Rider On The StormSeries: An Eschatological Mix
RIDER ON THE STORM
Sermon By Terry Siverd / August 08, 2021 / Cortland Church of Christ
Welcome to one an all! We're thankful for our Cortland Church family and all who have chosen to study with us online this morning. Some 250 years ago, William Cowper penned the words to the wonderful hymn: God Moves In A Mysterious Way. God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform; He plants His footsteps in the sea, And rides upon the storm. I am alluding to the words from vs.1 of this cherished hymn as I title this morning's sermon, “Rider On The Storm”. With these words Cowper is undoubtedly recollecting an incident recorded in the gospels that tells of a time when Jesus directed His disciples to cross the northern tip of the Sea of Galilee by boat - - going from Capernaum to Gennesare. Meanwhile Jesus withdrew to the mountains by Himself to pray. As the disciples in their boat were being battered by the waves, Jesus walked to them on water: He plants His footsteps on the sea, and rides upon the storm.
If we had to choose one singular verse in the Old Testament that best addresses in one fell swoop both the providence and sovereignty of God, it might be the words spoke by Joseph to his guilt-ridden elder brothers (Gen.50:20) - - And as for you, you meant evil against me, but GOD MEANT IT FOR GOOD in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. This ancient text is an early picture of God's providence, declaring that Jehovah God is indeed the rider on the storm. This extended account (Gen.17-50) of God's hand in Joseph's life testifies to God's all-seeing eye and all-caring heart.
Similarly, if we had to choose one singular verse in the New Testament that speaks of God's providence and sovereignty, it might be the words of the apostle Paul recorded in his epistle the Christians in Rome (Rom.8:28) - - And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. This text, Paul notes, is something that we KNOW. This bold enunciation is not speculative. It is not wishful thinking. God's word provides evidence in abundance - - so much so that we can audaciously affirm that we know this to be true. This passage of Scripture, written by Paul, is one that has become very cherished to many. It's dearness notwithstanding, if we are candid we have to admit that behind and beyond the soaring poetry of this text we sometimes find ourselves lingering in the shadows wondering, “How does this verse play out in our daily lives?” In a recent Midweek Bible Group study we acknowledged that this passage can be both comforting and troubling. It often works to assure us that our Almighty God is ever present in the difficulties of life. Yet for some this citation works to produce doubt: “Where was God when tragedy struck my house?”
Surely, we can all agree that this text rightly belongs in that catalog of sacred writings that the apostle Peter refers to as the hard sayings of the apostle Paul (2Pet.3:16 / things hard to understand). The context of Peter's words about Paul's words are found in Peter's writings concerning eschatological matters. Peter writes in 2Pet.3:3 & 13 - - Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming?' ... According to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.
It's no surprise that Peter writes about eschatology: Jesus commissioned the twelve to tell others what He told them. Likewise, we're not shocked when we encounter considerable eschatological teachings from the apostle Paul. Neither are we dumbfounded to hear Peter say that Paul could sometimes be hard to understand. In fact, Peter's frankness is quite encouraging: it helps to know that Paul's teachings even stretched the other apostles.
What might catch us off guard is the realization that Rom.8:28 is anchored in eschatology.
Personally, I have found a number of Paul's writings to be hard to understand. Paul often goes deep. And perhaps nowhere does he plow as deeply as he does in Romans. Read Rom.7 and tell me that it doesn't make your head spin! And, just in case you hadn't noticed, Rom.7 is the launching pad for Rom.9, 10 & 11. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? (Rom.7:24). And it is here,wedged right between Rom.7 and Rom.9, 10 & 11, that we find Romans 8. And it is somewhere near the middle of Rom.8 that we find Rom.8:28. The best way to approach Rom.8:28 is to ask, WHAT DID PAUL ORIGINALLY MEAN WHEN HE WROTE THIS VERSE? One often-overlooked hermeneutical guidepost states, “a passage can never mean what it never meant”. On some levels, as we seek to make modern-day applications, we might flirt with debating these words. Yet, for the most part we get it - - this is an integral part of asking the who, what, when, where and why questions.
Now imagine with me that you are among a faithful group of Jewish Christians receiving Paul's letter. First-century saints eagerly awaited the completion of the second portion of Jesus' ministry (which came by means of The Holy Spirit during Israel's last days). This key time period in redemptive history serves to put a capstone of the work of Christ. In the New Testament the completion of this important work is expressed by the fulfillment of “all things”.
Here are seven “all-things” passages that most New Testament students have failed to connect.
This is a much-needed, connect-the-dots exercise that will help us greatly in properly grasping eschatology. Lk.21:22 / these are the days of vengeance, in which all things which are written must be fulfiled. ... Lk.24:44 / these are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled. ... Acts 3:19-21 / repent therefore and return, that yours sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets. ... 1Cor.15:28 / when all things are subjected to (Christ), then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all. cf. 1Cor.15:24ff. ... 1Pet.4:7 / the end of all things is at hand. ... Rev.21:5 / He who sits on the throne said, 'behold, I am making all things new. ... Rom.8:28 / we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those that love the Lord... In the text before, Paul is reaffirming God's faithfulness in securing the arrival of the New covenant world. Notice again the location of this wonderful Rom.8:28 passage. In Rom.8:18f, Paul writes - - For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revelation of the sons of God...for the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. These early saints were foreordained to be conformed to the image of God's son (Rom.8:29). Heb.5:8 states, although He was a Son, He learned obedience through the things which He suffered. As first-fruit Christians (Js.1:19), they were destined to follow in the steps of Jesus (1Pet.2:21) - - You have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps. In Ro.11:25f, Paul summarizes - - For I do not want you to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in...For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all. Oh, the depth and the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!...For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.