Expositions

“The Unity of the Church” (Expositon of Philippians 1:27-2:4)

In my first few weeks at Farmdale Baptist Church I have been preaching on what I believe the Bible teaches about the church. Yesterday morning I preached the following message, which was followed up on Sunday evening with a message on how to deal with disunity in the church (outline will be posted tomorrow).

Do we live like citizens of heaven or as citizens of this world?

The city of Philippi became a Roman colony through a series of events which included a war between Octavian and Anthony. After the war, a number of soldiers who had been favorable toward Anthony settled in Philippi; for that reason, it was declared a Roman colony, a miniature Rome. As such, it was given special privileges; although it was 800 miles from Rome, Philippi was considered Italian soil and the citizens of the city had their names on the rolls in Rome and considered themselves Romans. The Philippians were very proud of their Roman citizenship. They believed that they were Rome’s representatives to a culture that was predominantly Greek.

In verse 27, Paul writes “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ”. The phrase “manner of life” comes from the Greek word πολιτευεσθε which has the idea of citizenship, the phrase “be worthy of” means to weigh the same (c.f. Eph. 4:1). See 3:20 for noun form. Paul is urging the Philippian Christians to conduct themselves in a manner that reflects their status as citizens of the Kingdom of God. So when Paul wrote to the Philippians that he wished them to conduct themselves as good citizens, he was using an aspect of their own culture to encourage them to be good citizens of another kingdom to which they also now belonged.

Now, as he wrote to them about their heavenly citizenship, he exhorted them to allow their allegiance to control their conduct. Just as they were to live by the laws of Rome though they lived in Philippi, so they were now expected to live by heaven’s laws and extend heaven’s influence into their pagan culture.

A church leader in the second century described the way early Christians followed these instructions:

While they dwell in Greek or barbarian cities according as each man’s lot has been cast, and follow the customs of the land in clothing and food, and other matters of daily life, yet the condition of citizenship which they exhibit is wonderful and admittedly strange. They live in countries of their own, but simply as sojourners . . . enduring the lot of foreigners…. They exist in the flesh, but they live not after the flesh. They spend their existence upon earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws, and in their own lives they surpass the laws. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus, chapter V.

As Caesar may have instructed the citizens of Philippi to live up to their Roman citizenship, Paul also instructs the Philippian Christians to live up to their heavenly citizenship. This is a call to every believer.

How were the Philippians to fulfil this awesome responsibility? In a word, through Unity!

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, (28) and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. (29) For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, (30) engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.  (1) So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, (2) complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. (3) Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. (4) Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 1:27-2:4 (ESV)

I. A Unified Stand, vv. 27-30

Paul desires the Philippians to be “Standing firm in one spirit”

“standing firm” one word, perfect tense “stand and keep standing”

This is a military term conveying the idea of firmness, steadfastness, or unflinching courage like that possessed by soldiers who refuse to leave their posts no matter how severely the battle rages.

A. Stand With Cooperation, v. 27

“in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side

“striving” not just to struggle, but to struggle along with someone

Paul moves from the image of soldiers at battle stations to athletes working as a team, side by side, playing the game not as several individuals but together as one person with one mind for one goal: “the faith of the gospel.”

Every year professional sport teams spend big money to lure superstar free agents in hopes of winning a championship. But it is often the team with lesser known players who work as a team who actually win the championship.

B. Stand With Courage, vv. 28-30

“frightened” In classical Gk. referred to timid horses that shy upon being startled by some unexpected object. Paul is saying “Don’t jump back from your adversaries.”

Sometimes our courage is like the man who bragged that he had cut off the tail of a man-eating lion with his pocket knife. Asked why he hadn’t cut off the lion’s head, the man replied: “Someone had already done that.” No, instead we are to be courageous in our stand for the gospel. Our courage is not just measured by our stand when everyone else is in agreement, but when we are willing to stand for the truth when it is under attack!

“This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation,”

“This” refers not to our not being frightened, but to our striving together for the faith of the gospel. When we stand firm and strive for the gospel, two things happen:

First, the world is convinced of their own destruction. Secondly, the world is convinced of the reality of our salvation by our willingness to suffer.

“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,” v. 29

Paul’s Example v. 30
“conflict” agon
Imprisonment? Paul uses his own courage under persecution as a model for the Philippians.

Not only does Paul tell the Philippians that in order to conduct themselves as citizens of the heavenly kingdom, they must have a unified stand, they also need . . .

II. A Unified Mindset, vv. 1-4.

But before we get to Paul’s call for a unified mind. In the middle of this tremendous appeal by the Apostle Paul for Christian unity, Paul gives four reasons for this unity in verse 1.

“If” not something that may not be true, more certain, since you have . . .

1. Encouragement in Christ received encouragement from Christ

2. Comfort from Love experienced Christ’s love

3. Participation in the Spirit have the common presence of the Holy Spirit

4. Affection and Sympathy inward and outward compassion

A. With Harmony, v. 2

Thinking the same way, i.e., the same beliefs. There is no spiritual unity without doctrinal harmony. As Baptists we are united, not in spite of what we believe, but because of what we believe.

same mind, same love, in full accord, and of one mind

B. With Humility, v. 3
No attitude or action should be done out of pride.

Count others more significant than yourselves. If we do this, we will not have much conflict or disunity. Our love for one another is one of the key evidences of our salvation.

