"HAVE I BEGOTTEN YOU?"
1. Over the last two weeks I have laid before you the truth of Godís Word about the importance of Church and the importance of Gospel preaching. I have done so in an attempt to offset the de-emphasizing of Church and the de-emphasizing of the preaching of the cross thatís so evident in Christendom today.
2. This morning we deal with another issue, one far less familiar to those who claim to be Christians. My text is Philemon 10. Please turn there. Once you find that verse please stand for the reading of Godís Word: "I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds."
3. Critical to this morningís message is the last phrase, "whom I have begotten in my bonds." Paul informed Philemon, a Christian brother and friend, that while in a Roman jail he had begotten one named Onesimus.
4. Closely akin to this phrase for my purpose this morning is First Corinthians 4.15. Please turn there, as well. "For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel."
5. There are five different ways in which the word "begotten" is used in Godís Word. Let me quickly review the other four ways before settling on the way the word is used in these two verses Iíve read to you.
6. The most obvious and literal use of the word "begotten" is in reference to a father siring a child, such as in Genesis 5.4, where it reads "And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years." The word is used in this way 8 times in the Bible. The other 16 times the word is found in the Bible "begotten" is used in something other than a strictly literal way.
7. The word is used once poetically to describe God bringing the rain, Job 38.28: "Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew?"
8. About 9 times the word is used in connection with the Lord Jesus Christ, describing Him as "the only begotten Son" of God. Used this way the word does not speak of siring or bringing into existence, but emphasizes the uniqueness of the Lord Jesus Christís eternal relationship with God the Father.
9. Then there are several places in Scripture where the word "begotten" is used to describe the new birth of the Christian. First Peter 1.3 is one of three or four such verses: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope . . . ."
10. Lastly, "begotten" is used a couple of times in connection to the Lord Jesus Christís bodily resurrection from the dead. Revelation 1.5 describes the Lord Jesus as "the first begotten of the dead."
11. So you see, the word "begotten" is a word that possesses a range of meanings, depending on the context in which the word is used. But the verses that I initially read to you, First Corinthians 4.15 and our text, Philemon 10, deal with one aspect of the wordís meaning that I want us to consider today.
12. Have I begotten you? I ask that question using "begotten" in the same sense Paul used it to describe his relationship with Onesimus. He had "begotten" Onesimus while he was in a Roman prison with the man.
13. Have I begotten you? I also ask that question using the word "begotten" in the sense Paul used it to describe to the Corinthians his relationship with them in First Corinthians 4.15: "For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel."
14. Recognizing that no mere human being plays anything more than an instrumental role used by God in bringing about the conversion of a sinner, the apostle Paul does point out that, as a gifted man under whose ministry those people had been converted, he enjoyed a unique relationship with them.
15. I ask again, Have I begotten you? Does this kind of relationship that existed between Paul and those converted under his ministry exist between you and me? Letís explore the subject a bit by examining,
1A. First, THE MEANING OF THE RELATIONSHIP
Again, let me emphasize that there is nothing in Godís Word that would suggest or imply that Paul played any role other than that of a spokesman for God, preaching to the lost the unsearchable riches of Christ and seeking to guide inquiring sinners to the Savior. Paul was an instrument in the hands of God, as every God-called preacher earnestly desires to be such an instrument in the hands of God, used to bring the lost to Christ. That disclaimer properly stated, what did Paul mean when he said that men were "begotten" by him and when he implied to the Corinthians that he was their one spiritual father, though they had many spiritual teachers?
1B. First, he meant that there was a definite human relationship between a Christian and the man of God instrumental in bringing him to Christ
1C. Such a relationship seems to be by and large discounted these days, with the frivolous hopping around from Church to Church that folks claim they are "led of God" into doing, but I donít buy it for a moment.
2C. Let us wonder, How did Paul describe this kind of relationship to newly converted believers? In First Thessalonians 2.7-12 he described the relationship between converts and the God-called preacher who guides them to Christ using both motherly and fatherly comparisons:
7But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children:
8So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.
9For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.
10Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe:
11As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children,
12That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.
3C. So, there are ways in which the man of God who guides a sinner to Christ is something like a mom who is a nurse taking care of her own precious child, and there are ways in which the man of God who guides a sinner to Christ is something like a dad who exhorts and comforts and charges a child on his way to godly maturity.
2B. As well, Paul meant by this term "begotten" that there was a definite spiritual relationship between a Christian and the preacher who is instrumental in bringing him to Christ
Itís important to emphasize that this is a spiritual relationship, for an important reason and in a special way:
1C. The reason itís necessary to point out that this is a spiritual relationship is because outside of Christ, and apart from the dictates and direction of Godís Word, such a relationship would not and could not and even should not exist. Folks, this is not a relationship of friends; itís far more important than anything like that. Friendships are established by people who decide they like each other. But such a relationship as exists between a preacher and one he has begotten is a relationship established by God, and is far too important to be trivialized by comparison to a mere friendship.
2C. And this is because the relationship exists for only one reason; to advance the person who has been brought to Christ onward to maturity in Christ. How many friendships exist on such a basis? How many marriages are founded by couples for such purposes? Yet that is the reason for the relationship I have with those God has seen fit to draw to Christ under my ministry.
3C. Thus, I conclude that this relationship I have with you I have "begotten" is profoundly meaningful, more meaningful than you probably ever before realized.
2A. Second, THE METHOD BY WHICH THIS RELATIONSHIP WAS ESTABLISHED
That is, what did Paul do to "beget" those who had come to Christ under his ministry? And what have I done to "beget" those who have come to Christ under my ministry?
1B. First, I have prayed
1C. Paul prayed for the conversion of the lost, so I do, too. In Romans 10.1 he wrote, "Brethren, my heartís desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved."
2C. In fact, prayer was such an integral part of Paulís life, Paulís ministry, that references to prayer and praying saturate his New Testament writings. It is inconceivable that Paul would have approached his attempts to bring the lost to Christ apart from fervent prayer.
3C. And so it is with me. I pray at the beginning of each day. I pray at the end of each day. I pray during the course of each day. I pray at our prayer meetings. I pray before I leave my office to step up to this platform. I pray while I am standing down there. There are times when God wakes me in the night, or prevents me from going to sleep, so I pray and pray and pray.
4C. There is no one who gets converted under my ministry who has not been prayed for many, many times by me. And thatís not including the incredible number of prayers sent heavenward by our prayer warriors who pray for me and who pray with me.
5C. But what have I done to "beget" someone? I have prayed, but God has to answer. Amen?
2B. Next, I have prepared
1C. When Paul was imprisoned he wrote, in Second Timothy 4.13, "The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments." In think the parchments were portions of the Scriptures.
2C. Why did Paul want the parchments? I think he planned to do himself what he had already directed Timothy to do, back in Second Timothy 2.15: "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
3C. If someone asks me how long it takes me to prepare a sermon to preach, they usually are after the amount of time it takes to assemble the structure and thoughts of a single sermon. But the real preparation time for a sermon is an entire lifetime.
4C. As with Paul, so it is with every God-called preacher, including me. The particular message that is delivered is the cumulative result of a manís entire life, coupled with his accumulated study of Godís Word, plus the specific study for that particular message.
5C. So, what do I do to "beget" someone? In addition to praying I prepare. I am almost always preparing. I prepare by studying Godís Word. I prepare by reading the newspaper and magazine articles and books of various kinds. I was preparing when I went to that Hoover Institution breakfast Tuesday morning. And, believe it or not, fellas, I was preparing when we all went shooting the other night before Thanksgiving. I do nothing but prepare for preaching messages.
6C. This should not be taken as puffing myself, because itís normal practice for any man who has been called into the Gospel ministry. The better part of every day of my life is in some way or the other preparation that ends up in the messages which I preach to bring the lost to Christ.
3B. Then, of course, I have preached
1C. But what have I preached? I have preached the cross. I understand the preaching of the cross to be the preaching of the Gospel to sinners, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ according to the Scriptures.
