Paul’s Letter to the Philippians – 07 (“Striving for Humility”)

Paul’s Letter to the Philippians – 07 (“Striving for Humility”)

[Message: Kobus van der Walt (Three Rivers Baptist Church – 12 May 2019)]

  • INTRODUCTION:

Like most people today, people in the Greco-Roman world often lived in anxiety about the future. Would they be victims of disease, famine, war, and an untimely death? Into all this the Gospel brought the “encouragement”and “comfort”that a loving God created and controlled the world. It brought the Good News that God had shown His love through Jesus Christ, who in “tenderness”and “compassion”healed the sick and raised the dead. This was in anticipation of a day when disease and death would disappear. The preaching of the Gospel also established a “fellowship” of believers who, if they followed Jesus’ example, would help one another in the troubles of life until that final day.

Although the church at Philippi was exemplary in many respects, and Paul had occasion to commend the saints warmly, yet there was an undercurrent of strife. Amongst possible other differences and disunity, there was a difference of opinion between two women, Euodia and Syntyche (4:2). It may be unfair to centre the problem on Euodia and Syntyche, but they were at least involved. 

It is helpful to keep this in mind because in chapter 2 the apostle is dealing directly with the cause and cure of contentions among the people of God.

  • SCRIPTURE READING:

Phil.2:1-18 (ESV) ~ “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labour in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.”

It is said that boxer Muhammad Ali was once on a plane when the stewardess came by and asked him to fasten his seatbelt. Ali said, ”I’m superman and superman don’t need no seatbelt.” The stewardess replied ”Superman don’t need no airplane either, please fasten your seatbelt.” 

Ali wasn’t known for his humility but it’s humility that Paul is talking about in today’s Scripture reading.

  • EXPOSITION:

We will be dividing our text for today, under the following three headings:

  • The Essentials in Humility (2:1-4);
  • The Example of Humility (2:5-11)and
  • The Exhortation to Humility (2:12-18).
  • The Essentials in Humility(2:1-4)

When we look at Paul’s words in 2:1-4, it is clear that there is a specific problem in the church in Philippi. It is really appalling to see that even a difference of opinion between two women was a very serious situation and Paul had to address this issue urgently. This is something that we as a church must seriously and urgently take notice of. We cannot and may not allow even such a minute thing (according us)to exist amongst us. In this modern age that we live in, a difference of opinion can be seen as something from Satan, trying to disrupt unity. Discord also grieves the Holy Spirit and therefore can be seen as a serious sin in the church.

This difference of opinion and seemingly disunity in the Church, breaks Paul’s heart. The “if”in this verse ~ “So ifthere is any encouragement in Christ” (2:1a) is not the “if”of doubt but of argument. The verse lists four great considerations which should draw believers together in harmony and cooperation. The apostle is saying, in effect: “Since there is so much encouragement in Christ, since His love has such a tremendous persuasiveness, since the Holy Spirit brings us all together in such a wonderful fellowship, and since there is so much tender affection and mercy in Christianity, we should all be able to get along in happy harmony with one another.” 

It is clear that the apostle is making an appeal for unity based on common devotion to Christ and common possession of the Holy Spirit. With all that there is in Christ, the members of His Body should have unity of purpose, affection, accord, and sympathy.

Paul’s point is simple but direct: his joy in Christ would be fulfilled by only one thing -the unity of the Philippian church. The leaders and members of a church usually have joy in Christ, but their joy can be fulfilled only if unity exists between them. Joy is always disturbed when there is criticism, dissatisfaction, grumbling, murmuring, cliques, opposition, and a host of other divisive negatives. 

We are to worship, plan, organise, finance, minister, etc. and serve in the joy of Christ. But the only way we can do that is to be likeminded (lit., “minding the same thing,” or to be “fellow-souled”); to have the same love; to be of one accord and to be of one mind. Paul says in Rom.14:17 ~ “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”And in 1 Cor.1:10 he tells the church in Corinth ~ “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”

How can we pursue humility?

  • Mutual love: Believers (we) should possess a mutual love. Inasmuch as all were indwelt by the same Spirit (2:1), love as a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22)ought to be demonstrated in every one.
  • Set minds on oneness: We should set our minds on oneness “in spirit and purpose.”These words repeat what was said in 2:2 and reinforces the conclusion that there was a problem of disharmony within the congregation, as already mentioned.
  • Avoid selfish ambition:Believers should avoid “selfish ambition” and “vain conceit” and consider others above themselves (2:3). Paul himself had experienced adverse effects from selfish ambition among some unworthy preachers at Rome (1:17). Persons who seek to advance themselves usually enjoy glorying in their own success. Our attitude should reveal itself in “humility,”a concept not highly regarded among the Greeks. Believers should be humble toward one another, mindful of their spiritual brotherhood and their ultimate subjection to Christ. In their exercise of humility, they should “consider others better than yourselves.”This does not mean that we must have false or unrealistic views of our own gifts as compared with those of others. Rather, our consideration for others must precede concern for ourselves ~ “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour” (Rom.12:10). This will go far toward removing any disharmony.
  • Look to the interests of others:Believers should be looking not only to their own interests but also to those of others (2:4). The self-centeredness that considers only one’s own rights, plans, and interests must be replaced by a broader outlook that includes the interests of one’s fellow Christians. Paul calls for a Christian concern that is wide enough to include others in its circle of interest. When each member of the Christian community exercises this mutual concern, problems of disunity quickly disappear.
  • The Example of Humility (2:5-11):

We must keep in mind that Paul wants to teach us humility and his teaching will mean nothing if he has not an example to illustrate his point. The only way to do this, is to refer to a perfect example in order for us to strive to become. The only perfect and complete example is Jesus Christ. 

We read the following in 1 Pet.2:24 ~ “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed”and in 1 Pet.3:18 ~ “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit…”Jesus Christ is the supreme example of humility. These verses tell us that Jesus Christ is God, yet He humbled Himself and became Man. Jesus Christ is the Person who dwelt in all the glory of perfection, but He humbled Himself and came to this corruptible world that knows little else other than selfishness, greed and death. Just imagine the enormous step down that Jesus Christ had to take to become a Man. It is utterly impossible to grasp the humility it took. Yet, this is exactly what He did and it is what we are to do.Even though He was God, He did not cling to His rights as God (2:5-6), on the contrary, He laid aside his glory (2:7a).He took upon Himself the nature of a human servant (2:7b). He humbled Himself (2:8a)and He became obedient and died on the cross (2:8b).

Beloved, we are to be humble – to walk in humility before each other – to go to the extreme of humility, even if it means humiliation before each other. Why? So that the church (we) can be unified. Unity is to prevail among us. We are to live and breathe unity. There is to be no discord in God’s church; no divisiveness; no grumbling; no murmuring; no criticism; no jealousy; no personal ambition; no self-seeking; no prejudice; no negative truth; no downing of others; no air of superiority. 

The only way we can ever know such unity is to let the mind of Christ captivate our mind. We must study, think, and learn the humility of Christ. We must let His humility flow in and through us.

The Exhortation to Humility (2:12-18)

In verses 12-18, Paul returns to the exhortations which he began earlier in verses 2-4. We find the word “therefore”at the beginning of 2:12 and this word “therefore”connects (as always) the following verses with what immediately precedes them.

We saw in the previous verses that Christ obeyed the Father and carried out His plan even to death on the cross (2:8). The Philippian Christians needed to obey, to follow Paul’s instruction which was drawn from Christ’s example – we need to obey and follow.

It is commonly understood that this exhortation relates to the personal salvation of the saints at Philippi. They were told to “work out,”to put into practice in their daily living, what God had worked in them by His Spirit. They were not told to work fortheir salvation but to work outthe salvation God had already given them. It was however, evident that some of the brothers and sisters in Philippi were not doing their work selflessly and with the interests of others ahead of their own (2:3–4)., therefore Paul’s admonition. 

Paul tells his friends that God must perfecton them His salvation (2:12-13). He emphasises that obedience is intentional and purposeful. Paul’s point is that salvation, once received, must be put into practice through obedience. This “putting into practice through obedience”can only be obtained if they do that in “fear and trembling.”

Pauls says in Phi.2:12 ~“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”This verse is often misused to instil or to create fear into people, warning them that it means that they can lose their salvation. What does it mean to work out our salvation with fear and trembling? Paul can hardly be encouraging believers to live in a continuous condition of nervousness and anxiety. That would contradict his many other exhortations to peace of mind, courage, and confidence in the God who authors our salvation. The Greek word translated“fear”in this context can equally mean “reverence”or “respect.”Paul uses the same phrase in 2 Cor.7:15 where he refers to Titus as being encouraged by the Corinthians’ reception of him“with fear and trembling,”that is, with great humility and respect for his position as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul himself came to the Corinthian church in “weakness and fear, and with much trembling”(1 Cor.2:3), mindful of the great and awesome nature of the work in which he was engaged.

The Greek verb rendered“work out”means “to continually work to bring something to completion or fruition.”We do this by actively pursuing obedience in the process of sanctification, which Paul explains further in the next chapter of Philippians. He describes himself as “straining”and “pressing on”toward the goal of Christlikeness (Phil.3:13-14). The“trembling”he experiences is the attitude Christians are to have in pursuing this goal – a healthy fear of offending God through disobedience and an awe and respect for His majesty and holiness. We work out our salvation by going to the very source of our salvation – the Word of God – wherein we renew our hearts and minds (Rom.12:1-2), coming into His presence with a spirit of reverence and awe (see “GotQuestions.org”).

In 2:14 Paul says that all things must be done without “grumbling or disputing.”In pursuing humility, Paul tells the Philippians not to imitate the ancient Israelites (Ex. 15:24; 16:7-9; 1 Cor. 10:10). Unlike God’s ancient people, believers in Jesus are indeed God’s “children,”not “a crooked and twisted generation.”Amid their sufferings from external opponents (1:28-30), the Philippians may have grumbled against church leaders as the Israelites did against Moses (Ex.16; 1 Thess. 5:12, 13).

Instead of grumbling, Paul encourages them to be as “beacons of light in a dark world,”or“to let their lights shine in this world”(2:15). And in 2:16 he tells them how they can be “shining lights”“…holding fast to the word of life.” This refers to the Gospel as a declaration of the saving significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and to the life-changing teachings founded on the saving work of Christ, which we find in the Word of God (1:27; 4:8, 9).

We see in 2:17-18 that the Philippians and likewise us, must “rejoice with Paul in his sacrifice.”We are to work out our salvation by following the example of sacrificial labour. Very simply stated, Paul had offered himself as a sacrifice to serve men. The picture is that of the sacrifice and offerings made by people to the heathen gods. Paul had taken his body and offered it as a sacrifice and service for people. He lived for nothing else except to hold forth the Word of life to people. His body was totally sacrificed for that purpose and that purpose alone. Paul was obedient to Christ ~ “And he said to them all, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me”(Luke 9:23). And he practised what he preached ~ “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God”(Rom.12:1-2).

  • CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:

Why does the Lord want us humble? Why is this an important topic? What is the point? Here are some reasons God’s Word identifies for our being humble.

  • That He may exalt us in due time ~Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time”(1 Pet.5:6).
  • So that we may learn, because only the humble are teachable ~Take my yokeupon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart” (Matt.11:29).
  • That God can use us in His service. He cannot use the prideful ~The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart – These, O God, you will not despise”(Ps.51:17).
  • To receive more grace “He gives more grace. Therefore He says, ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble”(James 4:6).
  • To enter His presence ~“Thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit…” (Is.57:15).
  • To be saved and enter the Kingdom~ “Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt.18:3-4).
  • That our prayers may be heard ~ He does not forget the cry of the humble”(Ps.9:12).

If humbleness is this important, let us briefly look at a couple of points that could help us to cultivate humility in our lives:

  • Minute me: Look around at the billions of people. You’re just one of them. Look above at the jillions of stars. You’re sitting on one small planet circling one humble star. They’ve been around for eons, while you have only a few more years of life here. If that doesn’t humble you, you’re not paying attention.
  • The Holy Spirit: Be truthful and obedient to Gal.5:22-23 – The fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, humility...”
  • Affliction, hardship: You shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you…”(Deut.8:2-3).
  • Failure: Scripture cites so many instances of this, it’s hard to know where to start. God let Israel fail to conquer the tiny city of Ai to humble them because of sin in their camp. He let Samson fail because of his headstrong ways. Same with Nebuchadnezzar. Time and again, God allowed foreign nations to conquer Israel and dominate them until they humbled themselves and cried out to Him.
  • Criticism: Nothing drove Moses to stay so close to the Almighty like the constant carping of the Israelite people. Many pastors have had to stand in the pulpit and deliver God’s message to people who were looking for flaws and eager to pounce on any mistake he made. It’s an awful way to live, but God can use this in his life to build character and deepen his commitment to Christ.

The war to remain humble must be fought on many fronts every day of our lives. Even then, pride will slip up on us and enter from our blind side. Before we know it, we will start sounding as though we deserve more from God and others than we are getting, like we have been mistreated in life, as though the universe was built for our comfort and our being deprived of anything ranks is a great injustice. 

As followers of Christ, we cannot expect our path to be one of ease. Salvation by grace is totally free, but that does not mean there is no personal cost (Luke 14:28). God is at work, but there is strenuous work for us to do as well. And yet the strain of living for Christ cannot overshadow our joy. Jesus’ sacrifice was done in joy, without complaining, and we likewise are welcomed in the glad service of Christ and others. The Gospel that calls us to sacrifice also calls us to rejoice. The redemption into which we have been swept up is too great to be lukewarm (tepid) about. Reflecting on God’s grace to us, the very “children of God”(Phil. 2:15), our hearts are softened once more. What a Gospel this is!

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Paul’s Letter to the Philippians – 05 (“God is Above Our Circumstances”)

Paul’s Letter to the Philippians – 05 (“God is Above Our Circumstances”)

[Message: Kobus van der Walt (Three Rivers Baptist Church – 28 April 2019)]

  • SCRIPTURE READING:

Phil.1:12-20 ~“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. 15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defence of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance,20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honoured in my body, whether by life or by death.”  

  • INTRODUCTION:

Paul has ended his prayer for the believers in Philippi and now wants to convey news about his own circumstances (1:12–30). Significantly, however, this section of the letter tells more about the progress of the Gospel in the midst of Paul’s circumstances than about the details of his health, the conditions of his imprisonment, or his strategy for defending himself at trial. He does this by expanding on three headings:

  • EXPOSITION:
  • Paul’s Appointment(1:12-14);
  • Paul’s Focus (1:15-18);
  • Paul’s Confidence (1:19).

3.1      Paul’s Appointment (vv. 12-14):

To believers outside Paul’s current “accommodation” (remember he is under house arrest in Rome)it must have been a terrible disappointment that Paul was not available to spread the Gospel and to visit his brothers and sisters in churches all over Asia Minor, in fact Paul was facing a possible death sentence for proclaiming the Gospel. However, as someone once said, Paul removed the prefix in the word “disappointment”and came to recognise his imprisonment ashis“appointment!”Instead of focusing on what looked like disappointmentto the saints at Philippi, he set his mind on the things above. He was enabled by the Spirit to recognise his appointment!Paul’s, Christ centred and Gospel centred mindset allowed him to turn a potentially bad and depressing situation, into an excellent Gospel opportunity! 

Paul gives us a wonderful example to follow. It reminds us of his words in Phil.3:17 ~ “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.”  We need, like Paul, to be continually filled with the Spirit who enables us to maintain an eternal perspectiveby keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus ~ “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God”(Hebr.12:1-2). We need to note that Paul’s approach to his adverse circumstances is to focus on God’s sovereign will. He could have easily cried “Woe is me!”His letter to the Philippians could have gone on and on about how bad the prison food was, how the chains rubbed on his wrists, how horrible it was to be chained to a Roman soldier so despised by the Jews, and so on. But not Paul! Instead of fixating on his adversity, he makes a Spirit filled, conscious choice to focus on Christ and the Good News about His salvation by grace, through faith

Paul took a divine perspective and so he encourages the church at Philippi that their prayers and contributions were still yielding eternal dividends by telling them that his imprisonment is helping rather than hindering the advancement of the Gospel. 

The Greek word for “advance” [προκοπή(prŏkŏpē)] literally means a gradual improvement, or growth, or development of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What Paul is therefore saying, is that it does not matter whether he is in jail or not, because the Gospel is still advancing.

In the Roman world, imprisonment was rarely a long-term punishment. Most prisoners were awaiting either trial or execution. The length of imprisonment depended on the swiftness of a trial. Conditions of imprisonment were closely linked to the status of the prisoner. Non-Roman citizens, even of high status, were often harshly treated. In contrast, house arrest was typically for Roman citizens and more comfortable for the prisoner, who was usually physically chained to a guard but could still host visitors. 

Because Paul was a Roman citizen, he was under house arrest. He was a respected prisoner and allowed to stay by himself ~ “And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who guarded him”(Acts 28:16). Paul’s Roman citizenship also meant that he was eligible for a daily food allowance, but Paul depended on his friends and fellow believers to supply this food. While under house arrest, Paul was guarded around the clock by soldiers of the elite Praetorian Guard. 

While in house arrest, many beloved brothers visited Paul on a regular basis – men like e.g. 

  • Luke (author of the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts); 
  • Aristarchuswho was a Jewish convert from Thessalonica (Acts 27:2; Col. 4:10-11). He joined Paul on the apostle’s third missionary journey and afterwards he was a regular traveling companion for Paul.
  • Timothy (who was probably closer to Paul than any other person on earth).
  • Epaphraswas from Colossae and church planter – churches like Colossae (Col. 1:7), and perhaps Laodicea and Hierapolis as well (Col. 4:13).
  • And many others.

Just imagine for a moment. What would the conversations entail between Paul and these brothers – they would definitely not discuss the previous Saturday’s games in the Colosseum and how big the bears and lions were that killed the Christians, or how scared anyone was of Nero’s rule over the empire and what he was capable of doing to them as Christians. No, they would’ve discussed the Gospel and the advancing of the Kingdom of God and all this happened while Paul was chained to a Roman soldier. Guess who was the actual prisoner? 

We can also be sure of the fact that Paul witnessed personally to the soldiers that he was chained too. At least four soldiers per day had to listen to him, because of the six hourly shift changes by the guards. Imagine yourself as one of those soldiers, chained to a man who prayed “without ceasing,” who was constantly interviewing people about their spiritual condition, and who was repeatedly writing letters to Christians and churches throughout the Empire! It was not long before some of these soldiers put their faith in Christ. Paul was able to get the Gospel into the elite Praetorian Guard, something he could not have done had he been a free man. These conversations and the Gospel specifically, became known… ~ “…throughout the whole imperial guard…(Phil.1:13). 

One of the more amazing circumstances reflected in the book of Acts is the manner in which Paul endeared himself to a wide variety of Roman officials. Almost without exception, these dignitaries came to respect God’s ambassador to the Gentiles.

While Paul was under house arrest, the Gospel still penetrated deep into the heart of Rome and its people. Through Paul’s example, the majority of the Roman Christians were… ~“…much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Phil. 1:14). What exciting times these must have been.

3.2      Paul’s Focus (1:15-18):

While under house arrest, there were however, also disappointments. Unfortunately, some members of the Roman congregation apparently did not like the notoriety (Afrikaans: “bekendheid”) Paul had generated. They were characterised by envy – a feeling of displeasure caused by the success of Paul. As a result, they stirred up “strife” through their selfish ambition (Phil. 1:15). These were not heretics, like those in Corinth whom Paul severely denounced; nor were they Judaizers, like those of Galatia who preached another gospel. These were third-rate preachers who, out of sheer jealousy and enmity, took advantage of Paul’s imprisonment to draw attention to themselves.

Fuelled by these sinful attitudes, this renegade group went forth “preaching Christ.” The content of their message was not the true Gospel and it was their intention to elicit (Afrikaans: “ontlok”) Paul’s rebuke. They were insincere and pretentious.

But what was their goal? Incredibly, they hoped “to raise up affliction”for the already-burdened Paul. It is not difficult to imagine a scenario. They might have proclaimed that Jesus Christ is “King” – a point very sensitive to the Roman authorities. This was something that was against the law of the day, because the only one to be worshiped was Caesar (Acts 17:7). 

When interrogated by the officials, these antagonists might well have suggested, “You can take this matter up with Paul, the prisoner. He is the most prominent leader of our movement.” Can anything more wicked be imagined?

These people were driven by jealousy and envy. Envy [φθόνος(phthŏnŏs, fthon´-os)]“describes pain felt and malignity conceived at the sight of excellence or happiness.” It means not just wanting what another person has, but also resenting that person for having it. It is an attitude of ill-will that leads to division and strife and even murder. When we envy, we cannot bear to see the prosperity of others, because we ourselves feel continually wretched. The English word “envy” is interesting, as it is derived from the Latin in = against and video = to look, “to look with ill-will,”etc., toward another, and obviously is an evil strongly condemned in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

To “envy”is to feel a grudging discontent aroused by the possessions, achievements, or qualities of another along with the desire to have for oneself something possessed by another. To “envy” another is to show spiteful malice and resentment over another’s advantage. 

To “envy” is to possess a discontented feeling that arises in one’s selfish heart in view of the superiority of another, and being nearly tantamount/equivalent (Afrikaans: “gelykstaande”)to the expression of jealousy. The one who envies possesses a malignant passion that sees in another qualities that it covets, and can even degenerate into hatred for their possessor. When we feel “envy” towards others our basic desire is to degrade them, not so much because we aspire after elevation, but because we delight in obscuring of those who are more deserving. It follows that “envying” while seemingly just an “innocent” sin is in fact one of the most odious and detestable of all vices.

According to Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary on Envy – Sin of jealousy over the blessings and achievements of others, especially the spiritual enjoyment and advance of the kingdom of Christ freely and graciously bestowed upon the people of God. Old Testament examples of the sin of jealousy include the rivalry of Joseph’s brothers over the favour that Joseph received at the hand of God (Gen.37:12-36; Acts 7:9), and Saul’s animosity toward David for his physical and spiritual prowess (1 Sam.18). Envy inevitably leads to personal harm and debilitation, affecting one’s physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being (Job 5:2; Prov.14:30). Unchecked, it gradually leads to a destructive and remorseful way of life (Prov.27:4), and ultimately, to estrangement from God (Rom.1:28-32). 

In spite of all this heartache, however, Paul could still sing and rejoice and we see that in Phil.4:4 when he writes ~ “Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say, Rejoice.”As unpleasant as his circumstances sometimes were, he could affirm that the things which had happened to him had worked for the progress of the Gospel (Phil. 1:12).

In spite of these opponents of Paul and their sinful attitudes and motives, Paul is still confident that God will even use their message to advance the Gospel and the Kingdom of God. In Afrikaans we say: “God slaan reguit houe met kromstokke,”meaning that God will and can use any way and any “crooked man”to accomplish His will. That’s because, as the Hebrew writes says in Hebr.4:12~ “…For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”The Word is alive, and when it is quoted, it accomplishes its work – to bring faith to the hearer ~ “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

Paul’s attitude was one that says, “It makes no difference what happens to me, just as long as Christ is glorified and the Gospel shared with others.”Paul rejoiced in spite of his circumstances, because his circumstancespromoted the furtherance of the Gospel and in that, he rejoiced.

3.3     Paul’s Confidence (1:19-20):

Looking at Paul’s situation, he could easily become distressed and depressed, but Paul had the same attitude as that of Corrie Ten Boom (author of the book: “The Hiding Place”)many years later ~ “Look around and be distressed. Look inside and be depressed. Look at Jesus (our Joy)and be at rest.” In fact, as we’ve already seen, Paul is rejoicing. Why does he rejoice? It is because Paul sees worldly obstacles, like his imprisonment, as divine opportunities.

Paul also knows that he will eventually be delivered. The question is whether Paul is referring to a physical or spiritual deliverance.The word he uses here for “deliverance”is σωτηρία (sōtēria), which is generally translated “salvation”and usually refers to the final deliverance of believers at the last judgment when they stand vindicated before God. Paul was confident of this ultimate deliverance, whatever Caesar decided to do with him. The same confidence was expressed from prison by Paul to Timothy at the end of his second letter to his young assistant ~ “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom”(2 Tim.4:18). 

But, whether Paul referred to a physical or spiritual deliverance, he knew that one way or another, either temporally or eternally, God would deliver him. Why?  Because God delivers the righteous.  That’s an Old Testament principle.  Job knew it because it was the truth about God, even before the Old Testament was written.  Paul knew it, and Paul is identifying with Job, who is a righteous man going through very difficult times who also said, “I know that this shall turn out for my deliverance.”And Paul quotes Job because he takes security in the precepts of the Lord, the truth of the Word of God. Thus Paul was entirely confident in his ultimate deliverance… ~ ...whether by life or by death”as 1:20 says. 

  • CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:

Is Christ dear to you? Do you live for Him? Is the one passion and aim and purpose of your nature to glorify Him? Can you say: “To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain?”

God is telling us – through His servant Paul – that we must work toward experiencing prevailing joy in life. We must set our thinking on the right things in a time of trial. We must raise our attention above the mere circumstances of our trial, or even above how that trial is making us feel; and set our thinking instead on the sovereign God who is above our circumstances, and on the ways that He is working through our trial to bring about His good purposes.

We must do what Paul did, and have our theology right. We must think Biblically about our trials in the light of sound doctrine. We must fight the natural course of our thinking in a time of trial; and affirm, as Paul did in Romans 8:28 ~ “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

One of the consistent themes of Scripture is that when life turns ugly, God is still good! Consider the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis. His brothers intended to harm him, but God used it for good to accomplish the saving of many people. The same was true for Paul. The same is true for us. The chaos of our lives can be used for God’s Gospel good. Always!

Posted in Advancement of the Kingdom, Church, English, Gospel, Paul, Philippians, Reformed, Reformed Baptist, Sermons (English) | Leave a comment

Paul’s Letter to the Philippians – 04 (“Paul’s Pastoral Prayer”)

Paul’s Letter to the Philippians – 04 (“Paul’s Pastoral Prayer”)

[Message: Kobus van der Walt (Three Rivers Baptist Church – 21 April 2019)]

  • SCRIPTURE READING:

Phil.1:1-11- (ESV)~ “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

  • INTRODUCTION:

Quite often we hear people say, that God has a wonderful plan for your life, most of the times, meaning that God will help you achieve your dreams. When we however, look at the Word of God, we will discover that life for a believer has nothing to do with your earthly, materialistic dreams – because it is in the end all about, the “unholy trinity, me, myself and I”and God is definitely not interested in those kind of dreams, on the contrary, God wants us to focus on Him and Him alone ~ “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile”(Jer.29:13-14). 

Moses says in Ps.91, that when we hold fast to God, He will do great things for us, but first and foremost, the focus is on God and holding unto God… ~ “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honour him”(Ps.91:14-15). We must never focus on ourselves; we must focus on God, without having expectations of Him fulfilling our dreams, etc. The Word of God is full of promises that when we hold on to Him, we can and will experience hardship – we will experience trials. Moses prioritises the fact that we must first focus on God and “…hold fast to Him in love,”and then, and only then will He deliver us, etc. 

Exactly this (and more) is what Paul is praying for his fellow-saints in Philippi when we look at 1:9-11 and this will also be the text on which we will focus today ~ “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

  • EXPOSITION:

Our outline for today’s teaching is as follows:

  • Filled with Love (1:9);
  • Filled with the Spirit of Discernment (1:10);
  • Filled with the Fruit of Salvation (1:11).
  • FILLED WITH LOVE (1:9):

We see in 1:9a that Paul’s prayer to God, is that the love of the Philippian believers would abound more and more. What is interesting is that Paul does not specify the object for their love, in other words, he does not say to whom their love must be directed. Must their love be directed towards God? Towards their fellow-brothers? To the lost world? Towards themselves – so called “self-love?”Who has Paul in mind here?

