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2 Corinthians 2:12-13; Relational Hindrances to the Gospel

03/18_2Corinthians 2:12-13; Relational Hindrances to the Gospel ; Audio available at:

This text contains geographical and historical bits of information on the travels of the Apostle which fills out some details that are missing from Luke’s summary in Acts 20. It also opens a window of insight into the heart and soul of the Apostle Paul, and the sobering truth that through conflict in our relationships we can hinder the advance of the gospel.

2 Corinthians 2:12 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, 13 my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.

Geography and Strategic Cities

Verses 12 and 13 are framed by geographical information; it starts with ‘I went in to Troas;’ it ends with ‘I went out to Macedonia’ It is worth looking at a map to see the places we are talking about, and the strategic importance of Troas.

Troas was a major Aegean port city located about 10 miles south of the ancient city of Troy. It was the primary Asian harbor for ships destined for Macedonia, and had a population around 30 or 40,000. Troas was one of the few Roman colonies in Asia Minor; it held the status and importance of a Roman city like Corinth, Ephesus, and Philippi. It held a strategic location at the entrance of the strait of Dardanelles (or Hellespont) which connected the Aegean sea to the sea of Marmara and on to the Black Sea. It was also the port of departure from Asia to Neapolis in Macedonia that would put you on Via Egnatia and take you to Rome. This is the kind of strategic crossroads city that Paul targeted with the gospel, because from it the gospel would spread throughout the region and the world.

History of Ministry in Troas

We also know, from Acts, that Paul had been to Troas before, and was eager to minister there. We read in Acts 16, of his second missionary journey:

Acts 16:6 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.

Paul is eager to proclaim Jesus in the regions of Asia, Bythinia, and Mysia, but is prevented by the Spirit. They make it to Troas, this key port city,

Acts 16:9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. 11 So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis,

The Spirit moved Paul on immediately from Troas to the region of Macedonia. There he established churches in Phillipi, Thessalonica, Berea, and then traveled down to Athens and on to Corinth, where he spent a year and a half, before a brief stop in Ephesus on his way to Jerusalem and back to Antioch.

On his third missionary journey, he traveled through Galatia and Phrygia, and on to Ephesus, where he spent three years. He wrote during that time in Ephesus:

1 Corinthians 16:8 But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

It was during that extended time in Ephesus that he corresponded with Corinth, and even made an emergency visit to Corinth to sort things out, a visit that did not go well. He says of his time in Ephesus:

Acts 19:20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily. 21 Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” 22 And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.

Luke records a riot in Ephesus, and then,

Acts 20:1 After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them, he said farewell and departed for Macedonia. 2 When he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece. 3 There he spent three months, and when a plot was made against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia.

For the Gospel

This is where 2 Corinthians fills in the details. After leaving Ephesus, he traveled north to Troas on the way to Macedonia. 2 Corinthians 2:12 tells us

2 Corinthians 2:12 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ,

Paul’s reason for traveling to Troas was the gospel. He was eager to proclaim the gospel in this key city. He came to Troas ‘for the gospel of Christ.’

This is ultimately why Paul did everything he did. It was all for Christ’s sake. In Romans 15, Paul speaks of:

Romans 15:18 …what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience— …19… —so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; 20 and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named… 21 but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.”

Paul came to Troas ‘for the gospel of Christ.’ His passion, no doubt, was to establish a strong church in that strategic city. And he says ‘a door was opened for me in the Lord.’ We heard him use this language about his 3 years in Ephesus in 1 Corinthians 16:9 “for a wide door for effective work has opened to me.” In Colossians 4:3 he asks for prayer “that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ.” After his 1st missionary journey, in Acts 14:27, he reports back to the church in Antioch “all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.” A door for effective work, a door for the word, a door of faith. God opens doors for ministry.

We can gain insight about what he means by an open door by looking at 1 Thessalonians. There he refers to his ‘reception’ or ‘entrance’ or ‘way in.’ In 1 Thessalonians he paints the picture of what an ‘open door’ looks like.

1 Thessalonians 1:4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. … 6 …for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. …

1 Thessalonians 2:1 For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. 2 But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.

Some elements of the ‘open door’ in Thessalonica were that the apostle had boldness to declare the gospel despite conflict; the gospel came in power and with full conviction; they received the word even in affliction; they turned from idols to the true God; they sounded forth the word into the surrounding regions. All this is a work of the Spirit of God. This is the kind of thing that had happened in Ephesus. Paul was seeing this beginning to happen now in Troas.

Relational Hindrances to the Gospel

In this context, the words in 2 Corinthians come as a shock.

2 Corinthians 2:12 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, 13 my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.

Paul came to the strategic port city of Troas to preach the gospel, and the Lord had opened a door of ministry for him there. And he said goodbye and walked away. Paul, the Apostle Paul, eager to preach the gospel, walked away from an open door of ministry! Why?

His spirit was not at rest. This is heavy. His spirit was in turmoil. There was tension in his relationship with the church in Corinth. The last time he had seen them, things did not end well. Now he had sent Titus to Corinth with the agreement that they would meet in Troas. Paul was anxious to hear news about the Corinthian believers. When Titus didn’t show up as planned, Paul’s spirit was so troubled over the church in Corinth that the Apostle Paul couldn’t seize an open door for gospel ministry in Troas. Relational conflict can take the wind right out of your sails.

Paul is confessing his weakness, his humanness, his frailty, and the abundant love he has for this church. If he didn’t love them, if he didn’t care, he could shrug it off and go on with effective ministry. But his relationship with this church affected him deeply. He had forgiven. We saw that in verse 10. But he was burdened for this church. He was concerned for them. Later, in 2 Corinthians 11 he lists his labors, his imprisonments, his beatings, his stoning, his shipwrecks, his journeys, his dangers from rivers, robbers, the Jews, the Gentiles, the sea, false brothers, in toil, hardship, sleeplessness, hunger, thirst, cold, exposure, and he tops the list with:

2 Corinthians 11:28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?

The daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Will they remain faithful to Jesus? Will they leave their first love? Will they be devoured by wolves? Will they be sidetracked by a false gospel? Will Satan gain a foothold? Will some go astray? Will they forgive? Will they become legalistic? Will they become lukewarm? Daily pressure, anxiety, taken daily to the throne of grace for help. He is weak. Human. This is too much to bear. He needs help. When he picks back up this narrative about not finding Titus in Troas in chapter 7, he says:

2 Corinthians 7:5 For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn— fighting without and fear within.

Fighting without, fear within. What is more important? Planting a new church or rescuing a failing one? Paul is torn. So torn, that he says goodbye to an open door to preach the gospel in Troas. The Spirit had closed the doors to ministry in this place in the past. Now the Lord has opened a door, and he walks away because of inner turmoil.

Have you ever been paralyzed by unresolved conflict in relationships? You can’t sleep, you lose your appetite, the track keeps playing over and over in your head; what could I have said or done differently, what can I do to make it better, how can I help them understand, what am I not seeing? How can I make sure I’m not misunderstood again? Where is the breakdown? What does reconciliation even look like? There is nothing that sucks the life and joy out of ministry faster than unresolved conflict between brothers.

Reconciliation and Unity

In verse 11 he warned against being outwitted by Satan. Because of tension in relationships between brothers, a gospel opportunity is cut short and abandoned. There is urgency, gospel urgency to reconcile relationships and resolve conflict. So much hangs on our attitudes and our interactions with others. How we get along with one another is a big deal! It is a gospel issue!

Peter even warns that if a husband doesn’t show honor and live in an understanding way with his wife, his prayers will be hindered (1Pet.3:7).

Ephesians 4:1-3 urges us to be eager to maintain unity, the unity of the Spirit, with all humility and gentleness, bearing with one another. Verses 7-11 point to the diversity of the body which is designed:

Ephesians 4:12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

The saints are to be equipped for ministry, for unity, for building up, not to be tossed around by false doctrine, by human cunning, or by craftiness of deceitful schemes. The enemy seeks to deceive and destroy our usefulness by causing division. He goes on in verse 25 to focus on our relationships:

Ephesians 4:25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.

We are members of one another. Conflict and tension in relationships within the body gives opportunity to the devil. He goes on:

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

What comes out of our mouths, bitterness, and wrath and anger and clamor and slander and malice, is corrosive and corrupting, grieves the Holy Spirit of God, and diverts attention away from gospel ministry.

So be kind, tenderhearted, forgive as you have been forgiven, freely, graciously, undeservedly. Let what comes out of your mouth build up, let your words give grace to those who hear.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~


March 19, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 2:10-11; How Not To Be Outsmarted By Satan

03/11_2Corinthians 2:10-11; How Not To Be Outsmarted by Satan ; Audio available at:

We are in 2 Corinthians 2:10-11. Paul is talking about why he did not come as planned, why he wrote them a letter instead. He defends his clear conscience, how he is working with them in everything to pursue their joy. He wrote a letter that caused them sorrow, but even in that he is pursing their joy, and it was an expression of his abundant love for them. The context here is an issue of church discipline. Back in 1 Corinthians 5, he addressed a situation of immorality in the church that rather than dealing with the church was priding itself in. He demanded that the guilty party who refused to receive correction be expelled from the church.

Last time we looked at church discipline for your joy; we looked at Jesus’ teaching on church discipline, the process of, the heart behind and the goal of church discipline. Jesus and Paul both teach that church discipline is for joy; for the joy of the one disciplined, for the joy of the church, for the joy of God. He is pursuing our greatest good; so that we will find joy not in the counterfeit pleasures of sin, but in the genuine and eternal enjoyment of God himself.

In this passage we will see that we have an enemy, an enemy to our joy.

2 Corinthians 2:5 Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 6 For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

This passage tells us some really important things. It tells us that we have an enemy. It tells us that he has an agenda. And it tells us how to defeat him.

We Have an Enemy

Jesus warned of an enemy. He told Peter “behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat” (Lk.22:31). Jesus warned his disciples to watch and “pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Lk.22.40, cf. Mt.26:41). Later, Peter wrote

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Peter understood he had an adversary. And this adversary is bent on our destruction. He demanded to have Peter, to thresh him out. Peter knew from first hand experience that he had an enemy, the power of his enemy, the ferocity and intent of his enemy. The name Satan is a Hebrew word that means adversary; and devil means accuser or slanderer. Revelation 12:10 celebrates the day when “the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.” Satan, the chief prosecuting attorney, stands day and night accusing us before the throne of God. He seeks our eternal destruction. Jesus thought it was important for Peter to know that he had an enemy, and who his enemy was.

We understand from places like Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14, that Satan was an angel, a personal created being of the highest order, who became proud and rebelled against God, seeking to become equal to God. From places like Revelation 12 we understand that he led a third of God’s angels astray in his rebellion, who are commonly referred to as demons.

It is important to keep in mind that while God is the triune uncreated creator of everything, all powerful and unrestrained by time or place, Satan is a single created being, who is limited by both time and space, and who is limited in knowledge. Charles Simeon, who served Trinity Church in Cambridge, England for 49 years until his death in 1836, put it this way; “It must not be forgotten, that, though we speak of Satan as one, he has millions of other spirits at his command, all cooperating with him with an activity inconceivable, and an energy incessant. …Hence, though Satan is limited both as to space and knowledge, he is, by his agents, in every part of the globe, receiving information from them, and exercising rule by means of them: and hence his devices, founded on such a combination of wisdom, and carried into effect by such an union of power, become so manifold as to exceed what on any other supposition would have been within the power of any finite creature to devise and execute.” [Charles Simeon, Horae Homiliticae; Vol.16, Disc.2003]

We have an enemy; an enemy so powerful that even “the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, …did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” (Jude 9).

Satan’s Designs

And this enemy is bent on our destruction. Paul’s goal in naming our adversary in this passage is ‘so that we would not be outwitted by Satan’ This word translated ‘outwitted‘ is a verb derived from the noun ‘covetousness‘ or ‘greed.’ This word shows up 4 other times in the New Testament, three in 2 Corinthians (2Cor.7:2; 12:17,18), each translated ‘take advantage of,’ in the sense of financial defrauding or ripping someone off. This word also shows up in 1 Thessalonians 4:6 in the context of sexual immorality; that we are not to sin against or take advantage of a brother. We are not to use one another as objects to satisfy our cravings. This is what Satan seeks to do; to defraud us, to rip us off, to take advantage of us, to use us at our expense for his own pleasure.

Jesus warned in John 10, in the context of vulnerable sheep and the danger of false shepherds and wolves and thieves, himself being the good shepherd,

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Jesus came for our joy, to give us life, abundant life. He came to give us life at the cost of his own. The enemy comes to rip us off, to defraud us, to take advantage of us, to use us and then throw us away.

The word in 1 Peter 5:8 translated ‘devour,’ “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour,” is the same word used in 2 Corinthians 2:7 “or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.” This is a graphic word; literally it means to drink down, to gulp down, to be swallowed up by. We see a vivid illustration of this in Korah’s rebellion against Moses’ authority.

Numbers 16:31 And as soon as he had finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split apart. 32 And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. 33 So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. 34 And all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up!”

This is what our enemy is out to do. He is out to swallow us up. And Paul warns that if the congregation doesn’t turn and forgive and comfort the repentant sinner, he might be swallowed up by excessive sorrow.

Satan is crafty. Later in this book (11:14) we learn that “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” He tricks us into thinking we are doing what is best. The church was reluctant to take action on this matter of sin in the church. No doubt they were celebrating God’s amazing grace, which has the power to overcome even the darkest sin. They had been tricked into thinking that by tolerating sin they were highlighting God’s grace. Now finally, they had zealously obeyed. They were displaying God’s justice. And they were looking for Paul’s confirmation or affirmation of their disciplinary action. Rather Paul says ‘confirm’ or ‘reaffirm’ your love for him.

Simeon again says: “whole Churches are often grievously distracted by this powerful adversary. Where Christ is sowing wheat, he will be active in sowing tares. …If we neglect to purge out the old leaven, the whole lump will soon be leavened: and if with too indiscriminate a hand we attempt to pluck up the tares, we may root up also much of the wheat along with it. We are in danger on every side… ” [Charles Simeon, Horae Homiliticae; Vol.16, Disc.2003]

How Not to Be Defrauded by Satan

We have an enemy. He is real, he is personal, he is powerful. And he is out to swallow us up, to steal our joy, to destroy us. What do we do? How can we guard against being ripped off and taken advantage of by our accuser and adversary? Look at Paul’s instruction here.

2 Corinthians 2:5 Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 6 For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

How are we not outsmarted by Satan? There are two extremes to avoid. The first, which he addresses in 1 Corinthians 5, is to not take sin seriously. He confronts them over their boast of being accepting and non-judgmental; their tolerance of sin; their failure to call sin sin and confront it. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. Are we willing to confess, to say what God says about our sin? Are we willing to take it seriously? Sin will send you to hell; sin is why Jesus had to die; sin is what Jesus came to rescue us out of. To say to Jesus, ‘no, we actually like it here’ is to reject his salvation.

The second extreme is what he deals with here in 2 Corinthians. Do we uproot the wheat with the tares? We may come down hard on sin, but is it with the Shepherd’s heart of restoration? Do we know how to forgive? To reaffirm our love?

In 1 Corinthians 5 Paul says to hand the unrepentant sinner over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. Satan there is instrument of judgment to bring about his ultimate salvation on the day of the Lord.

Here in 2 Corinthians, unforgiveness allows Satan to rip off the body of Christ. The one who is being corrected is in danger of being swallowed up by excessive sorrow if he is not welcomed back in.

I have to ask here, what does this tell us about the body of Christ? Is this an understanding we have? Would it be devastating for you if you were disconnected from the body of believers? Are you overwhelmed by excessive sorrow if you are unable to gather with the saints for a few Sundays? Is your connection with your brothers and sisters your lifeline? This whole passage seems a bit foreign and obscure to us because of how so many view the church. It’s just a casual take it or leave it acquaintance. ‘I was up a little late last night; I had a busy week; I needed a down day; I just wasn’t feeling it.’

If you were told that because of your persistence in sin and refusal to listen to loving correction that you couldn’t come to church, would you be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow? Or would you say ‘good riddance, I don’t want to be around you judgmental types anyway’ and after a few scathing posts on social media you go find a church that is more ‘accepting’?

Why are we not desperate for fellowship, hungry to hear God’s word, longing to worship together with the saints, eager to be reconciled with our brothers and sisters? What are we missing?

There is danger of being defrauded by Satan. There is danger for the one being corrected. The danger of being swallowed up by excessive sorrow.

There is danger for the Apostle and each individual in the church. If anyone refuses to forgive, if anyone harbors bitterness, that bitterness will eat you alive, and Satan wins.

There is danger for the entire church body. Satan seeks to divide and conquer. We wrestle not against flesh and blood. If we make the sinner out to be the enemy, we lose.

And there is danger for our community, that they would miss hearing the message of the gospel. That comes up in the next verses, and I plan to look at that next week.

Forgiveness and Grace

What is Paul’s remedy? How do we avoid being taken advantage of by Satan? Forgive. This is fascinating. There are two main word groups for forgiveness in the New Testament. The most common word group is ἀφίημι (v.) or ἄφεσις (n.). This word group has a range of meanings from ‘release, allow, permit, let’ (35x) to ‘leave’ (58x), even ‘divorce, forsake, abandon’ (5x), and ‘forgive’ (62x). From this range of meanings, we see it carries the meaning of forgiveness in the sense of releasing from a debt or obligation. It is a more passive term; let it go. That is not the term used here.

The word for forgiveness here in 2 Corinthians 2 is the word χαρίζομαι (v.) from the noun χάρις which is the common New Testament word for grace. This word is used 11 times for ‘give, grant, freely give’ and a dozen times for ‘forgive’. It is a much more active, positive term; extend grace, positive favor. One commentator says: “forgiveness must give, not merely take away. God has extended grace toward us, so forgiveness must be a fundamental aspect of our relationships with one another in the body of Christ, the extension of grace to one another” [Guthrie, BECNT, p.134].

Back in 1 Corinthians 5, Paul said he had already passed judgment as if he were present. Here in 2 Corinthians, Paul says that he had already forgiven; that he had already extended grace.

How do we escape being ripped off by Satan? Forgive. Extend God’s grace, undeserved grace toward others, even toward those who have wronged you.

Do we have the heart of the Father toward his prodigal son? Are we watching, eagerly looking for, expectantly and prayerfully awaiting his return? Do we run out to meet him and embrace him with forgiveness, with God’s grace? Are we quick to clothe him, restore him, kill the fatted calf and celebrate? When that which is lost is found it is a time for rejoicing!

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

March 12, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 2:5-9; Church Discipline for Your Joy

03/04_2 Corinthians 2:5-9; Church Discipline for Your Joy ; Audio available at:

I had a few people ask me what I would be preaching on this Sunday, and when I told them that the title of the sermon was going to be ‘church discipline for your joy,’ you can imagine some of the responses I got. But this is God’s word, and this is where we’re at in God’s word. We take God’s word seriously. We take Jesus seriously. We take his church seriously. We take sin seriously. And we take joy seriously.

We’re in 2 Corinthians 2:5-9. We’ve seen at the end of chapter 1 (v.24) that Paul is working together with the Corinthians for their joy. We saw that both joy and sorrow are shared experiences in the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:26 If one member suffersall suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

There is community joy, community sorrow. What we do as members of the body affects everyone in the body. It has been a strained relationship between Paul and this church. He wrote them a letter which they misunderstood; he received news of some serious problems in the church, and he received some questions that he responded to with a letter delivered by a co-worker. The church it seems did not heed his letter, so he made an emergency visit to try to sort things out. That didn’t go well, so he wrote another painful letter, and sent another co-worker. He is anxious as he writes again to hear how that correspondence was received, and is on his way for another visit.

He didn’t visit them as planned, because he wanted to spare them. He wanted to give them time to repent.

2 Corinthians 2:4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

Paul was pursuing their joy, at his own emotional expense. His desire, his heart was to see this church thriving, enjoying Jesus, happy in God. He wrote to communicate his abundant love for them. Paul mentions his own affliction, his own anguish of heart and his many tears in verse 4. But in verse 5 he moves them to think about the damage it was causing to the church.

Church Discipline for your Joy

2 Corinthians 2:5 Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 6 For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything.

It seems that Paul’s painful letter must have demanded the confrontation of someone in the church, and it was to test their obedience to him. Up to this point, they had not listened or responded well to his letters. Whatever the offense was, Paul says it was not only toward him, but toward the whole church.

1 Corinthians 5

We don’t know what the offense was. There is much scholarly speculation over who the offending party was and what he had done. But the text doesn’t tell us. Through most of church history it has been assumed that this was the man addressed in 1 Corinthians 5 who was in an incestuous relationship with his mother-in-law. In that passage Paul called for his expulsion from the church. That identification of the offender has been challenged, although it is still a defensible explanation [see Kruse, p.41-45; P. Hughes, p.59-65; Garland, p121]. Whether the offender was this man from 1 Corinthians 5 or some unknown offender, it is useful to look at that passage, because there are some clear connections with the subject matter that will help us understand what is going on here.

1 Corinthians 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. 3 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. 4 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. 6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

Paul says ‘Let him who has done this be removed from among you.’

Cleanse out the old leaven’ do ‘not …associate with sexually immoral people;’ do ‘not even eat with such a one.’ ‘Purge the evil person from among you.’ Paul is calling for the assembled church to exclude the immoral believer. What would warrant such a drastic response? This is the passage that tells us that Paul had written a previous letter which they had misunderstood. They thought he meant not to associate with any sinners, including unbelievers. He clarifies in 1 Corinthians that he meant not to associate with anyone who claims to be a brother. When we put this together with Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 18, we understand that this is not the initial knee jerk reaction when we find out someone is struggling with sin; this is the final last resort stage of a process of confrontation that is meant for the good of the one rebuked. Even in this passage Paul tells them to ‘deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.’ It is for this man’s ultimate good. It is ‘so that his spirit may be saved.’ This is along the lines of Jesus’ teaching in:

Matthew 18:9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

Jesus says that it is better. Better to tear out your eye. It is to your eternal advantage. Better to tear out your eye than to be thrown into the hell of fire. Both Jesus and Paul teach that sin is serious, and it has eternal consequences. Both are pursuing our good, our eternal joy.

Discipline an Expression of Love

You see, discipline is actually an expression of love.

Proverbs 3:11 My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, 12 for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.

We see this theme many places in the Bible. We see it repeatedly in the Psalms, Proverbs, in Hebrews 12. Jesus even says to a church in:

Revelation 3:19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

Discipline is an expression of love.

Church Discipline According to Jesus

It will be helpful to look at Jesus’ teaching on church discipline in Matthew 18. His go-to teaching on church discipline is found in verses 15-17, but in order to do justice to his teaching, we can’t only look at these verses. To really get the heart of what he’s saying, we need to listen to the context of Matthew 18.

Jesus’ teaching on church discipline is in the context of a discussion among his disciples about who is the greatest. Jesus tells them they need to turn back and humble themselves and become like little children. And then he talks about receiving children.

Matthew 18:5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!

This sounds harsh, but Jesus is passionate about the little ones who believe in him, not just children in age, but those who are young in the faith, young believers. He goes on:

Matthew 18:8 And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

He starts with a strong warning against being the one to bring temptation, and then he gives instruction on the seriousness of sin, and encourages us to deal severely with the sin in ourselves. Habitual sin in our own hearts must be dealt with severely. Then he tells a story about the Father’s shepherd heart for those who go astray.

Matthew 18:10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. 11 — 12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

It is in this context, a context of not stumbling young believers, of dealing severely with your own sin, of the Father’s heart, the Father’s protection, the Father’s pursuit of his stray sheep, that Jesus says:

Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

The Father’s heart is to pursue his lost sheep, and he has joy when they are brought back. This is the frame for a brother sinning against you. Go, tell him his fault, in a spirit of humility, not despising, as if somehow you are better than them, with the Father’s heart of loving pursuit, for their good. Go privately first. Don’t gossip. Go straight to the source. Care for his reputation. Treat him as you would want to be treated. Only if he refuses to listen do you bring others, others with wisdom, with love, others who have a heart for his good, a heart to seek the lost. Only if he refuses to listen to them does it become a full church issue. And still, the heart must be in humility seeking restoration, seeking his good. The purpose for bringing it before the whole church is not to shame, not to dispose of him and be done with the situation, but to bring the positive pressure of the full community of believers to lovingly urge and exhort and plead toward healing and restoration. Only after this stage is resisted, is the step taken to remove that one from fellowship. And even there, we are to treat outsiders not with condemnation and judgment, but with love and the truth of the gospel, seeking to win them to Christ.

Confrontation Presupposes Forgiveness

Peter is listening, processing what Jesus is teaching, and he has a question.

Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”

Notice, Peter does not say ‘if my brother listens, how often should I forgive him?’ No, he says ‘how often will my brother sin against me and I forgive him?’ The response of the person is nowhere in view. This is unilateral forgiveness. The process of confronting someone for their good presupposes forgiveness. If you sin against me and I am bitter, holding a grudge, I am not seeking your good, I am seeking to be vindicated, I am seeking payment. You hurt me and you owe me. But if I have already forgiven you in my heart, if I have released you from your debt, then I can come to you for your good, for your joy.

He actually asks how often his brother will sin against him. What is the outer limit? I must always respond to those who sin against me with forgiveness. But to what extent? Jesus answers that this is going to happen a lot. And notice that this is a brother, not someone outside. Don’t be surprised when your brothers and sisters sin against you over and over and over again. You are to forgive. Cultivate a forgiving heart, so that you can work together with your brothers and sisters for their joy.

Matthew 18:22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Then Jesus tells a parable about a servant whose master forgave him an incomprehensible debt, who then went out and began to strangle a fellow servant who owed him pocket change; warning those who refuse to forgive others that they have failed to understand, failed to truly receive the forgiveness that is extended to them in Jesus. One who has received God’s merciful and undeserved forgiveness will be overflowing with amazed gratitude and be eager to extend mercy and forgive as he has been forgiven.

Forgive, Comfort, Confirm Love

2 Corinthians 2:5 Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 6 For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything.

Whatever the offense, it seems it had escalated into a personal offense against Paul, undermining his authority and character, and the church did not stand with Paul. Paul says the offense caused grief to the whole body. Whoever this offender was, it seems the church finally took the matter seriously and expelled him. The church finally was obedient to the instructions of their apostle to deal with the sin. And now Paul warns them not to take it too far. It seems the failure of the Corinthians in church discipline (and the same danger is there for us as well) is knowing when to start and knowing when to stop. The goal is always restoration, and when there is confession of sin (which simply means to agree with God that sin is sin), where there is sorrow over sin, where there is repentance (which means a turning to go a different direction), it is enough. The goal, as Jesus stated it, is that he listens. And then you have gained or won your brother.

Paul tells them they ought to now to forgive. They ought to comfort. They ought to confirm their love for him. They had never stopped loving the offender. But their love had to take the form of discipline. Now that he had responded, they were to reaffirm, to express their love.

Our relationships with one another are to display God’s character, God’s grace. He is for us. He is working with us for our joy. He was willing to bear in himself the cost of our rebellious treason, and forgive. We must work with each other for our joy, willing to confront when necessary, willing to absorb the cost, eager to forgive as we have been freely and graciously forgiven.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

March 6, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 2:1-4; Sorrow and Joy in the Body of Christ

02/25_2 Corinthians 2:1-4; Joy and Sorrow in the Body of Christ ; Audio available at:

Tension of Sorrow and Joy

Paul begins 2 Corinthians by pointing us to the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. …if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort. (1:3-6). He points us to a God who brings comfort out of affliction; and here in chapter 2 he points us to a God who can even bring joy out of a painful relationship.

This passage uses the language of pain, or sorrow or grief. In all of Paul’s letters, he uses the noun and the verb form of this word ‘sorrow’ 24 times; 18 of those, a full ¾ are here in 2 Corinthians. And 16 of those show up between the first verses of chapter 2, and where he picks this narrative back up in chapter 7.

In chapter 2, he uses the word grief or sorrow or pain 8 times, and when he picks back up in chapter 7, he uses it another 8 times. He also uses words like affliction, anguish of heart, tears. Some have said ‘If Philippians is known for the predominance of the word “joy” in the letter, 2 Corinthians should be known for the predominance of the word “pain.” The Corinthians were his problem children’ [Garland, p.113].

Indeed the letter to the church in Philippi is characterized by joy. But when I looked, the words joy or rejoice show up 14 times in Philippians and 13 times in 2 Corinthians. The next closest concentration of ‘joy’ is 6 times in 1 Thessalonians. Although 2 Corinthians is a letter characterized by sorrow, there is a real tension and interplay here between sorrow and joy.

At the end of chapter 1, Paul made it clear that he is not attempting to lord it over their faith; rather he is pursuing their joy; laboring along side them for their eternal happiness. Paul is working for their joy, and there is a tug-of-war going on in these verses, and in his heart, between joy and sorrow.

Last time we saw that God actually commands our joy in him, that Christianity is not a religion of duty but a relationship of delight, God delighting in us, and our responding to him with delight. We can rejoice in God himself with deep unquenchable joy, because God himself is full of joy. But this joy doesn’t stop with our vertical relationship with God; it extends to horizontal relationships with other people. And that’s where it gets really messy.

Joy of Fellowship with Other Believers:

2 Corinthians 2:1 For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you. 2 For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? 3 And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. 4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

Paul is working with them for their joy. He is pursuing their eternal joy. He is making his travel plans with their joy in mind. His last emergency visit was painful for him. If he visited again now, the visit would be painful for them. Instead he wrote a painful letter, not to cause them pain, but to change their hearts, so that when he did visit, it would be an occasion of rejoicing.

Paul is saying in this passage that his joy is all intertwined and wrapped up in their joy, and that their joy ought to be interconnected with his joy.

2 Corinthians 2:2 For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? 3 And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all.

I caused you pain; you should make me glad; I might suffer pain from you; you are my joy; my joy is your joy.

Last time we looked at unquenchable joy, Jesus’ own joy that no one could take from you. Now is Paul saying here that his joy is dependent on the Corinthians? That his joy is circumstantial? How do these go together? What is the relation between our unquenchable joy in Jesus, and our joy or sorrow in our brothers and sisters?

My Joy is Your Joy

This is not the only place he talks like this. Let’s take a minute to look around at some of the things that touch on this subject of horizontal joy in other believers.

In Philippians 4:1 and 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20, he calls his readers ‘my joy and crown of boasting’; ‘you are our glory and joy.’

Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

Do you hear his heart of tender affection toward them?

1 Thessalonians 2:19 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20 For you are our glory and joy.

In Philippians 2:2 he asks them to complete his joy.

Philippians 2:2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

They unity of the believers, their Christ-like others-focused sacrificial humility and love fills up and completes the joy of the apostle.

Paul derived much joy from Philemon.

Philemon 1:7 For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.

Springing out of the love of Christ, Philemon’s love overflowed to refresh the hearts of the saints. Hearing of this outworking of the gospel in the life of a brother brought Paul much joy and comfort.

In 1 Thessalonians 3 we see something like what Paul longed for and was working toward with the Corinthians.

1 Thessalonians 3:6 But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— 7 for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. 8 For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. 9 For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God,

Do you hear what he says? The good news of their faith and love brought the apostle joy. The gospel had taken root, and they were standing firm in believing. The gospel had taken root and was producing the fruit of love among them. Their belief in the gospel had created warm affections for the one who came and preached to them; they longed to see him again. There was mutual affection and mutual joy. Paul, in the midst of distress and affliction, says ‘now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.’ You see this triangular relationship. Paul is loving Jesus and finding joy in Jesus. That love and joy overflows horizontally and he brings that good news to the Thessalonians, so that they can find love and joy in relationship with Jesus. As he sees them enjoying God together, it increases his joy. He finds joy in their joy, and his joy is their joy.

Paul is not the only one who talks like this. John makes it clear what brings him joy.

2 John 1:4 I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father.

…12 Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

3 John 1:3 For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

His greatest joy is to see other believers enjoying Jesus, walking in the truth.

He says it most clearly in 1 John.

1 John 1:3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

We (the apostles) proclaim what we have seen and heard (the gospel of Jesus Christ) so that you may enter into our fellowship with the Father and the Son; as we have a reconciled relationship with God and enjoy intimacy with Jesus, when you believe the gospel you also enter in to fellowship with God. And when you enter into that fellowship, our joy is complete. There is vertical fellowship with God, and there is horizontal fellowship with other believers. When that triangle is complete; when I am enjoying God, and you are enjoying God, and I see you enjoying God, I rejoice in your joy in God, and my joy is your joy; then our joy is complete.

C.S. Lewis writes “It is frustrating …to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch…” Our joy is fulfilled when it is shared.

This is the joy of the triune God. Last time we said that we can enjoy God because God is joy. For God’s joy to be full, it must be joy in another; and yet for the joy to not be idolatrous joy, it must be joy in God. The Father delights in his only Son, and the Son delights in the Father. The Spirit delights in the Father and the Son, and the Son delights in the Spirit’s delighting in the Father and the Son, and so on, and so the joy of God in God is shared, and is complete. This is joy in relationship; shared joy.

Joy and Grief Shared in the Body

Paul has pointed to this shared joy already in 1 Corinthians 12 with the metaphor of the church as the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many.

24 … But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

The members of the body are meant to be unified, to care for one another. Because we are part of a body, when one member is pained, the whole body experiences the pain. When on member experiences joy, the whole body rejoices together. This is God’s design. God has so composed the body. Paul is working for their joy, because they are connected. Their joy is his joy, and his joy is theirs.

Listen to Paul’s confidence in verse 3; ‘for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all.’ Paul is confidently pursuing their joy, even by bringing them pain, because he is persuaded that when his children are walking in the truth, he can rejoice, and this will also bring them the greatest joy. Paul has a theological confidence in the way God designed the body that frees him to seek their greatest good even when it causes him pain, because he knows that pursuing their joy will bring him the most joy in the end.

The Way of the Cross

Paul would have been tempted to come, to clear his name, to defend his honor, to set things straight. Instead, he chose the way of the cross. He chose to be wronged rather than to demand his own way. He chose to spare them, to extend mercy, to give them time to repent. He himself bore the pain.

2 Corinthians 2:4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

Paul had mentioned his affliction in Asia in chapter 1.

2 Corinthians 1:8 … the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death….

Now he says he wrote out of much affliction and anguish of heart. In chapter 7 he mentions:

2 Corinthians 7:5 For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn— fighting without and fear within.

Here he may be talking about his fears within. Much affliction and anguish of heart heaped on top of the burden beyond strength despairing of life itself. Anyone who has experienced relational conflict and tension understands the soul draining energy sapping fatigue of being emotionally spent. Paul writes through his tears, not to cause pain, but out of pain. He writes to open his heart to them.

In verse 4 the word order is emphatic; but the love, in order that you might know that I have abundantly to you. Paul has to let them know right up front that it is love, not in order to grieve, but his abundant love for them, in order that they know that he has abundantly toward them. Paul did not write to hurt them, to spite them, because he was angry with them; it was love. He doesn’t even directly say that they hurt him; he wrote out of affliction and anguish of heart, but he doesn’t blame. Instead he seeks to avoid causing them unnecessary sorrow. He wants to spare them. He loves them. His decision making, his life, his ministry is modeled after the cross. Jesus doesn’t say ‘wow, look how much you hurt me, look how terrible you are.’ No, he says ‘I want you to know how abundantly much I love you. I want you to experience joy. I want a relationship with you.’

Hebrews 12:2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

We worship a God who brings comfort to us in all our affliction, and who can bring joy even through the pain of relationships. God is working with us for our multiplied joy.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

February 25, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 1:24; Co-Laborers for your Joy

02/18_2 Corinthians 1:24; Co-Laborers for Your Joy ; Audio available at:

Last week we saw Paul begin to reveal his heart for the Corinthian church. His integrity is under scrutiny. He makes plans in the flesh. He says he’s coming to visit, and then he doesn’t come as promised. He doesn’t keep his word. He doesn’t really care. Paul says:

2 Corinthians 1:23 But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth.

It was to spare you. I didn’t come because you wouldn’t have wanted me to come like that. As Apostle, Paul bears the weight of Christ’s authority. This church is not as it ought to be, and for him to come would mean that they would find him to be not as they would want him to be (2Cor.12:20). This assumes his authority to confront sin, and it also communicates his heart, that he doesn’t wish to be heavy-handed, he isn’t puffed up, gloating as he throws his weight around. Sometimes it is better not to come. Sometimes it is better to wait, to stay away and write a letter through your tears, saturated with your prayers. He warns in chapter 12 that if he comes again and finds no change in heart, he will not spare them. Then he says:

2 Corinthians 13:9 For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for. 10 For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.

He would prefer to be with them as weak, gentle, tender, as a nursing mother, not strong, with the firm hand of authority as a disciplining father. His heart, and his authority is for restoration, for building up, not tearing down.

But sometimes tearing down must happen before building up can. Sometimes there is a structure that is dangerous, that is not well built, that has a poor foundation, and it needs to come down before a sound, safe, enduring structure can be built in its place. Sometimes the ground needs to be cleared. And when that is the case, even the demolition is constructive. There is a plan, a dream, a desire to see full potential realized. But the ground has to be cleared, a foundation has to be dug.

He wants to make it clear, that his responsibility, his authority, his severity, is:

2 Corinthians 1:24 Not that we lord it over your faith,… for you stand firm in your faith.

As far as the gospel message, he is not over them but together with them, by faith standing firm. He and they deserved nothing but punishment and separation. But in God’s amazing undeserved grace, he extended rescue from sin and eternal separation through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus. This is a gift, to be received by depending on it, trusting in it, believing, receiving. If you are believing in Jesus, you are on a firm foundation. You can only stand firm by leaning on, depending completely on Jesus. Paul says that we brought the gospel to you; it is through our preaching that Jesus came to live in you. But the message is not about us. It is all about Jesus. We are fellow-recipients of God’s grace in Jesus. We are not over you in the gospel, but we are alongside and underneath you, serving together with you.

Fellow-Workers for Your _______

Last week we closed by asking how you might fill in the blank. Paul had co-workers, fellow-laborers with him in his ministry whom he names, who came alongside him to help him, to serve him, to support him, to encourage him, with him to advance the gospel. And here in verse 24 he turns that around and addresses this church and says ‘we (the Apostles) are fellow-workers with you, we come alongside and under you, serving with you. What? Paul and the other apostles come alongside us, labor together with us?

And we asked, to what aim? What is Paul’s great goal? What would it be that Paul aims to partner with this church to accomplish? How would you fill in that blank? I can think of some great gospel ambitions that I would expect to hear on the lips of the Apostle Paul. We work with you to make disciples of all nations! We work with you to bring the good news of Jesus to every creature! We are co-workers with you for your sanctification, that Christ would be formed in you! We are laboring together with you to advance the glory of God in all the earth!

I am shocked that Paul doesn’t say any of these things here. What does he say in the middle of verse 24?

…but we work with you for your joy,…

We are co-laborers with you for your joy? That seems anticlimactic. That seems like a low aim. That seems secondary, of lesser importance than so many of his other great aims.

Joy and Rejoicing

Why joy? Today I want to set out to answer this question. Why joy? Is joy really a primary ambition we are to strive for?

I got on my bible software and looked up joy in the concordance. 223 verses. Rejoice; 200 verses. Just for fun, I looked up some other words; salvation; 169 verses. Forgive; 106 verses. Jesus; 925 verses. The Bible is all about Jesus, and the Bible is very serious about joy.

Just scanning through those verses that contain the word ‘joy’ or ‘rejoice’ was very enlightening. Did you know there are 8 verses in Deuteronomy that command the Israelites to rejoice in the presence of the Lord your God? Deuteronomy 28 lays out severe consequences for not serving God with joyfulness and gladness of heart. It matters not only who you serve and that you serve; it matters how you serve! Attitude matters! Read the book of Numbers; God sent snakes to bite the people because they had bad attitudes. Nehemiah 8:10 says “the joy of the LORD is your strength.” In Philippians 4:4 we have the double command: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” In 1 Thessalonians 5:16 we have this concise command (which in the original is actually shorter than John 11:35) “Rejoice always.”

Did you know there’s about 20 Hebrew words and about 6 Greek words that communicate joy? This theme of joy is rampant in the Psalms. Gladness, pleasure, mirth; rejoicing, jubilation; exulting or jumping for joy, to display joy; shouting or singing for joy, a ringing cry of joy or praise; being bright, cheerful, exceedingly glad, delighting in. This is a big vocabulary for all the nuances of joy.

Why does Paul put the emphasis on the joy of this church? Why is he laboring together with them for their joy and not for another worthy end?

False Dichotomy

The way I have framed the question is not entirely fair. By putting it that way I imply that there is a choice between joy and some of these other aims, as if it is joy or the gospel; joy or the glory of God. That is not fair, because it is not a choice between joy or these other things, but rather joy in these other things. But I want you to see the emphasis on joy. When the angels proclaimed the gospel, announcing the good news of the birth of Christ, they said it was “good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Lk.2:10). When Paul prays for the believers in Romans 15, he asks “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing” (Rom.15:13). Peter also talks about our believing in Jesus

1 Peter 1:8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,

Jude, speaking of our final sanctification, looks to the day when Jesus will “present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 24).

So it is not joy or the gospel, joy or believing, joy or sanctification; rather it is joy in the gospel, joy in believing, joy in sanctification.

But the joy is essential. The gospel message is a message of great joy. There is great joy, inexpressible joy in believing. Our presentation as blameless before the throne in glory is an occasion of great joy. It is an occasion of joy for us, for the angels, and even for God himself. Jesus said “I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven… there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Lk.15:7,10). There is no room in the Bible for a sour gloomy Christianity.

Not Duty but Delight

Christianity is not a religion of duty but of delight. Christianity is not trying to do enough, to attain to a standard, to merit enough to win God’s favor. Christianity is a relationship of mutual delighting. God is a God who “rejoices over you with gladness…” who “exults over you with loud singing” (Zeph.3:17); he says of us “in whom is all my delight” (Ps.16:3). And in response we ‘delight ourselves in the Lord, we delight to do his will for his law is in our hearts’ (Ps37:4; 40:8; Rom.7:22).

Joy Spreads

What is the Christian life without joy? Where is the beauty, the attractiveness of the gospel without this delight? Paul is willing to come alongside this church and get dirty and messy, laboring alongside them for their joy, because joy is essential to the Christian life and to the spread of the gospel. The gospel is attractive not merely because we have better arguments than other religions, not because we have more compelling truth claims, or more evidence to support our claims. That is essential. But Jesus is attractive because he delivers real true enduring joy.

There are some who have been persuaded by the evidence to assent that Christianity is true and Jesus is the only way, but they choose not to follow Jesus because they see the loss they will sustain if they do. They are weighing the outcomes and what they have that they risk losing seems greater to them than the joy they might find in following Jesus. Could it be because they are not seeing joy in the followers of Jesus?

Paul is strategic in targeting their joy, because joy is contagious. Joy spreads.

God is Joy

Followers of Jesus can have joy because we follow a joyful God. Or to turn it around, a joyless Christian misrepresents God because God is joy. God is love and God is joy.

The fruit produced by the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer is really the character of God, a reflection of Jesus in you. The fruit of the Spirit is love, then joy. Love tops the list, and joy is a close second. The Spirit of God is out to produce the fruit of joy in your life as a follower of Jesus. Joy is a main evidence that the Spirit is at work in you. Joy is the character of God produced in you, because God is joy.

1 Timothy 1:11 speaks of “the gospel of the glory of the blessed God.” Blessed means full, fortunate, happy, praised; we could paraphrase ‘the good news of the radiance of the happy God.’ 1 Timothy 6:15 lists blessed as a characteristic of God alongside some of his other attributes.

Jesus speaks of filling us with joy. In John 10 he says

John 10:10 …I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

In John 15. He says:

John 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

He says that his word, what he said, will fill his followers with joy. But notice whose joy it is, what kind of joy it is. Jesus says ‘that my joy may be in you’; Jesus is saying that he is going to take his own joy and put it into his disciples. The joy of God, the joy of Jesus, in us!

Deep Unquenchable Joy

Notice also that this joy is not superficial happiness dependent on circumstances. In John 16, he says ‘you will weep and lament… you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy’ (16:20). Jesus does not say that your sorrow will be replaced by joy, that the bad circumstances will go away and happy circumstances will come and then you will have joy. No, he says that your sorrow will become your joy. He goes on in the next verses to use the illustration of childbirth. Giving birth, we call it the pain of labor, is anguish, there is sorrow. But that anguish is swallowed up and transformed by joy in the baby. The joy comes through sorrow. The sorrow is transformed into joy. In verse 22 he makes it clear that our joy is the joy of seeing Jesus, and no one will take your joy from you.

In Luke 6, Jesus tells his disciples

Luke 6:20 …“Blessed are you who are poor, … 21 … hungry… who weep now,… 22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.

This joy is not dependent on circumstances; it is joy even in, especially in the midst of adverse circumstances. James says:

James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,

This is Jesus’ own joy, joy that no one can take from us.

Pursuing Joy in Jesus

Paul says that he is laboring together with us for our joy. That means that we ought to be working to pursue our own joy. How do we pursue this kind of joy? What does this look like? George Mueller wrote:

I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished.”

How do I get my soul happy in the Lord? How do I labor for my own joy in Jesus? The simplest way I know is to simply preach the gospel to yourself daily. The gospel is God’s message of good news, good news about God’s grace toward me. Reminding myself of the great truths of the gospel is the best way I know to get my soul happy in the Lord. This includes confronting the lies of the enemy with gospel truth. This means taking advantage of the gospel access we enjoy to spend time in the presence of God, in whose presence is fullness of joy (Ps.16:11).

Messy Joy

In 2 Corinthians, Paul says that he is a co-worker with them for their joy, specifically in the context of rebuke, difficult interaction and confrontation over their sin. Pursuing joy is not a cutesy happy-go-lucky affair. This labor for joy is a gritty messy gutsy relational thing. Paul says, my confrontation of your sin, my not coming to visit but writing you a painful letter, my tears, my prayers, is not lording it over your faith, but laboring together with you for your joy. There were lawsuits, sexual immorality, power struggles, popularity contests, divisions, and resistance to authority going on in the church in Corinth.

Paul seeks to come alongside them and labor together with them to turn their pursuit of joy away from position and power and pleasure and possessions, and to ground their joy in gospel truths. He reminds them of the gospel truth that it is by faith that they stand firm. He reminds them that all God’s promises are yes to them in Jesus. He reminds them that God establishes us together in Christ through the anointing, sealing, guaranteeing work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He reminds them of the gospel, laboring alongside them for their eternal joy.

2 Corinthians 1:24 …we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

February 21, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 1:23-24; Christ-Like Leadership for Your Joy

02/11_2 Corinthians 1:23-24; Christ-like Leadership for your Joy ; Audio available at:

We are going to be looking at 2 Corinthians 1:23-24 to see what godly leadership ought to look like, to see the purpose and posture of godly leadership, the overarching goal of Christlike leadership to serve others for their joy.

Paul’s Changing Travel Plans

There is a backstory to this book we know as 2 Corinthians. Paul came to the city of Corinth, proclaimed the gospel, and spent over a year and a half establishing a church there. He continued on across the Agean Sea to the city of Ephesus, and then on to Jerusalem. He returned by land through Asia to Ephesus, where he spent over 2 years.

Piecing the details together, we find that during his time in Ephesus, he received word that all was not well in in the church in Corinth. He wrote a letter to Corinth that was misunderstood, and then he wrote what we have as 1 Corinthians, addressing problems in the church, answering questions, and clarifying issues. His plan, as stated at the end of 1 Corinthians, was to leave Ephesus the following spring and travel up through Asia and then down through Macedonia to visit them, and spend some significant time with them, and then the following spring to carry their gift to the church in Jerusalem. We could call this ‘plan A’.

But Timothy sent word to Paul that the Corinthians did not respond well to his letter, so Paul changed his plans and made an emergency visit to Corinth to address the problems face to face. This proved to be a difficult confrontation, a ‘painful visit’. Paul returned to Ephesus, having been personally attacked, his authority rejected. This was an unplanned emergency visit.

He then planned to complete his ministry in Ephesus, sail to Corinth for a brief visit, continue up through Macedonia to receive their collection, then stop again in Corinth on his way back to Jerusalem with the collection. He may have communicated these plans to them during his painful visit. We’ll call this ‘plan B’.

Instead, when he received news that things only got worse in Corinth after his visit, he sent Titus with a ‘painful letter.’ Paul then traveled north to Troas, hoping to meet Titus there with word of how they responded to his letter, but not finding Titus, he continued on by land over into Macedonia, where he connected with Titus. It is from Macedonia that he writes the letter we know as 2 Corinthians. We could call this ‘plan C,’ which was in substance a return to ‘plan A’.

Paul’s Defense of His Changing Plans

In this letter, there is an undercurrent of 4-5 years worth of relational turmoil and tension with this church. They are questioning his authority, his credibility, his character. They are not following his instructions. In 2 Corinthians, Paul is communicating his heart, and why his plans changed:

In verses 8-11 he wants them to know that he experienced a deadly peril in Asia that disrupted some of his plans. In 12-14 he boasts in the testimony of his clear conscience; he always only operated with simplicity and godly sincerity; he based his decisions on the grace of God and not fleshly wisdom. In verses 15-17 he communicates that his desire to visit them twice was to give them a double opportunity to participate in the grace of giving. In 18-22 he takes an oath on the faithfulness of God; God’s promises are always Yes & Amen in Jesus, and Paul’s own heart is always Yes toward them.

But the Yes in God’s actions is not always transparent. Often God’s Yes is hidden in a No. God said No to his Son Jesus so that he could say Yes to us. God’s promise of rescue came to us in the form of the crucifixion of God the Son. So too, Paul’s Yes is sometimes concealed in what seems to be a No. His painful visit and painful letter may have seemed to them to be a No, that he is against them, but in fact, it was a Yes, that he loves them, he is all in, and he is for them.

Here in verse 23, Paul begins to hit head on the issue of his travel plans, and why they changed. In 1:23-2:2 he calls God as his witness; he did not come as he had planned in order to spare the Corinthians another painful visit. Instead he sent a painful letter by the hand of Titus. In chapter 2:3-4 he lets them know that this painful letter was to demonstrate his abundant love for them. In 2:5-11 he says that the painful letter was to give them an opportunity to demonstrate their obedience. In 2:12-13 he lets them know that he even walked away from an open door for the gospel out of a troubled spirit and deep concern for them.

Then from 2:14-7:4 he takes over 4 chapters to lay out the characteristics of cross-shaped gospel ministry, before he picks back up this thread of his travel plans and communicates in 7:5-16 that he indeed met Titus in Macedonia and received word that they had responded favorably to his painful letter.

God Is My Witness

With this background in mind, let’s look at some profound truths in his answer in 1:23-24.

2 Corinthians 1:23 But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth. 24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.

Paul is under attack. It is as if he were standing trial, with the Corinthians as the prosecuting attorney. He has communicated his tumultuous circumstances, he has produced the testimony of his own conscience, he has communicated that his motive was to do them good and not harm, and that as surely as God is faithful to his promises, so Paul is consistently for them. It was through Paul’s preaching that Christ came to live among them through the gospel. He is with them being established by God in Christ through the Spirit. Here in verse 23, he calls God himself to take the witness stand. I call God to witness against my soul. He can appeal to no higher authority to establish his integrity.

It Was To Spare You

2 Corinthians 1:23 But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth.

What does Paul mean ‘it was to spare you’? If we look back to 1 Corinthians, he warned

1 Corinthians 4:18 Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. 21 What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?

As an Apostle of the Lord Christ, Paul carries God’s power and authority. Paul bears the burden of parenting the churches that he planted, and part of the responsibility of a parent is to discipline his children. This church was out of line, and he has the authority to come with a rod. But as a good parent, he doesn’t want to come at them with discipline. He wants to win their hearts. He says at the end of this letter,

2 Corinthians 13:2 I warned those who sinned before and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again I will not spare them—

He refrained from coming again to Corinth to spare them. But he will come again, and then if they are still unrepentant, he will not spare them. He goes on:

2 Corinthians 13:9 For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for. 10 For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.

Paul was accused of being weak. Paul here says that it makes him happy to be able to be weak among them. His heart is not to be heavy-handed, but he prays for their restoration. His heart and his authority is to build up and not to tear down.

When It Is Better Not To Confront

We can learn something from Paul’s approach. Sometimes it is better not to come. Sometimes it is better to stay away, to change plans, to postpone a visit.

Now Jesus is clear,

Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.

We are to keep sins private. We are never to gossip or slander. “You know, I’m really concerned about Bill. I think he might be slipping back into sin. Would you pray for him with me?” No, Jesus says go, between you and him alone. And the goal is always restoration. To win your brother back.

But Paul shows some fatherly wisdom here. Kids are different. They respond differently to different approaches. A wise father is sensitive to that, and if his goal is to win the hearts of his children, he will approach his children differently. Paul had written two letters. They didn’t respond well. So he showed up. An emergency visit to deal with the problems head on, face to face. It was a painful confrontation. It didn’t go well. They didn’t respond well. So he backs off. He gives them space. He writes them another letter through his tears. He is brokenhearted, and he is on his knees. He sends someone else.

Kids are different, and relationships are messy. We would like for it to be clean cut. I followed the steps. Step one, step two, step three, you’re out! But relationships are not like that. Embrace the messiness. Enter in with your whole heart. Allow God’s pattern of grace to determine how best to move forward. Remember, in verse 12, Paul says ‘I make my plans, I behave in the world …by the grace of God.’ How does God’s grace come to you? What does God’s grace look like in this situation? How can I extend God’s undeserved grace toward you? How can I demonstrate love to you, to communicate that I am for you? How can I win your heart?

You think I didn’t come because I don’t care about you. But it was to spare you that I didn’t come, to give you space. God is my witness, I didn’t come because I love you.

Not Lording Over You

Now this is open to some misunderstanding. This might come across as heavy-handed; ‘it was to spare you that I didn’t come.’ My sole purpose is to keep you in line. And if you don’t listen up, watch out! So Paul clarifies:

2 Corinthians 1:24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.

Paul gives us huge insight into godly leadership. This is built on Jesus’ teaching on leadership.

Luke 22:24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors.

This is the same word as in 2 Corinthians 1:24; exercise lordship over. The disciples wanted to know who was top dog. Who is in authority. Who gets to have it his way. Who gets to call the shots. Who gets to dominate everyone else. Who gets titles of honor and respect. Jesus says this is how Gentile leadership looks,

Luke 22:26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

Jesus turns leadership upside down. Jesus says that true greatness is serving others, not being served. Jesus says:

Matthew 20:28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

True leadership is sacrificial service for the good of others. Peter exhorts elders as a fellow elder,

1 Peter 5:2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

Shepherd willingly, eagerly, as an example, not as an overlord. Peter says:

1 Peter 5:4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 …Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another…

Shepherd. Not to be served, but to serve the needs of the sheep. Willingly, eagerly, clothed with humility.

By Faith you Stand Firm

2 Corinthians 1:24 Not that we lord it over your faith, … for you stand firm in your faith.

Those in authority are not to domineer over anyone’s faith, because, well, they can’t. It is by faith you stand firm. Calvin (p.145) observes that this is a curious phrase; that “he argues from contraries. …the nature and effect of faith [is] such that we lean, in order that we may stand”. Faith is by definition dependence upon another; we stand firm by our leaning on or trusting in another. And that another is not any church leader. If our faith is to stand, it must be on the Lord Jesus Christ alone. Paul is eager to say that he is not the Lord in whom anyone ought to trust. He together with the Corinthians is trusting in Jesus. God is establishing them both in Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Peter stated it clearly during the Jerusalem council of Acts 15, discussing how the Gentiles would be saved:

Acts 15:11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

Peter the Apostle stands alongside every Gentile believer as one saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone and not by works of the Law.

No man can stand over another man’s faith. There is one Lord in whom we must believe and that is Jesus Christ (1Cor.8:6).

Fellow-Workers for your Joy

2 Corinthians 1:24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.

Paul had an exclusive list of co-workers that included Priscilla, Aquila (Rom.16:3); Urbanus (Rom.16:9); Timothy (Rom.16:21, 1Thes.3:2); Apollos (1Cor.3:9); Titus (2Cor.8:23); Epaphroditus (Phil.2:25); Clement (Phil.4:3); Aristarchus, Mark, Jesus Justus (Col.4:11); Philemon (1:1); Demas, Luke (Phlm.1:24). This would have been something (if you were looking for status) to be able to say ‘I made the list; I am a fellow-worker of the Apostle Paul.’ Here he says ‘I am your fellow-worker.’ Paul and the other apostles come alongside me, labor together with me? He puts himself under and alongside us.

What is the aim? What are we working toward? What is it that Paul and the other Apostles come up under and alongside each one of us to accomplish? I could think of some great fill in the blanks; we are working together with you to bring the gospel to the whole world; We are working together with you for your holiness and sanctification. To establish churches in every city. To accomplish the great commission, to make disciples of all nations. To advance the glory of God and his kingdom in all the earth. Those would all be great biblical ways to finish the sentence, but that’s not how Paul finishes the sentence. He says ‘we are co-workers with you for your joy.’ For your joy! Joy! Paul is working together with us for our joy! Even in the painful hard things, even in discipline, he is working with us for our joy. For your joy. Godly leadership is not domineering; godly leadership serves. Godly leadership works under and alongside you for your joy. For your joy! Oh I want to get into this, but it’s going to have to wait until next week.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

February 14, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Established by God in Christ through the Spirit

02/04 _2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Established by God in Christ through the Spirit ; Audio available at:

Summary of 2 Corinthians 1:1-20

We are in 2 Corinthians 1:21-22. We have taken a break for a while, so let’s look back over the first verses to get our bearings.

(1-2) Paul introduces himself with his divine authority, but he makes it clear he is not alone. He mentions his unity with his co-workers. He addresses this new community with a new identity; the church of God; saints. He identifies their new relationship; peace with God that only comes through the grace of our Lord Jesus.

(3-7) He omits his usual thanksgiving for his readers, instead inviting them to bless God with him. God is worthy to be worshiped because he is merciful when we get ourselves into trouble. He gives strength in the middle of adversity; and he gives purpose to our affliction, so that we can comfort others. He identifies the normal Christian life as a cross shaped life of suffering for the good of others, sharing the sufferings of Christ.

(8-10) He lets them in on his own trials, his own sense of despair. He points to the purpose of that despair, to wean from self-confidence so that their confidence would be in God alone, the God who raises the dead. They can have confidence in future rescue because God has always been faithful.

(11) Instead of thanking God for his readers, Paul invites the Corinthians to help him by their prayers, in order that thanksgiving will be multiplied when the many who prayed see God’s blessings in response to their prayers.

(12-14) Paul boasts in the grace of God and not his own wisdom or effort as the driving principle of his life; and he points forward to the final day when both he and his church will boast in each other in the very presence of Jesus.

(15-16) In these verses, Paul begins to explain his change in travel plans, as this seems to have created tension in the relationship. His desire, his heart was to afford them a second experience of grace; a double opportunity to financially support his missionary activity as they sent him on his way. He made his plans for their ultimate good.

(17-20) And then he grounds his decision making in the nature and character of God. God is faithful. God is for us in the gospel. God says Yes to us in Jesus. As many promises as God made, all those promises find their fulfillment in Jesus. Jesus, the Son of God, came to be in them, came to live among them through their preaching. This church exists to bring God glory; he makes his decisions to bring God glory. It is all about God’s glory, and it is through Jesus that we get to say the Amen to God for his glory.

In verse 3 he blesses God; in verse 11 he multiplies thanksgiving to God; in verse 14 they will mutually boast in the grace of God; in verse 20 it is through Jesus we can together say the Amen to God for his glory. In fact, in Revelation 3:14 Jesus is called ‘the Amen’.

Amen = Established

This word Amen is actually a Hebrew word brought over into the Greek of the New Testament; it means ‘firm, trustworthy, surely; let it be confirmed, let it be established, so be it.’

He picks this thought up in verse 21 with a Greek word that means ‘to make firm, steadfast, to confirm.’ We can say ‘Amen,’ or ‘let it be established’ to the glory of God, because God is the one who establishes us with you in Christ. All the promises of God are made firm and confirmed for us in Jesus. God is the one who establishes us in Christ through the gift of his Spirit. To God be the glory; we stand firm because of the establishing work of the triune God. We say ‘establish it God!’ because God is establishing us.

Paul used this same word at the beginning of 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 1:4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, … 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—

7…our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(that word ‘confirmed’ in 1 Cor.1:6 and ‘will sustain’ in 1:8 is the same word as ‘establishes’ in 2 Cor.1:21) The testimony of Christ was confirmed, established, made sure in you, and our Lord Jesus Christ will confirm, establish, make you sure to the end. That is the past and the future aspect of God’s establishing work. He established the testimony of Christ, he will establish you irreproachable, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. And here in 2 Corinthians, he is looking at the ongoing present work of establishing.

2 Corinthians 1:21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

Us With You

Notice the together aspect of God’s establishing work. God establishes us with you. This is not ‘I’m on my own over here and God is establishing me, and you’re over there on your own being established by God’ as if it were a private personal thing. This is a together with thing. So much of the bible is a together with thing. Yes, of course God works in us each individually, personally. But our culture is one of independence and isolation. We need to pay attention to the ‘us together with you.’ God works in relationship. It is often in the together with relationships that God does his sanctifiying work. We all want to be established in Christ, don’t we? But often we unknowingly resist his work in our lives.

There is 8 years between me and my nearest sibling, so much of my growing up years I was like an only child. I enjoyed a great deal of independence, and I didn’t really have to learn to get along with others.

After I began to walk with Jesus, I could honestly look at myself and think I was doing pretty well. I was so even-tempered, that some of my high school friends would actually do things to see if they could get me angry. It rarely worked.

Then I got married… My wife is an amazing person, and I know most of you won’t believe me, but she is a sinner. And I am a sinner. I’m not saying that she brought out the worst in me, but that relationship, a close intimate relationship with another person stirred up some of the junk that was clogging up my heart. Some of that sin and selfishness and pride that was in there all along became more visible. And that’s not a bad thing. That’s a good thing. If I don’t know it’s there, I can’t deal with it. I can’t ask God to deal with it in me. I can have all this junk just sitting there clogging up the arteries of my heart and I don’t even know it. I can even become prideful, thinking I’m better than others, which is the worst sin of all.

Many see this happen and want out of the relationship; she brings out the worst in me. He just makes me so mad. That is by design! That’s the point, it was in you, and it needed to be brought out into the open so it could get addressed. Work out healthy patterns of confession and forgiveness and reconciliation.

And then we had kids… God works in us through relationships. Especially through the junk in relationships, the hurt, the offense, the misunderstanding, the pain. Celebrate that. Don’t go around hurting people on purpose. But when you are hurt, celebrate that God loves you and he is at work showing you you so that he can make you the you he intends you to be.

God is establishing us with you. It is a together with thing, that God does in and through relationships with others.

Ongoing Establish-ing

Notice also the ongoing activity of God in this establishing work. This is a present action founded on past completed actions. Establishes is present. It is founded on past complete actions. Has anointed, has sealed, has given his Spirit are all past tense. But establishes is present. It is continuous. It is ongoing. It is not done yet. God is continually at work in us together with you establishing us, confirming us, making us steadfast. This is a process. We often refer to it as sanctification.

Note that Paul the apostle puts himself and his ministry partners right in there with the Corinthians. He doesn’t say ‘I have been established, and now God is establishing you.’ No, God establishes us with you. The Apostle Paul is a work in progress! And he needs the Corinthians and their messy relationship for God to do his work in him.

God Establishes

Notice also who is doing the establishing. God gets the glory; ‘Amen, establish us Lord;’ because God is the one who does the establishing. ‘Us with you’ are the recipients of God’s establishing work. I can’t make myself firm, sure, steadfast. I can’t confirm myself. This is God’s work. The triune God is the one who does this. See that in the text? God, in Christ, by giving us his Spirit. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit conspiring together to confirm and establish us. That’s powerful!


Let’s look at how he does this. He lists three things, all past actions, all connected with the work of the Holy Spirit. Each one of these is worthy of its own sermon, but we’ll just go through them quickly.

God anointed us. There’s a play on words here that we miss in the English. In the Greek it reads ‘εἰς Χριστὸν καὶ χρίσας’; because the title ‘Christ’ means ‘anointed one.’ We could translate it ‘God establishes us with you in the Anointed one, and has anointed us’ or ‘God establishes us with you in Christ, and has christened us’.

In the Old Testament, prophets, priests and kings were anointed with oil as a way to set them apart for their specific office of service. Jesus, our great Prophet, Priest and King was anointed with the Holy Spirit (Lk.4:18; Act.10:38). Jesus the Christ is the Anointed one, and this text links us closely with him. I believe this is the only verse that tells us that God has anointed us. 1 John 2 talks about the anointing we have received (v.20, 27). Anointing gives divine enablement for service.

Acts 10:38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

Jesus says in Luke 4:18

Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

God has anointed us, like Jesus, with the Holy Spirit for service to others.


And God has sealed us. Sealing was a mark of ownership, protection, authenticity and authority. A king or someone with authority had the seal, a ring or cylinder on a cord that could be pressed into hot wax or soft clay to leave an official mark or impression. This is a seal of queen Jezebel, who we know from 1 Kings 21:8 used her husband Ahab’s seal to order the execution of Naboth. The other is an example of a cylinder seal of Xerxes, and its impression in clay, depicting queen Esther. We read in Esther of sealing official documents with the king’s signet ring.

Matthew 27 talks about the tomb of Jesus being sealed to make it secure under the authority of Pilate. Revelation 5 talks about a scroll with seven seals which had to be broken to read the contents. Revelation 7 talks about the servants of God receiving a seal on their foreheads marking them as belonging to God and securing their protection (Rev.9:4).

Ephesians 1 talks about God blessing us in Christ with every spiritual blessing. He chose us for holiness, he predestined us for adoption, he redeemed and forgave us, he predestined us for an inheritance,

Ephesians 1:12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

In this verse we see that the Holy Spirit is both the seal and the guarantee of our inheritance. When we heard the good news and believed in Jesus we were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. We were marked out as belonging to God. That’s our part; we hear the gospel and we believe, trust, rely, depend on Jesus.

Ephesians 4:30 tells us by what we say, by what comes out of our mouths,

Ephesians 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

We are sealed by the Holy Spirit of God for the day of redemption. We are protected and preserved by him; we bear his mark of authenticity.

Given the Deposit of His Spirit

God is establishing us, he has anointed us, he has sealed us, and he has given us the guarantee of the Spirit in our hearts. A guarantee was a down payment or earnest given. This is different from a pledge, like we see in Genesis 38 in the story of Judah and Tamar; he gave her his signet, cord and staff as a pledge that he would send payment, and he expected to get those things back when he sent the promised payment. An earnest or downpayment is the first part of the payment that guarantees that the full payment will be made, but the earnest money is part of that payment, and is not returned when payment is made.

God has given us his Spirit in our hearts as downpayment. Later, in 2 Corinthians 5 he talks about our resurrection bodies, when ‘what is mortal may be swallowed up by life,’

2 Corinthians 5:5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

This gives us confidence even in the face of discouragement and adversity.

We already looked at Ephesians 1, which uses both the sealing and the guarantee.

Ephesians 1:13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

The Holy Spirit is the seal of our inheritance, marking authenticity and ownership, protecting and preserving us for it. The Holy Spirit is also the earnest or downpayment of our inheritance, the first installment of what we will receive. The Holy Spirit in our hearts is not temporary, to be replaced later by something else, he is ours for eternity!

God the Holy Spirit anointing us for service, sealing us as his, living inside of us as the guarantee of an eternity with him! O treasure the gift of the Holy Spirit in your heart!

God is doing his establishing work in us. This is a gift. Don’t try to earn; freely receive. Trust him, lean in, embrace what he is doing. He began the work; he will complete it. He guaranteed it by putting his own Spirit in our hearts.

Respond with a hearty Amen! Glory to the triune God, who establishes us with you, makes firm, makes steadfast, confirms us. Establish us O Lord!

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

February 5, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Prayer and Unity (Ephesians 5-6)

01/21 Re-Oreinet; Prayer and Unity (Ephesians 6); Audio available at:

2 weeks ago we looked at prayer as intimacy; enjoying our blood-bought fellowship with God, listening to his word, talking with him, enjoying his presence.

Today I want to look at Ephesians 5 and 6, being filled with the Spirit and spiritual warfare and prayer in the Spirit.

Being Filled with the Spirit

Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:18 to be filled with the Spirit. What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit? We tend to import into the passage ideas about some supernatural religious experience, some ecstatic feeling. We might think of casting out demons and prophesying and doing mighty works, forgetting that Jesus said that some who did these things in his name had no relationship with him, and therefore were not filled with the Spirit (Mt.7:21-23). Instead of importing ideas from outside, we ought to start with what the passage itself actually says.

Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.

…15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

This passage contrasts being filled with the Spirit with being drunk with wine. When you are drunk, enough of the alcohol has gotten into your bloodstream that it begins to affect the way you think and the way you act. Being filled with the Spirit must mean that enough of the Spirit has gotten into us that our actions and our thinking begins to be affected by the Spirit.

In the immediate context of this passage, being filled with the Spirit is walking in wisdom, making the best use of the time, knowing the will of the Lord. Being filled with the Spirit has to do with how we address one another, and how we address the Lord. Is there a song in your heart? Is there a nautral overflow of joy that just must express itself? Are you thankful? Always and for everything? Being filled with the Spirit will be seen in our interaction with other people. This passage goes on to give instructions to wives and husbands, children and parents, slaves and masters. How we interact with the people in our lives will show if we are filled with the Spirit.

John’s letters make this really clear. His language for a Spirit controlled life is ‘walking in the light’. You can’t claim to be a Spirit filled person walking in the light if you hate your brother (1Jn.2:9,11).

In Galatians 5 Paul tells us to ‘walk by the Spirit’ (5:16) and be ‘led by the Spirit’ (5:18) and contrasts the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit. In Galatians 5, walking by the Spirit and being led by the Spirit look like not gratifying fleshly desires, but instead walking in love and the other things that are characteristic of the Spirit. This life of love and joy and peace, this walking by and being led by the Spirit in Galatians 5 must at least overlap with what Paul says in Ephesians 5 about being filled with the Spirit.

Spiritual Warfare

We have these instructions in Ephesians 5-6 on the relationships between wives and husbands, children and parents, slaves and masters, and then this passage on spiritual warfare. Again, we are inclined to import into this passage a bunch of what we think spiritual warfare is. We tend to think it has to do with demonic activity and a sense of spiritual oppression and doing battle with the enemy. We may tend to romanticize it and imagine ourselves dressed in armor, sword in hand, skillfully swinging and dismembering the demonic hordes. It may be all that, and the text does invite us into the imagery, but we tend to divorce it from its context. This passage is a reminder that ‘we wrestle not against flesh and blood’ (6:12). Connected with the context, that means that your wife is not the enemy. Your husband is not the enemy. Your children or your parents are not the enemy. Your employer or your employees are not the enemy. The other people in church are not the enemy. We wrestle not against flesh and blood. Our flesh and blood relationships are not the enemy. In our relationships, especially in the midst of relational conflict and tension (and by the way, it is normal to have conflict in relationships), we need to be reminded who the real enemy is, and that the enemy seeks to control how you respond to all these people in your life.

Instead, we must be Spirit controlled in all these relationships. We need to stand firm in gospel truth, in our blood bought righteousness, in gospel readiness to be at peace, forgiving as we have been forgiven, in believing Jesus and not believing the lies of the enemy, in in our salvation that is undeserved, all of grace, fighting the lies with the truth of the Word of God.

Ephesians 6:13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,

Praying in The Spirit

But the passage doesn’t end there. In fact there is another part of the weaponry that is essential. Or maybe this is what all the armaments are for, this is the field on which the battle is fought. This is the battle. All the armor is equipment to get ready for this battle. Take up the armor that you may withstand and stand firm. Stand therefore …praying.

Ephesians 6:18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Through all prayer and petition, we are to pray at all times in the Spirit. What does it mean to pray in the Spirit? Again, we could import our own ideas of what this means, that it is some super-spiritual supernatural state. But the text says that we are to pray in all times in the Spirit. So this can’t be some special state state of prayer that wouldn’t be safe to do while we were driving our chariot to work in the moring. This text indicates that our every prayer is to be an ‘in the Spirit’ prayer.

Access through Jesus in the Spirit to the Father

So what does it mean to pray in the Spirit in Ephesians? First, we must remember that all the practical exhortations in the second half of Ephesians (4-6) are built on the gospel truth laid down in the first half of Ephesians (1-3). All the imperatives (or commands) are built on and grow out of the gospel indicatives (or statements of truth). So this command to pray at all times in the Spirit must be built on a foundation of gospel truth.

Ephesians 2 lays out the good news of God’s resurrecting power at work in dead sinners to make us alive as a gracious gift (2:1-9). We who were separated, alienated, strangers, without hope and without God have been brought near by the blood of Christ (2:12-13).

Ephesians 2:18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Through Jesus, through his once for all sacrifice, through his grace, we now have access to the Father. Our access is in the Spirit. Praying in the Spirit can only begin with blood-bought access to the Father through Jesus in the Spirit. Jesus said ‘no one comes to the Father except through me’ (Jn.14:6).

Into One Body In One Spirit

So praying in the Spirit means access; that through Jesus we have access to the Father in the Spirit. And praying in the Spirit connects us horizontally with other believers.

1 Corinthians 12:13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

We are all baptized into one body in the one Spirit. And our access to the Father is in this one Spirit.

Paul alludes to this in Ephesians 4.

Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

There is a blood-bought unity of the Spirit with other believers, a unity that frees us to bear with one another in love, with all humility and gentleness, with patience. It is in this unity of the Spirit that we must come to the Father in prayer.

So praying in the Spirit is both a vertical and a horizontal thing. We have access to the Father through Jesus in the one Spirit. And we have a horizontal unity with all other believers in the one body in this one Spirit. So together, in unity with every other believer in the Spirit, because of what Jesus did, we have access to the Father.

So prayer is never a solo activity. It is never just you and God. Of course you can pray alone. You should, as Jesus said, go into your inner room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is in secret (Mt.6:6). You can pray alone, but when you pray, you are never alone. The triune God is with you. That is the only way prayer works. You pray to the Father through Jesus in the Spirit. And in the Spirit you are united with every other believer. There is a connection, in the Holy Spirit, with all believers. As Hebrews says, ‘we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses’ (Heb.12:1).

For All the Saints

So there is an aspect of praying in the Spirit that connects us with all other believers. But Ephesians 6 tells us that we are to pray ‘for all the saints.’ Praying in the Spirit is both praying with all the saints and for all the saints. Let me ask you, what believers does this leave out? Is there anyone that you shouldn’t be praying for? Is there anyone you find it difficult to pray for? Someone you disagree with? What about brothers and sisters in other Christian denominations? Maybe they believe differently than you on some secondary issues. Maybe they worship differently. Maybe they are wrong. Do you confront them or speak out against them? Are you praying for them? Maybe they don’t even recognize you as a believer. Can you still pray for them?

What about someone who has offended you or wronged you? Someone who has hurt you deeply. And they don’t even acknowledge that they did anything. Can you pray for them? And I don’t mean you should pray Psalm 35 over them:

Psalm 35:4 Let them be put to shame and dishonor… 5 Let them be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the LORD driving them away! 6 Let their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of the LORD pursuing them!

Can you sincerely ask God to bless them?

Are there people you think are doing just fine and don’t need your prayers? Paul the apostle makes it explicit in verses 19-20 ‘pray also for me.’ Paul needs their prayers. We all need prayer. We need each other. Pray for all the saints.


Note how we are to pray. It is to be full-time prayer. At all times. That means all kinds of times. When things seem to be going smoothly, pray. When things are difficult and messy and broken, when things seem hopeless, pray.

It is to be alert prayer. Attentive, Watchful. Pay attention. Pay attention to the needs of others. Be aware that the enemy is seeking to divide and to destroy. Be on guard, and pray.

It is to be persevering prayer. Don’t give up. Keep on knocking, keep on asking, keep on seeking. Don’t give up. Persevere in prayer for all the saints.

But I Can’t

You might be saying ‘I don’t think I can pray like that. There’s people I don’t think I can honestly pray for. I don’t think I can be alert and persevere in prayer. I can’t pray at all times. You are right. You can’t. There is no way you can. And that too is part of what it means to pray in the Spirit. Ephesians 6:10 says

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

Be strong in the Lord. It is not your strength, not your ability, not your watchfulness, not your perseverance. It is the strength of his might that is at work in you both to will and to do for his good pleasure (Phil.2:13). You can’t. But in his strength, in his Spirit, you can.

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

…18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

Remember, you have been invited in. You have access, blood-bought access to the Father through Jesus in the Spirit. You are in a battle, and it is not against flesh and blood. So stand your ground. Stand firm, praying.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

January 22, 2018 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Baptism and Newness of Life (Romans 6)

01/14 Baptism and Walking in Newness of Life (Romans 6); Audio available at:

We had some baptisms last Sunday, and we have a baptism today. I thought it might be helpful today to look at one of the key passages on baptism, Romans 6, to see what baptism is about, and really, this is much bigger than baptism, to see what our new life in Christ is all about, what we are to be all about.

The Strange Symbol of Baptism

If you think about baptism for a minute, it’s a weird thing. We don’t even have an English word for it; we’ve borrowed ‘baptizo’ from the Greek. It’s really a foreign thing. We have this giant bathtub in a public place (or sometimes we us a lake) where someone else bathes you in front of a bunch of other people. I can bathe myself, thank you. And I can do a better job of it too. And bathing is meant to be private. But the point is not really to get clean. Of course, we keep our clothes on, because we want it to be modest. And that’s another strange thing about it; we wear clothes to get dunked in water. If I’m going swimming, I wear a swimsuit, not my everyday clothes. And when we’re swimming together, the goal is usually not to get dunked by someone else. I don’t like it when someone pushes me under the water. But in baptism, we voluntarily let someone else dunk us.

When I was serving as a youth pastor back in Washington, our church was doing baptisms out at a beach. The pastor was out in the water, and I was on the rocky beach with my clothes on, carrying the video camera in its case, and I think a diaper bag in the other. One of the other leadership guys came up behind me and bearhugged me and picked me up and started walking toward the water. He’s a bit bigger than me. I thought he was just joking around, but I let the bags drop on the beach just in case. By the time he had me out a little more than knee deep, somehow I was able to get my leg behind his, and to both our suprise, I ended up baptizing him. It was a total immersion. The only thing that didn’t survive the incident was my cell phone.

Baptism Symbolism

Baptism is primarily a symbol; it’s an acted out picture. It is a picture of bathing or cleansing, but not dirt from the body, as 1 Peter 3:21 says, but a clean conscience before God. When we trust Jesus and his finished work for us on the cross, our sins are washed away. Baptism is an acted out picture of what happened when we believed in Jesus.

Baptism is not something we do, someone else does it to us. The one being baptized is passive. They receive baptism. They are really at the mercy of someone else. That is part of the picture too; we ‘were dead in our trespasses and sins,’ (Eph.2:1)

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him…

Titus 3:5 tells us ‘he saved us.’ Salvation is not something we do, it is something God does. He saves us.

When someone gets baptized, literally dunked in water, they come out looking different. There’s a change. If you had your hair all done up, it is going to look different coming up out of the water. Your clothes will be all wet. When Jesus comes in to a person’s life, there’s a change. It may not be as visible, but he begins to change us from the inside. And it will become visible to those around us. Baptism is a picture of that.

Romans 6

Let’s look at the text. In Romans 5 Paul is arguing that God gives those who depend on Jesus a gift they didn’t earn and don’t deserve. Jesus earned the gift, and he gives it to us freely. Adam by his disobedience earned death, and he passed that on to us. Jesus by his obedience earned justification (the verdict of ‘not guilty’) and life, and he gives that as a gift to all those who believe or trust him. The greater our sin, the more it shows off how great his grace is to cover all that sin.

In chapter 6 Paul sees a logical conclusion from this coming; ‘So if all my sin shows off the power of God’s amazing grace, then I should keep on sinning so that God’s grace is put on display even more, right?’

Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?

Pau’s answer is strong and decisive. Their premise is sound; but the conclusion does not follow.

Romans 6:2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Where sin increased, grace abounded (5:20). But it does not follow that we should increase our sinning so that grace will abound all the more. That kind of thinking overlooks the fact that if we are truly in Christ, we have died to sin. Dead people don’t do the things they used to do. Dead people don’t feel the way they used to feel, they don’t desire what they used to desire, they don’t think the way they used to think. Dead people are, well, dead. Dead people don’t get up in the morning and get dressed and brush their teeth and enjoy a cup of coffee and drive to work. Dead people stop doing what they have always done. That life is over. That’s what dead means. Paul describes us as dead and says ‘how can we?’ How can we still live in sin? ‘How can we continue in sin?’

Not Sinless Perfection

Understand he is not saying that Christians never sin. 1 John, talking to Christians, says

1 John 1:6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

Walking in darkness while claiming to have a relationship with the one who is light is inconsistent. But then he goes on to say:

1 John 1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. …10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

He goes on to say:

1 John 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

We are not to walk in darkness. We are to put to death the deeds of the darkness. We are not to make peace with the sin in our lives. But neither are we to pretend that we don’t sin. James tells us

James 3:2 For we all stumble in many ways…

By saying that we died to sin, Paul is not saying that followers of Jesus never sin again. He is saying that it is inconsistent for us to live in sin, to continue in sin, to make peace with our sin and walk in it as a lifestyle.

Thinking and Acting

Paul goes on to give us the doctrinal foundation we are to stand on. There is biblical teaching we ought to know, and it ought to impact the way we live. As followers of Jesus we are to be taught. When Jesus told his disciples to make disciples, he said they were to baptize them and teach ”them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt.28:20). There is truth we ought to know. We need to be learning, listening, reading, thinking, studying. But the goal is not just facts to fill our head. The goal is a renewed mind; new patterns of thinking that begin to shape new patterns of action. We can attempt to fight the battle against sin with our own willpower, and we will fail. Or worse yet, we will have a measure of success and become proud of ourselves. That is not God’s way. We are to be armed with truth and the word of God.

An example: The bully on the playground bulllies because it makes him feel powerful and in control. It makes him feel strong and superior to others. It makes him feel good about himself. His patterns of behavior are shaped by his beliefs. He must bully to continue to feel good about himself. His actions may make him feel good, but it is at the expense of others, and it doesn’t last. The bully might demand respect, but he never experiences love.

Jesus teaches us that true greatness is using our strength and resources to love and serve others for their good. If the bully learns that there is a deeper and richer and lasting satisfaction in selflessly serving for the good of others, if he begins to experience the joy of selflessness; not serving to feed his own ego and make himself feel better (this is subtle and dangerous), but ultimately serving to please God, really and truly loving God and loving others, this new truth will begin to shape new actions.

Paul says there is truth you must know that will begin to shape who you are.

United with Christ in Death

Romans 6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Paul is pointing to the picture of baptism and the truth it displays. The word ‘baptize’ means ‘to immerse in, to plunge or dunk.’ When you are immersed in water, you are connected with the water. You are surrounded by and covered with the water. Water is a good conductor of electricity. If things aren’t wired properly and a microphone is dropped in the water, the electricity will pass through the water and through you if you are in the water. By believing in Jesus, we are immersed into Jesus, we become connected with Jesus, covered by Jesus, surrounded by Jesus. When we are dunked in water, we get wet. When we are plunged into Jesus by faith, we get Jesus all over. We are united with Jesus. There is a real connection with Jesus. And part of that connection is a connection with his death and resurrection. Because he died, and we are united with him, ‘we were buried with him by baptism into death. Because he didn’t stay dead, and we are connected to him, ‘just as Christ was raised from the dead, …we too might walk in newness of life.’

He goes on to point to this unity:

Romans 6:5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.

Here he gets explicit. We were crucifed. Crucified with Christ. Jesus died a real death. A shameful death. He didn’t die of natural causes; he was executed publicly as a criminal. They buried him because he was dead. The soldiers made certain of that. We are united with him in death; our old self was crucified with him. The guilty sinful you was executed. If the old you was executed as a criminal, then it is dead. Buried. Gone. ‘Brought to nothing.’ Powerless. And if the sinful you is dead, then you are set free from sin.

You see how this works? The wages of sin is death, and God’s law requires your death. If you have really been united with Christ in his death, crucified with Christ, if the sinful you has been executed, then that legal demand has been satisfied. The greatest penalty a human court can issue is the death penalty. Someone sentenced to 30 years who dies two years into his sentence is not forced to serve the remaining 28. He is released. The law has been satisfied. The word in verse 7 translated ‘set free’ is really the word ‘justified’. He is released from his sins’ legal demands. The penalty has been paid.

United with Christ in Life

Romans 6:8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.

This connection with Jesus is not limited to his death, but it extends to his resurrection. Our old self is dead. The penalty has been paid. But Jesus didn’t stay dead. He rose! He will never die again. Death has no claim on him. He died to sin, and in him we died. He lives to God, and in him we live. We no longer live to sin, we are dead to that. We live to God, to please God, to enjoy God, to be in the presence of God.

Here he brings us back around to his original question. “How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

Truth That Shapes Us

This is the truth you must know. Baptism is a picture of this. Believing in Jesus connects us with Jesus, immerses us into Jesus. His death becomes our death. We enter in to his resurrection life.

This is the truth we must know, and it must shape who we are.

Romans 6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Truth, teaching, new patterns of thinking and believing lead to new patterns of living. This is what is true of you in Jesus. Consider it so! When temptation comes, I don’t feel very dead to sin. I actually feel quite alive to it! I think I could get a great deal of satisfaction out of that. This is when I need to preach the gospel to myself. Rodney, you’re dead to that! Jesus died for that, and you died with him. Picture the granite with my name chiseled into it. Picture the dirt, hear the flies buzzing, smell the stench. Dead, buried, rotting, decayed, I am dead to that! I can get no pleasure out of that. That guy that used to enjoy that was executed, nailed to a cross!

Truth requires a response from me. I am alive to God in Christ Jesus. Sin’s power is broken. I am under no obligation to be controlled by its desires. My body is a tool. My hands, my eyes, my mouth, a tool. I can do great harm with my words. I can allow my eyes to lead me into sin. But that is not what I was made for. I am dead to that. I am alive to God. My body is a tool to glorify God., to enjoy God. I am united with Christ; I am alive to God. I can enjoy intimacy with God. I can walk in the light, sins forgiven, in the presence of God. I can walk in a new kind of life, the abundant life. A resurrection kind of life.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

January 22, 2018 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Re-Orient: Prayer and Intimacy

01/07 Prayer and Intimacy; Audio available at:


The new year is a great time to reflect, to regroup, to reorganize, re-prioritize, re-orient. To get back to the basics. What is most important? What matters? What do I need to be about?

Take a deep breath. Rest. Relax. Jesus says:

Matthew 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

We need to learn from Jesus what is most important. What were we made for? And that will not be burdensome. Jesus offers us the rest our souls desperately need.

Made For Relationship

So what is most important? What were we made for? If we go back to creation, we see that we were meant to be fruitful. Our first parents were placed in a garden ‘to work it and keep it’ (Gen.2:15). But that’s not all. We were made to experience God’s blessing. We were made to walk with the LORD God in the garden in the cool of the day (Gen.3:8). We were made for relationship. We were made for communion. We were made to enjoy God together.

We destroyed this good relationship when we rebelled against God. We forfeited God’s blessing. We were expelled from his garden, from his presence.

But God intended to make a way for us to return to him, to once again enjoy him and experience his blessing. In the Exodus, God promises:

Exodus 6:7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God…

Knowing God, being with God, God with us. Belonging. Relationship. Identity. Communion. We were made for this.

The Nearness of God

This is what distinguished the people of Israel.

Deuteronomy 4:7 For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him?

The nearness of God, whenever we call upon him. This set Israel apart from every other nation. The LORD our God is near to us whenever we call upon him. What a privileged people, to have instant access to almighty God!

Our Need

And when do we call on him? When we are in trouble, when we have sinned, when we have disobeyed, when we are in need, whenever we call upon him, he is near to us. In 1 Kings 8, Solomon prayed for the people:

1 Kings 8:46 “If they sin against you— for there is no one who does not sin—… 47 yet if they turn their heart …and repent and plead with you … saying, ‘We have sinned and have acted perversely and wickedly,’ 48 if they repent with all their mind and with all their heart … 49 then hear in heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause 50 and forgive your people who have sinned against you, and all their transgressions that they have committed against you, and grant them compassion…

Throughout this prayer is the understanding that we are sinners, and that when we sin (for there is no one who does not sin) and when we turn and call out to God, that he will hear and forgive, for he is a forgiving God.

Psalm 34:18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Psalm 145:18 The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.

God created us for relationship with him, and he is eager for relationship with us. He wants us to draw near.

Notice to whom God is near. He is near to the brokenhearted. He is near to the crushed in spirit. He is near to all who call on him, to those who are aware of their need and call out to him. For God to be near to us, we need to know something of ourselves. We need to know that we are weak and poor and foolish and helpless and needy and blind and broken. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted.

Why Jesus Came

This is why Jesus came!

Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,… (cf. Luke 4:18)

Jesus came for the broken, Jesus came for the captives, Jesus came for the poor. Jesus came to rescue sinners. Jesus came to bring the Lord’s favor, to bring God’s grace to those who don’t deserve it.

Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

Jesus came to be with us, God with us. Jesus came that by his death he would bring us near. Jesus came so that God could forgive.

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God,…

Jesus came to restore the broken fellowship, to bring us in to relationship, in to communion with God.

Jesus invites us to:

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Jesus invites us to abide. Jesus invites us to connect with him, to enjoy relationship with him. It is only in him that we become fruitful as we were created to be.

How to Commune:

So take a deap breath. Find rest for your soul. We were created for relationship. We were designed to enjoy God. We were made to commune with him.

The Gospel

What does that look like? It begins at the cross. Apart from Jesus, there is no relationship. ‘No one comes to the Father except through me’ (Jn.14:6). Because Jesus paid my price, my sin is taken away, and he clothes me in his perfect righteousness, so that I can draw near to God. Enjoying the benefits of the gospel is the foundation of the relationship, and throughout the relationship we are meant to savor the benefits of the gospel.

Bible Reading

Within this gospel relationship, there are aspects that look a lot like other relationships. In a relationship you get to know the other person. You spend time together. You do life together. You listen to each other’s stories. Stories teach us about our loved ones. We all have stories. We open ourselves up. We reveal who we are through our stories. God has stories too. He opens himself up to us through his stories, he reveals himself to us. That is why the bible is called ‘revelation.’ In it God opens himself up to us, tells us his stories. Shares his heart. So take time. Sit at his feet. Listen to his stories. Get to know him. Interact with him.

Yes, I’m talking about bible reading. But guard yourself from just reading without interacting with him. Any good story pulls you in, engages your emotions, makes you feel like you are part of the story. The bible is the best story, the true story, and you are in the story. It’s not about you, but you are a part of the story. You are in it.

We find out about ourselves when we listen well. You see, we are in his stories. We learn our own history, our brokenness, our need, and how ridiculously much he loves us. What he climbed through to get to us, to rescue us. What it cost him. In our deadness how much we resisted him. How inclined we are to wander even still.

Read. Read your bible to listen to God, to get to know him. Read spontaneously, but read systematically. Feel free to jump around, but also discipline yourself to not miss anything. Listen to all of what God has to say to you. Read broadly to get the big picture, but also dig in. Study. Use tools. Pay attention to details. Take time. Listen. Take a deep breath, be quiet, and let him speak to you.


And respond. If my wife opened her heart to me, shared her story, trying to communicate with me, and all she got back was an occasional ‘uhuh’ (not that that would ever happen!) and then I walked away, (hypothetically of course) that would not help the relationship. She wants me to engage. To care. To respond. Not necessarily to offer my advice to fix the problem or to avoid it in the future, but to participate in the conversation.

Here I’m talking about prayer. Respond to God. Engage. Enjoy the relationship. Commune. Interact. Express your affection. Open your heart to him. Tell him your story. Tell him your struggles. Ask for his help. Remember, he is for you. If you ever doubt that, just look at the cross. Remind yourself the lengths he went to pursue you, to enter in to relationship with you.

Diagnosing Common Problems in Prayer

I think a lot of Christians struggle with prayer. Many are dissatisfied with their prayer life. I want to take a minute to diagnose two of the more common problems we have with prayer and offer some pracitcal suggestions that may help. I offer this not as someone who has arrived, but as a fellow traveler longing for greater intimacy with God.

Genie in a Lamp

Sometimes I hear people saying that prayer doesn’t work, or God doesn’t listen to my prayers. What they often mean is that they have asked for something and they haven’t received it. We’ll call this the ‘genie in a lamp’ problem. We think if we rub the lamp the right way, the genie pops out and is obligated to grant us our every wish. Maybe we didn’t rub the lamp the right way. Or maybe there isn’t a genie in there after all. This is rooted in a mistaken view of God and a faulty view of prayer. God is not our servant, there to do our bidding. And prayer is not a magic trick to get what we want. As we’ve outlined today, God is pursuing intimacy with us, and bible reading and prayer are means to commune with him. Prayer is not meant mainly to get what we want, but to deepen in relationship.

Jesus does make some absolutely staggering promises to us about prayer. He says in John 14

John 14:13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

Whatever you ask. Ask me anything in my name and I will do it. But note the condition. We must ask in his name. This does not mean tacking ‘in Jesus’ name, amen’ to the end of our prayers. Asking in the name of Jesus is asking according to the heart and purposes of Jesus, asking what Jesus would ask for. Notice also the goal; ‘that the Father may be glorified in the Son.’ Jesus’ heart is to bring glory to his Father, and the Father glorifies Jesus. Asking in Jesus’ name means above all seeking his glory. 1 John 5:14 connects this to asking ‘anything according to his will.’ So Jesus promises to do whatever we ask when we ask according to his purposes.

In John 15:7 he says ‘ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.’ But again, this is not a blanket promise, but a conditional one. If. If you abide in me and my words abide in you.

John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Answered prayer is contingent on abiding in Jesus, and having his words abide in us. This is what it means to ask according to his will, or to ask in Jesus’ name. To have our hearts and minds so saturated in God’s words, our desires so shaped by his truth, that what we ask is what we know Jesus would ask for, what would glorify him most. As we abide in him, as we begin to enjoy him, to know him, what we want most is to please him. You see the connection here between bible reading and prayer. These are not two discrete activities, as if I begin with a time of prayer, and then I move into reading. No, this asking and abiding and his word is all intertwined. I am abiding, connecting relationally with Jesus. His word is permeating my being, shaping my thinking, and my asking naturally flows out of this abiding relationship. More on this in a minute.

Vain Repetition

Another problem we see in prayer I’ll call vain repetition. Have you ever sat down and began to pray and said ‘Father, thank you for this food…’ but then it dawns on you (or maybe it doesn’t) that you are not at the table and you’re not giving thanks for a meal? Don Whitney says “When we pray, we tend to say the same old things about the same old things. Sooner or later that kind of prayer is boring.” []. We are creatures of habit, and our prayers tend to fall into ruts. If you know someone well, and have listened to him pray several times, you could almost write out the script of what he’s going to say. Don’s solution to this is simple but revolutionary. He says ‘Pray the Bible.’ Here again we see these two things coming together and becoming one; reading and praying. Listening to God and speaking with God. He says ‘slowly read a a passage of Scripture and pray about all that comes to mind as you read.’ Now this is not the only way to pray, but it is a good way to pray. If you do this, you can be confident that you are praying in the will of God, and you will begin to learn what it means to abide in Jesus and have his words abide in you.

I want to close today by doing this with just one verse, also out of John 15, verse 16. Jesus says:

John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.


John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you

O Lord, what an amazing truth, that you chose me. You chose me! I do not understand why, but you picked me! You wanted me. Even when I didn’t want you, you wanted me, and you pursued me. Thank you.

…and appointed you

You have plans for me. You have given me purpose; my life has meaning. I have been appointed by the King of kings!

…that you should go and bear fruit

You make me fruitful for you, useful to you? I confess that I don’t feel adequate or competent, but this is your word, your commission, and I believe you.

…and that your fruit should abide,

I want to matter, to leave a legacy, to make something permanent. Lord, you make my life matter? You can make something I do last for eternity? Lord, I want to bear fruit, good fruit for you, fruit like love and joy and peace. Work this in me I pray.

so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

Jesus, help me learn what it means to ask in you name. Instill in me your heart, your desires. I may only approach the Father because of what you, Jesus accomplished on the cross. Lord, I owe everything to you. Create new desires in me, so that what I most long for is what will bring you the maximum glory, in my own life, in my family, in our church, in our community, in the world.

In Jesus Name, Amen.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

January 9, 2018 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment