VIDEO The Spirit of Adoption

By John MacArthur Dec 4, 2011

Let’s open the Word of God to the 8th chapter of the book of Romans, that beloved, wonderful treatise of the apostle Paul on the gospel and all the aspects of it.  And we’re looking at Romans 8 because that’s the chapter on the Holy Spirit, and this would be Part 6, or message number six, in the study of the life of the Holy Spirit, life and ministry of the Holy Spirit in the believer – in the believer.  What the Holy Spirit does in us.  And I began this series because of all the misrepresentations of the Holy Spirit that abound in the contemporary Christian world.  It is so terribly misrepresented, so insulted, so grieved, so quenched – to borrow biblical language – and so blasphemed.  If you watch the current Charismatic lineup of Holy Spirit anointed people, you would have absolutely no idea what the Holy Spirit does.  It seems as if they are the victims of an unholy spirit rather than a holy spirit, the Holy Spirit. 

The Holy Spirit doesn’t make people worldly, carnal, boastful, slick, unaccountable, outrageous, et ceteraet cetera.  The Holy Spirit has one objective, and that is to make people holy – holy.  So if somebody says that he is or she is anointed by the Holy Spirit, what should be manifest in that person is evident holiness.  That’s the work of the Holy Spirit.  That’s why He’s called the Holy Spirit. 

In Isaiah’s famous trihagion, he hears the angels in antiphonal worship and they’re saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts.”  And that can be trinitarian.  Holy is the Father, holy is the Son, holy is the Spirit.  That’s why there are three of them.  This is angelic recognition that the Trinity is essentially holy, and the work of the Holy Spirit is essentially to produce that holiness in human beings, in us. 

To better understand that, I want us to look at verses 14 to 16 of Romans 8.  I’m going to read them and we’ll come back to them in a while.  “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God, for you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’.  The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are the children of God.”  Several references there to the Holy Spirit as there have been in the previous 13 verses because, as we’ve been saying, this, in Paul’s great letter to the Romans, is the chapter that deals with the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers. 

But let’s go back to the starting point that we were talking about.  God the Father is holy, God the Son is holy, and the Spirit is holy.  With regard to the Father, Leviticus 19 says, “I, the Lord your God, am holy.”  And that, by the way, is repeated dozens of times in the Old Testament, God testifying to His own holiness.  The Son of God is deemed to be holy in Luke chapter 1, He is called the holy child.  And in the book of Hebrews, He is called holy and undefiled.  And in looking at the third member of the Trinity, the Spirit of God, we read in Romans 1:4 that one of His names is the Spirit of holiness.  So it is true, holy, holy, holy is a trinitarian confession.  They’re all holy; all members of the holy Trinity are by nature and essence and substance holy. 

But there is a particular work of God the Spirit with regard to reproducing holiness in believers.  That’s His work.  He works in what we call sanctification, which is separation from sin, to transform believers into holiness or, if you will, into the likeness of Jesus Christ.  The ministry of the Holy Spirit is not body work.  It can’t be visibly seen in the way you wiggle or move or sway or fall over backwards or mumble or put your hands in the air.  It is soul work, it is heart work.  In the Old Testament, we would say the work of the Holy Spirit was to produce godliness.  In the New Testament, we would say the work of the Holy Spirit is to produce Christlikeness.  The message of the Old Testament is be like God.  The message of the New Testament is be like Christ.  The agent of that is the Holy Spirit. 

Perhaps the single-most clarifying verse on this is 2 Corinthians 3:18, a verse upon which I wrote a book once when I was asked, “Could you write a small book on the most important verse for Christians in the New Testament?”  And I said, “Well, I don’t know if I can know that but there’s one I could pick,” and I picked this one, 2 Corinthians 3:18:  “We all with unveiled face, we have no obstructions, nothing blocking our view, behold as in a clear glass the glory of the Lord.”  As we look at the Lord, as we look at the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, and it’s being done by the Lord who is the Spirit. 

The Holy Spirit transforms us into Christlikeness as we gaze at the Lord Himself, moving us from one degree to another, one level of glory to another, to another, to another.  That is His work.  It is the work of the Holy Spirit.  That’s why He is called the Holy Spirit uniquely, or the Spirit of holiness, to produce holiness in us.  As I said, in the Old Testament, the term was godliness.  In the New Testament, it is Christlikeness.  It’s the sanctification.  The Holy Spirit is – the theologians would say it this way:  The Holy Spirit is the efficient cause – the Holy Spirit is the efficient cause; Scripture is the instrumental means that the Holy Spirit uses. 

Let’s back up a little bit and talk about this.  I want you to get the big picture, okay?  Because you need to understand that this work of the Holy Spirit is the purpose of God in redemption.  This is not part of, this is not a sub-category, this is the purpose of God in redemption, to make a people who are holy, godly, Christlike.  That’s the prize of the upward call.  That’s the goal of redemption.  The goal is not accomplished at justification; it is only accomplished at glorification when we all become perfect in holiness.  And the work of the Spirit in the meantime is to make us more and more holy in this life until we reach that perfect holiness in the life to come.  But let’s back up a little bit and understand from the very beginning what God is doing. 

Man created in God’s image is the message of Genesis 1 and 2, is it not?  Genesis 1:26 and 27:  “God made man in His own image,” in His own likeness, for one purpose, to reveal God, to reflect God’s glory, to express God’s character, to put His glory on display.  Chapter 3, man falls – man falls, and that purpose is lost because now you have mankind sinful, incapable of reflecting or expressing the glory of God.  That is why Romans tells us that we have all come short of what?  The glory of God.  That is universally true of fallen humanity.  We can’t do what we were created to do.  Made in the image of God for the purpose of reflecting, expressing the glory of God; fallen into sin, corrupted, marred, distorted, perverted.  We can’t do it.  And if you look at ancient history, after Adam, you see a few people who were rescued out of that condition and who truly became people who could reflect the glory of God.  Enoch who walked with God one day and just kept walking right into heaven and didn’t die.  The sons of Seth who were a godly line, but there were so few people in that marred, perverted, corrupted humanity – listen to this – that a few generations later, God drowned the entire human race because there were only eight people who could reflect His glory.  Only eight out of millions.  He wiped them out, started all over again.  That’s how profound fallen corruption is. 

God the Father then determined from that eight people to restore the terribly distorted, the terribly marred image of God in humanity by sovereignly and supernaturally and graciously transforming those sinners.  It wasn’t a superficial job.  It wasn’t a paint job.  It wasn’t something on the outside.  Had to be something on the inside.  He had to re-create them to be capable of manifesting His glory.  Peter describes it in words that are very, very important, and very clear.  Peter says in 2 Peter 1:4:  “You have escaped the corruption.”  You have escaped being marred.  You have escaped being in that perverse condition, you have escaped that by becoming – listen to this – partakers of the divine nature.  Wow – partakers of the divine nature.  The very nature that is God’s has been given to you in a rebirth. 

That is the purpose of salvation.  The purpose of God’s redemptive plan is to recover humanity from its inability to give Him glory.  The purpose of salvation is to overturn the Fall and make men capable of glorifying Him.  And for that, God has to re-create them.  They have to be born all over again, spiritually.  They have to have a new nature.  They have to become new men.  All that’s biblical language.  They have to have a new birth.  If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation, 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us.  That whole work of doing that is the work of the Holy Spirit.  We celebrate the cross, and rightly we should.  We celebrate the love of God, the greatness of God, we sing hymns of praise to God.  We sing about the cross and rightly we should, but in the middle of all of this, we forget that the real efficient cause, the divine source of everything that we are as Christians is in fact the Holy Spirit. 

The plan of God is to take corrupt sinners who cannot glorify Him, who have no capacity, who come short of being able to do that, in whom the divine image is marred.  It is marred to such a degree – here’s how much it’s marred – that apart from regeneration, all those marred people are so useless to God for the purpose for which He made man that He throws them into the trash heap of the universe, which is an everlasting burning pit called Gehenna which was the name of the trash heap in Jerusalem, where they burn forever because they are useless, without the possibility of any escape.  How severe is the marring?  Severe enough to throw humanity on the dump as absolutely useless.  Let it be everlastingly consumed.  The plan of redemption is to rescue some of those people, redo them, give them new life, regenerate them, re-create them, restore them, transform them, put them through a spiritual metamorphosis and make them partakers of the divine nature.  That’s such a great statement.  That’s God’s plan.  He initiated it. 

Now, when God does that, what does a truly regenerated person who becomes a full partaker of the divine nature look like?  I’ll give you the answer in one word:  Jesus.  God initiated it and Jesus demonstrated it.  When you look at Jesus, you see the perfect image of God in human form.  Could He glorify God?  John 1:14 says:  “We beheld His glory.”  And what glory was it?  “The glory as of the only begotten of the Father.”  He put God on display like God had never been put on display before.  If you want to see the perfect work of the Holy Spirit in an individual, look at Jesus Christ.  Remember what Jesus said.  Everything He did was the work of the Holy Spirit in Him, right?  Everything. 

In His condescension, He yielded up all those prerogatives of His own and yielded Himself to the will of the Father and the work of the Holy Spirit so that everything He did, He did by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Even offering self in death and even rising from the dead was the work of the Holy Spirit.  Because He becomes then the perfect model of the work of the Holy Spirit and the end result of that is a perfect humanity.  And what will it look like?  It will look like Jesus Christ.  That’s why it says when you go to heaven, you’re going to have a body like unto His glorious body, and you’re going to be like Him because you’ll see Him as He is, and the day you see Him as He is, you’ll be made like Him.  That’s the goal.  So what is the purpose of redemption?  To create a humanity that is like Christ.  Not that we are God, we will always be a glorified humanity, but we will be as much like Jesus Christ as glorified humanity can be.  We will be perfect in the image of God in human form.  So God initiated it, Jesus demonstrated it, and the Holy Spirit effects it.  In the end, it is the Holy Spirit who raises us.  We already saw that in this chapter. 

It is the Holy Spirit who raises us.  Verse 11 tells us that.  So He will raise us to glory.  We’ll see more about that in future verses here.  It is the Holy Spirit who raises us to glory and makes us, in the end, like Christ.  We will then be that fully restored, glorious, perfect, righteous, holy humanity forever.  But in the meantime, the Holy Spirit leaves us here so that we can do the work of evangelism, right?  Because we are the source that God has determined to do the work of evangelism, but as long as He leaves us here, He has to get us into the sanctifying process.  That’s 2 Corinthians 3:18, from one level of glory to the next by degree, by degree, by degree.  When you go to heaven, it’s instant, you’re immediately perfect.  In the meantime, it’s a progress done by the Holy Spirit. 

The Holy Spirit starts it by giving us birth – we’re born of the Spirit.  He regenerates us.  He is the one who gives us that new life.  He’s the one who rescues us from our corruption and our perversity and our wickedness.  And He’s the one who rescues us from being so hopelessly marred that we should end up on the trash heap of hell forever.  He rescues us, gives us new life, re-creates us.  He is the efficient cause of that, and the instrumental means that He uses is the Scripture.  We are begotten again by the truth.  We are sanctified by the truth.  This is His work, and He will glorify us.  So He regenerates us, sanctifies us, and glorifies us.  He’s the one, in a sense, who delivers to God this perfected, redeemed humanity. 

Now, that’s kind of the big picture.  The Spirit’s work, then, is the restoration of the image of God in man, ultimately in the glory of perfection in heaven when we’re made like Christ.  But in the meantime, in this life, He is committed to moving us by degree from one level of glory to the next, to the next, to the next.  Now, there’s another component in this that I want you to understand as I expand on that idea a little bit.  I’m going to go back through that idea and extend it just a bit. 

If you were to look at the Old Testament and ask the question:  “What does it say about sanctification?” you wouldn’t find anything in the Old Testament that says the goal of sanctification is to make you like Christ because they hadn’t seen Christ, right?  So the word that you need to use when you talk about Old Testament sanctification is godliness – godliness.  The objective of the Old Testament was to have a people who were like God.  In Leviticus, for example – and that’s kind of the key place for this – starting in chapter 11 or even earlier and running all the way through to chapter 20 or so – ten or so chapters – you hear this:  “Be holy for I am holy.”  “Be holy for I am holy.”  “Be holy for I am holy.”  This is repeated and repeated and repeated.  Godliness, be like God, be holy like God is holy.  How does that happen?  Well, Leviticus gives us a critical insight into that in a number of places, but I’ll just use two of them, or one to start with.  Leviticus 20 and verse 8.  In verse 7, there’s that familiar statement:  “Be holy for I am the Lord your God and I’m holy.”  But in verse 8 it says this:  “You shall keep My statutes and practice them.  I’m the Lord who sanctifies you.”

Do you understand what that’s saying?  Sanctification is done by the Lord in a context of obedience.  “You have to know My statutes and practice them.”  So again, the Scripture is the instrumental means by which the Lord sanctified His people, even in the Old Testament.  He gave them His Word, they were to obey His Word, they were to practice what He said, and that is the means by which the Lord sanctified His people. 

In chapter 21 verse 8, he talks about the same thing.  “You shall be holy for I, the Lord who sanctifies you, am holy.”  Again, “I want you holy because I’m holy.”  And “I will sanctify you insofar as you believe and obey My Word.”  The instrumental means of sanctification is the Word. 

Now, let me take it even a step further.  To understand sanctification in the Old Testament, you have to understand one basic truth, and that is this:  God was endeavoring in the process of sanctification by the work of the Holy Spirit to produce a family resemblance in His people, a people who are like God.  In the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, He said this – chapter 5 of Matthew, verse 45:  “Be like your Father who is in heaven.”  If you forgive your enemy, those who harm you, you will be like your Father who is in heaven.  That’s an Old Testament perspective on sanctification.  Be like God.  Be like God. 

Another one in the same sermon – chapter 5 – is this:  “Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.”  If you belong to God, if you are a child of God, there should be a family resemblance, right?  That’s the essence of understanding Old Testament sanctification.  Sanctification in the Old Testament is seen as part of a true covenant relationship to God, and that covenant relationship is a family relationship.  You’ve come into the family of God, and the process of sanctification is designed to make you more and more like your Father.  That’s sanctification in the Old Testament, godlike.  That’s what godliness is.  The goal is the restoration of the divine image. 

Now, what happens in the New Testament is very important but easy to understand.  In the New Testament, the emphasis is not so much be like God, but what?  Be like Christ.  Why?  Is that different?  No.  It is this, that Christ is the perfect representation of what a human being who is totally godlike looks like, right?  This is a human being, fully human and godlike.  John 1:14 again:  “We beheld His glory,” He was like God, He was full of grace and truth.  That’s the work of the Holy Spirit.  He makes godly people Christlike people.  Sanctification equals godliness equals Christlikeness.  That’s what holiness is, separating from sin unto godliness, unto Christlikeness. 

So the wondrous reality of a life of Christ lived here on earth is you get to see what godliness looks like, what perfect godliness in a human being looks like.  And that’s the model, and that’s why the apostle Paul said, “Be followers of me as I am of Christ.”  Or Christ says, “Follow Me, I’m the pattern.”  God spoke in time past, revealing Himself through the writers of the Old Testament, but in these last days, Hebrews 1 says, “He’s spoken to us in His Son who is the exact representation of His person.”  So when somebody says to me, “I want to be godly.  What does that look like?”  I say, “It looks exactly like Jesus Christ.”  You want to see godliness in a human form?  Christ.  That’s why we’re told in 2 Corinthians 3:18 to look at the glory of the Lord because that is the standard of holiness and sanctification.  And the Holy Spirit, as that vision becomes clear to us and dominates our minds, will move us from one degree to the next, to the next, to the next, even in this life.  The divine miracle of regeneration is done by the Holy Spirit.  The divine miracle of glorification is done by the Holy Spirit.  And the divine miracle in the middle of sanctification is also done by the Holy Spirit and it is no less miraculous. 

What the Holy Spirit does is He shows us the things of Christ.  Remember Jesus said that in the Upper Room?  He will show you the things of Christ.  Why?  Because it’s only as you look at Christ that you see the full representation of God.  It’s only as you look at Christ you understand what godliness, holiness, sanctification is, and as you gaze on that all-absorbing perfection in human form, that becomes the model and the standard to which the Spirit of God forms you. 

So when somebody says, “I’m anointed by the Holy Spirit,” they ought to look a lot like Christ.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit in every believer.  The goal of the Holy Spirit is to produce sons of God who have a family resemblance who are like their Father and like their Brother, Jesus Christ, who is not ashamed to call them brother.  That’s the goal of the death of Christ and the resurrection.  The goal of the death of Christ, the goal of the resurrection, was to go back to heaven having provided sufficient atonement and send the Holy Spirit.  The goal of the death of Christ, the resurrection, was to send the Holy Spirit for the purpose of regenerating, sanctifying, and glorifying those who believe. 

It’s about family and it’s about family resemblance that we’re talking here, and if you go back with me to Romans 8 – we finally got there – you will see that the main theme here is that the Holy Spirit is doing the work of adoption.  You have the reference to sons of God in verse 14.  You have the reference to adoption as sons in verse 15.  And then you have the reference to sons of God or children of God again in 16.  This is about being in the family, about this covenant relation to God that makes you a member of the family.  And the work of the Holy Spirit is to make you look like the rest of the family, like your Father and like your perfect Brother.  It’s about family likeness. 

It was no less than John Calvin, who had a pretty good grip on theology, who said, “This gift of sonship is the highest privilege of redemption and the primary work of the Holy Spirit.”  John Calvin said this is the primary work of the Holy Spirit.  It is.  Can I be so bold as to say even His work of inspiring the Scripture was a means to accomplishing His work of sanctifying and glorifying a people?  The Scripture is a means to an end and not an end.  This is the end.  It is the highest privilege of redemption to become a son of God, and it is the primary work of the Holy Spirit to make sons of God by regenerating them, glorifying them, and in the middle, sanctifying them so that their testimony is believable.  That’s why we’re here. 

Well, this is powerful and foundational truth.  We should know this.  It’s not only here in Paul’s writing to the Romans, but he makes a similar reference to the urgency and the importance of understanding this at the end of chapter 6 in 2 Corinthians when he says, “‘Come out from their midst and be separate,’ says the Lord” and He’s borrowing that, of course, from Isaiah.  “‘And don’t touch what is unclean and I’ll welcome you and I’ll be a Father to you and you’ll be sons and daughters to Me,’ says the Lord almighty.”  God is making a family.  God is redeeming a family.  God is regenerating a family – listen – who will be able to demonstrate His glory by the image of God that is in them.  In order to restore the image of God, we have to be re-created.  We have to be reborn.  And that’s what regeneration and new birth is all about. 

It will help you, I think, to understand the nature of adoption because you’re probably saying to yourself, “Well, adoption, you know, it talks about that in verse 15, adoption, but adoption is kind of a second-class deal.”  You know, we read in the newspapers about the people who adopt kids and then put them on a plane and ship them back because they don’t want them.  Wow.  And people say this all the time.  You never know what you’re going to get, you know, you can go through the legal deal and you can adopt a child but you can’t change a child’s heart.  So you get what you get.  And it may not work out very well and adopted children may turn out to be a disaster and a terror in the home, et ceteraet ceteraet cetera, because you can’t really control what they are in the inside.  You can do all the legal work on the outside. 

You need to understand that the way the Bible talks about adoption is so complete and so comprehensive that it shuts out all those criticisms, and I’ll explain that to you.  In the 1st century, if you were adopted, that didn’t make you a second-class child, that made you a first-class child.  And this is basic, okay?  In all honesty, when you have babies in your family, you get what you get.  Right?  You might look at one kid and say, “Wow, we could use a little more brain power there.  We could use a little less rebellion there.  We could use a little patience there.  But we got what we got.”  And I talk to enough parents to know that if they had been given a list of what they wanted, they might have been happy to put it in if they knew it would get the results they could expect.  And that’s why, actually, today people who go to those banks and buy sperm want sort of a genetic profile because they want to orchestrate the kind of kid they’re going to have, they want to sort of manage that.  But I mean reality is you get what you get.  And that’s okay because you understand that, you love those children.  But in the ancient world, if you adopted somebody, you were adopting a son, in most cases.  It wasn’t rescuing kids from the street, they didn’t adopt kids off the street as a rescue operation.  You adopted a son because you found somebody who exceeded in capability the ones that you had.  This is first-class stuff.  An adopted son was deliberately chosen by an adopting father to perpetuate his name and inherit his estate. 

This might be how you dealt with a delinquent.  You just adopted a noble young man to become your son.  No way was that adopted son inferior.  On occasions it might have been a daughter, but for the most part it was a son because they were the ones to whom the estate and responsibility passed.  This would be typical.  You chose this son because of his superior ability to represent the family, to manage the family’s future, and to inherit the family’s estate.  This adopted son may well have been the apple of his father’s eye, the joy of his father’s heart.  He may have received the best of his father’s affection and education more so than a born son and may have even demonstrated his father’s virtue and his father’s training more perfectly than the others. 

The whole point of the picture is to say this:  You’ve been adopted.  That’s a divine choice.  Not because before you were adopted you were so noble that God couldn’t continue to keep His kingdom in motion without you.  By sovereign, divine choice, God preferred you and He preferred me.  Free, voluntary election.  It’s an amazing thing. 

Let me tell you how it worked.  A Roman adoption was a very formal event.  It was difficult because in the Roman law, there was this rule called patria potestas, the father’s power.  That’s Latin.  And the father’s power meant that he had absolute power over the family.  He had absolute right to dispose of his children in the early stages of the Roman Empire, kill his children if he wanted, absolute control over them.  In regard to a Roman son, he never came of age in the sense that he ever had any independence from his father’s power.  No matter how old he was, no matter if he was married, he was always under the absolute power of his father.  If you were a son or a daughter, you were under absolute possession, absolute control by your father. 

This made adoption very difficult because if you found a son that you wanted, you wanted because you could use him in your business, in your estate, in your family, for the well-being of your family’s future, how you going to get the other father to let him go?  If he’s a noble enough son for you to want him so much, how is that going to happen?  Well, some negotiations were involved in that.  He had to formally pass out of the patria potestas of the man to whom he was born and pass into the patria potestas of the adoptive father.  Two steps.  Interesting.  Step number one was called mancipatio, from which we get emancipation. 

Mancipatio was carried out by a symbolic sale.  A symbolic sale, actually, in which scales and pieces of copper were used, and three times a little ceremony went on.  Three times there was a symbolic sale.  Here’s the boy, and the money was placed on the scale.  First time, the father would then take him back and say, “No, no.”  And then he would do it again, and the money would be put on the scale, and he would take him back again.  And this was to demonstrate reluctance and to communicate that he wasn’t just throwing this child away – this son away.  Third time, however, he didn’t take him back, and he was emancipated from the patria potestas of his birth father. 

Then there followed a ceremony called vindicatio.  The adopting father would go the praetor, who would be the Roman official or magistrate, present a legal case for the transference of the son from one family to the next.  When it was all complete, adoption was complete.  Very formal. 

Now, here’s what happened.  This is important.  Four very important things took place.  One, the adopted person lost all rights in his former family.  Had no rights, had no existence in that former family, and he gained all the rights of his new family.  Couldn’t go back and try to get something from his former family.  All was completely cut off from the past, and he had all the rights of a fully legitimate son in his new family. 

Secondly, he became heir to his new father’s estate.  He became heir to his new father’s estate.  That’s why this was done.  And when he became an heir to his new father’s estate, even afterward, if other sons were born, they could make no claim against it because they were natural-born sons.  It didn’t affect the adopted son’s rights. 

Thirdly, the old life of the adopted person – listen to this – was completely obliterated.  It was as if he never lived.  All his debts were cancelled on the spot.  All his records were obliterated.  It was as if he was born the day he was adopted.  Everything else went out of existence.  He was like a new person who just started his life. 

And fourthly, in the eyes of the law, the adopted person was permanently and absolutely the son of his new father.  Does that sound like salvation to you?  That’s exactly what it is depicting, this concept of adoption.  All our rights to our former family and our former father, the devil, are cancelled.  We gain all the rights, fully legitimate sons in our new family, heirs of Christ, joint heirs with Christ of all that the Father possesses.  We are the inheritors of His estate.  Everything from our old life is wiped out, right?  Isn’t the debt that was against us cancelled at the cross?  And aren’t we the true sons, everlastingly the true sons of our new Father?

This is amazingly beautiful.  And if you’re still bothered a little bit by the fact that this seems still to be somewhat superficial, let me help you with that.  You can adopt a child, but you have to realize that when you adopt a child, you can’t change their nature, that child’s nature.  And we see that kind of problem all the time.  “Well, we adopted this child thinking the best and this kid is incorrigible, this kid is rebellious, this kid is angry, this kid is” – you make up the letters, ADD, ADHD, bipolar, psychotic – whatever.  And, you know, you went through all the deal to figure out the legal aspect of this thing, but you couldn’t change the heart.  That’s where the biblical work of the Spirit of God is so different from adoption.  Listen, we become sons by adoption but we also become sons by regeneration.  Adoption gives us the name and the title and the rights, regeneration gives us the nature of our new family, the spiritual genetics of our new family. 

The emphasis on adoption is to show that we were chosen.  And it’s the analogy that all the past is cancelled.  It’s as if we were born again and just started to live.  That’s why adoption is such an important thing because it speaks of selection, election, choice.  And then it speaks of cancelling everything in the past and a new family but not to the exclusion of regeneration.  Adoption confers the name and the title; regeneration confers the nature.  In other words, we now have become not just adoptive children but partakers of the divine nature.  It’s a staggering thing.  And the Holy Spirit is doing all of this – all of this. 

Now, let’s look at these three verses.  You know where we’re going to go with it. so that’s fine.  How does the Holy Spirit demonstrate this adoption?  One, by leading us, all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.  Or flip it over, whoever is a son of God is being led by the Holy Spirit.  The first mark of adoptive sons is they’re led by the Holy Spirit.  They’re led by the Holy Spirit.  They’re directed by the Holy Spirit.  Their lives are controlled by the Holy Spirit.  We are introduced to this marvelous reality that the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in our lives and internally, He is directing us.  He doesn’t lead by violence – listen – He doesn’t lead by violence, He leads by inclination.  He generates in us inclination, bending, changing our will, changing our desires, changing our longings, changing our affections, shifting our interests.  This is miraculous and this is part of what it is to be a partaker of the divine nature.  We love what the divine nature loves, all of a sudden.  We love the law of God, Paul says in Romans 7; we delight in the law of God, Psalm 119 – 175 times, David says it.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit. 

How does He lead us?  Two ways.  Externally, by the Scripture – externally, by the Scripture, Psalm 119:18:  “Open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things from Your law.”  Show me the truth of Scripture.  Externally by Scripture, internally by sanctification.  Those two ways.  Externally, Scripture; internally, sanctification. 

What do you mean, the Spirit stirs the heart?  I don’t know – that’s a miracle category, right?  That’s the miraculous.  You’re a living miracle.  It wasn’t just a miracle that you’re saved, it’s a miracle that you’re being sanctified, and it’s a miracle when you’re glorified.  You know the miracle of glorification.  You know when you leave here and go to heaven and you receive a glorified body and you’re in the presence of the Lord, that miracle nobody would argue about.  And we understand the miracle of regeneration.  But the miracle of sanctification is equally miraculous because you’re being moved from one degree of glory to the next, to the next by the Holy Spirit.  Externally, His instrumental means is the Scripture, and internally, He works to sanctify you. 

That’s why David prays in Psalm 143:10:  “Teach me to do Your will.”  “Teach me to do Your will.  Be my internal teacher.”  Or Psalm 119:35:  “Make me to go in the path of Your commandments.”  “Make me go that way,” and that’s what the Holy Spirit does.  Or Psalm 119:  “Order my steps in Your Word.”  “Shove me that way.”  That internal work of the Holy Spirit whose temple we are.  Verb tenses, we are being led, it’s all the time, all the time, all the time, constant.  Being led by the Spirit is not a moment of ecstasy, it’s not some kind of moment of emotional elation.  It’s a way of life – invisible miracle, conforming you more and more to Christlikeness by bending your will and your desires in that direction. 

Second thing the Holy Spirit does is give you intimate access to God.  Verse 15:  “You have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again.”  When you were an unregenerate person, when the image of God was so marred that you were doomed for the trash heap of the universe, the trash heap of eternity in hell, you lived in fear.  You lived in dread.  You lived in the anticipation of judgment.  You were in bondage to sin; therefore, you were in bondage to guilt, anxiety, fear, trepidation, judgment.  That’s how you lived. 

What happened when you were regenerated and the Spirit began a work of sanctification is this:  You received a spirit of adoption or perhaps better, the Spirit of adoption, which some theologians say is the supreme name for the Holy Spirit.  If you wanted to take the name of all names to give the Holy Spirit, He should be called the Spirit of adoption because it is His work of bringing us into the family and conforming us to the family resemblance that dominates what God has given Him to do, what the Father has given Him to do.  We have in – by the Holy Spirit, you can’t decide whether it’s speaking about the Holy Spirit or the human spirit, it can be either one, but I like to think it’s both.  It is the Spirit of adoption who gives us a Spirit of adoption, enabling us to cry, “Abba, Father.”  You didn’t just rush into the presence of an infinitely holy God and say, “Papa.”  That’s what Abba means, Papa.  That kind of intimacy with God?  That would shake the Jews to their sandals.  “What?  God is distant and holy and here comes this person rushing in, ‘Papa, Papa, Abba Father.’”  There’s no fear, right?  There’s no fear.  You have intimate access. 

One of the great joys, the great joy, I guess, in some ways of being a grandfather is that amazing, unhindered, unrestrained affection that comes from grandchildren.  Some people think I’m an important person; they don’t.  Some people think I’m hard to get to know; they don’t.  Some people think you should kind of keep your distance; they don’t.  Is there anything more precious than little children running up and throwing their arms around you as a parent or a grandparent in those times of basically unlimited, unhindered, unquestioning affection?  “Papa.”  They come flying at me from every direction.  And that’s exactly what we have here.  There’s a sense in which we just rush in without fear to the presence of God because the Holy Spirit has made us sons by birth and sons by adoption with all full access to the Father. 

There’s a third ministry of the Holy Spirit in this work of sonship and that is not only is He leading us and giving us intimate access but He’s assuring us.  He gives us assurance.  Verse 16:  “The Holy Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.”  He testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.  The Holy Spirit comes to us, takes up residence in us, and confirms to our hearts that we belong to God. 

Let me tell you where this comes from.  In the adoption process in ancient Rome, seven witnesses had to be there.  Seven witnesses.  Seven eyewitnesses of the transaction in its fullness.  Why?  Well, what happens when the father dies and all the born children resent the adopted son who is the heir?  There’s going to be a battle.  And so the children who are born to the father are going to say, “He’s not legitimate, he’s making an illegitimate claim,” and somewhere there will be seven people who were eyewitnesses to this very legal transaction who can affirm the truthfulness and legitimacy of that. 

We don’t need seven.  We just need one, the Holy Spirit who has sealed us to the day of redemption, which means we are protected until the day of redemption.  No one can ever take our inheritance, it’s reserved and set apart for us, as Peter says, right?  Undefiled and laid up in heaven for you.  The Holy Spirit is the seal, the Holy Spirit is the arrabon, the engagement ring, the guarantee, and the Holy Spirit is the first fruits.  In other words, the guarantee of the full inheritance.  That is what verse 16 is saying.  He testifies with us that we are the children of God.  He bears witness along with our spirit.  There is an internal confidence that all is well.  This, in a word, is called hope.  We have a strong hope, don’t we?  And that’s the work of the Holy Spirit, to give us that strong hope. 

I don’t live daily fearing I might not make it to heaven.  Never enters my mind.  Why?  Because the internal witness of the Holy Spirit gives me hope – gives me hope.  If you were a child out in the streets or in a very difficult, abusive, perishing family, what you would want would be someone who would lead you and guide you in the right way, someone who would take all the fear out of your life, all the anxiety out of your life, and have all the resources that you could ever hope for, ever need, and far more, and somebody who would assure you of a future.  If you could find somebody like that, that would make an adoptive child happy. 

Well, you have that and more because that is what God promises you, and not only does He take you in by adoption, but He changes your nature, and then He begins to make you look like the Father and the Brother, Christ Himself.  This is the blessed work of the Holy Spirit.  Nothing less gives Him the honor He is due than to understand this.

Father we have been blessed this morning in so many ways, to know each other and fellowship with each other and sing together and listen to the beauty of such glorious, rapturous music, and now to be put in touch with these profound and wonderful truths that speak to us about us.  How blessed are we.  How unimaginably blessed are we and it’s all by grace.  We thank You, we bless Your name, and we pray, teach me, O Lord, to do Your will, along with David.  Bend me that way, O Holy Spirit, incline my heart that way.  Control my affections, my desires, my longings.  Move me from one level of glory to the next, to the next, so that I might reflect the glory of God in an image of God, restored through the work of regeneration until the day of glorification.  Thank You for such a high calling and such an amazing gift.  You’ve not only given us Christ, Father, but You’ve given us the Spirit, to make us a living and growing, progressing miracle.  May we ever be thankful to you, O blessed Holy Spirit, for this work.  Thank You for living in us and effecting this.  We are unworthy, we acknowledge that, but we are profoundly grateful.  And may it be that the work that You are doing will be manifest to those around us so that they can look at us and see Christ.  And we pray in His name.  Amen.

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/90-420/the-spirit-of-adoption

VIDEO Giving Thanks to the Spirit

By John MacArthur Oct 30, 2011

Last Sunday, I began a series on the ministry of the Holy Spirit, looking at the person of the Holy Spirit and the work of the Holy Spirit so that we can worship Him in the way He deserves to be worshipped.  And at that time when I began the series last week, I mentioned to you that the Holy Spirit is the most – in my mind at least, the most abused member of the Trinity.  There are so many people who blame the Holy Spirit for their behaviors, their words, their experiences, and the Holy Spirit has no part whatsoever. 

It is a strange kind of thing to realize, having read what we did in John chapter 14, 15, and 16 about the Spirit of Truth, to see so much untruth connected to the Holy Spirit.  So many lies, so many deceivers, so many deceptions are basically assigned to the Holy Spirit in order to gain necessary ground with people for those who have illegitimate desires and goals.  The Holy Spirit is blamed for so many terrible things. 

We are warned about that in the Bible.  We are warned about the danger of blaspheming the Holy Spirit.  In spite of that warning, it goes on.  We are warned about – and I’ll say more about this next week, about insulting the Holy Spirit, we are warned about resisting the Holy Spirit, we are warned about grieving the Holy Spirit, we are warned about quenching the Holy Spirit, and all those verbs are addressed at the way we refer to the Holy Spirit Himself.  But it is not just a matter of trying to avoid blasphemy and abuse and attributing to the Holy Spirit things that He would have no part of.  It’s more than that.  We need not only to avoid certain errors regarding the Holy Spirit, but we need certainly to worship the Holy Spirit fully for what He has done and who He genuinely is. 

Just last week, I was reading an article from the year 1657 and it was written by John Owen, the great English Puritan who is so prolific, who wrote volumes and volumes that enrich us in understanding of Scripture and theology.  One very important treatise that John Owen wrote is an analysis of what it means to commune with God, what it means to really worship God.  His title, in the sort of standard Puritan vernacular, is this:  Of Communion with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, Each Person Distinctly, in Love, Grace, and Consolation – that’s a typical Puritan title.  He also gave an alternate title – or The Saints’ Fellowship with the Father, with the Son, with the Holy Spirit Unfolded. 

In this treatise written by John Owen, he calls for the realization that we have received from, individually and specifically and particularly, each member of the Trinity certain specific benefits.  And as we have received these benefits from each of the members of the Trinity, we are required to respond to those gifts to each member of the Trinity so that our Trinitarian worship is not so much blended as it is separated.  There is a passage of Scripture that might help us to see this.  If you look at the very last verse in the last chapter of 2 Corinthians, you would read this:  “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”  That is a Trinitarian benediction that sorts out the individual features of the ministry of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit to us as believers.  It is the love of God.  Coming from God is that divine, sovereign love.  It is the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is the Son who provides divine, sovereign grace.  And it is the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.  From the Father comes divine love; from the Son, divine grace; and from the Spirit, divine fellowship. 

And the apostle Paul separates these individual members of the Trinity and identifies aspects of their ministry.  Our communion is initiated by the love of the Father, ratified by the grace of the Son, and communicated by the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.  And while we would agree that throughout Scripture there is overlapping in the work of the Trinity, there is still an emphasis on those specific works which each member does in some unique way.

I think for most of us who worship God in the true way, knowing that He is a triune God and who recognize that He is one essence but three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we tend to sort of blend everything together and worship Him as the triune God, and that, of course, is a legitimate way to worship God.  But what Owen is calling for is for us to start separating these persons in the Trinity as to the recognition of what it is that they have provided for us and how it is that we should respond specifically to those specific provisions.  In regard to the Holy Spirit, John Owen writes, “The Spirit’s ministry consists in bringing the promises of Christ to remembrance, glorifying Him in our hearts, shedding abroad the love of God in us, witnessing with us that we belong to God as to our spiritual state and condition, sealing us to the day of redemption, being the earnest or the guarantee of our final inheritance, anointing us with comfort, confirming our adoption and being present with us in our supplications.” 

Then Owen responds to the work of the Spirit by saying this:  “Here is the wisdom of faith, to find out and meet with the Comforter in all these things, not to lose their sweetness by lying in the dark as to their author, nor coming short of the returns which are required of us.”  Each member of the Trinity, having done these specific things for us, is to be worshiped in specific response to the work that each as done. 

It isn’t just that we don’t want, as believers, to quench the Holy Spirit, which believers can do.  It is not only that we don’t want to grieve the Holy Spirit, which believers can do.  We don’t want to resist the Holy Spirit.  It isn’t just what we don’t want to do.  It is that in our regular communion and our regular worship and our regular praise, we need to identify the three persons of the godhead in meditation, in prayer, and in submission.  We need to dwell on the special mercy and the special ministry of each person of the Trinity toward us, and we need to make a specific response of love and submission and joy and gratitude distinctly to each member of the Trinity.  This, says John Owen, is full-orbed communion with God. 

Another of my favorite Puritans is Thomas Goodwin.  Thomas Goodwin writes:  “Our worship is sometimes with our Father, then with the Son, and then with the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes our hearts are drawn out to consider the Father’s love in choosing us.  Sometimes our hearts are drawn to the love of Christ in redeeming us.  And sometimes the love of our hearts is drawn toward the Holy Spirit who searches the deep things of God and reveals them to us” – and then I love this line – “and takes all the pains with us.”  Have you ever thought to thank the Holy Spirit for taking all the pains to work on your sanctification?  “Thank You, Holy Spirit – thank You, Holy Spirit, for teaching me, thank You for warring against the flesh, thank You for interceding for me, thank You for sealing and securing me, thank You for guiding me away from the path of temptation, thank You for empowering me in the face of sin.” 

Now, that’s what Thomas Goodwin is calling for and Goodwin says, “It is only when we understand the work of each member of the Trinity distinctly that we have a true communion with God.”  He says, quote, “We should never be satisfied until all three persons lie level in us.”  A beautiful way to say that.  So that we sit, as it were, in the midst of them while they all manifest their love to us.  This is the highest experience that ever Christ promised in this life, to sit in the midst, as it were, of the Trinity and be the recipient of all the love coming from the Father, all the love coming from the Son, and all the love coming from the Spirit on our behalf.  This is true worship. 

We have spent a lot of time – and we do, I think, as believers – thinking about the love of the Father, the electing love, the sovereign love, thinking about the sacrifice of the Son, the grace that is given to us.  There are a lot of ways to look at it.  The Father initiates our salvation, the Son ratifies our salvation, the Holy Spirit communicates our salvation.  The Father chooses us for life, the Son provides the sacrifice that leads to life, and the Holy Spirit gives us the life.  And being able to recognize the ministry of each member of the Trinity is being able to have full-orbed worship and full-orbed communion. 

So what we’re trying to do is, in this brief series, get a better understanding of the work and ministry of the blessed Holy Spirit that we might enhance and enrich our own gratitude and thanks and worship to Him.  Maybe one of the most amazing verses that our Lord ever spoke or ever recorded from His lips is in John 16.  I read it to you earlier.  It really is a startling verse, if you stop and think about it.  This is what our Lord said in John 16:7:  “I tell you the truth” – as He always did – “it is to your advantage that I go away.” 

And we’ll just stop right there for a minute and ask the question, “How would the disciples have received that?”  Since they had been with the Lord essentially 24/7 for a period of three years, He was everything to them, absolutely everything.  On one occasion, according to John 6, Jesus said after a group of people left, “Will you also go away?” and Peter, speaking for the rest, said, “To whom shall we go?  You and You alone have the words of eternal life.  We’re not about to go anywhere.  Everything we want to know, everything we want to see, everything we need You have, You are.”  How in the world could they handle the statement, “It’s to your advantage if I go away”?  What could be better than that? 

And when you think about the fact for literally millennia, people had been waiting for the coming of the Messiah and every generation of Jewish people who knew the Messiah was going to come had wished that they would be the people alive when He came, and yet when He did come, the people at that time rejected Him as we know fully.  But there was a group of people, His followers and His disciples, who embraced Him, and this was the fulfillment of all of redemptive history, going all the way back to the time of the fall and the promise that one would come and bruise the serpent’s head, how wonderful that the Messiah had come, how wonderful that He was there.  They didn’t want Him to go anywhere.  They didn’t want Him to leave.  They wanted Him to stay and set up His kingdom and that would be the end and the culmination and the fulfillment of everything. 

Yet in that last evening together when they were meeting in the Upper Room before He was taken and crucified, He says to them, “I’m leaving, I’m going to go away, and you’re not going to be able to get to Me, but I’m going to tell you something, it’s to your advantage that I go away.”  That’s an amazing statement.  How could that be true?  He says this:  “If I do not go away, the helper will not come to you.  But if I go, I’ll send Him to you.”  What is better than having Jesus?  Having the Holy Spirit – having the Holy Spirit.  “You mean the Holy Spirit wasn’t around?”  No.  I also read to you from the same portion of Scripture, “He has been with you, He will be” – where? – “in you.”  The Holy Spirit was always around.  The Holy Spirit was the Creator, He moved on the face of the waters in Genesis and created.  The Holy Spirit’s always been the life-giver, the Holy Spirit’s always been the convictor.  He’s been striving with men, it says in Genesis 6. 

The Holy Spirit has always been the one that brought life to spiritually dead people and all men have been dead since the fall.  There would be no salvation in the Old Testament, no believing faith, no redeeming repentance, no genuine conversion apart from the Holy Spirit.  And the Holy Spirit was around to give leading and guiding.  The ministry of the Holy Spirit can be seen in the Old Testament period to some degree.  He is with you might be a way to understand that for those necessary things like salvation and sanctification, the Holy Spirit was required. 

But here comes the Son.  Isn’t that a better thing?  Isn’t it even a more wonderful thing to be in the very presence of the incarnate Son of God?  One would certainly think so.  So maybe that’s a step beyond what they had in the Old Testament.  The Spirit was there, the Son was promised, now the Spirit is still doing His work and the Son is also there.  How can Jesus say, “It’s better if I go away”? 

The answer to that is because the Holy Spirit brings to the believers, from the time of the founding of the church on, a ministry that has never been known before.  It isn’t that the Holy Spirit wasn’t here, it’s not a question of absent and present, it’s a question of degree, extent.  The best thing that could ever happen to any people, better than having Jesus Christ in their midst, is to have the Holy Spirit.  And that’s us.  We’re living in that marvelous, marvelous realization.  “It’s better that I go so I can send the Holy Spirit.” 

Boy, if that’s true, then the Holy Spirit is very, very special.  And indeed He is.  And instead of the terrible things that are assigned to the Holy Spirit, we want to take a look at the genuine ministry of the Holy Spirit so we can worship Him and they can – all members of the Trinity, as Goodwin said, can lie level in us and receive equal praise. 

Where do we go in the Word of God to get in touch with the ministry of the Holy Spirit?  Well, we’ve chosen to look at Romans 8.  So with that brief introduction, I want you to turn to Romans 8, and we’re going to take a look at the ministry of the Holy Spirit that flows through this chapter.  And as we go, we may digress a little bit and talk about some of the other things, but obviously we’re not going to try to cover every passage in the New Testament regarding the Holy Spirit but those things are which most essential and important to us.  And in Romans chapter 8, we have a great starting point for this because the ministry of the Holy Spirit is presented here with regard to salvation. 

Remember, in the opening seven chapters of Romans, the themes are all salvific.  It’s all about salvation.  It starts in chapter 1 verse 16 with the gospel.  Paul’s not ashamed.  He preaches.  It’s the power of God unto salvation.  Then he starts to unpack the essence of the gospel.  Talks about sin and judgment and then talks about the futility of trying to achieve righteousness on your own.  Talks about grace and faith, uses Abraham as an illustration.  Talks about the meaning of the cross and our union with Christ, and it’s all about salvation all the way up to chapter 8.  And now we come into chapter 8, and we shift into a section that is the final summation of the glory of salvation.  It is the final summation of what it means to be saved.  Here is the ultimate good news, and it all is secured to us by the Holy Spirit – by the Holy Spirit. 

Let’s at least begin in verses 1 and 2, and let’s see what it is that the Holy Spirit does for us.  I’m going to give you kind of a grocery list of things the Holy Spirit does that flow out of this chapter.  But you have to understand where it all begins.  Romans 8 verse 1:  “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  How can that be possible that there’s no condemnation for sinners?  How can that be possible?  Answer, in verse 2:  “For the law or the principle of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”  There’s no condemnation to those who are in Christ because of something the Spirit of life has done.  The Spirit of life is the Holy Spirit.  So we meet the Holy Spirit in verse 2 and here’s the first point:  The Holy Spirit frees us from death by giving us life.  The Holy Spirit frees us from death by giving us life.  That’s the first feature of a no-condemnation life. 

But let’s back up into that first verse and recognize the word “therefore” ties this in with everything that had come before.  All that has been said about salvation in all its glory and all its beauty – he’s not going back to verse 25 of 7, he’s not going back just to chapter 7, he’s going back all the way to chapter 1 verse 16 where he started talking about the gospel, all of that gospel teaching therefore means there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  That’s the summation of the gospel.  That’s the good news.  You can be before an infinitely holy God as an utterly corrupt sinner and not be condemned at all, not now, and not ever.  That is the good news. 

And to understand that good news, you have to understand the bad news.  The bad news is that Scripture designates every human being born into this world as a child of wrath – child of wrath, Ephesians chapter 2 verse 3.  You’re children of wrath.  You’re all children of wrath.  Well, that’s a kind of a Hebrew way of speaking.  In other words, you’ve inherited the nature of those who will be damned.  That’s what that means.  If you’re a son of corruption, it simply means your nature is corrupt.  If you’re a son of wrath, it means you are sentenced to judgment.  All men are children of wrath.  They are under condemnation, and it is a miserable condition. 

What are the elements of this condition?  Well, we’re overpowered by sin.  We all come short of the glory of God.  We’ve all sinned and we’ve all come short of the glory of God.  We’re all cursed.  We are dominated; we are literally overwhelmed by, overpowered by sin.  Sin is a defiling disease that cripples the soul of every human being, degrades every person, disquiets every person, steals peace and joy, replacing it with trouble, pain, fear.  It plants in every heart the killing principle of corruption that no man can ever overcome and no human person can ever cure. 

It is even worse than that.  Not only are we incurably sinful and wicked but we are controlled by Satan who is the angel of wickedness, who is the devil himself.  We are members of his kingdom.  We are part of his family.  John 8:44:  “Your father is the devil.”  We are the devil’s children.  We are ruled by the prince of the power of the air – Ephesians 2:2 – the spirit that works in the sons of disobedience.  He’s operating in all human beings who are not only corrupt in their own nature but further corrupted by the work of Satan in them.  And that’s why Jesus said, “His lusts you do.”  What he lusts for, you do. 

As a result of this, we are subject to vanity, it says in Romans 8:20.  What that means is that in that condition where we are overpowered by sin and dominated by Satan, we are subject to all that is bad, all that is horrible.  This is the futility of life, emptiness, bitterness, sorrow, pain.  We’re born to trouble.  We have no peace.  We fear death.  We’re full of anxiety, hopeless.  And as such, Hebrews 10:27 says there remains nothing but a fearful looking for a fiery judgment.  All humanity has to look for is hell – hell.  Damned forever, according to Revelation 20 verse 14, by the second death and the Lake of Fire.  That is he misery of all human beings. 

And when that punishment falls, it is a just condemnation – it is a just condemnation.  Romans 3 says that in verse 8 and 9, it is a just condemnation.  We have broken the law of God.  Galatians 3 says if you break one law, you’ve shattered the whole law.  Our condemnation is just.  Like the thief on the cross, we indeed suffer justly.  That’s what He said. 

So as a result, you sum all that up and you have the fact that the sinner stands as a child of wrath, under the condemnation of a holy God who is offended at every sin and renders a just judgment.  The inevitable end, then, is hell forever.  And that’s the condition of every person until the Holy Spirit arrives.  And in our text, in the darkness of this picture, our text brings glorious light.  There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for the principle or the power or the influence of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 

Honestly, the Bible is a very condemning book, very condemning.  In the 5th chapter of Romans, it says in Adam, all died.  That we all inherited the sin nature from Adam.  Romans 5 says that over and over again.  Second Thessalonians chapter 1 gives us a frightening picture of the final future judgment that’s going to fall on all sinners when it says that the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  They will pay the penalty of eternal destruction away from the Lord and from the glory of His power. 

There are two aspects of eternal hell.  One is sense; that is, real pain.  The other is absence, the absence of God.  That’s a real hell.  And you say, “Well, didn’t God send His law so we’d have standards to live up to?  And if you live up to those standards we’re going to be okay, we’re going to get to heaven?”  That is the misunderstanding that is most popular in the world and equally a damning misunderstanding because as holy as the law is, and it is perfectly holy because it’s simply a reflection of God, it’s the ethics of God’s nature codified, written out and spelled out.  The law, however, can’t make us holy.  The law can’t deal with our sin, and the law cannot give us a way to escape condemnation. 

Listen to what it says in Romans 3:  “Whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become accountable to God.”  All the law does is shut your mouth when you make any claim to goodness.  “Because by the works of the law, no flesh will be justified in His sight, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.”  All the law does is give you the knowledge of sin.  That’s all God’s law does, is show you sin.  It is not the path to overcome sin.  It is not the path to escape the condemnation that your sin produces.  It cannot do that.  It cannot alter your condition; it can only reveal it.  And it cannot change your condemnation; it can only enforce it. 

In fact, the law makes things worse because the law expands the violations.  So no one by the law is going to be made right with God.  Rather by the law, our guilt is increased, our sin is expanded.  There is, therefore, condemnation and only condemnation to those who are under the law because the law can’t save, the law can’t remove condemnation, the written law.  That’s what verse 3 means when it says, “What the law couldn’t do, weak as it was through the flesh.”  In other words, the law can’t operate in human beings to any saving end.  Condemnation here is the word katakrima and it focuses on the punishment after the sentencing more than just the judgment itself.  There’s another Greek word that speaks about the judgment or the adjudication itself.  This is a word that stretches beyond the sentencing to the actual punishment. 

And what is said here is this:  There is no punishment for those who are in Christ Jesus.  In spite of all the violations, in spite of breaking God’s law, in spite of being in a condition where condemnation would be just and righteous and holy and correct and deserved, in spite of that, in spite of our corruption, in spite of our belonging to the kingdom of darkness and Satan himself, we can be in a condition by salvation where there is no condemnation.  “No” is a strong negative, a strong word.  There’s a lot of ways you could say no in Greek; this is a very strong one.  Absolutely, unequivocally, no condemnation. 

Now, let me tell you, that is the good news.  That’s the gospel.  That as sinful as you are, there is the possibility of coming into a condition in which there is no condemnation, not any at all.  What is that condition?  What is that place?  Being in Christ.  Verse 1:  “To those who are in Christ.”  Or verse 2:  “In Christ Jesus.”  It’s about union with Christ.  What does it mean to be in Christ?  It means to be in Him in a very real sense, spiritually.  Go back to the 6th chapter of Romans for a minute, verse 3:  “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized” – or immersed – it’s not talking about water baptism here but using the word to mean immersed into in a metaphoric sense – “all of us who have been immersed into Christ Jesus have been immersed into His death.  Therefore, we’ve been buried with Him through that immersion into death so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”  In other words, we literally are placed into Christ in His death and into Christ in His resurrection.  We die in Him, we rise in Him. 

Verse 5:  “We have become united with Him in the likeness of His death and we shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.  As a result, our old self was crucified with Him in order that our body of sin might be done away, terminated, and we would no longer be slaves to sin, for he who died is freed from sin.  If we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him, knowing that Christ having been raised from the dead is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him, for the death that He died, He died to sin once for all, but the life He lives, He lives to God.  So consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”  In Christ we die, we rise again.  This is our union with Christ.  And that is what is being stated. 

And that’s all been unpacked and unfolded, as I just read in chapter 6, but all of that leading up to this point, so we don’t have here a definition of what it is to be in Christ because that’s all been explained.  All we need to know here is:  For those who are in Christ, there is no condemnation – none.  Literally, we have been placed beyond the reach of condemnation – beyond the reach of condemnation.  That’s how the chapter begins, and it’s how it ends.  If you go to the end of chapter 8, what do you read?  “What will separate us” – verse 35 – “from the love of Christ, tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword?”  No.  Verse 38:  “I am convinced that neither death, life, angels, principalities, things present, things to come, powers, height, depth, any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

In other words, list everything real, everything imaginable, things that are, things that are only imagined.  None of them can change our condition.  None of them can alter the no-condemnation status.  We have been placed beyond the reach of condemnation.  And this whole chapter is a long and really thrilling proof of the safety of believers.  That’s what it’s about, it’s about the safety and security of those who are in Christ from any condemnation, now or ever.  Even if Satan shows up, it says later in the chapter, who is going to bring a successful accusation against us before God?  No one, ever, we are beyond the reach of condemnation.  And this is all going to be attributed in a wonderful way to the Holy Spirit who does this for us.  The reason we are beyond condemnation is because – verse 2 says – the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 

The word “law” here is not in a biblical sense, not in a codified sense, but it’s used in the sense of a principle, a dominating power, the dominating power of the Spirit of life has set you free from the dominating power of sin, which leads to death.  It’s just an amazing, clear, specific statement on the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  Those of us who are in Christ are really in Christ.  We are joined to Him. 

How did we get into Christ?  We literally have been placed into Him by the Holy Spirit who took us out of a condition of sin that leads to death and gave us life.  That’s why He’s called the Spirit of life, the regenerating Spirit, the Spirit who is life – the life-giving Spirit.  All those are used as phrases to describe the Holy Spirit. 

It was Martin Luther who said, “For a man to be a Christian without having Christ is impossible and if he has Christ, he has at the same time all that is in Christ.  What gives peace to the conscience is that by faith our sins are no more ours but Christ’s, upon whom God hath laid them all, and that on the other hand, all Christ’s righteousness is ours to whom God hath given it.  Christ lays His hand upon us and we are healed.  He casts His mantle upon us and we are clothed, for He is our glorious Savior, blessed forever.”  This union that we have now with Christ is the work of the Holy Spirit.  He takes us out of a condition of death and puts us in the union with Christ.  We are then alive in Christ. 

This happens by faith.  We understand that.  Luther goes on to say, “Unites the soul with Christ as a spouse with her husband.  Everything which Christ has becomes the property of the believing soul, everything which the soul has becomes the property of Christ.  Christ possesses all blessing and eternal life.  They are thenceforth the property of the soul.  The soul has all its iniquities and sins, they become thereafter the property of Christ.  It is then that a blessed exchange commences.  Christ who is both God and man, Christ who has never sinned and His holiness is perfect, Christ the almighty and eternal, taking to Himself by His nuptial ring of faith all the sins of the believer.  Those sins are lost and abolished in Him, for no sins dwell before His infinite righteousness, and thus by faith the believer’s soul is delivered from sin, is clothed with eternal righteousness, the righteousness of her bridegroom Christ.”  Oh, happy union.  Who does that?  That is the work of the Spirit of life who removes us from the union with sin and Satan, which produces death, and gives us life.  This is the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit.  That’s what verse 2 means. 

Go back again for just a moment, looking at the end of it, we have been set free from the principle, the dominating principle of sin that produces death.  The condition of spiritual death as a result of sin.  How are we set free?  By the dominating power of the Spirit of life, and that can only refer to the blessed Holy Spirit.  He is the Spirit of life.  And He is so designated in 2 Corinthians chapter 3.  You can read through that, the law kills, the letter kills, the letter kills, the Spirit gives life, the Spirit gives life.  Verse 6, verse 17, verse 18, Galatians 6:8, the life-giving Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the one who gives us life. 

And if you’re still wondering about that, what did Jesus say to Nicodemus?  You want to enter the kingdom of God?  You must be born of the water and the Spirit.  You must be born from above.  The Spirit is the source of life.  He is the one who gives life.  He is the regenerator. 

Look at Titus for a moment.  In Titus, there’s a wonderful statement about salvation that we can see will lay some weight on what I’ve been saying and perhaps some clarity.  But notice that we were foolish – verse 3 Titus 3:3 – that we were disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts, pleasures, spending our life in malice – that’s evil – envy, hateful, hating one another.  That’s a description of every human being.  Not a pretty picture.  “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared” – so here you have the kindness of God, everything starts from the love of God, works through the grace of Christ and ends up with the fellowship of the Spirit.  “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us.” 

How did He save us?  How did He rescue us from the condition of corruption and cursing?  How did He rescue us from the domain of Satan?  How did He rescue us from the tyranny of sin?  How did He do it?  “He saved us not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness.”  Okay, it wasn’t by the law then.  It wasn’t by our goodness.  “But according to His mercy by the washing of regeneration and the renewing” – by whom? – “by the Holy Spirit whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.”  I don’t know that we really know the full richness of the Holy Spirit, but we’re going to work on understanding it together.  How did this renewal come?  How did this washing come?  How did this regeneration come?  How did this life come?  How, by whom have we been made alive?  None other than the Spirit of life. 

How did He do it?  Well, first I read you in John 16, He convicts us of sin and righteousness and judgment.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit, the work of convicting the sinner.  Then He brought to us the gospel.  The Holy Spirit is the author of Scripture.  All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.  God breathed, comes from the pneuma, the Spirit of God.  Holy men were moved by the Holy Spirit, Peter says, and they wrote the Scripture.  So the Spirit is the author of holy Scripture.  So one, the Holy Spirit convicts the sinner.  Two, the Holy Spirit, who is the author of the gospel, brings the gospel so that we’re begotten again, according to James 1:18, by the Word of Truth.  First Peter 1, the same thing.  We’re begotten by the Word of Truth.  The Spirit is the convictor; the Spirit is the author of the gospel which is brought to us.  The Spirit becomes our teacher, opens our minds by His regenerating power, and we believe the gospel, we turn from sin.  That’s all the work of the Holy Spirit.  He is the life-giving Spirit, the Spirit who gives life, the Spirit of life. 

I don’t know if you’ve ever really spent time thanking the Holy Spirit for what He gave you, for convicting you of sin and righteousness in judgment, for writing the holy Scripture, the glorious gospel, the Word of Truth, the Spirit of truth who brought you the Word of Truth, and then who gave you life and understanding so that you heard the truth, you came alive, you repented, you believed the truth, and you literally were delivered out of a condition of sin and death into a condition of life.  And now your condition in life is a condition not only of being alive, but having been clothed with the very righteousness of Christ, you are beyond the possibility of condemnation – beyond that possibility. 

How could the Spirit do this?  How can the Holy Spirit do this?  He can do it because of the provision of verse 3, which we’ll look at a little more next time, but just to introduce it to you.  The law couldn’t do it.  It was weak because the law couldn’t empower the flesh.  The law couldn’t make a better man.  It could set the perfect standard, but it couldn’t make a man that could keep it.  So it was weak through the flesh.  In other words, it’s weak not in its own self but in the sense that flesh can’t keep it.  But God did what the law couldn’t do and He did it through His Holy Spirit, and He did it by the sacrifice of Christ, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh as an offering for sin.  He condemned sin in the flesh. 

Let me show you the difference.  See that last line, “He condemned sin in the flesh”?  You know what the law can do?  The law can condemn the sinner.  The law does condemn the sinner.  The cross condemned sin.  See the difference?  The law can’t condemn sin, only the cross condemned sin.  The law sentences the sinner to death, the cross sentences sin to death.  Sin dies, it’s no longer our master, it is no longer our power – a dominating force.  It no longer can call for a just punishment and execution.  The law condemns the sinner; the cross condemns sin. 

How does it do that?  Because at the cross, Jesus pays the penalty in full.  Sin’s requirement, which was established by God Himself, is paid in full.  That’s what it means when it says we were identified with Him in His death.  When He died, all our sins were there and paid for in full.  The law couldn’t do that.  Believe me, the law condemns every sinner.  The law can’t condemn sin, but the cross condemns sin for those who are in Christ.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit. 

I was looking around this week for some hymns on the Holy Spirit because there are a few songs to the Holy Spirit.  They’re kind of schmaltzy, syrupy, sentimental songs.  But I was digging around, I figured I’ll go to a Presbyterian hymnal.  A Presbyterian is usually a little more theological.  And I found this, I’ve never heard it, I don’t know what – I could hum the tune but that wouldn’t help anybody.  But here’s an old hymn to the Holy Spirit, it’s the only one I found, and it goes like this:  “Spirit, we would worship You, crowning gift of resurrection sent from Your ascended throne, fullness of the very godhead, come to make Your life our own.”  That’s exactly what the Holy Spirit did.  He came to make the life of God our own life. 

And then this writer – who, by the way, is Margaret Clarkson, you may know a little bit about her.  The hymn goes on, and I’ve edited it a little bit, but speaking to the Holy Spirit, “You who in creation’s dawning, brooded on the lifeless deep, still across our nature’s darkness moves to wake our souls from sleep.  Moves to stir, to draw, to quicken, thrusts us through with sense of sin.  Brings to birth and seals and fills us, saving advocate within.  You Yourself, the living author, wakes to life the sacred Word, reads with us its holy pages and reveals our risen Lord.  You it is who works within us, teaching rebel hearts to pray.  You whose holy intercession rises for us night and day.”  That’s absolutely true, and that’s reason to give honor to the Holy Spirit.  Amen?

Father, we thank You for our time this morning to think about these things, and we’re just kind of scratching the edges of these great truths, but we have so much that we already know that we can fill in to this and grasp that all that Christ did on the cross made it possible for the Holy Spirit to give us life.  The fact that He had borne in His own body our sins on the tree, the fact that He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, chastisement for our peace fell on Him, by His stripes were healed, that He who knew no sin was made sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him, the fact that He became a curse for us.  All of these great realities of the substitutionary work of Christ, the necessary provision, the necessary ratification of divine initiative make it possible for the application and communication of the Holy Spirit to give us life and give us life that puts us beyond the possibility of condemnation, knowing that Christ was fully condemned for our sins.  Nothing can ever condemn us.  What incredibly glorious news. 

How we thank You, Father, for such initiating love.  We thank You, O Christ, for such a sacrifice of grace.  And we thank You, O Holy Spirit, for giving us life and sustaining that life until we see Christ face-to-face and are like Him.  We worship You, our triune God, and we do so with joy and gratitude.  Amen.

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/90-416/giving-thanks-to-the-spirit

VIDEO I Am the Bread of Life

John MacArthur Dec 22, 2013

We have been studying together the Gospel of John, and just going through verse by verse, paragraph by paragraph.  Typically, when we come to Christmas Sunday, I stop whatever series I’m in and do a special Christmas message.  I’ve done that for 40 plus years with an occasional Sunday prior to Christmas when we stayed in the series because there was something in the text that connected to well with Christmas.  And that is the case this year.  So, we’re going to look at John chapter 6 today, John chapter 6. 

I looked ahead a few weeks ago and just kind of planning and anticipating what I might present to you, and I began to carefully prepare reading through John 6 for our regular studies.  And it struck me that this would be a very powerful and wonderful and helpful text to stay in.  So, for the last number of weeks, we’ve been working our way through John 6, and we’ll continue to do that, and when we pick it up again after the holidays.  But I want to draw your attention to the sixth chapter of John, and particularly verses 32 to 59 where our Lord gives this great sermon on, I Am the Bread of Life.  He repeats that several times.  I am the Bread of Life.  He is the true Christmas bread. 

Bread is starting to pile up at the McArthur house, I will admit.  Every Christmas this happens to us.  We get it in the mail.  We get it from FedEx.  We get it stuck on the porch.  We get it from folks at the church.  Last Sunday I went home with bread in two arms, and there’ll probably be a little more bread today.  And that’s good by me; I love bread.  We get bread in boxes.  We get bread in cans.  We get bread in paper bags around Christmas, so it’s like a maniacal carb experience [laughter] to consume all this bread, but I’m a bread lover. 

There’s something about Christmas and bread I guess just in a general sense, and you might wonder, where does that come from?  Why is there so much interest in bread around Christmas?  Well, it does have some interesting history.  It really does.  If you’re from Germany, you’ve heard of stollen, S-T-O-L-L-E-N, which is a German Christmas bread that was first prepared in 1545 for the Council of Trent.  And since then, has been the standard traditional Christmas bread baked and consumed by German folks around the world.

If any of you come from Poland or more of Eastern Europe, you may know about oplatki, which is a Christmas bread that the Polish launched in the tenth century.  And it’s still being prepared every Christmas. 

Now, for all of you Italians, you know about Panettone, Panettone bread.  Panettone comes from two words, the Italian word for bread is “panne” and “Tony” is the Italian word for the guy who fixes your car.  [laughter]  So, you’re not buying that?  Actually, actually, back in the 15th century, the 1400s, there was a baker by the name of Tony.  That’s where it came from.  And he wanted to impress the king because he wanted to marry his daughter, so he baked some bread.  Hence, Panettone bread.  I don’t really think that’s the best way to impress a king about what you might offer to his daughter.  I don’t know how well it all came out for Tony.  [laughter]  But Tony made a mark on history because if you go into any Italian market or almost any market, you find a section with Panettone. 

Interesting to note also that the word “Bethlehem” in Hebrew means “house of bread”, “house of bread.”  So, bread has been associated with Christmas.  In this chapter, the sixth chapter of John, however, we find the true Christmas bread who is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.  And I’m going to do something this morning that I rarely do, and that is to cover a rather extended portion of Scripture.  So this will be an experience that you cannot count on ever happening again.  [laughter]  I want to read this great sermon.  It’s one great sermon starting in verse 32 of John 6.  “Jesus then said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven.  For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.’ Then they said to Him, ‘Lord, always give us this bread.’”

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.  But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe.  All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.  For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.  This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose none, but raise it up on the last day.  For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.’”

“Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, ‘I am the bread that came down out of heaven.’  They were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?  Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Be not grumbling among yourselves.  No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.  It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.  Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father.  Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.  I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.  This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.’”

“Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, ‘How can this man give us His flesh to eat?’  So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.  He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.  For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.  He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.  As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me.  This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.’  These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.”

A shocking day toward the end of the Galilean ministry of Jesus as He taught the Jewish people in the synagogue at Capernaum.  The most compelling statement around which all of this is built is the repeated statement, “I am the Bread of life.  I am the Bread of life.”  That’s His claim, verse 32, verse 33, verse 48.  This is the first, by the way, of 7 “I AMs” in the Gospel of John, in which our Lord takes the tetragrammaton YHWH, the verb “to be” in Hebrew, the name of God who is the I AM that I AM, and applies it to Himself and adds a metaphor.  “I am the Bread of life.  I am the Good Shepherd.  I am the Vine.  I am the Way.  I am the Truth.  I am the Life.  I am the Resurrection and the Life.”  All of those I AMs are efforts on the part of our Lord to make clear that He is one in the same as God.

This is the first of those seven I AMs, in which He takes the name of God, and in this case applies as He does on several of those occasions, a metaphor to explain something about His nature and His work.  Now, you have to understand how monumental this sermon was given in the Capernaum synagogue.  He’s talking to Jewish people, and He presents this powerful claim that He has come down from heaven.  And that they have to eat His flesh and drink His blood if they want to have eternal life.  Now, the Jews all understood the issue of eternal life, life in the Kingdom, life forever, life in heaven, life with God, blessed life, joyous life.  They understood that.

Jesus is saying, “I and I alone are the means by which that eternal life can become yours.”  This is a long passage, but it can be easily divided into two very familiar components.  And that’s what we’ll do this morning.  It’s full of repetition because it was so stunning and, remember, they were listening.  And repetition is even more important to an audience that is listening.  And so John records a fullness in this sermon that we don’t always find in the Gospel record became this is such a stunning claim.

We’re going to see Him saying the same things over and over and over so that they might register with His listeners and with us.  The two parts that we need to look at here, very simple, divine provision of the bread, human appropriation of the bread.  Divine provision of the bread, human appropriation of the bread. 

You need to have your Bible open and you need to be looking at your Bible because we’re going to be looking for those two elements in these verses.  This is going to be more like a Bible study than a sermon.  I can’t preach a sermon on a sermon.  This is a sermon.  I can’t make metaphors on metaphors.  This is a metaphor.  So, we’re going to take it at face value and see if we can’t examine it.

To say that He is bread is to use really a metonym for food, nourishing food that gives life and sustenance.  Jesus used the word “bread” to refer to that when He said, “Man shall not live by bread alone.”  Bread, then, was simply a word that encompassed all nutritious food.  Jesus is saying that, “I am your food.  I am your true soul food.”  First of all, let’s look at the divine provision of the bread.  This is God’s side here, the divine side, the heavenly side.  God’s provision. 

Several features are indicated here about God’s provision of this bread.  First of all, this bread is divinely preexistent, divinely preexistent.  And I want you to watch this because this is why this works so well as a Christmas section because it continually repeats the reality of the incarnation.  Let me help you to see that.  Look for the phrase, “came down out of heaven.”  You will find it, for example, in verse 32 at the very beginning of the message. “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven.”

Verse 33, “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven.”  Verse 38, “I have come down from heaven.”  Now, he switches from the metaphor, the bread has come down, and applies it to Himself and says, “I have come down.”  Verse 41, there’s a lot of shock about that, but I just want you to notice they understood exactly what He was saying.  The Jews are grumbling because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.”  In verse 42, they are wondering how this man whose parents they know can say, “I have come down out of heaven.”

Verse 46, again says, “Not that anyone has seen the Father except the One who is from God.”  He has come down out of heaven.  Verse 50, “This is the bread which comes down out of heaven.”  Verse 51, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven.”  Verse 58, “This is the bread which came down out of heaven.”  Every time you see that, and it’s repeated again and again, you are hearing a statement affirming the incarnation of a preexistent person.  He didn’t come into existence.  He came down out of heaven.  Anyone who claims that falsely is a lunatic or a deceiver, who would have a hard time convincing people.

Over and over and over Jesus speaks of His preexistence.  John began his Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God,” the Word meaning Christ.  Therefore, Christ was there preexistent with God, coexistent with God, self-existent with God eternally.  You cannot ever reduce Jesus to a created being.  Yes, His body was prepared by God for Him, but as a person He is the eternal Son of God.  He existed everlastingly in the presence of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.  He is God of very God.  That’s why John 1:14 says, “We beheld His glory and it was the same glory as the Father.” 

If you go back to John, chapter 3, there’s a helpful statement our Lord makes in the conversation with Nicodemus.  He says, “No one has ascended into heaven.  No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven,” and who is that?  The Son of Man.  I think of that verse every time I see another silly book about somebody who went to heaven and came back.  No one has done that.  No one has ascended into heaven and come back to teach us.  Paul, you say, is he an exception?  Absolutely.  He was caught up into the third heaven.  He came back.  He didn’t tell us anything.  He said, “I can’t even speak of the things that were there.”  The saints that came out of the grave at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, we don’t know who they were.  We don’t know where they went.  They certainly did not deliver any messages from heaven.  Those exceptions prove the rule.  Nobody goes into heaven and comes back to instruct us. 

Back to verse 46.  “Not that anyone has seen the Father except the One who is from God.  He has seen the Father.”  I remind those people again.  You did not go to heaven and you did not see God, and you do not have a message for us.  That is exclusively the right of the Son of God, the preexistent one.  Don’t believe lies about people going and coming from heaven.  Don’t buy those silly books and waste your time.  No one, not even the most holy saint has gone up to heaven to bring the Word of God down to us.  The only One who has come from heaven is the One who was always there.  The only One who has brought us heavenly things is the One who descended from heaven, namely the Son of Man. 

This is the claim that Jesus makes repeatedly in John 8:42.  Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me for I proceeded forth and have come from God.  He sent Me.”  Which means that He existed in the presence of God from all eternity.  In the thirteenth chapter of John’s Gospel, and this is so foundational, I want it embedded in your mind.  John 13:3, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God.”  That’s the night of the upper room discourse with his disciples, that great thirteenth chapter begins with the declaration that Jesus has come from heaven and is going to return there.

In John 16, verse 28, Jesus says, “I came forth from the Father, and have come into the world.  I am leaving the world again and going to the Father.”  In the seventeenth chapter and the fifth verse, “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”  Eternity past.  Verse 8, “For the words which you gave Me, I have given to them, and they have received them, and truly understood that I came forth from You.  And they believed that You sent Me.” 

The first thing then to understand about the divine provision of the bread is that the bread was preexistent.  The bread was eternal.  Jesus is not a created being who came into existence like you and I do at the point of conception.  He always existed as God the Son.  So there is divine preexistence.  In the coming of the bread, secondly, there is divine purpose.  There is divine purpose tied to the eternal preexistence of the Lord Jesus Christ is the reality that He came because the Father purposed for Him to come.  It’s not casual.  It’s tied up in divine planning, and I can show you that.  It’s such a clear statement repeated again and again that it’s unmistakable.

Verse 32 at the end of the verse, “It is my Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven.”  Verse 33, “The bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven.”  It is there called the bread of God.  It is God who sends the bread.  The bread is God’s to start with to give.  Verse 38, “I have come down from heaven not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”  Verse 39, “This is the will of Him who sent Me.”  Verse 40, “This is the will of My Father.”  And again in verse 57, “As the living Father sent Me.”  So you have here divine preexistence and divine purpose.  The Father sending the Son.

Now, it is not only the coming of the Son of God that the Father purposed.  That’s kind of a general reality.  That is true obviously, but it is more than just a general reality that God sent his Son and sort of let things then happen whatever way man would decide they would happen.  Not so.  God not only purposed to send His Son, He purposed what His Son would accomplish when He arrived.  The specificity of it is in verse 37.  “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and him who comes to Me, I will certainly not cast out.”  Verse 39, “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given me, I lose none, but raise Him up on the last day.”  Verse 40, “This is the will of My Father.”  Again, verse 44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise Him up on the last day.”

And this is consistent with Old Testament prophesy.  Verse 45, “It is written in the prophets and they shall all be taught of God.”  Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.  Now, are you starting to see the plan?  God purposes to send the Son, and then God purposes to draw certain people to the Son.  The Son receives the people, keeps the people, raises the people from the dead to fulfill the Father’s plan.  It is not a plan to begin something.  Listen, it is a plan to complete it.  It is the plan for the complete glorification of those the Father draws. 

Jesus made statements that affirm this in His ministry, such as in chapter 10, verse 29, “My Father who has given them to Me.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”  Are you starting to see the picture?  The Father draws, the Father gives, the Son receives, the Son keeps, the Son raises, and no one can snatch whoever is in the Father’s will and the Son’s hands out of his hands.  This is crystal clear. 

Chapter 17 again, that great high priestly prayer of our Lord, verse 2 says, “Even as you gave Him authority over all flesh,” meaning the Son, “that to all whom you have given Me, He may give eternal life.”  Verse 6, “I manifested Your name to the men whom you gave Me out of the world.  They were Yours.  You gave them to Me and they have kept Your Word.”  Verse 9, “I ask on their behalf.  I don’t ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.”  Then verse 24, “Father, I desire that they also whom You have given Me be with Me where I am.”

Over and over again, “You gave them to Me.  You gave them to Me.  You gave them to Me.  They were Yours.  You gave them to Me.”  How did they become God’s?  By divine election.  He chose them before the foundation of the world, wrote their names in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  In time, He draws those who belong to Him by His own sovereign choice.  He draws them to Christ.  Christ receives them, Christ keeps them, Christ raises them.  That resurrection is not merely a spiritual resurrection; it’s a physical resurrection as well.  In the last day, they are resurrected.  So that is the diving purpose, from election to resurrection.  It starts when God determines who is His, and it goes through the drawing and the receiving and the keeping and securing and ultimately gathering into heaven and even raising from the dead.

Verse 45 is a very important verse, often overlooked I think.  It’s a quote from Isaiah, Isaiah 54:13.  “It is written in the prophets and they shall all be taught of God.”  The only way anybody can come to the truth is if God is his teacher.  “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.”  People don’t come to God under the powerful sway of human reason.  The preacher is not the means.  The preacher is only a tool to present the truth.  The drawing is divine.  The Father is the true teacher.  The Father is the instructor of the heart and the mind.

So we have this bread, preexistent, this bread that is provided for those who are within the purpose of God.  So the bread comes down from heaven, comes to earth to fulfill the will of the Father; not just in a general sense that His will was to send.  His will was to send His Son and then by means of His Son, draw – give to His Son, and ultimately bring to eternal glory spiritually and in resurrected form.  That’s the full picture.  Understanding this bread then, divinely preexistent and fulfilling divine purpose.

Thirdly, in looking at God’s provision, divine promise.  Divine promise.  Why do we want this bread?  Well, what does this bread do for us?  Well, what does Christ do for us?  Why is He important?  Well, go back to verse 33.  “The bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven and gives – ” what?  Life to the world.  Life, zoe.  Not bios, not biological life.  Zoe, spiritual life.  That’s why He came.  The promise connected to the bread is spiritual life.  And He is the only bread of God, the only living bread, the only bread of life, the only one who has come down, the only source of life for the whole world.  Notice please, the phrases that are used to describe this. 

In verse, well, how many verses have we seen?  Verse 32 and 33 talk about the bread that comes down and the bread that gives life and then we don’t go very far until we hit verse 35 and again, “I am the bread of life.”  And then verse 40, again we see, “This the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have – ”  Now life is expanded with a descriptive, “ – eternal life.”  Eternal life.  Now, we’re talking about eternal life.  Verse 47, “I say, he who believes has eternal life.”  Verse 50, “This is the bread which comes down out of heaven so that one may eat of it and not die.”  Not die. 

Verse 51, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever, and the bread which I give,” again he says, “I give for the life of the world.”  It’s life and it’s eternal life.  Verse 53, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.”  54, “He who eats My flesh, drinks My blood, has eternal life.  And I will raise him up on the last day.”  Life, life, life, life.  Eternal life.  Verse 58 at the end, “He who eats this bread will live forever.”  How is this possible?  Because of verse 56, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me and I in him.”

How do we get eternal life into these mortal bodies?  Because we come into real union with Christ.  Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ.  Nevertheless, I live yet not I, but Christ lives in me.”  “He that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit.”  We are one in Christ.  And so His eternal life is in us, granting us eternal life.  Really incredible promises.  Jesus repeated those same promises a number of times about His union with His people.  For example, in that upper room the night of His betrayal, He says in John 14:20, “In that day you will know that I am in My Father and you in Me, and I in you.” 

Do you know that if you are truly regenerate and you belong to God through faith in Christ that the eternal life which you possess is the eternal life of Christ in you?  In you.  And as we read in John 10, no one is powerful enough to break that union.  That’s the security of every believer.  So, divine promise.  What’s the promise?  Life.  What kind of life?  Eternal life.  What is the source of that eternal life?  A union with living eternal Christ. 

We don’t follow just the teaching of a noble religious leader.  We’re on our way to death unless He lives in us, unless His eternal life takes over.  So the bread of life is heavenly bread.  The Lord Jesus Christ comes from divine eternal preexistence into time and into space to fulfill the divine purpose of the Father, which is to provide salvation for His chosen people.  That salvation is dependent on a union with Christ that is a true spiritual reality and is why we live forever. 

And it culminates in a resurrection.  Several times Jesus says, “I’ll raise him at the last day.  I’ll raise him at the last day.  I’ll raise him at the last day.”  It is a union that will not only be a union in spirit, but it will be a union in spiritual body.  Philippians 3, “We will have a body like unto His glorious body.  We will reflect His glory.  We will be made like Christ when we see Him as He is,” right?  This is what it means to be a Christian.  It’s not following the teachings of a man.  It’s having His life in us.  This is the work of God.  This doesn’t happen unless you’re taught of God, as verse 45 says.  This does not happen unless God the Father draws you. 

You say, “Well, what are we supposed to do?”  Well, that’s just one side of this amazing duality.  That’s the divine provision.  Let’s talk about the human appropriation.  What’s our responsibility?  Sit around hope it happens?  No, no.  In the wonderful mystery of salvation, we are commanded to appropriate this bread.  Please notice in verse 34, the Jewish people who were listening to Jesus said, “Lord, give us this bread.”  Most likely, they were talking about the physical bread because He had been creating food for them.  They wanted the bread that would satisfy their constant hunger physically, but Jesus isn’t really talking about that.  He’s talking about Himself as the bread they really need.

So in verse 35, He says, “I am the bread of life.  He who comes to Me.”  Isn’t that interesting?  “He who comes to Me.”  You just said, “Nobody can come unless the Father draws him,” and yet here it says, “He who comes to Me.”  So the first requirement is to come, to come.  Yes, verse 37 clarifies, “All that the Father gives Me will come, and the one who comes to me, I will not reject.”  Not so much because the person is of value, but because the gift of the Father is of value.  So the first thing is to come.  And since no one can know whether they’ve been chosen, the message is far and wide to be preached to the ends of the earth telling sinners to come, to come, come. 

Secondly, to look.  Notice verse 40, “This is the will of My Father that everyone who beholds the Son,” everyone, everyone.  There aren’t limitations here based upon our understanding of the doctrine of election.  All who come, all who come, anyone who comes, I will not reject.  Everyone who beholds.  What does the word “behold” mean?  It’s a Greek verb, theoreo, which basically means to look at intently, to scrutinize, to study, to gaze on.  It’s not a passing glance kind of word, not just a brief look.  Very strong word.  In fact, the same verb, theoreo, is used in John 8:51 for a statement about seeing death.  Seeing death means experiencing death.  I t is also used, the same verb, in John 17:24 where Jesus says, “I want them to come to heaven, those who believe in Me so they can see My glory.”  That means full exposure, full experience. 

So, what is the human’s responsibility?  Our responsibility laid out for us in a series of commands and invitations, come, come.  Come to Me, come to Me.  And when you get there, experience it, gaze at it, scrutinize it, look carefully, thoughtfully, see who I am.  A lot of the people who were listening to Him in the synagogue that day had done just that.  They had come to Him, and they had attached to Him.  They were following Him.  They were watching Him.  They were listening to Him.  They were scrutinizing Him. 

So you come, you look, and you look carefully at Jesus.  But there’s another word that’s really the critical word.  Look at verse 35, “I am the bread of life.  He who comes to Me will not hunger and he who –” and here’s the word, “believes in Me.  He who believes in Me.”  Verse 40, “This is the will of my Father that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life.”  Verse 47, “I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.”  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”

John 5:24 says the same thing.  The theme verse for the whole gospel of John, “These things are written that you may know that Jesus is the Christ, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and believing have life in His name.”  It’s about believing. It’s about believing.  Another way to understand it would be John 1:12, “As many as received Him.”  You have to come.  You have to look.  You have to be exposed to the truth, but you must believe.  Going back to the metaphor of the bread, go to verse 50, and from verse 50 on is really the closing invitation of this sermon.

“This is the bread which comes down out of heaven so that one may eat,” and now we’re back into the metaphor.  Believing is eating.  Taking in, receiving, appropriating.  Verse 51, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.”  Verse 57, “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me.”  Again, verse 58, the end of the verse, “He who eats this bread will live forever.”  I mean this is a powerful metaphor that everybody understands.  You have to take Me in.  It’s not enough to come and listen.  It’s not enough to admire to get some kind of information.  You have to eat.  You have to appropriate.  You have to receive Me.  That’s our responsibility.

Since we don’t know who God has chosen, we can only know we have all been held accountable to come, see, and believe.  Believe what?  That I am the bread.  He says that over and over, “That I am the bread that came down out of heaven, that I am the bread that came down out of heaven.”  So it starts with believing in the person of Christ, okay?  Believing in His preexistence, His incarnation, God in human flesh, believing in the person of Christ.  But let me tell you something quickly, believing in the person of Jesus Christ as the living bread is not enough.  Not enough.  Something else.

You not only have to believe in Him as living bread, you have to believe in Him as dying blood.  What?  Verse 51, “I am the living bread.  I came down out of heaven.  If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever.  And the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”  Now, he’s talking about giving up His life.  Very specific terms.  Verse 53, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourself.”  54, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life.”  Verse 55, “For My flesh is true food and My blood is true drink.”  Verse 56, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me in and I in him.” 

I have to tell you, this is so shocking for the Jews in the synagogue that day that I’m surprised there wasn’t a riot.  Leviticus, first of all, Leviticus 17, Deuteronomy 12, Deuteronomy 15 forbids Jews drinking blood.  So this is just – this is, if nothing else, really insensitive.  But He’s not really talking about drinking blood.  This is, of course, a chapter that has been mutilated by the Roman Catholic Church, and they have used this to develop the Mass where Christ is re-sacrificed again and again and again.  And you eat His flesh and drink His blood, just exactly what He’s not talking about.  Blood is simply a metonym for His death, as it is throughout the New Testament.  So what is He saying?  You must accept the person that I am and the death that I died.

You can believe in Jesus as the preexistent Son of God who came into the world and is the source of eternal life, but unless you believe in His sacrificial death, you cannot be saved.  You cannot possess eternal life.  As bread, He nourishes.  As blood, He cleanses.  Blood, then, speaks of His death.  These Jews had a big, big problem with this issue.  The idea that their Messiah would die as a sacrifice, a huge problem for them.  They were utterly unwilling to accept that.  Even the disciples struggled with that, right?  When Jesus said, “I’m going to die,” no, no, no, no Lord.  Peter says, “No, no,” and Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan!”

And it was only after the resurrection that He met them on the Emmaus Road, took them back to the Old Testament to show them from the Old Testament the Messiah must suffer and die.  And when they went out to preach in the book of Acts, they were preaching to the Jews initially the Messiah had to suffer and die.  He had to be the divine Lamb providing the atonement that satisfied the wrath of God for His own.  Again, we don’t worship a noble human teacher.  We worship God in human flesh.  But we don’t worship Him just for the nobility of His divine teaching.  We also worship Him as our sacrifice for our sins who died in our place. 

You have to be able to eat His flesh in the sense that you take Him as the one who nourishes the soul.  And you have to be willing to drink His blood in the sense that you accept his sacrificial death.  This is all way too much, way too much for Jewish people to handle, and you can see their reaction later in the chapter.  It’s just over the top.  Verse 52, they can’t even get to the part about eating His flesh, let alone the part about drinking his blood or accepting His death.

And so in verse 60 saying they were having difficulty with this, “Jesus conscious that His disciples grumbled at this said to them, ‘Does this cause you to,’ what? ‘stumble?’”  Well, what was he talking about?  The blood.  Are you stumbling over the fact that you’re going to have to accept My death?  The answer to the question is yes, that’s why the apostle Paul said that the cross, the preaching of the cross, I Corinthians 1, to the Jews is a stumbling block, a stumbling block.

So, as a result, verse 66, “Many of his disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.”  They came, they looked, they believed.  Maybe they could eat the bread part, maybe they could accept who He was.  The blood?  Too much, too much.  But this is what is necessary to appropriate the bread.  So Jesus is the true Christmas bread.  To believe in His person, to believe in His death is to receive eternal life. 

So Jesus said to the Twelve in verse 67, “You don’t want to go away also do you?”  Simon Peter answered for all of them, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have words of eternal life.”  And then this, “We have,” What? “believed.”  “We believe it all.  We know You are the Holy One of God.”  The Jews were grumbling.  All the way back in verse 36 Jesus said, “I said to you that you’ve seen Me.  You’ve come.  You’ve looked, and you don’t believe.  Verse 41, he says, “They’re grumbling,” John does.  Verse 42, they’re still grumbling.  Verse 43, Jesus says, “Stop doing it.”  Verse 52, they’re arguing, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”  Verse 61, even the disciples are grumbling.  Verse 66, they leave.  Vacate the synagogue, leaving only Peter and the Twelve who believed. 

Just in conclusion, a few things to think about.  Eating is necessary.  If you want eternal life, eating is necessary.  You can’t just come.  You can’t just admire.  People do this all the time, all the time.  Oh yeah, I have a lot of respect for Jesus, a lot of respect for Jesus.  You can’t just come and admire.  You have to eat, which is to believe fully.  But eating is in response to hunger.  So, the people who eat are the people who are what?  Hungry!  What is hunger?  It’s the aching of the heart of one who knows he’s empty.  That’s the work of the Holy Spirit to make the heart hungry.  That’s where the Father starts to draw.  The hungry heart sees the bread.

And, by the way, eating is personal.  It’s not a group event.  You can all go out to dinner, but the food has to go in your mouth.  Lots of people can do lots of things for you.  They can come over and change the curtains, fix the room.  People can do a lot of things to help you.  You have to eat.  You can’t do that by proxy.  Eating is necessary.  Eating is in response to hunger.  Eating is personal and eating is transformational.  If you don’t eat physically, you will die.  If you eat, food you take in transforms you, and that’s what Christ does.

I don’t know what kind of bread is at your house, but I hope you’ve all partaken of the true Christmas bread.  Let’s pray together.  This has been such a wonderful day and it’s not over yet as we again celebrate tonight, but Lord we thank You that Your Word is so powerful and so clear and so consistent.  Its divine authorship is unassailable.  Thank You for giving us the truth.

I pray for those who are here who maybe have come, looked, or are looking, but haven’t believed, received, eaten, accepting Christ not only as the bread that nourishes the soul, but the blood that cleanses the soul.  May nothing about the gospel be a stumbling block, but may the gospel be a welcome message fully embraced.  May it be today that there’s some persons who’ve heard this who will eat, who will receive Christ as Lord and Savior and receive with Him the eternal life.  We thank You that we are secure in that life because if we do believe, if we do come, it’s because You’ve drawn us.  Father, You’ve given us to the Son, and you blessed Son will keep us and hold us and raise us at the last day.  We thank You for the glory of the gospel and the opportunity we have to celebrate it again today. 

Father, now we ask that You would do Your work in Your way.  Father, draw many to Yourself.  We give You praise for privilege, undeserved, unearned, the gift of grace that has granted us salvation when we were Your enemies.  We thank You, Lord, that You once made us desperately hungry and then You showed us the bread of life, Father.  And we learned from You as You taught us and You drew us.  We thank You that Christ received us and holds us until the resurrection when we’re fully glorified in Your presence forever.  Thank You for this great truth and may it ring in our hearts as we celebrate in these days of Christmas.  We give You praise, in Christ’s name. Amen.

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/43-36

VIDEO No One Can Separate Us

John MacArthur Jan 29, 2012

All right, let’s turn to Romans chapter 8 again this morning.  Romans chapter 8.  We have been considering in some depth the ministry of the Holy Spirit in this chapter, and we are profoundly enriched by what Paul gives us here of divine insight into the Spirit’s work.  What prompted the series emphasizing the Holy Spirit is a feeling in my own heart and the sense – and I think it’s an accurate one – that there’s a member of the Trinity who gets left out in Christian worship and Christian discussion and Christian teaching and in Christian living, and He is the very member of the Trinity to whom we are most indebted for our Christian experience, and that is none other than the Holy Spirit. 

Just in general, Christian worship today is more about style than it is about substance.  It’s more about feeling than it is about fact.  It’s more about self than it is about the Savior.  It’s more about therapy than theology.  It’s more about the secular than the sacred.  It’s more about good feelings than the glory of God.  And as we have endeavored to look at the woeful state of Christian worship today, it strikes us that while we do give some attention to God the Father and sing songs about His attributes, and we give much attention to Christ and sing songs about His person and work, very little is said about the Holy Spirit.  If we are to worship God fully and totally, we must worship Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

Many Christians know very little about the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  There is so much error floating around about the Holy Spirit that people avoid saying much about the Spirit for fear they might contradict the popular thinking of the time.  But we must worship God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit in the full sense and full knowledge of the revelation of each member of the Trinity, and so we’ve been endeavoring to understand the wonderful, blessed ministry of the Spirit of God.  We sort of laid it out that the Father planned redemption, the Son provided the means of redemption in His death and resurrection, and the Spirit produces the work of redemption in us.  He is the agent that brings about the actuality of the plan that God initiated and that the Son validated; He is the one who activates it. 

We must understand the biblical ministry of the Holy Spirit.  We’re warned in Scripture about not grieving the Spirit, not quenching the Spirit, not insulting the Spirit, not blaspheming the Spirit.  Little wonder that we’re warned about those things because that seems to be a very common thing.  So we’ve been trying to reconnect with things that are clearly revealed in Scripture that maybe we have let lay dormant for a long time with regard to the Holy Spirit, and we have been learning that it is the Holy Spirit who regenerates us.  John 3:  “We are born of the Spirit.”  It is the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin and righteousness and judgment, John 16.  The Holy Spirit even participates in our justification.  First Corinthians 6:11 says:  “The Spirit, it participates in our justification.”  Second Corinthians 3 tells us that it is the Spirit who sanctifies us, moving us from one level of glory to the next in conforming us to the image of Christ. 

We’ve learned in Romans 8 that it is the Spirit who confirms our adoption as sons of God.  The Spirit takes up residence in us.  The Spirit gives us assurance by witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God.  First Corinthians 12 says the Spirit baptizes us into the body of Christ by which we become one with every other believer.  In that same chapter, it says that the Spirit gives to us spiritual gifts by which we serve Christ and minister to the body.  It is the Spirit who assists our prayers.  In Jude 1:20, it talks about praying in the Spirit.  It is the Spirit who strengthens us in the inner man, Ephesians 3:16.  It is the Spirit who guides us, as many as possessed the Holy Spirit are led by the Spirit, we saw in Romans 8.  It is the Spirit who produces fruit through us, attitude fruit, love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control, and all kinds of righteous activity as well.  It is the Spirit who delivers us from sin, enabling us to be obedient to God.  It is the Spirit who illuminates the Word and is our internal resident truth teacher. 

And on top of that, the capstone of those things, it is the Spirit who secures our eternal glory.  It is the Spirit who secures our eternal glory, and that great ministry of the Holy Spirit is the theme that I pointed you to when I read the Scripture, Romans 8:18 to 39.  That entire section is focused on that one glorious reality, that salvation is forever.  That salvation is forever.  That we are protected by the power of God unto that final glorification and that inheritance laid up for us that does not fade away, undefiled, reserved in heaven.  The Spirit secures our eternal glory.  In Scripture, He seals us to the day of redemption.  He is the guarantee, the first installment, the down payment, the engagement ring, the first fruits.  He is the power of God.  He is the protector of every believer until one day He is the one who raises us to eternal glory, even as He raised Christ from the dead. 

All of this, of course, cause to worship the Holy Spirit.  This is the true doctrine of the Holy Spirit as over against all the false misrepresentations and blasphemies against the Holy Spirit that are so common and popular today. 

So Paul has been going through these verses, starting – actually, he mentions glorification in verse 17, then starting in 18, running all the way down to verse 30, he has given us this great, glorious argument for the eternality of our salvation.  That if you are saved, it is forever.  It is forever.  And the culmination of his argument comes in verse 30, that whoever God predestines to be conformed to His Son, He calls in time with an effectual call to salvation.  Whomever He calls, He justifies, and whomever He justifies, He glorifies so that the people who are glorified are the people who were predestined.  No one is lost in the middle.  This is what Paul presents to us.  This is the purpose of God.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit.  So Paul has been telling us that all things in our lives, whatever they are, God causes to work together for our eternal good and glory because we are the called according to that purpose and we have come into a love relationship with Him. 

I’ve taught this doctrine all my life.  I teach it with passion because it’s so clear in Scripture, and yet through all of my life and ministry, I have had to debate people who reject the idea that salvation is forever.  I was in a former military base in Belarus outside the city of Minsk where the Communist soldiers were stationed during the great Russian Empire.  It was turned into a kind of a camp and I went there with some pastors, and I was giving a message and I made reference to the fact that eternal – that salvation is eternal, that once you are regenerated, it is forever, and you can anchor your soul in the confidence of the hope of eternal glory.  And afterwards – it was all pastors who were there, Belorussian and Russian pastors, and they came to me and they said, “We think that’s wrong.”  And I said, “Well, you need to give me some time in the morning to answer all your objections.” 

So I got up in the morning, went and had a little bowl of something, I don’t know what it was, for breakfast, and I went into the meeting.  And they were rubbing their eyes – they’d been there all night.  They stayed up all night collecting all the reasons why I was wrong.  And so I started in with one after another, after another, after another, after another.  I understand that.  I don’t want to argue with them, I want them to enjoy their salvation.  I want to get them out of the fear of losing it.  I want them to rejoice in the hope that it’s secure.  It was a gift I was trying to give them, and they kept pushing it back, and I had to give it again and again and again and go through every objection and every argument through a long day.  I understand that.  Paul understands that. 

So when you come to the end of verse 30, Paul now anticipates objections.  He knows somewhere, someplace there’s a group of people who have stayed up all night and they’ve figured out some objections.  And he knows what they’re going to be because there are only certain things you can argue about.  Paul knows this:  that there are only two possibilities, that some person can cause you to lose your salvation or some circumstance.  That’s all you’ve got.  That’s complete.  That’s all the categories there are.  And so the question is:  Can some person cause you to lose your salvation in spite of the work of the Holy Spirit, in spite of the provision of Christ, and in spite of the purpose of God?  Or if not some person, can some circumstances cause it to happen?  So overwhelming, so powerful that you forfeit your salvation?  That becomes the subject of verses 31 to 39. 

The first part, verses 31 to 34, answers the question:  Is there a person who can cause you to lose your salvation?  Verses 35 to 37, Is there a circumstance that can cause you to lose your salvation?”  And then a glorious wrap-up at the end of the chapter. 

Now, Paul introduces this, and we’re just going to take point one about persons.  He introduces this in verse 31:  “What then shall we say to these things?”  What then shall we say to these things?  What things?  The things concerning eternal salvation.  The subject since verse 18 has been on the eternality of salvation, that God has secured us in His purpose, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us, God works all things together for our eternal good, that if we have been foreknown and predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, we will get there and none of us will be lost, that all who are called are justified and glorified – all those things that relate to an eternal salvation that cannot be lost.  What shall we say to these things?  What’s your response?  That’s the question.  What is the conclusion you want to draw? 

Well, Paul knows that there are going to be people who will protest this.  They’re going to say salvation can be lost.  It’s a wonderful thing, but it can be lost because there are certain persons and there are certain circumstances that can cause us to abandon it or to have it taken away from us, to forfeit it.  So Paul says, “Okay, let’s consider the persons.”  Is there a human being or human beings who can take away our salvation?  Can have such power over us?  Such influence over us that they can remove what God has given for us?  That’s embodied in the question at the end of verse 31:  “If God is for us, who’s against us?”  The who here is looking at persons, people.  Is there a person who can take away your salvation?  You say, “Well, who would ever want to do that?”  Lots of people that are offended by your Christianity.  Maybe your spouse.  Maybe your children wish you weren’t saved and would do anything they could to get you off this kick.  Unsaved family members. 

Matthew 10, Jesus said He came to bring a sword and set people against their family, be hated by father, mother, sister, brother.  How about secular educators?  You send your child off to the university – do you think the agenda there is to confirm the faith of those that are professing Christ?  I don’t think so.  I think they would do everything they could to destroy that.  What about the collective immoral indoctrination of our society?  You think it’s the goal of the culture and the society in which we live to stabilize your convictions in Jesus Christ?  Or to destroy them?  Do you think they want to confirm your faith in the Bible?  Your view of creation?  Your view of the end of the age?  Your view of eternity, heaven, hell?  Or do they want to destroy that?  Do they want to separate you from that?  Do they want to cast doubt into your mind? 

The whole culture is set against you.  There are all kinds of people, because they all operate in the kingdom of darkness, who would do anything they could to separate you from your faith and your salvation.  False religionists would do it.  Cult leaders would do it.  False teachers would do it.  There are plenty of people who would do it and plenty of them have influence and power and impact and sophistication.  And Paul says, “If God is for us, who’s against us?” 

What does he mean by that?  Well, it’s a conditional sentence in the Greek that starts with a particle, ei, which is pronounced but it’s E-I.  And that’s a conditional clause that should be translated “since” because it’s not about probability, it’s about actuality.  It’s an actual reality put in a conditional clause, so it would be read this way:  “Since God is for us, who successfully can be against us?”  It’s a pretty simple argument, isn’t it?  Is anybody more powerful than God?  God has predetermined our eternal destiny to be conformed to the image of His Son, that His Son might be the preeminent one among many brethren.  God has predetermined the end at the beginning.  God called us, justified us, and He promises to glorify us, that’s His purpose.  His Son intercedes for us on that behalf and so does the Holy Spirit. those two intercessors we talked about. 

We know what God wants, right?  We know God’s plan and God’s purpose is to bring us all to glory and lose none of us and to give us everlasting life.  And we will never perish.  And Jesus said, “No one will take them out of My Father’s hand.”  That’s God’s promise, that’s God’s pledge.  And since God is for us, what person would be more powerful?  In the church, Paul warned, you can be in a church, you can be in a religious organization that claims to be Christian and he says this:  “It can be a dangerous place.  After My departure, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock, and from among your own selves, men will arise – men will arise speaking perverse things.”  For what?  “To draw away the disciples after them.”  There are people in churches that wear religious garb that stand in pulpits that teach in seminaries that want to take you away from your convictions, your faith.  They want to steal your salvation.  But if God is for you, are they more powerful than God? 

You know, when you think about that, you go back – at least I do – to the Old Testament.  The believers in the Old Testament knew God was their security.  I love the words of Psalm 27.  This is David:  “The Lord is my light and my salvation.  Whom shall I fear?”  Right?  If the Lord is my salvation, who would I fear?  “The Lord is the defense of my life.  Who will I dread?  When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, my adversaries, my enemies, they stumbled and fell.  Though a host encamp against me, my heart will not fear.  Though war arise against me, in spite of this, I’ll be confident.”  What are you so confident about?  “One thing I asked from the Lord, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple.”  I just ask to be with Him forever.  “And in the day of trouble, He will conceal me in His tabernacle; in the secret place of His tent He will hide me, He will lift me up on a rock and my head will be lifted up above my enemies and I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy.  I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.” 

Doesn’t matter who comes against us.  God is for us.  God is for us.  “Don’t fear” – Genesis 15:1 – “I’m a shield to you,” God says.  “The Lord is near” – Numbers 14:9.  “Don’t fear.”  It’s really the flipside of verse 28.  God positively causing all things to work together for our eternal good, that’s the positive.  The negative is no one can undo that.  If God causes everything to work to our good, then no one can make anything work to our evil.  No one can remove our no-condemnation status indicated in chapter 8 verse 1.  There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.  No one, no person, no human – we’re talking about human persons, that’s our first point – no human person can do that because God is greater than any and all humans.  So the objection about humans falls away in the simple statement at the end of verse 31:  “If God is for us” – or since He’s for us – “who could successfully be against us?” 

Ah, but a second possibility.  God Himself.  Can God Himself take away our salvation?  Hey, the Lord gives, the Lord takes, blessed be the name of the Lord.  Can He take our salvation away?  Can He change His mind about us?  Can He be so disappointed in us?  Can we follow a pattern of sin to the degree that He takes back what He gave us?  Can He see us sinning and see us being disobedient and remove from us the life that He gave us?  Does He kill us?  Because He made us alive.  He regenerated us.  We were born again, we were given new life.  Does He kill us and now we’re dead again?  Is keeping us saved just too much trouble? 

Paul answers that in verse 32.  “He who did not spare His own Son but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”  Let me tell you, that’s a simple verse.  I know you read it, it sounds a little bit troubling cause you can’t quite sort it out, but it’s a very simple verse.  It is the classic Jewish argument from the greater to the lesser.  It’s a simple argument.  He didn’t spare His own Son but delivered Him over for us all.  Don’t you think if He gave us His Son to save us He’ll give us lesser things to keep us?  That’s the argument.  The argument from the greater to the lesser.  God’s love is so strong for those He chooses to redeem that He gives His own Son.  The best, the most, the purest, the divine one, the highest price, the greatest cost, His own beloved Son to save us.  Don’t you think He would do less than that to keep us? 

And think about it this way – turn to Romans 5.  When you were saved, you were saved strictly by grace.  You didn’t do anything to earn it.  Romans 5:6:  You were helpless and you were ungodly.  So God gave His Son, Christ, to die for the helpless and the ungodly, and we can say the spiritually dead and the blind and the ignorant and the wicked.  And, you know, people don’t do that.  Verse 7:  “One hardly would die for a righteous man, though perhaps for the good man someone would even dare to die.”  I mean now and then you see somebody give his life for somebody who’s a good person but that’s pretty rare.  But if somebody is willing to give his life, that rare reality, the person he’s going to give his life for is going to be a good person, right?  Somebody that he has great admiration for, respect for, love for.  They’re not going to give his life for a bad person, for a criminal, for an enemy. 

But God, in verse 7, demonstrates His love toward us, His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  We were sinners.  Wretched, lost, blind, dead, godless, helpless, and He gave His Son to die for us.  Much more than having now been justified by His blood, the sacrifice, we will be saved, or we will be being saved, kept saved from the wrath of God through Him.  Look, if God gave His Son in death to make our justification possible, don’t you think the life of the Son of God will secure our glorification?  That’s the whole point. 

Verse 10:  “If while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more beyond that, having been reconciled will be being saved by His life.”  We were literally redeemed at the most infinite cost, the death of Christ, and we will be kept by the living interceding Christ.  Even Christ gave the greater gift to save us and the lesser gift to keep us.  He died to save us; He lives to keep us.  If the Father gave His Son to save us when we were ungodly, gave His Son in death to save us, will He not give His Son and His Spirit in life to secure us?  I mean, it’s that simple a concept, that God has done the greater in justifying us when we were unworthy, ungodly, wretched.  Will He not now that we belong to Him and have been transformed and made new creatures and have righteous longing and holy affection, will He not do what He needs to do to keep us, which is far less than the giving of His Son in the sacrifice of the horrors of the cross? 

Several elements in that verse, back in Romans 8.  Several elements are just so wonderfully profound.  Verse 32:  “He who did not spare His own Son,” He didn’t hold Him back.  In fact, Isaiah 53:10 says, “It pleased the Lord to bruise Him.  He has put Him to grief.”  He didn’t spare His Son.  And I love this:  “His own Son,” idios in the Greek, one’s own particular, private possession, the Son that belonged to Him, the Son of His own love, God was willing to do this for us.  If He was willing to give the greatest gift of all to save us, He will do everything less than that to keep us. 

The language, “He delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”  Since He delivered Him over, that’s a very graphic term.  Delivering over was handing somebody over to the executioner – technical term.  Since the Father delivered the Son to the destruction and damnation and punishment that sin required, the rest of the verse then, “will He not also with Him freely give us all that flows out of that?”  All we need to be secure? 

Who delivered Jesus to death?  It wasn’t Judas for money.  It wasn’t Pilate for fear.  It wasn’t the Jews for envy.  It was the Father for love for us all.  For us all.  The “us all” – verse 32 – the “us all” is the “us” of verse 31.  “If God is for us, who is against us?”  Those “us’s” are the “these” of verse 30.  “These whom He predestined, called, justified, these He also glorified.”  Whoever is in the plan, the provision for them has been made, and God will add to that provision in the gift of His Son anything else that is necessary to get them to glory.  I love the fact that it says “freely give us all things.”  It continues to be grace, doesn’t it?  Continues to be grace, we don’t earn it, we don’t deserve it, but we receive it. 

Somebody says, “Okay, if persons can’t take away our salvation, if God Himself can’t take away our salvation because He’s already committed Himself to give the greatest gift and lesser gifts come easily after that, maybe there’s another person.  How about Satan?  Maybe Satan can do it.”  Satan would like to do it.  He wanted to destroy Job’s faith, right?  He wanted to destroy the faith of Peter.  Jesus said, “Peter, you better be careful because Satan desires to sift you like wheat.”  He went before God in the book of Job and he said the only reason – to God, he said, “The only reason Job is faithful to You is because You bless him.  Take away his blessing and he’ll curse You.  I’ll shatter his faith.” 

God turned Satan loose, said, “Go do it all, anything but take his life.”  And Satan moved, and all his animals were killed, all his children were killed, and then Job was sick, then he had a bunch of stupid counselors telling him all kinds of things that weren’t true, and he was isolated in the agonies of confusion because the conversation between God and Satan wasn’t known to him.  He had no idea while this was going on what the cause was, what the motive was, what the reason was.  But in the middle of it all, could Satan take his faith away even when Satan had killed his family and left him only with a wife who said things she shouldn’t have said and was no help?  When Satan had removed everything that he owned and possessed, when he left him so sick and so covered with boils and sores he was scraping them off with a piece of broken pottery?  That would probably be the kind of extremity that would make you say, “If you’re going to lose this thing, I’m going to lose it here.” 

And Satan was essentially the tormentor through all of that.  And in the middle of it all, what does Job say?  “Though He slay me, yet will I” – what? – “trust Him.”  You can’t kill that faith because God sustains it in the midst of everything.  Satan can’t do that.  Satan is the accuser of the brethren, right?  Revelation 12.  He’s the accuser of the brethren day and night before the throne of God, accusing the brethren.  Did it with Job.  He did it with the high priest in Zechariah chapter 3.  He’s coming to Jesus about Peter.  He’s going after Paul in 2 Corinthians 12 with a messenger from Satan being like a thorn in the flesh.  Satan is the accuser of the brethren.  He is the tormentor.  So with that background, you come to verse 33:  “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?”  Well, the one who is always trying to do that is Satan.  Or the beginning of verse 34.  “Who is the one who condemns?”  The one who does that is Satan. 

Both those questions, really, are the same question.  One, wanting to bring a charge that would result in condemnation.  Going to God and saying, “You don’t let go of this person, let me torment this person and I’ll destroy his faith.  He’s not a worthy person.  He’s only serving You because things are going well.  And if we make life tough enough for him, he’ll curse You.  I’ll show you what he’s really like.” 

This is what Satan does, I think, all the time.  He’s night and day before the throne of God, bringing accusations against the saints.  Can he succeed?  The answer comes in verse 33:  “God is the one who justifies.”  Literally, “God is the one justifying.”  God alone condemns and God alone declares righteous.  And if God declares that we are righteous in Christ, He can’t at the same time declare we are guilty, right?  And there is no higher judge.  Believers are always being accused.  I think that goes on in heaven all the time.  Satan is always trying to make a case against our salvation, against God loving us, against God declaring us righteous and just.  But God has already rendered His final verdict, and the final verdict, based upon his own sovereign purpose, the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, the provision of Christ in His death and resurrection, activated by our faith, is that we have been declared righteous, we have been declared just, and that settles it. 

There’s no higher court, that’s the whole point.  There’s no court of appeals above God.  God is the only court.  God is the only court in the universe when it comes to sin and judgment and justification.  There is no other court.  And it is God who is justifying His people, and no accusation from Satan against them can stand.  And no effort on the part of Satan to bring destruction into their lives can stand. 

God doesn’t always prevent that.  I know you hear the prosperity preachers say that Jesus wants you healthy, happy, and whole in every sense, but that wasn’t Job.  That wasn’t Peter.  Peter got sifted like wheat that night, didn’t he, around the fires of the trial of Jesus, denied Jesus over and over again.  Paul had his thorn in the flesh and his immense amount of suffering.  Satan, with all that he could bring about in the lives of these men and in the lives of other believers that God allows him to go after for his own purposes, all that they can do can never change our standing before God and God has rendered us righteous.  That’s why Charles Wesley said, “Bold shall I stand in that great day, for who ought to my charge shall lay, fully through Thee absolved I am from sin and fear, from guilt and shame.” 

Please notice, back in verse 33, this is because we are God’s elect.  Who will bring a charge against God’s elect, those that were foreknown, predestined?  God already has determined their justification.  So when Satan tries to bring us before the bar of God, we don’t arrive as outlaws and we don’t arrive as criminals; we arrive as God’s elect, already declared righteous. 

Well, there’s only one possible person left outside of us who might decide to let us go, turn us loose, and that would be Christ.  What about Christ?  Could He give up on us?  He brought us in, could He throw us out?  Verse 34.  Christ Jesus, is He going to condemn us?  He died, He was raised, He’s at the right hand of God, and He’s interceding for us.  He’s not going to be the one because there are fourfold realities there, fourfold protection, shall Christ that died?  He’s the one who died, the obvious point.  When He died, He received in full the punishment for all our sins.  That’s why He died.  He was sinless.  There was no guilt in Him.  He died in our place, bearing our punishment.  He’s not going to condemn us when He took our condemnation. 

Secondly, not only did He die, but He was raised.  In other words, His atonement was propitious, it satisfied God and God validated His work on the cross by raising Him from the dead.  His resurrection is the affirmation of the accomplishment of His atoning work on the cross.  Christ’s death paid in full the penalty for all the sins of all the people who will ever believe through human history and to indicate that, God raised Him from the dead. 

And that’s not all, there’s a third element.  So you have Christ paying in full for our sins, you have the Father validating that His payment was in full for our sins by raising Him from the dead, and then thirdly, who is even at the right hand of God, like Psalm 110:1, “The Lord said to My Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand.’”  God highly exalted Him because of His work on the cross, gave Him a name above every name, seated Him at His right hand, and every knee bows to Him.  He ascended to the right hand of the throne of God because He had fully accomplished our eternal salvation. 

So you pull those together, the complete work of Christ on the cross, through the resurrection, and in His exaltation and His ascension all indicates that our salvation has been paid for in full and God is totally satisfied.  And as if that’s not enough, end of verse 34, “He also intercedes for us.”  He also intercedes for us.  That’s the high point.  He keeps on interceding, keeps on, keeps on interceding.  Hebrews tells us that He’s our great high priest, right?  That He ever lives to make intercession for us.  He ever lives to make intercession for us.  He stands at the very throne of God at God’s right hand and He intercedes for us.  Any accusation that comes against us, He becomes the lawyer for our defense who says, “Paid for in full by Me personally.”  He is our high priest forever, Hebrews 6 says, our high priest forever, who anchors our hope, which is sure and steadfast within the veil. 

So persons that could take away our salvation?  Not any humans, not God, not Satan, not Christ.  Only one possibility.  What about ourselves?  You say, “I know people like that.  I wouldn’t blame God.  I wouldn’t even blame Satan.  They were in the church, they believed, they sang the songs, they came to Bible study, they said they believed and then they left and they denied Christ and they went away.  They lost their salvation.”  Did they?  Is that what happened?  They seemed saved to me, some of them are in your family, some of them are close, maybe your children.  Are you asking yourself what happened?  What about those who believed or seemed to believe and then they left? 

First John 2:19 gives us the answer to that.  First John 2:19.  Oh, we all know people like this.  I’ve known them all my life.  Many of them in this church.  Did they lose their salvation?  Did they just give it up themselves?  Listen to 1 John 2:19.  “They went out from us” – and we all know people who’ve done that – “but they were not really of us, for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us, but they went out so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.”  Never real.  Tares among the wheat.  Rocky soil.  A little life starts to appear to show, no fruit, and they wither and die.  Weedy soil, choked out by the love of the world and riches and the cares of this life.  We all have people like that.  But they went out from us because they never were really of us. 

But for those of us who are real and genuine believers and we have the witness of the Spirit in our hearts in that regard, we’ve seen His fruit evidenced in our lives, our love for the Lord, our love for the truth, our love for the Word, our love for other believers, all these things, our love for things that are holy and pure and good, our salvation is forever secure.  And this is the pinnacle capstone ministry of the blessed Holy Spirit.  If you don’t believe in that, then that is an insult to the Spirit.  That is an insult to the Spirit who is doing in the life of a true believer something that that true believer denies that he’s doing and rejects.  The Father planned our eternal salvation, the Son provided and purchased our eternal salvation, and the Holy Spirit produces and perfects our eternal salvation. 

So much for persons.  There is no person who could take away your salvation.  Jeremiah 31:3 sums it up.  God says this:  “I have loved you with an everlasting love,” and I rest my weary soul in this confidence.  Let’s bow together in prayer. 

And we’re going to just have a word of prayer and then meditate against quietly at the end as Steve plays the organ for us.  That little time of meditation is good for us to think about what we’ve heard and let it settle in our hearts, and then the prayer room will be open to my right, the members center is open, the visitors center is open, and those of you who need spiritual help, you need to be sure about your eternal destiny, the prayer room in the front to my right, come, there’ll be folks who would love to speak with you and do so kindly and wisely.

Father, we thank You for the continual feast that we enjoy from Your Word that feeds our souls, gives strength to us, produces joy, hope even in the face of difficulty in life.  Thank You for the mighty work of the Holy Spirit in securing our eternal glory.  And we know that if we are truly Yours, we’ll never lose that salvation, as if we could lose it and the Holy Spirit would have to start the work all over again and do it again and maybe again and again and again.  There’s nothing in the Scripture that even intimates anything like that exists, but rather this is a work that You deemed to do and set out to do and will do.  And we honor You, Father, and we honor You, blessed Son.  We honor You, Holy Spirit, for all that You have done for us who are unworthy, all by grace.  Fill us with joy and hope and eagerness for what You have for us as long as we’re here and then for what You have prepared for us when we enter into Your presence.  Bring those to You who do not know You and have not yet received this gift of salvation.  May they awaken in faith to embrace Christ as Savior and Lord, we pray in His name.

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/90-428/no-one-can-separate-us

VIDEO Heirs of God

John MacArthur Dec 11, 2011

For this morning, we want to open our Bibles again to the 8th chapter of Romans as we continue to take a look at the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  I’ve been so blessed and so encouraged to be looking at the Holy Spirit and His ministry in the life of the believer.  I’m so grateful for the response that I am getting from you, many personal responses from people who have come out of churches in the past where the Holy Spirit is insulted, where the Holy Spirit is blasphemed, where the Holy Spirit’s ministry and person is misrepresented, and it’s just wonderful to hear the refreshing, comforting, and encouraging comments of folks who are starting to understand the truth about His ministry and be able to worship Him as He is to be worshiped, as He should be worshiped. 

And so I’ve been delighting just in the privilege that I’ve had to pull books off my shelf that I have had through the years on the person of the Holy Spirit, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, and just go through those books.  I’ve gone through a number of books just for my own reading, just to kind of enrich my own mind and my own heart and kind of reset in my own mind a sound, biblical understanding and theology of the Holy Spirit.  Been very refreshing for me and it’s helped me to give honor and worship to the Holy Spirit, which I find myself doing kind of on a regular basis even through the day, just thanking the Holy Spirit for all that He’s doing in my life.  On the other side of that is to find out how the Holy Spirit has been misrepresented in the contemporary Christian church today is equally discouraging as the truth is encouraging. 

I did a little kind of a search the other day on the current things that are attributed to the Holy Spirit in the Charismatic movement and maybe even extending a little bit beyond that, and I pulled together a list of things that were ministries of the Holy Spirit that basically are attributed to the Holy Spirit and His work in the life of believers.  The list goes like this:  knocking people down to the floor, causing people to giggle and laugh without any control, causing people to feel like they’re being electrically shocked or like their body heat is going up, causing people to fall into hypnotic spell and sometimes into trances that last for hours.  Then there are Holy Ghost convulsions and Holy Ghost hiccups. 

There are some who say that when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you act like you’re drunk, you stumble, you stagger, you trip over things, you may even fall down in a state of semi-consciousness.  The Holy Spirit also may cause you to shake and quiver and have temporary paralysis.  The Holy Spirit, if He comes upon you, may cause you to speak nonsense, gibberish.  He may even cause you to make animal sounds like a chicken or a duck or a dog.  The Holy Spirit may cause you to thrash and rip and shred your clothes.  The Holy Spirit may levitate you so that you go up in the air ten feet and move across the room.  And in one case, your shoes will go the other direction.  The Holy Spirit may empower and motivate a healer to punch you with all his force in the midst of your stomach for the sake of healing or maybe that he punches you in the jaw or even punches you in the face, depending where your need is to be healed, and then there is Holy Ghost slapping which is a little less dramatic and painful.  There’s Holy Ghost jumping and Holy Ghost dancing. 

And by the way, this Holy Ghost who does all this can be yours if you send your money to the evangelists.  And I was reminded of the 8th chapter of the book of Acts where Simon the magician comes along and he offers the apostles money.  When he saw that the Holy Spirit was present by the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give this authority to me as well so that everybody I lay hands on may receive the Holy Spirit.”  Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money.”  You don’t buy anything from God, let alone the power of the Holy Spirit, even though that’s what’s so very often promised. 

All of these kinds of things and many, many more things are attributed to the Holy Spirit.  They are all insulting, grieving, and blaspheming.  They have nothing to do with the Holy Spirit whatsoever in any way, shape, or form, and they are the polar opposite of the worship that He is due.  This is not marginal, this is not to be tolerated, this is intolerable.  This is the exact opposite of true worship.  And I think people sometimes think that the Holy Spirit is sort of a notch above Casper the Friendly Ghost and it’s kind of a plaything when we need to consider the Holy Spirit as absolutely fully and in every sense the eternal God, the third person of the Trinity to be loved and adored and honored and worshiped for who He is and what He actually has done and is doing.  He is deity not to be ignored and not to be misrepresented but to be worshiped. 

I guess the irony is that the Holy Spirit is in fact the deity most intimately involved in the life of a believer.  It is the Holy Spirit, we have learned, that gives us new life.  It is the Holy Spirit who regenerates us.  It is the Holy Spirit who adopts us into the family of God.  It is the Holy Spirit who then sanctifies us.  It is the Holy Spirit who, from within us, empowers us by His filling.  It is the Holy Spirit who places us by baptism, spiritual baptism, into the body of Christ.  It is the Holy Spirit who illuminates us and teaches us the Scripture which He Himself is the author of.  It is the Holy Spirit who one day will glorify us, one day raise our bodies to eternal life.  All of this ministry is the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  Through all of our lives as believers, He is in the process of conforming us to the standard of holiness that is the very image of the Lord Jesus Christ, that He does that regularly, moving us from one level of glory to the next, until that day when He perfects us in heaven.  This is the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  It is not a ministry of silliness.  It is a ministry of holiness – big difference. 

Now, I want you to have something of the big picture of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, if you will, so look at Ephesians chapter 1.  This will help us, I think, to identify in a somewhat singular fashion what this whole redemption plan of God is all about.  What is God doing in the world?  What is He attempting to achieve?  What is His plan? 

We have it in Ephesians 1:3-4 stated.  This is a benediction; this is an offering of praise to God.  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who is not known in the New Testament as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but who is known as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” meaning they’re equal in nature, equal in essence, the God who is one with the Lord Jesus Christ.  He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ.  He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ, now and in the future, in the full and complete sense.  For what purpose?  What is God’s purpose?  What is His reason?  Why is He doing this?  Here it comes in verse 4:  “It is because He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world that we would be holy and blameless before Him.” 

That is a sweeping statement that takes you from eternity past to eternity future.  That starts before time begins and ends after time is done.  That is a statement of election and glorification.  He chose us before the foundation of the world for the purpose that we would be holy and blameless before Him.  And that’s in heaven when we see Him face-to-face.  The Father gives us all blessings for the purpose of producing in us holiness and blamelessness, righteousness, if you will, perfection by which we can stand before Him and not be consumed.  “No man can see Me and live,” the Old Testament says. 

No one could look at the glory of God.  Moses could only see a veiled portion of the glory of God.  When Ezekiel saw just a portion of the glory of God, he went into a semi-coma.  The same thing happened to Isaiah.  He pronounced a curse on himself.  The same thing happened to the apostle Paul when the glorified Christ showed up on the road to Damascus – he went blind, fell into the dirt.  Same thing happened to John in the first chapter of Revelation when he was traumatized near unto death because he had a vision of the glory of Christ.  It is a glory upon which an unperfected person cannot look, but the promise of God is that He is gathering together a redeemed humanity who will be holy and blameless in such measure, in such perfection, that they can actually stand before Him in His presence.  This is the plan. 

In the meantime, between election and glorification, the Spirit of God is in the process of taking the justified people of God and sanctifying them; in other words, making them progressively more holy, progressively more righteous, progressively more like Christ who, you remember, is the exact, exact representation of a perfect man.  He is the model.  We are being conformed to His image. 

So what is the goal of God?  The goal of God is holiness.  The goal of God is blamelessness.  The goal of God is an absolute perfect righteousness which enables us to stand in His presence.  This is the plan of redemption initiated by God, to produce such a people who will be with Him forever in glory, to serve Him and honor Him.  This is initiated by God, demonstrated by Christ, then ratified by Christ on the cross, and it is all applied by the Holy Spirit.  It is the Holy Spirit who gives us life.  It is the Holy Spirit who raises us to glory.  And it is the Holy Spirit who sanctifies us. 

So the Spirit is at work in us, as we saw in 2 Corinthians 3:8, moving us from one level of glory to the next, to the next, as we gaze at the glory of Christ.  He’s the model, He’s the image.  The Holy Spirit, Jesus said, would come and show us the things concerning Christ, and as we look at Christ, the Spirit changes us into His image.  And one day, as we see in Romans 8 – and you can turn to it now – one day, those of us who have been predestined and called and justified – verse 30 says – will be glorified.  What will glorification look like?  Verse 29:  “We have been predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son. 

That is the work of God in redemption, to create a redeemed humanity that resemble His Son, family resemblance.  And last time we learned, didn’t we, that God has adopted us into His family which gives us all the rights as heirs, but He’s also regenerated us so that we’re not only adopted sons, we are born sons.  As adopted sons, we have the rights and as born sons, we have the nature.  We have become partakers of the divine nature.  And now the Holy Spirit is making us, reshaping us into the family resemblance, making us look like our Brother, Jesus Christ.  This is the work of the Spirit.  So the Holy Spirit isn’t interested in silliness; He’s interested in holiness.  He’s interested in Christlikeness. 

Now, in Romans chapter 8, we’ve seen a number of elements of this.  The Holy Spirit frees us from sin and death.  We looked at that in verses 2 and 3.  The Holy Spirit enables us to fulfill the law, verse 4.  The Holy Spirit changes our nature, verses 5 to 11.  The Holy Spirit empowers us for victory over sin, verses 12 and 13.  And then last time, the Holy Spirit adopts us into God’s family as sons, verses 14 through 16.  All of this is the ministry of the Holy Spirit for which we give Him praise and thanks. 

Now we come to the final point:  The Holy Spirit secures our eternal glory.  The Holy Spirit secures our eternal glory.  And that’s verses 17 to 30 that I read to you earlier.  And then verses 31 to 39 is, in my judgment, the greatest climactic benedictory summation of the glories of salvation anywhere in the Scriptures.  It is a response to the mighty work of the Holy Spirit.  We’ll see that starting in verse 31.  But now, from verse 17 to 30, we’re going to be looking over the next few weeks or so at how the Holy Spirit secures our eternal glory.  You will see in the text that we read earlier – verse 23 – that the Holy Spirit is designated as firstfruits, the firstfruits of the Spirit.  That’s a very important concept.  A farmer always knew what the crop was going to be like when the first fruit showed up.  The early fruit would be a sign of what the rest of the fruit would be like.  And the Holy Spirit is given to us and all His glory and all the blessings that He brings is only a first fruit, only a pledge, only a taste, only a guarantee of the rest of the things that God has prepared for those that love Him. 

The Holy Spirit is also called a pledge, arrabn.  The word is the word for engagement ring, down payment, security.  The Holy Spirit is the engagement ring that proves the wedding is going to come off.  The Holy Spirit is the down payment.  God’s going to make the rest of the payments when we get to glory.  He is the guarantee.  The Holy Spirit is also called the seal.  That is God’s stamp of authenticity, authority, ownership – that’s the seal of the Holy Spirit.  We are sealed by the Spirit, we have the pledge of the Spirit, we have the first fruits of the Spirit. 

In 2 Corinthians 1 verse 21, “He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God who has sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.”  There you have seal and pledge in the same verse, 2 Corinthians 1:22.  So the Holy Spirit is in us to seal us to be the down payment, the guarantee of our coming eternal glory.  This is His ministry to us. 

Now, just summing all that we have said up, the freedom we have from sin’s dominion in our lives, the power to do what is right, the desire to set our minds on the things of the Spirit, the strength to overcome the flesh, the joys and assured confidence of sonship, all these things are the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration and sanctification, and they’re all a guarantee of the work of coming glorification.  Philippians 1:6 says, “He that began a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”  The work is only begun and it will be completed.  That’s why Paul begins the chapter by saying, “There is therefore no condemnation to them who are in Christ.”  We are assured of no condemnation; we are secured against any future condemnation by the promise of God and the working of the Holy Spirit. 

So the Holy Spirit is in us to secure us through this life to the end and then bring our spirits into the presence of God and one day raise our bodies to join those spirits so that forever we will stand in the full blazing glory of the presence of God in the heaven of heavens and serve Him and worship Him there.  We’re on the road to glory and the Holy Spirit is our protector in the process. 

And I’ve said this in the past:  If there was any possible way to lose salvation, I would lose it.  If it was possible to disqualify myself from salvation, I would get disqualified.  I can’t save myself and I can’t keep myself saved.  I can’t be righteous enough to save myself and neither can you, and I can’t be righteous enough to keep myself saved.  God’s going to have to save me by grace; He’s going to have to keep by grace.  He’s going to have to save me by His power, power of the Holy Spirit, regeneration; He’s going to have to keep me by His power, the Holy Spirit’s power of protection, to the end – and that’s the promise of God. 

We are headed for glory, dear ones, and what that means is, we will be like the perfect man, Jesus Christ.  First John 3:2:  “We’ll be like Him when we see Him as He is.”  “We’ll have a body like unto the body of His glory,” Philippians 3:20 and 21.  We have been chosen before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him, and nobody gets lost in the process.  John 6 says, “All the Father gives to Me will come to Me and I lose none of them.  “I lose none of them but raise them all at the last day by the power of the Holy Spirit,” as Romans 8:11 says.  It’s the Spirit who raised Christ from the dead who will also raise us from the dead. 

So what is the point of salvation?  It is that we might be brought into the presence of God to stand before Him and see the fullness of His glory, blazing from His throne in the new Jerusalem, in the center of the new heaven and the new earth and be with Him forever – be with Him forever.  When man comes into the world, he has no glory.  We come short of the glory of God, as Paul says in Romans.  We fall way short of the glory of God.  We can’t attain to that.  We have no glory.  It is a very, very faded mark, that image of God, which we bear from our original creation.  It has been terribly scarred and marred.  But in Christ we can have glory.  In Christ we can become glorious.  In Christ we literally share the very glory of God.  In the Old Testament, God said, “My glory will I not share with another.”  Not another idol.  Not another false god.  But He will share His glory with His people. 

We live, Paul says, in the hope of glory.  Christ in you, the hope of glory.  We’re not glorious yet in the full sense, although we have tasted of that glory.  That glory has come into us, the Spirit lives in us, that glory is not yet manifest, that’s why Romans 8, that I read earlier, says the whole world hasn’t seen the glorious manifestation of the children of God.  We’re veiled right now.  We’re veiled, we’re covered.  They can look at us walking down the street and they don’t see any glory.  But one day, we will be fully glorified and we will be like Christ.  That is the goal of salvation, as I pointed out at the end of verse 30.  The ones that He predestined will be the ones that He will glorify. 

So the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in us to keep us secure all the way through the sanctifying process to glory.  He is the seal, the guarantee, the engagement ring, the down payment, the first fruits of our coming glory.  And this is all based on the fact that we have been made sons so that the glory which will be ours one day is given to us as an inheritance from our Father.  We have been adopted into the family of God, we have been born into the family of God.  We’re sons both ways and we are sons in order that we may receive glory.  We are the children of God with full rights to share all that God possesses.  It’s a magnificent reality. 

Now, let’s look at verses 17 and 18.  We’re just going to look at those two verses today.  We’ll cover the rest after Christmas.  And I just want to break it down a little bit.  We’re talking here about inheritance.  Verse 17:  “If children, then heirs” – or heirs also – “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him, for I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”  So verse 18 ends talking about incomparable glory, glory that has not no comparison.  We also know that that glory, which we will have with Him, is our inheritance.  We are heirs of God, fellow heirs with Christ, and what we inherit is glory.  That’s what we inherit. 

Now let’s go down and break that up a little bit in that simple little, text and let’s talk about the fact of our inheritance – the fact of our inheritance.  This is a promise to you.  Verse 17:  “And if children, heirs also” – a little particle here where the word “if” is.  It’s a construction in the Greek.  When you have this particle, you have what is called a fulfilled condition.  And a fulfilled condition is not an “if” condition; a fulfilled condition is a “since” condition.  So this verse should read this way, “And since children” – that is a fulfilled condition – how do we know that?  Because we’ve just gone through it in verses 14, 15, and 16.  We are children – verse 16 ends – we are children of God.  Verse 14 ends, “That we are sons of God.” 

We have been adopted.  We have every right to cry, “Abba, Father,” and since we are children, and that is a reality, that is a fulfilled condition, we are then heirs – we are heirs.  Galatian 3:26 says, “You are all sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”  You’re not a son of God by being born into the world.  You’re a son of God and an heir by faith in Christ Jesus – Galatians 3:26 – and if you are a son and a child of God, you are then an heir.  You are then an heir also. 

Now, remember Roman adoption laws.  An adopted child was not inferior to a naturally born child, a born child into the family.  In fact, adopted children were often adopted because the parents wanted a superior child to the ones they had.  So when somebody chose to adopt a child, it was because they wanted to select that child purposely for the future benefit and welfare of the family, and that child would have all rights to inheritance equal to the naturally born children into that family.  The fact was that adopted child was at least equal and in many cases viewed to be superior to the other children. 

In Jewish tradition, the inheritance went double portion to the oldest child.  If there were two sons, the oldest would get two-thirds and the youngest would get one-third.  The oldest son got a double portion of the inheritance.  That is not the case in Roman law.  Nothing in Roman history indicates that to us.  What we have in Roman law that we can still find is that all sons were given the same inheritance.  There was an equal level of inheritance in the Roman system, and that was for adopted children as well.  That was the law.  Whether or not they followed it all the time obviously could be debated. 

So Paul is using the Roman custom in his analogy here, and what he is saying is that under Roman law, all who are sons – under the analogy of Roman law, all who are sons of God are equal heirs – all equal heirs.  If sons – or since children – sons, heirs also.  And by the way, according to Roman law, something received by inheritance was more secure than what might be owned by purchase.  If you received something by inheritance, that was the most secure possession you could ever possibly have.  And that is what Paul is saying.  We are as the children of God, equally given the inheritance, and it is more secure than anything we could gain for ourselves.  In fact, anything we gain for ourselves, we’ll leave here, right?  Since sons, therefore heirs. 

To help you with that a little bit, Galatians 4 is a good passage, and I’ll just begin reading in verse 4 – and you heard this earlier in the service.  “When the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son born of a woman, born under the law, so that He might redeem those who were under the law.”  And what’s this redemption about?  That we might receive the adoption as sons.  In other words, that’s what salvation is for, to bring us into the family.  To adopt us as sons gives us all the rights, and then to regenerate us as sons gives us the nature, and then we can be conformed to the family resemblance for which Christ is the model.  And as a result of the adoption of sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying “Abba, Father.”  Therefore, you are no longer a slave but a son – listen to this – and if a son, then an heir through God.” 

This is the fact of our inheritance – this is the fact of our inheritance.  That fact is further expressed in the magnificent words of 1 Peter 1, and these you don’t want to miss.  First Peter 1 – and this again is a benediction, praise to God:  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” – again, God is the God who is the Father of Christ; that is, their essence is the same, they’re one in nature, the deity of Christ being emphasized – “who according to His great mercy” – all of this is mercy, all of this is grace – “has caused us to be born again” we’re adopted in Galatians, we’re born again – that talks about both our rights and our nature – “to a living hope.”  We literally have been saved into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 

What is our living hope?  Here it comes:  “To obtain an inheritance” – to obtain an inheritance.  What about this inheritance?  It is imperishable – imperishable, it cannot die, it cannot disappear, it cannot be deleted – and undefiled – it cannot be limited, it cannot be scarred, marred, it cannot fade away, disappear, dissipate – and it is reserved in heaven for you.  That’s why you were saved.  That’s why you were born again.  That’s why you were adopted into the family, in order to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you – not for anybody else, but for you and you are – the next verse, verse 5 – protected by the power of God.  What power of God?  The power of the Holy Spirit.  You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit comes upon you.  That’s power for witness but it’s also power for protection.  It is the Holy Spirit in us who protects us through the means – this is wonderful – the power of God through faith. 

How does the Holy Spirit keep you in Christ?  How does the Holy Spirit protect you from failing, from falling, from abandoning, from denying Christ, from defecting?  Through faith.  In other words, it is the Holy Spirit who empowers your faith.  Ephesians 2:  “By grace are you saved through faith – even that faith is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”  You say, “Well, I knew somebody that had faith and their faith died.”  No.  Anybody who had faith that died had a human faith.  The faith that God gives is a faith that cannot die.  You’re kept by that faith, empowered by the Holy Spirit.  And he goes on to say, “Unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”  The whole point of salvation is to get us blameless and holy before Him in eternity where we will receive an inheritance.  That is the fact of our inheritance.  It is imperishable, undefiled, will not fade away, reserved in heaven, and the Holy Spirit is the internal protector who sustains your faith all the way to the end. 

Who’s the source of this inheritance?  That’s the fact of it.  The source of it – in verse 17 – heirs of God.  God’s the source.  We’re heirs of God.  We inherit what God has decided we should have.  God is the one who gives us the inheritance.  God is the one who laid it up.  First Peter’s words, “Laid up for you.”  It’s God who laid the treasure of our inheritance up in heaven for us.  It’s just an amazing thing.  “Blessed be the God and Father who has caused us to have this inheritance.”  In Colossians 3:24 – and there are many wonderful verses that speak to this issue – this is one of the ones that I think is so wonderful.  It talks about – “From the Lord” – Colossians 3:24 – “you will receive the reward of the inheritance.”  From the Lord, you will receive the reward of the inheritance.  It’s going to come from the Lord.  It’s His to give and His alone to give. 

Now, let me dig a little down into that.  You say, “What is it?  What is it that the Lord has left for us?”  In the purest and truest and most comprehensive sense, it is perfection, holiness, blamelessness, absolute righteousness, completeness.  It is the perfection of glorified humanity.  But it is even more than that.  A better way to understand it is this:  The Psalmist talks about the Lord being his portion.  Jeremiah talks about the Lord being his portion.  In Revelation 21:3, we read that when we enter into heaven in our final glory, God shows up and He says that “I will be their God and they will be My people and I will live among them, and I will wipe away their tears,” et ceteraet ceteraet cetera.  The inheritances, folks, is God Himself.  That’s the inheritance. 

What is waiting for us?  God – God.  He is the shining one from the throne in the New Jerusalem, His glory extends to the infinite ends of the New Heaven and the New Earth, and we step right into the full blaze of that glory and are not incinerated because we are holy and blameless.  And all that God is and all that God has becomes ours.  It’s a stunning reality.  We inherit God.  We even share His glory in His heaven forever. 

Pushing that a little bit, let me bring up a third issue that this text talks about:  the extent of the inheritance.  Just how extensive is this?  It’s this extensive, that we are fellow heirs with Christ – we’re fellow heirs with Christ.  And that again emphasizes the Roman custom of equal inheritance.  What a thought – everything that will be Christ’s will be ours.  Psalm 2, what did God say to Christ?  “I’ll give you the nations for your inheritance.”  And beyond that, He gives everything.  Christ will be all in all, and all will be in Christ.  First Corinthians 15:  “Everything will be resolved in Christ” – everything. 

Ephesians chapter 1 talks about the fact that He is the ruler over all things, all things are subjected to Him, everything is His, absolutely everything is His.  And in the end, whatever is His will be ours.  We will literally become fellow heirs with Christ.  Hebrews 1:2 calls Christ the heir of all things – the heir of all things.  In Him, we become the heir of all things.  It’s an amazing reality.  We will reign with Him, Revelation 20 says.  We will sit on His throne, Revelation 3:21 says.  We will bear His image, the image of the heavenly one, 1 Corinthians 15:49.  These are realities that speak of the fact that whatever is Christ’s will be ours.  We will not be deity, we will be glorified humanity, but as far as glorified humanity can share the glory of God and the inheritance of Christ, we will share it fully. 

Somebody might say, “Well, Christ might be a little upset about that.  He did a lot to gain that inheritance on the cross and why should it be handed to us?  Is this a disappointment to Christ, that the Father would be so generous with unworthy folks like us?”  Well, we have an answer to that question.  This is not something the Lord is reluctant to give.  Listen to His prayer in John 17:  “The glory which You have given Me, I have given to them, that we may be one just as we are one,” John 17:22.  He shares fully His glory with us without any reluctance. 

The greatness of this inheritance is absolutely staggering.  It is by grace, not works.  It is by a sovereign work of God, not human effort.  It is a covenant from God, who cannot lie and cannot change.  This inheritance is not lessened because it has to be divided among many inheritors because the supply of God is infinite glory.  It is glorious, it is comprehensive, it is secure.  We will inherit God, His glory, share His glory, and all that is Christ’s will be ours.  Such is the incomparable gain of glory, vouchsafed – to borrow an old word – to us by the Holy Spirit, who guards and protects our faith to the end. 

There’s a fourth thing to consider in this verse:  preparation for the inheritance – preparation for the – we all receive the same eternal life, we all receive the same glory, the one denarius in the parable Jesus told, no matter how many hours we serve.  We all receive the same presence of God, we all receive the same inheritance with Christ.  But there will be degrees of responsibility and degrees of service that are connected to this life’s service – and the Lord made that clear in the parable – several parables.  Faithful-over-little-make-you-Lord-over-much kind of thing. 

But there’s a principle that leads us to say that the most important determiner of the nature of our eternal inheritance on a personal level is not success, as we would measure it in the world, but suffering.  Go back to verse 17.  We’ve gone through if children, heirs; heirs of God; fellow heirs of with Christ, then we come to “if indeed we suffer with Him, so that we may also be glorified with Him.”  Back as far as the 12th century, the word “if” – again – was being translated by Bible scholars “since,” and this is simply a statement of fact.  Since we’re children, we’re heirs.  And since we suffer with Him indeed, for sure, we will be glorified with Him. 

In other words, there is an inevitability in the life of a believer that that believer is going to suffer.  I’m not talking about martyrdom necessarily, although it could happen, “Take up your cross, follow Me.”  People have died for the cause of the gospel.  But what it’s saying is, since we suffer as a matter of fact, because we exalt Christ and live for Christ and proclaim Christ in a Christless, Christ-hating, Christ-rejecting world, there is a measure of suffering.  We bear, as it were, the reproach of Christ.  The suffering is related to that.  We’re not talking about the fact that you had a disease or you had some kind of a defect or some challenges in your marriage or some issues with your employment.  All those kinds of things fall into the category of human suffering and the Lord is concerned about that and He’s sympathetic and compassionate about that, but what measures out against that eternal glory and eternal reward is that suffering which believers receive for the name of Christ. 

And I know we’re not being persecuted, we’re not being strung up, we’re not being boiled in oil or having bamboo jammed up our fingernails.  We’re not being persecuted to that degree, but all of us understand the cruel mockings that come to those who are faithful to proclaim the name of Christ in a hostile environment.  We’ve all suffered in some way.  “In this world you will have tribulation,” Jesus said, “Be of good cheer, I’ve overcome the world.”  “In this world they’re going to treat you the way they treated Me, they hated Me, they’re going to hate you.”  That’s the way it is. 

We’re going to enjoy what Paul called the fellowship of his sufferings.  Paul even said in Colossians 1 that he was filling up in his own body the sufferings of Christ.  He was taking the heat for his relationship to Christ.  Peter talks about – 1 Peter chapter 4 – suffering for Christ and at the same time rejoicing. 

The path to glory is through suffering.  You remember Jesus said that He went to the cross for the joy that was set before Him?  Did we not remember that we had to preach, the apostle said, we had to preach that Christ must needs have suffered?  Why?  Because Jesus told them that, Luke 24:  “Did you not know the Messiah must needs have suffered and then entered into His glory?”  As we fellowship in the sufferings of Christ, as we bear the reproach of Christ, we will then follow the path to glory.  This is a far cry from the idea that God wants you to be healthy, wealthy, happy, successful, popular, comfortable.  No, the Holy Spirit is concerned about your eternal glory, and He understands that the path to that eternal glory is to bear the reproach of Jesus Christ. 

So while we all receive God, we all are fellow heirs of all that Christ possesses, there is some way in which we will serve in the glory of heaven that can be determined by the measure of suffering we have borne for the cause of Christ.  Christianity is not escapism.  It’s a lie to think that all the Holy Spirit wants you to do is have everything you want and be happy.  The Holy Spirit wants you to be glorified, and He understands the path of glory is through suffering.  This is the Word of God to us. 

Well, just a final word, and then we’ll take the Lord’s Table.  Paul says this in verse 18:  “Now, having known that, I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”  Take what comes, right?  “Bear on My body the marks of Christ.”  Take the reproach of Christ.  Suffer for Christ.  It’s not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  We have an incomparable glory, beloved, awaiting us in the presence of the Lord.  That is His promise to us, and it is the work of the blessed Holy Spirit to secure us all the way to the end to receive that glory.  The Holy Spirit – Ephesians 1 – of promise is given as a pledge of our inheritance with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession to the praise of His glory.  Let’s bow in prayer.

Father, we remember that Paul said, “Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit by whom we are sealed to the day of redemption.”  May we be honoring the Spirit, may we be worshiping the Spirit in the way that He is deserving.  Now, Lord, as we come to this table, we want to make sure we honor this Communion celebration by confessing any sin that we might know in our lives, anything we are holding onto, to repent, turn from it, and to worship at the foot of the cross, grateful that all of this has been provided because Christ made it possible through His death.

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/90-421/heirs-of-god

How To Be Full Of Heaven?

are you full of heaven

February 19, 2021Author: Nehemiah Zion

Being full of heaven means to walk in the fullness of God’s blessings. Your heart cannot be full of heaven until you are emptied of hell.

Our hearts cannot be full of faith unless we are first emptied of fear, pride and sin. To receive of God’s fullness, we need to be emptied of all our self. Not I, but Christ be formed in me.

The young man was full of pride and could not empty himself for Christ. His heart was full of sorrow because he loved his wealth more than God.

But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. (Matthew 19:22)

Ananias and Sapphira’ hearts was filled with deceit and lies. Another victim(s) of loving money more than God, despite being in a time when great wonders were happening.

But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? (Acts 5:3)

Cain was full of jealousy and anger against Abel. When we are full of bitterness and anger, it shows. Evil natures cannot be suppressed when we give room for it in our hearts. It will eventually manifest.

But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell (Genesis 4:5).

When their hearts were full of sin, they ended up manifesting its effects.

What are you full of dear believer?

How can we be full of Heaven?

1. Fullness of the Father (Ephesians 3:19)
2. Be filled with the Spirit (Acts 4:8)
3. Walk in the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13)
4. Abound in the joy of the Lord (Psalms 16:11)
5. Fullness of faith (Acts 11:24)

Emptied of His glory, God became a man. To walk in earth in ridicule and shame. Jesus won the victory we needed; all we need is to stay faithful till the end. Maranatha, Praise God and Amen.

VIDEO Nothing Can Separate Us

By John MacArthur Feb 12, 2012

Now we come to message number 13 – I never intended that, but message number 13 in Romans 8 series on the Holy Spirit, and we certainly welcome you who are guests to our church to the end of our series.  Regrettably, some of you haven’t been with us in the previous messages, so you’re a little bit behind the curve, but that’s okay.  Turn to Romans 8, and while you’re doing that, I do want to make a comment about the worship book. 

There’s a note about it in the Grace Today.  There have been some rather careful edits in that book that has come out in past years and some added material to it, to enrich it and update it.  And perhaps the most notable thing is that the final chapter in the book is on music, what is appropriate music for worship, and there are things in that chapter that are unique to the book, and I just wanted to let you know that that and another brand new chapter sort of set it apart from the past editions of it. 

And speaking of worship, the series that we’re doing has one goal in mind and that is to help us worship the Holy Spirit as we should.  When I gave the first message and I called for worship of the Holy Spirit, after the service was over, I didn’t get very far until I was stopped in my tracks by someone who was outraged – outraged that I would even suggest that we ought to worship, offer praise, prayer to the Holy Spirit, which points out the problem.  We need to worship the Holy Spirit in the same way that we worship the Son of God and God the Father Himself. 

In Revelation 22:9, there’s a very brief command and it says, “Worship God.”  Worship God.  The last chapter of the Bible, “Worship God.”  That isn’t anything new.  If you go to the beginning of the Bible, the Pentateuch, the writings of Moses, you will find there are many calls to worship God.  If you get into the books of history, the books of poetry, the prophets, all the sacred writings that make up the Old Testament, everywhere you go, you will be repeatedly commanded in one way or another to worship God.  In fact, Jesus tells us in John 4 that the Father seeks true worshipers.  We are described by Paul in Philippians 3 as those who worship God in the Spirit, the Spirit of God.  We are worshipers of God, that’s what we do, that’s why we’re here.  God is the audience and we are offering Him worship as we should every day individually in our lives and do collectively when we gather like this. 

When the Bible instructs us to worship God, the God we are to worship is the triune God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the true and living God, the only God, three in one.  When we are commanded – as we are so frequently – to worship God, that must mean all three members of the Trinity.  In no sense are we to offer any member of the Trinity any less worship than we offer any other member of the Trinity.  We are not to assume that when Scripture says to worship God that somehow we are to worship certain persons of the Trinity and not others or certain persons more than others.  Should we not assume that every command in Scripture to worship God is a command to worship the Holy Spirit who is fully God?  When we get a glimpse of heaven in the fourth chapter of Revelation, and we read in verses 10 and 11 that the 24 elders, along with the living creatures, fall down before Him who sits on the throne and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, are we to assume that that is one member of the Trinity or two but not the third?  When the worship is given to us, the very words of heavenly worship, “Worthy are You, our Lord, and our God to receive glory and honor and power for You created all things and because of Your Will they exist and were created,” that that is excluding the Holy Spirit?  I think not. 

We are to worship the God who is God, and God declares Himself to be “I am who I am” and who He is is three in one.  And yet when we talk about worshiping the Holy Spirit, it sounds new and it sounds novel, and for some people it even sounds wrong.  And the argument tends to be, “Well no, no, the Spirit points to Christ.”  Well, of course the Spirit points to Christ, but in pointing to Christ, He does not diminish His own deity.  He does not depreciate His own identity.  He does not intend to diminish worship given to Him.  He points us to Christ, but He is no less God, and God is to be worshiped. 

The Holy Spirit is fully God, gloriously God, holy God, eternal God, worthy of worship.  The Holy Spirit is equally the possessor of all divine attributes that belong to the Father and the Son.  The Holy Spirit equally participates in every divine activity for the Holy Spirit is inseparable from the Father and the Son.  The Holy Spirit participates in everything from creation to consummation.  All true worship, then, embraces the Holy Spirit, includes the Holy Spirit.  He cannot be separated from the Trinity whom we worship and whom we praise.

Why has this not been clear to us?  Because for many people, that point that I made about the Holy Spirit pointing to Christ, which Jesus disclosed in His last night with the disciples in the Upper Room, seems to some people – and it’s caught traction and become part of Christian thinking – that the Holy Spirit is therefore deflecting worship toward Christ.  Not so.  He shows us Christ for a very clear purpose, which we studied some weeks ago, that we might see the model of perfected humanity, and as we gaze at the glory of the perfected human, He changes us into His image.  To show us Christ is not to defer worship.  It is another way in which we should worship Him and honor Him. 

But beyond that sort of strange quirk in traditional understanding, even worse the Holy Spirit is not considered today in the same way that the Son and the Father are considered because there has been for many, many years now, coming from the third force, the third column in the Christian world – first column, Protestantism; second, Roman Catholicism; the third, Pentecostal Charismaticism – there has been coming from that third wave terrible, tragic confusion about the Holy Spirit, misrepresentation of the Holy Spirit, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, insults directed at the Holy Spirit, and they are relentless and they are severe and they are serious. 

The evangelical church’s understanding of the Holy Spirit has been mangled.  Biblical truth has been depreciated and in its place have come bizarre things attributed to the Holy Spirit by people who have, in many cases, absolutely no relationship to the Holy Spirit whatsoever.  Endless assaults are waged on His person and His work coming out of that third column.  This movement has kidnapped the Holy Spirit and held Him hostage, and all criticisms of their aberrations and blasphemies are denounced by them as being divisive, unloving, and intolerant. 

Obviously, thinking through all of this over the last three months and preaching all of this has stirred my own heart and hearts of people around me who are saying, “We need to do a book on this, we need to bring this to light, it’s been a long time since Charismatic Chaos came out, this needs to be addressed,” and so we’ve decided to do that.  But one of the compelling reasons to do that was the fact that we had a discussion the other day and it was brought to our attention that in searching the literature on the Holy Spirit and the things that are being ascribed to the Spirit today that are not true about Him and about His works, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit has gone, in a sense, unprotected.  The truth of the Holy Spirit has gone unaffirmed, in this sense, that it was the – maybe the early or mid-1990s since there was any definitive book produced on the true person and work of the Holy Spirit.  Evangelicals have gone silent on this issue under the intimidation of that third column.  This is unacceptable.  We cannot allow this to go on, the Holy Spirit to be grieved, quenched, insulted, and blasphemed. 

It’s amazing to me that the evangelical world doesn’t tolerate attacks on God the Father.  When there came an attack a few years ago called the Openness theology which denied that God knew the future, denied His omniscience, it not only denied that He knew the future, it denied that He could control the future.  This is a massive attack on the nature of God, and evangelicals rose up en masse to denounce that attack of Openness theology and became prolific in providing material for that denunciation.  Over the last 15 years or so, 20 years, there have been assaults on the person of Christ, assaults on His nature but more directly on His work on the cross, the doctrine of justification, the biblical doctrine of justification at the heart of the gospel, most notably in a movement called “The New Perspective on Paul,” which was a denial of the doctrine of imputation and justification.  There is no end of literature that has been amassed, a huge library of literature defending the doctrine of justification, defending the Son of God against these attacks.  But no one member of the Trinity in the same period of time has been attacked nearly to the degree that the Holy Spirit has been attacked, and I say for about ten years there has been virtually nothing to come to the defense of a biblical understanding of the Holy Spirit.  And as a result, there is confusion if not indifference toward Him and a lack of ability to worship Him for who He is, and He should be worshiped. 

We understand blasphemy of the Holy Spirit from non-Christians.  We understand blasphemy of the Holy Spirit from false Christians and false teachers.  But we, as Christians, while not blaspheming the Holy Spirit can be guilty of grieving the Holy Spirit.  And it is a grief to the Holy Spirit, of course, for us to sin because we sin against Him who is in us, but it is a grief to the Holy Spirit to think wrongly about Him, to underestimate what He does, to be unappreciative or ungrateful, to fail to worship Him out of a grasp of the wondrous grace and the wondrous power of His continuing work on our behalf all the way to eternal glory. 

So we have been looking at Romans 8 to refocus on the Holy Spirit, to fully embrace Him in our worship.  We know that God the Father initiated the work of salvation, God the Son validated and demonstrated the work of salvation, and the Holy Spirit activates and completes the work of salvation in the believer.  We have literally begun to catalogue the work of the Holy Spirit for us as believers. He regenerates us, He participates in our justification, He sanctifies us, He confirms our adoption as sons of God, He indwells us, He baptizes us, immerses us into the union with other believers that we call the body of Christ.  He gives us spiritual gifts by which we minister to one another.  He strengthens us in the inner man for all righteousness.  He guides us.  He produces right attitudes in us.  He delivers us from sin.  He illuminates the Scripture to our understanding.  But His greatest work and that which brings us the greatest joy is that He guarantees our future glory, He guarantees our eternal glory.  And, of course, at this point the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement renders against Him one of the greatest insults of all by denying the doctrine of eternal security, perseverance of the saints, and attacking His most wondrous work by claiming that He does not necessarily keep all believers secure and safe until eternal glory.

This week I was reading the writings of Charles Finney, whose ministry attacked a lot of things in the Scripture, not the least of which was this doctrine.  Finney said, “You are sealed by the Spirit but you can shatter the seal.”  The testimony of the Word of God is not consistent with that error. 

Listen to the words of Ephesians 1:13-14.  In Him – that is, in Christ – you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.  We are God’s possession; God will redeem us to the praise of His own glory.  The Holy Spirit is given as a pledge of that future redemption, which is called our inheritance, and that is why He is identified as the Spirit of promise because He is the guarantee of God’s promise of heaven. 

Peter similarly writes:  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who, according to His great mercy, has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you who are protected by the power of God, for a salvation to be revealed in the last time.”  The Holy Spirit is the seal, the guarantee, the down payment, the first fruits, the earnest, the power, the protector of every true believer, who brings us to final glory. 

That becomes the theme of Romans 8 starting in verse 17.  Verse 17, you first read the word “glorified,” and from then on to verse 39, it is all focused on our future glory and the plans that God has to secure us to that end.  We’ve gone through all of that in great detail.  We’ve learned in verses 26 and 27 that the Holy Spirit constantly from within every true believer is interceding for us in a communion that is not in any language.  It is too deep for words.  It is inter-Trinitarian groaning in which the Spirit intercedes, praying for our eternal glory consistently with God who knows what His plans are and has purposed our glory.  And the Spirit, as well, knows the plans of God, the heart of God.  So God has a plan.  Christ provided for the fulfillment of that plan.  The Spirit prays for the completion of that plan in accord with the Will of God. 

As a result, verse 28 says, “Everything works together for good.”  Things, as we live life, God has a good purpose in them, that is true for His glory.  But this is primarily talking about ultimate, final good.  All things are working together for good because we have been loved by God and love Him in return according to His purpose. 

So the Spirit then effects the good intention and ending and purpose of God on our behalf.  The plan of God, He foreknew us, He predestined us, He called us, He justified us, and He will glorify us, and our glory will be conforming us to the image of His Son, verse 29 says.  We’ve gone through all of that in detail.  God has a plan to choose people that He will glorify.  Christ provides the sacrifice that pays for their sin to make the plan possible.  The Holy Spirit becomes the power of the plan.  He regenerates us, sanctifies us, protects us, and one day will raise us to glory.  We are caught up in that plan.  We are as secure as the Father’s plan because what God purposes, He does.  We are as secure as the Son’s provision.  Christ actually paid in full for all our sins – not a potential payment, but an actual payment.  And we are, thirdly, as secure as the power of the Holy Spirit who intercedes and who keeps us to glory. 

Now, having said all of that great theology, come to verse 31, where we dropped off last time, and Paul knows there will be some objections.  So he assumes that there would be objections from some who would say, “Well, maybe there are some persons who can change this.  Maybe there are some persons who can influence a dramatic alteration in the plan of God.”  Like Finney says, “You can shatter the seal.”  I read a couple of other writers who hold that view and they said the same thing, “The Holy Spirit seals you as long as you don’t break the seal.”  Is that possible?  So we could ask the question, “Are there some humans that can do that?”  What shall we say to these things?  Are there some humans that can do it?  The answer, verse 31:  “If God is for us, who’s against us?”  Are there humans stronger than God?  If God is for us, does it really matter who might be against us?  Does it matter who might want to destroy our faith?  If God is for us, that settles it because there is no power greater than God.  There is no human or human system or human religion or human influence or human society or human form of education or human pressure that is greater than God. 

“Well,” you say, “maybe God would do it.  Maybe God would be weary of us.”  God?  Verse 32 answers that.  “He who didn’t spare His own Son but delivered Him over for us all”?  You mean God who when we were enemies gave us the best gift, His Son?  He would turn against us?  The end of verse 32:  “How will He not also with Him, with His Son, freely give us all things?”  That’s an argument from the greater to the lesser.  If when we were enemies He gave the best gift to save us, will He not now that we are children of His give us lesser gifts to keep us?  That’s just logical.  That’s the argument from the greater to the lesser.  God, who did the most for us, gave the best gift when we were enemies of His, will do whatever lesser things He needs to do now that we’re His sons to keep us. 

Somebody might say, “Well, what about Satan?  Maybe Satan can pull us out of the hands of God, he’s very powerful.”  He tried it with Job, he tried it with Peter, he tried it with Paul and he tried it with the high priest in Zechariah chapter 3.  You have four illustrations of it in Scripture.  He is identified here in verse 33:  “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect?”  Or verse 34:  Who is the one who condemns?  Who is the one who is that’s always before God condemning us?  Who’s the accuser of the brethren?  Revelation 12:10.  Satan and his demons as well gather around the presence of God and bring endless accusations against believers night and day, it says in Scripture.  Can he succeed, the accuser of the brethren?  Could he break Job’s faith?  No.  Could he break Peter’s faith when he tried to sift Peter?  Could he break Paul when messenger demons literally were tearing into the ministry of Paul?  Was that enough to shatter Paul?  Can he successfully bring a condemning accusation that’ll cause God to turn? 

Well, for one thing, saving faith can’t be broken, the purpose of God can’t be thwarted, but you also have the additional reality of Christ at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us against all accusations and saying again and again, “For that I paid in full in My death.” 

Well then, somebody might suggest, “Boy, we’re in trouble if Christ turns against us.  What if Christ were to turn against us?”  Verse 34:  What?  Christ Jesus is He who died, yea rather, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God.  In other words, He died for us, He was raised for us, His death and resurrection were the perfect satisfaction of God, and thus He was exalted at the right hand of God, having fully accomplished our redemption and who also intercedes for us.  He is the great high priest who intercedes for us, our great heavenly advocate. 

It won’t be any humans because God is more powerful than they.  Won’t be God because He gave us the best when we were enemies.  It won’t be Satan because he can’t successfully bring a condemnation against us – Christ has already paid in full for them.  It won’t be Christ – He ever lives to make intercession for us.  Only one possibility remains then.  Us.  You can break the seal.  You can shatter the seal, as Finney put it.  Can you?  Why would you do that?  Oh, circumstances in life.  Well, life could get pretty tough.  As long as everything is going good – that was the argument with Job, wasn’t it?  He’s blessed, he’s rich, he’s got it all, family, crops, animals, wealth – no wonder he’s faithful.  Can we literally exercise power to sever our relationship to the Lord?  Can our faith dissolve, break, crumble under certain circumstances? 

So we go from persons in verses 32 to 34 – 31 to 34, to circumstances in verses 35 to 37, follow them, it’s just pretty simple.  This is worst-case scenario.  The question is:  Who will or what will, brought by who – who – behind all these whats, there’s a who.  If there’s tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword, somebody’s responsible for that.  These are the kind of circumstances that are extreme.  Can extreme circumstances destroy our faith, cause us to abandon the Holy Spirit?  Who will separate us from the love of Christ?  Just a reminder that what holds us is the love of Christ for us.  That’s what’s hold us, the love of Christ for us.  It’s mentioned in verse 39, by the way, as the love of God – the love of God.  And I might add, it encompasses the love of the Holy Spirit.  We are loved by the Trinity.  Can something happen to cause that love to be broken? 

Well, let’s paint a picture of extremity.  Seven hypothetical realities escalating, tribulation – tribulation, that’s outside pressure.  Things are going bad on the outside and this assumes attacks coming at us.  The word thlipsis means – it’s a squeezing, outward difficulty, rejection, trouble, harm.  It’s putting pressure on us on the outside.  The next word, distress, is a word that refers to inside pressure.  It’s two words that mean to be crunched into a narrow space but it has to do with the inside.  When outside pressure comes, it has an effect on the inside, right?  You start to react to it, fear, anxiety, doubt, questions, dread, and you become victimized by a certain level of panic.  You lose your sense of confidence because the pressure is so great. 

Can pressure come on the outside that can cause you to be so compressed on the inside that you literally are led into fear and anxiety and it gets worse?  And then persecution.  This is abuse – abuse – and for the purpose of this argument by Paul, it would be abuse for the testimony of Jesus, physical suffering, mental suffering, things are really going badly for you now.  This is the worst-case scenario.  You got all kinds of issues on the outside crushing you in, they get on the inside and they begin to produce anxiety, fear, and dread and then it gets worse, outright persecution, digmos breaks out at the hands of Christ rejecters.  It gets extreme because famine follows.  You don’t get food.  You’re deprived, maybe you’re in jail, you’re in prison.  That is not the end of it, it gets even worse.  You’re in rags.  There’s no provision for you.  You end up naked, you need clothes.  It gets worse.  You’re in peril, you’re on the dangerous edge, and finally they start rattling a sword.  It’s the end. 

Can that do it?  That’s the worst-case scenario.  You’re about to be martyred.  You’re about to have your head hacked off.  Well, by the way, that’s Paul’s personal testimony, and it happened more than once that he got to the brink of peril.  And it finally happened that his head was cut off by a sword.  Can that drive you to doubt?  Can that drive you to reject Jesus Christ?  Can that drive you to turn away from Christ?  Turn away from God?  Can that do it?  And he quotes from Psalm 44 to say that this is kind of the experience that the people of God have had through history, not just us.  He’s quoting from Psalm 44.  There’s a plea from the people of God in the Old Testament for God to deliver them because they’re in distress.  “For Your sake we’re being put to death all day long, we’re considered sheep to be slaughtered.”  They were suffering in the past.  As you know, Israel suffered at the hands of its enemies many times.  Being connected to God can be a very dangerous situation.  It happened then, it happens now.  And when it happens, is that enough to shatter us?  Smash the seal? 

One of the wonderful treasures that I have is a original set of the Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.  Three volumes.  You stack them up, they’re that thick and they’re this big – huge things.  Foxe’s Book of Martyrs contains the testimony of literally hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people who went through that process that Paul just described here and ended up at the sword or the flame, burned at the stake, or myriad ways that they were executed.  And the books are a testimony to the fact that their faith did not fail – could not fail – because they had a faith designed by God, a supernatural faith just like yours. 

“In this you greatly rejoice,” Peter goes on to say, “for a little while if necessary you’ve been distressed” – there’s that same word – “by various trials so that the proof of your faith being more precious than gold, which is perishable, even though tested by fire may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  And then he says this:  “Though you don’t see Him, you love Him.”  Even then you love Him.  You don’t turn on Him, you don’t resent Him, you love Him.  You love Him all the way to death. 

Verse 37 sums it up:  “In all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.”  We love Him because what?  He loved us first.  No, there’s no circumstance that’s going to break this.  There is no circumstance that’ll separate us from the love of Christ.  There’s no circumstance that will separate us from the love of God.  There is no person who will separate us from that love, the love of the Trinity.  It is not possible.  There is no power that can shatter our faith.  There is no power that can break the seal of the Spirit.  There is no accusation against us that Christ has not paid for in full.  There is no higher court than God, and there’s no greater power than the secure power of the Holy Spirit.  We come out hupernikmenhupernika.  You get the word Nike from the Greek verb to conquer, to be the victor, super-victor, huper-victor.  We are more than conquerors; we overwhelmingly conquer, not in in our own strength, but through Him who loved us.  Through Him who loved us. 

Trial, no matter how severe, tests our faith and proves it true.  Therefore, it’s to our greater good and our greater joy, even in the most severe suffering.  It does something else.  It earns an eternal weight of glory in the life to come.  This kind of extremity/severity makes a nobler Christian here and a stronger Christian, not a weaker one, and one whose faith is firm and whose assurance is settled.  It’s the proof of your faith when it stands that test.  It proves you have the real thing, and that’s a gift of God to rejoice over, and it also leads to a greater reward. 

Paul wrote this while he was in Corinth in the winter, and he had no idea, nor did the church at Rome to whom he wrote, that a short time would elapse and then they would see him in this very situation.  He would stand in need of the very comforting truths which he wrote in this chapter because all the things that are written in the list, he would experience.  He would himself be this time killed by a sword.  And the readers in Rome would be caught up in persecution, men and women whose blood would soak the sands of the great Roman arenas and amphitheaters.  But the honor of Christ and the love of Christ was safe in their keeping because they were safe in His keeping.  They didn’t need to fear any of these things, including death.  They were mauled by wild beasts, they were soaked in tar and lit as torches, they fought with men and beasts and hell’s demons, but they were safe in the love of Christ, safe in the love of God, safe in the protecting love of the Holy Spirit.  Safe until they entered into glory. 

Paul ends by saying, “We’re super conquerors.”  And then there’s a beautiful closing refrain, verses 38 and 39, that almost shouldn’t be explained, it should just be read or sung.  For I am convinced – are you?  Are you convinced of this great truth?  I am persuaded, I am confident, I have come to a settled conclusion that neither death, the great enemy, or life with all its dangers and difficulties, its temptations and troubles, nor angels, holy angels, hypothetically, nor principalities, unholy angels, demons, nor things present, nor things to come, the here and now or the future, nor powers – that’s plural in the New Testament and when it’s used plural in the New Testament, the Greek form, it refers to miracles, mighty works, some supernatural power – nothing, so far, not death, not life, not holy angels, not fallen angels, not anything happening now or anything in the future, not any supernatural, mighty, transcendent power, nor height – that is a term that refers to a star at the apex of its orbit – nor depth, bathos – that’s the star at the lowest point of its orbit, nothing at the highest point of the universe or the lowest point of the universe – nothing, nor any other created thing, nothing in life, nothing in death, nothing in the world of angels, nothing in the world of demons, nothing in time, nothing in eternity, no miracle power, nothing on earth, nothing in heaven from the edges of space, nothing, no created thing in the entire created universe will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

Jeremiah 31:3:  God says, “I’ve loved you with an everlasting love.”  That, dear friends, is because we are kept by the Holy Spirit.  We need to worship Him for that gracious work.  Let’s pray.

Lord, we thank You that we have been able to look at the glory of our salvation in this wonderful way, through the ministry in particular of the Holy Spirit.  We know that Christ even went to the cross in the power of the Holy Spirit.  As we come to remember His death for us, we want to be grateful from the bottom of our hearts for this massive work of salvation that began in eternity past with election, went through the cross, out the open tomb, and is produced in us by the ongoing ministry of the dear Holy Spirit.  We worship You, O God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for this mighty work of amazing grace.  We thank You for it.  As we come now to remember the cross of Christ, cleanse our hearts, fill us with praise – praise as it should be offered to You, our great God.

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/90-429

VIDEO I Am the Resurrection and the Life, Part 3

John MacArthur Sep 28, 2014

For now, we open our Bibles to John 11.  The whole chapter is about one event, and that is the raising of Lazarus from the dead.  Lazarus was a member of a little family.  We only know three members of the family; Lazarus and his two sisters.  We don’t know anything else.  We don’t know a lot about them except that they were a host family to Jesus and that He had come to know them very well to the degree that He not only loved them with a spiritual and divine love, but He loved them with a personal affection because the Greek verb, phile is used to describe His affections for that family, and in particular, for Lazarus.

So He had gotten to know them.  They were a group of believers who believed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God.  They believed He was the one who had come down from heaven.  Martha gives testimony to that in the chapter verses 25 and following.  So this is a family that He had come to know and for whom He not only had divine love, the love that He has for His children, but for whom He had personal affection.  That drew out of Him, a very painful experience when He came to the tomb and stepped into the situation of all these people who had come around to mourn and weep and wail over the loss of this family.  Mary and Martha were weeping and sorrowful over the loss of their dear brother. 

Jesus stepped into that situation, and it wasn’t just them weeping; it was a huge crowd, chapter 11 tells us, of mourners there.  There would always be professional wailers, people who did that very well and sort of ignited the wailing.  Then there would be the legitimate weepers and wailers and mourners who were sorrowful.  They apparently came from many, many places.  In verse 19 it says, “Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother.” 

This particular initial sadness lasted seven days in the Jewish tradition, and then they would kind of go back to their own homes, but sort of commit themselves to being available for comfort and consolation for a period of at least 30 days.  This is a community event that is going on, and Jesus steps into it.  Lazarus has been in the ground four days, and by 72 hours complete decomposition has set in, as I laid out for you in our last discussion about it. 

Jesus arrives, and He comes to the tomb.  He is sorrowful.  He is sad.  There are verbs here that describe a kind of sorrow that’s really almost abnormal.  It isn’t just that He’s weeping because He lost a friend.  It isn’t just that He’s weeping because He sees the pain of these two ladies over the loss of their brother.  He’s not weeping because the community feels bad about it.  It is a kind of agony.  It is a kind of wrenching experience for Jesus that comes because He collects all the data that is visible in this event. 

He not only loses a friend in this; He not only sees that sorrow, but He’s able to process immediately the sorrow of every death in every human relationship in every human family.  He can project His omniscience to grasp all of human sorrow and suffering in the face of death.  Not only that, He’s surrounded by unbelief, a whole nation of unbelievers and even by the tomb and in the home there, a group of unbelievers.  So He’s literally engulfed in unbelief.  He also grasps the reality of death and eternal punishment and eternal judgment.

So this is an agonizing moment for Jesus, matched only by His agony in the garden where He comes into a face to face confrontation with sin, which He Himself will bear.  This takes His horror to another level, but here I think is the greatest agony in the life of Jesus up to this point as He faces the deadly reality and the eternal consequence of death and how far-reaching it is.  In the agony, He comes to the tomb and in verse 43 He says, “‘Lazarus, come forth.’  The man who died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth.  Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him and let him go.’”  And the curtain falls.  We don’t know anything more about that scene.  We have no further information.

Tradition says he lived another 30 years.  Maybe that’s true.  Certainly, he lived for a while.  This was not a temporary resurrection in that sense, in a human sense.  We don’t know anything about the reunion of Mary and Martha.  We don’t know anything about the shock and awe that must have just literally roared through the mourners.  We don’t know anything about that.  We don’t know anything about the conversations that Lazarus had after this.  You can imagine the questions. “Lazarus, where were you?  Can you tell us where you were and what was it like?”  Maybe, maybe he had the same response that the apostle Paul had when he had his trip to heaven in 2 Corinthians 12.  He was caught up into the third heaven, you remember, but he said, “I saw things too wonderful to speak of, and it’s not profitable to speak of them anyway.”

Paul had been to heaven, and nobody could get out of him what that was like.  We have no information.  Why not?  Because this isn’t about the psychology of reunion.  This isn’t about the rest of Lazarus’s life.  This isn’t about our curiosity of heaven.  What is this about?  Verse 4 says, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God that the Son of God may be glorified by it.”

All we’re interested in is the glory of the Son, and when He said, “Lazarus, come out,” and in a moment Lazarus was standing there, that’s the point of the story.  The rest is irrelevant.  In fact, in verse 40, Jesus says to Martha, “Didn’t I say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” and they did.  The purpose of this was to bring glory to God, and glory to God incarnate, the Lord Jesus Christ. 

So when the curtain fell last Sunday for us at the end of verse 44 and the scene ends.  So we pick it up in verse 45.  This is an important final section, final scene in this incredible drama.  But before we look at it, I’m going to tell you, this is the aftermath.  This is the effect.  Here come the responses, and they are predictable.  They are predictable because we’ve seen them all through the gospel of John and we see them all through the other gospels. 

But before we look at that, I want to remind you about a statement made by Peter.  Peter was preaching in Jerusalem in the temple, in the temple courtyard with the masses of Jewish people there.  It was his second sermon after the ascension of Christ, after the Day of Pentecost, after the birth of the church, the second great apostolic sermon.  He indicts the Jews with an astonishing accusation, paradoxical, ironic.  He says to them, “You killed the Author of life.  You killed the Author of life,” Acts 3:15.  Some translations say the Prince of life.  That’s the old traditional one, but it’s the word archgon and that means, “the author.”  That means, “The founder.”  That means, “The source.”

How ironic.  You killed the life giver.  We learned that from John 1, “In Him was life.”  John 1, “Nothing was made without Him because He made everything that was made.”  He says, “I am the resurrection and the life.  I am the way, the truth, and the life.”  He doesn’t give life.  He is life.  You killed the Author of life.  More ironically, Peter said, “And you desired a killer to be released to you.  You killed the Author of life, and you gave life to a killer.”  How bizarre.  That’s the nature of unbelief, and the crime has no parallel really.  It is without equal in its heinousness.

It had been the desire of the religious leaders in Israel and all who followed their lead to kill Jesus for a long time.  They’d been wanting to do that for years, a couple of years.  It now reaches a point where they cannot let Him live any longer.  This miracle is the final boiling point.  They can’t let it go any further, and so this raising of Lazarus, perhaps the week before the Passover, that close, triggers their desire to kill Him now and not wait, which is in perfect accord with God’s plan; because God wants Him to be the sacrificial Lamb the next week on Friday at the Passover.  They don’t know that, of course, but they’re not operating on their schedule.  They’re operating on God’s.  They had tried to kill Him many times before that unsuccessfully, but now after this miracle, which is the seventh great miracle that John chronicles in his gospel, after this, they can’t wait any longer.

In fact, it’s all sort of summed up as you note down into verse 47 when they call a counsel and they say, “What are we doing?  We’ve got to act.  We cannot let this man – ” verse 48, “ – go on like this.”  Completely oblivious to the fact that He raised a dead man on top of everything else.  Now remember, it is a radical claim for someone to say He is God and is to be summarily rejected no matter who says it with one exception – that’s Jesus. 

He said He was God, and then He demonstrated the truth of that claim.  Now, you have two choices.  You can believe or not believe.  When He said He was God, He was either telling the truth or lying.  You can look at the evidence and there’s plenty of it in the four gospels and the testimony of the rest of the New Testament and the testimony of the Old Testament leading up to it, and the testimony of the living church ever since.  There’s plenty of evidence that what He claimed is true, and there is no indication that what He said is false.  You can look at the evidence, but you only have two options.  You believe or you don’t believe.  There’s no third possibility.  There’s no safe middle ground. 

Luke 11:23 Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is – ” what? “ – against Me.”  And all the evidence demands belief, belief; all the evidence of Scripture.  Still, no matter what He did, no matter what He said, no matter how the evidence made the case clear, unmistakable, undeniable, they hated Him, the leaders did.  It was an aggressive kind of unbelief.  It was a hostile kind of unbelief.  It was a violent kind of unbelief.  They tried to stone Him to death in Nazareth after one sermon in His own hometown. 

They accused Him over and again of being demon-possessed, of being under the power of Satan.  They said He was a violator of the Law of God and a violator of their religious law and tradition.  They said He was a blasphemer.  They said He was a drunkard.  They said He was a friend of sinners, the low-life crowd who were outcasts.  They said His teaching was unacceptable, His authority was self-invented.  Everything that they viewed Him as being led them to the need to kill Him.  That’s the hostile unbelief.

There’s another kind of unbelief.  There were a lot of people who followed Him because of His miracles and they were curious and they were fascinated, and they were interested, and they even were healed and fed, but it was superficial.  They’re like the ones in John 6, who when He started speaking very clearly and very demandingly, it says that, “Many of His disciples walked no more with Him.”  There was that kind of unbelief that isn’t hostile.  It isn’t violent.  It isn’t angry.  It isn’t murderous.  It’s just indifferent.  It was that kind of attitude to which our Lord spoke in Matthew 11:20-24 when He said, “You’re in some serious trouble, you folks around Galilee because if what had been done in Chorazin, Bethsaida, and the cities around Galilee had been done in Sodom and Gomorrah, they would have repented.  You’ve seen enough to have a very high level of accountability to God.  You are in serious trouble.”

It’s not a safe place to be curious.  It’s not a safe place to be a nominal believer in Jesus, to feel sentimental about Him.  That’s a very dangerous place.  You might as well be hostile.  But there are those who were hostile, and those who were just curious or indifferent. 

Thirdly, there were those always who believed, who believed.  They were the few who found the narrow way.  They were the ones Jesus called, “the little flock.”  They were the 12 minus Judas, who left everything to follow Him.  They were those like Martha, Mary, and Lazarus who confessed that He was the Son of God, the Messiah, the one who came down from heaven. 

There were those who repented like Zacchaeus, like the Samaritans in the village of Sychar, like the royal official and his household in John chapter 4.  They were like the blind man in John 9 who believed, and then many in chapter 10, across the Jordan where Jesus went with His disciples and proclaimed His messiahship and many believed.  There were others. 

There definitely was a little flock of believers.  So these were the responses that we’ve seen in the gospel of John and they’re in Matthew, Mark, and Luke as well.  There is belief and unbelief, and two kinds of unbelief.  I guess maybe unbelief on a spectrum all the way from being extremely hostile to being only marginally curious, but it’s still unbelief.  As we come to verse 45 then, we leave the scene behind us.  The curtain falls, as I said, and we now meet these three groups.  We meet the believers.  We meet the violent haters, and then we meet the indifferent people. 

So we have here at the end of this chapter, a microcosm of what you see through the whole ministry of Jesus and actually what you see even today.  There are people, of course, now and you’re among them who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, there are people who are violently hostile to Him, violently aggressively hateful toward Him.  Then there is that massive people who have some sort of marginal, sentimental attitude; equally damning.

Let’s meet group one, verse 45.  “Therefore, many of the Jews who came to Mary and saw what He had done, believed in Him.”  Here is the “many.”  Let’s just call them the “many.”  They believed in Him.  Who are these “many”?  Back to verse 19, which I read earlier.  “Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother.”  Now, I told you this is a fairly substantial family.  They live in a town called Bethany two miles east near the Mount of Olives, around the side of the Mount of Olives.  Folks from Jerusalem can easily come.  They are sort of on a highway from Jericho to the city, which is traversed a lot, so they’re easy access.  People knew them.  They knew who they were. 

You’ve got not only villagers in Bethany, but you’ve got people coming out of Jerusalem to visit with them.  The indication is they were a relatively substantial family.  They show up later and show that they have some means.  I don’t know what the number is.  Maybe it’s dozens.  Maybe it’s multiple of 20.  Maybe it’s 100 or more.  I don’t know what the “many” is, but many mourners came, and they have been there now four days already, filling up the first seven days when everybody would be there.  Now the resurrection has happened, and the mourners are still there.  They have known the family.  They have known Lazarus.  They know he was dead.  They know he’s been in the grave four days.  They know what that means because Jews don’t embalm.  They get it. 

He comes out of the grave.  The miracle is so clear, unmistakable, undeniable.  Their hearts open to the reality that this is truly who Martha said it is.  He is the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who came down from heaven, God incarnate.  They also believe the way she believed.  We have to assume that theirs is a genuine belief because that’s what’s indicated in verse 26.  “Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.  Do you believe this?”  Martha says, “Yes, I believe,” and here we find in verse 45, “Many of the Jews believed.” 

We assume that the verb in the same context has the same significance and the same meaning.  They believed.  They believed, and rightly they should believe.  What would you believe if you saw that?  Clearly, they believed.  They had seen the glory of God.  They had seen the glory of God shining in the face of Jesus Christ, if you will, to borrow Paul’s language.  They’re convinced.  Now, not all believing is legitimate, but genuine belief is mentioned in chapter 1, verse 12, “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even those who believed in His name.” 

They believed and they were given the right to become children of God.  Their sins were forgiven.  They were redeemed.  They became the children of God.  They ceased being the children of the devil.  They are the believing many, many in a relative sense.  Many of the number that were there; not many of the nation.  Many of the number that were there.  They believed. 

There is a kind of believing that doesn’t save.  If you go back to chapter 2 of John, you will remember this.  In John 2:23, He was in Jerusalem at the Passover.  This is the beginning of His ministry, and many believed in His name.  Many believed in His name, “Observing His signs, His miracles He was doing.  But Jesus on His part was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men and because He didn’t need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.” 

He knew that the kind of believing that was in them was not sufficient to save them.  It wasn’t sufficient to make a genuine connection, and it’s illustrated in the next two verses.  “One of those who believed was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.  This man came to Jesus by night,” and he tells Him what they believed.  “Rabbi, we know you’ve come from God as a Teacher, for no one could do the signs unless God is with Him.”  They believed He was a Teacher.  That’s true.  That’s not sufficient.  That’s true.  That’s not enough.  He didn’t say, “You’re the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who came down from heaven,” like Martha did.

So there’s a kind of faith that is superficial.  It’s not enough.  It’s not sufficient.  We see it again in chapter 6.  Disciples following Him, listening to Him, who turn and go the other way and walk no more with Him, a superficial, temporary kind of belief, like the seed sown in the rocky soil and the weedy soil.  It never produces fruit and it dies.  In chapter 8, you see this same kind of thing again.  This may be more characteristic of the superficial indifferent group that we’ll see in a minute than anything. 

John 8:30, “Many came to believe in Him.”  Many.  Well, what kind of faith is it?  What does it mean to believe?  Jesus said to them, the Jews who believed Him, “If you continue in My Word, then you’re truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”  You’re not free from sin.  You’re not free from judgment.  You’re not free from everlasting punishment yet, but if you continue down this path, you will come to the knowledge of the truth that saves.  So there is a kind of faith that can be only initial, only a kind of beginning faith that isn’t sufficient to save. 

But in the case we have here, I think we have to interpret the believing here in the context of the believing that our Lord spoke of and saw illustrated in Martha early in the chapter.  There is here a wonderful thing going on.  Now, mark this.  We’re maybe the week before the death of Christ, and there’s a flurry of things happening to the souls of people.  Before Jesus came, a week before that, He had been beyond the Jordan and many were believing in Him there.  That’s what we saw at the end of chapter 10. 

So in the last weeks of His life, as He preaches the gospel and puts on display His sovereign power, many are believing.  Here, there’s actually a great encouragement of conversion and regeneration at the funeral of Lazarus.  That’s group one.  Throughout all of the history of the gospel and the proclamation of Scripture and the reading of Scripture, there will be those who believe.  The Lord has His people everywhere in the world.  He’ll draw them out of every tongue and tribe and people and nation.

Group two is the murderers.  Group one is the “many.”  Group two is the murderers.  They take up the bulk of the rest of this section, verse 46.  The Pharisees were very powerful.  They basically were the architects of Judaistic synagogue religion.  They had the power over the populous.  They had the control over the people.  They dominated the people with their laws and rules and Sabbath restrictions and restraints.  The people pretty much knuckled under the Pharisees.  If you didn’t do that, you got thrown out of the synagogue, and if you got thrown out of the synagogue you were a pariah.  You were cut off from all social contact.  You might as well be a leper. 

So everybody sort of took whatever abuse the Pharisees laid out in order to stay in the system.  Some of those people, some of those Pharisaical sycophants are there mourning at this event.  When they see what’s going on, they decide to report to the Pharisees.  So, verse 46, “Some of them went to the Pharisees and told them the things which Jesus had done.”  What did they tell them?  He raised the dead.  It’s what He did.  He went to the tomb.  Gave them the story, He raised this guy who had been dead.  He was really dead.  We know he was dead.  He raised him from the dead.  They gave the report.

They are concerned more about the Pharisees than they are about their own souls.  This is what false religion does.  False religion allows you to give up your own soul to please somebody who is the destroyer of your soul.  That’s what false religion does.  So they report.  They saw the miracle.  They described the miracle.  With a sinister intention, they tell the Pharisees.  Knowing how much the Pharisees hate Jesus already, and knowing that this is going to enrage them even further, but they’re complicit with the Pharisees because they’ve sold their souls to the devil. 

This is the hardness of the human heart in the face of literally overwhelming evidence.  Evidence means nothing.  Evidence means nothing.  Why do they hate Jesus so much?  Jesus said that in John 7, “The world hates Me because I testify to it that its deeds are evil.”  They hated Him because He told them they were evil, not evil in their sin, but evil in their religion.  Sure, evil in their sin.  Sinners can usually take that.  If you tell them they’re evil in their sin, they can handle it, but you tell them they’re evil in their righteousness, and they’ll hate you for it.

You see the depths of unbelief, the profound fortress of anti-God ideology and ideas in religion.  God had put His glory on display through His Son.  They didn’t see it.  So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, verse 47.  They called together either a sort of a quorum of the Sanhedrin or the Sanhedrin itself, which was the religious tribunal, the ultimate supreme court of Israel.  They called together a meeting of the chief priests.  They would be the Sadducees and the Pharisees.  This is made up of the religious elite, people with money and power and influence convening a council, and this is where they say, “What are we doing?  We have to stop talking.  Why – ” as they say in verse 48 “ – are we letting this man go on like this?  We’ve got to stop Him.” 

Do they fear the political implications?  Not in reality.  They just hate what He says.  They just hate what He says.  “What are we doing?  We have to stop talking.  We have to act.”  So, as John Calvin puts it, they come up with a plausible disguise.  They create a theoretical, imaginary disaster because they want Jesus dead.  They don’t believe this, but they invent it.  This is it: “For this man is performing many signs.”  Now, there you have it folks.  The testimony of the people who hated Jesus, that what He was doing was miraculous. 

Why are there liberals living now who deny the miracles when the enemies of Jesus who were there don’t even deny them?  Nobody denied them.  He’s performing many miraculous feats.  “If we let Him go on like this – ” here’s their thing “ – all men will believe in Him.”  That is political hyperbole.  That sounds like a politician to me.  Everybody will believe, and the Romans will come and take away both our place, and our nation will lose our position, will lose our power, will lose our nation.  Talk about a doomsday scenario.  This is the end of everything.  We can’t allow this to go on.  We’ve got to stop.  We’ve got to act or we’re going to lose it all.  This is an idea concocted as a pretense to kill Jesus for His teaching, which tore at the fabric of their system. 

By the way, this is the same exact thing they say to Pilot later.  “Well, if you don’t crucify Jesus, you’re no friend of –” who?  “ – Caesar,” because Jesus is going to lead a revolution, and it’s not going to make Caesar happy.  The apostles went to Thessalonica in Acts 17, and Paul and Silas are preaching in the synagogues, and Jews are believing and believing.  But some of the Jews didn’t believe, and they’re furious about what’s going on.  This happened in the synagogue with the Jews in Thessalonica.  They’re furious, so they start to go after the Christians.  They go to the house of Jason, and they drag him out of the house, and they’re starting this persecution, and how do they defend this bizarre behavior?  They defend it with these words: “They all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there’s another king.”  They stirred up the crowd.

The Jews doing the same thing long after this in the book of Acts saying the Christians are going to start a revolution and the Romans are going to come, and there’s going to be a huge conflict, and we’re going to lose our freedom.  They knew Jesus wasn’t a revolutionary.  What did Jesus say?  “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s.  Give to God what is God’s.”  Jesus never picked up a sword.  Jesus never started a revolution.  Jesus wasn’t anti-Roman.  Jesus didn’t try to free the slaves.  Jesus didn’t try to balance economics.  Jesus didn’t get caught up in social justice.  Jesus didn’t start an army.  He didn’t call people to defend Him.  He was meek.  He was gentle.  He was compassionate.  He didn’t go around killing people.  He went around making dead people live. 

They knew.  They knew, but this was a ploy.  We’ve got to create a massive potential scenario here so that we can justify killing Jesus, or else everybody is going to believe in Him, which again is another testimony to the validity of His miracles.  His worse enemies, the very people who really crucified Him using the hands of the Romans, believed in His miracles.  They had no other choice. 

So, Caiaphas steps up.  Caiaphas, despicable guy, who was the son-in-law of Annas.  Annas had previously been the high priest.  Caiaphas is in that office because Rome allowed him to be there.  He knows that.  Rome has the power to depose any high priest.  Now, if you go to the Old Testament, you can go back into instruction in the Old Testament Mosaic Law about the high priest.  It was an office for life essentially.  There are comments made in the Old Testament about what happens, certain things happened when a high priest died.  It signaled a significant event.  So the office of high priest in its primal sense was to be for life.  It didn’t always work out that way, but that was the ideal. 

Contrast that with the fact that Josephus tell us from the time of Herod the Great, just around the time we move from B.C. to A.D., Herod the Great comes in.  Between Herod the Great and 70 A.D. when Jerusalem is destroyed, less than 100 years, there are 28 high priests, 28 high priests.  This is a revolving door.  This is a power position.  This is a political position.  People are vying and buying and selling this position.  You even have references in the New Testament to Annas and Caiaphas both being high priest at the same time. 

It was supposed to be much more strict than that.  Caiaphas, as I said, was Annas’s son-in-law.  It sort of stayed in the family at this particular point.  But Caiaphas, this guy who was there because he’s not a threat to Rome, knows his position is only his as long as he pleases Rome, uses that as a ploy.  By the way, I think it’s interesting that it mentions a little later – I’ll comment more on that – but in verse 51, being high priest “that year.”  It’s just something about that “that year” that grabbed because “that year” was the final year of any legitimate high priest or any illegitimate high priest.  Why?  Because it was a week later or so that the veil was shredded and the priestly system was null and void.  He is the last of, I guess you could say, somewhat official high priest.

Now, this shows up as we follow the history that the office sort of declined and continued to drift and be bought and sold.  By the time you get to the 23rd chapter of Acts, the apostle Paul is called before the Sanhedrin.  It was many years later and he is confronted in this council.  It’s worth reading this.  “Paul looked at the council – ” Acts 23, “ – and said, ‘Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God to this day.’  The high priest Ananias commanded those standing by to smack him on the mouth.”  Wow, whack him on the mouth.  For what?  For saying, “I’ve lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God until this day.”

So this guy whacks Paul in the mouth.  Paul responds.  “God’s going to strike you, you whitewashed wall!”  You know, honestly, there’s something about that I like.  I just have to confess that.  “‘God smite you, you whitewashed wall!  Do you sit to try me according to the law and in violation of the law order me to be struck?’  But the bystanders said, ‘Do you revile God’s high priest?’  Paul says, ‘I wasn’t even aware he was the high priest.’”  Now that will tell you what the high priesthood had descended to.  He didn’t even know who it was.  He didn’t even know who the high priest was.  There shouldn’t even have been a high priest.  So whatever this thing was, it was high priest with lower case “h” and a lower case “p” and high only in the mind of whoever bought the office. 

So that kind of corruption starts with Herod, who appoints three or four of the early ones, and then the Romans appoint the rest.  One of them Caiaphas says, “You know nothing at all.”  That’s autocratic speech at its best.  You’re all ignorant.  Aren’t you glad I’m here?  “You know nothing at all.”  I’ve got the answer to everything.  “Nor do you take into account that it is expedient.”  He’s talking to the Sanhedrin, the elite.  “It is expedient – ” not just, not righteous, not correct, not right, but expedient, beneficial “ – for you that one man die for the people and that the whole nation not perish.”

“Don’t you get it?” he says.  It’s beneficial.  Under the guise of being a noble politician, under the guise of Jewish nationalism and patriotism, this unscrupulous man is trying to get rid of the biggest obstacle to his own power, popularity, and theology, and that is this Jesus Christ.  He wants him dead, and he says, “Don’t you get it?  If we don’t kill Him, we all die.”  Again, more political nonsense and hyperbole.  Either one man, Jesus, perishes or the whole nation perishes. 

So, the conclusion of the council is follow the wishes of the high priest.  Follow the wishes of the high priest.  That’s going to be the plan.  We’ve got to kill Jesus to save the nation or we’re going to have a revolution, and the Romans are going to come.  We’re going to lose our power.  We’re going to lose our nation.  They’re going to massacre us. 

So, look at the words again.  Verse 50, “It is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.”  Jesus must die to save the nation.  Jesus must die to save the nation.  If we kill Jesus, we save the nation.  How strangely true is that statement?  But not in the way that he thought.  The words of Caiaphas have a deep resonating reality of truth that he never even understood.  But notice the next verse, verse 51, “Now, he didn’t say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”

Do you know what this man did, this autocratic, self-exalting, dictatorial, brutal, sly, corrupt man?  He gave a clear statement on the substitutionary atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  He talks about substitutionary atonement.  He has no idea what he’s saying.  Not surprising.  God used the mouth of Cyrus to give a prophecy.  God used the mouth of a false prophet Balaam.  God used the mouth of Balaam’s jackass to speak for Him.  There are no limits to what God can do.  He had no idea what he was talking about.  He meant one thing, but God meant something different.

“There are many devices,” says Proverbs, “in a man’s heart, nevertheless, the council of the Lord shall stand.”  Or Joseph’s word in Genesis 50, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”  This is a divine irony.  By the way, nothing in Scripture says that the high priest had any prophetic gift.  Nowhere, no.  This isn’t an actual prophecy that he gave.  This is not that at all.  This is not a power that belongs to the high priest.  He said what he said.  It just so happened that God ordered every word and gave it a completely different meaning, but every word was correct.  This is a backdoor into understanding verbal inspiration, verbal inspiration.

An illustration, by the way, of how Scripture is given.  When the Bible writers write, they write their own words, but God controls their own words just as in this bizarre sort of almost anti-illustration.  He says his own words, but God orders every word.  So Caiaphas’s ignorant words, God declares the true impact of the death of Christ.  He will die to save the nation, but not physically, not physically.  Why?  In 70 A.D., they’re all going to perish in the Roman holocaust.  But spiritually, He will die for the salvation of that nation, and not that nation only, “But that He might father together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad in every nation.”  He died for the sins of His children all over the globe. 

Caiaphas’s ignorant, hateful, vengeful, trumped up words are absolutely true.  This gives us a foretaste of what it’s going to be like when we go through the rest of the Passion Week, how every single detail no matter who is doing what for what reason fits into God’s purpose.  He’s just a link in the chain begun by divine decrees until God fulfills His purpose. 

So, verse 53. “From that day forward, that day on, they planned to kill Him.”  Apparently, unanimous vote.  We have to kill Him, save the nation.  Caiaphas’s speech worked.  They decided to kill Him from then on.  Didn’t take them long.  Really didn’t.  They were amped up to put it mildly, and at the end of the next week, they were able to accomplish it in the purpose of God.

There’s a final group to add to these murderers.  The end of the meeting, what’s the final minutes?  What do they write?  Death to the life-giver.  Death to the life-giver.  What a climax.  “Therefore Jesus no longer continued to walk publicly among the Jews.”  He becomes an outlaw, has to escape at least for a few days until He comes back in the next week.  Went away from there to the country near the wilderness into a city called Ephraim.  It’s probably Ephron, which is a town mentioned in 2 Chronicles 13, about 12 miles north of Jerusalem.  So He got about 12 miles walk away, and He went there with His disciples for the days between that day, the raising of Lazarus and the day He came back to the house of Simon and met back with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, and came into the city.

That brings us to 55, which is the final group, the multitudes.  They were stirred by Him, but indifferent.  Verse 55, “Now the Passover of the Jews was near.  Many went up to Jerusalem out of the country before the Passover to purify themselves.”  The Levitical law laid out in the book of Leviticus, laid out in 2 Chronicles 30 requires all kinds of ceremonial cleanings before you can do Passover.  So they all come pouring in to do this prior to the actual Passover itself.  So they’re pouring into the city.   

They’re gathering in 56 as they were seeking for Jesus.  Why?  Because He was the focal point of the previous two Passovers.  He as the focal point of the previous Passovers?  Where is He?  He was the topic of conversation through the whole nation.  They were saying to each other as they stood in the temple, “What do you think?  That He will not come to the feast at all?”  They know how the leaders feel.  They are very clear about that.  They know He’s hated.  Of course, verse 57, “The chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where He was, he was to report it so that they might seize Him,” arrest Him.

What can I say about the crowd?  Curious?  Sure.  They knew about Jesus?  Yeah.  Fascinated with Jesus?  Right.  Where is He?  They want to see Him.  They want to see His miracles.  Do you think He’ll show?  He did show.  What happened when He came?  What happened?  Chapter 12 tells us what happened.  They shouted at Him in verse 13, “Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.  Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold your King is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.”  Wow, triumphal entry Monday.  By Friday, what were they crying?  “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!”  We’re going to live through all of that.

Those are the only options really when it comes to Christ.  You believe and all the evidence supports that you believe or you reject.  You reject with hostility and animosity and anger; or you reject with superficiality and indifference.  But there’s only heaven and there’s only hell.  Whether you reject Jesus with hatred or reject Him with sentimental good feelings, you end up in the same hell.  “You will die in your sins,” Jesus said, “And where I go, you will never come because you believe not on Me.”  Either you believing savingly on Christ or you will perish.  The question is the same question that Jesus asked Martha, “Do you believe?”  That’s the question. 

Father, we thank you for the time that we’ve been able to look at this really amazing chapter, and again end up where we always end up in the gospel accounts, facing the decision of all decisions, the choice of all choices; to believe or not believe.  I pray, Lord, that you will produce faith.  We know that faith is a gift of God.  It comes from heaven.  Lord, would you be gracious and grant life and belief to those who are dead in trespasses and sin?  May the realities of the claims of Christ and the evidence come to life so vividly and with such compulsion, and may the reality of heaven and all its joys and hells and all its horrors become real as well. 

May you open minds and hearts to go from either animosity toward Christ or indifference toward Christ to full faith in Him as the only Savior, the only hope of heaven. 

Thank you for the power of your Word.  We are told in the Scripture that the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit convinces us of the truth of Scripture, that the Holy Spirit testifies that we are yours.  And He testifies not above the Scripture, beside the Scripture, but through the Scripture.  We thank you again that the Holy Spirit testifies to the veracity of Scripture through the Scripture itself, through its self-evident truthfulness.  Again, we have seen that today.  Take your truth and pour it into us, and then out from us and use us for your glory.  We pray in Christ’s name.  Amen.

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/43-60/i-am-the-resurrection-and-the-life-part-3

VIDEO If it’s good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me

Larry Klayman notes that his Jewish grandfather knew how to ‘bring home the bacon’

My grandfather Isadore “Izzy” Klayman escaped from a small village near Odessa in the Ukraine just a few years after the Bolshevik Revolution. His father, Meyer, had been smuggled out of what then was part of Russia a few years earlier, and landed in Philadelphia, Pennyslvania, getting a job in a meatpacking plant as a butcher. Indeed, this was the family trade back in old country. Saving money, Meyer later sent for his wife, my great grandmother, Bubba Raisal, and young Izzy and his sister Rose, who as Jews would not have had a “guaranteed” long life expectancy in the USSR, given the intense anti-Semitism of the Communists and their historic persecution in Russia.

Given that my grandfather hailed from a peasant village, where birth records were not kept, Izzy, when he entered the United States at Ellis Island in New York City, did not know his birth date. When the immigration officer asked him to identify his birthday, he responded only: “Give me Christmas. If It’s good enough for Jesus, its good enough for me.”

My grandfather was a proud Jew, and at one time he wanted to be a rabbi. Instead, he continued the family trade in the food business, opening a grocery store and then a meatpacking operation, in which my father, Herman, and Uncle Benny Klayman partnered with him. It was called “I. Klayman & Co.,” and it grew into the largest independent pork-packing plant on the East Coast by the time it was driven out of business – brought about by the stupid wage-price freeze of Nixon’s economic adviser Alan Greenspan. At its end, the operation slaughtered over 5,000 hogs per day. You could say that my family knew how to bring home the bacon!

Years later I would quip when asked how and why I came to fight powerful deadly criminals like Bill and Hillary Clinton, whose administration saw the “fatal disappearance” of over 80 material witnesses to their myriad of scandals, that working in my family’s meatpacking plant as a youngster, where I was a “teenage butcher,” taught me how to “slice and dice.” To take on the criminals and the corrupt legal establishment in our nation’s capital for now going on 44 years, one has to be tough but also ethical and moral!

And that was my grandfather Izzy in a nutshell. To his dying day, he was a spiritually religious man. Indeed, as a young boy I would ask him about his faith coupled with the kind humanitarian deeds he did, not just for fellow Jews, but for everyone! As just one example, the blacks who worked at I. Klayman & Co. loved him, and despite being the boss along with my father and uncle, he would frequently go down on the kill and cutting room floors and work side by side with them, even when he did not have to – just to show his solidarity. He and my grandmother Freda, when they had their grocery store, would often hand out free food to the poor, even during the Great Depression when they themselves were on their financial backs.

This caring and generosity for mankind marked Izzy as a true disciple of Jesus. Indeed, when I would ask him at lunchtime breaks at the pork plant, when he would take me to eat with him at Horn & Hardart restaurant in the northeast section of Philly, if he believed in Christ, my grandfather would answer, “Why not? God can do whatever he desires.” For a Jew, albeit one with a pork business, to respond in this way showed me that our Savior was real.

Intellectually, I thus came to believe in Jesus myself, even with my schooling in Hebrew school, which was necessary for me to be bar mitzvah’ed at age 13, the time Jewish boys are scheduled to enter into adulthood. But it was not until Yeshua, the Hebrew name for Jesus, came to me on two occasions, during difficult periods in my life, that I truly became a Christian, albeit a Jewish one, much like our Savior, a simple rabbi born to Mary and Joseph in a manger.

I chronicle my becoming a Jewish Christian in my autobiography, “Whores: Why and How I Came to Fight the Establishment,” and in some of my past weekly columns in this fine and courageous publication.

And I am indeed blessed, because not many people have actually had the experience to have our Lord and Savior speak directly to them. But if people would open up their hearts to Him as my grandfather and later his grandson did, His presence would be experienced.

I have always believed in going directly to the source. And, while I respect rabbis, ministers and priests and try to listen respectfully to their teachings, my own way of praying is to transcend and talk directly to the Father and His Son. I do not need intermediaries. Each to his own, and as Izzy used to say, some people drive Cadillacs and others Lincolns, but they both will get you to the same destination if one is righteous and opens his heart.

Christmas, when the nation is on the ropes and revolution is just around the corner, as I write in my new book, “It Takes a Revolution: Forget the Scandal Industry!” remember that Jesus himself was a revolutionary. For starters, He and the Father destroyed the corrupt high priests and brought down the evil and oppressive Romans. Now with God and His Son’s grace and glory, we must take a pledge this Christmas Day to be Their servants and vanquish the radical leftists who would attempt to enslave us in a Biden-Harris regime.

Christmas reflects that Jesus is with us, and that we can overcome all with His and the Father’s Divine Providence, just as our Founding Fathers did, as inscribed in the Declaration of Independence, on July 4, 1776! But the Father and His Son will not countenance our sitting around watching and being entertained by the cynical and profiteering scandal industry on cable news. We must act ourselves to save the nation from the leftist barbarians, not much better than the Romans who crucified Jesus, who are now inside our gates and are bent on destroying us from within!

Listen to Larry’s recent podcast:

How to Handle Persecution, Part 1

Sep 24, 1972 John MacArthur

Okay, Acts, chapter 4. I’ve titled this whole chapter – really through verse 37 – How to Handle Persecution, and we’re going to just begin to dive into a little bit this morning, an initial statement through verse 12. And persecution, of course, is a very, very intrinsic part of the Christian picture, and always has been. And here we have some tremendous truths given to us in the example of the apostles as they handled persecution. Now, persecution was a blessing to the apostolic church, just as it is a blessing to all churches and all believers.

Five times in 11 years, hands were stretched forth to persecute the church in Jerusalem on an organized basis. And this chapter records the first of these persecutions, and really, the beginning of the persecutions of the church that are still going on today, some 2,000 years later. During the first 300 years of the church’s existence, or the first three centuries, really, there were ten persecutions of major proportions brought against the church. Beginning with Stephen and extending nearly to all of the apostles, death became the common way to go, if you were a Christian.

The first persecution, for example, broke out under Nero Domitius, the sixth Emperor of Rome, and about the time A.D. 67, which isn’t too long after the church began. And Nero contrived all kinds of punishments for Christians; he sewed some up in the skins of wild animals, and then turned hungry dogs loose on them. He used others, dressed in wax shirts and attached to trees, to be lit as torches in his garden. The next persecution under Domitian was perhaps even more inventive. Christians were imprisoned. They were put on racks, they were seared, they were broiled, they were burned.

They went through scourging, stoning, and hanging. Many were lacerated with hot irons, others thrown on the horns of wild bulls. In the fourth persecution, beginning in about 162 A.D., some Christians were made to walk with already-wounded feet over thorns, nails, sharp shells; some were scourged until their flesh was gone, others were beheaded, and so it went. Under the eighth persecution at Utica, 300 Christians were placed alive around a lime kiln and told that they were to make offerings to Jupiter or be pushed in. Unanimously they refused, and all 300 of them perished in the lime.

That was only the beginning of what the church has undergone, and Satan’s persecution, as time has progressed, has become all the more subtle than it was then. It’s not nearly as obvious how it is that Satan persecutes today. And incidentally, today, apparently much more successfully, Satan’s techniques are working. Now, our text records for us the first persecution. This is the beginning of the steady stream of persecution that has gone on since the commencement of the church. In one way or another, the Christian church is always under persecution. It is not always political.

It is sometimes personal. It is sometimes religious. It sometimes comes from illegitimate Christianity. That is the greatest persecutor of evangelical Christianity is probably liberal Christianity, at least in the American situation. In one way or another, then, the church has suffered persecution ever since what we’re going to see in Acts, chapter 4, began at all. And as I said, persecution is subtle today. It’s not what it used to be. Satan usually directs the persecution today not at the physical body, but at the ego.

He directs his persecution at pride, or acceptance, or status, et cetera, and it’s really very effective. He doesn’t threaten the Christian by saying, “If you witness, I’ll cut your head off.” He threatens the Christian by planting within his mind the fact that if you witness you might lose your job, or your status, or somebody might think you’re strange. In these days, persecution has a tremendous effect, in a very subtle way. The form of persecution in the early church made heroes out of those who died.

And it came to be such a normal thing for Christians to die that many Christians developed a martyr complex, and just went around trying to put themselves into positions where they could be martyred. I mean, they wanted to belong, you know? But today, the persecution that comes is more effective; it doesn’t make heroes out of anybody. And it’s a sad thing; while the church today is not being killed physically, the church has succumbed to a kind of living spiritual death.

I suppose the perfect illustration would be the church at Sardis, in Revelation, chapter 3, verse 1, which says “‘And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; ‘These things saith He which hath the seven Spirits of God’” – or the Holy Spirit – “‘and the seven stars’ – the ministers of the seven churches – “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.’” Satan has killed the church in terms of its spiritual effect, without ever having to kill the Christians in it.

In fact, by letting them all live in an insipid kind of godless Christianity, he has a greater effect than if he wiped them all out, and had to face the issue again that the seed of the church is the blood of the martyrs. And so, Satan, whose persecution in the past has slaughtered Christians physically, has found it much more effective to kill the church by making it complacent, indolent, fat, rich, socially oriented, and accepted. And insipid, as it’s watered down its theology to accommodate the world; much more effective than if all Christians were boiled in oil.

Now, there are some places in our world where persecution does reign, physical persecution. Even some places here in America. But one way or another, Satan is antagonistic to the church. He persecutes the church. Obviously, and flagrantly, and blatantly physically, or subtly, by the persecution to become involved in the world, to strip off that which offends, in order that you might maintain your prestige, your status, or whatever it is that you desire from your ego. Now, Jesus, in John, chapter 15, warned the church in the statement to His disciples that they might as well expect persecution.

In verse 18 of John 15, we read this: “If the world hate you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own.” You see, that’s why, John says, “Love not the world.” What happens when a Christian falls in love with the system is, the system no longer really is hindered by this guy, they are no longer offended by this guy, and Satan has accomplished a greater persecution than if you had taken that guy and killed him, physically, because he has destroyed his effect. In fact, he has made him a negative.

“If you are of the world, the world would love its own: but you’re not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” And they’ll persecute you. Verse 20: “Remember the word that I said unto you, ‘The servant is not greater than his Lord.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” Verse 2 of chapter 16, “They’ll put you out of their synagogues: the time comes when whosoever kills you will think that he does God service.” Religious persecution. So, there is always persecution. Jesus stated it.

Peter went on a step further, in 1 Peter 2:21, and said this – and this is an important statement. He, in effect, said we should expect it. “For hereunto were you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.” If you confront the world, the world will react violently, one way or another. Now, you may succumb to the persecution of Satan, so that you fiddle out and kind of get laid by the wayside, long before you ever confront the world, because you’re really doing that to save your ego from being persecuted.

But Paul said to Timothy, 2 Timothy 3:12, “You” – pardon me – “Yea, and all that live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Now, that’s a very clear statement. “Yea, and all that live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” You say, “Well, you know, I go along, and I don’t suffer persecution.” Read the verse again. “All that live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” If you’re not suffering persecution, why aren’t you? Because you’re not living godly in Christ Jesus, just that simple.

If you live the kind of life that God intends you to live in Christ, you will by the very nature of that life butt heads with the world, and when I say world, I mean the system. If you are not suffering some persecution, you have either fallen right into the flow of the system so that they don’t know the difference, or they haven’t discovered yet who it is that you really are; you have hidden it well. But you begin to live openly and godly in the world, and you’re going to bang heads with Satan, and with his establishment.

You begin to confront the world, and the persecution is automatic. Now, we see this in the early church. First of all, it looks so great. You know, we always say, “If you really live a Christian life, the world will be drawn to you.” Sure, they’ll be drawn to the beauty of your person, but as soon as they find out what it is, then, all of sudden, that which draws them to you – unless they come to Christ – turns to be a negative. The early church, for example, in chapter 2 and 3, everything looked real positive.

Chapter 2, the world was amazed at them, and they found favor with all the people, and everything looked great. And all of a sudden, they found out what it was they stood for, and everything shifted gears mighty fast. Now, in chapter 3, you’ll remember that Peter had gone with John to the temple, and there he had healed a lame man. A crowd had gathered together in the courtyard. Peter and John had stood in Solomon’s portico, up off the floor, a little bit, of the courtyard, and he and John had between them the lame man, and Peter began to preach.

And he preached a powerful message regarding Jesus as Messiah, or the Christ, God. And he indicted Israel for executing Christ. He closed with an invitation to them, in verse 19 “repent and be converted.” And he really let them have it. You see, he confronted the world. He stood up in the middle of their thing, right smack in their temple, where they were doing their religious duties, and he said, “This is wrong. You have blown it,” and he confronted them face to face. Now, that’s the kind of confrontation I’m talking about.

That’s the kind of confrontation that brings hostility. But that’s the kind of confrontation that God expects us to be involved in. It is not that kind of a mealy-mouth hiding, in order to protect our ego, our status, and our prestige, and our name among the world. The response to what Peter did was very interesting. Look at verse 4 of chapter 4, and we’ll kind of begin to look at our text. “But many of them who heard the word believed.” Now, that’s what we’re trying to effect. We’re not trying to hide, because if we hide, not only do we not suffer, but nobody gets saved, either; that’s the problem.

Sure, you say, “Well, if I do that, I’m liable to get really messed up.” That’s right. You’re liable to get messed up, and somebody else is liable to get straightened out, and your life is expendable, my friend; so is mine. True? My life is expendable for the sake of somebody else. As soon as I start trying to live to protect my ego, and to protect my status, and to protect my prestige, then my life has become self-centered, and it’s no good to God or to anybody else.

If I’m not willing to confront the world for the sake of the salvation of those in the world, then I don’t have, really, anything to offer God or anybody else, and I’m only kidding myself. Now, it says in verse 4 that “Many of them who heard the Word believed, and the number of the men was about five thousand.” Now, the word was about should be translated came to be five thousand men. That means this is the total of men; at this point, this is the membership roll of the church. This is the male volume, anyway.

And there are two words for men in the Greek, two really most dominant words: anthrōpon or anthrōpos, and that word has to do with man generically, man as a race. Then the other one is andros, or here, ton andrōn, plural. This means man as opposed to female, and it would be best translated males. And so, what it says is this, “And the number of the men came to be,” or “the number of the males came to be five thousand.” That means, in addition to that, they were probably at least another five thousand women, and children.

That’s a large church for such a fast beginning, and you never hear another listing of how many from here on out. It grew so fast from this point, that it got past the possibility of keeping an accurate count. But many believed, and that was the reaction. Now, that was worth the price that Peter paid. It’s always worth the price to confront the world, that God may do His work. If we never confront the world, we’d blow it, because it is to the world that we are sent with the gospel.

You say, “Well, I might lose my job.” Praise the Lord, so lose your job – who cares about your job? I mean, God can handle you. He can provide everything you need, and promises that He will. Now, this doesn’t mean you’re to be a lousy employee, and waste all your time preaching the gospel; you better reread Ephesians. You’re to work like you ought to, and give an honest day’s work for an honest day’s earning. But wherever you are in this world, they ought to know that you stand for Jesus Christ.

Now, let’s look at the text, and see two things: the persecution manifest, first of all, in the first four verses, and then the persecution met. And then we’ll look at the principles for meeting persecution, and just kind of look at a few of them this morning; we don’t have much time to look at all of them. And I’m excited about this, ’cause this is going to give you some practical things, some real tools, that you can use. First of all, persecution is manifest in the first four verses.

Verse 1: “And as they spoke” – while they were speaking – “unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them.” Now, the idea of “came upon them” is with anxiety, anger, to arrest them. I mean, they absolutely grabbed them; this is the point. This crowd had been gathered into the temple courtyard. They had seen the miracle, and the official people of the temple and Israel were really getting uptight about it.

And so in the middle of Peter’s sermon – really, it isn’t fully the middle, because he’s already wrapping up with his conclusion, but while he is yet speaking – they arrive at Solomon’s portico, and they grab them. They “came upon them,” it says. Now, I want you to see who’s involved in this. It doesn’t say, “Oh, the robbers, and thieves, and crooks in town,” and so forth, and so on. It says, number one, the priests, who were to represent God, which immediately shows you where the priesthood had gone; long way from where God intended it.

It’s interesting, too, that there were 24 courses of priests in the Levitical order, and there were so many priests that they divided into 24 courses, and of those courses, only certain priests ministered every week. So, when the priests were ministering in the temple, that meant it was their week, and you waited a long time for your week, and when your week finally came, it was a big deal. And least of all, did you want all of this commotion going on during your week, that you’d waited so long for.

And so here, in the middle of the week of these particular priests, all of this hubbub is going on, and they’re really concerned. This is religious opposition. And remember as I said earlier, persecution of the church often comes from religious groups, still even often from Judaism. All right, second person that we meet is the captain of the temple, the sagan, and this is the head of the temple police. Here is the political opposition. In some parts of the world, there is political opposition against the church.

In China today, there is political opposition against the church. In Russia, there is political opposition. Did you read in the Times the other day about the big hassle in Russia now, because so many of the Russian leaders are getting connected with religious groups. And now Russia is tremendously concerned to untangle these people, who are in important positions in Russia, from various religious groups. There are certain places in the world where there is political opposition, and that we get from the captain of the temple, who was the head of the temple police.

Now, the Roman government was very tolerant, but against disorder publicly, they were merciless. And so, he wasn’t about to get himself in a position where there was a riot, or he would really be in trouble. Then we meet the most important group, and that is the Sadducees. Now, you say, “What are the Sadducees?” Well, within the framework of Israel there were many groups. There were the Pharisees, and there were the Zealots, and so forth, and one interesting group was the Sadducees. Now, we don’t really know where that name comes from; some say from Zadok, but there’s really no way to tell.

But Sadducees were a religious and a political group, so they combined the worst of both in their persecution. They were the power sect in Israel. They were the religious liberals. They were the high priestly family; all the high priests at this point were Sadducees. They were the opposition party to the Pharisees, like the Republicans and the Democrats, with a religious flavor. They were the opposition. Now, the opposition of the Pharisees dominates the gospels, and the opposition of the Sadducees dominates the book of Acts, so both of them get into play.

It’s also very interesting that they were very wealthy. The Pharisees tended not to be wealthy; they tended to be extremely wealthy. They were also the collaborationist party. They were the ones who were always scratching Rome’s back for the mutual scratch, you know. They really didn’t care that much about the common people; they only cared about maintaining the status quo, and keeping their power and their prestige in Israel.

So they maintained a collaborationist attitude with Rome, kept on friendly terms with Rome, in order to maintain their prestige, power, and their comfort. They were a small group, very minority, but were greatly dominant in the political influence of Israel. They didn’t care for anything about religion, other than the fact that it was social custom, and so they were strict liberals. They were strict social religionists. In fact, I’ll give you just four points of their theology – won’t take more time than that.

We’ll get into it a little later in the book. But number one, they believed that only the written law was binding, and none of the oral tradition; that is, none of the rabbinical laws were binding, all of those things that the Pharisees lived and died by. Secondly, they believed there was no resurrection of the body, there was no future reward, there was no future punishment – a typical liberal line. Thirdly, they believed that the existence of angels, and spirits, and the spirit world, was a myth.

Fourthly, they believed that man was the master of his own destiny; that God was not involved in calling the shots, that there was no such thing as sovereignty or predestination, but man mastered his own fate. So here they are, the religious ranking liberals, the VIPs of Jerusalem, the bluebloods, and they’re the ones that come after Peter and John. And the reasons they did it are very clear in verse 2, and I want you to see them; it’s very clear. “Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.”

Now, I want you to notice the word grieved. Now, that sounds, in the King James, like “Oh, they were so sorry, they were so sad in their hearts.” But that is not what the word means. It is a very strong word, and it means they were thoroughly pained; they were in terrible mental anguish. It’s not the kind of sorrow that, “Oh, things are getting all distraught. What a sad day for Israel.” It’s the kind of anguish that’s based on indignation and wrath; that’s the word.

In fact, it’s used again, in Acts 16:18, where Paul saw the woman at Philippi under the power of an evil spirit, and he had the same kind of attitude. It’s an angry indignation. It’s not just simple sorrow. Now, they were really angry; this is standard bigotry, you see; they really got uptight. They got very disturbed, very indignant, very angry, and they had three reasons. Number one, let’s look at verse 2: “That they taught the people.” First of all, they were upset that they were teaching, Peter and John.

Now, you see they believed that they had the corner on all truth, that they had all right to teach, and nobody else had a right to open his mouth. I mean, that was all – that was the way it was. Theirs was the prerogative of teaching, and nobody else had the right, and least of all, to walk right in the temple where all of these teachers were, stand up, and teach contrary truth to that truth which they had been teaching. They were really upset because these two were teaching. Who were they to teach? They’re not approved.

And, interestingly enough, look at verse 13: “When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled.” They were unlearned and ignorant; now, that’s two interesting words, and you don’t get the total impact by just reading those words. Let me show you what it means. Unlearned means that they didn’t know the sacred writings and the Jewish law. They weren’t versed in Jewish theology. “These guys are not even Jewish theologians,” they said. “They’re ignorant of rabbinic law. They haven’t been to the proper schools. How can they know anything?”

You remember they accused Jesus of the same thing. “Who is He that’s saying all of this? He’s never been to our school. Where’s He getting His information?” And then Jesus answered, “I get it directly from God.” Oh, you know, school is a little extraneous. And secondly, it says not only were they ignorant in terms of Jewish theology, but the second word, ignorant, means that they are commoners; they are not professionals, they are strictly amateurs. “Who are these uneducated amateurs?” That’s exactly what they’re saying.

And to make it even worse, they were from Galilee, which, of course, was the ultimate in despising. And so, they had no right to step into the narrow world of the instructors, and stand up in the very temple, and teach doctrines contrary to their own. And they were mad, because they did not agree with their theology. Now, whenever you stand up in the face of opposition, and you proclaim a truth that they deny, you’re going to get in trouble, and so they were angry. They had every reason to be, from their perspective, because they needed to preserve their own position.

So, it bugged them that they taught, that they even stood up and taught. Secondly, it bugged them what they taught. Look at verse 2. They preached Jesus. They “preached through Jesus the resurrection,” but they were preaching Jesus, and that, they hated. They had determined that Jesus was a blasphemer, and here they were back, announcing all over town that Jesus was Messiah, and you all have killed your Messiah. Now, that is not real popular stuff. And you try announcing that today in the midst of a congregation of Jewish people, and you’re going to find some reaction.

Peter proclaimed, “Jesus is Messiah,” and he indicted the whole nation of Israel for missing the Messiah, and he got a reaction. So, they didn’t like that he taught, and they didn’t like what he taught. And thirdly, they didn’t like the resurrection idea. He “preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” He kept announcing that Jesus was alive. Well, that’s a fearful thought. I mean, if they have executed their Messiah, and He’s back alive again, that’s scary for them, because what would hinder Him from moving right out to bring about the vengeance that they would justly deserve?

And let’s be honest enough to think that they knew they were hypocrites. I don’t think they covered that up very well. I’m sure they knew they were hypocrites in their hearts, and they probably took a second thought, and thought, “Well, maybe we did blow it. Maybe we did execute our Messiah. Boy, if we did and He’s alive again, this is bad news. Better to shut these guys up.” Apart from the fact that the Sadducees’ theology did not permit a resurrection, which irritated them to death. And do they didn’t like the fact that they taught, and they didn’t like the truths that they taught, and so they reacted.

Now, watch what the results were in verse 3. “They laid hands on them” – and as I say, that is not to ordain them. “They laid hands on them, and they put them in custody in jail until the next day, for it was now eventide.” Three hours had gone by – they came here, remember, about three o’clock in the afternoon for the afternoon prayers, and by this time it’s at least six o’clock, which was eventide. So, three hours have gone by in this little incident, and they finally laid hands on them.

And I don’t know how many of those three hours Peter spent preaching, but nevertheless, they came to get them, and they put them in jail overnight. Now, that was the reaction, so the persecution began. But at the same time, I love verse 4: “Many of them who heard the Word believed; and the number of the males came to be five thousand.” Imprisoning the apostles didn’t nullify their effect, and it didn’t prevent the progress of the gospel, you see.

This was the first instance, which since has been so often repeated, in which persecution has only led to the extension and the establishing of the church. Rather than destroy it, it has brought it growth. If trial – watch it – and persecution on a personal level is God’s way of maturing a Christian – and it is, if you read James 1 – then trial and persecution on a whole church-wide level is God’s way of maturing His whole church, and building it up.

Persecution always results in growth – mark that. That has to be the beginning thing, because that’s your commitment to do what’s right, even if persecution is involved. Persecution results in growth for many reasons. Number one, it strips off all of the dead weight. If you’re a part of a group of people that are having to lay their lives on the line for Jesus Christ, then we’re only going to have people in that group who are willing to do that, right?

And part of the problem of the church today are all the tares that’s sown among the wheat, and the easiest way to get rid of the tares is just to make the wheat pay the price, or make the church pay the price of total discipleship. And the tares will just drop off, because they’re not really that committed, and don’t want to get that involved. And so, as a church is persecuted, it is purified. The waste is stripped off, false believers leave, the strong are left, and God works freely through them.

So, we see persecution manifest, and persecution purifies the church, and it greater – increases its effect to a greater degree. Now, let’s see how they met this persecution – just the first couple of points in our outline – and here are seven principles for meeting persecution. As I say, the first thing you’ve got to do is commit yourself to confront the world, or you’ll never have to run into the problem. Now, here are some practical things. These are really practical. In James, chapter 1, you know, he says, “Count it all joy when you fall into trials and temptations.”

That’s a wonderful opportunity to grow. That’s the way you grow, is by going through the test, you see. If we live godly in the world, we will suffer persecution. If we suffer persecution, we ought to be happy, because persecution will make us grow, and it will reach others for Christ, and that’s what we’re all about. True? But somewhere, you’ve got to make the commitment that you’re willing to do that; make your life expendable, rather than to hide and protect yourself. So, we look forward to persecution with great anxiety and great joy, for righteousness’ sake.

Now, watch seven principles in reacting to persecution. Number one, be submissive to it. If persecution comes, be submissive. Verse 5 – well let’s look at verse 3. “And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody.” Does it say, “They laid hands on them, and Peter and John hit back, and a brawl ensued?” Doesn’t say that at all. They laid hands on them, and they just put them in jail overnight. Verse 5, “It came to pass on the next day, that” – this is the morning, after they’ve been in jail all night – “the rulers, and elders, and scribes, and Annas, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander,” et cetera, et cetera.

“When they had set them in the midst, they asked, ‘By what power, by what name, have you done this?’” Now, you see no resistance in any of this. Now, this is more implied than stated, but it’s there. There is no resistance at all. Now, I’m not talking about a martyr complex that goes in there and says, “Yes, I’ll die.” You know, I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about trust in God. They didn’t resist it, because they saw in it God’s great opportunity, you see? This is tremendous. I want you to see this. They knew that their arrest was in God’s hands.

They had been obedient in the proclamation, they would be submissive in the arrest, assuming that since their obedience had brought them to that point, that’s where God wanted them to be; you understand that? If you’re obeying the Lord and you wind up in a mess, you can assume that God ordained the mess, so stick around; there’s something that’s going to happen in that mess. Now, if you get yourself in a mess in disobedience, that’s another – that’s a horse of a different color. That’s a whole different issue.

But if you have been obedient, and you have been confronting the world, and proclaiming Christ, and you get into a hassle, just praise God, and wait to see what it’s all about, and be submissive. Don’t fight back. Now, look at this, this is so interesting. Verse 5, they were – ”It came to pass on the next day, the rulers, and elders, and scribes” – they brought them into this – into a counsel – really the Sanhedrin. The scribes, the elders, and the rulers, along with the high priest, made up the Sanhedrin, and the Sanhedrin was the high ruling counsel of Israel.

This is the Supreme Court of the Jews. And even in the Roman times, they had the right to arrest. It had 70 members, and then the high priest was ex-officio president, so there were 71. And it included the priests and the scribes – you remember the scribes were the ones who were the experts in the law – and the elders, who were from the people. And then it included, in addition, the people from the priestly family, and they were really a motley bunch, to say the least. With this kind of leadership, it’s no wonder they had their problems.

Verse 6 introduces Annas, and you remember Annas, who was the high priest formerly, but had been deposed by the Romans. He was the senior ex-high priest, but he really ran the show. He was the power behind the scenes. In fact, when Jesus was taken in the Garden of Gethsemane in John 18, they immediately took Him to Annas, because Annas was really the power of the whole structure in Israel. He was a Sadducee. Now, he had a son-in-law by the name of Caiaphas, who was Roman- appointed high priest, and he was as bad as Annas was.

Then it says “John, and Alexander.” Now, it’s very difficult to know who they are; there’s no way to know. But it is interesting that Annas did have five sons, one of his sons named Jonathan, and some of the manuscripts read Jonathan instead of John, so it may have been his son. And some say that Alexander is a form of Eleazer, and Eleazer is a known son of Annas. So perhaps they were two sons of Annas, perhaps we’re reading into it; that, we just really don’t know. But anyway, they were of the kindred of the high priest.

They all gathered at Jerusalem. Now, they got together in their council and their Sanhedrin, and they brought in Peter and John. Now, this is a tough pill for them to swallow, because they’re still not rid of Jesus, you see. He’s still the issue. Verse 7 says, “And when they had set them in the midst” – now, that’s interesting, because they usually assembled – in the precincts of the temple, there was an inner place called the hall of hewn stone. And they sat in a semi-circle, and they faced the president, who sat out here, and they always stuck the prisoner in the middle.

So, when it says, “They put them in the midst,” that gives you a good idea, even, of the picture of Peter and John standing here, with a semi-circle of the 70, and the president behind them. Now, this is so exciting. Do you know what God had just done? God had just given them the wonderful opportunity to preach to the Sanhedrin. This is a good case of Satan overdoing it. Satan does this all the time. He gets himself into real trouble. By persecution, he opens avenues that are never opened any other way.

Do you know that there was no way that they could have set up an afternoon to present the gospel to the Sanhedrin? There was no way possible to preach to those men, except this way. That’s why I say in the design of God, to submit is the whole key. They submitted, and God put them right where He wanted them. It’s a fantastic thing. God allows them to carry their testimony to the Sanhedrin itself. What an opportunity. And precisely why we must be submissive in persecution.

In persecution, if you’ve been obeying God, and you’re persecuted for righteousness’ sake, then accept it, because God has a design in it, you see, that maybe could never be realized in any other way. Our resistance can thwart God’s plan if we resist at the point of persecution. There was no other way they could have gotten there. And thus, Satan, in his opposition, overreached himself, and as always, God has a way of taking Satan’s best efforts and turning them to His glory. All right, then it says that once they got them in there, they then asked the right question.

God set the stage so perfectly. “By what power or by what name have you done this?” What a set up; what a question. In fact, it is indicating in the linear tense that they kept on asking them. They kept asking them. “Come on now. Come on. Come on, tell us.” And it just may be that Peter was saying, “Well, I don’t know if we ought to say anything about it.” And he just waited until they egged him on, and then he said it. That’s possible; not necessarily true. But anyway, they kept on asking him, and they said, first of all, “By what power?”

In other words, they may be a contempt in that question; what magic are you using? But the second question, “By what name?” has to do with by whose authority. A name represented authority; “In whose name do you do that? By whose – who gives you the authority to heal people, and to teach the way you do?” And so, they asked a simple, straightforward question; just exactly the question that set the stage for Peter to preach. Now, I want you to see how their submission at this point is the key to everything.

If we submit in persecution, we’ll find ourselves in the place that God wants us to be. Listen to what Peter says. In 1 Peter – and Peter was there, so he may have been reflecting on some of these things. 1 Peter 4, verse 12: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to test you, as though some strange thing happened to you” – I mean, you’re confronting the world, you’re sure to get it. “But rejoice, inasmuch as you are partakers of Christ’s suffering; that, when His glory shall be revealed, you may be glad also with exceeding joy.

“If you be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you: on their part He is evil spoken of, on your part He is glorified.” You see, in this, this kind of thing, God desires to gain glory. And I love verse 19: “Wherefore let him that suffers according to the will of God commit the keeping of his soul to Him in well-doing, as unto to a faithful Creator.” Just say, “Hey Lord You got me into this; here I am. You better take care of me,” and God will be glorified in it.

You see, if you let this happen, submit to it, then the glory of God is a possibility. Second principle – in dealing with persecution, be submissive to it – secondly, be filled with the Spirit, verse 8: “Then Peter” – what’s the next word? – “filled with the Holy Spirit, said unto them.” Now, you see, the key to anything in the Christian life is the power of the Holy Spirit, right? And Peter at this point has yielded to the Spirit of God. It’s an aorist passive. It indicates, perhaps, that he was already ready, because he was already filled with the Spirit.

Now, we’ve talked so much about the filling of the Spirit. If you are at all confused about what that doctrine has to say to you, then you can get the tape on Ephesians 5:18, or the one on Acts Chapter 2, the very beginning, and we have an explanation of that in there. But let me just say this. Some have thought that the filling of the Spirit is a kind of a trauma, or a kind of a mourners’ bench experience, or a kind of an emotional thing. It is not. The filling of the Spirit is not the result of lengthy prayer.

It is not the result of an emotional experience. It is not the result of some kind of a highly exciting spiritual activity. The Spirit – the filling of the Spirit is simply when a believer walks in obedience to the Word and the Spirit, you see. Peter had already taken the steps to be Spirit-filled, because he was obedient. He had preached, and he had submitted as God had brought the persecution, and that was under the control of the Spirit, at that point. That’s why it’s an aorist passive; it had already been done. It is simply submission, is all it is.

It’s, “Here I am. What a wonderful opportunity; I submit to you, Spirit. Whatever You want to do through me, do it.” The Spirit-filled life is just that; it is yielding everything to the full power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Every Christian has within him the Holy Spirit. He is there to power us, and as we yield to His power, that power is released, and Peter knew that there is no way he’s going to get victory over this problem unless he was yielded to the Spirit of God. You say, “Well, if I was there, I probably would have fallen over in fear.”

Well, that’s possible. But instead of falling over in fear, Peter just leaned his whole weight on the Holy Spirit. There’s no other way for victory. And folks, at this point, without the other five steps to victory, Peter is already guaranteed victory. Once he had turned this into that kind of thing, he had won the victory. Because what? If this experience had caused him to yield to the Spirit of God, then it’s a plus; would you buy that? Anything in my life that causes me to be filled with the Spirit is a good thing, it’s a victory, is it not?

Step number two, Peter has already got victory, because you know what happened? This persecution came, and it drove him closer to the Spirit of God. That’s victory. He was filled with the Spirit. At this point, the whole thing had drawn him to the Lord, completely yielded to His will. That is victory. And I’ll tell you something, this is what’s missing in the church today. This is why the church isn’t victorious over its persecution, because they’re not really leaning on the Spirit of God.

When somebody comes at you, and persecutes you, you get uptight, you run and hide, instead of standing firm, and yielding to the Spirit, and saying, “What’s your design? I submit to this.” You say – you tend to back off, you know, “Wrr, wrr,” see. Or if we know there’s something offensive about our gospel, or offensive about what we believe, we tend to delete it, and we talk in little innocuous, religious platitudes, so we don’t offend anybody.

Because we’re afraid, instead of boldly saying what we know is right, and then yielding to the Spirit of God and watching Him work, we are defeated, first of all, by the failing to say what we know is the truth, even though it offends. Because if it doesn’t offend, you might as well not say it, because you need to offend people, so you can show them they’ve got a problem. But after that, we fall apart in fear, and we make sure that we avoid the issue from then on.

That’s a backwards thing, but when the church is Spirit-filled, then it is going to be uncomfortable in the world, but it is going to be victorious. Today the church is comfortable; it is not Spirit- filled, it is defeated. Peter and John found themselves out of step with the going pattern of belief. They collided hard with it, and they didn’t run and hide. They stood there, they submitted, they were filled with the Spirit, they were victorious. You better be out of step with the world. You better be marching to the beat of a different drum.

You better be a constant thorn in the side of somebody in the system. You better be violating incessantly the selfish, godless, immoral, materialistic, indulgent society you live in, so that you do collide with it; or you really have no reason to exist. So, they were submissive, and they were Spirit filled. And thirdly – this is good – the third principle of victory is boldly, they used it as an opportunity. This is terrific.

Verse 8: “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said unto them, “You rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, if we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he has made well; be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead” – which, of course, sets them at the opposite ends from God again, and which he does all the time. “Even by Him doth this man stand here before you well.”

Boy, that is powerful stuff; here he goes again. Filled with the Spirit, he uses the persecution as an opportunity for a bolder testimony. Instead of getting persecuted, and then clamming up, or falling apart, he just says, “Well, let me tell you what it was that I was saying, so that you will really clearly understand it. I said Jesus is Messiah, and you crucified Him. And God had to raise Him again from the dead.” Now, apparently in this message, which is only 92 Greek words, it embodies all of the apostolic preaching characteristics.

It’s got it all; the indictment of rejection, the presentation of Jesus as Messiah from an Old Testament text, and then a good note about the resurrection. It’s all there, and it’s even got a closing invitation, in verse 12. And in verse 9, he says – he starts to preach in verse 8. In verse 9, he says, “If we this day be examined of the good deed,” isn’t that interesting? In other words, he establishes to begin with that there’s injustice, because what is the thing that they’ve just done? What does he call it there in verse 9? A good deed.

He just makes sure they understand that they’re doing unjustly. He establishes the injustice of the persecution by stating that all they had done was a good deed. It certainly wouldn’t be evil to heal a lame man, would it? If you want to know what it’s all about, verse 10, “Be it known unto you all” – and then he announces – “to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth” – and you could just see them go, uck, you know – “whom ye crucified” – and then the anger begins to seethe – “whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here before you well.”

Now, that is boldness, friends. I mean, they – he put his head on the block. He put his life on the line. In the very citadel of the enemy, he proclaims the living Christ to them who killed Him. “Your own Messiah did this, Jesus of Nazareth, whom you killed, and God raised.” And he always puts them at odds with God, ’cause they always thought they were plugged into God, see. He constantly does that. And so even in the presence of the Sanhedrin, he doesn’t back off at all on the resurrection.

He doesn’t back off at all on the indictment of Israel for executing Christ. Let me give you a principle. Never, never, never accommodate the gospel by deleting what offends somebody. You need to major on what offends them; that’s the point. And so, Peter doesn’t back off, and they knew they were spiritual hypocrites, and the lingering fear that perhaps He was Messiah must have begun to eat inside. And then, as if to dig a deeper hole for them, he says this. In verse 11, he quotes Psalm 118:22, right out of their own prophecy.

Because their question was, “Well, if this is the Messiah, He wouldn’t be dead and brought back again. We don’t see that.” And so, he quotes, “This is the stone which was set at naught of you builders, which has become the head of the corner.” “You know, your own Psalm 118:22 said there would be a stone to be the cornerstone, but the builders would reject it, but it would be brought back to be the head of the corner. That’s a prophecy of the death, resurrection of Messiah. It’s right there. You’ve got it all.”

Buildings had cornerstones. In fact, they’ve found some from the original temple – or one of the temples, I should say – that measures 38 feet in length. They would run up to the corners. They were tremendous things. And one that wasn’t perfect would be thrown away, because everything else would be imperfect all the way up. They had to have a perfect cornerstone. And so the prophecy simply says Jesus will be the cornerstone, but the builders would reject it, thinking it imperfect, but God would bring it back, and make it the corner.

That’s exactly what happened with Jesus. They threw it away. “That’s not our cornerstone.” God raised Him from the dead, and stuck Him right back in, created a new temple – Ephesians 2:20 – the church. And in Matthew 21:42, our Lord even claimed to be that stone. And in Romans 9:31-33, Paul said He was that stone. And then his invitation comes powerfully in verse 12: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

People always say, “Well, you can get saved a lot of ways.” We were in Israel, went up to Haifa, and they’ve got the Bahaism Temple up there, and it has nine doors to God: Muhammadism, Confucianism, Buddhism, every kind of ism there is. And that isn’t true; there aren’t nine doors to God. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father” – what? – “but by Me.” There is no other name. There is no salvation in any other. There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.

And Peter is saying, in effect, “People, if you don’t turn to Jesus, you will be damned. There is no other way.” People always accuse Christians of being narrow. We’re not narrow, friends; any more narrow than the word of God. Unfortunately, the word of God is the most narrow book ever written. It’s always right, and never wrong, and anything that contradicts it is wrong. It is only in His name. They said to them – they said to him, “Who healed that man?” And he said, “Jesus did.” And he uses the same word for healing the man that is used when it says it made him well.

How did you make this – the end of verse 9. “What means he is made well,” is the same word as salvation, and so he does a play on words. This man was physically healed by Jesus, and you’ll never be spiritually healed, unless it’s by Him. He’s the only way. There’s no salvation in any other. The word salvation means deliverance from sin. No other name, no other name. I close with this, very quickly. In February 1959, at the South Pole, 17 men in Operation Deep Freeze Number Four, took their spare time and built a 16-foot-square chapel.

And on that chapel they put a sign, called The Chapel of All Faith. The structure contained an altar, over which they had a picture of Jesus, a crucifix, a Star of David, and a lotus leaf representing Buddha. The inscription on the wall read, “Now it can be said that the earth turns on the point of faith.” An all-faiths altar was recently dedicated at a university – it’s called an inter-religious center – at one of the Midwestern universities. The altar, it revolves. One is for Protestant, one for Catholic, one for Jewish, and then there’s one miscellaneous that’s adaptable to any religion.

That’s just exactly what the Bible says is so wrong. It would have been very easy for Peter and John to have mumbled innocuous platitudes about religion, and won the smiles of all, and the early church would have been immediately acquitted from the world’s hatred by a reasonable, broad-minded, downgrading of Jesus Christ. But not so, not so. This is it. Be submissive, be Spirit-filled, and boldly use it as an opportunity to preach the gospel. That’s the first three ways to be victorious over persecution.

Let’s pray. Father, we thank You this morning for teaching us from Your book the truths You want us to learn. Seal them to our hearts, and us to thy use. We’ll give You the glory and the praise for it, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

END

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