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2 Corinthians 6:3-4; No Obstacle But The Cross

03/10_2 Corinthians 6:3-4; No Obstacle But The Cross Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190310_2cor6_3-4.mp3

Context

Paul has just laid out the riches of gospel truth; that we are reconciled to God through the finished work of Christ; that the sinless Christ was counted as a sinner when he took my sin, and now I am counted righteous because I am found in Christ. He has called the church in Corinth to respond rightly to this message; he begs them as God’s ambassador ‘be reconciled to God’ and he appeals to them not to receive the grace of God in vain; in a meaningless, worthless, empty way, in a way that does not save. He quotes from the suffering servant section of Isaiah (49:8) to impress them with the urgency of responding to his message now, while God’s grace is being extended.

Here in verses 3-10 he presents his résumé as God’s minister, Christ’s ambassador, God’s fellow-worker. This is a memorable, lyrical, eloquent passage, on par with 1 Corinthians 13, and just as worthy of memorization.

The content of this highly structured résumé will have to wait until next week, but we will look at his cover letter in verses 3-4 today.

2 Corinthians 6:3 We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:

First, a note about how this sentence fits with the context. The main verb is all the way back in verse 1, ‘we appeal.’ “We appeal to you not in vain to receive the grace of God.” This is modified by the participle that begins the sentence ‘working together’. Then after the quotation in verse 2, he modifies this verb with two more participles:

1. ——–working together with God

We appeal to you

3. ——–giving no obstacle

4. ——–commending ourselves

Paul’s appeal to the church is his working together with God; his appeal comes with both negative and positive force. Negative in verse 3, which could literally be translated ‘to no one in nothing giving an obstacle’; and positive in verse 4, literally ‘but in all things commending ourselves.’

The Offense of the Cross

2 Corinthians 6:3 We put no obstacle [προσκοπήν] in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:

What does Paul mean when he says ‘to no one in nothing giving an obstacle’?

Let’s start by clarifying what he does not mean. Back in 1 Corinthians, he said

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1 Corinthians 1:23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block [σκάνδαλον] to Jews and folly to Gentiles,

Paul is fully aware that the word of the cross, the gospel of Christ crucified for sinners is foolishness and a stumbling block, literally a scandal to many. When he says that ‘we put no obstacle in anyone’s way’ he does not mean that he ceases to preach the gospel for fear of tripping up or offending anyone. In Galatians 5:11 he refers to the ‘offense’ or ‘stumbling block’ or ‘scandal’ of the cross. He refuses to compromise or water down the simple gospel message of Jesus Christ crucified for sinners and raised on the third day. That will be an obstacle to many; however to attempt to remove that obstacle empties the gospel of any power to save. To tell people that they have sinned and offended a holy God, and that the wages of sin is death is offensive. To say that your only hope is that God had to become human in order to take your sin and die in your place is hard to swallow, but it is the gospel. We must not, we dare not tamper with the gospel. Paul refused to tamper with the offense of the cross.

Removing Obstacles

So what does Paul mean, when he says ‘to no one in nothing giving an obstacle’? Paul did talk at length in 1 Corinthians 8-10 about Christian rights, Christian liberties, and avoiding unnecessary offenses or obstacles. In that section (and in Romans 14) he discusses what you should or shouldn’t eat, specifically concerning meat that may have been sacrificed to idols. His conclusion is: flee idolatry (1Cor.10:14), but eat whatever is sold to you or set before you without raising question of where it came from (1Cor.10:25-27).

1 Corinthians 8:9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block [πρόσκομμα] to the weak.

1 Corinthians 8:13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble [σκανδαλίζει], I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble [σκανδαλίσω].

In chapter 9 he uses himself as an illustration of letting go of legitimate rights for the good of others. He has the right as a minister of the gospel to make his living by the gospel (1Cor.9:4,14).

1 Corinthians 9:12 …Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle [ἐγκοπή] in the way of the gospel of Christ.

This is the passage where he says “I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. …I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel” (1Cor.9:19,22-23). He removed any unnecessary obstacles to the gospel, any unnecessary offenses; he was always conscious of his surroundings and intentional about how he conducted himself. He was aware of contrasting cultures and careful not to unnecessarily offend.

His conclusion in 1 Corinthians 10:

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 [ἀπρόσκοπος] 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.

When Offense is Fruitful

But it’s more complex than just seeking never to offend anyone. Many people attempt to live that way today and are utterly useless for Christ. Paul offended plenty of people; that got him beat up, run out of town, thrown in jail on multiple occasions. He said some really offensive things. His first time in Corinth, in Acts 18, he was testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus,

Acts 18:6 And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

That’s offensive! That’s the kind of thing that started riots in other cities. That’s not very culturally sensitive. But we learn from Romans 11:11-14 that his goal was “in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.” This was a fruitful offense; a gospel driven offense.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:12 that he refused to receive compensation from the Corinthians in order to avoid putting obstacles in the way of the gospel. But that was contrary to their culture and offensive to them. In their culture, the better the teacher, the higher the price, and the more you paid for your instruction, the more bragging rights you had. He took that away from them. He took a job and worked with his own hands in menial labor to support himself, which tripped them up. But he claimed that this was to avoid ‘putting an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.’ He was more concerned with the integrity of the gospel than he was in simply avoiding offense. If he accepted pay from them, it would send a message that the gospel was out of reach of the poor, that it was not all of grace, that it was only for those who could pay top dollar.

Another way he offended the Corinthians was in his manner of speech. Although fully capable of eloquence, as this passage so clearly demonstrates, he says “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1Cor.2:2), and this was contrary to their expectations. Paul made a conscious decision when he came to Corinth to not fit the mold, to fly in the face of their culture and not use oratorical skill or eloquent words of wisdom, because if he did it would imply that the gospel was only for the wise, the literate, the well educated.

Here’s an illustration of this principle of ‘becoming all things to all people’ tragically misapplied. Paul records in Galatians 2 that Peter in Antioch ‘was eating with the Gentiles;’ but when a Jewish delegation came from James in Jerusalem, ‘he drew back and separated himself.’ Isn’t this a case of ‘To those outside the law I became as one outside the law’ and ‘To those under the law I became as one under the law’? Paul says No! ‘I opposed him to his face’; he ‘acted hypocritically’; his ‘conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel’. By withdrawing from eating with the Gentiles, he was saying that Christ had not successfully broken down the dividing wall of hostility between Jews and Greeks. He was actually contradicting the gospel.

This calls for discernment. How can I be culturally sensitive without compromising the gospel? What unnecessary obstacles do we put in the way of the gospel? How do I unnecessarily offend? Am I content with my own friend group, not open to others? Am I unwelcoming, unfriendly, sometimes irritable? Am I unwilling to get out of my comfort zone or risk being inconvenienced? These would be evidences of pride, selfishness, and would be potential obstacles to the gospel.

What are things in our church body that are stumbling blocks to the gospel? Our heart’s desire above all else should be to see God glorified as people come into a reconciled relationship with God through our Lord Jesus. And this reconciliation is from God. All this is from God. God alone can save. We cannot. But we can remove obstacles from the gospel. We can clear the way for the gospel to have full impact in someone’s life. What things are we doing – or not doing that are obstructing the gospel?

Purpose: A No Fault Ministry

Paul says ‘to no one in nothing giving an obstacle’

2 Corinthians 6:3 We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault [μωμηθῇ] may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:

His purpose for avoiding unnecessary obstacles is ‘in order that no fault may be found with the ministry.’ This word for ‘finding fault’ shows up again in chapter 8, illustrating what he means here. There he is talking about the collection of money from the churches that he intends to bring to the poor saints in Jerusalem. He makes it clear that he will not be doing this alone; he will be taking others with, people known by them.

2 Corinthians 8:20 We take this course so that no one should blame [μωμήσηται] us about this generous gift that is being administered by us, 21 for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.

He seeks to be honorable, above reproach in the way he handles other people’s money. He wants accountability. He aims for integrity that is unassailable.

There are a hundred ways to discredit your ministry. Sadly, you have seen enough examples of this in the news, and you know the immense hindrance it is to the gospel.

Commending Ourselves

Paul says:

2 Corinthians 6:3 We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:

‘To no one in nothing giving an obstacle… but in all things commending ourselves.’ This commending his ministry is a thread woven through this letter. He said in 3:1 in exasperation ‘we are beginning to commend ourselves again!’ We’ve already been through the introductions; you know me. I spent 18 months with you, and then another visit and wrote at least two letters. You ought to know my character by now. You yourselves are evidence of my authenticity.

He says in chapter 4

2 Corinthians 4:2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

The way we handle God’s word demonstrates our integrity. He says in chapter 5:

2 Corinthians 5:12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart.

You ought to be able to defend us to those who are attempting to undermine our character. This thread appears again in chapter 10, where he points out that some commend themselves by comparing themselves with others, but only those whom the Lord commends are approved (10:12,18). In chapter 12 he says that he ought to have been commended by them (12:11).

Ministers of God with Faultless Ministry

2 Corinthians 6:3 We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:

In all things we commend ourselves as servants, ministers of God. We remove unnecessary obstacles, so that no fault can be found with the ministry. Ministers of God with faultless ministry.

How does Paul commend himself? What is the content of his résumé? It may not be what you expect. This is his cover letter. Next week we will review his resume.

Takeaway

What can we take away from this? As followers of Jesus, each of us is a minister, called to serve others for their good.

-Is your ministry blameless or blameworthy?

-Does your character and conduct discredit your message or commend it to others?

-Are you holding fast to the offense of the cross, or are you willing to manipulate the message to make it seem less offensive?

-What stumbling blocks are you putting in front of others?

***

*Ask God to open your eyes to see the obstacles you place in front of others.

*Ask him to give you a tenacious grip on the gospel

*Ask him to create integrity of character that displays his grace

***

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

March 13, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Compelled By Substitution

01/20_2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Constrained By Substitution ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190120_2cor5_14-15.mp3

The Governing Influence

What moves you? What motivates you to action? What gets you up in the morning and propels you forward? What is the driving force in your life that moves you to do what you do? And what keeps you on course, what prevents you from veering off in an unwise direction? In 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, Paul gives us his motive for ministry, and I submit to you, this would be a great passage to paint in large letters on the ceiling above your bed [or you could write it on a 3×5 card and keep it on your nightstand or on your mirror or on the dash of your car].

2 Corinthians 5:14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

[Pray]

The love of Christ controls or constrains us; this is why we do everything we do. In the past verses Paul pointed to the fact that he lives to God and in service to others. Knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others (v.11). In light of the coming judgment, where every person will stand before Christ to receive what is due for what he has done in the body, good or evil (v.10), we make it our aim to please him (v.9). The love of Christ and the fear of Christ are the twin motives that propel Paul to do everything he does. He aims above all else to please his Master. Fear and love. We could put them together this way; because of the great love with which Christ has so loved him, he fears displeasing him in anything.

Doctrine Drives Desires and Decisions

The love of Christ controls us, having concluded this. Paul concluded, judged, decided or determined; this is a logical conclusion or determination drawn from doctrine. And this shows us that doctrine is not merely scholastic; doctrine is practical. Understanding the truths of scripture motivates our passions, our desires, our decisions. Many people say ‘I’m not into all that doctrine or theology stuff; I just want to follow Jesus’ – as if there was a choice between the two! Following Jesus means believing things about God – that’s the essence of theology. Everyone is a theologian – everyone believes stuff about God and life and the world. The question is not if you will do theology; the question is will you do it well, biblically, or poorly?

Paul gives us a dense theological statement that expresses the love of Christ for him, and he uses it as the motivating force for how he lives.

One Died For [ὑπέρ] All

Today we are going to attempt to unpack this statement, to treasure it, to see how it works as power to propel a life pleasing to the Lord.

One on behalf of all died

so the all died

and on behalf of all he died

in order that the living

no longer to themselves live

but to the one who on behalf of them died and was raised

This is the great love of Christ; Christ died for the ungodly (Rom.5:6). While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom.5:8). The Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal.2:20).

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for [περὶ] sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, …

Jesus said:

John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

Jesus died for; one died instead of, in the place of, in the name of or in the interest of, as a substitute. I deserved death. He stood in my place; he took my punishment; he died my death, for me. Jesus died for my benefit, but more than that; he died as my substitute. He took my name. Think of it this way; I was guilty of a capital crime. I stood before the judge and was condemned. I waited in my cell. The day of execution arrived, the guard came to lead me away, he called my name, and Jesus stepped forward. He answered to my name. He took my place. He died for me. That’s what 1 Peter 3:18 said; ‘Christ suffered… the righteous for the unrighteous.’

So The All Died – Romans 6 & 7

And if that happened, I had better disappear. I better never use my name again. According to the law, I am dead, so I must not show up again. That points to the other half of this:

One on behalf of all died

so the all died

Paul concludes that if Jesus died for all, then whoever the ‘all’ is, they all are dead. If he took my identity, and died as me, then my identity is now dead. In Galatians 2, where ‘the Son of God loved me and gave himself for me’, it says

Galatians 2:19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live…

Jesus gave himself for me. He died as my substitute, and as a result, I was crucified with Christ. I was condemned with him under the law, and I died. His death was my death.

About a year after writing this letter of 2 Corinthians, while Paul was in Corinth, he wrote another letter, to the church in Rome. In Romans 6 and 7 he unpacks and fleshes out this dense doctrinal statement; ‘one on behalf of all died; so the all died.’ The best commentary on Scripture is Scriture.

In Romans 6, Paul is arguing that we who have experienced God’s grace must not continue in sin.

Romans 6:2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Baptism is a picture of being plunged into the death of Jesus. We have been united to Jesus in his death. We were buried with him into death. We were immersed into his death. Therefore we have died to sin. When he took our name, he died for us, and we died with him. We have been united to him in death.

He goes on.

Romans 6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

My old sinful identity was crucified with Christ. If that person who was enslaved to sin is now dead, then the power of sin over him has been broken.

In Romans 7, Paul shows us ‘that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives’ (v.1). He uses the illustration of marriage, ’till death do us part; if the husband dies, his wife ‘ is released from the law of marriage’

Romans 7:4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. …6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, …

The law is binding only as long as I live. And in Christ’s death, I died to the law.

When Christ took my name and died for me, my identity died with him. So now I am set free from that old identity – it is dead. I am now free to assume a new identity; ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.’ (Gal.2:20). I now belong to him.

The Purpose of The Doctrine

One on behalf of all died

so the all died

and on behalf of all he died

in order that the living

no longer to themselves live

but to the one who on behalf of them died and was raised

Here we get to the purpose of the doctrine, the conclusion he draws from the truth of our death with Christ who died for us. Christ died in my place, so I died with him. He died in my place in order that I no longer live my life to myself but to him who died in my place and was raised.

If I get this, if I really understand what Jesus did for me, that he died my death, that he paid my price, that he took my name, and that my old identity died with him, then it should change the way I live. I am not my own. I was bought with a price (1Cor.6:20; 7:23). I am alive, spiritually alive, eternally alive because he died for me. I want to live my life for him, to please him. I must not live my life for me, to please me. Christ’s love constrains me, compels me. I want to live for his glory. I want to use my body, my energy, my gifts, my abilities not to please me, but him.

This is powerful. The truth – doctrine, theology is powerful! ‘You will know the truth,’ Jesus said, ‘and the truth will set you free’ (Jn.8:32). Am I tempted to lust, to look at pornography? Jesus died because of that sin; he died for me, and I died with him. I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. Jesus does not want to look with lust on another person for whom he died. His love constrains me. Do you see how powerful this truth is?

Romans 6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

This is transformational truth!

I have been hurt, I have been wronged, and I want to respond, to react in the flesh. But that flesh that I want to respond in is dead. It was crucified with Christ. Anger, animosity, bitterness, grudge-holding, gossip, revenge; that was my old identity, and it is dead. Jesus forgives those who wrong him, he does not open his mouth in his own defense, he is patient and kind. Jesus loves his enemies. He loved me!

Things haven’t gone my way. Circumstances are out of my control. I am struggling with feelings of depression or anxiety. I want to respond with my old coping mechanisms, with my old patterns of behavior. I am inclined to eat too much or drink too much or spend too much or harm myself in other ways. I am inclined to withdraw, to put up walls, to close myself in, or to snap back, to react, to lash out, to hurt others because I am hurt. But it’s not all about me. I am no longer to live to myself but for him, and for others. I am set free from the slavery of a heart turned in on itself. Jesus said ‘not my will but yours be done’.

Romans 7:4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

We have died to that which held us captive. We now belong to another, to Jesus, who was raised from the dead, and his resurrection power is at work in us. We are set free to bear fruit for God by the work of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

2 Corinthians 5:14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

So in all things we make it our aim to please him.

***

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

January 22, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 4:10-12; Death and Life Ministry

09/09_2 Corinthians 4:10-12; Death and Life Ministry; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180909_2cor4_10-12.mp3

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

We have this treasure; the treasure of the light of the good news of the glory Christ, who is the image of God; the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

We hold this treasure in fragile earthenware vessels so that the abundance of power is of God and not from us.

In everything we are severely cramped but not cornered; we are confused but not confounded, we are pursued by our enemies, but not abandoned by our God; we are even struck down to death but not eternally perishing.

Last time we looked at Jesus’ teaching in John 12

John 12:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Much fruit comes from dying. Resurrection life bursts up out of the grave. This is the way of Jesus, and this is the way of following Jesus.

The Corinthians were looking for something different in their leaders. They wanted power, prominence, popularity, persuasive speech. Paul was pressed down, perplexed, persecuted, and plain speaking. The Corinthians wanted honor but their apostle was shamefully treated. They wanted already to be treated as royalty, to live in comfort and ease (1Cor.4:8ff.). They wanted a Christianity sanitized of the cross. Paul wouldn’t comply. Instead he openly displayed his suffering. He embraced hardship. He gloried in his weakness.

Death and Life Ministry

He said ‘we are:

2 Corinthians 4:10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

We are in a death and life ministry. Ministry is characterized by affliction, persecution, inner turmoil, even death. He says it four different ways. In verse 10 he doesn’t use the usual word for death. Nekrosis; deadness or dying. The dying of Jesus. In verse 11 and 12 he uses the more typical word for death. And at the end of verse 11, he uses a derivative ‘mortal’; subject to death. We always carry around in these fragile containers the dying of Jesus.

Paul asks in Romans 8

Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

Paul is not throwing out hyperbole or hypothetical circumstances. Tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword; these are things he faced daily. He quotes Psalm 44

Romans 8:36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

Psalm 44 is a plea to God to remember his people. It is full of all the things the Corinthians would find objectionable.

Psalm 44:9 But you have rejected us and disgraced us and have not gone out with our armies. 10 You have made us turn back from the foe, and those who hate us have gotten spoil. 11 You have made us like sheep for slaughter and have scattered us among the nations. 12 You have sold your people for a trifle, demanding no high price for them. 13 You have made us the taunt of our neighbors, the derision and scorn of those around us. 14 You have made us a byword among the nations, a laughingstock among the peoples. 15 All day long my disgrace is before me, and shame has covered my face 16 at the sound of the taunter and reviler, at the sight of the enemy and the avenger.

…19 yet you have broken us in the place of jackals and covered us with the shadow of death.

…22 Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.

…24 Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? 25 For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly clings to the ground.

Rejection, disgrace, defeat, taunting, derision, scorn, a byword and a laughingstock, affliction, oppression, brokenness, death. Sheep to be slaughtered. We are killed all the day long. This is distasteful. Yet this is precisely what Jesus endured for us.

Knowing Christ Crucified

Paul had already told the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 2:2

1 Corinthians 2:2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Knowing Jesus crucified is more than knowing about the crucifixion and why he had to die. Knowing Christ crucified is identifying with him, becoming like him in his dying.

In Philippians 3, where Paul talks about the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus, he says:

Philippians 3:7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him… 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

Paul says to Timothy

2 Timothy 2:11 The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him;

Peter says

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

After the apostles were physically beaten by the religious leaders for proclaiming Jesus in Acts,

Acts 5:41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.

Paul had told the Corinthians already in chapter 1

2 Corinthians 1:5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

We share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings. The mental anguish. The emotional abuse. The physical pain. We are always carrying around in the body the dying of Jesus. We are always being given over to death. Death is at work in us. The communion of his sufferings. Take up your cross and follow me.

Purposeful Suffering

We are

2 Corinthians 4:10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

This is not meaningless suffering. This is meaningful suffering, purposeful dying. It is ‘so that.’

2 Corinthians 4:10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

Our fellowship in his sufferings is so that the life of Jesus may also be put on display in our fragile earthen bodies. Resurrection power comes out of death. The life of Jesus is shown, made manifest, made apparent, put on display. Nothing billboards the resurrection power of Jesus like suffering. When it costs nothing to follow Jesus, it can be ignored. But when someone like Darweshi, a former Imam in Uganda who gave his life to Christ, receives threats from men in his former mosque, and can no longer return home, he puts the life of Jesus on display. Someone like Ma’ruf in Pakistan, whose family has tried repeatedly to persuade him to return to Islam, even holding his wife and two children captive for 8 days, threatening to kill them; who has lost two jobs because of his Christian faith, whose heart is overflowing with gratitude for God’s care for him. Or someone who sat in my office counting the cost of following Jesus, and considered that he might end his career and lose his wife, and concluded ‘I have to follow Jesus, because Jesus is worth it.’ That puts the fact that Jesus is real, that he is alive, that he is powerful on full display. For many of you, there is a real cost for following Jesus, and that puts the life of Jesus on display in your life.

For Jesus’ Sake

2 Corinthians 4:11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

We who live; we, in whom the resurrection life of Jesus is at work, are being given over to death. This word ‘given over’ is the familiar word from the Gospels for Jesus being given over or betrayed. We are betrayed to death for Jesus’ sake.

In verse 5, we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake; serving others for Jesus’ sake. Here, ‘given over to death for Jesus’ sake.’ It is for the glory of Jesus that we proclaim Jesus, that we suffer, that we serve others.

Our intermediate aim is for the good of others, we proclaim and serve and suffer to see more people saved from their sins and enjoying relationship with Jesus. But our ultimate aim is for the sake of Jesus. We proclaim and serve and suffer ultimately to bring honor and glory to Jesus, to display the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. It is all for the sake of Jesus.

Energizing Death

Paul concludes:

2 Corinthians 4:12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Death working. Death active. Death energizing. Death the operative principle at work in us. This is a paradox. Death is the great un-doer, the final end of all work, it lays to rest, death causes all activity to cease. But here, death is working in us. Death is displaying. Death is making visible. Carrying about the dying of Jesus is putting on display the life of Jesus. Being betrayed over to death shows off the resurrection life of Jesus in these fragile earthen vessels. Death is purposeful. Suffering, affliction, death, is doing something. Death is working.

One of the unbelieving theories to explain away the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is know as the swoon theory. According to this, Jesus didn’t really die on the cross, he merely swooned or passed out and everybody thought he was dead (never mind the expert Roman executioner who thrust a spear up under his rib cage and into his heart so that blood and water gushed out). According to this theory Jesus was placed unconscious in the tomb, and the cool tomb revived him and he got up and left (never mind the 75 pounds of spices together with the linen cloths he was bound with, the several thousand pound stone rolled in place to seal the tomb, and the Roman guard standing watch). The point of this theory is to gut the resurrection of its significance. If Jesus wasn’t really dead, then he didn’t really rise from the dead. That’s what resurrection is. Only dead people can be resurrected.

That’s why Jesus waited until Lazarus was dead to come visit. It wouldn’t have been a resurrection if he came and healed him to prevent him from dying. That’s healing, but not resurrection. He said it was ‘for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it’ (Jn.11:4). It was ‘so that you may believe (Jn.11:15).

Death is working in us to display Jesus, because it is only in the context of death that resurrection life can be meaningful. So our suffering, affliction, our brokenness is producing the context in which the resurrection life of Jesus can shine most brightly.

Life in You

2 Corinthians 4:12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Paul, who shared in the sufferings of Christ and ‘count[ed] everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord’ puts the supreme value and worth of Jesus on display for all to see.

