Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 February 3, 2019
“With a View to Those Outside”
I love Sunday morning. I love the divine appointment we have here together in this place. Moreover, I love what we do on Sunday mornings. We worship our triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—both individually and with others. We also enjoy precious fellowship with others who come here to worship Him too. Yet too often we, the redeemed of God in Christ who gather to worship Him Sunday after Sunday, forget about the ones outside—the ones who have not believed in Jesus as Lord and Savior, the ones who believe at some level, but think they need an invitation from one of us to join us, and others who either are not in Christ or do not appear to be enjoying the full benefit of being in Him. God, by His Holy Spirit, reminds us to remember those outside His saving love—or those outside the full enjoyment of Him and His benefits—and He also equips us to serve them. Let us not forget that, in serving them, we serve Him. Now let us hear God speak to our souls by His Spirit from His holy Word.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
Each verse in our preaching portion today provides an important exhortation for us to hear and to heed. First, from verse five, let us behave wisely before those outside. My wooden translation of the underlying Greek runs thus: “Walk ye in wisdom to the ones outside.” We have noted at others times that the literal command walk (Greek peripateo [peripatew]) often connotes behave; hence, let us behave wisely before a watching, evaluating world. Let us so conduct our lives that those outside will think favorably of God—and this because they find our actions and attitudes attractive by the secret work of the Spirit. Furthermore, let us so conduct our lives that those outside will not think ill of God. Let not our actions and demeanors repel them from our loving God, Who has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ. Avoiding these requires the powerful work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. May He grant us grace to cause an unbeliever to see Jesus when he looks at our lives.
By living as described in the preceding paragraph, we shall redeem the opportune time. To redeem (Greek exagoradzo [exagorazw]) is to release or to free at considerable cost to the one releasing or freeing. The ESV here renders my wooden redeeming the opportune time with making the best use of the time, and the NIV renders the same making the most of every opportunity; these are good dynamic translations in this context. We do want to make the best use of the opportune time (Greek chairos [cairoV]) afforded us by God. The Holy Spirit normally refers to chronological time with chronos (cronoV), but He uses chairos here. Chairos time is God’s time of heightened spiritual significance in a life or situation. It is God’s providential moment—or, to use the vernacular, a God-moment. Rest assured that God, in His providence, will supply us such moments with those outside by His grace. May He enable us to make the most of those opportune moments—redeeming them for His glory.
The second main exhortation of today’s text, from verse six, now arrives for our consideration: Let us speak graciously to those outside. By graciously (literally in grace: Greek en chariti [en cariti]), we mean kindly, with good will and compassion evident. Implied in this word is the sense of forgiveness. Because we are treated kindly, with good will, with compassion, and forgiven in Christ, we can extend the same to those outside (and to those inside, and to self, as occasion requires). Our gracious speech shall be seasoned as salt. It shall be pleasing to the hearer, on the one hand, and healthful to his ears and soul, on the other. Many times God has made the words of another fly with wings into my soul—with the speaker blissfully unaware of being used by God. We speak this way—full of grace, seasoned as salt—knowing how to answer each one. Let us answer each one, but especially those outside, with just the right word spoken in just the right way.
Many years ago, I learned that a new Christian, about six months after his conversion, largely has forsaken his non-Christian friends in favor of his new Christian friends. Of course, some of this is necessary for his Christian walk—for if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away, and, behold, all things are as new (2 Corinthians 5:17). Some of this need not happen, however. Let us not, even while profiting from needful (yea, commanded) Christian fellowship, lose view of those outside. Rather, let us—ever praying for them—walk wisely before them and speak graciously unto them. May God, in Christ, through the Holy Spirit, empower us along these lines. May He also bless us in serving Him, and may He bless those on the outside—that some be drawn savingly inside the covenant family of God in Christ Jesus. Above all, may God glorify Himself in these thing, as in all things.