Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church

Victory over death and slavery

Bible Readings

  • Luke 24:1-2
  • Acts 13:26-39
  • Numbers 33:3-4

Introduction

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus,

It is not uncommon for us, when we hear that someone died, to ask, “How old was he/she?” The younger a child was when it died evokes in us unspeakable emotions.  If the person was very old, there is some contentment. We sometimes value life measured against the time spent on earth.  We often value a short life as a life wasted.  This is because we are born within the limits of time and space. 

The celebrations of Atonement Weekend (or Easter) has a pattern:  we adhere to the calendar of Jewish times.  We commemorate the crucifixion of Christ on the first Friday after the first full moon following the autumn equinox. This was the day on which the lambs were slaughtered when God, at midnight, passed through Egypt and struck all households with the death of the firstborn.  The next day was a new beginning for God’s people in Egypt, a day they had to celebrate annually.

On our calendar, today is the third day since Christ’s crucifixion.  On the third day, He rose again—it was on the first day of the week, another seven-day cycle indication of time.  In a special sense, every first day of the week to the Christian Church is a celebration of Christ’s resurrection.  

Resurrection morning

Early that morning, now more than 2000 years ago, followers of Christ went to his grave to care for the body of their dear friend.  In ancient times, people believed that one’s spirit would linger in your body for three days after you died; the fourth day heralded the fact that the body now has become a corpse, beyond any possibility of restoration.  Maybe they had in mind to d something before the fourth day.

The women arrived at the place where they had buried Jesus, but He was not there!  It grieved them beyond measure.  They found a messenger of God who announced:

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: (Luke 24:5–6, NIV)

He had not been stolen; He had not disappeared; it is no disaster, it all happened according to his word.  He rose from the dead by the power of the Father who called him to life!  Peter, on Pentecost Day, declared, 

God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. (Acts 2:24, NIV)

The Lamb that was slain is the Lamb upon the throne!  He is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end.  He holds the keys of death and hell.  He was dead, but He is alive!  So, we can sing with full voice and conviction:  Christ is risen today!  I serve the risen Saviour.  Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.”

According to God’s plan of redemption 

The victory of Christ over death was not unplanned unscheduled or without divine purpose.  That first day of the week was no accident or a fluke of time.  Christ’s resurrection was a fulfilment of a long list of promises of God to the very people who in rebellion snubbed his gracious care and providence by rejecting his ownership over them, falling in sin and with them, dragging all of creation into misery.   

Already in Paradise, straight after Adam and Eve’s rebellion, God made this promise:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15, NIV)

Out of the bondage of service to idols, God called Abraham and gave him this promise:

“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1–3, NIV)

Although Abraham did not see this promise go into fulfilment in his time, he believed this promise of God:

“Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. (Genesis 15:13–14, NIV)

Our reading from Numbers 33 takes us to the fulfilment of that promise.  But first this promise of God: 

“I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely. (Exodus 11:1, NIV)

There was another addition to this promise: 

 Tell the people that men and women alike are to ask their neighbours for articles of silver and gold. (The Lord made the Egyptians favourably disposed toward the people, and Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh’s officials and by the people.) (Exodus 11:2–3, NIV)

Then midnight came, and God struck Egypt; then, when the sun rose the next morning, everything had changed.  It was a new beginning for the people of God.  They had a brand-new future. Their enemy was now powerless.

Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.” The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country. “For otherwise,” they said, “we will all die!” (Exodus 12:31–33, NIV)

Let’s go to the verse in Numbers 33:3

The Israelites set out from Rameses on the fifteenth day of the first month, the day after the Passover. They marched out defiantly in full view of all the Egyptians, who were burying all their firstborn, whom the Lord had struck down among them; for the Lord had brought judgment on their gods. (Numbers 33:3–4, NIV)

Rameses was the city to showcase the defiant and majestical powers of the Pharaoh.  But now, Egypt was in tatters.  The once might dynasty did have a successor on the throne.  There were dead bodies everywhere.  The people wailed for their loved ones; they mourned the loss of their animals.  That day, more than ever, people were gathered around open graves in anguish and sorrow.  There never had been anything like it. From what was left, they showered the Israelites with gold and silver, just to see them go.

The pharaoh had reigned over peoples in the northern parts of Africa, all along the Mediterranean coast, the peoples who inhabited the Promised Land, and countries including parts of the modern-day Syria, Iran and Iraq. Egypt was a mighty empire—but when God dealt with them, they were in mourning, shaken, and on their knees, struck with sorrow. The officials were divided against their king, and the kingdom was on shaky ground.  The pharaoh had enough.  “Leave and go!”  And as an afterthought, “Bless me also.”  Did he mean he was powerless against the God of Israel?  I think so.

But God fulfilled the promises for his people. They marched out triumphantly.  The Hebrew word has something of walking with your arms raised up in the air. Inevitably there were shouts of joy and jubilance.  

Redemption in Christ a reality

Let’s now jump into the New Testament with Paul preaching the Good News of Christ to the people in Antioch.  From Acts 13:17 the apostle picks it up in Egypt and makes this statement:   “He drove them out of that country with mighty powers.” He proceeds along the line of God’s promise from Abraham to David and says:  

Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Saviour, Jesus, as he promised. (Acts 13:23, ESV)

But one would think that the Jews would have picked up the theme of the prophets about God saving grace to his people in the face opposition.  But they did not!  What did they do?  Verse 27:

The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognise Jesus, yet in condemning Him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. (Acts 13:27, NIV)

He preaches on:  

When they had carried out all that was written about Him, they took Him down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb. But God raised Him from the dead, (Acts 13:29–30, NIV)

What is his summary about Christ?  

“We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: “ ‘You are my son; today I have become your father.’ (Acts 13:32–33, NIV)

What is the sum of it all?  Listen:  

“Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through Him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses. (Acts 13:38–39, NIV)

What happened to the people in the time of Moses?  They were set free!  They walked out of Egypt as people with a new start.  The yoke of slavery was removed.  They threw their arms in the air and with shouts of joy they left victoriously.  Who gave them freedom?  God!  What happened to their oppressors?  They were defeated, broken, on their knees.

What is the inheritance of those who believe in Jesus Christ?  The head of the serpent is crushed.  Listen to Hebrew 2:14:  

Since the children have flesh and blood, He [Christ] too shared in their humanity so that by his death He might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— (Hebrews 2:14, NIV)

Those who believe in Christ are forgiven, they are set free, they are justified.  Why?  The enemy is destroyed! Satan is defeated.  In his letter to the Colossians, Paul puts it this way: 

Having disarmed the powers and authorities, He [Christ] made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:15, NIV)

 Paul writes to Timothy stressing the grace of God in our redemption:  

… it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.  (2 Timothy 1:10–11, NIV)

Therefore we, with arms in the air, in a jubilant song of victory, march with the Israelites out of Egypt singing, 

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54–57, NIV)

Satan’s hold on God’s children is broken because from their Saviour they received the perfect righteousness which satisfies the Father.  There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.    

A warning following the Good News

After Paul connected the dots from the Old Testament through to the New to arrive at the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, he ends with this warning:  

Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you: (Acts 13:40, NIV)

Even then people heard the Good News, but they rejected it.  There is, therefore, the possibility that even some who have listened to the Good News that Christ is victorious over death, granting freedom from sin by exchanging his righteousness for our sin to reconcile us with his Father, that some might still walk away with unbelieving hearts.  May it not happen to you, my dear friend.  

This message of freedom from wrath and sin is for you.  Listen, repent, and follow Christ.

May God give you the grace and faith to do so.  

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 21 April 2019

 

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​2019 Atonement Celebration (Easter)

Crucifixion Friday service:

7:30am in our church building.  We will also celebrate The Lord’s Supper.

Resurrection Sunday Service

9:30 am in our church building.

Evening Worship

No evening worship over this weekend.  Evening worship will recommence Sunday 28th April.

 

Services for Atonement Weekend (Easter)

We choose to name the events of Easter to reflect the true Christian meaning of the events.

“Good Friday” in previous decades did evoke a celebration of Christ’s death on the cross.  Sadly, the meaning got watered down.  Chocolate eggs and bunnies took over.  For the majority of Australians Good Friday is just another day to kick off a long weekend.

“Easter Sunday” in the past might have had connections with the resurrection of the Lord, Jesus Christ.  The term “easter” might even have sinister connections with other festivals.

Crucifixion Friday service:

7:30am in our church building.  We will also celebrate The Lord’s Supper.

The terms we chose are “Crucifixion Friday” and “Resurrection Sunday”.  For Easter weekend we’d rather use “Atonement Weekend.”

Resurrection Sunday Service

9:30 am in our church building.

Christ was crucified to die the death we deserve as the penalty for our sins.  He rose again on that glorious Sunday after He destroyed death and it’s consequences.

By his death and resurrection, Christ became our righteousness before God.  He is our atonement.

The Weekend of 19-21 April is Atonement weekend.

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. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:20–21, NKJV)

And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. (1 John 2:1–2, NKJV)

You are most welcome to share in our celebration of the atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Atonement – an eye for an eye

Bible Readings

  • Leviticus 24:10-23
  • Deuteronomy 19:15-21
  • Matthew 5:38

Introduction

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ,

Life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. (Deuteronomy 19:21, NIV)

It took me many years to work out what “brotherly love” meant.  Our household, like many others I suppose, represented your typical family where brothers got stuck into one another – love between brothers was not always portrayed.  Later in life, I worked it out that sin was part of our daily life—but we still loved one another.  And it is almost if I can still hear Mom’s rebuke, that is when things got a bit hot, “Do not repay evil with evil!”

Even a word from the Bible sometimes did not help you to knew that you had a case against your brother.  You just felt you wanted justice.

Then one day I read this passage in the Bible:  eye for an eye, hand for hand, foot for foot.  I had my verse.  I had grounds for retaliation and revenge!

In preparation for this sermon, I read quite a few commentaries.  When it comes to this particular verse some of them just skip it.  There was one who argued that this verse, and other places in the Bible where it is mentioned, is the most embarrassing in the Bible and should be removed, or not referred to at all.

I beg to differ.  It is my clear conviction that this verse underlies the reason for the death of our Lord Jesus Christ.  While reading through the Scriptures and finding this verse in Exodus 21:23-24, I wrote:

This principle, I believe, lies behind the cross of Christ. He bore the punishment of God on all harm and injustice in his Person to satisfy the righteousness of God. 

Justice, not retaliation! 

Study the paragraph of Deuteronomy, and you will know that the setting is that of disputes in a court of law.  There is no hint of personal retaliation or vindictiveness.  

I am the Lord your God

Above and over all the regulations and case laws that Moses gave to the people of the Lord, stood the Ten Commandments.  The top line reads, “I am the Lord your God.” No less than 76 times do we read this in the first five books of the Bible.  God has a claim on his people, and his people were different, living under a different law, and were saved from slavery to be the possession of the Lord, their God.  

The very fact that Deuteronomy 19:15-21 indeed starts with how do deal with blasphemy indicates that God demanded that he who blasphemes must pay restitution to the Lord who is jealous about how his Name is used.  God requires and righteousness from the person who blasphemes his Name.

When it comes to the second table of the love which speaks about the love for the neighbour, God’s people were driven by the first table, which is the love for God and God’s love for them.  All relationships between the people of God stood under the overarching principle of love.  One would honour your father and mother because God loves you and them, He gave them to you, they love Him, and you love Him.  The same applies to adultery, stealing, and lying in court:  God loves me, I must love Him; He loves my neighbour, and I must love my neighbour.

Sin distorts justice

So when we go back to Deuteronomy 19 these principles are assumed – but sinful nature gets in the way:  people lie, justice is perverted, and retaliation becomes a reality.  They needed priests, judges, a thorough investigation and a verdict.

Sin makes life impossible.  We hate, lie, steal, and covet.  We know the law, and yet we trespass; we need a judge, we need a verdict, we need justice, we need punishment.  We need an eye for an eye – not driven by retaliation or vindication, but because we need justice.

In the presence of the Lord

Have you ever wondered where the custom to take an oath and be sworn in as a witness in a court of Law comes from?  Where does “So help me God” come from?  

