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The Doctrine of Election

W. A. Criswell



In Acts 13:47 Luke records the words of Paul and Barnabas: “For so hath the Lord commanded us saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.

The Doctrine of Election | Sermon By Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 13:45

In Acts 13:47 Luke records the words of Paul and Barnabas: “For so hath the Lord commanded us saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.

When the Gentiles heard this they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord.” And then Luke adds this amazing and unusual sentence. “And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.”

Our message today is a look at that. It is one of God’s wonders, like looking at the vast creative realities flung into space by the hand of our Almighty God, the vast universe filled with millions of galaxies thronged with billions of stars.

The Doctrine of Election

The Lord made the appeal. And the Lord disposes your soul to respond.

This also is one of God’s mighty creations: “And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.”

The doctor uses a verb translated here “ordained.” “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” It is a periphrastic perfect participle, passive voice, indicative mood of tasso.


Tasso is a military term referring to orderly arrangement; we might better translate it with the word “appoint.” “As many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” He does not say by whom they were appointed.

There are extreme Calvinists who would say it is the Lord God who did that appointment—completely, fully, without any discussion—fully appointed of the Lord God.

There are others who would say that the verb does not carry that extreme interpretation; that it allows for a disposition on the part of those who heard the gospel to be appointed to eternal life.

“As many as were disposed to eternal life believed.” So the Lord may have disposed them to believe, but the people may also have disposed themselves to believe.

Well, I think it says both. “As many as were willing thus to dispose their souls, hearts, lives, minds to receive the word of life, they were appointed to that everlasting kingdom.”

But others were not disposed, as in verse 46: “Seeing you put this word from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.”


But however the verb is ultimately interpreted, it is certainly there in the Scripture. “As many as were appointed or ordained to eternal life believed.”

So we’re going to look at both of those facts; the fact of God’s choice, of God’s appointment, of God’s election, and also the fact of a man’s free moral agency.

It is a fact that God chooses and God elects. That is as much a part of Scripture as the Scripture itself.

Just listen to these words out of the first chapter of Ephesians: “According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself . . . in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His will.”

That sounds like sovereignty; purpose, choice, election, predestination.

Isn’t that right? Or Romans 8:29: “For whom He did foreknow—the foreknowledge of God—He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son.”


Or again in Romans 11: “God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew . . . Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace”

It is a facet of the glory of God that He is sovereign, that He chooses, that He elects, that He calls.

And that is the whole story of redemption from beginning to end, the hand of God working in human history. God called Abraham out of idolatry. God called Moses and sent him down into Egypt.

God called David and anointed him above his brethren. The Lord chose twelve apostles. The Lord God intervened in the life of Saul of Tarsus and made him the apostle Paul.

God did it. It is the hand of the Lord. God has done that through the years and the centuries since, and God does it today. God moves, God elects, God calls, and God chooses.

Now the other facet is also no less gloriously presented in the Scriptures. A man is morally free, and He chooses. That has been true from the beginning.


In the second chapter of 2 Timothy, Paul writes that Adam was not deceived; he willfully chose to eat the forbidden fruit and to die with his wife rather than live without her. He was morally free, and he chose to die.

Moses stood in the midst of the camp as they were dancing around the golden calf and said, “Who is on the Lord’s side? Let him come and stand by me.”

Joshua said, “Choose you this day whom you will serve; . . . but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”

Do you remember Elijah? “How long halt ye between two opinions? If Baal be god serve him; but if Jehovah be God serve Him.”

How many of the wonderful invitations of Lord are addressed to the human heart? “Come unto Me, all ye that are weary and are heavy laden.”

Do you remember the great avowal of the apostle concerning his ministry in the fifth chapter of 2 Corinthians? “We then are ambassadors for God; and we beseech you in Christ’s stead,” as though He were saying it, “be ye reconciled to God.”


Or the last invitation in the Bible: “The Spirit and the bride say, Come. Let him that heareth say, Come.

Let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”

The elect are the “whosoever wills”; the non-elect are the “whosoever won’ts.” Isn’t that a remarkable thing? Both of those are in the Bible, fully and completely revealed, and in no sense are they contradictory.

If we would see God in His fullness we must see Him in both lights: the sovereignty of the Almighty and the free will of the man.

There is a nomenclature used in the Bible, and it is separate and distinct vocabulary.

There are words used to describe the great God who sits above the heavens, and it is a celestial and a heavenly language: almightiness, sovereignty, foreknowledge, election, predestination.


Then there is another language, another nomenclature that is used talking about us down here: freedom of choice, moral responsibility, freedom of the will, a commitment, a response.

And our trouble lies in mixing or commingling those words. There are certain words that belong up there, and certain words that belong down here, and when you mix them you fall into grievous trouble.

There is mystery in God always present. We don’t find ourselves able to encompass the infinitude of the Almighty because our minds are limited and circumscribed.

If a man could contain God he’d be greater than God Himself. But we are limited and cannot understand. If we understood it fully as it is in His mind, it would be one voice.

But we have spiritual astigmatism. We can only see one thing at a time, whereas God sees it all. We are always eccentric.

We’re always on one side. It is only God who is at the center. And He sees truth as a great complete circle.


That’s why the apostle closes Romans 9, 10, and 11 with a marvelous paean: “O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!”

The purpose of election for us is one of grace and of mercy, always that. It is the redemptive purpose of God that He is sovereignly working out in human history and in our individual lives. Always it is for our salvation, our blessing.

“As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked: but that the wicked would turn from his evil way and live: O turn ye turn ye from your evil way: for why will ye die?” [Ezekiel 33:11].

And that is the gospel message. The Lord sent you here. God brought you to this place. The Lord spoke to your heart.

The Lord made the appeal. And the Lord disposes your soul to respond. And the praise and the glory is to Him who liveth forever and ever.

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Joel—Redeeming the Lost Years

W. T. Holland



In most lives there are periods, which, as far as productive labor, happiness in our hearts, or worth to the kingdom of God are concerned, are lost years. Joel spoke of such a gap in the life of his nation as “the years the locust hath eaten.”

Joel—Redeeming the Lost Years | Sermon By W. T. Holland

Text: “I will restore to you the years the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you” (Joel 2:25).

Scripture Reading: Joel 2:18–27

In most lives there are periods, which, as far as productive labor, happiness in our hearts, or worth to the kingdom of God are concerned, are lost years. Joel spoke of such a gap in the life of his nation as “the years the locust hath eaten.”

Joel’s message was called forth by a national calamity. A devastating plague of locusts had stripped the land bare of food for man and beast. This was followed by famine, poverty, and misery. Such a time called for some sure word from the Lord, and Joel was God’s spokesman. Joel has been aptly called “the prophet of consolation.”

This prophecy of three chapters, having only seventy-three verses, is made up of two distinct divisions: the first (1:1–2:27) calls the nation to repentance and prayer; the second (2:28–3:21) records God’s promise to hear the cry of his people, remove the cause of their suffering, and restore prosperity and enrich them spiritually.

Joel—Redeeming the Lost Years

The consoling truth is this: it is God who restores us if we return unto him with all our hearts.

The words of our text, “I will restore to you the years the locust hath eaten” (2:25), form a summary statement, looking back to the national calamity and forward to the time of revival and restoration. Joel sounded a relevant note. To Israel, God promised years of plenty to redeem the lean years. To us, God promises to redeem the years we have lost if we will repent of our sins and return to him.
I. Note the cause of lost years.

A. Years are lost because of fear and indecision. They are lost to God, lost to his church, and lost to oneself. An adult woman, the mother of teenage children, came down the aisle all alone before a great Sunday morning congregation to confess Christ and ask for baptism. Her husband, not a Christian, admired her courageous act and said, “I could never have the courage to do that before all those people.” He could, but to date he hasn’t.

B. Years are lost because of complacency. Three people attended the funeral of an eighty-four-year-old man who had no surviving relatives. He had lived in his town thirty-five years but had never joined any local congregation. When asked, three days before his death, why not, he replied, “I meant to; I just put it off.”

C. Years are lost because of self-centeredness. Some people live for themselves and unto themselves. For them life is a circle that grows smaller and smaller. This violates one of life’s fundamental laws. Paul expressed it this way: “For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself” (Rom. 14:7).

D. Years are lost because people do not discern between the important and the unimportant in their lives. One of Methodism’s greatest preachers had been, as a young man, the owner of a bottling plant in a small Arkansas city. A kindly pastor had helped him to understand his divine call.

He would say, “When you die and enter heaven, someone will ask, ‘What did you do on earth?’ And you will have to answer, ‘I made red soda pop.’ ” There is nothing disgraceful about making red soda pop, but this young man was called to be a minister of Jesus Christ.

E. Years are lost because people are spiritually immature (see Jesus’ allegory of children playing in the marketplace in Luke 7:31–32). Jesus showed the folly of playing at religion. For example, consider a person who, because of some trifle of no consequence, holds a grudge against a pastor or church member and deliberately pouts for ten years, staying away from the church and all its services. Those are lost years.


F. But most tragic of all, years are lost because of sin. Dr. E. Stanley Jones told of a medical missionary who ran away with his secretary and deserted his wife and children. When Dr. Jones urged him to return to God and to his family, he replied, “I am called to organize another religion—less rigid, more liberal, more of the love of God.”

What a pathetic defense of indefensible conduct! Years later, as this former missionary lay dying, he told Jones, “I’m an old prodigal that never returned” (E. Stanley Jones, Conversion [New York: Abingdon, 1959], 205). In the end he repented, but the locusts of sin had eaten up the years of his life.

II. Note the cost of lost years.
The locusts, God’s “great army” sent among the Israelites because of their sins, brought Israel to famine and ruin. To us, on every level, in every relationship, the lost years are costly.

A. Costly to the lives of individuals.

1. Because of fear and indecision, some people lose their immortal souls and go down to a devil’s hell.

2. Because of complacency, some people miss the blessings of the fellowship of God’s people.


3. Because of self-centeredness, some people miss the joy of large horizons, and their world shrinks until
it hems them in.

4. Because of spiritual immaturity, some people’s lives are soured, misdirected, and permanently off-center. An unforgiving spirit renders a person unable to receive forgiveness.

B. Costly to the churches. The business of a church is too important for anyone to indulge personal grievances. Christ calls us to be spiritual adults (Eph. 4:15). In the second year of a certain minister’s pastorate, a female member became offended, dropped out of the church, and let it be known that as long as that minister was the pastor, she would not set foot inside the door.

After a fruitful pastorate of twelve years, this minister went on to another church. The first Sunday after his departure, the woman returned. She told those at the church that she forgave them for not “taking a stand” and leaving the way she did.

But she made the mistake of saying to one faithful member, “Oh, it is so good to be back in my church.” This faithful soul replied, “I’m glad you feel that way. A number of us have worked hard to keep it alive the ten years you have been gone.”

C. Costly to the cause of righteousness. With so many who are indifferent, it is a marvel of grace that the average church can accomplish what it does. The gospel has been preached for two thousand years, but this is still a lost world. Why so? There is too much mud on the wheels of the Lord’s chariot, his church.


III. Last of all, note the cure for lost years.
Lost years can be redeemed. This is the promise of God: “I will restore to you the years the locust hath eaten.” How are we to make up for the lost years?

A. For some of us this means recasting our lives around a new center. Only God can do this as we respond through an act of utter faith. In 2 Corinthians Paul describes the conversion experience: “He died for all, that they that live should no longer live unto themselves, but unto him who for their sakes died and rose again” (5:15 ASV). For a person to live for himself and unto himself is for life to revolve around the wrong center. Christ is the only true center for a life.

B. For others, this means returning to God in sincere repentance that they may be restored. If we truly repent, God will restore us, and we will be led by his Spirit to adopt a new approach to life’s problems.

C. But for still others, this means redoubling their efforts for God. A good man made what was for him a very large pledge toward the budget of his church. His daughter protested, “Daddy, that is far more than a tithe for you.” ”Yes,” he replied, “I know it is. But if God will let me live, maybe I can make up some of the tithe I owe him for the years before I started tithing.”

The consoling truth is this: it is God who restores us if we return unto him with all our hearts.

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Partial or Complete Salvation

David L. Jenkins



The Bible is a book that reveals the way of salvation. Jesus Christ came to be our Savior. He lived a sinless life and died in our place for our sin. He rose from the dead, triumphant and victorious, to bring us salvation.

Partial or Complete Salvation | Sermon By David L. Jenkins

Text: “How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” (Heb. 2:3 NIV).

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 2:1–4


The Bible is a book that reveals the way of salvation. Jesus Christ came to be our Savior. He lived a sinless life and died in our place for our sin. He rose from the dead, triumphant and victorious, to bring us salvation. Now he lives at his Father’s side, making intercession for those who trust him.

Our text speaks about salvation as being a great salvation. Unfortunately, many have made only a halfhearted response and have only a fractional understanding of the great salvation available through Jesus Christ.


Our text also speaks about the tragic possibility of believers ignoring their great salvation. This verse has often been used as the text for an evangelistic sermon, emphasizing that unbelievers should no longer neglect to respond to Jesus Christ as Savior. In reality, the text is addressed to those who have already entered the gateway of salvation but who face the peril of ignoring certain phases of it, resulting in their own hurt and the injury of others. Have you made a halfhearted response to the great salvation that God offers to you through Jesus Christ?

Partial or Complete Salvation

The Holy Spirit wants to correct and instruct us. He desires us to live in the ways of our Lord, and he recalls to our memory things that Jesus taught.

Only Jesus can save us from the death that sin brings. Salvation from death, however, is only part of the great salvation that is offered to us. Christ alone can save us from the downward drag of our inherited evil nature. And he alone can save us from the hopeless destiny to which sin leads. We should make a complete response to our great salvation rather than ignoring some aspect of it.

For many people, salvation from the penalty of sin is a past experience. We are justified in God’s sight through faith in Jesus Christ. Those who have already experienced salvation from the punishment of sin should now be in the process of being saved from the power and practice of sin. This is salvation and sanctification in the present tense. Further, all who have trusted Jesus as Savior in the past and who are presently experiencing the Holy Spirit’s work in their lives look forward to salvation from sin in the future. This is salvation in the future tense; the Bible calls it glorification.

As you take inventory of your own heart and your own faith, have you become satisfied with partial salvation, or are you hungry for and seeking the complete salvation that God offers to you through Jesus Christ? If you have trusted him as Savior, you should desire his full salvation in the present. To experience complete salvation in the present, you must do a number of things.

I. Respond to Jesus as the Teacher who came from God.

A. Jesus was more a teacher than a preacher. His disciples and others addressed him as Master. This was the title of an authoritative teacher.

B. Jesus came bringing God’s truth from heaven to the hearts and lives of people. We must accept him as an authoritative teacher who came to reveal the way to live if we are to experience his full salvation in the present.


C. His followers were called disciples and learners. This meant they had “enrolled in his school” and were seeking to receive new truth about God, life, and the issues of life in the future.
The Sermon on the Mount closes with an exhortation not only to hear but also to do the things Jesus taught. Are you seriously committed to the practice of Jesus’ teachings? To be halfheartedly committed is to fail to experience the great salvation God has for you in the present.

II. Let the Holy Spirit work within you in the present (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19–20).
Some people in the church at Corinth were uninformed of the glorious truth that the Holy Spirit had filled them the moment they trusted Jesus as Savior. To be uninformed about the personality, presence, and purpose of the Holy Spirit is to live on crumbs rather than feast at the Lord’s table.

A. The Holy Spirit convicted us of our need for Christ.

B. The Holy Spirit effected the miracle of the new birth.

C. The Holy Spirit assured us of our relationship with God.

D. The Holy Spirit came into our hearts to change us. He resides within us to transform our lives and cause us to be in harmony with the mind of Jesus Christ.


E. The Holy Spirit wants to correct and instruct us. He desires us to live in the ways of our Lord, and he recalls to our memory things that Jesus taught.

To ignore the Holy Spirit or to respond negatively to him is to deprive yourself of the fruit of the Spirit in your heart and life. There is no escape from living an unproductive and unhappy “Christian” life if you ignore the Holy Spirit’s influence.

III. Let the church be your spiritual family.
The church is often called the household of faith. God meant for each of his children to be a vital functioning part of a local congregation of believers. As a baby needs a father and mother and the security of a home, the children of God need a spiritual family to give them care and shelter if they are to grow to maturity.

A. The church is responsible for teaching you what Jesus taught.

B. The church, as your spiritual family, should encourage you in your walk with Christ.

C. The church should show you how to live a Christian life and how to serve Christ.

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Meekness—The Way to Happiness

Jerold McBride



Our misunderstanding of meekness creates this difficulty. In a world that thinks only an aggressive and ambitious person can get ahead in life, it is hard to believe that those who are meek will inherit anything, much less the earth!

Meekness—The Way to Happiness | Sermon By Jerold McBride

“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5).

Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:1–5

“Reach Out and Touch,” Brown
“Rescue the Perishing,” Crosby
“Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” Watts

Offertory Prayer: We come to you, our heavenly Father, knowing that apart from you all is vanity, that all other cisterns are broken and empty and that in you alone is the water of life.

From the anxiety of our petty problems, we seek refuge in your presence this hour. We bring to you ourselves and our gifts. Accept and use both, we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Can you truly be meek and happy at the same time? Can you picture a meek person who is also a happy person? You probably find it rather challenging.

Our misunderstanding of meekness creates this difficulty. In a world that thinks only an aggressive and ambitious person can get ahead in life, it is hard to believe that those who are meek will inherit anything, much less the earth!

Meekness—The Way to Happiness

Have you been born again? Have you allowed the Holy Spirit to fill you? When you do, the wonderful quality of meekness will be yours, and you will enter the way to happiness!

Yet Jesus upheld meekness as the way to happiness. “Blessed [happy] are the meek” (Matt. 5:5). If anyone knows human nature and what it takes to make a person happy, Jesus Christ is that person. He did not imply that being fearful or weak brings happiness.

Instead, Jesus referred to attitude or outlook. The meekness he described requires us to be strong people who are grounded in Christ. It demands us to have a personal relationship with God. This kind of meekness inevitably brings happiness. Meekness is the way to happiness for several reasons.

I. Meekness maintains an even temperament.
Aristotle defined meekness as the mean between two extremes—intense anger and excessive indifference. It is the happy medium between too much anger and too little passion.

William Barclay suggested that the beatitude be translated, “Blessed is the man who is always angry at the right time and never angry at the wrong time.”

When is the right time to be angry? When insult or injury is suffered by others, not ourselves. But how can we develop this even temperament? How can we avoid the extremes of severe anger or apathy? We can’t! But God can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.


So how does God give us an even temperament? First, through salvation; before all else we must be born again. Second, through the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:22–23).

II. Meekness develops self-control.
The word translated “meekness” has a second meaning. Often it was used to express the idea of “self-control.” For instance, an animal that otherwise would have been wild but had been made a house pet was called meek.

The animal had learned to respond favorably to commands and to behave properly. Therefore the beatitude could be translated, “Blessed are they who are entirely self-controlled.” Weakness is giving in to the worst that is in you. Meekness is mastery over it.

To be meek does not mean that you are cowardly, but it does mean that you are strong enough not to retaliate when wrongly treated. Having their rights, those who are meek do not insist on them. Possessing great ability, those who are meek do not flaunt it. They would rather forgive than accuse.

Such self-control results in peace with oneself. Those who cannot control their anger, greed, lust, tongue, or ambition will never be at peace within. They will constantly be at war with themselves.

III. Meekness expresses itself through gentleness.


A third meaning of the Greek word for meekness tells us something else about this quality of a happy life. Meekness may be translated “kindness” or “gentleness.”

The concept of a man being a gentleman was born in the Christian faith. He is a man who is gentle, courteous, and considerate. Meekness and gentleness are characteristics of a strong, not weak, person.

A. Gentleness is considerate of others. “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted” (Gal. 6:1 NIV). A gentle person is considerate of others even when they have done wrong.

B. Gentleness admits faults to others. James advised, “Confess your faults one to another” (James 5:16). Proud, arrogant, or insecure people can never bring themselves to do this. However, meek, gentle, and secure individuals have courage to admit their mistakes to others.

Benjamin Franklin asserted, “None but the well-bred man knows how to confess a fault or acknowledge himself in error.” Humble people bravely admit their shortcomings, which leads to happiness for all involved.

C. Gentleness encourages others. Paul encouraged us “to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone” (Titus 3:2 NIV). As long as you maximize others’ faults while minimizing your own, you can never be happy.


D. Gentleness learns from others. Gentle people are apt to learn. They accept criticism and are always eager to listen both to God and others; as a result, they learn much. Those who demonstrate meekness are happy.

IV. Meekness is assured of victory.

Jesus said of those who are meek, “They shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5). This truth is affirmed many times throughout the Bible. Listen to these four passages from Psalms.

Psalm 37:9–11: “Those that wait upon the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be. But the meek shall inherit the earth.”

Psalm 22:26: “The meek shall eat and be satisfied.”

Psalm 25:9: “The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.”


Psalm 147:6: “The Lord lifteth up the meek.”
It is significant that Jesus said the meek shall “inherit,” not “capture,” the earth. An inheritor is a receiver, not an aggressor. God in his providence has structured the world so that the meek are certain to inherit it.

“Meekness is so hard to develop,” you say. You are right. I cannot tell myself to be meek and thus become meek. God never intended for us to be able to make ourselves meek. That is not our nature.

But what we cannot do for ourselves God does for us—first through salvation and then continuing his work through the daily infilling of the Holy Spirit.

Have you been born again? Have you allowed the Holy Spirit to fill you? When you do, the wonderful quality of meekness will be yours, and you will enter the way to happiness!

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The Seven First Words of the Church

James E. Carter



The seven last words of Christ have been taken from the gospel accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion and made the subject of music and countless sermons.

The Seven First Words of the Church | Sermon By James Carter

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13).

Philippians 4:13

We are always interested in a baby’s first words. It usually takes a great deal of imagination and a bit of interpretation, but we try to determine those first words a baby speaks. They are even often recorded in a baby book.

We are also interested in a person’s last words. Supposedly they give some kind of insight into that person and his or her personality. So we hold those last words close.

The seven last words of Christ have been taken from the gospel accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion and made the subject of music and countless sermons.


Somewhere sometime someone identified the seven last words of the church as “We never did it that way before.” If those are the seven last words of the church, let me share with you the seven first words of the church: “I can do all things through Christ.”

The Seven First Words of the Church

Christ alone is our strength. He daily gives us power to face all obstacles.

These memorable words are found near the end of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Not only are they a good summary of Paul’s life, but they are also an adequate statement of the first words of the church—the words on which the church bases its life and ministry.

I. These seven first words are positive.

Notice that Paul said, “I can.”
How often and how easy it is to say, “I can’t.” People may say that they can’t control their temper, cope with jealous thoughts, stand their job, tithe, teach a Sunday school class, pray in public, live a good life, and so on. Yet these are things that some people obviously can do.

Instead of the negative “I can’t,” consider the positive “I can.” Many churches emphasize what they do not have in the way of budget or buildings. Instead, they should focus on what they do have in the way of people, possibilities, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

II. These seven first words suggest a pattern.
Paul said, “I can do all things.” Against public opinion or endorsement of the “right” people and established patterns, Paul set out to do all things. The list of his accomplishments is impressive.

When we think of everything we should achieve as Christians, the list seems overwhelming: world evangelization, world missions, world hunger, world peace. . . . We can’t do all that!


But look at Paul’s pattern. He traveled to one place and completed one mission. Then he moved on to the next place. We should follow this pattern. In fact, even Jesus came to one place, at one time, to one people. We cannot do it all, but we must do something.

In his book The Reluctant Witness, Kenneth Chafin told of a seminary student who was very sensitive to other people’s needs. When he finished school, he went to serve as pastor of a mission in a deprived community. He discovered people in need all around him and began to help them.

When the young minister and Chafin discussed the people he was trying to assist, Chafin asked if the sheer number of those who had problems and needed help was discouraging to his efforts.

He seemed surprised by the question and answered, “I’m so busy trying to help the people around me who need help that I don’t think too much about all the others.

But I have the feeling that when I reach out to the persons in front of me and embrace their need, I have within my arms the whole world.”

III. These seven first words affirm a presence.
Jesus working through individuals is what makes possible victorious Christian living and effective Christian ministry. Paul’s entire life and ministry were explained by Christ.


It can be the only explanation for your life too, if it is lived for Christ. An old French peasant visited the church in his village for an hour every morning before laboring in the fields and for an hour every night.

When the man’s priest asked him what he did in those two hours each day, he said, “I just look at Christ, and he looks at me.”

IV. These seven first words show power.
Christ alone is our strength. He daily gives us power to face all obstacles.

The seven first words of the church, “I can do all things through Christ,” send the church and its people into the world to minister with power.

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Sorrow—The Way to Happiness

Jerold McBride



What would you think of a person who said to a crying child, “Why are you so happy?” You probably would conclude that the person was either crazy or cruel! The response to Christ’s remark that a mourning person is happy has been similar.

Sorrow—The Way to Happiness | Sermon By

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4).

Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:1–4; 2 Corinthians 7:10


“God Will Take Care of You,” Martin
“Moment by Moment,” Whittle
“Surely Goodness and Mercy,” Peterson

Offertory Prayer: It is good to be alive and in your house, dear Lord. These gifts we offer are a token of our love for you.


Were the whole realm of nature ours, even that would be a present far too small. So we offer what we have and thank you for accepting our gifts and ourselves. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

The way to happiness is outlined in the first twelve verses of Matthew 5. Last Sunday we noted that the word translated “blessed” in the Beatitudes may also be translated “happy.” In the first beatitude, Jesus said the initial step toward happiness is humility—being “poor in spirit.”

We find a very strange statement in the second beatitude: “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

What would you think of a person who said to a crying child, “Why are you so happy?” You probably would conclude that the person was either crazy or cruel! The response to Christ’s remark that a mourning person is happy has been similar.

Sorrow—The Way to Happiness

Only those who enter into the abundance of God’s life receive the blessing of divine comfort

The statement does not seem to add up. It is here that we need to remind ourselves that the Beatitudes were not spoken to unbelievers but to the disciples.

Remember verse 1? “And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him.” What Jesus said regarding the way to happiness is directed to Christians alone, those who are capable of experiencing life at its highest level of happiness.

“Blessed [happy] are they that mourn.” Does this refer to persons who wander around with a dismal countenance, downcast persons whom you dread to see because they are always bearers of some woeful news?


Not at all! As J. B. Phillips translates this verse, Jesus said, “How happy are those who know what sorrow means, for they will be given courage and comfort!”

There are two kinds of sorrow, however. One leads to happiness and the other to misery. One carries with it a blessing and the other none at all. One leads to life and the other to death. Paul distinguished between the two in 2 Corinthians 7:8–10. One he called “godly sorrow” and the other he called “worldly sorrow.”

He explained, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (v. 10 NIV). To understand this beatitude and experience the happiness it promises, we need to recognize sorrow that leads to misery and sorrow that leads to happiness.

I. Sorrow that leads to misery. When Jesus said, “Blessed are they that mourn,” he meant a different sort of mourning than what most people experience. Too often our sorrow is the wrong kind. It is what Paul called “worldly sorrow [that] brings death” (2 Cor. 7:10 NIV).
But exactly what type of sorrow leads to misery?

A. Sorrow because of getting caught. Remember, “many sorrows shall be to the wicked” (Ps. 32:10). And one of their many sorrows is that of getting caught. The thief who is arrested, the drug pusher who is apprehended, the student who cheats, or the husband or wife who is unfaithful may be sorry to have been caught, but this sorrow has no blessing because it is void of repentance.

Our prisons house many who are sorry they were caught but who are not sorry for their sin. If given another chance, they would do the same thing again, as is evidenced by the alarming number of repeat offenders. Theirs is a sorrow that leads not to happiness but to misery.


B. Sorrow because of failing in a sinful scheme. The Bible warns us that “whoever digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit they have made” (Ps. 7:15 NIV), and that “[God] catches the wise in their craftiness” (1 Cor. 3:19 NIV). For example, a man crashed his car and its frame is bent.

He has the body repaired and painted, and then attempts to sell it without telling the prospective buyer the whole truth. Liking the car, the buyer takes it for a test drive and has a mechanic friend look it over.

To the mechanic’s trained eye, the bent frame is obvious. The buyer returns the damaged vehicle, and the sale falls through. The owner is sorry but only because he failed in his scheme to deceive another.

This same type of sorrow may result from failure to destroy another’s reputation or failure to be accepted as more than we know ourselves to be.

C. Sorrow because of the consequences suffered. Sorrow for consequences rather than for sin leads to misery. Simon the sorcerer thought Peter and John had magic more powerful than any he knew about, so he offered them money and said, “ ‘Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’ Peter answered: ‘May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!

You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.’


Then Simon answered, ‘Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me’ ” (Acts 8:19–24 NIV). Simon did not seem to be sorry for his sin but rather asked Peter to pray so its consequences might be removed.

There is sorrow that leads to misery because of the consequence suffered. But the sorrow of which Jesus spoke in the second beatitude is quite different, for it is sorrow that leads to happiness.

II. Sorrow that leads to happiness.
In contrast to the world’s sorrow that brings death, Paul recommended “godly sorrow [that] brings repentance that leads to salvation” (2 Cor. 7:10).

A. Sorrow that is born of conviction. J. B. Phillips’s translation of 2 Corinthians 7:8 stresses the right kind of sorrow: “I can see that the letter did upset you, though only for a time, and now I am glad I sent it, not because I want to hurt you but because it made you grieve for things that were wrong.”

The Corinthians’ sorrow eventually led to happiness because it was born of conviction. Edward Hastings interprets the beatitude, “Blessed are they who are ashamed of themselves, of their shabbiness in character, their meanness of conduct.”

Sorrow for sin is not a symptom of a sick soul; it is evidence of returning health. People who are deeply convicted of their sin will come to the Savior as instinctively as sick people will go to a doctor. This type of sorrow leads to happiness.


B. Sorrow that is expressed. Sorrow that leads to happiness inevitably expresses itself. It cannot be contained! The word used for “to mourn” is the strongest such word in the Greek language.

Often it is used for mourning for the dead. It is the sort of grief that so intensely grips a person that it cannot be concealed. It brings not only heartache and tears but also confession and a changed life.

1. Through confession. David’s return to purity and thus happiness began with his confession: “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Ps. 51:3–4 NIV).

2. Through a changed life. “The sorrow which God uses means a change of heart and leads to salvation” (2 Cor. 7:10 PHILLIPS). People are really changed when they suddenly come up against something that opens their eyes to what sin is and to what sin does.

A boy may go his own way and never think of effects or consequences. Then one day he may see a friend destroyed by drugs, alcohol, or immorality. Suddenly he sees sin for what it is and experiences cutting sorrow for his own sin, which is expressed through a changed life.

C. Sorrow that is blessed. Jesus said, “Blessed are they that mourn.” Here “blessed” has a dual meaning. It means “blessed” and “happy.” Four blessings result from sorrow that leads to happiness.


1. Forgiveness of sin. First John 1:9 promises, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” No people who mourn over their sins can know the comfort that is promised until their sins are forgiven.

So long as the burden and guilt of sin rests heavily on them, they cannot be comforted. It is when they experience the loving forgiveness of Christ that comfort and the “peace that passes all understanding” become theirs.

2. Restoration of fellowship. First John 1:7 says, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”
David’s lust led to murder, which in turn led to falsehood and estrangement from God.

Following Nathan’s accusation, David became deeply convicted of his sin. His personal anguish is recorded in Psalm 51. Then he prayed for the restoration of fellowship: “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (v. 12 NIV). His sorrow led to confession, which led to forgiveness, which led to restoration of fellowship with God.

3. Strengthening of character. “How happy are those who know what sorrow means, for they will be given courage and comfort” (Matt. 5:4 PHILLIPS). Sorrow can have a godly reference. God can turn sickness and sorrow into good. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28 NIV).

God uses sorrow to build character and thus to bring happiness. You cannot reverse the beatitude to say, “Blessed are they who never mourn. Blessed are they who are always lighthearted and never serious.” If there were no suffering or sorrow, there would be no sympathy.


4. God’s comfort. Jesus said that those who mourn “shall be comforted.” Hastings said the word comfort is suggestive of bracing rather than soothing. It speaks of strength that comes from companionship with God. Jesus assured us here, out of his knowledge of life and his rich experience of the human heart, that only those who enter fully into the depths of life—their own and others—are truly blessed. Only those who enter into the abundance of God’s life receive the blessing of divine comfort.

On the Pennsylvania Railroad during the early 1900s, two trains collided, killing several people. It was determined that the surviving engineer was responsible for the accident.

He was questioned repeatedly, and the entire experience became too much for him to handle. Eventually he was driven into a psychotic state and could hardly carry on an intelligent conversation.

The president of the railroad, Mr. Atterbury, asked to meet with the engineer, who apprehensively came to the president’s office.
Mr. Atterbury placed his arm around the engineer’s shoulders and said, “Old man, we have had a streak of bad luck, haven’t we?” For some time the president and the engineer stood together weeping.

Then Mr. Atterbury said, “One thing I want you to remember as long as you work for us is that whenever any employee of the Pennsylvania Railroad is troubled, I am troubled too.”

Soon the old engineer began to speak and think clearly. Because his boss cared enough to grieve with him, he was healed.


All around us are faultfinders on the prowl to heap guilt and blame on others.

But you and I can join the blessed minority who care and are willing to mourn even with those who are to blame. When we become such mourners, we will both comfort and be comforted.

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God Has Not Forsaken You!

David Jeremiah



Great is Thy Faithfulness. There is one attribute of God that falls like the morning dew on Jeremiah’s tortured brow. He writes, ‘This I recall to my mind; therefore, I have hope.

God Has Not Forsaken You! | Sermon by Dr. David Jeremiah

Great is Thy Faithfulness. There is one attribute of God that falls like the morning dew on Jeremiah’s tortured brow. He writes, ‘This I recall to my mind; therefore, I have hope.

Through the Lord’s mercies, we are not consumed because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness.’ That great song we sing didn’t come on a mountaintop experience when all was well. It came in the midst of the darkest night of Jeremiah’s soul.

When you read Lamentations 3, you wonder if there are some missing verses because, all of a sudden, you get to verse 21, and Jeremiah seems to switch from pain to praise on a dime. Did someone find this manuscript and cut out some verses? No, I don’t think that’s what happened. Jeremiah did what every believer must do if we’re going to encourage ourselves in times of difficulty.

We stop listening to ourselves, and we start talking to ourselves. ‘This I recall,’ he said. ‘This I recall to my mind.’ We have to learn even in the midst of life’s most painful situations to bring something to mind. We have to remind ourselves of God’s unchanging, overarching, undergirding faithfulness.

We have to remember God’s continual compassions which are new every morning. Now, I love this hymn based on this passage, ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness,’ but the author of the hymn, Thomas Chisholm, made one slight mistake.


The hymn says, ‘Morning by morning, new mercies I see.’ But that’s not what Jeremiah said. Jeremiah did not see any visible morning mercies when he wrote Lamentations 3. At that moment, he had no visible evidence of God’s mercy at all.

Morning by morning brought nothing but pain and dread. But Jeremiah said, in effect, even if I don’t see any tangible blessings right now, that does not alter God’s mercy, God’s compassion, God’s faithfulness, whether I can see them or not. God’s mercy is continual.

He is my portion; therefore, I hope in Him. Faithfulness isn’t just a quaint morality or an old-fashioned virtue. It’s the core of integrity. It’s the glue that holds our culture together. Without faithfulness, relationships can’t survive, and society can’t function. It is essential to life on this Earth.

In other words, without the faithfulness of God, for example, the universe would be erratic and unpredictable. The planets would wobble in their orbits, and the laws of nature would be unreliable. The sun would shine when it felt like it, and when it didn’t, it wouldn’t. Without the faithfulness of God, there would be no stability in the universe at all. Did you know the Bible says in Colossians 1:17 that through Jesus Christ, He is before all things, and in Him, all things hold together?

Psalm 89:2 actually says that God’s faithfulness is established in the very heavens. And in Genesis, we have one of the great promises that, to me, is the great illustration of the faithfulness of God.


God promised after the flood, ‘While the Earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease.’ You know what? Since He made that promise, we’ve had seedtime and harvest every year, cold and heat every day, winter and summer every year, and day and night.

Never once has it failed. Behind the stability of nature is the consistency of God, and it’s a source of great thanksgiving for all of us. In the hymn that’s written about the faithfulness of God, there’s a verse that goes like this: ‘Summer and winter and springtime and harvest, sun, moon, and stars in their courses above, join with all nature in manifold witness to thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.’ I came here to tell you that our God can be always trusted, eternally trusted. He never forgets, never falters, never fails.

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