Doing Good (5)

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 (4)

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 (3)

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

Annual Report

Reports to the Annual General Meeting on 16 March 2014


Minister’s Statement

Dear fellow workers in Christ,

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:22–24, NIV)

The writer of Hebrews, right through his letter, writes about being church of Christ, using the Old Covenant people of the Lord as a template.  By doing so, he in no way implies that those who lived under the Old Covenant were less church of the Lord; but what is very clear is that their worship, although commanded by God, was not perfect; it was incomplete, because the priesthood and the sacrificial system was temporary, constantly calling for more sacrifices and more priests.  The Law was onto fulfilled, because the promised perfect High Priest had not come.

What was unchangeable over time was the holiness, justice, grace and mercy of God.

The verse above from chapter 12 therefore does not imply that God is less holy now that Jesus Christ has become our High Priest.  The city of God is not less holy, and coming into the presence of God is not less fearful.  The difference is the blood and sacrifice of Christ.  In this sense the worship of the Old Testament people and the worship of the New Testament people culminate in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Those who are saved know that their names are written in heaven. In Christ they rejoice with the host of angles and bring glory to God who showed mercy in Jesus Christ.

May God help us to never downgrade the calling of his church to glorify and magnify his holiness, just because, in Christ, there is no reason to fear his wrath upon sin.  May we still, in whatever we do as his church, remember: God is holy, and He demands of us to be holy.

Our congregation in Wee Waa

With the departure of a number of stalwarts to other congregations, things have changed for us. Almost in one go Mike and Wendy Weeks, Tom and Jenny Brown, and Stephen and Jen Downes and their boys left us to retire elsewhere, or to take up new employment.  This was followed by Martin and Marion Powel who retired to Brisbane.

Not long after that we suffered the loss of Kathy Rowe – now being with her Lord whom she served and loved for many years.  A few months later David moved on and is now living in Melbourne.

Towards the end of the year Tim and Shanna Whan announced that they were moving to Narrabri.

Losing any member in any congregation is difficult; losing so many people we have loved and appreciated vey much is almost devastating.  We look up to God for guidance; and we pray that those who left us are just as fruitful in the Lord where they are serving now.

With less bodies on the ground, it means just one thing:  to the glory of God, and to the praise of our Lord Jesus, we will have to love and support one another with greater fervour and dedication.

Sermon series

I trust that you found encouragement in the series of sermons from John last year.  Let’s remember:

  • Christ is life
  • Christ is light
  • Christ is the Good Shepherd
  • Christ humbled Himself to wash our feet, and demanded us to do the same
  • Christ was never surprised by his mission to die for the sin of sinners
  • Christ promised to go ahead and prepare room for those He would die for
  • Christ promised and sent the Holy Spirit to lead us and be our Comforter
  • Christ commissioned us to bear fruit
  • Christ commissioned us to pray
  • Christ gave his joy to be with us
  • Christ sent us away to take the full wrath of God upon Him so we can go free
  • Christ intercedes for his church

I thank Tim Downes, Tim Fragar, Peter Henderson and others who were willing to fill the pulpit when I could not do so.  I also thank those who did the Scripture reading, prayers and other things during the worship services.


It is still the desire of Session to have more elders to help with the workload and responsibility.  Men please pray and ask if God is not calling you to be an elder to his people..

Prayer and Bible study

If all of us would attend every worship service every Sunday of the year, and the sermon part of the service is 30 minutes, we would be under the teaching of God’s word for 26 hours – per year! Compare that to the number of hours we lend our ears to the teaching of this world through mass media.

I thank God for active Bible study groups in our congregation.  Combined with the Adult Sunday School there are ample opportunity to learn more from God’s Word to be equipped for service.  Find our more about the different groups and get involved.

Let’s come together in corporate prayer, too.  The half an hour pryer before service each Sunday is encouraging, but it be attended better.  More fervent prayer will impact on our worship services too.

