On Sunday 31 October 2021, Apostle Robert Worship conducted the central AVT divine service at Silvertown congregation.
He was accompanied by District Elder Anthony Eckhardt, a 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 and SABIE stereo. 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: O boundless joy, there is salvation! (EH:331)
Bible word: ‘Christ… being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah.’ (1 Peter 3:18-20)
My dear brothers and sisters, when one hears the music being so beautifully rendered, then the musicians do not help the officiant at all. One can understand how much those words mean to us at different times in our lives. I don't know the exact origin of this version of the hymn. But I do know the words of the Emmaus disciples when they were with Jesus, and there were things they didn't understand. They had an understanding of how Scripture should unfold and what should happen around Easter time. And then there was a little bit of a timing difference. They didn't understand. And we know the story. They walked and the one couldn't help the other one. They were so disappointed by the fact that Scripture didn't unfold the way they understood it, until Jesus joined them. And then Jesus spoke. And it says that He took them back to the beginning of scriptures. And only when they understood the message the way Jesus brought it. Only when they were in His presence when they had a meal together, could they say these words which our soloist sang to us now. Stay with us - Abide with us - Stay a little bit longer. Only then they recognized the Saviour. That is not something I thought about when I prepared for the divine service. But maybe that's a good lesson for us. An image for us. When we realize the presence of the Lord Jesus in our lives, we would not want Him to leave. We would want Him to stay. Our Chief Apostle says the more you learn to know Jesus Christ, the more you will learn to love Jesus Christ. And I want to say that's exactly how it is. The more we experience His presence, the more you would want Him to stay with you. The more we would want to say what the soloist sang “abide with me”. Stay with me. I love being here with You because You put things into perspective.
We have a Bible word today taken out of first Peter. And the Bible word speaks about, I want to say something that we as New Apostolic know, as Christians know, but it's good that we are reminded of the period in which we live and the heart of our Saviour Jesus Christ. Peter, I think by all accounts, sounds like he is the author of these words. He reminds us of a universal profession of Christians. From the first Creeds, the early church Creeds. The Apostle’s Creed. The Apostolicism as it is called. The Nicene Creed. The Nicene-Constantinople Creed. And even the creed of the New Apostolic Church. Our creed is broken up into ten Articles of Faith. Our second Article of Faith says, ‘I believe in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried, entered the realm of the dead, rose again from the dead on the third day, and ascended into heaven. He is seated at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty, from where He will return.’ ‘He entered the realms of the dead.’ That's our Bible word. And that is an all-encompassing, unifying statement that Christians profess all around the world. In some denominations, you have to do a weekly profession of this Creed. So, it's great that we are reminded of this unifying message that Christ went into the realms of the dead. Now I know the young people are not so excited when we speak about this. I remember when I was a District Evangelist, a young sister said to me after the service, ‘District Evangelist, Granny likes listening to that stuff. I don't like hearing about the dead’. So, one can understand that it's not something we can fully understand. But today, we want to understand that Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the living and of the dead. When we think of this event, it's beyond any event, it's more than just an event.
When Jesus died, He was buried in the tomb. I think we know the story. And then His Spirit went into the realm of the dead. Christ is true God and true man. It's difficult to separate the two. It cannot be separated. So, He went into the realms of the dead. And one may ask but what does this mean? In some churches, I hear they say He went into the realms of hell. Some speak about the word from the Old Testament, the sheol and the dark place. Jesus went there to preach the message of salvation. Dear brothers and sisters, if we read in John 5:25, we read what it says, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.’ And that's what Jesus Christ did. When we think about it. it's not just a once-off event. Jesus Christ going into the realm of the dead is an indication of His nature, His love for all mankind. So dear brothers and sisters, we connect with this universal truth today. We connect with this universal profession of Christians around the world. Jesus entered the realms of the dead to preach to those there.
There may be lots of questions. Here it says, He went and He preached to those in the time of Noah. Now there were some people in Bible history that were known, I want to say, for all the wrong reasons. They were known for the things they did that were not so positive. And the people of the time of Noah were definitely like that. We read that in Genesis. There was evil abounding on the earth. It's as if the people had forgotten what God had done for them. They had forgotten about the beautiful sacrifices. The story of Jacob and Esau. It's as if they had forgotten all of that. And they lived in this time where they only lived for themselves. They had no time for God. They cut themselves off from anything godly. The Lord God said of those people that He must take them away because no good will come from them. He said evil is multiplied from one to the other. And so, this reference to the people of Noah is quite significant, that God only found in Noah a righteous man whom He could save. And then along with his family, he was saved. The Lord Jesus also referenced the time of Noah. He said in His time, before I come to fetch you, you will live in a period like it was in the time of Noah. It's significant dear brothers and sisters. And then after all of that, Jesus Christ goes to the people who lived in the time of Noah. What is great about this? Here is a reference made to people who actually lived. Some of the parables that Jesus told, some of the accounts of Jesus Christ have been a little bit vague by hiding the identity of some people. We read in some instances in Scripture, and it says, He came and there was a blind man. And there was a rich man. And there was a widow. People were mentioned in general terms. Almost like they were living in the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) times. The identity was covered. Here, Jesus and the Apostle Peter, they are clear on who they are talking about. The people of the time of Noah. The disobedient people. They were known by their actions. And now the Saviour Jesus Christ, He goes to those people. And dear brothers and sisters, this is an action that shows Jesus’ love for every human being. He went to those, I want to say, the ungodly of historical times. He went to preach the gospel. That shows the mercy of the Saviour. That shows the heart of the Saviour. That also shows to us that Jesus Christ is the Saviour for all people, of all times, of all places. He can be the Saviour for everyone. Jesus was not just the Saviour for His contemporaries, the people who heard Him, the people who saw Him perform miracles, His disciples. He was there for them. So, we see, on the one hand, Jesus went to those who needed Him the most. Who was the most remote from Him as the Saviour.
But then, after His resurrection, He also came to His own. He came back to Jerusalem where it all started. He came back to those who believed in Him. And what is significant about what happed after His resurrection? He only came to those who had accepted His message when He was alive. We know He met Mary Magdalene. She was the first one who met Him. He met Mary, the mother of James. He met the 10 disciples without Thomas. He met the 11 disciples when Thomas was with them. He met over 500 disciples. He met many people after His resurrection. He came to His own and those who believed. He did not only go to those who were, I almost want to say, the ungodly. Those who had a reputation for not following God. He also went to those who accepted Him. Those who loved Him. Those who believed in His message. If I could draw a line from the not so good to the very good, Jesus covered everyone. That's how He tells us today, I am the God of the dead, the spiritually dead I want to say too, and of the living, those who live and thrive in their faith.
Next Sunday, in the New Apostolic Church, we have what we call the service for the departed. And I may say to us in the congregation, even if we have very little to do with it, the mercy of the Saviour will still prevail. All that we want to do, we want to connect with the heart of the Saviour. We want to be able to pray. We want to be able to intercede. We want to be able to connect with what the Saviour wants to do for mankind. And we cannot do that and only think about Jesus. For ourselves - If Jesus went to the most ungodly. If Jesus went to the very faithful, then that should be reflected in my life too. May our Creeds be this profession. What we believe of Jesus Christ. He loved us. He wants all man to be saved. He wants everyone from every time period to experience His grace. And it's only possible with Him, not with us.
We know that death has a particular meaning for mankind. I don't know if you know people, but I know very few people who are not scared of death. Afraid of dying. Afraid of what will happen. In fact, when I was a Priest, I had a good friend who was also a Priest. We often shared light moments and beautiful moments in the sacristy. And then he was diagnosed with a terminal illness. He was a Priest who had a strong faith. He was not weak. He knew his faith. He often would have words for us as Priests in the sacristy that helped to centre our thinking and preparation for the divine service. And then days before he died, he said to me, ‘Robert, I'm scared of dying’. And it was all about the unknown. And that's how it is for us. That's how it is maybe for the one or the other who find themselves in a similar situation. The Lord Jesus comes right into our time today. And He says, I'm with you even in those moments. I will be with you in those parting moments. He's not just restricted to the living. He takes us into the realm of the dead also. I know not everybody wants to hear that. That's a godly reality for all of us. Jesus Christ took away every stigma that death has had. Satan, I want to say, he ruled with death. From the Old Testament time, we know Jesus entered the realms of the dead and he, showed I live here also. I can give grace here too. I can be prevalent with my Spirit, with my word. I can be here too. So dear brothers and sisters, we want to take away our doubts as far as to where the Saviour can reach. Because often we see it from our perspective. We ask can it really happen? Because we think with our minds, with our hearts, with our knowledge. But we know today the Lord opens our minds. He reminds us again today. I am the God of the living and the dead. There is no restriction for the Saviour. Hence, we connect with our task, with our belief, with our intercessory prayers. That the Lord Jesus can do what He wants to do for all mankind. Let's connect with it. I say again, especially for the young people, we often hear them, it's a little bit difficult to understand. Of course, it's difficult to understand because we're talking about the omnipotence of God, His love for mankind and His ability to move in all time periods for all people in all places. We cannot understand that. Our minds are too small for that. May the Lord grant us again the ability to just connect with this universal truth. Christ is the Saviour of the living and the dead. We cannot claim to have, I want to say, access to certain knowledge. We know the Saviour knows so much more. He knows everyone and everything.
Paul writes to the congregations at Thessalonica, and he says to them But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). I found that quite significant that Paul said that to the congregation that we must understand death from Christ’s perspective. Then we do not mourn like those who say it's the end. If there's nothing beyond, it this reminds us to think of it from the perspective of Jesus Christ who gives salvation, He is with us in dying and with the dead, and He can give to us that which we desire as long as we believe in Jesus’ statements, and it remains true for us. Those who believe in Me will have everlasting life. Nobody comes to the Father, but by Me. All of those, dear brothers and sisters, we want to connect to.
In summary, we want to connect to the Creed again, especially the Second Article of Faith which emphasizes that Jesus went into the realms of the dead. Why? Why did He go there? He went to preach His message of love. He went to preach salvation and He shows that He can do that for all people. Jesus passing into the realm of the dead is not simply an event. It's an indication of the nature of the Saviour. He wants to give us His kingdom. Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus went to the very low places. He went to the ungodly. He went to those who had no inclination for godliness. And He came to those who believed in Him and accepted His gospel. The full spectrum of mankind, here and in the yonder world, can experience His love. And He is the ruler over death. His death on the cross has allowed that Jesus comes for us. He is the Saviour. He lives with us here and He lives with us in the yonder world. Amen.
Thoughts from Apostle Robert Worship