Christ commanded John in Revelation to write to the Sardis church, I know thy works, that thou hast the name that thou art alive, and art dead. What a commentary on most churches today. They have a title, they have a name, but they're dead. And why are they dead?
Well, they're dead initially because the people within them are dead. So, welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur. I'm your host, Phil Johnson. On February 9, 1969, John MacArthur stepped into the pulpit of Grace Community Church, and since then he has preached Sunday after Sunday teaching verse by verse through every book of the New Testament. Today on Grace to You, you're going to hear the first sermon John preached as pastor of Grace Community Church.
It's part of perhaps his most unique series. It's titled, The New Testament, Beginning to End. Now, this study, it's really one of a kind in the history of Grace to You, and John, the lesson that we are starting with, called How to Play Church, has particular significance for you, so tell our listeners why. Well, that's because How to Play Church is the sermon I preached on my first Sunday as the pastor of Grace Community Church. That was February 9, 1969.
That's right, and the recording that we're playing is the recording from that day, so it's a much younger sounding John MacArthur. That's pretty frightening, actually. Wow. It's a surprisingly mature sermon.
The content there is convicting. Well, there's a reason for that. The sermon on How to Play Church is based on Matthew 7.
Right. Many will say unto me, Lord, Lord, and they'll say, Depart from me, I never knew you, you workers of iniquity, and I talked about people who think they're going to heaven who are going to hell. Why would you do that as your first sermon? Because I grew up in a church. Because my dad was a pastor. I spent my whole life in the church, and I knew that by my own experience there were people in the church who weren't converted. I had similar experiences with people in my high school, in college, and even in seminary with people who were in seminary but weren't genuinely converted, and I knew it, and it eventually was made manifest. So I knew that judgment had to begin at the house of the Lord, and I knew that the first thing I needed to do was to confront people about whether or not they were genuinely saved, because there was a superficiality in the Christian church in those days. You went to church, you sang the songs, you went through the motions, but not... Well, it's still like that, isn't it?
In fact, I think about this, John. This message is a theme that has reverberated through everything you've written and said in all the years subsequent to that. This is like the backbone of your book, The Gospel According to Jesus. Yes, and a lot of other books, because getting the gospel right is everything. So this is going to launch our study titled, The New Testament Beginning to End. I want to point out that this study is so long we're not going to come close to hitting all of the study on Grace T. Radio. The full study includes 27 messages, one from each book of the New Testament.
But over the next four weeks, we'll give it a good shot. We're going to hit 20 of those sermons, and the series covers a wide range of subjects, some doctrinal, others practical, all foundational for the believer. Be with us. Don't miss any part of the New Testament beginning to end, starting with the first message from Grace Church I ever preached, How to Play Church.
Yes, and friend, if you'd like to download this entire series, you'll want to visit our website, gty.org. But for now, turn in your Bible to Matthew chapter 7 and follow along as John MacArthur begins his message, How to Play Church. Have your Bibles. Note, please, Matthew 7 beginning at verse 21. Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name or preached in thy name, and in thy name have cast out demons, and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you.
Depart from me ye that work iniquity. The Bible tells us in Matthew chapter 13 that the church age is going to be a very strange age. Having set Israel aside because of her unbelief, Christ begins to institute a group of parables that discuss the church age, and they present the church age as a very unique age. He talks about the fact that in the church age there is going to be the wheat and the tares, that is the true and the false, and they're going to be so hard to tell apart that you won't be able to tell them apart until God, who is the final judge, decides between them. And then we read about the fact that there are various dimensions of the church. The mustard seed illustration gives the idea that the church is going to explode, and it's going to be a great big thing, including real and unreal, true and false.
And so the church age is going to be a very strange era, and truly it is. For under the name church, quote unquote, we have all kinds of things going on today. Christ commanded John in Revelation to write to the Sardis church, I know thy works, that thou hast the name that thou art alive, and art dead.
What a commentary on most churches today. They have a title, they have a name, but they're dead. And why are they dead? Well, they're dead initially because the people within them are dead. Paul says in Ephesians 2, they're dead in sin. Consequently, dead people are going to constitute a dead church, and the church is not suffering today or dying today because of attacks from the outside. Most churches, Satan wouldn't even waste powder and shot on them, they're dead from the inside. But on the other hand, a vital church, a living church, a church that in reality knows Jesus Christ and proclaims his gospel, that kind of church is always going to be under attack, because that kind of a church must be the conscience of the community, a church that is alive, a church that is one proclaiming the message of Jesus Christ is going to become an issue in the community.
Jesus said, woe unto you when all men speak well of you. The church in the world must always be at opposite poles, because light and darkness have no fellowship. What concord has Christ with Belial?
There's no relationship. Very important to understand this, and Paul elucidates it in 2 Corinthians 6, beginning in verse 14, where he brings up the fact that the love of Christ is the very basic issue, and that what is really important is that the church is involved in making new creations out of these dead people. A church that is a real, living, vital church is a church that is in the business of taking dead people and communicating to them the gospel that alone can make them alive. That's the mission of the church. There is no way biblically under the sun that the church can ever court the world. The church must be the conscience of the world. The church must be so well defined that it becomes the antagonist of the world. For those outside of Jesus Christ, this church, I trust, I pray, this church will be the most uncomfortable seat in the world, because we present a gospel that divides. It's so true that when the church courts the world, it dies.
As I read to you from Revelation 3.1, the Sardis church thought it was alive, but it was courting the world, and so it wasn't alive, it was dead. The duty of the church is not only to teach saints, but the duty of the church is to warn men of God's standards. And we're not fair, and we're not faithful to the call of God, if all we do is advertise the abundant life. Now, that's a great dimension of salvation. But somewhere along the line, we've got to proclaim that man is a sinner, that he's separated from a holy God, and that in the eyes of God, he's an object of God's judgment.
He's a child of wrath, as Paul says in Ephesians. To boldly proclaim Jesus Christ, to boldly proclaim the truth about Jesus Christ, to boldly proclaim the truth about man and his sin is to divide. And if you remember correctly the words of Jesus Christ in Matthew 10.34, you will remember that he said, Think not that I am come to send peace on earth. I came not to send peace, but what?
A sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man's foes shall be they of his own household. So says Christ. The true church of Jesus Christ is not a religious institution which welcomes everybody. It is the body of Jesus Christ set apart under God, uniquely married and wedded to the selfsame Christ, redeemed by faith.
And no one outside of that faith redemption can be a part of it, for that is the requirement for the church. And it is our task as a people and a preacher to warn those who have not received Christ, to warn them in love, but to warn them nonetheless how they are in danger of the terror of the Lord. This is our task. And our text is such a warning. Our text is a warning to those who are comfortably entrenched in the church, or who think they're comfortably entrenched in the church, but who in reality are not.
This is not a warning to outside people. This is a warning to us who are involved in the church to be sure that it's real. And I think it only fair to begin our ministry here that we stop and really approach this with a sense of sobriety and earnestness to understand how we stand in view of God right now as individual. Notice the scene in verse 21. There is a phrase, in that day. It's a very important phrase because it says that there is coming a particular day when Christ is going to judge. The idea of in that day in the Bible is connected with judgment.
This picture is a picture of that day. In that day appears in 1 Corinthians 3 in connection with the time of the judgment of believers. It appears various places in the Bible in connection with the judgment of unbelievers. But it is always a phrase tied in with judgment, the finality of judgment. Now in Matthew 7 21 to 23, we are taken to the final judgment.
We are at the great white throne. And we are seeing some of the people who are confronting Christ at that time. And they are saying unto him, Lord, Lord, here we are. We are the ones who were religious people. Peter calls this day the day of the judgment and perdition of ungodly men. And the phrase that he uses, ungodly men, may seem like a very difficult phrase in view of the fact that these are religious people.
There is an awesome silence at this judgment. And then the silence is pierced by the words of Jesus Christ as he says in verse 21, not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven. Here we have, first of all, the condition for entrance to the kingdom. The condition for entrance to the kingdom.
What is that condition? How is it that a man enters the kingdom of God? How is it that a man becomes a part of the kingdom of God? How is it that a man can be in, as it were, with God in a real vital relationship?
How is it? Well, first of all, it's not the ones who say, Lord, Lord, but it's those who do the will of God. In Matthew 25 1 to 13, you have a very interesting story. You have a story of 10 virgins, and they were invited to the feast, and five of them came and they had prepared by bringing oils and having it in their lamps.
The other five were foolish, and they did not prepare. And in verse 11 of Matthew 25, the door is shut and the five are on the outside, and do you remember what they say? They say, Lord, Lord, open to us. And the Lord of the feast says, verily I say unto you, I know you not. Interesting, isn't it, that they were invited to the feast? They had heard the gospel in a sense, symbolically. They had heard the proclamation, come to the feast. This is an illustration of God's call to the world. They even prepared to the extent that they had their lamps.
They even had the right clothes on. They even arrived at the meeting house, but they didn't get in. And their cry was the same as it is in Matthew chapter 7, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he says, it is not those that say Lord, Lord, but those that do my will.
What a solemn warning. At the end of that parable, Christ says, watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man comes. Well, you can see that it's not those who wish to enter the kingdom who get in necessarily. It's not even those who ask to enter that get in necessarily. It's not enough to ask. It's not enough to wish.
It's not enough to wish. It is enough to be obedient. God has set certain rules for entrance to the kingdom. They must be obeyed or there is no entrance.
You may want to enter. In fact, you may want to to the degree that you come to church and you get involved, but not too involved. But unless you come by the way of Jesus Christ, you cannot enter. All your religious operation and all the formality that you go through is meaningless. Peter said in that great sermon in the fourth chapter of Acts, he says, neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. There is no other name than Jesus Christ.
None other name. It is only through personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that you or I or anyone else will ever know the kingdom of God. It is not through our religious emotion. It is not through our sanctified feelings. It is through the precious blood of Jesus Christ.
Lip profession is no good. There must be obedience. And in the statement, Lord, Lord, you get the idea of some kind of a surprise, don't you?
Like they're shocked. You mean we're not even getting in? But listen to Jesus Christ in Luke 646. You remember what he says? He says, Why call ye me Lord, Lord? And what?
Do not the things I say. God has set in order the requirement for entrance to the kingdom of heaven. It has nothing to do with the building. It has to do with Jesus Christ. So Christ announces the condition for the kingdom. Now watch the cry of those refused entrants. First of all, in verse 21, we saw the condition for entrance into the kingdom. In verse 22, we see the cry of those who were refused entrants.
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name and in thy name have cast out demons and in thy name done many wonderful works. Here is the cry of the people. It's an outburst. When Christ in judgment says not everyone that says Lord, Lord, all of a sudden there's an outburst. There's a plea from the hearts of these people.
And they cry out and they say we've done all these things. Many people are going to go to hell eternally disappointed because they thought their religiosity was enough. Millions of people depend on their morality, their good deeds, their baptism, their church membership, their religious feelings. There are going to be many church workers in hell. There are going to be many pastors there, sad to say. Many teachers in so-called religious schools. And I'm sure there are going to be many there. As we see in Matthew 7, many of these are going to say to Christ, Christ, it's us we prophesied in your name that Jesus will tear off the sheepskin and lay bare the ravening wolf.
That's exactly what he's been talking about in verses 15 to 20. False prophets. Those who claim to have reality and have it not.
What a picture it is. The false revealed. Do you have only a form of godliness? Do you know the Lord personally?
Do you see yourself at the great white throne with your feeble excuses? Jesus told Nicodemus, except the man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. What do you mean born again?
Simply to receive Jesus Christ and allow God to make of you a new creation born eternally into the family of that same God. Nicodemus came to Christ and he had a lot to commend him. He was a religious man. He was the teacher in Israel.
The teacher. He would think with all the religious steps that he'd taken, Christ would have said, well, all you need to do Nicodemus, you're such a great guy, you've gone so far, you've had such a fantastic life, you've done these wonderful things, all you need to do is take one more giant step and you're in. But Christ looked at Nicodemus as if to say you've done everything there is to do religiously, Nicodemus. Now forget it all. Go back and be a baby. Be born all over. It wasn't good to take another step.
You had to start from the beginning. Well, it's kind of a useless defense, isn't it? The condition of the kingdom doing the will of God. The will of God is to receive Christ. Those who are standing there and haven't done that cry out in horror. But it's a useless defense. And then the judge speaks again in verse 23.
Listen to what the judge says. For we find the condemnation of those without Christ. We've seen the condition for entrance to the kingdom. We've seen the cry of those who are left out. And here is the condemnation of those without Christ. And then will I profess unto them I never knew you. Depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Profess is an interesting word.
It means to openly proclaim. And here Christ openly proclaims that he does not know them. That same word is used in Matthew 10 32. You know what that verse says? Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men. Him will I confess before my father. The same word is used. If you're not willingly openly proclaiming Christ here, then he will not openly proclaim you there. Instead, he says, I never knew you. Now we come to one of the most important concepts in all of scripture.
The word no. This is a very, very important concept. From time to time you might find me repeating this because it's critical. What does it mean for God to know somebody and not to know somebody else? Now we know it doesn't mean that he's not aware of somebody. We know it doesn't mean that he's saying, I don't know who you are.
Not at all. He knows who everybody is. He's got everybody's hair, their head numbered. He knows when a sparrow falls. He knows everything there is to know as far as cognizance or awareness is concerned.
Well then what is he saying when he says, I never knew you. Now watch this because this is critical. It's very important. 2 Timothy 2 19 gives us the key because it says this, the Lord knows them that are his. Let me give that verse again. 2 Timothy 2 19, the Lord knows them that are his. Now what does that mean?
What is he trying to say? The word no in scripture implies a unique love relationship. In Amos 3 2, God says, Israel only have I known. Now was Israel the only nation God knew about? Were they?
No. No, he knew about everybody. What was he saying? He was saying with Israel, I have an intimate relationship. In the Old Testament, the concept of a man and a woman coming together in a relationship that produces a child is spoken of as a man knowing his wife. For example, in Genesis 4 17, the Bible says Cain knew his wife. Now we're not to assume that he knew his wife in the pure sense of just knowing her. That's obvious. He wouldn't have married her in the beginning if he hadn't known her.
It's got to be more than that. It says Cain knew his wife and she bear a son. In other words, in other words, to know implies the pinnacle, the most unique human love relationship possible, even on a human level. You remember the Bible says that Joseph had not known Mary? That's what shook him up so much when Mary was pregnant.
That's why he had the choice of either stoning her or putting her away privately, because she was pregnant and he had never known her. The word no in a human realm implies a unique love relationship between two people. And in terms of God's relationship, it's the same thing.
It's the very same thing. For Paul says in Galatians 4, I think it's verse 9, he says, believers are known of God. Isn't that a beautiful concept?
The intimacy. It's likened to a man knowing his wife. And is that not what happened in Scripture? Did not God say that Israel was his wife? And is the church not the bride and Christ the bridegroom? We have an intimate love relationship with God. It's a fantastic thing. And it's illustrated beautifully for us in the words of John chapter 10, where John points out the fantastic truth of this relationship by recording the words of Jesus Christ.
And I want to share them with you. John 10 verse 14, he says, I am the good shepherd, Christ says, and what? Know my sheep.
Oh, that's fantastic. Now, as we go through this in your mind, substitute the word love for every time the word no comes up. I'm going to read it with the word love instead of the word no. I am the good shepherd and love my sheep and are loved of mine. As the Father loves me, even so, love I the Father and I lay down my life for the sheep. Look at verse 27, my sheep hear my voice and I love them and they follow me and I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish. Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father who gave them to me is greater than all and no man is able to pluck them out of my hand.
I and my Father are one. Do you see the beauty of the love relationship we have with Jesus Christ? Do you see the intimacy of it? In Romans 11, the Apostle Paul says God has not set aside his people Israel whom he foreknew. God has a predetermined love relationship with you if you're a Christian.
Did you know that? In the counsel of God it was foreordained by God's sovereign act of his will that you should be a child of God. You have a predetermined love relationship with God just like Israel did and does and the intimacy of that love relationship is so beautiful that God speaks of it in the most magnificent of human terms. That consummating act between the love of a man and a woman, that's the kind of a love relationship you have with God. When God says I know my sheep, when Christ says I know who you are, that means you and I have an intimate love relationship.
What a glorious thought. But to these who do not have that love relationship he says I never knew you. We had no such predetermined love relationship.
We had no such relationship as a sheep and a shepherd, as a bride and a bridegroom. To be outside that special love relationship is to suffer for he says depart from me. The saddest three words in the Bible.
Depart from me. What a tragedy. Nothing ever sadder than that. The harsh words in Matthew 25 41 again reiterated depart from me he cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. Oh how sad it is that the final picture of judgment is a picture of sadness. The final picture of judgment in the Bible is a tragedy. Is the unbelieving of all the ages are brought before God. Jesus Christ reiterates the condition for the kingdom to do the will of God. They cry out those who have been held out but we've done all this and the judge speaks finally and says but wait a minute you're condemned because we never had a love relationship. Christianity is not a formality. Christianity if you please in the modern term is not a religion it is a personal love relationship with Jesus Christ. Do you have that love relationship? Do you know that same Christ? I close with this illustration. There was an actor at a drawing room function who was asked to recite and he stood up and he wanted to be gracious to his audience so he said I'll I'll recite anything you'd like me to recite and no one suggested anything so an old preacher happened to be there he was sitting in the back I don't know how he got there he probably crashed the party normally preachers don't get invited to drawing room functions on a high society level but he was there and he stood up and he said I'd like to hear you recite the 23rd psalm. Well the actor was a little shocked at that but he'd thrown himself open so he had to do what the man asked him to do he happened to know it so he said all right I'll do that so he repeated the 23rd psalm with complete eloquence masterfully interpreted it diction was beautiful and when he was done there was spontaneous applause throughout the entire room and the actor figuring he'd get back at the old gentleman said now sir I'd like to hear you recite it the old gentleman hadn't bargained for that but because of his love for Christ he stood up and he repeated the 23rd psalm his voice cracked it broke it wasn't very beautiful the interpretation wasn't really that good when he got done there was no applause but there wasn't a dry eye in the room the actor sensing his own emotion stood up and said ladies and gentlemen I reached your eyes and ears and he reached your heart and he said the difference is this I know the psalm he knows the shepherd you've been listening to the first message John Mcarthur preached as pastor of grace community church the sermon that launched more than 53 years of verse by verse bible teaching the title of that sermon how to play church part of his series on grace to you called the new testament beginning to end and keep in mind the entire series is available to download including several hours of content that we won't have time to put on the air to download this series for free in audio and transcript format go to gty.org again the study to look for titled the new testament beginning to end download it today this series gives you a helpful overview of the new testament's major themes elements that every christian needs to understand if you want to live a joyful victorious spiritual life and just like all of john's sermons the messages from the new testament beginning to end are free to download at gty.org and when you visit gty.org make sure you also download the study bible app it's a free app that gives you the full text of scripture in english standard king james and new american standard versions and it also allows you to link instantly from the passage you're studying to related online resources including q and a's blog articles and sermons from john mccarthur and for a nominal price you can add the notes from the mccarthur study bible to download the app again it's simply called the study bible visit gty.org now for john mccarthur i'm phil johnson thanks for tuning in today and invite a friend to join you tomorrow when john looks at the parable of the prodigal son and helps you make sure you're not missing the main point of this familiar passage it's another 30 minutes of unleashing god's truth one verse at a time on grace to you
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