Introduction to the Gospel of John

This morning we begin a new sermon series on the Gospel of John. The Gospel of John is a special book. J.C. Ryle said of the Gospel of John: “No one of the four Gospel writers has given us such full statements about the divinity of Christ, about justification by faith, about the offices of Christ, about the work of the Holy Spirit, and about the privileges of believers as we read in the pages of John.” Let us begin our series with some introductory remarks about the book as a whole.

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Who was John?

We can have confidence in internal and external evidence that this book was written by the Apostle John who was a Galilean fisherman (Matt 5:21) and an eyewitness of the events of Jesus’ ministry (John 19:35). He is the disciple “whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23). He was one of the three closest disciples to Jesus: along with Peter and James (Mark 9:1; Luke 8:51). He and his brother James were the sons of Zebedee (Mark 10:35) and were given the nickname by Jesus “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17; see also Luke 9:54). John serves as a vital witness to the life and ministry of Jesus. John also wrote the biblical books of 1-3 John and Revelation. He later served as an important leader in the Church in Jerusalem (Gal 2:9).

When did John write this Gospel?

It is believed that John wrote this Gospel around 85-90 AD. We can have confidence in a date this early because the earliest copy we have of part of the Gospel of John is the Rylands Library Papyrus P52. This is a Greek papyri manuscript of a section of the Gospel of John written around 100-150 AD. The front of the manuscript contains parts of seven lines from the Gospel of John 18:31–33, in Greek, and the back contains parts of seven lines from verses 37–38. If a copy of a section of John exists around 100-150 AD, then the original must be earlier, even as early as 85-90 AD.

Why is it very different from Matthew, Mark, and Luke?

We have four Gospels in the Bible and when we examine them we see a consistency in the presentation of Jesus. The four Gospels fundamentally agree with and complement one another with Matthew, Mark, and Luke being the most similar. All four Gospels present Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God who lived a sinless life and died a sacrificial death so that we may have our sins forgiven and receive eternal life and be reconciled to God.

The Gospel of John is different in a few key ways. First, John’s Gospel does not include parables, there is no account of the transfiguration, no record of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, no report of Jesus casting out a demon, no mention of Jesus’ temptations. This should not cause concern because John admits: “And there were also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written one after the other, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25). Second, John includes a large amount of Jesus’ teaching that is not found in the other Gospels (see John 14-17).

Why did John write this Gospel?

Why did the Apostle John write this Gospel? He tells us near the end of this book: “Therefore many other signs Jesus also did in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31). John specifically wrote this Gospel in order to present seven signs (miracles that attest to Jesus’ identity) that provide a sound basis for belief in Jesus as the Christ.

What is a “sign” in the Gospel of John?

Good signs deliver the intended message with clarity. For example, a good ‘Stop’ sign is properly placed and clearly visible. Good signs in a restaurant let you know where to locate the restroom (and which one is which!). The Lord gave Moses two signs (Exodus 4:8) in order to authenticate to the Jews that God had sent him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. The plagues upon Egypt were also signs from God (Joshua 24:17) to demonstrate that the Lord was indeed calling His people out of bondage in Egypt. 

In the Gospel of John, there is a strong emphasis on the signs of Jesus. Signs were public events (usually miracles) that were meant to authenticate Jesus’ claim to be the Christ, the Son of God. The signs were verifiable proof that Jesus was sent from God (John 3:2). Jesus did not perform miracles haphazardly; His miracles were signs meant to testify of His identity. What are the seven signs in the Gospel of John?

  1. Turning water into wine (John 2:1-11)
  2. Healing the royal official’s son (John 4:46-54)
  3. Healing the lame man (John 5:1-15)
  4. Feeding the multitude (John 6:1-15)
  5. Walking on water (John 6:16-21)
  6. Healing the blind man (John 9)
  7. Raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11)

Signs So that You May Believe

These signs were written down by John in this gospel so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God. John 19:35 says, “And he who has seen has borne witness, and his witness is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe.” We can have confidence that what the Bible says about Jesus is true.

Signs So That You May Have Life

These signs were written so that you would believe that Jesus is the Christ and that by believing you may have life in His name. In John 3, Jesus made it clear to the Pharisee Nicodemus: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:15-16). Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God? Do you have life in His name?

Ain’t No Ghost Like the Holy Ghost!

A common question amongst Christians is: “Are Christians able to celebrate Halloween?” The short answer is: “It depends.” If that answer is not satisfactory, I will offer a few observations. First, Halloween, as we know it today, is not a holiday (i.e., holy day). It is called Halloween because it is “All Hallows’ Eve”, the day before “All Hallows’ Day” (otherwise known as All Saints Day – November 1st). To make a long story short, what started as a Pagan Celtic celebration was converted (for a time) into a Christian holiday but then quickly reverted back to a non-religious celebration. It is not a holiday like Easter, Thanksgiving, or Christmas.

Second, the major issue is what are you celebrating? If you are celebrating death and evil spirits, then ask yourself, “Why would it be acceptable to engage in certain “spooky” behavior on October 31st, that you would not engage in on any other day of the year?” If you are celebrating the darker, evil aspects of Halloween, you need to repent because that is not Christian behavior. However, if you want to dress up your child as a giraffe or dinosaur or the Mandalorian and get some free candy; you are not sinning. Like with everything Christians do, we must examine our motivation and determine if you can do so in faith and with a clear conscience. I like how answers this “If Christians are going to take part in Halloween, their attitude, dress, and most importantly, their behavior should still reflect a redeemed life (Philippians 1:27).”

Third, this should not be an issue that divides us and causes conflict among fellow Christians. I am speaking primarily between those who do not have a clear conscience in taking part in any aspect of Halloween and those who believe it is acceptable to enjoy the day without taking part in the darker aspects of it. Consider what the Bible says in Romans 14:4, “Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.

The Holy Spirit is a “Who”, not an “It”

There ain’t no ghost like the Holy Ghost! This morning we are not going to spend too much time talking about Halloween but using this opportunity to reflect on and discuss the Holy Ghost (or Holy Spirit). Our first point to consider is that the Holy Spirit is a Who, not an It. The Holy Spirit is called God (Acts 5:3-4), Eternal (Heb 9:14), Omnipotent (Luke 1:35), Omniscient (1 Cor 2:10-11), and Omnipresent (Ps 139:7-13). 

Scott Swain said of the Holy Spirit, “The Spirit of the Father (Matt 10:20; Rom 8:9) and the Son (Rom. 8:9; Gal. 4:6) is one God with the Father and the Son, the third person of the Trinity, and the crowning agent of God’s undivided purpose and power (Eph. 4:4–6). 

The Holy Spirit’s Role For the Unbeliever

While not an exhaustive list of all that the Holy Spirit does in the life of a non-Believer, here are some key aspects of the Spirit’s role:

Convicts of the World (John 16:8-11). Jesus said it was good for Him to go away because when He did, He would send another Helper (Holy Spirit). Jesus said, “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you will see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

Regenerates (John 3:3-7). A Pharisee named Nicodemus came to Jesus and said that he knew that Jesus was a teacher from God. Jesus replied “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God…unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.

The Holy Spirit’s Role for the Believer

While not an exhaustive list of all that the Holy Spirit does in the life of a Believer, here are some key aspects of the Spirit’s role:

Indwells (1 Corinthians 6:19). The Apostle Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit indwells Christians. He wrote, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?

Fills (Ephesians 5:18). Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus telling them to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Being filled with the Spirit means to be controlled by Him: thoughts, words, actions. This should be the present reality of Christians. Galatians 5:25 says, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Seals (Ephesians 4:30). Paul told the Ephesians that they should not grieve the Holy Spirit with their sin. He then reminded them that the Spirit of God seals them for the day of redemption. The Holy Spirit is the down payment (i.e., the guarantee) from God that He will bring us to live with Him eternally in the new heavens and new earth.

Produces Fruit (Galatians 5:22-23). The fruit of the Spirit refers to the result of the Holy Spirit indwelling and filling the believer. Galatians 5:22-23 says, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Every Christian has the Fruit of the Spirit. It is called “Fruit” because it is the result of the action taken by God in giving us the Holy Spirit. Those who are born again (John 3:3) have the Spirit of God within them. 

Provides Gifts (1 Corinthians 12). Spiritual Gifts are given by the Holy Spirit “for the common good” (1 Cor 12:7). Romans 12:6 tells us that we each have “gifts that differ according to the grace given to us.” Spiritual gifts are given by God and they vary amongst His children. Some Christians are gifted teachers and/or preachers. Some Christians are especially gifted in service or exhortation or discernment. The “Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills” (1 Cor 12:11). 

Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Praise Him all creatures here below! Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts! Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! Amen! – Doxology

Advent: The Son (Luke 3)

It’s Christmas! Today we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. One of my favorite Christmas hymns is “What Child is This?” It begins: “What Child is this who laid to rest on Mary’s lap is sleeping? Whom angels greet with anthems sweet while shepherds watch are keeping?” Today, we shall answer this important question as we study the genealogy of Jesus from Luke 3. Jesus’ genealogy is important because it connects Jesus to important figures connected to God’s wonderful work of redemption. We see clear evidence of Jesus’ identity as the Messiah, the One through whom God would fulfill his promises to Adam, Abraham, and David.

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The King (Luke 3:31)

In the genealogy of Jesus, we read in Luke 3:31 that Jesus is “the Son of David.” Who was David? David was the most famous king of Israel. He wrote most of the Psalms and was instrumental in establishing the kingdom of Israel. Why is it important that Jesus is the Son of David?  As the Son of David, Jesus is the King who rules forever. In 2 Samuel 7:1, David was the King of Israel and “the Lord had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies.” David wanted to build a house for the Lord as a sign of his thankfulness, but the Lord had other plans. God sent Nathan the prophet to tell David, “the LORD will make a house for you…I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” (2 Sam 7:11-13). 

As the son of David, Jesus is the fulfillment of all the promises God made to David. Commenting on this, the Apostle Peter said “God had sworn with an oath to [David] that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ” (Acts 2:30-31). Paul echoes this, saying: “From the offspring of [David], according to promise, God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus” (Acts 13:23). Jesus’ birth is worth celebrating because we need a King who saves us and protects us.

The Blessing (Luke 3:34)

In the genealogy of Jesus, we read in Luke 3:34 that Jesus is “the Son of Abraham.” Who was Abraham? Abraham was the man God made a covenant with to be a blessing to the whole world. In Genesis 12:2-3, Abraham left his home to go to a land that the Lord promised to him. The Lord said, “And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” In Genesis 12:7, the Lord made a covenant with Abraham: “To your descendants I will give this land.

Why is it important that Jesus is the Son of Abraham?  As the Son of Abraham, Jesus is God’s blessing to the world. The Apostle Paul shows the importance of Jesus being a son of Abraham. Galatians 3:7-9 says, “Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in you.’ So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.” Paul continues in Galatians 3:16 and tells us that “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as referring to many, but rather to one, ‘And to your seed,’ that is, Christ.” In Galatians 3:29, he writes: “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” Jesus’ birth is worth celebrating because without God’s blessing of salvation we would be lost forever. As the son of Abraham, Jesus is the fulfillment of all the promises God made to Abraham.

The Conqueror (Luke 3:38)

In the genealogy of Jesus, we read in Luke 3:38 that Jesus is “the Son of Adam.” Who was Adam? Adam was the first human created by God. Genesis 1:27 says, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” When Adam and Eve sinned against God, sin and death came into the world (Genesis 2:18) affecting all of creation. Why is it important that Jesus is the Son of Adam? As the Son of Adam, Jesus is the destroyer of death and the Devil. Jesus reverses the curse brought into the world through Adam’s rebellion. Paul wrote, “just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). The Lord told the devil, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15). 

Jesus did what Adam did not do. Jesus brings us life whereas Adam brought death. 1 Corinthians 15:45 says, “‘The first man, Adam, became a living soul.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” Paul, in Romans 5:18-19 wrote: “So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.” Jesus’ birth is worth celebrating because we need a deliverer who will free us from our bondage to sin and death. As the son of Adam, Jesus is the fulfillment of all God’s promises to Adam. 

The Image (Luke 3:38)

In the genealogy of Jesus, we read in Luke 3:38 that Jesus is the Son of God. Who is God? The true and living God, known as Yahweh (Exodus 3:14), is the creator and ruler of everything. God is Trinity: one Being who exists eternally as three Persons (Father, Son, and Spirit). Why is it important that Jesus is the Son of God? Jesus is not just a son of God (like Adam), He is the Son of God. He is the Son of God who is God the Son (the second person of the Trinity). As the Son of God, Jesus “is the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15). Jesus reveals God to us because He is God. If you ever want to know what God is like, you look to Jesus. God the Father spoke at Jesus’ baptism and said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Jesus’ birth is worth celebrating because God has demonstrated His love for us through Christ. 

What Child is this? This, this is Christ, the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing: Haste, haste to bring Him laud, the Babe, the Son of Mary! Let us remember the reason for the season: Jesus Christ. O come let us adore Him; Christ the Lord!

Advent: O Holy Child of Bethlehem (Ruth 4)

Sermon begins at the 37 minute mark.

Last week we left with a “To Be Continued” and now we resume with a resolute Boaz ready to settle the matter of redemption. Previously, Naomi told Ruth, “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today” (Ruth 3:18). In Ruth 4, Boaz conducts business with the closest kinsman redeemer and marries Ruth. Let us look at this wonderful chapter in more detail.

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Boaz’s Business

Boaz was a man on a mission. Early in the morning Boaz went to the town gate and waited for the closest kinsman redeemer. Once he arrived, Boaz assembled ten elders of the town as witnesses and settled the matter of Elimelech’s property. Boaz told the kinsman, “Naomi, who has come back from the fields of Moab, has to sell the portion of the field which belonged to our brother Elimelech” (4:3). The nearest kinsman indicated that he would redeem the field from Naomi. 

Boaz then continued: “On the day you acquire the field from the hand of Naomi, you must acquire Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of the one who had died, in order to raise up the name of the one who had died, on behalf of his inheritance” (4:5). To “raise up the name of the one who had died” was to provide an heir for the deceased to maintain his ancestral property (his inheritance). The role of the kinsman redeemer was not just to keep the land in Elimelech’s line, but to ensure that the seed of Elimelech survived.

The closest redeemer wanted the land of Elimelech, but when told that he would have to marry Ruth as part of the deal, he said: “I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it” (4:6). The kinsman is in a dilemma. He wants to redeem the land but cannot if it includes Ruth. His response indicates that he cannot afford it. Robert Hubbard commented: “The addition of Ruth and an heir for Elimelech to the man’s family would ruin his children’s inheritance. He would, first, here buy Naomi’s property from assets eventually part of his estate—only to lose that investment when Ruth’s first child claimed it, presumably without cost, as Elimelech’s heir.”

Naomi’s Son Who Redeems

Boaz has spoken to the closest kinsman redeemer and has settled the matter. Boaz will redeem Elimelech’s property and acquire Ruth as his wife. Ruth soon had a son and the women of Bethlehem said to Naomi “Blessed be the Lord who has not left you without a kinsman redeemer today; and may his name be proclaimed in Israel” (4:14). We think they are speaking of Boaz, but they are actually speaking of Obed. They continued “May he also be to you a restorer of your soul and a sustainer of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him” (4:15). 

Naomi took Obed and put him on her lap. The women said, “A son has been born to Naomi” (4:17). They gave him the name Obed, which means servant. Warren Wiersbe comments: 

Naomi informally adopted him as her own son and became his foster mother…[Obed] would one day care for the family that brought him into the world, including his grandmother Naomi. Boaz had redeemed the family inheritance; now Obed would continue the family line, protect the inheritance, and use it to sustain Naomi. He would live up to his name: Servant.

Naomi felt empty (1:21) when she returned to Bethlehem. She lamented that she believed the Lord had dealt very bitterly with her (1:20). Now, Naomi has a son who is her redeemer and a restorer of her soul and a sustainer in her old age (4:15). She is full and pleasant once again because of the Lord’s lovingkindness. 

The Son Who Redeems

When we hear of a son born in Bethelhem who will redeem his people, we don’t usually think of Obed. Obed would be a blessing to Ruth, Boaz, and Naomi. He would be a blessing to Bethlehem, Israel and the whole world. Obed would have a son named Jesse. Jesse would have a son named David. David would have a descendant named Jesus. 

When we hear about Obed, let us get a fresh appreciation for Jesus. Obed’s birth as a redeemer in Bethlehem points forward to the ultimate redeemer: Jesus Christ. The angel announced to the shepherds: “I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people. For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). 

Jesus is our kinsman redeemer. The Scripture testifies regarding Christ’s redemption:

  • He “redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us” (Gal 3:13). 
  • He “redeemed us who were under the Law that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4:5). 
  • Jesus “gave himself for us that He might redeem us from all lawlessness, and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). 
  • We have been redeemed “with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:19).

This Christmas, let us reflect on the wonderful works of God in bringing us a Savior. In Ruth, we see God’s gracious work of providence in guiding Ruth to Boaz’s field and supplying a redeemer for Naomi. We see Ruth, the Moabitess, becoming a full member of the nation of Israel and through her the Messiah would come into the world. We see that even in a time of great wickedness (Judges 21:25), God is at work amongst His people. 

As we celebrate Jesus’ birth, let us not forget His death and resurrection. As we gaze upon the manger in Bethlehem in the foreground, let us remember the cross in Jerusalem in the background. The baby in Bethlehem grows and lives a sinless life and gives himself as a sacrificial lamb so that we may be forgiven of our sin and reconciled to God. The manger is glorious because the tomb is empty! 

O holy child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray,
Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today,
We hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel. 

Advent: Waiting for Rest (Ruth 3)

We continue our study of Ruth and we wait with great expectation the day of Christ’s birth.

Naomi’s Plan for Rest

Naomi cared greatly for Ruth and desired that she find rest (a secure position) for her with a husband and family. Naomi told Ruth, “My daughter, shall I not seek a state of rest for you, that it may be well with you?” (3:1). This desire was behind her earlier statement to Ruth and Orpah in chapter 1 verse 9: “May the Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.” Naomi devised a plan to get Ruth to appeal to Boaz to redeem them as their kinsman redeemer. 

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Naomi’s plan involved Ruth going to Boaz after he finished winnowing barley at the threshing floor. She told Ruth, “So you shall wash yourself and anoint yourself and put on your best clothes, and you shall go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking.” Naomi knew that this proposal was best made in private. She told Ruth to go to where he is and “you shall go and uncover his feet and lie down; then he will tell you what you shall do.” 

Ruth’s Boldness for Redemption

Ruth carries out Naomi’s plan and boldly asks Boaz for redemption. After “Boaz ate and drank and his heart was merry” he went to sleep at the end of the grain and Ruth “came secretly and uncovered his feet and lay down.” Why did Ruth uncover his feet? Why was this the plan that Naomi devised for Ruth? There is a natural and a symbolic meaning behind this puzzling action. The natural explanation is that Boaz would awaken at some time in the night because his feet were exposed and cold. When he woke up, he would see Ruth and they could talk at a time when everyone else was asleep. 

The symbolic explanation is found in Ruth’s response to Boaz’s question “Who are you?” Ruth answered, “I am Ruth, your maidservant. So spread your wing over your maidservant, for you are a kinsman redeemer.” Ruth is boldly asking Boaz to claim his right as kinsman redeemer and requesting that Boaz take the corner of his garment (i.e., wing) and spread it over her. This recalls Boaz’s earlier comment to Ruth: “May the Lord fully repay your work, and may our wages be full from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge” (2:12). She is boldly asking for Boaz to redeem her and Naomi and give them refuge. There is another interesting aspect to Ruth’s reply. Earlier she called herself Boaz’s “servant-woman” (2:13) and now she calls herself a “maidservant” (3:9). The two different Hebrew words can be synonymous, but in this context it reflects Ruth’s journey from a simple servant woman to a female servant who is eligible for marriage.

Boaz’s Urgency for Resolution

Ruth boldly petitioned Boaz to redeem them and Boaz urgently seeks resolution. Boaz told Ruth, “May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter. You have shown your last lovingkindness to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich.” The first act of lovingkindness was recorded in 2:11-12 and refers to all she has done for her mother-in-law. Boaz praises Ruth for “not going after young men.” This refers to Ruth seeking to marry Naomi’s kinsman redeemer and provide her an heir rather than seeking a husband for herself. Boaz praises Ruth’s lovingkindess toward Naomi saying, “So now, my daughter, do not fear. All that you say, I will do for you; for all my people within the gates of the city know that you are a woman of excellence.” 

Boaz is willing to redeem Ruth and Naomi, but there is a problem. In an unexpected turn of events, Boaz told Ruth “there is a relative closer than I. Remain this night, and when morning comes, if he will redeem you, good; let him redeem you. But if he does not wish to redeem you, then I will redeem you, as the Lord lives.” Boaz is not the closest male relative of Naomi. This is startling news because we have been cheering for Boaz since we heard of him. Now, there is a possibility that another person, whom we do not know, might redeem them. Boaz comforted Ruth and sent her home to Naomi with some grain. Ruth reported to Naomi all that had transpired and Naomi replied: “Wait, my daughter, until you know how the matter falls into place; for the man will not remain quiet until he has finished the matter today.”

Advent Reminds Us to Wait

Chapter 3 does not end where we expect it to end. There is no indication that Boaz spread his wing over Naomi. Boaz praised Ruth for her lovingkindness but indicated that he was not able to provide for them until the closest relative had spoken. At the end of chapter 3, we wait with expectation just like Naomi and Ruth waited for Boaz.

One of the great blessings of the Advent season is that it forces us to wait. We begin four Sundays before Christmas preparing ourselves for the day when we celebrate the arrival of Jesus. We do not like to wait, but it is good for us to wait upon God. As the psalmist said, “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10). Augustine is quoted as saying, “If God seems slow in responding, it is because He is preparing a better gift. He will not deny us. God withholds what you are not yet ready for. He wants you to have a lively desire for His greatest gifts. All of which is to say, pray always and do not lose heart.”

As you wait for Christmas Day:

  • Ask God to increase your patience. Make a list of the things in your life that produce impatience and ask Jesus to help you respond well in each of them. 
  • Ask God to increase your hope. When you find yourself anxious and full of concerns, ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of the eternal truths and glorious expectations found in the Gospel. 
  • Ask God to increase your joy. Grumbling is easy, anyone can do it. Rejoicing takes work because it involves focusing on Jesus more than yourself. 
  • Ask God to increase your love. Our greatest love should be for the Lord our God. “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps 37:4). Once our love for the Triune God grows, our love for others will grow as well.
  • Ask God to increase your faith. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). Let us be like Abraham who “with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able to do” (Rom 4:20-21).

Advent: The Hopes & Fears of all the Years (Ruth 2)

When we left Naomi at the end of chapter 1, she felt empty and believed that the Almighty was against her (1:21). If someone would have counseled her that there is still hope, she would have responded, “It’s been a long time since I’ve had any hope.” The fears of all the years haunt Naomi and Ruth as they travel back to Bethlehem to seek refuge. What will they find in Bethlehem? Will they find hope? Will they continue to fear? Let’s take a closer look.

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Ruth Finds a Field (1-3, 7)

Chapter 2 begins with an introduction to Boaz. He is “a kinsman of [Naomi’s] husband, a mighty man of excellence, of the family of Elimelech.” A kinsman (redeemer) in ancient Israel is the closest male relative who has the responsibility for caring for the widow of his deceased male relative. As a good storyteller, the writer of Ruth is letting us know that Boaz is the ideal kinsman redeemer for Naomi and the tension builds as we long for him to assume this role and care for Naomi and Ruth. 

Ruth was determined to be a blessing to Naomi. She asked Naomi for permission to go out into a field and glean “after one whom I may find favor in his eyes.” Ruth is doing this because she wants to be productive and, most likely, found out that the Law of Moses allowed the poor to go into fields and gather some of the crops (Lev 19:9-10). Ruth was a hard worker. We learn in 2:7 that “she came and has remained from the morning until now” (2:7). From Ruth’s perspective, this was a random field. From God’s perspective, this was providentially prepared. Ruth did not know Boaz and was unaware that he was a kinsman-redeemer.

From Ruth’s perspective, this was a random field. From God’s perspective, this was providentially prepared.

Boaz Finds a Stranger (4-7)

We heard about Boaz in verse 1 and now we get to meet him. His first words were to his servant: “Whose young woman is this?” (2:5) The servant replied, “She is the young Moabite woman who returned with Naomi” (2:6). Boaz quickly discovered that this is a stranger to Israel who has come to Israel for refuge. Boaz speaks kindly to Ruth and appreciates her help to Naomi and her diligence in providing for her. Boaz found a stranger in his fields and responded graciously in a way that shows love for the Lord and respect for His law. 

Ruth Finds a Comforter (8-16)

Boaz cares for Ruth and treats her well. He allows her to glean and to join in the meal. He does not want her to work in any other field so that she would not be harmed or abused. Ruth is overwhelmed by Boaz’s generosity. She said, “May I find favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and indeed have spoken to the heart of your servant-woman, though I am not like one of your servant-women” (2:13). Boaz blesses Ruth by saying, “May the Lord fully repay your work, and may your wages be full from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.” Ruth sought refuge with Naomi in Israel and found “a mighty man of excellence” (2:1).

Naomi Finds a Redeemer (17-23)

Ruth returned with the crops she had gleaned and the leftovers from the meal and Naomi was astonished. She said, “May he who took notice of you be blessed” (2:19). Ruth replied, “The name of the man with whom I worked today is Boaz.” Naomi is delighted to hear this news because she knows Boaz. Naomi replies, “May he be blessed of the Lord who has not forsaken his lovingkindness to the living and to the dead…The man is our relative; he is one of our kinsman redeemers” (2:20).

As we learned earlier, the kinsman redeemer had the responsibility for caring for the widow of his deceased male relative. The kinsman redeemer is one who redeems (Genesis 48:16; Exodus 6:6) redeems the property or persons (Leviticus 27:9–25, 25:47–55) from poverty, slavery, etc. They could also function as an avenger of blood (Num 35:12) who could legally carry out vengeance upon someone who murdered their relative.

We Find a Savior

While Ruth believes that her actions are random and Naomi believes that the Lord is against her, in Ruth 2 we see the providential hand of God providing for them. Ruth didn’t randomly arrive in Boaz’s field, God guided her to Boaz. One writer said, “As readers we’re told that Naomi does indeed have a relative in Bethlehem who may be able to provide for her & Ruth, but it’s only God’s sovereign kindness that means Ruth stumbles into the field of this relative, Boaz. And what a guy he turns out to be!” The Lord isn’t against Naomi, He is bringing her to the place she needs to be in order to be provided for and, most importantly, grow in her faith and love for the Lord.

Boaz reminds us of Jesus. Mitchell Chase said it well, “If someone invited you to listen to a story about a redeemer from Bethlehem in Judah who fulfilled and exceeded the law with his acts of mercy and abundant provision before entering into a covenant with a bride from the nations, that story could be about Boaz or Jesus.” Boaz is called a “mighty man of excellence” (2:1) who cares for his people and lavishes grace and mercy upon all who come to him. Jesus is far greater than Boaz and blesses everyone who seeks refuge in Him. 

The promise of a kinsman redeemer is not just for widows in Israel. We have the promise of a kinsman redeemer as well in Jesus.

The fears of all the years haunted Naomi and Ruth as they travel back to Bethlehem to seek refuge. In Bethlehem, they found hope and peace in a kinsman redeemer. The promise of a kinsman redeemer is not just for widows in Israel. We have the promise of a kinsman redeemer as well in Jesus. Have you found hope and peace from a redeemer in Bethlehem? Jesus was born of the virgin Mary, free from sin of Adam (Gen 3). He lived a perfect, sinless life in order to offer Himself as a pure and spotless sacrifice. Jesus’ sacrificial death provides forgiveness for all of the sins of all who place their faith in Jesus. As the old hymn says, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight. Take your hopes to Jesus. Turn over your fears to Jesus. 

O morning stars, together proclaim the holy birth,
and praises sing to God the King and peace to men on earth;
For Christ is born of Mary; and, gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondring love.

Advent: O Little Town of Bethlehem (Ruth 1)

O little town of Bethlehem how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

O Little Town of Bethlehem
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This is the time of year when our hearts and minds return to the little town of Bethlehem. Bethlehem is approximately 6 miles south of Jerusalem. Bethlehem means “House of Bread”. Though small in size, it is a significant town. It is where Rachel died and was buried (Gen 35:19) and was the birthplace of King David (1 Sam 16:1). Bethlehem is most significant because it is the birthplace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and it is for this reason our hearts and minds return to Bethlehem each year. This year we shall return to Bethlehem but will do so approximately 1,200 years before Jesus’ birth. Over the next four weeks we shall study the Book of Ruth. Why Ruth? In Matthew 1:5 we read that Jesus descended from Ruth who gave birth to King David’s grandfather (Obed). In Ruth, we see redemption in Bethlehem and the birth of a baby who brings comfort and joy.

Depravity in the House of Israel

The book of Ruth occurs “when the judges judged” Israel. The judges judged Israel after Joshua’s death (Judges 2:8) up to the reign of King Saul (1 Sam 9). The first judge was Othniel and the last judge was Samuel. The setting of Judges is significant because the book of Judges shows a contrast between the unfaithfulness of Israel and the faithfulness of God. It also shows us, in sometimes graphic detail, what happens when “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). The cycle of sin in Judges is summarized as follows: 

  1. The people disobey the Lord, 
  2. The people cry out to the Lord for help 
  3. The Lord raises up a judge to deliver the people, 
  4. The judge delivers the people, 
  5. The people obey God, 
  6. The judge dies, then
  7. The people disobey the Lord. 

The setting of Judges is significant because the book of Judges shows a contrast between the unfaithfulness of Israel and the faithfulness of God.

Deprivation in the House of Bread (Bethlehem)

In Ruth 1:1-2, we are introduced to “a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah” who “went to sojourn in the fields of Moab with his wife and his two sons.” They left Bethlehem for Moab because “there was a famine in the land.” The man’s name was Elimelech, his wife was Naomi and his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. Our story begins under difficult circumstances for the people of Bethlehem and all of Judah. We are not sure why the famine occurred, but we know the time of the judges was a hard time for the Jewish people. It is interesting that they went to Moab to sojourn. Moab was an enemy of the Jewish people since they opposed their conquest of Canaan.

Death in the Home of Elimelech

In verses 3-6, Elimelech died leaving Naomi and her two sons. The two sons married Moabite women and then the two sons died leaving Naomi “without her two children and her husband.” This was devastating for Naomi and her two daughters-in-law because they did not have any means of income and protection. Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem because “she had heard…that the Lord had visited His people to give them food.”

Depending on the Hope of the Lord

In verses 7-17, we see hope in the Lord. Noami, Orpah, and Ruth left Moab and went to Bethlehem. Naomi said to her daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the dead and with me. May the Lord grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.” Orpah left Naomi, “but Ruth clung to her.” Ruth said:

Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death separate you and me.

Ruth 1:16-17

Ruth could have gone back with Orpah, but she clung closely to Naomi. Ruth loved Naomi and also loved Naomi’s God: Yahweh. Naomi and Ruth are hurting but trusting.

Disappointment in the Heart of Naomi

In verses 18-22, Naomi and Ruth arrive back in Bethlehem and cause a great stir. The women of Bethlehem said, “Is this Naomi?” She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?” Naomi, whose name means pleasantness, did not feel pleasant. She felt that God had dealt with her bitterly. She left Bethlehem full (e.g., a husband and two sons); she arrived back in Bethlehem empty. 

There is, however, a ray of hope at the end of chapter 1. Remember that Naomi came back to Bethlehem because she heard that the famine was over. Ruth 1:22 says, “And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.” Barley harvest was most likely in April/May. The Lord had once again shown mercy to His people and blessed them with rain. The little town of Bethlehem is once again becoming vibrant. As we study the book of Ruth this Advent season, let us see God’s sovereign care for His people, in spite of their overall disobedience to Him. In Ruth, we have a message of hope during a dark and difficult day. 

In Ruth, we have a message of hope during a dark and difficult day. 

Take time this week to prayerfully examine your heart. Have you ever felt bitter towards God? Have you ever felt that God has dealt with you bitterly? When you have times in which you struggle to understand what God is doing and/or allowing to happen in your life, remember that He is good and knows exactly what He is doing. Trust Him. Rest in faith knowing that God will bring about His plan at His time.

Abounding with Thanksgiving (Colossians 2:6-7)

On October 3, 1863, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that a National Thanksgiving Day be held on the last Thursday of November. He called for this day because “we are prone to forget the source from which [our blessings] come.” He spoke of our need to be mindful of the “ever watchful providence of Almighty God.” In the midst of tremendous turmoil in the nation, he spoke of “the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.” He called for all citizens to observe this day “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” He continued. “And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged.” On November 20, 2022, let us heed this call and “abound in thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:7).

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Receive Christ

If you want to abound with thanksgiving; surrender your life to Jesus. Paul wrote, “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord…” (Col 2:6). Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ (Messiah) and He is the Lord. You cannot accept Jesus as Savior without surrendering to Him as Lord. Remember our definition of a disciple from Matthew 4:19. Jesus said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” A disciple is one who: 1) follows Jesus, 2) is being changed by Jesus, and 3) is committed to Jesus’ mission to seek and save the lost. 

Walk in Christ

If you want to abound with thanksgiving, surrender your life to Jesus and “walk in Him” (Col 2:6). When the Bible speaks of the Christian’s walk, it is referring to a way of life and/or behavior. It refers to the lifestyle of a Christian who is living for Jesus. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10). What does it mean to walk “in Christ”? Paul uses two illustrations: agriculture and infrastructure.

Firmly Rooted in Christ (Source)

Paul’s first illustration is from agriculture. If you have ever grown plants, you know that they need good soil and plenty of room for the roots to spread. This illustration speaks of the organic growth that should occur in discipleship. “Having been firmly rooted” in Christ means that He is the soil into which your roots grow. The spiritual growth we need comes from being nourished through Jesus. He is the source of our faith and growth. 

Being Built Up in Christ (Strength)

Paul’s second illustration is from construction. The first rule of building is to make sure you build on a strong foundation. Jesus spoke a parable about building your house on the rock. He said, “everyone who hears these words of Mine and does them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matt 7:24). The foundation is important as well as the process of building. This illustration speaks of the intentionality that should occur in discipleship. Being firmly rooted in Christ we need to be built up in Him. Disciples are made as members of local churches who pray, read the Bible, serve Christ together, and use their spiritual gifts for the glory of God and the good of others.

Established in Your Faith in Christ (Shield)

You are being instructed in Christ to be firmly rooted in Christ and be built up in Him. This results in you being established in your faith. As you navigate the trials of each day, your faith is confirmed and strengthened. Peter wrote, “the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7).

Abounding with Thanksgiving

When you are walking with Christ, you can abound with thanksgiving. When Paul speaks of abounding, he is talking about having more than enough! Your cup overflows! You have so much thanksgiving that you have to share. God wants Christians to abound with thanksgiving so that we can share it with others. Is this true of you? 

Abraham Lincoln was not the first President to make a Thanksgiving declaration. In 1789, President George Washington issued the following proclamation: 

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions–to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually–to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed–to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord–To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us–and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Seek the Lord in prayer. Confess your sins and give Him praise for His mercy upon you and our nation. Pray for our nation. Pray that marriage is held in high esteem. Pray that all life is valued. Pray that true religion is encouraged. Pray that our government rewards righteousness (as defined by God) and punishes wickedness (as defined by God). Remember, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Ps 33:12).

The Will of God (Romans 12:2)

As a pastor, I get a lot of questions and one of the most common ones is: “How can I know God’s will for my life?” This is a good question to ask as it indicates a desire to follow God and to live a life pleasing to Him. In this sermon, we shall consider this question more closely.

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The Will of God Defined 

What is the will of God? The Greek word for will is thelēma. God’s thelēma refers to what God desires and/or has determined shall be done. In the context of the question at the beginning of this sermon, it is what God wants/desires for your life. Paul told the Romans that the will of God is that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Rom 12:2). It is that which God has determined is pleasing to Him. Being pleasing to Him, He calls for it to be obeyed so that it resounds to His glory and leads to human flourishing. With this definition, we may safely conclude that God’s will for your life is to be a mature disciple of Jesus Christ. Based on Matthew 4:19, A disciple is someone who: 1) follows Jesus, 2) is being changed by Jesus, and 3) is committed to Jesus’ mission to seek and save the lost.

The Will of God Demonstrated

God’s will for you is to be a mature disciple of Jesus Christ. How can we prove that? Look at the testimony of Scripture. Remember, the Apostle Paul said in Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” RC Sproul helpfully articulates it for us: “God’s will for each of us is that we grow into spiritual maturity, that our lives become more fully set apart and consecrated by the Holy Spirit, and that our minds are changed.” The answer to the question: “How can I know God’s will for my life?” is always “To be a mature disciple of Jesus Christ.” Paul makes this even clearer in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 when he says “For this is the will of God, your sanctification…” 

If this answer seems too simple, consider what Paul wrote in Colossians 4:12: “Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greeting, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.” When we speak of the will of God for our life, this is something that we should be fully assured of. As mature disciples, the Bible says it is the will of God that we: 

  • Give ourselves in service to God and others (2 Cor 8:5).
  • Work wholeheartedly for the good of others and for the glory of God (Eph 6:5-6). 
  • Abstain from all sexual immorality (1 Thess 4:3).
  • Give thanks in all things (1 Thess 5:18).
  • Avoid the lusts of the flesh and live holy lives (1 Peter 4:2).
  • Do what is right and silence foolish men (2 Peter 2:15).

We are also told that it is the will of God that:

  • His will be carried out on earth as it is in heaven (Matt 6:10).
  • Whoever does the will of God is a member of Jesus’ family (Mark 3:35).
  • The Holy Spirit intercedes for the saints (Rom 8:27).
  • Christians receive the promised salvation after enduring (Heb 10:36).
  • Christians live forever after the world and its lusts pass away (1 John 2:17).

The Will of God Discerned

The answer given above is simple, but it gets more confusing when we drill down a little bit. For example, you may be thinking: “That’s great, pastor, but that’s not really what I was asking. In other words, how can I discern God’s will for my life in the everyday aspects of life? I want to live a life pleasing to God; so, how do I do that in regards to my employment, housing, relationships, etc.” These are great questions to ask and can only be answered when we start from the perspective of being a mature disciple of Jesus Christ. Then you may be able to discern His will for your life as you: Pray, Stay, and Obey.

Pray (without complacency)

The most important step in discerning the will of God is to pray. James said, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith, without doubting” (James 1:5-6). Ask God to reveal His will for your life and believe that He will give you the wisdom you need. As you pray, seek counsel from godly people in your life. Don’t give up. Persist in prayer.

Stay (without complaining)

As you pray, stay where you are and be faithful where you are. This does not mean that you cannot make any change, but that you are committed to staying faithful to do what God already has you doing. Rather than worrying about what you could be doing or think you should be doing, recognize where God currently has you and be obedient. Don’t complain but remain faithful. Note: if you are in sin or a sinful relationship/situation, cease immediately. It is never God’s will for you to sin.

Obey (without compromise)

As you pray and as you are obedient where you are, obey all the commands God gives you. If you discern that God is moving you to another job, ministry, etc. obey immediately. Do not disobey God because you are nervous, scared, fearful, etc. Be open to God’s direction and seek counsel from godly people in your life. God works to confirm his commands through the Holy Spirit, the Scripture, godly people, and circumstances. Don’t compromise with God; obey God. Place your “Yes!” on the table and obey all that Christ commands.


How can you know God’s will for your life? First, live your life with the primary aim to be a mature disciple of Jesus Christ. Second, pray for God to give you wisdom (James 1:5) and to guide your steps (Prov 3:5-6). Third, be faithful where you are. Fourth, obey all of God’s commands and say yes to His call in your life. If you want to know God’s will for your life, make sure your life is fully surrendered to God. Remember that we are in a relationship with Jesus and He cares for us greatly. Trust Him. Trust that Jesus knows what is best for you and what is best for the kingdom of God. Jesus said, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt 6:33).