PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Obey Jesus; Love and Obedience

09/13 Love and Obedience (John 14-15; 1 John 4); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200913_love-obedience.mp3

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.”

We’ve been talking about obeying Jesus. We obey what Jesus commands us when we believe in him, see him in all the Scriptures, abide in him and pray to him, give him our primary allegiance, treasure him above all else, and anticipate his coming. We obey him when we proclaim the gospel and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the triune God, and endure suffering for the sake of his name. We honor Jesus when filled with the Holy Spirit, we walk by faith, rest, worship and remember him, when we love God, neighbor and enemy, when love one another and extend hospitality to others, and in humility serve the least.

Love – The Motive for Obedience

There’s a lot that Jesus expects of his followers, but we must understand the motive, where our obedience comes from. Jesus said:

John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

Obeying everything Jesus commands must be rooted in love for him. Obedience flows out of love. If we love, we will obey. Obedience is evidence of love. We may say that we love Jesus, but if we don’t obey him, it demonstrates that we don’t really love him. Obedience flows out of our affections for Jesus. We want to do what pleases him because we love him. That’s the only sustainable kind of obedience.

Love and Obedience in Deuteronomy

I want you to see that this connection between love and obedience is not new with Jesus. What Jesus teaches is in continuity with the Old Testament. In the Ten Commandments, God requires that we worship no other gods, and that we do not use images in our worship, because he is a jealous God who punishes iniquity,

Deuteronomy 5:10 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

In Deuteronomy 6, we are told that the commandments were given so that God’s people would fear him.

Deuteronomy 6:1 “Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, 2 that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. …5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

We are commanded to love God with heart and soul and might, and if we love God, we will love his commandments; we will keep them on our hearts and on our lips and we will pass them on to others.

In Deuteronomy 7, God is described as

Deuteronomy 7:9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, 10 and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them. He will not be slack with one who hates him. He will repay him to his face. 11 You shall therefore be careful to do the commandment and the statutes and the rules that I command you today.

God keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him, those who keep his commandments. The flip side of this is that he repays to their face those who hate him. To refuse to keep his commands is to hate him.

This sounds harsh, but we need to back up in Deuteronomy 7 and look at what comes before: He warns them to guard themselves against anything that would turn their hearts away from following the Lord.

Deuteronomy 7:6 “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

You are a set apart people, a people freely chosen by God above other people. You are treasured, his treasured possession. You have been rescued and redeemed, God loves you because he loves you. Therefore, know that this God who is God above all is faithful, and he keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments. God initiates. We are to reciprocate. We are to love because he first loved us.

Jesus’ Obedience to His Father

In John 14, Jesus is talking about leaving his disciples and he promises to send the Holy Spirit to be in them. He is on his way to the cross. At the end of John 14, Jesus holds up his own obedience as a proclamation of his own love for the Father.

John 14:31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.

Do you know why Jesus died on the cross? Because God so loved the world. Because he was made sin on my behalf. In order to drink the cup of God’s wrath that I deserve, as the Lamb of God sacrificed in my place. Those are all right answers to why Jesus died. But here in John 14, Jesus says that he is ‘obedient’ to his Father ‘to the point of death, even death on a cross’ (Phil.2:8) so that the world may see his love for his Father. Christ’s obedience to the command of his Father is the most powerful demonstration of God the Son’s own love for his Father.

Jesus invites us to proclaim our love for him by our obedience.

John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

John 14:21

John 14:21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

The one who has and who keeps the commandments of Jesus is the one who loves Jesus, and is the one who is loved by both the Father and the Son.

John 14:23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

Here the opposite is stated; it is the one who does not love Jesus who does not keep his words. And Jesus’ words are the Father’s words. To disobey Jesus’ words is to disobey the Father who sent him.

Abiding and Obeying

In John 15, Jesus invites his followers to abide in him, in intimate communion and relationship, like branches in the true vine, so that we bear much fruit.

John 15:8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

Jesus is saying that the proof of a genuine disciple is about remaining in his love, remaining in intimate communion and fellowship with him.

He says ‘as the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.’ Did you hear that? Exactly how deeply and profoundly does the Father love his only Son? That is the kind of love Jesus has for you! That should cause our knees to buckle! And this is past; ‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you’; indicating the fullness, the completeness of his love. The command to us is to abide, to remain in his love. How do we do that? How do we remain in his love? We keep his commandments, just as Jesus kept his Father’s commandments and abides in his love. Our obedience demonstrates our love. We abide, we remain in close and intimate relationship with him.

John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you…

It is Jesus’ words coursing through our veins and our asking connection to him in prayer and his Spirit living inside, empowering our fruitful action that characterize this abiding. This is New Covenant Spirit wrought obedience, in accord with Ezekiel 36:27

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

He gives us a new heart and a new spirit. The Holy Spirit is the effective cause of our obedience. Jesus says:

John 15:16 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…

Jesus’ purpose for us is that we bear much and abiding fruit to the glory of God.

John 15:8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

Love, Abiding, and Obedience; 1 John

If our fruitful abiding is characterized by obedience to his commands, and if our obedience is an outworking of our love for him, where does this love come from? We see this same connection between obedience and love in the letter of 1 John.

1 John 2:3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. …

1 John 3:24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

John again connects this abiding with keeping his commandments with the transforming New Covenant work of the Holy Spirit.

1 John 5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. That’s what loving God looks like. And his commands are not a burden but a joy.

The Source of Love;

So where does this love that expresses itself in obedience come from? John tells us.

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

God is love. If we truly love God and love one another, it is evidence that we have been born of God, born again by the Spirit. Love is from God, and it is produced in us by the new birth.

1 John 4:9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Love is from God, and God displayed his love by sending his only Son Jesus to be crucified as the wrath propitiating sacrifice for our sins. This is where love comes from.

1 John 4:13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

John here connects abiding with the gift of the Holy Spirit given to all who confess Jesus. Where does our love originate? We look to Jesus, to the cross. We come to know and believe the love that God has for us. Our love is derived from the love that God has for us. Our love is rooted in God, who is love, who ‘loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.’

1 John 4:17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

God’s love made manifest in Christ on the cross brings about our confidence for the day of judgment. Because God loved us by sending his Son to die for us, all fear of God’s just punishment is cast out forever. Here it is:

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

We obey Jesus because we love him and desire to please him. We love because he first loved us. He chose us to be his own treasured possession. We have been set apart, loved, rescued, redeemed. We love because he first loved us. We can’t understand love, we don’t even know love apart from his love.

1 John 3:16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

Love is demonstrated in obedience, and we love because he first loved us.

***

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

September 15, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rest, Recharge, Worship

07/12 Rest and Worship (Exodus 20:8-11); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200712_rest.mp3

I spent last week at Grace Haven Bible Camp with 50 of your teens, and teens from several other churches, and I want to let you in on some of what we talked about. Lincoln, the youth leader from Alpine, and I went through the Ten Commandments together. When Lincoln first suggested the topic to me, I was hesitant. I texted him back ‘we are not under law…’ But the more I thought and studied, the more excited I got about the topic, and today I want to include you, because, Lord willing, some of what we talked about at camp will spill over into your homes. And I believe this fits well with what we have been studying the last few weeks about families and raising children. Today I want to look with you at the purpose of the law, and the fourth commandment specifically.

Jesus and the Law

Here are some things Jesus said about the Old Testament 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.

Jesus did not come to abolish the law. When Jesus addressed God’s law, he lifted it up. He never tossed it aside. He raised the standard, he never lowered it. In fact he continues:

Matthew 5:19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

I don’t want to be one who relaxes one of the least of these commandments, or one who teaches others to do the same. In Jesus’ teaching on the law, he always drove it deeper, to a heart level, dealing with inward desire, not merely external conformity. Not just the outward act of murder, but what about the hatred in your heart? Not just the outward act of adultery, but what about the lust in your heart? Jesus lifts up the law to show us the spiritual intent, to show us (using Paul’s language from Romans 7) ‘the law is holy and righteous and good’ (Rom.7:12).

Use the Law Lawfully

Paul writes:

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

Paul, writing to a young pastor in the New Testament, says that the law is good. But he clarifies, you must use the law lawfully, which implies that there is an unlawful use of the law, a misuse of the law that we must guard against.

Paul is warning against false teachers who teach the law but they don’t know what they are talking about. We must understand the purpose of the law in order to not misuse 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, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine,

The law was given for sinners, not righteous people. People that drive slow don’t need the speed limit sign. The guy driving the farm equipment down the highway going 12 is not concerned when he sees the state trooper hiding behind the 65 mile an hour sign. The sign is posted for those who like to drive too fast. It holds up the standard and holds them accountable.

To misuse the law is to rely on it to establish your righteousness before God. Our inclination is to use the law as a checklist. 8 out of 10 ain’t bad, right? 80%, that’s a passing grade! When we use it as a checklist to attempt to show how good we are we misuse the law. We use it unlawfully.

The first use of the law is to show us the perfect standard, a mirror to show us how far we fall short, and to drive us to Christ who is merciful and eager to extend grace to lawbreakers who run to him for rescue.

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

If you keep God’s law perfectly, except for just one thing, you are a lawbreaker and you are guilty. You are a sinner, and the wages of sin is death. 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.”

If you rely on the law as a checklist by which you seek to impress God, 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 never 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.

That is the first use of the law, to make clear God’s perfect standard, to hold up a mirror to show us our sin, and thus drive us as guilty sinners to Christ to seek a gift we don’t deserve.

The Third Use

But there is another use of the law. The reformers referred to this as the third use of the law. The first use is to stop every mouth and hold the whole world accountable to God (Rom.3:19). The second use is the civil use; that God’s law is an objective standard by which we can discern right and wrong, and it is a good foundation on which to build any society. The third use is the primary use for followers of Jesus. Paul talked about it in 2 Timothy 3.

2 Timothy 3:15 …you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

That’s the first use; to drive us to Christ, trusting him alone for salvation. Then he goes on.

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

That’s the third use of the law. God’s law has a training and equipping function for the one who has been saved by grace from the consequences of the law. We are no longer under law, as a schoolmaster to drive us to Christ; now that we are justified by grace, now that we have Christ’s perfect righteousness imputed to us as a gift, now we can be trained by the law for righteousness, equipping us for every good work.

The First and Second Table

The Ten can be divided into the first and second table, summarized by Jesus as loving God and loving neighbor (Mt.22:36-40), the vertical and the horizontal. Loving God looks like worshiping God alone and having no other gods, worshiping God rightly by making no images to worship or serve, honoring God’s name by not using it worthlessly, remembering God’s day with worship and rest. The fifth command is a hinge that connects the two tables. We honor God’s authority by submitting to God given authority – honor father and mother. We love our neighbor by not taking a life wrongfully, by not taking someone’s wife, by not taking someone’s possessions, by not bearing false witness, by not desiring that which belongs to another.

With this third use of the law in mind, training in righteousness, to learn what love for God and love for neighbor looks like, let’s look together at the fourth commandment.

Exodus 20:8 “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.

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. What does this mean for the follower of Jesus? How can this commandment train us in godliness?

Sabbath Shadow

First, it is important to keep the gospel clear. We cannot impress God by any religious observance. Galatians is clear that ‘no one is justified before God by observing the law’ (3:11), and observing days as a way to be justified by God is deserting Christ and turning to a different gospel, going back into slavery (1:6; 4:10-11).

Romans 14 is clear that esteeming one day above another or esteeming all days alike is a matter of conscience for the believer, and ‘each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.’ We are not to pass judgment on a brother, and we are not to despise a brother (Rom.14:1-19).

Colossians 2 makes it clear that ‘the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands’ has been canceled, nailed to the cross (2:14).

Colossians 2:16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

The Sabbath is a shadow pointing us to Christ. The substance belongs to Christ.

The Fourth Commandment

So what do we do with the fourth commandment? The Sabbath is the seventh day of the week, what we call Saturday, technically from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. But Christians distinctively gather on the first day of the week, or the Lord’s Day. This seems to have been the practice of the church from earliest times. Some are legalistic about what you can and can’t do on the Lord’s day. Many treat it no differently than any other day, a common work day; a day to catch up on projects, or as merely another day off, part of the weekend that belongs to us for recreation and pursuit of our own pleasure. Some say Jesus did away with the Sabbath and now every day is holy, but holy means set apart for God, and very few people actually live like that.

Burden or Blessing?

Let’s attempt to listen as if we were in the sandals of a Hebrew slave who had just come out of Egypt. My people have been in bondage for 400 years. Forced labor for a cruel taskmaster. No relief. They ruthlessly made us to work as slaves and made our lives bitter with hard service (Ex.1:13-14). God heard our cry for rescue from slavery and he came to our rescue. He crushed our oppressors and brought us out by mighty demonstrations of his sovereign power. He fed us and cared for us in the wilderness, and then he gives us his law.

Exodus 20:8 “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.

The Hebrew word ‘Sabbath’ means ‘stop’ or ‘cessation’. Memorialize the stop-work day. God set us free from Egyptian bondage and says ‘I’m your new boss now, and I demand that you take a mandatory day off every week’. Imagine their response: ‘Do we have to? We like working 24/7, 365 days a year. Rest? What kind of a master are you, demanding that we rest?!! We want to neglect our families, abuse our bodies, ignore our God, we just want to work work work!

Why is it that God offers us a blessing, he invites us to a holiday, and we bring our excuses and look for a way out? God frees us from slavery and offers us rest, and we find reasons to justify our desire to keep right on in our everyday busyness. Wouldn’t you think that we as Christians would come to God and say “I know that we are not under law but under grace, and I know that in Christ Jesus we are set free from the demands of the law, and that we cannot possibly earn your favor by any kind of law-keeping, that the Sabbath was a shadow that points us to rest in Christ, but would it be okay if in that freedom, we still took a day off to enjoy rest from our labors and focus our hearts toward you in worship? Can we use our blood-bought freedom that way?”

Rooted in Creation and Redemption

This idea of stopping to enjoy, as the fourth commandment tells us, is rooted all the way back to creation:

Genesis 2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

God rested. He didn’t need to. He wasn’t tired. He stopped to enjoy what he had made. By his own example, he built that in to our seven day weekly rhythm.

And this idea of stopping to enjoy is also rooted in redemption. In Deuteronomy, when Moses retells God’s law to the next generation before they enter the promised land, he says it this way:

Deuteronomy 5:12 “‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 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 or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

Rest, remember God’s awesome power in the six day creation. Remember his awesome power demonstrated in your salvation. As God graciously has extended to you rest and enjoyment, you in turn extend it to those God has entrusted to your care. The Lord invites us to delight in the day because we delight in him. Set aside time to enjoy your blood-bought relationship with him. (Is.58:13-14).

Jesus said:

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Jesus invites us to rest. Jesus completed the work his Father sent him to do, and from the cross he cried out ‘Tetelestai’; ‘It is finished!’ Do you long for rest? Do you need a break? Are you weary? Jesus calls us to come. Come to me and rest. You will find rest for your souls.

Honor God With His Time

So often I hear (or I say) I just don’t have enough time. I have a list of all these good things I want to do, but I just don’t have enough time. I want to read my Bible more, I want to pray more, I want to get well grounded in theology, I want to reach out and serve. But I just can’t seem to fit it all in. Let me pitch to you a radical crazy idea. Not to put you under law, but to invite you in to rest.

What if you set aside one day out of seven to meditate on, to memorize God’s word, to dig deep, to study theology, to read a Christian classic? What if you set aside a whole day to seek the Lord in prayer and feed your own soul?

What if you set aside one day out of seven to train up your children, to get together with other believers, to practice hospitality, to share a meal, to listen to one another and encourage one another, to disciple and to be discipled, to pray with one another and worship together? Not just an hour or two, but a whole day?

What if you took one day a week to serve others, to extend Christian love to the needy, to the least, to bind up the broken hearted, to pursue justice for the oppressed, to set captives free? What would it look like if you built those Christian disciplines into your weekly rhythm?

Something radical happened at the resurrection. Believers began to gather together on the first day of the week instead of the last (Acts 20:7; 1Cor.16:2). They called it ‘the Lord’s day’ (Rev.1:10). The day is not yours, it belongs to the Lord. Not the Lord’s hour; the Lord’s day. We in America are so crazy blessed and spoiled by our historic Judaeo-Christian heritage; many of us get two days off; Saturday and Sunday. Remember, every breath you breathe is a gift. God owns all time. He asks you to give him back some of it for your good and for his glory. Ask him how he would have you spend it. It is holy, set apart, and it is meant to be a blessing to you and to those around you.

***

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

July 15, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus: Love Others

05/24 Obey Jesus: Love God, Love Neighbor, Love Enemy; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200524_love-others.mp3

We are called to be disciples who make disciples who obey everything Jesus commanded; so what does he command us as his disciples?

In the past weeks we have looked at what we love. Jesus demands that we love him more than father, mother, spouse, son or daughter. Giving to him our primary allegiance may prove very costly, even alienating the closest of earthly relationships. But our allegiance to him must run deeper than blood.

We saw that he warns us to beware what we treasure, because some loves are treacherous and will seek to displace him as our primary affection. We cannot serve both God and money. He commands us to drop our baggage, the things that hold us back from following him wholeheartedly, and come, follow him.

Today we are going to look at another command of Jesus regarding what we love. Let’s start with the greatest command according to Jesus.

The Great and First Commandment

In Matthew 22, Jesus was asked a question by a religious expert to test him.

Matthew 22:36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.

Which is the great commandment in the Law? The question suggests that we ought to go to God’s top ten list, the Ten Commandments, and pick one to hold up above the others. But Jesus doesn’t even go to the big ten. He goes to Deuteronomy 6, the ‘Shema’; a regularly recited passage well known to every Jew. Love God with your whole being. The law is not so much about keeping commandments, following rules, prioritizing which rule to put above others. It is really about affections. It is about what you love. And you must love God above all. Your primary allegiance must be for God alone. All your emotional energy, all your mental capacity, your whole inner being must be fully engaged in loving God. This is the great and first commandment. Love for God is foundational. Above any commandment keeping must stand our treasuring of God, our love for God.

The Second is Like It

But Jesus makes this a two-for-one deal. He was asked which is the great commandment, and Jesus gives him two. The second that he pairs with the first comes from Leviticus 19:18, 34.

Matthew 22:39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

The second is like it. We must love neighbor as we love ourselves. We are commanded to expend the same mental and emotional energy, the same impulse to self-preservation, the same commitment to the good of others that we naturally give to ourselves.

All The Law and the Prophets

Jesus pairs loving God with loving neighbor, and says that on these two together hang all the Law and the Prophets. These two sum up the entirety of what the Old Testament Scriptures taught.

God created man to be in loving relationship with himself, and to care for his creation under him. But we rebelled and loved the things he created more than himself. Our lust for power and possessions spiraled so low,

Genesis 6:5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land…

He chose one man and called him out of his idolatry to follow him, and promised that through his descendant he would bless the nations. He gave his chosen people his commandments, but they continuously went astray. He sent prophets to call them back to himself, to love for God and neighbor, to be blessed in relationship with himself, and to be a blessing to others.

Love God and love neighbor. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. Every other command is expansion, clarification, application of these. As Paul says in Romans 13,

Romans 13:9 …and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

And in Galatians 5,

Galatians 5:13 …use your freedom … through love [to] serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

All the commandments are summed up in this one word. The whole law is fulfilled in one word.

John, in his first short letter to the churches, says

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

It is easy to say you love God, but that is difficult to prove or disprove. But how you treat your brother is easily seen. And John says, if you claim to love God but hate your brother, you’re a liar.

Who Is My Neighbor?

In Luke 10, Jesus is being put to the test by another religious expert. “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”(10:25). Jesus pointed him to the Law and asked him how he understood it. This man replied with the same summary Jesus gave: to love God with heart and soul and strength and mind, and neighbor as self.

Luke 10:29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Who is my neighbor. He wanted to justify himself; he wanted to feel that he was doing well. He wanted to limit the scope of God’s command to make it doable. Define who it is I’m to love, and I’ll work hard to do it. If my neighbors are the two people who live on either side of me, it will be hard, but I can suck it up and tough is out and show love and kindness to them, if that’s what it takes to gain eternal life.

To answer his question, ‘who is my neighbor, Jesus paints a picture of a man in desperate need, and a priest and Levite come across his path, both interested in pleasing God through ritual purity, but not willing to compromise their purity to help a man in need. The shocking hero to Jesus’ story is a Samaritan low life half-breed good-for-nothing, scorned and despised by the Jews. Samaria was the northern neighbor to Judea, who after Israel had been conquered by Assyria in 722BC had intermarried with pagans and integrated their pagan worship practices (2Ki.17). The Samaritan in Jesus’ story is the one who had compassion and went far out of his way to put the needs of this man above his own. Jesus concludes:

Luke 10:36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”

Your question should not be ‘Who is my neighbor?’ The question must not be one of limiting the scope to justify yourself. That is wrong-hearted. The question is ‘Do I prove to be a neighbor to those around me, those in need? Do I seek to show mercy or do I steer clear?’

The way Jesus framed his story using a despised Samaritan as the hero stirred up all kinds of resentment and animosity and show them their hearts and how they really felt about their neighbors.

Notice how this man answered. The three characters in Jesus’ story were a priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan. But this religious expert couldn’t even answer Jesus’ question by uttering the name ‘Samaritan.’

Luke 10:37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

Love your neighbor as yourself. Be a neighbor to those in need. You, show mercy to others, even if they are different from you, even if they are your enemies.

Love Your Enemies

Jesus takes this up a notch in Matthew 5 and Luke 6.

Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’

Jesus says,

Luke 6:27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

Love, do good to, bless, pray for. When Jesus says ‘love’, he doesn’t have in mind a mere emotion. That is part of it, but it is more. The good Samaritan saw the need, he had compassion, and his compassion led to action, he invested time and energy and his own resources. Loving involves doing good, praying for, and seeking to bless others.

Jesus commands that this kind of love be extended even to our enemies, those who hate and persecute and curse and abuse you. Seek to bless them, to do them good, pray for them.

Actions have consequences. Evil actions will be punished. So Jesus is not saying that when it is in our power to escape from or stop the evil action, we allow an abuser or persecutor to continue. That’s not loving. Jesus is saying that we do good to them, we pray for them. This means that our prayer ultimately is that they would turn from their evil deeds and find forgiveness and freedom and new life in Jesus.

Impossible Love

Luke 6:29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. 32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

Matthew 5 has:

Matthew 5:45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. …48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

You must be perfect. Love your enemies. Be kind, even to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful to the just and the unjust.

If you are honest with yourself, you know this is impossible. But as we have seen throughout this study, that’s what Jesus’ commands are. Impossible. It is impossible to love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. It is impossible to love neighbor as self. It is impossible to love, do good to, pray for and seek to bless our enemies. That is humanly impossible. This requires the work of the Spirit of the living God inside of us.

Corrie ten Boom

I want to end with a story from Corrie ten Boom, who was arrested for hiding Dutch Jews from the Nazis, who survived the horrors of a concentration camp (although her sister Betsie did not). She went on to share God’s love and forgiveness with many. She writes

It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives.

“When we confess our sins,” I said, “God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever.”

It was in a church in Munich that I saw him, a balding heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear.

And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones.

It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. …

Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbrück concentration camp where we were sent.

Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: “A fine message, fräulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!”

And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course–how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?

But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. It was the first time since my release that I had been face to face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.

“You mentioned Ravensbrück in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard in there.” No, he did not remember me.

“But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein”–again the hand came out–“will you forgive me?”

And I stood there–I whose sins had every day to be forgiven–and could not. Betsie had died in that place–could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

For I had to do it–I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. “If you do not forgive men their trespasses,” Jesus says, “neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality.

Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.

And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion–I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.

“Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”

And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!”

For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then. But even so, I realized it was not my love. I had tried, and did not have the power. It was the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 5 says:

Romans 5:5 …God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. …8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. …10 …while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son…

***

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

May 30, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

1Cor 7 [SBLGNT]

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

1Cor 7 [ESV2011]

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

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

Structure of Chapter 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

18-19 circumcised or uncircumcised; remain as you are

20 principle: each remain in your calling

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

24 principle: each remain in your calling

25-26 to the virgins; remain as you are

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

29-31 temporality of this world

32-35 advantages of singleness

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

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

Jesus Overcomes All Ethnic, Social and Gender Barriers

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

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

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

Assigned

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

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

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

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

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

Called

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

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

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

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

Circumcision and Uncircumcision

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

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

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

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

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

Circumcision Counts For Nothing

Paul’s statement in verse 19 is amazing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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