It is as if Paul intentionally left the object for their love undefined because he wanted them to love both God and one another. Kent Hughes writes that the old Latin commentator Bengel said, “The fire in the apostle never says, ‘It is enough.’” To which Hughes adds, “Paul is passionate here – more love, more love!”

For Paul, it is common sense and, I believe it was also common sense to the Philippian believers, that they as believers must love God, as well as their neighbour. This conviction was based on what Jesus said in Matt.22:37-39 ~ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

When Paul then prays ~ “that your love may abound more and more,”it implies that the object of their love must be God and their neighbour. Who was their neighbour? Modern man, is mostly inclined to think that the neighbour is simply one’s fellow-man. But this is not in accordance with what the Bible teaches. When Jesus wanted to send a dramatic and memorable message out about “who is my neighbour”, he used a Samaritan to display neighbourly love. Our neighbour doesn’t only mean our next door neighbours. It could mean the stranger you give a helping hand to, the person you give an encouraging word to, the one who hates you should be the one you pray for.  Jesus also gives us the answer in Luke 29, after a lawyer asked Him who our neighbour is, by telling the man a parable ~ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise” (Luke 29:27-37).

Jesus fulfilled the Law by saying that not only should we love our enemies, like the Samaritan, but also pray for them.

Paul prays that their love must abound andthe word“abound”in the Greek [περισσεύω(pĕrissĕuō)],meansto exceed in something. In this case, an exceeding knowledge of a spiritual or moral nature such as awareness of one’s sinfulness (Rom.3:20), or knowledge of God(Col.1:10) and His Truth (Titus 1:1).

“Abound”also means to grow.Their love must therefore, grow more and more, but it must abound (or grow) with knowledge and discernment. What is knowledge? The meaning of “knowledge”[ἐπίγνωσις(ĕpignōsis)] is tohave full insight of something. In this case then, “abound”generally refers to an exceeding knowledge of a spiritual or moral nature.

Their love must grow by feeding, or by being fed by knowledge of a spiritual or moral nature such as awareness of one’s sinfulness (Rom.3:20)or knowledge of God (Col.1:10)and His Truth (Titus 1:1).By growing in awareness of sinfulness and the knowledge of God and His Truth, the love of the saints in Philippi will grow.

How do we grow in the knowledge of God and His Truth? 

  • Growing in the knowledge of Christ implies a fuller appreciation of his Godhead. We must make a study of God’s attributes (e.g. God is Infinite – He is Self-Existing, Without Origin; God Is Immutable – He Never Changes;God Is Self-Sufficient – He Has No Needs; God is Omnipotent – He Is All Powerful; God Is Omniscient – He Is All-Knowing; God Is Omnipresent – He Is Always Everywhere; God is Wise – He Is Full of Perfect, Unchanging Wisdom; God Is Faithful – He Is Infinitely, Unchangingly True; God Is Good – He Is Infinitely, Unchangingly Kind and Full of Good Will; God Is Just – He Is Infinitely, Unchangeably Right and Perfect in All He Does; God Is Merciful – He is Infinitely, Unchangeably Compassionate and Kind;God Is Gracious – God Is Infinitely Inclined to Spare the Guilty; God Is Loving – God Infinitely, Unchangingly Loves Us; God Is Holy – He is Infinitely, Unchangingly Perfect; God Is Glorious – He is Infinitely Beautiful and Great).
  • Growing in the knowledge of Christ implies a clearer sight of His humanity; mission/calling to this world and the accomplishment of that mission.
  • Growing in the knowledge of Christ implies a more discerning and full persuasion, that He was fore-ordained to be THE Redeemer. Christ was the person pitched upon from eternity to be the Saviour of the elect of God ~ “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of youwho 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”(1 Peter 1:20-21).
  • Growing in the knowledge of Christ implies a greater insight into His sufferings – It is not without reason that the history of these is so largely penned by all the four evangelists.
  • Growing in the knowledge of Christ implies a more fruitful understanding and acceptance of his resurrection and going to His Father ~ “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death, if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead”(Phil.3:10-11).
  • Growing in the knowledge of Christ implies greater satisfaction about His imputed righteousness – the righteousness that He imputed into us.
  • Growing in the knowledge of Christ implies a better understanding for His role as High Priest and the pity and compassions of Him that intercedes on our behalf.
  • Growing in the knowledge of Christ implies being better acquainted with His great power, and continual presence with His church which is so nearly related to Him.
  • Growing in the knowledge of Christ implies a more earnest looking forward to wards His second coming ~ “For, Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay” (Heb. 10:37). And Col.3:4 ~ “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
  •   FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT OF DISCERNMENT (1:10)

Why must the saints in Philippi’s love, abound more with knowledge and discernment? 1:10 gives us the answer ~ “…so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.”

How can one grow in love if the knowledge that he gains and feeds his love with, are contaminated with worldliness and/or unholiness? He must be able to discern between what is good and right and holy. 

According to the Greek, “discernment”[αἴσθησις (aisthēsis)]is the mental ability to understand and discriminate between relations. This isespecially acquired through experience. It is the ability to rightly and accurately judge well in light of God’s counsel. 

Paul prays that the Philippians might have knowledge and insight, enabling them to choose what is best from the various moral options that confront them. If they do this consistently, they will be “pure”and“blameless”on the day when the Messiah returns.

The implication of all of this, is therefore, that if their lives are filled more and more with knowledge and discernment, their hearts of love will grow. We see then that love and knowledge and discernment must grow – the more knowledge and discernment, the more love they will have. Or, if you want, their love must grow and the food for that growing process is growing knowledge and discernment. 

How can we develop our discernment? Some people think that discernment is a mystical ability, like even when you see someone for the first time you already automatically know them. You know what they think, who they are, and what they do. Although God is capable of revealing one’s heart issues to a prophet, the gift of discernment should not be confused with psychic mind-reading, which is false.

There are also some who think of discernment as a gift that can be instantaneously received through an encounter with God. People who think of discernment in this way usually spends too much time asking God for it, but don’t read and obey the Bible enough. That is also wrong.

Discernment is a gift, one that is developed through a deep relationship with God. It is characterised by a disciplined adherence and dependence to God’s Word and the Holy Spirit. Charles Spurgeon once said, “Discernment is not simply a matter of telling the difference between what is right and wrong; rather it is the difference between right and almost right.”

Here are some ways you can develop discernment:

  • Build Yourself Up in the Word of God. When we study the Word of God, it becomes the basis for which we judge all other things. Hebr.4:12 tells us ~ “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
  • Pursue Intimacy with God.Developing an intimate relationship with God requires that we pursue holiness ~“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord”(Hebr.12:14). When we are able to build an intimate relationship with Him and seek Him and His plans, He will guide us and reveal to us things that only He knows. Hebrews 4:13 tells us ~ “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
  • Train Yourself to Know the Difference:Another way to develop discernment, is through basic application of God’s Word in everyday circumstance. When we apply God’s Word, carefully testing if something is true (from God or not), we will be able to develop discernment ~ “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil”(Hebr.5:14). 

Paul prays that the Philippians’ love will grow with knowledge and all discernment, so that… “…you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ”(Phil.1:10). The motivation for growing and having discernment, is to be able to approve what is excellent. Without writing it, Paul implicates that, that which is NOT excellent, should be resisted and rejected. The reason for this, being to be pure and blameless when Christ returns and we will stand in the presence of God on the Day of Judgment ~ “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor.5:10).

  •   FILLED WITH THE FRUIT OF SALVATION (1:11):

Paul says in 1:11 that we must be… ~ “…filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”With these words, Paul does not want to tell us that this is a third thing that we must be filled with (i.e. to be pure and blameless, as well as possessing righteousness)on the contrary, no one can be filled with purity and be blameless, if he does not possess righteousness. Righteousness is to have a righteous stand before God, which means that you are justified, declared righteous, because you have had your sins cleansed by Jesus ~ “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God”(2 Cor.5:21).

Possessing Christ’s righteousness must and will result in producing fruit for God. Such inner qualities, partially described in Gal.5:22–23 (a.k.a. “The Fruit of the Spirit”), will be evident to others. So, a life that exhibits such traits is to the glory and praise of God.

Paul also says that this righteousness only comes from God through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the Cross at Calvary.

The Christian life is intended to be fruitful not only in activity, but in character (Gal.5:22–23 – “The Fruit of the Spirit”), and 1:11 reminds us that the means to this is the living Lord Jesus Christ and the goal is nothing other than the glory and praise of God (cf.Eph. 1:6, 12, 14).

  • CONCLUSION & APPLICATION:

Having analysed Philippians 1:9-11 and Paul’s prayer for the Philippians, we see that this prayer is Gospel-centred. His petitions before God was so designed to advance the Gospel in the lives of the PhilippianChristians.

Dear brother and sister and friends, let us be reminded today that we have been commemorating the death of Jesus on Friday and today, His resurrection! He is the only One who possesses perfect love and discernment. He is the righteous One! Praise be to His Name for imputing that righteousness to His chosen ones. We are therefore called to pray, first and foremost for our love to abound more and more; for our love to be more knowledgeable, and for us to be pure and blameless for the day of Christ. 

Let us put the priorities of the Gospel at the centre of our prayer lives for ourselves, and also for others. 

When was the last time you prayed for someone that hated you, despised you, and wanted to do you harm?  That is what Jesus expects of those who are His own and those who are Jesus’ enemies He desires that they repent and trust in Him.

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Did Jesus Go to Hell After He Died? (Logos Bible Software Blog)

Did Jesus Go to Hell After He Died?Posted: 19 Apr 2019 10:15 AM PDT“Christ’s Descent into Hell,” by Follower of Hieronymus BoschSome versions of the Apostles’ Creed say Jesus descended into hell. Did he?For centuries, Christians have proclaimed, “… he [Jesus] descended into hell…” Other versions of the creed say “the grave.” Why do we say those words at all, and what are the implications of one versus the other?This brief post is only an introduction to the matter. I’ll present the main relevant biblical texts, a brief overview the primary interpretations, and a note or two about how I used Logos to find this information. Finally, I suggest resources for further study. Bible verses about Jesus’ descent into hellThe main texts are Acts 2:31, Rom. 10:6–7, and Eph. 4:9:Acts 2:31[The patriarch David] foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.Rom. 10:6–7 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).Eph. 4:7–9But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says,      “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,      and he gave gifts to men.” (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?)Related texts are 1 Pet. 3:19 and 1 Pet. 4:6, which speak of Christ proclaiming the gospel to the spirits in prison (3:19) and the dead (4:6). There are several interpretations on these passages, some holding that the spirits in prison are not the same as the dead, but are actually “hostile angelic powers” to whom Christ proclaimed victory upon his ascension.1Various interpretations Louis Berkhof, in his 1938 Systematic Theology, conveniently summarizes the dominant positions on the creedal expression “he descended into hell” (the last being his own): (1) The Catholic Church takes it to mean that, after His death, Christ went into the Limbus Patrum, where the Old Testament saints were awaiting the revelation and application of His redemption, preached the gospel to them, and brought them out to heaven. (2) The Lutherans regard the descent into hades as the first stage of the exaltation of Christ. Christ went into the underworld to reveal and consummate His victory over Satan and the powers of darkness, and to pronounce their sentence of condemnation. Some Lutherans place this triumphal march between the death of Christ and His resurrection; others, after the resurrection. (3) The Church of England holds that, while Christ’s body was in the grave, the soul went into hades, more particularly into paradise, the abode of the souls of the righteous, and gave them a fuller exposition of the truth. (4) Calvin interprets the phrase metaphorically, as referring to the penal sufferings of Christ on the cross, where He really suffered the pangs of hell. Similarly, the Heidelberg Catechism. According to the usual Reformed position the words refer not only to the sufferings on the cross, but also to the agonies of Gethsemane. (5) Scripture certainly does not teach a literal descent of Christ into hell. Moreover, there are serious objections to this view. He cannot have descended into hell according to the body, for this was in the grave. If He really did descend into hell, it can only have been as to His soul, and this would mean that only half of His human nature shared in this stage of His humiliation (or exaltation). Moreover, as long as Christ had not yet risen from the dead, the time had not come for a triumphal march such as the Lutherans assume. And, finally, at the time of His death Christ commended His spirit to His Father. This seems to indicate that He would be passive rather than active from the time of His death until He arose from the grave. On the whole it seems best to combine two thoughts: (a) that Christ suffered the pangs of hell before His death, in Gethsemane and on the cross; and (b) that He entered the deepest humiliation of the state of death.2R. J. Bauckham’s takes a similar view in his entry “Descent into Hell” in the New Dictionary of Theology: that the verses in question simply amount to saying that Christ “truly died,” and are not concerned with whether Christ descended into hell or not.3Charles Hodge argues similarly in his systematic theology, saying that the word translated “hell” is one and the same as “grave”:From the original and proper meaning of the Greek word ᾅδης, and the corresponding English word hell. Both mean the unseen world. The one signifies what is unseen, the other what is covered and thus hidden from view. Both are used as the rendering for the Hebrew word שְׁאוֹל (probably from שָׁאַל to ask, or demand), the state or place of the dead; the orcus rapax of the Latins. All the dead, the righteous and the wicked, alike go into the invisible world, or, in this sense, “descend into hell.” Hence to be buried, to go down to the grave, to descend into hell, are in Scriptural language equivalent forms of expression. (emphasis mine)4So what’s the answer? There are certainly traditions that hold that Christ somehow descended to hell in the sense of going spiritually to the underworld, but those are not without major objection (see Berkhof’s fifth point).In fact, those theological challenges lead many interpreters (and from my brief study, it seems most) to hold that the verses and creedal confession affirm simply that Christ truly died and went to the grave. It is also worth noting that this particular phrase wasn’t introduced into the creed until the fourth century, “and then not as a separate or distinct article, but as merely explanatory. ‘He was dead and buried,’ i.e., he descended into hell.”5Think long enough about this doctrine, and you will see that it is shrouded in mystery, difficult to grasp “with reason and the five senses.”
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Paul’s Letter to the Philippians – 03 (“He Who Began a Good Work in You”)

[Message: Kobus van der Walt (Three Rivers Baptist Church – 14 April 2019)]

  1. INTRODUCTION:

Death is inevitable; death is a reality; death will eventually catch up with all of us! Even non-Christians experienced it and will experience it in the future. Let us just look at a few death-bed sentences of well-known people (whether they were saved or not I cannot say):

 This was Jimmy Hendrix, an American guitarist, singer, and songwriter’s last words:“The story of life is quicker than the blink of an eye, the story of love is hello and goodbye, until we meet again.” 

Charlotte Brontë was an English novelist and poet (Author of “Wuthering Heights)– “Oh, I am not going to die, am I? He will not separate us, we have been so happy.” 

Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian polymath, painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer: “I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.”

Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel was an American distiller and businessman, best known as the founder of the Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey distillery and his last words were: “One last drink, please”

 (https://www.ranker.com/list/dying-words-last-words-spoken-by-famous-people-at-death/notable-quotables)

John Piper, in one of his “Labs,” says that, God didn’t get His people part way out of Egypt or halfway through the Red Sea. No, our God always completes what He begins. These words are very important for us, and we must keep it in mind as we are going to look at Phil.1:6 today ~ And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”When looking at this verse, we will also break up the sentence and look at some of the Greek words in short, so please bear with me and work with me from your Bibles. 

  • SCRIPTURE READING:

Phil.1:11- (ESV) ~ “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus ChristIt is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

  • EXPOSITION:

I would like us to look at 1:6 under the following three points:

  • He HAS saved us (PAST – regeneration);
  • He IS saving us (PRESNT – sanctification)and 
  • He WILL save us (FUTURE – glorification).
  • HE HAS SAVED US (PAST – regeneration):We must remember that in writing this letter to the Philippians, Paul was in actual fact writing a prayer to them – a prayer that he is praying for them and while praying, a great confidence gripped him. 

Paul starts off in 1:6 by saying… ~ “And I am sure of this…”The Greek word for the expression ~ “And I am sure,”is πείθω(pĕithō), which is a verb and literally means, to be persuaded or sure of the truthfulness or validity of something. Paul is in other words absolutely convinced and sure of something, which he refers too, after the word “this.”

The word “this” is followed by the words ~ “…that he who began a good work in you…”

The Greek for “began” is ἐνάρχομαι(enarchomai), which means“to begin to lay one’s hand to a plough; to take the first step or steps in carrying out an action.”

Paul is therefore absolutely convinced and persuaded of the fact that God always carries out an action with which He started. We must immediately ask ourselves who is this “he” that Paul is referring to, and with what kind of action did he start?

First, it is quite obvious that he refers to God, because he starts his prayer in 1:3 with the words ~ “I thank my God”He is thanking God for various things and here in 1:6, for the fact that He (i.e. God)started a specific action in the lives of Paul’s brothers.

The fact that it is God who began this action implies to Paul that there is no, absolutely no possibility that this specific action will be interrupted or terminated – God started this action and He will complete the action. 

This reminds one of the words in a poem by Augustus M. Toplady, author of the hymn “Rock of Ages” and a major Calvinist opponent of John Wesley:

The arm of His strength will complete;

His promise is Yea and Amen,

And never was forfeited yet.

God is a God that always finishes what He started – this is one of His attributes. The apostle John reminds us of our God who never ceases to complete what He started. Beloved this fact is a crucial truth that we must always keep in mind, especially when we experience hardship. Hardship that we as believers experience in our Christian walk – this is exactly the heart of Paul’s letter to the Philippians – guaranteed hardship for believers, BUT…. and we will see that shortly! 

God always finishes what He started ~ “Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work”(John 4:34). “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit”(John 19:30) and then the most convincing verse in this regard can be found in Paul’s letter to the Romans ~ “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Rom.8:29-30).

The next phrase that we must look at, is a “good work.” The word “good” refers to the Greek word ἀγαθός(agathŏs) which literally means something that is of moral excellence. 

In what do Paul’s assurance lie? Of what is he sure? What is it that God will do (remember this is part of God’s character)? Paul is here referring to those believers in Philippi that is saved – those who received salvation ~ …if you confesswith your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believein your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom.10:9). He is assured of the fact that God started a new work in them. What is this new work? First, we conclude that Paul is sure of the Philippian saints’ salvation or regeneration.

The Philippian’s salvation is the “work,”the “good work”that God started in them. The Greek for “work” in this case, is ἔργον(ĕrgŏn). This says exactly what the English word is saying. Merriam-Webster defines “work,” (I only mention three definitions) “…to perform or carry througha task requiring sustained effort or continuous repeated operations,”and “…to function or operate according to plan or design,”or (I like this one) “…to get (oneself or an object) into or out of a condition or position by gradual stages”

Why do I say that God is the One who saves – that He is the One who is doing the “good work”? The SOLA 5 Confession of Faith says: “God calls all men to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and freely promises to all such people that they will be redeemed from sin and inherit eternal life.”We read in Is.55:1 ~ “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”Eph.2:8-9 reads as follow ~ “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Rev.22:17 ~ “The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.”Joh.6:37 ~“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out”(also see 2 Tim.1:9; Acts 4:12 and many more).

When Paul says in 1:6 ~ “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you,”it might sound as if he is hinting to know who are saved in the Philippian church, or even that all are saved. Then, the question arises whether anyone can be certain of the salvation of others. Paul is not speaking of himself but of the Philippians. On this question, John Calvin says,“We must understand that the assurance which we as individuals have for our salvation, comes from the Holy Spirit to us personally, but it is totally different from what we can have of others people’s salvation, because we have no testimony about other people’s salvation(or for that matter lostness),except for the outward efficacy of the Spirit; that is, in so far as the grace of God manifests itself in them and through them to us by the Fruit of the Spirit”(“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” – Gal.5:22). We cannot for certain say that anyone is saved or not and therefore, Paul does not imply that the whole congregation is saved, but he’s talking to/praying for those who are saved (in general in other words). In fact, he is referring to those brothers who have been saved (some a couple of years before, others shortly before the letter was read by them).

Paul says therefore, in this opening part of vs.6: He is assured of the fact that God started a good work by saving them(or at least, some of them). This was the start of a new work – their salvation – their regeneration. 

3.2HE IS SAVING US (PRESENT – sanctification)Theologians often refer to “The already, but not yet.”principle. We find a good example of this in 1 Joh.3:2a the following ~ “Beloved, we ARE God’s children NOW, and what we WILL be has NOT YET appeared…”(emphasis mine). 

Keeping this tension firmly in hand helps us not only to draw a realistic picture of what we can expect here and now – both from ourselves and God, but it will also help us to see what HAS happened (our past salvation), what IS happening now (sanctification), and WILL happen in our spiritual lives in the future (glorification). Jesus is Lord of all. Past, present and future. And we need to look to Him in all.

Apart from the fact that Paul says that God saved the believers in Philippi by means of a good work, he is also sure of something else, i.e. that God will bring this salvation of them to completion. 

The Greek word that’s been used here for “completion”is, ἔργον(ĕrgŏn). Here we have to do with an ongoing process. If they have been saved in the past and this salvation will be brought to completion, it clearly suggests that the “in between period”(between salvation and completion), is an ongoing process.

Remember, we said in the beginning, that what God starts, He will complete. This means that God will perfectly complete all saints’ salvation. But what happens in the meantime – between salvation and glorification, during the “in between period”? The answer,“He IS saving us”and what does that mean? “So, we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day”(2 Cor.4:16). Our inner self is being renewed day by day.

The Greek for “inner self”is ἔσω(ĕsō) indicating achange to a previous, preferable state, specifically referring to the renewal, the restoration and the bringing back of the soul, understood especially as immaterial. “Being renewed”is ἀνακαινίζω (anakainoutal), meaning to be or become re-established in a like-new and often improved manner. Therefore, for the inner self to be renewed, means that a believer will be re-established in a new person. 

We call this process a process of sanctification. Sanctification involves a progressive or growing in experience of greater holiness and less sinfulness. It expresses God’s will and fulfils the purpose of God’s salvation call ~ “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honour, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness”(1 Thes.4:3-7).

Sanctification includes one’s responsibility to participate in continuing what God’s Spirit began in salvation ~ “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonourable, he will be a vessel for honourable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work”(2 Tim.2:21)and Rev.22:11 ~ “Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.”

It is clear therefore, that sanctification is the process in which the believer is conformed into the image of Christ, that process has a definite beginning at the regeneration of the sinner. The fact that regeneration implies the cleansing of sin, but also the receiving of a new heart implies the cleansing of sin, but also the receiving of a new heart ~ “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rule”(Ezek.36:25-27). 

Thus, when the Spirit imparts spiritual life into the soul of the dead sinner, opening his eyes to the filth of sin and the glory of Jesus, man’s nature is sanctified – transformed from spiritual death to spiritual life – he then is a new creation ~ “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God” (2 Cor.5:17). 

Although the believer enjoys forgiveness of sins, his heart and life is not totally purified. Therefore, sanctification that begins at regeneration, will necessarily continue throughout the entire life of the Christian and this continuous aspect of sanctification is called progressive sanctification and this progressive sanctification in the life of a Christian calls for holiness on the part of the believer, that is why Paul says in Rom.12:2 ~ “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”The Hebrew writer says in Hebr.12:14 ~ “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”Progressive sanctification is an ongoing process on the side of the believer, ‘till the end of his life and the goal is to glorify God through a holy life ~ “…but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’”(1 Pet.1:15-16). Christians are constantly exhorted in the Word of God, to pursue holiness in their Christian life.

  • HE WILL SAVE US (FUTURE – glorification):Just as sanctification has a definite beginning at regeneration and increases throughout one’s life, it will also at some point in future, be brought to completion – namely, at the end of the believer’s life – He WILL save us and we will be glorified.

We read the following in 1 John 3:2 ~ “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appearswe shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”The moment Jesus comes back, all believers (dead or alive at that stage)will instantaneously be glorified.

The perfection of sanctification (i.e. glorification)for those who have died in faith before the return of Christ, comes in two stages: this soul is fully sanctified at death, while the body awaits its perfected sanctification at the second coming of Christ. When believers pass from this present life, their spirits are separated from the bodies ~ “Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord”(2 Cor.5:8).

  • CONCLUSION & APPLICATION:

Beloved,“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil.1:6).

The author of Ps.116:15 writes ~ “Precious in the sight of the LORD [is] the death of his saints.” 

In the beginning we looked at a few “last words” of well-known persons. Let’s conclude with the last words of some other well-known people:

The comedian Charlie Chaplin also had a serious side on him, he said this, after a priest read him his last rites and said “May The Lord Have Mercy On Your Soul” on which Chaplin replied –“Why not? After all, it belongs to Him.”

Thomas Alva Edison was an American inventor and businessman. He developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb: “It is very beautiful over there.”

Dwight Lyman Moody (Feb 5, 1837 – Dec 22, 1899)American evangelist and publisher, woke from sleep shortly before he died and said: “Earth recedes. Heaven opens before me. If this is death, it is sweet! There is no valley here. God is calling me, and I must go.” On which Moody’s son said, “No, no, Father. You’re dreaming.”And Moody replied, “I am not dreaming. I have been within the gates. This is my triumph; this is my coronation day! It is glorious!”

John Bunyan, one of my Puritan heroes (November 28, 1628 – August 31, 1688) was an English Christian writer and preacher, famous for writing “The Pilgrim’s Progress”– said on his death bed: “Weep not for me, but for yourselves. The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, through the mediation of His blessed Son, receives me, though a sinner. We shall meet to sing the new song, and remain everlastingly happy.” 

 

On her deathbed, Queen Victoria(Alexandrina Victoria; May 24, 1819 – January 22, 1901 – Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837, and the first Empress of India of the British Raj from 1 May 1876, until her death) told those around her that she loved God and she was His little child, so she was ready to die. Then she called for the hymn to be sung: “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.”

 

And Jesus’ last words: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46).

May I conclude with the following by C.T. Studd: 

“Only one life, yes only one,

Soon will its fleeting hours be done;

Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,

And stand before His Judgement seat;

Only one life, ‘twill soon be past,

Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

What will your last words be?

Posted in Death, Drie Riviere, Glorification, Salvation, Sanctification, Sermons (English), Sin | Leave a comment

Paul’s Letter to the Philippians – 02 (“Paul’s Praise of the Saints at Philippi”)

[Message: Kobus van der Walt (Three Rivers Baptist Church – 07 April 2019)]

  • SCRIPTURE READING:

Phil.1:11- (ESV) ~ “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

  • INTRODUCTION:

The Letter to the Philippians is a beautiful expression of gratitude for the love and gifts of the Philippian saints to Paul. He is a prisoner in Rome with possible death before him, but in everything that he writes to his brothers in Philippi, there is a note of joy. He hopes to be set free and to see them again. He also wishes to address some other issues in his letter, like the likelihood of further persecution the church will face and an exhortation to work together. As much as the Philippian church (probably made up of several house churches)loved Paul, its members were divided among themselves; therefore, the recurrent exhortations to unity (1:27; 2:2, 14)and mutual service (2:3–11). At least part of the division revolves around disagreement between two of Paul’s fellow labourers, possibly leaders of separate house churches (4:2–3).

