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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:Cleansing Through Saving Faith in Christ Alone
Text:2 Kings 5:1-19a (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Amazing Grace

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

“Cleansing Through Saving Faith in Christ Alone”
2 Kings 5:1-19a
Naaman would be one of those people who would be so hard to buy a present for.  I’m sure you’ve encountered that at some point. Maybe you have a friend or family member who seems to have everything. At Christmas or their birthday, what can you possibly buy for them?
Naaman was like that. He had everything anyone could ever want. He had everything that those in the world value. He had a great job. Verse 1 tells us how “Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram (Syria).” Aram had a powerful army and Naaman was the chief commander.
Because of his position with the King of Aram, he also had prestige. Verse 1 goes on to say, “He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded.”  His high regard was due to the great success that he had as a military commander. Verse 1 describes how “through him the LORD had given victory to Aram.” 
Furthermore, he had wealth. When Naaman left for Israel, he took with him “ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing” (5b). Yet even though Naaman had all these blessings there was not a single person in Aram who would trade places with him.  For he also had leprosy. Verse 1 concludes: “He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.”
However, his life would be profoundly changed because of the witness of a young girl. Although she was young, she had already experienced excruciating trial and hardship. Verse 2 explains, “Now bands from Aram – Syria – had gone out and had taken captive the young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife.”
We are not given her exact age, but for any of you young girls among us, can you begin to imagine what it would be like to be taken captive during war?
The bands of Aram – these were groups of soldiers from Syria – would periodically go into Israel conducting raids. They would take whatever plunder they could get their hands on, and they would take captive whomever they could.
Perhaps this girl was just in the wrong place at the wrong time when suddenly she was snatched away from her family, her friends and her home. We don’t know all the circumstances, but we can be sure that it was a heart wrenching, terrifying experience as she was taken captive and brought from Israel to Damascus.
In Damascus she ended up as a servant to Naaman’s wife. She must have made a good impression upon Naaman and his wife. Like other Christians who had been brought into captivity, she continued to live out her faith in the Lord. In that way she was like Joseph in Egypt and like Daniel in Babylon. And because she had the respect of Naaman and his wife they listened when she said to her mistress in verse 3, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”
In that statement we see that she had a childlike faith. Although she had been taken captive in war, her faith and trust in God shone through. She had faith that God would work through Elisha to bring healing for Naaman. It was through a young girl – a captive, a servant – through whom Naaman was introduced not only to Elisha but to the God whom Elisha served.
There are some other people in the cast of characters in this passage. There is the king of Israel who demonstrated a total lack of faith and compassion when he was approached by Naaman. There is also the king of Aram who sent the letter that Naaman gave to the king of Israel. And the passage describes how Elisha sent an unnamed messenger – perhaps Gehazi – who told Naaman to dip himself seven times in the Jordan River.
God’s Providence Leading to Salvation
But the main focus of the passage comes back to Naaman, the servant girl, and to Elisha. And as we look at the interaction of these three people, we see that this passage teaches how God, in mysterious and awesome providence, leads his people to salvation.
Some of you have memorized portions of the Heidelberg Catechism, along with the supporting Scripture verses. You might recall Lord’s Day 10 which describes God’s providence, as being “the almighty and ever present power of God by which he upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures...”
The catechism goes on to describe how all things come to us, not by chance, but from God’s Fatherly hand. And we certainly see that in the scene that unfolded when this young girl was captured by the Aramaean soldiers.
Can you imagine the distress of her mother and father, not to mention her own distress and fear for her very life and safety? Some commentators describe how search parties must have been formed to go out and to search for this girl. Perhaps armed forces from Israel tried to catch up to the Aramaeans who had captured her.
Others describe the anguish of the parents and point out that often in such a case, even among professing Christians, the question is raised, “Why God? Why would our daughter whom we are raising to be your daughter, a child of faith – why would you allow her to be captured by the Aramaeans? Why would you allow her life to be put in jeopardy? And even if her life is spared, what quality of life will she have in Damascus?”
I have three daughters and three granddaughters and many of you have daughters. Can you imagine them being kidnapped at a young age by enemy forces? From a simply human perspective this is a story of great tragedy. From our viewpoint it makes no sense. And in a wavering state of faith, we may be inclined to question why God in providence would allow such a thing to happen to a young girl who had a childlike faith in Him.
But God allowed this kidnapping for a specific purpose. Just as it was not by chance that Joseph ended up in Potiphar’s household, or Daniel in the council of the king of Babylon, so too, it was not by chance that this young girl ended up in Naaman’s household as a servant to his wife. God allowed those events, as heart wrenching as they were, to bring salvation to an Aramaean.
Naaman was not part of Israel. He had conducted raids against Israel, the people of God. Verse 1 tells us that through Naaman the Lord had given Aram – Syria – success over Israel.  But now who would expect that God would reach down in grace and transform Naaman’s life, and cleanse him not just of leprosy but of the sin which the leprosy represents?
We see in this passage that God is the God of all grace. And it is not unusual for him to use the most dire circumstances of life to bring people to himself. It is true that sometimes when his providence seems harsh, people blame God for their circumstances and turn from him in bitterness. But for God’s elect, it is often the trials of life that God allows in his providence which brings them to eternal life.
In a former church there was a lady from the neighborhood who had terminal cancer. There was no cure. She had not been in regular church attendance for decades. But she and her husband and son shopped at the supermarket down the street from the church every Sunday morning. And as they drove by our church the son would say to his mother, “We ought to go there sometime.” She would reply, “Yes, sometime we will.” When she was diagnosed with cancer, they began attending church.
We all prayed for remission from the cancer. But it was God’s will to allow the cancer to convict her of her sin and her need for true saving faith in Christ alone. And then God allowed, in his providence, the cancer to bring her to the doorway of heaven, where she came to God, justified by saving faith in his Son, Jesus Christ. I don’t doubt for a moment that God allowed the cancer so that she would realize her need to be reconciled to God through saving faith in Christ alone.
And we see similar scenarios time and again. It is often the great troubles and trials of life that bring us closest to the Lord. And we see that in this passage as well. Naaman’s leprosy, and the girl’s captivity, were both heart wrenching, life altering circumstances. But God, in gracious providence, combined them to bring saving faith to a Gentile, to the commander of the army of Aram – Syria – who had inflicted so much sorrow (which God had allowed as judgment) on Israel. Such is the mysterious and wonderful providence of our gracious, almighty God!
No Human Cure
Secondly, as God’s providence played out in Naaman’s life and also in the life of the young girl who witnessed to him, we see the inability of human efforts to cleanse from sin.
Did you notice the size of the gifts Naaman brought to Elisha, as recorded in verse 5?  There were ten “sets of clothing”, and these weren’t just ordinary clothes. These were special. They were expensive clothes of exquisite quality, carefully tailored and expertly crafted from the finest materials available.
The silver was also special. He had 750 pounds of pure silver. There were no impurities mixed in. It was the purest of the pure. And then, in case that wasn’t enough to buy the cure, he had gold. One hundred fifty pounds of pure gold!  Back then gold was weighed and valued differently than today, but by today's standards the one hundred fifty pounds of gold would be worth over two million dollars. If a cure could be bought, Naaman had the resources and the money to buy that cure.
He also tried to be cleansed from his terminal disease through influence. He got a letter from the king of Aram, addressed to the king of Israel. The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.”
Naaman may have thought: “If the gold and silver aren’t enough to impress the prophet, I’ll bring a letter from the king of Aram to the king of Israel. That will be impressive enough to lead to my cleansing, my healing cure!”
But as he discovered, there is no human cure for leprosy. There is no human cure for sin, which the leprosy is pointing us to. The leprosy is just the outward manifestation of the inner death, the reality of Romans 6:23 that “the wages of sin is death…” And there is no human cure.
That was true for Naaman so long ago. He could not be cured of this leprosy by influence, nor could he buy his cure, not even with all of his gold and silver. Yet there are still many today who try to earn their salvation by their deeds of self-righteousness.
There are also many still today who try to be cured of their sin by influence. “I have been a lifelong member of the church,” they might say. Or “Because of my baptism I know that God will receive me.” To them the baptismal certificate has the weight to carry them into the heavenly gates.
Admittedly, church membership leads to the spiritual privilege of the proper use of the sacraments. Through the sacraments we are nourished spiritually, which is another reason why each one is to be a member of a local Bible-believing church. Church membership and the sacraments are vital. Christ and his bride, the true church, cannot be separated. But precious as they are to those of us who have saving in the Lord Jesus Christ, our church membership and our participation in the sacraments can never save us.
Cleansed by Christ
The only way to be cleansed from sin – which is represented by Naaman’s leprosy – is to be cleansed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, and that is portrayed in the cleansing that Naaman received as he dipped himself seven times in the Jordan River.
As Peter pointed out, in 1 Peter 1:18, “You know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”
There is no other way to be cleansed. Naaman resisted dipping himself in the Jordan River. Verse 11 tells us how “Naaman went away angry and said, ‘...Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?’”
­And there are still many people today who say essentially the same thing. They say, “All roads lead to heaven. You don’t need the River Jordan; you don’t need Christ and Christianity; any river – any faith – will do, so long as you are sincere in your faith.”
But the message of Scripture is that there is only one source of cleansing, and that source of cleansing is in the shed blood of Jesus Christ. It is only through saving faith in him alone that you and I are cleansed of a disease far worse than leprosy.
Through faith in Jesus Christ, we are raised from spiritual death, for we were all dead in our sins and trespasses and were by nature objects of God’s wrath, just as Ephesians 2 and other passages so clearly teach. But in mercy, just as great as the mercy he extended to Naaman, God has extended mercy to you and to me – to all who by his grace and Spirit’s power believe upon his Son with true saving faith.
The gift of true saving faith, given to us by the Holy Spirit’s regenerating power, is more than just an intellectual knowledge of who Jesus is. True saving faith in Christ is not a mere mental assent that Jesus existed, suffered, died, and rose again. Many people believe that a man named Jesus had a profound effect on history. They might even believe that Jesus is God and was born on earth in human flesh, suffered, died, and rose again.
But that belief in the historical Jesus never changes their life. Their faith has no life-transforming power because their faith is only an intellectual faith – faith in the historical Jesus. But when by God’s grace and Spirit’s power our faith is not only in our mind but in our heart, then it affects our volition – our will; it affects the way we live.
We see that in this passage, both in the life of Naaman, and the servant girl who witnessed to him. The unnamed servant girl, who told Naaman’s wife about Elisha, had true saving faith. She knew that only God had the cleansing power. That knowledge wasn’t just in her head, but in her heart. Her love for the Lord shone through the garments of captivity and adversity. And because she had faith, with a knowledge of the Lord’s cleansing power in her head and in her heart, she had a desire – her volition and will to witness to the greatness of God’s redeeming love and cleansing power.
In verse 3 we see the childlike faith of this girl. She said, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” ­ Those of you familiar with Elisha’s life know that he was a “type” of Christ – that is, a foreshadow of Christ Jesus. After all, he fed one hundred men with twenty small loaves of bread, and after everyone had eaten there was still some left over. He purified the water in Jericho and raised a young boy who had died back to life. In these ways (and in many others) the Lord used him to foreshadow Christ who is the Bread of Life, the Living Water, the Resurrection and the Life. You see, the young girl’s faith went beyond the prophet to the eternal Christ.
But in verse 11 and 12, we read how initially Naaman had none of that childlike faith. Instead of faith, he had anger. He was furious that Elisha’s messenger said that he had to wash in the Jordan River. The last phrase in verse 12 describes how “he turned and went off in a rage.”
Naaman was deeply offended that Elisha didn’t come out and go through some elaborate religious ritual to cleanse him from his leprosy. Instead, Elisha sent the messenger who said, “Go wash in the Jordan seven times.” It infuriated Naaman.
That should not surprise us. People find true Christianity to be offensive. In the New Testament we read about the offense of the gospel. People take offense that they must be cleansed of sin, and they ridicule the concept that cleansing is only found through faith in Christ. As Paul told the Corinthians, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18)
At this point Naaman was so close to being cleansed, and yet so far. Yet, by God’s grace, he listened to his servants as they said, “If the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you have not done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” 
At that point he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young child, verse 14 tells us.  
From that time on, this commander of the Aramaean army lived not in reliance on his military might and prestige. He no longer lived in reliance on his wealth.  Instead, we can be assured that he lived with a childlike faith. He now had the same saving faith as the young girl who had witnessed to him.
From this point forward, his life would be lived for the Lord. We see him express great remorse that in his service in Damascus he would have to bow down in the Temple of Rimmon. We see him take soil from Israel, “as much earth as a pair of mules can carry,” so that he would never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord.
You see, by God’s grace and regenerating Spirit, Naaman came to have a childlike faith – true saving faith – in the eternal Christ, who is foreshadowed and typified throughout the Old Testament.
The most important question that all of us must answer – if not in this life, then at the great Day of Judgment – is, “Do you and do I have that same childlike faith – true saving faith – in Christ alone?” If so, it must affect our lives.
Does your faith affect your life? Does your faith increase your love for the Lord and for his bride, the true church? Do you and do I seek comfort and strength in the body of Christ, recognizing our need for our brothers and sisters in Christ? And do we use our gifts for the good of the bride of Christ, the true church?
Do we witness to others as the servant girl witnessed to Naaman? Is your life and mine a letter from Christ, read and known by everyone? And are we able to thank God, and live to the praise of his glorious grace even when providence is hard, when the circumstances of our lives are traumatic and troubled?
In Matthew 18:1-4 the disciples came to Jesus, asking, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
    He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” 
May you and I, by God’s grace and enabling Spirit, have that childlike faith in Christ alone – true saving faith in Jesus as our Redeemer and Lord – today and always! Amen.
sermon outline:
Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times
in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”
                                                                                             2 Kings 5:10
              “Cleansing Through Saving Faith in Christ Alone”
                                             2 Kings 5:1-19a
I.  Three significant people in this passage include:
       1) Naaman, blessed with so much, yet a victim of leprosy (1)
       2) A young girl, a captive made servant, with a childlike faith (2)
       3) The prophet in Samaria, Elisha, a foreshadow – a “type” – of Christ (3)
II. The passage teaches:
       1) The providence of God (1-3) leading to salvation (14-18)
       2) The inability of human efforts to cleanse (4-7)
       3) The cleansing from Christ portrayed in the Jordan River (13-14)
III. Application: To be cleansed of sin we need, by God’s grace and Spirit’s
      power, a childlike faith in Christ alone (3, 14; Matthew 18:1-4)


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2022, Rev. Ted Gray

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