Second Reformed Church

Friday, April 28, 2017

Review: "Angel's: God's Supernatural Agents"



I don’t know that I have ever read such a thorough-going work of eisegesis as Ed Rocha’s Angels:  God’s Supernatural Agents.  It would take a book of my own to show how the Scripture has been developed in such a way to say more than what the Scripture allows.
Now, understand:
I do believe in angels.
I do believe that God has and may send them to help the Church.
I do believe that there have been times when people have seen angels.
However…
Rocha’s foundation for his book is Hebrews 1:14, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? (ESV)”
Rocha argues through anecdote and Scripture, that this means that God created the angels for us to do what we need of them.  For example, he tells the story of a healing prayed for in the church, and angels appeared and at the request of the church, the angels flapped their wings, “because there is healing in their wings,” and the person was healed.
I believe the foundational verse is misinterpreted – and from there – the application and link to all of the anecdotes.  The author of Hebrews says that the angels are sent – by Whom? – God – to serve – Whom? – humans?  NO!  God.  The angels may minister to us as God will them to do so for His purposes and glory.
This book seems to have been written with good intentions, but the angels are not puppies at our beck and call. 
Please avoid this book and read something like John Owen’s commentary on this verse – which is extensive – and gives the glory to God.
 #AngelsGod’sSupernaturalAgents
[This review appears on my blog and on Amazon.com.  I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.]

Thursday, April 27, 2017

"Yours Are Mine" Sermon: John 17:6-19



“Yours Are Mine”
[John 17:6-19]
April 23, 2017, Second Reformed Church
We return to our look at the Gospel of John this morning, and we will remember that Jesus is in the Upper Room with the Eleven, ready to go to the Garden of Gethsemane, and He pauses to pray what is called the High Priestly Prayer.
As we began to look at this prayer, we see Jesus explain that eternal life is knowing the Father and the Son – eternal life is being in an intimate relationship with the Triune God in which we believe in Him and the Savior He sent and obey Him, love Him, and seek to glorify Him – to show Him as He truly is, just as the Father glorified the Son in His bodily return to the Right Hand of the Father.
Jesus is specifically praying for the Eleven at this point – though we will see in the weeks to come, if the Lord is willing, Jesus expands His prayer to all believers.  Here, we see Jesus pray for Who God will be for them after Jesus returns to the Father – and Jesus prays as though He has already ascended – which impresses upon them – and we who read this – the surety of what Jesus is saying – just as Jesus most assuredly ascended back to the Father about two months after He prayed this prayer, so will these things come to pass for the Eleven – and for all Christians.
            So, first we see that believers in Jesus are given to Him by the Father.
“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.”
Through His life and ministry, Jesus manifests the Name of the Father – He explicitly shows – and tells – those who hear Him – that He came from the Father, His authority if from the Father, His mission is from the Father, He speaks the Word of the Father and obeys the Father in all He does.
Jesus is the perfect example of an ambassador – and we, Christians, are called to be ambassadors:
“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (II Corinthians 5:16-21, ESV).
We are ambassadors.  We have been sent by Jesus – authorized – given His authority – to go to all of Creation with the Gospel – Who Jesus is and what He has done – and we are empowered by God the Holy Spirit to tell everyone that Gospel and that Gospel alone.  We do not have the right or the authority to proclaim anything more or anything less that the Gospel we find in the Bible.
            The Son of God came to earth in the person of Jesus, lived a perfect life under God’s Law – credited all who believe with His righteousness, took on the sins of all the who believe and paid our debt, died, physically rose from the dead, and ascended back to the Father – repent and believe that is the only way to be right with God.  That is what we are authorized to say as ambassadors.  If we say anything less or anything more, we’re in trouble.
            If we say that it doesn’t matter if we really believe that Jesus bodily resurrected, we are misrepresenting God.  If we say these things –  and then add –  and God will give you a new car, a perfect spouse, lots of money, the recognition you deserve – we are misrepresenting God.
            Jesus perfectly proclaims the Gospel to the Creation; He is the perfect ambassador.
            And then Jesus acknowledges that God the Father is the Creator of everything that is.  God created you.  God created me.  God created every human being that ever has lived and ever will live.  And since God is our Creator, God has the right to do whatever He wants with us.  And since we have all sinned against God – since we have not done what God has commanded and we have done what God commands us not to do, we are deserving of God’s Wrath, but God – for reasons outside of ourselves – God chose to give a people to Jesus to save.
            And Jesus prays saying that the Eleven have kept the Word of God – they have believed and are obedient.  They believe that the Son came from God the Father as His ambassador and our Savior, and they believe that Jesus will return to the Father Who sent Him to earth to save the people God the Father gave Him.
            Now, if God the Father created all of us, and God the Father chose to give some of us to His Son to save – to make them right with God – and God the Son came to earth with the Truth of God – the message of the One Way to salvation – and He gave that message to those the Father gave Him – and they believe – who is going to take them away from God and His salvation?
            If you belong to God the Father, and God the Father gives you to God the Son so God the Son can save you – make you right with God and bring you into His eternal kingdom – into eternal life – who is going to undo that?  Who has the power and the skill to steal you away from God Who has saved you?
            No one.  No one is stronger than God.  No one can undo the Will of God.  If God has saved you, you are eternally saved – you are engaging in eternal life now.  Of course, you could be fooling yourself – you could be fooling us – you may not really have ever believed – you may not be saved by the Son – and that’s another story.  Examine your hearts and make sure that you truly believe that Jesus is God the Son and Savior – and if you are sure of that, then rest assured that you belong to the Son.
            Second, Jesus prays that the Father will keep believers in Him.
            “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.”
            In this prayer, Jesus prays for the gift the Father has given Him.  Jesus prays for the Eleven and, later in the prayer, all believers – that God would keep them in Jesus – saved eternally.  Jesus distinguishes in His prayer – here, He is not praying for all people indiscriminately, He is praying for those who are and those who would become believers.
            And Jesus gives two reasons why He is asking the Father to keep – or preserve – believers in the faith:  First, these people belong to the Father.  The Father created them and gave them to the Son, but they are the Father’s, because Jesus and the Father are the same One God.  The Father’s are Jesus’, Jesus’ are the Father’s, and also the Holy Spirit’s.  Second, Jesus is glorified in the people that God gave Him.  Jesus is made known through each one who believes in the Gospel.
            For God’s reasons, He chose to use humans to bring the Gospel to humans.  God chose to use sinful, broken, inadequate humans and our sometimes good, sometimes not-so-good preaching to proclaim the Gospel to the world.  God chose you to tell others about His Gospel – about Who Jesus is and what He did.  You have been chosen by God – and empowered by God for this work – which proves you are His and glorifies Him as we open our mouths.
            We also see that Jesus is praying for His people – which includes you and me and anyone who ever believes.  Jesus is praying for you and me.  Jesus, the Almighty God, is asking for our good from His Father.
            The author of Hebrews writes about what the high priests did and how Jesus takes over that role: “The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but [Jesus] holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:23-25, ESV).
            And:
            “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.  And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:24-28, ESV).
            In the Sacrificial Law, you would need to offer up a sacrifice before God through the high priest.  The Law is fulfilled in Jesus, Who takes the place of High Priest and Sacrifice – Jesus offered up Himself on our behalf and now always applies that sacrifice to our account as He comes before the Father on our behalf.
            Do you feel more secure in your salvation knowing that Jesus is praying for you to the Father?  The Father and the Son are One God of One Mind, so the Father will keep everyone who believes in His Son, the Savior.  Be assured in the victory of God.
            Third, Jesus asks the Father to sanctify believers.
            “And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.”
            Jesus prays to the Father that since He is returning to the Father and His people will remain here in the world, He asks that the Father will keep them by making them one as the Father and the Son – and the Holy Spirit – are one.
            What does Jesus mean when He prays for us to be one?
The way this is often explained in twenty-first century America is that God is very sad that we have so many denominations, and He wishes we were all one church.
            Well, whatever we might think – or God might think – about denominations – that can’t be what Jesus is talking about here, because He prays for believers to be one in the same way that He and the Father are one.
            Jesus draws the distinction in this part of the prayer between believers and the world – that is, between believers and non-believers.  In this context, the world does not mean “everyone,” but “non-believers.”  So, Jesus prays for believers to be one, as God the Father and God the Son are one – in opposition to non-believers.
            What Jesus is praying for is our sanctification – that we would be “set apart” – that we would be united with each other in the essence of the Gospel against non-believers.  Jesus is praying that we would stand together in proclaiming the Truth of God and His Gospel – no matter what other differences we have – and that comes through our growth in faith and obedience.
            There are important and valid reasons for denominations, but, as Christians who recognize each other across denominations as brothers and sisters, we ought to stand together in proclaiming Who Jesus is and what He did against unbelief – that is what Jesus means – we are not to allow our valid differences to keep us from being one in witness to the Truth against the world.
            Jesus points out that He kept the Eleven unified – and that Judas was lost not due to Jesus’ failure, but due to the fact that Judas’ false belief was prophesied – he fulfilled Scripture necessary to bring about the completion of the Gospel.
            Then Jesus gives reasons why He is praying for the sanctification of believers – and He explains the negative reason and then the positive reason:
            So, fourth, Jesus prays that believers would be sanctified because the world will hate them and the evil one will pursue them.
“But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”
            The end of our salvation is joy in Jesus and His Gospel.  But that will not fully come until Jesus returns in the fullness of His Kingdom.
            In this world, as Jesus promised, we will suffer in one way or another, if we are faithful to the Gospel.  The world will hate us for proclaiming the Gospel.  The world does not want to hear that we are all born sinners, in opposition to God, and in rebellion against God.  This world does not want to hear that there is nothing they can do to be right with God – only Jesus Alone can save.
            No, the world says we can do it our way, we deserve a break today, just do it, you are able, you’re basically good, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, God wants you to be happy and healthy and wealthy – you just have to really, really, really want it – lies!
            But the devil and the world and our own flesh assail us with temptation and lies about what we deserve and our abilities – how Jesus is a good example, but unnecessary. 
God, deliver us from the lie that Jesus was a good teacher!  Keep us and sanctify us – set us apart for Your Gospel and help us to stand firm – proclaiming what You have said.  Fill us with joy in knowing that we were born sinners, in rebellion against you, unable to help ourselves, haters of You – but You so loved us that You sent Your Only Begotten Son to save us as His people and to Your Glory!
Jesus does not pray that we will be taken out of the world – He does not pray that we not be tempted and assaulted and hated and even killed for the Gospel, but that we would stand for it – one with each other – not matter what comes against us – knowing that Jesus is waiting for us.
            Finally, Jesus prays that believers would be sanctified because He consecrated Himself.
            “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.”
            Jesus prays that just as believers are not of the world just as He is not of the world – we are one in being set apart – we oppose everything in the world that denies that Jesus is God the Only Savior – we oppose everything in the world that says we don’t have to do what God has said to do and we can do those things God forbids – and the temptations can come strong, can’t they?
            Jesus prays that the Father would set believers apart in his Truth – in the Truth of the Word of God.  Brothers and sisters, Facebook is not the Truth, CNN is not the Truth, Fox News is not the Truth, the New York Times is not the Truth – in you want the Truth – and Jesus prays we will be drawn to and immerse ourselves in the Truth for the sake of the Gospel and our sake as believers – the Bible – the Word of God – is the only Truth – the whole Truth – the Truth of our God and Savior. Jesus prays that we would be drawn to the Truth of God and love the Truth of God and desire the Truth of God and find ourselves in the Truth of God.
            Because we have been sent into the world – and for the sake of every believer Jesus consecrated Himself – and we need to pause here for a moment – how can Jesus consecrate Himself?  How can Jesus make Himself holy?  Wasn’t Jesus holy from the beginning?  Yes, He was.  We need to understand that in this context, the word “consecrate” means “set apart,” just as in this text, the word, “sanctify” means “set apart.”
            Jesus lived a life that was set apart from the sin of the world – He loved the Word of God and lived the Word of God and as part of our salvation, He transferred His Righteousness – He credited us with that perfect keeping of the Law, so God looks at us and sees us as holy – set apart for Him.
            And Jesus died a death set apart from the world – taking on the sin of every believer – paying our debt to God – volunteering to be both High Priest and Substitutionary Sacrifice – as we mentioned before.
            And Jesus prays for us as we are sent into the world to proclaim the Gospel, having done all to save us and set us apart as His people that we would live for Him and die for Him and be received into glory on the last day, because this amazing God and Savior considered giving Himself for the sake of believers not something that takes away from the Glory of the Godhead, but brings glory to the Godhead.
            The Father gave us as a people to Jesus to save, the Son volunteered to go through everything necessary to be our Savior, and now, at the Right Hand of the Father, prays for us – that the Father would keep us in His salvation and would set us apart from the world, even as we are in the world, proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, finding joy in the Word of God, and all the while being hated by the world – and all this to the Glory of God.
            What a Savior!
            Let us pray:
            Almighty God, we thank You that Your Son prayed for the people You gave Him.  We ask that You would keep us and never let us go, and we ask that You would keep us set apart as we walk through this world, proclaiming the Gospel.  Help us to stay grounded in the Truth of Your Word, and lead us forward in the Holy Spirit.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.