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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

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

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

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

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

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

Background / Context

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

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

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

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

Boldness

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boasting

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

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

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

Comfort

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

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

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

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

Super-Abounding in Joy on All Our Affliction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Application

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

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

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

***

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

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June 3, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

Who are You Seeking to Please?

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

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

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

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

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

Recap/Outline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Persuading People

In light of this, he says in verse 11

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

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

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

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

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

And he understood that it is only

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

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

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

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

Manifest to God

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

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

Back in chapter 4, Paul said

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

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

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

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

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

Outward Appearances

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

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

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

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

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

Ecstatic or Maniac?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boasting Only in The Cross

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

2 Corinthians 1:12-14; Mutual Boasting in Transforming Grace

11/05 2 Corinthians 1:12-14; Mutual Boasting in Transforming Grace; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20171105_2cor1_12-14.mp3

2 Corinthians 1:12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. 13 For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and understand and I hope you will fully understand— 14 just as you did partially understand us—that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you.

Connections: Thanksgiving and Boasting

Paul has just finished saying that when the believers unite in working together with God by prayer on behalf of someone in need, thanksgiving is multiplied because many faces are turned toward God.

And now in verse 12 he brings up boasting. How do these things go together, thanksgiving and boasting? Thanksgiving is multiplied in response to God’s grace extended to the needy in answer to the prayers of many. Verses 12 – 14 is a section that is marked off by boasting; that begins and ends with boasting.

He moves from suffering in verses 3-10 to thanksgiving in 11 to boasting in 12-14. In verses 6-7, he invites them into (koinonia) fellowship in suffering,

2 Corinthians 1:6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

In verse 11 he invites them to labor together in prayer and thanksgiving for him.

2 Corinthians 1:11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

Here in verses 12-14 he is inviting them to join him in his boasting; our boast in you and you in us. The relationship between Paul and the Corinthians is strained and tense. All of this is designed to encourage and highlight the Corinthians connection with Paul. They are to fellowship with him in his sufferings, to be co-laborers in prayer, and to mutually boast together in one another.

Boasting; Good or Bad

Paul talks about boasting more in 2 Corinthians than any other book. He even indulges himself in a little foolish boasting in chapters 11-12. But in Galatians 6 he says

Galatians 6:14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

How do we put this together, that Paul refuses to boast in anything but the cross of Christ, and here in 2 Corinthians he seems to let loose and boast, even inviting the Corinthians to boast in him?

We see at the beginning of 1 Corinthians, Paul says:

1 Corinthians 1:27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

2:1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

God saved us in the way he did in order to exclude human boasting. (see Judges 7:2; Eph.2:9) The only appropriate boasting for the believer is boasting in God.

Paul is quoting Jeremiah 9

Jeremiah 9:23 Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

We are not to boast in self; we are to boast only in God. Later in 2 Corinthians, he records that:

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (cf. 2Cor.11:30; 12:5)

Paul’s boasting is not boasting in his own abilities but in his weaknesses and the demonstration of God’s power through his weaknesses. Paul glories in, exults in, boasts in God. So when Paul boasts, he is boasting not in himself, but in what Jesus has accomplished in him. We will see this clearly in this passage as we look more closely at it.

The Testimony of Conscience

2 Corinthians 1:12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.

Paul calls his conscience to testify to his conduct, his manner of life in the world and especially among the Corinthians.

What is the conscience? The conscience is the inner voice that bears witness, the inner awareness of the rightness or wrongness of actions, accusing or excusing (Rom.2:15). The conscience can be weak (1Cor.8:7-12), creating feelings of guilt where God’s objective standard has not been violated. The conscience can be defiled, wounded, or seared (1Tim.4:2; Titus 1:5) so that it no longer functions as the warning system it was intended to be. Although the conscience is not an infallible guide (1Cor.4:4), it is a very valuable guide. As Luther said “My conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.” [Diet of Worms, April 18, 1521].

Hebrews tells us that under the Old Testament “gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper” (Heb.9:9). Hebrews goes on to say:

Hebrews 9:14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

The conscience can be purified by the blood of Christ. Purified from dead works to serve the living God. Our hearts can be “sprinkled clean from an evil conscience” (Heb.10:22). We can “appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1Pet.3:21).

Conduct in the World; Simple and Transparent

What is the testimony of Paul’s conscience and that of his co-workers?

2 Corinthians 1:12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.

His conduct in the world was in simplicity and sincerity of God. Paul’s conduct was single, not duplicitous. He was not two-faced; no hidden agendas. With Paul, what you see is what you get. He was simple and he was sincere. This word literally means ‘judged by the sun’. Expose something to the light of the sun to examine its genuineness. Paul’s life was transparent, vulnerable, he lived out in the open; nothing hidden or secret. He demonstrated this in verses 8-10, where he informed them of his weakness and desperation in response to so great a trial.

Paul’s simplicity and transparency was not due to his own strength of character or natural constitution. His simplicity and sincerity were godly, literally ‘of God’. The source of his integrity was God. Paul was a messenger sent to communicate God’s simplicity, God’s transparency in the gospel. His clean conscience was a result of gospel cleansing that transformed a persecutor into a fellow-sufferer.

He makes this explicitly clear in the next phrase. He contrasts fleshly wisdom with the grace of God. His life operated not out of fleshly wisdom, the wisdom of this world. He didn’t make his decisions based on what would be best for him. He lived in God’s grace; everything he did was done in grace; he moved in the realm of God’s undeserved favor. He made decisions based on God’s grace. His filter was not ‘what makes most human sense?’ but rather ‘what is an expression of God’s grace? How has God treated me in Christ?’

His conscience bore him witness, that in the world, and superabundantly toward the Corinthian church, he conducted himself simply, transparently, graciously. All this was no credit to him, but all credit to the life transforming power of the gospel at work in him.

Writing and Understanding; Hermeneutics

Paul continues:

2 Corinthians 1:13 For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and understand and I hope you will fully understand— 14 just as you did partially understand us—

Paul here writes about his writing. This is an incredibly helpful little verse on the subject of hermeneutics, how to understand or interpret the Bible. Paul applies what he said regarding his conscience not only to how he lives, but to what he writes. He writes with simplicity, with transparency. He communicates God’s grace in Jesus, not fleshly wisdom. He does not hide his meaning, there is not some deeper truth encoded in his letters. He does not intend his readers to read between the lines and hear what he is not saying. His writing is simple, plain, straightforward. He is transparent. He means exactly what he says. We can take it at face value. We aren’t writing anything other than what you read. Paul uses the root word ‘to know or understand’ four times in this sentence. The word for ‘read’ is a compound word literally meaning ‘to know again’. The word for understand is ‘to know upon’ or ‘recognize’. We don’t write anything other that what you receive and perceive, and I hope you perceive completely just as you have even perceived us in part. Paul is partly understood. But he hopes they will completely understand him as they take what he says at face value and believe him.

Paul is not so concerned that they believe him as much as that they believe the gospel. But the gospel is the gospel he and the other apostles preached. To disbelieve or distrust him and his writing was to distrust the gospel.

Paul wants them to fully understand him, his heart, his motives, his simplicity and transparency, his integrity. He wants them to understand the simplicity of the gospel, the beauty of Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Eschatological Perspective

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

Paul returns to the topic of boasting. His boast is the testimony of his conscience as to how he lived and what he wrote. Here he looks forward to the final outcome of their knowledge of him (and really their understanding of the gospel). Paul looks forward to the day of our Lord Jesus, the day when Jesus comes again to rule and reign. On that day there will be mutual boasting; not in the sense of ‘wow, look at how great I am and all the great thing I did,’ but rather ‘look at God’s grace on display in the life of our faithful Apostle!’ Look at the magnificent grace of God who transformed the sinners in Corinth into saints through the foolishness of my preaching!’

Paul puts an eschatalogical (or end times) perspective on the tension in their relationship. They were questioning the integrity of their apostle. They were doubting the straightforwardness of his communication. Paul’s soul was in turmoil over this wayward church. Harsh words had likely flown in both directions. Reconciliation needed to happen. Fellowship needed to be restored. Healing of a strained relationship. Paul asks ‘what will our relationship look like for eternity?’

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

We are going to be mutually boasting in one another for eternity. There will be mutual exultation in God’s grace evidenced in them and in their relationship with one another. I will be proud of you and you will be proud of me; what God has accomplished in me and through me for his glory. If that is what our relationship will be in glory, why not pursue that kind of relationship now? Why not enter in to the fellowship of suffering now, labor together now in prayer and rejoice together now in thanksgiving for God’s gracious answer, why not overlook the faults and offenses and boast in one another now?

Just think, God used the weaknesses of the Apostle and the weakness and wandering of the Corinthian church to occasion the writing of a letter that has served to equip and encourage the saints through the centuries and even down to our church here in Ephraim Utah! What amazing riches of God’s boundless grace in using our weakness, our brokenness, even our damaged relationships for his glory and our eternal good.

***

-What is the state of your conscience? Weak? Seared? Blood washed and gospel transformed?

-How do you make decisions? Fleshly wisdom or gospel informed grace?

-How do you respond to criticism? When your character is undermined?

-Could you allow an eschatological perspective on your differences and conflicts to move you toward reconciliation and deeper fellowship? Can you boast in the evidence of God’s grace in the life of someone who has hurt you?

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

November 7, 2017 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 9:15-18; Freedom and Compulsion

03/16 1 Corinthians 9:15-18 Freedom and Compulsion; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140316_1cor9_15-18.mp3

1 Corinthians 9 [SBLGNT]

15 Ἐγὼ δὲ οὐ κέχρημαι οὐδενὶ τούτων. οὐκ ἔγραψα δὲ ταῦτα ἵνα οὕτως γένηται ἐν ἐμοί, καλὸν γάρ μοι μᾶλλον ἀποθανεῖν ἤ — τὸ καύχημά μου οὐδεὶς κενώσει. 16 ἐὰν γὰρ εὐαγγελίζωμαι, οὐκ ἔστιν μοι καύχημα, ἀνάγκη γάρ μοι ἐπίκειται· οὐαὶ γάρ μοί ἐστιν ἐὰν μὴ εὐαγγελίσωμαι. 17 εἰ γὰρ ἑκὼν τοῦτο πράσσω, μισθὸν ἔχω· εἰ δὲ ἄκων, οἰκονομίαν πεπίστευμαι. 18 τίς οὖν μού ἐστιν ὁ μισθός; ἵνα εὐαγγελιζόμενος ἀδάπανον θήσω τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, εἰς τὸ μὴ καταχρήσασθαι τῇ ἐξουσίᾳ μου ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ.

1 Corinthians 9 [ESV2011]

1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? 2 If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. 3 This is my defense to those who would examine me. 4 Do we not have the right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? 7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? 8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. 11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

15 But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting. 16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. 18 What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.

Paul is tackling the difficult issue of how to interact with the culture in which you live. The Corinthians lived in a culture characterized by idolatry. They had their line of biblical reasoning for why they had the right to eat meat sacrificed to idols in pagan temples. Paul gently leads them to think more carefully through the issues. In chapter 8 he warns that if, by this right of yours, you destroy a brother for whom Christ died, you sin against Christ. In chapter 9:1-14, he makes the case for his own legitimate rights as an illustration for them. He has the right to eat and drink, to have his needs met by those whom he serves. This right of support extends beyond himself to also pay the expenses of a believing wife. He has the right to refrain from working a second job to support himself and his family. A common-sense look at other occupations legitimizes the right to expect to be fairly compensated. The Old Testament affirms this right by precept and precedent. The inequality of being paid for services of eternal worth with perishable things demonstrates that this is a very conservative, very reasonable expectation. Jesus himself commanded ‘that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

Not To Secure Provision

But Paul is not talking about his right to be supported so that he can demand proper payment or lobby for a raise. He brings up his own legitimate rights as an example of what it might look like to have a higher purpose in mind than one’s own rights. He is very clear in verse 15:

15 But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision.

The purpose of defending his rights is not so that he can lay claim to his rights. His purpose is to demonstrate that sometimes it is right to forfeit your rights for a higher purpose. He is not now writing so that these things would be done for him. He is passionate about this.

15 …For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting.

We lose some of his passion in most of our English translations. This is a broken sentence, where he begins one thought, interrupts himself and moves in a different direction. We could translate ‘it is better for me to die than… my boast no one will make empty!’ He begins the though ‘I would rather die than…’ but he doesn’t complete it. Was he going to say something like ‘I would rather die than accept money from the likes of you’? That would be offensive, so he changes mid-sentence and exclaims that no one will make his boasting void.

Patronage in Corinth

It may be helpful to understand something of the culture of Corinth here. Corinth was a highly stratified culture with wealthy patrons and many in lower classes. Patrons could sponsor a slave, provide for his needs, give him an education, train him to serve in some function, and after some years of service grant him freedom. But this freedom was not without strings attached. The freedman was now obligated to his patron, to show respect and honor, to give gifts, and to continue to work for him on occasion. Status was all-important in Corinth, and some people would seek to become a slave of a wealthy patron in order to improve their social standing.

The scholar business was also big in Corinth. If you were wealthy, you could hire an instructor to teach you in philosophy. The more you paid, the better education you would get. The more you paid, the more bragging rights you would have with others about how much you were paying for the very best.

Into this social context, Paul comes to town doing manual labor and proclaiming the gospel free of charge to anyone who would listen, regardless of social standing. He refused to accept payment from anyone. This was downright offensive to those in the upper classes who assumed that nothing worth anything comes for free. For Paul to accept support from a wealthy patron would mean that he was also obligating himself to that patron.

Removing Obstacles

Back in verse 12 of this chapter, Paul said that he would endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel. This word ‘obstacle’ was what a city would do if an enemy was advancing to attack. Go out and tear up the roads to your city so that the troops would have no easy access to attack. Paul felt that receiving support from the strangers he was proclaiming the gospel to could be a hindrance to that gospel, and so he chose to forgo his rights and endure anything. This did not mean that Paul never accepted support from anyone. He wrote to the church in Philippi thanking them for their generous gift. But he didn’t take money from the strangers he was seeking to win. He felt that would be an obstacle to the gospel. Paul has already described in chapter 4 what this meant for him.

1 Corinthians 4:11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

Paul was willing to endure anything in order to advance the gospel. The message of the good news of a crucified Messiah was offensive enough. That I am so bad that I deserved death but someone died in my place, and that I am so infinitely bad that someone who is infinitely worthy had to pay my price as my substitute – that is offensive to my pride, because I want to be able to say that I’m not really that bad, and that I don’t really need outside help. Paul said in 1:23 ‘we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.’ The gospel that Jesus died for sinners is a scandalous message. So Paul endeavored to remove every other potential obstacle that might hinder the uncompromisable message of that gospel.

Paul’s Boast

Paul said that he would allow no one to deprive him of his boast. What is his boast, and how does this fit with the rest of what Paul teaches about boasting? In chapter 1, Paul pointed to how God chose foolish, weak, low, despised nothings in order to exclude any boasting from his presence (1:27-29), and he concluded with the Scripture “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1:31). In chapter 3, he points out that all Christian leaders are merely servants obeying the command of their Lord Jesus, and he concludes ‘so let no one boast in men’ (3:21). In chapter 4 he says

1 Corinthians 4:7 …What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

In Galatians 6, Paul makes this unequivocal statement:

Galatians 6:14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

We have nothing to boast in that we did not receive as a gift, and the only thing worthy of boasting in is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, where we receive the ultimate gift.

So what is Paul’s boast here in 1 Corinthians 9, and how does this fit with what he says about boasting?

Paul’s Necessity

In verses 16 and 17 he clarifies:

16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship.

Paul literally gave his life to the preaching of the gospel. And yet he says that this gives him no ground for boasting because he is required to preach. And he exclaims ‘woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!’ Paul resonates here with the prophet Jeremiah. Paul, like Jeremiah, was set apart by God from before birth. Paul said:

Galatians 1:15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to [in] me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles…

Jeremiah said:

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Jeremiah was sent to proclaim the Lord’s judgment on his people for forsaking him and worshiping false gods. Jeremiah was told:

Jeremiah 1:17 But you, dress yourself for work; arise, and say to them everything that I command you. Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them.

And he was told that ‘they will fight against you’ (1:19). God told Jeremiah

Jeremiah 7:27 “So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you.

Jeremiah (understandably) became frustrated with his task. After Jeremiah was beaten and put in stocks by the priest in the house of the Lord, he complains to the Lord:

Jeremiah 20:7 O LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me. 8 For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, “Violence and destruction!” For the word of the LORD has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. 9 If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.

Jeremiah was tired of being mocked and was ready to quit speaking for the Lord. But when he tried to quit, ‘there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot’. As much as Jeremiah wanted to quit, he was compelled to speak. He says ‘you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed’.

Paul was in a similar situation. Paul, on his way to Damascus to persecute the followers of Jesus, was confronted by the risen Lord Jesus, knocked to the ground, blinded, and told what to do.

Acts 26:14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And 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 had no choice in this. He was confronted, commanded, and commissioned. Like Jeremiah, he was given a task.

Romans 1:14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

Paul was under obligation. He says here, ‘

16 … necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship.

Paul was under necessity. There was no reward for him in preaching the gospel, because it was not of his own will. He didn’t choose to preach the gospel; far from it. He was actively persecuting and seeking to destroy followers of Jesus. He was interrupted. He was involuntarily pressed into service. It was a stewardship, a responsibility entrusted to him. We might be able to say that some of the other apostles willingly left following John, left their nets and their father, left the tax booth and chose to follow Jesus. But not so Paul. He was under compulsion. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! There is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.

Jesus asked:

Luke 17:7 “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? 8 Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”

Jesus conquered his unwilling heart and gave Paul a new willing heart that was eager to serve him. But how could Paul demonstrate that he was now eagerly, passionately, voluntarily, willingly preaching the good news and not merely preaching under compulsion? How could he show that he was not merely doing what was his duty?

18 What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.

What is my reward? What is my grounds for boasting? Paul did not make full use of his rights. Is Paul saying he is better than the other apostles and earning a greater reward? No! Later in this letter he will call himself the last and least of all the apostles, not worthy to be called an apostle except for the grace of God extended to him (15:8-10). Is Paul contradicting his statement in Galatians that he will not boast in anything but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ? No! Paul’s reward, literally his wage, was to forfeit his wages and relinquish his rights by proclaiming the gospel freely. Paul considered it his payment to not receive pay for preaching. What he got out of it was the privilege of going beyond what was required. Paul had become a genuine Jesus-follower. Jesus said:

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.”

Jesus

Philippians 2:7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

Paul’s boast, Paul’s glory, Paul’s rejoicing was in the cross. Because God’s grace had so transformed his heart, Paul was eager, like his Master, to surrender his rights for the sake of others. Paul considered it a privilege to live a cross-centered life, he considered it a reward to share in the sufferings of Christ.

Philippians 3:10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

To share in his sufferings and to become like Jesus in his death is to gladly relinquish my rights for the eternal good of others. If by surrendering my rights, I can remove an obstacle that may hinder someone from believing in Jesus, then I have become a little bit like Jesus. This is no sacrifice. This is privilege. This is something to glory in, something to boast in, something to rejoice in, that Jesus has so changed my heart and my desires that I now love my enemies and will gladly give up my rights to remove obstacles so that they can know Jesus.

I am no longer my own. I have been bought with a price. I am under obligation to proclaim the good news. Good news that Jesus died for sinners so that we can be welcomed into the presence of an all-holy God. I cannot be silent about that good news. If I have the opportunity to surrender a God-given right in order to secure the eternal salvation of one for whom Christ died, I should exult in the high honor of following my Lord.

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

March 16, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 4:6-7; Not Beyond What is Written and No Boasting in Grace!

08/11 1 Corinthians 4:6-7 Not Beyond What is Written and No Boasting in Grace! Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130811_1cor4_6-7.mp3

1Cor 4 [SBLGNT]

6 Ταῦτα δέ, ἀδελφοί, μετεσχημάτισα εἰς ἐμαυτὸν καὶ Ἀπολλῶν δι’ ὑμᾶς, ἵνα ἐν ἡμῖν μάθητε τό· Μὴ ὑπὲρ ἃ γέγραπται, ἵνα μὴ εἷς ὑπὲρ τοῦ ἑνὸς φυσιοῦσθε κατὰ τοῦ ἑτέρου. 7 τίς γάρ σε διακρίνει; τί δὲ ἔχεις ὃ οὐκ ἔλαβες; εἰ δὲ καὶ ἔλαβες, τί καυχᾶσαι ὡς μὴ λαβών;

1Cor 4 [ESV2011]

1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. 6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

Today we look at a passage where Paul deals head on with the sin of pride, and gives us some helpful teaching about the proper use of the Scriptures.

1 Corinthians 4:6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

That You May Learn By Us

Paul is re-framing the concept of Christian leadership in the Corinthian church. They had a rock star celebrity mentality, finding their identity in their favorite leader or teacher, boasting in who they belonged to, causing quarreling, division, jealousy and strife within the church, critiquing and criticizing other leaders, boasting that they were wise to follow the superior leader. They felt they had become true connoisseurs of Christian teaching. Paul reshapes their thinking around several illustrations of what true leadership should look like, and he uses himself and Apollos as examples. He says we are servants, field-hands in God’s garden, one planting and another watering, with all the growth coming from God. He says that he acted as a skilled master architect, having laid the only possible foundation for the church, which is Jesus Christ. Others are continuing to build upon it, and each will be held accountable for his workmanship. He says that leaders are servants, under-rowers, bottom deckers, laboring in unison with others under the direction of the Captain, propelling the ship forward. Teachers are stewards, estate managers, custodians entrusted with the preservation and propagation of the gospel message. They are ultimately accountable to the one and only Master, our Lord Jesus Christ, and each will be examined by him on that day. Paul now says that he transferred these things to himself and Apollos for your benefit. He held himself up as an example so they could look in the mirror and see where they stood. Paul addresses them again as brothers, a term of affection. He truly wants the best for them. He approaches the issues carefully, applying the lessons first to himself, so they will more readily receive his correction. All this is ultimately for your benefit.

Not Beyond What is Written

In verse 6, Paul lays out a principle that is familiar to the Corinthians. The grammar here is awkward, it could literally read ‘the not above what is written’. Apparently, this was a catch phrase that was common currency with them. He is modeling this maxim ‘not above what is written’. This verb ‘γέγραπται‘, it is written, is used by Paul 30 other times in the New Testament, every one of them introducing a citation from the Old Testament. In the first three chapters of this letter, Paul has already quoted six biblical passages, five of those being introduced by ‘it is written’. Paul is continually punctuating his teaching with Scripture. He is careful to demonstrate that what he teaches is not new and different, but in perfect harmony with the Scriptures already received. He is modeling for us the absolute authority and sufficiency of the Scriptures. We are never to go beyond what is written.

He said in:

Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

1 Corinthians 10:11 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.

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

The second question in the historic Westminster Shorter Catechism reads like this:

Q. 2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
A. The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.

Article 6 of the Westminster Confession (1646) says:

VI. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.

One of the five ‘Solas’ of the reformation was ‘sola scriptura’; the authority of scripture alone.

Deuteronomy 4:2 says:

Deuteronomy 4:2You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.

Paul is teaching this principle ‘not beyond what is written’ to the church, to guard them from danger, to keep them within the bounds of God’s revealed truth, to prevent them from wandering into the error of speculation. It is a great danger to move beyond what the Bible clearly teaches.

That None of You May Be Puffed Up

Specifically, in this passage, Paul is warning them not to go beyond what is written by being puffed up in favor of one against another. Here he gets at the root of the problem in the church in Corinth. Pride, being puffed up or inflated, haughty, arrogant. Six out of seven times this word puffed up is used in the New Testament are right here in 1 Corinthians. They were going beyond what is written by thinking more highly of themselves than they ought to think. All the problems he mentions, quarreling, division, jealousy and strife are rooted in pride. Self-focus, self-centeredness, a preoccupation with my own reputation and identity leads to all kinds of problems in the church. And Paul is saying that being puffed up one against another is a violation of the teaching of Scripture.

It Is Written

Let’s look back over the six quotations from Scripture that Paul has made so far in 1 Corinthians to see how this addresses the issue of pride.

In 1:19, he quotes Isaiah 29:14 to support his statement that the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.

1 Corinthians 1:19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” (Isaiah 29:14)

God sets himself against the proud who think themselves wise. After declaring that God is the one who calls and chooses and gives life in order to eliminate all human boasting, he quotes Jeremiah 9:24.

1 Corinthians 1:31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:24)

There is no legitimate grounds for boasting outside the Lord. To defend his point that the gospel message, that God would become man and die on a cross in our place, was totally unexpected by the wise and powerful of this world, he quotes Isaiah 64:4.

1 Corinthians 2:9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— (Isaiah 64:4)

Then in 2:16 he quotes Isaiah 40:13 to show that no one understands the gospel unless God reveals it to him.

1 Corinthians 2:16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (Isaiah 40:13)

In 3:19 and 20 he returns to the issue of the futility and utter worthlessness of so-called human wisdom. He quotes Job 5:13

1 Corinthians 3:19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” (Job 5:13)

And then Psalm 94:11

1 Corinthians 3:20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” (Psalm 94:11)

And then he concludes:

1 Corinthians 3:21 So let no one boast in men…

Boasting in men, whether ourselves or someone else, is contrary to the consistent teaching of Scripture. Man’s wisdom is folly. God’s grace is so far beyond our wisdom that we could never figure it out unless he revealed it to us. The only appropriate boasting is boasting in the Lord, the source and giver of every good thing. Quarreling, division, jealousy, strife, being puffed up one against another has no place among those who claim to be people of the Book. The Scripture leaves no place for human pride. Not unless we stray beyond what is written.

Who? What? Why?

Paul now asks three rhetorical questions of his readers to bring this point home to them. Who, what, and why?

1 Corinthians 4:6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

Who sees anything different in you? Who makes a distinction between you and others? Who puts you on a different plane than anyone else? The answer is that you are puffing yourself up, so it is only so much hot air. There is no substance to your over-inflated ego. The apostles are servants, farm-hands, custodians, under-rowers. Just who do you think you are?

What do you have that you did not receive? This is the second rhetorical question. We could look many places for the answer.

Job 2:10 …Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Ecclesiastes 5:19 Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God.

Matthew 5:45 …your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

John 3:27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.

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

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

What do you have that you did not receive? Can you think of anything? Anything at all? The only thing I can take credit for is my sin.

So if everything that you have is a gift, then why are you boasting in grace? How can you take credit for any good that has come to you? How can you possibly act as if you have earned anything? If you can get a hold of this truth, it will be a powerful pride leveling force in your life. You have nothing, nothing, nothing good that you can take credit for. Everything good that you receive you don’t deserve. Any bad you will ever experience is infinitely less than you deserve. Every breath you breathe is a free and undeserved gift. Every drop of rain, every ray of sun is a lavish gift that you have no right to enjoy. The fact that you exist is not your own doing. And if you have experienced the abundant grace of God expressed in the gospel, if you have experienced the forgiveness of sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, if you have experienced sweet fellowship with a holy God, you have experienced grace upon grace. Every bit is all grace.

If we get this, and I pray that we can receive it, it will produce in us a radically humble gratitude. This truth tears pride out by its roots and leaves us wrecked in humble worshipful adoration of an awesomely gracious God who is extravagantly over the top in the riches of his grace which he lavishes on us in Christ Jesus. 

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

August 11, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 3:21-23; Stop Short-Changing Yourself!

07/21 1 Corinthians 3:21-23 Stop Short-changing Yourself! Boast Only in God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130721_1cor3_21-23.mp3

1Cor 3 [SBLGNT]

18 Μηδεὶς ἑαυτὸν ἐξαπατάτω· εἴ τις δοκεῖ σοφὸς εἶναι ἐν ὑμῖν ἐν τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ, μωρὸς γενέσθω, ἵνα γένηται σοφός, 19 ἡ γὰρ σοφία τοῦ κόσμου τούτου μωρία παρὰ τῷ θεῷ ἐστιν· γέγραπται γάρ· Ὁ δρασσόμενος τοὺς σοφοὺς ἐν τῇ πανουργίᾳ αὐτῶν· 20 καὶ πάλιν· Κύριος γινώσκει τοὺς διαλογισμοὺς τῶν σοφῶν ὅτι εἰσὶν μάταιοι. 21 ὥστε μηδεὶς καυχάσθω ἐν ἀνθρώποις· πάντα γὰρ ὑμῶν ἐστιν, 22 εἴτε Παῦλος εἴτε Ἀπολλῶς εἴτε Κηφᾶς εἴτε κόσμος εἴτε ζωὴ εἴτε θάνατος εἴτε ἐνεστῶτα εἴτε μέλλοντα, πάντα ὑμῶν, 23 ὑμεῖς δὲ Χριστοῦ, Χριστὸς δὲ θεοῦ.

1Cor 3 [ESV2011]

18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 21 So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

There is a problem in the church in Corinth. There are divisions. There is disunity. There is quarreling. There is a party spirit. Each one has their own favorite leader. Some follow Paul. Some follow Apollos. Some Cephas. Some, who think themselves above all the rest and beyond the need for any human teacher, claim to follow only Christ. The believers in Corinth are enamored with wisdom. They want to be thought wise, to be admired by the world. They want to be following the right leader. Paul has pointed out that the wisdom of the world is worthless with God, and God uses that which the world considers foolishness to shame the wise. He warns of the danger of being self-deceived, and he comes back around to this issue of true wisdom at the end of chapter 3 and applies it to the foolishness of pitting one godly gifted leader over against another.

Boast Only in the Lord

This is a clear statement. No more boasting in men. In verse 18 he says ‘stop deceiving yourself’; here he says ‘stop boasting in men’. This picks up a theme from the end of chapter 1 (v.26-31). God chose in a specific way and for a specific purpose. Not many wise, noble or powerful were chosen; instead, God chose the foolish, weak, low and despised, the nothings, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. No one can say ‘God chose me because I am wise, I am powerful, I am something’ No, I have nothing to boast in. All boasting must always only be boasting in the Lord. We have no legitimate grounds for boasting in ourselves. Here Paul applies this to prominent leadership in the church. If no believer can boast in himself, then no Christian leader has legitimate grounds to boast in himself, and so we should not boast in them either. Paul proudly wears his title of first place in 1 Timothy 1:15; first or foremost, or chief of sinners. Paul reveled in the fact that he had been shown mercy, that God’s unmerited grace had overflowed toward him. In Philippians 3 Paul lists his natural reasons for boasting, and concludes that it was all worthless and less than nothing. In chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians, Paul claims to be last and least of all the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle because he persecuted the church of God. But God’s grace is not related to what we deserve. None of us, not even the most gifted and prominent leader in the church, has any valid ground for boasting in self. The only boasting that is legitimate is boasting in the sheer undeserved unearned overwhelming grace of God.

Do Not Short-Change Yourself

The reason Paul gives here for not boasting in men is stunning. He doesn’t again highlight the negative, that there is nothing in any leader worthy of boasting in. Rather, he points us to the positive with this staggering statement: ‘all things are yours’. That is hugely comprehensive. ‘All things are yours’. Why would anyone ever limit themselves to one thing when everything belongs to you? If all the trees in the garden are yours, why would you limit yourself to eating from just one tree? Boasting in one gifted teacher over against all others cuts you off from the blessings intended by God to be yours from all of them. To limit oneself to only follow Paul or Apollos or Cephas would be to miss out on much of the benefit God meant to be yours. But this statement goes far beyond teachers. All things means all things, as the apostle will elaborate in three sets of opposing pairs to specify that he really does mean all things. He starts by pointing to these three gifted teachers over against the world; then life and death; then the present and the future; both sides of each equation belong to the believer.

Christian Teachers and the World

We can understand that all Christian teachers belong to the church. They have been given by God to the church. In Ephesians 4, Paul says

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, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,

All the differing roles in ministry are gifts from God to his body the church. All the apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers belong to the church. They have been given to the church for her good. Jesus invited his followers to pray:

Luke 10:2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

It is the Lord who sends laborers. It is his harvest. It is his field. As Paul has said earlier in this chapter:

1 Corinthians 3:5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.

It is the Lord who assigns the different laborers to carry out different roles in his field. God gives the growth, and he employs various servants as implements to bring about that growth. To limit yourself to only one favorite worker or school of thought would be to refuse so much that God is giving to you for your good. Paul and Apollos and Cephas are all yours in Christ!

But it doesn’t stop with gifted Christian leaders. The world is yours. This is the world Paul says in Romans 12:2 that we are not to be conformed to. Jesus says we are not of this world but were chosen out of the world. This is the world that hates us because we don’t belong to it (Jn.15:19; 17:14-16). This is the world that Jesus promises:

John 16:33 …In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

The world, this world that hates us and brings us tribulation belongs to us. Just as God gave us gifted leaders for our good, so God gives us this hostile world for our good. God even gives us the tribulation in this world for our good. Romans 5 tells us:

Romans 5:3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings (or tribulations), knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Even the worst things in this world are given to us by our good God for our benefit. Jesus has overcome the world, and now the world belongs to us and everything in it serves us for our good.

Life and Death

He goes on to say that life and death belong to us. Our life, according to James, is ‘a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes’ (4:14). So much of our energy is spent grasping to hold on to our precious life and living in the constant fear of losing it. But in Christ, life and death are ours! Jesus said ‘I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly’ (Jn.10:10). Life is ours! So we can release our grip on life and focus on living it for the honor of Christ. As Paul contemplates his own life and death in Philippians, he says:

Philippians 1:20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Paul is freed to live with full courage for the glory of Christ. Jesus has so saturated his existence, that he can say ‘to live is Christ’. He goes on:

Philippians 1:22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

Death, the final foe, the last enemy, has been decisively defeated at the cross. Now we can say with confidence ‘to die is gain; to depart and be with Christ …is far better’. In Christ, life is ours and death is ours.

The Present and The Future

The present and the future are ours in Christ Jesus. The urgent tyranny of the present often feels like it will crush us, and the future looms unknown and uncertain just past the horizon.

Jesus invites us to come in simple dependence and childlike trust and say ‘give us this day our daily bread’ (Mt.6:11). He says:

Matthew 6:31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 …your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

Jesus says:

John 14:27 …Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Matthew 28:20 …behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Revelation 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

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

The God who is sovereign over every human event, who turns the hearts of kings like water in his hands (Prov.21:1), at whose word things that are not leap into existence, at whose voice the wind and the waves are silenced, will work every present circumstance, every future event for our good and his glory. In Christ, the present and the future belong to us and will serve us for our good.

Romans 8

Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

All things work together for my good. Every Christian leader, the whole unbelieving world, my life, in sickness or in health, my death, every present circumstance, every future hardship, every future victory, all things are mine. They belong to me and they will serve me for my eternal good.

Romans 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God is for me, working every single thing together for my good. God is for me. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Even tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, and sword are my servants sent by the hand of a loving God to do me good. Not one thing in the whole universe can separate me from God’s sovereign resolve to do me good.

I Belong to Christ

1 Corinthians 3:21 So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

This is not true of every person. Romans is clear that all things work together for good only for those who love God, only for those who are called according to his purpose. Here, Paul makes it clear that all things belong only to those who belong to Christ. In the same way that everything is mine, all things belong to me, everything exists to serve me for my good, so I belong to Jesus, I am owned by him, I exist to serve him for his good.

1 Corinthians 6:19 …You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (cf. 7:23)

Peter tells us:

1 Peter 1:18 knowing that you were ransomed …not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

Around the throne in heaven we see Jesus being worshiped:

Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,

We were purchased by Christ on the cross. We are now owned by Jesus. We have become the property of God almighty. Because you belong to Christ, all things now belong to you. All things exist to serve you for your good, as you exist to serve Jesus. Since all things were created by Jesus and for Jesus, (Col.1:16; Rom.11:36), as we live lives to serve and worship Jesus, all things serve us to that end.

If today you do not belong to Jesus, then you need to surrender to the King. Jesus paid for you with his blood. Acknowledge that you are a slave of sin and need to be ransomed. There is nothing you can contribute. Simply trust Jesus, receive the free gift he purchased for you.

Christ is God’s

1 Corinthians 3:22 …all are yours, 23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

As we exist to serve Jesus and bring glory to Jesus, so our Lord Christ eternally exists to serve and glorify his Father. There is within the triune God both absolute equality and mutual adoration and glad submission. The Son is equal to the Father in every way, fully divine, sharing the same nature and existence with his Father, and yet the Son willingly subjects himself to the authority of the Father. Jesus said “I always do the things that are pleasing to him” (Jn.8:29). Jesus said “I honor my Father” and “it is my Father who glorifies me” (Jn.8:49, 54).

Just as Jesus lived totally surrendered to his Father, always doing the things that are pleasing to him, honoring him in everything, so we who belong to Christ should honor Jesus, living lives totally surrendered to him, gladly submitting to his will in everything. And in sheer amazement, we will realize that “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom.8:32). We will find our boast only in the cross, where infinite love was demonstrated, and where we were given all things in Christ Jesus.

1 Corinthians 3:21 So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. 

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

July 21, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 1:30-31; Jesus Our …Everything!

03/17 1 Corinthians 1:30-31 Jesus our…Everything; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130317_1cor1_30-31.mp3

26 Βλέπετε γὰρ τὴν κλῆσιν ὑμῶν, ἀδελφοί, ὅτι οὐ πολλοὶ σοφοὶ κατὰ σάρκα, οὐ πολλοὶ δυνατοί, οὐ πολλοὶ εὐγενεῖς· 27 ἀλλὰ τὰ μωρὰ τοῦ κόσμου ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, ἵνα καταισχύνῃ τοὺς σοφούς, καὶ τὰ ἀσθενῆ τοῦ κόσμου ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, ἵνα καταισχύνῃ τὰ ἰσχυρά, 28 καὶ τὰ ἀγενῆ τοῦ κόσμου καὶ τὰ ἐξουθενημένα ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, τὰ μὴ ὄντα, ἵνα τὰ ὄντα καταργήσῃ, 29 ὅπως μὴ καυχήσηται πᾶσα σὰρξ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ. 30 ἐξ αὐτοῦ δὲ ὑμεῖς ἐστε ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, ὃς ἐγενήθη σοφία ἡμῖν ἀπὸ θεοῦ, δικαιοσύνη τε καὶ ἁγιασμὸς καὶ ἀπολύτρωσις, 31 ἵνα καθὼς γέγραπται· Ὁ καυχώμενος ἐν κυρίῳ καυχάσθω.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul writes to address problems that had arisen in the church in Corinth. Although there were some serious moral and doctrinal issues that required urgent attention, and that he will address in the course of this letter, the apostle started by giving thanks to God for how God had worked in the believers there. He addresses them as ‘the church of God in Corinth’; he says they are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, and that they are a part of the larger church, the body of Christ. He gives thanks that God’s grace was given to them in Christ Jesus, that they were enriched in knowledge, that the gospel proved to be effective among them, that they lacked no grace-gift, that they were waiting for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, and he reminds them of God’s faithfulness, that it is God who will sustain them guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Then he tackles what he sees to be the root of much of the problems in Corinth. He tackles their ‘I’ problem. Some said “I follow Paul.” Some said “I follow Apollos.” Others said “I follow Cephas.” And those who thought they were above the rest and really spiritual said “I follow Christ.” Division, disunity, quarreling, this kind of party spirit was evidence of pride. Paul brings them back to the nature of the gospel to cure them of their pride. He says that his primary responsibility as apostle was to preach the gospel, a simple message, an offensive message, the message of the cross. The message, not the messenger, carries the power of God. He undermines their pride by pointing to the fact that the gospel, the word of the cross, is perceived as foolishness to pagans and as a scandal to religious people. In fact, God set out to destroy the wisdom of the wise by saving those who believe in, trust in, depend on the foolish message of the cross.

He says that the message seems foolish, and then he causes a greater affront to their pride by reminding them of their own social status. Not many wise according to the world, not many powerful, not many of the nobility in Corinth were chosen by God. Instead, God chose the low and despised in the world, even the nobodies to bring to nothing the things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. God’s whole method of salvation was designed to strip us of anything to boast in so that all our worship goes to God. Humble adoration is what is appropriate in response to God’s saving work, not human arrogance.

He ties this all together with a dense summary of the gospel message in verse 30, which we will attempt to unpack today, followed by an exhortation from the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah.

29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption. 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Paul has said in verse 17 that the gospel is the power of the cross of Christ. In verse 18 he calls it the word of the cross. In verse 23 he says “we preach Christ crucified. And in verse 24 he says that to those who believe, this foolish message becomes ‘Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.’ He says that the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. Verse 30 helps us to see how Christ is the wisdom and power of God, and how this simple message of the cross, that seems weak and foolish is really power and wisdom.

30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.

Because of Him

First of all, he reminds us of the fact that our salvation is not due to us, it is not because of us. Our relationship to Jesus, described as being ‘in Christ Jesus’ is not our own doing. It is ‘because of him you are in Christ Jesus’. Because God called you, because God chose you, you responded with faith and believed in Jesus, trusted in the foolish message of the cross. God, who creates beauty out of nothing, and calls into existence things that do not exist, ‘has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.’ It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus.

Became to Us Wisdom from God

Jesus became to us wisdom from God. He wasn’t before. Before God called us, we were like the rest of the world. We looked at the cross and thought it foolish. We heard the message of Christ crucified and were offended. Our eyes were blind to the beauty of the cross. Our hearts were hard to the transforming power of his grace. We could turn this around, as one Puritan brother wrote in 1836, [Charles Simeon, Horae Homileticae] “in ourselves we are ignorant, guilty, polluted, and enslaved.” But because of him, because God opened our hearts, we are in Christ Jesus, and in Christ, what once seemed foolish is now seen to be the profound wisdom of God. The foolishness of God is wiser than men.

Being Saved

Here we find encapsulated in three words the power of God to save. Paul described us back in verse 18 as ‘us who are being saved’. What does it mean to be ‘being saved’? Remember our illustration. The fireman has crashed into your bedroom, shook you out of your sleep, alerted you to the fact that your house is burning down around you and you are in danger of perishing. You realize the danger and entrust yourself to his care. He has taken you in his capable arms, wrapped you in his fireproof coat, placed his oxygen mask over your face, and he is carrying you through the burning building. You are being saved. Paul describes this ‘being saved’ as Christ our righteousness and Christ our sanctification and Christ our redemption.

Christ our Righteousness

If we are in Christ Jesus, Christ has become for us our righteousness. Paul, in Romans establishes the fact that ‘none is righteous, no not one’ (Rom.3:10), and that the law was brought in to stop every mouth and demonstrate that the whole world is accountable to God, because no one can keep God’s law perfectly. And then he presents a different righteousness, an alien righteousness, a righteousness not our own. He says:

Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it– 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

This righteousness is not our righteousness, because we cannot keep the law. This is God’s righteousness, and it is given to all who believe in Jesus Christ. He goes on:

Romans 3:22 …For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift,

This word ‘justified’ is from the same root as the word ‘righteous’. It means to be made righteous or declared righteous. We, sinners who fall short of God’s glory and are unrighteous in ourselves are declared righteous by God’s generosity as a gift. We, who have no righteousness of our own, are given God’s righteousness. If you are in Christ Jesus, he has become your righteousness. This is what Isaiah points to when he says:

Isaiah 61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,

This is what was foretold by the prophet Jeremiah, that from David’s lineage, a righteous branch would come and he would be called ‘the LORD is our righteousness’ (Jer.23:5-6; 33:16).

Christ our Sanctification

To us who are being saved, Jesus Christ has become to us righteousness and sanctification. Sanctification, or holiness in some translations, is being set apart. A time, a place, a person or an item may have been ordinary and commonplace, but if it was sanctified, consecrated or made holy, it now became set apart for God’s exclusive use. Back in verse 2, Paul called the believers in Corinth ‘those sanctified in Christ Jesus’. Whatever they had been before, they were now set apart exclusively for God. Holiness or sanctification carries with it the idea of being cleansed, purified, made fit for God’s use. Under the law, there was a process by which something or someone could be cleansed or purified or made holy, set apart for God’s use. This process usually involved sacrifices and cleansing. Often when we think about sanctification or holiness, we think of the lifelong process of becoming more like Jesus, and it has that meaning in Romans 6 and Ephesians 5 and 1 Thessalonians 4. But here in verse 2 Paul tells us that we have been decisively and forever sanctified in Christ Jesus, and in verse 30 that Christ Jesus has become our sanctification. We have been set apart exclusively for God. We have been made holy. We are not yet practically what we have been made positionally, but God is at work in us to bring to completion that which he started. Both of these aspects of sanctification are brought together in Hebrews 10:14.

Hebrews 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

We have been perfected, brought to completion by a single offering- the offering of Christ on the cross. But we are in process, becoming what we are. We have some baby chicks and ducklings at our house. When they hatched out of their eggs, even before they hatched, they were what they will be. The baby ducklings are ducks. They are different than chicks. They have webbed feet. They have bills, not beaks. Ducks fly, but these ducklings can’t fly. They can’t even take care of themselves. They haven’t produced anything but a mess yet. They haven’t laid any eggs. But they are decisively ducks. They will grow up to be nothing but ducks. In Christ Jesus, we have become something that we were not before. The bible calls this regeneration or the new birth. We are not yet what we will be, but our nature has been decisively changed. We may still produce nothing but a mess, but by God’s grace we will mature, and one day we will bear fruit that brings pleasure to God. In one sense we have been changed. We are set apart for God. We are holy. In another sense, we have not yet fully grown into what we are destined to become. Jesus is our sanctification.

Christ our Redemption

30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.

Jesus Christ is our redemption. Righteousness is a legal term. Before God’s law we stand either righteous or condemned. In Christ, we are given the gift of God’s own righteousness. Sanctification is a ceremonial term. In relation to God’s presence, we are either set apart for God’s use, or excluded from his presence. Christ is our sanctification, setting us apart to enjoy the presence of God forever. Redemption is a slave-market term. Under Old Testament law, if you couldn’t pay your debts, there were no bankruptcy laws. You were sold into slavery. You were no longer your own. You belonged to someone else. But there was provision for redemption. Someone could pay your debt and buy you out of slavery and set you free. This was our situation. I had made foolish choices and got myself in over my head. Not financially, but spiritually. I wanted to be my own master, so I rebelled against God, and I was sold as a slave to sin. I was not in control of my own life, I was in bondage, with no hope of escape. But Jesus, the one against whom I had rebelled, came and paid my price, the ultimate price, to redeem me.

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

Jesus bought us with his own blood.

Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Jesus became to us redemption. We have been purchased, we have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. But there is a sense in which this redemption is not yet fully realized. The price has been paid in full. But our emancipation is not yet fully complete. We have been exempted from the consequences of sin. We are no longer under the power of sin. But we still wrestle with the presence of sin. We still battle with our old nature. The bible looks back to the cross as the victory where the head of the serpent was crushed, but it also looks forward to a day when all things will be set right. Ephesians tells us:

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

There is a day coming, certainly coming, where we will be delivered from the indwelling presence of sin. It is signed, signed in blood. We are sealed, sealed with the Holy Spirit of God. But we are not yet delivered. The day of redemption is coming, the day when all is set right. This is what in Romans 8 all creation longs for.

Romans 8:23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

In the gospel, the message of the cross, Jesus became for us righteousness and sanctification and redemption. This is the wisdom of God and the power of God. This is the wisdom of God to satisfy justice and show mercy to sinners. This is the power of God. What seemed to be a grand demonstration of weakness, that God incarnate would be killed on a cross turned out to be the power of God for salvation. This is the power of God to set us free from sin and death and hell. This is the power of God to set us free from our own self-centeredness and pride, to do what we were created to do and humbly worship our great and gracious and glorious God.

So that We Boast Only in the Lord

Both before and after this verse, the ultimate reason and purpose of the method of God is given. Look at verses 29 and 31.

29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption. 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

‘So that no human being might boast in the presence of God. …so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”’ God in his infinite wisdom designed salvation in such a way that it is exclusively his to give and ours to receive so that boasting in what we earn or deserve is excluded. The only boasting that is allowed is boasting in the Lord. This Old Testament quote comes from Jeremiah 9. It is a word of judgment on the people for turning away from him (8:4-5). They are full of deceit, greed, falsehood, lies, iniquity, oppression. They have ‘stubbornly followed their own hearts’ (9:14). Twice he says ‘they do not know me declares the Lord’ (9:3); ‘they refuse to know me declares the Lord’ (9:6)

Jeremiah 9:23 Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

Boasting in human wisdom, might or riches is foolish, and God will bring it to nothing. The only legitimate ground for boasting is in a relationship with God; ‘that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD’. We find that God’s steadfast covenant keeping love finds its ultimate expression in Jesus, the only Son of God, come to demonstrate the great love God has for us by giving himself in our place, dying for our sins. Justice is satisfied, the wrath of God against our sin is appeased, and righteousness is given to those who trust in Jesus. Let him who boasts, boast in knowing God, in a relationship with God that comes from God as a gift, a relationship that is in Christ Jesus.

True wisdom is knowing God, a relationship with God. Jesus is our wisdom and our righteousness and our sanctification and our redemption. Jesus is the gospel. Jesus is the wisdom of God and the power of God for salvation to all who believe. So trust in Jesus, believe in Jesus, enjoy a relationship with Jesus, boast in Jesus. 

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

March 17, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment