PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

The Peace of Christ (Colossians 3)

03/22 The Peace of Christ (Colossians 3:14-17); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200322_peace-of-christ.mp3

The Peace of Christ

There’s a verse in Paul’s letter to the Colossians that I want to look at with you today. Colossians 3:15 says

Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. The peace of Christ. Peace that comes from Jesus; Jesus’ very own peace. I want the peace of Christ to rule in my heart. I want your hearts to be ruled by the peace of Christ, no matter what we face in the days ahead.

In John 14, Jesus said to his fear-filled and troubled disciples (14:1, 27), whose hearts were filled with sorrow (16:6, 22) because he had told them he was leaving them and life for them would be hard,

John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Jesus promised to give them his own peace. Peace in the midst of affliction. Peace in adverse circumstances. Peace when death is looming large. Peace that is able to think of others above self even while being crucified.

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

In the world you will have tribulation. But in me you can have peace.

Paul instructs the Philippians

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.

The peace of God will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. We need God’s peace to replace our anxiety and guard our minds and hearts. We need the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts. How does this work?

Peace Commanded

Notice, this is a command. ‘Let the peace of Christ rule’ is a command for us to obey. For you grammar geeks, it is a present active imperative. It is not something that happens automatically. We need to obey this command. We need to let the peace of Christ be our umpire, to decide, to determine, to direct and control. So how do we do that?

If Therefore; Gospel Transformation

This verse appears in Colossians chapter 3, which gives instructions for Christian living. This is the third chapter in a letter, so it’s not fair just to jump in here without following the logic of the letter. Chapter 3 begins with ‘If therefore’. ‘Therefore’ is a connection; because of everything I have already said, therefore, do this. ‘If’ assumes something is true of you. ‘If therefore you have been raised up with Christ.’

If this isn’t true of you, you can’t go any further. You can’t obey the command to let the peace of Christ rule if you haven’t been first raised up with Christ. What is this talking about?

At the opening of this letter, Colossians 1:4 says:

Colossians 1:4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth,

This letter is written to believers, people who have put their faith in Christ Jesus. This is written to those who have heard the gospel, the word of truth, to those who understand the grace of God, his free gift to those who couldn’t earn it and will never be worthy of it.

He says in 1:12 that the Father has made us sufficient; He

Colossians 1:12 …has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

This is written to the redeemed, those who have been forgiven of all their sins, who have been transferred out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of Jesus Christ.

He addresses us in 1:21

Colossians 1:21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

He addresses believers, those who are trusting in, depending on, holding fast to the good news that Jesus’ death is sufficient to reconcile sinners to God and make us blameless in his sight.

In chapter 2 he cautions against false teachers and exhorts us to remain anchored in Jesus, walking in dependence on him alone.

Colossians 2:6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

He refers to circumcision and baptism, two symbols of putting off or putting to death our old way of life:

Colossians 2:12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 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.

The debt is canceled. We died with Christ, and we have been raised again through faith to a new kind of life.

It is to those who have embraced Jesus by faith, who have believed the good news that all our sins were legally once for all dealt with at the cross, who have died and been made alive with Christ by God’s resurrection power; it is to those that he gives his instructions in chapter 3.

So I want to invite you, if you are listening right now, and this is not true of you, right now, turn and cry out to Jesus, a sinner in need of forgiveness. Ask him to cancel your debt and make you new. Believe him. Trust him, that what he accomplished on the cross is everything necessary for you to be rescued from what you deserve. You can’t add anything. Receive his gift.

Setting Mind and Heart on Christ

Colossians 3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Because of what is true of us in the gospel, because we have been raised with Christ to a new kind of life, our hearts and our minds should pursue different things. Seek the things above; seek Jesus, set your mind on Jesus. Your life is hid with Christ in God; Christ is your life. Christ is your treasure. Set your mind and your heart on him.

Remember, these are active commands. Seek the things above, set your minds on things above. What are you looking at? What are you reading? What are you thinking about? What are you listening to? This does not mean that we have our heads in the clouds and are oblivious to the things happening around us. But it does mean that our attention, in the midst of breaking news, is fixed on the one who is sovereign over life and death, on the one who is upholding all things by his powerful word, on the one in whom is our only hope in life and in death. This means that we need to keep the gospel always in front of us, to consciously set our highest affections on Christ, and to filter every headline through the gospel truth that we believe. Our hope is a gospel hope, a firm assurance that looks beyond the grave.

Put Off / Put On

Because of this hope, because of what is true of us in Christ, because we have died and been raised to a new kind of life, because our hearts and our minds are pursuing a greater affection, we should live differently than we once did. Paul says that because we have died to our sins, we should now put to death the actions that are consistent with our old dead desires. He says

Colossians 3:5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: …

And he gives a laundry list of what is earthly, the way we once walked, because of which the wrath of God was coming. He instructs us to put this kind of lifestyle to death, to put it away, to strip it off like a contaminated set of clothes. He uses this metaphor of clothing; putting off and putting on. We have been washed clean on the inside; it doesn’t make much sense after taking a shower and getting clean to then put back on the same reeking, filthy, germ ridden clothes you were wearing before bathing. We are to put on a fresh set of clothes because we are clean.

Colossians 3:9 …you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

Sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, covetousness, anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscene talk, lying. Don’t wear that around any more. Those things bring God’s wrath, and you are dead to that.

This is the new set of clothes that we are to wear after having been cleansed by the blood of Jesus:

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,

Notice, that is who we are. Chosen by God. Holy, set apart by God. Loved by God. We have been forgiven of all our trespasses through trust in Christ. We have been raised with Christ. Our life is hidden with Christ in God. That is our new identity.

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

This is the context where he says:

Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

The peace of Christ is now to arbitrate every response, every word, every reaction. ‘Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Rom.5:1). Because we are now at peace with God, peace should rule our hearts and emotions. We are no longer at war, in fear of death; rather death has lost its sting, and we are forever secure and at peace with God.

Peace and the Body of Christ

Because we are at peace with God, because the peace of Christ is arbitrating in our hearts, we can be at peace with one another. See the community here? You were called to the peace of Christ in one body. You are called not only to be at peace with one another, but to promote the peace of Christ. This is so important.

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

We are to set our hearts and minds on Christ, we are to have the peace of Christ be the deciding factor in our hearts, and we are to have the word of Christ dwell in us richly. Only then are we in a position to encourage the community of believers. And that is what we are called to! Teaching one another, admonishing one another, singing with one another, giving thanks with one another. In this time, especially, that one another ministry is so vitally important!

-Set your mind and heart on Christ

-Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart

-Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly

Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

***

March 27, 2020 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gospel Hope in a Broken World

03/15 Gospel Hope in a Broken World; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200315_hope.mp3

Our president announced this week a state of national emergency. The World Health Organization has officially designated the COVID-19 outbreak as a global pandemic; as of yesterday there were 142,539 confirmed cases and 5,393 deaths worldwide [who.int]. There are currently around 2,000 confirmed cases in the US and 41 deaths, and those numbers are expected to rise. In response to identifying the first case of community spread in Utah, our governor announced the ‘dismissal’ of all students K-12, and colleges and universities are closing campuses and moving classes online. There is not a roll of toilet paper to be found in stores. Many people are afraid.

Suffering is Not New

How are we to think about all this? What do we as followers of Jesus do? Today I want to bring a message of hope to a hurting and broken world. But first we need to step back and look at where we are at and how we got here. Before we get to the good news, we should look at some bad news. Let’s give this some historical context. I found this list of 10 of the worst pandemics in history, and their death toll:

165 AD – Antonine Plague – Smallpox or measles? – 5 million

541-542 – Plague of Justinian – Bubonic plague – 25 million

1346-1353 – the black death – Bubonic plague – 75-200 million

1852-1860 – third Cholera pandemic – Cholera – 1 million

1889-1890 – ‘asian/russian’ flu pandemic – influenza – 1 million

1910-1911 – sixth Cholera pandemic – Cholera – 800,000+

1918 – flu pandemic – influenza – 20-50 million

1956-1958 – Asian flu – influenza – 2 million

1968 – flu pandemic – influenza – 1 million

2005-2012 (peak) – HIV/AIDS pandemic – 36 million

[https://www.mphonline.org/worst-pandemics-in-history/ ]

These are some staggering numbers. Why point this out? I am not at all trying to downplay this current pandemic. What I want us to see is the prevalence of death throughout human history. Remember this is just a top ten list; it obviously leaves a lot out. Suffering and disease and death is not new. We are not the first to face things like these. And we can learn a lot from history.

The Root of All Suffering

But to put this in an even broader context, I want to look at the global pandemic, the root cause that underlies all of these.

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—

The Bible has the answers to our deepest questions. Why? Why do terrible things like these happen throughout human history? Sin entered God’s good creation through one man. Death entered this world through Adam’s rebellion. Death spread to all people because all sinned. The wages of sin is death. The spread of contagious diseases that wipe out entire populations are not new. Fear and suffering and death are not new. God warned our first parents that enjoying relationship with him is life, but turning from him to follow other voices results in death. The death rate of COVID-19 is estimated at somewhere around 3.5%. The death rate of sinners throughout human history is 100%. Death is a fact we must face as humans living in a broken, fallen, hurting world. Let me give you a sobering word of encouragement; if the Corona virus doesn’t get you, something else will.

The Good News

We rebelled against a good and loving God. We brought the promised consequences down on our own head. But here’s the stunning thing. God himself came down. God entered into our disease ridden sick and dying world, not in a hazmat suit with a respirator, but in a susceptible, vulnerable human body. He actually took on flesh, he became one of us. In fact, he came so near to us that he contracted our disease. Galatians 3:13 says:

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—…

1 Peter 2:24 tells us:

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, …

2 Corinthians 5:21 says:

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he [the Father] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Jesus himself told us:

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.”

This is staggeringly good news. The God who we rebelled against and offended has come down,

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.

God came down on a rescue mission, to lay himself down, to actually contract our disease, to die our death so we could live.

John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

Just stop and breathe that in. Whoever – believes – has – eternal – life. Eternal life. It will last forever. It cannot be lost or taken away. All who trust only in Jesus will enjoy his presence forever. Let that truth sink in deep and shape your souls and overcome your fears.

Here’s how the apostle Paul responded to this truth.

Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. …23 …My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

Genuine Belief

Do you believe this? Do you really believe this? Has this truth sank down deep to the gut level where it influences every decision you make? Is this what you know is the right answer if your pastor were to ask you, or is this a truth that fleshes itself out in the way you live your life day to day? You see, a crisis, a tragedy, a global pandemic shows us what we really believe.

Cyprian (d.258); Dionysius (d.264)

In the plague of Cyprian, 249-262, at the height of the outbreak 5,000 people a day were said to be dying in Rome. Cyprian’s (Bishop of Carthage) biographer wrote of the plague at Carthage:

Afterwards there broke out a dreadful plague, and excessive destruction of a hateful disease invaded every house in succession of the trembling populace, carrying off day by day with abrupt attack numberless people, every one from his own house. All were shuddering, fleeing, shunning the contagion, impiously exposing their own friends, as if with the exclusion of the person who was sure to die of the plague, one could exclude death itself also. There lay about the meanwhile, over the whole city, no longer bodies, but the carcasses of many, and, by the contemplation of a lot which in their turn would be theirs, demanded the pity of the passers-by for themselves. No one regarded anything besides his cruel gains. No one trembled at the remembrance of a similar event. No one did to another what he himself wished to experience. [/wiki/Plague_of_Cyprian; Pontius of Carthage, Life of Cyprian. Transl. Ernest Wallis, c. 1885. Online atChristian Classics Ethereal Library. ]

One eyewitness of the plague in Alexandria, Bishop Dionysius records:

At the first onset of the disease, they pushed the sufferers away and fled from their dearest, throwing them into the roads before they were dead and treating unburied corpses as dirt, hoping thereby to avert the spread and contagion of the fatal disease; but do what they might, they found it difficult to escape.” [https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/what-early-church-teach-coronavirus/ ]

While the response of many to the plague was characterized by self-protection, self-preservation, avoiding the sick at all costs, the response of Christians was different. Dionysius recounts:

Most of our brother-Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of the danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbours and cheerfully accepting their pains. Many, in nursing and curing others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead” [https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/what-early-church-teach-coronavirus/; https://erenow.net/common/the-history-of-the-church/8.php]

The conduct of believers so impacted the culture, that a century later, the emperor Julian wrote (AD362) to exhort the pagan priests to imitate the Christians in their charity:

For it is disgraceful that, when no Jew ever has to beg, and the impious Galilaeans [Christians] support not only their own poor but ours as well, all men see that our people lack aid from us. Teach those of the Hellenic faith to contribute to public service of this sort… [https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Letters_of_Julian/Letter_22 ]

1527 – Luther

In August of 1527 the Bubonic plague struck Wittenberg and numerous people fled in fear of their lives. Martin Luther and his wife Katharina, who was pregnant at the time, remained in their beloved city in order to treat the infected. Luther responded to a fellow pastor and friend in another city: [https://www.patheos.com/blogs/chorusinthechaos/martin-luther-and-the-black-plague/ ]

Now if a deadly epidemic strikes, we should stay where we are, make our preparations, and take courage in the fact that we are mutually bound together …so that we cannot desert one another or flee from one another.”

Luther saw one purpose of an epidemic as

also to test our faith and love — our faith in that we may see and experience how we should act toward God; our love in that we may recognize how we should act toward our neighbor. “

He says we ought to:

serve our neighbor, risking our lives in this manner as St. John teaches, “If Christ laid down his life for us, we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” [1 John 3:16].

He goes on to address our fears:

When anyone is overcome by horror and repugnance in the presence of a sick person he should take courage and strength in the firm assurance that it is the devil who stirs up such abhorrence, fear, and loathing in his heart. He …takes delight in making us deathly afraid, worried, and apprehensive so that we should regard dying as horrible and have no rest or peace all through our life. And so the devil would excrete us out of this life as he tries to make us despair of God, become unwilling and unprepared to die, and, under the stormy and dark sky of fear and anxiety, make us forget and lose Christ, our light and life, and desert our neighbor in his troubles.”

[https://blogs.lcms.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Plague-blogLW.pdf ]

It is out of this period that Luther penned his famous hymn:

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us;

Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

1854 – Spurgeon

In 1854 Cholera broke out in London in the Broad Street neighborhood, just across the river from the New Park Street Chapel where Charles Spurgeon was newly called to minister. He was busy preaching, serving his people, visiting the sick and dying. In 1866, amid another cholera outbreak, he gave this charge to Christians:

You cannot stop their dying; but, oh, that God might help you to stop their being damned! You cannot stop the breath from going out of their bodies; but, oh, that the gospel might stop their souls from going down to destruction! It can do it, and nothing else can take its place.

Just now, the cholera has come again. There can be little doubt, I suppose, about it being here already in some considerable force, and probably it may be worse. The Christian need not dread it, for he has nothing to lose, but everything to gain, by death. Still, for the sake of others, he may well pray that God would avert his hand, and not let His anger burn. But, since it is here, I think it ought to be a motive for active exertion. If there ever be a time when the mind is sensitive, it is when death is abroad.

I recollect, when first I came to London, how anxiously people listened to the gospel, for the cholera was raging terribly. There was little scoffing then. All day, and sometimes all night long, I went about from house to house, and saw men and women dying, and, oh, how glad they were to see my face! When many were afraid to enter their houses lest they should catch the deadly disease, we who had no fear about such things found ourselves most gladly listened to when we spoke of Christ and of things Divine.

And now, again, is the minister’s time; and now is the time for all of you who love souls. You may see men more alarmed than they are already; and if they should be, mind that you avail yourselves of the opportunity of doing them good. You have the Balm of Gilead; when their wounds smart, pour it in. You know of Him who died to save; tell them of Him. Lift high the cross before their eyes. Tell them that God became man that man might be lifted to God. Tell them of Calvary, and its groans, and cries, and sweat of blood. Tell them of Jesus hanging on the cross to save sinners. Tell them that —

There is life for a look at the Crucified One.”

Tell them that He is able to save to the uttermost all them that come unto God by Him. Tell them that He is able to save even at the eleventh hour, and to say to the dying thief, “to-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.”

[https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/books/the-autobiography-of-c-h-spurgeon-volume-i#flipbook/380; Autobiography 1:371 ‘in sermon preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, July 29, 1866’]

2019-2020 Wuhan China

On January 24, 2020 Pastor Paul Peng shared the gospel over the phone with a Zhang, a woman from Wuhan who while visiting her son in Chengdu, China, had become ill and was quarantined. Five days after putting her trust in Christ, she became the first coronavirus fatality in Sichuan province. Peng held a memorial service over a videoconferencing platform, preaching to about 100 of her friends and family that ‘calamity should lead people to pray not only for God to rescue them, but also for people to repent and turn to God’ [https://world.wng.org/2020/02/seeking_peace_in_sickness ]

The Heidelberg Catechism (1563)

I want to close today with the first question from the Heidelberg Catechism, a teaching tool for Christians in the form of questions and answers.

Q1. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own (1Cor.6:19-20), but belong—body and soul, in life and in death (Rom.14:7-9)—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ (1Cor.3:23; Titus2:14).

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood (1Pet.1:18-19; 1Jn.1:7-9; 2:2), and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil (Jn.8:34-36; Heb.2:14-15; 1Jn.3:1-11). He also watches over me in such a way (Jn.6:39-40; 10:27-30; 2Thess.3:3; 1Pet.1:5) that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven (Matt.10:29-31; Lk.21:16-18); in fact, all things must work together for my salvation (Rom.8:28).

Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life (Rom.8:15-16; 2Cor.1:21-22; 5:5; Eph.1:13-14) and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him (Rom.8:1-17).

***

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

March 16, 2020 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 10:2-6; The Spiritual Battle for the Mind

03/08_2 Corinthians 10:2-6; The Spiritual Battle for the Mind; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200308_2cor10_2-6.mp3

For two years, John Calvin preached regularly throughout the week in the church in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1538 the city council, resisting his ideas of reformation, kicked him out of the city. Three years later, they begged him to return, about which he wrote to a friend “There is no place under heaven of which I can have a greater dread.” After several busy years of ministry in Geneva, in 1546 he wrote this in his commentary on 2 Corinthians:

The life of the Christian, it is true, is a perpetual warfare, for whoever gives himself to the service of God will have no truce from Satan at any time, but will be harassed with incessant disquietude.”

The life of the Christian is a perpetual warfare. He goes on:

It becomes, however, ministers of the word and pastors to be standard-bearers, going before the others; and, certainly, there are none that Satan harasses more, that are more severely assaulted, or that sustain more numerous or more dreadful onsets. That man, therefore, is mistaken, who girds himself for the discharge of this office, and is not at the same time furnished with courage and bravery for contending; for he is not exercised otherwise than in fighting. For we must take this into account, that the gospel is like a fire, by which the fury of Satan is enkindled. Hence it cannot but be that he will arm himself for a contest, whenever he sees that it is advanced.” [Calvin, p.321-322]

The life of the Christian, especially the Christian involved in ministry (and we are all called to minister) is war. Paul describes this warfare in 2 Corinthians 10.

2 Corinthians 10:1 I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!— 2 I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

Walking In the Flesh not According to the Flesh

Paul is being accused ‘walking according to the flesh.’ Back in chapter 1, when he was faulted for changing his travel plans he asks:

2 Corinthians 1:17 Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? 18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No.

Paul concedes, he does walk ‘in the flesh.’ Paul is human. He is not superhuman; he has a normal human existence. Galatians 2:20 he says:

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.

He lives life in the flesh. He walks in the flesh. But he does not walk or make plans according to the flesh. He is using ‘flesh’ in two different ways here. He does lead a normal fleshly human existence with all the frailties and hardships of life in a fallen physical body, but he does not live according to the flesh; he does not follow his sinful fallen human thinking to make decisions. We do not walk according to the flesh; we do we walk in the flesh, but ‘we are not waging war according to the flesh.’

Waging War

Here he switches metaphors from walking to waging war. Paul is not walking, he is not running, he is on the warpath, he is on the offensive. He is in a battle. He is waging war. But he is clear; he does not wage war according to the flesh.

Supernatural Weapons in Both Hands

The weapons he uses in his warfare are not of the flesh. They have divine power to destroy strongholds. He doesn’t here tell us what those weapons are. We could look to the gospel armor in Ephesians 6; the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of gospel peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, the word of God; together with all-prayer. We need to have on the full gospel armor to stand against our supernatural enemy. But we don’t have to leave 2 Corinthians. We could look back to 6:7 where he mentions the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left. Paul uses both right-handed and left-handed spiritual weapons. On the one hand:

2 Corinthians 6:4 …by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger;

On the other hand:

2 Corinthians 6:6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; 7 by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left;

There are two sides to his weaponry:

2 Corinthians 6:8 through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

This kind of warfare doesn’t make human sense. That’s what he means when he says that he does not wage war according to the flesh.

Have you ever seen a physical battle that is won by meekness and gentleness? But that is exactly how Paul wages war. By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, he tears down strongholds. He battles by dying, and behold we live.

In chapter 4 he says

2 Corinthians 4:4 …the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

He battles (4:2) ‘by the open statement of truth’ . God opens blind minds through the proclamation of (4:5) ‘Jesus Christ as Lord.’

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

You see the kind of weapons he uses? They are not what we would expect, according to the flesh. He wins the war like Jesus did, by laying down his life, to show us life that is life indeed.

Tearing Down Strongholds

2 Corinthians 10:3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.

The weapons we use have the divine power to destroy strongholds.

A stronghold is a defensible place stocked with supplies where people could retreat from an attacking army. A stronghold at best would serve to delay the inevitable conquest. An attacking army with siege weapons, given enough time would be able to conquer the stronghold and take captives. In Judges 9, Abimelech ambushed many of the people of Shechem, captured the gate of the city, and when he was told that the leaders of the tower of Shechem had fled to the stronghold, he and his men set fire to it and killed them. But when he captured Thebez and attempted to do the same thing to their strong tower, a woman threw down an upper millstone and crushed Abimelech’s skull.

Battling Proud Arguments

What are the strongholds Paul refers to? He tells us in the next verse.

2 Corinthians 10:5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

Paul is in a war against arguments, ideas, opinions. He is in a battle for the minds of people. His objective is to take the minds of people captive to obey Christ. What he tears down is anything that is raised up against the knowledge of God.

2 Corinthians 4:4 …the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing.. 5 For what we proclaim is …Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

He wants the Corinthians to know God, to know and experience the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. He wants them to see the light of the good news of the glory of Christ, who is the very image of God. He wants them not to regard anyone according to the flesh (5:16), no longer to boast in outward appearances (5:12). This is a spiritual battle that requires spiritual weapons.

Forsaking Pride to Know Him

He tears down every exalted thing. We tend to lift up so many things. We lift up wisdom and power and position and status and appearance. We lift up ourselves. We don’t think we’re really that bad. We think we are enough, that we are OK, that we can do it, maybe with God’s help, but we can do it. Our opinion of ourselves is often lifted up against the knowledge of God. We can’t even believe in God without the gift of his grace! Paul says that he is not sufficient in himself to claim anything as coming from himself (3:5).

You see, to believe in God, to really trust him alone, we have to come to the end of ourselves. As long as we think we can contribute something, we won’t trust. Not completely. And God requires us to turn. Turn away from whatever you were holding on to, to throw down as worthless whatever you were clinging to and cling only to him. This is biblical repentance.

Paul describes his own experience in Philippians 3. He said ‘if anyone thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more (3:4) and then he lists his credentials. And when he gets to the end he says:

Philippians 3:7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

Paul took everything that lifted him up, all his own accomplishments that were lifted up against the knowledge of Christ, and counted them all as loss, filth, refuse. He turned to Jesus empty handed, open handed, ready to receive a gift he didn’t deserve. He emptied his hands so that he could know Christ.

Philippians 3:10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

I Must Die

Paul wants to build up the Corinthians, but first he must tear down everything that is lifted up against the knowledge of God. Paul wants them to truly know Christ, but first the demonic wisdom that lifts itself up against knowing God must be destroyed.

Mark Seifrid writes “this violent conquest is achieved by means of weakness. It …is contained within the paradox of the cross, where God’s weakness is manifest as more powerful than human beings (1Cor.1:25).” [PNTC, 381]

His authority as an apostle is for the edification of the Corinthians, not for their destruction. He must, however, first destroy the Corinthians in their false imaginations (every exalted thing) in order to take captive every mind (including the Corinthians) in obedience to Christ. The Spirit gives life only to that which has been put to death (3:6). Paul’s calling as apostle is not to effect merely a change of minds, but a change of persons. The cross of Christ does not merely do away with the world’s wisdom, strength, and boasting. It does away with the wise, the things that are strong, and the exalted (1Cor.1:26-31).” [PNTC, 382]

Paul wars against this, and we must war against it in our own hearts and minds. I must reckon myself dead, dead in trespasses and sins, if I am ever to experience the resurrection life that Jesus gives (Rom.6:8; Eph.2:5). I need to embrace – to really believe – the gospel. I must be crucified with Christ so that it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me (Gal.2:20). I must abandon my pride and own my need so that I can truly know Christ. The gospel is good news for sinners.

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

March 9, 2020 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 10:1-2; The Meekness and Gentleness of Christ

03/01_2 Corinthians 10:1-2; The Meekness and Gentleness of Christ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200301_2cor10_1-2.mp3

Overview of 2 Corinthians 1-9

We are going to jump back in to 2 Corinthians at chapter 10 today, but since we’ve been away from this book for some time, we will start with an overview to orient ourselves on where we are at in this book.

Chapters 1-7 expound the characteristics of genuine Christian ministry; gospel ministry is ministry that looks like the gospel and is shaped by the gospel. Real ministry is loving service that embraces suffering for the good of others.

Chapters 8-9 encourage an experience of God’s grace to overflow in practical generosity to others.

Chapters 10-13 confront the false apostles who proclaim a false Jesus, a false Spirit, and a false gospel.

In this final section of the book, Paul employs biting sarcasm, thick with irony. He is directly confrontational, even threatening. His tone is so markedly different from the rest of the book that it has become popular among scholars to see this section as a sloppy cut-and-paste job, attaching something else Paul wrote to the end of this book. Some guess that chapters 10-13 contain the severe letter that he mentions in 2 Corinthians 7:8 now appended to the body of his current letter. Others hypothesize an interruption between the writing of chapters 1-9 and 10-13 where Paul received disturbing news from Corinth that caused him to change his tone. All this is conjecture, for which there is zero evidence in the manuscripts of 2 Corinthians.

The letter as it stands is cohesive and builds on itself. Throughout the book, Paul has been alluding to those who undermine his integrity and authority, and patiently teaching what authentic Christian ministry looks like.

The Opponents in 2 Corinthians

In chapters 1 and 2 Paul defends himself against the criticism that he makes his plans according to the flesh, vacillating, saying Yes yes and No no at the same time. ‘it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth’ (1:23).

In chapter 2 he distances himself from those who peddle God’s word for profit.

In chapter 3 he denies that he needs, like some do, letters of recommendation. The Corinthians themselves are the proof of his authenticity. He claims no competency for ministry in and of himself, but he has been made competent by God as a minister of the New Covenant through the Spirit.

In chapter 4 he renounces ‘disgraceful, underhanded ways.’ He says ‘We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God (4:2). He implies that there are those who do tamper with God’s word, who cunningly use disgraceful underhanded ways.

Throughout he re-frames their thinking about adversity and suffering, showing them that it is not evidence of the Lord’s disfavor, but rather it is exactly the pattern Jesus set for us at the cross, when he came to rescue us by laying down his own life. Authentic gospel ministry is ministry that is shaped by the gospel.

In chapter 5 he warns against ‘those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart’ (5:12).

At the end of chapter 5 and into chapter 6 he implores them to be reconciled to God (5:20), he appeals to them not to receive the grace of God in vain. ‘Behold, now is the day of salvation.’ He says ‘We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry’ (6:1-3).

He understood how big a deal this was. This is a salvation issue. To reject the apostolic witness to the gospel is inextricably linked to that gospel the apostle proclaimed. To undermine the apostle is to undermine the gospel. It’s no different today. To undermine the trustworthiness of God’s word is to undermine the good news it communicates.

He says his heart is wide open to them but they are restricted in their own affections, and he invites them in return to open their hearts to him (6:11-12). He warns them not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers, which is what they were doing by putting up with false teachers, and he urges ‘go out from their midst and be separate from them’ (6:14, 17). He again invites them to make room in their hearts for their true apostle, and he says ‘We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one’ (7:2). Either some were accusing Paul of taking advantage of them, or Paul is contrasting himself with what he sees going on in this church, that the false teachers are wronging and corrupting and taking advantage of them.

At the end of chapter 7 he rejoices over their response to Titus and the severe letter, that they experienced godly grief that led to repentance. He says in 7:12 that he wrote as he did ‘in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God.’ He wrote as he did because he wanted them to see that they really did have a place for him in their hearts.

He goes on in chapters 8-9 to give them an opportunity to demonstrate their love by extending grace to others; through their generous giving. He closes chapter 9 pointing to the glory God will receive through their giving:

2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

Paul’s Authoritative Introduction

And then he says:

2 Corinthians 10:1 I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!— 2 I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh.

I Paul myself. This is rare, and it is emphatic. Through most of this letter Paul has been using the apostolic ‘we’. Here he switches to first person singular, and makes this emphatic with two personal pronouns ‘I, myself’. The other place that comes closest to the emphatic nature of this is Galatians 5:2

Galatians 5:2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.

And if you are familiar with Paul’s letter to the Galatians, you understand the precarious position of that gospel abandoning church. Here in 2 Corinthians the situation is no less grave, and Paul is no less emphatic.

The Authoritative Appeal; Bold Begging

We would expect ‘Now I Paul, myself command you.’ Instead he says ‘I Paul, myself, encourage you or entreat you. This is the word comfort or encourage that he uses 18 times in this letter. He started this letter by pointing us to ‘the God of all comfort’ or encouragement, ‘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. This is the word ‘to call to one’s side.’ Paul musters all his authority to encourage them, to appeal to them, to call them to his side. He starts the next verse with ‘I beg of you’. He asks; this word is also used for asking in prayer, it expresses desire. He boldly begs them. Bold self assertion and begging. This doesn’t seem to fit. This sounds paradoxical. That’s the point. Paul uses his authority to to call them to his side and plead with them.

I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!’ This is the accusation of his detractors. They say he is lowly and meek when present but bold in his writing to them from a distance. He has a loud bark but no bite. In verse 10 he quotes his critics directly:

2 Corinthians 10:10 For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.”

So here, in his letter, he authoritatively appeals to them. He boldly begs them that when he arrives he won’t have to show his confident boldness.

The Gospel Illustrated (In The Apostle)

This is actually how Paul operated. He did change his travel plans and forego a visit to them, but instead wrote a severe letter.

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

2 Corinthians 2:3 And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, … 4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

The letter was painful, painful to write, and it caused pain to the hearers.

2 Corinthians 7:8 For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. 9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.

This was Paul’s stated intent. This is how he operated. To attempt to remedy the situation by writing, so that his visit could be pleasant and not painful, so that he could be gentle among them and not forceful. He writes at the end of this section:

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

This was Paul’s purpose, Paul’s M.O. Paul patterned his ministry this way after the Lord himself. God thundered fearfully from atop Mount Sinai with the absolute standard of his law, together with the punishment for disobedience. And then God came down in the person of Jesus, to seek and to save the lost, the hurting, the broken. This is the good news. That God is holy and his commandment is holy and righteous and good (Rom.7:12) And when we see ourselves as desperate and cry out ‘Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?’ (Rom.7:24), then God responds in mercy, puts himself forward as the propitiation for our sins to be received by faith (Rom.3:25).

The Meekness and Gentleness of Christ

With all his authority, Paul entreats them ‘by the meekness and gentleness of Christ.’ The meekness and gentleness of Christ. Jesus said

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 gentle -that’s the root of the word ‘meekness’ here in 2 Corinthians. Jesus uses this word ‘lowly’, a derogatory word on the lips of Paul’s detractors; ‘I who am humble or lowly when face to face’ In taking the lowly place, Paul was following his Master.

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.

Notice the paradoxical combination of omnipotent authority and abject humility.

John 13:5 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.

Jesus very literally stooped to take the lowly place.

Philippians 2:5 …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.

Paul was showing them what real leadership looks like. He is inviting them in to see Jesus, to follow Jesus with him. With all authority, he was calling them to his side by the meekness and gentleness of Christ. He was taking the way of the cross.

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

March 9, 2020 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment