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2 Corinthians 6:6-7; The Essential Means of Ministry

03/24_2 Corinthians 6:6-7; The Essential Means of Ministry; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190324_2cor6_6-7.mp3

Paul is giving his resume for authentic ministry. The Corinthians were looking for outward evidence of God’s blessing on his ministry, and they were beginning to question his authenticity. They were looking for power, prosperity, praise, eloquence, something flashy. Paul commends his ministry as a ministry that gives obstacles in nothing and to no one. Paul’s goal is that no fault could be found with the ministry. In all things he commends himself as God’s minister. He cares much more about what God thinks of his ministry than what anyone else thinks.

And the way he commends himself is not what anyone would have expected. What he includes in his resume is in the way he responds to adversity: ‘in much endurance’. And he lists three general hardships: ‘in afflictions, in hardships, in calamities’; then three specific types of persecution: ‘in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots’; then three hardships he willingly endures for the sake of the advance of the gospel: ‘in labors, in sleeplessnesses, in hungers.’ Nine hardships, faced with much endurance.

The Manner; Four Essential Characteristics for Ministry

Now beginning in verse 6 he lists eight means of ministry; four essential character traits for effective ministry, followed by four enablements for effective ministry.

He started the list in verse 4 with the character trait ‘much endurance’; remaining under these nine different types of hardships. Now he gives four more character traits; in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness. These describe the manner of his ministry, not so much what he does as much as how he does it, and ultimately who he is. Character. When hiring for a position, many companies are looking for skills, abilities, experience. Have you been trained in this field? Do you have the knowledge necessary to carry out the task? How much experience do you have in this field? What are your accomplishments, successes, abilities? Paul emphasizes not so much what he does as how he does it, who he is.

Who are you? Are you a butcher, a baker, a candle-stick maker? That is not who you are; that is what you do. I am a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a pastor. Those are roles, hats I wear. They define my relationships to other people. I was born in a Christian home, raised in a healthy two parent family in Minnesota, the youngest of five. That is some of my history, my background, where I come from. That is not who I am. I like to hike, canoe, to be outdoors, to be creative, build things, fix things. Those are hobbies, likes, preferences. But who are you? Strip all that away, who are you when no one is looking? What is your character?

6 In Purity [ἐν ἁγνότητι]

Paul starts with purity. This word shows up only here and in chapter 11. The verb shows up in the gospels and Acts referring to ceremonial purification, and in James, Peter and 1 John it shows up in reference to heart and soul purified through the new birth. The adjective shows up a little more frequently in contexts of moral purity, blamelessness, innocence, integrity. In 11:2 the adjective is used in the metaphor of betrothing a pure virgin to her husband, and in 11:3 this noun shows up alongside sincerity, and in contrast to being seduced or beguiled with trickery or cunning, being defiled, spoiled or corrupted.

In 1 John 3:3 the adjective describes the character of God;

1 John 3:2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

We become like God as we see him as he is; through our hope in him, in looking to him, we purify ourselves as he is pure.

Paul points us to his innocence, blamelessness, integrity, moral purity. This purity is not because he always had clean hands and a pure heart; rather his blood-stained hands were washed clean by the blood of Jesus, and through the new birth he stands pure and holy, a new creation in Christ.

In Knowledge [ἐν γνώσει]

Next he lists knowledge. Knowledge was a big deal in Corinth. He recognized that they were ‘enriched in all knowledge’ (1Cor.1:5). But he drew a contrast between the knowledge they claimed and love for brother and sister (1Cor.8:1,7,10,11; 12:8; 13:2,8). They prided themselves in their knowledge.

But as Paul had already made clear,

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

For Paul it was not about what you know, but it had everything to do with who you know. He was in everything pursuing and advancing the ‘knowledge of God’ (2Cor.10:5).

2 Corinthians 2:14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.

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 was spreading the knowledge of God, the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus, knowing Jesus Christ and him crucified. For Paul everything else was worthless, except “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord … that I may know him” (Phil.3:8,10).

In Patience, In Kindness [ἐν μακροθυμίᾳ] [ἐν χρηστότητι]

Next he mentions patience and kindness. The word translated patience is literally ‘slow to anger’. These two words are listed side by side in Galatians 5:22 as the fruit of the Spirit.

Both patience and kindness are attributed to God in Romans 2

Romans 2:4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

Where patience or slowness to anger is negative, refraining from responding immediately in anger even when there is something to be rightly angry about; kindness is its positive counterpart, actively doing good to those who have wronged you. God not only refrains from immediately punishing our sin; he also shows us his undeserved kindness. As Jesus instructs in Luke 6,

Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.

We are to extend kindness even to our enemies; in doing so, we reflect the character of God. In being patient and kind, we are living out the gospel; we are conducting ourselves toward others how God has been toward us.

It is clear that these character traits are not natural. Who joyfully endures afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleeplessnesses, hungers? Who extends patience and kindness to enemies? These are supernatural character traits. In Colossians 1 Paul prays:

Colossians 1:11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,

He combines endurance, the first on his list, and patience, and he says that we need God’s strength; we need the glorious might of divine enablement to respond to circumstances with endurance, slowness to anger, and joy. He says in Colossians 3:

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,

He tells us that because we have been raised with Christ (3:1), because we are his chosen ones, because we are holy and beloved, because we have been strengthened with his mighty power, we can clothe ourselves with kindness and patience.

The Means; Four Divine Enablements for Ministry

When we understand how Paul uses these words, it makes complete sense where he goes next in this list. He gives four divine enablements for ministry. The character, endurance, purity, knowledge, slowness to anger and kindness is fruit. It is not Paul as he is naturally; this is Paul as he is empowered by God through his Holy Spirit for the ministry to which he has been called.

In Holy Spirit [ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ]

After four character traits, fruit necessary for ministry, Paul turns to the source. In the Holy Spirit. This is not the first time he has brought up the essential ministry of the Holy Spirit in this letter.

In 1:21 he mentions God in Christ by the Spirit who establishes, anoints, seals and guarantees us, by the gift of the Holy Spirit in our hearts (and then again in 5:5). In chapter 3 He announces the new covenant ministry which has everything to do with the Holy Spirit, who writes on tablets of human hearts (3:3); who gives life (3:6); who brings freedom (3:17); who effects transformation in us (3:18). He said

2 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. …

His competency is not from himself but from God through the enabling ministry of the Holy Spirit. God has made Paul competent for the ministry. This is God a ordained, God empowered, God initiated, God sustained task.

In Love Unhypocritical [ἐν ἀγάπῃ ἀνυποκρίτῳ]

In love unhypocritical. Paul seems to have shifted gears when he mentioned the Spirit from a list of four character traits or fruit to the means or divine enablements for ministry. Is he switching back to character traits here when he mentions sincere love? Is this his love for others, or God’s love for him that enables him for ministry. To see this as God’s love for him seems to fit his flow of thought, as well as the context. He has just said (in 5:14) that ‘the love of Christ compels us’ and there he defines that love concretely as Christ dying for us; that God made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. God’s love is a compelling force for ministry. It is when I know that I am loved, sincerely loved, loved without a mask, that I am freed to love others as I have been loved. It is seeing the gospel in action, that God so loved me that he sent his only Son to die for me, that I am freed from the need to seek love, freed and empowered to give love freely away. Love without a mask.

7 In Word of Truth [ἐν λόγῳ ἀληθείας]

In the word of truth. Here again we could ask, is he referring to his own integrity? Should this be translated ‘in truthful speech’ (NIV, ESV) or ‘in the word of truth’ (NASB, KJV)?

So far in 2 Corinthians, Paul has referred to how he handles God’s word, speaking in Christ (2:17); he refuses to tamper with God’s word but openly proclaims the truth (4:2). God has entrusted to him the word of reconciliation. If we turn to Ephesians we see that he refers to ‘the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation’ (1:13). And in Colossians he points them to ‘the word of the truth, the gospel, which… is bearing fruit and increasing,… since … you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth’ (1:5-6). Paul encourages Timothy to ‘rightly handle the word of truth’ (2Tim.2:15). Peter says that we were born again ‘ through the living and abiding word of God’ (1Pet.1:23), and James says that God ‘brought us forth by the word of truth’ and that we are to ‘receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls’ (Jam.1:18,21).

What ultimately authenticates Paul’s ministry is the content of the gospel he proclaims. It is not a mere human message. It is not his own message; it is God’s word, a word that causes new birth, that is able to save your souls, a word that is bearing fruit and increasing. As he commends the Thessalonians:

1 Thessalonians 2:13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

This word is at work. It is a powerful word.

In Power of God [ἐν δυνάμει θεοῦ]

In the power of God. Paul opens the letter to the Romans by saying

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…

The gospel is the power of God for salvation. He says in 1 Corinthians

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

The word of truth, the word of the cross, the gospel is the power of God for salvation.

Throughout 2 Corinthians Paul contrasts God’s power with human weakness.

2 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant,

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

His competency for ministry, even his character is not from himself. It is from God. It is God’s Spirit at work in him and through him. His endurance of hardships, his purity, his knowledge, his slowness to anger, his kindness, is all of God worked in him by the Spirit.

May we too reflect the character of God in our conduct by the power of the Spirit of God living in us, through the transforming word of truth, the gospel.

***

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

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March 25, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 6:4-5; Paul’s Resume of Afflictions

03/17_2 Corinthians 6:4-5; Paul’s Résumé of Afflictions; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190317_2cor6_4-5.mp3

Paul’s Resume

Last time we looked at the cover letter to Paul’s résumé:

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

He is commending his ministry as a ministry of integrity, a blameless ministry. He removed obstacles from the gospel so that it would have maximum effect. God alone saves, but he did everything in his power to eliminate stumbling blocks to clear the runway for the gospel. The only offense he allowed was the offense of the gospel itself, the message of the cross.

Paul gives his resume in verses 4-10. Don’t open your Bibles, and let me read to you Paul’s resume:

‘I’ve successfully planted over 20 churches all around the Mediterranean, I’ve brought the gospel to every important city, preached to huge crowds, made an impact everywhere I’ve traveled, packed out every venue. I’m a skilled communicator to both large and small groups. I’m a gifted writer; I’ve authored at least 11 best sellers. I’m driven and tenaciously faithful; I had to part ways with a co-worker who just couldn’t keep up with my pace. I was even instrumental in correcting one of the Lord’s own original twelve when he got off track. I’ve mentored countless people in successful ministry techniques and developed leaders. I’ve seen the risen Lord face to face, he speaks to me in dreams and visions. I have an abundance of spiritual gifts, not to mention my charitable work collecting and distributing funds to the poor and oppressed.’

Although most of that is true, and these are the things we would expect anyone to highlight in a resume, that is not what Paul says. This is not the kind of resume anyone would expect. If you haven’t already, please open your Bibles to 2 Corinthians 6 and look at what Paul lists as his credentials that commend him as an authentic minister.

2 Corinthians 6:4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; 7 by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8 through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

As I said last week, this passage is lyrical, poetic, it has a rhythm and cadence to it, it is memorable, and as worthy of memorization as 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter. This passage is structured in a way that does not come through in many translations; there are three different prepositions; in (ἐν) 18 times in verses 4-7; through (διὰ) 3 times in verse 7-8; and as (ὡς) 7 times in verses 8-10. After the introductory statement in verses 3 and 4, he lists ten hardships in verses 4-5 that he faced in ministry, beginning with the way he faced them (in much endurance) followed by three general hardships (in afflictions, in hardships, in calamities), three specific types of persecution (in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots), and three voluntary hardships (in labors, in sleeplessnesses, in hungers). In verses 6-7 he lists eight characteristics of ministry; four fruit of the Spirit (in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness) and four means of grace (in Holy Spirit, in love unhypocritical, in word of truth, in power of God). In verse 7 he gives us a picture of how he fought the battle of ministry (through the weapons of righteousness for the right and the left), introducing nine paradoxes of ministry (through glory and shame, through slander and praise, as deceivers yet true, as unknown yet well known, as dying yet behold we live, as punished yet not killed, as sorrowful but always rejoicing, as poor but making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing everything).

This is not what the Corinthians expected ministry to look like They were being led astray from the way of Jesus by false impostors who painted a worldly picture of ministry as glamorous, prestigious with plenty of fame and fortune. For them the sign of God’s blessing was outward and material. For Paul, the evidence of authentic ministry was ministry that followed in the footsteps of the Master.

The authenticity of a ministry is not demonstrated so much in God’s external blessings, but rather in how one responds to adversity.

In Much Endurance [ἐν ὑπομονῇ πολλῇ]

Paul starts his list with ‘in much endurance’. The word endurance literally means to remain under.

Paul lists endurance or patience in chapter 12 where he says

2 Corinthians 12:12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience (ἐν πάσῃ ὑπομονῇ), with signs and wonders and mighty works.

Here we get insight into what he means by the signs of a true apostle. In Mark 13 Jesus warns:

Mark 13:22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.

It is not merely supernatural signs and wonders that evidence authenticity; it is primarily character, especially under adversity. Just a few verses earlier in 2 Corinthians 12, Paul says:

2 Corinthians 12:10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships (ἀνάγκαις), persecutions, and calamities (στενοχωρίαις). For when I am weak, then I am strong. 11 …I ought to have been commended by you. For I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing.

Paul repeats in the context of the signs of a true apostle two of the terms he lists on his resume here in chapter 6; hardships and calamities, with much endurance or patience.

As we will see later in this list, this endurance in the face of adversity is not a mere stoic resolve to tough it out, but a gift of the Spirit of God. It is divinely enabled endurance, the ability to remain under adverse circumstances with joy that demonstrates authenticity.

General Adversity; In Afflictions, In Hardships, In Calamities

[ἐν θλίψεσιν] [ἐν ἀνάγκαις] [ἐν στενοχωρίαις,]

Afflictions, hardships, and calamities are broad general categories of circumstances that call for endurance. Affliction means to be hard pressed or squeezed. Hardship means necessity or distress. Calamity means anguish, or literally narrowness. The verb form of this word in 2 Corinthians 4:8 is translated ‘crushed’. Afflictions, hardships, calamities; under heavy pressure, in distresses, experiencing anguish. Together these words paint a picture of hardship, the trials and stresses of ministry.

Jesus promised his followers affliction or tribulation.

John 16:33 …In the world you will have tribulation (θλῖψιν). But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

In his parable about the sower and the soils, Jesus warned that affliction would cause false believers to fall away (Mt.13:21; Mk.4:17). Jesus said in Matthew 24

Matthew 24:9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation (θλῖψιν) and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. …13 But the one who endures (ὑπομείνας) to the end will be saved.

In Acts 14, Jews from Antioch and Iconium pursued Paul to Lystra and persuaded the crowds to stone him. He was dragged out of city, assumed to be dead. But he rose up and went back in to the city, the next day continuing on with Barnabas to Derbe.

Acts 14:21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue (ἐμμένειν) in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations (διὰ πολλῶν θλίψεων) we must enter the kingdom of God.

I can imagine what Paul looked like after being stoned and left for dead, and I’m sure hearing from his lips was a vivid picture of what kinds of afflictions they may have to endure in following Christ.

At the opening of 2 Corinthians, Paul speaks of God’s comfort that he has experienced in the midst of his afflictions, and he invites them to join him in patiently enduring suffering so that they too might experience God’s comfort in affliction.

Paul wrote to the Thessalonians:

1 Thessalonians 3:3 that no one be moved by these afflictions (θλίψεσιν). For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4 For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction (θλίβεσθαι), just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. 5 For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain. …7 for this reason, brothers, in all our distress (ἀνάγκῃ) and affliction (θλίψει) we have been comforted about you through your faith.

There is that word distress or hardship. Paul experienced distress and affliction out of concern for the faith of the young believers who were experiencing affliction.

Paul is painting a picture that affliction, hardship, even calamities are all part of normal ministry, part of following Jesus.

Specific Persecutions: In Beatings, In Imprisonments, In Riots

[ἐν πληγαῖς] [ἐν φυλακαῖς] [ἐν ἀκαταστασίαις]

Beatings, imprisonments, and riots are more specific forms of adversity that require endurance; while the others can be purely circumstantial, these three forms of persecution are carried out by people.

Up to the time of writing of 2 Corinthians in the narrative of the book of Acts (20:2-3), Luke only records one imprisonment and beating (Philippi – Acts 16:22-33), and one riot (Ephesus – Acts 19:23-20:1). We learn from this and other statements in Acts that Luke did not record every event that happened everywhere; he was selective. In 2 Corinthians 11 Paul mentions ‘countless beatings’ specifically listing five lashings, three beatings with rods, and one stoning.

Acts 16 records one beating and imprisonment in Philippi:

Acts 16:22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. 23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

Acts 19 records a riot in Ephesus:

Acts 19:23 About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. …26 And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. …28 …they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s companions in travel. 30 But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him. 31 And even some of the Asiarchs, who were friends of his, sent to him and were urging him not to venture into the theater. 32 Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together. 33 Some of the crowd prompted Alexander, whom the Jews had put forward. And Alexander, motioning with his hand, wanted to make a defense to the crowd. 34 But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours they all cried out with one voice, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

Notice that this riot was a response to what Paul preached, and the fact that people had believed his message. His preaching was a threat. It challenged their culture and beliefs.

Several months later, Paul gathered the elders from Ephesus:

Acts 20:18 And when they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

Here we see Paul embracing afflictions and even imprisonment as an expected part of gospel ministry.

Voluntary Hardships: In Labors, In Sleeplessnesses, In Hungers

[ἐν κόποις] [ἐν ἀγρυπνίαις] [ἐν νηστείαις]

Labors, sleeplessness, and hunger are things voluntarily endured in the service of Christ and the advance of his gospel. They are not necessarily unavoidable, but they are embraced by the genuine servant of God.

Labor can mean trouble, toil, wearisome work. It could refer to manual labor, that Paul worked with his own hands to support himself in ministry. It can also refer to the labor involved in preaching, teaching, and making disciples.

Sleeplessness could refer to times Paul went without enough sleep because he was working night and day to support himself (1Thess.2:9; 2Thess.3:8). It could also refer to the long hours of ministry (Acts 20:31). Often it refers to being vigilant or watchful in prayer. Paul mentions praying earnestly night and day (1Thess.3:10; 2Tim.1:3). It is not that Paul had trouble sleeping; it was that the demands of ministry often required him to serve well into the night.

Hunger can mean fasting, voluntarily abstaining from food to focus on prayer; or Paul could mean that he simply went without enough food. As he says in Philippians 4

Philippians 4:12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

Cross-Shaped Ministry

All this points to circumstances that are both physically and emotionally draining; weariness, fatigue, exhaustion that comes through serving others. Paul understood what it was to be brought to the end of himself so that he would rely not on himself ‘but on God who raises the dead’ (2Cor.1:9).

Last time we saw that Paul seeks to give no offense but the cross, and this is exactly what the Corinthians are offended by; that his life and ministry is characterized by the cross. He endures suffering in service to others, because his Master is the Suffering Servant. He took up his cross to follow Jesus.

He said back in chapter 4 as a description of his ministry ‘we are:

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

Paul endured, not by sheer strength of will, but by divine enablement, by the resurrection power of Jesus at work in him.

And he invites us to share with him in the sufferings of Christ.

***

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

March 18, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 4:17; Producing an Eternal Weight of Glory

10/14_2 Corinthians 4:17; Producing an Eternal Weight of Glory; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20181014_2cor4_17.mp3

The Secret of Not Losing Heart

Last time we looked at the secret of not losing heart. I asked, ‘What if I told you that I could show you the secret to endure any hardship, no matter what comes against you, to never fail, never give up, never lose heart? Not only to survive but to thrive under any adversity?’ Paul gives us his secret at the end of 2 Corinthians 4. He says in 4:16

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

We began by looking at how this being made new on the inside happens. It happens day by day, as he said in 3:18; as we are “beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”

To not lose heart requires an inner day by day renewal. We had to stop there, but there’s so much more to see here. He gives us the foundation, the reason, the ground of our day by day renewal. And he gives us the process, the means of being renewed.

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Disparity Between Outer and Inner

In this chapter, Paul is contrasting the outward appearance with his inward reality. Outwardly, he is plain, ordinary, a fragile clay pot. But inside he carries the inestimable treasure of the good news of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Outwardly he is carrying in his body the dying of Jesus, but this is so that the resurrection life of Jesus can be displayed in his body. Outwardly he is being destroyed, but inwardly he is being renewed day by day.

From all outward appearances, Paul is being unmade, taken apart; he is wasting away. His life appears to be one characterized by defeat, discouragement, even despair. We are ‘afflicted …perplexed …persecuted …struck down’. It seems a waste, meaningless.

In verse 12 he gives one positive outcome of his sufferings that he can look at so that he does not lose heart. He said ‘so, death is at work in us, but life in you.’ So the suffering he experiences is the means God is using to bring good, blessing, eternal life, to his hearers. That’s good. That makes the suffering worth it.

But here in verses 16-18 he says more. Not only is his suffering a benefit to his hearers, it is also a blessing to himself. Did you hear that? My suffering is painful to me, but a blessing to you, so I can push through. But now he says my suffering, my persecution, my affliction is a blessing to me. It is not only bringing good to you; it is also bringing good to me. He says, on the inside, where it really counts, the suffering he endures is actually causing him to be made new day by day. How can this be?

I was reading one of the recent ‘Voice of the Martyrs’ magazines, and came across this story about a couple who had left a closed country and found Jesus. They returned to to their homeland with their two young boys to share the gospel, even though they were fully aware of the dangers. The wife said “It’s an interesting thing trusting God with your family. For us it was just so clear. The joy and the privilege of being able to go overshadowed the fact that something could happen.” They shared Christ with their extended family, and then they began to plant churches. One of the questions he would ask before baptizing a new believer was always “Are you willing to give up your life for Jesus?”

After 7 years, the secret police burst in and ransacked their apartment, arrested them and drove them bound and blindfolded to the city’s interrogation unit. They were separately imprisoned, and repeatedly interrogated. The wife speaks of her two weeks in prison, thinking constantly about her children; “I knew it was a privilege to be there with the Lord, so that was sweet, but I also wanted to go be with them.” Her husband was released about a month later. She reflected on the experience and said “He was allowing us, His children, to suffer because He wanted us to carry His presence into their presence, He loved them so much – the judges, the interrogators, the guards – that He allowed us to go through a really, really hard time to carry His presence into their presence so they could come in touch with him.” [VOM Oct.2018]

How was she able to have this kind of reaction to that kind of suffering? Part of her answer points back to Paul’s earlier answer: “He was allowing us …to suffer because he wanted us to carry His presence into their presence, He loved them so much.” But there is something more, something deeper. “The joy and the privilege of being able to go overshadowed the fact that something could happen.” and then, when it did happen, “it was a privilege to be there with the Lord.” It was joy! It was a privilege!

Perspective Matters!

Look at the foundation of this day by day renewal in the face of daily troubles. Look at verse 17. It starts with ‘for’; because. This gives the reason, the foundation of this inner day by day renewal.

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,

Perspective matters! Look at how Paul views his affliction where he was so utterly burdened that he despaired of life itself. Look at the perspective he has on his affliction, his perplexity, his persecution, his being struck down and thoroughly ruined. He contrasts it with the purposes and the promises of God.

Do you do that? Do you take what you are facing today, and hold it up to the promises of God and the purposes of God for you, and compare it? Put it in the scales? See what it really weighs? Paul says that when he weighs it out, his afflictions are light, and they are momentary. Now before you blow Paul off as if he just doesn’t understand what you are going through, you could look over to 2 Corinthians 11 where he lists his imprisonments, his countless beatings, often near death, his 5 times receiving 39 lashes (that’s 195 lashes, but who’s counting?), his 3 times beaten with rods, his being stoned and left for dead, his shipwrecks, his betrayal by false brothers, his hunger, thirst, exposure, sleeplessness, his daily pressure and anxiety for all the churches. All this he piles in the balance and it weighs out ‘light’ and ‘momentary’.

Back in chapter 1, he said he was ‘so utterly burdened beyond strength’ because of the affliction they experienced in Asia. He felt the weight then, and it was more than he could carry. What gave him his perspective on suffering? What could possibly make this magnitude of suffering seem light and momentary? What is on the other side of the scales?

Momentary vs. Eternal

The thing that outlasts and outweighs our suffering is ‘an eternal weight of glory’. ‘Eternal’ answers ‘momentary.’ The length of our afflictions are momentary in comparison to eternity. If we endure 80 years of constant pain and suffering, persecution and affliction, and we hold that up next to the timeline of eternity; is so infinitesimally small it becomes insignificant.

As the song goes: ‘when we’ve been there 10,000 years bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun.’ Compared to our eternal joy, the present afflictions are less than momentary. Can you take your present sufferings and measure them by eternity in the presence of God and say they are momentary? Perspective makes all the difference.

Light vs. Weight of Glory

Eternal answers momentary, and ‘weight of glory’ answers ‘light.’ The heaviness of our afflictions are light in comparison to the weight of glory. This is the same word he used in 1:8 when he says we were ‘so utterly burdened [or weighed down] beyond our strength.’ Now he compares this weight beyond our strength to the weight of glory. The weight of affliction is far beyond what we can bear, but there is something in the scales that far outweighs the heaviness of our present sorrows. It is glory.

The word ‘glory’ itself if we look back to the Hebrew of the Old Testament literally means weighty, massive, substantial. The eternal weight of God’s weightiness, the massiveness of his glory so far surpasses that the weight of our afflictions seem as inconsequential dust in the scales.

Exceedingly Exceeding

As Paul says in Romans 8,

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

It’s not just that the glory outweighs the burden and outlasts the sufferings; it is beyond all comparison; literally ‘according to hyperbole into hyperbole’. Words fail to capture the glory. It is surpassingly surpassing; exceedingly exceeding. So far beyond being beyond all ability to explain. The glory is so far beyond any ability to adequately explain that Paul piles hyperbole upon hyperbole to attempt to communicate that there is just no comparison between our present afflictions and the glory that is to be revealed in us.

Whose Glory?

Glory is the radiance, the outward display of God’s inner character and nature. The glory of the Lord is the visible manifestation of God’s invisible presence. It is his splendor, brightness, magnificence, excellence, majesty or dignity. God in Isaiah 42 and 48 says that he gives his glory to no other, and yet Jesus in his humanity prayed:

John 17:5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

Jesus’ own glory was veiled, hidden behind his plain, ordinary humanity. And yet here in 2 Corinthians 4:4 and 6 we apprehend ‘the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’; the light of the gospel is ‘the glory of Christ, who is the image of God’. Hebrews 1:3 calls Jesus ‘the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.’ We most clearly see God’s character and nature revealed in Jesus. Although this glory belongs to God alone, we were created to reflect, to image forth his glory. “Beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” (2Cor.3:18).

Afflictions Work Glory

But look carefully at what he says.

2 Corinthians 4:17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,

The present affliction is not just contrasted with the glory to come, it is causing it. It is preparing it for us; it is working it, accomplishing it for us. He looks both at the promises and the purposes of God. God intends our sufferings for our good, to increase the glory we will experience. God’s promise is that the eternal will far outspan the temporal, that the glory will far outweigh the trials. But the purpose of God is that the pressure produces in us the surpassingly surpassing eternal weight of glory. It is important to know not only God’s promises to us that give us strength to persevere through the suffering, but that God has a purpose in the sufferings. The afflictions are not meaningless, they are purposeful, they are accomplishing something, bringing something to completion.

We see this same truth (and the same word) displayed in Romans 5:3

Romans 5:3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,

And we see it in James 1:3

James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

Affliction produces steadfastness; the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. Affliction produces in us an exceedingly exceeding weight of glory. So we rejoice, we count it all joy; we do not fail, give up, lose heart.

I think Spurgeon explains this as well as anyone (and with this we’ll have to end for now). He says:

trials make more room for consolation. Great hearts can only be made by great troubles. The spade of trouble digs the reservoir of comfort deeper, and makes more room for consolation. God comes into our heart—he finds it full—he begins to break our comforts and to make it empty; then there is more room for grace. The humbler a man lies, the more comfort he will always have, because he will be more fitted to receive it.”

There is …no prayer half so hearty as that which comes up from the depths of the soul, through deep trials and afflictions. Hence they bring us to God, and we are happier; for nearness to God is happiness. Come, troubled believer, fret not over your heavy troubles, for they are the heralds of weighty mercies.”

[Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, Morning, February 12]

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

October 15, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 4:1; How to Persevere in Ministry

07/22_2 Corinthians 4:1; How To Persevere In Ministry; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180722_2cor4_1.mp3

Do Not Lose Heart

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

We do not lose heart. He echoes this again down in verse 16

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. …

Paul had every reason to lose heart. He goes on to say ‘though our outer self is wasting away…’ In verses 8-11 he says ‘we are afflicted in every way… perplexed… persecuted… struck down… always carrying in the body the death of Jesus… we… are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake…’ Back in chapter 1:5-6 he said that ‘we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings… we are afflicted… we suffer…’

In 1:8-10 he informed of ‘the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.’ He describes it as ‘a deadly peril.’ Paul had multiplied reasons to lose heart.

This word ‘lose heart’ means literally ‘to be weak or to fail’ in the discharge of a duty. It shows up in Luke 18, where Jesus:

Luke 18:1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.

Jesus is teaching persistence or perseverance in prayer. Don’t quit. Don’t give up. Don’t wear out. Don’t be discouraged when you don’t get an answer right away. Don’t fail to persevere in prayer.

It shows up in Galatians 6:9

Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. …9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

There it is parallel to another word meaning to faint or relax; to give up. Don’t grow weary; don’t quit, don’t lose heart; what you sow by persevering in doing good, you will reap in due time. He says something very similar in 2 Thessalonians 3:13

2 Thessalonians 3:13 As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.

Don’t quit, don’t become discouraged in serving others in need; persevere in doing good.

Paul, writes Ephesians 3:13 from prison and says:

Ephesians 3:12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

There it points more to the subjective emotional discouragement which comes from hearing bad news of a suffering friend. Don’t lose heart, don’t become discouraged, don’t lose hope. Don’t lose your grip on the bold confidence you have in Jesus. Even here in Ephesians it may contain the idea of ‘don’t fail to persevere in doing good, even if your persistence means increased suffering for the apostle.’

How To Persevere in Ministry

Here in 2 Corinthians Paul is talking about persevering in ministry. How do we not grow weary, wear out, faint, fail, lose heart? How do we persistently persevere in ministry? How do you stick with it, even in the face of suffering, affliction, failure? How do you battle discouragement and even depression? How do you not give up? How do you not quit?

You might be saying ‘this sounds like a great message for a pastor’s conference, or for ministry leaders, but how does it apply to me? I’m not in ministry. Although none of you are apostles, you all are ministers. Apostles were the prototype for ministry. Paul says ‘Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ’ (1Cor.11:1). One author says that the life of an apostle not essentially different from that of other Christians; in them Christian existence is written large (Seifrid, p.189).

Ministry means service. We all are called to minister, to serve others with the gifts God has given us. And we all need encouragement to not lose heart.

Perseverance and the Nature of Gospel Ministry

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

Paul begins his instruction on how to persevere in ministry with the word ‘therefore, on account of this or because of this.’ Because of what? In chapter 3 Paul has laid out what authentic gospel ministry consists of. I believe one major reason why many lose heart, burn out, or grow weary in ministry is that they misunderstand what ministry is.

Authentic gospel ministry, according to 2 Corinthians 3 is New Covenant ministry; ministry that depends entirely on the work of the Holy Spirit. All sufficiency for authentic ministry comes from God; we are not sufficient to claim anything – anything as coming from ourselves. God by the Spirit is writing Christ on the tablets of hearts of flesh. The Spirit is the one who makes alive. The ministry of the Spirit is a permanent, lasting ministry; not one that fades away. It is a ministry that escapes condemnation and brings about righteousness; the righteousness of Christ credited to the believer. It is a ministry of hope. It is ministry a that removes veils, a ministry of freedom, ministry that brings transformation; it is a surpassingly glorious ministry. God the Holy Spirit brings about life and righteousness and transformation in dead sinners through the proclamation of Jesus Christ. Authentic ministry spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Jesus everywhere. Authentic ministry brings people into direct contact with the glory of our Lord Jesus. Paul does not lose heart or become discouraged or give up because he has been entrusted with this kind of ministry.

If we understand what New Covenant ministry is; that New Covenant ministry is a sovereign work of the Spirit of the living God in the hearts and lives of people, using us as his instruments, we will not lose heart!

Mercy Defined

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

Authentic Christian ministry is ministry that we have by mercy. Mercy is divine compassion and pity. Jesus told a story in Matthew 18 about a servant who owed his master an insurmountable debt. Since he was unable to pay, the master ordered for him and all that he had to be sold and payment to be made. The servant fell to his knees and begged his master for more time to repay the debt. This servant understood what he deserved.

Matthew 18:27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.

The master was moved with compassion. He did not treat the servant as he deserved. Instead he released him and forgave the debt. Later in the story, this action of the master is called mercy

Matthew 18:33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’

Mercy is release from a debt we owe; it is an emotional response of being moved with compassion or pity toward one who is in trouble and is powerless to escape his desperate situation. Blind men cried out to Jesus for mercy. Those caring for one tormented by demons cried out to Jesus for mercy. The good Samaritan in Luke 10 was moved with compassion and showed mercy to the man who had been robbed and beaten and left half dead. Mercy is action to help springing from pity or compassion toward one who is powerless to remedy his own situation.

We read of God’s mercy in Titus 3

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

Mercy is God’s rescue in response to our need. It is not reward for righteousness; it is the opposite of merit. It is gift. Peter says:

1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

God was moved with compassion by our helplessness, and made dead sinners alive.

Ministry By The Mercy of God

Let’s apply this definition of mercy to Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 4

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

We have been given this ministry by the mercy of God. God, moved with compassion by our helplessness, acted to rescue us. We are saved by his mercy. We have this ministry by mercy. Ministry is not something we are worthy of. It is not something we deserve to have. Mercy is divine compassion that meets us in our helplessness to rescue us. ‘We are not sufficient’ Paul says ‘to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant’ (3:5-6). We have this ministry by mercy.

Paul was acutely aware that he was called to minister by the mercy of God. In 1 Timothy he says:

1 Timothy 1:12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, 13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

Paul did nothing to deserve his appointment to ministry. He was ignorant, so he needed mercy. He was an unbeliever, so he needed mercy. He was a blasphemer, a persecutor, an insolent opponent, and still he received mercy. He was in a position of helplessness; he didn’t even think he needed to be rescued. He thought he was doing well. But the grace of the Lord Jesus overflowed toward him. God had compassion on him, and he extended mercy to him and saved him and appointed him to his service. Saul who became Paul was the poster child for mercy. God put his mercy on display in Paul, so that no one could ever think he was beyond the reach of God’s mercy. Mercy has everything to do with God and nothing to do with my deserving or my worth.

Paul begins this letter by acknowledging God as the Father of mercies.

2 Corinthians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,

Mercy Powers Perseverance

So how does knowing that we have been entrusted with ministry according to mercy affect our perseverance and keep us from losing heart? How does a recognition that ministry is according to mercy help me not to despair?

I lose heart when I think it is my performance that matters. I am discouraged and begin to lose heart when I feel that I have not done well enough or have not met expectations. I get discouraged when I don’t see the results that I hope for. But ministry is according to mercy. Ministry is not about my performance. Ministry is not about expectations or results. Ministry is according to mercy; divine help in response to my helplessness and need. I am not sufficient to claim anything – anything as coming from me. My sufficiency is from God, who has made me competent. Competent to minister. I am helpless to minister effectively. God who is rich in mercy, from the depth of his compassion, is eager to meet me in my helplessness and accomplish his purposes in and through me. I do not quit, give up, get discouraged, lose heart, because just as my salvation is God’s mercy meeting me in my helplessness, so the ministry he has equipped me for and entrusted me with is all God’s mercy meeting me in my helplessness and supplying my lack.

Most fundamentally Paul, and each of us, is one upon whom God has had pity and come to our rescue. I am a mere recipient of mercy, together with all who belong to God through Christ.

Authentic Christian ministry depends completely on the mercy of God. One who is called to minister must first receive the mercy of God in the gospel, and we must live and minister ever in the mercy of God, as God meets us in our need and supplies our lack.

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

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

July 22, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 13:7; Love Believes, Hopes, Bears, Endures

02/01 1 Corinthians 13:7 Love Believes, Hopes, Bears, Endures; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150201_1cor13_7.mp3

1 Corinthians 13 [SBLGNT]

4 Ἡ ἀγάπη μακροθυμεῖ, χρηστεύεται ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ ζηλοῖ ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ περπερεύεται, οὐ φυσιοῦται, 5 οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ, οὐ ζητεῖ τὰ ἑαυτῆς, οὐ παροξύνεται, οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν, 6 οὐ χαίρει ἐπὶ τῇ ἀδικίᾳ συγχαίρει δὲ τῇ ἀληθείᾳ· 7 πάντα στέγει, πάντα πιστεύει, πάντα ἐλπίζει, πάντα ὑπομένει. 8 Ἡ ἀγάπη οὐδέποτε πίπτει.

1 Corinthians 13 [ESV2011]

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

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

Paul is painting the picture for us of what love looks like, what God’s love looks like, how Jesus loves us, and how we are to follow in his footsteps and love others. The Corinthians may have been spiritually gifted, but they lacked the essential characteristic of love. They wanted to know what is the primary evidence of being spiritual; Paul tells them it is not supernatural manifestations like tongues speaking or prophesy, but the supernatural manifestation of love.

This verse is concise and powerful. It consists of eight words, four verbs and the direct object ‘all’ repeated with each verb. It is structured in what is called a chaism or X shaped structure, where the first verb is parallel to the last, and the middle two verbs are paired together. At the center love believes and hopes. On the outside, love bears and endures. Each verb is has its object in the word ‘all’. What does love bear? What does love endure? What does love believe? What does love hope? All. Love bears all, believes all, hopes all, endures all.

All – Love Never Stops

How do we understand this ‘all’? Does it mean that love puts up with all offenses without complaining, love believes whatever it is told -true or not, love hopes for things that most likely will not come true, love endures even the worst abuses without doing anything about it? Remember, this phrase comes right on the heels of ‘love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth’. Would Paul then contradict himself and say that love willingly tolerates wrongdoing and is naïve and gullible, believing all things, even false teaching and lies, without discernment or discrimination? Certainly not! So what is the best way to understand this ‘all’? Translators have suggested that the ‘all’ here means the ‘absence of all limits’, and the best way to convey this meaning into English is with double negatives. So, where the ESV has:

7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.(ESV)

And where the NIV takes the direct object adverbially:

7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (NIV)

Some other translations use a negative construction to convey the idea of removing all limits to love.

7 Love never gives up on people. It never stops trusting, never loses hope, and never quits. (ERV)

7 Love never stops being patient, never stops believing, never stops hoping, never gives up. (GW)

7 Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. (Phillips)

There are no limits to the endurance of love. Love never gives up. Love bears and endures all. When Peter asked Jesus how often he should forgive a brother who keeps on sinning against him, Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven’ (Mt.18:22). Remove the limits to love. How? How does love put up with so much? We have learned that love has a long fuse, love extends kindness to those who don’t deserve it, love is not offended when good comes to others instead of self, love exhibits humility, love is not indecent, self-seeking, or irritable even when provoked, love does not keep records of offenses, love does not celebrate when others fail but rejoices with the advance of truth. How does love act this way? Because the foundation of love is faith and hope. Its faith and hope are in God.

Bears All Things

Lets start from the outside and work our way inward. Love bears all things. This word is differently translated. The ESV has ‘bears all things’; then NIV has ‘always protects’; The CEB has ‘puts up with all things’; the OJB has ‘covers all things’. This word comes from a root which means ‘roof’ – the roof on a house or building. A roof covers and protects, which is one possible meaning of the word, in the sense of covering, passing over in silence, keeping confidential.

If this is what the word means here, Paul would be saying something like what the Proverbs say (using a different word)

Proverbs 10:11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. 12 Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.

And similar to what Peter (also using a different word) says in

1 Peter 4:8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

So if this is how Paul is using the word, he is saying that love hides from view the sins of others, covering them over, protecting them from view, and thus protecting the sinner from some of the consequences of his sin.

This is how the word is used in the apocryphal book of Sirach

[apocrypha] Sirach 8:17 with a foolish one do not consult, for he cannot cover up a secret

While this is what the proverbs and Peter teach, that love does not parade around the sins of others, putting them on display, humiliating the sinner, (and this would fit the context here that love ‘does not rejoice at wrongdoing’), this is not the way Paul uses this word. The only other occurrences of this verb in the New Testament are 1 Thessalonians 3:1 and 5, and 1 Corinthians 9:12.

1 Thessalonians 3:1 Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, 2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, 3 that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4 For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. 5 For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.

Paul uses the word here in the sense of carrying a load or bearing up under difficulties. He could carry the burden no longer; we might say ‘he could stand it no longer’. The other place Paul uses this word is in 1 Corinthians 9, and there it has the same direct object ‘all things’ as it has here in chapter 13.

Corinthians 9:11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.

He says we voluntarily give up our rights and we carry any load, we bear any burden, we endure any hardship rather than hindering the gospel. Paul is holding up his own conduct as an example of how he wants the Corinthians also to put the advance of the gospel in first place, so much so that they become willing to endure anything, even the violation of their own rights, to see the lost come to Christ. Paul has said, in 4:16 and again in 11:1 ‘be imitators of me’. He has held himself up as an example of what enduring anything for the sake of love looks like, and now he tells us that love is willing to bear any load for the good of the one loved.

Endures All Things

The other end of the parallel is love ‘endures all things’. This is a very similar concept to ‘bears all things’. This word carries the idea of patience, and means to remain behind. In Luke 2:43, the young boy Jesus ‘remained behind’ in Jerusalem. In Acts 17:14, Silas and Timothy ‘remained behind’ in Berea while Paul went on ahead to Athens. The idea of ‘staying behind’ does not mean being left home when everyone else goes off to battle. Quite the opposite, they shipped Paul off for his own protection, because the Jews from Thessalonica had followed them to Berea and were ‘agitating and stirring up the crowds’ against them. So to stay behind means to stand and fight, to hold your ground, to be steadfast, to persevere. In classical Greek it was often used in military contexts. Jesus points his followers to the need for this kind of perseverance

Matthew 24:9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Endurance here is in the context of hatred, persecution, betrayal, execution, false teaching, lawlessness and a love that had grown cold. Endurance means remaining faithful to Jesus whatever the cost, holding steadfastly to the truth of the gospel as Jesus taught it, tenaciously persisting to love others even when that seems irrational and dangerous.

The author of Hebrews holds Jesus up to us as the example of patient endurance.

Hebrews 12:2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

Jesus endured the cross. He endured hostility from sinners. We can take heart and stand our ground steadfast in love.

If there is a subtle difference between bearing all things and enduring all things, we could say that bearing all is like a roof that supports a limitless load, where endurance puts up with abuse for a limitless duration.

Never Stops Trusting

How do we do this? How can we love like this? What motivates a love that supports a limitless load and endures for a limitless duration? A love that remains steadfast in the face of hatred, betrayal, false teaching, even the threat of death? This is love that is beyond my capability. This is supernatural love. Where does it come from? I think the text answers our questions as we move from the outer pair to the inner pair. Love is able to bear all and endure all today because love looks forward to eternity believing all and hoping all.

What does it mean to believe all things? Or maybe it would be less easily misunderstood to translate it negatively ‘love never stops believing’. What does it mean to believe? The ‘believe’ word group in the bible means to trust in, depend on, or rely on. The noun form is often translated ‘faith’. We are told in Romans 4 that Abraham’s faith was credited to him for righteousness. His faith was believing the promise of God.

Romans 4:20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

His faith, or his believing, was an unwavering conviction that God is who he claims to be and he will do what he has promised to do. Jesus promises eternal life to all who believe in him. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul reminds us of the good news that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the grave.

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

Paul tells us that the believing that is not worthless and empty consists in receiving the good news, standing in the good news, allowing the good news to rescue us, and holding fast to the good news. How does this enable us to love, to bear all things and endure all things? Because we are taking our stand in the good news. Good news that promises us eternal life even if someone destroys our body. Good news that God is working all things, even the painful things, together for our ultimate good (Rom.8:28). Because we are believers, because we never stop believing in God, trusting him, depending on him, we can take the risk of loving others.

Never Stops Hoping

Love never stops believing, love never stops hoping. What is hope? We often use the word ‘hope’ to describe things that we wish might happen but have no reason to believe will actually happen. It is almost synonymous with ‘wish’. And sometimes it is used that way in the bible. Paul talks about his plans to visit churches using the word hope to describe something he desires to do and plans to do but is not confident that it will come to pass. But hope in the bible is often used as synonymous with believe. The prophecy pointing to Jesus Isaiah 42 says:

Matthew 12:21 and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

To hope in the name of Jesus and to believe or trust in Jesus are saying that we put our confidence in Jesus. Hope brings out the aspect of desire and longing and eager expectation.

Hebrews speaks of forgiveness of sins through the sacrifice of Jesus, and confidence to enter the presence of God through the blood of Jesus. He says

Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

We might expect him to say ‘the confession of our faith‘. But hope expresses the confidence of believing in a God who is faithful to keep his promises.

Timothy helps clarify what is meant by hope. It says

1 Timothy 6:17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.

There is a contrast between the different objects we hope in, we trust in, we place our confidence in, we look to with eager expectation. Many put confidence in riches. Paul warns ‘do not set your hope on riches, because they are uncertain. They will fail to deliver what they appear to promise. The big bank account might appear trustworthy, but it can be gone in an instant. Instead, hope in God. Place your confidence in God. God cannot fail to deliver what he promises. God is the one who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. God is the only risk-free place to put your hope.’

Love never stops hoping in God. Love does not hope for a return from the one it shows love to. That will let you down. Love always hopes or hopes in all things, because the hope is not short term return on the investment of love here and now, but a hope that reaches into eternity, a hope that is fixed on God himself. That is the only hope that will never disappoint.

Romans 5 connects faith with hope, and links it to endurance and love.

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

We stand in grace – God’s good gift, by faith in Jesus, who grants us peace with God and access to him, and we rejoice in hope, confident that he will make good on all his promises. And then we see the link between suffering, which provides opportunity to bear up and endure, which produces tested character, which enhances our confidence in God, because we begin to see God’s supernatural love manifest in our lives, a result of the gift of the Holy Spirit at work in us to produce this love for others.

We never stop trusting in God, depending on him, relying on him; we never stop hoping in God, having confidence in him, with eagerly expectant longing for him, and this confidence and dependence in God flows out of us in risk taking love for people, people who will never be able to repay, who are needy, broken, hurting, and who will hurt us. We persevere in loving them, in bringing the good news about Jesus to them, we bear the insults, the abuse, the scorn, the disappointments, because our faith and hope are fixed not on temporary short term rewards, but on God who is love, who richly rewards all who hope in him, all who love with his love. Love moves out and puts itself out for the sake of the advance of the gospel and for the glory of Christ. Love bears all, believes all, hopes all, endures all.

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

February 2, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment