Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Preaching’ Category

In Romans 11:26, in concluding his consideration of just who the true Israel of God is – that people chosen by God from amongst both Jews and Gentiles, that people called out from every tribe and kindred, from the four corners of the earth, all who are brought to faith in Christ, the election of grace  (11:6) – Paul makes this glorious statement “And so all Israel shall be saved”. Yes all Israel shall be saved. All who God chose in Christ from before the foundation of the world. Shall all really be saved? Most assuredly, for “as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.”

 

God’s people upon the earth, both Jews and Gentiles, are pictured vividly in Romans 11 by the illustration of the Olive Tree. This tree has both root and branches, some branches being broken off, and some grafted in, many of the Jews being broken off for their unbelief, and the believing Gentiles being grafted in. Yet the illustration extends further than that. All those who are but outwardly religious, perhaps born and raised a Jew or perhaps brought up a ‘Christian’, brought up to ‘attend church or chapel’ will, if they remain in unbelief be ultimately broken off from the tree – whilst those people who are brought to true faith in Christ and His Gospel, whether Jew or Gentile, whether brought up religious or not at all, are those branches whom the Lord grafts in.

 

But whether branches be broken off or grafted in what remains sure, what never changes, is the root of the tree itself – and that root is Christ. He gives the tree its life, He gives it strength, He sustains it. All the branches on the tree have no life but what they receive from the tree, the root, itself. For Christ is the “firstfruit” (Romans 11:16), He is the One who rose from the dead, the Deliverer in Sion whom having taken away His people’s sins conquered death and rose again in newness of everlasting life. The promises to Abraham concerning his Seed were all fulfilled in Christ for all His seed in Him – all those purchased by His blood at the cross, all that “election of grace”, all who by faith are united to Him as branches to His vine. The illustration of the Olive tree reminds us of that wonderful passage in chapter 15 of John’s Gospel in which Christ declares of Himself:

 

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.

 

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

 

If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.” John 15:1-9

 

What a tremendous picture is seen here of the fruitfulness of God’s people as united to Christ, the true vine, in whom they abide as those in whom His words abide, those in whose hearts Christ dwells by faith, those whom He calls His disciples. What union, what love is shown here, and what glory is rendered to the Father by the fruitfulness of that vine, the ekklesia of Christ. Yet, despite this, what a warning chapter 11 of Romans presents to us of the consequences of unbelief, of the dreadful end awaiting those whose profession is false, whose walk is but outward, whose association with the things of God is merely in the flesh, merely through natural inheritance, only in the letter and never in the Spirit. All of these, all who despite the profession of their lips, have hearts which are far from God, all in whom remains unbelief of the truth, of Christ in His Gospel, all of these, whatever they may appear before men, will be broken off – cut off, forever removed from the tree, cast into the fire and burned. What an end…. And what a warning.

 

Have you faith in Christ? Are you a branch on His vine? Is all well with your soul? Or is your profession but in word only? Have you received a love of the truth, of the truth of God’s Gospel as truly set forth in the scriptures? Do you rest in that salvation wrought by God for those whom He chose in Christ, His Israel? Is your salvation by the grace of God or by your own works, your own merit, your own worth? Has God grafted you into His olive tree or do you just put on a show, an appearance, of being a branch, yet ultimately to be broken off on that great day when God judges both the quick and the dead?

 

The answers to such questions are vital. Do we have faith or not? Do we abide in Christ, and His words in us, or not? Might we at the last be found amongst that company who will cry out “Lord, Lord”, only to receive that crushing response for all eternity: “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity”? (Matthew 7:21,23)

 

When Christ, the Son of God, came into this world, born a Jew, “made of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Romans 1:3) He came to a people whose hearts had turned from God. An apostate nation. A people who drew near unto God with their lips when their hearts were far from Him. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” John 1:11.

 

The very ones, the very people, who should have known Christ at His coming, the ones who should have been looking for the coming of Messiah, unto whom had been committed the oracles of God, the scriptures, the Levitical priesthood, the sacrifices, all the types and figures which pointed unto the Deliverer in Sion, failed to see Him at His coming. They failed to see Him for whom He was, for who He is. Their eyes were blinded and their hearts hardened. They followed after the law of righteousness, but never attained to it (Romans 9:31). Lacking faith they stumbled at that stumblingstone laid in Sion (9:33).  Despite all the prophecies of the scriptures, all the promises made to their fathers, all being fulfilled before their very eyes, they saw nothing but a man. Though the very Son of God stood before them, though the very Messiah, the Deliverer of Jacob, of whom the scriptures testified, walked amongst them, they saw Him not for whom He was, but merely as a man like themselves, and despite all their religion, all their intellect, all their outward zeal in the things of God, they rejected the very One sent of God as the Saviour, they cast Him out, despised Him, mocked Him, made false accusation against Him, ridiculed Him, hated Him, and, at the last, with wicked hands, crucified Him.

 

So God cut them off, breaking off their branches from the Olive tree and grafting in Gentile believers to whom He sent His Gospel, to whom He sent the word of life, to whom He revealed His Son as their Saviour.

But lest those Gentile believers, lest we, should boast in this, lest we should be found judging or despising the apostate Jews of old, as though we are any better than they, or judging those in the churches today who fall away or reject the truth, Paul reminds the Gentiles, he reminds us, that if grafted into the tree, if kept in the tree, it is only because of God’s mercy, of His grace. It is God who saves, God who shows grace, God who gives His children the gift of faith to lay hold of Christ. Salvation owes nothing to the works or the will of man. As it is written “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.” Romans 11:6-7 

Yes, God’s people are saved by grace and kept by grace, and should they turn from this to their own works, should they turn from the truth of the Gospel to another, should they be found rejecting the Son of God as He truly is, then they too, Jew or Gentile, will be branches that are broken off. Profession of faith or not, churchgoer or not, outwardly religious or not, except God grants us true faith in the truth of Christ as revealed in His Gospel, we will not, we cannot remain in that tree, amongst that company who will inherit eternal life.

 

When Christ came to redeem His people the vast profession of religion amongst the Jews was found to be apostate. It was corrupt. It was rotten. It had an appearance of godliness but denied the power thereof. But for the ones and twos, the “remnant according to the election of grace”, the Simeons and Annas who looked for redemption in Israel, who looked by faith for the coming of Messiah, but for those few disciples whom God called to follow Christ from amongst His earthly people, but for these, the vast profession of Judaism, of the religion of the day, had departed from God. They had words, they had forms, they had outward appearances, but they had no faith in their hearts. They were apostate.

 

Has not the same thing come to pass amongst the Gentiles today? Look around. Take notice. Has not the vast profession of ‘Christendom’, the great majority of churches, be they Catholic or Protestant, Evangelical or Fundamental, Baptist or Methodist, Presbyterian or Congregational, Conservative or Charismatic, Arminian or Calvinist… whatever the form, whatever the profession, has not the great majority turned from the truth of the Gospel as set forth in the scriptures to another gospel? Have they not turned from the Christ as preached by the apostles, to another Jesus? Do the people not rejoice in their own strength, in their own will, in their own freedom to approach God on their own terms, to worship Him as they will?

 

Would not Christendom today, the great mass of religious profession, reject Christ if He came “unto his own” as Israel did before them? Would they not, indeed do they not, put Him, the true Christ, to death in their very thoughts and affections? In their rejection of the truth regarding Him, in their rejecting those sent by Christ to preach His Gospel? Do they not prefer their ‘gentle Jesus, meek and mild’ who loves all, who died for all, and who helplessly stands by desiring the salvation of all, yet is impotent to actually save any? Do they not proclaim a gospel and a Jesus who changes with the times, who adapts to the fashions and trends of the day? Is their Jesus truly “the same yesterday, and to day, and forever”?

 

Is not the professing church of our day as apostate, nay, more apostate, than Israel was at the time of Christ’s coming?

Surely the words of Christ in Matthew 21:13 ring true about our own day and generation: It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves”.

Face the question – is this not the case? Can we not see it all around us?

 

And, my reader, ask yourself this question: are you among that number? Are you a branch ready to be broken off, ready to be burned in the fire? Might you, like Esau, seek repentance but never find it?

 

Or have you a better hope? Has God given you true faith, true repentance, as with Jacob? For both faith and repentance are the gifts of God – we can’t simply ‘work them up’. No! We’re dead by nature, dead in trespasses and sins. But I ask – are you by God’s great mercy, by free grace alone, found among that people, that remnant of grace, that poor contrite, lowly company, whose eyes have been opened to see their poverty before God, their pitiful state by nature as wilful sinners, as unbelieving creatures, as ungrateful servants who stand in need of mercy, of salvation. Has God opened your eyes to see Christ in the Gospel, to have the truth of God’s grace revealed to you? Has He lifted you up, as a beggar from off a dunghill and set your feet upon that sure foundation of everlasting salvation by the grace of God, through the Lord Jesus Christ?

 

For all the election of grace, all those chosen people of God, all His true Israel will be saved, despite their rebellion and unbelief by nature they will be brought to faith, they will be brought to hear the truth of the Gospel, they will be brought to hear the voice of the Son of God say unto them, as unto the dead, “Live!”

 

For, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.” John 5:25.

 

And all such branches, all God’s people saved by grace, will never, ever, be broken off from that True Vine, from Christ, their Saviour.  All these branches, Jews and Gentiles, will surely be brought to faith and find their rest in Christ by the sounding of His Gospel, and none other – “And so all Israel shall be saved”.

 

Amen.

 

“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?

For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” Romans 11:33-36

 

 

RELATED AUDIO MESSAGES

“The Lost Sheep” Luke 15:6

“The LORD Thy God is With Thee” Joshua 1:9

 “Listen” Isaiah 49:1

“Who is This?” Matthew 21:10

Read Full Post »

In chapter 15 of Romans Paul first concludes his thoughts from chapter 14 by encouraging the brethren to serve one another in love, to encourage one another, to edify one another. By pointing them to Christ and His example Paul encourages that unity of the brethren in their love for Christ and one another that they might “with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

Notice here, how the Father is glorified. Contrary to how man generally views it, when the message of God’s salvation in the Gospel is seen from God’s perspective, it is evident that the Gospel is not so much about what is brought in for man, in terms of the salvation of God’s elect, but of what is brought in for God and to His glory, through the Son’s redemption of His Bride, the church, whom He brings to His Father to worship and glorify Him, as making known the wonders of His grace before all creation, both now and in eternity.

 

On this foundation the apostle goes on to remind the church at Rome of the great mercy of God in sending the Gospel to the Gentiles that those who had not known the truth before should see “and they that have not heard shall understand”. He affirms how God sent him forth as “the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost” and again expresses his great desire to come unto Rome to preach the Gospel unto the saints there face to face, and to fellowship with the brethren there, being refreshed with them. Yet Paul must first visit the saints at Jerusalem (15:25) and in so doing he reminds his Gentile readers of their unity with both Jewish and Gentile believers and of the love the Gentiles in the church should show their Jewish brethren, for having received of the Jews’ “spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things”.

 

Above all, Paul’s great longing and desire in coming to the church at Rome is to preach the Gospel, to preach Christ, to bring the “fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ” (Romans 15:29). Paul was sent with a message. He had a message to deliver, and that message, “the faith” was that which was “once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3). Paul’s message, his gospel, didn’t vary. He preached the same message in Rome as he did in Jerusalem. The same gospel in Galatia as he did in Ephesus. The same message of the cross, of “Christ crucified” in Corinth as he declared at Thessalonica. He had one message, one gospel, one faith, which had been delivered once by God, through revelation, by His servants to the church. Having been taught that message – the faith – Paul was sent forth to preach it, and his great longing was that the saints at Rome might know it, not just in part, and not just in the head, but in all its fullness, in all its riches, in the inward man, both in heart and mind, that they might be established and built up in the truth, that the “blessing of the gospel of Christ” might be theirs, and that God might be glorified in them.

 

As one sent by God to preach His Gospel, as “a servant of Jesus Christ” Paul not only had a message to deliver to the saints at Rome, but he wrote unto them and would come unto them as one who lived that message, as one who walked in the Truth, as one who served both His Lord and Master, and His brethren, for Christ’s sake. Paul was a servant, a slave, of Jesus Christ, “separated unto the gospel of God” whose life was devoted to the service of others, to “ministering the gospel of God”. Paul led by example. He ministered to others. His exhortations to the brethren to serve one another were borne out by his own life and conduct as he served them. He exhorted them to follow Christ as he followed Christ.

 

Now, let us consider the lesson set before us here. In at least three places in his epistles the Apostle Paul exhorts those to whom he is writing to follow him (1 Corinthians 4:16 , 1 Corinthians 11:1, Philippians 3:17 ). Paul’s exhortation is not without ground or authority. He is not encouraging others to blindly follow him as a man, or follow his teaching simply because ‘he say’s so’. No, Paul’s exhortation carries weight because of the One that he himself follows, the One who sent Paul to preach the Gospel: even the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul writes “be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.

Have you ever heard people say “don’t follow a man”? It is a criticism that can often be raised when the ministry of a particular man is commended. The inference is that we should rather follow Christ, than follow men. There is of course truth in this (though the criticism presents a false dichotomy), in that man should never be exalted above his measure, that Christ is pre-eminent in all things, and that ultimately we should be followers of Him who is the Great Shepherd of the sheep, Him who gave His life for the sheep that they might have everlasting life in Him, the forgiveness of sins, and peace and reconciliation with the Father. Scripture rightly warns us in one place to “cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils”. Men, being sinners by nature, may often lead us astray. We must be very wise about whom we follow. Many foolish people have been led to destruction by deceivers, by those who promise much and give little, by those who can ‘sound right’ but ultimately speak of themselves, not of God. Except for the grace of God all men are fallen and at enmity with their Maker. Yet, nevertheless Paul exhorts his hearers to be “followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.”

It is in that final part of Paul’s sentence that we may find the answer to whether or not we should follow men, and, if at all, which men. Paul was a follower of Christ! His exhortation was not simply to follow him, but to follow him as he followed Christ. Paul led his followers to Christ, and that is why they should follow him. By following Paul they followed Christ. It is Christ who appeared to Paul (when he was named Saul) on the Damascus road, revealing Himself to him from heaven above, and sending him forth to preach the Gospel (See Acts 26). Paul was sent by Christ Himself to open the eyes of sinners, “to turn them from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me [Christ]” Acts 26:18. It is this sending forth by Christ to preach the Gospel which gives Paul’s exhortation to “be ye followers of me” such weight. Christ sent Him to His people to lead them unto Christ. Then should they not follow such a one unto Him who died to save them?

In 1 Corinthians 4 Paul makes a similar exhortation and adds a further reason why he should be followed. “I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have yet not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church.” 1 Corinthians 4:14-17.

The believers at the church at Corinth to whom Paul was writing had been born again by God the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Gospel through Paul’s lips. Hence Paul called them his “beloved sons” and writes that “in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel”. So close was Paul’s relationship to these believers, so involved was he in leading them to Christ, so instrumental was he in their conversion that he declares himself to be their father, and they his sons. Whilst it is true that their birth was by the Holy Ghost from above, whilst it is true that only God is their true Father, nevertheless it is God’s means to use the preaching of the Gospel, by the lips of those men He sends forth with it, to bring dead sinners to life. Paul was sent with that Gospel to Corinth , men and women were saved under the preaching of that Gospel and Paul rightly declares that “in Christ Jesus” he had “begotten [them] through the gospel”. Then should they not follow him who faithfully led them to Christ, who faithfully declared Christ to them in the Gospel, by whose words they were born again from above? Though they might have had ten thousand instructors in Christ, was not Paul their ‘father’ by whose preaching they were saved? By Christ, yes, by the Holy Spirit’s regenerating work, yes, by believing the Gospel with God-given faith, yes, but nevertheless by believing that Gospel as delivered unto them by the man whom God sent forth, that Gospel which they heard from Paul’s lips. God begat them through Paul’s preaching of the Gospel of Christ. Then surely they should follow such a man, sent from above to bring them to the One who sent him? “Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.”

As if these were not good enough reasons – that Paul followed Christ, and that his preaching of Christ’s Gospel had caused his hearers to be born again – Paul sent unto the Corinthians his beloved son Timothy, one faithful in the Lord, to bring them “into remembrance of [his] ways which be in Christ, as [he taught] every where in every church.” Paul’s teaching and conduct confirmed that he was a follower of Christ, one whom God’s children should gladly follow. So Paul sent Timothy to the people to testify of Paul’s character, of his “ways which be in Christ” and of his teaching which he taught “every where in every church” lest Paul’s absence should have caused the Corinthians to become forgetful of his true character in Christ.

Yes, Paul taught others to follow him. But not without cause! He gave here three reasons which should dispel all opposition, which should silence every contrary tongue, which should answer every objection regarding the following of men. Firstly he followed Christ, and hence by following Paul others would be led to Christ. Secondly Christ sent him to preach His Gospel and by the preaching of that Gospel God, through Paul, had brought many to life in Christ Jesus. And thirdly, Paul’s conduct, his “ways which be in Christ” and his teaching in all the churches bore witness to the work of God in him and by him. It proved with what authority he said these things. It demonstrated the fruit by which Paul’s followers might know that He was sent of Christ to lead them to Christ (Matthew 7:15-20). Then how could they not follow him?

Paul’s hearers were right to follow him. In doing so they were not following a man, but following Christ by receiving him whom Christ had sent to them, by believing the word preached by Christ through that man, and by owning the evident work of God seen in Paul, whom they had as an example of one who lived and breathed to serve His Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.” Philippians 3:17 (See also 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9 and Hebrews 13:7).

What was true of Paul is true for all those whom God sends to His church to preach the Gospel. Whilst Paul was indeed an apostle, and was unique in that respect, nevertheless those who have followed him are still called from above, still sent by Christ from above, to preach the same Gospel as Paul did. They still come with the authority of the One who sends them, they still declare the same Gospel by which men and women have their eyes opened, are turned from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God. It is by the preaching of the same Gospel that God the Holy Spirit quickens dead sinners unto everlasting life in Christ Jesus. It is by the preaching of the Gospel that Christ brings a people, His Bride, unto His Father to glorify Him. And it is the same wonderful work of grace in the lives and characters of those whom God sends forth with His word that makes them examples for others to follow, as they follow Christ. Paul rightly exhorted others to follow him, and in such an exhortation God rightly exhorts us to follow those men whom He sends unto His church as gifts for its edification, as they too follow Christ.

You see, the question is not so much about whether or not we should follow men (for Paul’s exhortations make it clear that we should), but about which men we should follow. So, which men should we follow? Those who follow Christ! For when God purposes to save a people He always sends a man with His Gospel to lead that people unto Christ (Romans 10:14). Paul said, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” We should follow those who, like Paul, are sent by Christ to preach His Gospel, those who proclaim the same apostolic doctrine: Those who declare the same truths regarding the person and work of the eternal Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who declare His divinity, His humanity, His incarnation, His baptism, His visitation, His death, resurrection and ascension, His present ministry from the glory. Those who declare the fall of man and his total depravity in sin by nature. Those who declare the finished work of Christ upon the cross, a free justification of fallen sinners by the blood of Christ, the imputation of the righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ unto all who believe on His Name, the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with the Father for all that election of grace chosen of God in Christ from before the foundation of the world. Those who declare that salvation is of the Lord, entirely of the Lord, entirely by grace from start to finish. Those who declare the threefold work of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit in salvation. Those who declare the Gospel of Christ, just as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be – just as Paul preached it as the Spirit of God gave him utterance, and as the Spirit continues to do so down through the ages through all those whom He sends in Christ’s Name. These are the men who we should follow, those who follow Christ.

…Whereas others should certainly be avoided. We should test what all men say in the Name of Christ by the scriptures, and if found wanting we should turn from them. We should turn from such who would bring another gospel, and another Jesus, with another spirit (2 Corinthians 11:4). We should turn from such who deny the person of Christ or that He has truly come in the flesh. From such who deny One God in Three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. From such who question and deny the inspiration and authority of God’s word recorded in all the scriptures and its continual testimony to the person and work of Christ. From such who proclaim salvation by the works or by the will of man. From such who deny the free and sovereign grace of God in salvation. From such who deny God’s eternal purposes and decrees in Christ, in electing a people for whom Christ should die, to bring them to everlasting life in Him. From such who deny the true regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in quickening dead sinners unto life. From such who preach a mixed gospel, a mixture of works and faith, of law and grace, of Sinai and Zion . From such who preach so much of man and so little of Christ that their followers can only be led away from Christ and never led to Him. Such men should be avoided. But, despite these, there are those who do follow Christ, those whom Christ has sent with His Gospel: and those men we should follow. For those men seek for man to be abased and Christ to be exalted, they labour that they should fade from view, that their followers should see “no man save Jesus only”.

To turn our backs on those whom God sends forth with His Gospel; to shy from following them in a pious fear of being found to follow men, is, if those men truly follow Christ, to turn our backs on Christ Himself. To not receive those whom Christ sends to us, is to not receive Christ Himself. To treat with caution and reserve those preachers of the Gospel whom Christ has sent, is to treat with caution and reserve Christ Himself. To turn from all men and to trust only our own interpretation of the scriptures, is, ultimately, to follow ourselves and our own understanding. We are right to be wary of man, and the teaching of men, we are absolutely right to weigh up every word spoken by man by that which we find in the scriptures, but we would be wrong to be so wary that we turn away from the teaching of Christ Himself, by the Spirit, in power, through those men whom He has sent forth to preach His everlasting gospel of salvation, those who minister the Gospel of God.

May we be given grace and discernment from God to know and recognise those whom He sends as gifts to His church, and to follow them as they follow Christ! For to truly follow Christ is to receive those whom He sends with His word, those gifts given to His church for its edification, for the building up of the church, for Christ’s glory!

And may we be found to be true followers of Christ as we follow those who follow Him, that Christ might be glorified in His body on earth, and the Father by Him, for “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory and blessing”. Revelation 5:12.

Amen. 

“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we should henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ, From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” Ephesians 4:11-16

“Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matthew 25:37-40

 

 

RELATED AUDIO MESSAGES

 

“The Word of Life” 1 John 1:1

 

“Listen” Isaiah 49:1

“I have preached righteousness in the great congregation” Psalm 40:9

 

 

Read Full Post »

“…We, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” Romans 12:5

And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” Colossians 1:18

Having considered in chapter 9 to 11 of Romans just who the people of God are, those whom God has elected unto salvation, that chosen people called out from among both the Jews and Gentiles, a people of faith, Paul, in chapter 12, then commences to direct that people in their walk of faith.

 

It is important to note throughout the following chapters the overriding emphasis upon faith in the walk of the believer. Paul does not so much concentrate upon the outward conduct as upon that which governs it – faith. Whatever the exhortation – faith is what fulfils, and love is its outworking, and both are the work of God, being the fruit of the Spirit within. Throughout these chapters the emphasis continues to be not upon man and his works, but upon God and His works, and upon His people’s absolute reliance upon God and His work of grace in them as they walk in this world looking unto Him by faith. Constantly the gaze is lifted up above earthly things unto heavenly things, from that which is of the flesh, to that which is of the Spirit, from that which is but carnal, to that which is spiritual. Constantly man is abased, and Christ is exalted. Man is laid low, and Christ is raised up high. God will either do all for His people, or He will do nothing. It is God who saves, God who leads, God who keeps, and God who preserves. Hence Paul reminds his hearers towards the end of chapter 12 to avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord”. God justified His people at the cross through the sacrifice of His own Son – so will He not avenge them? He will indeed!

 

 

Yes, the walk of the child of God is a walk of faith, for God will do everything for the salvation of His people. Everything!

 

 

So, in chapter 12 Paul leads our thoughts from that which is natural to that which is spiritual, beginning with the natural body and its reasonable service unto the Lord, and then directing the attention towards the spiritual Body which God’s people are in Christ. Having instructed the people of God not to be conformed to this world but transformed through the renewing of their minds (Romans 12:2), in verses 4 and 5 Paul then speaks of that One Body which God’s people are in Christ. Here the gaze of faith is lifted up from that which is natural to that which is spiritual – the Body of Christ.

 

 

For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” Romans 12:4-5

In Colossians 1:18 Paul refers to Christ as “the head of the body, the church”. Here Paul touches upon a great mystery, the Body of Christ, His Church, in whom Christ dwells. I have not the space to open up this glorious theme fully here, an exposition of the epistle to the Ephesians probably being more suited to that end, but we may nevertheless rightly ask the question, just what is the Body of Christ, the Church, as spoken of here? 

 

 

Indeed, in these days of many ‘religions’, many ‘churches’, many beliefs and ideals, the question may well be asked, and rightly asked, which of these is the true church… indeed just what is the Church?

 

 

A worshipping people…

 

 

Well, let us consider a few aspects about the church as revealed in God’s word, the Bible. Firstly, as is evident from the passage in Romans 12 concerning the Body of Christ, the Church of God is not a building. It may meet in buildings, but it is not a physical building. The English word ‘church’ is used to translate the Greek word ekklesia as used in the Bible, and ekklesia essentially means a called out congregation or assembly of people. God’s church, His ekklesia, is not a building, but His people, called out from the world to worship Him, and not only is this people called out but but it is called into the fellowship of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s church, Christ’s church, the Body of Christ, is a worshipping people, a people who worship “in spirit and in truth” John 4:23. Described as the ekklesia, the assembly of God, such a people may gather and worship God in many congregations throughout the world, but in God’s eyes, they are One people, One body, One assembly, united by their common love for God and worship of Him. This was typified by the nation of Israel in the Old Testament scriptures who were themselves a people chosen of God to worship Him, as a picture and foreshadowing of that spiritual Israel, the church of God in Christ.

 

 

Not only is the Church of God, the ekklesia of Christ, a called out assembly of people who worship God, but it is God’s church, it is His people. God’s church is that people whom God the Father chose in Christ from before the foundation of the world unto salvation “…according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace” (See Ephesians 1:3-6), whom Jesus Christ, the Son of God, loved and gave Himself for (Ephesians 5:25) in laying down His life in the place of His people that He might suffer the judgment of God against their sins, that they might have “redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Ephesians 1:7). Such people, those who are sinners by nature, at enmity with God their Maker, far off from God (Ephesians 2:17), described in the Bible as being “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1) are, in the will of God, in His time, brought to hear the good news of Jesus Christ, the Gospel of Christ, regarding how the Son of God entered this world by being made flesh and taking human nature into perfect union with His Divine Person in order that He might live as a man amongst sinners and suffer and die in the place of His people in order to take their sins and the judgment of God against them away, that God might be just in forgiving them of their sins, washing them clean, declaring them just and righteous before Him and giving them eternal life in Christ that they might live and worship Him for ever. Through the preaching of this Gospel, God the Holy Spirit causes this people to be born again by His almighty power, delivered from the darkness and death of their sin, into the light and life of the Gospel of Christ. It is this people whom God calls His Church. This is the ekklesia of Christ whom He purchased at great price – with His own blood, through His death upon the cross in the place of His people.

 

 

God’s people…

The church of God, then, is that people whom God has saved through the Person and Work of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who are born again of the Spirit, hearing and believing the truth of Christ as declared in His Gospel, and who are gathered as assemblies in various localities to worship God, in spirit and in truth. God’s word, the Bible, tells us a number of other things about the church. Not only is the church referred to as Christ’s, whom He loves, but He also declares in Matthew 16:18 that “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”. Christ builds His church. He died for all those whom God the Father gave to Him as His people, and by the preaching of His Gospel, by the mouths of those men whom He sends to preach it, through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ calls that people out from the darkness of this world to believe on Him and to gather with His people, in the church. This is a work of God’s grace to bring His people to believe on Him, by His will, not theirs, as John 6:29 tells us “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him [Jesus Christ] whom he hath sent”. Likewise Ephesians 2:4-5 tells us “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved;)”. And if by grace, then of ‘Sovereign Grace’, grace which reigns (Romans 5:21), for the grace of God, His undeserved, unmerited mercy towards sinners, is freely given by His will, being Lord of all – by Christ, the King of kings. And not only is the church said to be Christ’s, and that He builds it, but He is also described as being the Head of the Church. “And [God] hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” Ephesians 1:22-23. Here we read of how Christ fills all in all. He dwells in His people, and in His church. For the church is not only a people gathered to worship God, but it is described in the scriptures as God’s dwelling place, as His habitation – indeed as the very Body of Christ in which He dwells. We have stated that the church is not a physical building, but the people of God, and the Bible teaches us that it is in this people that God makes His habitation, Christ by His Spirit dwelling in their hearts by faith. Acts 17:24 tells us that God “dwelleth not in temples made with hands”, for God’s people are described as His habitation “In whom [Christ] all the building [of God’s people] fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” Ephesians 2:21-22.

So, we see that the church of God, is that people called out by God to worship Him, for whom Christ died, having set His love upon them. The Church is Christ’s, He is the Head of it, He dwells within it, He reigns within it, and He builds it. And He does so through the preaching of His Gospel, which the Bible describes as “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” Romans 1:16. It is by the preaching of the Gospel that Christ builds His church, adds to it, increases it and strengthens it. Described in 1 Timothy 3:15 as “the pillar and ground of the truth” the church is also described as the “household of God” and is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone”, and that foundation, that teaching of God regarding Christ as declared by the apostles and the prophets of old is set forth and proclaimed in the preaching of Christ in His Gospel. Hence the preaching of the Gospel from the word of God is not only that by which God’s people are saved, but is that by which the church is built and sustained, and it forms the centre of all worship of God in His church, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?” …. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:13-15, 17

…Who worship in spirit and in truth

Having asked what is the church of God, we may also wonder just how that church worships God when it gathers together?

 

 

Unlike much that is done in the name of ‘worship’ in many religious gatherings today, which are either full of pomp or ceremony, of outward form or ritual, or just frothy sentimentalism or entertainment, the church of God as described in the scriptures, and the way in which it worships, is actually very simple and without much ceremony. What is at the heart of true worship is the centrality of Christ in the meetings. The church is One Body in Christ. Quite simply, Christ is all.

At one time, in the days of His flesh, Christ walked upon this earth bodily. Now, having died, risen again and ascended, He sits in glory on the right hand of God the Father, yet even now, though not here physically, Christ still indwells His people collectively as One Body upon the earth, of which He is the Head – especially when they are gathered together “with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1). Oh, what a glorious mystery this is! Here, more than anywhere, Christ meets His people in a particular way, by His Spirit, as they meet as His Body. Christ says in Matthew 28:20, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” and how true this is, especially in the experience of God’s people when they gather to worship Him who saved them. 

True worship is to love and adore Christ, the Head of the Church, in whom God has revealed Himself to man. This is an act of faith, which works by love (Galatians 5:6), which springs from the new heart of the believer. We cannot worship Him whom we do not know, as we have seen in Romans 10, and the true knowledge of God as Father, Son and Holy Ghost, resulting in belief in Him and worship of Him, is made known by the preaching of Christ in His Gospel. Hence the centre-point of all true worship, is the preaching of Christ, the preaching of the truth as it is in Jesus, in His Gospel. This results in worship from the hearts of God’s people who hear. Whilst their worship may also be expressed in singing, prayer and praise, all these things have no meaning unless we know of whom we sing, or to whom we come in prayer. True worship is not about ceremony, forms, rituals or entertainment, but is centered on God in Christ, as preached in His Gospel. True worship is not an outward thing, but an inward, spiritual exercise, emanating from the heart, by faith, through love, towards God and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Such an inward exercise maintains the unity of the church together as One Body in Christ, who dwells in each member individually, but also in all particularly as One Body united in Him, centered upon Him by faith as the Head of the Body, who is its very life and strength.

 

 

In order to ensure this centrality of the preaching of the Gospel in the meetings of God’s people, in order to give it free course, to remove hindrances to its being preached, and to keep God’s people’s gaze clearly set upon Christ and His work, God has given several simple guidelines in the Bible for how He should be worshipped (for example in 1 Corinthians or 1 Timothy), and has given several ‘ordinances’ to be kept in the church as vivid pictures of Christ and His work. These ordinances include the ordinance of Baptism by which those who are brought to faith in Christ declare that faith publicly to others by confessing Christ’s Name in baptism, in which they are immersed in water as a picture of being buried with Christ in His death and having risen again with Him in His resurrection, having had their sins washed away by His blood (See Romans 6). We can read of this practice in Acts 2:41 “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized”. Having been baptized these early Christians met for worship as described in verse 42: “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine  and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Notice the primary place given here to the Apostle’s doctrine – ie. the preaching of Christ in His Gospel.

 

 

Not only does the church remember the ordinance of baptism, but it also remembers the Lord Jesus’ death in the ordinance of the ‘Lord’s Supper’. The Apostle Paul describes this in his first epistle to the church at Corinth in which he sets down a number of guidelines for how God should be approached in worship. In 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 he reminds them of the importance and meaning of the Lord’s Supper: “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” Here we see what a powerful picture the simple act of remembrance depicted in the Lord’s Supper, of breaking bread and drinking wine, is, of the Lord Jesus’ death for sinners, in which His body was broken and His blood was shed that He might redeem them from their sins. As often as the church gathers to “eat this bread” and “drink this cup” they show forth “the Lord’s death till he come”. What a simple act this is, but what a wonderful reminder of Christ and His work to save sinners!

 

 

In the same chapter in 1 Corinthians we also read of another simple ordinance which God has given to His church to set forth a vital truth in a simple, yet clear and vivid manner – that truth being the Headship of Christ over His church. In chapter 11 verses 3-5 God the Holy Spirit states “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.” Christ is the Head of His church, that church often being depicted in the Bible as His bride. For this reason, and to set forth this truth clearly, here we are reminded of God’s order, of the Headship of Christ over His church, of how Christ is the head of the man and the man is the head of the woman, this relationship between the man and the woman being a reflection of Christ’s relationship to His bride, the church. And in order to set forth this picture of Christ’s Headship in the church, as pictured by God’s order in male and female, God has provided this further simple ordinance for His church, for men to worship with their heads uncovered and for women to worship with their heads covered. What a tremendous truth this sets forth, and in such a simple manner! It is for this reason that when Christians gather to worship in the church, the women should wear a head covering (hat or scarve *) and likewise, the men should not. For by simple obedience in so doing the gathered church plainly declares both its willing submission to Christ’s Headship over His bride (His people) and His authority in the midst, and also the fact that as that bride, the church approaches unto God as having its nakedness and sin covered by Christ’s blood.

 

 

By such simple ordinances in God’s church, great truths are set forth. Should any ask why we baptise, we may declare plainly the death and resurrection of believers in Christ. Should any ponder the meaning of the bread and wine, the death of our Lord is clearly set forth by them as depicting His body broken and His blood shed. And should any wonder why women cover their heads, and men don’t, the glorious truth of Christ’s Headship over His church and His authority and centrality within it can be clearly proclaimed. God hasn’t given many requirements for outward form in His church, but what He has in His wisdom set forth such glorious and central truths relating to Christ and His work for, and in, His ekklesia – those same truths which we see declared in word and doctrine in the preaching of Christ in His Gospel. It is this preaching of the truth which these simple ordinances help to maintain as the centre of all true worship. For since God the Father seeks a people who worship “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23), for that worship to be in truth the truth must be proclaimed. It is by the preaching of the truth in Christ in His Gospel, by the power of the Spirit, that Christ builds and gathers His church, as one company, one assembly of His people, His elect, who hearing of Christ in the Gospel are given faith by God the Holy Spirit to worship Him, who loved them and gave Himself for them (Galatians 2:21). What a Saviour the Gospel sets forth, who loving His own gave Himself through death to save them, for “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8.

The church of the living God

So to come back to our original question, just what is the church, the Body of Christ? It is that people called out of this world by God to worship Him, the living God, as revealed in Christ and in His Gospel. The true church is not that which man builds, but that which is built by Christ, by the preaching of His word, that over which He is the Head, that which was given to Him as His bride by His Father from before the foundation of this world, that for which He suffered and bled in death in order to perfect and purify as His own and that in which He dwells by His Spirit as the very life of the Body. The ‘church of the living God’ is that company who worship the living God in ’spirit and in truth‘, having the truth of God in Christ proclaimed in the midst through the preaching of the Gospel, as being the ‘pillar and ground of the truth’. This is the church of God, and anything short of it, or contrary to it, is but a counterfeit.

 

 

But praise God that He continues to build His church through the preaching of His Gospel, even in this our day. Praise God that that church, the Body of Christ, still gathers as many members of one Body, who serve one another in love, as Christ first loved them, in order to serve, worship and adore the great Head of that Body, its Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

May God be pleased to send forth the Gospel, which proclaims the message of this Saviour and His grace towards sinners, in power today that many may be saved and that His Name might be glorified in the midst of His people!

 

 

“And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people” Leviticus 26:12

Amen.

 

 

[* Whilst some today consent to the teaching regarding Christ’s Headship over His church as set forth in 1 Corinthians 11, and recognise God’s order in the distinctions made between male and female, and also recognise that such ordinances have nothing to do with legalism, but everything to do with faithful obedience to God’s word and a loving desire to willingly submit to Christ’s authority and Headship in His church, and to demonstrate that…  they nevertheless explain away Paul’s intent in this passage regarding headcoverings by claiming that the woman’s hair itself is the only covering necessary in worship (see verse 15). However it is not Paul’s intent in his illustration from nature in verses 14 and 15 to argue that the woman’s long hair is the same covering described in verses 5-7 (indeed a different Greek word is translated as ‘cover’ in verse 15 from that word translated similarly in verse 5 which more literally would be translated ‘veiled’), but it is instead to demonstrate from this natural comparison of male and female (in which a woman has a natural covering of longer hair than men in order to show God’s order in the natural realm) that the covering of a woman’s head in approaching unto God in public worship, with an additional cover over the hair, is both right and proper for “does not even nature itself teach you…?”. Indeed if the hair alone were the cover of which Paul speaks in verse 5, then not only would it make a nonsense of the statement made in verse 5 itself (since not being covered would actually then mean being shaven, if the cover is the hair, hence the statement “for that is even all one as if she were shaven” would become irrelevant), but it would also require that men approach unto God bald, for it is not the length of covering which is stressed in verse 5 but the respective presence of a covering or not, so if hair be the covering, men should not have a covering, and hence they should be shaved! … Now, it is not my desire to labour such points, but faithful exegesis of the passage can really lead one to no other conclusion but that Christ’s Headship in His church is to be demonstrated visibly in its public assembly by the men having uncovered heads and the women wearing headcoverings – a practice which has been the accepted ‘norm’ within Christianity for hundreds of years, and has only really begun to be set aside with the rise of the feminist movement since the 1960s. John Gill, for example, in his comments on 1 Corinthians 11 presents such sound exegesis and is well worth reading. This all said however, it cannot be stressed enough that outward forms in worship, in and of themselves are of nothing worth, if the thing pictured by the form is not understood. Sadly, there are many who can be very strict about adherence to such practices as headcoverings who think little of what the form pictures and who in their hearts are not subject to the Headship of Christ in His church, just as many others argue and divide over the correct application or mode of baptism. But that such things can be abused or adopted in a legal manner does not mean that they should in any way be set aside, but rather that they should be practised in the right spirit and attitude, looking past the forms to the glorious truths set forth by them, with God-given faith. May God keep us from a legal spirit and grant gracious hearts to worship Him in the ekklesia in spirit and in truth.] 

 

RELATED AUDIO MESSAGES

“The Lost Sheep” Luke 15:6

“The LORD Thy God is With Thee” Joshua 1:9

“Who is This?” Matthew 21:10

Read Full Post »

“And when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard: but Paul was suffered to dwell by himself with a soldier that kept him.

And it came to pass, that after three days Paul called the chief of the Jews together: and when they were come together, he said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans. Who, when they had examined me, would have let me go, because there was no cause of death in me. But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had ought to accuse my nation of. For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you: because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.

And they said unto him, We neither received letters out of Judaea concerning thee, neither any of the brethren that came shewed or spake any harm of thee. But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.

And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not. And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.

And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves. And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.” Acts 28:16-31

 

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ…

 

Delivered by the Jews into the hands of the Romans, just like his Master, Paul’s experience recounted in these closing words in the book of Acts presents us with some striking similarities to that of the Saviour of whom Paul preached, the Lord Jesus Christ. Before his final missionary journeys to the far corners of the Roman empire, and his eventual execution at the hands of the Romans, we read here of Paul’s time spent in house-arrest at Rome, during which he preached the kingdom of God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, unto all who came unto him. But behind all this is seen the remarkable way in which the message of God’s grace was delivered to the Romans, that ‘faith which was once delivered unto the saints’.

 

 

Separated unto the gospel of God…

 

By the time Paul reached Rome a church had already been established in that city. This is that church, that assembly of the saints in Rome to whom Paul’s epistle to the Romans was addressed. But how had the message of Jesus Christ already travelled so far, before Paul, God’s messenger of the Gospel unto the Gentiles, had even set foot in that city? The answer may be seen in the close of the Gospels and the opening chapters of the Acts of the Apostles.

 

 

…concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh

 

Jesus Christ having been handed over by the Jews into the hands of the Romans, an innocent man against whom were laid false accusations, was left to the mercy of the people when Pilate, the Roman governor of Judaea, who wished to release him, asked, “What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?”, to which the people replied, “Let him be crucified.” Matthew 27:22

 

“And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified.

When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.”

 

And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness…

So Christ, this man of Nazareth, was taken to a place called Golgotha, nailed to a cross and lifted up in the heat of the sun to die, “And set over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”

 

“Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabach-thani? That is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

 

“Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.”

 

By the resurrection from the dead

And truly He was the Son of God for…

“In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week , came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.”

The women having run to tell the other disciples, those disciples then…

“…went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” Matthew 28:16-20

These things being done the opening chapter of Acts tells of the promises made to the disciples by Jesus just before His ascension,

“And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.

When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” Acts 1:4-11

 

By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations

The dramatic fulfilment of these promises came soon after on the day of Pentecost:

“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?

Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.” Acts 2:1-11

This remarkable event preceded Peter’s powerful declaration of the work of Christ, a declaration which culminated with the salvation of three thousand souls on that one day who, believing the message delivered unto them, then “continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” Acts 2:42

It is amongst this diverse company of people drawn “out of every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5) that a people were saved, both Jews and Gentiles, who would then take the news of these things back with them to the city of Rome, where they began to meet as a company of people who believed on Jesus Christ of Nazareth. It is this people, and the others who would come to be gathered with them, to whom Paul addressed his epistle to the Romans. And it is that epistle and the Gospel which it sets forth, which is the subject of this very website.

 

Paul… to all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints

But what was the purpose of Paul’s writing – why write to the saints at Rome who had already believed on Christ? Romans 1 declares Paul’s desire to “preach the Gospel to you that are at Rome also”, but in the meantime he would set forth that very Gospel in the form of an epistle, a letter, which was delivered to those gathered at Rome. To what end? “To the end that ye may be established.” Established in what? In the truth of that Gospel, which up to that point the saints in Rome knew but in measure, but now they should know in such a way, in such fullness, as to be established in the faith. The means which Paul employs to this end is the doctrinal exposition of the truth  – the truth of just who Christ is and just what He did when He laid down His life upon the cross. Paul wrote to answer the questions that lay behind the facts. To put the sinews on the bones. To present not just the truth that Christ died, but why He died, and for whom He died. To present not just the truth that Christ was crucified, but to reveal just what happened when He hung upon the tree, when the light of the sun was taken away for three hours and the face of the earth was darkened. It is these, and many other such-like questions, which Paul answers and which he opens up, in this most profound, this most complete and most glorious of epistles – the epistle to the Romans.

In Romans the apostle Paul, as inspired by the Holy Spirit, presents to us the truth of God’s Gospel concerning His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. In this tremendous epistle we read God’s message to mankind regarding His work through the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ, by which He has saved His people from their sins. Here is a message greater than any other. A message which is vital. A message which concerns you and me. A message of life and death, of heaven and hell, time and eternity, sin and salvation. A message of truth. The only message which really matters. The Gospel of God.

But what do we know of the Gospel? What do you know of the Gospel? That Gospel of which Paul was not ashamed, knowing it to be the power of God unto salvation: “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith”.

In the following articles we will look into the truth of this Gospel as it is revealed in the epistle to the Romans. That Gospel which is the power of God unto salvation. That message which we need to hear above all others. That message upon which our life depends.

 

The Gospel of His Son

Paul introduces his epistle to the Romans with these words:

“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:

By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:1-7).

Oh, the stupendous truths set forth in these opening sentences! In a few words Paul summarises that message which God gave to him to declare, a message he preached even unto the ends of the earth, even to those at Rome.

 

This message is God’s message. It is His to declare, His to apply. He sends it by the mouths of those, like Paul, whom He calls and sends to preach it. And the message declares a person. That man of Nazareth, that man of Galilee, that man who was crucified on a tree between two thieves, even Jesus Christ – the Son of God.

 

Yes, the Son of God. The One who created the heavens and the earth, the One who created mankind upon that earth, the One who was Himself “made of the seed of David”, made man, yet very God, in order to redeem that people, whom the Father gave Him, from their sins. How? Through death, His death upon a cross, in the place of that people who themselves deserved to die.  For “Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). But to what end? To this end: Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living” (Romans 14:9).

 

Your Lord? My Lord? Surely, for whether we be dead or alive, Christ is Lord of all. And though death may hold us in unbelief, though death may blind us to who that man of Nazareth really was, though we may not care whether we be found on the right hand or the left of that crucified One, though death may have such power over man in his sin, nevertheless death had no power to keep Christ in the grave. Yea, could death hold the Son of God, did death hold the Son of God? No, for He was “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). Oh, the power of His resurrection!

 

What truths there are set forth in just these opening verses. What depths to be dug, what riches to be unearthed! Oh, that God, in the person of Jesus Christ, should be pleased to be made man, to be “made of the seed of David according to the flesh”, to be “made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death” (Hebrews 2:9), in order to redeem His own. Oh, that He should come in the lineage of David, born in Bethlehem the city of David, of that royal line in order to be that Prophet, Priest and King of all His people to whom the promises made to Israel pertained. Yet, these are the truths that Paul preached, and these are the truths of which he wrote, which he but hints at in these opening verses – and this is that message he took to all nations “for obedience to the faith”, that through faith, they believing might be saved.

 

This is the message of Romans. And this message is known as the “Gospel of God… concerning His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

What follows in the next sixteen chapters are not facts to be proved or reasoned out, but truth to be believed. What follows is the truth of the Gospel of God – ‘The Faith’.

 

A Message of Faith

This truth, this message, is a message of faith. Having introduced himself Paul then presents the Gospel of Christ, the Son of God (first His Person, and then His work), as facts, as truth to be believed. Paul doesn’t seek to prove the truth, but to state it, to proclaim it, to preach it. And as the message he preaches is of God, so too Paul’s own sending to preach that message, as the “LORD’S messenger in the LORD’S message” (Haggai 1:13), is very much a part of that Gospel which he presents. For the Gospel is entirely of God. He purposed it, He wrought it, He fulfilled it and He preaches it – and He does so by His Spirit through those whom He sends to preach.

Not only that, but this message of the Gospel which is to be believed is God’s message to be believed. It is presented to the belief of faith, it was wrought by faith, it is received by faith, it is “from faith to faith”, and so much is faith at the heart of its very message that scripture even refers to the Gospel itself as ‘The Faith’“the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3).

With this in mind, the following articles have been divided into seven sections which present the truth of the Gospel, as God wrought it, and Paul preached it, under the following titles:

 

The Word of Faith

The Want of Faith

The Coming of Faith

The Fight of Faith

The People of Faith

The Life of Faith

And, The Faith Once Delivered

 

May the Lord be pleased to bless His word for His glory.

Amen.
(Read this in Portuguese)

Read Full Post »

Paul introduces his letter to the Romans by stating his desire to preach the Gospel to them, “the gospel of God… concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead”. He places his absolute confidence in it as being “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” on the grounds that “therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith”, and then he commences in chapter 1 and verse 18 to open up and expound the truths of this very Gospel. 

 

But where does he start? Where would you start? Most churches today would start with the love of God or the kindness of God to humanity. Or perhaps by offering people something they are missing in their lives, something to help them feel fulfilled. Not so Paul. He doesn’t even mention the love of God until chapter 5, and that but in passing. So where does Paul start? …Where? At the beginning! 

 

But what is the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Take a look at Mark 1:1-3 which tells us…. 

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”  

 

The Gospel begins with a voice “crying in the wilderness”, preparing the way for Christ. That’s the beginning of the Gospel. But what does that voice cry? 

 

In Romans 1:18-20 the voice which prepares the way for Christ has the following declaration: 

“…the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it into them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” 

One Beginning: The Wrath of God Revealed

 

Yes, that’s where the Gospel of God begins – with a declaration of the fact that God’s wrath is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. It begins with a voice which prepares the way of the Lord by telling men what they are by nature – sinners – and that God’s wrath is revealed against that sin.

 

This is where the Gospel must begin. For the Gospel reveals Jesus Christ the Saviour of sinners, it is the power of God unto salvation, and if so, the way to Christ must be prepared by seeking out sinners in need of salvation, by revealing to them their state before God and their need of the Saviour. For who needs salvation but those who are lost, those who are dead, those to whom God has sounded an alarm…. an alarm that His wrath is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men?

 

Most of religion today is seeking to convince people to become Christians, to show them a ‘better way’. But those sent of God to preach the Gospel aren’t sent to ‘twist people’s arms’ or to educate them about religion through ‘courses’, but to seek out the lost, to preach a message of salvation to them, to find those who are desperate, hungry for the truth, those whom the Spirit has convinced of sin, of righteousness and of the judgment to come – those who know that death and eternity awaits them – those who need to hear of the Saviour and the Gospel of their salvation. Because until God shows us our need of salvation the message of a Saviour is meaningless. Sinners first need to hear that they are sinners!

 

For Jesus said “…I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” Matthew 15:24.

 

“When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” Mark 2:17.

Yes, the alarm needs to be sounded… and to this end, Paul, as it were, cries out in Romans from chapter 1:18 to chapter 3:20, and sounds forth an alarm, in order to prove all men to be under sin… and to warn of its eternal consequence (Romans 2:8-9).

 

Two Classes of Men

In these chapters Paul divides mankind into two classes of men, into which all men fall, either into the one class or into the other. They are either Jews or they are Gentiles. They are religious, or they are irreligious. They may be church-goers, or they may be party-goers. They may be devout, or an aimless lout. But whether they have the scriptures like the Jews of old and profess to follow God, or whether they be in the world, with no thought for God, living for themselves and for selfish gain or pleasure, Paul in this epistle shows that all are alike in this respect: all are dead in sin. Outside of Christ, whether religious or irreligious, Jew or Gentile, there is no difference – all have sinned, all are guilty before God, all stand condemned before Him, all have turned their backs on their Maker, all in their ungodliness and unrighteousness have rejected the revelation of truth regarding God, so all are without excuse.

 

Three Revelations of Light

Why are all without excuse? Because all have had truth regarding God revealed to them in one way or another – whether they comprehend it or not. From Romans 1:20 to Romans 3:9 God the Holy Spirit points us to three clear revelations of light regarding the truth which God has made to man, to which mankind is accountable. Light which leaves men without excuse.

 

There is light in the Creation, light in the Conscience and light in the Scriptures.

 

Firstly, there is light in Creation. We read “… that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened” Romans 1:19-20.

 

Secondly, there is light in the Conscience. Romans 2:14-15 tells us “…when the Gentiles, which hath not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another”.

 

Both these revelations of light regarding God are made to all men, whether Jew or Gentile, religious or irreligious. All men have the witness of the creation, of the world around them, to the eternal power and Godhead of their Creator. And all men by nature have a conscience which bears witness to the truth, by which they have some understanding of right and wrong. Yet all men, by nature, look not upon these things. They ignore the light outside them, and they ignore the light within them, being blinded to both by the depths of their sin and depravity. This depravity is vividly described in the rest of chapter 1 which makes for sober reading regarding the state of man in sin – the state of you and me. Yet how contemporary is the picture painted therein.

 

But there is a third revelation of light which Paul points to and this is that found in the Scriptures. Romans 3:1-2 tells us “What advantage then hath the Jew? Or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” So the Jews had this advantage over the Gentiles of possessing the scriptures, yet they too were under sin. Indeed because of this advantage they, like many who are religious today, so easily fell into the trap of thinking themselves better than others, of having more light, and judging others, yet in reality when that light remained outward, and never truly penetrated their hearts, they remained just as blind and just as sinful (See Romans 2:17-29). “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly…. But he is a Jew which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” And the law which God gave the Jews made them no better – no, it made things worse, simply condemning them, just as it does us, “that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” Romans 3:19.

 

So God has revealed light about Himself in the Heavens, in the Heart and in the Holy Bible. Yet who sees it? Who comprehends it? “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23.

 

No wonder then that all men are without excuse before God. No wonder then that His wrath is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who resist (hold) the truth in unrighteousness. Why? Because despite three revelations of light to mankind regarding the truth, man still turns away from the truth, from the light and from God.

 

Yes, despite these three revelations of light and despite the fact that today we have the benefit of the full written revelation of the Gospel in the scriptures, nevertheless man’s heart is so sinful, so darkened by nature, so hard that none of this light penetrates. It just washes over us! We may look, we may listen, we may read, yet all the while we see and hear nothing. Man by nature cannot, and he will not hearken. Mankind is without understanding and by nature no man seeks after God. There is no neutral response to God – we have all gone out of the way. As Romans 3:9-12 tells us:

 

“… for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no not one.”

An Inward Revelation

No, man in the depth of his sin simply cannot and will not come unto God. Not unless, and not until, God the Spirit opens the heart and shines the light in! Not until God reveals the truth to us, not only outwardly, but inwardly. Until then we remain in darkness. You may hear the words of a preacher, or read the words on a page, but have you heard the voice of the Spirit of God sounding an alarm in your heart? Has He spoken to you inwardly? Have these things been revealed to you?

 

For when God, through the preaching of His Gospel, opens the ears to hear and opens the eyes to see, when God the Spirit gives us light to see things as they really are, then we come to see just what we are before God by nature – just how bad we are! How vile we are, how unrighteous we are – and how “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men”. And then, and not until then, we will look for, and cry out for, mercy.

 

But what an answer God has for needy sinners in the Gospel! When shown our sin, when shown our state, when the alarm has been sounded and the way prepared, then we are brought to hear of the Saviour of sinners, even the Lord Jesus Christ, and just what He did upon the cross to save sinners. Then we are brought to the “But now” of Romans 3:21 and to the glorious revelation in the Gospel of the righteousness of God by the faith of Jesus Christ.

 

But have you been brought there? Have you indeed heard the beginning of the Gospel? Is this where the gospel you heard began? Have you heard that voice which prepares the way of the Lord?

 

Have you been shown that you’re a sinner in need of salvation… or in your wisdom have you become a fool (Romans 1:22)…? 

(Read this in Portuguese)

RELATED AUDIO MESSAGES

“Listen” Isaiah 49:1

“Grounded and Settled” Colossians 1:23

“The Word of Life” 1 John 1:1

“Who is This?” Matthew 21:10

“The Fool… And The Heart That Says, There Is No God” Psalm 14:1

Read Full Post »

How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” Romans 10:14-15

 

 

F

AITH comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. It is by hearing the word of God, the Gospel of Christ, that men are saved from their sins, for as Paul declares at the start of his epistle to the Romans: “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation”.

     Yes, the Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation. It saves! It brings the knowledge of the Saviour into the ears of sinners, who, when quickened by the Holy Spirit from the deadness of their fallen, depraved state are given eyes to see and ears to hear, and having that God-given gift of faith wrought within by the Spirit are enabled to believe that word unto salvation.

 

Sent to preach

But that word must be heard – “How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?”

     And to be heard it must be preached – “How shall they hear without a preacher?”

     “And how shall they preach, except they be sent?”

     So, it must be asked just who are sent preachers? What is it to preach the Gospel? Are all believers called upon to preach the Gospel? Or is there a specific call to preach which is given to some but not to others?

     Well, certainly scripture teaches the ‘priesthood’ of all believers. All Christians are called upon to testify to the work of God and to edify one another in the body of Christ. In this sense each member of the body ministers to the body. There is a place in the gatherings of the church for all to edify one another as the Lord leads according to the gifts given to each (see 1 Corinthians 12). One might bring a psalm, one might pray, one might read the word, another might give a word of exhortation and another might give a short devotional message. All these means of edification in the church have their rightful and proper place.

     However scripture is also very clear that not all are called to be apostles, not all are called to be prophets and not all are called to be teachers (1 Corinthians 12:29 ). There are those in the church who are specifically called to the work of the ministry, those who are sent to preach the Gospel, those who have received a particular calling to minister to others, that the church might be built up and strengthened, by delivering what the Lord has first given unto them – those who are called to devote themselves to the work of the ministry. Indeed, these are those who themselves are given to the church as ‘gifts’ by God for the building up of others in the faith. Such gifts are sent by God to His church. As Paul tells us in Romans 10: “How shall they preach except they be sent?”

 

Sent by God to preach

So to preach the Gospel one must be sent. But sent by whom? By man? By the church?

     No, the call to preach comes from God and God alone. Such a calling may be recognised and acknowledged by others in the church, and indeed will be if it is true, but nevertheless the calling itself comes direct from God to those whom He sends to preach. The scriptures provide abundant examples of this pattern. Throughout the Old Testament we read of many prophets and each one has a particular and distinct calling of God. God meets with the man and sends him forth with His word as directed by the Lord. Many examples could be provided such as Moses in Exodus 3, Samuel in 1 Samuel 3, or Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1. The Lord appeared unto each one and specifically sent him forth with His word.

     “Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations” Jeremiah 1:4-5

     Likewise we see a similar pattern in the New Testament with those whom God called and sent forth to preach His word. Jesus called his disciples by name to follow Him and sent them forth to preach the Gospel (see for example Mark 16:15 and Luke 10). In the case of Saul of Tarsus, one who was not called by Jesus during the time when Jesus was on earth in the flesh, he too received a specific call from Christ to preach, being stopped on his way to Damascus by a bright light from heaven and a voice from heaven, even that of the Lord Jesus Christ who specifically called him to the work of the ministry. As we read in Acts 26:-

     “At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

     And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.

     But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.

     Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:” Acts 26:13-19

     So we see clear examples in both the Old and New Testament of the direct calling and sending of men to preach the Gospel. Each heard the word of the Lord and each was sent forth with a specific charge.

     But it may be asked whether these experiences were unique to the prophets and apostles?

     Well, it is true that the ministry of the prophets and apostles recorded in scripture was unique. They received the word of God by direct revelation at a time when the scriptural canon was incomplete. They had direct dealings with God often by hearing His voice audibly or in a vision or dream. The disciples indeed lived at a time when they actually beheld the Son of God incarnate in this world. Such experiences were obviously unique to them.

     Nevertheless the general principles and patterns set forth by the calling of these men to preach hold good to the end of time. The principle of Romans 10, “How shall they preach except they be sent?” is as true today as it was in the early church. God still calls and sends men into the ministry. Men sent to preach the Gospel. Men taught of God. Men prepared by God for that work. Men, such as Timothy, who though not an apostle was still nevertheless called by the same God to the ministry. Like his spiritual ‘father’ Paul, he too was saved through the same Gospel, by the same Saviour, and sent to preach the same truth. The example of Timothy and the charge given to him by the apostle remains in Holy Writ as a precedent for all those to follow who might consider themselves to be called of God to the same ministry. For the Gospel of Christ will continue to be proclaimed down through the ages until the very last of God’s sheep has been brought into the sheep-fold and the Lord returns again to gather his people to Himself for eternity to come. Until that great day the Lord continues to feed His sheep and He does so by sending men to preach His word.

     But what is the call to preach? Just how does God call men to the ministry today?

     Well, whilst the examples of the prophets and apostles may be unique, and whilst there may not be such signal, direct, appearances of God to His servants today, nevertheless God does still call His servants to His work, He does still speak to them and they will know that their sending is of God. His word may come as a ‘still small voice’ and one sent to preach may well be beset by doubts to his calling for some time, but nevertheless the man truly sent to preach will hear the Lord’s voice in direction, he will know the Lord’s will in the matter and it will be made plain to him that his sending is of God not man.

     The call of God to the ministry is very definite and if and when a man is called to preach he will know it. He will know that God has called him and ultimately he will have few if any doubts about it. His call will be much more than just a desire to preach, or a conviction that he should preach because of the need. No, a call is definite – the man called of God knows that God has called him to preach and he must do so. He feels compelled to – the love of Christ constrains him. He may well be unsure of whether he has been truly called for some time, but when he is called then he will come to know it.

     William Huntington wrote about the call to preach in his work, “The Servant of the Lord – Described and Vindicated”, which is very helpful regarding this matter. He deals not only with what is a call is but also with what isn’t a call. So, in like manner, I would like to provide here a few pointers of what doesn’t in itself represent a call to preach (although some of these things may well form ‘part’ of an overall spiritual exercise leading to a call):-

1. Seeing the need for the Gospel to be preached.

How great a need there is for Gospel preachers today! Yet seeing the need and feeling burdened about the state of the church isn’t in itself a call to preach.

2. Feeling that we can possibly ‘do better’ than some other preachers, who by the deadness of their preaching demonstrate that they are quite possibly not called to preach.

Sadly there are many in pulpits today who really shouldn’t be there. Many men ‘send’ themselves into the ministry who simply have no calling and no gift from God for the purpose. Scripture speaks of them as ‘hirelings’ and ‘false shepherds’. They bring real grief to the true children of God who groan to see such men leading others astray whilst making a name for themselves – and all under the guise of doing God service. Yet, recognizing such things; being able to see the errors of such men; knowing the true gospel better than they do; feeling that one could preach that gospel more correctly; may all be very good – but it doesn’t in itself represent a call from God to such a work.

3. Simply wanting to do something for the Lord or to be useful in His service.

This can be a great trap, a great snare into which many young men fall. Many young believers, especially young men, feel a great zeal for the things of God. They have a great desire to serve God and to make His word known, and many desire – often out of good motives – to be useful in the service of God and hence feel drawn to the work of the ministry. Yet all these desires, no matter how good, do not represent in themselves alone, a true call to preach.

4. Dissatisfaction with one’s current job/situation and feeling that preaching would be more to God’s glory.

This is another danger. One can feel drawn to preach because in some way the task seems more attractive than one’s current employment. Some young men just starting out in life shun secular work in favour of the ‘spiritually higher’ task of preaching. Other men, later on in life may feel weary with their present occupation and thus consider the work of the ministry as something more worthwhile. Much confusion can be entered into by such feelings. Yet they must be guarded against – they do not represent a call by God to preach. More often than not when God calls a man to preach he is called to make a sacrifice – called to give up, not a tiresome, unsatisfactory employment, but to give up that which is very favourable to the flesh – that which is well paid perhaps, or comfortable. Like Moses when he turned from the treasures of Egypt because he esteemed the reproach of Christ as greater riches (Hebrews 11:25 -26), God’s servants are called to suffer affliction with the people of God. Those truly sent of God to preach will know hardship, suffering, persecution, rejection, poverty, loneliness. But they will also know great joy and consolation in their Lord. For there are unsearchable riches, everlasting riches, to be found in Christ and His Gospel.

5. Pressure from men/churches given the lack of men these days entering the ministry.

In a day when there are fewer and fewer seemingly being called to the ministry there can be great pressure placed upon men to consider the work. Many see the need for Gospel preachers and many look to the young men in their congregations in the hope that they will serve the Lord in this way. This presents a great pressure upon many. Yet, feeling this pressure, seeing the needs and the hunger of others, does not represent a call to preach. We must be careful not to be ‘forced’ into the ministry, nor to force others into it.

     Yes, there are many points which may together form part of a call to preach, but in themselves they do not represent such a call, and we need to be careful to discern which impressions we have in our hearts which are really from God, and which are not. Many things may seem like a call to preach, but aren’t.

     Knowing what is a call to preach, however, can be rather harder to define. It is similar in some ways to how we know the Lord’s will and guidance in other matters, but obviously as this is such a high calling we need to be very sure about it. I believe the sent minister will know his calling in various ways – ways in which the Lord speaks to Him and reveals His will in this matter to him. For example through various passages of scriptures being laid very powerfully upon the man’s heart (not just because he ‘looks for them’ once he feels inclined to preach, because obviously there are texts there which can be found, but because when he isn’t looking for them they seem to leap out at him, or come up in his daily readings, or at services where he has heard preaching and so on), and also through direct providences in life. By this I mean various incidences in life showing the Lord’s calling to preach in ways that are simply not just (what men often call) ‘coincidences’. The kind of thing I mean is reading a certain passage (which may have to do with preaching), then having the very same passage preached on at the next church service, then having something similar happen the next week. When that keeps on happening you know that the Lord is saying something!

     I heard one preacher say something about preaching which I believe is good advice. He said that if a man feels that the Lord is calling him to preach he should resist as long as he can until he can resist no longer. That is sound advice – if the Lord really is calling then you won’t be able to resist His call. When God truly calls a man to preach He makes His will known to him. That man will feel an increasing burden in his heart about preaching. He will think about it constantly. He may try to escape it but the thought keeps coming back. The Lord will keep prompting him from within. Passages of scripture will keep on convicting him regarding the matter. His heart will be filled with a sense of compassion for God’s sheep, a desire that they might be fed, a desire that Christ would be lifted up in the ministry and in the hearts and minds of His people. Such a man will find that the everyday providences of his life keep pointing him towards this matter. The Lord will place landmarks in his path, continual pointers in this direction. The man may feel his utter unworthiness and inability, yet the Lord will keep reminding him ‘this is the way, walk ye in it’. He will complain of lack of strength, but the Lord will assure him that He will be his strength. He will complain of ignorance, yet the Lord will teach him and be all sufficient to him. In the end he will have his doubts cast aside, his objections answered, and ultimately he will feel that the love of Christ constrains him – he can’t but preach.

     Yet, withal there are many dangers in the way. Satan does all he can to sow confusion and he loves to encourage men into the ministry who have no true calling to it. Some things we need to be most careful of are:-

1. Pride.

This can affect all preachers. Certainly when he sees so much false preaching about a man can think “I wish I was preaching, I could do better than that etc.” and could easily get carried along by his own pride. Preaching is a high calling and obviously a position of authority, of being seen and noted in public, and we have to be very careful not to seek any approval from men, but only that approval that comes from above. Those called to preach seek not their own things, but the things of Jesus Christ, they seek not honour for themselves, but for all honour and glory to be ascribed to their God and Saviour.

2. The applause of man and the fear of man.

Similarly, another trap is to seek the applause of man or to be afraid of men and their reaction. There are many who can preach in a way which is pleasing to man, which draws great acclaim, much adulation and honour from others. But those sent of God to preach will do so for God’s glory only, proclaiming that message which God lays upon their heart to preach – no matter what men might say. The fear of man and what others might say can be a great stumbling-block to many, but those whom God sends forth with His word will preach it with boldness and with great plainness of speech. The message of the Gospel is not pleasing to man in the flesh, indeed it is foolishness to him, but what man counts as foolish God calls wisdom – the power of God unto salvation (1 Corinthians 1).

3. Sending ourselves or resorting to the ‘arm of the flesh’.

Once a man feels inclined to preach it is very easy to wonder whether he has been sent or not, and to be inclined to run before he has been truly sent. To look for passages in scripture to confirm his calling, before God really shows those passages to him, or to try to ‘open doors’ to preach before God opens those doors for him.

     If we read the testimonies of past preachers who were truly used of God we can learn much from their accounts of God’s dealings with them and their own attitudes. The last thing, before God called them to it, that most preachers wanted to do was to preach and I think that is a good place to be – to not want to preach, but to feel that the Lord nevertheless is calling us to such a work. Then we will know it is His will and not ours.

     Ultimately if God calls a man to preach he will know it when it has happened. He will be brought to a settled, inward, persuasion in his heart and mind of the Lord’s will in the matter. The confirmation of this being true will be that God will open a door, and an effectual one, for the preaching of the Gospel. Often that doesn’t come simply because that man has told others of his calling, but he will be asked to preach, or a door will open, without any contrivance of his own. Then when a door opens that man will know that the work is all of God.

     To preach in God’s name is a solemn and weighty calling which carries with it a huge responsibility. Hence no man should enter into the ministry hastily. But when God sends a man to preach, then that man will know that he walks in God’s will, that God has called him, and that God will help him. For the word is not his, but God’s, and he merely speaks as God’s ambassador.

 

Sent by God to preach the Gospel

Yes, a man must be sent to preach, and he must be sent of God to preach. But what does he preach?

     The Gospel of Christ!

     Whilst that might sound obvious to some the fact is that often it seemingly isn’t so obvious to many. Many preach what amounts to anything and everything but the Gospel of Christ. They preach morals, the wisdom of men, anecdotes, advice, funny stories, history, philosophy, intellectualism, sacramentalism, legalism, dispensationalism… and the list goes on. Yet, few, very few, really, truly, preach the Gospel of Christ as it is revealed in the scriptures.

     Many preach another gospel and another Jesus. But those truly sent of God, called of God, preach THE Gospel; The One Gospel; The Gospel of Christ. In fact, we may test a man’s calling by whether or not he truly preaches that Gospel, in the power of God, by His Spirit – see 2 Corinthians 11.

     But any sent of God to preach will preach the Gospel. As Paul declares:-

     “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17

     “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

     But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:17, 23-24

     This Gospel which Paul preached was that which he learnt of God. Not only was Paul not sent by man, but by God, but also the Gospel he was sent with was given to him not by man, but by God. As he states in Galatians 1:11-12:-

     “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

     All those truly sent by God will be taught of God. The word they bring is not theirs, not man’s, but God’s. They look to Him to teach, and the word they bring is that which He gives them. When Jeremiah was called of God he felt his poverty and his ignorance. He complained Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child“, but God’s answer was Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD. Jeremiah writes, Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.

     To preach isn’t simply to know the doctrines of the Gospel well and to have a desire to convey those truths to others. It is to be God’s mouthpiece. To preach what God would have us preach, at that particular time, by the Spirit. This requires great humility, much exercise of soul, and much prayer before God, searching out what He would have preached from the scriptures. Sermons aren’t simply ‘constructed’ from commentaries and books, but are sought out from the Lord.

     The fact that a preacher is God’s mouthpiece, His ambassador on earth, cannot be stressed enough. Ultimately it is not men who preach, but God. It is Christ who preaches from the heavens. He is the one that speaketh and He speaks from heaven (Hebrews 12:25 ). God is Sovereign in all things, especially in the proclamation of His word, and He is not constrained to sending forth that word through the mouths of mere men – God is quite able to speak directly to someone by His Spirit as they read His word. Yet the fact remains that “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21). It pleases God to send forth men to preach His word. But though God’s servants might speak on earth it is still Christ who speaks from heaven through them by His Spirit. It is God’s word which is conveyed by the Holy Spirit and placed upon the lips of those men whom He sends forth in this world to proclaim that word. Except a man preach as the Holy Spirit leads him, his words will be of nothing worth. It is not man’s word that must be proclaimed, but God’s word, and the One truly sent forth to preach is Christ through His Spirit. When He preaches there is power in the word!

     A preacher who preaches in the power of the Holy Ghost is one who effectively ‘disappears’ into the background so that the hearers aren’t so much impressed by him, his learning or his oratory, but feel that they are hearing the Lord speak through him. He should be like a window through whom the light shines in. And I think every true preacher would probably confess that more often than not ‘he gets in the way’ of the clear shining of that light, but nevertheless when the Spirit is present he knows it and has liberty in his preaching. As Romans 1:16-17 says the power of God is in the GOSPEL. Not in the church, nor yet in preachers. Not actually in the Spirit either, but in the Gospel. Indeed, the power of the Holy Spirit is in the preaching of that Gospel – the Gospel of Christ.

     The very same Gospel of which Paul was not ashamed, for it is the power of God unto salvation. A Gospel which he received not of man, neither was he taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:12 ), as one who was called, sent and prepared by God for such a ministry.

 

Sent by God, and prepared by God, to preach the Gospel

Not only are Gospel preachers sent by God, not only are they taught the Gospel by God, but they are also prepared for the work of the ministry by God. God equips those whom He sends to preach for the task which they are given.

     No man by nature is fit to preach the Gospel. All are sinners, all have gone astray, all are weak in the flesh. Yet those whom God sends to preach are those whom He has elected and called from eternity past, those whom He has saved from their sins, those whom He has justified by the work of Christ at the cross, those whom He has quickened unto eternal life by His Spirit, those whom He has given faith to live by, those whom He has “led forth by the right way”, those whom He has revealed His Son unto, those whom He has granted grace to, those whom He has tried in the furnace and brought through many afflictions and trials for Christ’s sake. Such are those whom God calls and sends forth with His word.

     Why? So that it might be seen that their fitness for the work is not found in themselves, in their own might, or in their own strength, but in God. God prepares such men for the ministry so that all the glory might be given to God and not to man. The flesh is mortified and the work of God is magnified.

     The preaching of the cross in mens’ eyes is foolishness, and those whom God sends to preach it are counted as fools by the wisdom of this world. As Paul states in 1 Corinthians 1:25-31…

     “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

     For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.

     But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

     God calls those who are ‘nothing’ in both the eyes of the world, and in their own eyes, to preach His Gospel. And having called such men He prepares them for the task – for the work is all of God – to this end: that “him that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord”.

     We can see this in Moses for example. When God called him to His work Moses protested “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue”. But God’s answer was “Who hath made man’s mouth? Or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? Have not I the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.” Exodus 4:10-12.

     Likewise with Jeremiah, as we have already seen, he protested that he was a child, unfit for the work. But God said that He would be with him to deliver him, and He would put His words in his mouth. God prepared and fitted both Moses and Jeremiah for His work. All their sufficiency and strength was to be found in Him and in Him alone. In themselves they were nothing.

     But what of the apostle Paul? Surely he had much ability in the flesh for the task of preaching the Gospel? As he wrote in Philippians 3:4-6…

     “Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

     Paul had much to boast of naturally. He was very bright, well taught, well versed in the Old Testament scriptures; surely an excellent man for God to send to his brethren in the flesh, the Jews, to preach the Gospel to them, as he was a ‘Hebrew of the Hebrews’? Yet, man’s ways are not God’s ways and God’s ways are not man’s ways. God called Paul to be the apostle to the Gentiles, not the Jews. Many would have accused him of wasting his prior ‘training’, but Paul had to submit to the calling of God, whatever man might think. To the Gentiles he went, and how powerfully GOD used him!

     What did Paul himself think of his own natural abilities?

     “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ

     Paul counted all his abilities in the flesh, as not an aid, but a positive hindrance to the work of God! ALL the work must be of God, not man, and so it was. It was God who prepared Paul for the ministry, not man, neither the school of Gamaliel, nor even Paul’s fellow apostles, but God. As Paul testifies in Galatians 1:15-24…

     “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.

     Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not. Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. And they glorified God in me.”

     In the cases of Moses, Jeremiah and Paul, God prepared each one to preach His word. They were men who knew their God, men who knew the Gospel, men who knew God’s grace and salvation, and men who knew what it is to walk with God. They were taught the Gospel, they were taught in the School of Christ, they were men prepared of God to preach that Gospel by being brought through fires, through afflictions, through trials and persecutions, and yet withal, standing fast in the strength of their God, and they thought nothing of themselves but all of Christ whom they sought to glorify, for…

     You must know Christ to preach Christ,

     You must experience grace to preach grace,

     You must be saved by the Gospel to preach the Gospel,

     You must be brought low to lift Christ high, and,

     You must experience the pathway to comfort those on the pathway.

     Yes, God sends His servants to preach the Gospel, God teaches them the Gospel, and God prepares them for the ministry of that Gospel. For the work is ALL of God. It is the Gospel of Christ which God sends forth as it is uttered by the One who speaks from heaven, whose speech is carried forth by the Holy Spirit and is put upon the lips of those whom God sends to preach His word, that sinners might hear that word, that faith might come by hearing that word, and that all those for whom Christ died might hear and call upon the name of the Lord that they might be saved. As it is written…

     “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

     Oh! That the Lord would be pleased to raise up men in our day – men set apart for His service, called and sent forth to preach the everlasting gospel of peace; men called of God, sent of God, taught of God and prepared of God; men of faith who like Paul are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation; men who are prepared to spend and be spent for Christ’s sake and His glory alone!

     For how shall they preach except they be sent?

Amen.

     “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:16-17

RELATED AUDIO MESSAGES

“Listen” Isaiah 49:1

“The Word of Life” 1 John 1:1

“I have preached righteousness in the great congregation” Psalm 40:9

Read Full Post »

”And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?” Romans 10:14  

M

 

UST one hear the Gospel preached in order to come into salvation?  

The plain answer to this question, is very simply, yes. I don’t state that as an opinion, for my opinions really don’t matter. What matters is what the word of God says – and any truth we hold to must be founded upon the word of God. From reading the scriptures, it can be seen that God repeatedly stresses in several places that it is by the preaching of the Gospel that He is pleased to save sinners. A few simple references will demonstrate this.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it [the gospel] is the power of God unto salvation…” Romans 1:16.

“For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” 1 Corinthians 1:21

“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.” … “But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” 1 Peter 1:23,25

Now here are just three verses which demonstrate that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, that it pleases God by the foolishness of the preaching of that gospel to save them that believe, and that we are born again (regenerated by the Spirit) by the word of God, that word being preached unto us in the gospel. There are many other passages of scripture which emphasise the same things.

It is certainly true that God is sovereign and can do as He pleases. He certainly isn’t confined in His power to having to use the actual preaching of the Gospel through the lips of mere men in order to save people. However the fact is that He has chosen to do His work this way. It has pleased Him to save sinners through the preaching of the Gospel. He could, and He is able to, just save sinners Himself by the direct inworking of the Holy Spirit without the use of the gospel whatsoever. But what God is able to do and what He pleases to do are sometimes two different things. The fact is that scripture repeatedly stresses that God is pleased by the foolishness of preaching (the gospel) to save them that believe. That is His appointed means. Why? Because it confounds the wise for God to take poor weak base men and to speak His word through their lips to the saving of others (see 1 Corinthians 1), because God is pleased to make known the truth of His salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ in this way. Very simply, in God’s great wisdom He has chosen to work this way.

However, some people have reacted to this truth with a certain wariness based upon essentially good (though misguided) motives, and because of an overemphasis of other truths. What they rightly recognise is that salvation is entirely of God, that until man is born again of the Holy Spirit he is dead in trespasses and sins and unable to comprehend the truths of God aright, that man can only believe the Gospel when God regenerates him and gives him faith to believe it. Man doesn’t comprehend the truth with his natural mind. He has no strength or ability in himself to turn to God and no faith by nature with which to believe. In seeing all these points some then conclude that the preaching of the Gospel itself cannot save, because man first needs to be regenerated by the Holy Spirit before he can understand and believe that Gospel. Thus they emphasise that regeneration (the new birth) is a sovereign act of God, entirely ‘without means’ (without the preaching of the Gospel), and as a result of that new birth man is given faith to then believe the Gospel when he hears it. Some of these peopel have thus divided things into two stages in which they stress regeneration by the Spirit without means, and then (afterwards) ‘gospel conversion’ where a person, already regenerated, hears the gospel and believes it with the faith which they have been given by the Spirit in regeneration.

Now, all that sounds plausible, and is certainly based upon certain truths. 1 Corinthians 2:11-16 emphasises that the natural man (before the new birth) cannot understand spiritual things, so until he is born again by the Spirit he cannot fully comprehend the truth of the Gospel. Some things may make sense in the natural intellect, but not properly. However whilst that is true, and whilst man cannot believe the Gospel until God regenerates him (causes him to be born again of the Spirit), because naturally he has no faith (faith being a gift of God), nevertheless that does not alter the fact that God has said that it is by the preaching of the Gospel that He is pleased to save His people. Romans 10:13-17 emphasises the necessity of the preaching of the Gospel and the fact that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”. In order to believe the Gospel heard, one must be sovereignly born again of God. But God is pleased to quicken/regenerate sinners to life actually under or as a result of that preaching of the Gospel. This is how He is pleased to work. The work is entirely of His sovereign mercy and grace, but the Spirit of God chooses to work through the preaching of the Gospel, through the lips of those men whom He calls and sends to preach it, in order to quicken sinners to life. He sovereignly sows the word of God as a seed, and when He is pleased He causes that seed to bring forth life in the hearts of those whom God has chosen in Christ.

The order goes something like this: A dead sinner hears a God-sent preacher preach the Gospel. Initially being dead in trespasses and sins the sinner cannot truly understand that Gospel – he remains dead under it. He may comprehend many facts of the Gospel in his head, in his natural mind, but really they just remains facts, mere head knowledge. He never comes to see Christ by faith as He really is, and know the power of His grace, or experience eternal life in Christ by His indwelling in the heart by the Spirit. No, such a sinner merely hears the outward word of the Gospel in his ears, he hears various facts, and may comprehend them to a degree, even ‘believe’ them (with a natural persuasion) as being right, with his natural intellect, but nevertheless his heart isn’t changed, he remains spiritually dead…. And such a state can go on for many years. With others, if they are not the elect of God, that is the state they will remain in until the day they die. Some people sit under the preaching of the Gospel all their life but are never saved by it, because it isn’t the outward word alone which saves. This is important to recognise. The Son of God must speak to us inwardly by His Spirit in order to quicken us unto life.

However, for the elect, there comes a time in God’s sovereignty, by the preaching of the Gospel when God is pleased to sovereignly regenerate that man unto life, give him a new heart, and grant him faith to believe the truth which he is hearing. Now the word ceases to be just the outward words of man, but become living words of the Holy Spirit which come in power. Having been alarmed by the Gospel to the truth of the day of judgment, having been awakened to his own sinful condition before God, having been convicted of that sin, now, being born again, by the word of God (as spoken by the preacher yes, but also by the Spirit inwardly within the heart), this elect child of God is given faith and by that faith he comes to truly see Christ in the Gospel and believe on Him, embracing Him for salvation, for deliverance from the wrath to come. Now the words which he used to hear in the Gospel which were once just in the ‘dead letter’ are now living words. What was once a mystery is now revealed, is now made known, and the elect, being born again, knows what it is to know Christ, the power of God, as revealed in him in the Gospel.

So you see, those who question the importance of the preaching of the Gospel in salvation are right to recognise that regeneration is a sovereign act of God the Holy Spirit, and they are right to recognise that the Gospel when spoken by man can remain as simply the ‘dead letter’ of scripture, words which fill the natural mind, but never enter into the heart in life. However, it is wrong to separate what God has joined together. It is wrong to see these things and separate the new birth by the Spirit from the preaching of the Gospel, or the word of God. It is wrong to react to errors such as the modern emphasis on ‘easy believism’ and man’s supposed ‘free will’ and natural ability to believe, by not only rejecting those errors but also rejecting an emphasis upon the preaching of the Gospel for salvation as though that presupposes some natural ability in man to believe it. It does not. The scriptures teach, repeatedly and in many places, that salvation is entirely the work of God, but that God uses the foolishness of the preaching of the Gospel to save them that believe. Who are they that believe? The elect of God, chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the world, and redeemed by Christ at the cross, to be sovereignly born again of the Spirit in due course… by the word of God, “and this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” 1 Peter 1:25. God uses the preaching of the Gospel to save His people. Not every one that hears the Gospel with the outward ear will be saved, for man by nature is dead in trespasses and sins, yet God is pleased to take the outward words preached by those whom He sends to preach it, and speak them quietly by His Spirit into the hearts of His own, quickening them into life, and granting faith that they might believe that word unto the salvation of their souls.

In Ezekiel 37 we read of the vision of the valley of dry bones and how God commanded Ezekiel to prophesy unto the bones that they might live. Was there any ability in Ezekiel to bring dry bones unto life? Or were the words of a mere man able to do such a thing? No, only the power of God can work such a miracle. Yet, God was pleased to show forth His power in this case by having His prophet speak unto the bones. Through that speech God mightily worked in the vision to bring the bones to life – the whole vision being a picture of the Gospel and its proclamation unto dead sinners, ‘dry bones’, who are totally dependent upon God’s free grace to quicken them unto life. The power to do this does not lie in the preacher or in the eloquence of his words, but in the Gospel preached when applied by the Holy Spirit in power to the hearts of the hearers – living words which bring life. “The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.” John 5:25. 

This is God’s usual and normal way in which He is pleased to save sinners – through the word of God, through the preaching of the Gospel, not “in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance” 1 Thessalonians 1:5. That Gospel which sets forth the Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ. That Gospel of which Paul was not ashamed for “it is the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16). Some may contend for exceptions to this ‘rule’ and point to exceptional conversions such as that of Saul on the Damascus Road (Acts 9), and it is certainly true that God can, and has, saved certain people in such exceptional ways by a direct preaching of the Gospel from on high, in certain circumstances. God is, after all sovereign and all powerful. But nevertheless this isn’t His usual way, or the way in which He is usually pleased to work. We can’t take the exceptional experience of one of the twelve apostles to overturn what God repeatedly states in the scriptures about the preaching of the Gospel. It pleased God by the preaching of the Gospel to save them that believe, and this is why God has through the ages continually sent forth preachers of that Gospel to proclaim it in power, by the Holy Ghost, that fallen, elect sinners might hear of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of Sinners, be born again by the word of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and with God-given faith believe on the Lord Jesus Christ even unto the salvation of their souls. No wonder then that Paul writes, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth”.

RELATED AUDIO MESSAGES

“My Sheep Hear My Voice” John 10:27-28

“The Word of Life” 1 John 1:1

“Listen” Isaiah 49:1

“I have preached righteousness in the great congregation” Psalm 40:9

 


 

Read Full Post »

ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL?

In the epistle to the Romans the Apostle Paul declares boldly that:- “…I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” Romans 1:16-17.

Most professing Christians would also claim, with Paul, not to be ashamed of the gospel. However in this day and age of great confusion the question we must ask ourselves is, Do we really know what the gospel is? Well Paul certainly did, and knowing the power of it he was bold and unashamed in its proclamation. I’ve heard one preacher break down Romans 1:16 into five helpful headings. Let’s consider the verse under these headings to draw out five clear aspects of the gospel which the Holy Spirit reveals which are essential to its character and important for us to see.

Firstly, the gospel is DEFINITIVE

It is the “gospel of Christ”. The gospel is not something abstract, something vague, something to be guessed at. It isn’t a collection of testimonies or subjective experiences. It is defined. It is the gospel, the good news of Christ. As Romans 1:1-3 states “the gospel of God… concerning his Son Jesus Christ, our Lord”. The gospel is God’s message concerning the Person and the Work of His eternal Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. It declares Him, it sets Him forth. And any message, any ‘gospel’ which fails to set forth Christ, in all His fullness, is no gospel, and has no power to save.

Secondly, the gospel is OBJECTIVE

Paul states “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation”. The Gospel is an objective message, not subjective. IT is the power of God unto salvation. What is? The Gospel is. For the Gospel, in and of itself, when proclaimed by God the Holy Spirit through those whom He sends to preach it, is the power of God unto salvation.

Paul here does not say that the Spirit is the power of God unto salvation, but that the Gospel is. It is of course true that except the Spirit apply the word inwardly to the hearts of His hearers, they will remain dead in trespasses and sins, yet nevertheless the Spirit does not work in isolation. The Gospel is the power of the Spirit, His sword, which He uses to save sinners, to quicken them unto life in Christ. The Gospel itself, as an objective message, is the power of God unto salvation, and it is by the preaching of this objective message that God is pleased to save sinners: “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”

“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” 1 Peter 1:23-25

Thirdly, the gospel is EFFECTIVE

Yes, the gospel is “the power of God unto salvation”. The power of God. It is effective, it saves. There is no other power like it, and yet to the world, to them that perish, to the wise in their own understanding it is ‘foolishness’. As 1 Corinthians 1:18 states “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness” and yet “unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”

What makes the gospel so effective, so powerful? Romans 1:17 tells us: “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith”. That makes it powerful. For here is a message that declares that though all men are sinners, though all fell in their father Adam into sin, death and ruin, though all sin daily being at enmity to God, though man stands in his fallen nature guilty before God, deserving of eternal wrath and damnation, nevertheless God, in His great love, sent His Son to take His people’s sins away through His own death, to deliver them from judgment and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and everlasting life, which He freely gives them by grace (2 Corinthians 5:21). And this justifying righteousness is what is revealed in the gospel, hence its power to save.

Fourthly, the gospel is ELECTIVE

The gospel is “the power of God unto salvation”. Not of man. The gospel is God’s – it is His message concerning His work in the Person of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who died to “save His people from their sins” Matthew 1:21. This gospel was God’s to purpose, God’s to perform, is God’s to proclaim, and is God’s to apply. Consistently, and repeatedly, throughout its message the gospel clearly sets forth the salvation of that people of God, chosen in Christ “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4) who have been “predestinated … unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will”. This people, described in the scriptures as God’s “sheep” (John 10:15) are those for whom Christ died, and none else, and are those who are saved, not according to their will but God’s (John 1:13, John 15:16). Yes, the gospel, the power of God unto salvation, being God’s to apply to whom He wills, is by definition, elective (See Romans 9).

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” 1 Peter 2:9

And fifthly, the gospel is REDEMPTIVE

Finally Romans 1:16 declares the effect of the gospel – the redemption of God’s people. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation”. The Gospel saves, and it does so, because Christ laid down His life for His own in order to redeem them from their sins. His own blood was the redemption price He paid to deliver them from death and secure their freedom. He died in their place, bearing their sins “in His own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24), suffering under the outpouring of God’s wrath against sin, that through His death, by the shedding of His blood, they would be delivered from death, from sin, and from condemnation and have everlasting life in Him (Romans 3:24, Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14, Hebrews 9:12).

“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:” 1 Peter 1:18-19

No wonder then that Paul was not ashamed of this gospel! For he knew its power, he knew what it was to be redeemed, to have his sins forgiven, he knew that it was God who saved him, by His will, not Paul’s (see Acts 9), he knew the glorious revelation of the righteousness of God in the gospel, put to his account, he knew what it was to be born again by the mighty operation of the Holy Spirit, and most of all he knew the Saviour who loved him, and gave himself for him, the Lord Jesus Christ….

But do you? Do you know this gospel? Has it been revealed to you? Do you believe it? Is this the gospel of which, like Paul, you can say that you are not ashamed?

Have a listen to God’s message of salvation in the gospel on the Video Page of Grace and Truth Online.

“And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” Revelation 14:6-7

http://www.graceandtruthonline.com

(Read this in Portuguese)

 

 

RELATED AUDIO MESSAGES

“Unashamed of The Gospel of Christ” Romans 1:16

“Grounded and Settled” Colossians 1:23

“Listen” Isaiah 49:1

 

“Perfect In Christ Jesus” Colossians 1:28

 

“The just shall live by faith” Hebrews 10:38

“I have preached righteousness in the great congregation” Psalm 40:9

Read Full Post »

“EFFECTIVE EVANGELISM”?

“So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.” Romans 1:15

We live in days where we seem to be showered with ‘How To’ books on how to be effective in evangelism, or how to see more growth in the church, or how to see more results from ‘outreach’. Christian bookshops seem to have their shelves filled with such titles as “Effective Evangelism” or “10 Steps to a Successful Church”, or “Dynamic Church Growth Methods”. Glossy books written by friendly ‘with it’ pastors, of full and vibrant congregations, aim to provide us with the all the advice we could need on how to get our message right, how to put it across effectively, how long sermons should be, how short sermons should be, whether we should have sermons at all, what language we should be using, what visual aids are needed, how to appeal to the young, the old, the short and the tall. With an ever-changing, constantly-updating, moving-with-the-times package of proposals and methods, such books, videos, courses and seminars attempt to ensure that Evangelicalism remains up to date, fresh, vibrant and ‘relevant’, and, most importantly of all it seems, that the congregations are filled, by whatever means it takes, with enthusiastic worshippers, keen to embrace such methods and through demonstration of their success encourage yet more sales.

 

What merit there may be in some of these books, it has to be said that more often than not, what is conspicuous by its absence is a strong emphasis on the centrality of the preaching of God’s word in all its truth. There is no doubt that the systems themselves can be very effective at filling congregations. Likewise the underlying wisdom behind them, and the methods employed, have a proven track record in many fields, especially in the arenas of business and marketing upon which so many of these ideas are modelled. If you wish to fill a meeting with enthusiastic people, keen to be in each other’s company, happy to gather to ‘worship’ a god who promises them much, especially in this life, then there are many effective ways and means of achieving that aim. I’ve seen it done several times.

However, to see sinners, “dead in trespasses and sins”, brought to conviction of their sin before a Holy God who holds their eternal destiny in His hands, to see them brought to the point of crying out for mercy and salvation from the only One who can save them, to see them born again by the mighty inworking of God the Holy Spirit in their souls, to see them delivered from death and the darkness of sin into everlasting life and light in Jesus Christ, to see them gathered in amongst God’s people as One Body united in Christ, as one people who worship “in spirit and in truth”, requires a very different method, a very different power and a very different message from that espoused by the sort of books I’ve just described. In Romans chapter 1 the Apostle Paul sets forth clearly his absolute and confident assurance in that which God has given as His one means of achieving “effective evangelism”. There Paul declares:-

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” Romans 1:16-17.

 

Yes, Paul was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. It is that gospel, that evangel, which he preached (evangelised) at Rome, at Corinth, at Ephesus, at Galatia. It is that which he preached to the Colossians, the Thessalonians, and the Philippians. It is that which he preached to both Jew and Greek. And it is that by which God saved His people, adding them to the church, building the church, and sustaining the church. Why? Because it is the power of God unto salvation. It is effective. It works! It saves! It is God’s means of saving His people and building His church… and nothing else is.

 

Hence Paul could write in 1 Corinthians 1:18-21 “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”

 

Whilst the ‘How To’ guides may effectively propose an evangelism without an evangel, whilst such guides may point us to any and every method of ‘evangelising’, other than the plain, simple preaching of the gospel, the evangel of Christ, whilst they may demonstrate that their authors are, in fact, ashamed of the gospel of Christ, Paul wasn’t. For Paul knew that the only thing which is effective in saving the souls of sinners is the preaching of the gospel of Christ. Why? Because it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. And whilst professing churches may, in their wisdom, in their prudence, effectively shut their ears to both the message of the gospel and to those whom God sends to preach it, may God yet be pleased to give us grace to see that there is no power on earth as effective as the preaching of the gospel of Christ, that IT and IT alone is the power of God unto salvation, and to gladly receive and open our ears to both God’s message and His messengers and be fervent in prayer that God would continue to open doors for His glorious Gospel of salvation to be preached in power, in the Spirit, in this day and age, to the saving of souls, the building up of God’s church and to the praise and glory of His Name for evermore.

Amen.

“Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ” Colossians 4:3.

“But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” 2 Corinthians 4:3-7

http://www.graceandtruthonline.com

(Read this in Portuguese)

RELATED AUDIO MESSAGES

“Listen” Isaiah 49:1

“The Word of Life” 1 John 1:1

“I have preached righteousness in the great congregation” Psalm 40:9

Read Full Post »