To Preach Your Own Funeral
Read the accompanying Newsletter for January 2003
The title of this lecture is, "To Preach Your Own Funeral." When you think of a title like that, it does sound a little silly, does it not, because it would be impossible for you to preach your own funeral unless you would have tape recorded it beforehand, either on a cassette tape or some kind of a videotape. If that were available and you wanted to participate in your own funeral, then obviously that would be possible from that point of view.
But I do not know of any person in history that has ever given their own funeral eulogy, as it is often called. A eulogy is normally talking about the good points of an individual. You know, there is not a person today that has not some good points in him or in her. You have good points. I have good points. I would also say that there is not a person living today that does not have bad points. You have bad points and I have bad points.
We have biblical evidence to show that this is true, but whether we want the biblical revelation or not, all of us realize that is a fact. There are good points with us, that is quite true. But in most funerals that are preached today in the ordinary churches or in funeral chapels or in graveside services, we normally find the individuals that are preaching the services, or giving the ceremony, they are mainly concentrating on the good points on the individual that is there in front of them. I am not even saying that is bad. I think that is what we ought to recognize — the good in people.
But when you come down to the biblical revelation, though it does show that there are good things with men relatively, when it comes down to actual good, there is no good in anybody. In fact, when someone came up to Jesus Christ one time and said, "Good Master," and began to ask him some questions, He said, "Call no man good, only God is good." 1
That does tell us something, does it not? It really does show that when a funeral is being preached and we are there listening to it, and we are part of the living and there is the dead in front of us who may be a relative of ours, or a friend, or whoever, we want to honor the dead person. We want to honor the person’s life. Quite true. But on the other hand we should be able to realize that we in 10 minutes, or 20 minutes or 30 minutes or a 50 minute sermon or ceremony or graveside service, cannot possibly go into the pros and cons of this individual’s life. Though it is important in many cases at a funeral service to be able to give some of the principles of the biblical revelation in regard to all people’s lives.
For example, just about a month ago 2 I officiated at the funeral of my mother. She was 91 years of age, lacking 16 days, so she was very close to 91 years of age. Most of my relatives and friends at that service saw my mother; it was an open casket there. (I do not necessarily approve of that, nor do I disapprove, it does not make any difference.) Here was my mother, lying there in front of everybody and it was up to her son, Ernest L. Martin in this case, to perform the funeral services.
I did say that there were a number of accolades that I could give for my mother. In fact, speaking as a son, she was one of the finest mothers that I ever saw around anywhere. I hope that all of you can say the same thing about your mother, or your father, or whoever. True, not all of us can do that. But I can truly say that about my mother. From my point of view she was a very fine and wonderful woman. I am not saying by that that she was perfect by all means, but on the other hand she was to me a very fine woman and I got a very fine development as a child. I appreciate her and my father for giving me the things that they gave to me. So it was quite easy for me to preach, if you want to call it that, my mother’s funeral.
Some of my relatives were wondering if it would be the best thing (not for me, they wanted me to do it), but how in the world can you preach your own mother’s funeral when you loved her so much. Surely there would be some emotion in there, how in the world could you get through the ceremony. That is what some of them said to me. I got through all right, and it went very easy. The reason for me is simply because mostly I had good things to say about my mother. In fact I did not say any bad things about my mother, to be quite honest, because no bad things needed to be said. However, I did not leave the impression that she was perfect with everything she did, because my mother (as good a woman as she was) still needed Jesus Christ to save her from her sins.
Of everyone there, most were Christians of various denominations. There were Baptists there. My mother herself was a Baptist. I was reared as a Baptist. However, my mother and father used to have some friendly arguments on whether or not you should be in the "Army of the Lord" or the "Navy of the Lord." The "Army of the Lord" were the Methodists. That was my father. The "Navy" that was my mother being Baptist because they believed in putting everybody under the water. So that was the "Navy of the Lord" and the "Army of the Lord," so both of them together represented the armed forces of the Lord. That was our little joke that we had in our family.
We were brought up in a general Protestant background, that is Methodist and Baptist. My mother claimed to be a Baptist. Most of my relatives there were Baptist. There were some Mormons there, there were some Roman Catholics there, and there were people of other faiths there. Most of them were Christian oriented and it was easy for me to say some things about my mother based on the biblical revelation. I looked on the faces of everyone hearing me and I think I got some very good responses from them.
I said that the greatest accolade that I could give to my mother was not her friendliness to people (though she was friendly), not her willingness to help people (though she was willing to help), and things of that nature. She had all those attributes. The greatest accolade that I could give to my mother was that she was a Christian. She was a Christian in the normal interpretation of the term.
I have said recently I have only known one Christian who ever walked the surface of this earth. That Christian was none other than our Lord Himself Jesus Christ, because He could be a proper Christian. He never sinned once. He was perfect in everything He did. We are told to walk in his footsteps. We should walk in His footsteps as best as we possibly can. On the other hand, how many of you, and Ernest Martin have you, ever walked perfectly in His footsteps? The answer, of course, is "no."
You know, from that point of view I am not even a Christian? I have to admit it. I know it sounds silly, and most people would not even understand it if I put it that way, because I love Jesus Christ so much and I trust in him for my salvation, and I believe He is coming again to rescue me, and I fully believe I am going to be with Him in the Kingdom of God for all time to come. I do not have any serious doubt about that at all. Serious doubts? I do not have any doubt that that is the case.
On the other hand, when I say "I am not a Christian," that means I am not a Christian as He was a Christian because I am not perfect in the things that I do. I do not know a person on earth that is perfect. But in the normal way of looking at things, the way individuals in the world do, they would say either you are a Christian or you are not, and the way the Baptists would look at it, it means are you trying to follow the Lord as best as you can, have you repented of your sins, have you been baptized in the Lord, are you trying to walk within His precepts of love and concern and consideration for mankind. If you do all of that, and you trusted the Lord, the Lord is in you, and you are in the Lord, then you are a Christian.
From that point of view I accept that I am a Christian. I am sure and hope that all of you are Christians too. In that case, my mother was Christian. She certainly was. The best accolade that I could give to my mother was, here she is in front of us dead, not able to speak for herself, but her son will speak for her. I say that she was a Christian. Then I looked out on the audience that was there, and then this is the one thing that she would like to tell all of you, that she was a Christian and she wants to see all of you again.
I did not make any big deal about, oh come on now and get saved and you are going to hell if you do not get saved, or something like that. I do not believe that any type of a thing like that [is proper] because you know, most people do not even realize the love of God that He has given to us through Jesus Christ. They think of the terror of God. They think of the fear of God. They think of the hell-fire that is going to be there if a person has not accepted Jesus Christ personally.
There is a hell-fire mentioned in the Scripture. Have you ever heard of figurative language? I could show you several places where figurative language is used back there to speak of a "hell-fire." But you know, if the consequences of sin was hell-fire — and I have written on this before — but if that is the consequences for sin and Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins on that tree over there in Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives, then for Jesus to have paid for all of our penalty of sin, He would have to be in hell-fire burning forever. I say, IF that is the consequences of sin. But that is not the case.
We find in Romans 6:23 that "the wages of sin is death." You know what Jesus did? He died for us on that tree of crucifixion. He was up out of the grave not long later. He is at the right hand of God in heaven, and He is right there in our place, and we are in Him and He is in us.
My mother is there. I think my father is there. Just think about all of your relatives who have trusted in Christ. They are expecting, in my judgment, the resurrection of the dead that is going to come in the future. What I did was to read the Scriptures in 1 Corinthians 15 about the resurrections of the dead and about the hope that we have in Christ. I also read those in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 where it says that "We should not grieve [sorrow] like other people in the world who have no hope." But we have hope, and we can have a comfort in God to know that we shall see our loved ones again. We shall be with Christ in the future and even with God the Father. That is what the whole Christian message is all about.
Getting into my sermon or lecture at the ceremonies with my mother, I just said that I have a trust in Christ that I am going to see my mother again, because she had a trust in Christ that she would see her loved ones again. And all of you sitting there right now, the thing that has been the best thing of my mother’s life, to each one of us living here that have come to honor her, is that I do not know all the answers to life (I said to them), I do know of Jesus Christ who makes things possible for us, and life beyond death. I have full confidence in that. But I do not know all the mysteries of life. I do not even know all the mysteries of death. I do know that death is an enemy, the Bible tells us that. God through Christ has given us triumph and victory over death. That is a fact.
I said to all of them, do you know the value of a human life? None of us really do in one way of looking at it, but we can evaluate a human life, and that is how much love and concern and goodness has that human life given to others, given to you. With my dear mother here, dead in front of us, there is not one of us sitting here that has not been touched by her love for you, and your love for her. She is carrying your love that you have given her into the future. She died when she was 91 years of age, but that love is not gone. It is going to be there in the future. Her love for you that she has given to you has enhanced your life. It has made you better. It has helped you to see the goodness that can come. Not that we are all good, only God is good, but the goodness that can come through helping one another. Have not all of your lives been enhanced a little bit by the joy and the happiness that this woman gave to all of you, to me, and we were all shaking our heads up and down. That is the truth.
That does not mean that my mother was perfect. It does mean that the more we love one another, the more valuable our lives become, the more valuable not only to others that we come into contact with, but even with ourselves.
To preach your own funeral, let me come to this. It is kind of silly to word it this way, but just think. We are all going to have to die one of these days. It is kind of a gross subject in some ways of looking at it. It is an enemy, death is, but we should not fear it. In fact in one way we ought to look on it as an interesting experiment, an experience maybe. It is kind of silly to put it that way, because I do not want to die, and I am not one bit interested in dying any time soon, I have got too many things I want to do. I think the same thing with all of you.
Sometimes death is a beautiful blessing if a person is in great pain or something of that nature. Some-times God takes the righteous ahead of time to keep them out of the troubles that are coming in the world in the future. It says that in the book of Isaiah. 3 Death, though it is an enemy, Jesus Christ has the victory over death and the triumph over death, through the power of God the Father. He has graced us with the know-ledge that we should also have victory over death and triumph over it. So really death is going to be quite an experience for all of us.
I have talked to many, many doctors before, and read about what doctors say concerning death. They say that death itself, when a person dies, is usually one of the most peaceful things that you can imagine. It is almost like going to sleep. You know that in the Bible it does say that death, euphemistically, is a sleep. That is not a bad description of it. I think it is perfectly fine. The thing is, death itself may be a release from the pains and the difficulties and the problems that can come in parts of our lives. I do not want any death. I am not one bit interested in my funeral ever taking place for years.
I hope that Jesus Christ can come ahead of time and that every one of you listening to me might be in that period when you can see Him coming in the clouds of heaven. If you want my own personal opinion, I think it is going to be a few years in advance. So, some of us listening to this tape may not just be here in the flesh to see Him come. Maybe some of us might be. I do not know. I am not a chronologer all that much.
I have told people in the past, I do not set dates much any more. The only dates I make or have right now are those that I can get from Indio California. I do not know if I am making a joke that you will under-stand, but the dates down there are those that you pick off of a tree, that you eat, that are very sweet. I am being silly right now, but I am trying to make a point, we cannot know when Jesus Christ is coming back a 2nd time. But there are some of you that could very well be alive to see that event take place. If we keep our eyes open on what is happening in the Middle East, I think we ought to understand that times may be getting closer to the end, than some of us might think. That is a fact.
However, the subject I have now is death, to preach your own funeral. Death is an enemy. We know all of that, but when your life comes to an end, I hope that is not the end of everything. The Bible tells us it is not. The one thing that you are going to take over into that other life which is going to be beneficial to you and to me and to everybody who has ever come into contact with me or you or with my mother or my father, or your mother, father, whoever, the #1 thing that is going to be taken over for good will be the love and concern and consideration and the kindnesses that are all attributes of love that you have shared with people in this life. That is what this life is all about.
The value of life, really, is the amount of, the quantity of, and the quality of love that you have shown to mankind and to your maker, God the Father and Jesus Christ. The two great commandments, what are they? Love God with all your mind, heart, soul and strength, and your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37–39; Mark 12:30–34; Luke 10:26–28). You have to love yourself as well. The more love that you show on these matters, the more you will be taking it over into the future.
The only trouble with us though, is that if we would really be honest with ourselves, most of us do not show the love that we ought to, to other people. And we do not even show the love we ought to, to our own selves. If you are slightly overweight (and I am getting that way, I have to watch myself on that), if you are overweight, you are not showing love to yourself. If you drink too much, you are not showing love to yourself. If you are not getting proper exercise, you are not showing love to yourself. That is love to yourself. The only trouble is, we want love ourselves to [be able to] gorge, to go beyond. But there is a love to the self we ought to be concerned about. And I am talking to Ernest Martin right now.
There is also a love that you show to mankind, and to the nature that God has placed around us, show a love there as well, and preeminently above all must be the love to God in the sense of soul, body, strength and everything. This is the key to all of it. This is what basic Christianity is all about.
Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 7:1: "A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth." That has caused a surprise to many people because they cannot imagine how the day of death can be better than the day of birth. But if you analyze that whole thing carefully from King Solomon (who by the way was the wisest man who ever lived, according to divine revelation, other than our Lord Himself), if we can really know what he means, it tells us something very good. "A good name is better than precious ointment." That is high-priced ointment. "The day of death [which goes along with this good name] is better than the day of one’s birth."
Do you know why? Because when a little baby is born into this world, as cute as he or she may be, and we all love little babies. I have had three children of my own and I have seen every single one of them born, come right out into the world. It is just amazing. It is a beautiful thing. I have had that experience. I love my three children, they are all grown right now, but I have seen them come into the world. When those little babies came into the world, they were no different, and you were no different, and I was no different, than Adolph Hitler, than Genghis Khan, than Tojo, than Judas Iscariot, or any other person that you might think is evil.
Look at the world today and all the evil that is going on. Everybody that is living today and doing evil today was at one time a little baby that had no knowledge of sin whatsoever in its consciousness. It had to be reared into an environment where sin became available, and then began to sin. Then you can go off into all types of tangents. Of course you can. That is why Solomon says, "the day of one’s birth," though it is a joy to the parents normally, not always, but it should be, yet you do not know the outcome of that person’s life, do you? You just do not. But the day of one’s death you should be able to know the outcome by that time. This is in a context of "a good name is better than precious ointment." The only way you are going to have a good name, and it is absolutely certain you are going to have it, is the day of your death.
There is not one of you sitting here or listening [or reading], there is not one of you that knows that you are going to have a good name when you die — yet. That is, if you have a month ahead of you or ten years ahead of you, or 70 or 80 years ahead of you, it is the day of your death that will determine whether you have a good name or not.
I can say that my mother did have a good name, but she was not perfect. I will cover that not being perfect in a moment. That is very important for us to understand. You know, the title of this lecture here is, "To Preach Your Own Funeral." I will show you in a moment that almost all of us will forget the bad that has been done while we are in life, and we all concentrate on the good. I am the first to acknowledge that is what I did at my mother’s funeral. If I had the opportunity to preach my father’s funeral (I was in England at the time and he died over here and I could not come to the funeral, I was too far away), but I would have said the good points about my father too. I know that my father was not good in just every point, who is good? You are not and I am not. None of us are.
Let’s get to the subject. "A good name is better than precious ointment." That is quite true. But there is the other side of the coin. Every single one of us who attends a funeral ceremony — I hate them, I do not like them, I do not even like to be around them to be quite honest — but they are part of life and I do not avoid them or anything. I am not that silly. I have to deal with death as well as I deal with life. I do not want to be around them, of course, and especially if they are my friends and relatives, and close relatives in particular. None of us do if we are natural human beings.
But I will tell this, any of us who sees a body in front of us, of our loved one, we know the good points that they did, and thank God for them. And the things that really will last into eternity, into the future will be the love principles, the love that has been developed between the two, the fellowship between you and the person, the goodness, the kindnesses and things like that. But there is not one of us who is perfect in the things that we do. But all of us want that perfection. We want the good and God wants us to have it.
There is an example of a man who lived in the Old Testament period about 500 years before the birth of Christ. His name was Nehemiah. We all know about Nehemiah. We probably read his 13 chapters that he has in the Old Testament. Very near the end of that life, he then began to talk about that life which he lived back there about 500 years before the birth of Christ. Not quite that many years, but almost. He had done a great service by being commissioned by the Persian governor to go down to Palestine and help rebuild the city of Jerusalem. The Temple of God was there and it was refurbished by Ezra who was a contemporary of his [Nehemiah’s], and they did a lot of good in the establishment of Judaism and the Law of Moses in the land of Palestine in the past.
When Nehemiah got there and saw what needed to be done he actively put into action what the Spirit of God commissioned him to do. He turned that Judaic state, about 450 years before the birth of Christ, he turned that Jewish state into a law-keeping state that kept the Law of Moses as best they knew how, and in the time of Christ they were ardent lawkeepers because of what Nehemiah, Ezra and others were doing about 450 years before the birth of Christ. In fact, by the time of Christ even the Jews, the Scribes and the Pharisees had added so many extra laws, that even Christ said that they were now teaching the commandments and doctrines of men.
Be that as it may, Nehemiah did establish the real Mosaic religion back in Palestine about 450 years B.C.E. He built up Jerusalem again. He constructed the wall back to its original height. He also helped with the Temple services and reestablished with Ezra the Priest all the Temple rituals again, and by the end of his life he could look back on a very fruitful, abundant and productive life. Here is what he said in the 13th chapter of Nehemiah, the last chapter. He says,
"Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for the offices thereof."
Nehemiah put them back into operation. They had not been in proper operation for many years before, but now Nehemiah with Ezra put them back in there, and Nehemiah was very concerned that God would remember that. He also says, after reestablishing the 7th day Sabbath as a rule that had to be kept, and it had to be kept in the Old Testament, he got that back into order, and then in verse 22 it says,
"Remember me, O my God, concerning this also [that I reestablished the Sabbath within this Jewish economy], and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy."
Then there were some mixed messages that were taking place where the Jews were not really being proper Jews and were being reared as Gentiles, so he straightened that out as well. The last thing that Nehemiah said after straightening that out, was the last verse of Nehemiah, "Remember me, O my God, for good" (Nehemiah 13:31).
He wanted that to be given to him. I must say this, back in the 5th chapter of Nehemiah (you ought to read that whole section there), he brings all the Jews in front of him, the elders of the Jews, not long before his death, and he says to them, "While I have been amongst you, have I defrauded any of you of anything?" The answer was no. "Have I cheated you in any way?" No. "Have I done the best I can to provide the services of God and the Temple once more?" They said yes. "Have I really built up Jerusalem again and done what God and our forefathers would want to be done?" They said yes. He said, "All right then, if any of you have any complaints against me, come up and let me know." No one came forth. So he said, fine. He was happy. That was not too far from his death.
So at right near the end of his death is when he says these other things, "Remember me, O my God, for good" (Nehemiah 13:31). And then he died. From that time forward everybody has remembered Nehemiah for the good that he did. As Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 7:1,
"A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth."
Who knows what Nehemiah would have turned out to be at the day of his birth? But at his death everybody knew what he was. So in actual fact we should be striving to do good for God.
Let me tell you something here about the truth of Jesus Christ that we find in the Bible. Do you know what we really ought to look at when you look at Christianity, and the factors of Christianity, that means the standards of Christianity that have been set by God Himself through Christ Jesus, how many of us can say with Nehemiah that we have done good? No one is good, we know that, but I mean at least relatively good. How many of us can say that? Ernest Martin wants to be able to say that at his own funeral or to have someone else say it for me, and so do you.
I emphasize, the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth, because the day of one’s death is when the determination comes, and we want good to come in. Many may know the bad points, though, that have been associated with all of us. In the Bible, all that is spoken about Nehemiah are his good points. That is recorded. Did he have any bad points? Oh yes. He had bad points.
I want to bring in a new thought, and we ought to bring in a new thought for funeral purposes. I am not sure it ought to be incorporated, because people will misunderstand, but everyone of us who has a knowledge of God’s teaching through the Holy Spirit ought to realize this. Here is the corpse in front of us. You are going to hear in most cases the good that a person has done. Frankly, that is what I think should be done. But all of us who know, who know about what human nature is, who know about our own lives, is there one of us who has a clean linen in every single part of the closet? Are there any of us? I do not know about you, but I will tell you one person who did not have all that much clean linen in the closet, and yet he was one of the finest men that ever lived. In fact, he was not Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was perfect. He did not have any dirty linen at all. Christ did not.
But I want to tell you someone who did, and he even admitted it. He admitted it while he was alive. Yet when people looked at him, they thought he was one of the nicest guys that ever came along. In fact, he even talked on righteousness. He said you ought to commit righteousness. You ought to do righteousness. You ought to be doing good all the time. He even demanded it. And yet the man, when it came to his own life, he admitted that he tried to do well. He wanted to do well. In his mind and in his heart he had nothing but good that he wanted to do. But he had a difficult time to do it. Most people today would render this individual as being the most righteous, outside of Christ and maybe one or two others, the most righteous who ever walked the surface of this earth.
But if he had the chance to speak at his funeral service I think some good points would come out. Oh, I tell you there would be some good points from my point of view and there would be good points from your point of view, and all justified. I am not saying they are not justified, but here is his own funeral oration. It was not a funeral eulogy, because he gave this when he was about 55 years of age. He had another 10 years at least to go before he died. This could absolutely fit in with his funeral ceremony. I think this man would even want it to be read. I really do. Let us imagine. He died over 1,900 years ago, but let us just imagine that we have come to the funeral of this man that we all like very much and we love, every one of you listening to this tape I know loves him very much, and I do and so does God almighty through Christ Jesus. I think you probably have already picked up who I am talking about. I hope you have.
If you have not, I am just going to tell you who he was. He was a man by the name of Saul, who had his name changed to Paul, who became on the road to Damascus a man who changed his entire direction of life because he saw at noonday a bright light in the sky, and a vision of God, a vision of Christ. Here was Christ saying, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" (Acts 22:13 and 26:14). The story goes on and you know what it says there, that He then commissioned Saul whose name was turned into Paul, to go to the Israelites and to the Gentiles and preach the very gospel that up to that moment he was trying to extinguish and to destroy.
Christ said to him, I want you to do this, you are now commissioned to do it. Paul changed his whole attitude of life and began to walk toward God from that time forward, toward Christianity, and began to preach Christianity. This was about 30 C.E., maybe 31, perhaps as late as 32 C.E. 4 But you know in his preaching He began to preach the Gospel as best he knew how, given the Spirit of God to back him up. Then he finally writes the book of Romans about 56 C.E. in the springtime and I think I can date that to almost the very month of when that was written. You get my book Restoring the Original Bible and I will show you the very time when that was written. It looks very clear. But that is incidental to what I am going to say right now, but 56 C.E., do you know what the apostle Paul said about his own life and here he is writing the book of Romans, one of the finest books of righteousness that you could possibly muster in your library. Here is what he says about himself,
"For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I."
This is most remarkable. This is in the present tense, my dear friends. This is in the present tense. He is not saying, this is what I used to do, or what I did not used to do, this is what I am doing at the present. He just said a few verses before and a few verses afterward, that we ought to be walking in the righteousness of God. And he meant every word he was saying.
But here is what Paul’s evaluation was of himself. You know at his funeral oration, this ought to be read too of this corpse called the apostle Paul in front of us. Oh yes, we love him. We want to extol him for the good things that were done, that Christ was able to do. But his own spiritual evaluation of himself was this,
"For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I."
He says he actually does the things that he hates.
"If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good."
The law told him what to do, but he never did it. I should not say "never did it," I should not say that. But in spirit, in the way that he wanted to do it, he was never able to accomplish what he wanted to do.
"Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me ..."
Oh, he wanted to do well, and so do you. I hope you do. In fact, why should I say, "hope you do?" I know you do.
There is not a person listening to me right now who does not want to do right. I mean that. When you think about it, there are very few of us that ever want to do wrong. Talk about the most evil person who has ever come along, you can find some reasons to find that the things that they did, they will have an excuse for of some kind. Just think about it. It may take a little bit of time for you to think on that.
Take Adolph Hitler. I never knew the man or anything like that, but he is close to my generation. Some of my friends were killed in that 2nd World War. I do not like the man so much for what he did. I confess I do not. But if you would ask him or some of his contemporaries at that time, did Adolph Hitler do any good? They will give you a lot of good things he did. In fact he would probably say I did good. I had good intentions. You probably also heard of the phrase, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." It’s true.
Paul wanted to will to do right.
"... but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man."
Which one of us does not? I do, you do, we all do, just like the apostle Paul. But he says in verse 23,
"But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am!"
Not that I was, not that I will be, but that "I AM." He said that when he was about 55 years of age, after about 20-some years of preaching the Christian gospel. He was still finding that in his members was sin, that he could not completely control on his own. So sin was there, constantly present with him. He was warring against it, that is quite true. He did not want it there. He was trying his best not to do it, but it kept cropping up time and time again. Do you know what the appraisal of the apostle Paul was of himself in the final analysis? Here it is in verse 24, "O wretched man that I am!" (Romans 7:24). That is the apostle Paul speaking.
"O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"
Romans 7: 24
Then he goes on to show, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 7:25). He will.
Here then is Paul’s funeral oration. And though this was written about 10 years before his death, may I give you another scripture by this same man, just a few months before his death, which is found in Timothy in which he is describing himself much longer after this time? He says, "I am the chiefest of sinners." He said there are sinners, "of which I am chief" (1 Timothy 1:15). That, by the way, is in the present tense. One of the reasons for that was because he persecuted the early church, that is quite true, but that is all in the present tense.
Let’s get down to brass tacks. Here is a funeral that is being conducted, a funeral service. Let’s say it is yours. That is rather morbid, so let’s get off of you. Let’s say it’s Ernest Martin. That is morbid too, so I should get off of that I guess. I am trying to get something for us to understand. Here is a funeral being preached, and let’s say it is our own. Do you know if someone else is doing the lecturing, and in most cases with most of us, they would say the good points here, the good points there, the good points there. (And by the way, a good name is more precious than ointment. It is something good. I am not saying that is wrong.) But you know that there is not one of us that should not be compared with the apostle Paul himself. He said he was the chiefest of sinners.
I will tell you who the chiefest of sinners is to you, to everyone of you listening to me. You are. You are. You say, well, you are Ernest. Oh yes, I am, to me, the chiefest of sinners. Paul is not the chiefest of sinners to me, though Paul thought he was the chiefest of sinners. I am the chiefest of sinners.
To make a long story short, this lecture is just about over. To preach my own funeral, oh I hope I can have a good name. I hope that the day of my death is better than the day of my birth, though when I was born I understood my parents rejoiced very much. And they liked me up to the day of their death. Thank God for that. They knew I was not perfect and all of that. I hope many good points can be said of me. I hope for you too.
Let me tell you we ought to be actively doing the good that God wants us to. That is absolutely ordained of Almighty God. We have been created unto good works. It says it in Ephesians 2:10. 5 That is true. But there is another side to the coin because you know what, you ought to say too, if you are preaching your own funeral service, here is the most wretched man that has ever lived on the surface of the earth. Here is the chiefest of sinners. That is what the apostle Paul said to himself.
You can say, well now I am just saying this, but I don’t mean it. As we say in Britain, the tongue in cheek kind of a deal. If it is tongue in cheek and you are just trying to make your life conform to the Holy Scriptures and the revelation, you are making a big, big mistake. The thing is, you ought to consider yourself the chiefest of sinners. You are the worst that has ever come into your life. It is not the other people around you.
You are the worst. You are the chief. Ernest Martin, I am the chief, to me. When I look in the mirror every day, I am looking at the chiefest of sinners.
But now wait a minute, there is hope. I do not have to go around with a morbid stance all the time, with a morbid appraisal of myself. Do you know what Jesus Christ has done for me and maybe I can even call this a sermon, this lecture here, because I am preaching my own funeral service. The thing is, say a few good things about me. Say all you can. I hope that is what you do say, but there is one thing that must stick in your mind and it is going to stick in my mind.
Before you is the chiefest of sinners, to Ernest Martin, but who has been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ? Who has been forgiven of his sins? Who is going to be with Christ Jesus in the heavens, and is there already legally now, that He has rescued me and given me eternal life in Him. I know that I am a sinner. I know it. That is why I need Jesus Christ to forgive me of my sins and to give me power now to walk in the righteous paths that he has given. I am not advocating walking in sin, by no means. Get rid of it. But I am telling you, you cannot breathe in the breath of air for a moment without recognizing you are a sinner.
So in front of you, when you come to my funeral, is the biggest, chiefest sinner that has ever lived, Ernest Martin. You know who is watching me? The biggest, chiefest sinner — you. We are all that and Christ Jesus rescues us all from sin. We ought to thank God for the freedom from sin and the victory over sin and the triumph over death that Christ Jesus gives us.
That is our hope. If we have that at our funeral, we have it for all eternity, living in the midst of Christ.
Ernest L. Martin, 1979
Transcribed and edited by David Sielaff, January 2003
Below is the funeral service found on Dr. Martin’s computer that he used for reference when he performed burial services. It is the pattern for service of a former denomination that Dr. Martin felt was biblical and nondenominational.
Ernest L. Martin, 1979
Edited by David Sielaff, January 2003
1 See Matthew 19:16–17, Mark 10:17–18 and Luke 18:18–19. DWS
2 When Dr. Martin gave this lecture in 1979. DWS
3 Isaiah 57:1: "The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come." DWS
4 Dr. Martin came to understand after 1979 that the crucifixion took place in 30 C.E. Paul’s conversion took place one or two years after that. DWS
5 "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).
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