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1 Corinthians 13:1-3; Nothingness of Life Without Love

10/26 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 The Nothingness of Life Without Love; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20141026_1cor13_1-3.mp3

1 Corinthians 13 [SBLGNT]

12:31 ζηλοῦτε δὲ τὰ χαρίσματα τὰ μείζονα. καὶ ἔτι καθ’ ὑπερβολὴν ὁδὸν ὑμῖν δείκνυμι.

13:1 Ἐὰν ταῖς γλώσσαις τῶν ἀνθρώπων λαλῶ καὶ τῶν ἀγγέλων, ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω, γέγονα χαλκὸς ἠχῶν ἢ κύμβαλον ἀλαλάζον. 2 καὶ ἐὰν ἔχω προφητείαν καὶ εἰδῶ τὰ μυστήρια πάντα καὶ πᾶσαν τὴν γνῶσιν, καὶ ἐὰν ἔχω πᾶσαν τὴν πίστιν ὥστε ὄρη μεθιστάναι, ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω, οὐθέν εἰμι. 3 καὶ ἐὰν ψωμίσω πάντα τὰ ὑπάρχοντά μου, καὶ ἐὰν παραδῶ τὸ σῶμά μου, ἵνα καυθήσομαι, ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω, οὐδὲν ὠφελοῦμαι.

1 Corinthians 13 [ESV2011]

12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

We are in 1 Corinthians 13, the famous love chapter. If you haven’t read it in your bible, you’ve probably seen it on the back of a wedding program or in a valentines day card or heard it read in a marriage ceremony. It is a soaring piece of poetry, beautiful and moving. It is one of the most widely know and best loved pieces of scripture that has been ripped from its context and plastered all over lover’s lane. I want to tell you something maybe you didn’t already know. 1 Corinthians 13 comes between chapters 12 and 14! It comes between those chapters much the same way as chapter 9 comes between 8 and 10. 1 Corinthians 13 has a context, and that context helps us to understand what its author intended it to mean. We can pull out some verses and post them on our facebook page with some little hearts and balloons and roses that sound all sweet and sentimental, but I submit to you that 1 Corinthians 13 is a wrecking ball that will level you and I if we are really listening. I am being wrecked as I study it, and I intend to share the experience with you, dearly loved ones. Understand, it is a necessary wrecking and leveling. It is a constructive and healthy leveling, the way a deserted lot with dangerously crumbling buildings all overgrown with weeds and crawling with varmints needs to be bulldozed and burned and excavated to prepare it for a useful structure.

The Corinthians, much like us, were self-focused. They were proud, they were self-seeking, They loved status, they wanted priority and position. They had asked Paul a question that he is responding to in these three chapters. Their question, as we reconstruct it from Paul’s answer to them went something like this: ‘What is the mark of true spirituality? What are the evidences of a truly spiritual person? Are there specific manifestations of the Spirit that mark one out as advanced above others?’ And behind these questions was the desire to be thought well of, to be known and acknowledged as spiritual, to have a reputation for advanced spirituality. Paul begins his answer in chapter 12 by telling us that the truly spiritual people are those who confess Jesus as Lord. The Holy Spirit is at work in every person who comes to genuine faith in Christ, so every believer is ‘spiritual’. He highlights the diversity of the workings of the Spirit, and the interconnected interdependence of every part of the body with every other part. He reverses their status seeking, ranking the most despised gifts as most essential to the building up of the body, and lists the more sensational gifts that they were focused on last. He exhorts us to earnestly desire the higher gifts. And then he says ‘I will show you a still more excellent way.’ Chapter 13 is the superabundantly excellent way, more essential than any of the gifts. Chapter 14 continues his exhortation to pursue love and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts.

Tongues

In every list of gifts in this section, in 12:8-10, in 12:28, and in 12:29-30, tongues is listed last. In chapter 14 he illustrates the greater value of prophecy over tongues and carefully regulates the use of the gift of tongues in the meetings of the church. But here in chapter 13, this order is reversed and tongues comes first.

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Paul is pointing to the utter worthlessness of all the gifts of the Spirit if the person exercising them lacks love. He lists several ‘if’ statements, possessing spiritual gifts taken to the extreme, each conditioned by the repeated phrase ‘but have not love’ and draws the conclusion of utter valuelessness. He starts with their favorite, tongues. The gift of tongues is the God given ability to speak praises to God in a language not known by the speaker and usually needing interpretation to be understood by the hearers. That is sensational and attention grabbing, and we see something like this attracting huge crowds in Acts 2. Speaking in the tongues of men could be more simply translated speaking in human languages. Speaking in tongues of angels, then, refers to angelic languages. In the context of this passage, it may be that Paul is referring to actual angelic languages, or it may be that he is simply using hyperbole, going beyond what any of the Corinthians would claim. You speak in all kinds of human languages, what if I spoke in exalted angelic languages (if there even is such a thing)? The point is that even the most amazing gift of languages imaginable is nothing without love. If I have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. Imagine your toddler has gotten into the pots and pans in the kitchen and has discovered that by banging the lid down on the pan, he can make noise. Repeated noise. Continual noise. Ceaseless noise. Incessant noise. No rhythm, just loud banging over and over and over and over and over again. It was cute. At first. But then you are sitting at your computer trying to concentrate, and your little angel comes up right next to your ear and begins to bang and clang the pot lids together. Or imagine your sweet little 8 year old in the back seat at the beginning of a very long car ride asks you this question: ‘Do you want to hear the most annoying sound in the universe?’ Even if you answer ‘No’, she still feels compelled to bless you with this sound. It is not the sound itself, but the duration. If you think that’s bad, imagine when you ask her to please stop, suddenly all her siblings join in making the same noise!

Paul says that if I have been given the most spectacular manifestation of the spiritual gift of tongues, but I do not have love, I am, literally I have become; I have turned into a chunk of clanging brass. I am reduced to nothing more than a painfully repetitive loud noise. This is a scathing indictment on the status seeking tongues speaking Corinthians. They want to impress their friends with their giftedness. Instead, Paul says, you have turned into clanging banging irritating chunks of noisy metal.

Prophecy, Knowledge, Faith

Next, he takes the gift that he is encouraging them to pursue, a gift that is useful in building up the church.

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

If I have prophecy and know all mysteries and all the knowledge. Again, Paul is using hyperbole. He is imagining the greatest possible manifestation of the gift of prophecy. Paul has said in chapter 4 that the apostles have been entrusted with the mysteries of God. Mysteries in this context are things that were hidden in ages past and have now been revealed. The primary mystery, as he talked about in chapter 2, is the gospel, the good news that through the crucifixion of Jesus, God is extending his love to sinners.

He invites them to imagine that his prophetic gift is such that he understands all mysteries and possesses all knowledge. Knowledge was a big deal in Corinth. They prided themselves in their knowledge. Paul addressed their knowledge back in chapter 8.

1 Corinthians 8:1 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

Already in chapter 8, he has held up love as superior to knowledge. Knowledge tends to puff self up. Love builds others up. He warns that by your so called knowledge, you destroy a brother for whom Christ died.

1 Corinthians 8:11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died.

For the Corinthians, understanding all mysteries and all knowledge would make for a very impressive spiritual resume. He adds to this the gift of faith. The spiritual gift of faith is an extraordinary Spirit enabled capacity to depend on God to remove major obstacles to the gospel. Here he draws on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 17:20

Matthew 17:20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Jesus’ point is that it does not depend on the size of your faith. Even the tiniest grain of faith placed in the proper object can remove the biggest obstacles. Paul speaks larger than life and imagines that he has all faith. Again hyperbole; faith so as to relocate mountains.

If he has the gift of prophecy and understands all mysteries and all knowledge and if he has the gift of faith to the maximum imaginable extent, but he does not have love, he says ‘I am nothing’.

Mercy, Generosity, Helps

Now he takes up the mercy gifts, gifts like helps or relief, and generosity.

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

If I give away all that I have; the idea is turning every possession into morsels of food to nourish the hungry. This takes generosity to the extreme. Not stopping with every possession, but even surrendering up my very body takes it to the next level. There is a textual issue here, and you may have a footnote in your bible, whether the word is burned or boast. The difference is just two letters in the original. Either way it is a picture of the ultimate sacrifice, surrendering ones own body up for the good of others. Paul says, even if I have the gift of mercy, bringing relief to the poor and if I do that to the absolute maximum imaginable extent, laying down my own life for others, but have not love, I gain nothing.

There is a progression here. If I have not love, I become empty noise. If I have not love, I am nothing. If I have not love, I gain nothing. I become nothing, I am nothing, I gain nothing.

What Is Love?

This raises a question. How can one give all that they have and even surrender their own body without love? Isn’t that the definition of love? Isn’t biblical love self sacrifice for the good of the other? Jesus said in John 15

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

If we look around, we find examples of people sacrificing themselves for others. Movies are made in praise of these selfless acts. On the battlefield, in the hospital, in the streets, we see examples of people laying down their lives for others. And not all of these people claim to be followers of Jesus. What can we say about this? Jesus said:

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Does this mean that when we see self sacrificial love for others in someone who rejects Jesus as King and rescuer, we must conclude, in spite of their unbelief, that they must be OK? To a lesser degree, there are many selfless acts of generosity, mercy, care for the poor and needy carried out by good people all around us.

What Paul describes seems to be the greatest possible expression of love according to Jesus; laying down your life for others. But he indicates that it is possible to do these things and not have love. And he indicates the outcome; that it profits me nothing. How is it possible to do what we would consider loving acts and not have love?

It may be helpful to understand that in the Greek there are multiple words for love. In English our one word ‘love’ covers them all. There is storge, the affection of a parent for a child and a child for their parents; there is phileo, the love of friendship; there is eros, romantic love, what we might call ‘being in love’; and there is agape, something almost unique to the New Testament writers, and used to describe God’s love. We can easily see how the affection of a parent for a child or for another needy or helpless individual could express itself in the ultimate self-sacrifice. We can see how a robust friendship love could lead one to make the ultimate sacrifice for a friend, and we could see how impassioned lovers might make the ultimate expression of love to one another.

These generous self-sacrificial deeds of love are noble and admirable. They are a reflection of the image of God in his creation. But they are not saving acts. They profit nothing. They earn nothing.

Agape Love

What is it that distinguishes this God kind of love from other loves, without which we gain nothing? What is it that the unbeliever who takes a bullet for a friend does not have? I think we find help in the simple statement of 1 John 4:19.

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.

The love Paul and Jesus and John are talking about is a response that flows from divine love. We love because we have been loved by God.

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.

The love we are talking about is from God. It has its source in God who is love. It comes from the new birth. It is founded on a testimony that Jesus is the Son of God who came and paid the price for our sins. It is a love produced in us by the Holy Spirit. We see in Galatians 5 that this kind of love is a fruit of the Spirit.

If we look at the context of Jesus’ statement that the greatest love is laying down one’s life for a friend, we see where this kind of love comes from.

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

…8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

…11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

This fruit of love comes from abiding in Jesus. Abiding in his love for us. This love is an overflow of joy in the satisfaction of being perfectly loved. We love because he first loved us. We are loved by God, not because there is something loveable in us, something in us that attracts his affection, but out of the overflow of his own satisfaction in loving and being perfectly loved. God is love. The Father loves the Son, the Son loves his Father, and the Spirit loves the Father and the Son. This complete and perfect trinitarian love, this perfect joy and delight in the beloved, spills over and finds joy in extending this love to others. This is a love that comes not out of need but out of overflowing fullness. God is love, and we love because he first loved us.

We love because

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son…

We love because

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

We love because

1 John 4:9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.

We love because

1 John 4:10 …he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

We love because

Galatians 2:20 …the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

We love because

Ephesians 5:2 …Christ loved us and gave himself up for us….

We love because

Ephesians 5:25 … Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

When our love is a work of the Spirit in us, rooted in God’s grace to us in the cross, when our love is the overflow of satisfaction in being perfectly loved by God, when our joy and delight in God spills over and finds joy in extending this love with which we have been loved to others, this is the love that is the superabundant more excellent way. Without this love I have become nothing, I am nothing, and I gain nothing. This kind of love is evidence of true spirituality.

If you want to become more loving, the solution is not to make an effort to do more loving things, the solution is to fix your eyes on Jesus. Allow him to love you with his unquenchable love. Invite him to fill you to overflowing with his all-sufficient love. That love will inevitably spill over to those around you.

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.

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

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October 26, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 1:3-5; Comforts of the Cross

10/19/2014 2 Corinthians 1:3-5; Comforts of the Cross; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20141019_comfort-2cor1_3-5.mp3

2 Corinthians 1:3 Εὐλογητὸς ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὁ πατὴρ τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν καὶ θεὸς πάσης παρακλήσεως, 4 ὁ παρακαλῶν ἡμᾶς ἐπὶ πάσῃ τῇ θλίψει ἡμῶν, εἰς τὸ δύνασθαι ἡμᾶς παρακαλεῖν τοὺς ἐν πάσῃ θλίψει διὰ τῆς παρακλήσεως ἧς παρακαλούμεθα αὐτοὶ ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ. 5 ὅτι καθὼς περισσεύει τὰ παθήματα τοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς ἡμᾶς, οὕτως διὰ τοῦ Χριστοῦ περισσεύει καὶ ἡ παράκλησις ἡμῶν.

2 Corinthians 1:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

I thought it might be helpful to seek comfort today in the midst of difficulties. As we look around us, this world is full of pain, full of sorrow, full of evil. Sickness, disease, death, depression, pain, suicide, persecution, even beheading, are just some of the things that touch us or those close to us. We need to find comfort that will carry us through the grief and sustain us through the pain that confronts us in this fallen world. For those around us, those with whom our lives intersect, who are in need of comfort, we want to be equipped to bring strong comfort to the hurting.

Our inclination is often to try to fix the problem, to try to identify the source, to find a rational explanation for why. Our inclination is rooted in a desire to avoid pain at all cost. This was the approach of Job’s friends, and he called them ‘miserable comforters’ (Job 16:2).

2 Corinthians 1 is a chapter in which the word comfort appears 10 times in 5 verses. It means to call alongside, to exhort, encourage, strengthen, console, or comfort. This chapter begins by speaking grace and peace to the readers. Grace, God’s undeserved generosity, and peace, a reconciled relationship. Unearned blessing and reconciliation come from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessed Be God

Then he speaks a word of blessing toward God. God is blessed, God is happy, God is delighted in himself and all that it means to be God. He is happy and we wish him to be happy. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is something we find on the lips of Job, even in the midst of immense suffering.

Job 1:21 …The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

For many, in the midst of suffering, their tendency is to blame God rather than to bless God. But Job and the apostle join their voices to bless God in the midst of unimaginable suffering, and they invite us to accompany them in seeing God as worthy of blessing even in our agony.

Father of Mercies

The apostle blesses the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom he calls the Father of mercies. Mercies is plural. There are multiplied occasions God extends mercy to sinners, not giving us what we deserve. God is the Father of mercies, he originated mercy and has begotten multiplied mercies. If we ever experience mercy, he has brought it into being, he has fathered it. All God’s many mercies come to us through his Son Jesus Christ. God is the Father of mercies.

God of All Comfort

Then he names him the God of all comfort. Our God, the source of every mercy, is sovereign over comfort. If there is any comfort to be had, he reigns supreme over it, he wills it, he calls it into being, he controls it, and he brings it to us.

He is the God of all comfort. There is no true comfort outside of him. If we want genuine comfort, we must go to him. If we want to bring real comfort to others, we must connect them to him, the God of all comfort.

We tend to seek comfort in lots of different ways. We seek comfort in getting lots of money, or in spending lots of money, in eating lots of food, in drink, or in denying ourselves. We seek comfort from relationships with other people, or in isolating ourselves from other people. None of this will bring lasting comfort.

Often we seek comfort through understanding. If only I can make sense of the situation, if only I can understand why, then I will feel better and be able to deal with the situation. But as God revealed to Job, true comfort comes in knowing God as God, knowing he is awesome, he is in control, and his ways are past finding out. God is the God of all comfort.

Comfort in All Our Affliction

2 Corinthians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, …

God is the one who comforts us in all our affliction. There is no affliction to great or too deep or too wide that he is unable to comfort us in. The word ‘affliction’ literally means pressure, that which presses hard in on us. It is used for pressing grapes to make wine. It is used in:

Matthew 7:14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

The way to life is hard, pressed, afflicted, oppressed, distressed. Whatever it is that is pressing in on us, threatening to crush us, God is there to comfort us in all our affliction. The God of all comfort, the Father of mercies, is present to comfort us! There is no pressure too big, and there is no pressure too small for him to bring us strong encouragement and hope in the midst of it. Over against all our affliction, he presses into us with his comfort.

So That We May Be Able to Comfort

2 Corinthians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Here we are given purpose. God presses into us with his comfort over against our affliction so that we are equipped to comfort others. Think about this; if you are going through a very difficult time, who do you turn to for comfort? Do you run to those who seem to have it all together, who have apparently been able to avoid all suffering and heartache and loss, those who have insulated themselves from the pain of this world? Or do you turn to those you know have suffered profoundly, maybe in similar ways you now find yourself in, and have come through deep waters with peace and joy and hope and depth of character?

This is yet another problem with the prosperity gospel; those who are living their best life now are impotent to give any real help or comfort to those who are suffering. They are Job’s miserable comforters, pointing out why he is suffering and what he needs to change to get out of the suffering. They can offer no real comfort, because they just don’t understand.

God comforts us in our affliction so that we are able to comfort those who are in any affliction. This is helpful. We may think that only those who have suffered in a specific way can comfort those who are suffering in that same specific way; for example, I may feel incapable of bringing comfort to someone battling cancer because I have never personally battled cancer. There may be some truth to that, in that someone who has experienced a specific type of suffering is uniquely gifted to identify with others facing that exact same type of suffering, But if you have experienced God’s comfort in any suffering, you are competent to bring God’s comfort to any person facing any kind of suffering.

2 Corinthians 1:3 …the …God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

If we have experienced the comfort of God in our affliction, we can comfort others with the comfort with which we are comforted by God. The opposite is also true. If we have not experienced the comfort of God in any affliction, we are not able to bring comfort to others. God comforts us in all our affliction so that we can comfort others with that comfort God has comforted us with.

God’s Comfort

What is this comfort God comforts us with? Is it a warm comfortable feeling? Is it some inner sense of well-being? Is it some cloudy, subjective, nebulous, fluffy sort of hope? Or is it rock solid and real, an anchor for the soul buffeted by life’s storms? The next verse says:

2 Corinthians 1:5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

The footnote in the ESV suggests another possible translation:

Or For as the sufferings of Christ abound for us, so also our comfort abounds through Christ

Another translation puts it this way:

[LEB] 2 Corinthians 1:5 For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, thus through Christ our comfort overflows also.

[NASB] 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.

The comfort we receive from God is no cloudy ethereal feeling, it is as real as the sufferings of Christ, sufferings which abundantly overflow to us. God can comfort us because God in Christ has entered into our suffering. Jesus suffered for us. His sufferings abound to us. Here is where we find our comfort. We find comfort in the sufferings of Christ. We find comfort in the cross.

Let us review some of the concrete comforts we have, in order to anchor our comfort in the sufferings of Christ that overflow to us.

It is a comfort to know that we are loved by God:

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

We have the comfort of forgiven sin:

Matthew 26:28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Acts 10:43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,

Colossians 2:13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

We have the comfort of no condemnation:

John 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

We are comforted by the gracious gift of justification:

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. …

We have the comfort of peace with God:

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

We can take comfort in our reconciliation:

Romans 5:9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

We have the strong comfort of Christ’s righteousness credited to us:

Romans 4:3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

We can take comfort in the promise of eternal life:

John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

We enjoy the comfort of being adopted as God’s children:

John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,

Romans 8:15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

1 John 3:1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. …

We have the comfort of the new birth:

1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

1 Peter 1:23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;

We have the comfort of a promised inheritance:

1 Peter 1:4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Colossians 1:12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

We have the comfort that God is working all things for our good:

Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

We have the comfort that no good thing will be withheld from us:

Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

We have the comfort of being secured with the Holy Spirit:

Romans 5:5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Ephesians 1:13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,

2 Corinthians 1:22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

We have the comfort of Christ living in us:

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Colossians 1:27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

We have the comfort that the Father makes his home with us:

John 14:23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

We have the comfort that Jesus will return for us:

John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

We have the confident comfort that to be away from the body is to be at home with the Lord:

2 Corinthians 5:6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.

We have the powerful comfort that to die is gain:

Philippians 1:20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

We have comfort in the promise of physical resurrection:

Romans 6:8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

Romans 8:11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

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?”

The comforts of the cross and the sweetness of the gospel are savored most deeply in the midst of sorrow

2 Corinthians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

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

October 19, 2014 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 12:28-31; Jealously Desire Greater Gifts

10/12 1 Corinthians 12:28-31 Jealously Desire Greater Gifts; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20141012_1cor12_28-31.mp3

1 Corinthians 12 [SBLGNT]

27 Ὑμεῖς δέ ἐστε σῶμα Χριστοῦ καὶ μέλη ἐκ μέρους. 28 καὶ οὓς μὲν ἔθετο ὁ θεὸς ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ πρῶτον ἀποστόλους, δεύτερον προφήτας, τρίτον διδασκάλους, ἔπειτα δυνάμεις, ἔπειτα χαρίσματα ἰαμάτων, ἀντιλήμψεις, κυβερνήσεις, γένη γλωσσῶν. 29 μὴ πάντες ἀπόστολοι; μὴ πάντες προφῆται; μὴ πάντες διδάσκαλοι; μὴ πάντες δυνάμεις; 30 μὴ πάντες χαρίσματα ἔχουσιν ἰαμάτων; μὴ πάντες γλώσσαις λαλοῦσιν; μὴ πάντες διερμηνεύουσιν; 31 ζηλοῦτε δὲ τὰ χαρίσματα τὰ μείζονα. καὶ ἔτι καθ’ ὑπερβολὴν ὁδὸν ὑμῖν δείκνυμι.

1 Corinthians 12 [ESV2011]

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

Paul is listing some of the diverse grace-gifts, services and workings of the Spirit in the lives of followers of Jesus. Distinct and different manifestations of the same Spirit are given to each believer for the common good. The Corinthians are striving for the more showy and supernatural manifestations as signs of elevated spirituality. Paul turns this status seeking upside down and lists their more sensational gifts last and the least exciting or impressive gifts first.

The Last Shall Be First

This fits with what Jesus taught his status seeking disciples.

Mark 9:34 …on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

The disciples, just like the Corinthians, just like all of us, wanted to be first. They wanted to be served. Jesus turned that expectation on its head. The most important is the last of all and servant of all. That is exactly how Paul described the role of Apostles in 1 Corinthians 4:9-13. He said they had been put on display as a public spectacle, they were foolish, weak, held in disrepute, hungry, thirsty, poorly dressed, beat up, homeless, manual laborers, reviled, persecuted, slandered, scum and refuse. Those who were the least had become the greatest. Those who lacked honor have been clothed in special honor. The apostles, those who served as the foundational eye-witnesses to the life, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus had become first in the church.

Prophets, those who spoke on behalf of God to his people, those who prepared the way and pointed to Jesus, those who convict and convert, those who build up, encourage, teach, and console. In the list of gifts at the beginning of this chapter, prophecy is paired with distinguishing between spirits, the ability to evaluate the genuineness and accuracy of prophecy. 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 tells us not to despise prophesies, but to test everything, which may indicate that there was a tendency in the church to despise prophets or prophecies. Prophets had become second in the church.

Teachers, those who make disciples, those who teach truth and encourage obedience to Jesus, those who bring unity to the body, who protect from error, who mature and equip the body for works of service, the teachers are third in the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.

The rest of the list does not come in a specific order. It is first, second, third, then, then, and three others. First apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. This is how God sovereignly appointed his church to function.

Then Miracles

Then miracles. When we looked at the list at the beginning of this chapter, we saw that miracles, or workings can be power to do mighty deeds, authority over demonic powers, or the power of the gospel to rescue sinners.

Then Grace-Gifts of Healings

Here, as in the first list, miracles or workings of power is paired with healing. Grace-gifts of healings. Both words, gifts and healings, are plural, indicating that there may be multiple gifts of different kinds of healings. Healings can be spiritual or physical, and can be supernatural or medical. Jesus opened the eyes of those who were born blind, and he opened the eyes of those who were blind to the beauty and truth of the gospel. He raised the dead, and he gave life to those who were dead in their trespasses and sins. Various grace-gifts of healings.

Helping

1 Corinthians 12:28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.

The next two gifts, helping and administration, are new, not mentioned in the other lists. In fact, these two gifts aren’t mentioned anywhere else in the New Testament.

This idea of helping can mean ‘taking hold’ in the sense of plants taking root; it can mean physical support in the sense of bandages or splints applied to injuries, it can mean administrative assistance in the sense of carrying out official duties. The word is in the plural, implying that there are different kinds of help. The verb form of this word in found in Acts 20:35. Paul says:

Acts 20:33 I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Here we see helping in the sense of caring for basic necessities, giving assistance to those in need. It is also used in the context of serving a master in 1 Timothy 6.

1 Timothy 6:2 Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved. Teach and urge these things.

The master is helped or benefited by the good service of a servant. Some servants were put in charge of the finances and investments of a master. Some servants were put in charge of other servants, managing the affairs of the household. Other servants were simply available to help in whatever capacity needed. This is a broad term that can include many different types of service.

This seems to be the idea behind the appointing of deacons in Acts 6.

Acts 6:1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

The deacons were selected to come alongside the Apostles, to assist them in the administration of the daily distribution, to free them up to focus on the activities and responsibilities that they were uniquely gifted and equipped for. They supported and assisted the Apostles both in the mission of advancing the gospel and in administration of the care for the needy.

This gift may overlap with the gifts listed in Romans 12 as the one who serves, one who exhorts or comes alongside, one who contributes, or one who does acts of mercy. It may overlap with the gift listed in 1 Peter 4 as the one who serves.

Administrating

1 Corinthians 12:28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.

Helping is paired with administrating. This word is also in the plural; indicating that there are different forms of administrating. A closely related word is translated in Acts 27:11 and Revelation 18:17 as ‘pilot’ or ‘shipmaster’. Both forms of this word are derived from a Latin word meaning ‘to steer’. This word paints the picture of a pilot or helmsman, one who wisely navigates a ship through dangerous waters, carefully avoiding the rocks of false teaching, faithfully holding her steady through the winds of dissension and division, and the waves strife and status seeking, wisely able to see the big picture, keep the destination in mind, and keep the ship from veering off course.

This gift may overlap with the gift listed in Romans 12 as ‘one who leads’. It seems this concept of piloting fits the picture of the leadership gifts painted in Ephesians 4.

Ephesians 4:11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

We need leaders, those who can steer, those with steadfastness, vision, and wisdom to keep us on course.

We need helpers, those who come alongside, those who help others to take root, those who are a support to the broken, those who serve, those who assist others, who free others up to do what they were meant to do.

These gifts may seem plain, ordinary, unspectacular, even natural, but these gifts are just as necessary, (arguably much more necessary) than the more showy gifts, they are a free gift of God’s grace to the church. Helping, administrating, coming alongside, steering are just as supernatural, just as Spirit wrought, just as as originated in the triune God, just as empowered by God, just as divinely ordained and purposed for the good of the body and the glory of Christ as any of the other gifts. As Paul has said, those who seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those we think less honorable, we give greater honor.

Various Kinds of Tongues

1 Corinthians 12:28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.

Last on the list, the favorite of the Corinthians, is tongues. Tongues or languages, as we saw before and will look at more carefully in chapter 14, are words of prayer or praise spoken to God, in languages not always understood by the speaker, requiring explanation to be understood by others.

Not Anyone is Everything

1 Corinthians 12:29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?

The structure of these sentences in the original makes it clear that the answer to each question is no. Clearly, not all are apostles. Not everyone was an eye-witness to the life and ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. Obviously not all are apostles.

Not all are prophets. In the broad sense, many may speak on behalf of God to the people. Many may convict, convert, console, build up, and encourage. Paul tells us that we should all desire to prophesy, but not everyone is a prophet.

Not all are teachers. All believers may teach truth, encourage obedience and make disciples of Jesus, but James warns that not everyone will be a teacher.

James 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

Not all work miracles or possess grace-gifts of healings. Not all speak in languages or interpret.

Some groups even today make speaking in tongues the necessary evidence of salvation or of Spirit baptism, or a mark of a higher plane of spirituality. This passage expressly prohibits that kind of nonsense. Not all speak with tongues. None of these grace-gifts can be the infallible sign of spirituality, because not every Spirit baptized divinely equipped follower of Jesus has all the gifts. These are gifts freely given by God’s grace to be used for the common good. Each one is a body part, a limb or an organ. If I had all the gifts, I would be a complete body and I would have no need of you. But no one does. I need you. We need each other. No one can say they do not belong.

Covet Earnestly the Greater Gifts

Paul says something startling to transition into chapter 13. He tells us to covet the greater grace-gifts.

1 Corinthians 12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

This word is translated here and three times in chapter 14 as ‘earnestly desire’ or be ‘eager for’, but often this word is used in the negative sense of covetousness or envy, as it is in 13:4, ‘love does not envy’. This is where we get our word zeal, zealous or zealot. It is a powerful emotional word, and communicates passion and strong desire.

1 Corinthians 12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. …

14:1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.

14:12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.

14:39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.

The Corinthians were eager for gifts that granted them high social or spiritual status. Paul exhorts them with a touch of irony to be zealous for the greater gifts, but to allow him to redefine the greater gifts as those that build up others rather than self, those that they had despised, those they considered the lowest, the most menial or ordinary. Zealously pursue self-sacrificial service to others.

Mark 9:35 … “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

If one member is honored, all rejoice together; Paul holds up the greater gifts for honor, so that the whole body can rejoice. He exhorts us to long for the greater gifts to be in full effect and power in our local congregation; that the greater gifts, the gifts that build up, would be manifest. Not that I would seek any gift for myself, but genuinely seek the health of the whole body, of which I am a part, and in which I suffer if the greater gifts are absent.

And he will show us a superabundant far surpassing exceedingly better way, something even greater than all the greatest gifts, the way of love.

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

October 12, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 12:27-28a; 1.Apostles, 2.Prophets, 3.Teachers

10/05 1 Corinthians 12:27-28a 1. Apostles 2. Prophets 3. Teachers; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20141005_1cor12_27-28a.mp3

1 Corinthians 12 [SBLGNT]

27 Ὑμεῖς δέ ἐστε σῶμα Χριστοῦ καὶ μέλη ἐκ μέρους. 28 καὶ οὓς μὲν ἔθετο ὁ θεὸς ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ πρῶτον ἀποστόλους, δεύτερον προφήτας, τρίτον διδασκάλους, ἔπειτα δυνάμεις, ἔπειτα χαρίσματα ἰαμάτων, ἀντιλήμψεις, κυβερνήσεις, γένη γλωσσῶν. 29 μὴ πάντες ἀπόστολοι; μὴ πάντες προφῆται; μὴ πάντες διδάσκαλοι; μὴ πάντες δυνάμεις; 30 μὴ πάντες χαρίσματα ἔχουσιν ἰαμάτων; μὴ πάντες γλώσσαις λαλοῦσιν; μὴ πάντες διερμηνεύουσιν; 31 ζηλοῦτε δὲ τὰ χαρίσματα τὰ μείζονα. καὶ ἔτι καθ’ ὑπερβολὴν ὁδὸν ὑμῖν δείκνυμι.

1 Corinthians 12 [ESV2011]

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

So far Paul has said concerning spirituality that every follower of Jesus is indwelt by God the Holy Spirit, and is therefore spiritual. Grace-gifts, services, activities or workings all come from the same triune God, are distributed distinctly and freely as God himself purposes, and are given to each one of us for the common good.

He uses the metaphor of the body to make the points that every believer is a necessary part, that no believer is independent of other parts, and that extra respect should be shown to the less presentable parts. All are an interconnected, interrelated, interdependent parts of the whole.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

You (plural), you all are the body of Christ. You all, believers, followers of Jesus, together are the body of Christ. Each individual allotment is a body part. Many body parts, organs and limbs, but one body. You are the body of Christ!

The Corinthians it seems were eager to make one gift, especially the more sensational gifts the measure of true spirituality. They were impressed with outward appearances, and status and privilege were of utmost importance. Paul re-orients their thinking and turns their social jockeying on its head.

28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.

Once again, Paul points to the sovereign hand of God in appointing and apportioning his grace-gifts in the body exactly as he so wisely intended. All the gifts come from God, and all the gifts are distributed intentionally by God just as he purposed. God established, God set, God place, God appointed the gifts in the church exactly as he intended. And there is a God-established order to the gifts. This list has a definite sequence. First, second, third, then, then… In this list, tongues comes last. In the list in verses 29-30, tongues and interpretation come last. In the list in verses 7-11 various tongues and interpretation of tongues come last. In chapter 14, he will make the point that prophesy is more beneficial to the church than tongues. God takes the status seeking sensationalism of the Corinthians and turns it upside down.

First Apostles

God has appointed in the church first apostles. We might think apostle sounds impressive and important, but remember what Paul said about apostles back in chapter 4:

1 Corinthians 4:9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

The apostles were not some high-class elite. They were put on parade like a band of death-row criminals. They had become a spectacle. They were fools, weak, held in disrepute, hungry, thirsty, poorly clothed, beat up and homeless, reviled, persecuted, slandered. They didn’t pull a six figure income; they worked with their own hands. They were the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. In society’s eyes, they were lower than the lowest. The word ‘apostle’ is no grand title. It simply means someone sent out, a servant sent on a mission, an errand boy. The 12 were chosen by Jesus, as Mark’s gospel tells us:

Mark 3:14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons. 16 He appointed the twelve: …

They were to be with Jesus. They spent time with him, listening to him, learning from him during his earthly ministry. When the 11 decided to choose a replacement for Judas, the requirement was

Acts 1:21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.”

The requirement was having been an eye-witness of Jesus starting with his baptism by John through his ministry, death, burial, resurrection and ascension. The primary role was to be a witness, to testify to the truth of historical events. Jesus named the 12 ‘apostles’ because he sent them out to preach, to herald, to announce the news that the Messiah, the King had come.

As the other apostles died, there is no record of them appointing successors. Theirs was an historically unrepeatable role as eye-witnesses of the ministry, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2:20 tells us that the ministry of apostles was foundational to the church.

Ephesians 2:19 …you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

There is only one cornerstone, and his name is Jesus. There is only one foundation that was laid, that is the proclamation of the good news about Jesus by his eye-witnesses. The household of God is built on this once-for-all foundation.

The Corinthians had a celebrity mentality, choosing their favorite hero. Paul diffuses this in chapter 3, telling them how they should think about their apostle.

1 Corinthians 3:5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Paul, by the grace of God, served as a wise master builder. He laid the one apostolic foundation, and that foundation is our Lord Jesus Christ. No other foundation can be laid. The Apostles proclaimed the gospel of Jesus.

Hebrews 3:1 calls Jesus the apostle.

Hebrews 3:1 Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession,

Jesus is the original apostle, sent out by the Father to be the Savior of the world (1Jn.4:14). He did not come to seek status and be honored, but rather left the place of highest honor to become a servant, to be mistreated, to suffer, and ultimately to die for others.

Jesus said ‘I will build my church’ (Mt.16:18). He said he would build his church on the rock of the divinely revealed apostolic confession that Jesus is Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God.

The apostles he appointed would follow the example of their Master. They too would be despised and rejected and suffer for the eternal good of others.

We too are apostles, not in the foundational sense of the eye-witnesses, but in the broadest sense of the term, as those who have been sent out by the Master to announce the good news, sent out to serve others, sent out to sacrifice and suffer for the good of others. Every believer has been sent as an ambassador of our Lord Jesus Christ, to proclaim the good news about him.

Second Prophets

28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets,

What is a prophet? This is a more difficult question. To answer this, we need to look at what a prophet was in the Old Testament, what if anything changes with Jesus in the New Testament, and how the ministry of a prophet is described in the context of the church.

If we look back to Exodus, we get a helpful description of the primary role of a prophet.

Exodus 6:29 the LORD said to Moses, “I am the LORD; tell Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I say to you.” 30 But Moses said to the LORD, “Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips. How will Pharaoh listen to me?”

Exodus 7:1 And the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. 2 You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land.

Aaron is called Moses’ prophet because he spoke on behalf of Moses to the Pharaoh. The most basic definition of a prophet is someone who speaks for another.

If we study the prophets of the Old Testament, we see that the vast majority of their ministry was speaking to the people, calling them to repentance, calling them to return to their covenant commitment with God. A very small percentage of the prophet’s ministry was predictive of future events. And much of the predictive part of the prophets is the promise of judgment for continued disobedience, and the promise of restoration and forgiveness for those who turn back to God.

Zechariah prophesied over his son John:

Luke 1:76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

John’s role was to prepare the way for Jesus. John called people to repentance and to faith in Jesus. Jesus called John a prophet, and more than a prophet. He said:

Matthew 11:11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Jesus said that John was the greatest among those born of women. But Jesus looked forward to something greater. The least in the kingdom would be greater than the greatest of the prophets. Jesus said

Matthew 11:13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John,

Jesus indicates that the ministry of the Old Testament prophet had come to an end with John. Something greater was here. When God spoke in thunder and lightning and smoke to the people from Mount Sinai, the people trembled…

Exodus 20:19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.”

They wanted Moses to go between God and them, to speak God’s words to them. In Deuteronomy 18, Moses said:

Deuteronomy 18:15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— 16 just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ 17 And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. (Acts 3:22-24; 7:37; cf. John 1:25)

That greater prophet is Jesus. Jesus is the one who goes between God and the people. Jesus is the one mediator between God and man (1Tim.2:5). Jesus speaks to us everything that the Father puts in his mouth (Jn.8:26, 28, 38, 40).

Hebrews 1:1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…

Jesus is the fulfillment of all the prophets. God has spoken. Finally. Decisively. He has spoken to us in Jesus.

When Moses was feeling the weight of caring for all the people of Israel, God told Moses to select 70 of the elders to assist him in bearing the burden. God poured out his Spirit on those 70, and they prophesied. When two of them were prophesying in the camp,

Numbers 11:28 And Joshua the son of Nun, the assistant of Moses from his youth, said, “My lord Moses, stop them.” 29 But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!”

This is what the prophet Joel predicted.

Acts 2:16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: 17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. (Joel 2:28-29)

What was it that fulfilled the prophecy of Joel?

Acts 2:11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”

God’s Holy Spirit had been poured out. The apostles were declaring the mighty works of God. God had put his Holy Spirit on all of his people, and all of his people, young and old, male and female, rich and slave, were prophesying. They were speaking on behalf of God to people.

So in the most broad sense, whenever we speak to people on behalf of God, whenever we call people to repentance and faith in Jesus, whenever we bring light to those in darkness, whenever we declare forgiveness of sins through the sacrifice of Jesus, we are prophesying.

The best way to understand what Paul means by prophesying in this verse is to look in the immediate context. What does he say about prophecy in this chapter and in chapter 14 that helps us understand what he is talking about?

14:3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.

We can learn from this that prophesy is a speaking ministry. A prophet speaks to people. The goal of the prophet’s speaking is upbuilding, encouragement, and consolation. We can learn from 14:24-25 that if everyone prophesied in church, an unbeliever would be convicted, called to account, his heart would be laid bare, and he would worship God, recognizing that God is among us. So one effect of prophetic speech is conviction of sin and belief in God. From 14:29 we see that the speech of prophets bring about learning and encouragement to everyone. In 14:1 and 39 we see Paul encouraging all the believers in the church to desire to prophesy. In 14:29, the content of what is prophesied must be tested and weighed by the other believers (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21), and in 14:37 the one who claims to be a prophet must acknowledge the superiority of apostolic teaching over his prophecy.

So prophecy is inferior to apostolic teaching and must be evaluated, it is speech that brings about conviction of sin and faith in God, upbuilding, learning, encouragement, and consolation.

Third Teachers

28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers,

Jesus was often addressed with the title ‘teacher’.

Matthew 7:28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.

Jesus said:

Luke 6:40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.

A teacher makes disciples, followers or learners, who can then in turn teach others. Paul exhorted Timothy to

2 Timothy 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

In Ephesians 4, Paul lists the gifts Christ gives to his church.

Ephesians 4:11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

In Ephesians 4, Paul adds evangelists to the list, and couples teachers with pastors or shepherds. All these gifts are given for equipping, for building, for unity, for maturity, for protection against false teaching.

While every part is essential to the healthy functioning of the body, and while no part is sufficient on its own, Paul gives priority to the gifts that build up the body through the ministry of the word. Where the Corinthians were fixated on the more sensational spectacular gifts, Paul highlights the despised and rejected, the seemingly foolish and ordinary things like preaching and teaching, things that point away from themselves to Jesus, and gives them special honor.

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

October 5, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment