Andrew Fountain - Love: Our New Identity. Parable of the Sheep and Goats

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Full sermon notes - The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats

Sheep and Goats

Sheep and Goats

Image source: Marliese


Matthew 25:31–46

  1. When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.
  2. All the nations will be assembled before him, and he will separate people one from another like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
  3. He will put the sheep on his right, and the goats on his left.
  4. Then the King will say to those on his right,
    Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
    For I was hungry and you gave me food,
    I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
    I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
    I was naked and you clothed me,
    I was sick and you cared for me,
    I was in prison and you visited me.
  5. Then the righteous will answer him, saying,
    “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?
    And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?
    And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?”
  6. And the King will answer them,
    I tell you the truth, just as you did it to one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it to me.
  7. “Then he will say to those on his left,
    Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.
    For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
    I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
    I was a stranger and you did not welcome me,
    naked and you did not clothe me,
    sick and in prison and you did not visit me.
  8. Then they too will answer,
    “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not give you whatever you needed?”
  9. Then he will answer them, saying,
    I tell you the truth, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.
  10. And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

Version: based on NET Bible


  • Matthew 25 is a very clear and unmistakable description of the Day of Judgement.
    • Jesus comes in his glory, the angels with him, and he sits on the throne.
    • All the nations are gathered before him, everybody who has ever lived, and he divides them, the sheep from the goats.
    • As he divides them he says to one group,
      for I was hungry you and gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison and you came to me.”
    • They reply, “When have we done this?” And Jesus responds,
  • Comments
    • This is not supposed to be an exact description, but to convey a point
    • There are many pictures given us of the Day of Judgement, all teaching some facet
    • Sheep and goats could look very similar in ancient Palestine
  • There are three questions:
    1. Who are being judged?
    2. What is the basis?
    3. Who are “the least of these brothers or sisters of mine”
  • This raises two issues
    1. Does he only care about us showing love to other Christians?
    2. Is Jesus teaching that we are saved by good deeds?
      • Surely we are saved by trusting Jesus, by faith not works
      • We trust him, he takes away our sins through his death on the cross
      • so we go to heaven —isn’t that how it works?
  • Brief survey of the rest of the N.T. teaching on the subject

Hebrews 6

  • Those who seem to be Christians..
  1. and then have fallen away…
  2. Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation.
  3. For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving and continuing to serve the saints, as you still do.
  4. And we passionately want each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end
  1. However, in the next few verses we see that the author is convinced that the Hebrews to whom he is writing are not false believers.
    • He says, “I am convinced that you will not fall away, that on the Day of Judgement you will be found to be true Christians.”
    • How can he know that the people he is addressing are not the kind of people who are going to fall away?
    • What is the distinguishing characteristic that tells him that on the Day of Judgement these people are going to stand and not be found to be false?
  2. Then he goes on:
    • What amazing words. He is saying that if they want assurance that at the end they are going to be saved then they should be diligent to continue in this manner.

James 2:14

  1. What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
    In other words, here are people who profess to be Christians, but how can we distinguish whether they truly are?
  2. If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food,
  3. and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?
  4. So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
  • There are lots of passages, but I’m just going to pick another two:

1 John 4

  1. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
    Now let’s take this idea of God’s love being perfected in us and move on to verse 17.
  2. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgement, because as he is so also are we in this world.
  • This is an incredible verse. What is John talking about? Could we really be confident in the Day of Judgement?
    • We are not cringing and afraid that really we are not true believers.
  • Courage or confidence on the Day of Judgement, is based on the love that has been perfected in us,
    • the love Christ has given us for one another.

“If we love one another God abides in us, and his love has been perfected in us.”

  • Once again, another author of Scripture is telling us that on the Day of Judgement the one thing that will count above all else,
    • is whether we have love for one another.

1 John 3

  1. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
  • There you have it perfectly put together.
  • This is how we know what love is all about:
    • Jesus laid down his life for us, so as he lives in us, we lay our lives down for our brethren, his people.
    • (Of course Christ’s death was far more than an example, but it was nevertheless an example.)
  • Verse 17 goes on:

1 John 3

  1. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
  2. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love reside in him?
  • Here I think we have the key:
    • It’s not about performance, it’s about identity
    • If you are born of God, have the life of God in you, then it will be evident
  • So we have very briefly looked at Hebrews, James and 1 John
    • In particular, Hebrews and 1 John are talking about how we are judged on the last day
    • We could also have looked at 1 Corinthians 15 where Paul talks about how love is greater than all the gifts.
    • (Lots of other passages, e.g. 1 Thessalonians 3:12,13; Romans 13:8-12 and Galatians 6:8-10.)

Does he only care about us showing love to other Christians?

  • Note that most of these are very clearly identifying love to other believers
    • We can see the example in the early church in the first few chapters of Acts
    • Is that not selfish?
    • Lots of communities love their own ?
  • It is clear we are to love all people but there is a special emphasis on loving those who have Christ in them
    • We want to love everyone
    • But we cannot help loving other’s who are Christ’s
  • If my left hand is cut, my right hand will care for it
    • It will also care for you if you have cut yourself
    • But it cannot help but care for the hand that’s part of the same body
      • do you see the parallel?

Saved by Good Deeds?

  • So we are trying to resolve the question:
    • Is Jesus saying that we are saved by good deeds?

Philippians 2

  1. Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, continue working out your salvation with awe and reverence.
  • This is a well-known verse, but I don’t think it is always correctly understood.
    • What is he talking about?
    • The “therefore” is crucial because he is linking back to what was said previously.
    • Verses 1-4 of this chapter are talking about love for the brethren.

Philippians 2

  1. Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort provided by love, any fellowship in the Spirit, any affection or mercy,
  2. complete my joy and be of the same mind, by having the same love, being united in spirit, and having one purpose.
  3. Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself.
  4. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well.
  5. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…
  • It goes on to say that:
    He emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave,
    by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature.
    He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death
    even death on a cross!
  • and then we come back to the verse I quoted just now, and we’re going to look at the next verse:

Philippians 2

  1. Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, continue working out your salvation with awe and reverence.
  2. for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
  • This love is the one thing we can’t fake.
    • The reason we can’t fake it is because humanly it is impossible.
    • Only Christ in us can do it.
    • Otherwise we could boast and say, “Look what I have done! Look how much love I have shown!”
    • If you set to do this in your own strength you will fail.
  • 1 John 4:17 reads, “Love has been perfected among us.” It has been perfected.
    • It is not that we have worked up love—Christ has formed it in us.

The Vine and the Branches

I remember a Christian once telling me “I tried so hard to love that person, that irritating Christian at church, and I failed and failed and failed.

In the end I gave up and prayed, ‘Lord, you will have to do it in me. You will have to love her through me.’

Once I started to trust entirely on Christ, my whole attitude to her changed and I found a love for her in me.”

That is how it works. We just have to depend on the Lord and say “Lord, I can’t do this. I can’t love that person. He just annoys me. He so irritates me. You are going to have to do this in me.”

And he will. He has said, “Without me you can do nothing.” (v.5) There must be total dependence on the power of God.

John 14,15

  1. [The Father will give you] the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it does not see him or know him. But you know him, because he resides with you and will be in you.
  2. “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me — and I in him — bears much fruit, because apart from me you can accomplish nothing.
  3. “Just as the Father has loved me, I have also loved you; remain in my love.
  4. My commandment is this — to love one another just as I have loved you.
  • Draw a picture of how we can relate
    • Trust/dependance/faith
    • The Spirit
    • Love
  • So how does this answer our question about whether we are saved by good works?
    1. It’s not our works, but Jesus’
    2. We have an inadequate view of salvation if we think it’s just about our sin being taken away
      • It’s about the life of God coming into us
      • We are a new creation, his children, radically changed
      • not a bolt-on extra
  • The “Parable of the fish and the birds”
    • It’s not that the fish did not perform well enough at flying to be accepted
    • Their identity as fish or birds determines whether they fly or not
    • It’s not about performance, it’s about identity

The Context of Love: the Local Church

  • Sometimes there are churches that are not very loving
  • Story of the restaurant with no food
  • Newlife: love truth and power like a three-legged stool

How?

  1. Trust Jesus for his life to flow in you by the Spirit
  2. Recognize his promptings (if you are a bird, then you have wings!)
  3. Depend on his strength

Updated on 2014-04-13 by Andrew Fountain

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