How are We to Make Sense of the Death of the Innocent, Such as Children? (Luke 13:1-5)

How are We to Make Sense of the Death of the Innocent, Such as Children? (Luke 13:1-5)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, August 28, 2022

A little boy’s legs were not developing as they ought. The pediatrician told his parents that their son needed to wear a leg brace, which would help to position the legs and feet to grow properly. The parents wanted to do the right thing for their son but were miserable following the doctor’s orders. The bar held the little boy’s feet and legs completely straight and unbendable. Each night when his parents would put the brace on and put him to bed, he would cry from discomfort and from his dislike of it. The little boy was sure to have felt hurt that his parents would treat him wrongly and possibly he even doubted their love for him. The mother was at times tempted to take off the bar but resisted because she felt in her heart that she was doing the right thing for her son.

As difficult as this time was, the doctor, the mother, and the father did what they did because of their concern and their thought for his future well-being years down the road. They were willing to sacrifice convenience now for a better life later.

God cares for His children. Right now He might use means of restraint and discomfort to achieve His desired result but He operates out of the love He has for us.941[1]

We are in a new sermon series on dealing with life’s difficulties. Today, I want to tackle the subject on the death of the innocent.

My theme today is: How are We to Make Sense of the Death of the Innocent, Such as Children? (Luke 13:1-5)

In the passage we will look at we see moral evil and natural evil. Pilate killed people and that is moral evil. The tower fell on people and that is natural evil.

  1. Context:
    1. Jesus is traveling and talking with the people as He is on His road to Jerusalem. 
    2. At this point in Luke’s gospel, Jesus is heading to Jerusalem. He is on His way towards Jerusalem in order to be crucified. From Luke 9:51-19:27 Jesus is on His road to Jerusalem. On this journey towards Jerusalem, Jesus goes right through Samaria. Most Jerusalem Jews went around Samaria, but Jesus did not do that. Jesus came for everyone. While in Samaria, Jesus told 10 parables that are not found in the other gospels.
    3. Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37.
    4. Jesus tells the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32.
  2. The question to Jesus (Luke 13:1).
    1. Look at verse 1, Luke 13:1: There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
    2. Some of the people present tell Jesus about something that happened.
    3. These people were “present.” This means they were present from the previous chapter and the teaching Jesus was doing.
    4. They share about something that had happened.
    5. I wonder if Jesus knew about this event.
    6. Maybe He had heard about it before.
    7. Maybe Jesus received a news alert on His cell phone or on Twitter.
    8. Seriously, maybe word got around.
    9. There were Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the sacrifices.
    10. We do not know anything else about this incident. We do know that Pilate was a cruel man. One source reads: It is not known why Pontius Pilate killed the Galileans mentioned here. The mention of their sacrifices specifies that their deaths took place in the temple area, probably in relation to a major religious festival, when all Jewish men were required to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.[2]
    11. The NET Bible shares: This is an event that otherwise is unattested, though several events similar to it are noted in Josephus (J. W. 2.9.2–4 [2.169–177]; Ant. 13.13.5 [13.372–73], 18.3.1–2 [18.55–62]; 18.4.1 [18.85–87]). It would have caused a major furor.[3]
    12. Another source shares: Luke linked this incident chronologically with the preceding one. Apparently messengers from Jerusalem had just arrived with news about Pilate’s act. This is the usual force of the Greek verb apaggello, translated “reported” or “told.” Some Galileans had been in Jerusalem offering sacrifices at the temple. This may have been at Passover since only then did non-priests offers sacrifices.318 Pilate, the Roman governor of the province of Judea, may have killed them beside the altar in the temple courtyard. However the figure of speech that Luke used to describe Pilate’s action permits a somewhat looser interpretation. There are no extra-biblical references to this event currently extant.[4]
    13. Sproul shares: We can guess, however, what happened. Some Galilean pilgrims, in Jerusalem to offer their sacred sacrifices at the altar, were killed by Pilate, either directly or through his soldiers. The narrative includes the ghastly detail that their own blood was mixed with the blood from the animal sacrifices. This was a particularly heinous offence, indeed it was sacrilege. So the question is understandable.[5]
  3. Jesus’ answer: we all must repent (Luke 13:2-5).
    1. Look at Luke 13:2: And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?
    2. First example: Those Galileans whose blood Pilate mingled versus the other Galileans (Luke 13:2).
    3. In John 9:2 the disciples ask Jesus who sinned the man born blind or His parents. That was a fellocy of logic, the false dilemma, or either or fallacy. Behind the question in John 9 is that suffering is related to sin. People still think this way today.
    4. All suffering is because of sin in general.
    5. Here Jesus is saying that everyone must repent, no one is innocent before God.
    6. Jesus is responding that they are all sinners. Regardless of their suffering or punishment they all need salvation.
    7. Piper shares on Sproul’s message: Then R.C. made a devastating — jolting — observation. He said that these crowds, who were so amazed that some people had been judged for their sin, had put their amazement entirely in the wrong place — “a misplaced locus of amazement.” They were amazed that something horrible had happened to a few Galileans. What they should have been amazed at was that something equally horrible hasn’t happened to everybody in Jerusalem — indeed, R.C. added, everybody in the world.[6]
    8. In Luke 13:3 Jesus responds: No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.
    9. Jesus is saying no one is innocent in the eyes of God. We all ultimately face hardship because of the sin problem in the world. We all need salvation. If we all got what we deserved it would be God’s wrath.
    10. Then, Jesus gives a second example: those on whom the tower in Siloam fell (Luke 13:4).
    11. Let’s read Luke 13:4: Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?
    12. One source shares: The “tower in Siloam” may have been on Jerusalem’s city wall above the pool of Siloam; it may have been associated with Pilate’s construction of an improved water-supply system for the city.[7]
    13. It fell and killed people. Jesus is saying they were not worse offenders.
    14. That leads to Like 13:5. Let’s read Luke 13:5: No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
    15. We all must repent.
    16. Sproul shares: Jesus is saying we should really ask why these bad things don’t happen to me and everyone.
    17. What is amazing is not the justice of God but the grace of God.
    18. These 18 innocent people weren’t worse, but why didn’t the temple fall on my head?
    19. We can never see tragedy as an act of injustice.
    20. The only antidote to perishing at the hands of God is repentance.
    21. Many of the Jews in Jesus’ day believed that tragedy or accident was the direct result of some personal sin (cf. John 9:1–3). Thus they concluded that the Galileans who had perished must have been great sinners. They based this view on a faulty theory of divine retribution (cf. Job 4:7; 8:20; 22:4–5). Jesus repudiated this theory and viewed the death of the Galileans as the consequence of sin generally. Jesus stressed the error of their view by placing the word “no” (Gr. ouchi) first in the sentence for emphasis (cf. v. 4). He then drew a conclusion. Therefore everyone needs to repent because everyone is a sinner, and all sin brings judgment.[8]
    22. Sproul: Jonathan Edwards once asked his congregation to give him one reason why God hadn’t destroyed them since they got up that morning. He asked them to consider that every moment that we live, every luxury that we enjoy, every blessing that we participate in, is a matter of receiving the grace of God, that it represents God’s willingness to be patient with a race of people who have rebelled against him. God has called every human being to perfection. We are not allowed to sin. The penalty for sin is death, and yet we continue to sin and become astonished and offended when God allows suffering.[9]
  4. How do we make sense of the death of the innocent?
    1. In this account people thought there was a relationship between the degree of sin one commits, and the degree of suffering and Jesus responds that that is not true.
    2. There are no innocent people.
    3. As I already mentioned, Jesus also addressed this in John 9.
    4. In John 9:3 Jesus shares: Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.
    5. He had been born blind for the glory of God.
    6. Sproul shares: God made him be born blind for His glory… He endured his pain for the moment and for all eternity he has the unimpeded vision of the panorama of the glory of God.[10]
    7. Think about that. He got to experience a miracle. He got to experience and testify to this amazing miracle.
    8. Sproul: Philosopher John Stuart Mill posed one of the most famous arguments against Christian theism. It goes like this: Christians claim that God is good and that He is omnipotent, but these things cannot both be true, not with all the pain, suffering, and tragedy there is in this world. If God is good, He would see all the pain and all the suffering and He would surely eliminate it, unless He were unable to. If He wanted to get rid of pain and suffering but He can’t, then He’s not omnipotent, and if He is omnipotent and doesn’t rid the world of pain and suffering, then He’s not good.
    9. Mill overlooked two salient points that were not part of his thinking—namely, the holiness of God and the sinfulness of human beings. If God is holy and we are sinful, there must be pain and sorrow in this world until it is all redeemed. Jesus, however, understood the struggle that these people were having regarding this tragic event, and He gave an answer to their question.[11]
    10. The Scriptures make clear that all of us from time to time are victims of injustice, and all of us at one time or another have injured others unfairly and unjustly. When we experience injustice at the hands of men, Jesus tells us we ought not faint but ought to pray, for He said, “Will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night?” (18:7). God promises to make right those injustices that we have either committed or received from others. But not once have we ever received an injustice from the hands of God. We have never been treated unfairly or unjustly by God.[12]
    11. Sproul: I taught theology for more than fifty years, and I’ve heard literally thousands of questions from students asking about difficult theological questions. One I hear often is closely related to what is dealt with here: Why did God allow this to happen? People ask, “Why did my baby die?” “Why did my husband die?” I get that kind of question all the time. Do you know the question I almost never hear? “Why did God save me?” That’s the biggest mystery in theology.[13]
    12. Docetic view of suffering: suffering is not real.
    13. Stoic view of suffering: have a stiff upper lip.
    14. Hedonist: epicureans; live for pleasure; maximize pleasure; 1 Cor 15: if Christ has not been raised, eat, drink and be merry because tomorrow we die.
    15. The Christian view: suffering for the Christian is never futile. The Christian faith is born in suffering. Jesus said we will have suffering.
    16. Grief is right and a legitimate human emotion. It is right to mourn the loss of a loved one.
    17. Tribulation works patience and patience character, etc (Romans 5:3).[14] 
    18. The evil we face in the world is a reminder that things are not as they should be. I believe we face these things because God is using them to woo us to Him.
    19. C.S. Lewis wrote: “We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”[15]
    20. Honestly, I have wrestled with this. I really have. I have wrestled with the sufferings of the innocent. Then, I remember there are no innocent people. However, it is much easier to make sense of the suffering of a terrorist than a child.
    21. A number of years ago I was really struggling with this. I researched it. I listened to 4 messaged by Dr. William Lane Craig on the subject. I spoke with others about the subject. At the end, I did not get better answers, but I was able to renew the answers I had already learned.
    22. Interestingly enough, none of the other religions have better answers for suffering.
    23. To the Eastern religions the answer is Kharma. The people suffer because they were bad in a previous life. Their caste symptom and reincarnation is wrapped into their belief in kharma. That is why Mother Theresa had such a good ministry. No one took care of the poor because they are suffering because of a previous life.
    24. Christianity has the best answer.
    25. Why do the innocent suffer? No one is innocent. We are all sinners.
    26. We are victims of the sins of others.
    27. We are victims of our own sins.
    28. We are victims of a fallen world.
    29. We are asking questions that we cannot specifically answer.
    30. God is good. God is able to take something bad and use it for good.
    31. I want to say one other thing about the suffering of children, really anyone. God may take the life of a child to spare them of something in the future. Further, God is able to take the life of a child with less suffering than they would have experienced in the future.
    32. Creation (Genesis 1-2),
    33. Fall (Genesis 3),
    34. Redemption (John 3:16; 14:6),
    35. Restoration (Revelation 21-22)
  5. So, what do you do?
    1. Read, meditate on, memorize, listen to Romans chapter 8:
    2. Remember Romans 8:28: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
    3. If we love God, there is no senseless suffering.
    4. We do not know why things happen the way they do, but we know God is a loving God with a purpose.
    5. He permits or causes all things and His goal is good.
    6. Romans 8:22: For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
    7. All creation is suffering.
    8. Evil is a parasite; it lives off of good.
    9. Someday God will renew all things.
    10. Romans 8:18: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
    11. Also, when you are struggling: journal, meditate on Scripture, spend time in spiritual disciplines, talk to other Christians, let me help, talk to Christian counselors, talk to God.

Joni Eareckson Tada hit her head when she dove into a lake and became paralyzed. Now, she has a worldwide ministry for people who are challenged physically. Today, Joni would tell you she wouldn’t trade her experience for anything. She hasn’t walked for a long time, but millions of people who are hurting physically are encouraged by the hope she gives, because of the suffering she’s had. Her testimony is that she would have never known that God could be so real to her had she not experienced pain.942[16]


[1] Tony Evans, Tony Evans’ Book of Illustrations: Stories, Quotes, and Anecdotes from More than 30 Years of Preaching and Public Speaking (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009), 314.

[2] Craig A. Evans, “Messianic Expectations,” in CSB Study Bible: Notes, ed. Edwin A. Blum and Trevin Wax (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), 1634.

[3] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Lk 13:1.

318 318. J. Jeremias, The Eucharistic Words of Jesus, p. 207, n. 4.

[4] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Lk 13:1.

[5] R. C. Sproul, A Walk with God: An Exposition of Luke (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 1999), 275.


[7] Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Lk 13:1–5.

[8] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Lk 13:2.

[9] R. C. Sproul, A Walk with God: An Exposition of Luke (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 1999), 277.

[10] Sproul; Renewing Your Mind; 09.07.2021

[11] Sproul, R.C.. Luke: An Expositional Commentary (p. 378). Ligonier Ministries. Kindle Edition. 

[12] Sproul, R.C.. Luke: An Expositional Commentary (p. 379). Ligonier Ministries. Kindle Edition. 

[13] Sproul, R.C.. Luke: An Expositional Commentary (p. 379). Ligonier Ministries. Kindle Edition.

[14] Sproul, Renewing Your Mind, 02.08.2022

[15] Lewis, C. S.. The Problem of Pain (p. 59). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

[16] Tony Evans, Tony Evans’ Book of Illustrations: Stories, Quotes, and Anecdotes from More than 30 Years of Preaching and Public Speaking (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009), 314.

Dealing with Life’s Difficulties, introduction: We Are All in Need

Dealing with Life’s Difficulties, introduction: We Are All in Need

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, August 14, 2022

Dealing with Life’s Difficulties, introduction: We Are All in Need

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, August 14, 2022

Do you know Jesus?

Do you really know Jesus?

Okay, for those that said yes, that means you are perfect, right?

You no longer have any hurts, correct?

You no longer have any bad habits, correct?

Of course not, we are still walking the Christian life stumbling towards Jesus.

Today, I am beginning a sermon series on dealing with life’s difficulties. During the coming weeks, we will talk about many of the difficulties of life and how a Christian should respond. We will talk about things like the death of the innocent. How should we reconcile the tragic death of children? We will talk about anxiety, depression, and many other subjects. This series will end before Christmas, but I think I will use some leftover topics as occasional sermons. After Christmas, I plan to preach on Heaven.

Today’s theme:

We are all needy in a broken world. Even after we are saved, we are still in process of God making us more like Jesus.

  1. Firstly, we all are in need for salvation.
    1. The parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collectors.

R.C. Sproul shares:

In 1969, I worked in a church in Ohio as minister of theology and teaching. I also was the minister of evangelism, and I trained people in the Evangelism Explosion program for outreach. We took two hundred people into the community each Tuesday night, visited people in their homes, and presented the gospel to them. We used well-known diagnostic questions to begin the gospel conversation. The first one was this: “Have you come to a place where you know for sure that when you die you will go to heaven?” The large majority of people were not sure they were going to heaven.

The second question was this: “Suppose you were to die tonight and stand before God, and God asked, ‘Why should I let you into My heaven?’ What would you say?” We tabulated the answers of hundreds and hundreds of people, and 90 percent of them gave some kind of “works- righteousness” answer: “I tried to live a good life.” “I went to church every Sunday.” “I tithed my income.” “I did this good work and performed that good work.” Ninety percent of the people answered that they were trusting in their own righteousness.

Probably the worst answer ever given to that question was from my own five-year-old son. I said to him, “Son, if you were to die tonight and stand before God, and God asked, ‘Why should I let you into My heaven?’ what would you say?” My son answered, “Because I’m dead.” My own son believed in justification by death, that all you have to do to go to heaven is die. In reality, that is the popular view of many. People are sinners until they die, and suddenly, they become saints when you attend their funerals and hear the stories that are told.[1]

  • In this parable, one person thought he was good on his own, and another person knew he needed God’s mercy. The audience of Jesus’ parable thought they were okay on their own.
  • We see the characters in Luke 18:9-10.
  • In verse 9, we see the audience.
  • Let’s read Luke 18:9: He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:
  • Notice how this begins. He, Jesus, told a parable.
  • Who does He address the parable to? He addresses the parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and treated others with contempt.
  • This parable is addressed to people who trusted in themselves. They thought they were doing just fine and did not need a Savior.
  • This parable is first and foremost about salvation, how we become righteous, and the only way is through Jesus.
  • In this passage, Luke 18:9-14, people thought they were okay, but they were NOT okay.
  • In verse 10, we see the two people praying. One is a pharisee. They are the religious elite of the day. Pharisees do not need Celebrate Recovery, they do not need any help, and they do not need Jesus, or so they thought.
  • Then a tax collector. They are not even supposed to be in the temple. They were looked down upon. It looked like they had sold out to Rome. The taxes were not regulated and held accountable so the tax collectors would charge extra taking advantage of people.
    • In verses 11-12, we see the first prayer.
    • Look at the pharisees prayer in Luke 18:11-12: The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’
    • He thinks he is okay, doesn’t he?
    • Sproul: The Pharisee probably stood near the temple. He raised his head and his hands in prayer, and he thanked God that he was a righteous man. I wonder how much honesty was in that prayer of gratitude.[2]
    • He talks about all that he has done for God. But it is all about him.
    • I think the audience was laughing at this. They were probably thinking, “I cannot believe Jesus said that. He is going to get Himself stoned or crucified.”
    • In verse 13, we see the second prayer.
    • Look at the Luke 18:13: But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’
    • The tax collector who was looked upon as a sinner was very humble.
    • The tax collector pleaded to God in humility.
    • He asked for mercy.
    • Sproul: In contrast to the Pharisee, who said he’d never stolen, yet who stole the glory of God and who was not an atheist but was an idolater, stood the tax collector. He was probably by the door of the temple. He, in fear and trembling, wouldn’t even lift his face up to heaven. His gaze was on the floor. He brought absolutely nothing to God but his sin. He had nothing to offer to God except his guilt. “Be merciful. Have mercy. It’s only by Your grace alone, not Your grace and my contribution.” This man understood the doctrines of sola fide and sola gratia: justification by faith alone and justification by grace alone. There are tens of thousands of Christians in America today who will affirm justification by faith alone but not justification by grace alone. You really don’t believe in justification by faith alone if you think you’re adding something beyond your faith, beyond the righteousness of Christ, for you to be justified.[3]
    • In verse 14, we see Jesus’ principle.
    • Look at Luke 18:14: I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
    • Jesus says the tax collector was justified. Jesus is saying that the tax collector was declared righteous.
    • Why?
    • He recognized his brokenness before God.
    • The humbled will be exalted by God.
    • This is the sum of the gospel, how do we get justified?
    • It is all about Jesus.
    • We all are broken, and we need Jesus.
    • This parable is mainly about needing a Savior for eternal life.
  • The first point today is we all need a Savior.
  • Even for the saved, we are needy.
    • Firstly, this is because we are in a broken world.
    • Secondly, this is because we are still dealing with our own sin issues.
    • Once we are saved it takes time as God sanctifies us, that means that He is making us more like Him.
    • 1 John 1:10: If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
    • Romans 8:18-23: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
    • All creation is waiting for redemption. We are saved, but we are not in heaven yet.
  • What do you think?
  • Are we okay?
  • In the New Testament, after we are saved, we are always called saints, not sinners. But we know that we are still growing. Once we are in heaven, we are perfected, sinless, glorified.
  • We are NOT okay, and it is okay not to be okay. It is NOT okay to stay that way. Allow Jesus to work in growing you into a mature Christian. The first step is admitting that we are not okay.
  • I know, I know, you are thinking, “But once we are saved we are fixed.” No, we are being fixed (sanctification: 1 Cor. 9:24-27; Phil 2:12-13; Titus 2:11-3:11). Our salvation is secure as long as we persevere in the faith. But for the here and now God is in the process of fixing us. God is making us more like Him. Beyond that we live in a fallen world.
  • Think of it like this: Imagine the Christian life like storming the beaches of Normandy. Suppose that you know you will make it to safety as long as you keep moving forward. Even though you will make it, you are still getting shot at. You are in danger. There are bullets all around you. Plus, you are affected by all of your fellow soldiers dying and getting injured. That is the Christian life.
  • Prov 30:12: There are those who are clean in their own eyes but are not washed of their filth.
  • Celebrate Recovery is code for spiritual growth.
    • We are going to start Celebrate Recovery. Celebrate Recovery helps people with hurts, habits, and hang-ups.
    • It is code for spiritual growth.
    • Do you have hurts, habits, and hang-ups? I do. If you do not, you are already dead and in heaven.
    • For example, do you have any relational issues? Do you have a broken relationship with a child, a grandchild, a sibling?
    • Do you deal with any addictions?
    • Do you ever over-eat?
    • Do you have close family stuck in addictions?
    • Are you unhappy when others are unhappy?
    • Are you anxious?
    • Are you dealing with grief? Are you ignoring grief?
    • Other things: lust, pornography?
    • I was visiting an older saint who is now with the Lord and he said, “I like Fox News, but those ladies and their short skirts…”
    • Celebrate Recovery helps with what we are ignoring. Meaning we think these are not problems, but they are.
    • We are in a fallen and broken world, and as long as we live in this world, we will have trouble.
    • I was listening to Christian psychologist and author Dr. Juli Slattery, and she said we are all sexually broken. Some were startled to hear that. Some of you are startled to hear that now, but it is true. I have heard her share and explain that many times, but one thing she shares is: “We’re all sinners. None of us are righteous, not one. And apart from the redemption of Christ and the daily ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we can never achieve righteousness. Why can’t we apply that to sexuality?”[4]
    • Romans 3:23, and really Romans 3:10-23, shares about how we are all sinners, every one of us. We are in a sinful world. We are impacted by our sin and the sins around us, and that means we are all broken. God is fixing us, but we are all broken. Either we understand that, or we are lying to ourselves and others.
    • Some of you right now are thinking, “Not me, I am not broken, I am not sexually broken, I do not have hurts, habits and hang-ups.”
    • I want to respond to that and say, “Yes, you are, and so am I.” Until we reach glorification (Romans 8:30) in heaven, we are in a hospital for sinners, and it is called the church.
    • Celebrate Recovery is code for discipleship. Think about it like exercise. Some of us prefer to wait until we are way unhealthy and take blood pressure medicine. However, if we could do it over again, we would have preferred to stay healthy to begin with. It is better to build healthy habits to begin with rather than have a heart attack and then adjust our habits. Think of Celebrate Recovery like that. Certainly, some have hit bottom, and Celebrate Recovery helps. Others, however, recognize they need help with depression, or anxiety, or alcohol, or anger, or lust, or pornography, or eating and they get help before it is a major issue.
    • Listen, we are all the problem. We all need help. We do. Many times, young men talk to me about their sexual sins. That is not unusual. However, I know of a pastor who had a young man talk to him about a problem concerning sexual sin, but the pastor could not help this young man. Do you know why? He did not come to church. He did not commit to youth group. He needed God’s help, but anytime there was a conflict between sports and church sports wins. Do you know why? The family did not realize they are broken. Now, suppose that young man started attending youth group and church, discipleship would help him. Or, suppose he attended the high school version of Celebrate Recovery and went through their discipleship program. That would help. Otherwise, it will get worse.
    • Some at Bethel have commented with concerns about Celebrate Recovery. Some are concerned that we do not want “those” people around our children or grandchildren. Do you know why that comment crosses our mind? I will tell you. It is because we do not realize we are all “those” people. Seriously, we are concerned about Celebrate Recovery when we are not concerned about choosing a sporting event over church. Really, we are concerned about Celebrate Recovery when we are not concerned about the dangers of wealth and affluence.
    • Someone asked a missionary how they could risk their family in a dangerous location and they responded about the dangers in America: dangers like wealth and affluence.
    • We are all broken.
    • However, do we realize that we need a Savior for this life now?
    • We are all broken.
    • We are all in need.
    • Take divorce for example. Even if you have not been divorced, you know others affected by divorce. You have children hurt by divorce. You have siblings hurt by divorce. You have friends hurt by divorce.
    • We are all affected by sin, and we need to run to Jesus for help.
    • Take homosexuality and the LGBTQ+ movement. All of us are affected by that because we see it in the media and the media is passively affecting us. Further, if our children are in the schools, especially public schools, they are definitely affected by it.

So, recognize two things:

We are not okay, but if we are a Christian Jesus is making us okay.

We need to stay with Jesus, and we need to recognize our brokenness. We must not think that we are righteous in ourselves.

The Christian life is firmly making the decision to be with Jesus, in order to become like Him, to learn and do that He says and arrange your affairs around Him (John 15:1-11).

Do we realize we are broken?

Stick with Jesus. Jesus wants to help us, but oftentimes we are ignoring the help He wants us to take.

You know the story of the man stuck on the roof during a flood. God sends 3 people to help, one had a boat, one a helicopter, and one something else, and he turned them away. He said, “God is going to rescue me.” He dies, gets to heaven and said to God, “Why didn’t you rescue me?” God said that He sent 3 people to rescue him. Don’t ignore God’s methods of spiritual growth.

The first step is to recognize we are needy. We need salvation, and we need help in this life now.


[1] Sproul, R.C.. Luke: An Expositional Commentary (pp. 457-458). Ligonier Ministries. Kindle Edition.

[2] Sproul, R.C.. Luke: An Expositional Commentary (p. 459). Ligonier Ministries. Kindle Edition

[3] Sproul, R.C.. Luke: An Expositional Commentary (p. 459). Ligonier Ministries. Kindle Edition.


The Significance of Genesis: Wrap-up: Abraham, His Call, His Significance (Genesis 12:1-3)

The Significance of Genesis: Wrap-up: Abraham, His Call, His Significance (Genesis 12:1-3)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, August 7, 2022

I heard a good illustration from Chuck Swindoll:

Generosity is not as much an overflow of wealth as it is an overabundance of faith. Stinginess, on the other hand, is a sure sign that a person trusts things instead of God. And make no mistake, we serve what we trust.

My older brother, Orville, was never a wealthy man, but he was wonderfully generous with what he had. He never held back from the Lord . . . and that is still true! It was this overabundance of faith that led him to be a missionary for more than thirty years in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Just before that, he had done some short-term mission work in Mexico and had come north to gather his wife, Erma Jean, and the kids for the long trip down into the far reaches of South America.

Before leaving, they stopped off for a quick visit with our parents in Houston. Now, you have to appreciate the kind of man my father was. Look up the word responsible in the dictionary, and his picture is there! To him, risks are for those who fail to plan. Responsible people leave nothing to chance. As far as he was concerned, faith is something you exercise when your three backup plans fall through and you have run out of all other options. My father was a believer, but he never understood the life of faith. Not really.

My brother, on the other hand, was stimulated by faith. He has lived his entire adult life on the raw edge of faith. To him, life doesn’t get exciting until God, and God alone, can get us through some specific challenge. That drove our dad nuts!

Orville pulled up to the house in an old Chevy sedan on four of the slickest tires I had ever seen. My father always inspected tires when we came to visit. I wondered how long it would take for him to say something. I’m sure Orville did too. Not very is the answer.

After a great supper of good ol’ collard greens and corn bread, onions and red beans, my mother and sister went into the kitchen, leaving my father at one end of the table, Orville at the other, and me sitting on one side. Then it started.

“Son, how much money do you have for your long trip?”

“Oh, Dad, don’t worry about it. We’re gonna be fine.”

Before he could change the subject, my father pressed the issue, “Answer me! How much money do you have in your wallet?”

Orville smiled and shrugged as he said, “I don’t have any in my wallet.”

I sat silent, watching this verbal tennis match.

“Nothing in your wallet? How much money do you have? You’re gettin’ ready to go down to South America! How much money you got?”

With that, my brother smiled, dug into his pocket, pulled out a quarter, set it on its edge on his end of the table, then gave it a careful thump. It slowly rolled past me all the way to my father’s end of the table and fell into his hand. Dad said, “A quarter? That is all you’ve got?”

Orville broke into an even bigger smile and said, “Yeah. Isn’t that exciting!”

That was not the word my father had in mind. After a heavy sigh and a very brief pause, Dad shook his head and said, “Orville, I just don’t understand you.”

My brother grew more serious. Looking Dad in the eyes, he answered without blinking, “No, Dad, you never have.”

I don’t know how he actually made the trip to their destination . . . or how he and Erma Jean took care of all their little kids, but they never went hungry. And they served in Buenos Aires and traveled to other parts of the world for more than three decades. My father was a man who emerged through the Great Depression, lived in fear of poverty his whole life, seldom took a risk, and never experienced the joy of trusting God that made my brother smile so big that day.

Jesus never said that having nice things is wrong. By His sovereign choice, He may ordain some to be as poor as Himself and His disciples. Yet He may want others to have an overabundance of money and material goods so that they might give in abundance. His chief concern is not the issue of wealth; He cares about us and where we turn for security. Whether or not we own nice things, He wants to be sure that they don’t own us!

Generosity is not only a sure sign of faith; it’s also a surefire way to stimulate it. As soon as something begins to feel just a little too crucial to our happiness or safety, it’s time to show it who’s boss by giving it away.[1]

That faith, that Swindoll’s brother, Orville, had, that is the faith that Abraham had. Abraham is for sure the father of our faith.

Today, we wrap up our sermon series on Genesis chapters 1-11 as foundational to our faith.

My theme today:

Abraham had faith following God unknowing where God was leading him. So, let’s follow Abraham’s example, having faith in God with our future.

  • The rest of the Bible is about Abram’s descendants:
    • This passage is Genesis 12. You may or may not realize it, but we are only a couple thousand years into history in this passage. In Genesis chapters 1-3 we have the creation of Adam and Eve. Then Adam and Eve sinned.
    • Beginning in Genesis 4 we have Cain and Abel, then we have all the descendants of Adam and Eve.
    • In Genesis chapters 6-9 we have the flood narrative with Noah and his family.
    • In Genesis chapter 10 we have the table of nations. All of Noah’s descendants spread out.
    • In Genesis 11 we have the tower of Babel.
    • At the end of Genesis 11 we are introduced to Abram.
    • Abram’s father begins moving the family from Ur to the land of Canaan. They stopped in Haran.
    • This brings us to Genesis 12. The rest of Genesis and the rest of the Old Testament will be about Abraham and his descendants. His descendants become the people of Israel.
    • Jesus came through the people of Israel.
    • We are saved and grafted in to the people of Israel.
  • Abram’s call and obedience
    • Genesis 12:1-3: Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
    • The place (12:1): Ur of the Chaldeans (see Genesis 11:31).
    • The promises (12:2–3): Abram will found a great nation; and God will bless him, make his name great, and cause him to bless others. Those who bless Abram will be blessed; those who curse him will be cursed. Everyone on earth will be blessed through him. This takes place through Jesus Christ, a descendant of Abram.
    • The Lord calls Abram. He is called “Abram,” right now and not, “Abraham.” In Genesis 17:4-6 his name is changed to Abraham.
    • This promissory call is the first recorded speech since God’s word of judgment at the Tower of Babel, resulting in the creation of the nations (11:5–6, 9). Abram is called upon to leave both his past and his future in placing his trust in God.[2]
    • The many promises of the passage cohere into three strands: land, seed, and blessing. The divine oath is like an avalanche of blessing cascading in wave after wave on the patriarch and his children yet to come.[3]
    • Abram is called upon to leave both his past and his future in placing his trust in God.[4]
    • Abram was introduced in Genesis 11:27ff.
    • The Lord calls him to leave his country. The Lord calls him to leave his relatives and his father’s household.
    • This is a big deal. Back then they needed their family and friends to survive. They needed each other.
    • Verse 2: God says that He, the Lord, will make Abram’s name great… God will make him a great nation. God will bless him.
    • God will make his name great. This was the failed aspiration of the tower builders (11:4).[5]
    • This passage is proven true.
    • We are talking about Abram today are we not?
    • Jesus came through the descendants of Abraham.
    • All gentiles are saved through the seed of Abraham.
    • God will bless Abram and also he will be a blessing. Abram was a blessing through his descendants.
    • Verse 3: Those who bless Abram will be blessed, but those who curse him will be cursed.
    • Again, all the families of the earth will be blessed through Abram. We have all been blessed through the Messiah…
  • Applications and Review:
  • Genesis chapters 1-12 are important for the rest of the Bible.
  • These people show up throughout the Scriptures. Through Abram, we are all blessed. Abram literally changes history.
  • We must be responsive to the Lord as Abram was. He obeyed what the Lord had told him to do (Gen. 12:4).
  • We must trust the Lord as Abram did. Abram left his family, his network, his community to trust the Lord.
    • Sometimes the Lord’s will may not make sense, but we must trust him.
      1. We must trust Him with our home.
      2. We must trust Him with our money.
      3. We must trust Him with our family.
      4. We must trust Him with our children.
  • We must recognize the Lord is sovereign and in control as we see in this passage. In verse 2 we see the Lord is the One Who blesses Abram, makes his name great and makes him a great nation. In verse 3 we see it is the Lord who blesses those who bless him and curses those who curse him. It is the Lord who blesses all the families of the earth through Abram.
  • We must recognize the Lord gives blessings out of grace. As verse 1 shows, Abram did not do anything to earn this covenant.
  • We must worship the Lord as we are all blessed through Abraham’s seed, Jesus.
  • We must be willing to trust God to lead us to uncharted territory as Abraham was willing.
  • We must be willing to sacrifice, income, time, talent, location to serve the Lord.
  • We must be willing to move for the Lord.
  • We must be willing to change occupations for the Lord.
  • We must be willing to prayerfully consider mission trips, local or foreign. This may be uncharted territory.
  • We must be willing to serve somewhere new in the community: hospice, nursing home ministry.
  • We must be willing to talk to someone about Jesus. This is uncharted territory in many ways.
  • We must be willing to step out.
  • We must be willing to trust God with our future. We must trust God with the unknown.
  • We must not compromise the Old Testament.
  • The Old Testament is the foundation for the New Testament. Genesis 1-11 is the foundation for the Bible


We can picture faith as a connection between the work of the Holy Spirit and the power at work in our new nature. Faith is a wire that conducts a current called grace that flows from the Spirit so that the new nature receives power.270[6]

A blind girl, one day, was caught in a fire on the tenth floor of a building. She could make her way to a window, but she couldn’t see anything. She felt the heat and smelled the smoke of the fire. Then she heard a fireman yell, “Jump, jump!”

She said, “I’m scared to jump. I can’t see.”

The fireman said, “If you don’t jump, you’re going to die. Take the risk, and jump.”

It’s bad enough to jump from ten stories high, but to jump when you can’t see where you’re jumping—that’s terror. In the midst of the chaos and confusion, she heard another voice, “Darling, jump, I’ve got you.” She smiled and said, “Okay, Daddy, I’ll jump.”

Jesus Christ is inviting us to jump. He knows we’re nervous, but just jump. He knows you’re scared, but just jump. Remember, we’re talking about your Daddy. We’re talking about Somebody you know. You’ve seen what He can do.276[7]


[1] Taken from Charles R. Swindoll, “Ragged-Edge Faith and Reckless Generosity,” Insights (May 2007): 1-2. Copyright © 2007, Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide

[2] K. A. Mathews, Genesis 11:27–50:26, vol. 1B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005), 105.

[3] K. A. Mathews, Genesis 11:27–50:26, vol. 1B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005), 104–105.

[4] Ibid, 105.

[5] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 71.

[6] Tony Evans, Tony Evans’ Book of Illustrations: Stories, Quotes, and Anecdotes from More than 30 Years of Preaching and Public Speaking (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009), 96.

[7] Tony Evans, Tony Evans’ Book of Illustrations: Stories, Quotes, and Anecdotes from More than 30 Years of Preaching and Public Speaking (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009), 97.