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2 Corinthians 2:12-13; Relational Hindrances to the Gospel

03/18_2Corinthians 2:12-13; Relational Hindrances to the Gospel ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180318_2cor2_12-13.mp3

This text contains geographical and historical bits of information on the travels of the Apostle which fills out some details that are missing from Luke’s summary in Acts 20. It also opens a window of insight into the heart and soul of the Apostle Paul, and the sobering truth that through conflict in our relationships we can hinder the advance of the gospel.

2 Corinthians 2:12 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, 13 my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.

Geography and Strategic Cities

Verses 12 and 13 are framed by geographical information; it starts with ‘I went in to Troas;’ it ends with ‘I went out to Macedonia’ It is worth looking at a map to see the places we are talking about, and the strategic importance of Troas.

Troas was a major Aegean port city located about 10 miles south of the ancient city of Troy. It was the primary Asian harbor for ships destined for Macedonia, and had a population around 30 or 40,000. Troas was one of the few Roman colonies in Asia Minor; it held the status and importance of a Roman city like Corinth, Ephesus, and Philippi. It held a strategic location at the entrance of the strait of Dardanelles (or Hellespont) which connected the Aegean sea to the sea of Marmara and on to the Black Sea. It was also the port of departure from Asia to Neapolis in Macedonia that would put you on Via Egnatia and take you to Rome. This is the kind of strategic crossroads city that Paul targeted with the gospel, because from it the gospel would spread throughout the region and the world.

History of Ministry in Troas

We also know, from Acts, that Paul had been to Troas before, and was eager to minister there. We read in Acts 16, of his second missionary journey:

Acts 16:6 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.

Paul is eager to proclaim Jesus in the regions of Asia, Bythinia, and Mysia, but is prevented by the Spirit. They make it to Troas, this key port city,

Acts 16:9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. 11 So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis,

The Spirit moved Paul on immediately from Troas to the region of Macedonia. There he established churches in Phillipi, Thessalonica, Berea, and then traveled down to Athens and on to Corinth, where he spent a year and a half, before a brief stop in Ephesus on his way to Jerusalem and back to Antioch.

On his third missionary journey, he traveled through Galatia and Phrygia, and on to Ephesus, where he spent three years. He wrote during that time in Ephesus:

1 Corinthians 16:8 But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

It was during that extended time in Ephesus that he corresponded with Corinth, and even made an emergency visit to Corinth to sort things out, a visit that did not go well. He says of his time in Ephesus:

Acts 19:20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily. 21 Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” 22 And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.

Luke records a riot in Ephesus, and then,

Acts 20:1 After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them, he said farewell and departed for Macedonia. 2 When he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece. 3 There he spent three months, and when a plot was made against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia.

For the Gospel

This is where 2 Corinthians fills in the details. After leaving Ephesus, he traveled north to Troas on the way to Macedonia. 2 Corinthians 2:12 tells us

2 Corinthians 2:12 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ,

Paul’s reason for traveling to Troas was the gospel. He was eager to proclaim the gospel in this key city. He came to Troas ‘for the gospel of Christ.’

This is ultimately why Paul did everything he did. It was all for Christ’s sake. In Romans 15, Paul speaks of:

Romans 15:18 …what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience— …19… —so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; 20 and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named… 21 but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.”

Paul came to Troas ‘for the gospel of Christ.’ His passion, no doubt, was to establish a strong church in that strategic city. And he says ‘a door was opened for me in the Lord.’ We heard him use this language about his 3 years in Ephesus in 1 Corinthians 16:9 “for a wide door for effective work has opened to me.” In Colossians 4:3 he asks for prayer “that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ.” After his 1st missionary journey, in Acts 14:27, he reports back to the church in Antioch “all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.” A door for effective work, a door for the word, a door of faith. God opens doors for ministry.

We can gain insight about what he means by an open door by looking at 1 Thessalonians. There he refers to his ‘reception’ or ‘entrance’ or ‘way in.’ In 1 Thessalonians he paints the picture of what an ‘open door’ looks like.

1 Thessalonians 1:4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. … 6 …for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. …

1 Thessalonians 2:1 For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. 2 But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.

Some elements of the ‘open door’ in Thessalonica were that the apostle had boldness to declare the gospel despite conflict; the gospel came in power and with full conviction; they received the word even in affliction; they turned from idols to the true God; they sounded forth the word into the surrounding regions. All this is a work of the Spirit of God. This is the kind of thing that had happened in Ephesus. Paul was seeing this beginning to happen now in Troas.

Relational Hindrances to the Gospel

In this context, the words in 2 Corinthians come as a shock.

2 Corinthians 2:12 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, 13 my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.

Paul came to the strategic port city of Troas to preach the gospel, and the Lord had opened a door of ministry for him there. And he said goodbye and walked away. Paul, the Apostle Paul, eager to preach the gospel, walked away from an open door of ministry! Why?

His spirit was not at rest. This is heavy. His spirit was in turmoil. There was tension in his relationship with the church in Corinth. The last time he had seen them, things did not end well. Now he had sent Titus to Corinth with the agreement that they would meet in Troas. Paul was anxious to hear news about the Corinthian believers. When Titus didn’t show up as planned, Paul’s spirit was so troubled over the church in Corinth that the Apostle Paul couldn’t seize an open door for gospel ministry in Troas. Relational conflict can take the wind right out of your sails.

Paul is confessing his weakness, his humanness, his frailty, and the abundant love he has for this church. If he didn’t love them, if he didn’t care, he could shrug it off and go on with effective ministry. But his relationship with this church affected him deeply. He had forgiven. We saw that in verse 10. But he was burdened for this church. He was concerned for them. Later, in 2 Corinthians 11 he lists his labors, his imprisonments, his beatings, his stoning, his shipwrecks, his journeys, his dangers from rivers, robbers, the Jews, the Gentiles, the sea, false brothers, in toil, hardship, sleeplessness, hunger, thirst, cold, exposure, and he tops the list with:

2 Corinthians 11:28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?

The daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Will they remain faithful to Jesus? Will they leave their first love? Will they be devoured by wolves? Will they be sidetracked by a false gospel? Will Satan gain a foothold? Will some go astray? Will they forgive? Will they become legalistic? Will they become lukewarm? Daily pressure, anxiety, taken daily to the throne of grace for help. He is weak. Human. This is too much to bear. He needs help. When he picks back up this narrative about not finding Titus in Troas in chapter 7, he says:

2 Corinthians 7:5 For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn— fighting without and fear within.

Fighting without, fear within. What is more important? Planting a new church or rescuing a failing one? Paul is torn. So torn, that he says goodbye to an open door to preach the gospel in Troas. The Spirit had closed the doors to ministry in this place in the past. Now the Lord has opened a door, and he walks away because of inner turmoil.

Have you ever been paralyzed by unresolved conflict in relationships? You can’t sleep, you lose your appetite, the track keeps playing over and over in your head; what could I have said or done differently, what can I do to make it better, how can I help them understand, what am I not seeing? How can I make sure I’m not misunderstood again? Where is the breakdown? What does reconciliation even look like? There is nothing that sucks the life and joy out of ministry faster than unresolved conflict between brothers.

Reconciliation and Unity

In verse 11 he warned against being outwitted by Satan. Because of tension in relationships between brothers, a gospel opportunity is cut short and abandoned. There is urgency, gospel urgency to reconcile relationships and resolve conflict. So much hangs on our attitudes and our interactions with others. How we get along with one another is a big deal! It is a gospel issue!

Peter even warns that if a husband doesn’t show honor and live in an understanding way with his wife, his prayers will be hindered (1Pet.3:7).

Ephesians 4:1-3 urges us to be eager to maintain unity, the unity of the Spirit, with all humility and gentleness, bearing with one another. Verses 7-11 point to the diversity of the body which is designed:

Ephesians 4:12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

The saints are to be equipped for ministry, for unity, for building up, not to be tossed around by false doctrine, by human cunning, or by craftiness of deceitful schemes. The enemy seeks to deceive and destroy our usefulness by causing division. He goes on in verse 25 to focus on our relationships:

Ephesians 4:25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.

We are members of one another. Conflict and tension in relationships within the body gives opportunity to the devil. He goes on:

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. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

What comes out of our mouths, bitterness, and wrath and anger and clamor and slander and malice, is corrosive and corrupting, grieves the Holy Spirit of God, and diverts attention away from gospel ministry.

So be kind, tenderhearted, forgive as you have been forgiven, freely, graciously, undeservedly. Let what comes out of your mouth build up, let your words give grace to those who hear.

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

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March 19, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 2:1-4; Sorrow and Joy in the Body of Christ

02/25_2 Corinthians 2:1-4; Joy and Sorrow in the Body of Christ ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180225_2cor2_1-4.mp3

Tension of Sorrow and Joy

Paul begins 2 Corinthians by pointing us to the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. …if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort. (1:3-6). He points us to a God who brings comfort out of affliction; and here in chapter 2 he points us to a God who can even bring joy out of a painful relationship.

This passage uses the language of pain, or sorrow or grief. In all of Paul’s letters, he uses the noun and the verb form of this word ‘sorrow’ 24 times; 18 of those, a full ¾ are here in 2 Corinthians. And 16 of those show up between the first verses of chapter 2, and where he picks this narrative back up in chapter 7.

In chapter 2, he uses the word grief or sorrow or pain 8 times, and when he picks back up in chapter 7, he uses it another 8 times. He also uses words like affliction, anguish of heart, tears. Some have said ‘If Philippians is known for the predominance of the word “joy” in the letter, 2 Corinthians should be known for the predominance of the word “pain.” The Corinthians were his problem children’ [Garland, p.113].

Indeed the letter to the church in Philippi is characterized by joy. But when I looked, the words joy or rejoice show up 14 times in Philippians and 13 times in 2 Corinthians. The next closest concentration of ‘joy’ is 6 times in 1 Thessalonians. Although 2 Corinthians is a letter characterized by sorrow, there is a real tension and interplay here between sorrow and joy.

At the end of chapter 1, Paul made it clear that he is not attempting to lord it over their faith; rather he is pursuing their joy; laboring along side them for their eternal happiness. Paul is working for their joy, and there is a tug-of-war going on in these verses, and in his heart, between joy and sorrow.

Last time we saw that God actually commands our joy in him, that Christianity is not a religion of duty but a relationship of delight, God delighting in us, and our responding to him with delight. We can rejoice in God himself with deep unquenchable joy, because God himself is full of joy. But this joy doesn’t stop with our vertical relationship with God; it extends to horizontal relationships with other people. And that’s where it gets really messy.

Joy of Fellowship with Other Believers:

2 Corinthians 2:1 For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you. 2 For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? 3 And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. 4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

Paul is working with them for their joy. He is pursuing their eternal joy. He is making his travel plans with their joy in mind. His last emergency visit was painful for him. If he visited again now, the visit would be painful for them. Instead he wrote a painful letter, not to cause them pain, but to change their hearts, so that when he did visit, it would be an occasion of rejoicing.

Paul is saying in this passage that his joy is all intertwined and wrapped up in their joy, and that their joy ought to be interconnected with his joy.

2 Corinthians 2:2 For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? 3 And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all.

I caused you pain; you should make me glad; I might suffer pain from you; you are my joy; my joy is your joy.

Last time we looked at unquenchable joy, Jesus’ own joy that no one could take from you. Now is Paul saying here that his joy is dependent on the Corinthians? That his joy is circumstantial? How do these go together? What is the relation between our unquenchable joy in Jesus, and our joy or sorrow in our brothers and sisters?

My Joy is Your Joy

This is not the only place he talks like this. Let’s take a minute to look around at some of the things that touch on this subject of horizontal joy in other believers.

In Philippians 4:1 and 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20, he calls his readers ‘my joy and crown of boasting’; ‘you are our glory and joy.’

Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

Do you hear his heart of tender affection toward them?

1 Thessalonians 2:19 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20 For you are our glory and joy.

In Philippians 2:2 he asks them to complete his joy.

Philippians 2:2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

They unity of the believers, their Christ-like others-focused sacrificial humility and love fills up and completes the joy of the apostle.

Paul derived much joy from Philemon.

Philemon 1:7 For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.

Springing out of the love of Christ, Philemon’s love overflowed to refresh the hearts of the saints. Hearing of this outworking of the gospel in the life of a brother brought Paul much joy and comfort.

In 1 Thessalonians 3 we see something like what Paul longed for and was working toward with the Corinthians.

1 Thessalonians 3:6 But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— 7 for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. 8 For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. 9 For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God,

Do you hear what he says? The good news of their faith and love brought the apostle joy. The gospel had taken root, and they were standing firm in believing. The gospel had taken root and was producing the fruit of love among them. Their belief in the gospel had created warm affections for the one who came and preached to them; they longed to see him again. There was mutual affection and mutual joy. Paul, in the midst of distress and affliction, says ‘now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.’ You see this triangular relationship. Paul is loving Jesus and finding joy in Jesus. That love and joy overflows horizontally and he brings that good news to the Thessalonians, so that they can find love and joy in relationship with Jesus. As he sees them enjoying God together, it increases his joy. He finds joy in their joy, and his joy is their joy.

Paul is not the only one who talks like this. John makes it clear what brings him joy.

2 John 1:4 I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father.

…12 Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

3 John 1:3 For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

His greatest joy is to see other believers enjoying Jesus, walking in the truth.

He says it most clearly in 1 John.

1 John 1:3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

We (the apostles) proclaim what we have seen and heard (the gospel of Jesus Christ) so that you may enter into our fellowship with the Father and the Son; as we have a reconciled relationship with God and enjoy intimacy with Jesus, when you believe the gospel you also enter in to fellowship with God. And when you enter into that fellowship, our joy is complete. There is vertical fellowship with God, and there is horizontal fellowship with other believers. When that triangle is complete; when I am enjoying God, and you are enjoying God, and I see you enjoying God, I rejoice in your joy in God, and my joy is your joy; then our joy is complete.

C.S. Lewis writes “It is frustrating …to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch…” Our joy is fulfilled when it is shared.

This is the joy of the triune God. Last time we said that we can enjoy God because God is joy. For God’s joy to be full, it must be joy in another; and yet for the joy to not be idolatrous joy, it must be joy in God. The Father delights in his only Son, and the Son delights in the Father. The Spirit delights in the Father and the Son, and the Son delights in the Spirit’s delighting in the Father and the Son, and so on, and so the joy of God in God is shared, and is complete. This is joy in relationship; shared joy.

Joy and Grief Shared in the Body

Paul has pointed to this shared joy already in 1 Corinthians 12 with the metaphor of the church as the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many.

24 … But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

The members of the body are meant to be unified, to care for one another. Because we are part of a body, when one member is pained, the whole body experiences the pain. When on member experiences joy, the whole body rejoices together. This is God’s design. God has so composed the body. Paul is working for their joy, because they are connected. Their joy is his joy, and his joy is theirs.

Listen to Paul’s confidence in verse 3; ‘for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all.’ Paul is confidently pursuing their joy, even by bringing them pain, because he is persuaded that when his children are walking in the truth, he can rejoice, and this will also bring them the greatest joy. Paul has a theological confidence in the way God designed the body that frees him to seek their greatest good even when it causes him pain, because he knows that pursuing their joy will bring him the most joy in the end.

The Way of the Cross

Paul would have been tempted to come, to clear his name, to defend his honor, to set things straight. Instead, he chose the way of the cross. He chose to be wronged rather than to demand his own way. He chose to spare them, to extend mercy, to give them time to repent. He himself bore the pain.

2 Corinthians 2:4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

Paul had mentioned his affliction in Asia in chapter 1.

2 Corinthians 1:8 … the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death….

Now he says he wrote out of much affliction and anguish of heart. In chapter 7 he mentions:

2 Corinthians 7:5 For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn— fighting without and fear within.

Here he may be talking about his fears within. Much affliction and anguish of heart heaped on top of the burden beyond strength despairing of life itself. Anyone who has experienced relational conflict and tension understands the soul draining energy sapping fatigue of being emotionally spent. Paul writes through his tears, not to cause pain, but out of pain. He writes to open his heart to them.

In verse 4 the word order is emphatic; but the love, in order that you might know that I have abundantly to you. Paul has to let them know right up front that it is love, not in order to grieve, but his abundant love for them, in order that they know that he has abundantly toward them. Paul did not write to hurt them, to spite them, because he was angry with them; it was love. He doesn’t even directly say that they hurt him; he wrote out of affliction and anguish of heart, but he doesn’t blame. Instead he seeks to avoid causing them unnecessary sorrow. He wants to spare them. He loves them. His decision making, his life, his ministry is modeled after the cross. Jesus doesn’t say ‘wow, look how much you hurt me, look how terrible you are.’ No, he says ‘I want you to know how abundantly much I love you. I want you to experience joy. I want a relationship with you.’

Hebrews 12:2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

We worship a God who brings comfort to us in all our affliction, and who can bring joy even through the pain of relationships. God is working with us for our multiplied joy.

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

February 25, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Established by God in Christ through the Spirit

02/04 _2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Established by God in Christ through the Spirit ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180204_2cor1_21-22.mp3

Summary of 2 Corinthians 1:1-20

We are in 2 Corinthians 1:21-22. We have taken a break for a while, so let’s look back over the first verses to get our bearings.

(1-2) Paul introduces himself with his divine authority, but he makes it clear he is not alone. He mentions his unity with his co-workers. He addresses this new community with a new identity; the church of God; saints. He identifies their new relationship; peace with God that only comes through the grace of our Lord Jesus.

(3-7) He omits his usual thanksgiving for his readers, instead inviting them to bless God with him. God is worthy to be worshiped because he is merciful when we get ourselves into trouble. He gives strength in the middle of adversity; and he gives purpose to our affliction, so that we can comfort others. He identifies the normal Christian life as a cross shaped life of suffering for the good of others, sharing the sufferings of Christ.

(8-10) He lets them in on his own trials, his own sense of despair. He points to the purpose of that despair, to wean from self-confidence so that their confidence would be in God alone, the God who raises the dead. They can have confidence in future rescue because God has always been faithful.

(11) Instead of thanking God for his readers, Paul invites the Corinthians to help him by their prayers, in order that thanksgiving will be multiplied when the many who prayed see God’s blessings in response to their prayers.

(12-14) Paul boasts in the grace of God and not his own wisdom or effort as the driving principle of his life; and he points forward to the final day when both he and his church will boast in each other in the very presence of Jesus.

(15-16) In these verses, Paul begins to explain his change in travel plans, as this seems to have created tension in the relationship. His desire, his heart was to afford them a second experience of grace; a double opportunity to financially support his missionary activity as they sent him on his way. He made his plans for their ultimate good.

(17-20) And then he grounds his decision making in the nature and character of God. God is faithful. God is for us in the gospel. God says Yes to us in Jesus. As many promises as God made, all those promises find their fulfillment in Jesus. Jesus, the Son of God, came to be in them, came to live among them through their preaching. This church exists to bring God glory; he makes his decisions to bring God glory. It is all about God’s glory, and it is through Jesus that we get to say the Amen to God for his glory.

In verse 3 he blesses God; in verse 11 he multiplies thanksgiving to God; in verse 14 they will mutually boast in the grace of God; in verse 20 it is through Jesus we can together say the Amen to God for his glory. In fact, in Revelation 3:14 Jesus is called ‘the Amen’.

Amen = Established

This word Amen is actually a Hebrew word brought over into the Greek of the New Testament; it means ‘firm, trustworthy, surely; let it be confirmed, let it be established, so be it.’

He picks this thought up in verse 21 with a Greek word that means ‘to make firm, steadfast, to confirm.’ We can say ‘Amen,’ or ‘let it be established’ to the glory of God, because God is the one who establishes us with you in Christ. All the promises of God are made firm and confirmed for us in Jesus. God is the one who establishes us in Christ through the gift of his Spirit. To God be the glory; we stand firm because of the establishing work of the triune God. We say ‘establish it God!’ because God is establishing us.

Paul used this same word at the beginning of 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 1:4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, … 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—

7…our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(that word ‘confirmed’ in 1 Cor.1:6 and ‘will sustain’ in 1:8 is the same word as ‘establishes’ in 2 Cor.1:21) The testimony of Christ was confirmed, established, made sure in you, and our Lord Jesus Christ will confirm, establish, make you sure to the end. That is the past and the future aspect of God’s establishing work. He established the testimony of Christ, he will establish you irreproachable, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. And here in 2 Corinthians, he is looking at the ongoing present work of establishing.

2 Corinthians 1:21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

Us With You

Notice the together aspect of God’s establishing work. God establishes us with you. This is not ‘I’m on my own over here and God is establishing me, and you’re over there on your own being established by God’ as if it were a private personal thing. This is a together with thing. So much of the bible is a together with thing. Yes, of course God works in us each individually, personally. But our culture is one of independence and isolation. We need to pay attention to the ‘us together with you.’ God works in relationship. It is often in the together with relationships that God does his sanctifiying work. We all want to be established in Christ, don’t we? But often we unknowingly resist his work in our lives.

There is 8 years between me and my nearest sibling, so much of my growing up years I was like an only child. I enjoyed a great deal of independence, and I didn’t really have to learn to get along with others.

After I began to walk with Jesus, I could honestly look at myself and think I was doing pretty well. I was so even-tempered, that some of my high school friends would actually do things to see if they could get me angry. It rarely worked.

Then I got married… My wife is an amazing person, and I know most of you won’t believe me, but she is a sinner. And I am a sinner. I’m not saying that she brought out the worst in me, but that relationship, a close intimate relationship with another person stirred up some of the junk that was clogging up my heart. Some of that sin and selfishness and pride that was in there all along became more visible. And that’s not a bad thing. That’s a good thing. If I don’t know it’s there, I can’t deal with it. I can’t ask God to deal with it in me. I can have all this junk just sitting there clogging up the arteries of my heart and I don’t even know it. I can even become prideful, thinking I’m better than others, which is the worst sin of all.

Many see this happen and want out of the relationship; she brings out the worst in me. He just makes me so mad. That is by design! That’s the point, it was in you, and it needed to be brought out into the open so it could get addressed. Work out healthy patterns of confession and forgiveness and reconciliation.

And then we had kids… God works in us through relationships. Especially through the junk in relationships, the hurt, the offense, the misunderstanding, the pain. Celebrate that. Don’t go around hurting people on purpose. But when you are hurt, celebrate that God loves you and he is at work showing you you so that he can make you the you he intends you to be.

God is establishing us with you. It is a together with thing, that God does in and through relationships with others.

Ongoing Establish-ing

Notice also the ongoing activity of God in this establishing work. This is a present action founded on past completed actions. Establishes is present. It is founded on past complete actions. Has anointed, has sealed, has given his Spirit are all past tense. But establishes is present. It is continuous. It is ongoing. It is not done yet. God is continually at work in us together with you establishing us, confirming us, making us steadfast. This is a process. We often refer to it as sanctification.

Note that Paul the apostle puts himself and his ministry partners right in there with the Corinthians. He doesn’t say ‘I have been established, and now God is establishing you.’ No, God establishes us with you. The Apostle Paul is a work in progress! And he needs the Corinthians and their messy relationship for God to do his work in him.

God Establishes

Notice also who is doing the establishing. God gets the glory; ‘Amen, establish us Lord;’ because God is the one who does the establishing. ‘Us with you’ are the recipients of God’s establishing work. I can’t make myself firm, sure, steadfast. I can’t confirm myself. This is God’s work. The triune God is the one who does this. See that in the text? God, in Christ, by giving us his Spirit. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit conspiring together to confirm and establish us. That’s powerful!

Anointed

Let’s look at how he does this. He lists three things, all past actions, all connected with the work of the Holy Spirit. Each one of these is worthy of its own sermon, but we’ll just go through them quickly.

God anointed us. There’s a play on words here that we miss in the English. In the Greek it reads ‘εἰς Χριστὸν καὶ χρίσας’; because the title ‘Christ’ means ‘anointed one.’ We could translate it ‘God establishes us with you in the Anointed one, and has anointed us’ or ‘God establishes us with you in Christ, and has christened us’.

In the Old Testament, prophets, priests and kings were anointed with oil as a way to set them apart for their specific office of service. Jesus, our great Prophet, Priest and King was anointed with the Holy Spirit (Lk.4:18; Act.10:38). Jesus the Christ is the Anointed one, and this text links us closely with him. I believe this is the only verse that tells us that God has anointed us. 1 John 2 talks about the anointing we have received (v.20, 27). Anointing gives divine enablement for service.

Acts 10:38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

Jesus says in Luke 4:18

Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

God has anointed us, like Jesus, with the Holy Spirit for service to others.

Sealed

And God has sealed us. Sealing was a mark of ownership, protection, authenticity and authority. A king or someone with authority had the seal, a ring or cylinder on a cord that could be pressed into hot wax or soft clay to leave an official mark or impression. This is a seal of queen Jezebel, who we know from 1 Kings 21:8 used her husband Ahab’s seal to order the execution of Naboth. The other is an example of a cylinder seal of Xerxes, and its impression in clay, depicting queen Esther. We read in Esther of sealing official documents with the king’s signet ring.

Matthew 27 talks about the tomb of Jesus being sealed to make it secure under the authority of Pilate. Revelation 5 talks about a scroll with seven seals which had to be broken to read the contents. Revelation 7 talks about the servants of God receiving a seal on their foreheads marking them as belonging to God and securing their protection (Rev.9:4).

Ephesians 1 talks about God blessing us in Christ with every spiritual blessing. He chose us for holiness, he predestined us for adoption, he redeemed and forgave us, he predestined us for an inheritance,

Ephesians 1:12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

In this verse we see that the Holy Spirit is both the seal and the guarantee of our inheritance. When we heard the good news and believed in Jesus we were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. We were marked out as belonging to God. That’s our part; we hear the gospel and we believe, trust, rely, depend on Jesus.

Ephesians 4:30 tells us by what we say, by what comes out of our mouths,

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

We are sealed by the Holy Spirit of God for the day of redemption. We are protected and preserved by him; we bear his mark of authenticity.

Given the Deposit of His Spirit

God is establishing us, he has anointed us, he has sealed us, and he has given us the guarantee of the Spirit in our hearts. A guarantee was a down payment or earnest given. This is different from a pledge, like we see in Genesis 38 in the story of Judah and Tamar; he gave her his signet, cord and staff as a pledge that he would send payment, and he expected to get those things back when he sent the promised payment. An earnest or downpayment is the first part of the payment that guarantees that the full payment will be made, but the earnest money is part of that payment, and is not returned when payment is made.

God has given us his Spirit in our hearts as downpayment. Later, in 2 Corinthians 5 he talks about our resurrection bodies, when ‘what is mortal may be swallowed up by life,’

2 Corinthians 5:5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

This gives us confidence even in the face of discouragement and adversity.

We already looked at Ephesians 1, which uses both the sealing and the guarantee.

Ephesians 1:13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

The Holy Spirit is the seal of our inheritance, marking authenticity and ownership, protecting and preserving us for it. The Holy Spirit is also the earnest or downpayment of our inheritance, the first installment of what we will receive. The Holy Spirit in our hearts is not temporary, to be replaced later by something else, he is ours for eternity!

God the Holy Spirit anointing us for service, sealing us as his, living inside of us as the guarantee of an eternity with him! O treasure the gift of the Holy Spirit in your heart!

God is doing his establishing work in us. This is a gift. Don’t try to earn; freely receive. Trust him, lean in, embrace what he is doing. He began the work; he will complete it. He guaranteed it by putting his own Spirit in our hearts.

Respond with a hearty Amen! Glory to the triune God, who establishes us with you, makes firm, makes steadfast, confirms us. Establish us O Lord!

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

February 5, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 1:1-2; Authority, Identity, Community

10/08 2 Corinthians 1:1-2; Authority and Identity; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20171008_2cor1_1-2.mp3

Paul makes his words count. Every word is significant. I want to invite you to read with me, to meditate with me on the words of holy scripture.

2 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul begins even in the greeting to address some of the issues he will take up in more detail in the remainder of his letter.

Paul, Apostle

2 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, an apostle [1 Παῦλος ἀπόστολος]

As we will see later in this letter, Paul’s role as apostle was under attack in Corinth. Here in the introduction he simply states the facts as they stand. In other letters he refers to himself as a bond-servant or slave of Jesus Christ; here an apostle. The first word is ‘Paul’; the second ‘apostle.’ Apostle means sent; one sent out as a witness and representative carrying the authority of the one who sent him.

The office of Apostle was one who bore witness to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. When the 11 apostles in Acts 1 decided to select someone to fill Judas’ place, they gave these criteria for who was qualified:

Acts 1:21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.”

So an Apostle, one of the 12, had to be an eye witness of Jesus’ ministry, from his baptism through his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. Paul was not one of these original 12, but he was uniquely appointed by the Lord Jesus as:

Acts 9:15 …a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.

Paul was personally sent by Jesus himself. In 1 Corinthians 15, in defense of the physical resurrection of Jesus, Paul lists the eyewitnesses; Peter, the 12, a group of 500, James, all the apostles, and then he says:

1 Corinthians 15:8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

Paul did not consider himself worthy to be called an apostle. He was not worthy. (None of them were!) But he was called to serve as an apostle by God’s grace. God is a God who gives good gifts to those who do not deserve them. God’s grace made him what he was.

Of Christ Jesus

2 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus [ἀπόστολος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ]

Paul was an apostle of Christ Jesus; the Messiah Jesus. Christ is the Old Testament title of the anointed one, the promised, long awaited, hoped for King. In Corinth in Acts 18:

Acts 18:5 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus.

The fulfillment of the whole Old Testament, the long awaited Messiah was Jesus.

By The Will of God

2 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, [διὰ θελήματος θεοῦ]

Paul was apostle of Christ Jesus through or on account of the will of God. Paul traces his apostleship back to God’s will, not his own. He was no self-appointed apostle; actually it was against his own will; he was, in his own words ‘a persecutor and an insolent opponent’ (1Tim.1:13) of the followers of Jesus, but Jesus apprehended him on the Damascus road and enlisted him in his service. Paul was ‘convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth …in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities’ (Acts 26:9-11). Jesus took this one, chose this one, appointed this one to be his witness. Paul didn’t sign up for this. His conversion was, in the words of John 1:13 ‘not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.’ God blazed from heaven and knocked Saul down to the ground, blinded him, and when he had his full attention asked “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul asked “Who are you, Lord?” to which the Lord responded “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:3-6; 22:6-8; 26:13-15). Paul was an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.

Timothy Our Brother

2 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, [καὶ Τιμόθεος ὁ ἀδελφὸς]

Timothy was a partner in ministry. Paul and Silas recruited him on the second missionary journey in Lystra, a city in Galatia (Acts 16:1). Timothy rejoined Paul shortly after he came to Corinth (Acts 18:5). Later he sent Timothy and Erastus from Ephesus into Macedonia (Acts 19:22). In the writing of 1 Corinthians, Paul expected Timothy to visit Corinth (4:17; 16:10), probably from Macedonia. He refers to him as

1 Corinthians 4:17 That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.

He considered Timothy as almost equivalent to himself. If Timothy were there, he would remind them of Paul, Paul’s ways, Paul’s methods in ministry. Timothy was his co-worker. Paul wrote two New Testament letters to Timothy to encourage him. Here, to the Corinthians who knew him well, he is simply referred to as ‘Timothy the brother.’

It is worth noting that Paul included others in ministry. He did not often work alone, in fact it seems he did not like to work alone. When he escaped from persecution in Berea and was brought to Athens alone, he gave a ‘command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible’ (Acts 17:15). It says ‘Paul was waiting for them in Athens.’ When he came to Corinth, he quickly connected with Aquila and Priscilla, while he continued to wait for Silas and Timothy. Paul writes in this letter about his travel to Troas to preach the gospel, but ‘my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them…’ (2Cor.2:13).

Paul did not fly solo. He strategically included others in ministry with him. He used life and ministry as an opportunity to disciple, to pour into others, to encourage them in the faith, to equip them for ministry. He gave them opportunity to step out and do ministry. He entrusted to them significant responsibilities. He multiplied his own ministry by investing in his co-workers. Timothy was well known to this church, and he is with Paul as he writes to this church.

To The Church of God Existing in Corinth

2 Corinthians 1:1 …To the church of God that is at Corinth, [τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ τῇ οὔσῃ ἐν Κορίνθῳ]

Paul writes to the church of God that is at Corinth. Paul is careful to identify who this church belongs to. It is not his church, even though he planted it. It is not Apollos’ church, even though he watered it. It is not Gaius’ church, even though it appears to have met in his home (Rom.16:23). It does not belong to any prominent local leader. It is the church of God. It is God’s church, God’s gathering, God’s assembly. God owns it. It belongs to him. It exists for God, to bring pleasure to God. The church exists primarily to honor God. The church is to meet together to glorify God.

This is the church of God that is at Corinth. The church of God which exists in Corinth; which has has its being in Corinth. God’s church is a global church that includes every true Jesus follower throughout history. That is the universal church. Here he is looking at God’s church as it exists in Corinth. This is a local geographical temporal expression of the broader church of God. God’s church is made up of local churches in specific places. It should have been a stunning evidence of grace that God’s church took root and began to have a local existence in a wicked city like Corinth. God encouraged Paul through a vision when he was at Corinth, telling him ‘I have many in this city who are my people’ (Acts 18:10). It is a beautiful thing when God’s universal church expresses itself in a new location. Do not cease to be amazed at God’s glorious grace that we can say that God’s church exists in Ephraim; God’s church exists in Gunnision Utah.

With All the Saints Who Exist in the Whole of Achaia

2 Corinthians 1:1 …To the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia: [σὺν τοῖς ἁγίοις πᾶσιν τοῖς οὖσιν ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ Ἀχαΐᾳ·]

Achaia included the entire isthmus and the nearby city of Cenchrea where a church in mentioned in Romans 16:1; doubtless there were many believers and even home churches scattered around this Roman province whose capital city was Corinth. Paul addresses not only the church in the capital city, but all the believers in the whole region.

Notice how he addresses them. The saints; literally the holy ones; the set-apart ones. Paul is not now addressing a subset of the church, the really spiritual ones. No, each and every born again believer in Jesus is referred to here as holy, set apart. Remember, it is all of grace. It is not through effort and sacrifice that we attain to the level of saint. It is God”s free gift to those who don’t deserve anything, and yet he says ‘you belong to me; you are set apart as my own prized possession.’ This is not based on performance or personal righteousness. This is grace. We find this beautifully expressed in 1 Corinthians 9:

1 Corinthians 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

‘And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.’ Notice the personal effort in that verse? It’s not there! It says nothing about what they did. It says everything about what God did to them. God takes a sinner and washes him and sets him apart and clothes him in Christ’s own perfect righteousness; he takes a sinner and makes him a saint.

From the two letters we have that he wrote to this church in Corinth, we learn that this church was a mess. There was sin in the church. There was division. There was immorality, idolatry, pride, greed. He says in 1 Corinthians that ‘when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse (1Cor.11:17). It would be better if you didn’t gather as the church at all! And yet Paul does not address his letter ‘to all you messed up sinful wretches in Corinth’. No, he calls them by their true identity. You are saints. You may not be acting like saints right now, but you are holy. You have been made holy by the precious blood of Jesus. And I am going to write to you so that by God’s grace you will grow in holiness. He writes to the church of God; to the saints.

Grace to you and Peace

2 Corinthians 1:2 Grace to you and peace [2 χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη]

This is standard letter writing form in the ancient world. From; to; greeting. The usual Greek greeting was χαίρειν (Acts15:23) – be well; be glad; the equivalent of our ‘hello’. Paul takes χαίρειν and makes it χάρις ὑμῖν; grace to you. Grace – all God’s good gifts freely given to undeserving sinners. He takes the usual greeting and infuses it with precious gospel truth.

Grace; all the good from God you don’t deserve, and peace. Shalom is the typical Hebrew greeting. But it is much more rich and deep than our word peace. It means so much more than the absence of hostility. It carries the ideas of wholeness, well-being. It is the positive experience of all is well. God’s peace comes as a result of God’s grace extended to sinners who have no hope outside of him.

From God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

2 Corinthians 1:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. [2 χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.]

Grace, this good gift freely given; and peace, a right relationship with God comes to us from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. God is our Father; Jesus taught us to pray ‘Our Father…’ Because, as Romans 8 and Galatians 4 and Ephesians 1 teach us that through the new birth we have been adopted into his family. We can now legitimately call him Father. He chose us to be his own children. God is personal, he cares deeply about us, we can enjoy relationship with him.

Grace and peace come as good gifts from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord – κύριος in the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament translates the Hebrew YHWH, the personal name of God, the self-existent one; the one who is. Jesus is Lord; YHWH, fully God, equal to his Father, yet distinct from his Father.

Jesus is here identified intimately with his Father; God’s free gift of grace, and the subsequent peace with God we enjoy are given to us by both the Father and the Son. They together are the givers of these precious gifts we enjoy. Paul asks God to pour out his grace and subsequent peace on this church, who, like us is in desperate need of it.

What greater gifts could we desire than a restored relationship with God, a new identity, a new purpose, a new community,

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

October 8, 2017 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Spirit’s Fruit; Gentleness Like Jesus

07/30 The Spirit’s Fruit; Gentleness Like Jesus Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170730_gentleness-like-jesus.mp3

Fruitfulness and the Knowledge of God

In Colossians 1, Paul prays for the believers.

Colossians 1:9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

He prays that the fruit of the Spirit would be produced in them. He prays that they would “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work.” When we bear fruit, we are pleasing to God. It’s not just that we do good works; it’s that we bear fruit in every good work. It’s not enough that we do good; it matters how we do the good we do, what our attitudes, what our motivations are. He prays for attitude and motivation, because he knows that we can’t bear fruit, we can’t be fully pleasing to him in our heart attitudes without supernatural help. Remember, this is the fruit that God the Holy Spirit produces in us. We are incapable of producing this fruit.

Notice in his prayer that he sandwiches bearing fruit between the knowledge of God. He starts by asking that we “may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” and he follows the request for fruitbearing by asking that we would be “increasing in the knowledge of God.” I don’t believe this is coincidental. He asks this way because fruitfulness is directly connected to the knowledge of God. The Spirit produces the character of Jesus in us as we get to know him. He produces the attributes of God in us as we begin to know his will, his desires, as we begin to know him, who he is. Bearing fruit is directly linked to increasing in the knowledge of God. As we know God, as we look to God, as we see and experience and taste what God is like, we begin to imitate him, to be like him, to live lives shaped by him.

He goes on to ask for divine power to enable us to produce the Spirit’s fruit. He prays that we would “be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.” God’s power is necessary if we are to have joy and peace and patience and all the fruit. All this is saturated in thanksgiving, because all of it is a gift from God.

The fruit grows out of our identity in Christ. It grows out of his finished work. “The Father… has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” He has done it. “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” He has done it! “In [Jesus] we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” We have it. It is not something we are hoping for, something we are attempting to attain; it is ours! We have been qualified to share the inheritance; we have been delivered from the domain of darkness. We have been transferred into the kingdom of Jesus. We have redemption. We have the forgiveness of sins. It is all ours. It is our identity in Christ. As we increase in the knowledge of God, with thanksgiving, the fruit that is fully pleasing to the Lord will be produced in us by his supernatural power.

What Meekness Is

Today we look at the 8th in the description of the fruit of the Spirit, possibly the most misunderstood of all. It is gentleness, or in the older translations meekness. The Greek word is [πραΰτης]. What does this word mean? The fruit of the Spirit, remember, is the character of God produced in his people; it is Christlikeness. So whatever this word means, it is something that is true of God, and it will become increasingly true in the lives of the followers of Jesus.

Here’s a passage from the Psalms speaking about the Messianic King:that helps us see that meekness or gentleness might not be exactly what we assumed it to be.

Psalm 45:3 Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one, in your splendor and majesty! 4 In your majesty ride out victoriously for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness; let your right hand teach you awesome deeds! 5 Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; the peoples fall under you. 6 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness; 7 you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions;

The mighty Messianic King rides out victoriously with sword and bow for the cause of truth and righteousness and meekness. Truth is victorious over falsehood and deceit. Righteousness triumphs over injustice and all evil. But meekness seems out of place in this list. Meekness in the Old Testament often refers to the poor, ‘the defenseless, those without rights, the oppressed, those who are cheated, exploited and cursed.’ (DNTT vol.2, p.257, humility). Truth and righteousness we recognize as virtues, but being without rights, oppressed and exploited is not something we would think of as a noble cause to be defended. We would think that people in that situation need to be delivered from that state.

Gentleness or meekness is connected with humility, being low, even pushed down and afflicted. It can carry the idea of consideration or courtesy. It came to designate ‘those who in deep need and difficulty humbly seek help from Yahweh alone’ (DNTT vol.2, p.257, humility)

In defense of Moses’ leadership, we are told:

Numbers 12:3 Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.

This is Moses, who repeatedly confronted the Pharaoh of Egypt, demanding the release of his slaves, Moses who led Israel out of Egypt through the Red Sea and through the wilderness; Moses who spoke with God on Mount Sinai, Moses who interceded with God to spare the rebellious people, who even offered himself in place of them, Moses is called the meekest man on the face of the earth. What does it mean that he was meek?

Moses was acutely aware of his limitations. He was not up to the task God assigned to him. He argued with God over his inability and lack of giftedness for the monumental task. He said, ‘Oh my Lord, please send someone else’ (Ex.4:13). Yet God said ‘I will be with you.’ Moses recognized his inability, his deep need and his utter dependence on God alone. Out of his humility and meekness, he was able to shepherd God’s people.

Meekness Necessary in All Relationships

In the New Testament, we are told that this humble gentleness or meekness is necessary in all our relationships, both within and outside the church.

In 1 Corinthians 4:21, Paul desires to come to this wayward church ‘with love in a spirit of gentleness’ but he is concerned he may need to come with a rod of discipline. In Galatians 6:1, we are to restore those who are trapped in sin with a spirit of gentleness, and the humble awareness that we too could be ensnared. 2 Timothy 2:24-25 tells us

2 Timothy 2:24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,

Gentleness or meekness is contrasted to being quarrelsome. All correction of opponents is to be done with kindness, patient endurance, teaching, and gentle humble meekness. The heart and goal of this correction is that God would give repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth. Proud or harsh correction is not likely to lead to repentance. Peter tells us that we are always be in readiness to give reason for our hope, but this must be done with meekness and fear.

1 Peter 3:15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect [φόβος ],

Here in Galatians 5, meekness or gentleness is listed as fruit of the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 4 tells us to live the Christian life

Ephesians 4:2 with all humility [ταπεινοφροσύνη] and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

It takes all humility, meekness and patience to put up with one another and pursue gospel unity.

Colossians 3 tells us to

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility [ταπεινοφροσύνη], meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

In our relationships with one another, especially in our relationships with those who have wronged us, with those we may have a complaint against, we are to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience. Anger, wrath, malice, slander, lies are to have no place in the church. We are to bear with one another and to forgive one another in love. This humble meekness, aware that I too am a sinner forgiven by the riches of God’s undeserved grace enables me to forgive as I have been forgiven.

Titus encourages us:

Titus 3:1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle [ἐπιεικής appropriate, mild], and to show perfect courtesy [πραΰτης] toward all people. 3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.

Obedience, submission to authority, eagerness to do good accompanies gentleness and meekness (here translated courtesy). Gentleness and meekness is the polar opposite of quarreling and speaking evil of others. Notice the motive for this humble meekness; we ourselves were once a mess. We can treat others who are haters, envious, spiteful, addicts, straying, disobedient, foolish, because we were there. In humble gentleness we remember we were once all that.

Titus 3:4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

We can be humbly gentle toward sinners, even those who sin against us, because God treated us with goodness and loving kindness when we were sinners against him. We can extend gentleness that others don’t deserve, because we have been rescued by God’s grace and mercy.

James helps us see how this works.

James 1:19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

When there is conflict, we need to learn to be good listeners. We need to listen well before we speak. Not hasty to jump to conclusions. Not quick to pick sides and get angry. With a humble meekness we are to receive God’s word. We receive the word, not thinking we are better than others, but aware of our deep need for the gospel just as much as the next sinner. We receive the word that was planted in us as God’s tool that has the power to change us. I can’t be better by trying. God’s word has the power to change me and heal my sin sick soul.

The Meek Shall Inherit The Earth

We begin to understand why Jesus said that it is the meek who shall inherit the earth (Mt.5:5). When we understand meekness, humble gentleness, this is the kind of person we want to rule. It is the one who has a genuine humility, who doesn’t think of himself as better, who recognizes his own deep need and looks to God alone for help, this is the one we want to lead us.

Meekness in Jesus

This is the amazing thing about Jesus. Jesus, the promised Messiah king not only comes to deliver those who find themselves in deep need, those who are oppressed and exploited, those who are defenseless and without rights, but he also identifies with them, comes along side them, becomes one of them.

Matthew 21:5 “Say to the daughter of Zion,‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey,on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” (Zech.9:9)

Jesus our King comes in meek humility. He comes, not as a conquering king delivering from oppression, but as one oppressed and afflicted, a man of sorrows, despised and rejected, acquainted with grief (Is.53:7, 3). The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. He invites us: take up your cross and follow me. He says

Matthew 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly [ταπεινός] in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Jesus comes to us and meets us in our need. He experiences what we experience. He enters in to our suffering. He is meek and humble.

Philippians 2 says:

Philippians 2:1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus, who for all eternity existed in the very form of God, humbled himself, emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, one oppressed, one despised, rejected. Being God, he surrendered his rights as God. He stooped down to become one of us, to identify with us, to rescue us. Jesus is gentle, meek. He surrendered his rights. If Jesus did this for us, we can lay aside our selfish ambition, our conceit, our pursuit of significance. In humility, with meekness and gentleness, we can count others as more important than ourselves.

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

August 1, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Equipping the Saints; Ephesians 4:11-16

01//08 The Church and The Equipping of the Saints [Ephesians 4:11-16]; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170108_equip-the-saints.mp3

Last week we began to look at who we are as the church, what we are to be about. We saw from Ephesians chpaters 1-3 that to understand what is our purpose as the church, we must begin by understanding who we are as the church, our identity in Christ. We are called saints, faithful, blessed, chosen, loved, predestined, adopted, purchased, forgiven, destined for inheritance, we are sealed, made alive, saved. This is our identity in Christ, not because we earned it, not because we did something to deserve it, but only because of the sheer unmerited grace of a good God. We heard the good news of God’s grace, and we responded by depending on the only one who can rescue us.

As a group of saints, the root and foundation of everything we are and do grows out of and is built upon knowing together the manifold love of Christ toward us that surpasses knowledge. There is a corporate aspect of knowing; Paul prays in 3:17

Ephesians 3:17 …that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

We are to comprehend together with all the saints the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. Of course, we should be individually pursuing an understanding of the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ, but this ought to fuel the fire of corporate worship, as we come together to know together the incomprehensible love of Christ. This worshipful comprehending of the love of Christ together is a primary purpose of the church.

In Chapter 4, Paul begins to tells us how to live in light of our identity in Christ. The first thing he points us to is our gospel unity

Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace

We are to be diligent to guard our unity in the gospel. We have unity; we were made one in Christ, we have peace with God and with one another through Jesus; we are indwelt by the same Holy Spirit. We as a church are to be passionate about defending and maintaining our gospel unity.

Paul goes on in Ephesians 4:7-16 to talk about the grace-gifts that have been given to each of us to build up the body. The gifts are given to grow us up in Christ, and to they are to be used in love.

Then in 4:17-6:9 he talks about what the Christian life is to look like. Our lives are to relfect our new identity in Christ.

He concludes in 6:10-20 with the full spiritual armor of gospel realities that belong to us in Christ, to be permeated by prayer.

So we have learned so far from Ephesians that we as the church are to know together our identity in Christ, that we are to diligently defend our unity in Christ, that we are to use our gifts in love to build up one another, that we are to live lives that reflect our new identity in Christ, and that we are to arm ourselves with gospel realities in prayer, so that we can stand our ground as the church against the schemes of the enemy.

Equipping the Saints

This week I want to dig deeper into into the text in Ephesians 4:11

Ephesians 4:11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

I take this as a clear purpose statement for the leadership of the church. To equip the saints. What does it mean to equip the saints? Our English translation sounds like ‘to equip’ is a verb. But it is actually a noun; ‘to the equipping’, to the compelte furnishing. This word can mean to mend, repair, or complete; to fit out, equip, or prepare; to strengthen, perfect, or complete. This and the following verses list 5 things that the saints are to be equipped for or toward, and then some things they are to be prepared against.

Ephesians 4:12 to equip the saints

for (εἰς) the work of ministry,

for (εἰς) building up the body of Christ,

13 until we all attain to (εἰς) the unity of the faith

and of the knowledge of the Son of God,

to (εἰς) mature manhood,

to (εἰς) the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,

The saints are to be fitted to work of ministry; to building the body of Christ, to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a manture man, to a measure of maturity of the fullness of Christ. These are the things the saints are to be equipped for.

Work of Service

The saints are to be equipped for work of ministry or work of service. Notice, this is every saint; all the saints are to be equipped for ministry. Every believer is a minister. The word ‘diakonia’ is where we get our word deacon. It simply means service. Every saint is to be prepared for service. What that service looks like will be as unique and various as the individuals who make up the body of Christ. Service may be exhorting and encouraging, coming alongside others, it may be teaching and discipling others, it may be acts of mercy, binding up the brokenhearted, it may be practical service in lending a helping hand, it may be financial giving to meet the needs of others. Service takes many shapes. Service by definition is others-centered, because we are serving someone. And service is work. To serve well takes, time, effort, intentionality. There is a choice involved. I can choose to use the gifts I have been given to bless others, or I can miss the opportunity to be involved. It takes will, effort, energy to be involved. The saints are to be equipped for the work of service. This verse echoes back to 2:8-10, where we are saved…

Ephesians 2:9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We are not saved by our works, but we are created new in Christ for good works. These works are prepared ahead of time by God. He intends that we walk in the works he foreordained for us. Here we see that the church plays a role in preparing and strengthening the saints for the work of service.

Building The Body

The saints are to be equipped for building the body of Christ. In a building there is structure, architecture, a plan, a foundation. We each play a role in the structure. This echoes back to 2:19-22.

Ephesians 2:19 …you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

You are a part of the building. You are to be built on the one cornerstone of Christ Jesus. You are to be joined together with other believers into a temple, a dwelling place for God. For a stone to be part of the building, it needs to be on the foundation. A stone not on the foundation is not part of the building. The church plays a role in fitting the saints to be built up on the one foundation, to be joined together with one another, to be holy, to enjoy together the presence of God in us.

Unity of the Faith and Knowledge of the Son

Verse 13 tells us the saints are to be equipped for the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God. As we are built together, serving one another, we are to experience the unity of the faith. This is a oneness that comes from dependence on the same person. The unity of the faith is not merely the unity of having a common set of beliefs. It is that. We must believe in the one God who is Father, Son and Spirit. We must believe that the Son became human, born of a virgin, to die in our place, that he rose from the dead and returned to the right hand of his Father. We must believe that we are set free from our sin by the free act of a sovereign God, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, ultimately for the glory of God alone. There is concrete content to our faith, but our trust and dependence is not ultimately in a set of facts, but in a person. We are united by a common dependence on the person of the Son of God. We are one because we know the same person. We have a common friend. Have you ever met a stranger only to find out you have a common friend. You may not have met each other, but there is a connection when there is a common bond to the same person. As believers, we have that in Jesus. We have a unity with every other believer because of our common dependence on and relationship with the Son of God. Paul prayed back in 1:17,

Ephesians 1:17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,

We need to be given spiritual wisdom and revelation to know Jesus. The church plays a role in repairing and strengthening this unity in the knowledge of Jesus.

Maturity

The saints are to be equipped toward maturity. To a mature man. This echoes back to 2:15

Ephesians 2:15 … that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,

This one new man, no longer Jew and Gentile, no longer two but one, the church, the united body of Christ.

This one new man is to be a mature man. To completeness, to mental and moral maturity, to fully developed character. There is a goal we are aiming at, a purpose we are pursuing, an end we are moving toward. Some of us just need to grow up. None of us have arrived yet. We all must be patient with one another, because we are all moving toward a goal, and we are all in various stages of growth. God is at work in us to develop character in us. Character is most often developed through trials, so we need extra grace and patience for one another, as navigating a trial is often a messy ordeal. God intends that on the other side we will come out as pure gold, but in the process, all our filth floats up to the surface for all to see. Have you ever been in the room when another parent is disciplining their child? It can be awkward and uncomfortable to observe the process, but it is essential for the child’s growth to maturity. In the body of Christ, we need to understand that we are all under the good hand of the refiner, who will bring us through whatever fires are necessary to purify us; we are all under the gracious hand of the Father, who will be faithful to discipline the children he loves, to develop mature character in us. The church family plays a role in mending and perfecting the saints toward maturity.

The Measure of the Fullness of Christ

The saints are to be equipped toward the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. In 1:23 the church is the fullness of Christ. In 3:19, Paul prays that we would know the love of Christ and be filled with all the fullness of God.

We are to be fitted for the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. The measure of our maturity is Jesus. We are not to be foolish, measuring ourselves against each other; wishing we were as advanced as so-and-so; thankful we are not as immature as what’s-his-name. Our standard is Christ. We as the church are to be filled with Christ. We are to live Jesus to each other. We are to live Jesus to our community. We are to put Jesus on display in every area of our lives. We are to be filled to overflowing with Jesus. The character of Jesus is to permeate our attitudes, our emotions, our thinking, our choices. The church plays a role in perfecting and completing the saints in this Christlike fullness of maturity.

Equipped Against

There is a negative aspect to the equipping. Paul lists these 5 things we are to be equipped for; for the work of ministry; for building the body of Christ, for the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, for a manture man, for the measure of maturity of the fullness of Christ. In verse 14 he moves into the negative; what we are to be equipped against.

Ephesians 4:14 so that we may no longer be children,

tossed to and fro by the waves

and carried about by every wind of doctrine,

by human cunning,

by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

The equipping of the saints is an equipping toward maturity and away from immaturity. We are no longer to be children. Children are characterized by variability. One moment I want that; the next moment I don’t want it any more. One minute I’m throwing a tantrum to get my way, and halfway through I’ve forgotten what I was tantruming about. Truth changes based on whose voice is loudest or most persuasive on the playground. We are no longer to be children fluctuating and carried around by the waves. We are not to be carried about by every wind of teaching. We are to be anchored in sound teaching. We are to have roots that go down deep into the gospel truth of Christ crucified. We are to be enamored by the latest author or speaker. There are lots of doctrinal winds blowing. Everyone has opinions about truth. There is wisdom in reading outside our century. There is wisdom in reading from the 200’s and the 1200’s and the 1600’s. When we see the continuity of the gospel message throughout church history, the foundations of the faith that believers held dear throughout the ages, we are protected from the gimmics of our age that try to sell us something that sounds like the gospel, but is really a plastic immitation. There are those who would deceive us. There are those who would cheat us out of the truth for personal gain. The church is to have a role preparing and strengthening the saints to stand firm in the faith once-for-all delivered.

Grow Up in Truth and Love

Ephesians 4:15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up

in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together

by every joint with which it is equipped,

when each part is working properly, makes the body grow

so that it builds itself up in love.

Truth without love is cruel. Love without truth is empty. The church is to be equipped to speak, to live and declare truth. The church is to be equipped to speak truth in love, with a genuine desire to do good to others. The church is to grow up. We are to grow up in every way. Grow up in all things. Grow up into Christ, our head. The head is the one from whom we receive the organization and unity that holds the whole body together. The energy of each part comes from the head. The proper working of each part is directed by the head. The head causes the growth. Jesus is the head of the church. Jesus causes the body to build itself up in love. The church is meant:

Ephesians 4:12 to equip the saints

for (εἰς) the work of ministry,

for (εἰς) building up the body of Christ,

13 until we all attain to (εἰς) the unity of the faith

and of the knowledge of the Son of God,

to (εἰς) mature manhood,

to (εἰς) the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,

The church is to guard against false doctrine. The church is to speak truth in love. To be submitted to Christ our only head. To function properly as unique and varied members of one body. To buld up the body in love.

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

January 11, 2017 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Church is All About; Ephesians

01/01 New Years; What the Church is All About; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170101_church-ephesians.mp3

I’ts New Year’s Day. Often a time of reflection, looking back and looking forward; resolution making. So I want to ask some big picture questions today. What are we all about? What is church all about? If we know what our purpose is, we have a better chance of being more intentional about achieving our goals. If we each know what we are aiming at, it can help reduce frustration so we are not pulling in conflicting directions. If we know what we are about (or are supposed to be about) we can each make our individual contribution that helps to move us together to our goal.

Our Identity in Christ

I’d like to look in the New Testament letter to the Ephesians for help in defining our purpose as the church. To understand our purpose, we must begin by understaning our identity, who we are. And that is how Ephesians, as many of the New Testament letters, is structured. The first half of the book goes in to detail describing who we are in Christ. Only after that is firmly established, does the author move on to how we are to live out our identity.

Ephesians 1:1 begins by addressing us as ‘the saints’, literally, the holy ones, those set apart for a particular purpose. Did you know you have purpose, meaning, you are meant for something? That you have been set apart for a particular purpose? You are a holy one, a saint.

He also addresses us in verse 1 as ‘faithful’, trustworthy, true. Well, that rules me out. He must be addressing only a select few, only the faithful believers. There are faithful believers and unfaithful believers. And I’m not very trustworthy. But this is not what he is saying. He is not talking about our conduct, but about our identity. Maybe we don’t always act like saints, maybe we aren’t always faithful, but that is who we are. That is our identity. We are not faithful in and of ourselves. We are faithful in Christ Jesus. We are believers in Jesus Christ. We are trusting in Jesus. Faith and belief are different translations of the same Greek New Testament word. We are faithful because our faith is in Jesus. We are believable because we believe. We are trustworthy not because we are innately trustworthy, but because we are trusting in the one who is ultimately trustworthy. We are dependable because we are depending on another who is infallibly dependable.

We are ‘in Christ Jesus.’ We are identified with Jesus. We are hidden in him. We beong to him. We are united with him. Our identity is his identity. Our righteousness is his rightousness. Our purpose, our future is his future. We are in him, connected to him, inextricably linked with him. We have experienced grace – the good we don’t deserve – in him. All the good we experience, we have because we are connected with him.

Look at verse 3. In Christ God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. Every spiritual blessing in Christ! Before the foundation of the world, God chose us in Christ. He picked us! This is not something to argue over, this is something to worship over! He chose us for a purpose; to be holy and blameless in Christ in his presence for eternity. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons. Loved! Adopted! Look at verse 7. In Jesus we have redemption – we have been purchased to belong to him – purchased through his blood. We have forgiveness of our trespasses. We have forgiveness as a present possession. The accuser may point to my sin and say ‘but what about that?’ and I can point to the cross and say ‘I have forgiveness for that.’ Look at verse 11. Our adoption includes the privileges of sonship. In Christ we have obtained an inheritance. Not only loved, accepted, included, (as if that were not enough!) but we are made co-heirs with Christ in his inheritance!

Only Believe

Verse 13 tells us how this works. You heard the good news of salvation in Christ. You heard the word of truth. You believed. How great is that? This is good news indeed! Jesus paid it all. In full. I hear and I believe. I throw myself on this good news. I lean, I trust, I depend completely on Jesus. He is my only hope. This is indeed good news of rescue. Chapter 2 (v.1-3) goes into detail about my condition, my need. I was dead. Dead walking in trespasses and sins. Dead pledging my allegiance to the evil one. Dead and disobedient. Dead pursuing the passions of my own flesh. By nature a child of wrath. Later in chapter 2 (v.12) it tells me that I was separated from Christ, alienated, a stranger to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God. But then I heard good news. Gospel of salvation to sinners like me. I believed. That’s it. I trusted in, I depended on the good news of the finished work of another. And I was sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. Every spiritual blessing is mine in Christ. Chosen in Christ. Loved. Predestined. Adopted. Purchased. Forgiven. Destined for an inheritance. Sealed with the Holy Spirit. This is our identity as believers in Jesus, the saints.

Chapter 2 tells us that God is rich in mercy – not eager to pay back the punishment we deserve. It tells us that he has great love with which he loved us. It tells us he made us alive together with Christ. He saved us. He saved us by grace – the good we do not deserve. He puts us on display as trophies of grace; showing off for all eternity the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. We are saved by grace. We are saved as a gift from God. It is not our own doing. It is not a result of works. There is nothing we can take credit for. It is through faith – depending on the work of another. We are his workmanship. We are a new creation in Christ, spoken into existence by the word of God, with a grand purpose. We were created in Christ Jesus toward good works. Good works prepared in advance by God. Good works, that because of our identity in Christ, we can now walk in them.

At the end of chapter 2, Paul uses the metaphor of architecture. We are a building. We are fellow-citizens with the saints. We are members of God’s household. And we are being built together into a holy temple in the Lord. Built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. We are meant together as the church to be the place where God lives. We are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. The structure takes its shape and trajectory from the one and only cornerstone, Christ Jesus himself.

Knowing Together

Chapter 3 Paul extolls the mystery of the gospel of God’s grace. He prays in verses 14-21 for strength for us, the saints, that, anchored in love, we would have strength to comprehend together with all the saints the immeasurable love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. See here there is a collective comprehension. We are to know together. We are to take eagerly, to sieze together upon the incomprehensible riches of Christ.

Ephesians 3:17 …that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

This is our root, this is our foundation. To know together the love of Christ. To cling together to the immeasurable multi-dimensional love of Christ. To know that which goes beyond knowledge. He prays that we would be spiritually strengthened to know together the love of Christ and that this would be our root and our foundation.

Paul doesn’t mention communion here, but that is a God-ordained way that we can comprehend together, sieze upon together, treasure together as a church the immeasurable love of Christ in the good news of grace. ‘Do this’ Jesus said, ‘in remembrance of me’ (Lk.22:19; 1Cor.11:24-25). As a church, we are to remember together our identity in Christ. We are to actively cling to and continually seek to comprehend the incomprehensible love of Christ for us in the gospel. As the root, everything else must grow out of this. As the foundation, everything else must be built on this. Paul spends 3 chapters laying the foundation of our identity in Christ so that we don’t miss the fact that everything else grows naturally out of this.

Therefore

The encouragement and exhortation in chapters 4-6 is built on the truth of our identity in Christ laid out in the first 3 chapters. Paul says ‘I encourage you, therefore’. All that comes after is built on all that has gone before. This incomprehensible salvation, freely given, by grace, totally unmerited, not of works, now overflows in good works that God prepared in advance for us to walk in them. Therefore, walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called. Walk now in a manner consistent with your new identity in Christ.

With all humility. The means of our salvation eliminates pride. We did nothing to deserve the good we have been given. If we truly comprehend our salvation, our lives will be characterized by an appropriate humility. With gentleness or meekness. God has treated us gently, with restraint. We must extend this gentleness to others. With patience or longsuffering. God has placed his righteous wrath at a great distance from us. We ought to extend the same patience toward our brothers and sisters. Bearing with one another in love. In God’s great love for us, he patiently endured while we were a long time dead in trespasses and sins, aligning ourselves with his enemy, carrying out our own lusts, children of wrath. In love, we can endure much with our brothers and sisters who wrong us.

Unity

We must be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Are we eager to find things to divide over? Are we eager to set ourselves apart from others? Or are we earnest and diligent to defend our unity? The unity we are talking about is unity of the Spirit. When we heard the gospel and believed in Jesus, we were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. Is our unity centered on who Jesus is? Is our unity defined by the good news of Jesus Christ crucified? Do we divide over which English translation of the Bible we use, or what style of music we prefer, our favorite teacher, our personal convictions on matters of conscience, denominational distinctions, what position we take on secondary doctrines? Unity is what we are to earnestly pursue. Not unity that ignores the gospel or undermines the gospel, but unity that is rooted in the gospel. We, very unique, diverse personalities, are held together by the bond, literally the ligament or tendon of peace. This peace is the peace of Ephesians 2:14-17; our reconciliation to God through the cross. Jesus Christ is our peace. We all have access in one Spirit to the Father. Jesus has made us one. We are to be diligent to defend our blood bought unity. There is one body and one Spirit. If you are believing the good news of salvation through Christ crucified, if you embrace this one hope, if you are united to Jesus by faith, you are part of the one body that is called the church. If you are sealed with the one Holy Spirit, if you surrender to the one Lord Jesus, if you are under the one God and Father of all, if you embrace the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints, you belong to the one body. Our passion must be to lay down our preferences and diligently guard this gospel unity.

Grace-Gifts

Look at verse 7

Ephesians 4:7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

Every believer is uniquely gifted by God with spiritual gifts. There is a variety of gifts but one Spirit. No one should boast about his or her gifts, because they are gifts of grace; they are undeserved. Paul gives a very short list of gifts here, but he is clear about what the gifts are for. Look at verse 11.

Ephesians 4:11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

What we might view as more public gifts are meant to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. Every believer is a minister; every believer is called to serve, and a primary function of the local church is to equip the saints for the work of ministry. The gift of shepherd/teacher is meant to supply the saints with the tools they need to serve effectively in the unique and diverse ways they each have been called to serve. They are meant for building up the body of Christ. We learn in 1 Corinthians 12 that all the gifts are given for the common good (12:7). 1 Corinthians 14 makes it clear that all the gifts are meant for ‘building up the church.’ The gifts are given for the benefit of others, to be used in service to others. The goal is stated here; until we all attain the unity of the faith. Gifts in the body are meant to bring about unity of the faith. They are meant to bring about the knowledge of the Son of God. They are meant to bring about maturity in Christ. They are meant to guard against being deceived or led astray by changing doctrine. All the gifts are to be used in love, and are meant to help us grow up into Christ. The gifts properly functioning knit the body together in unity and allow for healthy growth as the saints are built up in love.

Put Off – Put On

Chapter 4 goes on to describe what the walk that flows out of our identity in Christ ought to look like.

Ephesians 4:17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.

Because we are new creations in Christ, the way we live will be different that it was before. Paul paints a picture of what we once were, that we should be no longer. Darkened in understanding, alienated from the life of God, ignorant, hard hearted, callous, given to sensuality, greedy for impurity. We have a new identity in Christ. We are no longer to be characterized by attitudes, desires and actions of what we once were. We are responsible to identify and set aside those things that are characteristic of our former manner of life, and to put on new ways of thinking and living. Replace falsehood with truth. Be angry, but do not let it lead to sin, and do not let it last too long. Do not steal but do honest work so that you have something to share. Do not let your mouth corrode but instead let it build up and give grace. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit. Set aside bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, malice. Instead be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving as you have been forgiven. Walk in love as you have been sacrificially loved by God. Sexual immorality, impurity, covetousness, filthiness, foolish talk, crude joking must be replaced by thanksgiving. Seek in all things to please the Lord. Replace folly with wisdom. Replace drunkenness with a Spirit controlled life. Sing to the Lord and to one another, give thanks always for everything. Submit to proper authority. Wives respect your own husbands. Husbands sacrificially love you own wife. Children obey parents. Parents do not provoke but discipline and instruct your children. Servants serve as to the Lord. Masters serve your servants as to the Lord. A transformed heart must evidence itself with transformed desires, transformed attitudes, transformed thinking, transformed priorities, transformed actions.

Gospel Armor for Spiritual War

Paul closes with a reminder that our fight is not against other people. We are in a spiritual battle, and we must depend on God’s strength and stand firm in the gospel. We are to be girded with gospel truth, protected by a gospel rightousness not our own, a righteousness imputed to us by Christ. We are to stand firm in and be prepared with the gospel of peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We are to protect ourselves with the shield of faith; gospel confidence in the promises of God. Let gospel salvation guard your mind. Take up the gospel word in the power of the Spirit as your only offensive weapon. Let all be permeated with the gospel access to the throne of grace in all prayer at all times with all perseverance.

As a church, we are to comprehend together our identity in the immeasurably great love Christ has for us. (Eph.1-3)

As a church, we are to be eager to guard gospel unity. (Eph.4:1-6)

As a church, we are to equip the saints for the work of ministry, each using our gifts to build up one another. (Eph.4:7-16)

As a church, we are to put off that which is characteristic of our former passions and put on new desires, new thinking, new attitudes and actions that evidence a transformed heart. (Eph.4:17-6:9)

As a church, we are to recognize that we are in a battle, that it is spiritual, and to stand our ground in the gospel realities that belong to us in Christ. (Eph.6:10-20)

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

January 5, 2017 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 16:19-24; The Love and Grace of Jesus

07/19 1 Corinthians 16:19-24 The Love and Grace of Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150719_1cor16_19-24.mp3

1 Corinthians 16 [SBLGNT]

19 Ἀσπάζονται ὑμᾶς αἱ ἐκκλησίαι τῆς Ἀσίας. ἀσπάζεται ὑμᾶς ἐν κυρίῳ πολλὰ Ἀκύλας καὶ Πρίσκα σὺν τῇ κατ’ οἶκον αὐτῶν ἐκκλησίᾳ. 20 ἀσπάζονται ὑμᾶς οἱ ἀδελφοὶ πάντες. ἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους ἐν φιλήματι ἁγίῳ. 21 Ὁ ἀσπασμὸς τῇ ἐμῇ χειρὶ Παύλου. 22 εἴ τις οὐ φιλεῖ τὸν κύριον, ἤτω ἀνάθεμα. Μαράνα θά. 23 ἡ χάρις τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ μεθ’ ὑμῶν. 24 ἡ ἀγάπη μου μετὰ πάντων ὑμῶν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ.

1 Corinthians 16 [ESV2011]

13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.

15 Now I urge you, brothers—you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints— 16 be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer. 17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.

19 The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord. 20 All the brothers send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss. 21 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. 22 If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come! 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Greetings

Paul is giving final greetings to the Corinthian church. He passes along personal greetings from three different groups, he admonishes them to greet one another, and he gives them his own greeting. This word ‘greeting’ means to embrace, to salute, to wish well, to welcome, to receive joyfully. Literally it means to draw to oneself. This is a personal relational concept. If a friend is traveling to a place where you once lived, you might ask them to say hello to your friends there or to give them a hug for you.

The first greeting is from the churches of Asia. This would include the churches in Pergamum, Thyatira; Sardis, Smyrna; Philadelphia, Laodicea; Colossae; and the church in Ephesus, where he is writing from. With the exception of Ephesus, the majority of the believers in these other churches had likely never been to or met anyone in the church in Corinth. But their faith in Jesus had made them brothers and sisters. There is a fellowship, a camaraderie even among Jesus followers who have never met one another. United by a common love for the Lord, they find themselves in a close knit family, many of whom they will never meet this side of eternity. Paul began this letter by addressing ‘the church of God in Corinth, …those called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (1:2). Here he is sending a brotherly greeting from many of these fellow saints in Asia.

He also sends greetings from Aquila and Prisca and the church in their house. Unlike many in Asia, Aquila and Prisca knew personally those in the church in Corinth. In Acts 18, when Paul first came to Corinth, he met this couple, who had recently relocated to Corinth because they had been evicted from Rome. They shared the same tent making trade with Paul. After 18 months, they left with Paul and traveled to Ephesus. It was in Ephesus that they met Apollos, and it was Priscilla and Aquila who took Apollos aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. Apollos was then sent off to Achaia and taught the believers in Corinth. So there was a close connection and relationship between the Corinthians believers and Priscilla and Aquila. Paul says in his greeting in Romans 16:3-4 that Prisca and Aquila are fellow-workers who risked their necks for his life. Aquila and Prisca, now living in Ephesus, used their home to host the believers. They must have had some wealth, to be able to have a home suitable for hosting the gatherings of the church. The church that met in their home also sent sent much greetings in the Lord. It is the Lord Jesus who unites believers and brings them into relationship with himself and with one another.

The third greeting comes from ‘all the brothers’. This is a greeting from Paul’s co-workers, which would include Apollos and Timothy, among others.

Christian Unity

Then Paul exhorts them to greet one another with a holy kiss. A holy kiss was an appropriate greeting for holy people, or saints. Culturally the kiss was a way to show honor and respect, a way to demonstrate friendship and reconciliation. In that culture it was a kiss on the cheek, a way of greeting that is still practiced in middle eastern countries today. We might bring this into our culture as a holy handshake or a brotherly embrace.

This would have been a difficult command for the Corinthians to obey. Most of this letter is addressing divisions in the church, divisions of a party spirit over this or that teacher, divisions on issues of morality, divisions over issues of conscience, division between those of different social status and wealth, divisions over what was culturally appropriate behavior, divisions over what gifts marked them out as more spiritual, even doctrinal divisions over such a central issue as the resurrection. Paul says, regardless of race, regardless of ethnic background, regardless of social status or class boundaries, regardless of what party you belonged to, regardless of gifting, you are to warmly and affectionately greet one another.

This is a practical expression of good theology. Paul preached Christ crucified for sinners. So whether wise or foolish, whether powerful or weak, whether of noble birth or of lower class, despised, or nothing, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. All together deserve death, and all alike need a rescuer who will pay the price for sin and bring them into a right relationship with God. At the cross, “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” (Gal.3:28); “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Col.3:11). As Paul said in chapter 12

1 Corinthians 12:13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

There is one body, and it has many members. Whatever lines we may have divided along before, we are now one in Christ. We have received the same Spirit and we have been made one in Christ.

Colossians 1:20 and through [the Son] to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Paul’s Signature and the Pseudapigrapha

Paul then gives them his own greeting.

1 Corinthians 16:21 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand.

If we had the original letter to look at, we would notice a change in the handwriting in these last lines. Most letter writing was done as dictation to a trained writer or amanuensis. We find this at the end of Paul’s letter to the Romans:

Romans 16:22 I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord.

Tertius served as Paul’s writer for his letter to the Romans. But the final greetings were in the distinctive personal handwriting of the apostle, and by this he gave his approval to the final draft of the letter. Paul said to the Galatian churches:

Galatians 6:11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.

Already, deceivers had attempted to lead the believers astray, even writing letters in the name of Paul. Paul writes to the Thessalonians:

2 Thessalonians 2:1 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.

He closes that letter with

2 Thessalonians 3:17 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write.

You have probably heard some of the nonsense about writings being removed from our New Testament at a council by a Roman emperor. There are other writings in existence from the early centuries, claiming to be Scripture. They are known as pseudapigrapha, a term that means false writing, because they were heretical writings that falsely claimed to be written by an apostle or an important person in order to gain a wide acceptance. The church recognized these as forgeries attempting to lead astray, and the church never accepted these. The church didn’t need the help of an emperor to discern the genuine from the false. Paul warns the church to be on guard against these forgeries, and he takes the practical measure of giving them a sign of genuineness in his own hand.

Love Jesus or Go To Hell

Paul’s personal greeting at first seems a bit shocking.

1 Corinthians 16:22 If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!

He uses the word ‘anathema’. In Romans 9:3 he says that if possible, he would wish himself to be accursed if that could bring about the salvation of his fellow Jews. In 1 Corinthians 12:3 he says that no one who has God’s Spirit can call Jesus accursed. To the Galatians he says:

Galatians 1:7 …there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Here he says ‘if anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed.’ Love is the greatest command.

Mark 12:29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Love for God is the greatest command. Love is the more excellent way.

1 Corinthians 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is the more excellent way, and love is what the Corinthian church lacked. They were divisive. They were proud. They thought themselves better than others. They did not love enough to discipline a wayward brother. They loved gain and pleasure more than they loved other people. They cherished their own rights over the eternal well-being of other believers. Paul warns them to flee from sexual immorality (6:18). He reminds them

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

He says that although I have rights, and

1 Corinthians 9:19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. …22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

Paul warns ‘flee from idolatry’ (10:14). He warns that we cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons and that we dare not provoke the Lord to jealousy (10:21-22). He says:

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

Love for God seeks to bring glory to God and to seek the good of others as higher than ones own good.

Here he does not use the great word ‘agape’. Here he uses what is in some contexts synonymous, what is in other contexts a lesser word ‘phileo’, the word for friendship love, for warm affection. At the end of the gospel of John, after Peter said that he was willing to die with Jesus and then after he denied even knowing Jesus three times, the risen Lord came to Peter and asked ‘Simon do you love me sacrificially more than these?’ Peter said ‘yes Lord, you know that I love you affectionately. Jesus said to him a second time ‘Simon, do you love me sacrificially?’ Peter replied ‘yes, Lord, you know that I love you affectionately’. Jesus said to him a third time ‘Simon, do you love me affectionately? Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time ‘do you love me affectionately?’. Peter responded ‘Lord you know everything. You know that I love you affectionately’.

We aspire to love the Lord our God selflessly, sacrificially, with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. But we so often fall short. Peter was made excruciatingly aware of his own shortcomings. But he had a strong affection for Jesus. Paul says here, ‘If you don’t have a strong affection for Jesus, you will go to hell’. In chapter 15 he warned them of the danger of not standing firm in the gospel, of not holding fast to it, of believing in vain. This is a strong wake up call. If we do not have a love and affection for Christ that begins to overrule our other desires, then we may be accursed.

Maranatha!

1 Corinthians 16:22 If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!

Paul pronounces an anathema, then Paul says ‘Maranatha!’. Maranatha is an Aramaic word that means ‘come Lord!’ Throughout this letter Paul has reminded the Corinthians that God is the ultimate judge, and we will all stand before him on that day. This is an exclamation, a prayer full of hope. Maranatha! The Lord is coming and he is the great judge, he will bring justice, but his coming is salvation to all who are trusting in him.

John 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

The Psalmist warns:

Psalm 2:12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

The coming of Jesus is both a curse and a blessing. It is a curse to those who have rejected him, to those who are perishing, but it brings abundant blessing to those who are trusting in him, to those who are being saved by him.

Grace of the Lord Jesus

1 Corinthians 16:23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.

Paul reminds them of grace. His prayer is that the grace of the Lord Jesus would be with them. Grace is God’s undeserved favor and kindness. Grace by definition is unearned and freely given. The fact that we are not accursed, the fact that the coming of the Lord is something we long for, the fact that we have a strong affection for Jesus, all this is evidence of God’s rich and powerful grace. God gives us what we don’t deserve. God extends his transforming grace to his enemies, and it changes us. The gospel is a message of grace. It has nothing to do with earning or deserving. It is simply and totally God’s freedom to give good gifts to those who could never earn it.

Usually, we think of grace as coming from God the Father. But here Paul specifically says that this is the grace that comes from the Lord Jesus. Jesus is continually giving us his grace.

Paul prays for the believers in Corinth that the grace of Jesus would be with them. As a believer we need his grace with us every moment. We are never done with grace. We never outgrow his grace. We never come to a point when we begin to deserve. We never earn. We are eternally dependent on his grace. We are forever those who receive. Salvation and the Christian life are all of grace.

Love

1 Corinthians 16:24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Paul’s closing word to them is a reminder of his love for them. This is a church that he loves. These are people he cares deeply for. He has confronted sin, he has corrected error, he has challenged their thinking, he has commanded them to run from sin and pursue holiness. He has rebuked and even insulted and shamed the Corinthians. But throughout he has affirmed his love for them. All this is seeking their good. He is laboring for their eternal joy. He loves them. His love is with them in Christ Jesus. It is all because of Jesus. His love for them is an expression of the grace of Jesus. We love because he first loved us. The final word is Jesus.

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

July 19, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 13:5c; Love is Not Irritable

01/11 1 Corinthians 13:5c Love is Not Irritable; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150111_1cor13_5c.mp3

1 Corinthians 13 [SBLGNT]

4 Ἡ ἀγάπη μακροθυμεῖ, χρηστεύεται ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ ζηλοῖ ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ περπερεύεται, οὐ φυσιοῦται, 5 οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ, οὐ ζητεῖ τὰ ἑαυτῆς, οὐ παροξύνεται, οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν,

1 Corinthians 13 [ESV2011]

12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends...

We are in the middle of 1 Corinthians 13, the ‘Love Chapter’. We are looking at what love is, what God’s love is, and learning together about the God who is love. We see this love perfectly displayed in our Lord Jesus Christ, and we also ought to see evidence of this love growing in the lives of the followers of Jesus. That is what this chapter is about. In the context of a church full of people who were all about status, position, importance, thinking each was better than the other, or feeling they were of no significance and didn’t belong, asking what gifts or manifestations were true evidence of advanced spirituality, Paul answers by saying that all the tongues speaking, all the prophesying, all the faith in the world amounts to nothing, reduces the speaker to nothing, and will gain us nothing of eternal significance without love. Love is long-tempered. Love is kind. Love is not jealous. Love does not boast or puff up self. Love is not rude. Love does not seek its own. Love is not irritable. Love does not keep records of wrongs done. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoings, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears and believes and hopes and endures. This is the kind of love God has, the kind of love Jesus displayed as the image of the invisible God, and this is the kind of love that the Holy Spirit produces in the life of the follower of Jesus. The fruit of the Spirit is love. This kind of love is the primary evidence for those who are truly spiritual.

So this chapter is a rebuke. The Corinthians lacked love. They were the opposite of all these things. The Corinthians were impatient, unkind, envious, braggarts, puffed up, indecent, self-seeking, irritable, and they held grudges. Paul was humbling them, pointing them to the way of love, pointing them to the utter worthlessness of their spiritual giftedness without God’s love at work among them.

Today we look at the sixth in a list of eight negatives, describing what love is not. The ESV translates this ‘not irritable’; (NIV) ‘not easily angered’; (KJV) ‘not easily provoked’; (ISV) ‘never …gets annoyed’; (Phillips) ‘not touchy’.

Passive

This is a passive verb, indicating not something that I do (that would be an active verb), but how I respond when someone does something to me. This does not have to do with if I provoke others, but how I respond when others provoke or irritate me. ‘If only people would stop irritating me, I wouldn’t get so angry!’ I am on the receiving end of provocation. This assumes that there will be provocation. People will provoke me. Circumstances will irritate me. Things will annoy me. That is not the problem, and the solution is not to eliminate the annoyances. The problem is in me. The problem is with how I respond. Jesus promised his followers “in the world you will have tribulation [pressure, affliction, distress]” (Jn.16:33). That is unavoidable. But Jesus offers in the midst of the pressure “that in me you may have peace.”

Irritable Corinthians

So what does it mean that love is not irritable? How were the Corinthians acting irritably? How is God who is love not irritable? What can we learn from Jesus about not being irritable?

1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;

The Corinthians were irritable. They were easily provoked. We see that from how they conducted themselves. There was quarreling, dissension, disputes, jealousy, strife. There was boasting, some thought more highly of themselves than they ought to think, puffed up, thinking they were wise and powerful and important, who didn’t think they needed anyone else. Others felt pushed down, trampled, unimportant, undervalued, they were easily offended. They were all eager to insist on their own rights, demanding what was their due, even if that meant taking one another to the courts of law to settle disputes. This is not the way of love.

God’s Righteous Provocation

If love is not irritable, not provoked, then we should be able to look at the God who defines love to see more clearly what this does and doesn’t mean. When we look to the Old Testament, we find something interesting.

Psalm 7:11 God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day. 12 If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; 13 he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts.

God feels indignation every day. This does not sound like a God who is not provoked. In fact, we find God provoked frequently through the scriptures. Listen to Deuteronomy 9, where Moses warns the people against provoking the Lord.

Deuteronomy 9:6 “Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people. 7 Remember and do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD. 8 Even at Horeb you provoked the LORD to wrath, and the LORD was so angry with you that he was ready to destroy you.

…12 Then the LORD said to me, ‘Arise, go down quickly from here, for your people whom you have brought from Egypt have acted corruptly. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them; they have made themselves a metal image.’ 13 “Furthermore, the LORD said to me, ‘I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stubborn people. 14 Let me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven. And I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they.’

…18 Then I lay prostrate before the LORD as before, forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all the sin that you had committed, in doing what was evil in the sight of the LORD to provoke him to anger. 19 For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure that the LORD bore against you, so that he was ready to destroy you. But the LORD listened to me that time also.

…22 “At Taberah also, and at Massah and at Kibroth-hattaavah you provoked the LORD to wrath.

It sounds like the God who is love is at times provoked to anger and wrath. If God is love, then there must be a righteous and loving kind of provocation as well as an evil and unloving kind of provocation.

Deuteronomy 32:16 They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods; with abominations they provoked him to anger. 17 They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently, whom your fathers had never dreaded. 18 You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth.

God is provoked to anger when his people whom he loves and cares for turn away from him, the only source of life and joy and run after false hopes that will fail to satisfy. He is provoked to anger because he loves his people, he wants what is best for them, and he knows that he alone is best for them. Even at the disobedience of his people, God is patient. Nehemiah prays:

Nehemiah 9:17 They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them. 18 Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies, 19 you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go. 20 You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst. 21 Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.

God can be provoked, but he is slow to anger. He is patient, he is great in mercy, he is abounding in steadfast love.

Provocation of Jesus

When we look to Jesus, who is the image of the invisible God, we see him reflect the same kinds of things. In John 2,

John 2:14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

Jesus was provoked. He was passionate. He was rightly irritated and offended by people seeking to make a profit off of those who had come to seek God.

In Mark 3, the Pharisees had set Jesus up. They were using a crippled person – using him to test Jesus.

Mark 3:1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. 2 And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” 4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

Notice Jesus’ response. He was provoked. He attempted to reason with them. They were callous. He was provoked to wrath. Wrath and sorrow. He was grieved and angry. Angry at their insensitivity to the needs of a person. Grieved at their callousness to the truth of God, their hardened refusal to consider that he might indeed be who he claimed to be. They set him up, and Jesus was angry and grieved, and he healed the man. And the Pharisees conspired to kill him.

His Provocation and Ours

When we look at Jesus, we begin to see some of the differences between God’s perfect, loving provocation, and our sinful selfish provocation. God is provoked when we seek satisfaction in things that will bring only harm and heartache. Jesus was provoked when God was dishonored and people were hurt. Jesus was provoked when people were more interested in self-preservation and their own agenda than the good of hurting people and the glory of God.

We are irritated when things don’t go our way, when we are inconvenienced, when we are hurt, when our plans are thwarted. We are provoked when people are thoughtless or unkind toward us. We want to defend ourselves, our ideas, our reputation, our honor. Anthony Thiselton describes our irritability as a “readiness to overreact on one’s own behalf.” He describes a provocation that “takes offense because one’s self-regard has been dented, wounded, or punctured by some sharp point” (NIGTC, p.1052). Our irritability is rooted in selfishness, which is the opposite of love. He also points out how these characteristics of love work together. Love is patient, or long-tempered. Love does not seek its own. “patience delays exasperation … and …lack of self-interest diverts a sense of self-importance away from reacting on the grounds of wounded pride” (NIGTC, p.1052).

Jesus is Not Irritable

We look to Jesus for an example of a selfless life surrendered to pursuing passionately the purposes of God, and how to respond to people and circumstances and things that bring irritation and provocation.

Interruptions

How do you respond when you have purpose, when you are on mission, when you are doing what you are supposed to be doing, when you are moving forward, going in the right direction, and someone comes along with an interruption and derails you? How do you respond to interruption? Do you respond with irritation, with frustration, with anger? In Mark 5, Jesus was on mission. He had been summoned by a desperate father whose daughter was dying. He was going to help someone. What he was doing was very important. But he was rudely and inappropriately interrupted.

Mark 5:22 Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet 23 and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” 24 And he went with him. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” 35 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?”

This delay was not only inconvenient, poorly timed, and inappropriate, but the delay caused the death of the girl he had set out to heal. He was derailed. How would you respond to this kind of interruption? How did Jesus respond to it? He allowed the interruption. He embraced it. He stopped. He turned. He took the time to identify the one who had interrupted him, to address her. He treated her with kindness and compassion. He cared for her needs. This unplanned interruption served to exaggerate the glory of God as the planned healing escalated into a full-on resurrection from the dead!

Distractions

How do you respond when you have been called to big things, when you are doing important things, and something small and trivial gets in your way? Distractions, diversions, inconsequential things, inconveniences that steal precious time away from the great task at hand. How do you respond to the trivial interruptions of life? In Mark 10, Jesus’ disciples were trying to do a good thing. They were trying to protect Jesus’ time. He had come for great things, he was teaching the multitudes, so they attempted to intercept the insignificant distractions so that he could focus on the more important things.

Mark 10:13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

Jesus was indignant, not that people would be so trivial as to bring their little kids to him to get him to touch them, but because the disciples were turning them away. He embraced these distractions. These distractions were people, and he took time to show them love and affection, to bless them.

Impositions

How do you respond to impositions? You have been going and going, serving and pouring out, to the point that you are exhausted, even neglecting your own basic needs. You need to get away. You need time alone. You need rest. You just need a break. And just as you are about to take some precious time to yourself, someone drops in on you. Someone who is needy. Someone who is self-centered. Someone who wants to take from you. Uninvited, unwelcome impositions. How do you respond? In Mark 6, Jesus responds to uninvited impositions.

Mark 6:30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. 35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?”

Jesus was looking for private time, isolated time, time away from the crowds, time by themselves, time to rest. But the crowds chased him down. They horned their way in on what was supposed to be rest and leisure. How did Jesus respond? He had compassion on them. He saw their hurts, their needs. They were like sheep without a shepherd. He embraced the imposition. He invested in them. And he refused to send them away hungry. He poured into them spiritually, and he cared for them physically. He fed them as much as they could eat. And there was still plenty left over for his disciples. They were satisfied, and God was glorified.

Irresponsibility

How do you respond when you give a trusted friend a simple task and they utterly fail you? A small thing, an easy thing, but an important thing. And they drop the ball and leave you hanging? Do you cut them off? One time and that’s it. I’ll never trust you again. In Mark 14, Jesus gave some of his closest friends a very simple but important job.

Mark 14:32 And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” 35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. 41 And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

Watch. Pray. Simple things in his hour of greatest need, and they failed him. They fell asleep. He gave them three opportunities. They failed every time. He didn’t become angry. He didn’t write them off. In his hour of need, he challenged them, he instructed them, he cared for their needs. After his resurrection he pursued them and entrusted them with the greatest commission of being his witnesses and changing the world.

Intentional Offense

But what about intentional offenses? What if someone is really out to hurt you, out to injure you, out to do you harm? What do you do when you know that there is malicious intent? How do you react? How did Jesus react? The prophet Isaiah foretells it this way:

Isaiah 50:6 I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.

Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

Peter holds Jesus up as an example for us:

1 Peter 2:21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

Jesus instructs us:

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. 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.

What kind of love is this? What kind of love is so selfless that it is not irritable, not resentful, not provoked to anger? What kind of love loves enemies? God’s love. While we were his enemies, God demonstrated his love for us (Rom.5:8-10). Having been loved like this, the Holy Spirit now works this kind of love in us. We can only love like this when we have first been filled to overflowing with his love.

I am not my own. I have been bought with a price. I am a slave sent to do my Master’s bidding. So I love because he first loved me.

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

January 11, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Devoted To Prayer

01/04 Devoted To Prayer; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150104_devoted-to-prayer.mp3

As I began my readings for the new year, a word in Acts 1 intrigued me. It is translated ‘were devoting themselves to’

The Greek word behind the English ‘devoted to’ is [προσκαρτερέω proskartereo]. Here is how some of the dictionaries define it:

[Mickelson’s Enhanced Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Dictionaries]

G4342 προσκαρτερέω proskartereo (pros-kar-ter-eh’-o) v.

1. to be earnest towards

2. (to a thing) to persevere, be constantly diligent

3. (in a place) to attend assiduously all the exercises

4. (to a person) to adhere closely to (as a servitor)

[from G4314πρός pros (pros’) prep.1. forward to, i.e. toward and G2594 καρτερέω kartereo (kar-ter-eh’-o) v.1. to be strong 2. (figuratively) to endure]

[Thayer] – Original: προσκαρτερέω; Transliteration: Proskartereo; Phonetic: pros-kar-ter-eh’-o

– Definition:

1. to adhere to one, be his adherent, to be devoted or constant to one

2. to be steadfastly attentive unto, to give unremitting care to a thing

3. to continue all the time in a place

4. to persevere and not to faint

5. to show one’s self courageous for

6. to be in constant readiness for one, wait on constantly

This is a strong word. It appears only 10 times in the New Testament. What is it that the early believers were devoted to, what were they earnest toward or constantly diligent or steadfastly attentive to; what is it they gave their unremitting care to? As we evaluate the successes and failures of a past year and look forward to a new year and seek to re-prioritize and re-purpose for the new year, it would do us well to look to what the early church was passionately committed to. Twice we find this word connected to another word. In Acts 1:14 and in Acts 2:46 we find the word translated ‘devoted to’ with the word [ὁμοθυμαδόν homothumadon], which is translated ‘together’ or ‘with one accord’ or ‘with one mind’

[Mickelson’s Enhanced Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Dictionaries]

G3661 ὁμοθυμαδόν homothumadon (hom-oth-oo-mad-on’) adv.

1. unanimously

[adverb from a compound of the base of G3674 and G2372]

Whatever it is that the early church was unanimously constantly diligent and steadfastly attentive to, is probably important for us to resolve to devote ourselves to as well.

Let’s look at some of the verses, see if we can pick up some themes, and think together about what we should do about it.

Acts 1:14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

The early believers unanimously constantly diligent in prayer. Acts 2:42 adds three things to prayer.

Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

They were earnest towards the apostles teaching, fellowship, breaking bread and prayers.

Acts 2:46 has both of these words together.

[ESV] Acts 2:46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,

It comes through more clearly in the Lexham English Bible, another literal translation.

[LEB] Acts 2:46 And every day, devoting themselves to meeting with one purpose in the temple courts and breaking bread from house to house, they were eating their food with joy and simplicity of heart,

They unanimously gathered to meet together in public, and they gathered in homes to break bread and to eat together. The next verse is telling.

Acts 2:47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

As the early church was passionately committed to these things, God was saving people and connecting them with the growing church. There seems to be a connection between the unanimous devotion of the believers and the fruitfulness of the gospel in their communities.

Here is why the Apostles appointed others to oversee the charitable activities of the church:

Acts 6:2 …“It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. …4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

The same word is used in Romans 12 and Colossians 4.

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

Colossians 4:2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

So we see repeatedly that the early church devoted themselves to prayer. We also see that they devoted themselves to preaching and hearing the word, to breaking bread, to fellowship, to eating together. If these are things the early Christians were earnestly and unanimously devoted to, these are things we to ought to be faithfully passionate about.

Why These Things?

But why have the followers of Jesus throughout history been committed to hearing and teaching the word, to table fellowship with the believers, to remembering Jesus in the breaking of bread, and primarily to prayer? What is it about these things that captured the heart and the attention of the church? What is it about prayer that is so clearly foundational and central to the Christian life?

Prayer

First, what is prayer? Simply put, prayer is our communication with God. When we address God with worship, with thanksgiving, with confession, with requests, that is prayer. Prayer is our side of communication with God. Jesus had much to say about prayer. He exhorted his disciples to pray, he taught them how to pray (and how not to pray), he told them parables about prayer, and he modeled for them a life devoted to prayer.

Prayer, the way Jesus taught it, is humbling. If you think of the four aspects of prayer, worship is telling God how awesome he is, that he is greater than all else, including me. Worship is telling God all the things I admire about him, most of which are not true of me, and those things that are true of me in some degree are true in me only in an imperfect and flawed reflection of who he is. Worship is turning my attention away from me an to God, paying attention to him, celebrating and enjoying him for who he is. Confession is agreeing with God about the perfect standard and acknowledging how far I fall short of that standard. Thanksgiving is looking at the good things he gives that I don’t deserve and couldn’t earn and expressing gratitude as a humble recipient of great and glorious gifts. Requests are an expression of my need and his overwhelming generosity, of my emptiness and his fullness, of my brokenness and his wholeness, of my lack and his infinite supply. Being devoted to prayer means being constantly humbled in his presence.

And yet the privilege of prayer is amazing beyond comprehension. I can approach the all holy God in prayer because he so loved me that he gave his only Son to die in my place, pay my price, and purchase me as his own prized possession. Jesus opened to me the way of prayer through his own blood. I have been forgiven and cleansed and made new, and I can stand before him as a saint, a holy one. I have been adopted into the family of God, and can now address him as Father. He has taken me into his confidence, and I can address him as Friend. I have been granted bold access to the throne of grace. That is a humbling amazing reality that I am reminded of when I pray.

Prayer is our necessary connection to Jesus. Jesus used the metaphor of a vine with branches. He said:

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

We must stay constantly connected to Jesus in order to be alive and to bear fruit. The circulatory system must carry away waste and deliver nutrients to the branch and or the branch will die. We are to pray as if our life depended on it, because it does! We are to be devoted to prayer. A branch disconnected from the root will not last long. Prayer is to be as natural and constant as breathing; taking in life giving oxygen, exhaling to carry away dangerous waste. Our connection with Jesus is directly related to our life and fruitfulness. A Christian who is not constantly connected with Jesus will not grow or produce fruit.

The Apostles,

Acts 1:13 …Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

These men had been with Jesus. When Jesus had called them to follow him, they gladly left everything. They enjoyed being with him. They had spent time with Jesus. Jesus had poured into them, invested in them, spent time with them. He taught them, trained them, answered their questions, calmed their fears, assuaged their doubts, prepared them for the future. When Jesus told them that he was going away, ‘sorrow filled their hearts’ (Jn.16:6). They wanted nothing more than to be with Jesus. They longed to spend time in his company, being part of what he was doing, remaining connected. Jesus said:

John 16:22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. …24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

Jesus was crucified and his disciples scattered. But he rose from the dead and appeared to his disciples. Their hearts rejoiced and no one could take their joy. Before Jesus ascended bodily to the right hand of his Father, he said

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

We abide in Jesus, we maintain that intimate connection with Jesus through prayer, through worship, confession, thanksgiving and requests. We depend on him. Apart from him we can do nothing. If we abide in him and his word abides in us, we will bear much fruit.

The Word

Our side of the communication is called prayer. God’s side of the communication is called divine revelation, and this happens primarily through the preaching and hearing of the word. This is why we see an unswerving commitment to the proclamation of biblical truth among the followers of Jesus. We want his word to abide in us. Jesus said to the religious leaders,

John 5:39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

The Apostles were Jews who had heard the Scriptures read all their lives. But they had met Jesus, and he created in them a new appetite for God’s word. When Jesus appeared to his disciples,

Luke 24:27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Luke 24:45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,

Because we have been with Jesus, because we have experienced him as the Word made flesh, we have a new appetite for Jesus, a hunger for his words. We want to hear him speak. His words are life and they are light. We are to be devoted to, steadfastly attentive to the Apostles’ teaching.

The Gospel

The early followers were devoted to the breaking of bread. Jesus broke bread and said ‘do this in remembrance of me’ (Lk.22:19). Remembering Jesus by breaking bread is a way to keep our eyes fixed on the gospel. We must not lose sight of the gospel, the good news that Jesus died to save sinners. Jesus took bread.

1 Corinthians 11:24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Jesus intended for us to remember him by breaking bread together. The early church was constantly diligent to break bread together. We too, should be devoted to the breaking of bread whereby we remember Jesus and keep our focus on the gospel.

Table Fellowship

The early church was devoted to fellowship. They ate together. They took food with joy and simplicity of heart. They ate at one another’s homes. Why eating together? The Corinthian church was rebuked for the way they ate together, each one going ahead with his own meal, not sharing and not waiting for one another. The purpose is not food, the purpose is building relationships. Eating together with joy and thankfulness is a way to build relationships. Having a meal together is a way of loving one another, and it can be a way to care for the needy. Discipleship, as Jesus did it, happened through the daily routines of life, walking, talking, traveling, fishing, eating, spending time caring for broken hurting people. The early church was devoted to table fellowship because our vertical relationship with God must bend outward to other people. 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.

The early disciples were earnest toward eating together as an expression of love. We too must be devoted to fellowship with other believers.

Devoted to Unity in Community

The early church was unanimous in their devotion to fellowship, breaking bread, the word and prayer. These were not only individual exercises. They were together devoted – praying together, listening together ‘with one accord’, eating together, ‘house to house’. The early church was devoted to unity in the context of community. They were together in public, and they were together in their homes. The early church valued one another. Their relationship with Jesus found expression in their attitudes and actions toward one another.

Hindrances to Unanimous Devotion

Why aren’t we devoted to the same things that the followers of Jesus passionately committed themselves to? What keeps us from being earnest toward the things of Christ? If we can identify some of the things that prevent our devotion to Christ, we can begin to weed them out and cultivate a deeper devotion to the things that we are called to be devoted to.

We live in an individualistic society. Our culture does not encourage us to spend time face to face with other human beings, interacting, doing things together, caring for one another, being involved in the lives of others. We have been trained with a consumer worldview, where we ask the question ‘what can I get out of this’ and ‘how does this benefit me’ rather than, ‘what can I give’ and ‘how can I benefit others?’ If we can root out the individualism and self-focus that prevents us from living in genuine community with others, we will be more free to devote ourselves to these things.

Sin clearly will hinder us from being devoted to the things of Christ. When we fill our souls with counterfeit food, we ruin our appetites for that which gives life. Our desires need to be transformed. We have an empty gaping hole in our souls, and we seek to cram it full of stuff to satisfy our longings. We need to unpack the junk so that we can recognize that our true longings can only be satisfied by a relationship with God. When we crowd our lives with busyness we are simply being pulled in too many directions to be devoted to anything. When we fill our lives with noise, it drowns out any opportunity to listen to his voice. We need to take a hard look. Some things may have to go so that we can devote ourselves to prayer, to the word, to the gospel, to love.

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

January 4, 2015 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment