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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord’s Day Evening, September 24, 2006
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“Many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11).

The Lord Jesus Christ made it clear in this verse that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were all three converted men. It is of great importance to notice Christ said that many would come “from the east and west” and sit down with them in the “kingdom of heaven.” Here is an early prediction that Gentiles “from the east and west” would be converted and enter the kingdom. Christ made this statement directly after a Gentile, a Roman centurion, declared his faith in Him.

But tonight I will not focus on the centurion, but on two of the patriarchs that Jesus said would be in the kingdom. Jesus quite definitely said that Abraham and Jacob would be there. That makes it clear that Abraham and Jacob were both converted men.

Yet think about their backgrounds. Abraham came from a heathen home. We are told that in Genesis 12:1. Abraham’s father did nothing to encourage his faith. Being an idolatrous unbeliever, all Abraham’s father did was to hinder him, trying to prevent him from obeying God (Genesis 11:31). So, the first patriarch, Abraham, pictures a young person who is converted out of a non-Christian home.

There are many here tonight who have had a similar experience. Their parents were not Christians, and yet they came to Christ – even though their family tried to prevent it. They will sit down with Abraham in the kingdom of heaven because they obeyed the Lord when he said to them,

“Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee”
      (Genesis 12:1).

As I speak tonight, I see their faces. Some had parents who were atheists (literally), some Unitarian (literally), some Jewish, some Roman Catholic, some Buddhist. Like Abraham, they had to forsake their parents’ prejudices against Jesus. Like Abraham, by faith they

“obeyed; and [they] went out, now knowing whither [they] went” (Hebrews 11:8).

Yes, they will sit down with Abraham, in the Kingdom.

But I want to focus your attention on the last man mentioned by Christ in our text, the patriarch Jacob. He came out of a completely different background from his grandfather Abraham. Abraham was the first person in his family to be converted. Abraham was like someone who comes alone, out of the world, into our church, and gets saved. Not so with Jacob. He was a third generation convert. His grandfather and his father were both saved. You see, Jacob pictures a young person who was raised in the church. That should make the example of Jacob, his life and his conversion, most interesting to young people raised in the church.

I see that this has your attention, as it well should. I’m not going to go into all the details. As with Abraham, in comparing him to converts from outside the church, there are undoubtedly a great many details in Jacob’s case that are different from yours. We must not get bogged down in details. It is sufficient to say that Jacob came from what we now would call a “Christian home.” And yet, as you read his life story in the Book of Genesis, you will see that he had to be converted, just as much as Abraham. For him to sit down in the Kingdom with his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac, Jacob had to be converted, as they were. Whoever you are, and however “Christian” your family is, you also must experience salvation by grace alone, through Christ alone, for

“Except ye be converted…ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

Except you be converted, you will not

“sit down with Abraham…and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11).

Abraham, then, is a picture of those who are saved out of non-Christian homes. But Jacob pictures one who is converted out of a Christian family. Notice three things about Jacob. I hope these thoughts go home with you tonight. I hope they lodge in your mind and work within your heart.

I. First, Jacob’s home was not a perfect one.

That may be a shock to some of you who come from non-Christian families. You may think that the homes of the deacons and church leaders and church members are perfect. But those who have been raised in these Christian homes know better. They know that their home life, however good it was, in no sense could be called a perfect one.

I heard a fine young pastor give a sermon last week. He is a third-generation Baptist preacher. His grandfather was a preacher. His father is a preacher. He is now a preacher himself. Was his home-life perfect? He pointed out to us in that sermon that it was not. As a missionary’s kid, he was dragged through twelve different schools before he graduated from high school. He was always the “new kid.” He alluded to other imperfections in his family.

Now I have been reading a sermon by the “prince of preachers,” C. H. Spurgeon. The sermon is titled, “Household Sin and Sorrow.” It is about the sin and shortcomings in the “Christian” family in which Jacob was born and raised. Spurgeon said that Jacob’s father Isaac lacked confidence in God. He said that Jacob’s mother, Rebekah “must concoct a scheme.” There was a great deal of tension in that home, the home that Jacob was raised in. Read the twenty-seventh chapter of Genesis. The home was full of tension. The parents were far from perfect.

As I read Spurgeon’s comments I could not help but think of the great preacher’s own childhood. His father and grandfather were both preachers. But being an old Victorian, Spurgeon never let it “all hang out,” like most modern people would. Yet we know that Spurgeon’s parents sent him to live with the grandfather. It isn’t made quite clear why they did that. We know that his father did not really approve of his baptism. We know that, in later life, Spurgeon’s own brother (who was also a pastor, an assistant to Spurgeon) joined those who censured the great preacher. We therefore conclude that Spurgeon knew something from personal experience regarding his sermon on “Household Sin and Sorrow.” And yet Spurgeon was converted. Whatever problems there were in his youthful home, he was not hindered by them from coming to Christ.

Jacob’s home was not perfect. Is your Christian home a perfect one? If it is not, you have no more excuse than Jacob had. Yes, Jacob’s family were not model Christians. Few people are. Spurgeon was ill most of the time when his own two sons were growing up. He had great fits of depression related to his ill health. His wife was an invalid from the time of the birth of her twin sons. There must have been sorrow in Spurgeon’s house. And yet both of his sons were converted. And both of them became Baptist preachers.

The difficulties that Jacob experienced in his childhood home did not prevent him from being converted. This is a great lesson from Scripture to those of you here tonight who have been raised in Christian homes, but are not yet converted.

II. Second, Jacob became aware of God.

As I said, we are not going into the details of his life. It is enough to mention that he was a grown man when he finally became aware of God. Late one night he awoke and shuddered. He said,

“Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not”
      (Genesis 28:16).

That reminds me of the experience of one of our deacons, Dr. Cagan. He had been an atheist. Then late one night, alone in a motel room, Cagan said, “I couldn’t sleep. I had rejected everything I heard about God – but was I right?...I cried out, ‘God, forgive me.’ That was the first time I ever prayed in my life…But I was not [yet] a Christian.” There in the lonely darkness of that motel room, God became real to Cagan for the first time in his life. But he was not yet a Christian. He went through two more years of inward struggle before his pride was broken down and he came to Jesus.

I have thought of Dr. Cagan’s conversion countless times, as I read and re-wrote his story for our book, From Darwin to Design. Each time I re-read Dr. Cagan’s testimony I think of Jacob.

“Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven”
      (Genesis 28:16-17).

And yet, Jacob, like Dr. Cagan, was not converted that night. But at least he was awakened! At least he felt a dread and fear of God! Has that happened to you yet? Can you say, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not”?

When a young person is awakened, as Dr. Cagan and Jacob were, God becomes the chief object of concern in life. There will be more struggle before conversion occurs, as there was much more struggle in the life of Jacob and Dr. Cagan. But when you are awakened, you begin to realize the reality of the great and holy God. You begin to be aware of your own corruption and sin. You start to know that your own heart is

“deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked”
      (Jeremiah 17:9).

You begin to ask yourself,

“How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman?” (Job 25:4).

Thoughts like these started running through Jacob’s mind, and continued to plague him until he was humbled and converted.

III. Third, Jacob was finally converted.

At this point, we are told,

“Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day” (Genesis 32:24).

This was different from the first night, when God became a living reality to him. Now, some time later, Jacob is struggling with the pre-incarnate Christ. He “wrestled” with Christ all night long.

Again, Dr. Cagan’s story comes to my mind. Cagan said,

One Friday night at UCLA, I was walking alone through the student union building when my eyes fell on a sign announcing an evangelistic meeting. It looked interesting, so I went to it…I went back many times to those evangelistic meetings knowing that I needed to trust Jesus. Finally one Friday night I came to the meeting thinking, “I must either trust Jesus tonight or forget about being a Christian and go back to my old way of life.” Then I began thinking, “No, I’m not going back to a life of sin. I’m going to trust Jesus tonight.” And that’s exactly what happened.

Leading up to the moment were what he calls “two years of mental agony.” He said,

I wrestled [his word] through sleepless nights for many months after God became real to me. I can only describe this period in my life as two years of mental agony. I was pulled one way and then the other during this time of confusion and inner struggle.

How closely Dr. Cagan’s experience follows that of Jacob – until that fatal night when his rebellious heart struggled and fought with Christ, and Dr. Cagan “crossed over to Jesus Christ in a simple act of faith in Him.” And that is exactly what happened to Jacob as well. And God said to him,

“Thy name shall be called no more Jacob [sinful supplanter], but Israel [prince of God]” (Genesis 32:28).

The change in his name, from Jacob to Israel, pictures his conversion in Christ Jesus. Cagan had come to Christ in a profound yet simple act of trust. Jacob had done the same thing. This is what the Bible calls “conversion.”

Now, I conclude this sermon on Jacob with those three simple thoughts. I will repeat them again. They are important thoughts for young people raised in our church who are not yet converted. First, if your Christian home is not perfect, remember that Jacob’s home was also quite imperfect. But remember that your parents’ shortcomings must not keep you from the reality of God. Second, Jacob became aware of God and it troubled him deeply for a long time – knowing in his heart that he was an unsaved sinner. Third, Jacob wrestled with Christ alone one night, and finally trusted Him. He came to Christ in a simple act of faith. His name, and his very life and destiny were changed forever by the Son of God.

Let us stand and sing the first two stanzas of “Amazing Grace,” which so perfectly crystallizes and illustrates all of this. It is song number two on your song sheet. Please stand and sing the first two stanzas – and please think of the words as we sing.

Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
   That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
   Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
   And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
   The hour I first believed.
(“Amazing Grace” by John Newton, 1725-1807).

You may be seated.

It was 3:30 in the morning, deep in the night, as I wrote this sermon. My mind was all full of Jacob’s awakening and conversion. I was also thinking of your need for Christ. I was all full of Spurgeon’s words as well. And I would like to conclude the sermon with a quotation about him, from a famous preacher named W. Robertson Nicoll. When Spurgeon died, Nicoll gave the following remarks, from which come the title of my sermon tonight. W. Robertson Nicoll said,

Mr. Spurgeon always made salvation a wonderful, a supernatural thing – won through battle and agony and garments rolled in blood. That the blood of God should be one of the ordinary forces of the universe was to him a thing incredible [beyond the grasp of our mortal minds]. This great and hard-won salvation was sure;…it rested absolutely with God. It was not of man, nor of the will of the flesh. Mr. Spurgeon’s hearers had many of them missed all the prizes of life; but God did not choose them for the reasons that move man’s preference, else their case was hopeless. Their election was of grace. And as He chose them, He would keep them (W. Robertson Nicoll, jacket cover, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 40, Pilgrim Publications, 1975 reprint).

And that is our message to you tonight. Salvation is a wonderful, a supernatural thing – “won through battle and agony and garments rolled in blood.” Do you want that? Do you seek Christ in some faint part of your mind? Then I pray with all my heart that you will find Him who loves you so very much. When you come to Him and submit to Him, then you will be one of those who

“shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11).

Would you like to speak with our deacon Dr. Cagan about these things? Then step to the back of the room, and he will take you to a quiet place where he and I can go over this sermon with you again. Amen.

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Genesis 28:10-17.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith: “Amazing Grace”
(by John Newton, 1725-1807).



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“Many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11).

(Genesis 11:31; 12:1; Hebrews 11:8; Matthew 18:3)

I.   First, Jacob’s home was not a perfect one, see Genesis 27.

II.  Second, Jacob became aware of God, Genesis 28:16, 17;
Jeremiah 17:9; Job 25:4.

III. Third, Jacob was finally converted, Genesis 32:24, 28.