30 Minute Radio Lesson - WAVG Radio 1450 AM
Clarksville church of Christ
August 6, 2000
Speaker: Richie Thetford
Good morning and welcome to another presentation of "What Is Truth?" I'm Richie Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ, located at 407 W. Hwy 131 in Clarksville. I want to thank each and every one you for taking the time to listen this morning as we examine another truth of God's word. It is my hope and prayer that those of you that are listening today will honestly examine your heart to ensure that you are in fact doing only those things religiously that are pleasing to our almighty God. As we discuss the topic of the hour, "The New Covenant", I want to encourage you to have your Bible readily available so that you can examine the scriptures to make sure that what I am presenting is in fact God's will for you. Remember, the Bible clearly states that we must obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). It is my hope that each one of you this morning will have the kind of heart that the Bereans did back in the first century. It was said of them that "These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11). Also the apostle John warns us that we should "....not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). By looking at the Bible passages, you can see for yourself that what I am teaching this morning can in fact be backed up by book, chapter, and verse in the Bible. This is so vitally important as we strive to do only that which is authorized by God and not what some man may say about a given subject. Now I invite you to please have your Bible, pen and paper ready and let's study together another truth of God.
Every man who believes in God and understands the Bible rejoices that he lives in the Christian dispensation. By Christian dispensation, I simply mean that period since Jesus died on the cross and Day of Pentecost, that part of time since Christ became the Savior of men. All men interested in the proper division of God's word this morning, should realize that God has not always spoken to man through His Son. Paul declares in Hebrews 1:1-2, "God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds."Consider these simple yet all-important divisions. There has been three dispensations under which God has used not only a different method of speaking, but has made different laws and commandments binding upon men. These three periods of Bible history are the Patriarchal, the Jewish, and the Christian Ages. A study of these in detail would do much to clear away the debris that confuses men today in their study of the Bible. God does not contradict himself and does not confuse man. What we need to do is to find that part of God's law that applies to us and then strive to be obedient to that law.
To illustrate how God's law has changed, there was a time under the Law of Moses that animal sacrifices were commanded and the Hebrew nation offered unto God those animals that were necessary. We do not do this today for God's will to man has changed and Paul writes in Romans 12:1, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service."
The first era in Bible history is called the Patriarchal age, for it is in this period that the earthly father is priest and head of the family. God spoke directly to the fathers, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and others and gave them His instructions. The word "pater" means father and that is why we refer to this age of time as the Patriarchal Age. This period was ushered out for the Hebrews, and for the Hebrews only, at Mount Sinai where God gave, by the ministry of angels the Law, commonly called the Law of Moses. I want to also let you know here that the Mosaic Law with the tables of stone upon which the Ten Commandments were written, never applied to the Gentile people of the world and do not now apply. They were for the Jew and the Jew only. Listen to the apostle Paul tell us of its use to the people who lived under the Mosaic law, as found in Galatians 3:24-29; "Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." There is no one in the listening audience this morning who can not get this lesson. The law was the Jew's tutor which was to last until Christ came to earth, bled and died, then we, Paul declares to the Jew, are no longer under the law or the tutor. He tells us why. Listen again to verses 26-29; "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." A man made church that brings men and women today under the law of the Ten Commandments, is pleading for them to live under the tutor instead of being in Christ Jesus. Let me repeat it, the Law was given on Mount Sinai to the tribes of the children of Israel, and to them alone. It never applied to the Gentile people of the world. The Ten Commandments were the Oasis for that Sinai Law, and did not apply then, or now, to any Gentile race who ever walked the face of the earth.
The third era or period is the Christian dispensation. This is the age of the New Covenant or New Testament. It began on the Day of Pentecost as is recorded in the second chapter of Acts of the Apostles. It could not begin until Christ died on the cross. Please open your Bible to the New Testament book of Hebrews and listen to what the Hebrew writer says; "And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives" (Heb 9:15-17).
Any man who thinks that the New Testament could or did begin before the death of Christ on the cross, needs to master this little lesson on the will. Paul is clear and definite. The Testament is not in force until the testator, that is, the maker of the will, dies. The blood of the Son of God sealed His covenant or testament when it was shed upon calvary's cross. Every one of us live on this side of the cross and hence under the New Testament and not the Old Testament that existed and was in force before Christ died on the cross.
Let me pause here to observe, that to the many seeking heaven on the same ground as the thief crucified with Jesus, you are under the wrong covenant, you need to move on to the new covenant. Furthermore, the New Testament could not become of force until Christ ascended to the Father. We can know this by the apostle Paul's statement in Ephesians 1: 19-20 which reads,"and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places." We see then that God's power, the gospel, as stated in Romans 1:16, could not be made known until two more events took place. These two events were the raising of Christ from the dead, and the seating of Christ at God's own right hand. If we try to make the New Covenant in force before the resurrection, we do not have a savior for he has not yet broken the bonds of the tomb, and if the New Covenant is in force before he is seated, it is in force without authority of God for he has not yet established him at His own right hand.
Thus far we have learned in our study this morning that there were three dispensations of time, the Patriarchal, the Mosaical, and the Christian age. We are now under the Christian age and are subject to the commands of the New Covenant, the New Testament which we will be judged by. Now we come to the question of when was the gospel first preached to man and what of consists of its character. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:7-10, "But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him." But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God." This passage of scripture to many, is a very difficult reading, and is undoubtedly one of the most misapplied scriptures in all of the New Testament. For years preachers have made verse nine, the things eye has not seen and the things ear has not heard, apply to heaven. Many a funeral sermon, therefore, has been woven around this text. All who give the chapter a little closer study however, will readily come to the correct conclusion that this passage does not refer to heaven, but to the gospel of God's Son. Not only is this true, but it is a valuable passage in understanding the divisions of the Bible, the importance of the gospel, and the method by which the gospel is made known to man. Let us notice the following lessons:
1. The gospel was ordained unto our glory before the world began.
2. This gospel was not made known in other ages.
3. God has revealed it by His Spirit.
4. It is the revealed revelation of God which the apostles spoke.
Certainly this morning, if we can determine the answers to these questions, we will be deeply benefitted in our search for the truth.
Let us notice now that the things that eye has not seen and ear heard, could not apply to heaven for it is not true of that land beyond. In a limited way a few men have seen and heard the glories of the home of the soul. In 2 Corinthians 12:1-4 Paul tells the Corinthian brethren, "It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago-- whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows-- such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man-- whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows--how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter." Paul therefore, in our text is not writing about heaven but the present age, the Christian dispensation: The period in which the gospel of the living God would be proclaimed God's power to save. Let us master now this fact, the gospel of the living God was not of sudden origin or an afterthought with God, but was planned by God himself before the world began unto our glory. 1 Corinthians 2:7 states: "But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory." Is it any wonder that Paul warned the churches of Galatia in the first chapter and verses eight and nine, "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed."
God planned salvation from eternities dawn with His wisdom and love, and yet man today thinks it makes little difference what we believe or what we do in an effort to be saved. God planned many other things at the beginning of earth's time, and his arrangement and order is everywhere to be seen. He has but one way to make the flower bloom in the spring, but one system by which the rivers run down to the sea. He has but one method of watering the earth, and but one way for the leaves to fall in amber colors when summer is gone. God is a God of arrangement. If He has but one way to make the rose burst forth in loveliness, and but one way for the sun to shine upon the earth, is it not then clear that to be a God of harmony and order, He would have but one way to make a man a Christian. He planned and worked out the glorious gospel before the earth was even born. Can any man change it today and be accepted of God? The wisdom of God would be demanding of His ability to plan and execute His gospel through His son, and the' justice of God would demand that the plan of salvation be fair to all, treat all alike, and give the same conditions to save all mankind. God does not command one thing of me and another thing of you. The gospel is for every race, creed, and tongue. Christ died for all men. Therefore, we are to obey the one gospel and that is the very same gospel that the apostles preached. Paul did not preach one gospel to the Gentiles and Peter another gospel to the Jews. These men devoted themselves to the faith delivered to the saints. Jude 3 says; "...I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints."
Next, to the many who think that the doctrine and commandments of the Old Testament are binding upon man today, let me say that the things ordained for our glory were not seen in Old Testament days and the glad story of the gospel had not entered the heart of any man under the Old Covenant or the Old Testament Law. These things were revealed in the New Testament, and that is why Paul declared in verses nine and ten of our reading in 1 Corinthians 2, "But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him." But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God."
The point is clear. The things that had not been seen and heard, Paul declares to have been revealed unto us. He goes on to tell how they are revealed--by God's Spirit. The first time man ever heard the glad story of the gospel was in the New Testament period. The time was the third hour of the day; the place, the city of Jerusalem; and the speaker, the apostle Peter. You find the record of this in the second chapter of Acts of the Apostles. Not only had they been kept from men's sight and hearing, but had not entered into the heart of any man. At the close of the sermon by Peter on this historic day, after he had preached the gospel and declared the resurrection and ascension of Christ, the vast throng were pricked in their hearts, and cried out asking the question, "Men and brethren what shall we do?" Peter's answer to them was, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins." This was obeyed by three thousand on that day. These individuals had their sins washed away and became witnesses of things ordained to their glory.
In Matthew, chapter 13, Christ gives the parable of the sower who went forth to sow. After condemning the people for their hardness of heart he turns to the disciples with these words, "But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it." Abraham saw the day of Christ a far off by faith. It is indeed fitting then that the close of the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, the roll of the faithful, reads like this, "And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise. God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect."
Then, this gospel was revealed unto man by the Holy Spirit. Paul explained in verse 10 that God revealed these things to the apostles by His, God's, Spirit and then added the statement that "the Spirit searches all things, yes the deep things of God." Verse 13 tells us that God's Spirit is the Holy Spirit, "Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's' wisdom teaches, but that which the Holy Spirit teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual." God planned the gospel before the world began, Christ came to die on the cross, and the Holy Spirit is the agent which made it known unto man. God originated it, Christ executed it, and the Holy Spirit revealed it. That is the role and work of the Holy Spirit in converting man under the New Covenant. The Holy Spirit operates in making God's work known and hence the Bible talks about the Holy Spirit speaking. Listen now to John 16: 13. Here it says, "However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come." In 1 Timothy 4:1 we have these words, "Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons." Revelation 2:7 reads, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God." Revelation 14:13 reads,"Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, "Write: 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.'" "Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them." Again in 2 Peter 1:21 we read, "for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit."
These are but a few of the statements that define the Holy Spirit as the spokesman of God. He, therefore, is to be heard, not felt. Is it any wonder then, that on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came to the apostles, the scripture declares that they began to speak as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance. When the gospel is proclaimed today from the Bible and the Bible alone, it is not with the wisdom man teaches, but that which the Holy. Spirit teaches. The principle has not changed when the gospel is preached today. The Holy Spirit has his work and performs his task through the word, the Bible.
Finally, notice the words "Which things also we speak." We find in the entire book of the Acts of the Apostles exactly what the Apostles spoke. Not approximately what they spake but the exact words of the sermons, word for word, as they were uttered. Therefore, if any individual desires to be guided by the Holy Spirit this morning, let him turn and read again the glorious accounts of the sermons delivered and of the men and women who were converted and baptized. I present to every man with an open mind and an open Bible this principle; if the Holy Spirit guided the apostles, and the apostles spake as they were guided, then any doctrine or part of doctrine that does not agree with their words, is wrong. The early Church continued in the apostles teaching, Acts 2:42. They were to be followed then and they are to be followed now. No plan of salvation can differ with that of the apostles and have God's approval. No answer to the question, "What must I do to be saved" can be given except that which they gave. No practice can be followed that does not harmonize with the examples in the book of Acts. Consider if you will these conversions:
1. On the day of Pentecost the multitude cried out and Peter told them to "repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins." The Bible tells us that they that gladly received the word were baptized.
2. In the eighth chapter of Acts the people of Samaria believed the preaching of Philip and were baptized, both men and women.
3. In the same chapter Simon, the sorcerer, believed and was baptized.
4. At the close of Acts 8, Philip preaches to the Ethiopian eunuch about Christ. He requests baptism, they command the chariot to stand still and Philip and the eunuch both go down into the water, he baptized him.
5. In Acts, chapter 9, we find the story of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, and Paul declares concerning this in Acts chapter 22:16 that Ananias said to him, "And now why tarriest thou, arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins."
6. In chapter 10 Peter preaches the gospel to the Gentile soldier, Cornelius. At the close of the sermon here are his words, "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Spirit as well as we? And he baptized them in the name of the Lord."
7. In Acts chapter 16, Lydia, after hearing the word of the Lord, opened her heart and she and her house were baptized.
The apostles commanded men to believe on Christ, God ordained it before the world began, the Holy Spirit revealed it, and men believed. The apostles commanded men to repent. God had ordained it, the Holy Spirit revealed it, and men repented. The apostles in every case in this study without one exception, told men and women to be baptized because God had ordained it, the Spirit revealed it, and men gladly obeyed it.
Dear friend, your answer to the question "What Must I Do To Be Saved?" is found in these examples. Won't you obey while time and opportunity are yours at this very moment? Then when the summons comes to cross the dark way, there will be light at the river, and mansions prepared on the other side in that land that is fairer than day, reserved only for those that obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ, who came and suffered and died so that you can have eternal life in Him. Won't you obey before it is everlastingly to late?
This is Richie Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ thanking each of you for listening to this morning's broadcast and invite you to listen again next Sunday morning at 8:30 A.M. for another presentation of "What Is Truth?"