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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Baptism and Newness of Life (Romans 6)

01/14 Baptism and Walking in Newness of Life (Romans 6); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180114_baptism-new-life.mp3

We had some baptisms last Sunday, and we have a baptism today. I thought it might be helpful today to look at one of the key passages on baptism, Romans 6, to see what baptism is about, and really, this is much bigger than baptism, to see what our new life in Christ is all about, what we are to be all about.

The Strange Symbol of Baptism

If you think about baptism for a minute, it’s a weird thing. We don’t even have an English word for it; we’ve borrowed ‘baptizo’ from the Greek. It’s really a foreign thing. We have this giant bathtub in a public place (or sometimes we us a lake) where someone else bathes you in front of a bunch of other people. I can bathe myself, thank you. And I can do a better job of it too. And bathing is meant to be private. But the point is not really to get clean. Of course, we keep our clothes on, because we want it to be modest. And that’s another strange thing about it; we wear clothes to get dunked in water. If I’m going swimming, I wear a swimsuit, not my everyday clothes. And when we’re swimming together, the goal is usually not to get dunked by someone else. I don’t like it when someone pushes me under the water. But in baptism, we voluntarily let someone else dunk us.

When I was serving as a youth pastor back in Washington, our church was doing baptisms out at a beach. The pastor was out in the water, and I was on the rocky beach with my clothes on, carrying the video camera in its case, and I think a diaper bag in the other. One of the other leadership guys came up behind me and bearhugged me and picked me up and started walking toward the water. He’s a bit bigger than me. I thought he was just joking around, but I let the bags drop on the beach just in case. By the time he had me out a little more than knee deep, somehow I was able to get my leg behind his, and to both our suprise, I ended up baptizing him. It was a total immersion. The only thing that didn’t survive the incident was my cell phone.

Baptism Symbolism

Baptism is primarily a symbol; it’s an acted out picture. It is a picture of bathing or cleansing, but not dirt from the body, as 1 Peter 3:21 says, but a clean conscience before God. When we trust Jesus and his finished work for us on the cross, our sins are washed away. Baptism is an acted out picture of what happened when we believed in Jesus.

Baptism is not something we do, someone else does it to us. The one being baptized is passive. They receive baptism. They are really at the mercy of someone else. That is part of the picture too; we ‘were dead in our trespasses and sins,’ (Eph.2:1)

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him…

Titus 3:5 tells us ‘he saved us.’ Salvation is not something we do, it is something God does. He saves us.

When someone gets baptized, literally dunked in water, they come out looking different. There’s a change. If you had your hair all done up, it is going to look different coming up out of the water. Your clothes will be all wet. When Jesus comes in to a person’s life, there’s a change. It may not be as visible, but he begins to change us from the inside. And it will become visible to those around us. Baptism is a picture of that.

Romans 6

Let’s look at the text. In Romans 5 Paul is arguing that God gives those who depend on Jesus a gift they didn’t earn and don’t deserve. Jesus earned the gift, and he gives it to us freely. Adam by his disobedience earned death, and he passed that on to us. Jesus by his obedience earned justification (the verdict of ‘not guilty’) and life, and he gives that as a gift to all those who believe or trust him. The greater our sin, the more it shows off how great his grace is to cover all that sin.

In chapter 6 Paul sees a logical conclusion from this coming; ‘So if all my sin shows off the power of God’s amazing grace, then I should keep on sinning so that God’s grace is put on display even more, right?’

Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?

Pau’s answer is strong and decisive. Their premise is sound; but the conclusion does not follow.

Romans 6:2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Where sin increased, grace abounded (5:20). But it does not follow that we should increase our sinning so that grace will abound all the more. That kind of thinking overlooks the fact that if we are truly in Christ, we have died to sin. Dead people don’t do the things they used to do. Dead people don’t feel the way they used to feel, they don’t desire what they used to desire, they don’t think the way they used to think. Dead people are, well, dead. Dead people don’t get up in the morning and get dressed and brush their teeth and enjoy a cup of coffee and drive to work. Dead people stop doing what they have always done. That life is over. That’s what dead means. Paul describes us as dead and says ‘how can we?’ How can we still live in sin? ‘How can we continue in sin?’

Not Sinless Perfection

Understand he is not saying that Christians never sin. 1 John, talking to Christians, says

1 John 1:6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

Walking in darkness while claiming to have a relationship with the one who is light is inconsistent. But then he goes on to say:

1 John 1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. …10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

He goes on to say:

1 John 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

We are not to walk in darkness. We are to put to death the deeds of the darkness. We are not to make peace with the sin in our lives. But neither are we to pretend that we don’t sin. James tells us

James 3:2 For we all stumble in many ways…

By saying that we died to sin, Paul is not saying that followers of Jesus never sin again. He is saying that it is inconsistent for us to live in sin, to continue in sin, to make peace with our sin and walk in it as a lifestyle.

Thinking and Acting

Paul goes on to give us the doctrinal foundation we are to stand on. There is biblical teaching we ought to know, and it ought to impact the way we live. As followers of Jesus we are to be taught. When Jesus told his disciples to make disciples, he said they were to baptize them and teach ”them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt.28:20). There is truth we ought to know. We need to be learning, listening, reading, thinking, studying. But the goal is not just facts to fill our head. The goal is a renewed mind; new patterns of thinking that begin to shape new patterns of action. We can attempt to fight the battle against sin with our own willpower, and we will fail. Or worse yet, we will have a measure of success and become proud of ourselves. That is not God’s way. We are to be armed with truth and the word of God.

An example: The bully on the playground bulllies because it makes him feel powerful and in control. It makes him feel strong and superior to others. It makes him feel good about himself. His patterns of behavior are shaped by his beliefs. He must bully to continue to feel good about himself. His actions may make him feel good, but it is at the expense of others, and it doesn’t last. The bully might demand respect, but he never experiences love.

Jesus teaches us that true greatness is using our strength and resources to love and serve others for their good. If the bully learns that there is a deeper and richer and lasting satisfaction in selflessly serving for the good of others, if he begins to experience the joy of selflessness; not serving to feed his own ego and make himself feel better (this is subtle and dangerous), but ultimately serving to please God, really and truly loving God and loving others, this new truth will begin to shape new actions.

Paul says there is truth you must know that will begin to shape who you are.

United with Christ in Death

Romans 6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Paul is pointing to the picture of baptism and the truth it displays. The word ‘baptize’ means ‘to immerse in, to plunge or dunk.’ When you are immersed in water, you are connected with the water. You are surrounded by and covered with the water. Water is a good conductor of electricity. If things aren’t wired properly and a microphone is dropped in the water, the electricity will pass through the water and through you if you are in the water. By believing in Jesus, we are immersed into Jesus, we become connected with Jesus, covered by Jesus, surrounded by Jesus. When we are dunked in water, we get wet. When we are plunged into Jesus by faith, we get Jesus all over. We are united with Jesus. There is a real connection with Jesus. And part of that connection is a connection with his death and resurrection. Because he died, and we are united with him, ‘we were buried with him by baptism into death. Because he didn’t stay dead, and we are connected to him, ‘just as Christ was raised from the dead, …we too might walk in newness of life.’

He goes on to point to this unity:

Romans 6:5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.

Here he gets explicit. We were crucifed. Crucified with Christ. Jesus died a real death. A shameful death. He didn’t die of natural causes; he was executed publicly as a criminal. They buried him because he was dead. The soldiers made certain of that. We are united with him in death; our old self was crucified with him. The guilty sinful you was executed. If the old you was executed as a criminal, then it is dead. Buried. Gone. ‘Brought to nothing.’ Powerless. And if the sinful you is dead, then you are set free from sin.

You see how this works? The wages of sin is death, and God’s law requires your death. If you have really been united with Christ in his death, crucified with Christ, if the sinful you has been executed, then that legal demand has been satisfied. The greatest penalty a human court can issue is the death penalty. Someone sentenced to 30 years who dies two years into his sentence is not forced to serve the remaining 28. He is released. The law has been satisfied. The word in verse 7 translated ‘set free’ is really the word ‘justified’. He is released from his sins’ legal demands. The penalty has been paid.

United with Christ in Life

Romans 6:8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.

This connection with Jesus is not limited to his death, but it extends to his resurrection. Our old self is dead. The penalty has been paid. But Jesus didn’t stay dead. He rose! He will never die again. Death has no claim on him. He died to sin, and in him we died. He lives to God, and in him we live. We no longer live to sin, we are dead to that. We live to God, to please God, to enjoy God, to be in the presence of God.

Here he brings us back around to his original question. “How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

Truth That Shapes Us

This is the truth you must know. Baptism is a picture of this. Believing in Jesus connects us with Jesus, immerses us into Jesus. His death becomes our death. We enter in to his resurrection life.

This is the truth we must know, and it must shape who we are.

Romans 6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Truth, teaching, new patterns of thinking and believing lead to new patterns of living. This is what is true of you in Jesus. Consider it so! When temptation comes, I don’t feel very dead to sin. I actually feel quite alive to it! I think I could get a great deal of satisfaction out of that. This is when I need to preach the gospel to myself. Rodney, you’re dead to that! Jesus died for that, and you died with him. Picture the granite with my name chiseled into it. Picture the dirt, hear the flies buzzing, smell the stench. Dead, buried, rotting, decayed, I am dead to that! I can get no pleasure out of that. That guy that used to enjoy that was executed, nailed to a cross!

Truth requires a response from me. I am alive to God in Christ Jesus. Sin’s power is broken. I am under no obligation to be controlled by its desires. My body is a tool. My hands, my eyes, my mouth, a tool. I can do great harm with my words. I can allow my eyes to lead me into sin. But that is not what I was made for. I am dead to that. I am alive to God. My body is a tool to glorify God., to enjoy God. I am united with Christ; I am alive to God. I can enjoy intimacy with God. I can walk in the light, sins forgiven, in the presence of God. I can walk in a new kind of life, the abundant life. A resurrection kind of life.

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

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January 22, 2018 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 15:29; How To Interpret Scripture – Baptism for the Dead

05/17 1 Corinthians 15:29 How to Interpret Scripture ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150517_1cor15_29.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

29 Ἐπεὶ τί ποιήσουσιν οἱ βαπτιζόμενοι ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν; εἰ ὅλως νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται, τί καὶ βαπτίζονται ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν; 30 τί καὶ ἡμεῖς κινδυνεύομεν πᾶσαν ὥραν; 31 καθ’ ἡμέραν ἀποθνῄσκω, νὴ τὴν ὑμετέραν καύχησιν, ἣν ἔχω ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν. 32 εἰ κατὰ ἄνθρωπον ἐθηριομάχησα ἐν Ἐφέσῳ, τί μοι τὸ ὄφελος; εἰ νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται, Φάγωμεν καὶ πίωμεν, αὔριον γὰρ ἀποθνῄσκομεν. 33 μὴ πλανᾶσθε· φθείρουσιν ἤθη χρηστὰ ὁμιλίαι κακαί. 34 ἐκνήψατε δικαίως καὶ μὴ ἁμαρτάνετε, ἀγνωσίαν γὰρ θεοῦ τινες ἔχουσιν· πρὸς ἐντροπὴν ὑμῖν λαλῶ.

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.

29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf? 30 Why are we in danger every hour? 31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! 32 What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.

