PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 7:1; Sanctification – Promises & Commands

05/19_2 Corinthians 7:1; Sanctification; Commands and Promises; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190519_2cor7_1.mp3

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

What to Do With the Promises

We just finished up the end of 2 Corinthians 6. Paul has just affirmed that we are the temple of the living God, and has listed for us scriptural promises, promises from Leviticus, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and 2 Samuel, promises that God will indwell in us, that he will walk among us, that he will be our God and take us to be his people. He gave us the promises that he will welcome us, that he will be a Father to us, that we will be his sons and daughters. Big promises. Staggering promises.

What do we do with these promises? We have the promises. God gave us the promises. Now what do we do with them? Do we just read them and sit back and say ‘wow, that’s really cool!’ Do we read the promises and file that information away and move on to the next thing? What do we do with the promises? What are we supposed to do with them?

Future Blessing or Present Help?

We tend to think of promises as a guarantee of something that will come to us later, that we just have to wait for. For example, if I tell my kids on Friday that I will buy them ice cream on Sunday afternoon, then they eagerly wait until Sunday afternoon rolls around. In fact, they would probably be thinking ‘I hope church gets over quickly, so we can go get ice cream.’ Is this how we are to think of the promises of God? Are the promises of God pointing to something that is coming to us in the future, that we just wait around for? Are they promises of something he will do for us in the future, regardless of what we do?

Or are they different than that? Are they more like this: ‘I have purchased swimming lessons for you. Go get your suit on and we will go to the pool together; don’t be afraid, I will be with you and help you as you learn to swim. I will always be right there to be sure you don’t drown. And when we are done, we will go get ice cream together.’ Are God’s promises promises of future blessing or of present help?

I believe the answer to that question is ‘yes!’ Yes, God’s promises are promises of future blessing. Listen to these promises from Jesus;

(Jn.6:37) “whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (Jn.6:47) “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.” Promises of future blessing, and promises of present help, because Jesus also says:

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.

We need present help for that! We are told:

1 Corinthians 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived….

Hebrews 12:14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Whoever believes has eternal life, whoever comes will not be cast out; and there is a holiness, a righteousness without which no one will enter, no one will see the Lord. We can’t take one without the other. God promises us his future blessing, and he promises us his present help to certainly get us there.

This is what he is saying in Philippians 1:6

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

He began the good work in you. It is work. It is his work. He will bring it to completion.

Promises and Commands

2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. …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. 17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

Paul gives us a command, and the reason he gives for the command is our identity, who we are because of the promises of God. “For we are the temple of the living God.”

He listed these promises; promises of his indwelling, his presence, his covenant relationship, his welcome, his adoption of us as a father to his sons and daughters; all these promises are the basis for his command, ‘do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers’ (6:14). And in the middle of these promises he also quoted a verse of command for God’s people from Isaiah 52; ‘therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing’.

Fighting With Promises

Paul tells us here exactly what he intends for us to do with the promises of God, how to put them into action. How to utilize them to great effect in our lives. We are to use the promises to battle against sin. To battle for holiness. God gave us the promises as weapons for the right hand and left, to kill sin and pursue holiness.

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

Therefore, having these, the promises, we can cleanse ourselves. What this implies is that without the promises, without the prior and continuing work of God we are utterly unable to cleanse ourselves. God provides the water for washing, he gives us the ability, he implants within us the will, the desire to be holy. He is at work before and in and under and through our work. What this means is that if you don’t know the promises, if you don’t have the promises, if you don’t know who you are in Christ, you won’t be successful in your battle with sin.

Beloved

Therefore, having these promises, beloved. ἀγαπητοί. Beloved. Just stop for a moment and hear that. You are loved. This is a term of affection. Paul writes to the Corinthians, and calls them beloved. He loves these people. He loves this church. But more than that, he addresses them as beloved because they are loved by God. You, today, are God’s beloved. That is your identity, who you are. You need to know who you are, whose you are. In order to fight right, you need to know who you are.

Let Us Cleanse Ourselves

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves. Paul puts himself in it together with his readers; Paul the apostle is on journey toward holiness together with us his readers. As he writes, he has not yet arrived, he must pursue holiness, he must cleanse himself. And he invites us his readers to join him in cleansing ourselves. When we hear this, we might think, wait, there’s a song I know that asks the question “what can wash away my sins” and it answers? “nothing but the blood of Jesus.” We might be wary of this language ‘let us cleanse ourselves.’ But that is exactly what it says, and it doesn’t contradict what the song says.

As David Powlison in his book on sanctification puts it, “We turn – from darkness to light, from false gods to the only true God, from death to life, from unbelief to faith. You ask for help because you need help. You repent. You believe, trust, seek, take refuge. You are honest. You remember, listen, obey, fear, hope, love, give thanks, weep, confess, praise, delight, walk. Notice all these active verbs; they speak of wholehearted, whole-person action… No one does any of this for you. You are not passive. You are not a puppet or a robot. You are 100 percent responsible, and yet you are 100 percent dependent on outside help. Any other way of putting it makes you either far too independent or far too passive.” [Powlison, How Does Sanctification Work? p.67]

We have God’s blood-bought promises, and so we cleanse ourselves. Because we are the temple of the living God, because God dwells in us, because he walks with us and takes us to be his own, because he has adopted us into his family as beloved sons and daughters, because of who we are, because of who he made us to be, we live different. We cleanse ourselves. We cleanse the temple. We fight. God’s presence ejects evil, and we have the Holy Spirit of the living God living inside, so we have the power to cleanse ourselves.

Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

We work because God is working in us. He is working out our will, our wants, and he is working in our work. We work because he has ignited a passion in us to be holy, and he ignites that passion through his stunning promises.

Defilement of Flesh and Spirit

Let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit. There are things that defile us physically, and there are things that defile us spiritually. And we are to cleanse ourselves from both. We are to apply the blood of Jesus to our sin-soiled self.

‘Cleanse’ implies that we are defiled, already dirty. We need to be cleansed. When Jesus washed his disciple’s feet, he said:

John 13:10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean…”

We have been washed clean by the blood of Jesus. And from our daily walk in this world, we daily get our feet dirty, and we daily need to wash our feet. We are clean, completely clean, and we need our feet washed. Daily temptation, daily struggle, daily interaction, daily defilement; daily cleansing. Let us point fingers and condemn each other when we see someone tripping up. No, that’s not what it says. Beloved, let us cleanse ourselves.

Bringing Holiness to Its Intended End

Bringing holiness to completion. Does this mean that we can attain perfection, become completely holy? Philippians 1:6 tells us that he will bring the work he began “to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” So no, I don’t believe we can achieve perfection this side of glory. “We know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1Jn.3:2).

What does it mean then to say that we are to bring holiness to completion? The word ‘completion’ has at its root the word ‘goal’; the point aimed at, to fulfill, finish or complete. We bring holiness to its intended goal when we become holy as he is holy. We are set apart or made holy; that is our position. We have been sanctified; we are saints. But we are saints who sin. We are in need of daily cleansing. We are being made holy day by day, we are being sanctified. Hebrews 10:14 brings both of these ideas together.

Hebrews 10:12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, … 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

He has perfected us for all time. That’s a promise. That cannot change. And we are being sanctified; we are in the ongoing process of being made holy. That process is sure, because he is in control. He began it and he will bring it to its intended end. And we actively participate in the process. We bring about the intended goal of our holiness when we cling to God’s promises and cleanse ourselves. When we take his blood and apply it to ourselves. Daily.

In the Fear of Him

Bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” Christians still to fear God. This is and has always been the path of true wisdom;

Proverbs 14:27 The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.

Proverbs 16:6 By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil.

We must deepen in our awesome respect and reverence for who God is. Jesus told us not to fear people. He said:

Luke 12:5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!

Application

Take up God’s promises and do battle. I am a temple of the living God. I will not make room for that in my life. God is always with me; he lives in me. I will not drag him into that. I will not look at that. I will not think that. I will not feel that. I am his son, his daughter; he is my father. I will seek to bring joy to his heart. I will bring him my problems, crawl up into his lap. He is big enough to handle anything. I can trust him. Depend on him. He has made me a saint, he has called me holy. I will pursue holiness in the fear of him.

***

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

Advertisements

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

2 Corinthians 6:16-18; Sanctuary, Separation, Adoption

05/12_2 Corinthians 6:16-18; Sanctuary, Separation, Adoption; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190512_2cor6_16-18.mp3

Paul in chapter 6 is addressing the Corinthians head on in their lack of affections for him, and ultimately for the Lord. In chapter 5 he implored them on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God (5:20). In chapter 6 he appeals to them not to receive the grace of God in vain (6:1).

2 Corinthians 6:11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.

He continues by directly addressing the problem; they were constricted in their affections because of their partnership with false teachers, who at root are unbelievers. They are to sever their connection with these unbelievers.

Then he asks five rhetorical questions, the obvious answer to each being an emphatic ‘nothing!’

2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols?

And then he makes this bold assertion at the end of verse 16:

…For we are the temple of the living God;

We are counted righteous in Christ. We are the children of light. We are new creation in Christ. We are believers, trusting in Jesus; dependent on Jesus. We are the temple of the living God.

This is not the first time the Corinthians have heard this stunning affirmation. Back in 1 Corinthians 3 he said:

1 Corinthians 3:10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. …16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

This is stunning language. You are God’s temple. God’s Spirit dwells in you! It is even more staggering when you understand that there are two different Greek words for ‘temple’ in the New Testament. The more common word [ἱερόν] is the word that is used when we read that Jesus overturned tables, healed, and taught in the temple. ἱερόν refers to the whole temple grounds, including the courtyard. But this word [ναὸς] is more specific; it is the word for the sanctuary itself. This is the word where Zechariah was confronted by the angel while offering incense in the temple, where the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom, when Jesus, referring to his own body, said:

John 2:19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

You are the temple sanctuary! Where none but set apart and properly purified priests could enter; you are now the temple sanctuary.

In 1 Corinthians 6 Paul said

1 Corinthians 6:15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? …19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul uses the temple imagery to argue against divisions in the church; in 1 Corinthians 6, he urges personal moral purity, because God dwells in each believer individually. Here in 2 Corinthians 6 Paul points to the church as the end-times fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, an identity which demands holiness.

For: Identity Transforms Association

Paul says ‘for,’ because. Separation is demanded because of what we are. This is the foundation for not being unequally yoked. Notice, the foundation for what we do is who we are in Christ. It is not the other way around; we do not become the temple because we live holy lives. We live separated lives because we are the temple.

We are the temple of the living God. This is no false God of the pagans; this is the living God of the Bible! He is the one who has never not existed. He is the author and origin of all life, the life giver, the living one.

Notice also, Paul says ‘we.’ He places himself alongside us, his readers, and says ‘we’. This is not ‘I’ have it all figured out and ‘you’ need to get your act together. Paul and the believers in Corinth are together, they are on the same side of the equation. They are fundamentally the same. They are righteousness, they are light, they are in Christ. They are believers – those who are trusting in the finished work of Jesus. Paul is pursuing reconciliation, both reconciliation of the Corinthians to God, and to himself as apostle. They need to live out the truth of the gospel; they are one in Christ. They together are the temple of God. They need to act like it!

As God Said: Leviticus 26 and Ezekiel 37

Paul stitches together a patchwork of Old Testament promises to paint a composite of who we are, intermixed with the appropriate response of separation.

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. 17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, 18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

This is a mashup of verses from as diverse places as Leviticus, Ezekiel, Isaiah, 2 Samuel together with some other Scriptural echoes. Some are exact quotations from the Greek Old Testament, some are paraphrases, reworded to fit the context here.

Indwelling and Covenant Identity

2 Corinthians 6:16 …“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

This is an overlay of Leviticus 26:11-12 with Ezekiel 37:27. Rather than following the Greek translation, it seems Paul made his own translation of the Hebrew. Literally, we could translate Paul’s Greek as ‘I will indwell in them’. He is emphatic, duplicating the prefix ‘in’ with the preposition ‘in’.

God says ‘I will indwell in them, and walk among them.’ This echoes Eden where God walked with man in the garden, but so much better! The Lord told his disciples that the Holy Spirit is with you and will be in you. He walks with us, among us, but he lives in us! He will never leave us! Stop for a moment and just let this soak in. We, you and I, the church, we are the temple of the living God.

‘I will be their God and they shall be my people.’ This is the language of the covenant. God redeemed his people out of Egypt to be in relationship with him. He literally would pitch his tent in the middle of their camp and live with them. He entered into covenant relationship with them. He would be to them their God, and he would take them to be his people.

Leviticus 26 begins by reiterating the prohibition against idolatry and promises blessings on those who walk in his ways. God says

Leviticus 26:11 I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. 12 And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. 13 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves. And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.

In a passage where he commands that they be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers, he quotes a passage which reminds them that God has shattered their yoke of slavery.

Ezekiel 37 comes in the context of the new covenant promises of Ezekiel 36 where God says:

Ezekiel 36:25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. 28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

Ezekiel 37 is the vision of the valley of dry bones, where God’s Spirit is able to give life to the dead and make their dry bones live. The second half of Ezekiel 37 points to the re-uniting of the divided kingdom of Israel and Judah under one King. God will cleanse them of their idolatry (v.23), and

Ezekiel 37:26 I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. 27 My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.”

Paul takes this text from Leviticus 26, immediately after leaving Egypt, promising blessing to those who walk in his ways, and stitches it together with Ezekiel 37, written from the despair of Babylonian captivity after centuries of disobedience, but pointing to a future hope of God again dwelling with his people. Paul addresses the Gentile church in Corinth and uses these texts to support his assertion ‘we are the temple of the living God.’

Therefore: Response of Separation; Isaiah 52

2 Corinthians 6:17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you,

Paul adds an introductory ‘therefore’ to Isaiah 52:11. This added ‘therefore’ is critical to understanding what Paul is doing here.

Notice, everything in the quotations in verse 16 consists of promises of what God will do.

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.

This is extremely one-sided. God indwells in us. God walks among us. God will be our God and take us to be his people. This is all God. That’s where Paul starts. Then he connects it to an exhortation to us with ‘therefore.’ Because this is true. Because you are already the temple of the living God. Because God has made his dwelling in you, because God walks among you, because God is your God and has taken you as his own people, because all this is already true, therefore. There is an appropriate response on our side. We must respond to what God has done. God is the initiator. We are always only the responders. Because of what God has done, therefore, we must reciprocate.

Isaiah 52 looks forward to the exiles at the end of the Babylonian captivity. God demonstrates that he is present, he reigns, he returns, he has comforted, he has redeemed, he alone saves. He says in verse 2 ‘loose the bonds of your neck, O captive daughter of Zion’; This is God who sets his people free from an oppressive yoke of bondage.

Isaiah 52:11 Depart, depart, go out from there; touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her; purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels of the LORD.

In this context it is clear that this is not a pride thing, as if we are above others, better than others. God’s people were in captivity to a foreign nation because of their sin, their idolatry, their disobedience. It is in spite of their rebellion, in order to display the glory of his own glorious name, that he saves, at great personal cost to himself (see Isaiah 52-53).

We also see that this is not a burdensome command, as if we reluctantly have to deny ourselves and part with our treasured pleasures. Think of a slave finally freed from oppressive bondage. They are eager to take a bath, to wash away any residue of their slavery and be finally rid of it all. This is the absurdity of Lot and his wife; they are being rescued from a wicked place and from the Lord’s judgment, and they don’t really want to leave.

Adopted by the Almighty; Ezekiel 20; 2 Samuel 7 and Isaiah 43

Paul goes on,

2 Corinthians 6:17 …then I will welcome you,

This phrase seems to be lifted from Ezekiel 20:34

Ezekiel 20:34 I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and with wrath poured out.

Gather in the Greek is this word welcome; literally ‘receive into’. This too comes from a context of God’s people rescued from their enemies, brought in, brought home.

2 Corinthians 6:18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

This is simply stunning! Paul takes the Eden and temple metaphor, that God walks with us and dwells in us, and turns it to a family metaphor; adoption. We are welcomed, not only as created beings, not only as servants, but as loved children.

This comes from 2 Samuel 7, where David desires to build God a permanent house in Jerusalem, and God reverses this and promises that he will build David a house.

2 Samuel 7:11 …Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.

This points beyond Solomon to David’s greater Son, whose throne will be established forever, who is indeed the Son of God. Because we are in Christ, we are sons of God through faith (Gal.3:26). Paul changes this to plural and even adds daughters, likely an echo of Isaiah 43:6 where both sons and daughters appear together.

His closing phrase, the third different way he states that this is what God said, likely comes from the context of 2 Samuel 7:8

2 Corinthians 6:18 …says the Lord Almighty.”

This is the typical LXX translation of ‘the Lord of hosts’ or ‘Lord of armies’; YHWH Tsabaoth’ (Rom.9:28, Jam.5:4)

Conclusion

This is a staggering passage. Paul calls us, Gentiles, the church ‘the temple of the living God.’ And he backs this up with God’s word; God’s promises to ‘indwell in us’ to walk among us, to be our God and take us in covenant relationship to be his people.

Because of these staggering promises he exhorts us to throw off the yoke and walk in freedom; go out from their midst, be separate from them, touch no unclean thing.

And he sandwiches this exhortation with more astounding promises; And I will welcome you, I will be a Father to you, You shall be sons and daughters to me.

Stand in awe of God’s promises. Look at who you are, who he has called you to be. And be who you are. Live free. Don’t be entangled again in a yoke of bondage.

***

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

May 13, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 6:14-16; Unequal Yoke

05/05_2 Corinthians 6:14-16; Unequal Yokes Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190505_2cor6_14-16.mp3

Paul addresses the Corinthians personally, inviting them to open up to him. He has been open with them, he has not withheld any good, his heart is wide open to them, but their affections have narrowed toward him. He addresses the issue head on in verse 14. Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. Then he gives five shocking illustrations of incompatibility to wake them up to the seriousness of the issue.

2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols?

In order to understand this passage rightly, we need to ask what he means by being unequally yoked, and who are the unbelievers he is warning against being unequally yoked together with.

Differently Yoked

What does it mean to be yoked? This is a farming metaphor. A yoke is a device that connects two animals together for the purpose of pulling a load or doing work. Deuteronomy 22:10 says:

Deuteronomy 22:10 You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together.

An ox and a donkey are going to pull differently. They are different sizes, they have different abilities, different strength. We might ask, who would think this is a good idea? And any inexperienced farmer who tried it would quickly see that this is not going to be effective; they are not going to pull evenly, at the same rate, or in the same direction. One will tire before the other; they are simply not going to get much done. If mismatching animals in a yoke for labor is so evidently a bad idea, we might ask ‘why was this law even written?’

In 1 Corinthians 9:9, Paul quoted a verse just a few chapters later, Deuteronomy 25:4. It is interesting to see how he understood it.

1 Corinthians 9:9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop.

…14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

Paul looks at the Old Testament text and says this is ultimately not about animals. God is setting a pattern, and it is for us, for our benefit. He takes a rule about agriculture and applies it to the preaching of the gospel.

It seems that is what he is doing here in 2 Corinthians 6:14. The rule about mismatching animals was to teach a principle about people and gospel ministry. The verses around Deuteronomy 22:10 prohibit planting with two different kinds of seed, and wearing clothing made of two different kinds of fabric. The point is that there are things that are not meant to go together.

Leviticus 19:19 forbids crossbreeding of animals that are of a different kind, and the Greek translation uses this word ‘unequally yoked’ to describe animals that are of different kinds; animals that would be unequally yoked. And this verse in Leviticus follows immediately after the one verse from Leviticus that you know; ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

Five Rhetorical Questions

Paul pleads with the Corinthians to open their affections to him, and he commands that they cut off all inappropriate affections that were constricting their relationship. Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. And he gives 5 rhetorical questions to drive his point home.

2 Corinthians 6:14 ,,,For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?

Or what fellowship has light with darkness?

15 What accord has Christ with Belial?

Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?

16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols?

What partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?

Righteousness doesn’t partake or participate in lawlessness. According to 2 Corinthians 5:21, God made Christ to be sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. The Corinthians, despite outward appearances, have been counted righteous in Christ. For one who has been clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ to take part in lawlessness is utterly incongruous.

Or what fellowship has light with darkness?

Light and darkness don’t mix. When God created light, he separated the light from the darkness. Darkness is the absence of light. When light enters, it drives out darkness. Light and darkness don’t have communion, fellowship, intercourse; they don’t have anything in common. If anyone is in Christ, new creation! (2Cor.5:17)

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Jesus said:

John 8:12 …“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

And Jesus commissioned Paul to:

Acts 26:18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God…

We were called, according to Peter “out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1Pet.2:9).

What accord has Christ with Belial?

Belial or Beliar was a word that had roots in the word ‘worthlessness’ or nothingness; it came to be used to refer to Satan. What accord, literally what symphony? Will they make music together? Do they harmonize together with one voice?

Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?

Believers and unbelievers, the two categories that divide humanity; those who depend only and completely on Jesus or those who are trusting in anything else; those who are being saved and those who are perishing (1Cor.1:18,21); those whose minds have been blinded by Satan and those to whom it has been given to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2Cor. 4:3-6).

What portion, what share, what common inheritance does the one who is being saved have with the one who is perishing? We have been given an inheritance incorruptible, we are made co-heirs with Christ through faith, we have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols?

We see an illustration of the incompatibility of the temple of God with idols when the Philistines captured the ark of God and put it in their pagan temple next to their idol.

1 Samuel 5:4 But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him.

When the evil king Manasseh built altars in the house of the Lord and set up idols in the very courts of the living God, we are told:

2 Kings 21:9 …Manasseh led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom the LORD destroyed before the people of Israel.

In Ezekiel 8, the Lord gives Ezekiel a vision of idolatry and false worship in the temple, and the Lord says

Ezekiel 8:6 And he said to me, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the house of Israel are committing here, to drive me far from my sanctuary? …

God’s wrath was poured out, and the glory of the Lord departed from the temple. The Lord will not share his temple with idols. There can be no agreement, no pact or relationship based on mutual consent.

In response to Jesus’ rejection by Israel, he said

Matthew 23:38 See, your house is left to you desolate.

What partnership, what fellowship, what harmonization, what common inheritance, what agreement can there be? He answers his own rhetorical questions with the profound affirmation “for we are the temple of the living God,” a topic I want to take more time to look at next week. Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.

Avoiding False Application; Gospel Engagement and Gospel Separation;

So who are the unbelievers we are not to be yoked with? This passage is forceful, but how do we apply it? Maybe more importantly, how do we avoid mis-applying it? In my experience, this was the go-to verse for arguing against marrying or even dating unbelievers. While I believe that is wise and biblical counsel, I don’t think that is the primary point of these verses. If that were the main point, when we get to the next verse which reads ‘Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord’ we might wrongly conclude that any believer who is in a marriage with an unbeliever should immediately leave; a conclusion that is both wrong and unbiblical. Others have used this verse to say that we should never enter into a business partnership with an unbeliever. Some use it to say we should only shop at Christian owned businesses, that we should only have Christian friends, that we should create a Christian ghetto.

2 Corinthians comes after 1 Corinthians, and Paul would be right to assume that the Corinthians would hear what he is saying here in the context of what he has already said. Let me distill for you quickly some of what he said in 1 Corinthians about what our interaction with unbelievers should look like.

In 1 Corinthians 6 he said that we should not bring our grievances with a brother before unbelievers to have them settle our disputes. It would be better to suffer wrong.

In 1 Corinthians 7 he said that a believer who is married to an unbeliever should not seek divorce. Peter adds that the believer should demonstrate humility, purity and respect, so that ‘they may be won without a word by [your] conduct’ (1Pet.3:1-2). In 1 Corinthians 7:39 Paul says that those who are not currently married are free to marry ‘only in the Lord.’

In 1 Corinthians 10 he is clear that we are not to desire evil (10:6). Do not be idolaters (10:7). We must not indulge in sexual immorality (10:8, cf. 6:18). Do not grumble (10:10). Flee from idolatry (10:14). Do not enter in to fellowship with demons (10:20-21).

But in regard to what is sold in the market, he says do eat whatever is sold there with thanksgiving (10:25). He says do go to dinner with unbelievers (10:27). Give no offense to Jews or Greeks or to the Church; seek the advantage of others that they may be saved (10:32-33).

In 1 Corinthians 14, in regard to the worship of the church, he says do welcome unbelievers into the the gathered worship of the church with the hope that they would be convicted, would turn and enter in to true worship (14:22-25).

In 1 Corinthians 5, he corrected misunderstandings of something he had written previously, and this would also serve to clarify what he now writes.

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

We are to interact with sexually immoral people, greedy people, swindlers, and idolaters. We are to eat with them, to love and serve them, to make friends with them. We are to seek their good, ultimately their greatest good in salvation.

The ones we are not to associate with are those who claim to be believers, but who persistently and unrepentantly embrace a lifestyle that contradicts the gospel. The greatest danger to the church does not come from outside the church but from within. Here Paul clearly calls those ‘unbelievers’ who although they may belong to the church, they don’t embrace a life shaped by the gospel.

He has spent the bulk of chapters 1-6 painting a picture of what genuine gospel ministry looks and smells like; that gospel ministry must conform to the gospel; that those who preach the cross must embrace a lifestyle of selfless sacrificial service and even suffering for the good of others. He mentioned those who peddle God’s word (2:17), those who practice disgraceful underhanded ways, who practice cunning and tamper with God’s word (4:2); those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart (5:12), those who have received God’s grace in a vain or worthless manner (6:1). In chapter 11, he expresses his concern that they are being deceived and led astray by those who proclaim another Jesus, a different spirit, a different gospel (3-4). He calls them ‘super-apostles’ (5), ‘false apostles, deceitful workmen, servants of Satan’ (2Cor.11:13-15).

Here by implication he calls them lawlessness, darkness, Belial, unbelievers, idols.

Do not be unequally yoked in service together with unbelievers; cut off your partnership with false teachers; withdraw from those spiritually toxic relationships.

Open wide your affections to us. He said in 6:1 that ‘we are working together with God.’ We are not ‘sufficient in ourselves to claim to anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers’ (3:5-6). ‘We have this ministry by the mercy of God’ (4:1). ‘We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us’ (4:7). ‘All this is from God who… gave us the ministry of reconciliation’ and entrusted to us ‘the message of reconciliation’ (5:18-19).

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.”

This is utterly amazing! That the God of the universe would stoop down to become human, to die in our place, and now to invite us to be yoked together with him, ministering alongside him in selfless sacrificial service!

***

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

May 6, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 6:11-13; Constricted Affections

04/28_2 Corinthians 6:11-13; Constricted Affections Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190428_2cor6_11-13.mp3

Paul’s Resume

In 2 Corinthians 6, Paul commends his ministry; he gives us his resume, but not as anyone would expect. He highlights his ministry as a ministry that reflects the great Shepherd. Jesus said:

John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Authentic ministry is patterned after Jesus; authentic ministry is cross-shaped ministry.

Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

In verses 4-5 Paul lists his endurance in the midst of the hardships of ministry as evidence of his authenticity. He experienced general troubles: in afflictions, in hardships, in calamities; specific persecution: in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots; voluntary hardships: in labors, in sleeplessness, in hungers. Then he lists God’s grace in action in his life producing the fruit of character: in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness; and he points us to the source: in the Holy Spirit, in love unhypocritical, in the word of truth, in the power of God.

He goes on in verses 7-8 with the means of authentic ministry; through the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left, through glory and shame, through slander and praise. Ministry is war, and he is thoroughly equipped to glorify God even when he is put to open shame; even when slandered to offer a life of praise.

Verses 8-10 he points to the paradoxical nature of gospel ministry;

2 Corinthians 6: 8 …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.

We are not what we seem to be. Inward (or should I say Godward) reality often differs greatly from outward appearances.

Gospel Issues

Paul is building a case for authentic ministry, gospel ministry that is shaped by the gospel, ministry that follows Jesus, even becoming like him in his suffering.

Remember, he is writing to a church that he planted, in a city where he preached the gospel, as he said in 1 Corinthians 15

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

In 1 Corinthians he was fighting for the gospel, and the issue was primarily doctrinal or theological. They were doubting the resurrection, and he was bringing them back to the gospel, lest they had believed in vain.

1 Corinthians 15:14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. …17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.

In 2 Corinthians, no less, he is fighting for the gospel. He pleads in

2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Be reconciled to God. The implication is that there is a fracture in their relationship that needs to be healed. He goes on in chapter 6:

2 Corinthians 6:1 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 …Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Paul is again fighting for the gospel, urging them to be reconciled to God. Where the issue in 1 Corinthians was theological; some were questioning the resurrection, here in 2 Corinthians the issue is relational; their relationship with the apostle Paul was strained and tenuous, and as we learn in chapter 11, they were developing relationships with false apostles. They were in danger of being led astray from the simplicity of the cross to a different gospel, and this was happening as they began to distance themselves from Paul.

This is no less a danger today. It is a danger for us to fit the gospel to our culture, rather than allowing the gospel to transform our thinking and shape our culture.

There are some even today who are rejecting Paul, leading people back into bondage under the law. They are rejecting the true gospel of grace. Beware of those today who undermine Paul and the gospel he preached.

Be Reconciled to Paul; Open Mouths

After painting a picture of his character in the midst of sufferings, a picture of cross-shaped ministry, after calling them to be reconciled to God, he calls them now to reconcile with him.

2 Corinthians 6:11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.

This is direct. Paul addresses them affectionately only here as ‘Corinthians.’ He says literally ‘our mouths are open to you Corinthians.’ Our mouths are open.

Now for most of us, that’s not a good thing. Our mouths are open too much. The wisdom books, especially Psalms and Proverbs have much to say about the dangers of the tongue, as does James. Psalm 64 speaks of enemies,

Psalm 64:3 who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows,

Does that describe much of what we see on social media today? Many of us have a Peter problem; in Mark 9 he spoke, because he did not know what to say. He opened his mouth just to stop the silence.

Proverbs 10:19 When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.

There is wisdom in knowing when to keep silent, when not to answer. Jesus, when he was falsely accused ‘opened not his mouth’ (Is.53:7; Mk.14:61).

Some have taken Paul to be saying that he has said too much. But the context makes it clear that this is an expression of affection.

Proverbs 12:18 There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 15:2 The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.

Words can do great harm, or they can bring great healing. Isaiah says:

Isaiah 50:4 The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary…

Paul’s mouth is wide open in the sense that he will not withhold good any good from them. As he said to the elders of Ephesus in Acts 20:

Acts 20:18 …“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

‘I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable.’

Acts 20:27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.

In verse 32 he says:

Acts 20:31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

The word of his grace is able to build you up. Paul is confident in God and his word. He told them in Ephesians 4:

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

What comes out of our mouths can be corrosive, or it can build up. Your words, what comes out of your mouths, can give grace to those who hear. What you say can actually convey God’s grace.

Paul says ‘our mouths are open to you.’ We are holding nothing back that would be good for you.

Enlarged Hearts

Not only are our mouths open to you, but our hearts are widened or enlarged. This is in contrast to constricted or restricted in verse 12. That word means a tight narrow place. Back in 4:8 he used this same word ‘restricted;’ ‘We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed‘. Crushed or in a tight narrow place with no way out. Our hearts are not narrow or constricted with no room for you; they are wide; we have plenty of room for you in our hearts.

2 Corinthians 6:11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.

If there is any narrowness, any constriction of affections, it is on your side; you are not squeezed out by us; rather you are squeezed out in your own affections. He changes words here from ‘heart’ to ‘affections;’ literally bowels or intestines, the seat of intense emotion. We might say ‘he experienced gut-wrenching sorrow’ or ‘I had knots in the pit of my stomach’. When we read in the gospels that Jesus was ‘moved with compassion’ (Mt.9:36), it is the verb form of this word ‘affections’ or ‘bowels’.

The point is he is talking about emotions, affections. The Corinthians had begun to squeeze him out of their affections. He is asking for a fair exchange, as to his own beloved children, you also make room.

How To Enlarge Affections

I want to end today with a very practical question: How do you make room in your heart? How do you enlarge your affections?

You hear of married couples saying ‘The flame is gone, I just don’t think I love him anymore.’

Or you have someone who has been hurt so badly, so deeply, that they could never love, never open themselves up.

Or there is someone in your life, maybe someone in the church, maybe someone in the community, that you find difficult to love. The Bible says I have to love them, but that doesn’t mean I have to like them, right?

This is imperative; it is a command. Make room in your heart, in your affections. How do we do that? Can we do that? Can we obey a command to feel differently about someone? The biblical answer is ‘yes’. Yes, by the transforming power of God and the help of his Spirit we can obey this command. And he tells us how.

Cut Off All Inappropriate Affections

In the next verses we find that there are inappropriate affections going in other directions. The Corinthians are enamored with the false apostles. They don’t have room for Paul in their hearts because he has been squeezed out by others. They have given their affections to others, to false apostles, to a false gospel. We will plan to look at these verses next time. That is often the case. When love grows cold, the affections are being channeled in a different direction, an inappropriate direction. Something else is competing for your heart. Stop giving your heart to another. You are cheating yourself; you are constricting your own affections. Cut off all inappropriate affections.

Drink in God’s Love

But how can our heart be enlarged? Psalm 119 says:

Psalm 119:32 I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!

It is God who enlarges a heart.

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

Our love is a response to being perfectly loved. We love because he first loved us. Jesus said:

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

We are to love others as we have been loved by Jesus. We our enabled to love others because we have been loved by Jesus.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

We forgive because we have been forgiven. We are kind and tenderhearted to others, because God has been abundantly kind and tenderhearted to us when we didn’t deserve it. Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. All our affections flow out of this love that we have experienced.

That’s where the love comes from.

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Do you feel your affections are drying up? Go to the unquenchable fountain and drink in God’s unwavering love. Saturate your shriveled soul in Christ’s sacrificial love for you, his enemy. Let God’s love in the gospel fill your heart to bursting. We love because he first loved us.

***

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

April 28, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 6:7-10; The Paradox of Ministry

03/31_2 Corinthians 6:7-10; The Paradox of Ministry; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190331_2cor6_7-10.mp3

In 2 Corinthians 6, Paul is giving his resume for authentic ministry. He is commending himself in everything as God’s minister. He purposes that no fault may be found with the ministry. He refuses to create stumbling blocks for anyone in anything. He will allow no stumbling block but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In verses 4-7 he gives a bullet-point list of 18 ways he commends himself, each introduced by the word ‘in’. He introduces the list by the way he faced adversity; in much endurance. Then he gives three general hardships, three specific forms of persecution, and three voluntary hardships, all in the plural.

Starting in verse 6 he lists four character qualities, fruit of the Spirit in his life: purity, knowledge, patience, kindness; followed by four divine enablements for the ministry: in the Holy Spirit, in love unhypocritical, in the word of truth, in the power of God.

The Means of Ministry

Now after 18 bullet points of adversity and how he responds to it, all beginning with ‘in’, he switches prepositions; starting at the end of verse 7 he uses ‘through’ three times, followed by seven uses of ‘as’, introducing contrasts or paradoxes.

We are all called to minister, to serve others in love for their good. Ministry is conflict. Ministry is tension. Ministry is war!

You cannot please everyone ever. Jesus said ‘Woe to you when all people speak well of you’ (Lk.6:26). There will always be something someone doesn’t like about something you do. Expect it! Expect tension in ministry.

7… through weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; [διὰ τῶν ὅπλων τῆς δικαιοσύνης τῶν δεξιῶν καὶ ἀριστερῶν,]

Paul uses a military metaphor here. Ministry is war. He endures hardships in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness. He is equipped to respond this way in or by means of the Holy Spirit, God’s unhypocritical love, the word of truth, the power of God. He is equipped for war!

He uses this word ‘weapons’ in 2 Corinthians 10:4 also in the context of the power of God.

2 Corinthians 10:4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.

He is thoroughly equipped from right to left, for the battle. His weaponry consists in righteousness or justification. ‘The one who knew no sin, on our behalf was made to be sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him’ (2Cor.5:21). In Ephesians 6, righteousness is mentioned as the breastplate. Clothed with God’s righteousness in Christ he now stands ready, both for offensive and defensive, as with sword and shield. God’s righteousness is a weapon both offensive and defensive.

The next two contrasts are also introduced by ‘through’, indicating that all four of these nouns could be seen as part of his weaponry.

8 through glory and shame, [διὰ δόξης καὶ ἀτιμίας,]

through slander and praise. [διὰ δυσφημίας καὶ εὐφημίας·]

Paul’s sequence is positive-negative, negative-positive; sandwiching the negative inside the positive.

Glory is how he describes the new covenant ministry in chapter 3; the far-surpassing glory of the ministry of the Spirit; the lasting ministry of righteousness and life. It is a glorious ministry, but there is little glory in it. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:

1 Corinthians 4:9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor [in-glory], but we in disrepute [ὑμεῖς ἔνδοξοι, ἡμεῖς δὲ ἄτιμοι. (adj)].

It is a glorious ministry, but its ministers are held in disrepute or shame. We understand how glory or honor could be considered a weapon, part of our equipping for ministry, but shame or dishonor?

In Acts 5,

Acts 5:40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor [ἀτιμασθῆνα (v)] for the name.

Did you hear that? They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonored in the name of Jesus! Worthy to be shamed! They counted it an honor to be publicly dishonored. They remembered what Jesus had said in Matthew 10:

Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, …17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Look at what Jesus is saying. You will be dishonored. You will be shamed. But in the midst of betrayals, even beatings and arrests is an opportunity to testify; to give Spirit empowered witness to Jesus. They saw slander and shame as an opportunity; an offensive weapon to bring glory and praise to Jesus!

Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 4 to describe his role as a spectacle to the world, as fools for Christ.

1 Corinthians 4:11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered [δυσφημούμενοι (v)], we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

Paul is slandered, treated as scum and refuse, yet through it all he implores all to be reconciled to God. Shame and slander, glory and praise, in it all his desire is to make Christ known; to spread the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere (2:14).

It is particularly in the slander and shame that we become like Christ.

John 1:11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Matthew 27:27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. 28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

1 Corinthians 2:8 …they …crucified the Lord of glory .

Peter says:

1 Peter 4:13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

Seven Paradoxes in Ministry

Paul switches in the next seven pairs to ‘as’ to introduce contrasts or paradoxes in ministry. Ministry is paradoxical. It is not always what it seems. Paul has already described gospel ministry as paradoxical; there are differing responses to the gospel between different groups of people; to those who are perishing and to us who are being saved. The same message of the cross sounds stupid to some and comes with power to others (1Cor.1:18). The same aroma of knowing God stinks like death to some and smells alive and beautiful to others (2Cor.2:14-16).

as deceivers, and yet true; [ὡς πλάνοι καὶ ἀληθεῖς,]

Paul himself said in 1 Corinthians (15:15) that ‘if Christ has not been raised… We are even found to be misrepresenting God’. Jesus was accused of being a deceiver in speaking about his own resurrection (Mt.27:63). Some perceive him to be a deceiver, yet

2 Corinthians 4:2 …we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. 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.

9 as unknown, and yet well known; [ὡς ἀγνοούμενοι καὶ ἐπιγινωσκόμενοι,]

Paul was unknown in the sense of being unrecognized, not considered authentic. His character was being questioned. Yet…

2 Corinthians 5:11 … what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.

Even if you don’t know me, don’t recognize me, God knows me fully, and that is all that matters.

1 Corinthians 13:12 …Now I know [γινώσκω] in part; then I shall know fully [ἐπιγνώσομαι], even as I have been fully known [ἐπεγνώσθην].

as dying, and behold, we live; [ὡς ἀποθνῄσκοντες καὶ ἰδοὺ ζῶμεν,]

Paul was all to familiar with death. He said in chapter 4 that we are…

2 Corinthians 4:10 always carrying in the body the [dying] 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.

Paul faced death daily (1Cor.15:31). Yet he interjects an exclamation Look! Behold! We live!

2 Corinthians 5:14 …one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

We died with Christ, and his resurrection life is now at work in us!

as punished, and yet not killed; [ὡς παιδευόμενοι καὶ μὴ θανατούμενοι,]

These two statements echo the language of Psalm 118.

Psalm 118:17 I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD. 18 The LORD has disciplined me severely, but he has not given me over to death.

If we look at the content, we see the Psalmist in his affliction, surrounded by the nations, crying out to the Lord, and the Lord as a valiant warrior bringing victory with his right hand. Then the gates of righteousness are opened so that the righteous may inter in. Psalm 113-118 were traditionally sung at Passover, and these Psalms were likely sung by Jesus and his disciples at the last supper. Only a few verses later we find this familiar paradox:

Psalm 118:22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. 23 This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. 25 Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success! 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD.

The rejected stone is the cornerstone. Hosanna! Save us we pray! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

Paul is embracing the paradox of ministry shaped by his Master. “As dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed.”

Isaiah 53:4 …we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,…

The punishment that brought us peace was on him.

Throughout this Paul is identifying with the suffering servant. He is willing to take up his cross and follow Jesus.

10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; [ὡς λυπούμενοι ἀεὶ δὲ χαίροντες,]

In a life of ministry, there is sorrow, but there is always joy. Paul writes from prison to Philippi:

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. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

There is sorrow, mingled with joy. Like Jesus,

Hebrews 12:2 …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.

Paul writes also to the Colossians:

Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,

I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake. There is joy in the midst of sorrow when in our service we sacrifice for the good of others.

as poor, yet making many rich; [ὡς πτωχοὶ πολλοὺς δὲ πλουτίζοντες,]

How does someone who is poor make others rich? When Peter and John encountered the lame beggar, Peter said “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you” (Acts3:6). He gave him something of greater value than what he was seeking.

Paul fleshes this out most clearly in 2 Corinthians 8

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.

Matthew 8:20 …the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

Paul voluntarily embraces a life of poverty in order to open the riches of eternal wealth to them.

as having nothing, yet possessing everything. [ὡς μηδὲν ἔχοντες καὶ πάντα κατέχοντες.]

How does someone have nothing while at the same time fully have all things? In Mark 10 Jesus asked the rich young ruler to give away all that he had and come follow me.

Mark 10:28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.

This is the paradox of the Christian life and ministry. You can give up everything and find that you have lost nothing. If you seek to preserve you life, you will lose it; you must lay down your life to truly find it (Mk.18:35)

This is the way of the cross; are you willing to take up your cross and follow Jesus? Are you willing to risk everything to experience the joy he promises in following him? Do I “ count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”? Am I willing to “suffer the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ”? Is my supreme desire

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,

?

***

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

April 1, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 6:6-7; The Essential Means of Ministry

03/24_2 Corinthians 6:6-7; The Essential Means of Ministry; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190324_2cor6_6-7.mp3

Paul is giving his resume for authentic ministry. The Corinthians were looking for outward evidence of God’s blessing on his ministry, and they were beginning to question his authenticity. They were looking for power, prosperity, praise, eloquence, something flashy. Paul commends his ministry as a ministry that gives obstacles in nothing and to no one. Paul’s goal is that no fault could be found with the ministry. In all things he commends himself as God’s minister. He cares much more about what God thinks of his ministry than what anyone else thinks.

And the way he commends himself is not what anyone would have expected. What he includes in his resume is in the way he responds to adversity: ‘in much endurance’. And he lists three general hardships: ‘in afflictions, in hardships, in calamities’; then three specific types of persecution: ‘in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots’; then three hardships he willingly endures for the sake of the advance of the gospel: ‘in labors, in sleeplessnesses, in hungers.’ Nine hardships, faced with much endurance.

The Manner; Four Essential Characteristics for Ministry

Now beginning in verse 6 he lists eight means of ministry; four essential character traits for effective ministry, followed by four enablements for effective ministry.

He started the list in verse 4 with the character trait ‘much endurance’; remaining under these nine different types of hardships. Now he gives four more character traits; in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness. These describe the manner of his ministry, not so much what he does as much as how he does it, and ultimately who he is. Character. When hiring for a position, many companies are looking for skills, abilities, experience. Have you been trained in this field? Do you have the knowledge necessary to carry out the task? How much experience do you have in this field? What are your accomplishments, successes, abilities? Paul emphasizes not so much what he does as how he does it, who he is.

Who are you? Are you a butcher, a baker, a candle-stick maker? That is not who you are; that is what you do. I am a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a pastor. Those are roles, hats I wear. They define my relationships to other people. I was born in a Christian home, raised in a healthy two parent family in Minnesota, the youngest of five. That is some of my history, my background, where I come from. That is not who I am. I like to hike, canoe, to be outdoors, to be creative, build things, fix things. Those are hobbies, likes, preferences. But who are you? Strip all that away, who are you when no one is looking? What is your character?

6 In Purity [ἐν ἁγνότητι]

Paul starts with purity. This word shows up only here and in chapter 11. The verb shows up in the gospels and Acts referring to ceremonial purification, and in James, Peter and 1 John it shows up in reference to heart and soul purified through the new birth. The adjective shows up a little more frequently in contexts of moral purity, blamelessness, innocence, integrity. In 11:2 the adjective is used in the metaphor of betrothing a pure virgin to her husband, and in 11:3 this noun shows up alongside sincerity, and in contrast to being seduced or beguiled with trickery or cunning, being defiled, spoiled or corrupted.

In 1 John 3:3 the adjective describes the character of God;

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

We become like God as we see him as he is; through our hope in him, in looking to him, we purify ourselves as he is pure.

Paul points us to his innocence, blamelessness, integrity, moral purity. This purity is not because he always had clean hands and a pure heart; rather his blood-stained hands were washed clean by the blood of Jesus, and through the new birth he stands pure and holy, a new creation in Christ.

In Knowledge [ἐν γνώσει]

Next he lists knowledge. Knowledge was a big deal in Corinth. He recognized that they were ‘enriched in all knowledge’ (1Cor.1:5). But he drew a contrast between the knowledge they claimed and love for brother and sister (1Cor.8:1,7,10,11; 12:8; 13:2,8). They prided themselves in their knowledge.

But as Paul had already made clear,

1 Corinthians 2:1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

For Paul it was not about what you know, but it had everything to do with who you know. He was in everything pursuing and advancing the ‘knowledge of God’ (2Cor.10:5).

2 Corinthians 2:14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Paul was spreading the knowledge of God, the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus, knowing Jesus Christ and him crucified. For Paul everything else was worthless, except “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord … that I may know him” (Phil.3:8,10).

In Patience, In Kindness [ἐν μακροθυμίᾳ] [ἐν χρηστότητι]

Next he mentions patience and kindness. The word translated patience is literally ‘slow to anger’. These two words are listed side by side in Galatians 5:22 as the fruit of the Spirit.

Both patience and kindness are attributed to God in Romans 2

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

Where patience or slowness to anger is negative, refraining from responding immediately in anger even when there is something to be rightly angry about; kindness is its positive counterpart, actively doing good to those who have wronged you. God not only refrains from immediately punishing our sin; he also shows us his undeserved kindness. As Jesus instructs in Luke 6,

Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.

We are to extend kindness even to our enemies; in doing so, we reflect the character of God. In being patient and kind, we are living out the gospel; we are conducting ourselves toward others how God has been toward us.

It is clear that these character traits are not natural. Who joyfully endures afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleeplessnesses, hungers? Who extends patience and kindness to enemies? These are supernatural character traits. In Colossians 1 Paul prays:

Colossians 1:11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,

He combines endurance, the first on his list, and patience, and he says that we need God’s strength; we need the glorious might of divine enablement to respond to circumstances with endurance, slowness to anger, and joy. He says in Colossians 3:

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,

He tells us that because we have been raised with Christ (3:1), because we are his chosen ones, because we are holy and beloved, because we have been strengthened with his mighty power, we can clothe ourselves with kindness and patience.

The Means; Four Divine Enablements for Ministry

When we understand how Paul uses these words, it makes complete sense where he goes next in this list. He gives four divine enablements for ministry. The character, endurance, purity, knowledge, slowness to anger and kindness is fruit. It is not Paul as he is naturally; this is Paul as he is empowered by God through his Holy Spirit for the ministry to which he has been called.

In Holy Spirit [ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ]

After four character traits, fruit necessary for ministry, Paul turns to the source. In the Holy Spirit. This is not the first time he has brought up the essential ministry of the Holy Spirit in this letter.

In 1:21 he mentions God in Christ by the Spirit who establishes, anoints, seals and guarantees us, by the gift of the Holy Spirit in our hearts (and then again in 5:5). In chapter 3 He announces the new covenant ministry which has everything to do with the Holy Spirit, who writes on tablets of human hearts (3:3); who gives life (3:6); who brings freedom (3:17); who effects transformation in us (3:18). He said

2 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. …

His competency is not from himself but from God through the enabling ministry of the Holy Spirit. God has made Paul competent for the ministry. This is God a ordained, God empowered, God initiated, God sustained task.

In Love Unhypocritical [ἐν ἀγάπῃ ἀνυποκρίτῳ]

In love unhypocritical. Paul seems to have shifted gears when he mentioned the Spirit from a list of four character traits or fruit to the means or divine enablements for ministry. Is he switching back to character traits here when he mentions sincere love? Is this his love for others, or God’s love for him that enables him for ministry. To see this as God’s love for him seems to fit his flow of thought, as well as the context. He has just said (in 5:14) that ‘the love of Christ compels us’ and there he defines that love concretely as Christ dying for us; that God made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. God’s love is a compelling force for ministry. It is when I know that I am loved, sincerely loved, loved without a mask, that I am freed to love others as I have been loved. It is seeing the gospel in action, that God so loved me that he sent his only Son to die for me, that I am freed from the need to seek love, freed and empowered to give love freely away. Love without a mask.

7 In Word of Truth [ἐν λόγῳ ἀληθείας]

In the word of truth. Here again we could ask, is he referring to his own integrity? Should this be translated ‘in truthful speech’ (NIV, ESV) or ‘in the word of truth’ (NASB, KJV)?

So far in 2 Corinthians, Paul has referred to how he handles God’s word, speaking in Christ (2:17); he refuses to tamper with God’s word but openly proclaims the truth (4:2). God has entrusted to him the word of reconciliation. If we turn to Ephesians we see that he refers to ‘the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation’ (1:13). And in Colossians he points them to ‘the word of the truth, the gospel, which… is bearing fruit and increasing,… since … you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth’ (1:5-6). Paul encourages Timothy to ‘rightly handle the word of truth’ (2Tim.2:15). Peter says that we were born again ‘ through the living and abiding word of God’ (1Pet.1:23), and James says that God ‘brought us forth by the word of truth’ and that we are to ‘receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls’ (Jam.1:18,21).

What ultimately authenticates Paul’s ministry is the content of the gospel he proclaims. It is not a mere human message. It is not his own message; it is God’s word, a word that causes new birth, that is able to save your souls, a word that is bearing fruit and increasing. As he commends the Thessalonians:

1 Thessalonians 2:13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

This word is at work. It is a powerful word.

In Power of God [ἐν δυνάμει θεοῦ]

In the power of God. Paul opens the letter to the Romans by saying

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…

The gospel is the power of God for salvation. He says in 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

The word of truth, the word of the cross, the gospel is the power of God for salvation.

Throughout 2 Corinthians Paul contrasts God’s power with human weakness.

2 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant,

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.

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

His competency for ministry, even his character is not from himself. It is from God. It is God’s Spirit at work in him and through him. His endurance of hardships, his purity, his knowledge, his slowness to anger, his kindness, is all of God worked in him by the Spirit.

May we too reflect the character of God in our conduct by the power of the Spirit of God living in us, through the transforming word of truth, the gospel.

***

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

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

2 Corinthians 6:4-5; Paul’s Resume of Afflictions

03/17_2 Corinthians 6:4-5; Paul’s Résumé of Afflictions; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190317_2cor6_4-5.mp3

Paul’s Resume

Last time we looked at the cover letter to Paul’s résumé:

2 Corinthians 6:3 We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:

He is commending his ministry as a ministry of integrity, a blameless ministry. He removed obstacles from the gospel so that it would have maximum effect. God alone saves, but he did everything in his power to eliminate stumbling blocks to clear the runway for the gospel. The only offense he allowed was the offense of the gospel itself, the message of the cross.

Paul gives his resume in verses 4-10. Don’t open your Bibles, and let me read to you Paul’s resume:

‘I’ve successfully planted over 20 churches all around the Mediterranean, I’ve brought the gospel to every important city, preached to huge crowds, made an impact everywhere I’ve traveled, packed out every venue. I’m a skilled communicator to both large and small groups. I’m a gifted writer; I’ve authored at least 11 best sellers. I’m driven and tenaciously faithful; I had to part ways with a co-worker who just couldn’t keep up with my pace. I was even instrumental in correcting one of the Lord’s own original twelve when he got off track. I’ve mentored countless people in successful ministry techniques and developed leaders. I’ve seen the risen Lord face to face, he speaks to me in dreams and visions. I have an abundance of spiritual gifts, not to mention my charitable work collecting and distributing funds to the poor and oppressed.’

Although most of that is true, and these are the things we would expect anyone to highlight in a resume, that is not what Paul says. This is not the kind of resume anyone would expect. If you haven’t already, please open your Bibles to 2 Corinthians 6 and look at what Paul lists as his credentials that commend him as an authentic minister.

2 Corinthians 6:4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 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; 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.

As I said last week, this passage is lyrical, poetic, it has a rhythm and cadence to it, it is memorable, and as worthy of memorization as 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter. This passage is structured in a way that does not come through in many translations; there are three different prepositions; in (ἐν) 18 times in verses 4-7; through (διὰ) 3 times in verse 7-8; and as (ὡς) 7 times in verses 8-10. After the introductory statement in verses 3 and 4, he lists ten hardships in verses 4-5 that he faced in ministry, beginning with the way he faced them (in much endurance) followed by three general hardships (in afflictions, in hardships, in calamities), three specific types of persecution (in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots), and three voluntary hardships (in labors, in sleeplessnesses, in hungers). In verses 6-7 he lists eight characteristics of ministry; four fruit of the Spirit (in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness) and four means of grace (in Holy Spirit, in love unhypocritical, in word of truth, in power of God). In verse 7 he gives us a picture of how he fought the battle of ministry (through the weapons of righteousness for the right and the left), introducing nine paradoxes of ministry (through glory and shame, through slander and praise, as deceivers yet true, as unknown yet well known, as dying yet behold we live, as punished yet not killed, as sorrowful but always rejoicing, as poor but making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing everything).

This is not what the Corinthians expected ministry to look like They were being led astray from the way of Jesus by false impostors who painted a worldly picture of ministry as glamorous, prestigious with plenty of fame and fortune. For them the sign of God’s blessing was outward and material. For Paul, the evidence of authentic ministry was ministry that followed in the footsteps of the Master.

The authenticity of a ministry is not demonstrated so much in God’s external blessings, but rather in how one responds to adversity.

In Much Endurance [ἐν ὑπομονῇ πολλῇ]

Paul starts his list with ‘in much endurance’. The word endurance literally means to remain under.

Paul lists endurance or patience in chapter 12 where he says

2 Corinthians 12:12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience (ἐν πάσῃ ὑπομονῇ), with signs and wonders and mighty works.

Here we get insight into what he means by the signs of a true apostle. In Mark 13 Jesus warns:

Mark 13:22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.

It is not merely supernatural signs and wonders that evidence authenticity; it is primarily character, especially under adversity. Just a few verses earlier in 2 Corinthians 12, Paul says:

2 Corinthians 12:10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships (ἀνάγκαις), persecutions, and calamities (στενοχωρίαις). For when I am weak, then I am strong. 11 …I ought to have been commended by you. For I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing.

Paul repeats in the context of the signs of a true apostle two of the terms he lists on his resume here in chapter 6; hardships and calamities, with much endurance or patience.

As we will see later in this list, this endurance in the face of adversity is not a mere stoic resolve to tough it out, but a gift of the Spirit of God. It is divinely enabled endurance, the ability to remain under adverse circumstances with joy that demonstrates authenticity.

General Adversity; In Afflictions, In Hardships, In Calamities

[ἐν θλίψεσιν] [ἐν ἀνάγκαις] [ἐν στενοχωρίαις,]

Afflictions, hardships, and calamities are broad general categories of circumstances that call for endurance. Affliction means to be hard pressed or squeezed. Hardship means necessity or distress. Calamity means anguish, or literally narrowness. The verb form of this word in 2 Corinthians 4:8 is translated ‘crushed’. Afflictions, hardships, calamities; under heavy pressure, in distresses, experiencing anguish. Together these words paint a picture of hardship, the trials and stresses of ministry.

Jesus promised his followers affliction or tribulation.

John 16:33 …In the world you will have tribulation (θλῖψιν). But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

In his parable about the sower and the soils, Jesus warned that affliction would cause false believers to fall away (Mt.13:21; Mk.4:17). Jesus said in Matthew 24

Matthew 24:9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation (θλῖψιν) and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. …13 But the one who endures (ὑπομείνας) to the end will be saved.

In Acts 14, Jews from Antioch and Iconium pursued Paul to Lystra and persuaded the crowds to stone him. He was dragged out of city, assumed to be dead. But he rose up and went back in to the city, the next day continuing on with Barnabas to Derbe.

Acts 14:21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue (ἐμμένειν) in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations (διὰ πολλῶν θλίψεων) we must enter the kingdom of God.

I can imagine what Paul looked like after being stoned and left for dead, and I’m sure hearing from his lips was a vivid picture of what kinds of afflictions they may have to endure in following Christ.

At the opening of 2 Corinthians, Paul speaks of God’s comfort that he has experienced in the midst of his afflictions, and he invites them to join him in patiently enduring suffering so that they too might experience God’s comfort in affliction.

Paul wrote to the Thessalonians:

1 Thessalonians 3:3 that no one be moved by these afflictions (θλίψεσιν). For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4 For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction (θλίβεσθαι), just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. 5 For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain. …7 for this reason, brothers, in all our distress (ἀνάγκῃ) and affliction (θλίψει) we have been comforted about you through your faith.

There is that word distress or hardship. Paul experienced distress and affliction out of concern for the faith of the young believers who were experiencing affliction.

Paul is painting a picture that affliction, hardship, even calamities are all part of normal ministry, part of following Jesus.

Specific Persecutions: In Beatings, In Imprisonments, In Riots

[ἐν πληγαῖς] [ἐν φυλακαῖς] [ἐν ἀκαταστασίαις]

Beatings, imprisonments, and riots are more specific forms of adversity that require endurance; while the others can be purely circumstantial, these three forms of persecution are carried out by people.

Up to the time of writing of 2 Corinthians in the narrative of the book of Acts (20:2-3), Luke only records one imprisonment and beating (Philippi – Acts 16:22-33), and one riot (Ephesus – Acts 19:23-20:1). We learn from this and other statements in Acts that Luke did not record every event that happened everywhere; he was selective. In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul mentions ‘countless beatings’ specifically listing five lashings, three beatings with rods, and one stoning.

Acts 16 records one beating and imprisonment in Philippi:

Acts 16:22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. 23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

Acts 19 records a riot in Ephesus:

Acts 19:23 About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. …26 And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. …28 …they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s companions in travel. 30 But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him. 31 And even some of the Asiarchs, who were friends of his, sent to him and were urging him not to venture into the theater. 32 Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together. 33 Some of the crowd prompted Alexander, whom the Jews had put forward. And Alexander, motioning with his hand, wanted to make a defense to the crowd. 34 But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours they all cried out with one voice, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

Notice that this riot was a response to what Paul preached, and the fact that people had believed his message. His preaching was a threat. It challenged their culture and beliefs.

Several months later, Paul gathered the elders from Ephesus:

Acts 20:18 And when they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

Here we see Paul embracing afflictions and even imprisonment as an expected part of gospel ministry.

Voluntary Hardships: In Labors, In Sleeplessnesses, In Hungers

[ἐν κόποις] [ἐν ἀγρυπνίαις] [ἐν νηστείαις]

Labors, sleeplessness, and hunger are things voluntarily endured in the service of Christ and the advance of his gospel. They are not necessarily unavoidable, but they are embraced by the genuine servant of God.

Labor can mean trouble, toil, wearisome work. It could refer to manual labor, that Paul worked with his own hands to support himself in ministry. It can also refer to the labor involved in preaching, teaching, and making disciples.

Sleeplessness could refer to times Paul went without enough sleep because he was working night and day to support himself (1Thess.2:9; 2Thess.3:8). It could also refer to the long hours of ministry (Acts 20:31). Often it refers to being vigilant or watchful in prayer. Paul mentions praying earnestly night and day (1Thess.3:10; 2Tim.1:3). It is not that Paul had trouble sleeping; it was that the demands of ministry often required him to serve well into the night.

Hunger can mean fasting, voluntarily abstaining from food to focus on prayer; or Paul could mean that he simply went without enough food. As he says in Philippians 4

Philippians 4:12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

Cross-Shaped Ministry

All this points to circumstances that are both physically and emotionally draining; weariness, fatigue, exhaustion that comes through serving others. Paul understood what it was to be brought to the end of himself so that he would rely not on himself ‘but on God who raises the dead’ (2Cor.1:9).

Last time we saw that Paul seeks to give no offense but the cross, and this is exactly what the Corinthians are offended by; that his life and ministry is characterized by the cross. He endures suffering in service to others, because his Master is the Suffering Servant. He took up his cross to follow Jesus.

He said back in chapter 4 as a description of his ministry ‘we are:

2 Corinthians 4:10 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.

Paul endured, not by sheer strength of will, but by divine enablement, by the resurrection power of Jesus at work in him.

And he invites us to share with him in the sufferings of Christ.

***

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

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

2 Corinthians 6:3-4; No Obstacle But The Cross

03/10_2 Corinthians 6:3-4; No Obstacle But The Cross Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190310_2cor6_3-4.mp3

Context

Paul has just laid out the riches of gospel truth; that we are reconciled to God through the finished work of Christ; that the sinless Christ was counted as a sinner when he took my sin, and now I am counted righteous because I am found in Christ. He has called the church in Corinth to respond rightly to this message; he begs them as God’s ambassador ‘be reconciled to God’ and he appeals to them not to receive the grace of God in vain; in a meaningless, worthless, empty way, in a way that does not save. He quotes from the suffering servant section of Isaiah (49:8) to impress them with the urgency of responding to his message now, while God’s grace is being extended.

Here in verses 3-10 he presents his résumé as God’s minister, Christ’s ambassador, God’s fellow-worker. This is a memorable, lyrical, eloquent passage, on par with 1 Corinthians 13, and just as worthy of memorization.

The content of this highly structured résumé will have to wait until next week, but we will look at his cover letter in verses 3-4 today.

2 Corinthians 6:3 We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:

First, a note about how this sentence fits with the context. The main verb is all the way back in verse 1, ‘we appeal.’ “We appeal to you not in vain to receive the grace of God.” This is modified by the participle that begins the sentence ‘working together’. Then after the quotation in verse 2, he modifies this verb with two more participles:

1. ——–working together with God

We appeal to you

3. ——–giving no obstacle

4. ——–commending ourselves

Paul’s appeal to the church is his working together with God; his appeal comes with both negative and positive force. Negative in verse 3, which could literally be translated ‘to no one in nothing giving an obstacle’; and positive in verse 4, literally ‘but in all things commending ourselves.’

The Offense of the Cross

2 Corinthians 6:3 We put no obstacle [προσκοπήν] in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:

What does Paul mean when he says ‘to no one in nothing giving an obstacle’?

Let’s start by clarifying what he does not mean. Back in 1 Corinthians, he said

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1 Corinthians 1:23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block [σκάνδαλον] to Jews and folly to Gentiles,

Paul is fully aware that the word of the cross, the gospel of Christ crucified for sinners is foolishness and a stumbling block, literally a scandal to many. When he says that ‘we put no obstacle in anyone’s way’ he does not mean that he ceases to preach the gospel for fear of tripping up or offending anyone. In Galatians 5:11 he refers to the ‘offense’ or ‘stumbling block’ or ‘scandal’ of the cross. He refuses to compromise or water down the simple gospel message of Jesus Christ crucified for sinners and raised on the third day. That will be an obstacle to many; however to attempt to remove that obstacle empties the gospel of any power to save. To tell people that they have sinned and offended a holy God, and that the wages of sin is death is offensive. To say that your only hope is that God had to become human in order to take your sin and die in your place is hard to swallow, but it is the gospel. We must not, we dare not tamper with the gospel. Paul refused to tamper with the offense of the cross.

Removing Obstacles

So what does Paul mean, when he says ‘to no one in nothing giving an obstacle’? Paul did talk at length in 1 Corinthians 8-10 about Christian rights, Christian liberties, and avoiding unnecessary offenses or obstacles. In that section (and in Romans 14) he discusses what you should or shouldn’t eat, specifically concerning meat that may have been sacrificed to idols. His conclusion is: flee idolatry (1Cor.10:14), but eat whatever is sold to you or set before you without raising question of where it came from (1Cor.10:25-27).

1 Corinthians 8:9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block [πρόσκομμα] to the weak.

1 Corinthians 8:13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble [σκανδαλίζει], I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble [σκανδαλίσω].

In chapter 9 he uses himself as an illustration of letting go of legitimate rights for the good of others. He has the right as a minister of the gospel to make his living by the gospel (1Cor.9:4,14).

1 Corinthians 9:12 …Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle [ἐγκοπή] in the way of the gospel of Christ.

This is the passage where he says “I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. …I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel” (1Cor.9:19,22-23). He removed any unnecessary obstacles to the gospel, any unnecessary offenses; he was always conscious of his surroundings and intentional about how he conducted himself. He was aware of contrasting cultures and careful not to unnecessarily offend.

His conclusion in 1 Corinthians 10:

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

When Offense is Fruitful

But it’s more complex than just seeking never to offend anyone. Many people attempt to live that way today and are utterly useless for Christ. Paul offended plenty of people; that got him beat up, run out of town, thrown in jail on multiple occasions. He said some really offensive things. His first time in Corinth, in Acts 18, he was testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus,

Acts 18:6 And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

That’s offensive! That’s the kind of thing that started riots in other cities. That’s not very culturally sensitive. But we learn from Romans 11:11-14 that his goal was “in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.” This was a fruitful offense; a gospel driven offense.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:12 that he refused to receive compensation from the Corinthians in order to avoid putting obstacles in the way of the gospel. But that was contrary to their culture and offensive to them. In their culture, the better the teacher, the higher the price, and the more you paid for your instruction, the more bragging rights you had. He took that away from them. He took a job and worked with his own hands in menial labor to support himself, which tripped them up. But he claimed that this was to avoid ‘putting an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.’ He was more concerned with the integrity of the gospel than he was in simply avoiding offense. If he accepted pay from them, it would send a message that the gospel was out of reach of the poor, that it was not all of grace, that it was only for those who could pay top dollar.

Another way he offended the Corinthians was in his manner of speech. Although fully capable of eloquence, as this passage so clearly demonstrates, he says “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1Cor.2:2), and this was contrary to their expectations. Paul made a conscious decision when he came to Corinth to not fit the mold, to fly in the face of their culture and not use oratorical skill or eloquent words of wisdom, because if he did it would imply that the gospel was only for the wise, the literate, the well educated.

Here’s an illustration of this principle of ‘becoming all things to all people’ tragically misapplied. Paul records in Galatians 2 that Peter in Antioch ‘was eating with the Gentiles;’ but when a Jewish delegation came from James in Jerusalem, ‘he drew back and separated himself.’ Isn’t this a case of ‘To those outside the law I became as one outside the law’ and ‘To those under the law I became as one under the law’? Paul says No! ‘I opposed him to his face’; he ‘acted hypocritically’; his ‘conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel’. By withdrawing from eating with the Gentiles, he was saying that Christ had not successfully broken down the dividing wall of hostility between Jews and Greeks. He was actually contradicting the gospel.

This calls for discernment. How can I be culturally sensitive without compromising the gospel? What unnecessary obstacles do we put in the way of the gospel? How do I unnecessarily offend? Am I content with my own friend group, not open to others? Am I unwelcoming, unfriendly, sometimes irritable? Am I unwilling to get out of my comfort zone or risk being inconvenienced? These would be evidences of pride, selfishness, and would be potential obstacles to the gospel.

What are things in our church body that are stumbling blocks to the gospel? Our heart’s desire above all else should be to see God glorified as people come into a reconciled relationship with God through our Lord Jesus. And this reconciliation is from God. All this is from God. God alone can save. We cannot. But we can remove obstacles from the gospel. We can clear the way for the gospel to have full impact in someone’s life. What things are we doing – or not doing that are obstructing the gospel?

Purpose: A No Fault Ministry

Paul says ‘to no one in nothing giving an obstacle’

2 Corinthians 6:3 We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault [μωμηθῇ] may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:

His purpose for avoiding unnecessary obstacles is ‘in order that no fault may be found with the ministry.’ This word for ‘finding fault’ shows up again in chapter 8, illustrating what he means here. There he is talking about the collection of money from the churches that he intends to bring to the poor saints in Jerusalem. He makes it clear that he will not be doing this alone; he will be taking others with, people known by them.

2 Corinthians 8:20 We take this course so that no one should blame [μωμήσηται] us about this generous gift that is being administered by us, 21 for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.

He seeks to be honorable, above reproach in the way he handles other people’s money. He wants accountability. He aims for integrity that is unassailable.

There are a hundred ways to discredit your ministry. Sadly, you have seen enough examples of this in the news, and you know the immense hindrance it is to the gospel.

Commending Ourselves

Paul says:

2 Corinthians 6:3 We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:

‘To no one in nothing giving an obstacle… but in all things commending ourselves.’ This commending his ministry is a thread woven through this letter. He said in 3:1 in exasperation ‘we are beginning to commend ourselves again!’ We’ve already been through the introductions; you know me. I spent 18 months with you, and then another visit and wrote at least two letters. You ought to know my character by now. You yourselves are evidence of my authenticity.

He says in chapter 4

2 Corinthians 4:2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. 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.

The way we handle God’s word demonstrates our integrity. He says in chapter 5:

2 Corinthians 5:12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart.

You ought to be able to defend us to those who are attempting to undermine our character. This thread appears again in chapter 10, where he points out that some commend themselves by comparing themselves with others, but only those whom the Lord commends are approved (10:12,18). In chapter 12 he says that he ought to have been commended by them (12:11).

Ministers of God with Faultless Ministry

2 Corinthians 6:3 We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:

In all things we commend ourselves as servants, ministers of God. We remove unnecessary obstacles, so that no fault can be found with the ministry. Ministers of God with faultless ministry.

How does Paul commend himself? What is the content of his résumé? It may not be what you expect. This is his cover letter. Next week we will review his resume.

Takeaway

What can we take away from this? As followers of Jesus, each of us is a minister, called to serve others for their good.

-Is your ministry blameless or blameworthy?

-Does your character and conduct discredit your message or commend it to others?

-Are you holding fast to the offense of the cross, or are you willing to manipulate the message to make it seem less offensive?

-What stumbling blocks are you putting in front of others?

***

*Ask God to open your eyes to see the obstacles you place in front of others.

*Ask him to give you a tenacious grip on the gospel

*Ask him to create integrity of character that displays his grace

***

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

March 13, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 6:1-2; Receiving Grace in Vain

03/03_2 Corinthians 6:1-2; Receiving Grace in Vain; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190303_2cor6_1-2.mp3

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul communicates the good news of reconciliation and implores us to be reconciled to God.

Paul makes his plea to be reconciled to God urgent in chapter 6, quoting a passage from Isaiah, saying ‘look, now is the favorable time; look, now is the day of salvation.’ and he again appeals to them not to receive the grace of God in vain.

2 Corinthians 6:1 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Working Together With Him

Paul says that he is ‘working together’; ‘with him’ is implied by the context; as he said in 1 Corinthians 3:9;

1 Corinthians 3:9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

Paul is working together with God. He is God’s apostle (1:1); he proclaimed Jesus among them (1:19); he doesn’t lord it over their faith but works with them for their joy (1:24); he spreads the fragrance of knowledge of Christ everywhere – among both those who are being saved and those who are perishing (2:15-16); he has been commissioned by God (2:17); he has been made competent to be a minister of the new covenant (3:4-6); he has this ministry by the mercy of God (4:1); he proclaims Christ as Lord and himself as their servant for Jesus’ sake (4:5); knowing the fear of the Lord he persuades others (5:11); he has been entrusted with the ministry and message of reconciliation (5:18-19); he is an ambassador for Christ (5:20). These are some of the varied ways Paul is working together with God.

As the apostle, as Christ’s ambassador speaking on behalf of Christ, as a minister entrusted with the message and ministry of reconciliation, he implores them ‘be reconciled to God’; and here he exhorts them ‘not to receive the grace of God in vain.’

The Gospel of Reconciliation

In the heart of this letter, Paul has laid out the gospel, the good news of reconciliation; that Christ expressed his love for sinners by laying down his life as a substitute; he took my name, he died my death, and was raised to new life; and in him I am part of the new creation; made new in Christ. God through Christ reconciled us to himself; in Christ God no longer counts my sin as against me; he counted my sins against Jesus, and he credits me with the perfect righteousness of Christ.

It is in this context he makes his appeal to his readers, or actually God’s appeal through him:

2 Corinthians 5:20 …God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

And he reiterates in this verse:

2 Corinthians 6:1 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.

How To Receive the Grace of God in Vain

What does he mean by imploring the church to be reconciled to God? And what is the danger he warns us of, ‘not to receive the grace of God in vain’?

If we look only at the immediate context, Paul is laying out the gospel of God reconciling us to himself through the finished work of Christ. It seems by putting these two appeals together that ‘receiving the grace of God in vain’ would be equivalent to not being reconciled to God, or failing to take advantage of the reconciliation that God has secured for us through Christ. Those who are reconciled are those who died with Christ (5:14), who no longer live for themselves but for him (5:15), those against whom God no longer counts their sin (5:19), those who are made new in Christ (5:20), who have become the righteousness of God in him (5:21). We experience the grace of God when we are reconciled to God through simple dependence on his Son.

If we look just a bit earlier in chapter 5, he mentions the necessity of every man to stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give account for what he has done in the body, good or evil, and that this fear of the Lord is a motivator for him to persuade others.

2 Corinthians 5:9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. …

The motivation to persuade people is the reality of Christ’s judgment, before whose eyes everything false will be exposed and only that which is genuine will stand. According to Jesus himself, some who claim to follow Jesus will be shown to be false on that day (Mt.7:23).

If we look at the wider context, in chapters two and four he mentions that his ministry addresses two distinct groups; those who are being saved, and those who are perishing. Implicit in this is a warning; it seems his appeal would be to make sure you are part of the first group and not the second. Make sure that the gospel is to you a fragrance from life to life, not from death to death (2:15-16; 4:3; cf. 1Cor.1:18; 2Thes.2:10).

After warning in chapter 11(:4) of those who proclaim another Jesus, a different spirit, and a different gospel, he urges in chapter 13

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

He does not assume that because someone is part of a visible church, that they have truly been reconciled to God, that they have received the grace of God in a fruitful, effective way. He challenges believers to examine themselves, to be sure they are not receiving God’s grace in vain.

What Genuine Faith Looks Like

This fits with what he said about the gospel in his first letter.

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

He acknowledges the possibility of believing in such a way that the gospel profits nothing; that it is empty or worthless to you. This passage in 1 Corinthians is helpful, because it spells out what a genuine faith looks like in contrast to believing in vain. Genuine faith, according to 1 Corinthians 15 is that when the good news is preached, it is received. But it doesn’t end there. It is not something that sounds good, and you say ‘I like that, I receive that’ and then you move on. This is a word of caution to those who at one point prayed a prayer or walked the aisle or raised their hand or did whatever they were asked to do in response to the gospel, but there has been no transformation. As he said in 3:18 “ beholding the glory of the Lord, [we] are being transformed.” In 1 Corinthians 15 he goes on to describe what genuine faith looks like. Not only do you receive the truth of the gospel, you stand in it. You plant your feet on it. You remain in it. You are established in it. It is not some passing thing, some emotional experience that you had that you move on from. He says you are being saved by it. It is at work in you, saving you, transforming you. You are being delivered, being rescued by the gospel, day by day. And you hold fast to the word he preached. You hold on and don’t let go, you seize it, you cling to it, you don’t move on from it to other things. Receiving the word, standing in it, being saved by it, holding fast to it, this is what belief that is not in vain looks like.

This fits with what James says in his letter. He warns of a kind of faith that cannot save (2:14); he warns that there is a kind of belief in God that the demons have (2:19) and it does them no good; it is in vain, it does not save. They believe that God exists, they likely even understand the gospel, but they have not received it, they are not standing in it, they are not being transformed by it, they are not clinging to it.

Those Who Walk Away

No doubt we all can think of people we have known who said they believed, who claimed to trust in Jesus, who even seemed at first to be ‘on fire for Jesus’ who didn’t last, who over time turned away.

Jesus taught us to expect this, not to be surprised by it. He taught in the parable of the soils that

Mark 4:5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away.

Jesus said

Mark 4:16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.

They initially received the grace of God with joy, but it did not take root, it was in vain. He also spoke of:

Mark 4:7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain.

He said

Mark 4:18 …They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

Jesus alerts us to the possibility that some hear and immediately respond to the word, even with joy, but they fail to endure; it proves unfruitful because of a lack of root, it withers because of tribulation and persecution, or it is choked by the cares of the world, desires for other things. It proves to be empty, in vain.

This is a warning to be on guard against the things that choke the word; to cling tenaciously to the word; to receive it not superficially, but to ask God to drive it down deep in our souls, to be regularly under the teaching of the word, so that it takes firm root and bears much fruit.

John in 1 John 2 tells us

1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

Not remaining, not clinging to the simplicity of the gospel, is one evidence of a faith that is in vain, of receiving the grace of God in an empty manner. Paul is concerned with the Corinthians that they are entertaining a different gospel, and he is urging them to ‘be reconciled to God’, and ‘not to receive the grace of God in vain’.

The Day of Grace and Salvation

He urges them that this is not something that can wait.

2 Corinthians 6:2 For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

He quotes Isaiah 49:8 to press them to respond immediately. Paul has already taken up the themes of the suffering Servant in Isaiah 53 at the end of chapter 5. Now he makes a direct quotation from chapter 49. This section of Isaiah is where YHWH is speaking to his Servant, who in verse 4 says

Isaiah 49:4 But I said, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the LORD, and my recompense with my God.”

The Servant of the Lord sees the unbelief of the people he was sent to; he is concerned that his labor is in vain. the The Lord responds:

Isaiah 49:6 he says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.

This is looking forward not only to the future hope of the restoration of Israel, but that this Servant of the Lord will bring salvation to the nations, to the end of the earth, to all the world! The work of the Servant of the Lord will by no means be in vain. God is reconciling the world to himself through him!

The Lord continues:

Isaiah 49:7 Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation, the servant of rulers: “Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.” 8 Thus says the LORD: “In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you; I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages, 9 saying to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’ to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’ They shall feed along the ways; on all bare heights shall be their pasture; 10 they shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them.

The Lord says that he will give his Servant as a covenant to the people. This Servant of the Lord is the promised salvation, who makes a new covenant in his blood, who through his rejection brings salvation to the nations. Exactly how the suffering Servant brings salvation is spelled out in Isaiah 53, where he who knew no sin is made sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.

This is God’s answer to the need of his people. In a time of favor God answers. In the day of salvation he helps. Jesus, the suffering Servant, has shown the favor of the Lord, the salvation of the Lord.

This is the passage Paul quotes to highlight the urgency of the time. Through Isaiah, God was pointing ahead, promising a future deliverance for his people. Now, looking back to the cross, the day of salvation has arrived. The time of God’s favor is now. The promised suffering Servant has suffered for the sins of his people. The day of his promised salvation has arrived. It is here!

Do you feel the urgency of this? For thousands of years, God’s people anticipated the coming of the promised rescuer. He has arrived. Jesus has come. He has opened the way for sinners to be reconciled to God. But this day will not last forever. A day is coming when the time of God’s favor will end.

2 Thessalonians 1:7 …when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

You have heard the word, the message of reconciliation, the good news that Jesus paid the price for all who would believe in him. And Jesus himself warns those who have seen his grace in greater clarity:

Matthew 11:24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

Be careful not to receive the grace of God in vain!

Hebrews 3:12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

Look! Now is the favorable time; Look! Now is the day of salvation. God [is] making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God!

***

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

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

2 Corinthians 5:21; The Theology of Reconciliation

02/24_2 Corinthians 5:21; The Theology of Reconciliation; Ambassadors of Reconciliation; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190224_2cor5_21.mp3

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

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

We have been looking at Paul’s magnificent passage on reconciliation at the end of 2 Corinthians 5. Today we are going to unpack the rich, beautiful statement of verse 21 on the theology underlying reconciliation. This might be the most concise statement of the gospel; a mere 15 words in the original Greek, it packs the powerful life altering truth of the foundation of reconciliation, God’s reconciling us to himself; how he can in fact not count the sins of sinners against them, how salvation works, and the beauty of imputed righteousness.

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

Practical Theology

This verse is a dense theological statement. Some of you might be thinking ‘oh… theology [yawn] I was hoping for something practical.’ To you I want to say that theology; all theology is practical! Good theology, right theology, a right understanding of God and salvation is eminently practical. This passage shows us how. Verse 14 tells us that ‘the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this’ and he goes on to unpack a specific understanding of the expression of the love of Christ for us. He tells us that we are shaped by it; it affects the way we live, it affects everything! It changes our desires; verse 15, what we believe about Christs death causes us to want to live no longer for ourselves, but for him. If you don’t find yourself moved, compelled to live for Jesus, it probably means you are believing some bad theology.

And theology leads to doxology – to worship; when we learn great truths about God our hearts naturally well up in worship to God. Good theology also leads to life transformation. This passage spells that out. When we begin to understand the extent of Christ’s love for us, that he died for us, and all that that means, we live differently; we want to live for him.

We will just walk through this verse phrase by phrase. As we do, let this truth soak in to your heart and stagger your imagination and amaze you. Allow it to fill you with worship toward this all glorious God who would go to such an extent to rescue you!

Here’s a very literal translation of the Greek (we will work through this one phrase at a time);

21 τὸν μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν

[the one not having known sin]

ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἁμαρτίαν ἐποίησεν,

[on behalf of us sin he made]

ἵνα ἡμεῖς γενώμεθα δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ.

[in order that we become righteousness of God in him]

The Sinless Son

The first phrase is literally ‘the one not having known sin’ [τὸν μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν]. Notice, the verse doesn’t start with us; it starts with Jesus. It’s not all about us. If we start with us, thinking we are at the center, we end up in the wrong place, and we end up with bad theology. It’s never all about us.

Jesus knew no sin. As God from all eternity, the Son had never sinned. At the incarnation he took a human body; he became human. Romans 8:3 tells us that God sent “his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin.” Jesus came not in sinful flesh, but in the likeness of sinful flesh. He became human, but he did not become a sinner. As Hebrews tells us, as a man, he “in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb.4:15). In every respect. Are you tempted by sin? Jesus was tempted in every respect, yet without sin. Jesus never sinned. Not once. Not in thought, word or deed. Think of that for a moment. Not one selfish thought.

Not one sin of commission, and not one sin of omission. 1 Peter 2:22 tells us ‘he committed no sin’, and he also omitted no good he ought to have done; “I always do the things that are pleasing to him” he said in John 8:29. No failure to do what he ought to have done. Ever.

He was affirmed to have no sin by his own enemies. In Matthew 26 “the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward” (59-60). Tried before the governor Pilate, three times he publicly declared “I find no guilt in him” (Jn.18:38; 19:4, 6).

If you were running for public office, do you think someone could dredge up something against you? Jesus even invited his enemies to find fault; “Which one of you convicts me of sin?” (Jn.8:46); “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” (Jn.10:32).

Maybe you have lived a pretty clean life, and you really can’t think of anything serious anyone could accuse you of. But is there anything the all-seeing all knowing God could accuse you of?

Hebrews 4:13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Twice, Jesus received the audible testimony from his Father once at the beginning and again toward the end of his public ministry; “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Mt.3:17; 17:5).

Another way of saying this is that he was righteous. Perfectly righteous. Not only did he avoid a misstep, avoid doing what was wrong, he always did what was right, what was best in every situation. 1 John 3:5 “in him there is no sin.” He knew no sin.

In Our Place

21 τὸν μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν

[the one not having known sin]

ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἁμαρτίαν ἐποίησεν,

[on behalf of us sin he made]

We already saw this rich word ‘for’; on behalf of, in place of, three times back in verses 14 and 15; one in place of all died. Jesus died for us. In Romans 5,

Romans 5:6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Jesus died for sinners, for the ungodly. The sense is that ungodly sinners deserve to die, and he died for us – in our place. Peter says:

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for [concerning – περὶ] sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God…

Here the idea of substitution is made clear; Christ was executed, put to death, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. He, the righteous one, was executed for the unrighteous, in the place of the unrighteous.

This is the sense of ‘for’ in our verse. ‘For us he made him to be sin.’

Made Sin

What does this mean: ‘He made him to be sin?’ He made the one who knew no sin to be sin for us? Jesus, the sinless one, made sin? ‘He made‘ is the active verb in the sentence;. The Father made sinless Jesus to be sin. It is important to be careful to see what it does not say; it does not say that he was made sinful; Jesus was not made sinful. It does not say he was made a sinner; Jesus was not a sinner; he never sinned. It says he was made sin; he was made the embodiment of sin; Jesus was made to be sin personified. What does it mean that the Father made Jesus to be sin? We find language that expresses this in Isaiah 53:

Isaiah 53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

YHWH has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He has borne our griefs, carried our sorrows. The Father placed my sin on Jesus, and Jesus was pierced for my transgressions, he was crushed for my iniquities, the chastisement that brought reconciliation and peace to me fell on him.

Isaiah 53:10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; …

The burden of my sin was placed on Jesus. The guilt of my sin and shame was counted by the Father as transferred to Jesus and belonging to Jesus. He owned my sin. He took my name.

This is how in verse 19 he could say that he was not counting the sins of sinners against them. “Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin” (Rom.4:8). We are blessed because he was cursed; he became a curse for us (Gal.3:13).

God can no longer count my sins against me because he counted it against Jesus. For me he made him to be sin. This is how salvation works. This is how God can be just and justify the ungodly (Rom.3:23-24, 26; 4:5). The Father made Jesus to be sin, my sin. My price was paid in full; it is finished. I will never be held responsible for those sins; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed my transgressions from me (Ps.103:12). How? By placing them on Jesus.

That We Become Righteousness of God

21 τὸν μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν

[the one not having known sin]

ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἁμαρτίαν ἐποίησεν,

[on behalf of us sin he made]

ἵνα ἡμεῖς γενώμεθα δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ.

[in order that we become righteousness of God in him]

Here we get to the purpose; in order that we become the righteousness of God. The Father made Jesus to be sin in my place so that in him I am caused to be the righteousness of God. This is the other side; God no longer counts my sin against me because he counted it as Christ’s. God now counts me as righteous because he counts Christ’s righteousness as mine. This is known as double imputation; imputing or crediting my sin to Christ, and his righteousness to me. Just as Jesus was made sin in that sin not his own was counted against him, so I am made righteous in that a righteousness not my own is counted as mine.

This is what Paul says in Philippians 3: Paul claimed to have his own flawless righteousness under the law, but he counted that trash in order to

Philippians 3:9 …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 was eager to trade in his own works righteousness for the righteousness that comes from God, that is counted to those who are in Christ.

The gospel in Romans 1 reveals the righteousness of God. In Romans 3, Paul spells out

Romans 3:22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

In Romans 4, God counts righteousness to sinners apart from works.

In Romans 9, Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness attained it by faith, while in 10 Jews

Romans 10:3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.

The righteousness that God requires is his own perfect righteousness, the very righteousness of Jesus Christ, credited to our account. If we seek to establish our own righteousness, we fall short.

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

In Him

This double imputation comes only to those who are in him through faith. This connects back with verses 14-17; we have been identified with him in his death; he took my name and died my death; the sinful me is dead. I am now alive in him, clothed in his righteousness. I stand under his name. If anyone is in Christ, new creation! In Christ we are made into the righteousness of God; God has made all things new!

Conclusion:

This is bedrock foundational theology, and it is so practical! Let this truth wake you up in the morning and encourage your heart throughout your day and allow you to lay down at night in peace and sleep. Let this truth make your heart sing. Let the riches of this reality of Christ’s love for you compel you no longer to live for yourself, but for him who for you died and lives again.

***

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

February 26, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment