SERMON PREACHED AT THE CLOSING SERVICE OF THE SYNOD OF THE DIOCESE OF SAPELE ON SUNDAY, 2ND AUGUST, 2015
THEME: “JACOB I LOVE, BUT ESAU I HATE: WHEN PREFERRED, WE MUST WORK OUT OUR SALVATION”
TEXTS: Romans 9:13; Philippians 2:12.
Welcome all Delegates to the Synod and appreciate the Bishop for the invitation to minister at the Synod. Thank him for his care and hospitality in the last four days. Pray God’s blessings into his life and upon the Diocese as a whole. Recapitulate the messages of the first three days.
As we come to the end of the Synod, thanking God for another year and we think of the message to take back home; it is important to ask the question of why Esau was (loved less) rejected by God. From the scripture, we could infer the reason from Hebrews 12 as the author writes, “Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears” (Heb. 12:15-17).
The use of profanity in Hebrews 12:16 is synonymous with being a gluttony, which has been regarded as Esau’s sin as he willingly cast away his birthright. This was a personal conscious effort of a profane person casting away his spiritual privilege just to gratify his momentary need (Genesis 25:34). Ordinarily as the eldest son, Esau had an enormous honour bestowed on him. But he undervalued his birthright. His profanity became evident in the way he treated his right with contempt. He disrespected his day of his birth, living a licentious life, thereby forfeiting all the honour connected with this to Jacob.
He followed his inner corrupt inclinations becoming profane in thought.
The reference in Hebrews 12 to Esau as a fornicator was in connection to his marriage to foreign women which made him stand in opposition to the command of God (Gen. 26:34-35; 36:2). In all of these, the choice was that of Esau. Truly in the latter years, he did weep trying to regain his blessings and entitlements as a first born before his father’s death (Gen. 27:30-38); but it was too late
The fact that an individual dreamed of greatness does not mean the person will be great (Joseph Gen. 37:5-11). The fact that someone came from a cursed family does not mean he will remain cursed forever (Jabez: 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 and the people of Nineveh: Jonah 3:5-10). This is where Predestination is different from Fatalism.
The point we want to emphasise here is that there is the need for conscious efforts to grow in personal relationship with God; and that was Paul’s message to the Philippians as he writes, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). On the one hand, this is seen in the life of Joseph. In order that his dreams would be fulfilled, he had a role to play, he shun and fled from sin (Gen. 39:7-23). On the other hand, we can see how Eli ignored the message of God in 1 Sam. 3:11-18; and his inaction resulted in the fulfilment of God’s judgement on him and his family (1 Sam. 4:10-18). Has God been speaking to someone at this Synod? If you turn away from the wicked way, God will have mercy on you.
God wants individuals to take their destiny in their hands: God had told both Moses and Joshua that everything opposing them on their way and in the land of Canaan should be destroyed. Yet, Rahab was spared (Joshua 6:22-23); and the Gibeonites were spared (Joshua 9:3-15). God does not compel anyone to be saved, and inherit the gift of eternal life. This is a matter of individual choice.
When we talk of working out our salvation with fear and trembling, there is always the question of the relationship between doing a good work and inheritance of eternal life. This is where Christians are getting it wrong today. We are not saved by good works, but good works done as a saved soul become a sure proof of the fact that we are chosen vessels of God (Eph. 2:10). Christians are much more interested in rendering services to God and Christ with an unconverted hearts. It is much easier to build Churches, Vicarages, buying Buses, and doing Endowment Fund for Churches. But they are very carefree about their spiritual life.
While the Jews could not be saved by works (the keeping and observance of the Law), the Gentiles who were not direct children of Abraham based on physical descent have become his children by faith through their confession of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Since Christ is the Seed of Abraham through whom all who believe in him will be saved, the Gentiles who have confessed the Lordship of Christ are now inheritors of all the blessings promised to Abraham and his children. And we see how the good works of the Corinthians positioned them as evidence of new life in Christ (2 Corinthians 8 & 9).
Indeed, Jesus Christ has bridged the gap between the Jews and the Gentiles. The fact of these exemptions shows that indeed God is merciful; and truly whoever calls on his name will be saved, “And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, As the LORD has said, among the remnant whom the LORD calls” (Joel 2:32 cf. Acts 2:21; Rom. 10:11-13). It is the wish of God that all men be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4). That is why God cannot be blamed by anybody for missing heaven. He has once again given the free offer of salvation to anybody who cares to accept same.
What we are saying here as we come to the end of the Synod this year is that in God’s divine preferment, there is a place for the exercise of man’s free will. Man has a choice. God is not a task master. He will show you all the available options. He will put before you the blessings if you obey him (Deut. 28:1-14); and the curses if your disobey him (Deut. 28:15-68). That has always been his method of operation from the foundation of the world (Gen. 2:8-9, 15-16).
Man has the capacity for choice. He can accept or reject. He can accept salvation or reject it. He can accept blessings or reject them. He may choose to obey God or disobey him. That is why man is a moral agent. When he says, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out/away” (John 6:37); man may come to him and be saved or reject the call and perish. That is why Prophet Micah says, “He has shown you, O man, what is good, And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).
Esau was responsible for the choice he made to sell his birthright. In the same way, God cannot be said to be behind the sins any man commits. Everyone who misses heaven does so by willingly rejecting God; and choosing hell. The point here is that every man who loses heaven gives it up himself; and every man who loses everlasting life rejects it himself.
The Lord who chooses a man is also capable of throwing him into immediate or eternal pain if such an individual is found living contrary to His will. The Israelites were on their way to the Promised Land and they began to fiddle with strange women and by so doing committed whoredom. God did not hesitate to destroy at least 24,000 of them until the evil was over (Numbers 25:1, 9).
Even though He is the God of mercy, love and grace, He is also a consuming fire. He can kill and make alive (1 Samuel 2:6). Christians need to be reminded of the need to live right and be obedient to God without relenting. There is no other way to God other than holiness within and without (Heb. 12:14). It is important to say that anyone who misses heaven cannot miss hell and that no man is too favoured to perish.
Beloved, God’s way cannot be fathomed by mere mortals. From the human point of view, Esau was not more sinful than Jacob. The only reason why God loved Jacob must have been because of his own grace. Jacob was a supplanter (Gen. 27:36), and he tricked Laban to have more of his sheep (Gen. 30:25-43), yet God loved him! This is the mercy of God at work; and the essence of Romans 9:14-15. What we need is mercy, and amazing grace of God in our lives. Surely, salvation is not by work, but by grace. If you will call on him today, that grace will also be given to you. Yes, your background does not matter. Whoever calls on him shall not be cast away, but shall be saved. But remember, even if preferment comes from heaven above, you also have a part to play. Every man could be preferred, but he needs to accept the free gift of God. Therefore, work out your salvation with fear and trembling! Be determined to be on the Lord’s side always. His mercy over you shall endure forever.