The Purpose of Strength

Text: Romans 14:13-19

Main Point: God gives us strength to build others up.

Today we are going to consider the terrible tyranny of a big brother, or the terrible tyranny of a big sister. How many of you are like me, you have an older brother or sister? I love and appreciate my sister now, but when we were growing up I can’t say that I had a warm spot full of appreciation in my heart for my sister. We fought on occasion and I caused more of the problems than she did. What frustrated me when we fought was her strength. My sister is two and a half years older than I am and she is 5’10. For most of my childhood, when it came to strength she had the upper hand. She could easily use her strength to overpower me.

Maybe you can relate. Maybe you have a big brother who uses his strength in such a way that hurts you. Thinking biblically, God gives strength for the protection of the weak, not for the exploitation of the weak. God doesn’t give you strength so that you can steal candy from a baby. God gives you strength so that you can protect the baby. In our day we call this misuse of strength “being a bully”. God identifies bullying as sin and sin of a most dangerous kind.

Being a bully shows up in an awful number of ways. When an older sibling holds down a younger sibling that is sinful bullying. When a faster kid makes fun of a slower kid, that is sin. When a person has the influence of a group and uses that influence to hurt another by excluding that person that is bullying. When an older, taller, or stronger child takes pleasure out of beating younger, shorter, or weaker children in games that is sin. When a stronger church member uses his freedom in Christ in such a way that causes a weaker church member to sin, that is bullying. This misuse of strength is a serious matter. We need to think biblically about why God makes us strong. Romans 14:12-19

I. Strength is for construction not demolition

Fundamentally, just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should do something. Strength or freedom are not green lights for our desires. Here is what we must do with our ability, strength, and freedom

  • Determine not to tear down your church (13)

In light of God’s perfect and promised judgment we are to stop judging one another. Let God do His job. Instead of judging our church we are to determine, or judge, not to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. You want to judge something? Judge how the use of strength and freedom effects your brothers and sisters. Are you doing things that are safe for you but dangerous for others? Are you setting traps with your use of freedom that will entangle and endanger your brothers and sisters? What you do with yourself and your free time has a radical effect on the church. Small things have great influence. So, the Christian has no grounds for saying, “It’s my life, I can do with it whatever I choose regardless of the impact on others.” God will judge you concerning the way your decisions helped or hurt the people around you. Therefore,

  • Determine to build up your church (19)

Look with me at verse 19, “Let us pursue what makes for peace and mutual upbuilding.” Devote yourself to making, sustaining, and cultivating peace in the church. Jesus said, “blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God” (Mt 5:9). Are you a peacemaker? Is your position concerning eating meat, drinking wine, or observing religious days encouraging peace or disrupting peace? Have you, strong Christians, become so petty that meat and wine bring you more joy than the good of your church? Set your eyes on increasing peace. Determine to do what builds up and strengthens others. God has made you strong in order to lend strength to the weak. God has made you strong in order to lay aside your freedoms for the cause of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Let’s pause for a moment and consider what is in our wakes. Look back behind you. Look back at your relationships, your work as a church member. What is there? Do you see brothers and sisters in your wake experiencing increasing joy in righteous living? Do you see brothers and sisters experiencing increasing joy because of peace with God and peace with others? Or, do you see brothers and sisters who are burned, frustrated, or in turmoil?  God has given you strength for construction not demolition. Let’s dig a little deeper here so that we can put off the sin that causes destruction and embrace the righteous ways that cause growth.

II. Consider freedom, conscience, and one another

What is astounding in this passage is that the Holy Spirit looks at the strong and affirms their position, you guys are right. But at the same time the Holy Spirit puts freedom in its proper place. Christian freedom must always be subjected to love and love is defined as doing good to others. Loving and serving the weak is always better than loving and serving your own appetites. Here’s our basic theology

  • Jesus declared all food clean (Mark 7:19; Luke 11:41)

We are told in Mark 7:19 that King Jesus declared all food clean. The apostle Paul understood the work and teaching of Christ so that he can state without hesitation, verse 14, “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself.” Food has absolutely no power to make a person clean or unclean. Because of the new covenant, the food laws of the old covenant that marked out the people of God have given way to different markers. Food laws do not determine who is the true circumcision. Instead we are the circumcision who worship by the Spirit of God, glory in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh” (Phil 3:3). We are made clean and set free through justification in Jesus Christ. It is his righteous life, atoning death, and victorious resurrection that make us clean. So, in light of Christ, food has no power. Food has no power but

  • Our consciences have great power

Keep going in verse 14, “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it is unclean.” Skip down to verse 23, “But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”

Christianity is not some decision you made in the past that has no effect on how you live today. Instead, Christianity is union with Christ that effects every square inch of how you live every day. What Paul defines for us here is the reality that you do everything you do with Jesus. Union with Christ, marked at baptism, means you do everything you do with Jesus. If your conscience convicts you that you shouldn’t do something because you will do it with Jesus, then you shouldn’t do it. You ask, “What would Jesus do?” and determine that Jesus wouldn’t do that thing. You need to follow your conscience and not do it. If you think the food is unclean then to you it is unclean. This is the power of the conscience. As we’ll see in a moment, it is incredibly dangerous to sin against your conscience.

Before we get there, we need to note what RC Sproul calls Jiminy Cricket theology. Jiminy Cricket teaches “Always let your conscience be your guide.” Initially, this sounds right but according to Scripture, God’s Word should always be your guide. Our goal when caught between decisions is to let Scripture guide our consciences. We are ruled by Scripture and love.

  • Love, not freedom, makes our decisions

Look again at verse 15, “For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.”

Verse 15 is the ground, or reason, for verse 13. The reason we should determine not to trip up our fellow members is because if we trip up our fellow members then we are not walking in love. Remember, from Romans 12:9, that our command is to love genuinely and with brotherly affection. 13:8 tells us to owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. Righteous living is faithful loving.

So, here’s this thing. It’s food or wine offered to an idol. It’s a religious day like a day of fasting or maybe the Saturday Sabbath. In Christ, we are free to eat, drink, or not observe the day. But our Christian brothers and sisters may believe that eating, drinking, or abstaining is to act like an idol worshipper and not as the people of God. Seeing you eat, drink or abstain may grieve your brother. Your brother becomes sad, sorrowful, or distressed over your choice. What should you do? Should you tell him to stop being dumb? We’re free in Christ. Get over it and get on with it. Should you invite him over and fill his glass with wine and his plate with steak? Should you welcome him into your home to quarrel over opinions? By no means! That would not be love.

The middle of verse 15 is intense, “By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.” Your decisions, about what you consider to be inconsequential matters, can have great consequences. Your decisions, about what you consider to be matters of indifference, can make a big difference. At minimum, your sister’s spiritual growth is completely demolished. To the extreme, this text teaches that your sister could be lost to a forever hell. What you do with yourself, outside of this gathering, has a massive influence on these people.

Christ died for the brother. Can you not put your steak knife down for one meal? Christ gave his life for this brother. Can you not give up wine for him? May God cause our love to abound more and more for one another so that the good of our brothers and sisters makes our decisions. May God cause our love to abound more and more for one another so that our appetites no longer make our decisions. May God make us loving and strong. And

III. Strength is for the kingdom

God didn’t make you strong so you can crush beer cans on your head. God has made you strong so that you can lay aside your desire for beer in order to build up your brothers and sisters. The infinitely glorious Son of God made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, in order to do good to your brothers and sisters. Here you are sitting at your table saying, “I’m going to have a glass of wine. I’m going to eat my steak. It’s my right and my freedom and no body is going to infringe on my rights! I’ll show them.” Is that why God made you strong; to flaunt your freedom? No,

  • Don’t flaunt your freedom

Verse 16, “So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil.” Don’t wag your freedom the face of your brothers and sisters. Look down at verse 22, “The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God.” Just because you are free to do something does not mean you are free to do it in front of everyone.

This is the call to know and love and seek the good of your brothers and sisters. Do you know the background of these people? Do you know what is in their pasts, the things that might trip them up? I do not mean that we should ask everyone what they used to do so that we can be sure not to do it. That’s a bit false and probably has more to do with loving myself and keeping myself out of trouble. No, we are called to love and keep away from potential stumbling blocks. Since church membership is the commitment to help one another make it safely to heaven, then church membership is the commitment to loving one another and avoiding those things that might trip others up on the way.

Ok, now verse 17 is another one of those big picture theological verses, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

  • The kingdom of God is not about eating and drinking (17)

Consider verse 17 from the perspective of the weak. Come on little brother, little sister, Jesus declared all food clean. An idol is nothing and food offered to an idol is nothing. The kingdom of God is not about what you put in your mouth. The kingdom of God is about living in union with Christ under the benevolent rule of God. Stop worrying about food.

Consider verse 17 from the perspective of the strong. Christian freedom was never intended to empower a believer to look at his brothers and sisters and say, “Forget you. Forget you, I’m going to do what I want to do. I’m going to do what Christ gives me the freedom to do and you can go cry about it if you want. I don’t care.” Are you that much of a slave to your palate? Do you need wine or steak in order to feel good? Have you become a slave to your freedom? Know this

  • The kingdom of God is a matter of righteousness, joy, and peace (17)

We must consider righteousness, joy, and peace in light of God and one another. Entrance into the people of God is dependent upon being made righteous through faith in Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who teaches us and convicts us and enlivens us so that we reject our own attempts to be righteous and trust Christ’s work to make us righteous. Being righteous in Christ makes us acceptable to God. We experience joy through restoration. Through Christ we are at peace with God. The Holy Spirit works this joy and peace in us. Joy and peace are the work of the Spirit in the life of the believer. We were once unrighteous, depressed, and in turmoil. We were once lawbreakers, angry, and constantly stirred up. Now, by the Spirit, we are righteous, joyous, and peaceful.

Reconciliation with God affects the way we live before God and others. We are a righteous people who pursue righteous living. Reconciled to God, we are a people who live life for God. The Spirit leads us to live pure and holy lives. With the taste of joy in our mouths we work for our brothers and sisters to taste the same joy. Forget meat and wine, we want these people to know Jesus. With the peace that passes understanding guarding our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus we strive for our others to know and enjoy that same peace.

So, the person who is all fired up about her freedom to eat this, drink that, go here, and wear that, but doesn’t care how it affects others, is so very far away from being a strong Christian. A strong Christian is one who serves Christ. What must we do?

  • Serve Christ

Serve Christ and not your appetites. Verse 18, “the one serving Christ in this is pleasing to God and approved by men.” “In this” is singular and it makes righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit a package deal. The one who hungers and thirsts for righteousness will live a life pleasing to God and approved by men. Now it is true that not every non-believer will see the value of self-sacrifice for the good of others. But, in our day of social justice warriors, we Christians should be on the front lines actually doing something productive for the good of others. The kingdom of God is not a matter of facebook posts, twitter rants, scathing letters to the editor, or unfulfilled promises to pray. Talk is cheap. Being offended is easy. The one who serves Christ by taking up her cross and crucifying selfish appetites, in order to build up her brothers and sisters, is pleasing to God and approved by men.

So, what are you doing with the strength God gave you? Are you being a bully? Are you flaunting your freedom and demanding your rights? Do you care more about getting your way than getting righteousness, joy, and peace? Is your belly your god? Be afraid. Jesus said, “Woe to the one through whom temptation comes. It would be better for him that a millstone be tied around his neck and be thrown into the sea, than he make one of these little ones to stumble” (Luke 17:2). Church, in what ways are you using your strength to tear down others?

How are you doing with the strength God gave you? Are you building people up? Are you making peace? “We need to learn how to relate to people in a loving manner according to their background and particular scruples” (Moo, 882). We need to be passionate about experiencing righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. And Christians are passionate about others experiencing righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.

I’ll ask you what I ask my children, “Are you being a peace maker or a trouble maker?” God made you strong so that you can go and be a peacemaker. We serve Christ, not our selfish desires.

Philippians 3:8-9 Questions

Philippians 3:8b–9

8b 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—

  1. What ways did Paul “suffer the loss” of his religious heritage?
  2. How have you or those you love suffered loss for Christ’s sake?
  3. Can you identify two kinds of righteousness talked about in verse 9? What makes them different?
  4. How do we receive the second kind of righteousness, “the righteousness from God”?
  5. God wants us to do the right thing and obey God’s laws. How is trying to do the right thing different than putting our confidence in a “righteousness of [our] own”?
  6. Who is the only one to do everything right and obey God’s laws perfectly? What does His obedience have to do with what Paul calls “the righteousness from God”?
  7. How does trusting in our own righteousness treat Christ’s righteousness like rubbish?

Romans 14:13-19 Discussion Questions

  1. In what way did God comfort, challenge, or correct you today?
  2. How do you define a bully?
  3. Think about the background or history of some of your fellow church members. What can you do to build them up? What can you avoid to help keep them from getting tripped up?
  4. Do you consider any food or drink to be unclean? Why or why not?
  5. Use Romans 14:14 and 23 to describe the power of the conscience.
  6. How would things change if you lived every moment out of your union with Christ?
  7. Is there any place in your life where your appetite for something is driving your decisions? What would it look like for love to drive those decision?
  8. In light of Romans 14:13-19, what level of influence do you have on your church family?
  9. Where is the Spirit producing righteousness, joy, and peace in you?
  10. Where is the Spirit producing righteousness, joy, and peace in others through you?

Philippians 3:7-8a Discussion Questions

Philippians 3:7–8a

7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8a Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

  1. Review the good things Paul gained in the previous verses (Phil. 3:5–6). Was there anything good about those things? In what ways were they good?
  2. How can gaining something turn out to be a loss? Can you think of any examples where getting something good could end up in bad results?
  3. Why did Paul consider the good religious heritage he had gained as a loss?
  4. What good religious things are you tempted to put your confidence in instead of putting your confidence in Christ? / What are good things that tempt you to be confident in them instead of being confident in Christ?
  5. If you added together every good thing in all of creation, would that be a greater value than knowing Jesus? (consider Mark 8:34–38)
  6. What is so valuable about knowing Christ?
  7. How will people know that Jesus is more valuable to you than anything else?

Be Baptized

Text: Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:38

Main Point: Baptism is commanded, practiced, and meaningful.

Today we have the great honor of baptizing a believer. But before we baptize, we are going to take some time to consider what God says about baptism so that we follow His commands and obey His voice. So, more than an accurate understanding of baptism, we want to faithfully baptize. Here’s the big picture: baptism is commanded, baptism is practiced, and baptism is meaningful. We are going to cover a lot of ground today, so I have listed the passages in the notes and given supporting references. In the Church there are a great deal of disagreements concerning baptism. Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Catholics, and Baptists have separate denominations for a few big reasons. One of those big reasons is baptism. I am an elder of a Baptist church for several big reasons and baptism is one of them. So, I want to make my case from Scripture and then lead us to celebrate baptism with faith and joy. Let’s begin with the command; Matthew 28:16-20

I. Baptism is commanded

  • Jesus commands us to be baptized

With your Bible open in front of you, I want to make some observations from Matthew 28:18-20. The command to baptize is tied directly to the authority of the risen Lord. Verse 18, Jesus has all authority over heaven and earth. In light of his all-encompassing authority, his disciples are told to go and make disciples. The King of all creation commands his disciples to go into all nations and make Christ-followers; make learners of Christ and his life and his ways. And what do we do with these disciples? We baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Baptism is a testimony to the work of the Trinity. Baptism is a testimony that the one being baptized is owned by God. Alongside the command to baptize is the command to teach the one being baptized to obey all of Jesus’ words. This makes baptism the beginning of a life of discipleship. It looks like this- become a disciple, then be baptized as a disciple, then keep growing as a disciple. I could say a lot here but for our purposes today I want you to see that baptism is commanded by Jesus. Make disciples and baptize them.

Jesus’ command to baptize is also given in Mark 16:15-16, “Jesus said to the disciples, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

So, after his resurrection and before his return to the Father, Jesus appeared to his disciples and commanded them to go to the nations, preach the gospel, make disciples, baptize those disciples, and then teach those disciples how to follow Jesus. Jesus didn’t have to explain baptism to his disciples because, according to John 3:22-24, they had already been baptizing a lot of people.

Okay, now turn over to Acts 2:37. Peter has just preached the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. He made clear that the people who had just been yelling for Pilate to crucify Jesus were in big trouble. That Jesus, you killed, has been raised from the grave and installed as king. Let’s pick up with Acts 2:37, “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” So, Jesus commands baptism and the apostles commanded baptism.

  • The apostles commanded people to be baptized

The people were convicted of their sins and Peter commanded them to repent and be baptized. So that’s what they did. Verse 41, “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” The disciples did what Jesus commanded. They preached, made disciples, and baptized them.

We see this repeated with Ananias and Paul. We read it yesterday in our daily Bible reading. Acts 22:16, “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.” The command to baptize or be baptized is clear. Now, that’s the command, let’s look at the practice.

II. Baptism is practiced

  • The book of Acts illustrates the practice of baptism

We have already seen Acts 2:41 how Peter preached and commanded baptism. Nearly 3000 responded that day. The next place we see baptism practiced is in Acts 8 as the gospel spreads further out from Jerusalem. In Acts 8 it is Philip who is preaching Christ. Look at Acts 8:12, “But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” What is interesting here is that these disciples believe the good news and are baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus but do not receive the Holy Spirit. This requires Peter to come, and when Peter lays his hands on them, they receive the Holy Spirit. The order here is preaching, belief, baptism, then receiving the Holy Spirit.

Our next reference to baptism is again in connection with Philip, later in chapter 8, Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. Philip starts in Isaiah 53 and tells the man the good news about Jesus. Apparently, Philip included Jesus’ command to be baptized because when they passed some water, the Ethiopian says, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” Obviously, Philip judged him ready for baptism because, verse 38, he commanded the chariot to stop and Philip baptized him. They went into the water together and came up out of the water together. Baptism.

Next comes Paul’s baptism by Ananias in chapter 9 (9:18). We’ve already seen that one. Let’s go to Cornelius in Acts 10. Peter is sent by God to preach the gospel. The climax of Peter’s message is in 10:43, “To Jesus all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” The Holy Spirit falls on everyone who heard the word and they start speaking in tongues. What happened in Acts 3 is repeated here. So, Peter asks, verse 47, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” There are no objections, verse 48, “Peter commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” Cornelius and his household hear the word, receive the Spirit, and are baptized. Baptism is what you do.

Next comes Lydia in Acts 16:14. Paul is preaching, God opened her heart to pay attention, then she and her household are baptized. Immediately afterwards comes the baptism of the Philippian jailor, also in chapter 16. Verse 31, the Jailor takes Paul and Silas to his house, Paul preaches the gospel to all in the house, they go get baptized, and then they go back to the house and celebrate.

Two more- Acts 18 and 19. In Acts 18 Crispus is the leader of the Jewish synagogue in Corinth. Acts 18:8, “Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.” Last one, Acts 19, some disciples of John in Ephesus. Acts 19:4, “Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

Viewed collectively, it’s right to understand five elements showing up when someone responds to the gospel. There is repentance to God, there is faith or belief in Jesus, there is a confession of Jesus as Lord, there is the gift of the Holy Spirit, and there is baptism. Now, when you sit down and read through the book of Acts this question is likely to come up

  • Was baptism practiced or reported occasionally?

There are multiple instances where the gospel is preached, and people believe, but there is no mention of baptism (Acts 2:47; 5:14; 6:7; 11:24; 13:48; 14:21; 17:34). Should we then assume that the early church baptized some disciples but not other disciples? Or, should we assume that the church baptized all disciples but did not mention their baptism on every occasion? In light of Christ’s command, the practice of baptism, and the terminology of adding people to the Lord, we should understand baptism was practiced consistently but reported occasionally. Additionally, the reported baptisms follow Jesus’ instruction that the disciples serve as his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). More than simply recording baptisms, the sequence of the report verifies the advance of Jesus’ mission. Since its beginning and up to today the Church has baptized God’s people. Baptism is the biblical and common practice. Now, let’s look at the meaning of baptism.

III. Baptism is meaningful

  • Baptism is union with Christ

Romans 6:1-6 (Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12)

Romans 6:3 says, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

Baptism needs to be understood as the desire for and the display of union with Christ. By faith, the one being baptized is looking to Christ to take away sin, free from sin’s captivity, and give life. With Christ’s crucifixion sin is atoned. With Christ’s resurrection sin’s power is broken. With Christ the believer has life and that is precisely life with God. The church should baptize those who long for life giving union with Christ because baptism puts this desire front and center. Baptism displays unity with Christ for the whole world to see. This one is united to Christ and will walk in newness of life. This one is united to Christ and will begin to look more and more like Christ. Baptism is union and…

  • Baptism is an appeal to God for a clear conscience

1 Peter 3:21-22 says, “Baptism, which corresponds to this [to Noah’s ark] now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

It’s not the outward working of water that makes the person clean. Baptism is not as simple as taking a bath. What is essential in baptism is the appeal to God for a clear conscience through the work of Jesus Christ. But how does this relate to Noah’s ark? I’m glad you asked.

The waters in Noah’s day were the waters of God’s wrath because of sin. The wages of sin is death and death came upon the whole world because of sin. The entire world was judged and put to death because of sin. In a moment, we will put this new believer under the waters of God’s wrath because of her sin. She will join Christ in a death like his, in a death because of sin. The waters of God’s wrath are similar in Noah’s day and in baptism. The ways of escape are also similar. In Noah’s day, all those who believed God and got on the ark were saved from his wrath. Because of the ark they went safely through God’s wrath. Now, Jesus is a better ark! All those who trust in him. All those united to him, all those who get into Jesus, will be carried safely through the waters of God’s wrath.

In a moment, we will bury this young lady under the waters of God’s wrath because of her sin. In baptism, she will be making public her personal faith in Jesus Christ. She will submit to the waters of God’s wrath and appeal to God for the forgiveness of those sins through the righteous life, atoning death, and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus will save her.

The baptism prayer is simple: God I deserve your wrath because of my sin but give me life because of Jesus Christ.

To put it another way, baptism must not be separated from repentance. It is the one who feels her sin and wants to be saved through Christ who is baptized. The reality of sin, the connection with Noah’s ark, and the promise of life in Jesus’ name lead us to the baptistery.

In a pointed way baptism puts the faith of the person being baptized on display.

  • Baptism is the demonstration of a person’s faith

Through baptism, the person being baptized goes public with her faith. She declares, “I’m with Jesus. He is my life and my Lord.” I think it’s helpful to think about baptism like putting on the jersey. Dak Prescott used to be a Mississippi Bulldog. He was lost in darkness wearing maroon and white. Then, he was drafted by the cowboys. The cowboys picked Dak as their own and there was a transfer of ownership. With the transfer of ownership came a new jersey. At the end of the draft Dak held up a blue and white jersey. Dak went public and declared that he now belongs to the cowboys.

In a way, baptism is like that. In a few moments this new believer will put on Jesus’ jersey. She will put on death, burial, and resurrection. She will go public by declaring her union with Christ and demonstrating her faith. This is what Christians do. We live like Christ because of Christ. We look like Christ because we are joined to him. Union and faith should be obvious in baptism. Baptism is the demonstration of a person’s faith and

  • Baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit are inseparable

In the book of Acts there is a minor plot line that deals with the differences between John’s baptism and Jesus’ baptism. John the Baptist’s baptism and new covenant baptism are not the same things. The difference between the two baptisms is the gift of the Holy Spirit. You can start with Acts 1:5 and trace it out. Jesus says, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit now many days from now.” Wait, go back to John 3:22, Jesus baptized with water. That’s right, Jesus baptized with water and the Holy Spirit while John only baptized with water.

The reality of the Spirit is what makes Acts 8 and the Samaritans being baptized so important. The Samaritans heard the gospel and were baptized in Jesus’ name (that’s water) but they didn’t receive the Holy Spirit. Peter’s coming and laying on hands so that they received the Holy Spirit completed their conversion. Until the Holy Spirit was given, their conversion was incomplete. Concerning this fact Robert Stein writes, “The litmus test that determines if a person is truly a Christian in Acts is the reception of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; 10:47; 11:17-18; 19:2; Rom 8:9-10; Gal 3:2)” (Stein, 38). This truth is why the Apostle Paul asks John’s disciples in Acts 19:2, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

In Acts 2, Peter quotes from Joel to clarify that the mark of membership in God’s new covenant people is possession of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:17-18). God’s people are convicted of their sin by the Spirit and therefore they repent to God. God’s people are convicted by the Spirit that Christ is their righteousness and therefore they put their faith in Christ. The Holy Spirit teaches God’s people that the resurrected Jesus is King and therefore they confess Jesus as Lord. The Holy Spirit speaks to God’s people and convinces them that they are children of God. The Holy Spirit works in the believer and makes her more like Jesus. Is this you? Do you have the Holy Spirit? Then be baptized. If this is not you then I urge you to pray the prayer Jesus taught, “Father, give me the Spirit.” The Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him (Luke 11:13).

Several weeks ago you heard this new believer’s confession. You’ve had time to talk with her and get to know her. Now it’s time to baptize her. Baptism is something we do because, finally,

  • Baptism and the church are inseparable

In the book of Acts we see people joining the church and we see the church’s numbers increasing. And how did people join the church? In the New Testament, we see no other means of joining a church but through baptism. Baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit are not identical, but they are inseparable. Baptism and church membership are not identical, but they are inseparable.

In response to God’s work through Christ and in this new disciple it is time for us to make good confessions. It is time for her to confess that she belongs to Jesus and it is time for us to confess that she belongs to us. Now that we know, let’s celebrate union with Christ in baptism.

Talk about Baptism

  1. In what way did God challenge, comfort, or correct you today?
  2. Do you understand baptism to be a command that must be obeyed? Explain your position.
  3. What parts of the church’s practice of baptism, recorded in the book of Acts, surprise or confuse you?
  4. Explain how baptism is the desire for and display of union with Christ (Romans 6:1-6).
  5. According to 1 Peter 3:21-22, the appeal to God for a clear conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ is central to baptism. How important is repentance to starting and living the Christian life?
  6. In what way is baptism the demonstration of faith?
  7. Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? How do you know?
  8. Have you been baptized? What do you think is the most significant aspect of your baptism?
  9. If you have not been baptized, why not?

Ownership & Judgment; Romans 14:10-12

Main Point: The Lord’s Supper prepares us for Judgment Day.

Relationships are good, glorious, and hard. Living life together as the church is glorious, wonderful, and often very difficult. Even here, where we share much in common, there are still many opportunities to take up an offense, pass judgment on others, or just simply and sinfully blow others off as inconsequential. I said it a couple of weeks ago, the church would be so much easier if we were all alike. It is easy to color a picture if you color everything green. But instead of bland uniformity, God has ordained that the church be a reflection of the beauty, unity, and diversity of the Trinity.

In a sense, the Lord’s Supper is a reset button for us when we have gotten off into our little cliques and started trying to color everything green. The weak and the strong are invited to come together at the Lord’s Table and remember that the resurrected Christ is the source of our unity. Republican and Democrat are invited to come to the Lord’s Table and proclaim that the gospel, and not our platforms, is the source of our unity. The rich and the poor are invited to come together around the Lord’s Table confessing their weaknesses and rejoicing in Christ’s strength.

In order to give adequate time for the Lord’s Supper we will take up three verses this morning, Romans 14:10-12. I want to remind you of Christ’s ownership and warn you of coming judgment. In light of our coming judgment and in preparation for the Lord’s Supper we will judge ourselves, confess our sins, and then enjoy the sweet fellowship of reconciliation with the Father in Jesus’ name.

Read Romans 14:10-12

Think on this truth as fuel for unity

I. The weak and the strong belong to Jesus

In 14:4, the weak are told to stop judging the strong because it is inappropriate to judge the servant of another. You see, the weak don’t like the way the strong are living. The weak are concerned about their brothers and sisters who are eating meat offered to idols and not following the Jewish holy days. With tenderness the apostle Paul puts his fatherly hand on the shoulder of the weak and tells them to calm down. The Lord will uphold his own. The Lord is able to make him stand. In 14:8 we are told

  • We are the Lord’s (14:8)

The Son of God has come, taken on flesh, lived a righteous life, died an atoning death, and been raised victoriously from the grave in order to make us his own. Jesus is the Lord over life and death. Mark Seifrid puts it well, “Christ’s lordship comprehends and grasps the life of every believer decisively and completely.” Jesus has grabbed onto our brothers and sisters decisively and completely. We are the Lord’s.

Around this table we must fight to deal with one another according to the righteousness of Christ and not according to the strength of our preferences. Christ crucified and raised to reconcile us to God is our common confession. Around this table we must fight to deal with one another according to grace and not passed offenses. Jesus Christ delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification is the foundation for our unity. We are a people, from the first to the last, who are owned by the Lord. We are a people, from the first to the last, who are living for the Lord.

If you are the Lord’s, if you are owned by him through the cross, if you are living in repentance and faith, then you are invited to this table. The simple test is the test of baptism. Baptism is the act by which the Christian confesses, “I am united to Christ in a death, burial, and resurrection like his.” Our unity is not based on liking the same things or doing the same things. Our unity is based on the shared fact that we are brothers and sisters owned by the Lord.

We also come around this table knowing we will be judged. Let’s be clear:

II. You will be judged

Look back with me at Romans 14:10, “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:10 says, “We must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”

  • This passage is a reality check

What are you doing? Why are some of you sitting there going through the lives of your brothers and sisters with a fine-tooth comb? Why are some of you sitting there disgusted by your brothers and sisters with fine-tooth combs? All of these details concerning matters of indifference are going to be tested before the judgment seat of God.

Reality check: judgment embraces all persons and all deeds (John Murray). You’re worried about your brother who eats meat, drinks wine, and doesn’t honor special religious days like you? Remember, it’s not simply food and drink that will be judged. Jesus tells us that every seemingly small and insignificant word will be judged. Jesus says, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Mt 12:26). You will give an account for how you live.

Listen to how Michael Bird explains it, “For believers, the final judgment is not an investigation as to whether they are Christians or not, but an evaluation of how they were a Christian” (Michael Bird, 473). You are concerned about your sister’s eating habits? You need to be concerned about your own coming judgment. You need to stop sitting on Jesus’ judgment seat.

We are all going to be judged for how we lived, ate, drank, worshipped, spoke, loved, and served.

  • God will judge. Leave the judgment to him.

You should not judge because you are going to be judged (Stott). God is not playing around, his existence is the promise of judgment. Look at verse 11, “for as it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue confess to God.’” If we stop right there we might think this is a happy verse like every person will be saved. Is the point of verse 11 that in the end every person will love and praise God? Not at all. We know this because of verse 12, “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.”

Judgment day is an audit of every word, every thought, and every deed. But unlike the IRS there is no need to produce the receipts; God has a perfect record of every word, every thought, and every deed. You will give an account to God for how you talk to your little brother or your big sister. You will give an account to God for how you treat your neighbor both the weak and the strong, the poor and the rich. Our thoughts will be judged. The way we tear one another down will be judged. The way we envy one another will be judged. The way we lust after one another will be judged. The way we judge one another will be judged. The day is coming quickly when you will give an account of yourself to God.

We don’t need more rules by which we can condemn our brothers and sisters. We don’t need more freedom by which we can escape our brothers and sisters. We need Jesus.

III. We need Jesus

This table prepares us for three days. This table prepares us for the every-day, the Lord’s Day, and Judgment Day. Turn in your Bible to 1 Corinthians 11:27. 1 Corinthians comes right after Romans. 1 Corinthians 11:27-32, “Whoever, 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. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.”

  • The Lord’s table prepares us

One of the requirements for the Lord’s Supper is to judge yourself against the Word. The Lord’s Supper is a call to consider the way you are living every day. Are you living unto the Lord? Are you honoring God with your decisions? Where you aren’t, Jesus has forgiving grace for you. Repent and be cleansed. Where you are living unto the Lord give Jesus thanks. It is by his grace that you are able to do the good you do. We live every day for the glory of God.

The Lord’s table also prepares us for the Lord’s day. On Sundays, as a celebration of the resurrection of Christ, we gather together as the church to worship God and build one another up. We come together and use our gifts and give our gifts for the good of others. How are you doing on that front? Judge yourself now so that you will not be condemned on judgment day. Receive the discipline of the Lord, turn from sin, and Christ will produce a harvest of righteousness in you.

Have you begun to judge or condemn one of our members? Have you wronged a brother or sister and not sought forgiveness? Out of bitterness or superiority, have you been withholding some good? On the other side of that coin, have you begun to mock or despise one of our members? Does the personality of a sister annoy you? Does the weakness of a brother frustrate you? Do you find yourself coming to church wishing everyone was like you? Judge this sinful attitude for what it is- a source of division in the church. Repent like the rest of us in this room. The Lord’s table is a reminder of how wrong our attitudes quickly become toward the church. The right use of the Lord’s table will prepare you for the right use of the Lord’s day.

But the Lord’s table is bigger than personal or church issues. The Lord’s table is preparation for eternity. The Lord’s table prepares us for judgment day. The concern is that we would be condemned along with the world (1 Cor 11:32). Judgment day is coming when you will give an account of yourself to God. Will you be condemned by your words or by the way you treat the church?

If you are a Christian, use the bread and the cup to remind yourself that you belong to Jesus. He bought you at the cost of his body broken and his blood poured out. Do you recognize his ownership over every detail of your life? Do you long to honor your Father and are you glad to give him thanks? Are you sorrowful over your sin and the ways you refuse to honor God or give him thanks?

Use the bread and the cup to remind yourself that Jesus will make you stand. You will not be justified by works of the law. You will not be justified by eating what is good or by esteeming certain days as good. You will be justified by the broken body and poured out blood of Jesus Christ. The Lord’s table is preparing you for judgment day. Are you trusting Christ and resting in Christ and living for Christ? Then come and take the supper and take heart concerning judgment day. Jesus will make you stand.

The Lord’s table prepares us. Now, let’s prepare for the Lord’s table

  • Prepare for the Lord’s table

As we prepare Dale is going to play a verse of the Communion Hymn and then we will sing the first verse together. So, there will be some music for a while and then some singing. During this time, do whatever the Spirit leads you to do. Some of us will likely give ourselves to judging ourselves and repenting of our sins. Others of us will want to give thanks to God for his grace that has enabled us to live for his honor. It is likely that some members will go to other members with a word of encouragement. Some members will go to other members and ask for forgiveness. Also, there are wash basins at the back of the room where you can go and as an act of love and service wash someone’s feet. There are towels back there and we will quietly serve you the bread and cup if you choose to wash someone’s feet. Dale, come and play for us as we prepare for the Lord’s table.