The Significance of the Seventh Day as Consecrated (Genesis 2:1-3; Ex. 20:8-11)

The Significance of the Seventh Day as Consecrated (Genesis 2:1-3; Ex. 20:8-11)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Saturday, January 22, and Sunday, January 23, 2022

Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been?

I’ve been to London to look at the queen.

Pussy cat, pussy cat, what did you there?

I frightened a little mouse under her chair.

Stupid cat. She had the chance of a lifetime. All of London stretched out before her. Westminster Abbey. The British Museum. Ten Downing Street. Trafalgar Square. The House of Parliament. The Marble Arch in Hyde Park. She could’ve heard the London Philharmonic or scrambled up an old wooden lamp post to watch the changing of the guard. I doubt that she even cared she was within walking distance of St. Paul’s Cathedral. She probably didn’t even realize it was the historic Thames rushing by beneath that big rusty bridge she scampered across chasing more mice.

After all, she didn’t even scope out the queen as Her Majesty stood before her. Not this cat. She is such a mouseaholic, she can’t stop the same old grind even when she’s in London. What a bore!

There is an old Greek motto that says:



Which, being translated loosely from the original means, “There’s more to being a cat than tracking mice.” Or, “There’s more to life than hard work.”[1]

I love that! Think about work, and overwork, and rest, and ceasing from labor. Think about being tired. Imagine perfect rest. Imagine, really imagine what it is like to be rested. At the same time, rest is not the same as not working. Right? We may rest while doing a hobby. Still, at some point we must cease from certain labors.

I am in a sermon series on Genesis chapters 1-11 and my goal is to show how these chapters are foundational to our faith. Today, I want to talk about God ceases from His labor. Today, I want to talk about how God consecrates the sabbath day.  

My theme today is:

The Significance of the Seventh Day as Consecrated (Genesis 2:1-3; Ex. 20:8-11)

  1. The Sabbath in Genesis
    1. I want to begin talking about the sabbath being set apart, sanctified, consecrated in Genesis Then I want to show that in another place in the Old Testament, and then the New Testament.
    2. My goal is NOT to show that we are bound by the sabbath law now. I do not think that is the case. The sabbath is the only one of the Ten Commandments not repeated in the New Testament.  
    3. My goal is to show that Genesis matters. This passage matters. We cannot cut verses out of the Bible without that effecting other parts of the Bible.
    4. We will see that God uses this text in Genesis 2:1-3 as the principle for the sabbath command in Exodus 20:8-11.
    5. We will see that in the New Testament this idea is shown to be even greater in that we will have true rest through Jesus.
    6. Read with me Genesis 2:1-3: Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.
    7. We see in this passage that God is done creating.
    8. Then verse 2 shows that God finished working and He rested.
    9. In reality this means that God ceased from creating.
    10. This is not God taking a nap. Actually, God does not grow tired or weary.
    11. This is showing that after 6 days God’s creation is complete.
    12. This is also setting an example for us.
    13. Look at verse 3: God blesses the seventh day. God makes the seventh day holy. God is saying that this is a different day. God consecrates the seventh day. God declares the seventh day sacred, holy. Now, this is not the commandment, we see that in Exodus 20:8-11. Let’s go there.
  2. The Sabbath in Exodus
    1. Read with me Exodus 20:8-11: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
    2. Now, we see the commandment. Now we see it. Remembering the sabbath is the 4th commandment.
    3. Six days you labor and on the seventh day you cease from your labor.
    4. Your animals are not to work. Your servants are not to work. The strangers are not to work.
    5. Now, later on, there will be more laws about this and they are permitted to work to save a life.
    6. What does God do? He appeals to creation. In six days the Lord created and the seventh He rested. In Deuteronomy 5:13 and following Moses, inspired by God, refers to their slavery, but here God has Moses refer to creation.
    7. Now, this is why this matters.
    8. The Hebrew word “yom” is translated as “day.” It can also mean a period of time as well as other things. But think about it. Suppose we believed that the days in Genesis 1 were not 24 hour days but ages, maybe even thousands of years. But that would not work here, would it? That would mean it should have the same meaning here. If we believe the days in Genesis 1 were thousands, or millions of years, that should be the same in Exodus 20:8-11. In that case, it should be “for six thousand years God created and then rested.” That is my paraphrase. That would mean we should work for six thousand years and then rest for a thousand years. But that is not what this is saying.
    9. So, right here, we see that cross referencing Genesis 2:1-3 with Exodus 20:8-11 clarifies that the days in Genesis 1 were solar days.
    10. Further, we cannot tamper with one part of the Bible without it affecting other parts of the Bible.
    11. But what about the New Testament?
  3. The Sabbath in the New Testament
    1. Read with me Colossians 2:16-17: Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
    2. One person writes about this:
    3. “What Paul says here is remarkable,” Tom Schreiner writes, “for he lumps the Sabbath together with food laws, festivals like Passover, and new moons. All of these constitute shadows that anticipate the coming of Christ” (40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law, 212). And since Christ has now come, observing the Sabbath is no longer a matter of obedience or disobedience. Rather, Paul says, “Let no one pass judgment on you.”[2]
    4. The author of Hebrews brings us closer to the heart of why the new covenant does not require a literal seventh-day rest. Christ’s first coming did not abolish rest; rather, it ushered in a deeper kind of rest than the Sabbath could ever offer.[3]
    5. Read with me Hebrews 4:9-10: So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
    6. According to Hebrews 4, Israel’s Sabbath day always pointed forward to a far greater day: the still-future day when all creation will enter fully into the rest foreshadowed and promised in Genesis 2:2–3, the very first seventh day. “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9). The ultimate Sabbath rest is coming, when God’s people will enjoy work without toil, hearts without sin, and an earth without thorns.[4]
    7. Yet even now, Hebrews implies, we feel the first waves of the coming rest. In Christ, we “have [already] tasted . . . the powers of the age to come” (Hebrews 6:5), rest included. For, the author writes, “We who have believed enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:3) — not “will enter,” but “enter”: fully later, truly now.
    8. And how do we enter that rest? Not mainly by putting aside our weekly labors for one day in seven, but by believing: “We who have believed enter that rest.” Faith in Jesus Christ brings the rest of the seventh day into every day.[5]
    9. So, again, we see the sabbath of Genesis 2:1-3 referred to in other parts of scripture.
  4. Summary
    1. The Exodus passage links back to Genesis 2:1-3.
    2. Notice that these Sabbath passages think back to the origin as authentic.
    3. Also, we are not bond by a sabbath law today, but there is a principle here. We do need rest.
      1. We must understand the significance of this teaching to the rest of the Bible.
      2. We must not compromise the sabbath part of the creation narrative.
        1. This means we must understand that God did not literally rest, but He did cease from His labor.
        2. This means we must understand that God also did not literally labor, but He did cease from creating.
        3. We must not view this as only part of an allegorical story. No, this is significant in the rest of the Bible.
        4. We must recognize that the Scripture says that God rested for a day, and we are to rest for a day (Ex. 20:8-11). This has significance for our interpretation of the rest of the creation narrative.
      3. We must believe that this part of the Scriptures is accurate just like all the rest of the Bible.
      4. We must understand that as God ceased from labor we also need rest one day a week.
      5. Further, we must understand that as God ceased from labor, some day as Christians we will also have rest in the new heavens and earth.
      6. We must understand that through the Gospel we have a taste of this sabbath rest now.
      7. We have rest through the peace of God Jesus gives us through the Gospel (John 14:27).
      8. We have rest from the weariness of trying to take care of our sin problem.
      9. We have a relationship with God (Romans 5:10).
      10. We have the Holy Spirit within us (John 15:1-5).
      11. We must understand, the seventh day as consecrated is significant in our faith.

I read the following:

I smile when I read this from the newspaper. “The world is too big for us. Too much going on, too many crimes, too much violence. Try as you will you get behind in the race. It’s an incessant strain to keep pace. You still lose ground. Science empties its discoveries on you so fast you stagger beneath them in hopeless bewilderment. The political world is news seen so rapidly you’re out of breath trying to keep pace with who’s in and who’s out. Everything is high pressure. Human nature can’t endure it much more!”

Now it wasn’t that that made me smile. It was that it appeared June 16, 1833—150 or more years ago. That was the “good old days.” And you don’t have any idea, nor did I, what the Boston Globe had as its headlines November 13, 1857—three words: “ENERGY CRISIS LOOMS.” That’s 1857. The subheading said: “World May Go Dark since Whale Blubber So Scarce!”

You’re smiling, aren’t you? You can’t help but smile, because everything has to do with perspective. For some, the “good old days” means what was simple and uncomplicated and beautiful and free of the horrors of our present times. Or was there ever a time like that?

My “good old days” take me back to a world war where there were little markers on windows up and down the little street where I lived in Houston. And grieving parents peeled those little markers off when their son died in that war.

The “good old days” would take you back to the time when, horses died in the streets of New York because of cholera. The “good old days” were times in my father’s era when cars couldn’t be started from inside. You had to go outside and crank them. And you had to walk in rainy days on boggy streets because back then there weren’t hard surfaces and beautiful freeways and roadways.

One news commentator said it very well. It was Paul Harvey. “Had the first product using electricity been the electric chair, we would all be afraid to plug in our toasters in the morning!” It’s how you look at it, isn’t it?[6]


[1] Charles R. Swindoll, Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life. Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 621–622.

[2] Desiring God; April 20, 2021; Scott Hubbard:

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6]Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 624–625.

The Significance of the Creation Account (Genesis 1:1-31)

The Significance of the Creation Account (Genesis 1:1-31)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Saturday, January 15, and Sunday, January 16, 2022

Last week we began a sermon series on foundations. My aim is to show how Genesis chapters 1-11 are foundational to our faith. Today, we talk about Genesis 1 and God’s orderly account of creation.

I read the following:

There are two very practical and human answers to the creation of man and woman. One is the man’s view; the other is the woman’s view. Are you ready? The woman’s view of creation is this: God made the man and looked at him and said, “I can do better than that,” and He made the woman. Now the man’s view is: God made the beasts and man and then He rested. And then He created woman. And neither beast nor man nor God has rested since.[1]

However, think about this:

On August 21, 2011, an American software engineer named Jesse Anderson created the Million Monkey project, which featured millions of virtual simians typing away randomly. In just forty-six days, Anderson claims, the mindless authors recreated all of Shakespeare’s thirty-eight major works. “This is the largest work ever randomly reproduced,” he crowed.

The media trumpeted the achievement uncritically. Yet the claim is so misleading as to border on deception. In truth, what the digital monkeys produced randomly were unbroken strings of letters. It took a computer program (a digital maestro) working behind the scenes to recognize correct sequences and break them up—intelligently, not randomly—into the proper words.

My purpose is not to criticize Mr. Anderson or accuse him of any wrongdoing, nor even to lament the ignorance of the popular press. It is to illustrate the lesson that creativity is not a random process. Science and the Bible agree that in order to create something from nothing, there needs to be something or someone behind the scenes directing the show.[2]

In Genesis chapter 1 we see how God created everything in six days. We see a broad view of creation. This sermon series is about the significance and because of that I am going to emphasize certain verses and not read the whole text.

My theme:

The Significance of the Creation Account (Genesis 1:1-31)

Read with me Genesis 1:1-2, and 31:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 31And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

  1. Overview:
    1. In between Genesis 1:2 and verse 31 we see the six day creation. How important are these six days to the rest of the Bible? In a moment, we will talk about that. First, let me give an overview of this chapter.
    2. God created the earth. Now, the first two verses are an overview of the creation of time, space and matter. Starting in verse 3 God gives order to this matter. God arranges His creation so it is not such a mess.
    3. So, the rest of this chapter deals with the details of the earth and its surroundings. God chose to create everything in 6 days.
    4. On day 1, God creates light, this light may not be the sun. Most have believed the light is light emanating from God.  On day 1, God also created the idea of the day and night.
    5. On Day 2, God creates the atmosphere. Notice the waters are already there.
    6. On day 3, God creates land and vegetation.
    7. There is an idea that days 1-3 are forming and days 4-6 are filling.
    8. On day 4, God creates the moon and the stars.
    9. Notice that the Bible doesn’t use the noun “sun,” or “moon.”
    10. If you study the ancient religions of the Middle East, you can see that they worshipped the sun and the moon. So, Moses was careful not to use those terms.  In fact, if you really study this text, you can compare it with the other religions of the Middle East. In comparing you can see that Moses is writing this correcting those religions and showing that there is one God, and He is supreme.
    11. On Day 5, God creates the creatures of the sea and the air.
    12. On day 6, God creates the land animals and humans. Humans are the only creation specified. Humans are also created in God’s image.
    13. Notice also that it takes male and female to reflect the image of God.
    14. How did God do this?
    15. Why do we limit God? Were you there? If we don’t believe God created in 6, literal, 24 hour days because you don’t think it could be done, that is problematic. If you think because of evolution, God didn’t create in 6, literal, 24 hour days, then that is a problem. That is idolatry, you are putting something else in front of God.
    16. How did God create daisies? I say, “Like a child.” You throw a child up in the air or bounce him off your knee. When you sit him on the floor, the first thing the kid says is, “Do it again!” Throw him in the air; catch him; bounce him off your knee; set him on the floor. The kid’s going to yell, “Do it again!” Do it fifty times. The fiftieth time, the kid is yelling hysterically, “Do it again! Do it again!” The excitement of a little child.
    17. That’s how God created daisies. He created one daisy. I’m sure of this. In the childlike heart of God, he clapped and said; “Do it again!” He created daisy number two. Something within God said, “Do it again!” He created daisy number three and four and five. Fifty billion, trillion daisies later, the great God of the universe is still creating with childlike excitement and joy and yelling, “Do it again!”[3]
    18. I have read a lot and studied a lot on how to interpret Genesis chapters one and two. There is a lot of geological evidence for a young earth. There are definite complications with the Bible if you take evolution to its fullest form, called macroevolution. 
    19. If you have an NIV study Bible it says this:
    20. In the ancient near east most of the people’s had myths relating to how the world came to be. Prevalent in those myths were accounts of how one of the gods triumphed over a fierce and powerful beast that represented disorder, then fashioned the ordered world that people knew, and finally was proclaimed by the other gods to be the divine “king” over the world he had created—a position ever subject to the challenge of disorder. Over and against all these pagan myths, the author of Genesis taught a totally different doctrine of creation: the one and only true God did not have to overcome a mighty cosmic champion of chaos but simply by a series of His royal creation decrees called into being the ordered world, the visible Kingdom that His decrees continue to uphold and govern.
    21. God created, this implies, God is in charge. Let’s apply this.
    22. Why be afraid?
    23. We must trust God; why shouldn’t we, if He is powerful enough to create everything we see, then He is trustworthy.
    24. If God didn’t create than we shouldn’t trust Him. Why trust God if He didn’t create, but if you believe Genesis chapters 1 and 2, then you have every reason to trust God.
    25. If God is not limited by time, then we don’t need to worry about the future.
    26. God knows the future and that is important. More than that, Revelation chapters 20-22 teach us that God has a plan for the future. That plan includes followers of Christ.
  2. Significance
    1. In between Genesis 1:2 and verse 31 we see the six day creation. How important are these six days to the rest of the Bible? What is the significance?
    2. Scripture affirms God as creator and a 6 day creation:
    3. Exodus 20:11: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
    4. Nehemiah 9:6: “You alone are the Lord.
      You have made the heavens,
      The heaven of heavens with all their host,
      The earth and all that is on it,
      The seas and all that is in them.
      You give life to all of them
      And the heavenly host bows down before You
    5. Col. 1:16: For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 
    6. Rev. 4:11: “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
    7. Mark 10:6: But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’
    8. 2 Peter 3:5-7: For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
    9. In that passage Peter is referring to creation and the flood and talking about people who deny these things.
    10. To change the creation account of Genesis is to change the foundation of our faith.
    11. Genesis is foundational to our faith.

In Crazy Love, Francis Chan writes:

Why would God create more than 350,000,000,000 galaxies (and this is a conservative estimate) that generations of people never saw or even knew existed? Do you think maybe it was to make us say, “Wow, God is unfathomably big”? Or perhaps God wanted us to see these pictures so that our response would be, “Who do I think I am?”

R. C. Sproul writes, “Men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God.

Did you know that a caterpillar has 228 separate and distinct muscles in its head? That’s quite a few, for a bug. The average elm tree has approximately 6 million leaves on it. And your own heart generates enough pressure as it pumps blood throughout your body that it could squirt blood up to 30 feet. (I’ve never tried this, and I don’t recommend it.)

Have you ever thought about how diverse and creative God is? He didn’t have to make hundreds of different kinds of bananas, but He did. He didn’t have to put 3,000 different species of trees within one square mile in the Amazon jungle, but He did. God didn’t have to create so many kinds of laughter. Think about the different sounds of your friends’ laughs—wheezes, snorts, silent, loud, obnoxious.

How about the way plants defy gravity by drawing water upward from the ground into their stems and veins? Or did you know that spiders produce three kinds of silk? When they build their webs, they create sixty feet of silk in one hour, simultaneously producing special oil on their feet that prevents them from sticking to their own web. (Most of us hate spiders, but sixty feet an hour deserves some respect!) Coral plants are so sensitive that they can die if the water temperature varies by even one or two degrees.[4]

We serve an amazing God!

[1] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 122.

[2] Michael Guillen, “Amazing Truths: How Science and the Bible Agree,” (Zondervan, 2016), Page 98

[3] Source: Tony Campolo, “If I Should Wake Before I Die,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 124.

[4] Excerpt From: Francis Chan. “Crazy Love.” iBooks.

The Significance that God IS Creator (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1-5)

The Significance that God IS Creator (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1-5) Why does it matter that God created? I will also introduce the series in this sermon.

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Saturday, January 8 and Sunday, January 9, 2022

On Christmas Day 1968, the three astronauts of Apollo 8 circled the dark side of the moon and headed for home. Suddenly, over the horizon of the moon rose the blue and white Earth garlanded by the glistening light of the sun against the black void of space. Those sophisticated men, trained in science and technology, did not utter Einstein’s name. They did not even go to the poets, the lyricists, or the dramatists. Only one thing could capture the awe-inspiring thrill of this magnificent observation. Billions heard the voice from outer space as the astronaut read it: “In the beginning God”–the only concept worthy enough to describe that unspeakable awe, unutterable in any other way. “In the beginning God created”–the invasive, the inescapable sense of the infinite and the eternal.[1]

G. K. Chesterton shared:

It is absurd for the Evolutionist to complain that it is unthinkable for an admittedly unthinkable God to make everything out of nothing, and then pretend that it is more thinkable that nothing should turn itself into anything.[2]

Today, I begin a new series on Genesis chapters 1-11 and my goal is to talk about how these chapters are foundational to our faith. Today, we begin with God as creator.

My theme today is:

God as creator is foundational to our faith.