2C. To prepare sinners for the preaching of the cross I will oftentimes preach unto you the law of God, because by the law is the knowledge of sin. Then, after you have had the law preached to you, I preach the Gospel to you.
3C. Understand that I am only relating to you the human side of what happens when the Gospel is preached, but my goal is to see sinners alarmed and spiritually awakened and frightened when the law is preached to them, so that when the Gospel is preached to them they will flee the wrath of God to the safety and refuge that is found only in Christ through faith in Christ.
4C. And since the Bible declares that it is with the heart that man believes unto righteousness, I do not teach as unto a manís mind and head. Following Paulís admonition to Timothy to preach the Word, I preach the Word to reach the heart in the hopes that the Holy Spirit will make use of this means to work the miracle of the new birth.
4B. But thatís not all. Finally, I proof my work.
1C. If this should seem man-centered itís only because I am relating to you only what I do to "beget" as Paul "begat" the Corinthians and Onesimus. Though the work of salvation is entirely a work of God, there is a human instrumentality aspect that would be foolish to deny.
2C. And this human instrumentality aspect is not concluded when the sermon is finished. Acts 2.40 reveals what Peter did after he preached his Pentecostal sermon: "And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation." And I am convinced that much of his exhortation was to individuals.
3C. You see, the Great Commission is not to bring men to Christ only (though I must make sure that I have done that), but to baptize them and to train them, as well. But who to baptize? Who to train? How do you separate from those who merely want your attention those who are qualified to be baptized, and those who must then afterwards be given additional training for their new Christian life?
4C. This is what I mean by proofing my work. Discerning between the righteous and the wicked. Seeking to discover who needs still to be guided to Christ and who should now be baptized and then shown how to walk worthy of God.
5C. To you who I have "begotten," whose spiritual father in a sense I am, this is what I have done to "beget" you through the Gospel. And this is what Paul did, whose example I seek to follow.
3A. Finally, LETíS EXPLORE THE MOTIVE FOR WHICH THIS RELATIONSHIP IS RECALLED
Why did Paul make mention to Philemon that he had begotten Onesimus? And why did Paul remind the Corinthians that he had begotten them through the Gospel? To move them. Itís a leaderís job to move people to action, and thatís what Paul was doing when he recalled this relationship. He moved people.
1B. He recalled his relationship to Onesimus to move Philemon
1C. Like Paul did with the Christian named Philemon, I ought to be able to move you to do things for the benefit of someone else Iíve guided to Christ.
2C. I have every right in the world to demand of you and to expect from you personal sacrifice and expense for the benefit of someone Iíve brought to Christ, because thatís exactly what Paul demanded of Philemon when he pleaded for a favor for his new convertís benefit.
2B. But he recalled his relationship with the Corinthians to move the Corinthians
1C. Notice what Paul wrote in the next verse after reminding them that he was their spiritual father. "Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me," First Corinthians 4.16.
2C. Notice, as well, how strongly he spoke to them, in verse 21: "What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?"
3C. This is very strong talk. But such strong talk to them was based upon the relationship God had established when He used Paul as a human instrument to bring them to Christ. Paul was, in a sense, their spiritual dad . . . and he acted like it when challenging them to follow him.
4C. By the way, the Corinthians responded very well to Paulís assertive spiritual leadership and repented of their sins. Recognizing his unique role in their lives, different than the many teachers of the Bible who might try to influence them, they followed his leadership.
5C. And you who I have "begotten" through the Gospel should do the same. "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ," First Corinthians 11.1.
1. Youíve learned something today that you never knew before, something that is obviously Scriptural but which youíve never taken note of nor read in any commentary. No decisionist, who builds his ministry on the work of other menís labors, would dare preach this Bible truth. Why? He wants those transfer members.
2. Letís see, now, what will be the result of this truth from Godís Word that has now made its way to your mind . . . whether it will find itís way to your heart, and whether you have enough faith in God to submit to the spiritual leadership of the man God has chosen to lead you.
3. It will be interesting to see, will it not? I bid you follow me as I follow Christ. Will you? Or will you resist?
4. Brother Isenberger now comes to lead us as we sing before this morningís brief sermon.
1. Please close your Bible and set it aside for a moment so that I have your undivided attention. Please set your purse or notebook aside. Whatever you need to do to tend to your nails or your watch or your throat please do so now, so that I will have your undivided attention.
2. And may I ask you to actually look at me? We have very little up here in the platform, so there will be little to distract the eye and thus distract the attention. Itís important that you listen carefully as I speak to you for just a couple of minutes, and critical to your concentration is having your eyes on me while you listen.
3. Those "begotten" by Paul were very simply the men and women and boys and girls whose sins were forgiven when they were overwhelmed by their sinfulness and guilt, by the emptiness and meaninglessness of their lives, and at Paulís urging they found forgiveness and cleansing, life and liberty, by believing in Jesus Christ.
4. My friend, I want you to do two things this morning, just as Paul wanted those he preached to so long ago to do two things:
1A. First, I WANT YOU TO CONSIDER
1B. Consider, first, your own life
1C. You may be a kid or you may be an adult, you may be a personal failure or you may be a successful professional, like Dr. French was. But wherever you happen to be professionally, educationally, emotionally, maritally, when you consider your life you have to conclude that it is essentially meaningless, a waste, empty, void. Solomon called it vanity.
2C. On top of that there is perhaps a lingering sense of dread. This would be the result of your guilt before God for your sinfulness. You are a sinner. God is offended by your sin and angry with you for your sin. Somewhere down deep in your gut, this comes as no surprise to you.
3C. But consideration of your life is not limited only to the here and now. It should also include your eternal destiny, which as it now stands for you is eternal damnation in Hell. Consider.
2B. Then, consider the Lord Jesus Christ
1C. The eternal Son of the one true and living God, Jesus became a man so that He might suffer and bleed and die for your sins. Then, after three days and three nights He rose from the dead, victorious over sin, death, Hell and the grave. Oh, what He has done for you.
2C. This same Jesus paid the price for your sins so that you might be forgiven by God, so that you might be cleansed by His precious blood, so that you might have life instead of eternal death.
3C. Being at one and the same time fully God and fully man, Jesus, and Jesus alone, can stand between God and you and reconcile you to God. There is no other savior. Jesus is the unique savior of sinful menís souls. If you will be saved it must be that you are saved by Him.
4C. When you consider what you are and what you must forever suffer without Christ, and then when you consider Christ and what eternal joy will be yours with Christ, then . . .
2A. I WANT YOU TO COME TO CHRIST
1B. But why should you come to Christ?
1C. Your life is empty and without real meaning. You have no hope without Christ. You are without God so long as you are without Christ. Your sins condemn you in the sight of God without Christ. There is no joy in your life without Christ. These may seem to you like selfish reasons to come to Christ, but they are perfectly acceptable reasons to come to Christ.
2C. Would you like some loftier and more noble reasons to come to Christ? How about these reasons? God wants you to come to Christ, itís why He sent Him to be your savior. The Holy Spirit wants you to come to Christ, itís why He deals with your sinful heart and mind to make you see your need of Christ and Christís desire for you. And then, there is the Lord Jesus Christís desire for you to come to Him. After all, He does invite you to come, does He not?
2B. But how can you come to Christ?
1C. Youíre not good enough to deserve salvation. No one is good enough, yet sinners do get saved. You canít earn your salvation, since itís not for sale. Yet sinners do get saved.
2C. The fact is, A sinner like you can get saved by simply listening to the preaching of Godís Word, believing the truth about what you need for salvation and Jesus Christís ability and willingness to save you, and coming to Him. Itís the coming to Him that results in life. Come to Christ.
1. My friend, except for a sinnerís sinful tendency to make the whole thing complicated, getting saved from your sins is as simple as I have just described.
2. Consider your life. What do you have to lose, since you are lost already? Itís not like you are risking your life, since the Bible says you are already dead in trespasses and sins.
3. Consider the Lord Jesus Christ. Untruthful? He is the Truth! Unable? He is the infinitely powerful Son of the living God! Think about it. Ponder it in your mind. Let the truth seep into your heart. Then come to Jesus, the Lover of your soul.