Thursday 29 February 2024

1 Corinthians 1 v18/25.
This morning I want to speak about the Cross, and have chosen a passage from Paul’s 1st Letter to the Church at Corinth.

The Church at Corinth was having problems, which caused Paul to write to them.  Corinth was a cosmopolitan city, which has been described as the Soho of its day, full of corruption and immorality. It was a trading centre, and there was much wealth and a style of living, which did not match up to Christian standards. The Church, which had started with much power, was allowing some of the culture to invade the Church, and some members were influenced by the rhetoric of some preachers, who were deviating from gospel, and this caused division and dissension within the Church.
Paul wrote to give advice and admonishment to the people there, because of the way they were acting. He is showing us in this passage, how the Cross is so important for us as Christians, and how it is involved in human affairs and thinking.. We have a similar situation here, where there are men/women, occupying the most prominent position in the Church, openly accepting and even encouraging Christians, to adopt the morality of society, despite the fact that the Bible expressly condemns doing so

The passage opens with Paul stating those who are perishing, the unbelievers ,do not understand or realize the power of the Cross, and to them it is just  foolishness, for perishing means not being saved and no hope of going to heaven, for they have rejected Jesus, but to those of us who are saved and have accepted Jesus as Savior, the gospel is the power of God.

Just as the message was foolish by the world’s standards, so most of those in Corinth who also thought the message was foolish by the world’s standards.

Despite them being unimpressive, their boasting in ancestry and accomplishments, and having an affiliation with one of their chosen  preacher, God had chosen them to be saved.

The hostile opponents of Jesus kept demanding a miraculous sign to prove his claims, but they were just doing this to manipulate, but he had already given them sufficient so there was no excuse for their unbelief.

The Greeks were often classified as being wise, but were then seen as being antiquated, and more cultured people were interested in wisdom. A crucified Messiah was a stumbling stop for a Jew. God’s power to call forth his people, works through a deeper wisdom, that human beings can recognize unless God gives them faith, Paul writes that the gospel is preached to all, but God calls some effectively to salvation from among Jews and Greeks.

Paul is speaking to those in the Church who claimed to be wise and proud of their wisdom, which they were using to divide the Church and to promote themselves by changing the message of the Cross to make it more acceptable. Paul is telling them it is worthless in the sight of God, and will only destroy the Church.

The cultured Greek and the pious Jew could not understand Christianity, but Paul pointed out human wisdom is bound to be of no purpose, and was  to be exposed by God telling of human helplessness.
The Jews demanded miraculous signs and Greeks looked to wisdom. This was a stumbling block, which could not be overcome by Jews or Gentiles, but to those who do believe it is a message of power.
The Jews demanded that what Paul was teaching should be proved by some miraculous sign. Jews could not ever accept that the Messiah would be crucified; it was totally contradictory to their belief. The Greeks placed so much influence on human wisdom and intellectual ability to be the means of salvation.

God chose a way which ordinary people could understand. Abraham Lincoln once stated, God must have loved ordinary people because He made so many of them. Paul gave them an ordinary and simple message, believe in Jesus Christ who gave His life to be crucified on the Cross, and you will have eternal life. If we had to be very wise and academic, millions of people would never have come to know the Lord. Heaven would be only for the clever people.
The gospel message is the opposite of worldly wisdom, and is hard for some to believe, but we do believe. But there are still people who want to see some proof for what we preach. The Bible states, by grace you shall be saved through faith’. If you have to see signs or other proof to believe, you don’t need faith. True faith means believing in what you cannot see.
God said, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate’.
The message of the world sees us as self-sufficient beings; there is no need of God. We have the ability to think and reason which will prove sufficient to eventually solve all of our problems.  Obviously, God doesn’t think so much of it.

Paul asks where is the wise man, where is the scholar, where is the philosopher of this age, has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world.  Challenging them who think they can solve life’s problems.
Just where has all the wisdom of the so-called wise brought us? How well have we done in solving the world’s problems? Have we eradicated poverty? Has all our research and expertise in the fields of science and medicine rid our world of disease? Have we found a cure for cancer? There is more suffering now than history records.

With all the highly educated professional educators, how can we still have ignorant people wandering our streets, graduating from our schools and colleges, yet not knowing basic maths or English?
Look at the enormous amount of hatred in the world, with many of the Arab countries wanting to wipe Israel off the face of the map; the barbarity of Islamic militants. Paradoxically, hatred has been introduced into our society by legislation. The (inequitable) Equality and Diversity Bill has caused considerable distress. Consider the hate mail, and persecution experienced by Christians who do not wish to surrender their beliefs to society’s morality. The unfortunate reality is, that for all our so-called sophistication, we have not been able to solve the basic problems of society–– problems that have been around since the beginning. Certainly, we have been able to see great advances technologically. We have great new gadgets. But on the really important issues of life, we don’t even have temporary solutions.
But to those whom God has called, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Each religious faith has its own symbol. Muslims have the crescent moon; the Jews have the Star of David,  Buddhists have the lotus flower, but for Christians we have the Cross.
The early Christians had the sign of a fish, which they inscribed on walls as indication of faith when the Romans were persecuting Christians.  They would make the cry, ‘Jesus is Lord’, but would not refer so much to the cross as it was a hateful thing.

Some Churches have a Cross outside, and most also display the Cross inside. It is embossed upon our Bibles and prayer books, and ladies particularly wear a gold cross.
Paul said he gloried in the Cross, and focused on the crucifixion of Jesus as the means of salvation. But it was the most horrific death ever devised by mankind. For many years it was never mentioned in polite company , and was only used to show when people were acting contrary to the power of the Cross.

When writing to the Galatian Church, Paul stated ‘God forbid that I should boast about anything except the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’, to indicate how much he prioritised the Cross.

Paul was a clever man, he could have boasted about his own intellect, his mastery of languages; he could have boasted about the unique birth of Christ or the miracles performed, even the resurrection, but he didn’t, only the Cross.

It is not often that a sermon on the Cross is heard in Churches today, if at all; I cannot remember when I last heard one.  Indeed, a lot of sermons have only a tenuous reference to the gospel.

Paul ‘s preaching focused on the crucifixion of Jesus as the means of salvation. A man crucified had nails driven through arms and legs, and left hanging until he died, which could have lasted for days even.

The Cross upon which Jesus died, was not only a place where he bore the sins of humanity and paid the penalty for those sins, it is also a way for our lives by his power. It is saying that God became weak,, in order to save us. It says that when we surrender our lives, we truly find them. It is the very power of God, concealed from the so-called wise and sophisticated and revealed to those who come as a child, in simple faith and trust.
For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength
Today the cross of Christ is still a cause of offence. The message of the cross of Christ is still foolishness to those who are perishing. To them the cross is the weakest link. In the Cross, we see the power of God displayed. God was powerful enough to become weak.

Having looked at the message of this passage, let us consider the implications for us to-day.

Paul always taught there are two distinct points of view, two black or white absolutes that can never be reconciled, because they produce two different responses to the gospel. We all have to decide now which we believe.

We have a choice to make for our future when this life is over. Many people don’t want to think of that and dismiss it from their minds.  Many more believe there is no need to worry, as long as one leads a ‘good’ life we are all going to heaven. Apart from the fact ‘good’ has not been defined, how would we know when he had done enough?

I have taken hundreds of funeral services in the past forty odd years, and irrespective that the deceased never read a bible, attended church, and being totally unaware of belief, it was always thought the relatives of the deceased, the person was heaven bound.

Unless you accept the Cross and its meaning, you are not able to make an assessment of the future. The Cross is the pivotal point of Christianity.  If you tell people that all their efforts and achievements will not put them right with God, and the only way is to believe the death of Christ on the Cross, and we can do nothing to earn our salvation, they will think it ridiculous.

The Cross strikes at the heart of human pride. Just as the Jews could never accept that a man hanging on a Cross could save the world, so today people mock the idea. Those who are blind to the truth of the gospel are said to be ‘perishing’, which means unsaved and are eternally lost. To them however, it is absurd, and they refuse to believe the Biblical teaching that states to achieve eternal salvation you have to believe that a man died on a Cross 2000 years ago, in a little country on the far side of the world, and did so that our sins may be forgiven.

The other reaction is that the Cross is the power of God to those of us who have accepted Christ’s death on the Cross as our means of salvation.
Why take a risk on your eternal future? If you were due to fly to America, and as you were boarding the plane you were told there was a 1% chance the plane would not make it across the Atlantic, would you still fly?
Paul said he understood how foolish it sounds to those who are lost when they heard that Jesus died to save them, but God had said He would destroy all human plans of salvation no matter how wise they seem to be to men, even the most brilliant of them. He said ‘you come to me my way, or you do not come at all’.
If you wear a Cross you should ask yourself, why you are wearing it, what does it mean to you? Most people just see it as an item of jewellery, such an idea would have been horrifying, bearing in mind the tortuous death it carried; it would be like wearing a model of the gallows around the neck. It was so crude a death it was never mentioned in polite company.
There is one underlying message running right through this passage. ‘There is only one way to heaven and that is through Jesus Christ’. God gave His only ,Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. We do not earn our right to heaven by all the good things we do, being saved is a gift from God, if we could earn it would not be free. God accepts us when we believe in Christ.

We need to humble ourselves in complete surrender to God. The good news is that God has given us his power.

The world doesn’t like the Cross, even though it can be the answer to all divisions pointing out the difference between truth and error. The crucifixion of  Jesus is a fact of history. He is the only means of salvation, and  we need a Saviour, meaning we follow God’s way or none.

When Jesus died on that Cross there were two men alongside him. One cried out to Jesus to save him and the other mocked. One of those men was saved, and the other died. We have to make a decision and do so whilst we are able, leaving it to a death bed may be too late.

The Bible states there are two alternatives in life, two roads, goats and sheep, tares and wheat, heaven and hell.  Jesus spoke about heaven many times, but he also warned of the alternative, which many people try to  forget.

.May the Cross always remind you of Jesus Christ and the sacrifice He made for the salvation that can be yours. It is now the duty and responsibility of the Church to boldly proclaim this.

Paul ended the passage with a quotation from Jeremiah. It was only when we realize we can do nothing, and God can  and will do everything ,that real religion begins  . It is a fact of life that when people realize their own weakness, their own lack of wisdom, their helplessness and powerlessness, they become wise and strong.  It is a fact of experience that the man who thinks he can take on life all by himself, will in the end make a mess of his life.

We have four things which Paul points out and insists that Christ is for us.  He is wisdom, It is only by  following Christ that we walk aright, and only by listening to him we hear the truth. He is the expert in life

He is righteousness. He has right relationship with God, we can never on our own have that. This comes through Jesus when we realize it comes not from what we can do for God, but what God can do for us.

He is consecration., It is only in the presence of Christ that life can be what it should be.  He is deliverance. Men go to see the optician and the dentist, but never to the one who can cure their souls  Jesus Christ can deliver a man from past sin, from present helplessness and from future fear.


May God bless these words to our heart and may He be glorified.

Friday 23 February 2024

2 TIMOTHY  4. v1 -5

There is a basic question to time: Why do we go to church? Do we go to church for Christian fellowship? Do we go because we like the music. ? This is what we should think about

The primary reason we gather at church on Sunday is to learn about God, and to grow closer to Him. Everything else is secondary. Knowing Christ, becoming like Christ, is what we are here for. This is achieved through the Word Of God and what we can learn from Paul's final set of exhortations to Timothy in the first 5 verses of chapter 4.

Like Timothy, we see ourselves as a tiny minority amidst an overwhelming, mounting majority, committed to evil and unbelief. We face hostility on every side. Paul reveals the realities before which every Christian lives and labors

Paul begins this section with a "solemn charge " to Timothy.. The instruction Paul gives Timothy here is, by no means, optional. Paul is issuing a forceful directive to Timothy, and also to us, Paul concludes his exhortation with the simple command: "preach the Word ". This is to say that sermons must be expositions of the Bible, not expressions of the preacher's opinions.

Paul is instructing Timothy, and by extension to all Christians and especially to all Ministers, to ‘Preach the word’. Paul has earlier emphasised to Timothy the importance of Scripture, and he now tells him to go out and preach it. He stresses to Timothy that he does so on behalf of God.

A preacher stands in the presence of God, and must aim to please the Lord, and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, for the preacher will one day have to stand in front of the Lord and give account.

The word preach means to proclaim or to herald. When a king wanted to give his people a message he would send out heralds all over the kingdom to proclaim that message out, and the herald had to give exactly what the king stated, not adding any opinion of his own. That is what all Christian preachers are expected to do, declare authoritatively the message of the king of kings.

We are to spread God’s word, not theories, or one’s own opinion, not a political analysis, not criticism of America or Israel, just the word of the living God. Thus saith the Lord.

The bible must be the supreme court of the church, the final authority in deciding all controversies. Alas, in the modern church that is not so.

A church which rejects the teaching of the bible, loses its authority. People have a right to expect men speaking as Ministers of the Church to do so, based on the word of God and not expressing personal opinions or preferences. When Ministers substitute personal views for political rhetoric they are exceeding their remit.

We may find ourselves at odd with the world. God pays attention to what is said from the pulpit. I am here to preach the word of God so unbelievers may come to believe, and so believers understand more and mature in the faith. It doesn’t matter if the congregation is small or big.

When I was ordained as a priest in the Church of England, I was asked to affirm, that I believed the Bible contained all doctrine require for salvation, and I would teach only that in Scripture and banish doctrines contrary to God’s Word. The Bishop then gave me authority ‘to preach the Word of God’. Why do so many renege on their vow? I heard a Vicar state from the pulpit that she didn’t think the Bible should be taken literally. What happened to her ordination vows? Can you imagine a Muslim preacher challenging the authority of the Koran?

Timothy is called upon to reprove, rebuke and exhort. In other words, we have to be concerned with mind, will and emotions by correcting wrong thinking, pointing out what is wrong in behaviour and attitudes, and encouraging those depressed.

Paul tells Timothy, to ‘preach in season and out of season’, in other words at all times, and to be urgent doing so, and in getting the message out. The world’s greatest need is to hear about Jesus Christ. All Christians, not simply all ministers, are commanded in Scripture to share their faith.

We put a lot of energy into fairs, fetes and garden parties, but treat them as just that without trying to reach out to the people at the same time.

e have parish magazines and newsletters which mostly tell what HAS happened, and contains articles about gardening or other hobbies, pieces about where people have been, or of memories. There needs to be stimulating, provocative writing on a biblical theme.

Most of all we need to look at our services. I have been to services and rather than come out inspired I am demoralised, and say to myself what was all that about. Too often services are done as if it is because something has to be done, rather than create an exciting experience. Often we find the sermon is a homily, to fill in up to ten minutes when it should be the focal point of the service, to motivate and teach and inspire.

It is possible to attract people to Church, if we are prepared to make the effort, and offer a service with vibrant content.

When Billy Graham, and last two Popes came to this country, crowds of people flocked to hear these men. That was because they offered people something worthwhile, through inspired preaching and joyful praise, and people were ready to respond.

In verses 3 and 4, we are reminded why persistence in proclaiming the Word of God is so important. Surely, Paul is accurately describing our present context. ‘For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers who will say what their itching ears want to hear.’

Sound doctrine aims to correct our faulty beliefs about God, and it aims to shape our character to be like Christ. If such is so vital to the life of a church, what is it that produces sound doctrine?
Faithfulness to God's Word, produces sound doctrine and produces mature Christians. Mature Christians fulfil the ministry God has called us to.

Sound doctrine calls us out of our comfort zone, challenges our sinful desires and behaviours, calls us to shift our focus away from ourselves, and calls us to focus on God. I am afraid that "the time " Paul predicted, has arrived.

Paul predicted, we, more than ever, need to heed his counsel to Timothy. This refers to a time when people will reject Christian standards, morality and values and will substitute others.

Paul says, men and women will turn away, because truth requires the admission of human weakness, which people do not like to admit; the restraint of passions, which they do not like to do; and submission to the authority of God and other authorities under him, which they dislike and reject.

They turn away from the truth, and will not even give it a hearing. It is not that they will listen to the truth and then decide whether it is right or wrong; they do not even want to hear it. They do not want to hear anything which will restrict their indulgences, and they resist, sometimes fiercely, every attempt to introduce the truth into any kind of social or governmental situation.

Then they will look for those who will teach them what they want to hear; those who share their preferences, and are prepared to re-interpret Scripture to meet the desires.

There is a disease, widespread in our day, called "itching ear disease," which Paul mentions here. This is an ear that wants to hear a particular line of things, an ear that wants to be entertained, that is always looking for something new, an ear that wants constant affirmation and does not want to hear anything negative or contradictory. People who have this disease look for teachers who will scrath that itch; and the result, the apostle says, is that they "wander into myths."

What do these teachers, which such people accumulate in great numbers, teach? They cannot teach the truth because the truth is unacceptable, so they teach attractive lies, fantasies for the most part, speculative philosophies that emerge from the minds of men which have no basis in fact or history. There are many of these myths abroad today.

We have been saturated by a world that is committed to falsehood. That is why, as Paul sets forth here, we must increasingly proclaim the truth as it is in Jesus. You and I are called to advance that work. Do not let anybody tell you that your life as a Christian does not count. It counts tremendously.

There is spiritual drift in the Western Churches. You will find at the highest level of Church office, biblical morality being denied and opposed. There are those who would rather pay attention to the Equality and Diversity Act than Holy Scripture, despite the fact that some biblical Christians fought hard to have the Church excluded from some of the provisions of that oppressive Act.

There is too ready a desire to preach political correctness rather than biblical correctness. We are facing sustained attack from secularists, who are trying desperately to remove any semblance of religion from the public life of the country. Humanism is now the belief of millions.

As society degenerates it is so easy for Christians to go with flow. It is not uncommon for preachers to state that God would never condemn people for their sins. God is portrayed as a sort of spiritual father Christmas. The Church, in places, is prepared to accept moral conduct which directly contravenes Scripture, but the Bible teaches that God created a moral world and demands retribution for sin.

If preachers were to so preach the Bible faithfully, Churches would emptier than they are now. Society has forced a morality upon us which the Church nationally was never prepared to combat, but instead let it grow, a sort of attitude, ‘if you can’t beat them join them’.

If ever the Word of God was needed it is never more so than now. It calls for people to turn back to God, who is ready and able to meet the needs of everyone who turns to Him. The message we have for the world is centred upon the person of Jesus Christ.

Come to church then, prepared to feast on sound doctrine. This combined with the work of God's Spirit, will not only transform you, but it will transform others as you seek to become one who faithfully preaches the Word of God.

Monday 19 February 2024

R O M A N S  4 v 13-25

In the earlier verses of   this Chapter, Paul has been writing that according to Scripture, becoming righteous in the eyes of God us a natter not of works or merit, but of faith and therefore of grace. It had nothing to do with circumcision, Abraham was  declared to be righteous long  before he was circumcised,

Abraham was recognized as the father and spiritual  leader of all true believers.  God made a promise to Abraham that he would become a great nation, and that in him all the families of the earth would be blessed . In truth, the earth would be given to him as an inheritance.

As Jews saw it, the promise to Abraham was given because he was considered as a man of faith in God, and it was a result of faith that righteousness was credited to him,  Works had nothing to do with the fulfilment,  Obedience to the law was not in the discussion. for the promise was made to Abraham many years before the law was given

Abraham received this promise, that he would be the heir of the world, that is a gift from God he would obtain the world.

The Jews were asking, how can a man enter into a relationship with God, so that he can inherit such great promise.  The answer was not that of winning, earning, by merit,  Paul saw the Jewish attitude completely destroy the promise.  No one can completely obey the law, no one ever lived such a perfect life, or never transgressed the law, therefore if the promise depended on keeping the law, the promise would never be fulfilled.

Paul always saw things as black or white.  He saw there was one only way of getting into a right relationship with God, this was dependent on divine grace, not human effort, there was the faith that takes God at his word. There is faith. The certainty that God is like that.  It is staking everything on the love of God.  

There is grace.  A gift of grace is always unearned and undeserved.  The truth us that a man can never earn the love of God. Man must always find the glory, not by what he can do for God, but what can God do for him.

On the other side, there is the law.  The trouble with law, is that it can diagnose trouble but cannot cure it.  Law can show a person has gone the wrong way, but cannot help them from doing so.  It is human nature, when a thing is forbidden it becomes desirable, stolen fruit is sweeter, therefore law can eventually have the effect of moving a man to desire that which is forbidden.  The essential complement is judgment, and so long as a man has a religion whose dominant  thought  as law, he cannot be himself or anything other than a criminal at the bar of the justice of God

When a new law is introduced, transgression follows.  No one can break a law which does not exist, and one cannot be condemned for breaking a law he knew nothing about.  If we make religion solely a matter of obeying the law, then life becomes one long series of transgressions waiting to be punished.

There is wrath. Think of God in terms of law, and you cannot do other than to be destined to be under condemnation if God.

In line with that which Paul was saying, about the manner in which God carries out his plan of salvation, by not insisting that in order to be saved, the sinner must earn his own entrance into the Kingdom of heaven, but by providing a solution in which grace would triumph.  He now states the reason he promised salvation by faith, was that it might be a matter of grace. This why it points to the special relationship of faith and grace.  Faith means trusting in another, not in one’s own efforts.  Faith therefore corresponds to grace, which involves God’s gift of unmerited favor.

The character of Abrahan’s faith is set forth in a striking manner.  Against all hope, he believed. Basically hope means the expectation of something desirable.  In the present case. The subject of hope was the fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham, who would have a son, in which the promise to Abraham would extend to his son, in whose life there would be the precious promise of God. I will be your God and your seed and all the nations of the world will be blessed. So shall your seed attain fulfilment.

A time arrived when humanly speaking , hope seemed impossible of realization. Abraham believed I God, who calls the dead to life, and brings into being, things which have no existence.

Paul thought of another outstanding example of Abraham’s willingness to believe God. and to take him at his word.  The promise that all the families of the world would be blessed  in his descendants, was given to Abraham when he was an old man.  His wife Sarah had been childless, and now he was a hundred years old and Sarah was ninety there came a promise they would have a son. 

On the face of it, it seemed to be beyond  be belief and  attainment, as he was past the age of begetting, and Sarah was way past bearing a son. Yet again, Abraham believed what Goad had said God would do. Once again it was faith which was accountable to Abraham for righteousness

It was Abraham’s willingness to trust God, it was his word which put Abraham into a right relationship with God.  The Rabbis had a saying which Paul used, they said, what is written of Abraham is written of his children.  They meant whatever God promised to Abraham, would be extended to his children.  Therefore, if Abraham’s willingness is to take God at his word, so it is with them.  It is not the work of the law, it is trusting faith, which establishes the relationships between God and man which ought to exist. The presence Abraham’s  of faith in this case, he was believing God made all things possible, and the impossible, he made possible.  So long as we believe that everything depends on our efforts, we are bound to be pessimistic, for experience has taught us the lesson, hat our achievements can obtain little.  When we realize it not our effort but God’s grace and power which matter, then we become optimists because we are bound to believe with God nothing is impossible.


Let us thank god for His Holy Word and may His Name be glorified

Friday 16 February 2024


Mark 1 v 9-15

On Sunday we will have come to the first Sunday of Lent, and all the readings are as set for this season. This week’s gospel reading comes from the 1st Chapter of Mark.

In verse 1, Mark focuses on the actual beginning of the gospel, showing the fulfilment of God’s promises to help his people, spoken by the prophet Isaiah (40.v3) and Malachi (3v1). 

"As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, 'Behold I send my messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way; the voice of one crying in the wilderness, "Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight."'

 John is preparing the way, by telling the wonderful story about Jesus, and him being the Son of God. Jesus would come and proclaim the gospel.

It will prove to be a wonderful story of him who would heal the sick of many illnesses, lead his people to find salvation, raise the dead, and finally end his life by dying on a wooden Cross, the most prolonged and cruel death devised by man, to earn salvation for all who accepted him as Savior.

John lived in a wilderness calling on the people to repent of all sin and turn to God for forgiveness, for  God hates sin and will not have sinners in heaven. Repentance then could lead to baptism; this baptism was not the means by which our sins are forgiven, but a sign showing we have repented, and accepted that when Jesus died on that Cross, he was doing so to pay the debt we owed to God, for the way we had acted against the teaching of both God and Jesus. We were claiming Jesus as our Savior.

Here was a clear and unmistakable way of becoming a (true)Christian, bearing no resemblance to what has become a modern day charade, when people are asked to present themselves at Church at a given time and date, without them ever being told the meaning of baptism. It may help to add numbers, but it is an affront to God.

The Jews understood baptism well. They understood, far better than many ,today the symbolic meaning of baptism. Baptism symbolized the washing away of the past and the beginning of a new life. It is the symbol of a totally new man coming forth. It was such a powerful symbol that under Jewish law, he was considered a Jew. He could, if he wanted, marry a Jewish woman.

The baptism of Jesus presented a problem to John. Jesus presented himself to John, who felt unable to  proceed, as Jesus had no cause to repent as he was sinless, and John could not understand why Jesus wanted to be baptized.

For thirty  years Jesus lived in Nazareth, and for part of the time did a full day’s work in his (step)father’s business and in his home. He had waited for God’s sign, and John was that sign,

In every life, there are moments when we have to  make a decision, to accept or reject something.  To accept, may be good,  to refuse might later be a regrettable act. Jesus knew when John came, it was time for him to answer the call from God.  He knew there was no confession to be made, but was determined to show the human side of his life. He new if a person had care and comfort, it was  proper to follow a course of living, which might help the poor and needy for their sake.

It was for Jesus, the moment for approval. No man lightly leaves home and sets out on an unknown way. He has to be sure he is doing the right thing. Jesus had decided about the way and his course of action, and was seeking God’s approval. The Jews in the time of Jesus, had an old saying,  by which they believed in a series of heavens, the highest was the one God sat in the light to which no man could approach.

There were rare tines when the heavens opened and God spoke, but it was so far distant, it was only the echo of God’s voice heard.

To Jesus, the voice came down directly, and this was a personal experience,, and not in any way a demonstration for the crowd.  The voice said, ’you are my beloved Son’, so speaking to Jesus. The baptism showed, Jesus submitted his decision to God, and it was approved.

For Jesus it was a moment of equipment.  The Holy Spirit descended upon him, and there is a symbolism there. The Spirit descended as a dove might descend.  But from the beginning, the picture of the Spirit was a picture of gentleness.  He will conquer the world, but the conquest will be of love.

Immediately after the baptism, there came temptations. One thing stands out, and it is too vivid to overlook.  It was the Spirit which cast out Jesus to the wilderness for the testing time.  It is impossible for us to miss being able to escape temptations, but they are not set to make us fall, but to test how we strengthen our nerve and will. They are to be tests which are to overcome, and for us to escape and become better and more capable of resisting all other hindrances.

Forty days  should shake our nerves. It gives in Hebrew, warning, of a considerable time.  Moses on the mountain with God for forty days. Elijah went on a strength of a mere angel.

It was Satan who tested Jesus. The development of the conception of Satan caused interest. In Hebrew, Satan is seen as an adversary.

In the Old Testament, it is a term for human adversaries and opponents.  The word relates to a person who pleads against another and accuses men before God.  In the New Testament, Satan at first is an emissary of God, and not the supreme enemy, but takes a downward course and later becomes God’s adversary, against all things to God

Jesus had to decide how to do his work.  He realized a tremendous task, and of tremendous power.  God was telling Jesus to take his love to men, and love them until you die, conquer them util you die on the Cross.

Mark’s brief story of the temptations, gives out two vivid touches.   The beasts were the companions of Jesus, for leopards were there in the desert with  he jackal, this adds to the terror of the story.

The Jews hoped the coming of the Messiah would create a golden era, when men and beasts come to an end of enmity. Wolf would lie with the sheep, leopard would lie with the lamb.

In the latter days, St  Francis would preach to the beasts, and there might be the coming to the peace of men, with the beasts.

The passage ends when Jesus went into Galilee after John had ben arrested, meaning that God’s rule over peoples’ hearts, should repent and believe the gospel.  The Kingdom of God is more than a title if the Spirit is within people, for the Kingdom will eventually include the restoration of creation.  Jesus has told of the Kingdom coming in stages, and this will be told in future chapters.


In this Chapter we are told of the voice of God the Father being heard, It declared a wondrous love which existed between Father and Son from all eternity.  The voice announced the Father’s acceptance of the Son, to seek and save the lost.  It also tells of Jesus being made Mediator, Substitute , and surety of the new covenant.

Repentance and faith were the foundation of Christ’s ministry, which should be the faithful minister’s instruction.

We should not be surprised if this if we consider human nature, All of us have been guilty of sin at some time, to be condemned by God, and if we are true to the gospel, we will be saved. The problem is so many people will not  accept they have sinned, and the more academic and intellectual  people, are the more resistant to accept.  Sin not confined to sexual offences, it extends to lying, corruption, adultery, theft, jealousy, hatred.

We have to ask ourselves, if we have  recognized our sins and repented.  Have we laid hold on Christ and believed?  We shall never reach heaven if we die impenitent and unbelieving.

People in their own doing, don’t think of how God reacts. God is only seen as someone to call on when they have a problem, and to get upset if he does not answer as they expect.  God knows our weaknesses, but he holds them to be true to Jesus, and when they do so, is well pleased.

We see the nature of the preaching of Jesus.  He came saying, repent and believe the gospel. This is that old sermon which the faithful witnesses of God have, continually preached  from the  very beginning of the world.  From Noah to the present day, the theme of Christ’s preaching has been repent and believe the gospel.

The Apostle Paul told the Ephesian Church, when he left them for the last time, the substance of preaching has always been repentance to God, and faith to Christ.  the head of the Church had given him a pattern.

The Bible is clear, the first  followers were not the great of the world, they were men who had neither riches nor rank, nor power. But the Kingdom of Christ is not dependent on such.  The words of Paul will always be true, ’not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not noble are called. But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world. to confound the wise, and God has chosen the weak things to confound the things which are mighty.

The Church which began with a few fishermen, and yet overspread the world, must have been founded by God.

The Bible contains many instances of special privileges conferred to the working man. Moses was keeping sheep when God appeared to him in a burning bush.  Gideon was thrashing  wheat, when an angel from heaven brought him a message. Elisha was ploughing when Elijah called him to be a prophet.  The Apostles  were fishing when Jesus called them to follow him, and said, ‘come ye after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’

The meaning of this is clear and unmistakeable,  The Apostles were to be fishers for souls. They were to labor, to draw men from darkness into light, and from the power of Satan to God. They were to strive to bring men into the net of Christ’s Church

Saturday 10 February 2024

JOHN 8 v 12-30


The Pharisees continue to dispute with Jesus when he claims to be the light of the world, but the Jewish leaders would not accept his claim. Jesus said they were judging him by the flesh, which means by human standards.

The scene of the argument was in the Temple Treasury. This was situated in the Court of Women, so named as women could not proceed further than that, unless they were offering a sacrifice at the altar of the priests. Around the Court was a colonnade or porch, where chests for offerings were placed.

In this passage, Jesus made his claim in a vivid impressive setting. The Feast of Tabernacles was being held, and a ceremony called the Illumination  of the Temple. There were four great candelabra, and when the dark came they were lit up, and ablaze of light shone around Jerusalem, and all the courtyards of the city.  They were lit until dawn, and all kinds of men danced before the Lord, and sang psalms of praise to God whilst people watched.

Jesus was saying you have seen the blaze of light piercing the darkness, I am the light of the world for those who follow me.  There will  be light for only one night , but followers of me will be for life.  The light in the Temple in the end dies, I am then the light that goes on for ever.

The phrase light of life, means two things, the light which gives life; Jesus is the very light of God.  Jesus was talking about following him, which means to be a follower who gives body and soul, and one’s spirit to the obedience of the Master. When we walk alone, we are likely to fall or go the wrong way, we need heavenly guidance to walk the right way.

When Jesus made his claim to be the light of the world, the Jewish leaders  reacted with hostility. To them it would be a claim only God. could make.  The Rabbis declared the name of the Messiah is light.

Jesus deals with his right to judge. His coming into the world was for judgment.  His claim was for love, for God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, and all who believe  in him, would have eternal life.

Jesus told the Jewish leaders bluntly, they had no real knowledge of God.  The fact that they did not recognize him for who he was, and what he was, was the proof they did not really know God.  The whole history of Israel ws so made they should have recognized the Son of God.

Jesus was told his opponents he was going away, and after he had gone they would realize what they had missed, and will search but not find him.  this is a reminder for us. For everyone there is an opportunity to decide to accept Christ into their life, but the time is limited, and know not when their limit will end.  There is good reason to decide now Just as there is opportunity there is also judgment.

When Jesus spoke about going away, he was talking of his return to his Father and glory, and he could not be followed.  The Jews thought he might mean he would kill himself. Jesus said if they refused him, they would die in their sins.

The one who refuses to accept him as Lord and Savior will die with life frustrated, and life incomplete.  Sin separates us from God,  To refuse Christ, is a stranger to God, to accept him is to be a friend to God.

Jesus went on to draw contrasts.  His opponents belong to earth, he is from heaven. They are of this world, he is not. The world is the opposite of heaven. He came to save this world from heaven, he was sent by God.  The world is God’s creation, it was through God’s word that the world as made. However bad the world is, God would never abandon the world.

But when the creator came into the world, the world did not recognize him,  the world does not know the spirit of  God, and there is hostility to God.  The world is separate from God, yet between God and the world. there is no gulf that cannot be spanned.

Saturday 3 February 2024

     M A T T H E W.   20 v 1-16  

 Jesus, when He was preaching used parables, which are images of characters, based on Jewish culture.  In this parable, it describes the kind of thing which often happened in Palestine.

 Grapes were an importance in Jewish life and economy, and the harvest happens in or about September before the rains start.  If the rain comes before the grapes are gathered, there is a great loss, hence the farmers were desperate to ensure all were collected.  This provides work for people not otherwise employed, and any worker is used for any length of time. The pay given was the normal amount of a denarius for a day’s wage

 Men would go in early morning to the market place, which was like the modern labor exchange, ready with hope, and waiting to be hired. They would wait all day if necessary, desperate to be given work, even if for only a short period.  Th men were in the lowest class of workers, and their livelihood depended on being taken on, as life for them was precarious for they and their family faced starvation.

 The working day, was in periods of hours. The first hour was 6.0a.m. with the next period at 9.0 following periods at four  three hours increments, and the eleventh hour at 5.0pm

 The description used in the parable, was a picture of events in the market place, at the time of the grape harvest.  The Master went out at the first hour and hired some men, and went again at the third, fifth ,nineth and eleventh hours, hiring at each hour, there is a practice which is at the heart of the Christian faith in this system.

 Jesus told His disciples how fortunate they were to be part of the Christian Church at the very beginning before others joined in.  This did not entitle them to claim a special place and honor because you were a Christian before them, and no matter when they come, are equally valuable to God.

 There are people in our Churches now who think because they have been members for a long time, they are able to dictate the policy. They often resent those who are newcomers, who will have different ideas,

 A lady once asked me to guide her, as she was a warden at a Church which had the same type of service every Sunday, with Matins and chants.  She had just attended a family  service at another Church, and was impressed by the service, which had modern songs and hymns. At a parish meeting in her own Church, she proposed having such a service once a month at the last Sunday in the month. She pointed out at the meeting, that it would most likely bring some new people. She was abruptly told to forget that idea, ( I can imagine the horror she caused.) 

She asked me what I would do in that situation.  The answer of course, was that she would never have a chance to do anything as a lay person, and the Church was in an interregnum.  As a Pastor, would have gone ahead and told opponents to go elsewhere, as proclamation of the gospel is the more important, and seniority does not count.

 Jesus  gave a warning to the Jews,who knew they were God’s special people, and felt everyone should accept that, and thy looked down at any proposal of Gentiles into the Church. They thought if any were to be brought in, they would be seen to be inferiors. But Christianity does not accept such as a master race    

 God calls people from across the world. God’s chosen people of Israel were first in the Church, but over the years, people from all countries have been added.  Nations which were once thought to be against Christianity, now have immense number of Christians. In places like Russia, China, Pakistan and African nations. The members in these countries of Pakistan and Africa, in my experience are far more committed to the authority of the Bible than Western countries, where there is celebration if popular culture is given precedence over the Bible.   God will never accept older branches of the Church to look down on younger ones.  The Gentiles converted at the eleventh hour, will be valued equally with the Jews of the first hour.

 Very often a person who has been a member of the Church for many years, can become truly converted by a younger evangelical preacher. The older generation should not consider the younger people to be a lot of liberals, there must be those with sound beliefs, who could contribute much to a Church, and be a good influence generally.

 The lessons of this parable, are as relevant to us as they were centuries ago.  It teaches that when a person becomes a member of the Church at any age, they are valuable and dear to God.

 We find the compassion of  God. The poor man portrayed as waiting in the market place with such fear of hunger to him and his family, was saved by the Master who showed concern for each man.  He knew that an hour of employment meant so much.

 We see the generosity of God.  The men employed all received the same pay, although they all did not work the same amount of work.  There is a verse which states, ‘all service ranks the same with God’.  What matters is the way it is given.  A man may receive a lot of money from a rich friend, for which he is grateful.  One of his children may save money from the little he gets, and with it buys a bar of chocolate for his dad, and for a normal man, there is little doubt which pleases him most.

 God gives us grace. We can never earn grace, it is freely given from His heart, it is a gift and not a reward.

 The supreme lesson of this parable, is the way in which things are done.  The men working for the Master, possibly on contract, and their whole concern was to get as much money as they could. Those who came later accepted the work, and were grateful for what was given, leaving it for the Master to decide how much to pay.  One group were showing appreciation.

Let us all be aware of ever thinking we can put off turning to Christ and repentance, for we will never know when our last day will be.


May God bless His words to us, and may His Holy Name be forever praised.