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Loving God, One Another, & the World

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The Gospel as to Corinth

December 20, 2020 Series: Guest Speaker

Topic: Guest Speaker Passage: 1 Corinthians 15:1–15:4

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Intro

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Let us continue to worship God through prayer and the preaching of His Word. Please pray with me

 

This morning we will be reading 1 Corinthians 15 verses 1-19 and studying verses 1-4. While you turn there but before you rise - I would like us to consider something together. I want to prevent us from just idly going through the motions -  by stopping to make clear why it is we rise. 

When we stand for the reading of the word, we are making a distinction. A distinction that draws a line between the infallible and the human. Between the divinely inspired words granted to you from God, and those brought to you by me. When you rise for the reading of the word you are making a clear proclamation to your own heart and to those in attendance - that what you are now hearing is special and ought to be distinguished in at least this way. It would therefore be inappropriate for me to insert non-inspired thoughts or interpretations while you are risen - my thoughts are to remain silent until you are seated. The same goes for distractions like your cell phone or the clock. The word of God read aloud is the most infallible, unquestionably true thing you will hear this morning. 

Now, with the understanding that you are holding and hearing from the infallible Word of God, and that you are rising to make a distinction between its divine, dogmatically errorless truth, and the sermon prepared for you this morning - please stand for the reading of the word. (2 minutes)

 

--- Read 1 cor 15:1-11

15 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.

 

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

 

You may be seated 

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Explain

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We begin our exposition this morning by returning to the first half of verse 1 "1 Now I [that is Paul] make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you [the initial audience being the Saints in Corinth],"

 

Paul begins this passage with a reminder of what he taught while with them - I would like to do the same by way of introduction. While Acts most comprehensively records Paul's time in Corinth, a passage at the beginning of this epistle most accurately records the doctrine taught during that time. Please turn to the second chapter of this epistle. Reading from 1 Corinthians chapter 2 verses 1-5 

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

Scripture shows us that Corinth was a place of intellect and display; a place of academia and speech. I am convinced of this because Paul makes a point to distinguish his message with the words "I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom" and "my words were not in persuasive words of wisdom." This is said in addition to chapter 1:22, which accuses

"For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom"

These few verses, though not the only verses descriptive of Corinth, convincingly paint a picture of what this town was like. A place where presentations lacking craftyness and eloquence were distinct. A place where an over reliance on the wisdom of men - was a common temptation. A place where worldly wisdom was sought and signs were demanded. In that circumstance Paul "determined to know nothing except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." [pause]

Additionally, this decision by Paul was not a result of his foolishness or inability, but was clearly intentional. Scripture shows us that Paul is certainly capable of speaking with persuasive words of wisdom. His intellectual prowess is shown in several places

- Philippians 3:5 shows us that Paul was a pharisee, 

- Acts 22:3 shows us he was educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers

- His ability to perceive and wield doctrine intellectually is displayed in Acts 23, where he sets the sadducees and pharisees against each other with but a few words

- his epistle to the ephesians shows us his ability to distill doctrine into a concise systematic theology with a divinely efficient economy of words.

- but, for what is most likely the strongest evidence, we can look at the entire epistle to the Romans. A book whose logical flow of thought displays clearly to us that Paul was more than equipped to combat the corinthian heretics on human terms.

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We now continue to the second half of verse 1:  "which also you received, in which also you stand"

 

Paul starts our passage this morning with the clause "I taught" teaching a message that ought to be considered true, efficacious, and divinely inspired by anyone who understands Paul's apostolic authority - an authority which he will defend in verse 3. The second half of verse one gives us two additional clauses: "you received" and "you stand." With these additions he compounds the impact of his first. By adding, "you received" scripture clarifies that any of the saints persuaded into another position prove their own fickleness and unbelief. And finally, by adding "you stand" Paul shows that the saints in Corinth had, up until now, continued in his teaching - and his message will be the means by which they continue. The word of God will be the means by which they resist the wiles and schemes of the Devil as he beats on their door with temptations and requests for tolerance of sin. 

