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Sunday, October 29, 2017

[Matt's Messages] "Here We Stand"

“Here We Stand”
Reformation Sunday
October 29, 2017 :: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Because it is Reformation Sunday and because it is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this year, we’re going to take another break from our current sermon series on Galatians.

And yet we’re not.

We’re going to see this morning how this all ties in with our series on Galatians.

And, in fact, how it ties in with our other series that we’re in this year.

We actually have two sermon series running concurrently in 2017.

One of them is called “The Truth of the Gospel” (the book of Galatians). And the other is called “Gospel Roots” where we are exploring our spiritual heritage as a church family.

Both of those series tie directly in with the Reformation.

Have you seen that or felt that this year? That’s on purpose.

For example, our church family comes directly out of the Reformation. We’ve been learning this year about those Swedish Lutherans who wanted to read the Bible for themselves and follow what it said for themselves. “Where stands it written?” That’s “Sola Scriptura” and the priesthood of all believers.

So when those old Swedes came to the United States they formed Free Churches, free of state control and free to come directly under the Word of God and free to preach the gospel of grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone that Martin Luther had rediscovered.

We are, as Lanse Free Church, Children of the Reformation. Our first and main Gospel Root on January 1st this year was Jesus Christ and Him Crucified. That’s “Solus Christus.” In Christ Alone.

So consider this sermon part of the Gospel Roots series.

But also consider it part of Truth of the Gospel series, as well.

What word is the same in the title of both our current series?

The Gospel, right? The Good News.

In Galatians, the gospel was in danger. The Galatian churches were close to losing the gospel. They were close to abandoning the gospel and turning to another gospel which was really no gospel at all. Not good news!

Well, guess what?

That’s exactly what had happened to the Medieval Church.

The church had, by and large, lost the gospel.

They had lost the gospel in wrongly emphasizing good works, giving money, indulgences, as if those things led to getting salvation from the church itself. They had lost the gospel in priests and popes and saints instead of Christ. They had lost the gospel because nobody knew it! The Bible was only translated into a dead language that just a few professional people could read. They didn’t sing the Bible or have it preached to them in their own language.

We call the Medieval period of history “the Dark Ages” for a reason. The gospel had (by and large, there were always exceptions! God always has a remnant. The gospel had) gone dark.

The gospel had been just about lost.

That’s why Luther loved Galatians. Remember that I said that Luther loved Galatians so much he nicknamed it after his wife?

Because Luther could see how Galatians spoke directly into the problems of the situation of his day. How the Medieval Church had adopted a form of the Galatian heresy and was teaching people they were justified by their works and not by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

I almost dressed up like Martin Luther for the sermon today and got up here and nailed 95 theses to that door over there. But I couldn’t find a floppy hat. Just kidding.

The point of the Reformation isn’t Martin Luther (as used by God as he was!).

The point of the Reformation is that God used the Reformation to recover the gospel.

I’m not going to give you the whole history of the Reformation this morning.

I’d like to. I’d love to give a long lecture on how it all came about. Because it’s a wild and crazy story full of twists and turns. And some pretty amazing people. And some real rapscallions, including, sadly, at times Luther himself.

This whole month, there have been a boatload of great resources posted online that unpack that history in really interesting and relevant ways.

I have lectures, books, and articles that I’d be glad to recommend to you if you wanted to get to know the story better.

But I’m preaching the Bible today, not giving a history lecture.

So I asked myself what I should preach on from the Bible if I were marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation?

I mean why should we care about the Reformation today?

And you know, there are a lot of good answers to that.

I mean, we’ve already noted our history.

We are not Lutherans, but we are heirs of the Reformation.

We are Protestants here.

And practically speaking, we have so much for which to thank the Reformers.

Congregational Singing, for example.

Not just that they gave us songs like “A Mighty Fortress,” but they recovered congregational singing. Not just choirs singing to us, but the congregation itself singing to God. Remember we learned that back in February? Congregational singing was recovered by the Reformers.

