“Abel’s sacrifice was for no other reason preferable to that of his brother, except that it was sanctified by faith: for surely the fat of brute animals did not smell so sweetly, that it could, by its odour, pacify God. The Scripture indeed shews plainly, why God accepted his sacrifice, for Moses’s words were these, ‘God had respect to Abel, and to his gifts.’ It is hence obvious to conclude, that his sacrifice was accepted, because he himself was graciously accepted. But how did he obtain his favour, except that his heart was purified by faith.
‘God testifying…’ He confirms what I have already stated, that no works, coming from us, can please God, until we ourselves are received into favour, or to speak more briefly, that no works are deemed just before God, but those of a just man: for he reasons thus,—God bore a testimony to Abel’s gifts; then he had obtained the praise of being just before God.
This doctrine is useful, and ought especially to be noticed, as we are not easily convinced of its truth; for when in any work, anything splendid appears, we are immediately rapt in admiration, and we think that it cannot possibly be disapproved of by God: but God, who regards only the inward purity of the heart, heeds not the outwards masks of works. Let us then learn, that no right or good work can proceed from us, until we are justified before God.
~ Excerpt from Calvin’s Commentaries (Hebrews 11:4) by John Calvin (1509-1564)
Mankind bears the image of God. Every single person, male and female, bears the distinct mark of God. In contrast, no other created being in heaven above or earth below can make this claim. Mankind sits at the pinnacle of creation—placed there by God Himself. The importance of the image of God in mankind cannot be overstated.
Yet, despite the importance of this great truth, ambiguity persists. Some may rightly wonder if clarity is even attainable. Precision must be realized. Topics like murder and slander depend on a clear understanding of the image of God in man (cf. Gen. 9:6 and James 3:9). The Church has neglected her responsibility to articulate a biblical response to abortion because she has neglected to articulate the meaning of the image of God in mankind. Until clarity on the image of God is realized, topics like abortion will lack clear biblical direction.
To understand the meaning of the image of God, one must recognize that the image of God must be unique to mankind. No other created being possesses any characteristic of the image of God. This truth eliminates many of the possibilities of the meaning for the image of God. For example, the image of God cannot be attributes of God. Animals display characteristics like love and loyalty, yet animals do not bear the image of God. In fact, a dog can often be more loyal than a human. Therefore, the image of God in mankind cannot be attributes of God. Similarly, some have argued that the image of God is relational. Genesis 1:27 points out the relationship of the Godhead in the trinity during the creation of man (i.e. “Let us make man in our image…”). Again, relationships are evident in many created beings. Yet, no other created being bears the image of God. Therefore, the image of God cannot be relational. The image of God is unique to mankind.
Many have pointed out the connection between rule and the image of God found in Genesis 1:27-28. Ruling appears to be a result of being made in the image of God. Mankind is made in the image of God; therefore, he rules over creation. This does not mean that mankind will rule, but rather, that mankind has the intrinsic right to rule. The image of God, then, must be the intrinsic right to rule. The intrinsic right to rule is the God-given authority to rule. For example, the first-born son of a monarch in England has an intrinsic right to the throne—although unrealized until the day of coronation. At what point does the first-born son of a monarch have the right to rule? Did this intrinsic right occur at birth? Did it occur at the first heartbeat? No. At every moment of life, the first-born son of the monarch has an intrinsic right to the throne. Similarly, mankind has an intrinsic right to rule at every moment of life.
No other created being bears the image of God. When the Church argues against abortion based on a heartbeat or the ability to feel pain, she has denigrated the image of God in mankind. Does not a cow or a chicken have a heartbeat? Is it not legitimate to take the life of a cow in order to provide nourishment for mankind? Taking the life of a human is wrong merely because it mars the image of God—it takes away the intrinsic right to rule.
Since the image of God in mankind is evident at every stage of life, no individual (except a government [Romans 13] or in self-defense) has the right to take a life. Abortion is wrong because taking a human life is wrong. Abortion is not wrong because it stops a heartbeat. Abortion is wrong because it takes away the intrinsic right to rule that is stamped on every human being at the moment of life by God Himself. The Church must not fail to articulate from the Bible why abortion is wrong.
Theme: The old covenant is a shadow of the new covenant (8:1-10:18; cf. 8:5; 9:9; 10:1).
I. The old covenant was lacking (8:1-13).
A. The promises of the new covenant are better (8:1-6).
B. The O.T. prophets anticipated a new covenant (8:7-12).
C. The old covenant became obsolete (8:13).
II. The new covenant gave full access to God (9:1-10).
A. The old covenant (outer tabernacle) could not give full access to God (9:1-5).
B. The new covenant (Holy of Holies) gave full access to God (9:6-10).
III. The sacrifice for the new covenant was offered in the heavenly tabernacle (9:11-14).
IV. The mediator of the new covenant had to die (9:15-22).
A. Christ had to die so we could receive our inheritance (9:15-17).
B. Death was necessary for cleansing (9:18-22).
V. The sacrifice for the new covenant is Christ Himself (9:23-28).
VI. The sacrifice for the new covenant is once-for-all-time (10:1-18).
The Church evangelizes the lost primarily through the preaching of the Word (see part 1). The church also evangelizes the lost by equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). The work of the ministry includes the exercising of each one's gifts within the body, but it also includes the hard work of sowing the seed. Everyone should participate in evangelizing the lost, even the elders (2 Timothy 4:5).
Although there is nothing wrong with a banquet or a program, these activities tend to relieve people of their responsibility to sow the seed of the Gospel to the lost. Jesus tells us in the parable of the Great Supper, to go into the highways and byways and compel people to come (Luke 14:15-24). The reality is, we would prefer to serve in a kitchen than cast the seed of the Gospel to the lost.
The parable of the soil teaches us that many will reject the Gospel. In fact, three of the four soils produced no fruit. I interpret that to mean that those people did not turn to Christ as their Savior and Lord. They sprouted, but they never demonstrated continued faith. Don't let this discourage you. Your responsibility is to sow the seed. God produces the faith.
How should the church evangelize the community? How would you answer this question? I am not asking how individuals evangelize the community, but rather, how does the church (corporately) evangelize?
The church relies on the world's methods of marketing to evangelize. The church is guilty of using small groups, VBS, and other programs to evangelize the lost. I am not arguing whether these methods are effective, but rather, are they biblical. If Paul lived today would he utilize small groups to evangelizer the community?
Paul argues in 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5 that the church's primary method of evangelism is preaching. Does this method seem foolish to you? Paul thought it would. He says that the preaching of the cross is foolishness. And, in fact, God chose the foolish things to confound the wise. Paul doesn't argue that preaching the cross is effective, or that it makes marketing sense; he argues that it is foolish.
But wasn't Paul a gifted speaker? No, he wasn't. In chapter 2 he argues that he came with weakness and fear. So why did God choose to use preaching the cross as the primary method of evangelism for the church? Paul sums up his answer in 1 Corinthians 2:5:
"So that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God's power."
That's it! God chose to use preaching as the primary method of evangelism for the church today and for all time so that our faith rests on God's power.
If Jesus never rose from the dead, men are still unsaved sinners, not because the resurrection would have saved them, but because without the resurrection the death of Jesus is shown to have been without saving efficacy.
That is why ‘we preach Christ crucified’ is the heart of the gospel. We also preach Christ born and living on earth (since He could not have been our Savior if He had not been made flesh and lived a sinless life). We also preach Christ risen and exalted (since by His resurrection He was publicly vindicated and by His exaltation He became our present mediator). But the emphasis in the New Testament Kerygma (preaching) is on the Savior’s atoning death for the sins of the world. Well may we echo Paul’s affirmation: ‘I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified’ (1 Cor. 2:2).
The first part of our simplified kerygma, then, is the proclamation of Jesus as Savior and Lord. The second part is the appeal to men and women to come to Him in repentance and faith.
~Excerpts from a Preacher’s Portrait (pg. 41)
By John Stott (1921-2011)
Take heed, therefore brethren [pastors], for the enemy hath a special eye upon you. You shall have his most subtle insinuations, and incessant solicitations, and violent assaults. As wise and learned as you are, take heed to yourselves, lest he outwit you. The devil is a greater scholar than you, and a nimbler disputant: he can transform himself into an angel of light to deceive: he will get within you, and trip up your heels before you are aware: he will play the juggler with you undiscerned, and cheat you of your faith or innocency, and you shall not know that you have lost it; nay, he will make you believe it is multiplied or increased, when it is lost. You shall see neither hook nor line, much less the subtle angler himself, while he is offering you his bait. And his bait shall be so fitted to your temper and disposition, that he will be sure to find advantages within you, and make your own principles and inclinations betray you; and whenever he ruineth you, he will make you the instruments of ruin to others.
~Excerpts from The Reformed Pastor
By Richad Baxter (1615-1691)
Sin will not only be striving, acting, rebelling, troubling, disquieting, but if left alone, if not continually mortified, it will bring forth great, cursed, scandalous, soul-destroying sins. The apostle tells us what the works and fruits of it are, Gal. 5 19-21, “the works of the flesh are manifest, which are, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like.” You know what it did in David and sundry others. Sin aims always at the utmost; every time it rises up to tempt or entice, might it have its own course, it would go out to the utmost sin in that kind. Every unclean thought or glance would be adultery if it could; every covetous desire would be oppression, every thought of unbelief would be atheism, might it grow to its head… And herein lies no small share of the deceitfulness of sin, by which it prevails to the hardening of men, and so to their ruin, Heb. 3:13…
~Excerpts from Temptation and Sin
By John Owen (1616-1683)
In short, sin is the dare of God’s justice, the rape of his mercy, the jeer of his patience, the slight of his power, the contempt of his love, as one writer prettily expresses this ugly thing. We may go on and say, it is the upbraiding of his providence (Psalm 50), the scoff of his promise (2 Peter 3:3-4), the reproach of his wisdom (Isaiah 29:16). And as is said of the Man of Sin (i.e. who is made up of sin) it opposes and exalts itself above all that is called God (and above all that God is called), so that it as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing itself as if it were God (2 Thessalonians 2:4)
~Excerpts from The Sinfulness of Sin
By Ralph Venning (1621-1674)
Theme: Jesus is the Great High Priest
I. Draw near with confidence to your Great High Priest (4:14-16).
II. Jesus is the Perfect High Priest (5:1-10).
III. Be careful listeners of God’s Word (5:11-6:20).
IV. Jesus is the Forever High Priest (7:1-28).