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The Spirit’s Fruit; Faithfulness Like Jesus

07/23 The Spirit’s Fruit; Faithfulness Like Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170723_faithfulness-like-jesus.mp3

We are looking together at the fruit of the Spirit, the character that the Holy Spirit without fail produces in the life of every follower of Jesus.

Today we look at the fruit of faithfulness. If you are using the old King James, it will have ‘faith’ instead of faithfulness. This word, along with all 8 of the other words in this list of fruit is a noun. This word is most often translated in other contexts simply as ‘faith’. But in this list it indicates an ethical quality, so it is translated as an adjective. The Greek word is [πίστις] from the [πιστεύω] word group. It means to have faith; to believe, trust, to depend on. With the definite article it can refer to the faith, the teaching, the content of the gospel. The adjective form means to be faithful, dependable, trustworthy, or reliable.

Faith Defined

We can look at Romans 3 to see some of the ways this word is used. In Romans 3, Paul is asking if Jews are not automatically saved, but must believe the gospel just like everyone else, and the gospel has gone out to all people, then is there any advantage in being an ethnic Jew. The first advantage he lists is that

Romans 3:2 … To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with [v. πιστεύω] the oracles of God.

‘Entrusted with’ translates the passive verb form of this word ‘faith.’ They were believed in or trusted with the Scriptures. They were considered faithful in the task of transmitting Biblical revelation to us. In the next verse, he uses both the verb and the noun of this word.

Romans 3:3 What if some were unfaithful [v. ἀπιστέω]? Does their faithlessness [ἀπιστία n.] nullify the faithfulness [n. πίστις] of God?

‘Unfaithful’ or ‘unbelieving’ translates the negative verb form. They were without faith. They did not believe. Those who did not believe are called ‘faithless,’ the negative noun form. In contrast, God is called ‘faithful,’ the noun form we see in Galatians 5. Verse 4 goes on to describe the faithfulness of God.

Romans 3:3 …Does their faithlessness [n. ἀπιστία] nullify the faithfulness [n. πίστις] of God? 4 By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.”

God’s faithfulness is his truthfulness, his righteousness or justice, that what he said certainly happens. His words, when examined, prove to be flawlessly true and trustworthy.

The next chapter, Romans 4, has my favorite Biblical definition of faith.

Romans 4:5 And to the one who does not work but believes [v. πιστεύω] in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith [n. πίστις] is counted as righteousness,

…16 That is why it depends on faith [n. πίστις], in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith [n. πίστις] of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed [v. πιστεύω], who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 In hope he believed [v. πιστεύω] against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith [n. πίστις] when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No unbelief [n. ἀπιστία] made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith [n. πίστις] as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”

From this passage we see that to have faith or to believe is opposite of works; it is depending on or trusting in the work of another; ‘to the one who does not work but believes in him’. It is depending on a gracious promise; something we didn’t earn and don’t deserve, but is freely offered to us; ‘that is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace’. Faith must have the proper object; it is faith in the God ‘who gives life to the dead and calls into existence things that do not exist’. Faith must have content; ‘he had been told.’ Faith is trusting the impossible promises of God in spite of the circumstances to the contrary. Unbelief is doubting or questioning the promises of God, wavering in confidence in God. Faith gives all glory to the God who is able to do the impossible. Faith is being ‘fully convinced that God is able to do what he has promised.’ Our faith must be placed in the promises of our faithful God.

Faithful Service

Galatians 5 tells us that faithfulness is fruit of the Holy Spirit. Faithfulness is produced in us when we look at our faithful God and trust his character. To have faith is to believe, trust, depend on one who is faithful. To be faithful is to be dependable, trustworthy, reliable; to keep your word.

In Matthew 24 and 25, Jesus is talking about the signs of his coming, and the unexpected nature of his return. He says:

Matthew 24:44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. 45 “Who then is the faithful [adj. πιστός] and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know 51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Jesus encourages us to be always ready for his return, to be faithful and wise with what he has entrusted to our care. He has trusted us with caring for his household. We will be rewarded for faithful service. There will be punishment for unfaithfulness. Unfaithfulness looks like self-centered abuse of authority and taking advantage of the absence of the master for personal indulgence. Faithful service looks like doing exactly what the master requested at the proper time, serving others, providing for the needs of others.

Jesus asks ‘who is the faithful and wise servant?’ Then he tells a story in Matthew 25 about wisdom or foolishness in being prepared at all times for his coming, and he tells a story about faithfulness or unfaithfulness.

Matthew 25:14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

Faith is confidence in the God who entrusts us with gifts, that he is wise and good. Notice, it says he gave differing sums of money to the servants, ‘to each according to his ability’. He knew he servants, he knew their capacity, their capability. He gave them exactly what he knew they could handle.

We all tend to doubt this. We all tend toward unbelief. Pastors tend to look around and see other pastors with larger congregations and ask ‘why can’t I have a bigger church?’ He gives to each according to his ability. Then you have a pastor of a large congregation who knows that more people equals more problems and he looks at the smaller church and says ‘wouldn’t it be nice to have fewer problems’. He gives to each according to his ability. God knows what he is doing. I’m sure this is true of everybody. ‘Why was I entrusted with this? Why wasn’t I entrusted with that? Why did he get five and I only got two?’ In order to be faithful, we need to have faith that God knows what he is doing when he gives us what he does. Has he given you resources? Health? Sickness? Adversity? Prosperity? Be faithful to glorify him with whatever he has entrusted to your care.

I want you to see something else about faithfulness in Jesus’ story. Look at what the servant who was given five talents did. He put them to work. He took what he had been entrusted with and made use of it. We are not told exactly what he did, but a 100% return on investment is pretty substantial, and probably indicates a high level of risk. He invested the money aggressively and doubled his investment. Safe investments don’t produce that kind of return. He took risks with his master’s money. And he is commended for it. The master doesn’t come back and say ‘what were you thinking? You could have lost it all! You got lucky this time, but I’m never trusting you with my money again.’ No, “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” Being faithful means taking great risks with what we have been given in hopes of great gains for our master. Remember, the money does not belong to us. It belongs to the master. Neither is the gain ours. The profit goes to the master. God expects us to step out of the safe zone. William Carey, missionary to India, remembered as the father of modern missions, said ‘expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.’ We can take risks with what God entrusts to us, because God is ultimately in control. This too is a matter of faith. Do we believe God’s promise that ‘for those who love God all things work together for good’ (Rom.8:28), even the bad things? Is any risk too great that has the potential of advancing the glory of Christ in the world?

Notice in Jesus’ story, both servants who invested what they had been entrusted gained 100%. There was no servant who invested and lost money. There was no servant who invested and only gained 50%.

2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

Notice also that there was no differentiation between the servant who gained 5 and the servant who gained 2. Both were faithful with what they had been given. Both heard the words ‘well done, good and faithful servant… Enter into the joy of your master.’

But there was one servant who was not good and faithful.

Matthew 25:24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

This servant misunderstood his master. He thought him to be a hard man, a lazy man, a greedy man. He had no confidence, because he did not understand his master was gracious and forgiving. He acted out of fear and unbelief. He played it safe with the master’s money. He buried it. He hid it. He preserved it. He was careful not to lose any. He returned what he had been given. And he was called ‘wicked and slothful.’ Not good and faithful, but wicked and slothful. He was not faithful; he failed to invest at all. He was slothful.

God’s Faithfulness and Ours

You see, faithfulness is fruit. It grows in a heart that is looking at our faithful God. We can risk being recklessly faithful because we know God. Our confidence is not in our skill or ability, in our effectiveness in planting or watering, but on God who gives the increase.

Paul, addressing the messed up church in Corinth, points them to:

1 Corinthians 1:7 …our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Paul’s confidence for the Corinthian believers was not in them. His confidence, his faith, was in the fully capable faithful God. He said the same to the Thessalonian believers.

1 Thessalonians 5:23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

In 2 Thessalonians, he asks for prayer in the risky venture of advancing the gospel into places where Christ was not named.

2 Thessalonians 3:1 Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, 2 and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. 4 And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

His confidence for himself and for them was in the faithfulness of God. He was faithful in his mission, because he knew God would always be faithful to his promises.

The author of Hebrews points us always back to Jesus.

Hebrews 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, … 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,

Because of Jesus, because we have confidence to enter by the blood of Jesus, because we have a great priest who invites us to draw near, we can hold fast without wavering, we can be faithful, because he who promised is faithful. We can be faithful to love and stir each other up to love because he will never let us down.

He who promised is faithful. God is dependable, trustworthy, reliable. We can count on him, we can bank on him. He will never let us down. He will never go back on his word. Because we have this kind of confidence in this kind of God, we can become this kind of people. We can be know as dependable, reliable, trustworthy, women and men of our word. Even when others let us down, we can follow through.

Martin Luther writes sees the passage this way: “In listing faith among the fruits of the Spirit, Paul obviously does not mean faith in Christ, but faith in men. Such faith is not suspicious of people but believes the best. Naturally the possessor of such faith will be deceived, but he lets it pass. He is ready to believe all men, but he will not trust all men. Where this virtue is lacking men are suspicious, forward, and wayward and will believe nothing nor yield to anybody. No matter how well a person says or does anything, they will find fault with it, and if you do not humor them you can never please them. It is quite impossible to get along with them. Such faith in people therefore, is quite necessary. What kind of life would this be if one person could not believe another person?”

In 2 Timothy 2, Paul encourages Timothy to ‘be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus’ and entrust what you have learned to faithful men who will pass it along. He encourages him to be a good soldier, to live an unentangled life. He reminds him of Jesus, and Paul’s own sacrifice and suffering ‘for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus’ as he risks his very life for the gospel. And he recites this well known saying:

2 Timothy 2:11 The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.

We can risk suffering, even death, because we have his word, his promise, he will be faithful. And we can have this gospel confidence, knowing that it is not contingent on our performance. Even if we are a failure, even if we are faithless, if we confess Jesus as Lord, he will be faithful to his promises because his own character is at stake. He will not deny his own faithful character just because we falter. He who promised is faithful; he will surely do it.

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

July 28, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 26:40-46; Repentance and Restoration

05/07 Leviticus 26:40-46; Repentance and Restoration ;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170507_leviticus-26_40-46.mp3

We are looking at the covenant document of ancient Israel, the covenant between God and his people. This document is the necessary background for understanding the history of Israel in the Old Testament, and for understanding the message of the prophets, who called Israel to turn from their false gods back to the one true God.

Leviticus 26 verses 1-2 are a reminder of the central demand of the covenant, that by entering into this covenant, Israel is promising to have no other gods but the one LORD. Verses 3-13 list the blessings that accompany this relationship; verses 14-39 list the curses that will fall on the nation when they reject the LORD and fail to honor their agreement. This last section, verses 40-46, holds out an amazingly gracious promise that God will respond to genuine broken-hearted turning of his people back to himself.

The blessings were conditional;

Leviticus 26:3 “If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, 4 then I will give you

And he lists a series of four blessings, blessings of abundant produce and protection and progeny and most importantly the presence of God with his people.

The curses were a series of five disciplines escalating in intensity; the first stage in verse 14:

Leviticus 26:14 “But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, 15 if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, 16 then I will do this to you:

The second stage in verse 18:

Leviticus 26:18 And if in spite of this you will not listen to me, then I will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins,

The third stage of discipline in verse 21

Leviticus 26:21 “Then if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me, I will continue striking you, sevenfold for your sins.

The fourth stage, aimed at turning the people back to God, verse 23:

Leviticus 26:23 “And if by this discipline you are not turned to me but walk contrary to me, 24 then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins.

The final stage, verse 27:

Leviticus 26:27 “But if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me, 28 then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins.

The discipline is severe, indicating that the consequences of continuing in rebellion and refusing to heed the discipline are even more painful. Here at the end of this series of discipline, God holds out the promise of hope; if his rebellious people will …

Leviticus 26:40 “But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers in their treachery that they committed against me, and also in walking contrary to me, 41 so that I walked contrary to them and brought them into the land of their enemies—if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, 42 then I will remember…

Notice this is taking full responsibility. This is not making excuses for sin. This is not blaming it on a failed upbringing or painful circumstances that have shaped responses. There is no blame for genetic predisposition. They confess.

Defining Confession

What does it mean to confess? It means to own up to your sin. It means to admit that you are guilty of a punishable deed or offense. Psalm 32 spells this out. David understands the consequences of refusing to confess, and the amazing relief of confession and forgiveness. He begins by rejoicing in the benefits of forgiveness.

Psalm 32:1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

Then he shows us the opposite of confession.

Psalm 32:3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. — Selah

This is deceit. It is refusing to admit what is true, and it is a painful experience. Then in verse 5 he confesses.

Psalm 32:5 I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. — Selah

Confession is refusing to hide or lie about or cover iniquity. It is acknowledging sin to God. It is not trying to fix it or be better or change. It is simply owning up to the facts. We see this same contrast between concealing and confessing in Proverbs.

Proverbs 28:13 Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.

Notice what it is they are to confess.

Leviticus 26:40 “But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers in their treachery that they committed against me, and also in walking contrary to me,

They are admitting their iniquity in their treachery against God. Their failure to listen to God, their disregard for God is considered treasonous. It is a sin against God himself. By not listening to God, by not following him, they are walking contrary to him. They are against him. Jesus said:

Matthew 12:30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

This divides the world in two. There are those who walk contrary to God, and there are those who confess. God says of those who conceal rather than confess, whose pattern of life is contrary to God,

Leviticus 26:41 so that I walked contrary to them and brought them into the land of their enemies…

The Lord reminds his people of the consequence of opposing God. He will walk contrary to you. Exile, captivity, bondage. A life opposed by the creator of all things. Yet his warnings are meant to turn our hearts toward him.

Leviticus 26: …—if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity, 42 then I will remember…

If their uncircumcised heart is humbled. Back in verse 19, God threatens to ‘break the pride of your power.’ Humility is the appropriate response to a God whom we have ignored. James says:

James 4:4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. … 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

God opposes the proud. But he gives grace to the humble. Note well, the proud get what they deserve. They refuse to confess, they refuse to humble themselves, and God sets himself against them. But the humble do not get what they deserve. They get better than they deserve. He gives grace to the humble.

Uncircumcised Hearts

God refers to his people as having uncircumcised hearts. In Genesis 17, God gave Abraham circumcision as a sign of his covenant with him. Uncircumcision becomes a picture of thick skinned callousness to the Lord. Jeremiah calls for repentance:

Jeremiah 4:4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.”

The Lord laments:

Jeremiah 6:10 To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear? Behold, their ears are uncircumcised, they cannot listen; behold, the word of the LORD is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it.

It is as if there is a flap of skin blocking their ears so they cannot hear. It is a heart-attitude that is the problem. The problem is with what they take pleasure in; what they desire. Stephen in Acts 7 said:

Acts 7:51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.

In Deuteronomy, Moses charged the people before he turned over the leadership to Joshua:

Deuteronomy 10:12 “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good? 14 Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. 15 Yet the LORD set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. 17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. 18 He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. 19 Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. 20 You shall fear the LORD your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. 21 He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen. 22 Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul; this is for your good. The Lord has set his heart in love on you above all peoples. Be no longer stubborn. Fear him, serve him, hold fast to him.

Leviticus 26:41…—if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity,

What does it mean to ‘make amends’? This word means ‘to be pleased’ and is used frequently in Leviticus of a sacrifice being accepted by the Lord. The King James translates this phrase ‘if they accept the punishment of their iniquity.’ We cannot fix the damage we have done by our hard hearts. But in humility we can accept our guilt before the Lord.

I Will Remember

God says if my people will confess, will accept their guilt, will humble themselves,

Leviticus 26:42 then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and I will remember my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.

God promises to remember. When the Bible says that God remembered, it does not imply that God is forgetful. To remember an agreement is to honor the terms of that agreement. God’s people made a covenant with him at Mount Sinai under Moses; this was a conditional covenant, conditioned on their obedience to all the things written in the law, a covenant that they broke. God here is promising that if they will own their guilt and humble themselves, that he will honor the terms of a prior covenant that he made, a covenant that was conditioned only on one thing; circumcision. If they will circumcise their hearts, he will honor all his promises.

Paul tells Timothy:

2 Timothy 2:11 The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.

There are consequences for sin; but God cannot deny himself. We may be faithless, but he will make good on the promises he has made.

Sabbath for The Land

Leviticus 26:43 But the land shall be abandoned by them and enjoy its Sabbaths while it lies desolate without them, and they shall make amends for their iniquity, because they spurned my rules and their soul abhorred my statutes.

The land will be abandoned. They forsook the land God gave them by their disobedience. The land will enjoy rest. Earlier in this chapter,

as a consequence for their sin, God promised to make the roads desolate (v.22); their sanctuaries desolate (v.31); and the land desolate (v.32, 34, 35). Here the land will enjoy its rest while it is desolate without them. They spurned his rules and their soul abhorred his statutes. This not an issue of merely outward actions. This is a heart issue.

Future for Israel

Leviticus 26:44 Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, neither will I abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them, for I am the LORD their God. 45 But I will for their sake remember the covenant with their forefathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the LORD.”

They spurned his rules and abhorred his statutes, but the Lord will not spurn or abhor them to utterly destroy them. His discipline will accomplish its purpose. He will not make an end of them and break his covenant. Why? They had broken his covenant. The reason God will not break his covenant with them is ‘I am the LORD their God.’ He will not go back on his word, because he is who he is. He will not change. Even if they abhor and spurn the Lord, the Lord will not spurn or abhor them. Even if they abandon the land, the Lord will not abandon or forsake them.

In Romans chapters 9-11, Paul wrestles with the question of Israel and God’s promises. He has ‘great sorrow and unceasing anguish’ in his heart (9:2-3) for his ‘brothers, …kinsmen according to the flesh’. He is confident that ‘a remnant of them will be saved’ (9:27). His ‘hearts desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved’ (10:1). He asks in chapter 11 if God has rejected his people, and his answer is ‘by no means!’ (11:1-2). He recognizes that the majority of Israel is now hardened toward the Lord, but he asks ‘did they stumble in order that they might fall?’ (11:11) and his answer again is ‘by no means!’ He sees that through their trespass, salvation has come to the Gentiles, but he looks forward to ‘their full inclusion’ (11:12), ‘their acceptance’ (11:15). He is confident that ‘even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again’ (11:23). He looks forward to the day when ‘all Israel will be saved’ (11:26). He longs for the day that ‘by the mercy shown to your they also may now receive mercy’ (11:31). God said:

Leviticus 26:44 Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not spurn them, neither will I abhor them so as to destroy them utterly and break my covenant with them, for I am the LORD their God. 45 But I will for their sake remember the covenant with their forefathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the LORD.” 46 These are the statutes and rules and laws that the LORD made between himself and the people of Israel through Moses on Mount Sinai.

What a treasure that our God is a covenant keeping God. That even:

2 Timothy 2:13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.

God will be true to his own character.

Isaiah 54:7 For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you. 8 In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD, your Redeemer.

In Romans 10, Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 30, a passage where Moses reminds the people of the blessing and the curse, and after they are scattered, if they will ‘return to the LORD your God, …and obey his voice… , with all your heart and with all your soul,

Deuteronomy 30:3 then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you. 4 If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there he will take you. 5 And the LORD your God will bring you into the land that your fathers possessed, that you may possess it. And he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. 6 And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

In Leviticus 26, God said

Leviticus 26:41…—if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity,

The only way that an uncircumcised heart is humbled is if God humbles it. In Deuteronomy 30 God promises ‘the LORD your God will circumcise your heart …so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul’ The only way that we can love God like this is if God does this work in our hearts to change our desires. This is a work of the Holy Spirit.

Praise God ‘Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes’ (Rom.10:4)

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

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

May 8, 2017 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God Faithful and True

02/28 Faithful and True; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160228_faithful-true.mp3

What is God like? What can be known about God? What does he tell

us that he is like? We want to know God, to enjoy God, to delight ourselves in his presence, to experience him as he really is, to savor him. Jesus told us

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

Suppression of Truth

Jesus tells us that eternal life consists in knowing God. But not just any idea of God will do. Eternal life consists in knowing the only true God. We must be careful. There is a grave danger that we would formulate an idea of God that does not correspond to the reality of who he is, and we would be found guilty of idolatry. Romans chapter 1 says

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

We as fallen mankind have an inclination to suppress the truth about God. Although we know true things about God, we do not act consistent with that knowledge. We do not honor him as God or give him thanks. We tend to exchange the glory of the immortal God for images of created things. We have a tendency to exchange the truth about God for a lie and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator. This tendency in us is unrighteous, ungodly, and deserves God’s wrath. We must be alert to this tendency in ourselves, and be ware of taking the things God has revealed to us about himself and suppressing those things by our unrighteousness.

We want to enjoy God by experiencing him as he truly is. We do not want to be guilty of suppressing the truth about him or exchanging that truth for a counterfeit. One of the things God says about himself is that he is true. He is the only true God. What does it mean when the Bible says that God is true?

Full of Truth

Turn with me to the beginning of John’s gospel.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 ( John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

We see in this passage that life comes by the light shining in the darkness. We see that the Word was the true light shining in the darkness, and that the Word became flesh and lived among us to show us the glory of the Father. We see that the Word, the only Son from the Father was full of grace and truth. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Jesus has made the invisible God known.

This passage in John directly connects back to the passage in Exodus that we have been studying. Keep your thumb in John 1 and turn back with me to Exodus 33. In Exodus 32, the people had become impatient with Moses’ delay on the mountain, and had made an image of God in the form of a bull-idol and worshiped and sacrificed to it. God threatens to wipe out all the people and start over with Moses, but Moses intercedes for the people and God allows them to live. In chapter 33, God is threatening that he will keep his promises and send Israel in to the promised land, but that he will not go with them because they are persistently rebellious and he would destroy them.

Exodus 33:12 Moses said to the LORD, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ 13 Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” 14 And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. 16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” 17 And the LORD said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” 18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

Moses desires to know God, to know his ways, and he insists that the presence of God go with them. When God answers favorably, Moses requests to see the glory of God. God will reveal his character, his goodness, to Moses, but no one can see the face of God and live. John tells us that the law came through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God who is at the Father’s side, Jesus has made his Father known. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen his glory, full of grace and truth. In Exodus 34, The Lord proclaims his name:

Exodus 34:6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness

The Lord is abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Jesus, the only Son from the Father is full of grace and truth. God is abundant in steadfast love, full of grace. God is abundant in faithfulness, full of truth. God reveals his full glory, the truth of who he is, in Jesus.

Light and Truth

This concept of truth or faithfulness in John’s gospel is coupled with light shining in the darkness. In the dark it is difficult to distinguish what is real from that which is a counterfeit. But in the full light the true character is seen for what it is.

In Jeremiah 10 the prophet sheds light on the people’s idolatry. He contrasts their idols with the one true God. Their idols are vanity, they cannot move, cannot speak, cannot walk, cannot do evil, cannot do good, they are stupid, foolish, false, worthless, a delusion;

Jeremiah 10:10 But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation. 11 Thus shall you say to them: “The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens.”

The Lord is the true God. He is incomparable in power, wisdom, understanding, his voice forms and brings about all things. The Lord is the true God in contrast to false gods who threaten harm and promise help but are impotent to do either. The Lord our God is true, he is no counterfeit; he is real, he is living, he had no beginning and will have no end.

Correspondence Between Word and Being

James warns against the deception of counterfeits.

James 1:16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

God is free from inconsistency or forgery. He is the Father of lights. He is the real thing, and the source of all that is true and genuine.

James 1:16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. …18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. …22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

Do not be deceived and do not deceive yourselves. God is authentic. He birthed us by the word of truth. If we hear the word but do not do it, we are not true. We lie to ourselves. We prove not to be genuine. Truth is when the word and the deed are one. Falsehood is when the word does not match the reality. We also see this theme in 1 John.

1 John 1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

1 John 2:4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,

1 John 3:18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Truth is when our claims perfectly correspond to reality. We had a friend who got a job as a door to door vacuum cleaner salesman. As a friend, we allowed him to come to our house and practice his sales pitch on us. He told us how the unit that he was selling far surpassed every other vacuum in sucking power. To demonstrate this, he had us turn on our vacuum cleaner (which was a shop-vac) and he stuck his credit card over the end of our hose. Then he proceeded to turn on his vacuum and attempt to suck his card away from our vacuum with his vacuum to demonstrate how much more powerful it was. He made several attempts, but completely failed. He was a bit embarrassed. His vacuum sucked. But our shop-vac sucked more powerfully. He was embarrassed because his words didn’t match the actual performance. He spoke bigger than the reality. His claims were demonstrated to be false. (And by the way, my friend didn’t remain in door-to-door sales for long).

God is true. His claims perfectly correspond to reality. God never inflates his claims. He never speaks bigger than he is. And have you read your Bible?! Have you listened to the things God says about himself?! Think for a moment of some of the things God says about himself. If someone came to your door claiming the things God claims for himself in his word, how would you respond?

Proverbs 30:5 Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

Every word of God perfectly corresponds to his essence, his being. He is what he says. His representation of himself matches exactly the reality of who he is. He is true.

I Am The Truth

In John 14, when Jesus is about to go to the cross, Jesus says:

John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

And he tells his disciples that he is going to prepare a place for them, to bring them to be with him where he is. When Thomas expresses confusion as to the destination and how to get there, Jesus responds:

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus does not claim merely to know the truth, or to tell the truth; Jesus claims to be the truth. He says: “I am the truth.” He says “you believe in God, believe also in me.” Jesus is the truth. He is all that he claims to be, all that he ought to be. Jesus’ very essence embodies exactly who God is. As Hebrews tells us,

Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. …

Jesus is the perfectly accurate representation of who God is. He is the truth.

In Revelation, Jesus is called “the holy one, the true one; the Amen, the faithful and true witness; Sovereign Lord, holy and true (Rev.3:7, 14; 6:10). In Revelation 19,

Revelation 19:11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.

True Satisfaction

Jesus is faithful and true. In John 6, after Jesus fed 5,000 and the crowds pursued him to the other side of the lake, seeking more food, Jesus said:

John 6:32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. …55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.

In what way does Jesus mean that he is the true bread from heaven? Does he mean true as opposed to metaphorical? In what way is his flesh true food and his blood true drink? Does he mean that we are to eat and drink his flesh and blood in a literal physical way? Clearly not. In the rest of the passage he clarifies that what is required is to come to him and believe in him. But he is saying that his flesh and blood is that which nourishes, sustains and satisfies us in a more genuine, real, and lasting way than any physical food. That which is true is that which is reliable, which can be depended upon, which does not fail or disappoint.

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. … 3 Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.

Nothing satisfies human need, human longing like Jesus.

True and Trustworthy

Because God is true, he is trustworthy. He will live up to every expectation. He will perfectly keep his word. He will never disappoint those who trust in him, those who believe in him. Paul addresses Titus:

Titus 1:1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, 2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began

God never lies. When God promises, he binds himself to make good on his promises. God is truth and God is completely trustworthy.

Hebrews 6:13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, …17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.

When God takes an oath, he swears by himself, because there is none higher, none greater, no more sure standard of truth than himself. He is the absolute standard of truth. All truth comes from him. And the truth of God should give us strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us in the promises of God.

The Gospel is the Word of Truth

In the New Testament letters ‘the truth’ or ‘the word of truth’ comes to be synonymous with the gospel, the good news that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, was buried, and rose again, securing our forgiveness. (2Cor.4:2; Gal.2:5, 14; Eph.1:13; Col.1:5). We are to obey the truth, believe the truth, know the truth, love the truth, walk in step with the truth, be established in the truth… (Rom.2:8; Gal.5:7; Col.1:6; 2 Thes.2:10, 12, 13; 1Tim.2:4; 4:3; 2Tim.2:25; 3:7; 1Pet.1:22; 2Pet.1:12; 2Jn1:4; 3Jn.1:3)

Obtaining Truth

God is faithful and true. He is abundant in faithfulness and full of truth. He is the light by which we can discern what is genuine and what is counterfeit. How he portrays himself exactly corresponds to what he is in reality. Because he is true, he can be depended on, he will not disappoint or fail us. Jesus is the truth, the perfect expression of who God is, and the good news of Jesus is the truth that must be loved, embraced, obeyed.

In 2 Timothy, Paul charges Timothy to ‘rightly handle the word of truth (2Tim.2:15). He says:

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

Notice how a knowledge of the truth comes. It does not come from hard study or persuasive arguments. It is repentance that leads to a knowledge of the truth; a turning, a change of mind and heart. And notice, this is a gift of God. If we have come to know and believe and love the truth, if we have come to see Jesus as the truth, we should not suppress that truth; rather we should honor God as God and give thanks to him.

1 John 5:20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

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

February 28, 2016 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 10:11-13; You! Take Heed!

05/25 1 Corinthians 10:11-13 You! Take Heed!Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140525_1cor10_11-13.mp3

1 Corinthians 10 [SBLGNT]

11 ταῦτα δὲ τυπικῶς συνέβαινεν ἐκείνοις, ἐγράφη δὲ πρὸς νουθεσίαν ἡμῶν, εἰς οὓς τὰ τέλη τῶν αἰώνων κατήντηκεν.12 ὥστε ὁ δοκῶν ἑστάναι βλεπέτω μὴ πέσῃ,13 πειρασμὸς ὑμᾶς οὐκ εἴληφεν εἰ μὴ ἀνθρώπινος· πιστὸς δὲ ὁ θεός, ὃς οὐκ ἐάσει ὑμᾶς πειρασθῆναι ὑπὲρ ὃ δύνασθε, ἀλλὰ ποιήσει σὺν τῷ πειρασμῷ καὶ τὴν ἔκβασιν τοῦ δύνασθαι ὑπενεγκεῖν.

1 Corinthians 9-10 [ESV2011]

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea,2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,3 and all ate the same spiritual food,4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.”8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day.9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents,10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. Paul holds himself up as an example. If there is a danger of disqualification even for the apostle, that he might be proven a fraud, shown to be false, how much more must we watch ourselves, to be sure that we stay connected to Jesus, remain believing, continue treasuring Jesus above all else?

Paul holds the Israelites up as an example. Every one of the Israelites shared in the blessings of being part of God’s people. They all were under the protection of God, were being led by God, had experienced his rescue from slavery, their enemies were destroyed by God, they were continually being sustained and provided for by God. But in spite of all the blessings God poured out on them, their hearts remained unchanged. They desired things more than God. Food. Sex. Comfort. Relationships. They were discontent with God and with what he provided. With most of them God was not pleased. That whole generation fell in the wilderness. They had heard God’s promises, but they never received those promises. They didn’t believe God, didn’t trust God, didn’t treasure him. Their bodies were strewn in the wilderness. They never entered into the promises of God.

Presumption is Deadly

These things happened to them as an example for us. As a warning. Take heed! Let anyone who thinks he stand take heed lest he fall. Every single one of us is in danger of falling. Especially if you are thinking ‘I’m fine, this doesn’t apply to me’. If you think you stand firm, watch out! The Israelites thought they were safe. They had been rescued by God. They had been protected by God. They were being provided for by God. They were God’s privileged people. They presumed on the grace of God. They assumed that it didn’t matter what they did – they were safe. They felt so safe that they allowed their hearts to go after other things, things other than God. They put Christ to the test, speaking out against their God given leaders and going their own way. They grumbled and complained about God’s good provision, betraying a heart discontent with the good gifts God had provided. They felt there was no need to respond to God’s grace, no need for a transformed heart. They fell in the wilderness as a warning to us.

Presumption is deadly. Every moment we must recognize that we are absolutely completely dependent on the mercy of God. Jesus used the illustration of the vine and the branches (John 15:1-11).

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

Jesus is the source of everything. As long as we remain in him, connected to him, abiding in him, depending on him, drawing our sustenance and energy and resources from him, we can bear much fruit. But on our own, apart from him, we can do nothing.

We tend to think we can stand. We do not like to depend, we are reluctant to trust, we are too proud to admit we have nothing to contribute. Take heed! Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. If we think we are beyond stumbling, if we think we are capable of standing on our own, then God may very well allow us to fall to show us our need for him, to teach us to depend on him.

Only A Remnant Will Be Saved

Many people say ‘I attend church regularly, I’m a good person, I help others out whenever I can’. Paul warns that most of the church in the wilderness fell in the wilderness and never entered the land.

What Paul says in Romans 9-11 may help us to understand this passage. Because of the unfaithfulness of the mass of Israel, it appears that the promises of God have failed. He says:

Romans 9:6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”

He says that the promises of God were never directed toward a specific nationality, as if the mere fact that you can trace your bloodline back to Abraham was enough to include anyone in the promises. John said to the religious leaders of his day:

Matthew 3:9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.

Not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel. It is those who have the faith of Abraham who are true descendents of Abraham. Paul says in Galatians:

Galatians 3:6 …Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? 7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.

Not all those who trace their ethnicity to Israel belong to God’s true people. It is only those who believe. Paul quotes the prophet Isaiah in Romans 9:27.

Romans 9:27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved,

Only a remnant of Israel will be saved, only those who believe like Abraham. It is not connection with a group that matters. Only those who depend on God, trust in him, treasure him. In Romans 11, Paul uses the olive tree to illustrate.

Romans 11:17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. 23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.

This is the same warning he issues to the Corinthians. Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. Do not become proud but fear. Do not be arrogant toward those branches that were broken off because of their unbelief. The whole generation died in the wilderness, as an example to you. You stand fast through faith. Branches were broken off because of their unbelief. God will not spare you if you do not continue depending on and rejoicing in his undeserved kindness. Drink deeply from the nourishing root. Realize your dependence. Stay connected. There is no promise of protection if we turn our hearts away from God and toward other things.

Dangers of Idolatry

11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Let’s understand this in the context. The Corinthians are flirting with idolatry. They think they are wise. They think they are strong. They think that they are spiritual. They think they are mature. They think that they can participate in idol feasts without being led astray in their hearts. They think think that an idol has no real existence, no power, and on a level they are right. Idols are empty powerless nothings. They are right to not fear the power of idols, but they ought to fear the wrath of God (BECNT). If we go astray in our hearts, if we turn away from God to pursue our own desires, we are in danger of God’s displeasure. We are in danger of being proven false and experiencing the wrath of God.

Idolatry is seldom blatant and obvious. Idolatry is subtle. It creeps in unawares. Very few people wake up one morning and say ‘I’m going to commit idolatry today.’ Our hearts are designed to worship, and when we do not consciously, intentionally worship the one true God with our whole heart, our hearts naturally worship other things. We begin to value people, value things, value relationships more than we value God. That is the essence of idolatry.

12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

This is a severe warning not to plunge into temptation presuming that God in his grace will rescue us. Some misuse this passage to say that they can dance on the edge of destruction because God is faithful and he will always provide a way out. But this is exactly opposite the purpose of the passage. This passage warns against presumption and over-confidence. There is danger of being shown to be false. Paul himself says that he exercises self discipline, self control and passionately pursues Jesus with every fiber of his being so that in the end he will not be proven false. The Israelites went astray in their hearts and desired other things, and they fell in the wilderness as a warning to us. This is not a promise that we can plunge headlong into sin and God will always rescue us. This is a promise that the adversity that comes in the path of obedience will always be accompanied by sufficient strength to persevere through it.

Typical Testing

Paul reminds us that every believer experiences temptation. The testing we are called to endure is not extraordinary. Every follower of Jesus will be tested.

1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

It is not strange that a follower of Jesus will experience the sufferings of Jesus. That is what we should expect. James tells us

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.

Faith untried remains unproven. In Jesus’ parable about the soils, it was the heat of the sun that demonstrated which plant had deep roots and which had none (Mt.13:6). In his teaching about wise and foolish builders, it was the storm that revealed which house was built on the rock and which was built on sand (Mt.7:24-27). Testing is normal for the Christian.

The Corinthians were facing overwhelming social pressure to conform. In order to separate from all participation in idolatry, they would have to decline dinner invitations, forgo family functions, risk the loss of employment. For the Corinthians, faithfulness to God and a firm stand against idolatry could mean social and financial ruin. This was a difficult test, and the temptation to justify participation in idolatry would be great.

Encouraged with the Gospel

Paul encourages them, reminding them that every believer faces temptation. He does not encourage them with their own ability. Just the opposite, he warns if they begin to think they can stand, they are in great danger of falling. He anchors their hope not in their own character, but in the character of God. God is faithful. That is the gospel. That is the good news. The good news is that it does not ultimately depend on me or my character or my ability. It depends on God and his faithfulness. God is faithful. God will not allow you to be tempted beyond your ability. God is ultimately in control of the testing, and with the testing he provides the exit. The way out is the way through. God is faithful. With the temptation, God will enable you to persevere through it.

So abide in Jesus. Stay connected to Jesus. Rely on Jesus. Depend on Jesus. You cannot stand, you cannot bear fruit, you cannot do anything apart from Jesus. Rejoice in Jesus. Draw your sustenance from Jesus. Treasure Jesus above all else. Look away from yourself and look to Jesus. Run the race with perseverance, keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus because God is the one who is faithful. 

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

May 25, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 4:14-21; The Relation of Fathers to Children

09/01 1 Corinthians 4:14-21 The Relation of Fathers to Children; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130901_1cor4_14-21.mp3

1Cor 4 [SBLGNT]

14 Οὐκ ἐντρέπων ὑμᾶς γράφω ταῦτα, ἀλλ’ ὡς τέκνα μου ἀγαπητὰ νουθετῶν· 15 ἐὰν γὰρ μυρίους παιδαγωγοὺς ἔχητε ἐν Χριστῷ, ἀλλ’ οὐ πολλοὺς πατέρας, ἐν γὰρ Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ διὰ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου ἐγὼ ὑμᾶς ἐγέννησα. 16 παρακαλῶ οὖν ὑμᾶς, μιμηταί μου γίνεσθε. 17 διὰ τοῦτο ἔπεμψα ὑμῖν Τιμόθεον, ὅς ἐστίν μου τέκνον ἀγαπητὸν καὶ πιστὸν ἐν κυρίῳ, ὃς ὑμᾶς ἀναμνήσει τὰς ὁδούς μου τὰς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, καθὼς πανταχοῦ ἐν πάσῃ ἐκκλησίᾳ διδάσκω. 18 ὡς μὴ ἐρχομένου δέ μου πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἐφυσιώθησάν τινες· 19 ἐλεύσομαι δὲ ταχέως πρὸς ὑμᾶς, ἐὰν ὁ κύριος θελήσῃ, καὶ γνώσομαι οὐ τὸν λόγον τῶν πεφυσιωμένων ἀλλὰ τὴν δύναμιν, 20 οὐ γὰρ ἐν λόγῳ ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ ἀλλ’ ἐν δυνάμει. 21 τί θέλετε; ἐν ῥάβδῳ ἔλθω πρὸς ὑμᾶς, ἢ ἐν ἀγάπῃ πνεύματί τε πραΰτητος;

1Cor 4 [ESV2011]

6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! 9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 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. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

14 I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me. 17 That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church. 18 Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. 21 What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?

The Corinthian believers are proud, puffed up, arrogant. They really think they are something. They are full of themselves. They are boasting. Their pride has manifested itself in divisions, quarreling, jealousy, and strife. Paul will not tolerate this in the church. So he uses harsh words, biting sarcasm, to take them down a few notches. Then he softens his tone and makes a fatherly appeal. And here we find yet another metaphor describing and defining the relationship between Christian leaders and those they are called to lead. So far, he has used the metaphor of a field-hand, planting and watering seed; of an architect, building on a firm foundation; of an under-rower, rowing alongside other servants below deck; of a custodian, entrusted with the care and proper distribution of a great treasure. Here, in verse 14-21, he adds the powerful metaphor of a father to his beloved children.

1 Corinthians 4:14 I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Not to Shame

Paul is clarifying why he is writing the way he is writing. His sharp sarcasm was not meant to shame. He was admonishing, gently reproving, correcting. His goal was not to berate, shame or humiliate. We might take this passage and think that it would never be appropriate to shame someone, but if we think that, we need to read more widely. When Paul is dealing with the issue of believers taking other believers to court in chapter 6, he says:

1 Corinthians 6:5 I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers,

When addressing their questions about the resurrection in chapter 15, he says:

1 Corinthians 15:34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.

So there are times when the apostle does intend to shame his readers on serious issues. But here, although what he has said could be perceived as shaming, he is intending to correct without shame.

My Beloved Children

He addresses them as ‘my beloved children’. So far in this letter, he has addressed his readers as the church, as saints, those set apart, and six times as brothers. We might perceive it as an insult to be called children, but that is not the idea here. ‘Brothers’ is a strong family relationship term. My beloved children is even stronger and more intimate. This is the closest of biological relationships, it involves dependence and responsibility, as well as tender affection.

I Begat You

Paul claims a unique relationship to the Corinthians, and he contrasts it to their relationship with other teachers and leaders. The term he uses is ‘pedagogue’ a servant hired to make sure that the child made it to school and behaved properly. You might have a million babysitters, but you only have one dad.

‘I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.’ Paul says that he begat or sired them, he was responsible for their conception and new life. But Paul is careful to give credit where credit is due. He conditions his statement with two qualifiers, in and through. It was ‘in Christ Jesus’ that he fathered them, and ‘through the gospel’. Paul himself was in Christ Jesus, and Jesus was in him, living through him when he became their father, so the real credit goes not to the one who plants the seed, but to God who gives the growth. He fathered them in Christ Jesus, and through the gospel. This was no original message that Paul came up with. This is the message he was entrusted with and commanded to proclaim. This is the good news that he defines early in this letter as ‘the word of the cross’ and ‘Christ crucified’. Paul became their father through the gospel, because as he sowed gospel seed in their hearts, it took root and began to grow. Any other seed would lack this transformational power. Charles Hodge sees three causes or agencies in this spiritual generation. Think of a defibrillator. There is the electric current that is the effective cause, the paddles are the instrument, and the administrative agent is the person who applies the paddles to the patient. Hodge says:

There are three agencies in the conversion of men. The efficiency is in Christ by his Spirit; the administrative agency is in preachers; the instrumental in the word. What God has joined together, let not man put asunder. We cannot do without the first and the third, and ought not to attempt to do without the second. For though multitudes are converted by the Spirit through the word, without any ministerial intervention, just as grain springs up here and there without a husbandman, yet it is the ordinance of God that the harvest of souls should be gathered by workmen appointed for that purpose.” (C.Hodge, on 4:15)

Paul was the one who brought the gospel to the city of Corinth. In Christ, through the gospel, he begat them to spiritual life.

So Imitate Me

He says in verse 16 ‘therefore’ or ‘then’, because of this, as a result of this. Because it is true that in Christ, through the gospel I begat you, I now urge you to imitate me. Because you are my spiritual children and not another’s, you should look like your father and act like your father. You have shared DNA, character traits have been passed on. There should be a resemblance between father and son. In the ancient world there was even more of a connection between father and son. If your father was a watchmaker or a carpenter or a fisherman, you would imitate him and apprentice under him, learning his skills and methods, his style and character. You would follow him, becoming like him, and eventually replacing him. Paul says that because I am your father in Christ, you should be imitating me.

What does he mean by imitating him? What should that look like? I think he has done a good job of spelling that out in his sarcastic tirade. He has described himself as slandered, persecuted, reviled, exhausted, homeless, beaten, naked, hungry, thirsty, dishonored, weak, on exhibit as scum and refuse, condemned to die, fools for Christ. This is what it looked like to imitate Paul, not always to suffer in the same ways he suffered, but to place an absolute priority on the gospel, no matter what it cost. It was the polar opposite of pride and selfish ambition. It was his aim that Christ be magnified in his body, that he would please him, whether by life or by death (Phil.1:20; 2Cor.5:9)). Paul was a man under authority, a servant of the Master, a subject of the King. He was a follower of Jesus, and Jesus was “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Is.53:3).

The Example of a Faithful Follower

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

Paul tells the Corinthians (and us) to imitate him, and then he explains ‘that is why I sent you Timothy’. At first glance, this doesn’t seem to make sense. I want you to imitate me; that is why I sent Timothy to you. He can say this because Paul had discipled Timothy. Paul encourages Timothy in disciple making in 2 Timothy:

2 Timothy 2:1 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

Paul was so accurately reproduced in the life of Timothy that to be in the presence of Timothy was to be reminded of Paul’s ways in Christ. Paul was sending a letter. But he was also sending a person. It is not enough just to have correct doctrine. That is essential. But it is equally essential to know what to do with that doctrine. It is essential to be able to live out the implications of the gospel. And that is where the Corinthians went wrong. They were living below what they knew. They had the gospel, they understood the gospel, they believed the gospel, but they weren’t living in light of the gospel. They needed to be reminded of Paul’s ways. How he lived was radically altered because of what he believed. What he was willing to risk and sacrifice and suffer was profoundly impacted by the surpassing worth of the gospel. As we read our bibles, we may be amazed to see how much is biographical and not doctrinal. The bible is filled with stories of people. We learn what the gospel looks like when we see it in the lives of people. We see what it should not look like when we see failures and shortcomings and negative examples. Paul tells the Philippians:

Philippians 4:9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Paul sends Timothy because he knows the Corinthians need to see it.

Paul calls Timothy his beloved and faithful child in the Lord. He had just referred to the Corinthians as his beloved children. But apparently faithfulness was missing. He just said a the beginning of this chapter:

1 Corinthians 4:2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.

In the introduction of the letter he thanks God for many things about the Corinthians, but not for their faithfulness. But he highlights the fact that God is faithful. Timothy is faithful. So he sends faithful Timothy to remind them of his ways in Christ.

The Corinthians prided themselves on their uniqueness and individuality. Paul brings them back to consistency and sameness. In the introduction to this letter, he highlighted their unity with every other believer.

1 Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Here he holds up his ways in Christ, which are what he teaches everywhere in every church. In other words, if you refuse to follow the ways of Paul, then you would cease to qualify as a legitimate church. There is consistency among the followers of Jesus. Not uniformity, but consistency. You don’t have to be a tent-maker to follow Paul. You may be a policeman or a garbage man or a stay at home mom, but your lifestyle, how you spend your time and your money and what you love should demonstrate that you are a follower of Jesus and that the cross is central to your way of thinking. Our ways should be in Christ, and they should make us distinguishable from the rest of the world.

Puffed Up

Now he speaks directly to his opponents in Corinth.

1 Corinthians 4:18 Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.

Pride was a problem in Corinth, as it is in us today. We tend to be puffed up, inflated, thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. We think our ways are best and our opinions are right. Apparently there were some of these people in Corinth. They understood Paul’s ways, and despised them. They thought they had figured out better ways. They thought Paul had abandoned this church, and they could talk as if he were out of the picture. This comes back to Paul’s avoidance of words of eloquent wisdom, which could empty the cross of power. These people were puffed up and they talked a big talk. Anybody can talk. Paul says, I am coming, and don’t want to hear talk, I want to see power. I want to see the power of the gospel at work transforming rebels into worshipers, opening blind eyes, setting captives free, conquering sin in the lives of believers, destroying wicked desires and creating new godly desires. I want to see a demonstration of the Spirit at work. The kingdom of God, the rule of God, God ruling and reigning over his people is God’s awesome power unleashed in the lives of his followers. Jesus said ‘I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’ (Mt.16:18).

Of course, as a servant under God’s reign, Paul subjects his own plans and desires to the omnipotent will of God. His plan is to come soon, but he will come only if the Lord wills. Paul himself was not free to make his own plans and go where he wanted to go when he wanted to go there. He did make plans, and he did go where he thought was best, but he was always aware that God was able at any moment to sovereignly override his plans.

Fatherly Discipline

Paul concludes this section with a fatherly question.

1 Corinthians 4:21 What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?

The Corinthians are Paul’s beloved children in the Lord. He cares deeply for them. His heart is not to shame but to correct. He has brought them back to the simple truth of the gospel. He has reasoned with them, he has used persuasive rhetoric, even sharp sarcasm. But as a good father, he was not afraid to exercise his authority in a painful way. The author of Hebrews asks:

Hebrews 12:5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

‘What son is there whom his father does not discipline?’ This is a rhetorical question, and the answer is supposed to be ‘there is none!’. Unfortunately this is not true in our day. Proverbs says:

Proverbs 13:24 Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.

As a good parent, Paul is offering them a choice. They can submit to his authority and enjoy his presence in love and a spirit of gentleness, (which is what every good parent would prefer) or they can continue to be puffed up and go their own way, and they will get a spanking and it will be painful. If the character and conduct of the child is not in line with the character and conduct of the father, then discipline should be used to train up the child in the way that they should go. Paul demonstrates that this is also the case in good Christian leadership. It is the responsibility of the leadership of the church to oversee that conduct and character of the church is shaped by the cross. Hebrews says:

Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

When conduct and character is out of step with the gospel, it is their responsibility to gently admonish, and when necessary, to firmly discipline.

We are all to become faithful children, imitating Jesus, walking in the gospel, shaping our lives around the cross. And we all are to become spiritual fathers, making disciples, inviting them to imitate us as we imitate our Lord Jesus.

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

September 1, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 4:1-2; The Must of Christian Ministry

07/28 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 The Must of Christian Ministry; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130728_1cor4_1-2.mp3

1Cor 4 [SBLGNT]

1 Οὕτως ἡμᾶς λογιζέσθω ἄνθρωπος ὡς ὑπηρέτας Χριστοῦ καὶ οἰκονόμους μυστηρίων θεοῦ. 2 ὧδε λοιπὸν ζητεῖται ἐν τοῖς οἰκονόμοις ἵνα πιστός τις εὑρεθῇ. 3 ἐμοὶ δὲ εἰς ἐλάχιστόν ἐστιν, ἵνα ὑφ’ ὑμῶν ἀνακριθῶ ἢ ὑπὸ ἀνθρωπίνης ἡμέρας· ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ ἐμαυτὸν ἀνακρίνω· 4 οὐδὲν γὰρ ἐμαυτῷ σύνοιδα, ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐν τούτῳ δεδικαίωμαι, ὁ δὲ ἀνακρίνων με κύριός ἐστιν. 5 ὥστε μὴ πρὸ καιροῦ τι κρίνετε, ἕως ἂν ἔλθῃ ὁ κύριος, ὃς καὶ φωτίσει τὰ κρυπτὰ τοῦ σκότους καὶ φανερώσει τὰς βουλὰς τῶν καρδιῶν, καὶ τότε ὁ ἔπαινος γενήσεται ἑκάστῳ ἀπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ.

1Cor 4 [ESV2011]

1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

Paul is correcting the misunderstandings of Christian leadership in the church in Corinth. They viewed Christian leaders as figureheads to rally around. There was quarreling and division, jealousy and strife, each believer identifying himself with one Christian leader over against any other. Paul is eager to correct this misunderstanding. Only Christ was crucified in your place as your substitute, so only Christ deserves your devotion (1:13). No human leader, not Paul, not Apollos, not Cephas, has earned your allegiance. Each of them was sent to preach the gospel, to announce the message of the cross, of Jesus Christ and him crucified. We proclaim the message to everyone, but it is God’s power, God’s choosing, God’s calling that saves. God is the source of life, and we must boast only in God.

Paul has re-framed their thinking about leadership in the church. He has painted himself as a nurse-maid, faithfully feeding the infant believers what they most need to be nourished (3:1-3). He has framed himself and Apollos as fellow field hands, one planting, another watering, each fulfilling his unique role, both looking to God to give the growth (3:5-9). He has illustrated himself as a wise master-builder, having laid the one and only foundation for the church, who is Jesus Christ, and other builders continue to build upon it, and will be held accountable for the quality of their work (3:10-15). At the end of chapter 3, he told the Corinthians that they had it all backward, and they were cutting themselves off from the blessings that belong to them in Christ. The Corinthians were saying ‘I belong to Paul,’ or ‘I belong to Apollos’. Instead, Paul and Apollos and Cephas belong to the church, and are given by God to serve them and bless them.

Here in chapter 4, Paul tells them how they should view Christian leaders. He gives them two descriptions of Christian leadership, and one characteristic of Christian leadership, and then he confronts their critical judgmental attitudes with some corrective balance.

Servants of Christ

‘This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ’. We are not apostolic celebrities, to be waved as a banner over your competing ships. We are servants. The word here translated ‘servants’ is different than the word translated ‘servants’ back in 3:5. There, the word was diakonos [διάκονος], from which we get our word ‘deacon’. A deacon was a server or a table waiter. The word here is [ὑπηρέτης] huperetes, literally an under-rower. The word has its origin in Greek military ships, which were propelled by oarsmen who rowed from below the main deck. In the gospels we see this word used most often of guards or officers sent to carry out the orders of a superior. In John 7, the chief priests and Pharisees sent ‘huperetes’ to arrest Jesus. They returned without him, and were asked why they did not carry out their orders. They replied ‘No one ever spoke like this man!’ Jesus uses this term to describe servants who would fight to defend their king (Jn.18:36). Luke uses this word in chapter 4 referring to the synagogue attendant responsible for the care and storage of the scrolls of scripture. In Luke 1:2, he describes the eyewitnesses of Jesus as ‘huperetes’ of the word who delivered them to us. In Acts 13:5, Barnabas’ cousin John Mark accompanied Paul and Barnabas as an assistant or ‘huperetes’ on their missionary journey, but he later deserted them. In Acts 26:16, Jesus appointed Paul as a ‘huperetes’ and witness of him. This is how Paul says that the believers should consider their Christian leaders, not as the ones in charge on the deck shouting out orders, but as the ones down below, propelling them forward. They don’t act on their own, they are a team, working in unison. They are servants acting under authority. They are officers carrying out the orders of their superior.

Paul is very clear to specify who they report to as servants under authority. They are servants of Christ. They are under the direction of Christ. They will answer only to Jesus for how they carried out their orders. At the end of the last chapter, Paul said to the Corinthians that

1 Corinthians 3:21 …all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours,

Here Paul is careful to clarify. Paul, Apollos and Cephas, apostles and Christian teachers and leaders are given to the church, they belong to the church, they are all given by God to bless the church, but they will not answer to the church. Both the church and her leaders belong to Christ and will answer to Christ. Paul warns Timothy

2 Timothy 4:3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

Sometimes what the church needs to hear is not what the church wants to hear. There is a dangerous temptation for a church to hire someone who will tell them what they want to hear, someone who won’t challenge or confront or reprove or rebuke or exhort, someone who won’t expose the sin in their hearts and force them to deal with it. There is a deadly desire in ministers to be liked by their people. Don’t say anything that will offend or rock the boat, people won’t like you, and they might even fire you.

The first thing the church needs to understand about her ministers is that they are servants of Christ. They have one Lord and Master, and his name is Jesus. I will not answer to you for how I have served you. I will stand before Jesus and give an account of how I served you.

Stewards of the Mysteries of God

The second thing the church must understand about her ministers is that they are stewards of the mysteries of God. Paul has used this word ‘mystery’ already in this letter,

1 Corinthians 2:7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.

Mystery in the New Testament refers to something that had been hidden and undiscoverable, that has now been revealed and made known. Paul claims to communicate the hidden mystery wisdom of God, which he says is “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (2:2). The message of the Scriptures is that the great King will ultimately triumph over evil and reign in righteousness and justice, but that which was hidden and is now openly proclaimed is that this great King would triumph over evil by stooping to become part of his creation, taking that evil into himself and dying. Jesus, the promised Messiah, crucified in the place of the sinners he came to rescue. The cross is the hidden mystery wisdom of God.

Paul calls himself and all ministers in the church stewards of this gospel message. A steward is a servant who was entrusted with the management of household affairs. Jesus helps us understand what this steward or household manager was.

Luke 12:42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. 47 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

The household manager was a servant appointed to oversee the preservation and expansion of the estate, including the care and supervision of the other servants. Paul says that is how you should view leaders in the churches. Fellow-servants entrusted with a greater burden of responsibility. This is how one should regard us, stewards or household managers of the mysteries of God. We are custodians of the gospel message. We have been entrusted with the preservation and expansion of the kingdom of God, which advances through the proclamation of the good news, good news that the King was crucified to bring the rebels home.

It is clear that even an apostle, even an angel is not at liberty to change the gospel message in any way. Paul uses the strongest possible language to make this point in Galatians 1

Galatians 1:8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

The second thing the church must understand about her ministers is that they are entrusted with the preservation of the gospel message. It is absolutely critical that we cling tenaciously to the historic gospel message once for all delivered to the saints (Jude3);

1 Corinthians 15:3 …that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared…

We must add nothing to it, we must take nothing away from it. We are not authorized to alter it in any way. We have received it; we must hold fast to it, we must stand firm in it, we are being saved by it.

The Requirement of Faithfulness

1 Corinthians 4:1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.

A Christian leader, an under-rower of Christ, a household manager, entrusted with the care of the gospel message, must be trustworthy. This is the one absolutely critical characteristic of Christian leadership. It says nothing about being smart or good looking or persuasive, a good communicator, with good people skills, able to make great decisions, raise money, or manage people well. Those may all be helpful, but without faithfulness, they are worthless. The one characteristic that Paul tells young pastor Timothy to look for when passing on the gospel message is faithfulness.

2 Timothy 2:2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

Someone entrusted to guard the gospel must be trustworthy. He must be faithful; he will do what he said he would do. You can believe him, depend on him, count on him, rely on him, trust him.

1 Corinthians 1:9 God is faithful…

God is the ultimate standard of faithfulness. God is worthy of our trust, our belief, he will always do what he said he would do. God is faithful to himself and to his promises. Christian leaders must reflect God’s character of faithfulness.

Jesus repeatedly highlights the importance of faithfulness in those who would be entrusted with responsibility.

Luke 16:10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Faithfulness is a character trait that does not increase with the size of the responsibility. Many people feel that they can be irresponsible with the little things, but if only they were trusted with something really important, they would rise to the occasion. It simply doesn’t work that way. A faithful person will be faithful with a very little or with much.

Jesus goes on to say that faithfulness is knowing who your master is. In order to be found faithful, you need to know who you are being faithful to. Your allegiance must be clear. A Christian leader cannot serve both God and his people. He can serve God by serving his people well, but he must know who his true master is. When a conflict of interest comes, and it will come, it must be resolved which is the one master. As Paul says in Galatians:

Galatians 1:10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

If a minister or leader wants most of all to please his people, he will end up being unfaithful to God and harming his people. But if he has determined to be relentlessly faithful to God and his word, he may deeply hurt and offend his people as he speaks the truth in love, but as the Proverb says:

Proverbs 27:6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

Every Christian, and especially Christian leaders are under-rowers, sent to carry out the orders of our superior, who is Christ. We must have no question who our master is. We are household managers, custodians of the gospel, the message of Christ crucified for sinners. As stewards of this most important of all messages, it is essential that we be found faithful. We must faithfully obey our one master, Christ, and we must faithfully cling to the one message, the message of the cross.

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

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

1 Corinthians 1:9; The Faithful God and the Fellowship of His Son

01/27 1 Corinthians 1:9 The Faithful God and the Fellowship of His Son; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130127_1cor1_9.mp3

1 Παῦλος κλητὸς ἀπόστολος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦδιὰ θελήματος θεοῦ καὶ Σωσθένης ὁ ἀδελφὸς2 τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ, ἡγιασμένοις ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, τῇ οὔσῃ ἐν Κορίνθῳ,κλητοῖς ἁγίοις, σὺν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἐπικαλουμένοις τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ αὐτῶν καὶ ἡμῶν·3 χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.

4 Εὐχαριστῶ τῷ θεῷ μου πάντοτε περὶ ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τῇ χάριτι τοῦ θεοῦ τῇ δοθείσῃ ὑμῖν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ,5 ὅτι ἐν παντὶ ἐπλουτίσθητε ἐν αὐτῷ, ἐν παντὶ λόγῳ καὶ πάσῃ γνώσει,6 καθὼς τὸ μαρτύριον τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐβεβαιώθη ἐν ὑμῖν,7 ὥστε ὑμᾶς μὴ ὑστερεῖσθαι ἐν μηδενὶ χαρίσματι, ἀπεκδεχομένους τὴν ἀποκάλυψιν τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ·8 ὃς καὶ βεβαιώσει ὑμᾶς ἕως τέλους ἀνεγκλήτους ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.9 πιστὸς ὁ θεὸς δι’ οὗ ἐκλήθητε εἰς κοινωνίαν τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν.

We have been examining the content of Paul’s thanksgiving to God for the church in Corinth. With their divisive spirit and disregard for authority and self-centered attitude and actions, we might be hard pressed to find anything to give thanks for in this church. But listen to the gracious God-centered words of Paul:

1 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, 2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge– 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you– 7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

This is a God-centered, Jesus saturated greeting and thanksgiving. Paul mentions Jesus by name 9 times in these opening nine verses. And he mentions the will of God, the church of God, God the source of grace and peace, he offers thanks to God for God’s grace given, and now he points to the faithfulness of God. This word of thanksgiving was addressed to God in verse 4, and now in verse 9 as he closes his thanksgiving, he draws our attention back to the faithfulness of God. When you receive a gift, you don’t thank the mailman who delivered the gift; you address your thanks to the giver of the gift. Anything good in the Corinthians, anything worthy of thanks, is a direct result of God’s grace and God’s gift, and so God gets the praise and the thanks. God’s grace was given, God in Christ Jesus had enriched them, had confirmed the gospel among them, had equipped them with grace-gifts, caused them to anticipate the return of Jesus, and was sustaining them guiltless. God is faithful.

Faithful

In the original, the adjective ‘faithful’ is placed first in the sentence for emphasis; faithful the God. What does it mean to be faithful? To be faithful is to be trustworthy, one who can be relied on. If you are faithful you are dependable, you follow through and do what you say you will do.

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

It is characteristic of mankind that we are fickle, we do not always follow through. Sometimes we make a bad decision based on a limited amount of information, and when we are informed of more of the facts, we change our minds. Sometimes we make a good commitment or resolution, but because of laziness or selfishness or distractions, we don’t follow through. Sometimes we have good intentions, but we simply forget, or circumstances beyond our control prevent us from keeping our word. God is not like that. God does not base his decisions on only some of the facts. God is not fickle, selfish, distracted, or lazy. God is not forgetful, and nothing – nothing can frustrate his purposes. With him ‘there is no variation or shadow due to change’ (James 1:17).

Isaiah 14:24 The LORD of hosts has sworn: As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand, …27 For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?

God is faithful. No one, no thing can prevent him from doing what he has said he will do.

Isaiah 46:9 …for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ 11 … I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.

God ‘works all things according to the counsel of his will’ (Eph.1:11).

So the confidence of Paul that the Corinthians will be sustained to the end guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus is based not on the fickle Corinthians, but on the unfrustratable faithfulness of an omnipotent God.

By Whom You Were Called

Paul’s confidence for the Corinthians rested in the fact that a sovereign God had called them. In verse 1, Paul said that he was called by the will of God to be an apostle. In verse 2 he said that the believers in Corinth were called to be saints. Here he points to a faithful God as the one who called them. In Romans 8, Paul refers to believers as those who love God, as those who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

And for those whom God calls, there is absolute confidence that all things will work together for good, because, as he goes on to say, those he calls he also justifies and glorifies. When the faithful King calls you into his service, he will overcome every obstacle and see to it that the purpose of his call is carried out. He will see to it that you are sustained to the end guiltless. He will see to it that you are glorified. Paul’s confidence rests not on man, but squarely on the always faithful God.

Called into the fellowship of His Son

Look with me at what we are called to. Ponder for a moment on what we are invited into. Meditate on what we have been made participants of. Savor the gracious goodness of God in our calling.

9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

We were called into the fellowship of God’s Son. Fellowship. The rich Greek word koinonia [κοινωνια]. Fellowship is a word that means having things in common. Fellowship means sharing life together. Jews would not eat with Gentiles, because Gentiles don’t follow the same kosher laws of food preparation and ceremonial washing. For a Jew to eat with a Gentile would mean contamination. We might look at it as sharing germs. This separation could lead to a feeling of superiority. God addressed this with Peter in Acts 10, where God said three times ‘what God has made clean, do not call common’. Paul had to deal with Peter again later on this issue in Antioch, when Peter withdrew from table fellowship with Gentiles (Gal.2:11-14). Paul confronted his hypocrisy publicly, because his conduct was ‘not in step with the gospel’. At the cross, Jesus broke down the dividing wall of hostility, abolished the commandments and ordinances, and made peace between those who were alienated (Eph.2:11-22). We are now brought near by the blood of Christ. To have fellowship with someone is to let them into your life, to invite them into your home, into your family, to have a meal together, to share your things with them, to share yourself with them. Fellowship is being connected, being community, being close.

Relational Intimacy

What does it mean to be called into the fellowship of the Son of God? This is staggering! We are called by God into the fellowship of his Son. We are brought into a relationship with Jesus where there is intimacy, where we do life together, where we have everything in common. Real relational intimacy with the Son of God! We can talk to him and he listens! We don’t have to make an appointment three weeks in advance. He is there for us always. He is available. He is for us. He cares. He understands. He will carry our sorrows. We can enjoy his presence. We are invited to ‘cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you’ (1Pet.5:7). He said ‘come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ (Mt.11:28); ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink’ (Jn.7:37); ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’ (Heb.13:5); ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age’ (Mat.28:20). He is the ‘friend who sticks closer than a brother’ (Pr.18:24). You were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Doing Life Together

Fellowship means that we do life together. Listen in on the prayer of Jesus for you before his crucifixion.

John 17:20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

Jesus prays that we believers would share in the intimacy and fellowship of the triune God! That we would be one with each other, just as God the Father and Jesus are one with each other, in perfect unity and community, sharing everything. As the Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father, we must be in the Father and the Son, and the Father and Son are in us. In John 14, Jesus said:

John 14:19 … Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.

Jesus is in his Father, we are in Jesus and Jesus is in us. John 15 helps us understand this connection. Jesus commanded his followers:

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

If we are in Jesus and Jesus is in us, if we are connected to Jesus like a branch is connected to the trunk, then the life of Jesus is flowing through us, and Jesus is alive in us. Listen to how Paul expresses this thought in Galatians:

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

The me who I once was is dead. I am now grafted into Christ, and it is now Christ’s life that is living in me. I am living a life so intimately connected to Jesus that I can really say it is Jesus who is living in me.

Paul prays that this union with Christ would be realized by the Ephesian believers. He prays:

Ephesians 3:16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Strengthened in your inner being through his Spirit, Christ residing in your hearts through faith, rooted, connected, drawing life from his love, experiencing the depth of Christ’s love, filled up with all the fullness of God. This is the power at work in us, able to accomplish more than we could ever dream. Strengthened by his Spirit in your inner being; Christ dwelling in you; filled with all the fullness of God. I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Abiding in the vine.

Everything in Common

Fellowship means that we have everything in common. We share everything. When we got married, we entered into a fellowship. My possessions, my decisions, my body, my bank account, my joys and my sorrows are no longer mine, they are ours. What is mine is yours and what is yours is mine. Everything is in common. If I have fellowship with Jesus, then everything Jesus has is mine. Because he is the only Son of God, I can call God Father. Jesus said ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’ (Jn.20:17). I am adopted into his family (Rom.8:15; Gal.4:5). I share in his relationship with the Father. Jesus as the Son of God is the only heir; because of fellowship with Jesus I am an heir of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Rom.8:17). I share in his inheritance. Because Jesus is righteous, I am clothed in his righteousness (Is.61:10, Rom.5:17; Phil.3:9). When the Father looks at me he can find no spot or wrinkle or blemish or any defect whatever. What the Father says to Jesus, he says to me: ‘well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master’ (Mt.25:21; 3:17; 17:5). What inestimable treasures are ours because our fellowship is with Jesus!

But if we have everything in common, then not only is everything that belongs to Jesus mine, but everything that is mine he shares in. Hebrews 2 tells us:

Hebrews 2:14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,

Jesus, infinite God from all eternity, shared in flesh and blood. And in that real humanity he tasted death for everyone (Heb.2:9). I am a sinner.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Jesus became sin for me. As a sinner I am under God’s curse.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us–for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”–

Jesus became a curse for me. As a rebel I deserve God’s wrath.

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Jesus propitiated the wrath of his Father against my sin. The result of my sin is suffering, sorrow, grief, pain.

Isaiah 53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

My iniquities have caused a separation between me and God (Is.59:2).

Matthew 27:46 …Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, …“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

What fellowship is this! Everything he has is mine, everything I am is his. But this fellowship with Jesus extends farther, maybe farther than I am comfortable with. Paul says in Philippians 3:

Philippians 3:10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share [κοινωνια] his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

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

Called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. We are called into the fellowship of his sufferings. Fellowship with Jesus. Relational intimacy, doing life together, everything in common. All that he has is ours; and all we are is his. If he has willingly taken our sin, our cross, our shame, should we not also offer him our time, our talent, our treasure? Should we not offer him our very lives to spend as he sees fit? Let us pursue deeper, richer, more satisfying fellowship with Jesus. God is faithful. He has called us into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our King.

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

January 27, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 4:27-31; Providence, Belief, Worship

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100905_exodus04_27-31.mp3
9/5 Exodus 4:27-31 Providence, Belief and Worship

Introduction:

Exodus is about God. God is at work among his people. He is blessing his people and preserving them in the midst of hardship. God is stirring his people to disregard the evil commands of a wicked ruler and do what is right. God is thwarting the plans of the most powerful dictator on the planet by means of things we would consider weak and helpless. He is hearing the cries for help from his people, and he is taking note of their desperate circumstances. He knows their pain and has come down to take action. He is making good on promises he had made many centuries earlier. He invades the solitude of his chosen instrument, introduces himself in his holiness, and defeats his excuses one by one. He is preparing his deliverer and unveils his plan to win the hearts of his people and execute judgment on his enemies. Now we are at the point of action. It’s go time!

4:19 And the Lord said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead.” 20 So Moses took his wife and his sons and had them ride on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the staff of God in his hand. 21 And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. 22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’” 24 At a lodging place on the way the LORD met him and sought to put him to death. 25 Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” 26 So he let him alone. It was then that she said, “A bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision. 27 The LORD said to Aaron, “Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.” So he went and met him at the mountain of God and kissed him. 28 And Moses told Aaron all the words of the LORD with which he had sent him to speak, and all the signs that he had commanded him to do. 29 Then Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the people of Israel. 30 Aaron spoke all the words that the LORD had spoken to Moses and did the signs in the sight of the people. 31 And the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped.

The Providence of God

What are the odds that Moses and his brother Aaron converge on the same spot on Mount Sinai at this particular time? Remember, Moses only spent his youngest years with his Hebrew family. He was raised by the Pharaoh’s daughter in the courts of Egypt. Moses has now been exiled from Egypt for 40 years because he stood up to defend his people. He is now an 80 year old man. He was tending sheep on the back side of the desert when God intruded into his quiet retirement. At Sinai God gave him his assignment – that he would be the instrument God would use to deliver his people from Egypt. So he took Jethro’s flocks back to Midian, sought his father-in-law’s permission to leave, packed up his family and set out. Then God confronted them at the lodging place as he demanded obedience and holiness from his servant.

Meanwhile, back in Egypt, the LORD says to Aaron “Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.” If you think about it for a moment, that sounds absolutely crazy. When Moses left Egypt, he sat down by a well. That was where people met. Everybody has to have water, so a well is a good spot to meet other people. If you’re going to connect with someone, you choose a commonly understood landmark. You don’t choose the wilderness. ‘Can you meet me in the wilderness tomorrow? I’ll be just past the twelfth bend in the road, over the hill, a little to the south; I’ll be standing by the sage brush.’ That would be almost as bad as trying to find your wife in Wal-Mart! Could you imagine a conversation between Moses and Aaron? – ‘service is kind of sketchy out here, but I’ll text you my GPS coordinates in a minute.’ The fact that they connected at all is amazing evidence of God’s providential hand at work in every detail of their lives.

I wonder when it was that God told Aaron to go to the wilderness to meet Moses. Do you think it was before or after Moses complained that he couldn’t speak well and didn’t want to go? Back in verse 14:

4:14 Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. 15 You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. 16 He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. 17 And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs.”

What an encouragement this would be to our reluctant leader. This is a brother he had probably not seen in 40 years, now coming out to meet him in the wilderness. What confirmation that this really is God working. God, who controls all things, is able to orchestrate the reunion of these two brothers on the mountain where God had met with Moses. They have a joyful reunion and Moses downloads to his brother all the words God has spoken and shows him the signs God has given him. We don’t know how much Aaron knew about what was happening. God simply told him ‘Go into the wilderness to meet Moses’. Moses was the one to tell his brother that God was sending him to set the Israelites free to worship God on this mountain. Moses was the one to relay to Aaron that he had whined and complained so much to God about his own inadequacies that God granted him Aaron to be his mouthpiece. I wonder how Aaron took that news?

Faithful messengers

So Moses and Aaron went. They went to Egypt to gather the elders of Israel just as God had instructed them. It says ‘Aaron spoke all the words that the LORD had spoken to Moses’. They didn’t leave anything out. They didn’t add anything to the message. They were faithful messengers. That’s what a faithful messenger does. He speaks all the words the LORD puts in his mouth, and doesn’t go beyond the words the LORD gives him. Even Balaam, a corrupt prophet, understood what the role of a prophet was.

Numbers 24:13 ‘If Balak should give me his house full of silver and gold, I would not be able to go beyond the word of the LORD, to do either good or bad of my own will. What the LORD speaks, that will I speak’

Moses and Aaron were faithful to proclaim the message God had given them. God had spoken to Moses from the burning bush and said:

3:14 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. 16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, 17 and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”’ 18 And they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.’

Moses’ response to this was:

4:1 Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you.”’

Now he is finally in the situation faithfully proclaiming the word of the Lord to the people and look what happens.

31 And the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped.

Pay close attention to this! It says the people believed when they heard. God sent Moses to proclaim a message. His message. Moses and Aaron declared all the words of the Lord to the people and the people believed when they heard.

Romans 10: 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? …17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Moses’ concern was ‘the people will not believe me or listen to my voice’. Moses was all worried that they would not accept the messenger. But it’s not about the messenger! It’s not about how eloquent or how animated or how plain or how polished or how trendy or how not-traditional and out-of-the-box the messenger is. It’s not about the messenger! Moses, they don’t have to believe you. They don’t have to listen to your voice. Moses, I want them to hear my voice. You faithfully proclaim what I tell you to say and the people will hear my voice. What the people heard was that the LORD had visited the people and the LORD had seen their affliction. The message was about the LORD and the messenger was simply the middle man bringing the word of the LORD to the people of God so that his people could be in the presence of their LORD.

The Goal – Worship

And that is the end goal. That is the end goal of the exodus. To reveal to the people the nearness of God and to lead them into worship, glad service of the Lord.

Exodus 3:12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

Exodus 4:23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.”’

The first two of the ten commandments are commandments about worship.

Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

The majority of the book of Exodus details what worship will look like for the Israelites. Worship is what Exodus is about. Moses faithfully brings God’s word to God’s people, and they hear and believe and they respond with worship. They bowed their heads and worshiped.

Worship is the end goal of the gospel. That we, the blood-bought multitude, can feel and say and sing and live the surpassing worth and excellency of the King of kings. This is truly what it is all about! This is what our salvation is all about. Our salvation is not primarily a salvation from something. Yes, God rescues us from an eternity separated from him, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. But salvation is not a ‘get out of hell free card’ that we can stick in our back pocket and sit on as we go about the rest of our lives. We are saved to something and for someone. ‘We were ransomed’ Peter says (1Pet.1:18-19) ‘from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot’ so we should ‘conduct ourselves with fear (v.17)’ – awe over the depth of the price that was paid. We are ransomed – purchased – bought – out of futility and into a life with purpose – one purpose – to fear God. To live in awe of who he is and what he’s done. We are ransomed, redeemed, and under new ownership so that we can worship.

1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Your body is now a worship center for the living God. Our central purpose is worship – to glorify God with our bodies. To bring him honor. Jesus said:

John 5:22 The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. …40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

We must honor Jesus just as we honor the Father. Eternal life comes only to those who worship Jesus. This is what heaven is. Heaven is all about God. It is all about worship. Jesus said:

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

Here are some snapshots straight out of heaven, and they are snapshots of worship.

Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” 11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Then, at the end of Revelation, in the new Jerusalem, in the new heavens and the new earth:

Revelation 22:3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

Hear God’s word faithfully proclaimed. Believe. Embrace him as king. Do what you were made to do – with your lips, with your thoughts, with your emotions, with you life – worship!

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

September 5, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 2:1-10; A Mother’s Faith

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100509_exodus02_1-10.mp3

5/9 Exodus 2:1-10 A Mother’s Faith

1: 22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.” 2: 1 Now a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman. 2 The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months. 3 When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank. 4 And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him. 5 Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it. 6 When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” 7 Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” 8 And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. 9 And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him. 10 When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

In Exodus, we see God fulfilling his covenant promises to his people and bringing his creation blessings on them. He did good to them and made them fruitful and multiplied them, he made their descendants numerous and filled the land with them. He made them exceedingly strong. But in response to God’s blessings, the Egyptians feared. They saw them as a threat. God’s blessing does not mean that our lives will be problem free. But in the problems and in the trials, God will show himself strong. The Pharaoh feared the people of Israel, so he conspired to deal shrewdly with them in order to weaken them and reduce their population. He enslaved them and afflicted them with heavy burdens to break their spirit and make them so exhausted and weak that they wouldn’t procreate. But the more they were ruthlessly oppressed, the more God blessed and the more they multiplied. So this king of the most powerful nation in the world, because he feared the Israelites, called on two Hebrew women, midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, to kill the male Israelite children. But these two women did not fear the Pharaoh. They feared God and so they disobeyed the king and helped the male children to thrive. God confounded the plans of this Egyptian monarch through the God-fearing actions of two Hebrew women. When these women were called on to give an account of why they disobeyed, they gave an answer that managed to confound the Pharaoh and insult all Egyptians, and the Pharaoh let them go. For their God-fearing actions, God blessed still more and gave even these barren midwives families of their own. So Pharaoh’s plans were again thwarted and even the barren women in Israel were having children. But as God’s blessing increased, so did the Pharaoh’s oppression. The last verse in chapter one gives the Pharaoh’s response:

22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.”

And it’s on that dark note that we pick up the story today. The Nile river was the source of life in Egypt. The Nile was worshiped as a god that had the power to give and take life. It brought water to the desert, and it also served as the country’s sewer, washing away all the unwanted refuse. It was into this river that the Pharaoh commanded all the Egyptian people to cast every son born to the Hebrews.

How would God intervene this time? It seems he delights to do the unexpected and act in ways we would not even think of. Often God chooses surprisingly inconspicuous means of accomplishing his sovereign purposes. When Pharaoh tried to crush the Israelites with oppressive labor, God simply caused them to have more babies in the normal natural way. When Pharaoh tried to employ midwives to carry out the murder of the male children, God put the fear of him into two women so that they chose to obey God rather than the king. Instead of reducing the Israelite population, God blessed them so that they contributed to it, further foiling the Pharaoh’s plan. Now, when the order comes for all of Egypt to throw the Hebrew male children into the river, God responds by causing a boy baby to be born to an insignificant Hebrew family in Egypt.

2:1 Now a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman. 2 The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months. 3 When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank. 4 And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him.

So we have an unnamed man and and unnamed woman from the tribe of Levi. Later, in Exodus 6:4 (also Num.26:59) we find the mother’s name was Jochebed and the father’s name was Amram, but for now it is simply a man from the house of Levi and a Levite woman. Later in the book of Exodus, we find that the tribe of Levi is chosen to be the priestly tribe, the tribe that would give spiritual and judicial leadership to the people of Israel, the tribe that proved itself loyal to YHWH. But that’s reading ahead of our story. At this point in the history, what we know of the Levites is that they were a cursed tribe because of the bloodthirsty act of Levi and his brother Simeon against Shechem:

Genesis 49:5 “Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords. 6 Let my soul come not into their council; O my glory, be not joined to their company. For in their anger they killed men, and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen. 7 Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.

So the Levites were a cursed and disenfranchised tribe, destined to be scattered among the other tribes. We are yet to learn how God turned this curse into a blessing.

So we have this couple, Levites, who have a son under the command of Pharaoh, destined to be destroyed. They see that he is a fine child, literally ‘good’. This is the same word that God used seven times in the creation narrative to declare that what he had made was good. I don’t think this means that there was something uniquely special about this child in contrast to other Hebrew boys that caused his parents to try to save him. I think it is meant to remind us of God’s creative acts. As God created the world and declared that it was good, so now, God is at work bringing about good in the midst of evil and darkness and hopelessness. She saw that he was good, – a good creation of God, so she hid him. We are told that this was an act of faith on the part of his parents. Faith in God rather than fear of the tyrant. Just like the midwives who feared God more than the king, now these parent’s trust in God supersedes their fear of punishment and even death.

Hebrews 11:23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

She hid him for three months. When she couldn’t hide him any longer at home, she obeyed Pharaoh’s command and threw him in the river. Well, here’s what it says:

3 When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank. 4 And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him.

She technically obeyed the Pharaoh’s command by casting him into the Nile, again, not because of fear but in faith. This was her next move in trusting God and protecting her child. She prepared an ark and covered it with tar and pitch. The word here translated ‘basket’ is [ hbt tebah tay-baw’] ark; This is the same word used in Genesis:

Genesis 6:14 Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch.

In fact, 26 of the 28 times this word appears in the bible it refers to Noah’s boat that God instructed him to build for the preservation of life. The other two occurrences are in this passage referring to the boat this Levite mother made to preserve the life of her treasured son. In both cases the boat was covered with tar and pitch to make it waterproof. Moses is using this word ‘ark’ to describe this basket to cause us to make the connection between this story of preservation of life from water with the account of the flood. The passengers of both boats were spared a tragic watery fate that claimed the lives of many of their contemporaries. The passengers of both are the instruments used by God to create a new people for his own purposes.

This loving Levite mother did not send her ark out into the current of the river, but placed it among the reeds by the river bank, where it would remain in place and could be observed carefully by the older sister who was probably still young enough to play inconspicuously by the river bank, but old enough to watch out for potential danger – probably somewhere between 6 and 12 years old. The intention was most likely to keep the boy there where he had less chance of being discovered, and to come when it was safe to feed and care for him. We find out in chapter 15 that the sister’s name is Miriam. The baby boy has been kept safe by his mother for three months, and now she has made preparation to continue to care for him secretly. Things are looking promising for this Hebrew family, but an unexpected turn of events could spell disaster.

5 Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river.

This is the worst possible thing that could be expected. The tyrant’s own daughter coming to bathe in the sacred Nile much too near the secret hiding place. Maybe she would not notice the basket and leave. Maybe the baby would remain quiet and not draw her attention.

5 …She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it. 6 When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. …

The boy is discovered! And by an Egyptian! By one of the Pharaoh’s own daughters. It would not be much different if the Pharaoh himself had discovered him. But this young girl who was to watch over her baby brother walked by faith and not by sight. God was in control even over what seemed like utter disaster and total failure of their careful plan. What are the odds of the enemy’s own daughter coming to bathe here? How could God let this happen?

6 When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.”

This is a turning point in the story. She had pity on him. She did not carry out her father’s command. She recognized him as a Hebrew male, one who was under the condemnation of her own father, and she could have silenced his crying immediately in the water, but instead she took pity on him. The next move is courageous and daring. The baby’s sister approaches the king’s daughter and dares to speak. A child addresses the princess with a suggestion.

7 Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?”

She is careful and diplomatic in the way she addresses the princess. She is offering assistance to benefit the king’s daughter. It is for you, o princess, that I will call a wet nurse. She can nurse and calm the boy for you. The Pharaoh’s daughter responds with one word.

8 And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother.

Imagine for a moment this scene. Young Miriam comes running to fetch her mother. Her mother sees her coming without the baby – she has left her post. Something must have happened! “Come quickly Mama – the Pharaoh’s daughter had found your baby!” Oy Vey! Panic, grief, fear… is he dead? What has happened? Why are you smiling? “Come, Mama, come. I will explain on the way.” Are you sure? Is it safe? Could it be?

9 And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him.

The irony of this is deep. The mother of the child who had to entrust him to God on the Nile is now given back her baby boy – to nurse and care for and teach – with pay. Pay from the treasury of the Pharaoh whose decree it was to execute him. The Pharaoh who attempted to break the backs of the Israelite slaves, the Pharaoh who commanded the midwives to kill all the Hebrew baby boys, the Pharaoh who ordered all his citizens to execute all Israelite male children, is now paying this Jewish mother to nurse and train up her own baby boy! Imagine the joy and relief in this household! Imagine Amram coming home to find his boy back at home, no longer being cautiously hidden but now openly enjoyed. Imagine the wonder and amazement and worship. They certainly had asked God to protect their child. But do you think in their wildest prayers they ever would have asked that they would be paid wages by the Egyptians to care for their boy, whom these same Egyptians wanted dead?

Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Of course, the good news is bitter-sweet. The boy would be adopted by the Pharaoh’s daughter. Jochebed had probably three to four years to nurse and train and pour love and truth and stories of their history into this young boy. She had a short time to impress him with the fear of the Lord. And as she had entrusted him to the Nile, now she had to entrust him to the Pharaoh’s daughter and to the omnipotent hands of her God. It would be more than seventy-five years before they would see how God used their boy to be the instrument God used to deliver Israel from the Egyptians. They would have to pray and trust and wait.

10 When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

The name ‘Moses’ was a somewhat common Egyptian name meaning ‘son’ or ‘to give birth to’. It was part of the well known names Ptahmose, Tuthmosis, Ahmose, and Harmose. [Durham, p.17]. But it sounds like the Hebrew verb ‘masah’, to draw out. It is this connection that the princess emphasizes because she drew him out of the water. This name will become prophetic as Moses will be the one God uses to draw the nation of Israel out of Egypt and literally out of the waters.

The Pharaoh acted shrewdly in dealing with the Israelites. His plans were crafty and they seemed wise. But in his scheming, he found himself fighting against God.

Jeremiah 9:23 Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

The Pharaoh was wise. But he did not know God. He thought he was god.

1Corinthians 1:19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

1Corinthians 3:19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”

Although God is not named in this story, we see God’s sovereign hand moving all the circumstances to display his infinite wisdom and poetic justice and even his timeless sense of humor. The great Pharaoh of Egypt set himself against God’s people, and therefore against God himself. And God confounded him with two Hebrew midwives, a Hebrew mother, and his own daughter. God used four humble women to frustrate the plans of the most powerful man in the world

We can take heart from this history. Whether we can see God’s hand or not, God is most certainly working behind and in and through each and every circumstance that is in our lives, good and bad, ultimately to display his glory and bring good to us. We must remain humble, we must not be fearful but faithful. We must learn to trust God like Jochebed and Miriam and Shiphrah and Puah trusted God. They did not sit back and say ‘God is sovereign so we will just sit back and see what he does in this situation’. Rather they said ‘God is sovereign, so we will be faithful to do what we are responsible to do to the best of our ability – to care for, protect and preserve life, to train and nurture – and we will trust that our sovereign God will do what we cannot hope to do – to bring hope and life and joy and meaning out of a hopeless, senseless, desperate, deadly situation. We must simply be faithful to do what we are called to do and to trust God to bring good results.

And God saves his people. Just as God preserved Noah safe inside the ark during the judgment, and just as God kept Moses safe inside his little ark, so if we run to Jesus, we will be kept safe from the judgment to come

Colossians 3:3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

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

May 9, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 5:12-14; Stand Firm in the True Grace of God

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090823_1peter5_12-14.mp3

08/23 1 Peter 5:12-14 Stand Firm in the True Grace of God

5:5 …Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 12 By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it. 13 She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son. 14 Greet one another with the kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

Intro:

Peter is closing his God-centered, grace-saturated letter to the saints in Asia Minor. But these are not trite phrases following the rules of polite etiquette, but genuine heart felt sentences packed with rich significance. He mentions some people and places, and we will see what we can learn from them. He packs the main thrust of his entire letter into one phrase, to make sure we didn’t miss the main point. He sends personal greetings, and encourages us to warmly greet one another. And he concludes by speaking a blessing over us.

Silvanus

Who is Silvanus, and why should we care? Here’s why I want to know who he is: I want to know because the Apostle Peter here counts him a ‘faithful brother’, and I want to be counted a faithful brother. That’s high praise for anyone, and even higher to hear it from the apostle himself. The only thing higher would be to hear it from the Lord Jesus himself: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matt.25:21). That’s what I long to hear. So who was this Silvanus, and how did he do it?

Peter says he wrote the letter ‘through Silvanus’. Some have thought that this means Silvanus was Peter’s amanuensis, or scribe who took down Peter’s dictation of the letter. Some have even thought that Peter delegated the task of writing a letter in his name to the believers in Asia Minor. Most likely, this means that Silvanus was to be the one to hand deliver the letter to each of the churches scattered throughout Asia Minor, probably reading it to them and explaining it to them. This is not the first piece of critical correspondence that Silvanus was trusted to deliver. After the stoning of Stephen, believers were scattered because of the persecution and the gospel spread into Gentile territory (to the Hellenists – Jews who had adopted the Greek culture). A church was planted in Syrian Antioch and news came to Jerusalem so they sent Barnabas to investigate. Barnabas saw the hand of God at work and went and found Paul and brought him to teach there a whole year. He and Barnabas were sent out to preach the gospel and when they returned to Antioch, they reported that God had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. But men came from Judea teaching that no one can be saved without being circumcised according to the law of Moses. Paul and Barnabas were appointed to bring the question before the church in Jerusalem. The first church council determined that it was not right to burden the Gentiles who were coming to God with additional laws, because ‘we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” (Acts 15:11) so they drafted a letter and chose Silas and Judas to accompany Barnabas and Paul to deliver the letter.

Acts 15:22 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers…

Silas and Judas were considered ‘leading men among the brothers’. In verse 32, we find they were prophets in the early church:

Acts 15:32 And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words.

Not only did they deliver the message and the letter, but they used their gifts to strengthen and encourage the brothers there in Antioch. Silas is the shortened form of the name Silvanus, likely the same man Peter now uses to deliver this letter to the churches in Asia.

Later, when Barnabas and Paul were going to strengthen the churches they had planted, they disagreed sharply over bringing John Mark with them, who had deserted them on their first journey. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus, and Silas became Paul’s co-worker. When they were thrown in jail in Philippi and their feet put in the stocks, these two were singing praises to God even in chains.

Acts 16:25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.

And Paul and Silas had the opportunity to lead the Philippian jailer to faith in Christ. Silas along with Timothy accompanied Paul on much of that journey, and was with Paul when he authored 1 and 2 Thessalonians.

Silas or Silvanus was a faithful brother. He stood by Paul even in the darkest hours and brought encouragement and hope. He suffered injury along side Paul, and rejoiced in the advance of the gospel. He faithfully delivered the message of the Jerusalem council, and brought encouragement to the church and strengthened them. Now we find him alongside Peter, willing to undertake a major journey into northern Asia Minor to become a vehicle of God’s grace to them. Silvanus could be counted on to accomplish the task at hand. He stood firm in the grace of God and was counted a faithful brother along with men like Timothy (1Cor.4:17) and Epaphras (Col.1:7), Tychicus (Col.4:7; Eph.6:21) and Onesimus (Col.4:9). Even men like Demas and Crescens and Titus deserted Paul in his time of need (2Tim4:10). What was the difference? Silvanus was faithful – full of faith in God and humbly dependent on God’s grace.

John Mark

It’s interesting that Peter also mentions Mark as sending a greeting. It is thought that John Mark was the young man who fled naked at Jesus’ arrest in the garden (Mk.14:51-52). Mark was Mary’s son, whose house the early church used to meet in (Acts 12:12). Mark and Barnabas were cousins (Col.4:10). Mark returned to Antioch with Barnabas and Paul after they delivered the gift to the saints in Judea. He accompanied Barnabas and Paul on their first missionary journey, but deserted them when things became difficult in Pamphylia (Acts15:37-39) . He was the center of the disagreement that led to the parting of ways between his cousin Barnabas and Paul. Mark became associated with Peter, and Mark’s gospel is derived from Peter’s preaching and teaching. Paul commended Mark in his letter to Colossae (Col.4:10), considered Mark a fellow-worker in Philemon 24, and even called for Mark to be brought to him in prison because he said ‘he is very useful to me for ministry’ (2Tim.4:11). Apparently Mark was with Peter in Rome when he wrote this letter, and he sent his personal greetings to the churches in Asia Minor.

Peter gets to the point of his letter when he says ‘I have written to you briefly, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it’

Exhorting and Declaring

Peter has used this word ‘exhort’ twice already in this short letter:

1Peter 2:11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

1Peter 5:1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed:

And the letter has been full of exhortation. But the exhortation does not stand alone. All his exhortation is based on declaration. These are the facts. I attest to the facts. Based on the facts, I urge you to take appropriate action. The first exhortation appears in 1:13 and it is based on the truth he has unfolded in 1:1-12. He has unfolded the truth of God’s gracious purposes toward us, and in verse 13 he tells us “therefore… set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Here I testify to the riches of God’s grace. Therefore hope in that grace. Every moral exhortation that Peter has given is founded on a theological truth. Do this because of that. Act in this way because this is true. We see this pattern even in Peter’s first sermon recorded in Acts:

Acts 2:40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”

The True Grace of God

Peter has written about grace. This is the true grace of God. This is not a cheap counterfeit. This is the real thing. The message of salvation we received is the true grace of God – it is for real. Grace is the objective message of salvation in Christ. As he said in:

1:18-19 …you were ransomed… with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness…

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

This is God’s grace toward sinners – those who humbly acknowledge that they are in need of God’s undeserved favor. God is the God of all grace; electing grace, saving grace, sustaining grace, sovereign grace; it was God’s grace that chose us and called us; it is God’s grace that keeps us; eternity will be an enjoyment of the riches of God’s grace that is coming to us.

1 Peter 5:10…the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

This is God’s restoring grace, his confirming grace, his strengthening grace, his establishing grace. Peter testifies that this is the true grace of God.

Stand Firm

And he exhorts us one last time; stand firm in it. Set your hope fully on God’s grace to you, highlight the priority of God in your actions and attitudes; fear treating the infinitely precious sacrifice of Jesus as something worthless; love one another as members of the family that God has caused us to be born into. Crave the milk that causes you to grow up to salvation. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. Set Christ apart as Lord. Be self controlled and sober minded toward prayers. Rejoice. Glorify God. Shepherd the flock. Humble yourself. Be sober; be watchful. Resist the temptation to shift your faith to yourself in pride. Stand firm in the grace of God.

Plant the feet of your faith firmly on the character and promises of the God of all grace. Anchor your life in the objective truth of God’s word. Find safe harbor in the shelter of his unconditional love. Sink your roots down deep into the rich soil of a God who gives grace to the humble. He called you and he will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. Your are being guarded by God’s power through faith for salvation (1:5). So stand firm!

Romans 5:2 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.

Romans 11:20 …They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe.

Romans 14:4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

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

1Corinthians 15:1-2 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.

Ephesians 6:10-14 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil…13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,…

Colossians 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.

Jude 1:24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you (cause you to stand) blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,

12 By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it. 13 She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son. 14 Greet one another with the kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

Babylon

Babylon is the place of exile for those whose natural home is Jerusalem; Peter is identifying with his readers who are ‘elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia’ (1:1). In Jewish and Christian writing in the first century, Rome was referred to as Babylon – the contemporary parallel of the center of world power and opposition to God’s people. Peter has credibility to give instruction because he and his church are facing the same types of situations that his readers are facing.

Co-Elect

The elect of Rome send greetings – those who are strangers in Roman society because Christ Jesus plucked them out of their bondage to sin, opened their eyes to the realities of God and birthed in them new life. Peter began his letter by calling the saints in Asia Minor ‘elect’ , those chosen out from among the rest. Now he ends the letter by referring to the believers in Rome as those that are literally ‘co-elect’. The church in Rome was chosen by God just as you and I are chosen by God. Men and women are co-heirs of the grace of life(3:7); Peter considers himself a co-elder (5:1) with the elders in Asia Minor; and the church in Rome is co-elect with the elect exiles of the dispersion. The brotherhood around the globe stands alongside one another. Warm greetings come to you from your brothers in Rome. And as he is writing to churches scattered across a geographic region, he exhorts them to greet one another. In 1:22, he has told us to love one another earnestly from a pure heart because we have now been born again into the same family, and here he tells us to express that love in a tangible way. The kiss of love was exchanged between family members and between rabbis and their disciples. This is a strong affirmation in the face of a threat that we are on the same team. A holy hug will encourage and strengthen in a way that mere words cannot.

Peter concludes his letter with these words: ‘Peace to all of you who are in Christ.’ He began the letter with the prayer ‘May grace and peace be multiplied to you.’, and he spent the bulk of the letter unfolding God’s varied grace even in the face of a hostile society. Now he concludes by pointing us to the God of all grace and speaking peace to us. There is no real peace outside of the peace with God that we find through our Lord Jesus Christ. Because we are recipients of God’s undeserved grace, we can have true inner peace. We have been reconciled to God and our sins have been dealt with decisively and finally at the cross, and we can stand righteous before a holy God on the basis of Christ’s righteousness imputed to us.

Romans 5:1-5 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 More than that, 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.

12 By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it. 13 She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son. 14 Greet one another with the kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

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

August 23, 2009 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment