Category Archives: Sermons

Sermon Wednesday – In Vain in High and Holy Lays

Welcome back to another Sermon Wednesday!  This week, we continue our series on “Singing with the Understanding.”  Enjoy and use it to God’s glory!

Introduction:

A realization struck me this week, that there was a song I knew, I sang, and I have even led—and I didn’t have a clue what the first line was even talking about: In Vain in High and Holy Lays.

What does that even mean?  Perhaps you have wondered the same thing.

The rest of the song is easier to understand, and we’ll be looking at it today.  It breaks down like this:

Verse 1 – The inexpressible love of Jesus
Verse 2 – The comforting love of Jesus
Verse 3 – The forgiving love of Jesus

Let’s join together and look at the Biblical truths expressed in this song so that we can truly follow the command to “sing with the understanding” (I Corinthians 14:15)

Verse 1 – The Inexpressible Love of Jesus

In vain

This phrase simply means that it is worthless, such as “In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9).

In high and holy lays.

The word “lays” is an old English word that means songs.  So, these are high and holy songs, the grandest, most serene songs of praise—the ones that can give you chills when you hear it.

My soul, her grateful voice would raise.

The grateful heart sings the most meaningful, heart-felt songs possible.  The first line here describes our singing with our hearts, with truly grateful emotion, the most awe-inspiring melody and most honest and true words…

And it still wouldn’t come close to accurately describing the wonderful love of Jesus.  It can’t come close to doing justice to the praise Christ deserves.

For who can sing the worthy praise of the wonderful love of Jesus?

Though we can understand part of it, there is no way for our human minds to fully express the love of Jesus Christ for us.  Though we can try with all our might, there is no way we can adequately express our gratitude for the love of Jesus.

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try, but just know that the love of Jesus is so great, so wonderful, so overwhelming that we cannot ever adequately express it.

Jesus loved us in that while we were yet sinners, He died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6)  And we show that love for him through praise, worship, and obedience (Hebrews 5:9, John 14:15).

The full extent of the love Christ has for us is truly inexpressible.

Verse 2 – The comforting love of Jesus.

A joy by day

When you look at the Scriptures, you can see that people who truly came to Jesus had great joy.  The Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:29) went on his way rejoicing after being saved by Jesus’ blood when he was baptized.  The people on Pentecost were glad to receive the instructions on how to come to Jesus (Acts 2:41).  John wrote Christians to remind them of the “full joy” they had in Christ Jesus (I John 1:4).

As we go throughout our daily routines, we should constantly remember the benefit of Christ’s death on the cross on our behalf and be joyful.  Even though troubles come in this life—sometimes extremely difficult ones—if we keep our eyes on Christ and continue to remember what He has done for us, we can truly be joyful.

Just remember Paul and Silas when they were falsely imprisoned after being beaten bloody—they sat there and sang (Acts 16:22-25).

What kind of joy do you show because of Jesus?

A Peace by night

When night comes, many people have anxiety—but that doesn’t need to describe Christians.  Every night when you lay down to sleep, you can have peace in knowing that you have come to the saving blood of Christ.  Every night, you can know that if you were to die in your sleep, you’ve got heaven awaiting you when you awake.

You have peace knowing that regardless of what happens, you’re depending on the One who matters most—Jesus Christ our Lord.  And when you get that, you have peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7).

In storms a calm

A massive storm was happening on the Sea of Galilee, and a group of lifetime fishermen were afraid they were going to die (Mark 4:37-39).  They stumbled down the steps in the boat as the waves covered the ship.  They found Jesus sleeping—SLEEPING!  How could someone sleep in the middle of that?

They woke Him up and said, “don’t you care that we’re about to die?”  Jesus spoke up and said to the storm, “peace. Be still,” and immediately the waves stopped, the wind ceased, and there was a pure calm.

In the midst of the storms of life, we can have the same kind of calm—as though we are under a protective shelter which keeps the storm from touching us.  We can have a calm, knowing that all things work together for good to them that love God (Romans 8:28).  We can have a calm, knowing that so long as we focus on God’s kingdom and righteousness, He will make sure we have everything we need (Matthew 6:33).

It is because of Jesus Christ’s love for us that He died, and gave us access to the Father in prayer—which can sooth our anxieties in the storms of life (Hebrews 4:16).

In darkness light

Jesus is described as “the light” (John 1:6-10).  In a world of darkness, Jesus is the light.  When all around us seems frightening, like there is no hope, Jesus Christ shines as a bright beacon lighting our way to heaven.  Jesus gives us hope and helps brighten our days.

We don’t have to grope around blindly—Jesus has provided the light for us to walk safely.

In pain, a balm

When we suffer hardships, emotional pain, we can look to the Great Physician (Luke 5:31) and He has provided the spiritual ointment needed to help heal our hurts.  We look to Him, and remember what really matters.

We look to Him, and realize that we’ve not got it as bad as we might think—after all, how many of us have been stripped naked, beaten bloody, publicly mocked and ridiculed, and then been nailed to a cross and left there to die?

Jesus brings healing to our souls, and cares about our lives.

In weakness, might

Leaning on Jesus, Leaning on Jesus, safe and secure from all alarms, leaning on Jesus, leaning on Jesus, leaning on the everlasting arms.

When we are weak, we lean on Jesus Christ who gives us strength; He lifts us up as we walk beside Him.  Paul said it this way, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

He also said, “I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecution, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong” (II Corinthians 12:10).

Is the wonderful love of Jesus.

All of these blessings comes because Christ loved us enough to die for us.

Verse 3 – The Forgiving Love of Jesus.

My hope for pardon when I call.

For non-Christians, pardon from sins comes when they call on the name of the Lord—turning to Him and His authority in obedience.  Calling on the name of the Lord (done by obedience in baptism) brings about pardon from our sins (Acts 22:16).  Calling on the name of the Lord (which was described as “repent and be baptized“) saves us (Acts 2:21, 38, 41, 47).

For Christians, pardon from sins come when they go to God in prayerful repentance.  Simon the sorcerer (a Christian) was told to repent and pray to God for forgiveness (Acts 8:22).  John told Christians to confess their sins to God, and they would be forgiven (I John 1:9).

We can have boldness to go to the Father in prayer BECAUSE of the wonderful love of Jesus (Hebrews 4:14-16).  But without Christ, there is no pardon for our sins.

My trust for lifting when I fall.

When we stumble along the way, we have the help of Jesus to get back up again and keep walking with Him.  If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin (I John 1:7).

The sins mentioned in that verse are those times when we stumble. But so long as we keep trying, Jesus lifts us up to help us on our way.

Love lifted me, love lifted me, when nothing else could help, love lifted me.

We can trust in Jesus to lift us back up when we have asked for forgiveness.

In life, in death, my all in all.

We live our lives for Christ—and He helps us through it all by His word and the work that He has already done on our behalf.  And when we do that, we know that when death comes, we can embrace it, knowing that we will go on to be with the Lord, which is far better (Philippians 1:23).

Our entire existence, whether we live or die, should all center on Christ Jesus.

Conclusion:

Wonderful love, wonderful love, wonderful love of Jesus!

It is through the love of Christ that we are saved, that we have hope, that we have comfort, and that we have forgiveness.

Remember that the next time troubles come along and you don’t know where to turn.  Remember that the next time you sing this song—The love of Jesus is what our entire existence depends on.

He loved you so much that He came here and willingly took your place—your death sentence because of your sins (Romans 3:23).  His love also revealed the way by which you can be saved—believe and obey the gospel.

-Bradley Cobb

Sermon Wednesday – A Wonderful Savior

This week (since we’re back home now), we will be continuing our series of sermons dealing with songs that we sing.  This series is called “Singing with the Understanding.”  Enjoy and use to God’s glory!

Introduction:

If you look through your songbook at the names of the songwriters, you’ll notice that some people appear semi-frequently.  L.O. Sanderson and Tillet S. Teddlie are two that come immediately to my mind.  Another one that you are probably more familiar with is Fanny J. Crosby.

Mrs. Crosby wrote hundreds of hymn lyrics, and others put them to music.  One thing that you might not know about her is that she was blind.  One of the things that stands out in her songs is that in most of them, she mentions seeing.  For example, in the song “To God be the Glory,” the last verse says “our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see.”

Today, we will be taking a look at another song she wrote, and the Biblical truths expressed in it.  The song is “A Wonderful Savior.”

Verse 1 – In Jesus we have safety.

A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord.

Jesus died to rescue people from sin.  His is the only sacrifice with any true power—power enough to cover the sins of all those before Him and all those after Him (Hebrews 9:15).  He died for the sins of the whole world! (I John 2:2)

Truly, there is no other Savior like Jesus.  And there is no other Savior BUT Jesus (Acts 4:12).

A wonderful Savior to me.

He is not just the general savior of the whole world; He is our personal Savior as well.  He didn’t get a huge net and gather up everyone at once to safety—He saves people individually.

He’s my Savior. He saved me.  He can save you too. He’s waiting at the water to save you.  There ain’t nothin’ like being saved—freed from the sins that were holding you down and trying to kill you.

Jesus is my wonderful Savior. Is He yours?

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock

This is safety. This is protection.  It’s as though you are in the midst of a storm of sin, and there is a crevice cut into the side of a mountain—a place of refuge—a place of safety from the storms of life.

God is our refuge—Jesus is the one who brings us to that place of safety.

Where rivers of pleasure I see

Joys indescribable can be ours if we are in Jesus.  Only in Jesus can we have salvation.  Only in Jesus can we get to heaven, for He has blazed the trail for His people (Hebrews 6:20). Only those in Christ can answer “yes” to the question “shall we gather at the river that flows from the throne of God?”

In Christ, we can see the glories of heaven and the joys that can be ours here and in the world to come!

Verse 2 – In Jesus we have strength.

A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord, He taketh my burden away.

You’re walking around, carrying a burden of sin.  It’s overwhelming, and it drags you down to the point where you can’t even move—you’re trapped.  Then Jesus comes and removes the weight—suddenly you’re free! You’ve been liberated!

My friends, that’s what Jesus does for you when you are baptized into Him.  He washes away all of your sins (Acts 22:16).  The burden is gone!

He holdeth me up

It’s as though we are walking side by side with Jesus; and He’s supporting us, holding us up.  We don’t have strength on our own to walk right—we can’t get to heaven on our own strength.  Jesus is there helping us along—when we stumble, He’s there to keep us from falling (Jude 24).

What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!

The problem comes when someone lets go of Jesus, quits leaning on His everlasting arms, or even pushes Him away.  But so long as you are holding on to Christ, trying to walk in the steps of the Savior, He will keep you from falling.

And I shall not be moved.

When we are walking with Jesus, nothing has the power to knock us over.  More powerful is He that is in you than he that is in the world (I John 4:4).  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35-39).

If we are in Christ and walking in the Light, then “like a tree planted by the waters,” we can say “I shall not be moved!”

He giveth me strength as my day.

We lean on Jesus for our strength, for we have none on our own.  He is the one who gives us strength.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13)!

Verse 3 – In Jesus we have reason to sing.

With numberless blessings, each moment He crowns.

Count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done!

We are given constant blessings from God—from Jesus Christ our Savior.  We have access to God in prayer, we have the confidence of our salvation, we have the fantastic family of God—the church—to help us through each and every day.  Numberless blessings given to us every day!

And they only come through Christ (Ephesians 1:3).

And filled with His fullness divine.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly (Colossians 3:16).  When we fill ourselves with the word of God, then the power of Christ is in us.  And when Christ shall come again, we shall be changed as He was and ascend to our heavenly home!

I sing in my rapture, o Glory to God

When we examine the great blessings that God has given us, and the even better things that await us, it causes us to be overjoyed.  We sing “Hallelujah, praise Jehovah!

We sing “Thank you Lord for loving me and thank you Lord for blessing me, thank you Lord for making me whole and saving my soul!

Even when things aren’t going well for us here on earth, we can still sing, joyfully remembering what awaits us up there (remember Paul and Silas in Acts 16:22-25—singing in prison).

For such a redeemer as mine.

We sing glory to God because “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Glory to God for sending the One who paid the price to save our souls from eternal damnation!

Verse 4 – In Jesus we have eternal salvation.

When clothed in His brightness,

Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory (I Corinthians 15:51-54).

We will be clothed in glory, clothed in brightness!

Transported, I rise to meet Him in clouds of the sky.

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words (I Thessalonians 4:16-18).

When Christ comes back, all of His people will meet Him in the air, and be escorted to heaven!

His perfect salvation

When Christ comes again, salvation is completed!  When Christ comes again, our battles will all be over, and heaven will be our eternal home!

His wonderful love

He loved us enough to die for us, and “greater love hath no man that to lay down his life for a friend” (John 15:13).

I’ll shout with the millions on high!

There will be an innumerable amount of people surrounding the throne of God in heaven, singing praises to God the Father, and Jesus the Christ throughout eternity.

When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be, when we all get to heaven, we’ll sing and shout the victory!

Conclusion:

Do you want to be one of those joyful millions who can’t help but singing in heaven?  Jesus invites you to join Him, to become one of His people.

He said, “come unto me, all ye who labor and are heavy-laden (carrying a heavy burden) and I will give you rest…for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-30).  And when you do that, it’s as though—even though you are in a dry desert—Jesus has given you shade and protection, and provides all the water you could ever need.

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock that shadows a dry, thirsty land. He hideth my life in the depths of His love, and covers me there with His hand, and covers me there with His hand.

The words here seems to be taken from when God allowed Moses to see Him from behind as He walked by (Exodus 33:20-23), where God showed His love and respect for Moses by letting him see His glory as He passed by.  But the idea in the chorus is that Jesus holds us close and protects us.

For the great invitation to have any power, you have to first hear it, and believe that it is real.  Then make that decision to take Jesus up on His offer, leaving your past sins in the past.  Confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and be baptized, washing away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.

Jesus invites you, and so do we.

-Bradley S. Cobb

Sermon Wednesday – All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name

Today, we continue our series on “Singing with the Understanding.”  We thank you all for the encouraging emails that you have sent us regarding this series.

Introduction:

Have you made Christ your king?  When someone is made the leader (be it of a city, state, or nation), they hold the office, even though some people may not recognize their authority.

Christ is indeed the King over all, but do you submit to that authority?  Have you made Christ the king in your life?

The song we will be looking at today deals with the power of Christ—His authority—and the recognition of it.

“All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.”

Verse 1 – He has authority over the angels.

The song starts with its main theme:

All hail the power of Jesus’ name!

It means “Everyone, recognize the power of the authority of Christ!”  Jesus claimed all authority in heaven and on earth after His resurrection (Matthew 28:18-19).  The first three verses of this song express this truth in different areas. First…

Let angels prostrate fall

He has authority over the angels.  Though He was made to be a little lower than the angels by becoming man, through His death He took a place of authority over all (Hebrews 2:7-9).  The angels are subject to Him and are commanded to worship Him (Hebrews 1:4-6).  Angels are powerful beings, without question, but their power is subject to Christ (Revelation 22:16).

The phrase “Let angels prostrate fall” means “let angels bow down before Him.”

He is the royal ruler: King and Lord of all!

Bring forth the royal diadem

This is the crown of the king.  He is the Son of God (the King) and through inheritance has taken His rule with God as king (Hebrews 1:3-4).

And crown Him Lord of all.

He has been put over all things (Hebrews 2:7).  The angels are commanded to recognize Christ’s authority.  His authority stretches beyond heaven—but that’s described in the next verses.

Verse 2 – He has authority over God’s people.

The church is the recipient of the promises to Israel—we are spiritual Israel.

Ye chosen seed of Israel’s race.

Spiritual Israel is not the same as physical Israel:  For they are not all Israel who are of Israel (Romans 9:6).

The true Israel of God are the ones who follow His commands.  And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy on the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16).

The seed of Abraham to whom the promises were made are those who are his children by faith

For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Because the law works wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all (Romans 4:13-16, see also Romans 2:28-29).

The blood-bought ones should recognize Christ’s authority in all things.

Ye ransomed from the fall.

To be ransomed means to be purchased—bought back.  Christ has purchased us from sin with His blood (Acts 20:28).  The fall is our sinful state—for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

Hail Him who saves you by His grace.

Christians—recognize Christ’s authority, for He is the One who saved you!  Christ’s saving work isn’t a one-time thing—He continually saves us.  When we are baptized, He saves us.  As we stumble on our walk with Him, He picks us up and dusts us off so long as we’re still trying.  As we repent of our sins, He keeps saving us (I John 1:9).

He has saved us by His grace.

“Grace” is a much-abused topic these days.  But we need to remember that if Christ didn’t want to save us, we couldn’t be saved.  There’s nothing that mankind did that made Jesus say, “wow! I have to save these people.”  It was completely His grace that made the way for us to be saved.  It was completely by His grace that He made that way known to everyone through His word.

We still have to accept it on His terms, but we can never forget that it is God’s grace that saves us.

And crown Him Lord of all.

All Christians must submit themselves to Christ.  And not just that, but recognize His complete sovereignty—His total rule over our lives.  Have you crowned Christ as the King of your life?

Verse 3 – Christ has authority over the entire human race.

This cannot be stressed enough—everyone is amenable to the rule and law of Jesus Christ!

There are some in the church who are trying to sidestep some of God’s laws by teaching that non-Christians aren’t amenable to the law of Christ.  By this, it is meant that the rules in the Bible don’t apply to anyone unless they’re Christians.

Here’s the problem with that reasoning—if they don’t apply to non-Christians, then non-Christians cannot be lost, because they aren’t under any law.  Where there is no law, there is no sin (Romans 4:15).

If this doctrine were true, there would be no point in evangelizing either—because we’d be bringing them into a law that they could possibly break and thus be eternally damned!

Let every kindred, every tribe on this terrestrial ball

Everyone, regardless of their family, ethnic background, or location, is under consideration here.  Everyone on earth is subject to Christ.

Terrestrial ball = land-sphere, this earth.

To Him, all majesty ascribe.

Everyone on earth should recognize the authority of Jesus Christ and submit to it.  Part of that responsibility is ours—to take the message of Christ to others so that they know about it.

Everyone on earth—even non-Christians—need to recognize Christ as the one supreme King.  This is what it means to ascribe all majesty to Him.  It is to recognize His complete authority—that He is supreme.

And crown Him Lord of all.

Non-Christians—by definition—have not crowned Christ as their Lord and Savior.  If you’re not a Christian, then you are living in rebellion to the Supreme King and Judge, Jesus Christ.

Verse 4 –  The reward for submission to the king—heaven!

Why should we recognize and submit to the Kingship of Jesus Christ?  This verse describes it for us!

O that with yonder sacred throng…

This is to be with the saved in that great by and by in the sky.  This is to be with the redeemed, to hear our name when the roll is called up yonder.  This is the sacred (holy) throng (multitude of people) yonder (over there in heaven).

We at His feet may bow

We will be able to worship Christ forever in heaven (Revelation 7:9-10).  We will be in His presence (you have to be in His presence to be able to bow at His feet).

Eternity in heaven with God and Christ—free from all care, happy and bright, Jesus is there, He is the light.

We’ll join the everlasting song…

Singing praises to God forever—continual joy, unending happiness.  In short, heaven!

When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less day to sing God’s praise than when we first begun!

Everlasting life in heaven, never to be separated again!

And praise Him Lord of all.

Those who submit to the authority of Christ here on earth will have the pleasure and desire to praise and thank Him for all eternity in heaven.

Conclusion

Christ Jesus is the King over all creation—of angels and of ALL people—including you!  Have you made Him king of YOUR life?  Have you acknowledged His authority and submitted to it so that you can go to heaven?

Christ has set forth His law, and it’s not hard.  Believe in Him as the Christ, the Son of God.  Repent of your sins.  Be Baptized in order to have your sins forgiven.  Then afterwards continue to do your best to serve your King.

-Bradley S. Cobb

Sermon Wednesday – A Mighty Fortress

Welcome back!  This week, we present to you another sermon in the “Singing with Understanding” series.  We are looking at the words of songs that we sing, and showing the biblical ideas behind them so we can truly understand what we’re singing.  In case you missed the previous lesson (God’s Family), you can read it here.

Introduction

The name of Martin Luther is familiar to most people.  He is the founder of the Lutheran Church.  He was one of the catalysts in the Reformation Movement back in the 1500s.  He was a former Catholic priest who nailed a list of 95 things that the Catholics were doing that he believed were opposed to the Bible.

He famously declared that the Pope was the “man of sin” described in II Thessalonians 2.  The Catholics afterwards declared that Martin Luther was the “man of sin” described in that chapter.

But one thing you might not know about him is that he also wrote hymns—and we still sing one of them occasionally today.

The song is called “A Mighty Fortress.”

There are different stories about the first time this song was sung publicly.  But all are agreed that the idea was taken from Psalm 46.

  • Some have said that it was sung by Martin Luther and others as they were entering the room where they were to be examined by a Catholic inquiry against them.
  • Others have said that it was a song written for armies to sing as they battled the Ottoman (Muslim) Turks.

Whichever it was, the point of the song was to encourage the singers to rely on God for strength.

Today, our lesson will come from the biblical truths expressed in this song.

Verse 1 – The combatants in the great war.
Verse 2 – Our strength in the war.
Verse 3 –The war continues

Verse 1 – The Combatants in the Great War.

God is the first Combatant in this war.

A Mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing.

There is safety and security in God.  He’s like a strong, fortified castle that cannot be breached.  You are completely safe from death inside His walls.  A “bulwark” is a defensive wall, a means of protection—and God’s protection never fails!

Romans 8:38-39 – No outside force has the power to separate us from the love of God which is IN Christ Jesus.

Our helper He amidst the flood of mortal ills prevailing.

If we were to rearrange the words to our normal usage, it would be He is our helper, prevailing in the midst of the things which have the power to kill (aka, sin).

In James 1, Christians are told to rejoice in the midst of trials and temptations; they are told to go to God for help in the midst of temptation.  So, in the midst of a world of sin and surrounded by temptation, God is our helper—He can help us overcome the enemy!

But who is the enemy?

Satan is the other combatant in the war. 

He’s still fighting against us.

For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe.

Or, Our ancient foe is still seeking to harm us.  Satan is not some new enemy; he’s our ancient foe.  Satan is the originator of all things evil, for he has been evil from the beginning (John 8:44).  He is always described in the Bible as evil—thus he has always been opposed to God.  And he is continually trying to destroy us.

Our adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour (I Peter 5:8).  He is constantly firing flaming arrows at us (Ephesians 6:16).  He is indeed a very powerful enemy.

His craft and power are great

His methods (craft) are strong and effective.  After all, everyone who’s ever lived has fallen prey to his methods (Romans 3:23).  All, that is, except one—Jesus Christ (II Corinthians 5:20-21).

His power is great.  He is a strong enemy—defeating him isn’t easy.  Just try to go a week without losing at least one battle against him.

and armed with cruel hate.

Unlike the United States has historically been, Satan views the enemy with hatred.  The US, as a general rule, treats their enemies with respect and kindness (see the general treatment of prisoners of war, or even terrorists).

Satan is fueled by hatred, and doesn’t just want victory—he wants to destroy us completely!  He is “seeking whom he may devour.”

on earth is not his equal.

No one on earth can stand against Satan on his own.

 

This thought leads us into the second verse.

Verse 2 – Our strength in the War.

We touched on the two combatants in the war, but something that needs to be remembered is that we are in this war as well.

Remember Job?  There was a war between God and Satan, and the battlefield to determine the winner was Job himself.  Satan is not just God’s adversary, but OURS as well (I Peter 5:8).

Since there is no one on earth equal to Satan’s power, we cannot defeat him on our own.

Did we, in our own strength, confide, our striving would be losing.

Satan is too powerful for us to defeat on our own.  All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  Every person is a slave to sin if he is on his own.

There is good news, however: we don’t have to fight Satan alone—God has sent one to defeat Satan for us!

Our striving would be losing were not the right One on our side, the man of God’s own choosing.

God so loved the world that He sent someone save people from perishing (John 3:16).  Our strength in the battle—our ability to overcome Satan—is found in one Man.

Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He.

  • It is Jesus Christ who has fought for us.
  • It is Jesus Christ who has already won the victory (Hebrews 2:14, Revelation 12:7-11).
  • It is in Jesus Christ that we win the victory as well (I John 2:13).
  • The One who fights with us is more powerful than the one who fights against us (I John 4:4)!

Lord Sabaoth is His name.

The word Sabaoth means armies.  Christ is the captain of the armies of God (Joshua 5:13-15).  Christ is called “the captain of our salvation” (Hebrews 2:10).  In Revelation, He is described as the leader of the army of God (12:7-11).

From age to age the same.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  He is eternal—He is God (John 1:1).  If God (Christ) be for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31).

And He must win the battle.

The outcome of the war has already been determined, for Christ has won!  Now, all that we have to do is choose which side we are on!

Verse 3 – The war continues.

Even though Christ has won the victory for us, we must still continue with the battle here on earth.

And though this world, with evil filled, should threaten to undo us

Just because Jesus has won the victory, that doesn’t mean we can rest.  We must be vigilant because Satan is still on the attack (I Peter 5:8).  Christians cannot get the idea that we can sit back and relax!

We will not fear, for God has willed His truth to triumph through us.

Christians have need to fight, but they have no need to fear, for God has given us a spirit of power, not of fear (II Timothy 1:7).  God has already determined that His truth will endure; His truth will triumph; and that victory is through US!

  • WE—the church—are the pillar and ground of the truth (that which hold up the truth).
  • WE—the church—are the ones who have been entrusted with the faith (Jude 3).

God’s word will stand forever, and we are the ones who are supposed to carry it to others so that we can conquer hearts!  In order for us to be victors in the war, we have to stay focused on heaven!

Let goods and kindred go.

Seek ye first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33).  Don’t be like the rich young ruler (Mark 10:29-30).  We can’t let the things of this world take our eyes off the prize: eternal life in heaven with God!

This mortal life also; the body they may kill.

When this song was written, the Catholic Church had threatened to take property of those who fought against it.  You could be tried and executed for heresy if you left the Catholic Church.  So when this song was written, they had a great fear of being killed for their faith.

In the first century, it was much the same—the Jews killed many Christians.  But the point is that even though they may be faced with death, they must remain faithful (Revelation 2:10).

God’s word abideth still, His kingdom is forever.

Regardless what happens to us, God’s word still stands.  Even if thousands—millions—of Christians fall away, God’s word still says what it says.

God’s kingdom will never fall.  It is eternally victorious—and those who are part of that kingdom have eternal life in heaven awaiting them (Matthew 25:34).

Conclusion:

Let us never forget that we are in the greatest war in history!  The two greatest enemies of all (God and Satan) are fighting on the biggest battlefield of all—the human race!  And WE are in that war!

We have a promise of protection and help from one side if we join Him.  We have a promise of being destroyed if we join the other side.

Which side are you on?  God never fails.  We cannot win the battle on our own; we can only win it through Jesus Christ.  But that victory is guaranteed if we stay on God’s side.

Whose side are you on?

-Bradley S. Cobb

Sermon Wednesday – God’s Family

This week, we continue our theme of “Singing with the Understanding.”  We will be looking at different songs in our songbooks, and looking at the biblical ideas behind them.  When we do this, then we can truly “sing with the understanding also” (I Corinthians 14:15).

Our introductory lesson can be found here.

Introduction:

Some of the most memorable lessons we can learn come in the form of songs—if we are willing to learn from them.  How did you learn the alphabet?—I’m willing to guess that you learned it from the song.  How about the books of the New Testament?—I’d guess that you learned it the same way.

Open your songbook to the song “God’s Family.”

This song teaches some of the most basic doctrines of the Bible.  It teaches of the family of God, the church, the saved people.

Today we will look at the lessons we can learn from this song.

  • Verse 1 – Becoming part of God’s Family.
  • Verse 2 – Life in God’s Family.
  • Verse 3 – Destiny of God’s Family.

Verse 1 – Becoming part of God’s Family.

You don’t just instantly become part of someone else’s family.  You have to join it in some way—through birth, through adoption, or through marriage (interestingly, the Bible describes joining God’s family in all three ways).

The Bible says that we are children of God by the faith, in Christ Jesus, because as many of us as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Galatians 3:26-27).  Jesus says that unless a man is born again, he cannot enter into heaven (John 3:3-5).  This “new birth” is the first resurrection (Revelation 20:6), being raised to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4).

We become part of God’s family by being baptized.

“We’re part of the family that’s been born again…”

A family shares a common bond.  When someone becomes part of your family, you love them, right? (with the possible exception of some in-laws—haha).  You’d do anything to help and save your family, right?  What would you call that bond?

“Love one another, for those who love one another are the ones born of God” (I John 4:7)

“We’re part of the family whose love knows no end.”

A family shares a common relation.  At a family reunion, people may have different last names, but they’re all related to each other through a common relative.

The family of God is composed of those who are saved by the blood of Christ.  The family of God is composed of those who “saved themselves” by obeying the command to be baptized (Acts 2:38, 40-41).

“Cause Jesus has saved us, and made us His own.”

God’s family shares a common journey.  The members of God’s family are to be walking in the light (I John 1:7).  The members of God’s family are on a journey—looking for the heavenly dwelling promised by Christ (John 14:2—mansions).

The members of God’s family know that this world is not our home, we’re just a-passing through.

“Now we’re part of the family that’s on its way home.”

Verse 2 – Living in God’s Family.

Families should be support groups.  When one member is going through a hard time, he should be able to share that struggle with others in the family and receive comfort and support.

The same thing is true in God’s family.  If you are going through struggles—physical, emotional, or spiritual—you should feel like you can go to your spiritual family and lean on them for support.

In the same vein, brothers and sisters in Christ should feel their pain and share their grief (Romans 12:15).

“When a brother meets sorrow, we all feel his grief.”

Families should rejoice together.  When someone successfully comes through surgery, the family rejoices with the one who needed it.  When someone finally finds a job after a long time of searching, the family rejoices with him.  When a Christian (part of God’s family) makes it through a difficult time, we should all rejoice with them.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15).

“When he’s passed through the valley, we all feel relief.”

Families stick together through good or bad. A villain in a movie recently said, “I have no problem destroying people to take over the world…but nobody messes with my family.”

When times are great, you should be able to rejoice with family—the ones who know you best and are sincerely excited for you.  When times are bad, you should be able to lean on your family for help and strength—because they need you and you need them.  God’s family must stick together (Hebrews 10:24).

The armor of God in Ephesians 6 doesn’t have anything to cover your back—but don’t worry, because your family has got your back covered for you.

When God’s family sticks together, they gain the victory!

“Together in sunshine, together in rain, together in victory through His precious name.”

Verse 3 – God’s family reunion.

Sometimes family gets separated, but they look forward to the reunion.  

Many families have annual family reunions.  The family members haven’t seen each other in months—sometimes years—but they look forward to that family reunion to renew their relationships.

We look forward to gatherings like that, don’t we?  Times when you get to see friends you have lost touch with?

Some folks get there earlier than others.  My aunt Earline was always the first one to show up at family events (I thought her name was “early” for the longest time because of this).

God has a family reunion scheduled.

Some may have left to get there before others, but all of God’s faithful family will be there.  And in that reunion, all the saints will be gathered together—a joyful family reunion.  I Thessalonians 4:13-18, II Timothy 4:7-8.

“And though some go before us, we’ll all meet again.”

The family reunion is held at a specific location.

Could you imagine getting an invitation to a family reunion, but it never says where it was going to be held?  You’d probably think someone didn’t really want you coming!

All reunions take place at a certain location.  Some take place at the park, others at someone’s house.  My mother’s family has an annual reunion at the cemetery—no joke.

The location must be suitable for the purposes.  There must be plenty of room.  It must be a location that can be accessed (you wouldn’t be able to have a reunion at the bottom of the sea).

It must be suitable for the people who will be attending.  You wouldn’t choose a place that had no seating or shelter.

God’s family reunion is held in a specific location: heaven!  It is the place prepared by Jesus Christ for our reunion (John 14:2-3).  It has plenty of room for all of God’s family.  It is the heavenly city

“Just inside the city, as we enter in.”

Family reunions must end.

As fun and enjoyable as family reunions might be, they do have to end at some point.  And as each year comes and goes, there are some people who won’t make it back to the reunions.  Perhaps they’re busy.  Perhaps they’re too frail to make the trip.  Perhaps they’ve passed away.

But God’s family reunion is different.  It is a PERMANENT reunion.  All the faithful family will be there, never to die, never to part again.  It is a joyful, forever reunion!

“They’ll be no more parting, with Jesus we’ll be, together forever, God’s family.”

Conclusion:

Take the time right now to think about the family reunion that will take place in heaven.  Who is it that you’ll be looking forward to seeing again? (names___)  And now realize that once you get to see them again, they’ll never be taken away from you anymore.  You will get to always be with them in heaven.

But here’s the catch—this reunion is only for those who are in God’s family.  If you’re not a Christian, you can’t come to the reunion.

Sermon Wednesday – Singing With Understanding

For the next several weeks, our “Sermon Wednesday” feature will focus on Singing with Understanding (I Corinthians 14:15).  We will take the time to examine the words of some of the songs we sing, and look at the Biblical ideas expressed in them so that when we sing them, we will truly “sing with the understanding also.”

Introduction:

In the church, most of the sermons you hear regarding singing are either about the use of instrumental music, or about singing unscriptural songs.  I have preached on those topics, and they absolutely need to be preached on.

However, it has been my experience that far fewer sermons are preached on the positive aspects of proper singing.  I’ve not heard many lessons on the importance of trying to improve the quality of your singing.

I know a man named Jay Rix who made it a point almost every time he lead singing to tell people to lift their songbooks up in front of them so that their voices could be heard (instead of it being sung to the floor).

I’ve not heard many lessons on the importance of trying to understand the notes and beats in our songbooks.  Have you ever been completely thrown off-track when singing a song because the song leader is singing it one way, and no one is singing the same notes or the same speed, or in the same key?

I’ve been places before where the song leader didn’t lead very loudly, and so there were three or four people in the congregation who tried to take over the lead from their pews—all at the same time, and all in different keys.  And you can picture the scene, each one sings progressively louder and louder, trying to drown out the others and make them change to the key HE (and sometimes SHE) singing in.

This inhibits proper worship—because it keeps people from focusing on WHAT they are singing.

It has happened to me more times in my life than I’d like to admit that the singing was so out of unison that I couldn’t concentrate at all on the words I was singing.  It would be beneficial if we all could take a little time now and then and learn a bit more about the music and how notes work.  After all, bad singing can be a distraction to proper worship.

In Midway, KY, back in the 1800’s, it is said that the singing in the Lord’s church there was so bad that it was called audio warfare.  It was so bad that they brought in an organ—not to help the congregation learn the notes better, but to drown them out.

I’ve not heard many sermons about the importance of “singing with the understanding.”  Of all the things involved with our singing of praises to God, this is the most important.  Paul says, “what is it then? I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the understanding also” (I Corinthians 14:15).  This is the idea of singing with the proper attitude, and knowing what you’re singing—and why you’re singing it.

Today we will be looking at what is involved in proper singing as worship to God.

Proper singing involves:

  • The proper songs (psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs)
  • The proper attitude (I will sing with the spirit)
  • The proper understanding (I will sing with the understanding also).

The proper songs (Ephesians 5:19).

The only songs authorized in praise and worship to God are: psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

Psalms – possibly a reference to the Old Testament book of Psalms, but it would also include any inspired song of praise to God (see I Corinthians 14:26).  For example, The Lord’s My Shepherd (there are three different versions of this song in some songbooks).

Hymns – This word is also translated “sing praise” in Hebrews 2:12, and basically just means a song of praise. Some of the Psalms fit this category.  For example,  Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah!

Spiritual Songs – These are songs sung for the uplifting and edification of the members.  For example,  Are You Coming to Jesus Tonight?

Some songs can fit into more than one category.

There are songs in some songbooks that do not fit the description of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

Precious Memories—though I like the song, it is a song about memories of your mother and father from when you were a child—not about God, Christ, the Bible, salvation, or heaven.

America the Beautiful is in more brotherhood songbooks then you might realize.

The Star-Spangled Banner is even in some of the songbooks.

As nice as these songs are, they have no business being sung during worship to God, because they are not what God has authorized in His word.

The songs we sing must be Scriptural.

These songs are supposed to be used to teach each other (Colossians 3:16).  If the songs aren’t Scriptural, then by definition we are teaching unscriptural things when we sing them!

The most popular example of this is the song Jesus is Coming Soon.  It has a great melody and a really fun bass-line to sing, but it’s not teaching the truth.  It was written in 1942, and people have been singing it for over 70 years—yet Jesus still hasn’t come.  It speaks of signs that will come to pass (the “troublesome times” from verse one) before the end comes—but Jesus said that there would be no signs before the end comes (Matthew 24:35-39).  We could say “we need to live as though Jesus could come at any moment,” but that’s not what the song says.

Our singing must also involve…

The Proper Attitude (I Corinthians 14:15)

I will sing with the spirit (the proper attitude).

Some say that this is speaking of miraculous songs (songs directly inspired by the Holy Spirit), and that is possible in the context.  But at the same time, we are commanded to worship “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24) and that applies long after the miracles ended in the first century.

When we sing, what kind of attitude are we showing?

Some people sing because they want to be heard—to show off their singing voice.  They are sometimes loud, sometimes they intentionally add notes to their singing, and their purpose in doing so is to get attention for themselves.  But where should the focus be?

Some people sing in a mumble, just doing enough so that they can say they were singing.  Others sing half-heatedly, occupying themselves with their phone or something else.  And still others sing loud and clear—but without giving a thought to the words they’re singing.

If you don’t think this can happen, I ask: have you ever sung along with the radio?  Did you give much thought to the words of the song you were singing, or were you just singing with it because you like the tune and have heard it enough times that you have it memorized?

So many songs on the radio (and it’s been this way for decades) are about drinking and sex—yet often Christians are guilty of singing along with them, not even thinking about what the words are actually saying.

We can rattle off things that we’ve memorized without difficulty, but does that make us mean it?

We need to be giving thought to the words that we are singing.  If you wrote a song for your one true love, and you then sang it to her, would you sing it with meaning? With feeling? With understanding?

When you sing a song to God, shouldn’t you sing it with meaning? With feeling? With understanding?

The Proper Understanding (I Corinthians 14:15).

I will sing with the understanding.

The Ethiopian Eunuch was reading the Bible—a great and noble thing to be doing—but Philip came up to him and asked, “do you understand what you’re reading?” (Acts 8:30).  If Philip came into our worship service sometime, he might go up to one of us and ask “do you understand what you’re singing?”

Do you understand the words you’re singing?

Richie Valens was a famous singer from the late ’50’s whose biggest hit was a song he sung in Spanish, called La Bamba.  The only problem? Richie Valens didn’t know Spanish.  He sat and listened to the song being sung over and over until he memorized the words—the syllables—even though he didn’t know at all what the words meant.  And I’d be willing to guess that more than a few of you have sung along with that song as well, having no idea what the words mean.

There are some great poets who have written songs…but many times those poets use words and phrases that make no sense to us.  For example:

  • Night with ebon pinion, brooded o’er the vale.
  • the panoply of God

We’ve sung these phrases for years, but if a visitor came in and asked you, “what does that mean?” could you answer them? And if you can’t explain what it means, doesn’t that mean you aren’t “singing with the understanding”?

There are some songs that are steeped in Bible references, but some of them are unfamiliar.  And the best example of this is O Thou Fount of Every Blessing, which says…

Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by thy help I’ve come

What is an Ebenezer? Isn’t that the Scrooge guy from Charles Dickens’ book?  I Samuel 7:12 says that after God had secured the victory for the Israelites, Samuel raised up a stone (made a monument) and called it Ebenezer, which means “The stone of the help” or “the stone to remind us of God’s help.”

So when we sing “Here I raise my Ebenezer,” we are saying “God has helped me, and I am setting up a monument in my mind to remind me of the one who has brought me this far.”

How do we make sure we are singing with the understanding?

Part of that falls on the song-leader, because he is the one who chooses the songs.  He needs to make sure that the songs he leads are either easily understandable or that he explains the possibly confusing parts.  Sometimes a song can be given a wealth of meaning and the congregation can focus on the words so much more with just a few words of explanation before the song begins.

One person said, “any time we sing this song about heaven, I think of _______ who lived her life always looking forward to her home up there.”

Another person said (about a closing song) “remember that this song is the one we’ll sing together to get us through the rest of the week” (it was “God be with you till we meet again”).

One song-leader would occasionally announce that the closing song was actually a prayer, and so that would also serve as our closing prayer.  When he did that, it caused me to look more at the words and I came to realize that it really was a prayer.  And then I had to focus on what was being said, because it was a prayer that I was saying to God!

Part of singing with the understanding falls on the one singing.  If you don’t understand what the song is saying, then you need to do some asking or some investigating on your own.  My kids have asked me on more than one occasion what something means in a song (“panoply” being the most recent one).

There’s no shame in asking someone “what does this mean?”  It wasn’t until someone explained it to me that I finally figured out what “be of sin the double cure” was referencing (in Rock of Ages).

Conclusion:

Let’s take the opportunity to put more thought and feeling into our singing.  Let’s remember that proper singing involves the proper attitude and mindset—stop singing on auto-pilot.  Let’s remember that proper singing involves the need to understand what you’re singing.

-Bradley Cobb

Sermon Wednesday – What is Hell Like?

Today, we continue our series on “Fundamentals of the Faith,” and today’s topic is one that a lot of people really don’t like to think about–Hell.

Introduction:

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could take all the uncomfortable parts out of the Bible?  You know, things like be thou faithful unto death?  Things like, all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution?  Or what about hell?

What about hell?

Does hell really exist?  If so, does it last forever or is it only temporary?  Would a loving God punish someone eternally for a comparatively short life of sin?  How is hell described in the Bible?

These are questions that people have about hell, and it’s up to us to be ready to show them what the Bible has to say on the matter.

Does Hell Really Exist?

Sadly, the reality of hell–which was once almost universally believed–is being rejected by many people in many religious groups.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses all deny hell exists.  Their doctrine is that all evil people simply cease to exist when they die.  Thus, you can live your life as evil as you want, and when you die there is no punishment at all.

There are even those within the church who deny the existence of hell.  This isn’t limited to liberal or conservative either, as there are those on both sides who hold this view.  We’ll consider some of the arguments they use a bit later in the lesson.

The most important thing we need to remember when discussing any Bible topic is this: it doesn’t matter who believes it or how widespread that belief is; what matters is what the Bible says about it.

Acts 17:11-12a – These were more noble than they of Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed…

It is also extremely important that if we believe something, we know why we believe it.

Because that’s what my preacher said” isn’t good enough.

Because that’s what mom and dad believed” isn’t good enough.

We need to be able to show from the Bible why we believe what we believe.

So, you may believe there is a hell—but can you prove it from the Bible?

Hell is not always called hell in the Bible.

In fact, if you (like me) use the King James Version, you could get confused pretty quickly, because the word hell in the KJV doesn’t always mean hell.

  • Acts 2:27 (KJV) says that Jesus’ soul went to hell.
  • Revelation 20:14 (KJV) tells us that hell was cast into the lake of fire…which generally speaking is believed to be hell.

So, hell was destroyed in hell?  That makes no sense.

So, we need to make some observations before we get too far into this discussion.

In the Old Testament, the word “hell” is always the Hebrew word Sheol.  Some translations actually just render it Sheol.  It means “the abode of the dead” (Thayer).  Sometimes it refers to a place of torment, other times not.  Without considering the context of each section, we cannot gain much insight on the topic of “hell” from these passages.

In the New Testament, there are two words translated hellOne is Gehenna (see Matthew 5:22, 29-30).  This word is a reference to a place of fire and torment, as is obvious from the passages mentioned.

The other is Hades (see Matthew 11:23, 16:18).  This is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word Sheol.  This word simply means the unseen realm, or the abode of the dead, and is used ten times in the New Testament.  Though it can include the idea of a place of torment (Luke 16:23), it also describes where Jesus’ soul went after His crucifixion (Acts 2:27, 31).  It is a general word that includes all the unseen realm—including a place of paradise and a place of torment.

Hell is a place of torment reserved for the wicked after their time on earth.

Though the word hell isn’t always used, the concept of a place of punishment after death is clearly taught in the New Testament.

Luke 16:19-31 tells the story of the rich man and Lazarus.  They both died, and the rich man awoke in torment—conscious torment (16:23).  While in torment, he was conscious, proven by the fact that he was able to hold a conversation.  It was a place of flame (16:24).

“You can’t use that passage, preacher! It’s a parable, not a real story.”

It doesn’t say it’s a parable, and even if it was, Jesus never gave a parable that described things that didn’t actually happen.

“Well, you can’t use that passage because it’s speaking of Hades, not hell.”

I say that the man has obviously been judged because he is now in torment.  But if you want to discard that passage, we’ll just have to go somewhere else.

Matthew 25:41-46 describes the judgment scene.  Jesus calls the ones on his left “cursed” and sends them into “everlasting fire” (24:41).  He doesn’t use the term “hell,” but this is a description of the same place.

Mark 9:43-48 describes hell as a place of punishment for those who sin.  Jesus uses the word “hell” (Gehenna, the place of fiery torment) in verses 43, 45, and 47.  He describes it as a place “where the worm dies not and the fire is not quenched” (verses 44, 46, 48).

Revelation 14:11 speaks of some who were condemned, and says of them “the smoke of their torment ascends up for ever and ever, and they have no rest day nor night…”  This, again, is a description of hell.

Jude 7 describes the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrha as “suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”  Literally, it means they have suffered and continue to suffer the vengeance of eternal fire.

So, the question now is this: does the Bible describe a place of torment for the wicked after their death?

Without a doubt, such a place is described in the Bible.

How long does hell last?

Some people, when faced with the reality of hell, try to soften the impact of it by declaring that it is only temporary.  Some people say that it’s a place of torment until judgment day, and then all those who were in hell will simply be destroyed and cease to exist.

Others say that hell is a place of torment after judgment day, but that each person will be punished for a specific period of time based on their sins, and then they will be put in heaven after they’ve learned their lesson.

The problem with both of these theories is that neither one of them is found in the Bible.

As we’ve already seen from several passages, hell is a place of “everlasting” torment.  It’s a place where torment lasts “for ever and ever.”  It’s a place where the fire is never quenched (Mark 9:43-48).

If hell ceases to exist at any point, then the Bible has just lied!  You hear me? If hell ceases to exist—ever—then the fires were quenched, and the Bible has lied.

Think about that carefully, and understand what that means.

If you say that hell is a temporary place, then you are calling God a liar.

It is a place that is every bit as eternal and everlasting as heaven itself.

Matthew 25:46 says “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”  The words “everlasting” and “eternal” in that verse are the EXACT SAME WORD in Greek.

So, however long “life eternal” is, that’s the same length of time “everlasting punishment” is.  So, if hell is temporary, then so is heaven.  If hell will have an end, so will heaven.  If heaven is eternal, so is hell.

Hell is a place of unending torment reserved for the wicked.

But a loving God would not punish someone eternally for a short time of sinning!–Right?

That’s the argument, and it’s a very emotional one.

A 20-year old lives a life of fun and pleasure, never giving any thought to religion, and he’s hit and killed by a drunk driver.  Is a loving God really going to torment him eternally for what amounts to only about 10-12 years of sin? (because when he’s a small child, he has no clue what sin is).

A preacher that I know, called me one evening, struggling with this question.  He said, “Brad, I know what we’ve always taught, and what the church believes, but someone hit me with this question, and I’m at a loss.”  He expressed that he was having a very difficult time rectifying the idea of a loving God and eternal punishment.

And I’ll tell you the same thing I told him.

If a loving God will not punish someone eternally for a short life of sin, then a just God will not reward someone eternally for a short life of obedience.

Did you get that?

The logic works both ways.  A just God will not reward someone eternally when they’ve only spent a few years in His service, right?

Do we call the justice system unfair because it punishes someone for the rest of their life for a one-time action?  Someone intentionally shoots an innocent person—something that takes less than a second—yet we punish them for perhaps 60 years!  The punishment is absolutely deserved.

If you go to hell, it’s because you deserve to go there!

Whoa! Isn’t that a bit harsh?  No, it’s not. It’s the Bible.

All of us deserve to go to hell because of our sins.  However, those who take advantage of the blood of Christ can avoid hell and all its terrible torment.

If you don’t take advantage of it, whose fault is it?

But let’s dig a bit deeper into this idea of deserving to go to hell.  Ecclesiastes 12:13 says, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”  The whole duty of man. The whole purpose of man. This is the meaning of life.  This is the entire reason man was put on this planet was to fear God and keep His commandments.

When you look at Job 1-2, you see God and Satan at war.  The individual battles are waged in the lives of humans.  In these chapters, Job is the battlefield.

You are the battlefield between God and Satan.  You determine who wins and who loses in your life.  We were designed and put here as the instruments by which God defeats Satan.

Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

If you have a tool, designed for a specific purpose, and it won’t do what it’s supposed to do, you get rid of it.  Now, imagine that your tool can talk, and that it says to you, “I know what you want me to do, what I’m designed to do, but I don’t want to, and I’m not going to do it.”

You beg and plead with it, and still it indignantly refuses, and tries to keep other tools from working for you.  Eventually, you’re going to destroy that tool; and it will deserve it.

As humans, whose entire purpose is serving God and keeping His commandments, what do we deserve if we refuse to obey Him?

Yes, we deserve hell.

How is hell described in the Bible?

If we could just for 5 seconds peel back the lid on hell and experience it for just that short amount of time, I am convinced that we would serve God and never look back.

Hell is a place that God has created to torment Satan and his messengers forever (Matthew 25:41).

You know what Satan deserves because of his opposition to God.  Satan deserves the worst possible torment imaginable.

And if you aren’t a faithful Christian, you will be joining him forever.

Hell is a place of fire.

Mark 9:43-48 describes it as the place where the fire is never quenched.  Revelation 20:14-15 calls hell “the lake of fire.”

Ten years ago, a man was clearing out trash that was on the edge of his back yard.  He starts a small burn pile to get rid of the trash and leaves.  And being the guy that he is, he adds more and more, trying to get it done quicker (that, and he likes seeing the fire).

Then came an extremely loud pop!  Something in the fire shoots out and lands on the man’s hand, and he looks on in horror as he sees his skin literally start to melt.  The searing pain rushes through his whole body, and he screams.

He grabs something and as quick as he possibly can, he scrapes the burning material off his hand (causing even more pain in the process).  He grabs his hand, trying to stop the pain, but nothing works—in fact, if anything, it gets worse.

Slowly, he removes his grip and looks at his hand, and at the place that was tormenting his entire body.  The spot of pain was less than half the size of an M&M, but the burning tormented his entire body.

That was me.

But the fires of hell are not confined to one small part of you.  It’s not just a spot on your hand.  It’s not just a finger or a toe.

If you go to hell, you are in the lake of fire.  Imagine yourself in the middle of a lake of water, and you’re drowning, thrashing around trying to stay afloat.

Now, as you have that image in your head, watch as the water turns to flames, and you are completely immersed in fire, thrashing about, trying in vain to escape the pain.  Is it any wonder that john the Baptist promised that Jesus would baptize some people in unquenchable fire? (Matthew 3:10-12)

You know the pain of fire when you get burned on one part of your body.  Now imagine it continually burning every part of you.

Hell is a place of darkness.

To the person trapped in an underground cave with no light, even a small speck of light is a sign of hope.  But with no light, living in complete darkness, there is no way to see what might be around you—what could be trying to attack you.

Paranoia can easily creep in when someone is in complete blackness.  Mentally, being in complete darkness for an extended period of time can actually drive someone insane.

You are thrown into a coffin, the lid shut, and then you are put in the ground and covered in earth…and you’re still alive.  It’s completely black and you’re freaking out, hyperventilating, sweating, and the heat inside the coffin is quickly rising.

Then you find a flashlight and turn it on.  Instantly, things have improved because there is some light—even though your condition hasn’t improved, the light has a somewhat calming effect.

In hell, there is no light.

Hell is called the place of “outer darkness.”

  • Matthew 8:12 – the children of the kingdom shall be cast into outer darkness, where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
  • Matthew 22:13, 25:30 both describe hell in the same way.
  • I Peter 2:9 may have this idea in mind as well, God “hath called you out of darkness” [perhaps, freed you from the punishment of hell].
  • Jude 13 describes the fate of false teachers as “the blackness of darkness forever.”

Hell is not just a place of pain, but of mental anguish as well.

There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12, 22:13, 25:30).  There will be anguish because each person in hell will understand that they brought it on themselves.

There will be anguish over lost opportunities to obey the gospel.

There will be anguish over each and every sin committed.

Hell is described as a place with a foul stench.

Worms (literally, we’re talking about maggots) thrive there (“where the worm dieth not”).  Maggots are found around rotted meat–and you probably know that smell well.

It is a place of fire and brimstone.  If you’ve smelled sulphur, you know how nauseating the stench is.

Some experts believe Gehenna (the Greek word for hell) was also the name of a continually burning garbage dump outside Jerusalem.  It would have had dead animals, rancid meat, human waste, and many other foul odors constantly going through the air.

The smells of hell will attack your senses to the point where you can hardly breathe, causing you to hyperventilate, taking quick, shallow breaths in an attempt to keep from being as affected.

And as the smells get through, your stomach is turned and you’re not just fighting the smell, you’re fighting not to throw up.  All of this horrid stench is attacking you, and you can’t see where its coming from because it is completely black.

And there’s no way to get away from it.

And the black flames burn over your entire body, and no matter how you move, you can’t stop the pain even for a moment.

And there’s no getting out of it.

Conclusion:

Today is the day, and now is your chance.  You can avoid the fires of hell by becoming a Christian.  Do it now, before it’s too late!

 

Sermon Wednesday – The Divisions of the Bible

Back after a few weeks’ hiatus, we are proud to continue our series on “Fundamentals of the Faith.”  And you might have noticed that we’ve moved this feature up a day.  Instead of “Sermon Thursday,” we’ll be having “Sermon Wednesday.”

Enjoy!  And, as always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to let us know!

Introduction:

Everyone understands the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament…right?

  • The Old Testament is still binding today for all people.
  • The Old Testament is still binding today, but only for the Jews.
  • The Old Testament is still binding today, but only for Christians.
  • The Old Testament is still binding today except for the animal sacrifices.
  • The Old Testament is not binding on anyone today in any way.

OK, so there’s some confusion about the Old Testament; but everyone understands the New Testament, right?

  • The New Testament only applies to those who have become Christians.
  • The New Testament applies to all people.
  • The New Testament applies to everyone except Jews.
  • The New Testament begins in Matthew.
  • The New Testament doesn’t begin until Acts 2.
  • The New Testament didn’t really officially become effective until Jerusalem was destroyed.

Every one of these things are said by people about the two testaments in the Bible.  To say there is confusion about the Old Testament and New Testament is an understatement.

Today, we’ll look at the two divisions of the Bible, who they apply to, and why.

The two divisions explained.

We get the names “Old Testament” and “New Testament” from the Bible.

  • II Corinthians 3:14 – “…the reading of the Old Testament.”
  • This is also called the “first testament” (Hebrews 9:15, 18).
  • I Corinthians 11:25 – “this is the New Testament in my blood…”
  • See also II Corinthians 3:6, Hebrews 9:15.

What is a “testament”?

This is the same as a covenant, an agreement between two or more parties.  There are two types of covenants: suzerainty and parity (don’t worry, you don’t need to remember the names).

A parity covenant is an agreement between two or more parties of equal standing.  It’s like a business merger.  God is never involved in these kind of covenants, because no one is equal to Him.

A suzerainty covenant is where the more powerful party sets the rules.  This is like the covenants the Roman Empire had with the nations it conquered.  Every covenant involving God is this kind; He is the powerful party, and He sets the rules.

So, when you see the word “testament,” think of the word “covenant.”

The two covenants (or testaments) were both given by God at different times.

The first covenant (the Old Testament), which is also called “the Law of Moses” (Malachi 4:4), was established by God in the book of Exodus (see Exodus 20) and includes all the commands and restrictions given in Exodus through Deuteronomy.

Exodus through Deuteronomy? What about the other 35 books of the Old Testament?

Genesis is the story leading up to the giving of the Law of Moses, beginning with creation, and going through the life of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (whose family is the focus of the rest of the Old Testament).

Genesis contained teachings and commands that would be the foundation of the covenant that was given (such as circumcision, tithing, animal sacrifices, etc…).  But they were not the Covenant itself.

The books after Deuteronomy give the history of Jacob’s family (the Israelites) after the Law of Moses (the first covenant) was given.  Joshua through Esther give, basically, a chronological history of the Israelites until the 400’s BC.  Psalms though Song of Solomon are writings of some of the famous Israelites mentioned in the historical books (primarily David and Solomon).

Isaiah through Malachi (the “prophets”) contain some historical narratives, but their primary focuses are (1) attempts to bring the Israelites back to faithfulness, and (2) prophecies of things that had not yet taken place including many prophecies about Christ and the church.

The new covenant (New Testament), which is also called “the Law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2), was established by God in the book of Acts (see Acts 2), and includes all the commands and restrictions given in Acts through Revelation.

But what about the gospels? Where do they fit in?

Like Genesis, the gospel accounts tell the story leading up to a covenant.  They contain teachings and commands that would be foundational to the new covenant (such as “love one another,” faith, repentance, confession, baptism, and others).

The book of Acts is a brief history of the New Covenant people (the church) from its establishment on Pentecost until around AD 62.

The books of Romans through Jude (the “epistles” or “letters”) are like the books of prophecy in the Old Testament—written with two main focuses (1) to bring Christians to a higher level of faithfulness, and to a lesser extent (2) prophecies about events which had not yet taken place (some of the epistles—like Philemon—don’t include any prophecies).

Revelation is like the epistles, except that it focuses heavily on prophecy about things which had not yet taken place when it was written, but it still encourages Christians to a higher level of faithfulness.

There are two covenants in the Bible, both given by God.

The question before us now is…

Who do the covenants apply to?

Covenants made with specific people do not apply to those outside of that group.

The covenants made between the Roman Empire and the nations it conquered do not apply AT ALL to other nations.  China, which was never conquered by Rome, was never in one of those covenants.  You may say “that’s a big bag of duh right there,” but it is important we point this out.

Covenants only apply to the people who are involved in it.

But just as clear, we must point out that covenants apply to everyone involved in it.

If Rome conquered a nation, then every single person in that nation was now involved—no exceptions.

Covenants made for or at a specific time do not apply outside of that timeframe.

A covenant is an agreement that says “from now on, this is how things are going to be.”  It only becomes enforceable when it begins—not before.  And if the covenant has a cut-off date, it is no longer effective or enforceable after that date.

It’s like a football contract: the player cannot demand that the team pay him for the years he wasn’t under contract, nor can he demand that they keep paying him after the contract has expired.

You may think that this is so obvious that I shouldn’t even bring it up, but it needs to be said because of some of the confusion about the Old Testament and New Testament.

With these things in mind, let’s look at who the old and new covenants applied to.

The Old Testament was given to a specific people.  God had established a covenant with Abraham, then Isaac, and then Jacob to give their descendants the land of Canaan (Exodus 6:4-5).  In Exodus 20:2, God announces that He is speaking directly to the group of people that He had just led out of the bondage of Egypt.

  • What group had He led out of Egypt? The Israelites.
  • Who was God speaking to? The Israelites.
  • Was He speaking to anyone else? No.

Immediately after stating who He was addressing, God gave the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3-17).

God gave the Ten Commandments to the Israelites, all the Israelites, and no one but the Israelites.

God never commanded that Gentiles (non-Jews) follow the Ten Commandments or the rest of the Law of Moses—it was only ever for the Jews.

This Law of Moses was not intended to last forever—it was given for a specific period of time.

God, through Jeremiah, foretold that God would establish a “new covenant” with His people (Jeremiah 31:31-34).  God specifically states in that passage that it is not the same covenant as the one He made with them when He brought them out of Egypt.

When a new covenant is made, then any old ones are no longer valid.

A football player cannot play under two separate contracts with the same team at the same time.  Only one contract is valid.  So, when this “new covenant” was made, the old one was no longer valid.

Jesus said that the “new testament” (covenant) was in His blood—which was shed for many for the remission of sins (Matthew 26:28).  Christ’s blood was shed on the cross (John 19:33-34).

Jesus connected His death and remission of sins, saying it must first be preached in Jerusalem (Luke 24:46-47).  Remission of sins was first offered in Jerusalem on Pentecost (Acts 2:38).

The New Testament (covenant) began on Pentecost—making the Old Testament no longer valid beginning at that point.

The only group that the Old Testament was ever binding on was the Jews, and that Testament was no longer in effect, starting on the Day of Pentecost after the death of Jesus Christ.  The Law of Christ—the New Testament—became effective beginning in Jerusalem on the same day.

It was first a covenant with the Jews only, but beginning in Acts 10 it was expanded to include the Gentiles as well.  See Romans 1:16 – I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe: to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile.

There are only two groups of people in the world, so far as Jews were concerned—Jews and non-Jews (Gentiles).  The New Testament applies to both groups, therefore it is a universal covenant.  It applies to every person—none are excluded.

Those who reject it are still subject to the punishments contained in it for disobedience, for breaking the laws.

Because there is only one Covenant in force today—and it is a universal covenant –THAT is the covenant we need to be most concerned about studying.

We still read and study the Old Testament, because it helps us understand God, how He works, His actions towards His people in the past, and for great encouragement from examples of faithful followers then.  But we need to remember that the entire purpose of the Old Testament was to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24-27).

The New Testament is what we live under today, which is why we should focus most of all on its pages.

Conclusion:

The New Testament says that all have sinned, and thus all deserve death (Romans 6:23, 3:23).

The New Testament says that in order to become part of God’s family and receive the blessings of the New Covenant, you have to believe in Christ, repent of your sins, and be baptized to have those sins washed away.

After doing that, the New Testament commands that we continually strive for a life of greater faithfulness to Him, repenting when we’ve messed up (Acts 8:22), and keeping our focus on heaven so that we don’t lose what we’ve worked for (II John 8).

Make the decision to obey the New Testament of Jesus Christ today!

-Bradley Cobb

Sermon Thursday – Assembling With the Saints

This week, we continue our look at the Fundamentals of the Faith and look at the topic of assembling with the saints to worship.

Introduction:

I’ve been saved, why do I need to come worship with the church?  I mean, I can think of quite a few reasons not to come:  I’m tired; I’ve got other things to do; I don’t like the preacher; I don’t know the songs; if I go, they’ll expect something out of me; I just don’t like church.

Some people teach that gathering with the saints isn’t necessary, others teach that it is.  The truth of the matter is that coming together with other Christians is an outgrowth of what’s in your heart.  If you don’t come, then that shows where your heart is.  If you do come, but you complain about it or are unwilling to participate, that also shows where your heart is.  If you come, and you actively join in, then that shows where your heart is as well.

We all would (I hope) agree that the Bible is our standard of right and wrong.  So today, let’s look at what the Bible says about gathering with the saints.

When was it done?  Where was it done?  Why was it done?  Must it be done?

When did the saints meet for a specific time of worship?

There are several religious groups who claim that the church met on the Sabbath (Saturday), and that meeting on Sunday is from Satan.  But we’re not interested in what they have to say.  We’re only interested in what the Bible has to say about it.

Jesus rose on the first day of the week (John 20:1-ff). This obviously isn’t proof in and of itself, but it is evidence that points in a certain direction.  Christianity is completely based on the fact that Christ rose from the dead, it would make sense that the church would gather on the same day of the week.  This is circumstantial evidence, proving nothing by itself, but it does help point the way.

The disciples gathered together on the first day of the week after the resurrection (John 20:26). In this passage, it says “after eight days…”  The Jews counted time by including whatever day it happened to be at the time, so they would have counted the Resurrection day as day 1, so the eighth day would have been the next Sunday.  “After” would place it on Sunday evening.  This, as well, isn’t definitive proof, but it is noteworthy nonetheless.

The church was established on the first day of the week (Acts 2). Pentecost literally means “fifty days.”  It took place fifty days after the feast of Passover.  This places the first sermon in the church, the first meeting of the church, on the first day of the week.

But, let’s look further.

The disciples came together to “break bread” on the “first day of the week” (Acts 20:7).  This is talking about the Lord’s Supper.  But even if it wasn’t, it is noteworthy that the apostle Paul waited an entire week in the city of Troas so that he could meet with the saints there (20:6-7).  This shows us—without any doubt—that there was a specific gathering of the saints on the first day of the week, at least in Troas.

But was this just a local custom, or was it something that took place in all the churches?

The church in Corinth—by apostolic authority—met on the first day of the week.  In Acts 18, Paul went to Corinth, and he is the one who planted the church there.  He stayed for 18 months, teaching them the doctrine of Jesus Christ, and how God is to be served in the Christian era.  He later wrote to them, and said, “Upon the first day of the week, let every one of you lay by him in store” (in other words, take up a collection), I Corinthians 16:2.

But notice that this is something that was to take place on the first day of the week—the day that Paul obviously told them was their day to come together and worship God.

But there’s more—the verse before it says that Paul made the exact same command to the churches in Galatia; that is, to take up a collection on the first day of the week.

When did the church in the Bible gather together for worship? On the first day of the week!  By inspiration of God, Paul commanded it.

It is also significant that there is not one passage in the New Testament that shows Christians gathering for worship on the Sabbath.  There are passages where Paul went to the synagogue on the Sabbath to teach the Jews—because that’s when the Jews would meet.  But not one passage that says the church ever gathered on the Sabbath.

It’s true that especially at the beginning of the church, the Christians met together daily for food, encouragement, and support (Acts 2:46).  But meeting specifically for worship (specifically the Lord’s Supper and giving) was expressly stated to be on the first day of the week.  Is it any surprise that it has been known as “The Lord’s Day” for almost 2,000 years?

Where are the saints to gather together?

The city doesn’t matter.  We have records in the Bible of Christians meeting in Jerusalem (Acts 2:46).  But also in Corinth (II Corinthians 1:1), Ephesus (Ephesians 1:1), and many other cities.

The churches met in different types of places.  The church in some locations apparently met in synagogues (James 2:2 – the word “assembly” is the Greek word “synagogue”).  The church in Troas met in an “upper room,” but nothing is specified as to whether this was on top of a house or above a merchant’s shop, or perhaps even a community building (Acts 20:6-8).  The church in Laodicea met in the house of Philemon (Philemon 1-2).  It is possible that the Christians in Jerusalem met at the temple for a time (Acts 5:12).

What can we take from this?  That the physical location is unimportant.  The important thing is to actually meet with the saints, wherever they are meeting.

Why should the saints gather together?

God never gave a command that was arbitrary—every command has a benefit for us.  So, what is the benefit of gathering together with the saints?  To the Bible for the answer!

To take the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7).  Judging by the biblical testimony, it appears that the Lord’s Supper was the centerpiece, or focal point, of the early Christian worship.  Acts 20:7 says that they came together in order to break bread (take the Lord’s Supper).  Paul severely chastised the Christians in Corinth because when they came together, it wasn’t for that purpose (I Corinthians 11:17-20).  In fact, he called it heresy! (v 19).

This isn’t to say there weren’t other things that took place (as we will see), but that was to be the main reason—remembering Christ’s death through the memorial feast.  The saints should gather on the first day of each week to take the Lord’s Supper and honor Jesus Christ through it.

To give as they have been prospered (I Corinthians 16:1-2).  In the context, Paul was specifically telling them that they needed to start taking up a collection each week so that the poor Christians in Jerusalem could be aided.

But we can easily take this principle and apply it to other financial needs that may arise, such as assisting others (Galatians 6:10), paying those who proclaim the gospel and do other work for the church (Luke 10:7), purchase food for feeding the members of the congregation (Acts 4:37; 6:1), and helping out Christians who had need (Acts 4:34-35).  Is there ever a time when there is not a need?

But what benefit do we get from this?  It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).  It is a time to remind ourselves of the blessings that God has given to us.  It’s an opportunity to show our love for others and for God by sharing some of what we’ve been blessed with.

To sing praises to God (I Corinthians 14:15-19, 23).  Singing songs of praise to God was to be done “in the church” and when “the whole church is come together in one place” (these are phrases used in the context of verse 15).  Thus, they were to be done when they church comes together.  They were to be intelligible songs (sing with the understanding).  These songs are to teach (Colossians 3:16).  These songs are to be sung to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19).  These songs uplift and edify us.

To encourage one another (Hebrews 10:24).  “Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.”  Coming together as a family shows support, encouragement, and love for one another.  This is one of the many blessings that come with assembling with the saints.

To study God’s word (Acts 20:7).  When the Christians of Troas came together, Paul preached to them.  When the Corinthians were gathered together, it was understood that someone would be bringing a message from God (I Corinthians 14).  What better time than this to study God’s word deeper?

Must the saints come together?

We’ve seen when, where, and why the saints came together in the Bible; now the question is “Must the saints come together?”  Is it required?  Is it mandatory to get to heaven?  Again, let’s go to the Bible for the answer.

“Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching. Because if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin” (Hebrews 10:25-26).

The inspired writer here says that if you sin willfully, your sins will not be forgiven.  In fact, he goes on to say that the only thing you will have to look forward to is judgment and fiery indignation reserved for the enemies of God (10:27).

But look at what his example of willful sin is—verse 25 – forsaking the assembling of yourselves together.  This isn’t missing a service here or there because you’re sick or otherwise physically unable to come.  This is willfully deciding that you aren’t going to worship with the saints.  And this is the example of willful sin that makes you an enemy of God!

Must the saints come together? If they want to go to heaven, they do.

I don’t like hearing people say “I have to go to church.”  Our attitude should be “Ain’t it great? I get to go to church today!”  Skipping services isn’t the problem, it’s just a symptom of a spiritual problem.

Conclusion:

I’m glad you made the decision to gather with the saints to worship God today.  It is my prayer that you have been blessed by being here.

Jesus Christ gave His life for you, and is it really asking all that much that you devote a few hours of your week to coming together with His people?

If you truly appreciate Jesus’ sacrifice, then you’ll want to devote your entire life to Him.  If you’re not a Christian, then what are you waiting for?  You’re lost in sin, surrounded by the fiery pits of hell on all sides, but Jesus is reaching out to save you!  All you have to do is take hold of Him by believing that He is the Christ, the Son of God; repenting of your sins, confessing His name, and being baptized—the water saves you from the fire!

If you are a Christian, and your priorities haven’t been where they should be, why not make it right today?

Sermon Thursday – The Lord’s Supper

This week, we continue our series on Fundamentals of the Faith.  Enjoy!

Introduction:

Why do we have a snack in the middle of worship on Sundays?
Why do we call it a supper?
Why is it always the same thing?
Does it mean anything?
Is there a reason why we take it so often?

There are a lot of questions surrounding what is called “The Lord’s Supper.”

There are so many people who teach conflicting doctrines about it, and in the church there are many different views and attitudes towards it.  You want to see how confused some people are on this topic?  Here’s things that are said about the Lord’s Supper:

  • Take it annually; take it quarterly; take it monthly; take it each week; take it whenever you feel like it.
  • Must be unleavened bread and alcoholic wine; must be unleavened bread and non-alcoholic grape juice; it doesn’t matter what you use there so long as you’re thinking about Jesus; you can take the bread, but only a priest can take the fruit of the vine.
  • It is to be done until the end of the world; it isn’t to be done at all; it had to be done religiously until Jerusalem was destroyed.
  • It is supposed to be part of a congregational meal; it is to be the centerpiece of our worship; it is irrelevant.
  • It represents the sacrifice of Jesus Christ; it is something to keep the parents from getting hungry in the middle of services; it is a time set aside by Jesus so you can make out a check or dig through your purse to find money to put in the collection plate.

How can we cure all this confusion? BACK TO THE BIBLE!

 Where did it come from?

There are a lot of things that are done religiously that are nothing more than traditions.  The specific order of worship (announcements, two songs, Lord’s Supper, two songs, sermon, two songs, prayer).  The time to assemble (9:00? 9:30? 10:00?).

But the Lord’s Supper isn’t a tradition—it’s from the Bible!

It was instituted during the Passover. You may say, why does that matter?  It matters because (1) the Bible specifically says it, and (2) It helps us understand what specifically is being referenced.

Matthew 26:17-29 records that the Lord’s Supper was instituted during the Passover celebration, on the first day of the feast of unleavened bread.

It was instituted by Jesus Christ.  Matthew 26:26-29 shows clearly that Jesus is the one who established the Lord’s Supper.  I Corinthians 11:23-26 reiterates that it was Christ who instituted the Lord’s Supper.

Thus, the Lord’s Supper is not a tradition of man, but is a Divinely-given ordinance for the followers of Jesus Christ.

What does it consist of?

Some years back, there was a great uproar in the religious world when a denominational leader came out in favor of changing the contents of the Lord’s Supper to hamburgers and coke.  When you don’t believe that the Bible is the standard, then things like this sound acceptable.  But when you follow God’s word as your standard, you know that making changes like that are unauthorized, disrespectful, and sinful.

Jesus authorized specific items which were to be used in the Lord’s Supper.  He used “bread.”  This bread was unleavened.  What this means is that it was a flat bread, with nothing in it that would make it rise.  The modern-day equivalent would be a tortilla, which may actually be more authentic than the cracker-type bread we normally use.

How do we know that it was unleavened bread?  Because the Lord’s Supper was instituted during the feast of unleavened bread (Matthew 26:17).  Because the Passover feast, when instituted by God, began with getting rid of all leavening from the house (Exodus 12:15).  Because of the evidence, the only acceptable bread for use in the Lord’s Supper is unleavened bread.

He used “the fruit of the vine.”  It seems noteworthy to me that the Bible never once describes the drink that Jesus used here as “wine.”  In all the accounts of the Lord’s Supper being instituted, it is called “the fruit of the vine” (Matthew 26:29, Mark 14:25, Luke 22:18) or “the cup” (I Corinthians 11:25).  The only “fruit of the vine” that the Jews drank was grape juice.

Well, was it grape juice or was it alcoholic grape juice—wine?

One thing that is important to remember is that grape juice becomes alcoholic when it ferments, when yeast forms in it and “leavens” it.  If all leavening was to be cast from the house before the feast began, could there have been any “leavened” or “fermented” grape juice in the house?

Why is that question important?  Because if it was grape juice, then it would be sinful to substitute alcoholic wine in its place (just like it would be sinful to used leavened bread).  Because if it was alcoholic wine, then it would be sinful to use regular grape juice.

By inspiration, the writers of the Bible did not use the word oinos which can refer to either grape juice or alcoholic wine.  Instead, by direct guidance of the Holy Spirit, the writers used the phrase “fruit of the vine,” which refers to juice as it is directly from the grape—grape juice.

These are the only two items authorized for use in the Lord’s Supper.

What does it represent?

The bread and the fruit of the vine are meaningless unless you know why you’re taking them.

The bread is the body of Christ. That is, it is a reminder of the body of Christ; it represents the body of Christ.  When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, He said of the bread, “this is my body which is for you.”  Jesus hadn’t died yet, so it obviously wasn’t the literal body of Christ.

Instead, the bread is there to remind us of the body of Christ, the body that was beaten and nailed to the cross because of our sins, and the need for our sins to have a means of forgiveness.

When you take the bread, it is a reminder of your sins, and that they caused the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.

The fruit of the vine is the blood of Jesus Christ. Again, it is a reminder or a representation of the blood of Christ.  Christ had not yet shed His blood, but He knew it was going to happen.  Because of the surety of its taking place, Jesus could say “this is my blood which is shed for many for remission of sins” (Matthew 26:29).

The blood of Christ is that which washes away our sins (Revelation 1:5).  When you take of the fruit of the vine, remember that your sins put Christ on the cross, but the blood of Christ is what has brought forgiveness.

The bread reminds you of your sins, the fruit of the vine reminds you of the forgiveness.

It is the perfect representation of the gospel message.