Dear BLCF Friends,
Effective October 17, 2021, Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church is now open by reservation only for Sunday worship under the limitations and guidelines set by Public Health and the Board of BLCF.
Please be advised that both the BLCF Café Community Dinner and the BLCF Wednesday Prayer Service will continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. We pray with the administration of sufficient COVID-19 vaccinations, and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities, that the danger of the Pandemic will have subsided sufficiently, to allow BLCF to safely reopen more of our worship and outreach activities without any concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community.
– Pastor Steve
Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church, 1307 Bloor Street West, Toronto, ON.
Message for Sunday:
Grace and Assurance through the Testimony of the Blood, the Water, and the Holy Spirit
© October 24, 2021, by Steve Mickelson
Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on March 16, 2014
Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #616 (Christian Baptism – Matthew 2 and 28, Acts2, Romans 6); Prayer
Opening Worship Specials:Music Special: Cochren and Co. – Church (Take me Back) – Lyrics – https://youtu.be/nYYdhqPxpqk
Mandy Harvey – It Is Well https://youtu.be/BHTgqVIVZGk
Let us pray…
Welcome back to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church’s Sunday Praise and Worship Service. Today we celebrate a long-awaited opportunity to gather together and celebrate in word, in music, and in prayer our second live service in this place in 19 months! Though we are not the first followers of God to have to wait upon the Lord, you may recall that the Hebrews had to wait for generations for God to send a deliver, the prophet Moses, to bring them out of bondage in Egypt and more generations they wandered in the desert to be led to the Promised Land. Then more generations for God to send His Son, Jesus the Messiah, again they waited in the upper room praying, before the Holy Spirit raised the Saviour from the grave, only to return for a short time on the earth before His Ascension to be with the Father in Heaven. And just when who think they have waited enough, they waited some more for the Son to send His Holy Spirit to the believers in the Upper Room and later to all who confess Jesus as their Lord and Saviour,
That is a whole lot of waiting for a result that was prayed for, in some cases for hundreds of years and scores of generations. So when you look at how long the saints in the Bible trusted and waited on the Lord, waiting for over a year and a half for the COVID-19 Pandemic to subside may seem, by comparison, almost trivial. But, from my perspective, what we all have endured since March 16 of last year, some 19 months ago, has been a challenge to Christian believers, who are admonished both in the Scriptures and by fellow believers to gather together to worship God, celebrate His sacrifice through the observance of Communion, to show our love and support to one another by a handshake, an embrace, or a Holy kiss of affection. But the Pandemic has caused believers to put social gatherings as a body of believers on hold. For the protection of those we love and ourselves, we have had to isolate ourselves at home, don masks, wash our hands, keep a social distance apart, and avoid indoor gatherings.
Even with vaccination, we continue with precautions to protect those who we love and care for, which for Christian believers means everyone. We prepared for today’s service by sanitizing the pulpit and pews, erecting plexiglass barriers, screening all worshippers, not distributing Bulletins, Bibles, or Hymnals, suspending choruses and songs during the service, setting up the social distance between worshipers, canceling coffee hour after the service, and providing communion in a pre-packaged sealed cup that contains both the bread and juice. These rules and restrictions which apply whether we are vaccinated or not, and I believe all who are here today are vaccinated, sure beat sitting at home and perhaps watching a stream or broadcast of a service from a remote location or previously recorded at some church! There is something about hearing Scriptures, prayers, and praise in person that restores our faith, renews our spirit and heals the soul, And, sadly, there are some who believe that the church will never reopen, having fallen victim to the Pandemic. To those who believe that God’s Church is no more having fallen victim to the enemy of the COVID-19 virus, I say look around you here at BLCF and see that your fears are unfounded. Perhaps it is the faith of some that have fallen victim to another enemy who wants you separated from your brothers and sisters in the Lord! Today’s lesson is entitled, Grace and Assurance through the Testimony of the Blood, the Water, and the Holy Spirit.
You may notice that we are smaller in number today that our usual small size. In time, this too should improve. During the Pandemic some of our members cannot attend because they have committed to visiting loved ones in nursing homes, while others have been called away by work, health issues, and other reasons. Some have felt safe being at home for so long, that going out to church or elsewhere is a scary proposition, even though Public Health assures us that it is safe if the recommended precautions are taken. So let us begin with today’s lesson:
Today, we will examine the significance of the dove in the scriptures. Initially, the Old Testament describes the dove being used as an object of sacrifice, both to atone for sin and to honour God. We also have the account of Noah sending a dove, to determine whether it was safe to leave the ark, after the Great Flood.
In the New Testament, we have a dove indicating the presence of God’s Holy Spirit. And we have the Spirit, together with water and blood, acting to form a “Trinity of God’s Assurance” given in reward for our faith.
Let us begin by looking at some Scripture verses that include the dove, used as a sacrifice to God:
Leviticus 12:6-8 (ESV): Purification After Childbirth
6 “And when the days of her purifying are completed, whether for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting a lamb a year old for a burnt offering, and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering, 7 and he shall offer it before the Lord and make atonement for her. Then she shall be clean from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who bears a child, either male or female. 8 And if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons,[a] one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean.”
Footnotes: a. Leviticus 12:8 Septuagint two young pigeons
Luke 2:21-24 (ESV)
21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
Jesus Presented at the Temple
22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”
John 2:13-20 (ESV): Jesus Cleanses the Temple
13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple,[a] and will you raise it up in three days?”
Footnotes: a. John 2:20 Or This temple was built forty-six years ago
We continue to find additional references to the dove in the Bible, namely in Leviticus 12:6-8 and Luke 2:21-24:
In Leviticus 12, we read a portion of the law that God gave to Moses instructing that after a prescribed period following childbirth, a woman was to bring an offering of animals, usually a lamb and dove, to the priest. The priest would sacrifice the lamb, as an offering to God, and the dove as an offering for sin. Remember, all men and women inherited sin as part of their birthright from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
If the woman was unable to afford a lamb, then she would give a second dove for the burnt offering.
This brings us to today’s second Scripture, from Luke 2, which gives an account of how Joseph and Mary went to the temple to bring offerings to be sacrificed in accordance with the Mosaic Laws. We note that Mary and Joseph had very modest means, as they did not offer a lamb for the burnt offering, but a second dove, instead.
Our third Scripture, from John 2:13-20, describes how Jesus chased the money changers from the temple in Jerusalem. These events occurred after the wedding in Cana, where the Lord performed his first miracle of turning water into wine.
So why was the dove selected as an animal for sacrifice? Let us look at our Wikibits for some reasons why the dove was selected:
Wikibits on Doves:
Doves mate for life, are incredibly loyal to each other and work together to build their nest and raise their young. Because they tend to nest in areas that humans can watch, people picked up quickly on the idea that doves were dedicated, honorable and peaceful. While hawks and other birds of prey would violently attack their neighbors, the dove was a bird of peace, eating seeds, easily trained to eat out of the hand or to become domesticated. Beginning with the Egyptians, the dove was as symbol of quiet innocence. The Chinese felt the dove was a symbol of peace and long life. To early Greeks and Romans, doves represented love and devotion, and care for a family. The dove was the sacred animal of Aphrodite and Venus, the goddesses of love and friendship. The dove also symbolized the peaceful soul for many cultures.
Doves, usually meaning domesticated Rock Pigeons, are a traditional Christian symbol of love and peace, see Peace dove and is of white colour.
According to the biblical story (Genesis 8:11), a dove was released by Noah after the flood in order to find land; it came back carrying an olive leaf in its beak, telling Noah that, somewhere, there was land. Christians used Noah’s dove as a peace symbol.
The Holy Spirit
In Christian Iconography, a dove also symbolizes the Holy Spirit, in reference to Matthew 3:16 and Luke 3:22 where the Holy Spirit is compared to a dove at the Baptism of Jesus. The early Christians in Rome incorporated into their funerary art the image of a dove carrying an olive branch, often accompanied by the word “Peace”. It seems that they derived this image from the simile in the Gospels, combining it with the symbol of the olive branch, which had been used to represent peace by the Greeks and Romans. The dove and olive branch also appeared in Christian images of Noah’s ark. The fourth century Vulgate translated the Hebrew alay zayit (leaf of olive) in Genesis 8:11 as ramum olivae (branch of olive). By the fifth century, Augustine of Hippo wrote in On Christian Doctrine that, “perpetual peace is indicated by the olive branch (oleae ramusculo) which the dove brought with it when it returned to the ark.”
Following the crucifixion of Jesus, it became unnecessary to sacrifice the dove or any other animal, as we see in Hebrews 10:8-25:
Hebrews 10:8-25 (ESV)
8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ[a] had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,
16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,”
17 then he adds,
“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
The Full Assurance of Faith
19 Therefore, brothers,[b] since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Footnotes: a. Hebrews 10:12 Greek this one b. Hebrews 10:19 Or brothers and sisters
As I mentioned earlier, the Old Testament describes the dove being used by Noah to see whether the waters of the Great Flood had subsided in Genesis 8:6-12:
Genesis 8:6-12 (ESV): The Flood Subsides
6 At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made 7 and sent forth a raven. It went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. 8 Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground. 9 But the dove found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took her and brought her into the ark with him. 10 He waited another seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark. 11 And the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. 12 Then he waited another seven days and sent forth the dove, and she did not return to him anymore.
We see that the dove brought an indication by way of a leaf from an olive tree, that God’s judgment for sin was completed, and when the dove did not return, it was safe to leave the ark.
God had performed a reset of life in the world, returning all except the living creatures and people in the ark back to the third day of Creation, just after He had parted the waters from the land and before He made the plants and animals.
We find that it was until after the second of two trips, did the dove return with any indication of life, the olive leaf. The dove must have hovered over the waters in the first trip finding them lifeless as the Spirit had in Genesis 1:1-2:
Genesis 1:1-2 (ESV): The Creation of the World
1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
The use of the dove, to describe characteristics of the Holy Spirit is more overt in the account of Jesus’s baptism in the River Jordan, in Luke 3:21-22:
Luke 3:21-22 (ESV)
21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son;[a] with you I am well pleased.”[b]
Footnotes: a. Luke 3:22 Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved b. Luke 3:22 Some manuscripts beloved Son; today I have begotten you.
Our next verse, taken from 1 John 5:1-8, describes how we like Jesus, and because of Jesus, we can by faith in Christ overcome the world. That is to say through Jesus, we overcome sin and its judgment:
1 John 5:1-8 (ESV): Overcoming the World
5 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?.
Testimony Concerning the Son of God
6 This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.
This “Trinity of Faith” consists of the testimony of water, blood, and the Spirit, regarding the sacrifice that Jesus made to pay the price for everyone’s sins. We know that Jesus shed his blood as the final sacrifice to atone for our sins. But what is meant by the water? Being born of the water is to be born of the Spirit, as the Lord explained to Nicodemus in John 3:3-5:
John 3:3-5 (ESV)
3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again[a] he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
Footnotes: a. John 3:3 Or from above; the Greek is purposely ambiguous and can mean both again and from above; also verse 7
You may recall that the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus after he was baptized in the water of the River Jordan. And Jesus surrendered the same Spirit when he died on the cross, where he shed his blood on our behalf.
Unless you believe that Jesus shed his blood to wash away the judgment for our sins and confess your sins, then being baptized in the water is meaningless and affords no assurance of eternal life in the kingdom of God. You must believe that you have been baptized by the blood of Jesus, for water baptism to mean anything to us or to God!
And though Jesus was resurrected from death by the Holy Spirit, we would not be able to receive God’s Holy Spirit, unless we were first cleansed by the blood of Christ. Remember Christ had to ascend to be with his Father in heaven in order to send us the comforter of God’s Holy Spirit, which occurred at the Day of Pentecost. This is what gives us assurance and our faith!
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[a] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[b] for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Footnotes: 1. Romans 8:27 Or that 2. Romans 8:28 Some manuscripts God works all things together for good, or God works in all things for the good
Let us pray…
Closing Music Special:
Lauren Daigle – You Say (Lyrics) https://youtu.be/HqpNGYbcy3U
Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14): The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.