Sunday, February 24, 2008

Bible Passage for Sunday, March 2, 2008

Sunday's Sermon Text:
Matthew 18:21-31
[21] Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” [22] Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. [23] Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. [24] And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. [25] But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. [26] The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ [27] Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. [28] “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ [29] So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ [30] And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. [31] So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done.

Your thoughts and observations on the text are welcomed and encouraged.

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Teaching of Election

The Teaching of Election
In working through the opening verses of 1 Thessalonians several Wednesday nights back, I dealt with the teaching of election. The teaching of election has been a problematic doctrine and one that is largely misunderstood by many believers. My hope in publishing this material on the subject is that believers will be brought to some measure of clarity on the matter. When the teaching of election is seen in its biblical context, this important doctrine becomes much clearer. Consequently, when the believer understands the teaching of election, he or she is able to appreciate the grandeur of God’s plan of salvation.

Paul relates that the Thesslaonians are “Brothers loved by God, we know that he has chosen you” (1:4, NIV). The New King James Version reads, “Your election by God” (NKJV). Election is certainly one of the great teachings of the Bible. The word “election” is found in six verses in the NT (Rom. 9:11; 11:5, 7, 28; 1 Thess. 1:4; 2 Pet. 1:10). However, the word also appears as “elect” in various places in the New Testament as well as “chosen” (Eph. 1:3-13).

Pitfalls to Avoid
First, there are certain pitfalls to avoid when thinking about the subject of election.
1. We should be careful not to magnify certain aspects of God’s nature (e.g., His sovereignty) to the neglect of others (e.g., His love). If we do we are likely to have an understanding of God that is imbalanced. This is true when thinking through any biblical doctrine.

2. We should not forget the fact that humans have a free will and the power of choice. I will say more about this in a moment.

3. Election should not be regarded as God’s purpose to save as few as possible rather than as many as possible. The Bible makes it clear that God loves all people and wishes to save as many as possible. John 3:16, perhaps the greatest verse in the Bible is clear – God loves the world and He has made provision possible for every person that will “believe.”

Peter tells us that God is not willing that any person should perish. He desires that all people come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Even in the Old Testament we see the mind of God concerning what He desires. Ezekiel 18:23 states: “‘Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?’ says the Lord God, ‘and not that he should turn from his ways and live?’” God takes no pleasure in people dying without coming to the knowledge of Him. He delights rather in showing mercy and having people turn to Him and live.

4. Election should not be viewed as relating to the saving of certain individuals to the neglect of all others. If this view is taken it leads to fatalism. If some are saved and others lost regardless of what they do or do not do, what incentive is there to seek the Lord or to preach the Gospel? In fact, if this were true, all witnessing and preaching would be presumptive. How dare we try to convert someone that God has ordained as lost? Election never appears in the Bible as mechanical or as blind destiny. It has to do with a God of love and with human beings who are morally responsible.

5. Election never appears as a violation of the human will. John 6:44 illustrates the balance between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. This verse states that “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him . . .” “Draw” is God’s initiative. “Come” is man’s response. Both truths must be recognized in regard to election: God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. Both are abundantly taught in the Bible.

6. In the New Testament the teaching of election is always mentioned in the context of believers. In other words, election is a teaching for believers not a doctrine that is preached to unbelievers. When Paul discusses the teaching he is always talking to believers in local churches. He wants them to know that God’s plan is a plan that has been in the mind of God from eternity. He wants the believers to have a greater appreciation for the work of God in salvation. Understanding election leads the believer to a greater love for God and a greater depth of service to Him.

God’s Sovereignty and Free Will
There are two tensions to keep in mind in discussing the teaching of election: God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. God’s sovereignty means that He can act as He wills without any outside counsel or permission. However, God has placed certain limitations upon Himself. So sovereignty is God’s power to act within His own laws and according to His nature.

On the other side of the equation is the fact that man possesses a free will. God made us this way. This is part of what it means to be made in “God’s image.” While we are free we are also responsible for our choices. If this were not true the world would be completely turned upside down. There would be no right or wrong and no one would be responsible for their actions. Obviously, this would be a chaotic condition. If people are not free then ultimately God would be responsible for the sinful acts that people commit. The only way that we as human beings can be held morally responsible for our actions is that we are created with a free will. Otherwise, sin would be God’s fault.

In our finite human intellect we may never fully be able to harmonize God’s sovereignty with human freedom but in the infinite wisdom of God there is no conflict. At this point an illustration may help provide some clarity. God in His sovereignty has ordained certain natural laws, but man is free to live by them or contrary to them. Take gravity for instance. We are free to follow the law of gravity or to defy it, but if we defy it we will pay the consequences. People face the consequences of not following God’s natural laws but people are still free to choose to do so or not. The same is true of God’s spiritual laws. People can choose to live by them and be blessed, or they can do otherwise and loose the blessing of following God’s way, but God does not coerce people in either event.

“In Christ” the Key
In discussing the teaching of election, Ephesians 1:3-13 is probably the most helpful and comprehensive passage of Scripture on the subject. In verses 4-5 Paul uses the words “chose us in Him” and “predestined us.” The word “chose” here is the word “elect.” So Paul tells the Ephesians believers that God elected them before the creation of the world. The word “Predestined” (1:5, 11) means to mark out the boundaries beforehand.

But note the phrase “in Him” (v. 4, 11). This phrase or its equivalent is found ten times in this passage alone. Here is I believe the key to the entire teaching of election. This phrase, “in Christ” is the hinge upon which the entire doctrine of election swings. God’s election is “in Christ.” Simply stated, God has “predestined” to save all who are “in Christ.” “In Christ” is the boundary that God marked out beforehand, like building a fence around a field. God did this in His sovereignty and He marked out the boundary before the very creation of the world. So Paul can say to believers, God chose you before the very creation of the world. God saw your need and He made provision for it. In this act He asked the counsel or permission of no one. All who are within the fence “in Christ” will be saved.

So where does the idea of free will come into play? Notice what Paul says in Ephesians 1:13-14. Paul’s readers heard the Gospel of salvation that all who are “in Christ” will be saved. They could have rejected the message and remained in a lost condition. But they believed “in Christ” and thus were saved (“includedv.13). The same is true of the Thessalonians. Paul knows that they are chosen by God “because our gospel came to you not simply with words . . .” (1:5). The fact that the Thessalonians responded positively to the Gospel demonstrated that they were “elected.” So election pictures the result of faith.

People are free to choose whether or not they will be in Christ. This doesn’t meant that a person can boast about his or her choice to be saved. Salvation is still the result of God’s initiative and saving purpose. We receive this inheritance because God marked out the boundaries of salvation beforehand according to the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11). So election rather than causing us to boast in ourselves, causes us to praise God for His wonderful grace and sovereignty (v.12).

Does God know who will be the elect? Yes, but foreknowledge of an event does not cause the event. God never violates human personality. He will not save a person against his or her will. He knocks and draws but we must open the door and come. However, to all who of their own free will will open the door, He enters and saves graciously apart from our own efforts or merits. When we walk through the door of “whosoever will,” we discover on the other side that our salvation has been wrought from before the foundation of the world.

Life Application
So what does this teaching about election mean for the believer?
1. Understanding who we are “in Christ” empowers us to live out Christ! Election brings us as believers to a deep sense of gratitude, surrender and obedience.

2. The teaching of election helps us to understand the importance of sharing the Gospel. A person’s response to the Gospel is the determining factor for whether a person will be elected or not. The Gospel is God’s only means for electing people to salvation. We must do all that we can to share the Gospel with all people so that they too can hear and be “included . . . in Christ.”

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe Alain

February 24, 2008 Sermon Text

Sunday's Sermon Text:

Matthew 16:13-23 (NKJV)

[13] When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” [14] So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” [15] He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” [16] Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” [17] Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. [18] And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. [19] And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” [20] Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ.

Jesus Predicts His Death and Resurrection
[21] From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. [22] Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” [23] But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”

Your thoughts and observations into the text are welcomed and encouraged.

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe

Monday, February 11, 2008

February 17, 2008 Sermon Text

Sunday, February 17, 2008 Sermon Text
Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43 (NKJV)
[24] Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; [25] but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. [26] But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. [27] So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ [28] He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ [29] But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. [30] Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

[36] Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” [37] He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. [38] The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. [39] The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. [40] Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. [41] The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, [42] and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. [43] Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!