Category Archives: Church History

Martin Luther: Standing on the Word of God

Text: Romans 1.17-18

Introduction: Typically I take one Sunday during the year to do a biography of sorts. I’ll pick a missionary, especially a missionary martyr or some other Christian Hero of mine: John Huss, Adoniram Judson, or Bill Koene. In recognition of this weeks 500 Anniversary of the Reformation, I’d like to talk about Martin Luther and what made him great.

Luther’s greatest contribution to us was his belief that God communicates to us through the Written Word. Hence, my title, Martin Luther: Standing on the Word of God.

1 Thess. 2.13: 13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

Hebrews 4.12: 12 For the word of God is living and active

1 Peter 1.23: 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God…

The Word of God: It is powerful and effective. It changes lives. It changed the life of the man who in turn, taught us of its value. Martin Luther taught us that God communicates to us through words on a page, written out, line by line, chapter by chapter, book by book. Luther wanted us to know that it is the authority for our lives – not the pope and not the church.

It changed his life and drove him, directed him to use it to change other people’s lives. The Word of God provides for us the vital information that is effective for salvation and holiness. Whereas, in the years and decades and centuries before Luther, The Pope and the Church were the authoritative source, even over and above God’s Word.

This Tuesday will mark 500 years since Martin Luther tacked his 95 Theses upon the door of his church in Wittenburg, Germany. October 31, 1517 is the date historians mark as the reformation. This one event is like the hinge on the door that swings between what was past and what would become. The truth is, it would probably be closer for us to mark the date in six months. As a side note, Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door in Wittenburg on October 31st, but it wasn’t until six months later that someone took those 95 Theses and translated them into German, had them published and circulated among the population.

Luther’s purpose in nailing these 95 Theses up on the door at the church was so that these topics could be debated among the theologians and scholars there at the University. That is why they were written out in Latin. The common man had no idea what was tacked up on those doors. At least not for another 6 months when they were translated and circulated among the people.

You and I are recipients of this man’s work. We’re beneficiaries; and not just his work alone, but on all those who were reformers. We stand on the shoulders of giants.

 

A Call to Ministry:

Luther didn’t always want to be in ministry. As a matter of fact, Luther had chosen to study Law. He had attained his Bachelor’s degree by the age of 19 where he graduated in the middle of his class (30th out of 57 students). He earned his Master’s degree three years later (1505) and graduated 2nd in his class (17 students). On his journey home from the University where he was beginning his study of Law, that a nasty storm swirled in around him and lightning struck and knocked him to the ground. In fear he cried out to be saved by St. Anne and promised to enter the monastery if she would save him. He would later say that God spoke to him through the thunder calling him into the ministry.

So powerful was this Damascus Road experience that it drove him into obedience in surrendering to the ministry. 15 days after that fateful afternoon, Luther entered the Monastery. Once, while visiting his father and mother, Luther noticed his dad in a very agitated state. It was an awkward moment because many guests had come over for some sort of party. Luther wanted to know what was bothering his dad. Luther’s father couldn’t control his frustration and confronted him about his choice to leave studying Law to become a priest. Who will take care of your mother and I when we are old? People stopped talking; all attention was turned to this father and son. Luther told his dad the story he had repeated to them many times before: You know that God spoke to me in the thunder.

In this ministry he would wear the habit of a monk. Even after he left the monastery he still wore the clothes of a monk. He did so for 19 years.

As Luther looked back on that experience he called it a ‘flagrant sin’. He did two things wrong: he didn’t listen to his father and he entered the ministry out of fear. Nevertheless, it was God’s will and he knew it.

 

Sin’s Grip:

Luther had no grasp of the grace of God – not at that time. He understood himself to be a sinner and his conscience always got the best of him. I think it was what made him a good monk. Luther always seemed to have a fear of facing God. And serving as a Monk might assuage the anger of God toward this sinner.

  • When lightning struck near him, he cried out to St. Anne to save him. He was genuinely afraid of dying – and even more of facing God and the certain judgment he would suffer.
  • When he began to serve in his congregation, he panicked in his first presentation of communion. How can a lowly pigmy like me stand before a perfect and holy God? (His words, not mine)
  • He would be so overcome with fear as he offered the communion to his parishioners that he just about couldn’t finish the task.
  • While in the monastery, Luther would fast for days. He would sleep through the cold nights without any clothes or covering. His sin was always before him and he wanted to ‘work’ it out of him – always trying to do penance for his sins.

You see, that was the Catholic way. Do Penance. i.e.: work for your forgiveness. That is one of the reasons the Catholic Church didn’t want the Greek or Hebrew Bibles to be translated or to be used by priests. Instead, they preferred the Jerome’s Latin. In Greek and Hebrew you would translate the word repent. However, in Latin, that same word was translated: do penance.

Luther would later write: I was a good monk. I kept the rule of my order so strictly that I may say that if ever a monk got to heaven by his monkery it was I. All my brothers in the monastery who knew me bear me out. If I had kept on any longer, I should have killed myself with visuals, prayers, readings, and other work.

Many have speculated as to what great sins Luther had committed that drove him to such great lengths to atone for his sinful thoughts. But I think that to be foolish. Too often we impose what sins beset us upon others who struggle. I think Luther’s struggle with sin was pretty balanced and that this balance of sin in every direction consumed him. As far as Luther could see it, God could not be satisfied at any point. God was perfectly holy and Luther was overwhelmingly sinful.

This continued to plague his conscience even after he took up a teaching position at Wittenburg. He would hound the priests at confession and they would complain that he was giving them his life story. Luther was so concerned about his sin before God, that he wanted to ensure he left no sin un-confessed. He wanted to ensure that he had been forgiven of every sin he’d ever committed.

A mentor of his had no answers, but he directed Luther to where the answers were to be found: Scripture. And God’s Word began to change Luther.

Luther arrived at Wittenburg in April of 1511 and began teaching Philosophy. He earned his Doctorate by October 1512, a year and a half later. In the fall of 1513, to his heart’s delight, he was switched to Theology and his first lectures were on the Psalms. In April 1515, he began his lectures on Romans.

While teaching on Psalm 22, he immediately recognized v 1 as a reference to Christ. My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me? This was something with which Luther could identify: That God would forsake and abandon Luther because of his sinfulness. Indeed, he felt that abandonment. He felt the sin and the shame, but Christ – Christ wasn’t weak like Luther. Christ wasn’t sinful like Luther. It could only be the sin that Christ took upon himself – the sins of the world, that caused the Father to forsake his son.

So, understand that Luther is now wrestling with this text. He’s gaining a better understanding of what scholars call penal substitution. As he came to teach Romans, Luther wanted to understand Paul and his doctrine. So he studied hard. He prepared his lectures well. He contemplated each verse. I’ll let him tell you in his own words what happened:

I greatly longed to understand Paul’s epistle to the Romans and nothing stood in the way but that one expression, ‘the justice of God’, because I took it to mean that justice whereby God is just and deals justly and punishing the unjust. My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage him. Therefore I did not love a just and angry God, but rather hated and murmured against him. Yet I clung to the dear Paul and had a great yearning to know what he meant.

Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that ‘the just shall live by his faith.’ Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas before the justice of God had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love. This passage of Paul became to me a gate to heaven…

If you have a true faith that Christ is your savior, then at once you have a gracious God, for faith leads you in and opens up God’s Heart and Will, that you should see pure grace and overflowing love. This is to behold God and faith that you should look up on his fatherly, friendly heart, in which there is no anger nor ungraciousness. He who sees God as angry does not see him rightly but looks only on the curtain, as if a dark cloud has been drawn across his face.

Luther’s theological and spiritual state matured quickly as he learned more and more Scripture. He knew lots of Scripture, but suddenly, those passages became clearer. So incredibly liberating was this new state of being, living in the grace and mercy of God, that he was filled with a boldness to teach others about faith. Luther had his students and he preached regularly at two churches in town. He wanted them to know what he had discovered. At first, Luther had no intentions of reformation. He only hoped to help shape the clergy and the laity through the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. But God’s Word is alive and active. It does its own work.

 

Indulgences: 

It was during these years that indulgences were being sold to fund St. Peter’s Basilica Rome. Begun by his predecessor, Pope Leo X found it necessary to continue the work. The old Basilica which had stood since the days of Constantine were condemned. Pope Julius II raised some funds, had the piers laid and then died. There stood this unfinished, unusable Basilica for the new pope.

Enter Leo X. At the same time, Albert of Brandenberg was attempting to secure some position by the pope. He was commissioned by the pope to sell as many indulgences as possible, to raise as much money as possible, with the hope that if he was successful, the position would be his. But, when Albert came to Wittenburg, he hit a roadblock. At the same time in Wittenburg, the man in charge there, Frederick the Wise, wouldn’t allow Albert’s Indulgences to be sold in Wittenburg because he was selling his own Indulgences, to fund his own pet projects.

You’re probably wondering what an Indulgence was. An Indulgence was a piece of paper one could purchase to lower the punishment for sins that one was expected to experience upon death. For Catholics, the good people who die go to heaven. Bad Catholics who died would go to Purgatory – a place between heaven and hell that one endured before getting into heaven. After paying for one’s sins, one could be released from Purgatory. Added to this, an Indulgence could also release loved ones who were in Purgatory. Albert had a pithy saying which helped his cause: As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, the soul from Purgatory springs. The Pope had the power to send people there and to release them from there.

There was a lot of ugliness to it all. Luther spoke out against it all. He spoke out against the pope. He spoke out against Albert. If the pope had the ability to release souls from purgatory, then why would he be so cruel to keep them there? Besides, Indulgences only encouraged people to become complacent in their faith. That was precisely what Luther experienced. One day while walking outside the city, he came upon a man who was drunk. Luther confronted him about his sinful behavior. Without missing a beat, the man reached inside his coat and produced an Indulgence to atone for this sinful behavior.

Luther’s preaching against Indulgences was dangerous stuff, because Indulgences were big revenue. And if you want to upset someone in the church: mess with their money!

Well, I’m sure you know by now, the Catholic Church came after Luther. He was labeled a heretic. Luther would be excommunicated, but that didn’t matter to him because he understood the church of God to be presented much differently than the Catholic Church taught. Excommunication meant damnation. But, Luther knew that his salvation was based on his faith in the work of Christ – not the declaration of the pope.

 

Why do I tell you this? Well, there are four basic doctrines that we teach as Evangelicals and we owe this to the work of Luther.

Bruce Shelley, Professor of Church History at Denver Theological Seminary writes in his book entitled: Church History in Plain Language that Luther answered 4 questions that he took from four basic Catholic concerns and offered us new answers.

  1. To the question how is a person saved, Luther replied: not by works but by faith alone. Sola Fide.
  2. To the question where does religious authority lie, he answered: not in the visible institution called the Roman church but in the Word of God found in the Bible. Sola Scriptura.
  3. To the question—what is the church?—he responded: the whole community of Christian believers, since all are priests before God.
  4. And to the question—what is the essence of Christian living?—he replied: serving God in any useful calling, whether ordained or lay. To this day any classical description of Protestantism must echo those central truths.

Scripture/God’s Holy Word changed Luther’s life. Listen to what he says:

For as soon as God’s word becomes known through you, the devil will afflict you, will make a real doctor of you, and will teach you by his temptations to seek and to love God’s Word. For I myself . . . owe my papists many thanks for so beating, pressing, and frightening me through the devil’s raging that they have turned me into a fairly good theologian, driving me to a goal I should never have reached.

The tentacles of Luther reformation would reach far and wide, stretching across the continent of Europe and in 100 years come to the Americas, where you and I live out it’s impact.

  • The Pulpit is central here. It is the place where God’s Word is exalted and preached. Have you ever been to a church where the pulpit is on the side? Now you know why we set up our Pulpit and Lord’s Supper Table the way we do.
  • We no longer practice the 7 Sacraments, but rather, only two: The Lord’s Supper and Baptism.

Luther’s reformation would spread from Germany to France and England where things were already stirred up.

Conclusion: Lady Jane Grey: The ‘9 Day’s’ Queen

As the Reformation spread, there were battles to be fought. Literally. Whenever someone rose to power who favored Catholicism over Protestantism, then the whole country would become Catholic…or else. King Henry VIII had a wife of 18 years, but she produced no heirs for him – only girls. So he sought an annulment from the pope. He didn’t get it, so he broke with the Church of Rome and established the Church of England. England would move back and forth between Catholicism and Protestantism over the next few generations.

You’ve probably never heard of Jane Grey. She was one of Henry VII’s descendants. Although she wasn’t directly in line to be queen, it was a possibility. And so, Jane became a pawn in the hands of those in power because of their money or because of their position. Her parents were really hard on her when she was young, forcing her to study very hard and enforcing harsh punishments for imperfection. Her parents wanted her to be queen so desperately. I think all parents want good things for their children, but as for Jane’s parents, there seems to be some arrogance and even wickedness in their plans. As a part of all the power plays, Jane was promised to Lord Guildford Dudley, a man she despised. But, her parents loved him because e was a man of considerable wealth, power and influence. And, he had the young king’s ear.

The King had died and left a young, sickly Edward VI on the throne. As this young king lay in the throes of death, the movers and shakers influenced King Edward to make Jane his heir to the throne. There were a lot of questions to who was the rightful heir. And although she was only his cousin, he had bequeathed the throne to her and to whatever male heirs she might provide in the future. Thus, she found herself to be the Queen of England. She didn’t want the throne, mind you. She never did. But it was now hers nonetheless. What helped her in that time of decision-making? What helped her to come to terms with something she didn’t necessarily want? It was her incredibly strong faith in God.

It is amazing to see how God had been at work in her life. For a period of time in her younger years, she went to live with the Queen, Katharine Parr. And so, Jane was educated in the King’s Court. She was incredibly intelligent. She learned both Greek and Hebrew and could read both the Old and the New Testaments in their original languages. You see, Catherine was a Protestant – one of those whose lives was touched by the Reformation overtaking Europe. And now, The reformation had touched Jane’s life and she would never be the same. Her love for God’s Word drove her faith. Her Bible of choice was the Greek New Testament.

So how opportune it appeared when she was placed upon the Throne as the Queen of England. Surely God was at work placing someone of great faith upon the throne. She, however, only reigned for 9 days: from July 10, 1553 to July 19, 1553. She is known as the Nine Days Queen. Her Cousin, Mary of Tudor, also known as Bloody Mary, organized a coop. Backed by an army, she moved in to take the throne from Jane. But Jane didn’t want it. So, she resigned her position and gladly handed over power to Mary.

Her nickname, Bloody Mary, was well earned. She put to death some 300 of her relatives who she thought might try to take the throne from her. She insisted that all of England recognize the Roman Catholic Church. Jane, of course, could not do that. She knew her Bible to well.

Bloody Mary sent her envoy, a Catholic apologist, to try and save Jane’s soul (or so he thought). Listen to Scott Hubbard’s version of events:

Queen Mary (aka “Bloody Mary”) had already signed her cousin Jane’s death warrant, but she sent her seasoned chaplain to see if he could woo Jane back to Rome before her execution.

A charged debate follows — Feckenham the Catholic apologist and Jane the Reformed teenager. He presses that justification comes by faith and works; she stands her ground on sola fide. He asserts that the Eucharistic bread and wine are the very body and blood of Christ; she maintains that the elements symbolize Jesus’s saving work. He affirms the Catholic Church’s authority alongside Scripture; she insists that the church sits underneath the piercing gaze of God’s word.

Martin Luther’s work had been spreading. It had touched Lady Jane Grey’s life: The Power of God’s Word. So much so did it affect her, that she was willing to die for what she knew to be Truth.

On the inside of her Greek New Testament, she wrote to her younger sister, Katharine: This is the book, dear sister, of the Law of the Lord. It is his testament and last will, which he bequeathed unto us wretches, which shall lead you to the path of eternal joy…  And as touching my death, rejoice as I do, good sister, that I shall be delivered of this corruption, and put on incorruption. For I am assured that I shall for losing of a mortal life, win an immortal life.

She was put to death as a heretic on February 12, 1554. She was confident and bold. She walked to the place where she was to die. She was blindfolded and reached out into the emptiness before her, groping for the execution block. Her last words were, “Lord, into Thy hands I commit my spirit.” Jane Grey was only 17 years old.

Let me ask you: Has the Word of God had its impact on you? Do you make your decisions about what God is doing based on physical things? Money? Resources? People? Buildings? Positions?

Application:

  1. Let the Word of God reign supremely in your life and in your church. Let it be your guide and companion.
  2. Be reminded today that salvation comes only through faith in Christ Jesus and the saving work of the Cross. If you’ve been thinking that Christ plus anything will get you to heaven, then repent of that. Luther said: Good works do not make a good man, but a good man does good works. The idea is that when one has been changed by God, the works of God will flow from him naturally.
  3. What will it take for you to stand boldly for Christ and on His Word? Jane Grey amazes me when I think of her being only 17 years old.

 

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Church History, Martin Luther, Reformation, Romans, Sermons

When J.I. Packer Walked Out

I wanted to repost an article by Sam Storms. My lack of blogging skills has me fumbling around, trying to get this right. I apologize if you see this done in a poor fashion. For me, the message is what I’m trying to focus on. The original article can be found here.

“Why I Walked”

In 2002, the synod of the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster

authorized its bishop to produce a service for blessing same-sex unions, to be used in any parish of the diocese that requests it. A number of synod members walked out to protest the decision. They declared themselves out of communion with the bishop and the synod, and they appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Anglican primates and bishops for help. (1)

J. I. Packer was one of those who walked out.

When asked why he walked out, he answered, “Because this decision, taken in its context, falsifies the gospel of Christ, abandons the authority of Scripture, jeopardizes the salvation of fellow human beings, and betrays the church in its God-appointed role as the bastion and bulwark of divine truth.” In other words, it was Packer’s confidence in the functional, life-directing authority of Scripture that led to this decision.

“My primary authority,” wrote Packer, “is a Bible writer named Paul. For many decades now, I have asked myself at every turn of my theological road: Would Paul be with me in this? What would he say if he were in my shoes? I have never dared to offer a view on anything that I did not have good reason to think he would endorse.”

Here we see that, for Packer, affirming biblical authority is meant not merely to provoke a debate but to give ethical direction to life. Regardless of what personal preferences one might have, irrespective of the cultural trends in play at the time, the Bible is the ethical standard by which Christians such as Packer judge their responsibility.

What’s Really at Stake

Packer then proceeds to exegete Paul’s thought in 1 Corinthians 6:9–11 as justification for his decision to lodge this protest. There are only two ways in which we might miss Paul’s point and his directives. One is to embrace an artificial interpretation of the text in which Paul is conceived as speaking of something other than same-sex union.

The second approach, notes Packer, “is to let experience judge the Bible.” Experience suggests that homosexual behavior is fulfilling to some; therefore, the Bible’s prohibition of it is wrong. But the appropriate response is that “the Bible is meant to judge our experience rather than the other way around,” and “feelings of sexual arousal and attraction, generating a sense of huge significance and need for release in action as they do, cannot be trusted as either a path to wise living or a guide to biblical interpretation.”

What is at stake in such a debate is the nature of the Bible itself. There are, notes Packer, fundamentally two positions that challenge each other:

One is the historic Christian belief that through the prophets, the incarnate Son, the apostles, and the writers of canonical Scripture as a body, God has used human language to tell us definitively and transculturally about his ways, his works, his will, and his worship. Furthermore, this revealed truth is grasped by letting the Bible interpret itself to us from within, in the knowledge that the way into God’s mind is through that of the writers. Through them, the Holy Spirit who inspired them teaches the church. Finally, one mark of sound biblical insights is that they do not run counter to anything else in the canon. . . .

The second view applies to Christianity the Enlightenment’s trust in human reason, along with the fashionable evolutionary assumption that the present is wiser than the past. It concludes that the world has the wisdom, and the church must play intellectual catch-up in each generation in order to survive. From this standpoint, everything in the Bible becomes relative to the church’s evolving insights, which themselves are relative to society’s continuing development (nothing stands still), and the Holy Spirit’s teaching ministry is to help the faithful see where Bible doctrine shows the cultural limitations of the ancient world and needs adjustment in light of latter-day experience (encounters, interactions, perplexities, states of mind and emotion, and so on). Same-sex unions are one example. This view is scarcely 50 years old, though its antecedents go back much further.

That this is more than an intellectual battle is seen in the spiritual dangers to which the latter view ultimately leads. Packer believes that to bless homosexual behavior is an explicit deviation from the biblical gospel and the historic Christian creed. The doctrines of creation, sin, regeneration, and sanctification are necessarily distorted in the effort to justify same-sex intimacy.

Worse still, if, as Paul says, those who practice such sexual immorality will not “inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:10), it puts the eternal welfare of the individual at stake. Finally, says Packer, “it involves the delusion of looking to God—actually asking him—to sanctify sin by blessing what he condemns. This is irresponsible, irreverent, indeed blasphemous, and utterly unacceptable as church policy. How could I do it?”

Captive to the Word of God

The manner in which Scripture functions as authoritative in Packer’s belief and behavior is best seen in his appeal to Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms in 1521. Said the Reformer:

Unless you prove to me by Scripture and plain reason that I am wrong, I cannot and will not recant. My conscience is captive to the Word of God. To go against conscience is neither right nor safe [it endangers the soul]. Here I stand. There is nothing else I can do. God help me. Amen.

“Conscience,” Packer explains, “is that power of the mind over which we have no power, which binds us to believe what we see to be true and do what we see to be right. Captivity of conscience to the Word of God, that is, to the absolutes of God’s authoritative teaching in the Bible, is integral to authentic Christianity.”

He quotes a statement often attributed to Luther (here slightly paraphrased):

If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point that the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages is where the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is merely flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point. (2)

The issue beneath the issue—namely, the nature and functional influence of biblical authority—is the watershed issue not merely for Anglicanism, but for Christianity as a whole.

The belief that what God has revealed in the written Word is binding on the consciences of all Christians and gives shape to their behavior on every issue, not merely same-sex marriage, is the foundation for Packer’s approach to living the Christian life.

Notes

(1) This and subsequent excerpts are taken from Packer’s article in Christianity Today, “Why I Walked: Some- times Loving a Denomination Requires You to Fight” (January 1, 2003): 46–50 (emphasis in the original).
(2) The oft-quoted statement reflects Luther’s ideas as expressed by a fictional character named Fritz in a historical novel by Elizabeth Rundle Charles, Chronicles of the Schönberg-Cotta Family (New York: Thomas Nelson, 1864), 276. It also captures the spirit of what Packer believes. See also http://creation.com/battle-quote-not-luther.


Sam Storms (PhD, University of Texas at Dallas) has spent more than four decades in ministry as a pastor and professor. He was visiting associate professor of theology at Wheaton College from 2000 to 2004, and is currently senior pastor at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He is the founder of Enjoying God Ministries and the author of numerous books, including Chosen for Life, Tough Topics, Kept for Jesus, and Packer on the Christian Life.

Leave a comment

Filed under Church History, Gay Marriage

2 Corinthians 11.16-33

Title: A Necessary Foolishness

Text: 2 Corinthians 11.17-33

CIT: Paul has suffered greatly for the mission he was called to accomplish.

CIS: Paul’s reason for boasting should remind us that God works through our weaknesses.

Introduction: A few years back, a man stopped by the church and wanted to visit. He told me his name was Beatty and that his dad had been the pastor of Calvary back in the late 40’s maybe the early 50’s (48-51?). He asked many questions and left after a short tour. He was just a little boy when his dad was pastor at Broadway and Bow.

I’ve often thought of him and wish I had got some information from him. Like, where is he today? What about his siblings? Pastor Beatty was the senior pastor of Calvary during some of its largest attendance days. I’ve heard numbers of over a thousand! Even 1,500! I would love to see some definitive numbers.

Just curious: How many of you here were members of Calvary in the late 1940’s? Recognize them.

Transition: In our text today, Paul is going to boast about his work. He does this in some ingenious ways.

  1. 1st, he introduces us to his sarcasm.
  2. Next, he establishes his station in life.
  3. Then, he employs a form of boasting familiar to the Greeks, but with a twist: He’ll focus on his suffering.
  4. Finally, He concludes with his service, and makes note that his service has always been through weakness.

Transition: let’s begin with Paul’s use of Sarcasm.

1.     His Sarcasm (16-21)

exp.: rd v 16-18; Very well then, if boasting is what I must do, then I will do it! It’s not the way Jesus would respond; but for me, it is a necessary foolishness; rd 19-20; I can do this because you know how to put up with it: Why, You’re so brilliant that you put up with fools while they take advantage of you. Rd v 21: to which he is saying, “Oh poor me, I was too weak to enslave you and exploit you by taking full advantage of you! I should have been stronger than that!” You can see his sarcasm. Some scholars think that stories got back to Paul of these super apostles actually getting them to do all of the work and using up their resources for their own benefit. Taking such great advantage of them that one of them actually slapped one of the members in the face!

ill.: We can see this possibility in Acts where Paul was order by the High Priest to slap Paul (23.2); And of course, with Jesus as well (John 18.22); Maybe these super apostles were taking such advantages of the Corinthians, even to the point of mistreating the membership.

app.: If this is true, it adds to Paul’s sarcasm: I was too weak to slap you around and enslave you for my purposes!

t.s.: From his sarcasm, Paul moves to what I call His station.

2.     His Station (22-23)

exp.: rd v 22-23; note 4 questions frame our outline:

  • Are they Hebrews? This deals with the Religious part of who he was; a Hebrew of Hebrews; training under a famous scholar, Gamaliel; Acts: I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day.
  • Are they Israelites? Israelite; of the Tribe of Benjamin; Ethnicity; born a Jew – both mom and dad are Jewish; he spoke Aramaic and Hebrew and Greek! He was well educated in the Scriptures in any and all languages where copies of God’s Word could be found.
  • Are they Abraham’s Offspring?
    • John 8.33ff; in the famous discourse with Christ; Jesus says: If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did…;
    • And in Romans 9.6-8 Paul wrote: For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.
    • Abrahamic Covenant; not just born into it, not just studying in it, He’s a part of the lineage; He would later write that not all who are from Abraham are Abraham’s descent. Believers are a part of this, too. He would tell the Galatians: 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
  • Are the servants of Christ? I love the picture the Gk paints: Lit.: Servants of Christ are they? παραφρονῶν λαλῶ; I must be out of my mind to talk this way! ὑπὲρ ἐγώ; I am hyper! Lit.: above and beyond. My service goes above and beyond theirs. I think this has two implications; 1st, that he is
    • A Believer: someone who comprehends the work of Christ and the redemption that comes through that work. And 2ndly,
    • A Minister – someone who has been called into service; namely, someone who has received a commission to go, proclaim and disciple.

ill.: sounds similar to Phil 3.5-6;

app.: Well, they’ve received the same calling, surrendered to the same mission; however, there is more to this calling than meets the eye. To talk about it is really crazy, but nonetheless, he must.

t.s.: So, he uses Sarcasm and he notes his Station of prestige in relation to these other super apostles. Now, he dives head first into how “hyper” – far above and far beyond – his service takes him…

3.     His Suffering (24-29)

exp.: Look with me at how Paul breaks down his suffering. He breaks down his boasting into three categories flowing between physical mistreatment by others to natural disasters or tragedy.

1st he uses the form of repetition; rd v 24-25;

2nd he uses the word ‘dangers’ to mark his struggles on many of his journeys; Rd v 26

3rd he employees two words: toil and hardship (κόπον ἡμῶν καὶ τὸν μόχθον)·

1st he uses the form of repetition; rd v 24-25; Physical Mistreatment; Gal 6.17; “Let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus”. I guess so.

This portion of his argument is framed in terms of repetition: 5x’s; 3x’s; once; 3x’s; D.A. Carson says that this threw his detractors off. Paul uses a familiar form of boasting by following a particular outline – Res Gestae Divi Augusti which translated means: the deeds of the divine Augustus. It reads like this: Twice I received triumphal ovations. Three times I received curule triumphs. Twenty times and one did I receive the appelaiton of imperator…” In following this form, Carson writes that Paul was expected to say:

“I have established more churches; I have preached the gospel in more lands and to more ethnic groups; I have traveled more miles; I have won more converts; I have written more books; I have raised more money; I have dominated more councils; I have walked with God more fervently and seen more visions; I have commanded the greatest crowds and performed the most spectacular miracles.”

Instead, Paul goes in a direction they’re not expecting. Now, obviously, there are experiences here we’ve not heard about in the book of Acts; for example: We only know of 1 time that he was ship wrecked; And, if I’m right, it’s after this letter is written. Furthermore, if you trace his missionary journeys, you’ll see he was on a boat at least 9 times in the book of Acts. And, Phillip Hughes (NICNT) says there are at least nine other voyages from place to place subsequent to the writing of II Corinthians and prior to the Malta shipwreck.

ill.: Pastor Saeed Abedini, in an Iranian prison, was recently beaten. Again. This comes from the website of the ACLJ (the American Center for Law and Justice) it was posted 4 days ago.

http://aclj.org/persecuted-church/american-pastor-saeed-abedini-attacked-beaten-by-fellow-prisoners

Wednesday of last week, fellow prisoners viciously beat American Pastor Saeed Abedini in prison.

Unprovoked, fellow prisoners  attacked Pastor Saeed as he attempted to leave his cell, punching him in the face near his left eye and nose.  In addition to physically beating the persecuted pastor, prisoners demolished a small table Pastor Saeed used to study and read.

As he was attacked, Pastor Saeed called out for help.  Iranian prison guards did intervene and prevent further injury.  However, Pastor Saeed suffered injuries to his face – his eyes beaten black and blue.  He was able to be seen briefly by a prison doctor, and thankfully he did not receive any broken bones.

This wasn’t the first time he was beaten.  Over the course of his nearly three years in prison, he has suffered numerous beatings, including from prison guards.  He has sustained internal injuries that require surgery.  With each beating, his condition worsens.  Even before this most recent beating, Naghmeh testified about the toll it has taken on him, “I’m not just worried about his physical pain, but his psychological [pain].”

He is suffering because of his Christian faith, beaten and bruised for the Gospel. Pastor Saeed was able to recount this beating to a family member in Iran who was able to visit him today and see his injuries first-hand.

2nd he uses the word ‘dangers’ to mark his struggles on many of his journeys; Rd v 26

  • Note the Dangers:
    • Natural Disasters
    • Human Disasters

3rd he employees two words: toil and hardship; v 27

And then to top off his physical pain and suffering, he adds a phrase, I think goes unnoticed: rd v 28;

  • Mental Anguish:

ill.: as a young pastor, I was asked if I would meet with someone. I, of course said yes. As the visiting moved along, this man I was meeting with told me of a bank account in which he had saved up enough money for his funeral. Then he told me he wanted me to have access to that account because he was going to end his life. When I told him I had a responsibility to get him help, he threatened to leave my office and go home and take his life in front of his kids right then. If that happened, he said it would be my fault.

That experience plunged me into a deep depression that took me three days to climb out of. I mean for three days it was hard for me to function. We were able to work through that tough experience in his life – but I was scared.

Three times I have been asked by members of 12 step programs to be their 5th step – the one to whom confession is made. Two of those experiences did much the same thing. I was tossed into a sea of depression. I heard confession to evil that I didn’t even know existed. Just standing here thinking about it … hurts.

app.: Paul is letting the Corinthians (and us) know that there is a psychological side to ministry that bears such a heavy load – and it is inexplicable – unexplainable.

t.s.: He concludes this section by saying: 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? We see his sarcasm, his station, his suffering, and he closes with his service – the way it has been even from the beginning…

4.     His Service (30-33)

exp.: rd v 30-31; it’s kind of an odd statement for us, but I don’t think so from him and his readers; for them it was a way of signing his name to what he’s just said – something akin to us putting our hand on the Bible and having someone ask us: Do you swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the Truth so help you God? I do. here Paul is declaring that his entire service has been in weakness; it even started that way. Rd v 32-33;

Application: We’ve not experienced these things and we don’t really even know anyone who has. So how does this apply to us?

  1. The struggles of life should become the altars of praise. This past week, during my morning reading time, I read about David and had an insight I’d not really grasped before. David sinned a great sin against God by having a census taken of the people. He knew it was wrong. He was counseled against it by his friend, Joab. But David would not listen. God sent an angel of the Lord to draw his sword against Jerusalem and some 70,000 men died from pestilence. David saw the angel there – 16 And David lifted his eyes and saw the angel of the Lord standing between earth and heaven, and in his hand a drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces. 17 And David said to God, “Was it not I who gave command to number the people? It is I who have sinned and done great evil. But these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand, O Lord my God, be against me and against my father’s house. But do not let the plague be on your people.” You know the story. David was told to go and sacrifice to the Lord. He purchased everything needed to do so and sacrificed to the Lord. Then, The LORD told the angel to put his sword back in it’s sheath. Then in 2 Chronicles 22.1 it reads: Then David said, “Here shall be the house of the Lord God and here the altar of burnt offering for Israel.” Now, I knew that story and that was how the Temple got to it’s location. Repeat: But somehow I missed that it was the struggle of life that brought an altar of praise.

It makes me wonder about this place. How did it get here? What happened here a century before we got here. Did someone dedicate this land to God, even before there was an Old Jacksonville Hwy? I don’t know.

  1. Do you know that you enjoy this facility at the expense of others? To quote: We stand on the shoulders of Giants. Many have worked hard to have what we have. It may seem that others take advantage of our generosity, but I don’t think those who’ve sacrificed see it that way. This ministry exists because of the faithfulness of many believers who have kept it going for many decades now. Many of those believers are dead now. There are some still here. And, should you remain faithful, you’ll be a part of that group of witnesses who surround us now.
  2. How have you expressed your gratitude? My I propose something? This year marks 125 years that Calvary has existed. It is the 2nd oldest Baptist church in Smith County. There aren’t too many churches with a longer history. It was established in 1890 and was a mission of First Baptist Church. It was called North Tyler Mission. I propose we celebrate. Let’s throw a party. Let’s invite the people who were a part of it’s heritage and honor them. People from 1st People from Colonial Hills. Pastors from our past who sacrificed in many ways to keep things moving along. For those pastors who’ve gone home to be with the Lord, what about their wives, their kids who are still alive. We could honor them. Former staff members; deacons; workers; Let’s do this up big. Will you pray about being a part of something like that? We could invite Mrs. Sarah Wall – whose mother joined this church in it’s sixth week. I don’t know if she could make the trip, but we could invite her. Maybe we could track down Mr. Beatty and his family?
  3. Have you considered being a part of this great body? Maybe God’s calling you to join our church and to build upon the work of those who’ve gone before.
  4. If you’ve never asked Christ to forgive you of your sin and commit your life to him, I offer him to you today.

Leave a comment

Filed under 2 Corinthians, Boasting, Church History, Faithfulness, Loyalty