Is fellowship essential within a church, or is it just a nice way to fit in—a way for a diverse group of people to find others with similar interests? Hear the answer on Truth For Life as Alistair Begg takes a look at Christian commonalities.
From the Sermon
Hope Through the Silence
God’s people are a waiting people.
After God’s people returned from their exile in Babylon, the “minor prophets” Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi brought God’s word to them. Their message was similar to what their predecessors had said before the people went into captivity: You Israelites are ridiculous! You keep breaking the covenant. And if you keep breaking the covenant, God is going to come in judgment.
But the minor prophets’ message was not only one of judgment. There was also hope.
They may have physically returned to the land, but spiritually the people were still in exile. Judah—all that remained of Israel—held on to the hope that God was going to fulfill His promise so that His people might enjoy His blessings. But God’s kingdom still had not come in the way that the previous prophets had declared it would—because God’s King had not yet come. So the people were waiting for the Lord to return and fulfill all the promises of salvation.
The last of the Old Testament prophets, Malachi, insisted that this King would still appear—but 400 years of silence followed. People were born, went about their business, worked, and died, and on the cycle went. They probably asked one another, “What about those words, ‘I will send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me’? It’s been centuries since that promise.”
Eventually, a few of those people may have been walking down to the market when a funny-looking character wearing a strange outfit and eating a strange diet appeared in the streets, quoting the Old Testament: “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight’” (Mark 1:2-3). With those words, John the Baptist ended generations of silence. After many long years of waiting, God was faithful in keeping His promises, just as He always is. He sent both His messenger and His King so that all people could experience His blessing—namely, the fulfillment of salvation through Jesus Christ.
In our day, God’s people are still looking forward. We know Jesus has come; we also know He is coming. God’s kingdom has not yet arrived in all its glorious fullness. So we are a waiting people in a world of instant gratification, an expectant people in a world of rapid disillusionment.
When it seems that God is taking too long to fulfill His promises in your life, do not lose hope. Generation after generation, He has proven to be faithful—and in sending Jesus, He introduced the fulfiller of every promise. You can rest in His constancy. “Surely,” says Jesus, “I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:20). He will do what He has said.
How is God calling me to think differently?
How is God reordering my heart’s affections — what I love?
What is God calling me to do as I go about my day today?
The Day of the Lord Will Come
1This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, 3knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
8But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you,1 not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies2 will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.3
11Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Rejoice in God’s Compassionate Love
O Lord of Hosts, how long will you have no mercy on Jerusalem? … And the Lord answered gracious and comforting words to the angel.
What a sweet answer to an anxious inquiry! This night let us rejoice in it. O Zion, there are good things in store for you; your time of travail will soon be over; your children shall come forth; your captivity shall end. Bear patiently the rod for a season, and under the darkness still trust in God, for His love burns toward you.
God loves the church with a love too deep for human imagination: He loves her with all His infinite heart. Therefore let her sons be of good courage; she cannot be far from prosperity to whom God speaks “gracious and comforting words.” The prophet goes on to tell us: “I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion.” The Lord loves His church so much that He cannot bear that she should go astray to others; and when she has done so, He cannot endure that she should suffer too much or too heavily.
He will not have his enemies afflict her: He is displeased with them because they increase her misery. When God seems most to leave His church, His heart is warm toward her.
History shows that whenever God uses a rod to chasten His servants, He always breaks it afterwards, as if He loathed the rod that gave his children pain. “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.”1
God has not forgotten us because He strikes—His blows are no evidences of absence of love. If this is true of His church collectively, it is also necessarily true of each individual member. You may fear that the Lord has passed you by, but it is not so: He who counts the stars and calls them by their names is in no danger of forgetting His own children. He knows your case as thoroughly as if you were the only creature He ever made or the only saint He ever loved. Approach Him and be at peace.
1) Psalm 103:13
Moses and Aaron Before Pharaoh
1And the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. 2You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land. 3But I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, 4Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. 5The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” 6Moses and Aaron did so; they did just as the Lord commanded them. 7Now Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron eighty-three years old, when they spoke to Pharaoh.
8Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 9“When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Prove yourselves by working a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.’” 10So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. 11Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. 12For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron's staff swallowed up their staffs. 13Still Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said.
The First Plague: Water Turned to Blood
14Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh's heart is hardened; he refuses to let the people go. 15Go to Pharaoh in the morning, as he is going out to the water. Stand on the bank of the Nile to meet him, and take in your hand the staff that turned into a serpent. 16And you shall say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you, saying, “Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness.” But so far, you have not obeyed. 17Thus says the Lord, “By this you shall know that I am the Lord: behold, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall turn into blood. 18The fish in the Nile shall die, and the Nile will stink, and the Egyptians will grow weary of drinking water from the Nile.”’” 19And the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, their canals, and their ponds, and all their pools of water, so that they may become blood, and there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, even in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.’”
20Moses and Aaron did as the Lord commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the Nile, and all the water in the Nile turned into blood. 21And the fish in the Nile died, and the Nile stank, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. There was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. 22But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts. So Pharaoh's heart remained hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said. 23Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart. 24And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the Nile.
25Seven full days passed after the Lord had struck the Nile.
Jesus Sends Out the Seventy-Two
1After this the Lord appointed seventy-two1 others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. 2And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. 5Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ 6And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. 7And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. 8Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. 9Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
Woe to Unrepentant Cities
13“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14But it will be more bearable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades.
16“The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
The Return of the Seventy-Two
17The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Jesus Rejoices in the Father's Will
21In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.2 22All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
23Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
25And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
29But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35And the next day he took out two denarii3 and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
Martha and Mary
38Now as they went on their way, Jesus4 entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. 40But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42but one thing is necessary.5 Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
1“Why are not times of judgment kept by the Almighty,
and why do those who know him never see his days?
2Some move landmarks;
they seize flocks and pasture them.
3They drive away the donkey of the fatherless;
they take the widow's ox for a pledge.
4They thrust the poor off the road;
the poor of the earth all hide themselves.
5Behold, like wild donkeys in the desert
the poor1 go out to their toil, seeking game;
the wasteland yields food for their children.
6They gather their2 fodder in the field,
and they glean the vineyard of the wicked man.
7They lie all night naked, without clothing,
and have no covering in the cold.
8They are wet with the rain of the mountains
and cling to the rock for lack of shelter.
9(There are those who snatch the fatherless child from the breast,
and they take a pledge against the poor.)
10They go about naked, without clothing;
hungry, they carry the sheaves;
11among the olive rows of the wicked3 they make oil;
they tread the winepresses, but suffer thirst.
12From out of the city the dying groan,
and the soul of the wounded cries for help;
yet God charges no one with wrong.
13“There are those who rebel against the light,
who are not acquainted with its ways,
and do not stay in its paths.
14The murderer rises before it is light,
that he may kill the poor and needy,
and in the night he is like a thief.
15The eye of the adulterer also waits for the twilight,
saying, ‘No eye will see me’;
and he veils his face.
16In the dark they dig through houses;
by day they shut themselves up;
they do not know the light.
17For deep darkness is morning to all of them;
for they are friends with the terrors of deep darkness.
18“You say, ‘Swift are they on the face of the waters;
their portion is cursed in the land;
no treader turns toward their vineyards.
19Drought and heat snatch away the snow waters;
so does Sheol those who have sinned.
20The womb forgets them;
the worm finds them sweet;
they are no longer remembered,
so wickedness is broken like a tree.’
21“They wrong the barren, childless woman,
and do no good to the widow.
22Yet God4 prolongs the life of the mighty by his power;
they rise up when they despair of life.
23He gives them security, and they are supported,
and his eyes are upon their ways.
24They are exalted a little while, and then are gone;
they are brought low and gathered up like all others;
they are cut off like the heads of grain.
25If it is not so, who will prove me a liar
and show that there is nothing in what I say?”
1Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
2Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. 3But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife1 is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. 4Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 5but every wife2 who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. 6For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. 7For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. 8For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.3 11Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. 13Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.
The Lord's Supper
17But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part,4 19for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20When you come together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat. 21For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.
23For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for5 you. Do this in remembrance of me.”6 25In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
27Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.7 31But if we judged8 ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined9 so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
33So then, my brothers,10 when you come together to eat, wait for11 one another—34if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.
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