Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church

Living ‘in-Christ (3) –

Bible Reading

  • Colossians 3:1-11

Introduction

In 1976 Dr Francis Schaeffer wrote a book with the title “How should we then live”.  The question is by what standard should we live.  Dr Schaeffer said when we base society on the Bible, on the infinite-personal God who is there and has spoken, it provides an absolute by which we can conduct our lives and by which we can judge society. This leads to what Schaeffer calls “freedom without chaos.” When we base our standard on a value system rooted in the belief that man is his own autonomous, independent measure, all values are relative, and we have no way to distinguish right from wrong. 

How should Christians live?

The story was told of a pastor who found the roads blocked one Sunday morning and was forced to skate on the frozen river to get to church, which he did. When he arrived, the elders of the church were horrified that their preacher had skated on the Lord’s day. After the service, they held a meeting where the pastor explained that it was either skate to church or not go at all. Finally, one elder asked, “Did you enjoy it?” When the preacher answered, “No,” the board decided it was all right! 

We might ask, “By what principle?”

By what principle?

The great controversy of Colossians stems from the influence of Gnosticism, as well as Judaism upon the Christian congregation.

We met the Gnostics who contended that the only way to salvation comes through some mystical separation from earthly life in search of the way out of this world into the next.  Some adhered to a strict lifestyle, denying themselves all psychical enjoyment, claiming that they receive messages from angels and have seen things other couldn’t (Colossians 2:18, 23).

Another group in the congregation was the Jews.  Some commentators think that we should think of Jewish gnostics.   Their own brand of Christian living was tainted with the rules and regulations as defined by the Pharisees.  Their mortality was one of what one eats and drinks, whether or not you celebrate New Moon festivals and Sabbath Days.  Their morality is summed up in “Do not handle, do not test, do not touch.” (Colossians 2:21)  

The members of the congregation who did not meet their standard of living were regarded as spiritually underdeveloped; they were disqualified from the prize.

The regulations of both the Gnostics and the Jews indeed had an appearance of wisdom and humility.

The question still remained, “By what standard?  Why?”

The Apostle Paul writes:  

Put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, (Colossians 3:5–6, NKJV)

He continues:  

But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. (Colossians 3:8, NKJV)

Do you want to ask the question, “By what standard, Paul?

What is the difference between what the Gnostics and the Jewish Pharisees said?  Is it not just the same thing? The Gnostics called for humility, harsh treatment of the body, withdrawal from the evil world.  The Jews called for a holy life of “do not taste, do not handle”. Would the Gnostics and the Jews not agree with Paul’s call against fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.  Add this this anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, and filthy language.

Let’s go back to the elders and the skating minister:  by what standard did he think it was good to skate to church, and by what standard did the elders condemn him?  And by what standard was it okay if the minister did not enjoy it?  They apparently had different standards.

If we even go back to Dr Schaeffer, we might understand something.  If we base society on the Bible, on the infinite-personal God who is there and has spoken, it provides an absolute by which we can conduct our lives.

What is this absolute principle which God gave us to live by?

‘Without-Christ’ and ‘in-Christ’

‘Without-Christ’

When salvation is based in adhering to certain sets of rules, one finds oneself in what the Bible describes as living in shadows, in false humility, having an unspiritual mind which exhibits itself in pride, having a fleshly, or worldly mind.  All these efforts come to nothing and lead nowhere.  It cannot mortify sin.  Why? Verse 19 gives the answer:  

They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. (Colossians 2:19, NIV)

Good works are not bad, but it achieves nothing for eternity.  

In essence, this describes life without Christ.

So, let’s be practical.  When it comes to things eternal, the things you hold dear because you value them as the things which will be able to tell God why He should allow you in heaven, what precisely are they?  Why do you think they are meeting God’s standard?  By what standard do you measure and value these things?

Do you read the Bible regularly because God might give you a golden star on the forehead if you did?  Do you pray to get another star of approval?  Do you come to church for the same reason?  Have you stopped swearing and telling dirty jokes because, by your standards, it is not good?  If this the case, you are in the same boat as those we read about in Colossians 2: they have lost connection with the Head. Don’t you think you should reconsider your case in the light of what the Bible teaches?

‘With-Christ’

Paul contradicts the life of self-improvement and DIY righteousness with the life ‘in-Christ’. 

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3, NIV)

To understand the difference between BYO, DIY and fleshly, dying, worthless righteousness and God-glorifying righteousness something radical must happen.  It is extraordinary radical, but it is the only way.

You have to die!  

You have to die and take into that grave all efforts of self-righteousness.  It is clear Biblical language:  

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature… (Colossians 3:5, NIV)

But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these… (Colossians 3:8, NIV)

Words in these verses refer back to Colossians 2:11 where it talks about the fulness of the work of Christ who, in our place, “put off the sinful nature” by dying for us (v.12).  When Christ took away or cancelled the charges against us by nailing it to the cross, He fulfilled what we never could or will by own effort.  

This is the Good News of the Gospel:  we don’t need to try to get ourselves up to scratch to meet God’s standard; He sent his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, to do it on our behalf and in our place. But to get any benefit from this rescue mission, we need to, by faith and deed, die with Him.  We need to attend our own funeral; we need to get rid of the filthy, sins-stained clothes, and clothe ourselves with the righteousness of Christ.  

It’s only when we understand that by dying to sin in Jesus Christ, we receive a heavenly address which enables us to set our minds on holy things.  

A radical change

In chapter 2 Paul referred to self-helpers, who have cut themselves loose from Christ.  He calls them puffed up and unspiritual without any hope because whatever they try to improve themselves is actually only exposing more obstacles, digging their graves just deeper.  Remember what Dr Francis Shaeffer said about life without God?  

… all values are relative, and we have no way to distinguish right from wrong… Because we disagree on what is best for which group, this leads to fragmentation of thought, which has led us to the despair and alienation so prevalent in society today.

For those who are ‘in-Christ’, those who died with Christ, those who rose with Him to a new life, those who received their address in heaven, there has been a radical change, anchored in a sure and eternal hope.  

What have they become?  

God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved… (Colossians 3:12, NIV)

God’s chosen people! God’s holy people! People God dearly love!

Conclusion 

Therefore, and based on this truth only, we say life with a nature dead to natural yearnings, displayed in how we now suppress unholy desires and the way we speak—aspects we will look at next week—is miles opposite to self-improvement.  It’s opposed to “do not handle, do not taste, do not touch  because a life saved by grace is a new life in Christ—it abhors what is contrary to God’s will and anything that would dishonour to his Name.  

By this standard, we need to live.  Amen. 

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 28 October 2018

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Doing Good (2)

Doing good can destroy the purpose of grace

Scripture Readings

  • Micah 6:6-8
  • Galatians 3:1-23

 Introduction

My dear brothers and sisters,

A dear friend of ours told me about a neighbour, and old man, sick and preparing himself for his last days.  He asked my friend to visit him because he wanted to discuss things thing with.  The two of them sat on the back verandah enjoying a coffee.  Pointing with his walking stick to a clump of hard African torn bushes, right in the midst of an outcrop of rocks, the old man said to my friend, “That’s where I want to be buried.”

Trying to be diplomatic and gentle, my friend replied, “It’s going to be hard to dig a grave there seeing that it is rocky.”

The old fella turned towards him and calmly said, “I know.  I worked it all out.  If you look carefully, you will notice they will not get the hearse even close to it, too.  They will have to carry me for a good hundred yards.”

“Yes, that was something else I thought I’d point out,” my friend observed.

“That’s the whole point.  I have only two sons.  They are going to inherit the farm and everything else I have.  I hardly see them since they went to university, so I figured they are not going to get everything for nothing; they are going to work for it!”

Surely, they were going to work hard for their gift.

When Paul, the good man who did everything right, discovered that his self-righteousness was an offense to the cross of Christ, God showed him mercy.  God did so not because he led a good life; God did so because his justice is just.

God’s justice is just, because it is met by the righteousness of his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.  He paid the complete price to save sinner.  He came into this world to save sinners.  That was his mission; and that mission He accomplished.  Not one sinner, predestined from all eternity in Him, will be lost on the day of the return of Christ when He will bring to the Father all who was ordained to be saved.

We learn from the Scriptures that we are saved by grace, not by good works. Our righteousness before God is not what we achieved by good works in order to be saved, but what Christ purchased for us.

Galatians – fall from grace

Not long after Paul planted the church in Galatia, false preachers, mainly those with a Jewish background, introduced a different Gospel to the congregation.  Yes, they probably preached a Gospel of salvation by grace, but they added the ceremonial law to it, and more specifically, the circumcision.  In other words, they preached in order to be a good Christian you must be a good Jew first.

The Galatian church was swept away from grace.  Paul begins his letter with these words:

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. (Galatians 1:6-7)

The Gospel message of the Bile is grace and grace alone. GracePlus, Paul says, is a different Gospel – and a different Gospel is no Gospel at all: it is a perversion of the Gospel.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. (Galatians 1:6–7, NIV)  

The true Gospel of grace

For the truth of this gospel of grace and grace alone, which is not a righteousness through works of the ceremonial law of the Old Testament, Paul also opposed Peter when Peter for a moment was timid in living out this gospel of grace alone. 

When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? (Galatians 2:14, NIV)

The argument which follows in chapter three is exactly to demonstrate that Jesus Christ was an end to the ceremonial law.  Further, Christ’s obedience to death was also the righteousness which we can never achieve, but which is ours by faith in Christ.  When He became the accursed who hanged on the tree, He not only took our transgressions upon Him to deal with our sins once and for all, but He also fulfilled the law to the finest of detail to became our righteousness before God.