Read with me Genesis 1:1:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

  1. Let’s talk about God as creator from Genesis 1:1.
    1. God created….
    2. The passage begins with “first” or “the beginning.”
    3. It is like this is a lesson on when time began.
    4. This is the beginning of time.
    5. God created. God is creating.
    6. In the beginning is the best translation, “beginning” implies the definite article within it, though in Hebrew there is no definite article “the.”[3]
    7. This is also the beginning of the Torah. Torah means “instruction” not “Law.”
    8. The Torah is a book of instruction about the Law.[4]
    9. First, distinction in Scripture is the separation between Creator and creation. Later distinction between humans and the rest of creation.
    10. God created the heavens, plural, and the earth.
    11. They would view heavens as plural and the earth.
    12. This encompasses everything.
    13. This means that God created matter.
    14. God had to also create the space to fit the matter.
    15. This is a figure of speech called a “merism” this means He created everything. Dr Rydelnic believes heaven has always been there (Open Line, Moody Radio, Oct 19, 2019).
    16. Dr Rydelnic: There is nothing in Genesis 1-2 that reads like poetry until the end: “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh… the rest is narrative and narrative we read as narrative.[5]
  2. Why does this matter for the rest of the Bible?
    1. I aim to make the case that Genesis chapters 1-11 are foundational to our faith.
    2. This means that we start with God. In a moment, I will share applications as to why God as creator matters to our life, but what about the rest of the Bible?
    3. Why do foundations matter?
    4. I heard about a building at Ohio State University, it is a postmodern building. It has staircases that go nowhere and all kinds of odd stuff.
    5. One author writes about it: I remember lecturing at Ohio State University, one of the largest universities in this country. I was minutes away from beginning my lecture, and my host was driving me past a new building called the Wexner Center for the Performing Arts.
    6. He said, “This is America’s first postmodern building.”
    7. I was startled for a moment and I said, “What is a postmodern building?”
    8. He said, “Well, the architect said that he designed this building with no design in mind. When the architect was asked, ‘Why?’ he said, ‘If life itself is capricious, why should our buildings have any design and any meaning?’ So he has pillars that have no purpose. He has stairways that go nowhere. He has a senseless building built and somebody has paid for it.”
    9. I said, “So his argument was that if life has no purpose and design, why should the building have any design?”
    10. He said, “That is correct.”
    11. I said, “Did he do the same with the foundation?”
    12. All of a sudden there was silence.
    13. You see, you and I can fool with the infrastructure as much as we would like, but we dare not fool with the foundation because it will call our bluff in a hurry.[6]
    14. The foundation is critical. Genesis is the foundation of our faith. God is teaching us important foundational elements to our faith.
    15. If we cut out the foundation what happens?
    16. Is Genesis 1-11 we have:
      1. The origin of the doctrine of marriage.
      2. The origin of clothing is in Genesis.
      3. Genesis records God’s plan for gender.
      4. The Gospel is found in Genesis: We need a Savior because Adam (the father/head of the human race) sinned and brought literal death into creation (Genesis 3). That’s why Jesus had to come and literally die a physical death to take our place.[7]
    17. We see these ideas repeated in the New Testament and the rest of the Bible. We will talk about them in the coming weeks. But what about God as creator?
    18. John 1:1-3: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
    19. Colossians 1:15-17: He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
    20. Those texts in the New Testament connect God as creator with Jesus as creator.
    21. God created through Jesus.
    22. As Piper writes: So Paul teaches us that Jesus Christ created all that is. They were created through him. He was with and in God — and was God (John 1:1–3) — as God created all things through him.
    23. And all things were created for him. All that came into being exists for Christ — that is, it exists to display the greatness of Christ. Nothing — nothing! — in the universe exists for its own sake. Everything from the bottom of the oceans to the top of the mountains, from the smallest particle to the biggest star, from the most boring school subject to the most fascinating science, from the ugliest cockroach to the most beautiful human, from the greatest saint to the most wicked genocidal dictator — everything that exists, exists to make the greatness of Christ more fully known — including you, and the person you have the hardest time liking.[8]
  3. Some applications:
    1. If God created then, we have a purpose.
    2. God created: this is NOT nihilism which means life has no purpose. We have a purpose because God created us. We are created and if we walk through Genesis chapters 1 and 2 we see God giving man and woman a purpose. Man and woman were called to tend the garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15). We are still called by God to steward the planet. We are called to have children, that is still part of our purpose.
    3. God created: this is NOT existentialism, which means I must find meaning in my life because my life has no meaning.
    4. No, God gives us meaning to our life. God created us.
    5. God created: this is NOT hedonism: life has no purpose, have fun, go for it! Funny as it is, those who make life all about their own purpose are the most unhappy.
    6. No, life has a purpose and it is not simply about our fun.
    7. God created: this is NOT humanism, I must make the world a better place for humans.
    8. No, God is the creator. Humanism is closely linked with naturalism, which I already mentioned.
    9. God created: this is NOT transcendentalism which is nature is God, not pantheism, not panentheism.
    10. God created: this is NOT Pantheism which teaches that all is God. “Pan” means “all” and “theism” means God.
    11. God created: this is not panentheism which teaches that everything is in God. “Pan” means “all” and “en” means “in” and “theism” mean God.
    12. God created: this IS Theism
    13. God created and this also means that God is separate from His creation. God is not the same as His creation. God is separate from His creation.

As we build on this idea about Genesis 1-11 being foundational to our faith. I want to share that the whole Bible is about Jesus. I did not write the following, but it is good:

Whole Bible is about Jesus[9]

Genesis: He (Jesus) is the promise to Adam and Eve. He is the seed of the woman that would crush satan’s head.

Exodus: He (Jesus) is the Passover Lamb that saves us.

Leviticus: He (Jesus) is our great High Priest.

Numbers: He (Jesus) is our smitten Rock.

Deuteronomy: He (Jesus) is the prophet like Moses (Deut. 18:15).

Joshua: He is the Captain of the Lord’s armies, Captain of the Lord of Hosts.

Judges: He is the Creator and final judge.

Ruth: He is the Heavenly Kinsman Redeemer.

1 Samuel and 2 Samuel: He is the Anointed One.

1 and 2 Kings: He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

1 and 2 Chronicles: He is the glory of God in the Temple.

Ezra: He is the teacher that comes from God.

Nehemiah: He is the rebuilder of broken lives.

Esther: He is the protector of His people.

Job: He is the only comforter in times of trouble.

Psalms He is our good Shepherd.

Proverbs: He is the Wisdom of God.

Ecclesiastes: He is the preacher of the Kingdom of God.

Song of Solomon: He is the bridegroom whose coming to His bride, the church.

Isaiah: For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given and the government will be on His shoulders and He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isa 9:6).

Jeremiah: He is the Potter that shapes the clay of our lives into the image of God.

Lamentations: He is the weeping profit.  

Ezekiel: He is the Wheel inside the Wheel (Ezekiel 1).

Daniel: He is the Son of Man coming on the clouds in Great Glory; the fourth man in the furnace (Daniel 7 and Daniel 3).

Hosea: He is the Love of God to the back slider.

Joel: He is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Amos: He is the author of judgment and mercy.

Obadiah: He is the God of vengeance.

Jonah: He is the Salvation of our Lord.

Micah: He is the great intercessor.

Nahum: The stronghold in the days of trouble.

Habakkuk: He is the God of mercy.

Zephaniah: He is the establisher of the Kingdom of God upon the earth.

Haggai: He is the Desire of all nations.

Zechariah: He is the Branch of Jehovah.

Malachi: He is the Refiner’s fire, the Son of righteousness that will rise over the whole world with healing in His wings.

Matthew: He is the Kingly Messiah.

Mark: He is the miracle Worker.

Luke: He is the great physician.

John: He is the Lamb of God that takes a way the sin of the world (John 1:29).

Acts: He is the Risen Lord.

Romans: He is our justification.

1 and 2 Corinthians: He is our Sanctification.

Galatians: He is Liberator.

Ephesians: He is our perfection.

Philippians: He is our joy.

Colossians: He is the Head of the body, the church.

1 and 2 Thessalonians: He is the coming Lord Who will reign and rule forever.

1 and 2 Timothy: He is the judge of man.

Titus: He is the redeemer of the world.

Philemon: He is the Friend that sticks closer than a brother.   

Hebrews: He is the author and finisher of our salvation (Heb. 12:2).

James: He is the healer of all nations.

1 and 2 Peter: He is the Chief Shepherd and bishop of our souls.  

1, 2 and 3 John: He is the Word of God.

Jude: He is the coming Lord with 10,000 of His saints to exude judgment on the earth.

Revelation: He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of Jesse, the root of David, the Lamb of God, the Word of God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. 


[1] Ravi Zacharias, “If the Foundations Be Destroyed,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 142.

[2] Source: G. K. Chesterton in The Quotable Chesterton. Christianity Today, Vol. 31, no. 13

[3] Open Line, Dr. Rydelnic. Moody Radio; 11.28.2020

[4] Dr Rydelnic; Open Line; Moody Radio; 05.08.2021

[5] Dr. Rydenic; Moody Radio; Open line second hour; 06.27.2020




[9] Dr. Michael Yousseff; His radio program, Leading the Way, LTW; Nov 1, 2019

The Angels Visit the Shepherds (Luke 2:8-20)

The Angels Visit the Shepherds (Luke 2:8-20)

Prepared and preach by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, December 26

Christmas is over, I pray that you all had a very delightful Christmas.

Augustine wrote:

Our Lord came down from life to suffer death;
the Bread came down, to hunger;
the Way came down, on the way to weariness;
the Fount came down, to thirst.
—Augustine, Sermon 78

He so loved us that, for our sake,
He was made man in time,
although through him all times were made.
He was made man, who made man.
He was created of a mother whom he created.
He was carried by hands that he formed.
He cried in the manger in wordless infancy, he the Word,
without whom all human eloquence is mute.
—Augustine, Sermon 188, 2

In 1224, inspired by the sight of shepherds tending their flocks in the moonlight, St. Francis of Assisi asked a wealthy friend from Greccio, Italy, to help him construct a live manger scene (the first ever). The idea caught on. By the 15th century, nativity scenes proliferated in monasteries and churches throughout southern Europe. Today, perhaps the finest collection of miniature nativity scenes in the world is found in Munich’s National Museum of Bavaria where more than 200 are displayed.[1]

We have been preaching about the accounts of angels in the narratives of Jesus’ birth. Today, we will look at the angels visiting the shepherds. Recall the definition of angel: The meaning of the word angel: Angel. The Hebrew word malak simply means “messenger”; it may refer to a human messenger (1 Kings 19:2) or a divine messenger (Gen. 28:12). The basic meaning of the word is “one who is sent.” As a divine messenger an angel is a “heavenly being charged by God with some commission.”1 The word is found 103 times in the Old Testament. The Greek word angelos occurs 175 times in the New Testament; however, of men it is used only 6 times. The word angelos is similar to the Hebrew malak; it also means “messenger … who speaks and acts in the place of the one who has sent him.”[2]

  1. Angels visit the shepherds and they worship God (verses 8-14).
    1. Jesus has now been born and this passage is picking up right after His birth in Bethlehem.
    2. Luke 2:8-14 reads: And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,14 “Glory to God in the highest,
          and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
    3. Notice:
    4. The shepherds were in the same region.
    5. They were out in their fields.
    6. They were out there for the purpose of watching their flocks by night.
    7. A lot of study could be done about shepherds and the humility of that job. We often hear shepherds were the lowest class. They always go back to Genesis where Joseph’s brothers sold Joseph to shepherds but those were Egyptian shepherds, or Egyptian views of Shepherds. There is some Rabbinic literature negative of shepherds but that is from the 4th century AD.  Dr. Rydelnic does not think they were the lowest class. Dr Rydelnic agrees with the Life Application study Bible that these might have been the shepherds supplying the lambs for temple sacrifices that were used for forgiveness of sins. This would be true regardless of the season.[3]
    8. They [the shepherds] were literally guarding their flocks for the night.
    9. Verse 8 tells the place. Verse 9 is about to tell what happens.
    10. This is all happening simultaneously to the previous verses. Jesus has been born and it seems that at the same time as His birth, or right after His birth, this happens.
    11. An angel of the Lord “appeared” or “stood.” The NASB says “suddenly.”
    12. The Greek verb for “stood” carries the idea of “suddenly.”[4]
    13. What is it like to have something appear suddenly?
    14. The shepherds didn’t see the Angel coming over the hill.
    15. The shepherds didn’t hear the angel of the Lord be given clearance for landing.
    16. There is also Theological debate about what “Angel of the Lord” means. Sometimes that can mean an appearance of Christ in the Old Testament, Christophany. Or, a bodily appearance of God the Father, which could be Christ, Theophany. In this case I think this is a high-ranking angel.
    17. The “glory of the Lord shone around them”
    18. What does this look like? Ezekiel chapter 1 is similar.
    19. We do know they were scared.
    20. R.C. Sproul makes the case that this is the Shekinah glory of the Old Testament. The angel of the Lord is bathed in the Shekinah glory.[5]
    21. The word shekinah does not appear in the Bible, but the concept clearly does. The Jewish rabbis coined this extra-biblical expression, a form of a Hebrew word that literally means “he caused to dwell,” signifying that it was a divine visitation of the presence or dwelling of the Lord God on this earth. The Shekinah was first evident when the Israelites set out from Succoth in their escape from Egypt. There the Lord appeared in a cloudy pillar in the day and a fiery pillar by night: “After leaving Succoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people” (Exodus 13:20–22).[6]
    22. The shepherds were terribly frightened.
    23. The Greek uses the verb for “frightened” once and then a noun describing them as frightened along with an adjective to describe them as “greatly frightened.”
    24. Verse 10: The angel now speaks.
    25. The news the angel brings has three parts:
      1. 1. Good news;
      2. 2. Great joy;
      3. 3. For all people: that is deep;
      4. Jesus blesses all people.
    26. Verse 11 explains this even more:
    27. The city of David, that is Jerusalem
    28. A Savior has been born today.
      1. So, how long did it take the shepherds to get to Him?
      1. He is Christ: this is not Jesus’ last name but a title meaning “the anointed one.”
    29. Verse 12: The angel is about to give them a sign of who Jesus is. Jesus will be found in swaddling cloths (strips of cloth), lying in a manger (a feeding trough).
    30. I heard Swindoll say that the shepherds wouldn’t be surprised because they did the same thing when their wives delivered. They would lay the baby in a feeding trough.
    31. Verse 13: Suddenly (adverb, unexpectantly): A great multitude of Heavenly Hosts (angels) appeared.
    32. This really happened. I wonder what it was like. What is it like to see Angels appear from thin air???
    33. “Hosts” carries the idea of an army.[7]
    34. These angels were praising God and saying:
    35. Verse 14: Glory to God in the highest!!
      1. There is no greater glory to God.
      2. I can’t describe a way to worship God high enough.
      3. they may not have had words to describe how the Angels were worshipping God.
      4. The shepherds hear the angels praising God and this might be among the words they heard.
    36. and peace among those with whom He is pleased with: Jesus will bring peace in eternity.
  2. In verses 15-20: the shepherds go to Jesus and worship Jesus.
    1. We are not going to read those verses today, but allow me to make a few comments.
    2. Verse 15 shares that the angels went away from them and they went away into “the Heavens.”
    3. This must have been a sight to see. A visual picture of this would be awesome.
    4. The shepherds spoke to one another about what to do.
    5. They want to go to Bethlehem right away.
    6. They want to see what the Lord has done.
    7. Verse 16: so they go in haste.
    8. They didn’t linger, they didn’t waste time.
    9. They found their way.
    10. They had to search for the stable to find Mary and Joseph and the baby.
    11. Jesus was still in a feeding trough.
    12. They must have gotten there quickly.
    13. This shows that this event happened likely the same night as His birth.
    14. Verse 17: Once they saw this they explained what the angel had said.
    15. This must have happened so that the incident could be written down.
    16. Verse 18: They wondered about what was told to them. It seems that this mesmerized them.
    17. They were amazed.
    18. Verse 19 is key and it seems to be a key verse for the Gospel according to Luke. Mary remembered these things. This may be how Luke received the material.
    19. Later on in verse 51 this is repeated.
    20. Verse 20: the Shepherds went back but they were glorifying and praising God.

Some final applications:

  1. This was not a silent night.
    1. All was not calm and bright.
    2. It was hard a very difficult night.
    3. He was born not in a hospital, or in a guest room, but in a stable.
    4. We all have journeys that are difficult:
      1. Jacob’s son, Joseph, was sold into slavery (Gen. 37).
      2. David fled Saul and fled to the Philistines for a few years (1 Samuel  19ff and chapter 27) and he wrote Psalms asking, “Why do You allow my enemies to prosper?” “When are You going to save me?” That was not the end of the story.
      3. Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego were told to bow down and worship the king’s image, but they didn’t (Daniel 3). That was not the end of the story.
      4. The people of Israel were exiled for 50 years but that was not the end.
      5. Now, the child born in a stable would walk to Calvary, but that was not the end of the story.

All of us take difficult journeys but God walks with us on the journeys. God redeems the journeys and that is not the end of the story.

Mary could not see that the angels would be rejoicing. She could not see that we would be reading the story two thousand years later.  However, we are.


[1] Source: Nan Bauroth in Christmas: An Annual Treasury (Vol. 66, Augsburg). Christian Reader, Vol. 34.

1 Gerhard von Rad, “Mal’āk in the Old Testament,” in Gerhard Kittel, ed., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 10 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964), 1:76–77.

[2] Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1989), 286–287.

[3] Open Line on Moody radio 12.22.2018

[4]Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg and Neva F. Miller, vol. 4, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, Baker’s Greek New Testament library, 183 (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2000).

[5] Renewing Your Mind, 10.03.2021


[7]Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg and Neva F. Miller, vol. 4, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, Baker’s Greek New Testament library, 358 (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2000).

3 Kings and the providence of God, Jesus is Born in Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-7).

3 Kings and the providence of God, Jesus is Born in Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-7).

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Friday, December 24, Christmas Eve

3 Kings and the providence of God.

I like to play chess. I like the game of chess a lot. I do not play it much, but I really like the game. My dad taught me to play chess when I was in elementary school. Correction, my dad taught my older brother, then my older brother taught me. I like chess, it is a game of strategy.

J. Oswald Sanders reports that years ago, Paul Morphy was the world’s champion chess player when he was invited by a friend to look at a valuable painting titled, “The Chess Player.” In the painting, Satan was represented as playing chess with a young man, the stake being the young man’s soul. The game had reached the stage where it was the young man’s move; but he was checkmated. There was no move he could make which would not mean defeat for him and so the strong feature of the picture was the look of utter despair on the young man’s face as he realized that his soul was lost.

Morphy, who knew more about chess than the artist, studied the picture for a time, then called for a chessboard and pieces. Placing them in exactly the same position as they were in the painting, he said, “I’ll take the young man’s place and make the move.” Then he made the move which would have set the young man free.[1]

That is a powerful illustration about God’s love, but also God’s providence. God is the ultimate chess player.

Do you believe in coincidence? I do not believe in coincidence. I believe in the providence of God. God is sovereign, this means that He has total control. Further, God uses His control to arrange things the way He needs them to carry out His will. Somehow, God can bring together our freewill with His sovereign will and plan. Further, God can bring together our freewill with His plan.

My theme today is:

The providence of God in Jesus’ birth.

In Luke 2:1-7 we see the birth of Jesus.

  1. Read with me Luke 2:1-2: Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.
    1. Isn’t this interesting. It was prophesied in Micah 5:2 that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. This was hundreds of years before Jesus. God is working out the details.
    2. R.C. Sproul has called this passage “Three Kings.” We have God the Father, Jesus, and Caesar.
    3. Caesar orders a census, but in reality this is God’s control.
    4. Look at verse 3: And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.
    5. So, everyone is traveling. Now, verses 4-5: Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.
    6. As a consequence of the census Joseph and Mary must travel to Bethlehem.
    7. Mary and Joseph are engaged to be married. We know from Luke 1 and Matthew chapter 1 that Mary is already pregnant with Jesus, the Messiah, the Savior.
    8. Now, look at Luke 2:6-7: While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
    9. Here they are in Bethlehem and the baby is to be born.
    10. Do you think they knew Jesus would be born in Bethlehem?
    11. Obviously, they knew 9 months and things like that, but a year before they did not know anything about this. A few months before they did not know they were going to have to travel.
    12. Here is Mary, obviously pregnant, and in God’s sovereign plan, in His providence, He brings Mary and Joseph to the right location for birth.
    13. 3 kings: God, the Father, Caesar, and now Jesus. Jesus is born in a barn and laid in a feeding trough.
    14. Jesus came in humility.
    15. God is in charge, this is how God wanted the Messiah to enter the world.

One writes:


You would think that if God so rules the world as to use an empire-wide census to bring Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, he surely could have seen to it that a room was available in the inn.

Yes, he could have. He absolutely could have! And Jesus could have been born into a wealthy family. He could have turned stone into bread in the wilderness. He could have called 10,000 angels to his aid in Gethsemane. He could have come down from the cross and saved himself. The question is not what God could do, but what he willed to do.

God’s will was that though Christ was rich, yet for your sake he became poor. The “No Vacancy” signs over all the motels in Bethlehem were for your sake. “For your sake he became poor” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

God rules all things — even hotel capacities and available Airbnbs — for the sake of his children. The Calvary road begins with a “No Vacancy” sign in Bethlehem and ends with the spitting and scoffing of the cross in Jerusalem.

And we must not forget that he said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross” (Luke 9:23).

We join him on the Calvary road and hear him say, “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).

To the one who calls out enthusiastically, “I will follow you wherever you go!” Jesus responds, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Luke 9:57–58).

Yes, God could have seen to it that Jesus have a room at his birth. But that would have been a detour off the Calvary road.[2]

Jesus came for you.

God is the Master chess player because He knows all things (omniscient). Further, He is all powerful (omnipotent), further He is present everywhere (omnipresent), further, He wants a relationship with you.

 What is Christmas all about?

In a nutshell Christmas is all about Jesus’ birth. God became a human being so that He could die for our sins. God brought events involving kings, common people, and shepherds in order to bring His Son into the world. Jesus lived among us for 33 years and then died in our place. He died for our sins. Do you believe that? I want to ask you a personal question: have you come to a point in your life where you have accepted Jesus into your heart for forgiveness of your sins. Jesus didn’t come to earth just to live with us; He came to instruct us and to die in our place.

The Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The Bible says that the penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23). The Bible says that Jesus is the way the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except by Him (John 14:6). The Bible teaches that sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). The Bible says that God will not let the guilty go unpunished (2 Thess 1:8-9). Yet, the Bible teaches that God loves the people of the world (John 3:16). That is a dilemma. God can’t tell a lie, or He wouldn’t be God (Numbers 23:19). God doesn’t change His mind (1 Sam 15:29). That is why God sent Jesus. The guilty must be punished. Jesus took our punishment on the cross. The penalty of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life (Romans 6:23 and John 14:6).

One of the most exciting things that you can do while celebrating Jesus’ birthday is to make it your spiritual birthday as well. You can accept Jesus’ free gift of salvation right now.

Pray with me and if you would like to believe in Christ today. This prayer is not a magical formula. It is just telling Jesus what you are doing.

Dear Jesus, I know that I have sinned. I know that you died to forgive me for my sins. I know that you rose again. Today, I confess that I am a sinner in need of a Savior. I believe in You, that You died in my place to take care of my sin, and that You rose again. I am committing my life to You, and trusting in You as Lord and Savior. Today, I am firmly making the decision to be with You, in order to become like You, to learn and do all that You say, and arrange my affairs around You. Please come into my life, and help me to live for you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.



The Angel Gabriel Visits Mary (Luke 1:26-38)

The Angel Gabriel Visits Mary (Luke 1:26-38)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH Saturday, December 18 and Sunday, December 19, 2021

As I think about the Christmas story I wonder, “What if Mary said, ‘No?’” I wonder, “Could Mary say no?”

If Mary said, “No,” what would have happened in Bethlehem?  As you know, Mary was the mother of Jesus, and this event did happen. Mary was told that she was to give birth to the Christ child. You know what? She didn’t even argue. You ask, “Why would she argue?” Well, though it was an honor for her, Mary did face a lot of shame and a lot of trouble for the virgin birth. We are going to look at Luke 1:26-38 and in this passage we will see that Mary is told about Jesus’ birth. I want you to notice the angel Gabriel coming to Mary. I want you to notice Mary’s obedience.

Two weeks ago, we began a series focusing on the angelic narratives in Luke 1. I do not want to so focus on the angel that we miss the point that the angel is conveying. There is only one angel in Luke 1, Gabriel. Gabriel’s name means the greatness of God. He appears in Daniel 9 and 11 as well. It seems that when God has something major to announce He sends Gabriel.

To review: What does the word angel mean? The Hebrew word malak simply means “messenger”; it may refer to a human messenger (1 Kings 19:2) or a divine messenger (Gen. 28:12). The basic meaning of the word is “one who is sent.” As a divine messenger an angel is a “heavenly being charged by God with some commission.”1 The word is found 103 times in the Old Testament. The Greek word angelos occurs 175 times in the New Testament; however, of men it is used only 6 times. The word angelos is similar to the Hebrew malak; it also means “messenger … who speaks and acts in the place of the one who has sent him.”[1]

  1. In verses 26-29 we see Mary being greeted by Gabriel.
    1. Let’s read Luke 1:26-29: In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be
    2. Notice the passage begins saying “In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy…” This is connecting this narrative with the previous narrative. In the previous verses the story is told of how John the Baptist came to be born to elderly parents.
    3. Now, the text says that Gabriel was sent to Nazareth in Galilee. Nazareth was the city, a very small city, Galilee was the greater area. Nazareth had 1600-2000 people at this time.
    4. Dr. Rydelnic, Professor of Jewish Studies and Bible at Moody Bible Institute, shares: Nazareth was the wrong side of the tracks. It was a poorer area.[2]
    5. Gabriel and Michael are the only angels in the New Testament; these are the most popular angels in Jewish lure.
    6. Now the angel comes to a virgin who was engaged or pledged to be married to Joseph. The Bible says that Joseph was a descendant of David.  Because Joseph was of David’s line and Jesus would be his legal son, Jesus could qualify as belonging to David’s royal house. The New American Commentary tells us that in Judaism, “virgins” were young maidens, usually fourteen or younger. Though Dr. Rydelnic believes she was more like 16 or 17 years old.
    7. Gabriel greets Mary by saying that she is highly favored and the Lord is with her.
    8. How often do you greet someone like that? Not often and that apparently was the same for Mary because she didn’t understand the greeting.
  2. So, in verses 30-33 we see Gabriel explain why she is favored.
    1. Let’s read Luke 1:30-33: And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.
    2. Notice that the angel starts by saying, Do not be afraid.” I like this because this verse shows that angels were warriors, they were an image which we usually don’t see. They were not fair skinned feminine creatures that look maternal.  This angel appears out of thin air and was something that she likely had never seen before.
    3. The angel tells her that she has found favor with God.
    4. Now, let’s stop there.  Now, I realize that my questions at the beginning of the sermon were not fair; obviously, God wouldn’t have chosen Mary if she would have resisted. But why did God choose her? She was favored by God. I wonder, was she such a respectful pious young lady that she was favored. Or, does favor simply mean that God is going to bestow on her this blessing of being mother to the Christ child? This could be either or both.
    5. Then the angel tells her that she will conceive and give birth to a son and call Him Jesus.
      1. Look at that.
        1. She is told that she will become pregnant. That is prophetic; in verse 34 she says that she is still a virgin.
        2. She is told that the baby will be a boy. Again, this is prophetic; she doesn’t even know she is pregnant. Besides, you cannot even know the sex of a baby until about 16 weeks.  Yet, the angel knows.
        3. She is told what to name the baby.
      2. Notice the mercy of God. Suppose that God had this plan unfold but did not tell Mary about it ahead of time. God tells Mary that she will be pregnant by the Holy Spirit.
      3. Now, this is not unusual in the Scriptures. In the Bible we learn that God controls the womb. In Genesis 17:17 and 18:12 both Abraham and Sarah laugh when they are told they are going to have a baby in their old age. But, God controls the womb. In Genesis 17:19 an angel tells Abraham what to name his son.
      4. In Luke 1:5-25 John the Baptist’s father, Zacharias was told that he will have a son in his old age, and he is told the name for the son will be John.
      5. Now, Mary likely knew that God controls the womb, but she is still a woman around 14 years old who is engaged to be married. If she is pregnant, how? Then, if she is pregnant and not by Joseph it will look like adultery and she could be stoned (Lev 20).
      6. This is the first and only time a virgin gives birth.
      7. Mary had to be thinking:
      8. What will I tell my fiancé?
      9. Now, some of you are thinking, “Who cares? She is not married, but engaged.”
      10. The New American Commentary says the following about Jewish marriage and engagement:

Marriage consisted of two distinct stages: engagement followed by the marriage itself. Engagement involved a formal agreement initiated by a father seeking a wife for his son. The next most important person involved was the father of the bride. A son’s opinion would be sought more often in the process than a daughter’s. Upon payment of a purchase price to the bride’s father (for he lost a daughter and helper whereas the son’s family gained one) and a written agreement and/or oath by the son, the couple was engaged. Although during this stage the couple in some instances cohabited, this was the exception. An engagement was legally binding, and any sexual contact by the daughter with another person was considered adultery. The engagement could not be broken save through divorce (Matt 1:19), and the parties during this period were considered husband and wife (Matt 1:19–20, 24). At this time Mary likely was no more than fifteen years old, probably closer to thirteen, which was the normal age for betrothal.[3]

  1. Mary also must have been thinking, “What will I tell my parents?”
    1. Mary must have been thinking, “What will the neighbors think? I will be the talk of the town. What does it feel like to die by stoning?”
    2. We don’t know Mary’s thoughts but we do know that she doesn’t argue. She is totally obedient.
    3. Gabriel does tell Mary, He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
    4. That is a major verse. He will grow up to have the throne of Israel. Now, Mary likely interpreted this to mean that He will physically be the king just as David was in the Old Testament and David was the greatest king of Israel.
    5. But David died and his son Solomon ruled Israel, then Solomon died and Israel was split into a divided monarchy by Solomon’s children, David’s grandchildren.
    6. David and Solomon were mortal kings.
    7. Mary is told that her son will reign forever.
    8. That is a lot of responsibility. She is to be the mother of the future, eternal king of Israel. Wow!
  2. In verses 34-35 we see how this will happen
    1. Let’s read Luke 1:34-35:  And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be  called holy—the Son of God
    2. Mary does ask how this can be because she is a virgin.
    3. I like how Sproul says: She is saying, “ I may not be a biologist but I know how babies come.” She knew natural law. God governs by natural law. If you drop something it falls because of gravity. That is why historically people called miracles going against natural law.[4]
    4. The angel then explains that “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.[5]
    5. Gabriel gives telltale clues about the metaphysics of the virgin birth, in that the Holy Spirit will “overshadow” (Greek episkiazō) Mary (Luke 1:35). This verb is used elsewhere for the glorious manifestation of God on earth (Matthew 17:5; Luke 9:34; Exodus 40:35), implying that God’s Spirit is the active agent of the special creation of the human body of Jesus in Mary’s womb.[6]
    6. Now, there are some in our churches that might say that Mary was not really a virgin. I must ask, “If you don’t believe in the virgin birth, than you might as well take all the other miracles out of the Bible.” She was a virgin; verse 34 makes that quite clear. God the Father is the father of this baby, and this happened in a miraculous way.
    7.  I want to take an excurses on apologetics for a moment. Some think that the virgin birth was copied off of pagan myths. Kevin Deyoung answers that in an article with the Gospel Coalition:  

Many have objected to the virgin birth because they see it as a typical bit of pagan mythologizing. “Mithraism had a virgin birth. Christianity had a virgin birth. They are all just fables. Even Star Wars has a virgin birth.” This popular argument sounds plausible at first glance, but there are a number of problems with it.

(1) The assumption that there was a prototypical God-Man who had certain titles, did certain miracles, was born of a virgin, saved his people, and then got resurrected is not well-founded. In fact, no such prototypical “hero” existed before the rise of Christianity.

(2) It would have been unthinkable for a Jewish sect (which is what Christianity was initially) to try to win new converts by adding pagan elements to their gospel story. I suppose a good Jew might make up a story to fit the Old Testament, but to mix in bits of paganism would have been anathema to most Jews.

(3) The supposed virgin birth parallels are not convincing. Consider some of the usual suspects.

Alexander the Great: his most reliable ancient biographer (several centuries after his death) makes no mention of a virgin birth. Besides, the story that began to circulate (after the rise of Christianity) is about an unusual conception, but not a virgin birth. Alexander’s parents were already married when he was born.

Dionysus: like so many of the pagan “parallels,” he was born when a god (in this case Zeus) disguised himself as a human and impregnated a human princess. This is not a virgin birth and not like the Holy Spirit’s role we read about in the Gospels.

Mithra: he’s a popular parallel. But he was born of a rock, not a virgin. Moreover, the cult of Mithra in the Roman Empire dates to after the time of Christ, so any dependence is Mithraism on Christianity and not the other way around.

Buddha: his mother dreamed that Buddha entered her in the form of a white elephant. But this story doesn’t appear until five centuries after his death, and she was already married.

In short, the so-called parallels always occur well after the life in question, well into the Christian era, and are not really stories of virginal conceptions.[7]

  1. God created the womb; God can surely provide the baby.
  2. In verses 36-37 we see a miracle has already been performed.
    1. Read with me Luke 1:36-37: And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”
    2. In these two verses we see that her cousin, who was elderly, was pregnant.
    3. Then, I love verse 37, “For nothing will be impossible with God.”
      1. Do you doubt God?
      2. Do you find it hard to believe in the virgin birth?
      3. Do you find it hard to believe that Jesus later would turn water into wine (John chapter 2)?
      4. Do you find it hard to believe that Jesus would heal many people (Luke 4:38-44; 7:22; etc)?
      5. Do you find it hard to believe that Jesus fed 5000 (Luke 9:12ff)?
      6. Do you find it hard to believe that Jesus raised a dead man to life (John 11:43)?
      7. Do you find it hard to believe that Jesus was resurrected and still lives (Luke 24 and other passages)?
      8. Nothing is impossible with God. God can do all things. I am convinced that we all struggle with faith sometimes, even pastors. But why do we want to believe in such a little God? If He is God, He must be greater than we are.
  3. In verse 38 we see Mary’s great obedience
    1. Read with me Luke 1:38: And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
    2. Mary doesn’t say, “Well, Gabriel, I really, really, really thank you for considering me for this task. I mean, like, I know that I am a true and godly young lady and that is likely why you chose me, but, you know, I, like, I’m not up for this. I mean, I am still young, and I don’t want the public humiliation and well, just ask someone else.”
    3. No, Mary accepts. Now, could Mary say no? We can’t answer that. But we do know what she says, “I am the Lord’s servant.”
    4. How is your obedience?

At a certain children’s hospital, a boy gained a reputation for wreaking havoc with the nurses and staff. One day a visitor who knew about his terrorizing nature made him a deal: “If you are good for a week,” she said, “I’ll give you a dime when I come again.” A week later she stood before his bed. “I’ll tell you what,” she said, “I won’t ask the nurses if you behaved. You must tell me yourself. Do you deserve the dime?”

After a moment’s pause, a small voice from among the sheets said: “Gimme a penny.” [8]

  • God may not be calling you to give birth to His son (which is good if you are a man because that would be a bigger miracle than the virgin birth), but maybe God is calling you to buy Christmas presents for a neighbor’s children.
    • Are you resisting something that God is telling you to do?
    • Maybe God wants you to apologize to someone you offended this past week.
    • Be obedient. Be God’s servant as Mary was.


1 Gerhard von Rad, “Mal’āk in the Old Testament,” in Gerhard Kittel, ed., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 10 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964), 1:76–77.

[1] Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1989), 286–287.

[2] Dr. Rydelnic. Open Line; 06.19.2021

[3] Stein, R. H. (2001). Vol. 24: Luke (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (82). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[4] Renewing Your Mind (08.22.2021)

[5] The New International Version. 2011 (Lk 1:35). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.



[8] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 413. Exerted from Lewis and Faye Copeland, 10,000 Jokes, Toasts, and Stories.  

The Angels in Luke 1 (Gabriel Visits Zechariah Luke 1:5-25)

The Angels in Luke 1 (Gabriel Visits Zechariah Luke 1:5-25)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Saturday, December 4 and Sunday, December 5, 2021

The American storyteller Garrison Keillor recently claimed that you don’t have to believe in Jesus to have a great Christmas. Keillor said,

Although you may decide that instead of Christmas carols you are going to hold hands and breathe in unison, Christmas will still live deep in the cockles of your heart—or actually in your neo-cortex, stored as zillions of neuron impulses … It’s [your brain] that sends tears to your eyes when you smell the saffron cookies that your grandma used to make or you sing Silent Night. So Christmas is: number one lights, number two food, number three song, number four being with people you like. You need no more.

Tim Keller comments on Keillor’s quote:

Keillor is saying that it doesn’t matter whether you believe in God or not. You can still hold hands, you can still breathe in unison. All the good feelings of Christmas are just a reaction in our brain. But here’s why that doesn’t work. I know enough about Garrison Keillor to know that he is very upset with cruelty and prejudice. But if it’s really true that there is no God, if there is no supernatural or miracles, and if everything is a function of natural causes—if that is all true, then it is also true that love, and joy, and even cruelty and prejudice are just all chemical reactions stored in our brain. Keillor is against cruelty and prejudice, but if it’s true that everything is just chemistry, then how in the world can you say there’s a moral difference between love and cruelty, between kissing someone or killing someone? They’re both nothing but neuro-chemical responses. So if there is no God, and if Christmas is all about lights, songs, and being with nice people and your neo-cortex going crazy about it, then I don’t see how Keillor can stand up and say that there is something wrong with cruelty and prejudice. He can’t do it. Without the theology behind Christmas, you lose the core meaning of Christmas.[1]

You see, Jesus is the point of Christmas. Jesus is the point of the New Testament. Jesus is the point of Luke’s Gospel. But Luke doesn’t begin His gospel with Jesus. He begins with John the Baptizer. Really, Luke begins with John’s father, Zechariah, and his mother, Elizabeth. Over the next month I want to focus on the accounts of the angels in Luke chapters 1 and 2. To begin the Christmas narrative we see an angel visit Zechariah. What does the word angel mean? The Hebrew word malak simply means “messenger”; it may refer to a human messenger (1 Kings 19:2) or a divine messenger (Gen. 28:12). The basic meaning of the word is “one who is sent.” As a divine messenger an angel is a “heavenly being charged by God with some commission.”1 The word is found 103 times in the Old Testament. The Greek word angelos occurs 175 times in the New Testament; however, of men it is used only 6 times. The word angelos is similar to the Hebrew malak; it also means “messenger … who speaks and acts in the place of the one who has sent him.”[2]

God sent the angel Gabriel to announce His plans to Zechariah. This was because Zechariah and Elizabeth were older and did not have children, yet God was going to allow Elizabeth to conceive and John the baptizer would be born. John would prepare the way for Jesus.


God sends Gabriel to announce His miraculous plan to Zechariah.

Let’s read Luke 1:5-25:

The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” 21 And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. 23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

Let’s walk through this passage:

  1. Notice the godliness of Zechariah and Elizabeth (verse 6).
    1. The passage says they were both righteous in the sight of God, observing the Lord’s commands. Now, this does not mean they were perfect, but it does mean that they were striving to be. It means that the patterns of their life were following God and His will.
    2. Yet even when one is godly one can still have trouble (verse 7).
    3. Most of you know there is a Christmas classic called It’s a Wonderful Life. In this movie George Bailey is doing everything right, but he comes up with a major problem.
    4. Now, look at verse 7: they are very old and they are childless. Not being able to bear children in that day was a very bad thing. It was quite a curse. Sometimes people may even think this is the case because of some sin they have been involved in. People would think that God has not been blessing them. But in the previous verse we can see that this is not about sin. They are living godly lives. They are righteous. They are observing the Lord’s commands.
    5. We know from context that this is about the Lord’s commands. Zechariah and Elizabeth will be blessed for this trouble. They will eventually still have a child and he is to be the forerunner for the Messiah.
  2. God answers prayer (verses 8-17)
    1. Now, as we look at the next few verses, we see that God does answer this situation.
    2. All through the Bible we learn that God controls the womb. Way back in Genesis Abraham and Sarah could not have a child until God fixes that situation (Genesis 17). Later on, Samuel’s mother Hannah could not have a child either, but God gives her a son and he is among the greatest of prophets (1 Samuel 1). God controls the womb.
    3. So now we have Zechariah, who is a priest, and he is selected to go into the temple and burn incense. By the way, this is a high honor. Apparently there were around 13,000 priests and so they chose this person by lot, and no one could do this more than once, but most never got such an honor. But you know what? God was over this process. The Lord was active in every single detail in order to work out His Divine will.
    4. Verse 10 shows us that a whole multitude was outside praying while he is inside performing his priestly duty.
    5. Praise God for prayer warriors. We also need to value prayer in this way. I wonder for all of us who are Christ followers, are we praying for God’s work in every worship service. Are we committing to prayer meetings?
    6. Now, you are wondering, “When do we see the angel?” We are going to see the angel now.
    7. Verses 11-12 show the angel Gabriel shows up. What would this be like? What would I think if I was preparing a sermon and all of a sudden God’s messenger is right next to me? This really did happen. And he was scared. But the Bible says that Gabriel told him not to be afraid.
    8. In verse 13 the angel tells him that his prayer has been heard. Was his prayer for a son? Was his prayer for the Messiah? What was his prayer? Was his prayer right there in the temple or was it a prayer that he had been saying for years? Even if he was praying for the Messiah that is answered in his son performing the role of the forerunner for the Messiah.
    9. God answers prayer, but they are answered according to His Divine will and plan.
    10. We must realize that this is all taking place to prepare the way for the Messiah. All of these details for Christ’s advent.
  3. John’s role (verse 16-17). Now, notice what John the baptizer’s role will be:
    1. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit from the time he is in the womb. In the Old Testament some had temporary baptisms with the Holy Spirit, but John will have the Spirit from the womb.
    2. Remember that we also have the Holy Spirit as Christians. We are never alone (Romans 8:9).
    3. He will turn many of the Jewish people back to the Lord their God (verse 16). John the baptizer had a role in calling the people in repentance.
    4. He will be a forerunner for Him (Jesus).
    5. As a forerunner, he will be in the Spirit and power of Elijah. In Malachi 3:1 God talked about sending a messenger ahead of the Messiah and then again in Malachi 4:5 God talked about the same thing.
    6. Point of importance is that all this happens to prepare the way for Jesus
  4. But notice that Zechariah has unbelief (verses 18-20).
    1. In verse 18, Zechariah asks how this will be. R.C. Sproul says it is like he is saying, “I am too old, you have the wrong address Mr. Angel!”
    2. Then in verse 19 look at Gabriel’s response: And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.
    3. That is powerful. He reminds Zechariah who he is talking to. Then he says that he stands in the presence of God, wow!
    4. Gabriel’s name means “the greatness of God.” He appears in Daniel 9 and 11 as well.
    5. It seems that when God has something major to announce He sends Gabriel.
    6. Notice that even people who are great models of faithfulness do have problems. Notice also that the Scriptures do not gloss over these problems. God still uses this for His glory.
    7. Listen, God will still use us in our unbelief. God has not given up on any of us and He has big plans!

God sent Gabriel to announce His plans. Prior to this there were 400 years of silence. From the time of Malachi until Luke 1, there were 400 years without special revelation from God.

To illustrate the 400-years of silence prior to the coming of Jesus, Del Tackett compares it to the Apollo 13 incident. On the evening of April 13, when the crew was 200,000 miles from Earth and closing in on the moon, mission controller Sy Liebergot saw a low-pressure warning signal on a hydrogen tank in Odyssey. Alarm lights lit up in Odyssey and in Mission Control as oxygen pressure fell and power disappeared. The crew notified Mission Control, with, “Houston, we’ve had a problem.”

For re-entry to the earth’s atmosphere, there would be a blackout period, lasting a few minutes. During the silence, Mission Control petitioned, “Apollo 13, this is Houston, do you read me?”

Tackett comments:

The Apollo 13 blackout lasted only a few minutes. Imagine 400-years of silence. Then the silence was broken. At the right time, God brought forth his Son, born of a woman and fulfilled all the promises and the prophesies. For unto us a child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulders; and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor; Mighty God; Everlasting Father; Prince of Peace.[3]

[1] Adapted from Tim Keller, “God with Us: Conversations with Tim Keller about Christmas”

1 Gerhard von Rad, “Mal’āk in the Old Testament,” in Gerhard Kittel, ed., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 10 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964), 1:76–77.

[2] Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1989), 286–287.

[3] Del Tackett, “Del Tackett Apollo 13 and Jesus,” Youtube

The Doxology of Romans, Glorify God (Romans 16:25-27)

The Doxology of Romans, Glorify God (Romans 16:25-27)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Saturday, November 27 and Sunday, November 28, 2021

When Rebecca Pippert was an agnostic, she had one question she continually wrestled with: How can finite limited human beings ever claim to know God? How do they know they are not being deceived?

Pippert writes:

One sunny day I was stretched out on the lawn … when I noticed that some ants were busy building a mound. I began to redirect their steps with twigs and leaves. But they simply bounced off and started a new ant mound. I thought, This is like being God! I am redirecting their steps, and they don’t even realize it!

At one point, two ants crawled onto my hands and I thought, Wouldn’t it be funny if one ant turned to the others and said, “Do you believe in Becky? Do you believe Becky really exists?” I imagine the other ant answering, “Don’t be ridiculous! Becky is a myth, a fairy tale!” How comical, I thought–the hubris of that ant declaring that I don’t exist, when I could easily blow it off my hand. But what if the other ant said, “Oh, I believe that Becky exists!” How would they resolve it? How could they know that I am real? I thought. What would I have to do to reveal to them who I am?

Suddenly I realized: the only way to reveal who I am, in a way that they could understand, would be to become an ant myself. I would have to identify totally with their sphere of reality. I sat upright, and I remember thinking, What an amazing thought! The scaling-down of the size of me to perfectly represent who I am in the form of an ant! I know; I would have to do tricks! Things that no other ant could do!

Then it hit me: I had just solved my problem of how finite creatures could ever discover God. God would have to come from the outside and reveal who he is.[1]

My theme today is:

Paul closes Romans with a sentence worshipping God.

  1. Glory to the only wise God
    1. Now, we finally come to the conclusion of Romans. Paul is going to conclude with a beautiful doxology. A doxology a liturgical formula of praise to God. It comes from the mid 17th century: via medieval Latin from Greek doxologia, from doxa ‘appearance, glory’ (from dokein ‘seem’) + -logia (see -logy). Logy has to do with a subject of speech or interest. So, doxology means glory word.
    2. This doxology rehashes some of the themes of Romans. It is even similar to his introduction showing how well thought out the epistle of Romans was.
    3. The final three verses of Romans (one sentence in Greek) form a doxology that is liturgical in character.85
    4. Look at verse 25-27: 25Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.
    5. Paul begins with, “now,” or “and” which is just moving the thought forward.
    6. To Him…
    7. By context we know that he is writing about God, the Father.
    8. To Him Who is able…
    9. Do you know we could have a sermon on just that phrase? We could have a whole sermon on the idea that God is able. But Paul does get more specific.
    10. Paul says, “strengthen you.” To Him Who is able to strengthen you.
    11. God is able to strengthen you… but how?
    12. “according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ…”
    13. This does not mean that the Gospel is literally Paul’s. No, Paul just had a stewardship in preaching the gospel.
    14. God is able to strengthen you by the Gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ.
    15. I think that is what this is about and he is going to expand on it.
    16. Paul continues: “according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages…” God is able to strengthen you according to the gospel and the revelation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, what is that mystery? In the Bible a mystery was something that had not been revealed but now was revealed. So, in this case the mystery is how Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again. Further, I think this mystery is about how God planned to bring all nations together.
    17. Paul says this mystery was kept secret for long ages but now has been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—
    18. Remember all those Old Testament passages that Paul has been referencing? Paul has been using all of these Old Testament passages in order to show how the Old Testament prophesied about the gentiles believing. The mystery was kept secret, but now is revealed.
    19. “Mystery” is a common idea in Paul’s writings: Matt 13:35; Rom 11:25; 1 Cor 2:1, 7; 4:1; Eph 1:9; 3:3, 9; 6:19; Col 1:26f; 2:2; 4:3; 1 Tim 3:16[2]
    20. Paul used the prophetic writings to reveal this mystery. This mystery was revealed to the nations, in other words to the gentiles. The mystery is about salvation by faith alone, in Christ alone, and the salvation is for Jew and gentile.
    21. Romans 1:1-5 is about the mystery of the Gospel, Jesus risen from the dead.
    22. In mentioning the obedience of faith, Paul concludes his letter where he began (1:5).[3]
    23. This came about according to the command of the eternal God.
    24. This is a theological statement.
    25. The eternal God, God is eternal. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He is outside of time (Colossians 1:17; Revelation 1:8; 21:6; and 22:13).
    26. This mystery is according to the command of the eternal God and what is the purpose? To bring about the obedience of faith. God wants Jews and gentiles to believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior to have faith in Him.
    27. The Holman Christian Standard Bible is really good here: but now revealed and made known through the prophetic Scriptures, according to the command of the eternal God to advance the obedience of faith among all nations—
    28. One source: When Paul began this letter, he explained that he had received grace and apostleship ‘to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith’ (1:5). Towards the end of the letter he says that he won’t boast except of what Christ has accomplished through him ‘in leading the Gentiles to obey God’ (15:18), and in 16:19 he tells his audience that he rejoices because ‘everyone has heard about your obedience’. The mystery that has been revealed clearly now is that Gentiles as well as Jews should come to ‘the obedience that comes from faith’. What Paul means by ‘the obedience that comes from faith’ is primarily the obedience that consists in faith in the gospel.[4]
    29. Verse 27: is a powerful statement.
    30. To the only wise God…
    31. As the only God, He is the God of both Jews and Gentiles (cf. 3:29–30).[5]
    32. God is wise.
    33. Romans teaches that God is wise. Romans 11:28 and the following verses: Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
    34. Romans 11:34: Who has known the mind of the Lord?
    35. God is wise.
    36. To the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ, amen.
    37. Give glory to God. That statement gives glory to God, because the statement itself says that He is the only wise God.
  2. applications
    1. We must recognize that God is able.
    2. God is able to save us.
    3. God is able to take care of our needs.
    4. God is able to strengthen us.
    5. God is able to strengthen you by the Gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ.
    6. We must trust God.
    7. God has revealed Himself and His way of salvation to us.
    8. We must worship God.
    9. He is the only God.
    10. He is wise.
    11. He deserves glory.

God is powerful:

Why do we people in churches seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? …

On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning.

It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.[6]

[1] Source: Rebecca Pippert, Stay Salt: The World has Changed Our Message Must Not, (The Good Book Company, 2020), pp. 39-40

85 Dunn lays out the Greek text in graphic form to show the orderly relationship between clauses (Romans, 2:913).

[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995).

[3] Paige Patterson, “Salvation in the Old Testament,” in CSB Study Bible: Notes, ed. Edwin A. Blum and Trevin Wax (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), 1806.

[4] Colin G. Kruse, Paul’s Letter to the Romans, ed. D. A. Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Cambridge, U.K.; Nottingham, England; Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; Apollos, 2012), 588–589.

[5] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Ro 16:27.

[6] Source: Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk (Harper Perennial, 1988), p. 52.

Paul’s Personal Greetings and Appreciation of Christian Workers (Romans 16:1-24)

Paul’s Personal Greetings and Appreciation of Christian Workers (Romans 16:1-24)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Saturday, November 20 and Sunday, November 21, 2021

The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give his church. It’s an imitation, dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than reality, but it is a permissive, accepting, and inclusive fellowship. It is unshockable. It is democratic. You can tell people secrets and they usually don’t tell others or even want to. The bar flourishes not because most people are alcoholics, but because God has put into the human heart the desire to know and be known, to love and be loved, and so many seek a counterfeit at the price of a few beers.

With all my heart I believe that Christ wants his church to be unshockable, democratic, permissive—a fellowship where people can come in and say, “I’m sunk!” “I’m beat!” “I’ve had it!” Alcoholics Anonymous has this quality. Our churches too often miss it.

—Keith Miller and Bruce Larson, Edge of Adventure[1]

My theme today is:

Paul’s final greetings.

We must be thankful for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

  1. Phoebe (verses 1-2)
    1. So, we are finishing up Romans this week and next week.
    2. Paul has shared deep theology in Romans chapters 1-11.
    3. Paul has shared a lot about Christian living in Romans chapters 14-15.
    4. Now, Paul is giving final greetings.
    5. MacArthur: This chapter, which has almost no explicit teaching and contains several lists of mostly unknown people, is the most extensive and intimate expression of Paul’s love and affection for other believers and co-workers found anywhere in his NT letters. It also provides insights into the lives of ordinary first-century Christians and gives an inside look at the nature and character of the early church.[2]
    6. I have heard some share that Paul cannot say “hello” without declaring the Gospel. We see that in this section as we see some great theology in verse 20.
    7. Thomas Schreiner suggests that the repeated phrases “in Christ” and “in the Lord” throughout Romans 16 demonstrate that Paul’s relationships were “rooted in the new life of Christ.” This makes the greetings of Romans 16 far more than pleasantries — rather, they are concrete expressions of the very gospel about which Paul writes so powerfully earlier in the letter.[3]
    8. Let’s read verses 1-2, Romans 16:1-2: I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.
    9. N. T. Wright points out that we cannot prove it, but it is likely that the one who delivers the letter read the letter. In this case that is Phoebe. This would be a woman giving the public reading of Scripture.
    10. Notice that the ministry of women in the Roman church is quite evident in this chapter. Paul referred to nine prominent women: Phoebe, Prisca, Mary, Tryphena, Thyphosa, Persis, Rufus’ mother, Julia, and Nereus’ sister.[4]
    11. This is really powerful how Paul commends Phoebe and calls her a servant. It could actually be rendered as “deaconess.”
    12. This also tells where she is from “Cenchrea.”
    13. In verse 2 Paul tells them to “welcome” or “receive her,” but receive her “in the Lord.”
    14. Paul wants them to help her in whatever she needs from them.
    15. She has been a patron, or “helper” of many including Paul. Phoebe served as a patron, probably with financial assistance and hospitality.[5]
  2. Other greetings (verses 3-16)
    1. Paul sends greetings to 26 individuals (16:3–16).[6]
    2. Let’s read verses 3-16, Romans 16:3-16: Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia. Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. 10 Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. 11 Greet my kinsman Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus. 12 Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers who are with them. 15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. 16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.
    3. Paul gives quite a list of greetings, with a few additional details.
    4. Prisca and Aquila (2 people): fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their life for Paul. Paul gives thanks to them and all the churches among the gentiles, including the church in their house. 1 Cor 16:19; Col 4:15; Philem 2[7] are all similar.
    5. Prisca is given the diminutive name Priscilla in Acts (Acts 18:2–3, 18, 26).[8]
    6. Epaenetus (total of 3 people now): Paul’s beloved and the first convert in Asia.
    7. Verse 6 mentions Mary (total of 4 people) (This is not the mother of Jesus, but another Mary).
    8. Verse 7: Andronicus and Junia (6 people greeted now). Paul calls them outstanding among the apostles, fellow prisoners and they were in Christ before Him. Junia is a female.
    9. CSB: The word “apostle” can be used in a nontechnical sense, referring to a messenger rather than a commissioned apostle such as Paul.[9]
    10. Verse 8: Ampliatus (7 people greeted), beloved in the Lord. MacArthur: A common name among the emperor’s household slaves at that time; he may have been one of those in “Caesar’s household” (Php 4:22).[10]
    11. Verse 9: Urbanus, fellow worker and Stachys (9 people greeted). Stachys is beloved.
    12. Verse 10: Greet Apelles, approved in Christ… that is a powerful statement. Also, the household of Aristobulus (9 people greeted). Since Paul does not greet him personally, he was probably not a believer, although some relatives and household servants apparently were. One noted biblical scholar believes that he was the brother of Herod Agrippa I and the grandson of Herod the Great.[11]
    13. Verse 11: Herodian, Paul calls him a kinsman. Maybe this means he is Jewish. Household of Narcissus, who are in the Lord (11 people greeted).
    14. Verse 12: Tryphaena and Tryphosa, workers in the Lord; also Persis, beloved, who has worked hard in the Lord (15 greeted).
    15. Verse 13: Rufus (16 greeted). Paul says that he is chosen in the Lord. His mother has been a mother to Paul.
    16. Verse 14: Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas (21 greeted) also the brothers with them.
    17. Verse 15: Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas (26 greeted), and all the saints who are with them.
    18. Verse 16: now greet one another with a holy kiss.
    19. All the churches of Christ greet you.
    20. Paul wants them all to greet each other in an affectionate way.
    21. The idea of a holy kiss is throughout the Scriptures: 1 Cor 16:20; 2 Cor 13:12; 1 Thess 5:26; 1 Pet 5:14[12]
    22. The kiss was a way of showing affection then and still is in other cultures.
    23. Notice how important community and hospitality was to the apostle Paul.

Marcella, who was born to a noble Roman family in 325, was highly revered by Jerome, the 4th-century translator of the Latin Vulgate version of the Bible. This noblewoman offered her palace as a sanctuary for Christians who were being persecuted, and was active in leading Bible classes and prayer meetings among the other noblewomen.

Though widowed at an early age and having no children, she chose to not remarry and instead devoted herself to serving Christ and the church. When Pope Damasus commissioned scholar Jerome to make a newly revised translation of the Gospels, taking the latest available Hebrew and Greek texts and translating them into Latin, Jerome moved into Marcella’s retreat house palace for the duration of his task. For three years, he depended upon Marcella and her other house guests to critique his ongoing work, which eventually became a classic, the Latin Vulgate Bible.

Marcella founded the first convent for women in the Western church, and gave liberally of her wealth to help other Christians, clearly showing to her fellow noblewomen that greater rewards and fulfillment come from storing up treasures in heaven than from hoarding treasures on earth.

  • Paul’s appeal (verses 17-20)
    1. Read with me verses 17-20, Romans 16:17-20: I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. 19 For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
    2. Watch out for those who cause divisions.
    3. Notice that Paul says that he “appeals” to them. This is a final instruction.
    4. Watch out!!! This is important.
    5. Those who cause divisions or create obstacles, but Paul does not leave it at that. Paul is talking about those who cause divisions or create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that he has taught.
    6. Paul says to avoid them.
    7. They do not serve the Lord Jesus Christ but their own appetites (verse 18).
    8. They deceive the hearts through what “smooth talk and flattery…”
    9. In verse 19 Paul compliments them. Their obedience is known to all. That is really nice. In Romans 1:8 Paul wrote about this.
    10. Paul rejoices over them.
    11. Paul wants them to be wise to what is good and innocent to what is evil.
    12. Verse 20 is powerful. No matter what you face, the God of peace. God is a God of peace, BUT He will soon crush satan under “their” feet. Notice that? Paul says that God will crush satan under their feet.
    13. One writes: Note Paul’s careful grammar: God himself is the one crushing Satan; he happens to use our feet. We are involved in the fight, but any victories in our fight are not merely our work, but God’s (cf. 1 Cor. 15:10).[13]
    14. It was God who established peace in the church (16:20), not Satan, who probably placed the dissenting teachers in proximity to the body to disrupt it. On the role of believers in judging angels, including Satan, see 1Co 6:3.[14]
    15. Then, The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
  • More greetings (verses 21-24)
    1. Let’s read verses 21-24, Romans 16:21-24: Timothy, my fellow worker, greets you; so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen. 22 I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord. 23 Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
    2. Paul gives more greetings.
    3. ESV Study Bible: In vv. 21–23 those who are with Paul greet the Romans. Timothy is Paul’s most famous coworker (see 1 Timothy) and was probably his most beloved colleague in ministry. Lucius is likely not Lucius of Cyrene mentioned in Acts 13:1, nor is he Luke, the author of the Gospel of Luke and Acts. Jason is likely the same person named in Acts 17:5–7, 9. And Sosipater is probably the same person as Sopater from Berea (Acts 20:4)[15]
    4. Timothy, Paul’s fellow worker.
    5. Lucius, Jason, Sosipater, Paul calls them his kinsmen. They were likely Jewish.
    6. Verse 22: Tertius was his scribe, his amanuensis.
    7. Verse 23: Gaius is his host. The whole church greets them. Erastus is the city treasurer and then Quartus also greets them.
    8. Verse 24 is not in the earlier manuscripts.
    9. I need to make a quick note about verse 24: it is not in the oldest manuscripts. Please know that these manuscripts were copied and copyists worked hard for accuracy and we have well over 5000 manuscripts of the Greek New Testament and most all of them do not differ. Where there are differences something like 99% are grammatical and the rest of the differences are not doctrinal. This is one of those cases. Whether this was original or not it does not affect the doctrine of Christianity. What likely happened is that a copyist made a marginal note and the next person copying the text thought it belonged in the text.
  • Applications:
    1. Do we give people thanks like Paul does in this passage?
    2. Can we be a servant like Phoebe (verse 1)? She helped many (verse 2).
    3. Do we receive God’s servants like they were instructed to (verse 2)?
    4. Can we be fellow workers “in Christ” like Prisca and Aquila? (verses 3-4)?
    5. Can we work hard for the gospel like Mary (verse 6)?
    6. Are we ready to go to prison for the faith (verse 7; see also 2 Tim. 3:12)?
    7. Can we find something good to say about others? Look how encouraging Paul is in this passage? He is encouraging all of them. He is finding good things to say about them. He is positive.
    8. We may not greet with a holy kiss, but can we love one another (verse 16)?
    9. We must stay away from those causing stumbling blocks and dissension (verse 17). We must stay true to proper doctrine/teaching (verse 18).
    10. We must NOT be a slave to our own desires, but to Christ (verse 18).
    11. We must NOT be deceived and we must not deceive others (verse 18).
    12. May the report of our obedience to Christ spread (verse 19).
    13. We must be wise to what is good (verse 19).
    14. We must pursue innocence in evil (verse 19).

A member of a certain church, who previously had been attending services regularly, stopped going.  After a few weeks, the pastor decided to visit him.

It was a chilly evening. The pastor found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire.  Guessing the reason for his pastor’s visit, the man welcomed him, led him to a comfortable chair near the fireplace and waited.

The pastor made himself at home but said nothing.  In the grave silence, he contemplated the dance of the flames around the burning logs.  After some minutes, the pastor took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth all alone then he sat back in his chair, still silent.

The host watched all this in quiet contemplation.  As the one lone ember’s flame flickered and diminished, there was a momentary glow and then its fire was no more.  Soon it was cold and dead.

Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting.  The pastor glanced at his watch and realized it was time to leave.  He slowly stood up, picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire.  Immediately it began to glow, once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it.

As the pastor reached the door to leave, his host said with a tear running down his cheek,  ‘Thank you so much for your visit and especially for the firey sermon. I will be back in church next Sunday.’


[1] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart and 1501 Other Stories (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016), 92.

[2] John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Ro 16:1–27.


[4] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Ro 16:1.

[5] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2184.

[6] H. L. Willmington, The Outline Bible (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999), Ro 16:3–16.

[7] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995).

[8] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2184.

[9] Paige Patterson, “Salvation in the Old Testament,” in CSB Study Bible: Notes, ed. Edwin A. Blum and Trevin Wax (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), 1805.

[10] John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Ro 16:8.

[11] John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Ro 16:10.

[12] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995).


[14] Michael G. Vanlaningham, “Romans,” in The Moody Bible Commentary, ed. Michael A. Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 1770.

[15] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2185.