Afternoon Sermon: What Benefits Do Believers Receive From Christ At The Resurrection?, Baptist Catechism 41, 1 Corinthians 15:35–49

Baptist Catechism 41

Q. 41. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the Resurrection?

A. At the resurrection believers, being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the Day of Judgment, and made perfectly blessed, both in soul and body, in full enjoyment of God to all eternity. (Phil. 3:20,21; 1 Cor. 15:42,43; Matt. 10:32; 1 John 3:2; 1 Thess. 4:17)

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:35–49

“But someone will ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?’ You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.”(1 Corinthians 15:35–49, ESV)

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Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.

Introduction

Have you ever wondered what the tree of life signified for Adam in the garden of Eden? We know what the tree of the knowledge of good and evil signified. That forbidden tree signified rebellion against God and its consequences. God commanded Adam not to eat of that tree and warned that in the day he ate of it he would surely die. Eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would mean that there was rebellion in Adam’s heart and it would lead to death – physical death and eternal enmity with God. Conversely, eating from the tree of life would mean that Adam passed the time of testing and would enter into life, just as the name implies. But you ask, wasn’t Adam already alive? Indeed he was! And not only was he alive, he was alive in paradise. He stood in right relation to God! What more could he ask for? 

Clearly, the presence of the tree of life in the garden communicated that God had more for Adam. The one tree was a threat to him, but the tree of life held out the promise of life – a higher form of life –  life eternal. If Adam would have passed the test he would have been transferred from life in Eden to life in glory. 

As you know, Adam failed. He ate of the forbidden tree and entered immediately into the state of death, which is eternal separation from and enmity with God. Never did he eat of the tree of life. He was barred from that tree. God “drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24, ESV).

What was it that Adam forfeited? What kind of life was it that was offered to him through that tree of obedience? If the only scripture we had was Genesis 1-3 then I suppose we could only speculate. But the rest of scripture answers this question with great clarity. The tree of life held out to Adam the offer of life eternal; consummate life; spiritual life; life in glory. This is what the scriptures mean when they say, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” In sin, Adam, and all who are born from him, are born in sin and thus fail to enter into this state of glory.

Brothers and sisters, if you wish to know the kind of life and the kind of body that Adam would have been given had he passed the test by abstaining from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and eating from the tree of life, then consider Christ in his resurrection. Christ lived for sinners, he died for sinners, and on the third day, he rose from the grave bodily. He was raised in glory (see 1 Corinthians 15:42ff and 1 Peter 1:21). He walked on earth for 40 days proving himself to be alive. And then he ascended to the Father, that is to say, into glory. Christ, the second Adam, obeyed God. He earned the right to eat of that tree of life, if you will. And he did enter into the glory of the Father. His earthly body went into the grave, but from there it was raised by the power of the Holy Spirit. To use Paul’s metaphor, the body of Christ was, like a seed,  sown perishable but raised imperishable. It was sown in dishonor. It was raised in glory. Christ, the God-man, died according to the flesh, but he was raised in the flesh never to die again. He completed the race that the first Adam failed to complete. 

But listen carefully to this: when Christ entered into glory, he entered as a forerunner. He entered into glory so that he might, in due time, bring others into glory also. As Paul says elsewhere: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power” (1 Corinthians 15:20–24, ESV).

In the previous question, we learned that when the believer dies their body goes into the grave and their souls immediately pass into the presence of God. Indeed, that will be a great blessing to pass into the presence of God at the moment of death. But this week we learn that this is not the end for the believer. The believer will not remain in that incomplete, disembodied, soulish state forever. Instead, at the resurrection believers, being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the Day of Judgment, and made perfectly blessed, both in soul and body, in full enjoyment of God to all eternity.

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Catechism Explained

Notice a few things about this answer. 

One, notice that we are talking about what will happen “at the resurrection”. What is this? It is what will happen in the future, on the last day, when Christ returns. He will do many things on that day, one of them being, to raise the bodies of all who have died. 1 Thesalonians 4:16-17 says, “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17, ESV).

Two, our catechism is specifically addressing what will happen to believers on the last day. “At the resurrection believers…” This is about beleivers,  and not those who remain in unbelief. Those outside of Christ will be our focus in the following question. 

Three, the language of glory is used here. Christ suffered in the flesh to bring many sons to glory, to quote Hebrews 2:10. To enter into glory is to eneter into the blessed presence of God where we will enjoy him forever and ever.   

Four, notice the connection between the resurrection and the day of judgment. Again, “at the resurrection believers, being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the Day of Judgment.” According to dispensational premillennialists there will be a long gap between the resurrection and the day of judgement, but the scriptures nowhere teach this. In fact, the scriptures teach that on the last day Christ will return to raise the day, to judge, and to usher in the new heavens and earth. There will be many things that happen on that last deay (including the resurrection), but this will be one event with many components, and not many isolated events spread over a long period of time. This is what Paul so clearly teaches in 1 Corinthians 15:22ff: “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power” (1 Corinthians 15:22–24, ESV). The premillennial dispensationalists see gaps of time in the scriptures where there are no gaps of time. The truth is this. When Christ returns he will raise the dead, judge the world, and make all things new. 

Five, those in Christ “shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the Day of Judgment.” Believers will be acknowledged as children of God, for they were adopted in Christ. And believers will be acquitted (a legal term), for they were justified through faith in Christ. What a terrible thought to be judged by God. But what a wonderful hope we have. We will not be judged, but will be openly acknowledged and acquitted instead, thanks be to God.

Six, believers will be made “perfectly blessed” at the resurrection. We will be blessed at the moment of death when our souls are brought into the presence of God. But at the resurrection we will be perfectly blessed. 

This is because, seven, in that moment we will be glorified “both in soul and body” as whole persons. As I explained last week, those with faith in Christ will be blessed in soul when they die, but their bodies will go into the grave. For this time we will be blessed, but incomplete. At the resurrection we will be whole persons against. Then we will be ”made perfectly blessed, both in soul and body.”

Eight, notice what it is that will make us perfectly blessed, or happy. It will be the “full enjoyment of God to all eternity.” Stated differently, God is the blessing. His presence is what makes heaven heavenly. King David knew this. And Christ knows this. Listen to Psalm 16:8-11: “I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:8–11, ESV)

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Conclusion

Q. 41. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the Resurrection?

A. At the resurrection believers, being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the Day of Judgment, and made perfectly blessed, both in soul and body, in full enjoyment of God to all eternity. (Phil. 3:20,21; 1 Cor. 15:42,43; Matt. 10:32; 1 John 3:2; 1 Thess. 4:17)

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Morning Sermon: The Gospel Of The Courtyard, Altar Of Burnt Offering, And Bronze Laver, Exodus 38

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 38

“He made the altar of burnt offering of acacia wood. Five cubits was its length, and five cubits its breadth. It was square, and three cubits was its height. He made horns for it on its four corners. Its horns were of one piece with it, and he overlaid it with bronze. And he made all the utensils of the altar, the pots, the shovels, the basins, the forks, and the fire pans. He made all its utensils of bronze. And he made for the altar a grating, a network of bronze, under its ledge, extending halfway down. He cast four rings on the four corners of the bronze grating as holders for the poles. He made the poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with bronze. And he put the poles through the rings on the sides of the altar to carry it with them. He made it hollow, with boards. He made the basin of bronze and its stand of bronze, from the mirrors of the ministering women who ministered in the entrance of the tent of meeting. And he made the court. For the south side the hangings of the court were of fine twined linen, a hundred cubits; their twenty pillars and their twenty bases were of bronze, but the hooks of the pillars and their fillets were of silver. And for the north side there were hangings of a hundred cubits; their twenty pillars and their twenty bases were of bronze, but the hooks of the pillars and their fillets were of silver. And for the west side were hangings of fifty cubits, their ten pillars, and their ten bases; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets were of silver. And for the front to the east, fifty cubits. The hangings for one side of the gate were fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and three bases. And so for the other side. On both sides of the gate of the court were hangings of fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and their three bases. All the hangings around the court were of fine twined linen. And the bases for the pillars were of bronze, but the hooks of the pillars and their fillets were of silver. The overlaying of their capitals was also of silver, and all the pillars of the court were filleted with silver. And the screen for the gate of the court was embroidered with needlework in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. It was twenty cubits long and five cubits high in its breadth, corresponding to the hangings of the court. And their pillars were four in number. Their four bases were of bronze, their hooks of silver, and the overlaying of their capitals and their fillets of silver. And all the pegs for the tabernacle and for the court all around were of bronze. These are the records of the tabernacle, the tabernacle of the testimony, as they were recorded at the commandment of Moses, the responsibility of the Levites under the direction of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest. Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, made all that the LORD commanded Moses; and with him was Oholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, an engraver and designer and embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. All the gold that was used for the work, in all the construction of the sanctuary, the gold from the offering, was twenty-nine talents and 730 shekels, by the shekel of the sanctuary. The silver from those of the congregation who were recorded was a hundred talents and 1,775 shekels, by the shekel of the sanctuary: a beka a head (that is, half a shekel, by the shekel of the sanctuary), for everyone who was listed in the records, from twenty years old and upward, for 603,550 men. The hundred talents of silver were for casting the bases of the sanctuary and the bases of the veil; a hundred bases for the hundred talents, a talent a base. And of the 1,775 shekels he made hooks for the pillars and overlaid their capitals and made fillets for them. The bronze that was offered was seventy talents and 2,400 shekels; with it he made the bases for the entrance of the tent of meeting, the bronze altar and the bronze grating for it and all the utensils of the altar, the bases around the court, and the bases of the gate of the court, all the pegs of the tabernacle, and all the pegs around the court.” (Exodus 38, ESV)

New Testament Reading: Ephesians 2:11–22

“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:11–22, ESV)

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Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.

Introduction

I hope that you have been edified by these sermons that I have preached on the building of the tabernacle of Old Covenant Israel as recorded for us here in these final chapters of the book of Exodus. As you know, I’ve taken a particular approach. Having considered the tabernacle in detail in those instructions that were given to Moses in Exodus chapters 25-30, we are now stepping back from the tabernacle to ask the more general question, how did the tabernacle proclaim the good news through its symbolism? 

Please allow me to make two clarifying remarks before going to our passage for today. 

One, when I say that the tabernacle proclaimed good news, I do not mean that the tabernacle was itself the substance or subject of the good news. What I mean is this: The good news that the tabernacle proclaimed (symbolically speaking) was not about itself, ultimately, but about Jesus Christ. In a symbolic way, the tabernacle proclaimed that God had not left men and women hopeless in sin. He had not abandoned his temple-building project which Adam failed to complete when he broke the covenant of works but would complete it in another way, namely through Israel and the Messiah that would be brought into the world through them. When we consider the tabernacle of Old Covenant Israel in the context of the whole story told within the Bible – the story of God’s creation and covenant, man’s fall into sin, God’s promise to redeem sinners through the seed of the woman and the offspring of Abraham, and the consummation of all things at Christ’s return – then it becomes clear that the tabernacle was not the substance or subject of good news, but was instead a herald of good news in a symbolical way – the subject and substance of the good news is Jesus Christ. 

To say it differently, never did the tabernacle“say”, come to me for the forgiveness of sins and to be made right with God for all eternity. Or to put it another way, never did the tabernacle “say”, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6, ESV). Jesus said that. And that is my point. When the eternal Son of God assumed a human nature and tabernacled amongst us, he said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, ESV). While the tabernacle of Old made a way for sinners under the Old Covenant to approach God in worship, the way into the presence of the Father was closed off, not opened wide. The tabernacle provided a perpetual reminder of sins. It reminded the worshipper of their alienation from God because of sin. But it also pointed forward to the Christ who would offer himself up as a  sacrifice, once for all, for the forgiveness of sins. It is through him, and through the covenant that he mediates, that the way to full reconciliation with the Father is opened wide. 

Brothers and sisters, the tabernacle was a sign which pointed to the way of salvation.  And you know how signs work. Signs point away from themselves to things that are substantial. If you are running low on gas while driving on a dark and lonely highway, you will feel a great sense of relief when you see a gas station sign glowing off in the distance. The sign brings you relief, not because it (in and of itself) has the power to meet your need, but because it points to the thing that can meet your need in a substantial way, in this case, the fuel contained within the tanks of the as the station itself. And this is what I mean when I say that the tabernacle was a sign.  It proclaimed the good news, but it was not itself the substance of the good news. The substance was and is Christ the Lord. Through faith in him, we have the forgiveness of sins, a clean conscience, and full reconciliation with the Father.

This is what the writer of Hebrews says. In 10:1 we read, “For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins”  (Hebrews 10:1-4, ESV). Can you see the point that Hebrews is making? Here were warned to not misinterpret the tabernacle, temple, and the sacrifices that were offered there by the Priests. Those sacrifices did not take away sin. They did not “perfect” the worshipper. They did not cleanse the conscience. Quite the opposite. The sacrifices functioned as a reminder of sin as they were offered up continuously. Paul says, they were a “shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities”. It is in verse 5 that we learn who “the true form of these realities” is. And I quote, “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’  When he said above, ‘You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings’ (these are offered according to the law), then he added, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will.’ He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:5–10, ESV). Lord willing, we will study the book of Hebrews in detail someday. For now, I simply want you to see the way in which the writer speaks of the Old Covenant and the sacrifices that were offered at the tabernacle, and later temple. Those animal sacrifices could not perfect the worshipper or cleanse the conscience. And for this reason, they were offered continually. But this is contrasted with Christ who offered himself up once. The tabernacle and the animal sacrifices offered there were a shadow of good things to come. Christ – the broken body of Christ –  is the form or substance of these realities. Through faith in him, we have the real forgiveness of sins and the cleansing of our consciences before God.

I hope you can see why I have made this clarifying remark. As I speak about “the good news” of the tabernacle and of its features, I do not want to be misunderstood. While the tabernacle proclaimed good news, it was not the source or substance of the good news. Jesus Christ was and is the substance. Through faith in him, we have the forgiveness of sins, full reconciliation with the Father, and the hope of life everlasting. That was true under the Old Covenant just as it is true now. They looked forward to Christ. We look back to his finished work and receive him by faith. 

The second clarifying remark is related to the first. While there is a sense in which I want to minimize the tabernacle and maximize Christ, I do not wish to in any way speak against the tabernacle or to demean its design or purpose. After all, this tabernacle was given to Israel by God. It was constructed according to the design shown to Moses by God on the mountain. The worship that was conducted there was according to the command of God. The tabernacle was good, brothers and sisters. But it was good, only so long as it was used according to its design. As a kid, I remember my dad telling me not to use a wrench as a hammer. A wrench is good. But to use a wrench as a hammer is bad. It is both bad for the wrench and bad for the task. A wrench is not designed to drive nails. A hammer is designed to do that. And so it is with the law of Moses in general, and with the tabernacle in particular. The law of Moses, the tabernacle, the sacrificial system, and the Aaronic priesthood were not designed to provide for the actual forgiveness of sins, for the cleansing of the conscience, and to reconcile sinners to God eternally. No! Only Jesus Christ can do that through its finished work. But this does not make the law of Moses, the Old Covenant tabernacle, and the sacrificial system administered by the priests  bad. To the contrary, the law is to be regarded as good… provided that it is used lawfully, that is to say, according to its purpose and design (1 Timothy 1:8).

So what was the design and purpose of the tabernacle and the sacrifices that were offered there. We have already considered how the tabernacle “proclaimed” Christ in a shadowy, symbolic way. To that, we must add that it provided a way for the Old Covenant people of God to draw near to him in worship and to be cleaned from their sins in a superficial, earthly, and temporary way. As the people of Israel sinned against God or became unclean according to the ceremonial laws of Moses, they were to draw near to God to be cleansed at the tabernacle according to his command. In this way, they would be restored to a clean and upright status according to the terms of the Old Covenant. This is very different from claiming that the blood of bulls and goats actually atoned for their sins. How can animal blood atone for human sin?! It cannot. But those with true faith in Old Covenant Isarel – those who were circumcised, not merely of the flesh, but of heart – looked beyond the tabernacle, the animal sacrifices, and the priests of Aaron and they saw Christ. The true Isreal of God, the true sons, and daughters of Abraham, or the remnant, if you prefer, believed in the promises of God concerning the coming Messiah as they came to the tabernacle to worship, according to God’s commandment. And they, like us, were justified by faith – faith in the promised Messiah.

So then, when you hear me minimize the tabernacle and maximize Christ, please do not misunderstand. I am not demeaning the tabernacle or diminishing its goodness. I am saying that if the tabernacle and temple of Old Covenant Isarel are to be appreciated as good they must be appreciated according to God’s design. To state the matter in another way, if the temple that stood in Jesus’s day could speak, it would have said what John the Baptist said concerning his relation to Jesus Christ: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30, ESV).

Let us go now to our text and consider the good news proclaimed by the courtyard, the altar of burnt offering, and the bronze laver.

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The Courtyard

First the courtyard. 

I’ve said before that the courtyard of the tabernacle symbolized the earth. The holy of holies symbolized the heavenly throneroom of God where he manifests his glory before the angels. The holy place symbolized the visible heavens where the sun, moon, and stars reside. And the courtyard signified the earth with its dry land, mountains, and seas. So then, the tabernacle was a little miniature version of creation. Remember, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and the tabernacle of Old Covenant Israel was a little replica of that. 

As I’ve said, the courtyard signified the earth. It was the least holy part of this holy tabernacle. Notice that silver and bronze, not gold, were the metals used here. Notice that this was the place where the common people of Israel were invited to assemble. Only the priests could minister in the holy place. And only the high priest could enter the holiest place. But all of Isarel was invited to enter the courtyard. 

As the people of Israel entered the courtyard of the tabernacle and walked past the altar of burnt offerings and the bronze basin (or sea) which contained water for the purification of the priests, it would have reminded them of the mountains and seas of the earth, and especially Sinai and the Red Sea, through which Israel had passed when they were redeemed from Egypt. 

What did the courtyard communicate to Israel and to all who considered it? It communicated that the God of heaven had not abandoned people on earth in their sin, but would make a way for them to draw near to him. Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden and barred from that holy place, but God was merciful and promised to provide a way through the offspring of the woman, through the seed of Abraham. When the people entered this courtyard and beheld the bronze altar, the bronze laver, and beyond them,  the holy place and most holy place, it was a reminder of the mercy and grace of God and the way that he had promised to open up. 

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The Altar Of Burnt Offering

Let us now consider the altar of burnt offering.

This bronze altar, measuring 7.5’ square by 4.5’ tall was the first thing the people would have seen when they entered the courtyard. The bloody altar of burnt offering would have reminded them of the Passover lamb that was slain on the night they were delivered from Egypt. Isarel was shielded from the wrath of God by the blood of the lamb as the angel of death passed over. All who had the blood of the lamb spread upon the doorposts of the house were spared. The firstborn in all the homes not shielded by the blood of the lamb was slain. The message is this: If you wish to draw near to YHWH, you must be covered by the blood of the lamb.

And it was on this altar that the blood of bulls and goats was shed and burnt offerings were offered up to God. These sacrifices were offered up for sins committed and out of gratitude to God for his blessings. The symbolism was clear. If sinful men and women are to approach YHWH, they must be cleansed by blood. 

To quote Hebrews 9:22: “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” 

What did this animal blood do for the worshipper under the Old Covenant? First, let us remember what it could not do. It could not atone for human sin to the cleansing of the conscience to bring about true and eternal reconciliation with God. These animals could not be offered up before God as a once for all substitute for sinful man. For this reason, these sacrifices were offered up continually. What did they accomplish, then?

One, the functioned as a perpetual reminder of sin and what our sins deserve, namely, death.

Two, they foreshadowed the Messiah, the eternal Son of God incarnate, who would come to live, die,, rise, and ascend for sinners. He was able to atone for the sins of his people, for he is the God-man. His blood has the power to save, for he is the God-man. By his shed blood, through faith in him, our consciences are cleansed, for in him we are justified and reconciled to the Father, for he is the God-man, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. The animal sacrifices of the Old Covenant reminded the worshippers of their sins and their need for a substitute to make atonement for their sins, and they directed the worshiper to look, not to the animal blood, but to the blood of the promised Messiah, the eternal Son of God incarnate. 

Three, these animal sacrifices provided cleansing for the Old Covenant people of God in a superficial, earthly, and temporary way. As the Israelites broke God’s covenant law they incurred guilt and became unclean. Remember that the Old Mosaic Covenant was like the Covenant of Works made with Adam in the garden in that it too was a covenant of works. If Israel obeyed they would be blessed in the land, if they disobeyed they would be cast out of the land, just as Adam was cast out of the garden of Eden. Here is the difference, though. God was merciful to Israel. He was patient with them, slow to anger, and abounding in covenant loyalty and love. He would have to be gracious to Israel if he would keep his promise to bring the Messiah into the world through them. The question is this: how would the guilt of sin and uncleanness be addressed under the Old Covenant while God passed over sin until the Messiah was brought into the world through them to accomplish true and eternal redemption? These animal sacrifices were the means that God prescribed for the Old Covenant people to deal with the guilt of sin and uncleanness under the Old Covenant. The blood of bulls and goats did not atone for sin in an eternal way but in an earthy way so that God might show mercy to Isarel under the terms of the Old Covenant. The book of Hebrews is so very clear about this. 

If you wish to know more about the sacrificial system of the Old Covenant you will only have to read through the next book in the Bible after Exodus. The book of Leviticus tells us all about the offerings that were to be offered up for sin, for uncleanness, and out of gratitude to God. Listen, for example, to Leviticus 1:1: “The LORD called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, ‘Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of livestock from the herd or from the flock. If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD. He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. Then he shall kill the bull before the LORD, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and throw the blood against the sides of the altar that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting. Then he shall flay the burnt offering and cut it into pieces, and the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. And Aaron’s sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, the head, and the fat, on the wood that is on the fire on the altar; but its entrails and its legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall burn all of it on the altar, as a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD” (Leviticus 1:1–9, ESV). In this way, the Israelite worshipper would be accepted before the LORD, not in an eternal and permanent sense (otherwise these sacrifices would not have been offred continuously), but in an earthy, temporary, and covenantal sense.

*****

The Bronze Laver

Let us now briefly consider the bronze laver or basin. 

It is mentioned briefly in 38:8. I will read the more extensive description of this laver found in 30:18-20 so that we might remember what it was for. There the Lord says to Moses, “You shall also make a basin of bronze, with its stand of bronze, for washing. You shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it, with which Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet. When they go into the tent of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn a food offering to the LORD, they shall wash with water, so that they may not die” (Exodus 30:18–20, ESV).

The laver was for the priests to use. They were to wash their hands and feet with that water before ministering in the holy place and before offering up sacrifices to the Lord at the altar. And if you remember, in Exodus 29:4 we learned that when the priests were ordained or consecrated as priests , they were to be bathed in this water. I think it is right to say that they were to be bathed from head to toe at the time of their ordination. Exodus 29:4 says. “You shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and wash them with water.” 

What is the meaning? If one wishes to approach YHWH and to minister before him, he must be washed. He must be cleansed by the water and by the blood.

Those who are familiar with the Bible, and especially the New Testament, likely had many things pop into their minds when I mentioned the water and the blood. In the courtyard of tabernacle, there was was water and there was blood. To enter the holy place, and the most holy place, one had to be cleaned with water and blood. 

Think of Christ, brothers and sisters. 

Why was he baptized? Not to wash away sin, nor signify the washing away of sin, for he had none. He was baptized by John to fulfill all righteousness, for at that moment he was beginning his public ministry as our great high priest. He was washed with water from head to toe (baptized by immersion) just as the priests under the Old Covenant were at their ordination, to signify his ordination as our great high priest and mediator of the New Covenant. It was then that the Father set his seal upon him, speaking from heaven, and pouring out his Spirit up the Lord’s Anointed, the Messiah.   

And when Christ finished his work of high priest and mediator of the New Covenant, as ascended into the most holy place – not the one made by hands, but the one in heaven. And he did not enter in without blood. Just as the high priests who ministered under the Old Covenant could not enter into the most holy place without blood to sprinkle on the altar, neither could the high priest and mediator of the New Covenant enter into the heavenly holy of holies without blood. But the blood he offered up was different. It was his own. 

