Understanding Jesus’ Power, Time and Compassion

A summary of the sermon preached by Rev Dr K. Song on 14 January 2018 at St Columba’s Presbyterian Church, Peppermint Grove.
Praying handsBible Readings: (OT) Isaiah 61:1-11 / (NT) John 7:1-10
Main Points:
I. Jesus’ power to save
II. Jesus’ time as its Master
III. Jesus’ compassion on us

Our text passage for today starts with this phrase, “After this.” So, before we examine our text passage and meditate on it, we need to know what ‘this’ points out so that we could understand the Lord’s message in this seventh chapter of John’s gospel. So, let me remind you what had happened earlier in ch. 6.

Jesus performed a great miracle in ch. 6. He fed five thousand men with five barley loaves and two fish. All were satisfied and twelve basketfuls of leftovers were gathered. V. 14 of Jn. 6 records that the people saw the sign and said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Then, Jesus walked on the water of the Sea of Galilee and came to the boat His disciples were on. Mt. 14 records some details of this miracle for us and says that Peter asked Jesus to allow him to walk on the water too. Jesus called him to come, and Peter did walk on the water. But he became afraid of the rough water and began sinking. So Jesus rescued him. And Mt. 14:33 records, “And those in the boat worshiped [Jesus], saying, ‘Truly You are the Son of God.’”

Then, starting from Jn. 6:26, Jesus taught people that He was the bread of life. In v. 35, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst.” The Jews grumbled over Jesus’ teaching on His being the bread of life and His gospel invitation. So, many of them stopped following Jesus from that moment. Ch. 7 begins ‘after this.’ Jesus with most likely with His twelve disciples in Galilee continued His ministry, teaching and healing, inviting people to have His eternal life through faith in Him.

His brothers spoke to Him, and in this conversation, Jesus teaches us a message that is truly important for all followers of Jesus, that is, ‘understanding Jesus’ power, time and compassion.’ I think, understanding these is not only important for us, but also quite timely because we have this new and fresh year to live and commit our life to the Lord. So, let us hear the Lord’s message for us.

First of all, Jesus teaches us to know and understand His power to save sinners. He has the power to break the bondage of sin and death by forgiving us of our sins.

This teaching begins with Jesus’ brothers’ disbelief in Him. In our text passage, His brothers urged Jesus to go up to Jerusalem. They asked Him to show Himself to the people and display His power to impress them and earn their support and cheers. They were absolutely sure that it would grab people’s eyes. Yet, this was based on their ‘disbelief’ in Jesus’ power to save and free sinners from their bondage to sin and death.

Jesus’ miracles were to show people His saving power, rather than for earning a fame and people’s applause. It was to draw people from their sins to repentance and belief in Him and receive His eternal life. His miracles were to make people ready to hear His gospel message and know that He is the Messiah God promised to send. Jesus’ brothers disbelieved in this saving power; they missed Jesus’ true power.

When you think about Jesus’ brothers, you’d say that their ‘trust’ in Jesus was surprisingly outstanding in comparison to that of their contemporaries. They had no doubt at all that the world would be impressed by Jesus and give Him a great applause. Compare it with the other Jews. They had no trust at all in Jesus; they wanted to kill Him instead. The ordinary Jews on the streets didn’t really care about Jesus either. Considering that, Jesus’ brothers showed an amazing trust. But that trust wasn’t a right trust, not different from the others’ enmity or indifference to the Lord, because they missed the true purpose of Jesus’ power.

Unfortunately, such a false trust is still found around us. Some individuals follow Jesus seeking material success in the world or people’s attention or applause. Some churches are in the same falsehood as they twist Jesus’ saving power to a message of finance management or better health. They call on the name of Jesus, thinking that Jesus would give them what they are after. But, such a trust is not a saving faith as it misses the saving power of Jesus.

Jesus’ power is the saving power; He saves sinners. So, what we should understand is that, first, He is the Saviour of sinners like us. He breaks the bondage to sin and death and brings sinners to God. Second, we should live for Him as we’re saved through His power and rejoice greatly because we’re no longer under our enemy Satan but under His marvellous saving power.

Being saved in Christ, we now worship Him and walk with Him. Then, we should know that there’s only one way for all in Christ, that is, to be joyful in our life and grow up to Him. In faith, we enjoy the Lord’s power, willingly give Him our life and have a deeper relationship and fellowship with Him. This is what Eph. 4:15 speaks about in these words: “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the Head, into Christ.” Jesus’ power draws sinners to His saving grace and joy.

The next point in Jesus’ teaching is that He is the Master of time. This is a great encouragement for all who are saved by His power and live in fellowship with Him.

Going back to the story of Jesus’ brothers in conversation with Jesus, they misunderstood both Jesus’ power and this second point of Jesus’ teaching. They urged Jesus to go ‘right now’ because that time was, to their eyes, the best time to meet the crowd in a national feast. I’m sure that these brothers were clever. They had an idea of what, when and how. They seem to know when Jesus should stand before the crowd.

Giving you a brief explanation of this ‘time’ they’re concerned about, the Feast of Booths (or Tabernacles) could be one of the best moments for such a purpose because, in this Feast, people come from almost every corner of Israel and gather together in Jerusalem. They pitch their tents or make tents with palm leaves and stay there for seven days, rejoicing for the Lord’s blessing. It was originally to remember God’s deliverance from Egypt and, because the time for this feast was after their fruit harvest, it was also a thanksgiving to the Lord. So, as you can imagine, people flocked in from everywhere and Jerusalem were packed in with people with good spirit. Surely, this was a right time to grab people’s attention and, if possible, their support. Jesus’ brothers saw it as the best time to be famous and they were right with that!

But Jesus refused and said, “My time has not yet come,” in v. 6. What kind of time did He mean? And what difference was there between Jesus’ ‘time’ and His brothers’? Only one difference. Jesus meant ‘God’s time’ and the brothers meant ‘this world’s time.’ Jesus talks about God as the Master of time as its Creator and the brothers talk about time man sets up and controls as its master. The brothers’ ‘time’ for being at Jerusalem was the time they could maximise their control over it so that their gain might be a maximum gain. So, the brothers missed another very important teaching, namely, God’s time and Jesus’ time.

By ‘God’s time,’ I mean God’s ownership of time, rather than a specific moment in time for some divine actions. Eccl. 3:11 is right about it, saying this: “[God] has made everything beautiful in its time.” So, the Lord Jesus in our text passage means, first, God is the Master of time and, second, He alongside the Father is carrying out what is beautifully purposed in time. Thinking about ‘time,’ Jesus has only one thing in His mind, that is, God and His purpose in time.

But sadly, men have always been trying to control this ‘time’ according to their own interests. They want to do whatever they desire with ‘time,’ trying to become its master. No man can master it but everyone continues to become its master while trying to get rid of the God of time. But Jesus points out here that the truth is the opposite; He teaches God’s ownership of time and urges us to know and follow the true Master of time.

