************ Sermon on Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on June 14, 2009
"Two Are Better Than One"
Do you want to be the best Christian possible? The strongest, most faithful disciple of Christ you can possibly be? Of course you do! In fact, this is a command that the Holy Spirit gives us through Peter:
(2Pt 3:18) But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.I don't think any of us would say "No" to this. Who doesn't want to be the best Christian possible? This goal may not be our highest priority but we all do have this goal, I am sure. We all want to grow into effective, mature, productive Christians.
How? How does this happen? How do we grow and develop as Christians? What I am about to say is nothing new; you have all heard it before. God makes provision for our growth in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. God nurtures those who confess Christ. To grow into the best Christian possible, you need to use what God provides.
1) God provides His Word. We need to read and hear God's Word – we are talking about faithful attendance at worship, personal and family devotions, Bible Study.
2) God provides the sacraments. We need to participate in the sacraments – did you know that our Church Order requires participation in the Lord's Supper.
3) God provides prayer. If Christ, the sinless Savior, was a man of prayer then how much more should we weak and sinful creatures engage in prayer.
No big surprises there, right? And yet so many Christian neglect these areas, and are spiritual pygmies because of it. On the other hand, the spiritual giants of the Christian faith have all been disciplined and faithful when it comes to reading and hearing God's Word, participating in the sacraments, and engaging in prayer.
Think of God's Word, the sacraments, and prayer as different steps on a ladder. With each step we get closer and closer to God. With each step we grow and mature and develop as Christians. However, our ladder is missing a step. You know what happens when you have a ladder that is missing a step – you can fall and hurt yourself. So I want to tell you this morning about that other step on the ladder of spiritual growth.
I Christian Fellowship
A What is the missing step or rung of the ladder? What else do we need to grow and develop and mature as Christians? You might be surprised, even shocked, by this answer but the fourth thing God provides for our nurture and growth is ONE ANOTHER. No man is an island. No Christian is a Christian by him or herself. We need each other. We have a duty to help each other in Christian growth and maturity. We must assist and encourage each other. We are all responsible for each other. Or, as I said last week when we installed elders and deacons – like Ezekiel, we all are called to be watchmen. We are all called to hold each other accountable.
Remember Cain's question to God: "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Gen 4:9). Ours is an impersonal society, especially in the cities. Many people don't know their next-door neighbor, nor do they want to. Neighbors pass each other in the hallway or street and they do not wave or smile or even acknowledge each other's presence. These people would answer, "No. No, I am not my sister's keeper. No, I am not responsible for my neighbor."
Let's turn Cain's question around and look at things from the opposite side. Let's ask: "Is my brother my keeper?" In our impersonal, individualistic society many would again say, "No. No, my sister is not my keeper. In fact, no one is my keeper. My business is my business and no one else's. Neither the ministers, nor the elders, nor my parents, nor any one else is my keeper. How dare any one presume to be my keeper?!"
Christians who want to grow and develop and mature in the faith would answer "Yes" to both questions. They would say, "Yes, I am my sister's and my brother's keeper." And, "Yes, my sister and my brother are my keeper too."
B We can't grow spiritually without the help of one another. That's the message of the Bible.
Look at Jesus. Jesus had three disciples among the twelve – Peter, James, and John – to whom He became especially close. Strange as it may sound, Jesus needed the fellowship of others. Think of Him in the Garden of Gethsemane; He wanted and needed His three closest friends to be with Him – to help Him through His darkest hour. If Jesus – Almighty God, without sin, perfect in every way, knowing all things – needed fellowship we certainly do too.
Look also at Paul. He never traveled alone. Barnabas was with him or John Mark or Luke or Timothy or Silas. He had problems with John Mark. He had an argument with Barnabas. He could have said, "Forget this togetherness stuff. From now on I'm traveling alone. It is easier that way." But no! He always took someone with him. It was more than not wanting to be alone. He wanted Christian fellowship. He needed Christian fellowship. If anyone could have been a "Lone Ranger" Christian, it was Paul. But he knew better, and so should we.
The Bible commands and encourages us to seek fellowship with each other so we can grow and develop and mature as believers. With this in mind, I hope all you will show up for the church picnic this coming Saturday.
II Two Are Better Than One
A Our Scripture reading says, "Two are better than one." This is the principle that lies behind Christian fellowship. "Two are better than one." This is the way God created us – to fellowship together. Remember Adam in the Garden? God looked at Adam and said, "It is not good for the man to be alone" (Gen 2:18). So He created Eve and brought her to the man. "Two are better than one."
B In three examples, our passage illustrates the blessings of fellowship. The examples are taken from the risks of traveling by foot in Palestine during the days of the author. This, I think, is very suitable as the Christian life is like a trip or journey.
The first example is that of a traveler who falls into a pit or ditch:
(Eccl 4:10) If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!For a traveler on his own a fall might prove fatal, especially at night. If a leg is broken, if ribs are cracked, if a skull is split open, the single traveler may never receive needed medical attention. The traveler with a companion, however, has someone to pull him out of the ditch or pit, someone to splint his broken bones, someone to bring him to safety.
Christians do not travel through life alone. They have each other. When a believer falls into the pit of sin, their brother or sister can help to pull them out. When a believer is having problems and trials, they can lean on their brothers and sisters. "Two are better than one."
The second example is that of a traveler facing the cold Palestine night:
(Eccl 4:11) Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?We know that Bethlehem had an inn – most towns and cities did. But in a day when most people traveled on foot, it was not always possible to get to the next town and the safety and warmth of an inn. In such a situation, it was very common for a traveler to sleep under the stars or in a cave. And the Palestine night, even during the summer, can be very cool. Most travelers found it necessary to sleep together in order to stay warm and comfortable.
One of the joys of Christian fellowship is the warmth and love we find in each other. Fellowship is like a fire; we warm up from its glowing. "Two are better than one."
A third illustration is taken from the burglar or wayside bandit:
(Eccl 4:12) Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.The single traveler may be overcome by a bandit; safety is found in numbers.
Christian believers strengthen and sustain each other. They look to each other for support and encouragement. They uphold and defend each other. "Two are better than one."
C "Two are better than one," says the Preacher of Ecclesiastes. Yet, he also says, "A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." The rope-makers of the Ancient World certainly knew this: a rope made of a single or double strand of cord could be broken so easily; a rope, however, made of three strands was not so easily broken.
"A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." The Preacher reminds us here that Christian fellowship always involves three parties: you, me, and God. This is a reminder that true Christian fellowship always has Christ at its center. True Christian fellowship is found only where Jesus is believed in as Savior, served as Lord, and praised as God.
"Two are better than one ... A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." When the three of us – you, me, and God – travel together, then we can grow, develop, and mature in the Christian faith.
III One Another Commands
A In the New Testament we have what are commonly called "one another commands." I intend to spend the rest of the sermon looking at a number of them. They tell us specifically what we can do as brothers and sisters to look after each other; they tell us specifically what we can do to help each other grow and mature and develop in the faith; they tell us specifically our responsibilities for one another.
Our first responsibility: encourage one another. As the coming again of the Lord seems to be delayed, we are to encourage each other about the future glory that awaits us.
(1 Thess 5:11) Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (cf 4:18; 5:14-15)Do you know a brother or sister who is becoming discouraged by all the setbacks and problems of life? Encourage them with the thought of Christ's return. Encourage them that there will come a time when all wrongs will be set right, when all illnesses will be healed, when all brokenness will be made whole.
We also need to encourage each other in our walk with the lord as we struggle with sin.
(Heb 3:13) But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.Do you know a brother or sister struggling with a sin? Do you know a brother or sister who is at the brink of falling into sin? Encourage them in their walk with the Lord. Encourage them to be faithful and true.
We are also to encourage each other to attend worship.
(Heb 10:25) Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.Look around. Do you see someone who is missing? Is there someone you know who rarely is in worship? Do you know a brother or a sister who never comes to the second service? Encourage them to attend.
To help each other grow and mature and develop in the faith we are to encourage one another.
B Our second responsibility: teach one another. This is what the Bible says:
(Rom 15:14) I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.I stand amazed when I think of all those in our church who spend time teaching one another. First, there are those who teach our children and youth – Church School teachers, Cadet and GEMS counselors, Young People and ETM leaders. Then, there are those who lead Coffee Break, adult Sunday School, Men's Life, Young Adults, Small Group Bible Study, Couples Bible Study, Sunday Evening Fellowship: they are instructing other members of the church. And, let me also remind you that we continue to need teachers and helpers for VBS.
(Col 3:16) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom ...
To help each other grow and mature and develop in the faith we are to teach one another.
C Our third responsibility: peace, harmony, and unity with one another. This is what the Bible says:
(1 Cor 1:10) I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.The Book of Proverbs tells us that the Lord hates a man who stirs up dissension among brothers (Prov 6:19). The Lord hates strife because it tears down rather than builds up. The Lord, on the other hand, loves peace and harmony and unity because this builds up rather than tears down.
(1 Pet 3:8) Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another...
(1 Thess 5:13) Live in peace with each other.
Each of us is to do what we can to live at peace with each other. We neither want to create offense or to take offense.
To help each other grow and mature and develop in the faith we are to live at peace with one another.
D Our fourth responsibility: serve one another. This is what the Bible says:
(Gal 5:13) You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.As gifted believers we have to use our different gifts to minister to one another. We have two preachers in Trinity but we also have 450 ministers. Every member is a minister of God's grace. Every member is to see it as his or her duty to minister to their brothers and sisters.
To help each other grow and mature and develop in the faith we are to serve one another.
E Our fifth responsibility might make some of you excited and others of you sick: we are to kiss one another. This is what the Bible says:
(2 Cor 13:12) Greet one another with a holy kiss. (cf Rom 16:16; 1 Cor 16:20; 1 Pet 5:14)I was surprised to discover this past week that this command appears 4 times in the Bible. In the Ancient World, kisses were a form of affectionate greeting and a sign of respect. Today we do the same thing with a handshake – this is our way of greeting and showing respect to one other.
Within the church we are all one big family. Family members always greet each other because they are happy to see each other. Good family relations also requires that we show respect for one another.
To help each other grow and mature and develop in the faith we are to greet one another and show respect to one another.
F Our last and most important responsibility: we are to love one another. This command is found throughout the Bible. Let me quote from the Apostle John:
(1 Jn 3:11) This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.When we love one another we are patient, kind, not rude, not self-seeking, not easily angered, we keep no record of wrongs, we do not envy or boast or are proud (1 Cor 13:4ff).
Love is a soil in which God's people are nourished and fed so they grow, develop, mature, blossom, and bear fruit.
"Am I my brother's keeper?" Yes, I am. "Is my sister my keeper?" Yes she is. Don't forget, two are better than one. Don't forget, we all are responsible for one another. Don't forget, God uses my brother and my sister so I can grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.
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