Listen again to Hebrews 9:22, but this time I will continue. “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. Thus it was hristnecessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:22–28, ESV)

Water and blood. When the priests ministered at the tabernacle they had to be cleaned with water and they had to come with blood – water to wash away their filth, and blood to atone for their own sins, and the sins of the people. Our great high priest, Jesus the Messiah, entered the most holy place in heaven having been washed with water and having poured out his own blood, not for his own sins, for he had none, but for the sins of many.

Water and blood. Think of how water and blood flowed from Christ when that sword pieced his side. And think about the Christian life. When we are drawn to faith we, at that moment,  have the blood of Christ applied to us to the cleaning of our consciences before God. And in that moment we are made priests of God (1 Peter 2:5). And how are we publicly consecrated as priests to God in the kingdom of Christ? Through the water of baptism. It is by the blood of Christ and through the waters of baptism (which signify our cleansing in Chrisit and our union with him) that we have bold access into the throne of God. 

I hope you can see how our eternal salvation in Jesus Christ was pictured in the tabernacle of Old Covenant Israel. It was especially symbolized by the activities of the High Priest on the day of atonement. The priest would have entered to the courtyard, past the brazen altar, been washed at the lavar, and only then would enter the most holy place, and not without blood. What the high priests of Israel did year after year on earth, Jesus the Messiah did once and for all and entered into the holy of holies in heaven, of which the tabernacle was a copy. The way there was opened wide through his shed blood. And it was opened up, not only for him, for all you are united to him by faith.

*****

Conclusion

Friends, I must ask you. Are you united to Christ by faith? Do you trust in him? Do you believe in him to the saving of your souls? It is one thing to study the book of Exodus and to see how this tabernacle of old preached the gospel by signifying the Christ who was to come. But at some point, we must ask the question of eternal significance – do you believe this gospel? Do you believe that man has fallen into sin and deserves eternal condemnation but that God has shown mercy and has provided a Savior, Christ the Lord? He lived for sinners, died for sinners, and rose for sinners. He also ascended into heaven for sinners so that where he is we might be also. You must believe in him if your sins are to be forgiven. You must turn from your sins and confess that he is Lord. And this confession is to be made publicly through the waters of baptism. 

Friends, I want you to know that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:16–18, ESV). 

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Afternoon Sermon: What Benefits Do Believers Receive From Christ At Death?, Baptist Catechism 40, 2 Corinthians 5:1–10

Baptist Catechism 40

Q. 40. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?

A. The souls of believers are at death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory, and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection. (Heb. 12:23; Phil. 1:23; 2 Cor. 5:8; Luke 23:43; 1 Thess 4:14; Is. 57:2; Job 19:26)

Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:1–10

“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (2 Corinthians 5:1–10, ESV)

*****

  1. “The souls of believers are at death…”
    • “Made perfect in holiness…”
      • “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect…” (Hebrews 12:22–23, ESV)
    • “And do immediately pass into glory…”
      • “I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.” (Philippians 1:23–24, ESV)
      • “Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8, ESV)
      • “And he said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.’” (Luke 23:43, ESV)
  2. “ And their bodies…”
    • “Being still united to Christ…”
      • “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Thessalonians 4:14, ESV)
    • “Do rest in their graves till the resurrection.”
      • “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16, ESV)
      • “And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God,” (Job 19:26, ESV)
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Afternoon Sermon: What Benefits In This Life Accompany Justification, Adoption, And Sanctification?, Baptist Catechism 39, Romans 5:1-5

Baptist Catechism 39

Q. 39. What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification?

A. The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are, assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Spirit, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end. (Rom. 5:1-5; 14:17; Prov. 4:18; 1 Peter 1:5;1 John 5:13)

Scripture Reading: Romans 5:1-5

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:1–5, ESV)

*****

“The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are, assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Spirit, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.” (Rom. 5:1-5; 14:17; Prov. 4:18; 1 Peter 1:5;1 John 5:13)

  1. “Assurance of God’s love…”
    • See the London Baptist Confession chapter 18 for some good teaching on assurance. 
  2. “Peace of conscience…”
    • “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:1–5, ESV)
  3. “Joy in the Holy Spirit…”
    • “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17, ESV)
  4. “Increase of grace…”
    • “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.” (Proverbs 4:18, ESV)
  5. “And perseverance therein to the end.”
    • “Who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:5, ESV)
    • “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13, ESV)
  6. Application
    • Do you have assurance?
    • Do you have peace?
    • Do you have joy?
    • Are you growing in grace?
    • Are you persevering?
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Morning Sermon: The Gospel Of The Ark, Table, Lampstand, And Altar Of Incense, Exodus 37 

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 37

“Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood. Two cubits and a half was its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. And he overlaid it with pure gold inside and outside, and made a molding of gold around it. And he cast for it four rings of gold for its four feet, two rings on its one side and two rings on its other side. And he made poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with gold and put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark. And he made a mercy seat of pure gold. Two cubits and a half was its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. And he made two cherubim of gold. He made them of hammered work on the two ends of the mercy seat, one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat he made the cherubim on its two ends. The cherubim spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, with their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat were the faces of the cherubim. He also made the table of acacia wood. Two cubits was its length, a cubit its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. And he overlaid it with pure gold, and made a molding of gold around it. And he made a rim around it a handbreadth wide, and made a molding of gold around the rim. He cast for it four rings of gold and fastened the rings to the four corners at its four legs. Close to the frame were the rings, as holders for the poles to carry the table. He made the poles of acacia wood to carry the table, and overlaid them with gold. And he made the vessels of pure gold that were to be on the table, its plates and dishes for incense, and its bowls and flagons with which to pour drink offerings. He also made the lampstand of pure gold. He made the lampstand of hammered work. Its base, its stem, its cups, its calyxes, and its flowers were of one piece with it. And there were six branches going out of its sides, three branches of the lampstand out of one side of it and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side of it; three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on one branch, and three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on the other branch—so for the six branches going out of the lampstand. And on the lampstand itself were four cups made like almond blossoms, with their calyxes and flowers, and a calyx of one piece with it under each pair of the six branches going out of it. Their calyxes and their branches were of one piece with it. The whole of it was a single piece of hammered work of pure gold. And he made its seven lamps and its tongs and its trays of pure gold. He made it and all its utensils out of a talent of pure gold. He made the altar of incense of acacia wood. Its length was a cubit, and its breadth was a cubit. It was square, and two cubits was its height. Its horns were of one piece with it. He overlaid it with pure gold, its top and around its sides and its horns. And he made a molding of gold around it, and made two rings of gold on it under its molding, on two opposite sides of it, as holders for the poles with which to carry it. And he made the poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with gold. He made the holy anointing oil also, and the pure fragrant incense, blended as by the perfumer.” (Exodus 37, ESV)

New Testament Reading: Revelation 8:1–5

“When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.” (Revelation 8:1–5, ESV)

*****

Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.

Introduction

A biblicist will never come to a full appreciation of the tabernacle that God commanded Israel to make under the Old Covenant. What is a biblicist? Stated simply a biblicist is one who says, if you want me to believe this or that, you must show me a single verse in the Bible that says it. But the Bible is not meant to be read in that way. Truths about God and his dealings with man are spread throughout the pages of Holy Scripture. A careful student of the Bible will gather those truths up and bring them all together to understand what the Bible teaches on a particular subject. And more than this, the Bible tells a story. And like every good story, it contains themes that are developed as the story unfolds. A careful student of the Bible will know the story of the Bible well. He or she will recognize themes and trace their development until they find their fulfillment in Christ, his finished work, and his eternal reward. We should seek to be biblical, brothers and sisters. And by that I mean, we must believe what the Bible teaches, for it is inspired, inerrant, authoritative, and clear. And if we wish to be biblical, we must be careful to avoid the error of biblicism, for it will certainly lead us astray.

Why have I said that “a biblicist will never come to a full appreciation of the tabernacle that God commanded Israel to make under the Old Covenant”? Well, the reason is this. The tabernacle, and later the temple, of Old Covenant Isarel, can only be understood and fully appreciated if they are interpreted within the context of the story of creation, man’s fall into sin, redemption in Christ Jesus, and the consummation of all things at when Christ returns. This story is developed from Geneses 1 through to the end of Revelation 22. It contains many important themes, and the tabernacle or temple is one of them. To consider the instructions that God gave to Israel concerning the building of the tabernacle in Exodus 25-31, or the account of their building of it in Exodus 35-40, apart from the story of creation, of man’s fall into sin, and the promise of redemption through a Redeemer will lead us to a very very narrow understanding of and shallow appreciation for the tabernacle. 

Yes, it is good to know the facts about the tabernacle. It is good to know about its design and dimensions, what it was made of, its furnishings, and how it was to be used under the Old Covenant through the ministry of the priests. Those facts are important. But a careful student of the Bible will also come to recognize that those facts have meaning and significance. 

I have taught you these things in previous sermons, so I will be very brief. What was the significance of the tabernacle? 

First, we must recognize that the tabernacle was designed to be a little replica of God’s creation. 

The outer courtyard signified the earth in which we dwell. The bronze altar on which animal sacrifices were made was like a mountain in the midst of the earth (perhaps it was a reminder of Sinai). The bronze laver containing water for washing signified the sea. In fact, it is called a “sea” in 2 Chronicles 4.  This outer courtyard was where the common people of Israel were invited to assemble. As they walked past the altar and towards the sea, they would have remembered their redemption from Egypt. Remember, they were freed from Egypt by the blood of the Passover lamb and through the divided waters of the Red Sea. In this way, their sins were symbolically atoned for and they were cleansed according to the flesh. 

If the outer courtyard signified the earth, that is to say, the dry land and the sea, what did the holy place signify except the heavens above – the realm where the sun, moon, and stars reside as divinely appointed rulers to govern times and seasons? How do we know the holy place signified the heavens above? There are many indicators. The color of the cloth used to cover the tabernacle is one such indicator. The cherubim embroidered into the cloth is another indicator. The angels look down on us from above! And do not forget the lampstand with its seven lights (see Exodus 25:36). This lampstand was to be positioned inside the holy place to the south. Some believe that the seven lights represented the seven great lights in heaven visible to the naked eye – the sun, moon, and five wandering stars, which are planets. Can you imagine what the holy place would have looked like to the priests as they entered to minister? With the curtains closed, it would have been very dark. But those seven lights on the lampstand must have shined so brightly. As the priests left the courtyard and entered the holy place it would have felt to them like the transition from day to night. Through the symbolism of the courtyard and holy place, their eyes would have been lifted from the earth below to the starry heavens above as they passed from the one area of the tabernacle into the other.

So then, if the courtyard signified the earth, and the holy place signified the visible heaven, what did the most holy place signify? It signified the invisible heaven – the heaven of heavens – that is to say, the realm that God created in the beginning that is hidden from us where he manifests his glory before the angels and (now that Christ has risen) the souls of the saints made perfect. That is what the holy of holies signified – the heavenly throneroom of God. Do you remember how Moses, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu along with the seventy elders were given a glimpse of that throneroom? Heaven was opened up to them and they saw through the floor of it, if you will. Exodus 24:10 tells us they went up on the mountain and “they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness.” The holy of holies signified that realm which is typically invisible to us. It represented the very throneroom of God. In fact, the ark of the covenant that was situated inside the most holy place is referred to in scripture as the footstool of God’s heavenly throne (see 1 Chr. 28:2; Pss. 99:5, 132:7-8; Is. 66:1; Lam. 2:1).  Listen to Psalm 132:7-8. Speaking of the temple of God the psalmist says, “Let us go to his dwelling place; let us worship at his footstool! Arise, O LORD, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might” (Psalm 132:7–8, ESV). The ark of the covenant that was inside the holy of holies which contained God’s law written by his finger on tables of stone, was God’s footstool. Where then is God’s throne? It is in heaven where he manifests his glory before his angels. As the LORD says in Isaiah 66:1, “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest?” (Isaiah 66:1, ESV). Well, according to God’s command, the tabernacle, and later the temple, was the place of God’s rest. It was the place where he manifest his glory in a special way on earth in the midst of Israel under that Old Mosaic Covenant. To enter the holy of holies was to enter into the throne room of God and to worship before his feet. And what was above the ark of the covenant? What was above God’s footstool in the most holy place? Nothing, for no image of God can be made. There were cherubim on the left side and right side of the ark, replicating the heavenly reality. But no image of God was made, God forbid it. Soon we will learn that once the tabernacle was completed, God filled the holy of holies with a manifestation of his glory. In this way, and in this place, heaven and earth were united as one. The holy of holies was a kind of link between the invisible heavens above and the earth below. 

The tabernacle was designed to be a little replica of God’s creation. There is no one verse found in scripture that says this, but there are many, many things said from Genesis 1 through Revelation 22 that help us to see that it was so, if we would only pay attention to the story of redemption and to the theme of the temple of God that is developed within. 

In addition to this, I have taught you that the tabernacle also signified the garden of Eden which Adam was cast out of because of his disobedience. More specifically, the holy place signified the garden, and the most holy place signified Eden, the mountain of the Lord. You see, just as the tabernacle consisted of three parts, so too the earthly realm that God made in the beginning consisted of three parts. There was the earth and seas in general, and this corresponded to the courtyard of the tabernacle. And we know that God planted a garden in the midst of the earth. There he placed Adam, the prophet, priest, and king, along with his wife. They were to keep it the garden. They were to worship and serve God. They were to expand it. And in the midst of the garden, there were two trees – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life. This was the place where Adam, the federal head of the human race, along with his wife Eve, worshiped and served the Lord. This was where they enjoyed sweet communion with the God of heaven. And this corresponded to the holy place of the tabernacle. Only the priests were to enter. There they were to minister on behalf of the people as mediators between God and man. The decor of the holy place echoed the garden of Eden. The most obvious echo was the lampstand which was shaped like a tree with fruit on its branches in each stage of development. This was a replica of the tree of life. Eden itself was a mountain and the garden of Eden was near its base. That is what Genesis 2:10 describes when it says, “A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers” (Genesis 2:10, ESV). I think it is right to consider Eden to be the mountain of the LORD. There the LORD manifest his glory, and from there he came to walk with Adam and Eve in the garden, and Adam was invited to ascend the mountain of the LORD. This is what Ezekiel 28 describes. In that text, judgment is pronounced on the King of Tyre using the imagery of Edenic and of Adam’s (or perhaps Satan’s) fall into sin. Listen carefully to the oracle: “Thus says the Lord GOD: ‘You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings [this should remind you of the garb of the priests of Israel and the precious stones that were set on the breast piece; see Exodus 28:17ff] . On the day that you were created they were prepared. You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you. In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire” (Ezekiel 28:12–16, ESV). In Eden, there was not only a garden, but a mountain too, and there the glory of God was manifest. There Adam walked. And from there Adam fell. And I am saying that the most holy place of the tabernacle corresponded to the mountain of God, which was his throne, from which the river of life flowed. It watered the garden. And there it divided into four rivers and spread throughout the whole earth. If you wish to gain a clear picture of this, then read Genesis 2 and afterward go to Revelation 22, wherein we find this description of the new heavens and earth: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:1–2, ESV). Why was there a veil separating the holy place from the most holy place in the tabernacle of Israel? Because the sin of Adam, and our sin in him, had separated man from God. And the way into God’s presence had not yet been opened up by the Christ, the seed of the woman, the son of Abraham, the son of David, the Son of God, the second Adam who was appointed to do this work. And what happened to that veil in the temple when Christ accomplished our redemption? It was torn in two from top to bottom.

So you can see, then, that this little tabernacle that Israel was commanded to make was a miniature model of the cosmos – of earth, heaven, and the heaven of heaven. It was also an echo of Eden and of what was lost when Adam broke the covenant that was made with him by eating the forbidden tree. And I should also remind you that the tabernacle was a picture of the new heavens and earth which Christ, the second Adam, earned through his obedience. The priesthood and the sacrifices that were offered there in the tabernacle prefigured Christ and his work. The very presence of the tabernacle within Old Covenant proclaimed the good news. Though Adam was expelled from the garden temple of Eden, and though he failed to enter God’s eternal temple (into glory and rest), God did not abandon sinful humanity, but promised to bring his eternal temple (his eternal kingdom) in another way, namely, through the Messiah of Israel, the second and greater Adam.

How can one structure signify so many things? Well, it can do so because all of these things are intimately related to each other. The original creation, Eden, and the new heavens and earth which Adam failed to earn, but that Christ has earned through his obedient life and sacrificial death, are intimately related to each other. They are all different aspects of the story of God’s creation, of man’s fall into sin by the breaking of the covenant, of salvation in Christ, and the new heavens and earth which he has earned. The tabernacle of Israel signified all of these things as it pointed back in time, up into heaven, and forward to Christ, his work and his reward, for that Old Covenant vantage point. It is truly marvelous to consider. A biblicistic approach to the scriptures will not uncover this beauty. But if we read the scriptures as a story with themes that develop progressively with time, then we will come to appreciate the marvelously good news proclaimed by the tabernacle and its furnishing. 

Today we will briefly consider four items that furnished the tabernacle: the ark of the covenant, the table of showbread, the lampstand, and the altar of incense. We have considered these items in detail before in the instructions that God gave to Moses for the construction of them on the mountain. Today, we will consider them more generally and ask the question, how did they proclaim good news concerning the salvation that God would bring to fallen men and women through the Messiah and the Covenant of Grace which he mediates?   

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The Ark Of The Covenant

First, let us consider the ark of the covenant. The ark was a rectangular chest 45” wide by 27” deep by 27” tall. It was made of acacia wood and overlaid inside and out with pure gold. There was a molding around it, and on its top was placed a lid made of pure gold. This lid was called the mercy seat. And on the left and right sides of the mercy seat were angels with their wings spread over the mercy seat towards the middle. 

Here are the things that I want you to know about the ark of the covenant. 

One, know that it was placed inside the most holy place. It was fitting, therefore, that it was made out of the finest materials. Gold was used because it was precious and also to represent and reflect the radiant glory of God. 

Two, the ark is referred to in the scriptures as God’s footstool. I have already cited Psalm 132:7-8. Listen now to 1 Chronicles 28:2:  “Then King David rose to his feet and said: ‘Hear me, my brothers and my people. I had it in my heart to build a house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the LORD and for the footstool of our God, and I made preparations for building,” etc. David would not build the temple, for he was a man of war. In other words, he would not build it for the kingdom was not settled or at rest under his rule. His son Solomon would build it. But the important thing to notice here is that the “ark of the covenant of the LORD” is in this passage referred to as  “the footstool of our God.” So then, the ark of the covenant (which contained God’s law) and the holy of holies in which it was placed represented God’s throne, the place of his sovereign rule and rest. As I have said already, heaven (the invisible heavens) is said to be God’s throne (that is where he manifests his glory before the angels) and the earth his footstool. What is the significance of the ark being called his footstool, then? Well, it was in Old Covenant Israel that God’s throne and kingdom were especially manifest. God is Lord Most High. He is Sovereign over all. And yet we know that God’s eternal kingdom was in a unique way prefigured in Old Covenant Israel. The ark was the earthly footstool of God’s heavenly throne,  and so it is not surprising that it is also called the ark of the covenant, for it contained God’s covenant law.

Three, I wish to draw special attention to the name of the lid of the ark – it was called the mercy seat. Isn’t that marvelous? The angels on the left and right of the mercy seat signified the angels in heaven that surround God’s throne and give him eternal praise. But the place where God’s feet rested on earth (spiritually speaking) was called the mercy seat. And this corresponds to what God revealed to Moses concerning himself. “The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.’ And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped” (Exodus 34:6–8, ESV). When we think of the holy of of holies and the ark of the covenant contained within, it ought to remind us that God is merciful. Though mankind has rebelled against him, he showed mercy. He withheld the full outpouring of his wrath. By his mercy and grace, he determined to establish his eternal kingdom and temple. This was prefigured in Old Covenant Israel in many ways. This would be accomplished by the work of the Messiah through his life death, burial, and resurrection. 

In these ways, the ark of the covenant proclaimed good news. God had not abandoned humanity in sin. He is present with us still, ruling and reigning. More than this, he is establishing his eternal kingdom, which is his eternal temple. This he did through Isarel and through her Messiah, for the LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. We see all of this with great clarity now that Christ has come, but these truths were proclaimed beforehand, even though the tabernacle in general, and the ark of the covenant in particular. 

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The Table Of Showbread

Let us now consider the table of showbread, which is also called the table for the bread of the presence, as described in 37:10-16. The design of it was described in 25:23-30. Its dimensions were 36” wide by 18” deep by 27” tall. It was made of acacia wood and overlaid with pure gold. 

What did it signify? Well, the twelve loaves of bread that were laid upon it daily signified many things. They were a reminder of God’s general provision for all of creation. They were a reminder of the way in which the Lord had fed Israel in the wilderness with mana from heaven. Certainly, the twelve loaves signified the twelve tribes of Israel. And when the priests ate the bread as representatives of the people, it signified God’s special care for them, and his special communion with them in the covenant he made with them through Moses. And certainly, this bread of the presence anticipated the coming of Christ, the true bread who has come down from heaven.  

So then, the Old Covenant Israel had a sacramental table of bread set before them. It preached to them. It directed their minds to the past, to God in heaven above, and to the future. And we, the New Covenant people of God, also have a sacramental table set before us. It preaches to us as it directs our minds to the past to remember the work of redemption  that has been accomplished. It directs our minds heavenward to remember the Provider God and Christ, the bread of heaven who came down for us and has ascended to the Father’s right hand in victory. And this sacramental table does also direct our minds to the future as we long for the marriage supper of the lamb in the new heavens and earth. These tables – the old one and the new one – preach. They proclaim good news concerning salvation through faith in Christ and the New Covenant he mediates. 

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The Lampstand

Let us go now to the lampstand. 

Instructions were given for the construction of this lampstand in Exodus 25:31-40 . Perhaps you have heard this lampstand called the Menorah, which is the Hebrew word translated as “lampstand”. This lampstand was shaped like a tree. It had a trunk, and seven branches – one in the middle and three on each side. The light of this lampstand would illuminate the Holy Place. By this light, the priests would walk and be able to see the tapestry and the bread of the presence. This light was a reminder that in the beginning, God said, let there be light. The lampstand represented the sun, moon, and stars within the tabernacle, which I will argue, was designed to remind the worshiper of the created world. This tree was a strange tree in that it had flowers, buds, and fruit all at once. This is a reminder of God’s continual provision through the cycles of the seasons, springtime and harvest. This tree-shaped lampstand also represented the tree of life that was present in the garden from which man was barred when he fell into sin. 

What was the good news proclaimed by this lampstand? 

One, God, in his mercy, has promised to maintain the natural order of things. This promise ws made in the form of a covenant in the days of Noah. The Lord would never again flood the earth, and while the earth remained seedtime and harvest would be maintained. 

Two, there is in the lampstand a reminder that God had not abandoned his creation but was still present within to illuminate, to bless, and to save. The lamps symbolized the luminaries in heaven – the sun, moon, and stars (the five planets visible to the naked eye). And those luminaries in the sky were designed to remind us of God, Christ, and his elect angels. The visible heaven is a picture of the invisible heaven, and this is why they are called by the same name – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1, ESV). Do you think of God, Christ, and the angels when you look up at the sky by day and by night? You should! And when the priests entered the tabernacle they were reminded by the lampstand of the sun, moon, and stars above, of God who in the beginning created the world through the Word, saying, let there be light, and of the promised Messiah, the light of the world. In Isaiah 42:6 the LORD is heard speaking to the Messiah, saying, “I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations…” (Isaiah 42:6, ESV). The lampstand in the temple signified all of these things, and in so doing, the lampstand preached.

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The Altar Of Incense

Lastly, let us consider the altar of incense. 

This altar was to be made of acacia wood and overlaid with pure gold. It was to be about 18” wide and 18” deep with a height of about 36”. A molding of gold was to be placed around its edges. Horns were to be crafted on its four corners. So then, it resembled the bronze altar in the courtyard upon which animal sacrifices were made, only smaller. No food or drink was to be offered up on this altar, only a certain kind of incense. This altar was to be placed immediately outside of the holy of holies, near the curtain, and inside the holy place. The priest was to burn this special incense in the morning and evening as he tended to the lamp in the holy place which was to burn continuously. Animal blood was to be placed on the horns of the altar once per year. 

What was the significance of this altar? What was the good news that it proclaimed? Well, the incense that was burnt upon this altar signified the prayers of God’s people. The altar was placed in the holy place just outside of the holy of holies. The smoke that rose from the altar would pass through the curtain and into the most holy place. This signifies the prayers of God’s people. We offer them up to God from on earth. And though we do not see him, we have confidence that our prayers come before him, when offered up through faith in the Messiah.  

It is interesting that Hebrews 9:4 speaks of the most holy place as “having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant” (Hebrews 9:4, ESV). Why does Hebrews 9:4 say that the holy of holies “had” the altar of incense when in fact it was placed within the holy place where the priests ministered daily? The reason is this: though the altar was positioned in the holy place so that the priests could minister at it daily, it belonged to the holiest place, which signified the heavenly throneroom of God. That is what is meant by “having” in Hebrews 9:4. The most holy place did not contain the altar of incense, but the altar of incense did belong to the most holy place, for it signified the prayers of God’s people rising up to God who is enthroned in heaven. 

Revelation 8:1ff is interesting. John was shown a vision of heaven. And what did he see? “When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. Then [he] saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.” 

When John was shown a vision of the heavenly throneroom of God, he saw this altar there. Although this altar was positioned in the holy place so that the priests could have daily access to it, it belonged to the most holy place, which was a symbol of God’s heavenly throneroom. This corresponds perfectly to the reality of prayer. Prayers are offered up from on earth, but they penetrate into the invisible heavenly realm, and by this altar and the smoke that rose from it, we are reassured that God hears us. 

That was and is good news. Even under the Old Mosaic Covenant, a way was made to approach God in prayer. The altar of incense preached good news to Israel. But the altar, the incense, and the priests that ministered there also looked forward to a greater priest, a greater mediator, and greater access to the Father through a greater covenant.

 This is the message of the book of Hebrews.

Hebrews 9:11-14 says, “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” 

And Hebrews 4:14-16 says, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” 

God was gracious to provide a way for the Old Covenant people of God to approach him in worship and in prayer. They were to come trusting in the promises concerning the Messiah. And they were to draw near by means of the tabernacle, through animal sacrifice, and the Aaronic priesthood. Those priests were washed with water, and they ministered on behalf of the people as they offered up sacrifices and prayers to God. They entered the holy place daily. The high priest entered the most holy place yearly. And so though it is true that a way was made, the tabernacle did also communicate that the way to God was not yet opened wide. But now that Christ has come to accomplish our redemption, he has opened the way to God up wide. Christ, our great high priest in the order of Melchizedek, as passed, not into the holy place, nor into the most holy place, but into that place of which the most holy place was a sign, namely heaven itself. He mediates for his people there in the very presence of God. The tabernacle and temple of Old Covenant Isarel were great blessings to the people of God, but they did not open the way to God up wide. No, only Christ could do that. And the tabernacle pointed forward to him through its symbolism.

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Conclusion

I’d like to move this sermon to a conclusion now by asking this question: Why should Christians who live now under the New Covenant, and not under the Old, read and study the Old Testament scriptures? Or more specifically, why should Christians study the tabernacle? We are not to worship at the tabernacle or temple. These forms of worship have passed away with the Old Covenant and with the arrival of the New. Why consider these things, then?

Answer: Jesus the Messiah came to fulfill these things. If we wish to understand who Jesus is and what he came to do, we must read and study the Old Testament scriptures which speak of him and anticipate his arrival. 

Stated differently, though it is true that New Testament tells us all about Jesus the Messiah and the work of salvation that he has accomplished, it does not tell us the whole story. In fact, the New Testament assumes that its readers know the first part of the story contained in the Old.  

Stated in yet another way, if we were to read of Christ and the work he has done in the New Testament only, we would have a very limited understanding of him. It is the story of the Old Testament – the story of creation, covenant, fall, and redemption – that makes Christ and his work comprehensible. 

To consider Christ from the New Testament only would be like considering a 3-D image in 2-D way, or a color image in black and white only, or a hi-definition image in low resolution. When we consider the way in which the Old Testament anticipated the arrival of Christ and the accomplishment of his work through promises, prophesies, types, and shadows, our understanding of him in the pages of the New Testament is greatly enhanced. The New Testament does not tell the whole story over again, brothers and sisters,  but simply brings the story to a conclusion. The New Testament is, in a way, the final chapter in a very long and beautifully complex novel. No one would read the final chapter of a novel and expect to have a full appreciation for the story that is told within. And yet so many approach the scriptures in this way. 

Think of how the New Testament speaks of Christ. The New Testament does not say it all for us, but often speaks in code. And the key to the code is the Old Testament. Think of it. The opening verse of the New Testament is this: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1, ESV). If you know the Old Testament even just a little bit, you will understand that Jesus being the son of David, the son of Abraham is very significant. In just a few words, Matthew signals to us that the precious and very great promises made to these men through the covenants that God transacted with them were fulfilled in this Jesus. In just a few words – “Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” – a story is told, assuming that we are familiar with the story of Old. 

When we study the Old Testament in general, and the tabernacle and its priesthood in particular, we are ultimately considering Christ and his finished work, for the good news of Jesus Christ was preached through these means long before he was born. These things proclaimed him in a sacramental, typological, and prophetic way, and Jesus Christ came in fulfillment to these things to accomplish our redemption and to bring us to the Father now and for eternity. Brothers and sisters, let us come boldly before the throne of grace.

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, Exodus 35:4-36:38, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Morning Sermon: The Gospel Of The Ark, Table, Lampstand, And Altar Of Incense, Exodus 37 

Morning Sermon: Psalm 73, Do Not Envy The Wicked

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Pre-Introduction

I’ve decided to take a little break from our Exodus study to take you to Psalm 73 this morning. There are three reasons for this. One, I love Psalm 73. It has been coming to my mind often, and so I decided to preach it. Two, I have been mindful of the fact that many within this congregation have suffered afflictions as of late. One question that Christians who are afflicted, along with those who love those who are afflicted, might ask is this: why does God permit his people to suffer? And there is another question related to this one: why does God allow the wicked to prosper? These are difficult but important questions that all of God’s people will likely wrestle with at some point in their lives. This Psalm will be of help to us. Thirdly, Psalm 73 does have some relationship to what we have been considering in Exodus, namely, God’s tabernacle or temple. Here in this Psalm, it is called the “sanctuary” of the LORD, and it plays a central role in bringing relief to the troubled soul of the Psalmist, named Asaph. So then, we will not only learn how to rightly interpret the suffering of the righteous and prosperity of the wicked in this life, we will also learn something about the significance and usefulness of the sanctuary, or temple, of the LORD.

Let us go now to Psalm 73. Hear now the reading of God’s inspired, inerrant, clear, and authoritative word. 

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Old Testament Reading: Psalm 73

“A PSALM OF ASAPH. Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind. Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment. Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies. They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression. They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth. Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them. And they say, ‘How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?’ Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning. If I had said, ‘I will speak thus,’ I would have betrayed the generation of your children. But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms. When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.” (Psalm 73, ESV)

New Testament Reading: Matthew 5:8

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8, ESV)

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Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.

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Introduction

Notice that Psalm 73 is called “A Psalm Of Asaph”. There are some Psalms written by King David that were addressed to Asaph so that he would put them to music, and some think that is the case here. And if that were the case the title should read, A Psalm To or For Asaph. But 2 Chronicles 29:30 indicates that Asaph was not only a musician, he was also a writer of Psalms, and I think that is the case with Psalm 73. This Psalm was written by Asaph for the people of God. 

I would like to consider this Psalm with you in three parts. In this Psalm, Asaph opens his heart to us concerning a great temptation that at one time came upon his soul. Firstly, in verses 1-15 we will consider the occasion for the temptation. Secondly, in verses 16-17 we will consider the relief from the temptation. And thirdly, in verses 18-28 we will consider the truth that emerged from the temptation.  

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The Occasion For The Temptation (Verses 1-15)

We will come to consider the occasion for Asaph’s temptation in just a moment. But first I want you to notice that he begins his Psalm with a rock-solid confession concerning the goodness of God. Verse 1: “Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.” Indeed, this is a firm foundation upon which to stand. Truly God is good!

God is good to all, yes even to the wicked. He causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall upon the just and unjust alike. And God was good to Isarel in a special way. He redeemed them, led them, and fed them. He entered into a special covenant with them. He entrusted them with his precious and very great promises. He dwelt in the midst of them and promised to preserve them to bring the Messiah into the world through them, to bless all nations. And so Asaph says, “Truly God is good to Israel.” But then he adds this: “…to those who are pure in heart.” Not all within Old Covenant Israel were pure in heart. In fact, many within Old Covenant Isarel were wicked and corrupt. Many were Israelites according to the flesh only, but not from the heart. In a moment we will hear Asaph speak of the wicked and their ways. Who were these wicked people? Many of them were Israelites, the very people amongst whom Asaph lived. And so he begins with this declaration of truth. “Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.” This is a firm foundation for us to stand upon as we begin now to wrestle with the very things that tempted Asaph so severely. 

In verses 2 through 3 the temptation is described to us in brief. There we read, “But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped” (Psalm 73:2, ESV). The words, “But as for me…” are to be contrasted with the reference to those “who are pure in heart.” Asaph first confessed that “God is good to Isarel, to those who are pure in heart”, but now he confesses that he, for a time, was defiled in the heart.  “But as for me”, he says, “my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.”. 

Notice the connection between the heart and the feet. Purity in the heart will produce purity in the feet – that is to say, purity in one’s way of life. This is why I often exhort you, brothers and sisters, to keep your heart pure, or to tend to the garden of your soul. It is good that you strive, by God’s grace, to walk worthily before the Lord. But it is from the heart that the mouth speaks. It is from the heart that the life of man does flow. The heart and the mouth, the heart and the hands, the heart and the feed are intimately and inseparably related. A pure heart will result in a pure walk. A corrupt heart will result in a corrupt walk. 

Asaph knew this, and so he said, “But as for me [in contrast to the pure in heart just mentioned], my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Psalm 73:2–3, ESV). It was envy within the heart that nearly caused Asaph to stumble in his walk. 

To be envious is to have a strong desire for what someone else has. Envy and jealousy are very similar things. Envy and covetousness are similar things too. And here Asaph confesses that for a time he struggled with the sin of envy in his heart. This almost caused him to stumble in his walk, that is to say, in his devotion to the LORD. 

What provoked Asaph’s envy? What was the occasion for it? “For I was envious of the arrogant”, he says, “when I saw the prosperity of the wicked”. Can you understand Asaph’s struggle? Can you look out upon the world through his eyes, see what he saw, and understand what tempted him? What did he see that troubled him so deeply? He noticed that oftentimes arrogant and wicked people prosper in this world, while those who are pure in heart suffer. 

I wonder, brothers and sisters, have you noticed this too? Have you ever looked out upon the world and wondered why it is that wicked and arrogant people – people who hate God, the ways of God, and the people of God – people who live lives of sin and rebellion against God – prosper in this world, while those who love God and the Christ he has sent, suffer? If you were honest, you would probably admit that you have thought about these things too. Asaph thought about these things, and he was, for a time, so bothered and perplexed by what he saw that his heart grew envious and his feet almost slipped.  

In verses 4 through 14 Asaph tells us what he saw with his eyes that troubled him so deeply. 

Verse 4: “For they [the arrogant and the wicked] have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind” (Psalm 73:4–5, ESV). In other words, their lives seem to be easy. They are well-fed. They seem to not struggle.

Verse 6: “Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment. Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies” (Psalm 73:6–7, ESV). Here the Psalmist describes how these arrogant and wicked ones carry themselves in the world. They strut around pridefully with their heads held high (pride is their necklace). They are aggressive and oppressive to all who are beneath them. In fact, the fine clothes they wear were purchased with the riches obtained through their oppression of the weak (violence covers them as a garment). They eat very well in their prosperity and it shows on their faces. And they go on living lives of sin and folly seemingly without a care in the world. 

And what do these arrogant and wicked ones do with their lips? Verse 8: “They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression. They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth. Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them. And they say, ‘How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?’” (Psalm 73:8–11, ESV). 

That little phrase, “therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them” is a little difficult to translate and to interpret. You can see the difficulty by comparing English translations – the ESV, NET, KJV, NIV, and NASB, for example. Each one renders the phrase differently. I suspect it means this: the people who align themselves with the arrogant scoffers return to them again and again. They do not find fault with them, and they benefit from their allegiance with them. Together (the arrogant scoffers and their people) they say,  “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?” In other words, we will do whatever we please, for God does not see us. Indeed, this is how the wicked and arrogant boasters live. They live as if God does not exist, or at least as if he does not see. They think that their prosperity in this world is evidence that God does not see. What they do not know is that God sees all, and he has given them over to their pride and wickedness as a form of judgment.

 Verse 12 brings this little contemplation of the wicked and their ways to a conclusion with this summary statement: “Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches” (Psalm 73:12, ESV). 

You know, I cannot argue with the observations that Asaph made. Indeed, the world is filled with arrogant and wicked people like this. And it is true: they often seem to flourish in this life. Think of the immoral ones who are rich and famous. Think of the crooked politicians whose power seems only to increase. Think of those who swindle and cheat and get away with it. Or perhaps you are thinking of acquaintances of yours who have lived godless and immoral lives and yet the sun always seems to be shining down on them. Indeed, the world is filled with people like this. Asaph’s observations were not incorrect. Where did he go wrong then? He envied these fools. And only a fool would envy fools (see Treasury of David, v. III, p. 339). 

In verses 13-14 Asaph confesses the foolish and sinful conclusion he arrived at in his heart after considering the apparent prosperity of the wicked and contrasting it with his own sufferings and the sufferings of those upright in heart. In his mind and heart, he said, “All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning” (Psalm 73:13–14, ESV). In other words, he thought what is the point in striving to keep the heart pure before God? What is the point in laboring to live a godly life? If those who pursue godliness suffer in this life, and those who live in sin and rebellion against God flourish in this life, then is not our devotion to God empty and vain? 

Thankfully, Asaph did not say what he was thinking and feeling. Verse 15: “If I had said, ‘I will speak thus,’ I would have betrayed the generation of your children” (Psalm 73:15, ESV). Asaph was a leader within Israel. If he would have declared, published, or proclaimed the sinful and foolish thoughts of his mind and the wayward feelings of his heart, he would have damaged many. By God’s grace, he held his tongue during this time of wrestling within his soul.

So we have considered the occasion for the temptation that Asaph endured. He was tempted to turn from the Lord when he observed that the wicked seem to prosper and to be at ease while the upright in heart suffer afflictions. The envy in his heart almost caused his feet to slip and his lips to utter blasphemies, but the LORD was gracious to keep him and to uphold him. 

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The Relief From The Temptation

In verses 16 & 17 Asaph tells us about what brought relief from the temptation. There he says, “But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.” (Psalm 73:16–17, ESV)

The words, “But when I thought how to understand this” indicate that Asaph was wrestling deeply with the things he had perceived. The things he perceived were true. Oftentimes the arrogant and wicked do prosper in this world while the upright in heart suffer affliction. But these facts must be interpreted. 

Why do the wicked prosper? Do they flourish inwardly, or is their flourishing outward only? How long will their flourishing last? What is their end? And why are the upright in heart so often afflicted? Are they afflicted inwardly too? How long will their affliction last? And what is their end? It is an undeniable fact that the wicked do often prosper in this world, and the righteous do often suffer. But these things must be interpreted. They must be understood. Asaph wrestled with these things inwardly, and the Lord was gracious to him in his wrestling. He kept his feet from slipping. And he kept his lips from speaking blasphemies. Asaph “thought how to understand this” and he confesses that it was “a wearisome task.” It wore him out, in other words. 

It is in verse 17 that we encounter the word “until”. Asaph was troubled and deeply perplexed inwardly… until. Until what? “Until I went into the sanctuary of God”, he says. The sanctuary is another name for the temple of Old Covenant Isarel. There was something about going up to the temple that brought relief to Asaph’s inner turmoil. There was something about the temple that made everything clear. At the temple, Asaph gained a new perspective, and this new perspective brought him relief. What insight did he gain at the temple? The text says Asaph went into the sanctuary of the LORD and “then [he] discerned their end.” This means that he came to see and understood the end, or the destiny, of the arrogant and wicked.

I wonder what Asaph saw or heard at the temple that illumined his mind and comforted his heart. The word of God was read at the temple. Perhaps he heard the word read. The people of God prayed at the temple. Perhaps he heard the prayers of the saints. Songs were sung at the temple. Perhaps he heard the songs of the people and entered into praise with them. 

Or perhaps it was not what he heard but what he saw that brought him relief? In our study of Exodus, we have learned that the tabernacle, and later the temple, were symbolic structures. They were made according to the pattern shown to Moses on the mountain. They were designed to remind the worshipper of the God who is in heaven and the way that he had made (and would make) for sinful men and women to approach him. When Asaph approached the temple its symbolism would have reminded him of the God of heaven, the creator of all things seen and unseen, and judge of all the earth. As he entered the temple he would have seen the altar upon which the blood of the sacrificial animals was poured out. This would have reminded him of sin, and of what every sin deserves, namely death. He would have observed the bronze laver used for ceremonial washing. This would have reminded him of our impurity and our need for cleansing. As he considered the holy place he would have contemplated the glory and the holiness of God. And as he looked upon the veil which separated the holy place from the most holy place, he would have remembered our alienation from God and our inability to enter into his presence apart from his grace, that is to say, apart from faith in the promised Messiah. 

It is impossible to know what exactly caught Asaph’s attention. Was it the temple structure itself, the word of God, the prayers, or the praise? Was it the priesthood, the sacrifices, and the washings? Or perhaps it was the thought of the holy place, the most holy place, the furniture contained within, and all that they signified? Whatever it was – and it was probably a combination of all these things –  the temple and the things that were done there caused Asaph to lift his eyes up from the earth to the God of heaven. His perspective shifted from the momentary to the eternal. And it was then that he remembered the end, or the destiny, of the righteous and of the wicked. The temple woke Asaph up to reality. And it was then that he remembered that the wicked were by no means to be envied, not even in their earthly prosperity and worldly ease.

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The Truth That Emerged From The Temptation

So, we have considered the occasion for Asaph’s temptation – the prosperity of the wicked and the sufferings of the righteous. We have also considered the thing that brought him clarity or relief, namely, the sanctuary of God and all that it signified. Now let us consider the truth that emerged from this time of testing. It is in verses 18 through 28 that Asaph declares the truth about the wicked and about the righteous. 

Look with me at verse 18. The first word is “truly”.  This ought to remind us of the first word of this Psalm and that rock-solid declaration of truth that was made in the beginning: “Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart” (Psalm 73:1, ESV). Asaph began this Psalm with truth. He then opened his heart to us concerning the lies he was tempted to believe. And now, after being set straight at the sanctuary of God, he declares the truth again.  

First, he declares the truth concerning the wicked. Verse 18: “Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin” (Psalm 73:18, ESV). 

Notice the word “slippery” and compare it with verse 2. Asaph in his folly had almost stumbled. He had nearly slipped as he envied the apparent prosperity, ease, and security of the wicked. And now he sees clearly that their feet are in fact in slippery places and they will fall to ruin. In other words, Asaph came to see that the prosperity and stability of the wicked is not real, but is an illusion. In fact – in truth – their feet are in slippery places and they stand on the precipice of utter ruin. And you will notice that it is the LORD who put them there. “Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin”, Asaph says. The prosperity of the wicked is not to be seen as a blessing from God but as a curse, for the LORD has given these arrogant and wicked people over to their sins. Is there any greater form of judgment in this life than to be given over by the LORD to your sinful cravings and desires? Do not forget the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 1:18 & 24: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth…” And after describing their idolatrous rebellion, Pauls says, “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,” etc. (Romans 1:24, ESV).

If when you look at an arrogant and wicked person living a life of prosperity and ease, you think, why has God so blessed that person?, you have badly misinterpreted the situation. The LORD disciplines those he loves, but he gives the wicked reprobates over to the passions of their flesh. 

More truth concerning the wicked is declared in verses 19-20: “How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.” 

These are haunting words, but they are true. The wicked may live in prosperity and comfort all the days of their lives. They may think very little of death, judgment, and eternity. But death will certainly come upon them. And when it does, their lives of luxury will be destroyed. They were will vanish from this earth as phantoms. They will be swept away by terrors. 

Next, Asaph speaks the truth concerning himself and his debased frame of mind during his time of inner turmoil and temptation. 

Look with me at verses 19 & 20: “When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you.” 

The word translated as “brutish” means “ foolish”. I was an ignorant fool to envy the wicked, Asaph confesses. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. A fool says in his heart, there is no God. And only someone who forgets God can possibly envy the arrogant and wicked in their prosperity. Those who fear God will never envy the wicked, but will pitty them, especially if their earthy prosperity and ease is very great.  And then he adds, “I was like a beast toward you.” What a marvelously true confession this is. Those who forget God and live only for the pleasures of this world are like beasts. Their faces are pointed to the ground. They are driven by their appetite for the things of this world. They are instinctual – they are not rational. Beasts do not have the capacity to contemplate the Divine nor to live in light of eternity, for beasts are not made in the image of God. When Asaph says, “I was like a beast toward you”, this is what he means. He was thinking like a beast. His eyes were fixed upon the earth and the things of the earth. He was concerned only with earthly pleasures. He, for a time, lost sight of God and eternity. When he went to the sanctuary, his eyes, mind, and heart were lifted heavenward, and he began to think like an image-bearer of God again. 

Finally, Asaph speaks the truth concerning God’s goodness to him and to all who are, by the grace of God, pure in heart.

Verse 23: “Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.” Here Asaph reflects upon God’s presence with him. Perhaps this is why he referred to the temple as the sanctuary. There God dwelt. And there God’s people were invited to come before him to enjoy his presence. Asaph was reminded of the blessing of God’s presence as he went to the temple, and so he called it the sanctuary. And then he says,  “you hold my right hand.” Asaph’s feet had almost slipped, remember. And who was it that kept him from stumbling? It was the LORD who held his hand to keep him. And so it is for all of God’s elect. He calls them to faith, and he keeps them, even through times of great temptation.

Verse 24: “You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.” Here is the issue, brothers and sisters. The wicked and arrogant ones live according to what they see with their natural eyes. They are driven by their appetites for the things of this world. They live for the pleasures of this world. But those who belong to God, who are born of him, who are upright in heart, live according to what God has said in his word. We are to walk by faith, not by sight. We are to live according to God’s counsel. And in this way, through faith in Christ, and through walking according to his word, we will enter into glory. So you see, the end of the arrogant and wicked is destruction. The end of the upright in heart is glory. 

In Verse 25 Aspah begins to confess that the LORD is his greatest treasure: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.” What a change from the envy that was in his heart before! For a time Asaph desired worldly comforts and pleasures, but now he sees clearly that God is the greatest of all treasures. To have God – that is, to know him, to be in a right relationship with him, and to commune with him – is infinitely better than the enjoyment of a few earthly pleasures that last only for a moment and then are taken away. 

Verse 26: “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Oh, what a beautiful confession. Is this your confession?  Hear it again: “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

In verses 27 through 28 we find the conclusion of the matter. “For behold…” This is an exhortation to the reader to stop, look, and contemplate the matter. “For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.” 

Finally, through this process of temptation and through the wearisome contemplation, the Psalmist is brought, by way of the temple, to this firm resolution. “It is good to be near God”. Brothers and sisters – friends –  make the Lord GOD your refuge and delight, and then tell of all his works. 

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Reflections

Please allow me to move towards a conclusion now by offering a few reflections on this wonderful Psalm. 

Firstly, Asaph’s honesty in this Psalm helps to see that God’s people are sometimes tempted and tested severely. Sometimes we must wrestle with things inwardly. Be sure to wrestle well, brothers and sisters.

Secondly, thanks be to God, he will not allow his people to fall but will uphold them in the hour of temptation. It is the LORD who holds our right hand, thanks be to God.

Thirdly, we may learn from Asaph concerning how to act in the moment of temptation. Notice that he did not speak. He held his tongue. This, of course, was by the grace of God. But there is wisdom here. When experiencing turmoil inwardly, it is wise to refrain from speaking and from acting and to wait patiently upon the Lord, lest we blaspheme God’s holy name, or walk in the way of sin and folly. 

Fourthly, when experiencing inner turmoil and temptation there is one place that we should walk, and that is up to God’s temple, or sanctuary. And where is God’s temple now? It is found in the assembly of God’s people. You are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together, brothers and sisters. Do not forsake it when times are good and do not forsake it when times are bad. Go up to the temple to hear God’s word read and explained. Go up to the temple to pray. Go up to the temple to sing and to partake of the Supper. And do so mindfully and heartily so that you might gain that godly and eternal perspective that you so desperately need. Brothers and sisters, that is one thing that happens when God’s people assemble each Lord’s Day to partake of word and sacrament – God’s people are reminded of God and Christ and the eternal life that ours in him so that we might go on living for God and the world to come, and not for the fleeting pleasures of this life. 

Fifthly, do not be so foolish and beast-like to live for the pleasure of this world. Make God your treasure. See that the greatest of all gifts is to be in a right relationship with him through faith in Jesus Christ. He lived, died, and rose again to atone for our sins, to free us from bondage, and to reconcile us to God. The greatest of all treasures is to have God. Do you agree with the Psalmist when he speaks to the Lord, saying,  “And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you”? You should. Only a brutish fool would live for lesser things. 

Sixly, cease from all jealousy, envy, discontentment, and covetousness, and pursue that precious gift of contentment, for “godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” Do not envy others, brothers and sisters. Do not covet what they have or complain about your circumstances. Rather, make God himself your treasure and delight, for only he can satisfy now and for eternity.  

Seventhly,  do not misinterpret God’s ways with men. We must learn to think correctly about the prosperity of the wicked in this life and the sufferings of the righteous. The prosperity enjoyed by the arrogant and wicked is not a blessing but a curse. And conversely, the afflictions suffered by the people of God in this life are not a curse but a blessing. The Father disciplines those he loves. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, ESV). Therefore, we are to “Count it all joy [brothers and sisters] when [we] meet trials of various kinds, for [we] know that the testing of [our] faith produces steadfastness. And [we are to] let steadfastness have its full effect, that [we] may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2–4, ESV)

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8, ESV)

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Morning Sermon: Psalm 73, Do Not Envy The Wicked

Morning Sermon: The Gospel Of The Tabernacle, Exodus 35:4-36:38

Old Testament Reading: Exodus 35:4-36:38

“Moses said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, ‘This is the thing that the LORD has commanded. Take from among you a contribution to the LORD. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the LORD’s contribution: gold, silver, and bronze; blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen; goats’ hair, tanned rams’ skins, and goatskins; acacia wood, oil for the light, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, and onyx stones and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece. Let every skillful craftsman among you come and make all that the LORD has commanded: the tabernacle, its tent and its covering, its hooks and its frames, its bars, its pillars, and its bases; the ark with its poles, the mercy seat, and the veil of the screen; the table with its poles and all its utensils, and the bread of the Presence; the lampstand also for the light, with its utensils and its lamps, and the oil for the light; and the altar of incense, with its poles, and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense, and the screen for the door, at the door of the tabernacle; the altar of burnt offering, with its grating of bronze, its poles, and all its utensils, the basin and its stand; the hangings of the court, its pillars and its bases, and the screen for the gate of the court; the pegs of the tabernacle and the pegs of the court, and their cords; the finely worked garments for ministering in the Holy Place, the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments of his sons, for their service as priests.’ Then all the congregation of the people of Israel departed from the presence of Moses. And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the LORD’s contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. So they came, both men and women. All who were of a willing heart brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and armlets, all sorts of gold objects, every man dedicating an offering of gold to the LORD. And every one who possessed blue or purple or scarlet yarns or fine linen or goats’ hair or tanned rams’ skins or goatskins brought them. Everyone who could make a contribution of silver or bronze brought it as the LORD’s contribution. And every one who possessed acacia wood of any use in the work brought it. And every skillful woman spun with her hands, and they all brought what they had spun in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. All the women whose hearts stirred them to use their skill spun the goats’ hair. And the leaders brought onyx stones and stones to be set, for the ephod and for the breastpiece, and spices and oil for the light, and for the anointing oil, and for the fragrant incense. All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the LORD had commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the LORD. Then Moses said to the people of Israel, ‘See, the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft. And he has inspired him to teach, both him and Oholiab the son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan. He has filled them with skill to do every sort of work done by an engraver or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, or by a weaver—by any sort of workman or skilled designer. Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whom the LORD has put skill and intelligence to know how to do any work in the construction of the sanctuary shall work in accordance with all that the LORD has commanded.’ And Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whose mind the LORD had put skill, everyone whose heart stirred him up to come to do the work. And they received from Moses all the contribution that the people of Israel had brought for doing the work on the sanctuary. They still kept bringing him freewill offerings every morning, so that all the craftsmen who were doing every sort of task on the sanctuary came, each from the task that he was doing, and said to Moses, ‘The people bring much more than enough for doing the work that the LORD has commanded us to do.’ So Moses gave command, and word was proclaimed throughout the camp, ‘Let no man or woman do anything more for the contribution for the sanctuary.’ So the people were restrained from bringing, for the material they had was sufficient to do all the work, and more. And all the craftsmen among the workmen made the tabernacle with ten curtains. They were made of fine twined linen and blue and purple and scarlet yarns, with cherubim skillfully worked. The length of each curtain was twenty-eight cubits, and the breadth of each curtain four cubits. All the curtains were the same size. He coupled five curtains to one another, and the other five curtains he coupled to one another. He made loops of blue on the edge of the outermost curtain of the first set. Likewise he made them on the edge of the outermost curtain of the second set. He made fifty loops on the one curtain, and he made fifty loops on the edge of the curtain that was in the second set. The loops were opposite one another. And he made fifty clasps of gold, and coupled the curtains one to the other with clasps. So the tabernacle was a single whole. He also made curtains of goats’ hair for a tent over the tabernacle. He made eleven curtains. The length of each curtain was thirty cubits, and the breadth of each curtain four cubits. The eleven curtains were the same size. He coupled five curtains by themselves, and six curtains by themselves. And he made fifty loops on the edge of the outermost curtain of the one set, and fifty loops on the edge of the other connecting curtain. And he made fifty clasps of bronze to couple the tent together that it might be a single whole. And he made for the tent a covering of tanned rams’ skins and goatskins. Then he made the upright frames for the tabernacle of acacia wood. Ten cubits was the length of a frame, and a cubit and a half the breadth of each frame. Each frame had two tenons for fitting together. He did this for all the frames of the tabernacle. The frames for the tabernacle he made thus: twenty frames for the south side. And he made forty bases of silver under the twenty frames, two bases under one frame for its two tenons, and two bases under the next frame for its two tenons. For the second side of the tabernacle, on the north side, he made twenty frames and their forty bases of silver, two bases under one frame and two bases under the next frame. For the rear of the tabernacle westward he made six frames. He made two frames for corners of the tabernacle in the rear. And they were separate beneath but joined at the top, at the first ring. He made two of them this way for the two corners. There were eight frames with their bases of silver: sixteen bases, under every frame two bases. He made bars of acacia wood, five for the frames of the one side of the tabernacle, and five bars for the frames of the other side of the tabernacle, and five bars for the frames of the tabernacle at the rear westward. And he made the middle bar to run from end to end halfway up the frames. And he overlaid the frames with gold, and made their rings of gold for holders for the bars, and overlaid the bars with gold. He made the veil of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen; with cherubim skillfully worked into it he made it. And for it he made four pillars of acacia and overlaid them with gold. Their hooks were of gold, and he cast for them four bases of silver. He also made a screen for the entrance of the tent, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, embroidered with needlework, and its five pillars with their hooks. He overlaid their capitals, and their fillets were of gold, but their five bases were of bronze.” (Exodus 35:4–36:38, ESV)

New Testament Reading: 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1

“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1, ESV)

*****

Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.

Introduction

Brothers and sisters, as you know, the Lord Jesus Christ accomplished salvation for all who were given to him by the Father nearly 2000 years ago. Jesus came to live for his bride, the church, to die for her, to raise for her, and to ascend for her. This work of redemption has been accomplished. There is nothing more to do. It is finished. 

And as you also know, this redemption that Jesus Christ has earned is applied to sinners in due time when the Holy Spirit of God draws the elect of God to faith and repentance through the preaching of the gospel. If you have turned from your sins and have believed in Christ and in his finished work, then you have experienced this. At some point in time you were called externally by the preaching of the gospel, and inwardly by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. That is how the salvation that Christ earned so long ago was applied to you. You received it by faith, through the preaching of the gospel, and the internal working and wooing of the Holy Spirit. This is ordinarily the means that God uses to apply the redemption purchased by Christ to his elect. 

Indeed, this is the way that sinners come to be saved who live now after Christ’s life, death, burial resurrection, and ascension. And as you know, this is also how sinners were saved before Christ came into the world to do the work the Father gave him to do. Listen to our Confession of Faith on this point. Chapter 8, Paragraph 6 says, “Although the price of redemption was not actually paid by Christ until after his incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefit thereof were communicated [given or applied] to the elect in all ages successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices wherein he was revealed, and signified to be the seed of the woman which should bruise the serpent’s head; and the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, being the same yesterday, and today and for ever.” Our confession is absolutely correct. People were justified (or saved) in Adam, Abraham, and Moses’ days in the very same way that they are saved today. They were justified by faith as they believed in the good news that was delivered to them concerning the Messiah, and this ability to believe was made possible by the working of the Holy Spirit. The good new that they received and the good news that we have received is the same in substance. The only difference is this: The gospel that was delivered to them came in the form of a promise concerning what would be done. The gospel delivered to those after Christ comes as an announcement concerning what has been done. 

Last Sunday I attempted to show you that the gospel of Jesus Christ was not only delivered to God’s people who lived before his coming by way of promises and prophesies but also through types and shadows. I especially focused on the shadows of Christ – that is to say, on those ways in which Jesus Christ was revealed in the laws that were given to Old Covenant Israel through Moses, especially those laws which governed their worship. Those ceremonial laws regulated worship under the Old Covenant, but they were a  shadow of Christ. Christ is the substance, and his shadow was cast backward in the history of redemption in the ceremonial laws that God gave to Israel through Moses. And so, last Sunday, we considered how the seventh-day Sabbath revealed the good news of Jesus Christ in a shadowy way. I wish to do the very same thing today with the tabernacle. The tabernacle of Old Covenant Israel revealed the good news of Jesus Christ. Or to put it another way, the tabernacle, and later, the temple, of Old Covenant Israel, preached the gospel of Jesus Christ in a shadowy, symbolic way. 

I’ve already warned you that the book of Exodus is repetitive. If when I read this text you thought, this sounds familiar, that is because it is. What is recorded for us here in our text regarding the actual building of the tabernacle was said earlier in Exodus, but there it was delivered as instruction. First, God told Moses what Israel was to do, and here we have a description of Israel doing what God commanded. It would be a mistake for us to disregard the repetition as if it was accidental or wasteful. No, the repetition is intentional and significant. It stresses the extreme importance of what is being described here, namely, the obedience of Israel to build God’s tabernacle according to God’s command. Also, it provides us with an opportunity to consider this text (and the texts which follow) in a different way than before. We have already considered the details of the tabernacle that God commanded Israel to make. Now we will step back from the details and consider the broader significance of the tabernacle. 

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The Significance Of The Tabernacle

God commanded that a tabernacle be built by Israel. Think about that for a moment, and consider the significance. YHWH redeemed Israel from bondage.  He led them into the wilderness. He entered into a special covenantal relationship with them and instructed them to build a tabernacle. Why did he do this? What was the significance or meaning of the tabernacle that God gave to Israel? 

One, the gift of the tabernacle signified to Israel and to the world that YHWH did not redeem them to stand afar off from them but to dwell in the midst of them.    

Two, the gift of the tabernacle signified to Israel and to the world that YHWH redeemed them so they might draw near to him in worship. 

