Dead to the Law, Fruitful for God, Part 2 (Romans Sermon 42 of 120)

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Dead to the Law, Fruitful for God, Part 2 (Romans Sermon 42 of 120)

October 07, 2001 | Andrew Davis
Alive in Christ, Life in the Spirit, Good Works

I. An Eternally Fruitful Marriage

Please, if you would, take your Bibles and open to Romans 7. We continue to make our way through this incredibly deep scripture. And as we come to Romans 7, we come to a very difficult and challenging chapter. And in Romans 7, Paul is dealing with the issue of the law and its relationship to the Christian. What is the purpose and what are the limits of the law? How is the law to function in our lives as Christians? This itself is a subset of a larger question in which the Apostle is dealing with the relationship of sin in the life of a justified person. We have learned from the gospel right from the very beginning, we have seen, Romans 1:16, that the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. And so this powerful message has come to transform us from a dire, literally hopeless situation that we might have eternal hope, that we might have actually eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. And so in Romans 1, 2 and 3, the Apostle Paul makes it clear that both Jew and Gentile alike are all under sin. They're under the dominion of sin and all of us were enslaved to sin. Jesus Himself said, "Everyone who sins is a slave to sin, but if the Son makes you free, you'll be free indeed."

Now, what a joyful thing is it to be free indeed from the bondage and the burden of sin. And this gospel message comes and makes that burden light. It takes it from us. It frees us. It frees us from the guilt of sin, and so in Romans 3, Jesus Christ, dead on the cross is the propitiation, the atoning sacrifice for our sin. And that all we must do (Romans 4 and Romans 5), is have faith in Christ. Have faith alone, not faith plus works, faith plus any accomplishment at all on our part, but simply faith. And so in Romans 5, Paul elevates this sovereign grace, this gift of God's grace. A simple free gift to be received by faith alone. Well, that raises up a question, doesn't it? If salvation, if justification is simply by faith alone, apart from works of the law, then it does it really matter how we live? And we've been wrestling with this question. What about sin in the life of a justified person? How can we explain it? And so, he deals with it in Romans 6 and talks about our spiritual union with Jesus Christ. We died with Christ through faith and we have been raised with Christ through faith. And so he's talking about union.

And all the way through Romans 6 he talks about that union that we have with Jesus Christ. And if we are alive with Christ, we are no longer dead in transgressions and sins. We have actually died to sin. Sin shall not be our master because we're not under law but under grace. Well, if we're not under law, then what is the relationship of the law to the Christian? And that's what he's dealing with right now. And the way he does it is by bringing up this analogy of marriage in Romans 7:1-6. Now, marriage was originally created as a blessed state from God. It is a gift from God. God created a beautiful world, did He not? Don't you see the beauty around you every day? Don't you see it even this morning? I love the fall. I don't know about you, but I'm not much for hazy, hot and humid weather. I really enjoy the cool crisp days, and I think about the changing leaves and all the beauty. And if you think about this whole world that God made, He put beauty in it. He wove His glory into the very fabric of creation, did He not? And so, He created this beautiful world and He filled it with all kinds of living creatures, with fish of the sea and birds of the air, and animals that walk across the earth. But on the sixth day He created man in His image.

And it says in Genesis 1:27 and 28, "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him male and female. He created them and God blessed them and said, 'Be fruitful and increase in number. Fill the earth and subdue it.'" And so, He set before Adam and Eve, before the man and the woman, a challenge to fill the whole earth. And since man and woman are created in the image of God, so also their children would be in the image of God, and so the image of God would be spread over the whole surface of this globe. The earth was already filled with the glory of the Lord. But God intended that the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord. And that was our job. Created in His image, that we would see His beauty. And that we would give Him honor and glory and praise and thanksgiving for what He has done. And so, from the very beginning, marriage was intended to be a blessed and a fruitful state. He said, be fruitful and multiply. Now, what he is speaking about physically there, he then moves over into the spiritual realm here in Romans 7. He talks about bearing fruit for God. Now, we've talked in many places about the image of bearing fruit. God intends you that you should bear fruit in your life. After you have been justified, He begins this process of sanctification.

And in this process of growing up to be like Jesus, you will bear fruit day after day. Fruit for God. Fruit that will last. Eternal fruit. And so, Jesus says in John 15, "I am the vine, and you are the branches. If a man remains in me, and I in him, he will bear much fruit. Apart from me, you can do nothing." And so, there's this picture of fruit that will last through union with Jesus Christ. The picture of the branch and the vine is one of union, is it not? And so, also, we have this picture of marriage in Romans 7.

II. Context: Romans 7 is a Difficult Chapter

Now, Romans 7 is a challenging chapter. Wait 'til we get to the second half where we try to wrestle through the picture of Paul and is Paul speaking as a believer or as a unbeliever. And all of us feel the pull and the wrestling with sin. Well, we'll get to that in due time. But first, we have to understand Romans 7:1-6 and what it means to us that we should be dead to the law.

And so, he picks up this image of marriage. He says, "Do you not know, brothers," verse 1, "For I am speaking to those who know the law, that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives. For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband, as long as he is alive. But if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man." So in that section he's lifting up this issue of marriage as an analogy, he's speaking by way of picture that they might understand the change in their relationship to the law. Why does he pick marriage? Well, because it's a legally binding relationship, it's a covenant, a relationship between two parties, a covenant or a promise. You're bound together 'til death do us part, and that marriage, that covenant was intended to bear fruit.

The problem is that our being bound together to the law never bore fruit for life, but only for death. Our being bound together by the law does not bear fruit for eternal life, and does not glorify God and why? He's going to get to that in the second half of the chapter. In the middle section in Romans 7, he brings up the issue, is there something wrong with the law? Maybe we were married to a bad spouse, maybe if we had a better law, if God had written a better law, we could have born fruit for life by the law. He actually says not at all, the law is holy and righteous and good. There's nothing wrong with the law. Second half of the chapter, there's something wrong with me. I have sin inside me, therefore the law cannot be used to bear fruit.

Now, let me illustrate that for you in perhaps an analogy that you could understand. Suppose the state legislature of North Carolina legislated that on the first Monday of every month, every husband in the state must buy his wife a dozen red roses. Now, all of you women maybe are excited about that, but then think about it. What would those roses mean to you? They could be called in some cases the roses of obligation, right? You have to buy these roses. They don't mean anything to me. They're beautiful roses but they don't mean love to me. You're under compulsion. And so it is with the law. All of the fruit that we bore at that point was fruit of compulsion; at one point, the Jews themselves sniffed under the burden of the sacrificial system and said what a burden it is. And they did it, they cranked it out, but there was no love. How much better is it that we should die to the law and be brought into a whole new relationship with God, a relationship similar to marriage? And that's the very thing that he's seeking to do. He's getting at how we bear fruit for God.

He's talking about in Romans 7:6 that we serve in the new way of the spirit, and not in the old way of the written code, it's a whole new relationship, and that's what he's driving at. I think you could almost miss it. You're talking about this woman, right? In verse 2 and 3, a woman who is bound to her husband as long as her husband is alive, but when her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage so she is free to remarry. But then in verse 4 he says, "So also, brothers, you…" You see the connection? He's continuing on with this marriage analogy, and he is saying, you died. Now, it's a little complicated, because first the woman is alive and her husband dies. So the woman is us in the first analogy and the law is the husband that only bore fruit for death. But we know the law is never going to die, the law is going to be with us to the end of the world. Who is the one that died in the marriage relationship? We died, didn't we? The moment we had faith in Christ, we died with Christ. And then we were raised again to a new life, so now we're free to remarry. The principle is clear, dead people are no longer under the jurisdiction of the law, and we died to the law. And so now we're free to remarry.

III. A New Life: Married to Christ (verse 4)

And who are we going to remarry? Look at verse 4, it says, "So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ that you might belong to another." Do you see the word belong? It's a marriage analogy, that you might be married to another. It's very strong in the original language, doesn't come across as well in English. But you died to the law that you might be able to remarry, that you might belong to another. And who is that to? Him, who is raised from the dead, that we might be married to Christ. We died to the law that we might be married to Christ and so we have this picture of marriage to Christ. Now, as we look across the scripture we see that this is a major theme. And what I'd like us to do together as we think about being married to Christ is look at it in prophecy, the marriage in prophecy, also the marriage in proclamation, the privileges of this marriage, the preparation of the marriage, the purpose of the marriage, and ultimately the perfection of this marriage to Jesus Christ.

Prophecy of this Marriage

Let's start with the prophecy of the marriage, and I refer here to the Old Covenant, the relationship between Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the people of God, Israel. How many times in the prophets does He speak about His people as though they were His spouse? Many times, it's a consistent theme. Look at Jeremiah 2:2-3. It says there, "I remember the devotion of your youth how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the desert through a land not sewn. Israel was holy to the Lord, the first fruits of His harvest." He said, "You remember what it was like in the desert as we were moving through the desert, you were like a bride to me and you followed me as a bride follows her husband." So He's speaking through the prophet Jeremiah about the early days of their relationship and how she was like a bride, or again in Isaiah 54:5, you don't have to look there, but just listen. It says, "For your maker is your husband." Let's think about that. Your maker is your husband. He's speaking to Israel. "Your maker is your husband, the Lord Almighty is His name. The Holy One of Israel is your redeemer. He is called the God of all the earth."

And so that relationship, that covenantly binding relationship between Israel and Yahweh, was likened in the Old Covenant to a marriage. She was his bride and he was her groom, her husband. And so therefore when Israel sinned, it was like committing adultery. And so the prophets use this kind of analogy. In Jeremiah 3:14, he says, "'Return, faithless people,' declares the Lord, 'For I am your husband,'" He says. "I am your husband." The prophet Hosea was commanded to marry a prostitute to symbolize in his marriage and in his physical life the struggle spiritually between God and faithless Israel. And so he was commanded, Hosea, to marry Gomer, a woman of unfaithfulness, and he had to labor to keep her interested in him. And so it was with Israel and God.

And Israel's restitution in the latter days is likened to the reestablishment of marriage with God. Isaiah 62:5, "As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you." And so it is, it's a beautiful picture in prophecy, a picture of marriage between the people of God and God Himself.

Proclamation of this Marriage

But then in the New Covenant, we have a proclamation of this marriage, and it begins with John the Baptist. John the Baptist was in many senses the final Old Covenant prophet. He came out of the wilderness with a powerful message for Israel. And he spoke to them, and people began to follow him, they began to listen to his preaching. And he had a large following, and he baptized them. And they were his disciples.

Well, in John 3, they hear that Jesus is attracting more disciples than John was, Jesus is more popular than John, everybody's going after Jesus. And John's disciples come to him and they're very troubled by this. And they say, "Everybody's going after that man that you pointed to in the desert. They're all going after Jesus." And John responds this way. "The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who waits and listens for him, is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete." What is he saying? The bridegroom's here, and the bride's going over to him. Who is the bride? It's the people of God, and they're going over to their bridegroom, Jesus Christ. It's just the way it should be. He must increase and I must decrease.

And so in prophecy and in proclamation, we have by John the Baptist this marriage. Jesus Himself proclaimed it, didn't He? He talked about it often. He made an open statement in Matthew 9:14 and 15, "John's disciples came to Him and asked Him, 'How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples don't fast?' Jesus answered, 'How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them. In those days, they will fast.'" So He speaks of Himself clearly as the bridegroom. And then in Parables, many times He talks about the wedding banquet. The Kingdom of Heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. By the way, we're in that preparation time now, aren't we? For 2,000 years the King has been preparing a wedding banquet for his Son. And the invitation's going out to come to the wedding banquet, to come and sit at table, and to be part of that great wedding banquet of the Lamb of God.

But He's speaking in parable form, and He's saying, "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son." And then in Matthew 25:1, "At that time the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom." And so both in open statement and in parable form, Jesus speaks of this marriage. And then the Apostle Paul proclaims it as well. Look, if you will, turn over to Ephesians 5, and there in Ephesians he talks about the relationship between a husband and wife, and likens it to the relationship between Christ and His church. We're going to talk a little bit more about that in a minute, so you can just keep it open there. It's such a significant passage. But in Ephesians 5:31-32, Paul writes, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery, but I am talking about Christ and His church." So what Paul is saying there is that every marriage, every union between a husband and wife, is a picture of Christ and His church. And so the Apostle Paul understood his ministry in this way.

2 Corinthians 11:2, he's speaking to the Corinthian church, a divided, a carnal, a sinful church. And speaking to them as they're mingling with the world, and tempted and drawn into sin. He's speaking of his own ministry. 2 Corinthians 11:2. He says, "I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, that I might present you as a pure virgin to Him." You see what he's saying? The church is Jesus's, and my role as an apostle, says Paul, is to present you pure as a virgin to Christ, your true bridegroom. So I believe also pastors and teachers have that same responsibility, that the church is Jesus's, and that the job of a pastor/teacher is to present the church to Christ as a pure virgin, undefiled by the world in which we live. And so Paul also likens the relationship between Christ and the church to marriage. And so we see the proclamation of this marriage.

Privileges of this Marriage

Thirdly, we see the privileges of this marriage. What a treasure chest is this, this is incredible. I stopped at six, we could have kept going. But with all marriages you see traditionally the bride taking the name of the bridegroom. And so also, we take the name of Jesus Christ.

The Apostle said in Acts 4, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men, by which we must be saved." We get saved by calling on the name of Jesus Christ. And so if we are in his name, we are saved. We take His name upon us through faith, don't we? And so the disciples in Acts 19:5, on hearing this gospel message it says, "They were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus." And so we are baptized into His name. In Revelation 22:4 it says they, the people of God, "will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads." There's a sense of ownership, a sense of authority, and a sense of possession that we are His. It says that in verse 4, the passage we're looking at, that we died to the law, that we might belong to another. We are His, and we're called by His name.

Secondly, we also share His standing and His position. First of all, in terms of perfect righteousness. How does God the Father see God the Son? Perfectly righteous. And so also we share the righteousness of Jesus Christ. The Father speaks to the Son and He says, "Your throne, oh God, will last forever and ever and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore, God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy." That's how the Father looks at the Son. How does He look at us who are united with the Son? The exact same way. We share His righteousness, we're in the righteousness of Jesus Christ and so that's our standing, we share His righteousness. We also share His position, He's a son, an honored son. Well, how would it be, let's say, for a king, and the son, what is the relationship between the bride of the son? Is she not a family member? Is she not taken in as a daughter-in-law, beloved? And so also we will be called and are called children of God. As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God through union with Jesus Christ, and no other way. Through our union with Christ we are called children of God.

We also share His protection, don't we? In John 17:12 Jesus says in His priestly prayer, He's praying for His people, in John 17:12 He says, "While I was with them I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None of them has been lost." Think about that, "While I was with them I kept them safe by the name of God and none of them has been lost," and so, His protection has to do with His people not being lost. He protects them in this world from sin and from attack, He protects His bride out of His intense love for her, He protects her from outside threats, doesn't He? Outside threats or persecution, for example. Remember what He said to that persecutor, Saul of Tarsus, he said, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? You're persecuting my body, you're persecuting my bride," and so He takes it very personally when any government or any people attack His church. He protects them from attacks from without, but He also protects from attacks from within and that is sin, isn't it?

Aren't we prone to wander? Don't you feel it? Don't you feel in your heart how prone you are to sin? And we're going to get to that in the rest of Romans 7, but we've got this sin inside us, don't we? And it is dangerous, it is deadly. Sin is more deadly to us and more dangerous than the devil himself. And He protects us from our own sin, doesn't He? What does He say in James 4:4-6? He says, "You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God." Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. [Listen to this], Or do you think that scripture says without reason that the Spirit that He caused to live in us envies intensely?" The Holy Spirit is jealous over His people, is He not? And when we start to wander and stray into worldliness, there's a spirit of jealousy, like a husband over his bride. And so, He protects us from our own sin, He disciplines us, He chastens us and will not allow us to wander into sin, He shares His protection. He also shares His possessions. Jesus in that priestly prayer in John 17:10, He said to the Father, "All I have is yours and all you have is mine." Isn't that beautiful? Doesn't He say that to His bride too? All of Jesus' things, they're ours, isn't that incredible?

It says of Jesus in Hebrews 1:2, it says, "In his last days, He has spoken to us by His son whom He appointed to be heir of all things." Jesus is going to get it all, He's the inheritor of all things, all things are Jesus', He's the heir of all things. But then, remarkably, it says in Romans 4:13, "It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith." What does that mean? Jesus is heir of all things, Abraham is heir of the world, how can that be? Well, Abraham is part of the bride of Jesus Christ. And so, all His possessions become ours. What does He say in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:5? "Blessed are the meek for they will inherit... " What? "The earth." We get it all. 1 Corinthians 3:21-22, Paul says, "No more boasting about men, all things are yours." All things are yours, you get it all. Why struggle over material possessions and position in this world, and honor, and all of those things? You're going to get it all. Why struggle over it now? God is going to give it to you as an inheritance. You just fulfill your mission as God has commanded, you do the work that God's called you to do and don't worry about what you get in this life and in this world.

Whether reputation, or esteem from people, or material possessions, or any of those things and why? Because you're going to get it all, all things are yours. He says "whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or the present or the future, all things are yours…" And so we share His possessions. We also share His glory and His throne, we will see His glory, not just the reflected glory of this physical creation, we will see His glory directly. The very thing that Moses could never bear to see, the full glory of God we will see it. "Father, I want those whom you have given me to be with me where I am and to see my glory." Don't you want to see His glory? Aren't you hungry for it? I know I am, hungry to see His glory, and we will see it by His promise. We will also be transformed by it, we will actually share His glory, we will be glorified. John 17:22,"I have given them the glory you gave me." I've given them the glory you gave me and so, we have His glory, it's bestowed upon us through Christ. And we will also share His position, we will share His throne, we will reign with Him forever and ever, it says in in Revelation 3:21, "To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on His throne." And so, we share His glory and His throne,

And sixthly, we will share His intimate love. Is there not an intense and an intimate love between a husband and a wife? There should be, it's an exclusive relationship and a passionate one. And so, Jesus says to us in Jeremiah 31, "I have loved you with an everlasting love." Heaven and earth cannot separate you from my love, nothing can separate you from the love of Christ. There's an intense and intimate love that we will share forever in heaven. So this is the privilege of this marriage.

Preparation for this marriage

What is the preparation for this marriage? Why do I speak of preparation? Because we're not fully married yet, I don't mean to shock you, but in the ancient Near East there was a betrothal, you remember, between Joseph and Mary? And then there was a period of time before the actual wedding day. We haven't come to the wedding day yet, have we? The invitations are still going out, the bride is not complete, she's not fully ready yet. And so, the wedding day hasn't come, we are betrothed to Christ and that's a binding relationship. In the ancient Near East that you had to get a divorce to break that.

Remember how Joseph contemplated divorcing Mary even though they weren't even married yet, but that's how binding the betrothal was, and so it is for us. We are betrothed to Jesus Christ, we are bound to Him, and we will be married, that's why that parable of five wise and five foolish virgins, you got to be ready when the bridegroom comes, when the wedding day comes you need to be ready, and so we have to be prepared for marriage. Well, how does Christ prepare us for the marriage? Look again, I told you to wait at Ephesians 5, look at it. Ephesians 5:25-27 shows how Christ prepared us for marriage.

Look what it says in Ephesians 5:25-27, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church, and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless." That explains how Christ got His bride ready for the wedding. Look what it says, husbands love your wives just as Christ love the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy. What is that referring to? Justification, do you see it? He died on the cross, taking our sins on Himself, and in His death we find our holiness, we are made holy through the death of Jesus Christ. Jesus gave himself up for His bride, He died for her that she might be holy. That's justification. Then what does it say?

"To make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word." What is that? Sanctification, the ongoing ministry of the word of God. As faithful preachers preach the word, the church grows up in holiness. It gets ready for its wedding day, it's being made holy, it's being transformed little by little by the washing with water through the word, little by little the church is being made ready for her wedding day. And then finally it says, "And to present her to Himself as a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish but holy and blameless." That's the beautiful day of glorification in which the church is radiant and shining and ready for that day. This is how Jesus gets His bride ready for the day, He prepares her for it through justification, through sanctification and through glorification.

Purpose of this marriage

Well, what is the purpose of the marriage? Well, I already told you the purpose of all marriage is fruitfulness, He wants fruit, eternal fruit. Look at verse 4 in our passage again, in Romans 7:4, "In order that we might bear fruit for God," it says. So you also die to the law through the body of Christ, in order that you might belong to another, to Him who is raised from the dead, so that or in order of that we might bear fruit for God.

Can a Christian live in sin? Openly, forsaking all righteousness? Can we just sin as much as we want? You don't understand the marriage, you don't understand what new life is all about. We don't just receive forgiveness of sins, we receive a spouse, we receive a God who stands united with us, and will not permit us to live that way.  Rather that we bear fruit for Him, eternal fruit, fruit that will last. Now, every marriage is intended to bear fruit, we know that sadly in this sin-cursed world not every marriage can have physical offspring, children, but that's the usual intention of God in bringing a man and a woman together, that there should be children, that the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord.

It says in Malachi 2:15, "Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are His and why one, because He was seeking godly offspring." He wanted children. "So guard yourself and your spirit and do not break faith with the wife of your youth." "I hate divorce," says God. But His intention was that there should be godly offspring, godly homes training up children in righteousness. Alright, well, that's the physical side.

So also we have spiritual offspring here, fruit for God, that we bear fruit for God, that we bear fruit through our union with Jesus Christ. And what does that mean? What is fruit?  Well, anything that God leads you to do in service to Him, evangelism, people led to Christ, that's fruit for God, isn't it? Deeds done and the humility that comes from righteousness, isn't that fruit for God? Isn't it fruit for God for all of you to use your spiritual gifts? Is it not fruit for God for you to contribute to the needs of others generously and cheerfully? Is it not fruit for God to come to worship and offer up the sacrifice of praise the fruit of lips that bear His name? Is that not fruit for God? All of these things are fruit, and He wants fruit from us, and then finally we see the perfection of this marriage.

Turn, if you will, to Revelation 19:7-8 as we close. There is in all of our aspect with God now, in our experience in the gospel, an already and not yet aspect. In one sense we're already married to Christ, in one sense we're not yet married to Christ, already and not yet. We do not have the fullness yet, the perfection of the marriage waits, when the bridegroom comes the union happens, the wedding banquet of the Lamb will occur, and it's described in Revelation 19, look at verses 7-8, "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." What does a bride do to get ready for her wedding day that morning? Some of you remember all the work you put into your appearance. Getting your hair just right, your face, getting the most perfect dress, I hope you already had it picked out by then. It's no small thing to pick out a wedding dress, I've heard. I went on the Internet recently and tried to find and there are just infinite wedding dresses out there, aren't there?

I don't know anything about this kind of thing. But I looked up and I saw that the most expensive dress, wedding dress that there was, was available for $7.3 million. And it involved diamonds in platinum settings sewn into the hem and in different places in the dress. Now, if you can afford that, you will be well adorned for your wedding day. I don't know that there's a husband on earth that would be worthy of a wife like that. That's incredible. And the principle is that you're going to look your best on your wedding day. And here in Revelation 19, it says, "The bride's made herself ready." She is all ready. She looks beautiful. She's radiant. She's glorious. It's interesting that her actions and her activities are part of it.

She has made herself ready. And so, it is in Ephesians 4 that through spiritual gifts and through our involvement in witness and all that, that we lead others to Christ. We build others up in their walks with God. We are included in the work. We are making ourselves ready. The Church of Christ is built up as each part does its work, right? So the bride is making herself ready every day. But we're not finished yet.

And then it says, verse 8, "Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." Well, here's another outside person giving something to the bride. Well, he's giving her dress and that's coming from God. The righteousness, it is a symbol of righteousness. Fine linen stands for the righteousness or the righteous acts of the saints. And we have a righteousness from God and then we have the gifts of righteous deeds done by the power of the Spirit. You see? And so, every day the bride gets herself ready by standing in the righteousness of Jesus Christ and doing righteous deeds by the power of the Holy Spirit. And so, we will be adorned in those righteous deeds on our great wedding day. That's the perfection of the marriage, not finished yet, because the bride is still dirty, unclean, sinful, unsaved.

Some of the people haven't come to Christ yet, the church is still divided. Individual congregations are divided through carnality. The body of Christ widely is divided through denominationalism. We're not finished yet. The bride's not ready, but He's going to get her ready. And she, through the working and through the following of the Spirit, walking in those good deeds, "for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance that we should walk in them." Through those righteous acts we make ourselves ready for our wedding day. And what is the consummation? Look what it says in Revelation 21, "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and there was no longer any sea. I saw the holy city, [That's the people of God, folks] the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband." Isn't that great? The new Jerusalem coming down and she's ready. She's prepared as a bride, beautifully dressed for that eternal marriage union in heaven with Jesus Christ. Amen. Can't wait. Are you going to be there? Are you included? Are you included by faith in Jesus Christ? I hope so.

You don't want to miss it, because if you're not included, you're going to be cast outside in the darkness where there's weeping and gnashing of teeth. There's no other option. Either you're included in the bride of Christ, or you're condemned for eternity. Are you included?

IV. Application

Four applications. Number one, they all begin with H, the four H club. Happiness, holiness, harvest and hope. Number one, happiness. Rejoice at the security of this relationship. Is there any more secure relationship in this world than marriage? I'm so sorry for the burgeoning divorce statistics. It's a tragedy, it's a sin, but there is no more secure relationship than that husband and wife Covenant relationship. And this one will never end. Rejoice, be happy at the love that Jesus Christ has shown you, to call you His spouse.

Second H, holiness. Realize that Jesus Christ will never tolerate for a moment an unclean, faithless, wandering bride. And so, the moment we start to wander, He will come after us. When we go after worldly pleasures and sins, it arouses in Him a spirit of jealousy that you cannot imagine. The spirit that He caused to live in us envies intensely, it says. Akin to a husband coming around a corner at an office party and seeing his wife embracing another man. Completely unacceptable to God. When we get involved in worldliness, worldly ways of thinking, sinfulness, friendship of the world has hatred toward God. We must be holy. His bride will be holy and pure on that day.

Thirdly, harvest. Christ expects His bride to bear fruit daily. Following in the power of the Spirit, we serve in the new way of the spirit and not in the old way of the written code. We have a whole new way of serving God now, and everything we do bears fruit for him.

And then finally hope. Be filled with joy at what awaits you. I've said it before, I'll say it again. If you're a Christian, the best is yet to come. All of your best things are in the future. There's nothing you've experienced in this life that even compares to the wedding banquet of the lamb and being included in the bride of Jesus Christ. Nothing. I don't care how great a life you've had. Conversely, there's no misery or grief or suffering or trial that you're going through that is even worthy of comparing with what He's going to give you on that final day. It doesn't matter how much grief and suffering and trial we go through. None of it compares with what He will give us on that day.

Set your hope on things to come. Set your hope on Christ. One final thing, if you're still in Revelation, turn to Revelation 22:17. Look what it says. Revelation 22:17, "The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come.'" You see that? Isn't that powerful? "The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come.'" Who are they speaking to? The world. Unbelievers. Unregenerate people. And the Spirit and the bride together testify and say the same thing. And what do they say? "Come." "The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come.' And let him who hears say, 'Come.' And whoever is thirsty, let him come. And whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life." Come to Christ. Come and be part of His bride. Don't trust in your good works anymore. We only ever bore fruit for death by the law. Come and receive the free gift, not only of righteousness, but of an indwelling spirit that bears forth fruit for eternal life. Won't you pray with me?

I'd like to ask that you just quiet your hearts for a moment as we pray. Lord Jesus, you are the lover of our soul. You poured out your blood on the cross, that our souls might not suffer eternal loss. You loved us with an everlasting and an eternal love, a love unshakable even by death. And you rose again from the dead that we might have newness of life and walk in that newness of life. Oh, God, I pray that you would work out that newness of life in us as the people of God. Father, I pray that we would have done with sin, putting it to death by the power of the Spirit. I pray that we would walk in that newness of life, bearing forth eternal fruit for your glory. And Father, if there's anyone here in this room today who has never come to Christ, I pray that they would hear what the Spirit says and what the bride says. That they would come to Christ, and that they might have complete forgiveness through the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ for their sins. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

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