Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church

Biblical Eldership (2) “What”

Bible Readings

  • Psalm 23
  • Acts 20:17-31

Introduction

Dear friends in Christ,

Lord willing, in the near future, the congregation will elect elders. Last week we learned from the Scripture “why” the congregation of God needs elders.  There are mainly two reasons.  

  • The first reason is that Christians, however living under the grace of God, are still not perfect.  We rebel and struggle against sin and the attacks of Satan, both in our private lives and in our lives as members of God’s people.  We need discipline to keep on the straight and the narrow, and we need guidance in our relationships as members of the body of Christ.  We need the oversight of elders to pull us up and lead us back to the clear waters of the Scriptures.
  • The second reason is that everything in the household of God needs to be according to his declared will in his Word to maintain unity, peace and Christians love. We need people, who are called and appointed by God, to shepherd us to obedience and order on the way to our promised land. This they do under the authority of the Scriptures.

In all of this, both our leaders and us, bow under the authority and Headship of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Today we are listening to the Word on the “what” of eldership.  

The offices in the church find their example and fulfilment in the Person of Jesus Christ.  He is the fulfilment of the offices of priest, prophet and king of the Old Testament.  We need no priest anymore because our Lord was the last High Priest, the final sacrifice and the fulfilment of the sacrificial system.  Christ is the fulfilment of all prophesies; He is the Word of God through whom God speaks to us.  The Holy Spirit takes the words of Christ and declares them to us.  As king, He rose from the dead, victorious of sin, Satan, death and hell.

The perfect Shepherd

Keep this in mind, and Psalm 23 gives us a perfect example of Christ as our Shepherd.  He provides all we need so we don’t lack anything.  He leads us and protects us, even through te valley of death.  He prepares a feast for us in the sight of our enemy.  He leads us to our eternal dwelling.  Christ himself declared:  

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11, ESV)  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:27–28, ESV)

Paul met with the elders of Ephesus and commanded them:  

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. (Acts 20:28, ESV)

Elders take their role as shepherds from the example and command of Jesus Christ.

The flock of Christ belongs Him

Let’s never forget who we are.  The Bible is clear on this point. 

…the church of God, which He obtained with his own blood. (Acts 20:28, ESV)

The reference to blood takes us to the office of priest.  There is no redemption, salvation or forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood.  Jesus Christ was the Lamb without blemish—perfect because He knew no sin.  

The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; He entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. (Hebrews 9:13-14, 24, NIV)

As members of the body of Christ never forget that you belong to Christ, and the price was his blood.  

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Peter 1:18–19, NIV)

Without question, then, elders should have experienced this redemption for themselves.  Those called to be elders can only lead the flock in the ways of the Lord if they know and walk that way themselves.  It was custom in years gone by for leaders in the civil community got elected as elders to acknowledge their leadership.  Bank managers, school principals, doctors, chairmen of public organisations got the nod to become elders (and in may an occasion, unfortunately, members of the Lodge!), but unfortunately, many of them did not have any, or minimal, Christian experience.  They could not make a credible profession of faith, they hardly knew the Scriptures, and they did not display a life consistent with a life in Christ.  The church suffered badly because their leadership was not godly, was not based on the Scriptures, and in many cases was a shame to the Name of Christ.  This is not the plan of God for his church.   It was the death nail to the people of God in the Old Testament.  Isaiah writes:  56:10-11

Israel’s watchmen are blind, they all lack knowledge; they are all mute dogs, they cannot bark; they lie around and dream, they love to sleep. They are dogs with mighty appetites; they never have enough. They are shepherds who lack understanding; they all turn to their own way, they seek their own gain. (Isaiah 56:10–11, NIV)

An ungodly elder is like a bull mastiff eating through its meal like a hungry lion, but afterwards, it goes to sleep in the sun.  As a watchdog, it is useless. 

When someone is called to take up eldership in the church of Jesus Christ, such a person takes up and weighty and significant appointment.  To his care is entrusted not just any group of people.  The flock he needs to tend to belong from eternity to Christ.  God chose them in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight (Ephesians 1:4); He predestines them to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:5); He did this so that they should live to his praise and glory (Ephesians 1:6);  Christians, bought in his blood, are now the family of God (Ephesians 3:14) and Jesus Christ lives in his church because they are his holy temple (Ephesians 2:21).