1 Corinthians 15 is the resurrection chapter. Some of the Corinthians were saying that there is no resurrection of the dead. Paul from beginning to end is answering this serious doctrinal error. In the first 7 verses, he demonstrates that the resurrection is integral to the gospel message. In verses 8-11, he holds up himself up as a former enemy of Jesus persuaded by the resurrection, and as a life radically transformed by God’s resurrecting grace. In verses 12-19 he lays out the dire consequences if the resurrection were not historical; both on those who preach and on those who believe. In verses 20-28, he parallels Christ with Adam; Christ as the new representative of mankind undoes what Adam did and reverses the tragic consequences of the fall. In verse 29 he points to the incoherence of baptism if there is no resurrection. In verses 30-32 he points to the incoherence of suffering in Christian service if there is no resurrection. In verses 32-34, he warns of the moral dangers of unbelief in the resurrection. In verses 35-49, he answers the naturalistic objection to the plausibility of the resurrection. In verses 50-53 he argues for the necessity of resurrection for participation in the kingdom of God, in verses 54-57, the prophetic necessity of the resurrection, and in 58, the meaningfulness of the Christian life because of the resurrection. This chapter is all about the resurrection. So when we look at the details of the chapter, we need to keep the big picture in view.

1 Corinthians 15:29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?

Paul’s point in this verse, whatever the details mean, is that baptism makes no sense if the dead are not raised. Baptism assumes the reality of the resurrection.

So what does it mean to be baptized on behalf of the dead? There are several possible ways of understanding this phrase. I have heard numbers ranging from 13 to as many as 30 different opinions on what this verse means. I was tempted to simply be satisfied with saying that whatever the details of this verse mean, the main point is clear: baptism assumes the reality of the resurrection, and then move on to the next verse. My original intent was to look at the whole paragraph of verses 29-34. But I know there are some of you that just wouldn’t be satisfied with that. I will resist the temptation to go in detail through every variation of opinion on this verse, but I think it will be useful to look at this verse as a model of how to study the Bible, and what to do in your reading or studying when you come across a difficult verse.

Proxy Baptism

1 Corinthians 15:29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?

At first read we might conclude that this verse is talking about people who are baptized in order to benefit a deceased person. And this is one possible way to understand this phrase ‘baptized for the dead’. But this is not the only way this phrase can be understood. If this is what Paul means, he is talking about a proxy baptism where a living person is baptized in place of a dead person and for the benefit of that dead person. There are at least two main variations on this view. One is that Paul could be referring to a pagan practice that the Corinthians were familiar with, in which a living person would be baptized for the benefit of a dead person, to secure some kind of benefits for them in the afterlife. An alternative to this is the idea that a believer would be baptized for the benefit of a new convert who died before being baptized.

One problem with understanding this phrase as referring to proxy baptism is that we have no evidence of any kind of proxy baptism either among the pagans or among Christians until the 2nd century AD. It is possible that there did exist such a practice, and the Corinthians were familiar with it, but we have no surviving record of it.

A more significant problem with understanding this as proxy baptism is that Paul mentions it without qualification. He doesn’t say it’s good; he doesn’t say it’s bad; he just brings it up and moves on. If this were a practice that we are expected to participate in, we would expect to find it in the teaching of Jesus, and in the practice of the early church, and some instruction about it in the letters to the churches. Take, for example, breaking bread, or communion, or the Lord’s supper. We see Jesus breaking bread with his disciples in the three synoptic gospels, and Luke records his command ‘do this in remembrance of me’. Then we see the church breaking bread together throughout the book of Acts. Then we have clear instructions on the practice in 1 Corinthians 11. But baptism for the dead is mentioned only here in all of Scripture, and here it is not even clear what the practice was, or if it was something that was commended or condemned.

Paul does seem to distance himself from the practice. He abruptly changes to the third person in this verse. He does not say ‘why are we baptized’ or ‘why are you baptized’, but ‘why are they baptized for the dead’. He switches back to ‘we’ in the very next verse. This has led some to conclude that Paul is not in favor of the practice, but he mentions it only because it is a practice familiar to his readers, and it is a practice that makes no sense if there is no resurrection.

When the practice of proxy baptism is mentioned by Christian writers in the second century, the practice is clearly condemned as heretical and absurd. Even if it were being practiced as early as Paul’s day, it would seem quite unlikely that Paul would refer to a pagan or heretical practice and employ it as a legitimate defense of the Christian belief in resurrection. And for him to mention it without confronting or correcting it seems unthinkable.

Who Are The Dead?

When interpreting a difficult passage, it is essential to be sensitive to the context. One thing that is important for us to keep in mind in seeking to understand this verse is who ‘the dead’ are. In this chapter, ‘the dead’ is not a broad category including every person who has died. ‘The dead’ in this chapter is specifically talking about believing dead, those whose faith is not in vain (v.17); those who have fallen asleep in Christ (v.18); those who hope in Christ in this life (v.19); those who are in Christ (v.22); those who belong to Christ (v.23); those who will bear the image of Christ (v.49); those who will inherit the kingdom of God (v.50); those who will be raised imperishable (v.52); those who are given the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (v.57). ‘The dead’ in this chapter are believers in Jesus who have died. The unbelieving dead are not in view in this chapter. So to take this passage in a way that baptism for the dead brings some benefit to those who have died in unbelief is to violate the whole context of the chapter. This eliminates the possibility of understanding this to mean that Christians were being baptized in an effort to offer some help to unbelievers in the afterlife. This understanding of who the dead are may fit with the notion that on rare occasions when a new convert died before being baptized, a living believer might be baptized for them. But this idea has its own problems.

What We Know For Sure

This is a difficult passage. A key principle for interpreting the Bible is to allow clear passages to shed light on ambiguous or unclear passages. Because God is truth and cannot lie, we can be confident that he will never contradict himself. Because the Bible is breathed out by God, and every word proves true, we can be confident that there is harmony between passages that on the surface appear confusing or even to contradict, even if we are unable to see that harmony. One difficult passage of Scripture will not overthrow the rest of the plain teaching of Scripture.

It will help to keep us on track to review some things that we know for sure based on the clear teaching of Scripture. Paul makes it clear in the first chapter of 1 Corinthians that there are only two categories of people; those who are perishing and those who are being saved. And the thing that differentiates between these two categories is not baptism, but the preaching of the cross. This is also what Jesus taught:

John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

It is clear that believing in Jesus, not baptism is decisive for escaping condemnation and enjoying life. Baptism is not necessary for eternal life, but it is what those who have received the gift of eternal life do to testify to the fact that they have been united with Christ. Baptism is what saved people do out of obedience to Christ, but baptism has no saving effect on an unbeliever. This begs the question; What would proxy baptism accomplish for a dead person if the baptism of a living person does nothing to effect their own salvation?

We know from the clear teaching of Scripture that baptism is an outward symbol of an inward reality. John said:

Matthew 3:11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Jesus spoke of the Spirit in John 7:

John 7:39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, …

Jesus said:

Acts 1:5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

What is essential is the inward reality of being immersed in the Holy Spirit, without which the outward symbol of being immersed in water is meaningless.

We know based on the clear teaching of the Bible that nothing can be done to change the situation of those who have already died. ‘Hebrews 9:27 tells us that “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” In Luke 16, Jesus told a story of a rich man and Lazarus, who both died. The rich man, in anguish in the flames, cried out for mercy and relief but found none. He then begged that someone be sent to his living relatives to warn them so that they too would not end up in this place of torment.

Baptism is an outward symbol of an inward reality. That inward reality comes by believing in Jesus. Nothing can change the state of those who have died. This is the plain and clear teaching of the Bible. So to conclude that this difficult verse teaches that something can be done to benefit those who have died is contrary to the clear teaching of God’s word. To conclude that this verse opens the possibility of salvation beyond the grave is to force it to go against the rest of scripture. To conclude from this verse that water baptism is a necessary part of salvation is to go against what the bible plainly teaches. If we use this verse to imply that there is any hope for eternity outside a believing relationship with Jesus we go against the overwhelming consensus of the entire biblical record. We must allow the clear teaching of God’s word to guide our thinking on less clear passages, like this one.

Converts on behalf of the Dead

1 Corinthians 15:29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?

Another possible way of understanding Paul’s language is not that the living person is attempting to bring any benefit to the deceased, but that being baptized for the dead means that the dead believer is the motivation for an unbeliever to believe and be baptized. Seeing the confident assurance with which a believer faces death has a profound influence on their survivors, who recognize their own mortality and some may become disciples in order to have that same confidence and to one day be reunited with their deceased loved one. To be baptized for the dead could mean that an unbeliever, having seen the confidence of a dying believer has in the resurrection, that unbeliever becomes a follower of Jesus in order to share in that hope of the resurrection. This fits better with Paul’s point, that this baptism makes no sense if the dead are not raised.

A possible weakness of this understanding is that this tends to lose sight of the primary point and motive of conversion; to be with Christ, not merely to be with loved ones who have gone ahead. And if this is what Paul intended, there may have been a better way to say it to make this thought more clear.

Convert Baptized on behalf of their own Dead Body

1 Corinthians 15:29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?

Another way to understand Paul’s meaning is to see ‘the dead’ in the theological sense of those who are dead in their trespasses and sins, of the body which is dead because of sin. Why are people (new converts) being baptized for the dead (for their own bodies which were dead in sin)? This takes baptism in its normal sense, the way it is used in the rest of scripture, of a new believer who has come to trust in Jesus for salvation to be baptized as a public confession identifying with Jesus. Baptism is something believers do, and it is not something that can be done for someone else. The focus throughout this chapter is on the resurrection of the body, a physical resurrection, not a mere spiritual existence after death. If the dead bodies of believers are not raised at all, why are believers baptized for their own dead bodies?

Romans 8 points to the physicality of the resurrection:

Romans 8:10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Resurrection gives life to your mortal bodies, bodies that are dead because of sin.

Paul connects baptism with Jesus’ death and resurrection and ours in Romans 6.

Romans 6:2 ..How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

We have been buried with Christ through baptism into death, we have been united with him in a death like his, our old self was crucified with him; we have died with Christ. All this is so that as Christ was raised from the dead, we will be united with him in a resurrection like his, so that we will live with him. Baptism is our identification with Christ, our union with him in his death in order to be set free from sin and be really and truly alive. We are baptized for our own dead bodies, in the hope that those bodies, having died with Christ, will raised to a new kind of life. Baptism makes no sense if there is no resurrection. Christian baptism is a picture of death and resurrection; if there is no resurrection then baptism is a faulty picture. If there is no resurrection, baptism would be a better picture if we just pushed people down under the water and held them there.

This seems to be the way the early church understood Paul’s words. Tertullian, who lived c. 155-240 AD, wrote:

unless it were a bodily resurrection, there would be no pledge secured by this process of a corporeal baptism. “Why are they then baptized for the dead,” he asks, unless the bodies rise again which are thus baptized? For it is not the soul which is sanctified by the baptismal bath: its sanctification comes from the “answer.”

-Tertullian, On the Resurrection of the Flesh, 48

and

To be “baptized for the dead” therefore means, in fact, to be baptized for the body; for, as we have shown, it is the body which becomes dead. What, then, shall they do who are baptized for the body, if the body rises not again?

-Tertullian, Against Marcion, 5:10 [c.208 AD]

Conclusion

Baptism is an identification with Christ in the gospel story. Christ died for our sins, he was buried, he was raised, and he appeared. We believe the gospel and we act out the gospel. Christ died for our sins and was buried, and our old self died with him. Jesus was raised from the dead, and we believe that our mortal bodies will be raised to be with him forever.

When we are faced with a difficult section of Scripture, we need to keep in mind the big picture, to pay careful attention to the details, to be sensitive to the context, and to recognize that because of the character of God, the Bible must harmonize, and one obscure passage should never be used to overthrow the plain teaching of the rest of Scripture.

Whatever Paul meant by this phrase ‘baptized for the dead’, we understand his main point. The practice of baptism makes no sense if the dead are not raised. Yet followers of Jesus continue to be baptized, attesting to their belief in the resurrection.

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

May 17, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 12:12-13; Made to Drink of One Spirit

09/14 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 Made to Drink of One Spirit;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140914_1cor12_12-13.mp3

1 Corinthians 12 [SBLGNT]

11 πάντα δὲ ταῦτα ἐνεργεῖ τὸ ἓν καὶ τὸ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα, διαιροῦν ἰδίᾳ ἑκάστῳ καθὼς βούλεται.

12 Καθάπερ γὰρ τὸ σῶμα ἕν ἐστιν καὶ μέλη πολλὰ ἔχει, πάντα δὲ τὰ μέλη τοῦ σώματος πολλὰ ὄντα ἕν ἐστιν σῶμα, οὕτως καὶ ὁ Χριστός· 13 καὶ γὰρ ἐν ἑνὶ πνεύματι ἡμεῖς πάντες εἰς ἓν σῶμα ἐβαπτίσθημεν, εἴτε Ἰουδαῖοι εἴτε Ἕλληνες, εἴτε δοῦλοι εἴτε ἐλεύθεροι, καὶ πάντες ἓν πνεῦμα ἐποτίσθημεν. 14 Καὶ γὰρ τὸ σῶμα οὐκ ἔστιν ἓν μέλος ἀλλὰ πολλά.

1 Corinthians 12 [ESV2011]

1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

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.

The Corinthian church had asked Paul about what is spiritual, what makes someone spiritual, what are evidences or indications or signs of spirituality. What spiritual gifts demonstrate that one is spiritual? The Corinthians were wrapped up in status seeking, eager to be thought well of by others, striving to get ahead. Paul brought them back to the gospel, that everyone who confesses Jesus as Lord does so only because of the work of the Holy Spirit, and every believer in Jesus has the Holy Spirit, and so every believer is spiritual. Paul points them to the diverse distributions of the gifts that all come from the one triune God. He reminds them of the nature of these gifts as grace-gifts, undeserved blessings freely given by a generous God. They are services, designed for serving others. They are workings of God’s power, so that God alone gets the credit. He reminds them that the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one. No one is left out. They are given to each one, but they are given for everyone. Your gift is not for you, it is for me. My gift is not for me, it is for you. Grace-gifts are given for the common good. He gives a sampling of 9 gifts in verses 8-11, repeatedly bringing us back to the fact that all the various grace-gifts are from one and the same Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

The Holy Spirit is the one who empowers the gifts, and the Holy Spirit is the one who freely distributes the gifts to each one as he sovereignly intends.

The Body

Paul here introduces a body metaphor that he will flesh out in the rest of this chapter. A body is one thing. It is one integrated system. The human body is a staggering engineering marvel. The skeletal system, the muscular system, the nervous system, the digestive system, the cardiovascular system, respiratory system, reproductive system, the sensory systems, the immune system, not to mention all the things that work together to give us the capacity for rational thought, emotion, and volition. All these interconnected interdependent intricately designed finely tuned systems make up the human body. It is all one body. This is the illustration Paul uses to communicate the unity of the body. He says:

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.

Body Parts

The body is one and has many members. ‘Members’ is probably not the best translation, because we tend to think of members in a club. I paid my dues and have my card that entitles me to the perks and privileges of membership. That is exactly the opposite of what Paul intends to communicate here. ‘Body parts’ might be a better translation. He is referring to limbs and organs and the like. If anyone has taken human anatomy, you know that what Paul says here is true; the body has many parts. You may have had to memorize the names of some of those parts. There are 27 distinct bones in the hand alone. Each of those bones, together with the muscles, ligaments, tendons, veins, nerves and tissue make up the hand. One site lists 78 organs of the human body, each carrying out a distinct function. All these organs, all these systems, all these parts, together make up the body. The body is one and has many parts. All the parts of the body, though many, are one body. That is the illustration. The illustration is intended to teach theological truth. The theological truth is ‘thus also Christ.’ Just as the body is one and has many parts, so it is with Christ. Just as all the many parts of the body are one body, so it is with Christ. What is Paul saying here? In verse 27 he says:

1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

Each believer is a limb or organ of Jesus Christ. Christ is one but has many members. Addressing the issue of sexual immorality back in chapter 6, Paul said:

1 Corinthians 6:15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.

Your body is a limb or organ of Christ. You belong to God.

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

The body of Christ has many parts, many limbs, but it is one body. Paul gives the Holy Spirit as the reason behind this essential unity.

Baptism in the Spirit

1 Corinthians 12:13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body

It is the baptism of the Spirit that unites every believer with the one body of Christ. Some Christian groups teach that the baptism of the Spirit is some kind of a second blessing that happens subsequent to salvation, something that we should seek. This is exactly contrary to what Paul says here, that all of us were baptized into one body. This verse in 1 Corinthians is the only verse outside of the gospels and Acts that speaks of Spirit baptism. It is important that we spend some time understanding the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The word ‘baptize’ simply means to immerse, submerge or saturate something. It will help us to trace the history of Spirit baptism in the early church through the book of Acts and in the New Testament letters.

We can start with John. John the baptizer said:

Matthew 3:11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (cf. Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33)

The risen Jesus, before he ascended to his Father commanded his followers:

Acts 1:4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

We see the fulfillment of this in Acts 2:

Acts 2:1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

The apostles identified this with the Old Testament promise that God would make a New Covenant with his people and pour out his Spirit.

Acts 2:32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.

When the crowds were ‘cut to the heart’ and asked what they should do,

Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

We are told that the hearers of the message, who believed the good news and were baptized, who received the Holy Spirit and were added to the church, were

5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.

…9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—

So the baptism of the Spirit came first to the Apostles, then to the Jews and proselytes who had gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost.

Samaria

After the stoning of Stephen, Saul persecuted the church, and the believers were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. The Jews in Judea would have been well thought of, but the Samaritans were viewed as worthless apostate half-breeds who had abandoned the truth. Philip proclaimed the good news about Jesus in Samaria and many believed and were baptized. We are told in Acts 8:

Acts 8:14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

God was uniting believing Jews and Samaritans with his Spirit, demonstrating the dependence of the Samaritans on the Jewish apostles, and by making sure the Jewish apostles were there to witness first hand that God had indeed poured out the same Holy Spirit on the Samaritan believers.

Cornelius (Gentiles)

Then in Acts 10, we see Peter called to go to a Gentile’s house and proclaim the gospel to Gentiles. He proclaimed the good news of Jesus.

Acts 10:43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” 44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.

We see what a big deal this was because in Acts 11, Peter is receiving sharp criticism from some in the church in Jerusalem for going to the home of the uncircumcised. Peter has to defend himself. He says:

Acts 11:15 As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” 18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

God was uniting the church, Jew and Gentile, by his Holy Spirit.

Disciples of John

In Acts 19,

Acts 19:1 And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. 7 There were about twelve men in all.

Paul encounters a small pocket of disciples in Ephesus, who have not even heard of the Holy Spirit. Paul recognizes this as highly unusual, because the gift of the Holy Spirit accompanies belief in Jesus, so he begins to ask some more questions. It seems that these were disciples of John who had not yet become followers of Jesus. Upon belief in Jesus the Holy Spirit came on them.

The book of Acts chronicles the spread of the gospel starting with the Jews and spreading out across social and ethnic barriers, just as Jesus commanded.

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

The Holy Spirit was intentionally uniting the church, Jew, Samaritan, and Gentile into one body. The only time the Spirit did not immediately come upon a new believer was for the clear purpose of breaking down barriers and uniting the one church.

The Epistles

This history fits the united testimony of the New Testament letters on the subject. Paul tells the believers in Galatia:

Galatians 3:25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

All, Jew, Greek, slave, free, male, female, all are one in Christ Jesus. All are sons of God through faith. All were baptized into Christ. The gospel has successfully crossed gender, ethnic, and social barriers. These barriers are exactly what the Corinthians were trying to re-establish, division between the spiritual and the ungifted, the rich and the poor, the wise and the foolish, the strong and the weak, the haves and the have nots. Paul connects this barrier breaking unity to the work of the Spirit and to the cross where Jesus redeemed us from the curse.

Galatians 3:14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

The Spirit is received through faith. Every believer has received the promised Spirit. Jew and Gentile alike receive the one Spirit through faith in our Lord Jesus.

He makes this clear in Ephesians

Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.

The cross of Christ has crushed the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Greek, and between every ethnic or economic or social barrier. God’s purpose was to make peace, to make us one, to reconcile us all to God in one body. He says in Ephesians 3:

Ephesians 3:6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Through the gospel Gentiles become members, body parts, limbs and organs, in the one body of Christ. He says this happened:

Ephesians 1:13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

The Holy Spirit unites every believer in the body of Christ through the gospel. Paul has already pointed to the calling of the Corinthians as evidence of the way the Spirit breaks down barriers and creates unity.

1 Corinthians 1:23 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. 26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 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. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, …

God is at work through his Spirit to abolish all pride, eliminate all boasting, and destroy all division in his body.

Made to Drink

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.

We were all baptized. All were made to drink. Both the verbs ‘baptized’ and ‘made to drink’ are in the passive voice, which means that it is not something that we do, but it is something that is done to us. John said that Jesus would do the baptizing with the Holy Spirit. This says we were all made to drink. You have heard it said that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. That may be true, but God can make him drink. Every believer, regardless of social standing, has been made to drink of one Spirit.

In John 7

John 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Jesus pointed to the Spirit, who would be given to everyone who believes in him. At that time, the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet been glorified. Jesus was glorified through the cross.

John 12:23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 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.

Jesus was glorified by dying. The foolish message of the cross is the power of God for salvation to all who believe. Like a grain of wheat, Jesus demonstrates power through weakness, and bears much fruit by dying. His followers are to follow him. We are to be like him, revealing strength through weakness, laying down our lives, our rights, our self-interest for others.

This is what the Corinthians needed to learn. They were seeking status, seeking to be recognized as spiritual. Everyone who believes in Jesus is spiritual, as Paul said,

1 Corinthians 12:3 …no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit brings unity. No single believer today is without the Holy Spirit. Because we were all made to drink of the one Spirit, because we were baptized in one Spirit we are parts, limbs and organs of Christ. We are connected to his body. We are united in him. Notice the text does not say that we ought to be, it does not say that we should try harder be, it does not say that we hope to become, the text says that we are. This is not something we strive for, this is something that was done to us by God. We were all baptized, we all were made to drink. We are parts of the body. We may not be functioning as parts, we may be disconnected, we may be sick and hurt, but the fact is that by God’s Spirit we are parts of the one body. The body is one. So it is with Christ.

There are not two bodies of Christ, or four or ten or seventy, there is one Spirit and one body. Every genuine follower of Jesus throughout time and across the globe is a part of that body. Jesus does not have a Baptist body, a Methodist body, a Pentecostal body, an Episcopalian body, a Lutheran body, a Presbyterian body, a non-denominational body. He has one body. His body is a diverse body, but every believer is a are part, a limb, an organ of the one body.

Lord Jesus, cause us to lay down our pride, our rights, our self-interest. Father, blind us to ethnicity or social or economic status or position. Holy Spirit let us honor one another, really love one another, rally us together with every genuine believer around the good news of Jesus Christ and him crucified.

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

September 14, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 10:1-6; God Was Not Pleased

04/27 1 Corinthians 10:1-6 God was not Pleased;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140427_1cor10_1-6.mp3

 

1 Corinthians 10 [SBLGNT]

1 Οὐ θέλω γὰρ ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν, ἀδελφοί, ὅτι οἱ πατέρες ἡμῶν πάντες ὑπὸ τὴν νεφέλην ἦσαν καὶ πάντες διὰ τῆς θαλάσσης διῆλθον, 2 καὶ πάντες εἰς τὸν Μωϋσῆν ἐβαπτίσαντο ἐν τῇ νεφέλῃ καὶ ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ, 3 καὶ πάντες τὸ αὐτὸ πνευματικὸν βρῶμα ἔφαγον 4 καὶ πάντες τὸ αὐτὸ πνευματικὸν ἔπιον πόμα, ἔπινον γὰρ ἐκ πνευματικῆς ἀκολουθούσης πέτρας, ἡ πέτρα δὲ ἦν ὁ Χριστός· 5 ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐν τοῖς πλείοσιν αὐτῶν ηὐδόκησεν ὁ θεός, κατεστρώθησαν γὰρ ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ. 6 Ταῦτα δὲ τύποι ἡμῶν ἐγενήθησαν, εἰς τὸ μὴ εἶναι ἡμᾶς ἐπιθυμητὰς κακῶν, καθὼς κἀκεῖνοι ἐπεθύμησαν. 7 μηδὲ εἰδωλολάτραι γίνεσθε, καθώς τινες αὐτῶν· ὥσπερ γέγραπται· Ἐκάθισεν ὁ λαὸς φαγεῖν καὶ πεῖν, καὶ ἀνέστησαν παίζειν. 8 μηδὲ πορνεύωμεν, καθώς τινες αὐτῶν ἐπόρνευσαν, καὶ ἔπεσαν μιᾷ ἡμέρᾳ εἴκοσι τρεῖς χιλιάδες. 9 μηδὲ ἐκπειράζωμεν τὸν Χριστόν, καθώς τινες αὐτῶν ἐπείρασαν, καὶ ὑπὸ τῶν ὄφεων ἀπώλλυντο. 10 μηδὲ γογγύζετε, καθάπερ τινὲς αὐτῶν ἐγόγγυσαν, καὶ ἀπώλοντο ὑπὸ τοῦ ὀλοθρευτοῦ. 11 ταῦτα δὲ τυπικῶς συνέβαινεν ἐκείνοις, ἐγράφη δὲ πρὸς νουθεσίαν ἡμῶν, εἰς οὓς τὰ τέλη τῶν αἰώνων κατήντηκεν. 12 ὥστε ὁ δοκῶν ἑστάναι βλεπέτω μὴ πέσῃ, 13 πειρασμὸς ὑμᾶς οὐκ εἴληφεν εἰ μὴ ἀνθρώπινος· πιστὸς δὲ ὁ θεός, ὃς οὐκ ἐάσει ὑμᾶς πειρασθῆναι ὑπὲρ ὃ δύνασθε, ἀλλὰ ποιήσει σὺν τῷ πειρασμῷ καὶ τὴν ἔκβασιν τοῦ δύνασθαι ὑπενεγκεῖν.

1 Corinthians 9-10 [ESV2011]

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Paul has been talking to the Corinthians about the possibility of disqualification. He gently introduced the idea, using himself as an example. At the end of chapter 9, he tells them that he disciplines his own body so that he will not be disqualified after preaching to others. The word ‘disqualified’ means tested and proven false. Is it possible for one who has proclaimed the gospel to others to miss out on sharing with them in the rescue of the gospel?

It seems the Corinthians felt it was within their rights and liberties to attend pagan temples and participate in the celebrations there. In chapter 8 Paul began by warning them of the danger of destroying a brother by leading him to violate his conscience, a brother for whom Christ died. Then, in chapter 9, he holds himself up as an example of someone with undeniable rights, who voluntarily forgoes those rights for the sake of the gospel, in order to win as many as possible. Now, in chapter 10, he moves into the biblical text to demonstrate that their flirtation with idolatry was not only dangerous to those with weak consciences, but potentially lethal for those who thought of themselves as able to withstand any temptation.

He links chapter 10 with what he has said before with the little connecting word ‘for’. He has said that he himself, the apostle, would be in danger of disqualification, of being proven false, if he did not discipline his body and keep it under control. In chapter 10, he gives the biblical basis for this danger.

He does not want his readers to be ignorant of their Old Testament heritage. The wise Corinthians were in grave danger because they were ignorant of something. Paul, the Jew, writing to Gentile followers of Jesus, refers to the Israelites as ‘our fathers’. Because of Jesus, the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile has been torn down, and God has made one new man out of the two (Eph.2). We, who were Gentiles, now share a heritage with our believing Jewish brothers. This is how we should read the Old Testament. These are ‘our fathers’. This is our heritage.

Paul points back to our fathers, and links them to us through the two ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper. He points back to the Israelites who were delivered from Egypt, and says that they were baptized and they participated in communion.

All Were Under the Cloud

All our fathers were under the cloud. As the children of Israel left Egypt, we are told:

Exodus 13:21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.

When the Egyptian army pursued the people and they were trapped, with no way of escape, we are told:

Exodus 14:19 Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, 20 coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night.

Psalm 105, retelling the story of the Exodus, puts it this way:

Psalm 105:39 He spread a cloud for a covering, and fire to give light by night.

The cloud was a divine covering, protecting God’s people. They were under the cloud, under God’s supernatural protection.

All Passed Through the Sea

Paul points out that all of our fathers passed through the sea. Exodus 14 says:

Exodus 14:21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. 22 And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. 23 The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. 24 And in the morning watch the LORD in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic,

All the Israelites marched through the middle of the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on either side. Paul says that this passing through the midst of the sea covered by God’s protection was their baptism into Moses.

1 Corinthians 10:1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,

They were all baptized into Moses, connected to Moses, identified with him as their leader. We might think it a stretch to refer to the Red Sea crossing and cloud covering as a baptism, but if we look over to 1 Peter, he says that Christian baptism corresponds to the salvation of Noah and his family, who were brought safely through the water in the ark (1 Peter 3:20-21). They had experienced deliverance, salvation, the Lord had rescued them. In a sense they passed through the waters. Waters that brought the Lord’s judgment and death, they emerged from alive. They were now immersed into the leadership of Moses. The sea closed behind them. There was no going back. This was a decisive close to their days of slavery in Egypt, and the beginning of a new life as followers of YHWH. Every one of them that passed through the sea had been publicly identified with the people of God.

All Ate the Same Spiritual Food

Paul goes on:

1 Corinthians 10:3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.

Paul is linking the Lord’s supper, which he will talk about explicitly in verses 14-22, with the spiritual food that was given to sustain the Israelites in the wilderness. They ate the same spiritual food.

Exodus 16:4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.

This was bread from heaven, God’s supernatural provision for his people to sustain them while they were in the wilderness. All of the Israelites ate this supernatural bread.

Exodus 16:14 And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.

…31 Now the house of Israel called its name manna. It was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.

God provided for his people’s needs. The people said to Jesus:

John 6:30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

Jesus is the one who came down from heaven and gives life to the world.

John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

Jesus is the true spiritual food. Jesus is the bread that came down from heaven. Jesus, when he commanded his followers to remember him with broken bread,

Luke 22:19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

All Drank the Same Spiritual Drink

1 Corinthians 10:3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.

Exodus 17 was the beginning of their time in the desert.

Exodus 17:1 All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” 3 But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” 4 So Moses cried to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” 5 And the LORD said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.

Then, in Numbers 20, just before the people entered the promised land, we are told again:

Numbers 20:2 Now there was no water for the congregation. And they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. 3 And the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Would that we had perished when our brothers perished before the LORD! 4 Why have you brought the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? 5 And why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, and there is no water to drink.” 6 Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. And the glory of the LORD appeared to them, 7 and the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 8 “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” 9 And Moses took the staff from before the LORD, as he commanded him. 10 Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” 11 And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. 12 And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” 13 These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel quarreled with the LORD, and through them he showed himself holy.

Because of these two passages, one at the beginning, and the other at the end of the 40 years in the wilderness, that both point to a rock as the source of water for the people, and the assumption that God must have provided water throughout their time in the wilderness, a Jewish tradition developed that said that this rock followed them and continued to provide for their needs. Paul picks up on this tradition, but says it was not a physical rock that followed them, but the Rock was Christ.

When we look at how Deuteronomy describes YHWH as the Rock, we get an idea of what Paul is saying.

Deuteronomy 32:4 “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.

Deuteronomy 32:15 … then he forsook God who made him and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation. 16 They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods; with abominations they provoked him to anger. 17 They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently, whom your fathers had never dreaded. 18 You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth.

Deuteronomy 32:30 How could one have chased a thousand, and two have put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, and the LORD had given them up? 31 For their rock is not as our Rock; our enemies are by themselves.

YHWH is the Rock of salvation. Paul identifies Jesus as YHWH, the Rock. It was Jesus who satisfied their thirst in the wilderness.

John 7:37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

Jesus claimed to be the satisfaction for our deepest thirst. He invited his followers to remember him in communion.

Luke 22:20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

God Was Not Pleased

Paul has made his case that just like the Corinthians, their fathers had been publicly identified with the people of God, had been protected by God, had been nurtured and sustained by God, had experienced unmistakable blessings of God, and yet he says:

1 Corinthians 10:5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.

This is a huge understatement. Paul has said ‘all’ 5 times. All of them were under the cloud; all of them passed through the sea; all of them were baptized; all of them at the spiritual food; all of them drank the spiritual drink; yet with most of them God was not pleased. According to Numbers 1:46, there were 603,550 Israelite males 20 years or older, not counting any from the tribe of Levi. Of them, only 2 men would enter the land. With most of them, God was not pleased.

Numbers 14:28 Say to them, ‘As I live, declares the LORD, what you have said in my hearing I will do to you: 29 your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and of all your number, listed in the census from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me, 30 not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. 31 But your little ones, who you said would become a prey, I will bring in, and they shall know the land that you have rejected. 32 But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness. 33 And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness. 34 According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, a year for each day, you shall bear your iniquity forty years, and you shall know my displeasure.’ 35 I, the LORD, have spoken. Surely this will I do to all this wicked congregation who are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall come to a full end, and there they shall die.”

These, our fathers, who, like us, had experienced so many of God’s blessings, God’s protection, God’s provision, had participated as it were in baptism and communion, were identified as the people of God, it was these whose corpses littered the desert. And Paul says that these things happened as examples for us. We too are in danger, having experienced so many of God’s blessings, we who participate in the ordinances, we who are identified with God’s church, we are in danger of being disqualified, of being proven false if we do not continue to love Jesus above all else.

The author of Hebrews in chapter 3 points back to this same thing and warns his readers of the danger of not listening to Jesus, not following him, not believing him.

Hebrews 3:7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. 10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ 11 As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’” 12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” 16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

There is a real danger of going astray in our hearts. Sin is deceitful. It tells us lies. Sin tries to persuade us that we should not believe God, that he is not telling us the truth, that true fulfillment, true joy is found outside of him, found in things that he is keeping from us. Our hearts are not to be trusted. They often seek to lead us away from the true God. Sin lies to us and causes us to become callous toward God. We become discontent with the supernatural food that he rains down on us from heaven, and our hearts long for the meat pots of Egypt. We begin to distrust him, to doubt him, to question his goodness. We are in danger of being proven false, after preaching to others being ourselves disqualified. We must follow the example of Paul, who landed well placed gospel punches right under the eye of his own fleshly desires, who preached the gospel to himself, who disciplined his body and forced it to surrender and embrace the good news, who reminded himself daily of the greatness of the good news, who trained his heart to love this God who would leave his throne and lay down his life to rescue a rebel, trained himself to cling to this God who spoke into the darkness and created light.

This is the good fight of faith, this is the battle to believe. Christian, take up the full armor of God so that you can stand. Cling to Christ so that you will not be proven false. Brothers and sisters, plant your feet in the gospel and stand firm.

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

April 27, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Church Functions; What The Church Does

01/12/14 Church Functions; what the church does Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140112_church-functions.mp3

Last time we looked at what it means to be a church member. We defined church as an assembly of Jesus-followers; the church is the blood-bought people of God who gather together. When we talk about church membership, we are not talking about membership in a society or club where there are member benefits, perks and privileges. Being a member of the church is language taken from the body metaphor in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians. As members of the body of Christ, we are to be connected, functional parts of the whole, each uniquely equipped to fulfill the role God has assigned to us.

Today I would like to explore some of the functions the church is meant to carry out. If we are to be functional parts of the whole, it is essential that we all have a clear vision of the goal. What is the purpose of the church? If each part has a clear understanding of the mission, we can move in unity toward the common goal, valuing the contribution of each member.

Last time we said that the clear objective of the church in encapsulated in the great commandment and the great commission. The purpose of the church and of every member is to glorify God by loving God, loving people, and making disciples who glorify God by loving God, loving people and making disciples.

Evangelism and Baptism

Let’s see how this played out in the formation of the new covenant church in Acts 2. Jesus had presented himself alive to his disciples, and commissioned them as eye-witnesses to testify to his death and resurrection. He charged them with the task of making disciples of all nations, and then he told them to wait. Wait until you are clothed with power from on high. Wait for the promise of the Father, the promised Holy Spirit. In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit filled them and they began to proclaim the mighty works of God to the crowds in Jerusalem. They were supernaturally enabled to communicate with the crowd in all the languages that were represented. All were amazed, but some mocked. Peter explained what was happening by referring to the prophesy in Joel:

Acts 2:17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.

Peter connects this proclamation of the mighty works of God by the apostles to the promised outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit. He concludes his quotation with these words from the prophet Joel:

Acts 2:21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

Everyone. Everyone who calls on the name of YHWH will be saved.

We get a taste of the content of this gospel proclamation of the mighty works of God in the following verses.

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

Then he gives some Old Testament evidence to prove his point.

…32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. … 36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Everyone who calls on the name of YHWH will be saved. This Jesus, the one who did mighty works, this Jesus whom you crucified, this Jesus, whom God raised from the dead, this Jesus is YHWH, Lord and Christ, Messiah. Call on this Jesus as Lord and Christ, Jesus who died for you and was raised and you will be saved.

Notice carefully the response of his hearers:

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

They were cut to the heart. They were convicted of their sin. They were responsible for the crucifixion of God’s Messiah. They felt the weight of their guilt. They had crucified the Lord of glory! “Brothers, what shall we do?” This was broken-hearted recognition of their offense before God. We too are responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus; it was our sin that made it necessary for him to suffer and die, it was my sin that he came to pay for.

38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

Repent simply means to have a change of heart and mind. Turn from your hostility toward God, turn from your rebellion, turn from your sin which nailed Christ to the cross. Turn away from whatever false religious hopes you were holding on to, and turn to Jesus. Demonstrate this turning by baptism, the outward sign of the inward truth, confessing Christ Jesus as Lord, declaring publicly that your heart and mind have been transformed, that you have become a follower of Jesus. There is hope for you who by your rebellion have crucified the Lord of glory. There is forgiveness for your sins. You can never do anything to earn it. You must receive it as a gift. Turn to Jesus and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is God’s promise for you, no matter how far you have strayed. God is calling you to himself.

40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Peter proclaimed the good news that Jesus is God, that he is the promised Messiah, that the Father authenticated his identity with supernatural signs, that Jesus was crucified, and that he rose from the dead. They were cut to the heart, convicted of their sinfulness, and asked what they should do. Peter told them to repent, to change their minds, to turn to Jesus, and they would be forgiven and given the gift of the Holy Spirit. Those who received his word, those who believed, who turned to Jesus, were baptized, publicly demonstrating their faith. 3,000 were added that day to the church through belief and baptism. The church grew from 120 to over 3,000. Let’s look at what the early church did.

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Acts 2:42 is very instructive. It tells us what the early church emphasized, what they were devoted to, what they were diligent in and earnest about. Four definite things the early church was committed to. Apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayers. Two things we have already seen in this passage that the early church did and we see them doing throughout the book of Acts: evangelism and baptism. They were proclaiming the good news about Jesus, making disciples, and baptizing into the church those who were believing.

The Apostles’ Teaching

Those who became followers of Jesus were devoted to the apostle’s teaching. Jesus commissioned his 12 disciples to be his eye-witnesses in a unique and unrepeatable way. He spent 40 days with them after his resurrection. He promised them the Holy Spirit who would continue to teach and guide them.

Ephesians 2:19 …you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

The apostle’s teaching formed the foundation of the church, centered around Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 4:11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, …14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

God gave the apostles to the church to equip them for ministry and to give them a stable foundation of doctrine so they would not be led astray. The apostle’s teaching was a big deal. The early church was warned against any deviation or distortion of the apostle’s teaching.

Romans 16:17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.

The apostle Paul warned young pastor Timothy:

1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, …6 If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.

…13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to [the] exhortation, to [the] teaching. …16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Do not depart from the faith. You have been trained in the words of the faith, in the good doctrine that you have followed, so devote yourself to the teaching.

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.

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul exhorted him to:

2 Timothy 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

Titus was left in Crete to appoint elders in every town. One of the necessary characteristics of a church leader was:

Titus 1:9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

The apostle John wrote:

2 John 1:8 Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. 9 Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting,

We must abide in the teaching of Christ. The apostle Peter, aware that he would soon die, wrote a letter. He said:

2 Peter 1:12 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. 13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

Because of the diligence of the Lord’s apostles, we have their teaching today in written form. We as the church must be devoted to the apostle’s teaching.

The Fellowship

Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

The second thing that the early church was devoted to is the fellowship. Fellowship is a broad word that can mean partnership, sharing, participation, communion. It comes from a root word that means common. In some contexts it means sharing financially (Rom.15:26; 2Cor.8:4, 9:13; Phil.1:5; Heb.13:16; root word in Acts 2:44, 4:32); it can mean oneness of spirit with God or with people (1 Cor.1:9; 2Cor.6:14, 13:14; Gal.2:9; Phil.2:1; 1Jn.1:3,6,7); or it can mean participation or sharing in something (suffering: Phil.3:10; blood and body of Christ in communion 1Cor.10:16; faith Philemon 6; root word: faith Tit.1:4; salvation Jude3).

John writes:

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. …6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

The fellowship of believers took sin seriously. They confronted each other, exhorted, admonished and encouraged one another, confessed to one another, and were quick to forgive one another. The early church was devoted to fellowship, partnership, relationship, unity of spirit with God and one another. They shared life together. They sang together. They ate together. They enjoyed a common relationship with God and with one another. They fought sin together. They shared financially with one another as people had needs. They partnered in gospel missions with their money and their prayers. There was a true sense of community spiritually, socially, and financially. They cared for one another in practical ways. The early church was committed to the fellowship.

The Breaking of Bread

Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

The third thing the early church was devoted to was the breaking of bread. To break bread together simply mean to have a meal together. When Jesus fed the multitudes with a few loaves, he gave thanks to his Father and broke the bread so that it could be distributed it to each person (Mt.14:19; 15:36). This common form of eating together took on special significance at his final passover meal with his disciples before the crucifixion.

Matthew 26:26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

After his resurrection, Jesus joined some of the disciples who were on the road to Emmaus.

Luke 24:30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. …35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

We find in 1 Corinthians that breaking bread was something the church did when they met together. Paul writes to correct the abuses of this meal that was intended to remind them of Jesus. They called it the Lord’s supper.

1 Corinthians 11:18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not. 23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

1 Corinthians 10:16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.

The early church was diligent to remember Jesus through the breaking of bread.

The Prayers

Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

The fourth thing that this passage tells us the early church devoted themselves to were the prayers. Prayer is communication with God. Jesus, by his example taught us the importance of intimacy with God. He taught his followers to pray for God’s name to be worshiped, God’s rule to be realized, for God’s purposes to be accomplished. He taught us to ask in dependence for our basic physical and spiritual needs, and for rescue from temptation (Mt.6:9-13). Jesus taught us to pray for our enemies (Mt.5:44).

The church in Acts gathered together to pray for their leaders.

Acts 12:5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. …12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.

In fact, I counted at least 10 places in the New Testament where the author either referred to or specifically asked for the people to pray for him. Prayer for rescue, for freedom, prayer for effective ministry, prayer for gospel opportunities and clarity in declaring the gospel, prayer for boldness. That’s about the same frequency of the author saying that he was praying for the people he was writing to.

Jesus prayed when he selected his 12 apostles (Lk.6:12). The early church prayed when they appointed leaders in the churches.

Acts 13:2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

Acts 14:23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

We are instructed to pray for gospel opportunities and salvation for all people:

1 Timothy 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. …8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;

We are to pray for the needs of one another:

James 5:13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Ephesians 6:18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Conclusion

Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

The early church was active in proclaiming the good news about Jesus. They were active in making disciples. They were serious about preserving, proclaiming, and living out the truth once for all delivered to the saints. They were connected in community with one another. They were committed to keeping Jesus central to everything, remembering and reminding one another what Jesus did for them. They were characterized by their relationship with God, constantly communicating with him and depending on him in everything. The early church brought much glory to God by loving him, loving one another, and making disciples. This is how the church functioned. We would do well to follow their example.

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

January 12, 2014 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 1:17b; Emptying the Cross of Power

02/17 1 Corinthians 1:17b Emptying the Cross of Power; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130217_1cor1_17b.mp3

17 οὐ γὰρ ἀπέστειλέν με Χριστὸς βαπτίζειν ἀλλὰ εὐαγγελίζεσθαι, οὐκ ἐν σοφίᾳ λόγου, ἵνα μὴ κενωθῇ ὁ σταυρὸς τοῦ Χριστοῦ. 18 Ὁ λόγος γὰρ ὁ τοῦ σταυροῦ τοῖς μὲν ἀπολλυμένοις μωρία ἐστίν, τοῖς δὲ σῳζομένοις ἡμῖν δύναμις θεοῦ ἐστιν.

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.

In addressing the divisions in Corinth, Paul brings them back to the centrality of the cross and applies the simplicity of the gospel message to heal their broken unity. Paul goes back to his primary purpose as an apostle in order to undermine their divisive party spirit. He was not sent out to baptize; he was sent to proclaim the message.

Emptying the cross of power

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.

Paul was sent out to evangelize, to ‘gospelize’, to herald the message of good news. Paul and the other Apostles had a unique and unrepeatable role in history as eye-witnesses, but we are all called to ‘do the work of an evangelist’ (2Tim4:5). We are all called to ‘contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints’ (Jude 3). Paul tells us that it is important how we proclaim this message, and he warns of a significant danger to proclaiming the message wrongly. He says, that if preached wrongly, we could be guilty of emptying the cross of Christ. I could be guilty of gutting the cross of its ability to save, of rendering it useless, worthless and ineffective, of actually preventing salvation by my presentation? That is a terrifying thought. I don’t ever want to be guilty of emptying Christ’s cross of power. I want to understand what Paul is saying so I can heed his warning and allow the cross of Jesus to have its full saving effects on all who hear my voice.

Baptism Cannot Save

So what is it that empties or neutralizes or makes void the cross of Christ? First, Paul claims he was sent to evangelize not to baptize. If we put a saving emphasis on baptism, we would become guilty of emptying the cross of power. If we say that water baptism is necessary or required for salvation, we would be turning people’s focus away from the cross and toward the waters of baptism as their hope for salvation. Trusting in the wrong thing will not save you. Trusting in a rite, in an ordinance, will not save you. Only Jesus will save you. Not Jesus plus baptism, but Jesus alone. Dividing your faith between Jesus and something you do takes faith away from Jesus. Jesus alone, Jesus – plus nothing – will save you.

Wisdom of Words

Paul says that he was sent to proclaim the gospel. And he says that he did not preach with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be made hollow. How do words of eloquent wisdom empty the cross of power? What would it mean to preach the gospel with wisdom of words? The word translated ‘eloquent wisdom’ is sophia [σοφια]; it is the root behind our English words sophistry [an argument that sounds plausible but is actually invalid or misleading] or sophisticated [refined, cultured, educated, complex, pretentious, superficially wise]. Here we can put to use what we know about Greek culture. The Greeks were famous for their pursuit of wisdom. They sought to formulate a coherent system of thinking that would make sense of the universe. Sophists were often itinerant intellectuals that hired themselves out to teach their views of reality and the universe. Athens was less than 50 miles northeast of Corinth, and this is where Paul conversed with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers before coming to Corinth (Acts 17:18). Epicureans believed that pleasure is the greatest good; Stoics taught self-control as a means of overcoming destructive emotions; those who followed Protagoras taught relativism and atheism and that man is the measure of all things. These sophists were experts in rhetoric and were often more concerned with their ability to debate and persuade (and of course make money) than they were with truth. They were entertainers, masters of language and able to captivate an audience with their rhetorical prowess. In Corinth, you could gain social status by hiring the best teacher at the highest price. When Paul came to Corinth, he didn’t play into any of this. He refused to accept money for his teaching, working as a tent maker until support came from other churches that allowed him to devote himself to the preaching of the gospel. This was an insult to those who wanted to build status by hiring philosophers at exorbitant prices. Paul warned Timothy of this danger:

2 Timothy 4:3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

And he solemnly charged him to:

2 Timothy 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. … 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

So when Paul says he did not preach the gospel with words of wisdom in order to not empty the cross of power, he is saying that he did not preach in a way that seeks approval from men, he did not preach in a way that would feed anyone’s ego or build them up. His goal was not to sound intellectual and impress them with his skill and learning. Nor did he preach in a way that would be emotionally manipulative. He says in the next chapter:

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.

In his later letter to this same church he says:

2 Corinthians 4:2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

Open statement of truth; not underhanded, no cunning, not adjusting God’s word in any way, not lofty speech or wisdom, not catering to one group or another. Do not empty the cross of power. If you proclaim the gospel in a way that draws attention to yourself, you are in danger of emptying the cross of power. If you are preaching the gospel in a way that strokes the ego of your hearers and makes them feel good about themselves, you are in danger of nullifying the transforming power of the cross. If you are tempted to adjust or distort the message of the cross in any way, to add to it or take away from it, you are being tempted to preach something other than the true gospel, and it will be worthless.

Examples of Emptying the Cross

At the risk of offending, I’ll give you some examples that may help to clarify what it might look like to empty the cross of power. These examples are not meant to condemn anyone; I have been guilty of using some of these methods myself. Our goal is for us all to abandon any method that would nullify the power of the cross.

The gospel is sometimes preached with high-pressure sales tactics or emotional manipulation. There is an emphasis on pushing for a decision and making the sale or closing the deal. Music is sometimes employed to set the mood and sway the hearer. Sometimes a celebrity testimony is used, to show that even popular people are following Jesus. Sometimes there is a push for a physical response; raise your hand, walk the aisle, put your name on the card, repeat the sinners prayer. The goal is to secure a decision from the individual before the service or the conversation is over. Walking the aisle or writing your name on a card or praying the sinners prayer never saved anyone. Trusting in Jesus is what saves. This kind of method may secure a ‘decision for Christ’, but it may not result in genuine conversion. It may even give someone a false sense of security that they did what was required to ensure that they go to heaven when they die without ever having a real relationship with Jesus.

Some methods of preaching the gospel appeal to what you will gain from believing. You will get your sins forgiven. You get to escape hell and secure a piece of property in heaven. Your marriage will be better, your health will be better, your finances will improve, your depression will go away, your family will be blessed, overall things will just be so much better and you will find the joy you have always been looking for. Some who have responded to this kind of message end up leaving disillusioned, feeling that the gospel did not meet their expectations or deliver the goods promised. It is absolutely true that you will gain much more than you lose, but Jesus pushed people to count the cost. Following Jesus may cost you your family, your marriage, your possessions, even your life. Jesus said:

Matthew 10:37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

The gospel is sometimes preached with an emphasis on how reasonable and logical it is to follow Jesus. Evidence is mustered, logic is appealed to, the rational nature of Christianity is highlighted. It just makes so much sense to be a Christian. Only a fool would pass up an opportunity like this. You would be really wise to follow Jesus. No intelligent person could come to any other conclusion once presented with the facts. This kind of preaching may secure intellectual assent to the facts of the gospel, an agreement that the claims of Christianity are historically accurate, that there is evidence to support the facts, but it may not result in the kind of turning and faith that saves. Christianity is true and if you know your stuff, you can argue someone into a logical corner, but you can never argue someone into the kingdom, into a relationship with Jesus.

Man-Centered or God-Centered?

All of these methods center on the person. They appeal to the emotions, they target the intellect, they seek to persuade the will. They say that following Jesus will make you feel good, or that following Jesus is wise, or that following Jesus is the best decision you can make. These methods tend to shift the emphasis of the gospel from God to the person. The good news is primarily a message about God. Paul says here that preaching the gospel is ‘the cross of Christ’. In the next verse, he calls it ‘the word of the cross’, which ‘is the power of God’. Down in verse 23, he declares ‘we preach Christ crucified, …Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God’. The cross of Christ, the word of the cross, preaching Christ crucified is the power of God. The nature of the gospel message is news. Paul was called to evangelize, to proclaim the gospel. He was not called as a rhetorician or an orator or a salesman; he was called as a news boy. He was given a message; his responsibility was to declare it faithfully. Don’t distort it; don’t spin it; don’t edit it. Announce it with clarity; proclaim, herald the news. Response to the news is not your problem.

Think of the guy in front of the pizza joint advertising hot pizza’s for $5. He can stand there quietly holding his sign, or he can jump around waving his sign in the air and doing everything in his power to capture your attention. But he doesn’t have the liberty to alter the message. He can’t try to tempt you with a pizza for $2.50. He can’t offer you a sit down steak dinner at that price; they only serve pizza. And he can’t control your decision. If you’re hungry and that sounds like a good deal, you might go in. If you’re not interested you might shake your head and wonder how much they pay that poor guy to stand out there and make a fool of himself, but you will probably ignore him and drive by.

The gospel is news. Good news. We are called to proclaim it, to announce it, to herald it. The gospel is good news about a person; good news about God. The gospel is Jesus Christ crucified – God become flesh, the promised one, executed in our place as as a substitute. This is not my message; I did not come up with it; Paul or Peter or James didn’t come up with it. It is God’s message. It is not ours to adjust or adapt. We are entrusted with the message and expected to proclaim it faithfully. If we examine Paul’s practice through the book of Acts, we see that he went, as instructed to the Jewish synagogues and reasoned with them from the scriptures and proclaimed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. When the Jews rejected the message, he would turn and proclaim his message to the Gentiles. He faithfully proclaimed the message. He trusted God to use the message in the hearts of his hearers however he chose.

Is it a Sin to Speak Well?

Is it a sin to use logic, persuasion, or rhetoric in proclaiming the gospel? It is interesting to note that in this very passage in arguing for the centrality and efficacy of the cross, Paul employs persuasive rhetoric to make his point. As we study Paul’s letters, we find that he was a master communicator. But he never compromised the message in order to make a convert. And he did not depend on his own oratorical abilities to persuade. God has gifted some with amazing abilities to argue and persuade and defend, to communicate his truth. I would never want to imply that by using the gifts God has given them they are emptying the cross of its power. Use your gifts to the glory of God. The question is, what are you relying on? As you proclaim the good news, what are you trusting in? Your persuasive methods? Your polished presentation? Your impenetrable logic? Or are you relying on the power of the gospel message itself to save sinners? Are you relying on the Holy Spirit of God to use his truth to transform lives in a supernatural act of sovereign power?

Our objective is not to see how many souls we can save. We cannot save any. That is not our job. That is what God does when we are faithful to proclaim his message. We are not interested in coercion; we are interested in conversion; we are not interested in securing a commitment – we want to see a work of God happen in the heart of our hearers; the supernatural miracle of spiritual rebirth. So when we speak, we must simply depend on God the Holy Spirit to do his work.

Not About Us!

This is good news for us! This is so encouraging! This is very humbling but it is also freeing! Praise God that even when I have preached in ways that empty the cross of power, God can still use that to do his work. This means that there are no special skills or training required to do the work of an evangelist, to tell the good news to your friends, your co-workers, your neighbors, your family, your children. God is not looking for a polished rhetorician but a town crier. Any schoolboy, any idiot can be employed as a herald. The impact of the message does not hinge on my ability or my presentation at all. Paul says ‘I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth’ (1Cor.3:6). The gospel is power, God’s power to save sinners. Proclaim it! Proclaim it boldly. Proclaim it faithfully. Proclaim Jesus Christ crucified as the only remedy for our severed relationship with the God who loves us. Believe the gospel. Believe that the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. Believe that God can use you in simple obedience proclaiming his truth to bring supernatural transformation to sinners. Preach the cross!

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

February 17, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

1 Corinthians 1:13-17; The [Secondary] Importance of Baptism

02/10 1 Corinthians 1:13-17 The [Secondary] Importance of Baptism; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130210_1cor1_13-17.mp3

10 Παρακαλῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, διὰ τοῦ ὀνόματος τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἵνα τὸ αὐτὸ λέγητε πάντες, καὶ μὴ ᾖ ἐν ὑμῖν σχίσματα, ἦτε δὲ κατηρτισμένοι ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ νοῒ καὶ ἐν τῇ αὐτῇ γνώμῃ. 11 ἐδηλώθη γάρ μοι περὶ ὑμῶν, ἀδελφοί μου, ὑπὸ τῶν Χλόης ὅτι ἔριδες ἐν ὑμῖν εἰσιν. 12 λέγω δὲ τοῦτο ὅτι ἕκαστος ὑμῶν λέγει· Ἐγὼ μέν εἰμι Παύλου, Ἐγὼ δὲ Ἀπολλῶ, Ἐγὼ δὲ Κηφᾶ, Ἐγὼ δὲ Χριστοῦ. 13 μεμέρισται ὁ Χριστός; μὴ Παῦλος ἐσταυρώθη ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν, ἢ εἰς τὸ ὄνομα Παύλου ἐβαπτίσθητε; 14 εὐχαριστῶ ὅτι οὐδένα ὑμῶν ἐβάπτισα εἰ μὴ Κρίσπον καὶ Γάϊον, 15 ἵνα μή τις εἴπῃ ὅτι εἰς τὸ ἐμὸν ὄνομα ἐβαπτίσθητε· 16 ἐβάπτισα δὲ καὶ τὸν Στεφανᾶ οἶκον· λοιπὸν οὐκ οἶδα εἴ τινα ἄλλον ἐβάπτισα. 17 οὐ γὰρ ἀπέστειλέν με Χριστὸς βαπτίζειν ἀλλὰ εὐαγγελίζεσθαι, οὐκ ἐν σοφίᾳ λόγου, ἵνα μὴ κενωθῇ ὁ σταυρὸς τοῦ Χριστοῦ.

After giving thanks to God for the evidences of grace that he sees at work in the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul begins to address their problems. The first issue on his list is quarreling. It had been reported to him that the Corinthians were dividing over non-essentials, aligning themselves behind their favorite teacher, creating competing fan clubs. Paul would have none of this. He points them back to Jesus and the the centrality of the cross.

1 Corinthians 1:13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

Christ is not divided. When we divide up those who belong to Christ over trivial matters, we lie about Jesus and are not telling the truth. Jesus is one. His body is one. If you belong to Jesus, if you have been bought by his blood and transformed by trusting in him, then you are part of his one body, the church. If you belong to Christ, if you have been called by God into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, then you are a part of the larger body of Christ, in fellowship with his people, the church. We are one. Paul is not sacrificing truth on the altar of unity. Jesus prayed that his followers would be one, but he also taught that there would be some who claimed to follow him but in reality had no relationship with him. The people Paul is addressing knew and loved and believed the true gospel, or he would have attacked and dismantled their false teaching, as he does in other letters. But their conduct was not in line with the truth they believed. This is often our problem. We know the truth; we believe the truth, but so often our conduct, our daily life, our Christian walk is not in step with the truth of the gospel. We need daily to be reminded of the gospel, challenged by the gospel, transformed by the gospel. Moment by moment our conduct needs to be brought in step with what we believe. Paul takes their conduct and describes the belief that would go behind that conduct to help them see how incongruous their lives had become. You are acting like Jesus is chopped up into little pieces and each group clings to a piece over against the other group. Jesus is not divided! Don’t act like he is!

You are acting like your favorite teacher died on the cross for your sins. None of them believed this. But it was how they were acting. They were clinging so tenaciously to their preference, their favorite that you would think that Paul or Apollos or Cephas was their savior. The cross is central to all of the Christian life. Our life finds its source in Jesus Christ crucified for sinners. Jesus took our place, died in our place, bore our guilt and shame, so that we can now enjoy a healed relationship with the all-holy God. Focus on the one who was crucified in your place, not on your style or preference or favorite.

Baptism

His third question introduces the subject of our study today. Were you baptized into the name of Paul? Today we will look at verses 14 – 17, where Paul gives us some insight on the significance of baptism.

This question, like the others is intended to show the readers how out of step their conduct is with what they believe. It is ludicrous to think that we were baptized into the name of Paul, because that is not what baptism is about. What is baptism about? What does baptism mean? It might be helpful to start with a simple definition of the word itself. Our English word ‘baptize’ comes straight over from the Greek word [βαπτιζω] ‘baptizo’. It is a transliteration, where Greek letters are replaced by English letters. The word ‘baptizo’ means to submerge or immerse, to soak. Around 200 BC Nicander used this word and a related word in a recipe for making pickles. He said the vegetable should first be dipped [bapto] into boiling water, then baptized [baptizo] or soaked in the vinegar solution. Both words refer to dipping or immersing into liquid, but the first is temporary, where the second, baptizing, produces a permanent change [Bible Study Magazine, James Montgomery Boice, May 1989; cited in Online Bible note on Strongs #907] What kind of change is produced will depend on what you are immersed into. Paul is outraged that some are acting like they have been immersed into Paul. Christian baptism is being immersed into Jesus, being saturated with Jesus, being changed and transformed by Jesus. Paul is saying ‘I don’t have the power to transform anyone. Don’t get immersed into who I am; get immersed into who Jesus is!’

John’s Baptism

John the baptizer pointed to the essential difference between his baptism and Jesus. He said:

Matthew 3:11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

John’s baptism consisted in immersing people in water. John pointed to Jesus, who would immerse us in the Holy Spirit. John’s baptism was to prepare the way for Jesus, pointing people to Jesus. John’s baptism was for repentance; those who came to John to be baptized came confessing their sins, turning from their old way of living, from what they had been trusting in, from their dead works, and turning to the coming Messiah.

John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 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.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

John’s whole ministry was to prepare people for Jesus, to point people to Jesus. Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is the one who would take away sins. Jesus is the one who would baptize us with the Holy Spirit. Paul highlighted this when he came across some disciples of John in Ephesus.

Acts 19:2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Who Baptized Whom?

Notice in this text that it doesn’t say that Paul baptized them into the name of the Lord Jesus. It doesn’t say who baptized them at all. It simply says that they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. That may seem like I’m making a big deal out of nothing, but that is the very thing Paul highlights in the next verses in 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 1:13 … Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 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.

Reflecting on his experience in Corinth, Paul gives thanks that in the providence of God he only baptized a very few of the first converts, probably before his co-workers Silas and Timothy arrived (Acts 18:5). Paul was eager to clear himself from the potential allegation that he was making disciples of Paul, baptizing converts into his own distinct form of Christianity. The point is it doesn’t make a hill of beans of difference who did the baptizing. What matters is who your were baptized into. We can see how people could make a big deal out of this. ‘I was baptized by the hands of the Apostle Paul himself. Oh yeah, well I was baptized by Peter, the first Pope! I don’t feel very special; I was only baptized by deacon Dan’. From this passage we see that Paul intentionally avoided baptizing people himself and delegated this responsibility to others, in order to avoid this very thing. This seems to be the practice of the early church. When Peter went to the home of the Gentile Cornelius and preached the gospel, proclaiming that everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins, and while he was still speaking the Holy Spirit fell on them, he said

Acts 10:47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.

These Gentiles had believed in Jesus and had received the gift of the Holy Spirit. They had been baptized by Jesus with the Holy Spirit. Since they had already experienced the inward reality, they should also be allowed the outward sign. Baptism with water was the outward picture of what was an inward reality. And Peter commanded them to be baptized. He didn’t do the baptizing. Apparently, some of the brothers from Joppa who were with him did the baptizing. In John 4, we see that this was Jesus’ practice as well.

John 4:1 …Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples),

Believers are baptized into Jesus, immersed into a relationship with Jesus, saturated with, permeated by Jesus. Jesus makes all the difference. Who does the baptizing makes no difference. Paul is thankful to God that he didn’t baptize many in Corinth, so there would be no room for people running around with t-shirts that said ‘I was baptized by the Apostle Paul’.

Inspiration

From this passage, we can glean a beautiful insight into the process of the inspiration of scripture.

1 Corinthians 1:14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.)

Paul is dictating this letter, as is his usual practice, maybe to Sosthenes, the former synagogue ruler. Paul dictates that he baptized no one but Crispus and Gaius, and Stephanus, who we know is with Paul at the end of the letter (16:17), starts waving his hands and says ‘Hey Paul, what about me? Have you forgotten?’ Or maybe Sosthenes politely reminded him. The bible tells us that all scripture is breathed out by God and that means it is without error. We do not believe that the authors of scripture were granted infallibility or omniscience or even fully understood everything they were writing (1Pet.1:10-12). But we believe that God was sovereignly at work in the writing of scripture, so that what was written was protected from error. God may have very naturally used one of the guys in the room to remind Paul of something he had forgotten and so preserve the text from error.

The (secondary) importance of Baptism

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.

Paul goes back to his commission as an apostle, and claims that Jesus sent him to evangelize, not to baptize. Paul recounts this in Acts 26

Acts 26:15 … the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles–to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

Paul was appointed to be a witness, to open people’s eyes to the truth, so that they might believe, receive forgiveness of sins and enter the kingdom of God. There is no mention of baptism. In the commissioning of the twelve apostles at the end of Luke’s gospel, there is likewise no mention of baptism.

Luke 24:46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

The focus is on the message proclaimed; repentance and forgiveness of sins. The primary role of Apostle was that of eye-witness. That is why when they chose a replacement for Judas, the requirement was someone who had been an eye-witness with them from Jesus’ baptism by John up through his ascension (Acts 1:21-22).

Matthew’s account makes baptism an explicit part of their charge, but a secondary part.

Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The primary command in this text is ‘make disciples’. ‘Going, baptizing, and teaching’ are all things that go along with the primary call to make disciples.

Baptism is important, but it is of secondary importance. Baptism is not essential to salvation, but the New Testament does not imagine an unbaptized believer. Jesus taught that whoever believes has eternal life. He never said ‘whoever believes and is baptized’. But when someone believed in Jesus, they were baptized. That was their public pledge of allegiance to Jesus Christ, and their public reception into the family of believers. Believing and being baptized went together. Baptism was looked at as a privilege, even a right for those who believed in Jesus. When Philip explained the good news about Jesus from Isaiah to the Ethiopian eunuch,

Acts 8:36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”

When Peter visited a Gentile’s house and proclaimed forgiveness of sins to all who believe in Jesus, when these Gentiles believed, Peter responded:

Acts 10:47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ….

The physical sign should follow the spiritual reality. Paul taught in Romans:

Romans 6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Paul doesn’t undermine the importance of baptism; rather he brings our focus back to where it should be. The picture means nothing without the spiritual reality it is intended to represent.

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.

The proclamation of the gospel is primary. The cross is central. Forgiveness of sins comes through the sacrifice of Christ as my substitute on the cross. Eternal life is given to everyone who believes, everyone who repents, turning from what they were trusting in, and clinging to Christ as their only hope for rescue from hell. Everyone who comes to Jesus, Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit. We are saturated with Jesus, who he is, everything he is. We are immersed into his death, burial, and resurrection. Water baptism is a beautiful picture of being immersed into all that Jesus is, being connected with Jesus. But it is a symbol that means nothing and accomplishes nothing apart from this spiritual reality. Don’t come to the symbol hoping to gain any spiritual benefit. Use the symbol to point to Jesus. The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom.1:16). Come to Jesus, trust Jesus, be united to Jesus, immersed into Jesus, pledge your allegiance to Jesus, follow Jesus.

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

February 10, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 30:22-33; The Holy Anointing Oil

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120527_exodus30_22-33.mp3

05/27 Exodus 30:22-33 The Holy Anointing Oil (40:9-15)

We are coming to the end of the instructions for the elaborate tent in which God will symbolically dwell with his people. After all the things are made, they are to be made holy or set apart for God. The people also, who will serve him as priests, are to be set apart as holy to the LORD. This is what the anointing oil is for.

Exodus 30:22 The LORD said to Moses, 23 “Take the finest spices: of liquid myrrh 500 shekels, and of sweet-smelling cinnamon half as much, that is, 250, and 250 of aromatic cane, 24 and 500 of cassia, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and a hin of olive oil. 25 And you shall make of these a sacred anointing oil blended as by the perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil. 26 With it you shall anoint the tent of meeting and the ark of the testimony, 27 and the table and all its utensils, and the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense, 28 and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils and the basin and its stand. 29 You shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy. Whatever touches them will become holy. 30 You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests. 31 And you shall say to the people of Israel, ‘This shall be my holy anointing oil throughout your generations. 32 It shall not be poured on the body of an ordinary person, and you shall make no other like it in composition. It is holy, and it shall be holy to you. 33 Whoever compounds any like it or whoever puts any of it on an outsider shall be cut off from his people.’”

Then in chapter 40, we see God’s instructions for applying this oil.

Exodus 40:9 “Then you shall take the anointing oil and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it, and consecrate it and all its furniture, so that it may become holy. 10 You shall also anoint the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and consecrate the altar, so that the altar may become most holy. 11 You shall also anoint the basin and its stand, and consecrate it. 12 Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and shall wash them with water 13 and put on Aaron the holy garments. And you shall anoint him and consecrate him, that he may serve me as priest. 14 You shall bring his sons also and put coats on them, 15 and anoint them, as you anointed their father, that they may serve me as priests. And their anointing shall admit them to a perpetual priesthood throughout their generations.”

Everything in the tabernacle was to be anointed with this special oil.

Practical Uses of Oil

In our culture we don’t think of using olive oil for much outside of cooking. So it might be helpful to look first at some of the practical uses of oil in biblical times. Oil was considered a treasure (2Ki.20:13), highly valued for its many uses. Of course, oil was used for cooking (Lev.6:21), and was included with most of the sacrifices. We already saw that pure beaten olive oil served to fuel the lamps that illuminated the holy place (Ex.27:20). Oil was also applied to people and to things. Oil was applied to metal and leather objects to prevent them from rusting and keep them in good working condition (2Sam.1:21; Is.21:5). There were medicinal uses for oil. Oil was applied to people’s heads to kill lice. Oil was used to treat wounds and soften scabs (Is.6:1; Lk.10:34). Oil was applied to newborn babies (Eze.16:9). Oils were used to treat the sick (Mk.6:13; Jam.5:14). Oil was used to keep the skin soft and beautiful (Esther 2:12; Ps.104:15) Perfumed oil covered odors and made things smell good (Sol.1:3). Oil, wine and grain were evidence of God’s blessing.

Oil for Consecration

Oil was also used for consecrating, or setting something or someone apart for a specific use or duty. In this passage in Exodus, we see both the furniture and the people of the tabernacle set apart to God by the application of the sacred anointing oil. This particular formula of oil and fragrances was to be used exclusively for the tabernacle. It was not to be duplicated or used for any common thing. It was not to be put on anyone but the priests. We are told in verse 32 that it is holy, and it is to be treated as holy. This distinctive smell was to be associated exclusively with God’s presence.

Kings were also to be set apart for service by anointing with oil. We see David anointed to be king of Israel in 1 Samuel 16.

1 Samuel 16:13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward…

Jesus the Anointed One

The Hebrew word for anointing is where we get the word Messiah, which means ‘the anointed one’, or ‘the one set apart to God’; it is translated in the Greek as ‘Christ’.

We see Jesus, who fulfills the role of the promised Messiah, who holds the title of the Christ, speak of his anointing in his hometown synagogue in Nazareth.

Luke 4:17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus here claims to have been set apart or anointed by God for service. But we are not told anywhere that Jesus was ever anointed with oil. Jesus was anointed with the Spirit. One chapter earlier, in Luke 3, the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus at his baptism, and in chapter 4 verse 1, he is described as ‘full of the Holy Spirit’ and as ‘led by the Spirit’. In verse 14 he returns victorious from temptation ‘in the power of the Spirit’. And then he reads from Isaiah 61 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me.’ and he says ‘today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’. Jesus is the anointed one, the Christ, anointed with the Holy Spirit. When Peter preaches in Acts 10, he points out:

Acts 10:38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

God anointed Jesus, not with oil, but with the Holy Spirit. Notice that the triune God is at work here; the Father anoints the Son with the Holy Spirit. Jesus, the Christ, the Anointed One, perfectly fulfills the roles of anointed prophet, priest and king. As prophet, he speaks God’s words to his people. As priest, he brings God’s people into God’s presence through sacrifice. As king, he rules over God’s people with justice, righteousness and compassion. Jesus is the Anointed One, the anointed Prophet, Priest and King. He is anointed, not with fragrant oil, but anointed by his Father with the permeating presence of the Holy Spirit.

This anointing oil had several spices blended together to make a pleasing aroma. Listen to how Isaiah describes the various aspects of the Spirit’s role in the life of Jesus.

Isaiah 11:1 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. 2 And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

What a fragrant aroma is this! Wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, the fear of the LORD. Isaiah goes on to describe the outflow of the Spirit-empowered life of Jesus in righteousness, equity, justice, faithfulness. Jesus is our great example of what the Spirit-controlled life looks like.

Spirit Poured Out on Believers

God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit. But did you know that this anointing with the Spirit is the New Covenant blessing that comes to us who believe in Jesus? Jesus, our great High Priest, was anointed by his Father with the Holy Spirit, and we, chosen to be ‘a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession’ (1Pet.2:9), are also anointed as priests with the Holy Spirit.

Jesus told his disciples that his Father would send the Holy Spirit.

John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

John 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

John 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

John 16:7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

Imagine! ‘It is to your advantage that I go away’. Jesus is telling his disciples that he is leaving and where he is going they cannot yet come. They don’t fully understand what he is saying, but sorrow has filled their hearts. And then he says ‘it is to your advantage that I go away.’ What could be better than having Jesus, in person, physically here with us? Better than having Jesus physically here in our presence is having the blessing of the Spirit living inside of you. ‘It is to your advantage that I go.’ Do we, followers of Jesus, believe him?

In Acts 1, the resurrected Jesus is commanding his disciples to wait for the promised Holy Spirit.

Acts 1:4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” …8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Jesus says his followers will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Not merely anointed, poured on the head, flowing down on the beard and on the robes, but immersed in, totally submerged in, drenched with the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament prophesies we see promise of the New Covenant blessing of the Spirit poured out.

Isaiah 32:15 until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest.

Isaiah 44:3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.

Ezekiel 36:27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Ezekiel 39:29 And I will not hide my face anymore from them, when I pour out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, declares the Lord GOD.”

Joel 2:28 “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.29 Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.

Zechariah 12:10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.

These various Hebrew words for ‘pour out’ carry the idea of ‘pour out until nothing is left’ or ’empty out’; ‘pour out or flow like molten metal’; ‘pour or gush out’; the idea of abundance and generosity is captured well by the New Testament word ‘immersed’ or ‘baptized in’. God promised that he would pour out his Spirit on his people, that he would put his Spirit within them.

All Believers Have the Holy Spirit

The Father anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.

Jesus fulfilled his promise to his disciples at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on them. But who does this promise apply to? Is it for the original disciples only, or is it also for us? What are the requirements for receiving the blessings of the Holy Spirit? Peter extended the invitation to everyone.

Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

To repent is to have a change of mind and heart, to turn; to turn away from what you were hoping in and holding on to and placing your trust in something different. Turn away from your own good works and self-righteousness and turn to Jesus for forgiveness of sins, and Peter says ‘you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’. But what about water baptism? Does this verse say that water baptism is a prerequisite for receiving the Holy Spirit? No. Water baptism was the outward act that represented the inward change of heart. We see this later in Acts. Peter was called to bring the good news of forgiveness by trusting in the finished work of Jesus to the Gentiles.

Acts 10:44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God.

Peter proclaimed the good news, and the hearts of his hearers responded by turning to Jesus with faith. Immediately, the Holy Spirit was poured out on them. They had not been water baptized. They had not done anything.

Acts 10:46 …Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”

Remember, Jesus said that his followers would be baptized or immersed in the Holy Spirit. Water baptism is a physical picture of this spiritual reality. These Gentiles who believed in Jesus were evidently immersed in the Holy Spirit. Everyone there could see evidence of his presence in their lives. Peter is arguing that the symbol (water baptism) be allowed because the reality that it pictures (Spirit baptism) had already happened. This is the consistent teaching of the New Testament.

Titus 3:4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

It is not the washing with water that matters, but the washing of regeneration – the new life created by the Holy Spirit. And notice, this is not done sparingly or reluctantly. God pours out the Holy Spirit on us richly, lavishly.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 1 that God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing; and then he goes on to list: election, predestination, adoption, redemption, forgiveness, inheritance; and he goes on to say:

Ephesians 1:13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

When you heard and believed the good news of salvation in Jesus, you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. Every believer in Jesus has every spiritual blessing in Christ; every believer has been immersed in the Holy Spirit. No exceptions. Paul tells us in Romans 5:

Romans 5:5 …God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

And he tells us in Romans 8

Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him

If God’s Spirit does not dwell in you, that is evidence that you do not belong to Christ, because everyone who belongs to him has God’s Holy Spirit poured out on them. The anointing oil marked off and set apart things and people as God’s, and gave them a distinct fragrance. God sets us apart as his by pouring out his Holy Spirit on us.

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

The Spirit as a Guarantee

The Holy Spirit is never withdrawn from the believer. The verses in Ephesians tell us that when we heard and believed the gospel, we:

Ephesians 1:13 …were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

A seal and guarantee is of no value if it can be withdrawn. The Holy Spirit is God’s down-payment on our final salvation. As we saw last time, salvation is past, present, and future. We have been justified, we are being sanctified, and we will be glorified. God’s Holy Spirit is the guarantee that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil.1:6). We have, not a thing, but the person of God the Holy Spirit living in us as his own seal and guarantee.

We see this also in:

2 Corinthians 1:21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

2 Corinthians 5:5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

Ephesians 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

1 John 2:20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One… 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you…

The Spirit in us makes us part of Christ’s body, the church.

1 Corinthians 12:13 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.

The Spirit Transforms

If we have the great advantage of the Holy Spirit poured out on us, living in us, setting us apart for his service and sanctifying us, then as there was in the early Gentile believers, there should be observable evidence of God the Spirit living in us.

God promised:

Ezekiel 36:27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

The Spirit of the living God cannot fail to accomplish his purposes in us. He will produce.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. …25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

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

May 27, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment