Be prepared for Christ’s return: the parable of the Two Slaves, and the parable of the Talents (Matthew 24:42–51; 25:14–30)

In this post: Introduction; The parable of the Two Slaves; The parable of the Talents; Crushed by the Law; Comforted with the Gospel

This is the audio and approximate transcript of a sermon I preached on 26 January 2014. It was originally my intention to focus on the Sheep and the Goats passage from the end of Matthew 25, briefly covering the preceding parables to establish context. It eventually dawned on me that I could not even begin to do justice to all the material in a single sermon. What follows, then, is a treatment of just two of the three parables.

Matthew 24:42–51; 25:14–30; 26:1–2

Our focus tonight is on two parables from the Olivet Discourse, Jesus’ private teaching to His disciples on the Mount of Olives, shortly before His crucifixion. Our theme is ‘Being Prepared for Christ’s Return’. We’ll begin reading at Matthew 24:42.

42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

45 “Who then is a faithful and wise servant …

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Sola Scriptura, the Canon, and Rome

Do we need an infallible church to tell us what is in the Canon of Scripture? Is Scripture alone a sufficient final authority in matters of life and faith? Is sola scriptura even biblical, or do we need to give equal weight to authoritative church tradition? These questions are tackled in an unmissable discussion between Dr. James White and Dr. Michael Kruger, President and Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, North Carolina. Dr. White writes:

Our visit was prompted by a phone call made by a Lutheran to Catholic Answers Live back on 10/31/13. We played the entire call before the program started, and we played the heart of the call, where the Roman Catholic priest made the key assertions about canon and scriptural authority, during the interview with Dr. Kruger. We covered a wide variety of topics relevant to the canon issue. Truly one of the most useful programs we’ve ever done! Enjoy and learn!

Audio and video of the discussion are available on the Alpha and Omega Ministries website. Dr. Kruger’s introduction to the discussion on his Canon Fodder website is also well worth reading.

Historians are not infallible

Paster Gervase Charmley has written two short articles pertinent to the recent debate between Dr. James White and Chris Pinto on the authenticity of Codex Sinaiticus, an important fourth century Bible manuscript:

In case you missed it, here is the debate:

UK pastor referred to the Crown Prosecution Service over ‘homophobic’ comments

Equal rights? Tolerance? Not in 2013 England. The Spectator magazine’s website has a thoughtful post detailing yet another demonstration of the state-enforced über-rights enjoyed by one particularly intolerant minority group:

You’re at home, enjoying a summery Saturday afternoon with the bees and nasturtiums on the patio, when the doorbell intrudes. You’re greeted by an impeccably courteous, fresh-faced police officer from the Norfolk Constabulary – ‘Dedicated to this neighbourhood’, according to their website – and he’s come to speak to you because there’s been a complaint.

Not, you understand, about the troubling number of burglaries, rising car thefts, incidences of property vandalism or madhouse music accompanying balmy barbeques. No, someone has reported you for sending them two gospel tracts by email, one entitled ‘Christ Can Cure – Good News for Gays’; and the other ‘Jesus Christ – the Saviour we all need’. Some people might have simply deleted them both and directed all further correspondence from you to ‘spam’, but these people got offended. Very offended. The allegation against you is that of ‘homophobic hate’.

The officer politely offers you a choice: you can either admit your guilt there and then, accepting an on-the-spot fine of £90. Or you can contest the allegation, provide a signed statement in your defence, after which it will be for a senior police officer to decide whether or not to refer your case to the Crown Prosecution Service.

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Why is the Charismatic Movement Thriving in Africa?

Sometimes, one reads an article and a whole set of mental jigsaw pieces suddenly click into place. This post by Conrad Mbewe, an African Reformed Baptist pastor, is one of those. Many of his observations ring true for the West, as well as his own African context.

Many explanations have been given for the explosion of the Charismatic movement in Africa. Many have seen this as a powerful visitation of the Holy Spirit. Whereas there is probably more than one reason, I want to add my own observation to this for what it is worth. In this blog post, I do not refer to the old conservative form of Pentecostalism once represented by the Assemblies of God churches. I have in mind the current extreme form that is mushrooming literally under every shrub and tree in Africa. How can one explain this phenomenon?

I think that one reason why the Charismatic movement in Africa has been like a wild bushfire is because it has not challenged the African religious worldview but has instead adopted it. It has simply baptised it with Bible verses and Christian words that previously meant something totally different.

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Two Religions (Genesis 4:1–16 Sermon Audio and Transcript)

This is the audio and approximate transcript (based on my speaking notes) from a sermon I preached yesterday evening from the Genesis 4:1–16 account of Cain and Abel. The highlight is towards the end, when we see how Abel points us to Christ and His work for us.

(My apologies for the occasionally variable audio quality – there were some drop-outs with the radio mic and I had to splice from my own iPad recording at a few points.)

Preface

When I last spoke earlier in the year, we looked at Genesis chapters 2 and 3. We saw the deception of Eve by the Serpent in the Garden, and the deliberate and wilful disobedience of Adam. Sin entered the world through Adam, and death through sin. We noted how in the first recorded Gospel, God promised a Seed. We saw that this seed was the Lord Jesus Christ, who would destroy all the works of the evil one, wash away the sins of his people with His blood, and clothe them with the royal robes of His perfect righteousness.

This evening, we shall see the corruption of sin and death being outworked in the lives of Cain and Abel, Adam’s sons. And we shall see again how the Old Testament scriptures testify of Jesus and His work.

Genesis 4:1–16

1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have acquired a man from the Lord.” 2 Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3 And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. 4 Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, 5 but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.

6 So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”

8 Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.

9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?”

He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”

10 And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. 11 So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.”

13 And Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear! 14 Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me.”

15 And the Lord said to him, “Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him.

16 Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden.

Amen.

Introduction

Our text presents two distinct religions, two utterly different ways of approaching God and living before Him. One is a religion of works; the other of faith.

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Understanding the Role of the Pastor: Called to Proclaim the Word

I came across this description of the ideal pastor (courtesy of The Brothers of John the Steadfast), which I thought my pastor friends would appreciate:

The ideal pastor preaches exactly twenty minutes with an hour’s content. He condemns sin, but never offends anyone. He works from 8 am to midnight, and also serves as the church janitor. He makes $40 a week, wears good clothes, and donates $30 a week to the church. He is 29 years old and has 40 years of experience. He is a strong leader, yet also follows everyone’s advice. He can effectively relate to all teenagers and spends all of his time with the elderly. He is tall and short, thin and heavyset, and has one brown eye and one blue eye. He makes 15 house calls a day, regularly visits the hospital, and is always in his office.

The article from which it came, by Pastor Matt Richard, goes on to make a rather more serious point, quoting a letter sent to young seminarians by David Petersen. Great counsel for all pastors:

You are a servant of the Word. Follow Jesus. The Way of the Cross is a lonely, narrow path but it leads to heaven. Be more afraid of God than you are of the people. It is not the one who signs the check who provides daily bread. Do the right thing. Tell the Truth. Suffer the consequences. That is what a servant of Christ does.

It is the Preaching Office. Don’t forget that. Your relationship to the congregation is the same as the prophets to Israel. Work on teaching and converting your own people– which includes scores of folks not on the books. Preach the Gospel to them — from the pulpit, the podium, the bedside, and behind the desk. They come looking for marital advice? Tell them about Jesus dying for them. They come looking for sympathy and a listening ear? Tell them about Jesus dying for them. They have a new baby, lost their jobs, are afraid of retirement? Tell them about Jesus dying for them. No matter what the circumstances, what the situation, you preach Christ crucified. Never compromise the simple Truth that has saved you.

Believe your own preaching. Jesus died also for you. He called you to this Ministry. He knows what he is doing. As good or as bad as it gets, it will not last forever. He is coming back to claim His own.

Still here? Go and read the rest of the article. It’s worth a few minutes of your time.

He Gave Them New Clothes (Genesis 2:4–3:24 Sermon Audio)

I was recently asked to preach at relatively short notice, so what to do? I dusted off my He Gave Them New Clothes post and added an introduction to turn it into a sermon proper. This is the result:

The sermon itself starts at 13 minutes 20 seconds into the recording. It is preceded by two Bible readings – a few verses from Luke 24, and then the main text from Genesis 2:4–3:24.

He Gave Them New Clothes

A narrative meditation upon the imputation of Christ’s active and passive obedience, from Gen. 2:8–3:24. Audio from a sermon based on this post is available.

They were both naked, the man and his wife, and they were not ashamed.

They are in the midst of a garden paradise, recipients of the bountiful goodness of the Lord God. He had created them and placed them there with a blessing: ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’

Near to where they stand is the Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Before the woman had been created, the Lord God had commanded the man concerning that latter tree, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’

Also in the garden is a serpent. He is more cunning than any beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

The serpent speaks. The woman listens.

‘Has God indeed said, “You shall not eat of every tree of the garden”?’

An ostensibly innocuous question. And the woman has the answer, so she thinks.

She converses with the serpent.

‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden, but of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, God has said, “You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.”’

The woman overstates the prohibition.

Perhaps this is her error, or perhaps it was the fault of her husband when he relayed to her the Lord God’s command.

One of them, certainly, had added a hedge to God’s word – one tiny addition. For God had commanded the man not to eat of the tree’s fruit, but He had said nothing about not touching it.

(How easily we add to what God has spoken.)

With that one addition – oh how small and seemingly insignificant! – the woman opens the door to her adversary the Devil.

The serpent, liar and murderous deceiver that he is, assures the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’

And so the woman entertains temptation and gazes at the tree.

What a beautiful tree! How good it would be for food!

Enticed by her desire to become wise like God, she reaches out and takes its fruit.

(See, she is unharmed! The serpent was right! Surely there is no danger here.)

Having suffered no consequence from touching the fruit, she eats it. In contravention of God’s command, a fatal act.

The woman also gives to her husband, who is with her.

(Why has he not intervened to keep her from harm? Does he not see the danger?)

The man had heard the clear words of God’s voice forbidding him to eat this fruit. He had heard the Lord God’s prescient warning, ‘For in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die’.

In wilful, unbelieving rebellion against his Creator, the man raises the fruit to his lips and eats.

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