Sermon on John 6:32-59, the Bread of Life

This sermon was delivered by Pastor Chris Duke on 16/10/2016. This article is from notes I made so is not completely in keeping with what Pastor Chris said though I’ve tried to be as accurate as possible.

There’s only one thing better than the smell of freshly baked bread and that’s eating fresh bread. There’s a multitude of different breads that one can purchase – over 200 different types on Wikipedia. Bread has been a significant part of our lives for centuries.

In the gospels, Jesus fed the multitudes. He then makes a controversial statement in verses 32, 33 and 48 of John 6:

32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.

48 I am that bread of life.

He uses the name of God, Yahweh, in the first of seven “I am’s” where He takes God’s name. In other passages Jesus tells us:

Jesus is saying it is I, and I alone, from who you can receive eternal life.

We shall next look at the divine provision of the bread, following this up with human appropriation of the bread. Concerning divine provision, remember how Jesus responded to Satan’s temptation in the wilderness? He said, “Man shall not live by bread alone” (Matthew 4:4, Luke 4:4). In other words, He is saying, I am your soul food.

Jesus affirms again and again the existence of a pre-incarnate person. How did John begin his gospel – the Word was co-existent and self existent with God eternally (see John 1:14 and John 3:13):

14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
(John 1:14)

13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
(John 3:13)

According to verse 46 in today’s passage, the only one who has given us a message from heaven is Jesus:

46 Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father.
(John 6:46)

John 8:42 cements this fact as Jesus declares that God sent Him:

42 Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.
(john 8:42)

He then existed in the presence of God for all eternity. Jesus isn’t a created being who came into existence like you and I. Verse 32 to 33 of today’s passage make it clear that there was a divine purpose in the bread of life:

Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.
(John 6:32-33)

Jesus tells us that His Father sends the bread of life. Verse 38 confirms this:

38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.

There was a divine purpose in the Father sending the Son then. In verses 37 to 40 we start to see God’s plan, of redemption.

37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. 38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. 39 And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. 40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
(John 6:37-40)

There is a plan to complete the glorification of those the Father draws. We see divine election at work here, Christ keeps them and raises them up at the last day. Christ even quotes Isaiah 54:13 in John 6:45:

45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.
(John 6:45)

13 And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord;
and great shall be the peace of thy children.
(Isaiah 54:13)

The Father, then, is the true teacher and instructor of the heart and mind of the person being saved.

So why do we want this bread? What does this bread do for us? Verse 33 in today’s passage reads:

33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.

In the original Greek, the word “life” that is used means spiritual life. The following passages are instructive, showing that Jesus’ true followers receive the bread of life, for eternal life, and will live forever:

35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
(John 6:35)

40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
(John 6:40)

51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
(John 6:51)

So we come to rest in real union with Christ. As it is written in Galatians 2:20, we are one in Christ:

20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

This union is not just when you die but you can be united in Christ now. No-one can break this union. Our salvation is dependent on our union in Christ. Being a Christian isn’t just following the teachings of a man, it’s having His life in you.

So what’s our responsibility in this divine transaction? We are commanded to appropriate the bread of life. In verse 34 of today’s passage, the Jews said, “Lord, evermore give us this bread.” They wanted bread that would satisfy their physical hunger, yet in verse 35 Jesus plainly declares that He is their spiritual sustenance.

Our responsibilities are as follows:

  1. Come to Jesus. Verse 37 clarifies this for us.
  2. None of us knows who is chosen so the message of the gospel is to be preached far and wide.
  3. Look at me, gaze at me carefully and thoughtfully and see who I am. Receive His words.
  4. We are held accountable to come, to see, to believe.

Verse 53 of today’s passage reminds us that we have no life unless we appropriate the Word of God for ourselves:

53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.
(John 6:53)

The word “blood” is used, reminding us of His death. You can never be saved unless you believe in His sacrificial death. Jesus is the lamb of God, who came as an atoning sacrifice, who satisfied the wrath of God. Eating is a response to hunger from a heart that’s empty (this is the work of the Holy Spirit as He starts to draw us to faith in Christ). If you eat the bread of life you will live forever. What bread are you going to eat from now on? Jesus is the bread of life. Amen.

Sermon on Mark 8:1-13 – Seeing is Believing

This sermon was delivered by Pastor Chris Duke on 02/10/2016. This article is from notes I made so is not completely in keeping with what Pastor Chris said though I’ve tried to be as accurate as possible.

Today’s passage is Mark 8:1-13, which reads as follows:

8 In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples unto him, and saith unto them, 2 I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat: 3 and if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them came from far. 4 And his disciples answered him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness? 5 And he asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven. 6 And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people. 7 And they had a few small fishes: and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them. 8 So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets. 9 And they that had eaten were about four thousand: and he sent them away.

10 And straightway he entered into a ship with his disciples, and came into the parts of Dalmanutha. 11 And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation. 13 And he left them, and entering into the ship again departed to the other side.

Jesus and His disciples came to Capernaum. As well as being a fishing village, this was an area where the Romans collected taxes from those travelling through that region. And immediately we see the Pharisees come to question Jesus, to test Him.

With the phrase “seeing is believing”, the title of today’s sermon, a high degree of skepticism is implied. Many people who say this and yet see a genuine miracle would still doubt it and find reasons to continue in their unbelief. All the miracles that Jesus had performed, including the feeding of the four thousand that we saw in today’s passage, should have highlighted that Jesus was divine, the Son of God. Yet man’s condition is such that he is often in spiritual blindness, living with no light at all upon the things of God. This is certainly true of all religions apart from Christianity, none can give you spiritual light. Jesus promised in John 8:12:

…I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

Jesus performed many miracles yet the Pharisees still gave Him a hard time, choosing to walk on in darkness. Matthew 16 parallels today’s scripture reading, stating that the Sadducees were present too, this being the Lord’s final conflict with them. Up until this point, Jesus had always given invitations to both groups to believe in Him. He was to do this no more in the gospels, becoming instead Israel’s rejected leader. In fact we see that the Pharisees were foolish enough to want to kill Him.

What of Jesus’ disciples? Those who were following Him knew that they were making a break with their religion, and with their religious leaders. They were following Jesus because He is the Christ, the Messiah. He had dispelled their darkness and was continuing to do so day by day and even beyond the Cross when He rose again.

Yet now we see Jesus face to face with those who hated Him, those whose major sin was hypocrisy. If you remember Mark 7, Jesus left Galilee and went to Tyre and Sidon, which were Gentile cities. He then went to Decapolis (so named because it consisted of ten cities), which was a Gentile area also. By this Jesus showed His disciples that the gospel was for all mankind, not just the Jewish people.

In Decapolis Jesus fed 4,000 men plus women and children. Then in the tenth verse of today’s passage we see Him enter Jewish territory again. And then in verse 11, the Pharisees were on the attack against Him. They hated the Light, with His message of repentance, faith and grace. What they loved instead was religious ceremony and trying (unsuccessfully) to redeem themselves. In Mark 3:22 they even accused Jesus of being demon possessed:

22 And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils.

They gave no credit at all to Jesus for the miracles they saw Him performing.

Verses 11 to 13 of today’s passage highlight three characteristics of people who are spiritually blind:

  1. They are comfortable with others who are also blind, even if those are enemies to them. They hate the truth, and thereby hate Christianity. All false religions are like this.
  2. They are consigned to deeper blindness.
  3. They are condemned to terminal blindness.

In today’s passage the Pharisees asked Jesus for a sign. It’s important to realise that in doing so they were not asking for a miracle but a sign from heaven that would give Godly authority to His message. They believed demons could perform earthly miracles but only God could do heavenly ones (remember the magicians with Pharaoh in Exodus 7-9?). They wanted Jesus to perform acts such as stopping the sun, eclipsing the moon, or starting and stopping a storm. They did this to tempt Him. And yet we know they had seen enough already to believe in Him, as per Nicodemus’s testimony in John 3:2:

2 the same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

These people were no different from Pharaoh back in Exodus. He saw miracles too yet hardened his heart, until eventually the Lord passed judgement and hardened it for him:

But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had said.
(Exodus 8:15)

And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.
(Exodus 8:32)

And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants.
(Exodus 9:34)

And the Lord said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might shew these my signs before him:
(Exodus 10:1)

And Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh: and the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go out of his land.
(Exodus 11:10)

The more light was shone on Pharaoh, the deeper his spiritual darkness became. Unbelief always finds a way to reject the truth and in verse 12 of today’s passage we see Jesus recognising this with anguish:

And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.

Jesus’ sighing is described as deep and compounded. His heart was breaking over their spiritual blindness. This isn’t the only time we see the Lord grieving. In Luke 19 and John 11 He wept over the fate of Jerusalem, who had rejected Him as Messiah, and over the grave of Lazarus, when He saw the power of sin leading to physical death. He laments those who reject Him due to wilful ignorance, as is highlighted so aptly in Deuteronomy:

And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith.
(Deuteronomy 32:20)

In today’s passage, Jesus is strongly resolute: no more signs are to be given. He essentially says, “May I die if I do.” His judgement on the Pharisees is pronounced in other passages such as Matthew 15:14 and Matthew 16:4:

Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.

A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.

So one more sign would be given, the sign of Jonah. We know the story of Jonah. He was three days in the belly of a large fish, a whale, then was released from it.

What happens when Jesus is raised again? Matthew 28:11-15 shows the religious leaders’ reaction:

11 Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. 12 And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, 13 saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. 14 And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. 15 So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.

So they bribed the soldiers to lie about the resurrection. The Pharisees and Sadducees were at this stage in fixed darkness spiritually, they were still denying the Lord’s rising even after it had happened. Mark 8:13 gives the Lord’s preceding judgement, where He simply left them to their hardheartedness and error:

13 And he left them, and entering into the ship again departed to the other side.

The latter part of Romans 1 speaks of God’s wrath in giving people up to sinful desires:

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32 who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
(Romans 1:28-32)

This is a warning for us. When the gospel is preached, we should give our full attention to it. We should feel privileged to hear God’s good news and respond to it. There are the blind who never see the truth: our prayer is for our loved ones, neighbours and friends to be lead out of darkness into His glorious light:

God bless you all.

Sermon on Mark 6:30-44

This sermon was delivered by Pastor Chris Duke on 25/09/2016. This article is from notes I made so is not completely in keeping with what Pastor Chris said though I’ve tried to be as accurate as possible.

I’m sure you’ve prepared a large dinner for people. In Jesus’ ministry, people are becoming used to seeing divine power coming from Him. The area we’re dealing with today concerns a miracle Jesus performed near a small village in Galilee. Galilee itself was a very tiny province, covered by water. It had around 200 small villages and towns, being an agricultural area, and was therefore densely populated.

Jesus had earlier multiplied Himself by His disciples in Mark 3:14-15, sending them forth to preach and have power to heal sicknesses and cast out devils. He thus multiplied Himself twelve times. Significantly, eleven of the twelve were from Galilee (Judas Iscariot being the exception to this).

Yet feeding five thousand was way beyond any miracle Jesus did. Matthew says that could have been up to 10,000 people in total, including women and children (see Matthew 14:21). So this was a huge crowd. It was near Passover, in the springtime, as Mark notes the company of people sat down on “green grass” (Mark 6:39). This was Jesus’ final miracle in Galilee. After this, His focus narrowed to smaller crowds as He became concerned with training the twelve more than on public ministry. Jesus is here putting Himself on display in all His glory and magnificence. We are reminded that as you read the Old Testament, it points to Christ. As you read the New Testament, it reveals Christ. And that salvation is being drawn to Christ.

John 6:14-15 describes the aftermath of Jesus’ miracle: people tried to make Him a King. They wanted the ultimate welfare state with free food provided along with demons being cast out, etc. They also wanted freedom of rule from the Roman army. With this miracle we see Jesus as Jehovah-jireh, the Lord who provides, as He did with faithful Abraham:

13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. 14 And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.
(Genesis 22:13-14)

Jesus is the incarnation of Jehovah-jireh.

In Mark 6:7-11 we see that Jesus sent the disciples out into the countryside. They were told to preach the Kingdom of God and repentance towards God. In verse 31 Jesus’ first task as Jehovah-jireh, the provider, is revealed, as He says effectively, “Get some rest.” This was the first provision that He made for them. Luke 9:10 mentions that He took them to Bethsaida:

10 And the apostles, when they were returned, told him all that they had done. And he took them, and went aside privately into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida.

This was a fishing village on the sea of Galilee. They went near the village but not into it as the crowd was too heavily populated and wouldn’t have fitted. The village, incidentally, was where Peter and Andrew both grew up:

44 Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
(John 1:44)

Christ later had something damning to say about this village after the miracle of the fishes and loaves was performed:

Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
(Matthew 11:21)

Sadly, the people of Bethsaida didn’t worship the Lord even after His miracles. We would do well at this stage to remember the old saying, “To whom much is given, much is required”:

48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
(Luke 12:48)

The only rest the disciples got was on the boat with Jesus as the people followed them across the northern part of the lake, on foot. And they arrived earlier than the disciples having completed a walk of approximately ten kilometers. Rest is important but the truth is more important. Why were they following Him? John 6:2 provides the answer: they saw the signs He performed in healing the sick, and they were fascinated by His power:

2 And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased.

Yet Jesus wasn’t irritated by the people’s neediness but “moved with compassion toward them.” Luke 9:11 records that He spoke to them of the Kingdom of God and healed them:

11 And the people, when they knew it, followed him: and he received them, and spake unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing.

Jesus called them to repent and believe in Him as the Son of God and their Messiah, so that they could receive the Kingdom of God. He recognized that they were sheep and it is a known fact that sheep without a shepherd will die. They cannot get onto their feet again if they fall on their backs, they must be cleaned up, cared for, provided for. Numbers 27:17b simply states that “the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd.” Jesus’ teachings, then, would lead them to eternal safety in the fold. Matthew 14:14 shows Jesus healing the sick, being moved because human suffering made Him suffer too:

14 And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.

Yet the Lord was concerned that they had spiritual rest as well as physical rest and healing. Verses 35-44 of today’s passage show the Lord’s provision of food for the disciples and people. This is an example of God’s common grace, where the goodness of God is given without discrimination. Jesus is good to His enemies, even to people who hate and reject Him:

But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.
(Luke 6:35)

The following day is reported in John 6. Here, Jesus tells the people that He Himself is the bread of life, that they are to “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed” (John 6:27).

In verse 37 of today’s passage, Christ says effectively, “You give them something to eat.” Jesus had delegated His power to the disciples earlier but they didn’t yet have the faith to perform this miracle. They had forgotten about the widow and her jar of oil in 1 Kings 17:16:

And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah.

Another gospel says that a boy had five loaves and two fishes on his person. Why was this the case? It was clearly his lunch, being the Middle Eastern equivalent of five crackers and a little bit of protein.

In verse 39, Jesus orders the crowd. Verse 41 shows Him distributing the food after giving thanks to the Father. The disciples became the waiters and just kept giving out food. This would have been the only uncursed banquet these people had ever gone to, it was like eating in the garden of Eden. You’d have liked these fish too regardless of whether or not you liked fish.

Verse 43 is significant because it shows that Jesus ordered the meal with perfect precision. Twelve baskets of broken pieces of meat and bread were taken up, one for each of the disciples. This was divinely controlled with no waste. Was there a real spiritual awakening after the miraculous feeding of the five thousand? No, not really. The crowds were waiting the next day for food again but Jesus said simply, “No, you need spiritual meat.” John 6:66 then records that at this point even some of His disciples left Him:

From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

But the twelve stayed faithful, Peter simply stating, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

Today’s health, wealth and prosperity gospel echoes the attitudes of the faithless disciples and the people of Bethsaida. Sadly, those who have known the way of righteousness yet have turned from it will come under severer judgement:

For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
(2 Peter 2:21)

If you don’t yet know the Lord Jesus as your personal Saviour, may I encourage you to read the following article:

May the Lord Jesus bless you always.

Sermon on Acts 8:26-40

This sermon was delivered by Brother Alan Parry on 19/7/2015. This article is from notes I made so is not completely in keeping with what Brother Alan said though I’ve tried to be as accurate as possible.

Baptism. Many pastors and preachers give interesting sermons on why you should undertake this step of obedience as a Christian. We’re going to look at a passage today and I’m going to take a slightly different approach. I’m going to tell you why you shouldn’t get baptised.

In today’s passage, we see the Ethiopian version of Joe Hockey (the current Federal Treasurer in Australia) returning from worship in Israel, sitting in his chariot and reading Isaiah the prophet. He was most likely in quite a procession with a contingent of professional soldiers guarding him. As it would have been hard for him to read in a little chariot standing up, we can surmise that he was probably in something much larger and more salubrious. It is interesting to reflect that our Lord quoted many books during his earthly ministry but the only book He ever read publicly was Isaiah – the book the eunuch was also reading.

Verse 29 of Acts 8 reads: “Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.” From this we can learn that it is important to be attentive when the Spirit says to do something – the person has been gotten ready by His activity and is waiting for you to close the deal. In earlier verses we have learned that the Ethiopian would have been quite limited in how he could worship at Jerusalem, as he would only have been allowed access to the outer court of the Gentiles within the temple. He would not have been able to worship quite as he wanted to. He clearly knew much about the Word of God and the truth of God but he hadn’t quite figured it all out. The passage he was reflecting on before Philip joined him was Isaiah 53:1-12:

1 Who hath believed our report?
and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?
2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant,
and as a root out of a dry ground:
he hath no form nor comeliness;
and when we shall see him,
there is no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He is despised and rejected of men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief:
and we hid as it were our faces from him;
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he hath borne our griefs,
and carried our sorrows:
yet we did esteem him stricken,
smitten of God, and afflicted.

5 But he was wounded for our transgressions,
he was bruised for our iniquities:
the chastisement of our peace was upon him;
and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way;
and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth:
he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb,
so he openeth not his mouth.
8 He was taken from prison and from judgment:
and who shall declare his generation?
for he was cut off out of the land of the living:
for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
9 And he made his grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death;
because he had done no violence,
neither was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him;
he hath put him to grief:
when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin,
he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days,
and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied:
by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many;
for he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he hath poured out his soul unto death:
and he was numbered with the transgressors;
and he bare the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

In Acts 8:34 the eunuch asks an insightful question of Philip, saying effectively, “Is the prophet speaking of himself or someone else?” If he’d asked a rabbi this, he would most likely have been directed to Isaiah 49:3: “…Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” In other words, he would have been told that Isaiah 53 referred to the nation of Israel, to the righteous ones in that land. But the Ethiopian would soon have realised that this didn’t fit. How do the righteous redeem the unrighteous, or suffer for them?

In verse 35 of the same passage Philip solved the Ethiopian’s dilemma by simply preaching Jesus to him. In other words he said, “This is the One who fits the picture. In Isaiah 53:2 the beating He suffered at the hands of the Romans disfigured Him, so He had no beauty to inspire sympathy from others. He was rejected by His own people (Isaiah 53:3) and crucified on a cross so that most who witnessed this assumed that He’d been cursed (Isaiah 53:4). Isaiah 53:6 reveals that He suffered for our sins while Isaiah 53:9 tells us that He died with the wicked yet was buried with the rich. The tenth verse shows that all this was done by the express plan of God, satisfying His requirements for holiness and justice.”

In verse 36 on Acts 8, the eunuch says, “See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” It is interesting to note that the words “here is” (italicised in the King James version) are not in the original Greek. They’ve been put in afterwards to make the passage read a little better grammatically. In the original verse the eunuch would simply have said, “Look – water! Why can’t I be baptised?”, which brings us to the first reason we will consider as to why this shouldn’t be done. And that is, if you don’t believe that Jesus was prophesied about in the Old Testament, that He died for your soul, then don’t get baptised. It’s the wrong thing to do.

How did the Ethiopian fare in this first spiritual test? Verse 37 of Acts 8 clearly shows that he passed with flying colours, declaring Jesus to be “the Son of God.”

Which brings us to the next reason why a person shouldn’t undergo this step of obedience: if there’s not enough water, don’t get baptised. At this point some may object, asking, “Does it really matter how much water you use?” Well, Baptists didn’t invent baptism. Other Christian denominations didn’t either. John 3:22-23 tells us that John the Baptist, Christ’s forerunner, baptised by immersion, using “much water”: “…And John also was baptizing in Ænon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.” Mark 1:1-5 also gives us a picture of John’s baptisms, stating that he did so in the “river of Jordan.” What was John doing? He was calling the people to a baptism of repentance for the kingdom of heaven was at hand. He was getting people ready spiritually for the Messiah when He came. And he was doing this as proof of a change of heart (repentance) that had already happened within the people who came to him to be baptised. The practice of full immersion baptism went back further than this, however. In rabbinical teachings priests were to wash themselves before they taught the people. And anyone who became Jewish was baptised fully in a large font of water. So John didn’t invent baptism either. The concept of full immersion in water as a ceremony was already well understood by the Jewish people of Jesus’ time.

So what are we doing when we baptise people in Christian churches today? We’re giving it a special symbolic meaning, effectively showing everyone that you’re serious about God. Baptism is an object lesson for a Christian as Romans 6:3-5 declares:

Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

A picture makes the lesson easy to understand, as God well knew when He caused it to be written down for us in His Word. The passage above begins with the words, “Know ye not…” This is Paul’s way of saying, “Haven’t I already taught you this and you’ve forgotten?” So baptism then is an object lesson. As Christ died literally, so believers in Him will die figuratively. As He was buried, so are we – though symbolically. As He was raised, so we are too as we are lifted from full immersion in the baptismal font. You can’t do this with a mere sprinkle of water as there’s no picture there. It just isn’t right.

What about infant baptism, which is practiced by many churches in Christendom? Babies can’t understand the gospel therefore they fail the first test of baptism and should not undergo this rite. At this point some may direct us to Acts 16:25-33, where it states that a jailer’s whole house were baptised with him when he believed. A closer look at this passage shows that yes, the whole house was baptised by nowhere is there any mention of children. The phrase “he and all his” most likely refers to all his servants, both free and bond. All of these people heard the Word of God, believed, and were baptised accordingly.

Now for a final look at Philip in Acts 8. Was he an Apostle? No, he was not, though Acts 6 reveals that he was chosen by them with six other men to minister to people while they preached the Word of God. Did he have a title? No. This shows that the church can delegate the rite of baptism to anyone it wants to. The important thing is the heart and soul of the person being baptised, not the status of the one baptising them. Which underscores the importance of the first reason for undergoing this step in your Christian walk: if you’re heart’s not right, don’t do it.

We are now at the point where we can reveal the answer to the Ethiopian’s question in today’s passage: “what doth hinder me to be baptized?”

  • If you don’t believe
  • If there’s not enough water

However, if you fulfill the requirements above, then nothing hinders you from making this beautiful step of obedience and we’re going to see this done with five new believers today.

God bless you.

Sermon on Judges 14:1-9

This sermon was delivered by Pastor Frank Guglielmo on 15/05/2016. This article is from notes I made so is not completely in keeping with what Pastor Frank said though I’ve tried to be as accurate as possible.

Today’s message concerns Judges 14:1-9, which reads:

1 And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines. 2 And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife. 3 Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well. 4 But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the Lord, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.

5 Then went Samson down, and his father and his mother, to Timnath, and came to the vineyards of Timnath: and, behold, a young lion roared against him. 6 And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand: but he told not his father or his mother what he had done. 7 And he went down, and talked with the woman; and she pleased Samson well.

8 And after a time he returned to take her, and he turned aside to see the carcase of the lion: and, behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase of the lion. 9 And he took thereof in his hands, and went on eating, and came to his father and mother, and he gave them, and they did eat: but he told not them that he had taken the honey out of the carcase of the lion.

In general, women tend to be more romantic than men. A number of stories illustrate this in the Bible, including the famous Song of Solomon. Perhaps the best example of loving obedience concerns Sarah, who called Abraham “Lord”…even though he did a few things wrong during their married life (1 Peter 3:6). Today’s story, however, is not like that. Instead it concerns an impetuous young man with a very hard head who was infatuated with a girl and willing to sacrifice everything for her. The name of this young man was Samson.

Interestingly, Samson is listed as a hero of the faith in the New Testament:

32 And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:
(Hebrews 11:32)

Yet we may at first find it unusual that Samson would have so many issues yet still be saved. 1 John 2:15 warns us to “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Sadly, the love of worldly things comes out clearly in Samson’s life. He lusted after a girl regardless of the consequences and chose to have her. And he would have been critically aware of the consequences: he was both a Nazarite and judge in Israel, so was supposed to remain ceremonially clean whilst knowing and administering the Word of God. As we shall see, Samson failed to keep himself pure concerning both roles he had in his life.

Moving on to the first two verses of today’s passage, it helps to learn that Timnath was a Philistine village or town about 7 kilometers away from Samson’s house, or approximately an hour’s walk away. At the time it was assigned to the tribe of Dan, which Samson was a member of. The Philistines had not yet been pushed out of the area so dwelt within its borders. That Samson wanted a woman from an enemy nation for a wife directly opposes God’s warning to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 7:1-3:

1 When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; 2 and when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: 3 neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.

The Israelites were not supposed to marry unbelievers and we can understand why there was this injunction once we consider the history of the latter’s religious practices. They had declined so severely morally that some were sacrificing their babies to their “gods”, causing a spiritual stink to rise up in the nostrils of God. Verse 4 of Deuteronomy 7 underscores the reason for God’s warning, essentially stating that rebellious nations would turn Israel away from following Him if intermarriages occurred. The enemies of Israel were engaged in worshiping the earth through fertility rites including prostitution: God knew this would have corrupted His people so He sought to protect them.

Returning back to today’s passage, we see that Samson’s woman should have been automatically excluded from marriage to a Nazarite, let alone a judge.

Other passages in the New Testament also warn about mingling with people who are unbelievers as it leads to trouble down the track. For example, 2 Corinthians 6:14 states:

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

If we are unequally yoked it is akin to tying a lamb to a bull. They will pull against each other and sooner or later one will win out…and there are no prizes for determining that the most ungodly one usually does. So don’t be too eager to get married and don’t begin your married life with a compromise. Again and again I’ve seen sincere believers do this and it almost always leads to a shipwrecked faith. Some consequences:

  1. Your children may grow up to be unbelievers, being consigned to hell
  2. Your expectations of your partner’s thoughts and values may not match theirs moving forward
  3. Making your partner happy may become more important to you than pleasing God
  4. Marriage in Biblical terms is for life…this can be for a very, very long time with an unbeliever!

When people are young, instead of seeing danger signs in the Bible as being for their ultimate good and protection, they tend to see them as a way of robbing their happiness. When we are older we see that rules in the Bible were made by Someone who has gone before you, who knows about life and is shepherding you through it. It may help at this point to think of flags on a beach, warning swimmers about a rip. Those flags were not put there to take away your freedom and joy but to prevent injury or death for all who come across them.

In today’s passage it is undoubtedly true to say that Samson knew that what he wanted in a wife wasn’t right. His parents duly warned him and so did Scripture. But the desires of his flesh and the lust of his eyes took hold of him and he allowed those feelings to control him, rather than the Word of God. In verse three he says in essence, “She makes me happy. Get her for me!”, ignoring his parents’ protests. He insisted on taking a wife from his nation’s enemies.

Then, in verse four, we come to a puzzling phrase, “…it was of the Lord.” The Philistines at the time were oppressing Israel. This phrase at first glance seems to imply that God instigated Samson’s rebellion against him. Yet we know from earlier passages that Samson was a gift from God to his parents who was set to deliver the people from their enemies. What was going on here? Why was Samson so hard-headed?

We need to understand more about God’s dealings with sinful man by considering other passages in Scripture. Firstly we should realize that God did not lead Samson to the lawless position he took concerning his wife. James 1:13-15 states:

13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14 but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

So God does not tempt anyone with sin, including Samson. Secondly, we should consider that God did use Samson’s sinful choices to achieve His own purposes. We see this sort of thing all throughout Scripture, as when Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. Genesis 50:20 then tells us that God prepares plans to save people through (and in spite of) their evil acts:

20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

The same can be said of the crucifixion of our Lord. In Acts 2:22-24 we clearly see that God allowed Jesus to be brutally executed. In reporting this, Peter condemned the evil act but said it was intended for the good of mankind:

22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: 23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: 24 whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.

The above contrasts the sinfulness of man against God’s love, mercy and patience. Again and again in Scripture, then, God’s response to us is glorified. And the pinnacle of this was in God’s sending His own Son to die against a backdrop of absolute evil and hate. In Judges 14:4, we see that God was about to use Samson’s sinfulness to achieve His own purposes:

4 But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the Lord, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.

We might be tempted at this point to think that the above gives Christians a license to sin, as per the following passage: “Let us do evil, that good may come?” (Romans 3:8). Yet the end of the line strongly condemns this: “whose damnation is just”. The genuine mark of a Christian is your desire not to sin, which then lines up with God’s own desires.

The next section we will examine is Judges 14:5-7, where we see that Samson pushed hard for what he wanted and got it. His parents, after an initial warning, gave in to their son’s desires. Verse 5 then sees Samson apparently separated from his parents on the way to his proposed wife’s house. Possibly, being a headstrong young man, he had an argument with them and then ran on ahead in order to meet with her more quickly. Instead he met with a lion, which he summarily killed after it attacked him. It is interesting to note that the Spirit of the Lord gave Samson the strength he needed to dispatch the lion but he didn’t tell his parents about it. Maybe something like this had happened before? At any rate, he went straight to the girl he was lusting after once he reached Timnath.

Verse 8 of Judges 4 reads:

8 And after a time he returned to take her, and he turned aside to see the carcase of the lion: and, behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase of the lion.

In the above we learn that Samson had to return back to his home town to build a house for his wife, a process which surely would have taken some months. This is similar to what Jesus is currently doing for us as believers:

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
(John 14:2)

It also would have taken many months for an effective beehive to have developed in the carcass of the lion Samson had previously killed.

The next verse, verse 9, sees Samson taking much honey both to eat for himself and to keep for his parents. Was this a sin? The answer is clearly yes. It was forbidden for Israelites to touch anything dead, let alone to eat from it. The commandment against uncleanness would have been even more strictly enforced for a Nazarite like Samson, as Judges 13:7 reveals:

7 but he said unto me, Behold, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and now drink no wine nor strong drink, neither eat any unclean thing: for the child shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb to the day of his death.

So today’s passage shows that Samson not only had a blatant disregard for his own vows (and God’s laws) but managed to embroil his own parents in his sin. A very sad scenario indeed and a lesson for younger people in church as well as some older ones. Your respect for your parents is a barometer for your respect for God. As 1 John 4:20 reminds us, we can’t see God but we can see our parents, whom the fifth commandment also tells us we must honour and love:

20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

In other words, he who loves God must love his brother (and his parents) also. How can you say you honour and respect God if you cannot do it to people you can see? How much you love, respect, and worship God is reflected in the relationships you have with the people around you.

One thing we can rejoice in is that the salvation we have, and the grace we keep receiving, is given to us in spite of our weaknesses. We were dead in our sins when God first encountered us, having no chance whatsoever of saving ourselves. Yet as it is written:

“…My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
(2 Corinthians 12:9)

As we learn to rely on the Lord Jesus more and more, His strength is revealed in our weakness and this continues on past the initial point of our salvation. So don’t rely on your own strength to look good to others spiritually. True peace comes from trusting in Christ alone to give you the strength and patience to get through each day with grace. The sustaining thing in your life is to know God and have a relationship with Jesus Christ:

There is hope for us today arising from what we can learn about Samson’s blunders. God’s grace and persistence is evident even when we fail to meet the mark.

God bless you all.

The painting at the beginning of this article is Samson and Delilah, an oil painting attributed to Peter Paul Rubens. Rubens was a prolific Flemish Baroque painter well-known for a variety of 17th Century masterpieces. The painting depicts a candlelit room, with a sleeping Samson in the lap of Delilah, and a group of Philistines in a doorway off to the right. Samson’s strength was from his hair, cut by a Philistine to try and diminish his (Samson’s) strength. The oil painting is full of symbolic icons and gestures: the statue of Venus and Cupid, the crossed hands of the Philistine that signals deceit and the old woman is believed to be a procuress.

Sermon on Judges 14:10-20

This sermon was delivered by Pastor Frank Guglielmo on 22/05/2016. This article is from notes I made so is not completely in keeping with what Pastor Frank said though I’ve tried to be as accurate as possible. The image below depicts Samson eating honey from a ceremonially unclean source, a dead lion. It was taken from the Layman’s Bible, a blog I have just started following and recommend.

Every day we are faced with hundreds of decisions. Most of them we make quickly and easily, especially those that are seemingly insignificant or along the lines of…should I wear a tie today, should I wear my hair one way or another, etc? Other decisions are made for us: for example, our decision to rug up with winter clothing when faced with unfavorable weather outside. Other choices need more stamina: for example, how much time to devote to reading the Lord’s Word and prayer.

When we have God’s Word, we always have a choice regarding whether or not to obey it. And when we listen to the murmurings of our flesh the consequences, as we will see in today’s message, affect not only us but those around us.

Galatians 6:7-8 in the King James Bible reads:

7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

The passage above makes a clear distinction between sowing to the flesh and making choices that are lead by the Spirit of God. Sadly, the unsaved don’t have this choice: they almost inevitably choose to please the self.

We see an example of the latter in Samson. As the previous message on him showed, he was meant to live a consecrated life as both a Judge and a Nazarite. Yet he willingly joined himself to a woman of an enemy nation who was most definitely not clean. We saw that Samson was driven by his desires, lead by his flesh, in that he again willingly took honey from a dead body. In this chapter of the book of Judges, his choices begin to have consequences for both himself and his family.

Verse 11 of Judges 14 tells us:

11 And it came to pass, when they saw him, that they brought thirty companions to be with him.

These “thirty companions” were given to Samson as part of his marriage feast. At this point, Samson had finished building his bride-to-be’s house at his father Manoah’s place. Samson and Manoah then headed down to Timnath to get the bride but we find in this passage that the ceremony was inexplicably happening at the bride’s father’s house, not Manoah’s. Something had gone terribly wrong.

Samson was suddenly surrounded by his new wife’s family and friends, all of whom were enemies of Israel, the Philistines. Imagine being at a wedding where you were not surrounded by the people who love you. This was a bad wedding for Samson, a disaster of a wedding. We know that the Philistines had very different traditions to the Israelites yet now Samson and his family were forced to endure these differences.

There are lessons we can learn from their situation:

1. Choosing to sin normally brings further compromise
The main sin for Samson was in choosing a Philistine woman to marry, not a woman from his own people. Now his wedding was compromised: Samson was surrounded by people who would be doing the very things he wouldn’t be doing as he was both Jewish and a Nazarite.

Judges 14:5 mentions the “vineyards of Timnath” so we can infer from this that there was probably strong drink at the wedding. They were also most likely eating unclean foods as well. And we know that thirty young men had been chosen to help celebrate the marriage feast with Samson – all Philistines.

We also know from this chapter that the wedding didn’t just go for a few hours. Samson and his family had to put up with it for 7 days! Samson was effectively stuck for a week spiritually.

2. Before you choose to compromise with sin, consider the following:

There are always consequences that come about as a result of the decisions we make.
You will probably have to give up more as a consequence of sin. The bad situation normally progresses, in a descending spiral, away from the Lord.
Sin always affects other parts of your life. It is almost impossible to compartmentalize. Sadly, it usually spreads like a cancer, affecting not just yourself but the people around you.
Never think that you can sin and that your sin will bear no consequences. We learn from this chapter of Judges that Samson’s sin also affected his parents. And rather than being a godly witness to the Philistines, Samson instead demonstrated how much he hated them. The company you keep often reveals what you actually believe in your heart. Samson, who had forsaken God’s Word, now found himself in the company of those who hated God.

From this we can infer that if we keep company with the world, and with people who reject God’s Word, eventually we will start to like their conversations and may end up giving up our faith. The company you keep reflects where you are in your heart with God, what principles you hold dear. So be careful who you spend time with.

We should not spend too much time with people who are lead by their flesh and not by the Spirit of God. The Bible says we are to be witnesses in this world, salt and light, standing against corruption so that people might more easily come to God:

13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16)

We are to be an example to those who do not know God, being willing to share the gospel with them so they escape hell with us. A true friend will do this for the unsaved.

From the life of Samson we see, however, that if you want something badly enough God will let you have it (after warnings)…but there will be consequences.

Verse 13 of Judges 14 shows Samson proposing the consequences of the thirty companion’s failing to guess his riddle:

13 But if ye cannot declare it me, then shall ye give me thirty sheets and thirty change of garments. And they said unto him, Put forth thy riddle, that we may hear it.

Could Samson afford this? We will see shortly that no, he could not, but he was ready to gamble because he thought he was onto a sure winner. Samson’s attitude to his guests was anything but charitable: he was preparing to fleece them. And in trying to take advantage of them Samson displayed contempt for both them and their culture. He was also in this exchange clearly trying to demonstrate how wealthy he was. In other words, he was grandstanding.

In verse 19 of this chapter we see that in fact Samson couldn’t afford the bet as when he lost it, he had to kill thirty people to obtain their clothing:

19 And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them, and took their spoil, and gave change of garments unto them which expounded the riddle.

The riddle Samson gave to his thirty companions is expounded in verse 14:

14 And he said unto them, Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness. And they could not in three days expound the riddle.

We know the answer to this as we have followed along with Samson since he first desired a wife from an enemy tribe. To be fair to Samson’s character, he may have thought the Philistines had a fighting chance to find the truth as the lion he killed was lying near the vineyards so could well have been visible. By verse 15, however, it is clear that his companions had become desperate. Things had progressed to the point where they were prepared to threaten Samson’s bride if she did not get the answer for them:

15 And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they said unto Samson’s wife, Entice thy husband, that he may declare unto us the riddle, lest we burn thee and thy father’s house with fire: have ye called us to take that we have? is it not so?

In verses 16 to 17 we see that Samson’s wife was offended with him the very first day he proposed the riddle. She then “wept before him” for seven days and, on the last day of the feast, really pleaded with him. We should remember from verse 15 that it was on the last day of the feast that the companions threatened her and her family.

At this point we learn that Samson’s relationship with his wife was not good. She didn’t tell him about the threat she’d received from the thirty companions…while he didn’t tell her the answer to the riddle for seven days. Already, there was no trust between them. Genuine love between them (clearly lacking here) would have shown:

– Faithfulness
– Consistency
– Concern
Yet there was no trust between anyone at Samson’s wedding, as the exchange in verse 15 showed. Here the companions effectively asked his new wife, “Have you called us here so we can be ripped off?” There was no trust between the Philistines and Samson, between the Philistines and his wife, nor between the wife and Samson.

In verse 17 Samson’s wife really laid the guilt trip on her husband and he caved in, telling her the answer to his cryptic riddle.

Verse 18 then reads:

18 And the men of the city said unto him on the seventh day before the sun went down, What is sweeter than honey? And what is stronger than a lion? and he said unto them, If ye had not plowed with my heifer, ye had not found out my riddle.

It is interesting here that Samson’s guests chose to tell his the answer just before the closing of the final day of the wedding. In other words, they chose to drag the matter out for as long as possible. Samson by this stage most likely thought he had won the bet. Yet we see the Philistines tormenting him, answering the riddle with questions to further infuriate him. And Samson worked out very quickly that they could not have gotten the answer without his wife.

The phrase “plowed with my heifer” is insinuating and at first seems to have almost a sexual connotation. Yet it most likely means Samson was effectively saying, “You have stolen my cow and plowed your own field with her.” Nevertheless, it is clear that Samson knew his wife had betrayed him. She chose not to let him know about the threat she had received earlier from the thirty companions so that he could do nothing about it in time.

Samson was now in a dilemma. He had to pay for the bet. Verses 19 to 20 describe the aftermath: he went to Ashkelon, a city under dispute between the Philistines and the Israelites. He then jumped into the fray, killed thirty men, then brought their loot back to Timnath:

19 And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them, and took their spoil, and gave change of garments unto them which expounded the riddle. And his anger was kindled, and he went up to his father’s house.

20 But Samson’s wife was given to his companion, whom he had used as his friend.

So Samson fulfilled his obligations to the winners of the bet, then became angry and went back to his father’s house. It seems clear to us from this that he couldn’t face his wife. Unfortunately, her father then tried to do the right thing by the abandoned woman and gave her to someone else: a Philistine. Things were going from bad to worse for all concerned. This was not a good way to finish a wedding.

Learnings we can take from the life of Samson:
The first thing we see is that a man can slay a lion with his bare hands (through God’s strength) yet have very little control over his passions. Samson continually made the wrong choices. There are victories that God gives us in life: we should never forget (as Samson did) that we owe every one of them to the Lord. And the greatest victory we can have is victory over sin. To win obedience to God, we must overcome the flesh.

God protected Samson from a roaring lion: the benefit Samson received here was physical in nature. But he needed spiritual sustenance as well, the sustenance New Testament believers in Christ now have as we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit:

14 that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:14)

17 even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. (John 14:17)

Samson sought to gratify his desires and emotions, not the Lord. As a result, his life became more and more tumultuous and this was, sad to say, completely his own doing. God has called us to operate on a different plane to Samson:

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)

We are not just promised our daily bread, or physical sustenance, but to be upheld spiritually as well. Our motivation should therefore be for what the Lord calls us to do. Don’t focus too much on the world. Your mind and heart need to be in heaven as we are cautioned that:

…where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:21, Luke 23:34)

When we focus on earthly things, there cannot be peace in our lives. This reflects Samson’s life, and the life of many Christians today.

Final reflections before closing

Philippians 4:11-13 says:

11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Do you see where Paul’s mind and heart is? Earthly joys come and go so our hearts and minds must be focused on Christ in heaven. This brings peace in all circumstances.

1 Timothy 6:6-8 also reminds us that:

6…godliness with contentment is great gain.

7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.

8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

So let’s be happy with the food we have, and the clothes we also have on our back. Don’t have your heart too firmly attached to the world. And don’t fight against the boundaries God puts in your life, as Samson did. They are there for your protection.

As a final thought: don’t have your eyes focused on the things of this world but rather on the One who created this world.

God bless you.

Sermon on the unforgivable sin

This sermon was delivered on 4/09/16 by Chris Duke at Essendon Presbyterian Church. The article is from notes I took while listening so is not word for word, though I have tried to be accurate. I have also used an article called “Immanuel: the gospel according to Isaiah” from Creation Magazine (Creation 38(4) 2016).

Today’s message is centred around Mark 3:22-35:

22 And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils. 23 And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end. 27 No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house. 28 Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: 29 but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: 30 Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.

31 There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. 32 And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee. 33 And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? 34 And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! 35 For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.

A critical section of the Lord’s prayer is a request to Father God to forgive us of our sins. Sin is an offence to God. As God forgives us, we ask that we have the same gracious attitude to forgive others. Often, however, we resist forgiving, due mainly to pride. We tend to excuse our own behaviour though when we lack forgiveness whilst not excusing it in others.

Isn’t the gospel about God’s offer of forgiveness to sinners? God will forgive all our trespasses, so when we read in today’s passage that Jesus said one sin is unforgivable, isn’t this a contradiction? No. This passage ought to frighten the comfortable and comfort the frightened. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all proclaim that Jesus is God – 100% man and 100% very God, God in human flesh. Believing this and committing your life to Christ is the only way to escape hell and enter heaven. The evidence is very powerful and is laid down by the Holy Spirit in the New Testament and even the Old Testament.

For example, Isaiah 9:6-7 prophesied that Immanuel would be born in the house of David. He would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23), He would be the servant of Yahweh from His earliest existence (Isaiah 49:1, 5). He would be holy and set apart for service to Yahweh, who would put His words in Immanuel’s mouth (Isaiah 49:2). He would be extraordinarily wise, and would be filled with God’s Spirit (Isaiah 11:1). Immanuel would “refuse the evil and choose the good” (Isaiah 7:15), which no mere person does consistently. This is an indication that Immanuel would not be a mere man; even the extraordinarily righteous men in the Bible were still sinners. Immanuel’s birth makes it clear that He would not be an ordinary person, and His name means “God with us”, meaning that His birth would signify God’s presence with His people in a special way. He is called “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Someone with these titles could be no less than God Himself.

Though there would be signs to point to the truth of Immanuel’s identity, He would seem to be a normal person; He would not be obviously divine (Isaiah 53:2). And Israel would ultimately reject Him, as Israel had rejected Yahweh for idols in Isaiah’s day, subjecting Him to humiliation and ultimately death. He would be beaten so badly that He would be disfigured (Isaiah 52:14).

Yet all this would be in line with the will of Yahweh (Isaiah 53:10); and it’s because it is the will of Yahweh that Immanuel would not resist (Isaiah 50:6; 53:7). Immanuel would be shamed temporarily, but Yahweh Himself would vindicate Immanuel, and He would be honoured eternally (Isaiah 50:7-9, 53:12).

The purpose of the shaming and death of Immanuel would be to pay for the sins of Yahweh’s people, both among the Jews and Gentiles (Isaiah 53). Immanuel would never sin, so His death could count for the payment of the sins of many others. This sacrifice would bring in a new covenant, in which Jews and Gentiles who believe in Yahweh and His Son share equally in eternal life (Isaiah 56:3, 6-7).

One of the most well-known events recorded is Isaiah’s vision of Yahweh’s glory (in Isaiah 6:1-4):

6 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. 2 Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.

3 And one cried unto another, and said,

Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts:
the whole earth is full of his glory.
4 And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.

John says that this was actually a vision of the pre-incarnate Son (John 12:37-41). While Immanuel would not manifest His true glory, He nevertheless possesses it (and the Transfiguration was one instance where Jesus’ true glory shone through).

Because Immanuel paid the price for His people’s sins, He is able to usher in a restoration of the entire earth. Reigning on David’s throne, He judges all nations. The earth itself is restored to an Edenic state where there is no more carnivory or predation, and snakes will not pose a threat to even the smallest children (Isaiah 11:6-9; 65:25). In that time, all false Gods will be humiliated and all idols will be destroyed never to be worshipped again.

When we properly understand how Christ is foreshadowed in the Old Testament, we can see that the Gospel is not new, or an idea foreign to the Old Testament. It is possible to preach the gospel from Isaiah or from other books of the Old Testament – as did Christ Himself (Luke 24:13-35), Philip (Acts 8:26-39) and especially Paul (eg. Acts 17:2-3) – if we see how they point to Jesus.

The evidence is powerful as well when demonstrated and lived out in Jesus’ three-year life and ministry. There were healings, deliverances from demons, raising of the dead, all pointing to the fact that Jesus is God. Yet the human heart and human mind is often blinded and dead to the truth. Some people made the right response but most didn’t. People today just want to ignore the historical Jesus, stating that He was merely a good man. But He was more than this, He said He was God. And by saying this He eliminated Himself from the category of the good and the reasonable. And if we eliminate this we are left with Him being either a lunatic or a liar. Yet isn’t it interesting that 2,000 years after He walked the earth, Christianity is still flourishing in the West?

Verse 33 of today’s passage reads:

And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren?

Jesus is here saying that the only relationship that matters to me is a spiritual relationship. A blood relationship alone to me won’t get you into the Kingdom. Whoever does God’s will is related to me.

If your conclusion about Jesus is that He is a lunatic, you don’t have a relationship with Him. Many who reached this conclusion later repented (after His resurrection, when all the data was in).

What if you conclude that He was a liar? Verse 22 of today’s passage reads:

22 And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils.

So the religious leaders of Israel said this. The brains trust of Judaism went after Jesus. They didn’t like His message or what He was doing. They conspired to kill Him as He went about healing on the Sabbath. He was doing miracles, teaching the good news of the Kingdom, spreading the good news of salvation: and the religious elites hated Him for it. So they sent out a delegate who concluded that Jesus was possessed by Beelzebub. They didn’t conclude that He was insane, interestingly enough, as this wouldn’t explain the supernatural. His power over demons and disease had to be accounted for: it was either due to God or Satan. Sadly, these leaders were unwilling to say Jesus’ power was due to God. Instead they called him a name for Satan, Beelzebub. This name came from the word Baal, meaning “Lord.” This was the god of the Ekronites, the Philistines worshiped him. A more proper rendering of the name might be Baalsebub or “Lord of the High Place.” Effectively what these leaders were calling Jesus was Lord of the dung, Lord of the flies, all terms for Satan.

Jesus’ response to this is given in verse 23. He says effectively, how can Satan drive out Satan? This is a logical impossibility. Good teachers such as the Lord ask questions that make students think, that put them on the horns of a dilemma. Jesus does this here. He in effect says, “Satan wouldn’t expose people with demons and cast them out. This would destroy both himself and his enterprise.”

Verse 27 brings a positive message from Jesus: you have to be stronger than Satan to get his power:

27 No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.

There is only one who is stronger than Satan and that’s God. In effect then, Jesus was saying, I am God. So no Jesus isn’t a lunatic or a deceptive liar who represents hell. The only other option is that He is God, He is Lord.

Verse 29 reads:

29 but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation:

The unforgivable sin then is that Jesus is demonic. Those who believed this went to hell for that. If that’s your final conclusion after the full revelation of scripture and the gospel have been given to you, then you can never be forgiven. This was a very unusual circumstance in that the religious leaders were blaspheming the Holy Spirit directly by saying Jesus was demonic.

Yet we know with Jesus that whatever He did was the Father’s will and was done via the Holy Spirit:

I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.
(John 5:30)

What about today? Could someone today commit the unforgivable sin? Yes of course they could. We’ve all been forgiven for rejecting Christ at some stage in our lives, before we were born again. The comforting truth is that if you’re frightened that you’ve committed this sin then you most certainly have not. If you’re comfortable and not spiritually convicted, however, you need to receive Christ today:

May the Lord Jesus bless you always.