PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

The Plan Before Creation

12/16 The Plan Before Creation ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20181216_plan-before-creation.mp3

Christmas. The Incarnation. We looked at Jesus, the Son before the manger, the eternal only Son of God, who was sent to rescue us, made flesh to be with us. We looked at Jesus the light of the world, who entered into our darkness, who went under the shadow of death for us, who took into himself all our darkness, so we could enjoy the light of his presence.

All this was necessary, the incarnation was necessary, as a result of our sin, our rejection of God’s good rule, because we went astray, we went our own way. We created the need. We caused this. He made everything very good, and we messed it all up. What if…? Was the incarnation God’s response to our rejection? Was this God’s attempt to fix what we broke? Was Christmas an afterthought? Was this God’s plan B, the fallback plan just in case we blew it? Was God uncertain (as some teach) what would happen when he created man in his image to rule over his creation and placed them in the garden with but one restriction? Should we view this as a kind of insurance? We take out an insurance policy against something terrible that we hope never happens, but is possible. Should we imagine that the Father sat down with the Son and said ‘this whole creation thing could go terribly wrong. I hope not, but we need to be prepared, this is what it will cost us if it does. Was Christmas a contingency in case things didn’t go according to plan?

Christmas is a great time to recapture our wonder. Look at who God is, what he has done, and let your jaw drop. Stand in awe. Worship. Rejoice with joy inexpressible and filled with glory (1Pet.1:8).

God’s Unfailing Purpose

We could look at verses that tell us that God’s purposes are never frustrated, scriptures like:

Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.

And:

Isaiah 46:9 …I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

God always accomplishes his plans. God’s purpose is unchangeable (Heb.6:17).

2 Timothy 1:8-10; God’s Gift Before The Ages Began

Let’s look this morning at a passage that pulls together God’s unchangeable purpose and connects it with Christmas, and creates wonder.

In 2 Timothy, Paul is encouraging Timothy not to be afraid but to have courage even in the face of suffering because it puts God’s power and his purpose on display.

2 Timothy 1:8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,

Listen to Paul’s logic of courage in the face of suffering. Let’s just walk through this text together. Don’t be ashamed of me when I face suffering, and don’t be afraid to suffer yourself for the gospel. Share in suffering by the power of God, (because you can’t do it yourself; you need God’s power, and God’s power is available to you).

It is God who saved you and called you to a holy calling. God saved you. God saved you for this, and he called you to this. It is a holy calling to suffer for the sake of the gospel. God saved us, he called us, not because of anything he saw in us, not because of anything we did, not anything we would do; not because of our works.

If not because of anything in us, then why? God saved us and God called us because of his own purpose and grace. It is God’s own purpose. Not of the will of flesh or of the will of man (Jn.1:13). God’s purpose for us is gracious; we don’t deserve it. We didn’t earn it. It was nothing in us. God freely chooses to give it. Our salvation, our calling is rooted in God’s will, God’s purpose and is God’s gift to us. It is unearned, freely given; it is grace.

Notice where we get God’s gracious gift of salvation? Every good gift comes to us in Christ Jesus. We have no good outside of him. God’s purpose, God’s grace, God’s salvation, God’s holy calling come to us as a gift packaged in Christ Jesus. ‘I want salvation, but I’m not sure I want Jesus.’ There is no salvation outside of Jesus. All God’s blessings come to us only in Christ Jesus.

Notice when this gift comes to us? This will blow your mind. God gave us his own purpose and grace, this salvation, this holy calling before the ages began, before time eternal. How are we given grace before we need it? How are we given God’s grace before we even exist? But that is what this text says! Do you see what this means? Before God created man, before God created anything, he had a purpose. He had a plan. And that purpose had you in mind. This was no insurance policy! This was the plan, his purpose. God intended all along to give you grace! Revelation (13:8) tells us that before the foundation of the world, our names have been written in the book of life of the lamb who was slain. The lamb slain will be the focal point of our worship for eternity! And that means that you would need grace. You would be undeserving. You would forfeit all your rights. God would have no obligation to you whatsoever, and yet he would freely give you grace. The salvation of sinners by grace in Christ Jesus was no plan B. God’s purpose to graciously save sinners in Christ Jesus was established before the eternal ages. This simply boggles our finite human brains! Before God created, before we rebelled, God who is rich in mercy, gave us his own grace.

Do you see Christmas in verse 10? God’s purpose, God’s grace, this salvation purposed and given before time began has now appeared. It is now put on display in the appearing, the advent, literally the epiphany of our Savior Christ Jesus. The gift that God gave before the ages began, the gift of his only Son was brought to light, put on display, made manifest at a point in time in history, when Jesus appeared.

Look at what this gift accomplished. This gift of God in Jesus abolished death. Death has been rendered impotent for those who are saved by Jesus. He has taken the sting out of death. He took sin, our sin into himself. Eternal life, incorruptibility is brought to light through the gospel. The gospel, the good news of Messiah Jesus, God’s eternal Son, become flesh to take our death and give us life is now on display, being proclaimed. God’s eternal purpose has now unfolded before our eyes.

Paul says all this to Timothy to give him courage in the face of suffering. God has saved us. He has called us to a holy calling. Our performance didn’t earn it, and our failure to perform can’t take it away. It was given to us according to God’s eternal purpose, before we existed, and it is now put on display. By God’s grace, the death we earned has been rendered impotent to harm us. We can take courage, even in the face of suffering, because Jesus took our ultimate suffering, and now nothing, not even physical death can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom.8:39).

This is a holy calling, and we can be confident even in the face of suffering because it is ours as a gift from before eternity began.

2 Timothy 1:8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,

In chapter 2 Paul says:

2 Timothy 2:1 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, …3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

This grace that God gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began is able to strengthen you to endure. In verse 10 he holds up his own suffering as an example.

2 Timothy 2:10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

Paul is in chains, but the word of God is not bound. Paul is willing to endure anything so that God’s elect may obtain this salvation.

Christmas was the public display of God’s gracious plan before creation. God’s eternal gift was put on display in a manger, and then on a cross. And we are invited to participate in passing this good news on.

Ephesians 1; God’s Purpose to Bring Praise to His Glorious Grace

I’d like to look at another passage that points us to God’s plan before creation, and gives us insight into his aim, his end goal. In Ephesians 1, Paul gives extended praise to God for his gracious eternal purpose to bless us in Christ.

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,

Do you hear God’s purpose, God’s plan for the fullness of time? God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. In his great love, God predestined us for adoption according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace. We have redemption, forgiveness, according to the riches of his grace lavished on us. He made known the mystery of his will according to his purpose, his plan for the fullness of time, (there is his plan before the ages began); and this plan he set forth in Christ (there again is Christmas). All this is according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will. God’s purpose is never thwarted. He works all things according to the counsel of his will.

We see in many places that the glory of God is the ultimate purpose of everything. All creation is meant to bring glory to God.

Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

When the angel announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, ‘the glory of the Lord shone around them’ (Lk.2:9) and a multitude of the heavenly host were praising God, saying ‘glory to God in the highest’ (Lk.2:14). The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God’ (Lk.2:20).

We were created for his glory. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. But Ephesians is even more specific. The eternal purpose of God in our rescue is ‘to the praise of his glorious grace’. Not just the praise of his glory, but the praise of his glorious grace. We were chosen before the foundation of the world to be to the praise of his glorious grace. Before God created anything, God purposed in himself to save sinners through the sacrifice of Jesus. Does that blow your mind? Before man was ever created, long before man sinned in the garden, God purposed to become one of us and to pay for our sins with his own blood! O the riches of his glorious grace! Undeserved kindness toward undeserving sinners.

Moses and Glory and Grace

When Moses boldly asked the Lord ‘please show me your glory,

Exodus 33:18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.

God’s glory is seen in the riches of his grace and in his freedom to extend it to whomever he will. In the next chapter,

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

God’s glory is displayed in his mercy and grace, his abundant love and faithfulness, his forgiveness of sinners who deserve his wrath.

God’s plan A was to display the glory of his grace according to the riches of his grace. The righteous older brother didn’t need grace; the wayward prodigal’s only hope was undeserved grace. Our sin provided the stage on which the glory of God could be seen most clearly.

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

God gave us his grace in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and now, in the fullness of time, he has has put on display his glorious grace through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus. God has sent to us his only Son. This was the plan even before sin entered the world through one man. This was his purpose even before creation. This was his desire, to put on display his glorious grace.

It is one thing to know this. Have you received it? Have you received his grace? Have you welcomed his grace, his gift, have you allowed it in, to shape you, to make you new? Have you allowed his grace to capture your wonder, your amazement? Receive it!

Let your jaw drop. Wonder. Be amazed. Worship. Allow his grace to sustain you.

***

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

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December 17, 2018 Posted by | advent, occasional, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 7:20-24; Slavery and Contentment

12/01 1 Corinthians 7:20-24 Remain As You Were Called; Slavery and Contentment; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131201_1cor7_20-24.mp3

1Cor 7 [SBLGNT]

17 Εἰ μὴ ἑκάστῳ ὡς ἐμέρισεν ὁ κύριος, ἕκαστον ὡς κέκληκεν ὁ θεός, οὕτως περιπατείτω· καὶ οὕτως ἐν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις πάσαις διατάσσομαι. 18 περιτετμημένος τις ἐκλήθη ; μὴ ἐπισπάσθω· ἐν ἀκροβυστίᾳ κέκληταί τις; μὴ περιτεμνέσθω. 19 ἡ περιτομὴ οὐδέν ἐστιν, καὶ ἡ ἀκροβυστία οὐδέν ἐστιν, ἀλλὰ τήρησις ἐντολῶν θεοῦ. 20 ἕκαστος ἐν τῇ κλήσει ᾗ ἐκλήθη ἐν ταύτῃ μενέτω. 21 Δοῦλος ἐκλήθης ; μή σοι μελέτω· ἀλλ’ εἰ καὶ δύνασαι ἐλεύθερος γενέσθαι, μᾶλλον χρῆσαι. 22 ὁ γὰρ ἐν κυρίῳ κληθεὶς δοῦλος ἀπελεύθερος κυρίου ἐστίν· ὁμοίως ὁ ἐλεύθερος κληθεὶς δοῦλός ἐστιν Χριστοῦ. 23 τιμῆς ἠγοράσθητε· μὴ γίνεσθε δοῦλοι ἀνθρώπων. 24 ἕκαστος ἐν ᾧ ἐκλήθη, ἀδελφοί, ἐν τούτῳ μενέτω παρὰ θεῷ.

1Cor 7 [ESV2011]

7:17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. 18 Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. 19 For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. 20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. 21 Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. 24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.

We find in this passage strong encouragement from the apostle to enjoy the status God has given to each one of us in Christ Jesus. These verses give the core principle that Paul applies to the different circumstances he addresses in this chapter: married, widowed, divorced, and single. In verse 17 he states the principle:

1 Corinthians 7:17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.

Then in verses 18 – 19 he illustrates this principle with the racial issue of circumcision. Jews prided themselves in being God’s chosen people. Gentiles were excluded from a relationship with God unless they became Jews. But in Graeco-Roman society being a Jew could be detrimental to social advancement. Paul says that it doesn’t matter what your racial background is. God’s call cuts across all ethnic barriers. Jesus sent his disciples not only to Jerusalem and Judea, but into Samaria and to the ends of the earth to make disciples. God will bring people from every tribe and language and people and nation to worship around his throne. Racial background has no effect on one’s relationship with Jesus. In verse 20, Paul restates his guiding principle.

1 Corinthians 7:20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called.

And in verses 21-23 he applies this principle to the difficult social issue of slavery. Then in verse 24, he repeats the principle again.

1 Corinthians 7:24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.

Bondservants and Freedmen

In order to better understand this passage, we need to gain a proper understanding about the background of slavery in the Graeco-Roman world that Paul was writing to. Set aside for a moment the American and European ideas of ethnic based slavery. Slavery in the ancient world was an issue of social status. One became a slave by being on the losing side of a battle, by being born to slave parents, or by entering into a contract of slavery, often to pay off a debt. The kidnapping and sale of adults and children as slaves was illegal, but did happen. Slavery was typically not lifelong; slaves were often manumitted (or granted freedom) when they were in their early 30’s or after around seven years of service (NIGTC, p.564-5). A former slave who had been released gained the status of ‘freedman’. The status of a slave or a freedman depended greatly on whom he served as slave. Slaves were sometimes cruelly abused and mistreated, and sometimes released when they had passed their prime as a way for the owner to escape the obligations of providing for them. But it was a matter of public honor to provide well for the needs of the slave, and to reward loyal service with manumission. Some slaves were menial laborers, but a wealthy patron would often delegate great responsibility to a trusted slave to carry out business and manage affairs in his name, and that slave would be given the respect that was due their patron. When a slave was released, they continued to be indebted to their patron, owing them honor, respect, gifts, and often a set number of days’ work per week or month or year (BECNT, p.314-5). Some estimate that about one third of the population of ancient Corinth were slaves, and another third were freedmen. Freedmen took great pride in their patrons. Common tombstone inscriptions have been discovered that read (so-and-so) the freedman of (patron’s name).

Circumstances and Attitudes

Paul restates his governing principle of living the life the Lord has assigned and to which God has called in verse 20, and he now applies this principle to slavery and freedom.

1 Corinthians 7:20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. 21 Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. 24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.

Literally verse 20 reads ‘remain in the calling in which you were called’. It is not social standing that counts for anything, it is God’s call.

This is intentionally an extreme application of the principle, and it helps to clarify what he does and doesn’t mean by it. It is one thing to apply ‘each one should remain in the calling in which he was called’ to circumcision; don’t reverse the irreversible. But to say ‘if God called you as a slave, remain as a slave’ is more difficult to swallow. But he doesn’t exactly say that. He doesn’t say ‘you must remain a slave’ Instead he says ‘don’t worry about it.’ He turns our focus from the circumstance to our attitude toward the circumstance. If you are a slave, don’t let it concern you. You can be so focused on your circumstance, so controlled by an all-consuming desire to escape your situation, that you become a slave to your desire. You don’t have to become a Jew to follow Jesus, and you don’t have to become free to follow Jesus. A slave can be just as faithful a follower of Jesus as a free man can. This is radical contentment irrespective of circumstances.

This is not just talk. Paul modeled this radical contentment for us in his own life. He wrote in Philippians:

Philippians 4:11 …I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

He wrote these words from a Roman prison, probably chained to Roman guards. He did not pout and whine and complain. He was not consumed with self-pity. Instead he viewed his circumstances as ordained by God and took advantage of his situation for the glory of God and for the advance of the gospel. He writes in the beginning of the letter:

Philippians 1:12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Throughout the Philippian letter Paul is overflowing with joy. Joy is not contingent on circumstances; joy is fruit of the Holy Spirit, who resides in every believer. Paul views his imprisonment not as a hindrance to the gospel, but as brought about by God to advance the gospel throughout the whole Roman guard. His imprisonment has given confidence to many brothers to speak the word more boldly. Paul is content in his God-given circumstances and finds multiple reasons for joy and thanksgiving to his all-wise God. Paul gives us his recipe for contentment in Philippians 4:6.

Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Or as Peter says it:

1 Peter 5:7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Remain as you are. Bring your concerns to God. Be content in whatever circumstance God called you.

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

We can easily apply this principle to our situation today. Often when someone becomes a follower of Jesus, they feel a strong inclination to really make their lives count for the Lord. They mistakenly think that the best way to do this is to quit their day job and go into ‘full time Christian ministry’. This is right and wrong. They definitely should seek to make their lives count for God and they should go into full time Christian ministry. But that does not require a change of occupation. Paul’s advice here is ‘remain as you are called’. Don’t quit your day job. You are called to be an ambassador for Jesus where ever you are. Are you presently serving someone? Employed by someone? Be faithful to use those relationships for the advance of the gospel and the glory of God. Are you in a position of authority over someone? A business owner or employer? Recognize that you are a slave of Jesus, you belong to Jesus, and he determines how you conduct yourself and how you relate to other people.

Make Use Of…

We could take Paul’s principle that ‘each one should remain in the condition in which he was called’ as an absolute rule in every circumstance. But Paul is not so simplistic. He adds a ‘but if’ clause; ‘but if you can gain your freedom, rather make use…’ But he leaves the sentence hanging. Make use of what? This has led to a debate among biblical scholars. Does he mean that if you have the opportunity to become free, you should rather make use of your slavery to the glory of God and remain a slave? Does he mean that if you have the opportunity to become free, you should use your new status as a freedman to bring glory to God? More likely he is allowing for the exception and turning our focus from our circumstances to our calling. If you were called by God as a slave, don’t let it concern you, serve your earthly master to the glory of God. If God opens the door to freedom, make use of that freedom for the glory of God.

Upside Down Kingdom

He finds the reason in the gospel, where the calling of God shames the wise and chooses the nothings of this world, where the first will be last and the last first.

1 Corinthians 7:22 For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ.

The cross of our Lord Jesus turns all social status on its head. If God called you when you were a slave, you become a freedman of the Lord. Still a slave of a human master, the Lord Jesus has become your patron and you enjoy true freedom from the power and consequences of sin, a freedom greater than any earthly liberty. You now owe your primary allegiance to Jesus. You can claim the identity of the King of kings and Lord of lords. If on the other hand God called you when you were free, you have become a slave of Christ. You have come under the control of a Master who has the absolute right to make use of you, your time and talents and resources, as he alone sees fit (Thrall, p.56). So the slave moves up in social status, and the free man moves to the bottom.

Jesus taught his disciples:

Matthew 20:25 … “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The greatest one in God’s kingdom is the one who serves others. Jesus, our example, did not come to be served but to sacrifice himself for others.

John 13:3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. …12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Jesus

Philippians 2:6 …did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

The God who created the universe became part of his creation in order to serve us by dying in our place. Because of the cross, we who were slaves are set free from sin to live lives that bring glory to God. We who were free are now owned by Jesus.

Bought

Paul’s instruction to slaves is not to worry about it. If you can become free, use that for the glory of God. More important than your circumstances is your attitude. Your station in life does not define you. Your relation to Christ is what defines you.

He now instructs those who are free.

1 Corinthians 7:23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men.

In that culture, becoming a slave of an affluent and important patron could be a way to climb the ladder of social status. Paul warns them against the foolish wisdom of this world’s status seeking hunger. He takes them back to the cross. You were bought with a price. Jesus paid the price for your freedom at the infinite cost of his own precious blood. You are owned by the King of kings. It would be incongruent for a possession of Christ to sell himself into slavery to another master. At the end of chapter 6 in a warning against sexual immorality, he said

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

Here, in the context of social relationships, he repeats this theological truth. You were bought with a price. You are owned. You belong to Jesus. You must live consistent with your new identity in Christ.

Content in Any Relationship

1 Corinthians 7:24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.

Paul is saying all this to illustrate his principle governing marriage, divorce, remarriage, and celibacy. His principle is ‘remain as you were called’. If you are married, you must not seek to change your status. Enjoy your marriage and use it to bring glory to God. If you are single, divorced, or widowed, take advantage of the freedoms of singleness to bring glory to God. But his illustration of slavery introduces possible exceptions to the principle. You are not required to remain in that state. Interestingly, he parallels marriage with slavery and singleness with freedom. But whatever your situation, don’t be concerned about it. More important than your circumstances is your attitude toward those circumstances. Are you bitter, frustrated, depressed, suffering from the greener grass syndrome, wishing to be on the other side of the fence? Or have you learned the secret for contentment in whatever circumstances you find yourself in? In whatever condition each was called, there let him remain, but you are not to remain there alone, in your own strength. You belong to Jesus, you are with God, and in that relationship there is ample strength. The power of the Holy Spirit is at work in you to produce the fruit of joy regardless of outward status or standing, to produce peace and confidence in your identity in Christ as belonging to him. You were bought with a price. You are a bondservant of Christ, a freedman of Christ. You are with God, and that relationship must define you.

