Here is the message for Sunday morning, May 18th 2008. More than likely, I will have to split it and finish it May 25th as well.
COVENANT LESSONS PART 2
Genesis 12:1-3; Acts 9:1-15; Ephesians 1:3-6.
We are going to look at the calling of both Abram/Abraham and Saul/Paul and see how both were chosen by God for no other reason than God’s own pleasure, decision, and purposes, and how it is the same with us.
This sermon is not meant to deliver a debatable topic, but the goal is after you have listen too it and prayed over the truths revealed within God’s Word when it comes to the subject of being chosen, and the elect of God, it will humble you and give you an even more appreciation of the love, glory, and plans that God has for each of His children.
To give us some insight this morning into the subject of being chosen and elected by God, let me share the story of an unlikely person to become one of the greatest quarterbacks to every play the game – Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. Coming out of college, he wasn’t that impressive when it came to throwing distance, he wasn’t fast on his feet at all, in fact, it seemed most people could walk faster than he could run. But one thing that New England saw in him was he had some leadership qualities and was pretty accurate when throwing a ball. They thought he’d make a good backup quarterback, but never a starter. He was drafted in the sixth round in the 2000 NFL draft. And as many of you know, many people drafted that late just don’t stay playing very long. That year was one of the best drafts ever as far as talent, with Tom Brady in the middle of the pack. No one wanted him, so New England took a chance and chose him, they drafted him. Well, history has a way of changing things. If it hadn’t been the well placed hit by Mo Lewis to Drew Bledsoe’s head in 2001, Tom Brady would have never had a chance to start. And start he did. Not only starting, but having one of the greatest carriers of any quarterback ever, with the exception of Joe Montana, who was also an over-achiever by the way. Here are Tom Brady’s statistics so far: He’s gone 58-20 in regular season starts. Counting playoffs, he’s 68-21 as a starter, the best mark for any current starter in the NFL. In his career, Brady has thrown for 18035 passing yards, and has thrown almost twice as many touchdown passes (123) as interceptions (66). He has three super bowl wins.
You see, he wasn’t really special, but he was chosen by New England, and he excelled, carrying the team on his shoulders all these years.
Now let me ask all of you a few questions this morning. Do any of you feel chosen by God? How many of you ever wonder what exactly it means to be chosen by God? How many of you have ever asked this question, “when it comes to the things of God, just who does the choosing anyway?” Many times we talk about man’s free will, but have any of you wondered about God’s free will?
As we go into the second sermon on covenant lessons, these are just some of the questions that I had as I began to prepare this sermon and was thinking about the life and calling of Abraham and Paul both.
And let me state right here and now, I’m not going to be able to answer these questions too a lot of people’s liking this morning. We just don’t have the time, and I’m not even sure I can totally do them justice in trying to answer them.
This sermon does not have to do with man’s will, whether it is free or not. There are many debates on this subject, and I’m not going to really get into those. Instead, I want to focus on being chosen by God and how it relates to His covenant He made with us.
Remember, we are looking at both Abraham/Abram and Paul/Saul in this series, seeing what God would teach us through His Word. It is my prayer that this sermon will excite you to do your own study of the subject, using the Bible as your guide. It is also my prayer that you would just do more than listen to this sermon today, but will read my notes online at my blog, get the CD and listen, or listen too it when it goes online. This subject matter is really to0 deep to just grasp all the truths in two sessions, although that is all the time we are going to take to look at it on Sunday’s in the series.
Let’s look at this subject this morning, and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal its truths to your heart.
1. The Choosing of Abram.
Genesis 12:1-3 ESV – Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. (2) And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. (3) I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
A. Now for the sake of this sermon, from here on out, I’m primarily going to use the names of Abram and Saul instead of Abraham and Paul.
I want to use their names before God changed them.
B. Now understand that Abram wasn’t anyone special at all.
He was in all likelihood a pagan, idol worshipper who lived amongst pagan idol worshippers. More than likely, He was not searching after the one true God when God began speaking too him. We see no evidence of this whatsoever.
C. What was the reason that God did reveal Himself to Abram, and choose Him and call Him?
The first reason for Abram being chosen by God was that it was an action of redemptive grace on God’s part. I want you to remember that, because that is my definition of what it means to be elect, or chosen. It is an act of redemptive grace on God’s part, drawing us to Christ by His powerful and unfailing love, mercy, and will.
The second reason that I believe God chose Abram is because He loved Him, so it was a choice of love. You see, it wasn’t what Abram could offer God. He didn’t have anything to offer God but His sin. It was what God could offer Abram.
The third reason that God chose Abram is because God had a purpose and plan for Him. Church, I want to make this one point clear to you. God didn’t choose Abram to bless Abram’s plans and purposes; God chose Abram to make His own plans and purposes fulfilled through the life of Abram.
D. What was Abram’s response to God calling and choosing Him?
He obeyed the call. He left all that God told him to leave. He separated himself from his country, his Father’s house, and family. Because of God’s call and Abram’s obedience to the call, He received God’s favor.
Genesis 12:2-3 ESV – And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. (3) I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Notice that God revealed this favor to Abram at His calling of Him. He didn’t wait until Abram was obedient. I believe that the favor of God actually didn’t begin with Abram’s obedience, but God’s call. You see, to be chosen by God and called to follow after Him is the highest favor and privilege that any person can receive. That is more special that being a leader of a country, an owner of a fortune 500 company, or anything else we may do in life. You see, Abram didn’t deserve to be chosen by God, but God favored Him and chose Him anyway.
2. The choosing of Saul.
Acts 9:1-15 ESV – But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest (2) and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. (3) Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. (4) And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (5) And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. (6) But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” (7) The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. (8) Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. (9) And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. (10) Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” (11) And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, (12) and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” (13) But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. (14) And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” (15) But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.
A. What did Saul have to offer to God?
He man filled with zealous anger. He was zealous of Judaism and was angered toward the church.
He was threatening the church vocally. He wasn’t shy about where He stood and he vocally persecuted the church.
He had murder in His heart. If you study the murder of Stephen earlier, you will see that Saul was present and everyone who participated laid their cloaks at his feet, which scholars will tell you that this was a means of respect for Saul and that in all likelihood he was overseeing the stoning of Stephen.
We are talking about an angry, vile, wicked man here. He opposed the gospel with his entire being and made it his life’s purpose to destroy the church. I want you to have this picture in your mind – that is the type of man that God chose here.
B. Why did God choose Saul?
The same reason as Abram – He wanted to redeem Saul’s soul by an act of His grace.
Because of His pure love for Saul – even as he was breathing out murderous threats against God’s elect – the church.
He chose Saul for His own pleasure and purposes. Notice our Scripture here.
Acts 9:15-16 ESV – But the Lord said to him (Ananias), “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. (16) For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
C. What was Saul’s response to God’s calling of Him?
Complete and total obedience to what Jesus told Him.
Acts 9:6-8 ESV – But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” (7) The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. (8) Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.
I could really stir the pot here, but I’m not going to do that. I do want everyone to understand something that maybe you have never considered: This person was one moment breathing threats against the church, and the next moment being obedient to Christ Jesus. How is that possible?
I believe it was just more than the revelation that changed him, but it was an redemptive act of God’s grace that changed Saul’s heart in a moment. You see, I believe that God made Saul receptive to obey this revelation of Christ by doing a work on His heart.
I honestly believe that this is what happens to every depraved sinner. Their hearts are totally turned the opposite direction of the things of God. But when the Father draws them to Christ, He makes their hearts receptive to receive the message through the working of the Holy Spirit.
3. The choosing of God’s elect – His children.
Ephesians 1:3-5 ESV – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, (4) even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love (5) he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.
A. Now I really don’t have the time to do this passage justice this morning. So I’d encourage you to go home and really do an in-depth study of this passage. You might be just pleasantly surprised what you discover.
B. What did we bring to God when He saved us?
Nothing special at all.
The same thing that Abram and Saul brought to God – our sinful lives.
Romans 3:9b ESV – For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin…
This is what the doctrine of total depravity is all about – we are all powerless to save ourselves, we can’t will it to happen, we can’t overcome our nature by a sheer act of will or strength on our part.
Now what did I mean by that last statement? Well, we humans will search for answers through drugs, alcohol, religion, atheism and other philosophies of the world because we know only one thing: Slavery. And since that is all we know, we will enslave ourselves to those things, thinking they are the answer. Whereas in Christ it is revealed what true freedom is. It is putting your faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ on the cross. This doesn’t make you feel better, it makes you a free person.
C. Why does God choose us to follow after Christ?
For the same reason as with Abram and Saul – it is an redemptive act of grace on His part.
Because of His heart of love toward us His elect.
Because of His plans and purposes for us. Remember, He doesn’t save us to bless our plans and purposes, but that His plans and purposes may be accomplished through us.
D. Now, what does it mean to be chosen?
In the Dictionary it means, “selected from several; preferred.”
The word, “Election” from Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary: “the gracious and free act of God by which He calls those who become part of His kingdom and special beneficiaries of His love and blessings. Election to salvation takes place “in Christ” (Eph. 1:4; 2:10) as a part of God’s purpose for the human race. As part of His eternal plan, God allows us to use our freedom to rebel against Him. Thus it is gracious of God to save those who find salvation through Jesus Christ. Election is gracious; it is also unconditional and unmerited (Acts 13:48; Rom. 9:11; 1 Pet. 1:2). It is an expression of the eternal, sovereign will of God who cannot change (Rom. 8:29; 2 Thess. 2:13). Therefore the salvation of the elect is certain (Rom. 8:28, 33).”
3. Definition of the word, “election,” from Nelson’s New Christian Dictionary: “Divine choice determining salvation. In New Testament theology, believers are chosen in Christ and all those who believe in him are saved. But even here there is an element of divine foreknowledge determining those who will believe in him and thus become candidates for salvation. The six main features of election are: 1. Election is a sovereign, eternal decree of God. 2. The human race is fallen, and election is God’s gracious rescue plan. 3. Election is in Christ and through Christ. 4. Election involves both the elect’s salvation and the means to that end. The means include faith and sanctification. 5. Election is individual and personal. 6. The ultimate goal of election is the glory of God.
E. I know that this flies in the face of many of our backgrounds when it comes to the Christian faith.
I know that it goes against my own background as well. But according to Scripture, God out of love chooses us to serve Him, too become His children. It is an act of His will, power, and grace. It is for redemptive purposes. Our redemption is in Him and Him alone. Christ Jesus has done the work, God the Father does the drawing, the Holy Spirit does the indwelling and changing, and we put our complete faith and trust in Christ and receive the total benefits of God’s love and mercy. God has redeemed a people to Himself.
F. It is not that God selects some to go to heaven, some to go to hell.
Honestly, that thinking was what kept me back from even studying election, must less believing on it. You see, if we are honest for just a minute, we’d discover that all of us are deserving of hell. There is not a one of us here, nor alive today, that deserve heaven.
G. God’s choice is out of His love for us.
He has chosen to step into a totally sin-sick depraved world through the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and save a remnant for His glory and honor.
H. To those who think this is rather unfair, let me read from Romans this morning.
Romans 9:14-29 ESV – 14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.'” 26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.'” 27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29 And as Isaiah predicted, “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.”
4. Scripture passages concerning God’s choosing privileges.
John 6:44 ESV – No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
1 Corinthians 1:26-30 ESV – 26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.
1 Corinthians 12:18 ESV – But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.
Colossians 1:27 ESV – To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 ESV – 13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 11:5-6 ESV – 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.
Colossians 3:12 ESV – Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
1 Thessalonians 1:4 ESV – For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you.
1 Peter 2:4-10 ESV – 4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8 and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
To all believers this morning – you should be thankful and humbled by the fact that God chose you to be a vessel His grace flows through. What an honor and privilege. How humbling it is to know that Jesus saved me, not only from my sins, but from my own evil inclinations and desires. How great is the love and mercy to flows toward us His children.
To the unbelievers – You might be sensing this morning the Lord doing a work within you. Maybe you are experiencing a hunger and desire for Him you never had before. Maybe this morning He as exposed your sins to you, and you now realize for the first time, you are a sinner, desperately, and hopelessly needing a Savior. Well, Jesus is that Savior. Come to Him, call on His name, ask Him to save you, and experience His love and grace for you.