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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walking In the Flesh not According to the Flesh

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

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

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

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

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

Waging War

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

Supernatural Weapons in Both Hands

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

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

On the other hand:

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

There are two sides to his weaponry:

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

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

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

In chapter 4 he says

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

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

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

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

Tearing Down Strongholds

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

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

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

Battling Proud Arguments

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

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

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

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

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

Forsaking Pride to Know Him

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Must Die

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

Overview of 2 Corinthians 1-9

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Opponents in 2 Corinthians

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul’s Authoritative Introduction

And then he says:

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

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

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

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

The Authoritative Appeal; Bold Begging

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

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

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

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

The Gospel Illustrated (In The Apostle)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Meekness and Gentleness of Christ

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

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

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

John 13:3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.

Notice the paradoxical combination of omnipotent authority and abject humility.

John 13:5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Jesus very literally stooped to take the lowly place.

Philippians 2:5 …Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

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

***

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

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

2 Corinthians 9:15; Speak of God’s Unspeakable Gift

12/01_2 Corinthians 9:15; Speak of God’s Unspeakable Gift; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191201_2cor9_15.mp3

What are you frustrated with? Are there some things you’d like to change? What needs to be different? What needs to be fixed? What circumstances would you change if you could? Would you like to issue a complaint?

Complain

Deanna asked me if I could run to Wal-Mart to pick up a few things she had forgotten for thanksgiving. I had barely returned home, when she came up with something else we needed. Back to Wal-Mart, the lines were long, and I was in a hurry, so I decided to try one of the scan-and-go self check out lines. I never use self-check out. I’d much rather have a real human to talk to. Somebody who knows what they are doing. But I was in a hurry, so I thought I’d give it a try. There was a guy with only two items in a line, so I figured that would be pretty quick. But since he was buying a case of beer, someone had to come over and check his ID before he could complete his purchase. When I got up to the check out, there was an error message on the display. So the supervisor had to come over and clear that. The check-out wasn’t cooperating, so it took her a few tries to clear the error, and then I got to scan my first item. Of course you have to find where they hide the UPC label, but that went OK. Then I went to scan the second item, and it didn’t read it. So I tried again, and then it showed up twice. Supervisor to the rescue. She cleared the duplicate item for me. I was buying 8 of the last item, so while she was there, I asked if there was an easier way than to scan all 8 individually. She tried to scan one and enter a multiple of 7 more, but it didn’t work. She tried again, still no luck. So I just scanned the remaining 7 and I was on my way. But only after the machine tried to reject my card 3 times. Supervisor? Finally it worked. I was almost out the door, when I glanced at the receipt, only to find that I had been charged for that last item once, then 7 times, then 7 times again, then seven more times individually. So I went back to the supervisor, waited until she was done helping the next unsuspecting victim who was trying to use that self-check station, and showed her my receipt. She sent me off to the customer service desk, where they looked over my receipt and refunded my money. As I waited there, I commented to the workers that I never use the self check and won’t use it again. She responded ‘they’re going to make you. They’ve already reduced the number of cashiers working a regular check-out line, and they are going to continue until self-check out is your only option.’ I asked who I could call or write to to complain.

So often life doesn’t go our way. We can always find something to complain about. I think the lady with two shopping carts overflowing with thanksgiving fixings in the regular check-out line with a real human cashier made it out of the store ahead of me.

It is easy to find fault. Do you read the product reviews when you shop online? I’m looking at a product that has 4.5 out of 5 stars, and I start scrolling through the customer reviews, and I start reading this didn’t work and I didn’t get what was pictured, and it worked great for a month until it was just out of warranty and then it stopped working and it’s junk and don’t waste your money and buyer beware and this company doesn’t stand behind their product and you get what you pay for. Complain, complain, complain. We live in a culture of complaining.

Re-Frame

Now, I could look at my trip(s) to Wal-Mart through a different lens. I could count my blessings. When I got there, they had all 8 of what I needed right there on the shelf, in stock, plus some things I didn’t really need that I decided I wanted. The supervisor was friendly and was right there to help me when I needed help. Multiple times. Instead of just talking to one cashier, I got to talk to the supervisor, multiple times, plus the two workers at the customer service desk. And because I was delayed a few minutes, I was able to avoid all the traffic congestion when I picked up my daughter from middle school.

In fact I drove to the store. In a car. With enough gas to get there and get home again. The car didn’t break down. Of course, I could have walked. I am able, and I live close enough. I have a body that is capable of walking to the store. I had enough money to make the purchase(s). I have an amazing wife that happens to be an amazing cook and she (with the help of my amazing daughters) prepared some exceptionally tasty dishes for our thanksgiving meal.

I could look at my circumstances and inconveniences and complain, or I could look at my circumstances in a positive light and count my blessings. But there is nothing overtly Christian about just being positive rather than negative. And some of us have real legitimate things to complain about. Many people are positive, not just believers, some nauseatingly so. I think that it is better to be positive than to be negative and complaining, but we as followers of Jesus are called to something more, something higher than simply having a positive outlook.

Grace and Thanksgiving

Paul gives us something outside ourselves, beyond our circumstances to be thankful for. Paul writes two chapters encouraging us to generosity, to single-hearted openness, love for God and neighbor, and he concludes by saying:

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

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift. This is the 10th time he uses the word ‘grace’ in these two chapters, an undeserved, freely given gift. In 8:1 he pointed them to God’s grace given in the churches of Macedonia. In 8:4 they responded by begging for the grace and fellowship of service to the saints. In 8:6 Titus is urged to complete this act of grace among the Corinthians. 8:7 exhorts them that as they excel in so many of God’s gifts, they abound in this grace also. 8:9 centers us on the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in giving himself for us. 8:16 uses the word grace like it is here in 9:15 in the sense of thanksgiving; grace or gratitude back to God for what he has freely given. 8:19 describes the collection for the saints as a grace. 9:8 points us back to God as the source of all grace that enables us to overflow in good works. In 9:14 the Jerusalem saints will give thanks for the exceeding grace of God shown to the Corinthians. Grace to God for his inexpressible gift!

This word grace is the root of the word for thanksgiving in 9:11-12.

2 Corinthians 9:11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

We see the combination of these words back at 4:15

2 Corinthians 4:15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

God’s gracious giving produces thanksgiving. As we experience God’s undeserved grace in our own lives, we extend grace to others, and God is glorified. Grace overflows into gratitude. Chapter 8 began with the grace of God given to the churches of Macedonia. Chapter 9 concludes with God being glorified and receiving thanks because of his surpassing grace given to the Corinthians.

God the Ultimate Giver

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

The one who gives the gift deserves the thanks. In a section exhorting believers toward generosity to those in need, God gets the thanks because God is the ultimate giver. Although Christians are giving to other Christians, it is God who gets the thanks, because God is the source of all things. He is the one who supplies and multiplies seed for the sower and bread for food (9:10). He is the one who is able to make all grace abound to you so that in all, always, having all sufficiency, you may abound in all good work (9:8). Your abundance is God given, and it is meant for supplying the lack in others (8:14).

When on Christmas morning Ebenezer Scrooge shouted from his window and hired a boy to run and buy the prize turkey, and have it delivered to Bob Cratchit’s, it would not have been right for Bob to thank only the one who delivered the enormous bird. He was only the delivery boy. It would be right for him to try to find out who sent the most generous gift. It would be even more right for Bob Cratchit to thank the Lord for changing the heart of Scrooge. God is the ultimate giver. God loves a cheerful giver, because God is a cheerful giver. All thanksgiving belongs to God.

Gift Inexpressible

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

Inexpressible gift. This word to our knowledge is found nowhere else in Greek literature until Paul, and only found here. It is a compound that Paul probably made up to express his thought here. Unspeakable, inexpressible, indescribable; it is unable to be thoroughly told. God’s gift is beyond our capacity to comprehend, much less describe. Paul in Ephesians 3 prays for the believers to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in their inner being, that they would have strength to comprehend the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. We need supernatural help to comprehend the love of God for us.

Here is irony. The gift of God is inexpressible, and Paul writes to tell us about it. Language fails, so he makes up new words to attempt to communicate the inexpressible. The fact that God’s gift is unable to be fully told does not stop Paul and the other biblical authors from preaching and declaring and writing to communicate God’s gift. In fact, the truth that God’s gift is inexpressible mandates that we talk about it and keep talking about it, keep pursuing creative new ways to communicate the truth and wonder of the gospel.

Paul expressed the inexpressible back in 8:9

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Inexpressible grace! Inexpressible gift! That our Lord Jesus Christ, being eternally rich in relationship with his Father throughout all eternity, who being equal with his Father, existing in the very form of God (Phil.2:6). He didn’t cling to his equality with his Father, but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant. He was born in the likeness of men. ‘He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross’ (Phil.2:8). Being rich, for your sake he became poor.

The gift that can’t be fully expressed, must be expressed. That which is beyond words must be put into words. The Word who was with God and who was God became flesh and set up his tent among us (Jn.1:1, 14). This is too wonderful for words, yet we must use words to communicate it.

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Eternal God became man for my sake, for my good; that you by his poverty might become rich. He humbled himself to make me eternally blessed. He came to rescue me from sin and death and hell forever. He came to rescue me from myself. He came to give me the gift I don’t deserve. Forgiveness, redemption, reconciliation. He came to take what was broken and make it whole. He came to restore, to make all things new. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. He came for me, for my sake. He came for sinners.

Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

We are called to wonder. God intends for us to stop and look, to put our hand over our mouth and be amazed. To be in awe. To be stunned and staggered by the sheer magnitude of God’s goodness and grace. Be still and know that I am God (Ps.46:10).

We are to be like the demon possessed man who was still, seated at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, eager to be with Jesus. Jesus told him:

Mark 5:19 …“Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.

We are meant to experience the indescribable grace of God to us, to marvel. And then to express the inexpressible to others so that they can marvel with us.

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

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

2 Corinthians 9:13-14; God Glorified in Gospel Communion

11/24_2 Corinthians 9:13-14; God Glorified in Gospel Communion ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191124_2cor9_13-14.mp3

The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

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

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

The question we have is ‘How do we glorify God? What does it mean to glorify God? What does that look like in practical daily life?’ This passage in 2 Corinthians 9 gives us one clear way we can produce thanksgiving and bring glory to God.

Glorify God by Loving God and Neighbor

2 Corinthians 9:7 …God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 9 As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous (single-hearted) in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

God is able to make all grace abound to you for all simplicity, for abounding in every good work. When we use what God has freely given us to extend his grace to bless others, it does more than just meeting that need. It produces thanksgiving to God.

We want to live for the glory of God. We long for the Lord alone to be glorified. We want him to get the thanks he deserves. Paul tells us in these verses how to produce thanksgiving to God. He tells us that our unmixed devotion and love for the Lord will produce thanksgiving to God. For the Corinthians, this was specifically in the context of the collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem. Our context will be different, but the results can be the same. This will look different for each of us. There are myriads of ways we can produce thanksgiving and bring glory to God in daily life. Whenever we in simplicity love God and love neighbor, we glorify God.

Approval and Authenticity

Paul goes on in the next verses to tell us how this works. How does our love for God and practical expression of love for neighbor bring glory to God? He says of the saints in Jerusalem:

2 Corinthians 9:13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity (simplicity) of your contribution (fellowship) for them and for all others, 14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.

By the approval (δοκιμή) of this service they will glorify God. It is through their approval of this service or ministry. The service of cheerful giving is proved or tested and approved by them. Paul used a related word to this word ‘approval’ in 8:8.

2 Corinthians 8:7 But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you— see that you excel in this act of grace also. 8 I say this not as a command, but to prove (δοκιμάζω) by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.

Prove that your love is genuine. Proving demonstrates the genuineness of a thing. A thing is approved when it is proved to be what it claims to be. It is by the approval of this service that they glorify God. There is such a thing as service that is not really service, ministry that is not really ministry. It appears to be, but it is not genuine. The outward thing might look identical, but it is intrinsically different. Fools gold might appear to be gold, but in the furnace it is proved to be a different thing altogether. In this context, cheerful giving is the service. There might be two givers who give, and the amount might be identical. The outward act is the same. But what is the heart and attitude behind the gifts? The one might be out of a simple affection for Jesus and a desire to honor him with what he has given. The other might be mixed with a desire to be noticed, to be perceived as generous, to gain the status and respect of a generous giver. It might be out of a sense of pressure or obligation, or out of a desire to repay a debt. It might be a way to relieve guilt. Both gifts might meet the need, but as we’ve seen throughout these chapters, the heart of the giver is most important. One is proved genuine, the other proves to be fools gold.

Which is it? Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference. What is the ultimate result? Who gets glory? Jesus said:

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Let your light shine before men. Do good works. But do them in such a way that God gets the glory. The giver gets the glory. If the giver is God and it is clear that I am merely a conduit or channel through which God’s good gifts flow, then God gets the glory. If I attempt to share his glory, to claim credit for myself, I obscure where the gift comes from, and I attempt to steal glory for myself, glory that rightly belongs to God alone.

Remember Annanias and Sapphira in the early church (Acts 5)? Many of the believers were selling their possessions and sharing what they had. They sold a piece of land, and presented part of the sale price as a gift, but secretly withheld part for themselves. It was not wrong to keep some of the proceeds. It would not have been wrong to keep the entire amount. The apostles make this clear. What they were accused of was lying to God. They were not genuine. They were trying to deceive, trying to be perceived as something they were not. Their hearts were wrong. They were seeking to impress others, to be perceived as generous, to gain status and approval. Instead they were exposed for what they were, and they dropped dead on the spot. Our hearts matter greatly to God.

People may be deceived. People may misread motives, but God knows our hearts.

Gentile Submission to the Gospel

2 Corinthians 9:13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,

They will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ.

This word ‘submission’ is used in contexts of submission to authority, submission of children to parents, of a wife to her husband, of slaves to their masters, of citizens to their governing authorities. It is used of the submission of Jesus to his Father. It is used of the submission of demons to Jesus, and ultimately of all things under God. This is an interesting use of this word here in this context. What is ‘the submission of your confession to the gospel of Christ’?

This word submission seems to have a large overlap with another word, often translated ‘obedience’. Both are used for submission to or obedience to parents, to masters, of demons to Jesus. The obedience word has more to do with hearing and obeying; as the wind and waves obeyed Jesus’ voice. This submission word has more to do with being subject to authority. The obedience word is used several times in the context of obeying the gospel, as almost synonymous with believing. To hear his voice and respond to him is to believe. This is the only place that this submission word seems to be connected with the gospel. But it is not just submission to the gospel, but the submission of your confession to the gospel of Christ.

This idea of submission points to something bigger. There are some verses that use this submission word to speak in a cosmic context of all authorities and powers and everything being put under the authority of Jesus, and ultimately of his Father. Here’s just one example:

Ephesians 1:19 …according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things [in subjection] under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,

This points to a time when the whole universe will be under the dominion of Jesus. That there are non-Jewish people who are trusting in the Jewish Messiah, that there is a church of Jesus followers in Corinth and in Philippi and in Ephraim Utah is a big deal! This is a foretaste of everything in the universe being in subjection under King Jesus! For the Jewish believers in Jerusalem to see that there were genuine followers of Jesus from every tribe and nation was a big deal.

Confessing The Gospel

2 Corinthians 9:13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,

The submission of your confession to the gospel of Christ. What does it mean to confess to the gospel of Christ? Gospel means good news. To confess is the compound word ὁμολογία from homo – the same and logia or logos – word or reasoning. Literally it is to say the same thing. We confess or profess the gospel when we say the same thing. What the gospel says is what I say. If the good news is that whoever believes in Jesus is not condemned but has eternal life (Jn.3:36) then I say the same thing. I trust in Jesus so I am no longer under condemnation but I have eternal life. If the good news is that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Eph.2:8), then I say the same thing. There is nothing I can do to rescue myself. I am depending on Jesus, I receive his free and undeserved gift. I confess the gospel. What the gospel says, what God says is true, I say is true.

The good news is Christ. The good news is a person. In confessing the gospel of Christ I am submitting to a person. I surrender. I place myself under his good authority. I trust him and entrust myself to him.

Communion and Community

2 Corinthians 9:13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,

They give praise and honor to God because you are believing the gospel. You are confessing the gospel of Christ. You are placing yourself under the rule and authority of Jesus.

And they glorify God because of the generosity (literally simplicity or sincerity, openness) of your fellowship. When they see your single hearted love for God and neighbor, they see the genuineness of your faith, and they glorify God.

The gospel creates communion, fellowship, something in common. People who had nothing at all in common, when they belong to Jesus, now they have a common bond, a connection, something in common. The most important thing in common. People of different language and culture and ethnic background, when they belong to Jesus, have the most important thing in common. And this creates a bond, a connection. Have you experienced this? You meet a total stranger, someone you have nothing in common with, and you discover that they too are a lover of Jesus, and you suddenly have this unity, this connection, you can enjoy communion. The opposite is true. You might have so many shared interests, so much shared life experience, you might have so much in common, but if the other person is not a believer, you can’t have true fellowship, true communion. Not at the deepest, most important level. They see the simplicity of your communion to them and to all. There is a connection with every other believer, and that brings glory to God.

Passion and Prayer

This communion is reciprocal. What this looks like is described in the next verse.

2 Corinthians 9:14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.

Have you ever had someone tell you that they have been praying for you? Maybe someone you’re not really all that close to? Yet they are invested in you enough to take you into the very presence of God and speak to him about you. That is humbling and amazing. They long for you and pray for you. Their affections are involved. They care about you. They care enough to pray for you. They are bringing you into the presence of God as a praise. They are thanking God for you, for the work God has done in you. You are loving God and loving neighbor, and maybe you don’t even feel like you’re really doing that much. But they recognize the grace of God on you, that you are a trophy of God’s unmerited grace. And they glorify God because of you. That is a humbling, encouraging experience. That creates a connection. That is communion.

Surpassing Grace

And this brings us full circle. Your ministry, your simplicity of service to others is evidence of the tested genuineness of the submission of your confession of the gospel of Christ. This is evidence of the surpassing grace of God on you. Paul started this section encouraging simplicity and generosity by pointing to the grace of God,

2 Corinthians 8:1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia,

The grace of God had been given, and it overflowed in a wealth of single-hearted simplicity, love first for God and then for neighbor. Now he comes full circle. He began with the grace of God given to them, and he ends with the surpassing grace of God on you, recognized by others.

2 Corinthians 9:14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.

This generosity, this love, this openness and simplicity, this ability to increase thanksgivings and glorify God is all of grace from beginning to end.

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

November 25, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 9:11-12; Producing Thanksgiving

11/17_2 Corinthians 9:11-12; Producing Thanksgiving ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191117_2cor9_11-12.mp3

What are you thankful for? What should we be thankful for that we may not be? Is your heart characterized by gratitude? How is thankfulness developed? What can we do to grow our gratitude? Here’s another question: Is there anything that we can do to affect the thankfulness of someone else?

In Paul’s instructions on generosity and cheerful giving in 2 Corinthians 8-9 he gives some important insight into thanksgiving.

2 Corinthians 9:11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

Paul says that there is a way to produce thanksgiving to God. He says that what we do can overflow in many thanksgivings to God. If we want God to be glorified through our lives, then we should be very interested in what he has to say here.

Paul is talking about giving. He builds everything he says on God’s grace, God’s undeserved gift to us in Jesus. He looks to God as the ultimate giver, the source of every good thing. Anything we give to others is actually a re-gifting of what God has first given to us, and that is what he intends for us to do.

Simpleness or Generosity

He says in 2 Corinthians 9:11 “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way.” This word translated ‘generous’ is a word we saw before in 8:2. Some interpretation has to happen in translation, and most English translations use the word ‘generosity’ because the context is clearly one of financial giving. But the word itself means simplicity, singleness or sincerity; free from pretense or hypocrisy; not self-seeking; an openness of heart. In Ephesians 6 and in Colossians 3 it is used in the context of a servant’s obedience to his master.

Ephesians 6:5 Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ,

Colossians 3:22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.

It is with an undivided heart, as to the Lord, not only while they are watching, but at all times eager to please the Lord. There is to be openness, integrity. Paul used this word to point to his own integrity in 2 Corinthians 1:12

2 Corinthians 1:12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity…

Simplicity, transparent openness and integrity.

The first translation of the Bible into English, the Wycliffe Bible in 1382 translates like this: “that in all things ye made rich wax plenteous into all simpleness”

A more modern literal translation might read something like this: ‘in all enriched to all simplicity, which works through us thanksgiving to God.’ That doesn’t make great sense in English, so a good translation will put the words in an order that makes sense in the target language, and will pick up clues from the context as to how a word is being used. Paul is talking about an undivided heart, single or simple, seeking in all things to please the Lord, loving the Lord with a whole heart, and your neighbor as yourself. This includes generosity, but it is bigger than generosity.

Enriched to Simplicity

‘In all things enriched to all simplicity.’ You will be enriched in every way to be single-hearted in every way. What does it mean that we will be enriched in everything or in every way? This is defined by the context.

2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

God will supply everything needed so that we can abound in every good work. He will give us what we need to live a righteously, to distribute freely and give to the poor; he will supply and multiply our seed for sowing and increase our harvest of righteousness. We will be enriched in every way for a simple whole-hearted love for God and neighbor.

What About Poor Christians?

Do you believe this? Do you believe that God will supply all your needs? Does this mean that no Christian will ever be poor? Paul himself said he knew how to be content in plenty and in want. At times he went hungry. The Macedonian believers were in the depths of poverty. The collection was for the poor saints in Jerusalem, because they were poor. Our brothers and sisters are beaten and imprisoned and even killed because of their love for God. How do we account for this?

God doesn’t here promise exemption from poverty. He doesn’t say that as long as you’re following him, you will have enough money for your own needs and extra to give away. Apparently the Macedonians didn’t have enough for their own needs, but they gave anyway. If we view this as a financial formula, we will have to turn a blind eye to all of church history right up through our present day, or we will have to write them all off as not having enough faith.

But if we understand that God will give you all his grace so that you can stand firm in your faith and continue to love God and neighbor even in the worst of circumstances, then this is realistic and reliable encouragement for us.

Bigger Than Humanitarian

2 Corinthians 9:11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

God gives us everything we need so that in every circumstance we can love God and neighbor which will produce thanksgiving to God. Do you believe this? Do you believe that you can live to the glory of God regardless of your circumstances? Do you believe that you can stay faithful to God and serve others even if you have nothing? This is the word of God! This is the promise of God to us. Do we live this way? Do we step out in love and serve, trusting that God will be enough?

Paul says that through us this will produce thanksgiving to God. Paul was involved in the transaction. He was orchestrating the collection for the saints in Jerusalem. He understood that God would use him and his companions to deliver this gift, to be the connecting link between Jew and Gentile churches. He believed that this would produce thanksgiving to God. Paul’s goal was bigger than a humanitarian mission. He was all for alleviating suffering where possible, but his purpose was bigger than that. Paul’s ultimate goal in everything was to bring glory to God. And he shows us how this humanitarian collection will produce thanksgiving to God in verse 12.

2 Corinthians 9:12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

The ministry of this service not only does this, but also does that. Not only does it supply what is lacking in the saints; it does that, as he said back in 8:14 that your abundance will supply their need. It does meet a real need, but it is bigger than that. It is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

Service and Worship

How does it do this? Paul uses an interesting word to describe this ministry. He uses two different words that have a large area of overlap to describe the collection. Both words could be translated ‘ministry’ or ‘service’. It is ‘the ministry of this ministry’ or ‘the service of this service’. The first word has a more a sense of administration or stewardship. It is where we get the word ‘deacon’. It is ministering or administering practical service or help.

The second word is less common, and it comes from the context of the Old Testament priest. John the Baptist’s father Zechariah was a priest, and we are told in Luke 1

Luke 1:8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.

And then it says:

Luke 1:23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

That’s our word; his time of priestly service. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, this word shows up often in connection with the tabernacle and then the temple. It has to do with approaching God in worship. It is where we get our English word liturgy.

Paul describes giving to the poor out of a single heart a service or ministry of priestly worship. Paul refers to this collection as a priestly service in Romans 15.

Romans 15:25 …I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. 27 For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings.

Giving is an act of worship. Paul describes his own ministry in these terms.

Romans 15:15 …because of the grace given me by God 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

His language pictures himself in terms of a priest at the altar, presenting a holy sacrifice pleasing to God, only his service is not at the temple, but in the gospel; and his offering is not an animal sacrifice or a grain offering, but people, Gentile people made holy by the Spirit of God.

He uses similar priestly imagery in Philippians 2

Philippians 2:17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.

Here he describes his own life as the offering being poured out on the sacrifice and priestly service of their faith.

Paul has told the Corinthians

1 Corinthians 3:16 …that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 …For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

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? …

2 Corinthians 6:16 …For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

We are the temple. We are the place of meeting with God. Peter fleshes out this imagery when he says:

1 Peter 2:5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. …9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

You are the temple. You are a holy priesthood. You are to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. You get to proclaim the excellencies of him! This is worship. To proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Paul tells the Romans

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

Our bodies are the sacrifice, made holy by the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus for us. He goes on to tell us more specifically how:

Romans 12:5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity (or simplicity); the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Use your gifts to the glory of God. Through love serve one another.

The book of Hebrews, which focuses on Jesus as our greater High Priest, also exhorts us:

Hebrews 13:15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

A sacrifice of praise; lips that acknowledge his name. Do good and share what you have. In single simplicity love God with all your heart and love and serve your neighbor as yourself.

2 Corinthians 9:11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

The ultimate motive is always God centered. We are always to pursue the glory of God in all things. God the giver deserves to receive the overflow of gratitude for the gifts he has given. When we love and serve others in the strength that he supplies, he gets the glory; we produce thanksgiving; many will overflow in thanksgiving to God.

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

November 18, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 9:9-10; Increase the Harvest of Your Righteousness

11/10_2 Corinthians 9:9-10; Increase The Harvest of Your Righteousness; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191110_2cor9_9-10.mp3

Paul is talking about the abounding grace of God, that God is able to make all grace abound to you, in order that you may abound in every good work. He will supply all his sufficiency at all times in all things so that you may abound in all good work. This is the abounding grace of God to us. This is the ever-flowing supply from the all-sufficient God.

In encouraging generosity; Paul uses the metaphor of farming – scattering seed bountifully. A farmer must not be stingy with his seed. A farmer worried about the waste of throwing good seed into the dirt to die does not understand farming. The harvest will be directly proportional to the amount of seed scattered; sparse sowing will produce sparse reaping; bountiful sowing will produce a bountiful harvest.

But Paul focuses on the heart and attitude of the giver. It is not good to give merely out of a sense of duty or obligation, what one ought to do. It matters what one wants to do. God is after our hearts; he is out to transform our desires. The seed must be scattered ‘upon blessings’; out of a blessed heart; a cheerful heart, a heart made glad by God’s experienced abundance.

2 Corinthians 9:6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

In verse 9 he supports his assertion that the bountiful sower will be met with God’s abundant provision with a quote from the Old Testament, from Psalm 112.

Whose Righteousness?

2 Corinthians 9:9 As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”

Without going back to look at Psalm 112, it would be easy to make a false assumption about this quotation. The context in 2 Corinthians 9 is God’s abundant supply, and we might read the ‘he’ as referring to God; God has distributed freely, God has given to the poor, God’s righteousness endures forever. And while these are all true statements, that is not what the Psalm is saying. It will be worth our time to go back and read all 10 verses of Psalm 112 to see the context of the quotation. So keep a finger in 2 Corinthians 9 and turn back with me to Psalm 112.

Psalm 112:1 Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments! 2 His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. 3 Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. 4 Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous. 5 It is well with the man who deals generously and lends; who conducts his affairs with justice. 6 For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. 7 He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD. 8 His heart is steady; he will not be afraid, until he looks in triumph on his adversaries. 9 He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever; his horn is exalted in honor. 10 The wicked man sees it and is angry; he gnashes his teeth and melts away; the desire of the wicked will perish!

The ‘he’ in verse 9 is clearly the ‘man who fears the LORD’, who is upright, who is gracious, merciful, and righteous, whose righteousness endures forever. He, the one who deals generously and lends, who acts with justice in everything, he is the one who has distributed freely. He has given to the poor. The righteousness of the upright man will endure forever.

Righteous Living

Righteousness is such a central topic in the Scriptures. So what can we learn about righteousness in Psalm 112?

The righteous man in Psalm 112 is blessed by the Lord. His house is blessed; his descendants are blessed. The righteous one fears the Lord. He finds great delights in God’s commandments. He walks in the light, he is gracious and merciful, he deals generously and lends, he conducts all his affairs with justice. He is not afraid of bad news; which means that he is not exempt from hardship or trials; he does experience setbacks, he does have enemies; but he is not shaken or afraid because his trust is always in the Lord.

This is what a righteous life looks like.

Righteousness that Endures Forever

The promise to the righteous is that he is blessed by the Lord (v.1-2), that his righteousness endures forever (v.3), that the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever, his righteousness endures forever (v.6). His righteousness endures forever (v.9).

This is an amazing promise, a staggering promise really, because we read in Ezekiel

Ezekiel 33:12 “And you, son of man, say to your people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him when he transgresses, and as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall by it when he turns from his wickedness, and the righteous shall not be able to live by his righteousness when he sins. 13 Though I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, yet if he trusts in his righteousness and does injustice, none of his righteous deeds shall be remembered, but in his injustice that he has done he shall die.

That’s heavy, because God is telling his people not to rest in past performance. If you’ve lived a righteous life and then you sin, your past righteousness doesn’t save you.

But here in Psalm 112 we are told that the righteous person is blessed by the Lord, and that his righteousness endures forever. How do these seemingly opposed ideas fit together?

None Righteous

We need to step back and look at the bigger Biblical picture of righteousness. Psalms and Proverbs repeatedly contrast the righteous and the wicked; blessings poured out on the righteous and justice on the wicked. But the Psalmist also affirms the fact that ‘no one living is righteous before you’ (Ps.143:2) and when we get to the preacher in Ecclesiastes, he says

Ecclesiastes 7:20 Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.

The book of Job repeatedly asks this question: “How then can a man be in the right before God?” (Job.25:4; cf. 4:17; 9:2; 15:14).

Paul systematically answers this question of righteousness in his letter to the Romans. He begins by establishing the fact that “None is righteous, no not one; …all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom.3:10, 23).

Imputed Righteousness

And then he points to the righteousness of God,

Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 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,

He points us to an alien righteousness; a righteousness not our own, from outside us; God’s righteousness, given to believers in Jesus. We are justified; declared righteous by his grace as a gift. In Romans 4, Paul holds up Abraham as the prototype of God crediting or imputing an outside righteousness to a person who is not himself righteous.

Romans 4:3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

God counts ungodly people as righteous based on the righteousness of Jesus. He clarifies in Romans 5

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

Just as Adam’s sin was counted against all mankind, so Jesus’ perfect obedience to his Father is credited to the account of all who trust in him.

Isaiah 53 pointed us to this alien righteousness:

Isaiah 53:11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

The suffering Servant, Jesus the righteous sufferer, who bears our iniquities, makes us (sinners) to be accounted righteous. Jesus’ own righteousness is imputed to us or credited to our account; his perfect righteousness is counted as ours. This is an astounding promise of enduring righteousness. We are fickle; but God ensures that our righteousness will stand for eternity!

Practical Righteousness

This is the theological truth that undergirds and supports this promise that the righteousness of the generous person endures forever. None are righteous, yet all who entrust themselves to Jesus are counted righteous in him, and that is a righteousness that will endure forever.

But it doesn’t stop there. Some may be tempted to see this truth that it is not my own righteousness that counts with God, but rather Jesus’ righteousness counted as mine, and conclude that seeking to live a righteous life doesn’t really matter. As if fearing the Lord, delighting in his commands, walking in the light, doing justice and being merciful doesn’t matter. It does matter. Because God not only counts us righteous in Jesus, we become part of his new creation. We are being made new. He is out transform us from the inside out. He gives us a new heart, new passions, new desires.

Jesus said:

Matthew 5:20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Our righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, not because we keep the rules better than they do, but because we want more than anything to please God. We do what we do not in order to earn favor with God, but rather because God has freely shown us his undeserved favor.

Supplied to Scatter

2 Corinthians 9:9 As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.

Paul supports his assertion that the bountiful sower will be met with God’s abundant provision with a quote from Psalm 112. God will cause his righteousness to stand forever. In verse 10, he points again to God’s abundant supply. Paul borrows language here from Isaiah 55.

Isaiah 55:10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Let’s draw a few observations from this text. First, God is the giver. God is the ultimate source of all good. We see this over and over in this passage, and throughout Scripture.

Second, notice the order; He supplies seed to the sower and bread for food. First seed for sowing, then bread for food. I think the order is important. There is a priority of scattering seed over supplying one’s own needs. God’s abundant supply is first meant for scattering out to others, and then afterward for satisfying one’s own needs with what is left over.

Consider Jesus feeding the multitudes. He broke bread and gave it to his disciples to serve to the crowds. It passed through their hands to others. They were no doubt hungry too, but they first took what they had been given and served those around them who were in need. After feeding the five thousand, they gathered twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over (Mt.14:20). After feeding the four thousand they took up seven baskets full of broken pieces left over. (Mt.15:37). Neither five small loaves and two fish nor seven loaves and a few fish would have gone very far among Jesus’ twelve disciples. But in Jesus’ economy it first passed through their hands to feed the multitudes, and then baskets were left over to supply the needs of his disciples.

We see this proverb in action.

Proverbs 11:24 One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. 25 Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.

Harvest of Righteousness

2 Corinthians 9:10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.

He will not only fully supply but multiply your seed for sowing. Remember, all that you have is a gift supplied to you by God. He who supplied it is able to multiply it, and he is able to increase the harvest of your righteousness. Notice what the harvest consists of; your righteousness. According to Psalm 112, your righteousness consists of fearing the Lord and delighting in his commands, walking in the light, loving justice and showing mercy, giving to those in need.

God is able to cause your righteousness to endure forever. How will you scatter what God has put in your hand? Who will you show mercy to today? How will you cooperate with God as he increases the harvest of your righteousness? Will you act on the new desires he has placed in your heart?

2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

****

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

November 11, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 9:8; Abounding Grace for Abounding Generosity

11/03_2 Corinthians 9:8; I Shall Not Want; Abounding Grace for Abounding Generosity; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191103_2cor9_8.mp3

Abounding Grace for Abounding Generosity

2 Corinthians 9:6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

Abounding grace for abounding generosity. God will freely give you what you need so that you can freely give. Notice the ‘abound’ word – twice in this verse. It starts with all grace abounding, and it ends with all good work abounding. And notice the comprehensive ‘all’ words three times in the middle; all, always, all. This verse is symmetrical and comprehensive. It begins with an overflow of God’s grace to us, and it flows out in our good works.

Here’s a rough literal translation to help you see the symmetry and repetition in the verse:

‘Now mighty/able [is] God, all grace to cause to abound to you,

in order that in all,

always,

all self sufficiency having,

you will abound in all good work.’

God’s Ability

This verse begins with God’s ability, God’s abundant grace. God is able to make all grace abound to you. Let’s just soak in that statement for a moment. God is mighty. God is strong. God is able. He is powerful. He is fully capable. Omnipotent is the theological word – all powerful. Nothing is too difficult for the Lord. Nothing is beyond his ability. He is able to do all that he wants to do.

God’s Eagerness

And God loves a cheerful giver. The one who scatters seed bountifully will also reap bountifully. God loves a cheerful giver because he is a cheerful giver. And he loves to create cheerful giving in us. What he wants to do is to make all his grace abound to you. So that you will overflow with cheerful giving. Paul held up the Macedonians as an example of this in the beginning of chapter 8.

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 [abounded] in a wealth of generosity [simplicity] on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor [grace] of taking part [fellowship] in the relief [service] of the saints—

God gave the Macedonian believers his grace, and it created abundant joy and overflowed in abundant single-hearted simplicity. God gave his grace to them, and God will give his abundant grace to you too.

God is able, and he is willing. He gave us the ultimate proof of his willingness.

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

This is abundant grace indeed! That God himself, God the Son, being eternally rich, would enter into our poverty in order to make us rich with his presence forever! If you ever doubt his goodness, his grace, you need only look to the cross.

All Grace Abounding

Look carefully at what this says. Savor this! God is able to make all grace abound to you. It does not say that he will merely give you grace (as if that would not be enough). Not just sufficient grace, not some grace, but all grace. All grace! God holds nothing back! He gives us “the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph.2:7)! All grace, every good gift we don’t deserve and didn’t earn is ours in Christ Jesus!

But he doesn’t even stop there, in giving us all his grace. He is able to cause all grace to abound, to overflow to you! All his grace in unending, overwhelming, abundant supply.

Ephesians 3:14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, …16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Glory! We need his supernatural strength to comprehend the depth of his goodness toward us! All his undeserved grace in abundant supply! Worship!

The Purpose of Abundance

2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

There is a purpose statement here. ‘So that’ or ‘in order that’. God’s grace is abundantly given to us for a purpose. It is so that in all things, at all times, we would have all sufficiency to abound in all good work. God’s abundant giving is to be mirrored in us. God gives abundantly to us so that we will become abundant givers like he is.

God’s purpose in causing all his grace to abound to you is not for you to store it up and horde it. It is not for you to become a a septic tank, where everything goes in and nothing out, where the good water flowing from the kitchen sink gets stagnant and smelly, until it gets too full and too foul and needs to be pumped out.

God’s design is that you be a fresh mountain reservoir, with direct access to the ever flowing springs and streams of God’s goodness, filled to overflowing so that it can freely flow out to bless others.

Paul tells the elders from Ephesus:

Acts 20:35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

We are blessed in order to bless others. By working hard we must help the weak. He writes to the Ephesians:

Ephesians 4:28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

The contrast here between stealing and working is not merely a contrast of how wealth is gotten. It is also a contrast of purposes. Not stealing to have more to spend, not stealing to supply his own needs, but working hard in order to have something to share with anyone in need. The heart of the thief is transformed. His goal for his income honestly gotten is radically different.

Paul writes Timothy:

1 Timothy 6:17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

The rich are not condemned for being rich, but rather are exhorted to not believe in, trust in, set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches. They are exhorted to use what they have been blessed with to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share. This is how to truly enjoy wealth. This is truly living!

The author of Hebrews says

Hebrews 13:5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Free! Freedom to be content with what you have. Content with the promise of God’s presence. He goes on to say:

Hebrews 13:16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

The privilege of pleasing God. We have the awesome privilege of pleasing God with what he has given freely to us.

Abundant Supply for Every Good Work

God’s purpose in causing all his grace to abound to you is that you might reflect him by abounding in all good work. We might ask ‘What good work? Which good work am I supposed to abound in? I certainly can’t do everything.’ This is similar to the lawyer’s question when Jesus affirmed that the law requires that we love God and love neighbor as oneself.

Luke 10:29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

We want off the hook. So we say ‘Which good work?’ Jesus told a story about a man who had been beaten and robbed and left half dead, and three different people’s responses to seeing this man in need. Jesus’ question was:

Luke 10:36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”

Jesus turns the question around from ‘who is my neighbor’ to ‘where is your heart?’ What kind of a neighbor are you to the people in your life who have need? Are you miserly, eager to protect what you have, focusing on your own potential loss, or is your heart overflowing, seeing the need around you and leaping at the opportunity to bless as you have been so abundantly blessed?

This passage simply and clearly answers this question with one simple word; all. Every. So that you may abound in all good work. Every good work.

In fact James goes so far as to say

James 4:17 (KJV) Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

If you’re anything like me, you hear this and you say ‘but I don’t have sufficient resources to do it all! Every good work? This surely must be hyperbole. It can’t mean literally every good work, can it?

Sandwiched in the middle of this purpose statement are three more ‘all’ words. Inside the ‘In order that …you may abound in every good work’ are these six words: ‘in all, always, all sufficiency having.’ To our ‘but I don’t have enough, I won’t have enough’ God says ‘you will have all you need, all the time, in everything.’

In another passage where Paul is thanking a church family for sending him support, he says:

Philippians 4:19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

When I am focused on my lack and begin to doubt, I need to ask myself ‘Is Jesus enough?’ What is it that I really need?

Our thinking tends to be stuck in categories of giving monetarily. And that is a valid category. But we need to be open to thinking outside our boxes, as Peter and John teach us in Acts 3. They were on their way to the temple to pray when they were interrupted by a lame beggar asking for money. Here it is in the old King James, the way I first heard it:

Acts 3:6 (KJV) Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.

He was asking for money. Not many of us can honestly say ‘Silver and gold have I none.’ But we do hold the life-transforming treasure of the gospel in these jars of clay. Peter and John could have said ‘Silver and gold have I none’ and felt off the hook to walk by and do nothing. But instead their time with Jesus had transformed their vision to see beyond what he was asking for to his real need, to the hope of all things made new. What has Jesus freely given you that you can share freely with others?

2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

Let’s end by savoring these familiar words together:

Psalm 23 (KJV) 1 A Psalm of David.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:

he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3 He restoreth my soul:

he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:

for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:

thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:

and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

****

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

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

2 Corinthians 9:7; God Is a Cheerful Giver

10/27_2 Corinthians 9:7; God Is a Cheerful Giver; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191027_2cor9_7.mp3

2 Corinthians 9:6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

God loves a cheerful giver. What does it mean to be a cheerful giver? What does this imply about those who don’t give cheerfully (or at all)? Why does God love a cheerful giver?

Proverbs 22:8-9 [LXX]

Paul takes his ideas from Proverbs 22:8-9. In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, Proverbs 22 reads like this:

Proverbs 22:8 (lit. trans.) The one who sows worthlessness/evil reaps bad, but will fully complete the punishment of his works. A cheerful man and a giver God will bless, but will fully complete the futility of his works, 9 The one who is merciful to the poor, he will himself be maintained, for his own bread he has given to the poor

Then in verse 11 it says:

Proverbs 22:11 (LXXE) The Lord loves holy hearts, and all blameless persons are acceptable with him:…

A cheerful man, even a giver God will bless. The Lord loves purity in heart, the one who is merciful to the poor, who gives his own bread to the poor. God loves a cheerful giver. God will bless a cheerful giver.

A Single Eye

Proverbs 22:8-9 in the ESV reads:

Proverbs 22:8 Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of his fury will fail. 9 Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.

He who has a bountiful eye; literally a good eye. What does that mean? Jesus picks up this idea about eyes and money in Matthew 6

Matthew 6:20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy [ἁπλοῦς], your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

Jesus says literally ‘if your eye is single’ or ‘simple’. Paul used the noun form of this word to describe the generosity, or literally the simplicity of the Macedonians back in 2 Corinthians 8:

2 Corinthians 8:2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity [ἁπλότητα] on their part.

As we have seen, this word translated ‘generosity’ is literally the word for simplicity or single-hearted devotion to the Lord. Paul uses this word again in 9:11 and 13 to describe the heart from which they give. It is simple or single. It is not divided or double minded. Jesus goes on to say in Matthew 6:

Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Jesus said the most important thing is:

Mark 12:30 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.’

A cheerful giver gives out of simplicity, eager to please one Master. There is no duplicity or double mindedness. The cheerful giver gives out of single-hearted devotion to Christ.

A Cheerful Giver

What does it mean to be a cheerful giver? We can learn something of what it looks like to give cheerfully, out of a single heart by looking at what Paul describes as the wrong motives. He said in verse 5 that it would be willing and not as an exaction, literally not as greed or covetousness. A greedy or covetous heart is not a cheerful heart.

He says in verse 6 that we should not sow sparingly or stingily, looking at the loss we might incur. That is not cheerful giving.

Verse 7 says that we are not to be reluctant or under compulsion; not out of grief or sorrow, not under pressure or necessity. That is not cheerful giving.

What he says positively is that it should be ‘as he has determined in his heart’ (9:7); out of an abundance of joy, riches of simplicity (8:2), giving themselves first to the Lord (8:5), begging for the grace and fellowship of service to the saints (8:4); a genuine love (8:8); a will and advance desire (8:10-12); out of abundance (8:14); for the glory of the Lord himself (8:19) a predisposed desire and zeal (9:2). They were making preparation (9:2-3), It was a promised blessing (9:5); it was to be upon blessings (9:6)

Upon Blessings

What does he mean in verse 6 to sow bountifully, literally ‘upon blessings’? ‘The one who sows upon blessings, upon blessings also will reap.’ He says in verse 5 that he is sending the brothers to prepare in advance their promised in advance blessing, so that it is ready as a blessing. To bless is to speak or pronounce God’s grace to others. To sow upon blessings is to sow out of a heart that has received God’s blessings; a heart overflowing with God’s blessings. When we have richly received and experienced God’s grace, we can widely scatter God’s amazing grace to others. A cheerful giver is one who liberally scatters blessings because he has lavishly experienced God’s blessings.

God’s Unconditional Love

God loves a cheerful giver. But what does that imply about those who are not cheerful givers? Or not givers at all? Does God not love those who are not cheerful givers? Doesn’t John 3:16 say that God so loved the world? Doesn’t God love everyone?

Let me put this another way. If we say that God loves the world, everyone, and cheerful givers are one subset of everyone, therefore God loves them, it makes this statement meaningless. It would be equally true to say that God loves the grudging givers, and those who give nothing at all. They are also subsets of the everyone whom God loves. Saying that God loves the cheerful giver must be saying something different than that God loves the sinful world or even than God loves all who trust in him.

You may have heard it said ‘there’s nothing you can do to make God love you any more than he does right now, and there’s nothing you could ever do that would make God love you less.’ God’s love is unconditional. God’s love is based on his own character, not on your performance. You didn’t do anything to earn his love, and you can’t do anything that would turn his love away from you. This is good news. This is grace. That God loves us not because of anything we have done or ever will do.

Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy…

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— …8 …this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

In this there is profound freedom; freedom from striving, freedom from performance, freedom from attempting to impress God.

Romans 4:5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

We must understand grace. Before we can give we must receive. Grace upon grace. And all our giving must flow out of these multiplied blessings poured out on us.

Consequences of Not Giving Cheerfully

But the Bible also talks like this: God loves a cheerful giver.

Jude 1:21 keep yourselves in the love of God…

John 15:9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Keep yourselves in the love of God. There is an ‘if’; if we keep his commandments, then we will abide in his love. God loves a cheerful giver.

This implies that there is a way to abide and a way to not abide in his love. That he loves a cheerful giver and is grieved when his people give sparingly or grudgingly or not at all.

The puritan pastor John Owen gives us categories to help us make sense of this. He draws a distinction between union and communion. We are united with Christ by grace alone through faith alone. Nothing we can do or fail to do will change our union with Christ. We belong to him. But how we respond to him can and does affect our communion with him, our day to day fellowship with him, our enjoyment of our union with him.

Think of the marriage relationship. We took wedding vows before God and in the presence of witnesses ‘to love, cherish and serve, in sickness and health, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, ’til death do us part.’ I might act rudely toward my wife, and that won’t change her commitment to her vows before God, but it will affect the level of intimacy we enjoy in our relationship. It doesn’t change our union, but it will affect our communion.

Notice Jesus exhorts us to abide in his love for our joy, that our joy may be full. We will enjoy our relationship with God more if we walk in his ways, if we follow his commands, if our hearts are overflowing with gladness in him. We ought to pursue cheerful generosity, because cheerfulness is more enjoyable than being grudging or greedy or stingy.

God Is a Cheerful Giver

But there is a deeper, a more important reason that God loves a cheerful giver. It is simply this: God loves a cheerful giver because God is a cheerful giver. God created us in his own image, and he loves to see his own character reflected in his people.

Look to God the cheerful giver!

James 1:17 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.

Matthew 7:11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Every good gift is from God. God is the giver of every good. God himself is the greatest good.

Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Psalm 21:6 For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence.

Psalm 84:11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.

God is our greatest good. And he does not withhold good from us.

Romans 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 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?

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,

He graciously gave us his own Son. He will with him pour out every spiritual blessing on us.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

God is the giver. God gave his only Son, and Jesus gladly gave himself.

Galatians 2:20 …I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Ephesians 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

Hebrews 12:2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

It was his joy to give himself up for us.

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Why does our motive and attitude matter to God? Why does our cheerfulness in giving matter? Because we image him, and when we don’t give cheerfully, we lie about him, we misrepresent him. God is not a stingy giver, he is not reluctant, not a grudging giver, he does not give out of compulsion or obligation, he does not sow sparingly. We could say God is lavish, excessive, prodigal. over the top, extravagant. God love a cheerful giver because God is a cheerful giver.

****

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

October 27, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 9:6-7; Sowing and Planning

10/20_2 Corinthians 9:6-7; Sowing and Planning; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191020_2cor9_6-7.mp3

Paul takes two chapters in this letter to encourage generosity in the collection for the saints in Jerusalem that he is overseeing. He wants them to know about he grace of God given in Macedonia, where the believers joyfully gave beyond their ability, eager to participate in this act of grace. He encourages them that as they excel in so many areas, they ought to excel in this grace also. He refuses to command them, but rather gives them an opportunity to prove that their love is genuine. He holds up Jesus as the ultimate source of grace and generosity. He exhorts them to do what they wanted to do, to use their own abundance to make up for the lack others are experiencing; this is the very reason why God supplied them with an abundance. He commends the delegates from the other churches, sent to ensure the integrity of the mission, who are eager to serve and have great confidence in them. This is an opportunity for connection and accountability between the churches. Paul had boasted about them to the Macedonians, and the Corinthians’ previous zeal stirred them up to generosity. Paul is now sending the brothers ahead to avoid embarrassment, to ensure they are ready as they promised when he arrives.

2 Corinthians 9:4 Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—for being so confident. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.

This last phrase can be literally translated ‘your before promised blessing, that this be ready thus as a blessing and not as greed.’ Paul is after their hearts. Motives matter. Why are they giving? Are their hearts overflowing with blessing? Or will it be an expression of their greed, their stinginess?

2 Corinthians 9:6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 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 an agricultural analogy to encourage generosity. This word ‘sparingly’ means ‘to refrain, to spare, to save from loss of some kind’ [BDAG 1051]. The idea is that a farmer goes out to sow seed in his field and he looks in his bag of seed and thinks ‘This grain could feed my family. This grain is valuable. I could sell it. If I just throw it on the ground I might not have enough. To throw good seed in the dirt seems such a waste. It’s just going to fall into the ground and die.’

Anyone at all familiar with farming understands how ridiculous this kind of thinking is. If a farmer is stingy with his seed, worried about the waste of throwing seed into the ground, he doesn’t understand farming.

Jesus and Sowing

Jesus talked a lot about farming. In Matthew 13 he said:

Matthew 13:3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.”

Here we see what the stingy farmer is afraid of. Birds might devour all the seed. The sun will scorch the young plants. Weeds will choke them out. What waste! But in Jesus’ parable, the sower sowed anyway. He scattered seed widely, we might say even recklessly, wastefully. But when harvest time came, the seed that fell on good soil produced bountifully. The more seed he scattered, the more landed on good soil, and his harvest would be exponentially greater.

Jesus went on in Matthew 13 to describe another hazard to farming.

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.

The crop is ruined! Weeds are growing with the wheat! What should we do? The Master said:

Matthew 13:30 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.’”

Jesus is confident in the power of the seed to produce fruit in spite of obstacles. There was still ample harvest, regardless of the enemy’s efforts. Peter says:

1 Peter 1:23 …you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 …The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

God sows with imperishable seed. His word will stand. The power of the gospel, the power of his grace will overcome.

Jesus said in Mark 4

Mark 4:26 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

Notice what this farmer did. He scattered seed on the ground, and he went to sleep. You can lose a lot of sleep worrying about tomorrow. But this farmer believed. He trusted that something bigger than him was at work. He scattered the seed and he slept soundly.

The Way Of The Cross

Jesus said in John 12:

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.

It seems that throwing seed into the ground is a waste. It is just going to die. It is a loss. But that is the way of fruitfulness. That is the way of growth.

Mark 8:34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

This is the way of the cross. This is the way of death that leads to resurrection and new life. This is the way that seems foolish and yet reveals the power of God.

Giving and Blessing

Proverbs 11 shows this way that seems contrary to wisdom.

Proverbs 11:24 One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. 25 Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. …28 Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.

Giving does not seem to our wisdom to be the way to security. You may be familiar with the proverbial sounding wisdom of an older generation: ‘waste not, want not’ and ‘a penny saved is a penny earned’. There is of course some truth to that, but we must understand that giving is not wasting. We must be on our guard against greed.

Jesus said:

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

This word ‘covetousness’ is the same word at the end of 2 Corinthians 9:5 ‘ your before promised blessing, that this be ready thus as a blessing and not as greed

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.”

God says it is the fool who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.

Proverbs 19:17 Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed.

Proverbs 28:27 Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.

Not Prosperity Gospel

I want to give a caution here. Many people today use some of these passages to preach a prosperity gospel. ‘Give to our ministry so that God will bless you financially. Send us your seed faith offering. Send $10 and it will become $100. Send $100 and it will become $1,000.’ This is nothing more than thinly veiled greed in church clothes. It is a get rich quick scheme that gives false hope and preys on the poor. Paul is talking about motives here, and if your motive in giving is to get back from God with compounded interest, then your motive is dead wrong. If you are trying to manipulate God by his promises to amass financial wealth for yourself, then money is the god you are really worshiping. That kind of thinking ignores the context and twists these passages to say something they do not say. The Macedonian Christians gave out of the depth of their poverty beyond what they could afford, not at all expecting anything in return. Paul wants to be sure the Corinthians are not stingy or motivated by greed.

Burden, Grief, Necessity

What Paul said in chapter 8 demonstrates what he perceives as one of the things holding them back from extravagant generosity:

2 Corinthians 8:12 For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. 13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness 14 your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness.

The Corinthians are looking at this as a burden, not a blessing. They are concerned that if they bring relief to the pressure of others, then it will put them in a position of need themselves. Paul re-frames their thinking, showing them that they have a current spiritual lack that will be met by the joy of giving to those who are materially lacking. This ought not to be viewed as a burden, but as a God given grace. It is a gift of God, it is grace to be stirred to give, as the Macedonians teach us, begging earnestly for the grace and communion or fellowship of service to the saints.

2 Corinthians 9:6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Paul here emphasizes the importance of motive. He gives two more descriptions of wrong motives to be avoided. Not reluctantly, not out of grief or sadness, not grudgingly. It is an occasion of sadness for someone who loves his money too much to be parted from it. ‘No, no, I do want you to have it, just let me say goodbye one last time.’ it ought not to cause us grief to be parted from that which has been freely given to us.

And not under compulsion; not out of distress, constraint, or necessity. Giving is not to be out of guilt or high pressure. Paul makes it clear he is not commanding them. He is urging and encouraging and exhorting them, but it must be of their own accord, what they want to do.

Giving and Planning

So he says “each one as he has in advance decided or chosen in his heart’. It is to be from the heart. Paul gives us a principle here. He says it is to be what was chosen or decided in advance, ahead of time. We tend to value spontaneity. Paul valued clear headed advanced planning and intentionality. This word is a compound with the ‘pro’ prefix, meaning before or in advance, and the word for to choose, decide, determine or intend. We saw this ‘pro’ prefix three times in verse 5. Paul encouraged the brothers to go in advance, to arrange in advance your promised in advance blessing. Paul is not now pleading with them to do something new, spontaneous, spur of the moment. He is exhorting them to follow through on what they had desired to do and determined to do and promised to do. He is honoring their advance planning.

He had instructed them in 1 Corinthians concerning the collection for the saints:

1 Corinthians 16:2 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.

Paul doesn’t want them to feel the pressure when he is present and in the moment go beyond what they really wanted to do. Get it ready ahead of time. Plan. Pray. Purpose.

Conclusion

We’ve looked at some unhealthy motives for giving; greed, grief, pressure, burden. Not stingy or sparingly, as if to give will entail great personal loss. Examine your own heart before the Lord. Confess those negative attitudes to God as sin. Ask him to change your heart. We are going to look more closely next week at the right motives for giving; cheerfully, upon blessings.

I have left you some homework. I am not going to tell you specifically how you ought to apply what this passage teaches us. I want you to ask God to show you what he wants you to do with this. Go home, get out your budget, look at where your money goes, remembering that:

Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

And make a plan. Make sure your budget, what you do with your money, reflects your heart, what you love, what you treasure most.

A farmer plans. He looks at how big the fields in front of him are, how much seed he will need to plant those fields. He may see that he has to make some present sacrifices, tighten the belt, so he will have enough seed to fully take advantage of the opportunity in front of him.

Prayerfully, in the presence of God, make those decisions.

****

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

October 20, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 8:24-9:5; Proof Before the Churches

10/13_2 Corinthians 8:24-9:5; Proof Before the Churches ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191013_2cor8_24-9_5.mp3

Paul is talking about communion, about the fellowship, this expression of grace that he was administering; this collection from the Gentile churches serving the saints in Jerusalem.

He is encouraged by the grace of God poured out on the Macedonian believers, whose joy in adversity and depth of poverty overflowed in joyful generosity; as they eagerly insisted on the grace of giving, the communion of service to the saints; and he wants the Corinthian believers to know about what God is doing among the Macedonians.

He is exhorting the Corinthians to give according to their means, to do what they had desired to do, to follow through on their promised generosity, to finish what they started.

He has commended the brothers who are coming to help this collection along; Titus, his partner and fellow worker for the joy of the Corinthians, into whose heart God put an eagerness and earnest care for them. Another brother, whose praise is in the gospel among all the churches, who was appointed by the churches to carry out this grace, and another tested and earnest brother. These brothers are ‘messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ’.

Paul is eager to see God glorified through this expression of grace, and by the integrity with which it is carried out. He delights to see the glory of Christ revealed in the messengers sent by the churches to carry out this act of grace. So he says:

2 Corinthians 8:24 So give proof before the churches of your love and of our boasting about you to these men.

2 Corinthians 9:1 Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints, 2 for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. 3 But I am sending the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove empty in this matter, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be. 4 Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—for being so confident. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.

We see fellowship in this section; interaction between the churches. Paul is stimulating interaction between local churches. Selected men of character are being sent by the churches to accompany the gift to the church in Jerusalem. Paul told the Macedonian churches about the zeal of the Corinthians, that they had been eager to participate in this generosity from last year. He boasted about Corinth to Philippi and Thessalonica and Berea, and his boasting stirred up most of them.

Notice his modest realism here; it stirred up most of them; the majority; not all of them. There were some even in those churches who remained unmoved. But the majority were provoked to action.

Prove the Proof of Your Love

Now he is sending brothers ahead with this letter to ensure that the Corinthians are indeed ready. He invites them to give proof before the churches of your love. Earlier in chapter 8, he urged them to excel in this grace.

2 Corinthians 8:7 But as you excel in everything—…see that you excel in this act of grace also. 8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.

This opportunity to extend grace was an opportunity to test the genuineness of their love. Had they truly experienced the grace and love of our Lord Jesus in such a way that that love overflowed as they pursued opportunities to extend grace to others? Here he says ‘give proof before the churches’. He uses both the noun and verb form of a word here; literally ‘prove the proof of your love’ or ‘demonstrate the demonstration of your love’ or ‘manifest the manifestation of your love. This is about showing, making known what is really there, what is inside. Show it. Make it visible. Before the churches.

Accountability Among the Churches

Put yourself for a moment in the sandals of a Corinthian believer. You show up to the home of one of the wealthier members, who hosts the church meetings in his courtyard. It’s been a bit of a rough morning, as your youngest was fussy last night and didn’t sleep well, and you had a mild disagreement with your spouse on the walk to church over money issues. You are greeted at the gate by one of the servant girls, who with excitement in her eyes lets you in to gather with the other believers. Titus is back, with some strangers, and he is carrying a letter from the apostle Paul. After the church has gathered, and you sing a hymn together, Titus sits down and begins to read Paul’s letter. When he gets to this section, he introduces the brothers who are with him. Then he reads: ‘Therefore demonstrate the proof of your love and our boasting about you to them in the presence of the churches.’

As everyone listens attentively, there is some awkward tension in the room. The Asian believers who came with Titus are observing your responses as the letter is read. As you look into the kindly faces of these strangers, you ask yourself ‘Is my love genuine? Is Paul right to boast about us to others? What will it look like for me to give evidence of the genuineness of my love in the presence of these delegates from other churches?’

This is accountability among the churches. And it is not one directional authority, but it goes in both directions, as the Macedonians were stirred up by the report of the eagerness and zeal of the Corinthians, and now the Corinthians are to give proof of their love before these Asian or Galatian believers, and soon there will be Macedonians accompanying Paul to visit them, to observe first hand the love and zeal that they had been told about. Paul is fostering connections between the churches, fellowship between the churches, a together pursuit of the glory of Christ through service to others.

Unity and Diversity in the Body

I grew up in a church that had figured everything out. They had the bible figured out better than anyone else. And they did church right. They were just more biblical than any other church around. I don’t recall if this was ever actually said in so many words, but it was definitely the vibe I picked up. It made me believe that I could have true fellowship with only this very small circle of like minded people in like-minded churches.

But then I got connected with a high school campus ministry where I met people from a wide diversity of church denominational backgrounds, who loved Jesus and wanted to make him known.

And then I went off to bible college, and Dr. MacLeod taught us theology. He taught the big foundational doctrines that the church has treasured throughout history, the church which includes every genuine follower of Jesus through 2000 years of church history and across denominational (or non-denominational) lines.

He taught us the Bible, the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments are trustworthy, God breathed and without error. That our God is one God, eternally existing in three distinct persons; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. That this one God created all that exists to display his own glory. That the Son at a point in history became human, was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, and died as a substitute for sinners. That we can be forgiven and enjoy eternal life by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone. That Jesus rose from the dead and is seated at the right hand of his Father, and lives forever making intercession for us, and that he promises to return for us to take us to be with him where he is. And so much more.

I began to see that the things that set our little church apart from so many other churches were so small, so secondary, so insignificant in light of all the massive truths that we treasured in common. I began to realize that although we didn’t see eye to eye on every non-central detail, I was connected to a great cloud of witnesses, a brotherhood of believers, a family. We may have different traditions, different preferences, we may do thing differently, but we were connected.

There is a natural diversity among the churches; each church has a unique personality, there are language differences, cultural differences, difference of preference and style. But there is a unity of faith, of doctrine. And there ought to be opportunities to learn from one another, to exhort one another, and to hold one another accountable.

Our Connections with Other Churches

Giving is something that connects local churches in the body of Christ to one another. Our church gives regularly to other churches and missionaries, and that investment creates a connection. Most of those missionaries have come back here to encourage us, and they are invested in us. And some of us have had the opportunity to visit where they serve and see first hand what God is doing through them and hopefully be an encouragement to them. We hope to create more opportunities for some of us to go and serve and make those connections.

There are other churches that give to us. We just got a **letter** in the mail last week with a generous check and a note of encouragement from churches in Iowa and Wisconsin who have come to our community on a mission trip and began to understand the unique mission field we live in, and they were stirred up by what God is doing here, through us. They are praying for us and wanted to bless us.

Serving together is another great way to develop that kind of fellowship with other churches. Each summer, our church partners with several other churches to put on bible camp for our kids, and this has provided an opportunity to encourage and challenge each other and strengthen those connections with the churches. We have had the opportunity to do men’s and women’s retreats with other churches, and all of these opportunities for fellowship create healthy connections with other churches.

2 Corinthians 8:24 So give proof before the churches of your love and of our boasting about you to these men.

2 Corinthians 9:1 Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints, 2 for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. 3 But I am sending the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove empty in this matter, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be. 4 Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—for being so confident. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.

Paul’s Gospel Boasting

Paul knew of their advance desire, their zeal, their readiness, and he has been boasting about them to the other churches. Normally we think of boasting as bad, and often it is. Paul said in Galatians 6:14

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

And yet he is boasting about the Corinthians to the Macedonians. In the beginning of chapter 8 he is boasting about the Macedonians to the Corinthians, so we can see what this looks like.

2 Corinthians 8:1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia,

Paul’s boast in the Macedonian’s joyful giving beyond their means was the grace of God given to them. I am sure that Paul’s boasting about the Corinthians was also a boasting in the grace of God at work in this church. Look at what the cross has accomplished in the lives of these Gentiles! God’s grace has stirred them to zeal!

Now he is sending the brothers to ensure that this work of God in them was indeed genuine; that their actions will match their eagerness.

He says ‘on the one hand, it is redundant or superfluous for me to write about this because I know your readiness and zeal, yet on the other hand I am sending the brothers to be sure you are ready and to avoid embarrassment when the Macedonians come.

Blessing not Greed

2 Corinthians 9:5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.

Here Paul uses yet another word to describe the gift. He has called it a grace, a service, a fellowship, a singleness or simplicity, this fatness, and now he calls it the before promised blessing. The Greek word [εὐλογίαν] is where we get our word eulogy, literally a good word. The focus is on the verbal aspect; when we say a good word or pronounce a blessing on someone, we are asking God from whom all blessings flow to put his blessing on them. We become a conduit for God’s grace to flow through us to others, as we seek to bless others. The Corinthians had made a promise in advance, a year ago, a promise to bless. Paul is sending the brothers to be sure this before promised blessing comes from them indeed as a blessing, not as an exaction.

This word translated by many as ‘exaction’ or ‘extortion’ or something you were forced to do, is literally the word greed or covetousness. ‘That this may be ready in this way as a blessing and not as greed. The interpretive question is ‘whose greed?’ Is it the apostle’s greed in pressuring them to give, thus exaction or extortion or something they feel forced to do? This doesn’t seem to fit the context well. The word ‘blessing’ describes their heart, their attitude in giving; that they were eager to bless. The greed then would be their own greed or covetousness, a desire to hold on to what they have rather than freely and generously give to bless others. Paul goes on to talk about the heart and attitude behind giving in the coming verses. If they are giving out of a stingy heart, it will be evident, as the Proverbs graphically illustrate:

Proverbs 23:6 Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy; do not desire his delicacies, 7 for he is like one who is inwardly calculating. “Eat and drink!” he says to you, but his heart is not with you. 8 You will vomit up the morsels that you have eaten, and waste your pleasant words.

Conclusion

Paul is confident in the gospel’s ability to change a stingy heart into a gracious heart that is eager to bless others. And he is willing to write to encourage believers to extend the grace that they have freely received out to bless others. And he believes there ought to be a healthy accountability among the churches for the glory of Christ.

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

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