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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

The Poverty and Grace of Christ; 2 Corinthians 8:9

12/04 The Poverty and Grace of Christ; 2 Cor.8:9 ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20161204_poverty-grace-christ.mp3

Last week we looked at a great Christmas/Thanksgiving verse at the end of 2 Corinthians 9.

2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

This week I want to turn back a chapter to 2 Corinthians 8, where we find another wonderful Christmas text.

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Remember, the context of 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 is Paul reminding and encouraging the Corinthians to give generously to the collection for the poor saints that he is taking to Jerusalem. He mentioned this in his first letter to this church (1 Cor.16:1-4) and he also mentions it in Romans 15:25-28, writing from Corinth in AD 57. Here in 2 Corinthians he takes two chapters to exhort the Corinthians toward generosity to their Jewish brothers and sisters who are in need. Paul begins this section in chapter 8 by encouraging them with the example of the churches in Macedonia.

God’s Grace Given

2 Corinthians 8:1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.

Paul uses the word ‘grace’ to describe this gift. He uses the word ‘grace’ 18 times in 2 Corinthians. 10 of those times are concentrated in these two chapters on giving. Paul sees generosity and giving as an act of grace, rooted in the grace of God toward us and blossoming into a full display of grace that extends out from us who have experienced God’s grace in acts of grace toward others. Grace, remember, by definition is an undeserved kindness, a gift, unmerited, unearned, freely given. He describes what happened in Macedonia as ‘the grace of God that has been given among the churches.’ The generosity of the believers in the region of Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea Paul recognizes as the grace of God. The fact that they gave, and the way that they gave, was evidence that demonstrated that they were recipients of God’s grace. Later in this chapter Paul refers to their giving to this special project as ‘this act of grace.’ But here, he is talking about God’s grace extended undeservedly to the Macedonian churches that resulted in their wealth of generosity. Remember, we love because he first loved us. We give because to us God has abundantly given. The Macedonians gave because they were first recipients of God’s abundant grace.

Grace Under Pressure

First Paul describes their circumstances. He says they were ‘in a severe test of affliction.’ They were undergoing persecution. They were in the middle of a trial. On Paul’s first visit to Macedonia (Acts 16-17), he and Silas were imprisoned in Philippi and then asked to leave. In Thessalonica, the jealous Jews incited a mob and set the city in an uproar. Not finding Paul, they dragged Jason and some other local believers before the city authorities, accusing them of treason against Caesar, and proclaiming another king, Jesus. Paul and Silas were sent off by night to Berea, but the Jews from Thessalonica followed them there and agitated and stirred up the crowds, so Paul was sent off to Athens in Achaia. Although what kind of persecution they were now suffering is not specified, it is described as ‘a severe test of affliction.’ Verse 2 goes on to describe their situation as ‘their extreme poverty.’ We are told in Acts that ‘when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go’ (Acts 17:9). Whatever their specific circumstances, they were ‘in a severe test of affliction’ and they were in the depths of poverty.

Unquenchable Joy

But their circumstances did not define their attitudes or their actions. Do you let your circumstances determine how you respond? How you act? Your attitude? Are your emotions controlled by how others treat you? The Macedonians, in the middle of severe affliction, had a superabundance of joy. This is not natural; this is supernatural joy, joy that is not dampened by any outside influence. This is the joy Jesus promised to bring to his followers.

John 16:22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

Begging for the Grace of Giving

The Macedonians had unquenchable joy in Jesus. And under severe pressure their joy combined with their extreme poverty like vinegar and baking soda to overflow in a wealth of generosity. Do you want that kind of joy? Would you like that kind of single purposed sincerity and bountiful liberality to come out when you are under pressure? When you are pressed and stretched? Verse 3 tells us that

2 Corinthians 8:3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—

They gave more than they could afford. They gave voluntarily. Willingly. Their abundance of joy had to find an outlet; it had to express itself. They begged for the privilege of giving. Literally, ‘after much urgent request they begged us the grace and the fellowship of the service to the saints’. They considered the privilege of giving beyond their means an undeserved favor from God. It was grace, and it was fellowship. Partnering with God in his care for his own, and partnering with the suffering saints in Jerusalem, sharing in their sorrows and spreading joy. Paul says:

2 Corinthians 8:5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.

This generosity from suffering saints was beyond what they had hoped. They didn’t only give of their finances. They gave of themselves. They didn’t just write a check. They were personally invested. Their gave themselves first to the Lord. They recognized that they had been bought with a price. They understood that they belonged to Jesus. And so they delightfully offfered their very selves to God and to the service of the saints. What an example from the Macedonian churches!

2 Corinthians 8:6 Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. 7 But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you— see that you excel in this act of grace also. 8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.

Paul now encourages the church in Corinth also to abound in this grace. He is careful to make it clear that this gift is voluntary. There is no obligation. This is not a command. It is an invitation; an opportunity. As the Macedonians begged to be involved, you also abound in this act of grace. And then he holds up Jesus as the reason.

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

You know. This is not something new. You already know about the grace of our Lord Jesus. Paul reminds us of the good news we already know. He turns our attention back once more to Jesus. He is encouraging an act of free grace toward those who desperately need the help but didn’t earn it or do anything to deserve it. He reminds us that we can only give like that because we have already been on the receiving end of that kind of gift. Jesus freely extended his favor to those who did nothing to earn it, but desperately need it. Before you can ever hope to extend grace to others, you must first experience the grace that comes from Jesus.

Riches to Poverty for You

This is what that grace looks like. ‘that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor.’ What does it mean that Jesus was rich? Jesus prayed to his Father in John 17

John 17:4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

Jesus had glory in the presence of his Father before the world existed. He was eager to return to that glory. Jesus said in John 6:

John 6:38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Jesus came down from heaven. He left his glory to come down and do the will of his Father. He goes on to say:

John 6:46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.

Jesus claims to be the only one who is from God, the only one who has seen the Father. In John 8 he sets himself apart as the only one who is from above, who is not from this world.

John 8:23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

This is Christmas. Jesus left his glory and came down to this earth. John began his gospel this way:

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

The Word was glorious in the presence of his Father. He is distinct from his Father, in relationship with his Father, and equal to his Father. He possesses all the characteristics of his Father. He is the Creator of all that is. He was rich.

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

He became poor. He became flesh. He became what he was not. He became one of us. As the only Son from the Father he pitched his tent among us. He became poor. This is grace!

Why? Although he was rich, yet he became poor. Why? It was for your sake. For your benefit. For you!

Philippians 2 spells this out.

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus, being rich, existing eternally in the form of God, equal with his Father, became poor. He emptied himself by taking the form of a servant. He was born in the likeness of men, in human form. Being rich, he became poor. He humbled himself even to death, even death on a cross. Because Christmas is really all about Good Friday. Jesus became poor for your sake. He became human for your sake, so as a human he could take your place on the cross.

Bringing You Riches by His Poverty

But it doesn’t stop there!

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

By his poverty you become rich. This is undeserved grace! How do we become rich by his poverty? The riches may not be what we would think. Jesus, addressing the church in Laodicea in Revelation 3 says:

Revelation 3:15 [to Laodicea] “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

Their opinion of themselves was that they were rich and in need of nothing, but God’s perspective says that they were wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. But to the church in Smyrna he says:

Revelation 2:9 [to Smyrna] “‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) …

Like the churches in Macedonia, you may be in desperate poverty and undergoing persecution, but you are abundantly rich in joy. True riches come from Jesus.

Ephesians 1 says:

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,

If we are in Christ, we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. Every spiritual blessing! Paul prays:

Ephesians 1:17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,

Our eyes must be opened to know the riches of his glorious inheritance! The benefits purchased for us by Christ are immeasurably great. Ephesians 2 says:

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 and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Grace immeasurable! Grace rich and free. Resurrecting life transforming grace! Peter says:

1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,

New birth. Born into an inheritance. All the riches of Christ belong to us.

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Christmas is about grace. The grace of the Lord Jesus. Christmas is about Jesus, who was rich in glory in the presence of his Father, who emptied himself by taking human form; who became poor, humbled even to the point of being executed as a criminal. He did this for me! Christmas is about the greatest gift. God the Son was born in Bethlehem so that he could be crucified outside Jerusalem so that I could experience unshakeable joy in the riches of his grace.

2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

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

December 5, 2016 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Indictment of Christmas

12/21 Indictment of Christmas; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20141221_indictment-of-christmas.mp3

This is the season of Advent, a Latin word that means ‘coming.’ This is the season we focus on the coming of Jesus into the world. We can take this opportunity to search our hearts and open our lives to Jesus. I was reading an advent devotional that caught my attention. It said “Christmas is an indictment before it becomes a delight”. An indictment!

Coming

How is Christmas an indictment? For that we need to look at the reason Jesus came. But before we look at the reason, it is important to note the bare fact that he came. Jesus came into the world. That implies that he came from somewhere. He did not have his beginning here. He came from outside our world. He existed before he was conceived. Especially in the gospel of John, Jesus makes it clear that he was uniquely sent by his Father. Not sired, but sent. He was born into this world at a specific point in time, he made his appearance, and that is what we celebrate at Christmastime, but that was not his beginning. In fact Jesus claims to have no beginning.

John’s gospel opens with:

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God.

In verse 14, we see

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

So Jesus, the Word, the only Son from the Father, was in the beginning. He didn’t begin, he simply was. He was with God, and he was God.

Jesus states in:

John 8:58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

Not ‘I was’ or ‘I existed’ before Abraham, but ‘I am’, I exist. He is identifying himself with the eternal God, who had no beginning and will have no end. Jesus ‘is’. He always was, he is, and he always will be, or as Hebrews tells us

Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Just before he is crucified, in John 17, Jesus prays to his Father:

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

So Jesus, who eternally existed as God together with his Father, at a point in time came. He was born into this world as a human baby. He became something he was not before, he became flesh. He came. This is what we celebrate at Christmastime. And his coming is an indictment.

Indictment

Indictment (noun)

-Law: A formal accusation initiating a criminal case, presented by a grand jury and usually required for felonies and other serious crimes.

-Any charge, accusation, serious criticism, or cause for blame.

Sinners

How is Christmas an accusation, a charge, blame for serious crimes? For that we must look at the reason stated for why Jesus was sent or came into the world. In Luke 5, Jesus tells us:

Luke 5:31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (cf. Mt.9:13; Mk.2:17)

Jesus did not come for the righteous. Some people who thought of themselves as righteous, religious leaders and such, were offended that he would associate with people they considered unworthy, dirtbags and scum. We know from verses like:

Romans 3:10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;

No one is righteous. Not even the self-righteous. No, not one is righteous. Jesus did not come for the righteous. He came for sinners. So if his coming is to have any significance in your life, if it is to mean anything at all to us, you and I must agree with his indictment of us that we are sinners. We are not righteous. As John tells us

1 John 1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

In Luke 5, Jesus also calls us sick.

Luke 5:31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.

Lost

We are sinners, and we are sick. That is why Jesus came. Luke 19 contains another indictment:

Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

We are lost. We can’t find our way. We don’t know which way to go. We might search and grope along and try to find our way in the dark, but we cannot. Once I was lost in a system of caves for several hours. I was trying to hurry and took a wrong turn and ended up in an unfamiliar part of the cave system. It took some time, and a process of elimination, but eventually we narrowed down which tunnels were not the way out and which one was, and we were on our way out when we met the rescue party that was coming in to find us. That is not the kind of lost Jesus is talking about – given enough time and a good head on your shoulders, and maybe a fresh set of batteries, you will figure it out. You have lost the way but you can find it again. No, we are lost. Hopelessly lost. Desperately lost. We have never been on the right path, we have a warped sense of direction, and we don’t even understand what the destination is. We cannot seek and find God. He must come to seek and find us. He came to seek us and to save us, because we need to be rescued. If we are not saved by Jesus coming to us, we will remain lost forever.

Condemned

John 3 tells us:

John 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

God sent his Son into the world to save us. The eternal Son, who was sent by his Father, is the means through whom we can be saved. What do we need to be saved from? What is the danger? This verse tells us that the danger is condemnation. As we have seen there is none righteous, no not one. All have sinned (Rom.3:23) and the wages of sin is death (Rom.6:23). 2 Thessalonians describes this condemnation:

2 Thessalonians 1:7 …when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven … 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

So we are sentenced to eternal punishment unless we are somehow rescued from God’s just condemnation. Romans 8 tells us how.

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

God sent his own Son to do what nothing else could do. The law can only condemn. That is the purpose of the law, to point out our faults, failures, and shortcomings. Jesus never sinned, but he was sent by God in the likeness of sinful flesh. He was sent by God for sin, to condemn sin in the flesh. Human sin demanded a human sacrifice. Jesus became flesh, became human, so that he could meet the righteous demands of the law. My sin was condemned in his flesh. 2 Corinthians tell us how.

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

Jesus became sin. My guilt was transferred to him. He who knew no sin became sin for my sake. This is why Jesus came. This is why he was born in Bethlehem.

Slaves

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (cf. Mt.20:28)

Jesus, eternal God come in the flesh, had every right to be served. He could have come demanding to be served. He could have arranged to be born in a palace and pampered. Instead he was born in a cave, a stable for animals, his parents laid him in a stone water trough. He was a manual laborer for most of his life, and during his three years of ministry, he was homeless and dependent on the generosity of others. He had nowhere to lay his head (Mt.8:20). But that was no accident. That was by divine design, for he came not to be served but to serve. The King of glory, who possesses everything and needs nothing, came to give us freely what we could never get for ourselves. He came to serve us. Not to be a genie in a bottle that answers our every whim, but he came to serve us in the way we most need to be served. He came to give his life as a ransom. That is yet another indictment. We were slaves. We were in bondage. We sold ourselves into the power of a cruel taskmaster who would not let us go. Jesus paid the price we could never pay to set us free to serve him. The price he paid was not monetary, it was not a trade for any goods or services. He gave his very life as a ransom.

Guilty

That means that our offense was so great that nothing but death would satisfy the demands. He gave his life as a ransom. His life in exchange for our life. Do you ever feel guilty? I mean really guilty? Guilty to the point that you feel you need to go turn yourself in, realizing that you fully deserve the death penalty? Not just guilty before the civil authorities, but before the God of all the earth?

To be honest, most of us probably don’t feel guilty before God. That thought may never have occurred to many of us. Think about it this way. Kings and governments require some kind of tax or service from their citizens in exchange for the protection and provision they offer. Citizens are expected to contribute to the good of the society. If a citizen expected to receive benefits from the blessings the king provides while at the same time refusing to honor or thank the king for those blessings, and instead working for and serving an enemy of the king, we would consider treacherous and treasonous. That is our condition. We breathe his air and eat his food and drink his water, we are warmed by his sun and enjoy his benefits, but we don’t honor him or give him thanks.

Jesus told a story about a landowner who…

Mark 12:1 And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. 2 When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard.

Is the demand of the landowner unreasonable? Who invested time and energy and resources into developing the piece of property so that it would be fruitful? What should the attitude of the tenants be toward the master?

Mark 12:2 When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. 6 He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 7 But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard.

God treats us with generosity, provision, patience, kindness, We respond with greed, presumption, selfishness, dishonor, disrespect. God so loved the world that he gave his only Son (Jn.3:16). He came to his own and his own did not receive him (Jn.1:11). Our ingratitude, dishonor, disregard for the Master is treasonous. We are guilty.

Good News

So Christmas is an indictment. It points out to us how bad we are, and how desperate our situation is. Paul says:

1 Timothy 1:15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. That is an indictment. If I will benefit in any way from the coming of Christ I must admit that I am sinner. But this is also good news. Yes I am guilty and lost and a slave and a sinner and condemned. But that is the point of Christmas. Jesus came to rescue sinners.

Under Law

Galatians tells us

Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

We were under the law. The law was meant to show us how far we fall short of the standard. To be under the law is to be under the crushing weight of condemnation because we fail to keep the law. Jesus came to buy us out from under the obligation of the law. He came not only to buy us out from under the condemnation of the law, but to bring us into a totally new relationship with God, a relationship not based on law. He came so that we could be adopted into his family as sons.

Take Away Sin

1 John tells us why Jesus came.

1 John 3:5 You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.

Jesus came to take away our sins. Not only to remove the guilt of sin, but to conquer sin in us.

1 John 3:8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. He appeared in order to take away sins. The devil is at work enticing us to sin and then accusing and condemning us when we sin. Jesus paid the price in full for every sin, taking the sting of guilt and condemnation out of our sins, stripping sin of its power over us, and weaning us from our desire to sin.

Love

This is an indictment of our true condition, but this is love.

1 John 4:9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

1 John 4:14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

God made his love known by sending his Son as an indictment against sinners. “Christmas is an indictment before it becomes a delight. It will not have its intended effect until we feel desperately the need for a Savior” [John Piper “Prepare the Way of the Lord!” – Solid Joys Devotional; from Taste & See article Nov.25, 1985]. God sent his Son to be the wrath-appeasing sacrifice for our sins. God sent his Son on a rescue mission to the lost, to the broken, to the guilty and condemned. God sent his Son to take away our desire to sin and transform our hearts so that we begin to enjoy God for who he is. God sent his Son so that the dead might have life.

What a wonder this is! The first link between my soul and Christ is, not my goodness, but my badness; not my merit, but my misery; not my standing, but my falling; not my riches, but my need. He comes to visit His people, yet not to admire their beauties, but to remove their deformities; not to reward their virtues, but to forgive their sins. O ye sinners, I mean you real sinners, not you who call yourselves by that name simply because you are told that is what you are, but you who really feel yourselves to be guilty before God, here is good news for you! O you self condemned sinners, who feel that, if you are ever to get salvation, Jesus must bring it to you, and be the beginning and the end of it, I pray you to rejoice in this dear, this precious, this blessed Name, for Jesus has come to save you, even you! Go to Him as sinners, call Him “Jesus,” and say to Him, “O Lord Jesus, be Jesus to me, save me, for I need Thy salvation!” Doubt not that He will fulfill His own Name, and exhibit His saving power in you. Only confess to Him your sin, and He will save you from it. Only believe in Him, and He will be your salvation.” [C.H.Spurgeon, Christ’s Incarnation, p.15-16]

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

December 21, 2014 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Theology of the Incarnation: Humanity

12/15/13 Theology of the Incarnation; Humanity; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131215_incarnation-humanity.mp3

We are taking a few weeks to stand in wonder at the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. We want to know him, to know who he is, to know all that we can about him, so that we can worship him rightly. We are looking at probably the greatest mystery the universe has ever known, the theology of the incarnation, that God became a man. Last time we looked at the full deity of Jesus, that he always existed as God, fully possessing all the characteristics of God, equal to the Father and in perfect fellowship with his Father for all eternity. We saw Jesus as Creator of all that is, the divine Word who spoke everything into existence. We saw Jesus the omnipotent one, to whom all of nature and even the demonic hordes must bow, the sovereign one. Jesus, immortal, who has the power of life in himself, Jesus, all-knowing and unlimited by space and time. Jesus, the Son, sharing all the characteristics and attributes of deity with his Father, equally worthy to be worshiped with his Father.

Outline

Today we are going to look at Jesus in his humanity, and next week at how these two natures, humanity and deity, are united in one person forever. I want to warn you that these three messages go together and each one is incomplete without the others. Focusing on the divine nature of Christ to the neglect or dismissal of his true humanity is one of the earliest heresies of the Christian church. The Apostle John wrote:

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

There were many in the early church who attempted to deny the full humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ. John calls them deceivers and against Christ. The early creeds put it this way: ‘Jesus …very God of very God, …who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, …and was made man’ (Nicea, 381). In order for Jesus sacrifice to be of infinite value to save us, he must be fully God. In order for Jesus to legitimately be our substitute he must be fully human. A savior not quite God is a bridge broken at the farther end; while a savior not quite man is a bridge broken at the nearer end (H.G.C.Moule, F.F.Bruce). The church fathers put it this way ‘remaining what he was, he became what he was not’. The Son of God, continuing in undiminished deity, became what he had never been before, a real human being. This is what the bible teaches.

The Supernatural Conception

John’s gospel tells us that the Word who was, who existed in the beginning with his Father, the Word who existed as God,

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

The Word, the eternal I AM who had always existed became something he had never been before. He became flesh [σάρξ]. The invisible God became carnal, God who is spirit became embodied.

John tells us that the Word who became flesh is the only Son from the Father. We know Jesus as the Son of God, but that title is open to misinterpretation. The Jews expected a merely human messiah, and Greek mythology told of occasions where one of their many gods would come down and have relations with a mortal and produce superhuman offspring. John is careful to make it clear that Jesus does not fit into either of these categories. Jesus is not merely human, he is the self-existent God who created everything who became man. Neither is he some hybrid half-god half-man produced by an illicit relationship. He had always existed as God and this one, the eternal Son, has now become also fully human. Jesus is one of a kind, the only one who pre-existed with the Father. This one, really truly became flesh. He didn’t just appear in the form of a human, as angels sometimes do, he really truly became genuinely irreversibly human.

The angel Gabriel said it this way to Mary:

Luke 1:31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.

You will conceive in your womb; that is how all babies are normally conceived. With a placenta and an umbilical cord, cells dividing, DNA replicating, organs and limbs developing. Morning sickness. Stretch marks. Movement. You will bear a son; not an alien, a baby boy. Birthed in the normal natural way. Labor pains, contractions, water breaking, umbilical cord cut, messy. The song is wrong; ‘no crying he makes’. With that first gulp of oxygen from this planet his lungs begin to function. He cried. He nursed. He burped. Spit up. Long sleepless nights. Messy diapers (or swaddling cloths).

Mary’s question was one of biology and morality.

Luke 1:34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy— the Son of God.

Mary’s question is ‘how will this be since I have not known a man? She understood what precedes conception, and for conception to take place, there has to be a father. This is the miracle. No human father would be involved. Her morality would remain intact. The Holy Spirit of God would supernaturally place the divine seed inside of her.

Matthew’s gospel records it this way:

Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

In Matthew’s gospel, it is Joseph that has the questions. Mary is pregnant. He naturally assumes the worst.

Matthew 1:20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

He is assured that her purity is intact. The origin of this child is supernatural. The Word became flesh. But everything else about this child is as normal and natural as any other child. The birth is inconvenient. The timing is inopportune. The circumstances are terrible. The visitors were probably an awkward intrusion.

Natural Development

They had him circumcised on the eighth day (Lk.2:21), which tells us that he came with all the standard equipment that every other baby boy is born with. And I’m sure he cried then.

Luke tells us that his growth and development was normal and natural human development.

Luke 2:40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.

He nursed. He had to be fed. He rolled over. He began to crawl. He stood up. He took his first step. He learned to eat. He learned to walk. He learned his aleph-bet. He was taught to be quiet in church. He was taught to read the Torah. He learned how to relate to other people. He learned how to relate to God. He had to grow up just like every other boy had to grow up. There was only one unique difference with Jesus. He never once sinned. In everything he pleased his heavenly Father. He got left behind in Jerusalem when he was 12. He was submissive to his parents.

Luke 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

Doctor Luke tells us that he developed intellectually, physically, spiritually and socially like every other human. The Quran and the non-biblical Infancy Gospel of Thomas have the boy Jesus doing mischievous miracles, cursing, healing, and breathing life into clay birds. But this clearly contradicts the historically reliable biblical accounts. When Jesus changed over 100 gallons of water into fine wine at the wedding in Cana, we are told this was the first of his signs (Jn.2:11). When he returned to his hometown of Nazareth claiming to be the fulfillment of Scripture, those who saw him grow up took offense at him.

Matthew 13:54 and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.”

Jesus was so normal, so ordinary, so familiar, so human, that his own townspeople refused to believe that he was anything more than a mere man.

Human Limitations

We see Jesus in the gospels as fully human. He thought, felt and acted in a fully human way. His human body was subject to the same limitations that we all have.

Jesus had an ordinary human mind. As we have seen, Jesus learned. He increased in wisdom. He asked questions in order to find out information he didn’t know. When a woman touched him in the crowd, he asked “who touched my garments?”. In conversation with a demon-possessed boy’s father, he asked “how long has this been happening to him?” In response to questions about the timing of the end of the age, Jesus said:

Mark 13:32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Jesus had ordinary human emotions. In John 11, we are told:

John 11:5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

At the death of his friend, not only did Jesus ask “where have you laid him?” but it says:

John 11:33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. … 35 Jesus wept.

When Jesus predicted that one of his own disciples would betray him, it says “Jesus was troubled in his spirit” (Jn.13:21). Looking toward the cross, he said “now is my soul very sorrowful, even to death” and he begged his Father to remove the cup from him (Mk.14:34-35). Luke tells us:

Luke 22:43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

From the cross, Jesus cried out:“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt.27:46).

Jesus had an ordinary human body. At the beginning of Matthew, we are told

Matthew 4:2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.

And after the temptation, Jesus was so physically weak we are told:

Matthew 4:11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well and asked her for a drink, it describes his physical condition this way:

John 4:6 Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

In Matthew 8, Jesus was so exhausted from a day of ministry that he was sleeping right through a great storm. After his scourging, Jesus was apparently so weak that the Roman soldiers compelled a man named Simon to carry his cross for him.

Jesus’ body was real. And he really died a violent human death of public execution. John tells us after his death,

John 19:34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.

Real physical human blood. Real physical human death. In a real physical human body. Mark tells us:

Mark 15:44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. 45 And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. 46 And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.

A Roman centurion verified the real physical death of Jesus. His dead physical human body was taken down from the cross, wrapped in linen and laid in a tomb. The women came Sunday morning with spices to anoint the dead body of Jesus (Mk.16:1), because they fully expected that his body like any other dead physical body would begin to decompose and stink.

When Jesus presented himself alive to his followers, he made a point to demonstrate that he was really bodily physically there.

Luke 24:36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.

Providentially, Thomas was absent from this first appearance of the risen Jesus to his disciples. Thomas refused to believe unless he could handle real evidence.

John 20:26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

Jesus ascended bodily, physically into heaven, where he is now bodily, physically seated at the right hand of the majesty on high. He promised that he would bodily, physically return to this earth.

The Importance of His True Humanity

Why is this so important? Why do the gospel writers give so much evidence to demonstrate that Jesus was really truly human? According to the Apostle John, the true humanity of Jesus is essential to Christianity.

Substitution

The author of Hebrews gives us several reasons.

Hebrews 2:9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

God the Son took on human flesh so that he could experience human death as a legitimate substitute for sinful humans. In order to die in the place of humans, he had to be himself human.

Hebrews 10:4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; 6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. 7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

Animal sacrifices could never take away sin, because animals are not human, created in the image of God. Jesus took on a human body so that he could substitute himself for us.

Hebrews 2:14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham.

Jesus partook of flesh and blood so that he could destroy the consequences of sin, death, by dying. He did not become an angel to rescue angels. He became human to rescue humans.

Hebrews 2:17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

He had to (notice the language of necessity); he had to be made like his brothers in every respect (being sort of human or partially human would not be adequate; he had to be fully human); he had to be made like his brothers in every respect in order to carry out his role as our great high Priest making propitiation for sin. To bear the wrath of God against the sins of mankind, he had to be a man.

Sympathy

The next verse gives another reason he became a man.

Hebrews 2:18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Jesus really truly experienced temptation, so we can go to him for help when we are tempted.

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Because Jesus in every respect has been tempted as we are, we can confidently come to him to receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Obedience

Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 calls Christ the last Adam or the second man. Where Adam was placed in paradise with all of his needs met and he disobeyed, Jesus, driven into the wilderness and literally starving to death, fully obeyed his Father. He lived his whole life in perfect obedience. He was even obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Paul says in Romans 5:

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

Because of Jesus’ perfect obedience as a man to his Father, his perfect righteousness as our substitute now makes us righteous.

Mediator

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

For Jesus to truly mediate and be the spokesman both for God and for men, he must be both fully God and fully man.

The old creed says it this way: (would you say it with me?)

[We believe] in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made;
Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried; and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

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

December 15, 2013 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment