The Two Tables


Preacher: Ross Macdonald Scripture: Exodus 20:1-17


Well, this morning we are in between the 4th Commandment and the 5th
Commandment, and as I hope to present, we really are moving from the 1st table to the 2nd table, so I want to take opportunity to consider why it's important that we distinguish between these two tables.
They are different, and yet also we want to understand why they're held together, and how we need to hold them together, as well as recognize what makes them two different tables.
In the Institutes, John Calvin wrote, we ought to ponder what the division of the divine law into two tables meant, and that's what we essentially are trying to do this morning, to ponder what the division of God's law into two tables meant.
The Bible is clear that the Ten Commandments were written on two tablets of stone, Exodus 31,
Deuteronomy 4. These two tablets were both put in the Ark of the
Covenant. Now the general view is that the Ten Commandments were divided between the two tablets.
Scripture does not say how they were divided, it doesn't even say that they were divided, that's the general view.
There's a minority view, it was sort of spearheaded by an Old Testament scholar named Meredith Klein who argued that the two tablets were two identical copies.
So each tablet had all ten commandments, and this of course would have been very common in the ancient
Near East when a treaty was made between a suzerain or a great king, and the subject, the vassal, you would have copies made of the covenant, and each party would get a copy.
So Meredith Klein argued, perhaps these are identical tablets, copies of the covenant between God and His people at Sinai.
But then it's quite hard to understand why both were put in the Ark of the Covenant, and why both would have been relegated in a situation and in a place where very few had access to it.
The whole point of making a copy was so that the subject had a visible reminder. And so, despite Klein's argumentation, it's generally assumed the
Ten Commandments are divided between the two tablets. Now there are different views on how the
Ten Commandments may have been divided, but all sides essentially agree that when we consider the
Ten Commandments, we find two groups or two themes, that one way or another we must divide them however they appeared on the stone tablets.
Now in later Jewish interpretation, we find this for instance in Philo, there are two groups of five, okay, so right down the middle, two groups of five, and that means that the fifth commandment, honor your father and your mother, would belong with the first four.
In other words, the Jews, especially in later rabbinical interpretation, took the fifth commandment, honor your father and mother, as one of the commandments that was given toward God or with reference to God.
And so it was commandments six through ten, beginning with thou shalt not murder, that belonged to those duties we have toward man.
Our present view, the view that I'm going to contend for this morning, really follows from Augustine, though there were others that earlier argued it, really it comes to the helm in Augustine.
Now of course Augustine and later Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches, they differ on how they number the commandments, something to keep in mind.
You might speak to a Roman Catholic friend or neighbor, you might reference the third or the fourth, maybe the second commandment, they have a different way of numbering their commandments.
What to us is the first and second commandment, for them is the first. What to us is the tenth commandment, is for them the ninth and the tenth.
So we need to recognize there's different ways of numbering the commandment, it's why our confession lays out how the commandments are to be numbered.
The first four commandments, Augustine argued, and though we have a different number, we believe that his view is right, the first four commandments are what we call the first table.
The first four commandments are what we call the first table. And these speak to our duty toward God.
The next six commandments we would call the second table and they speak to our duty to neighbor.
So we have the first table, commandments one through four, and the second table, commandments five through ten.
Now we don't mean to imply that somehow there is a gulf between these two tables, a point that will be made clear,
I hope, this morning. This was a concern for Klein, it's why he made the argument that we should not arbitrarily divide the ten commandments, we should hold them in unity.
Klein wrote, separating one table from the other may suggest that the fulfillment of the demands of the second table, the duties we have toward neighbor, is to some degree, if not wholly, independent of this principle of our love to God.
So Klein argued we need to see this all as one, that you begin with this love for God, naturally that entails love for neighbor, to suggest that somehow there's this gulf, this chasm, this independence between the first and the second table was his concern, and that's a good concern to have.
We must hold these things together. But I do not believe that Klein's concern is valid,
I do believe there's a difference between the first and the second table. To assert this division of the ten commandments, we must also remember
Exodus 20, the very beginning, what do we read? God spoke all these words, saying.
So these all have reference to what God spoke, they all have reference to God. Now of course there is some manner of a shift as we're working through the fourth commandment and we're about to come to the fifth commandment, we do find a certain turn that's taking place within the fourth commandment.
When we understand what is stated in the fourth commandment, and we've had three weeks to consider it, and this by the way is made explicit in Deuteronomy 5, we find that the neighbor appears really for the first time in the ten commandments.
The first three commandments are explicitly referring to God, to have no other gods before him, to make no carved image to bow down and serve, to make no use of God's name in vain.
The first three commandments are explicitly about God, with direct reference to God. With the fourth commandment it begins with immediate reference to God, but then it goes on to describe the nature of sanctifying the
Sabbath for your own sake, for the sake of your family, for the sake of your servants, for the sake of the stranger within your gates.
In other words, all of a sudden the commandment turns to consider the neighbor. So within the fourth commandment we have direct reference to God, but then a subtle shift toward concern for the neighbor, and that leads us into the fifth and the sixth and the seventh all the way to the tenth.
Now all these commandments are held together, as we've said, they're all from God's hand, written by his finger.
They're all for God. Even the commandments that deal with neighbor are ultimately with reference to God.
So how can we understand the two tables? Well here is what I think a helpful distinction.
The first table, the first four commandments, regards those duties by which we serve
God directly. The first table regards those duties by which we serve
God directly. The second table regards those duties by which we serve
God indirectly, by serving our neighbor directly. You see it all has reference to God, it's all done out of service to God, and yet the first four are done directly to God, the latter six are done indirectly to God, but directly to the neighbor.
Now where do we find a biblical justification to divide the law in this way, to find essentially two tables of these commandments?
Well I would argue Matthew 22 and the parallel statements in the other synoptic gospels.
We read in Matthew 22 beginning in verse 35, one of them a lawyer asked him a question, testing, and saying, teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?
Jesus said to him, you shall love the Lord your God with all your hearts, with all your soul, and with all your mind.
He essentially responds from Deuteronomy 6, this is the first and great commandment.
It was Richard Sibbes, the Puritan who said essentially the first commandment is the ground of the other nine.
And if you breach any of the other nine, it's because you've first and foremost breached the first.
You shall have no other gods, right? So what is the great commandment in the law? Well it's the way the whole law begins.
You shall have no other god, which taken up in Deuteronomy 6 means, and this is the great commandment, you shall love the
Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your mind, with all of your soul, with all of your strength.
This is the first and great commandment. But then Jesus says the second is like it.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. So notice what
Jesus says in answering the question, he says there is a great commandment. The first, the foremost of all commandments is loving the
Lord your God. He says there is a second commandment, which is like the first. The second commandment is love your neighbor.
So Jesus essentially reduces the law down to these two commandments. And he orders them in such a way that the first commandment, the greatest commandment is love to God.
The second, which is like it, is love to neighbor. Then Jesus says on these two commandments, notice that he's divided them.
On these two commandments hang all of the law and the prophets.
Here is I think our biblical justification to understand that all of the law reduces down to two tables.
The first table is essentially loving God. The second table is essentially loving neighbor.
And we can elaborate on that by saying loving God looks like the first four commandments.
Loving neighbor looks like the next six commandments. And then we can elaborate on that even further by looking at the case studies and the case law and the way that scripture itself enumerates the ways that we love
God and love neighbor. On these two tables hang all of the law and the prophets.
So our great principle as we approach the two tables this morning is we need to understand which is the greatest and then we need to understand that the second is like it.
The second is like it. The greatest is to love the Lord God.
The second is to love your neighbor. These are the two tables and if we don't understand what makes them differ or if we fail to hold them together we will run into danger.
And so I want to consider two dangers when we fail to understand what makes them differ or we fail to hold them together.
Two dangers. Here's the first danger. The first danger is loving God but not loving your neighbor.
That's the first great danger. Loving God but not loving your neighbor. In other words, being rigorous in your zeal for the first table, being slack and unconcerned about the second table.
Loving God but not your neighbor. Matthew 19 beginning in verse 16, behold one came and said to Jesus, good teacher, what good thing shall
I do that I may have eternal life? And Jesus said to him, why do you call me good?
He's sort of testing the integrity of his morality. How do you define what is good?
What's your metric? What's your compass? How do you adjudicate what counts as good?
Why do you call me good? No one is good but one that is God but I digress, he's essentially saying but if you want to know how to enter into life, keep the commandments.
Jesus is sort of walking around kicking the tires on this young man. Very concerned to enter the kingdom.
You called me good teacher, how do you define good? You're so concerned to enter life, keep the commandments.
He says to him, which ones? Already this is starting out at sort of a
D minus as far as passing the test here. Keep the commandments, which ones? What do you mean which ones?
All of them. Keep the commandments. But essentially he's saying, well, of course
I'm keeping the commandments. I'm coming to you because perhaps I'm missing or perhaps I'm neglecting, I don't have assurance.
How can I know that I'll enter into life? Keep the commandments. Jesus says, you shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, honor your father and your mother, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Now notice in Jesus' response what he's saying. When he says, keep the commandments, what does he do?
He does not begin with, you shall love the Lord your God with all your mind, with all your soul, with all your heart, with all your, no, he doesn't do that.
He doesn't say, you shall make no car of image to bow down that you may worship it. He doesn't say, you shall not take the name of the
Lord your God in vain. No, he actually begins with the second table.
He begins with those commandments that regard our duty toward neighbor. And then he concludes with, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Now by the way, one of the reasons I would side with Augustine rather than with the rabbinical interpretation that sees the fifth commandment as part of the first table is this very passage in Matthew 19.
Notice that when Jesus is dealing with the commandments that regard neighbor, he includes the fifth commandment at the end.
Honor your father and your mother. I think that's a good case as to why we can follow Augustine's instinct here.
Then Jesus of course gives the great summary out of Leviticus 19. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
These are the commandments that you must keep if you would enter into life. Now we ask the question, why did
Jesus only regard the second table in his response? Why not just list off all 10?
Those are the commandments. Why does Jesus begin with the second table when he's speaking to this rich young ruler?
Well Calvin brings this out in Institutes and there's so much good content in this part of the
Institutes. It's book two, part eight for any that want to follow up. Calvin says, Christ is speaking of those works by which a man ought to show himself just.
For the obedience of the first table, the obedience of our duty toward God, the obedience of the first table, consists almost entirely in the internal affection of the heart.
Can you look at someone's activity and in a sort of snapshot, in 20 minutes, can you judge whether they have any other gods before God?
In a snapshot, can you judge whether they're having some false image of God, that they're referencing something distorting
God's essence, God's nature? Can you, in a snapshot, judge whether they have some vain reference to God, some vain use of bearing his name?
When you look at the second table and you see how they treat other people, how they speak of or think about or regard other people, can you adjudicate whether or not they have the commandments in their heart?
The affection of the heart is not visible, Calvin writes. Hypocrites are very diligent in the observance of ceremony.
He notes that this isn't unique to Jesus. Whenever the prophets are rebuking the Israelites, they're always rebuking them in regard to their treatment of their neighbors, treatment especially of the poor and the vulnerable among them.
So they essentially go to the second table as well, as part of their condemnation. And Calvin writes, they do not, in this way, omit the fear of God, they're not skipping over the first table, they're not omitting the fear of God, rather, they're requiring a serious proof of its evidence.
Show me that you fear God, show me that you reverence God by how you're loving your neighbor. That's what the prophets are demanding.
And so Calvin says, it is in the second table that the cultivation of righteousness and integrity is best manifested.
In other words, we cannot hold to the first table if we're ignoring the second table. Zealous observance of the first table warrants nothing but rebuke from the
Lord Himself if it's at the expense of or playing fast and loose with the second table.
We cannot manifest our love to God as clearly, as publicly, as consistently as we can manifest our love to our neighbor.
And as Calvin reminds us, it is the love of neighbor that shows a cultivation of righteousness in our life.
There's a lot of, it's easy, you get in sort of this mindset, this mode, especially as you're learning the doctrine, you want to become sort of this, you know,
J .V. scholar and you become sort of pharisaical and you have voluminous comments to make on all manners of doctrine, upholding with great precision all that the confession has stated.
And yet you have no regard for the person that's to your left or to your right. Jesus rebukes that.
He says, and you haven't understood the law at all. William Perkins says, this is a common fault.
Many will be Christians in the church, but they never show the power of Christianity in their calling.
Therefore, know what men profess in God's worship, they must also practice.
Where does that practice show forth? It's in the second table. It's why Jesus goes to the second table.
How we treat fellow image bearers of God demonstrate how we regard God himself.
How we treat fellow image bearers of God demonstrates how we regard God himself.
The foundation of Christian interpersonal ethics is this understanding that all humanity is made in the image of God.
When you take that foundation away, you're left with nothing. Everything is arbitrary. It's established by social convention.
Christian ethics begins with this, human beings are made in the image of God. That is where the ought, that is where the ethical imperative derives.
That's what gives man inherent dignity. That's where our God -given rights, our
God -given requirements are established. We're made in his image. Well, if you love someone, you treat what belongs to them with care, don't you?
We have a big bucket of Legos, as I imagine many of you families do. I finally have children that are getting old enough where I have an excuse to play with Legos.
I kind of pretend like, oh, I'll be a good dad, I'll play Legos with you. Then they're all in the other room and I'm still building a spaceship.
But inevitably, you have a young sibling and what do they do? Especially some two -year -old, three -year -old, they see that their sibling is building this incredible palace and they can't help themselves.
They go and they tear it all down. And then you hear the shriek of horror from the other room, ah -ha -ha, she broke my palace.
Well, when you go and you deal with that situation, you say, honey, don't you love your sister?
Don't you love your sibling? Don't you know that this was something they were building? This belonged to them.
It wasn't right for you to tear it down. It wasn't right for you to abuse that. You see, if we love
God in the same way, we can't go on abusing what belongs to him. Human beings belong to him.
Human beings are made in his image. That's why we cannot abuse them, why we cannot neglect them. That's why
God is a jealous God. He takes vengeance on those who do so. So the first danger is loving
God, but not your neighbor. John says as much in his epistle, if someone says, I love God, but he hates his brother, he's a liar.
He's a liar. No, but you don't understand, he really does love God. I mean, look at how disciplined he is.
Don't you know he wakes up at the crack of dawn? Do you know that he's read through almost every publication that Banner of Truth has put out in the last 10 years?
He loves God. Well, if he hates his brother, if he abuses his brother, if he neglects his brother, he's a liar.
For he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he's not seen?
And this commandment we have from him, he who loves God must love his brother.
This is the commandment. You can't separate the first table from the second table.
You see how closely John's point is tied to the fact that we're made in the image of God.
John is essentially saying our neighbors are the nearest thing to God we can see in this fallen life.
How can you love the one that you can't see when you're looking at the image of him and you can't love that?
He's saying that your neighbor, the person to your left or to your right, that's the closest thing you can see in this fallen life of God.
Think about that for a moment. The ramifications of that are profound. The person that's walking down the sidewalk that you don't even pause to think about for a moment is the closest picture you have of God on this fallen earth.
What does Jacob say when he's wrestled with God and then he's reconciled with Esau?
What does he say when he's finally reconciled with Esau after all that pomp and circus of all the gifts and the waves and waves of honor and blessing and they finally are brought face to face?
And what does Jacob say to Esau? To see your face is like seeing the face of God. It's like seeing the face of God.
You shall love the Lord your God, Jesus says, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
That which God has brought together, let no man separate. In Mark 12, when a scribe is responding to Jesus' assertion of the greatest command, the scribe says, you've spoken the truth.
There is one God. There is no other. But he, in other words, the scribe recognizes Deuteronomy 6, you're right on the money.
That is the great command. God says as much. And so then he starts to summarize Deuteronomy 6, 5.
You've spoken the truth. There is one God. There is no other but he. And to love him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul and with all the strength and to love one's neighbor as oneself is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.
And you see, the scribe doesn't relegate love of neighbor somewhere else.
He includes that in his response. You have spoken rightly to love God and to love neighbor.
These things are held together and they're better than all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices of the covenant that God made with us.
You notice that, and James Durham points this out, even the positive commandments, even the ceremonies that are contained within the first table at times will give place or seed to the demands of the second table.
And so we have that in many of the Sabbath controversies where really the ceremonial demands put forth by the fourth commandment are given place or given way to this overriding concern for the life and preservation of your neighbor.
That's how central the love of neighbor is. The Pharisees wanted to hoist ceremony over the second table.
Jesus clarified, no, ceremony, sacrifice always gives way to the second table, to the love of the neighbor.
That's why he says in Matthew 12, if you had known what this means, I desire mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the guiltless.
So the Lord is articulating what Paul actually elaborates for us in Romans 13. He says, owe no one anything except to love one another.
He who loves one another has fulfilled the law. Isn't that a profound statement?
He who has loved another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, you shall not covet.
Now, what is Paul doing? What did Jesus do? He goes to the second table. He says the commandments and then he quotes the second table.
And he says, if there's any other commandments, all are summed up in this, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
And love does no harm to a neighbor, therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law. That doesn't make the law very, oh, well, now
I know. All I have to do is love my neighbor and I've fulfilled the law, that's great. Jesus didn't need to come and die on the cross,
I just had to love my neighbor. When you actually understand the fullness of what that love means and what that love costs, you understand how difficult, how painful, how sacrificial it truly is for Jesus to love his neighbor cost his life.
I remember John, a deacon named John from First Baptist, and he would pray, ask for prayer and share often his updates with a neighbor, an elderly kind of shut -in neighbor who is just a crank, a grinch, a scrooge of a man.
And John, you know, seeking to bless his neighbor and do good, represent the
Lord, you know, he would, whenever he mowed his lawn, he'd make sure he'd go over and mow his neighbor's lawn. Now, you'd think the neighbor would roll over to the window and go, oh, you didn't have to do that, thank you so much.
What did this neighbor do? Ah, yeah, you didn't do a very good job by the hedges. You circle back and do that again, and John's like, ho, ho, ho, hi -dee -ho, neighbor, or he'd go get groceries for him, you know,
I don't know how he's, maybe I'll go get some bags of groceries. You think, you know, this is so unexpected, you just went and got me food, thank you, how much do
I owe you? He goes, ah, you got that brand, I don't like that brand. You can keep that one for yourself.
What a guy, what a neighbor, it's not easy to love neighbors like that.
James 2 .8 says, if you really, and maybe in light of difficult neighbors, if you really, really, really fulfill the royal law according to Scripture, which is you shall love your neighbor as yourself,
James says, you do well. If you really, really, really fulfill the law which says you shall love your neighbor as yourself, you do well.
So the first danger is loving God, but not your neighbor. Now the second danger is the obverse, loving your neighbor, but not
God. Loving your neighbor, but not God. Matthew 22 is clear, you shall love the
Lord your God, that's the greatest commandment, the love of neighbor, although like it, is still second.
So the main point here, we cannot rightly love our neighbor unless we're guided by and doing so for the sake of God.
We cannot rightly love our neighbor unless we're guided by a love for God, unless we're loving our neighbor out of a greater love for God, that's the main point.
Durham notes, kind of, again, obverse of what he was establishing about the primary concern of the second table, which overrides ceremonial aspects of the first table.
But then he says, the duties of the second table also give place to the first, when they cannot both be held together, such as comparing love to God with love to father or love to neighbor, right?
Luke 14 says, your love to God will compare to almost a hatred for your father and your mother.
Well, how does that situate the fifth commandment with the first commandment, right? When obedience to God and other authorities cannot be held together, what does
Acts 5 say we are to do? We're to obey God rather than men. So the first table, as far as moral duty, always takes the priority.
The second table must give way to the first in that way, and yet that doesn't diminish God's command for us to love our neighbor.
That is the fulfillment of the law. And those things that seem like sacrifices or, you know, great aspects or expressions of our zeal,
God would say, I desire mercy rather than that. Well, if you've been tracking Exodus, speaking of obeying
God rather than man, if you've been tracking Exodus, you'll know Pharaoh does a lousy job of loving his neighbor, doesn't he?
Pharaoh always does a lousy job of loving his neighbor. We're living in time,
I think C .R. Wiley pointed this out, we're living in times where the state is increasingly taking on paternalistic tones.
In other words, pay attention to some of the speeches that are put together by the
White House staff. You'll notice that the sort of puppeteering voice of Biden is spoken of as if he's the great father of our nation, you know, grandpapa.
He's around the dinner table with you, you know, he knows it's been hard, you know, he's going to take care of you, he loves you, right?
It's just like, what? You're a bureaucrat, what are you talking about? You're not my dad. What's going on here?
Well, Pharaoh has no respect for the spheres, right? He doesn't recognize God -given authority, therefore
God -given borders to that authority. And for this reason precisely, since Pharaoh has no regard for the
Lord, the first table, he cannot do the second table well, as much as he will try.
We really cannot love neighbor rightly unless it's for the sake of God, guided by the will of God. God gives a proper contour to what neighbor love ought to look like.
This is why a godless state will always botch and abuse the God -given role they possess.
Now, this could be a whole sermon in itself, but I want to establish something positive before I press the point.
Of course, the major issue here is we cannot keep the second table without the first. We cannot love neighbor without reference to God.
God has not empowered the magistrate to enforce orthodoxy. It's not why they bear the sword, okay?
The state is not the church, all right? The keys belong to the church, and the keys belong to the church especially for what pertains to the first table.
That doesn't mean the magistrate has no referentiality to the first table, no respect toward it, but rather it means that uniquely the domain of the keys of the kingdom belongs to the church and especially consists in those things that comprise the first table.
A sword is given to the magistrate in order to punish evildoers and reward those who do good. As I said, we might ask like Jesus in Matthew 19, what is good?
How do we define good? By what standard? Now pertaining to those things which produce temporal death, destroy human flourishing, promote unjust commerce, magistrate has not only the
God -given right, but actually the God -given responsibility to oppose whatever disrupts
God's intention for human society. And if they fail to do that, they'll be judged by God accordingly, not only them, but the people under them.
The magistrate should uniquely defend and protect the church from persecution in such a way that they ensure there is absolutely no hindrance on the
Lord's commission for the sake of the world. That's what a godly state will be concerned to do.
I love the language of the Belgic Confession on this, which went through a revision I think largely because of Baptist influence in 1910, but nevertheless they say the magistrate ought to countenance the preaching of the gospel everywhere.
That's marvelous. Magistrate ought to smile upon the preaching of the gospel everywhere.
Now when we separate the second table, which occupies almost all matters of the civil law, when we separate that from the first table, what happens?
What happens when a state tries to administer civil law, essentially the bulk of the second table, without any regard for the first table?
In other words, they want to address matters between neighbors without any reference to God. Well what happens is the state will decide who counts as a neighbor.
We'll decide who's a neighbor. Maybe we don't want the infirmed to be counted as neighbors.
Maybe we don't want the unborn to be counted as neighbors. We'll decide who your neighbor is.
The state will also decide not only who your neighbor is, but what love is. We'll tell you what love is.
We'll define it for you. This is what love is. This is what love is not.
Love is self -actualization, self -fulfillment. If you have some unfulfilled desire, love obligates us and all of our scientific technological supremacy to fulfill your desire, however twisted and perverted it may be.
You must be fulfilled. That's love. And then between the two, they define who the neighbor is, they define what love is, they define what loving a neighbor means, what loving a neighbor looks like.
We have a very recent example of this, sort of fresh off the page, President Biden's proclamation.
By the way, I made this point last week. When we don't uphold the Lord's Day, there's absolutely no resistance to Caesar appointing his own feast days and holy days, as it were.
That's essentially what took place with Biden's proclamation. He said, I do hereby proclaim March 31st, 2024, as Transgender Day of Visibility.
Included in that proclamation was an almost quaint boilerplate, almost tragic in its irony, where he says, in witness whereof,
I hereunto set my hand this 29th day of March in the year of our Lord, 2024.
The year of the Lord, and yet you're the one appointing days for perversions of God's will. This is what happens.
Now, as to the proclamation itself, I'm not going to dignify the whole thing. I won't besmirch this pulpit. But to make the point, he essentially says,
I want you to notice key vocabulary here. Remember that staffers pour over every word they measure, every inflection.
I am proud that my administration has stood for justice from the start.
I am proud to have appointed transgender leaders to my administration. I am proud.
I am proud. I am proud. He says it four or five times. I am proud transgender
Americans are part of the fabric of our nation. They deserve the most fundamental freedom to be their true selves.
The state will decide what a self is and what that true self will look like. Now where do we fit into this fabric of the nation?
Is that love for neighbor? Okay, then we can expect some neighborly love too, right? Extremists are proposing hundreds of hateful laws that target and terrify these children in their family.
So we're the extremists who are hateful and engaged in acts of terror. So much for loving your neighbor.
Do you see? We cannot rightly love neighbor unless we're guided by and loving neighbor for the sake of God.
Matthew 5 .43 is a good example of what happens when our love is guided by God's law.
What will it look like when you love your neighbor with reference to God? What will it look like?
It will look like this. Matthew 5 .43. You've heard it was said, you shall love your neighbor, hate your enemy.
I say to you, love your enemies, okay? What does that look like,
Jesus? What will it be like when I love my neighbors in a God honoring,
God referencing way? What will it be like when I take the second table and I put it underneath the glory and light and integrity of the first table?
What will that look like? I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you.
Do good to those who hate you. Pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.
Do you see what Jesus is saying? I'm telling you, love your enemies. Love your neighbor, love your neighbor even when your neighbor is an enemy.
What will loving your neighbor look like? It will look like being cursed, being hated, being spited, being used, being persecuted.
No servant is above his master, Jesus says, such they did to me. His own life demonstrates that loving your neighbor out of love for God will lead to difficulty, will lead to difficulty.
So what guides us to love our neighbor rightly, even when we're reviled, even when we're persecuted, even when our life begins to shatter, all because we're trying to love our neighbor in truth?
The only thing that can guide us, the only thing that can help us persevere in that, is a greater love for God, a greater love for God.
If you only are concerned for the second table, you'll never persevere. You'll never be patient in suffering.
You'll just give up, you'll abandon. You won't be concerned, drawn, you won't put up with all the hate and spite and persecution that comes.
It's out of love for God that you will truly, patiently love your neighbor, even when your neighbor is your enemy.
I don't know that we'll always be spared from needing to practice this in our walks. We have been, we are.
So many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world are not. They're spited, they're persecuted, and they're patiently in touring.
They're loving their enemies. Why? Why? Why would they do that?
There was a missionary in Jerusalem, Tony Simon. This is, I don't know him personally, but I heard many stories of him.
And he would go and just had this great love for Muslims. And he would go with great joy, this beaming charisma, and preach
Christ to them. And one night, he went from preaching the
Gospel, and he was walking across the street, and almost surely intentionally, a car ran him over and killed him.
And what Tony would have wanted his largely Russian congregation to do, is to go even further and farther in loving their enemies.
Not to use that as an excuse to give up, or to be fearful, or to be hateful. How could you do this to our pastor, but to just double down on loving your enemy?
Why? Why? Because of this greater love for God. It is
God who said, you shall love me, and love your neighbor. Many seeming allies, we need to be very mindful of this, we're in an election year.
Many seeming allies are in fact hate mongers.
Many seeming allies are in fact full of spite. They're a brood of vipers. And I would say, beware.
Beware. Beware of conservative talk radio, or talking heads that have some similar points of worldview, and some similar political concerns as you.
And you may for that reason be tempted to think we share the same values. We're looking at the second table in the same way.
But if they're doing so apart from the first table, they will not be able to follow through on what loving the neighbor requires.
They don't love the neighbor, they hate their neighbor. They're no different between those who are opposing them on the other side.
This vitriol that exchanges and desires the riddance of the other, that is unchristian, that is satanic.
Be careful who the sand ballots and Tobias are that you join arms with. But the flip side of that is there's other seeming allies.
All they care about is loving neighbor. It's just that they have no love, no fear, no trust in God.
They don't fear his word. Their love for neighbor makes them kind of get squishy with the word.
Okay, well that's what Paul said though, not Jesus. What? What are you talking about?
They simply want to love their neighbor. Isn't that the most important thing? Didn't you just preach on that ten minutes ago?
But not at the expense of God. They want to love their neighbor, but ultimately because it's departed from God, it's not anchored in a love for God, it becomes a love for themselves.
Loving their neighbor in this way becomes their own benefit. It's for their own acceptance in the world, maybe their own assuaging of their conscience.
They feel better about themselves. It's not genuinely a love for the neighbor despite the cost.
It's actually a love for self. So the second danger, again, is loving your neighbor but not God. Now sadly, the soft leftist tendency in much of evangelicalism amounts to little more than a regurgitation of a movement that took place in the end of the 19th, beginning of the 20th century called the
Social Gospel. One of the leading proponents, Walter Rauschenbusch, there in Hell's Kitchen, New York, was a social movement very concerned about the need of the neighbor, seeing ways that the established church had failed to follow through with James' concern.
They weren't feeding, clothing, helping those who bore the image of God. And so the idea was this gospel needs to actually be tangible.
There needs to be hands and feet meeting needs in the community. So many of, especially the coastal cities, were sort of industrialized, and the slums were increasing in their squalor, and people, you know, children were enforced into labor.
There was all sorts of suffering. It was a humanitarian crisis in many of the cities. And the logic of the social gospel movement was if we can do enough blood drives, if we have enough soup kitchens, people will enter the kingdom that way.
In fact, we'll build the kingdom of heaven on earth that way. And we won't need to talk about sin, we just need to love.
No need to bring up Paul. In fact, as Walter Rauschenbusch came to conclude, I don't really know about the inerrancy of scripture anymore.
It seems like that. In fact, come to think of it, I don't really know about this whole doctrine of penal atonement. That doesn't seem to sit well with me.
And so his view was that Jesus died because of some of the great social sins, like religious bigotry.
He died as an example against that. There wasn't actually a transaction on the cross. Because the social gospel was always concerned about loving your neighbor, not dealing with the first table, not dealing with the heart toward God, not dealing with indwelling sin.
Where does all of that lead? I would remind you that during the French Revolution, the great motto of liberty and equality and the brotherhood of man, fraternity.
It was Robespierre in a speech in 1790, he said, you know, we want those patches. Liberty, equality, fraternity, brotherhood.
We want those patches on the waistcoats of the armed guards. So you have the reign of terror with people's heads being chopped off.
And who are the people holding the pikes and the axes? The people with the patches that say liberty, equality, fraternity.
That's where the social gospel leads. That's where the second table, apart from the first table, always leads.
It was William Jennings Bryan, another very important figure in that movement, who popularized the social gospel politically.
And he said in many writings, you don't let the weeds triumph over the roses simply because the weeds are stronger.
He's talking about societal evils. You protect the roses from the weeds. If you want a society where you have good people, kindness, charity, and equality, you have to do some weeding.
Now, that may have not struck anyone with fear in the 1920s, but if I heard a politician in 2024 get up on the campaign stump and say, if we want good people, we have to do some weeding,
I would say, I think we should move to South America or something. That doesn't sound good. A century later, that sounds terrifying.
Why? Who gets to define good? What does it mean to be a good person?
When you say, if you want a society of good people, who's deciding what good is? If you want an equal society, what counts as equality?
What's the basis for it? In other words, who gets to name the roses and who gets to name the weeds? You see the danger of separating the second table from the first.
The social gospel was bent on applying the second table. It was concerned about the effects of industrialization.
It was genuinely meeting the needs of poverty in the community. But they thought that somehow, through their reform efforts, they could be building and advancing the kingdom of God on earth.
I would argue the effects of that social gospel movement, for all the gains in the short term, have been horrific in the long term.
You don't really get first -wave feminism without the social gospel movement. You don't get the social welfare state without the social gospel movement.
You see what happens when you try to love neighbor without a love for God. There's a book blurb on a forthcoming book, it's meant to be one of these shocking exposés, how
I made it out of evangelicalism. These are like a dime a dozen, not worth your time. But I was struck by something that was said on the back of this book blurb.
Churches, this is the accusation, I think it's like, amen, churches have preferred doctrine to compassion, orthodoxy to justice, legalism to love.
Well, other than the legalism, I want to say guilty as charged. I prefer doctrine to compassion, orthodoxy to justice, because of this reason.
You don't get to define what justice is, or what compassion is, without doctrine, or without orthodoxy.
There is no such thing as doctrine -free compassion. All compassion is born out of some orthodoxy.
The question is, whose orthodoxy? Love is always governed by doctrine.
It's always enforced by those who espouse the doctrine. What's the doctrine that's being enforced today?
I refer you back to our president's proclamation. Who are the extremists that are hateful and committed to acts of terror?
You see the doctrine that's being enforced. What counts as loving your neighbor? What does compassion look like? The issue is whether you are heterodox to the way of the world, in order to be orthodox to God, or whether you would be orthodox to the world, and therefore a stranger, distant from the
Lord. You begin with the first and the greatest commandment. Only then can you understand why and how the second is like it.
The second's not other than it. The second is like it. Loving God is like loving your neighbor.
So how could you love your neighbor if you don't love God? You realize in this way the social gospel is no gospel at all.
It sought to deal primarily with external needs around, rather than internal sin within.
Somewhere there's a moral letter. Seneca was an ancient
Roman writer and sort of counsel. Calvin actually studied
Seneca. Well, anyway, Seneca has these moral writings, and in one he shares a story of a friend of his wife's that was going blind, but she didn't know it.
So he says all day long she keeps asking her servant to move her to a different room, and she just complains, you know, the light's not good in that room.
It's getting dark in that room. He says she doesn't recognize that she's going blind. It's not the room.
It's her own condition. He says she goes around asking her servant to move her from one room to the next because her place is dark.
And Seneca says, why do we lie to ourselves? Our problems are never external. They're inside of us.
They sit in our guts themselves. That's why pursuing our health is so hard. We're ignorant of our own disease.
Not bad for a pagan. We need to recognize that we cannot love our neighbor rightly if we don't recognize the affliction of our neighbor.
If we're ignorant of our own disease, we're definitely going to be ignorant of our neighbor's disease. We'll never be able to love them rightly.
Rosaria Butterfield, and I think you have heard me in times past commend her testimony. All of her writings,
I think, are so helpful. And several years ago, there was a comment made by Jen Hatmaker.
She was being interviewed, and she basically went, you know, fully woke on all of the, you know, issues of tension and concern.
She said, oh, I think my gay friends can be in committed marriages that are holy and happy, and that's God's will for them, and so on.
Rosaria Butterfield wrote in response, if this were 1999, the year that I was converted and walked away from the woman in the lesbian community
I loved, instead of 2016. So she was converted in 1999, still had a lot to understand about herself and the
Lord and the world. But now it's 2016. The Lord's grace has been sufficient. She says, if it were 1999 and I heard that kind of comment, it would have flooded into my world like the balm of Gilead.
Maybe I wouldn't need to lose everything to have Jesus. Maybe the gospel wouldn't ruin me while I waited, waited, waited for the
Lord to build me back up after He convicted me of my sin and I suffered the consequences.
But, she said, today I hear these words, words meant to encourage, not discourage, words meant to build up, not tear down.
Words meant to defend the marginalized, not broker unearned power. In other words, she's saying,
Jen is trying to love her neighbor. These words are trying to love the neighbor, and she says, if she loved me as a neighbor back in 1999, it would have been the greatest thing
I ever could have heard. I can stay this way, I can live like this, and still go to church and still have
Jesus. She says, if I were still in the thick of the battle over my indwelling sin, her words would have put a millstone around my neck.
That is profound. For all our desire to encourage, to build up, to defend, to love our neighbor in this way,
Rosaria Butterfield says, 17 years earlier, if I heard that, it would have sent me to hell. It would have sent me to hell.
She's saying, I'm glad that I had people in my life that loved me as neighbors ought to love.
Not at the expense of truth, not irrespective of God, but rather for the sake of God, and therefore according to God's truth.
And they loved me without being squirrely on the details. They said, if you would be a follower of Christ, this will be the cost, this will be the cross that you bear, but His grace will be sufficient.
A generic and insipid love for a neighbor will not lead you, and it will definitely not lead your neighbor to love the
Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. That is the first and greatest commandment. But a love for God embraced in this way will always lead you to patiently, purposefully, and truly love your neighbor.
Even when your neighbor says, that's no love at all. So these things, and the third point now, and last, these things are all held together in the gospel.
The gospel combines a love for God and a love for neighbor.
The gospel is the fruition of all that God has put forth in His law. To love
God and to love fellow man, to love God and to love neighbor, is what the law requires.
It's what the law shows forth. It's everything that we break and why we need a Savior. It's what the Savior fulfills and then sanctifies us to begin to produce, to begin to walk in.
That's the gospel. The gospel both distinguishes and holds together these two tables.
The gospel knows the difference between which is the greatest without losing the fact that the second is like it.
The gospel, in other words, orients us first and foremost to God, but always close behind to our neighbor.
And you remember the question that was posed to Jesus, who is my neighbor? Remember, it was
Luke 10 when the man was beaten and robbed, left to die on the side of the road.
And lo and behold, who comes bumbling down the road? A priest. A priest.
Someone who has memorized the Torah. He stands before the community of His people and He blesses them in the name of God.
He teaches them Torah. Morning and evening, He recites the
Shema. You shall love the Lord your God. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. These are the things
He instructs the generations to bear. He teaches His children and His children's children. This is a priest.
And what does He do when He sees this man bleeding to death on the side of the road? Poof. I'm not going to be ritually unclean.
I've got a lot to do. I can't risk it. I don't have to pass by. I'm not going to touch blood.
I'm not going to touch... He could be dead. If I go and inspect, I'm just going to pass by. Then a
Levite comes. Poof. We almost blew it with the priest. Good thing a Levite's coming. Levites are those that are especially concerned with governing and guarding the worship of God.
These are the ones that have unique privilege to the house of God, to God's holy dwelling place.
These are men who peer by magnificent architecture of the footstool of God on the earth.
Zealous men. They won't roll any punches. Surely this
Levite understands what the second table requires. The Levite, what does he do?
Poof. Not touching that. Crosses the other side, goes around. And then look who's coming.
A Samaritan. A half -breed. One of those
Mishlinga. We don't really... Just skip the story. We know where this... Nothing good happened. What does the
Samaritan rob him even more? Kick him to death? What does the Samaritan do?
It's a shock. Brings him, puts him in an inn. Says, whatever the charges are, whatever the cost is, do whatever he needs to be made whole,
I'll pay for it. It's a shock. And Jesus, in explaining this, he returns the question.
He had been posed a question. Then he returns the question. Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to him?
Which of these three was the neighbor? In other words, you have a priest that's not acting like a neighbor.
You have a Levite that's not acting like a neighbor. Which of these three was the neighbor? And the man rightly says, the one who showed mercy.
Jesus says, go and do likewise. Isn't that something to aspire to? That's a virtue that we don't often,
I think, aspire to. To be merciful. Could you be described as a merciful person?
Don't you know that your Father in Heaven whose image you bear, whose way you are to represent is rich in mercy?
Are you merciful? You are not the neighbor, and you're no different than the
Levite or the priest if you're not merciful. Where does mercy come from?
Where do we experience mercy in such a way that we can understand what mercy is and what mercy looks like?
The Gospel. What is the Gospel if it's not the mercy of God in and through Christ applied by His Spirit?
The Gospel is the mercy of God. The Gospel is our first true, genuine taste of what mercy really is and what it's all about.
And it's because we received mercy that we're able to show it. You cannot be a neighbor if you don't have the
Gospel. If you haven't been saved by the Gospel, you will never be able to show the kind of love that God requires to your neighbor.
It all begins with the love of God shed forth in the broken, resurrected body of His Son applied to us by His Spirit.
It all begins with the love of God poured out in us. Robert Murray McShane, who wrote this to a student, never see the face of man until you have seen
His face who is our life and our all. In other words, he was saying, before you see anyone else's face in the morning, you should go out and seek
God's face. Because only then can you look at the faces of your neighbors rightly.
Only then can you love them and be merciful to them rightly. It was Robert Murray McShane who, as a young man, had very poor health in his family and there were a number of episodes of tuberculosis that sort of ravaged the northwest of Scotland.
Robert Murray McShane was studying classics and he was very bright as a young man.
He seemed to have a pretty promising career in classics. His older brother, and neither of them were believers, his older brother fell ill and was on his deathbed.
And as his brother was in the throes of death, he received the gospel and his life was transformed.
Though he didn't have a lot of ways to express it, Robert noticed that his brother had assurance in peace and profound joy as he was dying.
And so it totally changed the course of his life. He disenrolled from classics and began to pursue divinity studies in Edinburgh.
He providentially was put under the helm of Thomas Chalmers, a very influential figure.
Thomas Chalmers had the same concerns of the social gospel movement, but he was one that actually understood the gospel.
And so when he tried to deal with needs in the slums of Edinburgh, it was never at the expense of truth, but it was for the cause of the truth.
And he did revolutionary work and so all of his students studying theology, they had to go with him and be exercised in the care of the city.
And McShane wrote, and I came across this some years ago, and it always hits me right in the feels.
Robert Murray McShane, as a student, keeping his journals and having, as a course of action, going out and engaging the poor.
And one of the first few times he does this, this is what he writes, he says, March 8th, this is his own private journal,
March 8th, accompanied A .B., that's Andrew Bonner, another important preacher, accompanied
A .B. in one of his rounds through some of the most miserable habitations I ever beheld. Such scenes
I've never before dreamed of. Oh, why am I such a stranger to the poor of my native town?
I've passed their doors thousands of times. I've admired the huge black piles of buildings, their lofty chimneys breaking the sun's rays.
So why have I never ventured within? How dwells the love of God in me?
What masses of human beings are huddled together? No man cares for our souls, as written over every forehead.
Awake, my soul. Why would I give hours and days any longer to a vain world, when there's such a world of misery at my very door?
Lord, put Your own strength in me. Confirm this good resolution.
Forgive my long past life of uselessness and folly. He writes,
Forgive my past long life of uselessness and folly. He wrote this when he was 21.
Past long life, you're 21. His heart was so burdened with love for God that it was more and more burdened for love of neighbor.
And he asked the penetrating question, How dwells this love of God in me? Could it be that I've received this love of God when
I have such little regard and concern for this world of misery at my doorstep? He lived with such a rare sobriety for a 21 year old.
He went to Dundee and it was said that basically the city was never the same. He went to Dundee which was sort of a town of ill report and much like Baxter and Kitterminster it became sort of a center of God's revival.
And you had at the center of this young 20 -something year old who had a heart for God and a heart for neighbor.
And he died when he was 29. Died of tuberculosis like his older brother. He lived with this rare sobriety.
He lived righteously and godly in a hard place. He was able to do that because he was looking for a blessed hope.
He loved God first and foremost but that only made him zealous for good works. And that is what the grace of God teaches all who believe in Him.
Is it not? The grace of God teaches us these very things. That's what Paul says in Titus.
The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men teaching us. The grace of God is teaching us something.
Is it teaching you something? That denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, right?
No longer this vain, useless way of life that I've had these past 21 years.
That we should live soberly, righteously, godly in the present age looking for the blessed hope. Glorious appearing of our great
God and Savior Jesus Christ. The first commandment. The greatest commandment. Looking for the blessed hope.
Who gave Himself for us. That He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people.
Zealous for good works. He gave Himself for us. So having received
Him, we give ourselves for others. This is what the grace of God teaches us.
So I ask the question as we close. What is the grace of God teaching you? Are you with any danger of loving
God but not loving your neighbor? Well, how dwells the love of God in you?
Are you in any danger of trying to love your neighbor but you really don't have any love of God that's guiding that or anchoring that and so it just becomes sort of tolerance and acceptance and everything that's like jello sliding down the wall.
Do you ever stop and ask yourself like McShane did when he finally walked across the poor in the city.
How dwells the love of God in me? What is the gospel? It is love displayed, love received and love returned.
What is the gospel? Samuel Crossman said it's his song. He said it's a song of love unknown.
My Savior's love to me. Love to the loveless shown. So beautiful.
He said my song is love unknown. My Savior's love to me. I have never known this love.
What love? This love. My Savior's love to me. What did that look like?
Looked like this. Love to the loveless shown. And to what end?
That they might lovely be. Love displayed.
My Savior's love. Love displayed. Love received. My Savior's love to me.
Love returned. Love to the loveless. That they might lovely be.
Here we have the gospel displayed. Have you received it? Do you believe in the gospel? Have you known the love of Christ to you?
Have you received that love? And if so, have you returned that love? Are you now the one who shows love to the loveless that they might lovely be?
He has told you, oh man, what is good. What does the Lord require of you? But to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your
God. Amen. Father, thank
You for Your Word, Lord. Lord, we would be doers, not hearers only.
We would be men and women cut from the cloth of McChain and Chalmers. Lord, we would be those who have understood the love that You have shown.
A love that cannot be contained within us, spent on our own selfish desires, but must be exuded, must be borne out and zeal for good works, must be testified and cultivated as a love for neighbor.
Oh Lord, do this work in this church. Let us not be so sequestered and closed in that the muscles of a love that ought to be given to the community around us atrophy.
Lord, help us all to answer that question of how Your love dwells within us. May it be a love that we've received that we are returning to the world, to You, Lord, for Your sake and for Your glory.