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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 5:11-13; An Audience of One

01/13_2 Corinthians 5:11-13; An Audience of One; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190113_2cor5_11-13.mp3

Who are You Seeking to Please?

You serve in the church. Maybe you volunteer to teach or host a bible study, maybe you help with nursery or Sunday school, maybe you clean or do maintenance or yard work, maybe you serve the youth, maybe you’re into administration, or maybe you give generously, maybe you make a meal for someone, maybe you write a note of encouragement, or visit someone who is sick, maybe you talk to everyone you run in to about Jesus, maybe you spend a lot of time in prayer for others, maybe you have people over to your house. Maybe I haven’t mentioned the thing you do, and you’re wondering if I’ll get to it.

Who notices? What if no one notices what you do? What if no one says thank you? What if no one seems to care? Do you get discouraged, wonder if it’s really worth it?

What if people do notice your service, and they criticize you for how you do what you do? Or what if no one comes to you, but you hear that people are talking about you and they don’t like the way you are doing things?

Or what if you happen to be there when people are talking about someone else’s service?

This is what was going on in Corinth. This is one of the reasons Paul wrote 2 Corinthians. We learn from reading the letter that people were talking about Paul. Some were questioning his character, his motives, his authenticity. Some who didn’t know him were questioning his gifting, his calling, his fitness for ministry. And some who did know Paul were hearing these conversations, but they were not coming to his defense. Maybe they were even being pulled in.

Recap/Outline

We are in 2 Corinthians 5:11-13. We have been away from 2 Corinthians for some time, so we need to orient ourselves on where we are in this letter.

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

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

Chapters 11-13 confront the false apostles who proclaim a false Jesus, a false Spirit, and a false gospel.

In chapter 4, Paul described his apostolic ministry as cross shaped ministry. To follow Jesus is to go the way of the cross, a life laid down in service to others. He concludes:

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.

Paul has an eternal perspective. He is keeping his eyes on the unseen realities. He spells out his hope in chapter 5, that he has certainty of what comes after death for the believer. In fact he has a deep longing to be at home with the Lord. In verse 9 he gives his prime motive for ministry.

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

Paul desires, more than anything else, to be pleasing to the Lord. One of the unseen motives that drives him is appearing before the judgment seat of Christ. We each will stand face to face with Jesus and give account for what we have done. This is a sobering prospect, a reality that should make each of us pause and ask some questions; Am I in Christ? Will I be found genuine? Have I made it my aim above all else to be pleasing to him? Have my attitudes, actions, and thoughts been pleasing to him?

Paul views this coming day of judgment with sober joy. He knows that for those who are in Christ Jesus, there is no condemnation. He longs to be with the Lord, to see him face to face. But this is no casual flippant occasion. This is weighty, serious. Serious joy.

Persuading People

In light of this, he says in verse 11

2 Corinthians 5:11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.

Knowing the fear of the Lord. Aware of the coming judgment, we persuade men, people. In Acts 18, when Paul first came to Corinth, it says:

Acts 18:4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.

He reasoned, he talked through, his goal was to persuade people of the truth of the gospel. Paul understood (as he wrote in 2 Corinthians 4) that

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

And he understood that it is only

2 Corinthians 4:6 …God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” [who must shine in their] hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

But this truth did not prevent him from working hard to persuade others. Using the scriptures, using logic, using history, and his own experience, he sought to persuade people. But he never manipulated.

2 Corinthians 4:2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word…

But he did seek to persuade. He understood that every person will one day stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and he would do everything in his power to persuade them to put their trust in Jesus alone. He understood his responsibility to them and sought to discharge his duty well. He understood that faith is the gift of God (Eph.2:8) and he understood that faith comes from hearing the word of Christ (Rom.10:17).

Manifest to God

2 Corinthians 5:11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.

Paul sought to persuade all people to believe in Jesus, but he was having now to persuade the Corinthians of his own legitimacy. He again attests to his openness before God. What we are is known or manifest to God. He used this verb just in verse 10, where he said ‘we must all appear [or be made manifest or shown] before the judgment seat. Now he says ‘to God we are manifest.’ To God we are openly shown and known. But, he says, I hope in your consciences we are also manifest, known and shown.

Back in chapter 4, Paul said

2 Corinthians 4:2 …by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

By making the truth of the gospel manifest and open, we commend ourselves to every person’s conscience in the presence of God. If this is his stance before unbelievers, surely the consciences of the believers in the church he planted ought to recognize him. Back in chapter 3 he said:

2 Corinthians 3:1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, …

‘We are beginning to commend ourselves to you again!’ We shouldn’t need to go over introductions again. Here in chapter 5, he says

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

Outward Appearances

Don’t look at this as a letter of introduction; you already know us! Instead, look at this as a reminder of the gospel and who I am in Christ. You can then use this as a defense against those who judge by outward appearances. Here we get to the heart of the issue. Corinthian culture was all about status and position and eloquence and presentation, how much you made and how much you were worth. It was superficial. It was about how you were perceived by others.

I know none of you can relate to this, a culture so caught up in outward appearance, so I’m going to have to work really hard to help you see any kind of application that is relevant to us today. You don’t know anyone focused on outward appearances, do you?

