Last December 16, 2007, it was my turn to teach Sunday school at the Career class again, so I decided to teach on the topic of Thanksgiving since it was thanksgiving Sunday at our church, the Cebu Bible Baptist Church at 55-23 Katipunan St. Labangon Cebu City, pastored by Dr. Armie Jesalva. I also preached this sermon last December 23, 2007 at the Bible Baptist Church of Mohon Talisay Pastored by Pastor Gemmo Suberano. I am so blessed by this sermon that I will be preaching this today at the Thanks giving service of Bible Baptist Church – San Carlos City, Negros Occidental, pastored by my father in law, Pastor Eddie Gerodias.
For my introduction, I discussed the history of thanksgiving in the United States, and proceed with the story of the government mandate to celebrate thanksgiving. Governor William Bradford, of Plymouth Rock, proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving in 1621 to celebrate the survival of the Pilgrims in their second year in the New World, as well as an abundant harvest that they had reaped with the aid of the Indians. Later on I added that the 1st Thanks giving was held 11 years earlier in Virginia. The pilgrims have just settled in the United States. They had a rough time adjusting to the local conditions. The winter of 1610 at Jamestown had reduced a group of 409 settlers to 60. By God’s grace helped arrived and because of that they celebrated thanksgiving.
My text was Luke 17 verses 11 to 19.
I first discussed the condition of the leper and gave my students a background on what Leprosy is, what are the Old Testament regulations that were to be followed with regards to leprosy as found in Leviticus 13:1-46; 14:1-32.
I then brought my students attention to the leper’s cry for help. They were such in a hopeless condition that they begged for mercy from Jesus.
Jesus instructed them to go see a priest in accordance with Old Testament laws that a person healed of leprosy should see a priest. As they were going to the priest they were healed. Unfortunately only one of them came back to thank Jesus.
I then discussed to my students how the leper came to be very thankful. In order to further grasp the true meaning of the passages, I researched on the Greek words used in the text, what I found truly blessed my heart.
Among the words that interest me was the Greek word for “Thanks.” The Greek word used is the word “eucharisteo” where we get our word for “Eucharist.” This word is the same word used by Christ, whenever the Gospel tells us that Christ gave thanks for a meal. This is almost always the same word used by the Apostle Paul when writes his opening statements in his epistles.
Interestingly enough, eucharisteo literally means eu = good, well + a form of charis = to favor or thank; to respond to a good favor. Eucharisteo is also used as the verbs form of “favor” or “Charis” in Greek, the modern translation being “Grace.”
Looking at the Greek construction and the Gospel story, it finally dawned on me that the Lepers were asking for “Mercy” but for one leper he got “Grace” instead, and he was responding to it thankfully.
Sometimes we interchange “Mercy” for “Grace” or we think that they mean the same thing. But they are different. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. On the other hand, Grace is getting what you don’t deserve. As sinners we deserve to go to Hell. But by God’s mercy we are spared from that punishment. But receiving eternal life is only through grace. We do not deserve that our sins but forgiven, forgotten and that we receive eternal life , but we received it because of GRACE.
Ephesians chapter 2 verse 8 and 9 says that “For by Grace are you saved through faith, it is the gift of God, not works lest any man should boast” The gift spoken of here is “Saving faith.” In other words even the faith to believe is given to us by God because by ourselves alone we do not have the ability to believe God by Faith. All we have is natural faith. What we need in order to know Christ is “supernatural faith.”
Natural faith is based on something that we have experienced. We have faith to believe on something because we have experienced it. We drink water even though we do not know what is running down the pipes, we take the public transport even if we do not know if the driver is sane or not, we eat food from the restaurants even if we do not know who cooked it, how it is cooked or where the meat is coming from.
Why do we do all of these? Because experience tells us that it is normally, and most of the time safe to drink water, take the public transport and eat food at the restaurant. This is natural faith. We believe because we have experienced.
But have we experienced Christ? Have we literally seen Christ? Have we talked face to face with Christ? We have not. But despite that, we still believe in Christ. We believe that He has the power to forgive and save us from the penalty of sin and death. Why do we believe even if we have not experienced? Because God has given us the faith to believe. This is the essence of “Supernatural faith.”
I know for some of you Greek scholars, you might point out that “Salvation” is the gift spoken of in Ephesians 2:8,9. But it does not matter since “Saving faith” is a component of Salvation. Consider the words of my favorite Bible teacher, Dr. John MacArthur Jr:
“Now what is the gift of God here? Some say it’s faith. Some say it’s not faith. The Greek scholar B.F. Wescott says the gift of God is the saving energy of faith. Others feel you can’t take that in the Greek because what you have here is a neuter and a feminine. For example, “For by grace you have been saved through faith,” faith is feminine in gender, “and that” is neuter. So you can’t use a neuter pronoun to define a feminine substantive. And so some would feel more comfortable with saying “that” must embrace the whole act of salvation. Fine…wonderful. Do you know what is part of the whole act of salvation? You are saved by grace through faith that not of yourselves…so if you want to take it to be all encompassing, the grace, the faith, the salvation, the whole thing is a gift from whom? From God. I feel comfortable with that view. It embraces the whole thing. Either way faith is included. Jesus said to Peter, verse 17 of Matthew 16, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you but My Father who is in heaven.” What is He saying? Peter had just said, “Thou art the…what?…the Christ…Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” That is a confession. That is a saving confession. And Jesus says to him, you didn’t get that from flesh and blood, My Father gave you that faith, My Father gave you that revelation. It is the Father God who enables anyone to believe. Man locked deeply in the deadness of his own sin could not generate his own faith.”
Thanks be to God for giving us “Supernatural faith,” for the faith to believe. Truly it is not because of our own natural ability that we have the faith to believe in Christ, it is only because of Him alone.
Now let me continue with the story of the Ten Lepers. The Samaritan Leper was so thankful to Jesus Christ that he “turned back and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks”
Jesus said then said to him “”Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? There are none found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.”
And I love this last part, Jesus continues and tells him “Arise; go thy way. Thy faith hath made thee whole.” Literally he is saying to this Samaritan Leper “Your faith has saved you.”
That day the Samaritan Leper got more than healing from his leprosy, he found Salvation in Christ. It pays to be truly thankful.