A Journey from death to life

Meeting the risen Lord


Scripture Readings

  • Psalm 116:1-19
  • Mark 16:1-11


We find comfort in knowing a good doctor.  We call them family doctors.  They know everything about us; and we trust them with our secrets.  We trust them with our health.  Once we get to know the doctor, we love going back.  Our doctor becomes some sort of anchoring point.  He is the one who might receive a telephone call in the middle of the night.  We do that see them as friends.  And when the doctor retires or moves away, or when we move away, we go through the agony of finding a new one.

Mary Magdalene – living in a dark world

Was she dumb and deaf?  Was she blind?  Was she recognisable by her bodily deformity?  Did she suffer from mental illness?  Did the evil spirits cause her to rant and rave, leaving her with mental disorders? Were there times that she had uncontrolled fits – maybe in public?  Did she behave in an antisocial manner?  We don’t read about the husband of this Mary, which means that he could have divorced her because or the state she was in.

We don’t know, but these things were common to those riddled by evil spirits.  Mary, the woman from Magdalene, had seven evil spirits.  She lived in a dark world.  She lived on the edge.

But Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who grew up in Nazareth, not too far away from Magdala in Galilee, was sent by his Father to destroy the power Satan and the evil spirits under his control.  He preached that the Kingdom of God has come.

There was the day in Magdala on which He preached.  The sermon was about the Kingdom of God.

After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. 

The evil spirits were no mach for Him.  They submitted and were cast out of those who suffered.  They even admitted that Jesus came to destroy them.

And Jesus healed Mary.  She is named with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases.  From her seven demons had come out:

After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means. (Luke 8:1–3, NIV)

Living under the wings of Life

Her life changed. She met new friends: Joanna, the wife of Chuza – Chuza was the person in charge of the finances of Herod; and Susanna, another woman cured and healed by Christ.

Together they formed a group who would support the Messiah with their possessions.  They were apparently from high social standing, well-off or very industrious.

The Twelve, the Apostles also benefited from this service of love.  These women were disciples of Jesus, and followed Him wherever they could.

Their lives changed and more and more did they learn about the Kingdom and about God.  As they looked back, the existence in darkness, possessed by the evil spirits, faded on the horizon.  The days shone brighter and brighter.

But every now and then, as they were listening to the teachings of their Redeemer, they heard about an immanent catastrophe.  We read in Luke 9:22, only a chapter after we meet Mary for the first time:

And he [Jesus] said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” (Luke 9:22)

As the light shone brighter for them each day, the shadow of the cross gradually rose up over the group as they followed the One who healed them.  He would eventually die the cruel death on the cross.  His death would be the result of the fact that every person is in some way responsible for the cross of Jesus.

In the shadow of the cross

When Jesus was arrested that night in Gethsemane, all his friends left Him.  One betrayed Him, the other denied Him. The women were not allowed anywhere near Him.

When He carried the cross through the streets of Jerusalem on the way to Golgotha, his followers looked on from afar.  As the plan of God’s redemption was unfolding, there was nothing they could do to prevent it from happening.

Overcome by fear and disappointment, they just looked on.  Hear the words of Matthew 27:55

Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs.   Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons. (Matthew 27:55-56)

They were there when Jesus was buried.  Joseph of Arimathea, the rich man who also had become a disciple of Jesus, took the body of Jesus and put it in a grave and sealed the entrance with a heavy stone.  And we read:

Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb. (Matthew 27:59-61)

The pain of unbelief

The next day was a long day.  It was a Sabbath, the day of the Passover. On this holy day they devoted themselves to the feast of deliverance out of Egypt.  They ate the Passover lamb and the unleavened bread.  It was a solemn day and a solemn atmosphere.

Most of all, Mary lost her doctor.  The man who gave here back her life, the man who healed her from her infirmities is dead.  Cruelly they nailed Him to a cross, together with criminals.  The man who became a dear friend, the man she and the other supported even with their own possessions, is dead.

Some in Jerusalem celebrated.  They were too pleased that this Jesus was out of the way.  But Mary’s attention was divided:  she could not wait till the sunrise of the Sunday morning.  The agony of waiting.  Surely, it was a Passover that she will never forget – not because of rejoicing, but because of the great personal loss.  On Sunday morning, she would go to take care of the body of this Jesus of Nazareth.

Life out of death

She probably didn’t sleep well that Saturday night after the Passover and the ensuing Sabbath.  Her mind was at the grave.  She remembered the sight of Joseph as he laid Jesus in the tomb and rolled the stone in front of it.

Early Sunday morning, the first day of the week, she and the other women, rushed to the grave.  What a disappointment:  the body of Jesus was not there.  They concluded that He must have been stolen.

Then there was the voice of the angel:

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. (Mark 16:6)

They were looking for Jesus of Nazareth.  That was their problem!  If they knew the man whom they served out of gratitude for the new meaning of life given to them, and if they understood that He was not only the son of the carpenter of Nazareth, named Jesus, they would have believed.  But their eyes were still shut to the fact that Jesus was also the Christ, the Son of God.  And even if they knew it, they didn’t believe it.

They were looking for a dead body;  what they should have been looking for, was the risen Christ. Listen again to the teaching of the Christ:

And he [Jesus] said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” (Luke 9:22)

He has risen!  He is not dead.  His body may be precious to you, but not a dead body!  He has risen!  Now they had a task as commanded by the angel:  Go, tell the others!  Jesus will see them in Galilee – in the region where cast the evil spirits from them.  There He would finally show his power over the forces of darkness.

From unbelief to faith

A few things happened then.

Mary wept:  she was so disappointed.  Her faith in Jesus was still not the faith she would later have in Him as the Christ.  If only she could touch Him for the last time! If only she could her gratitude towards Him by tending to his body in the grave.  This privilege was taken from her.

They fled from the tomb – they were afraid and scared.  They trembled and were amazed.  They stopped speaking.

Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. (Mark 16:8, NIV)

Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, and she clung to Him, never to let go of Him again.  This act was more than only reserving the Christ to themselves, it also turned into an act of worship!

Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” He said. They came to Him, clasped his feet and worshiped Him. (Matthew 28:9, NIV)

But Jesus gave her the command to go and tell the others. Their fear was replaced willingness to become witnesses of the resurrection of the Messiah.  Now they were filled with joy.  The bewilderment was replaced with joy and worship.  Then there was the haste to get to the others. It was important for them to tell them the good news:  because He was resurrected, because what happened to Him was exactly as He had said would happen, they understood that He was more than the carpenter of Nazareth:  He was the promised Messiah and Christ.

Their must have been disappointment with them when the disciples regarded their words as “idle talk” (Luke 24:11).  They did not believe the message of the women.

But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. (Luke 24:11, NIV)


There is a distinct difference between acknowledging and believing.  We need to understand the difference between knowing and believing.  Or let’s put it better: there is a huge difference between having faith in general and having saving faith. The Larger Catechism says faith is an instrument by which we receive and apply Christ and his righteousness. It is far more than just an acknowledgement of who He is was and what He did.

Many people find themselves where Mary found herself whilst following Christ on earth, but it was only after she saw the open grave and spoke to the risen Lord that she worshipped Him as Lord and God.

Sunday school knowledge and Scripture in school knowledge of Christ does not mean we live in this saving faith relationship with Him.  Worse even is that He is just the babe of Bethlehem! It is only when we can see past the crib and cross into the open grave that our spiritual life actually begins.  And that, like in the life of Mary and the others, made them disciples of the Lord in the Kingdom of God – they became mouthpieces of Christ’s Lordship.


Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 20 April 2014


The Cross of Jesus Christ

Satisfaction for our sins

Scripture Readings

  • Daniel 9:4-19
  • Hebrews 9:11-28


My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

I personally favour the terms Day of the Crucifixion and Resurrection Sunday, plainly to steer away from the secular connotations to these very important events on the Christian calendar. For many people these days Good Friday is good because it introduces the first long weekend of the year.  Easter Sunday has lost its meaning in everyday speech because Easter Monday, which has nothing to do with anything in the Scripture makes for an extra long weekend which is and is muddled up with bunnies, eggs and chocolates.  I think it is important that we are very specific about things we believe in.

These two events, Day of the Crucifixion and Resurrection Sunday taken together tell of the total gift of grace in Jesus Christ.  On the Day of the Crucifixion Jesus died on the cross to be our righteousness before God.  On Resurrection Sunday He overcame death to procure a new life for those whom He died on the Day of the Crucifixion.

We do not use the word righteousness loosely and without meaning.  The portion we read from Hebrews 9 has this verse in it:

In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:22)

Biblical righteousness describes God’s requirement of what is needed for man to come into a relationship with God.  God is righteous and He demands those in relationship with Him to be righteous too.

He, the Righteous One, established a covenant with his people; He lovingly redeemed them, and graciously promised to be their God and the God of their children. This covenant relationship was not dependent on the righteousness, past, present, or future of the people. The Law was an impersonal instrument which found its complement in a righteous leader by whom righteousness was to be advanced, but ultimately God’s demand for righteousness was someone He, the only righteous One, could and would provide.

This doctrine is fundamental to the understanding of salvation. If we don’t understand this correctly we fall into the trap of a DIY religion and we try to work out our own salvation.  Here major division within Christianity starts, and here all other religions oppose the teachings of the Bible.


To be righteous in the eyes of God, then, God needs the kind of satisfaction He prescribes before He will prepared to forgive.  And for God to forgive there is a necessity for someone to be a substitute for those who are by nature unrighteous.

Sir Alister Hardy, a very prominent British Scientist, could not reconcile himself with the idea that God’s righteousness can only be satisfied by a person who would be a substitute for sinful man.  In his book The Divine Flame he states:

“I feel certain that He [Christ] would not have preached to us of a God who would be appeased by the cruel sacrifice of a tortured body.  I cannot accept either the hypothesis that the appalling death of Jesus was a sacrifice in the eyes of God for the sins of the world, or that God, in the shape of his Son, tortured Himself for our redemption.”

And yet, the Bible is clear (unless one deliberately tries to read it other otherwise, or delete certain portions of the Bible):  man cannot satisfy the righteousness of God and man cannot make atonement for himself.  On the way to Calvary we see the Son of God carry the cross; He is tortured, scorned, forsaken; and on the cross He paid the penalty of our sins to purchase our standing in the presence of God.  He is our righteousness before God and He satisfied God’s demands to be blameless and without sin.

The cross did not satisfy the devil

There are some people who argue that we are not in the grip of sin, and therefore under the domain of the devil, but that we are born as children of the devil.  For us to set be free God had to pay a price for Satan.  The price was that Jesus would die on the cross to satisfy the demands of the devil.

This view of course puts the devil in direct opposition to God as far as his power is concerned.  In fact, he is given more power than God, that’s why God then has to pay him to set us free.

Let’s get this straight:  the devil has no right over us.  What he has was given to him by God.  God has no reason to pay him some sort of ransom price for those He wanted to save.  Those who keep on sinning and keep on rejecting the free offer of the Gospel are handed over to Satan.

Further, Christ is God, and no gift to Satan.  Christ defeated Satan because He is more powerful than Satan.  Christ declared that no one can take his life; He lays it down voluntarily, of his own accord.  Christ is not in the hands of Satan, or under his power now that God has paid the ransom price for believers.  The opposite is true:  the devil is bound and thrown into the pit and Christ reigns eternally.

The cross satisfied the curse of law

God is holy and his law is holy, but the law is not something on its own.  It was instituted by God to give us a glimpse on his holiness and righteousness. The demands of the law are the demands of God for holy living.

Daniel, in the chapter we read this morning, prayed this:

  1. He entreats God on the grounds of his covenant grace:  “The awesome God who keeps his covenant of love with all who love Him.”
  2. He confesses his sins and those of the people:  “We have sinned and done wrong.”
  3. He understands that God is righteous and we are unrighteous:  “Lord, You are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame.”  “You have fulfilled the words spoken against us.”
  4. God is gracious:  “The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him.”
  5. We deserve God’s punishment:  “The curses of the covenant have been poured out on us.” 
  6. He pleads on the grounds of God’s righteousness, power and faithfulness:  “… our God who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand.”  “In keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath.”
  7. His is not hiding their sin:  “We do not make requests of You because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.”
  8. All about the glory of God:  “For your own sake do not delay.”

The so-called God-delimma

This presents what some people now refer to as God’s dilemma:  God is holy; we know it by his Law and we see it in his covenant stipulations.  On the other hand, man is sinful, unrighteous and deserving of punishment.  God demands righteousness and man in return cannot live righteously.  And God does not turn a blind eye on sin.  Someone puts it this way:  “God cannot abolish that moral constitution of things which He has established.”  God is not fair, for if He was, He would have forgiven us without demanding righteousness. God is not fair; He is righteous and holy, but also gracious.

So how does God solve this so-called dilemma?  Without a sacrifice there is no forgiveness of sin.  Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin.  He demanded the High Priest to go into the Most Holy and there sacrifice a perfect lamb and shed the blood of that lamb onto the altar.  Then there was forgiveness.  But the problem was that this had to be repeated over and over again.

This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order. (Hebrews 9:9-10)

There was a cry for something better, something which would last into eternity and satisfy the righteousness of God altogether. This is now what we read about in Galatians 3:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. (Galatians 3:13-14)

Christ redeemed us from the Law in two ways:  He paid the price of our disobedience to the law, and therefore our rebellion against the righteousness of God, but He also meet the righteousness of God by living in accordance with the Law.  It is only by believing in Him and being clothed in his righteousness that we can be counted righteous as we ourselves accomplished that righteousness.

The cross satisfied the holiness of God

Our relationship with God does not rely independently on us, as if we are making the choice to serve God.  It is the other way round:  God sovereignly makes a covenant with us.  In this covenant He makes the rules and sets down the standards of living in relationship with Him.  We owe Him everything because He redeems us and promises to be our Father.  We sin when we do not serve Him rightly.  We take from his glory and want it for ourselves.  Sin is an insult to the holiness of God.  The problem then is that all of us have sinned.  We need to repay God and give him honour and glory, but sin robbed us from that possibility.  “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23)

If we are to be forgiven, we must repay what we owe.  John Stott writes:

“Our present obedience and good works cannot make satisfaction for our sins, since these are required of us anyway.  So we cannot save ourselves.  Nor can any other human being save us.”

The only possible way out of this human dilemma is that there is no one who can make this satisfaction, except God Himself; but no one ought to make it except man, otherwise man does not make satisfaction.

On the cross hangs Jesus Christ:  his name is Jesus, because He is the Saviour born in Bethlehem who grew up in Nazareth and worked in a carpenter’s shop. But his name was also Christ, because He was the Messiah sent by God to bear the iniquities of his people.  When He gave Himself up He did not pay a debt, because He was sinless, but He died for the honour and glory of God.

Daniel prayed:  “For Your sake, O Lord, look with favour.”  The Lord made for Himself a name by saving the people out of bondage, and it is for the glory of that Name that God is called to restore his people by a righteousness only He can provide.

It is for the glory of that Name that Jesus died on the cross.  By nature people hate God and dishonour his Name, but when they find salvation in the cross of Christ, they live for the glory of that Name.  They can do it, because between them and the holy and righteous God stands a holy and perfect Saviour.  Through Christ a living relationship with God is possible, and more than that, it is demanded.

The cross satisfied God

When our Lord died on the cross, and when He cried out, “Why have Thou forsaken me?” God’s anger against sin is played out.

We cannot experience Crucifixion Friday or Resurrection Sunday if we cannot see the anger of God against sin.  God hates sin and in order to satisfy his righteousness against sin, God had to discharge of his anger by condemning do death the sinner.

2Corinthians 5 teaches us:

God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:19-21)

Because Christ was made sin for us, God had no choice to bring upon Him the curse which was meant for us.  The wages of sin is death and as such Christ had to die by taking our sins upon Him in order to give us free life in God.

In this sense we learn from the Bible that God is true to Himself:  in order to satisfy Himself, the cross was a necessity. When we then say that Christ “shed his blood” we do not mean that He cut Himself and let some blood; we mean that He gave his life. And that He died. He paid our ransom and satisfied God.  He turned God’s anger upon us into God’s favour now seen in his grace.


Brothers and sister in the Lord, the cross is defining event in history. Without the cross on which our Lord died to become our righteousness there is no peace with God.  There is only eternal fear and punishment as a way by which the righteous and just God will deal with those who rebel against Him.  The Bible is not DIY book instructing us how to work out our salvation.  The Bible is about Christ as the only way to the Father.

These are the things we need to remember this time of Crucifixion Day and Resurrection Sunday. To this Saviour on the cross we must cling.

May God bless us richly.  AMEN.

Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on The Day of the Crucifixion, 18 April 2014


Towards the cross

Eye for eye – God’s demand for justice


Scripture Readings

  • 2Corinthians 5:11-6:2
  • Deuteronomy 19:15-21


Life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. (Deuteronomy 19:21, NIV)

It took me many years to work out what “brotherly love” meant.  Our household, like many others I suppose, represented your typical family where brothers got stuck into one another – and it did not always portray love between brothers.  Later in life I worked it out that sin was part of our daily life – but we still loved one another.  And it is almost if I can still hear Mom’s rebuke, that was when things got a bit hot, “Do not repay evil with evil!

Even a word from the Bible sometimes did not help when you knew that you had a case against your brother.  You just felt you wanted justice.

Then one day I read this passage in the Bible: “eye for and eye, hand for hand, foot for foot.”  I had my verse.  I had grounds for retaliation and revenge!

But is this the meaning of the verse?

In preparation for this sermon I read quite a few commentaries.  When it comes to this particular verse some of them just skip it.  There was one who argued that this verse, and the other places in the Bible where it is mentioned, is the most embarrassing in the Bible and should be removed, or not referred to at all.

I beg to differ.  It is my clear conviction that this verse underlies the reason for the death of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Whilst reading this verse in Exodus 21:23-24, I wrote a comment:

This principle, I believe, lies behind the cross of Christ. He bore the punishment of God on all harm and injustice in his Person to satisfy the righteousness of God. 

Justice, not retaliation

Study the paragraph of Deuteronomy, and you will know that the setting is that of disputes in a court of law.  There is no hint of personal retaliation or vindictiveness.

I am the Lord your God

Above and over all the regulations and case laws that Moses gave to the people of the Lord, stood the Ten Commandments.  The top line reads, “I am the Lord your God.” No less than 76 times do we read this in the first five books of the Bible.  God has a claim on his people, and his people were different, living under a different law, and were saved from slavery to be the possession of the Lord, their God.

When it comes to the second table it speaks about the love for the neighbour: God’s people was driven by the first table, which is the love for God and God’s love for them.  All relationships between the people of God stood under the overarching principle of love.  One would honour your father and mother because God loves them, gave them to you, they love Him and you love Him.  One would not murder another person, because God loves him, he loves God and you love him.  The same applies to adultery, stealing, and lying in court:  God loves me, I love Him; He loves my neighbour and I should love my neighbour.

Sin distorts justice

So when we go back to Deuteronomy 19 these principles are assumed – but sinful nature gets in the way:  people do lie, justice is perverted and retaliation becomes a reality.  They needed priests, judges, a thorough investigation and a verdict.

Sin makes life difficult.  We hate, lie, steal, and covet.  We know the law, and yet we trespass; we need a judge, we need a verdict, we need justice,we need punishment.  We need and eye for an eye – not driven by retaliation or vindication, but because we need justice.

In the presence of the Lord

Ever wondered where the custom to take an oath and be sworn in as witness in a court of Law comes from?  Where does “So help me God” come from?

“our law (like that of most civilized nations) requires a witness to believe, not only that there is a God and a future state of rewards and punishments, but also that, by taking the oath, he imprecates upon himself, if his evidence is false” (Simon Greenleaf)

Witnesses, even in the day of Moses, had to understand that truth is universal, because God is omnipresent.  That’s why the witnesses of Deuteronomy stood “in the presence of the Lord.”  The priests and judges also sat in the presence of the Lord and had to measure out justice as God determined: they could only take the side of truth, not of the circumstance or the person.

Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. (Deuteronomy 19:21, NIV)

To stem the possibility of retaliation, and only seek justice, any person who felt that he was dealt with unjustly, could approach the judges and priests.  Then, even the quality and quantity of the witnesses were tested:  two or three who were there when the alleged injustice took place;  their statements had to be tested as the truth.  And if it is proved that the witness is corrupt, what he wanted to be done to the person charged, would be done to him.

Punishment fits the Crime

Until very recently this was a principle accepted by the courts.  Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot and life for life.  Justice demands that the penalty for a crime should not inflict harsher punishment than the crime called for.  We know of no case in the Scripture where this law demanded an actual eye, foot, or teeth, but the compensation sought by a person for injustice against him could be measured out only in as far as he received injustice.

Justice good for the people of God

“You must purge the evil from among you.  The rest of the people will hear of this and be afraid. and never again will such an evil thing be done among you.” (Deuteronomy 19:20)

Much can be said about punishment dished out be courts in our days, but fact is many law-breakers do not fear the law, and citizens in general have not much respect for the law, purely because the penalty does not fit the crime.  It is wrong to try to get rid of a cat by putting it in a rubbish bin, but if you did and you get caught it, your punishment could be harsher that someone who raped and elderly person, or even killed a partner.  We do not even mention injustices which might be legal, but still horribly wrong:  think of abortions!

God instituted the law of eye for eye, foot for foot, tooth for tooth and life for life to be an example of justice; it was meant to be a deterrent.  It was not “correctional” as we have it these days; it was exemplary punishment.

God’s righteousness demands justice

Whoever thought this verse in the Bible is an embarrassment, or thought it gives every individual to exercise personal retaliation, has it wrong.  The only principle laid down here is that of justice.  Fact is, God’s righteousness demands justice.  This principle helps us to understand the cross and death of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

God’s righteousness and the cross

We are all sinners

The Bible is clear about our position before God:  “we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

Listen to Isaiah 59:

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that He will not hear. For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken falsely, and your tongue mutters wicked things. No one calls for justice; no one pleads a case with integrity. They rely on empty arguments, they utter lies; they conceive trouble and give birth to evil. They hatch the eggs of vipers and spin a spider’s web. Whoever eats their eggs will die, and when one is broken, an adder is hatched. Their cobwebs are useless for clothing; they cannot cover themselves with what they make. Their deeds are evil deeds, and acts of violence are in their hands. Their feet rush into sin; they are swift to shed innocent blood. They pursue evil schemes; acts of violence mark their ways. The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks along them will know peace. So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead. (Isaiah 59:2–10, NIV)

All the sins mentioned here goes back to the Law of God, and as such, to the paragraph in Deuteronomy:  hands are stained with blood (guilty!); false lips (guilty!); no justice (guilty!); utter lies (guilty!); evil deeds (guilty!); violence (guilty!); evil schemes (guilty!).  The result?  Justice is far from us.  We are like dead!

This is the picture Paul paints in his letter to the Ephesians:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. (Ephesians 2:1–3, NIV)

God cannot turn a blind eye on sin

There is a principle in the Bible which may crush every sinner if it is not read in the full context of the cross of Christ.  It reads:

‘The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished; He punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’ In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.” (Numbers 14:18–19, NIV)

God is merciful and abounding in love and forgiving sin, yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished.  It seems contradictory:  He forgives in love, but does not leave the guilty unpunished!

This is true of the Bible message from the beginning to end.  Anyone who wanted to approach the Lord on his own terms would be crushed.  Yes, God is merciful and forgiving, but He demanded that a sacrifice be brought:  the blood of lambs and bulls satisfied God’s judgment on sin in the Old Testament; without that there was no forgiveness.

God does not turn a blind eye to sin

Point is, God does not turn a blind eye to sin.  Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, life for life.  We demand justice, but we need justice.  How can we demand justice if we are born in sin, and utterly corrupted by sin?  How can we ask for forgiveness if we are unforgiving?  Can God just say, “I forgive you”, without penalty on sin?  Would He still be holy if He did so?  Would He still be righteous if He let the unrighteousness off the hook without repentance and punishment?  Such a God I don’t want to worship.

Eye for eye, life for life

God solved our problem, not because we deserved it, and not because He just forgives or overlooks sin.  He solved our problem by being just.  He punished in righteousness, not compromising his holiness.  He gave his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord to be our mediator.

When Jesus walked this earth He constantly referred to the fact that He would be handed over in the hands of sinners.  When He was brought before them, all rules of justice went out the window:  no proper witnesses, no truth in the allegations; lies conjured up by people off the street; an illegal court meeting in the middle of the night; bribes paid to witnesses.  They let robbers free to have Him crucified.  They had Him flogged even though they found no reason to do so. Even those who followed Him, lied about Him (Peter) and others deserted Him (the disciples).

When they nailed Him to the cross, He prayed to the Father that He would forgive them.  Then, He faced the righteousness of the Father:  justice called for eye for eye, tooth for tooth and life for life.  He cried out, “Why have Thou forsaken Me?

Paul understood the cross and the Saviour and writes:

All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:18, 21) NIV)

In Christ the righteousness of God is met:  He paid for our big sins, the small ones and every one in between – eye for eye.  We might think it is not a big sin, but all our sins are an offence to the holiness of God and demands his righteous justice.  When Christ died in our place, the punishment fitted the crime, though He did not deserve it;  if He did not do it, we needed to do it – and the consequence would have been disastrous, because we are God’s enemies.


My dear friend in the Lord, Christ’s death on the cross is your vindication;  those who do not trust in Him for forgiveness will find the justice of God’s righteousness calling for retaliation: eye for eye, life for life.

Make sure that your life is save in Christ who took God’s judgement and became your righteousness.  When He returns He will vindicated those who suffered under unbelieving and oppressing regimes; and his enemy will be punished.  All because of justice.  Eye for eye, and life for life.  Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 13 April 2014


Doing Good

Doing good to our enemy


Scripture Readings

  • 1 Samuel 24:1-13
  • Luke 6:27-36


When Wycliffe translator Doug Meland and his wife moved into a village of Brazil’s Fulnio Indians, he was referred to simply as “the white man.” The term was by no means complimentary, since other white men had exploited them, burned their homes, and robbed them of their lands.

But after the Melands learned the Fulnio language and began to help the people with medicine and in other ways, they began calling Doug “the respectable white man.”

When the Melands began adapting the customs of the people, the Fulnio gave them greater acceptance and spoke of Doug as “the white Indian.”

Then one day, as Doug was washing the dirty, blood-caked foot of an injured Fulnio boy, he overheard a bystander say to another: “Whoever heard of a white man washing an Indian’s foot before? Certainly this man is from God!” From that day on, whenever Doug would go into an Indian home, it would be announced “Here comes the man God sent us.”

Love made the difference.

The call out of this world

Let’s try to pick up on the context of Luke 6.  On a Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields and his disciples began to pick some of the heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels.  This, to the Pharisees was unlawful and questioned Jesus about it.  Then on another Sabbath Jesus healed a man with a shrivelled-up hand.  This good deed put Jesus off-side with the Pharisees again.  What follows gives us a clue what this chapter is about:

“I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” (Luke 6:9, NIV)

After Jesus had healed the man, the Pharisees “were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.” (Luke 6:11)

In the paragraph following Jesus called and named the apostles from amongst the number of disciples who already had been following Him. This event is crucial to the understanding of what follows in the chapter.

With the crowd of people who came to listen to Jesus and be healed by Him, He addressed “his disciples” (Luke 6:20).  Two things are significant here:

A different kingdom

Jesus called out his disciples and apostles, He looked at them, and taught them.  The “you” in the Sermon on the Mount is therefore not aimed at the world; the “you” are those who left everything behind to follow Jesus. (Luke 5:11, 28)  They are the ones who now stand between Christ and the crowd, between the Saviour and those who are still lost.  They are not mediators for them; only Christ can mediate between sinners and God; but Peter would now know what Jesus meant when He said he will make him a fisher of men (Luke 5:10). Amongst all the “Blessed are you …” phrases Jesus adds this one:

Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. (Luke 6:22–24, NIV)

That would be a verse that I would leave out of my first sermon to now converts to a new church.  Just imagine how different seeker-sensitive churches are these days – give the consumeristic crowd a sugar-coated gospel, easy on the ear, and palatable to digest.  Tell them that to follow Jesus will them make them rich, influential and powerful.  What a disgrace and folly this consumeristic easy-going gospel is.

And if this is not enough, our Lord adds:

Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets. (Luke 6:26, NIV)

Woe to you…”  This verse is immediately followed by the command: “Love your enemies.”

The word enemy convey the inner disposition from which hostility arises, “hatred,” and means “hostility” as such.  What is happening here is the war between two kingdoms:  the church of the Lord Jesus Christ stands diametrically opposed to the kingdom of this world – these two kingdoms have different kings, different mindsets, different principles, different goals.

Where one is aimed at selfish gains, self-love, esteem and materialistic accomplishment, the other is opposed to it:  a disciple of Christ does not seek his self-interest or esteem; it is never about materialistic gain, but always about self-sacrifice.

Sent into the world

A consumeristic crowd

The crowd was representative of those who initially wanted nothing more of Jesus than temporary gain:  they were sick and wanted healing; they were possessed of evil spirit and wanted freedom; they wanted to touch Jesus “because power was coming from Him”.

The Gospels tell us that people followed Jesus for bread, but left Him when the fountain dried up; they listened to his teaching but walked away when things got personal, or if did not fit their idea of who the Messiah was, or what He was sent for; they were as easily taken along in spreading palm branches in shouts of “Hosannah!” before Him as He entered Jerusalem, as they were in shouting, “Crucify Him!”  

Our Lord knew that his disciples, and so his church in all ages, can easily fall victim to a crowd who’s mind is not attuned to the kingdom of God.  When things do not go their way, the very same people will turn around and become enemies – fearsomely and vindictively opposing all the Kingdom stands for.  They easily hurl insults and mistreat God’s children.


It is now important to understand that “enemy” and doing good to “those who hate” us do not mean we have to deal with people who don’t like us.  All of us know people who just don’t like us.  In their eyes we speak too loud or too much, they dislike our fashion tastes, we listen to a different kind of music, we don’t like the colours they like, or we follow different footy teams.  And let’s be honest, we don’t always like them for the same reasons.

The “enemy” in this paragraph of the Bible does not refer to the fellow who is off-side with with me because of personal preferences, choices or disappointments.  The “enemy” here is in the first instance not my enemy, but the enemy of the Gospel.  Enemies of the Gospel might dislike and hate me personally without understanding that they actually hate the cause for which I stand as a disciple of Christ.

Verse 27 is an interesting one.  It begins with, “But I tell you who hear Me.”  Of course the disciples were close enough to Jesus to hear Him, and this phrase does not mean that those who couldn’t hear Him had no obligation to do as He commanded.  This “hear” is to take to heart what Jesus is saying; it is something that dare not be forgotten when someone is considering the blessings and the woes of the previous paragraph.  Jesus is singling out the true believers. To them, as the blessed ones, all that He now says applies. A new life-principle dominates their hearts: that of the kingdom of God.

Disciples of Christ will show their presence in the most distinctive and tangible way to the world. The fruits of repentance which Jesus names are those which the world cannot achieve by any ethics it may invent or practice.

Love your enemies

This “love” is special:

It sees all the hatefulness and the wickedness of the enemy, feels his stabs and his blows, may even have something to do to ward them off; but this fills the loving heart with only the one desire and aim to free its enemy from his hate, to rescue him from his sin, and to save his soul. (Lenski, R.C.H., 1961. The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel, Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House. 

How do we express our love for our enemies?  It seems to me verse 27 speaks of three ways our love should respond, and the tense of these commands in Greeks speaks of actions based on ongoing princples:

[Continue] to do good

The Pharisees interpreted the Law of God to fit their bill.  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” (Matthew 5:43)  That’s easy!  Our Lord gave the original meaning of the Law back:  “I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44–45, NIV)  That’s exactly what He did!

To those who detest and abhor us for being Christians we must continually do good.  Overcoming this hate is to keep meeting it with kind deeds.  If our enemy goes on hating in spite of us doing good, our conscience will be clear, we shall be showing the true spirit of the disciple, and the Lord’s favour will be ours.

[Continue] to bless them

The enemy of the cross can sometimes be vicious.  The word “curse” has the meaning of calling on a supernatural force to condemn.  This this not imply that enemies of the cross really have someone powerful to call upon, but it expresses the hatred which they have for the church.  We see the hatred of Muslims against Christians all over the world today.  Allah is invoked to pour judgement on the so-called infidels. Then, the command comes, “bless them” – it means the opposite of what they are doing:  they curse, we bless. It is not always easy, but the heart of the Christian always want that God may do him all manner of good.  Our prayers for their blessing in the Name of the Almighty God must act as a counter attack on their prayers to condemn us.

Brother Andrew of Open doors says:

“…as followers of Christ, we must take a bold step: we must shed the ‘enemy image’ we have of those who persecute us. Because the moment we have an enemy image of anyone, God’s love can no longer work through us to reach them! We must pray for and even love those who hate us.”

[Continue] to pray for them

The buzz word of our day is “human rights”.  It is surely not implied in this verse, but can be paraphrased this way:  “When your enemies treat you inhumanely, pray for them.”  Our Lord sets the example, “Father forgive them.”

Be different

God’s people are different from this world. We need to love one another, we need to do good to one another, and sometimes we find it extremely hard to do that. The everyday-Christian is renowned for back-biting and lovelessness.

The true disciple of Christ has a different principle at work in him:  he goes beyond the expectation of everyone and loves and does good to those who do not deserve his love and good deeds.  It requires patience, forbearance, willingness to forego our rights and to suffer wrong in order to overcome the evil with good.  Indeed, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus, who endured all the insults and still loved to the end – to save those who were once his enemies.

About all television drama of our day has as retribution as theme – even family cooking shows.  It is seen as a virtue to get even.  But the biblical principle is, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31)

It is better to sometimes let go of one’s rights to be treated well, or one’s possessions and money not returned to you, than to let passions and wrong desires possess the soul. Jesus speaks here about his disciples; the enemy who wrongs the disciples will have to deal with God.

We are different because, as verse 35 puts it, we are sons of the Most High.  No one will ever understand the love of the Father who loved an undeserving world full of sinners.  No one will ever understand why He love us so much that He sent his Son to die for sinners.  Our verse says He is “kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”

What a statement:  the word “ungrateful” describes everything which is opposite to the very nature of God.  Our Father is good, kind, compassionate, forgiving, merciful; the sinner is bad, nasty, self-centred mean-spirited, and merciless. God is love, pure, holy, faithful; the sinner is wicked, cruel and abominable – yet, God forgives this enemy and him He turns into his child.

God commands us to merciful too.  What a calling!


Our Lord is not hiding from us that we will have enemies in this world.  They hated Him, they will hate us too.  “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Timothy 3:12–13, NIV)

This is the world we live in.  This is the world we need to live as disciples of Jesus Christ:  we are called out of this world, we are sent into this word – but we must live differently!

May God help us.  Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 6 April 2014


Doing Good

Partners in the Gospel

Scripture Readings

  • Psalm 125
  • Philippians 1:3-7; 4:10-20


Dear friends in the Lord,

Many stories are told of soldiers on the frontline who were encouraged by a letter, a card, or even a cake tin with just the crumbs of biscuits made in love left in it. It is a good thing for loved ones to let those on the frontline know they love them and are thinking of them. It lifts the spirits of the soldier far away from home to know he is not forgotten. A little word written on a card can make one go further.

In our series Doing Good we’ve now come to the teaching of the Scriptures about sacrificial giving for the sake of the Gospel. What the the Lord wants us to know is that not all of us can be on the frontline of Gospel work, but all of us must be partners in the work of the Gospel as we support those who are on the frontline.

Paul on the frontline

Our Lord called Paul to be a missionary to the Gentiles – they were the people who had not been Jews before they became Christians. On his second missionary journey Paul reached as far as the north-western border of modern-day Turkey, in Troas, he received a vision of a man of Macedonia begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” (Acts 16:9) Paul concluded that God was calling him to preach the Gospel in Greece – he thus became the first missionary of the Gospel of Christ in Europe.

When they reached Philippi they met Lydia, who at that stage probably heard about the Jewish faith. She was a dealer in purple cloth of Thyatira which renowned for its quality. She became the first Christian in Europe after the Lord had opened her heart to respond to the message and she and members of her household were baptised. It is possible that Lydia’s house then became a house church where other who heard the Gospel came to worship.

Paul and Silas got imprisoned in the jail of Philippi after Pail commanded an evil spirit which lived in a girl to go out of her (Acts 16:18). Her owners realised that they lost their income out of this fortune-telling girl and demanded that Paul and Silas be thrown in prison. We know of their prayers and hymn-singing in jail. God miraculously delivered them from jail through an earthquake. The jailer was at the point to take his life, but through the Gospel became a Christian and he and his whole house were baptised. It was with with great humiliation that the magistrates had, not only release Paul and Silas, but also escort them publicly our of prison. All of this led to a thriving congregation on European soil. Paul then continued with his missionary journey and went as far south as Athens and Corinth.

On his third missionary journey he once again called upon the christians in Philippi and encouraged them in their faith. The dark clouds for Paul began to gather on the horizon as he heard that the Jews plotted against him. He planned to go to Jerusalem and requested of all the congregations in Asia to raise some money for the impoverished Christians in Judea and Jerusalem.

This appeal was significant, because at that stage, there was still a fair separation between Jewish and Gentile Christians. It was probably easier for the Gentile Christians to think they should help the Jewish Christians, than it was for Jewish Christians to receive money from people with a non-Jewish background, because traditionally they never mixed.

At any rate, the Christians in Greece, which included the Philippians responded overwhelmingly. Paul writes about their generosity:

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. (2 Corinthians 8:1–6, NIV)

They did not have much, they were not an exceptionally rich church, but they gave generously. And that brings us to their generosity towards Paul, the missionary on the frontline.

Partners in the Gospel

Paul was arrested in Jerusalem and was taken to Rome to defend himself. He was put in prison, and later in house arrest. But being imprisoned was no disaster for Paul. He says:

Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. (Philippians 1:12–13, NIV)

What’s more, other preachers of the word were encouraged to continue proclaiming the Word (Philippians 1:14)

But all along, and this is the point, Paul’s ministry was their ministry. They could not be there on the frontline with Paul, but in word and deed they shared in his Gospel. How?

They provided for him

Let’s go to Philippians 4:10. Although they always had concern for the Gospel and Paul’s well-being, something hindered them so send things for his need. Then, something happened, and the Lord opened the door, and at that point they were ready to help.

In the meantime, Paul living from the hand of God, learned what it means to be content whatever the circumstances. He says, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether fell fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Phil 4:12) And then he says, and this verse is mostly quoted out of context by so may Christians as if it alway applies to all in all circumstances, as if God makes us supermen and women:

I can do all this through Him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13, NIV)

Clearly, this verse does not tell us we are like superman who can tackle all problems and prevail. This verse says that God gives ability to his people to look beyond the problem and see God’s providence through it.

Anyhow, the Philippians generously gave, even from their own desperate poverty. When they couldn’t do so, they planned to put things in place to help as soon as possible. Paul says they shared in his troubles. The Greek text says the “made connection” with his “suffering”. And they were the only church in Asia to do so. They sent aid over and over again when he suffered. Although he did not rely on them to do so, they gave him gifts – the sort of thing you give when you don’t expect something in return.

Why would they do that? Because Paul’s work was their work. Although they were not physically there with him, they felt obliged to help because he was doing what they are supposed to do. He worked with their hands, he walked with their feet, he spoke as if they were speaking.

This is the heart of Christian giving. We don’t support missionaries to tick the box of giving. We support them because they are out there using their skills and gifts for what we should be doing. The gifts of the Philippians to Paul were acts of worship to God who saved them, so He could save others. Listen to how Paul saw it:

I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. (Philippians 4:18, NIV)

Think of the jailer who wanted to kill himself, who then received mercy and received eternal life. He wanted everyone to know about it, and Paul became his mouthpiece. More than that, his support for Paul was an expression of his thanksgiving to God for his own salvation.

That’s what should drive us to support the work of the Gospel. It’s when we have peace in our hearts because of what Christ has done in our lives, that missionary work is a pleasure.

They sent Epaphroditus

It’s a difficult name. So I will just call him Mr E. We do no know much about this man, he was most probably an elder of the church in Philippi. He was probably an elder, a man with courage and compassion. With a bag over his shoulder containing the gifts of his congregation he set out to meet with Paul and personally encourage him on behalf of the church. His mission according to Philippians 2:25 was “to take care of Paul’s needs”.

He had to travel quite a distance, and would have taken him quite some time to get to Rome. We don’t know how he got there, maybe by ship where necessary, and otherwise on foot. To arrive in Rome and ask for Paul the Christian, was to expose himself as a friend of the man whom the Jews wanted to get rid of. The journey took its toll on Mr E. Not long after he arrived in Rome he fell ill and almost died. So ill he was that Paul writes:

Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. (Philippians 2:26–27, NIV)

How do we look at it? “He almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me.” (2:30) What a story of care! What an example of being partners in the Gospel! What an example of Christian love in action!

How many Mr E’s do we have today? To walk in the boots of those who are on the frontline, and to represent those who desired to do so, but they were not in the position to do so. I stand ashamed thinking of Mr E. Sometimes we put our hands in our pockets, get our wallets and cheque books out to give to the work of the Gospel. This is a good thing to do; but is our heart there where our donations go? Is our good deeds of care and support good enough to be counted as an aroma and acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. In the end we do not give to those on the frontline; we give to honour God.

I just want to go back to 2Corinthians 8. Listen to verse 5:

And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. (2 Corinthians 8:5, NIV)

That’s the secret of sacrificial giving: giving oneself to the Lord first. That, Paul says in Romans 12 is our reasonable worship. And I know that this church has been very generous to supporting missionaries and other christian workers over many decades; it’s true and good in the eyes of God. But Paul writes to the very same congregation who already poured themselves out as a sacrifice to the Lord:

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9–11, NIV)

In other words, what you have been doing in the past is good, but continue more and more, trusting God more and more. That makes our love in Christ abound, our knowledge of Him grows in depth and insight and when Jesus comes again we may stand before Him pure and blameless – not that we will be saved because of all the good works we did for those on the frontline, but because we, being saved, knew what it meant to be discerning: what is important, a new car or TV set, or the Gospel of Christ to those who perish in sin.

The result of their support

Paul gives them this assurance:

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19, NIV)

This implies that things were not all that rosy for them when they support Paul. But God, the Creator of heaven and earth, who came down to us in Christ Jesus to show us grace and mercy, will “fully provide” “all” you “need” in “abundance” in Christ Jesus. His salvation was full, it lacks nothing; it was complete, we don’t add to it – not even good works! He gave it freely.

Romans 8:32 says:

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32, NIV)

It excludes the things we want; it includes everything we need; and we need to pray to understand the difference. Someone once said we may ask, as our Lord taught us to pray, for our daily bread; we, on the other hand are sometimes not satisfied before we are assured of next week’s hamburgers.


Good works pleasing to God is to live lives that are fragrant offerings and acceptable sacrifices. And once we know what it is to become partners in the Gospel and live as if it is us on the frontline, we will with Paul say: We can do everything through Him who gives us strength. Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 30 March 2014

Doing Good

Watching over oneself and fellow believers

 Scripture Readings

  • Psalm 45 (Psalm of Praise)
  • Galatians 6:1-16


Dear friends in Jesus Christ,

The story was told of the young girl who fell pregnant outside of marriage.  There were indeed days when is was a sin to have sexual relations outside of marriage; these days children born out of wedlock are called “love children”, almost in the way as prostitutes are now called “sex workers”, thieves are called kleptomaniacs and prisons “correctional centres”.

Anyhow, the shame that this girl brought upon her family was not dealt with the right way; instead, she was sent away on a long “holiday” – where she had her baby.  She was terribly lonely, but found a good ear  in the elderly lady in the flat next to her.  This person was a Christian.  She gave our young mother the advise to return to her hometown and to go back the church, where she was sure to find forgiveness and restoration.

The girl was shocked.  “Back to church!?  That’s the last place I’ll go to.  It’s them who drove me away in the first place.  I would not be able to listen to their innuendo’s and reproach.”

She never returned home, and she never went back to church.

Who’s at fault?  Did she dig her own grave and did she get what she was looking for?  Or was she lost because her family in the Lord left with her the opinion that God might forgive and forget, but they never? Both!

The sermon this morning follows our series of Doing Good.  In doing good, we need to watch over oneself and fellow believers.

The joy of freedom in Christ

Knowing the Son of God

Let’s look at a few verses from the letter to the Galatians to once again discover the joy of being free in Christ – all by grace.

In Galatians 1:16 Paul says, although he thought he knew God through all the things of the law he observed, he did not Christ.  The real freedom for Paul came when God revealed his Son to Paul.  For Christ, Paul says, he left everything behind for the joy of knowing Him.  Then, life started for Paul.  He says in Galatians 2:20

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20, NIV)

Making known the Son of God

In chapter 2 the apostle says that it is his calling to make known the Son of God through whom sinners can live in the relationship of Father-son with the living God.  He could do this in the freedom that he was trying to convince people to adhere to certain laws and ceremonies, but that they could be forgiven by sheer grace in Christ Jesus.

know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:16, NIV)

That’s the wonder of the gospel you and I hold out to lost people.  It is not a “be good and you will be saved gospel”;  it is a “because God has been gracious in Christ” gospel.  Believe in Him and you become a child of the Creator of the universe.

We are sons of God through Jesus Christ

The amazing fact about grace is that God because of Christ did in our stead, makes us heirs of Christ.  We are sons of God through Jesus Christ!

If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:29, NIV)

Be once again we’reamazed by God’s grace:

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” (Galatians 4:4–6, NIV)

We are really free

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. (Galatians 5:1, NIV)

A gospel of good works is not a gospel of freedom.  Millions of people will go to church today only to return with more burdens, because they will hear a gospel of good works.  They do not look upon God as their Father, but God their punisher.  All because they will not hear about the freedom in Christ.

The Gospel describes our freedom from religion which would demand of us to be good before or so that God would save us.  This is not the case and we need to show more joy for this grace bestowed on us.  This grace should never become old hat to us.  Of this grace we must never stop telling others, because when this joy overflows in us, the Gospel we tell other will never come to them as “do good and you will be saved” Gospel.  it will remain a Gospel of freedom and sonship in Jesus Christ.

Freedom in the Holy Spirit

Being made free, being new in Christ, being made sons of the living God in Christ Jesus, having received a firm inheritance in Christ who has become our brother, calls us to holy living.  It speaks of an enormous and humungous change that took place.  It is as good as a corpse which came to life.

No-one calling himself a Christian can reasonably do so if this change can’t not be witnessed in the way he lives.  It is a complete turnaround of one’s life, thoughts, desires and ideals.  Paul was first a persecutor of the church, but he became an apostle for the church.  He was enemy of Christ, but he became a friend of Christ.  He was lost, now he is saved.

That’s why, by the Spirit of God, he writes:

For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. (Galatians 5:17, NIV)


Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25, NIV)

Freedom is a gift, not a status

In Galatians 5:26 Paul writes:

Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Galatians 5:26, NIV)

There is this real danger that Christians start looking down on one another with an attitude of “I am more free than you.”  Or, “God made me his child because I think I am better than you.”  This can so easily happen when a fellow brother or sister in the Lord faltered and fell in sin.  You see, it sometimes tragically happens that the acts of our sinful nature prevails:

sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19–21, NIV)

When it happens is that those without mud on their faces can have an attitude of “I think I’m not as bad as him.”  The Bible commands and warns that we should not become conceited. Other words are vainglory or narcism.  Narcissus in Greek mythology was the fellow who fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water.   This is spiritually possible: I like myself because I am saved, but I don’t like my brother in the Lord the same way.  This verse has the word “become” in it.  Even the original describes something that develops over time. It is not something we might realise overnight; it becomes an attitude if we don’t nip it in the bud.

The worst part of it that we set an example in our pride and others might see that as something desirable, so we start envying one another to outperform one another to do things that might look good and civilised, which is not biblical, but looks good.

Help one another up

What does the Bible mean?  Remember the girl with the baby?  In condemning the sin of out-of-wedlock sexual relations we develop an attitude of “holier than thou”.  The Bible does not call us to condone sin, especially if there is no repentance, but the Bible does call us to never distance ourselves from the sinner, more so if the sinner is one of us. That’s why Paul writes:

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. (Galatians 6:1, NIV)

The “restore” in this verse is the very word Paul uses in 2Timothy 3:17 when he testifies about the Word of God which “fully equips” us for every good deed.  In another verse, Ephesians 2:12 Paul again uses this word to describe the reason why Christ gave apostles, teachers, pastor and leaders to his church:  “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” (Ephesians 4:11–12, NIV)

The most unchristian thing to do when a fellow brother falls in sin is to distance oneself from him.  No, in gentleness the Bible says, we should restore him, or help him up; we should make every effort to equip him once again for service in God’s household.  It is not a “holier than thou” mentality, but a “it could have been me” mentality.

Why should we do so?

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2, NIV)

To fulfil the Law Christ took our burdens upon Him.  Being restored ourselves, having had this humungous change happening in our lives through the work of the Spirit, being brought from death to life, we need to show the same attitude as our Saviour.  We need our hands get dirty sometimes.  How many people out there avoid the church because they might think they are not as good as us in here?  If only they would know us; if only we would be honest with ourselves!

The church is not a showcase of sinless people, it is a hospital for the eternally sick where the gracious Healer of souls does his work of moulding and sanctification.

If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. (Galatians 6:3, NIV)

Now we understand this verse, don’t we.

Be careful

Our adversary does not sit still.  Be careful when you help the fallen brother or sister up that you are not dragged down.  Don’t show so much compassion fir the young mother that she ends up having another out of wedlock child.  Be careful to help the person who fell in a money scam and made lots of money, and end up falling for the love of money.  Be careful to help the alcoholic and then end up becoming his drinking brother. Always remember: “each one will carry his own load.”  There are consequences to all we do, and we can’t put the blame on others when we fall in sin.

The reward

The next verse seems it does not fit in the context:  “… the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.” (Galatians 6:6, NIV)  What does it mean?  In the usual scheme of things this could be interpreted that the teacher is supposed to get some sort of sustenance from those he teaches.  Here it means this:  help your fallen brother, and you get a reward for it.  Jesus said: “Do unto others as you would them do unto you.”  There is an indescribable blessing in helping others.  It enriches you as you pray with your fallen brother, as you help him from the Scriptures, as you help him up in the Lord and restore him.  Your own spiritual life goes in leaps and bounds.

Go, try it out.  Give it a go and come back and tell others you found nothing out of helping others.

All this is doing good

Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:8–9, NIV)

Helping up your brother, caring for him, carry his burden with him and for him is sowing in the Spirit;  it pleases the Spirit of God.  That’s why caring for one another as good works is good in God’s sight.  It is a good thing “to do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”


Do you want to test your life in the Lord, if it is real?  Do you want to sow good works in the Spirit?  Do you want the reward of growing in your spiritual life? Do not give up doing good, and start invest time in the spiritual life of your brother and sister.  Carry one another’s burden. Allow others to help you to be equipped for service in the household of the Lord.

Do good to all people!  If you live by the Spirit, it’s your duty.  Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 23 March 2014





Doing Good

Saved by grace to do good works

 Scripture Readings

  • Titus 2:11-15
  • Ephesians 2:1-10


Augustine who lived a life in search of fulfilment in excessive pleasures, false religions, philosophy, debauchery and distractions—futilities that left him so weary of himself he could only cry out, “How long, O Lord, how long?” At the very moment when he uttered that cry, circumstances led his eyes to a passage in Romans that showed him he could be freed from sin. Shortly afterward, he was baptised.

With his heart bursting with the reality of God, he dips his quill and begins, “Great are you, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is your power, and your wisdom is infinite.”  He realises life ends and begins in God. Then he wrote his famous line:  “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.”

For years Leo Tolstoy searched for an answer to the question, “What’s the purpose of life?” He addressed it to many of his contemporaries. No one gave him a satisfactory answer. Then one day he met a peasant friend, who upon listening to the well-worn query, immediately replied, “To serve God.” Whereupon the Russian literary genius declared it to be the highest wisdom he had ever encountered.

David writes, “Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands.” (Psalm 119:73, NIV)

Every human being, whether admitting it or not, will forever search for meaning in life, until he understands that God made us for his purposes, and not for ourselves.

God’s original creation

God made us not for ourselves, but for Him, for his glory.  Before sin everything was good, very good indeed.  Then Adam and Eve thought they could improve on God’s creation, and disobeyed Him.  That day they began to die. Everything went wrong:  they became enemies of God; their own relationship went wrong; nature turned out to be their enemy; their firstborn killed his brother.

If sin had not come into this world everything would have been perfect.  By nature we would have lived to God’s glory; we would have loved one another – yes we would haven naturally been inclined to doing good works. We would be have been able rule over God’s creation as His ambassador and representative with no resistance.  We would have been freely communicating with God as He did with Adam and Eve.  God’s perfect plan for his creation would have unfolded.  There would not have been a need for evangelism and missions.  There would not have been Sundays or days of rest, because our lives would have been brought glory to God who made us for that purpose.

What we read about the new Jerusalem in Revelation would have been everyday business for us, as it will be then – only then everything will reach full consummation.

We messed it up

The moment Adam and Eve disobeyed God and sinned against Him, death entered into this world.  We exchanged God’s rulership over us for another:  Satan took over and corrupted everything. The Bible calls him the ruler of the kingdom of the air. We think we live for ourselves, and in a way we do, but ultimately we live for him. Rebellion took over and we began to live for ourselves. We became the centre of our existence and instead of glorifying God we chose to glorify ourselves and our master.  The Bible says:

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey …(Romans 6:16, NAB)

He enslaves us and pay us wages too.

But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. (Romans 6:21, ESV)

The best we could do

What is the best we could do?  Nothing good!  Go with me once again to Ephesians 2.  Verse 3:  Instead of living to the praise and glory of the Father who created us, we were

… gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. (Ephesians 2:3, NIV)

All along we thought we were pleasing ourselves, but in reality we were slaves to our lusts and sins.  And it is still the same with those who are not saved be grace through Jesus Christ.  People want to live free?  Free from what?  Man would forever be a slave to sin, unless he is rescued through the righteousness of Christ through his blood.  In his search for freedom man will look at different ways to express his bondage, and in the process become more and more entangled in the web of his master.  In the end he will be given the wages of his labour to evil:  death – eternal death.

The best we could do was to plod deeper into sinking sand exposing ourselves more and more to the wrath of God.

God did not leave us in death

For reasons unknown to us, God loved us.  He gave his Son to save us.  This process is described in Ephesians as an act of re-creation.  We were beyond any possibility of being improved.  God does not make us better people; if that was the case we could claim some bragging rights.  We became new creations.  What died in paradise, is made alive.  Like God created out of nothing then, He did again through Jesus Christ.  His original intention for creating mankind was to live to his glory;  that is also the purpose in re-creation.

Let’s go through verse 10 of Ephesians 2.

The translation “workmanship” is the Greek work, when used in connection with what God does, the same word used for “create.”  So Paul says, we were dead in our sins.  God did something not unfamiliar with Him:  He created.  Out of death He created, He made, He called into existence.  Do you remember the valley of dead bones in Ezekiel 37?  God commanded Ezekiel to prophesy to the dead bones, and while he did that, God did the miracle:

So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army. (Ezekiel 37:10, NIV)

The same here.  God created a new nation for his glory.  He made us alive with Christ even when we were dead  in transgressions.  All of this is by grace, for it is by grace that we are saved, not by works, so none of us would boast.

God promised to do so even through the prophets:

“This is the covenant I will make [create] with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people… For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31–34, NIV)

God re-created

So, says Paul, God created us, another translation then is “We are what He has made,” his worksmanship. We are the result of what He made.  Most of the time I am not proud of what I do in my workshop; I throw things out because it does not work out the way I wanted them to look like; my worskmanship fails.  God’s worksmaship is perfect.  He speaks the word and it stands.  It is interesting that, as Ephesians 2:10 puts it “we are created in Christ.”  Is Jesus Christ not known as the Word of God.  “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God!”  God speaks through his Son, Jesus Christ; He creates through Christ.  He has become our Saviour, being a human being like us, yet without sin, to become our righteousness as He died and rose again from the dead.  United by faith with Him, we died with Him, but we rose with Him.  This happens by the grace of God.

But God never creates without purpose.  He created us with a purpose:  to serve Him and to glorify Him.  This the the meaning of the word “in advance”:  He created with a purpose.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10, NIV)

Paul in Romans 9 writes about God, the Potter, who takes us, the clay, and He makes what He wants with the clay.  He concludes:

What if He did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom He prepared in advance for glory— (Romans 9:23, NIV)

and [He] has made [created] us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to Him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. (Revelation 1:6, NIV)

What are these works He prepared “in advance”?

These good works which God “prepared for us in advance” is nothing mysterious, as if He would reveal to each of us individually something special He wants us to do tomorrow.  This expression takes us back to God’s original intention and purpose for creating us.  The difference is this: we messed things up, and will do so again if it only means that our Father took us back to Eden.  What lies between Eden and us is the cross and substitutionary work of Jesus Christ.  The grace of God is known to us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:7); and we are created in Him (verse 10).  Good works, if not “in Him” amounts to nothing more than good works in order to be saved, and not good works because we are saved.  Christ is our righteousness:  He fulfilled the law of God extensively and perfectly.  The good works God prepared for us in advance, are those things Jesus already accomplished in our place.

But it surely doesn’t mean that we are left out of the picture.  The point is, because of Christ we are included into the picture, and involved in doing good for the glory of God. The good works God wants us to do is possible because of Christ.  Let’s start right at the beginning:


This is where it begins for the sinner to come back to God.

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realising that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4, NIV)


Being made righteous by faith in Jesus Christ, and being put in the household of God through grace, we are now living under God’s roof as his adopted sons.  His people are different from the world.

In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:20–22, NIV)

Doing what is pleasing to the Father

The writer of Hebrews goes back to God’s original purpose for which man was created:

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20–21, NIV)

To be model citizens

We in this land do not find it hard to live in submission to the government; it is not always easy in other countries.  The way we submit in things lawful under the Word of God is a testimony to unbelievers. We don’t do as others who plant bombs to blow up places of government or public; we exercise our democratic duty and we pay our taxes, stop at traffic lights, and obey the speed limits. Paul writes:

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient…

This verse is smack-bang in the middle of Paul’s  reasoning for doing good.  He talks about Christ who gee Himself to redeem us, and continue, almost as if it is a logical consequence of being saved, to be obedient to rulers and authorities.

Serve one another

Being members of the household of God, adopted sons and daughters, the next comes automatically.  But we always have to keep in mind our “eldest” brother, Jesus Christ, who put us in the right relationship with the Father.  Because He showed us what love is, we love one another too.

to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone. (Titus 3:1—2)

We display God’s goodness

In whatever we do, Christians being made new as new creations in Christ display a different lifestyle:

…those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. (Titus 3:1–8, NIV)

We are made to work in gathering in the lost

Being a saved sinner makes of us people living and working in the Kingdom of God.  His work of recreation includes making us fishers of men.

Jesus said to them, “Come after Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17, NAB)

This “making” you fishers of men is the result of God’s re-creational work.  Being evangelists and disciple makers don’t come naturally.  We can only be made, create into disciple makers.  That’s what the Spirit of God do.  He demands of his church to obedient to this command.  That’s why it is our business to go to the nations to tell and teach them about Jesus Christ who gave his life as a ransom, but who also had victory over death, hell, sin and satan.

Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 16 March 2014


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 51 other followers

%d bloggers like this: