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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 6:11-13; Constricted Affections

04/28_2 Corinthians 6:11-13; Constricted Affections Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190428_2cor6_11-13.mp3

Paul’s Resume

In 2 Corinthians 6, Paul commends his ministry; he gives us his resume, but not as anyone would expect. He highlights his ministry as a ministry that reflects the great Shepherd. Jesus said:

John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Authentic ministry is patterned after Jesus; authentic ministry is cross-shaped ministry.

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.

In verses 4-5 Paul lists his endurance in the midst of the hardships of ministry as evidence of his authenticity. He experienced general troubles: in afflictions, in hardships, in calamities; specific persecution: in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots; voluntary hardships: in labors, in sleeplessness, in hungers. Then he lists God’s grace in action in his life producing the fruit of character: in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness; and he points us to the source: in the Holy Spirit, in love unhypocritical, in the word of truth, in the power of God.

He goes on in verses 7-8 with the means of authentic ministry; through the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left, through glory and shame, through slander and praise. Ministry is war, and he is thoroughly equipped to glorify God even when he is put to open shame; even when slandered to offer a life of praise.

Verses 8-10 he points to the paradoxical nature of gospel ministry;

2 Corinthians 6: 8 …We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

We are not what we seem to be. Inward (or should I say Godward) reality often differs greatly from outward appearances.

Gospel Issues

Paul is building a case for authentic ministry, gospel ministry that is shaped by the gospel, ministry that follows Jesus, even becoming like him in his suffering.

Remember, he is writing to a church that he planted, in a city where he preached the gospel, as he said in 1 Corinthians 15

1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain.

In 1 Corinthians he was fighting for the gospel, and the issue was primarily doctrinal or theological. They were doubting the resurrection, and he was bringing them back to the gospel, lest they had believed in vain.

1 Corinthians 15:14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. …17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.

In 2 Corinthians, no less, he is fighting for the gospel. He pleads in

2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Be reconciled to God. The implication is that there is a fracture in their relationship that needs to be healed. He goes on in chapter 6:

2 Corinthians 6:1 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 …Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Paul is again fighting for the gospel, urging them to be reconciled to God. Where the issue in 1 Corinthians was theological; some were questioning the resurrection, here in 2 Corinthians the issue is relational; their relationship with the apostle Paul was strained and tenuous, and as we learn in chapter 11, they were developing relationships with false apostles. They were in danger of being led astray from the simplicity of the cross to a different gospel, and this was happening as they began to distance themselves from Paul.

This is no less a danger today. It is a danger for us to fit the gospel to our culture, rather than allowing the gospel to transform our thinking and shape our culture.

There are some even today who are rejecting Paul, leading people back into bondage under the law. They are rejecting the true gospel of grace. Beware of those today who undermine Paul and the gospel he preached.

Be Reconciled to Paul; Open Mouths

After painting a picture of his character in the midst of sufferings, a picture of cross-shaped ministry, after calling them to be reconciled to God, he calls them now to reconcile with him.

2 Corinthians 6:11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.

This is direct. Paul addresses them affectionately only here as ‘Corinthians.’ He says literally ‘our mouths are open to you Corinthians.’ Our mouths are open.

Now for most of us, that’s not a good thing. Our mouths are open too much. The wisdom books, especially Psalms and Proverbs have much to say about the dangers of the tongue, as does James. Psalm 64 speaks of enemies,

Psalm 64:3 who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows,

Does that describe much of what we see on social media today? Many of us have a Peter problem; in Mark 9 he spoke, because he did not know what to say. He opened his mouth just to stop the silence.

Proverbs 10:19 When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.

There is wisdom in knowing when to keep silent, when not to answer. Jesus, when he was falsely accused ‘opened not his mouth’ (Is.53:7; Mk.14:61).

Some have taken Paul to be saying that he has said too much. But the context makes it clear that this is an expression of affection.

Proverbs 12:18 There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 15:2 The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.

Words can do great harm, or they can bring great healing. Isaiah says:

Isaiah 50:4 The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary…

Paul’s mouth is wide open in the sense that he will not withhold good any good from them. As he said to the elders of Ephesus in Acts 20:

Acts 20:18 …“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

‘I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable.’

Acts 20:27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.

In verse 32 he says:

Acts 20:31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

The word of his grace is able to build you up. Paul is confident in God and his word. He told them in Ephesians 4:

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

What comes out of our mouths can be corrosive, or it can build up. Your words, what comes out of your mouths, can give grace to those who hear. What you say can actually convey God’s grace.

Paul says ‘our mouths are open to you.’ We are holding nothing back that would be good for you.

Enlarged Hearts

Not only are our mouths open to you, but our hearts are widened or enlarged. This is in contrast to constricted or restricted in verse 12. That word means a tight narrow place. Back in 4:8 he used this same word ‘restricted;’ ‘We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed‘. Crushed or in a tight narrow place with no way out. Our hearts are not narrow or constricted with no room for you; they are wide; we have plenty of room for you in our hearts.

2 Corinthians 6:11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.

If there is any narrowness, any constriction of affections, it is on your side; you are not squeezed out by us; rather you are squeezed out in your own affections. He changes words here from ‘heart’ to ‘affections;’ literally bowels or intestines, the seat of intense emotion. We might say ‘he experienced gut-wrenching sorrow’ or ‘I had knots in the pit of my stomach’. When we read in the gospels that Jesus was ‘moved with compassion’ (Mt.9:36), it is the verb form of this word ‘affections’ or ‘bowels’.

The point is he is talking about emotions, affections. The Corinthians had begun to squeeze him out of their affections. He is asking for a fair exchange, as to his own beloved children, you also make room.

How To Enlarge Affections

I want to end today with a very practical question: How do you make room in your heart? How do you enlarge your affections?

You hear of married couples saying ‘The flame is gone, I just don’t think I love him anymore.’

Or you have someone who has been hurt so badly, so deeply, that they could never love, never open themselves up.

Or there is someone in your life, maybe someone in the church, maybe someone in the community, that you find difficult to love. The Bible says I have to love them, but that doesn’t mean I have to like them, right?

This is imperative; it is a command. Make room in your heart, in your affections. How do we do that? Can we do that? Can we obey a command to feel differently about someone? The biblical answer is ‘yes’. Yes, by the transforming power of God and the help of his Spirit we can obey this command. And he tells us how.

Cut Off All Inappropriate Affections

In the next verses we find that there are inappropriate affections going in other directions. The Corinthians are enamored with the false apostles. They don’t have room for Paul in their hearts because he has been squeezed out by others. They have given their affections to others, to false apostles, to a false gospel. We will plan to look at these verses next time. That is often the case. When love grows cold, the affections are being channeled in a different direction, an inappropriate direction. Something else is competing for your heart. Stop giving your heart to another. You are cheating yourself; you are constricting your own affections. Cut off all inappropriate affections.

Drink in God’s Love

But how can our heart be enlarged? Psalm 119 says:

Psalm 119:32 I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!

It is God who enlarges a heart.

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

Our love is a response to being perfectly loved. We love because he first loved us. Jesus said:

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

We are to love others as we have been loved by Jesus. We our enabled to love others because we have been loved by Jesus.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

We forgive because we have been forgiven. We are kind and tenderhearted to others, because God has been abundantly kind and tenderhearted to us when we didn’t deserve it. Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. All our affections flow out of this love that we have experienced.

That’s where the love comes from.

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. 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.

Do you feel your affections are drying up? Go to the unquenchable fountain and drink in God’s unwavering love. Saturate your shriveled soul in Christ’s sacrificial love for you, his enemy. Let God’s love in the gospel fill your heart to bursting. We love because he first loved us.

