Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Epiphany - Denho Special, John The Baptist
Volume 6 No. 323 January 5, 2015

IV. St. John, The Baptist

Martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist

by Fr. Altier

Reading (Jeremiah 1:17-19)

Gospel (St. Mark 6:17-29)

In the readings and in today's feast we see two extremes, two opposites if you will. We see a righteous man who is speaking the truth and who is living the truth. And as we hear in the prophet Jeremiah that God is going to make him "a fortified city, a pillar of iron, and a wall of brass against the whole land", he is to go out and speak whatever it is that God wants for him to speak. Now this is not an easy task. All you have to do is look at what Saint John the Baptist had to preach. You know it was not a popular thing, and, therefore, not necessarily an easy thing on the natural level. The grace was there. He knew what God's Will was, and, because this was a man who was filled with the Holy Spirit, he was able to fulfill the Will of God in the face of all the opposition that may have been there.

At the very end, as we hear in the Gospel reading, he was preaching against King Herod. This was not Herod the Great who killed the little boys in Bethlehem and wanted to kill Jesus, but this is Herod's son. Herod marries the wife of his own brother; he is committing adultery with this woman. The woman wants to shut John the Baptist up because he keeps trying to tell her that what she is doing is wrong and the guilt that is there on her part. And it is easier to get rid of the messenger than to change, so she wants him dead. But Herod, on the other hand, likes to listen to John the Baptist and did not want him dead.

We see in both of these situations of Herod and Herodias what occurs with sin. Father John Hardon, the late Jesuit priest, had a rather extraordinary statement that he would use rather frequently. He said simply, "It is impossible," and then as Father Hardon would do, he would say, "I repeat - impossible - for anyone who is in the state of mortal sin to see clearly and to think clearly." It is impossible if you are in the state of mortal sin to be able to think clearly. Well, that is what we see today. Herod, who is clearly in the state of mortal sin, is filled with lust after a little girl who comes in and does some unfortunate dance before him and all the people in the court to the point that he says, "I'll give you anything that you ask."

Herodias, because of her sin, simply wants this man dead because she thinks that as the queen she has the power over life and death and she thinks it is okay to order such things - as though the death of John the Baptist is going to make what they are doing in their so-called "marriage" something which is okay. As long as no one is bothering them about it, it must be all right. Now, she not only had to live with adultery, she had to live with murder. But, in the immediate, it seemed like the thing to do. You see how the clarity of thought is completely clouded because sin gets in the way.

When we choose sin over righteousness we are not going to be able to think clearly; we have got our priorities wrong. So what we see, then, is the importance for ourselves of making sure that no matter what the area of sin is in our lives - even if it is not mortal sin - it needs to go. It gets in the way; it clouds our vision. Not completely so, as in mortal sin, but nonetheless, even venial sin becomes a stumbling block for us. Every little attachment becomes a stumbling block because we do not want to give it up. And if God wants it gone because it is in the way, we hold onto the attachment rather than to God. We start pulling away from God and giving into areas of sin because we like the wrong thing better than we like God. That is the part we need to look at.

We can learn from the example of Saint John the Baptist to seek the Will of God and to do it in all things, to live a life of righteousness. Now you could say, "Great! If I live a life of righteousness I could get beheaded." Praise the Lord! You go straight to Heaven if you get martyred. But what difference does it make? We are all going to die anyway. If it is today or if it is fifty years from now, who cares? We are going to die anyway. And if you die for doing what is right then you are in great shape. But if you die doing wrong, what is your eternity going to be? If we choose sin in this world, what are we choosing for eternity? You see, the choices we make here are going to have an impact for the rest of eternity. Even if we are choosing imperfections and venial sins over God, we are choosing a lower place in Heaven. If we choose mortal sin, we choose eternity in hell. The choice is ours.

We need to pray to the Lord to be able to see clearly, to be able to make the right decisions, to be able to live a righteous life, to reject sin in all its forms, and to be able to choose what is right and do the Will of God in all things. That has to be the way our lives are ordered: to seek God above all else and to get rid of anything that does not lead us to God, or which leads us away from Him, or stands in the way between us and Him. That is what we need to learn from today's readings, from today's feast. Not if you live a good life that you are going to suffer - the Lord already told us that; we knew that. But rather, to live the good life knowing that if we live a life of righteousness there is nothing that is going to come between us and God.

We can be that fortified city, that pillar of iron, that wall of brass as Saint John the Baptist was: to do the Will of God, to speak the Will of God. And it does not matter if we wind up in prison for it or if we wind up dying for it, that voice will continue to speak just as Saint John the Baptist's voice continues to speak today.

Even though he has been dead for 2,000 years, we still hear his voice. And so we see the example and it is very clear the choice we need to make. It is only a question of whether we are willing to do it. If we choose sin, the mind will be clouded and we will be unable to think clearly. If we choose what is right, choose virtue, then we are choosing God, and we are choosing to love Him with our whole heart and soul and strength now and for eternity. 

He Must Increase, But I Must Decrease

by Augustine

Gospel: John 3:30

"He must increase, but I must decrease."

What is this? He must be exalted, but I must be humbled.

How is Jesus to increase? How is God to increase? The perfect does not increase. God neither increases nor decreases. For if He increases, He is not perfect; if He decreases, he is not God. And how can Jesus increase, being God? If to man's estate, since He deigned to be man and was a child; and, though the Word of God, lay an infant in a manger; and, though His mother's Creator, yet sucked the milk of infancy of her: then Jesus having grown in age of the flesh, that perhaps is the reason why it is said, "He must increase, but I must decrease."

But why in this? As regards the flesh, John and Jesus were of the same age, there being six months between them: they had grown up together; and if our Lord Jesus Christ had willed to be here longer before His death, and that John should be here with Him, then, as they had grown up together, so would they have grown old together: in what way, then, "He must increase but I must decrease"?

Above all, our Lord Jesus Christ being now thirty years old, does a man who is already thirty years old still grow? From that same age, men begin to go downward, and to decline to graver age, thence to old age. Again, even had they both been lads, he would not have said, "He must increase," but, We must increase together. But now each is thirty years of age. The interval of six months makes no difference in age; the difference is discovered by reading rather than by the look of the persons.

What means, then, "He must increase, but I must decrease"?

This is a great mystery! Before the Lord Jesus came, men were glorying of themselves; He came a man, to lessen man's glory, and to increase the glory of God. Now He came without sin, and found all men in sin. If thus He came to put away sin, God may freely give, man may confess. For man's confession is man's lowliness: God's pity is God's loftiness. Therefore, since He came to forgive man his sins, let man acknowledge his own lowliness and let God show His pity.

"He must increase, but I must decrease:"

That is, He must give, but I must receive; He must be glorified, but I must confess. Let man know his own condition, and confess to God; and hear the apostle as he says to a proud, elated man, bent on extolling himself: "What hast thou that thou didst not receive? And if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory as if thou didst not receive it?" Then let man understand that he has received; and when he would call that his own which is not his, let him decrease: for it is good for him that God be glorified in him. Let him decrease in himself, that he may be increased in God.

These testimonies and this truth, Christ and John signified by their deaths. For John was lessened by the Head: Christ was exalted on the cross; so that even there it appeared what this is, "He must increase, but I must decrease."

Again, Christ was born when the days were just beginning to lengthen; John was born when they began to shorten. Thus their very creation and deaths testify to the words of John, when he says, "He must increase, but I must decrease."

May the glory of God then increase in us, and our own glory decrease, that even ours may increase in God! For this is what the apostle says, this is what Holy Scripture says: "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."

Wilt thou glory in thyself? Thou wilt grow; but grow worse in thy evil. For whoso grows worse is justly decreased. Let God, then, who is ever perfect, grow, and grow in thee.

For the more thou understandest God, and apprehendest Him, He seems to be growing in thee; but in Himself He grows not, being ever perfect.

Thou didst understand a little yesterday; thou understandest more to-day, wilt understand much more to-morrow: the very light of God increases in thee: as if thus God increases, who remains ever perfect. It is as if one's eyes were being cured of former blindness, and he began to see a little glimmer of light, and the next day he saw more, and the third day still more: to him the light would seem to grow; yet the light is perfect, whether he see it or not.

Thus it is also with the inner man: he makes progress indeed in God, and God seems to be increasing in him; yet man himself is decreasing, that he may fall from his own glory, and rise into the glory of God.

6. What we have just heard, appears now distinctly and clearly. "He that cometh from above, is above all." (John 3:31) See what he says of Christ. What of himself?

"He that is of the earth, is of earth, and speaketh of the earth. He that cometh from above is above all" - this is Christ; and "he that is of the earth, is of earth, and speaketh of the earth" - this is John. And is this the whole: John is of the earth, and speaks of the earth? Is the whole testimony that he bears of Christ a speaking of the earth? Are they not voices of God that are heard from John, when he bears witness of Christ? Then how does he speak of the earth? He said this of man. So far as relates to man in himself, he is of earth, and speaks of the earth; and when he speaks some divine things, he is enlightened by God. For, were he not enlightened, he would be earth speaking of earth.

God's grace is apart by itself, the nature of man apart by itself. Do but examine the nature of man: man is born and grows, he learns the customs of men. What does he know but earth, of earth? He speaks the things of men, knows the things of men, minds the things of men; carnal, he judges carnally, conjectures carnally: lo! it is man all over.

Let the grace of God come, and enlighten his darkness, as it saith, "Thou wilt lighten my candle, O Lord; my God, enlighten my darkness;" let it take the mind of man, and turn it to its own light; immediately he begins to say, as the apostle says, "Yet not I, but the grace of God that is with me;" and, "Now I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." That is to say, "He must increase, but I must decrease."

Thus John: as regards John, he is of the earth, and speaks of the earth; whatever that is divine thou hast heard from John, is of Him that enlightens, not of him that receives.

John The Baptist - The King's Herald

by Jimmy Snowden

Gospel: Matthew 3:1-6


This morning we are in Matthew 3. Have you ever seen one of those movies that begins with a scene with a little boy who somewhat resembles the main character of the movie? The opening scene ends and then you see the words "25 Years Later…" The scene then changes radically and you see that this little boy is now all grown up and in a completely different stage in life. Well that is what we see in Matthew. At the end of Matthew 2 we see Jesus as an infant or toddler. He was somewhere between 2 or 3 years of age. Once we enter into Matthew 3, though, the scene radically changes and we are taken about 25-30 years into the future. The scene radically changes as well. No longer do we see Joseph and Mary running like mad to protect the life of the Christ child, rather we are introduced to a strange character named John the Baptist. The focus is on John the Baptist for the same reason it was on Joseph and Mary in Matthew 1 and 2, because of his relation to Jesus. John's significance, then, is bound up in his relation to Jesus. The lens is fixed on John the Baptist in the verses that we will be considering this morning. This morning I want you to see 1 thing about John and then 5 things about his preaching.

John was a preacher (Matthew 3:1)

We see this in vs. 1.

[1] In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea,

Now there is no doubt that John was a baptizer. Baptizing so characterized the ministry the Lord gave him that he was called, "John the Baptist", which could also be translated as, "John the Baptizer." He was called John the Baptist because of the central role that baptism played in his ministry. Think of John the Baptist like you think of Andre the Giant or Dora the Explorer. Andre was characterized by his size and Dora is known by her excellent exploring skills. But notice that Matthew does not tell us that John came baptizing. No. He came preaching. That is what God had sent him to do. To preach means, "to cry out, herald, or exhort." Preaching is an announcement of God's truth. Preaching always puts the emphasis on exhortation, calling the listener to action. Preaching, in other words, always demands an immediate response. And we see this in John's preaching. "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

So John came preaching. This puts John in the line of the prophets. Most people think of the prophets as those who merely foretold the future. It is true that the Old Testament prophets foretold the future. But the primary mark of God's prophets in the Old Testament was simple proclamation. They were God's mouth piece. Their role was to proclaim God's word to the people. They were God's preachers. And John is the last in the line of all of the great Old Testament prophets. So John came preaching.

Now I want you to see 5 things about his preaching in vss. 1-5.

1. Where John Preached: An Inhospitable Place (3:1)

We see where John preached in vs. 1.

[1] In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea

He came preaching "in the wilderness." This is not an insignificant factoid to store away. In fact, we see the same thing pop up again in vs. 3. "The voice of one crying in the wilderness." There you see John "crying"—preaching—"in the wilderness." You know, it is an odd thing that God sent John to the desert to preach. A preacher needs one thing for his preaching to be worthwhile, listeners. John didn't come preaching in the city, but in the wilderness. He was preaching where the people weren't.

The fact that he was preaching in the wilderness is significant for 2 reasons.

First, it is significant because it points to their spiritual condition. You see, although the people were not in the wilderness, there is a sense in which he was preaching where the people were. Sure, they weren't in the wilderness physically, but they were in the wilderness spiritually. Sure, they did their religious duties (said their prayers, gave their tithes, attended their synagogues, etc.) in Jerusalem, but as Jesus said of them, "This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me" (Matthew 15:8). If they wanted to hear this man sent from God they had to get a dose of realism about their spiritual condition.

Second, it is significant because it called them away from Jerusalem, which means that it was calling them away from the temple, which means that it is calling them away from their formal religion. If they wanted to hear the word of God, they had to leave behind all the religious props that made them feel as though they are standing tall. It is interesting isn't it, that Matthew 3:1 doesn't say that John came preaching in the temple? But it makes sense. The Jews needed to repent of their false and empty worship. The temple, and everything associated with it, had become a prop for the Jews. They thought they were close to God because of all their religious exercises.

What do you do when all your religious props are taken away? What do you do when the snowstorm rolls in and church is cancelled and your power is off? What do you do when you have no TV and no pod casts to listen to you favorite preacher and no iPod to listen to your favorite Christian music? What do you do when the phone line is down and there is no one to talk to—no one but God? What do you do when it is just you, God, His word, and silence? Many people don't like silence, it scares them. Because they find that when it is just them and God with nothing to distract, they realize that they actually have no relationship with Him. They find that they have nothing to say. They begin to realize that although they have felt close to God through their music or sermons, that there is actually very little between them and God in terms of a vital relationship. They have sung a lot about God and have heard a lot about God, but have not actually cultivated a relationship with Him, such that when the sermons and music are gone there is an awkward silence and an unfamiliarity with God. But God called them away from all of it to go to John the Baptist. So John was in the wilderness. If the people wanted to hear God's word through John, they had to leave all of their religious props. God was calling them away from all of the clamor of their religious activity in the temple.

2. What John Preached: An Unpopular Message (3:2)

We saw in vs. 1 that John came preaching. In vs. 2 we see what He preached.

[2] "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

John's message consisted of two things: a demand and a truth.

1. The demand was "repent." The word 'repent' literally means, "to change one's mind." More specifically it means, "to change one's life, based on complete change of attitude and thought concerning sin and righteousness."[1] Isaiah speaks of repentance in this way, "Stop doing wrong" (Isaiah 1:16). It is put this way in one of the bible story books for children that we read to James, "Stop doing bad things."

Now repentance is more than mere behavior modification—it is not merely an attempt to become a more respectable citizen. It is more than behavior modification because the point of repentance is to turn from sin in order to turn to God. Repentance, in other words, is the pursuit of Christ. Just as you cannot face north and south at the same time, you cannot pursue Christ and sin at the same time. Imagine if I were to be driving north on I-93 and was to suddenly be struck with the urge to go to Mexico. I do a legal U-turn and head south on I-93. Here's the question. As I head south on I-93 am I heading toward Mexico or away from Canada? The answer is both. If you are heading toward Mexico you are heading away from Canada. If you are heading toward Canada you are heading away from Mexico. You cannot go in both directions at the same time. It is impossible. Repentance is a turning from sin in order to turn to God in faith. You simply cannot turn to God without turning from sin.

And it is sad that the church has lost this message of repentance. It is certainly not a popular message. It is not a message that is going to attract a large crowd. But it is biblical. What would you say if someone came up to you and said, What must I do to be saved? How would Scripture answer this question?

Peter said, "Repent and be baptized" (Acts 2:38).

Paul said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus" (Acts 16:31).

Peter and Paul were not at odds with each other. Jesus Himself said, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15).

You see, repentance and faith are the twin demands of the Gospel. If you are to turn to God, you must make a clean break from your sin. This is not to say that you will live a perfect life. No. We will all be repenters till the day we die. But it does mean that you must make a clean break with sin if you are to turn to Christ in faith. The one who claims to have faith in Christ and yet has not made a clean break from sin is not born again. It is simply impossible to turn to Christ without turning from sin.

2. The truth was that the Kingdom of heaven is at hand. In other words, the Kingdom of heaven "has come near" (HCSB). Notice the urgency in John's message. He isn't telling them to get ready for a kingdom that is coming sometime way in the future. No. The Kingdom of heaven is at hand—it has come near. I am sure that none of you have to clean up your house before company comes. For those of us who do, we know what it is like to say, "When are they supposed to be here?" As soon as the words come out of your mouth you hear a car pull up in your driveway. The company has arrived. No, they aren't in your house yet, but they are in the driveway. This is the picture that John is painting. It's an urgent message. Repent of your sins because the kingdom of heaven is on the front porch. And in what way was the kingdom of heaven near? Well… Jesus is the King of the Kingdom of Heaven. He is, as the hymn puts it, the "High King of Heaven."

Jesus ushers in the Kingdom of God. He is the King of the Kingdom. And He has come. And there is urgency in the voice of John, because his message is not that the Kingdom is coming sometime in the future. His message is that the King of the Kingdom is already here. So repent! There's no time left! The King is coming and He is already here in our midst. And the Kingdom that this King is ushering is in a heavenly kingdom.

Let me ask you, are you ready to meet the King? Are you ready for the King to come? Have you made a break with your sin—have you turned from your sin to Christ in faith?

3. The purpose of His preaching: An Exalted Role (3:3)

So we know that John was a preacher and we know his message. But why did John preach? What was the purpose of His preaching? We find the answer to that question in vs. 3.

[3] For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.'"

Here we see why John preached. The purpose and function of his ministry was to prepare the way for Jesus. When a king would go on a journey, visiting the cities of his empire, he would send envoys before him who would literally map out the journey of the king. The roads in the ancient world were known to be rather tattered. Those who prepared the way of the king would go over his route, fix the roads, remove any obstacles, and plan his every move. They would announce to the cities in the path of the king that their king would visit their city on such and such a day.

We do the same today with the President of the United States. The secret service prepares every little detail of the President's route of travel. They scout out the best route and plan his every move down to the very second. Before the President comes to town they block off the appropriate streets to ensure that the President will have an unhindered path to wherever he is going.

This is John's purpose. His role is to proclaim the coming of Jesus. And his role is to remove all obstacles. This is just what is emphasized in Isaiah 40, the passage that is quoted here in Matthew 3.

Isaiah 40:3-4; [3] A voice cries: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. [4] Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.

You see, the point of this passage is that all obstacles are to be removed. The valleys lifted up and the mountains laid low so that there is even ground. This was originally in reference to the Israelites coming back from captivity in Babylon. But it finds its ultimate fulfillment in John the Baptist. His role is to remove all obstacles, so that when Jesus comes to His people as King they will be able to receive Him.

And who is it that is coming in Isaiah 40 - who is this highway built for? Isaiah makes it clear that it is built for God. It tells us that Jesus was no mere man. He is the Son of God. The obstacles that need to be removed in regard to Jesus have nothing to do with physical terrain, but with sin. Sin is the one obstacle that needs to be dealt with. This is why John came preaching repentance. You see, the presence of this King demands repentance. He is holy.

What happened in Isaiah 6 when Isaiah came into the presence of God? He knew immediately that he was a sinner in need of cleansing. You see, Jesus is not a mere man. He is the thrice-holy God of the Bible. You cannot be with Him without your sins being dealt with. John is telling the people of Israel, "You are not ready to receive this King. You need to repent. You cannot cling to the King if you are clinging to your sin."

4. The Style of His preaching: An Unrefined Preacher (3:4)

I want you to see in vs. 4 the style of this preacher. What you will see is that his style complimented his message.

[4] Now John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.

Strange clothing, a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt, and a strange diet, locusts and wild honey. When I think of John the Baptist I think of a mix between Davy Crocket—"King of the Wild Frontier"—and Andrew Zimmern—host of "Bizarre Foods." John's clothing and diet, though, were entirely symbolic. His style made a statement, that he was the last in the line of the great prophets of Israel. He dressed just like the great prophet Elijah. This is how Elijah's dress is described in 2 Kings 1:8, "He wore a garment of hair, with a belt of leather about his waist." John is here identifying himself as a man of God who has a message from God to declare to the people of God. He is identifying himself as the one promised in the Old Testament who would come in the power and Spirit of Elijah to prepare the way of the Lord (Malachi 4:5).

MacArthur said this about John the Baptist, that his clothing preached a sermon just as much as his words. You get one look at this preacher and you get a sense of what he is about. He is man who is preaching a hard word in a hard place. His whole aura aids in highlighting the message that he preaches. Methods and style matter - they can either highlight the truth preached or distract and undermine the truth preached.

5. The Result of His preaching: An Unlikely Response (3:5-6)

So the focus this morning has been on John the Baptist. We have seen that he was an unrefined preacher preaching an unpopular message in an inhospitable place. What do you think the response would be to this strange preaching ministry? Would you expect it to attract a large following? What we see in vss. 5-6 is an unlikely response.

[5] Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, [6] and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

What sort of a response do we see? We see people coming out of the woodwork. "All Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him." Now certainly, he doesn't mean that every single person came out to him, but that they came out by the droves. I think it would be safe to say that 10s of thousands came out to him. But we must ask what was attracting them to go out into this inhospitable place to hear this unpopular message from the lips of this unrefined man? I mean John didn't have a sound system. He didn't advertise or market, or pinpoint a target audience. He didn't even have a praise band! Some suggest that John the Baptist was something like a circus freak, and that people went out to hear what this crazy cave man who eats bugs had to say. I don't think so. The magnitude of the crowds demands a bigger answer. What, then, is drawing these people to John? Only one answer will suffice… the Holy Spirit. This is what happens when a man has an unction with the Holy Spirit. These people are flocking to John because God was stirring their hearts. It is a revival. I am not suggesting that it is repeatable. It is no doubt a one-time event. Nonetheless, it is a revival. God poured out His Spirit in great measure.

You see in this one of the hallmark signs of revival, radical conviction of sin. If you have studied the revivals in church history at all you will know that all revivals are marked by an acute awareness of sin. And here these people are coming out to John in the wilderness and what do they do? They confess their sin. They are strangely drawn by the Holy Spirit to hear, not a message of self-esteem, but of repentance. They come out to John, drawn by the Spirit, and the affect that His preaching had on them was an awareness of their need for repentance and washing. So they confess their sins and they get baptized.

This baptism is no doubt to symbolize their need for washing. Water is used all throughout the Scriptures as a symbol for washing. Thus God says in Ezekiel 36:25, "I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you." Water is a cleansing agent. What do you use to wash your dishes, brush your teeth, take a shower, take the waste in your toilet away, clean a wound, etc.? You use water. Those who came out to John got a sense of their sin before a holy a God and they knew that they needed to repent. And this baptism symbolized their need for their sins to be washed away. And it represented their need for repentance. And there is no doubt that this baptism would have been something of reminder, marking their commitment to turn from their sin back to God.


So let me ask you, are you ready for the coming of the King? Jesus is coming again. The only way that you will be ready for the coming of Jesus is if you repent of your sins and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Let me say one thing about repentance. Do not misunderstand what I have said in this sermon. I fear that some will walk away from this sermon thinking that I am saying that you earn a right standing with God with your repentance. Let me be clear. That is not what I am saying. The Gospel tells you that you cannot earn your salvation. You cannot pay for your own sin. The only way that you can be saved is by trusting in Christ alone and what He has done on Calvary to make payment for your sin. Let me state also, though, that the Gospel demands that you repent of your sin. But why are you to repent of your sin? Not in order to earn your salvation with your repentance. Rather, the Gospel demands you to repent of your sin because you cannot turn to God in faith without turning from your sin. It is simply impossible to trust Christ without making a clean break with the sin in your life.

The Gospel tells you that your assurance before God has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with anything that you have done. The Gospel tells you that your confidence before God is in the finished work of Jesus Christ. My hope is not in my repentance, nor is it in my faith. No. I am accepted before God on the basis of what Jesus has done for me on the cross. Now if I have not repented of my sins and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ then I have not taken hold of everything that the Gospel promises, and I am still in my sins and outside of Christ.

But communion is a reminder to us that our hope before God is solid. My hope before God is not my repentance. It is the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ. This is what communion reminds us of. It reminds us that our hope before God is not based on our performance, but on His performance. It reminds us that Jesus' death on my behalf secures my eternal salvation. So rejoice this morning if you are in Christ. Rejoice that Jesus paid it all in full.

[1] Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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