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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Exodus 3:11-15; The Being of God

09/06 The Being of God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150906_being-of-god.mp3

In the beginning God

The opening words of the scripture narrative are staggering.

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created…

Beresit bara elohim; ἐν ἀρχῇ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς

Today we will look at the being of God, the existence of God. We are not arguing for the existence of God. We are told that

Romans 1:20 …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.

We are on a quest to know God. To know him as he is, as he has revealed himself to us, as he intends to be known. We are setting out to know him, to respond to him in ways appropriate to his nature and character. We intend to give to him the honor due to God, to acknowledge him as God, to give him thanks, to worship, to serve him.

The opening words of Genesis point to the existence of God. “In the beginning, God…” In the beginning – the beginning of this world, at the coming into existence of the heavens and the earth, before this world was formed, before the sun, the moon, the stars, the planets existed, God was. He was. He existed.

Cause and Effect

A common conversation between parents and children often runs something like this:

Wow! Look at all those stars! Where did all the stars come from?

The Bible says that God made the stars. The Bible says that God made everything.

Wow! God made everything? Did he make the trees and the grass?

Yes, the Bible tells us that God made all the plants.

Did he make all the animals too?

Yes, the Bible tells us that God made all the living creatures.

Wow! What about me? Did God make me?

Yes, the Bible tells us that God knit you together in your mother’s womb.

So God made the stars and the trees and the grass and the zebras and the giraffes and the whales, and God even made me?

Yes, that’s right.

Then who made God?

Where do you go with that? How do you answer this question? Who made God? Where did God come from?

Every effect must have an adequate cause. Because the stars are there, we ask what caused them. Because plants and animals and humans exist, we wonder where they came from. If we accept that God exists and the answer ‘God created them’, then we might naturally wonder, if God exists, where did God come from? Who created God? What is God’s cause? But this question is based on a false assumption. Because the tree and the zebra and the stars exist, and because we believe that God exists, we assume that God, along with the stars and zebras and trees, is an effect that requires an adequate cause. But God is not an effect. He is The Cause. In the beginning God existed and he created. He is not like us. We are effects and he is the Cause. We are created, and he is the Creator. When your son or daughter or college professor asks you ‘who made God?’ the proper answer is ‘No one. God is.’

Exodus 3

When God interrupted a displaced nomadic shepherd in the desert of Sinai and told him that he was his chosen instrument to liberate his people from Egypt, Moses asked a question.

Exodus 3:11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

Moses asked the wrong question. Moses’ eyes were in the wrong place. He was an exile from the royal court in Egypt. He was a murderer. He had been rejected by his own people. He had spent the last 40 years wandering around in the desert looking after sheep. God says ‘Who are you? Who are you? It doesn’t matter who you are, it matters who I am. I will be with you.’ So Moses rephrases his question. ‘Who are you, God?’

Exodus 3:13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”

Moses is on the right track. He is turning his attention away from his own identity and focusing on God’s identity. What is your name? What is your character? What are you like?

14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.

This is my name. This is how I am to be remembered. Who am I? I AM! God answers with a form of the verb ‘to be’. I am. I exist. YHWH; the LORD. I AM that I AM. Tell them the one who is has sent you. The one who has being.

This is a strange way to describe oneself. The way we usually talk about ourselves is to say ‘I am’ and follow it with some description of who we are. I am a Zedicher. I am a pastor. I am a husband. I am a father. I am honest. I am humble…

To say ‘I am what I am’ sounds aloof – I’m not going to tell you anything about myself. I am what I am and you can figure it out. But in the context of this passage it is clear that this is not God’s intent. He tells Moses much about himself. He tells him that he is holy, unapproachable, the God who has made promises to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, the God who listens to the cry of his people, the God who cares, the God who comes down to deliver them, the God who is mighty to save, the God who promises abundant blessings to his people.

‘I am what I am’ could sound like an ultimatum; I am what I am and I’m not going to change, so you can take it or leave it. Maybe there is a little bit of this in this statement. God is unchanging in his being, perfections and attributes. What he is he is and he will never be different. He will never act contrary to his own nature.

God’s Being and Ours

But the primary meaning of “I AM” is being, existence. That is something we cannot say absolutely. I am a pastor, a father, a husband, but rewind 22 years and I was none of those things. Those are things I became. I have changed. My experiences have shaped me. I am not what I once was, and I am not yet what I will be. Every day I am changing. I am becoming. I am not being. Some changes are for the better; others are for the worse. But God is. He is absolute in his perfections. He cannot improve. If he were improving, we could never say he was perfect. And he will not decline in his perfections. He is. He is what he is.

God exists. He is. There was never a time when he wasn’t who he is now. There was a time when I didn’t exist. Before I was conceived by my parents, I had no being. I wasn’t. I didn’t exist. I was brought into existence. I was given being. I did nothing to bring about my own being. And my being, my existing, now that I do exist, is dependent on a lot of outside factors. To find that out, just go camping. I spent Friday night on the mountain with our youth group. You have to think through what you need to exist. And you need to see if you can fit it all into a backpack that you can carry. You can’t live without water. You need food for energy. You need a way to prepare the food, and you need a way to preserve the food so it doesn’t go bad. You need a way to stay warm at night. And those are just some of the bare minimums for a summer overnight. If we were traveling to the moon, we would need to bring our own supply of oxygen to breathe, and our own atmosphere in the form of a pressurized suit or cabin. Our being, our existence, is dependent on a multitude of outside factors. We are dependent beings. God is. He exists in and of himself.

There is a word theologians use to describe this; aseity. It means ‘existence originating from and having no source other than itself’ (dictionary.reference.com). Aseity comes from the Latin ‘from oneself’. God is needs nothing outside of himself to exist. He is not dependent on anyone or anything. He is. He exists. He doesn’t need air, atmosphere, water, food, shelter. He is. He is self-existent.

Paul says in Acts 17:

Acts 17:24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. …28 for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, …

He needs nothing from anyone, but we are dependent on him for life and breath and everything. In him we have our being. He is the self-existent one.

God says in Isaiah:

Isaiah 43:10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. 11 I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior. 12 I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and I am God. 13 Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?”

Isaiah 44:6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. 7 Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me,…

We are to know, to believe, to understand that I AM. God is. No one is like God. No one can be compared to him. He is utterly unique in his self-existence.

This is what makes the claims of Jesus so startling. Jesus said in John 8:

John 8:23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

Jesus claimed an unique origin. He came from above, from outside this world. And he claimed that belief in his identity changes our destiny. We must believe that Jesus is the I AM. His continued conversation with the Jews makes his meaning clear.

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.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

Jesus, who was born more than 1500 years after Abraham, claims to have existed before Abraham. In fact, Jesus claims to be the I AM, the self-existent one, taking the very name of God for his own. The Jews emphasize the severity of his claim. They recognized it as blasphemy and planned to stone him to death. “Unless you believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.’

John’s gospel begins with these words:

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.

In the beginning the Word was. The Word existed. The Word was already there. The Word was God. Everything that was made was made through him. He is the unmade, uncreated Creator of all that is. He is the one who is.

Hebrews tells us

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 was created by the word of the God who is. That which is visible came out of that which is invisible. He goes on to say:

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

In order to draw near to God, in order to please God, we must believe that he is. We must recognize him as the one who is, the self-existent one.

We want to please God. We want to draw near to God. We want to enjoy his presence forever. We must know, believe, and understand that he IS. He exists in and of himself, and he rewards those who seek to know him as he is.

Paul tells us in Romans 4 that Abraham’s faith, the faith which was counted to him as righteousness, was a faith that ‘gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised’ (Rom.4:20-21). Abraham’s faith was:

Romans 4:17 …—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

The God Abraham trusted in is the God who has life and existence in himself, who is the source of existence, who calls into existence things that do not exist.

If we want to please God, to know God, to enjoy God, unless we want to die in our sins, we must believe that God is, that he is the I AM, the self-existent one, the one who exists independent of anything outside of himself.

Knowing this about God should serve to humble us. God does not need us. We can contribute nothing to his being. He is who he is and he cannot change. Our life is compared to a mist, a vapor, a blade of grass, a fading flower. Knowing this about God and about ourselves should humble us and amaze us.

Psalm 8:4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

The Psalmist cries as he considers the grandeur of God. What is man in comparison with the God who is?

Psalm 8:5 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,

Man is a breath, a shadow, less than dust and nothing, yet the God who is existence, who brought us into existence, has chosen to love us, to so love us that he gave his only Son to rescue us from our self-absorbed pride and open our eyes to something greater; someone greater, to the God who IS.

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

September 6, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, Theology | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 12:14-26; Belonging to the Body

1 Corinthians 12:14-26 ~ 20140928 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

09/28 1 Corinthians 12:14-26 Belonging to the Body; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140928_1cor12_14-26.mp3

1 Corinthians 12 [SBLGNT]

14 Καὶ γὰρ τὸ σῶμα οὐκ ἔστιν ἓν μέλος ἀλλὰ πολλά. 15 ἐὰν εἴπῃ ὁ πούς· Ὅτι οὐκ εἰμὶ χείρ, οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐκ τοῦ σώματος, οὐ παρὰ τοῦτο οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ τοῦ σώματος; 16 καὶ ἐὰν εἴπῃ τὸ οὖς· Ὅτι οὐκ εἰμὶ ὀφθαλμός, οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐκ τοῦ σώματος, οὐ παρὰ τοῦτο οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ τοῦ σώματος· 17 εἰ ὅλον τὸ σῶμα ὀφθαλμός, ποῦ ἡ ἀκοή; εἰ ὅλον ἀκοή, ποῦ ἡ ὄσφρησις; 18 νυνὶ δὲ ὁ θεὸς ἔθετο τὰ μέλη, ἓν ἕκαστον αὐτῶν, ἐν τῷ σώματι καθὼς ἠθέλησεν. 19 εἰ δὲ ἦν τὰ πάντα ἓν μέλος, ποῦ τὸ σῶμα; 20 νῦν δὲ πολλὰ μὲν μέλη, ἓν δὲ σῶμα. 21 οὐ δύναται δὲ ὁ ὀφθαλμὸς εἰπεῖν τῇ χειρί· Χρείαν σου οὐκ ἔχω, ἢ πάλιν ἡ κεφαλὴ τοῖς ποσίν· Χρείαν ὑμῶν οὐκ ἔχω· 22 ἀλλὰ πολλῷ μᾶλλον τὰ δοκοῦντα μέλη τοῦ σώματος ἀσθενέστερα ὑπάρχειν ἀναγκαῖά ἐστιν, 23 καὶ ἃ δοκοῦμεν ἀτιμότερα εἶναι τοῦ σώματος, τούτοις τιμὴν περισσοτέραν περιτίθεμεν, καὶ τὰ ἀσχήμονα ἡμῶν εὐσχημοσύνην περισσοτέραν ἔχει, 24 τὰ δὲ εὐσχήμονα ἡμῶν οὐ χρείαν ἔχει. ἀλλὰ ὁ θεὸς συνεκέρασεν τὸ σῶμα, τῷ ὑστεροῦντι περισσοτέραν δοὺς τιμήν, 25 ἵνα μὴ ᾖ σχίσμα ἐν τῷ σώματι, ἀλλὰ τὸ αὐτὸ ὑπὲρ ἀλλήλων μεριμνῶσι τὰ μέλη. 26 καὶ εἴτε πάσχει ἓν μέλος, συμπάσχει πάντα τὰ μέλη· εἴτε δοξάζεται μέλος, συγχαίρει πάντα τὰ μέλη.

1 Corinthians 12 [ESV2011]

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

Paul is answering questions the Corinthians had asked about what defines spirituality, and how spirituality relates to specific spiritual gifts. They were seeking power and status and position. They wanted to be thought well of by others.

Paul reminds them in verses 1-3 of the basic Christian truth that every genuine follower of the Lord Jesus has the Spirit of God and is thus spiritual.

In verses 4-11 he emphasizes the diverse distributions of distinct gifts all coming from the one triune God. Gifts are given to every part of the body, so no one is ungifted or unspiritual. Every believer has been sovereignly, supernaturally equipped to play a divinely ordained role in the function of the body. And gifts are given not for the building up of any individual, but for the common good.

In verses 12-13, he introduces the analogy of the body and grounds it in the theological truth that every believer has been baptized in one Spirit into one body. Every follower of Jesus, every dependent of Jesus has been baptized in the one Spirit into the one church, the body of Christ. Diverse backgrounds have drunk of the one Spirit.

In verses 14-26 he fleshes out the metaphor of the body, making three main points that every believer is a necessary part, that no believer is independent of other parts, and that extra respect should be shown to the less presentable parts.

Principle

First, he states the principle:

12:14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many.

Ears, eyes, nose, mouth, brain, nerves, bones, tendons, muscles, tissue, hands, feet, liver, lungs, kidneys, heart, stomach, intestines; the body consists of many parts. No part is unnecessary. No part is able to function independent of the others. Each part, each organ, each limb is inextricably interconnected and interdependent with all the other parts.

I Do Not Belong

He addresses the issue of a body part that feels it does not belong.

15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.

The metaphor is humorous. Each part is given a voice. I’m not sure how the foot or the ear can talk without sending the message through the nervous system into the brain and out the mouth, but Paul is picturing the foot complaining. “I am down here at the bottom, in the dirt. It really stinks down here. I have to bear the whole weight of the rest of the body. I’m clumsy and run into things, and it really hurts. I step in things and it stinks. The hand is so much more coordinated. It is way up there in a much more pleasant environment doing really interesting stuff. It can grip and twist and squeeze and scratch and snap and wave and shake and feel. It gets to have interaction and communication. When there is an itch, it can scratch it. The hand is in. I’m out. I don’t belong.

Or the ear to the eye. I don’t have lids to protect me, I can’t move on my own, or focus on things near or far. The eye can even express emotion, display joy, create tears, communicate annoyance or intensity. To see color and texture and movement and depth must be amazing. The eyes are in. I’m out. I don’t belong.

Does the feeling of not belonging make it any less a part of the body? If it says that it is not a part, does that disconnect it from the body? The foot cannot choose to disconnect itself from the body. Ironically, it would be dependent on the very hand it is jealous of to pick up a saw or an ax and sever it from the body, something the brain under normal circumstances would never allow the hand to do.

The idea of a self-aware and self-conscious comparing and complaining part of the body is humorous and absurd, and that is the very point Paul uses this illustration to make. The body is one and functions as one. When there is running to be done, the feet and legs and hips all move together to perform the action. When there is something to be picked up, the hands and arms and back and legs all cooperate to accomplish the action. The parts are not self-conscious of their individuality and distinction from the other parts, envious of the other parts. The body is one and moves as one under the direction of the one head, empowered by the one spirit. When we begin to think about our own importance or unimportance in comparison to the rest of the body, the possibility of doing anything truly Christian is gone (Morris, p.172).

It is interesting that the foot does not compare itself with the eye, and the ear does not compare itself with the hand. Chrysostom notes that ‘we are prone to envy those who surpass us a little rather than those who are patently in a different class’ (Morris, p.171).

Monstrosity of a One Member Body

Paul develops this illustration further based on the different functions of the different parts.

17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?

Picture the monstrosity of a body that was all eye. Even Mike Wazowski from Monsters Inc. has arms, legs, and a mouth in addition to his one big eye. It would be difficult to animate a whole body that was only eye. The idea of a whole body that is nothing but ear is absurd. The different functions are highlighted. Maybe seeing is more important than hearing or smelling, but all those senses together make up our experience of the world around us, and any lack would be a deformity and a deficiency. If the ear got its wish and morphed into an eye, the body would lack a very important sense.

Sovereign Wisdom in the Design of the Body

18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

Again, God is honored as the divine mastermind behind the creation of the body. In verse 6 we were told that God empowers the various gifts, in verses 7-10 that the gifts are given by God through the Spirit, in verse 11 the Spirit apportions to each one individually as he wills, in verse 13, we were all made to drink of one Spirit. God arranges the members of the body, each one of them, as he chose. There is divine sovereign wisdom and purpose in the arrangement of the members of the body. For one body part to envy another or for one part to consider itself as out of place or not belonging is to say that God made a mistake in his arrangement of the individual parts.

If all were a single part, where would the body be? A drawer full of tongues or ears or eyes would be very disturbing. That is not a body.

We can apply this principle to local churches. It is just as freakish and bizarre for any local church or denomination to choose its favorite gift and make up a body of all tongues or all brains or all hearts. That is not a body.

I Have No Need of You

Paul now moves his focus from the part that feels unimportant and that it does not belong, to the part who feels overly important.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”

Now we have the eye looking down on the hand. Again we have the absurdity of individual self-aware self-conscious body parts competing with one another. Just as inconceivable as a body part excluding itself from the body because doesn’t feels like it belongs, so it is unthinkable for a body part to arrogantly proclaim that it is self-sufficient and independent of the other parts. The function of the eye is amazing. It can perceive and identify something a mile away. It can discern shapes and colors and distance. The eye can see. But have you ever gotten a grain of dirt or a piece of sawdust in your eye? The hand becomes a very valuable asset to the eye. Imagine getting up one morning and stumbling in to the bathroom to put in your contact lenses. The hand says to the eye, ‘so you don’t need me? Good luck with that!’ Try getting the tiny lenses out of the little plastic case with the screw on lids and into your eyes without the use of your hands. No individual member can have such an over-inflated opinion of itself that it disregards or discards other members of the body. The head is undeniably important. It is more important to the life of the body than the feet. The body can live longer without feet than it can without a head. But that does not give it permission to say to the feet ‘I have no need of you’. No part of the body can say to any other part of the body ‘I have no need of you’.

Honor the Unpresentable Parts

22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require.

Some parts of the body we consider weaker or less honorable or unpresentable. The word translated ‘seem to be’ and ‘we think’ was used back in 1:18.

1 Corinthians 1:18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.

In 4:9-13 the word is used to describe the seeming foolishness, weakness, and disrepute of the apostles. It is also used in 8:2.

1 Corinthians 8:2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.

1 Corinthians 10:12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

The word ‘weaker’ or weakness has been a theme in this letter. In 1:25 he says:

1 Corinthians 1:25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. … 27 …God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;

In chapter 8 he uses this word to describe the consciences of those who were being stumbled.

1 Corinthians 8:11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.

And in chapter 9

1 Corinthians 9:22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.

In 4:10, he uses the words ‘dishonorable’ and ‘weak’ to describe what the Apostles seemed to be in comparison to the status seeking Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 4:10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute.

There are some body parts that we keep hidden. And rightly so. Some body parts are not intended for the public eye. They are weak, dishonorable, unpresentable. But these parts are indispensable. Literally, the text says we ‘surround these with superabundant honor’. They are treated with superabundant modesty. It seems Paul’s language is pointing to the parts of the reproductive system. These parts are best kept hidden, but they are indispensable for the propagation of future generations. In athletics, these parts are surrounded with extra protection and padding.

Paul is making the connection with the weak, dishonorable, unpresentable people in the body of Christ. Some people are socially awkward. Some people lack tact and social graces. Some people have a tendency to put their feet in their mouths or speak before they think. Some people are destitute and in desperate circumstances. Some people suffer from mental illness. Some people are weak or sick. In the world, these are the people that would be subject to ridicule, they would be held up and made a spectacle of, they would be the brunt of jokes and gossip. But not so in the church of God. God chose the foolish, God chose the weak, God chose the low, the despised, the nothings, so that no one might boast in his presence (1:27-29). At the cross, God turned social norms upside down. He conquered power with weakness, he took away guilt by being shamed, he decimated the wisdom of the world with the foolishness of the cross. The world gives great honor to the most presentable people. But in the church of Christ, we are to surround with superabundant honor and modesty and protection our unpresentable parts. We are to give the greatest care to the least of these, care and protection that the presentable parts do not require. Jesus said:

Matthew 25:34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable. This turns appearance on its head. Some of the presentable parts are dispensable. The hands are presentable. But you can live without your hands. You can’t live without your lungs or your heart. Some of the unseen, ugly things are vital, and the visible attractive things although important and necessary, can be done without. The things that you see in the church, the people that are up front and presentable, are not the most essential part of the church. We have hidden parts of the body, the heart and soul and guts who keep us alive, prayer warriors who pray fervently for me and for the leadership of the church and for each individual member, people who wage spiritual warfare in their closets. And I don’t even know who you all are, but I thank God for you, and we could not go on in effective ministry as a church without you. We have those with the gift of generosity, and I don’t know who you all are, but you pay the bills and pick up the slack and continue to make ministry possible. There are those with the gift of helps, who come alongside others, who assist and encourage and share the burden behind the scenes. There are those who love numbers and use calculators and spreadsheets to balance checkbooks and pay the bills on time. There are those who fix toilets and vacuum carpets and straighten chairs hang drywall and dig ditches and take out the trash. There are those who visit sick people and make a meal and pray on the phone with a friend in need and just spend time with someone who is hurting. One day I will be dead and gone and I pray this church will find another shepherd who is obedient to Jesus, faithful to God’s word and loves God’s people, and you will go on in effective ministry. Some of the up front presentable parts are replaceable, but the things that go on in the guts of the ministry are indispensable.

Purpose of Unity; Mutual Care, Suffering, and Rejoicing

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

God gives and empowers the gifts, the Spirit apportions to each one individually as he chose, God composed the body in exactly the way he intended. God sovereignly, wisely composed the body so that the parts that were inferior, that come behind, lack, or are inferior receive superabundant honor. God’s purpose for mixing the members of the body together in this way is unity. That there be no division in the body. Paul started the letter by saying:

1 Corinthians 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

The opposite of division is unity expressed mutual care. The word here is actually being worried or concerned about basic needs. Each member is to have the same care for one another. Philippians says:

Philippians 2:2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

The opposite of division is unity expressed in mutual suffering. If one member suffers, all suffer together. If on the way to the bathroom to put in your contact lenses in the morning, you smash your toe into the bed frame, you don’t stop and think to yourself, ‘that must have really hurt. I bet my little toe is hurting right now. I think I will come alongside that toe and try to bring comfort and encouragement. How can some of the other members of my body come alongside that toe and help to bear the burden it is suffering?’ No, you probably crumple to the floor writhing in pain clutching that toe. Your whole body has become one pulsating painful throbbing toe. Your whole body experiences the pain together with your toe. This is not something you should do, it is who you are. It is simply the natural result of being one interconnected body. When one part of the body suffers, all suffer together. If one part of the body is injured and the rest of the body feels no pain, something is very wrong with the body.

The opposite of division is unity expressed in mutual joy. If one member is honored, all rejoice together. If you run a race and win, your hand doesn’t go sit in the corner and pout, feeling jealous that the feet are getting so much honor and praise. The hand receives the high five and rejoices together with the success of the whole body.

Unity is expressed in mutual care, mutual suffering, mutual rejoicing. The opposite of division is not equality. The opposite of division is unity in the midst of inequality and diversity.

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

September 28, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 3:5-9; The Nature of Christian Ministry

05/19 1 Corinthians 3:5-9 The Nature of Christian Ministry;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130519_1cor3_5-9.mp3

  1Cor 3 [SBLGNT]

1 Κἀγώ, ἀδελφοί, οὐκ ἠδυνήθην λαλῆσαι ὑμῖν ὡς πνευματικοῖς ἀλλ’ ὡς σαρκίνοις, ὡς νηπίοις ἐν Χριστῷ. 2 γάλα ὑμᾶς ἐπότισα, οὐ βρῶμα, οὔπω γὰρ ἐδύνασθε. ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ ἔτι νῦν δύνασθε, 3 ἔτι γὰρ σαρκικοί ἐστε. ὅπου γὰρ ἐν ὑμῖν ζῆλος καὶ ἔρις, οὐχὶ σαρκικοί ἐστε καὶ κατὰ ἄνθρωπον περιπατεῖτε; 4 ὅταν γὰρ λέγῃ τις· Ἐγὼ μέν εἰμι Παύλου, ἕτερος δέ· Ἐγὼ Ἀπολλῶ, οὐκ ἄνθρωποί ἐστε;

5 Τί οὖν ἐστιν Ἀπολλῶς; τί δέ ἐστιν Παῦλος; διάκονοι δι’ ὧν ἐπιστεύσατε, καὶ ἑκάστῳ ὡς ὁ κύριος ἔδωκεν. 6 ἐγὼ ἐφύτευσα, Ἀπολλῶς ἐπότισεν, ἀλλὰ ὁ θεὸς ηὔξανεν· 7 ὥστε οὔτε ὁ φυτεύων ἐστίν τι οὔτε ὁ ποτίζων, ἀλλ’ ὁ αὐξάνων θεός. 8 ὁ φυτεύων δὲ καὶ ὁ ποτίζων ἕν εἰσιν, ἕκαστος δὲ τὸν ἴδιον μισθὸν λήμψεται κατὰ τὸν ἴδιον κόπον, 9 θεοῦ γάρ ἐσμεν συνεργοί· θεοῦ γεώργιον, θεοῦ οἰκοδομή ἐστε.

 1Cor 3 [ESV2011]

1 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?

5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

Paul is addressing the unhealthy immaturity of the believers in Corinth. They think they are advanced, spiritual, ready for meat doctrines. Paul points to their division, their quarreling, their party spirit, their jealousy and strife, and says that although you have God’s Holy Spirit living inside you, you are acting as if you were merely unregenerate humans, people controlled by fleshly instincts.

In mentioning the party divisions between the followers of Paul and the followers of Apollos, he is coming back to the issue he identified as the root of their problems in 1:12. The intervening chapter and a half laid the groundwork for them to understand what true wisdom is. God’s wisdom is different from man’s wisdom. God’s wisdom is the cross, Jesus Christ and him crucified. To follow a leader who is not popular but instead got himself executed as a common criminal seems foolish. But this message is not only wisdom but power. God in Christ is turning the wisdom of the world on its head and bringing it to nothing. Through this foolish message he is saving people; not the wise and well-to do cultural icons, but the low, the losers, the nothings. The method of the preacher fit the message; not polished oratory, but plain proclamation of the truth, the simple facts of the gospel, the good news that Jesus Christ was crucified in the place of sinners. This message is not able to be understood by those whose minds are twisted and darkened by sin. It is a spiritual message that can only be received by those whose eyes have been opened by the Holy Spirit of God. So we who have seen the beauty of the gospel in the face of Jesus Christ, we who have received the Spirit of God so that we can understand the things freely given us by God have received a great treasure. We have been given the mind of Christ.

But although the Corinthian believers had been given this greatest of all treasures, although they had received the Holy Spirit of God, they refused to grow up. They had not passed out of the self-centered phase of infancy where all they can say is ‘mine’. Although they possessed the mind of Christ, they were not living lives of humility, love, and self-sacrifice, putting the interests of others before their own, which is characteristic of the mind of Christ. Instead they were operating out of divisiveness, jealousy and strife.

The Nature of Spirituality (2:10-16)

First, Paul had to set them straight on the nature of spirituality. A spiritual person is not a person who has achieved a more advanced level of spirituality than another Christian. Instead, a spiritual person is a person who has received the Spirit of God, which is characteristic of all believers in Jesus. The unspiritual person is the person who does not have God’s Spirit, and is perishing. The believers in the church in Corinth were simply all fellow believers at the foot of the cross. Their competitive division, jealousy and strife were evidence of immaturity.

The Nature of Christian Ministry (3:5)

Now he goes on to clarify for them the nature of Christian ministry. In Corinth, there was a tendency either to overvalue or to undervalue those who had been placed in leadership roles in the church. Some elevated their favorite minister to celebrity status and acted like groupies in their fan club; others, those who considered themselves more spiritual, asserted that they didn’t need any leader. They had a direct connection with Christ and were above the need for any Christian leadership.

Paul asks ‘what is Apollos, what is Paul? Not who but what. Not the dynamic and powerful speaker and teacher, not the plain speaking persecuted apostle and evangelist and church planter. You are rallying behind the names and persona’s of these figureheads, but what are they?

Paul shifts his metaphor from a mother nursing her newborn infant with milk to servants who wait tables to a field with farmhands, to temple construction with hired laborers.

He says that we (Apollos and Paul) are servants. Diakonoi [διάκονοι], where we get our word deacon, meant a lowly household servant. Cook the meal, serve the tables, clean up after the meal, take out the trash, prepare the next meal. You are placing us on pedestals as heroes to be worshiped, but we are servants. Servants through whom you believed, not in whom you believed. Remember, in 1:13 he asked the absurd rhetorical question ‘was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized into the name of Paul?’ Of course not! Paul did not die for your sins. Jesus did. You believed in Jesus and were baptized into the name of Jesus. You didn’t believe in Paul or Apollos. You believed through, or because of, or on account of. They were the instruments God used to bring you to faith in him. So don’t undervalue them. Thank God for them. Without them you would not have believed, as Romans 10 says:

Romans 10:14 …And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

God used them to bring you to faith in him, so treasure them, honor them, thank God for them, but don’t put your faith in them. Don’t put them on a pedestal as an object of your devotion and allegiance. Paul tells the Galatians (1:8) that if we (the apostles) flake out and start preaching a different gospel then let us be accursed! The central issue is not the messenger but the message. Many Christians talk about their favorite pastor or bible teacher or denomination as if they were almost divine and worthy of worship. Paul asks the question ‘what are we?’ and answers ‘we are servants, a means to an end, and the end is not us!’ The goal is you believing in Jesus, loving Jesus, following Jesus. We are servants pointing you to him.

This view of ministry as servants comes straight from the teaching of Jesus. Jesus’ disciples were eager to outdo one another. They were continually jockeying for position, and eager to secure the title of ‘great’ for themselves.

Matthew 20:25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus holds himself up as the ultimate example for greatness in Christian ministry. He came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. So if you want to be great, you must learn to serve others. The one who is truly great is not the one who wins the popularity contest or the one who gains the most followers. True greatness is a life of humble self-sacrificial service born out of love for others.

1 Corinthians 3:5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.

The Lord assigned to each his role. Literally ‘and to each as the Lord gave’. We are given our assignments by the Lord. We don’t even get to pick what we want to do. Paul will say in chapter 12 about spiritual enablements for service that the ‘Spirit apportions to each one individually as he wills.’ We are servants following orders. We might look around the church and say ‘I don’t like my role. I’d rather be doing what he or she is doing’, or ‘I think my role is less important or less valuable than their role, so I’m just going to stay home’ or ‘I think it would be much more effective if I did it this way instead.’ That is jealousy and strife, evidence of immaturity. At the bottom, that is rebellion against an all wise King, assuming that we know better and would arrange things better if we were in charge.

Agricultural Illustration

1 Corinthians 3:5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

Paul uses an agricultural illustration. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. There are a lot of factors that go into good farming, there is technique and skill and good old fashioned know-how that goes into successful farming. But even the best farmers can lose a crop. Unless the weather cooperates, all is lost. Without the proper amount of sunshine and rain, seeds do not germinate. A late frost can destroy; wind or hail can strip a field. Too much sun or too much rain can drown or scorch a crop. Success in farming is dependent ultimately on God who sends the weather.

So it is with Christian ministry. We each fulfill our God-given roles. We work hard. Hopefully we work with ever increasing skill and diligence. But only God can give growth. That is his gift to give.

Interdependence in Christian Ministry (3:6, 8)

Paul’s illustration shows the interdependence of Christian ministry. I planted, Apollos watered. Without the seed sown in the soil, there will be no crop. Apollos could water the barren earth all day every day, and the only thing it would produce is weeds. The seed has to be sown. If Paul planted good seed into dry ground and there was no water, the seed would lay dormant in the soil. There would be no growth. He who plants and he who waters are one. The Corinthians are dividing between following Paul and following Apollos. Paul says we are not in competition with one another. We are on the same team, working toward the same goal. We find out in chapter 16 that Apollos is actually with Paul in Ephesus when he pens this letter. Paul says:

1 Corinthians 16:12 Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but it was not at all his will to come now. He will come when he has opportunity.

We are together, we are united, we are on the same team! Imagine Apollos saying ‘I’m so good, I can irrigate twice as fast as you can plant.’ And half the Corinthian church is cheering him on. Stop it! You’re just going to make a muddy mess. No, the field workers work together toward a common goal. The goal is a fruitful harvest for the owner of the field. Get the seed in the ground, give it sufficient water, and trust that God will produce growth.

Reward for Faithful Christian Ministry (3:8)

Paul says that ‘each will receive his wages according to his labor’. Notice that the wages are not according to fruitfulness but according to faithfulness. Because fruitfulness is ultimately up to God. Some in Christian ministry faithfully till the hard soil with little or no results. When God called Jeremiah (7:27), he told him up front that he is to speak, but the people will not listen. What a discouraging mission – knowing up front that there will be no fruit! But wages are not based on fruit but on faithfulness. Others may be sent to a field that is ripe for harvest and put in half-hearted effort and see amazing results, but they too will be rewarded not for their fruitfulness, but for their labor.

And notice who evaluates the labor of Christian ministers. The Corinthians were all about giving their opinions on how Paul and Apollos were doing. They had their critique of what they did well and what they should have done differently. Some liked one minister better than another, issues of style and personality and technique and delivery. It seems that Christians can easily become connoisseurs of teaching. Tasting, sampling, comparing, evaluating, critiquing, criticizing, condemning. We tend to think that the one who is able to evaluate and critique is the expert in the field with advanced knowledge, a sign of maturity. Paul is saying that this is not a sign of maturity but of immaturity. You are missing the main point of the gospel. When you become a critic, you cease to be a disciple.

I am human. I have a desperate desire to be liked. I want to be accepted by you. But there are times when I need to fill the role of nurse who administers medicine under the Doctor’s orders. I have to come into the exam room with a big needle and you’re not going to like me very much at all. You might cry and throw a fit and tell me what a horrible person I am for causing you such pain, but I am under orders. I could try to be your friend and get you to like me and empty the medicine down the sink. You might think I’m great for the moment, until the disease spreads and begins to kill you. In the end, that would be a great disservice to you and gross negligence in my duties. Of course I want to be liked, but it’s more important that I be found faithful, that I follow the good Doctor’s orders.

In Paul’s analogy, the church is the field, God’s field. The ministers, the servants are God’s fellow-workers. The evaluation and the wages will come from the Master of the field. The evaluation of ministry, the only evaluation that really matters, is God’s evaluation. And that evaluation is coming. Paul will speak more to this issue of reward for faithful ministry in the next section.

Absolute Dependence on God in Christian Ministry (3:6-7)

Even when the planter and the waterer are in perfect harmony, even when they labor faithfully, unless God causes the sun to shine, there will be no fruit. In chapter 2, we were told that:

1 Corinthians 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

Paul is sowing good gospel seed among natural people. Apollos is coming behind and watering that seed with the water of sound biblical teaching. They are in full harmony and cooperation. But unless God shines the light of his Holy Spirit into the minds of unbelievers, there will be no germination of the gospel seed, there will be no life, there will be no growth, and there will be no fruit. So ultimately, growth is dependent on God. If I refuse to sow the gospel seed, God can hire someone else. If I refuse to water with biblical truth, God can hire someone else. But unless God’s reveals these things to us by his Spirit, there can be no life. ‘So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.’ Paul says ‘some of you are putting me and Apollos on rival pedestals. We are nothing. Nothing! God is everything! We are servants, hired field hands. God gives the growth. Keep God at the center of your worship. As the last of the Old Testament prophets, John said:

John 3:27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. … 29…Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Am I faithfully serving in the ministry I have been given? Am I humbly serving out of love for others? Am I looking to God alone for his approval? Am I serving in absolute dependence on God to give the growth? Is my joy complete when Jesus gets all the attention and I fade into the background?

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

May 19, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment