Theme: Knowing the Times
This week we see the dangers of legalism and modernism still among us.
Matthew 16: 12
Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Let me close by going back to what Jesus told the Pharisees. He faulted them because they were unable to “interpret the signs of the times” (Matt.16:3). The right thing obviously is to interpret the times correctly, which leads me to ask: Are you able to interpret the times? Above all, are you able to interpret the times well enough to come to faith in Christ? Romans 13:11 uses this imagery when it says, “Do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”
What does it mean for someone like ourselves to understand the times? It is not a matter of understanding world events or politics or economics. It is a spiritual matter. Let me remind you of four things.
1. Galatians 1:4 says that Jesus died “to rescue us from the present evil age.” This means time as a whole. So Paul is telling us that ours is an evil time out of which we need to be redeemed.
You are never going to make any true progress in wisdom unless you begin by realizing that this world, with all its cultural systems, is hostile to God and opposed to any desires for godliness on the part of God’s people. Jesus said it clearly. He told his disciples just before his arrest and crucifixion, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:18-19). Later in his high priestly prayer, he said, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15). If you are to understand the times, you must begin by understanding that the present age is evil.
2. In 2 Corinthians 6:2 Paul writes, “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor.” In other words, although this is indeed an evil age, it is nevertheless also an age in which God has acted in Christ to accomplish our salvation. Paul also wrote, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons” (Gal.4:5).
3. A third text that describes our times is Luke 19:44. Jesus was approaching Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday, and we are told that when He observed it He began to weep, saying, “The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you” (vv. 43-44).
He was saying that the people had been given time to repent of their sins and turn to him and be saved. But they had refused to do it, and as a result the time of their opportunity was drawing to an end. This brings us to our fourth and last verse.
4. 1 Corinthians 7:29 says, “The time is short.” In other words, this is indeed a day of God’s grace. It is a time to repent and turn to Christ. It is a time to serve him too. But it will not last forever. Therefore, if you are wise enough to interpret the times correctly, you will turn to Jesus now. Saint Augustine did. God pointed him to Romans 13:11-14 while he was in the garden of a friend’s estate in Italy. He was convicted by these words, interpreted the times correctly, turned from his sin, trusted Christ as his Savior and became the greatest theologian of his generation.
List four texts that indicate how we can understand the times spiritually. Explain each of these texts.
Are you able to interpret the times well enough to come to faith in Christ?
Ask God to strengthen your guard against false teaching of any kind.