Sunday, January 14, 2018

Colossians 1:1-8 The Fruit of the Gospel

You Can Listen to This Sermon Here

Colossians 1:1-8 The Fruit of the Gospel


I. Paul’s identity (verse 1)
II. Paul’s greeting (verse 2)
III. Paul’s thanks to God (verse 3 & 4)
IV. Paul’s confidence in Christ (verses 5 & 6)
V. The Fruit of the gospel (verses 6-8)


Application

We each ought to imitate Paul in these things:
1.      Our identity is in Christ, not of fleshly things. Yes, we love our parents and grandparents and we rejoice when any of our earthly family is reconciled to God. But fleshly genealogies are fables – fleshly and unable to save. The Jews had fallen into the pit of thinking their fleshly relationship to Abraham insured their right standing before God. It is by grace through faith in Christ that we and anyone else is saved. He is our life – we are complete in Him. Let us not add to or subtract from the One Who gave Himself for us.

2.      We should love one another, all who are in the family of God, not thinking we or anyone else is better than another. We must take care not be swayed by those who have money and nice clothes, preferring them over one who has nothing and wears rough clothes. Skin color, social status, rank – none of these have any place in the body of Christ as things that should divide us.

3.      As Paul wrote in another place, we should (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Envy has no place in our midst. When one suffers, we all suffer. When one abounds, we all rejoice. We work together as God has gifted us, for the equipping of the saints – each other. Thankful to God He has called us to Himself and given us to one another.

4.      Just our identity is in the Lord Jesus, so our confidence is to be in Him. It is all too common for Christians to get burdened down with cares of this world and forget the One they are yoked to. Worry and anxiety about earthly things crowd out the joy we to have as God’s children. We should keep our mind fixed on heavenly things, where Christ is seated. He is our strength and strong tower when the storm gales of this age blow.

The fruit of the gospel is what we seek – not fleshly things the world values. When we see Christians concerned about big, fancy buildings, flashy programs, entertainment – all designed to look attractive to the world and bring in unconverted people by the score, we see those who have lost sight of the power of God unto salvation. He will bring every lost sheep back to His sheepfold and He has given us His gospel as the means of serving Him in this redemptive plan. 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Introduction to Paul’s Letter to the church at Colossae

You can listen to this sermon here.

He (Christ Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. This is the thesis statement, the core truth of Paul’s letter to the Colossians. A study of this epistle will reveal Jesus as the answer to life.

Nearly every New Testament letter from Paul was written to combat heresy in one or more local churches; Ephesians is the exception. While Colossians doesn’t specify what heresy had infected that church, one can almost hear the whispers, “Jesus is not enough.” Many think an early form of Gnosticism was emerging. What makes this epistle so vital for life in the church in this age, until Christ returns, is the glorious picture of our Lord Jesus is painted in words by the apostle. It is instructive for us to see the evil distractions from the gospel the enemy put into the church in Paul’s day, but it is essential for life and godliness that we grasp the gospel and the person of Christ as held forth in Scripture. In this short letter, the lord Jesus is presented as our life – quite a contrast to our drab routine; something that ought to bring renewed life to weary saints.

This introduction follows the commentary by John Kitchens and covers 5 questions we should answer:
1.      Who wrote this letter?
2.      To whom was it written?
3.      What were the circumstances?
4.      Why did Paul write it?
5.      What does this letter teach us?

1. This first topic is important but not vital. We who believe in the inspiration of Scripture know the dual-authorship of the Bible and know God is the Author of what His people wrote. Yet knowing the human author helps us when we can learn about him through other passages. This is particularly helpful in rightly understanding Proverbs, for example.

Nobody questioned Paul’s authorship of this epistle until a few 19th century scholars offered up an alternative. The first two verses seem pretty clear to us: Colossians 1:1-2 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother, To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. But some smart people, as men see them, said the vocabulary, theology, and style of writing is too different from Paul’s other letters; that Paul works against Gnosticism which was not fully developed until the 2nd century. None of these objections stand up in light of a basic understanding of the Bible. Liberals seem to have it as their goal to cause us to doubt the Word of God.

2. Written to the saints in Colossae, a town that had been prominent but was now bypassed by the major highway that had driven its commerce; not unlike Gowen or Hartshorne – both of which were prosperous in the mid-20th century as goal mining and defense electronics provided a large bounty of gainful employment. The region Colossae is in was also severely affected by an earthquake, and commerce went with the new highway to Laodicea and Hierapolis. We see in 2:1 that, at the time of this epistle, Paul had not been to Colossae or Laodicea: For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face. What kindness of God, to have this apostle write to these people in a small neglected town he had never met, yet loved in Christ having been told of the work the Lord had been doing in their midst.
Most likely, Epaphrus had established this church, as we read in 4:12-13 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis. Paul’s confidence was not in his personal work, but in the work done through him and others by the Spirit of God.


One thought occurred to me –apostles were foundational to the New Covenant church (see Eph 2:20) yet most of them wrote no Scripture and are not mentioned much by those who did. Men who labor in obscurity, in man’s perspective, always are in view of our heavenly Father. Our service to one another is pleasing in His sight, even if we are not famous among men; as it is His Spirit that wills and equips us to do so. Let us never drift away from seeking God’s approval in favor of man’s.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Job – A Story About the Sovereignty of God

You can listen to this sermon here.

(Background – from ESV Study Bible) The story of Job has its setting outside Israel to the east and south (Uz is related to Edom, which may be the setting of the book), the author of Job is a Hebrew, thoroughly immersed in the Hebrew Scriptures. The time in which the account of Job is set is not known with precision – many consider the context of Job’s culture and put him in the time of Abraham.

The earliest reference to Job outside the book itself is in Ezekiel. The prophet names three paragons of virtue (chap 14:12 – 14): And the word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, when a land sins against me by acting faithlessly, and I stretch out my hand against it and break its supply of bread and send famine upon it, and cut off from it man and beast, even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord GOD.” It is not certain whether Ezekiel knew of these men from the biblical narrative or if his knowledge was from God. If Ezekiel knew of Job through the biblical book, then Job would have lived prior to the Babylonian exile.

The author of Job makes direct allusion to the Hebrew Scriptures (e.g., Ps. 8:4; cf. Job 7:17–18), and at times quotes lines directly (Ps. 107:40; Isa. 41:20; cf. Job 12:21, 24). Such precise repetition of phrases and reapplication of biblical thought indicates that Job had access to these writings, though again it cannot be certain in what form they existed. The author uses a lot of vocabulary with meanings known in later Hebrew. This does not confirm a more precise dating but may favor a date that is during or after the Babylonian exile (538 BC). It would appear that this book may have been written as many as 600 years after Job lived – not without precedent in Scripture, as Moses wrote Genesis some 2,700 years after Creation. None of this is cause for worry, as it is God Who is the primary author of all Scripture.


The book of Job asks the question – “Can God be trusted?” It is fair to say that most of our attention is on Job and his loss and the rough treatment received at the hands of his friends and wife. But the lesson we are to gain from this book is found in the reply from God; that He alone can be trusted, that He alone is creator and sovereign – He is God and He is not obligated to answer His creatures! This maddens those who deny His existence or sovereignty, but ought to comfort us who are redeemed by Christ. If God is not sovereign over all things, He cannot be trusted in anything.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

God’s Faithful Promise


In anticipation of the Christmas season, last week we reviewed the biblical account for why Jesus had to come as a man to save us. We are by nature in desperate need of a savior, having no hope and without God in the world (Eph 2:12); Christ Jesus is the only One Who can save us, reconcile helpless sinners to God – He is our peace!

Today, we review the biblical account of God’s faithful promise to provide this savior.
Several decades back, a Christian para-church organization took the nation by storm. Promise Keepers filled football stadiums with hundreds of thousands of men, listening to preaching and singing hymns. Many of those who went wanted to be better men, men who would keep their promises to lead their families rightly and walk in obedience to God. And for several years, many men were redeemed, revived, and reconciled. But the leaders of this ministry were found to be much less than their public facades portrayed. The founder confessed that he was a miserable failure and his right hand man drifted into gross theological error. And many critics and men who benefited from this ministry turned aside and followed them no more.

We read in the Scriptures that God is not like man, that He should lie (Numbers 23:19); so a promise made by God is something more sure than any promise man can make. God warns man that it’s better for us not to make a promise or vow than to make one and not keep it (Eccl 5:5 & 6). The gap between the two – creature and Creator – in keeping promises is as great as the gap between us in character. Our confidence must therefore be in God and Christ Jesus (He is the faithful witness – Rev 1:5), for they are faithful and rock-solid, while we are weak and fickle. With this reminder, let us see the awesome power of the One Who can make a promise and is certain to keep it.


The birth of Jesus and His work of redemption was not a reaction to the creature’s faithlessness. We see this in 1 Peter 1:20 & 21 - He was chosen before the foundation of the world but was revealed at the end of the times for you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. The Fall was not unplanned; the redemption found in Christ was not a reaction. Since man’s fall was inevitable, due to our weak frame, God determined before the world was created that the Son would redeem sinners and bring many sons to glory (Heb 2:10). The main reason creation exists is to glorify the Creator. Again we turn to Peter – If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:11) The first phrase shows us how the man who preaches must not speak as a mere man with an opinion, but as a man who stands in fear of God to proclaim and preach the Word of God. Next we see that all who serve in any capacity are to do so recognizing it is God who gives such gifts. Lastly we see the reason – that in all things, preaching and serving, God will be glorified. And this glory is possible because we are in Christ Jesus. The oracles of God tell us Jesus is the focus of Scripture (Luke 24:27), promised to us before the world began (Titus 1:2).




Monday, December 11, 2017

Man's Fallen Condition

You can listen to this sermon here.

Christmas is coming. People who know Jesus and those who merely know the name will be making much of Dec 25th, although their reasons differ widely. The person and cross of Christ continues to divide history and implies there’s a problem. 
We hear evidence of it every time a police siren howls. The priceless sacrifice of the Son of God makes no sense if there’s no need. The question we must address is, what is the problem that requires this act? Humanists and politicians will tell you that man is intrinsically good – all he needs is a good education and good examples. The politicians need to say this because it makes people feel good about themselves and it creates demands for their services – education and public service announcements. Humanists are the unrighteous people Paul wrote about in Romans 1 who suppress their knowledge of the truth by their unrighteousness. The Bible tells us what the problem is – man has rebelled against Holy God and is by nature at war with God (Rom 5:10) and spiritually dead (Eph 2:1), hurtling towards physical death (Rom 6:23).
We see this played out in front of us on the TV news all the time. Someone does something outright horrible and none of their family or neighbors could accept the news. It’s the same virtually every time. The murderers amongst us seem so normal. The mother whose adult son is arrested cannot admit he would do such a thing. Yet every day these normal sons and daughters demonstrate the Word of God to be true – man is, by nature, hostile towards God and sinfully wicked in his fleshly desires.
The Apostle summed this up for the fine folks in Corinth: For as by a man came death … in Adam all die … (1 Corinthians 15:21-22) and Rome: Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned … death reigned from Adam to Moses … many died through one man’s trespass … the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation …because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man … one trespass led to condemnation for all men … by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners… (Romans 5:12-19).

Sunday, November 26, 2017

What's the New Covenant?

You can listen to this sermon here.

The New Covenant – Fullness in Christ.

Even a casual read of the Bible reveals several covenants. Many books have been written about them. One covenant, the New Covenant, stands as the answer to everything that is wrong, God’s final Word on making all things right. The glory of being in Christ Jesus is revealed in this covenant, which binds Christ and His church together, providing redemption and eternal salvation for sinners. The sign of the New Covenant is circumcision not made with human hands followed by water baptism (Colossians 2:11-12). The Lord's Supper is another sign within this covenant, reminding us of its Author and His return (1 Corinthians 11:25). One dear brother I count as a friend helps us see this:

Baptism serves as an outward sign of the inward grace of regeneration and union with Christ. It is less than meaningless if there is no inward grace to reflect. Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). What Jesus is saying is that this cup of wine represents the new covenant he is going to ratify by shedding his blood. This cup becomes the sign of that covenant.  Every time we take communion we should rejoice that we are heirs of the new and better covenant that was ratified by his blood.

In Hebrews 7-9 the New Covenant described, contrasted with the Old Covenant, so we can see it more accurately. Chapter 9:1 even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. What follows is a description of the tabernacle of the Hebrew religion, featuring lampstands, a table and bread, the Most Holy Place with the ark of the Mosaic covenant containing the tablets of testimony, the golden vial of manna, and Aaron's staff. Levitical priests ever making sacrifices that would cover sin for a time but never able to take away sin. All of these forms of worship are summed up in verse 9 as symbolic for that age and “imposed until the time of reformation” (verse 10). There will be no re-institution of those types and symbols as the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus was sufficient, satisfying God the Father and finishing the redemptive work announced in Genesis 3:15, bringing that reformation.


when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation [speaking here of His body of flesh]) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. (Hebrews 9:11-12 & 15)

Friday, August 25, 2017

Romans 16: Let Brotherly Love be Genuine

You Can Listen to This Message Here.

Verses 1-16: Greetings to those in Rome. 
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church in Cenchreae. So you should welcome her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints and assist her in whatever matter she may require your help. For indeed she has been a benefactor of many—and of me also. Give my greetings to Prisca and Aquila, my coworkers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life. Not only do I thank them, but so do all the Gentile churches. Greet also the church that meets in their home. Greet my dear friend Epaenetus, who is the first convert to Christ from Asia. Greet Mary, who has worked very hard for you.  Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow countrymen and fellow prisoners. They are noteworthy in the eyes of the apostles, and they were also in Christ before me. Greet Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord.  Greet Urbanus, our coworker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys. Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus. Greet Herodion, my fellow countryman. Greet those who belong to the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord. Greet Tryphaena and Tryphosa, who have worked hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, who has worked very hard in the Lord. Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother—and mine. Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers who are with them. Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send you greetings.

We’ve learned a good bit about true brotherly love in this letter, and here we see evidence of one aspect of this characteristic of God’s people. Paul the apostle wants the saints in Rome, who he has not met, to embrace other saints they do not know because of their service to Christ and help to Paul in his ministry. Note the specifics of Paul’s description of each person – denoting a close personal relationship and a desire for those in Rome to accept them. Note also how each person contributed to equipping each other – benefactor, coworkers, servants, prisoners, worked very hard, risked their necks, approved in Christ; nobody along for the ride, merely showing up and being polite. This is the hallmark of a true church, saints serving one another, putting others first, knowing details about them and their service. This is a far cry from the superficial acquaintances that comprise most local churches. May it not be so with us!

Verses 17-18: Final warning.
Now I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause dissensions and obstacles contrary to the doctrine you have learned. Avoid them, for such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites. They deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting with smooth talk and flattering words. After a long paragraph describing a vibrant, Christ-focused group of people Paul gives a stern warning to the church at Rome. Unity in the truth is a critical trait for a local church – knowing the truth is essential. This warning comes after much teaching on gospel truths and Paul contrasts the unity and humility of the saints with the discord and selfishness of these enemies. They serve their own appetites, not caring for the best of others.

We see this same contrast, a little more clearly, in Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi:
Philippians 3:13-21 Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. Therefore, all who are mature should think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you. In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained. Join in imitating me, brothers, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For I have often told you, and now say again with tears, that many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is in their shame. They are focused on earthly things, but our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject everything to Himself.

Notice how the apostle starts off reminding us how he had not attained the end state; he pressed on and reached out for the prize and tells us all mature saints ought to be like minded. He then warns about enemies of the cross who serve their own sinful appetites, being focused on earthly things. The danger of this perspective we learned about in chapter 12 as Paul moved from theology to doctrine. He also taught us what we read in Philippians – our home is in heaven, from whence our Savior will come and on that day He will transform us from this miserable state to the likeness of Himself. We have confidence in this because Christ has the power to subject all things to Himself and on the day He comes to judge the nations and make the earth new, the consummation of all things will take place and He will make all of His enemies His footstool.


If we compare ourselves to these two groups Paul has described, here in Romans and in Philippians, we will see some of those bad traits (if we’re being honest) but we had better be seeing a growing and maturing trend in the good traits we’ve read about!