(If you would like to sign up to receive these sermons via e-mail,
Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
March 27, 2005
Our Rock of Faith
I want to start this morning by thanking our Choir for their presentation of
"Rock of Faith" arranged by Mosie Lister. The choral presentation begins
and ends with the fact that Jesus Christ is the heavenly king. He is the lamb
upon the throne that is crowned with many crowns and whose heavenly anthem
drowns all music but its own. All the songs in the middle explained why Jesus,
He that is One with the Father, is the Lord of Heaven by recounting His death on
the cross and His resurrection. This morning I want to briefly expand on that
theme and then explain further what its means that Jesus is the Solid Rock, and
the Rock of our faith.
Jesus the King is Lord
Most of our society calls today "Easter," and
perhaps it is a good name for what society is celebrating today, the coming of
Spring, but it is not a great name for what Christians are celebrating today.
The name "Easter" arises from the name of the Teutonic goddess of Spring to whom
sacrifices were offered in April. How then did this name get attached to our
celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection? Two factors made the change. The first
factor was a decision by the Council of Nicea in 325 to set the celebration of
the Resurrection of Christ on the first Sunday after the first full moon of
Spring. This broke its chronological tie with Passover, (and that is why this
year "Easter" is 27 days before Passover – April 23). The second factor is that
the translators of the King James Version translated the Greek term,
B"FP" / to
pascha, which means, "the Passover," correctly 27 times, yet for some unknown
reason they translated it as "Easter" in Acts 12:4. Since the resurrection of
Jesus Christ occurred the third day after Passover, it did not take long for the
term "Easter" to encompass it as well. Tragically, the name "Easter" then
entered into English church vocabulary as the designation for the time when the
celebration of the resurrection would take place, which was now tied to the
coming of Spring instead of Passover, and the two became mixed.
Now while I am very glad for the coming of Spring and praise God for it, I am
not celebrating that today. I am, and I hope you are as well, celebrating the
glorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Society can have their Easter
Eggs, bunnies and chicks, but I want the resurrected Christ, who is the King and
Lord of Heaven and Earth forever. How did Jesus attain that position?
Turn to Philippians 2.
We studied this passage last year, so I will not go into depth about it, but
simply use it to point out who Jesus is and what He did. Paul is pointing out to
the Philippian believers the humble attitude they are to have in dealing with
one another and he uses Jesus as the supreme example. Starting in verse 5 our
text says this: 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ
Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality
with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a
bond-servant, [and] being made in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in
appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of
death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and
bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the
earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the
glory of God the Father.
Jesus is God in human flesh and He willingly set aside the glories of heaven
that belong to Him in order to become a man, but not just a man, but a bond
servant. He was born of a humble Jewish family in a stable and grew up as a
carpenter’s son. But at the right time, He began His public ministry of
declaring the Father’s message to His people. The Messiah, the promised anointed
One had come to save them from their sins. What the people did not understand,
including His disciples at the time, was that this would require Him to be the
innocent sacrifice made on their behalf. They were looking for a Messiah who
would throw off the yoke of Rome and re-establish the nation of Israel to the
glories it had when David and Solomon were on the throne. They failed to take
note of the prophet Isaiah’s words in chapter 53 that Messiah would come as a
suffering servant, that he would be "despised and forsake of men," that
He would "pierced through for our transgressions" and "crushed for our
iniquities." The Lord would cause "the iniquity of us all to fall on Him"
for He would "render Himself as a guilt offering," and by that would
"justify the many." That is what Jesus accomplished when He willingly died
on the cross as the sin offering for you and me.
The choir sang about this fact, and how well did the hymn writers summarize
these great truths. "It was for me He cried, for me He died, For me He shed
His blood upon a tree." "And the Old rugged cross made the difference."
It made the difference between having to bear my own sin and being condemned
to eternal Hell or being forgiven and set free from my sin because He paid the
death price for me. But if the story ended at Jesus death, then as Paul said in
2 Corinthians 15:17-20, we Christians would be "of all me most to be pitied,"
for our faith would be worthless and we would still be in our sins if Jesus
remained dead. Why? Because then Jesus’ promises would be a lie. If He could not
fulfill His promise to rise again from the dead, then there would be no basis to
believe that He could bring about the resurrection of anyone else.
"But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those
who are asleep" (1 Cor. 15:20), and that fact has been verified by among
other things; His physical appearance to Cephas (Peter), the twelve, James, more
than 500 at one time and finally to the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 15: 6-8). Jesus’
resurrection assures us that His promises of being forgiven of our sins,
escaping judgement and passing from death to eternal life is true (Mark 2:10;
John 3:16, 5:24). We can also believe His promise that He will come again for us
to take us to be with Him forever (John 14:1-3). No wonder the choir sang of
celebrating because Jesus lives!
The love of God is proven in Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. God’s
love to us is proven in Jesus dying for us while we were yet sinners (Romans
5:8). His love for His Son and through Him to us was proven in the resurrection.
Another joyous truth to praise God for and sing about.
But there is one other thing that the choir sang about that I want to point
out and expand upon this morning, and that is the concept that Jesus is the
"Solid Rock" and the "Rock of our faith." I want to expand on this
for two reasons. First, that kind of language is not used much anymore, so it is
important that we understand what is meant by those phrases. Second, we need to
know that our faith is in something that is not only unchanging itself, but
cannot be changed. We need to be assured that our faith in Jesus Christ will not
turn out to be in vain.
Christ, the Solid Rock
One of the hymns the Choir sang was "The Solid Rock." People very
seldom use that kind of language anymore, but in previous generations it was
very common metaphor for something strong and unmoving that could be counted on.
That is why in the Civil War era Confederate General Thomas Jackson gained the
moniker "Stonewall" because his troops held their ground while other troops were
retreating, and Union General George Thomas gained the title, "Rock of
Chickamauga" for withstanding the strong Confederate attacks. The Old Testament
if full of similar metaphorical use of the terms for "rock" to communicate the
idea of strength and reliability.
For example, in Psalm 61 David says, "Hear my cry, O God; Give heed to my
prayer. From the end of the earth I call to Thee, when my heart is faint; Lead
me to the rock that is higher than I. For Thou hast been a refuge for me, A
tower of strength against the enemy." David uses the term "rock" to speak of
the person that is greater than he is and whose strength and reliability can
provide him security much like a mountain fortress would provide refuge for an
army. It is this idea of security that is brought out by the phrase "my Rock"
or "our rock" 15 times in the Old Testament. The idea is strengthened
further when used in conjunction phrases such as "my fortress" (Psalm
31:3; 71:3); "my stronghold" (2 Sam. 22:3; Psalm 18:2; Psalm 62:2,6;
94:22); "my refuge" (2 Sam. 22:3; Psalm 18:2; 62:7; 94:22; 144:2);"my
shield" (2 Samuel 22:3; Psalm 18:2; 28:7; 144:2); "my deliver" (2
Samuel 2:22; Psalm 18:2); "my redeemer" (Psalm 19:14); and "my
salvation / savior" (2 Sam. 22:3; 47; Psalm 18:2; 46; 27:1,9; 62:1,2,6,7;
89:26). God is our "rock" because He is strong and reliable so that we can trust
Him to protect and deliver us from our enemies.
The term "rock" was often used as a synonym for God such as in Deuteronomy
32:4, "The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of
faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He" and
Habakkuk 1:12, "Art Thou not from everlasting, O Lord, my God, my Holy One?
We will not die. Thou, O Lord, hast appointed them to judge; And Thou, O Rock,
hast established them to correct." The term was also used of the pagan
deities, in fact the two are contrasted Deuteronomy 32:31 and 1 Samuel 2:2,
"Indeed their Rock is not like our Rock, Even our enemies themselves judge
this," and "There is no one holy like the Lord, Indeed, there is no one
besides Thee, Nor is there any Rock like our God."
It is because of the Lord’s strength and faithfulness that the hymn proclaims
that "On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand."
The scriptures declare our God to not only be powerful enough to carry out
His will against all opposition, but also trustworthy to do so, and for that
reason He is our rock.
It is that same metaphor that allows us to speak of the rock of our faith.
Faith has become very confused by the false teachers of our times. They have
spread the idea that faith is its own entity so that faith in faith is enough to
claim that something must happen. The truth is that faith cannot exist as an
independent entity. Faith must always have an object. The question is what is
that object and is that object something that is worthy and dependable to put
your faith in.
The phrase "people of faith" is often used by the media in an attempt to
describe people who are religious, but all people are people of faith, for all
people have faith, for faith encompasses the concepts of belief and trust. If
you believe something and put your trust in it, then you have faith in it, and
all people have faith in something even if it is just in themselves. It is the
ability and reliability of the object of faith that determines if it is a faith
that is worthwhile or not, and not the belief of the individual themselves.
A negative example first. An employer hires a new employee that recently
graduated near the top in their class. The ability of the new employee has been
demonstrated by their college record. It would be reasonable for the employer to
place faith in the new employee to handle the job. However, the new employee is
now away from home for the first time with a spendable income. He does not
handle the freedom well and quickly develops some bad habits that result in him
often coming to work late or even missing the day. No matter how much faith the
employer claims to have in the new employee, that faith is not worthwhile
because the employee is unreliable. The same would be true if the new employee
never missed work and was always on time but did not have the ability to do the
job. The object of faith must have ability and reliability to make the faith
Another example: A dad picks up his young child and begins to play with him
by tossing him in the air and catching him. It is the dad’s ability and
reliability which determine if this is a safe activity or not. The child may
have very little faith in the dad to begin with, but as he is safely caught each
time, his faith in dad increases and the activity becomes more enjoyable. Often
we are like that child when it comes to our faith in God. We might even say we
have faith, but our trust wavers when new situations develop that are
frightening to us. Our faith in God increases as we see how He takes us through
each experience to accomplish His will in our life. It is not the strength of
our faith that determines its credibility, but the ability and reliability of
the object of that faith.
That is the reason we can say that Jesus is the Rock of our Faith. Our belief
and trust may be weak, but Jesus can and will carry out all His promises toward
us, and it is His resurrection that proves this. Consider how weak in faith the
disciples were on the night Jesus was arrested. Though they had been with Him
for three years and heard Him teach on all sorts of subjects including what was
going to happen over the next few days including both His suffering and
resurrection, yet when the persecution began and Jesus was arrested, they ran
away. On the evening of the day that Jesus rose from the dead, we find the
disciples in a room with the doors shut for fear of the Jews (John 20:19). They
had already heard of Jesus’ resurrection from Mary Magdalene and others, but
they were still afraid until Jesus suddenly came into the room and showed them
His hands and side. It was only then that they rejoiced and became changed men.
They who had previously fled in fear went on to boldly tell the Sanhedrin,
"We must obey God rather than men" and then to clearly placed the
responsibility for Jesus’ death upon them (Acts 5:29-32). It no longer mattered
if they would be flogged, which they were, or even killed, which all but John
eventually were. These men who had been so afraid ended up turning the world
upside down (Acts 17:6).
Perhaps your faith is weak much like the disciples had been. You may have
fears and doubts much like they did. If so, take comfort that regardless of the
level of your faith, the object of your faith is able and reliable, and
therefore Jesus is the Rock of our Faith. His resurrection demonstrated that His
sacrifice was accepted so that our sins can be forgiven, and that He also has
the power to fulfill His promise to grant eternal life for all who believe in
Him. As you walk with Him, your understanding and belief in Him will broaden and
increase even as your trust in Him will deepen. The fears and doubts will
diminish and with firm confidence you can rest in His love no matter what
happens, for along with Paul you can proclaim that to live is Christ and to die
is gain, for your present and eternity are secure in Him, the Rock of our faith.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives.
Here is some help.
Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the
sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children –
Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the
sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times the word "rock" is said.
Talk with your parents about ability and reliability of Jesus to fulfill His
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
Where is the origin of the term "Easter." How did become associated with the
celebration of Jesus’ resurrection? Who is Jesus? Where did He come from? What
did He do while living? What is the importance of Jesus’ death on the cross?
What is the importance of His resurrection? What does the resurrection mean to
you personally? What does the term "rock" mean when used metaphorically? How was
this term used of God in the Old Testament? What is the nature of faith? Who are
"people of faith?" What kinds of things do people put their faith in? What do
you place your faith in? What makes a person’s faith worthwhile? Give examples
of a faith that is worthwhile and one that is not. What is the importance of the
ability and reliability of an object of faith? What is the ability of Jesus to
fulfill His promises? How do we know he has that ability? What is the
reliability of Jesus to fulfill His promises? Who do we know He is reliable?
What faith relationship do you have with Jesus Christ?
Sermon Notes – 3/27/05 a.m.
The Rock of Our Faith – Selected Scriptures
Jesus, the King, is Lord
Origin of "Easter"
1 Corinthians 15
Christ, The Solid Rock
"My Rock" / "Our Rock"
Also used with:
"my fortress" (Psalm 31:3; 71:3);
"my stronghold" (2 Sam. 22:3; Psalm 18:2; 62:2,6; 94:22);
"my refuge" (2 Sam. 22:3; Psalm 18:2; 62:7; 94:22; 144:2);
"my shield" (2 Samuel 22:3; Psalm 18:2; 28:7; 144:2);
"my deliver" (2 Samuel 2:22; Psalm 18:2);
"my redeemer" (Psalm 19:14);
"my salvation / savior" (2 Sam. 22:3; 47; Psalm 18:2; 46; 27:1,9;
"The Rock" – Deuteronomy 32:4; Habakkuk 1:12
see also Deut. 32:1; 1 Samuel 2:2
Jesus, The Rock of Our Faith
The Nature of Faith
The Importance of the Ability & Reliability of the Object of Faith
The Effect of the Resurrection on the Disciples
Compare Matthew 26:56 & John 20:19 with Acts 5:29-32; 17:6