The Manse

The Manse is still open to visits!  Thanks to those who encourage us with visits and prayers.


May the Lord be good to us as we seek to bring glory to his Name.  We are praying for you, and we ask to do the same for us.

Your family in the Lord,

Rudi and Heila.

Session Statement 

Another year has flown by. It has been our second with Rudi and Heila. They have been a great encouragement on our walk.

Rudi has been taking the church through some interesting series of topical sermons, which have given us a better understanding of Gods love for us. We need to keep Rudi in our pray’s as seeks to open God’s word for us.

We also need to pray for each other as we seek to be a light for our community.

Session would also like to acknowledge and thank others for making our Sunday worship possible.

  • the music team, who come in week after week.
  • the overheads, which enable us not be informed but sing with one voice.
  • the bulletins, with information we can take home.
  • the COM. for the general running of our church.
  • the youth team, that teach our younger members of God’s love for all of us.
  • the door welcomers, coffee, and flowers, that add to church.
  • the mission committee, which help us see God’s work in the world.
  • the Bible study leaders, to help us in our growth.
  • the women’s ministry team for their support and encouragement.

In Christ,

Elder Tim Downes

Session Clerk

Galatians 5:25 – Live by the spirit, and walk by the spirit.

Report from the Committee of Management to the Annual General Meeting held on 16th March, 2014

The Committee of Management is grateful for the kind assistance of church members in repairs and general maintenance of the church property.  Many people help week by week keeping the gardens and buildings in good order.  Thank you to those who water, mow, tidy, and empty bins etc.  Thank you to those who teach, and those who lead us in music, praise and worship.

We have had a busy year and much has been achieved including the following:

Kitchen:  Following consultation with church ladies, a new kitchen was completed with new flooring. Thank you to the donor of the new Euromaid stove.

Church:  An audio desk was constructed & the sound system upgraded.  Thank you to those involved.  Small chairs and table are in the entry for the children.  An engineer has been assisting us following the movement of the church and subsequent necessary repairs.  Floor levels have been taken twelve months apart and we await the engineer’s advice and report. Damage to the eaves is to be repaired and the insurers are allowing us to complete all works at the same time.  The committee is investigating the best way to proceed with pier repair, allowing access to the drainpipe.

Plumbing:  An isolation tap has been installed at the Manse a/c and the mains pipe repaired.  External pipes outside the crèche & lounge room are repaired and sections of sewerage lines have been replaced.

External:  The back fence has been repaired and strengthened following storm damage from tree branches.  The front fence has been repaired and trees removed for safety to property and people.

Internal:  The crèche rooms have been painted and a new floor mat installed.  Most Sunday School rooms have been repaired and painted and the floors sanded and polished.  A large carpet section is in the second room.  A roof leak near the toilet vent pipe has been repaired which will now allow the plaster and paint work to be done in the first Sunday School room.  A stronger vacuum cleaner has been purchased which now has a very long hose allowing vacuuming under the pews in the church without damage to the wood.  A new system is in the lounge room for viewing missionary presentations and Adult Sunday School lessons.  The hall floor and entry has been resurfaced and we appreciate careful movement of furniture.

John Gray Ave. house:  Following approval from Presbytery and PCA –NSW, we have established a long-term lease with the residents.

Nurraby Children’s Services are in discussion with the committee and are considering the possible rental of the crèche.

The committee is assisting with the support of the S.R.E. teacher as requested.

Working bees have been well attended and we really appreciate such willing work.  Another will be held soon to clean out cupboards, (allowing the replacement of some furniture) and general maintenance inside and out.

We praise God for guiding us and answering our prayer for wisdom and for providing the means to run the material part of his church.

Heather May

Secretary, Committee of management

Financial Reports (in original printed report)

  • Income and Expense Statement for year ended 31 December 2013 and  
  • Proposed Budget to 31 December 2014
  •  Auditors Report
  • Detailed Balance Sheet as at 31 December 2013

Mission Committee Report for the period

1 January to 31 December 2013

The Mission Committee has concentrated on promoting and hosting various missionary organisations/speakers throughout the year.  As well as these visits we have endeavoured to bring missions before the congregation through regular prayer points in our weekly bulletin, publication of the Mission Mouthpiece and through the Missions Notice Board.

Missions Supported by our Church

We continued financial support this year for Russell and Ruth Briggs of Pioneers, Michael and Ulrike Safari at St John’s Anglican Parramatta, Matt and Louise George of ECM (European Christian Mission) and Debbie and Chris Bowers with Wycliffe Bible Translators.  Our quarterly support for 2013 for each missionary was $1250 (annually $5000). We also continued to financially support ‘Life Quip’ ($500), an annual mission at AgQuip. In 2014 we will support the Special Religious Education (SRE) position occupied by Kate Battistuzzi ($1000 annually).

Laptops for Masters Students

The year commenced with the request from Andy and Rosemary Williamson for donations to help supply two laptops for Masters students at Talua Bible College. The students were Tom Lionel and Pastor Christopher Kouha. A total of $1800 was raised to provide the students with a new laptop and software to undertake their studies. The two men wrote to the committee thanking the congregation for their financial support.


Deb and Katie Bowers Visit 22nd September 2013

Deb and Katie arrived in Wee Waa in September and met with members of the congregation during their visit. Deb was interviewed at church on the 22nd September and informed the congregation of the work they are doing in Spokane. Chris was continuing to teach young pilots how to navigate and fly the new Kodiaks.

Russell and Ruth Brigg 26th to 28th November 2013

Russell and Ruth visited in November and were able to make several personal visits during their visit to members of the congregation. It was good to catch up with them and hear about what God had been doing in theirs and the students they meet with each serving with Pioneers in Melbourne.

Prayer for our Missionaries

We continue to encourage each Bible study group to pray for their specific missionary. We encourage each group to continue to contact them and keep them in prayer. As Bible study groups have changed for 2013 please speak to Tim Weaver if you are unclear which missionary your Bible study group is contacting and praying for. This is a great avenue for our church to communicate and encourage our missionaries in the work they do for our Saviour.

Meal for Mission

Meal for Mission was held in November, with the monies raised going to support the Presbyterian Inland Mission.  A total of $911.00 was raised to assist the Presbyterian Inland Mission to cover their costs with reaching people in remote communities of rural Australia.

Easter Tracts

Easter tracts were purchased from the Bible Society for distribution to the Wee Waa post boxes, out of town mail runs and residential boxes.  Easter service times were printed on the back of the leaflet.

Local and Foreign Theological Student Support for 2013 and new SRE support in 2014

This year our support for theological students went to two students from Presbyterian Theological College. The local student was Daniel Woods whom is studying to be a Presbyterian minister in Narrabri. The Foreign Theological student was Rira Cho from South Korea. They were both very grateful for the financial assistance.

 Outreach Posters

As part of mission to the community the mission committee updated the outreach posters at the front of the church. The mission notice board continues to be the main focus for pinning up newsletters and APWM information for the congregation to read. We encourage members of the congregation to check it regularly.

Prayer and Thankyou

The mission committee would like to thank the congregation for their support of the mission work during 2013.  Please continue to pray for our missionaries as they continue to serve God. We also encourage people to pray for new members for the committee.

Committee Members

This year – Hadley and Nita Alf, Peter Martin, Mike Weekes (Treasurer) and Tim (Secretary) and Jo Weaver. Mike Weeks retired from the committee after 25 years service. We are grateful for his service to the committee as the treasurer. Peter Henderson joined the committee in 2013 and will commence as the Treasurer for the Committee.

Tim Weaver


Mission Account

2013 Reconciliation (in original printed report)

Women’s Ministry Report for 2013

In May, a small group went to the Anglican Women’s Conference in Gunnedah with Christine Jensen and Rick Lewers speaking.

Again this year, there were two ladies’ Bible Study groups meeting weekly.

Our committee planned and helped organise two church family games nights throughout the year, which Rudi and Heila ran and the nights were a great time of fellowship and fun.

WKC was not held in 2013, but instead they published a DVD with talks by Jenny Salt which we plan to watch at a teaching morning.

The Ladies Craft Group continued to meet on the 1st Saturday of each month in the church lounge.

In September, we held a ladies teaching morning at Namoi Valley Christian School, to watch Equip Conference talks on DVD. We invited the ladies from the Anglican Church to join us and it was a great time of fellowship and learning.

Each meeting we discussed pastoral needs and this often involved cooking meals for those who were sick or in need.

Finally, for our outreach event we held our bi-annual Christmas Carols Evening at Tim & Sue Fragar’s home, for carols, a gospel talk and dessert. We had a good number of ladies attend, and will continue at this stage to have that every second year.

We met in February for our planning meeting for this year and if everyone could be in prayer for our planned events for 2014, thank you.

Ladies please join us for our meetings, we welcome your ideas, feedback and support and prayer.

In Christ,

Kate Morrison


Care Account Report 2013 (In Original Printed Report)

The Care Account was formed as an arm of the Women’s Ministry to help individuals and families in need.  The Account is administered by the Women’s Ministry.

I have examined the accounts of the Wee Waa Presbyterian Church Care Account Number 012-865 2448 50358 for the year ending December 2013.

The figures are a true and accurate reflection of the financial transactions of the organisation.

Signed:  Mrs Liz Paulston

1 March 2014

Thursday Ladies’ Bible Study Group (only printed report received this year)

We meet at 3 p.m. on Thursdays at 543 Gardens Road and welcome ladies to join us. We study Know Your Bible Studies which is prepared by C.W.C.I., a non-denominational Christian Women’s group.  Since Wendy Weekes left, Heila and I have been leading the group.  Last year we studied: Psalms, Philippians, 2 Samuel and a topical study using many books called The Problem with Pain.  This term we are studying Hebrews and next term will be Judges.  Studies usually alternate between old and new testaments. We start (and usually also finish) with afternoon tea and enjoy good deep discussion and fellowship with one another.  We share prayer concerns and generally support one another understanding the confidential nature of the group.

Heather May  and     Heila Schwartz

Doing Good (2)

Doing good can destroy the purpose of grace

Scripture Readings

  • Micah 6:6-8
  • Galatians 3:1-23


My dear brothers and sisters,

A dear friend of ours told me about a neighbour, and old man, sick and preparing himself for his last days.  He asked my friend to visit him because he wanted to discuss things thing with.  The two of them sat on the back verandah enjoying a coffee.  Pointing with his walking stick to a clump of hard African torn bushes, right in the midst of an outcrop of rocks, the old man said to my friend, “That’s where I want to be buried.”

Trying to be diplomatic and gentle, my friend replied, “It’s going to be hard to dig a grave there seeing that it is rocky.”

The old fella turned towards him and calmly said, “I know.  I worked it all out.  If you look carefully, you will notice they will not get the hearse even close to it, too.  They will have to carry me for a good hundred yards.”

“Yes, that was something else I thought I’d point out,” my friend observed.

“That’s the whole point.  I have only two sons.  They are going to inherit the farm and everything else I have.  I hardly see them since they went to university, so I figured they are not going to get everything for nothing; they are going to work for it!”

Surely, they were going to work hard for their gift.

When Paul, the good man who did everything right, discovered that his self-righteousness was an offense to the cross of Christ, God showed him mercy.  God did so not because he led a good life; God did so because his justice is just.

God’s justice is just, because it is met by the righteousness of his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.  He paid the complete price to save sinner.  He came into this world to save sinners.  That was his mission; and that mission He accomplished.  Not one sinner, predestined from all eternity in Him, will be lost on the day of the return of Christ when He will bring to the Father all who was ordained to be saved.

We learn from the Scriptures that we are saved by grace, not by good works. Our righteousness before God is not what we achieved by good works in order to be saved, but what Christ purchased for us.

Galatians – fall from grace

Not long after Paul planted the church in Galatia, false preachers, mainly those with a Jewish background, introduced a different Gospel to the congregation.  Yes, they probably preached a Gospel of salvation by grace, but they added the ceremonial law to it, and more specifically, the circumcision.  In other words, they preached in order to be a good Christian you must be a good Jew first.

The Galatian church was swept away from grace.  Paul begins his letter with these words:

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. (Galatians 1:6-7)

The Gospel message of the Bile is grace and grace alone. GracePlus, Paul says, is a different Gospel – and a different Gospel is no Gospel at all: it is a perversion of the Gospel.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. (Galatians 1:6–7, NIV)  

The true Gospel of grace

For the truth of this gospel of grace and grace alone, which is not a righteousness through works of the ceremonial law of the Old Testament, Paul also opposed Peter when Peter for a moment was timid in living out this gospel of grace alone. 

When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? (Galatians 2:14, NIV)

The argument which follows in chapter three is exactly to demonstrate that Jesus Christ was an end to the ceremonial law.  Further, Christ’s obedience to death was also the righteousness which we can never achieve, but which is ours by faith in Christ.  When He became the accursed who hanged on the tree, He not only took our transgressions upon Him to deal with our sins once and for all, but He also fulfilled the law to the finest of detail to became our righteousness before God.

By faith in Him we become children of the promise, children of grace, children of the covenant.  Because in Christ the promises to Abraham the he would be a blessing to all nations was fulfilled.  Paul writes:

The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. (Galatians 3:8-9)

Paul then goes out of his way to demonstrate the fact that salvation is by faith and not by works.  The promise made to Abraham was made long before the law was given.  Abraham received the promises and believed it, and it was accredited to him as righteousness because he trusted and believed God.

For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise. (Galatians 3:18)

The point in the Gospel of grace is this:  God gives it freely; one does not deserve it.  One cannot work it out by being good, and one cannot miss out on it because one is sinful.  The purpose of the Law was to not help us along in being good and working out our righteousness.  The purpose of the Law was:

… to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. (Galatians 3:24-25)

And if we don’t understand this clearly and try do still work out our own righteousness we are like that those boys digging between the rocks and carrying the coffin of their father all the way there to get their inheritance.  The Good News is this:

God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons… Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:4-7)

The good works of the slave

The Galatians fell for what seemed so good sounding.  It looked so good on the surface.  Do these things, and be good and you will be saved.

O, this is the Gospel so many people hear and want to hear.  But Paul is clear about such a Gospel.  He says:

But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? You observe days and months and seasons and years. (Galatians 4:9-10)

Yes, there are those who live in fear of God’s judgement because they just want to comply with the law – and what will happen if the return of Christ catches the on the wrong moment!  Such people are slaves.  They are children of the first principles of this world as we see it in Israel before the cross of Christ.  It remains a DIY religion to gain a self-righteousness before God.  For such there is no peace, for even the best of these may need to spend some time in purgatory to gain the perfect righteousness.  What pitiful Gospel!

Good works of the son

But there is the Gospel speaking of sons.  Paul uses an allegory in speaking of the two women, Hagar and Sarah.  Hagar produces an offspring of slaves who by own effort want to attain their own righteousness.  But, he says:

Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman. So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman. (Galatians 4:30-31)

Children born of the free woman live lives driven and controlled by the Spirit.  He says:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)

What does it mean to walk by the Spirit?  Of course, Jesus Himself said that the Spirit will come to teach us all things concerning Christ.  Christ set us free from sin, but this freedom is not a freedom to do as we wish, because there is a war raging in our minds.  What is this war about?

For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. (Galatians 5:17)

The fruit of the Spirit is:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Now the good works of the son, as opposed to the good works of the slave (or the good works of the person who is not saved by grace), and who is still trying to achieve an own righteousness, as opposed by the person who found salvation in Christ is defined.  And my dear brother and sister, listen carefully here, because this is extremely important:  the good works of the sons is what follows faith in Christ Jesus.  Listen to this verse:

Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24-25)

When did they crucify the flesh?  Important!  When by faith they believed that Christ died for them.  By faith they are united with Him.  His death became their death;  His resurrection became their resurrection; His new life by faith became their new life.  That’s why they were given the Spirit of God.  Paul writes about this reality when he says:

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20)

Good works

Now, this crucifying of the flesh is an ongoing process too – sanctification:

But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14)

It has expression in the way we live to fulfil the law of love. Paul writes:

For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)

The good deeds of the law, as we who are free in Christ, should live it out is to love God and our neighbour.  Galatians 6 spells it out.

Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

It talks about humility:

For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one will bear his own load. (Galatians 6:3-5)

We cannot see good works as an option; it is the essence of our Christian life.

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. (Galatians 6:9)

It should be seen in our actions towards one another as Christians, but also towards those who still not believe:

So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. (Galatians 6:10)


Did the old fellow really love his sons to make them work for their inheritance? No!  Did the sons really love their father to dig his grave and carry him to his last resting place?  No!  If the father loved the sons, he would have given them the inheritance as a gift; if the sons loved their father, they would buried him regardless if there was an inheritance or not.  Fact is, true fathers and true sons love one another long before any one needs to be buried!

But our heavenly Father loved us by giving us his only Son.  The good news is we don’t need to dig his grave – He doesn’t need one:  He conquered death in our place, to give us salvation as a gift.

What really counts?

For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. (Galatians 6:15)

And this new creation, my brother and sister, is what we receive by the grace of God by faith in Christ alone.  And it calls us to good works in His Name.  AMEN.

Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 9 March 2014



Doing Good (1)

Lost in spite of being good

 Scripture Readings

  • 1Timothy 1:1-12
  • Philippians 3:1-11


Brother and sister in Christ Jesus,

Today we commence a series of sermons under the heading “Doing Good.”

Protestant Reformed Christians some time shy away from the whole idea of good works.  “Are we not saved by grace and not by good works?  We don’t deserve our salvation and therefore we only talk about grace.”

I think it was John Calvin who remarked that although we are saved by grace alone and not be good works, grace is never alone; it is always followed by good works.

Deep down in everyone of us there is a desire to be good.  Somehow we know it is good to be good.  We send our children off to school saying “be good”. We end a telephone conversation and might say “be good”. What exactly we mean both us and those we speak to do not really know, but we agree that we should be good.

We may even confuse being good with being Australian.  We, as a result, developed the expression when we think that general consensus would not allow certain behaviour that something is “un-Australian”.  When someone cheats his fellow-Australian, he is “un-Australian”, or when the tax man finds out we cheated on our form and fines us, we define that as un-Australian.  Australians are not that generous when it comes to drinking and swearing, because let’s face it, Australia is a beer-drinking and swearing nation.

The problem is defining “good”.  What is our standard for “good”?

Paul’s evaluation of himself before his conversion

Before Paul became a Christian every good Jew would pat him on the back and say, “Good on ye, Mate!  You’re an example of a good man!”

And so he was.  Look at his record.  He was in no way un-Jewish.  He was circumcised on the eight day.  His mom and dad took him to the priest not a day earlier and not a day later than what the law demanded.  By being circumcised he became part of the Covenant people of the Lord. You could say his life started in the temple – good start.

He did not become a Jew, he was born a Jew; he was not proselyte who converted to Judaism.  Coming from a good family, from the tribe of Benjamin, the same as king Saul.  Benjaminites were the smallest of the tribes, but they were brave warriors who stood up for what was right, and were very precise with the sword.  With their slingshots they could throw a stone at a hair and not miss. (Judges 20:16).  Of all the sons of Jacob, Benjamin was the only one born in Israel, and besides Joseph, Benjamin was the favourite son of Jacob. The blood of the Benjaminites filled the veins of Paul.

Calling himself a Hebrew of Hebrews he probably add to his linage the fact that he spoke Hebrews as first language.  It was quite common in Paul’s days for Jews to speak Aramaic or even Greek as first language.

Add to this that he made a choice to become a Pharisee.  These was the sect that absolutely devoted themselves to the exact observance of the Jewish law.  They were the most zealous supporters and interpreters of Old Testament law, and Paul had studied under Gamaliel, its most celebrated teacher.

He took his understanding and devotion of being a Jew to the point that he persecuted the church in his efforts to promote Judaism.

He was no half-hearted Jew. If anyone wanted to judged him in accord with the righteousness the law demands, he would have been blameless. As a committed Pharisee, he paid scrupulous attention to the requirements of the law, and no one could have charged him disobedience to it.  He was legalistically faultless.  A real good bloke; an example of good living; a real Jewish icon and role model.

“Good on ye, Mate!”  He could have earned a headstone with the words “Rest in peace” on it.

Paul as he saw himself after his conversion

Now you have to turn with me to 1 Timothy 1:13 and further.

The first thing he says about, now looking back on those “good old days”, is that he was the worst sinner of them all.  The this he added that he was a blasphemer, a persecutor and a violent man.

He knew what sin was.  As student of the Old Testament, there would be no doubt in his mind about sin and being a sinner. But according to his own standard he was not a sinner; he was a good Pharisee, always trying his best to be righteous, even more than the average Jew.

As blasphemer there was nothing good he wanted to know about Jesus Christ; there was nothing he wanted to know about any follower of Jesus.  Another translation of the word is to revile, or to stigmatise.  He did all of this because he supposedly was doing God a favour – or at least he found favour with the leaders of the Jews.

He persecuted the church.  Acts 9:1 says he was breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples, and should he find a Christian in Damascus, he got permission from the Jewish leaders to put them in prison.

He said he did these things because he was ignorant and he was unbelieving. He did not know the essentials of who Christ was, and as a result he did not believe in Christ.  This did not excuse him for what he did.  Jesus did not say to Paul, “You did not know, so you are not guilty of making fun of Me and those who believe in Me.”  Paul would later himself write that no one is without excuse.  But what he writes in 1 Corinthians 2:8

… these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit… The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:10, 14, NIV)

Point is, although Paul knew the Scriptures of the Old Testament by heart, he did not see Christ in them.  The Spirit made it possible for him to see, understand, know and believe. He says in 1 Timothy 1:14

The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 1:14, NIV)

He stresses the point:  Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.  And he says “I am the worst.”  You see, when he was on his way to Damascus to throw Christians in jail, Christ appeared to him.  “Why are you persecuting Me?”  For all intends and purposes Paul could say that he was not persecuting Christ, because he thought Christ was dead and buried.  Our Lord said he was, because persecuting the followers of Christ was to persecute Christ.  At that moment something happened:  Paul spoke to Christ, “Who are You, Lord?”

This was a defining moment for Paul.  Christ revealed Himself to Paul.  He writes about it in Galatians 1:

I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles…  (Galatians 1:14–16, NIV)

Paul had this dramatic and definite change of course in his life.  First he saw himself as this super zealous, outstanding student of the Word of God, part of God’s people, a role model for every young Jew.  Maybe he dreamed about becoming a member of the elite Jewish Council.  Then, meeting Christ, he looked at himself and saw a pathetic, hopelessly lost sinner, an unbeliever, with books full of knowledge, yet knowing nothing.

I ask myself what many good churchgoers see when they look at themselves in the mirror.  They attended Sunday school; they made profession of their faith and became members of the church; they were baptised and they take communion on a regular basis; they put money in the plate; they might even have taught Sunday school; they support missionaries; and they are on the rosters of different activities of their congregation.  They help those in need, visit the sick in hospital, and even attend prayer meetings.  They hardly say any bad word about anyone and is loved by all.  All these things are good things, and quite frankly, anyone who calls himself a Christian and do not do these things is fooling himself.

But in the end, what is it that put us right with God? There is this day that all of us, on God’s appointed time, will stand before Him, looking Him in the face, and then we will have to explain why He should allow us into his eternal heaven.

“Lord, I have done all these things, I don’t need to tell you about all the good things I have done.  I never mixed with those who hate You, and I tried my best.”  Our God will want to know if we trusted in Jesus Christ only for righteousness.  In other words, God will want to know what we did with his gift, his Son, who was sent into the world, not to make as better people, but to make us new.

Our flesh, our old nature, the one we are born with, is one that can never please God, no matter how good we are or how hard we try.  Jesus said:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21–23, NIV)

This tells us that God know no one who come to Him, unless that person comes in the Name of Jesus Christ;  He is our advocate; He is our righteousness; and He is the only one ordained by the Father who is the door through which we must go to enter heaven’s door.

What now?

This is the dead end, the cul de sac, for anyone who is honest and sincere about life, and about eternal life:  I am sinner, lost, unbelieving, not knowing God; all along I thought I had it all!

Honesty can sometimes be very painful; it drags one off of the throne of one’s life and smashes you to bits before the Holy God.  There is another possibility:  many have been at the point of understanding the consequences of not following Jesus Christ, but found the price is just too high.

Paul, by God’s grace, took his pride, his standing in social circles, his model life, the confidence the Jewish leaders put in him, all the good things he and others thought about himself, and weighed it up against value the of knowing Christ.  It became worthless.  He turned his back on those things, not because they were bad in themselves, but because as far as salvation in concerned, everything he considered valuable was worthless.  He became a fool in the eyes of his fellow Jews, and now like they did with Jesus and the Christians, they derided and mocked him.

That’s the cost of discipleship.  Oh, that God would give you the grace, if you have not done so yet, to not stop at this point.  My friend, go all the way – it is worth the while. Listen to what Paul says:

I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. (Philippians 3:8–9, NIV)

Did you hear the crux of this verse:  that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ.  His good works counted for nothing in the sight of God; Christ’s good work of obtaining and providing freely by grace a righteousness that satisfies his Father counted for everything.

Now, with his life direction having changed completely, he says:

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like Him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10–11, NIV)

He just want to know Christ – even if it meant that he would suffer like Christ – but by knowing Christ he would attain everlasting life through the resurrection of Christ.  And at that point he could stand in the presence of God and know that God will indeed allow him into heaven – he knew Christ, trusted Him completely, obeyed Him with an undivided heart – all along clinging to the sure knowledge that becasue this is the case, heaven is a place to long for, live for and die for.


What now?  May I ask you this question, my dear friend?

It was nearly midnight in a church hall.  Some members of our congregation got together for some games and fellowship as we waited for the new year to begin.  About 11:45 we all sat down and I conducted a devotion.  The reading was from our text this morning. “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection.  I want to be found in Him.”

I dropped the hint that maybe we should take these words a our New Year’s resolution, but also made it clear that we can only face the future if Christ is indeed our only righteousness. Very simply I invited those who do not have this sure knowledge in their hearts to trust Jesus Christ as Saviour.  The next day I heard that a young man, who was there the previous evening with his godly parents, realised that he was lost without Christ.  God made it clear to him that he needed to know Jesus.  That New Year’s day he committed his life to Christ, and his life changed – he began to live.  By God’s grace he is still standing strong.

What about you?


Sermon preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 2 March 2014