By faith in Him we become children of the promise, children of grace, children of the covenant.  Because in Christ the promises to Abraham the he would be a blessing to all nations was fulfilled.  Paul writes:

The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. (Galatians 3:8-9)

Paul then goes out of his way to demonstrate the fact that salvation is by faith and not by works.  The promise made to Abraham was made long before the law was given.  Abraham received the promises and believed it, and it was accredited to him as righteousness because he trusted and believed God.

For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise. (Galatians 3:18)

The point in the Gospel of grace is this:  God gives it freely; one does not deserve it.  One cannot work it out by being good, and one cannot miss out on it because one is sinful.  The purpose of the Law was to not help us along in being good and working out our righteousness.  The purpose of the Law was:

… to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. (Galatians 3:24-25)

And if we don’t understand this clearly and try do still work out our own righteousness we are like that those boys digging between the rocks and carrying the coffin of their father all the way there to get their inheritance.  The Good News is this:

God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons… Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:4-7)

The good works of the slave

The Galatians fell for what seemed so good sounding.  It looked so good on the surface.  Do these things, and be good and you will be saved.

O, this is the Gospel so many people hear and want to hear.  But Paul is clear about such a Gospel.  He says:

But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? You observe days and months and seasons and years. (Galatians 4:9-10)

Yes, there are those who live in fear of God’s judgement because they just want to comply with the law – and what will happen if the return of Christ catches the on the wrong moment!  Such people are slaves.  They are children of the first principles of this world as we see it in Israel before the cross of Christ.  It remains a DIY religion to gain a self-righteousness before God.  For such there is no peace, for even the best of these may need to spend some time in purgatory to gain the perfect righteousness.  What pitiful Gospel!

Good works of the son

But there is the Gospel speaking of sons.  Paul uses an allegory in speaking of the two women, Hagar and Sarah.  Hagar produces an offspring of slaves who by own effort want to attain their own righteousness.  But, he says:

Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman. So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman. (Galatians 4:30-31)

Children born of the free woman live lives driven and controlled by the Spirit.  He says:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)

What does it mean to walk by the Spirit?  Of course, Jesus Himself said that the Spirit will come to teach us all things concerning Christ.  Christ set us free from sin, but this freedom is not a freedom to do as we wish, because there is a war raging in our minds.  What is this war about?

For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. (Galatians 5:17)

The fruit of the Spirit is:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Now the good works of the son, as opposed to the good works of the slave (or the good works of the person who is not saved by grace), and who is still trying to achieve an own righteousness, as opposed by the person who found salvation in Christ is defined.  And my dear brother and sister, listen carefully here, because this is extremely important:  the good works of the sons is what follows faith in Christ Jesus.  Listen to this verse:

Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24-25)

When did they crucify the flesh?  Important!  When by faith they believed that Christ died for them.  By faith they are united with Him.  His death became their death;  His resurrection became their resurrection; His new life by faith became their new life.  That’s why they were given the Spirit of God.  Paul writes about this reality when he says:

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20)

Good works

Now, this crucifying of the flesh is an ongoing process too – sanctification:

But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14)

It has expression in the way we live to fulfil the law of love. Paul writes:

For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)

The good deeds of the law, as we who are free in Christ, should live it out is to love God and our neighbour.  Galatians 6 spells it out.

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

It talks about humility:

For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one will bear his own load. (Galatians 6:3-5)

We cannot see good works as an option; it is the essence of our Christian life.

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. (Galatians 6:9)

It should be seen in our actions towards one another as Christians, but also towards those who still not believe:

So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. (Galatians 6:10)

Conclusion

Did the old fellow really love his sons to make them work for their inheritance? No!  Did the sons really love their father to dig his grave and carry him to his last resting place?  No!  If the father loved the sons, he would have given them the inheritance as a gift; if the sons loved their father, they would buried him regardless if there was an inheritance or not.  Fact is, true fathers and true sons love one another long before any one needs to be buried!

But our heavenly Father loved us by giving us his only Son.  The good news is we don’t need to dig his grave – He doesn’t need one:  He conquered death in our place, to give us salvation as a gift.

What really counts?

For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. (Galatians 6:15)

And this new creation, my brother and sister, is what we receive by the grace of God by faith in Christ alone.  And it calls us to good works in His Name.  AMEN.

Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 9 March 2014

 

 

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

Attending Communion

A sense of our own utter unworthiness is the best worthiness that we can bring to the Lord’s Table. A deep feeling of our own entire indebtedness to Christ for all we have and hope for, is the best feeling we can bring with us. The very thought that we feel literally worthy, is a symptom of secret self-righteousness, and proves us unfit for the Lord’s Table in God’s sight. Sinners we are when we first come to the throne of grace and sinners we will be till we die; converted, changed, renewed, sanctified, but sinners still (though not like before since sin is not the pattern of a believer’s new life). In short, no person is really worthy to receive the Lord’s Supper who does not deeply feel that he is a miserable sinner. (J.C. Ryle)