When you commit to preaching through a book of the Bible, these are the days you know will come. There are the stories or the commands that make us squirm a little. The story we have to look at today is one of those stories. There is nothing pleasant about the story and there are really no bright spots. No shining examples of faithfulness to God in these people. But God is faithful despite the actions of all the men involved. First, we will see Jacob’s inaction as Dinah is taken and Jacob holds his peace. Then we find a marriage proposal from Shechem and a counterproposal from Jacob’s sons. Finally, we find just a multiplication of sins as the story concludes and the evil heart of man is exposed.
1. Faith in the Truth of God’s Written Word 2. Faith in the Person, Work, and Office of the Lord Jesus Christ. 3. Faith in Christ’s Presence and Readiness to Help 4. We Must Remember the Victories of Faithful Christian Soldiers. Pay attention to Hebrews 11. Learn about those in the early church who gave their lives in faith like Polycarp and Ignatius. Study the Protestant Reformation and people like Wycliffe, Huss, Luther, Ridley, Latimer, and Hooper. After them came men like the Wesley brothers, Whitefield, Edwards, and Wilberforce. By faith, they lived, and walked, and stood and overcame. Do you want to be a Christian soldier? Pray for faith. Do you want to be a successful Christian soldier? Pray continually for more faith. True Christianity Is a Good Fight 1. Fought Under the Best of Generals – Jesus Christ is our commander and leads us with perfect wisdom, infinite love, and almighty power. 2. Fought With the Best of Helps – We have the Holy Spirit who daily teaches, leads, guides, and directs. The Father guards us by his power. The Son intercedes for us at every moment.
We begin our study in the book of 1 Corinthians. Though it was written to a church just under two thousand years ago, the problems that were outside the church and the problems that were inside the church correlate in many ways to the problems that we face as the church in the US today. We will find that many of the topics that are covered by this book have direct application to us today. There are some encouragements that we might take to heart. But there are also many instructions and warnings that we must take note of and act upon. Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 says, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us.” The Preacher is right when we look at the sinful nature of man. It is also true of a church that refuses to fight for the faith. You see, we don’t want to be guilty of what the Preacher says in verse 11, “There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after.” We must remember and study the church of the past so that we might learn from their mistakes and sins and strive to not repeat the same failures. In our time together tonight, I want to introduce or reintroduce, whichever the case may be, to you the first letter to the church at Corinth. I want to spend some time talking about the culture and city of Corinth. Then we will talk about the biblical timeline in which this letter was written. Finally, we will take a brief look at the main structure and content of this great letter.
We started this journey with Jacob back in Genesis chapter 31 when the sons of Laban were complaining, Laban turned against Jacob, and God told him to return to the land of his fathers. Jacob took his family and his belongings and made a run for it while Laban was away shearing his sheep. Laban heard what happened and chased down Jacob and confronted him. But God prevented Laban from saying anything good or bad to him and Laban went home empty-handed. Jacob left Mizpah and continued south until he reached the Jabbok River. There he was met by the angels of God and he named the place “Two Camps”. Jacob, drawing nearer to the land Edom, sends messengers and a peace offering to Esau hoping to appease the wrath of his brother. The messengers came back with the report that Jacob did not want to hear: Esau was coming with 400 men. That night as Jacob fearfully waited for Esau to come, a mysterious man appeared and wrestled with Jacob until morning. After the encounter, Jacob says that he has seen God face to face and yet lived. Jacob receives the blessing of God and names the place but walks away limping from the ordeal. This leads us to the story that we have before us in Genesis chapter 33. In our text for today, surprisingly we find Jacob’s humility in verses 1-3. And equally as surprising we see in verses 4-11 the kindness of Esau. We also see Jacob changing his offering of appeasement to a free gift. And finally, we follow Jacob as he makes his return to the Promised Land.
b. The world. The desire to have what the world has, to not to stand out, to fear ridicule and laughter from the world, or the desire to stay in the world are all things that must be resister. James 4:4 “friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” 1 John 2:15, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Paul says in Galatians 6:14, “the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” 1 John 5:4, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” c. The devil. We learn in Job that Satan walks, “to and fro on the earth and from walking up and down on it.” Job 1:7. He, “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.” (John 8:44). When the devil came to Peter he demanded him so that he might sift him like wheat (Luke 22:31). We are called to, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” (Eph 6:11) 5. The Seriousness of Christian Warfare a. Some might think that this is a little extreme and that many people get to heaven without fighting. But let’s look at what Scripture says. b. 1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. c. 2 Timothy 2:3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. d. Ephesians 6:11-13 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. e. Luke 13:24 Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. f. John 6:27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal. g. Matthew 10:34 Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. h. Luke 22:36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. i. 1 Corinthians 16:13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. j. 1 Timothy 1:18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare
Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. 2 Take with you words and return to the Lord; say to him, “Take away all iniquity; accept what is good, and we will pay with bulls the vows of our lips. 3 Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride on horses; and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’ to the work of our hands. In you the orphan finds mercy.” 4 I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them. 5 I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily; he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon; 6 his shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive, and his fragrance like Lebanon. 7 They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow; they shall flourish like the grain; they shall blossom like the vine; their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon. 8 O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you. I am like an evergreen cypress; from me comes your fruit. 9 Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them; for the ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.
In the text before us, we have a story that might be familiar to most of you and so like many of these stories from Genesis we must be careful not to allow familiarity to dull our desire to hear God and his word or to assume that we have learned all we can know from a passage. We have before us a story that is amazing and mysterious. Jacob had prayed to God. He admitted that he is not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that God had shown him. He recognized that it was God who prospered him in Mesopotamia. He has cried out to God to deliver him from the hand of his brother. He has recalled the promises which God had made to Abraham, Isaac, and him. God had been faithful to Jacob and the promises for the past 20 years. And we will see that God is not done yet. Jacob is about to go through a very dramatic and life-changing evening. He starts the night in great fear and distress. He will wrestle and be crippled. He will cling and be changed. He will testify and in the end, will walk away limping. This night will forever leave an imprint on Jacob’s spiritual life.
Spiritual Warfare 1. This is a war that is of far greater importance than any other war and concerns everyone that exists. 2. This warfare has its consequences which, in the end, are unchangeable and eternal. 3. If you want to understand true holiness you must know about the Christian fight. True Christianity Is a Fight 1. There are many people in churches that have a Christianity that may look good to others and eases their conscience but it is not a real faith. Real Christianity is a fight. 2. According to the Bible, true Christians are soldiers. They cannot live a life of religious ease, habitual laziness, and security. 3. True Christians are not to fight with other Christians. Sometimes there is a need to fight for the right interpretation but often we waste our strength in quarreling with one another. 4. The main fight is against the flesh, the world, and the devil. a. The flesh. The disciples in the garden could not stay awake. Jesus said, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:27, “I discipline my body and keep it under control.” In Romans, he describes the struggle, “but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” In Galatians 5:24, we are told, “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” And finally, he puts it very clearly, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you.” (Colossians 3:5).
Beginning in chapter 32, we open a new chapter in the life of Jacob. The first seven decades were summarized in a few stories about his lying, deception, and preying on weaknesses. Then came the second chapter that began with the vision at Bethel of the ladder going up to heaven. For the next twenty years, Jacob was in the school of hard knocks as he struggled under the thumb of his uncle Laban. In this chapter of Jacob’s story, we see some great highs but some equally deep lows for his family. Such is the life of a follower of God. We have seen throughout Jacob’s life God’s presence and work in this man. And that continues in chapter 32. In the first two verses of the story, we read of an angelic visitation as Jacob begins to make his way back to his homeland. Before Jacob enters Canaan he sends a delegation to Esau which we find in verses 3 through 8. Esau’s reply is not what Jacob wanted. This drives Jacob to pray in verses 9 through 12 as he asks for help. Finally, Jacob sends a gift in an attempt to appease Esau. At the end of our story, we find Jacob the same as how he started out this whole journey 20 years prior: alone.
The Question: Are You Holy? 1. Objections a. “I feel much, and think much about these things: far more than many suppose.” The question is not what you think or feel but what you do. b. “It was never meant that all Christians should be holy, and holiness is only for great saints and people of uncommon gifts.” I cannot see that in Scripture. “Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord.” c. “It is impossible to be so holy and to do our duty in this life at the same time: It cannot be done.” People like Daniel and those in Caesar’s house did it. d. “If I were so holy I would be unlike other people.” That’s the point. We are a separate nation set apart by God for salvation. e. “At this rate very few will be saved.” Straight is the gate and narrow the path. Heaven is not “easy” to get in. f. “These are hard sayings: the way is very narrow.” “That which costs nothing is worth nothing.” 2. Do you think you feel the importance of holiness as much as you should? a. A person can go very far in a profession of faith without growth in holiness. When Jesus said that one would betray him they didn’t all just turn and point to Judas. b. We cannot replace the work of Christ with our personal holiness but God has linked them together. We cannot boast of Christ’s work for us if we cannot show the Spirit’s work in us. c. Samuel Rutherford said, “The way that crieth down duties and sanctification, is not the way of grace. Believing and doing are blood-friends.” d. John Owen spoke of people whose whole religion was complaining of their corruptions and telling everyone that they could do nothing of themselves. Ryle says that this is just a cover for spiritual laziness. Paul complained that he was a wretched man but he also said he was pressing toward the mark. e. We should not think of ourselves as better than others. But we should have a desire to see many believers become more spiritual, more holy, more heavenly-minded, and more wholehearted toward God. f. “Is it not true that we need a higher standard of personal holiness in this day? Where is the unmistakable tone which used to distinguish the saints of old, and shake the world? Oh, where is the spirit of him, who by the cross of Christ was crucified to the world, and the world to him!” Advice to All Who Desire to Be Holy 1. You must begin with Christ. You will make no progress until you feel your sin and weakness and flee to Him. You cannot make yourself holy and then come to Christ. It is like the woman who had the flow of blood who tried everything to be better but only got worse until she touched the hem of Jesus’ robe. 2. If you want holiness then begin with these words, “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling; Naked, flee to Thee for dress; Helpless, look to Thee for grace.” 3. Say to Christ, “Lord, not only save me from the guilt of sin, but send the Spirit, whom you promised, and save me from sin’s power. Make me holy. Teach me to do your will.” 4. Do you want to continue to be holy? Then abide in Christ. John 15:4-5 “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” “Paul was a man of God indeed, a holy man, a growing, thriving Christ – and what was the secret of it all? He was one to whom Christ was “all in all”. He was ever “looking unto Jesus.” “I can do all things,” he says, “through Christ which strengtheneth me.”