? I have a couple of times, at funerals for a couple of my aunts at different time in my life, one was very recent. Those of you who have seen a dead body do you remember what it looked like? Maybe for some of you in the medical field or those who are combat veterans have seen number of bodies. Here is how Webster’s Dictionary defines a dead body, “deprived of life, no longer alive, having the appearance of death, lacking power to move, feel, or respond”. As unbelievers we are dead. God makes the sinner alive, for salvation of man was nothing but God. Let’s look at our passage.

I. Before Christ vv1-3 

Verses one through three gives us an up close look at the pre-conversion state of man. Verse one tells us that we were dead. Now you’re saying, “Wait a minute I thought you said we are dead, now you’re saying we were dead. What is it?” In verse one Paul is reminding the Ephesian believers of their state before salvation. But what does he mean by dead? Because I know that I was alive before I got saved. Paul is speaking on a spiritual level. Our souls were dead because of sin. The unsaved person is dead spiritually. Wiersbe describes the condition, “that is, he is unable to understand and appreciate spiritual things. He posses no spiritual life, and he can do nothing of himself to please God” (Warren W. Wiersbe; The Bible Exposotion Commentary: New Testament Vol. 2; © 1989; p17). The verse says that we are dead in our “trespasses and sins” what’s the difference? A trespass or transgression is a stepping over the line, the act of sinning, doing something wrong. This is most dramatically seen when your favorite wide receiver catches the game winning touchdown, but he was caught out-of-bounds by the officials. The player trespassed, he crossed the line that allows play. The word sin in our verse is more of missing the mark, this is an action or in-action. If watched Superbowl 52 you may have seen the play when the New England Patriots attempted a play that turned quarterback Tom Brady into a receiver. If you did you would have seen Tom Brady miss the ball causing an incomplete pass. He missed the mark, he “sinned”. Do you know the difference between two sinners? It’s the amount of decay their spiritual bodies have. The bum in gutter who needs a fix and a drink is just as dead, but may be more decayed in appearance than that city council member, but they are both dead.

In verses two and three Paul describes the help we get as sinners to sin. You’re thinking, “What are you talking about?” Well, let’s look. The first encourager we have as sinners is the world. This world system pushes each person to conform to its way of thinking, acting, and living. “The unsaved person, either consciously or unconsciously, is controlled by the values of this world.” The second encourager of sin is the devil. The phrase, “the prince and power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” is a reference to Satan. Satan controls the sinful world. Now Satan is a created being, and that means he is not omnipresent as God is. However, Satan has a horde of evil angels working with him, but I do not believe that because little Jonny stole a cookie he has a right to say, “The devil made me do it”. I will get to our third enemy in a second, but here is a thought of encouragement for us who are born again. My Theology professor used this and I like it. Picture in your mind a man walking down the sidewalk walking his Rottweiler, now the Rottweiler is on a leash but he is jumping and barking at everyone and knocking newspaper stands over. Now picture walking the in the opposite direction a young mother with a baby in a stroller. The mother sees the dog and his master getting closer, and decides to cross the street. The dog’s owner sees the mother, and pulls back on the leash not giving it any room to jump and run ahead, just before the mother crosses the street. The Rottweiler is Satan, and the owner is the Holy Spirit. God has a leash on the devil and he can only do so much and there will be a time when he is punished for his sins.

We get to the third encourager of sin in verse three. This is our flesh. Not flesh as in our physical body, but this is a reference to our sin nature. Warren Wiersbe uses a good illustration in his commentary he says, “An evangelist friend of mine once announced as his topic, ‘Why Your Dog Does What It Does,’ and, of course, many dog lovers came out to hear him. What he had to say was obvious, but too often overlooked: ‘A dog behaves like a dog because he has a dog’s nature.’ If somehow you could transplant into the dog the nature of the cat, his behavior would change radically. Why does a sinner behave like a sinner? Because he has the nature of a sinner. This sinful nature the Bible calls ‘the flesh’” (Wiersbe, p18) The sinner commits sin because he has an appetite for sin. The unsaved think and will say that they do good. But they are depraved. In Isaiah 64 it says that our righteousness is like filthy rags. Because the unsaved are depraved they cannot do any thing that is not selfish. This isn’t to say that every sinner is on the same level of sin, or that the sins are as evil as they could be, but when an unbeliever does something good it is selfish and will not get them any kind of merit with God.

Unbelievers are by their sinful nature, children of wrath. Unbelievers are by action, disobedient under the influence of Satan, “the prince and power of the air (vs 2)”. God, the righteous judge, has passed sentence. The sinners will be punished. But God in his mercy has granted a stay of execution. The individual cannot save himself, cannot work his way to heaven,  but God in His grace has provided a way to salvation. For the salvation of man was nothing but God.

So we have seen the sinner’s spiritual condition before Christ, now let’s look at how God worked.

II. But God vv 4-7

Verses one through three reminds the Christian of life before Christ, then Paul starts verse four with, “But God”. But God. Aren’t those sweet words in your ears? You were dead in sin, but God. But God! Those are very precious words. Those two little words show us attributes of God. You say, “how?” Well think of it this way. There are some attributes that God has that can been seen differently when they are related to man. God is holy, but His holiness when related to man is His justice. God is love, but His love when related to man is His grace and mercy. God is merciful by not giving us what we deserve as sinners. Like a parent not punishing their disobedient child. God’s gracicious to us by giving what we don’t deserve eternal life in His presence. Like a parent giving a gift to child even that child disobeyed.

Verse five reminds us that it was God who pulled us out of the graveyard that is this world It says that He “made us alive with Christ”. What does that mean? God through His Word and the power of the Holy Spirit has given us a spiritual resurrection just as He gave Jesus a physical resurrection. Our spiritual resurrection unites us with Christ. Now as members of His body we share His resurrection life and power. Verse six continues the thought of being united with Christ. Warren Wiersbe says this, “Our physical position may be on earth, but our spiritual position is ‘in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.’ Like Lazarus, we have been called from the grave to sit with Christ and enjoy His fellowship” (Wiersbe p19). He’s saying that even though we are physically here, our citizenship is in heaven. We are not of this world anymore. Philippians 3:20 and 1 Peter 2:11 also reminds us that we are now citizens of heaven and are just travelling through this life.

Verse seven reads “so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” This is part of God’s work. In eternity future God will display those whom He has redeemed. “Riches of His grace” is connected with believer’s redemption. His ultimate purpose for our salvation is that for all eternity the whole church of redeemed believers will glorify God.

Verse four to seven remind us that we could not save ourselves and that we are now citizens of heaven and part of the body of Christ. It’s like someone finding a homeless person who is a drug addict and an alcoholic and cleaning him up and making him king someplace.

III. By Grace vv 8-10

Verse eight is a reminder that we can do nothing for our salvation. Since we cannot gain salvation through our good works, it also stands that we cannot lose our salvation through our bad works. Salvation is not a reward, but a gift. Grace is the basis and faith is the instrument of our salvation. Harold Hoehner says this, “Whereas ‘grace’ is the objective cause or basis of salvation, ‘through faith’ is the subjective means by which one is saved. This is important, for the salvation that was purchased by Christ’s death is universal in its provision, but is not universal in its application. One is not automatically saved because Christ died, but one is saved when one puts trust in God’s gracious provision” (Harold W. Hoehner; Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary; ©2002; p341).   Verse nine broadens the thought as Paul tells us that since we didn’t do anything for salvation, we have no room to boast. Dr Llyod-Jones reminds us, “It is the Lord Jesus Christ who saves you. If you say that your faith saves you, your faith has become a work, and you have something to boast of” (Dr Martyn Llyod-Jones; Romans: An Exposition of Chapters 3:20-4:25 Atonement and Justification; © 1970; p47). This is God’s work. It is by His grace.

Verse ten reads “For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” The word workmanship has a meaning of a piece of art or a masterpiece.  Like the artist who painstakingly spends hours on a piece of art to make sure it is perfect, so God is working in our lives. This word is different from the word used for human works in verse nine. What is this work that God has done? He has made us or created us into a new creation. Creation is something that only God can do, and because we have new life in Christ we are a new creature than the old unbelieving world. Our new life is not the end of God’s work in us, it is only the beginning. God wants us to be more like Christ, that is progressive sanctification. That term, means that as we live our lives here on earth we strive to overcome sin in our life. We battle sinful addictions, become better husbands and wives. But we do not do this on our own. We cannot. Just as we cannot save ourselves, we cannot overcome our sinful habits ourselves. God must be involved.

The good works that are referred to here have nothing to do with our salvation, but as a demonstration of our faith. John Calvin wrote, “It is faith alone that justifies, but faith that justifies can never be alone.” We are not saved through our good works, but our faith is seen by our good works. James chapter two talks about this very thing. James 2:17 says, “In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself.”  He says later that faith is seen by good works. Jesus even talked about these good works, Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” You’re thinking, “Ok, we get it, but what are these good works then?” It’s an “Absolutely Free Car Wash”, it’s working in VBS, it’s giving to missionaries, it’s going calling and sharing the gospel. But remember, we do not produce these good works, these good works come from God. They are a product of God working in one’s life. We see here in verse ten that God knew what works he would have us do. This means He has a plan for our lives, He knows what good works He wants us to do. All we need to do is be in His will for our lives, and those good works will come for us to do so that men may glorify our Father in heaven.

Verses one through three show us that no one is able to do anything good that is worthy of merit with God. Verses four through seven remind us that we had nothing to do with our salvation, but God provided through grace and mercy. Finally verses eight through ten show us that God did the work, and has work for us to do for Him. But you know, we cannot do that work if we do not accept God’s free gift of salvation.

If you don’t know if you have accepted God’s gracious gift of salvation then follow this link for an explanation of how you can know for certain from Dr David Jeremiah or this link to walk down the “Romans Road” on biblegateway.com.