We must always know that God is in control of His time and He has a good plan for His children. So, we should always look to God in all we do and never be despaired regardless of things that take place. We do what is assigned to each of us as individuals and as a Christ’s church. We do our best with all things. Then, we wait for God who is the Master of time. This is our act of seeking God’s will and His guidance for all things. Seeking the Lord’s will is, therefore, not deciphering the Bible verses, hoping to find a hidden secret code for us, but doing our best with all things as the Lord permits and waiting for Him to reveal His purpose in His time. So, we must not hasten to see an immediate result of our works; we must not neglect doing God’s work regardless of season or time; but we persevere in what we do, knowing that He who is the Master of time is faithful and He will surely carry out His good will for His people as Rom. 8:28 hits the bull’s eyes in this sense, saying this: “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to [God’s] purpose.”

Jesus’ brothers missed this point and didn’t understand what Jesus meant by His time. They missed the true purpose of Jesus’ power and His time, yet, they missed one last teaching of the Lord from this conversation in Jn. 7, that is, His compassion on people.

Vs. 9 and 10 of our text passage tell us that Jesus stayed in Galilee. Then He went up to Jerusalem. Not in a way all people might notice Him, but “in private” or ‘in secret.’ He didn’t want His entry into that city attract people’s attention.

He was going to go up to Jerusalem, but because of His compassion on people, He treated these brothers and all others in Jerusalem carefully. His word recorded in vs. 6-8 is the clue to this understanding: “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify about it that its works are evil. You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come.” Truth is that all were ignorant of His saving power and His being the Master of time; people were like ‘sheep without a shepherd’ as Mt. 9:36 says. They were miserable in this sinful fallen world!

So, He went up without stirring them up. The Lord and Saviour of the world entered in that city of God in secret and dwelt in their midst in secret because He loves sinners, because He cares for even those deaf and stubborn people, wanting them to hear His voice and come to Him in repentance and faith, and drink from Him the living water and have the bread of life. Jesus’ invitation is not violent but soft and tender; His message is not offensive but kind and delightful. He cares for each one, knowing that we’re but dust. So, He didn’t break a bruised reed even in the hearts of these brothers. But remember that one of these brothers later became one of the leaders of the early church formed in Jerusalem and recorded a NT book, James!

He does the same for us. We didn’t know Jesus’ love for us. But He wasn’t harsh toward us. He was tender and kind. Gently He guided us to repentance and faith; lovingly He nurtured us with His word – first, with the pure spiritual milk, then, with solid food for our souls. He has never ceased from showing us His kindness, sometimes in secret, but other times, openly, according to our needs. What a gracious Lord!

So, we cannot miss or misunderstand Jesus’ compassion on us. ‘By grace you’ve been saved,’ says Eph. 2:5 and we must not ignore His lovingkindness toward us. Instead, we must willingly listen to Him and wholeheartedly take all His grace to our souls. Then, live it out in our life to the praise of the Lord of love and compassion.

So, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, remember that Jesus, in His power, saves sinners from sin and death. Also remember that He and the Father work in harmony in the lives of His people like us as the Master of time. So, there’s no need for us to worry or be restless, but to continue our God-given tasks with joy and calmness in our souls, knowing that the Lord will accomplish His will for us. Then, give thanks to Him, our Lord, for His compassion and love for us.

I pray that this year may be for all of us to know more and deeper about Jesus, especially about His saving power, His time and His love for us. By this, may the name of the Lord Jesus be praised in our midst and also shown to the eyes of our friends and neighbours. Amen. ***


Christian Service is a Continuation of the Work of the Triune God

Summary of the sermon preached by Rev Dr K. Song on 7 January 2018 at St Columba’s Presbyterian Church, Peppermint Grove.
WorshipBible Readings: (0T) Exodus 23:20-33 / (NT) John 5:17 & 2 Corinthians 5:16-6:4
Main Points:
I. The works of the Trinity
   1. The work of the Father
   2. The work of the Son
   3. The work of the Holy Spirit
II. Our Christian service as a continuation of the work of the Trinity

A man was lying down on the ground close to a water pool called ‘Bethesda,’ which means ‘a house of mercy.’ He’d been lying there for 38 years when Jesus met him. Knowing both the duration of his suffering and his desire for the Lord’s mercy, Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be healed?” This man replied, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” He immediately got up and walked away being healed, refreshed, amazed and rejoicing. This healing miracle was done on a Sabbath – a day of rest.

The Jews saw it and objected to this act of Jesus because it was a Sabbath day and working on Sabbath was, in their opinion, forbidden by God. Jesus answered and said to them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”

The main point of this story is the purpose of Jesus’ coming to us – to save sinners like us by forgiving our sins. His cancelling of our sins cannot be stopped by anything and this is His miracle of healing sinners. Through this, Jesus restores in us true Sabbath, true rest in God. That’s why our Lord Jesus healed that man at Bethesda and said, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” He was on earth as the Physician, healing and saving sinners. He still restores in the lives of the elect God’s rest, God’s Sabbath.

As He explains why He was working on a Sabbath, He teaches us an important truth, that is, the source and foundation of His work. He works as His Father is working continually. Then, this also becomes the source and foundation of every Christian’s service because every true follower of Jesus is His ambassador on earth. We Christians work and serve on earth, being empowered by Jesus and the Father. In a word, Christian’s service is a continuation of the work of the Triune God.

This is important for us as we face another year opened to us to serve. We need to know that we’re carrying out not our own works but the work of the Triune God on earth not only in this year of the Lord 2018, but also throughout our lives. Otherwise, your service would become a burden than joy in Christ. I pray that all of us grasp this truth so that we rejoice altogether as we work and serve in the name of the Lord Jesus throughout this year.

In order to elaborate on this, I’m going to briefly examine, first, what works each Person in the Godhead does, then, second, how our service is a continuation of the works of the Holy Trinity.

Let’s begin with the works of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

1. The Work of the Father
The main work of the Father is twofold: first, planning the whole and everything of the world, such as the plan to redeem His elect and second, carrying out His plan through the Son and the Holy Spirit, starting from creation of the world and sustaining all things in it. This is the work of God the Father.

Then, a question, ‘Does He have to do all these works?’ Did God the Father need to work? Did He have to create the world and all in humanity as well as all other living beings? The answer is, ‘No, He didn’t have to.’ He owes none; He’s self-sufficient. So there was no need for God to do any work, unless He wanted to. There was no need whatsoever in Him to create anything, anyone, because He was perfect in every way – in relationship, possession, holiness and power. No gab in all these attributes was there ever in Him. In this sense, what He planned and did and carries out is a form of ‘service,’ something for others, as ‘service’ is any ‘willing sacrifice of someone with one’s own time and energy for others, preferring others over oneself.’ So, what God the Father did and does still is a ‘pure service’ to His creation generally, and in a special way, to us, His chosen ones. The Father works, and it means that He serves us for our benefit. He serves us not like a servant does to his master, but the Master serves His own creatures. So, nothing in the whole created world could be a match to it; it’s a unique and purely amazing truth!

2. The Work of the Son
Next is the work of God the Son, our Lord Jesus. He had a perfect agreement with the Father before time. Jesus said in Jn. 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” In Jn. 17:5, as He prayed to the Father, He said, “Now, Father, glorify Me in Your own presence with the glory that I had with You before the world existed.” Jn. 3:16 reveals to us what sort of agreement there was in the Godhead between the Father and the Son in regard to saving His people. It says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Also in Jn. 10:18 Jesus teaches us that His sacrificial death was according to His own will, His perfect harmony with the Father and obedience to His will. He said, “No one takes it [that is, Jesus’ life] from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.” See what He continues in this verse, saying, “This charge I have received from My Father.” For this reason He said in Jn. 6:44 that “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” Also in Jn. 6:65, “no one can come to Me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

In perfect agreement with the Father, Jesus the Son came to give His life in order to redeem the people the Father had chosen to save; He became the Mediator between the Father and us, the elect, and He reconciles us to the Father. He gave His life as a ‘service’ to His people. He worked and served us with a ‘pure and perfect service.’

3. The Work of the Holy Spirit
Lastly, the work of the Holy Spirit. This Holy Spirit is the third Person in the Godhead and He is the Spirit of the Father and the Son. First of all, He empowers those the Father planned to save and the Son redeemed through His death on the cross. He gives life to the chosen ones by giving them ‘faith,’ the belief in the Lord Jesus. He gives them power to serve God in His Church in various forms and degrees. He also purifies the lives of these redeemed and saved. 1 Cor. 6:11 proves this by saying that we’re ‘washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.’

Moreover, the Holy Spirit reveals to us the will and heart of the Father and the Son. He gives us evidence of God’s presence; He guides us and directs us, and this is ‘walking by the Spirit.’ He gives us assurance of our salvation, our eternal hope in the Lord Jesus, as Rom. 8:16 says in these words, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”

Numerous works He does other than these. He illumines the Word in our hearts and teaches us all things about God; He intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And the last thing I want to add to this list is His unifying work in God’s Church. Not only does He sanctify us (that is, bringing us closer to God), but also reconcile us to one another in Church (that is, bringing us closer to each other in love). He works and serves us.

So far, this is a summary of the works of the Trinity – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. They serve even though they do not have to. And this service is in the present continuous tense; the Triune God is working; God is serving. This is what Jesus means in Jn. 5:17 when He says, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”

Having said, the question we need to think about is this: ‘How relevant to my Christian life is my understanding of the works of the Triune God?’ In other words, ‘What’s the benefit of understanding all these, especially in terms of my service in church?’

To say the conclusion first, understanding the works of the Triune God is essential for us because our Christian service is a continuation of the works of the Triune God. God’s work continues here on earth through the works and services you and I do. Therefore, the more you understand the fact that your service is a continuation of God’s work, the greater will your joy be as you serve the Lord and others in church and in your life.

Here are a few Bible verses that prove this. Our text passage for today, especially from vs. 17-19 of 2 Cor. 5, teaches us in these words: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself … and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” God the Father planned our salvation, God the Son fulfilled it by giving His life and, as the result, He reconciled us to the Father. Then, see now unto whom that ministry of reconciliation was given. It’s us – you and me and all followers of Christ, all who are called and saved in His name. To us, God ‘entrusted the message of reconciliation.’ We carry out the works of the Triune God!

Therefore,” says in v. 20 of our text passage, “we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us.” We’re Christ’s ambassadors on this earth. Furthermore, Gal. 5:16 urges us to “walk by the Spirit” and v. 25, “live by the Spirit.”

So, having heard all these words of the Lord, there can be no other conclusion than this – we’re continuing in our service the works of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We’re not serving in the first place to satisfy others, but to carry out the works of the Triune God. We’re not doing any Christian service in church or at home or at school or at work simply to satisfy our own interests or meet our needs. Rather, we’re serving as ambassadors, as servants, as children, as the heirs of God here on earth. We need to understand this simple truth of the Bible and see how God’s works are continued in our Christian service. Understanding this fact is an exciting thing! To see God’s mighty hands working continually through our feeble hands in service is so exciting and amazing! That is why the Apostle Peter, being inspired by the Holy Spirit, says in 1 Pet. 4:11, “Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To Him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Our service is not our service; IT IS GOD’S! It is the Father’s; it is the Son’s; and it is the Holy Spirit’s work that you and I do!

So, do you think you could be bored with what you’ve been repeating for over some years in church? Could you complain because others in church don’t appreciate your services? Would you say anything like, ‘No one cares about my service; no one would even take notice of me if I stop my work in church’? Can you and I do that? No, absolutely not because of three reasons. First, whatever you do either only once or repeatedly day after day, month after month or even over decades, it’s not you but God who initiated and continues the work by supplying His power and wisdom to you. Second, the purpose of your service is not to satisfy you or others, but God. Your service is not for yourself, but for others, yet, through others for God ultimately. And last, serving in church and at home and everywhere else is to bring to God His due glory and honour.

Hearing this, someone might be puzzled and say, ‘Then, what about me? What’s in it for me?’ Don’t be disappointed; what you’ll get when you finish your service to God and for God is a great reward your gracious heavenly Father has prepared for you with the crown of life on your head!

So, let us remember and never forget that our Christian service is the Triune God’s work carried out on earth through our hands and feet and lips. He supplies us His power, desire, wisdom and all necessary things for serving His Church, that is, His chosen, called, forgiven and saved people. So, let us not complain as we serve; let us not withdraw from serving; let us not desire undue honour and glory to ourselves as we serve. Rather, let us seek to do more works and services in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then, rejoice by seeing God’s gracious works carried out by our hands and feet and lips; and be thankful to Him who lets you and I carry out His works. ***

Your Life Is a Gift From God

Summary of the sermon preached by Rev Dr K. Song on 31 December 2017 at St Columba’s Presbyterian Church, Peppermint Grove.
Christian-mutual loveBible Readings: (OT) Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 / (NT) 1 Timothy 6:11-19
Main Points:
I. Your life is a gift from God (vs. 10, 13b)
II. Your life is linked to eternity (v. 11a)
III. Your life can be enjoyable now (vs. 11b-14)

Today is the fifty-second Lord’s Day in 2017, the very last Sunday of this year. About this time of year, we become sensitive to time. We’re intrinsically sensitive to time, yet, at the very moment of closing a year and opening up another, this sensitivity becomes more acute than any other time. We once again remember that we live in time and time carries us with it as it flows. Like fish in the ocean, we live and breathe in ‘time.’

What is this thing called ‘time,’ anyway? Just pose for a moment and think about how you would define or explain ‘time.’ It seems easy to answer but, at the same time, quite hard to put it in words. It’s not easy to define what ‘time’ is. This is one of THE problems mankind ever has. Time is a great mystery in God’s creation.

Yet, regardless of the fact that people in the world think time is an unsolvable mystery, for Christians, it is an important part of God’s blessing and that’s what we need to understand. What matters to us is not the definition of time, but its nature as God’s blessing to us, His children. I mean, God’s saving plan for us is interwoven with time. He predestined us before time and sent His Son to us. Being called, we live in faith and wait for the resurrected and ascended Jesus to come back to us to complete His redemption. In this way, time is an important and core element of our faith in the Lord.

Also while we live in faith, God ‘unfolds’ His will for us in time. Sometimes we see His revealed will for us, but most times, we move on along time without understanding it. When we do see God’s will, we feel relieved, but other times – when we can’t see where He’s guiding us to – we feel uneasy or occasionally insecure. I think, a time like today, as we face the end of a year and the opening of another, many of us have a mixed feeling of relieved and uneasy at the same time. To such a heart, God speaks through His word and urges us to have faith in our Lord who is unchanging, faithful and always loving toward His dear ones like us.

So, the message for us today is ‘Your life is a gift from God,’ so, depend on the Lord and rejoice in Him. I’d like to divide this message into three subheadings: first, man’s life is a gift from God, second, man’s life is linked to eternity, and last, man’s life can be enjoyable now.

When we say ‘life,’ it means a span of time – a lapse of time for a person from his/her birth to death. So this word, ‘life,’ carries a sense of solemnity. We feel its weight when we hear it. It includes the joyful mystery of the birth of a child and the sudden closure with that person’s death. Moreover, it embraces even what precedes the birth and what follows after the death. That’s what ‘life’ is.

About this life, our text passage says that it is a gift from God. V. 10 says, “I have seen the business [or ‘task’] that God has GIVEN to the children of man to be busy with [or ‘are to be occupied,’ in NKJ].” This ‘business’ or ‘task’ of a man is, in another word, his ‘life’ because this task is not just a temporal isolated job, but one continuous work which begins from birth and ends at death. This task which can also be said as ‘time’ is surely a gift from God. The word, ‘toil, used in v. 9 is another word that points out this gift of God given to man.

Let’s focus on life as ‘toil’ and see how life is God’s gift to man. We don’t like things that make us toil. We want holidays, rather than working hard. People like to be rich. Why do people want to be rich? For material possession would free them from their toil. But such is truly a foolish desire because each one’s toil is a part of God’s gift to each person. Once God-given task is forgotten in someone’s life, God’s blessing upon that person is forgotten too.

God showed Solomon that life is a good gift from God, and the task assigned to each person is that gift. So, if we believingly accept life as a gift, and thank God for it, we will have a better attitude toward the things that come our way – things expressed in our text passage as tasks, burdens and toils that occupy our life. They are gifts from God for us to be busy with. But if anyone grudgingly accepts life as a burden to avoid, then he would surely miss out the gift that comes to him on his way. Having a right outlook on this leads us to have a good outcome. Our life is a gift from God.

This leads us to our second point – ‘Our life is linked to eternity.’ Of course, a gift from the eternal God is linked to eternity. So, v. 11 says, “[God] has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity into man’s heart.” Man was created in the image of God, and was given dominion over creation. Unlike the rest of the creation, we have ‘eternity’ in us and we are linked to heaven. Everyone knows this. We’re the only ones that have soul to look up the heavens and seek eternity. God has set His eternity in our hearts.

This explains why all in humanity (including Solomon) cannot be satisfied with our endeavours and achievements on earth. Man, having a heart linked to eternity, cannot just be satisfied with things of this earth which are only temporal. Whatever you do here on earth, whatever you possess here, you won’t get satisfaction with it because everything of this world is temporal and passing away.

Connect this thought to your travel experience. As you drive your car or fly in an airplane, where is your mind at? Nowhere else but your destination. A cup of tea or coffee you drink on the way, or a meal served to you doesn’t satisfy you although that might be the best meal you’ve ever had. That’s just not enough to make you forget about the pleasure you’d have at your destination. Driving to your destination, you wouldn’t give much attention to a 30-minute nap by the road, because that’s not why you’re driving. You do things as you travel, but as long as you’re not yet at your destination, you won’t get full satisfaction. Your heart simply is not on those things on the way, but on things that are at your destination.

Just like that, a heart that is linked to the eternity needs something that is eternal. For a great pianist, children’s toy doesn’t mean a thing; for a Christian, a solid food for his spirit gives satisfaction. For this reason, Solomon says in Eccl. 1:12–2:11 that all things he does under the sun are nothing but vanity only because temporal things don’t fill up the heart that is linked to eternity.

So, if you cannot get satisfaction with the world, with anything of the world, don’t be surprised, but remember that your heart is linked to eternity because your life is a gift from God, your Heavenly Father. It is done by God; God has set it in your heart.

Then, how can you and I who live in the temporal world get satisfaction for our hearts and souls? Its answer is given in the second half of v. 11 and up to v. 14. God’s answer starts from a fact that we cannot hold eternity in our mind. Strange it might seem at a glance, but see why it is so.

He says in the second half of v. 11, “[God] has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” In other words, although we’re linked to eternity, we cannot fully comprehend God’s plan and works. We might see a part of the entire work of God; we might touch and taste just a section of God’s plan. But that’s it – not the entire plan and work, not from the beginning to the end can we ever grasp. Why? Because our mind is finite, limited, thus, unable to hold God’s mind; we cannot grasp the infinite time of eternity.

Yet, God reveals His plan to us in His time. Our full comprehension of His plan will be when we enter eternity; but until then, His will is knowable when He reveals it to us in His time. So, the incomprehensibility of God’s time is God’s blessing for us. Please think about it. We’re so limited and can’t even know the things happening inside us, let alone the things in God’s realm. You don’t know how your heart pumps blood to go through every cell in your body and in what mechanism your lungs breathe continuously. Guess that you might know all these. Then, your mind would be filled with information upon information and, at last, all would be mixed up and your mind would surely go crazy. So, God reveals to us one by one, step by step in time for our benefit. This is His great blessing!

Hear what Solomon says in vs. 12 and 13, “I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil” [or ‘life’]. In a word, by the blessing of God, you and I can have peace in our hearts and souls and enjoy here and now what is coming on our way. We cannot understand the whole plan of God for each one of us, but we can surely see our link to eternity in God and how firmly we’re in God’s care. This is what it means that our life is a gift from God and so we can be joyful and do good in our life believing Him through Christ Jesus.

This ‘enjoyment of life’ is an important theme in Ecclesiastes and is to be understood in light of our previous two points – that is, ‘your life is a gift from God’ and ‘your life is linked to eternity.’ Like sheep under the good care of a good shepherd, they don’t know why their shepherd wakes them up so early in the morning and drives them to the outside of a sheepfold, up to the hill and over it; they don’t understand the intention of the shepherd forcing them to walk under the scorching sun, instead of letting them to rest in the cooler shade. But, seeing the goodness of their shepherd, they follow and rejoice as they walk, as they toil, literally all their life. God through Solomon admonishes us to be and do likewise. See your God and His goodwill toward His children with the comfort coming from His Spirit to your eternity linked heart, then, enjoy your life with great joy in the Lord. Solomon sees it as the best for the children of God.

The wise man is encouraging here to believe in God who is faithful in all He does. Your trust in Him takes your eyes away from the temporal things of this world and fix them on the guiding and caring hand of the faithful God. So says Solomon in v. 14, “I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before Him.”

So, seeing and realising that your life is a gift from God, thus, you’re linked to God’s eternity, you can see clearly why you should enjoy your life here and now even in the midst of your toil.

We must note that Solomon is not saying a ‘Don’t worry, be happy!’ chorus. He is promoting not a ‘blind faith’ but the faith in God through Christ Jesus that brings to you true joy, true satisfaction, that comes from heaven.