  • EXPOSITION:

There are four big ideas in this opening section of the Letter to the Philippians: 

  • Last week we looked at the first part and that is Paul’s greeting which extended grace and peace(1:1-2). 
  • Next, and this will be the first point that we will be looking at today, is Paul’s praise for the Philippian saints’ constant witness(1:3-6). 
  • Then, Paul’s praise for the Philippian’s concern for the Gospel(1:7).  
  • Thirdly we will be looking at Paul’s praise shown by his love for the saints in Philippi (1:8). 
  • Praise for their Constant Witness(1:3-6)Paul starts to thank God for whom He is and then praises the saints in Philippi for their constant witness, but even before praising them, he thanks God for whom He is.
  • His God:He thanks God for His supremacy in the advancing of the Gospel. But note also, that he calls God, “my God”– God is very personal to him. God is his God. By stating his thanks to “my God,”Paul also reveals his personal devotion. This was no stereotyped formula, but the natural outflow from the heart of a deeply spiritual man.

Paul is also thanking God for the fact that his brothers in Philippi are assisting him in the advance of the Gospel – both, while he is in prison and out of prison.

  • Frequently Praying:He prays frequently for the Philippians. It is not a once off action or prayer. They are his brothers – there exist a deep and genuine relationship between him and his brothers in Philippi. They are very close to him, in fact for a long time and since the beginning of the existence of this church, they were involved in his ministry by supporting him with money and other gifts.
  • Filled with Joy:Whenever Paul thinks of his brothers, he is filled withjoyand prays with his heart filled with joy.Why? We find the answer in 1:5 which starts with the word “because” ~ because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”The word that Paul uses for “partnership”(1:5)is the Greek term “koinonia,”often translated “fellowship.”Used six times in Philippians (1:5, 7; 2:1; 3:10; 4:14-15), here in 1:5 and in 4:14-15 it includes the idea of working together for the advance of the gospel (this includes financial support for his ministry).
  • The Day of Jesus Christ:There is however, a much more important thing that Paul praises his brothers for and he mentions this in 1:6 ~ And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”Paul refers them to the fact that God, through Christ Jesus, saved them and now sanctifying them for a very special day when they will be glorified.

Now, what do “sanctification” and “glorification” mean?

  • Sanctification: To sanctify someone or something is to set that person apart and to be used for the purpose God intends. People are therefore, sanctified when they live according to God’s design and purpose. As we’ve already seen last week, the Greek word translated “sanctification”[γιασμός(hagiasmos)]means “holiness.”To sanctify, therefore, means “to make someone holy”in order for that person to live according to God’s will and to be set apart to be used by God for the purpose God intends.

It is very important to take note of the fact that human beings ultimately cannot sanctify themselves. The Triune God sanctifies. The Father sanctifies (1 Cor.1:30)by the Spirit (2 Thess.2:13; 1 Peter 1:2) and in the name of Christ (1 Cor.6:11). Yet Christian faith is not merely passive. Paul calls for active trust and obedience when he says ~ “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God” (2 Cor.7:1). No one may presume on God’s grace in sanctification. Peter reminds believers to be diligent in making their calling and election sure ~ “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall”(2 Pet.1:10). This is exactly what the saints in Philippi did, they confirmed their calling by being witnesses for the Gospel of Jesus Christ ~ “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age”(Matt.28:19).

  • Glorification:What does “glorification”mean? “The short answer is that “glorification” is God’s final removal of sin from the life of the saints (i.e., everyone who is saved)in the eternal state ~ “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us”(Rom.8:18).At Christ’s return, the glory of God(Rom.5:2)– His honour, praise, majesty, and holiness – will be realised in us; instead of being mortals burdened with a sin nature, we will be changed into holy immortals with direct and unhindered access to God’s presence. We will enjoy holy communion with Him throughout eternity” (Got Questions). 

Apart from the fact that Paul wants to praise them for their constant witness, he also wants them to understand that God always finishes what He begins, this includes the good works in their lives ~ “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ”(1:6). That which began as a good work is the work of sanctification in the saints in Philippi (and our) lives and then will come to glorification, “at the day of Jesus Christ.”This is another expression that we have to look at… – “…the day of Jesus Christ.”

  •             The day of Jesus Christ:The day of Jesus Christ will without any doubt, be the most crucial and important day in the lives of mankind. We read in John 5:26-27 ~ “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority (and then these words…) to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.”Judgment was handed over to Christ – Judgment on who? On the enemies of God – on those who did not believe in Christ – those who had no fellowship with Jesus Christ our Lord. Paul writes in 2 Thes.1:7b-9 ~ “…the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven (i.e. on “the Day of Jesus Christ”)with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destructionaway from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.”

There is however, wonderful news for those who believe in Jesus Christ and follow Him as disciples. We read in 2 Tim.4:8 the following ~ “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day (i.e. “the Day of Jesus Christ”), and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”On the “Great Day of the Lord,”believers will be saved – 2 Thes.1:10 ~ “…when He (i.e. Jesus)comes on that day to be glorified in His saints, and to be marvelled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.”

God calls believers to work out their salvation with fear and trembling ~ “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”(Phil.2:12). This is exactly what the believers in Philippi did and for that, Paul is praising them.

3.2 Praise for their Concern for the Gospel (1:7):Paul writes in 1:7 ~ It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel.”When he speaks of a partnership (“partakers”), he is speaking of the practical hospitality and material help that the Philippians had given to him ever since he first met them. The first Philippian convert, Lydia, had invited Paul and his companions to stay at her house during their visit to the city (Acts 16:15). When Paul left Philippi and went to Thessalonica, the Philippians more than once sent him gifts to help him in his work.We read in Phil.4:15 the following ~ “And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only.”

Even after he left the province of Macedonia, they and they alone continued to help him in practical ways (4:15). Although poor, they also contributed generously to the collection for the saints in Jerusalem (2 Cor. 8:1-5), and as we’ve seen in the opening verses, they had also sent Paul both money and the companionship of Epaphroditus (2:25; 4:18). It is no wonder that he longed for this beloved congregation (1:8; 4:1). They indeed shared a deep concern for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

He also praises the saints in Philippi for their help and material contributions, and for their partnership with him in the Gospel. He could not teach and preach in Philippi as well as to the saints in the other churches in Asia Minor if it wasn’t for their partnership and provision. He could not travel and share the Gospel in synagogues all over the Roman Empire if it wasn’t for their partnership.

Paul is also praying for them, because they believed the Gospel – they were “partakers of the of grace.”They have put the commands of God in Jer.6:16 into action and did not do what the Israelites did… ~ “Thus says the Lord: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”  In order for anyone to walk in the good way, and to find rest for their souls, they need intercessory prayer and that is also why Paul prayed for his friends; his brothers; the Saints in Philippi, so that they will persevere till the end ~ “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt”(Hebr.6:4-6). Paul has also put into practice what he told the Ephesians to do in Eph.6:18 ~ “…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”

To the apostle, the Philippians are very dear. He calls them partakers with me of grace.

Being a partner in grace means that such a person is also a Christian – saved by grace alone and he is absolutely sure about the fact that God… ~ who began a good work in (them) will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil.1:6).

  •   Praise shown by his Love for Them(1:8):Verse 8 is a very interesting verse. Paul says ~ “For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all…”There is a link between Paul’s “yearning” here in 1:8 and his “holding in my heart” in 1:7. In other words, Paul has a yearning love for his brothers in Philippi and he says that only God really knows how much the saints in Philippi mean to him. He is not swearing or taking an oath in the name of God here, it is rather a way of saying, “my brothers, I miss you so much and I love you so much, but I cannot really express it in words, only God really knows how much I’m yearning to you and how much I really love you.”

In an indirect way, Paul expresses his praise for them based on the love he has for  them, because if someone is not dear to you; if someone is not praiseworthy, you will not love them with a deep yearning love – if you love them with a yearning, you love in a different way than when you love your neighbour or your enemies. 

Paul even goes a step further when, in the last part of 1:8, he says ~ “…with the affection of Christ Jesus.”Not only does Paul love them, but he says that Christ also loves them in and through Paul! Christ loves them because they are partakers of His love and partakers in the furthering of the Gospel. 

  • CONCLUSION & APPLICATION:

It might not seem so, but this is a very confrontational message.

  • Constant witness:Are you a constant witness for Jesus Christ in behaviour and conduct? Would Paul be able to praise you for furthering the gospel?

Concern for the Gospel: are you involved in your concern for the Gospel by being hospitable? The Philippians, although poor, contributed generously to Paul. Paul could not continue with his ministry if it wasn’t for their contributions. Do you wait for others to contribute or do you make it a priority to pray about and then contribute?

  • Love:Do you love (really love)your brothers and sisters in Christ? Do you live in such a way that God can love others through you?

To those of you who do not yet follow the Lord Jesus Christ; those who are not sanctified; who are not yet set apart for the glory of Christ; you must know today, that you won’t be glorified by Christ. You don’t have access to His presence and you will not be able to enjoy eternity with Him.

Please hear the gospel today and turnto Jesus. May the Holy Spirit urge you to do so!

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Paul’s Letter to the Philippians – 01 (“Servants of Christ Jesus”)

[Message: Kobus van der Walt (Three Rivers Baptist Church – 30 March 2019)]

  • INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND:

In approximately A.D. 61 the apostle Paul was under house arrest in Rome and while there, he received a love gift, or a care package, consisting of supplies gathered by the believers in Philippi which they sent to Paul by the hand of one of their own, a man named Epaphroditus. In turn Paul wanted to send a letter to the church in Philippi for this love gift, but before he sent the letter back with Epaphroditus, the young man, beyond the call of duty, first served Paul. While serving Paul, he became seriously ill and, in fact, almost died. After a while however, God graciously granted him health, and Paul sent his friend back home with a letter. 

The city of Philippi is currently called Filippoi, and was part of the region of East Macedonia in the present day Greece.

It was at Philippi, which Paul visited on his second missionary journey (Acts 16:12), that Lydia and the Philippian jailer and his family were converted to Christ. Now, some years later, the church was well established, as may be inferred from its address which includes “the overseers and deacons” (1:1).

There are 5 key verses in this letter:

  • Phil.1:21 ~ “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
  • Phil.3:7 ~“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.”
  • Phil.4:4 ~ “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
  • Phil.4:6-7 ~“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” 
  • Phil.4:13 ~ “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

The Letter to the Philippians can be called, “Resources Through Suffering.”Paul experienced severe suffering throughout his life and this letter is about Christ in our life, Christ in our mind, Christ as our goal, Christ as our strength, and joy through suffering.

  • SCRIPTURE READING:

Phil.1:1-11 (ESV) ~ “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

  • EXPOSITION:

In today’s message, we will look at our topic according to the following three main points:

  • Sender (1:1a).
    • Recipients (1:1b).    
    • Greeting (1:2).

As with many of his letters, Paul warned the new believers in the church of Philippi to beware of the tendency toward legalism which continually cropped up in the early churches, because there was a constant effort on the part of the Judaizers to draw the saved Jews back to the teaching of salvation by works. But Paul reiterated that salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone and branded the Judaizers as “dogs”and “men who do evil.”

In particular, the legalists (legalism = noun. strict adherence, or the principle of strict adherence, to law or prescription, especially to the letter rather than the spiritand it is a doctrine that teaches that salvation is gained through good works)were insisting that the new believers in Christ should continue to be circumcised according to the requirements of the Old Covenant (Gen.17:10-12; Lev.12:3). In this way, they attempted to please God by their own efforts and elevate themselves above the Gentile Christians who did not participate in the ritual. Paul explained that those who have been washed by the blood of the Lamb were no longer to perform the ritual that symbolised the need for a clean heart.

  •       Sender(1:1a):

       The first verse of the letter to the Philippians start in the same way as all the other letters of Paul to churches, namely with an introduction of him as the author of the letter. Usually he greeted his readers with the words ~ “Paul, an apostle”(Gal.1:1a). Paul would introduce himself as an apostle, meaning “a sent one by the risen Jesus Christ,”in order to emphasise his authority. In other words, his words came from the Lord and not out of himself, or as he explains in Gal.1:11-12 ~ “For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”He therefore says that the Lord only speaks through a prophet  – that was during the New Testament times, shortly after Christ’s ascension and before the Bible was written or compiled. We see that Paul emphasises this fact in 1 Cor.14:37-38 ~ “If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognise this, he is not recognised.”

In Gal.1:15-16 Paul says that he did not become an apostle by appointing himself as an apostle or a church or a group of believers appointed him as a servant of God – no, God Himself called him as an apostle ~ “But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone”(Gal.1:15-16). No man would appoint himself as an apostle if we look at how much and what kind of suffering these apostles experienced through their lives. Except for one apostle (i.e. John), all of them died as martyrs – Both Peter and Paul were martyred in Rome about 66 AD, during the persecution under Emperor Nero. Paul was beheaded. Peter was crucified, upside down at his request, since he did not feel he was worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord. Andrew was crucified. Thomas was killed when pierced through with the spears of four soldiers. Phillip was cruelly put death. Some of the oldest reports say that Matthew was not martyred, while others say he was stabbed to death in Ethiopia. Bartholomew died as a martyr. James the son of Alpheus, was stoned and then clubbed to death. Simon the Zealot was killed after refusing to sacrifice to the sun god. Matthais (the apostle chosen to replace Judas)was burned to death.

Suffering would be a Part of Paul’s Christian Life ~ “But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name”(Acts 9:15-16). Paul describes his suffering in 2 Cor.11:23-31 ~ “Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one – I am talking like a madman—with far greater labours, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.”

Why am I mentioning these things that happened to the apostles and especially to Paul? Because suffering lies at the heart of Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

Paul describes his feeling of being defeated, of temporarily losing hope because of the terrible conditions and circumstances he endured.

Although Paul knew that life is never truly hopeless and that God is able to rescue us from any trouble, he was also a human being; he had weaknesses just like ours. And the truth is that sometimes knowing and trusting in God’s sovereignty isn’t enough to keep us from despair. Even Paul struggled. Even Paul wanted to give up. Even Paul felt abandoned.

Paul was not absolutely sure what would happen to him. On the one hand, he knew that his death was a real possibility, and so he tried to prepare his friends in Philippi for the worst. On the other hand, he had some level of expectation that he would survive, and so he encouraged them to hope for the best. But whatever the future held for him, at the time he wrote this letter he was suffering greatly, so that he struggled with sorrow and apprehension.

Paul wants to encourage his friends in Philippi (and us) to persevere to the end despite hardship and discouragement.

Back to 1:1. We now understand that Paul writes with the authority that God gave him, but why does he refer in 1:1 to himself as a “servant”instead of an apostle as in other letters? 1 Cor.7:22-23 ~ “For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men.”For being called and saved is to become a bondservant and a bondservant is not free to live as he likes – free to sin as he like. We are saved and bought by the Blood of Christ and therefore we belong to Christ – we are His bondservants. 

We must understand that before our salvation, we were slaves of our own flesh – of sin ~ “…For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification”(Rom.6:19b). But after our salvation, we became slaves of Jesus Christ – so, either way, we are slaves. When we are bond slaves of Christ it implies that we aresubservient too, and entirely at the disposal of our Master.” 

In Roman times, the term bondservant or –slave could refer to someone who voluntarily served others. But it usually referred to one who was held in a permanent position of servitude. Under Roman law, a bondservant was considered the owner’s personal property. Slaves essentially had no rights and could even be killed by their owners. According to Paul, we are therefore the property of Christ and we have no rights. The only right we have is to serve Christ in obedience and if we are not obedient to our Master, we could be killed spiritually.

Paul in 1:1 says therefore, that he and his co-worker Timothy are bond slaves of Jesus Christ and in that capacity, he wants to greet his co-slaves in Philippi.  

Paul includes Timothy’s name in his greeting, because Timothy was well known to the Philippians(Acts 16:3, 10–12), and he was now with Paul. Not that Timothy had any share in writing the Epistle; for Paul presently uses the first person singular, “I”42 times and the word “me,”40 times in this letter and not “we”(1:3). The mentioning of Timothy’s name implies merely that Timothy joined in affectionate remembrances to them. It also refers to Timothy as an example of what Paul is saying to the Philippians, namely that they should also be bond slaves of Christ like the man who is currently with him (Timothy).

How do we know that Timothy acts like a slave of Christ? It is because Timothy serves other people – the Philippians specifically ~ “…he has served with me in the gospel”(1 Tim.2:22). 

Timothy is a slave in serving in the Gospel. We also see in 1 Tim.2:19 that Timothy carries the brothers in Philippi’s welfare on his heart – he puts their welfare before his own ~ “For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.”

Paul’s aim in writing this letter to the Philippians is to produce people like Timothy. It means people who are not only servants of Christ but also take care of the interest of others and not just for the interest of themselves.

  •       Recipients(1:1b):

       In the second part of 1:1, Paul greets the “saints”in the church in Philippi, as well as the overseers and the deacons. Paul uses the word saints 40 times in his letters. The root word for “saint” is “holy” and Paul always uses this word, “holy” or “holy ones,”to refer to all people chosen by God to be His disciples. 

Why is a “saint” (or a Christian)called “holy”? There are several references in the Word of God that will supply us with an answer ~ “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saintsin Christ Jesus” (Phil.1:1). Here the word “saint” means “holy” or “holy ones,” or “holy servants in Christ.” 

A second question, how can believers, or Christians, or saints, be called holy? We are called holy, because we are called by God to be holy – Eph.1:4 ~ “…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him…”Col.3:12 ~ “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…” Peter, in 1 Pet.2:5, 9, is very clear about the fact that those of us who have been called to be holy are holy ~ “…you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…”(vs.5 ) and vs.9, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation…”Because we are saved and therefore elected to be holy, means that we are holy ones – “saints”therefore.

That is the reason why Paul’s letter is directed to all the saints; all the believers; the holy ones in the church in Philippi and they are saints, because they are planted into Christ Jesus  – they are born again or saved in others words ~ “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in himwho is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life”(1 John 5:20). 

Apart from the saints, Paul also addresses his letter to the deacons and the overseers. In Acts 6:1-6 we see that the deacons to whom Paul directs his letter, are saints described as “helpers.”And we see in Acts 20:28 that the overseers were appointed to watch over, guide, and protect the believers ~ “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”

Mentioning the elders in the church makes clear to us, that there was an established leadership structure in the church in Philippi. It is not really clear why Paul added the words “overseers and deacons” and there exist three theories why he might have done that:

  • First, Paul addressed these leaders, because they were responsible for organising the gifts sent to Paul and he thus wished to give attention to them for their fine work in the Lord. 
  • Another theory is that Paul wants to endorse their authority to deal with those whom the apostle refers to as “dogs,”“mutilators of the flesh”and “enemies of the cross of Christ”(3:2-3, 18). 
  • Other scholars argue that it is because there was friction among the leaders themselves (4:2-3), and the mention of the leaders in a greeting which focuses on servanthood and humility suggests that Paul wants to remind them of their need to be unified. 

All three of these suggestions have at least some merit in the text of the epistle, but all of them lack for any positive proof and therefore we can’t tell for certain why Paul added the elders and deacons to the addressees of his letter.

  •       Greetings(1:2):

       The greeting that we find in 1:2(“Graceto you and peacefrom God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”)is identical to that found in 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans, Ephesians and Philemon and has thus become a standard for Paul. 

In the greeting, we have three words or phrases that need to be looked at. Let us first look at the word “grace”:

  • Grace:Paul uses the word “grace” approximately 100 times most of which express the unmerited favour of God toward undeserving sinners like the Philippians, and by extension you and me as Christian believers. Paul also uses this word in Eph.2:8-9 to express that salvation is totally the work of God on behalf of the believer and comes not through any human effort (i.e., “not by works”). Grace was at the heart of Paul’s Gospel. For Paul, the grace of God is a primary motivator toward a holy life, for it is God’s unmerited favour that teaches believers to… ~ “…renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age”(Titus 2:11-12). When saying “grace to you…”When saying “grace to you…”Paul was in actual fact praying that the saving grace and unmerited favour of God might rest on them and that they will renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives.
  • Peace:For Paul, there is no peace in the heart, no sense of well-being and wholeness, no tranquillity before God and in the storms of life, until a person has entered into the grace of God by faith. Then, and only then, can he have the peace of God in his heart. A person enters that peace by personally trusting in Christ as Saviour.
  • God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: With the words “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,”Paul wants to stress the fact, that grace and peace do not come from him, but form God and God alone.
  • CONCLUSION & APPLICATION:

What can we learn from today’s message?

  • That we will experience suffering because it is part and parcel of being a bond slave of Jesus Christ.
  • That our salvation is a work of God and we must be thankful for His unmerited favour!
  • That the peace of God that transcends all understanding will, guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
  • Before our salvation we were slaves of our own flesh, the devil and the world, BUT now we are bond slaves of Christ bought by His precious blood to live in obedience to our Master! 
Posted in English, Paul, Philippians, Sermons (English), Servanthood, The Letter to the Philippians | Leave a comment

Jesus’ “I Am” Statements – 08 (“I Am the True Vine”)

Jesus’ “I Am” Statements – 08 (“I Am the True Vine”)

 (Message by Kobus van der Walt, Three Rivers Baptist Church – Sunday, 24 March 2019)

  • 1. INTRODUCTION:

During the previous 7 Sundays, we’ve been looking at seven “I AM”statements by Jesus, namely:

  • “Before Abraham, I AM”
  • “I AM the Bread of Life”
  • “I Am the Light of the World”
  • “I AM the Door,”
  • “I AM the Good Shepherd,
  • “I Am the Resurrection and Life,”
  • “I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

This brings us to the eighth and last “I Am”statement, namely, “I Am the True Vine.”

The last verse in John chapter 14 tells us that Jesus and the Disciples are about to leave the upper room. They are heading to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus will pray His great High Priestly prayer and, then later be arrested by the mob led by Judas. Apparently, Jesus spoke the words which make up chapters 15 and 16 on their way to the garden. Let’s listen to what He said in chapter 15:1-11.

  • 2. SCRIPTURE READING:

John 15:1-11 (ESV) ~ “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 does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

In today’s message, we will look at our topic according to the following three main points:

  • The Personality of the True Vine (15:1-3);
  • The Purpose of the True Vine (15:2-8);
  • The Promise of the True Vine (15:7-11).

Down through Jewish history the vine became the symbol of Israel. During the Maccabees period of history, the symbol of the vine was on the coins of Israel. It was over the main doors of the synagogues, etc. The vine is used right through Scripture as various symbols, e.g. Is.5:2 where Judah is described as a vineyard that would be destroyed ~ “He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.”Here Isiah, in the form of a song, pictured Judah as a vineyard on a fertile hillside who was planted by his Loved One, i.e. God. God has removed the stones and planted the best vines. He even built a watchtower, a stone structure from which to guard the vineyard. And He made a winepress in anticipation of producing good wine. However, only poor grapes grew on His vines and therefore, God would destroy it – Judah would be destroyed. 

Jesus also used the vine as an example to convey the truth and fact about His character and calling, when telling them that He is the “True Vine.”  It was mid-April when Jesus and His disciples walked to the Garden of Gethsemane and the grape vines would begin to blossom with the promise of a fresh harvest, so Jesus probably stopped by one of these, to use it as a visual aid in preparing His disciples for a new era after His ascension that would take place within a couple of days. He was preparing them to continue the work of the Lord and if they were to carry on that work, they needed to know how to produce the correct kind of fruit in their own lives.

As we already know, it was not only expected from “the eleven”to carry on the work of the Lord, but all of His disciples, throughout the ages  – as an example we can quote Acts 1:8 ~ “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”Jesus’ eighth “I Am” statement is therefore, all about becoming a genuine Disciple and about how to bear fruit for the glory of the Lord and becoming more like Him.

  • 3. THE PERSONALITY OF THE TRUE VINE (15:1-3):

Jesus says on 15:1 ~ “I am the true vine,” or literally: “I am the Vine, the real,”implying He is the only true Vine. He is the true Source of real life and fruitfulness. The fruit produced by a branch is only as good as the life (sap) flowing into it and through it, which is only as good as the original vine stock. Other sources that you cling to will fail, but if you are joined to Jesus you will produce good fruit in your character and life (work). If Jesus is not your Source, you cannot bear good fruit. 

In the second part of 15:1 Jesus says ~ “My Father is the Vinedresser.”The Father is the expert Farmer (or Gardener), who personally inspects and tends to all the branches to ensure they are as fruitful as possible. This task is so vital, that He does not delegate it to an angel. He is inspecting your life, expecting to see fruit! 

While describing the function of each part of the vine, Jesus cleverly compares the vine to the Trinity. In 15:1 we see that Jesus, the Son, is the vine. The Father is the Vinedresser or the Gardener and the Holy-Spirit is the Life-Sap, flowing out of Jesus Christ into branches and according to 15:2, the branches are the believers (15:5), who are in Christ– united to Christ by the new-birth. Upon believing, we were put (baptised) into Christand were regenerated as a new-creation ~ “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come”(2 Cor.5:17). Upon believing, we are made one spirit with Christ ~ “But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him”(1 Cor.6:17). We are in Him and He is in us. Through Christ Jesus and in Him, we are connected and united with God, with His life now able to flow into us!

  • 4. THE PURPOSE OF THE TRUE VINE (15:2-8);

It is clear from these opening verses of Jesus’ last “I Am” statement, that the Father is the vinedresser who is involved in everything that has to do with the Vine. 

He has two specific “duties” and we need to be deeply involved in it:

  • Protection:  The Father (Gardener) provides care and protection for the Vineyard ~ “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Prov.15:3).
  • Purification:The Father (Gardener) desires fruit from the vine”, which is mentioned eight times in this chapter.We can see a clear progression in our text – in 15:2, He mentions “fruit.” Then also in 15:2, He speaks of “bearing more fruit”and in 15:5, 8, He refers to “much fruit.” uses two primary methods of purifying His vineyard. But, He then goes on to be very explicit about His second “duty”:
  • Cleaning: The Gardener also removes things from the branch that weakens the branch from its vitality and strength. Things like sucker branches, useless buds, misdirected shoots, spots, discoloured leaves, etc. Anything that consumes life and prevents more fruit must go! This means that when we get to a place in our Christian lives where we tend to become unfruitful and barren, the Lord will reach into our lives, disturbing our slumber and prune us, thereby challenging us and shock us to growth. There are times when the Lord can only accomplish this through chastisement. Which, if responded to with repentance, will help us to be fruitful for His glory. 

How is this pruning accomplished? By the Word of God ~ “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebr.4:12)and James 1:23-24 ~ “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.”

Apart from the fact that fruit-bearing proves to the world that we are disciples of the Lord, 15:8 reminds us that if we take these words to heart we will stay firm in our relationship with Jesus. We will continue to bear fruit and, in doing so, glorify the Father. This ought to be the burning desire of every child of God. That is, to live our lives that every waking minute is bringing glory to the Father in Heaven ~ “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”(1 Cor. 10:31). There is something wrong in any life when there is no desire to bring glory and honour to the God who loves us; sustains us and cares for us. 

We must however, keep in mind that fruit bearing only requires from us, to abide in the Vine (i.e. Jesus Christ) – if we abide in Him, He will produce the fruit – we are not required to do anything but abide. It is the Vine’s responsibility to produce His fruit in our lives. That frees us from having to work and labour to get His approval. If we will yield, He will live through your life and mine! This also applies to the quantity of fruit that we deliver. We don’t have to work or produce fruit ‘till “we drop dead.”This is not the responsibility of the branch. Some will produce much, some will produce little. Which depends upon the will of the Vine. Our duty is to abide in Him – that must be our priority!

However, it is also clear from our passage, that God anticipates a steady progression in the level of our fruitfulness. I’ve already mentioned the progression in 15:2, 8 – no fruit, fruit, more fruit, much fruit! The closer we abide in the Vine, the more fruit He will produce through our lives.