“our law (like that of most civilized nations) requires a witness to believe, not only that there are a God and a future state of rewards and punishments, but also that, by taking the oath, he imprecates upon himself, if his evidence is false” (Simon Greenleaf)

Witnesses, even in the day of Moses, must understand that truth is universal because God is omnipresent.  That’s why the witnesses of Deuteronomy stood “in the presence of the Lord.”  The priests and judges also sat in the presence of the Lord and had to measure out justice as God determined: they could only take the side of truth, not of the circumstance or the person.

Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. (Deuteronomy 19:21, NIV)

To stem the possibility of retaliation, and only seek justice, any person who felt that he was dealt with unjustly, could approach the judges and priests.  Then, even the quality and quantity of the witnesses were tested:  two or three who were there when the alleged injustice took place;  their statements had to be checked.  And if it is proved that the witness is corrupt, what he wanted to be done to the person charged, would be done to him.

Punishment fits the Crime

Until very recently this was a principle accepted by the courts.  Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.  Justice demands that the penalty for a crime should not inflict harsher punishment than the offence called for.  We know of no case in the Scripture where this law required an actual eye, foot, or teeth, but the compensation sought by a person for injustice against him could be measured out only in as far as he received injustice.

Justice good for the people of God

“You must purge the evil from among you.  The rest of the people will hear of this and be afraid. and never again will such an evil thing be done among you.” (Deuteronomy 19:20)

Much can be said about punishment dished out by courts in our days, but the fact is many law-breakers do not fear the law, and citizens, in general, have not much respect for the law, purely because the penalty does not fit the crime.  It is wrong to try to get rid of a cat by putting it in a rubbish bin, but if you did, and you get caught it, your punishment could be harsher than someone who raped an elderly person, or even killed a partner or killed an unborn baby.  Our law system does not necessarily ask what is morally right; it is only concerned about what is legally acceptable.

God instituted the law of “eye for an eye, foot for foot, tooth for tooth and life for life” to be an example of justice; it was meant to be a deterrent.  It was not “correctional” as we have it these days; it was exemplary punishment.

God’s righteousness demands justice

Whoever thinks this verse in the Bible is an embarrassment or thinks it gives every individual to exercise personal retaliation, has it wrong.  The only principle laid down here is that of justice.  Fact is, God’s righteousness demands justice.  This principle helps us to understand the cross and death of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

We are all sinners

The Bible is clear about our position before God:  “we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

Listen to Isaiah 59:

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you so that He will not hear. For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken falsely, and your tongue mutters wicked things. No one calls for justice; no one pleads a case with integrity…They hatch the eggs of vipers and spin a spider’s web. Whoever eats their eggs will die, and when one is broken, an adder is hatched…Their deeds are evil deeds…Their feet rush into sin; they are swift to shed innocent blood. They pursue evil schemes; acts of violence mark their ways… there is no justice in their paths… So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us… Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like people without eyes… among the strong, we are like the dead. (Isaiah 59:2–10, NIV)

All the sins mentioned here go back to the Law of God, and as such to the paragraph in Deuteronomy:  hands are stained with blood (guilty!); false lips (guilty!); no justice (guilty!); utter lies (guilty!); evil deeds (guilty!); violence (guilty!); evil schemes (guilty!).  The result?  Justice is far from us.  We are like dead corpses!

This is the picture Paul paints in his letter to the Ephesians:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. (Ephesians 2:1–3, NIV)

God cannot turn a blind eye on sin

There is a principle in the Bible which may crush every sinner if it is not read in the full context of the cross of Christ.  It reads:

‘The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion.  Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished;… (Numbers 14:18, NIV)

God is merciful and abounding in love and forgiving sin, yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished.  It seems contradictory:  He forgives in love, but does not leave the guilty unpunished!

This is true of the Bible message from the beginning to the end.  Anyone who wanted to approach the Lord on his own terms would be crushed.  Yes, God is merciful and forgiving, but He demanded a sacrifice:  the blood of lambs and bulls satisfied God’s judgment on sin in the Old Testament; without that, there was no forgiveness.

Point is, God does not turn a blind eye to sin.  Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, life for life.  We demand justice, but we need justice.  How can we expect justice if we are born in sin, and utterly corrupted by sin?  How can we ask for forgiveness if we are unforgiving?  Can God just say, “I forgive you”, without penalty on sin?  Would He still be holy if He did so?  Would He still be righteous if He let the unrighteousness off the hook without repentance and punishment?  Such a God I don’t want to worship.

Eye for eye, life for life

God solved our problem, not because we deserved it, and not because He just forgets sin.  He solved our problem by being just.  He punished in righteousness, not compromising his holiness.  He gave his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord to be our mediator.

When Jesus walked this earth, He regularly told his disciples that He would be handed over in the hands of sinners. He also said to them that he did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfil it (Matthew 5:17).  The Pharisees thought they did well by demanding retaliation and finding avenge for wrongs done to them.  Christ, being the fulfilment of the law, now required more of his followers:

For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:20, NKJV)

Where would they find this righteousness?  Only in Jesus Christ who made the Law full – He met every demand of the Law in full!  Our only hope to ever fulfil the righteousness of God is that we are clothed in Christ righteousness.  He is the One who gave an eye for an eye and a foot for a foot because we are not able to meet God’s demand for perfect atonement with Him.

When He was brought before them, all rules went out the window:  no proper witnesses, no truth in the allegations; lies conjured up by people in the street; an illegal court meeting in the middle of the night; bribes paid to witnesses.  They let robbers free to have Him crucified.  They had Him flogged even though they found no reason to do so. Even those who followed Him lied about Him and others deserted Him.  

When they nailed Him to the cross, He prayed to the Father that He would forgive them.  Then, He faced the righteousness of the Father:  justice called for an eye for an eye, tooth for tooth and life for life.  He cried out, “Why have Thou forsaken Me?”

Paul understood the cross and the Saviour and writes:

All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:18, 21) NIV)

In Christ the righteousness of God is met:  He paid for our big sins, the small ones and everyone in between – an eye for an eye.  We might think it is not a big sin, but all our sins are an offence to the holiness of God and demand his righteous justice.  When Christ died in our place, the punishment fitted the crime;  if He did not do it, we had to do it – and the consequence would have been disastrous. 

Conclusion

My dear friend in the Lord, Christ’s death on the cross is your vindication;  those who do not trust in Him for forgiveness will find the justice of God’s righteousness calling for retaliation: an eye for an eye, life for life.

Make sure that your life is saved in Christ who took God’s judgement and became your righteousness.  When He returns He will vindicate those who suffered under unbelieving and oppressing regimes, and his enemy will be punished.  All because of justice. 

Eye for eye, and life for life. 

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 14 April 2019

 

Look out for false apostles (2)

Bible Readings

  • Luke 21:5-11
  • 2Timothy 3:1-9

Introduction

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ,

A friend of mine, then a new Christian, returned from morning worship where the sermon was about false prophets.  He settled for a cup of coffee with his wife when the doorbell rang.  His visitors asked if he would want to know more about the end times.  Of course, he was interested, especially him being new to the faith, wanting to know about the return of Christ.  But just to be sure, he asked them if they believe that Jesus Christ is God, the eternal Son of the Father who came into the world to atone for the sins of the lost.  They said they believed Christ was a mighty prophet but that they do not believe that He was God.  That alarmed my friend, who asked them to leave.

Joining his wife for the coffee, she asked what the visitors were on about.   He replied, “I suppose we’re certainly living in last days; the false prophet is already knocking on my door!” 

The purpose of this sermon today is to help you understand the danger of people, theologians and ministers, who present a new form of reformation, downgrading the authority of the Scriptures.

Open rebellion against God, his Son and the Bible

False religion is known by its message: the message is the words of man.  As such, they are just like the false prophets of the Old Testament.  

The coming of a radical reformation 

When you hear someone saying,  “We should give Jesus a demotion. It is no longer credible to think of Jesus as divine. Jesus’ divinity goes together with the old theistic way of thinking about God”, you know you have to do with a false prophet.

These are the words of Robert Funk of the Jesus Seminar who wrote “The Coming Radical Reformation”.   The goal of the Jesus Seminar was to review each of the sayings and deeds attributed to Jesus in the gospels and determine which are authentic.  Here are a few of 21 theses by Funk:  

  • The God of the metaphysical age is dead. There is not a personal god out there external to human beings and the material world.  
  • The doctrine of the atonement—the claim that God killed his own son in order to satisfy his thirst for satisfaction—is sub-rational and sub-ethical. This monstrous doctrine is the stepchild of a primitive sacrificial system.  
  • The resurrection of Jesus did not involve the resuscitation of a corpse. Jesus did not rise from the dead, except perhaps in some metaphorical sense.  
  • The Bible does not contain fixed, objective standards of behaviour that should govern human behaviour for all time. This includes the ten commandments as well as the admonitions of Jesus.

One of the members of the Jesus Seminar, bishop Selby Spong joins in by stating,  

“The Bible has lost every major battle it has ever fought. The Bible was quoted to defend slavery and the Bible lost. The Bible was quoted to keep women silent, and the Bible lost. And the Bible is being quoted to deny homosexuals their equal rights, and the Bible will lose.”   

About the Bible he further says, 

“I could not believe that anyone who has read this book would be so foolish as to proclaim that the Bible in every literal word was the divinely inspired, inerrant word of God.”   

About the cross of Christ, he says, 

“The view of the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian idea based on primitive concepts of God and must be dismissed.”

A fellow of the Jesus Seminar, Dr Francis MacNab, was an ordained minister of the Uniting Church at the time when he said:  The old faith is in large sections unbelievable. We want to make the new faith more believable, realistic and helpful in terms of the way people live.  So, he launched a $120,000 advertising campaign to propagate the new faith, and declared:  “The Ten Commandments, [is] one of the most negative documents ever written.” He described Moses as a mass murderer, Abraham as concocted and Jesus as a Jewish peasant who is certainly not God.  The Uniting Church strangely did not discipline MacNab because no formal complaint had been received; so, he remained minister till 2016 when he retired.  Dr MacNab became a member of the Order of Australia for his contributions to psychotherapy and religion.

Statements like these are not only shocking but also blasphemous.  Although it promised something new, a coming radical reformation, it presented nothing more than another idea.  It outright rejects the authority of the Bible.

A church-like movement

It is sometimes a bit harder to see the false prophet when it does not come so direct and upfront like the Jesus Seminar.  When a movement comes to you and says they are really set against stale traditional churches, with its absolute structure, style of worship and time-frozen culture where there are no personal relationships and a genuine expression of warm Christian care—or the word might be “authentic”—you would find it hard to disagree with them.  But it is sometimes just here where you need to ask about their strategies to change things.

Emergent Church

Another new thing on the religious scene is the Emergent church.  It is sometimes hard to distinguish between this and another, the Emerging church. 

Most of its members are unsatisfied with what they term “organised religion” and the “institutional” church and are trying to reinvent the church from within.  Biblical models for church discipline, church government, the sacraments, and church offices are being ignored which as a consequence allows for ongoing, unrepentant sin to exist within the church.  There is more often than not a blatant absence of the sacraments, which they describe as hangovers from the Roman Catholic Church.  

Because those in the emergent church movement are so heavily influenced by post-modernism, theologians of the Emergent church sometimes fail to nail down exclusive truth.  In some churches the inerrancy of the Word of God, the Bible, is not upheld.  The Emerging Church is a place where people have felt the freedom to explore questions and experiment with new forms of lifestyle and corporate practice.  The term “seeker-sensitive” can be applied to the emergent church, purely because absolute truth can offend people:  you cannot proclaim the truths of the Scripture as absolute truth, because it will offend those who do not know the background—they will just walk out again.  

Emerging Church members believe it is first of all necessary to establish relationships with people, going where they are, meeting them on their level, and only later presenting doctrinal truths after they have become part of their lives.  But the problem is that the gospel becomes stripped of the necessity of a Savior because it frequently fails to define sin, repentance, confession, church discipline, and fruits showing regeneration by the Holy Spirit.

The single greatest concern is their attitude towards doctrine. They don’t believe that truth itself is an objective propositional thing that has a yes and a no. Nothing is ever either/or, good or bad, right or wrong, ugly or beautiful. It’s all vague.  

Brian McLaren, one of the people associated with the Emergent Church writes,

“The church latched on to that old doctrine of original sin like a dog to a stick, and before you knew it, the whole gospel got twisted around it. Instead of being God’s big message of saving love for the whole world, the gospel became a little bit of secret information on how to solve the pesky legal problem of original sin.”

Once again we have poor and low esteem of the Bible as authoritative Word of God.  

A brand-new reformation like the world has not seen

When people come to you with an earnest desire to see the Kingdom of God grow to be seen in all human institutions; when they say that prayer is an effective weapon and strategy to achieve this goal; when they say we need to become more proactive in marches against abortion and other moral issues; things get all the harder to know if there might be some false prophet lurking behind the good sounding words and intentions.

New Apostolic Reformation

Leaders in the NAR believe that God has restored the offices of apostle and prophet, along with the others mentioned in Ephesians 4.  But the main offices are the apostles and the prophets.

Leaders teach that the proper church government—headed by living apostles and prophets has been restored.  Both prophets and apostles in the NAR movement can give new divine revelation. They receive new revelation and instruct their followers on how to properly respond to the new revelation.  What is interesting is that NAR prophets are not expected to be 100% accurate in their predictions. They still can be considered legitimate prophets even when they make errors!  

The task of the apostles and prophets is to implement dominion of the earth.  This is a redefined gospel in contrast to the gospel of salvation from sin.  Angus Buchan (known for his book “Faith Like Potatoes”) regularly attract hundreds of thousands of people to his rallies, with the main drive to recapture the political and social institutions into the kingdom of Christ.  His meetings consist more of binding demons, pronouncing curses, and the like—but of the old-time revival preaching, where people are called to repentance to Christ, not much happens.

Because the apostles and prophets claim that it is God’s desire for the church to take dominion of the earth in preparation for His return. This task will be accomplished with the help of miraculous powers wielded by the under the leadership of apostles and prophets.  They propagate a “seven mountain mandate”:  taking control of the seven most institutions in society—government, media, family, business/finance, education, church/religion, and arts/entertainment.  

This is not much different from the worldview of the Roman Church, with the Pope as the sole representative of Christ; the only difference being that apostles and prophets are in control.  Islam califs have the same thing in mind:  sharia law must rule every aspect of life.  If the NAR has this in mind it is surely a very dangerous pathway.

The Biblical understanding has never been that the church should take the place of governments, and never for governments to rule over the church.   

Once this is achieved before Christ returns, God will transfer control of the world’s wealth from the hands of the wicked to the hands of the NAR apostles. The church will then have the financial resources it will need to establish God’s earthly kingdom.  

The apostles, the prophets and their followers will develop vast supernatural powers and will perform miracles that will surpass those performed by the biblical apostles and prophets and even those performed by Jesus during his earthly ministry.  These miracles will include healing every single person inside hospitals and mental institutions simply by laying their hands on the buildings and having command of the laws of nature, including gravity.  People who continue to receive the new revelation given by the apostles and prophets will gain more and more supernatural powers until they eventually become “manifest sons of God.”  

The NAR movement has its own global television network, called GOD TV which broadcasts to more than 200 nations. Trinity Broadcasting Network  (TBN)— the world’s largest religious television network — regularly features the teachings of NAR apostles and prophets.

And you may ask:  what’s false about it?  One short answer:  the low value they put on the authority of the Scriptures.  To succeed, the NAR needs to rely on revelations—something which is an addition to the Word of God, even if the prophets are sometimes wrong.  People are not saved from sin through miracles, but by the power of the Gospel through the Holy Spirit.  

It is further not for the church to take over governments and financial institutions.

The big problem is:  who gives these apostles and prophets authority?  Are they elected or self-appointed?  Are they under any form of accountability?  Can they be disciplined?  Can they be opposed?  Or will it just be another form of the papal system?  

If this is the case, run for your life.

Run to Christ, run to the Word, run for the grace of Christ who saves. Run the race till the end, even in the face of oppression.  That’s the calling of the Gospel.  

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 7 April 2019