John 12:1-8 A Sacred Extravagance

John 12:1-8        A Sacred Extravagance                              WC McCarter
Were any of your Christmas celebrations over the top? Did you spend way too much money? Did your kids and grandkids receive way too many presents? Did you eat way too much food? Was your week overly extravagant? Extravagance is normally thought of in a negative sense in the Christian’s mind. We are to be humble and quiet people in this world, not loud, boisterous, flashy, and extravagant people. Let me say, I think that we should celebrate with all that we have on an occasion like Christmas. We should buy presents and bless our kids and families with as much as we can within reason at Christmas. I would like to share with you today a story about a sacred extravagance. Can it ever be a good thing? We will see!
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
The Occasion (1-2)
When you come to the twelfth chapter of the Gospel of John, you see that Jesus’ public ministry is now coming to an end. By this time, He has set His face for Jerusalem where He will laid down His life for you and me on the cross. In the very next chapter, you find Jesus gathered with His disciples in the Upper Room. One of the last public events pictures Mary humbling herself to anoint the feet of the Lord, and then to parallel that we see Jesus in the next chapter humbling himself to wash His disciples’ feet. This is an amazing story. Of course, this story follows the account in the previous chapter of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. The town of Bethany was now known for that great miracle. The occasion in Bethany is a supper. This word refers to the main meal of the day which usually took place in the evening.
The three siblings, Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, were near and dear to the Lord. Christ spent a good bit of time with this family during His earthly ministry. He ate meals with them (Martha hosted the Lord and was irritated that her sister, Mary, did not help her, but was rebuked by Jesus because He basically said that sitting at His feet and learning of Him was the better thing than serving); He showed great emotion and love when Lazarus died, but raised him from the dead; and Mary is seen as a fully devoted follower of Christ as she sat at the Lord’s feet to learn from His teaching and then, as we see here, anoints Him with expensive oil. These three siblings experienced some of the most wonderful and memorable things any person has ever known.
Here, again, Lazarus is seen as a main character as he reclines at the table with the Lord; Martha is seen as working hard to serve the honored guest; and Mary is seen as making her devotion to the Lord very apparent.
The Overindulgence (3)
I would like to point out that Mary is mentioned at the beginning of chapter eleven as the one who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair. This woman became known for this particular event so that the Apostle could mention the occasion in reference to her before he even recorded the actual event. The people to whom he was writing knew the story about Mary and the Lord.
I think this event may also look forward to chapter 13 when Jesus, in the upper room, washes the disciples’ feet and commands them to do the same. We will be looking at that passage in a couple of weeks. First, let’s set the scene. In that culture, for special suppers, the guests would recline in the floor at a lowered table. They would lay on their left arms with their feet extended out away from the table, and they would eat with their right hands. Mary did not crawl under a table to get to the Lord’s feet. They were extended out and easily accessible for anointing. To wash/anoint someone’s feet was an act of humility. In that culture humility was not looked highly upon. It is a great Christian virtue because the Lord has taught us to be humble, and a servant is not greater than his master, but the culture on the whole found humility gross.
We cannot be certain, but the family who was hosting may have been wealthy or possibly this perfume was a family heirloom. In any case, this was a very expensive jar of oil. The perfume was made from a nard plant which was native to India. It was a flowering plant that people would pull up and crush the roots of to make perfume which is why it is sometimes called spikenard. Mary used this to anoint the feet of Jesus, surely an act of devotion, love, honor, and humility before her Lord. She even wiped His feet with her hair! I assume she did this to deal with the excess because Jesus’ feet could not absorb all that she poured on Him, but it was also a great act of humility. She used so much that the house was filled with the brilliant fragrance.
The Objection (4-6)
Maybe many people who were in the house thought the same thing, but John makes sure to point out that it was Judas who spoke up in objection to such extravagance. Who would do such a thing? This was a waste of something highly valuable, right? Wrong! As John is writing and looking back on this story, he cannot help but label Judas as the traitor that he proved to be. Judas is quoted as giving us the cost of this very expensive oil. A denarius was one day’s wage for a worker, so 300 denarii would be equivalent to a year’s worth of wages for the average person because they would not work on Sabbaths and other holy days. This woman has just poured out a year’s worth of wages on Jesus’ feet and wiped it up in her hair! This is unbelievable! Jesus will surely rebuke her, right? Wrong. Judas objected on the basis of the fact that the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Of course, looking back on it, John knows why Judas said this. He was not concerned for the poor, but that there would not be some extra cash in the bag for Judas to grab for himself. It is not shocking that the Lord’s treasurer was a thief because we know that ultimately he was the Lord’s traitor. Apparently, it became well known that Judas would help himself to the money in the bag that was supposed to be for the Lord’s ministry and giving to the poor.
But this was a legitimate objection that Judas was making, right? I mean, most everyone would have thought the same thing whether they said it or not. What would Jesus do? Would he say, Judas, you are right; Mary has sinned? No.
The Objective (7-8)
When Mary brought out the perfume and began anointing the Lord, she “signaled more than she knew” (Carson, 430). Mary probably did not know that the Lord would have to die in only a few days. She was doing this out of humble devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ, but she was prefiguring so much more without even knowing it! Jesus told Judas to “leave her alone.” Wow! The Lord goes on to say that Mary had kept the perfume for the day of His burial. Mary could not have known this nor anointed His feet with His death in mind. Everyone was oblivious to the Lord’s impending suffering. Mary had kept the perfume for such a time as this, a special time to honor someone like her Lord, but Jesus states that she had actually done much more without even knowing.
No one would have expected Jesus to say something about His burial at this point. They are having a festive supper and Mary was celebrating Jesus, but He now points to His burial. This passion was definitely on the Lord’s mind. Jesus quotes Deut 15:11 in saying that the poor will always be present. Then, in the last sentence we will look at today, Jesus states that He will be leaving. This will be the news that the disciples will hear in the Upper Room in the next chapter. This is the news that will confuse and devastate them. This is the news that the Lord will try to prepare them for. This is the news that will save us all from our sins!
Conclusion and Christian Application
(1) Let others see your sacred extravagance. You do not have to be loud or boisterous, but give to the Lord with all that you have. This does not mean that you have to put on a show for people or let them see how much money you give. I am talking about being overly gracious- in your kindness, in your love, in your mercy, in your giving of all kinds of resources, and much more. Pour out all that you can in service to the Lord Jesus. Worldly things are not lasting, but the things of Christ are eternal.
(2) How is this related to evangelism? When you are extravagant concerning the things of God, the people around you will be greatly influenced. This kind of extravagance is letting others see your good works so that they may glorify our Father in heaven. It is not to draw attention to yourself, but to the One who has redeemed you from the curse of sin and saved you from the wrath to come.
(3) Notice how each of the people in this episode show their true colors. They all have their own reputations which were known then and even 2,000 years later.
          Lazarus: the one Jesus had raised from the dead.
          Martha: the one who worked hard at serving.
          Mary: the one who learned from and anointed the Lord.
Judas Iscariot: the one who was a thief, worldly, a traitor, and demonic.
*The question I have for you today is, what is your reputation and does it point others to the Lord Jesus Christ?

John 1:15-18 The Son Shows Us God

John 1:15-18                The Son Shows Us God                    WC McCarter
How is your Christmas season going thus far? What words would you use to describe your recent weeks? Stressful, busy, tiring, hectic, busy. . . . Wonderful, joyful, fun. . . . The world, influenced greatly by Satan, tries everything it can to distract us from the Christ of Christmas. There are so many things flashing before us in order to divert our attention away from our Lord Jesus Christ who is the reason for the celebration. We have tried over the last couple of weeks to focus our attention on the Christmas story of the Bible. We have looked at the more spiritual and theological Christmas story found in the Gospel of John. We are focusing our attention on the Word-become-flesh who dwelt among men. Today we will finish what we have started by looking at the end of John’s prologue.
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
John Bore Witness (15)
This first verse, as in the NIV, should maybe be placed in parentheses. It is almost an aside, but what a great statement it is from the last of the Old Testament prophets! It also supports what John the Apostle said in the opening lines of this Gospel in that this Word is eternal. So, the Apostle includes the statement from the Baptizer in order to reinforce his point about the Son’s uniqueness, but also to pave the way for his report of the Baptizer’s ministry given in verses nineteen through forty-two.
Although Jesus’ earthly ministry came after John the Baptizer’s, the prophet declared Christ’s preeminence. John began by making this proclamation before he knew who the individual was of whom he spoke. He grew up in the wilderness and began preaching the Christ before Jesus even came on the scene. He later learned that it was Jesus who was the Christ because God revealed to him that this was the case and then he could say, “This was He of whom I said. . . .”
Grace for Grace (16-17)

In verse fourteen, we were told that the Apostle and other eyewitnesses beheld the glory of the Word-made-flesh which was full of grace and truth. Now the Apostle picks up on that again to tell us more about it in verses sixteen and seventeen. After the important reference to the Baptizer in verse fifteen, verse sixteen goes on to explain what verse fourteen said about grace and truth filled glory of the Word. The sentence begins with the word “for” or “because.” It points us to the furtherance of his point.
As we pointed out last week, glory has the idea of “weight.” It refers to how much something is worth, how much value it holds. The Apostle says in verse fourteen that Christ’s glory is FULL of grace and truth. In verses sixteen and seventeen, he goes on to tell us that out of that fullness we have all received. The “we have all” referred in the first place to the eyewitnesses, but now it extends to include us as well. His fullness is enough for us all. It is out of His fullness that both the Old Testament and New Testament revelations have come. It is out of His fullness that the world and all that is in it was created. It is out of His fullness that we have all received salvation from the slavery of sin and the wrath to come. It is out of His fullness that we have received the offer of eternal life. He is full of grace and truth, and there is enough living water for us all to drink and be satisfied. Where sin has abounded, grace has abounded that much more through Jesus Christ our Lord.
“Grace for grace” in the NKJV and “grace in place of grace already given” in the NIV means something like “grace after grace.” What the Apostle John is saying to his readers, by unique inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is that both the Old Testament and New Testament revelations came out of the fullness of the Word who in these last days has come in the flesh. This is something very special. He is not down-playing the significance of the Old Testament. He is actually calling it a “grace” that was given. Of course, we know that it was a promissory grace. It was always pointing forward to another grace, a fullness of the glory of God to be put on display.
The grace that Christ has revealed in these last days is a grace like the Old Testament, but far greater. Just as John the Baptizer was the greatest of all men, but said that Christ was far greater, so too the revelation of the New Testament is greater than the Old. It is not as if there was no grace and truth in the Law. Of course, there was! The grace and truth that came through the revelation of Jesus Christ, the Word-become-flesh, was the final and full revelation of the plan of God. You can look at it two ways: grace has been replaced by grace in the sense that the previous grace was lacking and now it is full or, even better, grace has been heaped upon grace.
He has Declared Him (18)
We have made it to the end of the prologue and the climax of it all. Notice here at the end that the Apostle begins to explicitly link the Word with “Jesus Christ” and the “Son.” There will be no mistakes made by any sincere reader of the Gospel of John as to who the Word is. The Word is Jesus Christ, the One and Only Son of God. If you have not learned about the distinctiveness of the Word by this point, you will not miss it in verse eighteen. This verse is the reason that Christmas is so special. No one has seen God at any time. No one has ever seen God. Moses wanted to, but God told him he would die if he saw Him, so He covered Moses in the cleft of the rock. Moses would talk to God “face-to-face” as friends, but Moses did not see God’s glory on display in the way that Christ showed it. Not only does Christ show the glory of God, but He reveals God Himself to humanity. As one of the great Reformers said, “When he says that none has seen God, it is not to be understood of the outward seeing of the physical eye. He means generally that, since God dwells in inaccessible light, He cannot be known except in Christ, His lively image” (Calvin). He is very God of very God who was born as a babe in Bethlehem in order to save the world. If you want to see God, look to Him. If you want to learn of God, learn of Him. As another author has said, “We may have confidence that God is as Christ revealed him” (Morris, 101).
To be the “only begotten Son” is to be the “One and Only Son.” It does not speak of birth, but of His uniqueness. To be “in the bosom of the Father” is to be in the closest relationship to the Father as possible.
Conclusion and Christian Application
(1) Look to Christ during Christmas and see God. There are many distractions this time of year. The world is attempting to divert attention away from Christ on to anything else. Enjoy the narration of God in the person of Jesus this Christmas with your family and friends.
(2) Remember where all of your blessings come from. They come from the fullness of Jesus Christ, the Word-made-flesh. He supplies more than enough for us all and all others who come to Him. You will find grace and truth in Him. He will give you true life.
(3) Christ is unique. He is special. He is one of a kind. There is no other like Him. Consider His greatness this season. Bask in His glory.

John 1:9-14 The Word became Flesh

John 1:9-14              The Word became Flesh                                      WC McCarter
Today, we will consider some of the most shocking news in all of the world. The Word, who we have established as God of very God, became a man. You would think that it would not get more shocking than that, yet think of how appalling it is that people would have nothing to do with him. On the whole, He was despised and rejected. He was crucified as a blasphemer. But this was the plan of God.
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
The True Light (9)
How is He the true light? Christ is the true light in the sense that He is the genuine/real light. Christ is, “the genuine and ultimate self-disclosure of God” (Carson, 122).
How does this light shine on every man? This light shines on every man, and in doing so, it divides humanity into two groups: those who receive the light and those who reject the light. When the light of Christ shines into this world, some people walk into that light and will be saved, yet others run from the light because they do not want their deeds to be exposed. As one person has said, This light shines upon every person whether he sees it or not (Barrett).
When Christ came into the world, He was coming into the orb of His creation. Yet, that creation had gone/continues to go astray. He was interrupting a rebellious creation.
So, we do not have to wait until verse fourteen to hear something about the Christmas story. We already saw one verse last week that told us about Christ’s coming. Verse five says, “And the light shines in the darkness. . . .” Now we have seen in verse nine, “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” These are verses that tell us about Christ coming into the world. From a different perspective, without all of the historical details, we are told about Christ interrupting human history to enact God’s plan of redemption. We know the details. He did this by being miraculously born of a virgin in the most humble of ways, growing from infancy into adulthood, and dying as a sacrifice for sin on the cross. John gives us the theological Christmas story.
Rejection (10-11)
In the Garden of Eden, God would come and walk with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. It was normal and probably expected for God to come into and relate with His own creation. Yet, when Christ came into the world, His creation did not even recognize Him. We can see in these words just how dark the world had become. We can see how dire the problem of sin was.
Although Christ interrupted this rebellious world, the world continued to rebel. They rejected Him and could see no glory in Him. The world saw nothing of use in Him and in the end crucified Him. The world washed its hands of the Word.
Even the Jews, His own people, who were looking for Him, even they did not seem Him although He was standing right in front of their faces. The ones who were most intent about finding their Redeemer-Messiah, were the ones who despised Him the most. They plotted against Him and cried out for His crucifixion. Of course, this rejection fulfilled all that the Old Testament Scriptures had to say about the Coming One.
Reception (12-13)
Only those who receive this Light, only those who allow this Light to shine into their lives will be saved. It may have only been a few, but as many as did receive Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God. To become a child of God, two things have to happen: (1) you have to receive the Word (Christ, the True Light) which you do by believing in His name, and (2) the Word gives you the right to become a child of God. Let’s make sure that we are clear on a few things here in verse twelve.
To receive Christ you must believe in His name. Names were significant in ancient times. A name meant something in that culture. A name represented everything about a person, his character, history, accomplishments, and more. Therefore, the name “Jesus Christ” means a whole lot. To believe in that name means that you have to learn what all that name represents. Let us state a few things now. His name represents His: eternality, divinity, virginal conception, ministry of teaching and healing, sinless perfection, sacrificial death for the sins of the world, resurrection, ascension, preeminence, and much more. To receive Christ is to believe in His name and to believe in His name is to trust that He is who He claims to be as well as to trust that the records we have of Him in the Scriptures are true and completely reliable.
The second thing that we must be clear on is the fact that no human being has the right to be a child of God because we are all sinful and rebellious creatures. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, our righteousness is like filthy rags, and there is none righteous – not even one. God is a holy and righteous God. There is none like Him. He is perfect in all His ways. God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all. We, mere creatures, have trespassed against the utterly holy Creator, God Almighty. Do we think that there is any possibility that we could pay for our sins against this great God? Do we think that we could make up for it? Can we redeem ourselves? It is not possible to become a child of God on your own. God gives you the right. This is grace. It is completely undeserved. You cannot earn it, and a main point that verse thirteen is making is that you cannot be born into it. It does not matter who your parents were or anything to do with your heritage, but what matters is that God be the agent of a second, new birth.
So, verse thirteen tells us how a person is made a child of God, and it is closely related to what Jesus will later say in chapter three about being born again. God shines His Light into a person’s darkness and they receive it (non-meritorious), God then gives them the right to become His child and makes it so. Thus, from the beginning to the end of the regeneration process, God is at work. It is all “of God” as the last two words say of verse thirteen. You may ask, “How can I be saved” or, “How can I become a child of God?” I will tell you form this verse, you must be “born of God.” Only God can do this. You cannot make this happen yourself, and I cannot do this for you. Cry out to Him, and He will give you the new birth.
The Word became Flesh (14)
The last verse we will look at today is one of the most famous in all the Bible and rightly so. This verse tells the Christmas story in only a few words.
The “we” who beheld the glory of the Word-made-flesh must be John and the other eyewitnesses. Yet, the glory was not of a completely revealed nature. It was still very much veiled. To see this glory, one still had to see it with the eyes of faith. This is obvious because all who saw Christ did not see His glory or they would have believed. Ultimately in the Gospel of John, the glory that is seen in Christ is seen in what He did in dying and being raised from the grave. Of course, only those who receive the light can look at Jesus on the cross and see glory. Those who are without faith and without the new birth look at the cross and mock it.
Conclusion and Christian Application
(1) For those of you who have experienced the new birth and have been made children of the living God, do not forget how it happened. It was not of your will, but the will of the Father. Remember that you did not earn your place in the family of God, but you were graciously given your place in His family.
(2) For those of you who are not children of God. Cry out to Him today. Receive the light of Christ, believe in His name, and the Lord will bring about newness in your life. He will do a mighty work in you from beginning to end. Jesus fully immersed Himself into humanity when the Word put on flesh and dwelt among us. In turn, you may be united with Christ in the waters of baptism, fully associating with His death and resurrection.
(3) Behold the glory of the only begotten of the Father. He is the true Light. He is the Word who is from the beginning. He is full of grace and truth. Behold His glory this Christmas.

John 1:1-8 The Word is Life and Light

John 1:1-8                The Word is Life and Light                                  WC McCarter

The prologue of John’s Gospel is well known among Christians today. Many of us can easily recite the opening lines. The first eighteen verses declare some of the most profound things revealed to mankind. Yet, can you imagine reading these opening verses for the very first time? What would you think? How would you react? Imagine living your life well into your adult years never hearing anything about the Gospel and then getting your hands on this letter and reading the opening lines.
The concept of the “Word” (Greek “logoV”) was well known among both Jews and Gentiles. The Jews discussed the logoV as the divine revelation delivered to the prophets of old. All that God had said in the past was considered the Word. Remember, God is a speaking God. He has always revealed Himself in Words. In fact, God spoke the universe into existence. The Jews could easily understand this, thus the author to the Hebrews writes, “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. . . .”
The Greeks had an even more complex understanding of the logoV. The philosophers were constantly talking about “reason.” They believed that there was a superior power that guided the universe. They believed in a higher power, a reason, a mind which they called the logoV. However, they did not think that this “word” was personal in any way. The philosophers thought that this was just some power that floated around.
An interesting exercise is to read the prologue of John’s Gospel as a pagan might have to see the real point that John is making. All of the “He’s” that you see in our English Bibles are third person singular which means that they can also be translated as “she” or “it.” You understand that it is masculine, feminine, or neuter based on the context. So, let’s read John 1:1-18 the way the Greeks and even the Jews would have in the first century. I’ll read and you listen. Imagine that you are a Greek philosopher hearing this for the first time.
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
In the Beginning (1-2)
Each of the Gospel writers chose a different place to begin telling their account of Jesus Christ. Matthew and Luke both begin with genealogies and then tell about the events surrounding the birth of Christ before they tell about the ministry of John the Baptizer. Of course, Matthew and Luke have their own personalities and purposes which are shown in their respective writings. For example, the genealogies are given from two different perspectives. Mark, on the other hand, is a fast-paced Gospel account. He gets to it and tells the story quickly. His beginning doesn’t start in the manger, but with the ministry of John and then quickly into Christ’s ministry. And what about John’s Gospel account? We know that his is very different from the other three in a variety of ways. His beginning goes much farther back than the other three. His beginning goes back to the beginning of beginnings.
“In the beginning” strikes a certain chord in our ears, doesn’t it? It draws us back to the first book of the Bible, Genesis, which starts with those same words. Genesis starts with the words, “In the beginning God. . . .” John starts with, “In the beginning was the Word.” I think the apostle is immediately pointing us in the direction that he wants us to go. His is a Gospel that was written so that you may believe, that is, so that you may come to faith in Christ and so that you may continue to believe. How do I know that this is his purpose? Look with me at John 20:30-31. He wants you to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and he wants you to have eternal life. So, from the beginning of his Gospel account, he points you to those ends. I think that John is intentionally paralleling the first words of Genesis here because he wants to show us that God and the Word are the same. The same God who created in the beginning is the God who put on flesh.
So, in the first phrase of John’s Gospel we are taken into a doctrine that is not fully comprehensible. How can a mere human fully understand that God and the Word had no beginning; that they simply existed before anything was created? It cannot be fully understood by any of us, and there is no shame in it. After all, we are talking about God.
In the beginning was the Word. This was before there was anything in the universe. In fact, this was before there was a universe. In the beginning the Word just was. Next we are told that the Word was “with God.” Then we are told that the Word “was God.” Verses like this have taught Christians the doctrine of the Triune God for 2,000 years. If the Word is God and yet is with God, then in some way the Word is divine yet distinct from God (the Father). Now, many of you know that Jehovah’s Witnesses translate this third phrase differently than all other English translations of the Bible. Of course, that in and of itself should throw up a red flag. Why do they do this? They translate “the Word was God” as “the word was a god” because there is no definite article (“the”) in the Greek text making big G God clear. There are grammatical rules that we will not get into that can answer that issue (Colwell’s Rule).
Creation and Life (3-4)
The answer that solves the issue for me comes in verse three when the apostle says, “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” The Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Jesus Christ is a created angel. Yet, the book of Hebrews is clear that Christ is not an angel, but is distinct from them in every way and stands over them in every way. Christ is the creator and sustainer of all things. That is exactly what John is saying here in verse three. Christ was not created because “without Him nothing was made that has been made.”
Through Christ all things were made, the things we can see and the things we can’t see. Thus, it is understandable that life is in Him. John usually means “eternal life” when he refers to life in his Gospel. The Lord Himself claims to be life on a few occasions as recorded by John. He says, “I am the resurrection and the life.” He also says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” The same life that was given in the original creation has also been given to those of the new creation.
Light Shines (5)
The Lord also claims to be the light. He says, “I am the light of the world.” In verse five, John begins to tell the Christmas story. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it (or it can also be translated “has not overcome it”). I think we should keep both translations in mind. It is sad on the one hand that the world does not comprehend the coming of Jesus Christ, but it is joyous that the world cannot overcome what He has come to accomplish. Jesus said on His last night with His disciples, “Fear not, for I have overcome the world.” Just as the creation story tells us that darkness was over the face of the deep, but God said, “Let there be light” and there was; so, too, light has shined triumphantly into the darkness of the sinful world. Jesus is the Light of creation and salvation. Light excelled forth when that baby was born in Bethlehem that could not be thwarted. Darkness could not overcome that light no matter how dark it may have been. Consider Herod’s rampage and killing of all the baby boys around Bethlehem; the devil’s temptation of Christ out in the wilderness; the Pharisees and scribes who constantly challenged the Lord; the mobs who tried to stone Him; the crucifixion and burial; and everything in between. None of that darkness could either comprehend His light or overcome His light.
The Witness of the Light (6-8)
The apostle now brings us to the part of the story that all four of the Gospels want to preserve. The man named John who was conceived miraculously, raised up to be a prophet, proclaimed the coming Christ, and was martyred for his witness. John was sent from God, there is no question about it. The purpose of John’s ministry is stated at the end of verse eight, “that all through him might believe.” There have been many great men and women throughout history, but they were all mere humans. There is only one Light and all those who have gone before or after who trust in the Lord bear witness of that Light. This light is the salvation of the world.
Conclusion and Christian Application
(1) This Christmas, dive into the depths of what it means to be a Christian. Dig deep into the well of holy Scripture.
(2) Tell your kids and grandkids that this celebration is more than materialism, Santa Claus, and such. Tell them that it is about the Word becoming flesh; that God Himself has broken into human history in the person of Jesus Christ to redeem us.
(3) Bear witness to the Light this season.

1 Corinthians 15:57-58 Thankful for Victory

1 Corinthians 15:57-58     Thankful for Victory                                   WC McCarter
Let me first say “thank you” to the Rural Hall Moravian Church for hosting all of us tonight. A worship gathering like this is a very special occasion. “Thank you,” also, to the other ministers who have participated in the meetings and in this service. We are all thankful to the Lord for your hard work in our community. We may all have our own traditions and histories, but there is only one Lord, one faith, and one church. Look around the room and be reminded that these are your brothers and sisters. Why don’t you look at the person to your right and then your left and say, “Hey, church.”
Every Thanksgiving my mom’s side of the family gets together at my grandparents to eat a meal. I think there are now 41 of us who meet there as well as a few other friends. That is a lot of people in one house. When the meal is finally prepared, we all gather around the kitchen table and hold hands to pray. That is a lot of people in one kitchen. By that time almost all of us are ready to eat because the meal always takes longer to prepare than we were first anticipating, yet my aunts propose that we need to go around the circle and say what we are all thankful for. Does anyone else do this? Every year this little exercise quickly descends into a repetitious and nonsensical time. Everyone says they are thankful for their family, another year of life. . . . Everyone ends up saying the same thing, and so, the conversation turns into jokes. It is almost like asking a group of kids what they are thankful for; puppies, candy, toys . . . if you are lucky, they will say mom or dad. Well, tonight I would like to take you to the Scriptures in order to remind you that you have something significant, meaningful, and real for which to be thankful. Let me remind you of something that never gets boring or silly.
Directing Thanksgiving to God
We know that the Scriptures teach that all good things come from above. As believers, we also know that all the blessings we have in this life and into the next are because of our union with the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, when we have something for which to be thankful, we should say, “Thanks be to God.” Of course, in v57 the sentence begins with a “But.” This reminds me of Romans 3:20-22 which says, “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.” To that small phrase, “But now,” D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones famously said, “There are no more wonderful words in the whole of Scripture than just these two words ‘But now.’” In the context of 1 Corinthians 15, the word connects us back to v56 which says, “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God. . . .” We are no longer under the law because we are under grace; sin is not on our account because Christ has paid the penalty as our substitute; and death no longer has any power over us because Christ is victorious over the grave. Because of this mighty work of salvation, God is working out all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
Whatever you find yourself thankful for, your thanksgiving should be directed to God.
Thankful for Victory
What is the primary thing that the Apostle is thankful for in this passage? He is thankful for victory. What kind of victory is this? First, it is God who gives the victory, which is why our thanksgiving is due to Him. Second, our victory is given to us through our Lord Jesus Christ. The blessings that are associated with this victory come somehow by means of Christ. We can discuss this in more detail in a few minutes. Lastly, the Apostle has been discussing the subject of resurrection. In this context, he has answered the mockery of those who object to bodily resurrection by asking, “How are the dead raised, and with what body do they come?” He did so by giving natural examples of how things are transformed like a seed that later blooms into a plant, the different kinds of flesh among the earthly creatures, just as there are different types of heavenly bodies, and the heavenly bodies are in a different category from the earthly. Therefore, we will all be changed. You cannot enter into God’s heavenly kingdom with these earthly bodies.
The natural comes first and then the spiritual. Thus, for the Christian, death leads to victory. Although the law is strong in that it reveals sin, and sin is a master because it always leads to death, we can be thankful to God for victory. To have victory in these things is not only possible, but it is a reality in Christ. Outside of Christ there is no hope for victory. And this victory does not necessarily make one rich in this life or shelter them from pain or sorrow. If you live long enough, you will suffer in this present wicked age. To have victory is to have a confident hope for the future. It is to believe in things unseen, knowing that God speaks the worlds into existence, and if our Lord has gone to prepare a place for us, He will come again that we may be where He is.
Steadfast, Immovable, Abounding
You may think that it is difficult to get a sermon out of two verses, but these two verses in particular are perfect. There is the great theological statement made in v57, and then the very practical application is given in v58. This last verse begins with the important word, “Therefore.” In light of the truth that the Apostle has just established by unique inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we must be steadfast and immovable as well as always giving ourselves fully to the work of the Lord because we are confident that our labor is not in vain. He who has promised is able. Do not let anyone sway you from the truth that you have found in the Gospel and the Christian Scriptures.
Conclusion and Christian Application
(1) Hang on to what you have believed. It is not going to get easier to continue in the faith in the near future. You are going to be challenged. You cannot be one who shrinks back. Continue to trust in the Lord and the promises He has made. Continue to trust that what Christ has done on the cross is enough to save you.
(2) One last thing, when you gather around the table this Thanksgiving and you’re crowded, hungry, and antsy, but someone asks you to say what you are thankful for, tell them you are thankful to God for the victory that He has given you in Christ. Maybe then you will have an opportunity to explain to your family and friends the Good News about Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:1-11 May Your Memory Motivate Thanksgiving

Philippians 1:1-11  May Your Memory Motivate Thanksgiving      WC McCarter
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
Greetings and the Background (1-2)
There is not a lot to explain about the opening verses of the letter, but I need to give you some of the background in order for you to see the whole picture. The background of the letter to the Philippians will also help to make my point this morning about thanksgiving. Paul follows the standard protocol for the opening of an ancient letter. He names himself along with Timothy as the writers/senders; next, he names the recipients; and lastly, he gives a greeting. This is normal structure, but what he says is far from normal. Let me say something about those three parts.
The letter comes from Paul and Timothy. Paul is an Apostle, and Timothy is his disciple-associate. Paul was made the Apostle to the Gentiles by the Lord Jesus. Thus, Paul traveled all over the Roman Empire spreading the Good News about Christ crucified and raised from the dead. He was planting churches with the help of people like Timothy. The Philippian church had been planted by Paul on his second missionary journey. In Acts 16 we are told that Timothy joined up with Paul, Silas, and Luke, and, shortly thereafter, Paul receives a vision of a Macedonian man standing on the shore calling for Paul to come over and help them. The group of missionaries quickly headed to Macedonia and to Philippi which was the primary city of that region. Lydia comes to faith in Christ in that town while they met in an outdoor prayer gathering. Paul and Silas are later imprisoned, and a Philippian jailer is also converted to the Lord through their time in jail. Ultimately, Paul was forced to leave the city, but he would not forget the Philippians or lose touch with them. Interestingly, when Paul states his name and title here at the beginning of the letter, he does not say what he usually does. He usually identifies himself as an Apostle (which he was), but on this occasion he only states that he and Timothy are slaves of Christ. Why did he leave out his authoritative title? It is most simply understood that Paul had no need to restate his authority. The Philippians respected and honored him as an Apostle with no doubts. The lack of the title demonstrates the warm relationship between Paul and the Philippian church.
The recipients of this encouraging letter are the saints in Philippi. The word “saints” means “holy ones.” To be a saint is not to be a super-Christian or to be absolutely perfect. To be a saint means that you are “in Christ Jesus.” You are holy in Christ, and so were the Philippians.
When Paul writes this letter, he is not with the Philippians. In fact, he had to leave them before he was ready. Now he is writing back to them, and he finds himself in prison again, but with great encouragement. The Apostle wants to commend his friends for their support. On several occasions the believers in Philippi sent contributions to Paul so that he could continue to devote himself to the teaching of the Gospel. Each time Paul received financial support from the Philippians he not only had needs met, but was also greatly encouraged. A close bond had developed between Paul and the Philippian church. When a collection was being received from all of the churches to take to Jerusalem during a great famine, Paul was not going to ask the Philippians to give. They had already given him much support and were not as financially stable as before. Yet, when they heard of the need, they stepped up and gave beyond what they could really afford. Paul successfully delivered the gift to the church in Jerusalem, but was soon imprisoned because of many Jewish opponents. He was imprisoned for two years waiting his fate. During that time the Philippians longed to help Paul, but were not given the opportunity. Finally, many months later, the Philippians were able once again to help Paul. Paul was in prison when he wrote the letter and had just received the monetary gift from them.
The leaders in the Philippian church are singled out from the whole. The bishops (literally “overseers,” also known in the NT as pastors, shepherds, elders) and deacons are called out from “all the saints…in Philippi.” Paul, undoubtedly, wanted to honor these men for their partnership in the work of the Gospel, but also wanted to recognize them as the ones responsible for the application of the things written by Paul in the letter. The overseers were responsible for ensuring that the teaching of Paul was assimilated into the assemblies. They were responsible for teaching, overseeing, administrating, and caring for the people. We cannot be completely sure of all that deacons did in the early church, but the word itself literally means “to serve.” The NT suggests that the deacons served in many official capacities according to the direction of the overseers.
The third part of the opening verses is the greeting: “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” While most letters in the ancient world, and even today, would have had some type of greeting at the beginning, Paul’s is uniquely Christian. Grace has been extended to all who will believe in Christ, that is, undeserved forgiveness and favor. Peace has been made by the precious blood of Christ. Both grace and peace come from “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” This is the Gospel that Paul maintains.
Thanksgiving (3-8)
That concludes the salutation. Now we can move into the initial statement of thanksgiving. It was Paul’s practice to either detail a prayer that he had for a church or to at least give some of the content of what he had been praying for them. He tells the Philippians that when he thinks of them, he thanks God for them. In his prayers he makes request to God for them all “with joy.” He is not saying that he has the Philippian church on the prayer lists of all his other churches. This is his personal prayer for them. It was no doubt their partnering with him in the work of the Gospel that brings him joy and motivates thanksgiving. From the beginning of their encounters the Philippians were more than hospitable and supportive toward Paul and the Gospel ministry. They started that way and continued that way until the end of Paul’s life.
Paul was confident in writing to the Philippians and in his times of prayer that God would finish what He started in the Philippian church. The Philippians and Paul were in fellowship. They were partners in the cause of Christ. They were all partakers of grace with Paul even “in [his] chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.” Thus, Paul means to tell the Philippians (and us by extension) that it is God’s grace to allow any of His children to suffer for the cause of Christ. The Philippians participated by giving of their resources to support Paul and may have faced persecution in Philippi. Thus, Paul had joyful thanksgiving when he thought of the Philippians because they had partnered together for the Gospel and because he was confident that God would complete in them what had been started.
In v7 Paul says that he has them in his heart and now he explains that in v8. He had a great longing for them. We are told later in the letter that Paul was sending Epaphroditus back to them and that surely tugged at Paul’s heart. He wanted to go to them, but could not because he was in chains. He loved them, but he also had great concern for them because there was an unsettling atmosphere in their assembly. This was a matter of the heart.
There was no man on earth that could judge what was in Paul’s heart so he appeals to God. God is his witness. “For the righteous God tests the hearts and minds” and God knows “what was in man.” In v3 he says that he thanks God every time he thinks of the Philippians. As we said before, this was a private time of thanksgiving and prayer for Paul. Who could see that? Who could testify to this claim? Only God could see and hear these things and testify to the truth of the statement. He was the only one to whom the thanksgiving and prayers were directed. The concern that Paul has for them is the same as Christ’s. He longs for them “with the affection of Jesus Christ.”
Prayer (9-11)
After stating the context of his prayers and the reasons for thanksgiving, now Paul gives us the content of his prayers. He will somewhat broaden his explanation of what he meant by the “good work” that was started in them.
The first detail given is that Paul prays that their “love may abound still more and more.” They can better love the more they abound “in knowledge and all discernment.” This love is surely the love that should be expressed toward one another in the church. One simple, but helpful, definition given for this kind of love is the “placing of high value on a person.” If you place a high value on someone then you will go out of your way to benefit them. You will go above-and-beyond to comfort, aid, bless, care for, and preserve their life. He is not rebuking them for a lack of love, but prays that God will continue what He started in them. Though they presently loved well, God’s desire is that it will continue to grow and “abound still more and more.” It is only natural that as a believer grows in the “thorough knowledge” of Jesus Christ that they will love better.
The Philippians (and us) needed an ever-abounding knowledge so that they could know the things that really matter, the things to which they should be devoted (excellent/sincere). Notice that the Apostle makes love something of the mind. Love abounds where there is knowledge, discernment, approval, and sincerity. Also, it is not a bad idea to be “without offense till the day of Christ.” Abounding in love, abounding in a thorough knowledge, and approving the things that are excellent will go a long way to helping a believer remain without offense. I think this tells us something about some people. If all they ever do is pick little arguments or make a “big stink” about things that do not matter then they are probably not growing in love or knowledge of Jesus Christ, our Lord. If you know someone in the church that is sincere about all the wrong things then pray this prayer for them.
We should want for ourselves, our families, and our church to arrive at the Day of Christ “filled with the fruits of righteousness.” What a marvelous picture! I see a link here with the “fruit of the Spirit” found in Galatians 5:22. I think these two phrases parallel one another because Paul adds the phrase here, “which are by Jesus Christ.” The fruits that Paul wants for the Philippians are “by Christ Jesus” much like the fruit that Paul wanted for the Galatians was “of the Spirit.” The righteous fruits that God desires He also works in the life of the believer. They are by Christ Jesus, of His Spirit which is in our hearts. God has “given us the Spirit in our hearts.” That is why God is found to be most glorious. Paul finishes the passage with the phrase “to the glory and praise of God.”
God is the One who starts the good work in us and He is the One who will complete that work until the Day of Christ. The “fruits of righteousness” that we long to be filled with are “by Christ Jesus…of the Spirit.” We cannot boast. It is not of us that anything good will come. It is by the work of God. It is all to His glory. We must recognize God as most glorious for what He has done and what He will do and respond in praise to Him.
Conclusion and Christian Application
Until “the Day of Christ,” we should:
(1) Be supportive of Gospel ministry. This is what an Apostle rejoices over, and we would be safe to assume that this is what pleases God. The care that the Philippians showed toward their Apostle and evangelist was amazing. They continued to support his Gospel ministry long after he left them, even when it was not easy for them. It is no wonder why Paul was so thankful for the Philippians.
(2) Be charitable toward others and thus motivate thanksgiving. When other believers think of you, what do they think? Is it positive or negative? Are people thankful for you? Now, not everything we do will receive a pat-on-the-back or a thank-you-card in return, but are you being charitable toward others and giving others a reason to be thankful for your presence in their life?
(3) Be thankful for those around you. Be specific when you go to God in prayer. Who has been there for you in the hard times? Who has supported you when you needed it most? Who has gone out of their way to help you? Name them to God, and like I said before, also be one of those people.

Galatians 5:13 Serve One Another

Galatians 5:13  One Another Commands of Scripture: Serve One Another  WC McCarter
We have now come to the third and final sermon in a series about the “One Another” commands found in the New Testament. The Scriptures are full of how God’s people are to relate to one another. We are commanded time and again to do and think all sorts of thinks concerning one another in the household of faith.
The One Another Commands
One another commands. Love one another, John 13. Forgive one another, Colossians 3. Serve one another, Galatians 5. They are all linked. I could use the foot washing event as the illustration for all three sermons. Christ has set the precedent.
READ Scripture– This is the Word of God
Galatians Background
Galatians is the letter of liberty in the NT. Paul rebukes the Galatians for turning away to another gospel which was no Gospel at all. They were mixing the true Christian faith with legalistic Judaism. False teachers were saying that Christians must be circumcised according to the law, they must observe Jewish holidays and dietary laws, and more. To submit to the Mosaic Law, or any tradition for that matter, would be to “renounce their divine calling” (Witherington). Paul says that they must not do these things because they are free in Christ. You do not become a Christian by religious performance, and you do not remain a Christian by religious performance. By the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. We are saved by faith and nothing but faith from beginning to end.
Serve One Another
We are called to be free [13a]
In Galatians 1:6 Paul states his astonishment at the situation. At the beginning of the letter he says, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ to a different Gospel, [which is really no Gospel at all].” Christians are called to liberty. Freedom is something that this world likes to talk about, but what is Christian freedom? “It is a freedom of conscience” (Stott). People are bound in their on minds by guilt, swallowed up by their own sin against God. Colossians 1:21 tells us that apart from Christ people are alienated and enemies of God in their minds by wicked works. Freedom is “peace through the blood of His cross” (Col 1:20). We are free by faith in Christ, free from slavery to sin, free from the eternal repercussions of our sins, free from condemnation, free from guilt, and more.
Christian liberty is not gained by working yourself out of your predicament, but surrendering yourself to what God has already done in Christ Jesus. What is true of the Galatians is equally true for us. We were called to liberty. The Scripture that says it best is 1 John 4:19, “We love Him because He first loved us.” He is the One that sought us out in the person of His Son. He is the One who has called us “out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet 2:9); not the other way around, never the other way around. You see “…while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).
Freedom is not for the flesh [13b]
We must not use our freedom for fleshly ends. We have not been freed to fulfill the desires of our flesh. Now we usually think of “flesh” as our bodies, but that is too narrow of a definition. The biblical “flesh” is the old nature (also called the old man, fallen nature, sinful nature, etc.). God has not freed us by the person of His Son so that we can do whatever we will. It may be a great temptation to think that now we are free to fulfill our own selfish desires, but we know that is not the truth that we have found in Christ.
Freedom is for serving one another [13c]
We must use our freedom for spiritual ends, that is, through love to serve one another. Our freedom in Christ should benefit our brothers and sisters. We have been freed to love. We can now serve one another with no fear of condemnation. We have been freed to love and love the way God desires! John 8:34 says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” We have been freed from sin, not to sin. Once we sin, we return again to slavery. . . . Could anyone be any “freer” to do what he wanted than Christ? And what did He choose to do? Submit to the Father’s will, serve mankind. He took off His outer garment, girded Himself with a towel as a servant, and washed His disciple’s feet (John 13). And that is only one glaring example of what He did by putting on flesh. He came to serve, to love. . . . We are called to do the same with the freedom we have been given.
How do you (practically) serve one another? You are to make yourself a slave to all; to consider others better than yourself; to bear one another’s burdens whether they be spiritual, emotional, financial, or what have you.
The Value of Church Membership
I would like to close this sermon by saying a few things about the value of church membership. The New Testament does not say anything explicit about the subject, but the implications are clear that we are to be accountable to one another in an association that we now call church membership. I think these past three sermons apply specifically within the context of church membership. Let me give you three reasons why I believe that to be true.
1. Others know that they are accountable to you and you to them. You are to love, forgive, and serve the brethren as well as many other things. The best way to know who the brethren are is by church membership.
2. It lets the minister and elders know who they are responsible for. We re to shepherd the flock, but we have to know who belongs to this flock in order to best do that.
3. Not only are you to submit to one another, but you are to willingly come under the care, authority, and teaching of the local church leaders. You do the by membership.
Invitation. If you are a baptized believer who would like to join this congregation, then all you have to do is say that you would like to join. If you have never committed your life to Christ, but you have counted the costs and would like to be united to Him today, then now is a great time to join. If you have believed, but have never been baptized, then let today be that special day.