“We preach Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23); “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).
“No one can redeem the life of another
or give to God a ransom for them —
the ransom for a life is costly,
no payment is ever enough —
so that they should live on forever
and not see decay” (Psalm 49:7-9).
We cannot pay the price of our salvation. We cannot buy for ourselves a place in heaven.
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
What we can never do for ourselves, Jesus Christ has done for us. He has given His life as a ransom for many. He has paid the price of our salvation. His death is the costly price. By dying on the Cross, Jesus Christ has paid the ransom price.The price is not money. “Can’t buy me love. Money can’t buy me love” (Lennon and McCartney). Money can’t buy salvation. Christ has died. He has paid the ransom price. we are set free from guilt and judgment.
This is what we remember when we gather together at the Lord’s Table – “He took my place, and died for me.” “It should have been me. It should have been you.” He died in my place. he died instead of me. He died in your place. He died instead of you.
“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people” (1 Timothy 2:5-6).
The event we remember – the death of Christ for us – is to be preached. The Lord’s Supper is part of the proclamation of the Gospel. It must, however, be accompanied by the teaching of God’s Word. When we remember the fact of Christ’s death for us, we’re doing more than remembering a fact of ancient history. We’re giving our testimony. We’re declaring that the death of Christ is, for us, a life-changing fact, the fact which brings salvation into our lives. This is the message which is preached. The Christ, who died for us many centuries ago, is the Christ who changes our lives here-and-now. He changes your life and mine, for time and for eternity.
“You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18-19). “Our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:13-14).
Let’s think about the way in which Christ changes our lives here-and-now.
(a) He creates in us an appreciation of what He has done for us – “You were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19); “You were ransomed … not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19).
(b) Out of this appreciation is to come both salvation and consecration.
(i) We are saved from a life of futility. We are saved from an empty life. We cannot achieve salvation through our own efforts – “I can’t get no satisfaction … And I tried … ” (The Rolling Stones). Into this hopeless situation comes a Word of hope, a Word that comes to us from the God of hope. There is the hope of true satisfaction. This does not come to us from ourselves. It’s not something that we can earn for ourselves. It’s something that must be given to us. It must be received as gift that is given to us by our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
(ii) We are saved for a life of giving glory to God.- “You were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).(iii) What is the life that glorifies God? It is the life of holiness – He “gave Himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for Himself a people of His own who are zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14). “And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slain, and with Your blood You purchased for God people from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10). This is the song of the redeemed. In the glory of heaven, there will be one event that will be remembered above all others: “Thou wast slain and by Thy blood didst ransom men for God.”
Ephesians 1:3-10; Colossians 1:9-14
We gather together at the Lord’s Table. We celebrate the Lord’s Supper. We remember Jesus Christ, “the Son of God, who loved us and gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20). As we drink the wine , we recall the words of Jesus, our Saviour: “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).
The forgiveness of sins – This is described, for us, in Ephesians 1:7 and Colossians 1:14.
“In Jesus Christ, God’s Beloved Son, we have the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
“In Jesus Christ, God’s Beloved Son, we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:14).
The forgiveness of sins – The sin is ours. The forgiveness comes from God. When we consider this great blessing, the forgiveness of sins, there are two things, which become very clear to us.
(i) God is so generous towards us.
(ii) We are so undeserving of His generosity.
How are we to respond to His generosity? – In Colossians 1:11, we find a benediction. In Ephesians 1:3, we find a doxology.
Benediction and doxology – These are two rich words. They are rich in meaning. They are rich in spiritual experience. they are words which describe, for us, our rich experience of love, grace and mercy – the love, grace and mercy of God.
Benediction – Here, we speak of the blessing of God. from Him, we receive blessing upon blessing. In Christ, he has blessed us with every spiritual blessing.
Doxology – This is giving praise and worship to the Lord. It is offering worship to God, in “wonder, love and praise.” It is exalting Him. It is glorifying Him. It is proclaiming His greatness in “humble adoration.”
We have been blessed by the Lord. Now, we worship Him. we consider what the Lord has done for us. We think of all that the Lord has given to us, and we say from our hearts, “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Thy Name give glory” (Psalm 115:1).
Worship – We have been redeemed by the Lord. We are called to worship Him. We have received the forgiveness of our sins. In worship, we express our appreciation to Him. We offer our thanksgiving to Him.
How are we to worship God?
1. We worship Him as those who know that we “have been bought with a price.”
2. We worship Him as those who have received the forgiveness of our sins.
3. We worship Him as those who are learning to live for Jesus Christ.
(1) We have been bought with a price.
In both Ephesians 1:7 and Colossians 1:14, we find the word, “redemption.” It is a word which speaks of the death of Jesus Christ for our sins. It speaks of the paying of the price. For our salvation, there was a price that had to be paid. In Ephesians 1:7, the word, “redemption”, is followed by the phrase, “through His blood.” Our redemption is based on the death of Jesus Christ. There was a price to pay. Jesus paid the price. Think of the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ. Think of the nails through His hands. Think of the nails through His feet. Think of the spear through His side. Think of the crown of thorns on his head. There was great physical suffering. Was that all that there was? No! There was more than that. There was spiritual suffering – “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24). Think of Jesus on the Cross. Think of Him, and remember this: “You have been bought with a price.”
We worship God as those who know that we have been bought with a price.
(2) We have received the forgiveness of our sins.
Our redemption is like a coin with two sides. On one side of the coin, there is the suffering of Christ, the death of our Saviour. On the other side, there is the forgiveness of our sins, the removal of our guilt. In one sense, our redemption is costly. In another sense, it is free. How costly it was for Jesus! How freely it is given to us!
The forgiveness of our sins – We do not speak of the forgiveness of sins as a general principle, an impersonal principle.We add one short word. This word is highly significant. It’s very important. The word is “our” – the forgiveness of our sins, the forgiveness of your sins, the forgiveness of my sins. This is what it means to be a Christian. Your sins have been forgiven.
We worship God as those who have received the forgiveness of our sins.
(3) We are learning to live for Jesus Christ.
Why did Jesus Christ die? – “He Himself bore His sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live for righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24).
The forgiveness of our sins – This is a great blessing, but it is not the end of the end of the Christian life. It’s just the beginning. We must go on, from there, to live for Jesus Christ. “You were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20) – How are we to respond to this? Do we just say, “Thank You, Lord”, and leave it at that? No! We are to glorify God in the whole of our life. Our worship is to be practical. it is to be life-changing. The words, “you were bought with a price” are repeated in 1 Corinthians 7:23). This time, it is followed by the words, “Do not become slaves of human beings.” Forgiveness is just the beginning of a new life, a life in which we are learning to live as servants of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We worship God as those who are learning to live for Jesus Christ.
“There is salvation in no-one else … ” (Acts 4:12).
How are we to worship God? How are we to witness for Him?
Worship and witness belong together.
* Worship, which does not lead to witness, is incomplete.
True worship doesn’t end the moment we leave the Church building. True worship shapes the way we live in the world. We are to worship God as those who are learning to live for Jesus Christ. When the service, in Church,ends, our service, in the world, begins.
* There can be no real witness without worship.
How can we expect to witness for the Lord if we are not worshipping Him? Where will the strength come from – if we do not wait upon the Lord in prayer, if we do not bow before Him worship? The relationship between worship and witness may be summed up in the words of Isaiah 40:31 – “those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles. they shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.”
This was the story of Christ’s disciples in the early chapters of Acts. When Christ, they were despondent. By the time we come to Acts 4:4, everything is very different: “Many of those who heard the Word believed; and the number of the men came to about five thousand.”
Five thousand believers – Who would have expected this? Remember Peter. He denied the Lord three times. Is this the same man? Yes. It’s Peter – but it’s Peter with a difference. It’s Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:8).
Why are things so different? – The resurrection: Christ has risen from the dead. There is, however, something else. The resurrection of Christ led to something else – the response of the disciples. They responded to Christ. They waited upon the Lord. They received His strength. Then, things happened. Everything changed – after they had waited on the Lord, after they had received His strength.
You can come in to the story of Acts, at various points, and you will see this: God is at work. The Lord is renewing the strength of is people. He is equipping them for His service. The Lord is doing great things. He is working with great power. He is bringing great blessing to many people.
* In Acts 1, we see the disciples, praying in the upper room.
* In Acts 2, we see Peter, preaching on the Day of Pentecost.
* In Acts 3, we see Peter, healing at the gate of the temple.
* In Acts 4, we hear Peter, pointing men and women to Jesus Christ – “There is salvation in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven, given among men by which we must be saved” (v. 12).
* In Acts 5, we see the apostles, taking the message of Christ into the homes of the people (v. 42).
Where do we come into this great story? The great words, spoken by Peter, in Acts 4:12, bring this great story into today’s world. His words open up for us the universal dimension of the Gospel., Christ is for everyone. He is for every nation. He is for every generation. He is for every situation. This is the message that Peter brings to us when he says, “There is salvation in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven, given among men by which we must be saved.” This is a great declaration of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. He is the Saviour of the world. This is the great central fact of the gospel. Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the world. From this great central point – Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the world, we may move out in ever-widening circles to see God at work – God at work centuries ago, God still at work today.
(1) These great words of Peter are part of a story. It’s the story of a healing. It’s the healing of “a man, lame from birth” (Acts 3:2). “This man had been healed … by the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth” (Acts 4:9-10). This story of healing leads to the declaration: Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the world.
(2) This great declaration is part of a story of witness. It’s a story with dynamic. It’s a story with direction. The dynamic comes from God – “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” The direction is towards the whole world: “You shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria,and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). This story is the story of Jesus Christ. It’s the story of the Saviour who died for us. It’s the story of the risen Lord. He calls us, today, to be His witnesses.
(3) “There is salvation in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven, given among men by which we must be saved” – This is to be our story. It’s to be your story. It’s to be my story.
(a) It is to be our story, because it is a story for every nation. On the Day of Pentecost, there were, in Jerusalem, “devout men from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5). These men heard the Gospel in their own language – “They were amazed and wondered, saying … how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? … we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God” (Acts 2:7-8,11).
(b) This is our story because it is a story for every generation. Long before the coming of Christ, God say to Abraham, “In your posterity shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Acts 3:25). In Christ, this promise has been fulfilled. To this generation, God still says, “I have sent Christ to you ‘to bless you in turning every one of you from your wickedness” (Acts 3:26).” Do you despair of this generation? Do not give up! Do not lose heart! The story of Christ is for every nation. It is for every generation. It is also for every situation.
(c) How is our situation to be turned around – for God? Let’s return to our starting-point: Worship and witness belong together. Worship among God’s people is to overflow into witness in the world: “Every day in the temple and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:42). You and I worship God. Are we ready to say, with Paul, “I am not ashamed of the gospel; for it is the power of God for the salvation of every one who believes” (Romans 1:16).
Are we ready to obey Him? Are we ready to do His will? Are we ready to be His witnesses?
“I have come to do Your will, O God” (Hebrews 10:7).
At this time of Harvest Thanksgiving, we must note the difference between need and greed. God provides for our need – but not for our greed.
We think of God’s provision for our material need – but we must not forget His provision for our spiritual need.
In the harvest, we see God’s loving kindness towards us. He answers our prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread.” In the Gospel, we see God’s loving kindness towards us. The Gospel is Love In Action.
God sees our need, and He provides for us a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Through Christ, God produces in our lives a spiritual harvest – “the fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23).
How is this spiritual harvest produced in us? – “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:23-24). Before there can be a harvest, the seed must be planted in the ground. Before we can have life, new life, eternal life, Jesus must die. He must sacrifice Himself for our salvation – “Lo, I have come to do Thy will, O God” (Hebrews 10:7,9). This is the will of God – Christ’s sacrifice, our salvation.
We are saved through Christ’s Sacrifice of Himself for us. Once we have been saved by Christ, we are to sacrifice our own will to the will of God – “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world, will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25).
We are to sacrifice our own will to the will of God. We are to follow Christ (John 12:26).
The Old Testament
(a) Hosea 6:6 – “The greatest thing in all my life is knowing You, loving You” (Mark Prendergras). How does this knowledge of God and love for God grow? We look to Christ. Through Him, we know God. Christ is the Way to God the Father (John 14:6). In Christ, we see God’s steadfast love.
(b) 1 Samuel 15:22 – “The greatest thing in all my life is serving You” (Mark Prendergras). Here, we may note Jesus’ words – “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work” (John 4:34).
(c) Psalm 51:16-17 – How are we to know God, to love Him and to serve Him? We are to learn from the deep humility of the Lord Jesus. He said, “The Son of man came not to serve, but to be served” (Mark 10:45). He washed His disciples’ feet – “If I do not wash you, you have no part in Me” (John 13:8). Once we have been washed by Christ, we are to live for Him.
(a) Matthew 9:3 – “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” We are called as sinners. we are called to receive salvation. In receiving salvation, we are called to be saints. we are called to learn a less self-centred life. we are called to live a life that is centred on others because it is a life that is centred on Christ.
(b) Mark 12:28-33 – Love for God and love for our neighbour – This is not the way of salvation. Note Mark 12:34 – “You are not far from the Kingdom of God” (not far from the Kingdom of God, but still outside of the Kingdom of God). Make sure that you are in God’s Kingdom. Remember that Jesus is the Door to the Kingdom (John 10:9). You and I cannot open the door to God’s Kingdom. Jesus must do this for us. Once you have entered the Kingdom of God through faith in Jesus, live the life of love. This is the way of reaping a spiritual harvest in your own life and in the lives of others.
Christ died “not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).
The Pharisee and the publican (Luke 18:9-14); The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)
Christ died “not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world” – This is something which we, in the Church, must never forget.
When we are tempted to shut out ‘the big, bad world’, we must remember – Christ died “not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
In this world, we face many temptations. Not all of these temptations come from the world out there, the world outside of these walls. There are some temptations which come to us, precisely because we have stepped into the place of worship, precisely because we have chosen to worship God.
Jesus was very aware of the dangers which face religious people, especially those who are very religious. The more religious we are, the more we are tempted to take pride in ourselves, in our own religion.
Jesus was a storyteller. He told stories. They were stories with a difference, stories with a message, stories full of spiritual truth. One of His stories was the parable of the Pharisee and the publican. It is a story about two men – two men who went to the Temple to pray. One of them – the Pharisee – was very religious, and didn’t he know it? He was full of himself. The other man – the publican (or tax collector) – was a worldly man, deeply involved in the affairs of the world.
Why does Jesus tell us about these two men? are we left to wonder, “Why did Jesus tell us this story?
Luke makes it very clear why Jesus told this story. “He … told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others” (Luke 18:9).
What was Jesus saying to them? What is He saying to us? – Don’t trust in yourselves. Don’t despise others. We could put this more positively. Trust in Jesus Christ, your Saviour. Love others with the love of Christ.
How are we to trust Christ? How are we to love others with His love?
* Do you want to learn to trust Christ? – Remember this: He died for your sins.
* Do you want to learn to love others. Remember this: Christ died not for your sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
Whenever you have two groups of people – religious people (like the Pharisee) and worldly people (like the publican or tax collector), there is always the danger of a proud ‘us and them’ way of thinking, creeping in and distorting our whole outlook.
We take pride in ourselves. We become far too self-conscious about our religion and our morality. we look down upon others. we see a great difference between ‘us and them.’
This kind of thinking is very dangerous. Whenever we start thinking like this, it becomes very difficult for us to hear what Christ is saying to us.
What is He saying to us? To hear His voice, we must come to the Cross. At the Cross, we learn about ourselves, and we learn about others.
We look at ourselves, and we say, “I am the sinner for whom Christ died.” We look at others, and we say, “They are the sinners for whom Christ died.”
If a deeply harmful ‘us and them’ thinking is to be avoided, we need to affirm both these vital truths: I am the sinner for whom Christ. They are the sinners for whom Christ died.
We do not say, “I am the sinner for whom Christ died”, and, then, forget about the world out there. We do not say, “They are the sinners for whom Christ died”, and, then, imagine that we, religious people, are not really sinners, that we, religious people, do not really need to trust the Saviour.
* Perhaps, you are asking, “Is there no difference between the Church and the world?” Yes. there is a difference, but it’s not a difference which gives the Church any reason for becoming proud and arrogant. We dare not become like Pharisees – “I am not like other men” (Luke 18:11).
What, then, is the difference between the Church and the world?
* It is a difference which is grounded in God’s mercy – “Once you were no people, but now, you are God’s people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
We are to be Christ’s witnesses in the world. This is something we must never forget when we gather together for worship. our worship concerns the world. Can we forget about the world, when the Bible tells us that Christ died “not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).
We belong to the community of faith. We also belong to a wider community – local, national, global. Our praise, prayer and preaching – they are all directed towards the world.
(1) We praise God in this place, but God is concerned with something much bigger. Here are some Bible verses which emphasize the mighty work God is seeking to do when his people praise Him.
(a) Psalm 48:10 – “O God … Thy praises reach to the ends of the earth” – This is God’s purpose.
(b) Isaiah 62:7 – “He establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth” – He fulfils His purpose through His people.
(c) Deuteronomy 10:21-22 – “He is your praise; he is your God, who has done for you these great and terrible things which your eyes have seen. Your fathers went down to Egypt, seventy persons, and now, the Lord your God has made you as the stars of heaven for multitude” – The increase of His people: this is the purpose of God.
(d) Romans 14:11 – “As I love, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall give praise to Me” – God wants praise from everyone.
As we offer our praise to God, we must remember this: Christ died “not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
(2) What are we doing when we pray? Are we just looking for a good feeling? Are we just trying to feel good? No! There is much more than that. We are to pray for others. We are to pray for the world. Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Prayer, which is self-centred, is shallow and superficial. Prayer for others is an integral part of mature prayer. Why, in our praying, are we so preoccupied with ourselves, and so little interested in others? A preoccupation with ourselves is a sign of childishness. it is something which we must grow out of, as we grow in Christ. we must learn to say, with John the Baptist, “Christ must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). As Christ grows in us, as he increases in our lives, there will be a greater commitment to praying for others, praying for the world for which Christ died.
(3) What is happening when the Word of God is being preached. Is it this preaching addressed only to the Church, only to those who have gathered together to hear it? No! It’s also addressed to the wider community. It’s addressed to the local community, to the nation, to the international situation.
How can the Word, which is by a small number of people, affect the wider community?
(a) When the Word of God changes us, it changes the way we live in the local community.
(b) When the Word of God touches the individual, it creates a concern for the nation.
(c) When the Word of God reaches our hearts, it creates in us the heart of a missionary, one who longs for Christ to be known by people of every nation.
What we are talking about here is sharing. We are to be a sharing people. An excellent model of sharing is found in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. In this parable, there are three very different ways of thinking and living.
(i) The attitude of the thieves – “What’s yours is mine. I’ll take it.”
(ii) The attitude of the priest and the Levite – “What’s mine is mine. I’ll keep it.”
(iii) The attitude of the Good Samaritan – “What’s mine is yours. I’ll give it.”
We are to share, never forgetting that Christ died “not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”