Albert N. Martin
Now, will you turn with me to Philippians chapter 2, and follow, please, as I read in your hearing Philippians chapter 2, verses 1-11. Where the Apostle writes, “If there is this or that,” it’s not the ‘if’ of doubt, but we could say ‘since,’ “and if, indeed, there is then.” So, think of that as I begin the reading of this portion of the Word. Philippians 2:1:
If there is therefore any exhortation in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any tender mercies and compassions, make full my joy, that you be of the same mind, having the same love, being of one accord,of one mind; doing nothing through faction or through vainglory, but in lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself; not looking each of you on his own things, but each of you also to the things of others. Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross. Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Now, each of you sitting here is aware by now that the culmination of our evening hour of worship will be our partaking of the bread and of the fruit of the vine set before us here, on the Communion table. As we are partaking of this supper of remembrance, we will no doubt have read in our hearing—as we almost always do—the familiar words of 1 Corinthians 11, verses 23-26. The concluding words of that section of Holy Scripture, in which the Apostle reminds the Corinthians of what he had received from the Lord, are those words to which Pastor Barker has already made reference: “As oft as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you do show forth [literally, you do preach forth] the Lord’s death, until He come.” “You do preach the Lord’s death until He come.”
These words underscore the fact that the sacrificial death of Jesus is central to our remembrance of Him at His table. He says, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” It is not our Lord Jesus in generic remembrance, but it is in remembrance of Him and His sacrificial death on behalf of sinners. But even though the central focus is the preaching forth of His death, the loving remembrance of Him who died for us, we are also instructed in these words that we are to remember His death in the light of the fact that He is the Coming One. That we are to preach forth His death by eating this bread and drinking the cup, until He come.
So that there is not only the look backward to the reality of His sufferings ,the look upward in loving remembrance and communion with Him, but the look forward to the time when all that He died to purchase for His people will be realized in their experience, as His Redeemed Ones.
In the three messages that have already been preached, taking our basic perspective from Acts 1:11, in which the angels announce to the eleven apostles the certainty of the return of Jesus and the pattern or the paradigm of His return, we then looked at six texts of Scripture which clearly, explicitly teach that in the life and faith of apostolic Christianity—the communities of believers formed under apostolic preaching and labor, blessed by the Spirit—this belief in and this consciousness of the return of Christ was a fundamental and basic element of ordinary Christian experience.
Why do true believers who are in a healthy spiritual state eagerly await, earnestly desire, and love the return of the Lord Jesus Christ? God’s true people in any kind of spiritual health eagerly await, earnestly desire, and love the return of Christ because they long to experience the complete salvation for which they and the created order have been predestined.
As sin radically affected mankind and the created order, so redemptive grace, wonderfully transforms both man, the sinner, and the created order that has been cursed for man’s sake.
True believers in a healthy state long to see the ultimate defeat of all of the enemies of Christ and of His people.
We shall consider but one more strand of the biblical answer to that question: why do true believers in spiritual health eagerly await, earnestly desire, and love the return of Christ?
The third strand of the answer that comes to us from the Scriptures, is this: true believers who are in a healthy spiritual state eagerly await, earnestly desire, and love the return of Christ because they long to see the public and universal acknowledgement of the true identity and position of the Lord Jesus Christ.
What is the present, personal identity and official position of Jesus of Nazareth? Well, we could look at many Scriptures in seeking to see if the answer we are framing in our minds of the biblical answer.
In Acts chapter 2 we have this distillation of Peter’s sermon given on the Day of Pentecost. The risen Christ has sent forth the Holy Spirit, according to His promise, and there have been these unusual manifestations of the Spirit’s presence and power, causing a disturbance there in Jerusalem, as people are gathered from all points of the compass for this national feast, and some say that they are drunk with wine and there is discussion about what is going on. In verse 14 of Acts 2 we read:
But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and spoke forth unto them, saying, You men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and give ear unto my words.
I love the straightforward, no-nonsense, authoritative declaration of Peter. He stands up, he lifts up his voice, and he says listen to my words! Then he begins to explain what has happened. He roots it in Old Testament, prophetic Scriptures. Then, as we come over into verse 24, there is reference to the fact that the Jesus who was delivered up by God’s determinate counsel, whom they slew, God has raised them up, and he says this perfectly accords with the prophetic utterance of David recorded in Psalm 16. A prophecy that speaks of Messiah being raised from the dead. Verse 31:
He foreseeing this spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, [of the Messiah] that neither was he left unto Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.
Now we come to the heart of the passage that I want us to consider, as we think of this question: why do believers yearn for the Coming of Christ? And the answer that I’ve given, this third strand: because they long for the public and universal manifestation of His true identity and His official position.
Well, what is that essential identity and that official position? Listen to Peter as he answers our question:
This Jesus [verse 32] did God raise up whereof we all are witnesses. Being therefore by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he hath poured forth this, which ye see and hear. For David ascended not into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Till I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet. Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified.
Peter brings this part of the sermon to a very laser-like, burning focus, and says: you people must know who Jesus of Nazareth is! He had already declared that Jesus of Nazareth had been validated as God’s Messenger, by His mighty works. He fits the prophetic utterances concerning Messiah, that His flesh would not see corruption; that can’t refer to David, because he said his sepulchre is with us to this day! It refers to Messiah, and Jesus perfectly fits that prediction of Messianic, resurrection, and therefore you people need to know what your eyes cannot see: that in the immediate presence of God there is One who has been exalted to His right hand, to the place of authority and of power, and has been officially installed as the Messianic King.
God has constituted Him Lord. That does not mean that Jesus who was man or something a little less than God was elevated into Godhood. No. He is speaking of His official position, of His identity as the Messianic sovereign who is seated at the right hand of the Father, and His first act of Messianic kingship was sending the Holy Spirit down upon His people, according to His own promise.
Bible references: Philippians 2:1-11; Acts 1:11; Acts 2:14