Matthew Henry and the Penal Sanctions of the Law

Matthew 15:1-6:

1 Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, 2 “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” 3 He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ 5 But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”— 6 then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.”

“The sanction of this law in the fifth commandment, is, a promise, that thy days may be long; but our Saviour waives that, lest any should thence infer it to be only a thing commendable and profitable, and insists upon the penalty annexed to the breach of this commandment in another scripture, which denotes the duty to be highly and indispensably necessary; He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death: this law we have, Exod. xxi. 17. The sin of cursing parents is here opposed to the duty of honouring them. Those who speak ill of their parents, or wish ill to them, who mock at them, or give them taunting and opprobrious language, break this law. If to call a brother Raca be so penal, what is it to call a father so? By our Saviour’s application of this law, it appears, that denying service or relief to parents is included in cursing them. Though the language be respectful enough, and nothing abusive in it, yet what will that avail, if the deeds be not agreeable? it is but like him that said, I go, Sir, and went not, ch. xxi. 30.”

from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Matthew chapter 15…Find it here.

Commentary Recommendation

I have been a big fan of the Tyndale New Testament commentaries for a while now. For this reason when I saw the Matthew volume for 50% off at PTS’s Cokesbury store I leaped at the opportunity to purchase it. I have not been disappointed. R.T. France does an excellent job in my estimation in developing a quality commentary on the tax collector’s gospel. It is very readable and engaging as well as evangelical and reformed. France deals decisively with progressive commentators who attempt to denigrate Matthew particularly and deftly deflects their attempts to cut his work into exegetical pieces all the while being respectful and careful. France also gives an excellent account of the Beatitudes and how they are properly to be understood and shows how they have been misused and misunderstood as ethical imperatives in our age. Now I am only on page 201 of 416 so I have not come upon the controversial passages in Matthew 24 & 25. Once I have I hope to give you a sense of how France deals with it. Also for those who are curious about the author’s take on Matthew 5:17 France gives the “normal” reformed response to the liberal, dispensational, and/or Marcionite attacks on Jesus and the Old Testament Law. One last thing before I give you the author’s biography. I think the author belies a “general equitist” understanding of the Old Testament Case Law.

About the Author – R.T. France

He was born 2 April 1938, educated at Bradford Grammar School and Balliol College, Oxford (MA). He earned his BD at the University of London and his PhD at the University of Bristol. He served as a curate in Cambridge and then[1]:

Jesus and the Old Testament

I love getting in arguments with people who know only how to parrot what they have been taught. (not for prideful reasons).  The most recent one has been the good old Marcionite heresy that has envolped much of Liberationist, Liberal, and Pentecostal/Broad Evangelical theology that pits Jesus (the “god” of the New Testament) vs. YHWH (the “god” of the Old Testament).  It never ceases to amaze me how grumpy people get when you show them the obvious. In this case we have Jesus and the “love your neighbor as yourself” passage. Many will point to this passage in an attempt to show the supposed difference between the OT Ethic of “eye for an eye” and the NT Ethic of “Love your enemy.” Whereas when you simply point out to them Duet 6:1-9 and Lev 19:18 and show them Jesus was merely reminding us of what the Law already taught. What this attempted argument really shows is that people just plain old do not know their Bibles.

Sermon for Oct. 26, 2008 “The Death of Moses” Deut 34:1-12

Fairmount ARP Church                                                                             October 26, 2008

Scripture Lesson                                                                                                           Deuteronomy 34:1-12

Sermon                                         “The Death of Moses”                                                      Benjamin P. Glaser

Audio of Sermon

In the closing days of the Second World War Franklin Delano Roosevelt succumb to the effects of a hardening of the arteries surrounding his brain. He had been President for over 12 years at the time of his death; having directed the United States through the Great Depression and the vast majority of World War II. FDR was responsible for leading us through some of the toughest and harshest days this nation has ever known, before or since. Whether he did a good and commendable job in his control of our nation’s government is up to the historians but there is one thing that we can be sure of in looking back to those days. Franklin Roosevelt was unable to see, unable to experience the spoils of victory, which included deliverance of the Jews from the Concentration Camps, the release of Chinese nationals from the Japanese labor camps or even to see the surrender of his enemies, but probably most importantly for FDR he did not see the day where the men fighting overseas were able to come home and be out of harms way. As well FDR saw the foundations of the future of this country. Although he was all but being assured of the victory in Europe he knew that the alliance he had made with Joseph Stalin and the Russians would lead to a long and protracted time of tension between the Soviets and the West. Things were less than settled when he died in April of 1945. It would be safe to say that on the day that FDR died there was still a great discomfort and a guarantee that much more would await America in the years to come, for the people he had led the last 12 years.

In our Scripture lesson for this morning we read of the death of Moses on Mount Nebo, but before we speak about Moses death I’d like to spend a little bit of time reminding us about why it was that Moses was not allowed to enter the Holy Land. Because it should seem a little strange to us that the man responsible for leading the Israelites out of Egypt, by God’s power, parting the waters of the Red Sea, providing for the worship of the Lord our God, receiving the Law, guarding the chosen people of God for over 40 years in the desert, among many other things that he had faithfully and willingly done for the Glory of God in his life should be kept from experiencing the joys and wonders of the Promised Land of Israel? I’d like for you if you might to turn with me to Numbers chapter 20 verses 1 through 13 as we read together the background for the reason for God’s refusal to allow Moses into the land promised to Abraham. You can find it on page 000 of your pew bible. [pause for 7 seconds] Starting at verse 1, “In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Sin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried [who was Moses’ sister remember]. Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the LORD! Why did you bring the LORD’s community into this desert, that we and our livestock should die here? 5 Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!” Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them. The LORD said to Moses, “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.” So Moses took the staff from the LORD’s presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” These were the waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarreled with the LORD and where he showed himself holy among them.”

Now at first reading it seems God was a little harsh to Moses and Aaron. Moses did what the Lord our God had instructed did he not? I mean Moses hit the rock just as the Lord had commanded? So why were they punished? Well Psalm 106 provides us with a little commentary on why it was God had punished Moses. Verses 32 and 33 from Psalm 106 say, “By the waters of Meribah they angered the LORD, [they being the Israelites] and trouble came to Moses because of them; for they rebelled against the Spirit of God, and rash words came from Moses’ lips.” So here we have Moses being punished, one for his failure to control the people of God and for his and Aaron’s immature, almost childlike screaming at the people and their taking credit for the miracle of God. Look again at verse 10 in chapter 20. Moses says. “”Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Now who brought water from the rock? Did Moses bring the water from the rock? I do not think so. Moses in taking credit for the work of God had committed sin, the same sin that the representatives who had gone in chapter 13 of Numbers to explore Canaan had committed against God, not trusting in the Word of God to provide His people with the necessities that they needed and with the promises of His Word. This is key for us to understand in this time of great upheaval in our nation. Shall we be like the Israelites challenging God and His will in these times and shall we be like Moses reacting with anger and resentment, lashing out in rashness? We must trust in God, trust that God is not only in control of everything that is happening but also that it has a purpose in his providential hand and will in due time prove beneficial to God and His people. We must also remember that it is God who provides for us and must never come to the understanding that we can provide for ourselves using the means God has commanded for us as Moses tried to do here in this passage from the Book of Numbers, because we have seen what the punishment for such a lack of trusting and understanding in what God has planned for us in his Divine Hand.

Moving back to Deuteronomy 34 and our Scripture lesson this morning we have come to the end of Moses life, the wandering in the Wilderness of Sinai has ended. The last of those God had promised would have to die before they could enter the Promised Land has passed away and now God has allowed for the Israelites to approach the River Jordan to begin the process of preparing to take control, to annihilate the residents of Canaan as God had commanded them. Starting in verse 1 we read, “Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the LORD showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the LORD said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.” John Calvin at this point in his commentary on this passage makes a statement that we must understand at this juncture in the Scriptures, he says, “Now, the ascent of Moses was equivalent to a voluntary going forth to death: for he was not ignorant of what was to happen, but being called by God to die, he went to meet death of his own accord.” We observe in verse one that Moses, though of an advanced age required no assistance to scale a large mountain, which tells us that he was not in poor health. I do not know about you but I am a young, spry 28 year-old man and I could not imagine being like Moses who was 120 at the time of his death climbing all the way to the peak of Mount Nebo in the mountain range of Pisgah. Also we notice that Moses died alone with God on the top of Nebo, with none to hold his hand, alone to face the reality of his sin. [pause for 5 seconds] Though why is any of this important? Why does it matter if Moses went on his own accord to die upon the mountain? Why should we feel sorry for Moses? Firstly it matters because it had been appointed by God that it be so. It matters because Moses was a faithful follower of God’s call and God’s will, knowing that God had commanded that he should not enter the Promised Land. He was perfectly satisfied by God’s providence to get an understanding of what God has provided in the boundaries of the Kingdom that will come to be in Palestine, Moses knows by faith that God will be true to his promise and give him a gaze into the blessing which God had promised, that which was but a type of the blessing Moses himself was about to receive in his death. Moses had learned from his earlier sin at Meribah. He had learned to trust in what God had called him to do. Though most importantly these verses of God’s Holy Word teach us something even greater.

I ask you now to think of anybody else in Scripture that this reminds you of, anyone else in Scripture who went willingly to His death on a mount, who otherwise was in perfect health, who lovingly carried out the will of His Father who is in Heaven. Who else died alone on a mountain? Who also was given a glimpse of the glory that awaited Him for following the Will of God?

Turn with me if you will to the book of Matthew chapter 27, verse 41, which is page 000 in your pew bibles. [pause] Starting at verse 41, “The chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ “In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him. From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus here like Moses went freely to His death. He also like Moses died alone, abandoned by the disciples, abandoned by His people, to die an excruciatingly painful death upon the Mount of the Skull outside of Jerusalem. There was isolation in that hour of unexplained desertion; misery and loneliness that is unfathomable to us. Christ sounded an intense cry quoting the 22nd Psalm, of which we can barely even begin to understand, this chasm that was created between God and Jesus in Christ’s death was greater than any expanse we can imagine. We get a picture of this chasm in our Scripture lesson when we read of Moses’ separation from the Promised Land. Moses was looking out across the plains of Moab, across the River Jordan in to the land that would be Jericho’s, the plains which Joshua would lead the Israelites in battle against all who currently lived in the Land God had promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Moses was barred from this place because of the sin of his people and his own personal transgression. Alexander MacLaren writes, “Christ was parted from God in His death, because He bore on Him the sins that separate us from our Father, and in order that none of us may ever need to tread that dark passage alone, but may be able to say, ‘I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me’—…Christ died that we might live. He died alone that, when we come to die, we may hold His hand and the solitude may vanish.” Christ died alone so that we who call upon Him and receive Christ as our Savior will not die alone as Moses and Jesus himself did at Mount Nebo and on Calvary.

Most hospitals in this country have a policy that no one is to die alone and when someone is close to death the nurse is required to contact the on-duty chaplain so that even those with no family present can have someone hold their hand as they die. They do this because even they recognize the idea that there is something intrinsically wrong with dying by yourself, with no one to share in your pain and in your ache. If those outside of Christ see the agonizing sadness of dieing alone how much more do we who are the followers of Christ have not to fear dying by ourselves because we know that Christ is with us?

In closing, Moses had been called by God to save his chosen people from the chains of slavery in Egypt. Moses had led them through the Wilderness, providing for them in every way that God had commanded him to do. In the same way Christ had been ordained by God, born of a virgin in the City of David, to die so that we, God’s chosen people, the Israel of God may live in the Promised Land of the Age to come. Moses got a glimpse of that land from far away but those of us who live in Christ Jesus are greater than Moses, we have been given the opportunity, the ability in Lord’s Day worship to experience the glory and the power and the presence of Jesus Christ and his Spirit here today. Let us not take for granted, as many have done, the pleasures of worship and the glory that we are able to enjoy because of Christ’s atoning death. Because of Jesus’ work on the cross we who have been blessed to be in Christ because of God’s choosing get to receive this glimpse of the Promised Land each and every Lord’s Day right here at Fairmount Church. Just as Moses was allowed a glimpse of the Promised Land, Christ is our promised place of refuge and peace. So as we go out into a world that is hostile to the Word of Christ let us remember one thing, that we go not alone even to our death. For Jesus Christ, our Savior and King, is with us always, even to the end of the Age.

To God Alone Be the Glory, this day and forevermore, Amen

Partial-Preterist Post-Millenialist

One of the courses I am engaged in this term has been a look at the Doctrine of the Last Things or better labeled “Eschatology”. In this class we have barely yet to scratch the surface as far as ripping apart the pertinent texts like Matthew 25, Revelation 20, 1 Thess 4 & 5, and 2 Thess 2. Before taking this course I had not thought through this stuff very much as where I was before put little to no emphasis on these type of subjects and never had a reason to “stake out a territory” so to speak. So after reading other books prior to this class and in reading an excellent book by Cornelis Venema (an optimistic A-Mill) and beginning a work by Marcellus Kik (a Post-Mill) I have come to the following conclusions (for now)…

1) I believe in Partial Preterism.

What does that mean? Basically it means that I hold that the majority of the events prophesied in Scripture dealing with the “end times” refer to and were fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple cult by the Romans in A.D. 70.

2) I believe the Millennium is symbolic.

The literal 1,000 years that Dispensational Pre-Millennialists push is not Scriptural or in keeping with the Biblical text. In other words the reference to 1,000 years in Revelation 20 is not meant to be taken as a literal 1,000 years.

3) I believe that Christ will come back at the end of the Millennium

Which makes me a post-millennialist (also one thing that A-Mills and Post-Mills share).

4) I believe that Revelation was written before the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

I would highly recommend Ken Gentry’s work here. Basically that the Book of Revelation was written during the reign of Nero. Also that Nero Caesar is the sixth king who is the one who is in Revelation 17:10.

Suggested Reading List

An Eschatology of Victory by Marcellus Kik

The Last Days According to Jesus by R.C. Sproul, Sr.

Before Jerusalem Fell by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

He Shall Have Dominion by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

Post-Millenialism: An Eschatology of Hope by Keith Mathison

Days of Vengeance by David Chilton

The Promise of the Future by Cornelis Venema

This will be the first of several posts on Eschatological issues that will help flesh out my beliefs and illustrate how and why the Scriptures teach what I have professed above.

September 14, 2008, Monaca First Presbyterian Church

Not the best Sermon I have ever written. Sounds a bit discombobulated. May God bless my incoherence.

First Monaca Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) September 14, 2008

Scripture Lesson Exodus 14: 19-31

Sermon “Baptized Unto Moses” Benjamin P. Glaser

Moses in the verses preceding our Scripture Lesson this morning has been negotiating with Pharaoh over the release of the Israelites from the hand of bondage in Egypt. They have gone through all ten of the plagues, the rivers have turned to blood, the frogs have come and gone, the outbreak of gnats and flies has ceased, the livestock of Egypt have died, boils have appeared, hail has rained down from heaven, locusts have eaten their food, darkness has come and gone, and finally the firstborn of all of Egypt and those who had not sacrificed the Paschal Lamb and placed its blood on the door frame have had their first born die at the hands of the Angel of the Lord. Only after all this has Pharaoh released the Israelites from their bondage and allowed Moses to lead them out. However Pharaoh in chapter 14 has reconsidered through the hardening of his heart by God so that, as verse four says, “Then I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that he will pursue them; and I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD.” It is at this point where we come to what we have read this morning, that is the crossing of the Red Sea and the fullness of what we can learn from the events of that day and what came after it.

But before we get to that it is important when we come to texts like this that seem too far-fetched or too much like myth to believe in our supposed more enlightened times that we appreciate what kind of God it is that we are given the delight to worship. We cannot treat these events as having no real meaning for us in the 21st century living in America reading them as we would Aesop’s Fables or the stories of the Brother’s Grimm. As if they are some type of legend only meant to teach some kind of moral lesson. We must comprehend that the Holy Scripture’s speak as one unified voice displaying for us the Almighty majesty of the God whom we have the pleasure of coming to worship this Lord’s Day. The Apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians chapter ten says,” For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were [punished] in the wilderness. Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. “ In other words these events have a very important thing to teach us, because as the chosen people of God passed through the Red Sea many moons ago we too who have been chosen in Christ and have been baptized by the Holy Spirit, pass through the cloud as Paul says to be on our way to the Promised Land. But just as the Israelites who were saved by God from the attacking Egyptians, they were also punished for their refusal to submit to God’s Will and God’s Law given to them by Moses at Sinai.

The people in the Exodus event all perform actions that occur not for any other reason but for the Glory of our Almighty God alone who is the sovereign and the supreme ruler over all of His creation. Nothing happens but for the Glory of God and only according to the purposes of God. We would think that the Israelites having seen this work, this parting of the seas that had been done through Moses, would have followed to the letter what Moses tells them to do. However we know it takes but a few days after witnessing the awesome power of Almighty God for the Israelites to fall away and construct an idol of their own making, bowing down to worship an inanimate object that has no power, no glory, no holiness because they had already forgotten the salvation God had provided for them in their rescue from the hand of the Egyptians. Refusing to submit to the Grace God had provided for them in the Law given to Moses. Of course it easy for us today to look back at the Israelites with disdain and contempt, but how we follow the same pattern. Falling for the wiles and the snares this world provides for us, trusting not in the power of our Almighty God who has rescued us from our own sin, instead trusting in the weak, powerless, and falsity that is the world.

This fight we have with God is as old as humankind itself. This fight is this old because we refuse to humble ourselves before the Lord our God. Why do we do this? Why do we who know that our omnipotent God, powerful enough to free His people from bondage, to part seas, destroy the most powerful Army on earth, Our God whom alone we can cleave, to save us from ourselves, why do we continue to deny him in this way? We are reminded of the words of David in Psalm 18:27 “The humble O Lord, thou wilt save; and the eyes of the proud wilt thou cast down:” We must be humble before God. We must recognize our fallen nature, our inability to save ourselves. That is what we do when we ask forgiveness for our sins. We recognize that we have fallen short of the Glory of God and that we need his help in reaching that Glory because we cannot do it. Romans 3:9-18 says, “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. As it is written: There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit”; the poison of bees is under their lips”; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways; And the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” We are utterly incapable of coming to God, He must come for us. As He has sent Moses to bring the Israelites from Egypt so to He has sent Christ to bring us to Him. Submitting ourselves to His Law as the Israelites are called to submit to Moses and the Law God has given him.

We must not look at submission as a burden but must look at it as the exact opposite. Submission is the glorious reality that we do not have to rely on ourselves for our own salvation. For I know if I had to rely on my own will to get me to the promised land I might go backwards let alone go forward towards the Promised Land. So we must look at this call to submit to the will and Law of God not as a yoke that we have been made to bear but that the yoke has been lifted from us so that we may be with Christ in Paradise. You see Christ died so that we do not have to. So that death could lose its sting and we could have victory over our foe. It was so that fallen humanity which cannot even come close to reaching the perfection that God requires of us could be with our Father in Paradise. There is a glorious reality in understanding that God has shown us any mercy at all. We who dishonor him at every step and deny his calling have been given this magnificent gift that is Jesus Christ so that we may have a right relationship with our creator. We shall not deny His will should we? We cannot allow the Devil to deceive us to believe that we can be the author of our own salvation or that we can of our own power perfectly follow this will. The Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter Eighteen puts it this way: “I. Although hypocrites, and other unregenerate men, may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions: of being in the favor of God and estate of salvation; which that hope of theirs shall perish: yet those who truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before him, may in this life be certainly assured that they are in a state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God: which hope shall never make them ashamed.”

It is God’s will that we submit to Him, that we stop resisting His will, that we allow Him to have complete control of our lives. Submission requires humility because it requires that we acknowledge that God is more capable of directing our lives than we are ourselves, and it also requires that we acknowledge that God has a greater right to direct our lives than we do. God is in opposition to our foolish pride. He demands our complete submission to His Word and to His Word alone. This is what the first commandment is all about. We shall have no other Gods before him. Humanity cannot serve both God and Mammon. We must only serve Him that created us not just because that is what God commands in Scripture but also because we are incapable as fallen humans to perfectly follow the Will of God in and of our own ability. The devil tries to get us to resist God’s Will by telling us that we can know better than God, that is what the words to Eve in the Garden were all about and that we have a right to do as we choose with our own lives, the sin of the time of the Judges chapter 17 verse 6, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” The fact is all sin is rebellion against God’s will and submission is part of true repentance towards God. We resist the devil by submitting to God, and submitting to God is the same as drawing near to God; therefore, when we submit to God the devil flees from us because he does not want to be near God. When we humble ourselves before God by submitting to His will, we acknowledge that His rights and abilities are greater than our own, and He rewards us by exalting us. God may exalt us in differing ways. He may deliver us from temptation, trial, suffering, or whatever difficulty we are experiencing, or He may strengthen us to bear up under our circumstances. Furthermore, He always exalts us by strengthening us in our faith. The Almighty Father has called us to completely deny ourselves and to follow him. However we should not look upon this as a burden but as glorious freedom. We are as babes in arms leaving ourselves to completely trust in our safety, our feeding, and our protection entirely on the Almighty. Submission is not a burden it is a release from the weight of sin. Let it go. Let God take your anxiety. Let God take your worry. Do not fear this World for if God is for us who can be against us?

As we come to the end of our morning service here on the Lord’s Day and as we begin to prepare to go out from this place into a world that has denied Christ crucified, a world that wants nothing to do with the free offer of Grace given by Jesus Christ, with the Law that he has given to us, we remember Christ’s words in Matthew chapter 5 starting at verse 13 going to verse 20 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Brothers and Sisters know that just as we who are sinners in need of a savior from our bondage to sin as the Israelites were in need of saving from their oppression in Egypt we have been brought forth from that bondage, passed through the Red Sea which is our baptism in Christ, being cleansed by the Blood of the Lamb, having the weight of the Law taken off our back so that we can now submit to the Law of God out of Love and worship to the Lord our God who has died for us on a cross so that we may partake in His Righteousness and that our righteousness may surpass that of the Pharisees who though they followed the Law could not do so with perfection, but those of us who are in Christ Jesus we have been brought forth from the Wilderness of Sin to the Promised Land that is Jesus Christ. All those in Christ will be like the Israelites who are in Moses, and they will pass safely to the other side as the Israelites did. However all those who are not in Christ will be like the Egyptians, and will be swallowed up in the furious wrath of God in the torment of the sea.

To God Alone Be the Glory of This Day and Forevermore. Amen.

Sermon For July 13, 2007; Parable of the Sower

Fairmount Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church July 13, 2008

Scripture Lesson Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Sermon “The Sower and His Seed” Benjamin P. Glaser

Audio of the Sermon

While I was growing up I worked at various farms in West Virginia and on my parents own humble garden doing odd jobs and I remember that when it came time to harvest in the Fall the farmers would go and save the seeds from their best crops, whether they be corn, barley, or tobacco, to plant in the spring. It would not make much sense for them to go and find the runts of the summer’s growth to replant. A planter who did that would be a hungry farmer come next fall and as any reputable farmer will tell you the best way to grow good crops is to use good seed. So it is with the Scripture lesson this morning from Matthew’s gospel. However we must be careful when coming to this particular text because it lends itself to be both a minefield for incorrect teaching and a gold mine for excellent words for the people of God. Many take this passage to mean that we are the seeds and that we must be careful where we lay down roots so as to keep ourselves away from the danger that thorns and rocky ground provide. However this seed has nothing to do with us and everything to do with the Gospel message of Jesus Christ of which the Scripture both Older and New teach us. The soil in which the seed grows and it’s Sower shall be the focus of this sermon this morning

So it is here that we find ourselves this Lord’s Day at the side of the Sower watching as Christ teaches the disciples and those gathered by the sea through a parable in the middle of Matthew’s gospel. The first thing that we need to answer when coming to this passage is who the Sower is in the parable that is spreading the seeds and from where these seeds come. In the immediate context of the passage the Sower is Jesus Christ who has come to preach and teach the Gospel of his coming to the Jews, which is the seed that he speaks of the Sower spreading. However this is not the end. In explaining the passage Jesus is also telling the disciples that just as many will hear his message and the majority will fall away and desert him when the times get rough so to when the disciples themselves become the Sower, sowing the seeds that Christ gives them that the greater part they reach will in the ways described in the parable fall away. Nevertheless they should not be discouraged by this because there will be a remnant who will survive to maturity and through the disciples spreading of seeds by teaching and preaching the Gospel they will explode a hundredfold and thus the Kingdom of God will continue through the ages growing and increasing. We can see this most obviously at Pentecost in Acts 2 when through Peter’s preaching, through his sowing of the seed of the Gospel 3,000 were baptized and became believers in Christ Jesus. This is why Paul writes in his letter to the Romans in chapter 10 verses 12b-17, “…for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!” However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” We can easily place the word Sower in for preacher in Paul’s letter and it will have the same meaning. Preachers are given a special task to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all sinners. Charles Spurgeon, the great British parson of the 19th century preaching in a rapidly changing environment quite like ours wrote, “The preacher of the gospel is like the Sower. He does not make his seed; it is given to him by [Christ in His Word]. No man could create the smallest grain that ever grew upon the earth, much less the celestial seed of eternal life. The minister goes to his Master in secret, and asks him to teach him his gospel, and thus he fills his basket with the good seed of the kingdom. He then goes forth in his Master’s name and scatters precious truth. If he knew where the best soil was to be found, perhaps he might limit himself to that which had been prepared by the plough of conviction; but not knowing men’s hearts, it is his business to preach the gospel to every creature—to throw a handful on the hardened heart, and another on the mind which is overgrown with the cares and pleasures of the world. He has to leave the seed in the care of the Lord who gave it to him, for he is not responsible for the harvest, he is only accountable for the care and industry with which he does his work. If no single ear should ever make glad the reaper, the Sower will be rewarded by His Master if he had planted the right seed with careful hand. If it were not for this fact with what despairing agony should we utter the cry of Esaias, “Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?”

For today’s Christian man or woman this is a very important thing for us to hear. Both Jesus and Paul are teaching us today through the gospel lesson and this passage in Romans that even though many will come to you with flashy new ideas about how people can be reached with the message of the gospel still the best and only way given to us by God to do so is through the preached word. I often hear my contemporaries at Pittsburgh Seminary tell stories about how this is a visual culture and how young people are only drawn by images and by cleverly devised modes of communication. However Paul tells us in 1st Corinthians chapter one verses 22-25, “For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.“ God has ordained this foolishness of preaching precisely because it is not the signs the Jews seek and not the wisdom of the Greek philosophers. In truth the preaching of the Word is the ONLY SOURCE OF JOY that can be found in this world. It isn’t in the whiz-bang methodologies of today, as that supposed joy is fleeting. As the disciples said to Jesus, “where can we go, Lord, you have the words of life”! We fail to trust in the message we have been given when we devise new ways to preach this message of salvation to the lost. The Sower must trust in the seed he has been given.

Moving to the second part of the Gospel lesson this morning in verses 18-23 we read as Christ’s explains the parable to the disciples away from the crowd. Beginning with the initial seeds that all fall in the road and are quickly eaten by the birds, Jesus makes clear in verse 19 that, “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.” These first groups of people who hear God’s word according to Jesus are like roads that cannot support the life of a seed because they refuse to accept the Gospel at all. They come to church on Sunday’s completely disengaged from what is happening around them, Whether to please a spouse or to fulfill a social obligation they come and balance their checkbooks or read the newspaper. You would be amazed at the things I have seen people do during worship services in my short lifetime. Their hearts are hardened against the Gospel, they hear the word but consciously deny its veracity because they have no intention of receiving it, and they do not design their hearts to take delivery of it much like how asphalt is not designed to grow corn. We must when coming to hear the word preached open our hearts and allow the seed to take root. If we come to God’s house on the Lord’s Day with no intention to receive God’s Grace then we shall not be given any. We must come prepared, with our hearts plowed ready to receive God’s Word.

Secondly the seeds fall upon the rocky ground and Jesus explains thusly, “Then on whom the seed was sown in the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word immediately he falls away.” This next group of people hears the Word; they are prepared for the preached word to work in their lives. However like rocky ground they have no depth in their love for the Word. They seek a quick thrill and pleasure from their worship. Not intending on using what they hear only to be tickled by it they come bubbly and excitedly to the throne room but soon they are quickly running and hiding when they realize the power and the trials that come with following Christ and his Word. People like this want no part in the persecution that Jesus promised would come to those who follow him. They are similar to those who use illicit drugs using the church as a medicine in which to hide from the world not seeking the real power and safety of the Word of God and much like the rockets that send the Space Shuttle into space their vigor is soon spent and they come tumbling back to earth. They may on the outside show some sort of profession of faith in Christ but they in their heart are just as hard as the road in which the seed does not take root. They have no depth in their faith, only seeking from Christ the glory that has been promised and not the submission and the intense words of God’s message that we are all called to follow.

Then we come to the seeds that have fallen in the thickets, in with the thorn bushes. Jesus says, “And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” This third type can be best described in Jesus’ talk with the Rich Young Ruler. They are people who trust in the Law, they believe the message of the Gospel but they refuse to go all the way with it. They go further than the ground, which is not suited for farming, or the rocky ground that is shallow because this time the seed takes root and it is a strong root. Yet when it comes time to truly profess a love for Christ and his Gospel they are drawn back into the wordly profession. Whether it be wealth like the Rich Young Ruler or the lust of Herod or any other type of sin they place the pleasures of this world above the pleasures of heaven’s glory and in doing so are choked and wrestled back to the depths away from Christ because they put the pleasures they seek ahead of the will and Word of God Almighty. The Word’s of eternal life have no meaning to them because they cannot see past the false and misleading pleasures of this age to the Glory that is to come for those who trust in Christ Jesus.

Last of all in the parable we read about the good seed that falls upon the good soil and springs up from the ground in bushels and is plentiful. Christ in his clarification says, “And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” This final ground is the ground of the elect. The people on whom God has chosen to bestow the righteousness of Christ so that his glory may be shown through them. What truly distinguishes this ground from the others is not its depth, for the crops that spring forth in the thorns have deep roots or its love for Christ, because the plants that come from rocky ground grow quickly but because unlike the others this ground yields a harvest that is full and bountiful, these crops produce fruit. Jesus speaking in the Gospel of John chapter 18, verses 1-8 says, I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” We then bear fruit, when we act in according to the word of God; when the temper of our minds and the tenor of our lives are conformable to the Gospel we have received, and we do as we are taught.

In closing we know that we can do nothing apart from Christ who does all things for us. We must be careful that when we come to worship in God’s house that we come ready to receive the seeds of life and the words of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, having our minds and our hearts turned to Christ, we shall not come heavy laden for in Christ we have rest. Do not approach with your mind set upon earthly things but upon the saving words of Jesus Christ. The seeds have been sown, the Sower has given us his seed. How will it grow in your soil? Will you turn your heart away? Will you be superficial and shallow-minded in your faith not seeking the depth and richness of God’s Word, and His mercy and grace? Will you let the trivial nature of this life drag you away and strangle the life you have been given in Christ Jesus? Or will you be like the good soil that seeks the depth of God’s word, the safety of his love, and the protection that is in Christ Jesus? We must prepare our hearts, calling on all our brothers and sisters to trust in the Word and the Christ of the Word, to repent for being shallow and stony and to find true joy in the deep rooted soil that Christ has provided.

To God Alone be the Glory today and forevermore. Amen.