He says we are afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down. We get death; but you get the life! The resurrection power of Jesus that brings life out of death was shining through Paul’s weakness, and that light created life in the Corinthians. The staggering address of this letter: ‘to the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia’, attests to the resurrection power of Jesus at work through the hurting and broken Paul. The dying of Jesus being carried around in the frail earthen vessel that was Paul, and those who were dead in trespasses and sins, God made alive by his grace. God through the foolishness of what Paul preached, saved those who believed. Paul proclaimed Christ crucified, and his life matched his message.

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

September 12, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Baptism and Newness of Life (Romans 6)

01/14 Baptism and Walking in Newness of Life (Romans 6); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180114_baptism-new-life.mp3

We had some baptisms last Sunday, and we have a baptism today. I thought it might be helpful today to look at one of the key passages on baptism, Romans 6, to see what baptism is about, and really, this is much bigger than baptism, to see what our new life in Christ is all about, what we are to be all about.

The Strange Symbol of Baptism

If you think about baptism for a minute, it’s a weird thing. We don’t even have an English word for it; we’ve borrowed ‘baptizo’ from the Greek. It’s really a foreign thing. We have this giant bathtub in a public place (or sometimes we us a lake) where someone else bathes you in front of a bunch of other people. I can bathe myself, thank you. And I can do a better job of it too. And bathing is meant to be private. But the point is not really to get clean. Of course, we keep our clothes on, because we want it to be modest. And that’s another strange thing about it; we wear clothes to get dunked in water. If I’m going swimming, I wear a swimsuit, not my everyday clothes. And when we’re swimming together, the goal is usually not to get dunked by someone else. I don’t like it when someone pushes me under the water. But in baptism, we voluntarily let someone else dunk us.

When I was serving as a youth pastor back in Washington, our church was doing baptisms out at a beach. The pastor was out in the water, and I was on the rocky beach with my clothes on, carrying the video camera in its case, and I think a diaper bag in the other. One of the other leadership guys came up behind me and bearhugged me and picked me up and started walking toward the water. He’s a bit bigger than me. I thought he was just joking around, but I let the bags drop on the beach just in case. By the time he had me out a little more than knee deep, somehow I was able to get my leg behind his, and to both our suprise, I ended up baptizing him. It was a total immersion. The only thing that didn’t survive the incident was my cell phone.

Baptism Symbolism

Baptism is primarily a symbol; it’s an acted out picture. It is a picture of bathing or cleansing, but not dirt from the body, as 1 Peter 3:21 says, but a clean conscience before God. When we trust Jesus and his finished work for us on the cross, our sins are washed away. Baptism is an acted out picture of what happened when we believed in Jesus.

Baptism is not something we do, someone else does it to us. The one being baptized is passive. They receive baptism. They are really at the mercy of someone else. That is part of the picture too; we ‘were dead in our trespasses and sins,’ (Eph.2:1)

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him…

Titus 3:5 tells us ‘he saved us.’ Salvation is not something we do, it is something God does. He saves us.

When someone gets baptized, literally dunked in water, they come out looking different. There’s a change. If you had your hair all done up, it is going to look different coming up out of the water. Your clothes will be all wet. When Jesus comes in to a person’s life, there’s a change. It may not be as visible, but he begins to change us from the inside. And it will become visible to those around us. Baptism is a picture of that.

Romans 6

Let’s look at the text. In Romans 5 Paul is arguing that God gives those who depend on Jesus a gift they didn’t earn and don’t deserve. Jesus earned the gift, and he gives it to us freely. Adam by his disobedience earned death, and he passed that on to us. Jesus by his obedience earned justification (the verdict of ‘not guilty’) and life, and he gives that as a gift to all those who believe or trust him. The greater our sin, the more it shows off how great his grace is to cover all that sin.

In chapter 6 Paul sees a logical conclusion from this coming; ‘So if all my sin shows off the power of God’s amazing grace, then I should keep on sinning so that God’s grace is put on display even more, right?’

Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?

Pau’s answer is strong and decisive. Their premise is sound; but the conclusion does not follow.

Romans 6:2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Where sin increased, grace abounded (5:20). But it does not follow that we should increase our sinning so that grace will abound all the more. That kind of thinking overlooks the fact that if we are truly in Christ, we have died to sin. Dead people don’t do the things they used to do. Dead people don’t feel the way they used to feel, they don’t desire what they used to desire, they don’t think the way they used to think. Dead people are, well, dead. Dead people don’t get up in the morning and get dressed and brush their teeth and enjoy a cup of coffee and drive to work. Dead people stop doing what they have always done. That life is over. That’s what dead means. Paul describes us as dead and says ‘how can we?’ How can we still live in sin? ‘How can we continue in sin?’

Not Sinless Perfection

Understand he is not saying that Christians never sin. 1 John, talking to Christians, says

1 John 1:6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

Walking in darkness while claiming to have a relationship with the one who is light is inconsistent. But then he goes on to say:

1 John 1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. …10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

He goes on to say:

1 John 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

We are not to walk in darkness. We are to put to death the deeds of the darkness. We are not to make peace with the sin in our lives. But neither are we to pretend that we don’t sin. James tells us

James 3:2 For we all stumble in many ways…

By saying that we died to sin, Paul is not saying that followers of Jesus never sin again. He is saying that it is inconsistent for us to live in sin, to continue in sin, to make peace with our sin and walk in it as a lifestyle.

Thinking and Acting

Paul goes on to give us the doctrinal foundation we are to stand on. There is biblical teaching we ought to know, and it ought to impact the way we live. As followers of Jesus we are to be taught. When Jesus told his disciples to make disciples, he said they were to baptize them and teach ”them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt.28:20). There is truth we ought to know. We need to be learning, listening, reading, thinking, studying. But the goal is not just facts to fill our head. The goal is a renewed mind; new patterns of thinking that begin to shape new patterns of action. We can attempt to fight the battle against sin with our own willpower, and we will fail. Or worse yet, we will have a measure of success and become proud of ourselves. That is not God’s way. We are to be armed with truth and the word of God.

An example: The bully on the playground bulllies because it makes him feel powerful and in control. It makes him feel strong and superior to others. It makes him feel good about himself. His patterns of behavior are shaped by his beliefs. He must bully to continue to feel good about himself. His actions may make him feel good, but it is at the expense of others, and it doesn’t last. The bully might demand respect, but he never experiences love.

Jesus teaches us that true greatness is using our strength and resources to love and serve others for their good. If the bully learns that there is a deeper and richer and lasting satisfaction in selflessly serving for the good of others, if he begins to experience the joy of selflessness; not serving to feed his own ego and make himself feel better (this is subtle and dangerous), but ultimately serving to please God, really and truly loving God and loving others, this new truth will begin to shape new actions.

Paul says there is truth you must know that will begin to shape who you are.

United with Christ in Death

Romans 6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Paul is pointing to the picture of baptism and the truth it displays. The word ‘baptize’ means ‘to immerse in, to plunge or dunk.’ When you are immersed in water, you are connected with the water. You are surrounded by and covered with the water. Water is a good conductor of electricity. If things aren’t wired properly and a microphone is dropped in the water, the electricity will pass through the water and through you if you are in the water. By believing in Jesus, we are immersed into Jesus, we become connected with Jesus, covered by Jesus, surrounded by Jesus. When we are dunked in water, we get wet. When we are plunged into Jesus by faith, we get Jesus all over. We are united with Jesus. There is a real connection with Jesus. And part of that connection is a connection with his death and resurrection. Because he died, and we are united with him, ‘we were buried with him by baptism into death. Because he didn’t stay dead, and we are connected to him, ‘just as Christ was raised from the dead, …we too might walk in newness of life.’

He goes on to point to this unity:

Romans 6:5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.

Here he gets explicit. We were crucifed. Crucified with Christ. Jesus died a real death. A shameful death. He didn’t die of natural causes; he was executed publicly as a criminal. They buried him because he was dead. The soldiers made certain of that. We are united with him in death; our old self was crucified with him. The guilty sinful you was executed. If the old you was executed as a criminal, then it is dead. Buried. Gone. ‘Brought to nothing.’ Powerless. And if the sinful you is dead, then you are set free from sin.

You see how this works? The wages of sin is death, and God’s law requires your death. If you have really been united with Christ in his death, crucified with Christ, if the sinful you has been executed, then that legal demand has been satisfied. The greatest penalty a human court can issue is the death penalty. Someone sentenced to 30 years who dies two years into his sentence is not forced to serve the remaining 28. He is released. The law has been satisfied. The word in verse 7 translated ‘set free’ is really the word ‘justified’. He is released from his sins’ legal demands. The penalty has been paid.

United with Christ in Life

Romans 6:8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.

This connection with Jesus is not limited to his death, but it extends to his resurrection. Our old self is dead. The penalty has been paid. But Jesus didn’t stay dead. He rose! He will never die again. Death has no claim on him. He died to sin, and in him we died. He lives to God, and in him we live. We no longer live to sin, we are dead to that. We live to God, to please God, to enjoy God, to be in the presence of God.

Here he brings us back around to his original question. “How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

Truth That Shapes Us

This is the truth you must know. Baptism is a picture of this. Believing in Jesus connects us with Jesus, immerses us into Jesus. His death becomes our death. We enter in to his resurrection life.

This is the truth we must know, and it must shape who we are.

Romans 6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Truth, teaching, new patterns of thinking and believing lead to new patterns of living. This is what is true of you in Jesus. Consider it so! When temptation comes, I don’t feel very dead to sin. I actually feel quite alive to it! I think I could get a great deal of satisfaction out of that. This is when I need to preach the gospel to myself. Rodney, you’re dead to that! Jesus died for that, and you died with him. Picture the granite with my name chiseled into it. Picture the dirt, hear the flies buzzing, smell the stench. Dead, buried, rotting, decayed, I am dead to that! I can get no pleasure out of that. That guy that used to enjoy that was executed, nailed to a cross!

Truth requires a response from me. I am alive to God in Christ Jesus. Sin’s power is broken. I am under no obligation to be controlled by its desires. My body is a tool. My hands, my eyes, my mouth, a tool. I can do great harm with my words. I can allow my eyes to lead me into sin. But that is not what I was made for. I am dead to that. I am alive to God. My body is a tool to glorify God., to enjoy God. I am united with Christ; I am alive to God. I can enjoy intimacy with God. I can walk in the light, sins forgiven, in the presence of God. I can walk in a new kind of life, the abundant life. A resurrection kind of life.

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

January 22, 2018 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 1:17-19; Making Plans and the Promises of God

11/19 2 Corinthians 1:17-19; Making Plans and the Promises of God ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20171119_2cor1_17-19.mp3

2 Corinthians 1:14 …—that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you.

15 Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace. 16 I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea. 17 Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? 18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.

Paul had changed his travel plans more than once. Paul is answering the accusation that he makes his plans lightly, according to the flesh. How does Paul make his plans? How should we make plans? And how ought we to answer those who seek to discredit us?

How Paul Makes Plans

In verse 15, Paul speaks of his will or his purpose; ‘I wanted,’ or ‘I purposed to come to you first.’ Here in verse 17, he uses forms of this word purpose three more times; ‘This my purpose therefore was not in lightness or fickleness toward you; or what I purpose is it according to the flesh that I purpose?’ Paul’s purpose, his will, his resolve is being questioned. He answers that his purpose was not by the lightness toward you. He uses the definite article ‘the‘ probably referring to the word he had heard they had used of him. Paul is fickle; he vacillates. My plans toward you are not by the vacillation you accuse me of. This word translated ‘vacillating’ literally means light as opposed to weighty. We might say his plans are up in the air, being tossed back and forth. Paul starts by addressing the alleged lightness of his plans, and he brings us back around at the end of verse 20 to the glory of God, glory in the Old Testament being weightiness or heaviness; gravity. Paul’s plans are not unsubstantial or fluffy; rather they are designed to draw attention to the weightiness of God.

Jesus and James and Oaths

‘Or what I purpose is it according to the flesh that I purpose?’ In Paul, the flesh is frequently contrasted to the Spirit. Are plans made according to fleshly human wisdom, or are they made by the guidance of God’s Spirit? Numbers 23 says:

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

It would be merely human wisdom that would make plans and say yes, yes, and then change to no, no.

Why the double yes and the double no? This is actually an echo of what Jesus said in Matthew 5.

Matthew 5:33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

Literally, Jesus says ‘let your word be Yes, yes; No, no.’ Jesus is not teaching that we can never take oaths; rather he is saying we ought to be plain and straightforward with what we say. In Matthew 23:16-22 Jesus gives us a clue as to the background of what he says. He lets us know that the Pharisees were saying:

Matthew 23:16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’

This was a way to make it sound like you were taking an oath but to leave yourself an out. It is this kind of oath taking that was intended to deceive that Jesus is against. A simple yes should suffice. To make it emphatic, he allows a ‘yes, yes.’ James picks this up.

James 5:12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

Paul’s words match James here exactly; ‘the yes, yes and the no, no.’ It seems that Paul is being accused of making a firm promise, He spoke the ‘yes, yes I am coming to visit’ and turned that into the ‘no no.’ ‘Yes, yes I care about you; No, no you’re not important to me.’ Paul says the Yes, yes and the No, no. His words sound strong, but they are wind. He doesn’t mean what he says. We can’t believe what he says. He’s not to be trusted. He’s fleshly.

How do you answer an accusation like that? His character is being undermined. It was true that he changed his plans. How do you defend the sincerity of your words, in a letter, with words?

God’s Faithfulness and God’s Son

Paul points them to the faithfulness of God. ‘As surely as God is faithful.’ Paul swears by the faithfulness of God; he draws attention to God’s faithfulness, he puts God’s faithfulness on center stage. His own faithfulness is derivative and dependent on God’s own prior faithfulness. He can be faithful only because God has been unwaveringly faithful to him.

‘But faithful is God, because the word of us to you is not yes and no.’ Paul here makes a play on words. He refers to the Logos, the Word from John 1:1. The content of Paul’s preaching, Paul’s word is the Word made flesh; Jesus Christ and him crucified. ‘The word from us to you is not yes and no, because Jesus was not yes and no’

He makes this explicit in the next verse; ‘For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed.’ Our word is not yes and no, because Jesus, the incarnate Word is not yes and no. Our proclamation, our word is the Word, and our proclamation of the Word must match the character of the divine Word made flesh.

‘For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed.’ The emphasis here is on God; ‘For the of God Son Jesus Christ.’ Jesus is God’s Son.

This is the only time in 2 Corinthians that Jesus is referred to as the Son of God. And packed into this little phrase is the gospel. In Romans 1:9, Paul can summarize the gospel as ‘the gospel of his Son.’ When Saul was converted, according to Acts 9,

Acts 9:20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”

God made this promise to David:

2 Samuel 7:12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.

God promised David that he would be a Father to one of David’s sons, who would be a king forever. Jesus, son of David is the only begotten Son of God. God loved the world in this way, that he gave his only Son; he sent his preexistent Son into the world; we must believe in the only Son of God (Jn.3:16-18)

Romans 8:3 For God … By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,

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

This identity as the Son, we see is connected with something troubling if we look back to 2 Samuel 7

2 Samuel 7:14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you.

This coming Son of God is a suffering servant, we learn from Isaiah, who suffers for our iniquities, not his own. Jesus was the Son who always did what pleased the Father (Jn.8:29); “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt.17:5; cf.3:17). The beloved son imagery is a thread that runs through the story of the Old Testament, from the righteous Abel killed by his brother, the promised son Isaac to be offered as a sacrifice, Jacob who must flee for his life, the favored son Joseph sold by his brothers into slavery, even to chosen Israel, who suffered in bondage before being rescued. This all points to Jesus, the beloved Son, well pleasing to his Father, who is betrayed, rejected, crucified, made to be sin for us. In Corinth, Paul determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1Cor.2:2).

Paul’s Plans and the Grace of God

Paul had said back in verse 12 that he conducted himself with the simplicity and sincerity that comes from God; that he conducted himself not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God. Here he unpacks what it means to live and make plans by the grace of God.

2 Corinthians 1:18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes.

‘God’s Son Jesus Christ, who in you through us was proclaimed, through me and Silvanus and Timothy’. The Corinthians heard the message of the Son of God through the testimony of these three witnesses; Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy. Christ came to be in them, dwelling in their hearts through faith because Christ was proclaimed through these faithful servants. They did not come in power and persuasive speech, but their lives were shaped like Jesus, suffering, rejected, imprisoned, mistreated, beaten. This is what it looked like to live by the grace of God. God’s grace comes to us in the form of a crucified Jesus. God’s grace is communicated to us through the proclamation of his suffering servants.

1 Corinthians 1:20 …Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. …23 but we preach Christ crucified, …25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

The Corinthians wanted strength and poise. But God’s grace comes in apparent weakness and foolishness. Yes I am coming to you in strength; no I am weak; yes I have a powerful message; no it is the foolishness of Christ crucified.

The Yes of God

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

Jesus did not become yes and no. In him the Yes has come to be. God’s yes has come into existence in Jesus. Things are not always as they seem. Jesus was despised and rejected. He came to his own, but his own did not receive him (Jn.1:11). Is there any room for him in the inn? No. He was betrayed by a friend, arrested, falsely accused, mistreated, condemned, crucified. Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews? NO! My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? A resounding ‘NO!’ But it is in this No that God’s yes to us is concealed. God said no to Jesus so he could say yes to us. Father, if it is possible let this cup pass from me. God said No to Jesus, so he would never have to say No to us! Jesus took the no, the disapproval, the wrath of God for us. Jesus endured the no of his Father so that we could enjoy his yes. In him the Yes has come to be! As many promises of God as there are, the Yes is in him!

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

November 19, 2017 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 17:10-16; Atonement by The Blood

10/16 Leviticus 17:10-16; Atonement by Blood; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20161016_leviticus-17_10-16.mp3

Leviticus chapter 17 is a chapter dealing with blood. Leviticus is a bloody book. All this focus on blood is a reminder that I am a sinner, and that the wages of my sin is death. Central to chapter 17 is verse 11, which gives one of the clearest statements of the reason behind the whole sacrificial system. Looking at an outline of this chapter we see that verse 11 is the central statement about God’s gift of blood to make atonement for life. The beginning of the chapter prohibits sacrificial bloodshed to other gods or away from God’s one sanctuary. The end of the chapter prohibits eating meat not properly drained of blood. The center section gives the purpose of blood to make atonement

17:1-7 no blood sacrifices to false gods

-17:8-9 no blood sacrifices away from the sanctuary

—17:10 no blood consumption

—->17:11 blood given for atonement

—17:12 no blood consumption

-17:13-14 no blood consumption from hunted animals

17:15-16 no blood consumption from dead animals

Last week we looked at the first section of this chapter; the dangerous draw of idolatry, and the exclusive nature of God; that he alone is to be worshiped and only in the way he has proscribed. Today we will look at the rest of the chapter.

10 “If any one of the house of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people. 11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life. 12 Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, No person among you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger who sojourns among you eat blood. 13 “Any one also of the people of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn among them, who takes in hunting any beast or bird that may be eaten shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth. 14 For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off. 15 And every person who eats what dies of itself or what is torn by beasts, whether he is a native or a sojourner, shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening; then he shall be clean. 16 But if he does not wash them or bathe his flesh, he shall bear his iniquity.”

Blood is a Big Deal

This prohibition against eating blood is not new. This came all the way back in Genesis 9, where God first gave man permission to eat meat from animals. After Noah and his family left the ark and offered burnt offerings to the Lord,

Genesis 9:1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. 2 The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. 6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.

All the way back in Genesis, life is equated with blood. The shedding of blood is the taking of a life. Verse 10 gives the penalty for eating blood, and it is severe. That person shall be cut off from his people. This applies to both the native Israelite and the sojourner dwelling among them. This is the same penalty attached in verse 4 to offering peace offerings outside the tabernacle. Verse 4 credits the person with bloodguilt who has shed sacrificial animal blood to another deity away from the tabernacle. God considers idolatry as serious as murder. Verse 9 attaches the same penalty to offering burnt offerings or any other sacrifice outside the tabernacle. Here in verse 10, God makes it personal.

Leviticus 17:10 …I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people.

God says he personally will set his face against that person, he will do the cutting off. There’s a lot of things I would like to avoid in life, lots of things that don’t sound very pleasant, but I can think of nothing worse than having the sovereign, omnipotent, everywhere present, all wise, all good, loving God set his face against me. God takes the handling of blood very seriously. He personally will see to it that disregard of the value of blood will be punished.

Verses 13-14 extend this penalty to the blood of non-sacrificial wild game. The Israelite may hunt and eat game, but he may not eat the blood. It must be poured out on the ground and covered with earth. Verses 15-16 warn of the danger of eating animals that have not been killed in the proper way so as to drain the blood. Meat that has not been properly butchered is likely to retain more of the blood in it, and thus makes the person who eats it unclean until evening. This is not as blatant or willful an act of disobedience as that of eating blood, so it carries a lesser penalty.

Why such a big deal about blood? Why such severe penalties attached to blood consumption and misappropriation of blood? Genesis 9 makes the connection between life and blood, and issues the death penalty for anyone who sheds the lifeblood of another. The penalty is life for life, because man is made in the image of God, and God cares about his creation. God is the living God, the eternal God, and the death of his image bearer misrepresents him. God takes our lives seriously, because he takes himself seriously. He takes the life he gave seriously. In Genesis 2 he ‘breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature’ (v.7).

Life in Hebrew thought is tied to breath, spirit, wind – that invisible, immaterial essence that animates; and blood – the physical, tangible, visible thing that sustains life. Medically we understand something about how these two are related, and if you’ve ever taken CPR or first aid, you know that the most basic signs of life are pulse and breathing.

Atonement and Substitution; Life for Life

Here in Leviticus life is connected with blood as the visible tangible gift that makes atonement.

11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.

There is a symmetry in these verses that is clouded by our English translation. The same Hebrew word ‘nephesh’ can be translated ‘life, soul, or person’ depending on the context. This word shows up three times in verse 11, and also once each in verses 10 and 12.

10 …I will set my face against that person [nephesh]who eats blood…

-11 For the life [nephesh]of the flesh is in the blood,

–and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls [nephesh]

-for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life [nephesh]

12 …No person [nephesh] among you shall eat blood…

The pivotal statement in verse 11 is God’s gift of blood on the altar to make atonement for your person, your soul, your life. That statement is bracketed on either side by a statement about the ‘nephesh’ being connected to the blood, and bracketed again in verses 10 and 12 by statements about the ‘nephesh’ who eats blood. In the very structure of the passage, we see that the person who sins is atoned for by the ‘nephesh’ of another. A life for a life; a life poured out is substituted for a life that has sinned. This transaction is a transaction in blood.

It would serve us well to meditate on each phrase of this central statement.

11 …I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls…

Blood sacrifice is first of all a gift. It is a gift of God. God says in the first person “I have given it.” God takes the initiative. God is the giver. This is grace; a gift freely given by a gracious God. A gift by definition is undeserved, unmerited. We are sinners, and what we deserve, what we can justly demand, what we have right to is death. The wages of sin is death. Anything else is purely a gift of God, far beyond, in fact contrary to, what we deserve or can justly lay claim to. This is a gracious gift from God.

I have given it for you.” This gift has an intended recipient. This is not a gift, neatly wrapped, left on a park bench for no one in particular. It is a gift from someone, and it is a gift to someone. To you! God has you, by name, in mind. This is a personal gift to you.

It is given “on the altar.” There is a specific place where this gift is given. There is one way. This gift does not come any way we like. Not just anything anywhere. This is narrow and specific. It is not up to us to determine. We are not at liberty to say ‘I don’t like blood – it makes me squeamish. How about whipped cream?’ God has divinely decreed how atonement will be made. We can accept or reject his gift, but we cannot make up different terms for the agreement. God is the offended party, and it is his to determine what he will accept and in what way he will accept it.

It is given “to make atonement.” It is not given to make us feel better. A relationship has been severed that must be restored. Our sins have offended a holy God and they must be covered. God is a just judge, and his justice must be satisfied. The wages of sin is death and a death must occur.

It is given “for your souls.” Blood is given to make atonement for your life, for your person. What a gift! You have sinned and you deserve to die. But the blood of a substitute is given to take your place! A life is laid down to save your life!

11 …I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls…

The Blood Of Jesus

Of course this points beyond the animal sacrifice of the Levitical system to the fulfillment in Jesus, the ultimate, final, infinitely valuable, once for all sacrifice.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Jesus is God the Father’s ultimate gift to us. Galatians 1:4 says that Jesus “gave himself for our sins.” Galatians 2:20 says that “the Son of God …loved me and gave himself for me.” The context makes it clear that this giving himself refers to the crucifixion. Ephesians 5:2 tells us that “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” What a gift! What grace!

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. …

Sinners justified, redeemed, propitiated; declared not guilty but righteous, purchased out of the slave market, God’s righteous hatred of sin appeased. How? By his blood.

Romans 5:9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

Justified, saved from God’s wrath by his blood.

Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,

Redemption, forgiveness, through Jesus’ blood; rich, extravagant grace! Ephesians 2:13 says that we were “brought near by the blood of Christ.” Colossians 1:20 says that he reconciled us to himself “making peace by the blood of his cross.” Hebrews 10:19 says “we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus.” Hebrews 13:12 says that Jesus sanctifies us “through his own blood.” 1 Peter 1:18-19 tells us we “were ransomed …with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” 1 John 1:7 declares that “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” Revelation 1:5 says that Jesus “has freed us from our sins by his blood.” Revelation 7:14 says that the saints “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

So what’s the big deal about blood? Why so much talk about blood? Why such a focus on the cross? “I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls.” Blood is sacred. It is a gift. It is to be treated with care. It is not to be put to common use.

Leviticus 17 and Acts 15

It is interesting, at the Jerusalem council in Acts 15, where circumcision of Gentile converts was the big issue, this issue of blood comes up. The conclusion of the debate was:

Acts 15:19 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.

Is this a requirement for us to eat Kosher today? It certainly does underline the value of blood. But the reason given is:

Acts 15:21 For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”

This seems to be a Romans 14 or 1 Corinthians 10 reason; not to put us under specific parts of the law as an obligation, but rather to avoid giving unnecessary offense to those of Jewish background. There’s a lot of sin forbidden elsewhere in the New Testament that’s not on this list. But all the things listed would specifically be connected to idolatrous worship practices that were common in that day.

Drink My Blood

Leviticus 17 for the Jew would make consumption of any blood utterly repulsive and offensive. This would make Jesus’ teaching after feeding the five thousand so startling.

John 6:53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.

Jesus came to be the life giving bread from heaven. He invites us to feed on him. To drink his blood. Jesus is taking Leviticus 17 and transforming it and making it new. On the one hand, do not treat my blood as common or ordinary; on the other hand, connect with me, take me in, draw life from my sacrifice. In Leviticus, blood was applied to the altar in the tabernacle. In the New Covenant, the blood is applied inside us, the new temple, making holy the dwelling place of God.

At his final meal with his disciples,

Matthew 26:26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Jesus’ blood, the blood of the New Covenant, poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls. Freely given. For you. Grace that was greater than all our sin. Drink of it, all of you! Take it in! Live! Jesus died so you might live!

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

October 17, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 15:1-3 The Gospel of the Cross

03/22 1 Corinthians 15:1-3 The Gospel of the Cross; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150322_1cor15_1-3.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

1 Γνωρίζω δὲ ὑμῖν, ἀδελφοί, τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ὃ εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖν, ὃ καὶ παρελάβετε, ἐν ᾧ καὶ ἑστήκατε, 2 δι’ οὗ καὶ σῴζεσθε, τίνι λόγῳ εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖν, εἰ κατέχετε, ἐκτὸς εἰ μὴ εἰκῇ ἐπιστεύσατε. 3 Παρέδωκα γὰρ ὑμῖν ἐν πρώτοις, ὃ καὶ παρέλαβον, ὅτι Χριστὸς ἀπέθανεν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν κατὰ τὰς γραφάς, 4 καὶ ὅτι ἐτάφη, καὶ ὅτι ἐγήγερται τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ κατὰ τὰς γραφάς, 5 καὶ ὅτι ὤφθη Κηφᾷ, εἶτα τοῖς δώδεκα· 6 ἔπειτα ὤφθη ἐπάνω πεντακοσίοις ἀδελφοῖς ἐφάπαξ, ἐξ ὧν οἱ πλείονες μένουσιν ἕως ἄρτι, τινὲς δὲ ἐκοιμήθησαν· 7 ἔπειτα ὤφθη Ἰακώβῳ, εἶτα τοῖς ἀποστόλοις πᾶσιν· 8 ἔσχατον δὲ πάντων ὡσπερεὶ τῷ ἐκτρώματι ὤφθη κἀμοί.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

We are in the final major section of 1 Corinthians. Chapter 15 deals with probably the most crucial theological issue the church in Corinth faced. And thank God, because we have in this chapter a treasury of teaching on the resurrection. What he teaches here, as he says in verse 3, is of first importance. Paul has truly saved the best ’till last. This is essential. This is of first importance.

Making the Gospel Known

Paul is going to make something known to them. We have it translated ‘I would remind you’, because we find in the rest of verse 1 that they had already heard it, they received it, and they were standing in it. So it is a reminder, but literally Paul says ‘now I make known to you, brothers’, as if they didn’t really know it, hadn’t ever heard it, didn’t really understand it. In the first chapters of this letter, we see that the Corinthians prided themselves on what they knew. They were proud of their wisdom. Paul has asked them 10 times in the course of this letter ‘do you not know?’ a question that assumes that there are basic fundamental things that they ought to know, that by their actions they are demonstrating that they are acting out of sync with, demonstrating that they do not know them. Here he is going to make something known to them that they ought to know. He is going to tell them something that he assumes that they do know, at least on a level. But sometimes when we think we know something, we do not yet know as we ought to know. So to those of us who think we know this already, I would invite us to listen afresh to what Paul wants to make known to us. Maybe we do not yet know as we ought to know. He is going to make known the gospel.

He asked toward the end of the previous chapter

1 Corinthians 14:36 Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached?

They were acting as if the word of God, the gospel came from them and was for only them, as if they were entitled to re-define the gospel any way they like. But the gospel did not originate with them. The gospel does not terminate on them. The gospel is not all about you. The gospel is so much bigger than you. Everything he has said on every issue he has addressed is rooted in and grows out of a proper understanding of the gospel. The gospel literally changes everything. So Paul, here at the close of this letter, is going to preach the gospel to the church. He is going to make known to the believers the good news.

He prefaces his proclamation of the gospel message with their history with the gospel.

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

The gospel (or evangel) is good news. It is a good message. A joyous proclamation. A positive pronouncement. This gospel is the good news that he preached to the Corinthians. We have record of this in Acts chapter 18. He is making know to them the evangel with which he evangelized them. (We will look at the content of this evangel or gospel in a few minutes). This gospel message they received. They not only heard the message, they identified with it, they took it in. They received it to themselves.

But this is not a message that once heard, can be merely tucked away in the memory banks like a good joke. ‘Have you heard the one about Sven and Ollie and the outhouse? No, I don’t think I have, tell it to me. Well it goes like this… Oh yes, I have heard that one. How does the punch line go again?’ The gospel is not like that. The gospel is a message to be received, and it is a message to stand on like a building stands on its foundation. This is a message that is foundational, that I build my life on, that defines everything I am and do. Everything I think and feel and do is shaped by this message. The fact that I am standing and have not fallen is due entirely to this message.

This is a message they were being saved by. The word ‘saved’ means to be rescued, to be delivered, to be healed, to be made whole. This message is in the process of fixing what is broke in me. Are you being saved by the gospel? Today? Is it penetrating your deepest hurts, fixing what is wrong with you? Healing what is broke in you? The gospel is a message that transforms. How is the gospel saving you today?

Warning

There is an ‘if’. And the ‘if’ is there as a warning to us. There is an ‘if’ and an ‘unless’. You received the gospel, are standing in the gospel, being transformed by the gospel, if you hold fast to the word. Not being transformed, not standing fast in the gospel, is evidence of believing in vain, a worthless, empty kind of believing that gains nothing. Jesus warned repeatedly of this danger in his parables. He told of different soils that the word of God penetrated. Along the path the gospel did not penetrate at all, and the evil one snatched it away. On rocky ground it seemed to spring up quickly, but when persecution came that one quickly fell away. Among the thorns it seemed to take root, but was choked out by the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches. Good soil hears and understands, endures affliction, is not choked out by other desires, and bears much fruit (Matthew 13). Jesus warned that immediately after sowing good seed in the field, an enemy sowed weeds in the field, and they will grow up together. In the end by their fruits they shall be known. There is a real possibility that among those who claim to believe the gospel, among those who claim to follow Jesus, there are some, maybe many, who are trusting in a false gospel, who are not holding fast to the true gospel, who are standing in and being transformed by the gospel, and it will be empty and worthless. It will get them nothing. In Jesus’ parables:

Matthew 13:49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

But Paul believes better about his readers. He calls them brothers. And he is eager to make sure by preaching the gospel to them again.

1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

This is the gospel message. It consists of two main points. Christ died and he was raised from the dead. And the two sub-points confirm the two main points. He was buried -demonstrating that he was really and truly dead; and he appeared – demonstrating that he was really and truly raised from the dead. We will focus on the first point this morning.

1 Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared…

Notice, the ‘that’ness of the gospel. It is a message entrusted to be passed on, and it is a message of facts. That Christ died, that he was buried, that he was raised, that he appeared. The gospel is an historical factual message rooted in real events that really happened.

This, remember, is a message of first importance. This is the number one thing. The way Paul says this ‘I delivered to you what I also received’ is a formal way of saying that he had been entrusted with a message that he was responsible to pass on faithfully. He used this same wording back in chapter 11 referring to the Lord’s supper.

1 Corinthians 11:23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 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.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

This, by the way, is the theological reason we choose to remember the Lord’s supper every week. The gospel, the message of the Lord’s death and resurrection, is a message we must cling to, stand in, and be transformed by. It is a message we must always keep in focus and never lose sight of. Communion is the way Jesus commands us to ‘proclaim’ to ourselves, to each other, and to the world ‘the Lord’s death until he comes’. Like the Lord’s supper, the gospel is something with which the apostle was entrusted and he faithfully entrusts it to us.

What is the message of the good news that we are to stand in?

1 Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried,

Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. That is the essence of the gospel. This contains the identity of Jesus. He was the Christ, the Messiah, the promised, anointed one, the divine King who would sit forever on David’s throne. It contains the historical fact. Christ died. He was crucified by the Romans outside of Jerusalem. It contains the theological reason ‘for our sins’. And it contains the fulfillment of scriptural anticipation. It was ‘according to the Scriptures’.

If we look back at the beginning of this letter, Paul began by emphasizing the gospel message. He says in

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

The gospel message is the word of the cross, the cross of Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

The gospel Paul preached is Christ the power and wisdom of God; Christ crucified. He says in chapter 2

1 Corinthians 2:1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

The gospel, the cross of Christ, the word of the cross, Christ crucified, Jesus Christ and him crucified. Here at the end of the letter, Paul says it is of first importance that Christ died for our sins. Like bookends, he begins and ends with the message of the cross. Christ died for our sins. The reason the divine Messiah King who will rule and reign forever, whose kingdom will never end, the reason he died, was ‘for our sins’. He did not die for his own sins; he was perfect. He did not die because things didn’t go his way; he was in absolute control. His death was no accident, it was for something. He died on my behalf. He died as a substitute. He died to satisfy the demands of sovereign justice against all my offenses. Christ died for our sins. I am standing in the gospel and being saved by the gospel because the cross of Christ continues to point out my issues and my brokenness and my self-centeredness and my need.

In Accordance With The Scriptures

1 Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,

What Scriptures? All of them! Jesus said:

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,

Jesus said in:

Matthew 26:24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

Matthew 26:52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” …56 But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.

Luke 22:37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.”

Before going up to Jerusalem,

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

After his resurrection, Jesus met two of his disciples on the road:

Luke 24:25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Then to all his disciples:

Luke 24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

We could go back to the writings of Moses where God promises at the very beginning after man disobeyed that the seed of the woman would be crushed by the serpent, but would ultimately crush the serpent’s head. We see Abraham sacrifice his only son, the one all the promises are to come through. We see the deliverance of God’s people from slavery by the sacrifice of the Passover lamb. We see all the sacrifices and the high priest entering the holy place with blood to satisfy God’s wrath. We feel the need for the perfect prophet, priest and king. We cry out with Job for a mediator and with Ruth for a kinsman redeemer. We see disobedient Israel who will go into exile, but one day will be restored as an obedient son.

We could point to specific passages like Psalm 22 and Isaiah 50-53 which graphically portray the crucifixion hundreds of years prior to the event:

Psalm 22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?

…6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. 7 All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; 8 “He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

…14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; 15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. 16 For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet— 17 I can count all my bones— they stare and gloat over me; 18 they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.

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 52:14 As many were astonished at you— his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—

Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 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. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Jesus is the one who bore our griefs, carried our sorrows, who was smitten by God, pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, chastised to bring us peace, wounded to bring us healing; the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all, he was cut off and stricken for the transgression of my people, crushed by the Lord to make an offering for guilt, his anguish satisfies God’s wrath, he bears our iniquities and we are counted righteous in him, he bore the sin of many and makes intercession for me.

The good news is the word of the cross, the message of Jesus Christ and him crucified, ‘that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures’. We must hear and believe this and receive this as good news, cling to it alone as our only hope, stand firm in it, hold fast to it, be transformed by it, allow it to define us, to expose our brokenness and need, to bring healing and rescue and wholeness.

Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared…

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

March 22, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 2:10-13; Spirit Revealed Wisdom

04/28 I Corinthians 2:10-13 Spirit Revealed Wisdom; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130428_1cor2_10-13.mp3

1Cor 2 [SBLGNT]

6 Σοφίαν δὲ λαλοῦμεν ἐν τοῖς τελείοις, σοφίαν δὲ οὐ τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου οὐδὲ τῶν ἀρχόντων τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου τῶν καταργουμένων· 7 ἀλλὰ λαλοῦμεν θεοῦ σοφίαν ἐν μυστηρίῳ, τὴν ἀποκεκρυμμένην, ἣν προώρισεν ὁ θεὸς πρὸ τῶν αἰώνων εἰς δόξαν ἡμῶν· 8 ἣν οὐδεὶς τῶν ἀρχόντων τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου ἔγνωκεν, εἰ γὰρ ἔγνωσαν, οὐκ ἂν τὸν κύριον τῆς δόξης ἐσταύρωσαν· 9 ἀλλὰ καθὼς γέγραπται· Ἃ ὀφθαλμὸς οὐκ εἶδεν καὶ οὖς οὐκ ἤκουσεν καὶ ἐπὶ καρδίαν ἀνθρώπου οὐκ ἀνέβη, ὅσα ἡτοίμασεν ὁ θεὸς τοῖς ἀγαπῶσιν αὐτόν.

10 ἡμῖν γὰρ ἀπεκάλυψεν ὁ θεὸς διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος, τὸ γὰρ πνεῦμα πάντα ἐραυνᾷ, καὶ τὰ βάθη τοῦ θεοῦ. 11 τίς γὰρ οἶδεν ἀνθρώπων τὰ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου εἰ μὴ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ ἀνθρώπου τὸ ἐν αὐτῷ; οὕτως καὶ τὰ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐδεὶς ἔγνωκεν εἰ μὴ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ. 12 ἡμεῖς δὲ οὐ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ κόσμου ἐλάβομεν ἀλλὰ τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ, ἵνα εἰδῶμεν τὰ ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ χαρισθέντα ἡμῖν· 13 ἃ καὶ λαλοῦμεν οὐκ ἐν διδακτοῖς ἀνθρωπίνης σοφίας λόγοις, ἀλλ’ ἐν διδακτοῖς πνεύματος, πνευματικοῖς πνευματικὰ συγκρίνοντες.

1Cor 2 [ESV2011]

6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

Paul is addressing problems in the church in Corinth. Primary among their problems was their divisiveness over who followed whom. This divisiveness was rooted in a prideful desire to be thought wise, so Paul addresses head on the issue of wisdom. This word ‘wisdom’ appears 51 times in the New Testament, 16 of those are in these first three chapters of 1 Corinthians. That is over 31% of the usage of this word ‘wisdom’ concentrated into this section. Out of the 20 times the adjective ‘wise’ is used, half of them are right here in these first three chapters. The Corinthian believers are enamored by what is popular, what is fashionable, what is considered wisdom in the world. Who, after all, wants to be thought a fool? Who wants to be set aside, rejected, considered irrelevant? We all naturally seek the approval of others. But Paul puts this wisdom in an eternal context. What the world considers wise and sophisticated when viewed from the eternal perspective is only so much rubbish on the trash heap of yesterday’s news. From God’s perspective man’s wisdom is doomed to pass away. Worse yet, the rulers of this age who are pushing their wisdom are doomed to pass away (2:6). God has set himself against man’s wisdom. He says ‘I will destroy; I will thwart (1:19); I will make it foolish (1:20); I will shame the wise (1:27); I will bring it to nothing (1:28) so that no human being might boast in the presence of God (1:29).

God’s Hidden Wisdom

God says that man’s wisdom has failed to know the one thing that is most important. Man’s wisdom is bankrupt in achieving the one thing that really matters; the one thing that will matter for all eternity. The world did not know God through wisdom (1:21). Man’s wisdom can never lead to a right relationship with our Creator. So the foolishness of God is wiser than men. God’s wisdom has not been discovered by the investigation of man; eye has not seen. God’s wisdom has not been discovered by paying careful attention to what can be known in the world; ear has not heard. God’s wisdom cannot be uncovered by the power of human reason; it has not entered into the heart of man. God’s wisdom is beyond all human capacity to find out. Not because it is too tricky or complex or confusing; but because it is too foolish, too simple, to basic for it to possibly be the thing that leads us into a right relationship with our Creator. What is this secret wisdom that God decreed before the ages, that God prepared for those who love him? What is this divine wisdom that shames the wise and brings to nothing the things that exist so that no one may boast in the presence of God? It is the folly of what we preach. It is the message of the cross, of Christ crucified, the gospel. The thing that no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, the thing that God decreed before the ages for our glory and has prepared for those who love him is the cross where his own Son was sacrificed as a substitute. The wisdom of God is the scandalous message of a crucified King.

Hidden Wisdom Revealed

This was hidden in the Old Testament. God had revealed enough so that Adam or Abraham or Aaron could understand that they were sinful and separated from God, and that God was the only one who could save, and trust that God would somehow provide a substitute that could make satisfaction for sins. But now the cross is a historical event. The apostolic preaching of Christ crucified for sinners is recorded for us clearly in the New Testament. And yet many still do not believe. The cross of Christ is still hidden wisdom. There may be some here this morning to whom the bible is still a closed book. It is just another piece of religious literature that teaches moral principles of being nice to others and obeying the golden rule. It is a religious rule book of things God expects his people to do. They miss the good news of the gospel. Others understand clearly the facts of the gospel and could even communicate them clearly to others. But to them Christ crucified is not attractive, not compelling, it holds no power. How can this be? It is because ‘to us God has revealed them through the Spirit’. How is it that the foolish message of a crucified Messiah suddenly becomes the power and wisdom of God that saves believers? How is it that the gospel becomes to us the best news we have ever heard or will ever hear? How is it that the cross becomes not just a historical event that we believe took place long ago, but a power that begins to transform us from the inside out? No credit can go to us for our superior wisdom or insight, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. To us, us who are being saved as opposed to those who are perishing, to us whom God chose in order to shame the wise, to us who are mature or perfect, who have been given God’s wisdom, in contrast to the rulers of this age who in their ignorance crucified the Lord of glory. To us God has revealed; God took the initiative. I would never have experienced the power of the gospel unless God had unleashed it on me. This is something hidden that only God could make known. How does this happen? How does God reveal the gospel to us? Verse 10 tells us that God reveals the good news of the gospel to us through the Spirit.

The Spirit

So far in this letter, Paul has said much about God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. In the 31 verses of chapter 1, Paul has mentioned ‘God’ 20 times and ‘Christ’ or ‘Christ Jesus’ 17 times. In 2:4 Paul turns our attention to the work of the Spirit, and in 2:10-14, he mentions God’s Spirit 6 times in 5 verses. The way Paul preached the gospel in Corinth was in demonstration of the Spirit. God revealed the wisdom of the cross through the Spirit.

Called by the Spirit

This answers a question that has been developing from the beginning of the book. Back in 1:2, Paul said that we were called to be saints. In 1:9 he said that God called us into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. In 1:24, the foolish message becomes to those who are called Christ the power and wisdom of God. In 1:26 we are instructed to consider our calling. How were we called? In what way do we receive the divine summons to be saints? How does the Father call us into the fellowship of his Son? Here we see the answer. God calls us into fellowship, into a relationship with himself through the revelatory work of the Spirit. The difference between those who are perishing and us who are being saved is that we were those who were perishing until God revealed to us the gospel through his Spirit. In 1:21, we are told that ‘it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.’ How did I come to believe a message I considered foolish? The message of Christ crucified, that which we once perceived as foolish, offensive, even scandalous, now we see as God’s power to save us. This is the work of God the Spirit. So we begin to see that God the Father, Son, and Spirit were at work to bring about our salvation. God the Son was crucified as a substitute for my sin, carrying out the wise plan that his Father decreed before the ages. God the Holy Spirit opens my blind eyes and renews my dead heart so that Christ crucified becomes the source of life, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption (1:30). D.A. Carson, in his excellent little book on 1 Corinthians, writes “if we should express unqualified gratitude to God for the gift of his Son, we should express no less gratitude to God for the gift of the Spirit who enables us to grasp the gospel of his Son” (p.52).

The Depths of God

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

Paul gives us a human analogy to help us understand. I wonder what some of you are thinking right now. As far as I can tell, you are fully engaged with the text of scripture that we are studying, eager to grow in your relationship with Jesus. But only you know what you are really thinking about. Your body might be here, but your spirit might be planning out lunch, more interested in the game this afternoon, hoping that by God’s grace we might finish early today. Only your spirit can know your own thoughts, unless you choose to reveal them. In a similar way, God’s Spirit is the only one who can fully comprehend God’s thoughts. This analogy only goes so far, though, because our human spirit is a subset of our being, a part of us that makes up the whole. God’s Spirit is not a subset or part of who he is; God’s Spirit is a person in his own right, as this passage shows, a thinking, feeling, willing person distinct from the Father. He comprehends, searches, and reveals. He interacts with the Father and the Son, and with us. He is not to be confused with the Father or the Son, yet he is fully divine, God the Holy Spirit. As God, he fully shares the Father’s thoughts, even the depths of God. The depths of God, in this passage, refers to the hidden, secret, mystery wisdom of God, the wisdom that God decreed before the ages, what has not entered into the heart of man, what none of the rulers of this age understood, what God had prepared for us, this God has revealed to us through his Spirit. The depths of God, that he would crush his only Son, who would bear our sins in his body on the tree, who would become sin for us, whom the Father put forward as a propitiation by his blood. The depths of the hidden wisdom of God, God has revealed to us through his Spirit.

We have Received the Spirit

12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.

We have received. We, us who are being saved, us to whom God has revealed his hidden plan to rescue us through the crucifixion of his Son, we who are called by God’s Spirit into fellowship with his Son, we have received the gift of the promised Holy Spirit. There is no such thing as a believer in Jesus, a follower of Jesus who has not received the Holy Spirit. Romans 8 makes this abundantly clear.

Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. …14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

If we belong to Christ, we have received the Spirit of God. Ephesians tells us:

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.

We have received, as a gift, not the spirit of this world, not the spirit of the rulers of this age who are doomed to pass away, but the Spirit who is from God.

Understand the Things Freely Given

12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.

‘That we might’ is a purpose statement. The purpose of the Spirit being given is ‘in order that we understand’. The implication is clear. Had we not received the Spirit of God, we would never comprehend the things freely given us by God. What are the things freely given us by God? Jesus. God gave us his only Son. And in him we have forgiveness, redemption, reconciliation, justification, all the good gifts of grace freely given to us. Without the gift of the Spirit, we would never understand the death of Jesus as our Lamb offered by the Father to take away our sin.

Spiritual with Spiritual

13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

Paul is coming back around to defend his manner of preaching. If God is destroying and thwarting and bringing to nothing the wisdom of this world, then it would be utterly foolish to try to imitate the wisdom of this age or employ the methods of this age or to emulate the popular and powerful of this age who are being brought to nothing. They are all ignorant of the one thing that really matters, the one thing of eternal significance, the only way to have a right relationship with the Lord of glory. So let go of the world’s methods, the world’s approval. Embrace the rich depth of the wisdom of God in the offensive message of a Messiah crucified for our sins. Speak it simply, speak it plainly, allow room for a demonstration of the Spirit and of power. Refuse to employ manipulation of any kind. Refuse to tamper with or adjust the message in any way.

How do I know that I am using words taught by the Spirit? Is this some mystical experience where God’s Spirit takes control of my mouth and supernaturally communicates through me? It could be that, but I think there is a simpler way to understand it. The Spirit that we have received is the same Spirit that breathed out the Scriptures and carried along the biblical authors. The sure way to use words taught by the Spirit is to use his words written in the Scriptures. We see Paul giving us an example of that in this passage. He quotes the prophets, he refers to the writings, his mind is so saturated with scripture, that he thinks and speaks in biblical categories. And if all of Spirit inspired Scripture points to Jesus Christ and him crucified, then our speaking should be saturated with Jesus and centered on the cross, and it should be spoken with a deep humility and gratitude knowing that I was a lost, ignorant sinner, and God’s Spirit awakened my dead heart to experience the transforming power of the gospel.

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

April 28, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 2:1-5; Knowing Christ Crucified

03/24 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 Knowing Christ Crucified; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130324_1cor2_1-5.mp3

1Cor 2 [SBLGNT]

1 Κἀγὼ ἐλθὼν πρὸς ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, ἦλθον οὐ καθ’ ὑπεροχὴν λόγου ἢ σοφίας καταγγέλλων ὑμῖν τὸ μαρτύριον τοῦ θεοῦ. 2 οὐ γὰρ ἔκρινά τι εἰδέναι ἐν ὑμῖν εἰ μὴ Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν καὶ τοῦτον ἐσταυρωμένον· 3 κἀγὼ ἐν ἀσθενείᾳ καὶ ἐν φόβῳ καὶ ἐν τρόμῳ πολλῷ ἐγενόμην πρὸς ὑμᾶς, 4 καὶ ὁ λόγος μου καὶ τὸ κήρυγμά μου οὐκ ἐν πειθοῖ σοφίας ἀλλ’ ἐν ἀποδείξει πνεύματος καὶ δυνάμεως, 5 ἵνα ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν μὴ ᾖ ἐν σοφίᾳ ἀνθρώπων ἀλλ’ ἐν δυνάμει θεοῦ.

1Cor 2 [ESV2011]

1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Paul is addressing the divisions in the church in Corinth. He appeals to them on the basis of everything the Lord Jesus Christ stands for, that they agree and that there be no divisions. He brings them back to the simplicity of the gospel message that they had believed as a remedy for their pride and quarreling. He was sent by Christ primarily to proclaim a message. The message he preached, he says in 1:18-25, the word of the cross, the good news of a crucified Messiah, seemed foolish, even scandalous to an educated audience. The expectation of the Messiah was one who would be victorious, conquer and rule, not one who would get arrested and executed. The message of Christ crucified seemed weak, but this very message is what proved to be the power of God for salvation to all who believed.

In 1:26-31, Paul points to the background and social status of the believers in Corinth to illustrate that God’s method was contrary to human wisdom, because for the most part, it was the lower classes, the foolish, the weak, the nobodies in society who believed. The message seemed foolish, and the ones who believed the message also seemed foolish. God is determined to shame the worldly wise and bring to nothing the things that seem strong and powerful so that no one can boast in his presence.

Here in 2:1-5, Paul holds up his own method of preaching as lowly, weak, and foolish, to show that his methods matched the nature of the gospel message. He presented the foolishness of the gospel to foolish people in a foolish way, so that God was able to take all the credit and get all the glory for the results.

He is picking up the thought that he left off in 1:17;

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

And now he continues:

1 Corinthians 2:1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Let’s look first at what Paul did not do, then at what he did do, and then why he did things that way.

Paul’s Approach – Negative

What did Paul avoid when he preached the gospel? Remember, as he mentioned back in verse 17, to preach the gospel in the wrong way is to empty the cross of Christ of its power. So what methods does Paul avoid? Paul says:

1 Corinthians 2:1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.

This corresponds to what he said back in verse 17 “not with words of eloquent wisdom”; literally ‘not in wisdom of words’ [οὐκ ἐν σοφίᾳ λόγου]; here it is ‘not in lofty words or wisdom’ [οὐ καθ’ ὑπεροχὴν λόγου ἢ σοφίας]. So far Paul has said a lot about wisdom: In 1:19 he quotes God in the Old Testament saying “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise”. He asks in 1:20 “where is the wise?” and asserts that ‘God has made foolish the wisdom of the world’. In 1:21 the wisdom of God determined that man’s wisdom would not lead to a relationship with God. In 1:22 wisdom is what Greeks seek. But in 1:24 Christ is the wisdom of God, and in 1:25 God’s foolishness is wiser than men. In 1:26-27, not many of the Corinthian believers were wise according to worldly standards; God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise. In 1:30 God made Christ Jesus our wisdom.

Paul refuses to use lofty words or wisdom, or wisdom of words. Is Paul anti-intellectual? Is Paul promoting a faith that is illogical or irrational, contrary to the evidence? Paul himself made it his practice to ‘reason from the Scriptures’ and to ‘try to persuade’ (Acts 18:4). He is not encouraging us to disengage our brains. He never encourages us to believe contrary to evidence or logic. We are commanded by Jesus to love God with all our minds (Mt.22:37). We are commanded to seek understanding (2Tim.2:7), to be mature in our thinking (1Cor.14:20), to think about what is true (Phil.4:8), and to grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2Pet.3:18). Here we are told that Jesus Christ is our wisdom.

So the wisdom that God destroys, the wisdom that Paul avoids, the wisdom that God will make foolish, is wisdom of words, lofty high sounding wisdom, wisdom of the wise, human wisdom, the wisdom of the world. This is the wisdom of crowd pleasing, ear tickling, preacher promoting, designed to impress with the talent of the messenger more than the truth of the message. Paul refuses to come with lofty speech or wisdom.

In verse 2, he says “I decided to know nothing among you except…” We will come back to what that one thing was in a minute. Here I want to point out that he resolved to know nothing else. We might expect him to say something like ‘I know a lot of things, but I resolved to preach on only one thing; I determined to speak only one thing.’ Instead he says that he decided to know nothing else. He set everything else aside. He was single-minded. Nothing else was really worth thinking about. He had one thing that captured his heart and consumed his thoughts. One thing oozed out of his every pore. Everything else was considered nothing compared to this one thing. Back to that one thing in a moment.

Verse 4 he says that his words and his preaching were not in plausible words of wisdom. Not with skillful persuasion, designed to sway with clever arguments. Paul did try to persuade everyone. But he refused to manipulate anyone. As he says in 2 Corinthians 4

2 Corinthians 4:2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

Paul’s Approach – Positive

The open statement of the truth. If Paul refused to manipulate people, if he refused to employ lofty sounding speech that would impress his hearers and stroke his own ego, then what was his method? Verse 1 tells us

1 Corinthians 2:1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.

This not only tells us the approach he avoided, but also the content he communicated. He came proclaiming the testimony of God or the mystery of God. He announced, declared, proclaimed the message, the truth from God. The message he announced was God’s message, not his own, so he was not at liberty to tamper with the message.

He describes the manner of his coming in verse 3.

3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,

This is quite the opposite of the sophists and philosophers of his day. Who wants to listen to someone who can barely stand, whose knees knock together and whose hands shake almost uncontrollably? We don’t know for sure what Paul’s physical presence was like. A second century document describes him as “a man small of stature, with a bald head and crooked legs, in a good state of body, with eyebrows meeting and nose somewhat hooked’ [Acts of Paul and Thecla, cited by Morris, p.51]. If we put some of the background of his visit to Corinth together from the narrative in Acts, we may be able to appreciate more of what he describes here as ‘weakness, fear and much trembling’. Toward the end of his first missionary journey, there was an attempt on Paul’s life in Iconium, so he fled to Lystra. The Jews followed him there and persuaded the crowd to stone him. He was stoned, dragged out of the city and left for dead. On his second journey, Paul was beaten with rods and imprisoned in Philippi. After being released, they went to Thessalonica, where there was a riot, and the brothers sent them away by night to Berea. The Jews from Thessalonica came and agitated the crowds, so the brothers sent him off by sea to Athens and he was there alone. After a short and discouraging time in Athens, he came to Corinth. We can imagine the physical condition of Paul. I suspect that being stoned and left for dead would leave an impression on a person. He may have been quite a rough looking character, scarred and disfigured.

But his weakness, fear, and trembling can be explained another way. In 2 Corinthians, he describes the apostolic ministry as spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ everywhere, which is a fragrance of death to those who are perishing and a fragrance of life to those who are being saved. And he asks the question ‘who is sufficient for these things?’ [2Cor.2:15-16]. The sheer weight of the responsibility of preaching Christ and the realization that for some this is the fragrance from death to death should cause anyone who takes on the task of preaching Christ to be weak in the knees with much fear and trembling. Paul must have felt the weight of his responsibility so acutely in Corinth that the Lord encouraged him one night in a vision.

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

Paul did not approach ministry in strength, self-assured, confident and capable. He had learned the secret of effective ministry, that Christ’s power is made perfect in weakness (2Cor.12:9). So he was with them in weakness and in fear and much trembling.

Verse 4 tells us that his speech and his message were in demonstration of the Spirit and power. Some have taken this to mean that there were supernatural phenomena accompanying his ministry. And in other places, Acts records signs and wonders being done at the hands of the apostles. But there is no record of any supernatural signs in Acts 18, which documents Paul’s visit to Corinth. And this would not fit well with the statement he just made that he was with them in weakness and fear and much trembling. It also would not fit well with his argument in 1:22 that Jews demand signs, if his preaching in Corinth had been accompanied by signs.

So what does he mean when he says that his speech and message were in demonstration of the Spirit and power? This fits well with his thanksgiving in 1:6, that ‘the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you’. The power of the gospel was confirmed in Corinth when in weakness and fear the preacher preached the foolish message of the cross and dead sinners were given spiritual eyes to marvel at the beauty of the gospel and believe. This is the power of the Holy Spirit to convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment (Jn.16:8). This is the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit to give life to our mortal bodies so that we can now live in a way that pleases God (Rom.8:11). This is transforming grace that as we turn our attention to Christ, we are being transformed into his image by the Spirit (2Cor.3:18). The foolish message was preached in Corinth by a weak and fearful preacher, and the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, greedy, drunkards, revilers, swindlers were washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1Cor.6:9-11). That was irrefutable evidence of the Spirit and of power.

Resolved to Know One Thing

How did this power come to them? This is what happens when the cross of Christ is not emptied of its power. The word of the cross is the power of God to to us who are being saved. This preaching of Christ crucified is Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. This is why Paul resolved to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. The one thing that had captured his heart and consumed his thoughts and shaped his life was Jesus. Specifically Jesus Christ crucified. This is why he doesn’t say ‘I determined not to speak about anything else or preach about anything else’. He says ‘I determined not to know anything else’, because you can speak or preach about an idea or a thing or an event, but you can only know a person. This one relationship so consumed him that he could write to the Philippians

Philippians 3:8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

This relationship, Jesus said, is the definition of eternal life.

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

He resolved, he purposed, he determined to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified. The person and work of Christ is the one thing that is at the center of the gospel. Who Jesus is; the Christ, God’s anointed Messiah, God in the flesh, the only Son of God, God from all eternity, perfectly obedient to his Father. What Jesus did; the perfect Lamb of God, our substitute, crushed for our iniquities, wounded for our transgressions, the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Is.53:5-6). ‘Crucified’ is a perfect passive participle; it is a past completed action that has results which continue. We know Jesus today as the crucified one. We can only know him because he was crucified in our place. This crucified one will remain the center of worship for all eternity.

Revelation 5:6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, …9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,

Paul resolved to know one thing, and one thing only. Everything else he determined to put aside. That one thing was Jesus Christ, and him crucified. Paul resolved to preach a cross-centered message, and to present it in a cross-shaped manner.

Faith Resting on a Sure Foundation

The purpose of Paul’s method was this.

5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Paul knew that if he mastered their intellect with logical arguments, there would always be the chance that someone else would come along with something that sounded more persuasive and sway them in a different direction. If he manipulated their emotions with a stirring appeal, their passions might just as quickly carry them off after something else that moved them. If he persuaded them with his powerful personality, they would be his disciples and not Christ’s. Paul knew that faith resting in the wisdom of men is shaky faith built on a shaky foundation. Paul’s preaching Christ crucified, preaching in weakness and fear and trembling, made room for a demonstration of the Spirit and God’s power so that faith would rest solidly on the power of God.

If faith is rooted in the wisdom of men, faith would be a system of belief that I can pride myself in that by my faith I have made sense of the universe. But if faith is dependence on another born in humility out of conviction of my sin and need, then my faith is looking away from myself to another for rescue. That faith is as strong as the object in which it is placed. If my faith is placed in the historical and theological facts of the person and work of Jesus, then faith is crying out to Jesus to save, and faith is counting on Jesus to be faithful to his promises. Jesus is the only sure foundation for your faith to rest on. Christ crucified is the good news, the power of God and the wisdom of God, the power of God to save believers, Christ who is my righteousness and Christ who is my sanctification and Christ who is my redemption.

I pray that your faith might rest on Christ crucified, the power of God. I pray that together we would resolve to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 

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

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

Exodus 5:20-6:5; Accusations Fly – Avoiding the Cross

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100919_exodus05_20-06_5.mp3

9/19 Exodus 5:20-6:5 Accusations Fly; Avoiding the Cross

Introduction:

Moses is God’s chosen instrument to deliver his people out of Egypt and into the glad service of their true King. Moses has reluctantly gone to his people. They responded by hearing, believing, and worshiping God. After this positive reception, Moses and Aaron went to the Pharaoh and demanded release. They were met with a less than favorable response. Rather than belief and worship, the king of Egypt disrespected God by discounting his power and authority.

2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.”

‘Your so-called God has no right to tell me what to do with my slaves.’

Then this shrewd pharaoh institutes a plan that will discredit Moses and Aaron and dishearten his Hebrew slaves. And his plan works. He demands the impossible: gather stubble wherever you can find it in place of the previously provided cut straw, but still meet the same quota of finished product each day.

The Hebrew foremen are beaten because their work crews have failed to meet the impossible demands. In desperation the foremen cry out to the Pharaoh, acknowledging repeatedly that they are his servants, and appeal for relief. But the Pharaoh is a cruel taskmaster and will not listen to their cry for help. He accuses them of laziness and demands them to accomplish the impossible.

5:15 Then the foremen of the people of Israel came and cried to Pharaoh, “Why do you treat your servants like this? 16 No straw is given to your servants, yet they say to us, ‘Make bricks!’ And behold, your servants are beaten; but the fault is in your own people.” 17 But he said, “You are idle, you are idle; that is why you say, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the LORD.’ 18 Go now and work. No straw will be given you, but you must still deliver the same number of bricks.” 19 The foremen of the people of Israel saw that they were in trouble when they said, “You shall by no means reduce your number of bricks, your daily task each day.”

After their appeal to the Pharaoh fails miserably, they turn on Moses and Aaron.

The Accusation of Moses and Aaron by the Foremen

20 They met Moses and Aaron, who were waiting for them, as they came out from Pharaoh; 21 and they said to them, “The LORD look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.”

This is a stinging rebuke. Their wording is the typical wording used in the Psalms as a prayer to God for justice. Someone who is being unjustly treated by a superior would cry out ‘The LORD look on you and judge’. ‘I am not in a position to defend my own rights, but may God bring down on your head everything you deserve for treating us so badly’. They assume that Moses and Aaron are guilty because the outcome was not what they had hoped it would be. Their false assumption is that a good God would never allow bad things to happen to his people. They use graphic colorful language – ‘you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us’. They are in a hopeless situation and they only see it escalating to the point where their very lives are at stake.

The irony of this is that in chapter 7, God will make the revered river Nile stink in the sight of the Egyptians, and ultimately, the hands of the Egyptians holding the swords will be washed up on the shores of the Red Sea. But for now, the people who were believing and worshiping have now lost hope and faith and are slandering the leader God has sent to help them.

So what is a leader to do when the people he is called to lead attack him for doing what is right? Things got hard for the people and they turned to Pharaoh for help. Moses steps out in obedience to God and now the people hate him. Look where Moses turns when things get hard.

The Accusation of God by Moses

22 Then Moses turned to the LORD and said, “O LORD, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? 23 For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.”

Moses says some hard things here. He accuses God of doing evil. He accuses God of not knowing what he is doing. He basically says ‘I told you so – I knew this was a bad idea’. And he accuses God of laziness – doing nothing when something must be done. These are serious accusations. But take note, in spite of all these accusations that he brings to God, he does bring them to God. He doesn’t run, like the Hebrew foremen ran, back to their old taskmaster. He turns to the Lord and brings his complaint before the Lord. Moses turns to the right place. He has some very hard things to say, but he goes to the right place. And notice, God doesn’t strike him dead for asking hard questions. God is not threatened by hard questions. In fact, God honors him by responding to his questions. God could have gotten his feelings hurt and given Moses the silent treatment. He could have gotten angry and started throwing thunderbolts. Instead he responds. But before we look at God’s response to his questions, let’s look at the questions.

Moses asks ‘why have you done evil to this people?’ Before we get down on Moses for asking such a question, let’s try to get into his sandals. Moses has done what God asked him to do. The result is that the foremen have been beaten. That’s evil. The Pharaoh has responded ruthlessly to reasonable requests. That’s evil. The people are now required to do the impossible. They’re sent chasing after stubble blown by the wind in a fruitless effort that is bound to result in failure. That’s evil. The foremen quite possibly might resort to beating their fellow Israelites in an effort to meet the quota and avoid a beating themselves. That’s evil. The people’s spirit has been crushed and they are losing faith and without hope. That’s evil. They are driven to the point of cursing their God given leader. That’s evil. So Moses is looking at the situation, feeling the pain of the situation, and he knows that all this is a direct result of God’s command. So he says – ‘why have you done evil to this people?’ Moses feels that he is more compassionate toward the Hebrew people than God is. He is saying ‘if I were God, I would do things differently’. God, I know how to handle this whole exodus thing. This is amazing in light of the fact that just a few chapters earlier, Moses is coming up with every excuse imaginable to weasel his way out of the call that God is giving him. Now he suddenly feels that he cares about the people more than God does.

Then he says ‘Why did you ever send me?’ His same old argument is still in his mind. I’m not qualified. I’m not the right man for the job. I told you so. Remember, I said ‘who am I that I should go to Pharaoh’ (Ex.3:11). Remember, I told you they wouldn’t believe me or listen to my voice (Ex.4:1). Remember, I told you I am not eloquent, but slow of speech and of tongue (Ex.4:10) Remember, I said ‘please send someone else’ (Ex.4:13). God, your plan isn’t working because you chose the wrong guy. Now I’m taking the heat from the disgruntled people. Why me?!

Then he says ‘since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all’. God, I’m being obedient. I’m doing my part of the deal. I spoke in your name to Pharaoh. But he’s done evil to the people and you have not delivered your people at all. God, you’re not holding up your end of the bargain. You promised deliverance for your people but instead they are experiencing evil at the had of the Pharaoh. It would have been better for them if we had just kept quiet. God, you’re making me look bad. You have not delivered your people at all. Not even a little bit of deliverance. God, I’ve done my part, but you have done nothing at all.

Moses has vented. He’s laid it all on the table and told God how he feels. Now the Lord responds.

The Apology of God

6:1 But the LORD said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand he will send them out, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land.” 2 God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the LORD. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them. 4 I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they lived as sojourners. 5 Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant.

God responds to Moses’ accusations. He says ‘Now you shall see what I will do.’ Now is the time. Now, because now nobody is on my side. The Pharaoh is decisively and publicly against setting his slaves free. The people responded with initial excitement and worship, but when adversity came, they gave up hope. They want things back the way they were – a more comfortable slavery. And Moses, my chosen instrument, you are accusing me of evil and laziness and a lack of compassion. Now that nobody is on board with my program, now I can act in such a way that no one will try to steal my glory. God is the hero of this story. Not Moses, not the people, not the Pharaoh. Pharaoh didn’t believe God was capable of setting the people free. The people had given up hope and cursed the man God had sent to help them. Moses accused God of evil and questioned his motivation, wisdom and compassion. Now that no one is on my side, I can act alone. He says ‘Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh.’ I will act. After I am done with Pharaoh, he will use all his power to drive you out, to be rid of you, to expel you from his land.

God does not take Moses’ list of questions and answer them one by one. In fact, he doesn’t directly answer them at all. God doesn’t defend himself against Moses’ accusation that he has brought evil on the people. He doesn’t defend himself against the charge that he picked the wrong man for the job. He doesn’t defend himself against the charge that he has done nothing to deliver his people at all. Instead, he communicates to Moses who he is. Moses’ main problem is that he needs to know God better. So God responds to Moses’ challenges by revealing who he is and what he is going to do. “God spoke to Moses and said to him, ‘I am YHWH’”. Moses, you need to know who I am. I am the I AM. The self-existent one. The independent one. The uncaused cause of all that is. I am the active one. The one who is being and doing. I am the God who makes promises and keeps them.

God connects himself with history. This is not a new god on the scene. This is the God who has been active in history. This is the same God who appeared to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob as El Shaddai – God All-Powerful. He is the God who made covenant with his people. He made promises to them. But Abraham and Isaac and Jacob had not experienced the fulfillment of those promises. The author of Hebrews tells us:

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

The people of the exodus generation would experience God in a new way. They would get to see how God keeps his promises. God made staggering promises to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. Now God is going to display himself in power and fulfill these promises to this generation. God reiterates that he hears – even the accusations of the people toward Moses, he knows, he remembers, and he cares.

Application

We will all face hard things in life. Our tendency is to run back to our old taskmaster. Our false assumption is that because I am a King’s kid, I should be exempt from suffering. We tend to shrink from the cross. The good news of redemption and rescue sounds good until we hear Jesus say:

Luke 9:23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

We want to enjoy the crown without enduring the cross. The cross is strong medicine. We would rather die a slow death under the anesthetizing effects of sin than feel the piercing pain of God’s remedy for our desperate and sick condition.

Romans 6:5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.

Galatians 5:24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

What we need to be told, again and again and again, is who the hero of the story is. I am YHWH. I will do it. It will be painful. It will cost you your life.

Luke 9:23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

(cf. Matt.10:39; Matt.16:25; Mk.8:35; Lk.9:24; 17:33)

Things may get worse before they get better. It may feel like I have abandoned you. You may feel that I have wronged you. You can come to me with any questions. I may not answer all your questions, but I want you to bring them to me. I am good. You can trust me. I will keep my word to you. I will carry you safely through to the other side. What you need to know is me. You need to know who I am. I am the hero of your story. You need to know me.

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

September 19, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment