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Separated By Sin – United By Grace

by Wayne Hobbs

Transcribed from Words of Life Radio Program

 

Years ago one of my daughters was in a competition called Odyssey of the Mind. She and another group of kids on her team competed with kids from other countries who spoke different languages and along with them there were many kids from the United States. While they were sitting in bleachers waiting for something to happen and listening to the tongues of those around them, the different languages that they were hearing, the kids tried to figure out: Are they speaking French? Are they speaking Spanish? Or what are they saying?

With that, one of the boys who was full of lots of fun began to speak in meaningless gibberish, just making noises and sounds, but he did it with expression or even with hand motions pretending to be talking in some strange language. One of the other kids caught on to this quickly and spoke back in a similar type of gibberish. As a result of this, they held a conversation which was totally meaningless, but they did it with meaning. The people around them listened trying to figure out what in the world they were saying and where in the world these kids could be from as they continued to speak their nonsense. They did this for quite some time, having fun with it and then they just slipped away leaving the people to wonder.

In 2007 it was said that there were 7,299 known languages in our world. Today we are going to look at how at one point God confused languages of the people and then we are going to look at another time, some time later when God united people with understanding. Both of these are mentioned in the Bible. Most of us are familiar with the account in Genesis 11 called the Tower of Babel. Everyone spoke the same language and people moved to the plain of Shinar which is located in what was called later Babylon and today Iraq. And they began to build a city with a tower made of bricks, not stone. And they used tar for their mortar between them. This is somewhat proof that there is oil in Iraq, by the way. They wanted to make a name of themselves and not be scattered about. This was because of their pride.

Some scholars say that they were literally trying to build a tower to heaven. The Bible says and it uses the expression, “The Lord came down,” in another spot right there close it says, “Let us go down,” as God looked at what was going on. I believe the “us” here refers to the trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the same one mentioned in the creation. Knowing their pride and arrogance against God and for themselves, God did two things. One, he confused their languages and two, he scattered them all over the earth. The building was stopped and the place was called Babel which means that they could not understand any better than you can the babbling of a baby. There was no communication. Their sin had caused the confusion.

It reminds us of a passage, Psalms 127:1 that says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.”

They were using inferior materials and trying to build something with a foundation of pride and God would not stand for it. They did not want to be scattered, but they were sinful. And that is the very thing that God did. He scattered those people. It doesn’t appear that God did this right away. It seems like they must have already started this project and were working on it when God put it to a stop. Can you imagine as they were working the arrogance and pride that mushroomed as they made progress on this great construction? And no doubt God gave them opportunity to reconsider their plan and repent. But that is not what happened.

There are times when science works to replace God just as these people wanted to replace God and build a tower for themselves. Sometimes with evolutionary thoughts, or other science that tries to refute the existence of God, or the truth of the Bible, but as you look closely at the Bible and you look closely at science, there is no strong conflict. There is no conflict at all.

Language differences can sometimes cause other problems as well. Just as a sidelight we will mention this. In Judges chapter 12 the Gileadites identified and slaughtered 42,000 Ephraimites. Now how can you tell an Ephraimite? They could listen to them. They asked them to say the word shibboleth. Ephraimites always pronounced that word sibboleth. They sounded different, didn’t they? They understood this and they killed them because they were Ephraimites.

Peter was probably identified as a Galilean because of his Galilean accent as he was warming himself at the fires as Jesus was on trial.

But back to the story. In Genesis 11 sin resulted in the confusion and separation of people and their language.

Now let’s move forward a long time in Bible history and go to the day of Pentecost which was 50 days after the last supper and the crucifixion of Jesus. Pentecost is a Jewish celebration. It is somewhat of a birthday. It is a celebration of the giving of the 10 Commandments to Moses and to God’s people. It was celebrated yearly and now if you think about it, we have a new reason to celebrate this because the day of Pentecost is also the birthday of the Church, or the Church age, in which we now live. We could also call these the last days.

But let’s look at what happened. We are looking at Acts chapter two starting with verse one and going through 13. I am not going to read this, but I will tell you about it. The 12 apostles were gathered together when the Holy Spirit came on them with the sound of violent wind and there appeared tongues like fire that rested upon each of them. The people heard the sound and came to see what had happened. The Holy Spirit filled each of these apostles with such power that they were able to speak in other languages that were understandable by all the people that were there. From places all over the area people understood. These were Jewish people, but they didn’t all speak the same language and yet they were understanding what was said. They were amazed that these Galileans knew so many languages. How could this be?

 

And when there was a discussion of what it meant some said, “Oh, they are probably drunk.” Well, I don’t know much about being drunk or drunk people, but I do know what being drunk does not make you speak better. It does not make a person speak in a new language that he didn’t know already. It just causes slurred speech. So how could these men have greater ability due to intoxication? Satan will use every lie possible to lead people away from Jesus Christ.

If we go ahead and study the rest of chapter two in Acts we are going to find that Peter preached a powerful sermon that was probably interpreted by the apostles because everybody understood it. The sermon clearly identified Jesus as the Son of God, the one whom the Romans had been pressured to crucify. He preached Jesus as the one who was raised from the dead by the power of God. It is a powerful and convicting sermon.

Many times in our churches we sing what we call an invitation hymn at the end of the sermon in the hope that someone in the audience will decide to follow Jesus or address some other need. But in this case the people asked what they should do because of their guilt. They were already believing. They were wondering what they should do and it looks like they interrupted him. And Peter told them to repent of their sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Peter also told them that they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. On that day 3,000 people were added to the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wow, what a beginning birth for our church.

Let’s think about what happened on that very powerful day and all that took place. Because the Spirit of God came down, people were given the opportunity to understand the gospel of Jesus Christ. The grace of God was uniting mankind through Jesus. People separated from God because of sin were now filled with understanding because of the power of the Holy Spirit. People were being forgiven. They were being blessed through Jesus Christ and they were comprehending the message of God that day. This was just the beginning. And from that time and 2000 years since then the church of the Lord Jesus Christ has been united in the work of reaching people for Jesus Christ. As a result, Christians throughout the world have an inner unity with Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in a common bond of peace.

This is, at least, a partial fulfillment of the prophecy in Zephaniah chapter three verse nine that says, “I will purify the lips of the people and all of them may call on the name of the Lord and serve him shoulder to shoulder.” On into Acts we will see a uniting of Jews and Gentiles serving God, becoming Christians following together and that happened exactly as Zephaniah said.’

Let’s note some specific differences that are evident as we look at the confusion from the Tower of Babel and the coming of God’s Holy Spirit uniting people in understanding.

First, the sin of Babel brought about confusion of languages while the Holy Spirit provides a way for God to speak to us in our own language, to understand what God wants us to know.

Second, people went from speaking to each other in arrogance and pride in the construction of the Tower of Babel to being able to talk to teach other in ways that reached the deepest needs by the grace that was revealed at Pentecost. And we find people doing this today through ministries, through Christian fellowship, through Christian writing, through godly parenting and other opportunities as we share the Word of God.

Man went from attempting to build a faltering tower by human efforts to seeing God build a bridge to mankind by sending his Holy Spirit to dwell in us and convict us of sin. Instead of man reaching toward God, we have God reaching down to man and we must understand that all of this is done on God’s terms and not our own. The men of Babel were full of self while the people at Pentecost were full of this Holy Spirit of God. While the efforts at Babel showed a spirit of pride and arrogance, the Holy Spirit coming at Pentecost offered the power of love through Jesus Christ. What a difference.

Next, where Babel resulted in the confusion of mankind in language and location, the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ, given at Pentecost, thereafter unites people through the indwelling of that Holy Spirit. The Tower of Babel is gone, but the Church built on the foundation of the Lord Jesus Christ is still reaching people today. What a blessing that is. The people of Babel had to be separated because of sin while members of the Church of Jesus Christ separated because of the direction of the Holy Spirit to reach out in order to unite other people for Jesus. This was predicted in Acts chapter one verse eight and Jesus said this was going to happen. “You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the other parts of the earth.”

The lack of intelligible words set people apart while the words of understanding in Jesus Christ brought conviction and salvation. What a blessing this is. No man can live any other way. The Word of God is that powerful.

What is the point of all this? What shall we do today because of Pentecost, because of what was done? If you are presently a Christian, we thank God for that. If you are presently not a Christian, that should be priority number one in your life. On the day of Pentecost people did not know a lot about Jesus, but they knew they had to get started. I am sure that Peter’s sermon scared them, scared them so badly they asked, “What shall we do?”

People today need to ask that same question. You, as a person who needs Jesus Christ, you come to him today in that need. We need Jesus in us to make the changes and corrections of wrongs and this is possible because of what Jesus did for us and now can do. They followed up in their belief that day by repentance and obedience in baptism and then living for Jesus. What an important thing that is, regularly meeting together, worshipping Jesus in communion.

As we continue reading Acts we shall see changed lives with people living for Jesus because they had received the Holy Spirit. We also see Satan working to prevent the gospel being shared. We who are Christians should always seek the Spirit’s guidance in order to serve God.

Let’s think about our lives. We are to live our lives properly to exhibit Christian character. And we are to live our lives properly before others. And this is part of our influence. But we are not to just live our lives properly before others. We are to reach out as it says in Mark 16:16, to go into all the world to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is so very important. Living for Jesus is expected, but talking and going are expected as well. We need to never fail the foundation laid at Pentecost.

We enjoy celebrating our birthday, but it is more important that we celebrate the birthday of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ not once, but daily as we serve God and share the blessings because we have the Holy Spirit as Christians. When we consider the promises found in God’s Word, we need to be constantly mindful of the promise that Jesus is going to return.

If you remember, in the passage in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 it says that there is going to be the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God and Jesus is going to make a shout. I will guarantee you there will be no language problem that day. The voice of the archangel will be understood. The loud command of Jesus will be understood. The trumpet will be understood as Christian people are gathered together. There won’t be any language problem there because God is uniting people through the power of the Lord Jesus Christ and those indwelt people with the Spirit of God, we who are Christians, will be taken away.

What a blessing this great unity in Jesus is for all who are willing to make that step and follow Jesus Christ. And we ask that you would do that today. If you are not a Christian, please consider Jesus. If you are a Christian, we thank God and we ask you to continue to serve him.

Let’s bow for prayer.

Holy Father, we thank you for the uniting power of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit who dwells in us. And we thank you for overcoming that sin and we ask that you will use the words of this program today so that people will be brought to you in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

-Wayne Hobbs lives in Sellersburg, IN




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That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10