On Sunday 18 October 2020, Apostle Peter Thompson conducted the morning divine service at Durbanville congregation. This divine service was conducted in English and interpreted into South African Sign Language at the altar by Beryl Botha.
He was accompanied by Bishop V Fischer, the local ministers from the Durbanville congregation, a small music ensemble and the NACTV crew. This divine service was made available on NACTV, Cape Town TV on DSTV channel 263, as well as Radio KC, Radio Teemaneng Infinity FM and SABIE stereo. Members could also listen to the divine service by calling in from either a mobile phone or landline. This divine service was also streamed live on the NACTV Facebook page.
For members who were unable to watch the divine service, please find a detailed summary of the sermon:
Opening Hymn: Awake (EH:121)
Bible word: "And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, 'In you, all the nations shall be blessed.' So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham." (Galatians 3:8-9)
My dear brothers and sisters, I bid you all a very hearty welcome to this divine service. And as we gather here today, and also those who are connected to us today, we can reflect on the words the soloist sang, ‘Wholly thine am I, My Saviour’. We wholly belong to the Lord – may that be our attitude today. As it says, ‘as we gather here in fellowship today, we are Yours wholly dear Lord, we open our hearts to You’, and we are prepared to accept what You provide through Your word with faithfulness – that is our attitude now – ‘Wholly thine am I, My Saviour’.
I have read a word out of the book of Galatians. It was a letter that Paul wrote to this congregation. It was a letter to the Galatians, and I must say that the letter was a very strongly worded letter. Paul seemed to be a bit upset with the congregation because there seemed to be some problems and disputes. In fact, in the first verse of the third chapter, it says, ‘Oh foolish Galatians!’ What was happening there; there was very strong lobbying in the congregation who insisted that those who converted to Christianity, in essence, the Gentiles – the non-Jews, should conform to the law of Moses. Even to the extent that the males should be circumcised. In fact, they thought that they should become Jews in order to be saved. And Paul made it very clear to the congregation of Galatians that non-Jews do not have to submit to the law of Moses in order to be saved. He made it clear that to receive salvation, only faith in Jesus Christ matters – nothing else. And in our Bible word, Paul says that in Holy Scripture it was already foreseen that the Gentiles will be saved by faith. And he also mentions that the gospel was already preached to Abraham when God said to him, 'In you, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.' That promise from God was an element of the gospel made known to Abraham – 'In you, all nations shall be blessed', not only a certain number – all nations of the earth will be blessed through you. And then in the Bible word, Paul says further that we rely on our faith. If we can have a faith of Abraham, then we will also experience the blessing and favour of God.
Dear brothers and sisters, this we want to take to heart. Today, this prominent biblical character, Abraham, the father of faith, will feature very strongly in our divine service. And if we want to experience God’s favour and God’s blessing, we must follow the example of Abraham. And the example is very simple: he had complete trust in God’s word. And the message of the divine service today is to believe which means to have steadfast, unwavering trust in the word of God – that is the essence of the service today. To believe means to have steadfast, unwavering trust in the word of God.
Now, let us go to Abraham’s life, his relationship with God, his faith and out of that we can draw parallels with ourselves. So, let us start at the beginning. Abraham’s father’s name was Terah, and Terah decided to relocate from Ur, Ur is in the Persian Gulf, and together with his son Abraham and his grandson, Lot, they decided to move from this place. They then sailed up the river and settled in Haran. And it was in Haran when God asked Abraham to leave his family, to leave his homeland and what he was used to and to go to an unknown country. And in this country where God asked him to go to, there God promised that he would bless him. Now, just imagine that. You must uproot from your family and go to a place that you don’t even know where it is. Now we see Abraham’s attitude. Abraham did not seek an explanation from God. He could have asked God why He couldn’t bless him in his homeland, or why must he go somewhere else to be blessed? He could have asked the questions, why must he leave everything? Why is this so important? Abraham trusted God’s word and followed His instructions. And when one looks at Abraham’s move to this new land, the blessing that God had promised him was not evident immediately. In fact, when he arrived in this new land, the first thing he encountered was famine. He could have asked, ‘but where is the blessing of God?’ And then also one looks at him in this new land, he was effectively a stranger for the rest of his life in this new land. He was never able to acquire land in this place God had sent him to. The only piece of land he acquired in this new country he was sent to was the piece of land and cave he bought for the burial of his wife. But he never had land there. So, this blessing God had promised him was not evident immediately, and he could have asked where is this blessing? In fact, the full blessing only became evident after Abraham’s life had ended. It became evident in his descendants.
Let us take that parallel into our lives. God has also promised us a new land if I can put it that way. He promised us eternal happiness, everlasting joy in His kingdom, if we follow the way of Jesus Christ. If you do this, you can inherit everlasting joy and happiness in His kingdom. And when one reflects upon this, we don’t really know anything about this kingdom. Paul already said, “Eyes have not seen, ears have not heard what God has gone to prepare for us.” We do not know anything about this kingdom. In fact, we do not even have tangible proof that this kingdom exists. And there might be questions. If we want to experience eternal happiness, why does God not eliminate evil on this earth and we all can be happy? Maybe the question, why do we have to leave this earth to experience eternal happiness? And the simple answer is - we just do not know. We don’t know why. We don’t always understand the way of our God. In Isaiah, we read the very well-known words of God where He says, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways”, says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” We do not understand; we just don’t know. Dear brothers and sisters, let us be satisfied with the word and promise that God has given us. He said, “In My kingdom, you will experience everlasting joy and happiness.” Let us believe and trust in that word. Let us put complete trust in that promise and follow the way of Jesus Christ. What is the way of Jesus Christ? Simply: it is the gospel. If we follow the gospel, we will reach that Promised Land, and we will experience the everlasting joy that God has promised us.
And, in essence, if we follow the way of the gospel, we are strangers in a world dominated by evil. Our faithfulness to the gospel makes us strangers in this world of evil. We have to swim against the stream. We have to reject opinions, values and principles that are popular but is not in line with the gospel. Sometimes adherence to the gospel makes our lives more difficult because you have to go against what society dictates – you have to adhere to the gospel. But let us resolve to keep trusting the word of God because He keeps His promises. What He has promised us, He will fulfil.
Let us go back to the life of Abraham. God promised Abraham that He and his son would be the origin of a great nation. However, we know his wife, Sarah, remained barren for many years. Abraham and Sarah then decided that maybe Abraham should have a child with his servant, Hagar. And they decided that he should have a child with her, and that child would be the child who would be this promised heir of Abraham. But God made it clear that He did not approve of this plan. He made it clear that the promised son must be born to Sarah. Abraham believed this promise even though it seemed unrealistic – just think about it. Abraham was 99 years old when he received this promise while Sarah was 90 years old. It is totally unrealistic; how can this happen? This was a totally unrealistic promise. Abraham believed, even against all odds, he believed and trusted the words of God. And then the impossible happened. Sarah gave birth to Isaac. Now, let us take this parallel into our lives. Jesus Christ promised to return and to take us into His kingdom. He established the church of Christ. He commissioned His Apostles to prepare us for His return. 2000 years later, He still hasn’t come and we are still waiting for this promise to be fulfilled. Applying our human understanding to this promise, it just makes the First Resurrection, the return of Jesus Christ to come and take us unto Himself, totally and completely unrealistic. How is this all going to happen? How are we going to transform? How are we going to ascend? What will take place? It defies all logic. But that was the promise we have received. And, to make matters worse, we know we are being prepared as children of God, by God’s servants for this wonderful future, and then the evil one is very keen to point out the imperfections of the servants, and of us all. We are going to this land, but we are so imperfect and make so many mistakes. And then there are some believers that say we must be more creative in how we interpret the gospel - ‘Maybe you must look at what Jesus said a bit differently; maybe He didn’t quite mean what He said; maybe you should look at a different angle to what Jesus said.’ Dear brothers and sisters, let us stand by God’s word and let us trust Him. The Lord will return to take us unto Himself, those who have been reborn out of water and the Spirit and have been prepared by the Apostles of Jesus Christ. He will return – He will fulfil His promise. Let us trust in His promise.
And then we go back to Abraham’s life. Many years later, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac as a burnt offering. Now that also doesn’t make sense. Here is this son, this promised son, this blessing that God has given Abraham, and now God asks him to sacrifice his son as a burnt offering. God did not tell him and explain to him why he wanted to take back this blessing He gave him. There was no explanation. And God did not question this apparent contradiction. ‘Why does God give me a son and tell me that through this son a great nation will emerge, and now I must sacrifice this son?’ He didn’t question this at all. He remained obedient. In fact, he wanted to sacrifice his son and God stopped him. God tested his faith. But he was obedient, trusted in the word and did what God had asked of him. Now we can once again take a parallel for ourselves dear brothers and sisters. Sometimes, God takes away those who we love the most. Sometimes, He takes away the blessings He has given us. And in situations like this when things are taken away which are dear to us, we just cannot understand the deeds and the ways of God – it doesn’t make sense. When one looks at our Church; for a long time, God has blessed the works of His children, and the Church has developed remarkably. Today, the situation is very different. The time of development of the work of God is not so anymore. In fact, in many parts of the Western world, Christianity is on the decline. And we cannot explain why things are as they are. In fact, in the last few months, we were deprived of attending divine services as we were used to doing. We were deprived of celebrating Holy Communion which is so dear to us and we know for a fact that the Lord made it clear that fellowship in Christ and worshipping together, listening to His word, participating in the celebration of Holy Communion are essential for our salvation, yet He takes it away. Why did it happen? Like Abraham, let us humble ourselves before God and let us continue to trust Him - that is our response.
And then, I want to make the last example out of Abraham. You know, Abraham wasn’t always an example in his behaviour. He acted in a very cowardly manner when he abandoned his wife and basically handed her over to the Pharaoh of Egypt because he was afraid for his own life. A bit cowardly and not what you would expect from this great character in the Bible. There was a time that he allowed Sarah to mistreat Hagar and did nothing about it. Sarah mistreated Hagar in a very bad way and he did nothing to stop this mistreatment of this servant of his wife. When he received the promise that Sarah would bear him a son, do you know what he did? He fell down and he laughed. He had a laugh about this promise that he received from the Lord. When one looks at that, he wasn’t very exemplary in his conduct. What did God do? God did not condemn Abraham’s weaknesses. All God did was to consider Abraham’s faith and because of his faith, He granted him grace and mercy. God does not require us to be perfect or blameless, that we must live a perfect life. We are human beings, and He understands that. We fail, often. He only asks one thing of us: that we trust completely in His word until the end. That is what Abraham did. And when we do that, His blessing and favour will rest upon us.
So, to summarise the divine service in a few points to remember the message: to believe means to have steadfast and unwavering trust in the word of God. Let us remain firm in our faith. Let us remain firm in what we believe. What do we believe? We believe in eternal happiness and everlasting joy in God’s kingdom. We believe in Jesus Christ and His gospel. We believe in Jesus’ promise to return and to take us to Himself. We believe in the church of Christ, and we believe in the apostolate. Come, let us be firm in that faith and not waiver no matter what. We believe and persevere until the end. We know that God grants salvation to those who trust in His word completely, and we are convinced the word of God will be fulfilled. Amen.
Thoughts from Apostle Peter Thompson