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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

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

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

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

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

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

Background / Context

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

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

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

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

Boldness

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boasting

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

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

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

Comfort

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

2 Corinthians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

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

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

Super-Abounding in Joy on All Our Affliction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Application

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

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

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

***

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

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June 3, 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 4:18; What Are You Looking At?

10/21_2 Corinthians 4:18; What Are You Looking At?; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20181021_2cor4_18.mp3

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, …

What Are You Looking At?

What are you looking at? What are you looking at? It matters what you are looking at. Paul teaches us in 2 Corinthians 4:18 that what we fix our eyes on has great significance and great consequences. What we look at determines to a great extent where we are going. I love scenery. As we were on a road trip cross-country last week and I was driving, my wife had to gently encourage me once or twice to keep my eyes on the road. Why? Because where we are looking quickly becomes where we are heading. I learned this early on in my lawn mowing career; if you want to mow straight lines, you don’t look down at the lawn mower wheels. Pick a point in the direction you want to go, keep moving toward that point, and you will go straight. It matters what you are looking at. Paul uses the word ‘seeing’ four times in this one verse, as well as a different word for focusing or looking.

—Not fixing your eyes

———————on that which is seen

—————but that which is not seen

—————————-for what is seen is for this time

———————-but what is not seen is eternal

The Context of Suffering

It matters greatly what you are looking at. It especially matters what you are focusing on when you face suffering. Remember, Paul’s context here is suffering. He is being destroyed, being taken apart, being brought to the brink of despair and being done to death. His circumstances are those which would cause him to utterly lose heart, give up, quit,

Just so we understand a bit better the context, I’d like to pull together a few texts from the Pastoral Epistles that communicate the kind of things Paul faces in his ministry.

In 1 Timothy 1 he mentions that some have swerved away from sound doctrine and made shipwreck of their faith (1:3, 19). In 1 Timothy 6 he warns:

1 Timothy 6:3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.

He says (6:9) that because of a love of money some have wandered away from the faith.

In 2 Timothy he exhorts Timothy not to be ashamed of the gospel, or of Paul, who is now a prisoner in chains, and he tells Timothy to “share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God” (1:8). Paul says that he is suffering because he is a preacher, apostle and teacher of the gospel (1:10-12). He says:

2 Timothy 1:15 You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes.

He tells Timothy

2 Timothy 2:3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

He says that it is his preaching the gospel “for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!’ (2:9). He names “Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some.” He says “their talk will spread like gangrene” (2:17-18). He warns that some have been ensnared by the devil, “being captured by him to do his will.” (2:26).

2 Timothy 3:10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

He says of himself:

2 Timothy 4:6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.

2 Timothy 4:9 Do your best to come to me soon. 10 For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. 12 Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. 13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. 14 Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. 15 Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. 16 At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me…

By the end of Paul’s life, many professing believers had swerved from the faith. Some pursued their love of money. Many were teaching false doctrines. Many were stirring up controversies, dissensions, slandering him, creating constant friction between people. Some had been captured by the devil to do his will. Their talk was spreading like gangrene. Personally he had endured persecutions and sufferings at Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. He expected that all who followed Jesus would be persecuted. He is now imprisoned and bound with chains. He felt that his life was being poured out as a drink offering, and that he would die soon. He said “all who are in Asia turned away from me.” All in Asia? All the churches he had planted in Asia turned away from him? This would include Ephesus, Colossae, Pergamum, Thyatira, Smyrna, Sardis, Laodicea, Miletus! He says that when he stood on trial before Caesar, “At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me.” No one? Not one of his friends, not one of his co-workers stood by him? Completely alone, deserted? It seems that all his ministry was crumbling, all his efforts were for nothing.

How did he not feel utter defeat? From all outward appearances, the apostle’s ministry was a failure; it appeared he had wasted his life. He was a clay pot crumbling under the weight and pressure of ministry. And at the end of his life it seemed like everything he had labored for was coming apart. How did he not lose heart? What is he fixing his eyes on that keeps him from losing heart?

Paul’s Perspective on Suffering

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

Last time we looked at the contrasts in verse 17 in duration between momentary and eternal; and in mass between light and the weight of glory. And we saw that the suffering he endured was actually purposeful; it was doing something; it was working something in him. It was preparing for him the exceedingly exceeding eternal weight of glory.

Now he tells us where he gets this perspective. Perspective comes from what you are focusing on. The word translated ‘as we look to’ is skopeo [σκοπέω]. This is where we get our English word scope, as the scope on a gun. It is what you look through to take aim and zero in on your target. It is the goal on which our eyes are fixed, the end toward which the attention, desires and efforts are directed. When you are looking through a scope on a rifle, your field of vision is limited. The target is magnified, and the periphery is excluded from view. What are you aiming at, zeroing in on, focusing your attention on? What are you excluding from your field of view?

Paul continues the contrast between what to set in your sights and what not to look at. Ironically he uses the common verb ‘to look at or to see’ to define what is to be held in the scope. And he flips it. He starts negatively; not fixing our eyes on that which is seen. Whatever he sees, he doesn’t look at. He doesn’t take aim or fix his attention on what he can see. The next phrase he gives us what he does fix his gaze on; that which is not seen. He excludes from his range of vision everything he can see, and he takes aim and zooms in on that which is not seen.

Focusing on the Unseen

Focus on what you don’t see, not on what you see. How do you focus on something you can’t see? How do you fix your eyes on what is invisible? This is what the Christian life is, and this is what enables us to not lose heart in spite of the outward circumstances. In the next chapter he says ‘so we are always of good courage’ (5:6), which is the positive way of saying ‘we do not lose heart’. He says ‘for we walk by faith, not by sight’ (5:7). Faith, not sight. Fixing our eyes on the unseen realities.

Romans 8 is in many ways parallels 2 Corinthians 4. In verse 18 he says “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Then in verse 24 he says:

Romans 8:24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

We hope for what we do not see. We have our eyes fixed on what is not yet seen. Hebrews 11 tells us:

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Faith takes hold of the promises of God. Later in Hebrews 11, the author points us to the faith of Moses. He says:

Hebrews 11:25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.

It is interesting that he links faith and fixing his sights on him who is invisible with being mistreated and enduring persecution. Moses was able to endure without fear the anger of the king by fixing his view on the invisible one. He was looking to the reward. Notice the object of his gaze was personal; He endured as seeing him.

What? Or Who?

What unseen realities are we to fix our eyes on in the context of 2 Corinthians 4? In 3:18, with unveiled faces, we are beholding the glory of the Lord. In 4:4, Satan is blinding the minds of unbelievers “to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” “God has shone in our hearts” in 4:6 “to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” It is Jesus! The light of the knowledge of Jesus!

The author of Hebrews (12:1-2) tells us that we must “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…” We are to fix our eyes on Jesus.

Not Circumstances

Notice he gives us both what not to fix our gaze on, and what to pay attention to, and why. We are not to look at the things that are seen, our outward circumstances. How can we possibly not look at our circumstances? Especially when our circumstances loom so large that they fill the horizon? Put them in the scale and weight them against something weightier, something larger. Light and momentary compared to the exceedingly exceeding weighty glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Why? Because that which is seen is temporary; literally for the time or for the season. Circumstances don’t last. Think back to the last major crisis you faced. Not the one you are facing now, but one you faced in the past. Can you? I have to think hard to even come up with what the last crisis I faced was. Because it was so small? No, because it’s over. It has been resolved. It seems big when it is staring you in the face, but it seems much smaller when you have moved past it and it is history. Don’t allow circumstances to overwhelm you because they are temporary, they will soon be in the past, and you will have moved beyond them. The things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are not seen are eternal. Should we fear the things that will soon be past, or should we pay more attention to what is eternal. Jesus said:

Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Do not fear the one who can only do temporary harm. Rather fear, fix your eyes and give your attention to the one who is eternal.

What are you looking at? It matters what we fix our eyes on.

The Lord Stood By Me

Remember we looked at 2 Timothy where Paul says that ‘all who are in Asia turned away from me’ and ‘at my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me.’ That seems utterly disheartening. But look what Paul says:

2 Timothy 4:16 At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! 17 But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Do you see what he is looking at? His circumstances? His deserters? No, he did not focus on that which is seen, but that which is not seen. The one who said “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Heb.13:5); “the Lord stood by me”. “The Lord stood by me” He was looking to the things that are unseen.

Gospel to Feast our Eyes On:

Here are some unseen realities Paul may have been be looking at. These are unseen realities that I love to feast my eyes on:

1 Corinthians 15:3 …Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,

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

1 John 4:10 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.

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

Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,

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

October 22, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 4:17; Producing an Eternal Weight of Glory

10/14_2 Corinthians 4:17; Producing an Eternal Weight of Glory; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20181014_2cor4_17.mp3

The Secret of Not Losing Heart

Last time we looked at the secret of not losing heart. I asked, ‘What if I told you that I could show you the secret to endure any hardship, no matter what comes against you, to never fail, never give up, never lose heart? Not only to survive but to thrive under any adversity?’ Paul gives us his secret at the end of 2 Corinthians 4. He says in 4:16

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

We began by looking at how this being made new on the inside happens. It happens day by day, as he said in 3:18; as we are “beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”

To not lose heart requires an inner day by day renewal. We had to stop there, but there’s so much more to see here. He gives us the foundation, the reason, the ground of our day by day renewal. And he gives us the process, the means of being renewed.

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

Disparity Between Outer and Inner

In this chapter, Paul is contrasting the outward appearance with his inward reality. Outwardly, he is plain, ordinary, a fragile clay pot. But inside he carries the inestimable treasure of the good news of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Outwardly he is carrying in his body the dying of Jesus, but this is so that the resurrection life of Jesus can be displayed in his body. Outwardly he is being destroyed, but inwardly he is being renewed day by day.

From all outward appearances, Paul is being unmade, taken apart; he is wasting away. His life appears to be one characterized by defeat, discouragement, even despair. We are ‘afflicted …perplexed …persecuted …struck down’. It seems a waste, meaningless.

In verse 12 he gives one positive outcome of his sufferings that he can look at so that he does not lose heart. He said ‘so, death is at work in us, but life in you.’ So the suffering he experiences is the means God is using to bring good, blessing, eternal life, to his hearers. That’s good. That makes the suffering worth it.

But here in verses 16-18 he says more. Not only is his suffering a benefit to his hearers, it is also a blessing to himself. Did you hear that? My suffering is painful to me, but a blessing to you, so I can push through. But now he says my suffering, my persecution, my affliction is a blessing to me. It is not only bringing good to you; it is also bringing good to me. He says, on the inside, where it really counts, the suffering he endures is actually causing him to be made new day by day. How can this be?

I was reading one of the recent ‘Voice of the Martyrs’ magazines, and came across this story about a couple who had left a closed country and found Jesus. They returned to to their homeland with their two young boys to share the gospel, even though they were fully aware of the dangers. The wife said “It’s an interesting thing trusting God with your family. For us it was just so clear. The joy and the privilege of being able to go overshadowed the fact that something could happen.” They shared Christ with their extended family, and then they began to plant churches. One of the questions he would ask before baptizing a new believer was always “Are you willing to give up your life for Jesus?”

After 7 years, the secret police burst in and ransacked their apartment, arrested them and drove them bound and blindfolded to the city’s interrogation unit. They were separately imprisoned, and repeatedly interrogated. The wife speaks of her two weeks in prison, thinking constantly about her children; “I knew it was a privilege to be there with the Lord, so that was sweet, but I also wanted to go be with them.” Her husband was released about a month later. She reflected on the experience and said “He was allowing us, His children, to suffer because He wanted us to carry His presence into their presence, He loved them so much – the judges, the interrogators, the guards – that He allowed us to go through a really, really hard time to carry His presence into their presence so they could come in touch with him.” [VOM Oct.2018]

How was she able to have this kind of reaction to that kind of suffering? Part of her answer points back to Paul’s earlier answer: “He was allowing us …to suffer because he wanted us to carry His presence into their presence, He loved them so much.” But there is something more, something deeper. “The joy and the privilege of being able to go overshadowed the fact that something could happen.” and then, when it did happen, “it was a privilege to be there with the Lord.” It was joy! It was a privilege!

Perspective Matters!

Look at the foundation of this day by day renewal in the face of daily troubles. Look at verse 17. It starts with ‘for’; because. This gives the reason, the foundation of this inner day by day renewal.

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,

Perspective matters! Look at how Paul views his affliction where he was so utterly burdened that he despaired of life itself. Look at the perspective he has on his affliction, his perplexity, his persecution, his being struck down and thoroughly ruined. He contrasts it with the purposes and the promises of God.

Do you do that? Do you take what you are facing today, and hold it up to the promises of God and the purposes of God for you, and compare it? Put it in the scales? See what it really weighs? Paul says that when he weighs it out, his afflictions are light, and they are momentary. Now before you blow Paul off as if he just doesn’t understand what you are going through, you could look over to 2 Corinthians 11 where he lists his imprisonments, his countless beatings, often near death, his 5 times receiving 39 lashes (that’s 195 lashes, but who’s counting?), his 3 times beaten with rods, his being stoned and left for dead, his shipwrecks, his betrayal by false brothers, his hunger, thirst, exposure, sleeplessness, his daily pressure and anxiety for all the churches. All this he piles in the balance and it weighs out ‘light’ and ‘momentary’.

Back in chapter 1, he said he was ‘so utterly burdened beyond strength’ because of the affliction they experienced in Asia. He felt the weight then, and it was more than he could carry. What gave him his perspective on suffering? What could possibly make this magnitude of suffering seem light and momentary? What is on the other side of the scales?

Momentary vs. Eternal

The thing that outlasts and outweighs our suffering is ‘an eternal weight of glory’. ‘Eternal’ answers ‘momentary.’ The length of our afflictions are momentary in comparison to eternity. If we endure 80 years of constant pain and suffering, persecution and affliction, and we hold that up next to the timeline of eternity; is so infinitesimally small it becomes insignificant.

As the song goes: ‘when we’ve been there 10,000 years bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun.’ Compared to our eternal joy, the present afflictions are less than momentary. Can you take your present sufferings and measure them by eternity in the presence of God and say they are momentary? Perspective makes all the difference.

Light vs. Weight of Glory

Eternal answers momentary, and ‘weight of glory’ answers ‘light.’ The heaviness of our afflictions are light in comparison to the weight of glory. This is the same word he used in 1:8 when he says we were ‘so utterly burdened [or weighed down] beyond our strength.’ Now he compares this weight beyond our strength to the weight of glory. The weight of affliction is far beyond what we can bear, but there is something in the scales that far outweighs the heaviness of our present sorrows. It is glory.

The word ‘glory’ itself if we look back to the Hebrew of the Old Testament literally means weighty, massive, substantial. The eternal weight of God’s weightiness, the massiveness of his glory so far surpasses that the weight of our afflictions seem as inconsequential dust in the scales.

Exceedingly Exceeding

As Paul says in Romans 8,

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

It’s not just that the glory outweighs the burden and outlasts the sufferings; it is beyond all comparison; literally ‘according to hyperbole into hyperbole’. Words fail to capture the glory. It is surpassingly surpassing; exceedingly exceeding. So far beyond being beyond all ability to explain. The glory is so far beyond any ability to adequately explain that Paul piles hyperbole upon hyperbole to attempt to communicate that there is just no comparison between our present afflictions and the glory that is to be revealed in us.

Whose Glory?

Glory is the radiance, the outward display of God’s inner character and nature. The glory of the Lord is the visible manifestation of God’s invisible presence. It is his splendor, brightness, magnificence, excellence, majesty or dignity. God in Isaiah 42 and 48 says that he gives his glory to no other, and yet Jesus in his humanity prayed:

John 17:5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

Jesus’ own glory was veiled, hidden behind his plain, ordinary humanity. And yet here in 2 Corinthians 4:4 and 6 we apprehend ‘the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’; the light of the gospel is ‘the glory of Christ, who is the image of God’. Hebrews 1:3 calls Jesus ‘the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.’ We most clearly see God’s character and nature revealed in Jesus. Although this glory belongs to God alone, we were created to reflect, to image forth his glory. “Beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” (2Cor.3:18).

Afflictions Work Glory

But look carefully at what he says.

2 Corinthians 4:17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,

The present affliction is not just contrasted with the glory to come, it is causing it. It is preparing it for us; it is working it, accomplishing it for us. He looks both at the promises and the purposes of God. God intends our sufferings for our good, to increase the glory we will experience. God’s promise is that the eternal will far outspan the temporal, that the glory will far outweigh the trials. But the purpose of God is that the pressure produces in us the surpassingly surpassing eternal weight of glory. It is important to know not only God’s promises to us that give us strength to persevere through the suffering, but that God has a purpose in the sufferings. The afflictions are not meaningless, they are purposeful, they are accomplishing something, bringing something to completion.

We see this same truth (and the same word) displayed in Romans 5:3

Romans 5:3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,

And we see it in James 1:3

James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

Affliction produces steadfastness; the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. Affliction produces in us an exceedingly exceeding weight of glory. So we rejoice, we count it all joy; we do not fail, give up, lose heart.

I think Spurgeon explains this as well as anyone (and with this we’ll have to end for now). He says:

trials make more room for consolation. Great hearts can only be made by great troubles. The spade of trouble digs the reservoir of comfort deeper, and makes more room for consolation. God comes into our heart—he finds it full—he begins to break our comforts and to make it empty; then there is more room for grace. The humbler a man lies, the more comfort he will always have, because he will be more fitted to receive it.”

There is …no prayer half so hearty as that which comes up from the depths of the soul, through deep trials and afflictions. Hence they bring us to God, and we are happier; for nearness to God is happiness. Come, troubled believer, fret not over your heavy troubles, for they are the heralds of weighty mercies.”

[Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, Morning, February 12]

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

October 15, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 4:13-14; Believing Leads to Speaking

09/16_2 Corinthians 4:13-14; Believing Leads to Speaking; Theology Fuels Missions ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180916_2cor4_13-14.mp3

Today we are going to hear Paul tell us in 2 Corinthians 4:13-15 that believing leads to speaking; that theology fuels missions (even in; maybe especially in the midst of affliction). What is our hope that keeps us going in the middle of it all, what is our ultimate aim? What is it that we believe that overflows in proclamation no matter what the consequences?

To pick up some of the context, we will start in verse 7.

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure

This treasure; the treasure from verse 4 of ‘the light of the good news of the glory Christ, who is the image of God’. The treasure from verse 6 of ‘the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’.

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay,

Common, plain, ordinary clay pots; fragile, breakable, disposable earthenware.

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

We have an afflicted, a crushed, a persecuted, a struck down ministry. A ‘carrying around the dying of Jesus’ kind of ministry, a ‘given over to death’ kind of ministry, a ‘death is at work in us’ kind of ministry. We have a ministry that is modeled after our crucified Lord. This is to show, to put on display, to make manifest that the power is not our power; it is God’s power, resurrection power. The life of Jesus is put on display in these mortal bodies, resurrection life in fragile earthenware containers.

Death is at work in us, but life in you. Death is working, energizing, creating life. Death is doing something. This ministry characterized by the dying of Jesus is bringing about life; life in you.

The Danger of Speaking About Jesus

2 Corinthians 4:13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak,

Speaking is what Paul has been talking about in this whole passage. He says ‘we are very bold’ (3:12). He says ‘we refuse to tamper with God’s word‘; it is ‘by the open statement of the truth’ (4:2). He says ‘we proclaim …Jesus Christ as Lord’ (4:9). It is God’s creative word that creates light in the dark hearts of unbelievers. It is all this speaking and preaching that has got the apostle into so much trouble, has brought on him so much crushing pressure, so much inner turmoil. We know from Acts 18 that Paul was tempted to back off in his proclamation of the truth when he came to Corinth, so much so that Jesus himself spoke to Paul in a vision and said

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

We know from earlier in Acts that Peter and John were arrested and ‘charged not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus’ (4:18). Then Peter and the rest of the apostles were imprisoned and ‘strictly charged not to teach in this name.’ They were accused of ‘filling Jerusalem with their teaching’ (5:28). They were beaten and charged ‘not to speak in the name of Jesus’ (5:40).

Paul would save himself a lot of trouble, a lot of affliction, pressure, persecution, if he simply stopped speaking about Jesus. But as the other apostles responded ‘we must obey God rather than men;’ ‘we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard;’ ‘they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus’. And they rejoiced ‘that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.’

Psalm 116

2 Corinthians 4:13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak,

Paul is quoting a phrase from Psalm 116. No doubt this is a Psalm he had been meditating on, a Psalm that had brought him much comfort and strength and encouragement. God uses his word in our lives to strengthen us.

This Psalm is all about affliction. Paul has been talking about being afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down, always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake. Listen to Psalm 116:

Psalm 116:1 I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. 2 Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. 3 The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. 4 Then I called on the name of the LORD: “O LORD, I pray, deliver my soul!” 5 Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful. 6 The LORD preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me. 7 Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. 8 For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; 9 I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living. 10 I believed, even when I spoke: “I am greatly afflicted”;

Paul could certainly resonate with what the Psalmist experienced. ‘The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish.’ He was facing death, affliction; he was brought very low. And yet like the Psalmist, in the middle of his affliction ‘I believed, therefore I spoke.’

Believing Leads to Speaking

Paul’s point is that believing leads to speaking. As in Romans 10:9 believing in your heart is accompanied by confessing with your mouth. He has the same spirit of faith; faith is believing, trusting, depending or relying on another. He has the same spirit of faith. The Holy Spirit who writes Christ on the tablets of human hearts (3:3); the Spirit who gives life to those who were dead in trespasses and sins under the law (3:6); the Spirit who brings transformation (3:18). It is the Spirit who creates faith in a hard human heart. Because Paul has been given the spirit of faith; since God ‘has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,’ he believes, he trusts, he depends, he relies on God. Even in the midst of affliction, even when facing death, he trusts in the Lord, he depends on the Lord, and he cries out to the Lord.

In this speaking, there is a private, inner dialogue, and there is a public, out loud aspect. Believing results in speaking. We see this throughout this Psalm Paul quotes. First, there is the voice crying out to the Lord for help. He has head my voice, my pleas, he inclined his ear to me, I will call on him. I called on the Lord “O LORD, I pray, deliver my soul!” Out of his distress he speaks, he cries out to the Lord for deliverance. This is the private dialogue between the believer and the Lord.

Second, there is public speaking that follows and flows out of this Godward cry. It articulates; it vocalizes; it is public, for others to hear. I believed, therefore I spoke. If we continue in the Psalm, he says in verse 14 ‘I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.‘ In verse 18 he repeats this public recognition of God’s mercy toward him ‘in the presence of all his people.’ He says in verse 17 ‘I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving.’ In verse 19 he expands ‘in the presence of all his people’ to ‘in the courts of the house of the LORD’ and ‘in your midst, O Jerusalem.’ This is public confession, public recognition of receiving God’s grace when he cried out to the LORD for help. In the presence of all the people. Both in the house of the Lord, and in the middle of the city he praises and thanks the Lord.

In his distress, he believes; he trusts, he depends on the Lord, he cries out to the Lord for help. And God meets him in his affliction; in the midst of suffering distress and anguish, in the face of death, the Lord saved him, delivered his soul from death. Now he responds by speaking publicly, declaring in the church and in the city his praise, his thanksgiving to the Lord, telling his story of how the Lord delivered him. ‘The Lord is gracious and righteous. Out God is merciful. I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. When I was brought low, he saved me.’

Taste and Tell

Have you experienced the mercy of the Lord? Have you tasted his undeserved kindness? Have you cried out to him from the middle of the mess, and he met you there? Have you depended on him as your only hope? Then speak. Believing, depending on him leads to speaking about him to others, both inside and outside the church. Have you told your brothers and sisters in the house of the Lord how great he is and what he has done for you? Have you told the people you work with on Monday morning? Have you told your unbelieving family? Have you told the doctors and nurses? Have you told the people of our city?

Our daughter Hannah was born 2 months early. I was at work when I got a call from a friend who had taken my wife to the hospital. She said ‘you’d better get here right away. She’s not doing well. They are prepping her for an emergency C-section.’ By the time I made the more than an hour drive from work up to the hospital in our town, I found out they were now transporting her by ambulance down to the University hospital, so I followed the ambulance back down past my work to intensive care at the university, where they were trying to keep my wife and our baby alive. That was a scary time. And God was with us through it all. He carried us. Songs we sang in church like ‘you give and take away, you give and take away, my heart will always say, Lord blessed be your name’ took on a new depth of meaning. At that point I didn’t know if I would lose my wife, and the mommy to our three little girls at home. We leaned in hard to the Lord. And he carried us. It became almost tangible that he was with us and he was enough. We told our church family how the Lord was with us through it all. I told my co-workers, my boss, the people on the van pool. We told the nurses. We told the doctors. We told the anesthesiologist. I cried out to the Lord and he met us in the middle of it all, I believed, I trusted him, and he was enough. And that naturally overflowed into speaking to others about him.

Paul already modeled this in the first chapter of this letter. He wrote:

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

We were in over our heads, but that caused us to believe, trust, rely on him more. On him we have set our hope. We want you to know. We have to tell you how faithful the Lord is.

Theology the Fuel for Missions

2 Corinthians 4:13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.

The believing has content. Our speaking has roots that go down deep into something solid, sustaining. We believe, and our believing leads to speaking because we know something. We know truth. We know theology. Theology is the fuel for missions. Passion, zeal, enthusiasm can carry you for a time, but what will sustain for the long haul and through the affliction that inevitably comes is good solid theology; truth about God in his word, an anchor for the soul.

Paul is facing death. He is always carrying around in his earthen vessel the dying of the Lord Jesus. He is always being given over to death. What does he know that sustains him even in that? You could say ‘well, things turned out all right for you. You didn’t lose your wife. Your child didn’t die.’ Does that mean that if they had, I would have given up trusting, gotten angry at God? Paul’s theology is so rock solid substantial and sustaining that it can even produce praise when things all go wrong. Consider Job. He lost everything. And he fell on his face and worshiped. What is it Job believed? What is it Paul believed that caused him to speak even when facing death daily?

2 Corinthians 4:14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.

The roots of our believing, our trusting run deep in the resurrection. God raised Jesus from the dead. That is fact, a historical event. The crucified cold corpse of Jesus was sealed in a tomb chiseled into the rock, and three days later, the tomb was empty and he was alive, appearing, spending time with his disciples, convincing the skeptics, teaching them, eating with them. God raised Jesus from the dead. And he promises to raise us who believe up with Jesus. Death has lost its sting, because Jesus conquered death and rose victorious! We can face death with courage, because death was defeated at the cross. Sin separates us from a holy God, and Jesus took all our sins on himself, paid our price in full, so that we can now stand in right relationship with the Father.

God will raise us up with Jesus, and bring us with you into his presence. Being alive forever isn’t the point. The point is being in his presence, being established, so that we can enjoy him forever.

Jude closes his short letter with this word of praise:

Jude 1:24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

He is able to present you blameless before the presence of his glory.

He will bring us with you into his presence. Paul’s hope, the hope that kept him going, even in the face of death, was that he would be resurrected to stand in the presence of God, and to stand with those that he proclaimed the gospel to. He looked forward to the day when he would be in the presence of God in company with all those who believed as a result of his speaking. He believed, so he spoke, and in response to his speaking many others believed. His theology of the resurrection fueled his mission to reach others with the good news, even in the face of affliction, persecution, death.

Do you believe? Is your theology robust enough to sustain you through the trials so that you can speak; proclaim the goodness of the Lord to others? Even out of the middle of the brokenness? Is your believing resulting in speaking?

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

September 17, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 4:8-9; Affliction in the Way of Jesus

09/02_2 Corinthians 4:8-9; Affliction in the Way of Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180902_2cor4_8-9.mp3

In 2 Corinthians 4 Paul is talking about the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (4:6); the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (4:4). He points us to God who said ‘out of darkness, light shine!’, who has shone in our hearts to give us this light. He says

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 carry around light, the treasure of the light of revelation; the glory of God revealed in the face of Jesus Christ. We carry around this light, and we transmit this treasure to others, but we do so in earthenware containers so that the superabundance of power comes from God and not from us.

Inestimable treasure, of infinite value and worth, carried around in ordinary earthenware, common, plain, fragile, breakable. This is so that the surpassing power is of God and not originating in us.

He goes on in the next verses to show how God puts his own power on display in these fragile clay vessels.

2 Corinthians 4:8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

Verses 8 and 9 lay out four pairs, four contrasts to put on display the life of Jesus in us, life that comes out of death.

Life Out Of Death; The Way of the Cross

Life must always come out of death. Jesus said:

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.

He was speaking of his own death. He said in verse 23 “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” The way Jesus was to be glorified was that he was to die. He was to fall into the earth like a seed. Without dying, a seed is just a seed. But in its dying, the seed bursts out with life and produces much fruit.

This is the way of Jesus. He came to die. He came to be crucified for the sins of mankind. But that was not the end. That was not the goal. He came to die in order to rise again, that he might become the firstborn among many brothers (Rom.8:29; Col.1:18). He died that we, with him, might live.

Jesus goes on:

John 12:25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. …

Jesus invites us to follow him in laying down our lives to bear much fruit. In Matthew 16 he says:

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. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

(cf. Mk. 8:34; Lk. 9:23)

Lose your lives for my sake. Deny yourself. Follow Jesus. Take up your cross. If you do you will truly find your life.

The way of Jesus is laying down your life in order to truly find life.

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

Affliction is Not Unusual

Four contrasts that put on display the life of Jesus in us. In everything, in every place, all the time. ‘In every way’ begins the sentence, and goes with all four of these clauses. These four things are not unusual. They are not infrequent. Verse 8 begins with ‘in everything.’ Verse 10 begins with ‘always’. Verse 11 begins with a different word for ‘always’. Suffering, affliction, is not unusual for the follower of Jesus. It is the path of following Jesus.

This is not a popular message. It was not popular in Corinth, and that is why Paul had to say it. It is not popular today. Many preach a prosperity gospel, that says ‘if you follow Jesus you will be be blessed. Your health will be blessed. Your finances will be blessed. Your relationships will be blessed.

But Jesus said:

Luke 6:22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven…

Notice, you are blessed. Many teach that if you follow Jesus you will have a nice job and live in a nice house with a nice wife and nice kids and drive a nice car. Nothing wrong with any of those things. But when you lose your job and you lose your nice house and you wreck your nice car and your spouse leaves, and your kids are broken, you might conclude one of two things. There is something wrong with you, or there is something wrong with God.

You are to blame. You didn’t have enough faith. Maybe there’s sin in your life. Maybe you didn’t give enough money. This is dangerous, because it can lead to unhealthy introspection and depression. What is wrong with me that things aren’t going well for me? What did I do wrong? What didn’t I do? This whole line of thinking is messed up. It is a works based system. I believe, I give, I pray, and if I do it right, God is obligated to make things go well for me.

The other line of thinking is just as damaging. There is something wrong with God. I did the stuff I was supposed to do, and he didn’t come through. Maybe he’s not good. Maybe he’s not powerful enough. Maybe he doesn’t keep his promises. Maybe he’s not even there at all.

The problem is not in God, and it is not in your performance. The problem is that what you are believing is not true. It is not true that if you follow Jesus every circumstance will go your way. It is not true that believing in God is the magic key that makes every problem dissolve.

Jesus said “you will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (Lk.21:17). Jesus said:

John 15:18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. …20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. …

Jesus said:

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. They will persecute your. In the world you will have tribulation. These are promises of Jesus to his followers. Affliction is not unusual. It is the path of following Jesus.

Paul says ‘in every way we are afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down. Always carrying in our body the death of Jesus. Always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake. This is not unusual. This is the normal Christian life.

Four Contrasts

Let’s look at these four contrasts that put on display the life of Jesus in us.

In every place, in everything, all the time, we are this but not that. This but not that. This but not that. This but not that.

θλιβόμενοι ἀλλ’ οὐ στενοχωρούμενοι, We are afflicted but not crushed. Both of these words point to being in a tight place. We are crowded, we are pressed, we are pressured. The world is closing in on us. Our enemies are pressing us hard. Jesus uses the root of both these words in Matthew 7 when he says:

Matthew 7:13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Narrow, tight, cramped, hard; as opposed to wide, broad, open, easy. Paul uses this first word in 2 Corinthians 7:

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

He uses it to refer to both external and internal pressure. He uses the second word twice in 2 Corinthians 6:12, and this is the only other place it shows up in the New Testament.

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.

Notice the contrast between wide open and restricted. Narrowed, cornered, restricted, boxed in so that there is no way out. We are hard pressed, but not with nowhere to turn. We are severely pressured but not restricted; there is still a way out. We are cramped but not cornered.

ἀπορούμενοι ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐξαπορούμενοι, perplexed, but not driven to despair; The second word in this pair is an intensified version of the first word. This refers to being perplexed, in doubt, at a mental loss, uncertain what to do; the second word means to be utterly at a loss; to despond or despair. Despair is when you are so perplexed, at such a mental loss, that you are stuck there and lose all hope.

Paul already used this second more intense word back in chapter 1.

2 Corinthians 1:8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction [pressure] we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.

Notice that Paul doesn’t downplay or deny his troubles. He doesn’t try to hide his emotional turmoil or pretend that he is unaffected by outward circumstances. He is candid and open about his own struggles. They were so utterly burdened beyond their strength that they despaired even of life itself. But they weren’t stuck there.

2 Corinthians 1:9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.

We began to despair, but that drove away from self reliance to trust completely on God who raises the dead. It taught us to fix our hope on God. So we are confused but not confounded, at a loss but not totally lost, perplexed but not driven to despair.

διωκόμενοι ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐγκαταλειπόμενοι, persecuted, but not forsaken. The first word means to be pursued hard after, hunted or persecuted. This is the word Paul uses to describe what he did to the church of God (and to Jesus) before his conversion (Acts 22:4; 26:11; 1Cor.15:9; Gal.1:13; Phil.3:6.

The second word is to abandon, neglect or forsake. This strong word is used in Hebrews 10:25 to encourage believers not to forsake, abandon or neglect meeting together. This is the word from Jesus’ lips on the cross, when in utter darkness he cried out with a loud voice “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

We are pursued, persecuted, chased down by our enemies, but we are not abandoned by God. Jesus was abandoned by his Father on the cross, so that we who now belong to him would never be.

Hebrews 13:5 …be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

καταβαλλόμενοι ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἀπολλύμενοι, struck down, but not destroyed. Paul was struck down. Literally. In Acts 9, a light from heaven flashed around him and falling to the ground he heard a voice. In Acts 14, in Lystra, ‘they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead.’ Cast down is a word used in the Old Testament for city walls being cast down, or an enemy falling by the sword. It often means death.

There seems to be a progression here. Paul’s enemies are pressing in hard, but he has room to flee. He is at a mental loss, but does not give up hope. He is pursued hard by his enemies but not abandoned by God. Then his enemies finally catch up and strike him down to death but he is not destroyed. What does that mean?

Destroyed is the word Paul used in 1 Corinthians 1:18 and 2 Corinthians 2:15 and 4:3 to draw a contrast between those who are perishing and those who are being saved. Perishing in this context is being lost for eternity. This is the word Jesus used when he said “Whoever loves his life loses it” (Jn.12:25).

Look at what Jesus says in Luke 21.

Luke 21:16 You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. 17 You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish.

You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. Some of you they will put to death. But. But not a hair of your head will perish? How can you be put to death and yet not a hair of your head will perish? Unless this word perishing means something more than being put to death. Christians, even apostles can be struck down and die. But not a hair of their heads will perish eternally. The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. In the words of Jesus:

John 10:28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

We may be struck down, even to death, but we will never be destroyed.

Rejoice In That Day

Look back at Luke 6. Jesus said:

Luke 6:22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven…

When you are hated and excluded and reviled and spurned on account of Jesus, you are blessed. When. In the middle of the mess, you are blessed. Rejoice in that day! Leap for joy! Look, your reward is great in heaven! Our reward is not primarily here and now. We look forward to our reward when we see Jesus face to face. But even now, even in the middle of the brokenness, in the middle of the pain, we can rejoice. We can leap for joy.

Because we understand the way of Jesus. The way of the seed. Life comes out of death. We know that God works all things together for good; even the hard things, the painful things.

How do you respond to pressure? To emotional turmoil? To being pursued and persecuted? To death? Do you feel cornered? Confounded? Abandoned? Destroyed?

Or do you rejoice that you hold this treasure in a fragile earthenware pot so it is clear to all that surpassing power is from God and not from you?

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

September 2, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 2:1-4; Sorrow and Joy in the Body of Christ

02/25_2 Corinthians 2:1-4; Joy and Sorrow in the Body of Christ ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180225_2cor2_1-4.mp3

Tension of Sorrow and Joy

Paul begins 2 Corinthians by pointing us to the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. …if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort. (1:3-6). He points us to a God who brings comfort out of affliction; and here in chapter 2 he points us to a God who can even bring joy out of a painful relationship.

This passage uses the language of pain, or sorrow or grief. In all of Paul’s letters, he uses the noun and the verb form of this word ‘sorrow’ 24 times; 18 of those, a full ¾ are here in 2 Corinthians. And 16 of those show up between the first verses of chapter 2, and where he picks this narrative back up in chapter 7.

In chapter 2, he uses the word grief or sorrow or pain 8 times, and when he picks back up in chapter 7, he uses it another 8 times. He also uses words like affliction, anguish of heart, tears. Some have said ‘If Philippians is known for the predominance of the word “joy” in the letter, 2 Corinthians should be known for the predominance of the word “pain.” The Corinthians were his problem children’ [Garland, p.113].

Indeed the letter to the church in Philippi is characterized by joy. But when I looked, the words joy or rejoice show up 14 times in Philippians and 13 times in 2 Corinthians. The next closest concentration of ‘joy’ is 6 times in 1 Thessalonians. Although 2 Corinthians is a letter characterized by sorrow, there is a real tension and interplay here between sorrow and joy.

At the end of chapter 1, Paul made it clear that he is not attempting to lord it over their faith; rather he is pursuing their joy; laboring along side them for their eternal happiness. Paul is working for their joy, and there is a tug-of-war going on in these verses, and in his heart, between joy and sorrow.

Last time we saw that God actually commands our joy in him, that Christianity is not a religion of duty but a relationship of delight, God delighting in us, and our responding to him with delight. We can rejoice in God himself with deep unquenchable joy, because God himself is full of joy. But this joy doesn’t stop with our vertical relationship with God; it extends to horizontal relationships with other people. And that’s where it gets really messy.

Joy of Fellowship with Other Believers:

2 Corinthians 2:1 For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you. 2 For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? 3 And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. 4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

Paul is working with them for their joy. He is pursuing their eternal joy. He is making his travel plans with their joy in mind. His last emergency visit was painful for him. If he visited again now, the visit would be painful for them. Instead he wrote a painful letter, not to cause them pain, but to change their hearts, so that when he did visit, it would be an occasion of rejoicing.

Paul is saying in this passage that his joy is all intertwined and wrapped up in their joy, and that their joy ought to be interconnected with his joy.

2 Corinthians 2:2 For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? 3 And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all.

I caused you pain; you should make me glad; I might suffer pain from you; you are my joy; my joy is your joy.

Last time we looked at unquenchable joy, Jesus’ own joy that no one could take from you. Now is Paul saying here that his joy is dependent on the Corinthians? That his joy is circumstantial? How do these go together? What is the relation between our unquenchable joy in Jesus, and our joy or sorrow in our brothers and sisters?

My Joy is Your Joy

This is not the only place he talks like this. Let’s take a minute to look around at some of the things that touch on this subject of horizontal joy in other believers.

In Philippians 4:1 and 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20, he calls his readers ‘my joy and crown of boasting’; ‘you are our glory and joy.’

Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

Do you hear his heart of tender affection toward them?

1 Thessalonians 2:19 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20 For you are our glory and joy.

In Philippians 2:2 he asks them to complete his joy.

Philippians 2:2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

They unity of the believers, their Christ-like others-focused sacrificial humility and love fills up and completes the joy of the apostle.

Paul derived much joy from Philemon.

Philemon 1:7 For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.

Springing out of the love of Christ, Philemon’s love overflowed to refresh the hearts of the saints. Hearing of this outworking of the gospel in the life of a brother brought Paul much joy and comfort.

In 1 Thessalonians 3 we see something like what Paul longed for and was working toward with the Corinthians.

1 Thessalonians 3:6 But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— 7 for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. 8 For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. 9 For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God,

Do you hear what he says? The good news of their faith and love brought the apostle joy. The gospel had taken root, and they were standing firm in believing. The gospel had taken root and was producing the fruit of love among them. Their belief in the gospel had created warm affections for the one who came and preached to them; they longed to see him again. There was mutual affection and mutual joy. Paul, in the midst of distress and affliction, says ‘now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.’ You see this triangular relationship. Paul is loving Jesus and finding joy in Jesus. That love and joy overflows horizontally and he brings that good news to the Thessalonians, so that they can find love and joy in relationship with Jesus. As he sees them enjoying God together, it increases his joy. He finds joy in their joy, and his joy is their joy.

Paul is not the only one who talks like this. John makes it clear what brings him joy.

2 John 1:4 I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father.

…12 Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

3 John 1:3 For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

His greatest joy is to see other believers enjoying Jesus, walking in the truth.

He says it most clearly in 1 John.

1 John 1:3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

We (the apostles) proclaim what we have seen and heard (the gospel of Jesus Christ) so that you may enter into our fellowship with the Father and the Son; as we have a reconciled relationship with God and enjoy intimacy with Jesus, when you believe the gospel you also enter in to fellowship with God. And when you enter into that fellowship, our joy is complete. There is vertical fellowship with God, and there is horizontal fellowship with other believers. When that triangle is complete; when I am enjoying God, and you are enjoying God, and I see you enjoying God, I rejoice in your joy in God, and my joy is your joy; then our joy is complete.

C.S. Lewis writes “It is frustrating …to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch…” Our joy is fulfilled when it is shared.

This is the joy of the triune God. Last time we said that we can enjoy God because God is joy. For God’s joy to be full, it must be joy in another; and yet for the joy to not be idolatrous joy, it must be joy in God. The Father delights in his only Son, and the Son delights in the Father. The Spirit delights in the Father and the Son, and the Son delights in the Spirit’s delighting in the Father and the Son, and so on, and so the joy of God in God is shared, and is complete. This is joy in relationship; shared joy.

Joy and Grief Shared in the Body

Paul has pointed to this shared joy already in 1 Corinthians 12 with the metaphor of the church as the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many.

24 … But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

The members of the body are meant to be unified, to care for one another. Because we are part of a body, when one member is pained, the whole body experiences the pain. When on member experiences joy, the whole body rejoices together. This is God’s design. God has so composed the body. Paul is working for their joy, because they are connected. Their joy is his joy, and his joy is theirs.

Listen to Paul’s confidence in verse 3; ‘for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all.’ Paul is confidently pursuing their joy, even by bringing them pain, because he is persuaded that when his children are walking in the truth, he can rejoice, and this will also bring them the greatest joy. Paul has a theological confidence in the way God designed the body that frees him to seek their greatest good even when it causes him pain, because he knows that pursuing their joy will bring him the most joy in the end.

The Way of the Cross

Paul would have been tempted to come, to clear his name, to defend his honor, to set things straight. Instead, he chose the way of the cross. He chose to be wronged rather than to demand his own way. He chose to spare them, to extend mercy, to give them time to repent. He himself bore the pain.

2 Corinthians 2:4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

Paul had mentioned his affliction in Asia in chapter 1.

2 Corinthians 1:8 … the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death….

Now he says he wrote out of much affliction and anguish of heart. In chapter 7 he mentions:

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

Here he may be talking about his fears within. Much affliction and anguish of heart heaped on top of the burden beyond strength despairing of life itself. Anyone who has experienced relational conflict and tension understands the soul draining energy sapping fatigue of being emotionally spent. Paul writes through his tears, not to cause pain, but out of pain. He writes to open his heart to them.

In verse 4 the word order is emphatic; but the love, in order that you might know that I have abundantly to you. Paul has to let them know right up front that it is love, not in order to grieve, but his abundant love for them, in order that they know that he has abundantly toward them. Paul did not write to hurt them, to spite them, because he was angry with them; it was love. He doesn’t even directly say that they hurt him; he wrote out of affliction and anguish of heart, but he doesn’t blame. Instead he seeks to avoid causing them unnecessary sorrow. He wants to spare them. He loves them. His decision making, his life, his ministry is modeled after the cross. Jesus doesn’t say ‘wow, look how much you hurt me, look how terrible you are.’ No, he says ‘I want you to know how abundantly much I love you. I want you to experience joy. I want a relationship with you.’

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

We worship a God who brings comfort to us in all our affliction, and who can bring joy even through the pain of relationships. God is working with us for our multiplied joy.

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

February 25, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 1:8-10; Purposeful Despair and Hope in God

10/22 2 Corinthians 1:8-10; Purposeful Despair and Hope in God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20171022_2cor1_8-10.mp3

Corinth was confused about what the Christian life is all about. They were being led astray with the notion that following Jesus meant success and power and popularity. They began to question if Paul’s suffering meant that God was not pleased with him and that he was not a genuine apostle. Paul is writing to correct their thinking and bring it in line with the good news of the crucified Messiah.

Instead of opening this letter with a thanksgiving to God for what he has done in the Corinthian church, Paul begins by praising God who brings comfort in the midst of suffering and affliction. Suffering is fellowship (koinonia) with Christ.

The Benediction (1:1-7)

He begins by highlighting the nature of God; that he is merciful and the source of all comfort.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,

Paul and his apostolic team have experienced God’s comfort in the midst of all their affliction.

4 who comforts us in all our affliction,

This affliction is purposeful; the apostles are comforted in affliction so that they can comfort others in all affliction with God’s comfort.

4 …so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Overflowing fellowship in Christ’s sufferings equates to overflowing fellowship in the comfort of Jesus.

5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

The Apostles’ affliction and their comfort is all for the comfort of the Corinthians.

6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort,

The Corinthians will experience this comfort as they fellowship in their apostle’s sufferings.

6 …which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.

The firm confidence of Paul for the believers is in God, who will bring about their fellowship in both the sufferings and the comfort

7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

The Affliction (8-10)

Now in verses 8-10 he gets very personal and vulnerable, opening his heart and revealing his own struggles and fears.

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

We do not want you to be ignorant

Paul wants to make them aware of his sufferings. He says ‘we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers.’ The Corinthians prided themselves on their knowledge, so to be ignorant of anything would be a great shame to them. He has used this phrase twice in 1 Corinthians (10:1; 12:1) and 10 times in 1 Corinthians (3:16; 5:6; 6:2, 3, 9, 15, 16, 19; 9:13, 24) he says ‘Do you not know?’

They are already concerned about what they have heard of the sufferings of Paul. Instead of remaining quiet about some of his sufferings they may not be aware of, he highlights his suffering to them. Paul wants them to be fully aware of the depth of his affliction. He is teaching them what it means to be a follower of Jesus; that it is to follow him in his sufferings now, and his glory to come.

The Affliction we Experienced in Asia

He wants them to be fully aware of the affliction he and his co-workers had experienced in Asia. But Paul doesn’t give them the details of what happened; rather his focus is on his own experience of the affliction, and what he was taught through the affliction.

There has been much speculation on what this affliction in Asia might have been. Asia was across the Aegean Sea from Corinth; Ephesus was the major port city almost directly East of Corinth. It was from Ephesus that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 15:32 he mentions that he ‘fought wild beasts at Ephesus,’ probably a metaphorical reference to hostile people. In Acts 19, we are told of a riot in Ephesus started by the craftsman Demetrius, who understood that Paul’s preaching ‘that gods made with hands are not gods’ (19:26) was devastating their profits. After over two hours of shouting in the amphitheater, the town clerk dispersed the crowds and suggested bring their charges against them in the courts. Luke does not record everything that happened, but it is possible that Paul was charged and even imprisoned for a time in Ephesus. We don’t know for sure where he was imprisoned when he wrote to the Philippians. Many think it was during his Roman imprisonment. It is possible it was during an unmentioned imprisonment in Ephesus.

There are some intriguing parallels between his letter to the Philippians and what he says in 2 Corinthians. Paul explains that he faced a life and death struggle (Phil.1:20-23); that he felt as if he were being poured out as an offering (3:17). He says that his affliction brought about boldness and confidence in the other believers (1:12-14); he mentions the fellowship of the saints in suffering (1:5,7,29-30; 3:10); he says that he relied on the prayers of the believers to bring about his deliverance (1:19); he expects to visit them soon (1:24-26; 2:23-24); he holds up to them the example of Jesus on the cross as an example of humility and suffering (2:5-8).

We know that whether it was events related to the riot in Ephesus, or the frequent attacks of the Jews that he faced everywhere he went, Paul experienced some severe affliction in Asia.

Burdened Beyond Despair

The circumstances of the affliction aren’t the important thing. The experience of the affliction and the purpose in the affliction is the essential thing he wants to communicate.

8 …For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.

We were super-abundantly weighed down beyond our ability. We were so weighed down that we despaired even of life itself. Paul doesn’t talk about the outward circumstance, but he talks about his experience. Crushing pressure. More than we could handle. Despair. Despondency. The sentence of death. Verse 10 says a deadly peril; literally so vast a death. Paul and his co-workers were beyond themselves. They couldn’t handle it. They were in over their heads. They had lost all hope. They were as good as dead.

Wow Paul, this doesn’t sound very spiritual. Somebody needs to read you one of your bible verses to encourage you! You know, God is in control. He will work all things together for good. Just keep looking up! Paul didn’t put on a happy face and pretend to be OK. He did not run from the pressure. He didn’t pretend that he could handle it. He was not ashamed to admit his own weakness, his own inability, his own emotional brokenness and hopelessness. He couldn’t handle it. It was beyond him. The pressure was just too great. It would crush him.

Purposeful Despair

But this was purposeful despair. God was in control. Paul blesses the God of all comfort who designed both the affliction and the comfort.

9 …But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

‘But that was to…’ We received in ourselves the answer of death in order that… There is purpose in the emotional brokenness that Paul experienced. There was purpose in bringing him to the point of total despair. In order that we must not have confidence in ourselves.

Calvin writes “that the fleshly confidence with which we are puffed up, is so obstinate, that it cannot be overthrown in any other way than by our falling into utter despair. …that this malady is so deeply rooted in the minds of men, that even the most advanced are not thoroughly purged from it, until God sets death before their eyes. And hence we may infer, how displeasing to God confidence in ourselves must be, when for the purpose of correcting it, it is necessary that we should be condemned to death.” (p.119-120).

It is as natural as breathing to trust in ourselves. It requires radical amputation to cut off our self-confidence. It was part of Paul’s experience to be self-confident. But it has to go. We cannot truly put our confidence in God until our confidence in self is put to death. This death is a slow and painful one. Self-confidence does not die easily. It must be crushed out of us; pressed out of us; the breath of self-reliance must be squeezed out of us. We must be brought to the end of ourselves so that we can begin to trust – really trust in God.

Charles Hodge writes “These two things are so connected that the former is the necessary condition of the latter. There is no such thing as implicit confidence or reliance on God, until we renounce all confidence in ourself.”(p.10-11).

Confidence in God Alone

This was a good thing. This death and despair was for a good purpose, to make us rely not on ourselves but on God. Paul named God in verse 3 as ‘the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.’ Here he names God as ‘the God who raises the dead.’ This despairing even of life itself worked in him the good purpose of weaning him from self dependence to dependence on the resurrecting God. He came to know God, not just intellectually, but experientially by a new name. Having despaired of life and having received the sentence of death, he experienced God’s resurrection power.

This was Abraham’s experience when he considered his 100 year old body that was as good as dead and the deadness of Sarah’s womb

Romans 4:17 —in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.”

This is the God who gives life to the dead and calls into existence things that do not exist. This was Abraham’s experience when in obedience he went to offer the promised son Isaac up as a sacrifice.

Hebrews 11:19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

God is the God who raises the dead. When we acknowledge our own deadness, our own inability, our own helplessness and brokenness and need, we give God room to show himself as the God who raises the dead. In order to experience his resurrection power, I must indeed be dead.

On Him we have Set our Hope

Paul says:

10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.

He rescued us; he will rescue; he will rescue. Paul and his co-workers experienced deliverance from so great a death. Their experience of God’s rescue gave them strong confidence that he will deliver again. They have set their hope no longer on their own strength, on their own ability, on their own competence, no longer on themselves, but solely on him. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. All self-confidence was stripped away; all hope is fixed on the only one who is worthy to be hoped in, on the God who raises the dead.

The Gospel and Following Jesus

Paul is re-calibrating the Corinthian understanding of the Christian life by holding himself up as a vulnerable example. Following Jesus means coming to the end of ourselves. Following Jesus means death; death to self-sufficiency; death to self-reliance; death to hope in anything we can be or do; following Jesus means fixing our hope exclusively on the God who raises the dead.

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

October 26, 2017 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment