PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 4:6; The Creative Power of Authentic Ministry

08/19_2 Corinthians 4:6; The Creative Power of Authentic Ministry; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180819_2cor4_6.mp3

Paul is describing authentic Christian ministry; giving reason why he does not lose heart, get discouraged, give up, burn out. Ministry, the ability and opportunity to serve others, is a gift. It is God’s mercy to sinners.

2 Corinthians 4:1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 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.

He describes his methods; he does not use shameful hidden methods; he refuses to water down, add to, or distort God’s word. He speaks plainly, openly, with integrity.

He recognizes there is an adversary to the truth, a powerful enemy who seeks our eternal destruction, who would cast a veil over the hearts and minds of people to keep them from seeing the truth.

2 Corinthians 4:3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

He lays out the simple message he does proclaim; the person of Jesus, the Christ, the Lord, and he explains his role as a minister of the gospel.

2 Corinthians 4:5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Verse 6, our subject today, he gives us the creative power of authentic ministry, the ultimate ground of his confidence in gospel ministry, why he is content to openly proclaim the truth, to not adjust the message to suit his audience, and why he does not lose heart even in the face of seeming ministry failure. We proclaim Jesus, and God speaks and shines light in hearts that are veiled and blinded. God is powerful to overcome the darkness. Authentic ministry is ministry God speaks through to accomplish his purposes.

God Said

The ministry Paul is talking about is primarily a speaking ministry; he simply and plainly heralds the Lord Jesus Christ. He proclaims. He uses words to communicate truth. He communicates simply, openly, plainly. His ministry is ministry of the word; he administers God’s word to people. He communicates God’s truth. He communicates the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ as Lord. Ministry is speaking, proclaiming, communicating truth, to reflect our God who is a communicating, speaking God. Verse 6 begins ‘because God said.’

Don’t ever let this cease to amaze you. Our God is a speaking God, a communicating God. He could have left us wondering, guessing, groping in the dark. But he spoke. He communicates who he is, what he is like, what he requires, how we can have a relationship with him. Our God is a speaking God. We speak because he has spoken.

The Power of The Word

And his speech has power. When God speaks, things leap into being. That which did not exist comes into existence. Psalm 33 says:

Psalm 33:6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. …9 For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.

By his word, by the breath of his mouth, by his speaking, at his command, everything came into being. The heavens and all their starry hosts, universes, galaxies, all breathed out by him. Hebrews 11 says:

Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

The universe created by the word of God. That which is visible came out of that which is invisible, the spoken word. God’s word is creative! God’s word has power! Romans 4 talks about

Romans 4:17…the God …who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

God calls, God speaks, and things that do not exist come into existence! This is absolute power! Everything God says happens.

This is what we are asking when in the Lord’s prayer we ask that his will be done on earth as it is in heaven. May we respond to your word with unhesitating and absolute obedience, the way your word causes even things that do not exist to be for your pleasure.

Out of Darkness, Light Shine

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”

God commanded ‘out of darkness, light shine!’ Any idea what passage Paul is referring to here?

The first thing that comes to mind is creation, where ‘God said Let light be, and light came into existence’ (Gen.1:3). Darkness was over the face of the deep, and God said “Let there be light.” and there was light. Genesis 1 is clearly in mind here, because God is creating light out of darkness. And he does it with his word. He speaks, and it comes into being. 2 Corinthians 4:6 starts out ‘the God who said’ and Genesis 1:3 starts out ‘and God said’. But in Genesis 1, God says ‘let light be or exist; in 2 Corinthians he says ‘let light shine’ – a different verb. And Genesis 1 takes place at the beginning of creation, before humankind exists; where 2 Corinthians is talking about God shining light into human hearts made flesh. So while Genesis 1 is definitely in mind, there may be other passages in mind as well.

There is another passage that includes darkness, light, and the same verb ‘to shine’ that we find in 2 Corinthians 4. It is Isaiah 9. You are probably familiar with the well-known Christmas passage Isaiah 9:6:

Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9 begins by pointing us to ‘Galilee of the nations,’ and verse 2 says:

Isaiah 9:2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.

Here the subject is people, people walking in darkness, upon whom the light shines. And in the context of Isaiah 9, the light shining is the child born, the son given, whose name is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Matthew 4:13-16 quotes Isaiah 9:1-2 and says that it is fulfilled in Jesus. The light shining in the darkness of human hearts is Jesus!

In Isaiah 60 we see this same theme again of light coming into darkness, and it is the glory of the Lord on people.

Isaiah 60:1 Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. 2 For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. 3 And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.

The light that overcomes the thick darkness is the glory of YHWH rising. What we proclaim is Jesus Christ as Lord; YWHW.

John’s gospel begins this way.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. …9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

Jesus is the true light that shines in the darkness, that gives light, that was coming into the world. Notice in John’s gospel that he names this one ‘the Word.’ The Word gives life and light. It is the speaking one, the communicating one, the one we proclaim; Jesus Christ the Lord.

Paul takes a thread from Genesis 1 where God brings light into existence that did not exist by his powerful word, and ties it together with Isaiah 9, where the promised Son of God shines light into the deep darkness of humankind, and Isaiah 60 where the light is the glory of YHWH.

The Means of Conversion

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Paul is talking about confidence in gospel ministry, and he points to his own conversion, and he invites us to think of our own conversion. The God who said ‘out of darkness, light shine!’ has shone in our hearts.

Do you remember? Do you remember when the lights came on for you? I grew up in a Christian family, in a Christian church, attending camp and Sunday School. I knew all about Jesus, and Samson and Delilah and David and Goliath and Adam and Eve and Noah and Abraham and Isaac and Paul and Timothy. I knew all about creation and Babel and the ark and the tabernacle and the disciples and the miracles and the cross and the resurrection. I knew that Jesus died on the cross for my sins. I knew it. I saw it all in living color on Mrs. Dean’s flannel graph. I even believed it. But I remember when I got it. When it came home to me. When the lights turned on. When God shone in my heart to give the light of the knowledge of Jesus. I felt the weight of my sin, and I was a grievous sinner at the ripe age of seven. I had been feeling the weight of my sin, but now I saw that Jesus took that sin – my sin. He died in my place. For me! He loved me and gave himself up for me. He was pursuing me. He wanted a relationship with me! I finally got it, and I wanted it. I wanted him! I embraced his forgiveness. I embraced him. How did it happen for you? When did the lights come on?

Paul invites us to look at our own conversion, our own transformation, our own new birth, as something God did. God the Creator spoke light into existence in our hearts and our blind eyes began to see! People talked ’till they were blue in the face, explained, clarified, answered questions… nothing. But when God said ‘let light be,’ then the lights came on.

The Creator God has shone in our hearts and we saw. We can take confidence in gospel ministry because we experienced God’s illuminating power. And we know he can turn the lights on for anyone!

Paul is confident in proclaiming plainly the simple message of Jesus Christ as Lord; he does not lose heart, because he is confident that God is at work shining in dark and veiled hearts to illuminate Jesus to them.

Romans 10 is helpful here. Romans 10:13 says:

Romans 10:13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

And then he goes on to explain:

Romans 10:14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? …17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Salvation comes through calling on Jesus in faith. Faith comes through hearing the word proclaimed. But not all who hear believe. God must turn the lights on. Proclamation is necessary, but it is not the decisive thing. God must be speaking in our speaking to create light in the hearts of those who are blind. Paul said in 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 1:21 … it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. …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.

How is it that the folly of what we preach becomes the saving power of God and the wisdom of God? Through the God who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness’ shining in our hearts to give light. We can confidently proclaim the simple message of Christ crucified, Jesus Christ as Lord, confident that God will open blind eyes and conquer hard hearts. We cannot ‘claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God’ (2Cor.3:5)

The Glory of God is the Glory of Christ

Let’s look again at what we see when God shines in our hearts.

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

What is it that we see? It is the illumination of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. Let’s pair this with what our enemy wants to keep us from seeing in verse 4. What the enemy wants to blind us to is what God overcomes by his creative word to give us the light of knowledge. Paul states the same thing in different words, and the pairing of these two verses sheds even more light on Jesus.

2 Corinthians 4:4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

What our adversary wants to keep us from seeing is ‘the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.’

2 Corinthians 4:4——————————–2 Corinthians 4:6

In their case the god of this world————-For God, who said,

——————————————————- “Let light shine out of darkness,”

has blinded the minds of the unbelievers,—-has shone in our hearts

to keep them from seeing———————–to give

the light of the gospel—————————the light of the knowledge

of the glory of Christ,—————————of the glory of God

who is the image of God.———————–in the face of Jesus Christ.

‘The light of the gospel’ is ‘the light of the knowledge.’ what is the content of this knowledge, this good news? ‘The glory of Christ’ is ‘the glory of God’. Paul as plainly as ever identifies Christ with God. The knowledge of the glory of God is the good news of the glory of Christ. The glory of Christ is that he is very image of God. The glory of God is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.

Christ.

O Lord, open our eyes to behold the good news of the glory of Christ the image of God; let us see the glory of God in the face of our Lord

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

Advertisements

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

Advent; Jesus is Greater! Greater Prophet

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is a Prophet?

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus Greater than Moses

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

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

He is referring back to Mount Sinai in Exodus 20;

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

The people said:

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

God affirms;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus says in John 5:

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

Jesus Authoritatively Declares God’s Word

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And everything Jesus said came to pass.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus Is God’s Word

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

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

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

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

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

Jesus is the Fulfillment of all the Prophets

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

Hebrews 1:1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes and Amen!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Triune God

10/18 Triune God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151018_triune-god.mp3

We are seeking to know God, to know what he has revealed to us about himself. We desire to worship him as he is. We seek to honor him. We want to worship him in truth.

One of the old creeds, a creed that has been recited and memorized by Christians for centuries, starts out like this:

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this:”

Catholic (small ‘c’) simply means universal, the faith that all Christians believe. We could substitute the word ‘universal’. What do you think is so essential to salvation that ‘before all things it is necessary that he hold’? What point of truth is so essential that ‘except we keep it whole and undefiled, without doubt we shall perish everlastingly’? How would you finish the statement ‘the universal faith of the Christian church is this:’?

This is how the historic Athanasian creed begins:

And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence.

Lots of religious groups attack the Christian belief in the trinity. Judaism, Islam, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witness, all scoff at the idea of the trinity. Some say that it was a belief pushed on the church by a pagan emperor. Others say it is just plain nonsense.

Where do we get this concept of trinity? What do we mean by it? Should we believe it? Does it really matter?

Let me give you five statements that are clearly taught in the Bible.

  1. There is only one God

  2. The Father is God

  3. The Son is God

  4. The Spirit is God

  5. The Father, Son and Spirit are each someone distinct from the other two

The word ‘trinity’ is an abbreviation of tri-unity; describing that God is a unity, that there is oneness in God, and there is also threeness in God.

There is Only One God

Last time we looked at some of the biblical evidence for monotheism in contrast to polytheism or tritheism. The Bible is clear and emphatic that there is only one true God, not three separate gods. Remember when Jesus was questioned about the greatest commandment:

Mark 12:29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

The first and greatest command is that there is only one true God, and he alone is worthy of worship. We are to have no other gods in his presence. “Besides me there is no god. Who is like me?”(Is.44:6-7)

The Father is God

That the one we call Father is God hardly needs to be defended. Ephesians 4:6 refers to the

Ephesians 4: 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Jesus teaches us to address God as Father.

Matthew 6:9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

Matthew 23:9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.

Jesus himself, praying to his Father, says:

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

The Son is God

We see clearly that the Son Jesus is God. In Romans 9, Paul refers to Jesus the Messiah as:

Romans 9:5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

In Titus 2 he refers to him as

Titus 2:13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

2 Peter 1:1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

The author of Hebrews, quoting the Old Testament

Hebrews 1:8 But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.

The Son is clearly called God. Matthew 3 quotes Isaiah 40 about John, whose role was to prepare the way for Jesus.

Isaiah 40:3 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (with Matthew 3:3)

In John 8, Jesus identifies himself with the self-existent one, YHWH, from Exodus 3

John 8:58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

The Jews understood what he was claiming, and picked up stones to stone him. Then in John 10, Jesus said:

John 10:30 I and the Father are one.” 31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.

At the close of John’s gospel, we see the risen Christ appear to doubting Thomas.

John 20:27-31 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Thomas believes in response to the evidence, and calls Jesus ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus commends his belief. John explains the goal of his writing: ‘that you may believe that Jesus is… the Son of God.’ We are encouraged, like Thomas, on the basis of the evidence given, to believe in Jesus as ‘my Lord and my God!’

The Spirit is God

The Scriptures clearly teach that the Spirit is God.

Acts 5:3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”

Peter understands that to lie to the Holy Spirit is to lie to God.

I Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

God is the only one who can rightly dwell in God’s temple, and we are told that God’s Spirit dwells in us.

Psalm 139:7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

To flee from the presence of God’s Spirit is to flee from the presence of God himself.

We see clear evidence in the scripture that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Spirit is God, and there is only one true God.

The Father, Son and Spirit are Distinct Someones

The Scripture is also clear that the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Father, the Spirit is not the Father or the Son.

In John 3, where Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be born of the Spirit, he says:

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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

God the Father is distinguished from the Son. The Father sends his only Son to save the world. The Son is the one who is sent.

Jesus’ teaching in John 14 about the Holy Spirit brings this out clearly:

John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, …26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

Notice the personal pronouns. Jesus refers to himself as ‘I’, he refers to the Father as ‘he’ and he refers to the Holy Spirit as ‘another’ and ‘he’.

Jesus continues to speak of the Holy Spirit in chapter 15.

John 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

The Father sent Jesus, Jesus and his Father send the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will be with you forever. The Spirit will testify of Jesus.

Jesus frequently prayed to his Father. He did not pray to himself. Jesus is someone distinct from the Father, who can refer to himself as ‘I’ and address the Father as ‘you’. In his prayer in John 17, he says:

John 17:5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. …24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

[God is Love]

This is a stunningly beautiful truth. Don’t miss the significance of this! We are told in 1 John 4:8 and 16 that God is love. Not only that God loves, but that God is love. Not that God began to love or became love. The eternal essence of God is love. Before God created anything, before anything existed outside of God alone, God is love. For God to be love there must be an object for him to love. Love is a relationship word. It requires a subject that loves and an object that is loved. Jesus is conversing with his Father in John 17. He says that he was with his Father before the world existed. He says ‘you loved me before the foundation of the world.’ Before anything existed, there was a you and a me who loved. Notice also that John does not say ‘the gods are love’. Belief in the triune God who eternally exists as Father, Son and Spirit is the only thing that makes sense of the absolute statement that ‘God is love’.

When we are told that God loves us, we understand this as the overflow of the love of an inherently relational God. God eternally exists in relationship, and he invites us in to enjoy that relationship!

God With God

John launched his gospel with this statement:

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. …18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

The Son, the Word, existed in the beginning. The Son was with his Father. The Son and the Father are one essence or one divine existence. The Son is God at the Father’s side. A distinct someone, who can be said to be ‘with’ the Father enjoying relationship with the Father, yet who shares with the Father the divine essence.

Three In One

We see throughout the New Testament statements that make sense only if there is one God who eternally exists in three distinct persons.

Matthew 3:16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

At the baptism we see the beloved Son Jesus, the voice of the Father, and the Spirit of God

Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

We are told by Jesus to make disciples and to baptize them in the one singular name of the three equal and distinct persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Romans 8:16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs––heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, …

The Spirit, God and Christ are each separately mentioned.

I Corinthians 12:4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.

In these verses, the varieties of gifts, service and activities are parallel statements that are said to come from the same Spirit, the same Lord and the same God.

At the end of 2 Corinthians we find this trinitarian benediction:

2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

This may be a conscious echo of the threefold name of the LORD in the Old Testament benediction in Numbers 6.

Numbers 6:24 The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. 27 “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”

Ephesians 2, speaking of Jesus, says:

Ephesians 2:18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Ephesians 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit––just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call–– 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

One Spirit, One Lord, One God and Father of all.

2 Thessalonians shows the three persons at work in the gospel.

2 Thessalonians 2:13 …because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the work of salvation in Hebrews 9 we see three divine actors.

Hebrews 9:14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

In Hebrews 10 we are warned of the danger of offending the three who are one.

Hebrews 10:29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Peter begins his first letter pointing to our salvation that is the collaborative effort of the triune God.

I Peter 1:2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

Jude challenges us to walk the Christian life in conscious communion with the triune God.

Jude :20 But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

The Revelation given to John begins with a greeting from the three persons.

Revelation 1:4 … Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. …

The eternal Father, and in the numerical symbolism the fullness of the Spirit and Jesus Christ. In Revelation 4 – 5 we see worship in the heavenly throne room directed toward the One seated on the throne and to the Lamb and the sevenfold Spirit of God.

Nonsense?

There is only one God, the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Spirit is God, and each one is someone distinct from the other two. This is the clear teaching of Scripture.

It is often said that this is nonsense and contradictory. We are saying that 1+1+1=1 when everyone knows that it equals 3. It would be contradictory if we were saying that there is one God and there are three gods, or if we were saying that there are three persons but there is only one person. But it is not contradictory to say that God is one divine existence, and he eternally exists in three distinct persons. God is one as to his essence or divine nature; God is three as to his centers of consciousness or personalities in relationship with each other. The Athanasian creed puts it this way:

That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite. So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.

This is practical. This is worship. We worship a God who is in his own very being a relational God. We worship the Father in spirit and in truth. We honor the Son just as we honor the Father. We give praise to the Spirit who is himself fully and truly God. We are loved by a God who is himself love.

Men cannot and do not love, pray to, and adore a mere abstract infinite nature. They love, address, and worship certain persons in that nature.” (W.G.T.Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, vol.1, p.495)

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

October 18, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Invisible God; John 4:19-24

10/04 Invisible God Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151004_invisible-god.mp3

We are seeking God, seeking to know God, digging in to his word to see what he says about himself. We want to worship him as he is, not as we imagine him to be. We want to offer him true worship.

We have learned that God is incomprehensible – a being beyond our ability to fully understand, yet we can know true things about him, the things he has revealed to us. Indeed, he intends to be known and worshiped as he really is. We have learned that God is, that he exists, independent of anything outside of himself. He is the uncaused cause of everything that is. He is unchanging and unchangeable. He is a God who is beyond all time and space but fills all time and space with his immediate presence. He is eternal, inescapable, uncontainable.

Sadducees and Materialism

We live in a materialistic society. Most people live as if what we see is all there is. We store up for ourselves treasure where moth and rust can destroy, where thieves can break in and steal. But the Bible opens our eyes to a greater reality, an unseen reality. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenlies. Jesus teaches us to store up treasure in heaven, where moth and rust cannot destroy, where thieves cannot break in and steal. Christians have hope beyond the grave. In Philippians 1, Paul, in prison, is wondering what will happen to him. Will he remain in the flesh, or will he depart and be with Christ? Paul is confident that when his body dies, he will be in the presence of God. In 2 Corinthians 5 he talks about the earthly body as a tent that will be destroyed, and that we will put on a heavenly dwelling. There is part of us that lives on even when our material bodies wear out and decay. In Acts 23, when Paul was on trial before the Jewish council, he nearly started a riot between the Pharisees and Sadducees when he cried out that he was on trial because of the hope and the resurrection of the dead, because, we are told,

Acts 23:8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.

It appears the Sadducees were materialists. Don’t tell me all this nonsense about things I can’t see or touch or smell. No resurrection. No angel. No spirit. Paul would say ‘no hope!’

Spirit and Matter

Jesus clearly believed in spirits and the resurrection. Jesus said:

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

In Mark 5, Jesus commanded an unclean spirit to come out of a man. When Jesus asked his name, the response was ‘My name is Legion, for we are many’. A Roman legion was 3,000 – 6,000 men. When Jesus gave his permission, the unclean spirits came out of the man and entered into about 2,000 pigs who rushed into the sea and were drowned. A spirit is not made up of matter, and therefore takes up no space. We aren’t told exactly how many demons tormented this man, but somehow there were many who were able to inhabit the same space.

When the resurrected Jesus appeared to his disciples in Luke 24, they were terrified.

Luke 24:36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.

The disciples thought they saw a spirit. Jesus invites them to touch him to prove that he is not an apparition, but is indeed a material being. He even eats something in front of them, and he says ‘a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have’. Jesus tells us that spirits are not material. Jesus demonstrates that his resurrected body is a real physical material body and not a ghostly apparition.

In the Old Testament, in 2 Kings 6, when the Syrian king’s military plans were repeatedly foiled, he assumed he had a spy who was leaking information to the king of Israel

2 Kings 6:11 And the mind of the king of Syria was greatly troubled because of this thing, and he called his servants and said to them, “Will you not show me who of us is for the king of Israel?” 12 And one of his servants said, “None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.” 13 And he said, “Go and see where he is, that I may send and seize him.” It was told him, “Behold, he is in Dothan.” 14 So he sent there horses and chariots and a great army, and they came by night and surrounded the city. 15 When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 16 He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

Elisha and Gehazi are surrounded by Syrian horses and chariots and a great army. Elisha tells his servant not to be afraid because the Syrian army is greatly outnumbered. The unseen angelic legions were on their side. They were unseen, unheard, unfelt, but they were real. God opened his eyes so that he could see his invisible armies.

Note, by the way, that while we learned last time that God is unlimited by space or time, angels, although they are spirit, are spatially limited. In Daniel 9 and 10, we see Gabriel being sent and coming in swift flight, even being delayed by demonic forces. God is a spirit who is everywhere present, angels are spirits who can only be in one place at a time.

God is Spirit

In Isaiah 31, God is rebuking those who run to Egypt and rely on horses and chariots but do not look to the Holy One of Israel. He draws this contrast:

Isaiah 31:3 The Egyptians are man, and not God, and their horses are flesh, and not spirit.

God is not a man. Both man and horses are flesh. God is spirit. God is immaterial. God is invisible. This is the clear teaching of the Bible.

Romans 1:20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

God’s divine nature is invisible, yet is clearly evident in the things he has made.

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

God is invisible. Jesus is the image of the invisible God. All created things, all created beings, whether physical or spiritual were created by Jesus.

1 Timothy 1:17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

God is King of eternity, immortal, invisible.

1 Timothy 6:15 …—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

God dwells in unapproachable light. No one has ever seen God. No one can see God.

Hebrews 11:27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.

God is invisible.

1 John 4:12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

1 John 4:20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

God has not been seen. No one has ever seen God.

No One Has Ever Seen God?

But wait a minute! Doesn’t the Bible talk about people who saw God? The LORD God walked in the garden with Adam and Eve. The LORD appeared to Abram by the oaks of Mamre. Three strangers came to visit Abraham’s tent. The men departed, but Abraham still stood before the presence of the LORD (Gen.18). The LORD appeared to Moses in a bush that was on fire but not consumed. He made his presence known to Israel in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He appeared to 70 elders of Israel on Mount Sinai, who ate and drank in his presence. They describe what they saw as

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

They saw the God of Israel. But all that they describe is the pavement under his feet.

When Moses requested to see the glory of God, God replied:

Exodus 33:18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

God says ‘you cannot see my face. Man shall not see me and live.’ In the next chapter God makes his presence known to Moses.

Exodus 34:5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” 8 And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.

It seems what Moses saw was cloud. The way God revealed himself was verbal. He described his character.

When Isaiah saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, what he describes is that the train of his robe filled the temple. And he describes the seraphim above him, and he says that the house was filled with smoke.

The closest we get to an actual physical description of God is in Daniel 7, where he describes Ancient of Days taking his seat with clothing white as snow and hair like pure wool.

How do we fit these statements that Old Testament people saw God with the clear New Testament teaching that God is invisible and ‘no one has ever seen God’?

God cannot be seen in his essence, because he is spirit, he is immaterial; being immaterial there is nothing physical to see. However God, being Creator of all things visible and invisible, is fully able to manifest himself and make his presence known in different ways to different people.

Spirit and Idolatry

In Deuteronomy 4, Moses reminds the generation who would enter the promised land

Deuteronomy 4:11 And you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, while the mountain burned with fire to the heart of heaven, wrapped in darkness, cloud, and gloom. 12 Then the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice.

Moses uses this as the ground for an admonition against idolatry.

Deuteronomy 4:15 “Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, 16 beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, 17 the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, 18 the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth. 19 And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.

Since you saw no form but heard only a voice, make no form, no image. Because God is spirit, immaterial, no created thing can adequately represent him. Every form will grossly misrepresent him. There is only one image God approves of.

Jesus the Image of God

John’s gospel opens:

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The Word exists before the beginning. The Word IS. The Word was with God, a distinct personality, but the Word was God, fully divine. He is personal, and he is the Creator of all that is. Verse 14 tells us

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The Word became flesh. The Word, who always existed as God, the only Son from the Father, became something that he was not. He became flesh. He dwelt among us. He became man. Verse 18 says:

John 1:18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

God’s essential essence has never been seen. God has made his presence known in different visible manifestations, but no one has ever seen God. God the Son has made him known. The only image of God that God approves of is Jesus.

Jesus taught:

John 5:37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent.

John 6:46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.

John 12:45 And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.

John 14:7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

Colossians calls Jesus “the image of the invisible God’. Hebrews calls him “the exact imprint of his nature”. Not that we should make pictures of Jesus. We don’t know what Jesus looked like. It is not about what he looked like. The apostles who knew what he looked like left us no physical descriptions. What they handed down to us are his teachings, his interactions with people, his character, his identity.

Spiritual Worship

Jesus had a conversation with a woman at a well in Samaria. He revealed that he knew some uncomfortable details about her personal life, so she asked him a question about the proper place of worship.

John 4:19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

In answer to her question about the proper place of worship, Jesus’ answer is no, it is not about place, not about here or there. It is about worship in spirit and truth, because God is spirit. The nature of God has implications on how we are to worship him. He is not material, so the externals of worship are of little importance. Because God is spirit worship of him must be spiritual. God is most interested in our heart, in what nobody can see. Spiritual worship is worship that is brought about by the Spirit. We must come to the Father through the finished work of the Son, having been transformed and made new by the Spirit. He is pleased when we stand in awe of him as he really is, not as we imagine him to be. He must be worshiped in truth. We must embrace the truth of what he says about himself. Our spirits must engage him. The Spirit gives us a new taste for the goodness of God. He must be enjoyed, delighted in, savored. He is our greatest pleasure, our greatest treasure.

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

October 4, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 15:23-28; God All In All

05/03 1 Corinthians 15:23-28 God All In All; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150503_1cor15_23-28.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

20 Νυνὶ δὲ Χριστὸς ἐγήγερται ἐκ νεκρῶν, ἀπαρχὴ τῶν κεκοιμημένων. 21 ἐπειδὴ γὰρ δι’ ἀνθρώπου θάνατος, καὶ δι’ ἀνθρώπου ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν· 22 ὥσπερ γὰρ ἐν τῷ Ἀδὰμ πάντες ἀποθνῄσκουσιν, οὕτως καὶ ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ πάντες ζῳοποιηθήσονται. 23 ἕκαστος δὲ ἐν τῷ ἰδίῳ τάγματι· ἀπαρχὴ Χριστός, ἔπειτα οἱ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ αὐτοῦ· 24 εἶτα τὸ τέλος, ὅταν παραδιδῷ τὴν βασιλείαν τῷ θεῷ καὶ πατρί, ὅταν καταργήσῃ πᾶσαν ἀρχὴν καὶ πᾶσαν ἐξουσίαν καὶ δύναμιν, 25 δεῖ γὰρ αὐτὸν βασιλεύειν ἄχρι οὗ θῇ πάντας τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ. 26 ἔσχατος ἐχθρὸς καταργεῖται ὁ θάνατος, 27 πάντα γὰρ ὑπέταξεν ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ. ὅταν δὲ εἴπῃ ὅτι πάντα ὑποτέτακται, δῆλον ὅτι ἐκτὸς τοῦ ὑποτάξαντος αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα. 28 ὅταν δὲ ὑποταγῇ αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα, τότε αὐτὸς ὁ υἱὸς ὑποταγήσεται τῷ ὑποτάξαντι αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα, ἵνα ᾖ ὁ θεὸς πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν. 23 ἕκαστος δὲ ἐν τῷ ἰδίῳ τάγματι· ἀπαρχὴ Χριστός, ἔπειτα οἱ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ αὐτοῦ· 24 εἶτα τὸ τέλος, ὅταν παραδιδῷ τὴν βασιλείαν τῷ θεῷ καὶ πατρί, ὅταν καταργήσῃ πᾶσαν ἀρχὴν καὶ πᾶσαν ἐξουσίαν καὶ δύναμιν, 25 δεῖ γὰρ αὐτὸν βασιλεύειν ἄχρι οὗ θῇ πάντας τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ. 26 ἔσχατος ἐχθρὸς καταργεῖται ὁ θάνατος, 27 πάντα γὰρ ὑπέταξεν ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ. ὅταν δὲ εἴπῃ ὅτι πάντα ὑποτέτακται, δῆλον ὅτι ἐκτὸς τοῦ ὑποτάξαντος αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα. 28 ὅταν δὲ ὑποταγῇ αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα, τότε αὐτὸς ὁ υἱὸς ὑποταγήσεται τῷ ὑποτάξαντι αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα, ἵνα ᾖ ὁ θεὸς πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν.

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. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

Today we look at the ultimate meaning and purpose of everything. We see the broad sweep of salvation history leading in the end to every knee bowing in submission to the absolute sovereignty of the one God who really is.

We are examining the issue of resurrection. If Christ was not raised from the dead, then the gospel message is empty and believing in it is worthless, those who proclaim it are false witnesses and frauds, there is no escape from the punishment your sins deserve, and those who have died trusting in Jesus are forever lost. If it turns out that there is no resurrection, we will have wasted our lives. If in the end we are found to have believed a lie, we are of all people to be pitied.

But in fact Christ has been raised, and he is the firstfruits of resurrection; because he was really bodily physically raised, we have certainty that we too will one day be raised. His resurrection is the promise of more to come. And in the same way that he was raised, bodily, physically, so we too will be raised.

Because it was a man who brought death, a man must also undo death. Just as Adam was the head of the old creation, and brought death to all those who followed him, so Jesus is head of the new creation, making alive all those who follow after him.

By Rank

1 Corinthians 15:21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

Jews believed in resurrection. The saints would be resurrected on the last day. Martha affirmed this belief when Jesus told her that her brother would rise again.

John 11:24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

But what was unusual and unexpected about Jesus’ resurrection was that one man was raised alone. Jesus was not part of this last day resurrection of the saints. Jesus was the firstfruits. There is a sequence to the all who are made alive in Christ. Each in his own order. This word order has a military background. It is the term for a band of soldiers, a class. This would be startling to the Corinthians, who were caught up in status and advancement, and many of whom thought of themselves as better than others. Paul says there are only two ranks. Two classes. Christ and those who belong to Christ. Christ alone is the firstfruits. Jesus is in a class by himself. No one shares his glory. Jesus alone is the firstfruits.

Then. There is a clear sequence in these verses. Christ is the firstfruits, then, after an unspecified amount of time, those who are Christ’s in his coming. This refers to all the saints. There are those who belong to Jesus and those who don’t. There are those, according to 1:18, who are being saved and those who are perishing. Jesus redeemed ‘…for himself a people for his own possession’ (Titus 2:14; cf. 1Pet.2:9)

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

Those who belong to Christ, literally, those who are of Christ, will be made alive at his coming.

Parousia [παρουσίᾳ]

This word coming, or parousia, refers to the official visit as of an emperor to his colony, or of the appearance of a deity to his people. Jesus ascended into heaven in the sight of his followers.

Acts 1:10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Jesus is coming! He will make his royal appearance and all the dead in Christ shall rise (1Thes.4:16). We are to live

Titus 2:13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

At his coming those who belong to Christ will be made alive.

The End [τὸ τέλος]

Then comes the end – this is the broad sweep of the big picture – the end toward which everything is moving, the completion, the goal, the purpose, the aim.

1 Corinthians 15:24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.

The goal toward which all of history is moving is the consummation of the kingdom of God under God’s sovereign rule. Here we have Jesus delivering the kingdom to his Father. Jesus is not the Father; Jesus is not the same person as the Father. Jesus is a distinct person who enjoys a relationship with his Father; he prays to his Father, he submits to his Father, he does the will of his Father. Yet we are told that Jesus is the “image of the invisible God” (Col.1:15). Jesus is the “radiance of the glory of God, and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb.1:3). When one of his disciples asked Jesus to show them the Father,

John 14:9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

Jesus said “I and the Father are one” (Jn.10:30). Jesus said the first and greatest command is “Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Mk.12:29). The Bible teaches that Jesus is not the Father or the Spirit, but Jesus is God and the Father is God and the Spirit is God, and there is only one true God. Three distinct persons, one essence or nature. When we read this passage in this light, it is more clear. This passage is full of personal pronouns. Let me attempt to clarify these by reading either Jesus or the Father in place of he and his:

1 Corinthians 15:24 Then comes the end, when he [Jesus] delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he [Jesus] must reign until he [Father?] has put all his [Father?] enemies under his [Jesus] feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God [Father] has put all things in subjection under his [Jesus] feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he [Father] is excepted who put all things in subjection under him [Jesus]. 28 When all things are subjected to him [Jesus], then the Son himself will also be subjected to him [Father] who put all things in subjection under him [Jesus], that God [Triune] may be all in all.

The Son will hand over the kingdom to his Father after every enemy is put under his feet. These verses make reference to some Old Testament passages.

Psalms 110:1 The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”

And

Psalm 8:4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? 5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet,

From these passages it appears that God will subject all things to a son of man who is also called Lord. The background of these passages comes from the creation of man in Genesis 1.

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Man was designed to show forth the greatness of the invisible God, to exercise dominion over all creation, while remaining all the while in intimate relationship with and perfect submission to the Creator. Man failed. Adam rebelled. Man stepped out from under God’s good authority and attempted to rule independent of God. Death entered into God’s good creation. Everything went terribly wrong. This world is now broken. But where our first representative failed, our final representative fulfilled his role perfectly. Jesus, our new representative, must undo what Adam did. Jesus must bring all of creation back into perfect submission to the Creator. He must crush the rebellion and restore order. All competing rule and authority and power must be neutralized. All his enemies must be put under his feet.

Daniel pointed us to this ultimate restoration of all things under the ideal man using similar language.

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

…27 And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.’

The way Jesus referred to himself most often was by this phrase ‘the Son of Man’. Jesus is the one who would be given dominion by the Ancient of Days. When Jesus was questioned by the high priest,

Mark 14:62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

Jesus was the one who would be given authority by his Father. As the representative man, he would obey where Adam disobeyed. Where Adam rebelled, he would put down the rebellion. Where Adam made himself an enemy of God, Jesus would bring all enemies in to submission. Where Adam brought death, Jesus would destroy death. Jesus conquered death by dying. Death could not hold him. He was raised from the dead, and he told his disciples ‘all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me’ (Mt.28:18). Jesus is now seated at the right hand of his Father.

Hebrews 10:12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.

(cf. Mt. 26:64; Mk. 14:62; Lk. 22:69; Acts 2:33; 5:31; 7:55; Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 12:2; 1 Pet. 3:22)

Until

Psalm 110 said ‘sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’ Our text says

1 Corinthians 15:25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

This text spells out what the until means. Jesus, as the representative man, in the place of Adam, must reign until he had put all his enemies under his feet. He must exercise his God given dominion over all creation in the way that Adam was meant to, in perfect submission to his Father.

Death the Last Enemy

But there is one enemy still on the loose.

1 Corinthians 15:26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.”

This gives the logical necessity of resurrection. If death remains, it would appear to be more powerful than God. If resurrection was merely spiritual but left our physical bodies in the ground to decay, then death would seem to win. Death was brought into this world by Adam’s sin. If death continues to hold its victims, then the primary consequence of sin has no remedy. Death is an enemy, and it must be destroyed. Until death is finally abolished and all who are in Christ are made alive, a critical part of our salvation is still future. It is absolutely certain, as Christ the firstfruits conquered death, but it is yet to come. Jesus, the perfect man, will undo the death that Adam instituted by making us alive at his coming.

The Exception to All

But this train of thought is open to a misunderstanding that must be clarified. When the Scripture teaches that the Father will put all things in subjection to Jesus, does it mean that even the Father will be subject to Jesus in his role as the representative man?

1 Corinthians 15:27 … But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

Because the Father is the one who is placing all things under the feet of the Son, clearly the Father is not among the hostile authorities who are subjected to Jesus. With all the emphasis on Jesus as the one who rules and reigns, there may be a tendency among followers of Jesus to view him as if he were in competition with and even superior to the Father, as if he were a separate god. Many people mistakenly see in the Old Testament an angry, wrathful, vengeful god, and in the New Testament a kind and compassionate, caring and cuddly Jesus. They see Jesus as opposed to the Father, and ultimately victorious over the will of the Father by placing himself in between the angry Father and sinful people. Paul makes it clear that this is not how we should view Jesus’ relationship to the Father. Jesus was sent by his Father, and Jesus willingly came. He lived in perfect obedience to the will of his Father. It is the Father who is putting all things in subjection under Jesus. And it is Jesus, having fulfilled his role as the second Adam, the representative man, when he has undone all the damage that the first Adam brought about, who gladly delivers the kingdom to his Father. The Father, Son and Spirit are in perfect harmony as their unique roles together bring about the restoration of all things. When the last enemy is destroyed, when Jesus as the ideal man enjoys the dominion we were created for, then he will demonstrate his perfect submission and deliver the kingdom to his Father.

This was characteristic of Jesus’ whole life and ministry. He said

John 6:38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.

John 8:29 … I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”

And we see this perfect submission of Christ to the Father throughout. Paul said in chapter 3:

1 Corinthians 3:22 …all are yours, 23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

And dealing with the equal but different roles of man and woman in marriage in chapter 11, he says:

1 Corinthians 11:3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

The Son is ultimately under the authority of the Father not so that the Father may be all in all, but that God, the triune God may be all in all. This is the goal of all things. Paul exhorted the Corinthians in chapter 6,

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

And again in chapter 10

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

The ultimate goal of all things is for all things to be restored to their proper submission to the benevolent authority of a good God. All those who persist in hostility and rebellion toward God will be crushed. All those who gladly join Christ in submission to his good rule will be given life, abundant life. We were created to enjoy God for who he is so that he might be glorified as he deserves.

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

May 4, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 15:20-22; Raised In Christ

04/26 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 Raised In Christ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150426_1cor15_20-22.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

20 Νυνὶ δὲ Χριστὸς ἐγήγερται ἐκ νεκρῶν, ἀπαρχὴ τῶν κεκοιμημένων. 21 ἐπειδὴ γὰρ δι’ ἀνθρώπου θάνατος, καὶ δι’ ἀνθρώπου ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν· 22 ὥσπερ γὰρ ἐν τῷ Ἀδὰμ πάντες ἀποθνῄσκουσιν, οὕτως καὶ ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ πάντες ζῳοποιηθήσονται. 23 ἕκαστος δὲ ἐν τῷ ἰδίῳ τάγματι· ἀπαρχὴ Χριστός, ἔπειτα οἱ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ αὐτοῦ· 24 εἶτα τὸ τέλος, ὅταν παραδιδῷ τὴν βασιλείαν τῷ θεῷ καὶ πατρί, ὅταν καταργήσῃ πᾶσαν ἀρχὴν καὶ πᾶσαν ἐξουσίαν καὶ δύναμιν, 25 δεῖ γὰρ αὐτὸν βασιλεύειν ἄχρι οὗ θῇ πάντας τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ. 26 ἔσχατος ἐχθρὸς καταργεῖται ὁ θάνατος, 27 πάντα γὰρ ὑπέταξεν ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ. ὅταν δὲ εἴπῃ ὅτι πάντα ὑποτέτακται, δῆλον ὅτι ἐκτὸς τοῦ ὑποτάξαντος αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα. 28 ὅταν δὲ ὑποταγῇ αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα, τότε αὐτὸς ὁ υἱὸς ὑποταγήσεται τῷ ὑποτάξαντι αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα, ἵνα ᾖ ὁ θεὸς πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν.

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. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

Last week we looked at the consequences of believing something that is not true. The gospel is a message that is anchored in real historical events. It claims to be objectively, historically true. If it is not what it claims to be, there are dire consequences. The gospel, the good news is a proclamation that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was really dead, and that Christ was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures, and that he was really alive – he appeared to many. If Christ in actuality remained dead, then the gospel message is empty and believing in it is worthless, those who proclaim it are false witnesses and frauds, there is no escape from the punishment your sins deserve, and those who have died trusting in Jesus are forever lost. If it turns out that there is no resurrection, we will have wasted our lives. Every sacrifice, all the suffering, all the effort and energy expended, all the heartache, all the storing up treasures in heaven, all the trading present pleasures for future hopes, was an empty fantasy, and our lives are pathetic and pitiable. It matters not only that you believe and how sincerely you believe but it makes all the difference what you are believing, and if what you are trusting in is real and true.

Perfect Tense

Paul has been exploring what if’s. What if there is no resurrection? What are the hypothetical consequences if the resurrection did not in fact happen? Here in verse 20 he moves back into reality. But now Christ is risen from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is an historical reality. The verb ‘raised’ through the majority of this chapter is in the perfect tense; this is a verb tense which emphasizes the present effect of a past event. Christ was raised from the dead. That is an historical fact. But Christ today is risen. He continues today in his resurrected state. He is bodily, physically alive today. This has implications for us today.

Firstfruits

1 Corinthians 15:20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Christ is called the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. To fall asleep in Scripture is a gentle euphemism for the death of a believer. If you fall asleep, you will wake up still you, but refreshed. Death is pictured as sleep. Later in this chapter, Paul will liken death to the planting of a seed. As seed goes into the ground, it begins to decay, but suddenly life bursts forth! Life comes out of death. That life bears fruit and gives life to others. Christ is said to be the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. In the Old Testament, God’s people were to keep feasts to commemorate his saving activity. They were to keep the Passover, where a lamb was killed to cover them, to protect them from God’s wrath. When God brought them into the promised land, they were to take the first of the produce of the land in the spring and present it to the Lord as an offering. According to Leviticus 23, this was to take place on the Sunday after the Sabbath, after the Passover. The firstfruits was symbolic. The first and the best of the land was given to the Lord, and the firstfruits was the first of more to come. The firstfruits was the same kind as the rest of the harvest, and it was the beginning, which promised more like it to come. You plant crops so that you can harvest and live off of those crops. If you take the first of the harvest and give it to the Lord, this is an act of faith, trusting that there is more to come.

Jesus is called the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep because his resurrection is the same kind as ours; he was physically, bodily, tangibly raised from the dead and lives forever, and we too can expect a real physical bodily resurrection. And Jesus is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep because his resurrection is a promise of more of the same to come. Because he died a physical human death, and his life sprang out of that death, we can be confident that we too, although we will face physical death, we will be raised to newness of life.

Adam and Christ

1 Corinthians 15:21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.

Paul gives the reason that Christ is the firstfruits of the dead. Death was through a man. God created man to love him, to obey him, to enjoy him, to glorify him forever. He created humans with the capacity for worship. And he gave them a test. One tree, in the midst of a plentiful garden of pleasure. Submit to God’s authority, or throw off that yoke and become your own authority. Worship the one true God, or worship self. And life and death hung in the balance. Continue in unbroken fellowship with the living God who loves you and cares for your every need, or declare your independence, place self at the center, sever the relationship, and attempt to survive separated from the God who gives life and breath and everything good to enjoy. We rebelled against a generous and good God, and death came into the world. Man brought death into God’s good world. Through man death.

Romans 5 spells this out:

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—

Romans 6 says:

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death

The wages of sin is death. Sin came into the world through one man, Adam, and death came into the world as a result of his sin. Humanity rebelled and everything died. This world is broken, and we broke it. God created everything good and beautiful to give him praise and we touched it and said ‘mine’ and it all turned ugly and grew thorns and began to decay. Man sinned and brought death into God’s good creation. Man did this. Humans did this. Death was not a part of human nature. Death, physical and spiritual death was a virus introduced into humanity by the first man.

True Humanity

1 Corinthians 15:21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.

A man did this great evil. A man must undo it. Through a man the resurrection of corpses. This points us to the real genuine humanity of Christ. Just as Adam was human, Jesus was truly human.

There are plenty of Scriptures that clearly tell us that the Son of God is God from all eternity, equal to and eternal with the Father, no beginning and no end, sharing with his Father and the Spirit every characteristic that makes God God. John 1, Colossians 1, Hebrews 1 are just a few of the many many passages that clearly communicate the eternal divine nature of Jesus. But at a point in history God the Son became something he had never been before. He was conceived in the womb of a virgin. He was born in a cave in Bethlehem. He became human. Remaining what he was, he became what he was not. He became God with us. God incarnate. God with flesh on. His divine person was inextricably knit to a real human nature. He became the God-man. Continuing to be fully God, he became really and truly human. That is the wonder of Christmas, that God became a man.

If Jesus was not who he was, he could not have accomplished what he did. If he were merely human and not God, his death would have no value beyond himself. If as God he never took on human nature, he would be unable to stand in our place. He could be our judge but not our Savior. But because he, eternal God, became really and truly human, he could take our place as our substitute. Because he continued to be fully divine, his death was of infinite worth, and he was fully capable of bearing the weight of every sin any human had ever committed.

It was a man that brought sin and its consequences into this world through his disobedience in the garden. It was a man who conquered sin and reversed those consequences by his perfect obedience, restoring God’s good creation so that it could again give him glory and praise. By a man comes resurrection of the dead.

Representatives

1 Corinthians 15:21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

There is a parallel between Adam and Christ. In Adam all die. All of us are descended from Adam. In seed form, we were all present when Adam rebelled. We share his guilt. He acted as our representative. All of us who are in Adam, who are on his team, who are united with Adam in his rebellion against God, will die like Adam died. ‘To be in Adam is to be part of the group that has Adam as its representative leader, who finds its identity and destiny in Adam and what he brought about for his people.’ (Ciampa & Rosner, PNTC p.763).

Just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. At first read, this may sound universal. Because of Adam every single human will experience death. Because of Jesus Christ, every single human will enjoy resurrection. But if we read more carefully, we see this is not the case, and this would be contrary to the clear teaching of all of Scripture. It is all those who are in Adam that are included in the consequences of his rebellion. This indeed includes all humanity. But it is all those (and only those) who are in Christ who enjoy resurrection life. This does not include every human; this is a sub-set of humanity. Not all who are in Adam come to be in Christ. Those who are in Christ are those who take Jesus as their representative leader, who find our identity and destiny in Christ and what he brought about for his people. Those who belong to him.

Many people complain about the injustice of suffering the consequences of the rebellion of Adam. It doesn’t seem fair. But this is fair. If you are in Adam, you join him in his actions and in his consequences. You follow in his footsteps. You do what he did, you refuse to worship and submit to the one true God, and you set yourself up as the god you worship and serve, and you sever yourself from the God who really is. You deserve the same consequences Adam received. But the good news is you don’t have to stay in Adam. There is another choice. You can transfer your allegiance. You can take Christ as your representative. All those who are in Christ, who unite themselves to Christ and belong to Christ, will be made alive. This refers to more than a bare resurrection, it points us to real life. Jesus said

John 10:10 … I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

God will give abundant life to those who are in Christ Jesus. They will truly live. They will know the fullness of joy in his presence. A reconciled relationship. Fellowship with God. Intimacy. Communion. To all who are in Christ.

In Christ

What does it mean to be in Christ? Much of the New Testament talks about being in Christ. This letter starts out addressing the church of God, ‘to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints’. Paul gives thanks to God for ‘the grace of God that was given you in Christ.’ Paul says in 1:28-30

1 Corinthians 1:28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,

We are set apart in Christ Jesus, we are given grace in Christ, we are in Christ Jesus because of God who chooses what is low and despised, the nothings in the world. Wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption are found in Christ Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5 says

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

Romans 8 says

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

God reconciles people to himself in Christ. He does not count our sins against us in Christ. In Christ, we are made new. The condemnation we deserve is taken away in Christ Jesus. Paul says in Philippians 3:

Philippians 3:8 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, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

Righteousness comes not from works of the law but from being found in Christ through faith. Jesus told his followers in John 15:

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Jesus invites us to abide in him like a branch abides in the vine. We stay connected to him, drawing everything we need from him, bearing fruit through his resources and for his glory.

We are placed in Christ by God through faith. We receive grace in Christ, we are sanctified in Christ, we are reconciled to God in Christ, we find forgiveness in Christ, we escape condemnation in Christ, we receive God’s righteousness in Christ, we are made new in Christ. If we are in Christ, if we died in Christ, at his coming we will be raised to life, abundant resurrection life in him. We will find that whatever the sacrifice, whatever the cost, however we were poured out and laid down our life in the service of Christ, it was worth it. It was not in vain.

Who is your representative? Who are you connected to? In whom do you find your identity and your destiny? Is self at the center, independent, autonomous, I can do it my self my way. Or are you connected to Christ, being found in him, not having your own righteousness, but trusting in him, depending on him, receiving from him, drawing sustenance from him, submitting to his good authority? Giving all glory and praise to him for he is worthy?

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

April 26, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Theology of the Incarnation; One Person Two Natures

12/22/13 Theology of the Incarnation; One Person Two Natures; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131222_one-person-two-natures.mp3

We are taking a few weeks to study the theology of the incarnation. What do we mean when we say that God became a man? In the past two weeks we have examined some of the biblical evidence of who Jesus is. We saw that the bible plainly teaches that Jesus, although he is distinct from the Father and in perfect fellowship with his Father, is fully God, that he has always existed as God, that he fully possesses in himself all the attributes that make God God. Jesus is the divine Word that brought everything that is into existence. He is eternal, immortal, omnipotent, omnipresent, sovereign, holy, worthy of our worship.

We also saw that Jesus is really and truly human. Although conceived supernaturally by the Holy Spirit in the womb of a virgin, he was born in the normal way, he was circumcised on the eighth day, he grew and developed intellectually, physically, spiritually and socially like every other human. He learned, he grieved, he wept, he rejoiced, he ate, he drank, he slept, he became physically exhausted and weak, he suffered, and he died a violent human death. He had a real human body, a human mind, human emotions, a human will. His corpse was put in a tomb. He did not stay dead, but even after the resurrection, he presented his real physical human body alive to his disciples.

This is what the bible teaches and what all Christians believe about Jesus. Jesus is really truly fully God. Jesus is genuinely authentically human. These two natures, full deity and full humanity exist in the one person of Jesus.

The question before us today is ‘how can these things be?’ How can Jesus be both fully God and really human? How can he be infinite, eternal, uncreated, and have a birth day? How can he fill all space and be present in a body in Judea? How can he know all things and learn? How can he be all-powerful, sovereign, and grow and develop? How can he be immortal and die? This is a mystery much greater than the resurrection. If Jesus really is who he claimed to be, it would be shocking if he didn’t raise from the dead. The mystery of the incarnation is a mystery probably equal to if not greater than the trinity. That God is three persons in one being is incomprehensible to us, but that one of those persons, while remaining fully God, would unite himself forever to our human nature is staggering to the imagination.

Outline

I think it is essential that we begin by defining our terms, so that we understand what we mean by the words we use. Then we will listen to history and see what we can learn from the mistakes and wisdom of those who have gone before us, and we will conclude by examining some of the biblical passages that shed light on this issue.

Terms

When we say that Jesus is one person with two natures, we must understand what we mean by ‘person’ and what we mean by ‘nature’.

The Princeton theologian Charles Hodge puts it simply: “a person is an intelligent subject who can say I, who can be addressed as Thou, and who can act and be the object of action” [Hodge, 1871, vol I, p.444]. A person is one who can think, feel, and act in relation to other persons. When I say ‘person’ I do not mean ‘human’. As I understand it, there are three classes of personal beings; God, angels, and men. For instance, we could say that the angel Gabriel is a personal being. Angels are spirit beings, not made up of matter, not human, but Gabriel is a distinct personality who can have a conversation with Michael or Lucifer or Jesus or Mary.

By nature, I mean the essential characteristics that distinguish one class of being from another. Nature is similar to species. The attributes of Gabriel’s personality are what distinguishes him from Michael, another angelic being. The attributes of Gabriel’s nature as an angelic being are what distinguish him from the human Mary, or from God. The nature of an angel is a created spiritual being, localized but without a physical body. The nature of God is infinite uncreated eternal self-existent being. The nature of man is created being who is both spiritual and physical.

Making these kind of distinctions in our vocabulary is extremely helpful when we are talking about things like the triune God, because when we say that God is three and God is one, we do not mean that God is three in the same way that he is one. We do not mean that God is three persons and one person or that he is three beings and one being; that would be nonsense. No object can logically be three in the same way that it is one. If we are talking about a triangle, we do not say that it has three sides and it has only one side; nor do we say that a triangle is one shape and it is three shapes. A triangle is one shape with three sides. God is one being consisting in three persons. When we come to the incarnation, we are not saying that Jesus is one person and two persons; neither do we say that Jesus is one nature and two natures. We say that Jesus is one person with two natures.

History

It will be helpful to look at the development of our understanding of the incarnation in history. Our understanding of truth is refined though challenges. I know what I believe about God, but when I talk to someone with a different understanding of who God is, I am forced to think more carefully and articulate more clearly what God is like, and examine the scriptures to be sure that what I believe is in line with what God says about himself. Through the challenge, I grow in my understanding and appreciation of who God is. This is what happened in the church. The scriptures clearly teach that Jesus is fully God, that Jesus is fully man, and that Jesus is one person. We spent the last two weeks looking at some of the biblical data. This is what all Christians believe about Jesus. But this is not easy to understand. Very early there were challenges to this understanding. And we can learn and be warned from these challenges. Some denied that Jesus was God; they believed that Jesus was merely a man with a human father and mother, who was adopted by God at his baptism. Others, believing matter to be inherently evil, believed that for God to unite himself to humanity would be to defile himself; Docetism (from dokeo – to appear) taught that Jesus only appeared to be human and die; his humanity was merely an illusion.

Sabellius taught that there is only one God, but denied that God exists eternally in three distinct persons. He believed that God presented himself at different times in different modes; in the Old Testament as the Father; in the Gospels as Jesus, and after the ascension as the Spirit. His view became known as modalism. Modalism denies the personal relationships within the trinity that we see evident throughout scripture.

Arius taught that although Jesus was an exalted being above all other beings, he was the first created being and did not eternally exist and did not share the divine nature of the Father. He taught that Jesus’ nature was similar to the nature of the Father, but that he was not of the same nature as the Father. Arius’ teaching was condemned at the council of Nicea in 325 A.D.

Apolinaris taught that Jesus had a human body but not a human mind or spirit. He taught that Jesus’ human spirit was replaced by the divine Logos. But Hebrews 2:17 tells us that ‘he had to be made like his brothers in every respect’. That which he did not assume he could not save. If Jesus were not fully human, he could not be the savior of the whole person.

Nestorius affirmed that Jesus was fully God and fully man, but he taught that as a result, Jesus was two separate persons, a divine person and a human person.

Eutyches went to the other extreme emphasizing the unity of the person, going so far as to say that at the incarnation the human nature of Jesus was absorbed into the divine nature, so that Jesus was one person with only one nature; a divine/human hybrid nature (monophysitism). But if this is true, then Jesus was neither fully God nor fully man, and unable to be our mediator.

These unbiblical views of Jesus forced the church to think more carefully and articulate more clearly what is true about Jesus. Here is the statement that was agreed upon at Chalcedon in 451 A.D.

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [co-essential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us. [Chalcedonian Creed, 451 A.D.]

This makes it explicit that Jesus is one person with two natures. He eternally possessed the nature of God, and at a point in time he assumed additionally a real human nature. His divine nature continued immortal, eternal, omnipresent, omnipotent; while his human nature really learned and grew, became hungry and thirsty and weary and died. These two natures were united in one person, so that the person of Jesus really experienced hunger and pain and temptation and death. Jesus fully possesses the nature of God and fully possesses the nature of man, and these two natures exist in the one person of Jesus. His divine nature was not modified by the incarnation, nor was his human nature changed through the incarnation. Jesus was not two people, but one person.“What He was He continued to be; what He was not He took to Himself” [Gregory of Naziansen, 379 Orat.XXIX.19].

Biblical Passages

Let’s look at some of the biblical passages that directly speak to this issue. We have already spent some time in the beginning of the gospel of John, so can quickly review what we have seen there.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God.

The creative Word who always existed, who shared the nature of God and existed in relationship with his Father, this one,

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

The pre-incarnate Word who was with his Father and was himself God, became something he had not been before; he took to himself flesh, a real human body.

Look also at the beginning of John’s first letter:

1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

The eternal self-existent one, that which was from the beginning, the one who was with the Father, the one who has life in himself, was made manifest, was seen, was heard, was touched, was handled. His real true humanity was verified by eye-witnesses. Remember that John says later in this epistle that this understanding of the incarnation is essential to the true gospel; anyone who does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not from God; but is the deceiver and antichrist (1Jn.4:1-3, 2Jn.1:7).

In Romans 1 Paul speaks of Jesus’ human nature; he was called to preach:

Romans 1:1 …the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,

The one who was God’s Son eternally, according to his human nature was descended from David, but according to the Spirit, in his divine nature, he was declared to be the Son of God.

Later in chapter 9 where Paul is speaking of his people, the Israelites, he says:

Romans 9:5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

Jesus, in his human nature was ethnically Jewish. According to the flesh, his family tree is traced by Luke (3) through his mother Mary and connects him all the way back to Adam through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and king David. And this same passage in Romans clearly states the divine nature; that Jesus is God over all, blessed forever. In his human nature he is descended from the Israelites; in his divine nature he is God over all.

In Hebrews 1, the Son is said to be the Creator and heir of all things, the radiance of the glory of the Father and the exact imprint of his nature, he is called God and he is seated on the right hand of the Majesty on high. In chapter 2, we see this eternal Son made lower than the angels

Hebrews 2:9 … so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

Jesus took on a human nature so that in that nature he could taste death for me. In verse 11, his humanity is connected with mine.

Hebrews 2:11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,

Jesus can call me brother because he really and truly shares my humanity, having taken on a genuine human nature. Verse 14 says:

Hebrews 2:14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

We have a human nature, flesh and blood. From eternity he did not have a human nature, but he took on flesh and blood so that he might destroy death by dying. The author goes on to make clear that Jesus did not take on the nature of angels to save angels, but the descendants of Abraham, and we are told

Hebrews 2:17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

He was not from eternity like us. He has always possessed the very essence of God. But he had to be made like us in every respect so that he could make propitiation for our sins.

In Romans 8, Paul tells us:

Romans 8:3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,

Jesus is the eternal Son sent by his Father. He is sent in real human flesh and for sin. But Paul is careful to make clear that he was not sent in sinful flesh. He was sent in the likeness of sinful flesh. The Word became flesh; real human flesh and blood, yet not fallen sinful flesh and blood.

One more passage, probably the clearest of all on this subject, Philippians 2.

Philippians 2:5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus from all eternity existed in essence as God. He fully shares every divine attribute with his Father. But his status and glory as equal with his Father was not something he clung to at all costs. He was willing to stoop down, to make himself nothing, to empty himself. But he did not empty himself by setting aside any divine attribute, as some have falsely taught. The text tells us how he emptied himself. He emptied himself by taking. He detracted from his own glory by adding to himself. Remaining what he was, he assumed what he was not. He took the form of a servant. He emptied himself by being born in the likeness of men. He set aside his rights and privileges as God and humbled himself by taking our nature.

Bruce Ware, in his theology book for young people, illustrates it this way. You take a brand new shiny car off the showroom floor for a test drive. Latest model, all the bells and whistles, power under the hood, polished and sparkling. You head up the canyon road. Of course it has been raining. For days. You want to see what this thing can do. After a few hours, you drive back to the showroom. The salesman rushes out, mortified at what was once his new car now covered bumper to bumper in a thick coating of mud. As you hand him back the keys, you smile and say, don’t worry, nothing has been lost. I have taken nothing away from your car. I have only added to it. True, all the essential qualities that make this car what it is are still there. Even the brilliant paint job, but it has been completely hidden, it has lost its appearance of glory not by subtraction, but by the addition of a thick layer of mud. Jesus emptied himself by taking, taking to himself the nature of humanity. “He had not lost His former being, but He had become what He was not before; He had not abdicated His own position, yet He had taken ours; ” [Hilary of Poitiers c.360 Trinity, III.16].

Application

The scriptures plainly teach, and the church throughout history has affirmed that because of the incarnation, Jesus is fully God and now also truly man, two natures united in one person forever. Why is this important? What is the use of it? Why does it matter? Just a few points of application as we close.

Understanding that Jesus is one person with two natures helps make sense of scripture. This gives us theological categories to help wrap our finite human brains to some limited degree around who Jesus is. In his human nature he was helpless, wrapped up lying in a feed trough, totally dependent on his mother. In his divine nature he continued to hold the universe together by the word of his power. In his human nature he learned and grew. In his divine nature he continued in the perfection of every divine attribute. In his human nature he was hungry, thirsty and exhausted. In his divine nature he was in absolute control of all of nature. In his human nature he was led like a lamb to the slaughter and stumbled under the weight of the cross. In his divine nature, he was able to carry the sins of the world on his shoulders and pay for them in full. If he were not fully God and fully man in one person, he could not be our Savior.

Understanding that Jesus is not two persons but one person; that the divine/human person of Jesus really experienced temptation, suffering, sorrow, heartache, and death draws me to Jesus. He understands. He can sympathize. He really understands. And he invites me to come.

Increasing our understanding of who Jesus is should drive us to fall on our faces in worship. With the old hymn writers we say ‘Amazing Love! How can it be, that thou my God shouldst die for me? Tis mystery all: the Immortal dies: who can explore his strange design? …Tis mercy all! Let earth adore, let angel minds inquire no more.’ [And Can It Be, Charles Wesley, 1738]. ‘Fairest Lord Jesus, ruler of all nature, Son of God and Son of man! Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor, Thou, my soul’s glory, joy, and crown’ [Munster Gesangbuch, 1677]

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

December 22, 2013 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Theology of the Incarnation: Humanity

12/15/13 Theology of the Incarnation; Humanity; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131215_incarnation-humanity.mp3

We are taking a few weeks to stand in wonder at the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. We want to know him, to know who he is, to know all that we can about him, so that we can worship him rightly. We are looking at probably the greatest mystery the universe has ever known, the theology of the incarnation, that God became a man. Last time we looked at the full deity of Jesus, that he always existed as God, fully possessing all the characteristics of God, equal to the Father and in perfect fellowship with his Father for all eternity. We saw Jesus as Creator of all that is, the divine Word who spoke everything into existence. We saw Jesus the omnipotent one, to whom all of nature and even the demonic hordes must bow, the sovereign one. Jesus, immortal, who has the power of life in himself, Jesus, all-knowing and unlimited by space and time. Jesus, the Son, sharing all the characteristics and attributes of deity with his Father, equally worthy to be worshiped with his Father.

Outline

Today we are going to look at Jesus in his humanity, and next week at how these two natures, humanity and deity, are united in one person forever. I want to warn you that these three messages go together and each one is incomplete without the others. Focusing on the divine nature of Christ to the neglect or dismissal of his true humanity is one of the earliest heresies of the Christian church. The Apostle John wrote:

2 John 1:7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.

There were many in the early church who attempted to deny the full humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ. John calls them deceivers and against Christ. The early creeds put it this way: ‘Jesus …very God of very God, …who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, …and was made man’ (Nicea, 381). In order for Jesus sacrifice to be of infinite value to save us, he must be fully God. In order for Jesus to legitimately be our substitute he must be fully human. A savior not quite God is a bridge broken at the farther end; while a savior not quite man is a bridge broken at the nearer end (H.G.C.Moule, F.F.Bruce). The church fathers put it this way ‘remaining what he was, he became what he was not’. The Son of God, continuing in undiminished deity, became what he had never been before, a real human being. This is what the bible teaches.

The Supernatural Conception

John’s gospel tells us that the Word who was, who existed in the beginning with his Father, the Word who existed as God,

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The Word, the eternal I AM who had always existed became something he had never been before. He became flesh [σάρξ]. The invisible God became carnal, God who is spirit became embodied.

John tells us that the Word who became flesh is the only Son from the Father. We know Jesus as the Son of God, but that title is open to misinterpretation. The Jews expected a merely human messiah, and Greek mythology told of occasions where one of their many gods would come down and have relations with a mortal and produce superhuman offspring. John is careful to make it clear that Jesus does not fit into either of these categories. Jesus is not merely human, he is the self-existent God who created everything who became man. Neither is he some hybrid half-god half-man produced by an illicit relationship. He had always existed as God and this one, the eternal Son, has now become also fully human. Jesus is one of a kind, the only one who pre-existed with the Father. This one, really truly became flesh. He didn’t just appear in the form of a human, as angels sometimes do, he really truly became genuinely irreversibly human.

The angel Gabriel said it this way to Mary:

Luke 1:31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.

You will conceive in your womb; that is how all babies are normally conceived. With a placenta and an umbilical cord, cells dividing, DNA replicating, organs and limbs developing. Morning sickness. Stretch marks. Movement. You will bear a son; not an alien, a baby boy. Birthed in the normal natural way. Labor pains, contractions, water breaking, umbilical cord cut, messy. The song is wrong; ‘no crying he makes’. With that first gulp of oxygen from this planet his lungs begin to function. He cried. He nursed. He burped. Spit up. Long sleepless nights. Messy diapers (or swaddling cloths).

Mary’s question was one of biology and morality.

Luke 1:34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy— the Son of God.

Mary’s question is ‘how will this be since I have not known a man? She understood what precedes conception, and for conception to take place, there has to be a father. This is the miracle. No human father would be involved. Her morality would remain intact. The Holy Spirit of God would supernaturally place the divine seed inside of her.

Matthew’s gospel records it this way:

Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

In Matthew’s gospel, it is Joseph that has the questions. Mary is pregnant. He naturally assumes the worst.

Matthew 1:20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

He is assured that her purity is intact. The origin of this child is supernatural. The Word became flesh. But everything else about this child is as normal and natural as any other child. The birth is inconvenient. The timing is inopportune. The circumstances are terrible. The visitors were probably an awkward intrusion.

Natural Development

They had him circumcised on the eighth day (Lk.2:21), which tells us that he came with all the standard equipment that every other baby boy is born with. And I’m sure he cried then.

Luke tells us that his growth and development was normal and natural human development.

Luke 2:40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.

He nursed. He had to be fed. He rolled over. He began to crawl. He stood up. He took his first step. He learned to eat. He learned to walk. He learned his aleph-bet. He was taught to be quiet in church. He was taught to read the Torah. He learned how to relate to other people. He learned how to relate to God. He had to grow up just like every other boy had to grow up. There was only one unique difference with Jesus. He never once sinned. In everything he pleased his heavenly Father. He got left behind in Jerusalem when he was 12. He was submissive to his parents.

Luke 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

Doctor Luke tells us that he developed intellectually, physically, spiritually and socially like every other human. The Quran and the non-biblical Infancy Gospel of Thomas have the boy Jesus doing mischievous miracles, cursing, healing, and breathing life into clay birds. But this clearly contradicts the historically reliable biblical accounts. When Jesus changed over 100 gallons of water into fine wine at the wedding in Cana, we are told this was the first of his signs (Jn.2:11). When he returned to his hometown of Nazareth claiming to be the fulfillment of Scripture, those who saw him grow up took offense at him.

Matthew 13:54 and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.”

Jesus was so normal, so ordinary, so familiar, so human, that his own townspeople refused to believe that he was anything more than a mere man.

Human Limitations

We see Jesus in the gospels as fully human. He thought, felt and acted in a fully human way. His human body was subject to the same limitations that we all have.

Jesus had an ordinary human mind. As we have seen, Jesus learned. He increased in wisdom. He asked questions in order to find out information he didn’t know. When a woman touched him in the crowd, he asked “who touched my garments?”. In conversation with a demon-possessed boy’s father, he asked “how long has this been happening to him?” In response to questions about the timing of the end of the age, Jesus said:

Mark 13:32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Jesus had ordinary human emotions. In John 11, we are told:

John 11:5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

At the death of his friend, not only did Jesus ask “where have you laid him?” but it says:

John 11:33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. … 35 Jesus wept.

When Jesus predicted that one of his own disciples would betray him, it says “Jesus was troubled in his spirit” (Jn.13:21). Looking toward the cross, he said “now is my soul very sorrowful, even to death” and he begged his Father to remove the cup from him (Mk.14:34-35). Luke tells us:

Luke 22:43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

From the cross, Jesus cried out:“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt.27:46).

Jesus had an ordinary human body. At the beginning of Matthew, we are told

Matthew 4:2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.

And after the temptation, Jesus was so physically weak we are told:

Matthew 4:11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well and asked her for a drink, it describes his physical condition this way:

John 4:6 Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

In Matthew 8, Jesus was so exhausted from a day of ministry that he was sleeping right through a great storm. After his scourging, Jesus was apparently so weak that the Roman soldiers compelled a man named Simon to carry his cross for him.

Jesus’ body was real. And he really died a violent human death of public execution. John tells us after his death,

John 19:34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.

Real physical human blood. Real physical human death. In a real physical human body. Mark tells us:

Mark 15:44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. 45 And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. 46 And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.

A Roman centurion verified the real physical death of Jesus. His dead physical human body was taken down from the cross, wrapped in linen and laid in a tomb. The women came Sunday morning with spices to anoint the dead body of Jesus (Mk.16:1), because they fully expected that his body like any other dead physical body would begin to decompose and stink.

When Jesus presented himself alive to his followers, he made a point to demonstrate that he was really bodily physically there.

Luke 24:36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.

Providentially, Thomas was absent from this first appearance of the risen Jesus to his disciples. Thomas refused to believe unless he could handle real evidence.

John 20:26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

Jesus ascended bodily, physically into heaven, where he is now bodily, physically seated at the right hand of the majesty on high. He promised that he would bodily, physically return to this earth.

The Importance of His True Humanity

Why is this so important? Why do the gospel writers give so much evidence to demonstrate that Jesus was really truly human? According to the Apostle John, the true humanity of Jesus is essential to Christianity.

Substitution

The author of Hebrews gives us several reasons.

Hebrews 2:9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

God the Son took on human flesh so that he could experience human death as a legitimate substitute for sinful humans. In order to die in the place of humans, he had to be himself human.

Hebrews 10:4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; 6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. 7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

Animal sacrifices could never take away sin, because animals are not human, created in the image of God. Jesus took on a human body so that he could substitute himself for us.

Hebrews 2:14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham.

Jesus partook of flesh and blood so that he could destroy the consequences of sin, death, by dying. He did not become an angel to rescue angels. He became human to rescue humans.

Hebrews 2:17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

He had to (notice the language of necessity); he had to be made like his brothers in every respect (being sort of human or partially human would not be adequate; he had to be fully human); he had to be made like his brothers in every respect in order to carry out his role as our great high Priest making propitiation for sin. To bear the wrath of God against the sins of mankind, he had to be a man.

Sympathy

The next verse gives another reason he became a man.

Hebrews 2:18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Jesus really truly experienced temptation, so we can go to him for help when we are tempted.

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Because Jesus in every respect has been tempted as we are, we can confidently come to him to receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Obedience

Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 calls Christ the last Adam or the second man. Where Adam was placed in paradise with all of his needs met and he disobeyed, Jesus, driven into the wilderness and literally starving to death, fully obeyed his Father. He lived his whole life in perfect obedience. He was even obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Paul says in Romans 5:

Romans 5:18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

Because of Jesus’ perfect obedience as a man to his Father, his perfect righteousness as our substitute now makes us righteous.

Mediator

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

For Jesus to truly mediate and be the spokesman both for God and for men, he must be both fully God and fully man.

The old creed says it this way: (would you say it with me?)

[We believe] in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made;
Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried; and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

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

December 15, 2013 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Theology of the Incarnation: Deity

12/08/13 Theology of the Incarnation; Deity;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131208_incarnation-deity.mp3

I’d like to take this time of year as an excuse to do something a little different than we usually do. I’d like to look at some theology with you. We normally work our way through books of the Bible, take it as it comes, and listen to what God has to say to us through the pages of his word. But for the next few weeks I’d like to do some theology with you. I want to look at the theology of the incarnation.

Theology

The mention of doing theology might scare you in one of three different directions.

Some might be scared that theology means that we are going to dictate that you believe certain stuff because somebody important with a lot of authority said we should. Although we can learn a lot from history, that is not what we intend to do. Good theology is taking all that the bible says relating to a specific issue and attempting to fit it together and make sense of it. We will look at some history along the way, because we can learn a lot from other people, and awareness of history often helps us to avoid making the same mistakes that others have already made. What we are aiming for is a biblically based historically informed theology.

Some might be inclined to say ‘theology is just not my cup of tea’. I’m not into all that. The problem with this is that everyone does theology. You believe things about God based on what you have seen or heard or felt or read. Everyone does theology. Some do it carefully and well, others do it haphazardly and poorly, but everyone does theology. The question is not whether or not to do theology; the question is whether or not we will get our theology right. Children are some of the best theologians. They are curious. They ask questions. They want to know why. If you spend any time around children, you will have to do theology. It would be in your best interest and theirs to do it well.

Some are turned off by theology because they think that theology is stuffy and boring and irrelevant. Some might say ‘I have a real relationship with Jesus; why do I need theology?’ You need solid theology to make sure your relationship is with the real Jesus. Good theology is not irrelevant; it is the most relevant study addressing the most important issue that any human being ever has to face. The stakes are so high that it warrants serious and careful attention. Theology is not boring because God is not boring. He is the most interesting being that is. He is worthy of all your affection, all your devotion, all your energy. The greatest commandment tells us that we must love God with all of our mind. You will find, rather than being stuffy, studying who God is will irresistibly draw you deeper into worship. As we see what God reveals about himself in the Bible, we will be filled with wonder and amazement which naturally expresses itself in worship.

Outline

Here is where we are going. Lord willing, we will take the next few weeks to examine the theology behind the incarnation. It will be well worth our time and energy to focus our attention on the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the God-man. This week we will examine his Divine nature; next week we will look at his humanity, and the following we will look at how these two natures are united in one person forever.

Trinity

In order to understand more clearly what happened at the incarnation, when God became man, we need to understand a bit about the nature of God. All Christians believe there is only one true God. Christianity, along with Judaism and Islam, is strictly monotheistic. There can only be one supreme being. The Biblical narrative starts with ‘In the beginning God…’ (Gen.1:1). God commands his people ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ (Ex.20:3).

Psalm 96:5 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens.

God gives evidence that ‘the LORD is God; there is no other besides him’ (Deut.4:35). Jesus said ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve (Mt.4:10). This is interesting, because as we will see, Jesus repeatedly claimed to be God, and received worship as God, but he also addressed his Father as God. This has led Christians to understand that the one God has eternally existed in three distinct persons; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These three personalities or centers of consciousness all share the divine nature or essence, they each are characterized by all of the divine attributes or characteristics. This teaching has come to be known as the doctrine of the Trinity. All Christians from earliest times have held that there is only one God and that the Father is God, the Son is God and the Spirit is God.

This is relevant to our understanding of the incarnation, because when we say that God became man, we do not mean that the Father or the Spirit became man, but only the Son. The personality of the Son is not to be confused with the Father or the Spirit. Jesus, during his time on the earth, continued in his relationship with his Father and the Holy Spirit through prayer and dependence.

John 1

Let’s start by looking at John’s gospel.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John brings us all the way back to the beginning, using words that remind us of the opening words of Genesis. In the beginning – in the darkness before the universe or even matter existed, the Word already was. This is the Divine word who spoke matter and light and life into existence. John takes us back to creation and says that the Word was already there. The Word was eternal. Then it says something interesting about the Word. It tells us that this Word was with God; distinct from God, a separate personality, a unique center of consciousness who could be said to be with God. And the text also affirms that the Word was God. The Word shared the essence of God, the divine nature. Psalm 33:6 tells us:

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

John tells us that everything that has ever come into being came into existence through the Word.

Verses 2-4 tell us that the Word is personal. The Word is not an it; the Word is a he. Who was this divine personality who was both with God and was himself God? Who is the Word? We find the answer in verse 14.

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 ( John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

The Word became flesh. The Word was the only Son from the Father, fully sharing his God-ness as a son shares the DNA of his father. John the baptist, who was about 6 months older than his cousin, said “he who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.” Jesus was born later than John, but John says that the Word has always existed before John came into being. In verse 18, he affirms the invisible, immaterial,spiritual nature of God; ‘no one has ever seen God’, and then he goes on to say that the Word is the only one who shares the nature of God, yet is distinct from the Father. The Word, John says, has become human and dwelt among us in order to make the invisible God known.

This is beyond wonderful! To summarize a few of the high points that we learn from John 1: the Word is the eternal Son who became human; Jesus. He has eternally existed in relationship with his Father. He also shares the same divine nature or essence with his Father. He was with God, and he was God.

Jesus is God

Let’s look at some other passages that clearly present Jesus as divine. Paul says in Romans 9:5 speaking of the Israelites:

Romans 9:5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

In Titus 2 he refers to Jesus as:

Titus 2:13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

Peter refers to Jesus almost the same way in 2 Peter 1.

2 Peter 1:1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

The author of Hebrews applies Psalm 45 to Jesus:

Hebrews 1:8 But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.

When he finally saw the risen Christ,

John 20:28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

LORD

This is interesting because not only does Thomas address Jesus as God, but also as Lord. We might easily miss the significance of this due to our familiarity with the English word. This word ‘κύριος‘, Lord, is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament which was in use in Jesus’ day to translate the Hebrew name of God, ‘YHWH’, 6814 times. For anyone familiar with the Old Testament to identify Jesus as Lord would be to connect him with YHWH the very name of God. In Luke 1, when Elizabeth sees Mary coming to visit, she exclaims:

Luke 1:43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

In Luke 2, the angel of the Lord declares to the shepherds:

Luke 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

When the shepherds made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child, all who heard it wondered (Lk.2:17-18). To say that the child born in Bethlehem is the Christ, the Messiah is amazing enough. But to say that he is YHWH, the Lord staggers the imagination!

In Luke 3, the role of John the Baptist is said to fulfill the words of Isaiah 40

Isaiah 40:3 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

This clearly demonstrates that Jesus is identified as YHWH, the Lord of the Old Testament.

The author of Hebrews applies Psalm 102 to the Son of God:

Hebrews 1:10 And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; 11 they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, 12 like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”

Notice, not only does he refer to Jesus as Lord, but he attributes all of creation to Jesus, and asserts that Jesus is unchanging and eternal.

Attributes of Deity

This is another clear evidence in scripture that Jesus is fully divine. Not only is he directly called God and Lord, he has the characteristics or attributes that only God possesses, like eternity and unchangeableness or immutability.

In John 2, Jesus turned 120-180 gallons of water into the finest wine for a wedding celebration.

John 2:11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

Jesus, the true Master of the feast, put his glory on display.

In Matthew 8, when the disciples are terrified that they will die in the storm,

Matthew 8:25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

Jesus demonstrated his omnipotence; his absolute power over all of creation. Later in this chapter, he demonstrates his sovereignty even over the demonic hordes, who must obey his command.

On many occasions we are told that Jesus knew the heart and thoughts of men.

John 6:64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)

In John 16, the disciples said:

John 16:30 Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.”

In John 21, when Jesus asks Peter ‘do you love me’, Peter answers:

John 21:17 …and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

Jesus is all-knowing; omniscient.

When Nathaniel was introduced to Jesus in John 1, Jesus said to him:

John 1:47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

Jesus here claims omnipresence; the ability to see what is happening in a different place. In Matthew 18, Jesus looks into the future gatherings of believers and promises:

Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

In Matthew 28, when Jesus sends his disciples into the nations, he

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

For Jesus to accompany all of his scattered disciples as they evangelize the nations would require him to be omnipresent.

When some friends lowered a paralyzed man through the roof of a house where Jesus was teaching,

Mark 2:5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

In claiming to forgive sins, Jesus was claiming to be the sovereign holy God against whom all sin is ultimately committed.

Jesus claimed to be the life-giver. He said in John 5:

John 5:21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.

He said in John 10:

John 10:17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

Jesus claimed to have immortality, the power of an indestructible life (Heb.7:16).

In John 8, Jesus was claiming to be greater than Abraham.

John 8:57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

Jesus does not merely say that he pre-dated Abraham. He claimed to be the self-existent One who spoke to Moses from the burning bush (Ex.3:14).

In Revelation 19:10, John is so overcome with awe that he falls down to worship the angel that brought him the message. The angel quickly refused his worship and told him ‘worship God’, for God alone is worthy of worship. But Jesus, on several occasions, received worship and did not refuse it.

Matthew 28:9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.

In fact, in Revelation 5, we see Jesus, the Lamb, receiving equal worship with his Father.

Revelation 5:11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

This is the Jesus we worship, the Word made flesh, the infinite, eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, immortal, self-existent, sovereign Creator of all that is. Jesus lacks no quality that God the Father possesses. He is YHWH God, sharing all the character traits of God with his Father. He was in the beginning with God, and he is God. As God, he is infinitely worthy of our trust, because he is infinitely able to save us. Because of who he is, his sacrifice for us on the cross is of infinite value. 

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

December 8, 2013 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment