September 30, 2013

Scripture and Commentary, Tuesday after the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

Morning – Psalm 42, 43, I Kings 18:16-24, James 1:22
Evening – Psalm 39, Job 14:1-14, Mt. 14:13-21

Commentary, Matthew 14:13-21

Bishop Ryle’s comments on this passage express its meaning so clearly and accurately they are presented here without further comment.

“What does this hungry multitude in a desert place represent to us” It is an emblem of all mankind.  The children of men are a large assembly of perishing sinners, famishing in the midst of a wilderness world,- helpless, hopeless, and on the way to ruin.  We have all gone astray like lost sheep.  We are by nature far away from God.  Our eyes may not be fully opened to the danger.  But in reality we are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.  There is but a step between us and everlasting death.
What do these loves and fishes represent, apparently inadequate to meet the necessities of the case, but by miracle made sufficient to feed ten thousand people?  They are an emblem of Christ crucified for sinners, as their vicarious substitute, and making atonement by His death for the sins of the world.  That doctrine seems, to the natural man, weakness itself.  Christ crucified was to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness.  And yet Christ crucified has proved the bread of God which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life to the world.  The story of the cross has amply met the spiritual wants of mankind wherever it has been preached.  Thousands of every rank, age, and nation, are witnesses that it is “the wisdom of God, and the power of God.”  They have eaten of it and been “filled.” They have found it “meat indeed and drink indeed.”
                                    J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels

September 29, 2013

Scripture and Commentary, Monday after the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

Morning – Psalm 41, 1 Kings 18:1-15, James 1:12-21
Evening – Psalm 33 Job 12:13-22, Mt. 13:53-14:12

Commentary, Matthew 13:53-14:12

The people of Nazareth were offended at Christ.  To them He was just the carpenter’s son.  They knew His family.  He was nobody from nowhere and they resented His apparent success.  How often we find that the people closest to us are the greatest barriers to success.  It is as though holding us to their level of underachievement somehow justifies their own mediocrity in their minds.  This is as true in spiritual things as it is in worldly things.  The one who seeks to live by the Gospel, rather than go along with the crowd, will be ridiculed for his “holier than thou” attitude.  How sad.  Even on a merely human level the people of Nazareth should have had a proper joy in “local boy makes good.”  Instead they resented Him.  Their attitude was like that expressed in the words, “Who do you think you are?  I knew you when you were nobody, and to me, you still are.”

Some have thought their lack of faith prevented Christ from doing great works in Nazareth, as He had done in other places.  Mark 6:5 seems to support this view.  But it is not that Christ was unable, as though their lack of faith arrested His Divine power and ability.  It was that they refused to accept mighty works from Him.  They refused to receive anything from Him because they did not believe He was the Messiah.  In exactly this way, those who will not believe in Christ today cannot be saved.  It is not that their unbelief binds the power of God.  It is that their unbelief binds their ability to receive anything from Him.

14:1-12 tells of the tragic execution of John the Baptist.  The opposition Jesus had spoken of in earlier chapters is clearly happening here.  Remember that in 12:14 the Pharisees held a meeting to plan a way to kill Jesus.  In 13:53-58 the people of Nazareth shout Him down and reject His teaching. Now John the Baptist pays the ultimate price for following Christ.  There has always been a price for following Christ.  There always will be.  We are seeing a growing opposition to Christ here, opposition that will eventually lead Him to the cross. 

Herod is doubly condemned in this passage.  His foolish promise to the dancing girl clearly was not meant to include murder, yet he lacked the courage to release himself from the evil request.  But a promise to do evil is not a valid promise.  To turn from such a promise is not called breaking a promise, it is called repentance from sin.  Rather than execute John, Herod should have rebuked the girl and released John.  But, like Pilate, he simply went along with the crowd, and another innocent man died.

September 27, 2013

Scripture and Commentary, Saturday after Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity

Morning – Psalm 37, 26, 1 Kings 17:17, James 1:1-11
Evening – Psalm 145, Job 12:1-10, Mt. 13:31-52

Commentary, Matthew 13:31-52

The parables in this passage all deal with the kingdom of God, and all expand on the points made in the explanation of the parable of the Tares and the Field.  From the seemingly inconspicuous seed of Christ and His disciples will grow a mighty kingdom that will overcome all enemies and bring creation and humanity to its Divinely appointed end.  But not all people will be in that kingdom. Those who remain in rejection and unbelief will be cast away at “harvest.”  They will continue to live in the hell they have chosen.  Except, then, they will realize their error.  They will exist in everlasting sorrow too deep for words, but expressed in wailing and gnashing of teeth.

September 26, 2013

Scripture and Commentary, Friday after Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity

Morning – Psalm37, 1 Kings 17:1-16, 2 Thes. 3:6.
Evening – Psalm 22, Job 11:7, Mt. 13:24-43

Commentary, Matthew 13:24-43

Our Lord continues to preach to the masses in parables.  This was a very common way of teaching in those days, and it still persists in the East today.  We are not to presume that none of the hearers understood Christ’s words.  Surely many understood and believed.  But others just heard stories, interesting, maybe, but unintelligible to them..  The first in tonight’s reading is the Parable of the Tares of the Field, followed by the parables of the Mustard Seed and of the Leaven.  It was not until He sent away the crowds that, at the disciples’ request, Christ declared unto them the parable of the tares of the field (Mt. 13:36-43).  Again, Christ is the Sower and the field is the world. Christ sows the good seed.  But this time the seed is people who believe the Gospel, not the Gospel itself.  The devil also sows his seed, the tares, which are the people who reject the Gospel and Christ.  The two grow together in the current age. But at harvest the two will be separated.  The angels will “gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  The harvest is the time when Christ returns and the earth is restored to its original goodness.  In the new earth those who followed Christ in the old era, will live in Godliness, as man lived before the Fall.  In this restored earth God’s people shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father, and Christ shall reign in perfect peace, forever.

September 25, 2013

Thursday after the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity

Morning – Psalm 27, 1 Kings 16:29, 2 Thes. 2:13-3:5
Evening – Psalm 31, Job 10:1-18, Mt. 13:1-23

Commentary Matthew 13:1-23

Often called “The Parable of the Sower” our reading for tonight is actually a parable of the soils.  The Sower is Christ; the Seed is the Gospel.  The hearers of the Gospel are the soils.  As there are different types of soils, there are different types of hearers.  Verses 4-8 describe the soils.  There is the wayside, meaning beside the pathway.  There is the stony soil, more stone than soil.  There is soil that appears to be good soil, but is overgrown with thorns that choke the seed as it sprouts.  There is good soil where the seed takes root and brings forth fruit.

Sowing, in those days, was done by the broadcast method.  The sower carried a bag of seed and cast handfuls of it across the soil.  A good sower could broadcast the seed evenly, so it produced a good stand of wheat.  So the picture presented is of Christ sowing the seed of the Gospel, dispensing it, pouring it out on the souls of people.

In verse 10 the disciples, who do not understand the parable anymore than the Pharisees and multitudes, ask Christ why He speaks in parables.  His answer is shocking.  “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.”  Did Jesus just say understanding the Gospel is given to some people and not given to others?  Our Lord quotes the Old Testament, showing again that He and His work are the fulfillment of the law and prophets. “Hearing ye shall hear and not understand; and seeing ye shall see and not perceive.”  It certainly sounds like Jesus is saying the reason some believe and others do not lies with God, not with man.  At the very least God knows who will and will not believe.  If He has this knowledge and does nothing to change the outcome, then is it correct to say some are predestined to believe and be saved while others are not?.  Verse 15 seems to indicate that God will not change the hearts or open the eyes and ears of the people He was speaking to in the parable, but  verse 16 seems to indicate that He is opening the eyes and ears of the disciples, “for they hear.”  Thus, our Lord, speaking to the disciples in private tells them the meaning of the parable (Mt 13:18-23).  The point is that only the few who constitute the good ground hear and understand the Gospel, which bring forth in them the abundant fruit of salvation.

September 24, 2013

Scripture and Commentary Wednesday after the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity

Morning – Psalm 21, 28, 1 Kings 12:25, 2 Thes. 2:1-12
Evening – Psalm29, 30, Job 5:8-18, Mt. 12:31

Commentary, Matthew 12:31-50

Christ’s words about the unforgivable sin have been the subject of discussion and question since He uttered them on the shores of Galilee over 2, 000 years ago.  Naturally, many have take pen or pulpit to expound upon the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost (Mt. 12:31).  Irenaeus (130-202) Bishop of Lyons, said it means to destroy the form of the Gospel, meaning to preach or believe in justification and forgiveness of sins in some way other than that taught in Scripture.  The Didache, written near the turn of the second century, said it is to teach another Gospel.  Archbishop of Constantinople, John Chrysostom (347-407) said it was the denial of what the Pharisee knew to be the work of the Holy Spirit.  Bishop J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) agrees, adding, “The brighter the light, the greater the guilt of him who rejects it.  The clearer a man’s knowledge of the nature of the Gospel, the greater his sin if he willfully refuses to repent and believe.”
It is important that each of the writers cited notes that blasphemy against the Holy Ghost has something to do with the Pharisees words against Jesus.  They said He received His power from the prince of devils, and hint that He used that power to deceive people.  In short, they were saying Jesus was not who He claimed to be, and that He and His works were evil, of the devil.  This required the Pharisees to account as false the clear testimony that Christ was God and was doing the work of God.  The Holy Spirit is the agency by which God speaks to the soul of man, and reveals the truth about Christ and the way of forgiveness.  Thus, to reject Christ is to reject the testimony and work of the Spirit.  It is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

Unmoved, the Pharisees ask for a sign (12:38).  They had already seen many, for untold numbers of people have been healed, and the Gospel has been proclaimed.  If this was enough of a sign for John the Baptist, who would give his very life for Christ, it was enough of a sign for the Pharisees.  But they wanted more, probably something like turning stones into bread or jumping unharmed into gathered crowds from the pinnacle of the Temple.  But Jesus says they will only have the sign of Jonah.  His three days in the fish symbolise Christ’s three days in the grave.  Jonah’s emergence from the fish is a symbol of Christ’s resurrection from the dead.  The Pharisees would do well to remember this after Christ is raised.  It would make sense to them then.  But they ignored it.

In the midst of this confrontation, Mary and some of her children came and requested to speak with Jesus.  The message came to Him as “thy mother and thy brethren stand without desiring to speak with thee.”  Jesus indicated the disciples and said, “Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.”  The family of Christ is not built upon human familial relations.  It is based upon faith in Christ.

September 23, 2013

Scripture and Commentary, Tuesday after the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity

Morning – Psalm 20, 23, I Kings 12:12-20, 2 Thes. 1
Evening – Psalm 11, 12 Job 4, Mt. 12:14-30

Commentary, Matthew 12:14-30

Our Lord had warned the disciples that His followers would face persecution and danger.  But it is enough for the servant to be as his Lord, and in Matthew 12 14 we see opposition rising against Jesus.  Nor is this the beginning of opposition.  The Pharisees murmured against Him in the early verses of chapter 12, and verses 10-13 show them in a deliberate attempt to make Him heal a man so they could accuse Him of breaking the Sabbath (12:10).

Opposition to Jesus is also seen in the imprisonment of John the Baptist, for he was the forerunner sent to prepare the way of Christ.  Going back to chapter 10, our Lord warned the disciples that they would be scourged, hated and delivered up to death for His sake.  When He said “It is enough for the disciple to be as his master” He was hinting at His own rejection and crucifixion and telling the disciples to expect the same treatment.

In 12:14 the opposition to Christ moves from murmuring and verbal traps to an actual plan to destroy Him.  This verse shows the vicious cruelty of the opposition, for the Pharisees intend to see His teaching and influence disgraced, and Him executed and consigned to eternal hell.  That is their hope for Jesus, and it is all summarized in the word, “destroy.”  In Greek it is the same word used in 1 Corinthians 10:10, which refers back to the way the Hebrews murmured against Moses in the wilderness and were not allowed into the Promised Land, but died in the wilderness.  It also recalls the rebellion of Korah and the way the earth opened and took the dissenters alive into hell (Num 16:32).  They were destroyed by the destroyer, and we know who that is.  We see him identified in Revelation 9:11, the angel of the bottomless pit “whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon.”  Apollyon is a derivative of the Greek word used in Matthew 12:14, apolesosin.  It means they wanted Christ to burn in hell.

The healing of the multitudes is another opportunity for Matthew to identify Christ as the Messiah and the fulfillment of the Old Testament.  Verses 17-19 refer to Isaiah 11, 61, and 40.  The Pharisees respond by accusing Christ of casting out demons by the power of the prince of demons.  Christ replies that he is not of Satan’s house, else that house would be divided and fall.  Instead, He is the One who enters the house of Satan and spoils his goods (12:29).  Christ is saying Satan is like a strong man with much wealth, but He, Jesus, has broken into Satan’s house and taken his goods.  The goods are the souls of people once in slavery to Satan, but now free in Christ.

September 22, 2013

Scripture and Commentary, Monday after Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity


Morning – Psalm 18:1-20, I Kings 12:1-11, 1 Thes. 5:12
Evening – Psalm 7, Job 3:1-20, Mt. 12:1-13

Commentary, Matthew 12:1-13

Obviously the corn our Lord and His disciples were eating was lawfully available to them, else the Pharisees would have quickly accused them of theft.  The problem was not taking the corn, it was harvesting it on the Sabbath that angered the Pharisees.  Christ’s answer shows that the ceremonial law has limits because of its symbolic nature.  But the One who fulfills the ceremonial is present, that is, Christ.  Then He makes another claim to prerogatives and authority only possessed by God.  He claims that He is Lord even of the Sabbath day.  It was He who instituted the Sabbath, and it is He who decides how it is to be observed.  He defines it.

The same point is made in verses 9-13.  But something else is added there.  He reminds the people that He created the Sabbath for their good, to be a blessing, not a burden.  Therefore it is right and good to do good on the Sabbath.  It is important to note that Christ is not negating or canceling the Sabbath.  He is simply making two points.  First, as God He is Lord of the Sabbath.  Second, the Sabbath is for doing good.

Sermon, Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity

Christians Follow
Psalm 25, Jeremiah 13:15-21, 2 Timothy 2:19-26
Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity
September 22, 2013

One of the great treasures of the Anglicans is our annual cycle of Scripture and worship.  We call it the Christian year because it marks time in Christian, rather than secular events and seasons. This is a custom followed from the Apostolic times of the New Testament Church, and from very ancient times in the history of God’s dealings with man after the Fall.  The first half of the year concentrates on faith, what Christians believe.  The second half concentrates on faithfulness, what Christians do.  To us, doctrine is not an academic pursuit for theologians.  It is vitally related to life.  As we learn in Scripture that God became flesh and lived and died and rose again, we also learn what it means to live our daily lives in the love and obedience of God.  Doctrine, then, leads us to ask with Francis Shaeffer, How Should We then Live?

Our recent sermons have been attempting to answer that question.  We have said, “Christians Answer” meaning answer God’s call.  “Christians Continue” meaning we persevere in the faith because God preserves us.  We said, “Christians Live”  “Christians Love” Christians Repent” “Christians Pray,” “Christians See.”  Today I want to continue talking about what Christians do, and the title and subject of today’s sermon is, “Christians Follow.”

The Bible contains some of the most famous words of all time.  This is not surprising, since it continues to be the best selling book of all time.  Of the Bible’s famous words, certainly some of the most famous are the words Christ spoke to His first disciples, “Follow me.”

Our reading in 2 Timothy also contains the word “follow.”  “Flee youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22).  Having said that, let me now say that the Greek New Testament uses two different words in these two verses.  When Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James and John on the shore of Galilee, His word in Greek meant, “come with me and be on the same road I travel.”  When He met Phillip, He used another Greek word that meant to join with Christ spiritually, to become a learner.  I think no one has expressed this kind of following better than Ruth in the first chapter of her book, verses 16 and 17:
“Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, I will die, and there will I be buried.”

I think this is the kind of following Jesus had in mind for His disciples, then and now, and forever

In Second Timothy 2:22, the Apostle Paul was writing to Timothy, who lived in Ephesus as the Bishop of the churches in that city and surrounding area.  Timothy’s task in Ephesus was to preach the word of God, and to ensure that the pastors of the particular congregations taught no other doctrine than the Gospel they received from Paul (1 Tim. 1:3).  Timothy was also called to ordain ministers, and especially to consecrate Godly men as bishops to oversee the small groups of congregations in Ephesus and the surrounding villages.  Thus, Paul, in First Timothy 3:1-7, gave the qualifications of bishops.  Timothy probably read this passage at the consecration services to remind the new bishops that this is the will and word of Christ for His Church and His ministers.

Second Timothy is a more personal letter than First Timothy.  Yet it also gives great instruction to Timothy as a minister of the Gospel, and was probably meant to be read to ministers, bishops, and congregations at ordinations and consecrations, and various other times and occasions.  In 2 Timothy 2:22 we find our word of the day again, “follow.”  But this is a different word from the ones Jesus used in calling the disciples.  This is a harder word.  This is the kind of word that would be used in 1 Samuel 31:2 and 3, “and the Philistines followed hard upon Saul… and the battle went sore against Saul.”  It is the word used in Philippians 3:14, where the Apostle Paul is saying he has not reached perfection nor is he even close to it, but “reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”  “Press” in that verse is the same word translated “follow” in 2 Timothy 2:22.  It means to run down in hot pursuit as a pack of hounds runs down its prey.  So, while Jesus calls us to a spiritual oneness, which He offers and gives to us as His gift, and is an important part of what it means to follow Him, He also wants us to pursue some things, not timidly, not half-heartedly, but to chase them down with all the intensity and purpose in our being, like the Hound of the Baskervilles.

There are no surprises in 2 Timothy 2:22. We almost knew what it was going to say before we read it, even for the very first time; righteousness, faith, charity, peace.  Nor are there any secrets revealed by reading this verse in the original Greek.  Even the word translated “charity” is the familiar word, agape. The words are well translated in our King James Bible as righteousness, faith, charity, and peace.  No translation difficulties there.  In fact I much prefer the King James translation of the Greek word, agape as “charity.”  The modern versions all translate it as “love” and love has become such an over used and emotionally centered word it has little meaning any more.  Charity means a compassionate attitude that moves us to action for the best interest of others.  That’s what Christ wants us to follow.

What is surprising is that the Bible tells us to chase these things, to press them.  I wonder how many of us seek righteousness in such a way it can be said we are chasing it like a pack of hounds.  How many of us can say we press faith the way soldiers press a retreating enemy?  How many can say with Paul, I press toward the mark when it comes to charity or peace?  I admit that, to seek these things in this way is unnatural.  It is not the way the natural man works, and it is not the way our human nature leads us to follow God.  But we are not natural creatures any more.  We have been born again into a super natural realm.  A natural person suppresses the knowledge of God and seeks the fulfillment of his own natural lusts.  Read Romans 1 this afternoon and reacquaint yourself with the Biblical teaching on this. Natural people follow their lusts like hounds chasing prey.  Christians do not.  Christians press toward God and Godliness.  Christians follow God.

September 20, 2013

Scripture and Commentary, Saturday after the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

Morning – Psalm 143, 149, 1 Kings 11:26-37, 1 Thes. 5:1-11
Evening – Psalm 19, 112, Job 2, Mt. 11:20

You have probably noticed that Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday are designated as Ember Days, meaning they are set aside for prayer and fasting for those studying for the ministry and preparing for ordination.  How very appropriate that, during this time, we have been reading the Lord’s words to His disciples as He prepared to send them on their first missionary journey through Galilee.  Certainly His words to them have a direct application to those who would serve Him today, whether ordained or lay. The beautiful Collect for Ember Days is set forth below.  It is followed by the Prayer for the Clergy and People from Morning and Evening Prayer.  Let them both rise to God from our lips this night.

O Almighty God, who hast committed to the hands of men the ministry of reconciliation; We humbly beseech thee, by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, to put it into the hearts of many to offer themselves for this ministry; that thereby mankind may be drawn to thy blessed kingdom, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Almighty and everlasting God, from whom cometh every good and perfect gift; send down upon our Bishops, and other Clergy, and upon the Congregations committed to their charge, the healthful Spirit of thy grace; and, that they may truly please thee, pour upon them the continual dew of thy blessing.  Grant this, O Lord, for the honour of our Advocate and Mediator, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Commentary, Matthew 11:20-30

The reaction of the people to the ministry of Jesus and the disciples was tremendous.  People flocked to Him, traveling long distances at great expense.  They listened to His teaching and said that a prophet had come to them.  They saw His miracles and said the power of God had come among them.  We are told many times that great multitudes followed Him.  Sometimes, they even attempted to make Him king.  Great crowds came with great excitement and great rejoicing.  But few came with great repentance or faith.  They came to be healed, or entertained, but not to be saved.

Jesus rebukes the cities in which He did much of His preaching and ministry.  Chorazin and Bethsaida are near Capernaum on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.  They were Jewish cities, which Jesus probably went to after He sent His disciples on their mission.  Tyre and Sidon were Gentile cities northwest of Israel on the Mediterranean coast.  Jesus is saying that if He had done his preaching and miracles in Tyre and Sidon “they would have repented long ago in sack-cloth and ashes” (vs.21).  Even Sodom would have repented and been spared (11:23).  Perhaps you are thinking now of Nineveh, which, at the very reluctant preaching of Jonah, believed God and proclaimed a fast in repentance of sin.  They, Gentiles, put on sack-cloth and ashes, “from the greatest to the least of them” (Jonah 3:5).  Even the king of Nineveh repented publicly. And God had mercy on that Gentile city whose people had more faith than Jonah.  It will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for Chorazin and Bethsaida on Judgment Day.  Capernaum, where Jesus did so much, will go down to hell, for they have seen and heard the Messiah.  The Gentiles have not.

September 19, 2013

Scripture and Commentary, Friday after the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

Morning – Psalm 102, 1 Kings 9:1-9, 1 Thes. 4:13
Evening – Psalm 139, Mt. 11:2-19

Commentary, Matthew 11:2-19

Matthew 11:1 tells us three things.  First, our Lord has finished giving the instructions to the disciples.  Second, they have departed on their mission.  Third, Jesus departs on a second mission in Galilee.

It is while Christ is traveling through Galilee preaching and ministering that John the Baptist sends people to Jesus.  John is in prison because he had told Herod it was against the law of God for Herod to be married to his brother’s wife, Herodias.  Herod would not repent of his sin, but he did hate John for telling him about it.  So, typical of tyrants and despots, he arrested an innocent man.  He will kill him later.  The Lord’s warnings about persecution and death for serving Him are very accurate.

John’s question is one of the most important questions anyone can ask; “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?”  Rather than simply saying, “I am He,” our Lord shows that His work and ministry is the fulfillment of Scripture.  Read Isaiah 61:1-3 and compare it with Christ’s response to John.  Jesus is saying He is the fulfillment of this, and all Scripture, therefore, He is the One Israel and the world has been looking for.  John was correct when he identified Jesus as the Messiah.  Everything John said about Him was true.  This was terribly important for John to hear.  In prison with his life dependent upon a corrupt tyrant, John’s life could be ended at any moment.  He wanted to know he was not throwing his life away on a lie.  He needed to know Jesus was who He said He was, and that he would die in the Lord and be with Him in Paradise forever.  John’s disciples returned to him with this message, and John gave his life in the service of Christ.

After many commendatory words about John (vss 7-15) Christ compares Israel to children complaining because neither He nor John joined their games.  In fact, both Christ and John were very much not joined to the religious sham and hypocrisy that characterized most of Israel.  Consequently, both were castigated and rejected.  They called John a demoniac and Jesus a drunk.  Both were ultimately killed by the reigning powers, not for crimes, but for not joining and endorsing the status quo, for criticizing the faith, values, and actions of the culture and its rulers.  “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” is a warning to those who would follow Christ.  It can happen to you.

September 18, 2013

Scripture and Commentary, Thursday after Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

Morning – Psalm 126, 128, 1 Kings 8:54-63, 1 Thes. 4:1-12
Evening – Psalm 121, 122, 138, Mt. 10:32-11:1

Commentary, Matthew 10:32-11:1

Confession, as used in 10:32, is much more than saying you are a Christian.  It is the entire tone and essence of your life.  As spoken to the disciples to prepare them for their mission, it means to continue their ministry, even in the face of opposition and persecution.  It means to refuse to allow opposition to silence the proclamation of the Gospel they are sent to preach.  It means to refuse to allow opposition to stop the faithful obedience to Jesus Christ.  It is to refuse to deny Christ.  Thus, it is closely tied to Mt. 10:39 which tells us losing your life for Christ’s sake is actually finding It.  It is closely tied to verse 38, “he that taketh not his cross and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.”  Jesus demands that the disciples, and all disciples, be willing to give up their lives rather than turn away from Christ.  Verses 34-37 are things a person might love above God.  But the Gospel will divide even the closest of human relationships, if one is a Christian and the other is not.

Verses 40-42 are about the blessings of those who receive the disciples’ message and support them in their mission.  To receive Christ’s messenger is to receive Christ, the same as receiving a prophet was in the Old Testament.  Those who give a cup of water, that is, support the disciples’ mission, will be blessed.

September 17, 2013

Scripture and Commentary, Wednesday after the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

Morning – Psalm 119:113-128, 1 Kings 8:22-30, 1 Thes. 2:17-313
Evening – Psalm 119:129-144, Mt. 10:16-31

Commentary, Matthew 10:16-31

Our Lord’s commission to the disciples continues in tonight’s reading.  It is not the kind of speech leaders generally use to inspire and encourage people.  Our Lord speaks of persecution, scourging, imprisonment, and death in His service.  Obviously His words look beyond the ministry on which He is sending the disciples in Galilee.  His words look on to the time after His own execution when His Church will be persecuted in Israel and the world.

The disciples should expect opposition, often violent opposition.  They should expect to be treated as the Lord Himself was treated, and it should be enough for them to be like their Master in this sense (Mt. 10:25).  Therefore they should not fear their enemies or the ordeal before them.  They should fear only God.  This means they will endure the sufferings, and will not stop ministering as Christ directs them.

Our reading closes with a reminder that God sees and watches over the disciples in their service (vss.29-31).  The sparrow has never been considered a valuable bird.  Most people think it is not beautiful to look at or pleasant to hear.  In Galilee, sparrows were often captured and eaten.  They could be purchased very cheaply.  So the sparrow was considered a lowly bird. 

To the world, the Church is like the sparrow.  Yet God’s eye is on the sparrow.  Not one of them falls without His knowledge.  If He knows about the sparrows, He knows about His servants, even down to the hairs on their heads.  If He watches over the sparrows He watches over His servants, and they will be blessed.

Scripture and Commentary, Tuesday after Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

Morning – Psalm 118, 1 Kings 8:12-21, 1 Thes. 2:1-13
Evening – Psalm 11, 113, Mt. 9:36-10:15

Commentary, Matthew 9:36-10:15
The Apostle Matthew, like the other Gospel writers, was more concerned about theological order than chronological order.  So we are not quite sure when Christ sent out the Apostles ( still only disciples at this point).  Mt/ 9:35 tells us Jesus went into the cities and villages preaching the Gospel, and it seems that He would not send out the disciples until He had first taken them with Him on the  kind of mission on which He is sending them.  So, after Christ completed His first trip through Galilee, He sends out the disciples.

They are to be entirely dependent upon God.  No money or food is allowed to go with them.  They must take what is offered and provided for them in the places they visit.  .  

September 15, 2013

Scripture and Commentary, Monday after Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

Morning – Psalm 103, 1 Kings 8:1-11, 1 Thessalonians 1
Evening – Psalm 104, Mt. 9:18-35

Commentary, Matthew 9:18-35

As the Pharisees were speaking to Jesus, a ruler came to ask Him to heal his daughter.  The man was Jairus according to Mark and Luke, rabbi of the local synagogue.  This man was supposed to be on the Pharisees’ side, but he is defecting.  “[L]ay thine hand upon her, and she shall live,” he says to our Lord.  Jesus leaves Matthew’s houses immediately, followed by his disciples, including Matthew.  On the way to Jairus’ house a woman with an issue of blood touches His garment and is healed.

Note the spiritual words used throughout Matthew’s Gospel.  The man with the palsy was “forgiven.”   The sick need to be made “whole.”  Jairus’ daughter is “dead” but will “live” when Jesus touches her.  The woman with an issue of blood wants to be made “whole.”  She is “unclean” according to Old Testament law, and was forbidden from participating in public and religious life until her issue was over.  But this woman’s issue went on for twelve years and no one was able to help her, until Jesus came. One touch of even the hem of His garment made not just healed, but “whole.”  And Jairus’ daughter arose.  Her body arose to die again in later years.  But her soul arose to die no more.  She lives.

In verse 27 two blind men come to Jesus crying, “son of David, have mercy on us.”  This is significant because “son of David” is a Messianic title.  People are beginning to realize the Messiah has come, and He is Jesus of Nazareth.  These men know Jesus has the power to have mercy on them and relive them of their blindness. Their spiritual blindness is healed also.

The demoniac in 32-34 is almost secondary to the charge of the Pharisees, “He casteth out devils through the prince of devils.”  Notice they did not accuse Jesus of fake healings and exorcisms.  Instead, they said His power came from Satan instead of God.  This presents the reader with a choice.  Where does Jesus’ power come from?  Is it from Satan?  If so, what does that mean to us?  Is His power from God?  If so, what does that mean to us?

Sermon, Sixteenth Sunday after Trnity

Christians Continue
Psalm 145, Ephesians 3:13-21, Luke 7:11-17
Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity
September 15, 2013

All doctrines have a practical application to everyday Christian life.  The doctrine of salvation, for example, is not just about being saved and going to Heaven, but about how we live and what we value here and now and every day.  In fact the doctrine of salvation includes every other doctrine, for it is almost a summary of the entire Bible.  One part of the doctrine of salvation is so important that a proper understanding of it leads to great peace and faith in the believer’s life.  But an improper understanding of it leads to fear, worry and theological error in almost every other aspect of understanding the Bible.  I am talking about the old question, can I loose my salvation?  Is it possible for a real, true believer, a person who has been born again into a new life with Christ, a person who has been cleansed of all sin and restored to fellowship with God and God’s people, a person who has been adopted into the family of God, to loose all of those benefits, in short to be lost again?

So we are talking about something very important today. The doctrine we are talking about is often called, the perseverance of the saints. Simply stated, it says real Christians stay Christians.  They never leave the faith, and, once saved, never become lost again.  The Bible does not say we will not have doubts, or fall into sin, or have times of fear.  It does not say we will never consider leaving the faith.  It simply says God holds us in His hand and nothing can pluck us out of it.  And, by His power and grace, He will keep us in the faith and get us to Heaven.  Article XVII of the Articles of Religion, states this doctrine in clear and Biblical terms.  After telling us of our justification, adoption into the family of God, being remade into the likeness of Christ, and empowered to live as God wants us to live, it says we “at length by God’s mercy… attain to everlasting felicity.”  God takes us to Heaven, the place of eternal joy.

Most of our meditations on perseverance tend to focus on the fact of perseverance, but today I want to talk about the how of perseverance.  We persevere in the faith because God preserves us.  It is He who sought us when were going our own ways like lost sheep.  It is He who called us to come to Him and be saved.  It is He who carried us back to the fold.  And it is He who keeps us in the fold.  Before I start on how God preserves us in the faith, I want to talk about why He preserves us.  For that we turn to Luke’s Gospel, chapter 7.

Nain was a small village about 18 miles south west of Capernaum, where Jesus had recently been teaching and ministering.  We have been reading about His ministry in Capernaum about in last week’s readings in Matthew.  Going to Nain was part of a planned preaching tour of Galilee. Christ intended to leave Capernaum for such tours, as we see in His words to Peter in Mark 1:38, “Let us go into the next towns that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth.”  Christ made several preaching missions through Galilee, and this may have been part of His first trip.

As He entered Nain a funeral passed Him.  The only son of a widow had died.  In those days a widow often lived with her son or daughter.  It was the Jewish social security system of the time, and it worked very well.  This woman was probably poor and had depended on her son for her home and food.  Her situation looked bleak.  She would be reduced to begging for food, often going without the necessities of life.

But Jesus had compassion on her.  We need to say here that Jesus has compassion on all of us, according to His purpose and our needs.  Seldom does He raise people from the dead, no matter how deep our grief may be at their passing, no matter how great the cost to our financial security and comforts.  He raised the dead only a few times, each time to make a point; He is the Lord of Life.  He has the power to raise the dead.  Since only God has that power…, Jesus is God.  Making this point is part of His intention in this passage too, but He also has another: He intends to show His compassion.  This is not the first time the Bible speaks of His compassion.  Matthew 9:36 says “when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” In Mark 1:41 a leper had come to Jesus, “And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth His hand and touched him, and saith unto him, I will, be thou clean.”  Jesus is touched by our sufferings and trials.  He Himself was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He suffered hunger and weariness.  He suffered temptation, though He never sinned.  He wept at the grave of Lazarus.  He fed the hungry and healed the sick.  Finally, He laid down His life to save us from the worst disaster that could ever befall us, the disaster of eternal hell.  He has compassion on us and His compassion is usually expressed in standing with and comforting us with His promises of Heaven and eternal joy.  It is usually not expressed in miraculous healings, raising the dead, or delivering us from the troubles we have caused for ourselves and others.  He does deliver, but it is usually by the slow process of sanctification rather than a sudden and miraculous transformation of circumstances.  So here is the point; Jesus is able and willing to preserve us in the faith.  Truly, nothing is able to pluck us out of His powerful and loving hand.

This leads us to an important point in Ephesians 3.  Here God is delivering and preserving the Church, which, by the way, consisted of many congregations, each with its own pastor, under the direction of a bishop, who was under the direction of the Apostles..  So we are talking about a lot of Christians and a lot of churches in Ephesus and the surrounding area.  And here is how Paul prays for them.  He asks God to strengthen each Christian with might by His Spirit in the inner man.  He asks not that they be delivered from their illnesses, persecutions, or the normal trials of life.  He asks God to strengthen them so they will be enabled to persevere through the trials.  He asks that Christ may dwell in their hearts by faith.  In other words, may they, by faith, trust the word of God that Christ does dwell in them.  He is never away from them.  He is never just in Heaven.  He is in them.  May they know this by faith.  He asks that they may be rooted and grounded in love, that is, love for God and love for others.  I wonder how many of our troubles would just disappear if we loved one another as we love ourselves. I wonder how much better we would get along at home and work, and especially at Church if we were willing to just love and let love guide our thoughts and actions.  I am talking, of course about love for one another, not love for ourselves.  Self love is the cause of most of our problems.  Self love is the source of sin, pride, greed, laziness.  Love of God and love of neighbor is the cure, and that only comes to us as the gift of God’s grace as He makes new creatures out of those who believe in Christ.

It is through these things, the might of the Spirit in the inner man, Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith, and knowing the love of Christ which passeth knowledge that we are filled with all the fullness of God.  And that fullness of God is how He gives us strength to persevere.  It is how He preserves us, both individually and collectively as His Church.  This is how we continue in the faith instead of losing our salvation.

September 13, 2013

Scripture and Commentary,Saturday after the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

Morning – Psalm 92, 1 Kings 3:16, 2 Cor. 13
Evening – Psalm 46, 96, Mt. 9:7-17

Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the Synoptic Gospels, because they present much of the same material in the same way.  All three record the call of Matthew, though Mark 2 and Luke 5 call him Levi.  And all three record the words of Christ to the Pharisees, “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.”  I wonder if this inclusion is a self-confession on the part of all the disciples that they were sick to the soul until the Great Physician touched their lives and made them whole.  The inner healing that Jesus worked on the leper, the centurion’s servant,  Peter’s mother-in-law, the Gergesene demoniac, the palsied man and the multitude brought to Him in Capernaum, was equally needed by each disciple.  They were as sick as any of the others Jesus helped.  But, healed by His grace, they, like the others, were as whole and saved as Abraham of the Old Testament and Paul of the New Testament.

By contrast, the unbelieving Pharisees, though diligent about things like fasting, were unwilling to admit their illness.  In their minds God had to accept them because they kept the outward performance of the law, including several of their own additions to it.  Make no mistake, keeping that law was a burden grievous to bear, but they did it with amazing success.  What they lacked was the inner meaning of the law, the character and attributes the law expressed.  They lacked love for God, and love for their neighbors.  Since they believed they were spiritually whole, they did not think they needed a spiritual Physician.  They did not think they needed Jesus to heal their souls.  So, instead of coming to Him in faith, they argued with Him about the law.

In verses 10-13 they argued about eating with people who were not very good at keeping the letter of the law.  In verses14-17 they argued about fasting.  Jesus answered the first with the telling words, “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”  In other words, those who believe themselves righteous will not seek Him.  But He came to those who know they are unrighteous.  He came to call them to repentance, which means He has to have some contact with them.

He answers the question about fasting not with theological arguments about when and how to fast, but with the statement that the Messiah is here and His disciples will not fast until He is taken from them by the cross.  That is His meaning in verse 15.  But verses 16 and 17 take a surprising turn.  They talk about a new garment and new a new wine bottle.  Because a patch of new material on an old garment will shrink, it will cause a worse tear in the garment.  Therefore, a wise seamstress patches an old garment with old cloth.  Like wise, the fermenting process of new wine will cause pressure an old wine bottle (skin) cannot bear.  Only old wine can be put in old skins.

But Jesus is like new cloth and new wine to the Pharisees, and to the entire Old Testament system.  The Pharisees and the ceremonial law, the Temple, the animal sacrifices, and the Levitical priesthood foretold and pre-figured the ministry of Christ.  But they would never be able to hold Him in the old forms.  He fulfills them in such a way that they must pass away, even as John the Baptist.  They must decrease, and Christ must increase, for why would anyone sacrifice a lamb as the symbol of the coming Lamb of God, when the Lamb of God has come and offered Himself as the offering to take away the sins of the world?  Christ did not come to patch the old forms.  He came to fulfill them.

As the Pharisees were speaking to Jesus, a ruler came to ask Him to heal his daughter.  The man was Jairus according to Mark and Luke, rabbi of the local synagogue.  This man was supposed to be on the Pharisees’ side, but he is defecting.  “[L]ay thine hand upon her, and she shall live,” he says to our Lord.  Jesus leaves Matthew’s houses immediately, followed by his disciples, including Matthew.  On the way to Jairus’ house a woman with an issue of blood touches His garment and is healed.

Note the spiritual words used throughout Matthew’s Gospel.  The man with the palsy was “forgiven.”   The sick need to be made “whole.”  Jairus’ daughter is “dead” but will “live” when Jesus touches her.  The woman with an issue of blood wants to be made “whole.”  She is “unclean” according to Old Testament law, and was forbidden from participating in public and religious life until her issue was over.  But this woman’s issue went on for twelve years and no one was able to help her, until Jesus came. One touch of even the hem of His garment made not just healed, but “whole.”  And Jairus’ daughter arose.  Her body arose to die again in later years.  But her soul arose to die no more.  She lives.

September 12, 2013

Scripture and Commentary, Friday after Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

Morning – Psalm 85, 1 Kings 3:4-15, 2 Cor. 12:14
Evening – Psalm 89:1-19, Matthew 8:28-9:9

Commentary, Matthew 8:28-9:8

Here is one of the saddest stories in Scripture.  A man lived among the graves in such torment he often caused serious harm to himself.  He was so wild with torment, even chains and shackles could not hold him.  Jesus knew the source of his torment, demonic oppression.  He was so controlled by the demons his condition is called demonic possession.  How sad his life was.  How much he missed of the normal joys of life.  How he must have agonized in the night, consumed in an inner anguish we cannot even imagine and he could neither understand nor assuage.  We can picture him crying out in the night, gashing himself, yet nothing could relieve his pain, until Jesus came.  Jesus knew the problem, and had the power to make the man whole.  Jesus could drive the demons out, and restore the man to mental, physical, and spiritual health, and He did.

Now the story changes.  The man is whole.  He is clean right down to his soul.  We would say he is saved.  The agony, the fear, the uncontrollable horror is gone forever.  But the people in the village are unhappy.  Perhaps it was their hogs that drowned in the sea.  Whatever the reason, they did not bow to Christ and worship Him as they ought to have done.  Instead, they asked, demanded, that He leave their land.  They could have had the same peace and wholeness the demoniac had.  Instead they chose to remain in sin.

I think we can easily apply this to modern people.  The Church may be appallingly ignorant of the Bible, but the story of Jesus dying for our sins is almost universally known in the world.  Yet the vast majority of people ignore it.  Bibles abound, but lay unread, even in Christian homes.  Even the heavens and all creation bear witness to the presence and grace of God.  Yet people ignore it, and it becomes just another part of the world’s background noise.  The word has gone out.  Jesus stands before us all, as surely as if He stood before us in the flesh, but people implore Him to leave.  And He does.

In 9:1-8, Jesus has returned to Capernaum and found a paralysed man, which, in the Bible is called “palsy.”  Jesus immediately healed the man, but instead of saying, “arise and walk,” He said, “thy sins be forgiven thee.”  It is important to know the healings Jesus did were not just physical, they healed the soul as well as the flesh.  So the palsied man was no longer paralysed in his flesh or in his soul.  He was forgiven of sins and restored to God.

Some of the scribes in Capernaum responded in a way that was similar to that of the people of the Gergesene village.  They scoffed at Him, called Him a blasphemer because only God can forgive sin.  Of course it is true that only God can forgive sin.  Therefore, if Jesus can forgive sin (and that He can forgive sin is shown by a mighty sign in the physical healing of the man) then… Jesus is God.  But the people of Capernaum marveled and glorified God.  It is true that they did not understand much about Jesus at this point in the Gospel.  They probably thought He was nothing more than a great prophet.  But they knew God was with Him in some way that was different from all other men.  And they rejoiced that He had come among them.

September 11, 2013

Scripture and Commentary, Thursday after the fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

Morning – Psalm 81, 1 Kings 2:1-12, 2 Cor. 12:1-13
Evening – Psalm 80, Mt. 8:14-27

Commentary, Matthew 8:14-27

Jesus is still in Capernaum beside the Sea of Galilee.  The people who had heard the Sermon on the Mount were shocked because He spoke as though He had authority to give the true meaning of Scripture and to define what it means to have real, Biblical faith.  He did not speak as a man trying to comprehend the word of God; He spoke as God explaining His word to humanity.  Thus, His words were a demonstration of His Divine authority. 

Immediately following the Sermon Christ began to demonstrate His authority in a series of Divine acts, and words.  In tonight’s reading we see Him healing Peter’s mother in law.  “He touched her hand and the fever left her” (Mt. 8:16).  Word of this healing spread throughout Capernaum, and by evening a large crowd of sick and demon possessed people gathered at Peter’s mother in law’s house.  Jesus then “cast out the spirits with His word, and healed all that were sick.”

Matthew, returning to his intention to show Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament, says the healings were done “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, Himself took out infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.”

Verses 18-22 recount the conversation of a scribe and Christ.  Jesus was preparing to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, to the country of the Gergesea, also called Gadarenes by Mark.  He wanted to leave Capernaum because of the press of the people, and because, by now, people were coming to Him simply to be healed of physical illnesses instead of to receive the Kingdom of Heaven.  Before Christ entered the boat, a scribe came to Him saying, “Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.”  Christ told the man He was homeless and offered none of the comforts the scribe could purchas for himself with his lucrative income.  Christ was saying His followers must be willing to suffer hardship and deprivation.  Those unwilling to do so should not attempt to follow Him.

After the scribe another man, one of the disciples asks to be allowed to bury his father before following Christ further.  But Christ says, “Let the dead bury the dead.”  In other words, let those who have not the life of Christ in them carry on the things of the world.  Let those who have, or desire the life of Christ in them (we would call it “salvation”) follow Christ.  It is important to note that Christ is not allowing us to neglect our normal duties to family and others.  He is talking to a man who says he wants to become a student of Christ, sharing His hardships and learning of Him.  The man is saying he will give up everything to follow Christ on His journeys and ministry, only, “suffer me first to go and bury my father.”  Christ’s answer is really a question; do you really intend to leave everything and come with me?  Then leave the other things to those who do not know Me or want to follow.  But decide what you will do, then do it.

Verses 23-27 relate the well-known calming of the sea.  The story has two messages.  First, Christ has power only God can have.  Therefore, He is God.  Second, trust God.  If it was in His plan to see them safely to the shores of Gergesea, He would do, storm or no storm.  If it were His intention to take them to Heaven by drowning them in the sea, then even the calmest weather and a smoothest sea could claim them.  Therefore, “why are ye fearful?”  The answer is in the second part of the Lord’s question, we are “ye of little faith.” 

September 10, 2013

Scripture and Commentary, Wednesday after the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

Morning – Psalm 77, 2 Sam.24:1-25, 2 Cor. 11:16
Evening – Psalm 73, Mt. 8:1-13

Commentary, Matthew 8:1-13

Enormous crowds began to follow Jesus after the Sermon on the Mount.  Most of them would turn away from Him later, but for the time being they were confident that His message justified them.  They were sure the Jerusalem elites were the ones Jesus meant when He spoke of those whose faith was only that of the letter of the law.  They were also sure that they, the Galileans, often criticized for laxity about the letter of the law, were the ones Jesus had in mind when He spoke with approval about those who kept the spirit of the law.  So, for the moment, they were glad to hear His words.  Of course, they completely misunderstood Christ’s words.  Later, when they began to understand His message, they turned away in droves.

Yet, there were those in the crowds who were true believers; who understood and believed the message of Christ.  One was a leper.  Leprosy was both a health issue and a spiritual issue.  Leprosy made a person unclean, and, therefore unable to participate in the spiritual life of the people of Israel.  Lepers were not allowed into the Temple.  They were not allowed to participate in the feasts and ceremonies that signified God’s acceptance of them and blessings upon them.  They were, in effect, excommunicated and counted as Gentiles, outside of the covenant of God.

Thus, the leper did not say to Jesus, “Lord, if thou wilt thou canst make me well.”  He said, “Lord, if thou wilt thou canst make me clean.”  He was asking Jesus to cleanse his soul so he could be counted among the people of God.  He was asking Christ to “save” him.  And Christ’s response is, “I will.”  “I am willing.”  “Be thou clean.”  So here was one who was “lost” but trusted Jesus to save Him, and He did.

The second person was the centurion.  He was a Gentile, which, be definition means He was lost and dead in trespasses and sins.  Yet he became a true believer and was told he will sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of Heaven.

The centurion was a Roman, and considered by the Jews to be the lowest from of vermin.  Romans generally felt the same way about Jews, so it was very unusual that this Roman came to Christ.  It was even more surprising that this Roman considered himself unworthy to have Jesus actually come to his home.  But most unusual was the faith of this man.  He, himself was a man under authority.  Today we would say he was a man with authority.  Men obeyed his orders, because he both had and exercised authority.  His words to Jesus recognized Christ’s Divine authority.  He was basically saying that, if he, a Gentile and a Roman, can have and exercise authority, then Jesus, who is obviously the Messiah, has and can exercise His Divine authority without having to be physically present with the sick man.

It was this recognition of His Divine authority that amazed Jesus.  The centurion understood more than the Jews, and He trusted God more than the Jews.  Christ, then, healed the servant.  This was a sign to the centurion.  His prayers were heard and his faith was accepted.  He is now as fully “saved” as any believing Jew.

September 9, 2013

Scripture and Commentary, Tuesday after the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

Morning – Psalm 76, 2 Sam. 23:8-17, 2 Cor. 11:1-15
Evening – Psalm 72, Mt. 7:13

Commentary, Matthew 7:13-29

Our Lord makes three enormous points before beginning His conclusion in verses 24-29.  The magnitude of the points is almost hidden by the scarcity of words used to make them.  But in short, simple language, our Lord says, first, few will find the way of life, while many will take the road to destruction.  Second, False teachers and false gospels abound, and many are found inside the Church disguised as Christ’s sheep.  Don’t follow them.  Third, many who think they are going to Heaven – are not.  Please read these verses carefully.  You will also do a good thing for your soul if you read the comments on these verses by Bishop J. C. Ryle in his Expository Thoughts on the Gospels.  They are in the first volume, which, naturally, is about the Gospel of Matthew.

It is the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount that will occupy the remainder of tonight’s comments here.  And even here the comments will be as brief as the Lord’s words themselves.  Our Lord says there are two kinds of people.  The first are the wise.  They are not necessarily the people the world calls wise.  In fact the world usually calls them fools.  The world excludes them from its places of privilege and power.  The world calls them backward, obsolete, haters, and bigots.  The world blames most of its problems on them and their religion.  The world persecutes them because they see that the wisdom of the world is the real foolishness, and the fear of God is the beginning of real wisdom.  The people of the world have created gods in their own image; gods that bless and conform to their values and ideas, therefore they hate those who follow The God who testifies that their gods are false and their deeds are evil.

These people are wise because they hear the word of Christ and build their lives upon it.  They are content to walk the narrow way and ignore the teachings of the false prophets, both religious and secular.  Their trust is not in man, not even in their own selves.  Their trust is in Christ, and they are devoted to Him and His will.
Christ says they are like a man who builds his house upon a rock.  It is very easy to see that the house is the person’s life and soul.  It is everything that he is, and everything that shapes him.  He builds it all on the rock.  The rock, of course is Christ.  It is also all the things of Christ.  It is the faith once delivered to the saints, the Bible, the Church.  It is all the things Christ has given to lead us to Him and keep us in Him, now and forever.

The rain, floods, and winds are the sorrows and temptations of life.  But they are also more than just ordinary problems.  They are the attacks of the world, the flesh, and the devil.  They are persecutions and temptations and doubts.  They are the attempts of Satan to tear the faith out of you, to beat it out of you, to beat you into submission to him, the false prophets, and the secular values of the world.  But the one who builds his life upon the rock will stand.  His house will stand not because the house is strong, but because the Rock protects it.  The Christian stands in the face of all trials only because the Rock protects him.

The foolish man builds his house upon the sand.  He walks the broad way to destruction.  He listens to the false prophets.  He presumes that his actions are good enough to make him acceptable to God, if there is a God.  This person is the real fool.  The storms wash the ground out from under his house.  The conflicting values of the world, and their demand for total and unthinking obedience are like winds beating on his house from different directions, each ripping the house apart while promising to make it strong.  The house finally and eternally falls.  It could do no other.  The sand does not, and cannot protect it.

Our Lord’s words cause us to look over His sermon again.  They prompt us to ask ourselves if ours is a religion of the letter, or the religion of the spirit.  Are we trying to get by with just an outward appearance of godliness?  Or are we truly dedicated to Christ in our hearts?  Finally, have we realized that our efforts are not what makes us right with God?  Have we realized that only grace makes people like us acceptable to Him?  If we have realized this, and have cast ourselves upon the mercy of God, and have trusted in the sacrificial death of Christ to bear our sins away, then we have understood the message of the Sermon on the Mount.  Give us understanding, O Lord Christ. Amen.

September 8, 2013

Scripture and Commentary for Monday after the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

Morning – Psalm 75, 2 Sam. 19:24-39, 2 Cor. 10
Evening – Psalm71, Mt. 7:1-12

Commentary, Matthew 7:1-12

The words, judge not” do not forbid recognizing wrong behavior, attitudes, and ideas.  Such a command would leave the Church in the same relativistic confusion currently crippling the cultures and nations of our “global village.”  The fact is that the Bible often commands us to judge others.  1 John 4:1-6 tells us not to believe every spirit, or, person who claims to teach the word and way of God.  We are to “try” (test) the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”  The Bereans Acts 17:11) responded to the Apostle Paul by searching the Scriptures to see if his words were true.  They tested his spirit.  Christ Himself, speaking through John to the bishop and church of Ephesus said they had “tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars” (Rev. 2:2).  Obviously, the Lord expects us to judge people and doctrines by the Scriptures.  It is not the recognition of sin and error that is forbidden in our reading, then.  Rather it is an attitude and habit of fault-finding.  It is the kind of judgment that always criticizes and belittles the minor flaws of others, while refusing to see the major sins in one’s own life.  The Lord’s word for such people is, “hypocrite” and His word to them is to work on their own sins before trying to work on someone else’s.  Get the large beam out of your own eye before you worry about the tiny speck in someone else’s.
Verse 6 tells us to be sensitive to the proper time and place of Christian discourse.  It is wrong to give that which is holy to the dogs, but it is right to give proper food and nourishment to the animals God has placed into our care.  In a similar way, it is right to give the spiritual dogs the love and respect they need from us, in the hope that they may one day be prepared to receive that which is holy, and no longer remain dogs.

Verses 7-11 teach us to trust God when we pray.  The old adage, “be careful what you pray for, because you might get it,” is somewhat misleading.  It seems to make God into a capricious imp who delights in playing ticks on us; as though if we pray for rain He will send a hurricane.  Christ’s point is that even human parents don’t do that.  “If ye then, being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father hich is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

Sermon, Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

Christians Glory
Psalm 130, Galatians 6:11-17, Matthew 6:24-34
Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity
September 8, 2013

The heart of today’s message is found in Galatians 6:14; “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Why only glory in Christ?  First let’s talk about what it means to glory.  It is-to boast in or count on something to give you standing and respect among others.  It is to consider something as earning your place in a community or organisation, as making you worthy of acceptance, honour, or elevated status and privilege.

Paul is specifically talking about something that earns a place for us in Heaven, a place for us in that great Mansion of Mansions and at the great marriage feast of the Lamb.  He is talking about something we can glory in because it makes us worthy of the honours of Heaven.

Then why not glory in our good works?  Why not trust them to earn our place with God?  Let me give two good reasons.  First good works cannot cancel our sins.  Yes, you are a sinner.  We read the Ten Commandments at the very beginning of the service this morning.  They are God’s standards for your life.  They are what God requires of you.  They are God’s will for your life.  Every time you break one you commit a crime against the Great King and Ruler of all things.  And, as we saw in our evening readings in the Gospel of Matthew last week, it is not enough to keep the letter of the law.  God requires that we keep the spirit of the law also, and that we keep it perfectly.  Who among us will claim to have done that?  Are we not all rather able to say with the Apostle Paul, “all have sinned,” and with the publican, “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner?”  In a short while, just moments before we come to the Communion Rail, we will pray in unison a prayer called the “General Confession.”  We will pray it aloud, in an audible voice, for all to hear.  If you are physically able, kneel before God and pray it on your knees, and say with the rest of us sinners; “Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, Judge of all men; We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, Which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed, By thought, word, and deed, Against thy Divine Majesty.”  Confess to God, and all humanity that you have sinned against God.  But first, confess it to yourself.  You have sinned, and do not deserve the good things God has blessed you with.  You have sinned, and have not earned Haven by your good deeds, but Hell by your sins.  Glory not in your works, no matter how good they may seem to you and other people, to Christ they are filthy rags.  Glory not in them.  Glory in Christ who bore your sins and died for them on the cross.

Second, glory not in your own works because even your best works are tarnished and tainted by sin.  What is the very best, most honorable thing you have ever done?  Think of it for a moment.  Now compare it to the absolute, perfect goodness of Christ.  Does not His perfection reveal the flaws and cracks even in your very best deed?  It is hard to imagine, but the sun in our solar system has dark spots on it.  Its light is uneven.  Think of light as a symbol for moral perfection, and listen to these words. From 1 John 1:5. “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.”  Now listen to the words of James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”  Both of these verses are saying God is absolute perfect light, meaning moral and personal perfection.  He has every attribute of goodness.   He is wisdom, justice, truth, love, knowledge, mercy, and He is all of these things in perfection.  There is no variation in his perfection; there is no shadow or turning in Him, forever.   So even what we consider to be our very best and most righteous deeds and attributes are really just filthy rags compared to the absolute perfect goodness of God.  None of our works measure up to the standard of His perfection, and what ever does not measure up cannot earn us a place in Heaven.  In fact, it disqualifies us.  We may think water that is guaranteed 99.99%pure is good enough for us, but God only accepts people who are 100% pure

Why not trust religion?  Why not trust going to church and doing all the religious things?  That’s what Paul’s detractors trusted, and they claimed that was all anyone needed to please God.  “Become a Jew and keep all the ceremonies and sacrifices, they claimed,” and you will be right with God.  To them, circumcision symbolized all the rituals and ceremonies.

But time after time God makes the point that the ceremonies without the heart are anathema to Him.  He said to Israel, “this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me” (Is. 29:13).  “I delight not in the blood of bullocks and goats.”  “Bring me no more vain oblations… the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies… it is iniquity.”  Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them” (cf. Is. 1:10).  Anyone can sacrifice a lamb.  Anyone can say a prayer.  Anyone can eat the Passover meal.  And you can do these things with no real love or concern for God.  But God hates it if your heart is not in it.
To put this in modern terms we might say anyone can come to church.  Anyone can get a little water on them.  Anyone can receive a little bread and wine.  But going to church is not necessarily the same as worshiping God.  Getting wet is not necessarily the same as being baptized.  Eating a communion wafer and taking a sip of wine is not necessarily the same as receiving Holy Communion.  Performing the outer actions without meaning them in your heart does not please God.  They insult Him.  They express the idea that God is so stupid He can be appeased by a few insincere words and rituals.  They express the idea that God is not important enough to care about Him or mean what you say to Him.  And God is rightly .insulted by such arrogance.  Hear what He says about those who receive communion without really seeking God in Biblical faith; “he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself.”  Strong words; words that make us want to examine our selves before we come to the Lord’s Table.

Therefore, our glory is in Christ alone.  It is not in what we have done, but in what He has done.  He came to earth and lived as a man, without special treatment.  He suffered all the sorrows and temptations of life, but sinned not.  And finally, He went to the cross bearing our sins in Himself and paying the price of our forgiveness.  This is what the Lord’s Supper is all about.  As we gather here today we gather in memory of Him, and that great sacrifice that made us right with God.  He alone could do it.  My own actions have caused only wrath and condemnation.  His have caused peace and restoration.  God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.