Biblical Preaching! The Reformers emphasized teaching and preaching the Bible to the people. In their heart language! The vernacular!

The Reformers believed in Bible translation. Luther translated the Bible into German. Germans still use it today. Wycliffe and Tyndale translated the Bible into...English!

The fact that you have a Bible sitting in your lap right now or on your phone in your own language is in many ways a blessing that came from the Reformation.

Pastors, doing pastoral ministry. That comes from the Reformation, too. I heard a whole lecture in February at the EFCA Theology Conference on how pastoral ministry as we know it now is a byproduct of the Reformation.

This has been Pastor Appreciation Month, and I feel very appreciated. Thank you. And I appreciate that my very role as pastor has been shaped by the Reformation.

We could go on. The Reformation reshaped marriage. You know Martin Luther was a monk that got married?!

That’s a change! And it changed how people thought about the institution of marriage. About how good marriage was. And that marriage wasn’t second class to being a celebrate priest.

And the Reformation changed work. Luther’s view of vocation, of our how our work is a part of our worship, changed people’s understanding of their daily labors.

Remember that series I preached on work two years ago? I’m going to give a short version of that next week at the Deep and Wide Conference in Deep Creek Maryland. Joel Michaels is going preach here. You’re not going to want to miss that.

But I’m going to be preaching on work. And my insights on work as worship will be shaped by the Reformers and how they recovered the doctrine of vocation.

There are lots of reasons to care about the Reformation.

But the biggest one is the gospel itself.

That’s what I kept coming back to again and again as I thought about preaching this message on this Sunday.

Here’s why we should care about the Reformation:

Because the point of the Reformation is that God used it to recover the gospel.

And how important is the gospel?

Let’s read 1 Corinthians chapter 15, verses 1 through 11.

It’s not Galatians, but it is Paul. And Paul is again, as he always is, talking about the gospel. V.1

How important is the gospel?

Of all of the messages that you will hear in your life.

Of all of the truths that you will be told.

Of all of the stories that you will learn.

Of all of the ideas that you will explore.

How important is the gospel?

Well, what did Paul say in verse 3?

He said that he had received this gospel, and he had passed it on to the Corinthians as of first importance.

Number one.

This message above all other messages.
This truth above all other truths.
This story above all other stories.
This idea above all other ideas.

“What I received I passed on to you as of first importance...”

The gospel!

Like say around here: The Main Thing Is to Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing.

And the Main Thing is the gospel.

Paul is going to teach, in this chapter, on the resurrection. Because apparently there were some false ideas circulating about the resurrection that Paul needed to fix.

And it was important because the resurrection of Jesus Christ and our consequent resurrection as well someday is a vital part of the gospel message that Paul preached.

So he reminds them. V.1

“Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.”

That sounds a lot like Martin Luther, doesn’t it?

When Luther was brought before the Diet of Worms by the ecclesiastical authorities of the day who demanded that he recant his teachings, to repent of his gospel.

He gave what we call the “Here I Stand” speech.

He said, “...my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one's conscience is neither safe nor sound. [Here I stand.] God help me. Amen.”

Paul said to the Corinthians that they had also taken their stand on the gospel.

They had received it. And they had stood on it.

And that’s true for us today.

So I titled this message, “Here We Stand.”

Because we, too, have received this gospel, and we have taken our stand upon it.

I want to point out three main things about this gospel in 1 Corinthians 15.

#1. WE STAND ON A SAVING GOSPEL.  V.2

“By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.”

“By this gospel you are saved...”

That’s how important the gospel is! It’s how God saves us!

Remember Romans 1:16

“I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes...”

It isn’t just good news. It is the good news that saves people from their sins.

How does it do that?  Look at verse 3.

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures...”

Notice “Sola Scriptura” there. Paul doesn’t appeal to some other outside authority. He appeals to the Scriptures.

And the Scriptures taught that the gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ died for our sins, was buried, and was raised from the dead.

That’s “Solus Christus,” isn’t it?

That salvation comes through what Jesus did. Not what anybody else did. Not some saint or some relic or some priest or Mary. But through Jesus alone.

The gospel is the good news of Jesus’ death.

Good news? Now, why would we be glad that Jesus died?

Because of these three words in verse 3, “for our sins.”

Jesus’ death was not an ordinary death. It was a sacrificial death.

Jesus died on the Cross as our substitute. He died the death that we should die.

He died “for our sins.”

And since He died for them, we don’t have to!

Isn’t that good news?!  It’s the best news!

Because believing in that news will get you saved. It’s a saving gospel.

But you do have to believe it. V.2 again.

“By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.”

That’s Sola Fide. By faith alone.

Christians believe the gospel.

And they keep believing it. The proof that the Corinthians’ faith was genuine was that they stuck with it. Paul doesn’t have a category for “believers” who do not believe!

Now, don’t think that this means that your salvation is only as strong as your ability to keep believing. If you are a true child of God, then He has committed His vast and powerful resources to keep you believing. Many of the Reformers taught that, too!

But if you stop believing, if you no longer hold firmly to the word preached to you, you can have very little assurance that your faith was genuine in the first place. A faith that gives up on the Gospel is not a saving faith at all. It is “in vain.”

That’s what was at stake in Galatia!

Remember Paul was afraid that he had preached the gospel there in vain because some Galatians were talking about abandoning it. And adopting another gospel which would really be no gospel at all.

Salvation comes by faith alone in Christ alone.

That’s what the Reformers recovered for us.

And that’s what we stand on.

Here we stand on a saving gospel.

#2. WE STAND ON A RELIABLE GOSPEL.

By that, I mean that is historical and verifiable. It comes to us through witnesses.

The first set of witnesses was the Scriptures. “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures...he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”

Paul is appealing to the witness of the Old Testament which predicted the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Messiah. Like Isaiah 53.

Second was the witness of eyewitnesses. V.5.

“[And I passed on to you that] he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles...” Stop there for a second.

Eyewitnesses. The Corinthians heard that this gospel was not just a hallucination or a lie. It was verifiable history. Eyewitnesses had seen His death, and (more importantly) eyewitnesses had seen Jesus alive again! Over 500 at one time! And many of those were still alive to give personal, eyewitness testimony when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians.

If 500 people had the same facts straight in a court of law in our nation today, the evidence would be overwhelming!

We stand on a factual, historical, verifiable, reliable gospel.

Third, was the abnormal eyewitness of Paul. V.8

“...and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

All these other resurrection appearances were before Jesus’ ascension into heaven.  But Jesus made a special trip to call Paul on the Damascus road.

The word for “abnormally born” here was used of miscarried fetuses. Babies that were born pre-maturely.  Here Paul is saying that he was spiritually born POST-maturely. This was not the usual way of saving someone or calling them into the apostleship. It was abnormal, especially in its timing.

But he had seen the risen Christ and Christ had appointed him to be an apostle. V.9

“For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”

Remember what Paul said in Galatians 1 about himself?

Paul was not just ambivalent about Jesus, until he met Him face-to-face, Paul thought that Jesus was a BAD THING for Israel.  He used to believe a different gospel! And he was willing to kill for it.

But one day, Paul got knocked off his donkey by the glory of Jesus Christ and was called to be an apostle of His grace.

God’s grace reaches down to the worst sinner. If He could save Paul, He can save you. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your sin is too big for Him to handle.  The blood of Jesus is the most powerful “cleansing agent” in the universe. It can wash you clean, as well.

His grace is so powerful!  It could turn a persecutor into an apostle. Imagine what He can do with you!

And that’s the last thing I want you to see about this gospel.

#3. WE STAND ON A GRACIOUS GOSPEL.

“Sola Gratia.” Salvation is by the gracious gift of God alone. V.10

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them–yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”

What is grace?

Grace is unmerited favor. It is not getting the punishment that we do deserve and getting the blessings that we certainly do not deserve.

It’s not logical. It’s not fair. It’s not earned. It’s grace.

It’s a gift.

It’s free.

That’s what Martin Luther re-discovered about 500 years ago.

That the gospel is salvation by a free gift of God’s grace.

You and I can’t earn our salvation.  And we shouldn’t even try.

We have to receive it.

And any gospel that is based upon any other principle than grace, is no gospel at all.

That’s what Paul was saying in Galatians, wasn’t it?

What does Galatians 2:21 say?

We know Galatians 2:20. What does the very next verse say?

Paul says “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

Your salvation is by grace or you are not saved!

Remember what Dave Catanzaro preached to us back in February?

Ephesians 2:8, 9, and 10.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.”

You know what that is?

That’s “Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, and Soli Deo Gloria.”

We are saved by grace alone through faith alone.

...and who gets to boast?

Who gets the glory? Not us.

God alone gets the glory for our salvation because He did all the work!

And His grace is effectual. That is to say, it accomplishes something.

The grace of God doesn’t just forgive us, justify us, it also enables us to live differently.

It turned a killer into an apostle! Look at verse 10 again.

“But by the grace of God I am what I am [an apostle now!], and his grace to me was not without effect [a double negative meaning “it was effectual!”]. No, I worked harder than all of them [all the rest of the apostles, but he’s not bragging, because it wasn’t something he earned]–yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”

The grace of God accomplishes something in the hearts and lives of all true Christians.

It changes them. Verse 10 of Ephesians 2. What Dave preached to us in February.

“For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

We are not saved BY good works. We are saved FOR good works.

That’s what the Reformers taught us.

They had a saying that it is “faith alone that justifies but the faith that justifies is not alone.” It always is accompanied by good works that come from grace.

Sola Gratia. “By the grace of God I am what I am...”

V.11

“Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.”

We stand on a gracious gospel.

Passed down to us from the Reformers.

I’m so thankful they had the courage to rediscover it and stand on it even in the face of great opposition and persecution.

What should we do about it today?

I see four things in this passage that make obvious applications for us. Let me give them to you briefly.

#1. RECEIVE THIS GOSPEL.

Look back at v.1. “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received.”

They didn’t just listen and then walk away.  They took it. They took it in.

Have you done that?

All of this talk is in vain if you don’t personally believe the gospel yourself.

If you don’t take it in by faith.

Have you done that?

What a great day this would be for someone to get saved!

Hearing the gospel on Reformation Sunday. V.3

“that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures...” v.2

“By this gospel you are saved!”

I invite you to trust in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of your sins and the hope of eternal life.

Receive Christ. Receive His gospel.

#2. TAKE YOUR STAND ON THIS GOSPEL.

V.1 says that the Corinthians did it.

We know the Reformers did it.

We know our forefathers at Lanse Free Church did it.

And God is calling us to do it, too.

We must take our stand and not back down from the gospel of grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone which we receive from the Scriptures alone.

And that will mean making some hard choices from time to time.

Sometimes we’ll have to fight.

Sometimes we’ll have to divide over this.

Because the gospel is that important.

Last week I was at Miracle Mountain Ranch teaching a class on Galatians. I read and taught on every verse in all of Galatians in an hour and a half. That was crazy! You think I talk too much and too fast here?!

But one of things I told them about was the “Chapter One Test” that I use when I have to decide whether or not to do shared ministry with someone else who calls themselves a Christian.

The first question I ask is if we have the same gospel or not.

Remember the folks in Philippians chapter 1 who were preaching the gospel for the wrong reasons, from the wrong motivations?

They didn’t like Paul, and they were like trying to get his goat by preaching the gospel from selfish ambitions. That’s crazy and dumb, by the way.

But what does Paul say. “No big whup.” Right?

That’s in the Greek! “No big whup.” He says “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.”

That’s Philippians chapter 1.

What does Paul say in Galatians chapter 1?

“If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!”

What’s the difference?

The difference is the gospel.

We have to take our stand on the gospel.

There are lots of things that we can let go.

Lots of things that we can let slide and not come between us.

There are lots of secondary things out there not worth fighting about.

But the gospel is worth fighting for.

And when called upon, we cannot back down.

We must take our stand.

And number three, hold firm.

#3. HOLD FIRMLY TO THIS GOSPEL.

That’s what Paul said in verse 2. We can’t let the gospel go.

We can’t let it slip out of our fingers.

We’ve got hold on to it and not lose it once again.

It could be lost again. It would not be hard.

All the church has to do is take their eyes off the ball.

And Satan offers that temptation to every generation of the church.

To believe a different gospel and go back to the darkness.

Believe the gospel of medicine.
Believe the gospel of science.
Believe the gospel of education.
Believe the gospel of self-esteem.
Believe the gospel of money.
Believe the gospel of racial superiority.
Believe the gospel of American Nationalism.
Believe the gospel of world religions.
Believe the gospel of self-determined sexual expression.
Believe the gospel of entertainment and comfort.
Believe the gospel of church growth or health, wealth, and prosperity.
Believe the gospel of salvation through the Church, salvation by good works, salvation by our own efforts. Salvation by law-keeping.

Satan offers these and many more to every generation.

But we need to hold firmly to the gospel that Paul preached, Luther preached, and that we have believed.

#4. MAKE THIS GOSPEL OF FIRST IMPORTANCE.

Make it first priority.

Do you know the gospel?

Could you explain the gospel to somebody if they asked?

When was the last time you told somebody the gospel?

How important is the gospel?

We have to get the gospel right, make sure we have it right, and then put it in its rightful first place.

Kids, if your Mom or Dad or someone asks you what the sermon was about today when you’re having lunch, tell them, “The Main thing. The Main Thing is the Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing. And the Gospel is the Main Thing. And the Reformers recovered the gospel.”

You can say more than that. Show off the Latin phrases that you learned.

But that’s the main thing.

That’s the main reason for us to care about the Reformation.

Because we must care about the gospel.

Let me give you one more Latin phrase to take home with you today.

“Post Tenebras Lux”

That was another catch-phrase from the Reformation.

Anybody know what it means?

“After Darkness...Light!”

The gospel had gone dark, but 500 years ago God in His perfect wisdom and power saw fit to shine a new light on the gospel and from the gospel to His people once again.

Salvation is according to the Scripture alone by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone.

May the light of the gospel continue to shine on us and from us into the world.


***

Questions for Group Discussion:

1. Why did Pastor Matt pick 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 for his Reformation 500 sermon? Why do think he thought that was the most appropriate passage to highlight for this special anniversary? Do you agree? What other scripture passages might have been good ones to focus on for this event?

2. How does the Reformation figure into our two concurrent sermon series in 2017?  “The Truth of the Gospel (Galatians)” and “Gospel Roots?”

3. What are the 5 Solae (“Solas”) of the Reformation, the rallying cries of the Reformers? [Extra credit if you can give them in Latin!] Can you name one Scripture verse that relates to each one?

4. What are some of the significant “side-benefits” of the Reformation that Pastor Matt mentioned? How important are they to you?

5. The Reformers were courageous heroes of the Christian faith in their day, but they also were sinners with inexcusable flaws. How should we think about and appropriately honor human heroes without arguing away their failures? What are the biblical categories that help us to process those issues?

[Closing Bonus Question with Latin that wasn’t in the sermon!] 6. The Reformation is not yet finished. What does the phrase, “ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda” mean? And how does it relate to us today?

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