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2 Corinthians 8:6-7; Super-Abound in This Grace

08/18_2 Corinthians 8:6-7; Superabound in this Grace; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190818_2cor8_6-7.mp3

Paul in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 is talking about giving, about generosity; he is encouraging generosity toward a collection for the poor saints; but he is talking about grace. He frames everything he says about generosity around God’s generosity toward us, about God’s undeserved grace toward sinners through Jesus. This first act of giving, God’s grace toward us grounds and motivates our gracious generosity.

2 Corinthians 8:1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity [simplicity] on their part. 3 For [they gave] according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor [grace] of taking part [fellowship] in the relief [service] of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.

6 Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. 7 But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you— see that you excel in this act of grace also.

Encouragement / Comfort

This passage is full of grace, and it is saturated with encouragement. When Paul says that ‘we urged Titus,’ he uses the same word ‘encourage’ or ‘comfort’ that has been a major theme of this letter.

The opening of the letter points to God’s comfort, God’s encouragement in 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, 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.

Just in the last chapter (chapter 7) he said:

2 Corinthians 7:6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.

…13 Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.

Paul was comforted, encouraged by Titus, as Titus was encouraged by the Corinthians. Now Paul encourages Titus to go back to Corinth and finish what he had started there.

[MAP]

Titus has just met Paul in Macedonia. It is sometime around AD 55 or 56. There had trouble in Corinth, so Paul had left Ephesus to cross the Agean and deal with the issues, but his visit was not received well, so he retreated to Ephesus and wrote a painful letter and sent it with Titus to Corinth. He then traveled by land North from Ephesus to Troas, where he expected to meet Titus with news. But Titus didn’t show, so he abandoned an open door for ministry and traveled over to Macedonia, to visit the churches of Philippi and Thessalonica and Berea. There Titus met him and gave him a good report of the grief and repentance of the Corinthians in response to the painful letter. Now he is writing the letter we know as 2 Corinthians and encouraging Titus to take it back to Corinth and to finish what he had started. He wants him to bring to its fulfillment this grace.

The Collection

Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians (AD48) of his meeting with James

Galatians 2:9 and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

James and Paul and Peter and John were all proclaiming the same message, the same good news about Jesus, Jesus Christ and him crucified. That is the right gospel, only be sure the gospel moves out from what you say into what you do. Belief must work itself out in action. Only they asked us to remember the poor, and that Paul was already eager to do. Around this time, in Acts 11 [AD 45-47] there was:

Acts 11:28 …a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). 29 So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. 30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.

Some years later Paul is taking another collection. Paul gives instructions for this collection in 1 Corinthians 16 [AD 53-55]. Apparently he had already made them aware of this before the writing of 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 16:1 Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. 3 And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift [grace] to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.

It appears that Titus during his recent visit had made a beginning at this collection. Paul is now encouraging him, just as you began before, thus also bring it to completion. Notice what he calls it; this grace. The ability to give is a gift; it is grace. It is not deserved or earned.

We are first and fundamentally receivers. Every good thing comes from God. He is the source of all good. To give is a gift, it is grace.

Superabounding

Paul has encouraged Titus to complete among them this grace, and now gives a word of encouragement to the Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 8:7 But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you— see that you excel in this act of grace also.

Just as in all things you superabound. Faith, speech, knowledge. Back in the beginning of 1 Corinthians 1 he says:

1 Corinthians 1:4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—

Paul thanked God that by God’s grace, they had been enriched in all speech and all knowledge. Speech and knowledge are gifts of God’s grace. But he also warns them in 1 Corinthians 13

1 Corinthians 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.

All speech and all knowledge are good gifts, so long as they are exercised in love. Here he also commends their faith. He commends their eagerness or earnestness. He said in

2 Corinthians 7:11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you,…

12 …I wrote to you, …in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God.

His sorrowful letter produced in them an earnestness for the apostle just as he had hoped. And now he commends them for it.

You superabound in our love for you. It seems odd to include in a list of their excellencies the apostle’s love for the Corinthians, and this unusual expression has likely led to the variant reading in the manuscripts which reads ‘your love for us,’ which would seem to fit the context better. Literally the phrase reads ‘the out of us into you love’; and some have translated this ‘the love we aroused or inspired among you’ [WBC, p.259; BECNT, p.403]. Paul had said in 6:11-12 that ‘our heart is wide open …you are restricted in your own affections’. It could be that Paul is acknowledging and praising an opening of their hearts to him in response to his severe letter, or it could be that he is highlighting the fact that they hold a special place in his own heart, as he has communicated to them many times already in this letter.

Regardless of how we read it, the point he is making is clear. You are extraordinarily gifted by God; you superabound in everything; be sure you superabound also in this grace.

This Grace

God’s grace produced in the Macedonians a superabundance of joy in the midst of their afflictions, according to verse 2. Paul is inviting the Corinthians to superabound in this grace also. It is worth looking back at these verses, at this grace.

2 Corinthians 8:1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity [simplicity] on their part. 3 For [they gave] according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor [grace] of taking part [fellowship] in the relief [service] of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.

God’s grace created an abundance of joy in spite of affliction and deep poverty, and their joy overflowed in a wealth of single-hearted devotion to Christ; they begged for the grace and fellowship of service to the saints. God’s grace came in, and it created a simplicity of affections for Jesus that overflowed in joyful eagerness to serve others. Ministering to others is gift, it is grace; and it is communion, fellowship.

Not About Amount

It is important to see that Paul is not telling the Corinthians to compete with the Macedonians in how much they give. The Corinthians were much more affluent, so they likely could have easily outgiven them in amount. But that is not the focus, so he carefully chooses his language to make sure they don’t fall into that trap. He is looking at their hearts. He wants the grace of God to be experienced by them in such a way that it wells up in a joy in Jesus which spontaneously overflows in service to others. Paul’s aim is never simply to raise more money for his project regardless of where it comes from or how it is given. He cares more about the hearts of the givers than he does about the gift itself.

Grace and Love

This is not much different from what he says in 1 Corinthians 13. You can have all wisdom, all knowledge, all faith, you might even give away all that you have, but without love, it is all nothing. Nothing! Love is essential. First, love from God. We only can love because he first loved us. And love freely received from God spills over into love toward others. Do you see how this is the same? After describing love in 1 Corinthians 13, he says

1 Corinthians 14:1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts…
…12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.

He exhorts them to excel, to strive to superabound in building up the church; overflow in loving service to others. It is not only what you do, but why you do it. Is the motive to build yourself up, to make yourself look good, to impress others? Or is it to stoop low so you can build others up, to use your gifts to serve others for their good? To build up the church?

In the very next verse here in 2 Corinthians 8:8 he will connect this overflow of grace with love for others; as an expression and a proof of love.

Do you love? Have you experienced grace? This is rubber meets the road Christianity. This is what following Jesus looks like. It looks like God’s gift of grace poured out into a person that so transforms them that they are eager to serve others, to extend grace to others, to freely give of themselves, first to the Lord, and then to the Lord’s work in the lives of people. Is this what your life is shaped like? Does the love of Christ compel you? Constrain you to live no longer for self, but for others?

2 Corinthians 5:14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

***

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

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August 19, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 8:5; Give Yourself First to the Lord

08/11_2 Corinthians 8:5; Give Yourself First To The Lord; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190811_2cor8_5.mp3

2 Corinthians 8:1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.

Review

Paul is talking about giving. He is encouraging the Corinthians to give generously. But he avoids using the word ‘giving’ or ‘collection’ or ‘offering’; instead he fixes our attention on the grace of God given. God is the giver. It is God’s gift of grace that necessarily precedes and motivates any acceptable giving. We love because he first loved us (1Jn.4:19); we give because he is the supreme giver and first gave freely of himself to us.

God’s grace was given and this was evidenced in the overflow of a wealth of generosity. Generosity is an interpretive translation based on the context; literally it ‘superabounded in the riches of their simplicity’. Simplicity is a word Paul uses to describe single-hearted devotion to Christ in contrast to double-minded or divided affections. God’s undeserved grace poured out on the Macedonians ignited in them single-hearted affections for the Lord, and this spilled over in an urgency to extend grace to others. They begged for the grace and the fellowship of the ministry to the saints.

This service, this ministry was a grace; it was ‘favor;’ it was undeserved. They didn’t earn the ability to serve others; it was given to them. First of all it was grace to them. Then it welled up into grace from them. It was grace in that they gave freely, not under compulsion. They were eager for the opportunity. They were not the originators of the grace, but they were a channel; they passed it on to others. Freely they had received; freely they gave (Mt.10:8).

This ministry was grace and it was also fellowship; it was communion. They were ‘taking part;’ it connected them to the community of faith; to other believers; to the saints. They were eager for the connection, for the fellowship that bearing one another’s burdens created. They were eager for connection with the wider body of Christ.

Paul is holding up the Macedonians as an example, but not primarily an example of giving or generosity. They got grace; they did not receive grace in vain; it changed them. God’s undeserved grace freely given to them ignited in them a single-hearted affection for the Lord, and an eagerness to extend grace and fellowship in service to others. They understood that following Jesus was costly; they were in a severe test of affliction. They were in the depths of poverty. And yet in the midst of those circumstances, God’s grace created in them an unquenchable overflow of joy in Jesus. This is what Paul is eager to see formed in the Corinthians, and in us. He is after not our money but our hearts. What we do with our money is merely an outward indicator of where our affections are.

Given to the Lord

Their single-hearted service was according to their power, even beyond their ability.

Look at verse 5. And not according to what we had hoped; but their own selves they gave first to the Lord and to us by the will of God.

They gave. This passage is about giving, and this verse says that they gave. But it doesn’t say that they gave their money, their resources. It says they gave more. Themselves – that’s emphatic – their own selves they gave.

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

They gave themselves first to the Lord. ‘First’ doesn’t mean only first in time. It means first in importance. Most importantly they gave themselves to the Lord. What does that mean? How do you give yourself to the Lord? We use those words, but what exactly does it mean? What does it look like to give yourself to the Lord?

You Are Not Your Own

You are not your own. You were bought with a price. God owns you. He paid dearly for you. Romans 7:4 says that ‘you died …so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead.’ How does one give oneself to the Lord if you already belong to him? Paul’s exhortation in 1 Corinthians 6 is helpful here

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

He tells them what is true. As believers in Jesus, they belong to him. They are under new ownership. They were bought. His exhortation is based on their identity. Therefore, because of whose you are, live consistent with your new identity, your new ownership. Because you are owned by God, you should seek to glorify God in your body. He uses this again as a foundation for his argument in the next chapter:

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

Because you have a new Master, don’t divide your interests and sign up as a slave of someone else. Live consistent with what is true; be who you are. This is the Christian life. This is what following Jesus looks like. Learn to live in line with your new identity in Christ.

The Macedonians had responded to the call of Jesus when Paul preached the gospel to them, and so they belong to Jesus. And now they are living consistent with who they belong to. They gave themselves first to the Lord.

All You Have Is Not Yours

In 1 Corinthians 4 Paul says:

1 Corinthians 4:7 …What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

We need to remember this. Everything we have is a gift, grace, given to us by a good God.

John 3:27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.

King David wrestled with this question when he was making a collection for the building of the temple in Jerusalem. In 1 Chronicles 29:6 it says:

1 Chronicles 29:6 Then the leaders of fathers’ houses made their freewill offerings, as did also the leaders of the tribes, the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, and the officers over the king’s work.

Then it says in verse 9:

1 Chronicles 29:9 Then the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the LORD. David the king also rejoiced greatly.

The leaders made freewill offerings. Pay attention to the language here. They had given willingly, with a whole heart, offering freely to the Lord. They were under no compulsion; they were free, they chose to do it, and they did it gladly. It brought them joy to give, and it brought joy to the king. But listen to how David prays in the next verses:

1 Chronicles 29:10 Therefore David blessed the LORD in the presence of all the assembly. And David said: “Blessed are you, O LORD, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. 11 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. 12 Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. 13 And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name. 14 “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.

Do you hear what he is wrestling with? Everything belongs to God. Everything in heaven and in the earth. Riches and honor come from the Lord. Even our strength comes from the Lord. All things come from you. And yet the people are giving freely and willingly of all that is in their power, of all that belongs to God. Who am I? There is this tension between God’s ownership of everything and our ability to give freely, of our own will. How are we able to give willingly when everything we have is yours? You already own everything we have given. It came from you and it belongs to you. How is it then that we can offer it back to you?

He continues:

1 Chronicles 29:16 O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own. 17 I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you.

It is with upright hearts that they freely and willingly and joyously gave. They gave to God what already belonged to God. And God was pleased with their hearts. God tests the hearts of his people by putting in our possession some of what belongs to him. God is pleased when with upright hearts we freely and joyously give back to him what is his.

And then David prays:

1 Chronicles 29:18 O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you. 19 Grant to Solomon my son a whole heart that he may keep your commandments, your testimonies, and your statutes, performing all, and that he may build the palace for which I have made provision.”

David understood that even their willingness, the purpose of their hearts, even that was from God. God directs the hearts of his people, so he asks God to ‘keep such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people’. David doesn’t praise the people for their willingness; he praises God for the willingness of the people, and he asks God to maintain and sustain their joyful generosity.

This is grace! God first freely gives to us, and his gift ignites a response of joyful generosity in us; a single-hearted simplicity of affection toward him, an eagerness to please him, to extend his grace to others.

Paul here in 2 Corinthians tells us that this is ‘by the will of God.’ ‘Themselves they gave, first to the Lord and to us by the will of God.’ They gave, and they gave by the will of God. The other place we see this phrase is in the opening lines of both his letters to Corinth.

1 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus…

2 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God

This is the sovereign will of God, calling Paul as his apostle, and Paul gladly responded. Paul recognized the same sovereign purpose of God at work in the Macedonians, as they gladly and single-heartedly gave themselves by the will of God to the Lord and to him in response to the grace of God that had been given to them.

Application

So what does this look like for us? What does it mean to give ourselves first to the Lord? It must start with receiving God’s grace. We can attempt to do things for the Lord and give things to the Lord, but if we haven’t first experienced his grace toward us in Jesus, then it is self-effort and self-righteous performance, and it is actually offensive to God. First we must receive before we can give. We receive his grace, we receive forgiveness through the finished work of Jesus. We receive new life and the gift of the Holy Spirit living inside. In response to God’s free and undeserved grace, we gladly see that all that we have and all that we are come from the Lord and we can eagerly give ourselves back to him.

In the words of Romans 12,

Romans 12:1 …by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

In Colossians 1 he prayed that they would have the spiritual wisdom to know God’s will

Colossians 1:10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

Paul said to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20

Acts 20:35 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.’”

Jesus said:

Matthew 25:35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ …40 …‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

These are some of the ways we can give ourselves first to the Lord. Does Jesus have first place? First priority? Does he have access to all that you have? To all of you?

***

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

August 11, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 8:1-4; Grace Received and Expressed

08/04_2 Corinthians 8:1-4; Grace Received and Expressed; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190804_2cor8_1-4.mp3

We are in 2 Corinthians 8. Paul takes two chapters here, toward the end of his letter, to address issues of grace. He has used the word ‘grace’ six times so far in this letter, three times in chapter 1, once each in chapters 2, 4, and 6. In these two chapters alone, he will use this word ‘grace’ ten times (even though in our English translations it is not always translated as ‘grace’). He will use it twice more in 2 Corinthians before he is done. Over half of what he says about grace in 2 Corinthians is here in this section.

The Collection For Jerusalem

Anyone who reads these two chapters would agree that Paul is talking about giving. He is talking about a fundraiser. He is collecting money from Gentile believers to bring relief to the poor saints in Jerusalem. He referred to this in Galatians 2:10. He mentioned this in 1 Corinthians 16. He will mention it again in Romans 15. We see it played out in Acts (24:17).

But just as Paul intended to reshape our thinking and understanding of ministry in 2 Corinthians 2-7, that ministry is self-sacrificial service for the good of others, that ministry looks like Jesus in his suffering for others, so he aims to reshape our thinking about giving. He uses the word grace, he uses the word simplicity or singleness, he uses the word fellowship, he uses the word ministry or service, he talks about an expression of love. He even uses words like ‘blessing’ and ‘liturgy’ or a sacred act of worship in chapter 9.

He does use the word gift, but only to point us to God’s grace, God’s gift that has been given to us; and he points to the Macedonians who gave themselves to the Lord.

In 1 Corinthians 16, where he talked about this same issue, he used the word ‘collection’ and ‘collecting’, but even there it was ‘your grace’ that was to be carried to the saints in Jerusalem. By his very choice of words, he is causing us to rethink giving.

Grace Given

2 Corinthians 8:1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.

‘But we make known to you brothers, the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia.’ This is important. There is something we need to pay attention to.

Remember where we are in 2 Corinthians. In chapter 7, Paul picked up his narrative about Titus that he left hanging back in chapter 2. He finally connected with Titus in Macedonia, and God comforted him through Titus, and through the news he brought of the Corinthians’ grief and repentance. God worked a grief in them that produced repentance and salvation. Paul rejoiced over this work of God in them.

Now in chapter 8 he moves his attention to the grace of God given to the Macedonians. Paul rejoices over the work of God in the Corinthians, and he rejoices over the work of God in the Macedonians.

Reciprocal Joy

As we have seen, there is a theme here of reciprocal joy. Titus rejoices over the work of God at Corinth, and Titus’ joy causes Paul to rejoice. And he tells the Corinthians that they brought him joy by bringing Titus joy so that they can join in the rejoicing. There is a communal escalation of joy. We find joy when we rejoice in the joy of another. Now Paul turns our attention to God’s work in Macedonia to further increase our rejoicing.

God’s Grace

‘But we make known to you brothers, the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia.’ God’s grace. This rich word grace; unearned, freely given favor and kindness. In verse 9 he focuses our attention on the grace of our Lord Jesus, who gave himself for us. Grace. Unmerited. Unearned. Undeserved. We had no claim. We could make no demand. Grace is free. Grace is gift, freely given. Romans 4 teaches us that grace is the polar opposite of wages. Wages are owed. They are worked for and earned, and they create debt. Grace is free, unworked for, unearned. There is no obligation. God gave grace in the churches of Macedonia.

This should cause their hearts to sing! We deserved God’s wrath; the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom.6:23). We worked and we earned eternal separation from God. But in the gospel he treats us contrary to what we deserve; he pours out his love on us; he pays an infinite price and adopts us, he treats us as his very own sons and daughters. We have tasted his grace. We have experienced his love. And when we hear that God has given his grace to others, it should cause our hearts to leap! God has freely extended his grace to more sinners! We have more siblings! Enemies overcome, transformed by grace into friends, brought near by the blood of Christ! God is rich in grace, abundant, lavish.

Grace in Affliction

‘But we make known to you brothers, the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in much test of affliction, the superabundance of their joy and the deep depth of their poverty superabounded in the riches of their sincerity,’

The context of this gift of God’s grace is affliction. Pressure. Squeezing. He says they were ‘in a severe test of affliction.’ They were undergoing persecution. They were in the middle of a trial. On Paul’s first visit to Macedonia (Acts 16-17), he and Silas were imprisoned in Philippi and then asked to leave. In Thessalonica, the jealous Jews incited a mob and set the city in an uproar. Not finding Paul, they dragged Jason and some other local believers before the city authorities, accusing them of treason against Caesar, and proclaiming another king, Jesus. Paul and Silas were sent off by night to Berea, but the Jews from Thessalonica followed them there and stirred up the crowds, so Paul was sent off to Athens in Achaia.

Here on his return visit to these churches in Macedonia, Paul writes

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

Paul tasted their affliction when he visited. He doesn’t tells us what kind of persecution they were now suffering but it is described as ‘a severe test of affliction.’ Verse 2 goes on to describe their situation as ‘their extreme poverty,’ literally, ‘their according to depth poverty’. Their poverty was deep. They were down in the depths of poverty.

Transforming Grace

But the grace of God had been given. And God’s grace is transforming grace.

‘that in much test of affliction, the superabundance of their joy and the deep depth of their poverty superabounded in the riches of their sincerity,’

They had a superabundance of joy in the middle of the test of affliction. This is grace. Note carefully that God’s grace is transforming grace, but it doesn’t transform their circumstances. We are not told that they were rescued out of the severe test of affliction. God’s grace transformed them. They had superabundance of joy in the middle of the severe test of affliction. God is able to change our circumstances, but he is more interested in transforming us. This is supernatural joy. They were in intense affliction, and their overflow of joy poured into the deep depths of their poverty and a nuclear reaction took place. It exploded out in a superabundance of riches of sincerity. God’s grace transforms the depths of poverty into divine riches, divine wealth.

Simplicity

Paul uses another word, here translated ‘generosity’. Its usual meaning is ‘simplicity’ or ‘sincerity’, literally singleness, in contrast to duplicity or a double-minded or divided heart. Jesus said ‘that the eye is the lamp of the body; if your eye is single your whole body will be full of light (Mt.6:22). He said this in the context of ‘no one can serve two masters’ and ‘do not be anxious about your life’. There must be a single Master and a single focus. There must be a sole aim to please the Lord.

This is a word he had used (probably) back in 1:12

2 Corinthians 1:12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.

Notice there as well, that Paul’s simplicity and sincerity is by the grace of God.

He uses this word ‘simplicity’ or ‘single-mindedness’ here in 8:2, and in 9:11 and 13, and once again in 11:3.

2 Corinthians 11:3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

There is only one Master. There is a single-hearted devotion. ‘In much test of affliction, the superabundance of their joy and the deep depth of their poverty superabounded in the riches of their single-hearted devotion, that according to ability (and I testify) beyond ability voluntarily, with much encouragement begging us the grace and the fellowship of the service to the saints.

God’s gift was expressed in a superabundance of joy in the midst of affliction that struck against the depth of their poverty to spark an explosion of single-hearted devotion to Christ. God’s free gift of grace found expression in their eagerness to graciously give in service to others. God’s grace changes us. God’s grace toward us ignites grace in us toward others. We become eager to show kindness and love to those who don’t deserve it, our brothers, even our enemies.

Do you see the wealth of their singleness of heart? It was voluntary. There was no pressure from Paul. There was the pressure of persecution that helped to focus their affections on Jesus. But there was no pressure, in fact Paul was reluctant to allow them to participate. It was according to their ability, even beyond their ability. They did more than they could. How? Because God’s grace makes things possible that are impossible. They did that which was beyond their power to do. God’s grace enabled them to do it.

Out-Giving God?

I want to be careful here. We are talking about money, giving, and there is a common saying that you can’t out-give God. There is truth to that. But don’t misunderstand that to mean that if you give a dollar that you will get more than a dollar back somehow. That would be duplicitous. I’m going to give not because I just want to give, but because I want to get something in return. There is nothing in this passage that says anything about their situation of poverty changing. It was out of the depths of their poverty that they gave, and that would serve to increase their poverty. They ended up with less money than they started with. When they gave, they weren’t thinking, ‘this is a foolproof scheme to manipulate God into giving us money and improving our material situation.’ No, they embraced the fact that they were going to have to get by with less.

But here’s the beautiful thing. It increased their joy. They demonstrated that their joy did not come from their circumstances, from having all their material needs met; their joy came from God. They were recipients of God’s grace! God was more satisfying to them than a shirt on their back or a roof over their head or a meal that would take the edge off their hunger. Their wealth was their single-hearted devotion to God.

Grace Expressed

Paul, it seems, was inclined to discourage their giving. He saw that it was beyond their ability. But with much encouragement they begged us the grace and the fellowship of the service to the saints. We are rightly nauseated by the stereotypical tele-evangelist (rather tele-extortionist) begging people to give. But here the apostle is saying ‘no, you really shouldn’t, it’s beyond your ability’ and they are saying ‘Please, we want the grace, we want the fellowship. We have received God’s grace and it has stirred in our hearts a longing to express that grace in sacrificial service to others. We want the fellowship, the communion, the having things in common with other believers, the bearing one another’s burdens. You can’t deny us the privilege of communion and extending grace!

You see how this connects with the rest of the letter? He started by talking about the comfort or encouragement that God brings to us in our affliction when we share in Christ’s sufferings, Christ’s afflictions.

Here he is talking about money, about generosity and giving, but he is after not our money but our hearts. He is pursuing our single-hearted simplicity of devotion to Christ, a genuine experience of God’s grace, not receiving the grace of God in vain; but an experience of God’s grace that so profoundly changes us, that it must necessarily overflow in joyous generosity, extending grace to others. He is pursuing our connection, our fellowship, our joyful communion with all the saints.

Are you eager for opportunity to live out your fellowship with other believers? Are you eager to extend grace to others? Begging for the opportunity to bear one another’s burdens? Are you willing even to embrace affliction, to increase your own discomfort, in order to lovingly serve others?

This comes from God. This is the overflow of God’s grace given to you. Are you overwhelmed that God has made you a recipient of his grace? Look! Look afresh at God’s grace. Wonder, marvel, be amazed that God would love you! Unearned, undeserved! That God would show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward you in Christ Jesus (Eph.2:7). Receive his grace and be transformed!

***

August 4, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 7:11-16; Gospel Confidence and Gospel Boasting

07/21_2 Corinthians 7:11-16; Gospel Confidence and Gospel Boasting ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190721_2cor7_11-16.mp3

The Results of Grief According to God

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. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter. 12 So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God.

Paul rejoices at the report of the Corinthian’s grief, not because they were grieved, but because their grief was according to God, it produced a repentance that leads to salvation. Paul was not eager to crush them; he ‘worked with them for their joy’ (1:24).

Their grief according to God produced the appropriate results. Paul draws their attention in verse 11 to what it worked in them; see what urgency or earnestness, also what defense or clearing of yourselves, also what indignation or repulsion over your sins, also what fear recognizing God’s just judgment on wrongdoers, also what desire or earnest longing for reconciliation and to do what is right, also what zeal or fervency as opposed to a lack of care or concern, also what punishment or vindication, a commitment to what is right and just.

At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.” We are not certain what the matter was that he was referring to, but they knew. He refers back in chapter 2 to an issue that had caused pain. He said:

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

We don’t know exactly what the issue was, nor are we intended to. He leaves it ambiguous, so that what he says can be applied to many specific situations. Possibly it was the immoral man addressed in 1 Corinthians 5; possibly someone who was defiant in the church, who had undermined and opposed Paul’s authority, someone who gained a following. Whatever the sin issue, they had responded with appropriate earnestness, clearing, indignation, fear, desire, fervency, vindication. They had demonstrated their purity.

Why Paul Wrote; To Show Them Their Own Earnestness

He said in 2:3

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, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. 4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

His purpose for writing was to communicate his abundant love for them.

He said in 2:9

2 Corinthians 2:9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything.

Now here in 7:12 he says

2 Corinthians 7:12 So although I wrote to you, it was not for the sake of the one who did the wrong, nor for the sake of the one who suffered the wrong, but in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God.

He wrote what he did not (primarily) for the sake of the wrongdoer, nor (primarily) for the sake of the one who was wronged. Rather, he says, it was in order to show to you your eagerness for us before God.

Do you see what he is doing here? He wrote a stern letter through his tears, and sent it with Titus, not primarily to correct the wrongdoer, nor primarily to clear the one wronged (which, if the offender was the one who attacked his character, the one wronged was Paul himself). Rather, his purpose was as he said in chapter 2 ‘to test or prove you’. Here he elaborates that it was to demonstrate to you your eagerness for us.

What does this mean? What does it matter? Why would his primary aim be to reveal to them their eagerness for the apostle Paul? Isn’t that a bit self-promoting? Paul has written in 2 Corinthians defending his apostolic ministry and teaching them what authentic ministry looks like because authentic Christian ministry is shaped by the gospel and it is shaped like the gospel. Authentic ministry is self-sacrificial service for the ultimate good of others. In pursuing their eagerness for him, he is pursuing their eagerness for the genuine gospel, and ultimately their eagerness to follow Jesus. His desire is that they see their eagerness for their apostle who proclaimed to them the gospel message and lived out the gospel before them.

How does this work? Paul visits them, attempts to correct them, and it doesn’t go well. He leaves, writes them a tearful letter, sends it with Titus, and prays that their eagerness for him will be revealed to them in the presence of God. Titus comes, delivers the letter. They experience grief according to God that leads them to repentance, and it reveals to them their love for the gospel, and for the one who brought them the gospel.

They see this in the presence of God. Paul by his openness has commended himself to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God (4:2). Later in chapter 12 he says that ‘in the sight of God he speaks in Christ for your upbuilding’. They come to the realization of their love for Paul and the gospel in the presence of God. This is God at work in them.

Reciprocal Refreshment and Joy

2 Corinthians 7:13 Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.

When Paul arrived in Troas, he said (2:13) “my spirit was not at rest.” When he entered Macedonia in search of Titus, he says (7:5) “our bodies had no rest.” Now he says that he is comforted and rejoiced because Titus’ spirit had been refreshed by you. Here again we see this reciprocal comfort, this reciprocal refreshment, this reciprocal joy in the body of Christ. We need each other. We are meant to encourage each other. Paul began the letter saying that he was a fellow-worker with the Corinthians for their joy (1:24), that the Corinthians were meant to bring him joy, and

2 Corinthians 2:3 …I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all.

Paul’s joy at over the Corinthians would be their joy. Even his severe letter that grieved them was meant ultimately for their joy. When they repented with a grief brought about by God, this brought Titus refreshment of spirit, and that brought Paul comfort and joy. There will be difficult times being part of the church. But even the difficult things are meant to encourage and bring joy. Have you brought joy and refreshment to anyone this past week?

Gospel Boasting and Gospel Confidence

2 Corinthians 7:14 For whatever boasts I made to him about you, I was not put to shame. But just as everything we said to you was true, so also our boasting before Titus has proved true. 15 And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. 16 I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you.

This is stunning, staggering, startling. Paul had been boasting about the Corinthians to Titus. This is startling on multiple levels. For one, Paul had told the Galatians

Galatians 6:14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

He said in 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 3:21 So let no one boast in men.

But here Paul seems to be violating his own instruction and boasting about this church. This is even more startling when you look at what we know about the church in Corinth. From 1 Corinthians we learn that they were divided with quarreling, jealousy and strife (1Cor.1:10-11; 3:3). They were embracing sexual immorality of a kind that was not even tolerated among the pagans (5:1). They were bringing lawsuits against each other (6:1). They were confused on marriage and morality (7). They were participating in idol feasts (8-10). They were disordered in their gatherings, and when they came together to eat the Lord’s supper, the rich would get drunk and the poor would go hungry (11:21). He said that it would be better if they did not meet at all (11:17). They were abusing spiritual gifts to promote themselves and impress others (12-14). They were even beginning to doubt the resurrection (15)! They didn’t respond well to his letter, or to his visit, so he had to write a severe letter and send it with someone else. And even though they responded well to that letter, there were still serious problems that he addresses in 2 Corinthians; they misunderstood Christian leadership, they were in danger of being deceived like Eve in the garden, being led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

This church was and still is a mess at the time of his writing. And in the middle of the mess, when he sent Titus with the severe letter, he boasted to Titus about them. What could this boasting possibly consist of? Surely it was misplaced!

Boasting in God or Boasting in Men?

We get a glimpse of what Paul means when he said he boasted in them if we look back to the thanksgiving at the beginning of 1 Corinthians. Before addressing all the problems that were going on in the church, he started by saying:

1 Corinthians 1:4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Where we might see nothing at all to be thankful for, he thanks God continually for them. What does he see? He sees the grace of God given freely to them. It is clear they don’t deserve it; it is sheer grace! He thanks God that the testimony of Christ was confirmed among them; that they believed the gospel! This foolish message of the cross was demonstrated to be the power of God for salvation in them when they believed. They now are waiting for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. And notice, it is this Jesus who will sustain you to the end guiltless. He reiterates; God is faithful. God called you into the fellowship of his Son. God did it. God is doing it. God will finish it. Notice where Paul’s confidence lies? Not in them; they were flakes. His confidence was squarely on God and the power of the gospel. His confidence was not in the faithfulness of the Corinthians; it was in the faithfulness of God to make good on his promises. This reminds me of Philippians 1:6

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

God began the good work. God will finish what he started. I am sure of this. Are you sure of that? When you look around the room this morning, do you see a bunch of messes? That’s accurate; but do you see the gospel at work transforming those messes into something beautiful? Are you sure of this? Are you confident in God’s power at work in the gospel? When I look at you, do I see God’s grace? Man! You don’t deserve it! That’s grace, it’s all grace! And we need God’s grace! God’s grace was given to us in Christ Jesus, and Jesus will sustain us to the end guiltless, and God who called us into the fellowship of his Son, he is faithful!

This is gospel confidence and gospel boasting, and it is perfectly compatible with boasting only in the cross. It fits perfectly with what Paul says later in 2 Corinthians 10

2 Corinthians 10:17 “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

He went out on a limb and boasted to Titus about the Corinthians, not because he thought the Corinthians were basically pretty good people and they wouldn’t let him down, but because he knew that although they were worse at heart than he dared imagine, God’s transforming power through the gospel is more potent and will surely not fail to bring about his promises. His boasting in the Corinthians was boasting because they had believed the gospel. That good gospel seed with time will bust up their concrete hearts and produce good fruit. They were believing, trusting, depending on another. And that another is more than capable to bring about what he promised. Paul was confident that they hadn’t believed in vain; that they were being saved day by day by the gospel.

Imagine the conversation between Paul and Titus. “Titus, I know this church is a mess, and I don’t know how they are going to respond to you. They didn’t respond well to my letters or my visit. But when I went the first time and proclaimed the good news, they genuinely believed it. God opened their blind eyes to see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. God’s power began to change them. And he promises to finish what he started. I am praying that God would use this strong letter and your unique gifts and personality to bring about the godly grief and repentance that we both know would glorify God. I want you to go, confident that God has shown them grace, and although they will never deserve it, God is able to sustain them to the end, guiltless, because they are believing in Jesus. God called them and God is faithful. He will surely do it!”

Paul says:

2 Corinthians 7:14 For whatever boasts I made to him about you, I was not put to shame. But just as everything we said to you was true, so also our boasting before Titus has proved true. 15 And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. 16 I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you.

Everything we said to you was true. We proclaimed the true gospel to you, the good news of Jesus Christ and him crucified. Our boasting has in the same way proved true, because our boasting was rooted in the gospel. The gospel works! It is true and it works! God works through it! It is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. We shouldn’t be surprised when we see the gospel working, transforming hopeless desperate lives. That is what God does. The more desperate and dark the situation, the greater the platform on which to display his glory. We can bank on it. We can boast in it.

Is there a situation today that you need to have gospel confidence in? Is there a person or situation that looks hopeless that you need to look at through the gospel lens and thank God for his grace to those who don’t deserve it? To thank him for his sustaining power? To thank him for calling us into the fellowship of his Son, to thank him for being always faithful, mighty to save? To thank him that he is a God who breathes life into dead things, who sets prisoners free, who brings hope to the hopeless, and overcomes darkness with his marvelous light?

***

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

July 21, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 7:9-11; Repentance – Wounded to Heal

07/14_2 Corinthians 7:9-11; Repentance; Wounded to Heal ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190714_2cor7_9-11.mp3

Review: Grief According To God

We are in 2 Corinthians 7. Paul has met Titus in Macedonia and been encouraged by him, especially by the report he received about their response to his severe letter. Their grief caused Paul to rejoice.

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. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.

We looked last week at some examples of grief according to God that led to repentance, Rahab and David, in contrast to examples of worldly grief that ended in death, Achan and Saul.

Today I want to look more carefully at repentance, what biblical repentance is, what the outcome of repentance is, and how grief according to God can lead to repentance.

Preaching Repentance

First, what repentance is. Jesus came

Mark 1:14 …proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

The good news of God, the time is fulfilled, the kingdom has appeared, repent and believe the good news. Jesus said in Luke 15:

Luke 15:10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

After he rose from the dead, Jesus commissioned his followers

Luke 24:46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

Repentance is to be proclaimed in the name of Jesus to all people. Repentance is what sinners do that brings joy to God. Repentance is connected with the forgiveness of sins. Repentance is connected with believing the good news.

Defining Repentance [μετάνοια]

Repentance comes from the Greek word μετάνοια, a compound word made up of μετά (after, a prefix that indicates movement or change) and νοιέω (to think, to consider, the mind and its thoughts and perceptions and dispositions and purposes); it means to think differently in retrospect, to have a change of heart and mind. This is a deep inward change.

This word ‘repent’ is sometimes found with a different word [ἐπιστρέφω], a synonym that literally means to turn around. When Peter preached in Acts 3, he said:

Acts 3:18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, [μετανοήσατε οὖν καὶ ἐπιστρέψατε] that your sins may be blotted out,

Forgiveness of sins is contingent on this change of mind and change of direction. In Acts 26, Paul described his life and mission:

Acts 26:20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. [ἀπήγγελλον μετανοεῖν καὶ ἐπιστρέφειν ἐπὶ τὸν θεόν, ἄξια τῆς μετανοίας ἔργα πράσσοντας]

Conversion is another English word that has been used to try to capture this idea of turning, this new thinking, new direction. Conversion or repentance is a change of mind, a deep inward change, a turning away from what you were trusting in, hoping in, holding on to, a turning toward God, to treasure him, to trust him, to cling to him.

Fruit in Keeping with Repentance

This inward transformation produces fruit. People who truly turn, truly change, begin to live consistent with their new direction. John the Baptist called people to be genuine, to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Mt.3:8).

The Duty of Repentance

Jesus commanded that we have this deep inward change of heart and mind, and believe or depend on the gospel. He instructed his followers to proclaim to the nations that they experience this inward change and their sins would be forgiven in Jesus’ name, because he suffered in their place. He said there would be consequences, condemnation for those who refuse to repent.

Matthew 12:41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

This turning, this genuine inward change of heart and mind is required for the forgiveness of sins through Jesus.

God’s Kindness and Patience Lead to Repentance

And we see that God is kind, he is eager for us to repent, to experience that inward change, to receive forgiveness for our sins.

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Romans 2:4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

God does not immediately pour out the consequences of our sins on us. He is patient, he forbears, all in order to lead us to repentance.

Our Turning and God’s Creative Act

Paul used this other word ‘turning’ in 2 Corinthians 3:16 to describe the turning of Jewish people to Jesus as the overcoming of their hardness of mind and the removing of the veil on their hearts that prevents them from seeing the light of the good news of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 3:14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord [ἐπιστρέψῃ πρὸς κύριον], the veil is removed.

How does repentance come about? He says their minds are hard and their hearts are veiled, but if one turns to the Lord the veil is removed. Only through Christ is it taken away. How does this turning happen? He says in chapter 4 of those whose minds are hardened, whose hearts are veiled, those who are perishing,

2 Corinthians 4:4 In their case the god of this world 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 says it is Satan who blinds minds, but through the proclamation of Jesus Christ as Lord,

2 Corinthians 4:6 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.

Satan blinds minds and hardens hearts, but God creates light and removes veils. God works through the proclamation of Jesus as Lord and the sacrificial service of his people to create life and speak light into hard hearts, and blind minds see! We see the glory of God in the face of our Lord Jesus Christ and seeing, we are being transformed! When a blind mind is given light, it begins to see things differently; there is an inward change of mind and heart. What was once distasteful or unimpressive now becomes beautiful. Blind minds are enabled to perceive the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

The Gift of Repentance

The apostles in their preaching celebrated God’s gift of repentance. Peter, answering the Pharisees in Acts 5 said of the crucified and resurrected Jesus,

Acts 5:31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel [τοῦ δοῦναι μετάνοιαν τῷ Ἰσραὴλ] and forgiveness of sins.

God the Father exalted Jesus to give repentance to Israel. A few chapters later, in Acts 11, Peter is reporting to the Jerusalem church the conversion, the turning of the Gentiles in Caesarea. He recounts to them that the Holy Spirit fell on them as he began to speak. He says:

Acts 11:17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” 18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life [ὁ θεὸς τὴν μετάνοιαν εἰς ζωὴν ἔδωκεν].”

God gives the repentance that leads to life. Repentance is a gift from God. (cf.2Tim.2:25).

Wounding to Heal

How does God give this gift? We have already seen in these passages that God gives repentance through preaching, through the proclamation of Jesus as Lord and the sacrificial service of his people. He leads us to repentance through his kindness and forbearance. If we return to 2 Corinthians 7, we see that God uses grief to bring about repentance.

2 Corinthians 7:9 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. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

Godly grief, or grief according to God; not ‘I’m sorry I got caught’ or ‘I’m sorry that there will be consequences’ but ‘I am grieved that I displeased God, that I dishonored his name.’ This grief, this true sorrow over sin brings about repentance that leads to salvation.

We can see this pattern in other places in Scripture. Last time we looked at David’s repentance after he was confronted by the prophet Nathan with his sin. We looked at his prayer of confession in Psalm 51. He says in verse 8

Psalm 51:8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.

David says that God broke his bones. God crushed him. God caused him to sorrow over his sin, and that genuine grief led him to repentance, and the outcome is a restoration of his joy.

God said in Deuteronomy 32

Deuteronomy 32:39 “‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

God claims to be the one both to kill and to make alive, to wound and to heal. The context here is the disobedience and idolatry of his people, and his use of other nations to discipline them and to make them jealous. The sequence is intentional. Before God makes alive, he kills. Before God heals, he wounds. He causes grief – grief according to God – to bring about repentance, a deep inward turning, a changing of heart and desire. He breaks our bones in order to restore to us the joy of our salvation.

The prophet Hosea says

Hosea 5:13 When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his wound, then Ephraim went to Assyria, and sent to the great king. But he is not able to cure you or heal your wound. 14 For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I, will tear and go away; I will carry off, and no one shall rescue. 15 I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me.

God here likens himself to a lion that tears and carries off. They go to Assyria for healing, but in vain. God says, I tear them like a lion, and then I wait for them to acknowledge their guilt and seek my face. God causes distress and grief to bring his people ultimately to himself, for their ultimate good. Hosea continues:

Hosea 6:1 “Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. 2 After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. 3 ​Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”

God has torn us that he may heal us. He has struck us down so that he can bind us up. Do you feel torn, struck down, broken by the Lord? Is he trying to get your attention? He is pursuing you, eager for you to turn, to return to him, to seek his face, to earnestly seek him; not his gifts, not a change in circumstances, but him. He has torn, yes, but he has torn in order to heal; he has struck down in order to bind us up. He intends to raise us up to life, eternal life in his presence. He cares enough that he is willing to do whatever it takes to get your attention, to cause you grief to bring you to repentance, to a change of mind, a change of allegiance, to bring you to depend completely on him, to seek not his gifts, but him, to earnestly seek his face. He says:

Hosea 6:5 Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth, and my judgment goes forth as the light.

God uses his people to speak his words to grieve us into repenting, he slays us with the words of his mouth to lead us to salvation.

God used Paul’s severe letter, the gospel forcefully applied to their situation, to grieve them, to crush them, to bring them to a change of heart and mind. Paul rebuked them, he caused them grief, but for a good purpose.

2 Corinthians 7:9 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. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

Paul said the hard things, even for a time regretting what he said, so that he could say ‘you suffered no loss through us.’

Does God want to use you to speak some hard things into someone’s life, not to unload and make yourself feel better, but to love and serve him, to preach the gospel to him; that your sin displeases God and drags his good name through the mud, the good news that God loves you and sent his only Son to die for that sin, so that you can turn to him and experience forgiveness and transformation and life the way it was meant to be. Allow him to change you deep inside, your mind, your heart, your desires, so that you are eager to live consistent with those new desires.

***

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

July 14, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 7:8-10; Grief According to God

07/07_2 Corinthians 7:8-10; Grief According to God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190707_2cor7_8-10.mp3

Good Grief!

Charlie Brown walks by the doghouse where Snoopy is doing something ridiculous. “Good grief!” he exclaims. Good grief. That’s what we are talking about today.

2 Corinthians 7:5 For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn— fighting without and fear within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more. 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. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

Paul wrote the Corinthians a severe letter. He was anxious about how it would be received, so anxious that he passed up an open door for gospel ministry in Troas. But in Macedonia, Titus came and announced good news to Paul. Titus announced the Corinthians’ longing, their mourning, their ardor on Paul’s behalf. This brought Paul still more joy. Why does intense desire, moaning or lamentation, and jealous indignation elicit joy? This is an unusual combination. Titus announces that the Corinthians were grieved by his letter, and now Paul rejoices? Why? Paul rejoices over the Corinthian’s grief? Is it right to rejoice over the sorrows of others? Paul in Romans tells us to

Romans 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

Paul had told the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 12:26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

But here Paul rejoices over their grief. Isn’t this cruel? Paul explains. Because even if I grieved you in my letter, I do not regret it. Even if I did regret it. Because I see that that letter if even for an hour grieved you. Now I rejoice. Not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved to repentance.

Grief According to God

His joy was not over their grief only, but over the outcome of their grief. Their grief was godly grief, literally grief according to God.

2 Corinthians 7:9 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. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

There are different kinds of grief. It matters what kind of grief you experience. What is grief according to God? And what is the grief of the world? The text says that grief according to God produces repentance without regret, that it leads to salvation, and that it suffers no loss. Worldly grief in contrast works death. But both are called grief. What is the difference? How do we know which is which? This is important, because one works itself out in death, and one results in salvation. It matters that we experience the right kind of grief.

Achan and Rahab

Some illustrations might help, and the Bible is full of them! First, Rahab and Achan. Achan was an Israelite during Joshua’s conquest of Jericho. They were commanded to devote everything in the city to the Lord, to destruction.

Joshua 7:1 But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel.

After Israel’s defeat at Ai, and Joshua is asking ‘Why?’,

Joshua 7:10 The LORD said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. 12 Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you. 13 Get up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says the LORD, God of Israel, “There are devoted things in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.” 14 In the morning therefore you shall be brought near by your tribes. And the tribe that the LORD takes by lot shall come near by clans. And the clan that the LORD takes shall come near by households. And the household that the LORD takes shall come near man by man. 15 And he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he has done an outrageous thing in Israel.’” 16 So Joshua rose early in the morning and brought Israel near tribe by tribe, and the tribe of Judah was taken. 17 And he brought near the clans of Judah, and the clan of the Zerahites was taken. And he brought near the clan of the Zerahites man by man, and Zabdi was taken. 18 And he brought near his household man by man, and Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken. 19 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the LORD God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” 20 And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I did: 21 when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”

Achan knew what he had done. He watched this whole process of selection unfold, tribe by tribe, clan by clan, household by household, man by man, which certainly took some time. Not until he was singled out and confronted as guilty did he own up to what he had done. He took of the spoils that were devoted to God, in effect stealing from God. He acted as if God didn’t exist, as if he would get away with it. He idolized the treasurers of the idolaters more than he treasured the true God of Israel. He was sorry that he got caught. His was a worldly sorrow, and it brought death.

But a few chapters earlier, when the two spies entered Jericho, they were hid and protected by the pagan prostitute Rahab,

Joshua 2:8 Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof 9 and said to the men, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. 10 For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. 11 And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. 12 Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign 13 that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.”

This pagan prostitute turned, she repented; she hid the spies from her own people who were searching for them, she took a risk; she extended hospitality to enemies, she transferred her allegiance to the God of the Israelites, who she acknowledged as ‘God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.’ She experienced grief; her heart had melted within her, but she cast herself on God’s mercy, and her turning, her repentance was according to God, without regret, and resulted in the salvation of herself and her family.

Joshua 2:14 And the men said to her, “Our life for yours even to death! If you do not tell this business of ours, then when the LORD gives us the land we will deal kindly and faithfully with you.” 15 Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was built into the city wall, so that she lived in the wall. 16 And she said to them, “Go into the hills, or the pursuers will encounter you, and hide there three days until the pursuers have returned. Then afterward you may go your way.” 17 The men said to her, “We will be guiltless with respect to this oath of yours that you have made us swear. 18 Behold, when we come into the land, you shall tie this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and you shall gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household. 19 Then if anyone goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we shall be guiltless. But if a hand is laid on anyone who is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head. 20 But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be guiltless with respect to your oath that you have made us swear.” 21 And she said, “According to your words, so be it.” Then she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.

Rahab turned from trusting in false Gods to the one true God, and she acted consistently with what she said she believed. Achan, although in name an Israelite who should have worshiped the one true God, acted as an idolater and lived as if God didn’t exist.

Saul and David

Here is another example. Saul and David. Saul was anointed king by Samuel. Saul was commanded in 1 Samuel 15 to strike the Amalekites, and devote everything to destruction.

1 Samuel 15:9 But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them. All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction. 10 The word of the LORD came to Samuel: 11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.” And Samuel was angry, and he cried to the LORD all night. 12 And Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning. And it was told Samuel, “Saul came to Carmel, and behold, he set up a monument for himself and turned and passed on and went down to Gilgal.” 13 And Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed be you to the LORD. I have performed the commandment of the LORD.”

There’s already some troubling things in this story. The despised and worthless things they devoted to the Lord, but the best things they refused to destroy. And Saul set up a monument for himself! (That’s just weird.) And when he sees Samuel he gives him a spiritual sounding greeting and says that he has obeyed the Lord’s command.

1 Samuel 15:14 And Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the oxen that I hear?” 15 Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice to the LORD your God, and the rest we have devoted to destruction.”

You see what Saul is doing here? When confronted with his sin, he shifts the blame. He says ‘they, the people’ did this. And he makes excuses. He says it was for a good motive. He says that their disobedience was supposed to be an act of worship, a sacrifice to God.

1 Samuel 15:16 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Stop! I will tell you what the LORD said to me this night.” And he said to him, “Speak.” 17 And Samuel said, “Though you are little in your own eyes, are you not the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel. 18 And the LORD sent you on a mission and said, ‘Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ 19 Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the LORD?” 20 And Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the LORD. I have gone on the mission on which the LORD sent me. I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction. 21 But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal.”

Saul persists in making excuses and attempting to clear himself. He won’t admit guilt. He insists that he knows better than God, that disobedience can be an act of worship.

1 Samuel 15:22 And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king.” 24 Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. 25 Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me that I may bow before the LORD.”

You see what happens here? When faced with the consequences of his sin, his rejection, then he admits guilt. But he still deflects, saying it was out of fear of the people. He asks for pardon, and he wants to save face publicly.

1 Samuel 15:26 And Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you. For you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel.” 27 As Samuel turned to go away, Saul seized the skirt of his robe, and it tore. 28 And Samuel said to him, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. 29 And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.” 30 Then he said, “I have sinned; yet honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, that I may bow before the LORD your God.”

Saul is remorseful faced with the consequences of his sin, but he is eager for public honor more than for pleasing God. His grief stems from the consequences of his sin, not out of a genuine remorse for displeasing God. He is content with an outward show in place of inward reality.

Consider on the other hand, David. King David has experienced abundant blessing from the Lord. But he indulged the flesh, and now he has committed adultery and murdered to cover it up. The prophet Nathan confronts David;

2 Samuel 12:7 Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. 8 And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. 9 Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’” 13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.

Note that his sin is no less serious than Saul. He despised the word of the Lord. He did what is evil in his sight. Adultery. Murder. This seems too easy. “I have sinned against the Lord.” How can that be true repentance? Its beauty lies in its straightforward simplicity. He doesn’t make excuses. He doesn’t deflect blame. He owns it. He doesn’t complain about the consequences of his sin. He doesn’t say much, as if an eloquent confession holds some merit. He acknowledges his sin against the Lord, and he is forgiven. This is the gospel! He doesn’t say much here, but we get a glimpse into his heart when he writes Psalm 51

Psalm 51

[To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.]

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 ​Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4 ​Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. 5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. 6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. 9 ​Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 ​Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 11 ​Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. 14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. 15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 ​For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. 18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem; 19 then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar.

David is convicted of his sin. He agrees with God about his sin. He acknowledges that his sin is against God, and he throws himself on God’s mercy. He pursues a heart change that only comes from God. His repentance is focused on God. It is not concerned with what others think. It is not proud, seeking to save face. It is not self-focused, seeking to escape punishment or discomfort. He owns what he deserves. He recognizes that he has dragged God’s glorious name through the mud. And he boldly asks for the joy of his salvation to be restored. He doesn’t wallow in guilt and regret. He asks for inner transformation.

Grief according to God produces repentance without regret, that it leads to salvation, and that it suffers no loss.

Treasure with me the gospel. Treasure today the simple beauty of 1 John 1:8-9

1 John 1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

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

July 7, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 7:7-8; Divine Guidance and Apostolic Regret

06/30_2 Corinthians 7:7-8; Divine Guidance and Apostolic Regret; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190630_2cor7_7-8.mp3

Paul had changed his travel plans. He had hoped to cross the Aegean from Ephesus to Corinth and visit them on his way up to Macedonia, and then again on his return trip down from Macedonia. <<MAP>>

2 Corinthians 1:15 Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace. 16 I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea. …23 But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth. 24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith. 2:1 For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you. 2 For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? 3 And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. 4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

Upon hearing some concerning news, he made an emergency visit, a visit which proved painful for him. He refused to make another painful visit, instead sending Titus ahead with a severe letter, and traveling north from Ephesus by land to Troas, where he planned to meet Titus and hear news of how they responded. But Titus did not meet him in Troas, so he continued on to Macedonia, where he was comforted by the coming of Titus.

2 Corinthians 7:5 For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn— fighting without and fear within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more. 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.

Good News of Grief

Paul says that he was comforted by the God who comforts the depressed; by the comfort with which Titus was comforted by you. This is reciprocal comfort, reciprocal encouragement.

A Risky Letter and Apostolic Regret

Paul says something very interesting here; he wrote a letter that he regretted writing after he sent it. He took a risk. He was deeply concerned about them, and they hadn’t responded well to a visit, so he wrote a forceful letter. But after sending it off, he questioned, was it too much? Will it push them farther away? Things seem to be on the verge of falling apart. What if his severe letter pushes them over the edge? If this church falls apart, what will come of the advance of the gospel in the region of Achaia?

We get yet another glimpse into the real human struggles of an apostle. Led and empowered by the Spirit of God, he had to make hard decisions and afterward, he wasn’t confident he had made the right decision. I believe we get a glimpse here into what it means to be led by the Spirit. We tend to think only in categories of the mystical and supernatural, that they were “forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia” and “the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go into Bithynia” (Acts16:6-7)

Acts 16:9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”

God can and sometimes does lead in those direct clear ways. But there is also “even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, my spirit was not at rest …So I took leave of them and went on” (2Cor.2:12-13). A gospel door was opened, but because of what was going on, I couldn’t take advantage of it and had to leave. Do we say that Paul was disobedient to the Spirit’s leading? Or was his ‘spirit not at rest’ also leading of the Spirit? Was there only one right answer? To stay may have meant fruitful ministry, but he chose to leave, and God brought his comfort to him in Macedonia.

Paul ‘wanted to come to you first …but …I refrained from coming again. …For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you.” (2Cor.1:15; 2:1). Acts records it this way “Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia…” (19:21). Paul has desires, and he wrestles with what will be best for them. He reasons and thinks and makes up his mind. He writes a letter and then begins to regret writing the way he did, wondering if that was best. Paul is empowered and led by the Holy Spirit, and yet he doesn’t always have a ‘word from the Lord’ on what he is supposed to do. The Spirit is growing in his heart an affection and care for the churches, he wants to serve and love and bless them, but he uses his God given wisdom to choose how to do that. He takes risks. Writing the severe letter was risky. It could backfire. They might misunderstand his intentions. And yet he makes a decision and prayerfully moves forward in ministry, trusting God to direct his steps.

The Revealed Will of God

It’s a very common question; how do I know what God’s will is in any particular situation. And it’s a good question, because we ought to be making it our aim in all things to please him (2Cor.5:9). We should be asking ‘what would the Lord want me to do? What would please him? What would glorify him? I think it’s worth taking some time to look at what the Bible has to say about God’s will and how to make decisions that please God.

On one level, this is a very easy question, because a quick search in bible software or a concordance will give you some very specific verses dealing with the will of God. Here’s one:

1 Thessalonians 4:3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;

This is the will of God, your sanctification. You are set apart for God. Sexual immorality of any kind is inconsistent with who you are in Christ. This is clear. You don’t have to pray about if you should have an affair or go too far with your girlfriend, or indulge in pornography. God has said clearly that abstinence outside of a traditional marriage relationship is his will. But this doesn’t tell me what job I should take or what school I should attend or where I should live.

Or maybe it does. Is there wisdom here, that tells me that although this job pays more, it puts me in a position that exposes me to more frequent and more intense temptations to sin, and it would be unwise to put myself in those positions?

Here is another will of God verse:

1 Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

This is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Usually those asking the question of how to determine the will of God are facing a life decision that will place them in very different circumstances. This verse doesn’t tell us which circumstances to choose, but rather what God’s will is in any and every circumstance. You can find joy in any circumstance. Never stop praying. In every circumstance give thanks to God. That is God’s will. If you choose A, find joy in it, give thanks for it, and never stop praying. If you choose B, find joy in it, give thanks for it, and never stop praying. The will of God is not necessarily choosing A over B or B over A, but in A or B or C or D to rejoice and stay connected to God and give him thanks.

Here’s another one:

1 Peter 2:15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.

Peter says that we should “be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution.” God’s will is that we live lives of integrity that are above reproach, lives that bless others, so that the name of Christ is not reproached.

How to Do the Will of God

Ephesians 6 tells us how we are to do the will of God;

Ephesians 6:5 Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.

This is addressed to servants, and the focus here is not what you do outwardly but where your heart is, what your attitude is like. This is a circumstance few would choose. A slave doesn’t get to make many choices; they are told what to do. And yet even in a situation of slavery, Paul says that they can do the will of God. The will of God defines how you serve a master. With a sincere heart, from the heart, with a good will, as to the Lord and not to man. God’s will reaches beyond what you do into the heart motivations of why and how you do it.

Discerning the Will of God in Every Situation

We still haven’t tackled directly the question of how to discern the will of God in any given decision. Romans 12 is an important passage for how to determine the will of God. And it begins with a ‘therefore’. It is built on top of the foundation of 11 chapters of gospel, of the good news of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone for the glory of God alone.

Romans 12:1 I appeal to you [or encourage; Παρακαλῶ] therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

In response to God’s mercy displayed in the gospel, that we all are sinners deserving of wrath, that none is righteous, no not one, but God gives us his own perfect righteousness as a gift to be received by faith, that God put his only Son Jesus forward as a propitiation, placing all our sins on him and pouring out his just wrath on him as our substitute.

That we have been justified, that we have peace with God, that we have received the Spirit as a guarantee. In view of God’s many mercies, present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable service, your spiritual worship, your logical liturgy.

The first point if you want to discern the will of God is to know the gospel well. Soak in it, marinate in it, enjoy it, savor it. Any attempt to live a life that pleases the Lord must be rooted in and grow out of the rich soil of treasuring the gospel.

The second point we see here is this. Refuse to be shaped by this fallen world system; don’t let the world press you into its mold. Don’t follow the patterns of thinking of a Christ rejecting world. If we want to please Jesus, we need to recognize that this world system is opposed to Jesus and his ways. He told his followers:

Mark 10:42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 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.”

Jesus made it clear that his kingdom operates on principles that are upside down and out of step with this world. We must stop thinking in worldly categories if we want to please God.

Here is a simplistic example; (real world decisions are often more complex than this). You are contemplating two jobs. One pays more than the other. You want to live a comfortable life, you want to be able to afford the fancier car and enjoy the luxuries that money can buy, so you choose the higher paying job. It is not that your decision is wrong, as if you chose A and God’s will was for you to choose B. Rather, your reasoning was wrong. You were thinking according to worldly patterns. Maybe the lower paying job would be a better choice because it would free up time to spend with family and serve in the local church. Maybe there would be more opportunity to be a light for Jesus in one than the other. Or maybe the higher paying job would enable you to use your gifts and talents to earn more money so that you can give sacrificially to advance the kingdom of God in the world. In your thinking, in your reasoning, do not be conformed to this world system.

Instead, be transformed, be metamorphosed by the renewing of your mind. This is where marinating in the gospel, treasuring the gospel, being washed in the water of the word, comes in. Let God’s word transform your mental framework, your priorities, your deepest desires. Let God renew your mind.

The result of this is ‘so that by testing you may discern what is the will of God. This word ‘testing to discern’ [δοκιμάζειν] is a word that is used in the refining of precious metals; to test in order to demonstrate its genuineness, to prove. When a refiner puts the gold into the fire to prove it, he risks losing it all if it is false; and yet there is no risk for what he would lose is merely the imitation.

Here is how this works. As you treasure the gospel, as your heart and mind are transformed, as you pursue a life pleasing to God, you prove what is the will of God as a fire proves gold. You have a decision to make and so you consider what would advance the gospel, what would glorify God, what would be most pleasing to him. And then you have to do something. This testing, this proving, this involves risk. You have to take the next step. God’s will is good, it is pleasing, it is complete or perfect, it achieves the intended goal.

Paul made it his aim in all things to please the Lord. When circumstances arose, he applied his gospel sanctified common sense, and moved forward with what he though would most glorify God. He was human. He didn’t always claim to have a word from the Lord on a specific matter. Sometimes he felt regret, wondering if he had done the best thing. Sometimes he was discouraged. Sometimes he was depressed. He needed brothers and sisters to come along side him and encourage him. And yet he could move forward with boldness and humble confidence, knowing that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom.8:28)

***

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

June 30, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 7:5-7; Encouragement for Depressed Ministers

06/23_2 Corinthians 7:5-7; Encouragement for Depressed Ministers; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190623_2cor7_5-7.mp3

We are in 2 Corinthians 7:5-7. At this point in the letter Paul picks up a thread of narrative that he left hanging back in chapter 2. If we look back to the beginning of this letter, he explained why he changed his plans and delayed his visit to them, instead sending Titus with a painful letter. He didn’t want to make another painful visit to them (2:1); which means that he had already made one painful visit. He also did not want them to be unaware of the affliction that he experienced in Asia; that he and his co-workers were so utterly burdened beyond their strength that he despaired of life (1:8). Then he said:

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

And he left us hanging for over 4 chapters, wondering what happened in Macedonia, if he met Titus there, how the emotional state of the apostle was.

2:14-7:4; Authentic Ministry

He left off his narrative to give us four chapters of theology, four chapters unpacking what authentic Christian ministry looks like, feels like, smells like. To summarize, authentic ministry is ministry following in the footsteps of Jesus; the Christian life is a life shaped by the cross. This church was looking for something eloquent, something powerful, something outwardly impressive. Instead Paul teaches that following Jesus looks weak and shameful, it looks like brokenness and suffering. It is characterized by humility. It looks like laying down your life in sacrificial service for others. Paul leaves us hanging for four chapters, wondering at the weakness and vulnerability of the apostle, wondering why he would abandon an opportunity for fruitful ministry, wondering about his troubled spirit, to drive home this point and reshape our expectations for authentic Christian ministry, ministry “which enters into the suffering of Christ for the sake of the church” (Guthrie, BECNT p.368).

Resolution with Depression

Listen to how the narrative reads if we jump from 2:13 to 7:5

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

2 Corinthians 7:5 For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn— fighting without and fear within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.

We might expect the tense suspense to be resolved completely. But instead he points to his continued affliction. In chapter 2, his spirit found no rest; in chapter 7 his flesh finds no rest. No break, no pause, no relief. Both spirit and body under constant pressure. Both in Troas, and now in Macedonia, no rest.

He says ‘we were afflicted at every turn;’ literally ‘in all affliction.’ In the previous verse he said that we had ‘super-abounding joy in all our affliction.’ Now he describes some of that affliction; conflicts outside, fears inside. This is real. This is transparent. There was quarreling, conflict, strife. This word is not used to describe fighting with fist or sword; this word describes fighting with words, with looks and responses of the heart. We learn from the next chapter (8:2) that the churches of Macedonia, Phillippi and Thessalonica and Berea, were experiencing ‘extreme poverty; a severe test of affliction.’ Those were the external circumstances.

Paul’s Inner Anxiety

But inside, in his own heart, there were fears. Paul, the apostle, was afraid. In 1 Corinthians, when Paul said he had ‘decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified,’ he says:

1 Corinthians 2:3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,

We know from Acts 18:9 that ‘the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you.” Paul was so fearful that the Lord personally encouraged him.

We learn from his letters that Paul was afraid that his churches might be led away from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ (2Cor.11:3). He feared visiting and finding them not as they ought to be (2Cor.12:20). He was afraid he might have labored over them in vain (Gal.4:11). He says in:

2 Corinthians 11:28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.

Paul had anxiety. Paul was fearful. His spirit was troubled. In the next verse, he says he was downcast. That word can be translated humble (as in Jas.4:6, 1Pet.5:5), and it can refer to the lowly, the despised, those of low standing outwardly in contrast to the rich or exalted, and it can refer to those who are low or downcast inwardly. That is the focus here. We would probably say Paul is depressed.

Brothers and sisters, you who are weary, you who are downcast, you who feel low and depressed and trampled, take heart! A Spirit-filled apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ who knows the word (who actually was used to write the word!) can be downcast, depressed, fearful, and not know what to do. He might walk away from and open door of opportunity for ministry because of his inner unrest. Take heart! Paul is being real and transparent with us for our encouragement and instruction. It is not unspiritual or abnormal to experience depression and deep discouragement in ministry. Ministry is hard. Serving others often hurts. Others, even brothers and sisters, often hurt us. Following Jesus, laying down our rights in service to others, is hard. Crucifying the flesh with its passions and pride is painful. Paul gives us hope from the midst of his own affliction and heartache and troubled soul.

But …God

But God. Isn’t this where all hope enters our desperate situations? But God! We

Ephesians 2:3 …were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—

Romans 5:7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—… 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

But God. God can enter into a desperate situation, a hopeless situation, even a dead situation. God is the God who breathes life and hope and healing and reconciliation.

Paul actually stretches the but …God phrase in this verse out for emphasis. The original word order reads like this: “But the one who encourages the downcast encouraged us – the God – in the coming of Titus.”

The God of All Comfort

Paul quoted Isaiah 49:8 back in 6:2 urging his readers that ‘now the day of God’s grace and salvation,’ and now he alludes again to Isaiah 49:13, pointing to the restoration of all that is desolate.

Isaiah 49:13 Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the LORD has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted.

The Greek translation of Isaiah that Paul would have used has some of the exact words that Paul uses here; ‘God … the downcast …has comforted.’

2 Corinthians 7:6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus,

Paul began this letter pointing us to

2 Corinthians 1:3 …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. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

God is the God of all comfort. He is the one who comforts us in all our affliction. Remember, we learned the word comfort is not a soft word like a cozy bed spread, but a strong word com-fort; like ‘fortress’ or ‘fortitude’. It could be translated ‘to encourage’ or ‘to infuse with courage;’ ‘to embolden another in belief or course of action’ [BDAG, 766] In the Greek it is literally ‘to call alongside’; a beautiful picture of God who is strong, calling us weak and tattered ones to his side, where he imparts to us his strength, his courage, his fortitude.

Mediated Comfort

God is the God who comforts the downcast. That is who he is. He comforted us by the coming of Titus. Notice that God is the one who does the comforting. He is the God of all comfort, and he comforts us in all our affliction, but he uses means to bring about comfort. He uses people. In Paul’s life, he used Titus. He left Troas distraught and discouraged, because Titus didn’t meet him there as planned. He faced both inner and outer turmoil when he arrived in Macedonia, yet God comforted him through the coming of Titus. He was able to connect with a friend and trusted co-laborer. God comforts, but often he doesn’t comfort us directly; his comfort is mediated to us through people.

In your discouragement don’t overlook or underestimate God’s work through other people. Don’t disconnect from the body. Don’t insulate and isolate yourself from others. ‘God, why aren’t you answering my prayer?’ We could imagine God answering ‘I intended to encourage your heart as you gathered as a local church with my people, but you chose to stay home and wallow.’ Don’t neglect God’s means of comfort through the local church, through friendships with brothers and sisters whom you’ve entrusted with permission to speak into your life. Paul recognized God at work bringing encouragement to him through the coming of his beloved Titus.

Reciprocal Comfort; Reciprocal Joy

2 Corinthians 7:6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.

Notice also that this comfort came to Paul through the coming of his friend, but a key part of that comfort was reciprocal. Titus had received encouragement, and that was an encouragement to Paul. This is one way God works within his body of believers. I am in need of encouragement, and you are in need of encouragement, and when I see your heart encouraged, it encourages my heart.

This is how he began his letter, speaking of God who comforts us so we are able to comfort others with the comfort we received from him. We are comforted for your comfort.

Why is this true? I am depressed, but I spend time with you and you have been encouraged, and your encouragement begins to lift my spirits. Why? I believe it is rooted in the truth that we are one body in Christ. Paul says in:

1 Corinthians 12:25 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.

When you smash your thumb with a hammer, it is your thumb that is injured, but the thumb does not experience its pain in isolation from the body. Because we are really and truly connected, when you are hurting, I hurt; when you are honored, I rejoice. When you are comforted, encouraged, emboldened, I experience comfort and courage. We are connected to one another in Christ.

Paul said in:

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, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all.

When you are not following Jesus, it causes me pain. You are intended to bring me joy. And Paul is confident that his joy spills over to them; that his joy will be their joy, and in 1:24 he said that he is a fellow-worker with them for their joy. Paul is pursuing their joy by pursuing his own joy by pursuing their repentance. You see how this works? The Corinthians are turning away from Christ, and that causes Paul sorrow. He is doing everything he can to turn them back to a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. When they turn back to following Jesus, this brings joy to his heart. And when he rejoices in them, they see his joy in them, and it brings them joy. So Paul can say in 7:4 “I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.” and he can say in 7:7 “so that I rejoiced still more.” Even in the middle of an experience of affliction, even when circumstances are still against him, he can be filled with comfort and super-abounding in joy, and he can rejoice even more, because he is connected to the greater body of Christ.

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

June 23, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Indicative Before Imperative

06/16_Indicative Before Imperative; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190616_indicative-imperative.mp3

We’ve been looking at 2 Corinthians, savoring some of the beauty and details of this passage. We’ve been in 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 and we’ve seen that identity comes before instructions, that promises under-gird and precede the commands. Another way to say this is that the indicative come before the imperative. Imperatives are commands; do this, this is how you ought to live. In grammar, the indicative mood is used to make ordinary statements of fact. Because this is true (indicative) then this is how you must act (imperative). We’ve been looking carefully at 2 Corinthians, and 2 Corinthians 7:1 is a great example of this pattern;

2 Corinthians 7:1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

In 6:16-18 Paul assembles about 6 different Old Testament promises to highlight our identity in Christ. God will indwell in us, he will walk among us, be our God and take us to be his people. He will welcome us; he will be a father to us and we will be to him sons and daughters. These promises enclose the command in verse 17 to go out, to be separate, to touch no unclean thing.

7:1 spells out this relationship between promises and commands; between what is true and what we ought to do. ‘Therefore, having these promises, beloved.’ Not ‘in order to make these promises come true, this is what you must do,’ but rather ‘because you already possess these promises, because the belong to you in Christ Jesus, because you already occupy the position of ‘beloved,’ this is how you must respond. ‘Because this is true of you’ (indicative); ‘therefore, this is how you must respond’ (imperative).

What I’d like to do today is to step back from looking closely at this text and to see the bigger picture, to see this pattern in other places. Think of it as examining a tapestry or a quilt. We have been looking closely at each stitch, the care, precision and intricate detail in one particular section of the quilt. Now we take a step back and take in the whole, and see the symmetry, the design, to see the repeating patterns woven into the very fabric of Scripture.

Romans and Ephesians

In the magnificent letter to the Romans, Paul takes 11 chapters to systematically lay out the gospel, the good news, that although all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (3:23), that all together are lost and wrecked by sin, that God’s righteous requirements are not met by our effort, not by earning his favor, but rather through trusting in a God who declares sinners righteous (4:5). He does this out of sheer grace as a freely given gift by putting his one and only Son Jesus forward as a propitiation – the wrath appeasing sacrifice for our sins – by his blood, to be received as a gift by faith (3:24-25). He died for us not after we had cleaned ourselves up, but ‘while we were still sinners’ (5:8). He tells us (in the indicative) that we have been justified or declared righteous by faith, that we have peace with God, that we have access into this grace by faith (5:1-2), that God’s love is poured into our hearts through his Holy Spirit who has been freely given to us (5:5). We have been reconciled. We died with Christ and are raised to newness of life. We are no longer under sin’s control, although we continue to struggle with sin. We are no longer under condemnation, we are no longer under the law. We are indwelt by the Spirit of the living God who now empowers us to live holy lives. It is not until chapter 12 that he really gets to the imperative.

Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Therefore, in light of the overwhelming mercies of God, therefore, rooted and grounded in what is true of you in Christ, as a result of 11 chapters saturated with indicatives, therefore I appeal to you to live holy lives to the glory of God.

In Ephesians we see the same pattern. He tells us that we are blessed, chosen, loved, predestined for adoption, redeemed, forgiven, made co-heirs with Christ, sealed with the promised Holy Spirit (1:3-14). Even when we were dead in our trespasses, he made us alive together with Christ, he raised us up with him, he seated us in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, he intends to display in us for all eternity the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (2:5-7). We have been brought near by the blood of Christ, we are reconciled to God and to one another, we have access in one Spirit to the Father (2:13-18), we are called saints, a dwelling place for God. We have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in Christ. He prays that we would have strength to comprehend what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge (3:17-19).

Only after all this, in chapter 4(:1), does he urge us therefore, because of this truth, because of what has been given to us in Christ, because of who we are, because of all these indicatives, therefore, ‘walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.’ Therefore, walk in unity, Jews and Gentiles, walk in submission to proper authority. Therefore put off the old self and walk in love, therefore try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Built on this firm foundation of indicative truth, he gives instructions to husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and slaves. He gives instruction for spiritual warfare, rooted in and flowing out of who we are in Christ. The imperative commands flow out of the indicative truths of who we are in Christ.

Peter, James and John

This is not only a pattern we see in Paul. Peter begins his letter addressing the elect exiles, whom God caused to be born again by his great mercy, into the hope of an incorruptible inheritance which is being kept for us, and we are being preserved by him for it (1:1-5). Only then does he say ‘therefore, gird your minds for action, set your hope fully on future grace, and as obedient children be holy as he who called you is holy’ (1:13-16) Peter goes on to point us back; be holy because you know that you were ransomed with the precious blood of Christ (1:18-19).

James reminds us that every good gift comes down from above, and that it was by God’s will that we were birthed by the word of truth. We are told to ‘receive with humility the word that was planted in you which is able to save your souls’ (1:17-22). Only after that, he reminds us to ‘be doers of the word and not hearers only’ (1:22)

John says in his letters that

1 John 2:3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.

The knowing him comes first. The keeping his commands is response, evidence of the relationship. The response, what we do, is built on and flows out of the objective reality of the relationship we have with him by grace.

Jesus and the Gospels

We see the same thing in the gospels. We see the Son of Man coming to seek and to save the lost (Lk.19:10). Jesus comes for people like tax collectors and prostitutes, sinners. He doesn’t come with a message that ‘if you will clean yourself up, then you can be my followers.’ No, he says ‘come, follow me, and I will make you to become fishers of men’ (Mk.1:17) Jesus calls Peter to follow him, and he continues to mess up. In response to a revelation given to him by God about the identity of Jesus, he names him ‘Peter’ – Rock, and then he begins to shape him into who he intends for him to become (Mt.16:17-18)

Jesus calls a wee chief tax collector down out of a tree and invites himself over to his house. It is only in response to his grace toward a sinner that Zacchaeus freely offers to repay all those he has wronged and give generously to the poor (Lk.19:1-9).

Jesus says ‘you are the light of the world’ (Mt.5:14); that is who you are – therefore ‘let your light shine’ in order to glorify God (Mt.5:16); live consistent with your identity, allow you identity to shape your behavior.

The Old Testament

This is not only a pattern in the New Testament. In the Exodus, God saves his people by his own mighty acts.

Exodus 6:6 Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. 7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.

When the people are afraid, he tells them through Moses:

Exodus 14:13 And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. 14 The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

God saved them with a mighty hand and outstretched arm. God got glory for himself over the Egyptians. God provided for their needs in the wilderness. God gave them victory over their enemies. It is not until Exodus 19 that God moves into the imperative and begins to give them commands. He says:

Exodus 19:4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

Therefore, because of what I have done for you, because I brought you into a relationship with myself, therefore, it ought to transform your behavior.

We see this even in the structure of the ten commandments.

Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

Because of what I have done for you, because I have rescued you, because I have proved myself to you, because I am your God and have taken you be be in relationship with me, you shall have no other gods before me. The indicative drives and motivates the imperative.

We see this throughout the Old Testament, as prophet after prophet calls the people of God to live consistent with their identity as the chosen people of God.

Our Response

I hope you take this into your bible reading and see if you see this pattern over and over again. I have picked out some of the more obvious examples, but I believe you will begin to see this everywhere.

We need to ask why. Why do we see this pattern everywhere in God’s word? We see this everywhere because this is how God works. God is the initiator. We reciprocate. God is the originator. We respond. God is the creator, God is the redeemer. God alone saves. We are rescued by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, as God authoritatively declares in his word alone, for his own glory alone. When we were dead, God made us alive by his grace, through faith. This is not our own doing; it is all gift, all grace. We are his workmanship. But we are created new in Christ for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Eph.2:10). He initiates; we respond.

So how do we respond? Seeing this pattern should motivate us to pursue holiness. Because of all that is true of us in Christ, because of what God has done to rescue us, because of our new identity in Christ, seeing this awakens in us new desires to make it our aim to please him in all things. So look! Look at all that God has done for you in Christ. Look at your identity in Christ. Look at the great news of God’s unearned grace. Look, ponder, meditate, worship. And as you look, allow him to awaken in you new desires, new longings to please him in all things. If you feel stagnant in your walk, in your pursuit of holiness, look! Look at the wonders of the gospel; behold and be transformed.

And step out in childlike dependence in pursuit of his pleasure. Seeing this pattern gives us confidence to trust. We work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, because we know that ‘it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure’ (Phil.2:12-13). All the imperatives he gives us are built on the indicatives of who we are in Christ. The indicatives, what is true of us in Christ, supplies us with the ability to walk boldly in the imperatives.

***

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

June 17, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, occasional, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 7:4; Super-Abounding On All Affliction

06/02_2 Corinthians 7:4; Superabounding Joy In All Affliction Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190602_2cor7_4.mp3

2 Corinthians 7:1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. 2 Make room in your hearts for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one. 3 I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together. 4 I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.

I just want to take this verse and listen to it, to turn it over and look at it, to savor its truth, to cherish it and ask if we might be able to apply its truth in helpful ways to today, to every day.

What I’m doing today is really not that profound. This is something we all can do. To take a verse and meditate, contemplate, ruminate and reflect on it, to chew on it, to think it over and allow it to change our thinking, to consider and take it to heart. This is what we should all be doing with God’s word, daily.

Background / Context

Paul is exhorting his readers to holiness. Holiness means cutting off inappropriate ties with false teachers and their practices, unfruitful partnerships with unbelievers. He applies various passages in the Old Testament to point them to the promises, to the truth of who they are in Christ, to say that because of who you now are, you need to act like who you are. Identity shapes behavior. Behavior doesn’t shape identity.

You have a king’s kid, the heir to the throne. And you have the son of a pauper, a peasant. The peasant can try to dress like the king’s kid, he can try to behave like the king’s kid (and he may often be better behaved than the king’s kid) but his behavior doesn’t change his identity. On the other hand, the king’s kid doesn’t often act like the king’s kid, he doesn’t like to dress like the king’s kid, but he is. It is his identity. He is heir to the throne. We hope and pray that over time he rises to the office, and grows into the position that is his, that he would learn to love and serve and rule well, we want his identity to shape his behavior, but his identity is not changed by his behavior.

Paul is saying, because of who you are, because of who you have become in Christ, this should motivate you to rise to the office, to step up and pursue holiness, to be who you are in Christ. God lives in you and walks among you, he is our God and has taken us to be his own people; he welcomes us and is a Father to us; he adopts us as his own sons and daughters. Because of who we are in Christ, “since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” Allow your identity to shape your behavior.

Having given them a strong exhortation to holiness, he re-affirms his love for them, and invites them to open their affections to him in return. Because we are united with Christ in death, so we are united in his resurrection life. Because of our union with Christ, we have love for one another; we die together and we live together.

Boldness

And then he launches yet another staccato series of statements: much my boldness toward you, much my boasting on behalf of you, filled with comfort, super-abounding in joy on all our affliction.

Much my boldness toward you. Paul has been open, outspoken, blunt, frank with them. And he makes it clear, this is because his heart is open wide to them; he loves them. He has them in his heart. He is united with them. So he can be direct with them; when there is a problem, a concern, when their conduct is not in step with the gospel, he can address the issue. He uses tact, he applies wisdom, he is not rude. But he is clear. He speaks plainly to them. He used this word ‘boldness’ back in chapter 3:12 where he was contrasting his apostolic ministry with the veiled ministry of Moses. He said:

2 Corinthians 3:12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold,

And that applies here. Since we have this hope, these promises, because of our shared identity, who we are in Christ, we can be very bold. There is great confidence;

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

The Corinthians are God’s work. And he will bring it to completion. And one of the instruments in his hands to bring that work in them to completion is Paul. So Paul can be bold with them because he knows ultimately it is God’s work and he will without fail complete what he started in them. This is blood-bought gospel boldness, gospel confidence.

Boasting

Much boldness toward you; much boasting on behalf of you. Paul wants them to know that they are not his problem child. We read the Corinthian correspondence and we might get the impression from all his boldness addressing all the problems there that they are a constant source of grief to him. They might get the impression that he talks negatively about them wherever he goes. After all, he likely left Ephesus to make an emergency visit to them, and that didn’t go well. Then on this trip, he decided not to make another painful visit to them first, but instead send Titus to hopefully patch things up. But in Troas he left an open door for gospel ministry because of his inner turmoil over them. We could easily hear him saying ‘yeah, I’d really like to stay and serve you, but I’ve got this problem church down in Achaia, and I’ve got to go deal with them… again. But that is not his heart, and that is not how he talks about them. Here he affirms that when he talks to others about them, it is ‘much boasting’. And we see him display this in the Corinthian letters. He said in 1 Corinthians 1 that

1 Corinthians 1:4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—

In 1 Corinthians 15:31 he swears and oath by his pride in them. Later in this chapter (7:14) he relays that he had been boasting about them to Titus, and his boasting had proved true. In 8:24 he says that he has been boasting about them to the other churches. He is bold toward them, but he is like a proud parent boasting about them to others. There are issues, and he doesn’t brush over them; he is bold toward them. But he is proud of them. He takes pride in them; ultimately in the work of God he sees in them. God is at work. And he is confident in the ability of God to complete what he has begun.

Comfort

Much boldness, much boasting, I am filled with comfort. Different forms of this word ‘comfort’ show up 10 times in 1:3-7

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. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

God is the God of all comfort. He comforts us so that we can comfort others. If you remember all the way back to chapter 1, we learned there that this word comfort is not a soft word; it is a strong word. Com-fort has ‘fort’ as its root, as in fortress or fortitude. This is a strengthening word. The Greek is παρακλήσει which literally means to call alongside. Jesus speaks of the coming Holy Spirit in John 14 as the παράκλητος ‘the Comforter’ (Jn.14:16,26;15:26;16:7;cf.1Jn.2:1) or the Helper; the one who calls us to his side. In our afflictions, God calls us to his side; he is with us in our sufferings, he implores, he exhorts, he gives us strength. In the coming verses he talks about the comfort he received at the coming of Titus. Here he says he is cram full of comfort. He is filled up. He was downcast, but God comforted him. He has no lack, his cup is not empty. Filled up with comfort.

Notice where this strengthening comfort comes from. It is the God of all comfort who comforts us; we are comforted by God. It is God who comforts the downcast, who comforted us. And notice where this strengthening comfort comes to us, it comes in all our affliction. It comes to those in any affliction. We experience abundant comfort as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings. You experience comfort when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Comfort isn’t escape from the pain; comfort comes to us in the middle of our pain.

Super-Abounding in Joy on All Our Affliction

This last phrase in this series is so interesting; super-abounding in joy on all our affliction. It seems Paul coined this word here. He takes a more common word superabound, to have more abundance, to be in excess, to have more than enough, which shows up a dozen times in the gospels; once in Acts, and 26 times in Paul’s letters, and he adds a prefix to compound and amplify it; super-super-abound. His cup is not just filled up full, it is not just overflowing, it is super-overflowing.

He uses this word here as he writes to Corinth from Macedonia, and again a few months later when he writes to the Romans from Corinth.

Romans 5:20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,

Grace super-super abounded; Grace hyper-over-flowed.

Here, he is hyper-over-flowing with joy. This is unexpected. I think of the Corinthian letters as filled with concern and correction, not overflowing with joy. But here it is. Joy confronts us in unexpected places. Joy. In 1:24 he refused to lord it over them, but he works with them for their joy. In 2:3 he refers to his previous painful letter and expressed his confidence that his joy would be the joy of all. In 6:10 he describe the paradox of ministry as ‘sorrowful yet always rejoicing’. Four times in this chapter (7:7,9,13,16) he speaks of his rejoicing. In 7:13 he rejoices over the joy of Titus. In 8:2 he talks about the abundance of joy of the Macedonians. In 13:9 he finds joy in his own weakness in pursuit of their restoration, and then in 13:11 he says ‘ Finally, brothers, rejoice.’

We tend to think, ‘how can he talk so much about joy and rejoicing all through a letter that is addressing such serious issues?’ And how can he talk about joy when he is experiencing such overwhelming suffering. But this is the thing, he is showing them what it looks like to have joy above your circumstance, joy not conditioned on your circumstances. Literally he says joy on top of all our affliction.

He won’t leave alone the theme of affliction. In chapter 1 it was comfort in all our affliction. He writes of ‘the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself” (1:8). In 2:4 he “wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears.” In 4:17 “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” In 6:4 he commends himself as a legitimate servant of God “by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities.” In 8:2 he speaks of the Macedonian’s “abundance of joy” “in a severe test of affliction” which “overflowed in a wealth of generosity.”

Joy not only can survive, but can thrive in the middle of adverse circumstances. This joy is piled right on the top of all our affliction.

Application

Are you looking for a change in your circumstances? Are you looking for a break? Is your happiness contingent on your circumstances? That’s not the kind of joy Paul holds out to us. Is your joy hyper-over-flowing even in the midst of adverse circumstances? Are you filled up with comfort? Where does this come from? He doesn’t leave us wondering. It comes from God; it comes to us in the gospel. It comes to us in the middle of the mess. God doesn’t often change our circumstances, but he does want to transform us in the midst of the circumstances. He wants to heap inexplicable joy right on top of our painful reality.

Paul is not ignoring his circumstances; he is not in denial. But neither is he self-focused. He is looking to others. He is looking to how God is using him in the lives of others. He has much boldness toward them. And he is looking at God’s hand evidenced in the lives of others. He has much boasting on behalf of them. He sees God at work, even though that work is not finished yet. And that helps. It helps to see that God is at work in others. Sometimes we are too close to see him at work in us. But we can see him at work in others. And that can give us confidence that he is indeed at work in me.

He is not going to people to fill his cup. He is filled up with comfort; the comfort of the Holy Ghost. The comfort that the God of all comfort pours out into those whose hearts have been emptied through suffering. Are you seeking to avoid any suffering? That is where God meets us with his comfort and his overflowing joy.

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

June 3, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment