Sermon preached on March 13, 2011 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.
Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.
One of the fascinating things about the Scripture writers is that they would sometimes break out in spontaneous praise to God. They would be writing about God's works and His grace to us and they will suddenly break out into doxology. We have an example of that in Romans 11:33–36. Paul had been writing about God's predestination and how the hardening of the Jews meant life for the Gentiles. Paul then writes,
"Oh, the depth of the riches
of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
'Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?'
Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay him?
For from him and through him
and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen."
We see the same thing in our text. John had been writing about how good Christians have it in that grace and peace flow to us from the triune God. Nothing can stop the people of Jesus Christ from receiving grace and peace. It's from the eternal Father, the sevenfold Spirit, and from the exalted Jesus Christ, the ruler of the nations of the earth. John then breaks out in doxology. He writes, (Revelation 1:5b–6)
"To him who loves us and has freed us
from our sins by his blood,
and has made us to be a kingdom
and priests to serve his God and Father—
to him be glory and power
for ever and ever! Amen."
This is a doxology to Jesus Christ. John breaks forth into praise to Jesus for what He has done for us. He ascribes glory and power to Christ for his love for us, for His work on the cross in saving us, for making us a kingdom and priests to serve God the Father.
This morning we're going to look at this doxology to see how we can be better in bringing praise and glory to God.
The first thing I want you to see from our text is that
your life should be filled with praise to God.
If you're living properly, your life should be interspersed with eruptions of praise to God. It is so important that we Christians praise God. One of the great themes of the book of Revelation is that all of creation is to be praising God and giving Him glory. One of the great themes of Revelation is that God is worthy of praise. Everything created is to be praising Him. David expressed this in Psalm 103. At the beginning of the psalm he stirred himself up to praise God and to remember all the blessings that God had bestowed on him. He ended the psalm with these words, (Psalms 103:20–22)
"Bless the LORD, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word!
Bless the LORD, all his hosts,
his ministers, who do his will!
Bless the LORD, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!"
So it is in Revelation. Much of it is about the praise of God. For example, in Revelation 4:8–11 we read about the worship of God, or more specifically, of God the Father.
"Each of the four living creatures
had six wings and was covered
with eyes all around, even under his wings.
Day and night they never stop saying:
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,
who was, and is, and is to come.
Whenever the living creatures give glory,
honor and thanks to him
who sits on the throne
and who lives for ever and ever,
the twenty-four elders fall down before him
who sits on the throne,
and worship him who lives for ever and ever.
They lay their crowns
before the throne and say:
'You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.'"
In Revelation 5:9–10 we read about worship that is directed to the Son. The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fall down before the Lamb and sing a new song.
"You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased
men for God from every tribe
and language and people and nation.
You have made them to be
a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth."
After that John heard the voices of thousands upon thousands of angels, ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and elders and in a loud voice they sang, (verses 12-13)
"Worthy is the Lamb,
who was slain,
to receive power and wealth
and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!"
Then John heard,
"every creature in heaven and on earth
and under the earth and on the sea,
and all that is in them, singing:
'To him who sits on the throne
and to the Lamb be praise
and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!'"
If you look at chapter 7, 11, 12, 15 and 19 you'll see similar examples. Revelation teaches us much about the praise of God. It is to be a constant theme of our lives.
Of course I'm not just talking about what we do here when we gather with God's people and when we sing. It's to be an integral part of our lives.
Why do we exist? What is one of the great purposes of our salvation? Why have we been made priests? A great part of the reason is so we can praise God. In 1 Peter 2:9 the apostle Peter wrote,
"But you are a chosen people,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people belonging to God,
that you may declare
the praises of him who called you
out of darkness into his wonderful light."
Believers, you are a holy people who are called to worship and praise God in the world. Christ's church is to be continually praising God, worshipping and thanking Him. Even in this dark world, with it's antichristian rulers, with it's enmity against God and His anointed—the church is to be ascribing glory and dominion to God. Vern Poythress writes, (The Coming King, p. 74)
"Utterances of praise are an integral part of the spiritual war."
We need to remember that we are in a spiritual warfare. Remember Job? Satan had said that he would curse God if he lost all his possessions. But what did Job do? In Job 1:20–21 we read,
"Then Job arose and tore his robe
and shaved his head and fell
on the ground and worshiped.
And he said,
'Naked I came from my mother's womb,
and naked shall I return.
The LORD gave,
and the LORD has taken away;
blessed be the name of the LORD.'"
Christians, praising God is to be an integral part of your life. You are here to declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness.
There are three things to note about this doxology we see here in Revelation.
First of all,
it is something that arises when you consider what God is like and what He has done for you.
You who are Christians are to let the truth of God— the truth of Scripture, which tells you what God is like and what He has done—move you so that you are filled with praise for him. That's what we see in John here. He writes,
"To him who loves us and has freed us
from our sins by his blood,"
What words! God loves you! How this should fill your heart with joy. To be loved by God, there's nothing greater than that.
Now in a certain sense God loves everything He has made. In Psalm 145:13 we read,
"The LORD is faithful to all his promises
and loving toward all he has made."
God provides for all His creatures and, as Jesus said in Matthew 5:45,
"He causes his sun to rise
on the evil and the good,
and sends rain on the righteous
and the unrighteous."
But that kind of love is not what is in view here. John links this love to Jesus freeing us from our sins by his blood. The love that is in view here is the love that has saved us. As we read in John 3:16,
"For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life."
Or as we read in 1 John 3:1–3,
"How great is the love
the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God!
And that is what we are!
The reason the world does not know us
is that it did not know him.
Dear friends, now we are children of God,
and what we will be
has not yet been made known.
But we know that when he appears,
we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is."
Why would God love us? It wasn't because of anything good in us, anything that made us attractive to Him. We were filthy, despicable sinners. Yet, because of something in God, because one of God's characteristics is love. As we read in 1 John 4:16,
"God is love."
The fact that God loves you should cause you to praise Him. You shouldn't need anything else. We see this near the end of the book of Habakkuk, in Habakkuk 3:17–19. The prophet said that the condition of Judah at that time was very bad. The ruthless Babylonians had invaded the land and the people had lost just about everything. But what does the prophet do? He said, (REB)
"The fig tree has no buds,
the vines bear no harvest,
the olive crop fails,
the orchards yield no food,
the fold is bereft of its flock,
and there are no cattle in the stalls.
Even so I shall exult in the Lord
and rejoice in the God who saves me.
The Lord God is my strength;
he makes me as sure-footed as a hind
and sets my feet on the heights."
The other great truth that John praises God for is that Jesus has freed us from our sins by his blood. Our sins are like Marley's chains in Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol. Think of what your sins would be to you if you were outside of Christ. Sin binds us. It binds us in the sense that it enslaves us, it binds us so that we don't do good, but evil. It binds us in the sense that it brings us shame and condemnation. Sin binds us to misery and death—and not just physical death but the second death, the lake of fire that we read of in Revelation.
By dying in our place Jesus freed us from our sins. There is therefore now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus. Our sin can no longer condemn us. As we read in Psalm 103, our sins have been removed from us, as far as the east is from the west. They can never come back and haunt us. Sin's dominion has been broken. We have been given the Spirit who leads us in righteousness. We can now serve God in newness of life.
Christian, let the truth of God, the truth of Scripture, move you to praise God. Don't doubt what God's Word tells you. Believe it. Hold it close to your heart. Cast aside doubt.
One of the great problems today is the world tries to cast doubt on God's Word. It tells us that the Bible isn't reliable. At worst, they will tell you not to believe any of it. At best, they will tell you that you can pick and choose what you want to believe.
If you doubt God's Word, if you doubt God's activity, if you doubt Jesus' activity, His miracles, if you doubt what Paul wrote, explaining the significance of the work of Jesus—how will you ever be moved to a doxology of praise to God? You cannot be.
Michael Horton writes on what theology should do to us. (The Christian Faith)
"When the doctrine is understood in the context of its dramatic narrative, we find ourselves dumbfounded by God's grace in Jesus Christ, surrendering to doxology (praise). Far from masters, we are mastered; instead of seizing the truth, we are seized by it, captivated by God's gift, to which we can only say, 'Amen!' and 'Praise the Lord!'".
The second thing we should understand about this praise is that
your status is to cause you to break out in praise to God.
John also wrote,
"and has made us to be a kingdom
and priests to serve his God and Father"
G. K. Beale writes, (Revelation, p. 192)
"Christ's death and resurrection (v 5) established a twofold office, not only for himself… but also for believers. Their identification with his resurrection and kingship (v 5a) means that they too are considered to be resurrected and exercising rule with him as a result of his exaltation: he is 'the ruler of the kings of the earth… [so that] he made them a kingdom.' They not only have been made part of his kingdom and his subjects, but they have also been constituted kings together with him and share his priestly office by virtue of their identification with his death and resurrection."
All Christians are now priests. Herman Hoeksema writes, (Behold He Cometh, p. 23-24)
"the deepest notion of priesthood is that of perfect consecration to and love of God, manifested in perfect obedience and willing service. A priest consecrates himself and all things to God."
It's just like we saw in 1 Peter 2:9— we are a royal priesthood—that we may declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light.
We have also been made a kingdom. I believe the idea here is that we are to live, right now, as you would live in His kingdom. In a certain sense His kingdom has come. We belong to His kingdom. We don't belong to this old order of things. The power of the age to come has broken forth in our lives through the power of the Spirit. As we read in Revelation 11:15,
"The seventh angel sounded his trumpet,
and there were loud voices in heaven,
'The kingdom of the world has become
the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ,
and he will reign for ever and ever.'"
How you should praise God for that.
The third thing we should see from our text is that
you are to ascribe glory and power to God.
"to him be glory and power
for ever and ever! Amen."
John ascribed glory and power to Jesus. It's very important that we do that.
God is under attack in our society. One of the things that this sinful world tries to do is to take glory away from God. A couple of years ago St. Lawrence University had Christopher Hitchens, the author of a book called, 'god is Not Great', speak at the university. The title of the book gives the basic premise. He was trying to take glory away from God—that religion spoils everything.
We need to counter that in our society. We need to both speak and live so that we show that God is indeed glorious.
We are to acknowledge Him—that He is glorious. G. K. Beale writes, (Revelation, p. 194)
"That God is to receive glory means that he alone is worthy to receive credit for the successful accomplishment of redemptive history…"
Herman Hoeksema writes, (p. 24)
"Glory is the radiation of infinite, divine goodness and perfection."
We are to ascribe glory to God. This means that whenever we talk about Him, think about Him, we are to do so in exalted terms—in terms in line with how Scripture speaks of Him. We are to acknowledge that His is glorious—that He is perfect in all His ways.
It's the same way with God's power. Some people try to get around the problem of evil in the world by suggesting that God is not all powerful. That was the solution offered by the book, "Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People". But that's just not true. Jesus rules all things.
We don't have all the answers. Indeed, it's interesting that when God spoke to Job from the whirlwind that He didn't answer Job's questions, but he questioned Job so that at the end, Job responded, (Job 42:3)
"Surely I spoke of things
I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know."
God's plans are mysterious to us. Revelation contains many things we would not expect. For example, in Revelation 13:7 we read about the horrible beast from the sea, who blasphemed God,
"He was given power to make war
against the saints and to conquer them."
In spite of that we are to ascribe power to God. That's As we read in Revelation 19:1–8
"After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting:
'Hallelujah! Salvation and glory
and power belong to our God,
for true and just are his judgments.
He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries.
He has avenged on her
the blood of his servants.
And again they shouted: Hallelujah!
The smoke from her goes up
for ever and ever.
The twenty-four elders and
the four living creatures fell down
and worshiped God,
who was seated on the throne.
And they cried: 'Amen, Hallelujah!'
Then a voice came from the throne,
saying: 'Praise our God,
all you his servants, you who fear him,
both small and great!'
Then I heard what sounded
like a great multitude,
like the roar of rushing waters
and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear.'
(Fine linen stands for
the righteous acts of the saints.)"
We are to ascribe power to God in the same way. Know that He controls all things. Everything is in God's hands. Give Him praise that He is going to defeat all His enemies and save His people!
For those of you who are not Christians, you should realize that you need these things. You need to be brought near to God. You need to be cleansed by the blood of Jesus. You need to belong to Jesus' kingdom. Without Jesus you're lost. As we read in John 3:36,
"Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life,
but whoever rejects the Son will not see life,
for God's wrath remains on him."