Hey guys, I hope you all are having a wonderful and blessed weekend! I am!
First, I went to the doctor this week and he prescribed for me some medication to help me get my sleep back in rhythm. Today, after just two days of back-to-back 8+hours of sleep (the first in literally years) I feel great!
Amazing what sleep can do, right?
But besides that, I want to share this video I just made and posted several other places, particularly Facebook. It’s an invitation to come visit with us for Easter, either in person or online.
If you can’t visit with us in person, yet you want to be a part, check us out live on Facebook both at 7am and 11am Eastern on Facebook at @bethlehembaptistwarthen.
I appreciate all of you. Eventually I will get back to reading all of your posts, too! I miss them.
If you think the title for this post was long, get ready for some seriously beyond-the-normal word count 🙂
Up until this Sunday evening, I had never preached a sermon or taught the Bible straight from a manuscript. This was the first time.
The only reason I did this was because a shut-in lady requested that I send her written transcripts so that she could take the time to read what I was preaching and be able to make notes and take her time through it. She said that she was really interested in Ephesians and wanted to do more than just listen on Facebook.
So, it took a little while to write it up, but the process, as I expected, was not only refreshing and fun (yes, fun), but it did cause me to hone my focus and build a better foundation for other doctrines yet to be discussed.
So, what I’m going to do for you guys is post the written text of the sermon. However, should you want to actually watch the video on Facebook, you can go to our church’s Facebook page and watch it there. It is @BethlehemBaptistWarthen. Or, I guess I could just go ahead and post the link. Why make it difficult, right?
Sunday Evening, Feb. 28, 2021 Bethlehem Baptist, Warthen, GA Pastor Anthony Baker Ephesians 2, Pt. 1
I have not preached a sermon from this passage, yet. However, since I will be preaching it this coming Sunday night, I might as well do my best to write it down for you. I pray that it is a blessing and an encouragement.
As we begin looking at chapter two of Ephesians, note that it can be divided up into three or more, maybe even five different word pictures. In other words, the Apostle Paul uses words, he uses illustrations, he draws pictures in our minds with words to help us understand, a little better, at least, the deep mysteries of salvation and the work of the power of Christ in us.
The first section can be seen in verses 1-10. In these verses Paul paints the picture of dead bodies being raised to life, not of their own power, nor by anything good they could do, but by the grace of God.
The second section can be seen in verses 11 and 12, followed by a third in verses 13-18. The second section illustrates the division that Gentiles once had with the Jews and the covenants of God. He does this as he brings up the issue of circumcision. In the third section, Paul mixes metaphors as he illustrates the bringing in of Gentiles through the picture of the “middle wall” being torn down and the making of one body out of two which led to peace with God. We will get to these things in more detail in time.
Then, in a fourth section, Paul references citizenship, followed by comparing us to building blocks in a holy temple built on top of the foundations laid by the holy prophets, Jesus Christ being the Chief Cornerstone.
In a sort of humorous kind of way we can almost laugh at the words of Paul in the beginning verses of chapter three when he says that because of all these previous descriptions of such a great mystery, previously hidden from those in other ages (3:5), he has become a “minister” (3:7) to us of the “unsearchable riches of Christ”! Well, hallelujah! I’m glad, Paul! Because a lot of us are already confused. Amen?
But it was important for you to know these things – what Paul is doing with his words – so that you don’t single out one illustration or metaphor and build a false doctrine around it. Again, this is why I always stress context, context, context! Without studying Scripture in the context of the whole connecting passage – in this case, from verse one of chapter two to verse seven of chapter three – we might miss the whole point that the author is trying to make and possibly make a major mountain out of a minor metaphor.
So, let’s now go to the first verse in chapter two:
Ephesians 2:1 KJV – And you [hath he quickened], who were dead in trespasses and sins;
Before we do any further reading, it will be very helpful to once again look at some words. If we misunderstand the words that are written here by Paul, but translated into English – and old English, at that – then we could easily misunderstand the meaning of the text and even fall prey to bad theology.
The first word we should look at is the word “quickened.”
Now, what is interesting is that if you are looking at a King James Version you will see that this word, actually several words, is in italics. The reason, as we have discussed before, is that the word is not in the original text, but the translators added it to help clarify the original text. What IS there is simply the Greek word ὤν (spelled “on” in English). All it means is that the “You” being spoken to “are.”
Yes, the Greek word on implies being, existence, and such. So, what Paul was really saying has been better translated in other versions such as the NIV, ESV, and CSB. The NIV reads: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.”
Of course, this is not changing the Bible; this is what the Bible originally said. What the translators of the King James Version did was try to clue us in to a truth that is mentioned farther down in Paul’s description of those who are saved. It is all the way down in verse 5 where he finally uses the word that is rightfully translated as “quicken.”
Ephesians 2:5 KJV – Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
Back to the first verse, now. Paul, as we have already seen, is speaking to Christians. He is speaking to those who are “in Christ.” He is speaking to those who had been lost and now are saved. But it is in these verses where he describes what being lost is really like. What it really is.
The next word we will look at is the word “dead.”
Paul said that “you” (you could even apply that to us and say “we’) were DEAD in trespasses and sins. Yet, when we look at verse 2 we see something interesting. He says, that while we were dead, we “walked.” What? Dead people walk? That’s what he said!
Could it be that when Paul was talking about being dead, he didn’t mean it the same way we understand the word to mean, at least when we talk about dead people in the grave? I think it’s important that we think about this, for it makes a huge difference in how we look at other teachings of Paul, especially in the book of Romans, chapters eight and nine.
The Greek word Paul uses in verse two that is translated in English as “dead” is the word νεκρός (nekros). Have you ever heard of the word “necromancy”? Well, that’s what people do when they try to talk to the dead. Halloween kind of stuff. However, if you notice, necromancy comes from the word nekro, which means “corpse.” A necromancer is one who uses witchcraft to reanimate the dead, that is, to bring a dead corpse back to life as a zombie, or something, or to talk with them to discover the future. Paul is telling us that when we were still in sin, before we were saved, we were corpses – dead people – dead bodies. That is why it took the power of God to give us new life, to bring life to these dead bodies, and that’s what he meant when he said that we are “quickened” to new life.
And, by the way, God doesn’t need witchcraft to raise the dead. And I highly, highly doubt any necromancer ever pulled off a genuine Lazarus story.
But that brings me back to verse two, and even verse three… if we were nothing but lifeless corpses, how then did we “walk according to the course of this world” and have a “conversation in times past”?
What we need to understand before we go any further, which is why I bring up these words, is that Paul was using figurative speech. Paul was not trying to say that we were literally dead and lifeless like a dead body in a casket. Yes, he used the term, but it was meant to be a picture of a larger truth: that we were incapable of living the Christian life, the life of the Christ through the power of the Spirit, if we were “dead,” slaves to sin, full of the world’s filth, wanting nothing of the things of God.
Dead people don’t talk, walk, have conversations, or anything like that. A dead body just lies there and rots. Gross, isn’t it? Yet, still, it is only a picture. You and I weren’t dead bodies. However, we were “dead” in that we had not been transformed by the life of Jesus. And as dead people can’t do anything, not even dig themselves out of the ground, neither can the sinner who is “dead in trespasses and sins” work his way out of death into life.
But God… Ephesians 2:4 starts with two of the most beautiful words in all the Bible – “But God.” You see, we were lost and on our way to hell… but God! We were dead in our trespasses and sins… but God! We were rotting away in the filth of the world… BUT GOD, who is RICH IN MERCY, for His GREAT LOVE wherewith He loved us, QUICKENED us together with Christ (verse 5)!
Do you know the song “Love Lifted Me”?
I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore. Buried deeply, stained within, sinking to rise no more. But… But the Master of the Sea… But GOD!… heard my despairing cry! From the waters lifted me, now safe am I!
Love lifted me! Love lifted me! !When nothing else could help, Love lifted me!
Love lifted me! Love lifted me! When nothing else could help… when my works, my deadness, my lifeless separation from God, my sin, my dirty, dead self couldn’t help…Love! Grace! Mercy! Lifted me up to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus!
Love lifted me!
Before we close tonight’s study, I want to quickly move on to verses 8 and 9, some of the more famous verses we know.
Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV – For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Do you understand what these verses are saying? It amazes me that they can be so clear, so understandable, yet so many people in Christian churches teach that you have to earn, you have work for your salvation. In reality, that’s NOT Christian. That’s like every other religion in the world. If being saved had any need of us “doing” any work of any kind, other than simply placing our faith in Jesus and accepting the free gift of salvation which He bought with His blood, then we might as well say we could have been there with Jesus on the first day of Creation and said, God, let me help out the Word, because He is not sufficient to bring everything into existence by Himself, you know. He needs my help! What can I do? Do you want me to sell something? Do you want me to visit something? Do you want me to join something? Do you want me to help the Logos, the Word, Jesus with his faith in His own words?
C’mon, God, you know the Word can’t create the universe out of nothing and bring into being what isn’t unless I help! You do know that, don’t you?
Yes, I know that sounds silly, but please bear with me and consider just one more word for tonight: ποίημα (poiēma), pronounced poy’-ay-mah.
Notice in verse 10, “For we are his WORKMANSHIP…” That is the word poy’-ay-mah.
Paul only uses this word twice in all of his letters; here, and in Romans 1:20.
Romans 1:20 KJV – “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made,[G4161] [even] his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:”
Can I share with you one more passage?
John 1:1-3 KJV – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
God didn’t need us to create the universe and all that is in it. Neither does He need us to save ourselves – lest we boast. Amen!
And, OH, what God has done for us! He has set us up with Jesus in the heavenlies so we can have a high enough seat in the stands to view the entire display of God’s grace! But that parade alone will take ages! Hallelujah!
I am sure you’ve seen it, everywhere you turn there is someone else getting blackballed. If it’s not a Republican for supporting Trump, a celebrity caught by a hot mic saying something supposedly bigoted, or whole media platforms that offer too much freedom of speech, it’s lowly folk like you and me who somehow gain the attention of the all-seeing eye of Big Tech.
No one is safe from being blocked from Facebook, Twitter, or Amazon. No one is safe from being de-humanized. For that’s really the point, isn’t it? To deny a person with whom the uppity-ups disagree the right to exist and prosper in the public square, even though they’ve done nothing illegal? And the “wrong” they’ve done, well, it’s all subjective, correct? It has to be, for objective good and evil is in itself a taboo subject.
Therefore, while I still have a platform, I am going to share what I believe regardless what others may think or whether or not they approve.
Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction. Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy. – Proverbs 31:8-9 KJV
Sanctity of Human Life Sunday
Today is a somber and serious day to celebrate. Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, a day that started with the proclamation first made by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 on the 11th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
Today is also a somber day to remember because it was the first year that Donald Trump did not make a proclamation for this day. Bill Clinton refused for 8 years. Obama refused for 8 years, also. Now I can only assume there will never be another presidential proclamation celebrating the sanctity of human life, for Biden will surely promote the funding of the current national holocaust begun in 1973 with the repeal of the Hyde Amendment and renewed federal funding of Planned Parenthood.
Today was also a day when I used the pulpit I’ve been given to stand of the Truth of God’s Word and hold nothing back in my denunciation of abortion. As I requested, God gave me boldness and courage to say what needed to be said, no punches pulled. If it gets me banned from social media, then so be it. It’s in God’s hands.
I was just the messenger.
“Cursed is he who does the work of the LORD with slackness, and cursed is he who keeps back his sword from bloodshed. – Jeremiah 48:10 ESV
7 Points of Needed Agreement
In this morning’s sermon (which, incidentally, did not last longer than normal) I shared a record 17 points! Actually, the first 10 were not my own, but 10 ways Christians could celebrate Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.
But the last 7 points were mine, and I want to share them with you, today. Unfortunately, I am 100% positive not all of you will be in agreement. However, we should be.
Things we should agree on and/or support if we believe Human Life is Precious and we are made in the image of God.
Life is a right; abortion is a decision.
Human life is more valuable than any other form life.
Human life at any age, young, old, or preborn, his intrinsic value and purpose.
Adoption should be encouraged and prayerfully considered.
The Death Penalty is not immoral; God demanded it. Genesis 9:6
To memorialize a life is to acknowledge the value of life.
Saving a life has eternal ramifications.
Now, I could expound on each one of those points, and maybe I should, but I would encourage you to look up my sermon on our church’s Facebook page. If you have specific questions about any of these points, leave your question in the comment section.
But I do want to leave you with one other thing.
If Not Sanctity, then WHAT?
The word “sanctity” is very appropriate when talking about the value of human life in the context of abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, etc. Consider the various definitions I collected from the web…
The quality of being very important and deserving respect; the state or quality of being holy, sacred, or saintly.
Yet, when our government leaders, our media, our entertainment, and half our electorate mock, bemoan, belittle, and censure those who believe in the sanctity of human life, specifically the innocent life within a mother’s womb, then what?
What is the antonym of sanctity? . . . “wickedness.”
Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” – 2 Timothy 2:19 NIV
Glad it’s over, but at least I’m better prepared for the next catastrophe. Amen?
Thank you, everyone. All of you who have read any of my posts, all of you are appreciated, even Stephen in Canada 😉
Tonight, at 6pm our time, we are going to be having a New Year’s Eve service. It won’t be a long one, nor will it be a traditional-like service. All I plan to do is read a verse or two from the Bible and ask if anyone would like to share a word or two about the past year. Then, as Jesus and his disciples did right before He was taken to be tried, we will have our version of the Passover meal: the Lord’s Supper.
Jesus said of the Passover meal, and by extension the celebration of that last supper we observe today, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Paul said that as often as we partake in the communion meal, we “proclaim His death” until He returns. I want to offer it tonight for both those reasons.
Remember Jesus. If that is one thing we probably did not do enough of is think of Jesus during the last year. On the other hand, it is very possible that many people who never thought about God at all had their minds on things eternal. Did we as Christians take advantage of that opportunity? Did we think about life and death as much as those who were without hope?
I can’t help but think that the Church has been given a rare opportunity, at least a once-in-a-lifetime chance to offer Christ during a time of great uncertainty and questioning. For most of the past year we have seen something comparative to the Ethiopian reading a scroll he barely understood and we as Phillip being sent to answer his questions. How many of us have even considered the answers?
Proclaim His death until He comes. The second thing about communion is that by partaking in it we show that we have put our faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross. We believe that His blood was shed and His body was broken on our behalf, and that Jesus was buried only to rise again. And we believe, as He promised to rise again, He also promised to return. Therefore, we partake with a grateful and expectant heart as we proclaim to the watching world where our faith lies.
Before I go, I want to clue you in to the subject matter of my next substantive post. As some of you may have read, a man named Stephen has been leaving some pretty harsh and antagonistic comments here on the blog. I have honestly come close a time or two to blocking him. However, I’ve not been able to do that.
So, in a previous comment to Stephen, I said that I would like to take his accusations and false charges and answer them one-by-one. Unfortunately, a lot has happened over the last couple of months and I forgot to do so. However, I am in the process of compiling ALL Stephens comments going back to January of this year. From these comments I am going to pull specific issues and questions that I will attempt to address. Please pray that the Lord will use the material I post to open the eyes of blind and allow the hard-of-hearing to hear His voice.
It’s early on a Sunday morning, 15 minutes before 7 a.m., to be exact. I’m sitting here at the dining room table with my Bible and my laptop (graciously provided to me by our church), contemplating the Scripture I am going to be sharing a few hours from now.
What I am about to say is not for everyone, for not everyone has been given the responsibility to lead. Nevertheless, though not all of us will have the opportunity and calling to shepherd a congregation of believers, each and every one of us will at some point be responsible for communicating truth to those for whom we are one day going to give an account.
The verse from this morning’s text that has captured my attention is Titus 2:15.
“These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.”
That was the King James Version rendering. Now, let’s read the text as translated in another version.
You must teach these things and encourage the believers to do them. You have the authority to correct them when necessary, so don’t let anyone disregard what you say.
Titus 2:15 NLT
What I think we as pastors need to remember is that what we have to say needs to be taken seriously. If, however, we stand before our flocks as shepherds with no staff, not only are we “despised,” but so is the Word we are called to teach.
Those who know me the best know that I am a nice guy. Seriously, I hate confrontation so much that I will go to great lengths to avoid it. I want to be liked, even to a fault.
But when it comes to preaching and pastoring, we must take very seriously Paul’s admonition to Titus. As Paul left Titus in Crete to “set in order the things that are wanting,” so has God ordained us to set and keep things in order(1:5), speak those things which become sound doctrine (2:1), and remind believers of their obligations and responsibilities as representatives of God’s grace (3:1).
The problem we in leadership face is how to demand attention, to “let no one despise” us, without coming across as authoritarians or tyrants. Is a pastor to be a bully in the pulpit? Is he supposed to lord his authority over the sheep and force them to lie down in green pasture? Some think so.
However, it is Jesus who exemplified for us the model of servant leadership which draws attention. It is this same kind of example the apostles left us when we read of their boldness after Pentecost.
Our authority comes from the Word of God. Our boldness comes from the Holy Spirit. We are equally accountable as both heralds and subjects.
If we find ourselves timid, skiddish, reluctant, or intimidated behind the pulpit, we must ask ourselves some very point-blank questions. Who are we trying to please, God or man? Why are we called to be heralds? Just to be heard, or to proclaim the Message of the King?
Should we actually “speak the things that become sound doctrine,” then we are accountable to God for what we say, for we are to speak what He is saying. If we are tasked with heralding the Word, then God will hold us accountable for getting the message out to those who need to hear.
If we cower or hesitate in our duty, then we either doubt the authority of the Word, or we proclaim it in the power of our own strength. There is no excuse for the pastor, the shepherd, the man of God to stand behind the pulpit or on the neon-lit stage and waste time offering suggestions and scratching itching ears when we are plainly told, “These things speak…”
“Let no man despise thee” tells us there is a responsibility incumbent upon the preacher.
Therefore, unless you are going to mount the pulpit this morning with authority as one tasked with an urgent message from the King of the universe. . . unless you are going to “be strong in the Lord, and the power of His might” (Ephesian 6:10). . .
There are times when I preach that I look back on what I said and wonder, “Did I do a good job? Did I mess that up? Did anyone get it?”
Other times I feel like a failure. That’s actually not as uncommon as you might think, for if a poll was taken of pastors and preachers I believe you’d find that the results would confirm most ministers feel that way a lot. I would say that there are three main reasons for that: 1) we are our worst critics; 2) we rarely see a response to our calls; and 3) spiritual attacks from the Enemy.
But then there are those times when it seems the Holy Spirit just takes control and you just become a mouthpiece. Last night (Wednesday) was one of those kind of nights. If nothing else, God poured over me a spirit of boldness and authority and I courageously spoke what needed to be said.
Therefore, I want to share a link to the church Facebook page where the study from last night was aired live. It has NOT been edited for time or content.
Last night was the last night of our study through the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, and the subject was Article XVIII The Family.
My main points were that if we as Southern Baptists are going to say this is what we believe, then we should act like it. Secondly, if we truly believe what we say, then we should draw a line in the sand and declare the hill on which we will fight and die. The reason being that what we say we believe is in direct contradiction to the prevailing cultural sentiment, even our own government.
Our forefathers gave their lives to maintain doctrinal purity. They stood on principle and God’s Word when others called for them to compromise, to comply, and to cower. You’d better believe that what we could be facing with the new administration in Washington could very well test our convictions like nothing we’ve ever seen in our lifetimes.
So, what to Southern Baptists say they believe about the family? What do I believe? Well, sit back and join us for a study through the last article in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.
To begin, let me first apologize for the horribly weak audio of me speaking. The video I’m attaching was recorded, as usual, on my iPhone, but for some reason the corded external microphone attached to the pulpit didn’t work!
Ironically, you can hear everyone else clearly.
But beyond the audio issue, I’m attaching this video from Sunday night in order to encourage you. You see, even preachers need preaching to.
Did you know God loves you? He does.
If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear them. Either comment below or email me at email@example.com.
A reader named Stephen decided to throw in his two cents in response to a recent post called “He Will Be My President.” Before we go any further, I’d like to share it with you.
Talk is cheap and you got a website dedicated to it. I get the feeling it won’t take long for the hypocrite in you to come out, but you’ll justify yourself in your hypocrisy. It’s what religious people do. Reeds in the wind, flailing about trying hard to show the world just how saved you are. Keep working at it, your salvation is near.
If you would like to read my follow-up to Mr. Stephen’s comment, you can go to the comment section of that post. For now, I want to direct you to the video below.
It’s not that often I preach a classic three-point sermon, but this is one I would ask you watch. The subject of the sermon this past Sunday morning was how to move forward in “such a time as this.”
I would love to hear your thoughts and comments, even if they are like the one above.
I wasn’t able to save and edit the sermon separately. If you don’t want to watch the first part of the worship service, then just fast-forward. It’s up to you; it’s still a free country 😉
However, if you want to see what it’s like to attend a smaller Southern Baptist church in middle-Georgia, one doing its best to recover from the craziness of lockdowns and virtual-only services, watch the whole thing.
Regardless, I want to share a link to this Sunday morning’s sermon which was streamed live on Facebook. God put a sermon on my heart that needs to be heard by every Christian in America, and beyond.
Years ago, the legendary Dr. Adrian Rogers preached a sermon on the responsibilities of a Christian citizen. The four points of his sermon outline made up the skeleton for mine. I’m no Adrian Rogers, but the Truth is the truth.
Whether a citizen of the United States of America or some other place, we have been left with certain responsibilities that transcend culture and national lines. But now that we are right on the edge of an election that has the potential to either ignite incredible violence and destruction or initiate the end of the Republic as we know it, the subject of this sermon is that much more important for Americans to hear.
I’d love to hear your feedback. Watch and listen to the message God gave me, then leave a comment below.