Three, and here is the thing that I wish to focus on this morning,  the gift of the tabernacle signified to Israel and to the world that YHWH was doing something in them and through them to restore what was lost in the beginning when Adam fell into sin through the breaking of the covenant that God made with him. 

I have taught you that the garden of Eden was a tabernacle or temple, and so it was. In the beginning, God made the heavens and the earth. He formed the earth to make it a place suitable for man to dwell. And after this, “the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed” (Genesis 2:8, ESV). The garden was not a common place. It was a holy place. It was the place on earth where God dwelt with man, and where man enjoyed communion with God. Adam was to function as God’s prophet, priest, and king in that special place. He was to protect, expand, fill, and subdue that realm. There he was to worship and serve the LORD perfectly and perpetually. The garden of Eden was a temple. It was not a temple made of stone, but a temple of God’s creation. It was the place where the God of heaven met with man on earth. As God says in Isaiah 66:1, “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD” (Isaiah 66:1–2, ESV). And what would have happened if Adam had kept the covenant that God made with him in the beginning? What would have happened if he passed the time of testing? He would have been invited to eat from the tree of life. He would have entered into God’s eternal Sabbath rest. Heaven and earth would have become one. In other words, all would have become God’s eternal and glorious temple.

You say, how do you know this, Pastor?  Really, it is quite simple. We see this clearly when we pay attention to how the theme of the tabernacle or temple is developed in the Holy Scriptures from Genesis 2 to Revelation 22. You see, there are certain themes that run throughout the pages of the Holy Scriptures. Sabbath is one such theme. The tree of life is also found at the beginning and end of the Bible. As you know well, the theme of the kingdom of God is pervasive. And here I want you to recognize that the theme of the tabernacle or temple runs throughout as well. 

Brothers and sisters, please hear me. It is a terrible mistake to contemplate the tabernacle that Israel built in the days of Moses in isolation from all of the other references or allusions to God’s tabernacle or temple found throughout the pages of Holy Scripture. Are you following me? The tabernacle must be considered up close and in detail, and the tabernacle must also be considered from a distance and in general. If we only consider it up close and in detail, we run the risk of missing its significance.

 As we consider the details of Israel’s tabernacle we must look back to Eden to consider what was offered to Adam but lost. And not only that, we must look ahead (from the perspective of Exodus 35) to the temple that David dreamed of and that Solomon built. We must also think of the massive and strangely placed temple that the prophet Ezekiel saw visions of (Ezekiel 40-48). And do not forget the way in which the scriptures speak of Jesus Christ. John 1 tells us that the eternal Word of God took on flesh and dwelt, or tabernacled amongst us. And do you remember how Jesus spoke concerning his impending death and resurrection? He spoke of his body when he said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19, ESV). Of course, we cannot forget that the church is called the temple of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. Peter says that we,  “like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5, ESV). And of course, we cannot forget that wonderful description of the new heavens and earth in Revelation 21. After describing the new heavens and earth as a new Jerusalem, John says, “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” (Revelation 21:22, ESV). That chapter began with these words, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away’” (Revelation 21:1–4, ESV). 

The point is this: when we step back from the details of the tabernacle of Old Covenant Israel and consider the development of the tabernacle/temple theme that runs from the beginning of Genesis through to the end of Revelation, a story emerges. And what is the story? In the beginning, after God created the heavens and earth, and after he made man in his image, he planted a garden-temple. It was a place where God would dwell with man, and where man would enjoy the presence of God. The garden was to be expanded, protected, and ruled by man to the glory of God. Had Adam passed the time of testing, he would have entered into eternal life, glory, the eternal Sabbath-rest of God, and the eschatological temple of God. Stated differently, the heavenly realm and the earthly realm would have become one. But Adam fell. He passed from the state of life and innocence to death. He fell short of the glory of God. He did not enter into God’s rest but would now toil in his work. Nor did he enter into the eternal temple of God, the new heavens and earth in which righteousness dwells, but was banished from the garden-temple which he had failed to keep. 

At that juncture in the narrative, the looming question was this: was their hope? Answer: Yes, for God did promise to send a Redeemer, one who would arise from the offspring of the woman. The serpent who tempted Adam and Eve would bruise his heel, but he would bruise his head. 

This promise that God made concerning a coming Redeemer was preserved in the world along a particular line. In due time, it was entrusted especially to a man named Abraham and to his offspring. God entered into a special covenant with Abraham wherein he promised to make a great nation of him, to give him the land of his sojournings, and to bless the nations of the earth through him. And in the days of Moses, many of those promises made to Abraham began to be fulfilled. God redeemed the offspring of Abraham (the Hebrews) from Egyptian bondage, and afterward, he entered into a special covenant with them. The Old Mosaic Covenant was not unrelated to the covenant that God made with Abraham. No, it was an expansion of it. And it especially was given to govern the Hebrew people – their worship and their society – as God brought them into the land of Canaan in fulfillment to the promises made previously to Abraham.  Some of the promises made to Abraham were spiritual and eternal and would find their fulfillment, not in the Old Covenant, but in Christ and the New Covenant ratified in his blood. But some of the promises were fulfilled in the days of Moses and Joshua with the Exodus and the conquest. The Old Mosaic Covenant was added to these older promises to govern the nation of Israel for a time, until the promised Christ, the Seed of the Woman, the Seed of Abraham, and the Seed of David was brought into the world. And as you know, the laws that were given to Israel under the Old Covenant did not only govern them, many of them served to prefigure the Christ. In other words, “These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ” (Colossians 2:17, ESV; see also Hebrews 10:1). 

The question here is, what did the tabernacle that God commanded Israel to make signify? What was its meaning? What was its message? It preached the gospel, brothers and sisters. It communicated to Isarel, and through them, to the world, that God had not abandoned his temple-building project. Adam failed to build God’s temple, but God would build it in another way. He would build it by his grace. He would build it through though Eve’s offspring. It would build it through the Son of Abraham and David, the second a greater Adam, Christ the Lord. The presence of the physical tabernacle and the more permanent temple in the midst of Israel under the Old Covenant preached that message. It preached the gospel in a prophetic and shadowy way.  To use the language of Revelation 21:3, the tabernacle of Old Covenant Israel proclaimed, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is [will be] with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21:3, ESV). That glorious reality was promised and pre-figured on earth in Old Covenant Israel. It was earned and inaugurated by Christ at his first coming. It will be brought to its full and consummate state when he returns. That is what I mean when I say that the tabernacle of Israel proclaimed the gospel.  

*****

The Expansion Of The Tabernacle

Now that we have considered the basic significance of the tabernacle, I wish to speak briefly about its expansion. 

Someday, Lord willing, we will come to consider in detail the temple that King Solomon, the son of David, built. Clearly, the temple he built was a permanent and glorious version of the tabernacle. It was much larger, and much more grand. Note this: As the kingdom of God which was prefigured in Israel was established under King David and his sons, the tabernacle was established in one place, namely Jerusalem. So then, the kingdom of God and the tabernacle of God advance together. With the advancement of the kingdom there comes advancement with the tabernacle.  

And someday, Lord willing, we will consider the book of Ezekiel together. It is interesting that the book of the prophecies of Ezekiel concludes with a very grand vision of a greatly expanded temple. Some believe that this time will be built in a future millennial reign of Christ. I believe this is a very flawed interpretation. Instead, the vision of Ezekiel 40-48 points, in a prophetic and symbolic way, to the time when God’s temple would be greatly expanded. A careful reading of the New Testament reveals that this greatly expanded temple-building project began at his first coming. It is taking place in these last days, that is to say, in the days between Christ’s first and second coming. The temple is not a physical building but is more akin to the temple of Eden. There, God did not meet with Adam in a building, but in the midst of his creation. And so it is under the New Covenant. Now that the kingdom God is here in power. And now that the new creation has broken into human history (you are a new creation), God’s true and eternal temple has begun to be built (you, church, are the temple of the Holy Spirit). And God’s temple is not isolated to one nation or to one city under the New Covenant but is expanding to the ends of the earth. This is why Christ said, “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18–20, ESV). With the inauguration of the kingdom of God (behold the kingdom of heaven is at hand), comes also the inauguration of God’s eternal temple, built by God’s Messiah, the Son of Abraham and David, the second and greater Adam.  

The point is this: Ezekiel revealed that one day the temple of Solomon would be greatly expanded, and it has. If you fail to see the true significance of the tabernacle and temple of Israel, then you will not be able to see this, for you will be looking for a temple of stone. But if you understand that, from the beginning, the tabernacle and temple of the Old Covenant had reference to Eden, to heaven above, and to new heavens and earth which the Christ would earn for his people, then you will see how Ezekiel’s temple is present now. It is not made of stone. Christ is the builder, and he is also the cornerstone. The apostles and prophets make of the rest of the foundation. And you, dear brothers and sisters, as “living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5, ESV). 

And where will God’s temple-building project find its ultimate fulfillment? In the new heavens and earth.  When Christ returns, the heavenly realm and earthly realm will be made one.  And there will be “no temple in [that eternal] city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:22, ESV)

*****

God’s Tabernacle In The Here And Now

As I move this sermon towards a concussion, I would like to say a few words about God’s tabernacle, or temple, in the here and now. Where is God’s temple now? God’s eschatological, new creation temple is present on earth now (in an inaugurated form), and you, Christian, are that temple. You, church, are the temple of the Holy Spirit. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20, ESV). And in another place, Paul says, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16, ESV). What are the implications of this for the believer and for the church? So many things can be said. Here are eight very brief points. 

One, if you are in Christ, then you are God’s Spirit-filled temple, and you have been called to worship. 

Two, if you are in Christ, then you are God’s Spirit-filled temple, and you have been called pray. 

Three, if you are in Christ, then you are God’s Spirit-filled temple, and you have been called to assemble. 

Four, if you are in Christ, then you are God’s Spirit-filled temple, and you have been called to build his temple. 

Five, if you are in Christ, then you are God’s Spirit-filled temple, and you have been called to holiness – personal holiness, and corporate holiness. God’s temple must be kept. 

Six, if you are in Christ, then you are God’s Spirit-filled temple, and you have been called to expand.

Seven, if you are in Christ, then you are God’s Spirit-filled temple, and you have been called to communion with God. 

Eight, if you are in Christ, then you are God’s Spirit-filled temple, and you have been called to long for the consummation, for the new heavens and earth, and to persevere in Christ until the end. 

These are eight very brief and simple reflections on the church as the New Covenant, new creation temple of God. In fact, I think there is a great deal of insight to be gained concerning the nature, purpose,  and mission of the church when we consider that she is God’s tabernacle or temple. Who is to be admitted into the church? What is our purpose when we assemble? What is our mission in the world? What is our future hope? Rich answers to these questions and many others emerge when we remember that the church is “God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in [us]”. Indeed, the good news is that Christ came so that we might be God’s temple, and so that we might enter into his eternal temple, where it is said, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21:3, ESV). Indeed, the tabernacle and temple of Old proclaimed these truths in a shadowy way until Christ, the eternal Word of God, and the substance of these shadows tabernacled amongst us to accomplish our salvation and to usher in the new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15).

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Posted in Sermons, Wayne Grudem, Joe Anady, Exodus 35:4-36:38, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Morning Sermon: The Gospel Of The Tabernacle, Exodus 35:4-36:38

Afternoon Sermon: What Is Sanctification?, Baptist Catechism 38, Ephesians 4:17–32

Baptist Catechism 38

Q. 38. What is sanctification?

A. Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness. (2 Thess. 2:13; Eph. 4:23,24; Rom. 6:11)

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 4:17–32

“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:17–32, ESV)

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  1. The Catechism Explained
    • Question 38: What is sanctification
    • Answer: Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness. (2 Thess. 2:13; Eph. 4:23,24; Rom. 6:11)
    • The Catechism Explained
    • “Sanctification is the work…”
      • A work is a process.  
    • “…of God’s free grace…”
      • “But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.” (2 Thessalonians 2:13, ESV)
    • “Whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God…”
      • “They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:19–24, ESV)
    • “And are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.”
      • “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:11, ESV)
  2. Application
    • Notice that sanctification is called the “work” instead of the “act” of God’s free grace. Why?
    • Are you sanctified?
    • Are you being sanctified?
Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Afternoon Sermon: What Is Sanctification?, Baptist Catechism 38, Ephesians 4:17–32


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