Salem Baptist Church
The Greatest Story Ever Told!
The Greatest Story Ever Told!
What is the greatest story you ever read or heard? Pilgrims Progress? That is really a hard question to answer is it not? There are great scary stories, sports stories, camp fire stories etc. I want us to look at the greatest story, true story, ever told.
We are told that this is of most importance. You will never hear anything more important than what we will hear today, not my words or story but God’s Word and His story.
I would like to take the time and look at two passages of Scripture.
The first is 1 Corinthians 15:1-5
Paul had gone to Corinth to preach the message of the Gospel, and their faith had transformed their lives. A very important part of the Gospel message is the resurrection of Jesus Christ which was being debated among some. If Christ did not rise from the dead, He couldn’t save anyone. What is the good of a dead savior?
Paul’s readers had received the Word, trusted Jesus Christ, been saved, and were now standing on that Word as the assurance of their salvation.
The fact that they were standing firm was proof that their faith was genuine and not empty.
Verses 3-4 – First of all means “of first importance, this is most important” The Gospel is the most important message the church ever proclaims.
I believe it is good for us to be involved in social action and the betterment of mankind but there is no reason why these things should stop the preaching of the Gospel.
What is the Gospel? Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.
Some years ago, at the Aberystwyth Conference and for some reason the advertised preacher wasn't able to be there and so they asked an elderly preacher to preach – a man who died not long after.
This man said that he had made a promise to God that if an opportunity like this should arise, he would preach always from John 3:16 – and that's what he did.
I don't know exactly how much impact it had but there was at least one young man was deeply affected and he went on to become a professor in a Reformed Theological Seminary in America.
Looks look at our second passages this morning. It is probably the most famous text in all the Bible – John 3:16. John 3 is the chapter where Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night and is told that he needs to be born again.
Verse 16 is one of several great verses in that chapter and is perhaps the best known of them all. The words were probably spoken by Jesus on that night, though they could be John’s later inspired words.
There are certain famous addresses – 10 Downing Street, 221b Baker Street, 24 Sussex Drive, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, etc. Well, this is one of the most famous, perhaps the most famous address in the Bible, the most famous text – John 3:16.
he reason it is so famous is because it says so many important things, vital things, in such a short space. Martin Luther once called it ‘The Bible in miniature’. And that's what it is.
Like Genesis 1 it begins with God - For God. It goes on to speak about his love for this world, which we see in the rest of Genesis and beyond.
It speaks of how he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. This is what the OT points forward to and what the NT reveals so clearly.
Someone else said it contained the gospel in a nutshell. All you need to know is contained in this wonderful text.
The great C H Spurgeon surprisingly only preached on it once – in 1885. He was rather surprised that he had not preached on it more as, he said, it was ‘the sole topic of my life’s ministry’.
When Spurgeon finally got round to preaching it, he spoke chiefly of the love of God. Interestingly, when his contemporary Bishop J C Ryle, turned to this text, his emphasis was chiefly on faith. Both are here in this verse.
Let us read John 3:14-18.
The story of Numbers 21:4-9 would have been familiar to Nicodemus.
It is a story of sin, for the nation rebelled against God and had to be punished. God sent fiery serpents that bit the people so that many died.
It is also a story of grace, for Moses interceded for the people and God provided a remedy. He told Moses to make a brass serpent and lift it up on a pole for all to see.
Any person who was bitten who looked up at the serpent would immediately be healed.
So, it is also a story of faith, when the people looked by faith, they were saved.
As the serpent was lifted up on the pole, so the Son of God would be lifted up on the cross. Why? To save us from sin and death.
In Israel, the solution to the serpent problem was not making medicine, killing the serpents, pretending they were not there, passing antiserpent laws, or climbing the pole. The answer was in looking by faith at the uplifted serpent.
Folks, the whole world has been bitten by sin and the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23).
God sent His son, His only begotten (unique, one of a kind) Son to die, not only for Israel, but for the whole world.
How is a person saved from eternal perishing? By believing on Jesus Christ, by looking to Him in faith.
The difference between perishing and living, between condemnation and salvation, is faith in Jesus Christ.
He could have come into this world as a Judge and destroy every rebellious sinner; but in love, He came to this world as our Savior, and He died for us on the cross.
He became the uplifted serpent. The serpent in Moses’ day brought physical life to dying Jews; but Jesus Christ gives eternal life to anyone who trusts Him.
He has salvation for the whole world.
Let me finish with this: Whosoever believes will not perish but have everlasting life.
There are two types of believing.
- One type is mentally understanding something. A person has it all in their head but it goes no where else.
- The other type of belief in something so much that you place all of your hope and trust in that which you believe.
This is the belief Jesus is talking about, that all who place their faith in the work of Jesus on the cross will have eternal life.
Maybe this morning, this is the first time you ever heard this great story of the Gospel or maybe you heard it many times and you have it all packed in your head.
It is time for you today to make a decision. What will you do with Jesus?
There are only two options.
1- Look to Jesus and live. Believe all that the Bible says about Jesus and what He has done for you and confess you are a sinner, as we all are, and ask Him to forgive you and come into your life and be your Lord and savior and have eternal life in heaven.
2- Continue to reject Him and do nothing and perish as our verse says which is spending eternity in Hell with out Him.
What will you do today?
If you have any spiritual questions or what to know more about trusting in Jesus, please feel free to message me, Pastor Paul at [email protected]
"Should I Get The Vaccine?"
Pastor PAUL CARTER | DECEMBER 13, 2020
"Should I Get The Vaccine?"
Pastor PAUL CARTER | DECEMBER 13, 2020
In 2020 we found ourselves thinking and talking about a variety of things that we hadn’t thought or talked about a great deal in the past:
What is sphere Sovereignty?
Under what conditions may I defy the civil magistrate?
Should I wear a cloth mask?
Am I being groomed for future totalitarian overtures?
I don’t recall any of those things being dealt with in my seminary curriculum and yet I found myself giving pastoral counsel on all of those things over the course of this most unusual year.
I am also just now beginning to field questions from congregants about the various vaccines that will be arriving in my Province early next week. These vaccines have been described as “the light at the end of the tunnel” by the Prime Minister and by General Hillier who is in charge of distribution. However, not everyone is feeling quite so encouraged. According to a recent Pew Research poll 50% of evangelicals are planning not to take the vaccine. The data appears to indicate that 70% of a population needs to be vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity, thus the matter of vaccination is likely to be a topic of conversation in the culture and in the church in the foreseeable future.
With that in mind, I thought it might be helpful to write down the essence of what I plan to say to those calling me for advice and counsel. The first thing I imagine I would advise is this:
Consult your family doctor
I am not a physician and I am not qualified to give medical counsel. Whether or not to take a vaccine is primarily a medical decision and therefore the first thing you should do is consult with your family doctor.
Many of the concerns that people in my church appear to be related to the rapid speed at which these particular vaccines have been developed. Many wonder whether adequate testing has been performed. I recall a similar situation a number of years ago during the H1N1 pandemic in 2009. I had my concerns about the expeditated process then and made a point of asking several questions of my family doctor and the nurse overseeing vaccinations and was reassured by their knowledgeable counsel. They felt confident that, while the process was rushed, the necessary protocols had been observed and the vaccine was likely to be safe and free from harmful side effects or complications. I took their advice, received the vaccine, and have had no cause to regret that decision.
Whether the same may be said for the COVID19 vaccinations, is beyond my scope of expertise. Therefore, my advice to congregants will be to consult with their family physician.
Consider a variety of biblical principles
I will also advise congregants to consider a variety of biblical principles before making a decision on this issue.
Many Christians appear to be leaning on dubious eschatological associations in their initial consideration of this matter. In preparing for the Into The Word podcast series on Revelation a few years ago I read numerous books, commentaries, and articles on apocalyptic literature and in not a single one of those sources did anyone suggest that the mark of the beast was to be understood as some form of a medical vaccine. The best explanation that I discovered for this unusual symbol was given by William Hendriksen. He says:
“In order to understand the expression ‘mark of the beast’ we must remember that not only cattle but slaves also were branded and marked. The mark meant that the slave belonged to his master. … So ‘receiving the mark of the beast’ seems to mean ‘belonging to the beast and worshipping the beast’.”
As to why it goes on the forehead and the hand he says:
“The forehead symbolizes the mind, the thought-life, the philosophy of the person. The right hand indicates his deed, action, trade, industry etc. Therefore receiving the mark of the beast on the forehead or right hand indicates that the person so characterized belongs to the company of those who persecute the Church; and that – either preeminently in what he thinks, says, writes or more emphatically in what he does – this antichristian spirit becomes evident.”
Thus the “mark of the beast” is a symbolic way of referring to actions and beliefs that definitively identify people as having thrown in their lot with the enemies of Christ and is not to be equated with debit cards, tattoos, or vaccines.
More obviously related to the question of whether or not to get the vaccine would be the many biblical injunctions to love our neighbour as ourselves. The Apostle Paul said, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10 ESV).
As Christians we should strive not to be known as the people whose refusal to take a vaccine (should our family doctors recommend that we do so) delayed our progress as a society against this virus. If our family doctor advises us to take the vaccine there is no compelling biblical reason for us not to and a great number of obvious biblical principles suggesting that we should.
Safeguard your credibility and witness
As Christians we are under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and subject to his Word and authority. The Word of God, not the whims of culture, must be our map and measure. And yet, the Scriptures to which we are bound commend an awareness of what is respected and valued by our friends and neighbours. The Apostle Paul in Romans 12 said:
“take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.” (Romans 12:17 NRSV)
I would remind any congregant asking me for pastoral counsel that there will be a world to reach on the other side of this pandemic. There will be friends, neighbors, and loved ones to evangelize who are all watching us now as we navigate this last stage of COVID19. If they see us caring more about our liberties than their safety, we may have a harder time having Gospel conversations with them going forward. If they see us getting our information from conspiracy news sites on the internet they may be less interested in attending Bible Study with us once this pandemic has finally passed.
We need to take thought NOW for what is noble in the sight of all.
While the decision to take a vaccine, or not, is primarily a medical decision, how you handle that decision and how you communicate that decision will have a missiological impact in the days, weeks, and months that lie ahead.
Beware of potential complications
As a pastor I would never want to “sugar coat” the realities surrounding a difficult decision such as this one related to vaccines. It is possible that there will be unanticipated medical complications related to the COVID19 vaccine – as I imagine your doctor will tell you. It is also possible that there will be unforeseen political and social complications. I’ve already had one congregant ask me about the coming “vaccine passport” that may be used in this Province in 2021. “Will this lead to further government control and surveillance?”
People are sinful and power corrupts. If the government discovers that people are willing to do a great many unpleasant things in the interests of public safety it is possible and perhaps even likely that some people will attempt to exploit that willingness to enact legislation or to take certain measures that will have far-reaching effect on our lives and liberties as citizens.
That is a hazard to be aware of, but it isn’t an argument against taking the vaccine.
Christians can wind themselves up in knots trying to anticipate and predict the plots of wicked people. The Bible warns us against this, “Fret not yourself because of evildoers” (Psalm 37:1 ESV).
There will always be people trying to take advantage of a situation and attempting to manipulate the weak and the vulnerable among us – but their time is short and the Righteous Judge of the Universe sees all. The same Psalm goes on to say:
“Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.” (Psalm 37:8–9 ESV)
Do good (v. 3), don’t be distracted, don’t be enraged, trust in the Lord, play the long game.
Evil has a way of swallowing its own tail. Don’t let worries about what could be done by wicked actors keep you from doing what you should do as a concerned friend and neighbour.
But do be aware of the hazard.
Respect the decisions and convictions of others
And be sure to respect the decisions and convictions of others. This will have the potential to divide and distract churches.
Let’s work very hard to avoid that.
This is not an article of the Apostles’ Creed. In the same way that I do not believe that the vaccine is the mark of the beast, neither do I believe that not taking the vaccine identifies a person as an unbeliever. Good Christians who love Jesus and read their Bibles will make different decisions about the various COVID19 vaccines over the next 3-6 months.
Prepare yourself for that reality.
Share your thoughts and convictions carefully and in proportion to your influence, authority, and expertise.
Hear other people sharing their thoughts and convictions with respect, attention, and humility.
Within the church be prepared to experience some delays in resuming your personal service if you decide not to take the vaccine. Many churches will no doubt require volunteers working with children or seniors to show proof of vaccination before returning to their duties. This is not discrimination, this is merely the reality of making hard decisions, in difficult times with finite information and understanding.
Be gracious to your leaders, considerate toward your fellow members, and mindful of your neighbours watching on.
This too shall pass.
Joy comes in the morning – and the fields remain white unto harvest.
Even still, come Lord Jesus!
Pastor Paul Carter
For further help about spiritual answers to your questions or problems we invite you to call on us.