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Downtown Sunday Morning Service (9:30)
August 18 @ 9:30 am - 11:00 am
Announcements & Meditation
– Call to Worship –
Minister: Grace, mercy, and peace to you, from God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Congregation: And also to you.
Minister: Lift up your hearts!
Congregation: We lift them up to the Lord!
From Heav’n O Praise the Lord, p. 192
– Confession –
Be Not Far Off, for Grief is Near, p. 31
CONFESSION OF SIN
Congregation is invited to kneel if able
Habakkuk 3:12, 16
+ ASSURANCE OF PARDON
Minister: Your sins are forgiven through Christ.
Congregation: Thanks be to God!
Minister: Christian, what do you believe?
Congregation: I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the virgin, Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into Hades. On the third day He rose again from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
Minister: Lord, You have been favorable to Your land,
Congregation: You have brought back the captivity of Jacob.
Minister: You have forgiven the iniquity of Your people,
Congregation: You have covered all their sin.
Minister: Will You not revive us again,
Congregation: That Your people may rejoice in You?
Minister: Show us Your mercy, O Lord,
Congregation: And grant us Your salvation.
Minister: Mercy and truth are met together;
Congregation: Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
To All My Brothers I’ll Declare, p. 34
– Consecration –
+ SCRIPTURE READING
Ruth 4:9-17; Romans 7:1-6
Reader: The Word of the Lord.
Congregation: Thanks be to God!‘
O Let My Name Engraven Stand, p. 370
Opening: Habakkuk 3:2
Thanksgiving: Habakkuk 3:17-18
Petitions: Habakkuk 1:5
We All Believe in One True God, pp. 404-405
CC: What is the Family For? (Toby Sumpter)Sermon
This week and next week we will look at what the Bible says about what the family is for in order to better understand why God calls us to different tasks aimed at the same goal.
8 For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man.9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.10 For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.12 For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God (1 Cor. 11:8-12).
Summary of the Text
In a somewhat challenging passage, Paul reminds the Corinthians that the creation details are important and significant, not arbitrary or ambivalent. The first woman was created fromman, and this is because woman was created forman (1 Cor. 11:9). Paul reasons from the order of creation to a telos or purpose of creation. Paul says that this is why a woman ought to have authority on her head (1 Cor. 11:10), especially in the context of worship and public prayer (1 Cor. 11:4-5). This is so significant that it in some way even reaches up to the angels (1 Cor. 11:10). At the same time, none of this can be taken to mean that man is independent of woman, as though only she needs the man. No, both need each other (1 Cor. 11:11). In fact, don’t take the “from” language in a sloppy way because every man after Adam literally came froma woman. And besides all of that, all things are fromGod (1 Cor. 11:12).
Because of the Angels
Riffing off of C.R. Wiley’s new book The Household and the War for the Cosmos, the Bible says that getting sex and marriage right has cosmic significance. This is implied at the beginning of our passage where Paul writes, “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor. 11:3). Paul insists that the order (or structure) of male and female in this world is constantly referring to Christ and God. To mess with male and female is already to attempt to mess with God and His Christ. We’ve been reminded of this many times when considering the fact that man (both male and female) is made in the image of God. Since rebel man cannot actually strike at the Infinite God, he strikes at His image – he burns the image in effigy, like some kind of blasphemous voodoo doll. But here Paul presses the point further: the blasphemy is not merely in the disfiguring and dismembering of image bearers themselves, but it is also in the attempted deconstruction of the orderof the sexes in marriage, in worship, and in the public square. To defy the orderis to defy Christ and God.
But it isn’t only that. Paul says that this order is even significant in some way because of the angels. Without pretending to understand fully what Paul had in mind with that phrase, we should understand that Paul is making a cosmicclaim. He is arguing that the order of man and woman and Christ and God is not an extraneous matter, but it reaches up and out into the fabric of the universe. While we have been trained to think of molecules and atoms as the fabric of the universe, a more biblical understanding recognizes that God’s Word is what ultimately holds all things together (Heb. 1:3), and the angels are His messengers, who carry out His word (Ps. 103:20), sparks of fire intimately involved in all of creation, fulfilling His will (Ps. 104:4). This is why in the Bible angels are associated with the stars (Jdg. 5:20, Job 38:7, Lk. 2:13, Rev. 22:16), and star-angels can be seen in this sense as having something to say/do with the births and lives and callings of people (Job 3:9, Mt. 2:2-20). Our lives are intertwined with the angels (Ps. 8:5).
All Fatherhood is Named
In another place, Paul again gestures at the cosmic significance of the family when he writes, “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family [lit. all fatherhood] in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man…” (Eph. 3:14-16). As with angels and stars, moderns are frequently ignorant of the Biblical and cosmic meaning of naming. But going back to the original creation week, when God spoke and called the universe into being, He did so by calling it by name, and when He began to teach Adam what it meant to be made in His image, He taught him to imitate that creativity in the task of namingthe animals (Gen. 1-2). Naming in the Bible goes closely together with calling. To be called by God is frequently to be named by God with that calling (e.g. Gen. 17:5, 15, Mt. 1:21, Lk. 1:13-17). While we are not God, our words are still powerful like God’s words (e.g. Ps. 42:10, Prov. 25:15, Js. 3:5-6). So all fatherhood finds its meaning and purpose in the Eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and this is how God grants strength in the inner man. Knowing the Father through His only Son is an invitation to put roots down, to know who your people are, to know what your nameis, to know what you and your family are for, to build a strong family.
What Are Families For?
“Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Gen. 1:28). A great deal of our confusion is related to the fact that we don’t understand what family/marriage/home is for. The word “economics” is from two Greek words “home” and “law.” So literally, an “economy” is the “law of the house” or we might say the “order of the home.” An economy is literally the way a household is organized. A household economy includes what is being produced, what supplies are needed, and who performs what tasks. And therefore, there must be a clear chain of command. We do not generally bat an eye at the idea of a boss having authority and giving instructions and pointed feedback to employees. But this is frequently because we have a great deal of reverence for money and market success. But if you don’t think that the family-economy is doing anything terribly important then you might think the man being the head of his wife seems arbitrary and tyrannical – like some roommate being appointed “head” of all the roommates. But if you see how high the stakes are, that we are participating in cosmic realities, then you are likely to appreciate the need for clear roles. But you might still wonder: businesses have services they provide or goods they produce. What are families for? The answer is they make people.
People are the most valuable resource in all of creation because they bear the image of the Eternal God. Lewis says somewhere that we have never had any dealings with a mere mortal. Everyone we come in contact with is either in the process of becoming a creature that we would be tempted to worship or to recoil from in utter horror. People are immortals. For two people to become one flesh, and create new people is to participate in something beyond reckoning: immortal souls are coming into existence and being fashioned for eternal destinies.
So the stakes are really high if we get this wrong. But on the flip side, to submit to God’s design for man and woman and family is to cut with the grain of the stars. It is to even honor the angels in some mysterious way. It is to participate in something that reaches all the way up to God in heaven, which is why it is such a threat to all the old systems of sin and unbelief. But none of this is automatic. Our families participate in that glory in the only way there is to the Father, which is through the Son. This is good news for every kind of household there is. We make people biologicallythrough the one flesh union of husband and wife, but we make people for everlasting glory and productivity through the gospel, by knowing the Father through Jesus His Son.
CCD: A Ladder up to Heaven (Ben Zornes)Sermon
A distinguishing feature of the Christian faith is that we proclaim the assurance of salvation. Christians aren’t left guessing if God hears their prayers. We aren’t crossing our fingers wishing that our God will be gracious to us. The saints of God aren’t cowering in the corner wondering what sort of mood God is in today. No. Those who are born again are as certain of their standing with God and His love to them as they are that the sun will rise tomorrow.
“The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see. Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel. Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these. And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man” (John 1:43-51).
Summary of the Text
After renaming Simon to Cephas (or Peter)––which means a stone (v.42), we have the unornamented call of Philip (v.43), what his hometown was (v.44), and his first act as a disciple: fetching Nathanael (v.45). Philip goes to find Nathanael, tells him that they’ve found the Messiah which Moses and the prophets foretold: a one Jesus of Nazareth (v.45).
Nathanael is dubious something as good as the Messiah could come out of Nazareth, but at Philip’s insistence, comes anyway (v.46). When Jesus sees Nathanael coming, He makes a (seemingly) odd pronouncement about Nathanael (v.47). The prophetic declaration strikes home, and Nathanael is left dumbfounded at Jesus’ discernment (cf. Is. 11:2-3), and asks, “What gives?!” To which Jesus reveals that He saw what Nathanael was up to before Philip even called him: being a true Israelite (under a fig tree) (v.48, cf. Mic. 4:4).
This is enough to persuade Nathanael of Jesus’ Messiahship (v.49). Jesus affirms his faith, and then reveals that greater things shall be seen by Nathanael (v.50). Jesus then describes those greater things by referencing a story about the patriarch Jacob, and a vision he had once seen (v.51, cf. Gen. 28).
The reference to Jacob’s ladder––the open heaven with angels ascending and descending––is a curious allusion, that is well worth pursuing. To recap that story, remember that the patriarch was leaving the promised land of Canaan not on sweet terms, but in a self-inflicted exile, fleeing from Esau. On his way, he stops for the night, takes a stone for a pillow, and while sleeping, sees a vision (which is what Jesus is alluding to in our text). When Jacob awakens, he declares, “Truly, God is in this place.” He sets up his stone pillow as a pillar, then changes the name of that place from Luz to Bethel––the house of God.
Years later, right before he returns to the Promised Land––as a great host––he wrestles with God at Peniel (Gen. 32), and God declares that his name is going to be changed. A few chapters later––in the closing scenes of Jacob’s story––we see that he has returned to Bethel, and there God renews the Abrahamic covenant with Jacob, and renames him: Israel (Gen. 35:9-15). After God appears to Jacob, He “goes up/ascends” from him.
So, why does John recount this interaction with Nathanael? First, remember the preceding context of this section. Jesus has been changing names: Simon to Peter (a stone). In other words, Jesus sets up a stone, like Jacob had done long ago. Jesus tells Nathanael that he is not a Jacob, but an Israelite (the only time someone is called an Israelite in John’s gospel).
Nathanael declares Jesus to be, “Rabbi, Son of God, King of Israel;” but Jesus quickly “renames” himself: “son of man.” As one more layer to the “name-changing” going on in this passage, John is the only Gospel writer to refer to Nathanael; whereas the synoptic gospels refer to him as Bartholomew. In other words, Jesus is a name-changer. But only a father has the right to name someone, and only God has the right to rename someone.
“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it (Rev. 2:17).”
“Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named (Eph 3:15).”
The human race is full of Adamsons. But our family is under the judgement and wrath of God. Our family is in exile from the garden. We forfeited the deed to it back in Eden. We are cut off from heaven, and thus our lot is hell. Who will bring us back to God?
The Great Divorce
But the fact that Jesus is a name-changer is not the only feature in this passage. Name-changing is a divine prerogative, but a far off god is no good for sinners. What John is drawing our attention to is the tension between Christ’s divinity, and His humanity. Henry Law once well-stated: “[The vision of the ladder] shows Jesus, in the miracle of His person—man, without ceasing to be God—God, without scorning to be man.”
Jesus has come to be the one, sent by the Father, to change our names. He has come to adopt us into God’s family. Nathanael is dead on when he sees in Jesus a true Rabbi, a true priest, a true King (v.49). He is a faithful Israelite, who has longed for the promised salvation. But Jesus makes it plain that the way in which He will fulfill those offices is by uniting earth back to heaven.
In Eden there was, what C.S. Lewis called, a great divorce. We were cut off from God and from grace. In order to return, the debt must be repaid, and it must be paid by a son of Adam, a Son of man. While Nathanael was persuaded to believe because of Jesus’ prophetical declaration, Jesus expands the smallness of Nathanael’s vision. Jesus has come to suffer as one of us, but as God to rise from the dead. Or as the Belgic Confession puts it, “true God in order to conquer death by His power, and true man that he might die for us in the weakness of his flesh.”
In Jesus Christ we have a true Son of Man, who is also the Son of God. The great marvel which Nathanael would see is that reunion of heaven and earth in Christ. Our prayers, in the name of Jesus, ascend up to heaven. The blessings of His grace and mercy descend unto us.
Babel tried to build a tower into heaven, and they were denied. Heaven was closed. But in Jacob’s ladder it is God Himself who sets up a tower into an open heaven. Jesus tells us He’s the only way back to God. He says, “I am that ladder.” And that ladder is your assurance of prayers heard and salvation received. For those who look to Jesus, He brings your prayers and tears to God, and He brings down all of God’s grace, goodness, and promises to you. Nathanael, indeed, saw great things.
Ending with The Lord’s Prayer
O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus, p. 264
– Communion –
What Wondrous Love Is This, p. 335
My Soul, Now Bless Thy Maker, pp. 142-143
– Commissioning –
+ CLOSING DOXOLOGY
The congregation may raise hands
Doxology, p. 437
CHARGE & BENEDICTION
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26