There were false apostles in Corinth who were undermining Paul, raising doubts, questions about his character, his credentials, his credibility. Much of this was based on outward appearance. He was despised and rejected by many, all too acquainted with suffering and grief. If they would look closely, they would see that his life reflected his Master.

This wasn’t just a power struggle; we find out in chapter 11 that they are being led astray to a counterfeit jesus, a false gospel. Paul’s character is being criticized, the church he invested in is being led astray, no one in the church seems to be standing up for him or for what is right. How does he respond?

His response is to patiently instruct them. Paul is not eager to defend himself; but he is passionate about protecting the church. And in this case that means showing them how to defend their apostle.

Ecstatic or Maniac?

2 Corinthians 5:13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.

Verse 13 can be understood in more than one way. The word ‘we are beside ourselves’ is used differently in different contexts. Its usual meaning is to be astounded or amazed, usually at something supernatural. It is used this way 15 times in the gospels. Only once, in Mark 3, is it used with the sense of ‘to not be able to reason properly.’

Mark 3:21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”

There is a different word ‘mania’ that is less ambiguous, that always means to be crazy or to not be thinking rightly. If Paul wanted to be clear that this was his meaning, he could have used ‘mania’, as he does in 1 Corinthians 14:23.

The noun form of the verb he uses here is where we get our word ‘ecstasy’. The noun is used four times for amazement, and three times for being in a trance. It is possible that Paul is referring to his ecstatic spiritual experiences. In 1 Corinthians he told them

1 Corinthians 14:18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.

The Corinthians were enamored with the showy overtly supernatural gifts. They were focused on outward appearance. Paul’s focus was on building them up, not impressing them with a demonstration of his own spirituality. It may be that he is saying that if we (apostles) have ecstatic experiences, it is between us and God. That is not the basis of our leadership. The false apostles may make a big deal about their ecstatic experiences. But Paul would rather speak five words with his mind in order to instruct others. In Colossians, Paul warns of those who would disqualify you, who were

Colossians 2:18 …going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to [Christ]

If we are of sound mind, it is for you. Paul really doesn’t care if outsiders are impressed with him. He is willing to be misunderstood, to be thought a fool, as long as the church is being built up. His aim in all things is not to please people, but to please the Lord. He does not need the applause of people if he can stand before the Lord on judgment day with a clear conscience.

Boasting Only in The Cross

Paul is giving them reasons to be confident in him. He is re-framing their thinking to see as God sees, to see the cross not as shameful, to be shunned, but beautiful, to be embraced. Others were boasting in outward appearance. Paul gives reasons, grounds not only for defending him, but for boasting in him. Now how does this fit with Paul’s statement in Galatians 6:14 that he boasts in nothing but the cross?

They can boast in their apostle, because his life and ministry is shaped by the cross, so their boasting in him is in reality a boasting in the cross.

You see, Paul viewed the day of judgment as a day of boasting, not in himself; he said ‘that we are not sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers’ (2Cor.3:5-6). In chapter 1 he boasts of the testimony of a clear conscience, but he goes on to say that he conducted himself by the grace of God (2Cor.1:12), a grace that is unearned, undeserved. He looks forward to the day of judgment,

2 Corinthians 1:14 …—that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you.

There will be mutual boasting; ‘this is my church, the church I gave myself to! Look what God has done in them! Look how Christ is formed in them!’ ‘This is our apostle! Look what God has done in us through his ministry! He did not just tell us about the cross, he showed us the cross through his life and sufferings!’ They can boast in each other, and it is a boasting only in the cross, in the transformational power of the cross.

People naturally look at outward appearances. And the cross is not glamorous.

1 Corinthians 1:27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

‘It pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe’ (1Cor.1:21). We must learn to see past the surface. We must begin to see as God sees; because it is what God sees that matters. Man looks on the outward appearance; the Lord looks at the heart (2Sam.16:7).

What we are is known to God. To God we are open and manifest. And if we are pleasing to God, it shouldn’t matter too much what others think of us.

***

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

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

2 Corinthians 4:7 Divine Treasure in Earthen Vessels

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

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

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

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

But

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

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

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

Earthen Vessels

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

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

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

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

The Potter and the Clay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah 64 describes us:

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

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

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

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

Paul picks up this theme in Romans 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Treasure

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

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

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

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

The Power is God’s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 15:1-8; Resurrection Good News!

04/05 1 Corinthians 15:4-8 Resurrection Good News; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150405_1cor15_1-8.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

1 Γνωρίζω δὲ ὑμῖν, ἀδελφοί, τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ὃ εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖν, ὃ καὶ παρελάβετε, ἐν ᾧ καὶ ἑστήκατε, 2 δι’ οὗ καὶ σῴζεσθε, τίνι λόγῳ εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖν, εἰ κατέχετε, ἐκτὸς εἰ μὴ εἰκῇ ἐπιστεύσατε. 3 Παρέδωκα γὰρ ὑμῖν ἐν πρώτοις, ὃ καὶ παρέλαβον, ὅτι Χριστὸς ἀπέθανεν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν κατὰ τὰς γραφάς, 4 καὶ ὅτι ἐτάφη, καὶ ὅτι ἐγήγερται τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ κατὰ τὰς γραφάς, 5 καὶ ὅτι ὤφθη Κηφᾷ, εἶτα τοῖς δώδεκα· 6 ἔπειτα ὤφθη ἐπάνω πεντακοσίοις ἀδελφοῖς ἐφάπαξ, ἐξ ὧν οἱ πλείονες μένουσιν ἕως ἄρτι, τινὲς δὲ ἐκοιμήθησαν· 7 ἔπειτα ὤφθη Ἰακώβῳ, εἶτα τοῖς ἀποστόλοις πᾶσιν· 8 ἔσχατον δὲ πάντων ὡσπερεὶ τῷ ἐκτρώματι ὤφθη κἀμοί.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

We are being reminded today of the gospel. We celebrate the gospel. We are standing in, holding fast to the gospel. We are being transformed by the gospel. The gospel is a message of good news. The gospel is the message by which we are being saved, so we need to know the gospel and remind ourselves of the gospel. This message is of first importance. So whatever else is on your mind or on your heart, whatever else there is that seems so important, you can safely set aside as second. This is of first importance and demands your immediate attention. This is the priority that displaces every other priority.

For those of you who were here two weeks ago, I want to ask you, how are you doing on your homework? In case you missed the homework, I will give it to you up front today, so that you can be thinking about it throughout the message. I want you all to know the gospel so well that you are able to proclaim the gospel to anyone you meet. These first 8 verses of 1 Corinthians 15 are such a clear summary of the gospel that they are worth memorizing, and being able to unpack the meaning to anyone you meet. And not merely being able to, but actually doing it – actually telling someone the good news contained in these verses. These verses contain the facts of the gospel, the meaning of the facts, and the necessary response to that truth.

That will be my outline for the sermon this morning: The facts of the gospel, the meaning of those facts, and our necessary response.

Christ Died

I’m not great at memorizing things, so I want to keep this simple, and thank God, Paul kept it simple for us. He gave us two facts to hold on to. That Christ died (that’s what Good Friday was all about) and that he was raised (that’s what resurrection Sunday celebrates). Those are the two facts. Do you think you can remember those? If the two holidays that commemorate those events aren’t enough to cement them in your memory, maybe you are a visual learner and you need an image to hold on to. The cross and the empty tomb – Christ died and he was raised. Paul gives us one sub-point for each of these two main facts. All four start with the word ‘that’ – they are events. These are thing that happened in history. That Christ died, that he was buried, that he was raised, and that he appeared. The burial and the appearances are authentication for the two main facts. Christ died, and he was buried to demonstrate that he was really and truly dead. You don’t bury live people. You don’t bury sick people. You don’t bury severely injured people. You don’t bury mostly dead people. You take them to the hospital, or you take them home and try to care for them and help them get better. Jesus was really dead. The expert Roman executioners were absolutely convinced that he was completely dead. But their lives would be on the line if they were responsible for executing a prisoner and they let him go alive. So they made sure. A soldier thrust his spear up under the rib cage and into the chest cavity, and out came blood and water, evidence that fluid had already gathered in the pericardial area. Pilate allowed the corpse to be handed over to Joseph of Arimathea who, together with Nicodemus, wrapped the body in linen cloths with 75 pounds of spices and laid him in a new empty tomb. The tomb was sealed with a large stone, and at the request of the Jews, a guard of soldiers was posted to keep anyone from stealing the body. Jesus died and he was buried to demonstrate that he was really and truly dead.

He Was Raised

The second major fact is that Jesus was raised. Jesus didn’t stay dead. His corpse didn’t stay in the tomb. The linens were there but the body was gone. The Roman soldiers responsible for guarding the tomb were unable to produce the body. The Jews, who feared the body would be stolen could not produce the body. The disciples had gone into hiding for fear of the Jews. Jesus had been raised and was really and truly alive, evidenced by multiple appearances to different individuals and groups at different times.

He Appeared to Cephas, Then to The Twelve

He presented himself to Cephas (or Peter), the leader of the twelve. Then he presented himself to the twelve – which was still used as a title for the original twelve apostles even though Judas was no longer with them. Thomas was not with the other ten the first time, so eight days later Jesus presented himself to them again and invited Thomas to inspect the crucifixion wounds to verify that it was really and truly the same Jesus who had been killed that was now really and truly alive.

Then He Appeared to More Than 500

6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.

We aren’t told exactly when this happened. It could have been in the upper room in Jerusalem, when he appeared to the eleven and those who were with them. Probably it refers to his appearance in Galilee before he ascended. The women who saw him first were instructed to tell his followers to go to Galilee and he would meet them there. If you had heard that news, would you have stayed home? Paul is explicit that there were more than five hundred who saw him all at one time. Paul, writing 1 Corinthians in the spring of AD 55, a mere 22 years after the event, could say that the majority of those five hundred were still around. At least 251 of them, along with Peter and the majority of the eleven were still alive and could be interviewed. That is a substantial amount of eye-witnesses.

Then He Appeared to James, Then to All the Apostles

Then he appeared to James. There were several James’s in the New Testament. James the son of Zebedee and James the son of Alphaeus were both disciples, but why would they be mentioned separately? James was also the name of one of Jesus’ brothers, who we are told in John 7:5 did not believe in Jesus prior to his death. This James became a leader in the Jerusalem church, and wrote the New Testament letter that bears his name. It was apparently the resurrection appearance of Jesus to his brother James that persuaded him that his brother Jesus was in fact the Lord.

Then to all the apostles. This is a wider group than the twelve. Paul refers to James the Lord’s brother as an apostle in Galatians 1:19. Others, like Barnabas and Paul (Acts 14:14), and possibly Andronicus and Junias (Rom.16:7) were also called apostles who were not part of the original twelve. Jesus appeared to this wider group of apostles, making them eye-witnesses of his resurrection.

Last of All He Appeared to Me

Last of all, he appeared also to me. Paul, at that time Saul, vehement persecutor of Jesus’ followers, was confronted by the risen Lord on the road to Damascus and was made the final member of this wider apostolic group.

These are the facts of history. Christ died, and he was really dead – they buried him. Christ rose from the dead and he was really alive – he appeared to many different individuals and groups on different occasions, several of whom were not believers in him at the time of his appearance. As we are told in Acts,

Acts 1:3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

These are simply the facts of history, attested to by many ancient documents. But that is only part of the good news. What do those events mean? What is their significance?

The Meaning: Christ

Christ died. Christ is not a name, it is a title. The man from Nazareth, Jesus son of Mary, was the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one, the promised coming King, the eternal one. The Christ died. But why? The Christ was expected to conquer, rule and reign. Why did he die at the hands of the Romans?

Died For Our Sins

Christ died for our sins. He did not die for his own sins – he had none. He did not die because he was defeated – his death was a victory, in fact he came to die. He came to be the substitute sacrificial lamb, to die in our place, to pay our debt, to suffer the wrath of God against our sins. The wages of sin is death and Christ died for our sins. Our sins separate us from God, and Christ was forsaken by the Father so that we could be reconciled to the Father.

According To The Scriptures

This death for our sins was not some new idea. This was in accordance with the Scriptures. This is what the entire Bible is about. Genesis to Malachi points to the one who would come to pay for our sins. We looked at some of those scriptures a few weeks ago. Isaiah 53, for instance, paints a vivid picture of the one who would suffer as a substitute and bear the sins of many, written 700 years before Christ came.

He was Raised on the Third Day According to the Scriptures

The fact that he was raised from the dead was also according to the scriptures. Psalm 16:10 is pointed to in the preaching of the Apostles in Acts 2 and Acts 13 as a promise of the resurrection.

Psalm 16:9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. 10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. 11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Jesus himself pointed to the sign of the prophet Jonah,

Matthew 12:40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

We could look at Genesis 22, where Abraham comes to them mount of sacrifice on the third day, where he would receive the son of promise back as from the dead.

We could look at Exodus 19, where God came down to reveal himself to his people on the mountain on the third day.

We could look at the feast of firstfruits in Leviticus 23, to be held after the Passover on the Sunday after the Sabbath.

We could look at the prophecy about the nation of Israel in Hosea 6

Hosea 6:1 “Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. 2 After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. 3 Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”

Jesus’ own words were clear predicting what would happen to him

Luke 9:22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

In John 2:

John 2:19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” …21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

The Father raised Jesus from the dead as a confirmation that Jesus was indeed who he claimed to be. In Romans 4, we are told that Jesus

Romans 1:4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,

In Acts 17,

Acts 17:30 God… commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

The Response

We understand the historical facts; Christ died, and he was really dead; he was raised and he is really alive. We understand the meaning; Christ the Messiah died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; he was raised according to the Scriptures, authenticating his claims to be equal to and one with the Father. That is the gospel message. That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures and that he was raised. That is good news – forgiveness of sins through Jesus’ death; the promise of new life through his resurrection. That is good news indeed. But that good news demands a response from us. That greatest of all news, that message of first importance does us no good if we do not respond. What kind of response must we make? The first two verses of this chapter tell us.

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

This is a message that must be believed. Jesus said ‘whoever believes has eternal life.’ But what does it mean to believe? Paul tells us that there is a way to believe in vain. James tells us that even the demons believe (2:19). So what does it mean to believe in such a way that the good news benefits me? Does it mean to agree that the historical facts of the gospel message are indeed historical? The demons know that to be true. Does it mean to agree with the theological significance of those events, that Christ died for our sins? I think the demons believe that too.

Paul spells out what the kind of believing looks like that brings with it all the benefits of the gospel. He says you received it. You took it to be your own. The good news is that God offers you a gift. A gift cannot be earned. You insult the giver if you attempt to pay off a gift as if it were a debt. Gifts must be received. Humbly take what is offered.

He says for the gospel to benefit you, you must stand in it, you must hold fast to it. The good news that Jesus died for your sins is not something to enjoy for a moment and then move on to the next thing. The gospel is where the true believer stays. The gospel is my only hope, so I cling to it, I take my stand in it. I never depart from it. I live daily in the gospel. I breathe gospel air. I move in gospel truth.

And the gospel does something to me. Paul says that I am being saved by this amazing good news message. I am being acted upon by this message. It is a powerful message that is at work in me, changing me, making me new. It is a message that heals what is sick in me, that fixes what is broken in me, that rescues and redeems what is lost and gone astray in me. As I live and breathe in the gospel, as I cling to the gospel it is in the process of shaping and transforming me.

I would invite you today to believe the good news that Christ died for your sins and that he rose again. Believe it in such a way that you receive it as a gift and take it to be your own, in such a way that you cling to it and live in it, in such a way that it begins to work on you, to transform your thoughts and your desires and your attitudes, that it so transforms your heart that you begin to live like Christ, you begin to really live, in intimate fellowship with Jesus. You begin to live a resurrection kind of life.

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

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

1 Corinthians 13:5a; Love is Not Rude

11/23 1 Corinthians 13:5a Love is Not Rude; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20141123_1cor13_5a.mp3

1 Corinthians 13 [SBLGNT]

4 Ἡ ἀγάπη μακροθυμεῖ, χρηστεύεται ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ ζηλοῖ ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ περπερεύεται, οὐ φυσιοῦται, 5 οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ, οὐ ζητεῖ τὰ ἑαυτῆς, οὐ παροξύνεται, οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν,

1 Corinthians 13 [ESV2011]

12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

We are looking at love, God’s love, the love with which he loves us. We are looking at what love is, what love looks like, so we can know how to love one another. God’s love is long-tempered; it does not retaliate when wronged. His love is kind, doing good to the ungrateful and evil. His love is not displeased when good comes to someone else. His love is not bragging, claiming more than is true; and it is not puffed up, holding an inflated unsubstantiated view of self. Our love for others is to be a reflection of and a response to God’s love for us, an overflow of the fullness of being perfectly loved by a perfect God.

Definition of Rude

Next on Paul’s list is ‘Love is not rude, or love ‘doth not behave itself unseemly’ (KJV).

This particular verb ‘to act unbecomingly’ is used only two places in the New Testament, here and in 1 Corinthians 7:36.

1 Corinthians 7:36 If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly [v; G807 ἀσχημονέω aschemoneo] toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry—it is no sin.

There it is translated ‘not behaving properly’. The Corinthians were thinking that it is more godly to live a celibate life than a married life. Responding to their questions, he affirms that sexual intimacy between husband and wife is not only good and right and beautiful, but is an obligation each owes to the other. For singles, if they have been supernaturally gifted by God for celibacy, that is good, but if not they should marry. In verse 36 he is addressing betrothed or engaged couples questioning whether it is more godly to stay single and not follow through with the marriage. Paul’s answer is that if they are so gifted, it is good to remain unmarried, but if their passions are strong and they need to be married, if they are acting unbecomingly or not behaving properly, they should marry. It seems in this context that the word primarily has sexual impropriety in mind. Sexual intimacy is appropriate only within the context of marriage, between husband and wife, so any expressions of sexual intimacy outside of the marriage covenant are improper. Notice, this directly addresses the justification many use today that ‘we love each other and we are planning on getting married some day, so it’s ok’. Paul is clear that before you say your vows and enter into the covenant of marriage, any sexual intimacy is improper. To claim love and then to act indecently or rudely is to contradict the very nature of love.

If we look at how this word group is used in the Old Testament, we see that it is often used to describe sexual impropriety. In Genesis 34,

Genesis 34:2 And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he seized her and lay with her and humiliated her. 3 And his soul was drawn to Dinah the daughter of Jacob. He loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her. 4 So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this girl for my wife.”

Understand, Shechem had very strong feelings for Dinah, he claimed to love her, and intended to marry her, willing to do anything for the right to marry her.

Genesis 34:7 The sons of Jacob had come in from the field as soon as they heard of it, and the men were indignant and very angry, because he had done an outrageous thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, for such a thing must not be done.

The rape of Dinah was an outrageous act of impropriety. And This word group is used over 30 times in the section of Leviticus dealing with God’s instructions on appropriate and inappropriate sexual relationships.

Leviticus 18:6 “None of you shall approach any one of his close relatives to uncover nakedness. I am the LORD. [Also v.7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19; 20:11, 17,18,19,20,21 (32 x)]

In Deuteronomy 24 people used this word as grounds of divorce.

Deuteronomy 24:1 “When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house,

Because this word is used in more ways than sexual impropriety, this created a debate among the rabbis on what constituted legitimate grounds for divorce. Some believed that ‘some indecency’ was restricted to sexual immorality, while others extend it to anything that a wife did that the husband considered improper, even things as trivial as burning his toast.

This word group has a wide range of meaning in the Old Testament. Several times it is used to describe appropriate clothing to prevent indecent exposure. It is used of being shamed or publicly embarrassed. It is used in Deuteronomy 23 of the rudeness of, to bring it up to date, not flushing the toilet.

Deuteronomy 23:13 And you shall have a trowel with your tools, and when you sit down outside, you shall dig a hole with it and turn back and cover up your excrement. 14 Because the LORD your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and to give up your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy, so that he may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you.

That’s simply gross or offensive. It’s indecent, it’s rude. His reason for not being gross or indecent is that the Lord walks among you.

This word is a compound word that is made up of a neutral root word and a negative prefix. We could liken it to the word ‘form’. A negative prefix gives it a negative meaning ‘malformed’ or ‘deformed’. If we put a positive prefix on it, we could form a word like ‘well-formed’. We can get a clearer picture of the meaning by looking at all the different forms of the word.

In 1 Corinthians 7, dealing with issues of marriage and singleness, he uses the positive form of this word:

1 Corinthians 7:35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order [adj; G2158 εὐσχήμων euschemon] and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.

Paul’s intent is to promote both decency or propriety and undivided devotion to the Lord. Earlier in this chapter, he uses the root word, translated ‘form’, which points to the external condition.

1 Corinthians 7:29 This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, 30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, 31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form [n; G4976 σχῆμα schema] of this world is passing away.

The fact that the external form of this world, good or bad, is passing away should cause us to hold loosely to the things of this world.

In 1 Corinthians 12, the chapter immediately preceding the love chapter, Paul uses the different forms of this word in his metaphor of the body as a picture of the church. His picture is that each of us individually are body parts, organs and limbs.

1 Corinthians 12:22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor , and our unpresentable [adj; G809 ἀσχήμων aschemon] parts are treated with greater modesty, [n; G2157 εὐσχημοσύνη euschemosune], 24 which our more presentable [adj; G2158 εὐσχήμων euschemon] parts do not require. 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.

‘Unpresentable’ is the negative adjectival form; ‘greater modesty’ is the positive noun form; ‘more presentable’ is the positive adjective. Some parts of the body are unpresentable or indecent. They are not meant to be exposed. They need to be clothed and covered. This has to do specifically with outward form and appearance. Those parts of the body are necessary and their function is valuable to the health and well-being of the body. But it does not mean that those parts should be exposed to the public eye. They are shielded, protected, clothed.

Paul closes this section at the end of chapter 14 with this admonition:

1 Corinthians 14:40 But all things should be done decently [adv; G2156 εὐσχημόνως euschemonos] and in order.

All things in the church, among the believers must be done decently, with good propriety, with appropriateness, with proper sensitivity to social norms.

The Corinthians Were Rude

When we look at the conduct of the Corinthians, we see what this ought not to look like in the church of God. Some in the church in Corinth were engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct, conduct that would even offend pagans, and rather than being ashamed of it, they were proud. Some were visiting prostitutes. Married couples were depriving one another of their conjugal rights. Engaged couples were acting inappropriately. The Corinthians were shaming and defrauding one another in court rather than being wronged, rather than going privately to their brothers and working out their differences. In the context of a fellowship meal, each went ahead with his own meal, not waiting for the others. Women were disregarding discretion and propriety in the gatherings of the church. The Corinthians were rich, acting like kings while the apostles were ‘hungry, thirsty, poorly dressed, buffeted and homeless’ (4:11). They were brashly involving themselves in pagan feasts, not concerned that their participation in idolatry is unfaithfulness to the one true God. In their rude impropriety, they demonstrated a lack of genuine love for God or one another, and they damaged their reputation and hindered the advance of the gospel in their community. Love is not indecent.

God is Not Rude

God, who is love, is not rude. To better understand what love is, we look to the God who is love, and to the clearest expression of the invisible God, Jesus Christ his Son.

Never in any circumstance did Jesus act indecently. He always did what was appropriate. We can learn what is appropriate by looking to him. We have the threefold testimony at the end of his life from Pilate that ‘I find no fault in him’ (Jn.18:38; 19:4,6). Even when the religious leaders sought false testimony against him, they could find none (Mt.26:59-60).

Jesus was never offensive, but he did offend. He did violate social norms on occasion, for instance, when he allowed a woman of the street to interrupt a dinner party and wash his feet with her tears (Lk.7:36-50). He offended and violated the social norms when he told a story in which a Samaritan was the hero (Lk.10:25-37). He even told a story portraying the Father as entirely undignified (Lk.15:11-32). To the son who had spit in his face, demanded his inheritance, wished his father dead, wasted everything with prostitutes, and then returned home broken and desperate, the father gathered up his skirts, bared his legs and ran to meet him. He embraced him and kissed him and clothed him in his own best robe. This was an entirely undignified way for a respectable man to conduct himself. And this is how Jesus portrayed his Father!

To our modern sensibilities, we look at him making a whip of cords and driving both people and animals out of the temple courts to be an almost inexcusable act of inappropriate irrational violence (Jn.2:13-17). We think it rude to publicly call the scribes and pharisees ‘hypocrites, blind guides, serpents, brood of vipers, murderers, full of greed, self-indulgence, uncleanness, hypocrisy and lawlessness, a child of hell (Lk.23). We view this as rude and improper. But we need to let Jesus correct our view of what is proper and improper. When we violate social norms, it is typically out of a selfish disregard for others. ‘I don’t care what you think; I have the right to dress this way or act this way or live this way’. Jesus violated social norms, not out of a selfish disregard for others, but out of a deep care and love for others, seeking their best. He confronted sin in others, because he genuinely desires all to come to repentance, and repentance requires an awareness of sin.

