[The following article is an edited transcription of our audio Teaching, “The Passover: A Sacrifice of Grace” by John W. Schoenheit.]
Hi, I am John Schoenheit, and this month we are going to be looking at the Passover because this month is when the Passover Feast and the Feast of Unleavened Bread was celebrated. We are going to be looking at Jesus Christ as the Passover Lamb and the sacrifice that was involved with the Passover lamb. We are going to be looking at sacrifice and the provision and protection that the Passover sacrifice provided. We are going to be looking at it in the context of you and I being ministers of grace. We are going to extrapolate a little bit from the Passover and see us as ministers of grace and the sacrifice that we have to make to be ministers of grace. The persecution, rejection, and hurt that we should expect even as Christ was rejected and hurt, and how that is embodied in the Passover sacrifice, and what we can do about it to continue to be ministers of grace.
1 Corinthians 5:7
Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast– as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb has been sacrificed.
Ladies and gentlemen, that is exactly right. When Scripture says that Jesus Christ is our Passover lamb, it is referring to the fact that Christ fulfilled the typological significance of the Passover lamb and died so that people would be protected from God’s judgment—that God’s judgment would pass over them and that Christ would protect and provide for them as that sacrifice of being our Passover lamb.
To understand the sacrifice, we need to go back to the book of Exodus where the Passover was established. To get the background of Exodus and the Passover lamb we really need to understand what happened that the Israelites ended up in slavery and we need to read about the plagues. Due to time constraints, we are not going to do that in this teaching, but I would invite you in this Passover and Easter season to take some time and read the book of Exodus. Read about God’s deliverance of His people and how that worked. You will see God’s great love for His people and how He cared for them and protected them and tried to provide for them.
Joseph had been sold into slavery in Egypt, and then eventually the family of Jacob ended up in Egypt during a famine; however, after the famine was over, they did not leave and go back to the Promised Land. They stayed, and as they stayed in Egypt and multiplied eventually the Egyptians, particularly Pharaoh, became suspicious of them, so he enslaved them. What had started out as a wonderful provision for the safety of Jacob’s family that they would go to Egypt during a famine became a very painful experience. They were enslaved in Egypt. God then worked very hard to get them out of slavery, out of Egypt.
That is when you read about the plagues that came upon Egypt. The last plague was the death of the first born in Egypt, and the Passover sacrifice has to do with protecting the Israelites from the plague of the death of the firstborn.
The LORD said to Moses…
If you are reading in your Bible and you see that the word LORD is capitalized in the Old Testament, then you know that the Hebrew word is the personal name of God, Yahweh.
Exodus 12:1 and 2
(1) The LORD [Yahweh] said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt,
(2) “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.
Wow, when I read this, I come to a full stop. God says this month is to be the first month for you. What is going on here? Well, from the time of Adam until right now, the people of God’s first month had been Tishri, just like our first month is January, and we mark our year from January to January. Every January starts a new year. The Israelites or those up until this point from Adam, the people of God, had their first month of the year as Tishri, and their seventh month of the year was Nisan. What God is doing here is saying that the Passover sacrifice and the Feast of Unleavened Bread are so important that I want it commemorated by being in the first month of the year.
God literally rotates the calendar by six months. It is very much like if God said to the head of your country, “I want to change the calendar because I am going to do something great in July and I want the calendar to start with July.” Well, that is very parallel to what God did here with the Passover sacrifice. Since Adam, the first month had been Tishri, now God shows up and says, “This Passover thing is so important that I want it in the very first month.” Now, for all generations a child could ask, “Hey mom and dad, how did Nisan get to be the first month of our year anyway?” They would say, “Let me talk to you about the Passover sacrifice, and how much it meant to our people and the deliverance from Egypt and the fact that through the Passover God provided for us and brought us out of Egypt as a nation.” This story could now be told for generations.
(3) Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each Man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household.
(4) If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat.
(5) The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect,
Of course, you can begin to see the typology here as this Passover sacrifice points to Jesus Christ. The lamb of the first year—Christ was in his first year of ministry, and he was without defect. I know that traditionally many people believe that Jesus had a three year ministry, but our research has indicated that Jesus Christ’s ministry was just a shade over a year.
The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats.
This is something else about the Passover lamb. The Passover lamb was one from among the flock, and Jesus Christ was a man from among mankind. Jesus Christ was as human as you and I are human.
Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.
When my NIV Bible says “at twilight,” that is not the way the Hebrew text reads. The Hebrew text says that the Passover lamb would be slaughtered between the evenings. First of all, we have to remember that the Israelite day started at sunset. Our day starts at midnight, but their day started at sunset. As the sun went down and it started to get dark, what you and I would call evening that was actually the start of their day. What you and I would call early afternoon was the start of their evening. As the sun was just heading toward setting that was their second evening, so the Passover lamb is slaughtered between early afternoon and what you and I would call early evening.
If you would think about Jesus Christ and when he died on the cross, it was 3:00 pm, precisely between the evenings by Jewish reckoning. This is again part of the great fulfillment of the type of the Passover lamb that Jesus Christ fulfilled the types that God set in the Old Testament, and the types then pointed to Jesus Christ – showing who he was and what he would do. That is certainly represented here with the Passover lamb being killed between the evenings and Jesus Christ laying down his life precisely at that time.
Exodus 12:7 and 8
(7) Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs.
(8) That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast.
I think that it is also important that the Passover meal, the Passover lamb, was roasted over the fire. This certainly points to the trials, the tribulations, the suffering, that Jesus Christ went through—roasted, put through the fire of trial.
(9) Do not eat the meat raw or cooked in water, but roast it over the fire– head, legs and inner parts.
(10) Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it.
(11) This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is [Yahweh’s] the LORD’s Passover.
I love this; that the Israelites were to eat with their cloaks on, their sandals on their feet, and even their staff in their hand. Do you know what this says to me? It speaks to me about faith because the Israelites had been in slavery for decades. They had prayed about freedom. They had talked about freedom. They had hoped for freedom. They had cried for freedom. It had not come, and it had not come, and it had not come. Now, God says, “Tomorrow, you will be free.” The Israelites could have approached that with doubts such as, “Oh yeah, we have heard that one before.” They could have crossed their legs, crossed their arms and looked kind of sideways and said, “We will believe it when we see it.” God said, “Do not act that way with Me and My promises.” God said, “You are going to be free tomorrow, and I want you to eat this Passover lamb, and I want you to be dressed, and I even want you to have your staff in your hand.” Be ready to go!
We have to deal with God the same way when it comes to faith. When you have a promise of God, you can hold it in faith that the God we serve does not lie and will bring that promise to pass. God expects us to come to Him in faith. This is a good example of people coming to God in faith.
“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn– both men and animals—
That is another thing that is sometimes lost in the telling of the Passover record; for example, if you watch the Ten Commandments movie or other movies that have been made about the Passover or the Commandments, they will illustrate the death of the firstborn in Egypt, but I have never seen a movie about the Passover that talks about the fact that even the first born of the animals died. Egypt was really hit hard by this plague, and they positioned themselves for it. God was interested in delivering His people, and the Egyptians were stubborn and would not allow God’s people to be free. They would not allow God’s people to go and worship, so the plagues came with increasing intensity, and even the animals suffered as a result.
A lesson is here, it is a good thing to be inside the will of God. It is not that no suffering occurs inside the will of God. A lot of this teaching is about the fact that a lot of suffering occurs inside the will of God. A different kind of suffering occurs when you are outside the will of God because not only are you suffering in the flesh, but you are tormented in your mind. If I am being persecuted for the cause of Christ, something inside me says, “Everything is going to be okay.” It may not be okay now, but everything is going to be okay. Something inside of me just feels like things are going to work out, but if I am suffering because I am standing against God, nothing is there but torment in the body and in the mind.
…and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt.
Well sure, for the god’s of Egypt were supposed to protect and provide for the Egyptians. In the plague upon Egypt, Egypt was completely smitten.
I am [Yahweh] the LORD.
The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.
We really have to read this verse carefully because this is the hook. What I am thinking is, “Oh, I get this. Alright, I understand the way that this works. We kill the animal, we take the blood, we put it on the door posts, and then the blood protects us from the plague. I got it. This makes perfect sense.” No, that is not the real deal. It is true that the blood protected them, but I want to look at verse 13. Look at the first part of the verse very carefully.
The blood will be a sign for you…
Nothing is here about the angel of death or God passing over. The blood will be “a sign for you” on the houses where you are. God did not need the blood or the death of the lamb to protect the Israelites from a plague. Remember that ten plagues were on Egypt, so let us take a look at some of these plagues. The fourth plague, which was the plague of flies, was all over Egypt, but God protected the Israelites from the flies.
Exodus 8:22 and 23
(22) “‘But on that day I will deal differently with the land of Goshen, where my people live; no swarms of flies will be there, so that you will know that I, [Yahweh] the LORD, am in this land.
(23) I will make a distinction between my people and your people. This miraculous sign will occur tomorrow.’”
What is God saying here? God is saying, “I am going to protect My people from the plague of flies. He did that, and no blood shed occurred.
The next plague was the plague of the death of the Egyptian livestock. None of the Israelite’s livestock died.
But the LORD will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and that of Egypt, so that no animal belonging to the Israelites will die.’”
God protected the animals of the Israelites from the fifth plague, and no Passover lamb was killed. The seventh plague was hail.
Exodus 9:25 and 26
(25) Throughout Egypt hail struck everything in the fields– both men and animals; it beat down everything growing in the fields and stripped every tree.
(26) The only place it did not hail was the land of Goshen, where the Israelites were.
What is this telling me? The plague of hail comes, and God says, “I am protecting My people.” No blood was needed or Passover lamb. How about the ninth plague, the plague of darkness?
Exodus 10:22 and 23
(22) So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days.
(23) No one could see anyone else or leave his place for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.
Once again we see that God was able to protect and provide for the Israelites on the fourth plague, on the fifth plague, on the seventh plague with the hail, and on the ninth plague with the darkness over the land. God protected the Israelites, no Passover lamb was there. What does that tell me? It tells me that God did not have to have a Passover lamb to protect the Israelites from the tenth plague. God could have simply protected the Israelites from the plague like He protected them from the other plagues. The Passover lamb had to have significance, and it did. It pointed to Jesus Christ. It said that if you are really going to be protected and if you are really going to be saved and if you are really going to be provided for, somebody has got to sacrifice himself—something has to die. That is precisely why the Passover was so important.
It was also true that when God saw the blood then He would protect that house from the Passover demon that would have killed the people in Israel.
Exodus 12:13 and 14
(13) The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.
(14) “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to [Yahweh] the LORD– a lasting ordinance.
The Passover celebration and then the Passover ordinance became something that was done year after year after year. Every time the Passover was done, it was supposed to look forward to the sacrifice of he who would be The Passover Lamb forever. It also looked backwards to the time that God provided and protected Israel and brought them out of the land of Egypt and sent them forth to go into their own land, a land of milk and honey. That is the Passover.
What did we see to which the Passover pointed? We see that it pointed to sacrifice. It pointed to giving. It is sacrifice and it is giving that is to be so much a part of the whole Passover celebration. The thought of sacrifice is often completely absent in our thinking because we live in a culture that has a hard time with sacrifice.
Think about our culture for a second. What are the main characteristics of American culture today? Well, we have a tremendous focus on possessions. I want this; I want that. I want, I want, and I want. A tremendous focus is on material things and owning things. Also, a tremendous focus is on having a good time. So much of our culture is into having a good time. God is not necessarily about that. That is really the atmosphere that has been set in our time period—To explain that, I would like to go to Ephesians 2:2. This is a verse that has really lived for me for about the last year and a half. I have taught it on several tapes, but I am going to teach it again just because I think that it is so incredibly important, and we need as Christians to wake up to what is going on around us.
Ephesians 2:1 and 2
(1) As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,
(2) in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.
That verse seems to make a lot of good sense that we “were dead in trespasses and sins,” and we used to live like people who were dead in trespasses and sins when we followed the ways of the world. That made perfect sense to me. I was reading along in the Greek text one day, and the word ways in “followed the ways” or if you are reading the King James the word is course, “the course of the world” is the Greek word aion. We get our word age from it. The word “world” is kosmos from which we get our word cosmetics. It is a beautifully ordered place; the kosmos is the world. I was sitting there going, “You are following the age of the world.” It made no sense to me, so I did a word study on the word age. The word aion (we get our word eon from that), although it means age, does not refer to the chronological pattern within a period of time. In other words, when we talk about age, it is not talking about the chronological progression.
In the Greek mind, each age was characterized by a character or an atmosphere, if you will. Maybe I can illustrate it this way. If you go to eat in a Mexican restaurant, the people who own that restaurant work very hard to create an atmosphere. You will find Mexican music, Mexican colors, Mexican paintings on the wall, maybe a terracotta tile floor. They really try to create an atmosphere as if you are in Mexico. Similarly if you go to a Japanese restaurant or a Chinese restaurant, they try to create an atmosphere of that place. If you go into a very nice steak house, for example, the music will be different. We talk about this by saying, “That restaurant has such great atmosphere.” That is what the Devil tries to do for the world. The Devil sets an atmosphere, and then he wants people to live in it, and he wants people to live in it without recognizing that they are actually living in it. That is when it is really effective for him. You see, if the atmosphere in which you and I live is an atmosphere of being very materially oriented, very party oriented, and we are very cold and hard and calloused toward people who are hurt and people who are down, and we are not very self sacrificing, if that is what we see on T.V, if that is what we hear on the radio, if that is what all our friends and neighbors are doing, and we are raised in that atmosphere, then to the Devil’s advantage, he does not have to work very hard to make us ungodly. All we have to do is live the way that all the other people around us are living. The Devil creates this atmosphere, and then we simply end up conforming to it.
One of the things that we need to do is that we need to become spiritual meteorologist, if you will. We need to be able to sense the atmosphere around us. In our case, the atmosphere in which we live in 21st century United States is very selfish, very self-centered. Most people are really just concerned about having a good time and owning things. Sacrifice is not very high on most people’s priorities. It is interesting as I do a fair amount of talking to people about coming to church and reading their Bibles, and a lot of times what people will say, “That really does not do anything for me.” Maybe you have heard that too. “Well, going to church, I am not really into going to church that really does not do anything for me.” Okay, let us kick this back about 4000 years. Let us go to Israel. A guy is here, and he just sinned. His friends and his neighbors are saying, “You really need to go down to the market and buy an animal and go to the tabernacle and do a sacrifice to get back in God’s good graces.” He says, “Well, you know buying and killing an animal; it really does not do that much for me.” I guess it does not. It is not supposed to do anything for you. You are supposed to do something for God.
The atmosphere of this age is me, me, and me. From God’s perspective, we are His creation.
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
We were created by God to do good works. That is why He created us. He created us so that we would do good works for Him, and so that we would sacrifice ourselves for Him. Let us look at what Scripture says about sacrifice:
Therefore, I urge you,…
That is an interesting word study. Grab your concordance and see how many things are in Scripture that God urges us to do. A lot of things He tells you to do, but how many things does He urge us to do.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices,
I want to give you the biblical definition of a sacrifice. This is it, ready? “Ouch!”—it is not a Greek lexical definition. The point is that a sacrifice is an ouch! It hurts. It is a sacrifice to go minister to people when you are tired. It is a sacrifice to get up a little earlier to read Scripture. It is a sacrifice to go talk to your neighbor to invite them to church and get the door shut in your face, and then go to the next door when you do not feel like it. These things are sacrifices. The atmosphere, the aion that the Devil has created for us is that I want you to be blessed.
Listen to the advertisements on T.V. such as: “Obey your thirst.” What??? Oh great, where in Scripture does it say I am supposed to obey my bodily urgings? No, we are supposed to obey God and give our bodies as living sacrifices, and the Passover exemplifies that. God did not need the Israelites to kill an animal to protect them from the plague. He had already protected them in plague after plague after plague with no animal being killed at all. God had them kill an animal so that they could see that this is going to point to him who will give his life for you in sacrifice. A great lesson is there for you to get from the Passover. It is that God would like us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ and give ourselves like Romans 12:1 here says as “living sacrifices.” We are to be living sacrifices.
With that, you and I are supposed to be ministers of God’s grace, and I will tell you that this is a challenge. Talk about something that our culture does not do, we do not minister grace well. I have been under a kind of pressure cooker situation lately and I have been amazed at what has come up in me in the way of anger. I have been seeing it in myself and saying, “Wow, I know that this should not be. Where is this coming from?” It comes from some kind of feeling that I deserve to be treated a certain way, things need to be right around me. I am really having to go to my knees, and I am going to the Bible and studying again what it means to be a “living sacrifice”? What does it mean to be a minister of grace? The age in which we live is not really a gracious age.
In light of being sacrificial in our lives, let us talk about being ministers of grace.
1 Peter 4:10a
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others,
I guarantee you that if we will do what God says, that He will work in us, and we will be blessed. Now, is there a little bit of a learning curve there for us? Yes, absolutely it is there. Is it sometimes hard to get started? Is it tough to extend yourself to people when they do not appreciate it? Yes, absolutely it is. Is it as much fun to minister to people and have them grouse and grump and be unappreciative as it is to go out and play a round of golf or go fishing or whatever else you really enjoy? No, not at first, but I guarantee to you that something will begin to happen as you begin to do the will of God – your heart and attitude changes. Nothing is there that is richer than being inside the will of God, being in fellowship with God, and knowing that God is so pleased with what you are doing. I cannot explain this. I can just tell you that God has a million little ways to get inside your heart and your mind and confirm to you that you are doing the right thing. We have a personal God who works personally in everybody’s life, and I assure you that He will confirm to you that He is blessed by what you are doing for Him.
1 Peter 4:10
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.
You and I have the privilege of ministering God’s grace to people. I would say that we have the privilege and responsibility to minister God’s grace to people. We are not ministering God’s grace to people when we are giving them back the same un-thankfulness that they are giving to us—when we are yelling back at them, simply because they are yelling at us, when we are angry at them, simply because they have been angry at us. Sure they may be angry at you. Yes, they may be yelling at you, but we are not ministering God’s grace when we simply get angry in return.
There is a lot in Scripture about this. I had this gigantic list of verses, and I thought, “Holy smokes, you cannot teach all of these verses,” but one thing it did show me was that if you want to do a study about administering God’s grace, if you want to study the subject about being kind to each other, if you want to study the subject about the fact that you will be persecuted, people will be upset with you, people will be angry at you, believe me, that is all over the Bible, particularly all over the New Testament. There is verse after verse after verse that say that you are going to be persecuted, under appreciated, and hurt by others, and we cannot respond in kind if we are going to be ministers of God’s grace. We have to let God work in us, calm us, bless us, heal us, and defend us, so that we can minister God’s grace to others.
2 Corinthians 1:12
Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace.
Worldly wisdom is somebody who yells at you, and you yell back. Something that I have started to do recently to see if I could give myself a little more peace and quiet is that I have started to mute the T.V. during the advertisements. Since I have been preparing this teaching for a while, I have started to pay attention to what people look like when you cannot hear what they are saying. I am going to explain an interesting exercise if you want to go through this. The next couple of times that you watch T.V., just mute the advertisements and watch the expression on people’s faces. The anger and the bitterness and the tit-for-tat that comes across in people’s expressions is so clear, and so clearly what we as ministers do not want to do.
2 Corinthians 1:12
…in our relations with you,…We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace.
That is what I want to be able to do with people. I do not want to minister to people like they treat me; frankly, a lot of people are out there that do not treat me very well. However, I have to treat people according to the grace of God. I have to be kind to them.
Let your conversation [Greek word is speech.] be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
I am going to tell you up front, the last couple of months, this has been a challenge for me—let your speech be always full of grace. I let the Word of God be my critique, and I go to Scripture, and say, “Okay, God, I am getting what you are telling me.” We are not about returning evil for evil. We are going to be persecuted. We are going to be hurt by others, but our conversation is to be always with grace. Now, does that mean dishonest? No, it does not mean dishonest, but it does mean that very often a whole lot of things simply do not need to be said. You do not need to express everything that you are feeling and I do not need to express everything that I am feeling.
While Colossians tells us that our speech should be with grace, let us look at Ephesians 4:29.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths,…
The word unwholesome is corrupting. It has the affect of corrupting the person to whom you are listening. It could corrupt their integrity. It could corrupt their peace. It could corrupt their love. It could corrupt a whole bunch of things about them. Scripture is going to define this. This is what is supposed to come out of our mouths.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
I have been wrestling with this lately because I have a boat load of things to say that are “on my heart,” and do I not get to be honest and express my opinion. Do you know what the Bible says? It says, “No!” Wait, what about honesty? It says, “No, it has to help the other person.” What about my feelings? Take your feelings to Jesus Christ; he is the healer of broken hearts. He is the Passover Lamb. He is the one who will hear your every cry. My responsibility before God to my brothers and sisters is that my speech is to always be with grace, and I am supposed to speak what is helpful to build them up according to their needs to benefit them. “What about me being honest?” Well, that does not matter. If you being honest is not with grace, and it is not going to help and build them up according to their needs, then you can take your honesty right to God and share it with Him.
We talk about the atmosphere of the age, part of that atmosphere is present in Christianity today that is coming out of some of the “reality” movements. Part of the atmosphere of our age is, “I get to express my opinion.” This is becoming almost a plague in Christianity. You have churches tearing each other apart with people saying, “Well, my experience of you is…,” or “Let me tell you what my opinion of you is” or “I think you need to know what my opinion of you is.” Churches are falling apart from this. A couple of reasons for this can be named, but the primary reason for this is disobedience to God. God says that your speech is to always be with grace, and it is supposed to benefit those who hear. The exception to this is when someone in the church is sinning and their sin is hurting others in the church, you need to put a stop to that. In that context, you are speaking to keep them from sinning. It is not about voicing your opinion. Scripture says that you go to them personally and if they do not listen then you bring two or three others. It is not that we are supposed to be milk-toast (soft). We do confront sin, but there is a lot of difference between confronting sin in a godly way, to which a pattern and program is set forth in God’s Word, than in just airing my opinion because you need to hear it or I think that you need to hear it.
It is interesting that two men, Dr. Larry Crab and Dr. Dan Allender have picked up on this current trend in the church about how important “honesty” is and how someone needs to be “honest” with you. They have written a book that really blessed me and helped me. I am going to make a pitch for it. The book is called Encouragement: The Key To Caring (It is available on Half.com). Chapter 4 is called Total Openness: The Wrong Solution. They have a subheading. It is called The Disease Of Sharing. Have you ever thought about sharing as a disease? It is going through the Christian church like wild fire. “I get to share my opinion.” “My experience of you is this.” “This is what I think of you.” Well, we are tearing each other apart. Allender and Crab say:
“Where sharing…places a premium on emotional honesty without the framework of commitment to God and to another’s welfare. This is a serious problem.”
In other words, what they say is that sharing places a premium on emotional honesty, “I get to share my emotions.” “I need to be honest.” There is no real concern for how it affects the other person. They continued in their book:
“Consider what might happen if a congregation set about to develop intimate relationships through bold disclosure of previously disguised emotions. Perhaps the pastor is persuasively exhorting the saints to become warmly unified by preaching as though the text read ‘do not forsake assembling together but encourage one another by honestly sharing yourselves with each other.’ During the fellowship period following the evening service, a woman strides purposefully forward toward another and takes a deep breath and says, ‘You know, I have never been fully honest with you. You have called me several times a week for months, and I have always said that I welcomed your calls and enjoyed them, but it is not true. I have endured your tiresome chatter and chatty complaints because I thought that I should, but now I can see that I was just being phony, so I wanted to set the record straight.’ At another corner in the fellowship hall, a man thoughtfully sips his coffee, returns his cup to the saucer and turns to another man standing near, ‘George, listen, I have got to be honest with you. You asked me to play golf with you next week, and I agreed. I said yes to that invitation a dozen times, but only because I did not have the guts to be honest. I do not enjoy spending four hours playing golf with you. Your childish temper when you miss a putt, the way that you question my score, and your endless run of stupid jokes really gets to me. I should have been open about these feelings months ago.’ The disease of sharing soon reaches epidemic proportions. All members of the congregation with the exception of a few self-controlled misfits are busily ripping off their masks, bravely risking whatever consequences may come as they openly share who they really are—Renaissance man in modern form bold, fearless, assertive, self-affirming. The problem of surface community has been solved. Now deep hostility and division is there. The intended remedy of total openness produces difficulties far worse than the problem that it was meant to correct. Total openness replaces surface community with fractured community and eventually no community.”
I say amen to that because that is precisely correct. This total openness stuff, self-assertiveness, “I get to share my opinion!” is not the Word of God. It is not faithfully administering the grace of God. It is not letting your words be always with grace. It is just not being administers of grace, and we need to change our culture. I said in the office this week, “This starts with me.” I get that I am teaching this for me as much as I am teaching this for you. We all need to take a different view of the world, and I recognize that a lot of my anger is because I am being treated in a way (or I think that I am being treated in a way) that I do not deserve to be treated, but the Lord led me to a verse that is in Matthew 5, the Sermon on the Mount. Let’s look at it from the Williams’ translation.
Matthew 5:10 and 11
Christ teaching the multitudes says blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you and keep on falsely telling all sorts of evil against you for my sake. Keep on rejoicing and leaping for ecstasy for your reward will be rich in heaven for this is the way that they persecuted the prophets who lived before you.
I am thinking to myself, “Whew, okay!” When people are abusing me, persecuting me, falsely telling all sort of evil against me, I have not been rejoicing and leaping for ecstasy! I have found myself angry, hurt, fighting, becoming bitter, desiring to run or clam up, and I have just known that these things were wrong. I got down on my knees and said, “Lord, I really, really want to be able to turn this thing around. I know that in my flesh, I deserve nothing.” Certainly I deserve to be treated a whole lot worse than Christ. Christ never sinned, and look how he was treated. I have sinned. I have sinned a lot. My anger stems from an attitude that I should be treated better. Who says that? Scripture tells me over and over and over again that I am going to be persecuted, and I need to believe it and not worry so much about the anger. I need to just let God be my defense. We as Christians need to let God be our defense and we need to see ourselves as administers of the grace of God.
If the Passover taught us anything at all, it taught us that a sacrifice was there that protected people and provided for people. It was not even an essential sacrifice, not back in Egypt anyway, because God could have protected the people like He had from the other plagues with no sacrifice at all, but God said, “Look, I want you to do a blood sacrifice and that is going to be your protection and your provision.” That is what we get to be. We get to be the sacrifice that protects and provides for other people, so that we can be administers of God’s grace.
1 Corinthians 4:12 and 13
(12) We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it;
(13) when we are slandered, we answer kindly.
Difficult? You bet it is difficult. Ladies and gentlemen, that is the sacrificial calling of a Christian. That is what I have been called to do and that is what you have been called to do. It is not easy. Times happen when I think that it is not doable, but I know that it is in God’s Word, and it is very doable. It is not easy, but it is what we need to do and where we need to go.
What I would like to show you is that what we just read in Corinthians is not some lone verse. Jesus Christ from his Sermon on the Mount said to do it, Paul wrote by revelation to the Corinthians and told them to do it, and in Romans 12:14 it says:
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Difficult? Yes it is. Is it against the culture of our age that when somebody comes against you and curses you and wrongs you, to not get mad? Absolutely, it is against the culture of our age. We are not to be conformed to our culture. We are supposed to be conformed into Christ’s image.
Romans 12:14-19 and 21
(14) Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
(15) Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
(16) Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
(17) Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.
(18) If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
(19) Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
(21) Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
I had to laugh at Philippians 1:29 when I looked at the translations and checking some of the Greek words.
or it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him,
I was reading that and saying, “Now, is the word granted a good translation?” The word granted is an interesting word in the Greek. It is charizomai; it is related to the word charis which is grace. Literally, it is a gift of grace. Now get this, from God’s heart, you and I are to be so connected with Christ that the persecutions of Christ come on us, the abuse of Christ come on us. The Devil is the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4), and he does not like Christ, and he does not like you. You can translate it this way: for it has been given as a favored gift—charizomai is to give someone a gift freely as a favor.
Philippians 1:29 can be translated like this:
For it has been freely given to you as a favor on behalf of Christ to suffer for him
Oh great, what a favor! I just went to a wedding where they had these little wedding favors. God’s favor to you is that you get to suffer for Christ. It is amazing, “like, God can we have a different favor please”?! That is the nature that is the world – Christians will be abused. We will suffer. Our job is to be a sacrifice so that we can faithfully administer the grace of God. The world has no hope if we are not the hope. Do you understand what I mean by that? If you and I do not live Christ for the world, the world will never see Christ. If you and I are not Christ’s hands and feet, God will not have hands and feet on this earth. If you and I do not speak kindly, no one will speak kindly. If you and I do not learn to bridle our mouths, no one will bridle their mouths. That is why we have to go back to the Word of God and follow the Word of God. I am thankful for men like Crab and Allender who wrote this book, Encouragement: The Key To Caring, because it can become a part of Christendom. The right thing to do is to let our speech be always with grace so that we know how to answer every man. When we are abused, we bless and answer kindly, and we overcome evil with good.
We are coming into the Passover and Easter season where Jesus Christ hung on the cross for you and me. Let me ask you a final question—can you hang on the cross for others? It will take that kind of sacrifice for our hearts to truly change and for us to become ministers of God’s grace.