Denunciation, Declaration, and Doxology

October 16, 2022

A sermon preached by Dr. R. Scott Clark of Westminster Seminary (California) at Oakland Hills Community Church in Farmington Hills, Michigan. This message — Denunciation, Declaration, and Doxology — was delivered on the Lord’s Day morning of October 16, 2022 – two days after the installation service of Dr. Harrison Perkins (as the new pastor at Oakland Hills) — which occurred on Friday, October 14, 2022.

What follows is an audio recording, video recoding, and transcript of the message.

Audio Recording

Video Recording

Video recording of the message by Dr. R. Scott Clark on the morning of October 16, 2022. Denunciation, Declaration, and Doxology

Transcript

Please rise for the reading of God’s holy word.

Our passage this morning comes from 1 Timothy 1:12-17.

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus, our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted in unbelief and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full accept — that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

To the King of the Ages, immortal, invisible, the only God be honor, and glory, forever and ever. Amen.

Prayer

 

Almighty God, add your blessing to this word. Write your word on our hearts that we may understand it, and that we may believe it to the glory of your name and the edification of your church. For Jesus’s sake, Amen.

Greetings from Escondido

Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ. I bring you greetings from your brothers and sisters in the United Reformed Churches, in the Escondido United Reformed Church from Westminster Seminary, California. And we’re thankful for your love and support. We know that it is here. You’ve been very encouraging to me and I’m grateful for that. And am I right in thinking this is Chuck Tedrick’s home church too. Yes. All right. Well, we’re thankful for Chuck. We love him very much, and you can’t have him back, so we’re keeping him.

So we’re thankful for this new season in your life… and I’m grateful to be here this morning.

As I thought about what I might say, I thought there, I thought two things. One, in some ways, this is what should be said to the search committee, but I thought this is also something… and so I’m a little late for that. But it’s also something I thought is worth saying to the congregation.

What Makes a Good Minister?

You know, it’s interesting if you ask people what makes a good minister? What should a minister do? What should your expectations be? And I know this from my experience, I’ve consulted with a lot of search committees. And so I know what the kinds of things that they think, and especially when they first gather together and they make their list of things; and qualities they want, and outcomes they want, and so forth.

It’s pretty extraordinary sometimes. It’s like I’ve said to search committees — that person doesn’t exist. It’s like a Lego creature. Or if you took a bunch of GI Joe toys and started tearing them apart and then sticking the various pieces on. You get some sort of freak… and there are reasons for that, practical reasons why that, why that’s the case. And then as the process goes on, it tends to resolve towards a more realistic outcome.

What God’s Word Says About Ministers

But, you know, so I thought it’d be worth talking about what Paul thinks a minister is. What God’s word thinks a minister is. And let the scriptures set our expectations about what a minister is. You know, it’s funny, we all know — I think we have a sense of what makes a good lawyer — someone who’s able to get a good outcome for us in court or some other situation.

We know from practical experience, if from no other way, what makes a good physician, right? We have a good outcome. Well, let’s listen then what God says about what a minister is. And there are, there are three Ds in this, but I’ve already changed the title again.

Paul’s Letter to Timothy – Context

It’s in the first section of this passage that Paul wrote to Timothy about AD 65.

This is coming to the end of Paul’s life on this earth. So in a way, we can think of these epistles as his last will and testament to the churches as he writes to young Pastor Timothy. We don’t wanna overdo the, the youth part, but he’s younger than Paul… and Paul is laying out for the churches, and the church in Ephesus… but this letter will be copied and circulated, certainly among the churches in Asia Minor. Think of Turkey. If you look at a modern map, you look at Turkey, you’re looking at Western Turkey, which is the central part of Western Turkey, if that makes sense.

And he’s saying to them that this is how I see the church. This is what I have to say to you as a sort of a senior pastor whose life is clearly coming to an end. He’s been in prison. He’s out, but he’s going to be imprisoned again. We know from church history, and he’s going to be martyred on the Appian Highway as a Roman citizen. He was taken outside the city. He was put on his knees, and his head was separated from his body by a skilled swordsman. Because… that was a privilege, by the way, that they didn’t grant to non-citizens, You know what the Romans did to non-citizens, because you know the story of Golgotha.

Doxological Denunciation

So the first thing that Paul says then in verses 12 and 13, is — he begins with a doxological denunciation. He begins with a doxological denunciation. What is that? Well, it’s paradoxical is what it is. It’s a praise of God and it’s a denunciation of himself. You know, when you’re applying for a job, the first thing that you do typically is not to denounce yourself… and I know this because I’ve done it.

Actually, I was in a search committee meeting and they were talking to me about whether I was interested. Well, they initially contacted me, and wanted to know if I had advice, and then they wanted to know if I would come and talk to them about whether I was interested. And they said: “Well, why do you think that we should call you?” And I said: “Oh, I have no idea. I can give you 25 reasons why you shouldn’t”. And I proceeded to list them… and they, they took that as a lack of interest in the call… and that wasn’t actually the case. If the Lord called me I was perfectly willing to do it, but I didn’t want them to have any illusions about what I am. Let’s be realistic here.

And I’m in a point in my life — I’m well past trying to sell myself to people. I mean, I’m not 23 anymore and scrambling for my first job — “and this is what I can bring to the company”.

Timothy is Human

So I think Paul is saying to them… Listen, this Timothy, you have — he’s a human.

I’m a frail, sinful, human being.

I’m gonna move the verses around a little bit for the purposes of the sermon, but, but it’s important that we understand that he begins with the doxology because he sets up a contrast between what God is and what Paul is.

You know what’s interesting? I preached this text before and I did not see the doxology, which was right on the front end of this passage, and it really struck me this morning as I was meditating on the passage.

Why is it that I didn’t see that doxology? And it’s because I’m too busy with my own agenda. I’ve got things I want people to think, and things I want people to do… and I’m so busy teaching, and pushing, and prodding, and trying to get the outcome that I think should come out. I forget to simply stop and pay attention to God.

Overwhelmed With God – Praising God

And when Paul stops and pays attention to God, the first thing that comes to his lips, and it happens all the time in the Pauline epistles, and sometimes he’s so overwhelmed with who and what God is… He just stops in the middle of what he’s doing and he begins praising God — which is what a doxology is.

And I thought, you know, there needs to be a lot more praise of God on my lips than there is… and a lot less pushing and prodding. You know I teach, and I think, and I write like a Calvinist, but too often I’m really a practical remonstrant. There’s a little Armenian in all of us I think. I know there is. There’s a little Pelagius in all of us.

The Power of Christ

I give thanks to the one, right, who gives me strength, who empowers me” — and he names that one — Christ Jesus our Lord. The one empowering him is Christ. So let’s get that straight.

The one empowering your minister is Christ. It’s Christ who enables him to answer your call at three in the morning. It’s Christ who enables him to come and hold your hand when you’re sitting with a funeral director and you’ve lost your loved one… and to, and to absorb that grief. Right? And your grief… and their grief, and their grief. And I lost my job and my wife left me… and he gets all of that.

Phones Ringing = Crisis, Conflict, Problem, Pain, Death

I don’t know what full-time ministry is like with an iPhone, but I can imagine what it’s like with a mobile phone. I know what it was like before mobile phones. I actually developed a little PTS with the telephone. Whenever the phone would ring. Right. A little bit. A little piece of me…

Of course, you go reflexively, you know — you answer it. It’s duty.

We’re Calvinists, you know, people talk about Jewish guilt and Roman guilt. There’s Calvinist guilt. And duty.

But, you know, then I was away from… I went off to study for a couple of years and I realized it took me about a year to stop jumping when the phone rang.

I actually jumped because the phone always meant crisis, problem, death, conflict, pain.

That’s what the phone represents to the pastor.

Christ Sustains Him

Now I suppose it’s text messages, and DMs, and voicemails, but it’s Christ that sustains him. It’s Christ that sustains. I think it’s extraordinary. I actually was working through this… I was struck… I didn’t actually expect the first part of the verse to resolve that way.

Paul is always thinking about Christ. It’s astounding how often he comes back to Christ.

We’ll come back to that. That’ll be important.

Paul is Realistic About His Humanity, Reputation, and Sin

Second thing in this first part… is that Paul knew what he was. He was utterly realistic. He’s an Augustinian — to put it in historical terms.

He’s utterly realistic about who he was. He makes no pretense. There’s no hiding.

You know, you can hire reputation services that’ll go through the Internet and clean up your online reputation.

Paul hired no service to clean up his reputation. He tells people exactly what he was.

He wants them to know what he was. And it’s quite a list. Formerly he says, being literally a blasphemer and a persecutor, and we don’t really have a good word for this: Insolent is one translation, arrogant is another.

Hubris

It means a spirit of pride against God. It’s were we get our word hubris, from this family of words. Do you know that word? Do we still use that word? I remember learning that word in college. It was in a political science class, and a professor used the word hubris.

Hubris: a particular class of arrogance and immovable, incorrigible. There’s another good word. Any former teachers here? You know what the word incorrigible is.

The Scott Clark Memorial Chair at Dundee Elementary

I was that boy. (Laughter). In second grade, I had my own chair in the principal’s office. I did. I sometimes wondered if there’s a little plaque [on the wall]… The Scott Clark memorial chair at Dundee Elementary.

And I remember the name of the principal, Mrs. Corcoran. This was the old days when, right… leather shoes, dress pants. And I made the walk every day from Mrs. Connor’s class to give her a break. That’s what this really was. It was time out for Mrs. Connor … and I made my way upstairs in an old 19th century building that looked very… you know, penitentiary… (laughter) … and up the wooden stairs and across the long wooden floor, under the atrium, before her office.

She could hear me coming and it was very quiet in those days. There was no chaos. She ruled that school with a wooden switch — which I knew very well. That’s a long time ago.

“Mr. Clark? Is that you I hear coming again?”

Insolent, Arrogant, Blasphemer

Insolent, arrogant, blasphemer. That’s so interesting, because he’s a devoted Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, circumcised the eight day, with respect to the law, a Pharisee. Now he says he was a blasphemer.

Why was he a blasphemer? Because he denied Jesus Christ.

He was at Steven’s martyrdom, which is perhaps the first martyrdom in the history of the Christian Church… and he was there. As he laid his cloak aside, that was probably the signal to begin stoning Steven… and he calls himself a blasphemer. And that’s what he was.

That’s the man that God called to turn Asia minor and other parts of the ancient world on its head by preaching an improbable message, about a crucified rabbi, who was raised on the third day in an obscure corner of the world, under the governorship of an obscure mediocre bureaucrat. About whom we would know nothing, were it not for Jesus Christ.

It’s Christ who makes Pilot famous, not Pilot who makes Christ famous.

Unbeliever

But then he goes on to say: Not knowing, right, I did these things in ‘apostia’ — in unbelief, and that’s the truth. He knows what he was. He was an unregenerate, unbelieving, persecutor of the church.

I remember being an unbeliever. I was baptized as an infant in the mercy and providence of God at Hadley Memorial Hospital — probably on June 18th or 19th, 1961.

My dad was a Lutheran. They, they thought they’d better get water on this boy. He’s going to die. He’s born eight weeks premature. They put me in a little plexiglass plastic box — first one ever to use it at Hadley Memorial. Maybe that has my name on it too. I don’t know. (Laughter). I doubt that. They had nursing care 24 by 7 for eight weeks.

And I didn’t come to faith for 15 years. But I did.

But I remember being an unbeliever. I remember, I know what Paul means when he says insolent, blasphemer, and persecutor of the church. Not so much maybe in my case, but in being insolent, being a blasphemer. Absolutely. Thinking that it was just ridiculous. What does an ancient book have to say to us? … as we said in 1976, in the 20th century…

Thinking We Are Enlightened and Mature

We’re enlightened. We’re mature. We know how the world works. We had just sent — not very many years earlier — I’d seen it with my own eyes — we had sent a man to the moon. I saw it on a 17 inch black and white Zenith television. They hauled me outta bed in my jammies. The grainy little black and white. And there he jumped off the step and said something about it: “A giant leap for mankind” — or whatever.

Then I went back to bed. Was it a movie or was it real? But whatever we were, we were enlightened.

We know better.

God Changed His Heart

And then God changed my heart, and then I knew better.

That’s Paul. You heard the story. God changed his heart. Jesus Christ literally stopped him on the road and said: “Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Uh, hello. Who’s this? No, he knew who it was immediately because Saul hated Jesus.

But Jesus loved Saul — from all eternity. When Jesus died at Golgotha, he died for Saul of Tarsus, and God (the Holy Spirit) gave him new life, and then he knew. Saul of Tarsus knew that Jesus had come for him and had accomplished his redemption. And God the Holy Spirit sovereignly applied his redemption. Made him alive, gave him true faith, united him to Christ, and then opened his eyes and sent him out as a servant.

And Paul says: “Now I know what I am in Christ. I know what I was, and now I know what I am”. That he counted me faithful — after regenerating him… and he showed him mercy, and he appointed him a servant, a minister.

That’s Paul’s doxological denunciation of himself. His praise of Christ and his denunciation of what he is in himself.

That’s the life of the minister, right? He knows what he is in himself. He knows what he would be outside of Christ. He knows in my case, I know what I was before I was in Christ. Let’s not have any illusions here.

Declaring the Gospel of Grace

What’s the next thing he does in verses 14 through 16? He declares the gospel.

And the grace, he says in verse 14, the grace of our Lord, hyper-abounded — is what it says.

There are two words that are combined here. The first part of the word is the word for abounding, and abounding means a lot! Like — um — in the hotel, you know, they have these, cereal dispensers and you turn it and the whole thing opens up, right? You have an abundance of cereal.

Well, this is hyper abundance. This is more than that. Grace hyper-abounded to Paul. Well, why does he say hyper-abounded? Because in himself, what did he deserve? He deserved death. And what had he gotten? Life? What had he gotten? Righteousness, freely given to him? Mercy. He didn’t get what he deserved. He got what he didn’t deserve.

He got what Christ had accomplished for him. Credited to him. Received freely. He received grace, undeserved favor, favor undeserved to him; merited by Christ. The favor of God. We are recipients of God’s favor.

Children of Wrath or Children of Favor

If you’re outside of Christ, you’re not a recipient of God’s favor, you are a recipient of his wrath. We went from being children of wrath — to children of favor.

I don’t think we really understand that.

Children of wrath: It means to be the recipient of his unending, relentless, holy, righteous justice. A holy blast furnace.

Ever been near one of those big industrial furnaces? All your instincts tell you this is not a good place to be. Only bad things can happen here. That’s something of the unending wrath of God.

And the crazy thing is, as an unbeliever, I wasn’t even really fully conscious of it — because you’re holding down the truth of God in unbelief, suppressing it in unbelief, and yet you have this nagging sense that, that you’re in trouble.

And now Paul knows — having been given new life and true faith — he knows. So he declares the grace of God that overflowed.

Christ Jesus Came Into the World to Save Sinners

Now I’m gonna jump down a little bit… I want to look at verse 15, and then we’ll come back to 14. The word it says, literally, is faithful. This is a faithful word and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief.

It’s very strong in the Greek text. He actually emphasizes ‘ego eimi’. Not ‘ego’. Not ‘eimi’. He could have actually omitted one or the other; possibly even both. But he says them both. He spells it out. I’m the worst.

Why did Christ come? Paul tells us here. Let’s get this straight. Let’s not be confused. As they say on television: “Don’t get it twisted”. What did Jesus come to do? What’s the gospel? What’s the mission of the church? What’s the message of the church? What’s the thing for which we ought to be known in the world? It’s not like we have to guess. It’s right here in the text of holy scripture.

What’s the thing that’s to be in the mouth of Timothy, and to be in the mouth of your new minister and in the mouth of every minister? Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I have to say it with a Scottish accent cuz I can hear John Murray in my ears.

Christ is for sinners.

If you’re here this morning and you don’t know that you’re a sinner, let me tell you, you’re a sinner.

You’re not a good person by nature. The good things that you do are fine for this world. God is not impressed. And if you think of yourself, well, you know, I’m not perfect. I know I have flaws, but I’m not as bad as that person.

I Know I Have Flaws — But, But…

You don’t get sin yet, and you don’t get grace… if that’s the way you think of yourself. Well, I know I have flaws — but…if you say, I know I have flaws — but. I’m giving you a diagnostic, your heart is not right. You are still self righteous and you are still in your sins. If that’s what you think. You are still self righteous and you are still in your sins.

And I say this out of perfect expertise.

If you know people who profess faith and they say, “I know I’m not perfect, but” — that person is still in his sins. Because the Christian profession is: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first.

I Am The Worst

I am the worst.

My sin put Jesus on that tree. I did it.

My lust, my theft, my envy, my idolatry, my murder, my covetousness. Yeah, my disobedience, my hatred, my greed, mine, no one else’s.

When they struck that nail into his hands, I did it.

It wasn’t just that it was for me. I struck the nail in his hands. I stood at the foot of the cross and I said, “Save yourself”. I mocked him. I denied him. I ignored him. I laughed. I and no one else.

I murdered my brother.

That’s what a Christian thinks. That’s what Paul thinks.

Paul wasn’t kidding when he said: “Of whom I am chief.” That’s not rhetoric. That’s reality.

A Sinner Offering Christ to Sinners

That’s your minister. That’s one of the qualifications of a minister is to know that, and with fear and trembling to step behind this pulpit and to tell you the truth, anyway, week after week.

That’s the guy you just called. The guy you just hired — knowing what he is… and because he knows what he is. It’s as a sinner, he’s offering Christ to sinners.

And so I say, come. Maybe Jesus is striking your heart, even now. Now’s the time to come… and all you have to say is Lord Jesus, it’s true. What Paul says is true and it’s true of me. And I want you, and I want your righteousness. I wanna be clothed with what you did. I don’t wanna stand before God on my own. I can’t. I won’t.

That’s Paul. That’s the gospel — and it has consequences. So we’ll go back up for just a minute…

Grace Super Abounded

Grace, super abounded to him, it’s the grace again of our Lord Jesus Christ. And how did it super abound? It’s super-abounded. It hyper-abounded. It’s hyper-abounded, literally — with faith, and love, in Christ Jesus. That’s the fruit of the gospel.

If there’s anything we need to do now in our time, it’s to distinguish the gospel from its fruit. We need to get the gospel right. We need to get the fruit right. The gospel produces fruit.

And faith and love, for Christ is fruit of the gospel. That’s how people come to have faith and love is by hearing the gospel in their ears.

I know Harrie knows Heidelberg 65 by memory, right? Since we’re justified by faith alone, from where does true faith come? The Holy Spirit works true faith in our hearts through the preaching of the Holy Gospel and confirms it through the use of the Holy Sacraments.

That’s what we say in the Dutch Reformed churches… and I know the Westminster standards speak very plainly about the due use of ordinary means. It’s the due use of ordinary means that God, the Holy Spirit uses. So, you need to be edified in this. You need to be strengthened in this, and you need to be here week after week, participating in the due use of ordinary means hearing the gospel week after week, cuz I know your life is hard … and it hurts and you’re struggling.

You’re all cleaned up and you’re all tidy for church and that’s fine. But I know, you know, God knows what’s really going on in your lives and you need to be hearing this week after week.

You need your pastor to be feeding you on Christ from this table, and that’s what he’s going to do. That’s what Paul did. He can’t stop talking about Christ, but on, on account of this, I received mercy. He says again. Why? In order that… and this is actually a little hard to translate, but Christ Jesus might make an example out of him.

Mercy and Long Suffering Patience

Showing mercy; long suffering. This is actually an Old Testament word. This is the ‘hessed’. This is the covenant faithfulness, the long suffering mercy. That he might display his long suffering patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

Paul is saying here: “I am the first fruits, I’m an example. I’m a type. I’m only the beginning of what’s to come.” And here we are in Michigan. The gospel came to Michigan.

He wasn’t kidding. He was the beginning of what’s happening here. It’s all of a piece. That’s a fruit of the gospel… of the ones who are literally about to be believe in him unto eternal life. That’s our message. That’s our goal. That’s our mission — to announce that we are an embassy of the Kingdom of Heaven, announcing the reality and the intrusion of eternal life into history. And there’s no other institution on the face of the earth to whom God has given that commission except this one.

As my friend Bob Godfrey says: “If we don’t feed the poor, somebody else will do it. If we don’t pave the street, someone else will do it. But if we don’t preach the gospel, no one else will do it.”

The Axis of the Christian Faith

This is it. This is the one thing that we’re charged to do. That’s why John Calvin said that the gospel, and specifically the doctrine of justification is the axis. Is the correct translation? If you were wondering ever reading Calvin’s Institutes book three? Well, I wonder what the correct translation of this word is. Did Ford Lewis Battles get this right?

He said hinge. No Battles didn’t get it right. The Latin text actually says: axis. It’s the axis of the Christian faith. What’s an axis? Well, I wasn’t very good in geometry, but I do remember what an axis is. If you stick a pole on the ground and you attach a tether ball to it and it spins – around the pole is the axis.

I feel like Forest Gump: “I’m not a smart man, but I know what an axis is”.

The gospel is the axis of the Christian faith. It’s the axis of this congregation. It’s the axis of your pastor’s vocation. And I’ll close with this as appropriate…

Doxology (Denunciation, Declaration, and Doxology)

Paul begins with a doxology — a doxological denunciation.

He declares the gospel, and then finally in verse 17, he returns to the doxology. You have a beginning, a middle, and an end. And notice how he casts this doxology to the (it says literally) the King of the Ages.

We ministers our heralds of a king. That’s why he’s thinking now about Christ as King. It is true that Christ is King over all things, but he has a twofold relationship to all those all things. He has a general relationship to the world. He’s the sovereign Lord over all things. Amen.

An Outpost of the Kingdom of Heaven

But he has a special relationship to this outpost of his kingdom. You realize that children, that when you come into this place and when the minister calls you — there’s a call to worship. God calls you through the mouth of the minister. This place becomes a holy embassy, an outpost of the kingdom of heaven.

And if you close your eyes, you can almost imagine the ceiling opening up and the angels. Paul says to the Corinthians, “You people need to behave yourselves in worship for the sake of the angels.” You say, Where are the angels? All I can tell you is that they’re here.

Do you remember Gehazi? He didn’t know who was out there until God showed him who was out there, chariots of fire. They were there. He just couldn’t see them. They’re here. Good morning. They’re here. This is a holy assembly. An outpost of heaven has descended to Oakland County in this place? Yes.

And eternal business is being transacted right now.

So he praises the King of the Ages. Immortal, invisible. The only God, honor and glory unto the ages. Again, unto the ages of ages, he says. We say forever and ever.

Forever and Ever – Unto the Ages of Ages

If you ever wondered why we say ‘forever and ever, Amen’… it’s a translation of ‘a world without end’. It’s a literal translation of ‘the ages of the ages’.

Unto the ages of the ages. Amen. That’s our God.

When you think about all that God has done for us in Christ, that’s all you can do. That’s the appropriate posture again. It’s to come to your knees and to praise him. So let’s do that now.

Closing Prayer

Our Father, our Savior Jesus, and Holy Spirit, we adore you. And this morning we are thinking particularly of the Son who is the King of the Ages. But God, you are immortal and invisible. And you alone are God and we are but dust. We honor you. We glorify you unto the ages for all that you have done, all that you have given, and all that you have commenced in this place. We praise you, we acknowledge you, and we thank you… and we do so in the name of Jesus. Amen.


Denunciation, Declaration, and Doxology – Displaying God’s Glory

 

Denunciation Declaration Doxology splash screen. Colorful image of fall colors (orange, yellow, brown, green) with winding road.
Photo by Aaron Burden