After all, how could your life be meaningless and monotonous when God has made you a part of His eternal plan? Your life is connected to God’s eternity, then, how could your life be miserable? You are not an insignificant creature; your life is God’s gift; you’re connected to God’s eternity and He claimed you as His own once and for all with the blood of His Son, Jesus, our Saviour. And you’ve confessed with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believed in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, as Rom. 10:9 points out. Then, by this faith, you’re saved eternally and a child of God chosen for His eternal glory.

So, whatever is on your way, please enjoy it in the Lord, knowing that it is God’s gift to you. Enjoy your life, trusting your God. After all, that’s what a child does with his loving parent. Amen. ***

Holiday Book Reading List

Here are some books for you to grab and read during this holiday (or relatively quieter) season and be comforted and strengthened in the Lord.
Book reading-s“The Institutes of the Christian Religion” by John Calvin (edited by McNeil and Battles) – This is surely one of the best books for Reformed Christians to read. An electronic version of Henry Beveridge’s translation is available from either Christian Classics Ethereal Library (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.toc.html) or Online Christian Library (http://www.ntslibrary.com/PDF%20Books/Calvin%20Institutes%20of%20Christian%20Religion.pdf).

“The Church” by Edmund P. Clowney – This is an excellent book on the nature of ‘church.’ This book will help you to understand what Christ’s church on earth is and who we are as her members.

“We Believe: Recovering the Essentials of the Apostles’ Creed” by Michael Horton – Michael Horton introduces a new generation of Christians to the Apostles’ Creed, providing that its message is as timeless as it is historical.

A Joyful Hope of Christmas

Summary of the sermon preached by Rev Dr K. Song on 25 December 2017 at St Columba’s Presbyterian Church, Peppermint Grove.
Christmas-Nativity-sBible Readings: Matthew 2:14
Main Points:
I. True joy of Christmas
II. Joyful hope of Christmas

This morning, we joyfully sang ‘Joy to the world’ and I want to focus on this ‘joy’ especially of Christmas.

Talking about Christmas joy, what comes up first to your mind when you think about joyful Christmas? Mine is a picture of a Christmas Day in my childhood in Korea with snow covered field and mountains, as the scenery I saw on the way to church with my parents and siblings, holding hands together because of snow covered road, inhaling cold fresh air, expecting to be soon at a joyful Christmas Day worship service. That’s the picture comes up first to my mind when I think of the joy of Christmas. This doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy hot summer Christmas in the southern hemisphere; I love it too, it has its own unique beauty. It’s simply a picture imprinted in my mind for the image of a joyful Christmas. I wonder what yours might be. Each person, I believe, has his/her unique picture and idea of Christmas joy.

For Christians, though, all their ideas and memories of Christmas joy are closely related to the Saviour’s birth. That’s a great blessing. But, to the people in the world who don’t know Jesus, Christmas is simply a holiday on which families gather together for a good time with presents and food and laughter. So whatever picture or idea of Christmas joy you may have, Christians who love the Lord Jesus know the true joy of this special time of the year – in a word, it is our remembrance and celebration of Jesus’ birth, the Saviour’s arrival.

There are so many people who don’t know this joy, although they seem to enjoy every Christmas. Like the boy in a story I heard who missed the real joy but saw something else. This story about a boy goes like this. A boy wanted to watch the circus that was coming to the town. His family was poor and his father couldn’t pay for his ticket. So this boy worked hard and earned some money. His father topped it up to make it enough for a ticket. Finally, the boy was able to get a ticket for himself.

When the day for the show came, he grabbed his ticket and rushed to the main street of his town. There, he saw the circus parade went by. He was thrilled to watch the clowns, elephants, and all of the performers. A clown came dancing over to him and the boy put his ticket in the clown’s hand. He watched all with a big smile. Then, he came home excited and told his father what he had seen. Hearing him, the father said, ‘Oh, son, you didn’t see the circus; all you saw was the parade.’ Many people in the world who enjoy each Christmas are like this boy; they go to shopping centres and see glittering Christmas lights in their homes and on their streets. To them, the angel that appeared to the shepherds of Lk. 2 would’ve said, ‘Oh, people, you didn’t see the joy of Christmas; all you saw was a parade of clowns year after year.’

The true joy of Christmas is to remember the Saviour Jesus born to us in Bethlehem and to remember His saving light that shone upon us. Then, to enjoy His saving grace in our life – this is the true joy of Christmas.

There’s another important aspect of this true joy of Christmas, that is, the ‘hope’ Christmas brings to us. What I mean by the hope of Christmas is this. Christmas is the day we celebrate our Saviour’s birth took place two thousand years ago. But that’s not all of Christmas joy; the Saviour’s birth directs us to His impending return to us. When we rejoice Jesus’ birth, we too rejoice in His promise of coming back to us. This is the hope of Christmas and this hope completes our joy of Christmas.

Come to the verse we read from Lk. 2 and see how this verse supports what I’ve just said. If you study this verse, you’ll see that the message of glory in heaven and peace on earth is not in the past only, but continuous from Jesus’ birth to the present and to the future. So, if I may paraphrase this verse, it says something like this: ‘God’s glory was revealed in the birth of the Son of God and that glory is continually displayed before the eyes of the world; also, peace that was established among those with whom God was pleased is continually effective among those with whom God is always pleased.’ Do you see the point?

So, the joy of Christmas is based on two things – one, Jesus’ birth as a historical fact which is the basis of our salvation and, two, Jesus’ return as the sure promise of God for His beloved which will be the completion of our salvation. In a word, as Jesus once came to earth to be our Saviour and Lord, He’ll again come to us to be our King! So, our joy of Christmas is a joyful hope Christmas brings to us.

So, my fellow Christians, fellow members of God’s household, rejoice on this Christmas Day, remembering Jesus who was once born, and rejoice again and more so on this Day, hoping for His return in glory! He’ll wipe away every tear from your eyes and mine, and give us a song to sing, like the one that is recorded in Rev. 5:13 with these words, “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb, be blessing and honour and glory and might forever and ever!

Have a joyful Christmas with a blessed hope in Christ Jesus! Amen. ***

The Nature of Jesus’ Incarnation

Summary of the sermon preached by Rev Dr K. Song on 24 December 2017 at St Columba’s Presbyterian Church, Peppermint Grove.
cross-salvationBible Readings: (OT) Jeremiah 23:1-8 / (NT) Matthew 2:1-12
Main Points:
I. Jesus, the true God and true man on earth
II. Some false and dangerous views on Jesus’ nature
III. Jesus, our Immanuel!

We enjoy celebrating Christmas every year with great joy. We love Christmas because it is the day we remember Jesus born in Bethlehem on a day two thousand years ago. Although no one knows exactly on which day He was born, one thing that is clear to everyone is that He was born on a specific day and each Christmas Day is the day we remember His birth, His coming to us.

Having said, let me point out to you that I’ve just touched an interesting and important point. That is, Jesus who is God was born as an infant baby, like every human being on earth does. He always is God and never at any moment was He not God. But He was born as an infant baby which means that there was a time He didn’t exist, at least in a bodily form. Although He always is God, yet, He came to be one of us. It’s a mind-boggling truth as well as truly amazing mystery. You think about it. He is all powerful God, yet, was a weak and fragile baby; He is all knowing God, yet, at one point in time His wisdom needed to be ‘increased,’ as Lk. 2:52 tells us, like the way all babies and children do. In a word, Jesus is the God-man; He is perfectly God and perfectly man. Why is Jesus God-man? We’ve covered last week the purpose of His being perfectly God and perfectly man. Simply put, He came to cancel the wrath of God against the sinners and to cancel the sins of the elect. He had to be a sinless man so that His death could meet the righteousness of God, thus, cancel the Father’s wrath. Also He had to be God whose infinite saving grace could cover the collective weight of the sins of the Father’s elect.

Then, another matter that is important for us to know and understand is the nature of Jesus’ being God-man. In other words, why did Jesus need to have two natures – divine and human. Also, why are Jesus’ two distinct natures inseparably joined together in the Person of Jesus? What’s the lesson for us in our understanding of Jesus’ two natures?

Before going into a search for answers to these questions, let me introduce to you some people’s viewpoint on this matter of understanding Jesus’ nature. They say something like this: ‘We don’t really have to know about Jesus’ two natures. We could simply know that Jesus is God and man; we could simply believe that Jesus is our Saviour and Lord and whoever believes in Him will be saved. In addition, Jesus is the Second Person in the Godhead together with the Father and the Holy Spirit. That’s all we need to know for our salvation. Of course, this knowledge includes His virgin birth and His sinless life and sacrificial death for us. That’s all we need and we don’t really need to know about Jesus’ two natures, whether His divine and human natures are distinct and joined inseparably or not.’ I don’t deny their statement; there’s a truth in it. Salvation is for all who believe in the name of Jesus. Yet, the faith that saves sinners is the faith only in Jesus the Bible teaches.

If you realise how many people in church history have been lured away from following the true and biblical Jesus and fell into various forms of heresies and cults because of their false understanding of the nature of Jesus, you’d surely like to re-examine anyone’s claim to ‘simply believe Jesus’ is good enough. Also, the more you understand Jesus’ nature, the deeper your understanding of His saving grace will be as well as your appreciation of His birth, life, death and resurrection. In this sense, understanding His nature as the Bible teaches is essential.

So, first, I’d like to briefly explain Jesus’ two natures – divine and human – and how they are joined together in the person of Jesus. Then, how important it is for Christians to know Jesus’ nature by looking at some examples of false teachings that have allured people away from biblical Jesus. And lastly, I’d like to examine with you what spiritual lesson is there that benefits Christ’s followers.

So, let’s begin with Jesus’ two natures distinct yet inseparably joined in the person of Jesus Christ.

There are so many biblical evidence that teach Jesus’ deity and humanity. For example, an angel appeared to the shepherds who were in the field near Bethlehem said that the Baby born on that day was a Saviour who is Christ the Lord; after that, a multitude of heavenly host appeared and together with the angel praised Jesus (Lk. 2:11, 13). A Baby born and lying in a manger was the Lord. Also, the three wise men came from afar to worship Jesus (Mt. 2:1-2). The end of today’s text passage is another evidence of this by telling us that Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and man. Later on, Jesus introduced Himself, saying, “before Abraham was, I am” (Jn. 8:58). Crossing the Galilean Sea, Jesus was asleep in the stern of the boat while His disciples struggled greatly against a deadly storm. Jesus was that tired as a man. Yet, He stood up and rebuked the wind and the sea and there was a great calm – they obeyed the voice of God (Mt. 8:24-27). In another occasion, Jesus read the Scripture from Isaiah and said to those gathered together on a Sabbath, “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing,” meaning that He was the anointed Saviour Isaiah had prophesied. These are just a few examples in the Bible that prove Jesus’ deity and humanity.

Then, how are these two natures joined together in the person of Jesus? The answer is, ‘two complete, perfect and distinct natures, the divine and the human, are inseparably joined together’ (WCF, 8:2). Simply put, Jesus’ deity and humanity retain their own distinct properties; they’re not mixed together to form a third nature that is different to the original two. No, not in that way. Jesus in His humanity was limited in every aspect; He was weak, tired, hungry, sad or joyful in many occasions, just like any of us are. At the same time, He was limitless in His knowledge and power and will; He healed the sick, commanded the nature to obey, and even raised the dead. Yet, these two distinct natures joined together in the person of Jesus, remained together in Him. Between them, there was no struggle, no discord or friction, no apathy toward each other. There was a perfect harmony between them although they remained separate, distinct natures.

How could this be? I don’t know and no one knows, except the fact that such was the way the Triune God agreed and Jesus, the Second Person in the Godhead, took on Himself. Why can’t anyone fully understand this? Because it’s out of our intellectual reach, if you know what I mean; because there’s nothing similar to this union of two distinct natures in the entire human race. Maybe, the closest and similar case to this union in Jesus might be the nature of light. As you know, light has some distinct attributes united perfectly in it – it’s wave, yet, not purely energy but particle also, travelling in the speed of light; it emits brightness and kills germs. How can light be and exist with these attributes? No one knows except that it exits like this from the beginning. Other than the case of light, there’s nothing else in the created world that might help us in understanding Jesus’ two natures joined in Him. It’s the pure mystery as much as the Trinity is. We simply hear what the Bible teaches and take it and believe it as true. If anyone refuses this teaching simply because he cannot comprehend it with his intelligence, then, he must also deny himself because he cannot also comprehend how he, as a human being, is so different from all other earthly creatures.

Why did Jesus become the God-man? The only answer is to be our Saviour and Lord! For this, He joined His deity and humanity perfectly in Himself. This is the foundation of every spiritual blessing we receive from Him. And I’ll talk about this spiritual blessing shortly.

Before going into that, let me tell you what sorts of false views and teachings on Jesus’ nature there have been in church history and endangered many Christians from following the true Saviour and Lord Jesus. We need to know this because such spiritual danger is still out there to find its prey.

The Arian heresy of the fourth century AD was the first major disturbance Christian churches faced. They thought that Jesus was a created being and God inhabited the flesh of Jesus. So, the Messiah had no real human soul. The modern Jehovah’s Witnesses’ view on Jesus is almost identical to this heresy. Other groups thought that Jesus’ human mind and spirit were replaced by the divine nature of Jesus (Apollinarianism) or Jesus had two separate ‘persons’ instead of one person, namely, human Jesus and God the Son (Nestorianism). Still some others developed an idea and said that the Logos was an impersonal force or power from God, rather than a Person in the Godhead, meaning that Jesus the Son was not a distinct Person in the Godhead. By saying that, they denied Jesus’ deity. So, they ended up with an idea that God showed Himself as the Father and, in another occasion, as the Son, and still in another, as the Holy Spirit (Monarchianism). This is the view of Unitarian church that exists now in our days. One last false view and teaching I’d like to point out is what I’ve already mentioned earlier, namely, Jesus had a new and third nature created as the result of mixture of two natures (Eutychianism). They meant that Jesus’ nature was neither divine nor human, but something entirely different and new. What an absurd view this was. So, all these views were proved by the church as heresies since the fourth century AD and on.

The danger these views bring to any Christian is this; that it confuses Christians and makes them unfocused in their faith and life. For example, if a person is fooled by a Monarchianism, that is, God is one and this one God takes roles of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, that person would be confused with the ‘modes’ one God plays and no longer is it significant to him to pray in Jesus’ name. He would not be bothered to pray in the Father’s name or by the Holy Spirit’s name and stop praying in the Son’s name. Think about it. To this person’s mind and theology, the name Jesus does not mean anything. Then, what comes after? There’s no point of believing in the name of Jesus, no point of seeking the forgiveness of sins by the blood of Jesus. It’s all the works of one God who becomes the Father and, next moment, the Son, and still at another occasion, the Holy Spirit. This person’s faith in such a God is no longer a faith that saves a sinner!

What about the Arian heresy? I said that the modern Jehovah’s Witnesses follow that view and believe that Jesus was not God but the highest and greatest of created beings simply inhabited the flesh of Jesus. This has no biblical proof whatsoever and there’s no saving faith in it with an obvious reason.

So the spiritual danger that always associates with any of these or other false teachings on Jesus’ nature is one, that is, nonexistence of saving faith! In this sense, it’s not simply a ‘danger,’ but ‘death.’ Let me point out the warning for all of us; anyone who hasn’t fully grasped the biblical teaching on Jesus’ nature is vulnerable to this danger. No Christian should say, ‘I don’t need to know all this, but Jesus only,’ but say, ‘Teach me more about Jesus who is the God-man and my Saviour!’

Such is the foundation from which spiritual blessings spring. Our deep understanding of Jesus’ nature as the God-man is the source of our salvation and our faith/life is enriched by this blessing. In a word, this is truly what the word, ‘Immanuel,’ means – ‘God with us’! Let me elaborate this briefly.

Jesus is God and man. His divinity is united with His humanity. His infinite knowledge, power and will coexist with His finite human attributes. The almighty God who can do all things was tired and emotional and hungry. He who sits on the heavenly throne experienced pain and sadness and even wept. This is the plan of the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit altogether, only to save us, sinners. In a word, Jesus assumed the flesh because He together with the Father and the Holy Spirit loved us. He is our Immanuel, ‘God with us’!

Jesus’ birth is the key that unveils all aspects of His love for us. He who is God was born just like any of us. So, God knows us, not only as the Creator God, but also as one of us who lived in flesh, yet without sin. So, every sinner can surely approach this Saviour Jesus and seek His grace because He knows us inside out, thus, can be not only our Substitute but also our Friend. You and I don’t need to hear His voice with a promise of His care, that’s not really necessary, because Jesus who is God of the universe and our Creator came into this world, born as a baby, to be with us as a man like us because He loves us from the beginning and always to the eternity! How good is this love revealed, explained and confirmed through the birth of Jesus!

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord and Saviour Jesus, your understanding of Jesus’ nature deepens the joy of your faith and life. His two distinct natures – His deity and humanity – joined together in His person and, through this union, He shows us His amazing love for us.

So, cherish this teaching and give your thanks and praise to Jesus now and forever. In each Christmas season, especially remember that the birth of Jesus is the greatest mystery revealed to the believing hearts as the highest and most glorious event of the heaven meets the earth, God meets men to give to us His life and bring us to where He resides!

This is why the angel and a multitude of the heavenly being praised and said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased” (Lk. 2:14). ***

The Purpose of Jesus’ Incarnation

Summary of the sermon preached by Rev Dr K. Song on 17 December 2017 at St Columba’s Presbyterian Church, Peppermint Grove.
Cross-waterBible Readings: (OT) Psalm 89:1-18 & 38-52 / (NT) Romans 3:21-26
Main Points:
I. Jesus came to cancel the wrath of God
II. Jesus came to cancel the sin of the elect
III. Jesus came to proclaim that God is just and the Justifier of the believer

Why did Jesus have to come? We know the answer of this question – He came to save us, sinners. We heard from the Bible that whoever believes in Him will be saved. But, if you stop and think again carefully about the purpose of His coming to earth, you’d agree to say it is surely a mystery. Not just one of the many strange things that sometimes puzzle people’s minds but the only and greatest mystery that surely marbles every believing heart and soul. He is God, yet, came to earth in flesh; He is the God of the universe, yet, was born as an infant child; He is the holy and righteous God, yet, emptied and limited Himself to taking the form of a creature, and living as one of us. He is the source of life, yet, laid His life on the cross. It is truly a mystery.

I want to examine this mystery today. I’d like to examine how Jesus’ coming was absolutely necessary for our salvation. In other word, the purpose of His birth. To sum it up in a few words, His coming was necessary to cancel two things – (1) the wrath of God, and (2) the sin of the elect.

The primary purpose of Jesus’ coming is to cancel the wrath of God against the sinners. The Son of God came to appease or placate the Father so as to take away the Father’s wrath against sinners. It might sound strange to you to hear that Jesus came to cancel the Father’s wrath and that was the primary purpose of His coming. But it’s true. Once you understand Jesus’ work of taking the Father’s wrath away, you’ll be able to see why it had to be His primary purpose of coming in flesh.

There’s a theological term often used to describe this act of taking God’s wrath away, viz., ‘propitiation.’ What is this taking away God’s wrath? An example from human experience is this; when people are angry with someone, that anger has to be dealt with because it doesn’t go away without retaliation. Guess that someone made you angry. Then, he approaches you and says, ‘I’m sorry; I’ll make it up to you. Please tell me what you want me to do.’ In that case, what this man says and does to you is a work of propitiation.

Jesus came to do this; He came to ‘take away’ God’s wrath against sinners. V. 25 of our text passage teaches this by saying, “God put [Jesus] forward as a propitiation by His blood.” God the Father was angry toward sinners because of their rebellion against Him. This is not like any man’s anger; rather, it is the righteous God who is angry at sin and evil. So, His anger is not being grumpy. His ‘anger’ is the closest description in human terms of God’s nature, namely, His righteousness and holiness. His anger means His being a righteous God. His righteousness means that He is perfectly upright without evil. Also, it means that He excludes sin and evil. In this sense, His righteousness expresses itself in judicial punishment against sin. Like the way darkness can never exist with light and, at the same time, light expels darkness. Light doesn’t fight against darkness. Rather, light simply is and, by its nature, darkness is vanished. Likewise, God’s righteous nature expels evil and, when sin is expelled by God’s righteous nature, we can see a judicial punishment taking place right there. This is God’s ‘anger’ toward evil and all sinners.

Another aspect of God’s righteousness is its unchangeableness as He is a faithful God. He is righteous forever, and He is the same always. So, never in any moment is the degree of His righteousness changed. This faithful God pronounced death to Adam according to his sin. Once declared, no one can alter it because that death penalty was declared by the righteous and faithful God. For the sake of logic, we can say that God Himself cannot alter it because He is a righteous and faithful God forever. If He says one thing, and next moment He changes it, then, He would not be a faithful God.

So, that death sentence declared to Adam has affected all his descendants, thus, everyone in humanity is born in sin, live in sin and die in sin. There’s no exception in that. No one in the entire universe can alter it, except God Himself. But, as I explained, He will not do it and can’t do it because He is the righteous and faithful God.

Jesus’ becoming a man in flesh to live a perfect and sinless life and dying on the cross is to satisfy the offense made to the righteous God, thus, cancel the wrath of God accrued by sinners. As God, equal with the Father, Jesus died to settle the offense sinners made. Jesus who is the Son of God, equal in nature with the offended God, yet a man equal in nature with the sinners rebelled against God died on the cross to satisfy the offense, to settle the wrath accrued in the divine heart of God by man’s rebellion. Jesus came to take away the Father’s wrath by being a propitiation by His blood!

As Jesus came to take away God’s wrath against us, He came also to cancel our sins. This is our second point and the term people use to describe it is ‘expiation,’ Jesus takes away our sins as our perfect Substitute.

Concerning Jesus’ being the perfect Substitute for us sinners, we need to go back to the question I asked in the beginning of this sermon, ‘Why did Jesus have to come?’ The answer we know is ‘to save us, sinners.’ By agreeing with this answer, we confess two facts; first, our inability to save ourselves and, second, our need for a saviour. A person fell in a deep well cannot climb up because it’s impossible – so she needs someone from outside to save her by lowering a rope or a ladder. A person who is lost and adrift in the sea is desperately in need of a rescue boat or helicopter, because he cannot swim to a safe shore. After all, he doesn’t even know the direction of the nearest shore, let alone its distance from him. Every sinner, likewise, needs a rescuer desperately; and that’s why Jesus had to come. Otherwise, all in humanity would’ve ended up in hell.

Then, why can’t we save ourselves? Other religions of the world contend that man could save himself by behaving, and through spiritual exercise. But that’s not true at all, because we cannot save ourselves. Why is that? That’s because we’re responsible for our sins. More precisely, each person is responsible for his sinfulness. Each person has to pay for his own sin, and the payment is death. My life is worth only the wages of my sin, and each one’s life is just about to pay the wages of each one’s sin – that is, death. If I die to pay the due penalty for my sin, I leave nothing because I have no choice other than spending all I have – my life – so, nothing is left. I can never add any bit to my wife’s wages of her sin; neither can she to mine. The same rule applies to every sinner on earth, all descendants of Adam. If this is the case, then, who could have such a luxury to write off anyone else’s wages? No one. So, if someone says that he doesn’t come to church because his parents’ or wife’s Christian faith would be sufficient for his path to heaven, that’s a complete falsehood. If another says that he’s been giving alms for many years, and that would qualify him for the entrance of a paradise, that’s a nonsense. It doesn’t matter how much and how long people do good things, breaking just one law of the Creator God qualifies him for an express ticket to hell because every sin is rejection of the righteous God and an act of putting oneself in the position of God, thus, deserves death penalty.

To you and me and many others who are in this desperate position, Jesus came as our Saviour! To us sinners who are in complete darkness of sin and death, Jesus came as the Light. He is “the true Light,” says Jn. 1:9, ‘to give His light to everyone.’ To us who cannot pay anything other than each one’s due death penalty, He came to be our Substitute and pay the death penalty for us. By this, He takes away (or ‘expiates’) our sins.

Then, let’s think about His qualification as our Substitute. To be able to be our Substitute and Saviour, He must meet two conditions. One, He needs to be sinless; otherwise, He would have to deal with His own sin, just like any of us in mankind. Second, His worth must be at least equal to or greater than the collective worth of those He is going to save, because He needs to satisfy the collective wages of their sins. Do you see why you hear again and again from the Bible about the sinless nature of Jesus (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15)? In the OT, as the type of this sinless Jesus, ‘spotless’ animal sacrifices ‘without blemish’ were required of the OT sinners for the remission of their sins. 2 Cor. 5:21 tells us this: “For our sake [God] made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God.” Being sinless, Jesus surely was able to be our Substitute, qualified for being our Saviour.

In addition, the worth of His life is infinite because Jesus is the Son of God, because He is equal with the Father. So, He can pardon the wages of all sinners who come to Him in faith. See Mt. 11:28 and find out how confident He is in this, inviting all sinners to Himself: “Come to Me, ALL who labour and are heavy laden, and I WILL GIVE you [all] rest.” It was the same with the message delivered to us through Isaiah the Prophet in Isa. 55:1, “Come everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” The Samaritan woman in Jn. 4 heard about this abundance and limitlessness of Jesus’ pardoning grace from the Lord’s mouth, in these words: “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

Being sinless and God of infinite merit, He came to us and became our Substitute. Dying on the cross, He paid the death penalty for all believers of the Old and the NT, in other word, the elect the Father chose to save before the foundation of the world.

This leads us to our last point, ‘Jesus came to proclaim to the world that God is just and the Justifier of the believer,’ as v. 26 of our text passage says. I find this truly amazing as this verse reveals the incomprehensible mystery of the economy of the Triune God. In other words, this verse tells us how the story began once upon a time, in the beginning of everything, between God the Father and God the Son, thus, God the Holy Spirit.

First of all, this verse says that Jesus’ coming to take away the Father’s wrath (‘propitiation’) and to take away our sins as our perfect Substitute is to show us that God the Father started all these in His love for us. It was the Father who chose the elect, then, in His love, sent His Son to us. God the Father loved us, and “put forward [Jesus the Son] as a propitiation,” as in v. 25 of our text passage. 1 Jn. 4:9 explains that sending the Son to us was God’s love made manifest among us.

It is like Jesus telling us something like this: ‘I came to save you, but it was My Father’s plan. He prepared everything from the beginning together with Me; He’s not an old, grumpy, cold God who hates sinners, and required of Me to appease Him by giving My life away. Rather, the Father is the One who started all these in His love for you and sent Me to come to be your Saviour – I and the Father work together from the beginning.’

Such is what the 26th verse in our text passage means when it says, “It was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that He [the Father] might be just and the Justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” God the Father is ‘just’ and He never changes in His righteous nature. So, evil can never be with Him and neither can all sinners. But, at the same time, the Father is the ‘Justifier’ of the believers which means the Father regards the sinners on behalf of Jesus as the righteous ones!

In a word, the Father and the Son together with the Holy Spirit planned, executed and accomplished our salvation! What an amazing love of the Father, and grace of the Son!

It tells us, first, the grace that saves us is not at all a cheap grace; the Father and the Son planned together and executed and accomplished it. In this, the Father sent His only Son to us, and the Son came in flesh, in the form of a servant, and suffered in His life on earth, then, died on the cross. It’s not a cheap grace at all! Rather, this is an amazingly rich and deep grace that saved us.

Another thing is that faith in the Son Jesus is the only requirement for salvation. Believing that Jesus is the Son of God who came to save us, by being the sinless, thus, perfect Substitute for our sins – that’s all that is required of us for the price of salvation. What an amazing grace this is!

Christmas season is a time for Christians to remember this love of the Father, and the grace of the Son. Remembering all, rejoice in His salvation; and praise the Lord for His provision of the Son for us, His beloved! In addition to this, we’re called to share this Christian joy with all in the world. ***