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1 Corinthians 16:19-24; The Love and Grace of Jesus

07/19 1 Corinthians 16:19-24 The Love and Grace of Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150719_1cor16_19-24.mp3

1 Corinthians 16 [SBLGNT]

19 Ἀσπάζονται ὑμᾶς αἱ ἐκκλησίαι τῆς Ἀσίας. ἀσπάζεται ὑμᾶς ἐν κυρίῳ πολλὰ Ἀκύλας καὶ Πρίσκα σὺν τῇ κατ’ οἶκον αὐτῶν ἐκκλησίᾳ. 20 ἀσπάζονται ὑμᾶς οἱ ἀδελφοὶ πάντες. ἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους ἐν φιλήματι ἁγίῳ. 21 Ὁ ἀσπασμὸς τῇ ἐμῇ χειρὶ Παύλου. 22 εἴ τις οὐ φιλεῖ τὸν κύριον, ἤτω ἀνάθεμα. Μαράνα θά. 23 ἡ χάρις τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ μεθ’ ὑμῶν. 24 ἡ ἀγάπη μου μετὰ πάντων ὑμῶν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ.

1 Corinthians 16 [ESV2011]

13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.

15 Now I urge you, brothers—you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints— 16 be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer. 17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.

19 The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord. 20 All the brothers send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss. 21 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. 22 If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come! 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Greetings

Paul is giving final greetings to the Corinthian church. He passes along personal greetings from three different groups, he admonishes them to greet one another, and he gives them his own greeting. This word ‘greeting’ means to embrace, to salute, to wish well, to welcome, to receive joyfully. Literally it means to draw to oneself. This is a personal relational concept. If a friend is traveling to a place where you once lived, you might ask them to say hello to your friends there or to give them a hug for you.

The first greeting is from the churches of Asia. This would include the churches in Pergamum, Thyatira; Sardis, Smyrna; Philadelphia, Laodicea; Colossae; and the church in Ephesus, where he is writing from. With the exception of Ephesus, the majority of the believers in these other churches had likely never been to or met anyone in the church in Corinth. But their faith in Jesus had made them brothers and sisters. There is a fellowship, a camaraderie even among Jesus followers who have never met one another. United by a common love for the Lord, they find themselves in a close knit family, many of whom they will never meet this side of eternity. Paul began this letter by addressing ‘the church of God in Corinth, …those called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (1:2). Here he is sending a brotherly greeting from many of these fellow saints in Asia.

He also sends greetings from Aquila and Prisca and the church in their house. Unlike many in Asia, Aquila and Prisca knew personally those in the church in Corinth. In Acts 18, when Paul first came to Corinth, he met this couple, who had recently relocated to Corinth because they had been evicted from Rome. They shared the same tent making trade with Paul. After 18 months, they left with Paul and traveled to Ephesus. It was in Ephesus that they met Apollos, and it was Priscilla and Aquila who took Apollos aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. Apollos was then sent off to Achaia and taught the believers in Corinth. So there was a close connection and relationship between the Corinthians believers and Priscilla and Aquila. Paul says in his greeting in Romans 16:3-4 that Prisca and Aquila are fellow-workers who risked their necks for his life. Aquila and Prisca, now living in Ephesus, used their home to host the believers. They must have had some wealth, to be able to have a home suitable for hosting the gatherings of the church. The church that met in their home also sent sent much greetings in the Lord. It is the Lord Jesus who unites believers and brings them into relationship with himself and with one another.

The third greeting comes from ‘all the brothers’. This is a greeting from Paul’s co-workers, which would include Apollos and Timothy, among others.

Christian Unity

Then Paul exhorts them to greet one another with a holy kiss. A holy kiss was an appropriate greeting for holy people, or saints. Culturally the kiss was a way to show honor and respect, a way to demonstrate friendship and reconciliation. In that culture it was a kiss on the cheek, a way of greeting that is still practiced in middle eastern countries today. We might bring this into our culture as a holy handshake or a brotherly embrace.

This would have been a difficult command for the Corinthians to obey. Most of this letter is addressing divisions in the church, divisions of a party spirit over this or that teacher, divisions on issues of morality, divisions over issues of conscience, division between those of different social status and wealth, divisions over what was culturally appropriate behavior, divisions over what gifts marked them out as more spiritual, even doctrinal divisions over such a central issue as the resurrection. Paul says, regardless of race, regardless of ethnic background, regardless of social status or class boundaries, regardless of what party you belonged to, regardless of gifting, you are to warmly and affectionately greet one another.

This is a practical expression of good theology. Paul preached Christ crucified for sinners. So whether wise or foolish, whether powerful or weak, whether of noble birth or of lower class, despised, or nothing, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. All together deserve death, and all alike need a rescuer who will pay the price for sin and bring them into a right relationship with God. At the cross, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal.3:28); “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Col.3:11). As Paul said in chapter 12

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

There is one body, and it has many members. Whatever lines we may have divided along before, we are now one in Christ. We have received the same Spirit and we have been made one in Christ.

Colossians 1:20 and through [the Son] to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Paul’s Signature and the Pseudapigrapha

Paul then gives them his own greeting.

1 Corinthians 16:21 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand.

If we had the original letter to look at, we would notice a change in the handwriting in these last lines. Most letter writing was done as dictation to a trained writer or amanuensis. We find this at the end of Paul’s letter to the Romans:

Romans 16:22 I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord.

Tertius served as Paul’s writer for his letter to the Romans. But the final greetings were in the distinctive personal handwriting of the apostle, and by this he gave his approval to the final draft of the letter. Paul said to the Galatian churches:

Galatians 6:11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.

Already, deceivers had attempted to lead the believers astray, even writing letters in the name of Paul. Paul writes to the Thessalonians:

2 Thessalonians 2:1 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.

He closes that letter with

2 Thessalonians 3:17 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write.

You have probably heard some of the nonsense about writings being removed from our New Testament at a council by a Roman emperor. There are other writings in existence from the early centuries, claiming to be Scripture. They are known as pseudapigrapha, a term that means false writing, because they were heretical writings that falsely claimed to be written by an apostle or an important person in order to gain a wide acceptance. The church recognized these as forgeries attempting to lead astray, and the church never accepted these. The church didn’t need the help of an emperor to discern the genuine from the false. Paul warns the church to be on guard against these forgeries, and he takes the practical measure of giving them a sign of genuineness in his own hand.

Love Jesus or Go To Hell

Paul’s personal greeting at first seems a bit shocking.

1 Corinthians 16:22 If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!

He uses the word ‘anathema’. In Romans 9:3 he says that if possible, he would wish himself to be accursed if that could bring about the salvation of his fellow Jews. In 1 Corinthians 12:3 he says that no one who has God’s Spirit can call Jesus accursed. To the Galatians he says:

Galatians 1:7 …there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Here he says ‘if anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed.’ Love is the greatest command.

Mark 12:29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Love for God is the greatest command. Love is the more excellent way.

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. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is the more excellent way, and love is what the Corinthian church lacked. They were divisive. They were proud. They thought themselves better than others. They did not love enough to discipline a wayward brother. They loved gain and pleasure more than they loved other people. They cherished their own rights over the eternal well-being of other believers. Paul warns them to flee from sexual immorality (6:18). He reminds them

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

He says that although I have rights, and

1 Corinthians 9:19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. …22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

Paul warns ‘flee from idolatry’ (10:14). He warns that we cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons and that we dare not provoke the Lord to jealousy (10:21-22). He says:

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

Love for God seeks to bring glory to God and to seek the good of others as higher than ones own good.

Here he does not use the great word ‘agape’. Here he uses what is in some contexts synonymous, what is in other contexts a lesser word ‘phileo’, the word for friendship love, for warm affection. At the end of the gospel of John, after Peter said that he was willing to die with Jesus and then after he denied even knowing Jesus three times, the risen Lord came to Peter and asked ‘Simon do you love me sacrificially more than these?’ Peter said ‘yes Lord, you know that I love you affectionately. Jesus said to him a second time ‘Simon, do you love me sacrificially?’ Peter replied ‘yes, Lord, you know that I love you affectionately’. Jesus said to him a third time ‘Simon, do you love me affectionately? Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time ‘do you love me affectionately?’. Peter responded ‘Lord you know everything. You know that I love you affectionately’.

We aspire to love the Lord our God selflessly, sacrificially, with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. But we so often fall short. Peter was made excruciatingly aware of his own shortcomings. But he had a strong affection for Jesus. Paul says here, ‘If you don’t have a strong affection for Jesus, you will go to hell’. In chapter 15 he warned them of the danger of not standing firm in the gospel, of not holding fast to it, of believing in vain. This is a strong wake up call. If we do not have a love and affection for Christ that begins to overrule our other desires, then we may be accursed.

Maranatha!

1 Corinthians 16:22 If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!

Paul pronounces an anathema, then Paul says ‘Maranatha!’. Maranatha is an Aramaic word that means ‘come Lord!’ Throughout this letter Paul has reminded the Corinthians that God is the ultimate judge, and we will all stand before him on that day. This is an exclamation, a prayer full of hope. Maranatha! The Lord is coming and he is the great judge, he will bring justice, but his coming is salvation to all who are trusting in him.

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

The Psalmist warns:

Psalm 2:12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

The coming of Jesus is both a curse and a blessing. It is a curse to those who have rejected him, to those who are perishing, but it brings abundant blessing to those who are trusting in him, to those who are being saved by him.

Grace of the Lord Jesus

1 Corinthians 16:23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.

Paul reminds them of grace. His prayer is that the grace of the Lord Jesus would be with them. Grace is God’s undeserved favor and kindness. Grace by definition is unearned and freely given. The fact that we are not accursed, the fact that the coming of the Lord is something we long for, the fact that we have a strong affection for Jesus, all this is evidence of God’s rich and powerful grace. God gives us what we don’t deserve. God extends his transforming grace to his enemies, and it changes us. The gospel is a message of grace. It has nothing to do with earning or deserving. It is simply and totally God’s freedom to give good gifts to those who could never earn it.

Usually, we think of grace as coming from God the Father. But here Paul specifically says that this is the grace that comes from the Lord Jesus. Jesus is continually giving us his grace.

Paul prays for the believers in Corinth that the grace of Jesus would be with them. As a believer we need his grace with us every moment. We are never done with grace. We never outgrow his grace. We never come to a point when we begin to deserve. We never earn. We are eternally dependent on his grace. We are forever those who receive. Salvation and the Christian life are all of grace.

Love

1 Corinthians 16:24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Paul’s closing word to them is a reminder of his love for them. This is a church that he loves. These are people he cares deeply for. He has confronted sin, he has corrected error, he has challenged their thinking, he has commanded them to run from sin and pursue holiness. He has rebuked and even insulted and shamed the Corinthians. But throughout he has affirmed his love for them. All this is seeking their good. He is laboring for their eternal joy. He loves them. His love is with them in Christ Jesus. It is all because of Jesus. His love for them is an expression of the grace of Jesus. We love because he first loved us. The final word is Jesus.

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

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July 19, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 16:15-18; Refreshing Saints and Apostles

07/12 1 Corinthians 16:15-18 Refreshing Saints and Apostles ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150712_1cor16_15-18.mp3

1 Corinthians 16 [SBLGNT]

15 Παρακαλῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί· οἴδατε τὴν οἰκίαν Στεφανᾶ, ὅτι ἐστὶν ἀπαρχὴ τῆς Ἀχαΐας καὶ εἰς διακονίαν τοῖς ἁγίοις ἔταξαν ἑαυτούς· 16 ἵνα καὶ ὑμεῖς ὑποτάσσησθε τοῖς τοιούτοις καὶ παντὶ τῷ συνεργοῦντι καὶ κοπιῶντι. 17 χαίρω δὲ ἐπὶ τῇ παρουσίᾳ Στεφανᾶ καὶ Φορτουνάτου καὶ Ἀχαϊκοῦ, ὅτι τὸ ὑμέτερον ὑστέρημα οὗτοι ἀνεπλήρωσαν, 18 ἀνέπαυσαν γὰρ τὸ ἐμὸν πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὑμῶν. ἐπιγινώσκετε οὖν τοὺς τοιούτους.

1 Corinthians 16 [ESV2011]

13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.

15 Now I urge you, brothers—you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints— 16 be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer. 17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.

Paul is giving his closing exhortations to the Corinthians church. Back in chapters 9 and 10, Paul held himself up as an example to the believers in surrendering rights and seeking the good of others above one’s own good, and in 11:1 Paul says ‘be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. Here at the close of this letter, he holds a member of their own congregation up as worthy of honor and imitation. He points to the household of Stephanas.

Firstfruits

Here he says that the household of Stephanas was the firstfruits of the region of Achaia. This is the same word ‘firstfruits’ that he used in 15:20 of Christ as the firstfruits of the resurrection of believers who have fallen asleep. The firstfruits was an Old Testament offering, a sample from the harvest, it shares continuity with the rest of the harvest, it was a part of the harvest, and it was a promise of more good things to come. In 1:16, he said that he had baptized the household of Stephanas. The household of Stephanas were some of the first to believe the gospel in that region, and Paul looked at them as a promise of more to come. The good news of Jesus Christ crucified for sinners and risen from the dead had penetrated into a dark place, had created new life, and had begun to transform sinners, and he expected that to spread.

Devoted Themselves

Listen to how Paul describes these believers. He says that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints. This is not something that was pushed on them. This is not something they did unwillingly or half-heartedly. They devoted themselves. This word can be translated ‘to addict, to appoint, to determine, to ordain, to set.’ They addicted themselves to the service of the saints. They set themselves apart to this purpose. They were determined to serve. This was voluntary, eager service. This was not under compulsion, these were cheerful givers. They delighted themselves in serving others. They set themselves aside to be useful to the believers. Do you know anyone like this? We need people like this in our churches, people who are not looking for position or recognition, people who simply want to be useful to God by serving his people. This word service is where we get our word ‘deacon’ – it simply means a servant.

These are often behind the scenes people, people who are not interested in the limelight, selfless people who prefer to remain unknown and unrecognized. People who simply see a need and do whatever is within their power to care for that need. These are people who recognize their gifts and without drawing attention to themselves, simply get busy using their gifts to love and serve and build up others. These are truly selfless people, who genuinely care about others more than they care about themselves.

Household

Notice that Paul is not referring to one particular individual. He says ‘you know the household of Stephanas’. This was a family that served together. We aren’t told details, but a household would likely include Stephanas and his wife, his children, and possibly any servants he employed, possibly others who lived with them, who were under his care, who together found joy in serving the saints. This is family ministry. A whole family that was united to serve others. The family unit is a powerful thing.

Sometimes the gospel divides families. When an individual hears the gospel, he may have to choose to follow Jesus, knowing that following Jesus could destroy his relationship with his wife, with his children, with his family. Paul understands the dynamic where a family is divided over the gospel, and he gave practical instructions on how to handle these kinds of situations in chapter 7. But here he is looking at a family that is united by the gospel and transformed by the gospel with a passion to serve the people of God.

Joshua said ‘choose this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD’. This is a household that has recognized the many different things that families are all about, the many different things families are passionate about and centered around, and they have chosen to center family life around service to the believers. They have prioritized in a radically different way than the culture around them and given themselves over to Christian service. Mother, father, children old and young, all looking away from themselves and their own wants and needs at how to love and serve and care for the body of Christ.

This is a radically different model for life and ministry. This is not the family making sacrifices so dad or mom can go off and serve in this or that ministry. This is the family together as a team loving and serving in ways that can only be done by a household. Certainly this includes hospitality, where the home is an environment defined by loving service to others, where others can be welcomed in and cared for and nurtured. Quite possibly, the church used the home of this family for their meetings, which would mean that the family took on the responsibility of preparing for and cleaning up after the meeting of the church. This doesn’t necessarily mean an immaculate showroom house, but it would include essential things like making sure the bathroom is clean and functioning, providing appropriate space for guests to feel welcomed and cared for, creating an atmosphere of others-focused selfless welcoming love.

What is your household like? Is your home a Christ centered home? Is your primary aim to advance the gospel? Is your home a place where believers can feel safe and loved and cared for and built up?

Servant Leadership

Paul holds up the household of Stephanas as an an example of what devotion to Christ can look like in a household. He encourages the believers to ‘be subject to such as these’. We often want leaders who are in control, who are determined, aggressive, forceful, who speak well and look good out front. But Paul has a different perspective. And this is in line with what Jesus taught. In Luke 22 we see:

Luke 22:24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.

It is startling to remember the context of this conversation. Jesus had just taken bread and said ‘this is my body broken for you’ and ‘this cup is my blood which is poured out for the forgiveness of your sins’. He had told them that he was about to be betrayed and crucified. And they around the table are disputing about who is the greatest.

Luke 22:25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

Jesus initiated a different kind of leadership. His authority is not a top down controlling authoritarian you-serve-me kind of leadership. His leadership is a humble-hearted others-centered loving service. The household of Stephanas was a real life example of what this looks like, and Paul exhorts the Corinthians to voluntarily submit to such as these. These and every fellow worker and laborer.

We see Paul hold up another example of a fellow-worker who gave him joy, ministered to his needs, and is to be honored and imitated. He writes to the church in Philippi:

Philippians 2:25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, 30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.

Epaphras, like Stephanas, was a selfless servant who put other before himself, who filled up the lack and brought joy to those he served. He was a brother, a fellow-worker, a fellow soldier.

Some people talk about going into the ministry as if it were a glamorous career choice. Ministry simply means service, and service to people can be painful and messy and just plain hard. Paul says to be subject to every fellow-worker and laborer. This word laborer literally means to be weary or feel fatigue. Serving others, especially serving those who are disgruntled or opinionated or easily offended can be draining and exhausting. Ministry is eternally rewarding, but it can be just plain fatiguing.

Refreshing the Spirit

Listen to what the Apostle Paul says.

1 Corinthians 16:17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.

It seems the letter the Corinthian church wrote to Paul was delivered by these men. He says that these three filled up what was lacking on their part. Paul had strong affection for the Corinthians. These were people he led to Christ, people he had invested his life in. He walked life with them. He missed them. He truly enjoyed their company. The visit from these three brought the apostle much joy. They refreshed his spirit. We don’t often think of the great Apostle to the Gentiles as needing to be refreshed, maybe even becoming depressed and discouraged. But he says in 2 Corinthians 1:8 that ‘we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.’ In two of his letters, Paul describes himself as being ‘poured out as a drink offering’ (Phil.2:17; 2Tim.4:6). Even in the midst of fruitful ministry where many were believing the gospel and being baptized, Paul needed encouragement from the Lord.

Acts 18:9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”

Paul, afraid? Paul silent? Paul was human. He had needs. Emotional, spiritual, physical needs. He felt a poverty of spirit in being away from his beloved friends at this church. It brought him joy when dear friends came to visit.

Even leaders in ministry need other co-workers who will come along side them, others who understand the unique challenges and hardships of ministry, others who will bring refreshment to their spirits. This is what the coming of these three friends did for Paul, in the midst of something he describes as ‘fighting wild beasts at Ephesus’.

I have a dear friend and co-worker in the gospel who was so deeply hurt in the course of pastoral ministry that he describes it as if something deep inside him broke. He went into a deep depression, to the point where he had to take an extended break from ministry. God is healing him and giving him a renewed sense of vision and passion for ministry. I enjoyed the privilege of spending some time with him over the past week, and he was an encouragement to my soul.

There are some people who sap the spiritual energy out of you; who drain you of life and vitality. There are others whose love for Jesus and love for other people is a contagious overflow that refreshes your soul. Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus were that kind of friends, co-laborers in service to Christ, selfless servants who brought refreshment to everyone they were around. We need those kinds of people in our lives, people who are filled with the love of Christ, those who will just be a friend, who will love us as we are, who will be patient with our flaws and shortcomings, who will laugh with us, cry with us, hurt with us, just be with us, who will lay aside expectations and care for us.

1 Corinthians 16:17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.

May we be those kind of people for others. May we refresh the spirit of those who are downcast. May we bring joy to those we are around. May we develop households who addict themselves to the selfless service of the saints. May we create places of refuge where broken sinners can be loved and nurtured and find healing and hope. May we be people who bring joy to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

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

July 12, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 16:13-14; Vigilant Steadfast Mature Powerful Love

07/05 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 Vigilant Steadfast Mature Powerful Love; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150705_1cor16_13-14.mp3

1 Corinthians 16 [SBLGNT]

13 Γρηγορεῖτε, στήκετε ἐν τῇ πίστει, ἀνδρίζεσθε, κραταιοῦσθε. 14 πάντα ὑμῶν ἐν ἀγάπῃ γινέσθω.

1 Corinthians 16 [ESV2011]

13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.

This is Paul’s closing exhortation to the Corinthians. This has been a heavy letter, confronting sin issues and wrong thinking and doctrinal deviance. Here at the end he gives them five concise imperatives for them to hold on to and live by. These are sharp staccato commands. The first four you would expect to come out of the mouth of a military commander before sending his troops into battle.

13 Γρηγορεῖτε, στήκετε… , ἀνδρίζεσθε, κραταιοῦσθε.

Be on guard, stand firm, be men, be strong. These are all present imperatives, commands that require a continuing posture of battle ready alertness and determination. We will take them one by one.

Be Watchful [Γρηγορεῖτε]

Throughout this letter, Paul has held in view the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He said in his introduction:

1 Corinthians 1:7 …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.

The day of our Lord Jesus Christ is always to be kept in view. Jesus used this word ‘be watchful’ when he warned his followers:

Matthew 24:42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

The word means more than merely ‘don’t fall asleep’; it is an active vigilant attentiveness. In 1 Corinthians 3 Paul uses the building metaphor of building with perishable or imperishable materials. He says:

1 Corinthians 3:10 … Let each one take care how he builds upon it. …13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.

At the coming of Jesus the enduring quality of your work will be revealed. In the context of church discipline in chapter 5 he says:

1 Corinthians 5:5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

The goal of loving discipline is ultimately salvation when it really matters, when Jesus returns. We are to keep always in mind that we live for another, for the one who bought us with his blood. We are to make it our aim to please him. We are to be ready for his return.

Be on your guard. Be watchful. Stay awake and alert. What kinds of things are we to be watching out for? In chapter 1 he raises the issue of division and disunity. Watch out, be on guard against quarreling, against disunity, against divisions in the body of Christ. In chapters 1 – 4 he warns of the dangers of thinking yourself to be wise and being puffed up with pride. In chapter 5 he warns against the danger of sin being tolerated or even celebrated within the body of Christ. He warns that this has a permeating contaminating effect on the entire body. He warns in chapter 6 he warns against the dangers of greed and sexual immorality, in chapter 7 of the dangers of a desire for circumstances other than what you find yourself in. In chapters 8 – 10 he addresses the danger of injuring a brother by demanding ones own rights and a careless indulgence in Christian liberty. In chapters 11 – 14 he warns against the dangers of selfishness and pride in the worship gatherings of the church. In chapter 15 he warns of the danger of being led astray by false teaching about the gospel. There are dangers without and dangers within. We must be vigilant. We must be on our guard. Peter affirms this in his letter:

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

There is an every present danger, and it is never safe to let down your guard.

Stand Firm in the Faith [στήκετε ἐν τῇ πίστει]

Paul exhorts us to stand firm. He adds a qualifying phrase identifying where we are to stand firm. We are to stand firm in the faith. We are to stand firm in the gospel once for all delivered to the saints. He admonished us in the last chapter:

1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain.

We are to stand firm in the life transforming good news that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures. Standing firm means more than simply holding to be true the cold facts of the gospel story. Standing firm means to persistently act in a way consistent with what it means to follow Jesus. The Corinthians were in danger of compromising their conduct in ways that were inconsistent with the gospel. In chapter 6, where the issue is believers indulging in immoral behavior, Paul says:

1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

In chapter 10, where the issue is participation in idolatry, treasuring or valuing anything or anyone as much as God, he says

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

How we eat and drink, what we do with our mind our attitudes, can demonstrate an inconsistency with what we say we believe. We must stand in the truth of the good news and we must be being transformed by it. Paul writes to the church in Phillipi:

Philippians 1:27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. …

Paul writes to the churches in Galatia, and he says:

Galatians 1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—

He exhorts them:

Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Jude writes:

Jude 3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

We must stand firm in the gospel, we must contend earnestly for it, we must cling tightly to it, we must be transformed by it and live it out. We must hold gospel ground and not retreat before the enemy.

Act Like Men [ἀνδρίζεσθε]

This is a tricky word to translate well. The root of this word is the word used to refer to the male gender. This is challenging, because Paul writes this letter to ‘the church of God …those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints.’ This clearly includes men and women. Is he calling for the female believers to ‘act like men’? Some translations attempt to avoid this problem by translating it ‘be courageous, be brave, or be valiant’. These are good translations, but they may miss the point. This word is not contrasting maleness with feminine qualities. Both this verb and the related adjective have been used to refer to courageous and valiant characteristics of women (PNTC fn.45). The contrast is more likely between maturity and immaturity. In chapter 3 he addresses their jealousy and strife and says:

1 Corinthians 3:1 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready,

In chapter 13, pointing them to the way of love, he says:

1 Corinthians 13:11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

In chapter 14, he challenges their thinking on the issues of building others up in the local church.

1 Corinthians 14:20 Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.

This is a call to maturity. Do not be immature, childish, petty, self-focused. The Corinthians were in danger of giving in to compromise under the pressure of a pagan society, but he exhorts them to be holy in actions and attitudes.

This also picks up on Old Testament language. Moses exhorted the people who would be led by Joshua:

Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

To be mature or manly is to carry out your duties even in the face of danger and risk. It is not to give in to fear or hopelessness (PNTC). In verse 9 of this chapter we learned that open doors for effective ministry often come with many adversaries, and much maturity and courage is required.

Be Strong [κραταιοῦσθε]

Strength is required to bear up under trials. Throughout this letter there is a contrast between the weak and the strong. Paul proclaimed the good news in plain language so that the cross of Christ would not be emptied of its power. Christ is the wisdom and power of God. In 1:27, “God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong”. Paul came to them in human weakness, knowing nothing among them except Jesus Christ and him crucified. In chapter 8 he draws the contrast between those who think they are wise with those who have weak consciences, who can be led to sin against their consciences by the example of others. Paul says in chapter 9 that to the weak he became weak in order to win the weak. In chapter 12, using the metaphor of the body, he points out that every part is necessary, and the parts who seem to be weaker are indispensable. In chapter 15, he points to our physical bodies in the resurrection that are ‘sown in weakness and raised in power’. Be strong. Do not be strong in your own strength, but be strong in the Lord. In your weakness he is shown to be strong, so faithfully proclaim the seemingly weak and foolish message of the cross. Do not violate your conscience, do not be swayed by others who indulge in questionable things, but hold fast to your convictions. Function in the strength that God supplies so that God gets all the glory.

We see many of these themes repeated and practical instruction given in Ephesians 6.

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

Let All That You Do Be Done In Love

1 Corinthians 16:13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.

The powerful military imagery is coupled with and saturated in love. Love is not some wishy-washy ooshy-gooshy soft and cuddly emotion. Love is robust, rigorous, powerful; it clings tenaciously to truth.

Neither is this vigilant, sure footed, courageous, and mighty imagery pictured as crushing and dozing over all in its path. It is to be strength characterized by love. This is a key characteristic that the Corinthians lacked. They lacked love in their divisions, in their quarrels, in their jealousy. They lacked love for Christ and the purity of his church in their tolerance of sin. They lacked love in their lawsuits against one another. They lacked love but instead pursued lust. They had knowledge which puffs up, but they lacked the love which builds up. They lacked love for their weaker brothers for whom Christ died. They lacked love when they demanded their own rights. They lacked love when each went ahead with their own meal and took no though for the poor. They lacked love in their pride over spiritual gifts. They lacked love for the body of Christ. This all climaxes in chapter 13, where Paul points out to them the worthlessness of spiritual gifts or sacrificial service without love. He describes the characteristics of love as patient, kind, not envying or boasting, not arrogant or rude, not self-seeking, not irritable, not keeping record of wrongs done, not rejoicing in wrongdoing, but rejoicing in truth. Love carries a limitless load and endures for limitless duration, it never stops trusting in God or hoping in God. Paul exhorts them to ‘pursue love and seek to build others up.

These verses echo Psalm 31.

Psalm 31:23 Love the LORD, all you his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride. 24 Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!

Paul says here ‘let all that you do be done in love’. All things, everything is to be done in love. Love is to saturate and permeate everything. Nothing is to be done apart from love. Love for God and love for others.

In 10:31, Paul told us that everything we do is to be done to the glory of God. In 14:26, Paul told us that everything is to be done to build others up. In 14:40 he said that everything should be done decently and in order. Here at the end of the letter, he tells us that everything must be done in love. God is love and the Spirit of God creates love in us. When we love others, we do things for the good of others, we seek their welfare above our own, we seek to build them up. We do things appropriately, in turn, in a decent and orderly way, respecting one another as we seek to build others up. As we love others, seeking not our own interest but the interests of others, to build them up, we demonstrate the love of God that has transformed us, and this brings much glory to our great God. All things are to be done in love, to build others up, for the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 16:13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.

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

July 5, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 16:5-12; Making Plans Under the Sovereign Hand of God

06/28 1 Corinthians 16:5-12 Making Plans Under the Sovereign Hand of God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150628_1cor16_5-12.mp3

1 Corinthians 16 [SBLGNT]

5 Ἐλεύσομαι δὲ πρὸς ὑμᾶς ὅταν Μακεδονίαν διέλθω, Μακεδονίαν γὰρ διέρχομαι, 6 πρὸς ὑμᾶς δὲ τυχὸν παραμενῶ ἢ καὶ παραχειμάσω, ἵνα ὑμεῖς με προπέμψητε οὗ ἐὰν πορεύωμαι. 7 οὐ θέλω γὰρ ὑμᾶς ἄρτι ἐν παρόδῳ ἰδεῖν, ἐλπίζω γὰρ χρόνον τινὰ ἐπιμεῖναι πρὸς ὑμᾶς, ἐὰν ὁ κύριος ἐπιτρέψῃ. 8 ἐπιμενῶ δὲ ἐν Ἐφέσῳ ἕως τῆς πεντηκοστῆς· 9 θύρα γάρ μοι ἀνέῳγεν μεγάλη καὶ ἐνεργής, καὶ ἀντικείμενοι πολλοί. 10 Ἐὰν δὲ ἔλθῃ Τιμόθεος, βλέπετε ἵνα ἀφόβως γένηται πρὸς ὑμᾶς, τὸ γὰρ ἔργον κυρίου ἐργάζεται ὡς κἀγώ· 11 μή τις οὖν αὐτὸν ἐξουθενήσῃ. προπέμψατε δὲ αὐτὸν ἐν εἰρήνῃ, ἵνα ἔλθῃ πρός με, ἐκδέχομαι γὰρ αὐτὸν μετὰ τῶν ἀδελφῶν. 12 Περὶ δὲ Ἀπολλῶ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ, πολλὰ παρεκάλεσα αὐτὸν ἵνα ἔλθῃ πρὸς ὑμᾶς μετὰ τῶν ἀδελφῶν· καὶ πάντως οὐκ ἦν θέλημα ἵνα νῦν ἔλθῃ, ἐλεύσεται δὲ ὅταν εὐκαιρήσῃ.

1 Corinthians 16 [ESV2011]

5 I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, 6 and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go. 7 For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. 8 But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries. 10 When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am. 11 So let no one despise him. Help him on his way in peace, that he may return to me, for I am expecting him with the brothers. 12 Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity. 13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.

We are in the closing section of Paul’s letter to Corinth. Here Paul gives some dated information on his travel plans, some closing exhortations, commendation of co-laborers, and personal greetings. This is a section we could easily set aside as totally irrelevant to us and simply move on to more relevant sections. But we know that

Deuteronomy 8:3 …man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

and

Proverbs 30:5 Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

and

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

So with God’s help, we are going to open this passage together and see what God wants to teach us and how he wants to equip us for every good work.

Travel Plans

Paul communicates to the Corinthians his travel plans. If you remember back at the beginning of this letter Paul addressed the divisions in this church, in chapter 4, Paul said:

1 Corinthians 4:14 I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me. 17 That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church. 18 Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. 21 What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?

Some were arrogant, acting as if Paul were not coming to visit. He assures them that his plan is to visit them soon, and he spells out the details of his plans here in the last chapter. He planned to pass through Macedonia first, and then spend some time in Corinth. We know that these plans did not materialize. As we piece together the details between Acts and 2 Corinthians, we see that after he sent off this letter, his plans changed. According to 2 Corinthians 1:15-16, his new plan was to pass through Corinth for a brief visit on his way to Macedonia, then visit them a second time before delivering the collection to the saints in Judea. From Acts 20, we see that what actually happened was that he left Ephesus after a riot, and traveled through Macedonia and then on to Greece, probably stopping in Corinth. According to 2 Corinthians 2:1 (and 13:1-2) this second visit was a painful visit. His authority was questioned and undermined. At some point he wrote them a second letter which was not preserved, and then he writes a third letter that we know as 2 Corinthians, where he answers their accusations of ‘vacillating’ and ‘making plans according to the flesh’ (2Cor.1:17).

Plans Under the Sovereign Hand of God

What can we learn from all this? Paul made plans, and he communicated those plans to the churches, but his plans changed. Did you hear the kind of plans Paul made? In 1 Corinthians 4:19, Paul says ‘I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills.’ Here at the end of the letter he uses words like ‘I intend… perhaps… wherever I go… I do not want… I hope… if the Lord permits’. Paul is making plans. He is not sitting idle waiting for life to happen to him. He is moving in a direction. He is using his God-given wisdom and insight to make decisions and formulate plans. But all his plans are made under the absolute sovereignty of an all wise and omnipotent God.

Psalm 115:3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.

In making his plans, he was in complete recognition that God is free to thwart, re-direct, hinder, sidetrack, delay, shut down, or completely change those plans. The riot in Ephesus was not part of Paul’s plans. Paul had a will. He had ideas. He had desires. He had plans. But he recognized that those plans were subject to the sovereign pleasure of God to do all that he pleases. Later, in route to Rome, a risky journey by sea late in the season would end in a total loss of the cargo and shipwreck, all in order to bring the gospel to people on the island of Malta. This was certainly not part of Paul’s plans, and he was frustrated that his advice was not heeded to delay the journey and avoid the loss. But God considered those lost people worth more than the value of all the cargo and the ship that carried them.

Proverbs 16:9 The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.

Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plans in the mind of a man,but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.

Paul understood this,so he made plans, but he said things like ‘perhaps… I hope… if the Lord permits… if the Lord wills.’

James understood this. He writes in chapter 4:

James 4:13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

James warns us of the danger of the arrogance of leaving God out of our plans. He reminds us of the extreme brevity of this life. We have no guarantee of tomorrow. Our lives are like a mist that disappears in a moment. Our lives, our every breath is absolutely dependent on God’s mercy.

Jesus told a story in Luke 12 with a similar point.

Luke 12:16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

This was a fool in God’s eyes. This was a life wasted. Notice the goal in Jesus’ story and in James. The aim is to make a profit, to to store up, to relax, to eat, drink and be merry, to find pleasure in life. The pursuit of happiness apart from seeking our satisfaction in God alone is a fools errand. Contrast this with Paul’s motive in his planning. Paul’s aim is to make Christ known where he has not yet been preached, to equip and encourage and strengthen the believers, to build up the church, to care for the poor. Paul. did everything he did to bring glory to God (1Cor.10:31). He made it his aim to please Jesus (2Cor.5:9). His hope is that ‘Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death’ (Phil.1:20). He did it ‘all for the sake of the gospel’ (1Cor.9:23). And Paul was aware that sometimes God is most glorified in a radical alteration of our carefully thought out plans. It is arrogant to think that we know better than God how to bring him glory. It is wise to plan and think and strategize on how best to bring glory to our great God, but it is wise to do this with an open hand, welcoming God’s wise and sovereign redirection in our lives.

I Hope to Spend Some Time With You

1 Corinthians 16:5 I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, 6 and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go. 7 For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits.

Notice that it was Paul’s desire to spend some time with the saints in Corinth. Throughout this letter we have sensed his loving care for the believers in Corinth. He doesn’t want to have to pass through town quickly. He wants to stay for a period of time, possibly spending the winter with them, a time that most travel was not possible. This church was full of problems, but he was not trying to keeping his distance. He was moving toward them, seeking to shepherd them through their problems. Corinth was not just a notch in his belt, these were people, people he cared deeply about, people he desired to deepen his relationship with, people he wanted to be with.

It is interesting to note that he assumed their hospitality toward him. They would have to take him into their homes, they would have to feed him, perhaps for the whole winter. Such was Christian hospitality. Not only did it go without saying that they would provide for his needs while he was with them, but he also expected that they would not send him off empty handed. Part of the expectation of Christian hospitality was that his journey when he left them would be provided for by them. This was Christian generosity which overflowed from being treated with abundant generosity by God, and now naturally flowed out to bless others.

A Wide Open Door with Many Adversaries

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

Paul spent three years in Ephesus (Acts 20:31). He preached in the synagogue, he taught the disciples daily in the hall of Tyrannus, and through this ministry all of Asia heard the word of the Lord. He established elders, he admonished them night and day. He taught both publicly and house to house. He poured into them by teaching and by example. People were being healed and set free from demonic oppression. People who had been involved in the magic arts turned from their old life and burned fifty thousand pieces of silver worth of books. A wide door for effective work had opened to him. Paul recognized the hand of God in opening wide a door for Christ exalting service in Ephesus, and he wanted to remain there to take full advantage of the opportunity. It seems that door closed with the riot instigated by Demetrius the silversmith.

Look what Paul puts together with the wide open door for ministry: ‘And there are many adversaries.’ Why put these things together? We might think that a wide open door for ministry would mean that the adversaries are all taken out of the way. But this is not what Paul expects. He links these two things together in the same sentence. A wide open door for effective work together with many adversaries. In Acts 19 we see that Paul’s preaching in the synagogue lasted three months, but ‘some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation’ (Acts 19:8-9). In Acts 20, we find that during his stay in Ephesus, he served with tears and with trials that happened through the plots of the Jews (20:19). He knew that imprisonment and afflictions awaited him in every city (20:23). Paul warns in 20:29-30 that

Acts 20:29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.

There was a wide open door for ministry, and with that came many who opposed it.

Jesus told a story that indicated that something like this was to be expected in God’s kingdom.

Matthew 13:24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

This is what the kingdom is like. Good seed is sown, but an enemy plants weeds among the good seed. They are all allowed to grow together. There is a wide open door for effective work, and there are also many adversaries. Jesus told his disciples:

John 15:18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.

Just because there is opposition does not mean that we should give up. We should expect that open doors for gospel ministry will go hand in hand with opposition. This gospel opportunity combined with opposition is by design. Paul speaks of the difficulties in Ephesus in 2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians 1:8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.

The opposition is for a good cause. If there were opportunity for effective ministry without any adversity, we might begin to think that we were capable of doing the ministry ourselves. The affliction caused ‘us to rely not on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead.’

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12

2 Corinthians 12:7 …a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Talk about an adversary! A messenger of Satan was given to harass Paul. This was to prevent conceit. This was intended to keep Paul humbly dependent on God. God’s grace is sufficient. God’s power is made perfect in weakness. Our weakness, even satanic opposition, forces us to rely totally on the all-sufficient grace of God.

Timothy

1 Corinthians 16:10 When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am. 11 So let no one despise him. Help him on his way in peace, that he may return to me, for I am expecting him with the brothers.

Paul sent Timothy to Corinth when he was unable to go himself.

1 Corinthians 4:16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me. 17 That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.

Here he gives specific instructions on how Timothy is to be received. He is to be treated well. He is Paul’s co-worker, doing the work of the Lord. See to it that he is at ease, literally without fear among you. Timothy had a tendency to be timid. It would be intimidating to accompany a letter as direct and confrontational as 1 Corinthians. Paul wants the Corinthians to treat Timothy in a way that dispels any fears he might have. He is not to be despised. We see in 1 Timothy, written about 10 years after 1 Corinthians, that Timothy is still being despised because of his youth (1Tim.4:12). This must have been a very young Timothy sent to Corinth, and so Paul gave them clear instructions to treat him well. He was to be shown hospitality. Again he assumes the generosity of the believers to help him on his way in peace.

Apollos

1 Corinthians 16:12 Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity.

It seems that the Corinthians had asked about their eloquent teacher Apollos. This letter started out with Paul addressing the divisions among the Corinthians over their favorite teachers. Some said ‘I follow Apollos’; some ‘I follow Paul’. Paul has affirmed throughout that there is no division or competition between himself and Apollos. He says:

1 Corinthians 3:5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

It seems the Apollos group was hoping for a visit from their favorite. Paul makes it clear that he is not preventing Apollos from coming. He strongly urged him to visit, but it was not the will. Grammatically, this could be referring to Apollos’ desire to come, but more likely Paul is referring back to the sovereign will of the Lord. It was not God’s will that he come now. He apparently had no opportunity. He will come when the time is right. God is in control. If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.

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

June 28, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 16:1-4; Generosity to the Brothers

06/21 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 Generosity to the Brothers; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150621_1cor16_1-4.mp3

1 Corinthians 16 [SBLGNT]

1 Περὶ δὲ τῆς λογείας τῆς εἰς τοὺς ἁγίους, ὥσπερ διέταξα ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τῆς Γαλατίας, οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς ποιήσατε. 2 κατὰ μίαν σαββάτου ἕκαστος ὑμῶν παρ’ ἑαυτῷ τιθέτω θησαυρίζων ὅ τι ἐὰν εὐοδῶται, ἵνα μὴ ὅταν ἔλθω τότε λογεῖαι γίνωνται. 3 ὅταν δὲ παραγένωμαι, οὓς ἐὰν δοκιμάσητε δι’ ἐπιστολῶν, τούτους πέμψω ἀπενεγκεῖν τὴν χάριν ὑμῶν εἰς Ἰερουσαλήμ· 4 ἐὰν δὲ ἄξιον ᾖ τοῦ κἀμὲ πορεύεσθαι, σὺν ἐμοὶ πορεύσονται.

1 Corinthians 16 [ESV2011]

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 to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.

Today we are going to talk about giving, about generosity. About what you ought to do with your money. Not because I want your money, but because that is where we are in the text. We are in the last chapter of 1 Corinthians, and Paul says a few brief words here about money.

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 to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.

He starts out with ‘now concerning’. These words show up six times in this letter, and they answer questions the Corinthian church had asked Paul about.

1 Corinthians 7:1 Now concerning the matters about which you wrote:

In 7:1, he answers questions about marriage and in 7:25 about singleness. In 8:1 he answers questions about idolatry. In 12:1 he answers questions about spiritual people. Here in 16:1 he answers questions about the collection for the saints, and in 16:12 he answers questions about Apollos.

Now concerning the collection for the saints. We need to look at this collection, and understand what it was, what it was not, why it was happening, what we can learn from it, what we need to adjust in our own thinking and practice so that we can be conformed to the image of Christ and bring much glory to God.

The Collection for the Saints

First, this was a collection. It was bigger than just one person’s generosity. We find out that the churches in the province of Galatia are participating in this collection. We find out in Romans 15 that the province of Macedonia is participating in this collection, and now Paul is inviting Corinth, in the province of Achaia to join in this collection.

We are told that the collection is a collection for the saints. It is not a collection for humanitarian aid to unbelievers. It is specifically destined for brothers and sisters in Christ.

Paul started this letter out addressing:

1 Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

They were divinely appointed, called to be saints, holy, set apart. This does not mean that they were perfect. Far from it. The church in Corinth was a particularly unloving church. Paul addresses issues of immorality, marital unfaithfulness, greed, pride, self-centeredness, idolatry, disunity, and doctrinal confusion. And yet he addresses them as saints, set apart. They are in the process of being sanctified, being made holy. Christ Jesus would use this letter in the lives of his saints in Corinth to bring about their sanctification. He is using this letter in our lives to bring about our sanctification, to make us holy, set apart for his use.

This collection is specifically for the saints, believers, brothers and sisters in Christ. Galatians 6 says

Galatians 6:6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. …10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Do good especially to the household of faith. And we find in verse 3, and in Romans 15 that this gift is intended for the poor saints in Jerusalem. We know from Acts 8, after the stoning of Stephen,

Acts 8:1 …And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.

Any followers of Jesus in Jerusalem would find it difficult merely to survive. So this collection was for the saints in Jerusalem.

Did you know it is about 817 miles from Corinth to Jerusalem as the crow flies. Google maps says that it takes about 33 hours to drive the 1837 miles via E80. In the first century that would have been a significant journey. And the believers were encouraged to care about what was going on in another part of their world. The believers in Corinth are informed about the situation 800 miles away in Jerusalem. No internet, no cell phones, no radio, but they cared about their brothers and sisters whom they had never met, who lived so far away. Not only were they informed, but they were expected to do something about it. They were expected to take action.

This is not the first collection for the saints in Jerusalem that Paul was involved in. We read in Acts 11

Acts 11:29 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.

Paul and James on the Gospel and the Poor

Paul was passionate about practically meeting the needs of the poor. In Galatians, where Paul is defending the gospel, the truth of his gospel and the freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, he states that although he received the gospel directly from Christ through a revelation, he submitted the gospel he preached to the leaders in Jerusalem to be sure he was not laboring in vain. He says:

Galatians 2:6 And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. 7 On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised 8 (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), 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.

It is quite possible that Paul met with James and Peter and John during the same visit to Jerusalem recorded in Acts 11 (c.47 AD) when he delivered the gift to the brothers in Judea. They preached the very same good news message that forgiveness of sins is through the finished work of Christ as our substitute on the cross, and that eternal life comes through simple faith in Jesus, depending on him and holding fast to him. This James, who writes in his letter that ‘faith without works is dead’, agreed with Paul on the message of good news that all the apostles proclaimed. “Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.” Both James and Paul believed that salvation was by God’s grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone, and both James and Paul agreed that God’s grace would not leave a person as they were, but would so transform them that they would think and feel and act and desire and prioritize in radically different ways.

The Source of Christian Generosity

Christian generosity is rooted in God’s generosity to us.

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

Our love, our giving, our generosity is all a response to his love for us. James tells us

James 1:16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Every good gift comes from God. He willed to give us new life, to birth us through the good news of Jesus. God is the ultimate giver, giving unmerited gifts to unworthy sinners. Listen to what Romans tells us:

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

God gave us the ultimate gift, Jesus. He gave us his own Son. If he did not withhold the best, his most precious, most treasured, most beloved only Son, surely there is nothing good he would withhold from us. Romans 11 says:

Romans 11:35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Every good thing comes from God. God is no man’s debtor. No created being will ever indebt God to them. God gets all the glory because God is the limitless source and supply of all gracious gifts. In 1 Corinthians 2 we see:

1 Corinthians 2:12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.

God must give us the gift of his Holy Spirit for us to even begin to be able to comprehend the riches of God’s marvelous grace lavished on undeserving sinners.

All our giving is merely a shallow reflection of the overwhelming abundance of what God has first given to us.

Beyond Local Giving

Notice that this collection for the saints in Jerusalem is above and beyond the regular local giving that goes to support the ministry of the local church. Paul made it very clear back in chapter 9 that

1 Corinthians 9:14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

He says in 1 Timothy:

1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”

So this giving was not to replace or reduce the giving for the needs of the local ministry.

Mechanics of Giving

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 to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.

How did this giving work? We see that Paul gives very specific instruction. He tells them to put something aside on the first day of the week. Why the first day of the week? This is one of the first pieces of evidence that the early church began to meet together on the first day of the week rather than the last. Paul assumes that setting aside the money on Sunday would make sense to his readers and need no further explanation.

He says that each of you are to put something aside. He expected every believer to be involved in this act of generosity. This was not for the few who felt called or led to give. He assumed total involvement, total participation. There were major class distinctions in Corinth, but Paul doesn’t limit the giving to the rich only. He expects rich and poor, upper, middle and lower classes all to participate in the contribution.

He encourages them to begin to accumulate the money over time. This is not a one time special offering; this is a weekly discipline that he expects of his readers. He wants no last minute scramble to scrape together available funds. He expects a sizable amount to be accumulated over a period of time. They are to store it up. The word used here is the word ‘to treasure’. Jesus said

Matthew 6:19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

They are to set aside weekly and treasure up wealth not for themselves but in order to bless others.

The amount a person is to set aside is not specified. He simply says ‘as he may prosper’. Whatever you have is a gift from God. God is the one who provides, who causes you to prosper. There is no stated amount, not even a suggestion. He leaves it entirely up to the individual. He says of this offering in 2 Corinthians 9:

2 Corinthians 9:7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Paul uses no high pressure manipulation tactics. He clearly communicates what he expects, and he leaves it up to them to decide how much they will treasure up.

Paul is careful to set this up in a way that is above reproach. The money is not for him; he won’t even touch it. They are to decide what to give, they are to treasure it up, they are to designate who is to deliver it, and some of them are to actually travel to Jerusalem with or without Paul to deliver it to its intended recipients. The local congregation has total control over their funds and they are to personally see that it goes where it is intended.

Attitude and Motive

Paul expects everyone to participate in this collection for the saints, but he has been clear that the proper motive and attitude are essential. He said in 1 Corinthians 13

1 Corinthians 13:3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

There is a possibility of giving everything for the wrong reasons and it is a big zero. If giving is motivated by a desire to be thought well of by others, to appear generous, to impress, to earn something, if giving comes from any motive other than love, simply desiring to do good to others, it is worthless.

Listen to the attitude of the churches of Macedonia toward giving:

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.

Their giving was evidence of God’s grace that had been given to them. Their giving came out of an abundance of joy. Their giving also came out of extreme poverty. It was sacrificial. But it was not under compulsion. It was voluntary. In fact, they begged for the favor, literally for the grace of fellowship in the service to the saints. This is a whole different way to look at giving. This is not natural, this is supernatural, Spirit wrought. This is love because we have first been incomprehensibly loved.

Let me read to you as we close a passage from Acts that describes the spontaneous and overflowing generosity of the early church. Listen and imagine what this might look like in our communities if we began to love like we have been loved.

Acts 4:32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

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

June 21, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 15:58; Labor in the Lord is not Vain

06/14 1 Corinthians 15:58 Labor in the Lord is not Vain; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150614_1cor15_58.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

58 Ὥστε, ἀδελφοί μου ἀγαπητοί, ἑδραῖοι γίνεσθε, ἀμετακίνητοι, περισσεύοντες ἐν τῷ ἔργῳ τοῦ κυρίου πάντοτε, εἰδότες ὅτι ὁ κόπος ὑμῶν οὐκ ἔστιν κενὸς ἐν κυρίῳ.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Today we finish 1 Corinthians 15 and look at verse 58. This is a very encouraging verse. This verse is a command with a promise. It is a command to be something and to do something. It is a command of character and behavior. And it is character and behavior based on a promise, based on knowing something.

Character Commanded

How many of us want this kind of character to define us? What do people think of you? How do people describe you? When a friend is telling someone about you, what adjectives do they use to describe you? When you meet someone, and they say ‘oh, you’re so-and-so. I met your friend the other day. They said you were…’ What do you want to hear them say? Would they say you are steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord? Do you hope that is what they would say?

This is a command of character. This is a command to be a certain kind of person. This should give us hope. Some might say, well, I’m just not that kind of person. That’s just not how I am. But according to this, you can change! You are not stuck! You can be different than you are. Your character is not a fixed entity that you were born with and can do nothing about. You can be better than you are. You can grow and learn and change, and Paul will tell us how.

Imperative follows Indicative

This is a command, a command to be a certain way, and it is a command based on a promise. It is a command based on truth. We find this sort of thing all over the Bible. You can observe this pattern in much of the teaching of the New Testament. When you find a command, look around to see what that command is built on. We can see that in the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. Before God says ‘thou shalt’ and ‘thou shalt not’, he makes this statement:

Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. (cf. Deuteronomy 5:6)

The commands are based on and rooted in a statement of truth. The imperative (or command) follows the indicative (or statement of fact). Another way to say this is that exhortation follows information. I am going to inform you of truth, which I believe will shape the way you live. We see this all the time in advertising. The little sidebar pops up on you screen that says ‘one rule for a flat tummy’ or ‘three foods that fight cancer; click here to find out more’. There is something you need to know, the information, the secret, that will change your behavior, so that you can attain the goal, the promise.

This verse begins with ‘therefore’. And whenever we see the word ‘therefore’ we should look to see what it’s ‘there for’. This is the last verse of 1 Corinthians 15, and 1 Corinthians 15 is all about the resurrection. Paul is teaching truth to combat error that will shape behavior. Let’s look back over the chapter.

1 Corinthians 15 Outline

In verses 1-7 he reminds us of the gospel message, with an emphasis on the fact that the historical resurrection of Jesus is essential to the gospel message, evidenced by a substantial crowd of eyewitnesses.

In verses 8-11 Paul holds himself up as an eyewitness and an example of the power of resurrecting grace which produces a transformed life.

In 12-19; he points to the negative consequences for those who preach and those who believe if the resurrection were not historical.

In 20-28 he holds up Christ as the new representative of mankind who undoes what Adam did and brings resurrection where Adam brought death.

In verse 29 he argues for the incoherence of the practice of baptism if there is no resurrection.

In 30-32; he argues for the incoherence of Christian sacrifice and suffering if there is no resurrection.

Verses 33-34 we find another imperative demonstrating the negative consequences of unbelief in resurrection on a person’s morality. He warns them not to be deceived, and says that because the resurrection is true, you need to ‘wake up from your drunken stupor and stop sinning’

In verses 35-41 he answers objections to the natural implausibility of a resurrection with evidence of the power and creativity of God as seen in creation.

In 42-49 he comes back to the contrast between our representatives Adam and Christ; where we have borne the fallen image of Adam, we are destined to bear the image of our new representative, Christ.

In 50-53 he argues for the necessity of resurrection transformation to enable us to participate in the kingdom of God.

In 54-57 he demonstrates the prophetic necessity of the resurrection.

And finally in verse 58 he gives concluding imperatives; because the resurrection of Jesus is an historical fact and our resurrection is a certain future event that God will bring about, we should live a certain way.

It matters what you believe. What you believe will impact the way you live. If you claim to believe something but there is no evidence of that belief working itself out in your character in everyday life, it is legitimate to question whether you truly believe what you claim.

Brothers, Beloved

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Paul addresses his readers as brothers. Earlier he addressed them as fools. Actually, in verse 35 he quotes the questions of ‘someone’ and he responds to that hypothetical ‘someone’ who asks those questions with ‘Fool!’ because those questions were motivated not by a desire to learn but by an effort to make belief in the resurrection look silly. They were the questions of the fool in Proverbs who says in his heart ‘there is no God’. But here he refers to his readers as brothers, siblings, not subordinates or underlings, but equals. And he calls them ‘my beloved’. We are dearly loved. This is a command, but it is a command clothed in gentleness and compassion. He genuinely cares about us and he communicates that to us. The command is rooted in love, a desire to bless, to do good to us, to help us to find joy and fulfillment.

Be Steadfast, Immovable

This word gives the idea of firmness, steadiness, being settled. Paul used this word in chapter 7 talking about the resolve of a single man who chooses not to marry.

1 Corinthians 7:37 But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well.

This same word also shows up in Colossians 1 in a similar context to this one.

Colossians 1:23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

We are to continue in the faith, stable and steadfast. Interestingly the word for ‘shifting’ is the positive verb form of the negative adjective translated here ‘immovable’. It means to be unmovable, not moved from its place, firmly persistent. We are not to be moved from the hope of the gospel. We are to be firmly persistent in the good news.

This is the same idea that he expressed with different words at the beginning of this discussion on the resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain.

He began the discussion with an ‘if’. There is a danger of not remaining in the gospel, not holding fast the word. Now he concludes the section with a loving exhortation to be settled and unmovable.

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

It seems the Corinthians were in danger of allowing the culture and the beliefs they were surrounded by to sweep them off their sure footing in gospel truth. They were wavering on the foundation truth of the bodily physical resurrection. Paul exhorts them to remain anchored and to stand fast on the truth that they had believed.

Abounding Always

This character, being steadfast, immovable results in action. A person of character acts in ways consistent with that character. A person whose foundation is firmly rooted in gospel truth will abound in the work of the Lord. They will super-abound. They will overflow. Not occasionally, not sometimes, but always. Beyond measure, abundantly. What do they super-abound in? What do they do? What is the work of the Lord?

The Work of the Lord

Most simply, the work of the Lord is the Lord’s work. It is what the Lord does. What is it that we see the Lord doing? What is it that he tells his followers to join him in doing? In Mark 1, Jesus said

Mark 1:38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.”

Jesus came from the the Father in order to preach the gospel of God, telling people to repent and believe the good news.

Jesus says in Mark 10:

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (cf. Matthew 20:28)

Jesus came to serve. Jesus came to give his life a ransom. In Luke 19 Jesus tells us:

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

The work Jesus came to do was to find and rescue lost people, to serve, to give his life, to proclaim the good news.

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said “I will build my church”. Jesus is all about building his church, one sinner at a time.

What did Jesus tell his disciples to do? In John 6, Jesus encouraged people to seek not the temporary but the eternal. Some listening asked him a question:

John 6:28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

The work of God is to believe in Jesus. First things first. We must understand the simplicity of the good news. We must come to Jesus ourselves, with childlike faith. Trust in Jesus. Rely on Jesus. Depend on Jesus for eternal life. Without this kind of relationship with Jesus, nothing else is possible. You cannot call yourself a follower of Jesus if you have not come in simple dependence on him.

For a person who comes to Jesus in childlike faith, what is the work he invites us to join him in? In John 20:21, Jesus says to his disciples “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” In Matthew 28:19 Jesus says “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, … 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” In Luke 24 and Acts 1 he calls them to be his witnesses, to testify of him and “that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations” (Lk.24:47).

It seems clear that those who have been rescued by Jesus are to join him in his work of seeking and saving the lost by proclaiming his good news to everyone. Paul said in chapter 1 that “Christ… sent me… to preach the gospel” (1:17) and “we preach Christ crucified” (1:23). In chapter 2 he said that we are “servants through whom you believed… I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. …We are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.” (2:5-6, 9). In chapter 9 he says “you are my workmanship in the Lord (9:1). He says “we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ” (9:12). He says “I have made myself a servant of all that I might win more of them… I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel” (9:19, 22-23). In chapter 10 he says “I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of the many, that they may be saved.” (10:33). In 14:12 he uses this word ‘super-abound’; “strive to excel (or super-abound) in building up the church”. He envisions an unbeliever entering the orderly worship service of the church and “the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.” (14:25). In chapter 16 he says:

1 Corinthians 16:10 When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am.

What is that work of the Lord other than joining him in seeking and saving the lost, proclaiming the good news, making disciples of all nations, building up his church?

Labor Not In Vain

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Paul changes the word in the last phrase. He said ‘the work of the Lord’ – whatever it is that you undertake to do, what you are occupied with, what you are busy about. Here he says ‘your labor’ – toil, trouble, pain, sorrow, weariness; it carries the idea of beating one’s breast with grief. This is intense labor united with trouble and sorrow. Paul described his ministry in chapter 4:

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

Sometimes following Jesus is just plain hard. Doing what Jesus calls us to do, being people of character as Jesus calls us to be, is hard. It is labor, it brings trouble, it is wearisome, it is toil. Sometimes you just want to give up. Sometimes you wonder ‘is it worth it?’ This is where strong encouragement is necessary.

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

In the Lord your labor is not empty, worthless, vain. In what way could our labor be in vain, and how is it not in vain in the Lord? Paul started this chapter on the resurrection warning that the gospel should not be believed in vain. Paul says that the gospel saves unless we believe in vain. To believe the gospel in vain would be to believe it in such a way that it is worthless and does not accomplish its intended effect; it does not save. This, in the context, would mean shifting away from the hope of the gospel, not holding fast to the gospel message. In verse 2 Paul uses a synonym to the word translated ‘vain’ in verse 58. he uses the same word four times in this chapter and nowhere else in the book. In verse 10 he says:

1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

God extended his grace to Saul, and it was not in vain. God’s grace always accomplishes what he sends it to do. God’s grace transformed an enemy of Jesus into the man who risked everything and went to the ends of the earth to make Christ known.

Paul uses this word twice in verse 14

1 Corinthians 15:14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.

If the resurrection didn’t happen, then Christ’s death accomplished nothing and preaching the gospel is worthless and believing the gospel is worthless. It is an empty and impotent message if it is not true. But because it is true, proclaiming the message of the cross is never a waste. Because God is in the business of seeking and saving the lost, of bring life to the dead, transforming sinners into saints, and because God chooses to do his work through the unlikely means of our weakness and foolishness so that he gets all the glory, we can be confident. Because these bodies will be raised and transformed, what we do in these bodies matters. As he said in

1 Corinthians 6:20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

And

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

All glory to God. All honor and praise and thanks be to God.

1 Corinthians 15:57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

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

June 14, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 15:50-57; Clothed to Inherit The Kingdom

06/07 1 Corinthians 15:50-57 Clothed to Inherit the Kingdom; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150607_1cor15_50-57.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

50 Τοῦτο δέ φημι, ἀδελφοί, ὅτι σὰρξ καὶ αἷμα βασιλείαν θεοῦ κληρονομῆσαι οὐ δύναται, οὐδὲ ἡ φθορὰ τὴν ἀφθαρσίαν κληρονομεῖ. 51 ἰδοὺ μυστήριον ὑμῖν λέγω· πάντες οὐ κοιμηθησόμεθα πάντες δὲ ἀλλαγησόμεθα, 52 ἐν ἀτόμῳ, ἐν ῥιπῇ ὀφθαλμοῦ, ἐν τῇ ἐσχάτῃ σάλπιγγι· σαλπίσει γάρ, καὶ οἱ νεκροὶ ἐγερθήσονται ἄφθαρτοι, καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀλλαγησόμεθα. 53 δεῖ γὰρ τὸ φθαρτὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσασθαι ἀφθαρσίαν καὶ τὸ θνητὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσασθαι ἀθανασίαν. 54 ὅταν δὲ τὸ φθαρτὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσηται ἀφθαρσίαν καὶ τὸ θνητὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσηται ἀθανασίαν, τότε γενήσεται ὁ λόγος ὁ γεγραμμένος· Κατεπόθη ὁ θάνατος εἰς νῖκος. 55 ποῦ σου, θάνατε, τὸ νῖκος; ποῦ σου, θάνατε, τὸ κέντρον; 56 τὸ δὲ κέντρον τοῦ θανάτου ἡ ἁμαρτία, ἡ δὲ δύναμις τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὁ νόμος· 57 τῷ δὲ θεῷ χάρις τῷ διδόντι ἡμῖν τὸ νῖκος διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. 42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 ​“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Paul continues to respond to the questions ‘how are the dead raised? With what kind of body to they come?’ (v.35). These were not questions out of curiosity to gain information. They were incredulous statements to make the idea of the resurrection look ridiculous. These were the questions of the fool of the Proverbs, who ‘says in his heart ”there is no God”’ (Ps.14, 53), These questions were rooted in the premise that perishable corruptible flesh is incompatible with eternal life and immortality. Paul agrees with their premise, but their conclusion that belief in the resurrection is absurd does not follow.

So far in verses 36-49 he has looked at the power of God who is the one who gives to everything its body. He has drawn from the creation narrative days 3, 6, 5 and 4, looking at botany, biology and astronomy to demonstrate that whatever the environment, God has proven himself more than capable of providing a body suitable for that environment.

He used the illustration of seeds to demonstrate that although there is organic continuity with what is sown, there is also radical discontinuity. What springs up from the ground is a radically transformed version of what was planted in the ground.

He draws the contrast between what is perishable, dishonorable, weak, and controlled by the soul or natural person, to what is imperishable, glorious, powerful, and controlled by the Spirit. He draws the contrast between the first Adam who was given natural life, is from the earth, made of dust with the last Adam who gives spiritual life, and is from heaven.

Inheriting the Kingdom

1 Corinthians 15:50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

Paul draws our attention to this next phrase by saying ‘this I say to you’, and he addresses us with the endearing term ‘brothers’. He says ‘flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.’ This it seems, together with the Greek belief that matter is evil and the goal is to be freed from a material existence is what the Corinthians were basing their disbelief in the resurrection on. They didn’t seem to question the continuation of the immaterial part of man, but they scoffed at the idea of a physical, material resurrection. Paul says, it is true, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. The phrase ‘flesh and blood’ points to the weakness, the frailty, the fading temporary characteristics of humanity. The kingdom of God is eternal. Our current bodies are not fit for eternity. The kingdom of God is where God is king. These bodies are not designed to handle the revealed presence of God. Our eyes are not designed to be able to look directly at the sun without being irreparably damaged. These mortal bodies are not capable of beholding the glory of the Lord.

Notice, Paul uses terms of inheritance. Flesh and blood cannot inherit. An inheritance cannot be earned. It is not deserved. It is given. It is given by a father to a son. The inheritance goes to the heir, someone in the family. That is why Jesus told Nicodemus:

John 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” …5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

You must be born from above. You must be born of the Spirit, born into the family to become a rightful heir to the kingdom of God. The perishable cannot inherit the imperishable. What good would it do for someone subject to death, decay, disorder, and decomposition to inherit something that lasts forever? Paul agrees, that it is nonsense for the perishable to inherit the perishable. But that does not lead him to the conclusion that there is no bodily resurrection.

We Shall All Be Changed

1 Corinthians 15:51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

Paul says ‘look!’ again emphasizing what he is about to say. This is a mystery; something that was concealed, hidden in ages past, but God has now made it known to us. We shall not all sleep. In verse 6 he mentions that some of the 500 witnesses had fallen asleep, in verse 18 he talks about those who have fallen asleep in Christ, and in verse 20 he points to Jesus as the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. To fall asleep is a metaphor for the death of a believer. Jesus used this metaphor to speak of his dear friend Lazarus. Sleep is temporary, and people wake up from sleep. Here he declares ‘we shall not all sleep.’ Not every believer will die. Paul spells this out in more detail in his letter to the Thessalonian church as he speaks to them about those who have fallen asleep.

1 Thessalonians 4:15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

We shall not all sleep. Some believers will be alive, will be left until the coming of the Lord. Most will fall asleep and will be resurrected, but some will be raptured. Some will still be living when Christ returns, and they will be caught up together with the resurrected in the clouds. Not all will sleep, but whether alive or asleep, we shall all be changed. Flesh and blood is not able to inherit the kingdom of God, so we must undergo a transformation. This transformation will happen instantaneously. This is no gradual slow process over time, like a seed slowly pushing its way up through the earth and developing stem and leaves and flower and fruit. In the smallest amount of time imaginable we will be completely transformed. John says:

1 John 3:2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

We will be transformed by seeing Jesus. We will be like him. We will bear his image. When he appears we will be like him. This will happen to the dead and living at the last trumpet. Trumpets were used to give signals in battle. Leviticus 25 tells us that a loud trumpet was to be sounded throughout the land to signal the year of Jubilee. Zechariah 9:14 speaks of the Lord appearing and sounding the trumpet.

When that trumpet sounds, we will all be instantaneously changed. The dead will be raised imperishable and we shall be changed.

Further Clothed

1 Corinthians 15:53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.

This perishable mortal body cannot come into the presence of the King without being radically transformed. We must put on imperishability and immortality. The word here for ‘put on’ is a word commonly used for putting on clothing. This ties back to verse 37, where he talked about the bare kernel, the naked seed. We are not changed by becoming less than we are, and what we are is not discarded and something new is put in its place, what we are is further clothed. Paul will talk more about this in 2 Corinthians 5.

2 Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

We long, not for some disembodied existence, but to be further clothed. We long to put on our heavenly dwelling. Clothing was a symbol of status and was linked to the inheritance. Remember the special robe that Jacob gave to his favored son Joseph, or think of the prodigal son who was clothed in the Father’s best robe. This was partly to cover his shame and disgrace, but it meant much more. It demonstrated that he was welcomed back, not as a servant, but as a son, with all the rights and privileges of a son, given a right to the inheritance. These concepts of being clothed and being given the inheritance are closely linked. This clothing metaphor continues into the next verse.

Death Swallowed Up

1 Corinthians 15:54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

At the resurrection, at the last trumpet, when the perishable and mortal is clothed in the imperishable and immortal, then the Scripture in Isaiah 25:8 will be fulfilled.

Isaiah 25:6 On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. 7 And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. 9 It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

He will swallow up death forever. Death is swallowed up in victory. This is what verse 24 talked about

1 Corinthians 15:24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” …

The last enemy, death, will be swallowed up by life so that God may be all in all. The miserable consequences of the fall will be undone, engulfed by an unstoppable life.

He quotes Hosea 13 as a taunt

1 Corinthians 15:55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

Death is a powerful force. By a man came death (v.21); in Adam all die (v.22)

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

Death is painful and death is powerful. Death conquers everyone. But death is being robbed of its victims. The lethal venom is neutralized and the painful stinger is removed. How?

1 Corinthians 15:56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

The wages of sin is death (Rom.6:23). Death is painful and terrifying because of sin. We have sinned against a holy and righteous God and we will stand before him and give an account. The power of sin is the law. The law actually fuels sin. Romans 7 helps us to understand this.

Romans 7:7 … if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.

The power of sin is the law. Sin seizes an opportunity through the commandment to bring death. The law is good, but

Romans 7:13 …It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.

Sin produced death through the law. Galatians tells us:

Galatians 3:22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, … 23 … we were held captive under the law, imprisoned …

Death stings because of sin, and sin uses the law as a powerful force to capture us and keep us under its power.

Victory Given Through Jesus

How do we escape from under this captivating power? How is it that death has lost its sting and its victory?

1 Corinthians 15:57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is nothing we can do. We are imprisoned, captive, slaves to sin and subject to death and the wrath of God. We cannot escape. We are dead in our trespasses and sins. We are helpless and hopeless. God gives us the victory. It is a gift. It is his prerogative to give. It is free and undeserved. This is the good news that saves us, the good news Paul started this chapter with – ‘that Christ died for our sins’. ‘We preach Christ crucified’ (1:23).

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—

Romans tells us

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

God gives us the victory over sin and death. It is free, unmerited generous kindness. It is the riches of God’s marvelous grace. He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. There is salvation in no one else (Acts 4:12). No one comes to the Father except through Jesus (Jn.14:6).

God freely gives us the victory over sin. Romans tells us

Romans 6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. …14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. …17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. …22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

Thanks be to God that we are no longer slaves to sin. We are no longer under its power, the power of the law.

Romans 7:4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

We have died to the law. We are released from the law which held us captive. We are set free to bear fruit for God, to belong to Christ.

Because Jesus has taken the sting out of death for us, we can now say with Paul

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

Because God has given us the victory, to die is gain. We have boldness to face death with courage.

2 Corinthians 5:8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.

Thanks be to God. All the credit for this rescue from sin and death goes to God. He planned it, he effected it, he brought it about, he gave it to us as a gift. All thanks, all worship, all praise must be directed toward God. He is the one who gives us the victory, victory over death, victory over sin, freedom from the power of the law. And he is the one who will bring us the ultimate victory of the resurrection, where death is swallowed up in eternal life. He will cause this bare kernel to burst out of the ground totally transformed, incorruptible, immortal, glorious.

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

June 7, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 15:35-49; With What Kind of Body?

05/31 1 Corinthians 15:35-49 With What Kind of Body?; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150531_1cor15_35-49.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

35 Ἀλλὰ ἐρεῖ τις· Πῶς ἐγείρονται οἱ νεκροί, ποίῳ δὲ σώματι ἔρχονται; 36 ἄφρων, σὺ ὃ σπείρεις, οὐ ζῳοποιεῖται ἐὰν μὴ ἀποθάνῃ· 37 καὶ ὃ σπείρεις, οὐ τὸ σῶμα τὸ γενησόμενον σπείρεις ἀλλὰ γυμνὸν κόκκον εἰ τύχοι σίτου ἤ τινος τῶν λοιπῶν· 38 ὁ δὲ θεὸς δίδωσιν αὐτῷ σῶμα καθὼς ἠθέλησεν, καὶ ἑκάστῳ τῶν σπερμάτων ἴδιον σῶμα. 39 οὐ πᾶσα σὰρξ ἡ αὐτὴ σάρξ, ἀλλὰ ἄλλη μὲν ἀνθρώπων, ἄλλη δὲ σὰρξ κτηνῶν, ἄλλη δὲ σὰρξ πτηνῶν, ἄλλη δὲ ἰχθύων. 40 καὶ σώματα ἐπουράνια, καὶ σώματα ἐπίγεια· ἀλλὰ ἑτέρα μὲν ἡ τῶν ἐπουρανίων δόξα, ἑτέρα δὲ ἡ τῶν ἐπιγείων. 41 ἄλλη δόξα ἡλίου, καὶ ἄλλη δόξα σελήνης, καὶ ἄλλη δόξα ἀστέρων, ἀστὴρ γὰρ ἀστέρος διαφέρει ἐν δόξῃ. 42 Οὕτως καὶ ἡ ἀνάστασις τῶν νεκρῶν. σπείρεται ἐν φθορᾷ, ἐγείρεται ἐν ἀφθαρσίᾳ· 43 σπείρεται ἐν ἀτιμίᾳ, ἐγείρεται ἐν δόξῃ· σπείρεται ἐν ἀσθενείᾳ, ἐγείρεται ἐν δυνάμει· 44 σπείρεται σῶμα ψυχικόν, ἐγείρεται σῶμα πνευματικόν. Εἰ ἔστιν σῶμα ψυχικόν, ἔστιν καὶ πνευματικόν. 45 οὕτως καὶ γέγραπται· Ἐγένετο ὁ πρῶτος ἄνθρωπος Ἀδὰμ εἰς ψυχὴν ζῶσαν· ὁ ἔσχατος Ἀδὰμ εἰς πνεῦμα ζῳοποιοῦν. 46 ἀλλ’ οὐ πρῶτον τὸ πνευματικὸν ἀλλὰ τὸ ψυχικόν, ἔπειτα τὸ πνευματικόν. 47 ὁ πρῶτος ἄνθρωπος ἐκ γῆς χοϊκός, ὁ δεύτερος ἄνθρωπος ἐξ οὐρανοῦ. 48 οἷος ὁ χοϊκός, τοιοῦτοι καὶ οἱ χοϊκοί, καὶ οἷος ὁ ἐπουράνιος, τοιοῦτοι καὶ οἱ ἐπουράνιοι· 49 καὶ καθὼς ἐφορέσαμεν τὴν εἰκόνα τοῦ χοϊκοῦ, φορέσομεν καὶ τὴν εἰκόνα τοῦ ἐπουρανίου.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. 42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

Paul is defending the resurrection. He asks the question:

1 Corinthians 15:12 …how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

And this chapter is a careful and logical defense of the resurrection. In verses 1-7, he demonstrates that the resurrection is an essential part of the gospel message. In verses 8-11, he holds up himself up as a life radically transformed by God’s resurrecting grace. In verses 12-19 he lays out devastating consequences on believers if the resurrection were not historical. In verses 20-28, he parallels Christ with Adam; where Adam brought death, Christ brings life. In verse 2932 he points to the incoherence of baptism and suffering in Christian service if there is no resurrection. In verses 32-34, he warns of the moral dangers of unbelief in the resurrection.

In verses 35-49, he answers the naturalistic objection to the possibility of the resurrection. In verses 50-53 he argues for the necessity of resurrection for participation in the kingdom of God, in verses 54-57, the prophetic necessity of the resurrection, and in 58, the meaningfulness of the Christian life because of the resurrection. This chapter is all about the resurrection. And in this section, Paul gives us beautiful insights into what the resurrection will be like.

Foolish Questions or Foolish People?

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person!

You may have heard that there are no stupid questions. That may be true, but the person who ask the questions may be a fool. In verse 35, Paul frames two questions, and his response to those questions is ‘Fool!’ You fool! The questions are not foolish, and Paul will answer them. But the motive behind the questions betrays the heart of a fool. The questions are asked not in order to find an answer, not to gain wisdom, but to prove a point. They are asked to make Paul’s belief in the resurrection look foolish. These are those who say there is no resurrection of the dead. They ask ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?’ Are disintegrated, decomposed, rotting corpses really going to come back to life? Is grandma, who is pushing up daisies, really going to one day reclaim her molecules from the person who ate the cow that ate the daisies? The questions are intended to make the belief in the resurrection look absurd, and to ridicule anyone who holds to this belief. But Paul is not intimidated. These people are like the people in Psalm 14 and Psalm 53, ‘The fool says in his heart, “there is no God.”’ So Paul says it as it is ‘You fool!’ Your questions stem from an unbelief in God. In the previous verses, Paul pointed to the disastrous moral consequences of unbelief in the resurrection, and the root of this unbelief, that ‘some have no knowledge of God.’ If God is God, if God is omnipotent and sovereign, if God is a God who keeps his promises, then the resurrection will be no trouble for him at all. Paul’s response is similar to Jesus’ response to the Sadducees who asked him a similar question to demonstrate the irrationality of the resurrection;

Mark 12:24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?

In answer to these questions, Paul points them back to God, the sovereign God who does all that he pleases, who accomplishes all that he desires.

Psalm 135:5 For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. 6 Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.

In this section, Paul brings us back to Genesis, to the first chapters of the creation narrative. He quotes Genesis 2:7 in verse 45, but the creation narrative is the background of everything he says.

Consider Seeds

He starts with seeds. (Day 3)

Genesis 1:11 And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

Paul says:

1 Corinthians 15:36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.

This is similar to what Jesus said in John 12 about his own death and resurrection, and that of his followers:

John 12:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Seeds are not meant to sit on a shelf. They are meant to go into the ground. God made the earth to ‘sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind.’ If you had never seen a mighty Midwest oak tree, solid and strong, giving shade, what would you think of an acorn? Could you guess what might come up if you put it in the ground? Or if you happened upon a dry brown whirligig – those little helicopters, would you ever imagine the beautiful maple in its autumn blaze of orange? What about a wrinkly hard pit with a bitter nut inside? If you had never tasted a sweet juicy luscious peach, could you imagine it if someone described it to you? I have a box of garden seeds in my basement. Some of the packets were open and they spilled. There are some flat white discs of various sizes, tiny black specs, various sizes of teardrop shapes, small round spheres in different shades from brown to tan. If I dumped them all out on the table, how well do you think you would do describing the kind of plant and fruit that would come from each of them? Lettuce, spinach, broccoli, tomato, cucumber, pumpkins, squashes, hot peppers of all different shapes and colors. What if you had never planted a garden? If I put in front of you a flat oblong black seed and asked you to draw me a picture of what you think would come up if you put it in the ground, would you ever imagine a wild green vine with large lobed leaves and large green striped fruit with bright pink watery insides? It’s just a hard black thing. [Fig tree seed illustration]

Sovereign Grace

1 Corinthians 15:36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.

Notice Paul’s focus here. His focus is on God who chooses and God who gives. God gives the kind of body to each seed that he has chosen. From creation he ordained peach pits to grow peach trees with peaches, watermelon seeds to sprout vines with watermelons, carrot seeds to grow carrots, fig seeds to grow enormous fig trees with sugary sweet fruit. God gives each a body as he has chosen. There are infinite varieties of shapes and sizes and colors and flavors of plants and flowers and fruits. What a seed will become is unimaginable when looking only at the seed. God gives each a body as he has chosen. He is infinitely creative and wise and good. God is the giver. The resurrection is part of the good news. The good news is a message of grace, a generous God who gives to sinners what we don’t deserve, what we couldn’t earn, what he freely gives. In verses 8-10 Paul held himself up as a trophy of God’s transforming resurrecting grace ‘By the grace of God I am what I am’. God is the giver in creation. God is the giver in resurrection.

Consider Flesh

Paul still has in mind the creation account in Genesis.

On the Fifth Day:

Genesis 1:20 And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” 21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. …

On the Sixth Day:

24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. 25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Paul says:

1 Corinthians 15:39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish.

Paul is looking at the variety of kinds of flesh, each suited for its own environment, fish to live in the sea, birds to live in the air, animals to live on the land, and man to rule over them all. The amazing diversity and variety we see in the animal kingdom is ample evidence that God is more than capable of designing a body suitable for any kind of environment, from deep sea creatures to salt water to fresh, birds with structures capable of soaring and migrating, land animals suited for jungle and tropical and desert and polar climates. If God in his infinite creativity can imagine bodies suitable for survival in such diverse environments, surely he can design a body suitable for life in the resurrection.

Consider the Glory of the Heavens

Paul moves back to day four of creation

Genesis 1:14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16 And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17 And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.

Paul says:

1 Corinthians 15:40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.

He draws a contrast between the heavenly and the earthly. Where God in his all wise creativity can make bodies suitable for land, sea, and air, all different earthly environments, he can also design bodies designed for the heavens or what we would call outer space. Even here we see evidence of variety and creativity. Sun, moon, stars, planets, variety in brightness and size and color and intensity, each designed for its own environment.

Of the Soul / Of the Spirit

Paul has drawn from days 3, 6, 5 and 4 of creation, looking at botany, biology and astronomy to demonstrate that whatever the environment, God has proven himself more than capable of providing a body suitable for that environment.

He now picks up his illustration from seeds and draws some conclusions. There is continuity with what is sown, but there is also radical discontinuity. The pear seed will not grow tangerines or turnips. The pear seed will grow a pear tree. There is an organic unity between the seed sown and the plant that erupts from the ground. But the appearance and characteristics of the naked seed are nothing at all like the tree that grows from it, or the fruit it produces.

1 Corinthians 15:42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. …

There is continuity between what is sown and what is raised. But there is also radical transformation. The contrasts are laid out here. Our present human bodies are subject to decay, they are subject to shame and dishonor, they are weak, and they are natural or soulish. The resurrection will change all that. What was once subject to decomposition will be incorruptible. What was once subject to shame will be clothed in glory. What was once impotent will be characterized by resurrection power. What was soulish or natural will be spiritual.

What does Paul mean by this last contrast between natural and spiritual? What is a spiritual body? We might think a spiritual body to be an oxymoron, a logical contradiction like immaterial material. A body is the physical manifestation of something. Paul has been talking about different kinds of bodies – stars, fish, birds, plants, beasts, humans. When we hear ‘spiritual’ we might equate that with invisible or immaterial or non-physical, but that is not the case. A spiritual body is not a body made up of spirit any more than a soulish body is a body made up of soul. If we contrast a steel ship with a wooden ship, we are talking about what the ship is made of, but if we talk about a steam ship in contrast to a sailing ship, we are contrasting not what they are made of, but what they are powered or energized by. The natural body is the body that is energized by the soul or natural life, or we might say the psyche, but the spiritual body is the body energized by the spirit. Paul made this distinction back in chapter 2.

1 Corinthians 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.

There, as here, the natural person is the person controlled by the soul, the psyche, or natural life. The spiritual person is the person controlled, empowered and enlightened by the Spirit of God.

This comes again from Genesis.

Genesis 2:7 then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

The breath of life made man a living soul or psyche, a living being with natural life. Paul again picks up his contrast between the first Adam and the last Adam.

1 Corinthians 15:44 …If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

But where Adam was given life, Christ became the life-giver. Where Adam was given natural life, Christ gives spiritual life. He gives the Spirit to all who believe in him.

1 Corinthians 15:46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual.

There is a clear sequence. The natural life comes first. The bare seed must go into the ground and die before it bursts forth in resurrection life. We are not spiritual beings first. We begin as natural beings. We become spiritual beings, beings empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Paul now returns to the heaven/earth contrast that he brought up in verse 40.

1 Corinthians 15:47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

Jesus said:

John 8:23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

John contrasted himself with Jesus:

John 3:31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all.

Jesus came down from heaven, from his Father. Adam was made of dust. We come from dust. We are perishable, shameful, weak, and natural, controlled by the natural life. We have borne the image of the man of dust. Again Paul has Genesis in mind. Genesis 5 tells us that ‘Adam …fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image’. But if we transfer our allegiance to Christ, we are given new spiritual life, we belong to Christ and we will bear his image. Where the first man brought death, the second man brings life. He is imperishable, glorious, powerful, governed by the Spirit.

Because God is God, the resurrection is certain. We will be transformed, we will be raised incorruptible, clothed in glory and power, with the fruit of the Spirit in full bloom. I’ve heard people ask about the resurrection – how old will we be? If we have any disabilities or imperfections, will they be fixed? I think these are the wrong kind of questions. We will be like a bare seed that bursts up out of the ground in a glorious blossom. I will still be me, unique, different from anyone else, identifiable. But I will transformed. Romans 8 tells us that we are ‘predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son’

1 John 3:2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

We were created to bear the image of the invisible God. On that day we will bear the image of Jesus. We shall be like him.

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

May 31, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 15:29-34; Suffering in Light of the Resurrection

05/24 1 Corinthians 15:29-34 Suffering in Light of the Resurrection; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150524_1cor15_29-34.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

29 Ἐπεὶ τί ποιήσουσιν οἱ βαπτιζόμενοι ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν; εἰ ὅλως νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται, τί καὶ βαπτίζονται ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν; 30 τί καὶ ἡμεῖς κινδυνεύομεν πᾶσαν ὥραν; 31 καθ’ ἡμέραν ἀποθνῄσκω, νὴ τὴν ὑμετέραν καύχησιν, ἣν ἔχω ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν. 32 εἰ κατὰ ἄνθρωπον ἐθηριομάχησα ἐν Ἐφέσῳ, τί μοι τὸ ὄφελος; εἰ νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται, Φάγωμεν καὶ πίωμεν, αὔριον γὰρ ἀποθνῄσκομεν. 33 μὴ πλανᾶσθε· φθείρουσιν ἤθη χρηστὰ ὁμιλίαι κακαί. 34 ἐκνήψατε δικαίως καὶ μὴ ἁμαρτάνετε, ἀγνωσίαν γὰρ θεοῦ τινες ἔχουσιν· πρὸς ἐντροπὴν ὑμῖν λαλῶ.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf? 30 Why are we in danger every hour? 31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! 32 What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.

Paul is defending the resurrection. He asks the question:

1 Corinthians 15:12 …how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

And this chapter is a careful and logical defense of the resurrection. In verses 1-7, he demonstrates that the resurrection is an essential part of the gospel message. In verses 8-11, he holds up himself up as a life radically transformed by God’s resurrecting grace. In verses 12-19 he lays out devastating consequences on believers if the resurrection were not historical. In verses 20-28, he parallels Christ with Adam; where Adam brought death, Christ brings life. In verse 29 he points to the incoherence of baptism if there is no resurrection. In verses 30-32 he points to the incoherence of suffering in Christian service if there is no resurrection. In verses 32-34, he warns of the moral dangers of unbelief in the resurrection.

Baptism

That is where we are today in Paul’s defense of the resurrection. Last week we looked in detail at verse 29, at what it can and cannot mean, but the main point is clear from the context. Baptism makes no sense if there is no resurrection. Baptism pictures and foreshadows the resurrection. And Christian baptism identifies you with a group who are known for their suffering.

In Danger Every Hour

In verses 30-32 Paul again holds himself and the other eyewitnesses up as examples. At the beginning of the chapter he lists Cephas, the twelve, the five hundred, James, all the apostles, and finally himself. Continuing to rebut their proposition ‘if the dead are not raised at all’, he answers ‘Why are we in danger every hour?’ If the dead are not raised, if we are not looking forward to a better future life, then ‘why are we in danger every hour?’ Paul is picking up the thought he expressed back in verse 19 and fleshing it out.

1 Corinthians 15:19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

If this life is all there is, if there is no physical existence beyond the grave, then why? Why are we in danger every hour? Certainly we could think of others more to be pitied than Paul and the other apostles. There are many people we can think of who subsist in very pitiable circumstances. Wouldn’t they be more to be pitied than the followers of Jesus? Surely there are benefits to following Christ in this life, even if it turns out not to be true. But that is not the view of the apostle. He asks ‘why?’ “Why are we in danger every hour?”

This may sound like an exaggeration until we look at some of what we know about Paul’s life.

2 Corinthians 11:23 …—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.

He says in Romans 8:

Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” This was the experience of early believers.

Jesus said:

Luke 9:22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” 23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

Jesus did not invite us to follow him into a life of comfort and ease. He invited us to a life of sacrifice for the sake of his name and for the gospel. He said we would embrace our means of execution daily.

Paul rebuked the Corinthians in chapter 4 because:

1 Corinthians 4:8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! 9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

Still True Today

Loved ones, nothing has changed. This is as true of followers of Jesus today as it was when Paul penned those words. Allow me to read a few current statistics:

Christian persecution reached historic levels in 2014, with approximately 100 million Christians around the world facing possible dire consequences for merely practicing their religion, according to the report. If current trends persist, many believe 2015 could be even worse.”

http://www.sltrib.com/lifestyle/faith/2038782-155/persecution-of-christians-reached-historic-levels

4,344 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons between Dec. 1, 2013 and Nov. 30, 2014 – more than twice the number killed during the same period the previous year. …those numbers are a low estimate, as the group only counts incidents in which the victim can be identified by name and an exact cause has been attributed.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/04/07/has-the-world-looked-the-other-way-while-christians-are-killed/

Each month 322 Christians are killed for their faith; 214 churches and Christian properties are destroyed; 772 forms of violence are committed against Christians (such as beatings, abductions, rapes, arrests, and forced marriages).”

https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/

nearly 75 percent of the world’s population now lives in countries with high levels of social hostility involving religion”

more than 70 percent of Christians have left Iraq since 2003, and more than 700,000 Christians have fled from Syria since 2011.” In “North Korea,… up to 70,000 Christians are held in prison camps for their faith.”

http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2015/january/not-forgotten-top-50-countries-world-watch-list-open-doors.html

Christians are the most persecuted religious group worldwide. An average of at least 180 Christians around the world are killed each month for their faith. (Source: Open Doors USA)

Christians in more than 60 countries face persecution from their governments or surrounding neighbors simply because of their belief in Christ. (Source: U.S. Department of State)”

http://erlc.com/issues/quick-facts/persecution/

Islamic militants have eradicated virtually every trace of Christianity from Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. …There are no Christians left in Mosul. …They have all been driven out. They have been told to convert to Islam or die, or to leave.

…and they left empty handed. Militants confiscated all of their possessions, including homes, cars, clothes, ‘and even their wedding rings, sometimes with the finger attached if it would not come off.’” (Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, July 23, 2014)

http://erlc.com/documents/pdf/20140803-SIS-FINAL.pdf

Paul asks, “if the dead are not raised… why? Why are we in danger every hour?’ What is the point of sacrifice in following Jesus if there is no resurrection? As he has stated earlier, if there is no resurrection, then Christ is not raised, and if Christ is not raised, then our faith is worthless and we are still in our sins. Why risk everything for the sake of Christ if it is not true?

By My Pride In You

1 Corinthians 15:30 Why are we in danger every hour? 31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! 32 What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

The way Paul talks about this church might make us forget all the serious problems they had. So far in the letter he has addressed issues of division, issues if immorality, issues of idolatry, issues of pride and insistence on personal rights, doctrinal issues, and a serious lack of love. Here he makes them the subject of his boast. He began the letter by thanking God always for them. And here he swears by his boast in them that he has in Christ Jesus our Lord. Although this letter from start to finish is filled with severe rebukes and strong corrections, we sense that Paul had a deep love and fond affection for these people. He refers to them as brothers about 20 times through the course of this letter. He loves them enough to tell them the hard truth, to rebuke them, to correct them. Here he uses this strong oath to affirm that he dies daily.

Wild Beasts at Ephesus

He says “What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus?” Some think this is a reference to his being put in the arena, but this is unlikely because 1. Roman citizens were not normally subject to being fed to wild beasts, 2. He survived, which would be unusual, and 3. he doesn’t mention this in any of the places where he lists his sufferings. But this wording is often used in a figurative sense, and that is most likely his meaning here. He mentions in chapter 16:

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

There are many adversaries. Paul warns the Galatian believers:

Galatians 5:15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

James says:

James 4:1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. …

Paul shared in the sufferings of Christ. The Psalmist paints the portrait of Christ on the cross in Psalm 22.

Psalm 22:12 Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; 13 they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.

But often the attacks of the enemy are nothing compared to the wounds inflicted by our brothers. Psalm 41 says:

Psalm 41:9 Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.

The deepest hurts come from those who are closest to us. In 2 Corinthians 11:26 he mentions ‘danger from false brothers.’ This may be what Paul refers to in 2 Corinthians. Hear his heart:

2 Corinthians 1:8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

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

Nobody likes to suffer. Nobody likes to be hurt. What is the point of suffering for the sake of Christ if the dead are not raised? What is the profit, what is the use? If the dead are not raised, if Christ was not raised, if Jesus was not who he claimed to be, we are of all people most to be pitied. We have wasted our lives.

Moral Consequences of Beliefs

1 Corinthians 15:32 What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.

You hear a lot of people say ‘it really doesn’t matter what you believe’. Paul tells us that it very much matters what we believe. Our actions are rooted in our beliefs, and our beliefs will come out in our actions. That is why James says ‘what good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works’ (2:14). That is why John says “whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar” (1Jn.2:4). Jesus said:

Matthew 7:17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.

Right belief will produce healthy fruit. A diseased root of belief will manifest itself in attitudes and behavior. The diseased root of disbelief in the resurrection will show itself in actions that take no account of eternity. In Isaiah 22, God is bringing enemies against Jerusalem, but they fail to respond with repentance by turning back to God.

Isaiah 22:11 … But you did not look to him who did it, or see him who planned it long ago. 12 In that day the Lord GOD of hosts called for weeping and mourning, for baldness and wearing sackcloth; 13 and behold, joy and gladness, killing oxen and slaughtering sheep, eating flesh and drinking wine. “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

If we believe there is nothing beyond the grave, no one to whom we will give an account, we will live for our pleasures. Many who claim to believe in God live as if he doesn’t exist.

Bad Company

Paul is warning the Corinthians. They are in danger of being deceived. “Bad company corrupts good morals” was a well known saying in Paul’s day, possibly from Meander. This is similar to what he said back in chapter 5:

1 Corinthians 5:6 …Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?

But we could take this the wrong way. We could assume that he meant never to associate with sinners or unbelievers. But he made it clear in chapter 5 that he did not mean that.

1 Corinthians 5:9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

In chapter 5, the context was a person who claimed to be a believer who was refusing to turn from his sin. In chapter 15, the context is some who claims to believe the gospel but says there is no resurrection. Do not be deceived. Bad doctrine will bear bad fruit. It matters what you believe. Paul tells them to wake up from their drunken stupor and stop sinning. Unbelief will have moral consequences. Do not be deceived.

No Knowledge of God

Some have no knowledge of God. Paul is not talking here about unbelievers. Of course they have no knowledge of God! It is our privilege and responsibility to introduce them to him. Paul is talking about those in the church who claim to be believers, but who have bad doctrine and say there is no resurrection. The Corinthians prided themselves on their wisdom. To say they have no knowledge of God is a stinging rebuke. Paul’s logic here follows Jesus own teaching. When the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection, questioned Jesus, he answered them

Mark 12:24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?

You disbelieve the resurrection because you don’t know God. Right doctrine comes ultimately from a right understanding of who God is as he has revealed himself in his word.

Those who know God, who truly follow Jesus, who believe he is who he claimed to be and will keep all his good promises, those people are willing to suffer for the sake of the name of Jesus. They are willing to be regarded as sheep to be slaughtered, they are willing to be in danger every hour, to die every day. They are willing to risk everything to bring the gospel to the nations, because they have a hope beyond the grave. Those who have confidence in the resurrection talk like this:

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Those who know Jesus talk like this:

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Christ is raised. He died for our sins and he is now alive. In him we find forgiveness and the strong assurance that we who are trusting in him will be with him forever. Because we are confident of our resurrection, if we know Jesus, if we really know him, we can fearlessly take up our cross daily and follow him.

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

May 24, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 15:29; How To Interpret Scripture – Baptism for the Dead

05/17 1 Corinthians 15:29 How to Interpret Scripture ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150517_1cor15_29.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

29 Ἐπεὶ τί ποιήσουσιν οἱ βαπτιζόμενοι ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν; εἰ ὅλως νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται, τί καὶ βαπτίζονται ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν; 30 τί καὶ ἡμεῖς κινδυνεύομεν πᾶσαν ὥραν; 31 καθ’ ἡμέραν ἀποθνῄσκω, νὴ τὴν ὑμετέραν καύχησιν, ἣν ἔχω ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν. 32 εἰ κατὰ ἄνθρωπον ἐθηριομάχησα ἐν Ἐφέσῳ, τί μοι τὸ ὄφελος; εἰ νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται, Φάγωμεν καὶ πίωμεν, αὔριον γὰρ ἀποθνῄσκομεν. 33 μὴ πλανᾶσθε· φθείρουσιν ἤθη χρηστὰ ὁμιλίαι κακαί. 34 ἐκνήψατε δικαίως καὶ μὴ ἁμαρτάνετε, ἀγνωσίαν γὰρ θεοῦ τινες ἔχουσιν· πρὸς ἐντροπὴν ὑμῖν λαλῶ.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf? 30 Why are we in danger every hour? 31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! 32 What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.

1 Corinthians 15 is the resurrection chapter. Some of the Corinthians were saying that there is no resurrection of the dead. Paul from beginning to end is answering this serious doctrinal error. In the first 7 verses, he demonstrates that the resurrection is integral to the gospel message. In verses 8-11, he holds up himself up as a former enemy of Jesus persuaded by the resurrection, and as a life radically transformed by God’s resurrecting grace. In verses 12-19 he lays out the dire consequences if the resurrection were not historical; both on those who preach and on those who believe. In verses 20-28, he parallels Christ with Adam; Christ as the new representative of mankind undoes what Adam did and reverses the tragic consequences of the fall. In verse 29 he points to the incoherence of baptism if there is no resurrection. In verses 30-32 he points to the incoherence of suffering in Christian service if there is no resurrection. In verses 32-34, he warns of the moral dangers of unbelief in the resurrection. In verses 35-49, he answers the naturalistic objection to the plausibility of the resurrection. In verses 50-53 he argues for the necessity of resurrection for participation in the kingdom of God, in verses 54-57, the prophetic necessity of the resurrection, and in 58, the meaningfulness of the Christian life because of the resurrection. This chapter is all about the resurrection. So when we look at the details of the chapter, we need to keep the big picture in view.

1 Corinthians 15:29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?

Paul’s point in this verse, whatever the details mean, is that baptism makes no sense if the dead are not raised. Baptism assumes the reality of the resurrection.

So what does it mean to be baptized on behalf of the dead? There are several possible ways of understanding this phrase. I have heard numbers ranging from 13 to as many as 30 different opinions on what this verse means. I was tempted to simply be satisfied with saying that whatever the details of this verse mean, the main point is clear: baptism assumes the reality of the resurrection, and then move on to the next verse. My original intent was to look at the whole paragraph of verses 29-34. But I know there are some of you that just wouldn’t be satisfied with that. I will resist the temptation to go in detail through every variation of opinion on this verse, but I think it will be useful to look at this verse as a model of how to study the Bible, and what to do in your reading or studying when you come across a difficult verse.

Proxy Baptism

1 Corinthians 15:29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?

At first read we might conclude that this verse is talking about people who are baptized in order to benefit a deceased person. And this is one possible way to understand this phrase ‘baptized for the dead’. But this is not the only way this phrase can be understood. If this is what Paul means, he is talking about a proxy baptism where a living person is baptized in place of a dead person and for the benefit of that dead person. There are at least two main variations on this view. One is that Paul could be referring to a pagan practice that the Corinthians were familiar with, in which a living person would be baptized for the benefit of a dead person, to secure some kind of benefits for them in the afterlife. An alternative to this is the idea that a believer would be baptized for the benefit of a new convert who died before being baptized.

One problem with understanding this phrase as referring to proxy baptism is that we have no evidence of any kind of proxy baptism either among the pagans or among Christians until the 2nd century AD. It is possible that there did exist such a practice, and the Corinthians were familiar with it, but we have no surviving record of it.

A more significant problem with understanding this as proxy baptism is that Paul mentions it without qualification. He doesn’t say it’s good; he doesn’t say it’s bad; he just brings it up and moves on. If this were a practice that we are expected to participate in, we would expect to find it in the teaching of Jesus, and in the practice of the early church, and some instruction about it in the letters to the churches. Take, for example, breaking bread, or communion, or the Lord’s supper. We see Jesus breaking bread with his disciples in the three synoptic gospels, and Luke records his command ‘do this in remembrance of me’. Then we see the church breaking bread together throughout the book of Acts. Then we have clear instructions on the practice in 1 Corinthians 11. But baptism for the dead is mentioned only here in all of Scripture, and here it is not even clear what the practice was, or if it was something that was commended or condemned.

Paul does seem to distance himself from the practice. He abruptly changes to the third person in this verse. He does not say ‘why are we baptized’ or ‘why are you baptized’, but ‘why are they baptized for the dead’. He switches back to ‘we’ in the very next verse. This has led some to conclude that Paul is not in favor of the practice, but he mentions it only because it is a practice familiar to his readers, and it is a practice that makes no sense if there is no resurrection.

When the practice of proxy baptism is mentioned by Christian writers in the second century, the practice is clearly condemned as heretical and absurd. Even if it were being practiced as early as Paul’s day, it would seem quite unlikely that Paul would refer to a pagan or heretical practice and employ it as a legitimate defense of the Christian belief in resurrection. And for him to mention it without confronting or correcting it seems unthinkable.

Who Are The Dead?

When interpreting a difficult passage, it is essential to be sensitive to the context. One thing that is important for us to keep in mind in seeking to understand this verse is who ‘the dead’ are. In this chapter, ‘the dead’ is not a broad category including every person who has died. ‘The dead’ in this chapter is specifically talking about believing dead, those whose faith is not in vain (v.17); those who have fallen asleep in Christ (v.18); those who hope in Christ in this life (v.19); those who are in Christ (v.22); those who belong to Christ (v.23); those who will bear the image of Christ (v.49); those who will inherit the kingdom of God (v.50); those who will be raised imperishable (v.52); those who are given the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (v.57). ‘The dead’ in this chapter are believers in Jesus who have died. The unbelieving dead are not in view in this chapter. So to take this passage in a way that baptism for the dead brings some benefit to those who have died in unbelief is to violate the whole context of the chapter. This eliminates the possibility of understanding this to mean that Christians were being baptized in an effort to offer some help to unbelievers in the afterlife. This understanding of who the dead are may fit with the notion that on rare occasions when a new convert died before being baptized, a living believer might be baptized for them. But this idea has its own problems.

What We Know For Sure

This is a difficult passage. A key principle for interpreting the Bible is to allow clear passages to shed light on ambiguous or unclear passages. Because God is truth and cannot lie, we can be confident that he will never contradict himself. Because the Bible is breathed out by God, and every word proves true, we can be confident that there is harmony between passages that on the surface appear confusing or even to contradict, even if we are unable to see that harmony. One difficult passage of Scripture will not overthrow the rest of the plain teaching of Scripture.

It will help to keep us on track to review some things that we know for sure based on the clear teaching of Scripture. Paul makes it clear in the first chapter of 1 Corinthians that there are only two categories of people; those who are perishing and those who are being saved. And the thing that differentiates between these two categories is not baptism, but the preaching of the cross. This is also what Jesus taught:

John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

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

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

It is clear that believing in Jesus, not baptism is decisive for escaping condemnation and enjoying life. Baptism is not necessary for eternal life, but it is what those who have received the gift of eternal life do to testify to the fact that they have been united with Christ. Baptism is what saved people do out of obedience to Christ, but baptism has no saving effect on an unbeliever. This begs the question; What would proxy baptism accomplish for a dead person if the baptism of a living person does nothing to effect their own salvation?

We know from the clear teaching of Scripture that baptism is an outward symbol of an inward reality. John said:

Matthew 3:11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Jesus spoke of the Spirit in John 7:

John 7:39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, …

Jesus said:

Acts 1:5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

What is essential is the inward reality of being immersed in the Holy Spirit, without which the outward symbol of being immersed in water is meaningless.

We know based on the clear teaching of the Bible that nothing can be done to change the situation of those who have already died. ‘Hebrews 9:27 tells us that “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” In Luke 16, Jesus told a story of a rich man and Lazarus, who both died. The rich man, in anguish in the flames, cried out for mercy and relief but found none. He then begged that someone be sent to his living relatives to warn them so that they too would not end up in this place of torment.

Baptism is an outward symbol of an inward reality. That inward reality comes by believing in Jesus. Nothing can change the state of those who have died. This is the plain and clear teaching of the Bible. So to conclude that this difficult verse teaches that something can be done to benefit those who have died is contrary to the clear teaching of God’s word. To conclude that this verse opens the possibility of salvation beyond the grave is to force it to go against the rest of scripture. To conclude from this verse that water baptism is a necessary part of salvation is to go against what the bible plainly teaches. If we use this verse to imply that there is any hope for eternity outside a believing relationship with Jesus we go against the overwhelming consensus of the entire biblical record. We must allow the clear teaching of God’s word to guide our thinking on less clear passages, like this one.

Converts on behalf of the Dead

1 Corinthians 15:29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?

Another possible way of understanding Paul’s language is not that the living person is attempting to bring any benefit to the deceased, but that being baptized for the dead means that the dead believer is the motivation for an unbeliever to believe and be baptized. Seeing the confident assurance with which a believer faces death has a profound influence on their survivors, who recognize their own mortality and some may become disciples in order to have that same confidence and to one day be reunited with their deceased loved one. To be baptized for the dead could mean that an unbeliever, having seen the confidence of a dying believer has in the resurrection, that unbeliever becomes a follower of Jesus in order to share in that hope of the resurrection. This fits better with Paul’s point, that this baptism makes no sense if the dead are not raised.

A possible weakness of this understanding is that this tends to lose sight of the primary point and motive of conversion; to be with Christ, not merely to be with loved ones who have gone ahead. And if this is what Paul intended, there may have been a better way to say it to make this thought more clear.

Convert Baptized on behalf of their own Dead Body

1 Corinthians 15:29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?

Another way to understand Paul’s meaning is to see ‘the dead’ in the theological sense of those who are dead in their trespasses and sins, of the body which is dead because of sin. Why are people (new converts) being baptized for the dead (for their own bodies which were dead in sin)? This takes baptism in its normal sense, the way it is used in the rest of scripture, of a new believer who has come to trust in Jesus for salvation to be baptized as a public confession identifying with Jesus. Baptism is something believers do, and it is not something that can be done for someone else. The focus throughout this chapter is on the resurrection of the body, a physical resurrection, not a mere spiritual existence after death. If the dead bodies of believers are not raised at all, why are believers baptized for their own dead bodies?

Romans 8 points to the physicality of the resurrection:

Romans 8:10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Resurrection gives life to your mortal bodies, bodies that are dead because of sin.

Paul connects baptism with Jesus’ death and resurrection and ours in Romans 6.

Romans 6:2 ..How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

We have been buried with Christ through baptism into death, we have been united with him in a death like his, our old self was crucified with him; we have died with Christ. All this is so that as Christ was raised from the dead, we will be united with him in a resurrection like his, so that we will live with him. Baptism is our identification with Christ, our union with him in his death in order to be set free from sin and be really and truly alive. We are baptized for our own dead bodies, in the hope that those bodies, having died with Christ, will raised to a new kind of life. Baptism makes no sense if there is no resurrection. Christian baptism is a picture of death and resurrection; if there is no resurrection then baptism is a faulty picture. If there is no resurrection, baptism would be a better picture if we just pushed people down under the water and held them there.

This seems to be the way the early church understood Paul’s words. Tertullian, who lived c. 155-240 AD, wrote:

unless it were a bodily resurrection, there would be no pledge secured by this process of a corporeal baptism. “Why are they then baptized for the dead,” he asks, unless the bodies rise again which are thus baptized? For it is not the soul which is sanctified by the baptismal bath: its sanctification comes from the “answer.”

-Tertullian, On the Resurrection of the Flesh, 48

and

To be “baptized for the dead” therefore means, in fact, to be baptized for the body; for, as we have shown, it is the body which becomes dead. What, then, shall they do who are baptized for the body, if the body rises not again?

-Tertullian, Against Marcion, 5:10 [c.208 AD]

Conclusion

Baptism is an identification with Christ in the gospel story. Christ died for our sins, he was buried, he was raised, and he appeared. We believe the gospel and we act out the gospel. Christ died for our sins and was buried, and our old self died with him. Jesus was raised from the dead, and we believe that our mortal bodies will be raised to be with him forever.

When we are faced with a difficult section of Scripture, we need to keep in mind the big picture, to pay careful attention to the details, to be sensitive to the context, and to recognize that because of the character of God, the Bible must harmonize, and one obscure passage should never be used to overthrow the plain teaching of the rest of Scripture.

Whatever Paul meant by this phrase ‘baptized for the dead’, we understand his main point. The practice of baptism makes no sense if the dead are not raised. Yet followers of Jesus continue to be baptized, attesting to their belief in the resurrection.

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

May 17, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment