Our Position with Christ
Communion: Our Position with Christ
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Let’s start this morning by turning in our Bibles to 1 Peter 1:18: “You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was destined before the foundation of the world but was made manifest at the end of the times for your sake. Through him you have confidence in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere love of the brethren, love one another earnestly from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord abides for ever.’ That word is the good news which was preached to you.” May God help us to live in the light of this each day. Amen.
Today is communion, and another name you know for it is the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. So I’d just ask us to think again what is a sacrament and how are we meant to respond to it.
One of the definitions of sacrament is the outward physical expression of an inward spiritual grace. So the outward physical expression is the bread and the wine. Then what is the inward spiritual grace? Well, it’s the death of Jesus and all that that achieved for us. And I’d just remind you again of that old timeline idea, where we are now 1998, and here is the death of Jesus (pointing to the left). But of course we know that it didn’t take place there. It took place almost 2,000 years ago at what we think really was probably about 26 A.D. Perhaps Jesus’ birth was maybe 6 B.C. and probably he was crucified when he was about 33. So about 26 A.D. the actual physical crucifixion took place here on the earth.
But then it’s not difficult to remember the many, many references such as the one we just read in 1 Peter 1. Maybe it’s best to look at it a few verses before the one I’d like to draw your attention to. If you look at Verse 18 , it says, “You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was destined before the foundation of the world but was made manifest at the end of the times for your sake.”
So it’s stated there in 1 Peter 1:20 that Jesus was actually destined from before the foundation of the world. So wherever the foundation of the world took place, Jesus was actually crucified before the foundation of the world. So the real death of Jesus took place there.
Of course, that’s the same truth that is stated in Revelation 13:8: “The lamb that was slain from before the foundation of the world.” And it’s the same truth that is expressed in Ephesians 1:4, where it says, “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world.”
So what we can see is that Christ’s death actually occurred before the foundation of the world. Before our life was lived out in this earth God foresaw what we would do and provided for it, and saw it all — as we often say here — as one great moment. From the beginning of time to the end of the time he saw it as a great eternal “now.” In that great eternal now he accepted that he and his Son would bear all that we would bear, and all that we would cause ourselves to bear by our reaction
against him. He determined at that moment that he would create us in his Son and that his Son Jesus would bear all the strains of our rebellion against God — our independence of him, and all the consequences that would follow from that.
I discovered a quotation that I used in my article in the last newsletter, that Karl Barth had from an old church father called Athanasius — one of the earliest of the church fathers. It’s quite interesting that way back then he said, “As the apostle has said, the grace of God brought by the Savior has appeared and has been conveyed to us by its coming. But it was prepared long before we ourselves or even the world was in being. And the reason is indeed good and admirable, for it would be unworthy of God to think of him as taking council to provide for us only later, less it should appear as though our circumstances were not previously known to him.”
“The God of all things who created us by his word knew what would befall us better than we ourselves, and he foreknew that after our first righteousness we should transgress his commandment and that because of our disobedience we should be expelled from paradise. For that reason in his loving kindness and goodness he prepared beforehand in his word by whom he created us, a provision for our salvation.”
He puts it in kind of a builder’s term. At the end he says, “Now, a wise master builder when he undertakes to build a house considers at the same time how he may repair that house should it fall into decay after its erection. And weighs up the preparations that must be made for that purpose, supplying the foreman with the materials necessary for such repair, and thus making all the preparations for renovation even before the house is built. In like manner, the renewing of our salvation is grounded in Christ even before we were created, in order that it might be possible for us to be created afresh in him.”
So it’s that that is the heart of the sacrament that we are sharing this morning. That Christ was crucified from before the foundation of the world, and actually the achievement of that crucifixion shines right through all of time. Throughout all time, that crucifixion is having its effect.
So we’ve often said, in a tree are the rings that show the age of the tree. If you cut the tree at any point you’ll be able to see the ring that runs right through the whole tree. So it is with Christ’s death. It shines through every moment, through this moment, and through tomorrow, and through the next day, and through the next day. All that God did in Christ from before the foundation of the world shines through and is effectual in each one of our lives through every moment in time right to the end when we are united with him and his Father.
Now, I think it would be good to look briefly at two of the things that were done in that death in Jesus. They’re both in Galatians 6:14: “But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Those are the two things – the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. And the world is the glass that will try to slip off your tray tomorrow in the café. The world is the customer that owes us $700 and hasn’t paid yet. The world is every circumstance and event that moves in disorder and seems to be out of the control of God’s will. That whole world was crucified in Christ.
God foresaw each one of our lives, foresaw all the things that we would do that would be independent of him, foresaw all the things that everyone else would do that would be independent of him — and therefore foresaw all the effects that that would have on each one of us and how that would attempt to destroy his power and his victory in our lives. He destroyed that in Jesus from before the
foundation of the world.
The Red Sea was divided back then. God prepared that for Moses so that he could manifest that when Moses stretched out his staff, or when the Israelites walked into the water. And the leper that Jesus healed had his leprosy destroyed in Jesus from before the foundation of the world, so that when Christ himself in Galilee laid his hand on the leper, that was manifested in time.
That’s part of what that means that the world was crucified to us. Not only the world in the sense of its enticements and its temptations to us, but the cosmos, the whole disordered system that appears to be under the control of the prince of this world and that seems to oppose God’s order and peace in our lives. All of that was crucified in Christ.
I would go further and say that even though we are absolutely convinced that when we put a new sheet metal screw into a piece of sheet metal where the old one has broken out and we eventually manage to force it to go in there and to hold — that that all took place in Christ before the foundation of the world. God gives us the feeling that it’s our mighty arm that is turning that screw and making it work. Of course, you can see the work that Satan does is to try and persuade us that it is by our own right arm that we have achieved those things. And of course, the more we yield to that kind of deception, the more we begin to be dependent on our right arm and to judge things not as things that have been crucified and made right in Christ, but as things that we have to by our own strength somehow overcome.
So you can see it’s important to realize that the world was crucified to us in Christ. That Christ himself in a moment in eternity lived our whole lives for us, foresaw everything that we would face tomorrow and the next day, and overcame the world as he said. You remember he said, “Rejoice, because I have overcome the world.” That’s why it’s possible for us to face the things that come tomorrow and the next day, confident that there is only one outcome possible and that they have already been dealt with.
Now the other event that occurred in Jesus’ death – is expressed in the last part of that verse, “The world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” I agree with you – it deals with us, in the sense that we are no longer independent beings separate from God and separate from Christ. In that sense Ernest O’Neill was crucified and was destroyed and no longer has any real existence. It is Christ in this person. It is Christ in this body and in this mind whose life I am allowed to share. It’s the same with Joe and Joanne. Certainly we have been crucified with Christ in that sense — that we no longer have a separate existence. We therefore have no place for pride or a sense of our own importance. We are delivered from those things.
But also, in another sense, I’d point out to you a verse in Isaiah Chapter 53. It’s that well known chapter that – 800 years before Christ’s death, describes what took place in his death. You see in Isaiah 53:4, “Surely he has borne our griefs.” See the little x, the footnote. Look down at the bottom of the page at the x, “Or sicknesses.” Surely he has borne our sicknesses. “And carried our sorrows.” Why? A little footnote y: “Or pains.” “Surely he has borne our sicknesses and carried our pains.” In that sense too we were crucified with Christ.
You feel heavy physically. Not just in weight, but you feel heavy. Your body lies upon you. You’re very conscious of the pain in your back, or you’re very conscious of the cold that you have. Of course, worse things can take place if you have worse sicknesses, and from time-to-time we all do have them. Christ bore those. Christ has borne every sickness, including old age. Christ has
borne them all. He has walked this life of ours right through to the end and he has borne all those things, even what we call the natural physical weights and burdens. He has borne those so that those have been dealt with by him.
So even though we may actually have physical symptoms that could, if it’s his good will, continue — yet their power to prevent us doing what he wants us to do or living the way he wants us to live, has been destroyed by him in Christ. And in that sense we ourselves have been crucified in Christ. All our weaknesses, all our inadequacies, all the things that are weights upon us, those have been crucified in Christ. So every event and every circumstance that opposes God’s order in our lives that would prevent his will being fulfilled — that has all been dealt with. And all our own personal disadvantages, inadequacies, mental, emotional and physical sicknesses and weaknesses have been borne and crucified in Christ.
What does God say to us about the response that we should make to this? Does he say, “Try to imagine how these things will affect you? Picture in your mind what benefits will flow to you from these two facts that have taken place in my son’s death. Think about it. Try to make it your own. Try to imagine. Try to feel the benefit of these things.” Does he say that? Does he say, “Look into yourself and see if you can see how these things are beginning to change your own personal experience. Indeed, try to feel in your own subjective experience how these things are making you happier. Look in and see if you really believe these things.” Does he say that? No.
He says, “There’s only one response that faith makes to these things, and this is my command to you.” I’ll show you. It’s Philippians 4:4, and it’s our God that says it: “Rejoice in the Lord always.”
“I don’t know that I’ll have the money for the vacation this summer. God has arranged that situation through his Son, so I am to rejoice.” “No, no, but I still need to work the money out and I don’t think I’m going to be able to do it. And I better express to other people that I don’t think I’m going to make it.”
No, God has destroyed that in Jesus. He has arranged that perfectly for you. Rejoice! Rejoice in the Lord.
“Well, I can rejoice when I begin to see it. I’m not sure of what this person’s attitude to me is and I think the relationship isn’t what it should be, and – I just have to think through this. I can rejoice when it’s all settled.” No, rejoice in the Lord always.
“But that’s stupid. To just rejoice blindly is stupid when I can see these things are not settled.” They are settled. Is God’s word not sure? Has Christ not died? Has he not risen? Has he not said that he has overcome the world? Has he not said that he has dealt with all these things? Rejoice in the Lord always. Rejoice in the Lord always.
And at every word that we utter, every protest that we make, every claim of, “Let’s be realistic. Let’s see things as they really are,” is replied to by God’s word: rejoice in the Lord always. There is only one person who does not rejoice and that is the person who does not believe that Christ has died and that I have died with him, and that the world that surrounds me and at times opposes me has died also with him. There is only one proof of the faith: rejoice in the Lord always. And again, I will say, rejoice.
It’s so strange to write that in a letter. You know yourselves — if you were writing a letter, it’s not normal to say it like that. Repeat it again, “But rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let all men know your forbearance.” Your forbearance is acting according to what is reality. That’s really the meaning of the Greek word. Acting in accordance with what is reality. Let all men know your forbearance. The world, of course, thinks that forbearance is, “You’re so patient. You’re so long suffering. You’re forbearing in this. Bear with me a little. Put up with me. Endure my hesitation, or my procrastination.” That’s what the world means by forbearance.
The Greek doesn’t mean that. The Greek means: act in accordance with reality that God has crucified the world and you in his Son Jesus. Let all men know your forbearance. Act in accordance with this. The way to act in accordance with this is to laugh — is to rejoice. The Lord is at hand. He’s right here. He has done it all and he’s going to take you through it. As if he knows us so well. He says, “Now remember, have no anxiety.”
“Well Lord, I won’t have anxiety — certainly about a lot of things. As I look out on this week I can see a lot of things that will go right.” But he says, “No, no have no anxiety about anything. About anything — whatever it is. But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” That’s the response that God says is right to what this sacrament has achieved for us. That’s the only response that is right — rejoicing every day. Let us pray.
Oh Lord, there arise so spontaneously in us all kinds of hesitations, and prevarications, and protestations. But Lord, we see that there is open before us a bright land. A land of beauty, and joy, and delight. A land where all the burdens have been lifted by you — where all the difficulties have already been dealt with by you. A land where we walk with our eyes filled with you and your beauty, and your presence, and your mighty power.
Father, we thank you for your goodness to us and we repent of our self-importance and our self-pity. We see, Lord, that it is simply our desire to deify ourselves and exalt ourselves as people who are going to tackle this world and this life by our own power. It is only that that makes us step back from the child-like delight and joy to which you have called us.
Oh Lord, we would thank you. We would bow down to you and thank you today for Jesus. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your death. Thank you for the way you have lived each one of our lives right through to the end and have foreseen every event and every circumstance and have borne them all yourself. Passed them through your own heart, borne all the consequences of our willful actions, and then taken the sting out of them all and modified them in your own mighty death, and through your resurrection have raised them up and allowed them to come to us in physical reality here in this present life. But you’ve done it in such a way they stimulate our trust and confidence in you — rather than destroy us.
They drive us deeper into your heart. They enable us to yet again turn from this present life and the power of our own flesh, and to turn our whole hearts and trust and confidence to you and your strength. Lord, we thank you. We thank you for your goodness to us and your great love. And we thank you especially this day that there’s nothing for us to do in this present life but live rejoicing every day, and walk with a light heart, and do with delight the things you have given us to do. Lord, we thank you. Amen.