An Excellent Wife

August 21, 2022 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Marriage, Meditations

Proverbs 12:4 

4An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, But she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones. 

The Proverbs direct us in the way of wisdom and teach us what it is to imitate the character of our Lord and Savior Jesus. Even as Proverbs 12 has contrasted those who love instruction with those who hate correction and the good man with the wicked man, so today it contrasts an excellent wife with a shameful wife. 

The Scriptures extol marriage as one of the greatest gifts that God has given to humanity and an excellent wife as one of the greatest gifts that God gives to an individual man. “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord” (Prov 18:22). “Houses and riches are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord” (19:14). Marriage is among God’s greatest gifts to humanity because it is “a great mystery” (Eph 5:32) that symbolizes the relationship between Christ and His Church. The husband images Christ while the wife images the Church. Wives, therefore, are called to reveal in their lives the way that the Church relates to Christ Himself. As Paul writes to the Ephesians:

22Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. 

An important biblical distinction is between indicatives and imperatives. Indicatives are statements of fact while imperatives are commands. “Christ died for sinners” is an indicative. “Believe in Christ for the forgiveness of your sins,” is an imperative. So note in Paul’s instructions that we have both an indicative and an imperative.

The indicative is “the husband is the head of the wife.” This is the way that God has structured the marriage relationship. God created the woman to be a helper comparable to the man – to assist the man in fulfilling his calling to fill the earth and subdue it. So if you are a wife this is your identity. It is not an imperative, it is an indicative: your husband is your head. Hence, God united you with him to be a helper comparable to him – to assist him in fulfilling his calling to fill the earth and subdue it. That is his calling; your calling is to help him achieve it.

So what is the imperative that emerges from this indicative? Paul is very clear. “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Now the Greek behind this word “submit” means “submit.” Paul clarifies later, “Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” So how does the Church submit to Christ? By listening to Him, honoring Him, obeying Him, praising Him, respecting Him. If you are a wife, it is in this way that you are to relate to your husband – you are to submit to him as to the Lord, and to be subject to him in everything. Listen to him about the finances, training the children, relating to your friends, cleaning the house, working outside the home, etc. Now all this entails, husbands, an immense responsibility on your part to rule your household as would Christ Himself who is the head and Savior of the body – sacrificing for the protection and blessing of His bride. But our text today speaks to wives not husbands.

So, wives, you are to extol the beauty of the Church in the way you relate to your husband. Such a wife, a wife who clearly honors and respects and submits to her husband, is an excellent wife and, Proverbs declares, the crown of her husband. She demonstrates that her husband is a true king, capable of ruling his family and the world under God.

But, Proverbs insists, a shameful wife is rottenness to the bones. A wife who disrespects her husband, who scorns him in public and in private, who manipulates and cajoles him, who nags and berates him, who refuses to listen to his voice is rottenness to the bones – wearing him down, increasing his stress level, and undermining his ability to accomplish the tasks to which God has called him. He is weakened – and when a storm comes he will likely break just like a rotten branch or tree.

So what of you? If you are a wife, are you striving to be an excellent wife, a crown of glory on your husband’s head, enabling him to fulfill his calling? Or are you a shameful wife, rottenness to his bones, inhibiting his ability to do what God has called him to do? Reminded that our marriages are to extol the relationship between Christ and His Church and that many of us husbands and wives have failed to live up to our callings, let us confess our sin to the Lord.

A Good Man

August 14, 2022 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations

Proverbs 12:2–3 

2A good man obtains favor from the Lord, But a man of wicked intentions He will condemn. 3A man is not established by wickedness, But the root of the righteous cannot be moved. 

The Proverbs direct us in the way of wisdom and teach us what it is to imitate the character of our Lord and Savior Jesus. Last week Solomon contrasted those who love instruction with those who hate correction. This week he contrasts a “good” or “righteous” man with a “wicked” man. 

Now, on one level, the Scriptures tell us that “there is none righteous, no, not one… There is none who does good, no, not one” (Rom 3:10b, 12b). We have all turned aside and by nature both our actions and our motives are corrupt. Apart from God’s grace, we all have, in Solomon’s words, wicked intentions. The two greatest commandments are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Hence, we are to do everything we do – changing diapers, building houses, fixing cars, teaching children, managing investments, running electrical wire – we are to do everything we do with good intentions – out of love for God and neighbor. 

However, by nature, we none of us live that way. We worship idols and love ourselves more than our neighbors. We justify lying or cheating or stealing; we break our vows, mistreat our children, and dishonor our parents; we do shoddy work, use foul language, and commit adultery because we do not live from love of God and neighbor. Hence, we endure God’s condemnation in this life and the next – our conscience afflicts us, our bodies betray us, God’s moral law condemns us, and Jesus Christ will judge us when we die and appear before His judgment seat. A man is not established by wickedness.

Nevertheless, the Scriptures also teach that when God saves us and delivers us from our natural corruption through faith in Jesus, when He turns us from the worship of idols to the worship of His Name, He begins to transform our character. As we have been emphasizing recently, we become like what we worship. And so, because the God we worship is a good God who upholds righteousness, those who worship Him become good men who likewise uphold righteousness. 

As we learn to live this way, as we learn to become good men who uphold righteousness, we obtain favor from the Lord (12:2). God is pleased with us. So Paul prayed for the Colossians that they “may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col 1:10). As we learn to fulfill the two greatest commandments – to live out of love for God and neighbor – we please God. And because we trust in the Lord and walk in obedience to His Word, Solomon insists that we cannot be moved. Even if we suffer for righteousness’ sake, we are blessed (cf. 1 Pet 4:16). And when we die and enter into the presence of our Lord, He will say to us, “Well done thou good and faithful servant… Enter into the joy of your Master” (Mt 25:21). The root of the righteous cannot be moved. 

This contrast between the good man and the wicked man recalls Psalm 1. The good man is like a tree planted by streams of water whose leaf does not wither and in whatever he does he prospers. He meditates on God’s law and lives out of love for Him. His roots absorb water from the everlasting fountain of God’s grace and so he flourishes even in times of drought or trial. But the wicked are not so. They are like the chaff which the wind drives away; therefore, the wicked shall not stand in the day of judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

So what of you? Are you sinking your roots deep in our Triune God and in His word so that you can stand firm in prosperity and trial? Are you being intentional about living out of love for God and your neighbor? Or have your loves become disordered? Are you loving self more than your neighbor and loving your neighbor more than God? 

Reminded that we are to be good men who live righteously out of love for God and neighbor, not wicked men with wicked intentions whose loves are disordered, let us confess that our intentions are often corrupt and that we need God to forgive us and transform into His image, into the image of our good God who upholds righteousness

Instruction & Correction

August 7, 2022 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations, Wisdom

Proverbs 12:1 

1Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, But he who hates correction is stupid. 

The Proverbs direct us in the way of wisdom and teach us what it is to imitate the character of our Lord and Savior Jesus. Today we begin a series of exhorations through Proverbs 12. In v. 1, Solomon contrasts two types of men, men who are characterized by their loves and hates.

It is important to emphasize that love and hate are not, in themselves, virtues or vices. Though we often think of love as inherently virtuous and hate as vicious, the truth is that their praiseworthiness is determined by their object. To love Jesus; to love your wife and children; to love Scripture; to love truthfulness – all these loves are virtuous. However, to love wickedness, to love deceit, to love cruelty – these loves are perverse. Similarly, while it is vile to hate God, to hate the righteous, to hate truth and goodness and beauty, it is praiseworthy to hate deceitfulness, murder, covetousness, and sushi. God summons us, therefore, to be men and women and children who both love and hate – who love what is lovely and hate what is vile. 

So, on the one hand, Solomon lauds the man who loves instruction. So what does it mean to love instruction? I think we know. Kids, if you have a friend who loves pizza or loves soccer or loves Xbox, what does that mean? It means that your friend can’t get enough pizza, that he eagerly plays or watches or studies soccer games and scores, that he regularly seeks opportunities to play Xbox with his friends. So what would it mean to love instruction? It means he is eager to learn more and more. He readily listens to those wiser and more knowledgable than him. He cultivates a listening ear and an inquisitive heart. He wants to learn more of God’s Word, more of God’s world, more of his occupation. So he reads, he listens, he watches, he asks questions all in order to learn. This person, the one who loves instruction, likewise, Solomon tells us, loves knowledge. He grows in knowledge because he loves instruction. Tell me more; give me more; I want to grow.

On the other hand is the man who hates correction. This man thinks he knows it all. He is proud and unteachable. He refuses to listen to those wiser than himself. He closes his ears. “Yes, I know, I know,” he says even though it is evident that he does not. This man, Solomon tells us, is stupid. He is like a beast not a man. 

So what of you? Do you love instruction? Do you look for opportunities to learn? Let’s say you don’t know much about the Bible – are you striving to learn more, reading more, listening more? Let’s say you’re a new parent – are you asking seasoned parents for wisdom, reading good books, listening to good teaching? Let’s say you’re married – do you love to learn more about what makes a good marriage and how to make your marriage grow and flourish? Let’s say you’re an employee – do you strive to learn more about your job so that you can bless your employer more and more? Do you love instruction or do you hate it?

Do you hate correction? When your parents correct you, do you listen and repent or do you become sullen and angry? When your boss criticizes your work, do you listen and strive to get better or do you think you know it all? When your husband exhorts you, do you listen or do you become bitter and resentful? When your elders correct you, do you listen or do you just pack up your bags and find another church? Do you love correction or do you hate it?

Reminded that we are to love what is lovely and hate what is vile, let us confess to the Lord that our loves and hates are often disordered and distorted. Let us acknowlege, in particular, that we often hate instruction and correction, that we are stupid creatures. And as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Neither a Revolutionary, Nor a Demagogue

June 26, 2022 in Bible - NT - Luke, Meditations

Luke 12:13–15 

13Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” 15And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” 

Our text today reveals that Jesus was neither a revolutionary leading an uprising nor a demagogue courting popular opinion. “One from the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.’” This man presented Jesus with an ideal opportunity to rile up the crowd. After all, money always gets people excited. Jesus could have used this request as a springboard to denounce the excessive nature of Roman taxation or the injustice of the inheritance laws. “Let us rise up; let us protest; I’m your man! Follow me!” But Jesus was neither a revolutionary nor a demagogue. The man in the crowd had misjudged Jesus.

Instead Jesus speaks bluntly to this fellow, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” Jesus reminds the man that there was a lawful way for him to handle his complaint – and that lawful way was to appeal to the magistrates, to appeal to the courts who would decide in such cases what was good and just. But courts take time and courts have rules – and this man wanted to supercede that process. He wanted to rile up the crowd. He was a revolutionary. But Jesus was not. 

Neither was He a demagogue – for notice what Jesus does next. He addresses Himself to the multitude: “Take heed,” He declares, “and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses.” Jesus exposes the sin that was at the root of this man’s request and that is often at the root of our drive to revolutionary action: covetousness, envy, greed, the desire to possess that which lawfully belongs to others. Our politicians regularly use such envy as a tool to propel themselves into power. “Tax the rich; take from those who have more! We’ll make your brother divide that inheritance with you! He shouldn’t have so much! That’s not fair!” But Jesus exposes the origin of all this demagoguery; He exposes the sin at its root: covetousness. Jesus was no demagogue.

So listen to the words of Jesus, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses.” He delivers this warning to the crowd precisly because covetousness is not something that afflicts only politicians. The reason that we fall prey to the pleas of revolutionaries and demagogues is that we ourselves are covetous; we desire more than God has given us and would take that which God has given to others. But Jesus rebukes our covetousness and reminds us that our life does not consist in the abundance of things we possess. Instead, a meaningful life consists of loving God and loving one’s neighbor, of being content with what one has received and of laying up treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroy. And this is true for rich and poor alike.

And so reminded that we are to be neither revolutionaries nor demagogues, that we are to be content with what God has given us and not let covetousness drive us to take that which rightfully belongs to others, let us kneel as we are able and confess that we are often covetous and fall prey to revolutionaries and demagogues. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in bulletin.

Triune Communion

June 12, 2022 in Bible - NT - John, Meditations, Trinity

John 17:1–6 

1Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, 2as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. 3And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. 4I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. 5And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. 6I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. 

Today is Trinity Sunday, the Sunday the Church has historically set aside to remind the people of God that the God we worship is Triune – three Persons in one God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Later in our liturgy we will recite the Athanasian Creed together, one creedal attempt to give expression to God’s Triune nature.

In our Scripture today, Jesus prays to the Father and, in so doing, illustrates the interpersonal dynamic that has existed for all eternity among the Persons of the Trinity. First, we note that the Father and the Son – together with the Spirit, we might add – share glory. Jesus asks the Father – the Father who declared through Isaiah, “My glory I will not give to another…” (Is 42:8) – Jesus says to this Father, “Father, glorify Me together with Yourself…” And note that Jesus prays for a particular type of glory, “with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” Prior to Jesus’ incarnation, He existed in the form of God and, though His deity was veiled during His time on earth, now that He has risen from the dead and ascended into heaven, that glory has been restored to Him. Jesus was and is God Himself in human flesh.

Second, our text reveals that in eternity past, before the world was, when the Father and Son shared glory, they also shared communion with one another, they lived in a relationship of love. Jesus alludes to this eternal communion a couple times. Jesus prays, “I have glorified you on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. The Father gave Jesus a task to accomplish, a work to perform. So when did the Father give Him that work? The Scriptures answer: in eternity past, before the world was, when the Father and Son communed together. But there’s more. Not only did the Father give the Son a task to do, He also gave Him a people to be His own. Jesus prays, “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me…” So when did the Father give these people to the Son? Before the world was. The Father “chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4).

This eternal communion between the Father and the Son prior to the foundation of the world is sometimes called the Covenant of Redemption or the pactum salutis, the “pact of salvation. Louis Berkhof explains in his Systematic Theology: “Now we find that in the [plan] of redemption there is, in a sense, a division of labor: the Father is the originator, the Son the executor, and the Holy Spirit the applier. This can only be the result of a voluntary agreement among the persons of the Trinity, so that their internal relations assume the form of…covenant life.” (266) God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have dwelt in covenantal life, in communion for all eternity. 

So, consider, before the foundation of the world God thought of us, loved us, and gave us to be Christ’s own people – apart from any merit of our own; indeed despite the demerit which He knew we would deserve – ought we not to be humbled and awed that the Creator of all took notice of us and chose us as His own? As Paul writes, “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thes 2:13-14). Triune salvation.

And so reminded of the great love which the Father has bestowed upon us, and that He loved us before the foundation of the world and loves us despite our unloveliness, let us confess that we are unworthy His love and can only throw ourselves on His mercy in Jesus. And, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins together.

We Believe, and Therefore Speak

May 22, 2022 in Bible - NT - 2 Corinthians, Easter, Meditations, Resurrection

2 Corinthians 4:13–15 

13And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written [in Psalm 116], “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak, 14knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. 15For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God. 

What is the significance of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead? This is the question we have asked during this time of Eastertide. As we anticipate Ascension Sunday and Pentecost Sunday in the weeks to come, I would like to close our observations on the resurrection today. In our text Paul helps us understand the significance of the resurrection. Why did Jesus rise from the dead? Jesus rose from the dead so that we might be thankful and praise our God.

To make his point, Paul quotes from Psalm 116, a psalm of thanksgiving. In this psalm, the psalmist cried out to God in the face of death: “The pains of death surrounded me, and the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me; I found trouble and sorrow” (116:3). But the psalmist trusted God. He knew that God was capable of delivering him from death and so he cried out to God with the words that Paul quotes: “I believed, therefore I spoke, ‘I am greatly afflicted’” (116:10). The psalmist trusted God and so asked God to deliver him. And glory be to God, the Lord answered his prayer: “For you have delivered my soul from death, My eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living” (116:8-9). God delivered him, so he does the only thing he can rightly do: he praises and thanks the Lord for His mercy: “I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord” (116:18).

The faith and thanksgiving manifested by Psalm 116 are a pattern for us. Just as the psalmist believed and therefore spoke, trusting God to deliver him from death, so we believe and therefore speak, trusting God to deliver us. Why? Because Christ Himself has alreay risen from the dead and guarantees our resurrection. “He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus.” Jesus’ resurrection is the firstfruits, the guarantee of ours. Death is now a defeated foe; Christ is Risen and we too shall rise.

So how ought we to respond to the assurance that God will deliver us from death? Just as the psalmist did: with praise and thanksgiving. You see, the goal of Christ’s resurrection is that thanksgiving and praise might abound in all the world to Yahweh, the living God. Jesus took on human flesh in order to restore rightful worship; Jesus ministered and suffered and died in order to restore rightful worship; Jesus rose from the dead in order to restore rightful worship. In other words, Jesus took on human flesh, ministered, suffered, died, and rose from the dead so that you would be here this morning, joining your voice with the voices of all God’s people and thanking God for his mercies, thanking God that He has delivered you from death.

So, beloved, how eager are you to be here? God raised up Jesus so that you would be here this morning; so that you would lift up your voice in company with the voices of your brothers and sisters; so that you would worship him. So how ought we to approach this morning? With sloth? With mere formality? With mumbling and inattention? May it never be! Let us join our voices week by week in thankful acknowledgement of God’s mercies toward us in Christ – Alleluia! Christ is risen! (Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!) So let us worship the Lord!

Reminded that Jesus rose from the dead in order that we might worship Him together, we are also reminded how we often approach worship with insufficient joy and delight. So let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of private confession followed by the public confession found in your bulletin.

The Promise of Resurrection

May 15, 2022 in Bible - NT - Romans, Easter, Meditations

Romans 8:31–35, 37 

31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?… 37Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 

We have been emphasizing in our worship that the celebration of Easter continues in this period known as Eastertide. We continue giving the liturgical greeting, Christ is Risen! And we have devoted our exhortations to the topic of the resurrection: Why did Christ rise from the dead and what does this mean for us?

As we continue this theme, let me remind you that it is the hope of the resurrection that has invigorated Christian witness throughout the ages. In the verses just prior to the ones we have read, Paul reminds us that all those whom God has predestined to life, he will call to faith in himself; and all those whom he calls to faith, he will justify; and all those whom he justifies, he will glorify. The culmination of God’s work in us, in other words, is glorification: God will raise us from the dead and present us before Himself spotless and blameless.

It is in response to this promise, this promise of glorification and resurrection, that the words of our text are written. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”

The promise of the resurrection assures us that every promise that God has issued to His people will be fulfilled. For example, God promises children, “honor your father and mother that it may go well with you and that you may live long on the earth” (Eph 6:2-3). So what are we to think when a child loves and serves the Lord by honoring his parents and then suddenly dies? Will God’s promise fail? No – for in the flesh that child will serve God and with his own eyes and not those of another he shall see his Redeemer and worship Him (cf. Job 19:27).

Likewise, Jesus promised, “there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this age…” (Mk 10:29-30). So what are we to think of this promise and its application to the martyrs who lost life in the service of God? Will Jesus’ promise fail? No – for in the flesh those martyrs will serve God and with their own eyes and not those of another they shall see their Redeemer and worship Him.

The resurrection assures that “all the promises of God are yes and amen in Jesus” (2 Cor 1:20). Because Jesus has risen and by His resurrection has overcome sin and death, because through Him and the power of His Spirit all creation will one day be renewed and resurrected, all the promises of God will reach their fulfillment. Not one promise will fall to the ground. So we can cry out with confidence: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

This is our privilege and right as children of God – to live in hope of the resurrection. Too often, however, we live in fear – pressed down by the cares of this world, overwhelmed with the needs of the moment, forgetful of the promise of resurrection. We stand in need of the mercy of God and the empowering grace of God’s Spirit to enable us to live resurrection lives in the here and now. So let us kneel and confess our sins to the Lord, seeking His mercy.

Heirs of All Things

May 8, 2022 in Bible - NT - 2 Corinthians, Easter, Meditations

2 Corinthians 4:14–15 

14… He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. 15For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God. 

As we continue celebrating the season of Eastertide, it is fitting to continue to meditate on the significance of Jesus’ resurrection. In our passage today, Paul repeats one of his frequent maxims: He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus… The resurrection of the dead is our hope – not that we will die and be spirits in the sky; not that we will perish and lose all consciousness; but that even as Jesus rose from the dead, we too shall rise. In Paul’s words to the Philippians, Jesus will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body… (Phil 3:20). We live in sure and certain hope of the resurrection. This mortal body shall put on immortality; this corruptible body shall put on incorruption; this weak body shall put on strength. Alleluia!

What this means is that the trajectory of all history is to the resurrection. The resurrection is the consummation of history: the day when Christ shall return again in glory to judge both the living and the dead; the day when the dead shall arise from their graves – those who have done good in the fear of God and faith in Jesus Christ to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil in continuing to ignore or rebel against God to the resurrection of death. This will be the consummation of history as we know it, the gateway into glory.

Consequently, it is the resurrection of the dead and the glorification of God’s children that creation itself awaits. Even as all creation was plunged into death and decay through the rebellion of our first father Adam, so all creation will be renewed into life and glory through the obedience of the last Adam, our Lord Jesus. When we rise from the dead, when our bodies are made new, all creation will be liberated from its bondage to decay and share in our glorification.

What this means, therefore, is that all creation is ours. We shall inherit all things. The sun, moon, stars, and planets are ours; the oceans, seas, lakes, rivers, and streams are ours; the mountains and plains are ours; the forests, grassland, and deserts are ours; all creation is ours. “Blessed are the meek,” our Lord Jesus promises, “for they shall inherit the earth” (Mt 5:5). If you are in Christ, then you are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ (Rom 8:17). Christ possesses all and promises to share it with His people. It is this hope that lies behind our text today. Listen again:

… He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes…

All things are for your sakes – all things: birds, beasts, fruit trees and all cedars, the honey bee and the crocus, the lily and the rose. All things are for your sakes. This is the promise of God to all those who believe in Jesus. We shall inherit the earth.

Now if all this is true – and through Christ’s resurrection it is – then what kind of people ought we to be? Ought we not to be the most content, the most thankful, the most grateful of all people? Ought we not to do all things without complaining or grumbling? Ought we not to be patient, knowing that the sufferings of this present life are not worthy to be compared with the glories that shall be revealed in us? So Paul writes, “For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.” The fruit of the resurrection hope is abounding thankfulness.

So reminded that God has made us heirs of all things in order that we might abound in thanksgiving to His glory, let us confess that we are often unthankful, grumbling, and impatient. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sin. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Death, Be Not Proud

May 1, 2022 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Meditations, Resurrection

1 Corinthians 15:51–57 

51Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55“O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 56The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 

We are in Eastertide, the period when the Church has historically continued to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection is too momentous an event to celebrate only one Sunday – for it is Jesus’ resurrection that eliminates for us the fear of death and assures us that the bodies of all those who believe in Him shall likewise be raised from their graves.

And it is this theme upon which Paul dwells in our text today. This corruptible body must pass through the furnace of death and be raised incorruptible; this mortal body must pass through the furnace of death and be raised immortal. And when this has happened, when at the Last Day Christ has returned in glory and raised all those who believe in Him from their graves, when He has transformed our lowly bodies into the likeness of His glorious body – righteous, incorruptible, and immortal – then shall come to pass the promise of Scripture, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

In other words, brothers and sisters, we have immense hope. Death is not the final word. As horrible as death is, as devastating as it is, death is a conquered foe. Jesus rose from the dead; Jesus dealt death a death blow. We now live in sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the dead. Therefore, because Christ has risen, we can have immense confidence in the face of death itself and in the face of all death’s minions – sickness, pain, torture, persecution, hardship, trial. None of these things have the last word – the last word belongs to Jesus and to life. And this is what Psalm 27:13 articulates. “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.” Or as Paul writes in our text today, “Oh death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

So how are we to treat death? With contempt. As John Donne would teach us to say, “Death, be not proud, though some have called thee mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so…” Why? Because Christ is risen and has broken his power. Even as Christ rose from the dead, we too shall rise. This corruptible must put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality. So what should characterize our lives? Fearless and unshrinking zeal to maintain the truth of God against all opposition – whether from our own flesh or from the world or from the devil himself. Congregation of the Lord, Christ is Risen! (He is Risen indeed! )

So reminded of the power of Christ’s resurrection but no doubt reminded also that we frequently are fearful and shrinking rather than fearless and bold, let us confess our lack of faith to the Lord and petition Him for renewed boldness. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sin. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.