Calvary Road Baptist Church

“EXTREME MEASURES” Part 3

 

Most people celebrate Christmas in a way that is completely disconnected from God, from Jesus, from the Bible, and from any conception of why the eternal Son of the living God took upon Himself the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of man. This is the final of three messages from God’s Word that seek to provide the connection that will help you celebrate Christmas and enable you to benefit from Christ’s coming into the world.

Scripture strongly suggests that God created the angels before He created the physical universe we find ourselves in. Job 38.4-7 records God questioning Job, and providing us with an indication that the angelic host were spectators and observed God’s great creative works in bringing the physical universe into existence:

 

4      Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.

5      Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?

6      Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;

7      When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

 

“Morning stars” and “sons of God” are markers that identify God’s angels in this inspired poetry. When God created this physical universe, the angels sang and shouted for joy. Tragically, sometime after God’s creative work, Lucifer led one-third the host of heaven in a wicked rebellion against God.[1]

It is interesting to note that God’s dealings with angels who have fallen into sin by siding with Lucifer against God is quite different than are His dealings with mankind. With angels, there is no mercy. With angels, there will be no possibility of forgiveness or redemption. They were summarily cast out of heaven and now await their final incarceration into the everlasting fire, which is known as the lake of fire.[2] It was after he was cast out of heaven with those who followed him that Lucifer, known and Satan and the Devil, made use of the serpent in the Garden of Eden to tempt Eve in his evil plot to bring down Adam. Why did he do this? Perhaps it was an insane plot to thwart God’s plan and purpose. In any event, even the connivings and schemings of the wicked are turned to the fulfillment of God’s great plan for the ages.

Our concern is God’s dealings with men, and we have taken note of the extreme measures God has enacted to address the severity of man’s sins against His august majesty and unsurpassed holiness. First, God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. This, of course, was their immediate spiritual death and it led to their eventual physical death. Some 1500 to 1600 years later, when “it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart,” He brought a worldwide flood and destroyed all life from the face of the earth, “both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air.”[3]

To this point we have examined two extreme measures, both punitive in nature, intending to execute judgment for sins committed and not enacted for the purpose of changing man or altering his future behavior. It would be difficult to conceive of measures that could have more far-reaching effects than Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden and the carnage of the Flood during Noah’s time. However, the two extreme measures we will consider today are just as profound, though in completely different ways as those considered thus far:

 

First, THERE WAS THE GIVING OF THE LAW TO MOSES

 

One might have thought we would deal with the confusion of languages at Babylon or the calling of Abram from Ur of the Chaldees and the covenant God made with him, but the confusion of languages did not directly result in loss of human life, and God’s dealings with Abraham did not result in any immediate consequence that anyone beyond his family would take note of. The circumstances surrounding the giving of the Law to Moses, however, rocked the entire Middle East, as we understand from the book of Joshua.

Consider three aspects of the giving of the Law:

First, there was the Exodus of the children of Israel. More than four centuries earlier, Joseph led the way for Jacob’s entire family to leave the Promised Land to live in Egypt, where they grew in number from a clan to a nation of twelve tribes. Also during that time the Egyptians, who feared their growing numbers, enslaved them. Suffering greatly, they cried out to God, Who heard them and acted by raising up Moses to demand of Pharaoh on behalf of God, “Let my people go.” It is significant that Egypt is shown to be a type of the world in scripture, with the slavery of the people being very much akin to the sinner’s bondage to sin. How did God deliver His people? By means of ten plagues, each designed to show God’s supremacy over one of the Egyptian’s chief gods. It all culminated with the Passover, when a lamb of one year without spot or blemish was slain and roasted and eaten one night, after the innocent lamb’s blood was applied to the doorposts and lintels of the Jews’ dwellings. The LORD told His people, “when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.”[4] Observant Jews annually celebrate Passover to commemorate that great deliverance to this very day. After the children of Israel left their homes to begin their journey to the Promised Land, Pharaoh dispatched his chariots after them, and God parted the waters of the Red Sea so the people could pass to the other side. When the Egyptians followed them, the waters returned and drowned them.

Next, there was Mount Sinai. I am inclined to think is located on the Arabian Peninsula and not on the Sinai Peninsula as is commonly thought. The people camped at the foot of the mountain for one year, during which time Moses met with God and was given the two tablets on which were written the ten commands. A much-overlooked failure on the part of the Israelites can be found in Exodus chapters 19 and 24. Turn to Exodus 19.7-8 and read along with me:

 

7      And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him.

8      And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.

 

Now, turn to Exodus 24.3 and 7:

 

3      And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said will we do.

 

7      And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient.

 

The difficulty, of course, lies in the fact that although the Law given to Moses is holy, in that it reflects the nature and demands of God; it provides men with no means with the power to obey.[5] Thus, the Law can only condemn and cannot by any means save.

This is seen throughout Israel’s history by a repeated pattern of failure and disobedience. They failed in the wilderness when they refused to enter the Promised Land and God left them to die in the wilderness over forty years, taking their now grown children in after they were gone. They failed during the times of the Judges, exhibiting a tiresome pattern of rebellion, followed by retribution, when led to repentance and restoration. However, their natures were unchanged, and so the pattern was repeated again and again. Even when they were given a king like the other nations, they still failed. After Solomon’s death civil war divided the kingdom, and the conquest of the Assyrians and then the Babylonians led to captivity. Even during the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ the Jewish people, by and large, rejected their Messiah. This resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD and the dispersion of the Jewish people that has lasted almost 2000 years.

With this pattern of failure following the giving of the Law, it must be asked what benefit did the Law provide? Why so extreme a measure as constraining an entire nation to such a program as the Law of Moses? The primary purpose of the Law was to reflect the nature and demands of Almighty God and to function as a schoolmaster, Galatians 3.24: “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” As well, though Gentiles greatly benefit from a proper understanding of the Law, it must be recognized that the Law was not given to us. Listen to Moses and the Apostle Paul’s words:

 

Deuteronomy 5.2-3:    2      The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb.

3      The LORD made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day.

 

Romans 3.19:  “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.”

 

Then, THERE WAS THE PRESENTATION OF THE GOSPEL

 

Three things about the extreme measure known as the gospel:

First, the gospel is all about the soul saving work of Jesus Christ. Gospel, of course, translates the Greek word for good news. People usually think of the gospel in terms of the Apostle Paul’s comments in First Corinthians 15.1-4:

 

1      Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;

2      By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

3      For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

4      And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.

 

Who could deny that the death, burial and resurrection of the Second Person of the Triune godhead is the most extreme of the measures God has ever taken to deal with sin? How heaven must have shuddered as the Crown Jewel of heaven suffered and bled and died for our sins, and how good it is for Christians that He did. It truly is good news. However, the gospel is in one sense broader in scope than Paul indicates here. In Mark 1.1, before reviewing the history of Christ’s forerunner, John the Baptist, we read, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Thus, in one sense, that extreme measure whereby God addressed man’s sin problem includes everything related to Christ’s saving work on the cross, including all the events leading up to it.

Second, the gospel is all about God’s grand purpose of the ages. One could spend hours dealing with this, but time permits us to focus on one very familiar passage, Romans 8.28-30:

 

28     And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

29     For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

30     Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

 

This passage speaks only to those individuals who are the direct beneficiaries of God’s extreme measures associated with the gospel. Unlike all previous extreme measures that were primarily punitive while being partially instructive, recognizing that the Law was far more instructive and far less punitive than other extreme measures taken by God, the gospel is not punitive in any way, but is completely beneficial. This passage shows us that the gospel encompasses all of God’s saving dealings with men, both those real dealings and also those anticipated dealings. God’s purpose has been settled from eternity past. He foreknew and predestinated in eternity past. He called and justified during the actual lifetime of the sinner saved by grace. He will finally glorify the subject of His grace in the future.

In addition to that which is obvious, let me very briefly compare and contrast the superiority of the gospel over the Law, these last two extreme measures to be unfolded to us: The gospel is superior to the Law in that the sum of all benefits and blessings of the gospel are secured by faith in Jesus Christ, while those few benefits of the Law are really available only to Jewish people, #1, and are appropriated by works, #2. Thus, the Christian life is lived in response to blessings already secured by faith, while the legal life is lived in a vain attempt to secure blessings that will always be out of reach, since James 2.10 reminds us, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” The gospel is superior to the Law in that the benefit of the gospel with respect to the guilt, stain and defilement of sin and sins is remission, while the best that could be accomplished under the Law was atonement. How is atonement under the provisions of the Law inferior to the gospel’s provision of sin’s remission? Atonement has only to do with covering sins by the blood of an innocent animal to hide them from God’s view for one year, while remission has to do with removing sins from the sinner as far as the east is from the west, cleansing them completely away by Christ’s blood.[6] This is partly why the conditional covenant of the Mosaic Law system is referred to as the “old” covenant and the unconditional covenant associated with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is referred to as the “new covenant.”[7] One final comparison of the gospel and the Law would be the gospel as a ministration of life and the Law being a ministration of death. Turn with me to Second Corinthians 3.6-11 to notice Paul’s admission that while the Law termed by Paul “the letter” was glorious, the gospel is far more glorious in that it is a ministry that brings spiritual life to the believer in Jesus Christ:

 

6      Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

7      But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away:

8      How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?

9      For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.

10     For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth.

11     For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.

 

Extreme measures show the extreme nature and severity of sin. It was an extreme measure for God to expel Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, and I am certain it was a step that deeply stung them. It was an extreme measure for God to destroy all flesh by worldwide flood, and those who died certainly felt the blow of dying by drowning. With the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai, however, God’s extreme measures took a turn from being completely punitive in nature to being instructive. Though violation of the Law resulted in death, with that penalty sometimes being executed almost immediately, the Law was a schoolmaster that pointed sinners to Christ.

The extreme measure of the gospel is unique in that it is both punitive and saving. My friends, Jesus Christ took sinner’s sins upon Himself and suffered the full measure of God’s wrath for those sins, though He was by personal experience and nature without sin. So, for Jesus, the gospel was punitive. Adam was expelled for his own sins. Those who perished in the Flood were punished for their own sins. However, my Lord Jesus Christ was crucified for my sins. However, that is not the entire gospel. Why His doing and dying on the cross and rising from the dead on the third day is such good news is the benefit to the sinner of Christ’s saving work. Through faith in Christ, the gospel provides salvation from sins, new life in Christ, a home in heaven, and a part in God’s great plan for the ages. Is the gospel an extreme measure? Absolutely. However, it is an extreme measure that greatly benefits the sinner who has come to Christ in faith believing.

Before we conclude this morning, there are three other extreme measures I must warn you about that have yet to be undertaken by God; the second coming of Christ in power and great glory, the Great White Throne judgment of the unsaved on Judgment Day, and the lake of fire that awaits those who have died without turning to Jesus Christ. Are you ready for Jesus to come again? Are you among those who doubt that He will come again? Remember, most doubted He would come the first time. Then, when He came, they doubted He would rise from the dead. But He did. If you are not a Christian, it will not be good for you when He returns. And then there is the Great White Throne judgment. And then there is an eternity in the lake of fire.

Sin, in all its forms, is a severe affront to God, a crime of astonishing proportions, that provokes the Creator of all things to take extreme measures against all who are guilty of such crimes. Of all the extreme measures God has taken to deal with sin, only one is beneficial to the repentant sinner, the gospel, whereby Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died a sacrificial death, was buried, and rose from the dead three days later. That saving work provided the ground for God to forgive, to save, those who believe in His Son, Jesus. Thus, the birth of Christ, which we celebrate at Christmas every year, is one aspect of the only extreme measure God will ever take that will benefit those who have sinned against Him. All other extreme measures have been or will be the severest punishments for sins. Therefore, I urge you to respond accordingly to the gospel of which Christ’s birth is a preliminary part, for if you do not you will be eternally and forever sorry.



[1] Revelation 12.4

[2] Matthew 25.41; Revelation 20.14-15

[3] Genesis 6.6-7

[4] Exodus 12.13

[5] Romans 3.20

[6] Hebrews 10.3-4; First John 1.7

[7] Hebrews 8.13; Jeremiah 31.31-34



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org