1 Corinthians 11:17-34 “Take and Eat, Often”

In the typical Baptist church, the Lord’s Supper is typically met with one of three reactions:

1. Overly Cautious, these understand the reverent nature that should accompany the Supper, and in order to not even approach the line of blasphemy, even whispering is forbidden and will be met with either a sharp glance and a gasp, or a swift thump to the back of your head, depending on your age. It is a most somber occasion and any outburst of joy will be frowned upon.

2. Excitement, even if they don’t completely understand what is taking place. They know that there is part mystery and part memorial, and they don’t have it all figured out yet, but they are thrilled to be a part of the service.

3. Excessive Fear, this group reads words in this passage such as “damnation” and “sleep” and are so afraid of themselves or someone else falling into judgement, that they refrain from taking or serving the supper whenever possible.

Though many try to limit the Church’s participation in the Supper, we cannot completely recuse ourselves from it. Jesus, after all, did establish this as one of the ordinances of the Church. Scripture and history both teach us that the Lord’s Supper is to be observed far more often than most Churches would allow. Again, the infrequency of our taking the Supper is normally due to one of the previously mentioned categories.

This morning, our aim, from the text, is to try and understand how we should approach the Lord in His Supper. That ought to be our starting point shouldn’t it? Being reminded that we are not just eating some stale tasting bread, and since we’re Baptists, sipping some overly tart grape juice, but that we are coming into the presence of God. There is no mystical transformation that takes place in the bread and wine; the transformation takes place by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

As we examine the opening verses of our text, Paul is saying that he is not pleased and he does not praise the church for their conduct in the Lord’s Supper. When they come, they are approaching the Supper in the same way that Baptist approach a dinner on the grounds. There are those that rush to the front of the line, get a plate that requires sideboards, and drink way more than their fill. Everyone else is going hungry and thirsty. Paul’s point is that even though “supper” is in the name of the ordinance, it is not to be treated like your average, nightly supper. This is not a tacked on observance. This is not a nonchalant feast. This is the commemoration of the death of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So while there are those who err on the side of caution and think that breathing too heavy is a sign of irreverence, at least they are heading in the right direction. Jesus didn’t die so you could get hammered after service. However, Jesus did use wine to show that He is the source of all joy. Our formal ceremonies should never silence our zeal.

Verse 26 helps us to find the balance between the overly cautious and the uber excited. Notice what Paul is saying. Every time we take the Lord’s Supper we are publicly proclaiming the death of Christ. Let that sink in for a moment. Whenever we partake of the Supper, we are doing more than just reminding ourselves of what Christ has done for us, we proclaim what He has done for the world. Each time we gather at the Table, we are giving a resounding testimony to the promises of Scripture.

John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”

Romans 9:24-26 “Even us whom He has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? As indeed He says in Hosea, ‘Those who were not my people I will call my people, and her who was not beloved I will call beloved.’ And in every place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people, they will be called the sons of the living God.’”

Ephesians 2:11-13 “Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called the uncircumcision by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands, remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were afar off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

Habbakuk 2:14 “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.”

Psalm 72:8-11, 18-19 “May He have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth! May  desert tribes bow down before Him, and His enemies lick the dust! May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands render Him tribute; may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts! May all kings fall down before Him, all nations serve Him. Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. Blessed be His glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with His glory.”

As churches all over the face of the globe gather and take communion, they are proclaiming the biblical truth that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all nations, tribes, and tongues. They proclaim that there will come a day when every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father. It proclaims the glorious truth that, as Paul says, Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. Taking Communion isn’t just a symbol to those who claim to be saved, it is a sign of hope to those who need to be saved. Well, that certainly sounds like something we should only be doing during a holiday doesn’t it? One of the hardest lessons I have had to learn as a Pastor, or as a Christian in general, is that tradition does not necessarily equate truth.

In the children’s song “This Little Light of Mine” it is said that we will not hide the light of the gospel under a bushel. When it comes to the light of the gospel as seen in the Lord’s Supper, we have hidden it in our formalities, our reluctance, and our insincerity.

(Let me clarify though, only those who are within the Church are allowed to take communion. Yes it is a sign to those who are outside of the Church of the hope of the gospel, but to those who have never repented and believed the gospel, it is forbidden. They have no right take what isn’t theirs.)

Lastly, we come to those words which strike fear in the hearts of those who present the Supper and those who partake of it. Words like “unworthily”, “damnation”, “death”, and “judgment”. These words drive us to fear even taking the cup or eating the bread.

It has been taught that if we approach the Lord’s Supper and have any sin in our lives, then we are unworthy to take it and should refrain. But that makes absolutely no sense! It is precisely because we still suffer the effects of lingering sin that we should run to the Table that God has prepared for us in Christ. Where else are we going to find forgiveness? Where else are we going to find peace? If the Holy Spirit shows us unconfessed and unrepented of sin in our lives, then, instead of hiding and refusing to commune with Christ, we should confess our sin, repent of our sin, and receive communion with a heart of gratitude and thanksgiving that God is gracious and forgiving.

The word “unworthily” here doesn’t mean sinless, it means careless and ties back into the first part of Paul’s argument. The Lord’s Supper isn’t a nonchalant social gathering. It isn’t a place to stuff your face and get tipsy. God had visited the Corinthian church in judgment as verse 30 says, but it does not mean that Christians lost their salvation and were doomed to an eternity in Hell. Scripture clearly teaches us that God chastises those that are His. There is punishment waiting for those who are careless with the Supper, who presume upon the grace offered, who fail to realize just how desperately they need the grace and mercy offered to them in Christ. There is judgment for those who treat the sacrifice of Christ with little to no reverence, just as there is for those who treat the Supper with little to no importance. May it never be a tacked on addition to our service, and may it forever be a regular part of our service.

Again, we proclaim His death each time we take Communion. It drives us to repentance, faith, joy, and peace.
Psalm 34:8 “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.”

Leviticus 21:16-24 “Welcoming the Broken”

On the Statue of Liberty there is a quote by Emma Lazarus that reads:

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

This phrase has given hope, to many who are seeking a new and better life. Those hoping to escape the pain, sorrow, and tragedy of their past. This phrase has given hope to those who think that if they could ever once just land on these shores, then everything would be alright.

Lady Liberty may have adopted that phrase as her own, but there is Someone greater who has perfected it.

In our text this morning, we read of those who just didn’t live up to the standards. Moses is relaying the message from the Lord unto Aaron concerning who could and could not minister as a priest. In the previous verses, God has been informing Aaron that  they must live a  holy life; whom they could marry, how they were to live, and for whom they could defile themselves at death. These commands were to be kept by those who were able to perform as priests before God, those who were able to offer sacrifices on behalf of the people, those who were able to enter into the holy place.

Our text this morning, though, refers to those who didn’t meet the standards. Because of some imperfection, they had to stand and watch as those who were better than them offered the sacrifices, offered up incense unto God, and looked upon the mercy seat, gazing at the One between the cherubim.

All was not completely hopeless for anyone who found themselves on this list though. Verse 22 tells us that this one was still able to eat the bread of the holy places, there doesn’t seem to be any prohibition against them gathering into the court with the Jews and proselytes who had come to offer their sacrifices. But they couldn’t go into the places God had designated as holy.

Can you imagine the heartbreak of one of these men. (And in the context of these verses it was men who were being referenced. Women would have had no role in the priestly duties.) You became a priest not by elected office or by being recommended by your peers, but by birth. Being a priest is what you were born to do. From a young age you were to be taught and trained how to perform the service for your God. But if there was found a blemish among your parts, then you would never get your chance. The fragrance of the incense as it was first lit, would never fill your nostrils. You would never have the privilege to lay the sacrifice upon the altar, ask God for mercy, and then feast upon the sacrifice as the assurance that God had heard, and sin and wrath were expunged. To help us make the connection, Jesus didn’t say “this is My body” and “unless you eat My flesh” for no reason. He was taking us back to the Old Covenant where they feasted upon the sacrifice.

For those who fell in the categories in our text, they may feast like a priest, but they could never function like one. They may have enjoyed the benefits of the sacrifice, and they may have been partakers of the grace of God, but they weren’t participants. Someone else had to go in for them. Someone else had to commune with God on their behalf, for they could not. God had declared that there were certain places within this tabernacle that only the perfect and the holy could go, and for those on this list, they were neither one. Imagine hearing someone say, “you can’t go in there, you’ll pollute the place”, “If you go in there, you will defile the things of God”, “You will bring a shame and reproach upon us”, “You aren’t worthy, to stand before a holy God”.

Perhaps, some this morning have already heard that. That may be the story of your life. You have never been good enough, your blemishes have always shined through, you have been told that you would make God look bad, and you aren’t allowed in the hallowed halls of the Church. You probably understand the plight of the imperfect better than anyone.

Again, Scripture does not say that these were not allowed to be considered a Jew. They enjoyed the covenant status of the people of God, and if they had put their faith in the God who saves, they were as much a member of the True Israel as anyone. Yet, they could never enjoy the fullness of His fellowship. They could never really enter into His presence, they were always on the outside looking in. They could never see what laid just beyond the veil.

Surely we are in the same predicament. Though our blemishes may not be physical, the brokenness, the , the sin, and the misery of our hearts have kept us outside the veil. We are disqualified from being a priest and entering into the presence of God. We may be witnesses and beneficiaries of grace, but we feel as though there is no way we can ever participate in serving God, and the hope of true communion with Him seems like an unattainable dream. 

All is not lost, however. These are just types and foreshadows of something greater to come. The Old Testament saints were not looking for just another priest to come and go to God on their behalf, they were looking for THE priest. The Great High Priest. They were not looking to satisfy themselves on another lamb, they were looking for the Lamb of God, the greater and better sacrifice. I gladly announce to you this morning that He has come; the Priest and the Sacrifice all in one person, the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Heb 10:11-25 “And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until His enemies should be made a footstool for His feet. For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also bears withness to us: for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their heart, and write them on their minds,” then He adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that He opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without waivering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Mark 15:38 “And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.”

1 Tim 2:5 “There is now one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus”

 

Jesus not only went in as our mediator, but He welcomes us in as well. Those who had spent their lives looking in and hoping to get a glimpse behind the veil, can boldly rush in themselves. Christ, in His mediatorial work, has taken all of our blemishes upon Himself, and now we are made whole. The long list of blemishes, all the imperfections, and the long list of atrocities that kept us from the presence of God are no more. No longer do we only get to sit on the sidelines as mere recipients of grace, which is far more than we deserve anyway, but now we are participants in the service and worship of God.

 

Notice the benefits listed at the end of our text in Hebrews:

  1. Let us draw near to God
  2. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith
  3. Let us consider and provoke others in love and good works
  4. Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves

 

Matt 11:28 “Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

 

The veil has been torn in two and we can now enter into the heart of the tabernacle, the most holy place, not on our own merit for we have none, but upon the merit and work of Jesus Christ. We may now boldly come before the throne of grace.

It is Christ, not Lady Liberty, who can offer the hope, the new life, the peace, the comfort, and the joy that so many are looking for. Therefore, we bring unto Him the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of our teeming shore. We call out to the homeless and the tempest tossed. We point them not to a lifted lamp, but unto a lamb, lifted high and who will draw all men, of every tribe, nation, and tongue to Himself.


“Father, we thank You for the way in. We thank You that we can enjoy and participate in the work and worship of Your Son. Lord, we understand that this great privilege has come at a great cost to You. You did not merely ignore our sins and blemishes, nor have you changed your demands, but You have laid them all upon the shoulders of Your Son. Truly, He has borne our sorrows and carried our griefs. He was despised and stricken on our behalf. He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities, and the chastisement that brought us peace was upon Him. You have laid on Him the iniquity of us all, and by His stripes we have been healed. May we no longer stand on the outside looking in, but may we draw near to You. Help us to commune with you, to taste and see that the Lord is good, to feast upon the riches of Your grace. And Father, may we always point others who are just as we were to You. May we point everyone to Christ that His name may be lifted and praised among all nations, till all enemies are under His feet. And in His name we pray, trusting that You will hear and answer, Amen.”

Psalm 23 “For the Sake of His Name”

We often say that no matter how often we read the Bible we can never exhaust its riches. With every study, we learn something new about a particular text. We find the meaning to a word, we see the emphasis of a passage, or we see the application of a text to our lives. I have found these things to be true in numerous places, but probably nowhere as much as the 23rd Psalm. I have preached this text at funerals for both the saved and the lost. I have preached this for Pastor’s appreciation services and for the typical Sunday morning service. This text has comforted me in loneliness and it has convicted me in seasons of pride.

I began to look at this text again Wednesday night after service. During the closing prayer it was mentioned that while we are undeserving of receiving anything from God, we ask of God because we know Him to be gracious and merciful, and that He gives good gifts to His children. Therefore, as Hebrews tells us, we can come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in a time of need.

It is that thought that we find expressed in this text, and that want to dive into for just a moment this morning. Why does God do what He does to those who do not deserve it?

David sets the tone of this psalm in the very first verse when he gives us the identity of the Shepherd. The LORD is the focus of this psalm. I have preached this psalm many times early in my ministry with a focus on the “me’s” that we find in these verses. However, it is not the “me” that is the focus, but the “He”. This psalm isn’t necessarily about all that the Shepherd does or gives to me. The true emphasis of this psalm is not the blessings of being a sheep. David mentions those things that He may glorify the Shepherd who gives them. It is solely because of the Shepherd that David shall not want. Essentially, David is saying that because God is leading him, he will lack nothing. Every need will be met, every trial can be faced, every heartache will find comfort, and as David will say in a later psalm, though weeping endures for a night, joy will come in the morning. I don’t want to put words into his mouth, but I do think David would agree with this statement, if it were not for the LORD being our Shepherd, we would have sufficient want. We would be lacking greatly. David does say basically that in Psalm 124.

 

Psalm 124 “If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, when men rose up against us: then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us: then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul: Then the proud waters had gone over our soul. Blessed be the LORD, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth. Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped. Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”

 

It is only because the LORD is on our side, and only because He is our Shepherd that we can have any confidence whatsoever. If it were not for the sovereign hand of God working and controlling our lives, then we could not be assured of anything. Needs may be or may not be met. Trials may or may not be overcome. Heartache may or may not be healed. Weeping may or may not turn to joy. But our God is the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, and therefore we can be assured that we shall not want.

Not only does David identify the Shepherd, but he also tells us of His activity. Notice first that He makes us to lie down in green pastures. I looked up the Hebrew words for “make”, and “green pastures” trying to do the typical word studies. Honestly, there is nothing very interesting hidden within the meaning of those words. The idea behind them, however, is quite refreshing. David, by illustration of a shepherd taking his sheep to green pastures, where there is cool, still water, gives us the understanding that our Shepherd gives us rest.

We often use the expression “No God, no peace. Know God, know peace” when we are describing the comfort of knowing God. No longer is there the tumultuous uncertainty of our hearts as we had before our salvation, but now, through the abundance of grace shed upon us by God, we have rest. Where we thought before the outcome of our lives was determined by chance, opportunity, the fates, or some other unknown force, we now know that our lives rest in the sovereign hand of an infinitely wise, good, and loving Father. Now we can rest. I have had to think through this and be reminded of this myself over the past few months. There is a long list of  things that can go wrong during a pregnancy. As I have watched our son grow, and seen the pictures, I have subtly tried to count the number of fingers and toes. I look at his hands and feet. How his bones are shaping up. He is being formed by God inside April’s womb, and it is a process I can’t see except every few months. In my mind I think of all the things that could go wrong, but when I consider who is forming my son, I understand that regardless of how things turn out, nothing will have went wrong. No amount of normal or deformity is an accident. As of right now, we are told everything looks fantastic. He is growing, he is active, and firing on all cylinders. No need for alarm; but there is no need anyway. Our Shepherd, gives us rest. It is because I know not only Who is forming my son, but I know that the one Who clothes the flowers in the fields, feeds the lion’s cubs, and gives the birds a nest, will also watch over me. And so, I can echo the words of David:

 

Ps 3:5 “I laid me down and slept, I awaked for the LORD sustained me.”

Ps 4:8 “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep; for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.”

 

Notice verse three. Not only is there rest provided, there is restoration. Most commentators agree that this is the direct result of the food and water in the previous verse. Simple enough, isn’t it? When we are hungry our strength weakens, concentration lacks, and our coordination becomes uncoordinated. But when we have eaten, gotten us something cool to drink, and are sufficiently full, it all comes back. We feel like we could work some more, we can think more clearly, and everything seems to be moving in harmony again. Such it is when our Shepherd restores us. Though it may have been a long and tiresome battle against sin, though we feel as if we will fall at any moment under the weight of our burden, our God and our Shepherd will restore us.

Not only does He restore us, but He leads us into righteousness. I am convinced, although it seems as though much of the evangelical world would disagree, that if we are a Christian, we will be different. I do not think it is possible for a truly regenerate Christian to continue in the same sins they were accustomed to. We do see in Scripture where Christians sin, and we all know personally that they do. I don’t mean that Christians are perfect, or that they can fall into sin for extended periods of time. Scripture is abundantly clear however, that if we are a child of God, we will be sanctified over the course of our lives. We will be more and more conformed into the image of Christ as time goes by. It may be incremental at times, and it may also appear that we have taken a few steps back, but as we examine our lives, we will see that we have progressed in holiness. Numerous verses could be quoted calling for us to lay aside the sin besets us, to be renewing our minds and not conforming to the world, to bring all thoughts under the obedience of Christ, and the reminder that if we are in Christ we are a new creation. As the saying goes, you may come as you are, but God will not leave you that way. He leads us into righteousness.

Our Shepherd gives us peace and leads us in His paths, but He is also our protection. Verse 4, that famed verse for Christians on their deathbed, tells us that though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, there is nothing to fear because He is with us. Job describes this same valley:

 

Job 10:20-22 “Are not my days few? cease then, and let me alone, that I may take comfort a little, before I go whence I shall not return, even to the land of darkness and the shadow of death; and land of darkness, as darkness itself; and of the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is as darkness.”

 

This is where we are all headed. Unless we go out like Elijah or Enoch, or the Lord himself returns, we will all walk through this valley. I don’t think that it is heaven that scares us, rather, it is the event that gets us there. So much uncertainty lies in death. Will there be pain? Will there be a struggle? Will I get to tell everyone goodbye until we say hello again? When that final gasping breath is taken, what then? We know to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, but for folks who need an itinerary and all ducks in a row, we need some more details and a little assurance. Here it is: He is with us, His rod and His staff will comfort us, we need not fear any evil. Our Shepherd will handle the uncertainties.

Lastly this morning, before we answer the question of why, look at verse 5. David is writing this psalm from the perspective of one who is and has been in battle. David recounts in some way all those times that the enemy was attacking, those times when Saul was ready to pin him to the wall with a spear, when Goliath towered above him, and the Philistines thought they could smell victory. In the midst of his enemies, God provided a banquet. We look forward to the days when God grants us a feast of Isaiah 25 description; a feast of fat things, choice meat, and well aged wine, where tears are wiped away, and our reproach has been taken. But we don’t have to wait to enjoy the feast.

 

Prov 9:7-9 “Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works. Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment. Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of thy vanity.”

 

There is nothing wrong with enjoying the liberty given to us in Christ. Rejoice! Be glad! Feast in the presence and glory of our Shepherd. The life of a sheep is not a solemn faced affair, but one of green grass, cool water, comfort, and joy that the Shepherd has already defeated our greatest enemy, and one day all will be put under His feet and we will dwell forever with Him free from all fear.

But why? Why is our Shepherd so actively doing all of these things? Why would the Shepherd, as we read earlier in John 10, lay His life down for the sheep? Why would He go and gather all the lost sheep of His fold that none may be lost? The end of verse 3 tells us; for the sake of His name.

His name, not ours. Our Shepherd does these things so that He may be exalted as a wonderful Shepherd, and not so that we would proclaim ourselves to be wonderful sheep. God has not saved you because of the appearance of your wool. He has not saved you because He considered it an honor to be your Shepherd, for you make the rest of the flock look better. God has not saved you because He looked through time and saw that you would choose Him to be your Shepherd. He became your Shepherd, set you apart to become a part of His flock, for His name’s sake. God is concerned with His glory above everything else.

 

Eph 1:5-6 “He has predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace”

1 Cor 1:29, 31 “No flesh should glory in His presence. That, according as it is written, he that glorieth, let Him glory in the Lord.”

Ps 106:8 “He saved them for His name’s sake, that He might make His mighty power to be known.

1 Jn 2:12 “I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.”

Is 48:11 “My glory will I not give to another.”

Psalm 100 tells us to “enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. To be thankful unto Him and bless His name”. Why? Because we are the sheep of His pasture. He has made us and not we ourselves.

 

God’s ways are more wise than ours. His wisdom far surpasses ours. Simply for who He is, He deserves the glory, honor, and worship.

 

Rev 4:11 “Thou art worthy O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”

 

He is our Creator and Redeemer, and those titles alone are worthy to be praised, but He, the Good Shepherd, gives us gifts and blessings on top of those things that we might see just how wonderful He is.

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him above the heavenly host. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.”

Exodus 20:1-3 “Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods”

Last week, we began to talk about the 10 commandments. We mentioned that they are not only important to know, but that they are binding upon us today. These commands are just as relevant in 2015 as they were when they were given. We mentioned that these laws reveal to us the character and nature of God. He is a God of justice, who is worthy of worship, who values life, honesty, and unity. They reveal to us not only is man stamped with the image of his creator, but that he is a corrupt image. These laws which show us the perfections of God, also show us the imperfections of man. Man is a sinner, who, when judged according to this law, merits no righteousness. In closing we entered into more of the philosophical side of things, and we said that the existence of the God of the first table, is the basis for not only the second table of the law, but of all laws, and all of the answers to the ethical and moral dilemma’s of our day. The law of God, and the God of these laws, must be made known. He is the Creator of all, has authority over all, and therefore all must know what authority they are to submit to.

 

If we were to just tell everyone to obey the 10 commandments, but not explain what they meant, we wouldn’t be doing much if any good. We said last week, that many will try to instill the principles of these commands into their children, but without the biblical foundation. But again, without the biblical foundation these commands do not matter. If we are not bound by them, why teach them at all? As Christians, we recognize that we are bound by them, that they do matter, and that they must be taught for what they really mean, not just that they help us to be good boys and girls. So, with that let us dive in and see what God means.

 

In the first three verses of chapter 20, we find God, in a cloud of glory, speaking to Israel as a whole. God gives a preface to these laws that explains who He is, and what He has done, before He gives the first commandment which tells what He expects.

Who He Is (LORD thy God)

The Israelites had just been come from the Egyptian culture which had a plethora of gods. Here God tells them that He is Jehovah. He is the existing, eternal One. Those whom the Egyptians worshiped, and those that the neighboring nations worshiped, are not God, and cannot be compared to Him. It doesn’t matter what they name them, it doesn’t matter what attributes they claim they have, it doesn’t matter how grand the ceremonies are for them, they do not exist. Just because men claim to know them and to serve them, doesn’t make them real. Most children have an imaginary friend or 12 at some point in their childhood. Regardless of how real they are, the trouble they get into, and the games they play, we know that that imaginary friend is not real. The same can be said about all those that follow other gods. They can claim to know, love, and serve whatever god they want, but sincerity doesn’t make it so. We often use the phrase that “my God created your god”, but that isn’t even close to the truth. Those gods don’t exist. In reality, what has happened is that, according to Romans 1, they know that God exists, but in their sin and rebellion, they have suppressed the truth in unrighteousness, and have traded in the God they know is real for one that they wished was real, so they can fulfill the lusts of their own heart.

 

Remember the verses we read just a few moments ago. God says that there are no other gods beside Him. He knows of none, because none exist. He is the first and the last. It is Jehovah who causes the sun to shine, the moon to rise, the animals to be fed, the ocean to stop at a certain level, the clouds to move, the birds to sing, the flowers to grow, the rain to fall, and the seasons to change. It is Jehovah who causes the earth to tremble, storms to rage, and volcanoes to erupt. When pollen is carried through the air on a breeze, it does not just happen to go anywhere, it travels the exact path that was determined by God. Every leaf that falls, lands where God directs it. Each tree that you see, has sprung up in precisely the location that God wanted it. Nothing is left to chance or happenstance. R.C. Sproul has famously said that if there is even one rouge molecule that operates outside of the authority of God, then we can be certain of nothing. If God is not sovereign over all, He is not sovereign at all.

God reminds Israel here by using the name Jehovah, that He is the covenant keeping, sovereign God. What covenant could He be referring to?

Gen 15:13-14 “And He said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; and also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.”

God had fulfilled this very promise to Abraham. Israel had just experienced this very thing. There should have been no doubt that God was who He said He was. He was the LORD their God.

 

What He Has Done (brought them out of Egypt)

God reminds them in the second part of verse two, that He brought them out of Egypt and its bondage. It seems as though God, like most parents, is restating a fact to get His children’s attention. Not only is He the covenant keeper, who had promised to bring them out of bondage, but He in fact did it. God removes all possibility of Israel having been delivered by someone or something else. I am Jehovah, and I have brought you out.

Their liberation from Egypt was not an act of self achievement. It wasn’t even self instigated. The whole of their deliverance was a sovereign act of God. He sent Moses to them, He changed the heart of the people of Israel, He hardened the heart of Pharaoh, He sent the plagues, He provided the Passover, He changed the hearts of the Egyptians so that they would give to Israel all they possessed, and God even turned the hearts of some Egyptians to follow Him.

These very same things can be said in relation to us! God has told us who He is and what He has done. In the OT we find Jehovah promising to send a Messiah that would not only save Israel, but would bring all nations to God. He would write His laws on their hearts, and fill them with His Spirit. He would lead them out of bondage, and rule in the midst of them. He would make a people of those that were not His people. He would reverse the consequences of sin and the fall in the world.

We can be assured that God has kept His covenant of redemption, not only based on His word, but because we are recipients of grace and the benefactors of redemption. God has led us out of sin and bondage, and like the exodus of Israel, our exodus was neither self-achieved or even self induced. God in grace sent someone to share the gospel with us, God in mercy provided the Lamb that we might be spared, God in victory has defeated our enemy, God in sovereignty has changed our hearts that we might believe Him, and follow Him. You had as much to do with your exodus as Israel did. He is God, and He, and He alone, has led us out.  We had no weapons with which to free ourselves, we had nothing with which to pay our debt to the taskmaster. Our redemption required someone else to work on our behalf. And He has.

So what then does He expect?

 

What He Expects (No other gods)

gods– “elohiym” same word that God uses to describe Himself in verses 1 and 2.

before– beside, in addition to, with, on the same ground, beyond, above, over, towards.

meface

We are told that we are to have nothing else that we set up and elevate to the status of our God. This does not simply refer to something made of wood, stone, gold, silver, or iron. This very authoritative “no other” means nothing of any kind. Our society has perfected the art of idolatry. John Calvin said that the human heart is a factory of idols. We can set anything, whether it be physical or simply an idea, as God. We often hear of people worshiping sports, work, activities, and even family. Someone recently said that in the South, Sunday is the Lord’s Day, Saturday is the SEC’s. Roll Tide. You sports fans will understand that. God tells us plainly here that there is not to be anything even remotely close to competing for the throne of our worship and allegiance in comparison to God. Nothing. Many say that we are to put God first and then comes everything else. However, God does not allow for anything else. It’s simply, God first and that’s it.

 

2 Chr. 16:9– the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth

 

God also knows the heart of man. He knows if you worship Him completely and sincerely, or if He is just a placeholder when things go wrong. Notice what some of the greatest minds in Church history have had to say:


Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 34

Q:94– What doth God enjoin in the first commandment?

A: That I, as sincerely as I desire the salvation of my own soul, avoid and flee from all idolatry, sorcery, soothsaying, superstition, invocation of saints, or any other creatures, and learn rightly to know the only true God; trust in Him alone; with humility and patience submit to Him; expect all good things from Him only; love, fear, and glorify Him with my whole heart; so that I renounce and forsake all creatures, rather than commit even the least thing contrary to His will.

 

Westminster Larger Catechism

Q:104– What are the duties required in the first commandment?

A: The duties required in the first commandment are, the knowing and acknowledging of God to be the only true God, and our God; and to worship and glorify Him accordingly, by thinking, meditating, remembering, highly esteeming, honoring, adoring, choosing, loving, desiring, fearing of Him; believing Him; trusting, oping, delighting, rejoicing in Him; being zealous for Him; calling upon Him; giving all praise and thanks, and yielding all obedience and submission to Him with the whole man; being careful in all things to please Him, and sorrowful when in anything He is offended; and walking humbly with Him.

 

Q:105– What Are the Sins Forbidden in the First Commandment?

A: The sins forbidden in the first commandment are atheism, in denying, or not having a God; idolatry, in having or worshiping more gods than one, or any with or instead of the true God; the not having and avouching Him for God, and our God; the omission or neglect of any thing due to Him, required in this commandment; ignorance, forgetfulness, misapprehensions, false opinions, unworthy and wicked thoughts of Him, bold and curious searching into His secrets; all profaneness, hatred of God; self-love; self-seeking, and all other inordinate and immoderate setting of our mind, will, or affections upon other things, and taking them off from Him in whole or in part; vain credulity, unbelief, heresy, misbelief, distrust, despair, incorrigibleness, and insensibleness under judgments; hardness of heart; pride; presumption; carnal security; tempting of God; using unlawful means, and trusting in lawful means; carnal delights and joys; corrupt, blind, and indiscreet zeal; lukewarmness, and deadness in the things of God; estranging ourselves, and apostatizing from God; praying, or giving any religious worship, to saints, angels, or any other creatures; all compacts and consulting with the devil, and hearkening to his suggestions; making men the lords of our faith and conscience; slighting and despising God and His commands; resisting and grieving of His Spirit, discontent and impatience at His dispensations, charging Him foolishly for the evils He inflicts on us; and ascribing the praise of any good we either are, have, or can do, to fortune, idols, ourselves, or any other creature.

 

From this answer, any time that we attribute what God has done to a guardian angel, luck, chance, our own wisdom or ability, or anything other than God Himself, we have broken this law and are in sin.

Anytime that we have failed to love Him, give Him the reverence, fear, and respect that He deserves, we have broken His command. Every time we have grumbled about how unfair we perceive our situation to be, fail to understand the blessings that God has given us, and be thankful for them, we have transgressed His law.

We mentioned the quote from D.A. Carson last week, “If to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength is the first and greatest commandment, then to NOT love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength is the first and greatest sin.”

There is no doubt that all of us have broken this law for the majority of our lives. Based on nothing else but having broken this law we are all justly condemned to an eternity in Hell to suffer the wrath of God. We have no way to make up for lost time; no amount of grinding our golden calves to powder will suffice. We have broken the holy law of God.

But I will lift mine eyes unto the hills from whence comes my help. For there, seated at the right hand of the Father sits One who has perfectly kept all the precepts of the law. He has loved the Lord with all His heart, mind, soul, and strength. He was tempted in every area that we are, yet without sin. Church, our only hope for righteousness and sanctification comes from Christ. Look to Him, all ye ends of the earth and be saved. He will be your God, and you will be His people.

Romans 10 “The Gospel Understood, Preached, and Believed”

The context of chapter 10, must be understood in the light of the previous chapters. In the first few chapters, Paul is laying the foundation of the gospel message. All men are sinners, all have suppressed the truth in unrighteousness, and the wrath of God against sinners has been revealed. Being a Jew, who knows the Word and will of God does not exclude you from wrath. Neither does being a Gentile who has not received these things, since Paul says that the Gentiles have the law of God written upon their hearts and minds and are a law unto themselves. Our God is God over both the Jews and Gentiles, and all stand accountable to Him for their sins. How then can we be justified before God? Paul tells us in chapter 4, that we are not justified by our works or by the law, but by faith. Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. It is faith in Christ that justifies us, and not our own deeds. Chapter 5 explains that more in that the reason that we are justified by Christ, is that He died for us while we were sinners and enemies of God. We had fallen and were dead as children of Adam, and could in no way justify ourselves. But in Christ we have been made alive. Through His death, Christ has reconciled us to God.

In chapter 6, Paul tells us that having been redeemed and reconciled, we are no longer to live according to the sinfulness of our flesh, but having died to sin, we are to live by the Spirit of God in holiness.
Rom 6:12-14 “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness, but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
Chapter 7 reveals to us the practical struggle to live in the Spirit and mortify the flesh, even in the life of the Apostle Paul. We understand that this is a lifelong battle, and that it‘s not won overnight. And the more we examine the law and righteousness of God, we will understand the horrific nature of sin and how destructive it is to us, and just how completely it goes against the person and nature of God. In looking at God, we will truly understand the sinfulness of sin. But we like Paul, struggle against the desires of the flesh. All that we want to do, we find ourselves never doing those things, and all the things we detest and do not want to do, we find ourselves engaging in it. As Paul says, we have the mind of Christ but a body of flesh. Luther said that we are “simul iustus et peccator”; just yet sinners.
In chapter 8, Paul begins with great encouragement to those who still struggle with sin. He boldly declares that there is now, presently, no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Jesus, in His own body, has done what the law could never do. He has triumphed over the condemning nature of the law, having no sin in Himself, and has imparted that Spirit and that righteousness unto us, and we are no longer condemned by the sin that still ravages our flesh. And in this flesh we patiently wait and groan with all of creation for the day that all things are made new. The groaning, the aching, the battles with the flesh, are all working for good; working toward one goal, and that is to conform us into the image of Christ. In fact, Paul informs us, that is the specific purpose for which God called us. Do not faint dear Christian, even in the midst of the trials of this world, for nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ. He has loved you before the foundation of the world, He has chosen you, and predestined you to this end that you would be conformed into the image of Christ, to the everlasting glory of God. Even if we are persecuted and even though we struggle with sin, those whom He has chosen, having been presently called and justified, we are assured that they will also be glorified. If God be for us, who can be against us? Not any thing, nor any one can destroy the plans and purposes of God.

Ps 115:3 “Our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased”

John 10 reminds us that we are in the hand of Christ, and no one can pluck us out of His hand. On top of that, the Father holds us in His hands as well and neither is anyone able to pluck us out of His hand. We are in a two-fisted grip of grace.
So what Paul has been telling us is exactly what he told Timothy in 1 Tim 1:15, “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, and He has done exactly that. Being that Jesus has accomplished all these things, we as the adopted children of God should never worry, but persevere till the end. The promises that God has made to us cannot be broken.

But hadn’t God made these promises before? Hadn’t He promised to bless and prosper a people? Hadn’t He promised to save them? Hadn’t He promised to shepherd them, to walk with them, to forever dwell with them, and that they should enjoy His glory forever? If God couldn’t keep His word before, why should we trust Him now? It seems as though since those very same people God had promised to bless had recently crucified the Messiah they were looking for, God had dropped the ball somewhere.

Paul explains this for us in chapter 9. He explains to us that not everyone who waves the flag of Israel is actually a part of Israel. Not everyone who claims to be a to be a child of Abraham, actually have him as a father.
Rom 9:6 “Not as though the Word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel; neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, in Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of promise are counted for the seed.”

God has not dropped the ball or forsaken His people. Paul explains to us that He has preserved His people, and His people are those that bear a physical name, but those that bear a spiritual name. Those whom God has selected by His sovereign decree. God called Abraham out of all the people on the earth. God could have chosen anyone else, but He chose Abraham. From there it was through Isaac and not Ishmael that God chose to call His people. Isaac had Jacob and Esau, of which God declares Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated. This choice was not based on anything other than the purpose of God according to election. The children had done neither good nor evil, but God, as we mentioned last week, will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and compassion on whom He will have compassion. This theme carries over through all of Scripture. David chosen from among all his brothers. Jeremiah chosen and called before his birth. Judas was destined to be the traitor and Peter the great apostle, and not the other way around. Paul was chosen to be a vessel that would bear the name of Christ to the Gentiles, Kings, and the children of Israel; and not Pilate. All according to the election of grace, and not according to their works.

God has chosen out of this lump of clay, this lump of sinful humanity of both Jews and Gentiles, to make vessels of both honor and dishonor; vessels of mercy and vessels of wrath. Some were wanting to charge God with unrighteousness for not saving each individual member of Israel and for bringing in the Gentiles. But Paul again explains that there is no unrighteousness with God, and we as the creation cannot reply to the Creator with any substantial accusation. He is the Potter and we are the clay. 

So what does this have to do with Chapter 10? Paul explains that his desire and prayer is that Israel, the nation, would be saved. He will continue in chapter 11 to explain to us that there will, at some point in the future be a great salvation of national Israel. It will not be because they have reinstated the sacrificial system, but because they have turned to Christ by grace through faith. 

Rom 10:1-4

He tells us in the first few verses that Israel has a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. They love and are passionate about a God that they don’t even rightly know. They have set about to establish their own righteousness and their own acceptability before God. They believe that by doing the works of the law they have been justified and made righteous in the eyes of God. But Paul explains to us in verse 4 that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness. Throughout His time on earth, Jesus was teaching that it was not the outward keeping of the law that justified someone. As Jesus taught in the sermon on the mount, the heart is what is wicked and needs to be converted, not our actions. If we truly examine the law and our own hearts, then we quickly realize that we haven’t kept a single one! If we are to stand before God we are going to need a righteousness that we do not possess within ourselves. The law of God points us directly to Christ, the only One who has ever perfectly kept the law. I haven’t. You haven’t. Only Christ. And so everyone who believes, must believe in Christ. Acts 4:12 leaves no room for one way among many theology. 

Rom 10:5-11

In verse 5, Paul recites Leviticus 18:5, which says that if any man keeps the law then he shall live by them. As we have already mentioned, none of us can keep the law. Paul then describes for us the righteousness obtained by faith. Paul quotes Deuteronomy 30:11-14 that we read in the opening prayer this morning. What he is teaching us in verses 6-7 is that no one should wonder who will ascend into heaven and bring back the righteousness of God for men to receive. Neither should they wonder who shall go into the depths to retrieve the Word of God that they may hear and obey it. Why? Notice verse 8.

Rom 10:8 “But what saith it? The word is night thee, even in they mouth and in they heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach.”

Every time the Priests read the law, they are speaking of Christ. Every time that they repeat the psalms, they are singing of Christ. Every time the prophets are read, they are foretelling that a Messiah would come who is the Christ. Jesus is the fulfillment of every sacrifice, prophesy, song, and command. 

Not only is it in their mouth, but it is in their heart. Paul has already mentioned that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. Their hearts are full with love for God, and are longing and seeking for the Messiah. They desire to stand in the heavenly courts and fellowship with the saints, but though they have all the affection in the world, they still have not obtained what they desire. There is a Rock of offense, and a Stumblingstone that they just can’t get past. 

Let us take a moment and point out that loving the Lord, and believing in God is not enough. The devils believe also and will still spend eternity in Hell. So when people tell us that they believe in God, we may want to start asking which one. The God of the Bible, or the one that their idolatrous heart has conceived? Have they place their faith in Jesus the Messiah, or in the modern, sissified, lovey-dovey, wouldn’t-hurt-a-fly, judge not, Jesus?

Paul tells us in verse 9, exactly what is required for our salvation. We must believe on the Lord Jesus. We must have a correct view of Christ. Do not fall for this modern garbage that says you can believe on Jesus as Savior, and then make Him Lord of your life later on. First, we do not make Him Lord of our lives, He already is. Whether you are saved or lost, He is Lord over you. The difference is what part of His lordship you will receive. Will it be mercy and grace, or will you, having never repented of your sins and continuing in your rebellion against Him, be greeted with His wrath and justice?

Secondly, the very act of repentance, which is at the heart of the gospel, requires that we admit that we are not in control, we are not God, and we are under His authority. We must have the correct view of Christ.

We must also have the correct view of the cross. Not only do we confess with our mouth that He is Lord, but we believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead. What is that but also acknowledging and believing that He has suffered for us, died on our behalf, and God has raised Him up victorious over the grave that we might have eternal life. This puts us in mind of Paul’s confession and explanation of the gospel in 1 Cor 15:

1 Cor 15:3-4 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose against the third day according to the Scriptures.

We must understand exactly what was accomplished on the cross. Our sins were placed on the sinless Son of God. He bore the wrath of God that was due us on account of our sins. He died, descending into the grave, for the wages of sin is death. He was raised again, for the gift of God is eternal life. Now we place our faith in Him, that He has accomplished these things for all who will believe in Him. We are comforted in verse 11, knowing all who believe in Him will never be ashamed. 

Rom 10:12-17

Paul is directing this again to Israel. They are trusting and holding fast to the law, but there is no difference between the Jew and the Gentile. Some like to teach that Israel will be saved a different way. There will be a different gospel, they will revert to a salvation by the law and of works and not of grace. That, Church, is heresy and it completely destroys the all-sufficient, redeeming work of Christ. All men, regardless of heritage, social class, intelligence, economic status, or any other classification, are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

The “whosoever” in verse 13, like the one found in John 3:16, does not refer to every individual scattered across the face of the planet. It is not an indicator of anyone’s ability or opportunity to believe, but is a steadfast and unshakable promise to all those who do call upon the name of Lord; they SHALL be saved. This promise, like all the others, is made by a God who cannot lie. If you, your neighbor, Jews, Gentiles, or any subdivision of the two, will repent of their sins, and believe in Christ, they will be saved. Everyone who calls upon God for salvation will be saved. The outcast and the unloved. The addict and the academic. The young and the old, sick and well, rich and poor. Call on Him and you will be saved.

But to those of us who have called on Him, confessed with our mouths, and believed unto salvation, we are not without obligation. They will not call on Him whom they have not believed, they will not believe on Him whom they have not heard, and they will not hear without a preacher. The word for “preacher” here is not one that automatically assumes the role of pastor. It is the word “Kerusso” and it means to herald or proclaim. This is anyone who knows and has believed the gospel. Every Christian is called to be a “Kerusso”. Everyone is to witness and preach the gospel to the world. 

But what about those who having heard do not believe? Have we done something wrong? Not necessarily. Even though they have heard, even though the nation of Israel had the word of faith in their mouth and in their heart, they did not actually have faith. Faith to believe, just like repentance is a gift from God.

2 Tim 2:25 “Instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth” Just as repentance is something that God must give us before we will respond, so is faith.

Eph 2:8 “For by grace are you saved through faith, and that [faith] not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.

As we witness and share the gospel, may we be much in prayer, that just as God commands all men to repent and believe the gospel, He would grant what He commands, that all the world may be filled with the knowledge of salvation for the glory of God.

From Fools To Family

Over the past several weeks and months we have been mentioning how the gospel impacts and affects every part of our lives and culture. Rather than sit and not let our focus go outside the walls of the church, we are commanded to be salt and light in the world around us. We as Christians must actively engage the world in politics, music, movies, TV, education, science, vocation, healthcare; everything. If you would have asked me before last year when we were going through Matthew 13 and Jesus’ kingdom parables, I would have given you a very different answer regarding the kingdom of God and the Church’s need to impact the culture. After really diving in and studying that chapter, my understanding of many things regarding the kingdom, the great commission, and the return of Christ have changed greatly. Now I just hope that the same Spirit who allowed me to understand these things, will give me the wisdom to teach it.

But before we get into the practical side of how the gospel impacts and changes the culture, we must first be changed by the gospel ourselves. We cannot tell of a grace that we haven’t experienced. We cannot command others to love a Jesus that we do not love. We cannot tell them there is forgiveness of sins if we are still under the weight of our own. How can we encourage others to cry out for mercy to a God whom we do not even know? We cannot tell them of the numerous benefits of salvation if we have not experienced them ourselves. So, this morning, before we talk of going and changing the world and bringing all things under the feet of Christ, let us make sure that we have been changed by the gospel.
The issue we want to tackle this morning is found in between verses three and four of our text. Paul is writing to Titus to inform him about how the church should be organized and what the church should be teaching. In verse three Paul reminds Titus, and us as well, that there was a time when we were sinners too. As we engage the culture, we must have in mind that they are sinners and need the gospel just as we did. Paul tells the Corinthians the same thing.
1 Cor 6:9-11 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
Verse 3 in our text describes our previous condition, but verses 4-7 tell us of what has made the difference; what has changed us from our previous state. The question we want to try and answer from the text this morning is, how did we go from fools to family?

It Is Not The Result of Anything We Have Done
As we read verse 4, we find that the kindness and love of God our Savior has appeared to us. But why did it appear to us? Paul quickly answers the question: it is not by our works of righteousness. You and I, and everyone else who has ever been or ever will be saved, have not been saved by anything having to do with us! Man cannot save himself by will nor works.

Man is dead in sin (Eph. 2:1), has been blinded by the god of this world that he should not see the light of the gospel (2 Cor 4:4), and is mentally incapable of understanding spiritual truth (1 Cor 2:14). As Paul tells us in Romans 3, no one is good, righteous, or seeking after God of his own will. Jeremiah reminds us (13:23) that just as the Ethiopian and leopard are unable to change themselves, we who are accustomed to sin, are likewise unable change ourselves and do good.

Ps 58:3 The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.
Job 15:14-16 What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous? Behold, He putteth not trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in His sight. How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water.
Ecc 7:20 For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.
Numerous other verses could be listed. There is absolutely nothing within us that has the ability to save us. In fact, from what Scripture teaches, before the Spirit gives us life, we don’t even want to be saved. We love darkness rather than light, our will is enslaved to sin, and we do not come to the truth so that our wicked deeds are not reproved. If we are to be saved it must come from somewhere outside of us. This morning the reason that we are saved and our neighbor is not, does not originate from within us. It is not because we have desired to be saved, it is not because we were smarter than them, it is not because we committed fewer sins than they did. Paul explains to us in verse 5 that it is according to His mercy.

It Is The Result of What God Has Done
“Because Jesus touched the untouchable, and loved the unlovable,  and forgave the unforgivable, and welcomed the undesirable. Because Jesus even now saves the otherwise unsavable, why!? Because they deserve it!? When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us NOT because of works done in righteousness, NOT because we met Him halfway, NOT because we took the proper steps forward, and in good faith have elevated ourselves to the place of the deserving poor, but according to His MERCY!” -Art Azurdia (Beautiful Eulogy)

As we have taught before, simply put, mercy is us not getting what we so rightly deserve. In our unrighteousness, rebellion, and idolatry, we have sinned against a infinitely holy and righteous God who cannot look upon sin and will not suffer the ungodly to go unpunished. Nothing within us can make up for that. We often think that God operates according to our definition of fair don’t we; that God must do everything equally for everyone. The only thing that is fair, and the only thing that we deserve from God is eternal punishment and separation from Him. It is only, and I stress “only” as emphatically as I can, it is only because God has not given us what we rightly deserve, that we are saved.

God told Moses, and Paul demonstrates it for us in Romans 9 that God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and compassion on whom He will have compassion. We cannot merit or persuade God to have either upon us.

But that is just part of the answer. If God has been merciful and not credited our sin to us, that still doesn’t seat us with Christ in the heavenly places  as Ephesians tells us does it? We are in somewhat of a spiritual limbo. Only those who are perfect can stand before God, and if our sins are cancelled, while we are no longer bad, we still aren’t good. Notice the next phrase in verse 5. God’s mercy has been extended to us, and His Spirit has regenerated us.

I was recently asked the question, how do we get the goods of the cross? By what means are the benefits of salvation applied to us? Paul tells us clearly here that they are applied to us by the Holy Spirit, regeneration being one of those benefits. Those upon whom God does not show mercy are not regenerated. The washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit are not two different acts. Baptism, in its physical form is, not a necessary step of salvation. Baptism in its spiritual form most certainly is.
The benefits of salvation, having been purchased by Christ, were applied to us by the Holy Spirit. In one of the most famous chapters in Scripture (John 3) Jesus tells Nicodemus that we must be born again. This rebirth by the Holy Spirit is nothing that we can wrangle or direct, but He moves as He wishes (mercy/compassion upon whom He will), and we in turn see the results (3:8). In John 6:44, 65, Jesus reminds us that no one can come to Him except he be drawn by the Father. It is only after dead men are regenerated and given life that they can respond to the call/drawing of the Father. Lazarus could not have walked out of the grave till life had been given to him. It is when we are regenerated that the dead come to life, the blind have their eyes open, and those unable to comprehend the truth get understanding. This regeneration, this rebirth, is not something that originates inside of us. It is the grace of God being made evident and effectual in our lives.
John 10 seems to explain this as well. In the first 18 verses, Jesus describes Himself as the shepherd of the sheep. My understanding of verse 3 is that the porter/gatekeeper is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit regenerates the sinner, bringing life into the one who was dead, enabling them to see the light of the gospel of Christ, removing their heart of stone, and giving them a heart of flesh (Ezek. 11:19). It is after this regeneration that the sheep hears the voice of the Shepherd calling them by name, and they come unto Him. Christ calls, the Holy Spirit enables us to respond in repentance and faith, and we having been made willing, do exactly that. I believe as Scripture teaches that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone. By His death, Jesus has purchased for us forgiveness, life, and salvation. They are made known to us and applied to us by the Holy Spirit. 2 Timothy 2:25 tells us that it is God that grants repentance and knowledge of sin.
To repeat Jesus words in John 3, “you must be born again”. As preachers far greater than I have said, “we had as much to do with our spiritual birth as we did with our physical birth.” Again, if we examine our condition and Scripture, we see that this birth doesn’t originate within us but comes to us from something external to us. But telling you, and as we tell the world, that we must be born again, that there is nothing you can do to instigate this birth but it must be given to you by someone else, and failing to tell you where this hope is found is pointless.

It Is Found In Christ 
Notice verse 6. Where is the mercy, grace, and hope of eternal life found? How can we be changed from fools to family? Through no one other than Jesus Christ. Acts 4:12 reminds us that there is no other name whereby men must be saved. Do you want to know how you can escape the wrath of God to come and have hope of eternal life? Run to Christ. How can you have the weight of guilt, and the burden of your sins forgiven? Run to Christ. How can we who are dead be brought to life? Run to Christ. Where can I find hope, peace, and rest? Run to Christ.

But wait. You said earlier that we don’t seek after God, we run from Him and hide ourselves from Him. We who are dead cannot respond to the call of Christ unless we are first made alive. You’re asking the dead to live, the blind to see, and the ignorant to understand. It seems just as hopeless now as when we first started. How can I run to Christ if I can’t. Let me give you some hope.

John 1:12-13 As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood (heritage), nor of the will of the flesh (desire), nor the will of man (choice), but of God.

What God commands us to do, He enables us to do. And being that it comes from Him and not from ourselves, it cannot fail. Run to Christ. Be brought from darkness to light, from foolishness to family.