Sunday, June 25, 2017

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By : Lonnie Branam [ Sermon "The More Excellent Way" ]


It will greatly help you to understand and appreciate what is said in this message if you will first read in the New Testament I Corinthians 12:28-31 and I Corinthians 13:1-13. The great apostle to the Gentiles closed the 12th chapter of his letter to the Christians at Corinth with these words,“ But earnestly desire the best gifts, and yet I show you a more excellent way.” What he meant is there is something better than miracle-working power or spiritual gifts. The best of all gifts is shown in the 13th chapter of I Corinthians. The apostle Paul in the 12th chapter set forth the church under the figure of a human body, which has many members and organsm byt all are parts of one body. Every member is a part and necessary, and all taken together make up the body. They a re parts of a united whole and work togetehr in perfect harmony in their several places. True, they are different in form and service. They do not look alike, but they work with each other, and never against each other. What a figure of the Lord's church, the church of God which is called the body of Christ. Now Paul said further, “ God has set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversity of tongues.”
In this chapter, the apostle makes mention of nine spiritual gifts, and here wehave the nine positions primitive church by men with miracle-working powers who were placed by God for a purpose. Did these miraculously endowed men of the apostolic age accomplish their work? If they did, the miracle working powers have passed away. If not we should still have men with supenatural gifts in the church. It is claimed that we should have apostles, and prophets, miracles, and gifts and gifts of healing now in the church in the church. because God set them in the church. True, but for what purpose, and how long were miraculous powers to continue? Paul said in answer to the first question, “And he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors, and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints; for the work of the ministry; for the edifying of the body of Christ: ‘Till.” Mark the word, “Till” we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”.(Eph. 4:11-13) (“Unto a perfect man”, a perfect body or organization), Until a perfect revelation had been made. This then was God's purpose in giving miracle working power to the early church. Remember that, the church was then in its childhood. The body of Christ growing into a perfect man or organization: These powers were then needed for the perfection of the body, to give the divine constitution and complete the organization The extraordinary was needed to create only. The ordinary Perpetuates. This we know is true in nature~ and it is also true in grace, or revelation. These supernatural powers were necessary in establishing the church, and confirming the truth. Just as a scaffold is necessary in building a house, but when the house is completed, the scaffolding is no longer necessary-. When the church was established, and the Christian system confirmed, supernatural gifts ceased. They served their purpose, for truth once confirmed needs no further confirmation. And further, my friends, the apostles and prophets, with their supernatural powers, are with us in their records, in the constitution of the church, but they have no successors: As Christ is still the head of the church. and in the church; in his word, his law, his government; although in person, he is in heaven, and not in the church, as he was among men. We have no more reason for men now to succeed the apostles, or the men of the New Testament age, who exercised spiritual gifts, and miracle working power, than we need a person to succeed Christ. Christ finished his work and so did the apostles: Paul makes it plain the extraordinary gifts would pass away, but that faith, hope and love; these would abide permanently, and that as great principles, they are sufficient for the salvation of mankind. It is my purpose to place before you, the Spirit's teaching on,“The More Excellent Way," the best of all things, which we all can possess: Faih, Hope, Love. I submit to you that each grace is a sublime theme in itself. Faith leans on Christ; hope hangs by faith, and love leans on both faith and hope. Paul affirms that “Without faith it is impossible to please God”. It should be the one supreme purpose of the human heart to please God, be-cause he first loved us; and we are wholly dependent upon him for all things; and further, the apostle teaches, that to please God, we must come to him in the way, in which lie has appointed by faith:“For whatsoever is not of faith is sin”. It is most important, that we have a clearcut idea of faith. What it is; how it comes; and what it does: “To the law and to the testimony, what saith the Scriptures”? The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is devoted to the subject of faith. The apostle first tells us what faith is, and then shows what faith does. That is,. he shows us what faith is by showing what faith accomplished in the lives of Old Testament characters. He has given in that chapter a number of examples of the power of faith. Christianity is a system of faith: The Bible says, The just shall live by faith.” We walk by faith” . It follows that as faith has such an important bearing on our lives, we should clearly understand just what it is, and what it does for us. There is more or less confusion in the religious world on the subject. We want if possible to strip it of all the mysticism, that speculative teaching has thrown about it, and let the light of the inspired word shine upon it, and the darkness of error will be dispelled.
What is faith? Paul said it is, “The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen” This s translation or rendering leaves the idea rather obscure. Substance is an old English word, and means literally, that which stands under. Thus, faith is that which stands under our hope, or sustains our hope. A better rendering is, “Faith is the basis (or foundation) of things hoped for, a conviction of thins unseen. Now to my mind, this rendering is as clear as the sunlight, with reference to things unseen., and that includes hope. For when we hope for anything, it is future; it is unseen to us. We do not hope in regard to the past, or the present. The apostle said, “What a man sees, why does he yet hope for? Now with reference to things unseen, whether in the past, the present or future, faith is a conviction, and that means that when we have faith concerning them, we are convinced in regard to them. We receive them as true. To receive a things as true is faith. What more can we do? Faith then is the confidence which of thins wich we have not seen. Faith is the belief of Testimoy. No testimony, no faith To believe without testimony is as impossible as to see without light. Where testimony stops, our faith stops. Weak testimony, weak faith; storn testimony, strong faith. If we are shut up or confined to the testimony of Moses and the prophets, and even that of John the Baptist, no man in the world would have believed that, Jesus died, spoiled death and broke the sceptre of the tomb. Because there would be no testimony upon which to base such faith. And I might add here, that there is no difference between faith and belief. They are used interchangeably in the Sacred Text, first by Jesus, and then by Paul. And this effort to divide, and subdivide faith and make a distinction between faith and belief; and all this talk about the nature of faith is learned or unlearned nonsense. I don't care which you call it. It only tends to confuse, and bewilder honest men and women. It only darkens counsel to divide and subdivide faith into historical faith, and evangelical, and saving faith, as is often done. There is no faith worth anything that is not historical, either oral or written. And if you mean by historical faith, the faith that comes by hearing or reading the testimony given by the four inspired historians of Jesus; then of course, I believe in historical faith. But why use so many qualifying terms, which nly tend to bewidler the commmon people. Paul said, “There is one faith”. Let us be satisfied with the divine testimony. The Lord Jesus has made faith a means of our salvation. Its purpose is to purify the heart: "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith”, said Paul. To the same purpose Peter testified: “And put no difference between them and us (that is between Jew and Gentile) purifying their heats by faith.” But it is not so much the act of believing that saves us, as what we believe. John wrote,“But these are written that you might believe, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you might life in His name.” The thought of the writer is simply that the evidence is sufficient to convince any honest mind that Jesus is the Son of God. All are perfectly free in this matter. God compels no one to receive the testimony of His Son. But all who do not believe bring themselve under condemnation. But the faith that saves is an active, living faith, a faith that is made perfect by obedience. A faith that does not have the power to bring a person to obedience to Christ and a Christlike life of service is as worthless as good wishes, which end in in words, rather than in deeds. If faith does not move people to confess the name Christ and does not move people to stop lliving a sinful, worldly life, and then submit to be buried with Christ in baptism, such faith will not save you.
Another precious gift that God gives through the gospel is hope. The apostle John said, “Beloved, now we are the children of God, and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like h im, for we shalll see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure”(I John 3:2,3). Paul said, “For we are saved by hope, but hope that is seen is not hope, for why does one still hope for what he sees?” Romans 8:24). The apostle Peter said, “Blessed be God who has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Christ from the dead.”. With this inspired teaching before us, we can safely conclude that Christian hope has to do with the future. It never looks backward and doesn't contemplate the present. It looks forward to future objects. Hope is made up of two elements, namely desire and expectation.. We desire certain things because they are desirable, and we expecct to enjoy them because they are promised. Hope then embraces promises that are desirable, and we expect to enjoy them because the great God, who cannot lie, promised them. Hence, the foundation of our hope is our faith in God. Our hope of eternal life is supported by two immutable things in which it is impossible for God to lie: his word of promise and his oath. As men everywhere place so much comfodemce in an oath Gopd therefore condescemded to human weakness and custom i order to give to his children every possible ground of encouragement. He confirmed his promise to give us eternal life. This is the very foundation of the Christian̓s hope; which the apostle says is as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters into that, which is within the vail: This hope, and by the way, there is but one hope, embraces so much: The things hoped for are beyond description: “Eye bath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things, which God bath prepared for them that love him.” The resurrection of the dead: we desire it, we expect it; the new and glorified body. The new heaven a nd the new earth in which the redeemed shall dwell, and a reunion with loved ones in that sinless summer land. Truly, it is a blessed hope; what would life be without the glorious hope of the gospel? Let us cherish the hope which the gospel gives. It is to the soul whant an anchor is to the ship. This is the only place in the Sacred Text where an anchor is used a figure of hope, but it is a strrking figure. The ship may be tossed on the waves, in a raging storm, but so long as the anchor holds, the ship rides in safety over the troubled waters; and so on the sea, of life, the waves of trouble, trial, and misfortune may beat upon the Christian and try his soul, but as long as his hope is sure and steadfast anchored in Christ; they beat in vain, for he is perfectly secure. The seaman casts the iron anchor downward into the sea, and when it takes hold in the bed of the ocean, the greater the storm, and the heavier the strain that comes on it, the deeper, and firmer grow its hold. The Christian throws the hope anchor upward into heaven, and beloved in the storms of life, its temptations and trials instead of driving us away from our anchorage; they only tend to fix our hope more firmly on the Rock of Ages. Do you enjoy this hope beloved? If not, why not? It is based on the promises of God, which are yea and amen in Christ Jesus. To have this hope, you must be in Christ, and abide in him. To be in Christ you must come into Christ, and you come into him by believing what he says, and doing what he commands.
And now in conclusion, a word about the greatest thing inthe world, “Love.” I glorifies fatth and hope; it beautifieslife. It is the motive power of the gospel. It is the one great element in he Christian system that is divine. God is love. “ We love him because he first loved us.” God commends his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, in ope rebellion, God so loved us that he gave that which was nearest and bes t o him, He gave his own precious Son to be a sin offering for a sinful world. Loving God and Christ is not a mere sentiment or just having a good feeling towards them. It is a most practical something. It can be measured. Jesus said, “He who has my commandments and keeps them he it is who loves me.” In I Corinthians 13 which is the basis of our teaching, Paul mentions seven things which love will do and nine things which love will not do. All Christians should study that chapter well that we may do the things which love does, and not do the things that love does snot do.
One of the things that love will not do is stated in these words, “Love thinks no evil.” How apt we are to think evil of one another, to be suspicious and oft times misjudge.The love which God sheds in our hearts by the Holy Spirit will lift us above this human weakness. The love of a good mother is the highest type of human love. A mother's love binds youth to old age. Her son will always be to her a child regardless of what time does to wrinkle his face and change the color of his hair. It has been well said the best friend that God ever gave us is “Mother.” She never thinks evil of her children. The boys may sometime do wrong, but mother puts the best construction upon their waywardness. The girls may go astray, but mother forgives. The story is told of a young man, the only son support of a poor widow, who was charged with murder. He was tried and condemned to death. His mother could not believe he was guilty. Day after day she went to see her boy, to comfort him, determined to stand by him. One day she met a preacher of the gospel whom she knew in the corridor of the prison. He had just had a heart to heart talk with her son. In that interview the young man said, “I am guilty; the finding of the court is just.” I committed the deed, when under the influence of liquor.” He said to the preacher, “I want you to warn the boys against the cup that ruins. I am deeply penitent, sir, and my only worry now is, that when my precious mother realizes that I am a murderer, it will kill her.” The poor woman said to the preacher, “ I want to talk to you. Everybody is down on my poor boy, and everybody sems to condemn him. Do you think he is guilty of this terrible crime?” The preacher replied
, “My dear woman I would rather not talk about it.” He could not bear to tell her what he knew. He just could not bear to crush her. But she said, “I want to talk; I cannot think of anything else. I have confidence in you.” Finally the preacher said, “You poor mother, your son has just confessed s to me that he is guilty., that he is deeply penitent. He tried to say something that might comfort her, but she did not seem to hear. The word guilty filled her whole soul with great sorrow. Her body shook with emotion, her form bent forward, and her tears fell on the stone floor at her feet. Finally she straightened up and looking into the preacher's face said, “Well, I love him anyhow.” My friends, if God did not love us anyhow, we would be lost beyond hope. God so loved us and gave His Son to die for us. Jesus came and opened up a way by which we can return to God. and become sons and daughters. Jesus said, “Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

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