Category Archives: Bible Study

Transcript of a Sunday Evening Sermon on Ephesians Chapter 2

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?

Just don’t make fun of my singing, OK?

https://fb.watch/3Y-uiekOBi/

No, I can’t talk without using my hands.

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!

Dear Father, thank you for your grace! Amen!

The view Sunday morning from where I play my bass.
Selfie time! Or, “Make the congregation wonder about your sanity time.”

2 Comments

Filed under Bethlehem Baptist Church, Bible Study, Church

A Response, or Not a Response: That Is the Question

Not long ago I was involved in a back-and-forth comment thread with a subscriber named Stephen. Maybe you’ve read the comments. If not, they are still there and available for your viewing.

At one point I decided to end the back-and-forth commenting and commit to a post in which I would address the plethora of accusations and mischaracterizations Stephen was making. I even backed off from writing a great deal in order to focus on this piece. To be specific, 2 weeks ago I wrote:

“… I am going to take very seriously my responses to your questions, including your – let’s be honest – angry and mean-spirited attacks on my character and intelligence. Also, in order to achieve maximum transparency and allow for others to judge our arguments against the Word of God (our only source of authority), I will be copying and pasting the most pertinent of your previous remarks into a series of new blog posts.”

However, after reviewing eleven (11) pages of comments, and after being advised by several friends and relatives to stand down, I think it wise to keep my response “limited.”

The reason for keeping things confined to maybe just one blog post is that spreading out the discussion would risk the potential of getting off track. It would also potentially fuel a long-running debate that would prove worthless.

The Sermon

On Sunday morning, January 10, 2021, I preached a sermon from the seventh chapter of Matthew. Jesus said in the 24th verse: “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:” Note, the wise man whose house will stand through the strongest storm is one who not only hears the words of Jesus, but does them.

And what were the “sayings” to which Jesus was referring? They go all the way back to Matthew 7:1. From verses 1-21 there are seven (7) main points, the “sayings” of Jesus. You can find them in verses 1,5,6,7,13,15, and 21.

However, it was verse 6 that the Holy Spirit used to speak to my heart (and other social media users in the congregation). It was also this verse that was often quoted by those advising me to stand down:

Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you. – Matthew 7:6 KJV

Now, before anyone – including Stephen – gets offended, I am NOT calling anyone a dog or pig! Neither was Jesus.

The meaning of this verse has to do with giving things of great value to those who by nature will see no use for them and in turn, instead of thanking you, will continue with their attacks.

You see, swine cannot deduce the value of a shiny, costly, and rare pearl; all they see is something to munch on like a nut. It is not in their nature to appreciate rarity and beauty. Likewise, the one who is hostile to the Word of God, who refers to it as a “dead book” written by “fallible and evil men” is hardly going to appreciate any explanation he’s already deemed valueless and tasteless.

Therefore, I’m torn. Do I respond or not? Do I defend the Bible, the organized Church, pastors, paid ministers, even myself? Do I respond to Stephen’s over-generalized accusations?

Another question: Will it matter? When it is unlikely that Stephen will (if he’s still reading at this point) take the time to respond in a calm, respectful, rational, non-hateful, non-smart alec, humble way, what’s the point of investing hours of my valuable time into writing the likes of multiple research papers?

If the 11 pages of comments tell us anything, Stephen’s likely response will be to belittle my hard work and say as many atheists do when offered evidence of Intelligent Design: “That’s not evidence.”

It’s a tough, tough decision to make.

Who Is Stephen?

So, who is this Stephen person? Why take all this time to address his comments? What makes his arguments and accusations worthy of rebuttal? Why not simply say “whatever” and ignore or block him? After all, I normally block comments from people who are so disrespectful that they call me a “POS.”

I guess it’s because I know that others are reading the comments, too. I know that there are those who will never write anything but read what we write when we go back and forth. I know this because several have told me through email and in person.

It’s also a fact that Stephen is a real human being with real emotions, feelings, and a soul. Stephen also lives in a world where his actions and beliefs will ultimately affect others and possibly generations to come. And it would also be good to remember that Stephen is not alone in his beliefs; there are many, many others who think and feel the way he does.

Where there is one Stephen, there are others. Therefore, by taking the time to rebut false assumptions and dangerous theologies, we may or may not be able to affect a change in Stephen, but others may come to know the Truth.

My Observations

I guess it would be good at this point to offer some observations that I’ve made as I have reviewed Stephen’s comments from last year. Since you may have not read them all, the following summary will give you a better understanding of the tone and substance of Stephen’s comments, along with a better understanding as to why I feel addressing all his arguments might be fruitless.

Again, the following bullet points contain Stephen’s actual comments and are contextually accurate. In no way have I cut and pasted his words in order to frame him in a negative light. His comments can speak for themselves.

  • Derogatory Ad Hominem Attacks are Common – I counted at least 22 personal swipes at my character or the character of others who joined conversations. With only assumptions and obvious bias as his foundation, Stephen was quick to use the following derogatory descriptors, to mention a few…
    • Hireling
    • “…the honest [pastors] have left the world of religion.”
    • legitimate” pastors don’t “carry the labels, nor were they employed in religion.”
    • “The cognitive dissonance required to sit through a sermon and not puke is astronomical. But then as we all know, the psychopath target the weak.
      Perhaps your time would be better spent pontificating to your flock Mel. I don’t have much patience for manipulators.”
    • “…you chauvinistic POS.”
    • “…2 bit evangelical religious leaders such as yourself.”
    • “A couple of 2 bit religious business owners about their own agenda is what the both of you are.”
    • “As for your religious business, Baptists are no different than any other denomination or non denomination, it’s all a business, whether you manage it or own it, it’s all witchcraft.”
    • “…why don’t you mind your own family instead of perpetuating religious business that abuses children and those who are weak minded?”
  • Does Not Believe the Bible is the Inerrant, Inspired Word of God
    • “…not bound to a book…”
    • “My authority is Jesus Christ, not a dead book.”
    • “I do like the bible as it contains many truths and reliable testimonies.”
    • “As for Where to fine Jesus” words, they’re everywhere but mostly I find them within.”
    • “I know you disagree all those who belive the infallible, final authority or the word of God must. Their whole faith lies in their belief in the bible. Almost as if, God ceases to exist if the bible has errors.”
    • “The Jesus of the bible can be many different images to many different people and yet you seem to think a unique revelation is wrong?”
    • “…but God is not confined to a book written and compiled by man.”
    • “God has not stopped revealing Himself to men, He doesn’t need a bible to reveal Himself.”
    • “The bible is subjective…”
  • Stephen has a strong dislike for Pastors and Preaching.
    • “I’ve had my fill of men who claim to have the truth.”
    • “God’s people are everywhere, there’s absolutely no need to pay or put up with pontificating just to hang out with them.”
    • “Instead of preaching about ‘leading by example,’ it’s time to start doing it.”
    • “You must assume your position … [use] a couple of bible verses to justify your authority and put me into submission … You must maintain dominance so as to not look weak before your flock.”
    • “Jesus never spoke of giving pastors or to His people.”
    • “Any religious leader would have a hard time justifying their position without Paul’s writings so I understand your desire to bind people to the bible.”
    • “The standards you perceive from the bible are for you, they’re not meant to be legislated and forced onto other, especially if they don’t affect you.”
    • “And there’s no way preaching the Gospel should be a paid position. Jesus is the model of what the Church should be, not Paul.”
  • Stephen has a strong dislike for organized religion.
    • “There is absolutely no difference between the world and those who attend and adhere to organized religion.”
    • “I’ve tasted the paint religion paints with, and will not be painted with that brush. So I’ll continue to paint with my broad brush.”
    • “Though most of my mentors never spoke His name or had any part in religion, they lived Christ.”
    • “…I don’t do religion.”
    • “No bibles, no church, just faith in God.”
    • “As for the church model you justify, this model is found no where in the bible.”
    • “…I’m not a believer that acts is the model for the Church. The Church are those who belong to Christ. We are a living organism and not an organization.”
  • Stephen has made some potentially dangerous ontological and theological statements about Jesus.
    • “When we stand before Jesus Christ, we will then know the Truth.”
    • “I don’t profess Jesus as the only way to God, people can figure that out for themselves. I profess Jesus IS God.”
    • “My authority is in Jesus Christ, not a dead book.”
    • “…Jesus Chris revealed Himself to me and taught me that in fact, my conscience was Him speaking to me.”
    • “After reading the bible 5 times cover to cover, I still wasn’t sure who Jesus was, but He had mercy on me and revealed to me, the scriptures are accurate in their testimony of who He IS. Much like Peter, flesh and blood did not reveal it to me, but my Father in Heaven.”
    • “The Jesus of the bible can be many different images to many different people and yet you seem to think a unique revelation is wrong?”
    • “I don’t recall Christ condemning either the woman caught in adultery or the woman at the well. Nor did He defy from doing what they were doing.”
    • “I hope I’ve made my profession for Jesus Christ alone loud and clear as I learned this from Jesus Christ Himself. This Truth was learned by many and some recorded it. And some of those testimonies were compiled and put in a book that we now call the bible. Fallible men to who’m God revealed Himself to. Go has not stopped revealing Himself to men, He doesn’t need a bible to reveal Himself.”

So, what do I do?

Does Stephen sound like a guy who’s going to respond with grace to someone who gets paid to preach and pastor a church which is linked to an organized religious organization?

If Stephen doesn’t care for the writings of Paul, what good is it to discuss the revelations Jesus made to him as described in the book of Acts and elsewhere in Paul’s letters?

If God has not stopped revealing Himself to men, and if the Bible (I capitalize it because it is a proper noun) is just a compilation of individual and subjective experiences, then to what Authority do I appeal?

If Stephen has already determined that all pastors aside from the “Good Pastor” are hirelings, manipulators, abusers, controllers, practicians of “witchcraft,” and “POS,” what makes me think anything I say, especially if I appeal to a “dead book” written by “fallible and evil men,” will have any affect? Will I only be casting my pearls before someone who cannot appreciate the value?

Personally, I don’t think anything thing I write, whether it be based solidly on the words of Jesus or not, would have any effect on Stephen. After re-reading his comments, it’s hard to imagine he will ever yield the possibility that anything I say could be correct.

HOWEVER, if you would like for me to offer a reasoned response to any of Stephen’s accusations or assumptions, please let me know in the comment section.

In Conclusion

I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t leave you (and Stephen) with something positive. I’ve talked a lot about Stephen and his beliefs but let me close with a few things I believe.

  • There is only one way to God and that is through Jesus Christ (“I am the way, the truth and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me” – John 14:6).
  • I believe that Jesus was and is 100% man and 100% God (hypostatic union).
  • The Bible is our sole source of authority regarding faith and practice, and especially when it comes to understanding who God is.
  • The Bible is not a “dead book,” but “…[is] quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and [is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12 KJV
  • Scripture is not subjective and open to individual interpretation (Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. – 2 Peter 1:20 KJV).
  • There must be a point in one’s life when he goes from death to life, from lost to found, from dead to alive, from estranged to reconciled, from being a foreigner to a member of the Family, from being born in the flesh to being born again, from being the enemy of God to being called His friend. In order to be “saved,” there must be a time in one’s life when he recognizes his need of a Savior.
  • Pastors are gifts to the Church (Ephesians 4:11) and are allowed to be paid for their work (1 Timothy 5:18).

Anything specific I missed? Anything specific you’d like me to address?

If not, I guess I’m done with this project.

Stephen, I do pray that you will grow in a sincere and biblical relationship with Jesus Christ and grow deeper in your understanding and appreciation for the Bible, for it was Jesus Himself who said: “‘O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?‘ And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” – Luke 24:25-27

8 Comments

Filed under Bible, Bible Study, Church, God

The Shepherds and the Sign

The following is a sermon.

Literally, I wrote out my entire sermon in preparation for a service in which I would be preaching to a congregation in Pakistan. I had to preach my first Sunday morning message at 1 a.m.! My interpreter said it would be easier to translate for me if I had my sermon, or at least my outline, printed out.

However, once I started preaching, it became obvious that what I wrote was both too much in length and too much in detail for a translator. Especially doing it over Facebook Live with a lag in the signal.

So, what I wanted to do was post the originally written sermon so that you, when you have the time, can read through it and be blessed this Christmas season.

We will be looking at Luke 2:8-20.

  1. The Typical Shepherd Story
    • There were poor shepherds watching their flocks at night when suddenly, without any warning, the angel of the Lord appeared unto them… looking like a young child dressed in a white sheet with a shiny belt, wings, and a halo.
    • The angel gave these poor, unwanted, unloved, outcasts – because people thought of shepherds as the lowest of society, except for those with disease or Gentiles – the announcement of the birth of the Savior of the world.
    • Then they were told to go to Bethlehem and knock on doors, ask all the people “have you seen a special baby anywhere? He’s supposed to be wrapped in swaddling cloth,” and look wherever they could until they found a baby in a manger.
    • When they did find him (and, of course, they brought sheep with them), they worshipped Him. …along with the Wise men. Except the wise men didn’t show up for at least another 2 years.

  2. The Non-Typical Story
    • Unlike what most people assume, it is very likely that the shepherds watching over their sheep at night were not normal shepherds, but Temple shepherds, priestly shepherds, Levitical shepherds.
    • Unlike what most people assume, these were not unlearned men, but men who had been taught in the Law of Moses and were very aware of the requirements for sacrificial lambs.
    • Unlike normal shepherds and normal sheep, these shepherds and these sheep were special. These sheep were meant to be sold to Jews who didn’t have their own spotless lambs for a sin sacrifice. These sheep were very, very valuable and had to be watched day and night. They were considered “the royal stock of David” (Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon). They were even guarded and watched over from towers made of stone.
    • Unlike what most people assume, it is very likely the sheep these shepherds watched over were the ones who would be born in special birthing rooms, almost like a baby sheep maternity ward, that were clean and stocked with all the things required to aid in the birth of the lamb and to protect it from being hurt as it took its first steps.
    • Unlike what most people think, these shepherds would have been looking forward to the angel’s appearance. No, they may not have thought it would be an angel and the heavenly host, but they would most likely be aware of the prophecy found in Micah 4:8. It reads: And thou, O tower of the flock, the stronghold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem.
      • What is so special about this prophecy? To begin, the “tower of the flock” is migdal `eder in the Hebrew language.
      • Migdal-`Eder is the name of a small village near Bethlehem (See Genesis 35:21) and hence associated with Bethlehem itself.
      • Therefore, these special shepherds watching over very special sheep must have dreamed, they must have hoped, that they would live to hear that announcement. However, I am sure they still would have been shocked and terrified by the angel of the Lord.
      • In case you miss it, the Bible says the shepherds were “sore afraid,” which means they were absolutely terrified beyond words! This was no child in a white robe; it was an angel who had come directly from the presence of God! His brightness would have been indescribable and unbearable. Also, angels are fearful beings, warriors, like the one who killed 185,000 Assyrians in ONE NIGHT!
    • Unlike what most people think, these shepherds knew exactly where to go find this baby wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger, and in all likelihood, it wasn’t a dirty stable in someone’s basement or a dark and dreary cave. IT WAS BACK AT Migdal-`Eder!!
    • Notice, the first verse in our text reads, “And there were in the SAME COUNTRY shepherds abiding in the field…” The words translated as “the same country” mean in the general area, in the outer expanse around an area. In other words, the shepherds were out in the wide-open area around the protective towers called Migdal-`Eder.
    • The shepherds did not need to follow the star, nor ask directions; they said, “Let us now go unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass…” They knew exactly where to go and what to look for, and they went back to the birthing room where sacrificial lambs were born and wrapped – the Tower of the Flock!

  3. The Sign
    • When Luke says that the shepherds went to Bethlehem to “see this thing,” what did they go to see? The “sign.” The angel said, “This shall be a sign unto you, You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
    • Stop and think about what is happening here.
      • You have priestly shepherds, those who are very familiar with the sacrificial system and how a spotless lamb must be used for a sin offering.
      • Next, you have shepherds who have been expecting, generation after generation, hundreds of years, the announcement of the coming of their Messiah, the Son of David, the Lamb of God.
      • Then you have a message from an angel that the Savior of the world has come. How could they know it’s true? What would be the evidence that this babe born in Bethlehem was worthy to bring joy to the entire world? The evidence would be the “sign,” and that was:
        • You’d find the babe – which is the first confirmation that the word from the angel could be trusted.
        • The babe would be wrapped in swaddling cloth. It’s one thing to wrap up a newborn, but a specific kind of cloth strips (some say were made from the used garments of the priests) would have been very unusual.
        • Then, the babe would be lying in a manger (In the exact place you would expect the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world to be born – Migdal Edar!)
          • Languages are funny things. Sometimes I have to speak through an interpreter so that I can be understood. And sometimes the words in one language are very hard to translate into another language.
          • But the word the angel of the Lord used to tell of Jesus “lying” in the bed was critically important. And it was not an accident, nor was it a coincidence, the WAY the word used.
          • The word we translate as “lying” in English is the Greek word keimenon. But what makes this word so special is the case it is in. To be specific (and I know this may sound complicated – and it can be) this one word, a verb, “lying,” is in Present Middle or Passive Deponent Participle – Accusative Singular Neuter. Are you totally confused? Are you wondering what’s so exciting?
          • What I am going to tell you next should make you want to truly shout with Joy! That’s what the angel said, correct? Joy to the world, correct? A Savior is born, correct? This shall be a sign, correct?

            The accusative case refers to the case used for a noun or pronoun that is a direct object. In this case, Jesus – the babe – is the noun or the subject of the action in this verb.

            The Middle voice, however, is what’s so exciting. We don’t have a part of speech like this in the English language. That’s why it’s so hard to understand the full impact of the angel’s message. But what the Middle voice tells us is that the object… and who is that? Jesus, the babe… is the one lying in the manger, but … and here is the part you’ve been waiting for… in this case the object or subject of the verb is the one performing the action! Did you understand what I just said?

            What does Isaiah 7:14 say? It says, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

            What did the angel Gabriel say to Joseph in Matthew 1:21-23? And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

            Dear Church, what the shepherds found in the Tower of the Flock, Migdal Edar, there in the birthing stall where sacrificial sheep were born and wrapped so they would not be marred so that they could be sacrificed as a sin offering, was a baby – Jesus – who wasn’t just a baby placed in a manger by his mother, but GOD WITH US! EMMANUEL!

            HE was the “subject performing the action!”

            HE was responsible for being in the manger!

            HE was responsible for being wrapped in swaddling clothes!

            HE – Jesus Christ – God in flesh – God with us – Emmanuel – “…thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant – the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 – and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).

  4. The Shepherd’s Joy, Joy to the World!

    My dear brothers and sisters, it doesn’t matter if we live in America or England, India or Pakistan, Israel or Egypt, Russia or China… the TRUE meaning of Christmas is still the same – the Savior of the world has come!

    The shepherds had a sad job. They were responsible for raising precious, beautiful little lambs, making sure they were healthy. They protected those sheep with their very lives! They devoted their whole lives to the care and nurturing of those helpless, harmless lambs – all so they could be slaughtered, so their blood could be a temporary measure of forgiveness. How heartbreaking! How sad!

    Don’t you know that somewhere in the shepherd’s heart he longed for the day when the reality of what the sacrifice of lambs symbolized would finally take place? Did he ever think, “One day we will not have to do this ever again”?

    Well, over 2,000 years ago, in the little town of Bethlehem, or maybe just outside the town in a stone tower, the Promise of the ages was fulfilled! God took on humanity and dwelt among us! And where the shepherds found Him was the sign…and HOW the shepherds found Him was the sign…and when they saw it – when they met Him – they were never the same!

    Luke says that they “returned, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen…” And, oh, they had a lot to praise God for, don’t you think? How privileged they were to be the ones who got to hear the announcement that finally came! How thrilled they must have been to see the angel of the Lord and the heavenly host! No church choir would ever compare to that, I’m sure! But most of all, they got to see Jesus, God in flesh, the Great I Am, Messiah, the Savior of the world.

    And don’t miss that last little part of Luke 2:20…”as it was told unto them.”

    Aren’t you glad the promises of God and His Word are true? If so, you can rejoice! You can glorify God! You can praise Him for all the things that you have heard and seen! And you can tell others what Christmas means to you. You celebrate the birth of the Savior of the world, the Savior of your soul, and that God’s Word is true!

    And may this Christmas remind you that if the promise of the coming of the Messiah was true, then the promise of the coming again of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is also true. We may not have been able to see him with our own eyes in a manger, walking the shores of Galilee, feeding the 5,000, dying on the cruel cross, or after He rose from the grave and ate with the disciples. Today we rejoice in faith! We glorify God for the Spirit in our lives! We praise Him for saving us from our sin and delivering us from death unto life!

    But one day, maybe soon, we will hear a trumpet, be changed, and see Him face-to-face as He is! That is worth telling people about! But should that glorious day not come in our lifetimes, we still have this promise that to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord! Amen? Hallelujah!

Remember the shepherds this Christmas, and give God the glory, for great things he has done!

Amen.



1 Comment

Filed under Apologetics, Bible Study, Christmas

Preach What YOU Need to Hear

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 pastoracbaker@yahoo.com.

Blessings!

3 Comments

Filed under baptist, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Bible Study, Christianity, Depression, Love of God, Preaching

Encouragement Time: Keep Your Promises

It’s Friday! You’ve surely got a lot of exciting things to do, right?

Well, if your schedule is clear and you are looking for something to fill a few minutes, here is a link to today’s 2pm “Encouragement Time” I do live every weekday on Facebook.

The main subject of this short devotional time is to make sure you do what you promise to God.

https://fb.watch/19HRHFajsa/

Leave a comment

Filed under Bethlehem Baptist Church, Bible Study

Just Return; He’s Looking for You!

This afternoon I did a live video on Facebook.

I normally do one, a short “Encouragement Time,” every weekday around 2pm.

The subject of today’s video was that of the prodigal son in Luke 15.


You know, I’m not perfect. Are you? Do you ever do things you’re ashamed of?

Do you ever sin? I do. I know perfectly well what it’s like to wonder whether God even wants to hear you confess and repent. I mean, really, hasn’t He heard it all before?

But the story Jesus tells of the Prodigal is one that displays the wondrous love, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness of the Father. Yes, the story is really more about Him than the wayward, muddy, starving son.

When the young man reached his lowest point, there in a hog lot, starving and alone, he remembered the goodness of his father.

When he came to his senses, he said, “How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food, and here I am dying of hunger! I’ll get up, go to my father, and say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired workers.'” – Luke 15:17-19 CSB

Because he had already spent his inheritance (he thought), and since he had treated his own father like he was dead, there was no reason to expect a “Welcome home!” However, he knew his father’s slaves had it better than what he had – which was nothing and no one. He’d have to take his chances.

So, when the broken and filthy young man returns, the reception he receives is more than he could have ever hoped for. Already looking for him, the father spots his son on the horizon and runs to him! No doubt expecting the worst, the son falls on his face and attempts to make the case for indentured servitude. Maybe this would keep his father from killing him outright.

Humble, prostrate in the dirt, not even looking up to see the tears in his father’s eyes, he expects – or rather hopes for – the customary foot upon his neck, the accepted symbol of becoming a slave. But, instead…

…the feeling of a bristly beard upon his ear…

…an arm on his back…

…a rough palm cradling the other side of his head…

…and tear-drenched kisses?? Not the sole of a sandal? KISSES! Yes, kisses on his neck!

More joyful to receive his son back home than determined to reclaim his honor, the exuberant father drowns out the pitiful son’s pleas and cries out, “My son has come home!”

Instead of putting his foot on the boy’s neck, the father had humbled himself and descended to the place where his lowly child lay in the dirt. Instead of justice, He showed mercy.

And then Amazing Grace called out for a party!

God is the Father. You and I are the Prodigal. No matter how far we’ve drifted or run, He is still looking and waiting.

Let’s go home.

2 Comments

Filed under Bible Study, Christianity, Family, God, grace, Love of God, Relationships and Family

Just Be Thankful You’re Alive!

Sunrise over Chattanooga

As I Was Reading…

As I was reading the book of Lamentations (not the happiest of reads), I read a verse I’d like to share with you.

Why should any living person complain, any man, because of the punishment for his sins? (Lamentations 3:39, CSB)

What does this verse mean?

Simply put, if you have been punished for your sins by a Holy God … and you’re still alive … you have nothing to complain about!

Seriously, so often we gripe about the circumstances we endure, yet those circumstances are often the result of our own sinful decisions.

But isn’t it a wonderful thing that we are so loved by our heavenly Father? Because he is rich in mercy, He does not pour out on us the punishment we deserve.

We are alive! We should be grateful!

Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD. Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens. – Lamentations 3:41-42

Did You See the Sunrise?

There are so many things in this world we could complain about. So often those who complain the most are the ones who have the most. But if there’s anything worth rejoicing about, it is the fact that we serve a God who is rich in mercy.

We don’t deserve anything good, no matter how small or insignificant; we deserve judgement.

However, if I just turn back one page in my Bible I can read verse 22, where it says, “Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.” And, thankfully, they are new every morning!

If you are reading this, then you are alive!

Why not take a moment and praise Him?

3 Comments

Filed under Bible Study, God, grace

Labor Day – The Nature and Doctrine of Work

Let’s talk about work, shall we? Better yet, I’ll just share with you an amplified outline of a sermon I delivered last year.

And if you think reading this is work, just whistle!

What is it? (Work)

A. It Was Created By God. Note: God was the first to “work” when He created, and He set the example for us to follow in that He worked, then He rested. But God’s work and mand’s work were not synonymous in nature: God created what man was to tend. There are huge theological and anthropological implications to this truth: man does not create; he only tends.

B. It Was Perfect By Design (what to do and where to do it) but spoiled by sin (what he HAD to do and WHERE to do it).

  • Genesis 2:15 “And the LORD God took the man, and put (to settle down, to rest, to set in a certain place) him into the garden of Eden to dress it (till, work, service) and to keep (guard, keep in a certain state) it.”
  • Genesis 3:17-24 – See “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread . . .”, and “sent,” “till,” and “thrust.” Still a requirement, but no longer “resting,” pleasurable service, or in a state unpolluted by the stain of sin.

C. It Is a Blessing. Ecclesiastes 5:12 – “The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.”

D. It Is a Reformer. Ephesians 4:28 – “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.”

E. It Is Mandatory.

  • To ensure you eat. 2 Thessalonians 3:10-11 – “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not all, but are busybodies.”
  • To provide for your family. “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Timothy 5:8).

F. It Is a Peacekeeper. 2 Thessalonians 3:12 – “Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.”

What Is Expected? (Ephesians 6:5-9)

A. To Be Obedient. “(5) Servants, BE OBEDIENT to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;

B. To Be Genuine. “(6) Not with eyeservice [a person who appears to be actively fulfilling his duties, but only when someone is looking], as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;

C. To Care. “(7) With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men;

  • See also Colossians 3:23 – ” Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.”

D. To Be Fair. “(9) And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.”

What to Expect

A. Earthly Compensation. Colossians 4:1 – “Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.”

B. Heavenly Compensation. Ephesians 6:8 – “Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.”

C. Fiery Evaluation.

  • If work is sacred, it’s not secular and separate from the spiritual life.
    • Created by God
    • Done for the glory of God
    • Meant to be a witness (Matt. 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”)
    • We must answer to our Heavenly Master for our earthly work (Col. 4:1)
  • Then every work, whether overtly religious or not, has spiritual ramifications and will be tried. 1 Corinthians 3:10-14
    • But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
    • (13) Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire;
    • and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. (14) If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.”

Conclusion

Where has God placed you? Where is the field in which you labor? What kind of laborer are you? What kind of boss are you? do you view your work, your job, as sacred?

“Just look at your tools…at your needle and thimble…your goods, your scales…everything our bodies do, the external and the carnal, is and is called spiritual behavior if God’s Word is added to it and done in faith.” – Martin Luther (attributed)

Jesus said in John 9:4 – “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.”

What kind of worker are you? Are you giving your best for the Master?

Do you whistle or whine? 

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible Study, Preaching, Work

What Having a Thought Looks Like

Last week, as I was studying for the upcoming Sunday morning sermon, I had a thought cross my mind, which led to me jotting it down on my desk calendar.

Before long, my “thought” became notes which would affect 6 days’ worth of my calendar and become the source of much discussion between several other pastor friends and myself.

Amused, I picked up my phone and took a picture, then posted it on Facebook. I commented, “This is what having a ‘thought’ looks like.”

So, with no editing or commentary, I’d like to share my “thoughts” with you. All I did was re-write them so that they could be read in this format.

One doesn’t have to have a sin nature to sin. Angels sinned without a sin nature. Adam sinned. But, since Adam, all have sinned (Romans 5:19), whether innocent or not, for their very nature – the sin nature – is not holy as God is.

The true predicament: Are you as holy as God? No, of course not! Then that is sin! The sheer fact that we are anything less than holy defies the holy law of God which is a reflection of His nature.

The Law is not arbitrary, but in conformity with the nature of God. Therefore, no amount of keeping of the Law, even if possible, would make us holy. Only God could keep the law of His own Character, and only God could live holy and without sin, for it is His nature and only His to live consistently holy.

Therefore, no amount of law-keeping could change one’s nature, thereby making him holy, much less to become holy by keeping the law that denotes past imperfection… unholy to holy. This, again, is contrary to the nature of God which would be contrary to His Law. We have no hope! We need a Savior!

Did Adam have a sin nature that led him to sin? Or, did he willfully sin without a sin nature?

Men might be born innocent, but they are not born holy. One could then be at one moment innocent for never having willfully committed a crime, but because he is not holy, and must become holy, he is in contradiction to God’s nature (the Law within Himself) and is, therefore, a law-breaker – a sinner.

One thing is for sure – We need a Saviour! Amen?

Feel free to add YOUR thoughts below.

11 Comments

Filed under Bible Study, Christianity, salvation, Theology

Teaching Thru the BFM2000 Pt 1

The Scriptures

Leave a comment

Filed under baptist, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Bible Study, Church