PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Exodus 20:1-2; Freedom! The Place of the Law for the Christian

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110703_exodus20_1-2.mp3

07/03 Exodus 20:1-2 Prologue – Place of the Law for the Christian

We are about to enter a section in Exodus that is Law. Exodus 20 contains what we know as the Ten Commandments. The rest of Exodus, then Leviticus and much of Numbers and Deuteronomy contain laws given by God to govern his people. So before we choose either to study this out and see what we can learn from it or to set it aside and skip it entirely, we need to understand where we as New Testament believers in Jesus stand in relation to God’s law. We are quick to answer ‘We are free! We are not under law! We are under grace!” and we quote verses like:

Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Romans 6:14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Romans 7:6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.

Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

Galatians 5:18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

We are free in Jesus! We are set free from the law! We are not under law; we are under grace. We are released from the captivity of the law. That is what the bible says. But what exactly does that mean? Does freedom from the law, not being under the law mean that we have no moral standard and are free to do as we please? Let’s look back at the text for the answer.

Romans 6:14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

Romans 6:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

We are set free from the law, not so that we can enjoy sinning, but so that we are set free from bondage to sin. We are out from under the rule of law so that we can have a heart kind of obedience. We are now free to be slaves to righteousness, slaves to God. We have been set free from the obligation so that we can obey God from the heart.

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

Here’s a test. Can you pray Psalm 119? Just listen and see if your soul resonates with the Psalmist. (and don’t worry, I won’t read the whole thing!)

Psalm 119:1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD! 2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, 3 who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways! 4 You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently. 5 Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes! 6 Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments. 7 I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules. 8 I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me! 9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. 10 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! 11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. 12 Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes! 13 With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. 14 In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. 15 I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. 16 I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. 17 Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word. 18 Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. 19 I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your commandments from me! 20 My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times.

97 Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. 98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.

113 … but I love your law.

163 … but I love your law.

165 Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.

174 I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight. 175 Let my soul live and praise you, and let your rules help me. 176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments.

Or what about Psalm 19?

Psalm 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; 8 the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9 the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. 11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. 12 Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. 13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. 14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

Is that how you feel about God’s law, his commandments, his rules? Are they sweet and desirable to you? Can you sing psalms in praise of the law of God? Should we feel that way? Or is that just an Old Testament thing. Look at what the Apostle says:

Romans 7:12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

Romans 7:16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.

1Timothy 1:8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully,

He also says:

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

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

Listen to what Jesus says about the law:

Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them .18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

So Jesus did not abolish the law and Paul claims that all scripture is profitable and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. But he also says we are set free and no longer under the law. How does this all fit together? I think the passage in 1 Timothy holds a clue:

1Timothy 1:8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully,

Paul is warning against false teachers who teach the law without understanding what it is really about. He says there is a lawful use of the law, and there is a way to use the law unlawfully. So we need to understand the purpose of the law. He clarifies in the following verses:

1 Timothy 1:9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners…

The law was given for sinners, not righteous people. People that drive slow don’t need the speed limit sign. The guy in the tractor doing 12 does not sweat when he sees the state trooper posted behind the 65 mile an hour sign. The sign is posted for those who like to drive fast. Paul further clarifies the purpose of the law in Romans:

Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

The law shuts every mouth that would try to excuse itself. We are all accountable before God as lawbreakers. James is on the same page with Paul when he says:

James 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.

If you are perfect except for just one thing, you are a lawbreaker and you are guilty. Paul sums it up in Galatians:

Galatians 3:10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”

To misuse the law is to rely on it to establish your righteousness before God. If you rely on the law then you have to abide by all of it perfectly. No one ever has, so that makes us all lawbreakers and places us under the just punishment for lawbreakers. The law was not intended to make anyone righteous. By nature it cannot make anyone righteous any more than a speed limit sign can make your car stay within the posted limit. It simply points out where you are in violation of the standard.

How is that sweeter than honey and more desirable than riches? That’s bad news for all of us. But it is an objective standard to tell us where we stand. And it tells us that there is a God who is absolutely holy and has righteous standards that don’t bend. There is a God and he doesn’t leave us guessing whether we are in or out. That’s important to know. Have you ever been driving along minding your own business, when the patrol car catches your eye, and you realize you haven’t been paying attention and have no idea what the speed limit is? You instinctively hit the brakes and check the speedometer and look around for a sign to tell you if you’re in or out. Is it 65 here? 75? 35? God’s perfect law reveals his perfect standard and shows us right where we stand. So we know where we stand, but this is still bad news for all of us, because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. None is righteous, no not one. Our only hope at this point is that the one who is supposed to uphold the law is either not paying attention or is just too lazy to actually enforce the standard. Absolute justice would demand that he give every speeder a ticket every time. We can hope that he is not absolutely just or he is too busy with somebody else. But if we understand who God is, none of those hopes will give the least bit of comfort. He knows everything, he sees everything, he is infinitely capable to enforce his perfect law perfectly, and he is absolutely just with everyone all the time. So where is the hope? Listen to Romans 3:

Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it–– 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

This is the gospel! This is good news for lawbreaker! God the lawmaker declares us just because God put his own Son forward as a propitiation – satisfying his just wrath against sin by punishing a perfect and willing substitute. This allows a just God to fully deal with sin and yet declare the sinner who runs to Jesus as not guilty. God remains just and justifies sinners who trust in his Son Jesus. The law is sweet because it shows us our need and drives us to Jesus!

But is this all? Once I know I am a lawbreaker in need of a substitute, can’t I be done with the law? What use is there in going back again to look at the law? If I see the law is impotent to do anything but condemn me, then once it has brought me to the cross, isn’t its function complete? Yes, its primary function is complete, but God’s law has a secondary function, a new-covenant function. Remember, 2 Timothy 3 told us that all Old Testament scripture, including the law, is profitable …for training in righteousness, that the man of God, (the one who already has his sins forgiven by God’s grace through the cross) may be competent, equipped for every good work.

So God’s law has a training and equipping function for the one who has been saved by grace from the consequences of the law.

If we are paying attention, we can see this back in the giving of the law in Exodus. In introducing his law, God gave it as a rule for his already saved people to know how to be his ambassadors in the world.

Exodus 19:3 while Moses went up to God. The LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

God was not giving it as a means to earn points with him. He had already brought them out of bondage and into his presence. Now he was giving instruction on how to respond to his grace. He says at the beginning of chapter 20:

20:1 And God spoke all these words, saying, 2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

God had already brought them out of Egypt. God had already given himself in covenant relationship to his people – I am YHWH your God. The One who Is; the Self-Existent one, is personally your

God, your authority. Now that I have rescued you and you are in a relationship with me, here is how you should respond to my grace. Listen to Exodus 20 with that gracious purpose and the worshipful response of the Psalmist in mind.

Psalm 119: 10 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! 18 Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. 20 My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times. 174 I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight. 176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments.

Exodus 20

20:1 And God spoke all these words, saying, 2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. 7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. 8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. 12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. 13 “You shall not murder. 14 “You shall not commit adultery. 15 “You shall not steal. 16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”

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

Advertisements

July 3, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 12:37-13:16; Redemption; the Firstborn Belong to God

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110213_exodus_12_37-13_16.mp3

02/13 Exodus 12:37-13:16 Redemption; Firstborn Belong to the LORD

Recap:

We’ve been away from the book of Exodus for some time now, so before we jump back in to chapters 12 and 13, I’ll try to give a very sweeping summary of the first 12 chapters of the book and sketch out where we are going from here.

Exodus is a book about redemption and the presence of God among his people. Exodus is the focal point of the Torah, or the five books of Moses, as it describes the founding of Israel as God’s chosen nation. Exodus is about a God who acts on behalf of his people, in response to their prayers, a God who always keeps his promises and uses weak and foolish things to shame the wise and the strong. God hears the cries for help from his people, and he triumphs over the Pharaoh using a handful of women who determine to obey God rather than man, whatever the cost. He raises up his deliverer, who is misunderstood and rejected by his own people, exiled into the wilderness. He becomes savior to the gentiles, and learns shepherding in the desert. God reveals himself unexpectedly as the self-existent one, and reveals what he will do to rescue his people. The news is received initially with worship, but as the realization sets in that things will get worse before they get better, the people run back to their old slave-master for help and call down curses on God’s chosen deliverer. God, in his great mercy toward a sinful and rebellious people, unleashes his mighty acts of judgment against Egypt to deliver his people. In these, he demonstrated decisively his sovereign superiority over all the gods the Egyptians worshiped. God points us to Christ our passover sacrificed for us; to Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, as he establishes the means for deliverance from his own justice on the firstborn.

In chapter 12, we have instructions for the passover ritual, we see the Egyptians ejecting the people from the land in response to God’s final decisive blow, and we see Israel plundering the Egyptians of their valuables. In chapter 13, God asserts his ownership over everyone and everything, and demands holiness in his people. In chapter 14 God leads his people through the Red Sea and crushes the pursuing Egyptian army.

To help orient ourselves as to where we are in the book, let’s review a basic outline of God’s action in Exodus: (Longman, p.34):

Exodus 1-18 God saves Israel from Egyptian bondage

Exodus 19-24 God gives Israel His law; where he formally takes them to be his people and defines for them his covenant relationship with them.

Exodus 25-40 God instructs Israel to build His Tabernacle; the place where he will once again dwell with his people.

Prayer:

My prayer as we study the book of Exodus together is that we enjoy the presence of almighty God with us, that we acknowledge ourselves as undeserving recipients of his love and grace, that we embrace Jesus as our passover lamb slaughtered in our place, that we experience Jesus who shepherds us through the wilderness, that we are brought out from under the cruel bondage of sin and into the glorious freedom of joyfully serving the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Ethnic diversity; theological unity

Exodus 12:37 And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. 38 A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds. 39 And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had brought out of Egypt, for it was not leavened, because they were thrust out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves. 40 The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. 41 At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. 42 It was a night of watching by the LORD, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; so this same night is a night of watching kept to the LORD by all the people of Israel throughout their generations.

In verse 38 we are told that a mixed multitude accompanied the Israelites as they went out of Egypt. This is a crowd of diverse ethnic background, apparently convinced by God’s mighty acts that YHWH really is the only true God, and they would be better off siding with the Israelites and their God than remaining behind in devastated Egypt. Remember God’s promise to Abraham that he would bless the nations through his offspring (Gen.18:18; 22:18)? Even an Egyptian could escape God’s wrath by following God’s instructions and coming under the blood. Because of this mixed multitude accompanying Israel in the exodus, parameters had to be established. The meal commemorating the redemption from slavery was an exclusive meal. Not all were welcome. But this exclusivity was not based on ethnicity. People from every tribe and tongue and people and nation were welcome to participate, but only those who had embraced YHWH as their God and submitted to the sign of covenant relationship with him.

12:43 And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the statute of the Passover: no foreigner shall eat of it, 44 but every slave that is bought for money may eat of it after you have circumcised him. 45 No foreigner or hired servant may eat of it. 46 It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones. 47 All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. 48 If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. 49 There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.” 50 All the people of Israel did just as the LORD commanded Moses and Aaron. 51 And on that very day the LORD brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts.

There was to be one standard, one law for natives and aliens alike. Acceptance of the terms of the covenant relationship with this rescuing God. Those who rejected the covenant relationship with YHWH were to be excluded. There was room for ethnic diversity, but there must be theological unity.

The Firstborn

The final blow against Egypt was the death of the firstborn. God has exclusive rights over his creation, to do with it as he pleases. Life and death are in the hands of no one but God. There are no accidents in God’s universe. God says:

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.

Back in Exodus 4, Moses was instructed by God:

Exodus 4:22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.”’

God had demanded the release of his firstborn son. If Pharaoh refused, the consequences would be the death of Pharaoh’s firstborn son. This is exactly what happened. God kept his word. This Pharaoh’s predecessor had ordered the execution of all male infants born to Israel. Now God personally saw to the execution of all the firstborn males of Egypt. This was the price God paid to set his people free. God as Creator has sovereign rights over his creation. God as Redeemer has double authority over his people. We must be reminded of his sovereign rights over us.

Exodus 13:1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.”

… 11 “When the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites, as he swore to you and your fathers, and shall give it to you, 12 you shall set apart to the LORD all that first opens the womb. All the firstborn of your animals that are males shall be the LORD’s. 13 Every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. Every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem. 14 And when in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. 15 For when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all the males that first open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’ 16 It shall be as a mark on your hand or frontlets between your eyes, for by a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt.”

God demanded that all firstborn be consecrated to him. To consecrate was to dedicate, to sanctify, or set apart as holy, to be offered to the Lord. The consecration of the firstborn was similar to the tithe, where part was given as a recognition and reminder that God owned the whole. It is clear in scripture that not just the firstborn, but everyone and everything belong to God.

Exodus 19:5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine;

Deuteronomy 10:14 Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it.

Job 41:11 Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.

Psalm 50:12 “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine.

God owns all things. He can do with his possessions whatever he wills. He demanded that the firstborn of anything that was considered clean – fit for eating or offering – would be sacrificed to him. All the firstborn of unclean animals must either be redeemed – by a substitute clean animal sacrificed in its place, or it was to be destroyed. Isn’t it interesting that man is placed in the same category as unclean animals unfit for sacrifice – humans must be redeemed. This is a pattern we have seen throughout Genesis. In Genesis 22, God had demanded that Abraham sacrifice his promised son Isaac as a burnt offering. Abraham was obediently following God’s instructions, when at the last minute God stopped him and provided a substitute ram to be sacrificed in his place. But that was not the first time. All the way back in Genesis 3, our first parents rebelled against God and then hid from God because they knew that the wages of sin is death. But God did not put them to death. Instead, he clothed them with skins of animals, sacrificed in their place as a substitute. All this points to Jesus, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn.1:29). He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree (1Pet.2:24). Verse 16 tells us that the awareness of God’s right and our redemption is to be taught by fathers to their sons, and we are to be constantly reminded that we were bought with a price.

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

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

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

You are not your own. You were bought with a price. We need to be constantly reminded of this. It is our responsibility to pass this truth on to the next generation. We no longer sacrifice animals because the once for all sacrifice of Jesus was sufficient for all time to cover all our sins (Rom.6:10; Heb.7:27; 9:12, 26; 10:10).

Romans 6:10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.

Hebrews 7:27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.

Hebrews 9:12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

Hebrews 9:26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

Hebrews 10:10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

We need to be reminded of how the Lord by his strong hand brought us out from the house of slavery. We need to be reminded that we were bought with the once for all blood of Jesus the Lamb of God. Today we have a different reminder. ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me’ (Lk.22:19).

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

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


February 13, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Matthew 28:18-20; Disciple-Making Disciples

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110102_make_disciples.mp3

01/02 Make Disciples by Immersing and Teaching

Introduction:

Last time we took a good hard look at who Jesus made himself out to be and some of the amazing claims that he made. If he really is who he says he is, then we would do well to pay careful attention to what he says. Today I want to look at Jesus’ final command to his disciples before he left the planet.

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.”

In this passage, Jesus claims to be the fulfillment of a passage we looked at briefly last week. Jesus claimed to be the ‘Son of Man’. We find that title in Daniel:

Daniel 7:13 I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed

Jesus, after his crucifixion and resurrection, claimed that this prophecy in Daniel had been fulfilled in him. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” The Ancient of Days had given to the Son of Man “dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him”.

Jesus himself connected his title ‘Son of Man’ with an authority that he possessed:

Matthew 9:6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”––he then said to the paralytic––“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” (cf. Mark 2:10, Luke 5:24)

Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, has always been and will always be God, and retains the authority of God. But he became human so that he could bear our sins and become the Savior of the world. In Peter’s preaching recorded for us in the book of Acts, he pointed to this new role as Savior

Acts 5:31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.

Jesus was given all authority in heaven and on earth, specifically to be the savior and judge.

John 5:22 The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father… 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.

When Jesus prayed as he anticipated the cross, he said:

John 17:1 … “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.

So Jesus, in claiming that he has been given all authority, authority to be the savior and judge, was fulfilling Daniel’s prophecy, that he “was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him.”

Who?

And he was claiming this authority as a basis for the command that he would give to his followers in Matthew 28. Before we look at what Jesus commanded, let’s look at who he was talking to. It says ‘Jesus came and said to them‘. We have to look back a few verses to see who the ‘them‘ is. If we drop back to verse 16, we see:

Matthew 28:16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them,

So what Jesus said was addressed to the eleven disciples. But we learn more about them if we are paying attention to the details. These are the twelve, the disciples whom Jesus had selected after praying all night, minus Judas Iscariot who betrayed him. And we see these are disciples who are still following Jesus; still obeying him. Verse 16 tells us that they went to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. So they were still obeying Jesus, still doing whatever he commanded. That is what a disciple is. We learn something else about these disciples. They were worshipers of Jesus. When they saw their resurrected Lord, they bowed the knee. They paid homage to him as their king. They acknowledged that he is the one who is in charge, in control. They declared that he is most valuable, of the highest worth. But some doubted. They had questions. They worshiped and they obeyed, but they didn’t have all the answers. Some doubted. But Jesus spoke to all of them.

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.”

Another thing we can say about who it was that Jesus addressed is although it was primarily addressed to his eleven obedient worshiping doubting followers, it was not limited to only those eleven. We know this for several reasons. First, the command to baptize and teach was carried out by a much wider circle than just the eleven. We see, for instance, in the book of Acts, Philip the evangelist, who was not one of the eleven, teaching and baptizing. (Acts 6:5; 8:38). Throughout the history of the church after the eleven apostles, we see teaching and baptizing going on, and this is just what Jesus intended, because he instructs his disciples to make disciples and teach them to obey all that he has commanded. That must at least include his command to make disciples by baptizing and teaching. So his disciples were to make disciple making disciples.

And his concluding promise indicates that his purpose is exponentially bigger than this initial group of eleven. Jesus says ‘Look, I am with you always, to the end of the age’. Jesus’ promise is for successive generations of disciples. Jesus is about to leave the planet. He is about to ascend into heaven and disappear from sight. But his promise is that he would be with us always, to the end of the age. His presence was not limited to the original eleven. That promise is for us today! “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Although Jesus is not physically or visibly with us, he is truly with us in a real authentic way. We have his promise on that!

We can also see that Jesus purpose reaches far beyond his original disciples when we see how he prays for those disciples. Look at John 17:

John 17:20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 … so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

Jesus is praying here specifically for us – for those who will believe in him through their word – through the word of the original eleven. I’d like to come back around to this passage in a few minutes to reinforce what we are seeing here.

So far we have established who Jesus was addressing when he gave his great commission command – doubting but worshiping disciples who would follow him and do what he commands – including us! And we have established what kind of authority Jesus was given by his Father – specifically authority to save and authority to judge all flesh – people of every tribe and tongue and people and nation. Now let’s turn our attention to what it is that Jesus commands them and us.

What Jesus Commands

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.”

Our English translation can be somewhat misleading here. ‘Go’ is not the focus of the text. The imperative verb in the sentence is ‘make disciples’, and it is modified by three participles. Going is simply a necessary part of discipling all nations. Make disciples is the central command Jesus gives to his disciples. A disciple is one who accepts and follows a teacher or a doctrine.

Every disciple was called to leave everything.

Matthew 4:19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Matthew 8:21 Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”

Matthew 9:9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

Matthew 10:38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Matthew 19:21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Jesus doesn’t have weekend disciples – those who have other priorities but follow Jesus in their spare time. Jesus demands to be first in everything. That doesn’t mean that if you follow Jesus you will automatically quit your job.

The primary objective for every disciple of Jesus is to disciple others. We follow Jesus and we want everyone else to follow Jesus. The two participles that come next give us the ‘how’ of discipling. Disciple making happens through immersion and teaching.

Immersion

I use the word ‘immersion’ because that is the translation of the Greek word ‘baptizo’. Make disciples of all nations, immersing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The immersion of a convert into water was a symbolic statement that they were leaving their old belief system behind and were turning from it to follow a new path. That is what the bible word ‘repent’ means – to have a change of heart and mind. Being immersed in water was the public declaration to family and friends and the community that a radical change had taken place.

And this is at its core a trinitarian commission. Jesus commands that we immerse disciples into the one Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. A name in the bible stands for the character and reputation and authority of the person. So we are to immerse followers of Jesus in the one authority of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We are to be immersed into the character and personality of the one triune God. We are to be saturated, drenched with the Name.

Teaching

One part of the disciple-making process is the public proclamation that a person is abandoning self to become immersed as a follower of Jesus. The other part of disciple-making is teaching. The disciples referred to Jesus as their rabbi or teacher, and they were to pass on his teaching to the coming generations of Jesus’ disciples. There is a content that is to be communicated. The apostles refer to it as ‘the teaching’ or ‘the doctrine’ (Acts 2:42; Rom. 16:17; Eph.4:11-15; 1 Tim.4:6, 16, 6:1-3; Titus 1:9, 2:1, 10; 2 Jn.1:9-10). This is why the bible is written with words. There is concrete objective historically anchored truth that is to be kept pure from error and can be communicated to others. There is content to the teaching that we can lay on the table and evaluate biblically to determine if it is true or false. But teaching encompasses more than just the passing on of accurate information. A disciple was to imitate his rabbi. Discipling is relational and passes on not only truth but also character and passion. This presupposes that God’s words are true and that they are transformational. Jesus said:

John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. …68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

John 8:31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

So teaching is not merely passing on information. Teaching in the disciple-making process is bringing a person into interaction with the words of Jesus in such a way that they are personally transformed. Making disciples should transform the thinking, the feeling, and the acting of the disciple. Teaching must convey information, character and passion and translate into a changed life.

Disciple-making requires that we ‘teach them to observe all that Jesus has commanded us.’ This is more than subscribing to a particular belief system or reciting a prayer. To be a disciple is to be a follower of Jesus, to submit to him as Lord and to do everything he tells us to do.

Matthew 28: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.”

John 17

Let’s look back at John 17 and see what we can learn from how Jesus prays for his disciples. Jesus claims that those eleven had been given to him by the Father, and he had kept and guarded them in his name. Jesus says:

John 17:6 …they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.

So they have been given specific content: God’s words; they have received, believed and kept them. He says again in verse 14:

John 17:14 I have given them your word,

And Jesus asks that the Father would sanctify them with the word of truth.

John 17:17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

The disciples are to receive, believe and keep Gods word, to be sanctified by it, and Jesus sends them into the world just as the Father sent Jesus into the world. The Father sent the Son, the Son sent the disciples equipped with and transformed by his word, and then he prays for those who would believe in Jesus through their word – for us.

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.

Jesus prays with the ultimate purpose that the world may believe in Jesus through his word spoken by future disciples.

Summary:

So we see that Jesus has been given all authority. As a result of this he commands his disciples to make disciples of all nations. We are to make disciples by immersing them in the trinitarian Name of Father, Son and Spirit. We are to make disciples by teaching – conveying information, character and passion that will translate into a transformed life. Every Christian is to be a disciple-making disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ. There are no exceptions. Jesus doesn’t say that we should convert everyone and disciple some of them. He doesn’t say that some Christians will make disciples and others will warm the benches. This is a command. It is from Jesus and it is to each one of us who claims the name of Christ. We all must be disciple-making disciples of our Lord Jesus.

Practical Illustration:

So what does this look like? We can gain some insight from Luke’s version of the great commission:

Luke 24:45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

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

So the Scriptures are foundational. And the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus is central. The message to be proclaimed is repentance and forgiveness of sins. And discipling is to be done not with human wisdom or ingenuity, but empowered by the Holy Spirit. So we need to be bible-saturated, Spirit-filled, and gospel-centered as we point all people to Jesus.

Let’s look at some bible examples of disciple-making in action.

Philippians 4:9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me––practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

2 Timothy 2:1 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

2 Timothy 3:10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings…

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

So be a disciple-making disciple. Saturate yourself in God’s word, follow Jesus completely, and humbly, prayerfully, empowered by the Spirit, you teach and admonish one another, use God’s word to encourage one another, set the example in your attitude of gratitude toward God. Make disciples of all nations! This comes back around to Jesus as the fulfillment of Daniel’s vision.

Daniel 7:13 I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed

To Jesus is given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him. We, his disciple-making disciples are given the privilege of inviting men and women into this indestructible kingdom; into relationship with the King!

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

January 2, 2011 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Prayer

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100117_prayer.mp3

01/17/10 – Prayer

We, as the people of God, are called to pray. We are to be a people of prayer. Prayer is to characterize the church of God. We must pray, and we need to pray. After the ascension of Jesus, the disciples devoted themselves to prayer (Acts 1:14). In the early church, the prayers, alongside the apostles’ teaching, fellowship and the breaking of bread, was what the believers devoted themselves to (Acts 2:42). The Apostles turned some of the physical ministry of the church over to others so that they could devote themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word (Acts 6:4). Earnest prayer set prisoners free (Acts 12:5). If we want victory over the forces of evil, Jesus said the power for that victory comes only through prayer (Mk.9:29). When God told Ananias to go speak to Saul of Tarsus, who had been severely persecuting the churches, he said ‘behold, he is praying’ (Acts 9:11). When Jesus demonstrated his fury by making a whip of cords and driving people out of the temple, it was because ‘my house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’ (Mark 11:17; cf.Jn.2:15). In Revelation, the prayers of the saints are being poured out as incense before the throne of God (Rev.5:8, 8:3-4).
Over and over again in scripture, we are called to pray, and great promises are attached to our praying.

2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Jesus commanded that we pray:

Matthew 5:44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

Matthew 6:6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Matthew 6:9 Pray then like this: [the Lord’s prayer]

Matthew 9:38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the harvest.

Matthew 26:41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.

Luke 18:1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.

Prayer is essential and we are commanded to pray. I believe that we will be more inclined to pray and more determined and disciplined to pray if we understand what prayer is and how it works. We will be more effective in our praying if we understand how to effectively wield the weapon of prayer. I say the weapon of prayer, because prayer is listed in the description of the spiritual armor that every believer is to take up in Ephesians 6:

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil… 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm… 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel …that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

R. Kent Hughes describes the scene of a soldier preparing for battle:

“His heart pounds ka-thump ka-thump under his metal breastplate. As he steadies himself, he hitches up his armor belt and scuffs at the earth like a football player with his studded boots, testing his traction. He repeatedly draws his great shield across his body in anticipation of the fiery barrages to come. Reflexively he reaches up and repositions his helmet. He gingerly tests the edge of his sword and slips it back into his scabbard. The enemy approaches. Swords pulled from their scabbards ring in chilling symphony. the warriors stand motionless, breathing in dreadful spasms. And then the believing soldier does the most astounding thing. He falls to his knees in deep, profound, petitionary prayer – for he has obeyed his divine instructions to take up what John Bunyan referred to as “All-Prayer.” -R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Man, p.95

So, in order to obey our divine commander and take up this weapon of “All-Prayer”, we need to know what it is. What is prayer? Most simply and broadly put, prayer is conversation or talking with God. To be more accurate, prayer is our part of the conversation. When we speak to God, it is called prayer. When God speaks to us, it is called divine revelation or Holy Spirit illumination. Prayer can describe anything we say to God, whether it be worship of who he is, thanksgiving for what he’s done, confession of sin, questions, concerns or desires expressed to him, needs requested of him. But when prayer is distinguished from some of these other types of Godward communication, prayer is specifically the asking part of our speaking to God. Prayer is coming to God with needs that we request that he meet, calling on him for help.

Psalm 18:6 In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.

So a prerequisite for effective prayer is an understanding of who we are in relationship to our Creator. We are weak; he is omnipotent in strength. We are poor; he has all resources at his disposal. We are fools; he all-wise. We are blind; he sees all and knows the end from the beginning. We are dependent; he is self-existent. We are helpless; he delights to stoop down to help those in need. We are miserable in that we often turn from him as the all satisfying source of true joy and fulfillment and back to the fleeting pleasures of sin that we know will leave us hollow and empty with a painfully bitter aftertaste.

To put it bluntly, if we don’t know ourselves to be weak, poor, foolish, helpless, miserable wretches, then we won’t pray. Or if we do pray, our very prayers will be an offensive stench in the nostrils of God. We may pray like the wretched Pharisee “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” (Lk.18:11-12). That is a pompous arrogant self-centered self-righteous boast, not a prayer. Until we see our acute sinfulness and desperate need, we cannot pray as we ought. If we hope to be given anything by God, we must come as a desperate beggar. That is what prayer is. Jesus told us that “apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn.15:5). We cannot come to God self-assured, self-confident, as if we had some talents or gifts or resources that he should be impressed with. God cannot accept us if we come to him with a high self-esteem. ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble’ (1Pet.3:5-6). We are nothing, in fact, worse than nothing. We were created in his image with his dignity, but we have disfigured and distorted that image by wallowing in sin. We refuse to submit to his rightful authority, we are rebels against him and enemies of the cross. We have taken his good gifts and spat in his face. We have dragged his good name through the sewer. We must take our place with the tax-collector:

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ (Lk.18:13)

That is true praying. Asking. Crying out for mercy with a deep heartfelt sense of unworthiness and need. And yet boldly calling out to God because he is ‘rich in mercy’ (Eph.2:4). So prayer is turning away from ourselves to God in confidence that he will provide what we need. But where do we get this confidence? What makes us think that God will hear our prayers or be disposed to answer favorably? That brings us to the next point;

All our praying must be cross-centered praying. The cross is the expression of God’s mercy toward sinners. What we deserve – justice and wrath and punishment and eternal separation from a good God in hell, God poured out on Jesus on the cross. What we don’t deserve – forgiveness and welcome and kindness and favor and blessing, God freely gives to us who have taken refuge in the cross of Jesus. Our only safe place of meeting with God is at the foot of Calvary. If we come on our own, we will face the wrath of an angry God. If I come to him on the ground of the finished work of Jesus for me, I find love and peace and hope and joy and help. Jesus said:

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

Jesus is the only way to the Father. There is no other access.

Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

We, Jew and Gentile alike, gain access to the Father through the blood of Christ on the cross. We have been brought near to God through the substitutionary sin-bearing work of Jesus.

Hebrews 10:12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. 15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, 16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” 17 then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” 18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Jesus sacrificed himself for sinners. Because of the cross, God remembers our sins no more. They are gone! They have been punished, God’s justice is satisfied! And through the blood of Jesus, we now have confidence to enter the presence of God. We can enter with confidence and a clean conscience. Even boldness.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Because of the cross, we can be bold in prayer. We can use our blood bought privilege to approach with confidence the throne of grace. We can cry out as needy sinners to the God of all grace who will supply every need according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Phil.4:19). We can have confidence because:

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

If Christ died for us while we were sinners, what do you think he is willing to do for us now that he has made us saints? He has done the infinitely hard thing in bearing our sins and turning enemies into friends. Now that he has transformed us, how much easier is it for him as our Father and Friend to answer our requests as we ask according to his will? This is how Paul argues in Romans 8:

Romans 8:32 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?

We have his promise from the Psalms:

Psalm 84:11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.

And we have the word of Jesus himself:

John 14:13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

John 15:5 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. … 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. … 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

John 16:23 …Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. …26 In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.

Prayer is essential. We as believers must take up the weapon of prayer if we are to stand our ground. Prayer is asking – coming to God empty with our needs asking God who is the all-sufficient source to supply our every need. We approach in humble boldness because of the cross. We have been forgiven and invited, even commanded to come. We bring glory to God as the giver by coming to him to receive.

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

January 17, 2010 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 2:13-17; God Honoring Conduct; The State

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090201_1peter_2_13-17.mp3

02/01 1 Peter 2:13-17 God honoring conduct; subjection to political authority

This morning we are going to jump back into 1 Peter 2:13-17. We haven’t been in Peter for 2 months, so we need to start with some review to put this passage into its context.

Peter is writing from a prison in Rome, awaiting his own execution under the evil emperor Nero. Peter is writing to persecuted Christians scattered across Asia Minor, encouraging them to suffer well. At the close of the letter he says:

1 Peter 5:12 …I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.

He addresses the believers as ‘elect exiles’ (1:1) or ‘chosen outcasts’ or ‘the selected rejected’. Because these people had embraced Jesus as their God, they had become strangers in their own hometowns. They no longer fit in to society. They maintain a distinct identity. They don’t think and feel and act like the rest of society, and because of this they are rejected and persecuted. But their rejection is because they are objects of God’s great mercy and his special favor. They have been selected by God to be his. This is a position of safety and security. So Peter goes on to tell them about their inheritance (1:3-5). They have become heirs because God caused them to be born into his family. Their inheritance is being kept safe for them and they are being kept by God’s power safe for it. Any trials they face serve to prove the genuineness of their faith so that the outcome will be the salvation of their souls (1:6-9). Their salvation has been the focal point of prophets, evangelists and angels (1:10-12).

Peter has begun this letter by unveiling the bedrock foundation of our security in Jesus. He spent the first 12 verses pointing us to massive truths about God’s work of redemption as a ground for joy and worship. Then, in verse 13 he shifts gears from telling us our identity and security as recipients of God’s great mercy to giving us big broad commands of how we are to live our lives. Because the triune God is at work to secure your salvation, this is how you must respond; this is what you must do. His very first command is this: you must fix your hope fully on future grace (1:13). Hope! Hope in God and all that he promises to be for you in Jesus Christ! Look back on what he has done to initiate your salvation and be convinced that he will finish what he has started. Then he commands us to be holy (1:14-16). You have a new driving passion in your life so live set apart and devoted to God. Be passionate about God; be consumed with delight in who God is. Be holy. Next he commands us to fear (1:17-21); fear living in such a way that indicates Jesus’ blood is not precious to you. Hope, be holy, fear and love. Love one another with genuine un-hypocritical heartfelt self-sacrificing love (1:22-25). Then he commands us to crave milk (2:1-3). God has brought about new life in you. Long for those things that will sustain that new life. Consistently feed on things that will make you grow.

In 2:4, Peter moves to talk about the corporate existence of those who come to Jesus. We are built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood offering sacrifices that are acceptable to God. We are a distinct people for his own possession and our reason for existence is to proclaim the excellencies of him (2:9). We have been shown great undeserved mercy and we can now point others to a God who is rich in mercy to undeserving sinners. We were made to give glory to God. We are made recipients of God’s great mercy so that we will bring glory to our great God. Peter continues in this present section to tell us how to live our lives in such a way that we proclaim the excellencies of him who called us. He says:

2:11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Peter’s prescribed method for bringing glory to God is both positive and negative. Negatively, abstain from the passions of the flesh, because these will destroy your soul and you will make shipwreck of your faith and bring reproach to the God you claim to follow. Positively, keep your conduct honorable and your good deeds observable. Be known in the community as someone who has genuine integrity and love for others. Perhaps from observing your faithful God honoring life, God will visit them with mercy and they will be brought to trust in Jesus. The goal is God’s glory, the means is their salvation, and the method is our life of integrity. Peter points us to our relations to the government, to our employers or masters, and to our husbands and wives as arenas where we can put the glory of God on display. Today we will look at the arena of the state as an opportunity to glorify God.

2:13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover–up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

Peter reminds us that the primary motivation for a godly life is the glory of God. We don’t live a godly life because there are health benefits or tax benefits or social and economic benefits. We must live in a way that puts God on display and represents God well to our community so that God gets the honor and attention that he deserves. We are told to submit to human institutions for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ; not because it is good for us, but because it is good for him. We want to proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light; we want people to see our good deeds and glorify God. So how do we live in relation to our government so that the glory of God is put on display?

Peter tells us to ‘be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution’. Literally the text says ‘to every human creature’ or ‘every human creation’. The point is that all people are created by God and in the image of God, and as such are worthy of honor and respect. Peter may be reminding his readers that the emperor is not divine, but a part of God’s creation. Paul says:

Romans 13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

All authority that exists has been instituted and appointed by God. They are God’s servants for your good, as well as God’s servant to carry out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. In Daniel 2 we are told of God that

Daniel 2:21 He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings;

Peter, in prison in Rome under the maniacal emperor Nero, acknowledged that it is right to be subject to those God has placed in authority over him. He even specifies the king or emperor as supreme, and more immediately applicable to his readers, the governors that are sent out by the king to rule various areas.

The purpose of government is clearly and succinctly stated here in verse 14: ‘to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good’. Governments are responsible to punish evil doers. Individuals are not to seek revenge, but to trust the authority structure to carry out justice. Governments are responsible to reward and encourage those who do good. If you are a Christian then you should be in this category, being praised by your government for doing good in your community and thus bringing honor and glory to God.

In verse 15 he gives the reason why we are to be subject to those in authority over us: ‘for this is the will of God’. There are so many Christians that are wandering through life asking the question ‘what is God’s will for me? what does God want me to do?’ Here is the authoritative word of God for you. This is the will of God for your life – submit for the Lord’s sake to those who are in authority over you! In submitting to authority and doing good ‘you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people’. ‘Put to silence’ is the word used for muzzling a wild animal. There were rumors circulating about the Christians. Because Christians would not worship the emperor, they were considered atheists, unpatriotic and dangerous. Their reference to fellow Christians as brothers and sisters was misconstrued to indicate incestuous practices, and their celebration of the Lord’s supper won them the accusation of cannibalism. Peter did not instruct them to rent billboards and take out newspaper ads to correct the public thinking and clear up the misunderstanding. Instead, he tells them to muzzle the ignorance of fools by persistently doing good. According to Proverbs 1:7, fools are those who do not fear God and walk in his ways. If you are living in a manner that is clearly above reproach, the accusations and rumors will soon be displayed as foolishness.

Verse 16 is paradoxical. Peter tells us to live as free slaves to God. Jesus said:

Luke 4:18 … He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives … to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

John 8:32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” …36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Paul preached:

Acts 13:38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything 39 from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.

And he tells us in Galatians:

Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Peter told us

1 Peter 1:18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ…

Revelation tells us that Jesus is the one:

Revelation 1:5 … who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood

So we have been set free from our sins and we have been ransomed from a life of futility to live a life that counts for the glory of God. We have been set free by Jesus and we are free indeed.

On the flip side, he tells us:

16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover–up for evil, but living as servants of God.

There are many that misunderstand the freedom that we have in Christ. Rather than a freedom from sin, they take it as freedom to sin. This is a dangerous misunderstanding of freedom and misuse of grace. We were slaves of sin, and a return to sin is a return to slavery. True biblical freedom is the freedom to please and honor God. Paul addresses the issue extensively in Romans 6:

Romans 6:18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness… 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

In Galatians he says it this way:

Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Living in true Christian freedom is really living as the slave of God in full submission to his absolute authority. True freedom is the freedom to be who we were created to be and bring honor and glory and praise to God.

Peter concludes this section with four imperatives:

17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

First, we are commanded to honor everyone. All people must be shown the respect due to those who have been created in God’s image. The brotherhood is a word unique to Peter to refer to believers. We are to self-sacrificially love our brothers and sisters in Christ. Reverential fear and awe is reserved for God alone. God alone is to be worshiped. God alone has the ultimate authority and power to determine existence. Peter concludes with the emperor, and drops back down to the level of honor, which he already said should be extended to everyone. The emperor is here explicitly included as worthy of honor, regardless of what you think of him, although not necessarily love and certainly not fear.

What Peter doesn’t say in this passage is interesting. He tells us to be submissive to every human institution. Where’s the ‘except’ clause? We know that when Peter and the other apostles were arrested and commanded not to teach about Jesus they responded:

Acts 5:29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.

We’re waiting for Peter to say that it’s O.K. to submit to authority as long as and only until and under these conditions. Submit to authority up to this point and then you have every right to rebel. Peter doesn’t even go there. He doesn’t play the ‘what if’ game. He doesn’t list any exceptions to the rule, and there are legitimate exceptions to the rule. But our tendency is to find ourselves in the exception and ignore the rule. Most of our heroes held up for us in the media are guys who do it their own way and disregard authority and get the job done. They always have a sarcastic remark and a biting comeback. Where is the hero who plays by the rules and submits to authority and treats everyone with respect and honor? Where is the hero whose speech and conduct is above reproach? Peter is giving us the general rule. God has instituted government for our good. Even tyrannical governments do some good in keeping the peace. Our goal is not to come out looking good but to make our God look good. We proclaim the excellencies of him who called us when we incessantly do good and show honor to authority.

Pliny, Letters 10.96-97

Pliny the Younger was governor of Pontus/Bithynia from 111-113 AD.

Pliny to the Emperor Trajan

It is my practice, my lord, to refer to you all matters concerning which I am in doubt. For who can better give guidance to my hesitation or inform my ignorance? I have never participated in trials of Christians. I therefore do not know what offenses it is the practice to punish or investigate, and to what extent. And I have been not a little hesitant as to whether there should be any distinction on account of age or no difference between the very young and the more mature; whether pardon is to be granted for repentance, or, if a man has once been a Christian, it does him no good to have ceased to be one; whether the name itself, even without offenses, or only the offenses associated with the name are to be punished.

Meanwhile, in the case of those who were denounced to me as Christians, I have observed the following procedure: I interrogated these as to whether they were Christians; those who confessed I interrogated a second and a third time, threatening them with punishment; those who persisted I ordered executed. For I had no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished. There were others possessed of the same folly; but because they were Roman citizens, I signed an order for them to be transferred to Rome.

Soon accusations spread, as usually happens, because of the proceedings going on, and several incidents occurred. An anonymous document was published containing the names of many persons. Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for this purpose together with statues of the gods, and moreover cursed Christ–none of which those who are really Christians, it is said, can be forced to do–these I thought should be discharged. Others named by the informer declared that they were Christians, but then denied it, asserting that they had been but had ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some as much as twenty-five years. They all worshipped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Christ.

They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food–but ordinary and innocent food. Even this, they affirmed, they had ceased to do after my edict by which, in accordance with your instructions, I had forbidden political associations. Accordingly, I judged it all the more necessary to find out what the truth was by torturing two female slaves who were called deaconesses. But I discovered nothing else but depraved, excessive superstition.

I therefore postponed the investigation and hastened to consult you. For the matter seemed to me to warrant consulting you, especially because of the number involved. For many persons of every age, every rank, and also of both sexes are and will be endangered. For the contagion of this superstition has spread not only to the cities but also to the villages and farms. But it seems possible to check and cure it. It is certainly quite clear that the temples, which had been almost deserted, have begun to be frequented, that the established religious rites, long neglected, are being resumed, and that from everywhere sacrificial animals are coming, for which until now very few purchasers could be found. Hence it is easy to imagine what a multitude of people can be reformed if an opportunity for repentance is afforded.

February 1, 2009 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Church’s Origin and Destiny

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090111_the_church_2.mp3

1/11 The Church; Spoken into Existence by the Creative Word of Jesus; Our Origin and Destiny

We are taking a few weeks at the beginning of the year to think through together what the church is and what it should be, and I hope we can examine ourselves and make any adjustments necessary to be who we were called to be, to strengthen the areas where we are weak, and to be encouraged and emboldened to be who we are together in Christ.

Last week we looked at the identity of the church. The word ‘church’ literally means ‘the called out ones’ and we are talking particularly about Jesus’ called out ones; the assembly of Jesus. We looked at Matthew 16:18 and said that ‘the church is a community of people founded on the identity of Jesus of Nazareth, and united by the new birth.’ Jesus asked his disciples who people thought he was, who his followers thought he was, and in response to the right answer, he went on to tell them about his coming death. The person and work of Jesus the Christ, infinite Son of God and Redeemer, crucified for sinners, died, buried, and raised again, is foundational to the church. Jesus, who he is and what he has accomplished for us is the rock on which the church is built.

We become members of this community by our new birth. God does a creative work in our hearts and makes us a new creation. Jesus told Peter that his confession of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God was not a natural response to the information he had available to him. It was a supernatural work of the Father in his life. Peter tells us that God the Father…

1 Peter 1:3 … According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again …

1 Peter 1:23 …you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;

So we are a community of people founded on the identity of Jesus as the infinite Son of God and Savior, and united by our being birthed into his family.

Today I would like to look at the origin and destiny of the church. Where did the church come from and where is she going? Here’s my answer, and it has two parts: the church was spoken into existence by the sovereign power of the Lord Jesus Christ, and she will overcome. Look with me again at what Jesus said:

Matthew 16:18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Jesus said he will build his church. Let’s review quickly who Jesus is: We’ll start in Colossians 1 He is God’s…

Colossians 1:13 …beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities––all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Did you get it? Jesus, beloved Son of the Father, is the image of the invisible God, creator of all things in heaven and on earth; visible and invisible, and all things were created for his good pleasure. Jesus existed eternally, and it is Jesus that sustains all things. Jesus is first place – preeminent in all things. He is first in time; he existed before anything else. He is first in authority; all thrones and dominions and rulers and authorities ultimately bow to him and do his bidding. He is first in importance; he is the Father’s beloved Son and all things were created for him.

Or consider John 1:

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. …10 …the world was made through him… 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Jesus was in the beginning with God. Jesus is God. Jesus is the Word that spoke everything into existence. Look at Hebrews 1:

Hebrews 1:2…his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.  …8 But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, …10 And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; 11 they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, 12 like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”

Jesus created the world and upholds the universe by the word of his power. Jesus is God on the throne forever and ever. Jesus is consistent – he never changes and he will have no end. Check out Mark 4

Mark 4:39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

When Jesus speaks to his creation, all creation obeys his voice.

Jesus is the creator and sustainer of all things, and it is this Jesus that said:

Matthew 16:18 … on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

That, my friends, is a statement of sovereign purpose. The Lord of all the universe has made a declaration of purpose. When Jesus says ‘I will…’ there is no power in heaven or on earth or under the earth that can stop him. Jesus did not say that he would try to build his church. In the beginning, Jesus said ‘let there be light’ and there was light. When Jesus said ‘Lazarus, come forth’ the man who had been in the grave for four days came out of the tomb. When Jesus said ‘I will build my church’, that was an omnipotent creative word that will be done.

That leads naturally to the next point – Jesus’ church will overcome. The gates of hell will not prevail against it. The sovereign power of the omnipotent Creator will triumph and his purpose will stand.

Now this requires some clarification What does it mean for the church to overcome? The church I was raised in recently closed its doors and sold their building. I’ve seen beautiful historic church buildings turned into museums or thrift stores or bicycle shops. Some churches that were once thriving are now merely a monument. Does this mean the word of Christ has failed? How do we understand this in light of what Jesus said? Let’s go to the book of Revelation for help. John is given a vision from God and is told to write what he sees in a book and send it to seven churches in Asia Minor. Listen to what God says to one of these churches:

Revelation 2:1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: …4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

Because the church in the city of Ephesus had left its love for God and for other believers, Jesus is threatening to unplug this church as a light in the world. I think that highlights an important distinction for us that is helpful in our definition of the church. There is the church local and the church universal; or the church visible and the church invisible. There is our local group of believers that gather here in this building, and there is the church of Jesus Christ that consists of every born again follower of Jesus throughout history and around the globe. When Jesus said that he will build his church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, he didn’t have in mind any specific building or geographic location or social/political organization. Peter tells us that:

1 Peter 2:5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Paul says it this way:

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

We tend to think of the church as a man made building, organization or institution. It is not. It is an organism, made up of believers in Jesus Christ. This is a sobering thought. There are many who attend a church service in a church building that are not part of Jesus’ church. There are people who go by the name of ‘Christian’ who do not know the Christ of the Bible and who have not experienced the new birth, and on that fateful day, Jesus will tell them:

Matthew 7:23 … ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

So my first exhortation to you today is be sure you are part of Jesus’ church. Be sure you know Jesus and are being transformed by Jesus. Be sure you have become part of God’s family through the new birth.

Earlier in the chapter, Paul tells us how this happens:

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ––by grace you have been saved–– 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 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. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

God in his rich mercy, made us alive by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.

Let’s come back to Matthew 16 and see what we can learn about our role as the church. The church was spoken into existence by the sovereign power of the Lord Jesus Christ, and Jesus says:

Matthew 16:18 … on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The gates of hell will not prevail against it. Literally, it is the gates of hades -the abode of the dead. I want you to picture a walled fortress. Imagine an army attacking the city. They come against the weakest point in the city – the gates. If the gates are strong, the fortress is safe. If the gates can be penetrated, the city can be taken. Now think about what Jesus said about his church. What posture is the church taking in the war? If the church is not a building but a living organism, and if the gates that are described are not the gates of the church but the gates of hades, then the church is on the offensive storming the very gates of hell! I think too often we get the image reversed, as if Jesus said ‘I will build my fortress, and hell will not prevail against its gates’. Come hide inside the fortress and you will be safe. The church on the defensive is not the posture of the church of Jesus! The church of Jesus is to be on the offensive proving his promise true! A few chapters later, after his resurrection, Jesus came to his disciples and said:

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.”

Go, storm the gates of hell. Proclaim the gospel. Make disciples. I will be with you, Jesus said.

But how can we be sure that the gates will not be too strong for us? How do we know that we will overcome? Jesus said:

Revelation 1:17…“Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

Jesus died, and he unlocked the gates from the inside! Jesus, our mighty conqueror, has gone before us, won the victory, unlocked the gates, and invites us to the plunder. Jesus now holds the keys of Death and of Hades. That gate can no longer be made secure by the enemy. And Jesus goes on to say

19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, …

Peter, on the day of Pentecost, proclaimed the forgiveness of sins in Jesus, and unlocked the door of heaven to three thousand Jews. (Acts 2:38-41)

Later, in Acts chapter 10, Peter went to a Gentile’s house and taught about the death and resurrection of Jesus and proclaimed the good news:

Acts 10:43 ..that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

And the door was unlocked to the Gentile nations. This was not unique to Peter.

When Paul and Barnabas returned from their first missionary journey

Acts 14:27 … they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.

God has given you authority to open the door of faith through the proclamation of the apostolic word:

1 Corinthians 15:3 … that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

The church was spoken into existence by the sovereign power of the Lord Jesus Christ, and she will overcome. Be sure that you are a part of his church by the new birth, and be aggressive to take ground from the enemy, for the victory has already been won. Proclaim the good news and be confident that Jesus will build his church!

January 11, 2009 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 1:1-2

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20080907_1peter_1_1-2.mp3

9/07 1 Peter 1:1-2 Christians in Tension

1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

1 petrov apostolov ihsou cristou eklektoiv parepidhmoiv diasporav pontou galatiav kappadokiav asiav kai biyuniav 2 kata prognwsin yeou patrov en agiasmw pneumatov eiv upakohn kai rantismon aimatov ihsou cristou cariv umin kai eirhnh plhyunyeih

Peter introduces himself simply as ‘apostle’. In many of Paul’s writings, he expands this part of the greeting by adding a phrase like ‘by the will of God’ to defend his apostleship. Peter has no need to defend his apostolic authority. He was commissioned by Jesus Christ to speak on his behalf and with his authority. So this letter is to be received as if it came from Jesus and with his authority. If you don’t like what it says, take it up with Jesus. Jesus charged Peter to ‘feed my lambs …tend my sheep… feed my sheep’ (Jn.21); and in this letter Peter, as a shepherd, is tending to the needs of the suffering sheep that are scattered across Asia Minor. Peter is buttressing the belief of his readers by pointing them to God and to strong truths about God. They can stand firm in the fiery trial because of who God is and what he is doing for them and in them. They need an unshakable theological understanding under their feet so that they can stand as Christians in the middle of a hostile society. He declares his purpose in 5:12

5:12 …I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it.

Peter is coming alongside the believers, encouraging them and testifying to them of the truth about God. He wants to see holiness developed in them. He wants to see them stand firm in the grace of God. He wants to strengthen their hope that God, Father, Son and Spirit, is working for their good to secure their salvation.

It’s a bit peculiar that in a letter to people Peter has probably never met, he says hardly anything about his own identity, but he spends a lot of time telling the readers who they are. We would say ‘Hi, you don’t know me, so let me tell you about myself’. Instead Peter says ‘you don’t know me, so let me tell you who you are.’ That seems odd for a stranger to say ‘I don’t know you very well, but let me tell you about yourself’. He is telling them things that are true about them that they either don’t know, or that they know but need to be reminded of. Peter wants them to understand their identity in Christ. They need to know who they are.

He addresses them as ‘elect exiles of the dispersion’. He uses the Jewish metaphor of ‘diaspora’ or ‘dispersion’. In 722 B.C. The Assyrians under Shalmaneser V conquered and carried off many from the northern kingdom of Israel and then in 588 B.C. under Nebuchadnezzar II the southern kingdom of Judah was carried off into Babylon. The nations into which they went did their best to assimilate them and integrate them into their society, culture and religion. The Jews had to struggle to retain their ethnic and religious distinctiveness. Because they maintain their unique identity, they are ‘exiles’ or sojourners, resident aliens in a place that is not their home.

This was the experience of Abraham. God had called Abram the idol worshiper of Ur of the Chaldeans to:

Genesis 12:1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. …

Abraham went to the land and he described himself to the Hittites as:

Genesis 23:4 “I am a sojourner and foreigner among you;…”

The author of Hebrews uses the same wording that Peter does to describe the situation of the Old Testament saints:

Hebrews 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.

Because these people had embraced Jesus as their God, they had become strangers in their own hometowns. They no longer belong to the culture in which they live. They have become sojourners. But he describes them as ‘elect exiles’ or ‘chosen outcasts’ or ‘ the selected rejected’. These are Christians in tension. In relation to the culture in which they reside, they are outside the group. They are different. They don’t belong. They don’t fit in. They don’t think and feel and act the way the rest of society thinks and feels and acts. And because of that, they are rejected and persecuted. But in relation to God they are elect. They have been chosen, hand picked. They have been called out by name. They are loved by God. The word ‘elect’ eklektov means those who have been selected as a subset of a larger group. ISBE says “…prevalently in the New Testament, it denotes a human community, also described as believers, saints, the Israel of God; regarded as in some sense selected by Him from among men, objects of His special favor, and correspondingly called to special holiness and service.” This is a common name for Christians in the New Testament, and often they are described as ‘God’s elect’ or ‘his elect’.

Mark 13:20 …But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose,…

Mark 13:22 … signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.

Mark 13:27 …gather his elect from the four winds…

Romans 8:33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?…

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones,…

Titus 1:1 …for the sake of the faith of God’s elect

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race… a people for his own possession…

This term points to the safety and security of the believer’s position with God. We cannot lose our position because we didn’t attain it by climbing the ladder of accomplishment. God picked us out and placed us here, and he will also preserve and protect us. It is a position of privilege to be picked to be on God’s team. But this choice of God is also the source of our trouble here on earth. When you get picked for the team, your friends who didn’t get picked get jealous and hostile and angry. This is exactly what Jesus told his disciples would happen:

John 15:19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

Because God chose you to be his own, the world hates you. So don’t cry when you look around and see that the world hates you. Remember, it’s because you were picked out by God. The world hates you because you’re on God’s team now and you are different from them. Because we are elect, we are exiles, sojourners. We no longer belong. Paul describes our alien status this way:

Philippians 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,

Peter uses three prepositional phrases to further describe his readers, the ‘elect exiles of the dispersion’. He says they are ‘according to’, ‘in’ and ‘for’. And he describes the work of the triune God in their lives; God the Father, the Spirit, and Jesus Christ. He says in verse 2:

2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

First, he says they are elect exiles of the dispersion ‘according to the foreknowledge of God the Father’. The word foreknowledge ‘prognwsiv‘ is a compound of ‘pro‘ before and ‘ginwskw‘ to know. It means ‘to know before’. This is where we get our English word ‘prognosis’, which the dictionary defines as ‘A prediction of the probable course and outcome’ But with God, it is not merely the probable course and outcome that he knows, but he knows and can predict with absolute certainty the course and outcome. But the use of the word ‘foreknowledge’ in the bible means more than simply God’s omniscience and his ability to know the future ahead of time. That is certainly true, and that is what the word means when it is used with and event or an object. But the concept of knowing when it is used with a person as its object carries with it the idea of relationship. All the way back in the beginning, it says:

Genesis 4:1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived…

There is clearly more than intellectual comprehension involved in this kind of ‘knowing’. God uses this word of Abraham:

Genesis 18:18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”

Of the prophet Jeremiah, God says:

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

Notice the parallels between ‘knew’, ‘consecrated’, and ‘appointed’. In Amos, God says to Israel:

Amos 3:1-2 Hear this word that the LORD has spoken against you, O people of Israel, against the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt: 2 “You only have I known of all the families of the earth…

The context is that God is about to punish Israel and their sins are especially grievous because he has a special relationship with them. That can’t possibly mean that God was unaware that there were other people on the planet besides Israel.

The only other place in the New Testament that this word occurs is in Acts 2:23 where it is coupled with the ordained will of God:

Acts 2:23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

The verb form appears in:

Romans 8:29 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.

Romans 11:2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel?

1 Peter 1:20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake,

The concept of foreknowledge carries not only the idea of comprehension of future events, but when the word is used of people, it carries the idea of a purpose of relationship. The readers of Peter’s letter are elect exiles of the dispersion according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. They are chosen according to the Father’s purpose to enter into relationship with them. They are picked for intimacy with the Father. And Peter tells them this right up front in his letter; before he even says ‘hello’. He urgently wants them to hear this truth so that they would be encouraged in their suffering by it and take hope. Yes, you are an outcast in your family and in society, but God the Father chose to place his love on you! So he describes them as elect exiles according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.

Then he describes them as elect exiles ‘in or by means of the sanctification of the Spirit’. Sanctification ‘agiasmov‘ means ‘consecration, purification, or holiness’. Something that is sanctified is set apart for a specific use. Paul talks about vessels set apart for a specific use:

2 Timothy 2:21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

In that day there were specific vessels that were set apart for the preparation and serving of food. There were other vessels used in the bedchamber as a commode. They were set apart for that use. In a pinch, you might take a vessel set apart for kitchen use and use it as a commode, but that vessel would never be fit for kitchen service again. That’s the concept of being ‘sanctified’ or ‘set apart’; you’re the dirty clay pot, but you’ve been cleansed and purified and made holy, made fit for honorable use. And this is specifically said to be the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God cleans you and sets you apart for a good use.

1 Thessalonians 4:7-8 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

And these elect exiles had a purpose. They were elect exiles ‘for or into obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood’. Their purpose is to be brought into obedience and sprinkling with the blood of Jesus. Obedience (upakoh) comes from the root ‘to hear’ and ‘under’; it means to be under authority, to hear and obey. Several times in the New Testament this word is used to describe people’s response to the gospel message:

Romans 1:5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,

Romans 6:17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,

Romans 10:16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”

Romans 15:18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience––by word and deed,

Romans 16:25-27 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, …according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith–– to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

1 Peter 1:22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,

Acts 6:7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 …when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 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.

Hebrews 5:9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,

So where we would say things like ‘they got saved’ or ‘trusted Jesus’ or ‘believed the gospel’, the New Testament writers also described this as ‘they obeyed the gospel’ or ‘became obedient to the faith’ or ‘they obeyed Jesus’. Jesus said when he was asked:

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

Obedience is one side of the picture of our purpose. The other side is ‘into the sprinkling blood of Jesus Christ’. The picture of sprinkling blood comes from the covenant God made with the people in Exodus:

Exodus 24:5-8 …offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. 6 And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. 7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” 8 And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

Upon their declaration of submission to God and obedience to him, they were sprinkled with his blood. And the author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the mediator of a better covenant

Hebrews 9:13-15 For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance…

So we have the elected rejected, according to the Father’s purpose to set his love on us; by the Holy Spirit’s work of setting us apart for honorable use, and into the obedience to the truth and cleansing by the blood of Jesus. We see this same sequence in 2 Thessalonians as a grounds for thanksgiving:

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.

And now, after Peter has poured out this theological foundation for the faith of these suffering saints and pointed them to the Triune God who is at work in them to secure for them their eternal salvation, now he says ‘hi’. He says ‘May grace and peace be multiplied to you’. Grace, God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense; God’s goodness poured out on undeserving sinners; blessings and kindness that we didn’t earn and couldn’t deserve.

Romans 11:6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

And because God is gracious toward us, we can

Romans 5:1 …we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself

So Peter takes his readers who are feeling like aliens without any sense of belonging, and he lifts their eyes (and ours) up from the dirt and points to a God who is for us, who chose us, to the Father who set his love upon us, the Spirit who is at work in us to set us apart and to make us holy; to Jesus, who upon our obedience to the good news, sprinkles us clean with his precious blood. And he asks that this undeserved grace of God and this blood-bought peace with God be exaggerated to us, that God’s grace and peace would flood over us and overwhelm us and surround us and hold us.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

elect exiles of the dispersion…

according to the foreknowledge of God the Father

in the sanctification of the Spirit

for obedience

and sprinkling with the blood of Jesus Christ

September 7, 2008 Posted by | 1 Peter | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment