10th March 2024

Nathanael – The First Elite with no Guile

Passage: John 1:43-51, Matthew 5:33-37
Service Type:

This sermon dives deep into the Beatitudes within the context of Matthew chapters 5 and 6, emphasising Jesus' call for a higher standard of righteousness that goes beyond mere legalism to a heart transformed by sanctification. It explores the nuanced biblical understanding of murder versus manslaughter, underlining the importance of intention and malice in defining wrongful acts. Moreover, it discusses the significance of truthfulness and honesty in our dealings, as exemplified by Jesus' interaction with Nathanael in the Gospel of John. Jesus references the fact of God's moulding the character of the original Jacob to be named "Israel". The changes have sanctified his guile such that he can well represent being an Israelite. The key point revolves around the parallel New Covenant Christian journey toward sanctification, not just avoiding outward sins but cultivating an inward purity of heart and intention, striving towards perfection as our Heavenly Father is perfect.

Automatically Generated Transcript

[00:00:00] It is back into the story of the first five chapters of Matthew that we are in our morning services and the Beatitudes there. We've been going through in chapter 5-6 of Jesus' statements where he ups the ante, as I've been calling it, has Jesus increased the request of what it is to live righteous living. And as we've been doing this, we did the first, well actually we did the second and third together the previous week, and then last week we did the first which was the anger and on murder. And subsequent to that some people have asked questions and wanting a better definition of murder. I don't know whether that means they don't like my preaching, but anyway they want to know what makes murder murder.

[00:00:58] Well actually, the definition of murder is an interesting one and generally speaking it involves several parts. One definition of murder is that it is the unlawful taking of the life by one human over another, it also has in there often the word premeditated, so the unlawful pre-meditated taking of the life of one human by another. Now as you look at that definition, there's some good things there that help us. One is that it speaks about premeditation and so the idea of murder has a part of it to be that it's something intended to do, also a motive. Someone made a decision and so they committed this murder. If it were to be the case that something happened accidentally and someone was driving home and you'd forgotten to get the new tires and they blew out and you ran into another car and someone was killed, you could be up for manslaughter. The difference between murder and manslaughter has to do with this question of whether it was intended, whether it was on purpose. But when we look to the words of the Bible, if we go back into the Hebrew to the Ten Commandments Thou shalt not commit any murder, although the King James unfortunately worded it Thou shalt not kill, which introduced the ambiguity that has caused, as I said last week, a lot of people in the World Wars One and to become conscientious objectors when in fact the Old Testament prohibition was not on killing per se, but, as I was saying, deliberate by an individual or another individual with a motive of malice. And generally the motive of malice or the motive of intention, wrongful intention, is necessary therefore to be actually murder.

[00:03:05] It is of note though that in the Hebrew Old Testament – and the same I think is true of the Greek translation thereof which is sometimes called the Septuagint, or some words like that, that both in the Hebrew and the Greek the idea of murder though does leave open to the possibility for it being murder if someone deliberately didn't live up to what was their duty and someone just was careless and doing something so crazy that another person died, though they may not have intended the other person to die, that would get into the Old Testament definition of murder because of something that was done by wrongfully being slack. And that could happen. I remember going out from Port Douglas today go swimming over the reef with Michelle and not telling her of my fears as she was looking mostly down through her mask at all the lovely fish. But our boat had taken us out of the site of the land and we were near where the water dropped off down to the deeper parts and I was all keeping my open eyes for both sharks and crocodiles and the man who had been steering the boat with us had told us about he'd seen crocodiles swim past previous groups of people he'd taken like this and luckily for them the crocodile just swam straight past heading towards the land while I was thinking about the sharks as well and so while Michelle was interesting looking down all the time I was looking around and the more I looked around the more afraid I got because the boat took off and it had some special passengers who didn't know how to swim it was a famous person and didn't want the rest of us to know he couldn't swim and it went off somewhere else so he could get special lessons and just saying to a few of us so that he'd be coming back there was one representative of the boat who was diving with us. But then my mind was racing- what if they ran out of petrol? What if the boat struck a rock? What if something else happened, or they got in the clock wrong, you know, and came back and half of us were gobbled up? Now that was one of the awful days of my life, I want to tell you. But if that hadn't happened, that would come close to have been taken in the Old Testament says, of a lack of responsibility being exercise and some people dying as a consequence. I'm just telling you about definitions of murder and how they are, but what I'm actually doing if you're listening is giving you a biblical definition and the question that was asked of me during the week had the word lawful in there.

[00:05:59] What is the lawful definition of lawful murder? The trouble with that request at that point for me was that it depends upon which law. And the truth of the matter is that in society, our definitions of murder and the difference between that and manslaughter, and in some countries they have man one and man two, if you watch enough TV about murder, Canada even has different definitions than the US, especially when it comes to this distinction between murder and manslaughter, and some of which I think is worked up because of people trying to cater, or nations trying to cater for the whole question of abortion. It's a very bigger question than most people realize. But anyway here we have these definitions of murder, but if you're going to do what I'm trying to do today and that is to bring to you a biblical definition, and then we'll go and have the Bible uses it. And the Bible doesn't say that killing is wrong and therefore you can't catch out God being wrong when he causes people to die. Vengeance is mine I shall repay says the Lord. The Bible clearly teaches that God's time for you and for me is in His hands and there's a sense in which God murders a lot of us if you were to take just a mean to cause you to be killed. Your death is in his hands, even though there may be other circumstances also attenuating, I want to tell you your death is in his hands. And so God is God and He gives life and He has the prerogative to take life as well, and according to the law of God he is free to set up his definition of murder and the difference between that and killing. You can't catch God out as being immoral simply because he hasn't always lived up to what are our definitions, and we in turn cannot escape God's definition of murder when we do things that take the lives of those which have been lives given of God. And I believe that the life of the little child began at conception. I believe that because of Jesus having to answer the question, when the man who was born blind was asked of the Pharisees, this man who was born blind whose sins? His parents or him? The reason for that is that the Jewish teachers used to have, the rabbis used to have a doctrine of sin in the womb. And the idea that someone might have something happen, a terrible thing was explained by them as the foetus, perhaps having done something sinful in the womb. But you understand that at least they're picking up on the laws of God was that the baby from conception on is a living creature and is responsible. I don't think the foetus is responsible in the womb, but nonetheless what they're talking about is something that is relevant to this discussion. But there's something very interesting in the scriptures that gives light to our passage. Our passage today coming from the Beatitudes is this, I think it's the fourth of the series of six of these behaviors where Jesus actually wanted to get across his ideas as more important and more to the point than that which was taught by the rabbis, taught by the Pharisees and understood by the Jewish people.

[00:09:45] Matthew 5 33-37 Again I say, you've heard that it was said of Jesus' authority being greater than that of any tradition, even if it was the tradition of God through Moses. But Jesus' word was not one where he contradicts Moses, but that he is why giving further light takes it further down the road to understanding. But you have heard that it was said of old, You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the LORD what you have sworn. I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king, and do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply yes or no. More than that comes from the Devil, or comes from the evil one. Here Jesus seems to be talking about something that my first reading, I have to confess, I thought this was more of a trivial matter. Whether one takes an oath or not I'm not really hung up about. Some religious groups don't want to have us swearing in court, so they'll volunteer some other way to a firm they are going to tell the truth. But the whole purpose of what Jesus is saying here is not so much the question of whether you're in the wrong because you lift your hand and say I swear in the Bible or do something like that. What He's talking to is the desire of heaven, the standards of the Kingdom of Heaven, the character of God and its requisite on us that we should gradually become like him as I've been talking about in these Beatitudes. The aim that Jesus was increasing to was the aim of perfection, which was shown by the final verse of this passage, verse 48, where Jesus says, Be ye perfect even as our heavenly Father is perfect, and here He is giving emphasis that in the salvation that we get which starts with our being justified, but continues through the progress of life as we are sanctified, being set apart, being made more Holy, and then being prepared to go to glory where the sanctification process will be totally finished and we'll be with Jesus looking just like Him, and very much being perfect like His Heavenly Father there is a purpose. When you're being a Christian, the purpose was that you get right with God that you find God, that you have God in your life and that's a very deep thing within the very makeup of human nature as Pascal once said about the human heart that it's like a God shaped blank and until we find God it's got that sense of emptiness and there isn't every person that sense that something's missing that career cannot satisfy it. The relationships we have don't always fill it but it is something that comes about because we were made to be in fellowship with God and as you've heard me quite many time in one of my favourite songs or hymns I not sure which it is, but in the image of God we were made long ago, with a purpose divine here, his glory to show. But we failed him one day and like sheep when astray. Thinking not of the cost, his likeness had lost." And that loss of the image of God leaves an emptiness, a lack of purpose, a lack of ability to understand ourselves an openness to evil, because sin has come as well.

[00:13:50] And here, because of the fall of humanity, there is something wrong with us, and although we can be brought up well, and although we, because we're made in God's image, have some sense of wanting to be like Him we, as human beings, are strange contradictions, because we may have eternity written into us in our makeup and yet we also may have the fall, the history of the human fall that affects every one of us. And even though you may follow the Old Testament creed, the Law of Moses, which was aimed at least get us approximately towards heading towards the proper sinlessness or perfect nature of those who keep the law. Only attending to outward actions. And all of us know that even though we may not committed any murders, we, according to Jesus definition. There's we looked at last week, have been angry. And it's only circumstances. In some cases, it might have stopped us going on to be real murderers. But Jesus like him the anger in the murder to be at the same , same makeup. And we're guilty of the murder even if we haven't done one". So all of these Beatitudes he has, he's now taking deeper at where to go beyond just the outward action. And he addresses the inward motive and thoughts of the heart. Now he's doing the same thing. And this one , please excuse my voice. but now he's doing the same thing in this one – is he talks about oaths. It's not about whether you do any swearing. And it's not swearing as in bad, foul language – just exactly. It's more a person who doesn't live out – saying exactly what they want. And because special circumstances come when they do want to be believed as far as their promise is concerned, so many different nations and different cultures have taken on board this ability to give an oath. And the giving of the oath is what you do to show that you're not going to change your mind later or you're not tricking them. It's actually a statement, an acknowledgement, about the fact that all of us have guile. I was listening just recently to some of the people having debates about the upcoming council elections, isn't it, that right? It's the lower, we have three levels of governance in our nation and I'm understanding, correct me please if I'm wrong, but by council election it means local councils, right? Good, I got that right. There's also state elections, but there's also federal elections and something I was aware of in listening to the arguments by the people who are in the at council level, is that ... some of them were talking about things over which they have no power. It's council business and they have to be in line with their federal or state authorities and they've already made commitments and there are all sorts of other issues that are not going to be made by the councils. The ones they've got to remain is about whether they can afford to get your dust bins picked up or whether they need to buy in some more. They've got a lot of different things to do of roads perhaps but they were having arguments as I was listening as I knew many of them were powerless to do anything about anyway, or their federal and state persons have already given promises they got to live up to because of the political party they're in and so there's a little bit of hoping the listening public didn't realise that a lot of this debate was trying to catch the other person out that they're not going to do well or something anyway though radio commentator said," I'm driving along the radio, commentator said, these people need a lot of political guile." And I thought to myself as I drove the rest of the way about guile, as to whether guile is a good thing or a bad thing.

[00:17:47] Now guile is when you're able to, political guile, is able to get your point across without being noticed that you're failing to answer the question. Or guile is when you're fooling them as to about the real issue because you dodged what was – for your group – a very difficult question. Guile is when you're putting on the appearance of being or answering all, but in fact you haven't answered anything. Which a lot of politicians seem to have a lot of political guile because they do a lot of talking about really answering anything. words. But they came to me, and I began to realise that in our Beatitudes, Jesus is addressing the need for oaths is not there if you let the sanctification process, that perfection he wants you to go further in, to happen so that you are straightforward in your honesty empty, not trickster, saying one thing and getting it through, but hiding what your real motif is. But I think it's human nature, especially fallen human nature, that all of us have examples of some people more than others, that we have an awful lot of sneakiness whereby Jesus would want us to be sanctified to be more truthful. listening. I went chasing for an example of Jesus demonstrating that desire and there is a perfect one in the beginning of John's Gospel. So we go to John's Gospel in chapter one and here we have the deciding by Jesus of the first disciples, His recruitment of them and finding, by the way if ever you wondered whether or not Jesus works through families, just look at the first disciples that were dubbed Apostles eventually, made Apostles, and there are a lot of brothers and family members. And so Jesus is not away from having families get to be keen for Christ and being used to Him. And I think it's one of the purposes of the local church that it is to bring families to become sanctified and one of the reasons why we try and help people come to church and so if you missing in the Sunday school we ask you to come to the evening service and never fail to be a church attend in the actual gathering of the Christians to be taught, like right now. We also have the motive or have the request, I don't know whether to call it a request, but we don't make this a legalism, but that it is good to come twice on Sunday. I get asked a lot of times, Jim, how many times do you preach? And when I say morning and evening, then you know what the next question they ask? Do you do the same sermon? And the reason is there's an awful lot of churches that have moved to having that the pastor has to prepare one sermon a week and he'll preach it once, twice, three times, one church even had five times, because five services' but what that does is teaches everybody only come once.

[00:21:09] I'm grateful for some of the older members some of whom have gone to glory, some of whom have moved away because of old age but who were stalwarts of this church to coming to Church twice on Sundays. Now I've seen it happen that that's been made a legalism, in other churches I've had to do with and I've had to undo the sort of, oh lordy you, not coming twice, turning it into illegalism and, ooh, ah, Or are the little things people make about coming to church that you are not doing the right thing because you haven't whatever. Sometimes clothing, I confess that I have never worn, well I have once or twice but mostly not to wear suits and whatever, to somehow live up to the idea that church is a one place, that you're prim and proper and well presented. I think you can be – I better be careful here – well presented without wearing a suit. But what I'm trying to get at is not what is good dress because that changes from generation to generation anyway, but the fact that we do want to give our best to Christ but best is not in terms of just the outward dressing, for it dressed according to Jesus in these be attitudes is the perfection of your character. That's what counts and so whether or not you swear and have an oath or whatever he says just let your yes be yes or your no be no. And Jesus appreciates guilelessness so that you don't dress up looking good but inside there's still lots of snakes. Now here's Is there some proof of this being Jesus' idea? Well, He is choosing His disciples. He found Philip, said to him, Follow me. Philip was from Bethsaida, city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathaniel. Now I tried to chase down whether Nathaniel was his brother. I can't tell. Some people think it's the same person as Bartholomew, but Nathaniel I think is Philip's friend. But nonetheless, the storyline goes well. We have found Him who Moses and the Law, and also the prophets, wrote Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. Nathaniel said to him, Can anything good come out of Nazareth? The first thing I notice about this bloke Nathaniel is that he's straightforward, and expresses his opinion, even though it's going against the enthusiasm of his friend Philip. It's just a sign of someone who's open with you, When they say what they really think. There is a beauty about people that, when you talk to them and they tell you what they think, you really believe them they're not putting on what they think you want to hear.

[00:24:00] Well, that's Nathanael, but Nathanael said to him, Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Phillip said to him, Come and see, pretty good advice, check him out. Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Come and see! Jesus saw Nathaniel coming toward him and said, and here we learn the bit, Jesus answered him, Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, now presumably Jesus wasn't standing near the fig tree but at some other place, Philip is at a distance, he says, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you, a supernatural seeing. Nathaniel answered him, Rabbi, you are the son of God! He wouldn't have shouted that up if indeed Jesus had just spotted him standing nearby. Rabbi, you are the Son of God. You are the King of Israel, notice the King of Israel. Jesus answered him, because I said to you I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe, you will see greater things than these. And he said to him, Truly, truly I say to you, you will see heaven open and the angels of the God ascending and descending on the son of man.' Now buy, there's some references going on here by Jesus to the Old Testament events who was the person that saw in the Old Testament the angels coming up and down was it on the ladder or who was the person Jacob now do you understand the names Jacob and Israel are referring to the same personage Jacob is what he was when he actually was a trickster and deceived his brother Esau to get his birthright off him. He was the fellow who got his brother who he knew had a bit of a weakness. When he'd been out hunting he had come back on one of the big feed and had made up a pot of stew and got his brother to ask for some, and then to say, well, I'll give you this stew if you give me your birthright. What characteristic was Jacob representing the characteristic of being having plenty of Gaal. But he didn't yet to be the one who got all the birthright because of that Gaal. And a whole lot of history goes on where God deals with him and God deals with him eventually to change his character. It's actually an episode in the Old Testament showing that God has always had the aim of changing our characters, not just getting to pass the test and give a tick to the laws, He's after the heart. In many of the Old Testament Prophets will come and say, what God wants is, is your heart. I twenty just want your outward service, I want you to love me. The prophets often had that message to the people of the Old Testament, even though, the era where sanctification would be given a far greater opening because of the coming of the Holy Spirit on everybody who was a part of the people of God. God. That's the new covenant time.

[00:27:16] But nonetheless God showed his desire to change people's characters and Jacob eventually got ironed out by God the Father in the things that happened to him and eventually he came and because he came to trust in God, we were through that episode of wrestling with the angel and getting nowhere. Fancy wrestling an angel. Why did you expect to get anywhere? but anyway he's wrestling, or is it with Jesus himself, the pre-incarnate Christ before he's Jesus. Anyway he has a wrestle and Jacob loses, but in that moment of losing he learns a secret of what it is to call on God to give him something by simple grace, and he just hangs on, Bless me, I won't let you go until you bless me. Because he hangs on in Faith, God blesses him and his character gets changed. Because of that, God gave him a name that didn't mean a deceiver like the name Jacob did. Do you know the name Jacob meant's a planter, someone who's coming second but is going to jump in the line ahead of you, that's the name Jaqen. And God changed it to Israel and what does Israel mean but Prince with God? Prince with God, someone who has the blessing of God, the blessing that doesn't come because you use your guile but the blessing that comes by the grace of God and you can have a straightforward character and trust him, that he'll get you where you ought to be if you merely lean on him and are obedient to him. That's the lesson. And so how does Jesus reply? You know I've never understood this passage. Go back please to John and the Gospel chapter 1 where we were looking and hear Jesus is talking to Nathanael and he says Behold an Israelite indeed in whom there is no deceit. That's the ESV translation, the other translations have the word guile. Not knowing what every word means perfectly, I had to look it up to check that it really did mean guile as in deceit, not guile as in being socially apt to dealing with people. There are some folk who think they're guile because they're socially apt to dealing with people. But the actual word in the Greek means you're being a bit of a liar. It means that you're being a person that doesn't say it as it is. And his name was now Israel. And Jesus now Jesus says, How do you know me? Jesus answered him before Philip called you. I saw you at the victory. They answered him, Rabbi, you are the Son of God. See how he's so transparent in his beliefs. Well, earlier, right at the start, what Jesus said was behold, an Israelite indeed.

[00:30:33] The name Israel was the name that was given he became Israel, the children of Israel because he was Jacob, the deceitful, the trickster, the fellow filled with guile, and he becomes Israel, someone who trusts in God. Someone who's got this transparent character of faith in God his character, got ironed out, Jacob to Israel, so, that when the Lord met Nathaniel, he recognised him enough to say, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile. Isn't that beautiful? I never understood that passage. I thought Jesus was contradicting himself a bit, or maybe he was just complimenting on how he can sneakily be very socially good. But no, it's because Jesus loved this person who had a straightforward honesty and if we go back to our Beatitudes where you look and see all of these statements about the oath and the swearing is not so much about the properness of having an oath because Jesus does say if you give an oath you should keep it that's what the honest thing to do is your Oath is meant to say you'll do it and so by keeping the oath at least that's being honest, but the need to have an oath. the need for people to even question whether you'll do what you'll say, shows up something. It shows up that we need Jesus to tell us and then to help us by his Holy Spirit living within us, which is what sanctification is done by. Remember last week I was saying that verse, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling is not telling you what to do well in apologetics – as much as we've got an excellent time of apologetics coming up this Thursday night. Look at your bulletins. But what Jesus is saying is – what the Bible is saying is – Work out your own salvation. Let that which is at work in you, the Holy Spirit, move you so you will have character, transformation to become more and more like the Father. The Father is honest, to the definition of what honesty is. The Father is the one who keeps his promises, he is good even to the bad people as well as to those who are his people. He makes it rain on the Just and the Unjust. His goodness is something that is true to the very nature of his person. If if you're a person who follows what is often worldly advice Well, you should look after those who look after you that don't look after the ones who don't look after you love the ones who love you, but don't look after the ones who are on the other side You're not like Jesus and you're not like the father and you're not what Jesus is wanting you to be He wants you to be someone that he could say an Israelites in whom there is no go, or you're not a Jewish person which is someone that he has had history with changing.

[00:33:50] I've told you before about my dad who, only because he told me this, that in his younger days he used to have a fiery temper and he used, he told me, of one basketball match he had where there were missionaries he actually kicked one of the female missionaries in the shins for some reason you know of annoyance. That was my dad. But the dad that I knew knew was never like that because God got a hold of him and changed him. This is the will of God even your holiness. The word holiness is actually the same word that is sometimes translated sanctification, hagiasmos sanctification. This is the will of God even your holiness And that second part of salvation – not just your being accepted by God, you're being forgiven, you're being held by His grace to be His even though you still sin. But the next part which is he will now progress your sanctification, and even though you still fall and are faulty, He doesn't kick you out, the very meaning of the word grace depends on which the allusion you read but the ones that I read have the idea that grace is covenant keeping grace. And he's made a covenant with you, the new covenant, and because of Jesus and his success and his beautiful living and his keeping the law and because of him being a a sinless sacrifice on the cross and absorbing the wrath of the father for your sins all your sins are wiped out and you're not held according to them. And even as a Christian when you fail, he still wants you, you're still in his covenant and he comes to get you again. He'll grab you by the scruff of the neck if necessary because his love for you is based on his great character. That's what grace means, Till said in the Hebrew, he loves you that much, he's not going to let you go. And that is the love that wants to prosecute you as you progress toward becoming more and more like the Father. So when the time comes to get to eternity, he will be able to display you as one of the trophies of his grace. It's not only his justifying grace, it's also his glorifying grace. thank God. It will also be his sanctifying grace. It is also his glorifying grace. Actually, you've taken onboard a good bulk of theology this morning. Can you see, I thought when I first read this fourth step in Jesus, six of them there are. They finish up you've got to be perfect like the Father. Now for those who wonder how come you know, what was he up in the air? He was hard enough for the Old Testament law. but it is because he is not going to cause you to have to do it on your own. He's promising to strengthen you. He's promising to help you, to encourage you, to forgive you, to cleanse you. It makes sense of that verse in 1 John as many as confess their sins. He is faithful and just to forgive you your sins, or forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. So sanctification is a process of constantly being cleansed from your unrighteousness as you head toward Him, making you more righteous. That's the Christian life that we are called to. Let us pray.

[00:37:34] Heavenly Father, I thank you for the Beatitudes. I'm glad we eventually got to preach through it though I jibbed it for a while not really knowing I could get to the truth of it. Lord, I thank you for your Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth. And I thank you for Jesus, and his concern isn't only just to give us a forgiveness and entrance ticket into your things and then leave us as a bag full of sinfulness, but also purposes to sanctify us. Truly we're properly called Saints, not because we're necessarily there all the way yet, but because that's where we're headed to. Thank you Lord that we're all Saints in Christ Jesus. May that land on somebody here today and change how they seek to become like Nathanael, someone that Jesus Jesus could save them and Israelite without any guile. We pray in Jesus' name, Amen.

Listen to a recent sermon