Paul continues in verse 2

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 2 By which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.

The epistle here shows that salvation is dependent upon the doctrines considered. Their perseverance is proven, and their eternal future is expected --- by a lived out understanding of, and adherence to these things.

We know from the verses which follow our passage this morning, that specifically the doctrine of the resurrection was under attack. Reading these verses carefully, common sense would teach us that an understanding of the resurrection is therefore necessary for salvation. For if the resurrection were to be taken away, the promises of scripture would go with it. If these things are lost, there is no religion left to you. Your faith is hollow and void if these things are either untrue or allegorical. Paul states in verse 16

 "16 For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins." 

If the resurrection is thrown away, the Gospel, and any rational reason we have to hope goes with it. [pause]

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In the second half of verse two "if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain." Paul again amplifies his argument by first reproving them for the haste with which they had thrown away solid truth in exchange for foolishness - and compounds his warning by showing that if they do not continue in this truth --- they have wasted their time with christianity. If they are so easily thrust into heresy and sin, their profession is nothing but a needless waste of time. If their obstinance and wondering continues, their faith is, to use a term from John Calvin, "nothing but throwing clouds into the air" or to reuse terms from Paul - their faith is "worthless and vain." 

Their quick and sudden fall was proof they had lacked understanding in the first place. It lacked, in so much as it had quickly vanished. The redeemed do not depart, and those who do depart proved they were not of us by their departure according to 1 John 2:19. Those who belong to Christ know His voice, and will come when He calls - for the sheep know the shepherd's voice according to the Gospel of John chapter 10. He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion Philipians 1:6. If we, or the corinthians, do not continue in truth, and are easily thrust into woeful misunderstandings and stay there - we have no reason to hope, or to believe this work of God's was ever begun.

Therefore hear Paul's teaching recorded in scripture, repent and believe, and stand in the truth - being firm in the hope of coming glorification according to the sovereign plan of God shown in the scriptures. [Pause]

Moving toward the end of our passage this morning, I would like to consider verses 3 and 4 together.

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3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 

 

Here we come to Paul's appeal to authority, where he adds another distinguishing mark to his teaching. We have already observed that he did not come with eloquence nor signs of deception, but with a divinely imparted message - for he had determined to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified. That teaching is here distinguished further by showing it was "according to the message delivered to Him from God." The message Paul preached was divine. The words delivered through man were not human. He did not relay what had been given to him by the report of others, but gave what had been given to him by the Lord.

 

We read in the epistle to the Galatians a church who was also at fault of distorting the gospel, a passage I will reference a few times this morning - chapter 1, starting in verse 11: 11 For I would have you know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel which was preached by me is not of human invention. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

13 For you have heard of my former way of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; 14 and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions. 15 But when He who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace - was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.

18 Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him for fifteen days. 19 But I did not see another one of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. 20 (Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying.) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which are in Christ; 23 but they only kept hearing, “The man who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they were glorifying God because of me.

Christ and Him crucified is a divine message and ought to be given due reverence, and definitely believed.

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In the second half of verse three "that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" Paul beggs the reader to be like the noble bereans; to test what was spoken. No message given from God will ever contradict the Word of God. The Word of God stands alone as the means by which we stand - the means by which all of truth is tested and proven, and the means by which falsehood is rebuked. 

We should be reminded of Clayton's message 3 weeks ago as he expounded 2 Timothy 3:16-17 to explain the authority of the man of God. This verse shows us that

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man or woman of God may be fully capable, equipped for every good work.

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Now including verse 4: "and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." We are shown the gist of the gospel - that Christ has died with us that we may rise with Him. Even if we assume Paul's audience does not have access to the Gospel accounts, there are a host of OT scriptures we can point to that support his statement - many that predict Christ, and several verses which specifically predict the death of Christ. Few are clearer than the whole of Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53, and Daniel 9:26. Christ, when we deserved it least, yet needed it most, took our curse upon Himself that He may redeem us from it. Sin was conquered and done away with by the death of Christ, and righteousness was achieved through His resurrection. Christ, the one and only begotten Son of the God who, with a love so great He could even love the world, sovereignly decreed Christ die a propitiatory death for those who believe. He was blameless yet crucified and buried, then raised on the third day. The God through whom all things came, and to whom all things belong, now mediates for His people eternally - as a perfect, Holy priest at the right hand of the Father. Oh what a wonderful message to the dying and what foolishness to the deceived. [pause]

 

Having explained our passage this morning, I would like to now make a few particular observations of it and applications from it. (16 - 20ish min)

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Expound - continue from here

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First, The Gospel's place in preaching

Even a passing glance at this epistle would bring about the understanding that the Gospel is pivotal to the ministry of the apostle and ought to be for us. 1 Corinthians clearly shows us how truly valuable it is to be routinely taught and to teach ourselves the Gospel. To be renewed in our desire for and appreciation of that sweet sweet message. Every christian, every church - especially when wavering - is benefited by a routine and repeated reminder of the Gospel of Christ, who He is, what He did, and why that matters. 

It is dangerous to have a pulpit whose ministry average is more dominated by the news, the pastors week, non-inspired history, eschatology, fables, social justice, spiritual gifts, abortion, womons place in the church, culture, or any other lesser thing or doctrine that would fight to take the Gospels rightful place. Now don't misunderstand what i'm saying - there is a time for the pulpit to address many of these things with the authority of scripture alone - but if they are permitted to wrestle dominance away from the Gospel in any church you ever attend, run. Christ and Him crucified then raised again is the thru line of any true ministry. To settle for anything less is to fail to feed the sheep according to scripture.

We are to feed on these things as though they were our daily bread, to be nourished by them, and to continue together in this unchanging, consistently valuable truth. Our faith depends on our understanding of it, and the christian is routinely in need of it. [pause] So First - the gospels place in preaching.

 

Second, The Gospel's consistency 

What Paul taught, he teaches. What the scriptures declare has not changed. Paul again and again reminds and commands his readers with the phrase "as taught in the scriptures."

Matthew Henry wisely put, commenting on this passage, "Truth is in its own nature invariable; and the infallible teachers of divine truth could never be at variance with themselves or one another. The doctrine which Paul had hitherto taught, he still taught. 2. It was what they had received; they had been convinced of the faith, believed it in their hearts, or at least made a profession of doing so with their mouths. It was no strange doctrine. It was that very gospel in which, or by which, they had hitherto stood, and must continue to stand. If they gave up this truth, they left themselves no ground to stand upon, no footing in religion." end quote

The scriptures are inerrant and consistent. Never will the scriptures contradict themselves, or any Christian acting in accordance with the will of the Father. We can again reference Galatians 1:

6 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel, 7 which is not just another account; but there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 [here's the climax] But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9 As we have said before, even now I say again: if anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!

The Gospel, as set in stone by the sovereign work of God through Christ and the approved work of the Apostles, is the Gospel forevermore. The Gospel is true, pure, and unchanging, when taught through and in accordance with the scriptures.

So First - the gospels place in preaching.

Second, The Gospel's consistency.

 

Third, The sufficient nature of the Gospel in a positive sense. 

That meaning - the Gospel is needed to save. Anything less than the Gospel lacks eternal consequence. This is exhibited when Paul proclaims to the Corinthians that their faith is in vain if they forfeit the resurrection. The unsaved, and unregenerate man is not helped by eloquent speech, but is brought to the foot of the cross by the preaching of the cross. In the explanation of verse 1, we saw Paul's determined simplicity, as he intentionally denied eloquence to pursue a God given, divinely sourced and heavenly empowered gospel. I remind you of chapter 2, beginning in verse 2

For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God." This, in addition to our passage this morning make clear these are the doctrines on which we stand and prove our faith genuine.

In observing how Paul refrains from sparring with the philosopher, or competing with the sign giver, scripture teaches us that we have a message whose power is not through man, not dependent on man's ability, --- a message whose victory is not contingent on our intellectual prowess. Those who belong to Christ have been given a greater calling, a greater commission. We have been given a message of divine power. A message founded upon the divine actions of the one and only living God. A message powerfully given to us through the indwelling of His spirit.

What a wonderful, excellently inerrant, historically true, and divinely simple message: "Christ, and Him crucified" - A truth on which we who belong to Him rely. "Christ, and Him crucified" - A truth on which our faith, lives, and inheritance hinge. "Christ, and Him crucified" - a message of bold, simple, Biblical, authoritative, Christ centered content - that Paul teaches in a context of hollow, worldly intellect.

This simple message was not lacking in its ability to save. Scripture shows us that the message "Christ and Him Crucified" is a message powerful to save, a message whose power through regeneration brings about the ability to believe, receive, and persevere in those who belong to Him. The very message in which we, and the corinthians stand. For nothing less than the gospel is sufficient.

So First - the gospels place in preaching.

Second, The Gospel's consistency.

Third, The Gospels sufficient nature in a positive sense. 

 

Fourth, The Gospel's sufficient nature in a negative sense.

Or to put it another way, nothing more than that gospel is needed to save. Notice particularly that the Gospel does not gain anything by your creativity. The gospel is not helped by your additions. The gospel is not improved by your ability to persuade, to coerce, or to verbally convince - for its power does not come from you, nor is it dependent upon you. [pause]

What a sad predicament the modern church is in. Littered with the sort of foolishness whose idea of evangelism is to look and sound like sinners in the name of infiltration. Or to compromise in the name of outreach, or soften for the sake of palatability. Or forsake the assembly in the name of obedience to the government, or adhere to the world's idea of social justice and call it the gospel --- Anathema!

Our message is greater than that. The church stands on truths too pure, too holy, too wonderful to be polluted with such worldliness. Our belief is not to be associated with such nonsense. 

I remind you of Gal 1:10 where Paul asks: For am I now seeking the favor of people, or of God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.

Here in our passage Paul beseeches the Corinthians by way of reminder - in very much the same way I beseech you: To those of you who believe, remember. To those of you who remember, stand. To those of you who stand, proclaim. No need to have this corinthian, or this university level of eloquence. No need to have these pharisee pleasing signs, or this Fog and Lights level of display. No need to have this Greek pleasing wisdom or postmodern level of apologetic proof. The gospel is a message whose strength is wielded in equal measure by the fool and by the learned. It is a message whose strong truth remains when all other auxiliary components have been shaved off. The gospel is a message whose simple, pure content is primary, glorious, good, and essential. 

Paul shows us in the first chapter of His epistle to the Romans that he is "not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes," explaining  "For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith;” [pause] Because of the essential, foundational, and powerful message that is Christ and Him crucified - the message that all of scripture points to; Paul determines to know nothing more. His determined simplicity accomplishes salvation according to God's sovereign plan, and is the very truth on which We and the Corinthian saints stand and hold fast, lest our belief be in vain.

 

So First - the gospels place in preaching.

Second, The Gospel's consistency.

Third, The sufficient nature of the Gospel in a positive sense. 

Fourth, The sufficient nature of the Gospel in a negative sense

 

As our fifth and final point I would like to emphasize the importance of the Word of God, particularly the Gospel, in the lives of each individual saint. Brothers, I beg of you to understand how important this is. Treat the Gospel and the Word of God with due reverence. Then prove that reverence with your words, with your actions, with your life - lest you believed in vain. If you call yourself Christian, let me ask:

Is it easier for you to miss a day of church than it is a day of work? Is your attendance marked by showing up just a bit late, and leaving just a bit early? Is small talk bothersome, and true fellowship unknown to you?

Is your decision on where to attend church (assuming many of you will not spend your whole lives here) influenced first by where your kids fit in, the size of the parking lot, the quality of the day care, the distance from your house, or the church's ability to entertain you and tell jokes from behind the pulpit --- If these things influence your decision before you consider a church's adherence to scripture, the qualification of the elders, and a unified desire for truth, pay attention. Is your bible only opened on Sunday? Can you answer with chapter and verse when someone asks who is Christ - not including John 3:16? Can you answer with scripture when someone asks you what is the gospel? What must I do to be saved? Why have doctrine when we can just have jesus? Did the resurrection really happen, does it even matter? [pause]

It is true you do not need to attend the right church, or have the right answers to be saved, but if you have thought yourself a saved christian, a heir of the only and only living God, for more than a decade and can't answer the questions asked - what proof do you have? Why call yourself by the name of Him who you do not know? Will a truly regenerate man have such a disdain for the truth his Bible gathers more dust than his tv remote? I beg of you brothers and sisters, check and make sure you have not believed in vain. Daily throw yourself upon Him, and feed on the only infallible truth we have. [pause] These things are far, far too important to be taken lightly… [pause]

 

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The Gospel  / Closing

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Jesus Christ is the only way to God, the only way to be reconciled. All have sinned and fallen short of His glory. No one can meet the perfection justly required by the one and only perfectly Holy God on their own - and in that coming day He will justly condemn sinners to Hell where they will suffer eternally. Our only hope is Christ.

Christ, who is the only begotten son of God who was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, and who went to the cross. There He was lifted up and crucified, bearing the sins of everyone who would believe in Him. Through that death He satisfied the just wrath of God and reconciled a holy God to sinful man - he redeemed those who belong to him, bought us from Satan's slave market of sin, and he took our sins far, far away. 

He was taken down from the cross, He was buried in a guarded tomb, and on the third day God raised Him from the dead according to the scriptures. He came out of that tomb a risen and victorious savior - He appeared to more than 500 after His death, then ascended to the right hand of God the father where all authority on heaven and earth has been given to Him. The day is coming when every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord and will glorify Him.

Therefore, you now have a choice - you either bow the knee right now in this life and confess your sin and throw yourself upon His mercy, where you will discover that He is the friend of sinners and will embrace you within His heart of love, and forgive you, and take you to heaven when you die, --- but if you reject the offer of the gospel you are now hearing, your blood is on your own hands. Know that there is a day, a final judgement coming where the books will be opened and every deed and every thought will be made evident - in that day, God will rightly demand absolute perfection from you, and you have fallen short. You will then bow the knee and confess Christ as Lord before you are thrown into hell forever, and glorify Him by displaying His justice.

I beg of you now, today, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ who alone is the savior of sinners. There are countless roads to hell, there is only one road to heaven and it is through the Lord Jesus Christ. Throw yourself upon his mercy, believe in him, and entrust your souls to him. [pause] Lets Pray

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Closing prayer (still working on this)

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Lord, I ask that above all and before you all you be glorified. May your name be hallowed and lifted above all, and given the honor it deserves. May you be magnified in both the words spoken this evening, and in the minds of your people as they leave. Please, Lord, according to your wisdom, the power of your spirit, and in the name of your son Jesus Christ, permit the Gospel continually go forth from this pulpit in a way that is true, that is authoritative, and constant. Lord, please permit this message be edifying, not anecdotal. Not routine, but a message worthy of this pulpit by having increased your peoples desire for you. Not eloquent but effective. Not another Sunday, but a time to be renewed in our conviction and to be removed from any potentially vain belief. May all glory, honor, power, and dominion be to you and you alone, forever and ever, amen.

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Benediction

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Though it is my duty to proclaim to you the truth of scripture as accurately as I am able, I am not infallible. It is your duty to test what I say with scripture. All believers ought to devote themselves to it; to love it, to study it, to understand it, and to refuse the foolish idea that Sunday Morning alone is sufficient. These things are too valuable to compartmentalize into a dusty little corner of your Sunday calendar. These things are more important than work, entertainment, food and drink, and sleep. Your eternal life depends on your understanding of and adherence to the text you hold. Treat the word of God with due reverence, and prove that reverence with study beyond what has been spoken this morning. You are dismissed.