So far in this letter to the Corinthians, we have seen Paul introduce why he was writing to them. Though he was not present with them, word has come to him that there were divisions in the church. He started to explain to them that it is foolishness to quarrel over spiritual leaders. After all, they are all united together because they are teaching the same, Christ. Paul then describes what they teach. They preach Christ crucified which is the wisdom of God and foolishness to the world. Through their preaching, God called the weak, low, and nots and put them in Christ Jesus. In Christ, Christians have found wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. In chapter 2, we heard Paul’s defense for the mode by which he, and his fellow workers, preach. They chose not to use the oratory skills and power expected from ones who would participate in the Isthmian games, instead, he spoke with weakness, fear, and trembling. Paul chose not to argue the way the Greek philosophers would, but with a demonstration of the Spirit of God. He explained to them that to the spiritually mature, they impart wisdom, God’s wisdom. The spiritually mature understood these things but to the natural, unregenerate person it just seemed to be folly. In verse 1 of chapter 3, we have another transition. He is going to move from defending the mode of preaching he and his fellow workers were using back to the problem of division. He chose to preach in a certain way to this church and now he will tell them why. There are six main arguments that Paul uses. We will look at the first three and next time we will look at the last three. In verses 1-4, Paul argues that the church is acting like unregenerate people when they divide over teachers. In 5-9, he proves the point that the teachers are all God’s fellow workers. And finally, Paul describes how the ministry is working. The apostles lay the foundation and others build upon it.
In chapter 38 of Genesis, we read the story of Judah and Tamar. In the story, we learned about how God used the sinfulness of all the people in the story to bring about new life. Though God put to death Er, and Onan, he brought life from Tamar with the birth of Perez and Zerah. They become important because Jacob says to Judah that from him would come the kings that God had promised to him. Judah’s line had to continue because God had spoken. We have seen over and over again that God is a covenant-making God. He made a promise to Adam and Eve that one of Eve’s children would crush the head of the serpent. God, through subsequent covenants, developed the idea of this chosen one, this anointed one, that would reverse the curse that Adam and Eve had brought upon the universe. We have also seen over and over again that people have both intentionally and unintentionally put the covenant in jeopardy of being broken. Some were well-intentioned but used sinful means. Some were just flat-out sinning and were only thinking of themselves and would have caused the end of the line of promise. Now Joseph and his two sons would not be the line through which the Messiah would come. But, it would be through Joseph that God would bring safely Jacob and his offspring to Egypt, to begin the time of sojourning as God had promised to Abraham. God had given two dreams to Joseph to confirm that he would be a ruler over his family. Instead of waiting to see how God would bring that about, Joseph’s brothers attempted to stop the dreams and, ultimately, God from bringing this about. First, they plotted murder, then they decided to leave him for dead, and finally, they sold Joseph to a group of Ishmaelite traders. They thought that they had accomplished their goal to stop the dreams from being fulfilled. But this was God’s plan. And what he had covenanted with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph must happen. No one and no sin could stop this. As we look at the chapter today, we find this familiar theme. God has his chosen people upon whom he puts his grace and blessing and that strikes jealousy and hatred amongst others. But God will use their jealousy and hatred and shame them by using it as a means to a greater blessing. In verses 1 through the first part of verse 6, we read of how Joseph went from a slave to a master. In the second half of 6 through verse 12, we find Joseph overcoming temptation. Because of Joseph’s faithfulness, he is falsely accused in verses 13-18. At the end of the chapter, Joseph finds God’s favor under persecution.
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing. 2 Timothy 4:6-8 Paul’s Look in Three Directions • Down to the grave. Paul knows that his life will come to an end. He sees himself as the drink offering that is poured on the sacrificial animal right before it is burned. He is a passenger aboard a ship that is ready to make its departure. Yet there is no sense of fear in these words. There is purpose and meaning and a clear direction. There is a sense of anticipation and confidence in knowing that this was expected. • Backward to his ministerial life. Paul describes his work as a soldier. He fought hard and did not run from the battle. He stayed in the fight until it was done. He was like a marathon runner who finished the many miles that were before him. He was like a steward that kept the faith. He watched over it and protected it from being stolen or destroyed and he distributed it to those in need. • Forward to judgment. Paul sees in the future a crown of righteousness for him that Jesus himself will reward him with on that day. The crown is laid up, it is already waiting for him. Notice how Paul speaks with such confidence about what awaits him in the future. He knows the glory that will be bestowed on him is waiting for him. There is no hint of distrust or doubting in this statement. It is a sure thing. But he is not just confident in this for himself only but also to all those that love Jesus. This is assurance and this is what this lesson is all about. 1. ASSURANCE IS A REAL AND BIBLICAL TEACHING a. Assurance of what? A believer may have assured confidence in their salvation. A Christian may get to a place where they feel entirely confident in the pardon of their sin and the safety of their souls. They seldom have doubts, fears, and anxieties. They view death with and the final judgment without hesitation or fear. b. Some Christians oppose this doctrine. The most notable group that does not believe in assurance is Roman Catholics. The Council of Trent states, “Believer’s assurance of the pardon of his sins is a vain and ungodly confidence.” Many do not want others to feel confident in their faith because they are not confident of their salvation. c. Some true believers reject or shrink from assurance. They believe it is a dangerous doctrine and presumptuous. It is more humble to always be doubtful and to live in fear concerning their souls. d. Some people presume assurance. They believe they will be in heaven when Scripture and their lives give no warrant for them to believe so. JC Ryle said, “There never yet a scriptural truth without abuses and counterfeits.” e. What does the Bible say? Can we find the doctrine of assurance? Are there examples? i. Job 19:25-26 ii. Psalm 23:4 iii. Isaiah 26:3, 32:17 iv. Romans 8:38-39 v. 2 Corinthians 5:1, 6 vi. 2 Timothy 1:12 vii. Colossians 2:2 viii. Hebrews 6:11, 10:22 ix. 2 Peter 1:10 x. 1 John 3:14, 5:13, 5:19
For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.[d] 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
In chapter 38, we have the story of Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar. This is another one of those true and honest looks at the history of the Israelites. This story is not a sanitized version of the heroes of the faith but a faithful retelling of the events as they occurred in history. Last time we finished looking at chapter 37 which was the opening of this book of Jacob that we are looking at for the rest of Genesis. We saw the offspring of Jacob, the one chosen by God to carry on the promises that would counteract the curse. Joseph, the one whom Jacob had chosen to set his love and favor upon, was despised and mistreated by his brothers. His family hated the dreams that he had and were willing to do whatever it took to prevent them from coming true, even if it took murdering Joseph. Through the persuasiveness of the firstborn son Reuben and Judah who desired to make a profit off his brother, God saved Joseph and brought him into Egypt. God had promised to Abraham that his offspring would be sojourners in a land that was not theirs and would be servants there and they would be afflicted for four hundred years. At the end of chapter 37, the timer had begun. As we move into verse 38, we find a story about another of Jacob’s offspring, Judah. We know more about him already than we knew about Joseph. We have heard his words and seen his role at Shechem and with Joseph. He is very much like his other brothers and like his father when he was younger; his heart is very heavily consumed with self and not the well-being of others and not the ways of God. As I mentioned in a previous sermon, this story, though it might feel like a parenthesis in the story of Joseph, does belong here. It ties together the themes of Joseph’s rule and his sons to Judah’s rule and his sons. This prepares us for the later blessing of Jacob where we find out that Judah is the one to whom the promise of the offspring that would crush the head of the serpent would come. And finally, it belongs here in the story because, as Moses says, “It happened at that time.” Around the time that Joseph was sold into slavery, this story of Judah began. This story we have before us is ultimately about the grace of God. It is another piece in this puzzle we have been putting together. It started at the beginning when Satan, Adam, and Eve acted contrary to God and devised their own plans, but God had a different plan in mind. That theme has developed through the generations and will be trumpeted by Joseph when he says that his brothers intended evil, but God intended good. This sin of man and God’s using and changing sinners to bring about his plans has been on full display and will be seen in chapter 38 as well. We will see in verses 1-11 what Judah and his children do is wicked in the sight of the Lord. In verses, 12-23 we find Tamar’s trap of Judah and how this story of sin unfolds. And finally, we hear of Judah’s shame and God’s grace.
2. Marks of “Growth in Grace” a. Humility b. Faith and love towards our Lord Jesus Christ c. Holiness of life and conversation d. Spirituality of taste and mind e. Charity f. Zeal and diligence in trying to do good to souls 3. The Means of Growth in Grace a. Private Means – Prayer, reading and meditating on Scripture, and self-examination. b. Public Means – Regular Sunday worship, praying and praising with others, hearing the preaching of God’s Word, the Lord’s Supper, and baptism. c. Watchfulness over our conduct in the little matters of everyday life. “We must aim to have a Christianity which, like the sap of a tree, runs through every twig and leaf of our character, and sanctifies all.” d. Caution about the company we keep and the friendship we form. “Disease is infectious, but health is not.” e. Regular and habitual communion with the Lord. Gal. 2:20, Phil 1:21. “We must realize what it is to turn to Him first in every need, to talk to Him about every difficulty, to consult Him about every step, to spread before Him all our sorrows, to get Him to share in all our joys, to do all as in His sight, and to go through every day leaning on and looking to Him.”
Psalm 2 tells us that the nations, the kings of the earth, and the rulers all gathered together and in a rage the plot against the Lord and his anointed. They want to get rid of their authority over them. But all of their anger and plotting is done in vain. It’s pointless. It’s comical. For them to think that they can go up against the God of the universe is the height of foolishness. God, who sits in heaven, looks upon them and laughs with a laugh of contempt, with disdain, with hatred toward the evil they are planning. All the Anointed has to do is ask the Lord and he will be able to smash the nations like a rod iron hitting a clay pot. At the time of its writing, this psalm described what the nations thought they could do against the king of Israel. We also know that this psalm, according to Hebrews 1, is about Jesus who is the anointed and Son of God. But how the people plotted and how God laughed at their plans was not something new when the psalmist wrote those words down. We have seen this happen many times in the book of Genesis. Man knows what God has chosen and what is right and they plot and scheme to try and go against God. Every time, even if their plans succeed, ultimately they fail. In Genesis 37, we find the patriarchs, the leaders of the tribes of Israel, plotting to destroy one of their own. God had spoken. God had chosen Joseph. And his brothers rage and will plot in vain. In verses 18—24 we read of the brother’s evil plan and how they rage against Joseph. Then in verses 25-28, Moses explains to us how Joseph is sold into slavery. And finally, we read of the cover-up and Jacob’s reaction to the supposed loss of his beloved Joseph. The last time we left Joseph, he had received the coat of many colors which was a symbol of his favorite status. His brothers saw it and grew jealous. God gave Joseph two prophetic dreams, both with the same meaning, which was that he was to rule over his family. This stirred the brothers into a murderous rage. They took the flocks and left eventually making their way to Dothan. Jacob, curious about the welfare of his sons, sent Joseph to find out and to bring back a report. This is where we pick up the story today.
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18 1. The Reality of Growth in Grace a. There is such a thing as growth in grace. b. The definition of “Growing in Grace” i. This is not growth in justification. ii. Growth in repentance, faith, hope, love, humility, zeal, courage, and the like. c. How do we know this? i. The plain language of Scripture. 2 Th 1:3, 1 Th 4:10, Col 1:10, 2 Co 10:15, 1 Th 3:12, Eph 4:15, Phi 1:9, 1 Th 4:1, 1 Pe 2:2, 2 Pe 3:18. ii. Fact and experience. This is a secondary argument but still useful. “What true Christian would not confess that there is as much difference between the degree of his own faith and knowledge when he was first converted, and his present attainments, as there is between a sapling and a full-grown tree?”
And I, when I came to you, brothers,[a] did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men[c] but in the power of God. Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
JR Miller said, “When a story of providence begins – we never know what the end will be.” Often, we live so much in the present, we forget where we have come from, what God has led us through. We are like the Israelites who forgot that they were slaves and had their children murdered when we get out into the wilderness and all we have is mana. But an honest remembering of past events will help drive us toward thankfulness and bring us encouragement for the trials of the day. As we begin chapter 37 of Genesis, we open the last book of the book of beginnings. We began with God in the beginning and have traced the curse and the promises as they progressed through time. And we have finally arrived at the story of Joseph and how God providentially leads his people into Egypt. We begin by looking at the first 17 verses of chapter 37. In verses 1-4 we find an introduction to Joseph. We have only heard of his birth up until this point and now we will get to meet this young man. In verses 5-11, we find the dreamer and Joseph is given two dreams by God and we are told of the response of his family because of those dreams. Finally, in 12-17 we find God providentially setting the stage for Joseph’s entry into Egypt.