To the adulteress who was dragged out from the very act, he extended forgiveness and forced justice to wait. It is appropriate for a just judge to punish sinners. But he extended mercy to guilty sinners, taking their shame on himself. He was humiliated, stripped bare, nailed to a wooden beam, and put on display for all to see. He was shamed, exposed, treated indecently. He was treated indecently for us. God is the one who clothed the nakedness of his people even after they rebelled against him. Jesus took our shame and clothes us in his own perfect righteousness.

The Follower of Jesus Must Not Be Rude

We love because he first loved us. We are not improper or needlessly offensive to others, because he conquered our shame and set us free to love others without rudeness or impropriety. Love is not improper. It is proper.

Paul encourages the Thessalonians in their love in 1 Thessalonians 4.

1 Thessalonians 4:9 Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, 10 for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, 11 and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 12 so that you may walk properly [adv; G2156 εὐσχημόνως euschemonos] before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

Propriety or decency has much to do with how others perceive us. It is outward. We are told here to ‘walk properly before outsiders’. I thought Christianity was more about the heart and not about outward appearances, after all, “man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Yes, but Jesus said, “you will recognize them by their fruits” (Mt.7:20) and “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Mt.12:34). A genuine inward transformation will produce visible results. A caterpillar can no longer disguise himself as a caterpillar once he has gone through metamorphosis and become a butterfly.

Paul admonishes the Romans:

Romans 13:12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly [adv; G2156 εὐσχημόνως euschemonos] as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

We must be who we are. If we have believed in Christ and been transformed by Christ, if in Christ you are a new creation then the old is passed away and the new has come (2Cor.5:17). We must no longer act as if we had not been transformed. Good propriety is a visible daytime type of walk. There are things propriety is not. It is not orgies, drunkenness, sexual immorality, sensuality, quarreling, jealousy, gratifying the desires of the flesh. These things are contrary to decency, and contrary to love.

Our culture is rude. We have turned crassness into a virtue. Our humor is rude. Our heroes are crude. Our entertainment industry can’t turn out a movie or even a cartoon without injecting some rude humor or inappropriate undertones. Children treat their parents with rudeness. Parents speak rudely to their children. We dishonor any kind of authority. Paul points us to the way of love in Ephesians 5.

Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.

We love as Christ loved us. Some things are incompatible with that kind of love. Biting witty comebacks, foolish talk, filthiness, immorality, impurity, covetousness are out of place among those who follow Jesus. In place of all that, our hearts are to overflow with thanksgiving to him for how he has loved us and gave himself up for us. Love is not rude.

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

November 23, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Character and Personality of Jesus

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20091206_character-personality_of_jesus.mp3

12/6/09 – the character & personality of Jesus

Last week we looked at who Jesus claimed to be, who his apostles testified that he was, and who the Old Testament prophets predicted he would be. We saw that Jesus claimed to be the eternal all glorious pre-existent self existent one, sent from the Father, equal to and one with his Father yet distinct from the Father and worthy of the same honor as the Father; this dearly loved eternal companion of the Father was sent to be born, sent to live a perfect life in our place, sent to be beaten and bruised and abused, sent to die in our place so that we could be given the infinitely valuable gift of eternal life – life that consists in knowing this all glorious God, knowing this Jesus!

Today we will look at Jesus the man. If it is true as it says in…

Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, …

If it is true, as it says in…

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God… 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,

If it is true that the good news is all about…

2Corinthians 4:4, 6 …seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. …6…to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Then the best way to get to know God better is to look closely at Jesus. This is what John gives us as the purpose of the incarnation:

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. …18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

So one of the main purposes of Jesus’ coming was to make God known. And Jesus himself tells us that eternal life consists in knowing God and knowing Jesus:

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

In our pursuit of knowing God better, we will look this morning at the character and personality of Jesus in the New Testament writings, as well as some pointers in the Old Testament prophecies about Jesus. We want to see Jesus for who he is and give him the worship that is his due. Jesus said…

John 5:22-23 The Father… has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.

So we don’t want simply to learn more stuff about Jesus today. We want to honor the Father and the Son by seeing what Jesus is like and standing in awe of him; to have our hearts respond with joy and worship of him.

Before we dig into the gospels, lets go back to Moses’ request to see the glory of God.

Exodus 33:18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

It is interesting that Moses asks to be shown the glory of God, and God’s response is to display his goodness and proclaim his name. In the next chapter, we see the answer to Moses’ request:

Exodus 34: 5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

The answer does not come in a visual manifestation, but in words. The glory of the Lord is not sound and lights and special effects. The glory of the Lord is the reputation of his name and the glory of his character – merciful, gracious, slow to anger, overflowing in steadfast love and faithfulness, forgiving, yet absolutely just. The display of the glory of God is what Jesus came to do.

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

And John sums up the glory of God that he saw in the face of Jesus Christ this way: ‘full of grace and truth’. We don’t get a description of what Jesus in his humanity looked like, and all the pictures that have been painted are wrong – because they can’t portray the fullness of grace and truth which is what we most need to see. In fact those that had seen him said in a passage dealing with:

2 Corinthians 5:12 …those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart… 16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.

The Beauty of Jesus: The beauty of Jesus is not in outward appearance. Did you ever wonder how Jesus was able to disappear in a crowd and escape arrest so many times?

Luke 4:29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30 But passing through their midst, he went away.

It certainly may have been supernatural, but is it possible that he looked so ordinary that he easily blended in with the crowds of Jewish men? Did you ever consider that Jesus might have been short? Remember, he was the promised Messiah, destined to sit on David’s throne – David, who was the youngest and shortest of his brothers – the runt of the litter (1 Samuel 16). Zacchaeus had to climb a tree to get a glimpse of Jesus because he was short – but do you know how difficult it is for a short guy to find another short guy in a crowd? Even John the Baptist claims that the Spirit had to point Jesus out to him:

John 1:33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’

And did you ever wonder why Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss?

Matthew 26:48 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.”

Wouldn’t it have been easier for Judas to say “He’s the tall one with the flowing blonde hair and piercing blue eyes – you know, the one with the glowing halo hovering over his head.” But it is the prophet Isaiah that removes all doubt about the unimpressive physical appearance of Jesus:

Isaiah 53:2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.

The Humanness of Jesus

Part of what made it so difficult for the religious leaders to take Jesus’ claims seriously was that Jesus was unmistakably human. The conception of Jesus was miraculous, but his birth was marked not by the supernatural, but by poverty and disgrace. Yes, there was an angelic announcement, but it was made to the least respected, the least trustworthy members of society at that time – shepherds. He was born to an unwed mother away from home – in a stable. The Jews were aware of his questionable background

John 8:41 You are doing what your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father–even God.”

John 6:41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

Mark 6:3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Mark 2:6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

John 10:33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”

There was no question about the genuineness of the humanity of Jesus to those who knew him. He became hungry and thirsty and weary and he ate and drank and slept. He experienced grief and anger and pain and frustration and joy. He stumbled and wept and sweat and bled and died. It is interesting that the first heresies did not deny the fact that Jesus was God; they denied the fact that Jesus was really human. That’s why John focused on the tangible nature of his eye witness account in his first letter:

1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life– 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us– 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.

John had leaned against Jesus’ breast and felt his heart beating. He had watched him being tortured and he watched him die. So he writes:

1 John 4:2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

2 John 1:7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.

It was essential that Jesus be authentically human. If Jesus were not truly human, he could not substitute himself and stand in our place and die for our sins. In order to mediate between God and man, he must be the man Christ Jesus. [1 Timothy 2:5]

So what was it about Jesus that displayed the glory of God?

The Royalty of Jesus

Luke 1:32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,

Matthew 2:2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

Jesus is indeed Messiah, king of the Jews, but his is an upside-down kingdom.

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

Acts 17:24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

Jesus displays that God is indeed King of kings and Lord of lord, but he rules as a servant king who needs nothing and rules by serving sacrificially for the good of his subjects.

The Wisdom of Jesus

Luke 2:46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.

Mark 1:22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.

Mark 6:2 And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands?

John 7:15 The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” …46 The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!”

The wisdom of Jesus astonished all who heard, but his wisdom was upside-down wisdom. It was not the wisdom of the academy and he was not seeking the approval of the religious establishment, in fact it was a wisdom that was hidden tot he wise:

Mark 4:10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.”

Luke 10:21 In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

Jesus said some very hard things, offensive things that seem to be designed to turn people away, things like:

John 6:53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. …60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” 66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

Paul in 1 Corinthians declares that the glory of God is seen in the upside-down nature of God’s wisdom

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 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. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

The glory of God is seen in The Authority of Jesus

Mark 4:39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?”

Luke 4:36 And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!”

Luke 7:49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”

John 19:10 So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above…

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

And look how Jesus used his authority – he laid down his life for his sheep. [Jn10:15]. In his authority, he invites:

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

Matthew 19:14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

Mark 1:40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.

He uses his authority to forgive sins with the woman caught in the act of adultery – he convicts her accusers of their sin and sends her away forgiven [John 8:3-11]. Isaiah puts it this way

Isaiah 42:3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.

And yet this is how he speaks to the proud self-righteous Pharisees:

John 8:44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Matthew 23:15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. …27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. … 31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?

The Passion of Jesus

John 2:14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

Jesus was passionate about truth and righteousness, and yet his passion found expression this way:

Luke 19:41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.

As the soldiers crucified him, he extended forgiveness to them.

Luke 23:34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.

Jesus accurately and fully put the glory of God on display

Exodus 34:6 …“The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Through Jesus we come to know God better

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. … 16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Thank you Jesus, for faithfully putting God on display. Thank you that you are full of grace and truth, and out of your fullness we receive. Thank you for pouring out grace upon grace upon grace – undeserved kindness. Thank you for extending kindness and forgiveness even to your enemies. And thank you that you are truth – absolute righteousness and unswerving holiness. Thank you that you did not sweep my sin under the carpet of eternity, but that you decisively dealt with in in your own human body on the tree.

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

December 6, 2009 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment