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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 9:7; God Is a Cheerful Giver

10/27_2 Corinthians 9:7; God Is a Cheerful Giver; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191027_2cor9_7.mp3

2 Corinthians 9:6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

God loves a cheerful giver. What does it mean to be a cheerful giver? What does this imply about those who don’t give cheerfully (or at all)? Why does God love a cheerful giver?

Proverbs 22:8-9 [LXX]

Paul takes his ideas from Proverbs 22:8-9. In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, Proverbs 22 reads like this:

Proverbs 22:8 (lit. trans.) The one who sows worthlessness/evil reaps bad, but will fully complete the punishment of his works. A cheerful man and a giver God will bless, but will fully complete the futility of his works, 9 The one who is merciful to the poor, he will himself be maintained, for his own bread he has given to the poor

Then in verse 11 it says:

Proverbs 22:11 (LXXE) The Lord loves holy hearts, and all blameless persons are acceptable with him:…

A cheerful man, even a giver God will bless. The Lord loves purity in heart, the one who is merciful to the poor, who gives his own bread to the poor. God loves a cheerful giver. God will bless a cheerful giver.

A Single Eye

Proverbs 22:8-9 in the ESV reads:

Proverbs 22:8 Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of his fury will fail. 9 Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.

He who has a bountiful eye; literally a good eye. What does that mean? Jesus picks up this idea about eyes and money in Matthew 6

Matthew 6:20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy [ἁπλοῦς], your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

Jesus says literally ‘if your eye is single’ or ‘simple’. Paul used the noun form of this word to describe the generosity, or literally the simplicity of the Macedonians back in 2 Corinthians 8:

2 Corinthians 8:2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity [ἁπλότητα] on their part.

As we have seen, this word translated ‘generosity’ is literally the word for simplicity or single-hearted devotion to the Lord. Paul uses this word again in 9:11 and 13 to describe the heart from which they give. It is simple or single. It is not divided or double minded. Jesus goes on to say in Matthew 6:

Matthew 6:24 “No one 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.

Jesus said the most important thing is:

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

A cheerful giver gives out of simplicity, eager to please one Master. There is no duplicity or double mindedness. The cheerful giver gives out of single-hearted devotion to Christ.

A Cheerful Giver

What does it mean to be a cheerful giver? We can learn something of what it looks like to give cheerfully, out of a single heart by looking at what Paul describes as the wrong motives. He said in verse 5 that it would be willing and not as an exaction, literally not as greed or covetousness. A greedy or covetous heart is not a cheerful heart.

He says in verse 6 that we should not sow sparingly or stingily, looking at the loss we might incur. That is not cheerful giving.

Verse 7 says that we are not to be reluctant or under compulsion; not out of grief or sorrow, not under pressure or necessity. That is not cheerful giving.

What he says positively is that it should be ‘as he has determined in his heart’ (9:7); out of an abundance of joy, riches of simplicity (8:2), giving themselves first to the Lord (8:5), begging for the grace and fellowship of service to the saints (8:4); a genuine love (8:8); a will and advance desire (8:10-12); out of abundance (8:14); for the glory of the Lord himself (8:19) a predisposed desire and zeal (9:2). They were making preparation (9:2-3), It was a promised blessing (9:5); it was to be upon blessings (9:6)

Upon Blessings

What does he mean in verse 6 to sow bountifully, literally ‘upon blessings’? ‘The one who sows upon blessings, upon blessings also will reap.’ He says in verse 5 that he is sending the brothers to prepare in advance their promised in advance blessing, so that it is ready as a blessing. To bless is to speak or pronounce God’s grace to others. To sow upon blessings is to sow out of a heart that has received God’s blessings; a heart overflowing with God’s blessings. When we have richly received and experienced God’s grace, we can widely scatter God’s amazing grace to others. A cheerful giver is one who liberally scatters blessings because he has lavishly experienced God’s blessings.

God’s Unconditional Love

God loves a cheerful giver. But what does that imply about those who are not cheerful givers? Or not givers at all? Does God not love those who are not cheerful givers? Doesn’t John 3:16 say that God so loved the world? Doesn’t God love everyone?

Let me put this another way. If we say that God loves the world, everyone, and cheerful givers are one subset of everyone, therefore God loves them, it makes this statement meaningless. It would be equally true to say that God loves the grudging givers, and those who give nothing at all. They are also subsets of the everyone whom God loves. Saying that God loves the cheerful giver must be saying something different than that God loves the sinful world or even than God loves all who trust in him.

You may have heard it said ‘there’s nothing you can do to make God love you any more than he does right now, and there’s nothing you could ever do that would make God love you less.’ God’s love is unconditional. God’s love is based on his own character, not on your performance. You didn’t do anything to earn his love, and you can’t do anything that would turn his love away from you. This is good news. This is grace. That God loves us not because of anything we have done or ever will do.

Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy…

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— …8 …this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

In this there is profound freedom; freedom from striving, freedom from performance, freedom from attempting to impress God.

Romans 4:5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

We must understand grace. Before we can give we must receive. Grace upon grace. And all our giving must flow out of these multiplied blessings poured out on us.

Consequences of Not Giving Cheerfully

But the Bible also talks like this: God loves a cheerful giver.

Jude 1:21 keep yourselves in the love of God…

John 15:9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Keep yourselves in the love of God. There is an ‘if’; if we keep his commandments, then we will abide in his love. God loves a cheerful giver.

This implies that there is a way to abide and a way to not abide in his love. That he loves a cheerful giver and is grieved when his people give sparingly or grudgingly or not at all.

The puritan pastor John Owen gives us categories to help us make sense of this. He draws a distinction between union and communion. We are united with Christ by grace alone through faith alone. Nothing we can do or fail to do will change our union with Christ. We belong to him. But how we respond to him can and does affect our communion with him, our day to day fellowship with him, our enjoyment of our union with him.

Think of the marriage relationship. We took wedding vows before God and in the presence of witnesses ‘to love, cherish and serve, in sickness and health, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, ’til death do us part.’ I might act rudely toward my wife, and that won’t change her commitment to her vows before God, but it will affect the level of intimacy we enjoy in our relationship. It doesn’t change our union, but it will affect our communion.

Notice Jesus exhorts us to abide in his love for our joy, that our joy may be full. We will enjoy our relationship with God more if we walk in his ways, if we follow his commands, if our hearts are overflowing with gladness in him. We ought to pursue cheerful generosity, because cheerfulness is more enjoyable than being grudging or greedy or stingy.

God Is a Cheerful Giver

But there is a deeper, a more important reason that God loves a cheerful giver. It is simply this: God loves a cheerful giver because God is a cheerful giver. God created us in his own image, and he loves to see his own character reflected in his people.

Look to God the cheerful giver!

James 1:17 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. 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.

Matthew 7:11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Every good gift is from God. God is the giver of every good. God himself is the greatest good.

Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Psalm 21:6 For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence.

Psalm 84:11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.

God is our greatest good. And he does not withhold good from us.

Romans 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,

He graciously gave us his own Son. He will with him pour out every spiritual blessing on us.

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

God is the giver. God gave his only Son, and Jesus gladly gave himself.

Galatians 2:20 …I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Ephesians 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

Hebrews 12:2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

It was his joy to give himself up for us.

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Why does our motive and attitude matter to God? Why does our cheerfulness in giving matter? Because we image him, and when we don’t give cheerfully, we lie about him, we misrepresent him. God is not a stingy giver, he is not reluctant, not a grudging giver, he does not give out of compulsion or obligation, he does not sow sparingly. We could say God is lavish, excessive, prodigal. over the top, extravagant. God love a cheerful giver because God is a cheerful giver.

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

October 27, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 8:24-9:5; Proof Before the Churches

10/13_2 Corinthians 8:24-9:5; Proof Before the Churches ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191013_2cor8_24-9_5.mp3

Paul is talking about communion, about the fellowship, this expression of grace that he was administering; this collection from the Gentile churches serving the saints in Jerusalem.

He is encouraged by the grace of God poured out on the Macedonian believers, whose joy in adversity and depth of poverty overflowed in joyful generosity; as they eagerly insisted on the grace of giving, the communion of service to the saints; and he wants the Corinthian believers to know about what God is doing among the Macedonians.

He is exhorting the Corinthians to give according to their means, to do what they had desired to do, to follow through on their promised generosity, to finish what they started.

He has commended the brothers who are coming to help this collection along; Titus, his partner and fellow worker for the joy of the Corinthians, into whose heart God put an eagerness and earnest care for them. Another brother, whose praise is in the gospel among all the churches, who was appointed by the churches to carry out this grace, and another tested and earnest brother. These brothers are ‘messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ’.

