When Sovereign Joy first started as a church Galatians was the first book of the Bible that Pastor Emilio went through on Sundays (from March 2008 to May 2009). It is a very important book and great for a new church because it roots us in the gospel and warns us to not turn aside to any false gospels.
(Pastor Emilio explains in this two minute clip below taken from the first sermon in this series):
If you have not heard our series through Galatians or need a refresher, I would encourage you to listen as Galatians can serve you in the following ways as described in the clip above:
Galatians serves us by…
Freeing us from the bondage of a works based righteousness.
Rooting us in a solid doctrine of justification by grace through faith.
Helping us to stabilize our lives as we struggle between the flesh and the spirit in sanctification.
Maturing us in our life as a body together by exhorting us bear with one another as a church
Pastor Emilio wrote the following overview of the book of Galatians:
“Paul’s letter to the churches of Galatia has impacted the world in incalculable ways. Endless theologians have bought and sold out of the market of the truths contained in this powerful little
epistle. Paul’s attitude in the letter makes the letter uniquely earnest.
Paul considers the issues under consideration in Galatians so essential and serious that he goes so far as to say that detractors to these doctrinal issues are worthy of ‘anathema’;
making Galatians unique among the letters in the Pauline corpus.
The central concern of this letter has to do with the issue of justification by faith apart from the works of the law.
This central theme in Galatians is further developed in Paul’s letter to the Romans (his magnum opus). Some have called the book of Galatians a ‘mini Romans’ because of parallel concerns dealing with this subject of justification without which, there could be no gospel at all.
There is no good news apart from God justifying the ungodly not based upon what we have done, but based upon what God alone could do in the work of His Son at Calvary. The cross work of Christ could not be added to in any sense.
The book of Galatians looks at the nature of the gospel. Galatians demonstrates the sufficiency of the gospel apart from the works of the law. Paul sees the audience of the Galatians as opening themselves up to the attacks of heretical and false teachers, those of the circumcision party (the Judaizers), who desire to hinder their liberty and freedom in Christ by bringing them once again to a yoke of bondage consisting of the works of the law. Paul gives argument after argument proving that nothing can dilute the purity of the Gospel message which is based upon grace through faith and not works of the law or man’s works at all.
The banner of the book of Galatians could properly be ‘by Grace alone through Faith Alone in Christ Alone.”
After Pastor Emilio preached Friday’s sermon, entitled “Principles of Christian Joy – Pt 2” from John 16:23-28 [sorry, we don’t have the audio up yet… still working on it], he wrote the following:
Another building block in the foundations of Christian Joy is the concept of access in Christ. To this, the book of Hebrews would be essential not only for understanding the great Old Testament imagery behind the concept of God’s presence, the priesthood, and the significance of atonement and sacrifice but as well as the contemporary significance for believer in the New Testament age (see esp. Heb. 4:16; 7:19, 25; 10:19-23; also cf. Eph. 2:18).
The apostles were given the incredible privilege of prayer in Jesus’ name (Jn. 16:23-28). They had prayed before, they had certainly addressed the heavenly Father, even in the manner Jesus directed in Mt. 11:1-4, and Lk. 6:9-13. Yet Jesus would go on to tell them, “Until now you have asked for nothing in My name”.
They have yet to experience the wonders of praying in Jesus name. But what makes it so wonderful to pray in Jesus’ name? Why is it necessary and why are we to be conscientious that we are praying rightly? Is there a correct way to pray? I can think of numerous reasons why we would do well to follow Jesus’ directives here. Two are noteworthy.
1. It forces us to contemplate the person of Christ.
Prayer in Jesus’ name means prayer on the basis of Christ and all that He is. Everything that Jesus represents, that is what is in His name. His deity, His sinless life, His sacrificial death, His beauty, His Sonship, His Kingdom, His nature, His love, kindness and mercy, as well as His offices of Prophet, Priest, and King (the threefold description of Christ’ – offices according to Calvin). In short, it is a contemplation of the God man.
2. It forces us to contemplate the greatness of the Cross.
Prayer in Jesus’ name causes us to contemplate the greatness of Jesus’ cross work. That is, that it is through the cross that we have this access. It is through what Jesus did in reconciling us to God that we now have this new found access.
Peter Lewis in his book entitled The Glory of Christ, stresses that all of these things are part of Christ being that mediator between God and man,
“Nothing, in fact, is more constantly emphasized than that the mediator is of God’s appointment— in his coming into the world (1 John 4:9), in his priestly act at Calvary (Heb. 5: 4-6) and in his continuing priesthood in heaven. (Heb. 7:20-22)… all that he does as man had the value of God’s doing: his righteousness is the righteousness of God for us (Rom. 1:17), his atonement is the achievement of God for us (Rom. 8:3, 2 Cor. 5:21), and his victory is the triumph of God for us (Rom. 8.31-39).” (P. Lewis, The Glory of Christ (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1992), 220.)
Without Christ as our Mediator the throne of grace becomes the throne of God’s justice and wrath…
And that is what we are praying when we pray in Jesus’ name, we are praying according to all that God has done in Christ for us (1 Cor. 1:29). Without Christ as our Mediator, the throne of grace becomes the throne of God’s justice and wrath, but we must remember that we do have this Great High Priest through whom we can approach God and obtain the help we need for each and every day until He takes us home or returns.
What Jesus has done for us in the gospel is simply immeasurable (Eph. 3:8). Each and every time we pray in His name we ought to be sensitive to the fact that Christ died for us, that because of Him we live, and that because of Him, through Him, by Him, and on the basis of His cross-work, we now have the unbelievable access to the Father that Jesus spoke so plainly about to His disciples (Jn. 16:26-27).
Christian, what then keeps you from your knees?
Christian, what then keeps you from your knees? What then keeps you from entering His throne of grace seeing that in doing so we are privileged with contemplating Christ’s great name and all that is contained therein. In Jesus we have a portal to the greatness of God’s wisdom and to the apex of His redemptive purposes in human history (Eph. 1:10).
1 Timothy 2:5 “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
We have all seen the scenes from films depicting a powerful courtroom exchange usually climaxing on the testimony of some eyewitness who has been brought in to testify. But what happens when God gives His testimony? We would expect for miraculous and spectacular things to take place. We would expect for an inerrant witness that is totally free from error, in other words, there would be no flaws in the witness of God.
Scripture testifies that God has never left Himself without a witness (Acts 14:17). 1 John 5:6-9 concentrates on God’s testimony regarding His Son. According to John, God has given a threefold witness to the coming of the Son. “The Spirit and the water and the blood…” v.7. There is significant theological debate regarding the exact meaning of “the water and the blood” although most would accept “blood” to refer to the cross. The best interpretation regarding the significance of “water” seems to point in the direction of Jesus’ baptism. This view would make sense especially in light of the backdrop of incipient forms of Gnosticism which seems to be what John is grappling with the letter of first John.
a threefold witness which “are in agreement” the Spirit, the water [Jesus’ baptism], and the blood [Jesus’ crucifixion]
If we accept this, i.e. the Spirit, the water [Jesus’ baptism], and the blood [Jesus’ crucifixion], we have a threefold witness which John says “are in agreement” v.8. The Spirit who is Biblically the Divine Revelator of God’s truth and word, especially in Johannine theology, is often seen testifying regarding the truth of Christ,
John 14:16–17 “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.”
John 15:26 “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me,”
John 16:13 “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.”
During Jesus’ baptism God certainly testified to His Son’s identity and ministry.
In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus appears on the scene to be baptized by John (Mt. 3:13); by proclaiming a baptism of repentance, John the Baptist was preparing Israel’s heart for its Messiah (Mt. 3:11 | Mk. 1:4 | Lk. 3:3 | Acts 13:24; 19:4); and it was at John’s baptism that John deferred to Christ, called attention to Christ, handed over His disciples to follow Christ and thus gave Christ preeminence saying “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29) and again testified saying, “I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” (v.34).
In addition to this God Himself spoke powerfully from heaven concerning His Son,
Matthew 3:15–17 “But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted Him. After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”
Yet it was at the cross where God gave further testimony regarding His Son’s “blood”. In Matthew’s gospel, Scripture records that during Jesus’ crucifixion “darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour” signifying God having forsaken the Son as sin was imputed to Him (Mt. 27:45). When Jesus shed His sovereign blood for the sin of His people the veil was torn granting all access to God’s presence – who would enter through that blood – then the earth shook, and the tombs of the saints where opened, and those who were raised went through the holy city and were amazingly seen by many (Mt. 27:51-53).
Immediately following these verses Matthew records the words of a Roman centurion,
Matthew 27:54 “Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God!'”
To this verse John MacArthur adds this commentary,
“So overwhelming was God’s miraculous testimony to Jesus that a battle-hardened Roman centurion who witnessed it cried out in terror, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Mt. 27:54 | cf. Mk. 15:39). (John MacArthur; The MacArthur New TestamentCommentary 1-3 John, p.194).
When God testifies creation itself is altered, people come to life from among the dead…
When God testifies, creation itself is altered, people come to life from among the dead, believers are assured, and the unbeliever is left awestruck and terrified. When the unbeliever sees all the evidence that God has furnished, he has only the option of suppressing the truth of God’s witness in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18). He is left totally dependent on the Sovereign Spirit of God to illuminate his heart to these truths and embrace them by faith so as to be saved. The believer is left assured and the unbeliever is left without excuse!
Some people seem to have been born for a specific purpose in life. Whether it’s to excel in sports, music, art, or a career, these individuals are simply natural at whatever it is they put their hand to. As Christians, we have been born to overcome. There are various ways in which Scripture speaks about the victory of believers. Ultimately believers will overcome death and the grave, hell and the final judgment (Rev. 21:7).
In 1 John 5:1-5, the believer finds that the language of overcoming is not just relegated to the future eschatological victory that awaits believers on the last day, but that victory – because it is inextricably connected to the nature of salvation – can be “already” experienced here and now. John encourages the church by emphasizing the need to love and obey God as well as loving the ones born of God. Even in the face of a loveless and disobedient world the believer has been born to fulfill these biblical demands because we have been born or born again to “overcome the world”.
believers conquer because Christ conquers The object of faith [Jesus Christ] giving faith its potency
The glory of this victorious experience in the believer’s life is that it emerges from our union with Christ which is by faith. For this reason John can say, “this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith” v.4 (emphases added). Verse six begins to take us in another direction, a more Christological direction. This shift in the text leads to the object of the believer’s faith versus the experience of faith. The object of faith giving faith its potency, the believer is made to conquer because Christ conquers. Jesus said,
John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
1 Corinthians 15:57–58 “but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”
Revelation 12:10–11 “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.”
United to Him by faith, we cannot fail! We can overcome the world…
United to Him by faith, we cannot fail! We can overcome the world that would have us hating one another and disobeying the commandments of God because God has given us this faith by His free and sovereign grace to escape the defilements of the world. The victory which belongs to Christ – which Christ has wrought – is ours to claim. Spurgeon expounded on this great truth with penetrating vivid and lucid penmanship which only the prince of preachers could,
“The great betrothal of the Prince of Glory is ours, for it is to us that he is affianced, as the sacred nuptials shall ere long declare to an assembled universe. The marvellous incarnation of the God of heaven, with all the amazing condescension and humiliation which attended it, is ours.—
The bloody sweat, the scourge, the cross, are ours forever. Whatever blissful consequences flow from perfectobedience, finished atonement, resurrection, ascension, orintercession, all are ours by his own gift.” (Spurgeon, C. H. (2006). Morning and evening: May 9th.)
The apostle Paul rightly characterized the dismal world of his day as being “without hope” (Eph. 2:12 | 1 Thess. 4:13). In ancient times, hope was no virtue at all. It was not a noble quality to hold on to. Hope was not worth living for. It was an illusion, a wish, or desire to think that there was some transcendent salvation outside of man’s earthly experience. For Paul, the Gentiles were characterized thus because they indeed lacked that transcendent salvation; they were “without God”. That was the issue. And this is the critical point of every person’s life on planet earth i.e. whether or not they know God.
As I have been traveling through The Gospel of John, I see so clearly the hope that Christ gives. In chapter 16, this truly exclusive Christian virtue shines through with great vividness – especially beneath the shadow of the cross which loomed over the disciples near future and more importantly Jesus’ Himself. The words, “you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy” (John 16:20) were spoken about what the disciples would soon experience. Indeed, they would see their precious Messiah leader die, be crucified, and mocked to the death; but that would not be the end of it. He would rise again. For this reason Jesus could assure the disciples to place their hope in future joy. The lessons they must learn has to do with the nature of that joy.
If Christ fails then we fail. Christian Joy is indomitable because it stems from Christ’s own victory.
Christian Joy is indomitable because it stems from Christ’s own victory. If Christ fails then we fail. But Jesus did not fail and therefore neither will we! He will keep us to the end. Jesus told them, “Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.” No one can take the joy that believers possess away because no one can put Christ back in the grave; He defeated it and lives forevermore. Jesus told the disciples, “because I live, you will live” (John 14:19b). Our hope of future joy is rooted in our union with Christ, because He lives in unspeakable glory and joy with the Father we will share with Him in that joy, in that world.
We see then the potency of Christian hope. The great blessedness of the Christian’s walk is that we have a(n)…
hope that does not disappoint (Rom. 5:5)
hope of final resurrection (Acts 23:6 | Phil. 3:11 | Heb. 11:35)
hope in our everyday trials and tribulations (John 16:33 | 2 Cor. 4:17 | 1 Pet. 5:10)
eternal hope that does not fade way (2 Thess. 2:16 | 1 Pet. 1:3-5)
hope that is rooted in the immutable character of God (Heb. 6:18)
hope which is rooted in the promises of God that is to be an anchor of the soul (Heb. 6:19).
Pastor Jay had this to say about the conference (6 minute audio): [audio:http://media06.sa-media.com/sermons022/421101015290prev4.mp3]
The pastors wanted to share the main session with you all. Though it was a conference aimed primarily at pastors there is much we can all learn from the main sessions. In particular the two main sessions I will highlight below.
The first is one that dealt with what Pastor Jay was talking about in the audio above:
He began by quoting Ephesians 3:10-11: “. . . so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord. . . .”
How does your church make the gospel visible?
You can lose the gospel by not proclaiming it clearly, but you can also work against the gospel by the life your congregation lives.
A manifestly unhealthy church undermines our proclamation of the gospel.
1. God (Holy, Loving, Authority)
Distinct lives point to a distinct God. Our lives should be marked by God’s holiness and by the fruit of the Spirit. Our distinct lives should make clear what the gospel is like. Holiness is freedom.
Is your church marked by such holiness?
Part of the way we’re supposed to be distinct from the world is how we love.
Authority is meant to be good and life-bringing. 2 Sam 23:3-4
Our right use of authority in our congregation reflects God’s authority.
On the other hand, authority may be abused or absent. This represents a lie about God.
Do our churches show the world around us something better with regard to authority?
Trust can be extended and honored. Authority and love can go together.
2. Human Beings (Created in God’s Image and Fallen)
We were made in the image of God, and that value should be reflected in our churches. We should have relationships across typical boundaries.
Our congregational life should also acknowledge that we are fallen. We are not the assembly of the self-righteous. Is humility honored in your congregation?
An understanding of depravity sets us up to understand church membership, because we are already redeemed but God is not yet finished. It frees people to confess their sins to one another. We know there’s something not right, and we’re the ones who can tell the truth about that.
3. Christ (His Person and Work)
We are the people who bear his name and his purpose. We are his body, his temple. How do we make Christ visible? Through our teaching and our constant worship.
Our lives together should provocative. How do we help each other know that we love God? It’s by loving each other inconveniently. God has loved us by purchasing us with Christ’s blood. How is God’s love for us in Christ being reflected in our churches?
We demonstrate our love across differences and across denominations.
4. The Right Response to the Gospel (Repentance and Faith)
We are to teach and model repentance and faith.
We repent of our selfishness. The Christian life is personal but not private.
Congregations are groups of people acting upon things they cannot see. It is a community based on God’s promises. The Word should be central in our churches. Sermons should be central because they hold our God’s promises to us.
Do you want to see your church do better at evangelism? Then help your church be a better church. Our churches are meant to depict the truth of the gospel. We are to be the appearance of the gospel to the world. This is the clearest picture the world sees of who God is and his will for their lives.
Do not miss the importance of the local church for the gospel.
Dever ended by quoting John Newton, the full quote of which is:
I am not what I ought to be — ah, how imperfect and deficient!
I am not what I wish to be — I abhor what is evil, and I would cleave to what is good!
I am not what I hope to be — soon, soon shall I put off mortality, and with mortality all sin and imperfection.
Yet, though I am not what I ought to be, nor what I wish to be, nor what I hope to be, I can truly say, I am not what I once was; a slave to sin and Satan; and I can heartily join with the apostle, and acknowledge, “By the grace of God I am what I am.”