What does it mean to call upon the Name of the Lord for Salvation?

Twice in the NT, we are told that anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Acts 2:21 and Romans 10:13)  Both Peter and Paul are quoting from Joel 2:32, where the prophet Joel promises a coming day where anyone can call on the name of the Lord for salvation. Joel’s emphasis is not upon the act of calling but rather the promise of whosoever. Both Peter and Paul use the verse in that context.  Paul makes that clear in Romans 10:12 by stating, “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.” 

So then how should we understand the word “call”? Does Paul mean “pray to”? Is that the context of Romans 10? Certainly not. The context of Romans 10 is salvation, and Paul is reminding his audience that all (i.e., Jews and Gentiles) who name the name of Jesus as their Savior will be saved.  Without question, the reason these people identify Jesus as their Savior is that they believe in Him.  The reason I call my wife “my wife” is because I am married to her; the reason I call the President “President Trump” is because he is the President; and the reason believers call upon the name of the Lord Jesus for their salvation is because they believe Jesus is their Savior.  I call you “Bob” because your name is Bob, and the reason I say “Bob” is because I believe you are Bob. That is the manner in which the word “call” is being used.

We know that is the correct interpretation because of the context of Romans 10. Beginning in v. 6, Paul speaks of a righteousness that comes by faith.  In v. 8, we read about a “word of faith” that is preached or proclaimed. In v. 9, we read “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved”. In v. 10, Paul states: “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation”. Then in v. 11, Paul quotes from Isaiah 28:16, where the prophet promises that those who believe in God will not be put to shame.  Verse 12 then begins with the preposition “For”, establishing a link between the preceding sentence and Paul’s premise in which there is no distinction between Jews and Greeks (Gentiles). Jews and Gentiles are saved in the same way. The same Lord who saved the Jew is the same Lord who saves the Greek. There is no distinction. To make his point even stronger, Paul then quotes from Joel 2:32, where the prophet spoke of a coming day when anyone can call upon the name of the Lord and be saved. Anyone—that is Jew or Gentile. Beginning in Romans 1, Paul repeatedly emphasizes that people acquire Christ's righteousness by faith in the Gospel.  (Romans 1:17)

So then, is faith in the gospel the first step in a series of things that must be done? Is it believe, call, confess, and repent (a word that Paul doesn’t use a single time in Romans) or is it repent, believe, call, and confess? To gain a better understanding of how Paul is using his quotation from Joel 2:32, let’s look at Romans 10:14. Paul writes, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?”. Calling and confessing provide evidence of faith or belief in the gospel, but faith and faith alone in the gospel is what saves people. The reason you confess that Jesus is Lord is that you believe He is Lord, and the reason you call upon the name of Jesus to be your Savior is that you believe He died for your sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day. Calling and confessing are not prerequisites to salvation; they both occur after one believes.

By no means is Paul establishing a series of things that must be done to be saved. Calling and confessing are no more a part of how to get saved than baptism is a component to salvation. We know that from Acts 16:31 where Paul plainly tells the Philippian jailor “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”. Nothing more is said. Nothing more is implied. Believing on the Lord Jesus is the complete reliance or dependency on Jesus as Savior in the same way that a person relies entirely or trusts completely in the ability of a ladder to support his weight.

To the Saints at Philippi Philippians 1:1-11

Philippians 1. Look at this letter. Just look down at it. My Bible is two half pages.
I'm going to show you this map before we read our text. Here's Philippi (modern day). Here's Italy. I'm on the screen. My right. Your left. Here's Greece, Albania, and Macedonia. This region here. Here's Philippi right here. Now I'm going to show you this map. In red—it's a little bit difficult to see. Red is never a good color to use, but that's what they had on this map. It's Via Egnatia. It's a Roman roadway way. It's the equivalent of I-95. Philippi is located right here.
Now Paul's over here. Again, I'm on my right, your left. He's over here in Rome. We ended Acts. He's in house arrest. What we're reading—grasp this with me now this morning—we're reading in English a translation of a letter that Paul sent that traveled from way over here in Rome, down here, across the Adriatic Sea, on this road to a group of believers in Philippi. Real Paul writing a real letter on material that's preserved, recopied, recopied, recopied, and translated into English. We’re getting ready to read what Paul wrote them 2,000 years ago, preserved for our edification today. It spoke to them 2,000 years ago. From that point forward, this small letter has been speaking to believers ever since.
Now let's read the Word of God together: “Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons” (Php 1:1). Overseers is the literal translation of the word, bishop.
To the overseers, the elders, the pastors (those who shepherd the congregation), the servants, the deacons, and then the saints: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy” (Php 1:2-4). What are you thanking them for? “For your fellowship [or partnership] in the gospel from the first day until now” (Php 1:5). The first day is referring to the day that Paul started this church in Philippi.

Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ.
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:6-11)

Lord, do a work in this your church this morning. May every young person be incredibly attentive. May no phones be a distraction. May we all focus on the Word of God in our lap. And may we see your glory in the salvation that's described in this text. In Jesus' name. Amen.

The Relationship Between Paul and Timothy

This church at Phillipi on our map was started when Paul got the Macedonian call. Remember when he was told, "Go to Macedonia.” The church at Philippi is the first church planted in modern-day Europe. You will recall that Lydia, a seller of purple, was one of the very first converts. She had quite the financial resources, so she began supporting Paul in this endeavor. You'll remember that Paul got locked up in a prison, the prison doors rocked, and nobody escaped. The Philippian jailer said, "What must I do to be saved?” (Ac 16:30). The answer was, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Ac 16:31). That's the embryonic beginning of the church at Philippi. No doubt Paul visited them again after his second missionary journey, and had an impact on them. Now through a letter, he's continuing to have impact.
What we want to do is work our way through all four chapters, not this morning, but Sunday after Sunday, diligently looking at everything that God inspired the Holy Spirit to write through Paul. There are some amazing passages. Philippians 2 is going to hold this amazing description of Jesus Christ who leaves the glories of heaven, comes down in human form, and will ascend back up and receive the exaltation. We're going to just camp out there for at least a couple of weeks because it is so doctrinally informative for us. It will teach us much.
For now, let's get started with these words, Paul and Timothy (the simple description, Paul and Timothy, in verse number one). Let's stop for a minute and recognize the significance of this. First of all, they're not peers. They are not peers. Paul is definitely the older man. He's had an impact on Timothy. There's a generation between them. What we're getting here is the communication that “I'm leaving.” Paul knows he's departing, and he's passing the mantle to Timothy. He can think of no better way to set Timothy up for success than to communicate—
Gramps got all the candy now. We're good to go. The candy exchange has occurred. Now we're ready to continue preaching. Very good. I'm sorry. I notice distractions. I've got this crazy expectation that you pay attention to preaching. I don't know where I got that from, but that's what my expectation is.
Paul and Timothy (older Paul and younger Timothy), have a mentoring relationship. It reminds us today that we are in the business of mentoring, that the Christian church needs to be building these mentoring relationships. All the young moms in here, every one of you should be looking for an older mom to build a relationship with. All the older moms in this room—
I'm not in either camp right now. I'm not the older. I'm not the younger. We're right in the middle right now. Why are we laughing, Darren? Why are you laughing? Let's stay focused. We're going to Harris Teeter. I'm at Harris Teeter. Let's get this out of the way. We're asked about the senior citizen discount, Adam, at Harris Teeter. I said very emphatically, "Do I look like a senior citizen?" There was a mixed bag of answers across the board. So I feel like it's a little bit young.
In any case—let's set that aside—are you impacting anybody in the younger generation? Are you being impacted by anybody in the older generation? Are you building relationships? Do you have a Paul in your life? Do you have a Timothy in your life? Are you doing anything with the older generation or the younger generation?
You may do it through sports. Sports is an incredible vehicle to build relationships. A soccer ball, basketball, football, a frisbee, cross country—whatever you want. It's not about that. It's about our relationship-building event in which Paul is impacting Timothy. Timothy is being impacted by Paul. He's seizing it all. Timothy's setting the conditions to impact the next generation. These words, “Paul and Timothy to the saints at Philippi,” is a reminder that Paul is not going to be here forever. He's not an eternal apostle. The next generation has to pick up the mantle and carry it forward.
That's the impact here with these simple descriptions of Paul and Timothy. Who are you mentoring? Who is mentoring you? Who's teaching you? Who's impacting you? Younger moms, find the older moms. Older moms, when you get a sense to mentor a younger mom, seize it. Don't be too busy to have a conversation. Get to know that person. Impact them. Find out what's going on in their lives. You've been there. You've been through that.
In the ICU, I remember talking to Lauren when her little infant was born prematurely. They were there early, and it was such a struggle. I said, "Understand that you're going through this so that when it happens to another member of the body of Christ, you'll be there to walk them through the same thing. And because you've been through it and you walked those days, you can impact somebody else.”
That's what this is all about, this relationship between Paul and Timothy.

Grace and Peace To Servants and Saints

Look at the next description we get here. You're not an apostle. Instead, it's a plural reference to doulos. It's "we are slaves, servants, or bondservants to Jesus Christ." He, by implication from the word “servant,” is my master. He's my master. I am the servant.
Let me ask you very emphatically if anyone looked at your life in the last five days at work, would they think you were a servant of Jesus Christ? The way you carry yourself, the way you are, the what you speak, the language you use, the way you interact with other people—would anyone notice anything different about the way you are versus anyone else on the assembly line? Or are you so much like everybody else that we can't tell the difference?
Paul and Timothy are being described as slaves to Jesus Christ. You bought me. You redeemed me. You delivered me from hell, and for that, I am incredibly thankful. You are my master. You're my master.
We talked about this in Sunday school for just a moment of time, this idea of a kingdom. In this kingdom, we are the citizens. All the kingdom members submit to Jesus Christ as their King. This is the same type of description. Then, notice "to all the saints.” Not St. Teresa, not Saint Elizabeth, but all the saints. All of them. If you are born again this morning, converted, have been redeemed, purchased with a price, are a born-again believer, changed by the power of the gospel, you are a saint. You don't have to wait until you're dead and have an an entire research project done to prove you had a couple of miracles. You have been made a saint by the Lord Jesus Christ.
You are, according to the Word, literally a holy one. In other words, in the city of Fayetteville, there are a whole bunch of holy ones running around (or little Jesuses). They are set apart. They are different. They have been made holy by the blood of Jesus Christ. By implication, they are expected to live a holy life.
And lest you think that this is too strong of an idea, pause for just a moment with me. Let's run over to Hebrews 12:14. Find Hebrews very quickly in your bible. It's before James. It's after the Pauline epistles. This is a verse worthy of your attention.
By the way, would you guys mind joining me for just a moment in wishing Sister Elizabeth Jones, who's sitting right here, happy birthday. She celebrates ninety-two years of life. That's amazing. Happy birthday. She qualifies for the senior citizen discounts. She gets it every time. They don't even ask her at Harris Teeter. It's a wonderful thing.
Please look at Hebrews 12:14. That gave you a moment to find it. “Peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14). If it seems like we put too much emphasis on personal holiness in this church, the only reason we put such an emphasis on it is because you can't see the Lord without it.
He says, "To [the holy ones] in Christ Jesus” (Php 1:1). And they are located where? "In Philippi." We are located at Fayetteville. They are located at Philippi.
Who is he also issuing a greeting to? To the overseers. Who else? To the deacons. In the church at Philippi, there is a group of overseers. They are supported by a group of deacons. Then, there is the entire congregation, all collectively referred to as saints. Let me draw to your attention that there are no saints outside of that.
See, this quasi-group of Christians who have no overseers, no deacons doesn't exist in the New Testament. They don't recognize this group. They're never addressed. These are the folks who don't go to any local assembly. These are folks who call themselves Christians, and they're fed by the Internet. They have their favorite Internet preachers. They have no relationship with local overseers. They don't know a single deacon. They are not a member of a local congregation. He doesn't know about this group. He can imagine that. If you're a believer, you're part of a local congregation. He either can't fathom the idea of existing through the Internet world. No, you're plugged in. You have an overseer. You have an overseer that knows you, and you know the overseer. You know the deacons. You're part of the group called the saints.
Where do you worship? Whenever the believers assemble in Philippi, you're there. You're part of that local assembly. We are losing the emphasis on local church attendance, local church membership, and the local body of Christ. We prayed this morning for Jack who is leaving to go to Georgia to start college. He's one of our seniors. Hey, you've got to plug in right away. You've got to find a local church. Well, I listen to Pastor Sean on the Internet. No, you've got to go find a pastor in Georgia and connect to a local church.
Let me tell you something. The Internet preacher's not marrying you. The Internet preacher's not—he may or may not. I guess you could get them if you give enough money. Maybe you could bribe him, but in most cases, he's not going to come visit you in the hospital. He doesn't know who you are. He doesn't connect with you on a personal basis. He doesn't recognize your face and know who you are and care about you.
Paul knows these people in Philippi. He knows them. He knows them by name. He impacted their lives in a personal way. So he writes to the saints, the deacons, and the overseers. Let's see what he says to them.
“Grace" (Php 1:2). Paul can think of nothing better than to wish that God's grace would be shed abroad in their lives. The very first thing that he says is, “May the grace be unto you. May you be a recipient of God's grace. May you experience more of God's grace.”
Grace is so nebulous that way we almost don't even think about it and its significance. Webster defines it as this unmerited divine assistance that brings about our regeneration and then our sanctification. Now remember sanctification—that's a high speed word right there—is the progressive work of God working in you to make you more like Jesus. Let's break it down like that. God the Holy Spirit is inside you. God is working in your life to chip away at all the sin, all the imperfections, and conform you to the image of Jesus Christ. That's the end state. That's the end game.
Now we know this, in particular, from verse six. Let me look at my Bible real quick. I'm back in Philippians 1:6. Paul says, “[I am] confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Php 1:6). Let's unpack that in relation to this idea of sanctification because Paul said, "I'm praying that you become a recipient of more grace, grace unto you."
I'm already saved. I've got grace be saved. No, it's more than just grace to be saved. It's more than that because I'm not there yet. I haven't arrived. God's still working on me. There used to be a song like that. There is a song like that: To make me what I ought to be. That's sanctification right there. Boys and girls when they sing that song, they're singing about God's ongoing work in them.
Someone said, "I want to know that I'm saved."
Is God working in your life? Is God working on you?
I want to know that I'm saved. How can I get assurance of my salvation? How can I get assurance? How can I know for sure?
Has he begun a good work on you? "Being [ver]y confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will [perform] it"—when?—"until the day of Jesus Christ” (Php 1:6). When did the good work begin? It began on the day that I was saved. And when will that good work end? It will end on the day in which I appear before Jesus Christ at the judgment seat of Christ. Between that day and this day, there is an ongoing work of God in my life. says that grace is God's divine assistance to conforming to the image of Jesus Christ. Every day I'm progressively being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. So he prays, "Grace from God to you."
Small business owners, do you need God's grace on your small business? Platoon leaders, company commanders, battalion commanders, do you need God's grace in your life? Absolutely. I make a lot of decisions. I deal with people's lives all the time. I need wisdom. I need grace. I need favor from God. I need discernment from God. Paul is praying that you receive that. He's praying that virtue comes from God to assist you in your life.
Then, he can pray for peace that you can have peace with God. You were at enmity with God. You do realize that, right? You were at enmity with God. Before you there was a hostility between you and God. God was hostile to your sin. He wasn't okay with your sin. It wasn't like, "Oh, I understand.” No, there was a open hostility between you and God. Christ steps in and mitigates the hostility through his shed blood. Suddenly, the war is over, and you're at peace with God.

Thankful For More Than Food

Three and four. Good stuff.
"I thank my God upon every remembrance” (Php 1:3). Let's just stop right now, be real upfront, and say unequivocally, nobody on the planet should be more thankful than Christians. Now let's stop. That's not up for debate. That's not like a Methodist thing, a Presbyterian thing, or Baptist. We don't really agree with you on that. No. Wait a minute. We've been saved. We've been recipients of God's grace. When you've been a recipient of God's grace, we are to breathe thankfulness.
It is routine for us. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you. That was awesome. Thanks. Thank you so much. I appreciate that. That was amazing. I didn't know you're going to help me. Thank you very much. It's like overboard.
We just can't get over it. Our children, our young people, us, all of us old people in the room, all of us ought to be thankful. Thank you for serving me today. Thank you again that for me. Thank you. That was awesome. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Is that you?
I want to ask this question because Paul is thanking God for people. "Upon every remembrance of you” (Php 1:3). When was the last time you thanked God for something and someone beyond food? Thank you for the food. Thank you for the food. Thank you for the food. Thank you for the food. Thank you for the food, Lord. Thank you for the food you've given us. I believe God thinks, Food? I've given you so much beyond cheeseburgers and French fries. Could we grow beyond food? Think about the last seven days and what you've expressed thanksgiving to God for beyond food.  When was the last time you thanked God for a person?
You thank God for people because Paul says, "I thank God every time I remember you. I thank God everyday. I'm thinking about Lydia and the work she's done. I'm thinking about that Philippian jailer, Lord. I just want to thank you, God, for bringing them into my life." When was the last time you thanked God for a person, human beings who had an impact in your life?
Anytime I'm praying, he says, "I'm able to make my petitions with great joy over you as God brings you to my remembrance. I just issue a statement of 'Lord, thank you for bringing so-and-so in my life.'"
I thank God beyond measure for our granddaughter who brings joy into my life, an absolute gift. It's a person. It's a human being. Much more than a cheeseburger (bacon cheeseburger), human beings. I thank God for mentors, twenty years in an army career, people that impacted my life. I thank God for Mike Hubbard. We had over a decade of a relationship, and God brought him into my life when I was a first sergeant. He was a battery commander. Because we were believers, we were partakers of the grace of God together. God instantly knit our hearts together, and we've had a relationship ever since. I'm going to push the envelope. There are occasions where I even thank God for Darren Hawk. It is not as frequently as everybody else, but it does happen. The point is, who do you thank God for?

By the way, let's push the envelope just a little bit more this morning. If you're having struggles with a brother in Christ or a sister in Christ, and you begin to pray for them, it'll change. That's exactly right, sister. It'll change. It will start changing because it's really hard to be at enmity with somebody that you're thanking God for. Lord, I just want to let you know I'm praying for so-and-so. Pretty soon, God will begin to knit your heart together with somebody. It'll start in a prayer closet. When was the last time you thanked God for something or someone beyond food?

Our Partnership In the Gospel

Why is Paul thanking God so much for these Philippians? He tells us in verse five. Your King James Bible has the word “fellowship” (Php 1:5). Partnership is even a better word. "For your [partnership] in the gospel from the first day until now.”
Think about what we're reading there in verse five. Let's not run over this. Paul was saying that the Philippian saints took an interest in his ministry from the first day until even now in the imprisonment. When others had abandoned him, they had not. When others had forgotten about him, they had not. When others decided he doesn't need their money, they had not. How do we know that money's being in reference here? Let's turn over to Philippians 4:15 where Paul will say, "Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church [communicated] with me concerning giving and receiving [except] you” (Php 4:15). What a statement. Don't miss that. Of all the churches that Paul had planted, of all the lives that he had impacted, of all the people that he touched, only the church at Philippi had provided financial support. So "fellowship" in verse five is thanking God “for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now” (Php 1:5).
So I want to ask you this morning, are you a partner with us? Half of you are not. Hear me well. Half of you give more money to Redbox than you do Berean Baptist Church. Now I fully realize there are some folks who can't, and I got that. I know that there are some folks in our congregation who are financially strapped. I understand that. I got it. But not everybody.
Paul says, "I thank God that you partnered with me in the advancement of the gospel." Tomorrow morning, we believe that we will open the first day of school with well over 500 students, perhaps as many as 520. Those students will be in ages three to twelfth grade (16-17 year olds). Do you know that they are going to be impacted with the gospel whether they like it or not five days a week in every possible forum?
I'll get the privilege next week, the week of the 25th—whether that's next week or the following, I can't remember—to go down to Get Acquainted Days. We're going to bring a hundred of the high school kids down to Camp Anchorage, and we are going to preach the fire out of the gospel. They are going to be introduced to the gospel front ways, sideways, upside down, left side, right side. We are going to infuse gospel with all our might by the power of the Holy Spirit into the very fiber of their being. Five preaching services all focused on gospel-centered application into their lives.
When you give to this ministry, when you say I'll be a partner, what you're saying is, I believe in the gospel ministry of Berean Baptist Church. Let me be even clearer with you. If you think, I'm not really sure they know how to steward my money. I'm not really sure they preach the gospel that seriously around there. Please hear me well. Go find another church. I wouldn't attend church that I didn't believe was preaching the gospel. I wouldn't attend a church that I couldn't partner with. I wouldn't attend this church and send my money somewhere else.
He's says, "You're a partner." Let me let me give it to you another way. (We’re talking about partnership.) Let me give you another idea. At the present time, we're probably going to have to cap the number of people that can participate in Awana on Wednesday night. You say, "Why would you cap anything?" You have to cap it according to the workers. You can't put one adult in a room for fifty kids. That's dangerous. That's unsafe. So at the current number of volunteers offer Wednesday nights, we're probably going to have the cap it. In other words, nineteen, twenty-one, and that's it. If you come after the twenty-one, I'm sorry. You can't participate tonight. Come earlier next week. The reason we're going to have to cap it is because we don't have enough partners.
Let me ask you, do you think that children learn the gospel in Awana? Yeah, absolutely. They are introduced to the gospel sideways, upside down, and front ways. They're introduced to Scripture. They're introduced to the New Testament. They are taught the Gospel in Awana. So you could be a partner in the advancement of the gospel through Awana. Or you could continue to be the most selfish person on the planet and do nothing.
I know that sounds harsh, but do you live for yourself or do you live for others? Every time we refuse to give of our time, talent, or finances, we are saying, "Actually, I'm the most important person on the planet." But when we step out in faith and we give, we partner, we serve, we're saying there's something more important than me. That's what the church in Philippi said about Paul. We believe in your gospel ministry and we're going to keep on supporting you. We support you from the beginning, and we're going to continue supporting you.
Can I tell you that partners receive a reward both now and eternity? "Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Lk 6:38).
I can testify that for 28 years of marriage and giving, God has blessed Pam and I. Is there anyone else who can testify like that? Is there anyone else can say, "We've given to God and God has just been so generous to us”? We've seen God work over and over and over again. God works through promotion. God works to take care of us.
I want to give you an example. Let me preface this very clearly. You guys are amazing to Pam and I. You take care of us really well. You guys are generous and we are well taken care of. One of you last week put in the offering a little bit of cash and said, "We want you guys to go out to lunch.” Pam and I were sitting at dinner together last night and we just said goodbye to Erica and Autumn. We're sitting down, and I told Pam, "You're not going to believe this, but somebody put a little bit of cash in our envelope and told us to go out to lunch with it." And she started crying. I said, "What are you crying about?" And she said, "Do you know that I prayed that someone would show a little bit—"
I'm going to tell you right now. God is good. God is good. You can't out give God. I'm not telling you this to try to encourage you to give us any more because we're going to give it away if you do. I'm trying to show you how the prayers impact in an amazing way. It starts with faithfulness. You can't out give God. You believe in a ministry, what a ministry is doing, and what their effort is going towards. You believe that this place is going to be a gospel preaching station as long as I'm alive and have any impact in it. So you say, “I want a partner with that effort to get the gospel forward.”
I'll give you another example. Rahm [???] is coming tonight. Rahm [???] is a church planter in Brazil. He's on his fifth church. Four of them are still functioning entities. They don’t start a church and it fails, start another and it fails. No, they're still preaching the gospel. He's on his fifth right now. We support him every single month. If you support this church, you are partnering with a gospel-preaching entity in Brazil. You're partnering on Wednesday night. You're partnering with Berean Baptist Academy. You're partnering with one in Brazil. If you were here last Sunday night, you heard another one in North Africa. You’ve got partners all over the world if you give to this ministry. We're doing the exact same thing.
When you think, I can't afford to give, let me be clear. You can't afford not to give. You say, "You don't know my finances." Start with anything. Just start with anything. Just start. In faith, I'm going to give this $5 to the kingdom of God. In faith, I'm going to give this $10. I'm just going to step out in faith and believe that God is able. And it starts that way.
He says, "Sell your possessions." Jesus said, "Give to the needy. Provide yourselves money bags"—where?—"treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal" (Mt 15:20). You are not going to say, "Man, I wish I got that purse,” at the judgment seat of Christ. “I wish those brightened shoes—I can't believe I missed that purse.” You're not. At the judgment seat of Christ, we are all going to say, what more could we have done? Us, all. Us, all.
Don't act like for a moment that I'm sitting up here as some self-righteous guy that's got this fixed. I see good looking cars like you do. I gawk at Mercedes and BMWs just like you do. I think about those things just like you do. We all desire that. (Sorry, all but Jennifer Jefferson.) Pick whatever you want. We all have eyes towards nice things. Everyone in this room does. All of us. But it's about your priorities. Get your giving done first. Make God priority first. Then, work with what God gives you. But get that as a priority in your life right off the bat. This is what we're going to do. This is what we're going to give. We believe in this. We believe in it, and we're going to give.

The Deep Affection of Brotherly Love

I'm sure of this: “[God] who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Php 1:6). Our salvation begins and ends with God. I say to you this morning, the greater degree to which we see the Spirit of the Lord working in the life of a person gives us greater confidence in the authenticity of their salvation. Why? Because he who began a good work in you will perform that. Pastor Sean, how can I get assurance of my salvation? Did you pray to ask Jesus in your heart? I did. Okay, you're good to go. No, that is unbiblical assurance of salvation. What then would be biblical assurance of salvation? Is God working in your life? Is God working in your life? I can't answer that for you just like you can't answer for me. I can see what I think God looks like working in your life, but in the end, only you know. Is God working in your life? Eternal security of the believer rests with the sovereign will of God from beginning to end.
Notice verse seven. Notice what he says: "I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of my grace” (Php 1:7). I want you to grab this idea: "I have you in my heart." Look at verse eight: "For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels,” or the affections or my inner being (Php 1:8). Look at what Paul is describing here. He's saying that in the body of Christ there is this amazing affection one for another, that we love each other. There's a brotherly affection in the body of Christ. "I have you in my heart."
Would you turn over to 2 Peter for a moment please? I want to draw a parallel. I have five minutes with you left, and I want to use all five minutes of them. Second Peter 1. I want to make one final point, and then I want to draw this to an end. The reason we're going over here is because of this idea of brotherly affection that I'm drawing from Paul. Paul says, "I have you in my heart. I have an affection for you." I want to see if Peter confirms the same idea. That's why we're moving to 2 Peter.
In verse five, I want you to see what Peter tells me. Peter says in verse five, "Giving all diligence [or make an effort], add to your faith” (2Pe 1:5). I want you see it in your own Bible. I've got this salvific faith. I can't touch it, but it's there (my saving faith in Jesus Christ). Now Peter says, “Add to your faith virtue,” or moral excellence. (I’m transitioning to verse six.) “To [moral excellence, I want you to add] knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control [steadfast endurance (that’s the King James word patience], to [steadfast endurance, I want you add] godliness, to godliness, [add some] brotherly kindness,” or some brotherly affection (2Pe 1:5-7). After that, he tells him to add charity.
So Paul and Peter both distinguish between unconditional love we have for humanity and the deeper bond that we have as brothers and sisters in Christ. Two different ideas. The one is a general unconditional love for everybody. That's the last thing he calls charity. But before that is the bond that Adam and I have. Do you know why? Because we're brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul says, "I have you in my heart. I know who you are. I care about you."
If you don't have such affection, ask yourself why. Why do you think it is, Bob, that we put an emphasis around here on knowing names? David, how in the world can you have a brotherly affection for somebody if you don't even know their name? You've heard me rail against the megachurch. One of the reasons I rail against the churches because I don't believe it provides this brotherly affection. You usher in. You sit in. It looks just like this. We all stare forward. When the entertainment's over, we all exit.
A couple of weeks ago, I asked you put in your bulletin a name of someone you met. How in the world can you develop brotherly affection if you don't know anyone? How can you have a sister-brotherly affection? How can we have these mentoring relationships around here? Do you know how they work? They work through developing friendships, communication, talking, and exchanging ideas. How was your week? What's going on in your life? How can I pray for you? Over time, a greater degree to which we build these relationships is the greater degree to which I have you in my heart.
We have this ongoing rivalry, Darren and I, but underneath that is an incredible brotherly affection that bonds us together. I can't imagine doing this thing called church and life without Darren, and I don't know if he'd say the same thing. On a very serious note, we care about each other. I hold you in my heart. You can't hold people in your heart that you don't even know. You care about them. You get to know them. What do they do for a living? Where do they live? What do they like? What do they not like? What are their struggles?
We're not in a theater. It's called the body of Christ. We love each other. We care about each other. We come early to church. We stay afterwards. We come to fellowship events. We do all that because we're trying to achieve what he describes here which is this: "I have you in my heart” (Php 1:7). I have a deep inner affection for you. I care about you.
Who do you care about in this church? I don't really know anybody. That's the problem. That's the entire problem. How can I fix that? You serve together in Awana on Wednesday nights and you'll start getting to know somebody. Teach a Sunday school class with somebody. Partner with somebody in Sunday school. You'll start getting to know somebody. Serve in Power Hour. You'll start getting to know somebody. Come on Wednesday night and do Awana, and you'll start getting to know somebody. You can't do it with one hour a week. It doesn't work. It simply doesn't work. That's not the model that we have.
Instead, we have this deep affection one for another that guides us in our thinking, impacts how we live, and we are doing exactly what Peter told us to. We're starting with our faith in Jesus Christ. We’re systematically adding things to it. And we get down to brotherly affection.

Copyright © 2017 / Berean Baptist Church

Pastors & Elders

For over ten years I have been convinced that New Testament churches, churches planted by the Apostles, were led by a plurality of elders—who provided oversight (overseers [bishops in the AV]) and served as shepherds (pastors) of the people of God.  Acts 20:17-28 provides the clearest example of this when Paul calls for the elders of the church at Ephesus and then makes it clear that these men provide the oversight and feed, care for and shepherd the church of God.  See also Acts 15:4 where "church" is singular and elders is plural.

This plurality of elders is often called a council or board (I prefer team).  Elders have as their primary focus the ministry of the Word of God (Acts 6:4). The elders are responsible for governing the church, teaching the Word and tending the flock of God in this church. They focus on the spiritual needs and development of the congregation whereas deacons concentrate on the physical needs of the church.  Together elders and deacons serve the congregation in the fulfillment of the Great Commission to the glory of God.

It bothers me that I see something in the New Testament and we, Berean Baptist, are ignoring what the Bible presents.

When asked the question: ‘Why isn’t Berean led by a plurality of elders like the New Testament presents?’ What should I say? I can’t in good conscience argue against something I definitely see throughout the epistles.  In 1 Tim. 4:14 a council of elders laid hands on Timothy. In James 5:14 the church is to call for the elders.  In 1 Tim. 5:17 Paul refers to elders who labor in preaching and teaching the Word of God. In Phil. 1:1, there is a plurality of overseers.  Plurality protects the congregation from a rogue leader.

I believe a team of elders all approved by the congregation needs to lead Berean.  The council would be made up of lay elders and pastors. Pastors are ordained elders employed by the church; whereas, lay elders are men who meet the biblical qualifications of an overseer in 1 Tim. 3:2-7 whom the church does not pay. (Assistant pastors are men preparing to serve as pastors and serve to extend the ministry of the pastors). I believe the council should consist of 5, 7 or 9 members with the number of lay elders always outnumbering the number of pastors serving on the team. A council of 5 elders would include the senior pastor, the senior associate pastor (Steve Wilson presently) and three other biblically qualified men from the congregation, who can teach the Word of God, would volunteer to serve as elders.  A council of 7 could include another one of the ordained pastors. The elders should not ordain an assistant pastor if they do not think he is ready to serve as an elder (1 Tim. 5:22).

The ability to teach the Word of God is the qualification that most distinguishes an elder from a deacon which is why the congregation needs both offices and why each office has a different focus and responsibility.  Elders (both lay and vocational) concentrate on the spiritual direction and needs of the flock (Acts 20:28; Heb. 13:17).

I believe we need to move forward with constitutional changes to fully incorporate what the New Testament presents into our form of governance.  While we would remain congregational in our form of government; the council of elders would collectively serve to lead the congregation; while the deacons would stay focused on the physical needs of the church (both the people and the facilities).  Ultimately, the authority remains with the flock as the entity that approves (or disapproves) those who serve, the annual budget, expenditures not covered in the budget, new members and missionaries, church discipline, and changes to the church constitution.

What are your questions? Please email me.

The Bible: God's Holy Word

We believe the Bible to be God’s Word which reveals the only hope for humanity, Jesus Christ. Moreover, we believe Scripture to be entirely true in every sense because its author is God, who Himself is Truth. (Tit. 2:13, Is. 65:16, Heb. 4:12)

We believe that Scripture is God’s special revelation to humanity in a unified narrative that leads to Jesus Christ, our Creator, Redeemer, Judge, and Lord, and it has profound wisdom for the modern world. Ultimately, the Lord Jesus Christ is the point of the story of the Bible. (Luke 24:27)

We believe this epic story began with God creating the heavens and earth and will culminate with God creating a new heaven and new earth where His people will dwell with Him forever.  This holy book shows us just how unholy we are, how Holy our God is, and how Jesus Christ’s sacrifice makes believers holy. (Ps. 51:5, Is. 6:3, Heb. 10:10) If you miss the Gospel, you miss the entire point of the Book. We further believe that if your faith isn't in the finished work of Christ—His perfect life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection—you will die in your sins. (1 Cor. 15:1-4, Eph. 2:8-9, Heb. 9:26, John 8:24)

We believe that every Word in the original manuscripts behind every book in the canon of Scripture was God-breathed without error, and is, therefore, useful for teaching, correction, reproof, and training in righteous living, such that the man or woman of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

We believe that the canon of Scripture has been closed for over 1,900 years and consists of 39 Old Testament and 27 New Testament books originally written in the languages of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.  Furthermore, we believe nearly 40 authors wrote in their own language and dialect according to their customs and culture, yet were simultaneously verbally carried along by the Holy Spirit such that humans wrote God's Word. (2 Pet. 1:21) This work of the Holy Spirit took place over 1,600 years, on three different continents, through shepherds, farmers, judges, kings, prophets, priests, fishermen, government officials, craftsmen, and even a doctor.

We believe that God did not stop His work of giving us His Word in inspiration but continued to ensure that accurate copies of the original manuscripts were preserved such that not even the smallest letter or stroke of His Word will ever pass away.  (Mt. 5:18, Mark 13:31)

We believe God Sovereignly worked not only in inspiration and preservation but also in the discovery and revelation of the canonical books.  We deny any suggestion that the church conspired to choose which books it wanted in the Bible or that inspired books are missing or lost.

We believe the Bible to be the sole authority for the church and our final authority for faith, practice, and conduct.  We are commanded to read the Bible both privately and publically, and it must be the primary source document for all teaching and preaching in the church; we must preach the Word. (Ps. 1:2, 1 Thess. 5:27, 2 Tim. 4:2)

We believe that as believers, we should hide God’s Word in our hearts that we might not sin against Him and that His Word should be a lamp to guide our feet and a light for our path. (Ps. 119)

We believe that both copies and translations of Scripture are the Word of God to the extent that they faithfully represent the original text. (2 Pet. 3:16) Furthermore, we believe that because the Bible is God’s Word, it is to be both believed and obeyed by all who profess Christ as Savior.

Finally, we believe that we are completely reliant upon the Spirit of God to give us understanding as we study Scripture and hear it proclaimed. (1 Cor. 2:6-16) Without the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we can never understand the mind of God as it's been revealed in His Word.

Enough is Enough Why the Church Has to Stop Ignoring Abusive Men

Presently, there is an article trending on Facebook by Gary Thomas titled ‘Enough is Enough Why the Church Has to Stop Enabling Abusive Men,’ and I need to speak to the article because I love and care about my sisters in Christ in Berean. In this short article, Gary Thomas describes situations in which Christian women are experiencing abusive behavior from their husbands and are remaining in the marriage because of the ‘long-standing Christian stigma’ associated with divorce.  Gary writes, “I recently spoke at a long-standing North American woman’s conference and was overwhelmed by the quantity and horrific nature of things wives have to put up with in their marriages.”  Gary argues that it would be more sinful to stay in the marriage than to be guilty of the sin of divorce. He purports that the evangelical church has put such a premium on marriage that Christian women feel stuck and sustain abuse from their husbands that they should never have to experience. Gary describes a situation in which a husband told his wife and baby to get out of the car on the side of a busy highway like I-95 and the woman’s internal struggle with putting up with that kind of behavior or pursuing a divorce.

Let me go on the record and say very clearly: I do believe there are situations in which a spouse is justified in leaving a marriage; I do NOT believe any spouse should have to experience abuse in their marriage; husbands do not have ANY biblical right to abuse their wives. Husbands are to love their wives—even as Christ loved the church. If you are such a man, repent. If you are such a woman and are experiencing abuse, seek help immediately from the church office. Sometimes it may even be necessary to call 911 and get to a safe place (separate). I did not say ‘divorce.’ What Gary does not address is the time between separation and divorce. Divorce is a last resort, not the next option. Separation is critical to get out of an abusive situation. In the article, the author did not address two important points that I believe are essential to consider.

First, the author does not address who defines abuse. If I tell you “you suck’ or “you are stupid,” are you the victim of verbal or emotional abuse? Any spouse who has been told “you suck” or called the b-word should not for a moment put up with that from their husband or wife. The victim must confront this type of sinful behavior. Sometimes this may even require that you call 911 in the case of an emergency and criminal behavior.  Sin cannot be left unchecked.  And if it does not stop, the spouse should seek help from a pastor, a family member, perhaps an attorney, and/or church office. Someone from the office staff (a pastor) can even help you with the complexity of how to address the sinful behavior without making things worse. Your church is a resource for you. It will help you get the needed assistance. Husbands abusing their wives should be held accountable for their sinful behavior, even to the point of church discipline.  And in rare situations, this may require the involvement of the magistrate for criminal and unlawful behavior. If the husband denies being abusive, it may be necessary to follow the protocol of Matthew 18:15-18. Defining what is and isn’t verbal abuse may require a panel of church members (2 or 3 witnesses v. 16) but physical abuse and endangerment always requires immediate action for the safety and well-being of the victim and children.

Second, the author does not address when the spouse is considered free to divorce. Certainly, everyone can agree that time must be given to the abusive spouse to repent and for God to work, and during this period of separation both spouses must focus on God, their marriage, their children, the church, prayer, the Word of God and reconciliation. To engage in any type of interest in a potential new spouse during this time of separation would be inherently sinful. Restoration and reconciliation must be the focus. The Bible does NOT speak to how long that period must be before a divorce is permitted. In the state of NC, it is 12 months. Twelve months is a long time. I believe if a pastor was involved in trying to facilitate reconciliation and repentance for 12 months and the abusive husband (or wife) would not cooperate with the work of the Lord, a person would be free to divorce based on the hardness of the heart of the abusive spouse.

It has been my experience that in many cases when one spouse starts to insult and call the other nasty names, the other spouse retaliates and both become sinfully abusive.   Both spouses must realize that at the point in which you respond in kind, you lose the moral high ground of claiming you are the victim and are no longer following Christ.

Finally, there seems to be confusion on what it means to forgive. Forgiveness is not the acceptance of sinful behavior. We can forgive an individual for their actions without condoning their actions. The expectation to forgive is NOT a call to remain in a legitimately abusive situation.  In an emergency call 911; seek immediate help. When the Apostle Paul was being whipped and abused for the cause of the gospel, he was able to forgive the ones whipping him, but he left the abusive situation and went to a different city. If your spouse is hitting you (in addition to calling 911) someone from the church office (a pastor) needs to know about it. Your church wants to help you. To be a Christian spouse is not a call to be a whipping post for an out of control husband (or wife).

If you are the victim of abuse in your marriage, the first step is to protect yourself and your children. Your second step is to let your spouse know you believe that what he or she is doing is abusive and if it doesn’t stop you will have to separate. Your third step is to let your pastor know that your marriage needs help. Any pastor worth his title of shepherd will help his sheep get out of harm’s way. Your final steps in this process are to hold the moral high ground, pray, and actively participate in gospel-centered counseling. Divorce is positively the last resort, but may eventually be necessary.  If you are in doubt, seek help today. In an emergency call 911 and get to safety. If you need help, the church office can help you get the resources you need. 

Illogical and Incoherent Thinking and Theology

This week, a church member sent me a link to this article: “Americans Love God and the Bible, Are Fuzzy on the Details.” In this article, Lifeway, a division of the Southern Baptist Convention, surveyed thousands of people to determine if they agree, disagree or are neutral to certain statements.  The results are disconcerting and reflect problems in the way people think in America.  For example, researchers identified that “7 in 10 say there’s only one true God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—two-thirds say God accepts the worship of all faiths.”  These kinds of answers reflect confusion and a lack of clarity. It seems Americans no longer feel the need to be coherent in their thinking.  The same person often voices ideas that are incompatible and conflicting. Christians must recognize that our God is not the author of confusion. We must be able to articulate what we believe to be true and why in a way that is defensible and reasonable. Let me give you one example of what I mean.

Orthodox Christians believe that Christ Jesus is the only way to the Father. We believe that when Jesus said he was ‘the way’ he meant ‘the way’ and not a way. Christians often say things that do not reflect confidence in this truth.  In reality, we often hope in some crazy way that there is a backdoor of good works or decent living so that our Mormon neighbor or Muslim coworker doesn’t have to go to hell.  We don’t realize the theological implications of our dualistic thinking.

If there is a plan B or plan C to salvation, that is to say, multiple roads that all lead to heaven; then we must ask this question: ‘Why did God send his only begotten Son to a Roman cross?' 'Why did Jesus have to endure God’s wrath for the sins of the whole world, if there is another way to heaven?’ If I say ‘yes’ Muslims can find God through the Islamic faith, then why did Jesus have to suffer? Why did he have to die? Why was he whipped, scarred, beaten, abused, and mocked? It doesn’t make sense. And it needs to make sense. It must make sense because the very character and nature of the Creator God are at stake. If I hold to a theological position that is conflicting and incompatible, my God is more like a human and less like the Sovereign Divine being of the Universe.

When I explain why Christ had to die and when I articulate the reality that Christ perfectly kept the law of God to be the ultimate Lamb of God, I am presenting tenants of truth that serve as foundational stones to a theological system that is dependent upon particular truths undergirding each other.  Jesus gave his life as an act of love from the entire Godhead. Jesus experienced incompressible wrath from God to satisfy God’s righteous indignation against sin. These ideas are not conflicting; they complement each other.

Check your thinking. Demand nothing but the best from yourself. Think about what you believe to be true and insist upon a system of faith that is rational, defendable, coherent, Christo-centric and Biblically sound. To be Christian, it must be 100% in compliance with the Apostle’s doctrine of the first-century church as revealed in the NT.

Is Isaiah 54:17 meant for Christians today?

Is Isaiah 54:17 meant for Christians today? Can we say no weapon formed against us will prosper? I was asked this question via email and here is my answer:

No Isaiah 54:17 is not a promise that individual Christians can claim and somehow think that the bullet will not be effective against them. Let me remind you that God permitted Stephen to die of stoning in Acts chapter 7. So the final stone that knocked the life out of him did prosper. In fact, nearly all the apostles died for the faith--some weapon meant to harm them prospered.  Read the devotion on this web page:


Now notice how there is some truth packed throughout the page, but the author did not consider to whom was the promise given. In Isaiah 54 the promise is given to corporate Israel.  Notice how the web page author claims nothing will harm the believer. How is she using ‘harm’?  Is she using 'harm' in the sense that no matter what happens to your physical body you are secure in Christ? Or is she using it like the lion will not be able to rip the arm off of the Christian in the Roman coliseums Nero?  The believer is secure in Christ, but Christ did not promise that a believer's body will not be destroyed or harmed. Christ’s body was crucified, and he died. Furthermore, he told his apostles to expect the same for themselves. Read Matthew 24 slowly and carefully and remember Jesus was talking to followers.

We know weapons formed against Christians are being effective in Iraq. Even today as I am writing this note Christians are being put to death for their faith in Christ.  Are you familiar with the ministry Voice of the Martyrs? (https://www.persecution.com/ )  Spend some time on that website and tell me weapons are not prospering in the hands of those who would seek to kill and destroy Christians.

If you want a promise to claim that applies to you, if you believe, read John 10.  John 10 is packed full of promises from Christians can claim, and John 10 provides clarity as to who genuine sheep are.  For they hear his voice and follow the true shepherd and bishop of our souls.

The promise you have as a Christians is the promise of life found in 2 Timothy 1:1!