***

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

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April 28, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Advent; Jesus is Greater! Greater Prophet

12/03 Advent: Jesus is Greater! Greater Prophet ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20171203_advent-greater-prophet.mp3

I’ve been meditating on this passage in 2 Corinthians that we have been studying,

2 Corinthians 1:18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.

But God is faithful, that the word [Logos] of us to you is not yes and no for the of God Son Jesus Christ who in you through us was proclaimed …has not come to be Yes and No, but Yes in him has come to be, for as many as God’s promises, in him is the Yes; now therefore through him the Amen to God for glory through us

The YES to all the promises of God is Jesus! The YES in him has come to be! God’s YES has come into existence in Jesus, and as we see and experience God’s yes, we are invited to speak the Amen with one voice to the glory of God.

For this Advent season, I want to look at some of the promises of God that have their substance or being in Jesus. I want to take a step back and look at some of the sweeping themes of the Old Testament that point us to the coming of Jesus, and how Jesus is the end and goal of all these promises. Jesus is the greater Prophet; Jesus is the greater Priest and the greater Tabernacle and the greater Sacrifice; Jesus is the greater King; Jesus is the greater Man; Jesus is the greater Israel who mediates a greater covenant. Jesus is greater! The YES in him has come to be! As many as are the promises of God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the YES! And as we fix our eyes on Jesus, may we respond with the AMEN of worship to our great God to his glory!

What is a Prophet?

Jesus is the greater Prophet. What is a prophet? A prophet is one who faithfully brings God’s word to his people. In Exodus 7 we get a picture of what a prophet is. This is after Moses complains to God that he is not a very good speaker, and God allows his brother Aaron to speak for him.

Exodus 7:1 And the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. 2 You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land.

A prophet is the mouthpiece of God, the voice of God, one who speaks to people on behalf of God.

Anybody can claim to be speaking for God. Many people have. There are many places in God’s word where God’s people are warned to guard against false prophets. Deuteronomy 13 warns of prophets who perform supernatural signs or wonders that seem to authenticate their words, but they teach people to follow other gods, we are not to listen. God is testing us to see if we truly love God with all our heart and all our soul.

Deuteronomy 18 encourages the people to test the truthfulness of a prophet by checking to see if what he says comes to pass, because God’s word always happens.

Jesus Greater than Moses

This test of the truthfulness of a prophet comes at the end of a section where Moses is pointing the people to a coming greater prophet.

Deuteronomy 18:15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— 16 just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ 17 And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.

He is referring back to Mount Sinai in Exodus 20;

Exodus 20:18 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” 21 The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was. (cf. Deuteronomy 5)

The people said:

Deuteronomy 5:25 Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the LORD our God any more, we shall die. 26 For who is there of all flesh, that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of fire as we have, and has still lived? 27Go near and hear all that the LORD our God will say, and speak to us all that the LORD our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.’

God affirms;

Deuteronomy 18:17 And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.

The people were right. To enter the presence of a holy God is to die. They needed a mediator, someone who would intercede, who could keep them safe, someone who could bring them safely in. Because of this prophecy, the people were expecting a greater prophet to arise like Moses. When John arrived on the scene calling the nation to repent and baptizing, the religious leaders asked ‘Are you The Prophet?’ (Jn.1:21, 25). They wanted to know if John was this greater than Moses prophet promised by God.

John 1:15 John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”

John pointed away from himself to Jesus. Peter in Acts 3 and Stephen in Acts 7 both connect this prophecy to Jesus.

Even greater than the testimony of John and the Apostles, is the testimony of the Father himself. When Jesus took Peter, James and John up on the mountain, and was transfigured before them, and Moses and Elijah, greatest of the Old Testament prophets appeared talking with him, Peter wanted to honor these three by making them booths to stay in; but while he was speaking the Father himself interrupted and said “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” (Mt.17:5; cf. Mk.9:7; Lk.9:35).

Deuteronomy 18:15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—

‘This is my beloved Son, listen to him.’ When the disciples lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. According to the Father, Jesus supersedes Moses and Elijah. Jesus is the prophet we are to listen to.

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, his face was glowing because he had met with God, but that glory faded. When Jesus was on the mountain, a slight glimmer of who he really is shone through, a glimpse of the glory that Moses met with when he was on the mountain.

Jesus says in John 5:

John 5:45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.

Jesus Authoritatively Declares God’s Word

Jesus is the promised greater prophet who speaks authoritatively on behalf of God. We see this throughout Jesus’ ministry.

John 12:49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.

John 15:15 …but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

Jesus spoke the very words his Father gave him to speak. He spoke with his Father’s authority.

Mark 1:27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”

Jesus spoke with authority, and he did many signs and wonders to authenticate his words. But remember from Deuteronomy, signs and wonders alone are not enough to validate a ministry.

Jesus passes both tests of a prophet from Deuteronomy. Both in his life and in his teaching, he affirms the great commandment, that

Mark 12:30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

And everything Jesus said came to pass.

John 13:19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.

But Jesus’ predictions were not the fortune cookie generalities; ‘there’s something big just over the horizon.’ Jesus,

Luke 18:31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” 34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

What an astounding thing to say! What specific detail! Jesus saw clearly and proclaimed exactly what would happen. And it happened exactly as he said. Jesus said:

Matthew 24:35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. (cf. Mk.13:31; Lk.21:33)

Jesus is the greater Prophet who faithfully brings God’s word to his people.

Jesus Is God’s Word

Jesus came to be the greater Prophet. We see this not only in what Jesus spoke, but in who he is. Jesus not only spoke God’s word, but he is the Word. John’s gospel begins with a very different kind of genealogy than the other gospels.

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.

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

Jesus claims to be the pre-existent Word, who was with God and who is in his very essence God. He is the creative Word that spoke everything into existence in Genesis 1. He is the Word that said ‘let light be!’ He is the one who breathed into man the breath of life. He is life. He is light. He is God. He shares the glory of his Father. And he came. He became flesh. He became human. The Creator became part of his creation! Oh the wonder of Christmas!

Our family likes to watch some of the holiday classics about flying sleighs and magic trains and why we shouldn’t be a Grinch or a Scrooge and the power of generosity and believing. Friends, truth is stranger than fiction! This is so much more wondrous, so much more awe inspiring; that God himself, the eternal Word became flesh, and was born! Born to set his people free. Born to die that we might live. Jesus, the prophetic Word become flesh to dwell among us.

Jesus is the Fulfillment of all the Prophets

Jesus is that Prophet, greater than Moses. The book of Hebrews begins this way:

Hebrews 1:1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by 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. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

God spoke through the Prophets. But now he has spoken once for all in his Son, the Creator, the radiance of his glory. God’s prophetic communication all culminates in Jesus. Later in Hebrews 3, Jesus is contrasted as greater than Moses, as the builder of a house is greater than the house; as a son in the house is greater than a servant. Jesus is the final Word of God, the Prophet greater than Moses.

Jesus faithfully brings God’s word to his people. Jesus is the divine Word made flesh, come to be God’s Word to us. And as we look back over all the Scriptures, they become God’s ‘Yes’ to us in Jesus.

Peter writes of the value of the believer’s faith in Jesus that brings glory to God.

1 Peter 1:7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

He goes on to connect this salvation through faith in Jesus to all the Scriptures.

1 Peter 1:10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

Notice the word of the prophets was initiated by the Spirit of Christ in them, and the content of their word was ‘the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.’ It’s all about Jesus! The prophets wrote by the Spirit, beyond their own understanding, and searched and inquired carefully into their own writings. They had an idea that their writings would find fulfillment in a single person or time. They were pointing to Jesus; God come in the flesh to suffer and be crucified for us, to be buried and to rise from the dead for us. They were pointing to the grace that is ours in the gospel that has been proclaimed to us! The promised one, the Christ, God come in the flesh, came to suffer. Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, he was buried, he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and he appeared to many. All the Scriptures point together to this message of good news that eternal life in relationship with God is a free gift of God’s grace, purchased for us by the sufferings of the Messiah.

Yes and Amen!

1 Peter 1:8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,

Do you have this inexpressible joy in Jesus today? Does the gospel message of salvation by grace through faith in Christ stir your heart to worship, to bow, to adore? Are you experiencing the gospel today? Are you enjoying the gospel today? Are you enjoying Jesus?

1 Peter 1:7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—…may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Savor the treasure you have in Jesus. May God’s Yes to all his promises to us in Jesus overflow in a hearty Amen to God for his glory through us! enjoy his promises and respond together with the Amen in worship. God’s promises are meant to be experienced and enjoyed. The goal of the promises is to resound to the glory of God. As we enjoy together in Jesus the yes to all God’s promises, we respond back to God with the Amen of worship that brings glory to him. This is astounding! That because we are in Christ, because in Christ we enjoy God’s promises, we now have the capacity to glorify God together!

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

December 6, 2017 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Anthropomorphisms

03/13 Anthropomorphisms; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160313_anthropomorphisms.mp3

We have been studying who God is, what God says about himself, what he is like. Our purpose is to enjoy our relationship with God, to deepen our affection for him. To savor him, to treasure him. We have studied much of what God says about himself.

Human Descriptions of the Invisible God

We have seen that God is infinite, eternal, immortal, invisible, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent. He is spirit, not physical. But some of the things God says about himself seem to contradict what the Bible clearly teaches. What do we do with these things? God often describes himself in very human terms. The passage we have been looking at, Exodus 33, where God reveals his character to Moses, reads this way:

Exodus 33:20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

According to this passage, God has a face, a back, and a hand.

Jeremiah 32:21 You brought your people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs and wonders, with a strong hand and outstretched arm, and with great terror.

God has a strong hand and an outstretched arm.

Isaiah 59:1 Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;

The Lord’s hand is not too short. He has ears that hear.

Exodus 31:18 And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.

God’s finger wrote on the tablets of stone.

Isaiah 49:16 Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands

God’s hands have palms.

Exodus 24:10 and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness.

They saw the God of Israel and he has feet. In Jeremiah God says:

Jeremiah 18:17 Like the east wind I will scatter them before the enemy. I will show them my back, not my face, in the day of their calamity.”

The word translated ‘back’ literally means ‘neck’. God has a neck.

Psalm 88:2 Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry!

God’s ear is inclined to hear the prayers of his people. This would imply that not only does he have ears, but a head and a neck so that he can incline his ear toward his people.

Psalm 11:4 The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.

Not only does God have ears, he has eyes, even eyelids. Deuteronomy 32 gets even more specific. He has pupils in his eyes.

Deuteronomy 32:10 “He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.

Psalm 18 tells of God’s mouth and nose.

Psalm 18:8 Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from him.

Psalm 18:15 Then the channels of the sea were seen, and the foundations of the world were laid bare at your rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.

Psalm 33 speaks of the mouth of the Lord.

Psalm 33:6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.

Isaiah 30 gets even more specific. He has lips and a tongue.

Isaiah 30:27 Behold, the name of the LORD comes from afar, burning with his anger, and in thick rising smoke; his lips are full of fury, and his tongue is like a devouring fire;

What do we make of this? God has a hand, a strong hand, palms, an outstretched arm, a finger, a back, feet, a neck, a face, ears, eyes, eyelids, pupils, nostrils, a mouth, lips, and tongue. Many people look at this and conclude that God must have a body just like ours. That must be what it means to say that we were made in the image of God. Our physical characteristics must have been patterned after God’s physical characteristics. But if we continue with this line of understanding, we quickly run into trouble.

Other Visible Descriptions of God

When God made a covenant with Abraham, he appeared this way:

Genesis 15:17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.

God is a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch. When God appeared to Moses,

Exodus 3:2 And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.

God is a flame of fire out of a bush. To the Israelites in the wilderness,

Numbers 14:14 …They have heard that you, O LORD, are in the midst of this people. For you, O LORD, are seen face to face, and your cloud stands over them and you go before them, in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night.

God is a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Hebrews tells us:

Hebrews 12:29 for our God is a consuming fire.

In Psalm 84, we are told:

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.

God is a sun. God is a shield. But we find in Psalm 121

Psalm 121:5 The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand.

Not only is God a flaming torch, a consuming fire, and a sun, but he is also a shield, and he is shade.

Deuteronomy 32 calls God the Rock.

Deuteronomy 32:4 “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.

Psalm 9 calls God a stronghold.

Psalm 9:9 The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.

And Psalm 61 calls God a strong tower.

Psalm 61:3 for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.

Revelation 22 says,

Revelation 21:22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.

So God is a fire, a sun, a shield, a strong tower, a stronghold, a rock, a temple. But look at Jeremiah 2.

Jeremiah 2:13 for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

God is a fountain. Jesus said in John 6.

John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

God is a fountain. God is bread.

But look at Psalm 91.

Psalm 91:4 He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

God has pinions, or feathers. He has wings.

Lamentations 3:10 He is a bear lying in wait for me, a lion in hiding; 11 he turned aside my steps and tore me to pieces; he has made me desolate;

Amos 3:8 The lion has roared; who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken; who can but prophesy?” cf. Hosea 5:14; 11:10; 13:7

God is a lion, a bear, a bird. Revelation 5 says

Revelation 5:5 And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

Jesus is a lion. He is also a root. But then in verse 6,

Revelation 5:6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.

Jesus is a lamb slain, with seven horns and seven eyes.

Images of God

So what is God like? He has a hand, an arm, a finger, a back, feet, a neck, a face, ears, eyes, eyelids, pupils, nostrils, a mouth, lips, and tongue. He also has feathers, wings, claws and teeth and horns. He is a rock, a stronghold, a tower, a temple; he is fire, he is the sun, he is the shade, he is a fountain, he is smoke and cloud. He is a root. He is a man, a lion, a bear, a bird, a lamb. He is bread.

Are these descriptions of God meant to give us a visual physical image of what God looks like? The Scripture is clear.

Deuteronomy 4:12 Then the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice.

…15 “Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, 16 beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, 17 the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, 18 the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth. 19 And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.

You heard a voice but saw no form. Beware that you make no form, make no image, make no likeness. To fashion an image, physically or mentally, is idolatry. God is spirit (Jn.4:24). He is invisible (Rom.1:20; Col.1:14; 1Tim.1:17; Heb.11:27). No one has ever seen God (Jn.1:18; 1Jn.4:12). No one can see God (1Tim.6:16).

Anthropomorphisms

So what do we make of these seemingly physical descriptions of God? To look at the physical descriptions and conclude that God is a man or a bird or a rock or bread is to look at it backwards; God is not like man; man is like God. We were created in the image of God, to reflect God’s character. The characteristics that we have been given are meant to teach us something about God.

Proverbs 20:12 The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the LORD has made them both.

Psalm 94:8 Understand, O dullest of the people! Fools, when will you be wise? 9 He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see?

God made eyes and ears to teach us something about himself. Seeing and hearing happened before physical eyes and ears existed. God made us with ears that hear to illustrate for us that he is a God who is attentive and aware. He made us with eyes to illustrate for us that he is watchful and vigilant, and nothing escapes his notice. Have you ever been in a hospital bed and couldn’t quite reach something on the rolling table? Or you couldn’t even reach your call button? We imagine superheroes that have these kinds of limitations taken away. When we are told his hand is not shortened, we are not to picture an elastic hand, but to understand that nothing, no-one is beyond his reach. We call this kind of language anthropomorphic language, speaking in the form or morphe of anthropos, man, describing God in human language in ways we can relate to and understand.

Herman Bavinck, the Dutch theologian, writing 120 years ago, said

whereas God’s revelation in nature and Scripture is definitely directed to man, God uses human language to reveal himself and manifests himself in human forms. It follows that Scripture does not merely contain a few anthropomorphisms; on the contrary, all Scripture is anthropomorphic. From beginning to end Scripture testifies a condescending approach of God to man.” (p.86).

When we try to communicate with an infant, we use gestures and touch and one syllable sounds ‘ma-ma, da-da, ba-ba, no, ouch’. We come down to their level. Imagine attempting to communicate the majesty of the glorious colors of a sunset to a person born blind. Somehow you have to try to capture the essence of the experience and connect it to experiences they can relate to. Exponentially more difficult is it for the infinite, uncreated, invisible God to communicate himself to his finite physical creation.

As Bavinck asserts, ‘ Scripture does not merely contain a few anthropomorphisms; on the contrary, all Scripture is anthropomorphic’. All of Scripture is God stooping down to our level and communicating his infinite reality in terms of human experience that we can relate to.

Human Emotions Ascribed to God

God is said to have a heart that is grieved by sin (Gen.6:6). He is said to have inward parts (literally bowels) that are moved with compassion (Is.63:15). God is said to have joy (Is.62:5); he is said to rejoice (Is.65:19); to grieve (Ps.78:40); to be provoked to anger (Jer.7:18-19); to fear (Deut.32:21); to love (Jer.31:3); to be jealous (Deut.32:21); to hate (Deut.16:22); to experience wrath and fury (Psalm 2:5); vengeance (Deut.32:35). All these are human experiences and human emotions attributed to God to help us grasp on some limited level how God feels.

Human Actions Ascribed to God

Many human actions and experiences are attributed to God, such as:

Knowing (Gen.18:21); Forgetting (Hos.4:6); Remembering (Ex.2:24); Answering (Ps.3:4); Speaking (Gen.2:16); Calling (Rom.4:17); Commanding (Is.5:6); Rebuking (Ps.18:15); Witnessing (Mal.2:14); Resting (Gen.2:2); Working (Jn.5:17); Seeing (Gen.1:10); Hearing (Ex.2:24); Smelling (Gen.8:21); Tasting (Ps,11:4-5); Sitting (Ps.9:7); Rising (Ps.68:1); Going (Ex.34:9); Coming (Ex.25:22); Walking (Lev.26:12); Descending (Gen.11:5); Meeting (Ex.3:18); Visiting (Gen.21:1); Passing by (Ex.12:13); Casting off (Jud.6:13); Writing (Ex.34:1); Sealing (Jn.6:27); Engraving (Is.49:16); Striking (Is.11:4); Disciplining (Deut.8:5); Punishing (Lev.18:25); Judging (P.s.58:11); Condemning (Job10:2); Binding up Wounds and Healing (Ps.147:3); Killing and Making Alive (Deut.32:39); Wiping Away Tears (Is.25:8); Wiping Out (2Ki.21:13); Washing, Cleansing (Ps.51:2); Anointing (Ps.2:6); Adorning (Ezek.16:11); Clothing (Ps.132:16); Crowning (Ps.8:5); Strengthening (Ps.18:32).

Human Relationships Ascribed to God

God is said to fulfill the role of human relationships and responsibilities; such as: Bridegroom and Bride, (Is.61:10); Husband (Is.54:5); Father (Deut.1:31; 32:6); Judge, King, Lawgiver (Is.33:22); Man of War (Ex.15:3); Hero, Lover (Zeph.3:17); Builder, Architect, and Maker (Heb.11:10); Farmer (Jn.15:1); Shepherd (Ps.23:1); Physician (Ex.15:26).

Worthless Idols

These are all ways of communicating to us what God is like with concepts that we can relate to. Idolatry is the opposite of this, taking creation as the starting point and formulating a god that is modeled after created things.

Romans 1:23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Psalm 115 says

Psalm 115:1 Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! 2 Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” 3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. 4 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. 5 They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. 6 They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. 7 They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. 8 Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.

Idols are a worthless imitation of reality. They are made to resemble all the physical body parts, but none of them function. God is not a physical being, yet he is living and active and powerful. God has no physical eyes, yet he sees all. God has no fleshly ears, but he hears even the secret thoughts and imaginations of our hearts.

The tragedy is when we have eyes and do not see, ears and do not hear. We were made for relationship with this invisible God, a God who reveals himself to us in ways we can understand, yet we turn a blind eye to him and follow our own path.

Jesus Anthropomorphism

God intends for us to know him. All of Scripture is a stooping down to communicate who God is to his creation. Jesus is the ultimate anthropomorphism.

John 1:1 … the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

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

…18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Jesus actually became human. He took on our flesh. Eternal God humbled himself and was born into this physical world as a human baby.

Hebrews 1:1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…

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

March 13, 2016 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment