This is the word of the Lord
Ephesians 4:17–32 ESV
17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.
18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.
19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.
20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!—
21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus,
22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,
23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,
24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.
26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
27 and give no opportunity to the devil.
28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.
29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Let us pray.
• One of the biggest struggles we face in our generation has to do with narrowing down on definitions. A lot of arguments and debates have us speaking past each other simply because we’ve not taken the effort to clarify what we mean by our use of specific words, especially those words that have been misapplied by our culture.
Sarcasm is one such example. The word means – to use irony as a means to mock or convey contempt. Now, we know that mockery and contempt can come from a very bad place or a very good place.
How? We can have a bitter contempt for someone who sins against us and not show them grace. On the other hand, we could have a genuine contempt for the sin, and yet extend grace and mercy to the sinner.
The Bible teaches us that God hates both the sin and the sinner.
Psalm 5:5 ESV
5 The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.
Psalm 11:5 ESV
5 The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
Yet, we see that Jesus, for the joy that is set before him, dies for the sake of the sinner.
Since definitions are a problem in our time, most Christians deny biblical sarcasm because they define all sarcasm as being without grace. I would agree to this kind of a definition of sarcasm if it not were for the Bible’s use of sarcasm. Any hurt that we cause must be the effort of grace and not ignorance.
• The second qualification is that we in our flesh are far more disposed to sin and not glorify God. This means that our primary problem is not our tendency to be soft because of an overflow of grace and righteousness. It is that sin and our flesh rock us one way or another. Therefore, a simple application of satire or sarcasm or stepping that up is not the answer.
Becoming righteous is the central matter, to the stature of the maturity of Christ. This means that though gentle speech and satire are both available to the Christian to use appropriately, he is capable of misusing both, and satire may be far more a slippery slope for many.
And so it might be more appropriate for me to state that all satirical speech quoted in this sermon were performed by trained professionals. Please don’t try it at home.
Training in righteousness and subsequently the wise and proper use of satire or sarcasm must not be rushed. Therefore, as much as you see the dangerous stunts of these satirists both within the Bible and without, you’re job now is not to drive your marriage or your children or your friendship off a cliff because Pastor Mike said its ok.
Good satirists train. And this is what I emphasised last week with the previous verses of Ephesians 4 that charged the apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers with the task of conducting that training.
• The third and final qualification is that none should be without accountability. Whether it be our use of satire or our application of gentleness, your believing neighbours in the church must have a front row seat to Christian walk so that the accountability in their fellowship with you will guard and keep you from your inconsistencies.
Now, just as I did last week, we will dive into the passage I read at the beginning towards the latter end of the sermon, but I want to start by surveying the Scriptures to see some of the use of satire in the Bible.
Satire in the Old Testament
Let us begin with the prophet Amos who took a jab at the Israelites for their complacency in Amos 6:1-6
Amos 6:1–6 ESV
1 “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion, and to those who feel secure on the mountain of Samaria, the notable men of the first of the nations, to whom the house of Israel comes!
2 Pass over to Calneh, and see, and from there go to Hamath the great; then go down to Gath of the Philistines. Are you better than these kingdoms? Or is their territory greater than your territory,
3 O you who put far away the day of disaster and bring near the seat of violence?
4 “Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory and stretch themselves out on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall,
5 who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp and like David invent for themselves instruments of music,
6 who drink wine in bowls and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!
• The security of the Israelites is no security at all for the walls of Jerusalem and the mountains of Samaria were not their fortress. God was. And since the Israelites did not trust God, Amos calls them out.
• Well, gather ’round, you fine gentlemen who grace the luxurious realms of ivory-laden beds, recliners fit for royalty, and couches that cradle you like the kings of leisure. Come, you who indulge in unlimited popcorn, sip your finest wine from oversized bowls (who needs mere glasses?), and, of course, are preparing for the imminent launch of David’s ground-breaking new music album, ‘The Idle Vibe’— so cool.
Do step a little closer; I have a matter of utmost importance to discuss with you. Take your time. It’s not like your house is on fire or anything.
You see what Amos is doing?
• His woe to the Israelites is full of irony with a sting. O you who put far away the day of disaster and bring near the seat of violence? They are complacent and leisurely in their concern regarding the coming of destruction while ignoring the rampant violence against God’s commandments in their city.
The book of Proverbs has it in for the sluggard.
Proverbs 26:14 ESV
14 As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed.
• A snoring sluggard is like a door with a squeaky hinge.
Proverbs 22:13 ESV
13 The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!”
• Doug Wilson points out something that I found interesting in this kind of satire. In logical argumentation, there is a fallacy called the straw man fallacy. Basically, when a debating opponent tries to refute an argument by making a caricature of that argument that is easier to dismantle it is called a straw man argument. Because he is not dealing with the actual argument but a phantom of that argument.
Though this is bad debating, this is useful satire when used to exaggerate the foolishness of the foolish in order to get their attention. Like we see here. No sluggard actually says there’s a lion in the streets. But the exaggeration goes to show how the sluggard make inexcusable excuses with ease.
• Satire was not meant to play fair.
Proverbs 19:24 ESV
24 The sluggard buries his hand in the dish and will not even bring it back to his mouth.
• A sluggard’s efforts are always half-hearted.
Here are some other worthy mentions from the book of Proverbs
Proverbs 26:17 ESV
17 Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears.
Proverbs 27:14 ESV
14 Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing.
All this is funny as long as you avoid the cultural sensitivities. It is not tolerated in our age if men were to ever remark about women in such a fashion. I suppose if we buy into that, wives will have to censor out certain verses from the Bible before their husbands accidentally read it. And we know that most husbands read their Bibles accidentally.
Proverbs 11:22 ESV
22 Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.
• You have to use your imagination to picture this sight.
Proverbs 19:13 ESV
13 A foolish son is ruin to his father, and a wife’s quarreling is a continual dripping of rain.
Proverbs 27:15–16 ESV
15 A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike;
16 to restrain her is to restrain the wind or to grasp oil in one’s right hand.
Proverbs 21:19 ESV
19 It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.
• Wives, if you’re quarrelsome, and your husband is surveying deserts on Discovery Channel or YouTube, now you know what’s happening.
What about Job’s jab at his friends, Job 12:2
Job 12:2 ESV
2 “No doubt you are the people, and wisdom will die with you.
• God forbid that you should ever die after counselling me today, what would wisdom do without you?
And what about God’s jab at Job at the end of it, Job 38:1-5
Job 38:1–5 ESV
1 Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
3 Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.
4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.
5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?
• It seemed appropriate to God to use sarcasm to confront the idea that a man dare ask God to justify his actions. And look at what the outcome of the use of this satire is.
Job 40:1–5 ESV
1 And the Lord said to Job:
2 “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it.”
3 Then Job answered the Lord and said:
4 “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth.
5 I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.”
There are more references, a lot more, but if I picked all of them, I would have stayed back home laughing for the glory of God than be here preaching this sermon to you.
The Satire of Christ
Last week, I introduced two categories of satire – the Horatian satire which was more subtle, and the Juvenalian satire which was more in your face. Jesus used both kinds though he used the latter far more.
John 10:32 ESV
32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?”
Luke 13:33 ESV
33 Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’
• Don’t worry. I won’t leave town. You can find me when you’re ready to kill me.
Matthew 7:1–6 ESV
1 “Judge not, that you be not judged.
2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.
3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?
5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
6 “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
• Here again is a vivid picture that is not merely symbolic. You need to picture this, use your imagination and chuckle at the irony. The absurdity of the picture is the absurdity of the hypocrisy of many Christians.
Matthew 15:14 ESV
14 Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”
• The sarcasm here is in the instruction to let them be. They’ll drive themselves into the wall.
Matthew 7:16 ESV
16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
We will have our hearts full when we reach Matthew 23 and see Christ’s polemic week after week. What a way to begin 2024!
Here are some of the characteristics of a godly satirist as Doug Wilson wrote in a response to a critique of his book.
1. A godly satirist should be a member of a worshipping community of orthodox and faithful Christians, and he should live in such a way as to be accountable to others for his words and actions.
2. A godly satirist should be steeped in the language and categories of Scripture.
3. A godly satirist should have a warm and affectionate relationship with his wife, sons, daughters, mother, and father.
4. A godly satirist should be well-educated, well-read in the kind of literature that he is seeking to contribute to.
5. A godly satirist should study to learn the quantitative boundary between satire and scurrility, knowing from the outset that there is such a boundary.
6. A godly satirist should study the qualitative difference between satire and scurrility. This is a matter of timbre and tone.
7. A godly satirist should not be too young.
8. A godly satirist should target lack of proportion, not exhibit lack of proportion (Matt. 23:24).
9. A godly satirist should look carefully (and regularly) at the effect he is having on younger Christians who know him and desire to imitate him (2 Cor. 11:1).
10. A godly satirist should have long experience in letting love cover a multitude of sins (1 Pet. 4:8).
There are a lot more points in this list, but I will leave the rest for you to come and ask me after the service.
This is the word of the Lord,
Matthew 21:23–27 ESV: 23 And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.
As we’ve traversed through the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 21 has marked a stark distinction in how Jesus approaches his ministry on the earth.
He is no longer quiet about his Messianic identity. He is going all out. He has entered Jerusalem, the heart of the nation of Israel. He is marching to the cross.
He knows he will die here. His words and actions in Jerusalem will catapult the opposition into a blinded rage in an attempt to destroy this Jewish carpenter.
That is what the mind in the flesh does when it encounters the immovable and unstoppable truth of the Spirit. When you can’t argue or reason your way out, you suppress, you throw tantrums, and then you lash out.
Romans 1:18 ESV: 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
Today’s sermon is about the suppression of truth, which is the de facto position of the human flesh. And now, as Christians, before you assume that I’m talking about those who are out there in the world and of the world and now about us, let me say it as clearly as I can, I’m talking about suppression of truth in your lives.
Even though you and I are a regenerate people who have our sins crucified on Christ’s cross, who are freed from the curse of sin and death, we are still beings in the flesh and the effects of sin and temptation continue to wage war in our bodies.
Jesus said in his High Priestly prayer, in John 17:15-16
John 17:15–16 ESV: 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
He also told us that, Matthew 18:7
Matthew 18:7 ESV: 7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!
We are no longer under the bondage of sin but sin is still a very pressing reality in our lives. We are called to fight because we have been given the means to defeat our flesh. We are not helpless anymore for the Lord Himself is our help.
1 Corinthians 6:19 ESV: 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,
So, the force of temptation, the allure of sin and selfishness, pride, and all the weaknesses of the flesh are ever before us. The question is, “How intentional are we in this war?”.
Romans 6:1–2 ESV: 1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
This is how unintentional Christians think about their salvation. Since we are no longer under the curse of sin, how bad can it be if we fall? And Paul’s basic response is that such thinking isn’t Christian thinking. The Christian response to all sin is, “How can I live in this when I have died to it? I’m dead to this!”
The Christian does not justify or make room for sin, he knows it to be wrong and deals with it accordingly, like one who is dead to that kind of life.
Unrelenting Sleuth On the Scent of Truth
The most crucial and transformative period of my life in coming to a strong and rooted faith in Christ, as I’m sure is the case for many of you, was when I resolved to pursue truth. At some point in my life, it suddenly mattered as it should for all of you, what the truth was.
And when I say truth, I mean it from top to bottom. Not just about the higher philosophical realities of existence and purpose, but also about the reality of day-to-day life and decisions. I realized that it matters that we know why we do what we do and whether we should do what we do.
Life hung in the balance for me at that point because I had to make sense of questions like,
- Why am I here?
- What must I do?
- How must I honor my Father and Mother?
- When and how do I disagree with my parents?
- When do I pursue marriage?
- What do I do with my money?
- Whom do I marry?
- Can I fall in love?
- How do I treat women?
- What are the boundaries of friendship?
- Why must I do engineering?
- Do my grades really matter?
- How high should I aim?
- Can I have ambitions?
- How do I make the right decisions about career and lifestyle choices?
- What movies can I watch?
- Do I need to be a part of the church?
- How must I steward my generosity?
- How must I steward my time?
- Do I join this college or do I accept this job offer?
Trust me, I can go on and on and on and on, and not stop. So many Christians are stuck on so many of these questions because they’ve never bothered to be intentional about their pursuit of truth (about reality, about what really matters) in the small things that suddenly they are caught off guard as though something strange were happening to them. Then, they run to their prayer closets to seek God’s magical answer to their problem while also praying that they wouldn’t catch a cold from all the dust in that unused closet.
John Piper in his poem, The Calvinist, has this phrase – unrelenting sleuth on the scent of truth. Are you unrelenting in the pursuit of truth? I was and that has always been the bottom-most foundational reality in my Christian life. Everything I pursue has to align with what I believe to be true, and what I believe to be true must be ratified by the Bible.
Romans 1 against the whole wide world
Allow me some time to take you through the nature of the flesh as it is revealed in Romans 1. Now, mind you that when a sleuth finds himself in this chapter, he may end up MIA – Missing in Action. Romans 1 is like a mirror maze. Whichever way you turn and run, you run headfirst into your exposed self and it hurts. If there was ever a chapter in the Bible that was written to send the worldliness inside of you reeling in horror and fear, it is this one.
So, have a prayer in your heart for me as I go into Romans 1 and try to navigate our way through some of this truth in under 10 mins.
Paul begins by mentioning his intention in Romans 1:15
Romans 1:15 ESV: 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
• The apostle Paul is a very logically minded guy and you have to follow his reasoning. What we find after this statement is a cascade of causes. The conjunction ‘for’ in the Bible is a word that points you to the cause. It is a word that precedes the explanation, the reason.
• He is eager to preach the gospel. Not the five ways to please your wife or the 10 ways to hold your tongue. The Bible does speak about all these things and they need to be preached, but Paul’s talking about the essence of preaching, the centrality of the message regardless of what your topic might be. Everything comes out of this most central and unavoidable message, of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Your eagerness to preach anything must be at its most fundamental level a desire to preach the Gospel.
Romans 1:16 ESV: 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
• According to Paul, the eagerness of preaching the Gospel is an unashamed love for it. This means that the hesitation to preach the Gospel may be a strong indicator that you are ashamed of the Gospel.
• Paul can’t imagine how one could be ashamed about the power of God that saves everyone who believes, whether Jew or Greek.
Romans 1:17 ESV: 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
• The Gospel is the power that saves because it is the revelation of God’s righteousness that is revealed from faith to faith.
• So you have to work your way back from these three cascading ‘for’s and see how God’s righteousness which is his just approval, moral perfection, the purest right that has no wrong; how this perfection of light with all its power is presented or revealed in the message of the Gospel which is that Jesus died and rose again so that if you believe in him you shall not perish but this pure and perfect light shall cleanse you, but if you do not believe in Christ, you will perish without any hope of a salvation.
He hashes out this judgment in the next verse,
Romans 1:18 ESV: 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
• See how the Gospel is the revelation of God’s righteousness, his salvation, and those who reject this salvation are called suppressers of the truth.
Jesus, when talking about our salvation said, in John 14:6
John 14:6 ESV: 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
This is the glory of the truth, that Jesus is the truth.
When Moses asked God for his name in Exodus 33, God responded with ‘I AM’. There is a reason that this is the highest name. When you and I use our names we are using words to represent who we are. They are identifying titles to who we are as a person. But who God is as a Being is Existence as we know it.
John 1:3 ESV: 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
No creature can claim to exist apart from God. We exist because he exists.
In much the same way, when Jesus says that he is the truth, he means to say that there is no truth if there is no Christ. He is the Truth.
Paul tells that Christ is the One,
Colossians 2:3 ESV: 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
There is no knowledge apart from knowing Christ. The one who forsakes Christ is forsaking knowledge.
Therefore, what sin does, what the flesh in unrighteousness does, is forsake Christ because you can’t argue with truth, you have to yield. But if you don’t want to yield, the only thing you can do is ‘suppress’.
And when you suppress, you forsake knowledge, wisdom, and above all, truth.
And God’s wrath is revealed against such people.
Romans 1:19–21 ESV: 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
• God has made plain to us the truth. Every act of creation, the cosmos is a constant megaphone declaring to you the truth about God. You cannot escape it. Therefore, sin is not ignorant, it is intentional. It is foolishness.
Hebrews 1:1–2 ESV: 1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
God has always been speaking, and the coming of Jesus was the loudest and clearest speech. The Gospel is the loudest statement from Heaven.
So, in summarising this cascading causes in Romans 1, God has always been revealing the truth to the world, and the Gospel is the loudest and clearest message of truth. And through the Gospel is revealed the power of God for righteousness and salvation to those who are in the unrelenting pursuit of truth, but for those who suppress the truth the Gospel is the decisive stroke of judgment.
The Centrality of Truth
When the Gospel took such root in my life, I understood that I cannot answer any of the questions in my life meaningfully without the reality of this God in my life.
I understood that the only place that I can find the answers to all the questions pertaining to my life were in the pages of the Bible.
Cornelius Van Til, a Dutch-American philosopher and theologian was famously known to have said that The Bible is authoritative on everything of which it speaks. Moreover, it speaks of everything.
And this has been the foundation stone of much of my practical Christian life and even my apologetics.
Armed with this understanding, let us look at this short passage in Matthew 21
Matthew 21:23 ESV: 23 And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”
• Here we find Jesus back at the temple teaching the people. The Messiah had gone from cleansing the temple to healing the sick and now teaching them.
For all the parents in the room, here is a picture of how the rod of discipline should be used. Discipline is meant to drive out the evil, heal the wounded and to teach.
If you use the rod only to punish and not to heal or to teach, then you are in greater need of the rod than your children.
Be Christlike in your parenting. Let your anger heal and train, not destroy those whom God has placed under your care.
• If there was one thing that the people could not deny, it was the authority with which Jesus spoke and did what he did.
In an earlier passage we’d read,
Matthew 7:28–29 ESV: 28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.
So, when Jesus chases out the money changers and traders from the temple courts and then heals the truly needy and teaches them in the place where only yesterday was buzzing with trade, the crowds are watching an authoritative man.
In fact, such was the authority with which he conducted himself that none opposed him as he disrupted trade across acres of land overturning the table of the money changers, beating and driving out birds and goats and the people.
• This again is the nature of Christ, the truth. Since God is the I AM, the only uncaused cause, the very embodiment of existence as we know it; that when he shows up, the authority of his presence will be unlike anything else that exists. When God walks into the room so-to-speak, it’ll be unlike anyone else walking into the room. His very existence is existence.
And here, standing before these Jews was the very truth incarnate, the highest truth and instead of falling flat on their face, they wanted to know his credentials.
This is what the flesh does when it encounters truth. You cannot deny it, debate it, overpower it, so you suppress, you dismiss, and what better way to do that than you try and discredit it.
• By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?
This question is two-fold. It questions Jesus’ authority and the one who gave him that authority. They cannot question the reasoning behind his cleansing of the temple, they cannot deny the reality that people are healed, and they cannot argue with his teaching. So, they ask for his qualifications.
Matthew 13:55 ESV: 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?
John 1:46 ESV: 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
Matthew 21:24 ESV: 24 Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things.
• For those of you here who are more technically aligned, here is an example of what we call pre-suppositional apologetics. Jesus does not rush to satisfy their request to see the evidence of his qualification. Instead, he presupposes their worldview according to which it does not matter if someone is speaking the truth or doing good things, it matters that he is officially given such authority.
Matthew 21:25–26 ESV: 25 The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”
• According to their worldview, if they denied John’s authority, the crowds would turn against them because they believed he is a prophet. On the other hand, if they agreed that it was from heaven, then they are caught for not believing him. Jesus knew that the Chief priests and elders were behaving inconsistently. That they were swayed not by credentials but by the lust for power and the authority they possessed over the people. This forced them to behave inconsistently in how they dealt with John’s ministry. Though they themselves did not believe John, they did not oppose him in front of the crowd.
• Now, see how when push comes to shove, they weren’t bothered about the truth. They did not want to answer truthfully. ‘If we say this, then…’
So many of us in our flesh deal with life in this manner. These chiefs, elders of the people would not answer truthfully because it would either lose them their popularity or it would hurt their ego.
Is Truth your higher treasure? Or are you all about truth when it is most convenient for you?
• How would you deal with sin if it were pointed out to you by your children? Would you receive it or would you question the maturity of their age, their authority?
• The piety of these elders of Israel was an outer display with no inward reality. They prayed aloud so that they could be seen by others, they were generous so that people would speak highly of them.
Are you the same Christian on the inside as you have shown yourself to be on the outside?
When push comes to shove, are you as heavenly minded as you say you are? Do you desire the glory of his name, the glory of his church, and building of his kingdom above all things? Or do you desire your own welfare more?
• Doug Wilson talks about how Christians like to put sin and righteousness on the stuff rather than weigh it upon their hearts. Some like to see their righteousness in the fact that they don’t watch movies, listen to secular music or hang around with unbelievers. Yet none of these things prove any measure of your righteousness.
If you must know, your pastor watches movies, listens to secular music, and hangs around with his unbeliever friends. The measure of my righteousness is not found in me avoiding this world because I am in this world. It must be measured by how much the world has not mastered me, but how in Christ I have mastered the world.
Have you not read Paul who wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:23
1 Corinthians 10:23 ESV: 23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.
• How true is your faith? How genuine is your confession? How passionate are you to want truth to be the banner over your home?
It is easy to be a Christian on a Sunday morning and behind a pulpit. But how Christian are you at home?
Matthew 21:27 ESV: 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.
• We do not know – In what they thought would be a wise response, they revealed their foolishness. These who came to question Jesus’ authority were people without knowledge. They were left empty and their response shows their lack of authority.
Christ who spoke and worked with such authority stood in stark contrast to these who could not answer his question.
So, Jesus establishes his superior authority by revealing the spiritual nakedness of the Jewish elite.
• And as John Piper pointed out, “Jesus does not deal with those who suppress the truth.”
Jesus who is the very embodiment of truth, does not deal with those who do not love the truth.
The spiritually mature person is one who has gone down further along the road of truth, those who are more aware of it and have aligned their lives to it.
• Anxiety – Trust
• Interests of others
• Dependence on God more than money
• Obey scripture more than culture
• Pray more
• Whose ambitions serve the Glory of God and the good of his Church