We find a stern warning in 15:4. If a branch does not abide in the Vine as it should and it is fruitless and withered, four certain things will happen to such a ‘fruitless” branch:

  • Cutting: A branch that bears nofruit is obviously dead. Therefore, like Judas, it is cut off. Every year in Palestine gardeners prune their vines. They cut off the dead wood which has no life in it and trim the living branches so that their yield will be greater. This means that every person who professes to be Christ’s disciple (a ‘branch’) is not necessarily a true follower.
  • No Fellowship:If the branch however, does not start anew, drawing “life giving” sap, he will surely be cut off and cast out and the chance to start drawing sap at a later stage again will be over for ever. Such a person will forever loose the privilege of enjoying fellowship with the Father. 
  • No Reward:When this life is over, there will be many who name the name of Jesus and were unfruitful. They will experience the loss of every reward ~ “…each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Cor. 3:13-15).
  • 5. THE PROMISE OF THE TRUE VINE (15:7-11):

Jesus, in sharing His eighth “I Am”statement with His disciples, had good news to those who abide in the True Vine, because they can rest assured of certain precious and sure promises!

  • Effectual Prayer (15:7):In 15:7b Jesus promised His disciples that they can… ~ “ask whatever (they) wish, and it will be done for (them).”This promise is a repetition of the promise in 14:13 ~ “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it,”also 16:23 ~“In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.”

This astounding command and promise is not without conditions and limitations. There is a prerequisite – 15:7a ~ “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you.”Asking whatever they wish and receiving it, involve however, such an intimate union and harmony with Christ that nothing will be asked out of accord with the mind of Christ and so of the Father, because such a believer will always ask in the spirit of… ~ “…not my will, but thine, be done”(Luke 22:42), and in complete harmony with all that Christ has revealed concerning Himself, i.e. the person that abides in Christ will always ask “in Christ’s name.”

Apart from answered prayers, abiding in Christ has three more glorious results:

  • Glorifying God (15:8):Jesus gives His disciples a second promise if they would “abide in Him”and that is that they will bear much fruit. I have already expanded on this point and therefore I would just like to add the following. These fruit that Jesus spoke of, is obviously spiritual fruit – the spiritual fruit of the Holy Spirit as mentioned in Gal.5:22-23 ~ “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”Those disciples of Jesus will become more Christ-like. 

The ultimate goal for the disciples of Christ, is to glorify God the Father and Jesus tells His disciples that when they abide in Him, they will bear more fruit and when bearing fruit, believers will glorify God.

  • Abiding in Christ’s Love (15:9-10):Jesus declares in 15:9-10 that if we keep His commandments, we will abide in His love. Many Christians have been so frightened off by the idea that obedience is works righteousness that they fail to understand what keeping commandments are all about. It is wrong to try to keep God’s commandments in our own strength – such a person will inevitably fail (just as the Jews did when they went about trying to establish their own righteousness). On the other hand, Jesus regularly commands us to obey Him (as He does in our text for today). We must follow the Scriptures in the wisdom and strength of the Holy Spirit and do what we are told to do.

Abiding in Christ’s love is to be controlled by Christ’s love. Paul says in 2 Cor.5:14-15 the following ~ “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

Colin Smith says (© Colin S. Smith. Website: UnlockingtheBible.org), …to be controlled by the love of Christ means to be energised by this love and moved into action and directed by it. To be filled with the love of Christ would mean that you enjoy this love.  But to be controlled by the love of Christ means that others are touched by this love through you. Here is something marvelous.  This is at the height of what can happen in the life of a Christian believer in this world – to be controlled by the love of Christ.”

  • Experiencing Fulness of Joy (15:11):The Greek word χαρά(chara)that is used in 15:11 is one of the glorious results from abiding in Christ. If we look at the meaning of the word “chara,”we see that it is often used to express the feeling and experience of people, experiencing God’s presence by the Holy Spirit. Joy is part of the fruit of the Spirit’s presence and work in the lives of believers (Gal 5:22). Joy enables believers to endure trials and suffering of the Christian life. The Thessalonians received the Word ~ “…in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit…,”which probably means joy given by the Holy Spirit (1 Thess.1:6). At the same time, believers are to count their difficulties as joy ~ “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (Jas 1:2), and God gives joy along with patient endurance (Col 1:11). 

Furthermore, joy is connected with and is evidence of faith ~“Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith”(Phil 1:25). For example, Peter tells his audience that though they do not see Jesus Christ, they believe and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and full of glory (1 Pet 1:8). Paul experiences joy when he prays for believers (Phil 1:4). Jesus teaches that, one who finds the kingdom of God will, with great joy, give up all of one’s possessions to gain it (Matt 13:44). “Chara”thus refers to both an internal, emotional response and an action that one does. 

  • 6. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:

The question this morning is this: Has the Lord been speaking to you through His Word? If so, you have to obey and listen to the call from the Lord? I challenge you to allow the Lord to prune your life with His Word. If that is not accomplished, He will take further and far more drastic measures.

I want to ask the following to those who are saved: Do you experience effectual prayer? Is your love for God, glorifying Him? Are you abiding in Him? Do you experience joy, even in difficulties?

For those who are not sure of salvation, I want to say that you are not in the vine and that you are not abiding in the vine and you are not bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus is the True Vine. His desire is to live through your life so that you might bear fruit unto the Heavenly Father.

You must ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you “in the Vine”? Have you ever been saved and grafted into Jesus?
  • Are you “abiding in the Vine”? Are you drawing your strength from Him so that He is able to produce His fruit through your life?”
  • Are you bearing His fruit today? Where do you stand with Jesus today? 

If God has revealed areas in your life that need to be pruned back or otherwise dealt with today, then I challenge you to come to Jesus and let Him take care of your need. If you have never been saved, please come and let me show you how you can be placed into the Vine and become a child of God. Is there a need? If so, Jesus is the supply! You come if the Lord has called you!

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Jesus’ “I Am” Statements – 05 (“I Am the Good Shepherd”)

 (Message by Kobus van der Walt, Three Rivers Baptist Church – Sunday, 03 March 2019)

  1. INTRODUCTION:

We are reading in the Gospel of John again today and we are looking at the 8 “I Am” statements of John. Seven times, John records Jesus proclaiming Himself with the introductory formula “I am”and once where Jesus did not start with “I am”, but said, “Before Abraham, I am,”meaning that Jesusexisted before Abraham who had died perhaps 2000 years prior to Jesus and that Jesus also equated Himself to God, taking the holy name that God revealed to Moses in the burning bush (Ex.3:14), and which was so holy that the people of Jesus’ day would not even utter it out loud.

  • The first “I am” statement that Jesus made, was… ~ “I am the bread of life.”We said that just as bread sustains our lives physically, Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the One who sustains us spiritually and eternally. 
  • We have considered the statement, “I am the light of the world.”This statement gives us a radical claim which calls us to a radical discipleship (anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness)which guarantees for us a radical promise (but will have the light of life). 
  • Last Sunday we considered Jesus’ saying, “I am the door.”We said that this tells us that Jesus is the one and only door that must be entered into salvation, and that the door is open, but He will not force any to enter. 

This brings us to the fifth statement, which is actually a continuation of the illustration on shepherding begun in the previous statement (“I am the door”), namely, “I am the Good Shepherd.”

In today’s message, we will look at our topic according to the following three main points:

  • The Good Shepherd (vss.11,14-18).
  • The Hired Hand (vss.12-13).
  • The Divided Jews (vss.19-21).
  • SCRIPTURE READING:

John 10:7-21 ~ “So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” 19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. 20 Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” 21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

We see in our Scripture passage that Jesus explains the illustration of Himself, by giving the characteristics of three kinds of individuals.

  • THE GOOD SHEPHERD (vss.11, 14-18):

First, we see Jesus claims to be the “good” Shepherd and He expands on this statement by sharing with us the characteristics of a “Good Shepherd.”

The word “good” in itself is interesting – it means “good”in the sense of being morally good; but it also means “beautiful,” “winsome,” “lovely,” “attractive,”or even “possessing all and whatever qualities make the object described a good thing or the person a good person.”Moreover, if we compare Christ’s “I am the Good Shepherd”with His parallel claims to be the “the True Bread”or “the True Vine,” we also see that the word means “genuine” or “true,” as opposed to “false” or “artificial.”

When we look at the expression by Jesus, namely, “I am the GOOD Shepherd,”we recognise Jesus as the good, beautiful, winsome, lovely, attractive, true and genuine Shepherd.

Jesus goes on to describe His character by looking at two relationships, namely:

  • His relationship with the sheep(10:7, 9, 10b–11, 14–18):The first relationship that He describes, is His relationship with His sheep. 

Just to recap again – who is His sheep? In Matt.25:32 the word “sheep” is used symbolically to represent God’s people ~ “Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”Jesus’ sheep are those people who heard His call and believe in Him ~“To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out”(John 10:3) and John 10:27-28 ~“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

  • Entrance to man’s salvation:We’ve already seen in 10:7, that Jesus is the entrance to man’s salvation ~ “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.”Jesus is clear about the fact that He provides the door by which the sheep may enter into eternal rest.
  • Jesus meets the needs of His flock:Jesus also allows His flock to go in and out, and find green pasture (10:9). Here, Jesus puts the emphasis on His function in the salvation process of His sheep and that He brings His sheep out of the consequences of their sin and into the blessing of God, the blessing is described in terms of green pasture. This sheep that enters the fold through Christ will be able to go in and out and have all its needs met.
  • Jesus gives life:Jesus gives them life in all its fullness (10:10b). In contrast to Jesus, we see in vs.10 that the thief steals sheep out of selfish gratification – he steals and kills the sheep. Christ by contrast came for the benefit of the sheep. He came that they might have Life ~ “…but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31).
  • Jesus lays down His life: He lays down His own life for them (10:11). For a third time in the space of seven verses, Jesus again, in vs.17, mentions the fact that He is laying down His life for His “sheep” (10:11, 15). Jesus wants to stress the fact that His sacrifice is the means of our reconciliation both to God and to one another. John, in 1 Joh.3:16 also refers to this ~ “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”

Warren Wiersbe explains this as follow –“Under the old dispensation (Old Testament times), the sheep died on the altar for the shepherd as a burnt offering before God; but now the Good Shepherd (Jesus Christ) dies for His sheep! Five times in this conversation, Jesus clearly affirmed the sacrificial nature of His death (John 10:11, 15, 17–18). He did not die as a martyr, killed by men; He died as a substitute, willingly laying down His life for us.

The fact that Jesus said that He died‘for the sheep’ must not be isolated from the rest of Biblical teaching about the Cross. He also died for the nation Israel (John 11:50–52)and for the world (John 6:51). While the blood of Jesus Christ is sufficient for the salvation of the world, it is efficient only for those who will believe.”

In vs.18, Jesus clarify two very important aspects of His authority in laying down His life for His “sheep”: 

  • His death was voluntary:The first is that His death was totally voluntary. His power was such that no human hand could have touched Him had He not permitted it. We can see in several versus that Jesus at that stage had already avoided capture or execution (5:18; 7:44-45; 8:20, 59; 10:39; 11:53-54). Only when He declared that “the hour has come”(12:23) was it possible for his enemies to arrest Him.
  • He took up His life again:The second aspect is His authority to lay down His life and take it up again. The death of Jesus was voluntary, and not as it might seem, being killed (a sort of indirect suicide); it was part of a plan to submit to death and then emerge from it victoriously alive. Anyone can lay down his life, but only the Son of God can at will resume His existence. He was acting in accord with a divine plan that involved a supreme sacrifice and a manifestation of divine power. 
  • His motivation – His love for the Father:The entire plan was motivated by His love for the Father and His readiness to carry out His father’s purpose. “Authority” in this instance means that he was not the helpless victim of His enemies’ violence, but that He had both the right and the power to become the instrument of reconciliation between man and God and between Jew and Gentile.
  • He knows His sheep (vs.14).In the Gospel of John, the word “know”means much more than intellectual awareness. It speaks of an intimate relationship between God and His people ~ “And this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent”(John 17:3). 
  • He knows how to minister to His sheep:The shepherd knows his sheep personally and therefore knows best how to minister to them.
  • He knows our names: Jesus not only knows how to minister to us, but He also knows our names ~ “To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (John 10:3). 
  • He knows our natures:He also knows our natures. While all sheep are alike in their essential nature, each sheep has its own distinctive characteristics; and the loving shepherd recognises these traits. One sheep may be afraid of high places, another of dark shadows. 
  • He knows our needs:A faithful shepherd will consider these special needs as he tends the flock. Because He knows our natures, He also knows our needs. Often, wedo not even know our own needs! Psalm 23 is a beautiful poetic description of how the Good Shepherd cares for His sheep. In the pastures, by the water, and even through the valleys, the sheep need not fear, because the shepherd is caring for them and meeting their needs. Have you ever realised that the first verse and the last verse of Ps.23, is like the two pieces of bread that forms a sandwich? These two verses “sandwiches” the contents of the Psalm ~ “…I shall not want. …forever.”Jesus provides us with everything we need from now into eternity.
  • His relationship with the Father(10:15–17):Jesus says in Matt.11:27 the following about His relationship with God the Father… ~ “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him”In similar fashion,…           

–      He seeks the same intimacy between Him and us:Jesus seeks the same intimacy, between Him and His children in vss.15-16. 

              –      He is praying for us:He wants to see the same profound and intimate relationship of love and care, between Him and His followers – that is why He is praying in Joh.17:21 as follows ~“…that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

I said in the beginning that in our Scripture passage, Jesus explains His illustration of Himself, by giving the characteristics of three kinds of individuals. We’ve looked at the characteristics of “the Good Shepherd.”The second individual that we will be looking at, is “the Hired Hand”in vss.12-13.

  • THE HIRED HAND (vss.12-13):

Last Sunday, we looked at the thieves and robbersin vss.8 and 10 and we’ve seen that their purpose is to steal, to kill, and to destroy, but here in vss.12-13 Jesus refers to the characteristics of a hired hand.

No one expects sheep to be responsible for themselves. Owners hire shepherds or “hired hands”for that purpose and especially during night times when the sheep were in a sheepfold. A shepherd’s job, or the owner’s job is to accept responsibility for the safety and well-being of his flock and the same disposition or attitude was expected from “hired hands,” but most of them only took that to the point where it would threaten their personal safety, rightly deciding that their life is worth more than that of a sheep. A few would be willing to risk their lives to protect their sheep, but our Shepherd, Jesus Christ, knowingly and willingly died to save us, because there was no other way.

Who or what is“a hired hand”? The Greek word that’s been used here, μισθωτός(misthõtos) says exactly what the English says – “a hired hand”or a “wage-worker;” or a “hired servant,”who is hired to perform a job. These “hired hands” in terms of shepherding, were usually people who looked after the sheep during the night, while they were in the sheepfold or pen. Night times were the dangerous times, because that was usually the time that robbers and wolves would come to steal or catch the sheep.  

Jesus contrasted Himself to the hireling who watches over the sheep only because he is paid to do so. But when there is danger, the hireling runs away, while the True Shepherd stays and cares for the flock. The key phrase is the words in vs.12 “…who does not own the sheep.”The Good Shepherd purchases the sheepand they are His because He died for them. They belong to Him, and He cares for them. By nature, sheep are stupid and prone to get into danger; and they need a shepherd to care for them.

  • THE DIVIDED JEWS (vss.19-21):

How did the listeners respond to this message? “There was a division therefore again among the Jews”(10:19). Note that word“again”(John 7:43; 9:16). The old accusation that Jesus was a demoniac was hurled at Him again (John 7:20; 8:48, 52). People will do almost anything to avoid facing the truth!

Since Jesus Christ is “the Door,”we would expect a division, because a door shuts some people in and others out! He is “the Good Shepherd,”and the shepherd must separate the sheep from the goats. It is impossible to be neutral about Jesus Christ; for, what we believe about Him is a matter of life or death(John 8:24).

Jesus’ fourth declaration was the most startling of all ~ “I am the good Shepherd”(10:11). The crowd were upset and divided because of Jesus’ declaration.

  • Some judged Jesus (10:19-20):Many in this hostile crowd judged Him to be demon-possessed and mad (7:20; 8:48, 52). They labelled Jesus as a demoniac. The worst of characters is put upon the best of men. He is a distracted man, he raves and is delirious, and no more to be heard. They also ridiculed the other listeners in the audience, asking them… ~ “…why listen to him?”(10:20).
  • Some defended Jesus (10:21):Other people, though perhaps far in the minority, stood up for Jesus and defended Him. They still had the healing of the blind man in mind and told and asked the others who judged Jesus, with a rhetorical question – in other words, they asked a question to make a point rather than to get an answer… ~ “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”(10:21). These were brave people. The masses were against Jesus, but these handful of people believed in Jesus as the Messiah and they swam against the stream in order to defend Jesus. Matthew Henry says the following about this rhetorical question: “Neither mad men nor bad men can work miracles. Devils are not such lords of the power of nature as to be able to work such miracles; nor are they such friends to mankind as to be willing to work them if they were able. The devil will sooner put out men’s eyes than open them. Therefore, Jesus had not a devil.”
  • CONCLUSION & APPLICATION:

In order for us to sum up what we’ve learned today, hear the following: Because of Jesus’ intimate relationship with His Father and His intimate relationship with His flock..:

  • He meets our needs. When you experience needs – do you really believe this? 
  • He gives us life – How often do you think and pray about this fact?
  • He lays down His life for us – What is your response to this Truth?
  • He is faithful– Do you apply this fact at all times?
  • He knows us– Are you always aware of this?
  • He seeks the same intimate relationship with us, that exists between Him and the Father – What a wonderful reality! – He seeks an intimate relationship with you!
  • He is praying/interceding for us – when we pray, we are not praying alone – we are in the midst of a holy conversation – when we pray, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are also praying AND God the Father is listening – what an incredible, holy conversation and moment when we are praying!
  • He reconciled us with the Father– Do you really believe this, or are you always “fishing in the pond of past sins?”

The message of this parable is that Jesus is the true shepherd. He is the Good Shepherd who was willing to die and did die for those who put their faith in Him. Any other person who claims to be the true shepherd is a robber or thief. He or she is a false shepherd. This was a powerful message to the Jewish religious leaders who considered themselves to be the true shepherds of God’s flock. This is a wonderful message for anyone who seeks peace with God and security in eternity. Jesus is the Door to eternal salvation and He is the Good Shepherd who cares, watches, and protects those who believe in Him.

If you have already “entered through the gate,” there are however two warnings that we must take note of:

  • Listening to the wrong voice:The first of these dangers is listening to the wrong voice. In John 10:3 Jesus says that the Shepherd calls His sheep by name and leads them out. Notice that beautiful phrase, “He leads them.” Most modern shepherds drive the sheep. They walk behind the sheep and have “a dog or two”to keep the sheep in line. Not Jesus; He leads the sheep. The way that He leads them is not by the fact that they see Him but rather that they hear Him. The danger then is to follow the wrong voice.

The thieves of our day are the liberals, the Post Modernists, those who teach that there is another way, or many ways to be saved; those who teach that all religions ultimately lead to the same place. That is contrary to God’s Word. Another false voice is that of prosperity preachers who teach that God wants you to be wealthy, healthy and have all of your carnal desires met, and the reason you are sick or weak is your own fault. The first danger is listening to the wrong voice.

  • Seeking to enter through the wrong door:The second danger is seeking to enter by the wrong entrance. Jesus claims to be the exclusive gate. The only other way into the sheep pen is an illegitimate way: the way of thieves and robbers. We have already mentioned false religions and the like under the first danger. Likely the great danger of seeking the wrong entrance is seeking to enter the kingdom of God without the church. This is the notion that someone can be a part of the universal church without being faithfully involved in a local church. This is the teaching that says that you can live a healthy Christian life without the communion of the saints, without accountability, without corporate worship, and most dangerously, without the means of grace – the preaching and sacraments.

Beloved, beware of the dangers.

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10 Things the Woman Married to Your Pastor Wants You to Know

AUGUST 10, 2018  | Shari Thomas 

Lucas and Mia were a natural fit for the small but growing church in Tribeca. Everyone knew them for their vibrant personalities. Lucas demonstrated leadership finesse. Mia had an exceptional ability to winsomely engage cynics and intellectuals. The couple nurtured a growing network among New York City’s business elite.

Within 24 months of their arrival the church was thriving. But Lucas and Mia were not. Eight months later Lucas announced they were leaving. They vacated their apartment in five days.

Why do couples like this leave the ministry? Of the many rumors that swirl around a pastor’s resignation, we don’t often consider the hardship that ministry places on the pastor’s wife and on their marriage. We easily acknowledge that the happiness of both marriage partners affects marital health. Yet we’ve been slow to correlate how the well-being of a pastor’s spouse affects the long-term vitality of the church.

Women married to pastors face unique challenges. Keeping the following in mind (along with a commitment to regularly pray for her and her marriage) could affect your church more than you realize.

1. She’s Her Own Person

She’s not an appendage of the pastor. She may even have differing political, social, and biblical views than her spouse. But she’s in a position where sharing those views could negatively affect her husband’s job.

Allow her to be who she is. You might be surprised and delighted to discover how different she may be from what you assumed.

2. She Has a Calling

It might not be what you expect, and she may still be figuring it out. Many women consider their husband’s call to a specific pastoral position as a joint calling for both of them. Others do not. And some women married to pastors are hoping someone, anyone, will tell them what their ministry should be, in hopes of not disappointing others.

Confused? So are we. After years of serving in pastoral ministry, some women confess a sense of loss, of not even knowing themselves. They were too busy serving where needed. On the other hand, others may be minimally involved in church ministry with a calling focused outside the church.

3. She May Struggle Financially

In one of our local Parakaleo groups, we were discussing financial hardships and laughing over the ingenious ways we’ve stretched a dollar. I asked how many had ever been on food stamps because of ministry salaries. Half the women raised their hands. I was reminded of how delicate the financial situation is for many women in ministry.

4. She Shares Her Husband with the Whole Church

Depending on the size of the church and whether there are other competent staff members, pastors can be on call 24/7. Family dinners, holidays, and vacations are often interrupted by crisis situations. While some of this disruption can result from unhealthy boundaries in the pastoral home, ministry constantly involves crises.

When you meet a pastor’s wife who seems unusually wise, is her own person, and can speak truth in kindness, you are in the presence of a woman who has come through fire.

Especially in high-risk areas, the pastor is often the first person called during suicide attempts, when someone is jailed, when a church member is in an abusive relationship, when a marriage is breaking up, and so forth. Even celebratory events such as weddings, sporting events, and baptisms still take time away from the pastor’s family. Pastoral couples are honored to be involved in their congregants’ lives in this way. Just be aware that their time is limited for good reason.

5. She Is Harmed by Gossip

Gossip is idle talk or rumors, especially about the personal or private affairs of others. Gossip doesn’t have to be malicious. A simple rule of thumb is to not tell other people’s stories. Let them be the purveyor of their own information. If you hear information from someone about another person, consider a kind way to stop the gossip chain: “You know, I bet Marjorie would want to tell that story herself.”

If it’s malicious gossip, take a hard stand: “Regardless of how bad this situation has become, I don’t want to participate in gossip. Will you go with me back to the person speaking about this and help me stop it?” While I can laugh about it now, at times I discovered through gossip at church things about myself that even I didn’t know.

6. She’s Living with Unrealistic Expectations from Others (and Herself)

Well, who isn’t? Whether it’s our moms, kids, boss, or difficult neighbors, we all experience the pressure of expectations. But consider if you were also living with the expectation of being at church every time the doors opened. What about being told how you should dress? How your children should act? What is appropriate to say or not to say? How you should spend your money? How many people you should invite to your home for dinner? You would be surprised how often women married to pastors are criticized for these things.

Many women married to pastors also work full-time, participate in several church ministries, meet with couples for premarital or pastoral counseling, and attend community functions. It’s already a full life. Your pastor’s wife often needs to be reminded that the only audience that finally matters is the audience of one—her heavenly Father.

7. She Probably Finds Friendships in the Church Tricky to Navigate

It’s virtually impossible for her to know if her church friendships exist because someone is drawn to her or because of her husband’s role. Many women discover, when their husband leaves a pastoral position, that people they thought were friends really weren’t. They assumed the Christmas cards, social invites, long conversations over coffee, or trips to the beach were due to friendships. It’s devastating to discover that, without his role, the friendship was never really there.

The same happens in the reverse. Congregants may think they were closer friends with the pastoral couple and discover a similar scenario when the pastor and family leave. It’s painful for all involved. Rich friendships can still be enjoyed, but it requires maturity and an understanding that some topics are off limits.

8. She’s Harmed by Criticism of Her Husband

Pastors have been told they don’t work hard enough, disciple enough, preach well enough, visit congregants enough, and so on. Everyone has his or her own job description of what a pastor should do. Almost no one realizes the impossibility of meeting these expectations. How many hours should a pastor work? Fifty? Eighty? There’s plenty to be done and usually no one stopping him except his wife. When he’s criticized for not doing enough, she can feel guilty for trying to help him maintain healthy boundaries.

Pastors often share with their wives a disgruntled leader’s comments or what was said in a contentious meeting. But she isn’t part of the conversation when a situation is solved, often doesn’t even know if it’s resolved, and is left without a safe space to process the situation.

And unlike spouses in many other professions, these are the same people with whom she worships. When you meet a pastor’s wife who seems unusually wise, is her own person, and can speak truth in kindness, you are in the presence of a woman who has come through fire. Learn all you can from her, even if it’s just through observation.

9. She Lives with Stress and Ambiguity

Ambiguity is endemic to ministry. For the pastoral family, the system is not clear. All members of the family participate either directly or indirectly in the church. There is some role expectation from the congregation, which must be fulfilled by the pastor, the wife, and even the children. This level of ambiguity causes high levels of stress for pastors’ wives. Consider showing her the same compassion you would extend to someone who has recently received hard news. Why? Because this has likely been her experience on any given day.

Unlike others experiencing sorrow, however, she probably is unable to share the event and its effect, or process it with others in the church. Hearing that a trusted staff member plans on resigning, that a key church leader is having an affair, that the church can’t pay its bills, that her husband’s job is in jeopardy, that her closest friend decided to no longer attend church, are the kinds of revelations women in ministry face on a regular basis.

Not all women married to pastors experience all of the above. Many enjoy a wonderful, caring church community. And most of the pastors’ wives I know enjoy working in tandem with their husbands to see God’s kingdom advance in their city.

Regardless of the differences, the item all women married to pastors has in common is number 10.

10. Her Righteousness Comes from Christ

She, like you and me, doesn’t get her righteousness from measuring up to the standards of others, from her church attendance, from knowing Scripture, or from how much money she does or doesn’t spend on her wardrobe. If she has trusted Christ for her salvation, in God’s courtroom the verdict has been given. Her flaws, mistakes, shame, and sin were placed on Jesus Christ. He took on himself what she deserved. And what’s more, God gave her Christ’s righteousness. Pastors’ wives have been given the verdict of righteous, beloved daughters.

Article with recognition – “Together for the Gospel” – https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/10-things-woman-married-pastors-know/

Editors’ note: 

A version of this article appeared at sharithomas.org.

Shari Thomas is the executive director of Parakaleo. With an educational background in theology, education, and international church planting, she co-founded Parakaleo in 2005. Shari and her husband, John, have partnered together in church planting in the United States and abroad for 34 years. They currently reside in New York City, where John is the senior director of training for Redeemer City to City.

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