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The Word of God, Not Men (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
June 20, 2024 4:00 am

The Word of God, Not Men (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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June 20, 2024 4:00 am

Christians are often accused of being intolerant when we respond to cultural issues with Scriptural truth. On Truth For Life, Alistair Begg notes the difference between rightly showing compassion for the perishing and wrongly tolerating unbiblical beliefs.


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This listener-funded program features the clear, relevant Bible teaching of Alistair Begg. Today’s program and nearly 3,000 messages can be streamed and shared for free at thanks to the generous giving from monthly donors called Truthpartners. Learn more about this Gospel-sharing team or become one today. Thanks for listening to Truth For Life!

Truth for Life
Alistair Begg

As Christians, we are sometimes accused of being uptight or intolerant when we respond to issues in our culture with the truth of Scripture. Today on Truth for Life, we'll learn the difference between rightly showing compassion for those who are perishing and wrongly tolerating unbiblical beliefs. Halaster Begg is teaching from 1 Thessalonians Chapter 2.

We're focusing on verses 13 through 16. Now I have a number of points this evening all that begin with the letter P, and I will try and get through them properly. First of all, we're going to notice the process to which he refers. The process to which he refers.

I'm not going to spend a long time on any of these tonight, but just to try and move through the text. Secondly, notice the product. For the process has a product, and the transforming power of God's Word is then seen at work within their lives. Well, that brings us to the third P, the word persecution. We need to look at this issue of persecution for a moment.

First of all, the process, and then the product, and then this issue of persecution. Halfway through verse 14, he says, you suffered from your own countrymen the same thing those churches suffered from the Jews. And now Paul makes these graphic statements concerning what the Jews have done. And I want you just to follow along with me as I note them.

This is what he says. First of all, he says, they killed the Lord Jesus. They killed the Lord Jesus. Now, you ought probably just to turn back to Matthew's Gospel for a cross-reference here. Matthew 27 and verse 25.

As you're turning to that, let me say this, that to say such a thing today would be regarded as anti-Semitic. After all, we know that the Romans were involved in the death of Jesus, and so too were all of us, insofar as it was our sins that nailed him to the tree. Paul certainly understood himself to be involved in the death of Jesus, as he refers to it in 1 Timothy 1.13, as he regards himself as the chief of sinners. But despite the fact that the Romans were involved and the Gentiles were involved and you and I were involved in one degree in this death of Jesus, nevertheless, Paul is unequivocal in stating things as he does. He says, Your experience of suffering from your own countrymen is akin to the sufferings which came upon the churches as a result of the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus.

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. The persecution is revealed, he says, first of all, in that they killed Jesus. Also, they killed the prophets. These were their own folks. These were their own chaps, the fellows who were proclaiming the Word to them. And yet, nevertheless, they despised them, and they killed them also. They had no time for anybody who did not tell them the way they wanted to hear it. And, says Paul, the persecution was revealed in our own receiving of their response.

They killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. And so he says they displeased God. Everyone who rejects Jesus displeases God. And there is no matter more significant to God the Father than the rejection of his Son. For you remember he said, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.

This is my beloved Son. Listen to him. And as they cried away with him, we would rather have Barabbas in all of their devotion to God, they were actually displeasing the God whom they claimed to be worshiping. And he says, fifthly, they are hostile to all men.

You see this progression. They killed the Lord Jesus, they killed the prophets, they drove us out, they displeased God, and they are hostile to all men. The Jewish historian said of them, towards all other people except their fellow Jews, they feel only hatred and hostility. Now, how was this hostility represented? Well, we're told there in verse 16, their hostility towards the human race extended to seeking to prevent Paul and others from preaching the gospel to them, and so to stop the Gentiles from being saved. They were obstructing the spread of the gospel, and Paul acknowledges this.

I think you sense, as I do, that there is material here for deep and profound thought. The process, the product, the persecution, and the pronouncement. Verse 16, in the final two sentences, in this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last, or the wrath of God is hanging over them at the last. It's an interesting phrase, isn't it, in light of what Jesus had said to them in Matthew 26?

He says to them, fill up the measure of your response. And here, says Paul, they are heaping up their sins to the limit. They're eventually tipping the scales to the point where there is no other way for them to go. And eventually, God's patience runs out. His patience ran out in the prophets. He sent the prophet Amos to them, and the prophet Amos had to say to them again and again, If you don't listen now, I can't promise you there will be a tomorrow.

God's patience is running out. And so it is that having heaped up their sins to the limit, the wrath of God has come upon them at the last. Now, there is some question here in the text as to whether this is a state meant in the past tense, that this judgment of God has already taken place or is in the present tense, is immediately on them now or is yet in the future tense.

In one measure, it doesn't really matter. If the sense is that it has fallen on them, then Paul may be referring to the great famine which took place in Judea between 45 and 47 AD, or he may be referring to a phenomenal massacre of the Jews in the temple precincts in AD 49. And so they would know exactly what he was talking about. If, however, he is speaking of that which is yet to come, it is more than likely that he is anticipating what would come in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. In either way, he wants them to understand that their persecution was such that his pronouncement upon them would definitely come to pass. As I studied this this week, I said to myself, my, my, this is tough stuff, and especially coming from a Jew. Because remember that Paul was Jewish.

Paul was fiercely Jewish. Paul, even after his conversion, was not about to cast aspersions on all that has represented his early heritage. He put it in perspective by saying, the fact that I had put store in all of this was ridiculous, and now he says, I count all things as rubbish for the sake of knowing Christ.

But he didn't mean that his mom and dad had taught him rubbish, and he didn't mean that his training under Gamaliel had been rubbish. He's saying that in the contrast of the wonder of grace in Jesus, all of this is just like wind in the air. And when we think of Paul as he writes the letter of the Romans, he writes, concerned and compassionate for his Jewish compatriots. He asks the question in Romans 3.1, What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew?

Or what value is there in circumcision? And we might expect him to say, Absolutely none. But he doesn't. He says, Much in every way. First of all, referring to the Jews, they have been entrusted with the very words of God.

He said, It is a wonderful thing to be brought up in this Jewish heritage. For the gospel is first to the Jew and then to the Gentile. And so he is not setting that aside. What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God's faithfulness?

Not at all. Let it be true. Let the Word of God be true in every man a liar. And so he goes on to speak concerning that. When you turn forward to Romans chapter 9 and to the opening verses of Romans 9, he pours out his heart with great concern for the nation of Israel. He longs for their salvation. Look at this verse 2 of Romans 9.

I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption of sons, theirs the divine glory, theirs the covenants, theirs the receiving of the law, theirs the temple worship and the promises, theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all forever to be praised.

He says, Amen! And yet here in 1 Thessalonians he writes concerning these same people, his own race, and he says, they persecuted us. They killed Jesus. They killed the prophets. They drove us out. They stood in the way of the gospel. And by implicating ourselves, we cannot exonerate them.

That's what they say. And in consequence, he says, the wrath of God has come upon them, even as Jesus warned that it would. You cannot read the gospels without understanding something of this. I want just to quote to you one or two statements of Jesus which make clear that he warned the people concerning these things. He says in Matthew 21, verse 43, Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed. And then, verse 45, And when the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus' parables, they knew he was talking about them.

And they looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd, because the people held that he was a prophet. Matthew chapter 23 and verse 38, Jesus laments over Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you. How often have I longed to gather you, to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. The great agony of soul of Jesus over these dear ones. And then he says in 38, Look, your house is left to you, desolate.

One final reference. Luke chapter 23 and the 28th verse. And as Jesus was led away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and they put the cross of Jesus on him, and they made him carry it behind Jesus. And a large number of people followed him, including women, who mourned and wailed for him. And Jesus turned to them and said, Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, weep for yourselves and for your children.

What a strange thing to say. Do not weep for me, weep for yourselves. Why would they weep for themselves? He was the one that was with the cross. He was the one that was about to see the demise.

He was the one who would be bloodied and beaten and lost. And he goes on and he says, For the time will come when you will say, Blessed are the barren woman, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed. Then they will say to the mountains, Fallen us, and to the hills cover us. For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry? These great enigmatic statements of Jesus.

Warning, warning, warning! And now, after time has elapsed, Paul explains it in the final sentence of the sixteenth verse. The wrath of God has come upon them at the last.

Now, let me give you something of a perspective on this in conclusion. And this is just the briefest and most cursory look at a small period of church history. But the fact is, loved ones, that in the history of the church, the church has not been guiltless when it comes to the issue of anti-Judaism. And the church has sought to use some of the statements that we have just referred to tonight as a means of standing with others in some of the most dreadful treatment of Jewish people. This cannot be countenanced on the basis of God's Word. But the vast majority of people, as a result either of blinding their eyes and stopping their ears or a horrible misunderstanding of the Bible, were prepared somehow or another to be caught up in the drift. And for that there needs to be some solemn and honest repentance.

We cannot go to our Jewish neighbors and our friends without recognizing that some of the blood of their forefathers is on our hands. Chrysostom, in the fourth century, preaching in Antioch—fourth century—preached eight virulent sermons against the Jews. He described them as animals, he accused them of all kinds of bizarre and immoral activity.

And he did so on the basis of a warped understanding of the Scriptures. In the Middle Ages, there were all kinds of repressive treatments of the Jews that came out from statements of the church—none more repressive than four regulations from the Lateran Council in 1215 AD. And as a result of these four regulations, the Jewish people were obliged to live in ghettos and to wear distinctive dress. This is not Nazi Germany. This is thirteenth century Christianity. You will live in ghettos, they said, and you will wear clothes that mark you out so that we might know who you are. During the Crusades, the church failed to stand against a massive and wholesale pillaging of Jewish settlements.

Now, what did I tell you? The best of men are men at best. We could sidestep from here, and we won't, and address the blood that's on the hands of white people in relationship to slavery, also bolstered by a horrendous resting of the Scriptures. And when we read our Bibles, and when we understand the text of Scripture, and when we wrestle with this and try somehow or another to get a semblance of normality in it all—there's only one clarification that I can make any attempt at understanding it, and it is this.

And I think it lightens the guilt at least a little. As far as I can understand church history, the fathers and those in the Middle Ages and the Reformers were expressing a sentiment that was anti-Judaism. It was not anti-Semitic. In other words, it was a theological conviction. It was not, I hope, a racial prejudice. It was because, presumably, we must say that the incarnate Son of God must be honored and must be adored, and only through him can we come to the Father, and therefore the monotheism of Judaism is bereft and therefore has to be counteracted.

And in that sense, we would have to stand against Judaism as a religious expression when it comes to that element. But sadly, loved ones, our zeal so often overstrides the boundaries that are established by the parameters of biblical love and have a funny feeling that some of us, in this respect, still have some repenting to do, still have some sorries to say, still have some bridges to mend, and still have some friendships to make. You are sensible people.

You think these things out for yourselves. You're listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg. Stay with us. Alistair will be back to close today's program with prayer. We hope the teaching you hear on Truth for Life encourages you to reflect on who God is, what he's done, what he has promised to do, and why he can be trusted wholeheartedly. Our current study in 1 Thessalonians is challenging us to glorify God as we live out the faith we profess.

I hope you're finding this study helpful. You know, the book of Psalms is a place many of us go for rich insight into the glorious nature of God, not only who he is, but who we are in our relationship with him. The Psalms are filled with passages that teach us about how much God loves us, and today we want to invite you to request a short, encouraging family devotional titled, God, You Are, 20 Promises from the Psalms for Kids. In each of the book's 20 readings, young children will explore a brief passage from the Psalms and learn about things like God's constant care, his faithfulness, and his help. This is a book you'll read over and over again with your children or your grandchildren.

It's a book that is perfect for bedtime reading. Ask for your copy of God, You Are, when you give a donation today to support the gospel-sharing ministry of Truth for Life. You can give a one-time gift at slash donate, or you can arrange to set up an automatic monthly donation when you visit slash truthpartner. And if you'd prefer, you can call us at 888-588-7884. Now, here is Alistair to close today's program. O Lord our God, we come to these three or four verses tonight.

We don't find them easy, palatable, and not necessarily cheery. But we know that all Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for doctrine and for reproof and for correction and for training in righteousness. We want to understand this process and live in it, that it may be your Word, the Word of God, from your servants in us.

We do want the product to be evident in our lives. We do recognize, too, Lord, that there is this fact of persecution with which we've wrestled. There is this pronouncement concerning your wrath being revealed from heaven, and we see something of it. And as we reflect upon the history of the church, we get a perspective that is not always encouraging, but it is, frankly, challenging. And so, we pray that you will forgive us our sins.

Some of us still harbor bitterness towards those around us who look differently, who live differently, who come from a different religious persuasion. But we do ask you to forgive us and to change us. We pray, too, at the same time, that you will make us zealous for the gospel. We recognize, then, that the task of evangelism in our world tonight is a daunting task. So much confusion abounds in our schools and universities, in the thoroughfares of our lives.

It's hard to engage people. In fact, the task is so daunting, it drives us to our knees. Bring us to our knees. Help us to be an army raised up, to walk the land, as a result of getting the captain's instructions and then being about the captain's business. To this end, we commit ourselves to Him. In Jesus' name, Amen. I'm Bob Lapine. Tomorrow, we're going to find out why the genuine affection between believers isn't just natural fondness, it's a supernatural connection. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-06-20 14:47:04 / 2024-06-20 14:55:00 / 8

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