Sunday, March 30, 2014

#40) Meditations of Psalm 115

#40) Meditations of Psalm 115
(delivered on 30MAR2014)

(Read Psalm 115)

Not to us. We live in a world that screams, "US!" Whether it be our job success, latest toys, or life experiences, the world says to always look out for #1. The sheer number of lawsuits in the headlines proves this. We live in a world of self-entitlement where we expect to be treated the same, if not better, than everybody else. If we do something well, we want our praise. If we mess up, we want to be thanked for at least trying and giving it our best shot. To us be the praises. To us be thanks. To us be the glory!
Yet, Psalm 115 opens up with a distinctly different wording. Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name give glory. This is a recurring theme throughout the Psalms.

Psalm 29:2
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to His name;
Worship the LORD in holy array.

Psalm 96:8a
Ascribe to the LORD the glory of His name;

God's glory is not to be shared with anyone. It belongs to Him alone.

Isaiah 48:11
“For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act;
For how can My name be profaned?
And My glory I will not give to another.

 From a very early age, we're taught to share with others. Yet, God is not some child being taught how to interact with other children. God is the Creator of the universe. Colossians 1:16 says all things were created by Him, both in the heavens and on the earth. Psalm 115:15 states the same.

Psalm 47:8
God reigns over the nations,
God sits on His holy throne.

How can we expect our Ruler to share His glory? How can we expect anything from God at all? Are we worthy enough to lay claim to even the smallest inheritance? What does Romans 3:23 say? Does it say that all have sinned but still deserve credit for their efforts? No! It says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God! God owes us nothing. We have zero right to claim what is not ours. By nature, we are fallen beings who deserve nothing more than death and eternal damnation. We deserve outer darkness with weeping and gnashing of teeth. Our God is in the heavens. He sits on His holy throne and rules over all of creation forever and ever.  If all glory belongs to the Lord, it stands to reason that anything we might boast of is actually us attempting to rob God. Instead of giving honor and praise to the King, it is our attempt to play thief to the very One who gave us life. How arrogant can we be?!?!?! Yet, this is exactly what we see in verse 2. We see men taunting, "Where, now, is their God?" We can see the same in Psalm 42:10.

Psalm 42:10
As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me,
While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

Can such behavior and attitude really be excused by a holy and righteous God? Can a man go so far as to mock God and get away with it?

Micah 7:10
Then my enemy will see,
And shame will cover her who said to me,
“Where is the LORD your God?”
My eyes will look on her;
At that time she will be trampled down
Like mire of the streets.

 If we plan to go before God with such great audacity, be prepared to pay the price. Such a man may see death sooner rather than later.

Isaiah 45:9a
“Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker—

The question that begs to be asked is, "Is this really fair?" Would a loving God really care if we mess up? Won't He forgive somebody in His love so long as that person tries to be good? After all, if we have already fallen short of the glory of God, shouldn't such behavior be expected? To this I respond with questions of my own. Is it fair that we take God for granted in times of peace? Is it fair that we neglect to thank the very One who blesses us day after day? Even more so, is it fair that the Father would send His Son to die a brutal death on the cross so that guilty men could be reconciled to Him to spend eternity basking in God's glory in heaven? No, fairness is hardly the question at all. Verse 3 very plainly states that our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.

The sovereignty of God is as much a part of His glory as any of His other attributes. God doesn't need to consult man before acting.

Ezekiel 36:22
 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went.

Isaiah 40:13-14
Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD,
Or as His counselor has informed Him?
With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding?
And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge

In His sovereignty, He created the angels, even those who fell. In His sovereignty, He created man and even decreed the Fall. In His sovereignty, He ordained to send His Son in a beautiful plan of redemption. Christ was no mere afterthought. Every last detail of life is because of God's sovereign rule from the throne. In a sermon on Matthew 20:15, Charles Spurgeon stated:

Charles Spurgeon
There is no attribute more comforting to His children than that of God's Sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe trials, they believe that Sovereignty has ordained their afflictions, that Sovereignty overrules them, and that Sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children ought more earnestly to contend than the doctrine of their Master over all creation -- the Kingship of God over all the works of His own hands -- the Throne of God and His right to sit upon that Throne.

Arthur W. Pink said that:

A.W. Pink
Divine sovereignty means that God is God in fact, as well as in name, that He is on the Throne of the universe, directing all things, working all things "after the counsel of His own will".

It is not in spite of all of this truth that we give God glory but BECAUSE of it. (read Psalm 115:1) While God is righteous, holy, just, jealous, and wrathful, He is also love. It is because of God's goodness, faithfulness, and truth that we proclaim His name to the masses and declare of His goodness. Our God is so vastly different than any other god (lowercase g). He is true. He is all knowing. He is sovereign. He is eternal. He is unchanging. He is holy. He is patient. He is good. He is merciful. He is gracious. He is faithful. He is loving. But most of all, He is alive.

(read Psalm 115:4-7)
In those verses, we see a clear distinction between our God and the idols worshiped by the world. There could've been any number of ways in which to describe the idols but we see a very specific description being used. Ears that do not hear. Noses that do not smell. Hands that do not feel. Feet that cannot walk. Throats that remain silent. Imagine how insulting this would've been to the one who worshiped such an idol. After all, we don't take too kindly when we hear people blaspheming our God. Honestly, I can fully understand how one would be insulted. That being said, I care more about not insulting God than insulting man. The Scripture is plain. I love the passage in 1 Kings 18 where we see the prophet Elijah challenging the worshipers of Baal. In verses 25-29, it says:

1 Kings 18:25-29
So Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one ox for yourselves and prepare it first for you are many, and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it.” Then they took the ox which was given them and they prepared it and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon saying, “O Baal, answer us.” But there was no voice and no one answered. And they leaped about the altar which they made. It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.” So they cried with a loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them. When midday was past, they raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention.

The ESV actually translates verse 27 as "Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself..." When we look at this, we see some serious smack talk. While Elijah meant all of it as a taunt, to those worshiping Baal, it wouldn't have been too far off from a very real possibility. In some ancient texts, Baal was known as one who would travel and fight wars. He was even reported as dying and coming back to life, hence the need to be awakened. Chances are, Elijah's taunts would've gone right over their heads. Nevertheless, he mocked them with a purpose. He mocked them to show that there was no voice and no god to pay attention to them. Yet, they continued to plea for their god to answer them. They leapt around and began cutting themselves in an attempt to get Baal to answer. What happened next is amazing!

1 Kings 18:30-39
Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD which had been torn down. Elijah took twelve stones according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, “Israel shall be your name.” So with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he made a trench around the altar, large enough to hold two measures of seed. Then he arranged the wood and cut the ox in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four pitchers with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” And he said, “Do it a second time,” and they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it a third time. The water flowed around the altar and he also filled the trench with water. At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O LORD, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again.” Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God.”

God answered Elijah upon his first request. Not only did God accomplish what Baal could not but He accomplished even more, whereas the Baal worshipers simply had to get him to consume the meat, Elijah had them completely drench the sacrifice in water before it was his turn. No, our God is far more powerful than a little water.

Romans 1:21-23 says:

Romans 1:21-23
For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

Mankind made idols in every fashion you could think of including images of other men. I'm reminded of when I lived in Japan. In Kamakura, there was a giant statue of Buddha. Further down the street, there was a temple with a golden Buddha. As you walked through the gardens, you could see little statues that were dressed in various articles of clothing. These statues represented the lost children of the individual worshipers. They would go and dress these statues in winter to keep them warm. It was sad on many different levels. I remember another temple where people were fighting to get close to the Buddha idol. They wanted to drop their money into the giant box in front of the statue. You had people in the back who were literally throwing money to the front hoping to be able to give to the idol. As I looked upon the Buddha statues, you could see they came in a variety of forms ranging from a peaceful chubby guy to a fiery warrior to a demon. However, they all had one thing in common: they were all depicting a man. They had reduced God to nothing more than an image of a man. We see verse 4 of our text tells us that all who make them become like them. What does this mean? The idol is empty. It's useless. It has no voice. It's dead. All who worship idols become just like them. Idols may be made in the image of whatever form man concocts but man is ultimately just as dead as the idol they create. They have eyes but cannot see God. They have ears but cannot hear the gospel of Christ. They have noses but cannot smell the fragrant aroma of Christ's sacrifice. They have hands that will never be cleansed. They have feet but do not run after God. They have throats but do not praise God. Then again, verse 17 of our text tells us as much (read Psalm 115:17).

Many Christians read through these texts and wonder how a man could worship something he made with his own hands. The Scriptures address this same concern.

Isaiah 44:9-17
Those who fashion a graven image are all of them futile, and their precious things are of no profit; even their own witnesses fail to see or know, so that they will be put to shame. Who has fashioned a god or cast an idol to no profit? Behold, all his companions will be put to shame, for the craftsmen themselves are mere men. Let them all assemble themselves, let them stand up, let them tremble, let them together be put to shame. The man shapes iron into a cutting tool and does his work over the coals, fashioning it with hammers and working it with his strong arm. He also gets hungry and his strength fails; he drinks no water and becomes weary. Another shapes wood, he extends a measuring line; he outlines it with red chalk. He works it with planes and outlines it with a compass, and makes it like the form of a man, like the beauty of man, so that it may sit in a house. Surely he cuts cedars for himself, and takes a cypress or an oak and raises it for himself among the trees of the forest. He plants a fir, and the rain makes it grow. Then it becomes something for a man to burn, so he takes one of them and warms himself; he also makes a fire to bake bread. He also makes a god and worships it; he makes it a graven image and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire; over this half he eats meat as he roasts a roast and is satisfied. He also warms himself and says, “Aha! I am warm, I have seen the fire.” But the rest of it he makes into a god, his graven image. He falls down before it and worships; he also prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god.”

It almost sounds silly, doesn't it? Yet we see this taking place all the time. It may not look like what that passage is depicting but we see idolatry all the time in the form of worshiping celebrities. It may be in the form of wealth. Perhaps it looks like a desire to be in control of all things at all times. Yes, idols exist today and they are just as dead and powerless as they were back then. Why then do we fall before them time and time again?

Isaiah 44:6-8
“Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts:
‘I am the first and I am the last,
And there is no God besides Me.
‘Who is like Me? Let him proclaim and declare it;
Yes, let him recount it to Me in order,
From the time that I established the ancient nation.
And let them declare to them the things that are coming
And the events that are going to take place.
 ‘Do not tremble and do not be afraid;
Have I not long since announced it to you and declared it?
And you are My witnesses.
Is there any God besides Me,
Or is there any other Rock?
I know of none.’”

I ask again, why do we repeatedly turn to the vices of this fleeting world? Ask yourself if there is anything you place before God. Ask if there is anything you maybe run to with more excitement that you get at the thought of being able to come before the very presence of God in worship. I'm not saying it's wrong to enjoy other things. I'm not saying you have to move into one of the rooms at the church to ensure you never miss a meeting, service, or opportunity. In fact, it's very possible to be doing everything the "textbook Christian" should be doing and still be wrong. A couple weeks ago, the pastor covered Philippians 1:9-11. It says:

Philippians 1:9-11
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment,  so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

I've seen people who appear to be as Godly as they come and it turned out to be the case. I've also seen people who turned out to be cleverly disguised. Though it appeared both were giving glory to God, one was just a wolf out to seek his own glory and attempting to lure as many Christians away as he could. True knowledge. Discernment. Increased love. Approving of excellent things. Being sincere and blameless. Having the fruit of righteousness. This declares how the Christian should live. That being said, I would urge such a person to constantly check themselves as it's easy to become haughty and prideful. However, as the passage says, it all has a purpose. It's meant to bring all glory and praise to God. When those feelings of pride may begin to sneak in, I've found Roman 9:22-26 helps snap things back into perspective.

Romans 9:22-26
What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. As He says also in Hosea,

As I began before, I'm simply asking you to quietly ponder if there is anything that excites you more than the opportunity to worship with other believers in the presence of God. There is only one God and He is alive! He has called us out of darkness and into the Light. He has removed our heart of stone and given us a heart of flesh. He has given us sight to see. He has given us ears to hear. He hears our prayers and answers them in the form of His grace. He preserves our hearts and keeps us in Him when we would so easily drift away otherwise. He planned, orchestrated, and carried out His redemptive story in Christ. He has saved us from eternity past, continues to save us from ourselves as we follow in obedience, and will one day save us from all forms of suffering and sorrow. Our God is alive and is worthy of our praise. Not to us, not to us, but to His name give glory! The Reformers held to a Latin phrase as should we all: "Soli Deo Gloria: Glory to God alone!" Let us be as the psalmist as we say:

Psalm 86:12
I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And will glorify Your name forever.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

#39) Meditations on Evangelism

#39) Meditations on Evangelism
delivered on 06OCT2013

Evangelism is a topic many people enjoy hearing about. It's one of those subjects that makes us feel encouraged as we listen to the stories. It makes us feel thankful for all the faithful Christians who are working to further advance the kingdom of God. Unfortunately, too few of us will go beyond this. When confronted with an opportunity, we make excuses as to why we shouldn't bother anybody. We may become nervous and try to avoid any awkward moments. We may become afraid of how the other person will respond. Then again, maybe it's because we simply don't understand what evangelism is really all about. It's my hope that, as we dive into the Scripture, we can unpack what it teaches on the subject and then apply it to our lives.

The word translated as "evangelist" is only used only 3 times in all of the New Testament and literally means "a bringer of good tidings". The 3 passages it can be found in are Acts 21:8; Ephesians 4:11; & 2 Timothy 4:5.

Acts 21:8
On the next day we left and came to Caesarea, and entering the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, we stayed with him.

Ephesians 4:11
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,

2 Timothy 4:5
But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Based on Ephesians, we can clearly see this is an important and distinctive role given from God just as were apostles, prophets, and, presently, pastors and teachers. In Acts, we see Phillip is described as the evangelist. Notice the definite article. There was no confusion that Phillip was given this particular role by God for the purpose of equipping the saints and building up the body of Christ. Interestingly enough, Phillip is the only person who is personally identified as being an evangelist in the official sense. Acts chapter 8 covers some of his works as an evangelist. The closest other spot we come is the passage in 2 Timothy.

2 Timothy 4:1-5
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

If I were to make the statement that not all people are called to be pastors, I'm fairly certain there would be unanimous approval from everyone in here. What about teachers? Doesn't James 3:1 urge that not many should become teachers? Considering pastors and teachers are official roles, does it stand to reason that not all are called to fill the official role of evangelist? I would say this is a valid statement. So, does this exempt Christians from evangelism? Does it exempt those Christians who do not fill the official role of teacher from going out and teaching others? Not at all! Look again at 2 Timothy 4:5. Notice that Paul is not actually referring to Timothy as an evangelist. Though the same word is being used here, we can see it is only being used as a reference point. Paul is not saying Timothy is filling the role of evangelist. He's telling him he needs to do the work of an evangelist. Timothy was called to do a great many things though filling the official role of evangelist was not one of them. Some are spiritually gifted in specific ways and God places those people in unique positions. Pastors and teachers fit that bill as well. Evangelists are no different. That being said, there was no confusion that he was to perform the duties of evangelism nonetheless.

To further drive home this point, we need to look at another word. Whereas the word translated as "evangelist" is used only 3 times in the New Testament, its root word is used 55 times and is translated multiple ways. It is translated as "preach" 23 times, "preach the Gospel" 22 times, "bring good tidings" 2 times, and other methods another 8 times. The very foundation of the word is clearly one of great importance. In fact, without it, we can't even accomplish the Great Commission.

Matthew 28:19-20
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Though the word used in that passage is not the same word we were originally discussing, it is very closely tied to it. Remember, though not all are called to be teachers, all Christians are called to teach to some degree. Christ Himself has commanded it! So how are we to accomplish this? How do we make disciples of all nations? How can we make disciples of all nations unless they first hear the good news? How is this accomplished? Through evangelism!

Romans 10:13-15
for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!”

The word translated as "bring good news" is none other than the root of evangelist. I love how the KJV words it: "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" It actually uses the same Greek word twice in the same sentence. Though some have the supernatural gift of evangelism so that they may fill the specific role, God has told us He counts it as a beautiful thing when His own share His gospel with the lost. Perhaps many can relate to Danny Akin when he says, "I don't have the gift but I do have the responsibility."

Sadly, evangelism has steadily been reduced to the other guy's job. It's taken a back seat to the struggles of daily life and the already tight time constraints. As the bride of Christ, my fear is that we've simply lost our evangelistic fervor. How can this be when Scripture tells us the very souls of men are at stake? I love the way Charles Spurgeon had a zeal for evangelism. He understood God's sovereignty yet he also understood God's natural method for bringing new saints to Himself. Spurgeon said, "We believe in predestination; we believe in election and non-election: but, notwithstanding that, we believe that we must preach to men, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and ye shall be saved,' but believe not on him and ye be damned."

We, as Christians, have a duty to proclaim Christ crucified. We have a duty to evangelize to the lost. To some, it comes easy. To others, it is a work and a chore. Regardless, we are all called to perform this work just as Paul charged Timothy. After all, it isn't called work without good reason. It may not always be easy but it is always critically important. John MacArthur makes a very valid point regarding the method of evangelism. He states, "It is also important to note that the purpose of evangelism -- whether by an ordinary Christian to a neighbor, by a pastor to the unsaved in his congregation, or by an evangelist to the general public -- is to carefully but simply help unbelievers become aware of their sinfulness and lostness and to proclaim Jesus Christ as the only Savior and Lord. Any human manipulation in that process, no matter how well intentioned, always becomes a barrier to genuine belief."

In John 4, we see this was the method Christ used in evangelizing to the Samaritan woman at the well. While speaking to her of living water and never thirsting, he also made it abundantly clear that she was living in a life of sin by in the way he speaks of her living with another man out of wedlock and her multiple previous marriages. There was no promise of health, wealth, and prosperity. There was no sinner's prayer. It was a clear cut method of lovingly pointing out her desperate need for a Savior while telling her the way to eternal life. Psalm 90:8 says, " You have placed our iniquities before You, Our secret sins in the light of Your presence." There will come a day when the unsaved will hear of their inability to save themselves. Would you rather they hear it from you first or from God Himself on the day of judgment?

To take another look at Spurgeon's example, he took this approach quite often. He was not afraid of how others would respond. He was more concerned with how God would judge. In his sermon, "Compel Them To Come In," regarding those who simply feel they cannot believe or perhaps find it to be an inconvenient time, he stated, "No, my friend, and you never will believe if you look first at your believing. Remember, I am not come to invite you to faith, but am come to invite you to Christ....Our first business has not to do with faith, but with Christ. Come, I beseech you, on Calvary's mount, and see the cross. Behold the Son of God, He who made the heavens and the earth, dying for your sins. Look to Him, is there not power in Him to save? But did I hear you whisper that this was not a convenient time? Then what must I say to you? When will that convenient time come? Shall it come when you are in hell? Will that time be convenient? Shall it come when you are on your dying bed, and the death throttle is in your throat -- shall it come then? Or when the burning sweat is scalding your brow; and then again, when the cold clammy sweat is there, shall those be convenient times? When pains are racking you, and you are on the borders of the tomb? No, sir, this morning is the convenient time."

It's this kind of passion that needs to be rekindled in the church. We need to recover our heart for the lost. Then, we need to take action and evangelize. Sadly, this problem isn't new to our culture. In fact, Jesus himself addressed the situation and even gave the remedy.

Matthew 9:37-38
Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

At the 9Marks conference, it was said that "no church is accidentally evangelical. It must be intentional." If we are met with resistance, it shouldn't discourage us. After all, we aren't saving anybody. We're simply going fishing. God does all the work in salvation but He has commanded us to preach His word to the lost so that He might then follow through and perform His miraculous work. Trust that God is in control and remain faithful. As the old hymn says, "Trust and obey." Evangelism shouldn't be the arduous duty that this day and age makes it out to be. It doesn't need to be feared nor should it be limited to weekly church events where there's safety in numbers. Evangelism is a joyful privilege that encompasses our entire lives. It's an opportunity to preach Christ crucified and extend the offer of eternal life to all who will believe. Is there no sweeter encouragement? Sadly, not all will see the glory of Heaven but, rest assured that not a single one of God's elect will see the fires of Hell.

Closing with one final quote from Spurgeon, "That is why we preach! If there are so many fish to be taken into the net, I will go and catch some of them. Because many are ordained to be caught, I spread my nets with eager expectation. I never could see why that should repress our zealous efforts. It seems to me to be the very thing that should awaken us to energy -- that God has a people, and that these people shall be brought in. When I cease to preach salvation by faith in Jesus, put me into a lunatic asylum, for you may be sure that my mind is gone."

Monday, July 22, 2013

#38) A Superior Covenant

HEBREWS 8:1-13 (delivered 21JUL2013)

Hebrews spends a great deal of time contrasting the Old Covenant from the New Covenant. Given the audience, this only makes sense. The main point of focus in Chapter 8 is how the New Covenant in Christ is far superior to the Old Covenant. To clearly show this, the author makes several distinctions that would have hit home with the Jewish Christians to whom he was speaking. I'd like to cover several of these as well as a few highlights.

Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,

TAKEN HIS SEAT - This is something that set apart Christ from the high priests of the Old Testament. Hebrews 10:11 says, "Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins;" However, Hebrews 1:3 says, "When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high." The work of the Old Testament priest was never finished. He continually stood making sacrifices for his people. The work of Christ was finished at the cross. It was thorough, complete, and fully adequate.

AT THE RIGHT HAND - This is important to note. Most people understand the simple fact that Jesus sits at the Father's right hand. In fact, we can even see this is Psalm 110:1 where it plainly states this. However, there is more to it. The Sanhedrin were a very powerful group of ruling elders among the Jewish people. When they would be holding their court of law, two scribes would be in attendance. The scribe on the left would be in charge of tallying up the votes for condemnation while the scribe on the right would be responsible for tallying the votes of acquittal. The imagery is of the High Priest sitting at the right hand of God, writing acquittals for His people. John 3:17 tells us, "God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him." Apart from Christ writing our acquittal, we all stand condemned.

a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man.

A MINISTER IN THE SANCTUARY - What does it mean when it says that Christ is a minister in the sanctuary? In Hebrews 7:25, it says, "He always lives to make intercession for them." Though Christ's work in completed, He still makes intercession for us with the Father. This was part of the ongoing work of Christ. His work was so grand, it would have continual and lasting effects long after it was finished. Though our High Priest is now seated, He still makes intercession on our behalf.

TRUE TABERNACLE - (read Wisdom of Solomon 9:8 and note on the book itself)

For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer.

ALSO HAVE SOMETHING TO OFFER - If the work of Christ is finished, what else could He possibly have to offer? This goes back to Verse 2 where it says that Christ continues to minister. Though the sacrificial work has been completed, Christ's priestly duties are still very active. What was the purpose of the priest but to make intercession on behalf of their people? Without Christ, we could never go before the Father. We could never ask forgiveness. We could never offer up thanks to the Lord. We could never seek communion with God. The only reason this is possible is because, just as the Old Testament priests offered reconciliatory services between God and man, Christ actively serves in this same role. Any good work we do today is only recognized because Christ is offering that up to the Father on our behalf.

Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law;

IF HE WERE ON EARTH, HE WOULD NOT BE A PRIEST AT ALL - Simply put, Jesus came from the line of Judah. The priests were all from the tribe of Levi. From an Old Testament perspective, Christ would not have qualified to be a priest. This is covered in Hebrews 7:13 where it says, "For the one concerning whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar." The Levitical priests were founded upon the Law whereas Christ's priestly role is founded on the oath of God as seen in Hebrews 7:21.

who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, “SEE,” He says, “THAT YOU MAKE all things ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN WHICH WAS SHOWN YOU ON THE MOUNTAIN.”

A COPY AND SHADOW - This goes back to Verse 2 where it speaks of the true tabernacle. The author of Hebrews touches on this more in Chapter 9 when he says, "For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us." I'll refrain from going too much further into that passage as it'll probably be covered next week.

WARNED BY GOD - This is just quoting Exodus 25:40 where God warns Moses to make the tabernacle exactly as He had described to him on the mountain. It may have only been a copy or a shadow but it still needed to reflect the actual thing in the best manner available on this Earth.

But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.

COVENANT - A covenant is nothing more than a mutual agreement. In all covenants, there are promises made. Here, we see the New Covenant is being referred to as the better covenant that is enacted on better promises. As per Hebrews 7:12, "For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also." By now, we can probably see this is because the Old Covenant was based on a copy and shadow whereas the New Covenant is based on Christ and God's grace. With a new High Priest under a new covenant came the necessity of a change in the law. No longer as we bound to a law that we are unable to fulfill. We are now bound to the One who fulfilled it for us.

For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.

FAULTLESS - The Old Covenant was still a very real covenant between God and man but it wasn't without its faults. Jeremiah prophesied that a new covenant would be coming. Despite this, when it finally came, countless Jews rejected it. Even today, they cling to the Old Covenant instead of accepting the New Covenant which God promised was coming so many years ago through His prophet.

(QUOTE) Verses 8-12 are a direct quote of Jeremiah 31:31-34.


NEW COVENANT - All too often, we tend to look at the Old Testament with antiquity. We view it as being something for a people of another time. We then look at the New Testament as something entirely different. While this is true to a point, we must also see the relation between the two. While the New is definitely superior, it isn't all that different on a foundational level. In fact, while they can be contrasted all day long, they can also be compared. The New Covenant is really just a RE-newed Old Covenant. For instance, both have a High Priest. Both have a blood sacrifice. Both have reconciliatory offerings. There are many parallels. That being said, we also must take into account that it is "not like the covenant which I made with their fathers" as verse 9 says. It is far superior!


FOR THEY DID NOT CONTINUE - Under the Old Covenant, continued obedience was a requirement. Israel did not continue in their obedience and, as a result, they were no longer in God's care. This is just one way in which the New Covenant is superior to the Old. Be thankful God's care for us is not contingent upon our strict and unwavering obedience!


WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS - This is not a new concept by any means. In fact, the Old Testament Law was also meant to be written on the hearts of Israel. Deuteronomy 30:14 says, "But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it." We see several examples where this was the case with the righteous:
Psalm 37:30-31 - The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, And his tongue speaks justice. The law of his God is in his heart; His steps do not slip.
Psalm 40:8 - I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.
Psalm 119:11 - Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.

Unfortunately, this was not the case with the unrighteous. They ignored the Law of God. They refused to keep it in their hearts.
Deuteronomy 5:29 - Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!

Just as was the original intent of the Old Covenant Law, so is the renewed intention. Of course, it is in a superior manner. Whereas Israel had the Law on tablets which could be kept in their heart, we have the Law written within us and have the Spirit to guide us. As 2 Corinthians 3:3 says, "being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." We can see this in both Ezekiel and John:
Ezekiel 11:19-20: And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God.
John 14:17: "that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you."


NOT TEACH - This is in no way minimizing the importance of teaching sound biblical doctrine. Nor is it saying we are to neglect teaching others about Christ. It is referring to the Helper who would be sent as a part of the New Covenant.
1 CORINTHIANS 2:13: which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.

Without going over all the verses, similar statements can be found in 1 Thessalonians 4:9 and 1 John 2:27. Isaiah 54:13a tells us, "All your sons will be taught of the LORD;" All of our authority in teaching comes from the Word of God. Apart from it, we can't make any declarations regarding God. He has given us His revealed Word along with His Spirit. Again, this is not minimizing the importance of teaching sound doctrine. After all, teachers have a very stern warning against teaching falsehoods. This is because of the importance of the position. That is not the point being taught here. Interestingly enough, the Greek words used are two different words. The first instance is "ginosko" (jee-no-sko) which refers to an intimate knowledge, oftentimes used with a sexual connotation. The second instance actually uses the word "eido" (ay-doe) which is simply basic knowledge or perception. With Scripture, all can come to know of God. However, only those moved by the Spirit will come to KNOW (gee-no-sko) God. His illuminating Spirit is our primary teacher who teaches in accordance with the Word. The superior part is that, instead of being told to know the Lord, we will have a personal and intimate knowledge of Him that cannot be taught by any mere person. It is taught by God Himself.


REMEMBER THEIR SINS NO MORE - This is infinitely superior to the Old Covenant in that the Old never actually covered their sins. God never truly forgave sins as the blood of animals was not worthy. The blood sacrifices were all temporary and had to be repeated. This is because they were only foreshadowing the one true sacrifice that was yet to come. In Christ, our sins are not merely temporarily covered. They are forever forgiven and God remembers them no more.

When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.

READY TO DISAPPEAR - All of the Old Testament pointed to the coming of Christ. The priests, prophets, sacrifices, etc were all merely types that foreshadowed Christ. Just as Hebrews 7:12 says the covenant changed out of necessity due to a change in priesthood, this verse shows how the New Covenant rendered the Old obsolete. Interestingly enough, the author of Hebrews specifically states the obsolete was "ready to disappear." The sacrificial system had been abolished when the temple veil was torn from top to bottom giving men direct access to God. Within only 5 years of Hebrews being written, the physical temple of Jerusalem was destroyed along with the altar. By the author stating it was getting ready to disappear, it makes you wonder if he had any idea how spot on his statement really was.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

#37) I AM the True Vine

Seven "I AM" Statements of Jesus

1. I AM the bread of life (John 6:35, 48)
2. I AM the light of the world (John 8:12, 9:5)
3. I AM the door (John 10:7)
4. I AM the good shepherd (John 10:11-14)
5. I AM the resurrection and the life (John 11:25)
6. I AM the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6)
7. I AM the true vine (John 15:1-6)

John 15:1-6
I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.

Ask what is meant by true vine

v.1true vine: Using the analogy of the vine and vineyard is nothing new. John’s use of it is actually a play on the Old Testament.(Isaiah 5:7a- “For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel.”, Hosea 10:1- “Israel is a luxuriant vine;”) Here, we see Jesus going above and beyond by calling himself the true vine. There is far more to this than a mere analogy. He is proving that he is the fulfillment of the promises given to Israel. (Read Psalm 80:14-19)

Psalm 80:14-19
O God of hosts, turn again now, we beseech You;
Look down from heaven and see, and take care of this vine,
Even the shoot which Your right hand has planted,
And on the son whom You have strengthened for Yourself.
It is burned with fire, it is cut down;
They perish at the rebuke of Your countenance.
Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand,
Upon the son of man whom You made strong for Yourself.
Then we shall not turn back from You;
Revive us, and we will call upon Your name.
O LORD God of hosts, restore us;
Cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.

In verse 14, the psalmist describes Israel as the vine. Verse 15 says that it was God Himself who planted the vine. Though Israel was meant for great things, we see verse 16 says they were perishing. In verse 17, he pleads with God to show His mercy and grace. In fact, he pleads that it would be done through the Son of Man. When Jesus says he is the true vine, he is saying he is the fulfillment of the promise made to Israel. Christ’s church is Israel fulfilled. While the nation of Israel was a foreshadowing of the vine, Jesus is the true, authentic vine and it is the Father who is the caretaker.

v.2 – Verse 2 is often used by people to make a case for losing salvation. However, when taken in context with the rest of Scripture, it falls short. The phrase “takes away” comes from the Greek word airo (ī'-rō). The word translated into prunes is kathairo (kä-thī'-rō). Kathairo has multiple meanings. While it does mean to prune, it also means to cleanse of impurity. Jesus is not telling us we are to live a works based faith lest we be cut off. He is actually telling us how we will know one another and is giving us a hope that we will grow in him. Those who are cut off are those who we are warned of throughout Hebrews as well as in Jude. They are those who appear to be Christian within the visible church but have never truly become members of the invisible Church through faith. They are the apostates or wolves in sheep’s clothing. Jesus promises to cut them out completely lest they sap the strength from the rest of the fruit in the vine. For the true believers who will produce fruit, he will also cleanse and prune them so that they will be even more fruitful. The analogy would have hit home back then because the major fruit grown were grapes in the vineyard and this was exactly how it was done and for the same reasons. We see a similar warning in Matthew 15:13 where it says, “Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted.” Those planted by God WILL bear fruit.

v.3 – Here, Christ is telling us how we are to be cleansed. In fact, we see him using the word katharos. This is the root of the word kathairo used in verse 2. He tells us we will be cleansed by the Word (John 17:17, Ephesians 5:26).

John 17:17
Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.

Ephesians 5:26
so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,

v.4-6 – We have a complete and utter dependence upon Christ. Scripture gives plenty of examples of our unity in Christ and the relationship that follows. (1 Cor. 3:11 & Eph 2:20-22 = foundation & building)

1 Corinthians 3:11
For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2:20-22
having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

(1 Cor 6:15a & Eph 1:22 = head and body)

1 Corinthians 6:15a
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?

Ephesians 1:22
And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church,

(Revelation 19:7 = husband & wife).

Revelation 19:7
Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.”

The union between the vine and the branches is one in which no branch can produce fruit apart from the vine. Unless the nutrients are flowing freely, a branch will wither and die. The use of the word “abide” goes to show that salvation has already taken place in the individual. It is not something that he is working toward. Apart from Christ, we cannot produce any good fruit. As a result, we can rest assured the fruit is not our own but is of the Spirit working in us. We have nothing of ourselves to boast about. If it were so, we would continue to produce good works apart from the vine and Scripture would be a lie. The Spirit alone produces the fruit in the believer and keeps the believer abiding in Christ until the end. For those who were never a part of the true vine but only appeared to be for a time, they will have their day of judgment. Verse 6 is quite clear they are cut off, thrown away as a branch, dry up, and are burned in the fire. Hebrews 9:27 says, “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,”.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

#36) Justified By (________)

Justified By (______)

Tonight, we are going to be looking at a doctrine that has divided the Church for roughly 500 years and has been an issue for even longer. It isn’t a subject that can be brushed to the wayside or compromised on. It is a matter of extreme importance and we all need to know where we stand on it. It is the topic of justification. Tonight, we are going to touch on some of the different views as well as what the Bible says on the matter.

R.C. Sproul defines justification as “a legal action by God by which He declares a person just in His sight.” defines it as “to declare innocent or guiltless; absolve; acquit.”

Romans 3:23
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Psalm 51:5
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.

Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.

Romans 6:23a
For the wages of sin is death,

Scripture makes it quite clear that none of us are innocent. We have all fallen prey to sin and all of us are blemished before the glory of God. In fact, Scripture declares that, because of our sin, we are all worthy of death and Hell. None of us are righteous enough to deserve Heaven. According to God’s Word, we are all wretched sinners. How is it then that we can possibly be declared justified by God? Is it something we work toward? Is it simply by His love that He overlooks our sin? Is it temporal and constantly being renewed with a chance of forfeiture or is it a permanent and once-for-all action? This is what I hope to touch on tonight.

Romans 3:28
For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

James 2:24
You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

Why the apparent contradiction? Is it by faith alone or is it by faith plus works? While only having one true answer, the response will vary depending on who you ask. Ask a Protestant and he will tell you one thing. Ask a Catholic and he will tell you another. To really understand the doctrine of justification, we also need to understand what it is not.

The Roman Catholic view of justification is seen as taking place in the sacraments. Roman Catholicism has 7 sacraments that are delivered through priests alone. They are baptism, confirmation, Holy Communion, confession, marriage, Holy orders, and the anointing of the sick. The one I want to touch on tonight is baptism.

Roman Catholics and Protestants hold a very different view of baptism. While Protestants hold that it is symbolic of our dying to self and rising in Christ (an outward sign of inward faith), Catholics believe baptism justifies an individual of all prior sins and makes him, at that very moment, cleansed before God.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, Sec 1, Ch 3, Art 2
Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy.

Here, we see baptism is spoken of being the thing that inwardly justifies. It is important to note that baptism is also viewed as being an act of faith so, while being a work, it is also viewed as a work done in faith that was already present in the individual. In other words, according to Catholicism, justification is achieved through both faith and works with neither one being sufficient in and of itself apart from the other.

(Review hand out.)

Not only does the Catholic Church believe in justification through both faith and works together, they also teach that it can be lost through the practice of mortal sins. The Council of Trent was held during the Reformation in the 1500’s. Its main purpose was to stop the Reformers who were protesting the Catholic Church. In fact, this is where we get our name as Protestants and it is important to know the history behind it. James Montgomery Boice says, “the evangelical church is either dead or dying as a significant religious force because it has forgotten what it stands for.” Trent made many declarations against the Reformers in an attempt to slow down the crowds who were rapidly converting to Protestantism.

Council of Trent
Against the subtle wits of some also, who “by pleasing speeches and good words seduce the hearts of the innocent” (Rom. 16:18), it must be maintained that the grace of justification once received is lost not only by infidelity, whereby also faith itself is lost, but also by every other mortal sin, though in this case faith is not lost; thus defending the teaching of the divine law which excludes from the kingdom of God not only unbelievers, but also the faithful [who are] “fornicators, adulterers, effeminate, liers with mankind, thieves, covetous, drunkards, railers, extortioners” (1 Cor. 6:9f.; 1 Tim. 1:9f.), and all others who commit deadly sins, from which with the help of divine grace they can refrain, and on account of which they are cut off from the grace of Christ.

In other words, if you commit infidelity, or unbelief, you lose not only your faith but also your justification. If you commit any other mortal sin, you may still have your faith but your justification will be lost and, therefore, must be regained through the deliverance of the sacraments by a priest as well as other acts such as penance.

As I said in the beginning, the doctrine of justification is the key doctrine that divided the Church during the Reformation. Because of this, you can probably imagine the Protestant belief is quite different. While the Catholic belief is a hybrid system of faith plus works, the Protestant belief has always been justification by faith alone, or sola fide.

The French Reformer, John Calvin, believed that all sins are mortal just by the simple fact that Romans 6:23 tells us the wages of sin is death. However, he argued that, while being worthy of death, no sin could cause a believer to lose his justification. The large difference is that Catholic teaching is that man must actually BE just within while Protestants teach that man must be DECLARED as just by God.

Romans 3:24
being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;

Romans 5:1
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

Romans 5:9
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

Galatians 2:16
nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.

Works do not justify. We are justified apart from the Law. Justification comes only by faith through the redemption in Christ Jesus by His blood! There is no other way! It is by the grace of God alone that He chose to send His innocent and spotless Son to die on the cross so that we could become heirs of the kingdom of God instead of heirs of Hell.

R.C. Sproul
On the cross Christ paid the price for our sin. This was both a work of expiation and propitiation. By expiation he “took” away” our sins from us. By propitiation he satisfied the justice of God by undergoing the penalty for our guilt.

In Christ, we are declared spotless. His blood has washed us clean. However, righteousness is not the same as cleanliness. We are called to obey God and to be imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1). Of course, none of this is possible within ourselves. This is yet another act of Christ. Whereas Catholic doctrine teaches an inerrant or infused justice which makes the person truly inwardly righteous, Protestantism teaches if imputed righteousness in which the reward of Christ is given to us and our wages of sin are given to Him.

2 Corinthians
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.

Christ was worthy of all of the kingdom of Heaven yet he gave it up so that we could acquire it. It is not by our works that we earn merit. It is solely by our faith in Christ that his merit is imputed unto us and that our justification remains.

James Buchanan
…the righteousness of Christ considered as the merit of his mediatorial work must ever continue, even when it is imputed to us, to belong primarily, and, in one important respect, exclusively to him by whom alone that work was accomplished. It is his righteousness in a sense in which it can never be ours: It is his, as having been wrought out by him; and it is ours, only as it is imputed to us.

R.C. Sproul
By faith the justified person receives all the blessings of God due to Jesus for his perfect obedience. In this regard Christ is our righteousness.

The Roman Catholic doctrine of faith plus works simply does not jive with Scripture. To claim we become just by any act other than the imputation of Christ’s merit is to say we are saved by something other than Christ alone. Salvation is not in the hands of priests nor is it in the sacraments. There is not enough of our own merit in the world to save us and the blood of Christ alone is sufficient.

R.C. Sproul
We are justified by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone.

Knowing the Scriptural stance on the cause of justification is critical to the Gospel message. However, knowing whether it is temporal or permanent is equally as important. Hebrews 6 is a much debated passage that both sides appeal to for their beliefs. Listen closely:

Hebrews 6:4-6
For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.

Those who believe in losing your justification and salvation appeal to this passage by saying those who have been saved can fall away and never again to be renewed unto God. This is NOT what is being said in this passage! In fact, this interpretation completely destroys everything the Gospel teaches of justification and the complete work of Christ.

The claim from the “you can lose it” camp is based on the phrase “those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit.” They say one cannot partake of the Holy Spirit or be enlightened unless they have first been saved. This is based on verses such as 1 Corinthians 2:14 which says,

1 Corinthians 2:14
But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

The problem is that the above verse is being taken out of context to support an erroneous argument. While a non-Christian will never have the Spirit reside in them, this does not mean they are incapable of partaking of the blessings of the Holy Spirit or being affected by Him.

Matthew 5:45
so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Here, we can see what is commonly referred to as common grace or common blessing. We see that even the evil men receive a certain level of blessing from God. Moving on, we see something even more specific in 2 Peter 2:20-21:

2 Peter 2:20-21
For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.

It would be easy to think this is referring to a back-slidden Christian. However, the full context shows that this is not referring to a believer at all. It is referring to a false prophet. Despite this, it uses phrases like "escaped defilements of the world" and "knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." It even speaks of them as having known the way of righteousness. Again, all this would lead someone to believe it is speaking of one who has lost their salvation; their justification. But we all know this is not the case regarding the reference to false prophets. It is merely referring to someone who has all the head knowledge possible yet does not clinch the eternal bond of the Spirit. While it is true that only a Christian can truly understand the things of the Spirit, it is not true at all to say only a Christian can taste the things of the Spirit. A great point was made by Paul in 1 Corinthians on this subject.

1 Corinthians 7:14
For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.

The use of the word "sanctified" does not mean that the unbelieving spouse is saved based on the believing spouse’s faith. It simply means they receive the blessing of the Spirit through the faith of the believing spouse. They may not receive salvation or the forgiveness of sins but they do receive a blessing nonetheless. It is in this sense that a non-believer can still partake of the things of the Spirit without ever having obtained regeneration/salvation from the Spirit.

So what does it mean by “those who have once been enlightened”? The Greek word used for enlightened is phōtizō and is being used in the sense of being intellectually enlightened to Spiritual truths. The people being spoken of in Hebrews 6 had been made aware of Spiritual truths and they saw them for what they were but it does not give any indication to a response to the call of salvation. Furthermore, nowhere in Scripture is this phrase used to speak of salvation. It simply means they had mental knowledge of the things of the Spirit. To some extent, I am sure they also tasted the things of the Spirit albeit never tasting salvation or regeneration. It would be impossible to have been so involved in the things of the Church and not have been affected. Even the people following Christ in Matthew 5 were affected by the Light yet they did not believe despite this.

I do not believe it is referring to believers who have fallen away and lost their salvation and justification because of some mortal sin or infidelity. I fully believe it is referring to unbelievers who are on the verge of salvation. They have all the knowledge they need. They have seen the power of the Spirit. They have received a partial blessing of what the Spirit has to offer. If there was ever a time to believe, this was it! If one fell back after all this, it would be lost on them. There would be a sense of hopelessness, an impossibility, that they would ever see Christ for who he is. With all that knowledge, if one still rejected Christ, all hope would be lost that they would never see the Light.

Again, in Hebrews 6:6 where it says, “it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame,” it does not refer to those who were once saved and had fallen away but rather those who were on the fence and finally stood their ground among those Jews who crucified Christ. Even if they never would have physically done so, the author of Hebrews does not water it down when he places them in the same category. It shows the seriousness of their rejection. We know Christ was crucified once for all (1 Peter 3:8) as the final act of completion never again to be repeated. They never chose Christ even after all they had tasted and, in their rejection, had lost all hope of ever choosing Christ and now stood among the rest of the crucifers.

Once we have been justified by Christ alone, there is no turning back. If one turns back, it is because they never truly had saving faith to begin with. They were as the first 3 seeds in the parable of the seed and the sower. Eternal life is exactly that.

John 10:27-29
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.

Romans 8:35, 38-39
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Philippians 1:6
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

1 Peter 1:4-5
to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Romans 5:10
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

So, going back to the very beginning of the lesson:

Romans 3:28
For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

James 2:24
You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

By now, we should clearly be able to see that it is not the works which help justify us but that it is the works which show evidence of our salvation and justification. If works do not follow salvation, it is evident that salvation is absent. If salvation is absent, justification is naturally absent as well.

Sola fide (justification by faith alone) is a key doctrine that cannot be ignored. It is essential in the life of every believer. Without it, there is no salvation, no justification, and no glorification. To stress its importance, I would like to close with another quote by R.C. Sproul:

R.C. Sproul
sola fide one does not have the gospel; and without the gospel one does not have the Christian faith. When an ecclesiastical communion rejects sola fide, as Rome did at the Council of Trent, it ceases being a true church, no matter how orthodox it may be in other matters, because it has condemned an essential of the faith.

Sola Fide!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

#35) Reminders For Life

Last week, we went over Jude 1-13. While we learned that Jude was the brother of Jesus, we also learned this was not a point that Jude felt he should brag about. In fact, he doesn’t even mention it in his letter. Jude felt his calling was to be a bondservant of Christ. He felt it necessary to teach of a certain group of men within the Church. These men were apostates and false teachers who, though appearing to belong in the Church, actually acted as nothing more than weeds dragging everybody else down.

Tonight, we are going to move on to the other half of Jude’s message. He was not content telling us what to beware of. His message was not complete until he also told us how we are to live for Christ. He tells us what to watch out for and then goes on to tell us what to become.

Read Jude 14-25.

Jude 17
But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Note how Jude refers to us. He calls us beloved. This was not merely an impersonal message to church members. It was not a memo to be passed around. It was a deeply personal message written to his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. There is no stronger bond than that of Christ. In calling us “beloved” we can feel the sense of love and concern that he is putting forth.

He stresses the importance of remembering the words spoken by the apostles. In Jude’s day, this was done through verbal traditions. These words would have been passed on by word of mouth and held on to dearly. If anything, we are in a much better position because we have the Word of God. Jude didn’t have a New Testament to turn to whenever he felt the need to recall something. He was helping to create the New Testament and probably never even realized it.

Many people say Scripture memorization is only for smart people with great memories. This is completely untrue. If this were the case, it would not be commanded by God in His Word. This isn’t to say we need to know all of Scripture verbatim. It just means we are to be able to recall the teachings of Scripture as a whole.

Psalm 119:9 & 11
How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word……….Your word I have treasured in my heart that I may not sin against You.

Jude tells us to remember the words spoken before us by the apostles. Psalm 119 tells us by keeping the Word of God in our hearts, we can avoid sinning against God. This is because it is by His Word that we are to live. It has been said that BIBLE stands for Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth but it is so much more. It is our only true and unchanging guideline and standard by which everything else must be judged.

Jude 18-19
that they were saying to you, "In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts. These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.

As we covered last week, these men are in the Church but they are not true believers. They are not followers of Christ. They follow after whatever doctrine fancies them at the time. They blow about with the wind. They crash like wild waves. They are dead both inside and out. However, we also have to remember that they were appointed by God for this condemnation long beforehand as verse 4 tells us. Last week, we learned how to spot them. This week, we are learning how to not become like them.

Jude 20a
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith,

Colossians 2:7
having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

Ephesians 2:20
having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,

We are called to build ourselves up. Simply residing on a foundation is not enough. Imagine buying a piece of property. You seek out the absolute best contractors to get a perfect foundation laid. You ride them day and night to the point where they are exhausted. You refuse to give them water when they are thirsty and you beat them when they show signs of weakness. In the end, the contractors achieve what they set out to do; create the perfect foundation. There isn’t a crack or imperfection to be found. It has been finished. Would you be content with this foundation by itself? Would you set up a tent and then call it a day knowing that you had the perfect foundation and needed nothing else? The purpose of a foundation is to prepare for a building. The better the foundation, the stronger the building will be able to hold up to the ground beneath it.

Jesus is our perfect foundation. We beat him to the point of exhaustion and, when we appeared to be on top, nailed him to the cross. We may not have been there in person but we still shout “Crucify him!” on a daily basis in our actions. We murder our Savior day in and day out when we are called to build upon him as our perfect foundation.

1 Thessalonians 5:11
Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.

Romans 14:19
So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.

Not only are we called to build up ourselves but also to build up one another. We are to encourage one another and care for one another. This is the exact opposite of what the apostates were doing. They cared only for themselves. This is because they lacked the one thing needed to truly care for someone other than oneself. They lacked love.

Ephesians 4:29
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

1 Corinthians 8:1b
Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.

The Greek word used for “edifies” is oikodomē (oi-ko-do-mā'). It literally means to build up. We are to constantly be in a state of building. We are to build ourselves but we are also to build our neighbor. It is through love that edification can occur and it is only in Christ that we can truly love as it is meant to be.

Jude 20b
praying in the Holy Spirit,

Ask congregation what they think it means to pray in the Spirit.

Ephesians 6:18a
With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,

John 14:16
I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;

Romans 8:26
In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;

Praying in the Spirit is simply having the Spirit pray through us. The Spirit is not some foreign deity that we have to seek out.

1 Corinthians 6:19
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?

The Spirit resides within us as Christians. God is a Holy God. There are many times when we may feel like we fall short and don’t deserve to go before such a Holy God. The great news is that Romans 3:23 confirms this truth yet God wants us to come before Him regardless. When we have absolutely no idea what to pray for, just pray that the Spirit will show us what to pray about. He will intercede on our behalf as the Helper. Even if there are no words to be expressed, God knows our hearts. The Spirit will move us to be holy; set apart for God. To pray in the Spirit is simply to have the Spirit pray in us.

Jude 21a
keep yourselves in the love of God

Note the change in instruction here. Building ourselves up in faith and praying in the Spirit are things we are to do but this is not the end point that Jude is making. Everything he urges us to do points to the end goal of keeping the faith. He does not simply say “Keep the faith” while leaving us in the dark. How do we keep the faith? We keep the faith by building ourselves up and praying in the Spirit. We keep the faith by keeping our focus on God at all times and growing in Him.

Acts 13:43
Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God.

Philippians 2:12
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling;

While keeping in the love of God, know that it isn’t a system of legalism that does it. We can’t work our way into God’s favor. It is by the grace of God alone that we can enjoy being in His love. Working out our salvation does not imply works will earn us salvation. It means we are to live for God each and every day under His grace.

John 6:37
All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.

John 10:28
and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.

While we are to keep ourselves in the faith, it is God that keeps His children. He has promised to never let any of His children go. He has promised eternal life. Not only is it a promise to His children but it is a promise that has already been fulfilled. Those who are His have eternal life. However, there are many who supposedly fall away from the faith, not just for a short time, but for real. The fact of the matter is that these men never had real faith, were never children of God, and were only deceiving themselves. This is why we are called to not only build ourselves up but to also build up one another. Edify one another.

Jude 21b
waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.

Titus 2:13
looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,

Hebrews 9:28
so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.

1 John 3:2-3
Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

While living each day for God, we have a greater hope of the future in the return of Christ. We are made in the image of God and there will be a day when we will be glorified as Christ was also glorified following his resurrection. John says the one who anxiously looks forward to the Second Coming purifies himself to the same degree in which Christ is pure. Keeping our sight on God with anxious expectation is a sure fire way to sanctify oneself, edify the Church, and keep ourselves for God.

Jude 22-23
And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.

Jude tells us we are to have mercy on some. The “some” that he refers to appear to be broken down into 3 different groups of severity. They all deserve mercy but they are all for different reasons and require different precautions when handling them.

Jude 22
And have mercy on some, who are doubting;

These people appear to be your typical lost person. They have their doubts and aren’t quite ready to take the leap of faith just yet. Just as God was merciful on us, we are to be merciful on them. As Christians, we are called to be fishers of men. By showing mercy and compassion, we are showing them the love of Christ. These men would fall under your basic evangelism and witnessing.

Jude 23a
save others, snatching them out of the fire;

These men are also doubters but to a much severer degree. They are on the fast track for Hell as we all once were. These men need emergency intervention. They need a bit more focus and dedication to be swayed to Truth.

Zechariah 3:2
The LORD said to Satan, "The LORD rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?"

1 Corinthians 3:15
If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

Again, at one point in time, we were bound for Hell. All mankind has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The wages of this sin is death. However, God saved us from the flames. Shouldn’t we turn around and do the same for others by spreading the Gospel and teaching Christ crucified at any opportunity?

Jude 23b
and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.

This third group would be the false teachers and apostates that we spoke of last week as well as the beginning of this lesson. These men are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Instead of building others up, they tear them down. We are still to have mercy on them in that we preach the Gospel to them but we are to do so with a certain sense of fear. When handling these types, be careful not to be dragged down in the process. How many relationships have you heard of where the girlfriend dated an unbeliever hoping to convert him only to be dragged away from the faith as a result of being unequally yoked? Take an instance such as that and multiply the dangers. We should hate everything that these doubly dead men stand for but we should not let that get in the way of our mission of being fishers of men. Personally, I do not recommend a new believer speak with these people. Should a new believer come across one of these types, I would urge him or her to be loving but get away and refer him to a more mature believer in the faith.

Jude 24-25
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

After everything that Jude had to say to us, he finishes it out with praise to God. All of these are reasons for us to worship the Living God.

God has promised to keep us for Himself. In fact, even verse 1 tells us we are kept for Christ. We may face temptation but this does not mean we have to stumble. When God is our foundation, we can stand firm in Him. When we stand firm in Him, we will follow His ways and His commands which will result in standing blameless before Him. Think of the joy of Christ telling us, “Well done my good and faithful servant. Enter into your rest.” It is only through Christ that we are reconciled to the Father. To God, through Christ, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority. In Christ, it is finished and eternity awaits us.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

#34) Doubly Dead

Doubly Dead

Tonight is going to be a little different from most nights. Instead of a sermon, I’d like this to be more of a Bible study. Instead of bouncing all over Scripture we will be primarily going over the epistle of Jude. Jude is a small epistle consisting of only 1 chapter. However, in that 1 chapter is a very important lesson that we all need to learn. It is the subject of apostates and false teachers within the Church.

Read Jude 1-13

Jude 1
Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ:

First of all, we see that it was Jude who wrote this epistle. As it is written in verse 1, we can see that Jude is the brother of James. However, James was not his only brother.

Matthew 13:55
Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?

As we can clearly see, Jude was also the brother of Jesus. Some doubt Jude’s family ties by saying he would have mentioned Jesus instead of James in this verse. However, it is commonly held to that James was simply practicing humility. He could have clearly bragged about his relations with Christ but instead, he lowered himself to nothing more than a bond servant. If we look at James 1:1, we can see James describes himself in the exact same way.

Knowing who it is written by is equally as important as knowing who it is written to. Verse 1 tells us it is written to believers. This was not a message for anybody who had ears. It had an intended audience. Jude had a word for believers and, by God’s grace, we are able to read it tonight. Notice how it describes believers. It does not simply give an Arminian tag such as “one who chose Christ” or “one who sticks around.” It goes much deeper than that. Anybody who has ever had the chance to speak with me knows that I am a 5 Point Calvinist through and through. This is because I firmly believe this to be the Truth of Scripture. In fact, even Jude 1 appears to stand in favor. It says he is writing to those who are called and those who are kept for Jesus Christ. What exactly is meant by these words?

1 Corinthians 1:1a
Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God,

John 10:3
To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

Revelation 17:14
"These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful."

Romans 8:30
and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

We can see those who are called are much more than just publicly invited to something. As per Revelation, they are also chosen. As per Romans, they are predestined. Jesus is the Shepherd. He knows his sheep by name. He chose us before the foundation of the world to be His. We have been called by God.

John 17:11
I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are.

John 10:28
and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.

1 Peter 1:5
who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

John 6:37 & 39
All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out…This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.

Not only are all believers called by God before they come to Him, once called, they are also kept by God in Christ. No one can snatch us out of God’s hand. It is His will that, if we are given to Christ by the Father, we will also be raised up on the last day. Our salvation begins and ends with God.

Jude 2
May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.

This is a very common opening that we see in many of the other epistles. However, it is not merely an introduction. They are all promises of God. It is only by His mercy and grace that we, as wretched sinners who were bound for Hell, are saved at all.

Ephesians 2:13-14a
But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace,

Philippians 4:6
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

1 Peter 5:7
casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

Romans 5:8
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

We can clearly see that Scripture calls God our peace. We are called to be anxious for nothing. If we have any concerns at all, we are to cast them on God. He cares so much for us that He wants to take every bit of anxiety away from us so that He can be our complete peace.

Jude 3
Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.

Here, we can see Jude is urging his fellow believers to contend earnestly for their faith. Paul used similar wording in his epistles.

1 Timothy 6:12
Fight the good fight of faith;

1 Corinthians 9:24
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.

Though we are contending for our faith, it is not something that we are striving to obtain.

Hebrews 10:10
By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Romans 8:30
and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

Notice that it speaks of sanctification, justification, and glorification in the past tense. Saving faith is something that has already been completed in us through Christ once and for all. The faith for which we are contending is simply our walk with God. Paul urges us in 1 Corinthians to not continue in sin for the sake of abounding in grace. We are to increase in our love for God, walk with God, and knowledge of God. This is only accomplished by continually staying in the Word as well as being in fellowship with other mature believers.

Jude 4
For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

False teachers were all over the place. In fact, they are still all over the place. We see numerous places in Scripture where they are spoken of as having infiltrated the Church in a silent manner.

Galatians 2:4
But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage.

2 Peter 2:1
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.

Their goal was to learn about our ways so that they could pretend to be like us while pulling others astray. They introduce destructive heresies and teach things that take glory away from God and place it elsewhere. These people were getting to know their enemy so to speak even if they may not have thought about it in that way.

1 Peter 2:8
for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.

Romans 9:22
What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?

John 17:12
While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.

These men were not here by accident. They were appointed by God’s sovereign will to be the foul apostates that they were. Even Judas Iscariot is described as the son of perdition. His whole purpose was to be destroyed. The Greek for “of perdition” is apōleia (ä-pō'-lā-ä). It literally means annihilation. He was created to betray Jesus and then be completely and thoroughly destroyed. It goes so far as to say he was a child of utter annihilation. He was born to it. In all of this, God’s glory is made known through his power and wrath.

Jude 5
Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe.

Jude speaks of the future of unbelievers. This goes hand in hand with my lesson last week on God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Though all things are set in motion and held in place by God, the unbeliever destroys himself in his rejection of God and constant state of sin. We don’t hear about Hell very often in the Church today. Jonathan Edwards gave a sermon in 1741 called “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Over the years, while being acknowledged as one of the most powerful sermons of all times, it has been the subject of backlash among bitter Christians who desire a feel good Gospel. Not only is this a doctrine that we should know but it is also a doctrine that needs repeating.

2 Peter 1:12
Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you.

A pattern you might notice in my lessons is that I quote many verses over and over again over a period of time. I also touch on many core doctrines repeatedly. There is nothing wrong with this. Both Peter and Jude were under the impression that despite already knowing a teaching, it is important to repeat them and remind fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

Jude 6
And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day,

Here, Jude refers to another group who rebelled against God and will one day be destroyed for it. It is the fallen angels who followed after Satan.

Isaiah 14:12-15
How you have fallen from heaven,
O star of the morning, son of the dawn!
You have been cut down to the earth,
You who have weakened the nations!
But you said in your heart,
'I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God,
And I will sit on the mount of assembly
In the recesses of the north.
'I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.'
Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol,
To the recesses of the pit.

Revelation 12:4a
And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth

2 Peter 2:4
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment;

Most of us know the story of the fall of the angels. Lucifer was an angel who rebelled against God and, in fact, wanted to be God. As a result of his disobedience and rebellion, he was cast out of heaven and 1/3 of the angels were cast out with him because they chose to follow Satan instead of God.

Jude 7
just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.

Jude continues with his theme of the relationship of rebellion and destruction. Just as God will destroy the fallen angels, He also destroyed Sodom & Gomorrah by fire for their perverted lists, homosexuality, etc. We will be held accountable for our actions. While sin can be satisfying to the flesh at the time, we will reap nothing but death from it.

Jude 8
Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties.

The “these men” that Jude speaks of are the same men he spoke of in verse 4. They are the apostates who are in the Church posing as brothers and sisters in Christ. Jude just finished speaking poorly of the fallen angels as well as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. Note that he now refers to these men as performing many of the same acts. Yet somehow these men are within the Church! It may seem hard to believe that someone like this could possibly blend in among us but it happens all the time. This is why we need to know how to spot them. We need to stay grounded in the Word so that we can know what the Truth really is.

Jude 10
But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed.

Verse 8 said these men speak harshly of angelic majesties and of God. Verse 10 goes on to say that, despite being in the Church and acting like a Christian, these men do not understand the ways of the Church. If they truly understood, they wouldn’t have been acting the way they were.

1 Corinthians 2:14
But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

All they know is the evil of their unregenerate nature and that is the very thing that destroys them. In the end, they will be held accountable. This man sins abundantly so that grace may abound. Paul tells us this is the exact opposite of how a Christian is to live his life.

Jude 12-13
These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.

There is a lot to be said in these 2 verses. On the surface, a lot of it can be confusing due to all the metaphors. Because of this, we are going to break it all down.

Jude 12a
These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves;

Ezekiel 34:2b
'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock?

These men care only for themselves. They don’t care about the Christians within the Church nor do they help them when in a time of need. They blend in with us but only take for themselves. They look out for #1 so to speak.

Jude 12b
clouds without water,

Proverbs 25:14
Like clouds and wind without rain
Is a man who boasts of his gifts falsely.

Just like clouds without rain, these men are empty on the inside and serve no purpose. They revile the things of God yet often claim to be holier than thou.

Jude 12c
carried along by winds;

Ephesians 4:14
As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;

They are not rooted in the Word but go with many new doctrines and blow every which way. Look out at the overgrown grass in a field on a windy day. The grass will sway in one direction for a little while but, before you know it, it begins swaying in a different direction. As the wind changes direction, so the grass changes with it. The same is said of the men Jude is referring to. There is no absolute truth to these men. There is only what tickles their fancy at the time. There is no root. We are not to be like these men. We are to be rooted in the Word.

Jude 12d
autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted;

Now picture the trees toward the end of autumn. The leaves begin to fall off. In fact, most trees can even look as if they are dead. If you didn’t know any better, you would guess it was never going to be green again. However, in time, leaves begin to sprout and flowers begin to blossom. It is not so with these men. Not only do they appear to be dead on the outside, they are truly dead on the inside. They have no root in Christ at all. This should not come as any surprise.

Matthew 15:13
But He answered and said, "Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted.

If we remember earlier, Scripture plainly told us that these men are not here by accident. They may be responsible for their current status but they were appointed by God long beforehand to bring God glory through His wrath. They may be silently wreaking havoc within the Church for now but there will come a day when God will uproot every one of them and destroy them. Though they may not be physically uprooted, spiritually speaking, they are already dead. In fact, Scripture refers to them as doubly dead; dead on the outside and dead on the inside. There is no fruit on a plant that has no root. These men are the ones Christ refers to when he speaks of the unforgivable sin in Matthew 12. They have no hope. They have seen the grace of God in the Church. They have broken bread with Christians. They have enjoyed the blessings of the Church. Despite all of this, they do not understand the things of the Spirit, do not have faith in Christ, and revile the things of God. There is no hope whatsoever of them ever coming to repentance and there is no other way to deal with them but to cast them out of the Church as one would pull a weed from a garden. The problem is spotting them.

I am reminded of the garden my wife was trying to grow. She had planted a few different types of seeds and flowers. Over time, the seeds sprouted and things started to grow. She was particularly proud of one of them that seemed to grow more than the rest. She didn’t remember planting it but she thought it was a wild plant that happened to land there somehow. She looked it up and came to the conclusion that it was a certain type. This thing grew to be as tall as our children. One day we had a neighbor over. He asked us why on earth we had a weed that was as tall as that one. My wife was shocked and slightly embarrassed. Neither of us knew what it was. In fact, we thought it was something it wasn’t. Yet somehow, this friend was able spot it for what it really was; a weed. Sometimes things are able to blend in and seem like the real deal while, in reality, they are doing nothing more than killing what is around it while thriving on its own.

Jude 13a
wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam;

Isaiah 57:20-21
But the wicked are like the tossing sea,
For it cannot be quiet,
And its waters toss up refuse and mud.
"There is no peace," says my God, "for the wicked."

These men are not at peace. Jude calls them wild waves of the sea. They have no control or order to them. They crash about randomly on their own with no guidance.

Romans 1:22
Professing to be wise, they became fools,

Philippians 3:19
whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.

Proverbs 15:21
Folly is joy to him who lacks sense,
But a man of understanding walks straight.

They boast in their own folly. They profess to be wise as if it will make them look prominent. However, it is this same “wisdom” that brings them shame and destroys them.

Jude 13b
wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.

As we covered in the beginning:

1 Peter 2:8
for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.

John 17:12
"While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.

Romans 9:22
What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?

Not only are these false teachers/apostates bound for Hell but, in God’s sovereignty, it is actually reserved for them!

Do not be like these men. We are called to live for God and serve Him with everything we have. If we say we love God, truly act it out in our every day lives. Be careful in the things you teach to another and always check yourself to make sure that you are God-oriented and not self-oriented. Learn to spot those whom Jude was speaking of so that you can accomplish what he so strongly urges.

Jude 3
Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.