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The Benedictus, Part 2

A Message by R.C. Sproul

Beloved for the way in which it highlights Jesus' care for those on the margins of society and for its care in telling the story of our Savior's life and ministry, the gospel of Luke has always been treasured by the Christian church. Dr. Sproul's expositional study of this inspired account of Jesus looks at the significant events of His life and His teachings while unfolding the meaning of both for us today.

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. devotional

    Perpetual Gratitude

  2. devotional

    Honoring God

  3. blog-post

    Thanksgiving: A Lifestyle, Not A Holiday

Perpetual Gratitude

Paul does not command us to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18) and then immediately move on to other subjects. Thankfully, he gives several evidences of the Spirit-filled life that we might recognize the work of the third person of the Trinity. The first of these is the presence of song in our hearts and on our lips. Those who submit to the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying presence address others in “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord” (v. 19). Here the apostle essentially repeats what he says about the indwelling “word of Christ” in Colossians 3:16. If the Savior dwells in our hearts by His Spirit, His Word also dwells within us by His Spirit, and the Spirit uses this Word to make us holy and fill us with joy that overflows in song.

A second evidence of the Spirit-filled life, as seen in today’s passage, is an attitude of perpetual gratitude for all things directed to God the Father in the person of Jesus Christ. Since we are born into this world as fundamentally ungrateful people (Rom. 1:21), the Holy Spirit’s work of transformation includes changing us from ingrates into profoundly grateful people. In contrast to those in this world who are never content with God’s provision, the true Christian is thankful for everything, even the smallest joys. Believers understand that we deserve nothing but the Lord’s wrath, so we are thankful for all of our blessings.

Finally, Ephesians 5:21 also explains that our submission to one another is evidence of the Spirit-filled life. This mutual submission is not inconsistent with role distinctions within the body of Christ. After all, Paul in Ephesians 5:22–6:9 explains that certain individuals have positions of authority that are not shared by everyone in the church. The apostle’s view of submission here is the submission of service. All of us, no matter our responsibilities, are to put others first and seek to meet their needs before our own. John Calvin comments: “God has bound us so strong to each other that no man ought to endeavor to avoid subjection; and where love reigns, mutual services will be rendered. I do not except even kings and governors, whose very authority is held for the service of the community. It is highly proper that all should be exhorted to be subject to each other in their turn.”

Honoring God

Colossians 3:16–17 concludes Paul’s basic principles for what it means to put on the new humanity we enjoy in Christ Jesus by telling us to sing “with thankfulness in [our] hearts to God,” in all things to give “thanks to God the Father through him.” Scripture has much to say about this duty to thank the Lord, which is part of what it means to honor Him in everything. For the next two days we will take a break from Colossians to look at the Bible’s teaching on honor and gratitude using R.C. Sproul’s lecture “Honoring God and Giving Thanks” from the Basic Theology I series of messages.

Ford Lewis Battles, a premier twentieth-century expert on the life and work of John Calvin, once noted that the book of Romans played a pivotal role in the reformer’s life. Although there is no record in Calvin’s life of a crisis experience that was due to his reading the book of Romans (as we see in the lives of Augustine, Martin Luther, and John Wesley), this weighty epistle clearly shaped Calvin’s thought at every turn. Particularly important to Calvin was Paul’s exposition of the primal sin of humanity in Romans 1:18–32. Human beings transgress the will of God in many ways, including sexual immorality, idolatry, murder, gossip, and more, but the apostle tells us plainly that the evil that gives root to these and all other forms of human wickedness is mankind’s failure to honor God as God and give Him thanks (v. 21).

It is not too difficult to see how the lack of honor for the Creator leads to other sins. After all, human beings are made to worship, and we cannot help but honor someone or something. If our honor is not directed to the Lord who made all that exists, then it is going to be directed to something else. This makes us guilty of idolatry, as verses 22–23 of today’s passage demonstrate.

The Christian life is all about honoring God directly in our worship, but also indirectly through honoring the authorities by which the Lord orders His world. The commands to respect the name of God and honor our parents are thus particularly important for us to remember if we want to overcome our natural tendency to dishonor the Creator. If we take the Lord’s name in vain or do not respect authorities, we are directly and indirectly dishonoring Him (Ex. 20:7, 12; Rom. 13:1–2).

Thanksgiving: A Lifestyle, Not A Holiday

R.C. Sproul Jr.

It is a sure sign that we are sinners that we tend to be more concerned about what we do than what we are. That is, our guilt or peace oftentimes is the fruit of our own judgment of how often we commit a known sin, less often grounded in what we think and how we feel. I may hate my brother, but if I can keep myself from killing him, well, how bad could I be?

In Romans 1 Paul is setting about the business of explaining the universal guilt of men before God. There he answers the telling question, "What about the innocent native in Africa who knows nothing of Christ?" by affirming that all men everywhere both know who God is, and reject that knowledge. Before we have done anything we stand guilty, if only because our eyes tell us there is a God and our hearts hate that truth. Paul then, however, in describing the universal sinful condition of all men outside of Christ adds this condemnation—neither were they grateful.

If it is true that all men exist—were made to glorify God—our gratitude failure is not simply a failure of manners, akin to forgetting to write a thank-you card for a gift. Instead it is like adultery, like murder, like cosmic rebellion. How so? Well, a failure to be grateful is grounded in the conviction that we are due better than what we have been given. We are all born with an expectation of a certain level of comfort, a certain level of fulfillment, a certain level of pleasure. When these exceed our expectations we believe all is right with the world. We have received our due. When they fall below our expectations, however, we grumble, we complain, we howl. We scratch our heads thinking something is wrong with the universe.

Something is wrong with the universe—us. The lost are, well, lost. They have not been changed. They do not have the Holy Spirit. They are on their own. But we complain just like them. We have the same set of expectations, and so mimic their grumbling. We, because we are worldly, look at the world and our place in it just like the world.

Gratitude, however, isn't the fruit of happiness, but its root. When we give thanks, when we look at the world and our place in it realistically, remembering what we are due in ourselves, what we have, and all that we have been promised in Christ, we are astonished, overwhelmed. And therefore overjoyed.

I have with me four daughters who love me, and their Lord. I have three sons who love me, and their Lord. I have friends who love me, and their Lord. I have work that I love, that serves the Lord. I have a church where our Lord and His Word are preached. Most important of all, I am beloved of the Father. How could I ever even begin to think "It isn't enough"? And, when I fail, my Father forgives me, His Spirit works in me, and I get better. Saint, thanksgiving isn't a holiday to be observed, but a lifestyle to be practiced. Give thanks. And when you are done, do it again.

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