Elders as shepherds

To maintain good order, unity and peace within his church, our Lord calls elders to guard and protect the flock.  They need to feed the flock too.  That’s what shepherds do.  Elders take their cue from the Upper Shepherd, Jesus Christ.  He left the 99 and went looking for the lost one.  He put everything on the line for the wellbeing of the flock.  

For elders to be good shepherds, they need to take care of themselves, and of fellow-elders.  Watch over yourselves”, is the command.  Elders are not a rule unto themselves.  Fact is every heresy started amongst elders, of which the preacher is one.  Elders watch over other elders and need to test their ministry against the Word of God; they first must stand under the discipline of the Word, before they will be able to take care of the flock.  The point is, they have not appointed themselves.  Once someone displays the attributes of being an elder, two things need to happen: 

  • He needs to have an inward calling from the Holy Spirit.  It is a stirring which only the person who is called would know and understand.  He might then put up his hand for the job, but a second calling is needed.
  • The congregation, under the guidance of the same Spirit, must call him to the office.  This is what we are preparing for at the moment.  We are presently ascertaining the role of an elder against the Word of God.  We are going to pray about it; then we are going to have a ballot.  Those elected will receive training, the existing elders will come back to the congregation and report about the readiness and spiritual life of those appointed.  Only then will we have a proper election—and after that will the elders-elect be ordained and inducted.  This is a slow process but a necessary one. 

Savage wolves seek to destroy the flock

There’s one thing the owner of the sheep knew very well in ancient Israel:  you can’t leave the flock alone in the paddocks.  Even today with the luxury of fences we understand the devastation of dingos and foxes.  They can destroy a flock and cause much damage.  

The same applies to the church of our Lord.  We have an enemy, a raging lion who seeks to devour.  It is the calling of an elder to be the guard against these attacks.  It is for the benefit of the sheep that they heed to the warning of the shepherds, even if sometimes they don’t like it.  Don’t despise the pastoral care of your elders when they speak out against spiritual laziness and sin in your life.  It is entirely within the plan of God that his people need spiritual discipline by the elders. They don’t stick their nose into your business when they pull you up on slack attendance of public worship;  they are not nosy when they inquire about your Bible reading and prayer, or your participation in congregational activities and witness to the outside world.  They are there for your good.

How would you know if their oversight is godly?  Easy!  Test it against the Word of God.  Elders are not permitted to Lord it over the people of God, but they are called to rule under the Word of God.  Paul speaks of himself as a servant of Christ:  

I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. (Acts 20:27, NIV)

On this basis does he charge elders to watch over the flock of Christ—they would need to do the same: through constant study and contemplation, they need to understand the Word and know how to break the bread of the Word to their flock.  This does not imply that they need to be theologians; they just need to love the Word and live under its authority.  Paul says:  

“Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:32, NIV)

The Word builds up; it guides us on the way to our inheritance.  We are all under this gracious Word.

A calling with high demands

If Paul is anything to go by, and indeed he in some place calls people to follow his example, elders need to hear this:  

I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. (Acts 20:24, NIV)

Not all elders are full-time workers, but in some sense, this must be true of all elders.  They are called by God, they need to take care of the flock bought in the blood of Christ, they need to know the enemy, and they need to complete the task God has called them.

Conclusion

My dear friends, take your privilege of electing elders very seriously.   Don’t expect of them more than you expect of yourselves; they are feeble human beings.  They would certainly need to be held up by your prayers and encouragement.  May God help us to be a congregation to his glory.

Amen.

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The Christ lays down his life to give eternal life those the Father gave Him

That you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God

Scripture Readings

  • Psalm 23
  • John 10:14:30

Introduction

Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

We begin a new series of sermons following the Gospel of John. There are certain very distinct themes in the Gospel of John:  there is light and darkness, life and death, the truth and the lie, being blind and being able to see, and others.

In the next few weeks we will look at the theme of life and death, as we follow our Saviour from closely before He was arrested to the end of his ministry.

Towards the end of his Gospel, John explains the purpose of his Gospel in these words:

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30–31, NIV)

As we hear the Word of God speak to us from John’s Gospel chapter 10 and what follows, this stated purpose of John will be our guide.  So, we pray that God will enlighten our minds as we read and hear the Word preached, that we will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing we will receive life in his Name.

Our theme for this sermon is:  The Christ lays down his life to give eternal life those the Father gave Him.

We will open the Word of God under these headings:

  • Who is Jesus Christ?
  • What was His mission?
  • Who belongs to Him?
  • What does He give to those who belong to Him

Who is Jesus Christ?

He is the shepherd, his Father the watchman – or the owner of all the sheep

John 10:3 talks about the watchman who opens the gate for the shepherd.  The picture is something like this:

At night time the shepherd in ancient times would bring the flock he is responsible for to a communal place where other shepherds also had their flocks.  During the night a watchman guarded the gate which provided entrance to the different pens.  In the morning the shepherd would ask the watchman to open the door to his sheep.  He would then call those sheep belonging to him and they, knowing his voice, would follow him.  Through the day he would walk in front of them and lead them to places where they could find feed and water.  At night time he would bring them back again.

Through the Gospel of John the theme of the relationship between God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son helps us to understand that Jesus is sent by the Father to seek and to save the lost.  The Father knows who belongs to them, because He gives them life through the work of the Holy Spirit.  He becomes their Father, because all who

did receive Him [Jesus Christ], to those who believed in his name, He gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12–13)

In verse 29 of our chapter Jesus declares:

My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. (John 10:29, NIV)

Jesus also says in verse 17-18

The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (John 10:17–18, NIV)

In John 4:34 our Lord declares:

“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. (John 4:34, NIV)

So, in John 5:19 our Lord declares:

“Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. (John 5:19, NIV)

And in verse 26:

For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. (John 5:26, NIV)

Jesus came into this world to seek and save the lost.  There were and are some with the name of God on them, lost in their sins, yet held by the Father in his eternal love, who have to be saved by the blood of his Son, their Good Shepherd.  His Father is the watchman, keeping save those predestined for eternal life, and He will not have anyone snatch them out of his hand.

There were people, especially the blind leaders of the day, who could not understand this.  They wanted to stone Jesus for blasphemy because He called Himself the Son of God.

“We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” (John 10:33, NIV)

Jesus then, taking them to the Old Testament (Psalm 86).  Jesus says, remember, “the Scripture cannot be broken” (something they also understood very well);  in that Psalm God accused the leaders (the princes and rulers were referred to as “gods”):

“The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. (Psalm 82:5, NIV)

So what did they do? They did no defend the cause if the weak and the fatherless, neither did they maintain the rights of the poor and the oppressed. They did not rescue the weak and the needy, and they did not deliver them from the hand of the wicked.  So, Jesus pointed out to the people their own leaders stand accused before God.  But their Father set One apart (John 10:36):

what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. (John 10:36–37, NIV)

If they would believe the Father then they would believe Him, because “the Father is in Me and I in the Father.”  Everything Jesus had done up to that point proved that He was from the Father, the promised Christ.
Our battle in this world is to convince the lost that Jesus is from the Father and that what He does is what the Father sent Him to do.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1–3)

This is the point of contention.  When those in darkness see the light of the Gospel regarding Jesus Christ, something marvellous happens:  they see the Kingdom of God, they worship the King and adore the Shepherd who came to seek and save them from the clutches of the wolf who had no other purpose but to kill and destroy.  But before this happens, there is darkness, there is enmity, and our battle is fierce. It is because of this very reason that they killed Jesus by hanging Him on a tree.

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Corinthians 2:6–8, NIV)

He is the shepherd of his sheep

Unlike the leaders of Israel, who proved to be bad shepherds, Jesus is the good shepherd.  They are described in Ezekiel 34:

“Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them. (Ezekiel 34:2–6, NIV)

In John 9 they are pictured as blind leaders who are leading the blind.  They enter the pen not by the gate, passing the watchman who owns and protects the sheep, no, they climb over the wall.  Their purpose is not to tend the flock, but to destroy the flock.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10, NIV)

It is so different with Jesus, the Son of God.  He is both the gate and the shepherd.

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. (John 10:9, NIV)

He is the only way to the Father, salvation is in no one else.  Acts 4:12

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12, NIV)

He is the gate where his Father is the Gatekeeper.  His Father knows Him to open the gate when He calls for his sheep.  When his sheep hear his voice they know that going through that gate following the Shepherd they will have life:  He will take them out to the pastures where He will see that they are fed and nurtured.  He, the Gate and the Shepherd in one, is life.  His intention in only good:

“For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.” (Ezekiel 34:11–16, NIV)

What was his mission?

Verse 11:

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11, NIV)

In the next verses we see a picture of the enemy, the wolf who attacks the flock to destroy it.  The hired hand runs for his life, but the true shepherd put himself between the danger and the flock to guard them from the attack.  The hired hand cares nothing for the sheep.  Not so with Jesus, the good Shepherd:

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:14–15, NIV)

He lay down his life for his sheep.  This was the command from the Father:

The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (John 10:17–18, NIV)

This was the purpose of the Father sending his Son into this world:  to lay down his life for his sheep.  Those who are of his flock understand it for they know it.  Those who are not of his flock do not understand or know it.  They can’t hear his voice, and they don’t understand Him calling.

but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:26–27, NIV)

This takes us back to John 1:

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. (John 1:11, NIV)

And we understand the words of our Lord in John 3:3

“Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (John 3:3, NIV)

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. (John 3:19–20, NIV)

On the other hand:

Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12–13)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:16–18, NIV)

Who belongs to Him?

In short, those who listen to his voice.  He lays down his life to bring them into the pen:

I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10:16, NIV)

The Gospel about Jesus Christ is preached to those who do not believe, and God the Father will, by the work of his Holy Spirit, open the hearts of those whom He will draw to Himself to hear his voice and come to Him, never to be snatched from his hand.

When Jesus told them these things, the people had two reactions:

Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?” (John 10:20, NIV)

Others, on the other hand said:

These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” (John 10:21, NIV)

There were two men on Calvary’s Hill that morning when they crucified our Lord; one mocked Him, the other pleaded for forgiveness – and got it.

What does He give to those who belong to Him?

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. (John 10:27–29, NIV)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

The difference is is great as the difference between life and death:  eternal life or eternal death.  He died (laid down his life) so that those who believe in Him can live.  Those who do not belive in Him stand condemned to eternal death.

Conclusion

This Gospel has been preached – even today is it preached.  It is the Word of God “which cannot be broken”.  It was God’s eternal plan for us to hear it.  Why?

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30–31, NIV)

Did we hear his voice?  Do we believe? Did we enter through the only gate?  The reason why we heard this message today is to hear his voice – and believe unto eternal life.  Let’s thank God.

AMEN.

Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 7 April 2013

The Coming of the Christ (2)

How did you get in here?

Scripture Readings

  • Psalm 23
  • Matthew 22:1-14

Introduction

We all know about weddings, invitations, RSVP’s and preparations for the great day.

Last week the Word came to us and spoke about the long-suffering of the owner of the vineyard: time and time again he sent servants to get his fruit, until he sent his son, whom they killed.

Jewish leaders and the Covenant people of the Old Testament rejected the Son who became the Cornerstone and foundation of the building.

God’s wrath to the hardness of heart and the stubbornness of those who knew the revelation and grace of God, yet rejected it:

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” (Matthew 21:43–44, ESV)

Today the Word speaks to us about invitations to banquet of the king in honour of his son. It follows in the footsteps of the previous parable about the wicked tenants, and is most probably directly adders to the leaders of the day, and through them to the people.

The King prepared at banquet

Invitations

That it was not unusual among the Jews first to send out a general invitation and then later to invite those that had been called.  The men of Jerusalem according to tradition, boasted that no one of them went to a banquet unless he were twice invited.” In this parable, however, there were in all not less than three invitations!

Verse 3 states:

and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. (Matthew 22:3, ESV)

The king first invited the guests, then he sent out the servants to the guests who were perfectly aware of the invitation.  Then he sent out some more servants.  Like in the previous parable.

The King Himself

It was God who called Abraham (Gen. 12:1 ff.; 13:14–18; 15:1–6; 17:1–21; 22:11–18), Isaac (Gen. 26:24); and Jacob (Gen. 28:13–15; 32:22–28; 46:2 ff.). It was God who called Moses (Exod. 3). And it was God whose voice Israel heard and who made a covenant with the people.

Servants of the King

From the time your ancestors left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets. But they did not listen to me or pay attention. They were stiff-necked and did more evil than their ancestors. (Jeremiah 7:25–26, NIV)

The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. (2 Chronicles 36:15–16, NIV)

Jesus said:

so that “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven. (Mark 4:12, ESV)

The Preparation

It seems that everything in the Old Testament was a preparation for the Son.

Fall – promise:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. (Genesis 3:15, ESV)

From that point on the King, our Father, prepared for the wedding banquet of his Son.

They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.” But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. (Hebrews 8:5–6, ESV)

But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning. This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order. (Hebrews 9:7–10, NIV)

The sacrificial system of the Old Testament was insufficient and temporary: it called for fulfilment.

The prophets of the Old Testament prophesied about Christ who would come ; others were a good example as to why the office of prophet called for fulfilment in the promised Messiah.  Kings like David were and example of the Messiah who would come, but their sinful failure also cried out for the perfect King to come.

The King prepared a banquet.  He called:

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; (Isaiah 1:18–19, ESV)

The wedding banquet is about to begin:

Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.” ’ (Matthew 22:4, ESV)

The reaction to the invitation

But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, (Matthew 22:5, ESV)

They displayed indifference: far more interest in earthly matters than in heavenly, in material things than in spiritual, in the farm and the place of business than in the invitation to accept salvation full and free for soul and body throughout all eternity. Life as usual.  The King, his Son and his kingdom is of no importance. Thanks, but no thanks!

They went further:  active hostility – grabbing the servants, treating them shamefully, and even murdering some of them.

A few days after Jesus spoke this parable, they shouted: “Crucify Him!”  and added:

“His blood be on us and on our children!” (Matthew 27:25, ESV)

Wherever Paul went as described in Acts, it was the Jews who stirred the people against the Gospel.

But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. (Acts 14:2, ESV)  But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. (Acts 14:19, ESV)

Then we read the words of the apostle Paul:

And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” (Acts 18:6, ESV)

Reaction of the King

The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. (Matthew 22:7, ESV)

They rejected to long-promised Son of the King, they rejected the invitation of the long-suffering King, they invoked God’s curse on themselves by having the Son of the King crucified on the cross like a worthless criminal, while they were the criminals.

The banquet not cancelled

Then he said to his servants, The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. (Matthew 22:8-10, ESV)

The meaning is clear. When the Jews who had been invited refuse to accept Christ, other people in great numbers are brought in. These others are mostly from the Gentiles, though Jews are not hereby excluded. The fact that both good and bad are brought into the kingdom or visible church has been explained in connection with the parable of The Dragnet.

The fact that through the sacrifice of Christ and the leading of the Spirit salvation is now for all, entirely regardless of race, nationality, sex, social standing, etc., and that no nation—whether British, Jewish, Dutch, Swedish, German or whatever—has any special standing before God is clear.

The wedding hall was filled with guests, both good and bad.  It is now made clear, however, that this “good and bad” has reference only to human standards of judgment. It does not mean that ultimately those who in God’s eyes are and remain “bad” are destined for the joys of the new heaven and earth. Verses 11–14, “the missing wedding robe,” will make this clear.

By the command of the king and from his bountiful supplies, at the very entrance of the wedding hall a wedding robe had been offered to each guest. All except this one person had accepted the robe. This one man, however, had looked at his own robe, had perhaps lightly brushed it off with his hand, and had then told the attendant, “My own robe is good enough. I don’t need the one you’re offering me.” Then, in an attitude of self-satisfaction and defiance, he had marched to the table.

We have the example of the wedding feast of the Lamb.

Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. (Revelation 19:7–8, ESV)

No difference between the Jews and this man

Paul writes:

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. (Romans 10:1–3, ESV)

Of himself Paul writes:

…though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. (Philippians 3:4–6, ESV)

But:

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— (Philippians 3:8–9, ESV)

Robe: many examples in the Bible:

I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban. (Job 29:14, ESV)

Let your priests be clothed with righteousness, and let your saints shout for joy. (Psalm 132:9, ESV)

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (Isaiah 61:10, ESV)

Self-righteous and indifference are the same:  The Jews disregarded the need to come to the banquet in honour of the son.  The sinner depended on himself.  It was not the fact that he was bad that caused him to be chucked out of the banquet hall – there were other bad people too, but they did not rely upon themselves to be acceptable in the eyes of the King: they accepted the robe and therefore abided by the rule of the King; do otherwise and the absolutely, astounding free grace becomes crushingly and bewilderingly hard!

The lot of this self-righteous sinner is not any different from the lot of the self-righteous Jews who rejected Jesus:

Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 22:13, ESV)

The gospel call goes forth far and wide. It reaches ever so many. Most of them are like the man in the parable: they hear but do not heed. In comparison with those many that are lost there are but few that are saved, that is, few that are chosen from eternity to inherit life everlasting. Salvation, then, in the final analysis, is not a human accomplishment but the gift of God’s sovereign grace.

How did you get in here?

The King prepared a banquet for his Son.  His coming was long promised and proclaimed. It was time for the Son to be crowned.

Invitation sent, heard, rejected in indifference and self-righteousness: their city burned.

Invitation sent, heard and excepted in self-righteousness: weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Christmases come and go.  The wedding banquet is ready.  The invitation is still going out.  Righteousness to be found for nothing – free of charge.

How did you get in here?

Sermon Preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 17 December 2012