But, not only is this an evidence for us (assurance), it is an evidence to the world (testimony). John 13:35 “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Someone has paraphrased Jesus’ words as:

From this time forward, this mutual and disinterested love shall become the essential and distinctive mark of all my disciples. When they love one another with pure hearts, fervently, even unto death, then shall it fully appear that they are disciples of that person who laid down his life for his sheep.

This was the testimony of the early church: Tertullian wrote in the second century that in the early days the report about the Christians was, “See how these Christians love one another.”

G. Campbell Morgan wrote these very convicting words:

The measure in which Christian people fail in love to each other is the measure in which the world does not believe them, or their Christianity. It is the final test of discipleship according to Jesus.

You may say, “I can’t love so and so. We don’t get along, etc.”

The love that Jesus talks about – the love which the Bible calls agape or unconditional love- is a love that is rooted in the will, not in our emotions. We are to have a mindset with humility.

C. With Helpfulness, v. 4

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Instead of “What’s in this for me?” we should ask, “What are the needs of others?” God has placed us together in this body for a reason.

For the Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “You have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another!” The friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of all the others. C. S. Lewis

Is this your mindset? “To live above with the saints I love; oh that will be glory. But to live below with the saints I know, now that’s another story.” Most of us like to sing about how happy and united we will be when we all get to heaven, but we are called as citizens of the kingdom of God to act now as we think that we will act when we all get to heaven. Dennis Johnson points us to having a heavenly perspective on the church in his commentary on the book of Revelation.

Do you love the church of which Christ has called you to be a member? For all its flaws and frictions, do you have hope that you and your brothers and sisters will one day shine brightly in the beauty of holiness? When your congregation or denomination seems to suffer one spiritual setback after another–‘by schisms rent asunder, by heresies distress’–are you tempted to give up on the organizational church and go it on your own? Do the so-called saints you rub elbows with on Sunday seem to be obstacles rather than aids to your friendship with Christ and your growth in his grace? Then look again at the church through Jesus’ eyes, and in the bright light of her final destination. Jesus’ eyes see all the churches’ blemishes and bruises, yet our defects do not diminish his love for us or dim his eager expectation for the day when he will present the church to himself ‘in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing’ but rather being ‘holy and blameless’ (Eph. 5:27). When we glimpse the bride through the eyes of her Groom, it lifts our head in hope and calms our frustrated hearts for persevering love for one another. Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation, 343.

I’m not called to be a babysitter of adult Christians, or a referee for fighting Baptists. I’m a preacher of the Word of God and I expect that as Christians we will seek to live in unity in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. By having a unified stand and mindset we will demonstrate that we are not citizens of this world, but of the kingdom of God.

The Proper Locus of Fear (Exposition of Matthew 10:26-33)

My favorite television program is Monk which is a weekly program on the USA network which explores the adventures of an obsessive-compulsive genius detective who has at least 38 documented phobias.  On the show’s website a dictionary of phobias is provided.  Among the phobias listed are:

  • Altophobia: Fear of heights.
  • Arachnophobia: Fear of spiders.
  • Arachibutyrophobia: Fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth.
  • Ballistophobia: Fear of missiles or bullets.
  • Claustrophobia: Fear of confined spaces.
  • Ecclesiophobia: Fear of church.
  • Frigophobia: Fear of cold.
  • Gamophobia: Fear of marriage.
  • Glossophobia: Fear of speaking in public or of trying to speak.
  • Homilophobia: Fear of sermons.
  • Obesophobia: Fear of gaining weight.
  • Panophobia: Fear of everything.
  • Peladophobia: Fear of bald people.
  • Phalacrophobia: Fear of becoming bald.
  • Phasmophobia: Fear of ghosts.
  • Testophobia: Fear of taking tests.
  • Xenophobia: Fear of strangers or foreigners.

We all have fears, hopefully not 38 of them, but we all have fears.  Many things we fear for no reason.  Some things we don’t fear that we should.  In this morning’s text Jesus describes the proper locus, or place, of fear.  Three times in this morning’s text, the disciples are told by Christ to not fear.  We are told not to fear man, but rather to fear God.  The book of Proverbs makes this distinction when in Proverbs 25:29 we are warned:  “The fear of man brings a snare.”  And exhorted in Proverbs 9:10: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.”  As we look to Matthew 10:26-33 we are told two areas in which we are not to be afraid, and one area where it is altogether appropriate to be afraid.

Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.  (27)  “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops.  (28)  And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.  (29)  Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.  (30)  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  (31)  Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.  (32)  “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.  (33)  But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.  Matthew 10:26-33

I.    Do Not Be Afraid to Trumpet God’s Proclamations, vv. 26-27.
The first reason that we are told not to fear is found in verse 26.  The reason we are not to fear is that “there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.”  This was apparently something that Jesus repeated on various occasions with multiple applications.  For example, when this phrase is quoted in Luke 12:1-3 it used to warn against hypocrisy.  But here it is used to provide the background to the command of public proclamation in verse 27.  Jesus clearly expected the ministry of His disciples to be more open and public than His own ministry.  What He told them in the dark, they were to speak in the light.  What He whispered in their ear was to be shouted from the rooftop.  The houses in the first century were all flat roofed and were thus often the place where public proclamations would be made to large crowds.  Jesus is calling His disciples to holy boldness in their proclamation of the teachings of Jesus.

The question is which issues of our day require us as Christians to speak boldly God’s proclamations.  The great German Reformer Martin Luther said,

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

What are the world and the devil at this moment attacking?

  • The exclusivity of Jesus Christ.

If there is one thing truth claim that is being attacked in our day it is the biblical teaching that faith in Jesus Christ is the only way that humans can be saved.  We must be willing to proclaim this truth from the rooftops without flinching.

John 14:6  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

Acts 4:12  Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

We can’t be afraid of what men may do to us at this point!

Another area in which we must not flinch in our day is on the sanctity of human life.  Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.

  • The sanctity of human life.

Good news was released this past week.  The number of abortions performed in the United States is down 25% since its highest point in 1990.  That means that only almost 3,300 babies a day were aborted.  That’s a loss of life more than on the tragic events of September 11, 2001.  And this happens every single day.  This Tuesday marks the 35th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision known as Roe v. Wade.  Over the last 35 years, approximately 45 million have been murdered without mercy in these United States. That’s more than 2 times the number of those who were killed in all the wars that have been fought in the history of America! These individuals have had no trial, no legal representation, and no opportunity to defend themselves. Yet, they have been executed in a cruel, inhumane way.

What can we do?  1.  Pray for eyes to be opened to the truth about abortion.  2.  Never forget the horror of millions of lives destroyed.  3.  Support alternatives like adoption and abstinence.  4.  Use your right to free speech and right to vote for representation.  In other words, say what you believe, write what you believe, and vote what you believe about this issue.

This is not a political issue, but a biblical issue!

I imagine most everyone here would agree with what I just said about the sanctity of the life of the unborn.  But I don’t want to just preach about the crowd out there.  I want to preach on our sins too.  In Isaiah 58:1, the prophet Isaiah is told by God to:

Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.

If abortion is the sin of our country, racism is the sin of our church.

  • The equality of the human race.

I am amazed at the way so many people use the Bible to support racism.  Racial prejudice is not a social issue it is a gospel issue.  In Ephesians 2:11-22 we are told that the blood of Christ purchased not only unity between holy God and sinful man but also between different ethnic groups.  We’ll let this passage stand for Jewish and white relationships, but not for black and white relationships.  In the eyes of God, white Americans are on the same ground with Asians, Europeans, Africans, South Americans and Black Americans.   One word describes us all:  Gentiles.  Those who have put their faith in Christ are now “one new man.”  Therefore, when we hate another group of people because of their nationality or color of their skin, we’re sinning against the unity that the blood of Jesus Christ purchased.   When we all get to heaven, we’ll all be together!!!  Revelation 5:9-10 tells us:

And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.

II.    Do Not Be Afraid to Trust God’s Providence, vv. 29-31.
A second area in which Christians are not to be afraid is in God’s providential care.  In the context of the command not to fear those who kill the body in verse 28 (which we’ll come back to in a moment), Jesus tells His disciples that He will watch over them.  The illustration of this truth given by Jesus is of God’s care for the sparrow.  Sparrows were the food of the poorest people for they could be purchased for the cheapest price.  But God is providentially involved when one of these birds falls to the ground.  God is sovereign over the sparrow!  God is also sovereign over the hairs of your head!  You don’t have to have phalacrophobia (the fear of becoming bald).  Then Jesus concludes His argument by asserting that humans are of more value to God than sparrows (whom God providentially cares for).

In the United States you can be fined up to $5,000.00 and/or spend a year in jail for crushing the egg of a bald eagle.  For destroying an unborn animal! And yet you can make a good living destroying unborn babies.  This is a perverse misplacement of priorities.  But the good news for us is that our Father in Heaven does not think that way.  He created humans in His image, distinct from all animal creatures.  He will take care of you!  Don’t be afraid to trust God’s providential care of you.

Finally, Jesus tells us one area in which it is entirely appropriate to be afraid.

III.    Do Be Afraid to Trample God’s Provision, vv. 28, 32-33.
I believe verses 28 and 32-33 refer to the same reality.  Those who confess Christ will escape hell.  Those who deny Christ will be cast into hell, body and soul.

It is eternally important to fear God rather than man at this point.  Man only has the ability to kill the body, but God has the ability to cast both body and soul into hell.  Hell is a place of eternal punishment described in Scripture as a place where the fire does not go out and where the worm never dies. To deny Christ is to trample the Son of God underfoot, count the blood of the covenant a common thing, and insult the Spirit of grace.  This puts one in danger of the judgment of an almighty God!  Witness Hebrews 10:29-31,

Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?  (30)  For we know Him who said, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. And again, “THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.”  (31)  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

To fail to confess Jesus Christ is to trample God’s provision for our deliverance from judgment and puts one on dangerous ground!  But if you confess Christ, Christ will confess you before His Father and you will escape Hell and enter Heaven.

What do you fear?  We are not to fear man who can destroy only the body, but God who can destroy both body and soul in hell.

A Theology of Persecution (Exposition of Matthew 10:16-25)

The early church understood persecution, as did our early English Baptist forefathers. For example, 17th century British Baptist pastor Hercules Collins wrote from prison to his church: “For, as a tree is known by his fruit, so is a Christian by a patient wearing [of] Christ’s cross.”

Christians in Muslim and Communist countries today also know persecution. 21st century American Christians, however, have become soft. We don’t know what it is like to have been, or have friends and loved ones, martyred or imprisoned for their testimony of the gospel. But I fear the day is coming when this will become an all too present reality, if not in our lifetimes, then in the lifetimes of our children or grandchildren. We are not ready! If there is a message that desperately needs to be heard by the church today, it is Jesus’ words regarding persecution. In this morning’s text, Jesus prepares His disciples for the certainty of persecution on their current mission to the nation of Israel. In so doing, He also expands His teaching to include the mission to the Gentiles which encompasses the entire history of the church down to the present day. Here Jesus provides key teachings of a theology of persecution to which we will do well to take heed. We must prepare ourselves and our sons and daughters for persecution. If not here, God may send us or them to a country as a missionary where persecution is a real and present danger. How will we cope?

Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. (17) But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. (18) You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. (19) But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; (20) for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. (21) “Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. (22) And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. (23) When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes. (24) “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. (25) It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! Matthew 10:16-25

I. Persecution Must Be Expected, vv. 16-18, 21-22, 24-25.
That Jesus has in mind not only His disciples’ immediate mission, but also the mission of the church to the Gentile world is seen in verse 18 which speaks of testimony being made to the Gentiles.

All Christians, therefore, are sent out “as sheep in the midst of wolves.” This is a powerful image of a defenseless animal surrounded by their greatest predator. The Christian mission to the wold can be summarized by these words: “sheep among wolves”. The apostle Paul would later warn of wolves in sheep clothing in the midst of the sheep. These are two dangers which Christians must be aware of: from without and within.

In verses 17 and 18 we see that the persecution of Christians will be both religious and secular. They will be delivered up to councils and scourged in the synagogues. They will be delivered to Gentile kings and governors also. We certainly see this played out in the book of Acts as the disciples are persecuted by Jewish authorities. Later in the early church, Christians began to be persecuted by the Roman authorities. This was to be expected! (See vv. 21-22 and vv. 24-25.).

These words parallel the words of Jesus in John 15:18-21,

If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. (19) If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (20) Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. (21) But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.

The apostle Peter writes in 1 Peter 4:12-16 to suffering Christians in the Roman empire:

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; (13) but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. (14) If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. (15) But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. (16) Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.

II. Persecution May Sometimes Be Escaped, v. 23.
Here Christianity clearly differs from the terrorists. For them, martyrdom is to be sought. The purpose is to die in battle killing as many of the infidels as possible. This is foreign to biblical teaching on persecution and martyrdom. Sometimes martyrdom is required, when it cannot be escaped. It is never to be sought. But when it is unavoidable, one is to stand boldly and not deny the name of Christ.

Jesus tells His disciples to flee to the next town when persecution comes. There will always be a place where one can escape persecution (which is what I believe verse 23b means).

The ministry of the apostle Paul bears out this principle. Sometimes he was able to escape persecution. Most of the time, however, he did not escape and faithfully endured scourgings and stonings.

III. Persecution is a Means of Gospel Witness, vv. 18-20.
But where persecution cannot be escaped, it is a powerful tool of God for gospel witness. This is why the early church father Tertullian could speak of the blood of the martyrs as seed. Because wherever Christians sealed their testimony of Christ with their blood, new Christians sprang forth. There was no more powerful witness in the early church or in lands where Christians are persecuted today than when a believer is willing to die for their faith. This causes the world to pay attention and consider the claims of Christ for which so many are willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice to embrace and share with others. Where is the church growing the fastest in the world today? It is in countries where Christians are being persecuted by their government and where they are forced to meet in secret!

By the way, the Greek word for “testimony” in verse 18 is μαρτυριον from which we get the English word “martyr.” The word for “testimony” in Greek became so acquainted with the death of the one giving the testimony that it is now the word we use for one who dies for their Christian testimony (Terrorists are not martyrs, this is a word that specifically refers to a believer who dies for their Christian witness.). Stephen in Acts 7 is commonly referred to as the first Christian martyr.

In verse 18 Jesus gives the purpose for why His disciples will be brought before governors, kings and Gentiles. It will be for His sake and as a testimony to them. Notice that Jesus says their testimony will be “to”, not “against” them.
The apostle Paul gave witness before Jewish religious authorities and Gentile kings and governors. The last several chapters of the book of Acts records his testimony before these individuals. Paul testifies before the High Priest Ananias, Roman governors Felix and Festus and King Agrippa. Paul appealed to Caesar himself which got him an eventful boat ride to Rome.

Paul could write of his imprisonment of Rome, though, with these words:

But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, (13) so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; (14) and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Philippians 1:12-14

In the same spirit the aforementioned 17th century British Baptist pastor Hercules Collins wrote to his own congregation from prison:

Dearly beloved,

Forasmuch as I am at present deprived by my bonds of the liberty of preaching, I bless God I have the advantage of printing, being ready to serve the interest of Christ in all conditions to my poor ability. And [I] doubt not but God and his interest are served by my confinement as by liberty, and am not without hopes that I shall preach as loudly and as effectually by imprisonment for Christ as ever I did at liberty, [and] that all those who observe God’s providential dealings, will be able to say with me hereafter, as holy Paul once said in his bonds at Rome, what hath befallen me, hath tended to “the furtherance of the gospel.”

IV. Persecution Identifies One with Christ in His Suffering, vv. 24-25.
But the most important benefit of persecution is the opportunity to be identified with Christ in His suffering. Thus, persecution for the cause of Christ points to the heart of Christianity which is the suffering of Christ for our sins. Note verse 24-25 and the word “scourge” in verse 17. In so suffering, these disciples were being identified with their master.

The apostle Peter also identified the suffering of a Christian with the suffering of Christ in 1 Peter 3:15-18,

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; (16) having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. (17) For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. (18) For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,

The sufferings of a persecuted Christian point beyond themselves to the sufferings of Christ who alone accomplished the forgiveness of our sins through His sufferings on the cross.  Thus, Christian persecution points to the same reality to which Christian preaching points which is the heart of Christianity:  Christ and Him crucified!

Our suffering as Christians fills what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.  Paul wrote in Colossians 1:24 that through his own sufferings he fills up what is lacking in the suffering of Christ.  What is lacking in the sufferings of Christ?  Certainly nothing in regard to the satisfaction of God’s wrath for our sins.  When Jesus said, “It is finished!”, it was finished.  I believe that John Piper has explained this verse better than anyone else when he said that what is lacking is an in the flesh presentation of those sufferings to a lost world.  When Christians are persecuted for their gospel witness their sufferings point to the reality of what Christ accomplished and powerfully accompany their verbal witness of that saving reality.

We need to remember these teachings of Jesus on persecution if/when we are persecuted.  We need to prepare ourselves and our children for persecution by the teachings of Jesus on the subject.  May God grant that we remember these principles in the hour of temptation.

“The First Christian Missionaries” (Exposition of Matthew 10:1-15)

The 18th century British Baptist William Carey is often referred to as the “Father of Modern Missions.”  He began the modern missions movement with a sermon which called upon British Baptists to forsake their view that if God was going to convert the heathen, He would do it without our help.  This sermon called upon Christians to use means for the spread of the gospel among the heathen.  He called upon his hearers to expect great things from God and attempt great things for God.

But Carey’s call was simply an echo of the original call of Jesus to take the gospel to the world.  Jesus Himself was the first missionary, sent by God to this world.

Galatians 4:4-5  But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law,  (5)  to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

Jesus then sent out His disciples and continues to send us:

John 20:21  As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.

This morning’s text contains the account of the first Christian missionaries.   They are missionaries because the word “apostle” which is used to describe them refers to those “sent on a mission.”  They are Christian because they are sent out by Christ with a message about Christ’s kingdom.  And, they are the first, well because they are the first ones sent out on mission by Christ.

In this text Jesus is sending a specific people out to a specific place for a specific purpose.  However, in spite of the differences in the situation, there are still enough similarities for us to learn from their mission.

Here we see the first missionaries, the mission field, and their mission.

And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.  (2)  Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother;  (3)  Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus;  (4)  Simon the Cananite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.  (5)  These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans.  (6)  But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  (7)  And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’  (8)  Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.  (9)  Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts,  (10)  nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food.  (11)  “Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out.  (12)  And when you go into a household, greet it.  (13)  If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.  (14)  And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet.  (15)  Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!  Matthew 10:1-15

I.    The Missionaries, vv. 1-4.
The first missionaries were none other than Jesus’ 12 disciples.  This is the first mention of the twelve, although the calling of Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew are recorded in earlier chapters.  By this point, Jesus has obviously called all 12 of His disciples.  In this text He commissions them for a specific mission.  These twelve, as I said earlier, are referred to as “apostles” which means they are sent on a mission.  The lists of the twelve are interesting (cf. Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:13-16, Acts 1:13).  Simon Peter is always listed first.  There are three sets of four which always appear together.  Peter, Andrew, James and John are always in the first set of four.  This is not only because they were apparently the first ones called by Jesus, but also because of their prominence in the ministry of Jesus and afterward.  Judas Iscariot is always listed last which should not be a mystery to us.  It is interesting that only in Matthew’s account is Matthew himself referred to as “the tax collector.”  I believe this is included by Matthew as an expression of wonder that he, though a sinner, should be called by Jesus.  The most striking thing about this list of men is their ordinariness.  John MacArthur has written a book about these men titled simply, Twelve Ordinary Men, and they certainly were.  Fishermen, tax collectors, nobodies.  These are the kinds of people which Jesus calls to be missionaries.  In other words, people like you and me.  The apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31,

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.  (27)  But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;  (28)  and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are,  (29)  that no flesh should glory in His presence.  (30)  But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification and redemption  (31)  that, as it is written, “HE WHO GLORIES, LET HIM GLORY IN THE LORD.”

There is a method behind the apparent madness of God choosing people like you and me.  It is in order that no human being would ever be able to stand in the presence of God and boast of their worthiness.  Instead all the glory goes to God and God alone!  We dare not miss this lesson from the calling of Jesus’ disciples and their commissioning as the first Christian missionaries.  If you are a believer, then you too have been commissioned by Christ in Matthew 28:19.  This mission is not yet complete.  The call is still extended.  We must heed the call.  We are either go-missionaries, co-missionaries, or no-missionaries.  To be a no-missionary is not an option for the child of God.

II.    The Mission Field, vv. 5-6.
One of the key differences in the mission of the first Christian missionaries and our mission today is the mission field.  Jesus sent His disciples specifically and exclusively to the nation of Israel, i.e., “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”   This is in keeping with God’s design for the gospel message to first be preached among the Jews.  This is encapsulated even in the ministry of Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, who said in Romans 1:16,

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.

This mission, however, will change.  Not that the Jews are to be neglected.  By no means!  But our commission is to take the message of the gospel to “all nations” (Matt. 28:19),  and “the uttermost parts of the earth” (Acts 1:8).  There are hints about this shift even in chapter 10.  In fact, I believe there is a shift in between verses 15 and 16 from the disciples’ immediate mission to Israel and the churches’ future mission to the Gentiles.  For example, see Matthew 10:18, “You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.”

Our mission field today is the world.  We, as the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, have the privilege and responsibility of taking the message of the gospel to the entire world.  That means we have to be actively sharing the gospel here.  We have to be willing to go there.  We have to be giving to support those who are willing to go there.  We seek to do this with our own outreach in our community and our giving to missions both North American and Internationally.  These offering envelopes are not charity, they are a means of obedience to the command of King Jesus.  We must be about this mission of taking the gospel to our mission field, just as the disciples had to be about their mission.

III.    The Mission, vv. 7-8.
There is a five-fold mission outlined by Jesus in verses 7-8.   Preach that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, Heal the Sick, Cleanse the Lepers, Raise the Dead, and Cast out Demons.  There is a continuity between the ministry of Jesus and His disciples.  These five things are exactly what Jesus Himself had been doing.  We see this continuity in the book of Acts where the works of the apostles are shown to be a continuation of the ministry of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.  The key component of the mission, however, is the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom.  The other four components of the mission are signs of the reality of the message.   These were a fulfillment of the prophecies concerning the coming of the kingdom.  When the kingdom came there would be healing of diseases.  Just as Jesus told the disciples of John in the very next chapter when he sent them to ask if Jesus was truly the Messiah,

Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see:  (5)  The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.

The message which Jesus commissions the disciples to carry is the message that the kingdom of God has come in His own person.  This is what John the Baptist preached (3:2), what Jesus Himself had preached (4:17), and it is the message that you and I continue to proclaim.  Jesus is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.  His Kingdom is an eternal Kingdom.  Therefore, all must repent of their sins and rebellion against this King and trust in Him as their saving Substitute.  We have a message to proclaim:

2 Corinthians 5:18-21  Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation,  (19)  that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.  (20)  Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.  (21)  For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Jesus makes clear in verses 11-15 that His messengers were to be received as if He were Himself speaking to them.  To reject their message was to reject the Messiah and to be judged accordingly.  It would be worse for those who reject the message of the disciples than it was for the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah.  To reject the message of Christ is to invite severe judgment.  Instead, embrace the message of Christ and Him crucified and escape the wrath to come.

Did Jesus Claim to be the Messiah? (Exposition of Matthew 9:18-34)

How can John Hagee not see what two blind man could? John Hagee has recently authored a book titled, In Defense of Israel. In an advertisement for the book on his television program, Hagee claims that his new book “will shake Christian theology.” “It scripturally proves,” says Hagee, “that the Jewish people, as a whole, did not reject Jesus as Messiah. It will also prove that Jesus did not come to earth to be the Messiah.”

Please allow me share a few quotations from the book:

  • “The Jews did not reject Jesus as Messiah” (132).
  • “If God intended for Jesus to be the Messiah of Israel, why didn’t he authorize Jesus to use supernatural signs to prove he was God’s Messiah” (137).
  • “The Jews were not rejecting Jesus as Messiah; it was Jesus who was refusing to be the Messiah to the Jews” (140).
  • “Jesus rejected to the last detail the role of Messiah in word or deed.”(145).

I would like to categorically declare that these statements are false. Jesus did claim to be Messiah in both word and deed! In this morning’s text Jesus demonstrates that He is indeed the Messiah by His ability to restore and even two blind men can see that!

While He spoke these things to them, behold, a ruler came and worshiped Him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live.” (19) So Jesus arose and followed him, and so did His disciples. (20) And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment. (21) For she said to herself, “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.” (22) But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, “Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that hour. (23) When Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd wailing, (24) He said to them, “Make room, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping.” And they ridiculed Him. (25) But when the crowd was put outside, He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. (26) And the report of this went out into all that land. (27) When Jesus departed from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, “Son of David, have mercy on us!” (28) And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.” (29) Then He touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith let it be to you.” (30) And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, saying, “See that no one knows it.” (31) But when they had departed, they spread the news about Him in all that country. (32) As they went out, behold, they brought to Him a man, mute and demon-possessed. (33) And when the demon was cast out, the mute spoke. And the multitudes marveled, saying, “It was never seen like this in Israel!” (34) But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the ruler of the demons.”

In Matthew 9:18-34, the King’s ability to restore health, life, sight, and speech is demonstrated.

Matthew connects the events of 18-34 with what has preceded in 9:9-17. This was one eventful meal! Matthew, no doubt, remembers these events well. He is called by Jesus. He throws a party for his friends to meet Jesus. Jesus is questioned by the Pharisees about why He eats with tax collectors and sinners. The disciples of John show up and question Jesus about why His disciples do not fast. And now, just as He is finishing responding to John’s disciples about the radically new nature of the New Covenant, up runs a man named Jarius, a ruler of the synagogue with a request to raise His dead daughter. What a meal! Jesus gets up, along with His disciples, and follows the man to His house. Did they get to eat dessert? I don’t know. But Jesus said in John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me.”

On the way, a woman who has been bleeding, probably from the womb, for 12 years sneaks up behind Jesus and touches the edge of His garment and is healed. Jesus then proceeds to the ruler’s house where He sees professional mourners and flute players at work. According to the Talmud, even the poorest of families were to provide at least two flute players and one wailing woman when there was a death. This was a middle eastern custom. Jesus tells them their services are no longer needed, because this is not a funeral but a nap. These mourners become mockers! They laugh at what they perceive as naivety in Jesus.

By saying that the girl is asleep He is identifying her current state as temporary, in the same way that believers who are dead are said to “sleep in Christ.” This is not a reference to “soul sleep” because the Bible clearly teaches that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Jesus touches the girl and she comes to life!

After leaving the scene of the resurrection, Jesus is followed by two blind men who cry out, “Son of David, have mercy on us!” After they affirm their belief in Jesus’ ability to restore their sight, Jesus heals them. As Jesus moves on, a mute and demon-possessed man is brought to Jesus. Jesus casts out the demon and restores the speech of this mute man. The response of the crowd is split. The multitudes are amazed, but the Pharisees ascribe what has happened to the devil.
That’s a pretty busy evening. It may be considered typical of how Jesus’ day went during His public ministry. John tells us that if all that Jesus had said and done were written, the worlds could not contain them (John 21:25). It’s easy to see why, if Jesus kept up this hectic schedule.

But why does Matthew record all of these miracles of restoration? He does so to demonstrate that Jesus is the Messiah!

According to Isaiah 35:5-6, the Messianic age would be characterized by such miracles.

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. (6) Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing.

When John the Baptist’s disciples came and asked Jesus if He was “the Coming One”, Jesus responded in Matthew 11:2-6:

And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples (3) and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (4) Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: (5) The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. (6) And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”

In other words Jesus asks, “Am I the Messiah? Look at what I’m doing!” This is a resounding “Yes,” to the question which this sermon seeks to answer.

Use of the title “Christ”

What is the meaning of the term Christ? Christ is not Jesus’ last name. The Greek term Christos literally means “the annointed one”. The Greek word for the Hebrew Messiah. It is a title which refers to the coming Son of David, the Messiah.

This is one of the main emphasis of the Gospel of Matthew which begins with “the book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David” (1:1). Then recounts the birth of the Christ (1:18). When the wise men want to find the young Jesus, Herod gathered together all the chief priests and scribes and asked where the Christ would be born (2:4). John the Baptist heard about the works of Christ and sent His disciples to see if He was truly Him (11:2-6). When Jesus asked the disciples who they believed Him to be, Peter responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (16:16). This revelation, said Jesus, came from God, not man. During His trial, when the high priest asked Jesus under oath, if He was the Christ, the Son of God, Jesus responded, “It is as you said.” (26:63-64). In light of this evidence, how can anyone say that Jesus did not claim to be the Messiah?

Use of the title “Son of David”
This is also a Messianic title because it refers to the covenant made with David in 1 Chronicles 17. Matthew uses this title for Jesus in the introduction to his gospel. His genealogy is purposefully given to show that Jesus is a descendent of David and thus qualified for this title. But the first time Jesus is called by the title is in our text this morning (v. 27). And the title is on the lips of two blind men. As one commentator said, “It is interesting . . . that in Matthew such recognition comes primarily from blind people and Gentiles (viewed by many as spiritually blind).” (Craig Blomberg). These blind men see, what apparently John Hagee can not see, and what many in Jesus day did not see. The fact that this title is on the lips of these blind men is meant to highlight the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees. The truth is that Jesus did come as the Messiah. He declared Himself to be the Messiah in word and deed. But those who were spiritually blind did not see it then, and they do not see it now!

In Matthew 12:22-24, the

Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw. (23) And all the multitudes were amazed and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” (24) Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”

There are the same two responses here as in 9:33-34. Some acknowledge the uniqueness of Jesus, while others reject Him as demonic.

Jesus is the Messiah! You’ve seen the evidence. Will you acknowledge Him as Messiah or reject Him as demonic?

Fasting and the New Covenant (Exposition of Matthew 9:14-17)

I can think of no more appropriate topic for the Sunday after Thanksgiving message than fasting.  In God’s providence, this is where we are this morning.  God always knows exactly what we need, doesn’t He?

In this morning’s text, the disciples of John ask Jesus the question: “Why don’t your disciples fast?”  Jesus’ answer to this question provides important insights into the nature of His New Covenant ministry.

Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?”  15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.  16 “No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse.  17 “Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”  Matthew 9:14-17

The Question, v. 14.
The question is asked by the disciples of John in the same context of the previous question from the Pharisees.  In verse 11, the Pharisees had asked Jesus’ disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  Now the disciples of John ask Jesus, “Why do your disciples eat at all?”  These two questions represent two views of holiness.  One view said that one could not eat with sinners, the other that one should not eat at all.

It is important to note that the fasting referred to by John’s disciples was not one which was commanded by the law.  Only one fast was commanded in the Mosaic law, that on the Day of Atonement.  Instead these fasting was a tradition practiced by the Pharisees, and apparently adopted by the disciples of John, of fasting two days a week: Monday and Thursday.  This was a source of pride among the Pharisees as is seen in Luke 18:12 where the Pharisee boasts of fasting twice a week in his prayer in the Temple.  It is interesting that when the early church fasted, church history informs us that they also fasted twice a week, but on Wednesdays and Fridays, in order that their fasting not be confused with the fasting of the Pharisees.

Jesus’ Answer, vv. 15-17.
Jesus’ answer was threefold.  Jesus uses three different images to explain why His disciples do not fast like the disciples of John and the Pharisees.  In so doing He reveals something of the radically new nature of His Kingdom.

The first image which Jesus uses is one which the disciples of John would have been familiar with because it was John Himself who applied the term “Bridegroom” to Jesus in John 3:29.  If Jesus is the Bridegroom, then His disciples are the “friends of the bridegroom.”  It is not fitting, says Jesus, for the friends of the bridegroom to mourn while the bridegroom is present with them.”  In employing this image, Jesus is making a startling claim to deity that we might miss if we’re not careful.  In the Old Testament, Jehovah God had used this exact same language to describe His relationship with the nation of Israel.  For example in Hosea 2:19-23, God declares to Israel:

“I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me In righteousness and justice, In lovingkindness and mercy; 20  I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, And you shall know the LORD.” 21 “It shall come to pass in that day That I will answer,” says the LORD; “I will answer the heavens, And they shall answer the earth. 22  The earth shall answer With grain, With new wine, And with oil; They shall answer Jezreel. 23  Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, And I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; Then I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they shall say, ‘You are my God!’”

Now Jesus is using this language to declare that He is the Bridegroom who will call to Himself a bride, the true Israel, made up of both believing Jews and Gentiles.

The point is then, “How can my disciples fast when this long expected promise is now being fulfilled!?!?”  The reason that the Pharisees and disciples of John fasted was because they were longing for this day when God would again show His favor to Israel.  They were mourning waiting for the day when God would restore Israel from its rebellious present state.  Jesus is declaring that with His coming that day had now arrived!

But Jesus also says that there are days coming when His disciples will fast.  Those days are when their bridegroom is taken from them.  Some scholars understand this to refer to the three day period when Christ is taken from His disciples in death between the cross and resurrection.  But the early church apparently understood this to refer to the time after Christ ascended and before He comes again (Cf. Acts 13:3; 14:23; and 27:9).  This is the period in which we are now living.  This is a time for fasting, but not like the Pharisees and disciples of John.  Instead we are to fast as those who know that the Bridegroom has come and long for His coming again.  The Pharisees and disciples of John fasted in mourning because they didn’t believe that God’s promise had yet been fulfilled.  As New Covenant Believers, we fast because we do believe that God’s promise has been fulfilled and we are longing expectantly for those promises to be fully consummated at our Lord’s return!

Jesus now gives two more illustrations of the difference between the fasting of the Pharisees and His disciples by showing the radical difference between the Old and New Covenants.

In these two illustrations, Jesus goes to the heart of the question posed by the Pharisees and the disciples of John.  Their question about fasting assumed that Jesus’ teaching and ministry was only a slight alteration, or a patch upon the existing system of Judaism.  Jesus, however, informs them that fasting is different for His disciples precisely because with His coming into the world something completely new has come.  You cannot just pour the content of the New Covenant into the form of the Old Covenant.  Yes, there will be fasting, but it is a different kind of fasting.

  • Elaborate on the illustration of the new patch on old clothing in v. 16.
  • Elaborate on the illustration of the new wine in old wineskins in v. 17.

We could add a number of contemporary illustrations of this. The painting of an old building, remodeling, etc. The age of technology yields several good examples.  I.E., computer upgrades.

This is what the writer of Hebrews 8:13 means when he writes regarding the use of the adjective “new” to modify the word “covenant”:

In that He says, “A NEW COVENANT,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

Jesus did not come to put a new coat of paint on an old building, but to build a new building.  You can’t force me and my disciples into the same old categories of the old system.

This has numerous implications for our New Covenant worship.  There are similarities but key differences in the worship of the New Covenant.  New Covenant Baptism is different from the baptism of Gentile Proselytes.  The New Covenant day of worship is different than the Old Covenant day of worship.

What are the applications for us today?  We fast . . . because we live between the two comings of Christ.  But we don’t fast like the Pharisees and disciples of John did in Jesus’ day.  Nor do we fast like modern day Jews, Muslims, Mormons, or any other false religion.  We fast because we believe that the King who is our Bridegroom has come to inaugurate His kingdom and we eagerly anticipate His coming again to consummate that same kingdom.  In other words we fast with the words of the apostle John from Revelation 22:20 in response to Jesus’ promise to return quickly on our lips: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”