Paul is eager to see God glorified through this expression of grace, and by the integrity with which it is carried out. He delights to see the glory of Christ revealed in the messengers sent by the churches to carry out this act of grace. So he says:

2 Corinthians 8:24 So give proof before the churches of your love and of our boasting about you to these men.

2 Corinthians 9:1 Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints, 2 for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. 3 But I am sending the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove empty in this matter, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be. 4 Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—for being so confident. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.

We see fellowship in this section; interaction between the churches. Paul is stimulating interaction between local churches. Selected men of character are being sent by the churches to accompany the gift to the church in Jerusalem. Paul told the Macedonian churches about the zeal of the Corinthians, that they had been eager to participate in this generosity from last year. He boasted about Corinth to Philippi and Thessalonica and Berea, and his boasting stirred up most of them.

Notice his modest realism here; it stirred up most of them; the majority; not all of them. There were some even in those churches who remained unmoved. But the majority were provoked to action.

Prove the Proof of Your Love

Now he is sending brothers ahead with this letter to ensure that the Corinthians are indeed ready. He invites them to give proof before the churches of your love. Earlier in chapter 8, he urged them to excel in this grace.

2 Corinthians 8:7 But as you excel in everything—…see that you excel in this act of grace also. 8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.

This opportunity to extend grace was an opportunity to test the genuineness of their love. Had they truly experienced the grace and love of our Lord Jesus in such a way that that love overflowed as they pursued opportunities to extend grace to others? Here he says ‘give proof before the churches’. He uses both the noun and verb form of a word here; literally ‘prove the proof of your love’ or ‘demonstrate the demonstration of your love’ or ‘manifest the manifestation of your love. This is about showing, making known what is really there, what is inside. Show it. Make it visible. Before the churches.

Accountability Among the Churches

Put yourself for a moment in the sandals of a Corinthian believer. You show up to the home of one of the wealthier members, who hosts the church meetings in his courtyard. It’s been a bit of a rough morning, as your youngest was fussy last night and didn’t sleep well, and you had a mild disagreement with your spouse on the walk to church over money issues. You are greeted at the gate by one of the servant girls, who with excitement in her eyes lets you in to gather with the other believers. Titus is back, with some strangers, and he is carrying a letter from the apostle Paul. After the church has gathered, and you sing a hymn together, Titus sits down and begins to read Paul’s letter. When he gets to this section, he introduces the brothers who are with him. Then he reads: ‘Therefore demonstrate the proof of your love and our boasting about you to them in the presence of the churches.’

As everyone listens attentively, there is some awkward tension in the room. The Asian believers who came with Titus are observing your responses as the letter is read. As you look into the kindly faces of these strangers, you ask yourself ‘Is my love genuine? Is Paul right to boast about us to others? What will it look like for me to give evidence of the genuineness of my love in the presence of these delegates from other churches?’

This is accountability among the churches. And it is not one directional authority, but it goes in both directions, as the Macedonians were stirred up by the report of the eagerness and zeal of the Corinthians, and now the Corinthians are to give proof of their love before these Asian or Galatian believers, and soon there will be Macedonians accompanying Paul to visit them, to observe first hand the love and zeal that they had been told about. Paul is fostering connections between the churches, fellowship between the churches, a together pursuit of the glory of Christ through service to others.

Unity and Diversity in the Body

I grew up in a church that had figured everything out. They had the bible figured out better than anyone else. And they did church right. They were just more biblical than any other church around. I don’t recall if this was ever actually said in so many words, but it was definitely the vibe I picked up. It made me believe that I could have true fellowship with only this very small circle of like minded people in like-minded churches.

But then I got connected with a high school campus ministry where I met people from a wide diversity of church denominational backgrounds, who loved Jesus and wanted to make him known.

And then I went off to bible college, and Dr. MacLeod taught us theology. He taught the big foundational doctrines that the church has treasured throughout history, the church which includes every genuine follower of Jesus through 2000 years of church history and across denominational (or non-denominational) lines.

He taught us the Bible, the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments are trustworthy, God breathed and without error. That our God is one God, eternally existing in three distinct persons; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. That this one God created all that exists to display his own glory. That the Son at a point in history became human, was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, and died as a substitute for sinners. That we can be forgiven and enjoy eternal life by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone. That Jesus rose from the dead and is seated at the right hand of his Father, and lives forever making intercession for us, and that he promises to return for us to take us to be with him where he is. And so much more.

I began to see that the things that set our little church apart from so many other churches were so small, so secondary, so insignificant in light of all the massive truths that we treasured in common. I began to realize that although we didn’t see eye to eye on every non-central detail, I was connected to a great cloud of witnesses, a brotherhood of believers, a family. We may have different traditions, different preferences, we may do thing differently, but we were connected.

There is a natural diversity among the churches; each church has a unique personality, there are language differences, cultural differences, difference of preference and style. But there is a unity of faith, of doctrine. And there ought to be opportunities to learn from one another, to exhort one another, and to hold one another accountable.

Our Connections with Other Churches

Giving is something that connects local churches in the body of Christ to one another. Our church gives regularly to other churches and missionaries, and that investment creates a connection. Most of those missionaries have come back here to encourage us, and they are invested in us. And some of us have had the opportunity to visit where they serve and see first hand what God is doing through them and hopefully be an encouragement to them. We hope to create more opportunities for some of us to go and serve and make those connections.

There are other churches that give to us. We just got a **letter** in the mail last week with a generous check and a note of encouragement from churches in Iowa and Wisconsin who have come to our community on a mission trip and began to understand the unique mission field we live in, and they were stirred up by what God is doing here, through us. They are praying for us and wanted to bless us.

Serving together is another great way to develop that kind of fellowship with other churches. Each summer, our church partners with several other churches to put on bible camp for our kids, and this has provided an opportunity to encourage and challenge each other and strengthen those connections with the churches. We have had the opportunity to do men’s and women’s retreats with other churches, and all of these opportunities for fellowship create healthy connections with other churches.

2 Corinthians 8:24 So give proof before the churches of your love and of our boasting about you to these men.

2 Corinthians 9:1 Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints, 2 for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. 3 But I am sending the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove empty in this matter, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be. 4 Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—for being so confident. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.

Paul’s Gospel Boasting

Paul knew of their advance desire, their zeal, their readiness, and he has been boasting about them to the other churches. Normally we think of boasting as bad, and often it is. Paul said in Galatians 6:14

Galatians 6:14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

And yet he is boasting about the Corinthians to the Macedonians. In the beginning of chapter 8 he is boasting about the Macedonians to the Corinthians, so we can see what this looks like.

2 Corinthians 8:1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia,

Paul’s boast in the Macedonian’s joyful giving beyond their means was the grace of God given to them. I am sure that Paul’s boasting about the Corinthians was also a boasting in the grace of God at work in this church. Look at what the cross has accomplished in the lives of these Gentiles! God’s grace has stirred them to zeal!

Now he is sending the brothers to ensure that this work of God in them was indeed genuine; that their actions will match their eagerness.

He says ‘on the one hand, it is redundant or superfluous for me to write about this because I know your readiness and zeal, yet on the other hand I am sending the brothers to be sure you are ready and to avoid embarrassment when the Macedonians come.

Blessing not Greed

2 Corinthians 9:5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.

Here Paul uses yet another word to describe the gift. He has called it a grace, a service, a fellowship, a singleness or simplicity, this fatness, and now he calls it the before promised blessing. The Greek word [εὐλογίαν] is where we get our word eulogy, literally a good word. The focus is on the verbal aspect; when we say a good word or pronounce a blessing on someone, we are asking God from whom all blessings flow to put his blessing on them. We become a conduit for God’s grace to flow through us to others, as we seek to bless others. The Corinthians had made a promise in advance, a year ago, a promise to bless. Paul is sending the brothers to be sure this before promised blessing comes from them indeed as a blessing, not as an exaction.

This word translated by many as ‘exaction’ or ‘extortion’ or something you were forced to do, is literally the word greed or covetousness. ‘That this may be ready in this way as a blessing and not as greed. The interpretive question is ‘whose greed?’ Is it the apostle’s greed in pressuring them to give, thus exaction or extortion or something they feel forced to do? This doesn’t seem to fit the context well. The word ‘blessing’ describes their heart, their attitude in giving; that they were eager to bless. The greed then would be their own greed or covetousness, a desire to hold on to what they have rather than freely and generously give to bless others. Paul goes on to talk about the heart and attitude behind giving in the coming verses. If they are giving out of a stingy heart, it will be evident, as the Proverbs graphically illustrate:

Proverbs 23:6 Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy; do not desire his delicacies, 7 for he is like one who is inwardly calculating. “Eat and drink!” he says to you, but his heart is not with you. 8 You will vomit up the morsels that you have eaten, and waste your pleasant words.

Conclusion

Paul is confident in the gospel’s ability to change a stingy heart into a gracious heart that is eager to bless others. And he is willing to write to encourage believers to extend the grace that they have freely received out to bless others. And he believes there ought to be a healthy accountability among the churches for the glory of Christ.

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

October 14, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 8:19; To The Glory of The Lord Himself

09/29_2 Corinthians 8:19; To the Glory of the Lord Himself; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190929_2cor8_19.mp3

Paul takes 2 chapters in 2 Corinthians to encourage them toward generosity. They had expressed an eagerness to give to the saints in Jerusalem the previous year, and Paul had given instructions for the collection at the end of his letter we know as 1 Corinthians, but it seems they had not yet followed through. There were troubles in Corinth, which Paul had to address. There were those who were questioning his authority, and undermining his integrity, and it appears, the collection had stalled. They needed encouragement.

So he encourages them with the example of the Macedonians. He encourages them ultimately with the self-sacrificial service of our Lord Jesus Christ, who being rich, for your sake became poor, so that you through his poverty might be made rich.

He is not asking the Corinthians, however, to follow the example of the Macedonians, who gave beyond their ability, or of Jesus who became poor for our sake. Rather, he desires that there be equality, that your abundance would supply their lack. Not that you be impoverished to bring them relief, but that you give out of what you have, according to what you have.

Today I want to zoom in on verse 19, where he gives the overarching purpose of this generosity, this act of grace, this fellowship with the saints. He is encouraging Titus to return to them and bring to completion in them this grace.

2 Corinthians 8:16 But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. 17 For he not only accepted our appeal, but being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord. 18 With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel. 19 And not only that, but he has been appointed by the churches to travel with us as we carry out this act of grace that is being ministered by us, for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our good will.

These last two clauses of verse 19 give the purpose of this act of grace. It is to the glory of the Lord himself, and our willingness.

Paul’s Willingness

First, Paul’s willingness. This word translated ‘good will’ is the same word translated ‘readiness’ or ‘eagerness’ in verses 11 and 12. It is a word that communicates a forward desire to do something, a passion for something. This eagerness or good will on the part of Paul was expressed as early as Acts 11, where in preparation for a famine, the disciples in Antioch:

Acts 11:29 So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. 30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.

Barnabas and Saul, or Paul delivered this service to the saints. This may be the same visit to Jerusalem that Paul refers to in Galatians 2, where he privately presented the gospel he preached to the leaders in Jerusalem, and they added nothing to him.

Galatians 2:9 and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

Paul was eager to remember the poor. The gospel they believed and proclaimed of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone was the same. And they together believed that the faith that saves is never alone; the New Covenant work of the Spirit in the heart of a believer would so change them that there would be an eagerness to serve others. Paul looks at this act of grace as an opportunity to prove the genuineness of the Corinthian’s love (v.8). He is in total harmony with James, who teaches that genuine saving faith will produce a transformed heart that overflows in self-sacrificial service to others.

Paul in 2 Corinthians is finalizing his plans for the collection for the poor in Jerusalem, and here he says, it is to show his own readiness or goodwill. But this aim is subservient to his greater aim.

To The Glory of the Lord Himself

2 Corinthians 8:19 …as we carry out this act of grace that is being ministered by us, for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our good will.

This act of grace is first of all to the glory of the Lord himself. Paul is concerned primarily with glory, with bringing glory to God, living to his glory. To the glory of the Lord himself. On the issue of idolatry in 1 Corinthians 10, he said:

1 Corinthians 10:24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. …31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

The ruling principle under which all of life, including issues of liberty, eating and drinking, should be lived is the pursuit of the glory of God.

In Romans 1, the wrath of God comes on those who suppress the truth about God, his invisible attributes, his eternal power and divine nature. They refuse to honor him as God or give thanks to him; they exchange the glory of God for images; they fall short of the glory of God, and they are justly under his wrath. To fail to give God glory, to fail to honor him as God or give him thanks, is sin, treason against God. We were made, Isaiah 43:7 tells us, for his glory.

Paul has talked much about glory in 2 Corinthians 3 and 4. He talked about the glory displayed under the Old Covenant, the glory of the Lord manifest in the tabernacle; the glory of the ministry of death carved in letters on stone, the glory reflected in Moses’ face, which was being brought to an end, He contrasts this with the glory of the New Covenant, written on tablets of human hearts by the Spirit of the living God.

2 Corinthians 3:7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.

Then he says in

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

The glorious New Covenant ministry has far surpassed the old in glory. We all can behold the glory of the Lord unmediated, and this transforms us into his image, to reflect his glory.

He goes on in chapter 4 to talk about the veil, the satanic blindness on unbeliever, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. The gospel, the good news, is the glory of Christ. God overcomes this supernatural blindness by his own sovereign word.

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

Our willful suppression of the truth about God’s glory is guilty, and we are justly condemned. And God, by his word, overcomes our darkness and gives the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. As we with new eyes behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, we are being transformed. God’s glory reflected in our lives should far surpass the glory that made Moses’ face shine.

What God’s Glory Looks Like

Here in chapter 8, Paul tells us what this New Covenant glory looks like. It looks like God’s grace made tangible. It looks like followers of Jesus loving and serving and helping other people. It looks like the impoverished Macedonians begging earnestly for the grace and fellowship of giving beyond their means to serve the saints. It looks like the Corinthians out of their abundance and out of their genuine love for the Lord joyfully giving to the poor saints in Jerusalem.

I’ll tell you one instance of the New Covenant glory of the Lord that I have seen. As a young married couple, we visited a new church. That very first Sunday a family invited us to come over the following Sunday after church for lunch at their home. But the intervening Saturday Deanna and I were bicycling on a trail, and while we were going down a fairly steep hill her front tire came off, and her bike flipped and she was knocked unconscious. We took an ambulance ride to the hospital, and when I realized that obviously we weren’t going to make it either to church or to lunch the following day, I called to cancel. That couple showed up in the hospital to pray with us, and after we returned home, we had people from that church that we didn’t really even know showing up at our door to bring us meals and to pray with us. That was sometimes a bit awkward, and it was a humbling way to get to know our new church family. But we saw the glory of God in the faces of people we didn’t really know as they surrounded us with love and care and support. They were truly the hands and feet of Christ to us in our time of need. That was the surpassing glory of the New Covenant; people who had been transformed by God’s grace extending that grace freely to those in need.

The Nations Bringing Glory to God

The glory of the Lord looks like Paul and those appointed by the Gentile churches carrying a generous gift to the believers in Jerusalem.

The glory of the Lord is seen in these simple tangible expressions of grace in the body of Christ. But I think there may be something even bigger in Paul’s heart when he writes this.

In Romans 15:15, Paul views his role among the Gentile churches as ‘priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable’, then he goes on in verse 25 to talk about his plan to travel to Jerusalem bringing this service to the saints from Macedonia and Achaia.

When he says here in 2 Corinthians 8:19 that this act of grace is for the glory of the Lord himself, could he have in mind the glory of the Lord in some of the prophetic passages like Isaiah 60?

Isaiah 60:1 Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. 2 For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. 3 And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. 4 Lift up your eyes all around, and see; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be carried on the hip. 5 Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and exult, because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you.

Could it be that Paul sees his work of proclaiming the glory of Jesus among the nations as at least a beginning toward the fulfillment of these passages? That “the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (Is.40:5)? In fulfillment of Genesis 12, where Abraham is blessed in order to be a blessing to the nations? Paul brings the good news of the glory of God in the face of Jesus the Messiah to the nations, and now believing Gentiles are bringing their wealth back to their Jewish brothers and sisters in Jerusalem.

In Romans 11, Paul talked about the failure of many of his fellow Jews to believe in Jesus their promised Messiah, and he says that

Romans 11:11…through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! 13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.

In Romans 15 he says:

Romans 15:27…if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings.

The prophecies of Isaiah end with a vision of the new heavens and the new earth. Those who rejoice with Jerusalem and mourn over her are invited to

Isaiah 66:11 …drink deeply with delight from her glorious abundance.” 12 For thus says the LORD: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream;

It looks to the time,

Isaiah 66:18 …the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory,

God will send to the nations

19 …that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations. 20 And they shall bring all your brothers from all the nations as an offering to the LORD,

The glory of the Lord is proclaimed among the nations. And God takes from the nations a people for himself. Through the Jewish Messiah, all the nations of the earth are blessed.

The glory of the Lord himself is displayed;

Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility

The glory of the Lord himself is displayed when the unity of the body is displayed in tangible practical ways.

Romans 15:5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. 8 For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.”

Welcome one another for the glory of God. Live in such harmony with one another …that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Glorify God for his mercy. Joyfully and eagerly extend God’s grace and fellowship in service to the saints for the glory of the Lord himself.

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

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

September 30, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 8:5; Give Yourself First to the Lord

08/11_2 Corinthians 8:5; Give Yourself First To The Lord; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190811_2cor8_5.mp3

2 Corinthians 8:1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.

Review

Paul is talking about giving. He is encouraging the Corinthians to give generously. But he avoids using the word ‘giving’ or ‘collection’ or ‘offering’; instead he fixes our attention on the grace of God given. God is the giver. It is God’s gift of grace that necessarily precedes and motivates any acceptable giving. We love because he first loved us (1Jn.4:19); we give because he is the supreme giver and first gave freely of himself to us.

God’s grace was given and this was evidenced in the overflow of a wealth of generosity. Generosity is an interpretive translation based on the context; literally it ‘superabounded in the riches of their simplicity’. Simplicity is a word Paul uses to describe single-hearted devotion to Christ in contrast to double-minded or divided affections. God’s undeserved grace poured out on the Macedonians ignited in them single-hearted affections for the Lord, and this spilled over in an urgency to extend grace to others. They begged for the grace and the fellowship of the ministry to the saints.

This service, this ministry was a grace; it was ‘favor;’ it was undeserved. They didn’t earn the ability to serve others; it was given to them. First of all it was grace to them. Then it welled up into grace from them. It was grace in that they gave freely, not under compulsion. They were eager for the opportunity. They were not the originators of the grace, but they were a channel; they passed it on to others. Freely they had received; freely they gave (Mt.10:8).

This ministry was grace and it was also fellowship; it was communion. They were ‘taking part;’ it connected them to the community of faith; to other believers; to the saints. They were eager for the connection, for the fellowship that bearing one another’s burdens created. They were eager for connection with the wider body of Christ.

Paul is holding up the Macedonians as an example, but not primarily an example of giving or generosity. They got grace; they did not receive grace in vain; it changed them. God’s undeserved grace freely given to them ignited in them a single-hearted affection for the Lord, and an eagerness to extend grace and fellowship in service to others. They understood that following Jesus was costly; they were in a severe test of affliction. They were in the depths of poverty. And yet in the midst of those circumstances, God’s grace created in them an unquenchable overflow of joy in Jesus. This is what Paul is eager to see formed in the Corinthians, and in us. He is after not our money but our hearts. What we do with our money is merely an outward indicator of where our affections are.

Given to the Lord

Their single-hearted service was according to their power, even beyond their ability.

Look at verse 5. And not according to what we had hoped; but their own selves they gave first to the Lord and to us by the will of God.

They gave. This passage is about giving, and this verse says that they gave. But it doesn’t say that they gave their money, their resources. It says they gave more. Themselves – that’s emphatic – their own selves they gave.

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

They gave themselves first to the Lord. ‘First’ doesn’t mean only first in time. It means first in importance. Most importantly they gave themselves to the Lord. What does that mean? How do you give yourself to the Lord? We use those words, but what exactly does it mean? What does it look like to give yourself to the Lord?

You Are Not Your Own

You are not your own. You were bought with a price. God owns you. He paid dearly for you. Romans 7:4 says that ‘you died …so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead.’ How does one give oneself to the Lord if you already belong to him? Paul’s exhortation in 1 Corinthians 6 is helpful here

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

He tells them what is true. As believers in Jesus, they belong to him. They are under new ownership. They were bought. His exhortation is based on their identity. Therefore, because of whose you are, live consistent with your new identity, your new ownership. Because you are owned by God, you should seek to glorify God in your body. He uses this again as a foundation for his argument in the next chapter:

1 Corinthians 7:23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men.

Because you have a new Master, don’t divide your interests and sign up as a slave of someone else. Live consistent with what is true; be who you are. This is the Christian life. This is what following Jesus looks like. Learn to live in line with your new identity in Christ.

The Macedonians had responded to the call of Jesus when Paul preached the gospel to them, and so they belong to Jesus. And now they are living consistent with who they belong to. They gave themselves first to the Lord.

All You Have Is Not Yours

In 1 Corinthians 4 Paul says:

1 Corinthians 4:7 …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?

We need to remember this. Everything we have is a gift, grace, given to us by a good God.

John 3:27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.

King David wrestled with this question when he was making a collection for the building of the temple in Jerusalem. In 1 Chronicles 29:6 it says:

1 Chronicles 29:6 Then the leaders of fathers’ houses made their freewill offerings, as did also the leaders of the tribes, the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, and the officers over the king’s work.

Then it says in verse 9:

1 Chronicles 29:9 Then the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the LORD. David the king also rejoiced greatly.

The leaders made freewill offerings. Pay attention to the language here. They had given willingly, with a whole heart, offering freely to the Lord. They were under no compulsion; they were free, they chose to do it, and they did it gladly. It brought them joy to give, and it brought joy to the king. But listen to how David prays in the next verses:

1 Chronicles 29:10 Therefore David blessed the LORD in the presence of all the assembly. And David said: “Blessed are you, O LORD, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. 11 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. 12 Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. 13 And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name. 14 “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.

Do you hear what he is wrestling with? Everything belongs to God. Everything in heaven and in the earth. Riches and honor come from the Lord. Even our strength comes from the Lord. All things come from you. And yet the people are giving freely and willingly of all that is in their power, of all that belongs to God. Who am I? There is this tension between God’s ownership of everything and our ability to give freely, of our own will. How are we able to give willingly when everything we have is yours? You already own everything we have given. It came from you and it belongs to you. How is it then that we can offer it back to you?

He continues:

1 Chronicles 29:16 O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own. 17 I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you.

It is with upright hearts that they freely and willingly and joyously gave. They gave to God what already belonged to God. And God was pleased with their hearts. God tests the hearts of his people by putting in our possession some of what belongs to him. God is pleased when with upright hearts we freely and joyously give back to him what is his.

And then David prays:

1 Chronicles 29:18 O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you. 19 Grant to Solomon my son a whole heart that he may keep your commandments, your testimonies, and your statutes, performing all, and that he may build the palace for which I have made provision.”

David understood that even their willingness, the purpose of their hearts, even that was from God. God directs the hearts of his people, so he asks God to ‘keep such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people’. David doesn’t praise the people for their willingness; he praises God for the willingness of the people, and he asks God to maintain and sustain their joyful generosity.

This is grace! God first freely gives to us, and his gift ignites a response of joyful generosity in us; a single-hearted simplicity of affection toward him, an eagerness to please him, to extend his grace to others.

Paul here in 2 Corinthians tells us that this is ‘by the will of God.’ ‘Themselves they gave, first to the Lord and to us by the will of God.’ They gave, and they gave by the will of God. The other place we see this phrase is in the opening lines of both his letters to Corinth.

1 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus…

2 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God

This is the sovereign will of God, calling Paul as his apostle, and Paul gladly responded. Paul recognized the same sovereign purpose of God at work in the Macedonians, as they gladly and single-heartedly gave themselves by the will of God to the Lord and to him in response to the grace of God that had been given to them.

Application

So what does this look like for us? What does it mean to give ourselves first to the Lord? It must start with receiving God’s grace. We can attempt to do things for the Lord and give things to the Lord, but if we haven’t first experienced his grace toward us in Jesus, then it is self-effort and self-righteous performance, and it is actually offensive to God. First we must receive before we can give. We receive his grace, we receive forgiveness through the finished work of Jesus. We receive new life and the gift of the Holy Spirit living inside. In response to God’s free and undeserved grace, we gladly see that all that we have and all that we are come from the Lord and we can eagerly give ourselves back to him.

In the words of Romans 12,

Romans 12:1 …by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

In Colossians 1 he prayed that they would have the spiritual wisdom to know God’s will

Colossians 1:10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

Paul said to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20

Acts 20:35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Jesus said:

Matthew 25:35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ …40 …‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

These are some of the ways we can give ourselves first to the Lord. Does Jesus have first place? First priority? Does he have access to all that you have? To all of you?

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

August 11, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 8:1-4; Grace Received and Expressed

08/04_2 Corinthians 8:1-4; Grace Received and Expressed; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190804_2cor8_1-4.mp3

We are in 2 Corinthians 8. Paul takes two chapters here, toward the end of his letter, to address issues of grace. He has used the word ‘grace’ six times so far in this letter, three times in chapter 1, once each in chapters 2, 4, and 6. In these two chapters alone, he will use this word ‘grace’ ten times (even though in our English translations it is not always translated as ‘grace’). He will use it twice more in 2 Corinthians before he is done. Over half of what he says about grace in 2 Corinthians is here in this section.

The Collection For Jerusalem

Anyone who reads these two chapters would agree that Paul is talking about giving. He is talking about a fundraiser. He is collecting money from Gentile believers to bring relief to the poor saints in Jerusalem. He referred to this in Galatians 2:10. He mentioned this in 1 Corinthians 16. He will mention it again in Romans 15. We see it played out in Acts (24:17).

But just as Paul intended to reshape our thinking and understanding of ministry in 2 Corinthians 2-7, that ministry is self-sacrificial service for the good of others, that ministry looks like Jesus in his suffering for others, so he aims to reshape our thinking about giving. He uses the word grace, he uses the word simplicity or singleness, he uses the word fellowship, he uses the word ministry or service, he talks about an expression of love. He even uses words like ‘blessing’ and ‘liturgy’ or a sacred act of worship in chapter 9.

He does use the word gift, but only to point us to God’s grace, God’s gift that has been given to us; and he points to the Macedonians who gave themselves to the Lord.

In 1 Corinthians 16, where he talked about this same issue, he used the word ‘collection’ and ‘collecting’, but even there it was ‘your grace’ that was to be carried to the saints in Jerusalem. By his very choice of words, he is causing us to rethink giving.

Grace Given

2 Corinthians 8:1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.

‘But we make known to you brothers, the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia.’ This is important. There is something we need to pay attention to.

Remember where we are in 2 Corinthians. In chapter 7, Paul picked up his narrative about Titus that he left hanging back in chapter 2. He finally connected with Titus in Macedonia, and God comforted him through Titus, and through the news he brought of the Corinthians’ grief and repentance. God worked a grief in them that produced repentance and salvation. Paul rejoiced over this work of God in them.

Now in chapter 8 he moves his attention to the grace of God given to the Macedonians. Paul rejoices over the work of God in the Corinthians, and he rejoices over the work of God in the Macedonians.

Reciprocal Joy

As we have seen, there is a theme here of reciprocal joy. Titus rejoices over the work of God at Corinth, and Titus’ joy causes Paul to rejoice. And he tells the Corinthians that they brought him joy by bringing Titus joy so that they can join in the rejoicing. There is a communal escalation of joy. We find joy when we rejoice in the joy of another. Now Paul turns our attention to God’s work in Macedonia to further increase our rejoicing.

God’s Grace

‘But we make known to you brothers, the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia.’ God’s grace. This rich word grace; unearned, freely given favor and kindness. In verse 9 he focuses our attention on the grace of our Lord Jesus, who gave himself for us. Grace. Unmerited. Unearned. Undeserved. We had no claim. We could make no demand. Grace is free. Grace is gift, freely given. Romans 4 teaches us that grace is the polar opposite of wages. Wages are owed. They are worked for and earned, and they create debt. Grace is free, unworked for, unearned. There is no obligation. God gave grace in the churches of Macedonia.

This should cause their hearts to sing! We deserved God’s wrath; the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom.6:23). We worked and we earned eternal separation from God. But in the gospel he treats us contrary to what we deserve; he pours out his love on us; he pays an infinite price and adopts us, he treats us as his very own sons and daughters. We have tasted his grace. We have experienced his love. And when we hear that God has given his grace to others, it should cause our hearts to leap! God has freely extended his grace to more sinners! We have more siblings! Enemies overcome, transformed by grace into friends, brought near by the blood of Christ! God is rich in grace, abundant, lavish.

Grace in Affliction

‘But we make known to you brothers, the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in much test of affliction, the superabundance of their joy and the deep depth of their poverty superabounded in the riches of their sincerity,’

The context of this gift of God’s grace is affliction. Pressure. Squeezing. He says they were ‘in a severe test of affliction.’ They were undergoing persecution. They were in the middle of a trial. On Paul’s first visit to Macedonia (Acts 16-17), he and Silas were imprisoned in Philippi and then asked to leave. In Thessalonica, the jealous Jews incited a mob and set the city in an uproar. Not finding Paul, they dragged Jason and some other local believers before the city authorities, accusing them of treason against Caesar, and proclaiming another king, Jesus. Paul and Silas were sent off by night to Berea, but the Jews from Thessalonica followed them there and stirred up the crowds, so Paul was sent off to Athens in Achaia.

Here on his return visit to these churches in Macedonia, Paul writes

2 Corinthians 7:5 For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn— fighting without and fear within.

Paul tasted their affliction when he visited. He doesn’t tells us what kind of persecution they were now suffering but it is described as ‘a severe test of affliction.’ Verse 2 goes on to describe their situation as ‘their extreme poverty,’ literally, ‘their according to depth poverty’. Their poverty was deep. They were down in the depths of poverty.

Transforming Grace

But the grace of God had been given. And God’s grace is transforming grace.

‘that in much test of affliction, the superabundance of their joy and the deep depth of their poverty superabounded in the riches of their sincerity,’

They had a superabundance of joy in the middle of the test of affliction. This is grace. Note carefully that God’s grace is transforming grace, but it doesn’t transform their circumstances. We are not told that they were rescued out of the severe test of affliction. God’s grace transformed them. They had superabundance of joy in the middle of the severe test of affliction. God is able to change our circumstances, but he is more interested in transforming us. This is supernatural joy. They were in intense affliction, and their overflow of joy poured into the deep depths of their poverty and a nuclear reaction took place. It exploded out in a superabundance of riches of sincerity. God’s grace transforms the depths of poverty into divine riches, divine wealth.

Simplicity

Paul uses another word, here translated ‘generosity’. Its usual meaning is ‘simplicity’ or ‘sincerity’, literally singleness, in contrast to duplicity or a double-minded or divided heart. Jesus said ‘that the eye is the lamp of the body; if your eye is single your whole body will be full of light (Mt.6:22). He said this in the context of ‘no one can serve two masters’ and ‘do not be anxious about your life’. There must be a single Master and a single focus. There must be a sole aim to please the Lord.

This is a word he had used (probably) back in 1:12

2 Corinthians 1:12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.

Notice there as well, that Paul’s simplicity and sincerity is by the grace of God.

He uses this word ‘simplicity’ or ‘single-mindedness’ here in 8:2, and in 9:11 and 13, and once again in 11:3.

2 Corinthians 11:3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

There is only one Master. There is a single-hearted devotion. ‘In much test of affliction, the superabundance of their joy and the deep depth of their poverty superabounded in the riches of their single-hearted devotion, that according to ability (and I testify) beyond ability voluntarily, with much encouragement begging us the grace and the fellowship of the service to the saints.

God’s gift was expressed in a superabundance of joy in the midst of affliction that struck against the depth of their poverty to spark an explosion of single-hearted devotion to Christ. God’s free gift of grace found expression in their eagerness to graciously give in service to others. God’s grace changes us. God’s grace toward us ignites grace in us toward others. We become eager to show kindness and love to those who don’t deserve it, our brothers, even our enemies.

Do you see the wealth of their singleness of heart? It was voluntary. There was no pressure from Paul. There was the pressure of persecution that helped to focus their affections on Jesus. But there was no pressure, in fact Paul was reluctant to allow them to participate. It was according to their ability, even beyond their ability. They did more than they could. How? Because God’s grace makes things possible that are impossible. They did that which was beyond their power to do. God’s grace enabled them to do it.

Out-Giving God?

I want to be careful here. We are talking about money, giving, and there is a common saying that you can’t out-give God. There is truth to that. But don’t misunderstand that to mean that if you give a dollar that you will get more than a dollar back somehow. That would be duplicitous. I’m going to give not because I just want to give, but because I want to get something in return. There is nothing in this passage that says anything about their situation of poverty changing. It was out of the depths of their poverty that they gave, and that would serve to increase their poverty. They ended up with less money than they started with. When they gave, they weren’t thinking, ‘this is a foolproof scheme to manipulate God into giving us money and improving our material situation.’ No, they embraced the fact that they were going to have to get by with less.

But here’s the beautiful thing. It increased their joy. They demonstrated that their joy did not come from their circumstances, from having all their material needs met; their joy came from God. They were recipients of God’s grace! God was more satisfying to them than a shirt on their back or a roof over their head or a meal that would take the edge off their hunger. Their wealth was their single-hearted devotion to God.

Grace Expressed

Paul, it seems, was inclined to discourage their giving. He saw that it was beyond their ability. But with much encouragement they begged us the grace and the fellowship of the service to the saints. We are rightly nauseated by the stereotypical tele-evangelist (rather tele-extortionist) begging people to give. But here the apostle is saying ‘no, you really shouldn’t, it’s beyond your ability’ and they are saying ‘Please, we want the grace, we want the fellowship. We have received God’s grace and it has stirred in our hearts a longing to express that grace in sacrificial service to others. We want the fellowship, the communion, the having things in common with other believers, the bearing one another’s burdens. You can’t deny us the privilege of communion and extending grace!

You see how this connects with the rest of the letter? He started by talking about the comfort or encouragement that God brings to us in our affliction when we share in Christ’s sufferings, Christ’s afflictions.

Here he is talking about money, about generosity and giving, but he is after not our money but our hearts. He is pursuing our single-hearted simplicity of devotion to Christ, a genuine experience of God’s grace, not receiving the grace of God in vain; but an experience of God’s grace that so profoundly changes us, that it must necessarily overflow in joyous generosity, extending grace to others. He is pursuing our connection, our fellowship, our joyful communion with all the saints.

Are you eager for opportunity to live out your fellowship with other believers? Are you eager to extend grace to others? Begging for the opportunity to bear one another’s burdens? Are you willing even to embrace affliction, to increase your own discomfort, in order to lovingly serve others?

This comes from God. This is the overflow of God’s grace given to you. Are you overwhelmed that God has made you a recipient of his grace? Look! Look afresh at God’s grace. Wonder, marvel, be amazed that God would love you! Unearned, undeserved! That God would show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward you in Christ Jesus (Eph.2:7). Receive his grace and be transformed!

***

August 4, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 7:5-7; Encouragement for Depressed Ministers

06/23_2 Corinthians 7:5-7; Encouragement for Depressed Ministers; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190623_2cor7_5-7.mp3

We are in 2 Corinthians 7:5-7. At this point in the letter Paul picks up a thread of narrative that he left hanging back in chapter 2. If we look back to the beginning of this letter, he explained why he changed his plans and delayed his visit to them, instead sending Titus with a painful letter. He didn’t want to make another painful visit to them (2:1); which means that he had already made one painful visit. He also did not want them to be unaware of the affliction that he experienced in Asia; that he and his co-workers were so utterly burdened beyond their strength that he despaired of life (1:8). Then he said:

2 Corinthians 2:12 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, 13 my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.

And he left us hanging for over 4 chapters, wondering what happened in Macedonia, if he met Titus there, how the emotional state of the apostle was.

2:14-7:4; Authentic Ministry

He left off his narrative to give us four chapters of theology, four chapters unpacking what authentic Christian ministry looks like, feels like, smells like. To summarize, authentic ministry is ministry following in the footsteps of Jesus; the Christian life is a life shaped by the cross. This church was looking for something eloquent, something powerful, something outwardly impressive. Instead Paul teaches that following Jesus looks weak and shameful, it looks like brokenness and suffering. It is characterized by humility. It looks like laying down your life in sacrificial service for others. Paul leaves us hanging for four chapters, wondering at the weakness and vulnerability of the apostle, wondering why he would abandon an opportunity for fruitful ministry, wondering about his troubled spirit, to drive home this point and reshape our expectations for authentic Christian ministry, ministry “which enters into the suffering of Christ for the sake of the church” (Guthrie, BECNT p.368).

Resolution with Depression

Listen to how the narrative reads if we jump from 2:13 to 7:5

2 Corinthians 2:12 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, 13 my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.

2 Corinthians 7:5 For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn— fighting without and fear within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.

We might expect the tense suspense to be resolved completely. But instead he points to his continued affliction. In chapter 2, his spirit found no rest; in chapter 7 his flesh finds no rest. No break, no pause, no relief. Both spirit and body under constant pressure. Both in Troas, and now in Macedonia, no rest.

He says ‘we were afflicted at every turn;’ literally ‘in all affliction.’ In the previous verse he said that we had ‘super-abounding joy in all our affliction.’ Now he describes some of that affliction; conflicts outside, fears inside. This is real. This is transparent. There was quarreling, conflict, strife. This word is not used to describe fighting with fist or sword; this word describes fighting with words, with looks and responses of the heart. We learn from the next chapter (8:2) that the churches of Macedonia, Phillippi and Thessalonica and Berea, were experiencing ‘extreme poverty; a severe test of affliction.’ Those were the external circumstances.

Paul’s Inner Anxiety

But inside, in his own heart, there were fears. Paul, the apostle, was afraid. In 1 Corinthians, when Paul said he had ‘decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified,’ he says:

1 Corinthians 2:3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,

We know from Acts 18:9 that ‘the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you.” Paul was so fearful that the Lord personally encouraged him.

We learn from his letters that Paul was afraid that his churches might be led away from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ (2Cor.11:3). He feared visiting and finding them not as they ought to be (2Cor.12:20). He was afraid he might have labored over them in vain (Gal.4:11). He says in:

2 Corinthians 11:28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.

Paul had anxiety. Paul was fearful. His spirit was troubled. In the next verse, he says he was downcast. That word can be translated humble (as in Jas.4:6, 1Pet.5:5), and it can refer to the lowly, the despised, those of low standing outwardly in contrast to the rich or exalted, and it can refer to those who are low or downcast inwardly. That is the focus here. We would probably say Paul is depressed.

Brothers and sisters, you who are weary, you who are downcast, you who feel low and depressed and trampled, take heart! A Spirit-filled apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ who knows the word (who actually was used to write the word!) can be downcast, depressed, fearful, and not know what to do. He might walk away from and open door of opportunity for ministry because of his inner unrest. Take heart! Paul is being real and transparent with us for our encouragement and instruction. It is not unspiritual or abnormal to experience depression and deep discouragement in ministry. Ministry is hard. Serving others often hurts. Others, even brothers and sisters, often hurt us. Following Jesus, laying down our rights in service to others, is hard. Crucifying the flesh with its passions and pride is painful. Paul gives us hope from the midst of his own affliction and heartache and troubled soul.

But …God

But God. Isn’t this where all hope enters our desperate situations? But God! We

Ephesians 2:3 …were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—

Romans 5:7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—… 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

But God. God can enter into a desperate situation, a hopeless situation, even a dead situation. God is the God who breathes life and hope and healing and reconciliation.

Paul actually stretches the but …God phrase in this verse out for emphasis. The original word order reads like this: “But the one who encourages the downcast encouraged us – the God – in the coming of Titus.”

The God of All Comfort

Paul quoted Isaiah 49:8 back in 6:2 urging his readers that ‘now the day of God’s grace and salvation,’ and now he alludes again to Isaiah 49:13, pointing to the restoration of all that is desolate.

Isaiah 49:13 Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the LORD has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted.

The Greek translation of Isaiah that Paul would have used has some of the exact words that Paul uses here; ‘God … the downcast …has comforted.’

2 Corinthians 7:6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus,

Paul began this letter pointing us to

2 Corinthians 1:3 …the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

God is the God of all comfort. He is the one who comforts us in all our affliction. Remember, we learned the word comfort is not a soft word like a cozy bed spread, but a strong word com-fort; like ‘fortress’ or ‘fortitude’. It could be translated ‘to encourage’ or ‘to infuse with courage;’ ‘to embolden another in belief or course of action’ [BDAG, 766] In the Greek it is literally ‘to call alongside’; a beautiful picture of God who is strong, calling us weak and tattered ones to his side, where he imparts to us his strength, his courage, his fortitude.

Mediated Comfort

God is the God who comforts the downcast. That is who he is. He comforted us by the coming of Titus. Notice that God is the one who does the comforting. He is the God of all comfort, and he comforts us in all our affliction, but he uses means to bring about comfort. He uses people. In Paul’s life, he used Titus. He left Troas distraught and discouraged, because Titus didn’t meet him there as planned. He faced both inner and outer turmoil when he arrived in Macedonia, yet God comforted him through the coming of Titus. He was able to connect with a friend and trusted co-laborer. God comforts, but often he doesn’t comfort us directly; his comfort is mediated to us through people.

In your discouragement don’t overlook or underestimate God’s work through other people. Don’t disconnect from the body. Don’t insulate and isolate yourself from others. ‘God, why aren’t you answering my prayer?’ We could imagine God answering ‘I intended to encourage your heart as you gathered as a local church with my people, but you chose to stay home and wallow.’ Don’t neglect God’s means of comfort through the local church, through friendships with brothers and sisters whom you’ve entrusted with permission to speak into your life. Paul recognized God at work bringing encouragement to him through the coming of his beloved Titus.

Reciprocal Comfort; Reciprocal Joy

2 Corinthians 7:6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.

Notice also that this comfort came to Paul through the coming of his friend, but a key part of that comfort was reciprocal. Titus had received encouragement, and that was an encouragement to Paul. This is one way God works within his body of believers. I am in need of encouragement, and you are in need of encouragement, and when I see your heart encouraged, it encourages my heart.

This is how he began his letter, speaking of God who comforts us so we are able to comfort others with the comfort we received from him. We are comforted for your comfort.

Why is this true? I am depressed, but I spend time with you and you have been encouraged, and your encouragement begins to lift my spirits. Why? I believe it is rooted in the truth that we are one body in Christ. Paul says in:

1 Corinthians 12:25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

When you smash your thumb with a hammer, it is your thumb that is injured, but the thumb does not experience its pain in isolation from the body. Because we are really and truly connected, when you are hurting, I hurt; when you are honored, I rejoice. When you are comforted, encouraged, emboldened, I experience comfort and courage. We are connected to one another in Christ.

Paul said in:

2 Corinthians 2:3 And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all.

When you are not following Jesus, it causes me pain. You are intended to bring me joy. And Paul is confident that his joy spills over to them; that his joy will be their joy, and in 1:24 he said that he is a fellow-worker with them for their joy. Paul is pursuing their joy by pursuing his own joy by pursuing their repentance. You see how this works? The Corinthians are turning away from Christ, and that causes Paul sorrow. He is doing everything he can to turn them back to a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. When they turn back to following Jesus, this brings joy to his heart. And when he rejoices in them, they see his joy in them, and it brings them joy. So Paul can say in 7:4 “I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.” and he can say in 7:7 “so that I rejoiced still more.” Even in the middle of an experience of affliction, even when circumstances are still against him, he can be filled with comfort and super-abounding in joy, and he can rejoice even more, because he is connected to the greater body of Christ.

***

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

June 23, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Son Before The Manger

12/02 The Son Before the Manger; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20181202_son-before-the-manger.mp3

This is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent means coming, a season we celebrate the coming of Jesus. And we must ask, ‘Who is this Jesus? Who is he? What is he it all about? Where did he come from? Why did he come?

<<Video>>

It matters what we think about Jesus. It matters what God’s word says about who Jesus is. And as we have been learning in 2 Corinthians, looking at Jesus transforms us.

At Christmastime we focus on the baby in the manger. A baby is safe. A baby is not threatening. Most people are comfortable around babies. And that is a great opportunity this time of year. Some people may be more open to talking about the baby in the manger. Today I want to ask what the bible teaches about who Jesus is. Of course we can’t look at everything the bible says about Jesus today, because the Bible is all about Jesus! But today we are going to look back – back before the manger to help understand who Jesus really is.

John 3:16

We are going to start in what might seem like an unlikely place for a Christmas message. John 3:16 is probably the best known verse in the bible. Jesus said to Nicodemus

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

You may not have thought of this as a Christmas verse, but when you look at it in that light, you see how appropriate it is. The great love of God moved him to give the greatest Christmas gift of all, his only Son. God gave so that we might live. This verse points us back to the first Christmas, and it is about giving.

Only Begotten

But do you see what this verse tells us about Jesus? It says that he is the one and only Son of God. He is the only-begotten. The word is [μονογενής]; the only-born, the singular or sole offspring. Most of the modern translations just say ‘only’ or ‘one and only’, ‘unique’ and drop the ‘begotten’ because that can be confusing. When we hear that he was begotten or born, we assume that implies a beginning, an event, that he was born at a point in time and before that he didn’t exist. Before we are done today we will look at some verses that make that meaning impossible. There was never a time when he was not. He has always been with the Father, equal to the Father. So this word only-begotten must be getting at something else. It is telling us something about the relationship between God and Jesus. The relationship is not like a created being to its creator, where the creation is made of different stuff than the creator. Begotten tells us the relationship is more like a son and a father. They have the same nature, they share the same DNA if you will. We might say they were ‘cut from the same cloth,’ although neither was cut from anything else. They are the same stuff, the same essence. You see how a word like this is difficult to bring over into another language without losing something or being misleading?

God Gave and Sent

God gave his one and only Son. He was given by the Father to rescue us. He goes on in the next verses:

John 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

God sent his only Son into the world. This tells us something about the Son before he was born in Bethlehem. This tells us that he was the only Son of God before he entered our world. He was sent by his Father. It does not say he was the only Son of God born into this world. He was sent, he was given. He was already the only Son. Before he was sent, before he was given, before he was born into this world, he was already the only Son of God.

The Only One Who Came Down

Just prior to John 3:16, in verse 13 he said:

John 3:13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.

Jesus claims to have come down from heaven. In fact he makes this claim exclusively. No one else descended from heaven. He – singular – came down.

Nicodemus had recognized Jesus as a ‘teacher come from God’ (3:3). But Jesus is pressing him to see more than that. John the Baptist was ‘sent from God’ (1:6), yet John makes it clear that he is ‘sent from God’ in a very different way than Jesus. When John is challenged with the fact that his disciples are leaving him to follow Jesus, he says:

John 3:30 He must increase, but I must decrease.” 31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all.

John contrasts himself with Jesus. Jesus comes from above, from heaven, and he is above all. John is of the earth and belongs to the earth. John was sent from God, but not at all in the way Jesus was sent. John is from the earth. God sent John with a mission. But nowhere does it say that John was sent from above, or came from heaven. In fact, back in John 1,

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

Jesus was born about 6 months after his cousin John. He came after John, but he was, he existed before John.

Jesus exclusively claims to be the only one who has come down from heaven.

John 3:13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.

A Child Born, A Son Given

Jesus, the only Son of God, was given, sent into this world. This accords with the well known Christmas verse, Isaiah 9:6

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

A child is born, and a son is given. We see two things here.

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

At a point in history, in a cave-shelter for sheep, a baby was born to his virgin mother, wrapped in rags and placed in a stone feed trough. But Isaiah 9 points to a reality behind the manger. A son is given. God’s only Son from all eternity, was given, a Son whose name is Mighty God, Father of Eternity. The one who had no beginning was born a baby in Bethlehem. The eternal Son was given.

We see this also in the prophecy in Micah 5.

Micah 5:2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

Jesus the King was born in Bethlehem, but that was not his beginning. His coming forth was from of old, from ancient days. He had no beginning. The eternal Son of God was born into this world in a small town in Judah.

In The Beginning He Was

If we turn back to the beginning of John’s gospel, we see this clearly.

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

John echoes Genesis in the way he opens his gospel. Matthew and Luke both give us genealogies of Jesus’ human parents. Mark simply introduces Jesus as ‘the Son of God’ and lets the his actions demonstrate the truth of that claim. This is John’s genealogy. Where Genesis opens ‘In the beginning’ and then looks forward to what God created, John opens ‘In the beginning’ and looks back to what already existed and who it was that created all things.

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

The Word existed in the beginning. And the word was personal. The word was with God, in relationship with God. The Word was a distinct personality from God, who could be with God. But this personal Word was not a second god, or a lesser being than God. The Word was God. The Word was the same stuff, the same essence, the same DNA as God. The Word was God. There were not two gods, but one God, who was there at the beginning. Two personalities, two centers of consciousness, the Father and Son, together with one another in relationship, but one Divine Being, one God.

Verse 9 says:

John 1:9 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.

The Word, here called the true light, who had always existed in relationship with his Father, was coming into the world. He made the world. He was in the world already, as God everywhere present. But at a point in time he came, in a new way, he entered in a tangible, touchable, visible, knowable form. He came to his own people, as one of them..

Verse 14 tells us how.

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

The eternal Word who was with God and who was himself God came into the world by becoming flesh. Remaining what he was, he became what he was not. Jesus reveals the glory of God. Jesus puts the invisible nature and character of God on display in an observable, knowable form.

This is what Christmas is all about; God making himself known, knowable, entering into our mess, becoming one of us. Eternal God taking on our nature, our flesh. God, remaining God, now become human. God so loved that he gave his only Son. The Son given, the child born. This is who Jesus is.

What Does It Matter?

But what does it matter? Why is it important to know who Jesus is, that he was the eternal Son of God, God the Son before he was born a human baby and placed in a manger? What difference does it make?

It makes all the difference in the world! I’ll give you three main reasons: relationship, rescue and worship.

First relationship. This tells us that God is a relational being. In his very nature, in his essence, at the core of his being, he is relational. God is love. The Father, Son and Spirit in eternal unbroken fellowship, loving each other, valuing each other, prizing one another, communicating with one another. God in his essence is relational, and he invites us into relationship with him. In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself (2Cor.5:19).

And this leads in to the second reason it is so essential to understand who Jesus is. He came to rescue. Reconciliation means that the relationship was broken. And we broke it. ‘In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.’ We have sinned, trespassed against a good, loving, holy, just God. The wages of sin is death. God must punish sin. Justice must be done to the guilty party. Humankind sinned against God, and humankind must be punished. The Son becoming human allowed him to suffer as a human in the place of humankind. God transferred our guilt to him, and poured out his wrath on him, so that we could be cleared, forgiven of all sin. That is the gospel, the good news, that is why Jesus came, that is why the Son was given. So that whoever believes, trusts, depends on him will not perish but have eternal life. God did not send his Son to condemn the world (although it would have been just for him to do so). God sent his only Son into the world in order that the world might be saved through him.

What about you? Are you? Are you trusting in him, depending on his finished work for you? Do you acknowledge that you are deserving of just condemnation, and embracing Jesus as your substitute, who paid your price in full? It says ‘whoever believes!’ Are you?

And this leads naturally into worship. There is something seriously wrong if we see Jesus for who he is, if we see the Son before the manger, if we see that the Father sent his only Son, if we see what he came to do, and our hearts do not just leap into songs of worship and adoration. We were made to worship, We have been redeemed to worship. He alone is worthy of our worship. Look. Look. Look to Jesus, and allow the love of God made tangible by sending his only Son to so overwhelm you that your heart spontaneously spills over in praise to him.

***

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

December 3, 2018 Posted by | occasional, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4

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

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

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

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

Last time we looked at Jesus’ teaching in John 12

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

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

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

Death and Life Ministry

He said ‘we are:

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

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

Paul asks in Romans 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knowing Christ Crucified

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

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

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

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

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

Paul says to Timothy

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

Peter says

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

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

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

Paul had told the Corinthians already in chapter 1

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

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

Purposeful Suffering

We are

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

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

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

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

For Jesus’ Sake

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

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

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

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

Energizing Death

Paul concludes:

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

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

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

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

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

Life in You

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

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

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

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

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

2 Corinthians 2:1-4; Sorrow and Joy in the Body of Christ

02/25_2 Corinthians 2:1-4; Joy and Sorrow in the Body of Christ ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180225_2cor2_1-4.mp3

Tension of Sorrow and Joy

Paul begins 2 Corinthians by pointing us to the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. …if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort. (1:3-6). He points us to a God who brings comfort out of affliction; and here in chapter 2 he points us to a God who can even bring joy out of a painful relationship.

This passage uses the language of pain, or sorrow or grief. In all of Paul’s letters, he uses the noun and the verb form of this word ‘sorrow’ 24 times; 18 of those, a full ¾ are here in 2 Corinthians. And 16 of those show up between the first verses of chapter 2, and where he picks this narrative back up in chapter 7.

In chapter 2, he uses the word grief or sorrow or pain 8 times, and when he picks back up in chapter 7, he uses it another 8 times. He also uses words like affliction, anguish of heart, tears. Some have said ‘If Philippians is known for the predominance of the word “joy” in the letter, 2 Corinthians should be known for the predominance of the word “pain.” The Corinthians were his problem children’ [Garland, p.113].

Indeed the letter to the church in Philippi is characterized by joy. But when I looked, the words joy or rejoice show up 14 times in Philippians and 13 times in 2 Corinthians. The next closest concentration of ‘joy’ is 6 times in 1 Thessalonians. Although 2 Corinthians is a letter characterized by sorrow, there is a real tension and interplay here between sorrow and joy.

At the end of chapter 1, Paul made it clear that he is not attempting to lord it over their faith; rather he is pursuing their joy; laboring along side them for their eternal happiness. Paul is working for their joy, and there is a tug-of-war going on in these verses, and in his heart, between joy and sorrow.

Last time we saw that God actually commands our joy in him, that Christianity is not a religion of duty but a relationship of delight, God delighting in us, and our responding to him with delight. We can rejoice in God himself with deep unquenchable joy, because God himself is full of joy. But this joy doesn’t stop with our vertical relationship with God; it extends to horizontal relationships with other people. And that’s where it gets really messy.

Joy of Fellowship with Other Believers:

2 Corinthians 2:1 For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you. 2 For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? 3 And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. 4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

Paul is working with them for their joy. He is pursuing their eternal joy. He is making his travel plans with their joy in mind. His last emergency visit was painful for him. If he visited again now, the visit would be painful for them. Instead he wrote a painful letter, not to cause them pain, but to change their hearts, so that when he did visit, it would be an occasion of rejoicing.

Paul is saying in this passage that his joy is all intertwined and wrapped up in their joy, and that their joy ought to be interconnected with his joy.

2 Corinthians 2:2 For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? 3 And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all.

I caused you pain; you should make me glad; I might suffer pain from you; you are my joy; my joy is your joy.

Last time we looked at unquenchable joy, Jesus’ own joy that no one could take from you. Now is Paul saying here that his joy is dependent on the Corinthians? That his joy is circumstantial? How do these go together? What is the relation between our unquenchable joy in Jesus, and our joy or sorrow in our brothers and sisters?

My Joy is Your Joy

This is not the only place he talks like this. Let’s take a minute to look around at some of the things that touch on this subject of horizontal joy in other believers.

In Philippians 4:1 and 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20, he calls his readers ‘my joy and crown of boasting’; ‘you are our glory and joy.’

Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

Do you hear his heart of tender affection toward them?

1 Thessalonians 2:19 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20 For you are our glory and joy.

In Philippians 2:2 he asks them to complete his joy.

Philippians 2:2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

They unity of the believers, their Christ-like others-focused sacrificial humility and love fills up and completes the joy of the apostle.

Paul derived much joy from Philemon.

Philemon 1:7 For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.

Springing out of the love of Christ, Philemon’s love overflowed to refresh the hearts of the saints. Hearing of this outworking of the gospel in the life of a brother brought Paul much joy and comfort.

In 1 Thessalonians 3 we see something like what Paul longed for and was working toward with the Corinthians.

1 Thessalonians 3:6 But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— 7 for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. 8 For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. 9 For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God,

Do you hear what he says? The good news of their faith and love brought the apostle joy. The gospel had taken root, and they were standing firm in believing. The gospel had taken root and was producing the fruit of love among them. Their belief in the gospel had created warm affections for the one who came and preached to them; they longed to see him again. There was mutual affection and mutual joy. Paul, in the midst of distress and affliction, says ‘now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.’ You see this triangular relationship. Paul is loving Jesus and finding joy in Jesus. That love and joy overflows horizontally and he brings that good news to the Thessalonians, so that they can find love and joy in relationship with Jesus. As he sees them enjoying God together, it increases his joy. He finds joy in their joy, and his joy is their joy.

Paul is not the only one who talks like this. John makes it clear what brings him joy.

2 John 1:4 I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father.

…12 Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

3 John 1:3 For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

His greatest joy is to see other believers enjoying Jesus, walking in the truth.

He says it most clearly in 1 John.

1 John 1:3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

We (the apostles) proclaim what we have seen and heard (the gospel of Jesus Christ) so that you may enter into our fellowship with the Father and the Son; as we have a reconciled relationship with God and enjoy intimacy with Jesus, when you believe the gospel you also enter in to fellowship with God. And when you enter into that fellowship, our joy is complete. There is vertical fellowship with God, and there is horizontal fellowship with other believers. When that triangle is complete; when I am enjoying God, and you are enjoying God, and I see you enjoying God, I rejoice in your joy in God, and my joy is your joy; then our joy is complete.

C.S. Lewis writes “It is frustrating …to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch…” Our joy is fulfilled when it is shared.

This is the joy of the triune God. Last time we said that we can enjoy God because God is joy. For God’s joy to be full, it must be joy in another; and yet for the joy to not be idolatrous joy, it must be joy in God. The Father delights in his only Son, and the Son delights in the Father. The Spirit delights in the Father and the Son, and the Son delights in the Spirit’s delighting in the Father and the Son, and so on, and so the joy of God in God is shared, and is complete. This is joy in relationship; shared joy.

Joy and Grief Shared in the Body

Paul has pointed to this shared joy already in 1 Corinthians 12 with the metaphor of the church as the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many.

24 … But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

The members of the body are meant to be unified, to care for one another. Because we are part of a body, when one member is pained, the whole body experiences the pain. When on member experiences joy, the whole body rejoices together. This is God’s design. God has so composed the body. Paul is working for their joy, because they are connected. Their joy is his joy, and his joy is theirs.

Listen to Paul’s confidence in verse 3; ‘for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all.’ Paul is confidently pursuing their joy, even by bringing them pain, because he is persuaded that when his children are walking in the truth, he can rejoice, and this will also bring them the greatest joy. Paul has a theological confidence in the way God designed the body that frees him to seek their greatest good even when it causes him pain, because he knows that pursuing their joy will bring him the most joy in the end.

The Way of the Cross

Paul would have been tempted to come, to clear his name, to defend his honor, to set things straight. Instead, he chose the way of the cross. He chose to be wronged rather than to demand his own way. He chose to spare them, to extend mercy, to give them time to repent. He himself bore the pain.

2 Corinthians 2:4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

Paul had mentioned his affliction in Asia in chapter 1.

2 Corinthians 1:8 … the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death….

Now he says he wrote out of much affliction and anguish of heart. In chapter 7 he mentions:

2 Corinthians 7:5 For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn— fighting without and fear within.

Here he may be talking about his fears within. Much affliction and anguish of heart heaped on top of the burden beyond strength despairing of life itself. Anyone who has experienced relational conflict and tension understands the soul draining energy sapping fatigue of being emotionally spent. Paul writes through his tears, not to cause pain, but out of pain. He writes to open his heart to them.

In verse 4 the word order is emphatic; but the love, in order that you might know that I have abundantly to you. Paul has to let them know right up front that it is love, not in order to grieve, but his abundant love for them, in order that they know that he has abundantly toward them. Paul did not write to hurt them, to spite them, because he was angry with them; it was love. He doesn’t even directly say that they hurt him; he wrote out of affliction and anguish of heart, but he doesn’t blame. