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2 Corinthians 4:7 Divine Treasure in Earthen Vessels

08/26_2 Corinthians 4:7; Divine Treasure in Earthen Vessels; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180826_2cor4_7.mp3

In 2 Corinthians 2 and 3 Paul displayed the surpassing glory of New Covenant ministry. It is ministry where ‘God through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere’ (2:14). It is self-authenticating ministry, where God writes Christ on the tablets of human hearts by the Spirit of the living God (3:3). It is the life-giving ministry of the Spirit (3:6). It is ministry more glorious than that of Moses, whose face radiated glory and had to be veiled (3:7-13). It is ministry that brings righteousness (3:9); it is permanent (3:11). It is ministry that removes veils (3:14-16), that brings freedom (3:17). It is ministry that beholds directly the glory of the Lord, ministry that brings about transformation (3:18).

In 2 Corinthians 4 Paul has been giving us the characteristics of authentic Christian ministry; ministry that does not lose heart. Authentic ministry is ministry by mercy; it is not deserved. It is ministry with integrity; it isn’t secretive, it doesn’t tamper, it doesn’t use every means possible. It is engaged in spiritual warfare; the god of this world blinds the minds of unbelievers. It is the plain proclamation of the gospel; the good news of Jesus Christ crucified for sinners; Jesus Christ as Lord. Authentic ministry is accompanied by the creative power of God; God speaks in and through our speaking to create life and light, to reveal Jesus, to remove blinders. In the middle of our ministry God’s creative word flashes out and shines light in the dark hearts of unbelievers to create seeing and believing in Jesus.

This is exceedingly glorious ministry! And to think, this ministry has been entrusted to us! We do not lose heart. We can have confidence. We can be very bold.

But

But… In verse 7 we run in to a big ‘but’.

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.

Woven throughout this passage are warnings to keep us humble. But here in verse 7 Paul illustrates the truth graphically to prevent us from becoming puffed up. We have this treasure in earthen vessels, jars of clay.

Earthen Vessels

We hold a great treasure, but it is placed in ordinary, unimpressive containers. Clay jars were about the equivalent of plastic or styrofoam cups. They were cheap, ordinary, fragile, disposable, and the landfills are full of them. They couldn’t really even be recycled. Many sites in Israel you can hardly walk without stepping on fragments of broken pottery [show examples]. There are even pits in the ground filled full of broken fragments. If a vessel made of glass broke, it could be melted down and re-blown into something useful. But not clay pots. Under Levitical law, bronze or even wood or leather or cloth containers that came into contact with something unclean could be washed in water and cleansed, but an earthen vessel must be broken (Lev.6:28;11:32-35; 15:12).

In Isaiah 30, God describes the consequences to his people of rejecting and distorting his word:

Isaiah 30:14 and its breaking is like that of a potter’s vessel that is smashed so ruthlessly that among its fragments not a shard is found with which to take fire from the hearth, or to dip up water out of the cistern.”

A clay pot’s usefulness comes from its form. It does not come from the inherent worth of its material.

The Potter and the Clay

When it comes down to it, a clay pot is essentially dirt. Mud. Clay that has been formed for a specific purpose. And that is exactly what we are. According to Genesis,

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

Formed by God of dust from the ground. Then after our rebellion, we are told:

Genesis 3:19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Lest we begin to think we are something, we are reminded that we are but clay jars, formed by the hand of our Master for a specific purpose.

This is an analogy that is used several places in scripture. In Isaiah 29 the Lord says:

Isaiah 29:16 You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?

How dare a created thing reject its creator! How dare something formed insult the one who formed it! Again in Isaiah 45:

Isaiah 45:9 “Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’?

I looked up how to make usable clay for pottery out of regular ordinary dirt. It is a simple but labor intensive process. It is basically a process of washing and screening and sifting to removing the impurities so that the clay will hold together.

Isaiah 64 describes us:

Isaiah 64:6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

We are full of impurities, and in order for us to be useful, God must remove the contaminants.

Isaiah 64:8 But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.

For us to even make it on the potter’s wheel, there must be an intensive process of cleansing.

Paul picks up this theme in Romans 9

Romans 9:20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?

God as creator has rights over the clay. He can do with it what he chooses.

In Jeremiah 18, Jeremiah is given an extensive object lesson with clay pots.

Jeremiah 18:1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2 “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” 3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4 And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. 5 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

The potter is at liberty to do with his clay what seems best to him. God goes on to warn:

Jeremiah 18:7 If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, 8 and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. 9 And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, 10 and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it. 11 Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: ‘Thus says the LORD, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.’

The point of these illustrations is that God is the potter. We are the clay. The potter has the right to make what he wishes with the clay. It seem ridiculous for a clay pot to take issue with the potter over the way it has been formed, especially when we spoil ourselves in his hand. Yet that is just what we so often do. The Potter is wise. Our Potter is good. He knows what he is doing. We can trust him.

Another thing to note about clay pots, is that they can be molded and shaped into something that looks great, but they are useless until they are fired. They have to be put in the furnace or kiln to become usable. I don’t know if Paul had this in mind when he calls us earthen vessels, but it certainly fits with what he goes on to say in the rest of this chapter. The furnace of affliction and trials proves character. It makes a soft pliable wet lump of clay into a functional container. It becomes useful. And it can last a long time. Many of these pieces of pottery are thousands of years old.

In Jeremiah 32, during Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem, God instructed Jeremiah to buy a field to demonstrate God’s promise that after the exile, fields will again be bought and sold in the land.

Jeremiah 32:14 ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware vessel, that they may last for a long time.

In 1947, a Bedouin shepherd discovered some clay jars in a cave near the Dead Sea. The jars contained great treasure, manuscripts of the Bible and other writings preserved in the jars for over 2000 years! Indeed, treasure stored in an earthenware vessel can last a long time.

This Treasure

The point of Paul’s contrast is between the nature of the jar and the nature of the treasure it is meant to carry.

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.

We have some fancy vases in our house that we don’t ever put anything in. They are beautiful, and they are completely for show. If I were to put even a flower in it, the beauty of the vase would detract from the beauty of the flower. The simplicity and plainness of a container allows the beauty of the treasure to be seen and treasured for what it is. That is what Paul is warning here.

We contain treasure. We have been entrusted with New Covenant ministry. The ministry of the gospel; the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. We proclaim Jesus Christ the Lord. God’s creative word has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. The container is not meant to compete with the glory of the treasure. We want nothing to detract from the treasure. Fancy pots won’t do!

The Power is God’s

This verse could be translated literally ‘but we have this the treasure in earthen vessels in order that the superabundance of power might be of God and not out of us.’ The verb is not ‘to show;’ rather the verb in this phrase is ‘to be.’ God’s purpose in putting his infinitely valuable treasure in these fragile human containers is that the power would be his and not ours.

If the container were impressive, attention would be drawn to the container. With containers this earthy, this ordinary, this vulnerable and common, there is no question whose the power is.

Paul may have had in mind the simple oil lamps that were so common in Corinth. Made of clay, they were inexpensive, yet functional. No one would question if the clay were giving off the light of itself or if it was the oil that was inside. It is the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God; it is the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. God creatively spoke this light into existence in our hearts. When this light shines out in such a way that others begin to see the light, it is evident that the extraordinary degree of the power is from God and not from us.

Paul was accused of being unimpressive. The Corinthians wanted someone powerful, someone eloquent, someone with a commanding presence. Paul said here I am; a simple clay pot, worn, tattered, vulnerable, broken, but containing a power not his own, a divine and supernatural light. The power of forgiveness. The power of knowing Jesus. The power to transform lives.

When Jesus blinded Paul’s physical eyes, and opened his spiritual eyes to who he is, he called a man named Ananias to go speak to him.

Acts 9:15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument [vessel] of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

Paul was a vessel, a container in which the name of Jesus would be carried around to all people. In the coming verses we will see how this treasure in earthen vessels connects with the necessity of suffering.

In Matthew 5 Jesus talked about light of a lamp that shines and gives light to others. He said:

Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

How is it that we are the light of the world, and that we are to let our light shine in such a way that people see our good works, but they don’t praise us; rather they give glory to our Father in heaven? How do we let our light shine in such a way that God gets all the attention?

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…

2 Corinthians 4:6 It is God who said ‘out of darkness light shine! … 7 [lit] But we have this, the treasure in earthenware vessels in order that the superabundance of power might be of God and not out of us.

You and I are really not all that impressive. God is.

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

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August 27, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Advent: Jesus is Greater! Greater Man

12/24 Advent: Jesus is Greater! Greater Man ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20171224_advent-greater-man.mp3

Jesus is greater! We have been looking this Christmas season at Jesus. Jesus is greater! Jesus is the greater prophet, Jesus is the greater priest, Jesus is the greater king. He is a greater prophet than Moses and all the Old Testament prophets; he is a greater high priest than Aaron and all the Old Testamen priests; he is a greater king than David and Solomon and all the other kings. Jesus is the greater prophet who speaks God’s words to us; who is the Word made flesh. Jesus is the greater priest who mediates between God and man, who offered himself as the greater sacrifice; the Lamb of God who by his one offering takes away the sin of the world. Jesus is the greater temple, the place where we can meet with God. Jesus is the greater king, the greater ruler who governs for the good of his people, the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep.

Greater Adam

Today we look at Jesus the greater man. Luke highlights this in his genealogy where he traces Jesus’ family tree all the way back to “the son of Adam, the son of God” (Lk.3:38). Jesus is in the line of Adam, in the line of humankind. Jesus is actually called ‘the last Adam’ in 1 Corinthians 15.

1 Corinthians 15:45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

Jesus is the last Adam; the final man, the archetypal man. Jesus is what man was meant to be. Jesus is the greater man, the greater Adam. This text refers back to creation where God formed man from dust and breathed into Adam and he became a living being. But Jesus came down from heaven to give life to others.

1 Corinthians 15:46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

Here Adam and Jesus are compared and contrasted. The first man was from the earth, made from dust, natural, and his descendents bore his fallen image. The second Man, the last Adam is from heaven, spiritual, and we who belong to him will bear his image. As Romans 8:29 says, we are “predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” We either bear the fallen image of Adam or the renewed image of Jesus.

The Image of God; Fruitfulness and Authority

If we go back to Genesis, we see what man was meant to be.

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Man was made in the image of God; man was meant to image forth God, to put the invisible God on display to his creation. Man was created to show God off, to put him on display, to showcase his character and disposition. Man was to be God’s representative ruler over all his good creation.

We see in this passage two main aspects of the image of God that we were meant to display; fruitfulness and authority. Man was meant to be fruitful under God’s blessing, to multiply and fill the earth. In Genesis 2:15 we see:

Genesis 2:15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

Man was intended to be fruitful, and to make the earth fruitful. Man was meant to fill the earth “with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Hab.2:14 cf. Is11:9). As God is creative, forming and filling the earth with life and variety and color and beauty, so man is meant to form and fill, to bless, to make the earth productive. Man is meant to be fruitful.

Man is also meant to rule. Humankind is to display God’s image in their use of authority. They are to have dominion, to subdue the earth and every good thing in it. We see both of these aspects in the garden in Genesis 2:15; man was to work; literally to till, to serve, or to put into service. The garden was to be enslaved under his good authority; to bring out its full potential. Man was also to keep it; to defend and protect, to guard, to watch over and attend to. God’s good authority was to be put on display for all creation; the kind of good authority under which everything thrives. And man was to exercise authority under God’s good authority. The

Genesis 2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Man was to subdue nature and to himself be subdued by God. God filled the earth with every good thing, and God made a garden, and he placed man in the garden with the requirement that he honor his Creator with obedience.

Greater Representative

But we know how things go, don’t we. Man was not content to rule over the whole world under God’s good authority. He wanted to be like God, to be out from under God’s rule, and make his own rules. And as Romans tells us:

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

Adam sinned, and because of his one sin we all die. We cry out

‘That’s not fair!’ Adam acted as our representative. He acted as man on behalf of all mankind. Adam and Eve sinned, and so all humankind sinned.

We may not like this, that Adam represented us, but it is in this way, Romans 5:14 tells us, ‘Adam was a type of the one who was to come.’ Romans 5:12-19 goes back and forth between the two men, the two great representatives, Adam and Jesus.

Adam Christ

Trespass Free gift

Justice Grace

one trespass one act of righteousness

one man’s disobedience one man’s obedience

sin & death spread to many grace abounded for many

death reigned recipients of grace and gift of

righteousness reign in life

many sinned many made alive

condemnation justification and life

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

So if you don’t like Adam as your representative, you have another option! Jesus is the greater man, the greater representative. Where Adam disobeyed, Jesus obeyed perfectly; where Adam brought justice, condemnation and death, Jesus brings grace; the gift of righteousness, justification, and eternal life. In Adam we get what we deserve. In Christ, we don’t get what we deserve, and we get what we don’t deserve. Jesus is our greater representative.

Adam was in a beautiful garden, with all his needs met, and everything good at his fingertips, and he disobeyed and ate. Jesus was hungry, in the wilderness, having fasted for 40 days, beginning literally to starve, and Jesus submitted himself to God. Jesus was tempted in another garden, looking toward another tree, and he said ‘nevertheless, not as I will but as you will’ (Mt.26:39).

Relationship

In Genesis 3 we see another aspect of what it means to be truly human:

Genesis 3:8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

Man was made for relationship with God. God intended for them to enjoy fellowship with him, to enjoy his presence, to walk together. This is what the whole Old Testament is longing for;

Exodus 29:46 And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, … that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.

This is what Jesus points us to in John 17

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Knowing God, enjoying relationship with God, this is what man was made for. Jesus, in constant communion with his Father, begins to show us what this is meant to look like. Jesus rose early to pray (Mk.1:35); he prayed in the evening (Mt.14:23); on occasion “all night he continued in prayer to God” (Lk.6:12); often “he would withdraw to desolate places and pray” (Lk.5:16). Jesus says:

John 14:31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.

Jesus says:

John 10:30 I and the Father are one.”

Jesus says:

John 10:38 but if I do them [the works of my Father], even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

Jesus enjoyed his relationship with his Father.

Authority

Jesus, the last Adam, exercised his authority over creation. When the disciples had fished all night and caught nothing,

John 21:6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. (cf. Lk.5:4-7)

Jesus exercised dominion over the fish of the sea. Jesus exercised dominion over the trees; “may no fruit ever come from you again” (Mt.21:19);

Matthew 8:27 “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

Jesus had authority over sickness, over disease, over birth defects, even over death and decay (Jn.11:43). Jesus was ideal man, in absolute authority at all times; and he used his authority for the good of others. Jesus used his authority to guard and protect his followers.

John 18:6 When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 7 So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.”

Jesus was in absolute authority, even over his own life

John 10:17 …I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

Fruitfulness

And as the ideal man Jesus’ life bore much fruit. In spite of never being married and having no children, Jesus was abundantly fruitful. The fruit of his three and a half year ministry produced a dozen followers who transformed the world; he built his church, and the gates of hell still have not prevailed against it. 2000 years later, he is still bearing fruit across the globe. Jesus gave us the secret of his fruitfulness.

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

By his death Jesus defeated death and hell and the devil. Back in the garden it was prophesied that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent, and the serpent would deal a fatal blow to the seed of the woman. Jesus, the true seed of the woman, crushed the head of the serpent by dying.

Image of God

As the final Adam Jesus enjoyed relationship with God. Jesus exerted his good authority over all creation, and Jesus was abundantly fruitful. Where the first man failed to properly display the image of God, Jesus put God fully on display.

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

…18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Jesus, the only God who was with God and who was God, became flesh and made God known. 2 Corinthians 4:4 speaks of

2 Corinthians 4:4 …the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Jesus is the image of God.

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

Jesus images God exactly as Adam was meant to do. Jesus puts God on display in flesh for all to see.

God Become Human

To legitimately fulfill this role as the greater Man, the image bearer, exercising man’s dominion over creation, enjoying relationship with the Father, being fruitful and filling the earth with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, Jesus had to really and truly be human. This is the wonder of the incarnation. This is the wonder of Christmas; that God became a man! As the Christmas song goes “Christ by highest heaven adored, Christ the everlasting Lord, …veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail th’ incarnate Deity, pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus our Immanuel” [Hark the Herald Angels Sing, C.Wesley]

This is why doctrine matters. This is why theology matters. This is why the virgin birth matters. That Jesus is truly Son of God and Son of man. For Jesus to crush the head of the serpent, he had to be the seed of the woman.

This is why the incarnation matters. This is why a doctrine called the hypostatic union matters; you don’t have to know it by that name, but it is absolutely essential that Jesus is one person with two natures; that he is fully God from all eternity, and that without diminishing his deity, he took on a second nature, that he became fully human; that Jesus is fully God and became really and truly human. If he was not truly human, he could not be a legitimate substitute and die for our sins. If he were not fully God, his sacrifice would not be of infinite value.

I invite you to stand in awe of Jesus today. Worship Jesus. He is the greater prophet, the greater priest, the greater king, the greater man. Acknowledge him today as your greater representative. Jesus is worthy of your attention, of your affection, of your awe. Jesus is worthy of your wonder and worship. Jesus is greater!

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

January 9, 2018 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 15:20-22; Raised In Christ

04/26 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 Raised In Christ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150426_1cor15_20-22.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

20 Νυνὶ δὲ Χριστὸς ἐγήγερται ἐκ νεκρῶν, ἀπαρχὴ τῶν κεκοιμημένων. 21 ἐπειδὴ γὰρ δι’ ἀνθρώπου θάνατος, καὶ δι’ ἀνθρώπου ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν· 22 ὥσπερ γὰρ ἐν τῷ Ἀδὰμ πάντες ἀποθνῄσκουσιν, οὕτως καὶ ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ πάντες ζῳοποιηθήσονται. 23 ἕκαστος δὲ ἐν τῷ ἰδίῳ τάγματι· ἀπαρχὴ Χριστός, ἔπειτα οἱ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ αὐτοῦ· 24 εἶτα τὸ τέλος, ὅταν παραδιδῷ τὴν βασιλείαν τῷ θεῷ καὶ πατρί, ὅταν καταργήσῃ πᾶσαν ἀρχὴν καὶ πᾶσαν ἐξουσίαν καὶ δύναμιν, 25 δεῖ γὰρ αὐτὸν βασιλεύειν ἄχρι οὗ θῇ πάντας τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ. 26 ἔσχατος ἐχθρὸς καταργεῖται ὁ θάνατος, 27 πάντα γὰρ ὑπέταξεν ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ. ὅταν δὲ εἴπῃ ὅτι πάντα ὑποτέτακται, δῆλον ὅτι ἐκτὸς τοῦ ὑποτάξαντος αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα. 28 ὅταν δὲ ὑποταγῇ αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα, τότε αὐτὸς ὁ υἱὸς ὑποταγήσεται τῷ ὑποτάξαντι αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα, ἵνα ᾖ ὁ θεὸς πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

Last week we looked at the consequences of believing something that is not true. The gospel is a message that is anchored in real historical events. It claims to be objectively, historically true. If it is not what it claims to be, there are dire consequences. The gospel, the good news is a proclamation that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was really dead, and that Christ was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures, and that he was really alive – he appeared to many. If Christ in actuality remained dead, then the gospel message is empty and believing in it is worthless, those who proclaim it are false witnesses and frauds, there is no escape from the punishment your sins deserve, and those who have died trusting in Jesus are forever lost. If it turns out that there is no resurrection, we will have wasted our lives. Every sacrifice, all the suffering, all the effort and energy expended, all the heartache, all the storing up treasures in heaven, all the trading present pleasures for future hopes, was an empty fantasy, and our lives are pathetic and pitiable. It matters not only that you believe and how sincerely you believe but it makes all the difference what you are believing, and if what you are trusting in is real and true.

Perfect Tense

Paul has been exploring what if’s. What if there is no resurrection? What are the hypothetical consequences if the resurrection did not in fact happen? Here in verse 20 he moves back into reality. But now Christ is risen from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is an historical reality. The verb ‘raised’ through the majority of this chapter is in the perfect tense; this is a verb tense which emphasizes the present effect of a past event. Christ was raised from the dead. That is an historical fact. But Christ today is risen. He continues today in his resurrected state. He is bodily, physically alive today. This has implications for us today.

Firstfruits

1 Corinthians 15:20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Christ is called the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. To fall asleep in Scripture is a gentle euphemism for the death of a believer. If you fall asleep, you will wake up still you, but refreshed. Death is pictured as sleep. Later in this chapter, Paul will liken death to the planting of a seed. As seed goes into the ground, it begins to decay, but suddenly life bursts forth! Life comes out of death. That life bears fruit and gives life to others. Christ is said to be the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. In the Old Testament, God’s people were to keep feasts to commemorate his saving activity. They were to keep the Passover, where a lamb was killed to cover them, to protect them from God’s wrath. When God brought them into the promised land, they were to take the first of the produce of the land in the spring and present it to the Lord as an offering. According to Leviticus 23, this was to take place on the Sunday after the Sabbath, after the Passover. The firstfruits was symbolic. The first and the best of the land was given to the Lord, and the firstfruits was the first of more to come. The firstfruits was the same kind as the rest of the harvest, and it was the beginning, which promised more like it to come. You plant crops so that you can harvest and live off of those crops. If you take the first of the harvest and give it to the Lord, this is an act of faith, trusting that there is more to come.

Jesus is called the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep because his resurrection is the same kind as ours; he was physically, bodily, tangibly raised from the dead and lives forever, and we too can expect a real physical bodily resurrection. And Jesus is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep because his resurrection is a promise of more of the same to come. Because he died a physical human death, and his life sprang out of that death, we can be confident that we too, although we will face physical death, we will be raised to newness of life.

Adam and Christ

1 Corinthians 15:21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.

Paul gives the reason that Christ is the firstfruits of the dead. Death was through a man. God created man to love him, to obey him, to enjoy him, to glorify him forever. He created humans with the capacity for worship. And he gave them a test. One tree, in the midst of a plentiful garden of pleasure. Submit to God’s authority, or throw off that yoke and become your own authority. Worship the one true God, or worship self. And life and death hung in the balance. Continue in unbroken fellowship with the living God who loves you and cares for your every need, or declare your independence, place self at the center, sever the relationship, and attempt to survive separated from the God who gives life and breath and everything good to enjoy. We rebelled against a generous and good God, and death came into the world. Man brought death into God’s good world. Through man death.

Romans 5 spells this out:

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

Romans 6 says:

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death

The wages of sin is death. Sin came into the world through one man, Adam, and death came into the world as a result of his sin. Humanity rebelled and everything died. This world is broken, and we broke it. God created everything good and beautiful to give him praise and we touched it and said ‘mine’ and it all turned ugly and grew thorns and began to decay. Man sinned and brought death into God’s good creation. Man did this. Humans did this. Death was not a part of human nature. Death, physical and spiritual death was a virus introduced into humanity by the first man.

True Humanity

1 Corinthians 15:21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.

A man did this great evil. A man must undo it. Through a man the resurrection of corpses. This points us to the real genuine humanity of Christ. Just as Adam was human, Jesus was truly human.

There are plenty of Scriptures that clearly tell us that the Son of God is God from all eternity, equal to and eternal with the Father, no beginning and no end, sharing with his Father and the Spirit every characteristic that makes God God. John 1, Colossians 1, Hebrews 1 are just a few of the many many passages that clearly communicate the eternal divine nature of Jesus. But at a point in history God the Son became something he had never been before. He was conceived in the womb of a virgin. He was born in a cave in Bethlehem. He became human. Remaining what he was, he became what he was not. He became God with us. God incarnate. God with flesh on. His divine person was inextricably knit to a real human nature. He became the God-man. Continuing to be fully God, he became really and truly human. That is the wonder of Christmas, that God became a man.

If Jesus was not who he was, he could not have accomplished what he did. If he were merely human and not God, his death would have no value beyond himself. If as God he never took on human nature, he would be unable to stand in our place. He could be our judge but not our Savior. But because he, eternal God, became really and truly human, he could take our place as our substitute. Because he continued to be fully divine, his death was of infinite worth, and he was fully capable of bearing the weight of every sin any human had ever committed.

It was a man that brought sin and its consequences into this world through his disobedience in the garden. It was a man who conquered sin and reversed those consequences by his perfect obedience, restoring God’s good creation so that it could again give him glory and praise. By a man comes resurrection of the dead.

Representatives

1 Corinthians 15:21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

There is a parallel between Adam and Christ. In Adam all die. All of us are descended from Adam. In seed form, we were all present when Adam rebelled. We share his guilt. He acted as our representative. All of us who are in Adam, who are on his team, who are united with Adam in his rebellion against God, will die like Adam died. ‘To be in Adam is to be part of the group that has Adam as its representative leader, who finds its identity and destiny in Adam and what he brought about for his people.’ (Ciampa & Rosner, PNTC p.763).

Just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. At first read, this may sound universal. Because of Adam every single human will experience death. Because of Jesus Christ, every single human will enjoy resurrection. But if we read more carefully, we see this is not the case, and this would be contrary to the clear teaching of all of Scripture. It is all those who are in Adam that are included in the consequences of his rebellion. This indeed includes all humanity. But it is all those (and only those) who are in Christ who enjoy resurrection life. This does not include every human; this is a sub-set of humanity. Not all who are in Adam come to be in Christ. Those who are in Christ are those who take Jesus as their representative leader, who find our identity and destiny in Christ and what he brought about for his people. Those who belong to him.

Many people complain about the injustice of suffering the consequences of the rebellion of Adam. It doesn’t seem fair. But this is fair. If you are in Adam, you join him in his actions and in his consequences. You follow in his footsteps. You do what he did, you refuse to worship and submit to the one true God, and you set yourself up as the god you worship and serve, and you sever yourself from the God who really is. You deserve the same consequences Adam received. But the good news is you don’t have to stay in Adam. There is another choice. You can transfer your allegiance. You can take Christ as your representative. All those who are in Christ, who unite themselves to Christ and belong to Christ, will be made alive. This refers to more than a bare resurrection, it points us to real life. Jesus said

John 10:10 … I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

God will give abundant life to those who are in Christ Jesus. They will truly live. They will know the fullness of joy in his presence. A reconciled relationship. Fellowship with God. Intimacy. Communion. To all who are in Christ.

In Christ

What does it mean to be in Christ? Much of the New Testament talks about being in Christ. This letter starts out addressing the church of God, ‘to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints’. Paul gives thanks to God for ‘the grace of God that was given you in Christ.’ Paul says in 1:28-30

1 Corinthians 1:28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,

We are set apart in Christ Jesus, we are given grace in Christ, we are in Christ Jesus because of God who chooses what is low and despised, the nothings in the world. Wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption are found in Christ Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5 says

2 Corinthians 5:17 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.

Romans 8 says

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

God reconciles people to himself in Christ. He does not count our sins against us in Christ. In Christ, we are made new. The condemnation we deserve is taken away in Christ Jesus. Paul says in Philippians 3:

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

Righteousness comes not from works of the law but from being found in Christ through faith. Jesus told his followers in John 15:

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Jesus invites us to abide in him like a branch abides in the vine. We stay connected to him, drawing everything we need from him, bearing fruit through his resources and for his glory.

We are placed in Christ by God through faith. We receive grace in Christ, we are sanctified in Christ, we are reconciled to God in Christ, we find forgiveness in Christ, we escape condemnation in Christ, we receive God’s righteousness in Christ, we are made new in Christ. If we are in Christ, if we died in Christ, at his coming we will be raised to life, abundant resurrection life in him. We will find that whatever the sacrifice, whatever the cost, however we were poured out and laid down our life in the service of Christ, it was worth it. It was not in vain.

Who is your representative? Who are you connected to? In whom do you find your identity and your destiny? Is self at the center, independent, autonomous, I can do it my self my way. Or are you connected to Christ, being found in him, not having your own righteousness, but trusting in him, depending on him, receiving from him, drawing sustenance from him, submitting to his good authority? Giving all glory and praise to him for he is worthy?

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

April 26, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment