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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

How Should We Respond To This Jesus? Follow Jesus

12/29/13 Theology of the Incarnation; How Should We Respond to This Jesus?Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131229_follow-jesus.mp3

We have spent the last few weeks looking at the theology of the incarnation. Jesus, the eternally existent creative omnipotent sovereign Word of God. The one who always was with his Father and who is himself God, the only God who is at the Father’s side, the one who has come to make God known. This eternal Son, at a point in history became what he was not, he humbled himself by becoming human, being born of a virgin in Bethlehem. He lived a perfect human life, being tempted in every way that we all are, yet without ever sinning. He died a real human death on a Roman cross, and he he rose from the dead and ascended back to the right hand of his Father in his real human body, where he lives forever to make intercession for us. Remaining what he was, he became what he was not.

How do we respond to this Jesus? What do we do with him? If we really believe that he is who he claimed to be, we cannot ignore him. We cannot simply go back to life as usual. If Jesus really is God from all eternity come down to be with us, it changes everything! We must think differently, feel differently, believe differently, act differently. Everything must change.

Let’s take some time to evaluate where we are in light of who Jesus is and what he came to accomplish, and move forward eager to have our minds and hearts and lives reshaped by Jesus.

Our Need

One of the first things that Jesus did when he came was to hold up a mirror so that we can see ourselves clearly. Jesus said

Luke 5:32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (cf. Matt.9:13; Mk.2:17)

There is none righteous, no not one (Rom.3:10). By Jesus’ perfect sinless life, he intended to show us what perfection looks like, and how far we fall short. As long as we continue under the delusion that we are not really that bad, we will never come to him for rescue. We will never repent, never turn. We desperately need to see what true holiness is, and that our self-righteousness is offensive to the all-holy God. We must confess, which means to agree with him about our sinfulness and need. J.C. Ryle wrote:

The plain truth is that a right understanding of sin lies at the root of all saving Christianity. Without it such doctrines as justification, conversion, sanctification, are “words and names” which convey no meaning to the mind. The first thing, therefore, that God does when He makes anyone a new creature in Christ is to send light into his heart and show him that he is a guilty sinner. The material creation in Genesis began with “light,” and so also does the spiritual creation. God “shines into our hearts” by the work of the Holy Spirit and then spiritual life begins (2 Cor. 4:6). Dim or indistinct views of sin are the origin of most of the errors, heresies and false doctrines of the present day. If a man does not realize the dangerous nature of his soul’s disease, you cannot wonder if he is content with false or imperfect remedies. I believe that one of the chief wants of the contemporary church has been, and is, clearer, fuller teaching about sin.” [J.C.Ryle, Holiness, 1879. p.1]

John introduces Jesus as the light who shines in the darkness (Jn.1:4-5), reminding us that we are those Isaiah spoke of,

Isaiah 9:2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.

Jesus said:

John 3:19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.

Not only do we walk in darkness, but we hate the light and choose to remain in the dark, because we love the darkness. Light exposes our wickedness, and we don’t want to be exposed.

John tells us that:

John 2:24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

And this is speaking of those who were believing in him! Jesus did not entrust himself to people, because we are not to be trusted, we are untrustworthy. Jesus teaches us that we should be suspicious of our own hearts.

Jesus warned against our tendency toward greed.

Luke 12:15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

He warned of our defection toward short-term pleasure over lasting joy.

Matthew 5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.

Jesus warned against our tendency to seek the praise of men.

Matthew 6:1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. (cf. Jn.12:43)

He questioned our sense of justice.

Matthew 12:7 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.

Jesus confronted our blind hypocrisy.

Matthew 7:3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

And our blatant disobedience.

Luke 6:46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?

Jesus told us that we are sick.

Luke 5:31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.

And lost.

Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

He said that we are warped and unbelieving.

Matthew 17:17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.”

He told his followers after his resurrection.

Luke 24:25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!

So, according to Jesus, we are untrustworthy, greedy, hypocritical, disobedient, lovers of pleasure, lovers of praise, lovers of darkness, with a warped sense of justice, sick, lost, unbelieving, foolish, and slow of heart. To the church Jesus said:

Revelation 3:17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

Friends, hear what Jesus has to say about you! Do not be afraid to look in the mirror, feel the gravity of your situation, and then in true desperation cry out to Jesus for rescue!

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1Tim.1:15). Until we recognize the depth of our own sinfulness, we will miss the whole reason for his coming. God came down to show us our need for him. Once we see clearly our own lost condition, we are ready to see and enjoy the overwhelming grace and truth that comes through Jesus Christ.

His Supply

Jesus came down to reveal to us our true needs and to satisfy them fully in himself. Joseph was told by the angel:

Matthew 1:21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Jesus came to save us from our sins. John the Baptist:

John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Jesus is the one who meets our deepest need; he demonstrated with the woman caught in the act of adultery, with the paralyzed man let down through the roof, with the woman of the city who washed his feet with her tears, that he has authority to forgive sins. By his once for all death on the cross, Jesus satisfied his Father’s wrath against our sins. This is the reason he became human. Jesus said:

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

For some of you what we are saying today might be new information. I would invite you to believe, receive, trust this Jesus who is everything we need. But for most of you, I expect this is old news. You’ve heard it all before. I would especially challenge you to listen with fresh ears, to really drink in who Jesus is and let him satisfy and nourish your souls. He is here! Experience his presence. Enjoy him. Let him touch you. Let him serve you today.

Jesus is the one who satisfies our deepest thirst. He said to the woman at the well:

John 4:13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

John 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

Jesus fills our emptiness.

John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

John 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Jesus overcomes our darkness.

John 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Jesus is our protection and abundant provision

John 10:7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 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.

John 10:14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.

Jesus is our absolute security.

John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

Jesus grants us access to the Father.

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus is the true rest for weary souls

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Jesus is the source of our fruitfulness and joy.

John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. …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. …8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. …11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. …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.

Jesus revolutionizes our thinking and worldview.

Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

Jesus re-shapes what true happiness consists of among his followers. Spirit-poverty, mourning, meekness, longing for righteousness, mercy, purity, peacemaking, persecution. Joy comes through our connection with Jesus, not from our circumstances. In Jesus, our sins are forgiven, our soul’s hunger and thirst is satisfied, our darkness is overcome, we find in him protection, provision, security, access to the Father, rest for our souls, fruitfulness and real joy. Jesus came that we might have life, and life abundantly.

Our Response

Jesus came to transform everything. He came to rescue and restore how we think, how we feel, how we live. He came so that we can experience real human life as it was meant to be. He came to restore our purpose.

Jesus called some fishermen.

Matthew 4:19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

We are to follow Jesus. We were created to follow. We were created to live under God’s good rule, to obey. Instead, we rebelled, rejected God’s good rule, and chose to live according to our own twisted desires. We became slaves to sin. A fisherman takes a fish out of its natural element where it will eventually suffocate and become dinner. But as fishers of men, we lure men and women out of the sewage of sin and set them free to live and thrive in their true element, restored to a right relationship with God. Fishermen employ fake lures and deceptive bait. But we are to attract people with the real thing; real life, real light, real joy, real peace, real fruitfulness, real love.

Jesus said that we are to be the salt of the earth.

Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

Salt preserves things from spoiling, gives flavor, and makes people thirsty. We are to live in such a way that people become thirsty for God.

Jesus said that we are the light of the world.

Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Light is meant to shine out and overcome darkness. The light of our good works is meant to bring glory to God, to attract people to God, to put on display the transformation that only God can produce.

Jesus intends that as we abide in him we will bear good fruit.

Luke 6:43 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

As we follow Jesus our lives will have a firm foundation.

Luke 6:46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? 47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

Jesus came so that we would follow him. Jesus came so that our lives would reflect his life. This is a life of wisdom. This is a life founded on the Rock of Jesus. Listen to how he describes it:

Luke 6:27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. ….35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. 37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

While we were his enemies, Jesus loved us. Jesus extended mercy to sinners who rightly deserved the fury of his wrath. Jesus accepted undeserved abuse. Jesus freely gave us the greatest gift at great cost to himself, expecting nothing in return. Instead of condemning us, Jesus came to rescue us, to forgive our sins, and to transform us.

As we look to Jesus, as we see Jesus for who he is, allow him to reveal the sin in your heart, let him apply the cure and satisfy your soul, and allow him to totally transform how you think, how you feel, how you live.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

December 29, 2013 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Theology of the Incarnation; One Person Two Natures

12/22/13 Theology of the Incarnation; One Person Two Natures; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131222_one-person-two-natures.mp3

We are taking a few weeks to study the theology of the incarnation. What do we mean when we say that God became a man? In the past two weeks we have examined some of the biblical evidence of who Jesus is. We saw that the bible plainly teaches that Jesus, although he is distinct from the Father and in perfect fellowship with his Father, is fully God, that he has always existed as God, that he fully possesses in himself all the attributes that make God God. Jesus is the divine Word that brought everything that is into existence. He is eternal, immortal, omnipotent, omnipresent, sovereign, holy, worthy of our worship.

We also saw that Jesus is really and truly human. Although conceived supernaturally by the Holy Spirit in the womb of a virgin, he was born in the normal way, he was circumcised on the eighth day, he grew and developed intellectually, physically, spiritually and socially like every other human. He learned, he grieved, he wept, he rejoiced, he ate, he drank, he slept, he became physically exhausted and weak, he suffered, and he died a violent human death. He had a real human body, a human mind, human emotions, a human will. His corpse was put in a tomb. He did not stay dead, but even after the resurrection, he presented his real physical human body alive to his disciples.

This is what the bible teaches and what all Christians believe about Jesus. Jesus is really truly fully God. Jesus is genuinely authentically human. These two natures, full deity and full humanity exist in the one person of Jesus.

The question before us today is ‘how can these things be?’ How can Jesus be both fully God and really human? How can he be infinite, eternal, uncreated, and have a birth day? How can he fill all space and be present in a body in Judea? How can he know all things and learn? How can he be all-powerful, sovereign, and grow and develop? How can he be immortal and die? This is a mystery much greater than the resurrection. If Jesus really is who he claimed to be, it would be shocking if he didn’t raise from the dead. The mystery of the incarnation is a mystery probably equal to if not greater than the trinity. That God is three persons in one being is incomprehensible to us, but that one of those persons, while remaining fully God, would unite himself forever to our human nature is staggering to the imagination.

Outline

I think it is essential that we begin by defining our terms, so that we understand what we mean by the words we use. Then we will listen to history and see what we can learn from the mistakes and wisdom of those who have gone before us, and we will conclude by examining some of the biblical passages that shed light on this issue.

Terms

When we say that Jesus is one person with two natures, we must understand what we mean by ‘person’ and what we mean by ‘nature’.

The Princeton theologian Charles Hodge puts it simply: “a person is an intelligent subject who can say I, who can be addressed as Thou, and who can act and be the object of action” [Hodge, 1871, vol I, p.444]. A person is one who can think, feel, and act in relation to other persons. When I say ‘person’ I do not mean ‘human’. As I understand it, there are three classes of personal beings; God, angels, and men. For instance, we could say that the angel Gabriel is a personal being. Angels are spirit beings, not made up of matter, not human, but Gabriel is a distinct personality who can have a conversation with Michael or Lucifer or Jesus or Mary.

By nature, I mean the essential characteristics that distinguish one class of being from another. Nature is similar to species. The attributes of Gabriel’s personality are what distinguishes him from Michael, another angelic being. The attributes of Gabriel’s nature as an angelic being are what distinguish him from the human Mary, or from God. The nature of an angel is a created spiritual being, localized but without a physical body. The nature of God is infinite uncreated eternal self-existent being. The nature of man is created being who is both spiritual and physical.

Making these kind of distinctions in our vocabulary is extremely helpful when we are talking about things like the triune God, because when we say that God is three and God is one, we do not mean that God is three in the same way that he is one. We do not mean that God is three persons and one person or that he is three beings and one being; that would be nonsense. No object can logically be three in the same way that it is one. If we are talking about a triangle, we do not say that it has three sides and it has only one side; nor do we say that a triangle is one shape and it is three shapes. A triangle is one shape with three sides. God is one being consisting in three persons. When we come to the incarnation, we are not saying that Jesus is one person and two persons; neither do we say that Jesus is one nature and two natures. We say that Jesus is one person with two natures.

History

It will be helpful to look at the development of our understanding of the incarnation in history. Our understanding of truth is refined though challenges. I know what I believe about God, but when I talk to someone with a different understanding of who God is, I am forced to think more carefully and articulate more clearly what God is like, and examine the scriptures to be sure that what I believe is in line with what God says about himself. Through the challenge, I grow in my understanding and appreciation of who God is. This is what happened in the church. The scriptures clearly teach that Jesus is fully God, that Jesus is fully man, and that Jesus is one person. We spent the last two weeks looking at some of the biblical data. This is what all Christians believe about Jesus. But this is not easy to understand. Very early there were challenges to this understanding. And we can learn and be warned from these challenges. Some denied that Jesus was God; they believed that Jesus was merely a man with a human father and mother, who was adopted by God at his baptism. Others, believing matter to be inherently evil, believed that for God to unite himself to humanity would be to defile himself; Docetism (from dokeo – to appear) taught that Jesus only appeared to be human and die; his humanity was merely an illusion.

Sabellius taught that there is only one God, but denied that God exists eternally in three distinct persons. He believed that God presented himself at different times in different modes; in the Old Testament as the Father; in the Gospels as Jesus, and after the ascension as the Spirit. His view became known as modalism. Modalism denies the personal relationships within the trinity that we see evident throughout scripture.

Arius taught that although Jesus was an exalted being above all other beings, he was the first created being and did not eternally exist and did not share the divine nature of the Father. He taught that Jesus’ nature was similar to the nature of the Father, but that he was not of the same nature as the Father. Arius’ teaching was condemned at the council of Nicea in 325 A.D.

Apolinaris taught that Jesus had a human body but not a human mind or spirit. He taught that Jesus’ human spirit was replaced by the divine Logos. But Hebrews 2:17 tells us that ‘he had to be made like his brothers in every respect’. That which he did not assume he could not save. If Jesus were not fully human, he could not be the savior of the whole person.

Nestorius affirmed that Jesus was fully God and fully man, but he taught that as a result, Jesus was two separate persons, a divine person and a human person.

Eutyches went to the other extreme emphasizing the unity of the person, going so far as to say that at the incarnation the human nature of Jesus was absorbed into the divine nature, so that Jesus was one person with only one nature; a divine/human hybrid nature (monophysitism). But if this is true, then Jesus was neither fully God nor fully man, and unable to be our mediator.

These unbiblical views of Jesus forced the church to think more carefully and articulate more clearly what is true about Jesus. Here is the statement that was agreed upon at Chalcedon in 451 A.D.

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [co-essential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us. [Chalcedonian Creed, 451 A.D.]

This makes it explicit that Jesus is one person with two natures. He eternally possessed the nature of God, and at a point in time he assumed additionally a real human nature. His divine nature continued immortal, eternal, omnipresent, omnipotent; while his human nature really learned and grew, became hungry and thirsty and weary and died. These two natures were united in one person, so that the person of Jesus really experienced hunger and pain and temptation and death. Jesus fully possesses the nature of God and fully possesses the nature of man, and these two natures exist in the one person of Jesus. His divine nature was not modified by the incarnation, nor was his human nature changed through the incarnation. Jesus was not two people, but one person.“What He was He continued to be; what He was not He took to Himself” [Gregory of Naziansen, 379 Orat.XXIX.19].

Biblical Passages

Let’s look at some of the biblical passages that directly speak to this issue. We have already spent some time in the beginning of the gospel of John, so can quickly review what we have seen there.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God.

The creative Word who always existed, who shared the nature of God and existed in relationship with his Father, this one,

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The pre-incarnate Word who was with his Father and was himself God, became something he had not been before; he took to himself flesh, a real human body.

Look also at the beginning of John’s first letter:

1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 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.

The eternal self-existent one, that which was from the beginning, the one who was with the Father, the one who has life in himself, was made manifest, was seen, was heard, was touched, was handled. His real true humanity was verified by eye-witnesses. Remember that John says later in this epistle that this understanding of the incarnation is essential to the true gospel; anyone who does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not from God; but is the deceiver and antichrist (1Jn.4:1-3, 2Jn.1:7).

In Romans 1 Paul speaks of Jesus’ human nature; he was called to preach:

Romans 1:1 …the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,

The one who was God’s Son eternally, according to his human nature was descended from David, but according to the Spirit, in his divine nature, he was declared to be the Son of God.

Later in chapter 9 where Paul is speaking of his people, the Israelites, he says:

Romans 9:5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

Jesus, in his human nature was ethnically Jewish. According to the flesh, his family tree is traced by Luke (3) through his mother Mary and connects him all the way back to Adam through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and king David. And this same passage in Romans clearly states the divine nature; that Jesus is God over all, blessed forever. In his human nature he is descended from the Israelites; in his divine nature he is God over all.

In Hebrews 1, the Son is said to be the Creator and heir of all things, the radiance of the glory of the Father and the exact imprint of his nature, he is called God and he is seated on the right hand of the Majesty on high. In chapter 2, we see this eternal Son made lower than the angels

Hebrews 2:9 … so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

Jesus took on a human nature so that in that nature he could taste death for me. In verse 11, his humanity is connected with mine.

Hebrews 2:11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,

Jesus can call me brother because he really and truly shares my humanity, having taken on a genuine human nature. Verse 14 says:

Hebrews 2:14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

We have a human nature, flesh and blood. From eternity he did not have a human nature, but he took on flesh and blood so that he might destroy death by dying. The author goes on to make clear that Jesus did not take on the nature of angels to save angels, but the descendants of Abraham, and we are told

Hebrews 2:17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

He was not from eternity like us. He has always possessed the very essence of God. But he had to be made like us in every respect so that he could make propitiation for our sins.

In Romans 8, Paul tells us:

Romans 8:3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,

Jesus is the eternal Son sent by his Father. He is sent in real human flesh and for sin. But Paul is careful to make clear that he was not sent in sinful flesh. He was sent in the likeness of sinful flesh. The Word became flesh; real human flesh and blood, yet not fallen sinful flesh and blood.

One more passage, probably the clearest of all on this subject, Philippians 2.

Philippians 2:5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus from all eternity existed in essence as God. He fully shares every divine attribute with his Father. But his status and glory as equal with his Father was not something he clung to at all costs. He was willing to stoop down, to make himself nothing, to empty himself. But he did not empty himself by setting aside any divine attribute, as some have falsely taught. The text tells us how he emptied himself. He emptied himself by taking. He detracted from his own glory by adding to himself. Remaining what he was, he assumed what he was not. He took the form of a servant. He emptied himself by being born in the likeness of men. He set aside his rights and privileges as God and humbled himself by taking our nature.

Bruce Ware, in his theology book for young people, illustrates it this way. You take a brand new shiny car off the showroom floor for a test drive. Latest model, all the bells and whistles, power under the hood, polished and sparkling. You head up the canyon road. Of course it has been raining. For days. You want to see what this thing can do. After a few hours, you drive back to the showroom. The salesman rushes out, mortified at what was once his new car now covered bumper to bumper in a thick coating of mud. As you hand him back the keys, you smile and say, don’t worry, nothing has been lost. I have taken nothing away from your car. I have only added to it. True, all the essential qualities that make this car what it is are still there. Even the brilliant paint job, but it has been completely hidden, it has lost its appearance of glory not by subtraction, but by the addition of a thick layer of mud. Jesus emptied himself by taking, taking to himself the nature of humanity. “He had not lost His former being, but He had become what He was not before; He had not abdicated His own position, yet He had taken ours; ” [Hilary of Poitiers c.360 Trinity, III.16].

Application

The scriptures plainly teach, and the church throughout history has affirmed that because of the incarnation, Jesus is fully God and now also truly man, two natures united in one person forever. Why is this important? What is the use of it? Why does it matter? Just a few points of application as we close.

Understanding that Jesus is one person with two natures helps make sense of scripture. This gives us theological categories to help wrap our finite human brains to some limited degree around who Jesus is. In his human nature he was helpless, wrapped up lying in a feed trough, totally dependent on his mother. In his divine nature he continued to hold the universe together by the word of his power. In his human nature he learned and grew. In his divine nature he continued in the perfection of every divine attribute. In his human nature he was hungry, thirsty and exhausted. In his divine nature he was in absolute control of all of nature. In his human nature he was led like a lamb to the slaughter and stumbled under the weight of the cross. In his divine nature, he was able to carry the sins of the world on his shoulders and pay for them in full. If he were not fully God and fully man in one person, he could not be our Savior.

Understanding that Jesus is not two persons but one person; that the divine/human person of Jesus really experienced temptation, suffering, sorrow, heartache, and death draws me to Jesus. He understands. He can sympathize. He really understands. And he invites me to come.

Increasing our understanding of who Jesus is should drive us to fall on our faces in worship. With the old hymn writers we say ‘Amazing Love! How can it be, that thou my God shouldst die for me? Tis mystery all: the Immortal dies: who can explore his strange design? …Tis mercy all! Let earth adore, let angel minds inquire no more.’ [And Can It Be, Charles Wesley, 1738]. ‘Fairest Lord Jesus, ruler of all nature, Son of God and Son of man! Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor, Thou, my soul’s glory, joy, and crown’ [Munster Gesangbuch, 1677]

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

December 22, 2013 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Theology of the Incarnation: Humanity

12/15/13 Theology of the Incarnation; Humanity; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131215_incarnation-humanity.mp3

We are taking a few weeks to stand in wonder at the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. We want to know him, to know who he is, to know all that we can about him, so that we can worship him rightly. We are looking at probably the greatest mystery the universe has ever known, the theology of the incarnation, that God became a man. Last time we looked at the full deity of Jesus, that he always existed as God, fully possessing all the characteristics of God, equal to the Father and in perfect fellowship with his Father for all eternity. We saw Jesus as Creator of all that is, the divine Word who spoke everything into existence. We saw Jesus the omnipotent one, to whom all of nature and even the demonic hordes must bow, the sovereign one. Jesus, immortal, who has the power of life in himself, Jesus, all-knowing and unlimited by space and time. Jesus, the Son, sharing all the characteristics and attributes of deity with his Father, equally worthy to be worshiped with his Father.

Outline

Today we are going to look at Jesus in his humanity, and next week at how these two natures, humanity and deity, are united in one person forever. I want to warn you that these three messages go together and each one is incomplete without the others. Focusing on the divine nature of Christ to the neglect or dismissal of his true humanity is one of the earliest heresies of the Christian church. The Apostle John wrote:

2 John 1:7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.

There were many in the early church who attempted to deny the full humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ. John calls them deceivers and against Christ. The early creeds put it this way: ‘Jesus …very God of very God, …who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, …and was made man’ (Nicea, 381). In order for Jesus sacrifice to be of infinite value to save us, he must be fully God. In order for Jesus to legitimately be our substitute he must be fully human. A savior not quite God is a bridge broken at the farther end; while a savior not quite man is a bridge broken at the nearer end (H.G.C.Moule, F.F.Bruce). The church fathers put it this way ‘remaining what he was, he became what he was not’. The Son of God, continuing in undiminished deity, became what he had never been before, a real human being. This is what the bible teaches.

The Supernatural Conception

John’s gospel tells us that the Word who was, who existed in the beginning with his Father, the Word who existed as God,

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The Word, the eternal I AM who had always existed became something he had never been before. He became flesh [σάρξ]. The invisible God became carnal, God who is spirit became embodied.

John tells us that the Word who became flesh is the only Son from the Father. We know Jesus as the Son of God, but that title is open to misinterpretation. The Jews expected a merely human messiah, and Greek mythology told of occasions where one of their many gods would come down and have relations with a mortal and produce superhuman offspring. John is careful to make it clear that Jesus does not fit into either of these categories. Jesus is not merely human, he is the self-existent God who created everything who became man. Neither is he some hybrid half-god half-man produced by an illicit relationship. He had always existed as God and this one, the eternal Son, has now become also fully human. Jesus is one of a kind, the only one who pre-existed with the Father. This one, really truly became flesh. He didn’t just appear in the form of a human, as angels sometimes do, he really truly became genuinely irreversibly human.

The angel Gabriel said it this way to Mary:

Luke 1:31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.

You will conceive in your womb; that is how all babies are normally conceived. With a placenta and an umbilical cord, cells dividing, DNA replicating, organs and limbs developing. Morning sickness. Stretch marks. Movement. You will bear a son; not an alien, a baby boy. Birthed in the normal natural way. Labor pains, contractions, water breaking, umbilical cord cut, messy. The song is wrong; ‘no crying he makes’. With that first gulp of oxygen from this planet his lungs begin to function. He cried. He nursed. He burped. Spit up. Long sleepless nights. Messy diapers (or swaddling cloths).

Mary’s question was one of biology and morality.

Luke 1:34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy— the Son of God.

Mary’s question is ‘how will this be since I have not known a man? She understood what precedes conception, and for conception to take place, there has to be a father. This is the miracle. No human father would be involved. Her morality would remain intact. The Holy Spirit of God would supernaturally place the divine seed inside of her.

Matthew’s gospel records it this way:

Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

In Matthew’s gospel, it is Joseph that has the questions. Mary is pregnant. He naturally assumes the worst.

Matthew 1:20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

He is assured that her purity is intact. The origin of this child is supernatural. The Word became flesh. But everything else about this child is as normal and natural as any other child. The birth is inconvenient. The timing is inopportune. The circumstances are terrible. The visitors were probably an awkward intrusion.

Natural Development

They had him circumcised on the eighth day (Lk.2:21), which tells us that he came with all the standard equipment that every other baby boy is born with. And I’m sure he cried then.

Luke tells us that his growth and development was normal and natural human development.

Luke 2:40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.

He nursed. He had to be fed. He rolled over. He began to crawl. He stood up. He took his first step. He learned to eat. He learned to walk. He learned his aleph-bet. He was taught to be quiet in church. He was taught to read the Torah. He learned how to relate to other people. He learned how to relate to God. He had to grow up just like every other boy had to grow up. There was only one unique difference with Jesus. He never once sinned. In everything he pleased his heavenly Father. He got left behind in Jerusalem when he was 12. He was submissive to his parents.

Luke 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

Doctor Luke tells us that he developed intellectually, physically, spiritually and socially like every other human. The Quran and the non-biblical Infancy Gospel of Thomas have the boy Jesus doing mischievous miracles, cursing, healing, and breathing life into clay birds. But this clearly contradicts the historically reliable biblical accounts. When Jesus changed over 100 gallons of water into fine wine at the wedding in Cana, we are told this was the first of his signs (Jn.2:11). When he returned to his hometown of Nazareth claiming to be the fulfillment of Scripture, those who saw him grow up took offense at him.

Matthew 13:54 and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.”

Jesus was so normal, so ordinary, so familiar, so human, that his own townspeople refused to believe that he was anything more than a mere man.

Human Limitations

We see Jesus in the gospels as fully human. He thought, felt and acted in a fully human way. His human body was subject to the same limitations that we all have.

Jesus had an ordinary human mind. As we have seen, Jesus learned. He increased in wisdom. He asked questions in order to find out information he didn’t know. When a woman touched him in the crowd, he asked “who touched my garments?”. In conversation with a demon-possessed boy’s father, he asked “how long has this been happening to him?” In response to questions about the timing of the end of the age, Jesus said:

Mark 13:32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Jesus had ordinary human emotions. In John 11, we are told:

John 11:5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

At the death of his friend, not only did Jesus ask “where have you laid him?” but it says:

John 11:33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. … 35 Jesus wept.

When Jesus predicted that one of his own disciples would betray him, it says “Jesus was troubled in his spirit” (Jn.13:21). Looking toward the cross, he said “now is my soul very sorrowful, even to death” and he begged his Father to remove the cup from him (Mk.14:34-35). Luke tells us:

Luke 22:43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

From the cross, Jesus cried out:“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt.27:46).

Jesus had an ordinary human body. At the beginning of Matthew, we are told

Matthew 4:2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.

And after the temptation, Jesus was so physically weak we are told:

Matthew 4:11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well and asked her for a drink, it describes his physical condition this way:

John 4:6 Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

In Matthew 8, Jesus was so exhausted from a day of ministry that he was sleeping right through a great storm. After his scourging, Jesus was apparently so weak that the Roman soldiers compelled a man named Simon to carry his cross for him.

Jesus’ body was real. And he really died a violent human death of public execution. John tells us after his death,

John 19:34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.

Real physical human blood. Real physical human death. In a real physical human body. Mark tells us:

Mark 15:44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. 45 And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. 46 And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.

A Roman centurion verified the real physical death of Jesus. His dead physical human body was taken down from the cross, wrapped in linen and laid in a tomb. The women came Sunday morning with spices to anoint the dead body of Jesus (Mk.16:1), because they fully expected that his body like any other dead physical body would begin to decompose and stink.

When Jesus presented himself alive to his followers, he made a point to demonstrate that he was really bodily physically there.

Luke 24:36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.

Providentially, Thomas was absent from this first appearance of the risen Jesus to his disciples. Thomas refused to believe unless he could handle real evidence.

John 20:26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

Jesus ascended bodily, physically into heaven, where he is now bodily, physically seated at the right hand of the majesty on high. He promised that he would bodily, physically return to this earth.

The Importance of His True Humanity

Why is this so important? Why do the gospel writers give so much evidence to demonstrate that Jesus was really truly human? According to the Apostle John, the true humanity of Jesus is essential to Christianity.

Substitution

The author of Hebrews gives us several reasons.

Hebrews 2:9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

God the Son took on human flesh so that he could experience human death as a legitimate substitute for sinful humans. In order to die in the place of humans, he had to be himself human.

Hebrews 10:4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; 6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. 7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

Animal sacrifices could never take away sin, because animals are not human, created in the image of God. Jesus took on a human body so that he could substitute himself for us.

Hebrews 2:14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham.

Jesus partook of flesh and blood so that he could destroy the consequences of sin, death, by dying. He did not become an angel to rescue angels. He became human to rescue humans.

Hebrews 2:17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

He had to (notice the language of necessity); he had to be made like his brothers in every respect (being sort of human or partially human would not be adequate; he had to be fully human); he had to be made like his brothers in every respect in order to carry out his role as our great high Priest making propitiation for sin. To bear the wrath of God against the sins of mankind, he had to be a man.

Sympathy

The next verse gives another reason he became a man.

Hebrews 2:18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Jesus really truly experienced temptation, so we can go to him for help when we are tempted.

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Because Jesus in every respect has been tempted as we are, we can confidently come to him to receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Obedience

Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 calls Christ the last Adam or the second man. Where Adam was placed in paradise with all of his needs met and he disobeyed, Jesus, driven into the wilderness and literally starving to death, fully obeyed his Father. He lived his whole life in perfect obedience. He was even obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Paul says in Romans 5:

Romans 5:18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

Because of Jesus’ perfect obedience as a man to his Father, his perfect righteousness as our substitute now makes us righteous.

Mediator

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

For Jesus to truly mediate and be the spokesman both for God and for men, he must be both fully God and fully man.

The old creed says it this way: (would you say it with me?)

[We believe] in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made;
Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried; and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

December 15, 2013 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Theology of the Incarnation: Deity

12/08/13 Theology of the Incarnation; Deity;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131208_incarnation-deity.mp3

I’d like to take this time of year as an excuse to do something a little different than we usually do. I’d like to look at some theology with you. We normally work our way through books of the Bible, take it as it comes, and listen to what God has to say to us through the pages of his word. But for the next few weeks I’d like to do some theology with you. I want to look at the theology of the incarnation.

Theology

The mention of doing theology might scare you in one of three different directions.

Some might be scared that theology means that we are going to dictate that you believe certain stuff because somebody important with a lot of authority said we should. Although we can learn a lot from history, that is not what we intend to do. Good theology is taking all that the bible says relating to a specific issue and attempting to fit it together and make sense of it. We will look at some history along the way, because we can learn a lot from other people, and awareness of history often helps us to avoid making the same mistakes that others have already made. What we are aiming for is a biblically based historically informed theology.

Some might be inclined to say ‘theology is just not my cup of tea’. I’m not into all that. The problem with this is that everyone does theology. You believe things about God based on what you have seen or heard or felt or read. Everyone does theology. Some do it carefully and well, others do it haphazardly and poorly, but everyone does theology. The question is not whether or not to do theology; the question is whether or not we will get our theology right. Children are some of the best theologians. They are curious. They ask questions. They want to know why. If you spend any time around children, you will have to do theology. It would be in your best interest and theirs to do it well.

Some are turned off by theology because they think that theology is stuffy and boring and irrelevant. Some might say ‘I have a real relationship with Jesus; why do I need theology?’ You need solid theology to make sure your relationship is with the real Jesus. Good theology is not irrelevant; it is the most relevant study addressing the most important issue that any human being ever has to face. The stakes are so high that it warrants serious and careful attention. Theology is not boring because God is not boring. He is the most interesting being that is. He is worthy of all your affection, all your devotion, all your energy. The greatest commandment tells us that we must love God with all of our mind. You will find, rather than being stuffy, studying who God is will irresistibly draw you deeper into worship. As we see what God reveals about himself in the Bible, we will be filled with wonder and amazement which naturally expresses itself in worship.

Outline

Here is where we are going. Lord willing, we will take the next few weeks to examine the theology behind the incarnation. It will be well worth our time and energy to focus our attention on the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the God-man. This week we will examine his Divine nature; next week we will look at his humanity, and the following we will look at how these two natures are united in one person forever.

Trinity

In order to understand more clearly what happened at the incarnation, when God became man, we need to understand a bit about the nature of God. All Christians believe there is only one true God. Christianity, along with Judaism and Islam, is strictly monotheistic. There can only be one supreme being. The Biblical narrative starts with ‘In the beginning God…’ (Gen.1:1). God commands his people ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ (Ex.20:3).

Psalm 96:5 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens.

God gives evidence that ‘the LORD is God; there is no other besides him’ (Deut.4:35). Jesus said ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve (Mt.4:10). This is interesting, because as we will see, Jesus repeatedly claimed to be God, and received worship as God, but he also addressed his Father as God. This has led Christians to understand that the one God has eternally existed in three distinct persons; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These three personalities or centers of consciousness all share the divine nature or essence, they each are characterized by all of the divine attributes or characteristics. This teaching has come to be known as the doctrine of the Trinity. All Christians from earliest times have held that there is only one God and that the Father is God, the Son is God and the Spirit is God.

This is relevant to our understanding of the incarnation, because when we say that God became man, we do not mean that the Father or the Spirit became man, but only the Son. The personality of the Son is not to be confused with the Father or the Spirit. Jesus, during his time on the earth, continued in his relationship with his Father and the Holy Spirit through prayer and dependence.

John 1

Let’s start by looking at John’s gospel.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John brings us all the way back to the beginning, using words that remind us of the opening words of Genesis. In the beginning – in the darkness before the universe or even matter existed, the Word already was. This is the Divine word who spoke matter and light and life into existence. John takes us back to creation and says that the Word was already there. The Word was eternal. Then it says something interesting about the Word. It tells us that this Word was with God; distinct from God, a separate personality, a unique center of consciousness who could be said to be with God. And the text also affirms that the Word was God. The Word shared the essence of God, the divine nature. Psalm 33:6 tells us:

Psalm 33:6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.

John tells us that everything that has ever come into being came into existence through the Word.

Verses 2-4 tell us that the Word is personal. The Word is not an it; the Word is a he. Who was this divine personality who was both with God and was himself God? Who is the Word? We find the answer in verse 14.

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 ( John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

The Word became flesh. The Word was the only Son from the Father, fully sharing his God-ness as a son shares the DNA of his father. John the baptist, who was about 6 months older than his cousin, said “he who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.” Jesus was born later than John, but John says that the Word has always existed before John came into being. In verse 18, he affirms the invisible, immaterial,spiritual nature of God; ‘no one has ever seen God’, and then he goes on to say that the Word is the only one who shares the nature of God, yet is distinct from the Father. The Word, John says, has become human and dwelt among us in order to make the invisible God known.

This is beyond wonderful! To summarize a few of the high points that we learn from John 1: the Word is the eternal Son who became human; Jesus. He has eternally existed in relationship with his Father. He also shares the same divine nature or essence with his Father. He was with God, and he was God.

Jesus is God

Let’s look at some other passages that clearly present Jesus as divine. Paul says in Romans 9:5 speaking of the Israelites:

Romans 9:5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

In Titus 2 he refers to Jesus as:

Titus 2:13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

Peter refers to Jesus almost the same way in 2 Peter 1.

2 Peter 1:1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

The author of Hebrews applies Psalm 45 to Jesus:

Hebrews 1:8 But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.

When he finally saw the risen Christ,

John 20:28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

LORD

This is interesting because not only does Thomas address Jesus as God, but also as Lord. We might easily miss the significance of this due to our familiarity with the English word. This word ‘κύριος‘, Lord, is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament which was in use in Jesus’ day to translate the Hebrew name of God, ‘YHWH’, 6814 times. For anyone familiar with the Old Testament to identify Jesus as Lord would be to connect him with YHWH the very name of God. In Luke 1, when Elizabeth sees Mary coming to visit, she exclaims:

Luke 1:43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

In Luke 2, the angel of the Lord declares to the shepherds:

Luke 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

When the shepherds made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child, all who heard it wondered (Lk.2:17-18). To say that the child born in Bethlehem is the Christ, the Messiah is amazing enough. But to say that he is YHWH, the Lord staggers the imagination!

In Luke 3, the role of John the Baptist is said to fulfill the words of Isaiah 40

Isaiah 40:3 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

This clearly demonstrates that Jesus is identified as YHWH, the Lord of the Old Testament.

The author of Hebrews applies Psalm 102 to the Son of God:

Hebrews 1:10 And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; 11 they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, 12 like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”

Notice, not only does he refer to Jesus as Lord, but he attributes all of creation to Jesus, and asserts that Jesus is unchanging and eternal.

Attributes of Deity

This is another clear evidence in scripture that Jesus is fully divine. Not only is he directly called God and Lord, he has the characteristics or attributes that only God possesses, like eternity and unchangeableness or immutability.

In John 2, Jesus turned 120-180 gallons of water into the finest wine for a wedding celebration.

John 2:11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

Jesus, the true Master of the feast, put his glory on display.

In Matthew 8, when the disciples are terrified that they will die in the storm,

Matthew 8:25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

Jesus demonstrated his omnipotence; his absolute power over all of creation. Later in this chapter, he demonstrates his sovereignty even over the demonic hordes, who must obey his command.

On many occasions we are told that Jesus knew the heart and thoughts of men.

John 6:64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)

In John 16, the disciples said:

John 16:30 Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.”

In John 21, when Jesus asks Peter ‘do you love me’, Peter answers:

John 21:17 …and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

Jesus is all-knowing; omniscient.

When Nathaniel was introduced to Jesus in John 1, Jesus said to him:

John 1:47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

Jesus here claims omnipresence; the ability to see what is happening in a different place. In Matthew 18, Jesus looks into the future gatherings of believers and promises:

Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

In Matthew 28, when Jesus sends his disciples into the nations, he

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

For Jesus to accompany all of his scattered disciples as they evangelize the nations would require him to be omnipresent.

When some friends lowered a paralyzed man through the roof of a house where Jesus was teaching,

Mark 2:5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

In claiming to forgive sins, Jesus was claiming to be the sovereign holy God against whom all sin is ultimately committed.

Jesus claimed to be the life-giver. He said in John 5:

John 5:21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.

He said in John 10:

John 10:17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

Jesus claimed to have immortality, the power of an indestructible life (Heb.7:16).

In John 8, Jesus was claiming to be greater than Abraham.

John 8:57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

Jesus does not merely say that he pre-dated Abraham. He claimed to be the self-existent One who spoke to Moses from the burning bush (Ex.3:14).

In Revelation 19:10, John is so overcome with awe that he falls down to worship the angel that brought him the message. The angel quickly refused his worship and told him ‘worship God’, for God alone is worthy of worship. But Jesus, on several occasions, received worship and did not refuse it.

Matthew 28:9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.

In fact, in Revelation 5, we see Jesus, the Lamb, receiving equal worship with his Father.

Revelation 5:11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

This is the Jesus we worship, the Word made flesh, the infinite, eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, immortal, self-existent, sovereign Creator of all that is. Jesus lacks no quality that God the Father possesses. He is YHWH God, sharing all the character traits of God with his Father. He was in the beginning with God, and he is God. As God, he is infinitely worthy of our trust, because he is infinitely able to save us. Because of who he is, his sacrifice for us on the cross is of infinite value. 

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

December 8, 2013 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 7:20-24; Slavery and Contentment

12/01 1 Corinthians 7:20-24 Remain As You Were Called; Slavery and Contentment; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131201_1cor7_20-24.mp3

1Cor 7 [SBLGNT]

17 Εἰ μὴ ἑκάστῳ ὡς ἐμέρισεν ὁ κύριος, ἕκαστον ὡς κέκληκεν ὁ θεός, οὕτως περιπατείτω· καὶ οὕτως ἐν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις πάσαις διατάσσομαι. 18 περιτετμημένος τις ἐκλήθη ; μὴ ἐπισπάσθω· ἐν ἀκροβυστίᾳ κέκληταί τις; μὴ περιτεμνέσθω. 19 ἡ περιτομὴ οὐδέν ἐστιν, καὶ ἡ ἀκροβυστία οὐδέν ἐστιν, ἀλλὰ τήρησις ἐντολῶν θεοῦ. 20 ἕκαστος ἐν τῇ κλήσει ᾗ ἐκλήθη ἐν ταύτῃ μενέτω. 21 Δοῦλος ἐκλήθης ; μή σοι μελέτω· ἀλλ’ εἰ καὶ δύνασαι ἐλεύθερος γενέσθαι, μᾶλλον χρῆσαι. 22 ὁ γὰρ ἐν κυρίῳ κληθεὶς δοῦλος ἀπελεύθερος κυρίου ἐστίν· ὁμοίως ὁ ἐλεύθερος κληθεὶς δοῦλός ἐστιν Χριστοῦ. 23 τιμῆς ἠγοράσθητε· μὴ γίνεσθε δοῦλοι ἀνθρώπων. 24 ἕκαστος ἐν ᾧ ἐκλήθη, ἀδελφοί, ἐν τούτῳ μενέτω παρὰ θεῷ.

1Cor 7 [ESV2011]

7:17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. 18 Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. 19 For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. 20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. 21 Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. 24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.

We find in this passage strong encouragement from the apostle to enjoy the status God has given to each one of us in Christ Jesus. These verses give the core principle that Paul applies to the different circumstances he addresses in this chapter: married, widowed, divorced, and single. In verse 17 he states the principle:

1 Corinthians 7:17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.

Then in verses 18 – 19 he illustrates this principle with the racial issue of circumcision. Jews prided themselves in being God’s chosen people. Gentiles were excluded from a relationship with God unless they became Jews. But in Graeco-Roman society being a Jew could be detrimental to social advancement. Paul says that it doesn’t matter what your racial background is. God’s call cuts across all ethnic barriers. Jesus sent his disciples not only to Jerusalem and Judea, but into Samaria and to the ends of the earth to make disciples. God will bring people from every tribe and language and people and nation to worship around his throne. Racial background has no effect on one’s relationship with Jesus. In verse 20, Paul restates his guiding principle.

1 Corinthians 7:20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called.

And in verses 21-23 he applies this principle to the difficult social issue of slavery. Then in verse 24, he repeats the principle again.

1 Corinthians 7:24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.

Bondservants and Freedmen

In order to better understand this passage, we need to gain a proper understanding about the background of slavery in the Graeco-Roman world that Paul was writing to. Set aside for a moment the American and European ideas of ethnic based slavery. Slavery in the ancient world was an issue of social status. One became a slave by being on the losing side of a battle, by being born to slave parents, or by entering into a contract of slavery, often to pay off a debt. The kidnapping and sale of adults and children as slaves was illegal, but did happen. Slavery was typically not lifelong; slaves were often manumitted (or granted freedom) when they were in their early 30’s or after around seven years of service (NIGTC, p.564-5). A former slave who had been released gained the status of ‘freedman’. The status of a slave or a freedman depended greatly on whom he served as slave. Slaves were sometimes cruelly abused and mistreated, and sometimes released when they had passed their prime as a way for the owner to escape the obligations of providing for them. But it was a matter of public honor to provide well for the needs of the slave, and to reward loyal service with manumission. Some slaves were menial laborers, but a wealthy patron would often delegate great responsibility to a trusted slave to carry out business and manage affairs in his name, and that slave would be given the respect that was due their patron. When a slave was released, they continued to be indebted to their patron, owing them honor, respect, gifts, and often a set number of days’ work per week or month or year (BECNT, p.314-5). Some estimate that about one third of the population of ancient Corinth were slaves, and another third were freedmen. Freedmen took great pride in their patrons. Common tombstone inscriptions have been discovered that read (so-and-so) the freedman of (patron’s name).

Circumstances and Attitudes

Paul restates his governing principle of living the life the Lord has assigned and to which God has called in verse 20, and he now applies this principle to slavery and freedom.

1 Corinthians 7:20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. 21 Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. 24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.

Literally verse 20 reads ‘remain in the calling in which you were called’. It is not social standing that counts for anything, it is God’s call.

This is intentionally an extreme application of the principle, and it helps to clarify what he does and doesn’t mean by it. It is one thing to apply ‘each one should remain in the calling in which he was called’ to circumcision; don’t reverse the irreversible. But to say ‘if God called you as a slave, remain as a slave’ is more difficult to swallow. But he doesn’t exactly say that. He doesn’t say ‘you must remain a slave’ Instead he says ‘don’t worry about it.’ He turns our focus from the circumstance to our attitude toward the circumstance. If you are a slave, don’t let it concern you. You can be so focused on your circumstance, so controlled by an all-consuming desire to escape your situation, that you become a slave to your desire. You don’t have to become a Jew to follow Jesus, and you don’t have to become free to follow Jesus. A slave can be just as faithful a follower of Jesus as a free man can. This is radical contentment irrespective of circumstances.

This is not just talk. Paul modeled this radical contentment for us in his own life. He wrote in Philippians:

Philippians 4:11 …I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

He wrote these words from a Roman prison, probably chained to Roman guards. He did not pout and whine and complain. He was not consumed with self-pity. Instead he viewed his circumstances as ordained by God and took advantage of his situation for the glory of God and for the advance of the gospel. He writes in the beginning of the letter:

Philippians 1:12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Throughout the Philippian letter Paul is overflowing with joy. Joy is not contingent on circumstances; joy is fruit of the Holy Spirit, who resides in every believer. Paul views his imprisonment not as a hindrance to the gospel, but as brought about by God to advance the gospel throughout the whole Roman guard. His imprisonment has given confidence to many brothers to speak the word more boldly. Paul is content in his God-given circumstances and finds multiple reasons for joy and thanksgiving to his all-wise God. Paul gives us his recipe for contentment in Philippians 4:6.

Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Or as Peter says it:

1 Peter 5:7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Remain as you are. Bring your concerns to God. Be content in whatever circumstance God called you.

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

We can easily apply this principle to our situation today. Often when someone becomes a follower of Jesus, they feel a strong inclination to really make their lives count for the Lord. They mistakenly think that the best way to do this is to quit their day job and go into ‘full time Christian ministry’. This is right and wrong. They definitely should seek to make their lives count for God and they should go into full time Christian ministry. But that does not require a change of occupation. Paul’s advice here is ‘remain as you are called’. Don’t quit your day job. You are called to be an ambassador for Jesus where ever you are. Are you presently serving someone? Employed by someone? Be faithful to use those relationships for the advance of the gospel and the glory of God. Are you in a position of authority over someone? A business owner or employer? Recognize that you are a slave of Jesus, you belong to Jesus, and he determines how you conduct yourself and how you relate to other people.

Make Use Of…

We could take Paul’s principle that ‘each one should remain in the condition in which he was called’ as an absolute rule in every circumstance. But Paul is not so simplistic. He adds a ‘but if’ clause; ‘but if you can gain your freedom, rather make use…’ But he leaves the sentence hanging. Make use of what? This has led to a debate among biblical scholars. Does he mean that if you have the opportunity to become free, you should rather make use of your slavery to the glory of God and remain a slave? Does he mean that if you have the opportunity to become free, you should use your new status as a freedman to bring glory to God? More likely he is allowing for the exception and turning our focus from our circumstances to our calling. If you were called by God as a slave, don’t let it concern you, serve your earthly master to the glory of God. If God opens the door to freedom, make use of that freedom for the glory of God.

Upside Down Kingdom

He finds the reason in the gospel, where the calling of God shames the wise and chooses the nothings of this world, where the first will be last and the last first.

1 Corinthians 7:22 For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ.

The cross of our Lord Jesus turns all social status on its head. If God called you when you were a slave, you become a freedman of the Lord. Still a slave of a human master, the Lord Jesus has become your patron and you enjoy true freedom from the power and consequences of sin, a freedom greater than any earthly liberty. You now owe your primary allegiance to Jesus. You can claim the identity of the King of kings and Lord of lords. If on the other hand God called you when you were free, you have become a slave of Christ. You have come under the control of a Master who has the absolute right to make use of you, your time and talents and resources, as he alone sees fit (Thrall, p.56). So the slave moves up in social status, and the free man moves to the bottom.

Jesus taught his disciples:

Matthew 20:25 … “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 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.”

The greatest one in God’s kingdom is the one who serves others. Jesus, our example, did not come to be served but to sacrifice himself for others.

John 13:3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. …12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Jesus

Philippians 2:6 …did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

The God who created the universe became part of his creation in order to serve us by dying in our place. Because of the cross, we who were slaves are set free from sin to live lives that bring glory to God. We who were free are now owned by Jesus.

Bought

Paul’s instruction to slaves is not to worry about it. If you can become free, use that for the glory of God. More important than your circumstances is your attitude. Your station in life does not define you. Your relation to Christ is what defines you.

He now instructs those who are free.

1 Corinthians 7:23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men.

In that culture, becoming a slave of an affluent and important patron could be a way to climb the ladder of social status. Paul warns them against the foolish wisdom of this world’s status seeking hunger. He takes them back to the cross. You were bought with a price. Jesus paid the price for your freedom at the infinite cost of his own precious blood. You are owned by the King of kings. It would be incongruent for a possession of Christ to sell himself into slavery to another master. At the end of chapter 6 in a warning against sexual immorality, he said

1 Corinthians 6:19 …You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Here, in the context of social relationships, he repeats this theological truth. You were bought with a price. You are owned. You belong to Jesus. You must live consistent with your new identity in Christ.

Content in Any Relationship

1 Corinthians 7:24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.

Paul is saying all this to illustrate his principle governing marriage, divorce, remarriage, and celibacy. His principle is ‘remain as you were called’. If you are married, you must not seek to change your status. Enjoy your marriage and use it to bring glory to God. If you are single, divorced, or widowed, take advantage of the freedoms of singleness to bring glory to God. But his illustration of slavery introduces possible exceptions to the principle. You are not required to remain in that state. Interestingly, he parallels marriage with slavery and singleness with freedom. But whatever your situation, don’t be concerned about it. More important than your circumstances is your attitude toward those circumstances. Are you bitter, frustrated, depressed, suffering from the greener grass syndrome, wishing to be on the other side of the fence? Or have you learned the secret for contentment in whatever circumstances you find yourself in? In whatever condition each was called, there let him remain, but you are not to remain there alone, in your own strength. You belong to Jesus, you are with God, and in that relationship there is ample strength. The power of the Holy Spirit is at work in you to produce the fruit of joy regardless of outward status or standing, to produce peace and confidence in your identity in Christ as belonging to him. You were bought with a price. You are a bondservant of Christ, a freedman of Christ. You are with God, and that relationship must define you.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

December 1, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment