Completed by the Spirit, Part 2: A Resurrection Like His

Ed Trefzger
Ed Trefzger
This is the sec­ond part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.
In the first arti­cle in this series, we looked at five propo­si­tions that Paul intro­duces in his epis­tles about our rela­tion­ship to the law and its rela­tion­ship to our sanctification:
First, law can­not cope with sin.
Sec­ond, it’s the love brought to the saint through the indwelling Holy Spirit that is ful­fills the law.
Third, it is the Spirit that pro­duces fruit in the believer, while the law in our remain­ing sin­ful flesh can only pro­duce sin.
Fourth, sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion – a growth in holi­ness — results from our union with Christ and Scripture’s exhor­ta­tions about what it means to be Christ-like.
Fifth, that the imper­a­tives Paul gives to us are not them­selves laws and are not given as laws or in the cat­e­gory of law, because they flow from the indica­tive of our reliance upon Christ and our posi­tion in Christ.
Before we address those five propo­si­tions indi­vid­u­ally in future arti­cles, we need to con­sider the escha­tol­ogy of our sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion. We will indeed be glo­ri­fied, Paul promises (Romans 8:30). What is impor­tant now about that final and com­plete sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion is what that state reveals about us – what that “not yet” tells us about our “already.”
Cer­tainly the apos­tle John gives us the most poignant view of what we will be: “We know that when he appears we shall be like him because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). But Paul also com­pre­hends and explains to us that we indeed shall be like our Sav­ior. In his bene­dic­tion at the end of 1 Thes­sa­lo­ni­ans, Paul writes, “[23] Now may the God of peace him­self sanc­tify you com­pletely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blame­less at the com­ing of our Lord Jesus Christ. [24] He who calls you is faith­ful; he will surely do it” (1 Thess 5:23–24).
We will be sanc­ti­fied completely.
Will we be sanc­ti­fied through our own effort or through performance-driven navel-gazing?
Will a reliance on the law do it?
No, Paul tells us, “the God of peace him­self” will do it.
Paul tells the Thes­sa­lo­ni­ans that the one who is sanc­ti­fy­ing them will com­plete that sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion when Christ returns: “Now may our God and Father him­self, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, [12] and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, [13] so that he may estab­lish your hearts blame­less in holi­ness before our God and Father, at the com­ing of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” (1 Thes­sa­lo­ni­ans 3:11–13).
And Paul even exhorts him­self to remain faith­ful and focused on the goal he knows he will reach, when he writes to the Philippians:
[12] Not that I have already obtained this or am already per­fect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. [13] Broth­ers, I do not con­sider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: for­get­ting what lies behind and strain­ing for­ward to what lies ahead, [14] I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. [15] Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in any­thing you think oth­er­wise, God will reveal that also to you. [16] Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
[17] Broth­ers, join in imi­tat­ing me, and keep your eyes on those who walk accord­ing to the exam­ple you have in us. [18] For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as ene­mies of the cross of Christ. [19] Their end is destruc­tion, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. [20] But our cit­i­zen­ship is in heaven, and from it we await a Sav­ior, the Lord Jesus Christ, [21] who will trans­form our lowly body to be like his glo­ri­ous body, by the power that enables him even to sub­ject all things to him­self. (Philip­pi­ans 3:12–21)
Paul has his eyes fixed on what lies ahead, a time when he will be rid of what remains of his “body of death.”
He strives to live accord­ing to the Spirit as one whose mind is set on the things of the Spirit.
He knows he will be like Christ — not as some­one who fol­lows the let­ter of the law, but one whose trans­formed spirit gives him the per­fect, self­less love of Christ that intrin­si­cally and onto­log­i­cally ful­fills the law.
With this escha­to­log­i­cal real­ity in mind — a sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion begun at regen­er­a­tion, a sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion increased in the “now” and con­sum­mated in the “not yet” — we’ll con­tinue this series by look­ing at each of these five propo­si­tions. In each, we’ll con­sider how Paul uses the antithe­sis of law and Spirit to exhort believ­ers to be more and more in the here and now what they will one day become in full.
Next: Com­pleted by the Spirit Part 3: The Law Can­not Cope With Sin
Ed Trefzger

Foundations: “The Sabbath” (Part Three) — Hebrews 3:7b-4:13 — Todd Braye

Todd BrayePlease open your Bibles to Hebrews 3:7. Today we resume our studies on the Sabbath. And though we shall pick up from where we left last week with chapter 4, we’ll read from chapter 3 verse 7 for the sake of context. Hear then the holy and inerrant word of God:

7b …
“Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness,
9 where your fathers put me to the test
and saw my works for forty years.
10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
they have not known my ways.’
11 As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest.’ ”

12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.
4 Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. 2 For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,

“As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest,’ ”

although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” 5 And again in this passage he said,

“They shall not enter my rest.”

6 Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”

8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. 9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. [1]
         The one who reads the entire book of Hebrews discovers perseverance to be one of its major concerns. Faithfulness to Christ to the end is undeniably pressed in this ‘word of exhortation.’ Why this is so is made abundantly clear in our text. We have seen in our previous study how God deals with those who, in faithless rebellion, fall away from Him. Such a possibility for those who find themselves in the rank and file of God’s people is a danger illustrated with crystal clarity. It was the first generation, those Moses led out of Egypt, who, notwithstanding being the objects of a degree of grace, were nonetheless the recipients of wrath. God swore an oath that that generation, ‘those who heard and yet rebelled,’ ‘those who left Egypt by Moses,’ would not enter and thus obtain the goal of their ‘redemption’ on account of unbelief manifested in disobedient rebellion. On their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land of Canaan, a place where they would find rest, and in a state of complaint & grumbling, the people express the desire to have died in the wilderness (Num. 14:2). It is a rather striking observation that God gave them what they so desired. That entire generation died in the wilderness. They did not enter the rest of Canaan. They all fell short of it, save Caleb and Joshua. Therefore, the words “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion” the immediacy, if not urgency, of God’s word is pressed upon us.
Rest Promised
         The warning of chapter three, however, gives way to the encouragement of chapter four. In the very first verse of that chapter, we see that “the promise of entering his rest still stands.” God promises rest. He promises it. His promise is still valid. It is open and still stands.
It’s dreadful to admit however, that we’ve no idea what the word ‘promise’ means. We can look it up in the dictionary and find definitions such as “vow,” “pledge” “guarantee,” “oath” and “covenant.” Promises, we all learn at some point in our lives, and not without a great deal of discouragement, are made to be broken. Not so with God. God doesn’t break His word. He is the promise-keeper because it is impossible for Him to lie (Heb. 6:18). God is faithful to His word. All His promises find their Yes in Christ (2 Cor. 1: 20). There has never been a time, nor will there ever be a time, when God’s promises fail. What He says He will do, He will bring it to pass.
The content of the promise here is defined by the word ‘rest.’ Whatever this ‘rest’ entails, context here suggests it is not merely a state or condition, but a place. The first exodus generation did not enter the rest of Canaan, an actual country, a piece of physical real estate. The Promised Land of Canaan would’ve been a ‘rest’ for the people. But they refused that place because of unbelief. So, I submit to you that “the promise of entering his rest,” because of contexts both near and far, is a promise of entrance into a place, not just a state or condition.
Fear Exhorted
        Rest is promised. But fear is also exhorted. The main phrase in the first verse is “let us fear.” “Therefore…let us fear…” The consequence of unbelief and disobedience is placed before us. Rebellion towards God, not holding fast to the word of God to the end, going astray in their hearts resulted in exclusion from the promised rest. “Therefore, while a promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear…” We must see this! Rest is promised. But presumption, as that kind of thinking which rests on the absence of good reason (like the belief that does not beget obedience), is never to be our posture. True faith begets obedience, not disobedience and rebellion. Let us fear, not let us presume. On this, Calvin writes that this fear is “not that which shakes the confidence of faith but such as fills us with such concern that we not grow torpid with indifference.” Who among us does not know lethargy, sloth, indifference, and even presumption, even in the face of divine things? “It can’t happen to me,” is a thought that flies in the face of that of which Hebrews warns, is a manifestation of pride, and is the fruit of a heart less than sensitive to God’s word.
The reason given for the exhortation is failure to reach God’s rest. “Let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it,” it says. A better translation in my judgment is the International Standard Version rendering. It says: “Let us be afraid lest someone among you fails to reach it.[2]” “It can’t happen to me” is therefore the thought of a man in a perilous state. Falling short at the end, being excluded from God’s rest, is a possibility. Are the truly saved finally lost? No. But “we share in Christ, if indeed we hold…firm to the end.”
The grounds upon which this exhortation rests are two-fold. First, there is a point of commonality expressed. Verse 2 states that both those who fell short and those Hebrews addresses ‘Today,’ had good news preached to them. First, those who fell on the wilderness were in possession of good news. Exodus 3:16 & 17 tells us precisely what that news was. To Moses, God said: “Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, 17 and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.” ’[3] God promised Israel a redemption culminating in a resting place. God promised to bring them from one physical address to another physical address, from one piece of real estate to another. Did He do so? Yes, He did. Joshua 21: 43-45,
“43 Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. 44 And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. 45 Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.”
But that was the second generation, the people Joshua led, not the first under Moses. They fell short. They fell short, but they had good news of promise. They heard good news, but they did not receive it. They heard good news. But they failed to attain that which was promised.
Those to whom the writer now writes are in a similar position. They’ve heard good news. They’re in possession of it. They’re in possession of it, and yet, they’re in danger of drifting away from it (cf. 2:1). And what good news it is! It is far better than the news spoken through the prophet Moses. It is vastly superior to the redemption Israel eventually experienced. It speaks of purification for sins (Heb. 1:3). It speaks of a redemption accomplished and even secured eternally (Heb. 9:12). It also speaks of the promise of rest. There remains a Sabbath day rest for the people of God. The promise of entering His rest stands. The question is “Will we, those who profess the name of Christ, those who have heard the good news countless times, enter that rest? Or will we be found to have fallen short of it?” They had good news. We have good news. They were in a privileged position. We are in a privileged position. They fell. They failed. Will we? They hardened their hearts. Will we? Let us, all of us, fear lest someone among us fails to reach it, what was promised, why? Good news came to us just as it did to them, to those who got what they wished for and died in the wilderness.
But there is also a point of major difference between those who fell and those Hebrews now addresses and exhorts. It is before us in the last half of verse two: “…but the message they heard did not benefit them [why not?], because they were not united by faith with those who listened [i.e. with those who heard so as to believe and thus obey what was heard].” In other words, faith is key. Had they believed what they heard they would’ve benefitted from it, been joined to those who did in fact believe it (i.e. Caleb and Joshua, the believing remnant here) and marched right in to Canaan. So, no faith = no rest. No faith, no rest. Rest hinges on faith. Rest depends on faith. No faith in the message heard, that is, no persevering faith, then no profit and no rest. For as the argument continues in the 3rd verse, “we who have believed enter that rest.” Belief is the door through which one walks to attain Sabbath rest. That much is clear here. Sabbath rest has nothing to do with walking through a church door. As much as that is a necessity (just look at Hebrews 10:25), there is no physical act here, just faith. What isn’t so clear is when this entering occurs. Does it occur at the moment of faith? Or does it happen much later, i.e. at the end of the Christian’s life, at the end of ‘pilgrim’s progress’ if you like? To this we shall return in a moment or two.
Rest is promised. Fear is exhorted. Next is Sabbath Expounded.
Sabbath Expounded
        How does Hebrews, a book monumentally foundational to life under the new covenant, understand the Sabbath? I submit four things to you.
1. Sabbath is rest. Chapter four ninth verse makes this explicit. It states: “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.” This is simple. But we ought to be mindful of it. The nature of this rest has already been defined for us. Since faith is the door through which one enters this rest, this rest is spiritual.
2. Moses does not have the final say on the Sabbath. It should not escape our notice that Genesis 2:2 is linked to Psalm 95:11. Moses is linked to David, in other words. Just look at it with me. In support of verse 3’s “although his works were finished from the foundation of the world,” verse 4 quotes Moses in Genesis 2:2 with the words “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” Immediately he then quotes David in Psalm 95: “They [i.e., the rebellious] shall not enter my rest.” The effect of the connection underscores the continual nature of God’s rest. That God rested from the work of creation on day seven means that He did not resume it. God is finished creating. He never resumed that work. The end of day six came, He was happy with all He accomplished, and he stopped creating. It was done. And so He rested. His rest continued through the time of David. We must understand that in the scheme of redemptive history, David and his generation lived way after Moses. God rested after day six. God’s rest was still in effect in David’s day. And His rest still stands. God is at rest! He is at rest “Today.”
But we must also understand by this connection that Hebrews connects the Mosaic Sabbath with its argument here. Genesis 2 gives way to Psalm 95, which is then quoted by Hebrews. There is an unfolding of revelation here that we must see if we are to understand the Bible’s message. The Bible isn’t flat like southern Alberta. If anything, the Bible is like a valley and a summit. Genesis is the valley. Christ is the summit. Genesis is the base. Christ is the snow-capped, jagged and majestic peak. At any rate, do not miss the obvious here. The Sabbath of Genesis, and therefore Exodus 20, is coupled with the ‘rest’ of Hebrews 3 and 4. This shows that the Sabbath cannot be defined in simple old covenant terms. This also shows us a fundamental principle of interpretation: the new interprets the old; the old does not interpret the new. The first words in this epistle underscore this: God spoke by the prophets. But in THESE last days, He has spoken to us by His Son who is the very radiance of God and the exact imprint of His nature.
3. Israel’s history does not have the final say on Sabbath rest. Chapter 4 verse 8: “…if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on.” This shows that the land as rest cannot be defined in simple Abrahamic covenant terms. Genesis 12: Abram comes to the land of Canaan. The Lord promises him to give his offspring that very land. Numbers 14: His offspring refuse to enter the land. Joshua 21: God is said to have given Abram’s offspring all that was promised, including the rest of Canaan. But Hebrews more than implies Joshua did not give them rest. We are not to see contradiction in this. There is no contradiction here, only distinction. Joshua did give them A rest, just not the rest spoken of here. The rest Joshua gave was a physical rest. It was a type of rest, a mere shadow, or even snapshot, of that rest of which Hebrews speaks, of which God had intended since before the foundation of the world. It is but a mere glimpse of the glory of the ultimate rest to which every other rest points. Commentator Peter O’Brien states:
“The psalmist’s appeal to heed God’s voice ‘Today’ looks forward to the true or ultimate rest God has for his people. The rest in Canaan was ‘a type or symbol of the complete rest that God intended for his people, which was prefigured in the Sabbath rest of God, according to Gen 2:2.’”[4]
4. Comes in the form of a question. When does one enter this Sabbath rest? I said we’d return to this and here we are. Does entrance occur at the point of faith or at the end of faith’s journey? Coupled with that question is “Precisely what is this Sabbath rest? Is it a Person or is it a place?” Answer: Yes! There is a real tension in this text. There is a ‘now but not yet’ aspect to the matter. Sabbath rest is begun at the point of faith. Chapter 4:3- “For we who have believed enter [or ‘are entering’] that rest.” The verb tense is hard to ignore here. Faith in Christ and His finished work is the door through which one must walk if rest is to be known. Jesus did say; “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Furthermore, exhortation is given to take care, lest there be on any one of us an evil, unbelieving heart. Just because we are who we are, possessing full Bibles, attending studies and church week in and week out, having a ridiculous amount of access to some incredibly solid teaching, does not mean these things benefit us. Believers enter. Unbelievers do not. Believers are entering. Unbelievers are not.
The verb tense in Hebrews 4:3 is not decisive however. Faith is indispensible for rest. No faith, no rest, no salvation. But context demands a ‘not yet’ understanding. In fact, I would argue the ‘not yet,’ future sense is the primary sense. Three arguments for this:
1. The Pastoral Argument. The concern here is not evangelistic. The concern is for the faithful endurance and perseverance of believers. Therefore, the beginning of the pilgrimage is not the concern. The end of the pilgrimage is the concern.
2. The Textual Argument. Two verses are decisive enough. First, chapter 4:1 (ISV)- “Let us be afraid lest someone among you fails to reach it.” “Someone among you” is none other than someone among those previously addressed as ‘brothers.’ Second, chapter 4:11- “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” This hardly speaks of justifying faith. It speaks rather of one on a journey, running a race, striving to attain the prize.
3. The Contextual Argument. I start with the context far away and then get close-up. I simply quote various Scriptures. Just listen:
Isaiah 66:1. “Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest?” [5]
Isaiah 8:18. “Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the Lord of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.” [6]
Psalm 132:13-14. “…the Lord has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his dwelling place: “This is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it.” [7]
Hebrews 6:18-20. “…we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever…” [8]
Hebrews 9:24. “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself…”
Hebrews 12:22-24. Feel the tension of the now and not yet here. But do hear the not yet. “…you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant…”[9]
What is Sabbath rest? What is the Sabbath of which Hebrews speaks and God has always intended to share with His true people? It is that place in which Christ now sits, having made atonement. It is that place in which Christ now dwells, even the holy of holies. It is that place in which the saints enjoy rest from all their labors (Rev. 14:13). It is that place where God dwells with His people, where He wipes away every tear, and death shall be no more, nor crying nor pain. It is that place where all the saints have new bodies. It is that place where only righteousness dwells. It’s that place of a beauty unmatched, a glory yet unseen, and a joy unfathomed. Listen to what John records for us about the New Jerusalem. Listen now with New Covenant ears:
“22And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” [10]
Consummation of our salvation depends on faithful endurance. That’s Hebrews. Today, if you hear his voice, harden not your heart.
Diligence Encouraged
       Rest has been promised. Fear has been exhorted. Sabbath rest has been expounded. And finally, diligence is encouraged if not pressed. Verse 11 presses us to strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by that disobedience displayed in the wilderness. They always went astray in their heart; they did not know the ways of the Lord. Again, we’re told the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. It is pressed upon each of us therefore, that we not go astray in our hearts, that we not reject His Word, and that we not be given to indifference, sluggishness, or carelessness in the pursuit of heaven. Go hard after heaven, in other words.
Are you going hard after heaven, or not? If not, then you are in a dangerous position.
The reason given for this final exhortation centers on God’s Word. God spoke, God has spoken, and He still speaks. I look at these final few verses and basically see the power of God’s Word along with the powerlessness of any to hide from its judgment. It is because of this piercing Word and our inability to hide from it that we who call ourselves Christians need to make every effort to avoid the outcome of the past generation.
Rest has been promised. That is a reality. There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. The danger, the very real danger, is not entering it. So, I simply close by repeating what is before us: “Let us [even as a church, together as a body, looking to each other] let us strive to enter that rest.”
When we’ve been there 10,000 years
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing His praise,
Than when we first begun.
[1] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Heb 3:7–4:13). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] International standard version New Testament : Version 1.1. 2000 (Print on Demand ed.) (Heb 4:1). Yorba Linda, CA: The Learning Foundation.
[3] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Ex 3:16–17). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[4] O’Brien, P. T. (2010). The Letter to the Hebrews. The Pillar New Testament commentary (170). Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
[5] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Is 66:1). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[6] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Is 8:18). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[7] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Ps 132:13–14). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[8] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Heb 6:18–20). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[9] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Heb 12:22–24). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[10] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Re 21:22–27). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Children of the Free Woman – Galatians 4:21-31


This section is addressed to those “who want to be under the law.” In the context of the letter to the Galatians, this would mean those Galatians who had fallen under the influence of the false teachers, often called Judaizers. In our day it could be addressed to many who are legalistic or who follow various kinds of scripture twisters, who seek to put people back under the law. This includes a whole class of people that assume that the way to God is by the observance of various rules and/or rituals. It also includes those who think that their relationship with God “depends on a strict adherence to regulations, traditions and ceremonies. They are in bondage to them” (Stott).
Paul exposes the inconsistency of their position. “You want to be under the law? Really now, have you ever paid attention to what the law says?” (Observe the shift in Paul’s use of the word law from covenant to the Scriptures.) There are three stages in his argument in this passage.
I.          The first stage: historical (4:22-23)
Observation: The early church used and knew the Old Testament Scriptures. The New Testament Scriptures were in the process of being written and distributed. Therefore, the Old Testament Scriptures were the Bible, along with the teachings of the apostles and new covenant prophets. So then, how much do you use and know the Old Testament Scriptures?
            A.        Paul gives an argument that is rooted in Old Testament history.
                        1.         The facts of history were that God had made a covenant with Abraham and that the Jews were descended from him. However, the Jews (cf. John 8:1-59) and the false teachers afflicting the Galatians insisted on an interpretation of those facts that the Scripture would not allow. Therefore, Paul has to refute their erroneous interpretation.
Illustration: Rock formations and dinosaur bones are facts of science. But we disagree with the evolutionist’s interpretation of those facts. History, science, theology, and every area of knowledge suffer when wrong interpretations are allowed to go unchallenged. For an example of good historical interpretation, read Washington’s Crossing by David Hackett Fischer, who is unafraid to challenge all ‘politically correct’ and postmodern views. Besides, it will be some good summer reading to stimulate your brain.
                        2.         The point of Paul’s argument is that the blessing promised to Abraham comes only to his spiritual speed (believers in Jesus Christ), as he has already demonstrated.
            B.        Consider two facts from Old Testament history about Abraham’s sons, Isaac and Ishmael.
                        1.         They were born of different mothers. Ishmael’s mother Hagar was a slave; Isaac’s mother Sarah was free.
                        2.         They were born in different ways. Ishmael was born in the ordinary way—an act of human flesh. Isaac was born because of God’s promise overcoming human inability. His birth required a special act of God.
Point: No one could seriously dispute these facts. But the false teachers and the Galatians had not considered the true way to apply them, as Paul proceeds to do by the Holy Spirit.
II.        The second stage: figurative (4:24-27)
            A.        The nature of the argument is figurative or allegorical.
                        1.         What does this mean? This is commonly called typology: “a narrative from OT history is interpreted in terms of the new covenant, or (to put it the other way around) an aspect of the new covenant is presented in terms of an OT narrative. Typology presupposes that salvation-history displays a recurring pattern of divine action…” (Bruce).
Illustration: Christ as our Passover Lamb (1 Cor 5:9)
                        2.         Note well that Paul does not tamper with the historical nature of the text. Instead, he uses the historical elements to set forth spiritual truth.
            B.        There are two covenants that regulate God’s relationship with people. The first was the law or old covenant given at Sinai, and the second is the new or better covenant. Notice the proper terms that we should use in talking about these covenants. Some teachers called covenant theologians hopelessly confuse the subject when they interchange biblical terms like old and new covenants with two covenants that they make up, which they call the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. For this reason, you must be very cautious and discerning when you read any Presbyterian or Reformed writers on various sections of the Scriptures like this section of Galatians or Genesis 1-3.
                        1.         Hagar represents the law or old covenant. Notice the clear identification with the covenant made at Sinai.  This covenant produces children with the status of slaves. A slave mother cannot do anything but bear children who are slaves. Paul identifies this covenant with the then present capital city of Jerusalem. (Capital cities often represent whole nations, in human language and biblical teaching, cf. Mi 1:5). This must have completely shocked Paul’s opponents! No one could look to the earthly Jerusalem for freedom, since it was in bondage. To go back to the law would be to enslave oneself.
                        2.         Sarah represents the new covenant. The Jerusalem above (the New Jerusalem) is (and will be) our capital city. Sarah’s children are free. The status of the new covenant believer is one of liberty, since we are justified by faith and placed as adult sons in God’s family. We are free to serve the living God. The quotation from Is 54:1 is applied to the new covenant people, the church. Though the natural mother, Hagar, appeared at first to be more fruitful at first (the children of the law), Sarah, the mother of the promise, has produced more children by the Spirit (the children of the promise).
Apply: Much of the Christian life involves trusting God to work by the Spirit, instead of trying to make things happen by the flesh (human effort). People can strive by the law to be pious and become very outwardly moral. But true godliness is produced only by the Spirit using the good news of Jesus Christ.
III.       The third stage: personal application (4:28-31)
            A.        As Isaac was mocked by Ishmael, so the sons of natural religion persecute the sons of supernatural Christianity.
                        1.         Ishmael laughed at Isaac, and that laugh was indicative of his attitude toward Isaac. There is enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman (cf. Gen 3).
                        2.         Those with a religion of natural principles often lead the way in persecuting those who worship God in spirit and in truth. For example, who sought to kill Christ? The Pharisees and Sadducees. Who stirred up hostility against Paul? Those zealous for the law. Who persecuted believers during the Reformation? The established church.
            B.        As Ishmael was cast out and Isaac received the inheritance, so those who rely on the law are cast out and believers in Jesus Christ inherit God’s blessing.
                        1.         Again, this must have shocked the Galatians! To get involved with the law covenant would not give them a place among God’s people, as the false teachers misled them. Instead, it would put them in the position of being cast-offs.
                        2.         The promises made to Abraham are fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ, and so those who are in Christ by faith inherit every blessing promised by God. We are right with God, adult sons and heirs, and have received the Holy Spirit.
                        3.         What is a church? A church is not a place that you go to, but it is a people, who are born by the power of the Holy Spirit. And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
Quote: “The religion of Ishmael is a religion of nature, of what man can do by himself without any special intervention of God. But the religion of Isaac is a religion of grace, of what God has done and does, a religion of divine initiative and divine intervention, for Isaac was born supernaturally through a divine promise” (Stott).
Quote: “Wherefore, whenever thou who believest in Jesus, dost hear the law in its thundering and lightning fits, as if it would burn up heaven and earth, then say thou, I am freed from this law, these thunderings have nothing to do with my soul; nay, even this law, while it thus thunders and roars, it doth both allow and approve of my righteousness. I know that Hagar would sometimes be domineering and high, even in Sarah’s house, and against her; but this she is not to be suffered to do, nay, though Sarah herself be barren; wherefore, serve it also as Sarah served her, and expel her out from thy house. My meaning is, when this law with its thundering threatenings doth attempt to lay hold on thy conscience, shut it out with a promise of grace; cry, The inn is taken up already; the Lord Jesus is here entertained, and here is no room for the law. Indeed, if it will be content with being my informer, and so lovingly leave off to judge me, I will be content, it shall be in my sight, I will also delight therein; but otherwise, I being now made upright without it, and that too with that righteousness which this law speaks well of and approveth, I may not, will not, cannot dare not make it my Saviour and judge, nor suffer it to set up its government in my conscience; for by so doing, I fall from grace, and Christ Jesus doth profit me nothing… The sum, then, of what hath been said is this—The Christian hath now nothing to do with the law, as it thundereth and burneth on Sinai, or as it bindeth the conscience to wrath and the displeasure of God for sin; for from its thus appearing, it is freed by faith in Christ.” [Bunyan, “Of the Law and a Christian”. Collected Writings, pp. 923-924]
Apply: Live as the children of the free woman, with the righteousness of Christ filling your heart with joy and peace as you trust in him. If you would be holy, remain in Christ, love Christ, trust Christ, follow Christ, and rejoice evermore in Christ!

What Is The Christian Faith

-Adapted from the writings of John G. Reisinger
Christianity is not a set of rules. It has some very important rules, but Christianity is neither preaching nor obeying rules. There is a very simple but effective way of testing every preacher we hear. The false preacher is always reminding us of what we must do. His message is constantly focused on man’s efforts and is always “do” centered. The true preacher keeps reminding us of what Christ has done for us, and his message is focused on Christ and is “done” centered. One threatens with law and the other appeals by the cross.
Christianity is not a series of ceremonies. It has ceremonies such as baptism and communion, but the essence of the Christian faith is not in the ceremonies and symbols. You may be baptized and take communion every day and still be as lost as the worst pagan in the world.
Christianity is not a certain feeling that we get that enables us to smile and be at peace with ourselves and our fellow man. If we truly receive the forgiveness of sins through faith in the gospel, we will surely feel differently; but the Christian faith is not a feeling, it’s a Person.
Christianity is not joining a group. You may even join the right group, but that will not make you a Christian. Becoming a Christian is far more than joining a church or any other organization.
Christianity is not a cause. Many people in our day are trying to make a revolutionary cause to be synonymous with the Christian faith. God is said to “be on the side of the poor,” so every movement or cause that is aimed at helping the poor becomes the gospel. The cause may be on the left or the right and may involve the correction of a grave injustice against our fellow man. However, no matter how just the cause, it cannot be equated with the gospel or Christianity.
Christianity is nothing more or less than Christ Himself! And understanding the Christian faith begins with the biblical facts about Christ. The Christ who is Christianity is the Christ of “biblical” and “historical” facts. The Christ who is Christianity was born of a virgin (Matt 1:18-25), lived a sinless life (I Pet 2:22), was crucified for sinners (Rom 5:8), rose again from the dead (Luke 245.6), ascended into heaven (Acts 1:11),and is coming again (I Thess 4:16). There are three words that depict the whole story of the biblical and historical Christ: the cradle, the cross, and the crown. The one who was born of a virgin and died on the cross is now raised in power and glory on a throne. Christ is no longer a babe in His mother’s arms nor is He still hanging on a cross or crucifix, and He is surely not still in the grave. He is exalted as Lord of lords and sits on a throne at the Father’s right hand.
The Bible is the interpretation of these facts about this Person. Why was Christ born of a virgin? Why did He suffer such a death? Why is His resurrection essential? These are the kinds of questions that must be answered before the gospel of Jesus Christ has any meaning and significance.
Did you ever try to summarize the essential message of the whole Bible in a few sentences? The theme would go something like this: “Behold, Someone is coming!” The whole Old Testament is the story about the coming Messiah. Then the four gospels proclaim: “Behold, Someone is here!” Finally, Acts through Revelation says: “Behold, Someone is coming again!” The Bible, from its beginning to its end, is a story about the Lord Jesus Christ. The message of the gospel is nothing less than a clear and precise interpretation of this story.
“For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake” (I Thess 1:4, 5). Here Paul first reminds us that truth always comes in words. The gospel does not come in dreams, visions, or ceremonies. It comes to us in words. However, in order for the words of the gospel to effect the saving of our soul, those words must be accompanied by the power and demonstration of the Spirit. The carnal mind can just as easily hear and mentally believe the facts set forth in the gospel as it can believe that Columbus crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1492; but only the Holy Spirit can make the inward man experience the spiritual power of the gospel facts.
The biblical facts are essential, but by themselves, they are not enough. If Christianity is a Person, then becoming a Christian is receiving that Person in an act of living faith. We do not receive facts in order to get saved; we receive a Person and enter into a vital relationship. The facts give us the necessary information about the Person and how and why we must come to Him, but coming to Christ is not just an act of the mind believing some facts. In coming to Christ, we give our whole being to Christ as our Lord and Savior.
When someone gets married, they gladly receive a person, not a set of facts. The preacher does not say, “Do you receive this fact as certainly true?” No, he says. “Will you receive this person to be your wedded mate?” The same thing happens when a person is married to Christ, united by faith. We receive Him as a person just as truly as He receives us as a person. It is much more than a mental transaction involving simply our brains. God did not say. “You admit these facts are true and you will be saved.” No, my friend. He said, “You repent from your rebellion and receive my Son and you will be saved.” This is done by believing in (literally believing into) Christ. There is a great difference between mental assent to facts and receiving Christ in true faith.
When we receive Christ. we receive everything that God has to give, and when we miss Christ, we miss everything there is that is worth having. The Scriptures always put forgiveness and every other blessing in Christ Himself. Our experiencing any of those blessings is only possible as we are literally united to Christ in a living union. Notice how John emphasizes that we receive a Person: “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God” (John 1:12). The Holy Spirit indeed uses facts, but He uses the facts to draw us to a living Person and not to the impersonal facts as an end in themselves. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). “Come unto me…and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28).
The error to be avoided is confusing the mere knowledge of facts, even though the facts may be biblical, with the reality of experiencing the power of the truth explained in the facts. This was the tragic mistake made by the Jews (Rom 2:17-27). They were convinced the Bible was the very Word of God and therefore assumed that they had obeyed its message simply by acknowledging its truthfulness. Some of you who are reading this tract, I’m sure, can explain the way of salvation. but have never personally and knowingly gone to Christ with empty hands and pleaded His mercy alone to save your soul. If this is true of you. then you will perish with the gospel in your mind and in your mouth without its power being in your affections and will.
The promises of God, or the gospel facts, are like sign posts on the highway. You do not sit on top of a sign and expect the sign to take you to your destination. Instead, by faith in the message on the signpost, you follow its direction and move toward where it points. Just so, God’s promises point us to Christ and assure us that we will be received and forgiven if we go to Him in true repentance and faith. However, merely believing that Christ will receive all who come to Him, and actually going to Him, are two different things; yet both are essential to salvation. “This is the record [facts], that God hath given us eternal life [experience], and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (I John 5:11, 12).
Did you know that the Bible speaks of “another gospel” (Gal 1:6-9), “another Jesus” (2 cor 11:3), and “false Christs” (Mark 13.22)? You may sincerely trust a false Jesus and be lost, and believe me, there are a lot of phony Christs being peddled today. Many people are preaching a Jesus that bears no authentic resemblance to the Jesus of the New Testament.
Some men preach a false healing message in the name of Jesus and make millions of dollars off the miseries of their fellow human beings. Some cruel tyrants claim to have been duly authorized by Christ to run God’s church. They control the consciences of insecure and timid people and destroy many lives. Super church builders in the “nickels and noses” business use a utilitarian Jesus and manipulate people by the thousands. We must be sure that we understand exactly who Jesus is and what He is like before we dare speak in His name.
People are usually surprised to find out that the Bible nowhere talks about “accepting Jesus as your Savior.” Christ is not offered to us in the Bible as only a Savior. He is offered to us as the Lord who is, by virtue of His finished work, a sufficient Savior.
Christ fulfills the office of Prophet, Priest, and King. When we receive Him, we receive Him as our Prophet to teach us the truth, as our Priest to take away our guilt, and as our King to rule over us. When we receive Christ as our Savior, we also receive Him as our Lord. It’s just as biblical to say, “I trusted Christ as my Prophet, Priest, and King,” as it is to say, “I trusted Christ as my Savior.”
There are two things set forth in Scripture as Siamese twins. First, the apostles never present the Saviorhood of Christ apart from His Lordship; or, stated another way; they never offer Christ’s saving benefits apart from His Person as Lord. Second, the same apostles never appeal to a sinner’s will through his emotions to choose, without first instructing that sinner’s intellect with truth; or, stated another way, they insisted that every part of man’s being: his mind, his heart, and his will, had to be affected by the power of the gospel before there was true conversion. The mind must be illuminated by the truth and the Spirit; the heart, or affections, must be penetrated by the truth and the Spirit; and the will must be liberated by the truth and the Spirit.
Our whole person, consisting of mind, heart and will (Rom 6:17), receives a whole Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King. Imagine someone saying, “I like and respect Christ’s teaching and will gladly submit to it, but I do not believe in that blood atonement business.” We would say, “Sir, if you will not have Christ as your Priest to take away your guilt by His shed blood, then you cannot have Him as your Teacher.” Someone else may say, “I love the truth that my sins were punished on the cross, but I do not believe that Jesus was right on His view of women.” Again, we would say, “Sir, if you reject Christ as your Prophet and Teacher, then you cannot have the benefits of His Priestly work of atonement.” Still another person says, “I will trust Christ’s blood of atonement and 1 will accept every single doctrine that He teaches, however, 1 will not submit the total control of my life, goals, and money into His hands.” Again, we must say, “Sir, God will not save you on such grounds.”
Imagine you are at a wedding and the preacher says to the prospective bride, “Will you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband?” She thinks for a moment, and says, “I will be glad to wear his name and will accept and use his credit cards, but I have no intention of washing his clothes, sleeping with him, and bearing his children.” Could the preacher say, “That is fine, 1 will still pronounce you man and wife”? Such would be a mockery of everything that marriage stands for! The same is true of conversion. Taking Christ’s benefits (as Savior) while refusing His person (as Lord) would mock every purpose of God in our salvation. God will not wed His Son in a saving union to a person who has no intention of loving and serving Christ as Lord. I am fully aware that many preachers today teach that you can “trust Christ as your Savior but not as your Lord,” but that is blatant heresy. The “Carnal Christian” doctrine of our day is deadly!
The apostles emphasized the Lordship of Christ and grounded their statements in the fact that God raised His Son from the dead and seated Him at His own right hand with all power and authority. Both the truth of the resurrection and the ascension are prominent in all apostolic preaching in the book of Acts. It is because Christ sits on the throne that men are told to fall down before Him in repentance and faith.
Notice carefully the following four truths that run all the way through the NT Scriptures. These sample texts demonstrate how the apostles preached Christ and His saving work: (1)Christ was announced at His birth as LORD: “For unto you is born…a Savior, which is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11). (2) Christ was preached by the apostles to both the Jews and the Gentiles as LORD: “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord. ..” (Rom 10:9); “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 16:31); “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye crucified, both Lordand Christ” (Acts 2:36). (3) Christ was received in saving faith at conversion as LORD: “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him” (Col 2:6)(4) All creation will someday bow and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is LORD: “And every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:11).
God’s controversy with men and women today is over the sin of rebellion to the rightful claims of Christ as LORD. The gospel of the apostles demands that man must repent from that rebellion if there is to be true forgiveness. The problem is not merely that sinners refuse to believe that certain things are true, but rather, it is their refusal to bow their heart and life to the Lord that those truths set forth. It’s not a question of merely believing that Jesus was born of a virgin or that He was true Deity made flesh. Nearly the whole world gladly professes that those things are true every year at Christmas time. It’s not just a willingness to verbally confess that Christ has truly risen from the dead. Most people joyfully acknowledge that at Easter time. It’s obvious that most of these people do not believe these truths in their affections and will (Rom 10: 9, 10). They ardently confess they believe the facts, but they also vehemently reject Christ Himself. Romans 8:7 is still the mark of every unbeliever no matter how religious he may be: “The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”
God commands sinners to submit in repentance and faith to the authority of His Son. Read the second Psalm and the second chapter of Acts. The matter boils down to the claims of Christ’s Lordship. If you, my dear reader, are not saved by the grace of God, the problem is not in your brain or mind, but in your heart and will. It is true that you must understand with your mind the historical facts about Jesus Christ and His death on the cross for our sins. However, salvation only comes when you, as a whole person, submit yourself and all that you are to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Has this transaction taken place between you and the Lord Jesus Christ? If not, bow to Him right now and receive Him into your heart and life in true repentance and faith.
The Bible exhorts you to come to Christ, but not before it clearly tells you who He is and where you might find Him. Christ is not up front at the altar; nor is He in the communion cup or baptistery. He will not be found as the logical conclusion to a series of questions; nor will you find Him as the result of an intellectual decision made by your will. Christ is the Lord of Glory, and as such, He is seated on a throne in heaven at the right hand of God the Father. Coming to Christ is bowing to Him on His throne as both Lord and Savior in repentance and faith. It is to gladly submit to His rightful claims of Lordship over you and receive His gracious benefits promised to you as you trust Him.
In order to have a well-grounded assurance of salvation, we must be sure that the true Christ of Scripture is in us and that we are in Him. When we look into the Bible, we see Christ on the throne with all power and authority. We then look into our personal experience and see if that same Christ is on the throne of our hearts.
In closing, let’s clear up a popular misconception. Christ is every man’s Lord right now. We do not make Christ Lord by trusting Him as our personal Lord. We merely acknowledge, gratefully and willingly, what is already true as we submit to Him as the Lord.
Christ is not in the sinner’s hand to do with as the sinner chooses. The reverse is true. God put His Son in our hands one time and we unitedly cried out, “Crucify Him.” God then highly exalted Christ and has put us in His hands. Every sinner. without exception, is in the hands of Christ to be disposed of as Christ, the Lord and Judge, decides.
I know that what I have just said is not taught in most evangelical churches today. Today men are told that they are king and captain of their own soul. The sinner is his own lord and his “free will” is totally in charge. Poor Jesus can do nothing but plead with the sinner to give Him a chance. If the sinner will just take the first step, then Jesus will be able to help. In other cases, Jesus is pictured as freely giving forgiveness, and then pleading for the right to be the Christian’s Lord. What a corruption of the gospel is this easy believism of our generation!
Let us suppose that the would-be bride that we talked about earlier said, “I do,” instead of “I’ll take his credit cards.” The wedding is over, and all of the vows have been taken, and the last person has gone through the receiving line at the rear of the church. The bride turns to the man she just received as her husband and says, “Jim, this has been one of the most wonderful and exciting days of my life. Phone me some day next week and maybe we can have lunch together.” I am sure that not a single person can imagine that such a thing could be possible. It is just as impossible, if we are honest with the writings of the apostles, to think that a sinner can truly receive Christ and then part company with Him and go in a different direction until next Sunday morning! Never! The bride and groom now begin a joint life that is shared in all things, so we take Christ into every room of our house and every aspect of our life at our conversion.
That is the gospel of the apostle Paul. That is the true Christian Faith. That is the Christ of the Bible. Have you personally received the Lord Jesus Christ as the gift of God?
More of John G. Reisinger’s articles can be found at

A Strained Relationship – Galatians 4:12-20

We need always to look at ourselves through three lenses: the lens of creation, the lens of sin, and the lens of redemption in Christ. As we understand what we are by creation (all made in the image of God), by sin (rebellious and relationship mess makers), and by redemption (united in Christ with all believers), we will have a starting point to work through the messiness of friendship in Christ. Oh yes, sometimes believers’ relationships with one another can be strained! But we should see how even strained relationships can be opportunities to serve one another in love for gospel growth. This passage sets forth a fact of Christian experience. A person can be a staunch defender of the faith and at the same time very zealous for the good and eternal salvation of people. In fact, the person who loves the truth of the gospel also loves people, who need the salvation purchased by the Christ of the gospel.
Illustration: Surely there are many throughout church history that show forth both of these qualities. If you would like to read the stories of two of them, I recommend biographies of George Whitefield and Charles Spurgeon.
In our text Paul relates his love for the Galatians, while at the same time he expresses his zeal for the truth. He is willing to work through their messy relationship to establish them more firmly in the truth. May we learn this lesson well.
I.            Paul appeals for reconciliation (Gal 4:12).
A.            He was open toward them.

1.            The phrase “become like me, for I became like you” means “‘I have come to regard myself as one of you’—more particularly, I am your father and you are my children (cf. v. 19)” (Bruce). See also 2 Cor 6:11-13.

2.            In other words, Paul wants them to have the same affection for him that he has for them. He is embodying a Biblical principle: A gospel kind of love motivates us to lay aside non-essential differences in order to reach people.

B.            He was ready to forgive them.

1.            “Alienation of affection is often greatly increased by a consciousness that we have acted unkindly to one whom we once loved, and a suspicion that in consequence of this he cannot but regard us with unfriendly feelings. It is in consequence of this, that when friends quarrel the offender frequently finds it more difficult than the offended to resume the cordiality of affectionate feeling which previously existed between them. It was, I apprehend, for the purpose of removing this obstacle out of the way of a complete restoration of a right state of feeling in the Galatians towards himself that he adds, ‘Ye have not injured me at all’” (Brown, pp. 90-91).

2.            We need to clear roadblocks out of the way in our relationships. Wisdom in relating to other people, who have the same problems with sin that we do, is not to think about what they might deserve but how to win them back. “For it is always true that ‘to be loved you must be lovable’” (Calvin). Don’t exclaim, “Do you know what he/she did to me?” Instead, humbly ask, “How can I restore this relationship? How can I make it better than before?”

Apply: Apply forgiveness in Christ to your relationship. Make it a friendship based on Christ.
II.            Paul presents the contrast between their former and present relationship (4:13-16).
A.            They used to delight in Paul’s ministry.

1.            Though he had first come among them with some kind of disagreeable illness (we don’t know what it was), they gladly welcomed him. The Lord uses various means that are sometimes disagreeable to us to spread the knowledge of Jesus Christ. For example, sometimes the Lord uses personal or family difficulties to make known the need and way of salvation to people. People assume they can fix anything, until they run smack into a problem that they can’t fix.

2.            Though Paul was a sinner like them, they were right in receiving him as they did (cf. Mt 10:40; 2 Cor 5:20). If you want people to receive you like Christ, then you must speak the word of Christ with the compassion of Christ.

B.            They presently disliked Paul and his ministry.

1.            Their attitude had so changed that Paul wonders if he had become their enemy. At such times we can wonder, “What did I do to deserve this?” And then we can fall into the pity party of “I didn’t do anything!” (This might be self-righteousness and blame-shifting.) Or we might think, “Where is the Lord in all this?” (This is denial of Christ’s promise; he is with us to the end of the age. He is pursuing his agenda that you share in his sufferings.)

2.            Their problem was their attitude toward the truth. Notice how people can flip-flop. It is strange that their present reason for rejecting him was their former reason for receiving him gladly. This shows the corrosive power of error in hearts with remaining sin.

Quote: “There is an important lesson here. When the Galatians recognized Paul’s apostolic authority, they treated him as an angel, as Christ Jesus. But when they did not like his message, he became their enemy. How fickle they were, and foolish! An apostle’s authority does not cease when he begins to teach unpopular truths. We cannot be selective in our reading of the apostolic doctrine of the New Testament. We cannot, when we like what an apostle teaches, defer to him as an angel, and when we do not like what he teaches, hate him and reject him as an enemy. No, the apostles of Jesus Christ have authority in everything they teach, where we happen to like it or not” (Stott, p. 115).
Apply: What is your attitude toward the gospel? If you love it, then rejoice in those who preach the gospel.
III.            Paul tells them the contrast between him and the false teachers (4:17-20).
A.            The false teachers were zealous.

1.            They were motivated by a party spirit. True teaching seeks to win people’s loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ. As Whitefield said, “Let the name of Whitefield perish!” He wanted Christ’s name to be honored. False teaching seeks to bind people to human leadership. “You must be part of our group!”

2.            They worked toward their goal of alienating the Galatians from Paul. If they could separate the Galatians from the one who taught the truth, their plan to conquer them would be well on the way to success.

3.            So Paul has to remind the Galatians of the nature of true zeal. It has a right object and is constant. For example, you need to be living for Christ at all times, and not only when someone else is pressuring you to participate.

B.            Paul was zealous with a godly zeal.

1.            He was motivated by tender affection for them. Notice his affectionate address, “My dear children.” His love had a sacrificial character—like the love of a mother in child birth longing to see her child alive.

2.            He had a godly goal for them—Christ-likeness. “If ministers wish to be something, let them labor to form Christ, not themselves” (Calvin). Paul is not dividing the work of Christ into two stages here, such as first justification and then some form of sanctification. “It is rather that the one implies the other and reliance on law for salvation [or sanctification] negates both” (Bruce, p. 213, my addition in brackets).

3.            He was perplexed about them. He heard reports, but firsthand knowledge is better than secondhand information. Even an apostle had doubts about the accomplishments of his ministry. Some are so sure about their ministry that they can count their converts in ten minutes. Please tell me, what ever made you think that you can know that someone is saved by some prayer or brief statement they make? The apostles had joy when their children walked in the truth (3 Jn 4). Paul did not see that walk in the truth, so he was perplexed, rather than joyous, about the Galatians.

Apply: Here is what really matters! Is the minister preaching the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ with Christ-like attitudes? Is Christ being formed in the hearts of the people to whom he ministers? The measure of any church and any ministry is the presence of Jesus Christ as Lord. Do we exalt in his glory? Do we worship through him by the Spirit? Do we walk in his ways of godliness and holiness? Is his love abounding and overflowing? Is his joy a common experience? Is Christ’s peace ruling in our hearts? Please, please, let us have no more boasting about how large or small or whatever a church may be! Let us see Christ formed in everyone, and then, whoever boasts, let him boast in the Lord!

Completed by the Spirit, Part 1: Five Propositions

This is the first part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I presented at a New Covenant Theology think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

Ed Trefzger
Ed Trefzger
For the apostle Paul, the Mosaic law – or any external commands not grounded in the indicative of the Spirit of God given to dwell in the believer – is antithetical to our growth in holiness; rather it is the Holy Spirit who is transforming the believer from “one degree of glory to another,’ (2 Corinthians 3:18). Paul´s teaching on the inability of the law to effectively combat sin in the life of the Christian has been distorted by many, resulting in an improper focus on law that continues to enslave believers in sin.[1] Perhaps Paul´s exasperated exclamation and rhetorical questions to the “foolish’ Galatians is summary enough of Paul´s view of the law:

[2] Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? [3] Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? [4] Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? [5] Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— [6] just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’? (Galatians 3:2–6)

“Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?’ That antithesis – the Spirit and the flesh – draws the battle lines for Paul between those who would have believers continuing as slaves to sin instead of living as slaves to Christ and reaping the fruit of the Spirit. It is, as Paul tells the Thessalonians, the will of God that they – that we – be sanctified, “because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth’ (2 Thessalonians 2:13). God did not choose believers to be sanctified by the law; God did not choose believers to be sanctified by their own actions, behavior modification or self-help techniques; God chose believers to be sanctified by the Spirit of Christ via the gospel of Christ.
For the believer, there is an initial positional sanctification: we have been set apart as holy by God at our regeneration. There is also a final sanctification, or glorification: we will be holy and blameless and spotless. “And I am sure of this,’ Paul writes, “that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ’ (Philippians 1:6). But what comes between? Thomas Schreiner describes the tension between these two states and the believer´s existence between these two states:

Believers are already in the realm of the holy, but on the last day, they will be transformed so that they are without sin. Paul does not explain how this transformation will occur; though it seems that it will take place when Christ returns. … A tension emerges in Paul´s thought. One the one hand, it seems that the eschatological completion of holiness cannot be sundered from progress in holiness in this life; on the other hand, Paul recognizes that the work of holiness will not be accomplished in this life. He uses a future tense to assure them that God will sanctify them completely. … The already–not yet dimension of Paul´s eschatology provides the most satisfactory solution. Believers are in the process of sanctification now, but they are not yet perfect. They long for the day when God´s promise of perfecting them in holiness will be consummated.[2]

Martyn Lloyd-Jones describes that “process of sanctification now’ in this way:

So then, I suggest to you that this will do as a good definition of sanctification: it is ‘that gracious and continuous operation of the Holy Spirit by which He delivers the justified sinner from the pollution of sin, renews his whole nature in the image of God and enables him to perform good works.´ Let me make that clear: ‘It is that gracious and continuous operation of the Holy Spirit by which He delivers the justified sinner´—the one who is already justified—‘from the pollution of sin´—not from the guilt any longer, that has happened. Justification has taken care of that. He is declared just and righteous, the guilt has been dealt with. Now we are concerned more about the power and the pollution of sin—‘renews his whole nature in the image of God and enables him to perform good works.´[3]

Thus for the purposes of this series of articles, we shall use the term “sanctification’ in the sense of a growth in holiness: what has traditionally been called “progressive sanctification.’[4] However, because of the use of and the association with the term “progressive sanctification’ with those who would also advocate the “third use of the law’ as part of that growth, we will not use that term here, but instead will use “sanctification’ – and its Greek “hagiasmos” – as interchangeable with a “growth in holiness,’ recognizing that this is the most common use of the term in the New Testament.[5]
With that eschatological trajectory in mind – our final complete holiness – we will focus on the sanctification – the growth in holiness – that should be the life story of all Christians, a life story that requires a fervent belief in the gospel and a trust in the Spirit for that sanctification. It is God who justifies and God who glorifies (Romans 8:30) and most assuredly, it is God who sanctifies by His Spirit  (2 Thessalonians 2:13).
To show how Paul views this growth in holiness – this ongoing work of sanctification before that final glorification – this series will look at five propositions of Paul´s theology. First, is that the law cannot cope with sin. Second, the love that is intrinsic to God and which flows only from God – the love brought by the indwelling Holy Spirit – fulfills the law. Third, that it is the Spirit that produces fruit in the believer while the law in our remaining sinful flesh can produce only that which it has power to produce: sin. Fourth, that sanctification results from our union with Christ, exhorted by what it means to be Christ-like. Fifth, that while Paul gives us imperatives, commands and exhortations, they are not themselves laws and are not given as laws or in the category of law, because they are imperatives that are only achieved by the indicative of our reliance upon Christ and our position in Christ.
To summarize, the battle for our sanctification is between the Spirit and the flesh. It is not – and cannot – be the law battling against our sinful flesh. Using the law to combat sin pours gasoline upon the sinful passions of the flesh, a flesh we will inhabit until the day we meet Christ face to face and be raised like Him. “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his’ (Romans 6:5).
That eschatological, glorified state is where we´ll begin next time.
Up and Coming: Completed by the Spirit, Part 2: A Resurrection Like His
[1] This is a reference to the “third use of the law,’ the belief that the “Moral Law’ or the Decalogue remains a “perfect rule of righteousness’ for the believer, such as is stated in the Westminster Confession of Faith and its later derivative, the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith.

[2] Thomas R. Schreiner, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 374–5.
[3] David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, God the Holy Spirit: Great Doctrines of the Bible (Great Doctrines of the Bible Series, Vol 2)
(Wheaton, Ill.: Crossways Books, 1997). 195.
[4] For example, Robert L. Reymond in A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (Second Edition)
(Nashville: Thomas Nelson Inc., 1998) defines progressive sanctification as one “understood negatively in terms of putting to death the deeds of the flesh which still remain in him and positively in terms of growth in all saving graces.’ (p. 768–769). Reymond then goes on for 12 more pages defending the use of the Decalogue as the as “the moral law of God, which Christians are to obey.’
Similarly, the Westminster Confession of Faith quite sweetly posits that “They who are effectually called and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ´s death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them; the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified, and they more and more quickened and strengthened, in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord’ (XIII/i). Yet that same confession describes asserts that the law “doth forever bind all’ (XIX/v), the words of Paul in Scripture notwithstanding.
[5] William D. Mounce says of hagiasmos that the word, “is generally used in the NT the moral sense, referring to the process (or the final result of that process) of making pure or holy. It is like a growing fruit that results in eternal life.’ Mounce´s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006). 338.

Caution: Handle God’s Possessions with Care

1 Corinthians 8:11-13

We will be finishing up 1 Corinthians 8 this morning. It will be helpful for us to do a bit of recap before jumping into the text. I will remind you of five things.
1. In Corinthians 8 Paul is addressing the issue of eating meat which has been sacrificed to idols (see 8:1, 4).
2. There are two different camps in the Corinthian church; the strong and the weak. The strong feel full liberty to eat meat sacrificed to idols while the weak do not. The strong can eat such idol meat with a good conscience because they understand that there is only one God and that idols are nothing in the world (8:4). The weak, on the other hand, are those who have recently converted out of idolatry (8:7). Because they have recently converted out of idolatry they are still in the process of adjusting to the basic, fundamental truths of Christianity. They weak cannot eat meat sacrificed to idols with a good conscience because, being new to the Christian faith, although they have embraced Christian truth, they have yet to understand the full implications of Christian truth.
3. Paul agrees with the strong theologically (vss. 4-6). However, he rebukes the strong for not being willing to give up the right of eating idol meat for the sake of their recently converted, vulnerable brothers and sisters in the faith.
4. Paul’s greatest concern is that these newly converted brothers and sisters will fall back into idolatry by mindlessly imitating their spiritual mentors (the strong). The weaker brothers have always and only eaten meat sacrificed to idols as an act of worship to whatever idol the meat was sacrificed to. They do not know how to distinguish between eating idol meat and worshipping idols. What the strong do with knowledge, the weak will do ignorantly (vs. 10). Paul’s concern is not that the weak will feel uncomfortable by the actions of the strong. His concern, rather, is that the weak will literally fall back into idolatry by ignorantly following the example of the strong. What the strong eat as a simple meal the weak will eat as an act of idolatrous worship.
5. Paul’s basic instruction is directed to the strong. His admonition is to patiently and lovingly set aside eating meat sacrificed to idols for the sake of the spiritual well-being of the weak in Corinth.

In this message we will be focusing primarily on vss. 11-13. In these 3 verses Paul underscores the seriousness of his instruction. The actions of the strong are not small or inconsequential. Ultimately, Paul communicates that the strong are in sin. They are running roughshod over those who are vulnerable to the pull of idolatry without a concern for how it will ultimately affect their spiritual wellbeing. This to Paul is sin as we will see in vs. 11. That is, those who are carelessly pursuing what is rightfully theirs to do the detriment of their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are in rebellion against God. Paul agrees with them theologically. However, he calls them to flat out repentance in vss. 11-13. Their problem is that the knowledge of God’s word has produced in them arrogance and apathy instead of humility and love. Turn with me, then, to the passage and consider with me the seriousness of selfishly clinging to rights regardless of how it affects the people of God.
The Worth of God’s People (8:11)
In an attempt to demonstrate for the ‘strong’ in the Corinthian church the seriousness of their arrogant and selfish pursuit of rights, Paul identifies the worth of the people of God. He wants the ‘strong’ to know exactly who it is that they are tripping up. Look at vs. 11 with me.
11 Then the weak person, the brother for whom Christ died, is ruined by your knowledge.
Do you see what Paul does here in vs. 11? He clarifies for the strong exactly who the weak are. He wants them to understand that the weak are not to be regarded as useless. No! The weak first of all are their brethren. They are co-heirs with Christ. They have been adopted into the same family. But he wants them to understand something even more important. He wants the strong to see that the weak are those “for whom Christ died.” The weak are not just God’s image bearers; they are God’s blood bought image bearers! Do you see how serious this is? The strong are treating God’s blood-bought possessions as if they were dispensable. They are handling them without care. So Paul reminds the strong of who the weak are so that they might see the seriousness of their actions.
Kristal and I watch the Antiques Roadshow on a regular basis. A few weeks ago we watched an episode where a middle aged lady brought in a rough looking wooden bowl. Now I am not sure of all of the details of the story (because I only saw it once and the details escape me), but I will do my best to give the basic jist of the story. The woman who brought the bowl in said that it was given to her by her grandmother who had apparently grew up in Germany. She told the expert appraiser that she had only kept it around because it was the only thing she had left to remind her of her grandmother. The appraiser asked her where she had put the bowl. She chuckled and said that it sat on top of her t.v. at home—it was used for the purpose of holding dvd’s and other odds and ends. The appraiser told her that it might be best to put it elsewhere. In classic Antiques Roadshow fashion he began to tell her the details about the bowl. Apparently it was made in Germany in the early 19th century. He explained that it was carved by one of the most infamous woodcarvers in Germany. To the surprise of the woman who brought it in the appraiser said that he would conservatively estimate that the bowl would sell at auction for at least $100,000! Immediately the woman said, “Wow! I guess I will no longer haphazardly throw dvd’s in it!” Once you know the true value of a possession, you treat it with a greater amount of care.
Paul is here putting a value on the weaker brother. He wants the strong in the church to understand that they are messing with God’s valuable possessions. If God were to hold His own form of the Antiques Roadshow for the purpose of valuing His people, each of us would wear a price tag that read, “Invaluable: Bought with the blood of Jesus”. You don’t haphazardly throw dvd’s and odds and ends in a $100,000 bowl. In the same way, you do not carelessly handle the people of God, regardless of where they are at theologically. Why? Because they are invaluable. It is sad and embarrassing that we are more careful with our cars and houses and dishes than we are with God’s blood-bought children. Turn with me to 1 Peter 1:18-19 to see the true value of the people of God.
18 For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things like silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish.
Your brothers and sisters in Christ were bought with the blood of Jesus. He spilled His blood to purchase a people for God from every tongue, tribe, people, and nation (Revelation 5:9-10). Notice how Peter speaks of the blood of Jesus. He contrasts it with the most valuable things on this earth. God hasn’t redeemed us with chincy precious medals. No, He redeemed us, purchased us, with the infinitely valuable blood of Jesus.
You have to understand that in emphasizing to the Corinthians the true value of the weaker brethren, Paul is making a statement. He identifies them as those for whom Christ died. Do you see how gross and sick the strong are? Jesus, being equal with the Father, became a man and died a gruesome, painful, and shameful death on a cross. He bore the infinite wrath of God. All of the righteous anger and holy indignation of God the Father was pointed at the sinless Jesus who hung on the cross for you and I. Jesus took the full penalty of our sin. Do you get it? Jesus gave His life under the full strength of God’s wrath for our weaker brethren and the strong are not even willing to change their diet![2] Jesus died for your brothers and sisters—He gave His all. This is embarrassing isn’t it? We cling to and hold on to our puny little rights at the expense of the spiritual wellbeing of our brothers and sisters in Christ when Jesus endured the shame and pain of the cross and infinite wrath of God as an innocent sufferer for their salvation. See what Paul says about Jesus’ self-giving spirit in 2 Corinthians 8:9.
9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: Though He was rich, for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty you might become rich.
I know that I reference this passage on a regular basis. I cannot help but revisit it and revisit it and revisit it. It certainly does put us in our place. Jesus set aside infinite riches for you. He assumed the posture of a slave and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8). He set aside what was rightfully His for the sake of our good. How shaming is it that we would not be willing to give up our favorite music or our wardrobe or our diet or our hip and trendy styles for the sake of our struggling brethren. How much do we value each other? Do we value each other enough to give up our rights?
Sinning Against Christ (8:12)
In vs. 12 Paul identifies the careless and selfish actions of the strong as being nothing less than sin.
12 Now when you sin like this against the brothers and wound their weak conscience, you are sinning against Christ.
Paul does not see the actions of the strong as merely evidencing a lack of wisdom. Paul comes right out and calls it for what it is. The arrogance and selfishness of the strong that is leading to the real spiritual ruin of the weak is nothing less than hardhearted rebellion against Jesus Himself. You will notice that he first speaks of it as a “sin… against the brothers.” But he doesn’t stop there. Although this certainly is a sin against the weaker brothers, Paul ultimately identifies this as a sin against Jesus Christ Himself—‘you are sinning against Christ.’ To sin against the people of God is to sin against Jesus Himself. Why? For a few reasons. First, because all sin is ultimately against God. After all, if you steal a man’s car, although you are taking something that does belong to him, you are not ultimately breaking that man’s law; you are breaking God’s law. This is why after sinning against Uriah the Hittite by sleeping with his wife and directly plotting his murder, David prays the following to God in Psalm 51:4:
“Against You—You alone—I have sinned and done this evil in Your sight. So You are right when You pass sentence; You are blameless when You judge.
David understood that his actions against Uriah were ultimately an affront not against Uriah but against God. This does not mean that he didn’t sin against Uriah, but it certainly does mean that his sin was not ultimately against Uriah. David understood that he was not accountable ultimately to Uriah—he was not going to have to answer before the judgment seat of Uriah, but before the judgment seat of God. Second, sins specifically against the people of God are ultimately against Jesus because God’s people are God’s possession. Do you remember what Paul said earlier about God’s people? Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.
19b You are not your own, 20 for you were bought at a price.
If Jesus died for you, you are God’s property. Jesus gave His life to purchase you, therefore you are His. To sin against the people of God, then, is to sin against God Himself because the people of God are His goods. For the strong to selfishly and arrogantly wound the conscience of the weak is for the strong to assault God’s blood-bought servants. Lastly, to sin against the people of God is to sin against Jesus Himself because Jesus is one with His people (see John 15:5-7; 1 John 3:24; 4:13-16). This is why Jesus is referred to as the head of the church and we as His body (Ephesians 5:22-33). This reality is most clearly evident in Acts 9:1-6.
1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. He went to the high priest 2 and requested letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he traveled and was nearing Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly flashed around him. 4 Falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ 5 ‘Who are You, Lord?’ he said. 6 ‘I am Jesus, the One you are persecuting’…
So Paul is running around the ancient world imprisoning the people of God. While on his way to wreak more havoc on the people of God, Jesus strikes him with blindness and says to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting the church’. No! Actually He doesn’t charge Paul with persecuting the church. Jesus charges Paul with persecuting Jesus Himself. How can He make this logical leap? Well, it isn’t a logical leap. Jesus is, after all, one with His people. To persecute them is to persecute Him. Let me put it this way; how you treat the people of God is how you treat God Himself. I don’t have to ask you whether you prize Jesus or not, I just need to see how you prize His people. I don’t need to ask you whether you are passionate for God, I just need to observe how passionately you serve and love His people. He is one with those He came to save.
Paul rebukes the strong not ultimately for selfishly and arrogantly causing the spiritual ruin of the weak. Paul rebukes the strong for beating Christ Himself. The strong are in sin. Certainly, they are theologically correct to see that meat sacrificed to idols is not inherently sinful. However, they have sinned against Christ by having no regard for His body.
Drastic Measures (8:13)
In vs. 13 Paul demonstrates the length which we willing should go to protect our brothers and sister in Christ from falling into gross and heinous sin.
13 Therefore, if food causes my brother to fall, I will never again eat meat, so that I won’t cause my brother to fall.
In this last verse Paul is using hyperbole—he is speaking in extremes to make a clear point. All throughout 1 Corinthians 8 Paul has been addressing the issue of meat sacrificed to idols. Here Paul seems to almost change subjects. You would think that he would have said, ‘Therefore, if food causes my brother to fall, I will never again eat meat sacrificed to idols…’ But he doesn’t say that. He doesn’t say that he will merely give up eating meat sacrificed to idols. Rather, he states that he will go to the extreme and give up meat altogether. Not only will he give up idol meat, he will become an all-out vegetarian! He is saying that there is no limit to how willing he is to accommodate a weaker, vulnerable brother. Paul, like Jesus, did not cling to his rights at the expense of the wellbeing of his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. He was more than willing to do whatever it might take to make sure that the pursuit of his rights did not become a stumbling block to his fellow blood-bought brothers and sisters in Christ.
Let me give you a similar situation. Suppose someone were to approach me about the fact that I wear jeans when I preach. They give me sufficient reason to believe that me wearing jeans in the pulpit is leading them into all sorts of real heinous sin and rebellion. Paul would respond like such; “Brother, if me wearing jeans in the pulpit is the cause of your spiritual ruin as I am convinced it is, not only will I not wear jeans in the pulpit ever again, I will not wear pants at all (not that I will preach in my undies)—I will go to the extreme of preaching in a kilt for the rest of my days. If it means the preservation of your soul, I will go against any and every cultural norm to make sure that I am not in any way leading you into sin.
How willing are you to dispense with your rights for the sake of the well-being of your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ? This, to Paul, is an issue of obedience. This is why Paul says;
Romans 15:1 Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength, and not to please ourselves.
If you love your rights more than the people of God, you are in sin. If you protect your rights more than you protect the well-being of your brothers and sisters in Christ you are in sin. Bottom line. It is essential that we be willing to set aside any right that we may have for the sake of our fellow siblings in the faith. Some may feel that this is a slippery slope: ‘Once we accommodate one weak brother, where will we stop? Pretty soon everyone in the church is going to be sporting their weak conscience to get their own way.’ This is not true. This is not a slippery slope. If we merely take the necessary biblical steps to distinguish between a genuine struggling, weaker, vulnerable brother and super-spiritual legalists who want to inflict God’s people with their own agendas and preferences, adopting Paul’s attitude toward those who are truly weak will never enslave the church or make her ineffective with the Gospel. But the church must learn to discern the difference.
I have decided that it would be counter-productive to give a parallel modern day situation to 1 Corinthians 8. Why? Because I think we need to approach this with an open mind. The principle which Paul lays forth, and ultimately the spirit of 1 Corinthians 8 is that we need to be willing to give up whatever may cause a brother to fall into gross and heinous error. I don’t want us to start categorizing what would constitute a 1 Corinthians 8 situation and what would not. The point that Paul clearly lays forth is that we must be willing to forgo what is rightfully ours, no matter how petty or puny or insignificant it may seem, for the sake of our fellow blood-bought brethren.
We must keep the cross at the center of all that we do. If the cross loses its place of first importance in the church we will lose both our ability to value the true worth of God’s people (bought with the blood of Jesus) and we will lose site of the radical standard of love which He has called us to. The cross is not just the basis of our hope, it is the center of our calling. We are called to both embrace the crucified Christ and to follow Him as our example. Behold the great salvation that Christ has won for you on the cross! Our calling is to receive the love of Christ and then to bend out that same self-sacrificial love and grace to our fellow brothers and sisters. If we keep the person and cross work of Jesus at the center of all that we do, we will understand that the standard is radical, because the standard is to “accept one another, just as the Messiah also accepted you, to the glory of God” (Romans 15:7).
Paul shifts the focus of the strong to the cross so that they might adopt this very same perspective (in vs. 10). And I can promise you one thing, you will never be called to lay down your rights for your fellow brothers and sisters more than Christ laid down His rights for you. How can this be the case? Because His rights are truly His rights. He deserves every right that He has while our rights are gifts of grace. Not only that, but God will never call you to, as a sinless person, take the infinite wrath of God in the place of depraved rebels who have transgressed your own law. The standard that God has given us is radical. And yet God has called us to a sub-bunny hill version of what He has done for us. This is not to say that you can be lax about fulfilling the law of Christ. Rather, it should cause you see the standard that God has set for you with the understanding that He has done infinitely more for you than you could ever do for your brethren. You will never love another like Jesus has loved you.
[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman HCSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
[2] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 378.


2 Samuel 12:1-31
So the LORD sent Nathan to David. When he arrived, he said to him: There were two men in a certain city, one rich and the other poor. (2) The rich man had a large number of sheep and cattle, (3) but the poor man had nothing except one small ewe lamb that he had bought. It lived and grew up with him and his children. It shared his meager food and drank from his cup; it slept in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. (4) Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man could not bring himself to take one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for his guest. (5) David was infuriated with the man and said to Nathan: “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! (6) Because he has done this thing and shown no pity, he must pay four lambs for that lamb.” (7) Nathan replied to David, “You are the man! This is what the LORD God of Israel says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. (8) I gave your master’s house to you and your master’s wives into your arms, and I gave you the house of Israel and Judah, and if that was not enough, I would have given you even more. (9) Why then have you despised the command of the LORD by doing what I consider evil? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife as your own wife–you murdered him with the Ammonite’s sword. (10) Now therefore, the sword will never leave your house because you despised Me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own wife.’ (11) “This is what the LORD says, ‘I am going to bring disaster on you from your own family: I will take your wives and give them to another before your very eyes, and he will sleep with them publicly. (12) You acted in secret, but I will do this before all Israel and in broad daylight.'” (13) David responded to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Then Nathan replied to David, “The LORD has taken away your sin; you will not die. (14) However, because you treated the LORD with such contempt in this matter, the son born to you will die.” (15) Then Nathan went home. (HCSB)

Moe Bergeron
King David fought with the Ammonites and prevailed, but he had as yet not completely defeated them. The Ammonites retreated to Rabbah. David sent his general Joab and the army of Israel to lay siege to the city and while his army fought David remained in Jerusalem. On a certain day he rose from his bed around the time when others prepared to go to bed for the night. In his leisure he ventured on to the rooftop of his palace where he happened to steal a look at a beautiful young woman bathing herself. He is so taken by her beauty that he sends messengers to find out who she is. David’s servants learn of her identity. Her name is Bathsheba and she is the wife of Uriah, the Hittite. This Uriah was a faithful solider who was serving at the battle front along with Joab and Israel’s army. David’s interest in this young wife should have ended right there and then, but it does not. His curiosity quickly becomes a temptation and rather than flee from entertaining the thought of sin he now lusts for what does not lawfully belong to him. Jesus taught:
Matthew 5:28
But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
So David sent his servants to bring Bathsheba to his palace where he does the unthinkable. He has sex with her. When she cleanses herself, she returns home.
Proverbs 9:17-18 ESV
“Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.
It all seems to be over. But, sin always has its tragic consequences.
“…her guests are in the depths of Sheol.”
Things take a very different turn when Bathsheba sends word to David to inform him that she is carrying his child. David the giant killer tries to cover up his sin by ordering Joab to send Uriah home on leave under the pretense of giving David a battlefield report. He’s hoping Uriah is like the typical hot blooded young soldier who, when he has arrived home, will enjoy some carnal pleasures with his wife. There’s only one small problem. This Uriah is not like most hot blooded young soldiers. He is a cut above.
2 Samuel 11:9-11
But Uriah slept at the door of the palace with all his master’s servants; he did not go down to his house. (10) When it was reported to David, “Uriah didn’t go home,” David questioned Uriah, “Haven’t you just come from a journey? Why didn’t you go home?” (11) Uriah answered David, “The ark, Israel, and Judah are dwelling in tents, and my master Joab and his soldiers are camping in the open field. How can I enter my house to eat and drink and sleep with my wife? As surely as you live and by your life, I will not do this!”
Uriah is more honorable than David. He wants to be at the front and not home pleasing his flesh. David knows time is running out and that his sin will be found out. It’s at this point that things really become ugly so he sends Uriah back to Joab, with sealed written orders to Joab to put Uriah to death in a way that makes it seem like Uriah is a casualty of war. Joab (a bloody man) does as he is told and sends word to David: “Mission accomplished.”
Responses To Uriah’s Death: (11:26-27)
It would seem that David got away with his adultery and murder. So it would seem. When Bathsheba is told of her husband’s death in battle, she mourns for her husband. I believe she mourns her husband’s death because she really loved him. David does not even pretend to mourn. As soon as Bathsheba’s mourning was complete David sent for her and made her as his wife. Was David trying to conceal his sin or was he seeking to legitimize it? Whatever David’s motives are they are self-serving. (Numbers 32:23)
THOT: When running from sin and its consequences you cannot out run the Lion of Judah.
It is at this point that God calls upon Nathan to address David and his sin. This is an unbelievable task. Nathan has to be braver than when David was when he stood before Goliath the giant. Now who stands as the wicked and evil sin filled giant who opposes the God of Israel and who is this humble servant of God? Before we consider God’s use of Nathan to confront and address David’s sin I want you to know that Nathan was not alone in addressing David. God by His Spirit was also at work preparing David’s heart.
Psalms 32:3-4 HCSB
When I kept silent, my bones became brittle from my groaning all day long. (4) For day and night Your hand was heavy on me; my strength was drained as in the summer’s heat. Selah
Bob Deffinbaugh’s comments on this passage; “David makes it clear that God is at work even when it does not appear to be so. During the time David tries to cover up his sin, God is at work exposing it in his heart. These are not times of pleasure and joy, as Satan would like us to conclude; they are days of misery. David is plagued with guilt. He cannot sleep, and it seems he cannot eat. He is not sleeping nights, and he is losing weight. Whether or not David recognizes it as God who is at work in him, he does know he is miserable. It is this misery which tenderizes David, preparing him for the rebuke Nathan is to bring, preparing him for repentance. David’s repentance is not the result of David’s assessment of his situation; it is the result of divine intervention. He has gone so far in sin that he cannot think straight. God is at work in David’s life to break him, so that he will once again cast himself upon God for grace.”
Nathan Tells a Shepherd a Sheep Story – 2 Samuel 12:1-6
So the LORD sent Nathan to David. When he arrived, he said to him: There were two men in a certain city, one rich and the other poor. (2) The rich man had a large number of sheep and cattle, (3) but the poor man had nothing except one small ewe lamb that he had bought. It lived and grew up with him and his children. It shared his meager food and drank from his cup; it slept in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. (4) Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man could not bring himself to take one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for his guest. (5) David was infuriated with the man and said to Nathan: “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! (6) Because he has done this thing and shown no pity, he must pay four lambs for that lamb.” (7) Nathan replied to David, “You are the man!
Nathan is a prophet, he is also a man who appears to be a friend to David. Nathan does not come to David only as God’s spokesman, he comes to David as his friend.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy (Proverbs 27:6)
2 Samuel 12:1
Then the LORD sent Nathan to David.
What man in their right mind wants job? You have to be sent and sent no less than by God himself.
He is well prepared. He is filled and equipped by God’s Holy Spirit. Nathan’s approach and the success of the mission all hangs on a simple but well crafted “sheep story.” It’s the sort of story a shepherd boy can easily grasp and with which he can readily identify. David was a shepherd boy in his younger days, as we know from the Book(s) of Samuel (see 1 Samuel 16:11; 17:15, 28). I think somewhere in David’s experience as a child shepherd he took a strong liking to one or more of the little lambs his father entrusted into his loving care. Nathan is setting an example for a right use of Matthew 18.
“What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? (13) “If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. (14) “So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish. (15) ” If your brother sins , go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. (16) “But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. (17) “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (18) “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. Matthew 18:12-18 NASB
Note that the NASB translates verse 15 in this manner; “If your brother sins” and not as the HCSB renders it; “If your brother sins against you “
Nathan does not immediately speak to the details of David’s sin, rather, his design is not to put David on some sort of immediate defensive. His one smooth stone is targeted at David’s heart and not Goliath’s head. Nathan is not there to mortally wound David. He simply wants to prick David’s tender but buried and hardened heart with the pointed arrow of God’s love. David identifies two evils that have been committed by this fictional rich lamb stealer. First, the man has stolen a lamb, for which the law prescribed a fourfold restitution (Exodus 22:1). Second, David recognizes what he views as the greater sin, and that is the rich man’s total lack of compassion.
Bob Deffinbaugh adds:
David is furious because a rich man stole and slaughtered a poor man’s pet. He does not yet see the connection to his lack of compassion for stealing a poor man’s beloved companion, Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba. The slaughtering of Uriah is most certainly an act which lacks compassion. The crowning touch in David’s display of righteous indignation is the religious flavoring he gives it by the words, “as the Lord lives” (verse 5).
It’s at this point where Nathan had to be either out of his mind or fully trusting in God for his protection. After all, David is the most powerful man alive and he is but a poor servant of God.
2 Samuel 12:7-12 HCSB
Nathan replied to David, “You are the man! This is what the LORD God of Israel says: ‘ I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. (8) I gave your master’s house to you and your master’s wives into your arms, and I gave you the house of Israel and Judah, and if that was not enough, I would have given you even more. (9) Why then have you despised the command of the LORD by doing what I consider evil? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife as your own wife–you murdered him with the Ammonite’s sword. (10) Now therefore, the sword will never leave your house because you despised Me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own wife.’ (11) “This is what the LORD says, ‘I am going to bring disaster on you from your own family: I will take your wives and give them to another before your very eyes, and he will sleep with them publicly. (12) You acted in secret, but I will do this before all Israel and in broad daylight.'”
Numbers 32:23b KJV
….ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out.
Nathan’s little fabricated story made David furious. It’s always amazing when those who have not repented of their own sin take pleasure in prosecuting the lesser sin of others.
Matthew 7:3 HCSB
Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye?
Now that the arrows of God’s convicting Spirit have reached their intended target and David’s heart has now been made tender Nathan can speak to David as God’s prosecuting attorney. The trap has been set and David has fallen deep into it. There’s no escaping our God when he pursues the objects of his love. David, the mighty warrior king, is now humbled and arrested before God. Nathan now lists the charges against him. Perhaps David still does not understand the gravity of his sin. In verses 7-12, Nathan draws David’s attention to his sin against God and the consequences God has pronounced for his sin. Note the repetition of the pronoun “I” in verses 7 and 8:
“It was I who . . .
. . . anointed you king
. . . delivered you from the hand of Saul
. . . gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives
. . . gave you the house of Israel and Judah
Everything David possessed has been given to him by God. Has it been so long since David was a lowly shepherd boy that he has forgotten? David is a “rich” man because God has made him rich. And if he does not think he is rich enough, God will give more to him. David has begun to cling to his “riches,” rather than to cling to the God who made him rich.
Ultimately David’s sin is against God, and it is God who gave David everything, even his heart’s desire. Yes, he remained home when Israel was at war with the enemy! and Yes, He commited adultery! Yes, He murdered an innocent God fearing man! Yes, he lived a lie! But his sin was against God.
Psalms 51:1-4 HCSB
For the choir director. A Davidic psalm, when Nathan the prophet came to him after he had gone to Bathsheba. Be gracious to me, God, according to Your faithful love; according to Your abundant compassion, blot out my rebellion. (2) Wash away my guilt, and cleanse me from my sin. (3) For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me. (4) Against You–You alone–I have sinned and done this evil in Your sight . So You are right when You pass sentence; You are blameless when You judge.
All sin is against God! Get the “You” out of your Matthew 18, not because an offense against you isn’t real, but because ALL SIN IS AGAINST GOD. And if you really love your brother and sister in Christ be a Nathan to them and represent the interest of God and his Christ.
David’s sin against God manifested itself by the evil he committed against others. Nathan outlines these, employing a repetitive “you:”
…you despised the command of the LORD by doing what I consider evil
you struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and
(you) took his wife as your own wife
you murdered him with the Ammonite’s sword
you despised Me
you took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own wife
2 Samuel 12:13
David responded to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Then Nathan replied to David, “The LORD has taken away your sin; you will not die. (14) However, because you treated the LORD with such contempt in this matter, the son born to you will die.”
Under the Mosaic Law there was no sacrifice for the sin of murder or adultery. Both sins were capital crimes that required certain death. So on what basis could God forgive and restore David?
Deuteronomy 22:22 HCSB
If a man is discovered having sexual relations with another man’s wife, both the man who had sex with the woman and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel.
Exodus 21:14 ESV
But if a man willfully attacks another to kill him by cunning, you shall take him from my altar, that he may die.
How then could God forgive and restore David unto himself? The answer is the same today as it was in David’s day. Sin can only be taken away by our Lord at the Cross. If you lived prior to the incarnation you had to look forward in time with the eye of faith to the day when God himself would make atonement for your sin through the offering of His own Son.  Turn for a moment to the larger narrative found in Genesis 22 and specifically to:
Genesis 22:8a ESV
Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.”
There’s a tendency by some to see their own sin as less serious than the sin of David. All sin is an offense to God worthy of death. As Adam’s descendants we are all born with an inability to please God. Bad trees cannot produce good fruit. There is no exception. We are all unrighteous. We are all undone.
Romans 3:10-18 ESV
As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;  v11  no one understands; no one seeks for God.  v12  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”  v13  “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.”  v14  “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”  v15  “Their feet are swift to shed blood;  v16  in their paths are ruin and misery,  v17  and the way of peace they have not known.”  v18  “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Again, the question yet modified, how then can God forgive and restore the sinner to Himself?
Romans 3:21-26 HCSB
But now, apart from the law, God’s righteousness has been revealed–attested by the Law and the Prophets (22) –that is, God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe, since there is no distinction. (23) For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (24) They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. (25) God presented Him as a propitiation through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. (26) He presented Him to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus.
But if you reject the God of David then you will surely die in your sins and suffer the wrath of God.
Revelation 20:11-15 HCSB
Then I saw a great white throne and One seated on it. Earth and heaven fled from His presence, and no place was found for them. (12) I also saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged according to their works by what was written in the books. (13) Then the sea gave up its dead, and Death and Hades gave up their dead; all were judged according to their works. (14) Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. (15) And anyone not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire . But if you would believe and trust in Jesus Christ and His shed blood to save you from your sin, then you will live and He will give to you of His Holy Spirit.
Acts 2:36-42 HCSB
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah!” (37) When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: “Brothers, what must we do?” (38) “Repent,” Peter said to them, “and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus the Messiah for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (39) For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” (40) And with many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, “Be saved from this corrupt generation!” (41) So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about 3,000 people were added to them. (42) And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers.
It is for this reason that David could once again approach his God. This is but one reason the scriptures teach;
John 1:14-18 ESV
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.  v15  (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'”)  v16  And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.  v17  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. v18  No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
Be saved from this corrupt generation!
Will you trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ!

Foundations: “The Sabbath” (Part Two) — Hebrews 3:7b-4:13 — Todd Braye

Todd BrayeToday we press on in our studies on the Sabbath. To that end I invite you to open your bibles to Hebrews 3:7. The full text is Heb 3:7b – 4:13. We won’t get through all of it today. But I hope that what we do accomplish this morning will set the stage for next week. Hebrews 3:7b – 4:13. Hear then the precious and inerrant word of God:

A Rest for the People of God

“Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness,
9 where your fathers put me to the test
and saw my works for forty years.
10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
they have not known my ways.’
11 As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest.’ ”

12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.
4 Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. 2 For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,

“As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest,’ ”

although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” 5 And again in this passage he said,

“They shall not enter my rest.”

6 Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”

8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. 9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. [i]
The Immediacy of God’s Word
Foundational to the God of the Bible is the fact that God has revealed Himself verbally. That God speaks, that He has spoken, is also a truth undergirding Hebrews to this point. It is the subject with which the writer begins in the very first chapter first verse.  “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,” he states. Evidently then, those addressed have Jewish roots. Those addressed are physical descendants of Abraham. Their heritage is therefore a rich one, one defined by a wealth of divine speech. God spoke to their fathers by way of the prophets. But now “in these last days,” the writer tells us that, in contrast to “Long ago” when God spoke through the prophets,  “God has spoken to us by His Son.” Christ, in other words, is God’s final word. And as God’s final word, Christ is the decisive word.
But in contrast to “God spoke” and “he has spoken” is “Today, if you hear his voice.” The word ‘Today’ speaks of the immediacy, if not urgency, of God’s Word. In these two chapters the phrase “Today, if you hear his voice” is repeated three times:  “Today, if you hear his voice.” “Today, if you hear his voice.” “Today, if you hear his voice.”  God spoke. He has spoken. And as long as it is called “Today,” God still speaks. How He does so is made abundantly clear to us here. All one has to do is notice the introductory phrase in verse 7a: “Therefore, the Holy Spirit says.” And what the Spirit says is what’s recorded for us in the Scripture; in this case Psalm 95:7-11. The Spirit of God never speaks divorced from the written Word of God. What is before us is therefore pressed upon us. This is for our benefit as the professing people of God.  Psalm 95 was written ages ago, but may it not fall on deaf ears today.
The Receptivity of Our Response
The immediacy of God’s Word is followed by the receptivity of our response. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…” That is God’s will for us, brethren. It is God’s will for us everyday. If we hear His voice, we need to receive it, not harden ourselves to it. It should not escape our notice this is not evangelistic. Evangelism is not in view here. Nor is it the author’s concern. His concern is for the professing people of God. We have only to pay attention to the context to see this. In chapter 3 verse 1, the author calls those to whom he writes “holy brothers,” those “who share in a heavenly calling.” He calls them brothers in 3:14. In the previous chapter, in chapter 2 verse 1, he admonishes his brothers to pay much closer attention to what they had heard, namely God’s Word spoken through His Final Word regarding His finished work, “lest they drift away from it.”  Further, the second verse of chapter four makes it more than obvious evangelism isn’t here. It says “For good news came to us…” The Word of the gospel had already been preached to them. Consequently, these words are aimed not at those outside the church, but those inside.
Obviously then, we who call ourselves Christians have need of guarding ourselves against hard-heartedness in the face of God’s Word, even His Final Word. Even though we may find ourselves amongst God’s chosen, having a faith in God, a stubborn refusal to believe the truth & submit to it is not outside the realm of possibility. One either hears as to believe and obey, or he will hear and disregard. Both responses occur within the company of God’s people. But a sensitive and receptive heart, moved to actual obedience is the heart of God’s true people.
An Example of Rebellion
The immediacy of God’s Word, the receptivity of our response: next is an example of rebellion. Israel, that is, the nation of Israel, the Old Covenant people of God, is that example. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness when your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years…” The historical referent to this is of course the exodus. By a glorious display of awesome power, God redeems Israel from Egypt (not from sin, from Egypt). Exodus 14: The Red Sea. Exodus 15: Israel sings God’s praises. Exodus 16: Israel grumbles. In the first several verses of Exodus 16, there are nine (9) references to grumbling. The whole of Israel grumbled against its leadership. Why they did so was nothing short of unbelief. The immediate issue was food and hunger. Wishing to return to the “good old days” of Egypt, forgetting their hardship, they questioned the integrity and even motivation of its leadership. Exodus 16, commencing with verse 3:

…the people of Israel said to them {Moses & Aaron}, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” 4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.[ii]

And of course, they did not. They disobeyed the instruction to eat the entire day’s portion and leave no left- overs. Exodus 14: The Red Sea. Exodus 15: Israel sings. Exodus 16: Israel grumbles and disobeys. Exodus 17:

17 All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” 3 But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” 4 So Moses cried to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” 5 And the Lord said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” [1]

Exodus 14: The Red Sea. Exodus 15: Israel joyfully sings. Exodus 16: Israel grumbles and disobeys. Exodus 17: Israel grumbles, tests God, and doubts Him. And then the big one, when Israel refused to enter the Promised Land, the land of Canaan. You recall the history. Men were chosen and sent to spy out the land. After 40 days, they returned with their report. They spoke of a land flowing with milk and honey. However, the cities were fortified and large, the men were big and strong, and Israel’s enemies lived there.  Caleb goes to Moses and says, in effect, “Let’s go!’ “Let’s go over and occupy the land. We can do it!’ But (Numbers 13),

“…the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.” 32 So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. 33 And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.” 14 Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. 2 And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” [iii]

The reason for the land was a promise. God had promised Abraham to give his offspring a land. And here we see the first exodus generation refusing that promise, why? Moses tells us in Deuteronomy 1 beginning in the 25th verse:

And they took in their hands some of the fruit of the land and brought it down to us, and brought us word again and said, ‘It is a good land that the Lord our God is giving us.’

26 “Yet you would not go up, but rebelled against the command of the Lord your God. 27 And you murmured in your tents and said, ‘Because the Lord hated us he has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to give us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us. 28 Where are we going up? Our brothers have made our hearts melt, saying, “The people are greater and taller than we. The cities are great and fortified up to heaven. And besides, we have seen the sons of the Anakim there.” ’ 29 Then I said to you, ‘Do not be in dread or afraid of them. 30 The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, 31 and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place.’ 32 Yet in spite of this word you did not believe the Lord your God…” [iv]

Again, the Psalmist, recounting this, elsewhere writes these words:

Then they despised the pleasant land, having no faith in his promise. They murmured in their tents, and did not obey the voice of the Lord” (Ps. 106:25).

I belabor this because this is so foundational. This is so basic to the argument and the admonition of Hebrews 3 and 4. God delivered Israel from Pharaoh, placing them on a trajectory that would see them enjoy the fullness of the blessings of a rich land. This place, this land was the goal of the exodus…and Israel, that first generation, because of unbelief, did not reach it.
The Consequence of Unbelief
The immediacy of God’s Word, the receptivity of our response, an example of rebellion: and finally the consequence of unbelief. Verses 10 and 11 tell us God was provoked to wrath with that generation. Though they were the physical offspring and children of Abraham, the chosen of God, presumably wearing the sign of the covenant, God swore in His anger that that generation, that wicked generation as He calls them, would not enter what was promised! Therefore,” says God, “I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’11As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’[v] The corresponding text to this is Numbers 14:30. It states the following: “No one shall come into the land … except Caleb…and Joshua…” Why David, the Psalmist, changes “land” to “rest” is reason for consideration. Number one: By the time David wrote Psalm 95, Joshua had led the second generation into the land.  Joshua 21:43-45 states:

43 Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. 44 And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. 45 Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.”[vi]

God gave Israel the land. Israel got their land. God was faithful. His promise came to pass. Therefore, number two, the ‘rest’ of which David speaks in Psalm 95 must be a different ‘rest’ in a different place for a different people, namely those of God’s house. Who is that house? WE are His house “IF indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts! Psalm 95 is a warning to us. Let us be warned this day. God swore in His wrath that those who harden their hearts to His voice shall not enter His rest.
The Exhortation to Care
Therefore, take care, brothers, lest there be in any one of us an evil, unbelieving heart, leading us to fall away from the living God! This is the concern of the text, even of Hebrews. Apostasy, falling away from God, unfaithfulness, drifting away from the gospel: we must, as a church, as a fellowship, as a family, see to it that these things do not happen amongst us.  Instead, look at what we are to do. Verse 13: “But exhort one another, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” There is so much here to unpack. But we can’t do that today. But do not let it escape your notice that everyone, not just the leadership, is called into action here. Exhortation that none be hardened is the responsibility of all in the house. “Exhort one another!” It is a biblical church that engages in mutual exhortation. The most loving, caring thing a church can do is exhort that none be hardened and fall away from the living God. Oh may we never forget that the church is not a club. It is not a place to be entertained for a couple hours on Sunday if there’s nothing better to do. It’s all too easy to play church. It’s all too easy to go through the motions and not be involved in each other’s lives, or simply talk small talk. Exhortation isn’t small talk… But what is it to exhort? What is exhortation? Exhortation is sometimes pleading, urging, sometimes encouraging, sometimes consoling, sometimes warning, and sometimes reproving, according to the need of the moment and with speech seasoned, even dripping, with grace.
The ground given for this exhorting is made explicit in the 17th verse. Look at it closely. It says, “For we share in Christ, IF indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.”  This makes perseverance a matter of life and death. True faith is tethered to not drifting from the truth and falling away, but enduring in both faith and faithfulness. Do those truly in Christ fall away? No they do not. They persevere in faith to the end. But only those who so persevere share in Christ. We share in Christ, IF we hold on to the end in persevering faith. It isn’t enough to receive the gospel evidently. It isn’t enough to receive the truth of Christ and the cross; one must hold on to it, keep it, and “retain it unshakably.”[vii]
So again Hebrews exhorts us:

Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion. For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.”[viii]

Hebrews urges us and pleads with us to not be like that generation of God’s people. Don’t be like them. Be the opposite of them. Don’t harden your hearts when God speaks in His Word. Do not miss one thing here. Do not miss the connection made in verses 18 and 19 between disobedience and unbelief. Verse 18 says: “And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.” So, which is it? Did disobedience prevent them or did unbelief? There is a relationship of cause and effect here. We need to understand this for many reasons, one of which is to see ourselves and judge our faith rightly. There are two kinds of faith: true and false. And if we understand the cause and effect here, we will be better equipped to make a sober examination of our faith.  So, what’s the relationship?  Notice the end of verse 19 and the phrase “because of unbelief.” That’s the cause. The exodus generation, “those who were disobedient” (verse 18) did not enter the land because they did not believe God’s promise.  Unbelief is the cause. Disobedience is the result or the manifestation or the fruit of unbelief. Unbelief begets disobedience. Disobedience is the expression of unbelief. Conversely therefore, faith begets obedience.  Had the first generation believed God, they would’ve invaded Canaan. But they disobeyed because they were wrought with unbelief.  Where there is disobedience there is disbelief. Remember that the next time Mr. Temptation lies to you. Unbelief begets disobedience. But believing begets obedience.
Such is the context if not foundation upon which the writer to the Hebrews is about to speak of a Sabbath rest remaining for the people of God. We will go no further today. Today it enough to hear the exhortation, “If you hear his voice do not harden your hearts” as they did, incurring the wrath of God, not entering that which was promised them because of unbelief manifested by disobedience. It is enough to hear that there was a generation of God’s people in redemptive history that forfeited the goal and consummation of its redemption. It is enough to be jarred by these things. O might we be jarred by these things! God doesn’t play games! He will not be mocked! Let us pray that we sense the urgency of the opening verses of chapter 4: “Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still remains, let us fear lest any of [us] should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them…”

[1] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Ex 17:1–7). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[i] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Heb 3:7–4:13). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[ii] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Ex 16:3–4). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[iii] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Nu 13:31–14:4). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[iv] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Dt 1:25–32). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[v] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Heb 3:10–11). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[vi] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Jos 21:43–45). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[vii] C. Spicq
[viii] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Heb 3:16–19). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

New Covenant Water Baptism is NOT Circumcision (Msg 2 of 2)

Is New Covenant Water Baptism the New Covenant replacement of the Old Testament sign of Circumcision? We think not! Admittance into the New Covenant is strictly through the circumcision of the heart by the Holy Spirit and Faith in Jesus Christ. We hope you give serious consideration to the two messages we are presenting by Dr. John Piper that clearly refute the practice of baptizing unbelievers.
– Moe Bergeron

Buried And Raised In Baptism Through Faith
Colossians 2:8-15

May 11, 1997
Bethlehem Baptist Church
John Piper, Pastor
See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. 9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; 11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.
Does Christian Baptism Parallel Old Testament Circumcision?
This is the second in a four-part series on Christian baptism. Let me tell you a bit about how I am choosing the texts to preach from. I discovered in my seminary and graduate school days that my old ways of defending believer’s baptism were not compelling. I used to spend time pointing out that all the baptisms described in the New Testament are baptisms of believers and that all the commands to be baptized are given to believers. I used to point out that infant baptism is simply not mentioned in the Bible and that it is questionable to build a crucial church practice on a theological inference, without explicit Biblical teaching when all the examples go in the opposite direction.
But I discovered that those who baptize infants (“paedobaptists”) were not swayed by these observations, because they pointed out that, of course, we only see believer’s baptism in the New Testament since we are dealing in all these settings with first generation evangelism, not with second generation child-rearing. Everybody agrees that the only adults that should be baptized are believing adults. The issue is, what happens when these baptized Christian adults have children?
So they pointed out that all my statistics are irrelevant and the question boils down to one of theological inference. Specifically, does Christian baptism parallel Old Testament circumcision as the sign of those who join the covenant people of God, and if so, should not the children of Christians receive baptism the way the sons of Israel received circumcision?
For example, the Heidelberg Catechism was written in 1562 as an expression of the Reformed faith. It is said by some to have the intimacy of Martin Luther and the charity of Philip Melanchthon and the fire of John Calvin : three great Reformers in the 16th century. At the end of the section on baptism, question #74 asks, “Are infants also to be baptized?” The answer goes like this:
Yes; for since they, as well as their parents, belong to the covenant and people of God, and both redemption from sin and the Holy Ghost, who works faith, are through the blood of Christ promised to them no less than to their parents, they are also by Baptism, as a sign of the covenant, to be ingrafted into the Christian Church, and distinguished from the children of unbelievers, as was done in the Old testament by Circumcision, in place of which in the New Testament Baptism is appointed.
Now this has been the standard understanding of baptism among Presbyterians and Congregationalists and Methodists and many others for hundreds of years. Lutherans and Catholics defend the practice of infant baptism differently, putting more emphasis than these other churches have on the actual regenerating effect of the act.
Are New Truths Revealed in the New Covenant?
So one of the most crucial questions you must face as you ponder the New Testament command to be baptized is whether you think this parallel with circumcision settles the matter. That is, is it the will of God revealed in the New Testament that Baptism and circumcision correspond so closely that what circumcision signified, baptism signifies? Or are there new truths about the creation and nature of the people of God in the New Covenant that point toward a discontinuity as well as continuity between circumcision and baptism?
Well, in my struggles with this issue over the years, especially the years in graduate school when I was studying mainly with paedobaptists, three or four texts, more than any others, kept me from embracing the argument from circumcision. One is Colossians 2:11-12. Another is 1 Peter 3:21. Another is Romans 9:8. And another is Galatians 3:26-27. I will take the Colossians text today and build on the others in the weeks to come.
But first let’s make sure we don’t miss the forest for the trees. This text (Colossians 2:10-15) is a virtual rain forest of strong gospel timber. Get a bird’s eye view of it with me. It’s all about what God has done for us (in history, objectively through Christ), and what he has done in us so that we will indeed inherit what he purchased
What God Has Done For Us
Take first the objective, historical, external work of God in verses 14-15. In essence, what these two verses tell us is that our two greatest enemies were defeated in the death of Christ. Nothing more powerful than the death of Christ has ever happened.
The first enemy defeated was the “certificate of debt” that was filed against us in the courtroom of heaven. In other words, because of our sin and rebellion, the laws of God had become a deadly witness against us and we were in such deep debt to God that there was no way out. Verse 14 says that Christ canceled that whole debt by paying it all on the cross. “[He] canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” So the great enemy of our sin and guilt and debt, Christ defeated. That happened in history, objectively, outside us.
The second enemy defeated was the host of evil spiritual beings : the devil and his forces. Verse 15: “When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.” It’s true that we must still “wrestle with principalities and powers” (Ephesians 6:12), but if we wrestle in the power of Christ and his shed blood, they are as good as defeated, because the blow he struck was lethal. Revelation 12:11 says that believers “overcame [the devil] because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even to death.” We must fight. But the battle belongs to the Lord and the decisive blow has been struck at Calvary. Satan cannot destroy us.
What God Has Done in Us
Now besides these two great objective, external, historical triumphs over our worst enemies (the debt of sin before God and the devil’s hosts on earth), this forest also describes what God does in us : not just for us and outside of us but in us so that we benefit from what was done outside of us.
He uses two pictures: one is circumcision and the other is resurrection. Verse 13 focuses mainly on our resurrection:
When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.
So you see what he does in us: we were spiritually dead, and he made us alive. This is the miracle of the new birth. You were saved because God spoke a life-giving, resurrecting word into your heart (2 Corinthians 4:6).
The other picture of what God does in us is the picture of circumcision. Verse 11:
In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.
Now this is harder to understand because the ideas are more foreign to us. Paul compares the saving work of God in us with the practice of circumcision. He says it’s like that, only this is a circumcision made “without hands” : it’s a spiritual thing he is talking about, not a physical one. And he says that what is being cut away is not the male foreskin, but the “body of the flesh.” In Paul’s language that’s probably a reference to sin-dominated, ego-dominated use of the body. What is cut away in this spiritual circumcision “without hands” is the old unbelieving, blind, rebellious self and its use of the body for sin. And that way, Paul is saying, God makes a person his very own.
So we have seen two pictures of what God does for us, objectively, historically, outside ourselves to save us: he defeats the enemy of sin and the enemy of Satan. And we have seen two pictures of what God does in us to make us part of that salvation: he raises us from the dead spiritually and he circumcises our hearts and strips away the old rebellious self and makes us new.
Baptism and Circumcision
Now, in that forest of glorious good news, here’s the question about the tree of baptism: is water baptism the Christian counterpart to Old Testament circumcision? Is the continuity such that, just as circumcision was given to the children of God’s covenant people then, baptism should now be given to the children of God’s covenant people?
The key verses are verses 11-12. Notice the linking of the two ideas of circumcision and baptism:
. . .in Him [Christ] you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
It’s clear there’s a link here between baptism and circumcision. But it isn’t, I think, what many infant baptizers think it is. Notice what sort of circumcision is spoken of in verse 11: it is precisely a circumcision “without hands.” That means Paul is talking about a spiritual counterpart of the Old Testament physical ritual. Then baptism is linked in verse 12 to that spiritual counterpart to the Old Testament circumcision. This is extremely important. Try to get it.
What is the New Testament counterpart or parallel to the Old Testament rite of circumcision? Answer: it is not the New Testament rite of baptism; it is the New Testament spiritual event of the circumcision of Christ cutting away “the [old sinful] body of the flesh.” then, baptism is brought in as the external expression of that spiritual reality. That is precisely what the link between verses 11 and 12 says. Christ does a circumcision without hands : that is the New Testament, spiritual fulfillment of Old Testament circumcision. Then verse 12 draws the parallel between that spiritual fulfillment and the external rite of baptism.
Notice what verse 11 stresses about the new work of Christ in circumcising: it is a circumcision “without hands.” But water baptism is emphatically a ritual done “with hands.” If we simply say that this New Testament ordinance of baptism done with hands corresponds to the Old Testament ritual of circumcision done with hands, then we miss the most important truth: something new is happening in the creation of people of God called the church of Christ. They are being created by a “circumcision without hands” by God. They are being raised from the dead by God. And baptism is a sign of that, not a repetition of the Old Testament sign. There is a new sign of the covenant because the covenant people are being constituted in a new way : by spiritual birth, not physical birth.
“Through Faith”
And one of the clearest evidences for this is the little phrase “through faith” in verse 12. Watch this carefully. This is what held me back from paedobaptism through years of struggle, until I saw more and more reasons not to join up. Verse 12 links the New Testament spiritual circumcision “without hands” in verse 11 with baptism, and then links baptism with faith:
Having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
If baptism were merely a parallel of the Old Testament rite of circumcision it would not have to happen “through faith” since infants did not take on circumcision “through faith.” The reason the New Testament ordinance of baptism must be “through faith” is that it represents not the Old Testament external ritual, but the New Testament, internal, spiritual experience of circumcision “without hands.”
Those two words : “through faith” : in verse 12 are the decisive, defining explanation of how we were buried with Christ in baptism and how we were raised with him in baptism: it was “through faith.” And this is not something infants experience. Faith is a conscious experience of the heart yielding to the work of God. Infants are not capable of this, and therefore infants are not fit subjects of baptism, which is “through faith.”
So I urge those of you who have not yet come to faith in Christ to consider the rainforest of good news in these verses: that Christ died and rose again to cancel our debt with God and to triumph over Satan; and that he raises spiritually dead people from the grave and circumcises sinful hearts : he does all this through faith. He brings us to trust him, by showing us how true and beautiful he is. Look to him and believe.
And then he bids us to express that faith in baptism. If you want to prepare for this step of obedience, you can come up after the service, or you can check it off on the worship folder leaf, or you can come to the baptismal preparation class starting next Sunday for two weeks.
May the Lord draw many of you to the enjoyment of this full obedience “through faith.”
© Desiring God
From John Piper: Our mission is to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples, through Jesus Christ. Feel free to copy and share this message by following our lead in not selling it but by providing it freely to others. We ask that you share it in its entirety as is. For more information about our ministry visit our web pages at Desiring God or email us at DG.

Grace Versus Slavery Galatians 4:8-11

There are a number of themes that run through the symphony of our teaching. Foremost of all is the supremacy of Jesus Christ and the good news about him. We proclaim him (Col 1:28). We want you to know the story of God’s glory and joy in the Lord Christ. Alongside that great theme, which is so prominent in this letter to the Galatians are the themes of God’s sovereign grace and new covenant theology that are also prominent in this letter. We do not usually use the terms Reformed or Calvinistic on the one hand, or NCT on the other, because we desire people to follow Christ and not any system of theology. But we are not ashamed to own the terms among those who understand what they mean. I said all that to say this. The passage before us reveals the doctrine of God’s sovereign grace, just as 1:16 did. We preach truths as they appear in the text. We do not go searching for verses that we hope might support our doctrinal preferences. This is another reason we usually preach or teach through whole books of the Bible. However, we may preach or teach from important biblical ideas, when we think necessary. Paul has just completed a great statement about the adult sonship or adoption of new covenant believers. He has emphasized the role of the Holy Spirit in relation to our adult sonship. Now he starts to apply the teaching to his readers to keep us walking or living in the grace of God. He will strengthen this appeal by referring to the truth of God’s sovereign grace.
Here is the connection of this section with what precedes it. If you were a slave and are now are an adult son of God, how can you turn back into any kind of slavery? How can you in your practice repudiate the freedom that Christ the Redeemer purchased for you? We should notice that this section is primarily rebuke rather than instruction. None of us are naturally warm toward rebuke. In my thirty years as a pastor, I’ve never had anyone call me up and ask, “Hey Pastor Dave, why don’t you come over so that you can rebuke me for an hour?” We flee rebuke, don’t we? But then you can put this on the back burner and mull it over later: If I resist rebuke, then how can I expect to profit from the Scriptures as we serve one another in love in this body of believers (cf. Gal 5:13; 2 Tm 3:16; Col 3:16). But now, let’s look at our section for this morning.
I.          The change that the Galatians had experienced (4:8-9a)
– The Spirit in the NTS constantly appeals to us in this way: from old way of life to new way of life.
A.        Their former way of life

1.         They did not know God. This knowledge is not the knowledge of information but the knowledge of relationship. When we know God in a saving relationship, we know him as the God of sovereignty, holiness, grace, and love. How many worship an illusion, because they do not know the God who reveals himself in the Bible!

2.         They were enslaved to false gods. We must understand what is meant by false gods. The supposed deities are not who people think. They are not really a deity, because there is only one God. By nature they are not gods. But there are spiritual agents involved. Paul elsewhere (1 Cor 10:9-20) calls these spiritual agents who represent themselves as gods demons. The worship of false gods is one form of Satanic bondage (cf. 2 Tm 2:26).

B.        Their new position and way of life

1.         Now they know the Lord. This is a basic blessing of the new covenant (Heb 8:11). Yet there is legitimate growth in this knowledge of God (2 Pt 3:18; Eph 1:17).

2.         Observe Paul’s zeal for the reality of God’s sovereign grace as he speaks to this point. He does not want to give them the wrong impression. It was not by any merit, worth, or work that the Galatians had come to know the Lord. God’s knowledge of us precedes our knowledge and creates ours (cf. Rm 8:28-29). It did not “just happen” that they came to know God. Instead, Christ by the Holy Spirit knew them and sought them and brought them to him to give them his overflowing grace!

Apply: So then, the apostle reminds them that their relational knowledge of the Lord is purely a blessing of grace, not connected with their works or spirituality. Do you know this? Do you rejoice in the grace of God in your life? Or are you vainly working to try to know God? God is not found by our intellectual, religious, or spiritual efforts. He makes himself known by grace through the preaching of the good news of his Son.
II.        The contradiction in their present way of life (4:9b-10)
A.        He briefly reminds them of what they ought to enjoy in Christ.

1.         To be a son or daughter of God means to be free. We must understand what the Bible means by freedom. It never means to be released from our obligation to love, to serve, and to live for the glory of the true God. Freedom is the absence of restraint in our fellowship, worship or relationship with God. Slavery to sin and Satan restrains the unsaved person from loving, serving and living for God. Bondage under the law covenant restrained the old covenant believer in these matters also, because the sacrifices of the law could never cleanse the conscience (Heb 10:1-2; 9:9). Even for believers, there was always guilt that was covered, but not satisfied and taken away. On the other hand, access and boldness set forth the freedom of the new covenant believer (Eph 2:18; 3:12; Heb 9:14; 10:22).

2.         This freedom of relationship with the living God produces a way of life of righteousness, peace, and joy (Rm 14:17-18; 15:13; 2 Cor 3:17-18; Eph 1:18; 3:14-19).

B.        But Paul has to confront them about their present sorrowful state. Their gospel position was not producing a gospel condition. They were good news people with a bad news way of life. Something was wrong!

1.         What were they doing? They were turning back to weak and miserable principles! In the strictest sense, they could not return to them, since they were never under them. But to seek merit in their observance was the same as their old reliance on superstition. Whatever is unable to bring us to the living God is a “weak and miserable principle”.

2.         How were they doing it? They had relapsed to Jewish or law covenant practices.

a.         There are three ways such ceremonies could be used. First, they could be used in relation to Christ—as signs and shadows of his coming. This was the true use of believers who lived under the law prior to the events of the gospel. Second, they could be used without Christ—only as religious customs, whether before or after he came. Third, they could be used against Christ—supposing there is some kind of religious merit in their observance.

b.         “When certain days are represented as holy in themselves, when one day is distinguished from another on religious grounds, when holy days are reckoned a part of divine worship, the days are improperly observed” (Calvin, cf. Col 2:16).

Apply: This should warn us of the danger of invented holy days. Not only do some do this, which may or may not be within the boundaries of Christian liberty, but then they teach that there is some special merit in keeping them. And that certainly is against God’s grace in Christ.
III.       The concern Paul had for them (4:11)
A.        Paul was interested in people

1.         When he said, “I fear for you,” it was not an “I fear for my ministry.” The minister of Christ is judged on his faithfulness to Christ and the gospel, and not by counting heads.

2.         The Christian minister wants people to enjoy the blessings of the gospel (cf. 3 Jn 4). He is most happy when people are rejoicing in the Lord Jesus Christ.

B.        Paul questioned the real results of his ministry among them.

1.         Understand Paul’s perspective. It is one thing for a minister of the gospel to hear his people saying, “I do not deserve to be a son of God.” That might be the evidence of true humility by one who realizes his sinfulness. (However, they might also be saying it because they do not comprehend the freeness of gospel grace.) But it is quite another matter for a servant of Christ to hear people say, “We don’t want freedom. We want to live by the law.” Or, “we want to live by outwardly observable standards of behavior. Just tell us how to measure up.” Paul wondered if the Galatians really understood what the gospel of grace was.

2.         A minister can only evaluate by what he sees. He cannot see into the heart, and he has no access to read the Book of Life to see if his people’s names are written in it. Let me say something plainly. It is heartbreaking to see people have little apparent interest in the gospel after one has invested years of his life for their well-being. That is what Paul means when he says, “I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.”

Apply: So then, does your life in gospel grace create joy in the hearts of other believers? Or does your lack of love, joy, and peace produce anxiety and concern? God intends for us to live in a way that brings joy to him and his people. This can only happen as we remain in Christ and the gospel. Do you love the Lord and the gospel message? Today can be the start of a new life for you! Believe in Christ and then stand firm in that belief.
Pastor Dave Frampton

When push comes to shove there is usually nothing more satisfying than for a saint of God to have at his or her disposal a source of biblically sound instruction in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are here at CMC to be a blessing. Bible teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit First Baptist Church

The Spirit Who Calls Out: Galatians 4:6-7 – David Frampton

We are exploring the great blessing of the Holy Spirit and our adult sonship in the Lord Jesus Christ. Every spiritual blessing we have come to us in Christ and through Christ and on the basis of Christ’s finished work of redemption.  Previously we saw that as the Spirit of adult sonship, the Holy Spirit makes known to us the personal presence of the crucified, risen, and ascended Lord Jesus. As the Spirit does this, we have personal fellowship with Jesus, experience ongoing transformation into Christ’s likeness, and know with certainty that we are in God the Father’s family as adult sons and heirs. And then we looked at one application of this in regard to how we talk.
I.          The Spirit of adult sonship persuades us about our relationship to God as Father
A.        The Spirit witnesses to our sonship.

1.         He gives assurance of our relationship to God. This is direct, internal witness that is not observable to other people. By the Spirit we have personal knowledge that God is our Father. Along with this the Spirit gives us a strong conviction or persuasion of the truth of the Holy Scriptures. We hear our God’s voice in them.

Comment: This experience can and does vary in intensity and clarity, in conformity with our interactions with God as Father (Eph 4:30; 1 Th 5:19).

2.         This is very relevant to our attitude about our relationship with God.

a.         We have the boldness of a son. The king’s son does not need to play political games to get to see his father. Neither do we have to play religious games to be able to approach our Father in heaven. Some suppose they need to go to church, to read the Bible and pray, and to give money to the church to “get God to like them”. My friend, get off of the religious treadmill. Adult sons and daughters of God may walk confidently into his presence. You are accepted as adult son in Christ, and the Holy Spirit calls out in you to act as such!

b.         We have the trust of a son in life’s circumstances. “My Father will protect me; my Father knows what is best for me; my Father delights to share his mission with me; my Father wants me to share his joy in Christ.”

B.        The Spirit develops our sense of our relationship to God as adult sons.

1.         The Holy Spirit does this by effectively working in the inner person of the heart. He puts a “God as Father” consciousness into the mind of the believer. He cries out in us, so that we cry out, “Abba, Father” (Rm 8:15).

2.         The word cry shows the intensity of this experience. “‘Crying’ (krazo) implies an importunate approach to God, in which the most appropriate basis is an appeal to our filial relationship to God” (Guthrie). “This cry points to the passionate, violent operation of the Spirit” (Ridderbos). The Spirit strives to make this real to our often dull hearts.

Apply: The Spirit of God doesn’t want us to be feeble and faltering in our spirituality. He wants us to claim what Christ purchased. Are we asserting this claim?
II.        The Spirit of adult sonship develops our intimate fellowship with God as Father.
A.        This should intensely affect the way we pray. Every prayer should be that of an adult son or daughter communicating with the Father in heaven.

1.         The closest the majority of believers seem to come to this is when they begin their prayers by saying, “Dear heavenly Father,” or similar words. It is with sadness that we observe that they use the words without sensing and feeling their significance. Do they need to understand? Yes, they do, for the glory of God and their joy.

2.         It might be helpful to pose this question. “Who is that believer on his or her knees? To whom do they pray?” From a new covenant position in history, the acceptable answers are that he or she is an adult son and that they are praying to their Father in heaven.

a.         The Spirit of God works in the sons of God in such a gracious, Christ-based way that we fervently call out, “Abba, Father,” like Jesus did. The Spirit gives the attitude and confidence of sons to the new covenant people of God, so that we draw near to God together “as children to a father ready and able to help them” (Murray, Romans).

b.         Notice that the Spirit of sonship is not the author of attitudes whereby a person acts out of slavish fear (cf. 2 Tm 1:7). To act out of slavish fear is to relapse into an old covenant condition.

Apply: Are your prayers characterized by the confidence and attitudes of this verse?
B.        This should affect every aspect of our fellowship with God.

1.         When believers under the old covenant would praise God they would often refer to him as “the God of Israel” (Ps 72:18; etc.) But since Christ is the fulfillment of God’s promises and what was “shadowed” in Israel, new covenant believer “bless him now as the ‘God and Father of Jesus Christ,’ and to view him upon that account as become a God and Father unto them” (Goodwin, Works, Vol. 6, p. 151).

2.         Father is a word of family relationship. It binds God to us and it binds us to God. “We are to honour him as our Father, This one word is sufficient to express our duty to a father, and that is a word of reverence; for it includeth a mixed affection of fear and love” (Sibbes, Works, Vol. 6, p. 452). Here is the word that touches the very emotions of God when his children call out to him.

Illustration: Think of a parent’s reaction when their child calls out, “Daddy! Mommy!” As a parent of adult children the call for help still stirs me deeply.

3.         Since we are in Christ, our relation to God is changed. God puts “aside the person of a Judge. Having received full satisfaction in Christ, he is now in the relation of a sweet Father to us” (Sibbes, Vol. 1, p. 361).

Illustration: It’s hard to have a relationship with a judge. Have you ever gone before a traffic court judge? “Let’s be friends.” I don’t think so!

a.         The Spirit of adult sonship “gives a new character to his devotions; they are no longer the expression of an anxious and fearful heart,,, but the outpourings of a spirit confiding in a father’s wisdom, rejoicing in a father’s love, and committing itself to a father’s care” (Buchanan, The Office and Work of the Holy Spirit, p. 259).

Illustration: How does a child talk to his father? “Dad, guess what happened today!” Or, “Dad, could you help me?” Or, “Dad, I have a problem.”

b.         Since we are adult sons, the holy and righteous God permits us to boldly, yet reverently, open our hearts to him and to enter into a reasonable discussion with him. Let’s consider a few examples. “Father, I seem to be forsaken. What is wrong? Where is the closeness that I used to feel to you?” Or, “Where are the mercies that you used to show me?” Or, “What am I supposed to do in this situation for your glory?” Or, “Father, I want to walk more closely with you! How can that happen?”

Apply: We need the direct work of the Holy Spirit to make this all real to us.
Apply: Read some of the prayers written in the New Testament Scriptures and seek to pray them with the Spirit of adult sonship helping you. Consciously depend on the Holy Spirit as you pray. And be sure to pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ when you pray.
Apply: Continue our group project of blessing at least five people outside of our local assembly this week. Also continue to find five occasions to bless the members of your family by your words. Bless them as the adult son of God that you are, since you are called to inherit a blessing.

The Spirit and Adult Sonship: Galatians 4:6-7

Let’s begin with an illustration, and I hope that you do not get stuck here, since we have more to do than just this illustration. Most people fail to enjoy marriage fully. There is an old saying that men marry for rest, women for romance, and both are disappointed. Perhaps part of this problem is the overly high expectations of women regarding romance. (Ladies, you married a real man, not some hero from a romance novel.) But surely men, we need to boldly own our responsibility to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it. Men typically have an inadequate idea of what loving their wives in a Christ-like way means, they lack the power to do it, and they fail in the day to day task of being a loving husband.
Now, let’s move on to the subject matter. Believers are in a close, personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. We are the bride of Christ. Sadly most believers fail to experience joy in this relationship, especially the fullness of joy that the Lord intends for us (cf. Jn 15:11). But the problem in this relationship is not in any way with the husband, Jesus Christ, but with the bride, those who believe in him. Our failures are in three intertwined areas:

[1]        We do not know what our relationship with Christ is to be. This involves a twin failure of inadequate theology and poor teaching.

[2]        We do not rely on the Lord Jesus for strength necessary to relate with him. This is a relationship of unequal partners, and so we must exercise faith in him in order to keep up with him. Picture Peter walking on the water. He got out of the boat by faith, but he took his eyes of Christ, put them on the waves, and down he went. Then he had to call out to Jesus for help.

[3]        We do not walk with him in daily fellowship. We do not apply ourselves to this wonderful relationship. We would rather be a self-indulgent bride, dressed in fine clothing and sitting on a comfortable sofa, while munching on chocolates. The Lord Jesus always wants us to walk with him on his mission.

3.         Today, we want to concentrate on the first of these failures. There will be many opportunities in Galatians to focus on the others.
I.          We receive the Holy Spirit because of our adult sonship in Christ.
The “we” in this statement means believers in Christ since the accomplishment of redemption by his death and resurrection.
A.        Two observations

1.         We must not forget what the apostle has already presented in the context. Paul is discussing the privileges and blessings of new covenant believers. Yes, believers prior to our Lord’s resurrection were regenerated and had a position in God’s family as minor children. But they did not and could not have the position and benefits of adult sons and heirs.

2.         We must allow the words of the text to speak to us and to control our theology. We must not allow our own ideas to confuse the message. Notice that the text says “because you are sons.” Adult “sonship is not the result of the operation of the Spirit, but is rather its basis” (Ridderbos). The Holy Spirit does not make us sons, but we receive the Holy Spirit because we are sons. The ongoing experience of the Holy Spirit in the believer is primarily connected with our adult sonship. (Start with Jn, Rm, Gal & Eph, not with Ac and 1 Cor.)

B.        Avoiding wrong paths in our theology and experience – Many focus on some particular aspect of the Spirit’s work to the virtual exclusion of what the apostle teaches here, and so hinder the experience of Christ’s followers. Here are some examples of this (from Packer’s Keep in Step with the Spirit, pp. 18-45).

1.         Power for living to lift the believer out of struggles – Keswick theology

2.         Performance, in the sense of exercising spiritual gifts – Pentecostals

3.         Purity from the defilement of sin – Reformed

C.        A better approach that incorporates what is true from the preceding based on the greater reality of the Spirit’s new covenant ministry – Presence

1.         Since the believer is in union with the crucified, risen, and ascended Son of God, the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of adult sonship, makes known the personal presence of the Son of God within the hearts of the adult sons of God.

2.         As the Spirit makes known Christ’s presence in his people, we have personal fellowship with Jesus, experience ongoing transformation in Christ’s likeness, and have the certainty of being chosen, loved, redeemed, justified, and adopted into God the Father’s family as an adult son, who is also an heir.

II.        The manner of our reception of the Spirit of sonship
A.        Source – The Holy Spirit was sent from the Father (cf. Jn 14:16, 26; 15:26).

1.         Here is evidence of God’s Fatherly compassion and wisdom (cf. Mt 7:9-11). The Father has given us the Holy Spirit to bring us to a better position than Adam lost. God created us to be revelation receivers, meaning makers, and worshipers. Adam and Eve sinned in each area and wrecked the world. Now notice what God the Father does for his adult sons! He gives us the author of revelation (2 Pt 1:20-21) to help us understand revelation. He gives us the Spirit of wisdom (Eph 1:17) to help us interpret life God’s way, and the living spring of new covenant worship that we may worship according to the Spirit (Ph 3:3). We now worship as sons who delight in the glory of God.

Apply: This helps us be free from what people call addictions, but what are actually idolatrous lusts. We have the expulsive power of a greater affection.

2.         Here is the unity of God’s purpose: the Father plans, the Son purchases, and the Holy Spirit applies redemption and its many benefits. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Cor 3:17).

B.        The Spirit is identified as the Spirit of his Son (cf. Rm 8:9).

1.         The NTS maintain a close link between the atonement of Jesus Christ and the ministry of the Spirit. The ascended Christ pours out the Spirit of God because of his finished work of redemption.

2.         The essence of the Spirit’s new covenant ministry is to exalt Christ in the believer (Jn 16:14).

C.        The Spirit is sent into our hearts. The heart means the inner person, including the spirit, the soul, the mind, emotions, and will, etc.

1.         “In distinction from the law, which is solely an external authority and cannot change the heart, the Spirit, as the gift of the New Testament [Covenant], penetrates the hearts in order to quicken [make alive] and renew them…” (Ridderbos).

2.         The Spirit works within us to change us from the inside out unto likeness to Jesus Christ. He equips Christ’s followers to think and to act like followers of Christ. He goes into the core of our being to accomplish this task.

D.        The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit ought to be changing us in very practical ways; for example, in the way we talk. I want to challenge us in this area. Words in agreement with the fruit of the Spirit should be the overflow of our hearts.

1.         What we speak comes out from our hearts (Lk 6:43-45).

2.         We must put off the old ways of sinful talking (Eph 4:31; 5:4).

3.         Instead, we must speak words of blessing (Lk 6:28; Rm 12:14; 1 Pt 3:9).

Apply: Continue our group project of blessing at least five people outside of our local assembly this week. In addition, find five occasions to bless the members of your family by your words. Bless them as the adult son of God that you are, since you are called to inherit a blessing.
1.         The Christian life is a life of adult sonship. It is not slavery to rules, to fear, etc. It is the joy of living as the adopted son and heir of the Sovereign of the universe.
2.         The way to live the Christian life involves living according to who you are in Jesus Christ. Live every day in that experience. Know > rely > walk

Foundations: “The Sabbath” (Part One) – Exodus 20:8-11

Today we begin a short series on the Sabbath. Not unlike many doctrines, the Sabbath is one of ‘those’ topics. Not unlike many doctrines, it’s a topic to which much ink has been sacrificed. In the history of the church, much has been written about the Sabbath. In fact, so much has been written about it, one wonders if it’s at all possible to read all the material. What is not to be wondered about, however, is the fact that the Sabbath, as that which is Biblical, is a beneficial doctrine. “All Scripture is profitable for doctrine,” the apostle states. So, men have preached about it, explained it, defended it, and exhorted others to keep it. And not unlike most if not all doctrines, the Sabbath is a ‘ground-zero’ of much heated debate. We must be honest with ourselves: Sabbath teaching, while beneficial, is also controversial. The Sabbath has been, and is, a cause for division, even, and especially, in the church. This is lamentable. This is sad. Why I say this I hope you will see by the time we’re done; which I think will be in three or four Sundays. But by now, you know, or should know, that any and all Biblical teaching stirs up controversy. The history of the church displays this. Somewhere, sometime, and in some fashion men, both inside and outside the church, take issue with something the Bible states. In our own experience, as we find ourselves in the 21st century, we know this to be true. We don’t need to be church historians to realize that the exclusivity of Christ, for example, is hotly debated. We know ourselves that the doctrine of God’s sovereignty over all things, including one’s salvation, is controversial and stirs up much visceral churning and fierce contention. We know that the doctrine of the cross, Christ and Him crucified, as that which alone saves, is a point of contention. The very name of our church, Sovereign Grace Baptist, flies in the faces of many: Sovereign Grace (TULIP), Baptist (believers not babies).  My point in this is to simply underscore what I am about to say, namely this: ‘Because a thing is controversial, or even divisive, is no reason to not address it.’ One might even argue, and in fact has said, that to remain silent on any point of doctrine, especially if controversial, is to deny Christ at that point.
Having said all that, let me tell you why I address this issue. I do not raise the issue to stir up controversy or division, but quite the opposite. I do so because I am under authority. I am under the authority of the Scriptures which tell me that the pastor-teacher is a gift to the church for “the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith.” I’m going to ask you something this morning. I’m going to ask you to let me be your pastor. ‘But,’ you say, ‘you are my pastor.’ ‘Yes,’ I respond, ‘But each of you has one or even several pastoral voices to whom you default. Perhaps they are books, mp3s, or the radio. And we must not forget our beloved pastors of the past.’ That’s fine. That’s not all bad. We all have our ‘pastors.’ But what isn’t fine is when those other voices muffle the voice of the pastor God gave you today. Now, lest I am misunderstood, understand. I am not saying I am infallible. I am not saying I have everything figured out and everyone else doesn’t. I don’t have it all figured out. And I am not above any other ‘pastor.’  But I am, to my utter amazement and even bewilderment, a gift to this church, given so that we attain to ‘the unity of the faith…to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ,’ the result being we are not children, “carried about by every wind of doctrine.” That is why pastors exist. That is why I’m here. Doctrine is where it’s at. Doctrine is the thing. Doctrine is the purpose. Doctrine does divide; it separates the sheep from the goats. But it also unites! It unites and makes the church strong, able to withstand Chinooks and hurricanes of falsehood … and doctrine that simply misses the mark.  Underpinning all this is the fact that God has spoken. God has spoken a word to us. He has revealed to us His mind. And since God has spoken, we must seek to know what he has in fact said. What did God say concerning the Sabbath? What is its purpose? Why did He command it? What does it mean and look like to keep it? Who are the Sabbath-keepers? Faithfulness to the Scriptures, to the entire counsel of God as it progressively unfolds from Genesis to Revelation, is at stake here. And this is no mere doctrine without obvious and practical implications for the believer. There are monstrous implications for the one who is in Christ. But we cannot live in light of what God has said if we do not know, are unsure of, or hold false ideas about what He has spoken.
By way of approach this is how we shall proceed: First, I will briefly state my answer to the question “Does Sabbath-keeping fly in the face of the cross and is therefore at odds with the work of Christ?” Second, I will embark on a brief history of the doctrine by way of confession. Third, we will survey the Old Testament and make some Biblical observations. And finally, we shall together come to a conclusion, mindful that we’ll be nowhere near finished (but well on the way).
So the question: Does Sabbath-keeping fly in the face of Christ? Is it at odds with His Work? Answer: It does not. Sabbath-keeping does not fly in the face of Christ. It isn’t at odds with the cross. Sabbath-keeping is therefore relevant for the Christian.  Believers in Christ and the Sabbath are intimately related. The nature of that relationship I will not, at this point, define.  That you will see in due course.
A Brief History by Confession
Second, a brief history by confessional statement displays what arguably is the majority report on the issue. Hear the common thread between them. Each statement, each reflective of a different theological tradition, has similar ideas. Noteworthy among them is the ‘one day in seven’ principle.
1. The Westminster Confession of Faith states:

“As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in His Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, He has particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week: and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord’s Day, and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath.”

2. The 1689 Baptist Confession states:

“As it is the law of nature that in general a proportion of time, by God’s appointment, should be set apart for the worship of God, so He has given in His Word a positive, moral and perpetual commandment, binding upon all men, in all ages to this effect. He has particularly appointed one day in seven for a Sabbath to be kept holy for Him. From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ this was the last day of the week, and from the resurrection of Christ it was changed to the first day of the week and called the Lord’s Day. This is to be continued until the end of the world as the Christian Sabbath, the observation of the last day of the week having been abolished.”

3. The Seventh Day Adventists (From

“The beneficent Creator, after the six days of Creation, rested on the seventh day and instituted the Sabbath for all people as a memorial of Creation. The fourth commandment of God’s unchangeable law requires the observance of this seventh-day Sabbath as the day of rest, worship, and ministry in harmony with the teaching and practice of Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a day of delightful communion with God and one another. It is a symbol of our redemption in Christ, a sign of our sanctification, a token of our allegiance, and a foretaste of our eternal future in God’s kingdom. The Sabbath is God’s perpetual sign of His eternal covenant between Him and His people. Joyful observance of this holy time from evening to evening, sunset to sunset, is a celebration of God’s creative and redemptive acts.”


“We believe that the Sabbath of the Bible, the seventh day of the week, is sacred time, a gift of God to all people, instituted at creation, affirmed in the Ten Commandments and reaffirmed in the teaching and example of Jesus and the apostles.

We believe that the gift of Sabbath rest is an experience of God’s eternal presence with His people.
We believe that in obedience to God and in loving response to His grace in Christ, the Sabbath should be faithfully observed as a day of rest, worship, and celebration.”
4. Calvin
In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin states:

“The purport of the commandment is, that being dead to our own affections and works, we meditate on the kingdom of God, and in order to such meditation, have recourse to the means which he has appointed. But as this commandment stands in peculiar circumstances apart from the others, the mode of exposition must be somewhat different. Early Christian writers are wont to call it typical, as containing the external observance of a day which was abolished with the other types on the advent of Christ. This is indeed true; but it leaves the half of the matter untouched. Wherefore, we must look deeper for our exposition, and attend to three cases in which it appears to me that the observance of this commandment consists. First, under the rest of the seventh days the divine Lawgiver meant to furnish the people of Israel with a type of the spiritual rest by which believers were to cease from their own works, and allow God to work in them. Secondly he meant that there should be a stated day on which they should assemble to hear the Law, and perform religious rites, or which, at least, they should specially employ [or be engaged] in meditating on his works, and be thereby trained to piety. Thirdly, he meant that servants, and those who lived under the authority of others, should be indulged with a day of rest, and thus have some intermission from labor.”

This is enough. This is enough for us to get a flavor of how the Sabbath is, and has been, conceived. These documents speak of a day, a day set apart, for the gathering of the church and the ‘doing’ of certain religious activities, even so that the matters of the soul might be the sole matter of the day. That might be a simplistic summary. But it captures what is asserted. Sabbath-keepers are therefore, according to these documents, a certain kind of people engaged in a certain kind of activity one day a week. For the Seventh Day Adventists it’s Saturday. For everybody else, it’s Sunday. At the end of the day, in the final analysis, at least in terms of how this is worked out and acted upon, it makes no difference. Whether Saturday or Sunday, both groups see their day as the Sabbath (even if called by another name).
Some Scriptural Observations
We leave confessions and traditions to make some Biblical observations. We will not concern ourselves with the New, but only the Old Testament, at least for now. There are five things I wish to show you concerning the Sabbath:
1. The Sabbath is God’s idea. It’s about Him. Genesis 2:1-3: “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. And by the seventh day God completed His work which He had done; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it (or, ‘set it apart’ from the other days), because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” The Sabbath is God’s idea. God ordained it. God ordained it, and He did so for Himself. On the seventh day, God rested from the work of creation, of constructing out of nothing, and out of disorder and chaos, all that exists.
2. The Sabbath is for rest. I doubt very much that rest equals idleness. Had God been idle in the absolute sense on the day He rested, all that He accomplished the previous six days would have collapsed. Creation is not a watch wound up and let go, needing nothing more to function. God sustains and upholds what He created every nanosecond of everyday 24/7/365 days of the year. He commands the mornings and causes the dawn to know its place (Job 38:12). “He sends forth springs in the valleys…He waters the mountains…He causes the grass to grow for the beasts, and vegetation for the labor of man…” (Psalm 104).  So, what does it mean when Moses says God rested on the seventh day? He means that God ceased from the work of creation because that work was done. That work was completed. Finished. Notice carefully what the text says: “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. And by the seventh day God completed His work which He had done; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” God rested not because He was tired, but because He accomplished what He set out to day six days prior.
Why He rested has nothing whatsoever to do with fatigue. God is not a man that He should tire. We spend a day at work, come home, and immediately crash on the couch. Or, if that is not your custom, the very least we might do is sit down. But God has no such need. That God rested from creation means He ceased creating because He was finished that work. I cannot over-emphasize that.
3. The Sabbath is a commandment. It is a commandment given to the nation of Israel, and is part and parcel of that covenant founded upon the small but tremendously significant word “If.” In Exodus 19:5, the Lord says to Moses, and thus to Israel: “Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession [then you shall be Mine].” The entire Mosaic Covenant was conditional. Blessing came because of one’s obedience.
3.1. Sabbath obligations
Listen now to the obligations demanded by the Sabbath. No one was allowed to leave home (Exodus 16:29b). No one may work (Ex. 20:10). No one was allowed to cook (Ex. 35:3). Keeping the Sabbath is connected to honoring parents in Leviticus 19:3. Every Sabbath, special bread was to be placed before the Lord (Lev. 24:5-8). Wood gathering was a ‘no-no’ (Num. 15:32). The Sabbath day required twice the amount of animal sacrifices, and meat and drink offerings (Num. 28:1-10). Visits to men of God were allowed (2 Kings 4:23). No one was permitted to carry a load (Jer. 17:21). And buying and selling, all business transactions, were forbidden (Amos 8:5). In a word, the Sabbath imposed restrictions on Israel. Keeping the Sabbath entailed keeping a list of do’s and don’ts.
4. The Sabbath was a sign of the covenant God made with ethnic, physical Israel. This is often overlooked or ignored. But it’s undeniably clear. Just listen to the Law (Exodus 31:12-17, NASB 95 Update):

12 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
13    “But as for you, speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘You shall surely observe My sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you.
14    ‘Therefore you are to observe the sabbath, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people.
15    ‘For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall surely be put to death.
16    ‘So the sons of Israel shall observe the sabbath, to celebrate the sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.’
17    “It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased from labor, and was refreshed.”[1]

Three things here are noteworthy. First, the Sabbath is a covenantal sign. It is a sign of the Old Covenant. This is what the Lord says. It is a commandment. But the unfolding of revelation tells us it is more than a commandment.
Second, profane the Sabbath, treat it like any other day as if a common day, pick up sticks on the Sabbath even, and you die. This is what the Lord says.
Third, the Sabbath was “a perpetual covenant.” It was, in other words, an everlasting covenant, binding forever upon the people to whom it was given. It was a sign between God & the sons of Israel forever.  Striking is it to see how the Sabbath is so connected with the Old Covenant that it signifies that covenant. Hear that! You must hear that! But what about the “forever” part?  That’s easy. “Forever doesn’t always mean “forever.” Not in Scripture. Read the Law. Read Genesis 17:8; Exodus 12:14; Ex. 27:21; Ex. 40:15; and Numbers 25:13 and you will discover this to be true. One example before we press on (Exodus 40:13-15):

13 “You shall put the holy garments on Aaron and anoint him and consecrate him, that he may minister as a priest to Me.
14    “You shall bring his sons and put tunics on them;
15    and you shall anoint them even as you have anointed their father, that they may minister as priests to Me; and their anointing will qualify them for a perpetual [or ‘everlasting’] priesthood throughout their generations.”[2]

‘Everlasting’ and ‘perpetual’ doesn’t always mean forever. We know the Old Covenant priesthood was limited to the Old Covenant. We know that priesthood is not perpetual, forever, ongoing, with no end. Neither were the Passover, the tabernacle worship, and circumcision, all things described as ‘forever.’ So, sometimes the meaning of “forever” is restricted by the phrase “throughout their generations.”
5. The Day of Atonement was a Sabbath. It was a Sabbath, and thus Sabbath and priest and the work of the priests are bound up in it. Leviticus 16: 29-31-

29 This shall be a permanent statute for you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall humble your souls and not do any work, whether the native, or the alien who sojourns among you;
30    for it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you will be clean from all your sins before the Lord.
31    “It is to be a sabbath of solemn rest for you, that you may humble your souls; it is a permanent statute.[3]

Once every year, Aaron, the priest, dressed in the finest of clothes, would enter the holy of holies, the very inner sanctum of the tabernacle, and make atonement for all the people. And this Day of Atonement was a Sabbath day.
I could go on like this. Our survey has not been exhaustive; not in the least. But what we have covered is enough to make a point. And that point is simply this: if we’re honest with ourselves, in and of itself, there is nothing about this which captivates our hearts and causes our hearts to be launched in praise. To be honest, I find these things, in and of themselves, to be rather dull, dreadfully boring, and anything but inspiring.
Furthermore, when compared to the majority report as expressed earlier by way of confessions, all that can be truly concluded is this: At best, the majority report and the Mosaic Covenant both focus on a day, or days, upon which certain religious activities are to be done and certain other activities must be avoided. In essence, to put it another way, there is no difference between the Jewish and Christian vision of the Sabbath. Both are essentially the same, that is, at best.
But at worst, the majority report just doesn’t cut it. When compared with everything the Old Testament reveals concerning it, it is found terribly lacking. The Old Testament’s conception of the Sabbath is far more dynamic and comprehensive than the majority report. But what is the Old Testament anyway? Is it not the revealing of David and Solomon and the priesthood and the temple, all things that point beyond themselves to something far greater? Is King David about David? Or does he point beyond himself? Is Solomon about Solomon? Or does he point to someone far greater? Does the priesthood of the Old not point to a far superior One? Does the old temple not point to a far greater temple? Does Torah itself not  point to something far greater? And what of the prophets? “I must decrease,” said one, “but He must increase.” What is the Old Testament? And how therefore should we read it?  The Old Testament is the result when the light of revelation shines on Christ and casts a shadow. And the shadow is never the substance of the reality, but a mere silhouette of that reality. The Sabbath is therefore a shadow of Christ. Christ is the true David. He is the true temple. He is the true everlasting priesthood. He supersedes Moses. And He is the true Sabbath. Christ is the epitome of the Sabbath. When viewed through the lenses of the entire counsel of God therefore, the Sabbath is not a day, but a Person. Think it through with me. as the Old Sabbath, the shadow, was about God, the true Sabbath is about Christ. As the shadow spoke of God resting from His glorious work of creation, because it was finished, the true Sabbath speaks of one who now sits at the right hand of God because His glorious work of redemption is finished. As the shadow was the sign of the Old Covenant, Christ is the New Covenant. As the shadow was a perpetual sign as long as the Old Covenant was in force, Christ is the truly forever covenant that is eternal. As the shadow made atonement with blood that could never forgive sins, Christ is the true atonement.  If we don’t get this, if we do not read our Bibles correctly, we lose Christ in the shadows.
Who then are the Sabbath-keepers? What does it mean and look like to keep the Sabbath? I ask because we need to know.  Answer: Sabbath-keepers are not those who merely attend religious services on Sunday and follow a list of do’s and don’ts on that day. That might be traditional. But it ain’t Biblical. The Sabbath is no longer a day, or days, but a Person. Therefore, now hear this, Sabbath-keepers are those who rest not in a day, but in a Person & His Finished Work. Sabbath-keepers are those who trust in Christ for complete redemption. And they do that not one day a week, but 24/7/ 365 days a year! Therefore, Christians are inherently, by definition, Sabbath-keepers. And they are so only by the sovereign grace of sovereign God.
Are you a Sabbath-keeper? Do you rest in Christ? Is Christ your treasure? Do you treasure Him over your so-called Sabbath Day observances? Do you rest in Him alone? Or do you rest in your theological tradition? Theological traditions can be our idols, our gods. Sin is so deceitful. Rest in Christ, not your doctrinal understanding. Rest in Christ, not yourself. He is our Sabbath and I plead with any and all in this room who do not know this rest not to come short of it, but enter in. Trust Christ. Embrace Christ. Extend the hand of faith and rest from your strivings to measure up.

1 Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it.
2    For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.
3    For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said…[4]

Sunday, May 8, 2011
SGBC, Blackie, AB
Todd Braye

[1] New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Ex 31:12–17). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[2] New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Ex 40:13–15). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[3] New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Le 16:29–31). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.
[4] New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Heb 4:1–3). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.