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

December 1, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 7:17-19; Remain as Called; Circumcision is Nothing

11/24 1 Corinthians 7:17-19 Remain As You Were Called; Circumcision is Nothing;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131124_1cor7_17-19.mp3

1Cor 7 [SBLGNT]

17 Εἰ μὴ ἑκάστῳ ὡς ἐμέρισεν ὁ κύριος, ἕκαστον ὡς κέκληκεν ὁ θεός, οὕτως περιπατείτω· καὶ οὕτως ἐν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις πάσαις διατάσσομαι. 18 περιτετμημένος τις ἐκλήθη ; μὴ ἐπισπάσθω· ἐν ἀκροβυστίᾳ κέκληταί τις; μὴ περιτεμνέσθω. 19 ἡ περιτομὴ οὐδέν ἐστιν, καὶ ἡ ἀκροβυστία οὐδέν ἐστιν, ἀλλὰ τήρησις ἐντολῶν θεοῦ. 20 ἕκαστος ἐν τῇ κλήσει ᾗ ἐκλήθη ἐν ταύτῃ μενέτω. 21 Δοῦλος ἐκλήθης ; μή σοι μελέτω· ἀλλ’ εἰ καὶ δύνασαι ἐλεύθερος γενέσθαι, μᾶλλον χρῆσαι. 22 ὁ γὰρ ἐν κυρίῳ κληθεὶς δοῦλος ἀπελεύθερος κυρίου ἐστίν· ὁμοίως ὁ ἐλεύθερος κληθεὶς δοῦλός ἐστιν Χριστοῦ. 23 τιμῆς ἠγοράσθητε· μὴ γίνεσθε δοῦλοι ἀνθρώπων. 24 ἕκαστος ἐν ᾧ ἐκλήθη, ἀδελφοί, ἐν τούτῳ μενέτω παρὰ θεῷ.

1Cor 7 [ESV2011]

7:17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. 18 Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. 19 For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. 20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. 21 Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. 24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.

In chapter 7, Paul has begun to answer questions from the Corinthians. Chapter 7 addresses the hot topics of sex, marriage, divorce, remarriage, and singleness. In verses 17-24 we come to the core of this passage, where Paul gives the underlying principle that he is applying to these various relational situations, and he demonstrates how he is applying it with two extreme scenarios. At first it seems abrupt and out of place to address circumcision and slavery in the middle of a chapter about marriage and singleness, but we will see how this relates to what he is teaching throughout this passage. It will be helpful to look at the broad flow of the passage and see where verses 17-24 form the core of this chapter, where he lays out his guiding principle, remain as you are.

Structure of Chapter 7

In verse 1, he repeats the Corinthian slogan ‘it is good for a man not to touch a woman’ and he begins to apply a different guiding principle to various relational circumstances; ‘each one should remain in the condition in which he was called’.

2-5 mutual obligations of marriage – remain as you are: do not deprive one another (unless temporarily by agreement for prayer)

6-9 to the unmarried and widows; good to remain as they are, (unless not gifted for celibacy then they must marry)

10-11 to the married where both husband and wife are believers; remain as you are (unless separated; then be reconciled)

12-16 to the married where the husband or wife is not a believer; remain as you are (unless the unbeliever leaves; then you are free)

17 principle: as the Lord has gifted and called, so walk

18-19 circumcised or uncircumcised; remain as you are

20 principle: each remain in your calling

21-23 slave or free; remain as you are (unless you can be free)

24 principle: each remain in your calling

25-26 to the virgins; remain as you are

27-28 remain as you are; free from or bound to a wife (unless you desire to marry – it is not a sin)

29-31 temporality of this world

32-35 advantages of singleness

36-38 virgins free to marry (but better to remain)

39-40 widows free to remarry (but better to remain)

Jesus Overcomes All Ethnic, Social and Gender Barriers

Paul widens his discussion from the roles of men and women in singleness and marriage to include other major societal issues of circumcision/uncircumcision and slavery/freedom. This parallels what he taught to the Galatian believers.

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Our relationship to Jesus tears down all major social and cultural barriers. The major ethnic barrier between Jew and Greek (or circumcised and uncircumcised) is nullified in Christ. The major social status barrier between slave and free is abolished in Christ. The major gender barrier between male and female (including all the various sub-categories of single, married, divorced, widowed, remarried) are all made nothing at the foot of the cross. This does not mean that ethnic, social or gender differences no longer exist; those differences are very real, but that they have no bearing on how one is rescued by Jesus. This is the great truth of Revelation 5 and 7 that people from every tribe and language and people and nation will be worshiping Jesus together around his throne. But a person of Jewish descent and a non-Jewish person both enter into a relationship with Jesus in the same way. A slave and free person, or a social outcast and a CEO must both humbly seek forgiveness for their sins at the cross. A man and a woman both equally must believe the good news about Jesus to be saved. The Corinthians were asking if there was a higher spirituality to celibacy over marriage, if abstinence within marriage earned extra points with God, if asceticism was spiritually beneficial. Paul says no, remain as you are. Whether you are male or female, single, married, widowed, divorced, none of this changes your status with God in the smallest degree. There is no spiritual advantage to any ethnic group, any social standing, or any marital status.

Assigned

1 Corinthians 7:17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.

Paul states the foundation principle for everything he has said in this chapter. He says ‘this is my rule in all the churches’. This is not special instructions for a special situation in Corinth, he is not singling them out for unique treatment. This is the same teaching he would give any other church in any other circumstance, including our church in our society today. The principle is universally applicable. He points them and us to walk in the way that the Lord Jesus has assigned and that God has called. This idea behind the word ‘assigned’ is divided or distributed. This connects back to what he said in verse 7.

1 Corinthians 7: 7 … But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.

God distributes his gifts as he sees fit. God gifts some for singleness and some for marriage. Each one has his own gift from God. We have a natural tendency toward the greener grass syndrome. We are discontent with who we are and where we are and want to be on the other side of the fence. But Paul tells us to enjoy the grass on your own side of the fence! The Lord Jesus is the one who assigns to each his own particular gifting and situation, and Paul advises us to walk in that.

He says ‘let each person lead the life’ Literally that could be translated ‘let each person walk this way’ Walking is a favorite metaphor of biblical authors for steady progress in Christian living. We are to walk in the pasture that God has placed us in and not seek to unnecessarily jump fences. If you are single, divorced, or widowed, be that for the glory of God. If you are married, be married for the glory of Christ. Don’t always seek something different. Learn to enjoy who you are where you are. Learn contentment. We make steady progress in holiness when we embrace what God has allotted to us.

Called

He adds ‘and to which God has called him’. Calling plays a significant role in this passage. A form of the word ‘called’ shows up 9 times in these 8 verses; we saw it once in verse 15; it showed up 5 times in chapter 1. In 1:1, Paul was called by the will of God to be an apostle. In 1:2, the believers in Corinth were called to be saints. In 1:9, God called us into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. In 1:24, it is God’s call that differentiates between those who hear the gospel, believe, and are being saved; and those who hear the gospel, reject, and are perishing.

1 Corinthians 1:23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. …26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, …

God’s call cuts across social and ethnic barriers. God called both Jews and Greeks. God’s call came to the foolish, the weak, the low, the despised, the nothings of the world in order to eliminate human boasting. When we get to chapter 7, we find that God called divorced people. God called widows and widowers. God called single people into a relationship with him. God assigns gifts as he wills, and God calls different people who find themselves in different situations. Paul’s instruction is:

1 Corinthians 7:17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.

Circumcision and Uncircumcision

Paul demonstrates this principle by fleshing out its application to two extreme situations; circumcision and slavery. He starts with circumcision, the outward sign of the Old Covenant people of God. In order to become part of God’s people in the Old Testament, you had to be circumcised. Circumcision was a big deal. When the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah, was extended to the Gentile nations in Acts, this became a big dispute among the believers. Did Gentiles have to undergo circumcision and become Jews in order to become followers of the Jewish Messiah? In Acts 10, God sends Peter to the house of a Gentile with the instructions “what God has made clean, do not call common” (Acts 10:15). By Acts 15 this had become such a major issue that the first church council was formed to answer the question of circumcision for Gentile believers. Peter relays that God “made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:9) and he concludes “…we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will” (Acts 15:11). Paul writes his Galatian letter to adamantly oppose the Judaizers who were insisting on the circumcision of Gentile believers as a requirement for their salvation. He says:

Galatians 5:2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.

Apparently this legalistic Judaizing influence was not a problem in the church in Corinth. He doesn’t attack the issue like he does in Galatians; instead he uses it as an example.

1 Corinthians 7:18 Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision.

This sounds strange, because circumcision is an irreversible procedure. But we find in the writings of Celsus documentation of a surgical procedure that was the equivalent of plastic surgery to reverse the appearance of circumcision. In the time of the Maccabees, there were Jewish men under Roman rule that would have this procedure done to hide their Jewish identity when they participated in the Roman gymnasium (the word ‘gymnasium’ literally means to exercise naked; the original Olympic games were carried out naked). Paul applies the principle that we are to remain as we were called to the issue of circumcision. He says that anyone who was uncircumcised at the time of his call should remain uncircumcised, and anyone already circumcised should not seek to reverse the procedure. In the context, Paul is addressing issues of marriage and singleness. We could take circumcision as a metaphor and apply it to his previous discussion on marriage. In the marriage union, two become one flesh, and we should not seek to reverse the irreversible. ‘What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate’ (Mt.19:6).

Circumcision Counts For Nothing

Paul’s statement in verse 19 is amazing.

1 Corinthians 7:19 For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God.

This is amazing, because we could easily argue from the Old Testament that circumcision is clearly a commandment of God (Gen.17; 21:4; Lev.12:3). The requirement for circumcision even superseded the Sabbath laws if the eighth day fell on a Saturday (John 7:21-24). But Paul here says that in our New Covenant relationship with Jesus, whether you are circumcised or not is irrelevant and meaningless. How can Paul contrast circumcision with keeping the commandments of God, when circumcision was one of the commandments of God?

If we look to Jesus teaching in John 6, we begin to gain some clarity. Some people asked Jesus this question in the context of gaining eternal life.

John 6:28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

Jesus made it clear that going through the motions of obedience to God was worthless without a relationship with Him. Jesus repeatedly teaches that belief in him is the one thing that is required for eternal life.

In 1 John 3, John teaches us what it looks like as believers in Jesus to keep the commandments.

1 John 3:22 …because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.

Jesus taught that the greatest command was to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength (Mt.22:37; Mk.12:30). We cannot truly love God if we do not believe that he is who he says he is. But when we believe in Jesus and experience God’s great love for us which he expressed at the cross of our Lord Jesus, that love can then overflow toward others around us. So love for others becomes the expression and overflow of belief in God and love for him.

God never intended us to view his commandments as a list to check off in order to earn his favor. All the way back in Deuteronomy he says:

Deuteronomy 10:12 “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good? 14 Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. 15 Yet the LORD set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.

What God requires is a genuine love for him, to love and serve him with all your heart and soul in response to his love for us. Real circumcision is circumcision of the heart.

Deuteronomy 30:6 And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

This is fulfilled in the New Testament. Paul says in Romans:

Romans 2:28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

It is in this sense that Paul can say to the Corinthians that what counts is not circumcision or uncircumcision but keeping the commandments of God.

He makes parallel statements to this in his letter to the Galatians.

Galatians 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

Paul is saying just what Jesus is saying. Faith or belief in Jesus powerfully expresses itself in love. The inevitable result of genuine belief in Jesus is love for God and love for other people. A chapter later, in Galatians 6, Paul says:

Galatians 6:15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

A new creation is what counts with God. He says ‘I don’t boast in circumcision; I only boast in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.’ Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I am now a new creation.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

As a new creation, I have new desires, new motives, new loves. My heart has been transformed by God’s love to love God and love others. I no longer seek to earn God’s favor by my performance. Rather I have been transformed by Christ and now naturally do the things that please him. My love for him is a response to his love for me (1Jn.4:19).

When we take these three parallel statements of Paul together and allow them to define each other, we get the full picture of what he is saying. It is not following the letter of the law that gains any standing with God, but becoming a new creation through the new birth. As a new creation we trust Jesus. We believe that Jesus is who he claimed to be, and we believe that at the cross Jesus took all our sins upon himself. Our belief in Jesus expresses itself in love, an overflow of love for God and love for others, which is a genuine keeping of the commandments of God from the heart.

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.

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

November 24, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 1:26-29; Calling that Excludes Boasting

03/10 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 Calling that Excludes Boasting; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130310_1cor1_26-29.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.

17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Addressing Problems with the Gospel

Paul is dealing with the problems in the church in Corinth. The first on his list is division. Division is tearing apart the body of Christ, fracturing and splintering the church of God by quarreling, not over serious doctrinal issues, but over personalities and preferences. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, he appeals for unity, that they all agree, or say the same thing, that they be united in the same mind and same judgment. And he applies the good news of the cross to heal these divisions. He reminds them of the gospel that had brought them into this relationship with God and with one another. He takes them back to the cross. We can learn so much from his approach. Problems in the church are often a result of a misunderstanding of or a misapplication of the gospel. If we go back to the gospel and let our crucified Lord shape our thoughts and emotions and words and actions, many of the problems that we face will be resolved.

The Corinthians were seeking status by aligning themselves with a particular teacher or leader within Christianity. Some followed Paul, the one who first brought the gospel to Corinth. Some followed the eloquent and passionate Apollos, the powerful preacher from Egypt. Some followed Cephas, or Peter, the primary spokesman of Jesus’ twelve. Some felt they were spiritually beyond the need for any human teacher and claimed they followed Christ directly. All this is rooted in pride and a desire to feel superior to others. Paul undercuts all of this by bringing them back to the clear simplicity of the gospel, that Christ was crucified for you.

This is the simple message he preached, and this simple message divided the world into two groups; those who are perishing and us who are being saved. There are not four or six or eight groups. The cross of Jesus divides all people into only two categories.

Crucifying Pride

Paul confronts their desire to be thought wise by pointing to the fact that it had been God’s wise intention all along to frustrate human wisdom and save people through what seemed a foolish, scandalous method. Wonder of wonders, God saves those who believe the foolish message of the cross. Believing by definition is giving up any reliance on self and depending on, trusting in another. Believing is the polar opposite of pride.

Pride is such an insidious disease. It is ironic that even in a group of fishermen, a tax collector, a zealot, even among Jesus’ own disciples, pride tended to creep in. Who is the greatest? This seemed to be a persistent problem that Jesus had to address on more than one occasion.

Matthew 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Pride is out of place among believers. Believers are those who acknowledge they are helpless, weak, unable to fix their situation and are trusting in another, in humility receiving a gift. You can’t even enter God’s kingdom unless you enter like that. Jesus prayed like this:

Luke 10:21 In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (cf. Matt.11:25-27)

Paul has told us in verses 18-25 that it was God’s wise intention to undermine human wisdom by saving people using a foolish message, the message of a crucified Messiah. Now he tells us that God undermines human wisdom by saving foolish people. Make no mistake about it, this is insulting. This is demeaning, degrading, and offensive. And it is meant to be. Paul is intending to strip away the pride of his readers so that we would begin to see the cross more clearly, and to see each other in the light of the cross. And yet, to soften the blow, Paul comes along side us and includes himself in this category. Paul calls us his brothers.

Calling and Choosing

Paul instructs his fellow believers in Corinth to consider your calling. What does it mean to be called? In verse 24 he says that the gospel, the message of Christ crucified is to those who are called, Christ the wisdom of God and the power of God. There he says ‘to those who are called’; here he says ‘consider your calling’. What is this calling? Do you get a telephone call? Do you hear the dinner bell calling you to dinner? Are you called to a specific job?

Let’s see what we can learn from this passage about what Paul means when he says ‘called’. First, this calling cuts across ethnic barriers. In verse 23, he says the cross is folly to Gentiles and a stumbling block to Jews, but to the called, both Jews and Greeks, it is power and wisdom. We also see that this calling changes things for the one who is called. What was foolishness and scandalous now becomes the power and wisdom of God. It seems this calling creates a new category. Before, the categories were Jew or Gentile. Now, the categories are ‘those who are perishing’ and ‘us who are being saved’. The ones who are being saved in verse 21 are those who believe, and in verse 24, the same group is referred to as those who are called. So ‘the called’ and ‘those who believe’ and ‘us who are being saved’ are all ways of referring to the same group. If we jump back to the introduction of this letter, verse 2 tells us that the church of God is made up of those who are called to be saints. This calling cuts across ethnic barriers; it creates a new category, ‘those who are called’ is another way of saying ‘us who are being saved’ or ‘those who believe’.

After inviting the Corinthians to consider their calling, he goes on to describe God’s choosing. Not many wise, not many powerful, not many of noble birth, but God chose what is foolish, God chose what is weak; God chose what is low and despised, even the nothings. The calling of the Corinthians is here connected with God’s choosing.

Have you ever wondered why in response to the same preaching of the gospel one person is moved to tears, broken over their sins and desperate for a Savior, and they cry out ‘what must I do to be saved?’ while in the very same room, having heard the very same message, another person walks away totally unmoved. Someone else may walk away angry or offended. What makes the difference? Is it the passion of the preacher? The eloquence of the delivery? The rigor of the logic? No. Is it the upbringing of the hearer? From this and many other passages, it seems the Bible’s answer is that God’s call makes the difference. As Luke puts it in the book of Acts, “the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:14). In 2 Corinthians, Paul compares this to God’s act in creation when he says:

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

In Romans 8, Paul describes those who love God, those to whom all things work together for good, as those who are called according to his purpose. Then he places this calling at the center of God’s saving work, preceded by predestining and foreknowing, and followed by justifying and glorifying. Jesus said ‘all that the Father gives me will come to me’ (Jn.6:37) and he said to the Jews who did not believe in him “you do not believe because you are not part of my flock’ (Jn.10:26). Peter points us to “the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1Pet.2:9).

Not Many

Paul invites the Corinthians to consider their own calling as evidence that God destroys the wisdom of the wise and makes foolish the wisdom of the world by saving those who believe.

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.

He says that God did not call many wise or powerful or noble. He does not say ‘not any’ but ‘not many’. There was Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue (Acts 18:8), and Sosthenes, the next ruler of the synagogue (Acts 18:17; 1Cor.1:1). There was Gaius Titius Justus, probably a wealthy Roman, who owned a house next door to the synagogue, and opened his home to host the new church (Acts 18:7; Rom.16:23; 1Cor.1:14), there was Erastus, the city treasurer (Rom.16:23), whose name has been discovered in an inscription on a pavement in Corinth. None were excluded simply because they were wise, powerful or noble. But not many of those believed. The majority of the church in Corinth was made up of former idolaters, sexually immoral, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, greedy, drunks, foul-mouths, and extortioners (1Cor.6:9-11). Many were slaves. Most were from the lower classes. And yet even among them there seemed to be a desire to be thought well of. Paul invites them to look at the purpose of God to confound the wise and then to look around.

James confronts the same kind of problem. The churches he addressed had a tendency to treat with preference those who were rich and well dressed over those who were poor and shabbily clothed. James says:

James 2:4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?

God has chosen the poor in this world. We see this so clearly in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus was frequently criticized by the religious leaders for who he spent time with. Mark records:

Mark 2:15 And as he reclined at table in his [Levi’s] house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus says that he came to call sinners, and sinners came. It seems that Jesus was continually surrounded by the weak, the sick, the outcasts, the demon possessed, the desperate, the despised, the needy, the nobodies of society. “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus rebuked the chief priests and elders in the temple, who refused to believe in him.

Matthew 21:31 …Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

The religious leaders were rebuked and held accountable for their unbelief, for their rejection of Jesus. Not many were called. Jesus said “how difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” (Lk.18:24). But he also said, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” (Lk.18:27). Even they were not beyond the reach of God’s grace. Even among them, a few humbled themselves, became like little children, acknowledged their sin and their need and received the free gift. The rich man from Arimithea, Joseph, a respected member of the Council (Mt.27:57; Mr.15:43; Lk.23:50; Jn.19:38), and the Pharisee Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews (Jn.3:1; 19:39) became followers of Jesus. Even Paul himself, a Pharisee trained under Gamaliel, God knocked to his knees and called him to follow.

Nothings Nullify Things that Are

Paul says:

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.

God chose the foolish, weak, low and despised, even nothings. God shamed the wise, shamed the strong, brought to nothing the things that are. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). This is the kind of God we worship, a God who can take nothing and make something beautiful out of it.

Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

God brought something out of nothing with his word. And it was very good. The rougher the raw material, the more impressive the accomplishment of the Artist. So God delights to take nothings, zeroes, the low and despised and create trophies of his grace. When Jesus was told that his dear friend Lazarus was ill, he said

John 11:4 …“This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Jesus intentionally delayed two days before going (Jn.11:6), and then he tells his disciples:

John 11:14 …“Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

Jesus waited until his friend had been dead four days so that everyone would see that his voice, his call, creates life in the dead.

We are told in Romans 4 that Abraham,

Romans 4:17 …–in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 In hope he believed against hope, … 20 No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

That is a great definition of faith; being fully convinced that God is able to do what he has promised. He believed in the God who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. He grew strong in his faith and gave glory to God. That is what this is all about. That is what we were created for. We are designed to give glory and honor and praise to our great God. We glorify God because God is the only one worthy of glory.

Ephesians tells us:

Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins …4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– …7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 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.

The goal of God’s call to the nothings, the goal of God’s gracious gift of life to those dead, the reason God excludes our works, the reason it pleased God through the folly of what is preached to save those who believe is so that he gets all the glory, so that he might display the immeasurable riches of his grace, or, as Paul concludes here:

29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

When we boast as if we have done something commendable, we rob God of the glory that he alone deserves. To God alone be all the glory!

Response

Consider your calling brothers and sisters. So what do we do with this truth? How do we respond? First, this should create in us a humble amazement. God called me out of darkness and into his marvelous light! Why me?

Remember the context. Paul is dealing with divisions and quarreling. Let this truth shape how you view one another. We naturally categorize people into losers and winners; drop-outs and the educated; well dressed and shabby; rich and poor; those who have it together and those who just can’t get it together. Let the good news of the cross shape how you view others. God levels pride and lifts up the downcast. The cross places us all on level ground. Look around you today and wonder at those God has called saints!

This truth should result in humility and boldness. Take heart; no one is beyond the reach of God’s grace. The most horrific sinner and the most hardened Pharisee can both be transformed by the call of God. What is impossible with men is possible with God. God calls into existence things that do not exist.

All this is to the glory of God. God is the one who saves, so God gets all the glory. I can take no credit for my own salvation. All glory goes to God alone.

How do You Know?

Consider your calling. Have you been called? How do you know?

Have you felt the weight of your sins? Have you felt the seriousness of your sins before a holy God? The Holy Spirit convicts of sin and righteousness and judgment.

Have your eyes been opened to the light of the glory of the gospel in the face of Jesus Christ?

Have you believed? Have you put your faith only and completely in the finished work of Jesus? If you are feeling the weight of your sin and you see Jesus as your only hope then cry out to him today.

The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are his children. This is the call of God.

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

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

1 Corinthians 1:9; The Faithful God and the Fellowship of His Son

01/27 1 Corinthians 1:9 The Faithful God and the Fellowship of His Son; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130127_1cor1_9.mp3

1 Παῦλος κλητὸς ἀπόστολος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦδιὰ θελήματος θεοῦ καὶ Σωσθένης ὁ ἀδελφὸς2 τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ, ἡγιασμένοις ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, τῇ οὔσῃ ἐν Κορίνθῳ,κλητοῖς ἁγίοις, σὺν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἐπικαλουμένοις τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ αὐτῶν καὶ ἡμῶν·3 χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.

4 Εὐχαριστῶ τῷ θεῷ μου πάντοτε περὶ ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τῇ χάριτι τοῦ θεοῦ τῇ δοθείσῃ ὑμῖν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ,5 ὅτι ἐν παντὶ ἐπλουτίσθητε ἐν αὐτῷ, ἐν παντὶ λόγῳ καὶ πάσῃ γνώσει,6 καθὼς τὸ μαρτύριον τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐβεβαιώθη ἐν ὑμῖν,7 ὥστε ὑμᾶς μὴ ὑστερεῖσθαι ἐν μηδενὶ χαρίσματι, ἀπεκδεχομένους τὴν ἀποκάλυψιν τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ·8 ὃς καὶ βεβαιώσει ὑμᾶς ἕως τέλους ἀνεγκλήτους ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.9 πιστὸς ὁ θεὸς δι’ οὗ ἐκλήθητε εἰς κοινωνίαν τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν.

We have been examining the content of Paul’s thanksgiving to God for the church in Corinth. With their divisive spirit and disregard for authority and self-centered attitude and actions, we might be hard pressed to find anything to give thanks for in this church. But listen to the gracious God-centered words of Paul:

1 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, 2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

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– 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you– 7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

This is a God-centered, Jesus saturated greeting and thanksgiving. Paul mentions Jesus by name 9 times in these opening nine verses. And he mentions the will of God, the church of God, God the source of grace and peace, he offers thanks to God for God’s grace given, and now he points to the faithfulness of God. This word of thanksgiving was addressed to God in verse 4, and now in verse 9 as he closes his thanksgiving, he draws our attention back to the faithfulness of God. When you receive a gift, you don’t thank the mailman who delivered the gift; you address your thanks to the giver of the gift. Anything good in the Corinthians, anything worthy of thanks, is a direct result of God’s grace and God’s gift, and so God gets the praise and the thanks. God’s grace was given, God in Christ Jesus had enriched them, had confirmed the gospel among them, had equipped them with grace-gifts, caused them to anticipate the return of Jesus, and was sustaining them guiltless. God is faithful.

Faithful

In the original, the adjective ‘faithful’ is placed first in the sentence for emphasis; faithful the God. What does it mean to be faithful? To be faithful is to be trustworthy, one who can be relied on. If you are faithful you are dependable, you follow through and do what you say you will do.

Numbers 23:19 God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

It is characteristic of mankind that we are fickle, we do not always follow through. Sometimes we make a bad decision based on a limited amount of information, and when we are informed of more of the facts, we change our minds. Sometimes we make a good commitment or resolution, but because of laziness or selfishness or distractions, we don’t follow through. Sometimes we have good intentions, but we simply forget, or circumstances beyond our control prevent us from keeping our word. God is not like that. God does not base his decisions on only some of the facts. God is not fickle, selfish, distracted, or lazy. God is not forgetful, and nothing – nothing can frustrate his purposes. With him ‘there is no variation or shadow due to change’ (James 1:17).

Isaiah 14:24 The LORD of hosts has sworn: As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand, …27 For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?

God is faithful. No one, no thing can prevent him from doing what he has said he will do.

Isaiah 46:9 …for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ 11 … I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.

God ‘works all things according to the counsel of his will’ (Eph.1:11).

So the confidence of Paul that the Corinthians will be sustained to the end guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus is based not on the fickle Corinthians, but on the unfrustratable faithfulness of an omnipotent God.

By Whom You Were Called

Paul’s confidence for the Corinthians rested in the fact that a sovereign God had called them. In verse 1, Paul said that he was called by the will of God to be an apostle. In verse 2 he said that the believers in Corinth were called to be saints. Here he points to a faithful God as the one who called them. In Romans 8, Paul refers to believers as those who love God, as those who are called according to his purpose.

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.

And for those whom God calls, there is absolute confidence that all things will work together for good, because, as he goes on to say, those he calls he also justifies and glorifies. When the faithful King calls you into his service, he will overcome every obstacle and see to it that the purpose of his call is carried out. He will see to it that you are sustained to the end guiltless. He will see to it that you are glorified. Paul’s confidence rests not on man, but squarely on the always faithful God.

Called into the fellowship of His Son

Look with me at what we are called to. Ponder for a moment on what we are invited into. Meditate on what we have been made participants of. Savor the gracious goodness of God in our calling.

9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

We were called into the fellowship of God’s Son. Fellowship. The rich Greek word koinonia [κοινωνια]. Fellowship is a word that means having things in common. Fellowship means sharing life together. Jews would not eat with Gentiles, because Gentiles don’t follow the same kosher laws of food preparation and ceremonial washing. For a Jew to eat with a Gentile would mean contamination. We might look at it as sharing germs. This separation could lead to a feeling of superiority. God addressed this with Peter in Acts 10, where God said three times ‘what God has made clean, do not call common’. Paul had to deal with Peter again later on this issue in Antioch, when Peter withdrew from table fellowship with Gentiles (Gal.2:11-14). Paul confronted his hypocrisy publicly, because his conduct was ‘not in step with the gospel’. At the cross, Jesus broke down the dividing wall of hostility, abolished the commandments and ordinances, and made peace between those who were alienated (Eph.2:11-22). We are now brought near by the blood of Christ. To have fellowship with someone is to let them into your life, to invite them into your home, into your family, to have a meal together, to share your things with them, to share yourself with them. Fellowship is being connected, being community, being close.

Relational Intimacy

What does it mean to be called into the fellowship of the Son of God? This is staggering! We are called by God into the fellowship of his Son. We are brought into a relationship with Jesus where there is intimacy, where we do life together, where we have everything in common. Real relational intimacy with the Son of God! We can talk to him and he listens! We don’t have to make an appointment three weeks in advance. He is there for us always. He is available. He is for us. He cares. He understands. He will carry our sorrows. We can enjoy his presence. We are invited to ‘cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you’ (1Pet.5:7). He said ‘come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ (Mt.11:28); ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink’ (Jn.7:37); ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’ (Heb.13:5); ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age’ (Mat.28:20). He is the ‘friend who sticks closer than a brother’ (Pr.18:24). You were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Doing Life Together

Fellowship means that we do life together. Listen in on the prayer of Jesus for you before his crucifixion.

John 17:20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

Jesus prays that we believers would share in the intimacy and fellowship of the triune God! That we would be one with each other, just as God the Father and Jesus are one with each other, in perfect unity and community, sharing everything. As the Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father, we must be in the Father and the Son, and the Father and Son are in us. In John 14, Jesus said:

John 14:19 … Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.

Jesus is in his Father, we are in Jesus and Jesus is in us. John 15 helps us understand this connection. Jesus commanded his followers:

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

If we are in Jesus and Jesus is in us, if we are connected to Jesus like a branch is connected to the trunk, then the life of Jesus is flowing through us, and Jesus is alive in us. Listen to how Paul expresses this thought in Galatians:

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

The me who I once was is dead. I am now grafted into Christ, and it is now Christ’s life that is living in me. I am living a life so intimately connected to Jesus that I can really say it is Jesus who is living in me.

Paul prays that this union with Christ would be realized by the Ephesian believers. He prays:

Ephesians 3:16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Strengthened in your inner being through his Spirit, Christ residing in your hearts through faith, rooted, connected, drawing life from his love, experiencing the depth of Christ’s love, filled up with all the fullness of God. This is the power at work in us, able to accomplish more than we could ever dream. Strengthened by his Spirit in your inner being; Christ dwelling in you; filled with all the fullness of God. I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Abiding in the vine.

Everything in Common

Fellowship means that we have everything in common. We share everything. When we got married, we entered into a fellowship. My possessions, my decisions, my body, my bank account, my joys and my sorrows are no longer mine, they are ours. What is mine is yours and what is yours is mine. Everything is in common. If I have fellowship with Jesus, then everything Jesus has is mine. Because he is the only Son of God, I can call God Father. Jesus said ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’ (Jn.20:17). I am adopted into his family (Rom.8:15; Gal.4:5). I share in his relationship with the Father. Jesus as the Son of God is the only heir; because of fellowship with Jesus I am an heir of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Rom.8:17). I share in his inheritance. Because Jesus is righteous, I am clothed in his righteousness (Is.61:10, Rom.5:17; Phil.3:9). When the Father looks at me he can find no spot or wrinkle or blemish or any defect whatever. What the Father says to Jesus, he says to me: ‘well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master’ (Mt.25:21; 3:17; 17:5). What inestimable treasures are ours because our fellowship is with Jesus!

But if we have everything in common, then not only is everything that belongs to Jesus mine, but everything that is mine he shares in. Hebrews 2 tells us:

Hebrews 2:14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,

Jesus, infinite God from all eternity, shared in flesh and blood. And in that real humanity he tasted death for everyone (Heb.2:9). I am a sinner.

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

Jesus became sin for me. As a sinner I am under God’s curse.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us–for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”–

Jesus became a curse for me. As a rebel I deserve God’s wrath.

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Jesus propitiated the wrath of his Father against my sin. The result of my sin is suffering, sorrow, grief, pain.

Isaiah 53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

My iniquities have caused a separation between me and God (Is.59:2).

Matthew 27:46 …Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, …“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

What fellowship is this! Everything he has is mine, everything I am is his. But this fellowship with Jesus extends farther, maybe farther than I am comfortable with. Paul says in Philippians 3:

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

1 Peter 4:13 But rejoice insofar as you share [κοινωνεω] Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

Called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. We are called into the fellowship of his sufferings. Fellowship with Jesus. Relational intimacy, doing life together, everything in common. All that he has is ours; and all we are is his. If he has willingly taken our sin, our cross, our shame, should we not also offer him our time, our talent, our treasure? Should we not offer him our very lives to spend as he sees fit? Let us pursue deeper, richer, more satisfying fellowship with Jesus. God is faithful. He has called us into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our King.

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

January 27, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 4:10-17; The Excuses of Moses and the Anger of God

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100718_exodus04_10-17.mp3

7/18 Exodus 4:10-17 The Excuses of Moses and the Anger of God

4:1 Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’” 2 The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” 3 And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. 4 But the Lord said to Moses, “Put out your hand and catch it by the tail”-so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand- 5 “that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” 6 Again, the Lord said to him, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” And he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. 7 Then God said, “Put your hand back inside your cloak.” So he put his hand back inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. 8 “If they will not believe you,” God said, “or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. 9 If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.” 10 But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” 11 Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” 13 But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” 14 Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. 15 You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. 16 He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. 17 And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs.”

The Excuses of Moses and the Anger of God

We’ve seen Moses struggling to believe who God is and what he says he will do. Moses is raising objections and asking questions, and God is patiently answering those questions and meeting those objections. God is not afraid of the questions of his people. God is not the wizard behind the curtain pretending to be something he’s not. In the truth there are answers to every question. God is removing one by one the excuses of his servant. Moses has objected that his reputation is not adequate to the task at hand. His resume is lacking the necessary qualifications. “Who am I that I should go?” God answers that it is not about who you are, Moses; it is about who I am. Moses asked ‘who am I?’ God answered ‘but I will be with you’. So Moses asks ‘then who are you? If it doesn’t matter who I am, then what are your credentials? Who do I say sent me?’ God answers ‘I AM THAT I AM, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the self existent uncreated creator of all that is, the uncaused cause of all things.’ Tell them that, and tell them what I promise to do. I promise to bring you up out of the land of affliction. And the elders of Israel will listen. But Moses again objects, this time directly contradicting what God has said. ‘They will not believe me or listen to me.’ So God patiently grants to Moses three terrifying supernatural signs that will demonstrate to the people that God is indeed with him. The signs together with his testimony about the one true God of history will convince the people of God, but they will not persuade the Pharaoh. Now in this passage Moses raises two more objections to being the instrument God uses to deliver the Hebrew people from Egypt.

Here in this section we have the third time God tells Moses to go. He said in 3:10 “come, I will send you to Pharaoh”. In 3:16 after answering his first two objections, he says “go and gather the elders of Israel”. Now in 4:12, after answering two more objections, God again says “now therefore go”. God is amazingly patient with his people. God does not give up on us.

Psalm 103:13 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. 14 For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.

Psalm 86:15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

Let’s look at Moses’ 4th objection.

10 But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.”

Moses has objected that he doesn’t have the credentials and won’t be listened to. God promises that the people will listen. His next objection is that he doesn’t speak well. His objections are getting more trivial. First he was concerned about his identity and his reputation; then, when God pointed Moses away from himself, he asked who God is. Next is more of a dispute or complaint; God told him the people would listen to him; Moses argues ‘but they won’t listen’. God gives him three signs to perform that will cause the Israelites to listen. Now Moses’ concern is that if they do listen, they won’t be impressed with what they hear. We don’t know exactly what Moses’ concern is. He claims to be slow of speech and tongue. Some have speculated that Moses had a speech impediment. Literally he says he has a heavy mouth and a heavy tongue. Maybe after 40 years of talking to Midianite sheep in the desert he has lost his command of the Egyptian language. Maybe he was just self-conscious that he was not the best orator of his day. Whatever the case, we find later in the book that Moses does more than his share of public speaking and he seems to do just fine. It appears that Moses is grasping at straws to weasel his way out of God’s commission for him. He has moved from the content to the style of delivery.

Notice that Moses’ complaint takes the form of an accusation against God. ‘You know I’ve never been eloquent in the past, and not even you showing up and talking to me has been able to change that. Moses is dictating to God the skills inventory necessary to carry out the task at hand. Certainly the person who is to go into the presence of Pharaoh and demand the release of the slaves must be a smooth talker. Certainly God could miraculously bestow eloquence on someone slow of speech – but it hasn’t happened yet. Moses is complaining that although you’ve called me to this task, you’ve failed to give me the proper equipment for carrying it out. My disobedience is your fault, God, for not giving me the gifts and abilities to do what you’ve asked me to do. I can’t, and you haven’t done your part. Moses is questioning the wisdom of God. He is giving God advice. ‘God, I don’t think your plan was very well thought through. If you’re going to send someone to save Israel from Egypt, this is how you should do it. You should choose someone who is popular, a natural leader. They should have a real way with words. Someone who has connections and influence, both with the Hebrew slaves and with the Egyptian royalty. I wonder if there was a bit of thunder in God’s response to Moses here:

11 Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?

This reminds me of God’s response to Job when Job challenged demanded an audience with the Almighty. God goes on for four chapters questioning Job out of the whirlwind.

Job 38:1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: 2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3 Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. 4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding…

God answers ‘Who has made man’s mouth?’ Moses, are you insulting my creative ability? Moses, I made you exactly the way you are. I made you with a purpose in mind. Do you think I made a mistake? That I didn’t have the foresight to know what I was going to call you to do? Do you think I forgot to give you some necessary equipment? It is interesting to me to see what God claims here. God claims to be the author of things we would consider disabilities. We might be inclined to attribute the inability to see or hear or speak to the fact that we are living in a sinful fallen corrupt world. But to clear up any misunderstanding or confusion we might have, God answers his own question. ‘Is it not I, the Lord?’ I made man’s mouth. I make men mute and deaf. I determine whether a man will see or will be blind. I am ultimately in control over these apparent disabilities. I cause these things and I cause them for a purpose. I am reminded of the man Jesus healed in John 9 who was born blind. The disciples assumed his condition was a consequence of sin, so they asked who sinned, this man or his parents. Jesus’ answer is in line with what God told Moses here. Jesus said:

John 9:3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

This is consistent with the rest of scriptures on this matter. Look what else God claims responsibility for:

Deuteronomy 32:39 “‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

Isaiah 45:7 I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.

How can this be? How can things we consider bad – calamity or blindness or slowness of speech – how can they display the works of God? In the man who was born blind, Jesus character and nature was put on display to the blind man, to his parents, to the Jesus-rejecting religious leaders, and to all the people who attended church with him. And this man had the eyes of his heart opened to see Jesus for who he is and to believe in him, to become a bold witness for him, and to worship him as God.

Paul is another example. People who heard him said:

2 Corinthians 10:10 For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.”

But 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.

In fact, there is an eloquence that can nullify the power of God.

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

For Moses, the same is true. God intentionally chose a man who knew he was not sufficient to the task, someone who did not have the right credentials or resume or skill set specifically so that everyone would know that it was God who delivered Israel from Egypt, not some highly gifted charming individual. Moses, I made you just the way you are so that you would not mistakenly think that it was you who did it; so that you would be under no delusion that you could do it; so that you would depend only and completely on me to do what is impossible for you. God says ‘I made your mouth just the way I want it to be for my perfect purposes.

Even after all this, God is still magnificently patient. For the third time he tells him to go, and he promises again to be with him.

12 Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”

Moses asked ‘Who am I?’ and God responded ‘but I will be with you,’ the great I AM is with you. Here Moses asks ‘but what about my slow speech?’ and God answers ‘I AM with your mouth’. I will teach you what to say. It would not matter if Moses were completely unable to speak. The issue is not at all about who Moses is or what Moses can do. The issue is that God is who he says he is and that he will do what he says he will do and he will use whomever he chooses to use. That’s what makes Moses final protest so striking.

13 But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”

Literally, Moses says ‘send whom you will send’. This is a polite way of saying ‘I don’t want to do it’. This final protest of Moses is unique, because he doesn’t give a reason. He simply politely declines the invitation. Each of the other protests were based on a fear that could be specifically addressed and answered. At this point Moses says ‘you’ve taken away all my excuses, but the fact is that I just don’t want to do it.’ God has said ‘you, Moses, are the man.’ Moses says ‘no, I’m not your man. Choose someone else.’ This is not wise. Jonah was another prophet God sent on a specific mission and Jonah jumped a ship going the other direction. God chased him down with a storm and booked him passage in the cargo area of a great fish who barfed him up on the shores of Nineveh, where God had told him to go in the first place.

Jeremiah was called by God to speak. He said:

Jeremiah 20:9 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.

Paul, who was abruptly called by Jesus to preach the gospel said:

1 Corinthians 9:16 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!

God will conquer the rebellious hearts of all he calls into his service. When Moses says ‘I’m not worthy, please send someone else’, this is not an expression of humility, but of pride. C.H Mackintosh put it this way:

Unbelief is not humility, but thorough pride. It refuses to believe God because it does not find in self a reason for believing. This is the very height of presumption. If, when God speaks, I refuse to believe, on the ground of something in myself, I make Him a liar (1 John 5:10). When God declares His love, and I refuse to believe because I do not deem myself a sufficiently worthy object, I make Him a liar, and exhibit the inherent pride of my heart. The bare supposition that I could ever be worthy of aught save the lowest pit of hell, can only be regarded as the most profound ignorance of my own condition and of God’s requirements. And the refusal to take the place which the redeeming love of God assigns me, on the ground of the finished atonement of Christ, is to make God a liar and cast gross dishonor upon the sacrifice of the cross.” (C.H.Mackintosh, Notes on the Pentateuch, p.161; originally published 1881)

It is in response to this pervasive pride that God responds in anger:

14 Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart.

God is rightfully angry with Moses. But again the patience of God shines through. Even in his anger the kindness of God is displayed toward the weakness of his servant. God doesn’t back down and allow Moses to walk away. God said he would send Moses, and Moses he will send, but he agrees to send Aaron along with if it will make Moses feel better. There is comfort in the camaraderie, but this may not be an entirely good thing. It would be Aaron who would fashion the gold calf for the Israelites to worship while Moses was on the mountain with God receiving the commands to have no other gods before him and to make no images.

Here we have a picture of what God’s prophet does.

15 You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. 16 He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. 17 And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs.”

Aaron was to speak for Moses to the people. He was to speak only the words that Moses put into his mouth. Again we see the superabundant grace of God at work. Even in the midst of blatant disobedience – ‘please send someone else’ – God brings a helper and promises his own presence. God promises his presence with both Moses and Aaron. “I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do.” We tend to trust in a friend we can see rather than the faithful one who is always there. Our hearts are inclined to put more confidence in an eloquent tongue than in the one who created it. For us, if God is with us that should be enough.

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

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

This is what brings true contentment, true fulfillment, true joy.

Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Psalms 65:4 Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!

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

July 18, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 3:10-12; It’s Not About You!

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100620_exodus03_10-12.mp3

6/20 Exodus 3:10-12 It’s Not About You!

We’ve been following Moses in the early chapters of Exodus. Today we’re in Exodus chapter 3, and we’ll be looking at verses 10-12, the commissioning of Moses.

Moses, rescued from the death sentence of the Pharaoh by the Pharaoh’s own daughter, cared for in his earliest years by his own Hebrew mother, then raised in the courts of Pharaoh. But at age 40 he considers himself a Hebrew, and knows God is sending him to rescue his people from cruel oppression, so he takes action to defend the helpless. He came to his own people, but his own people did not receive him, so he spends the next 40 years of his life an exile, takes a gentile bride, and tends another man’s sheep in the desert. Moses, now 80 years old, out on the back side of the desert, sees a strange sight.

3:1 Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Moses is confronted with the holiness of God. God calls to him ‘Moses, Moses’ indicating that God is intimately acquainted with him and cares for him. But when Moses approaches, he is ordered to come no closer, because God is holy and cannot be approached by sinful man. Moses must remove his sandals and take the place of a servant in the presence of this holy God. God initiates the relationship and establishes the ground rules as to how he is to be approached. Then he introduces himself as the God of Moses’ father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. This is the same God that had called the idolatrous Abram to leave home and family and follow this one true God, and God had promised to bless him and multiply him and make him great, and through him to bless all the nations of the world. God had confirmed these promises to the miracle child Isaac, and then to the wily manipulator Jacob. This is the God that Moses father had taught him about when he was just a babe. This is the one true God, and Moses is rightfully terrified in his presence and hides his face.

Now that God has Moses’ attention and Moses knows who he’s dealing with, God communicates his message to Moses.

7 Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them.

God cares about the plight of his people. Although God has been seemingly absent for 400 years, God has been paying attention all along. I have surely seen… I have heard… I know. I have come down. I have come down to deliver. I have come down to deliver my people and to bring them up, to bless them beyond their wildest imaginations. God understands affliction, suffering, cries for help, oppression. God is not coldly distant when his people suffer. He cares. He experiences suffering with his people.

Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. Jesus is with us in our pain, in our sufferings, in our sorrows.

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

The Psalms give us insight into the heart of Jesus

Psalms 22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? 22:2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. 3 Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. 4 In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. 5 To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame. 6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. 7 All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; 8 “He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” 9 Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. 10 On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God. 11 Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help. 12 Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; 13 they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. 14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; 15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. 16 For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet– 17 I can count all my bones– they stare and gloat over me; 18 they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. 19 But you, O LORD, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! 20 Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! 21 Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen! 22 I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: 23 You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! 24 For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.

Our God is a God of comfort.

Jeremiah 31:13 … I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.

Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

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 has surely seen, he has heard, he knows. God identifies with us in our affliction. God himself has come down, personally, to deliver.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. :2 He was in the beginning with God. …14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

So God communicates his heart for his people to Moses.

7 Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them.

I wonder if Moses was bitter. He had it made. He was raised by the Pharaoh’s daughter. All the wealth of Egypt was at his fingertips. Power, prestige, position, he had it all. When he stood up to save the Hebrew slave from the hand of the cruel taskmaster, he had nothing to gain and everything to lose, but it was the right thing to do. He stepped out in faith, according to Acts 7, trusting that the people would understand that God was giving them deliverance through his hand. But instead they treated him with scorn and contempt. He had nothing to gain and everything to lose, and he indeed lost everything and gained nothing. Now he’s 80 years old, he has been exiled in the wilderness for the last 40 years, he has no possession of his own, no purpose, no hope, no future. He’s out tending another man’s sheep on the back side of the desert, and God shows up to tell him to take off his shoes; to tell him that he’s seen, he’s heard, he knows, and he has come down to deliver.

I could imagine Moses thinking ‘Why are you telling me this? God, with all due respect, don’t you know that Egypt is that way? If you’ve come down to deliver your people, you’ve come down in the wrong place. This is the middle of the desert and your people don’t like me. I don’t belong – anywhere. If you’re so concerned about the suffering of your people, then why didn’t things go differently 40 years ago when I stood up for my people? That’s really great if you care about your people and you’re going to rescue them now. I’ll just stay out here in the desert with these sheep.

But God makes it very clear what he expects of Moses:

10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”

Moses, I am sending you. I have come down to deliver and bring up my people. The reason I came to you Moses, is that I’ve been preparing you for the last 80 years to be my chosen instrument to deliver my people. I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.

Now Moses asks a very good question.

11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

Let’s put ourselves in Moses’ shoes for a minute. Moses was 40 years old before he had the courage to do anything for God. It was 40 years before he stepped out in great personal risk for the sake of what is right. I wonder how long it had bothered him before he took action. I wonder if there was a nagging at his conscience that what was happening to his people was wrong and by his inaction, he was a part of the problem. Then, when Moses finally works up the courage to act, he is totally misunderstood. Rather than being the celebrated rescuer, he ends up rejected, in the wilderness with a nomadic people herding sheep. He was a complete failure.

So Moses asks God ‘who am I?’ This is a humble question from a broken man. What qualifications do I have? What abilities or skills do I have to offer? What position do I hold? What influence do I have? What experience or know-how do I possess? What’s my reputation? What can I contribute to your great plan? What can I do? What makes me special? Why me? Who am I? Who am I that I should go?

Moses’ question is humble, but the emphasis is all in the wrong place. Moses is looking at himself and in humility asking ‘what can I possibly do for you? But as C.S. Lewis put it:

Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less” – C.S. Lewis

Moses was consumed with who he was. God redirected his attention to get his eyes off himself.

12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

Moses question: Who am I?; God’s answer: But I will be with you. Moses, it does not matter who you are. Who you are is not the point. Who you are is irrelevant. Moses! Get your eyes off yourself! It is not who you are, but who I am that matters! Stop being consumed by your own inadequacies. Who I am is the only thing in the universe that really matters. Who I am and how I relate to you is the one thing you need to pay attention to. Moses came to understand this later in his journey. Moses asks who will go with him:

Exodus 33:12 Moses said to the LORD, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’…14 And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. 16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”

Moses got it. It is the presence of God that makes all the difference. That God is with you is the only thing that matters.

Psalms 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Psalms 21:6 For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence.

Psalms 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

The removal of the favor of God’s presence is the definition of hell.

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

God was promising Moses the one thing that really matters. The one thing that brings joy. The one thing that promises success. The one thing that truly satisfies. I will be with you. That is enough. God told Moses ‘I have come down. I will bring them up. I will be with you.’ Precious promises! Immanuel – God with us – Jesus!

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.

Let’s take our eyes off ourselves and fix our eyes on Jesus. If God is with us, if God is for us – and God has demonstrated at the cross that he is decisively for us – then we can do anything that he calls us to do. Jesus taught us

Matthew 17:20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

If we are looking away from ourselves and looking to God, trusting in God, depending on God, then nothing is impossible. God told an improbable man to do the impossible. God promised to be with him. And through this unlikely instrument, God did the impossible!

June 20, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , | Leave a comment

2 Peter 1:10-11; Certainty of Entrance

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20091025_2peter1_10-11.mp3

10/25 2 Peter 1:10-11 Certainty of Entrance

2Peter 1:1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: 2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self–control, and self–control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Intro:

Peter is combating the destructive heresies of false teachers who were attempting to lead the believers astray. So Peter begins by laying again for them (and for us) the foundation of God’s undeserved grace in salvation and the necessity of an appropriate response from us. He starts with the fact that we have received a faith of equal worth; that it comes to us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ; that grace and peace are multiplied in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. He continues that the divine power of Jesus has richly provided everything necessary for life and godliness. Out of the excellence and glory of Jesus we have been richly provided with promises – promises that secure our escape from corruption and make us partakers of the divine nature.

Then Peter takes us from the divine initiative to the human response; in light of all that God has done, we must respond. For this very reason make every effort. An understanding of God’s sovereign power at work in us and his divine provision supplied to us must not cause us to coast; rather, he says, because of this we are to make every effort. God has taken the initiative, given us the tools, supplied us with the strength, and promised us success. Now we must make every effort to supplement the faith that he has given us with virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, brotherly affection, and love. Many of these qualities that Peter tells us to bring in alongside our faith are qualities that Paul tells us are the fruit of the Spirit – something that the Spirit produces in our lives. So which is it? Do we make every effort to abound in these qualities, or are these qualities produced in our lives by the Spirit of God? For instance, self-control is something we are to bring in alongside our faith, and self-control is the fruit of the Spirit. Self-control indicates that there is a self that is out of control and needs to be reined in; that we have desires that we must not gratify. By our faith in God we must fight to replace sinful, treacherous desires with the superior pleasures of knowing God. That is work and it takes discipline and diligent effort on our part. Yet it stems from faith and we have been abundantly supplied with everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us. We have the divine promise that we will be ultimately successful in defeating the desires of the flesh, escaping corruption and participating in the characteristics of God. We fight the fight of faith not in our own strength, but ‘by the strength that God supplies, in order that in everything God may be glorified…’ [1Peter 4:11].

Augustine of Hippo, who lived from 354 – 430 said

‘…I can do all things in Him who strengthens me. Strengthen me, that I may be able, grant what Thou dost command and command what Thou wilt. …when what you command is done, it is You who give the power. [Augustine, Confessions, x. 31, cf.29, 37]

Spurgeon quotes the vicar of Everton, John Berridge:

‘Run, John, and work, the law commands, But finds me neither feet nor hands; But sweeter news the gospel brings, It bids me fly and lends me wings. [John Berridge 1716-1793, The Salt-Cellars, Being a Collection of Proverbs, Together with Homely Notes Theron p.200 by C.H.Spurgeon; (often attributed to John Bunyan)]

So are self-control and all these other characteristics fruit of the Spirit? Yes! But then why does Peter tell us to make every effort to see them abound in our life? Because we must! The gospel demands that we fly and gives us wings. God demands that we love and ‘God’s love is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us’ [Rom.5:5]! Paul helps us out here:

Colossians 1:29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

Peter even ties these characteristics to the concept of ‘fruit’ in verse 8 – they keep you from being unfruitful. And whoever lacks these qualities, Peter says, is blind has forgotten their own salvation. Peter is calling us to know and to remember, and warns against forgetting. A Christian by definition is one who has been forgiven. For a Christian to forget that – that I am a sinner saved from God’s wrath by God’s gracious provision of his own Son – is far worse than forgetting your own name, forgetting your own identity!

Peter continues in these verses to spur us on to sanctified diligence, and then he encourages us with the divine certainty of the hope set before us.

10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

He starts with the word ‘therefore’, and he calls us his brothers. In light of all this – in light of God’s grace in initiating faith, in giving us the tools, supplying us with the strength, and promising us success;

in light of the fact that God demands a transformed life and God gives what he commands, Peter says ‘be all the more diligent’. This speaks of conscientious activity to fulfill obligations and pursue something we deeply care about. We are to be eager, zealous, strive, make every effort, expend energy. ‘God’s grace should not lead to moral relaxation but intense effort’ [Schriener, p.304]

What are we to be all the more diligent to do? This is surprising! Peter tells us to make your calling and election sure. What is calling and what is election and how do we make them sure? First, lets look at the word ‘sure’ and see what the expected outcome is, then we will look at what it is that we are to make sure.

To make sure has a legal sense of being ratified or confirmed; guaranteed. We are to confirm or make certain our calling and election. Let’s start with a dictionary definition:

CALLING, n. 1. A naming, or inviting; a reading over or reciting in order, or a call of names with a view to obtain an answer, as in legislative bodies. 2. Vocation; profession; trade; usual occupation, or employment. 3. Class of persons engaged in any profession or employment. 4. Divine summons, vocation, or invitation. Give all diligence to make your calling and election sure. 2 Pet. 1. [1828 Webster’s Dictionary; http://1828.mshaffer.com%5D

Jesus described his calling this way:

John 10:3 …The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. …27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

Calling is clearly to eternal life. Paul says to Timothy:

1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

2 Timothy 1:9 …God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,

In 1 Corinthians, Paul says that he was sent to preach the gospel; the word of the cross of Christ which is powerful. Notice how he describes us as ‘who are being saved’ in contrast to ‘those who are perishing’ in verse 18; ‘those who believe’ in verse 21; and ‘those who are called’ in verse 24. He goes on:

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.

This call is the call of a God who:

Romans 4:17 …who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

Peter has described this calling as

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

This call is what overcomes the satanic darkness and blindness of our hearts.

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Peter tells us to ratify or make firm our calling.

What about election? Election is something that freaks a lot of people out. Peter here tells us to be diligent to make our election sure. Here’s what Webster’s dictionary says about election:

ELEC’TION, n. [L. electio.] The act of choosing; choice; the act of selecting one or more from others. Hence appropriately, 1. The act of choosing a person to fill an office or employment, by any manifestation of preference, as by ballot, uplifted hands or viva voce; as the election of a king, of a president, or a mayor. 2. Choice; voluntary preference; free will; liberty to act or not. 3. Power of choosing or selecting. 4. Discernment; discrimination; distinction. [1828 Webster’s Dictionary; http://1828.mshaffer.com%5D

The teaching of the bible on election is meant to encourage and comfort us, to lead us to worship and thanksgiving. Jesus said:

Matthew 24:24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.

I think he means to encourage us by this verse – that it is not possible to lead astray the elect. Paul points us to some of our most comprehensive and precious promises that come in connection with our election:

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. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 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?

All things work together for our good! He will complete his saving work justifying us and glorifying us. We will be conformed to the image of his Son! If God is for us who can be against us! He did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all – how will he not with him graciously give us all things! We are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Sweet and precious promises!

Paul saw election as a motive and encouragement for evangelism:

Acts 13:48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

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

2 Timothy 2:10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

Paul thanks God because of the election of the believers in Thessalonika

2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.

He sees their faith and growth as evidence of their election, and he thanks God for it.

1 Thessalonians 1:2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, …4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction…6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,

Election and calling are things that God does [or did in eternity past]. Peter commands us to be diligent to confirm or make them certain. How can we be expected to be diligent to make them sure? Paul said we were predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. So we take up the wings of grace that God supplies and make every effort to soar with excellent character that reflects his glory. If we are being conformed to the image of Jesus; if these qualities are ours and are abounding in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, that displays that our calling and election were genuine and not imagined. Calling and election are known only by their fruit – so if we show the fruit, we can be sure that the hidden root is there.

10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Peter gives us a great promise here. If you practice these qualities you will never fall. If we are diligent to supplement faith with virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love, if we are growing in our Christ-likeness, then we will never completely and permanently fall. We may stumble on the way, but he will pick us up. This is what Jude says:

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

Peter now, having laid out our responsibility to respond to God’s initiation and utilize the resources that he puts at our disposal, now returns to where he began – God’s rich provision of everything we need. Through us taking up the tools and fighting the good fight of faith, God is richly providing entrance into the eternal kingdom. Our entrance is a lavishly generous gift. God gives us everything we need. God grants us promises that he is obligated to fulfill. And God lavishly provides for us entrance into the eternal kingdom. God does this ‘in this way’; by ensuring that we make every effort; ensuring that the fruit of the Spirit is increasing in our lives; by ensuring that we are all the more diligent to practice these qualities. Notice that Peter doesn’t say anything about rewards here. He is simply talking about entrance. The false teachers would say that you are saved by grace, so you can relax. You are safe. You don’t have to live any certain way. Peter says that entrance comes through God securing our holiness. And it is entrance into the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He is not talking about some happy heavenly place. He is talking about a Person! The Kingdom is the reign of the King! There is no such thing as heaven without Jesus. Jesus is heaven! He richly provides for our entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It’s all about Jesus! It will be all about Jesus forever!

Jesus is absolutely central. In verse 1, Peter calls himself a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ. He calls Jesus ‘our God and Savior’ and refers to his righteousness. In verse 2, he says that grace and peace come in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. In verse 3, he refers to the divine power of Jesus; Jesus is the one who called us; we are called to the glory and excellence of Jesus. In verse 4, Jesus gives us precious and very great promises. We participate in the divine nature of Jesus, which is described in verses 5-7. In verse 8 we are to be fruitful and useful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 9 refers to the cleansing from sin, which comes through the cross of Jesus. Verse 11 points us to the gift of entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is truly all about Jesus forever.

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

October 25, 2009 Posted by | 2 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment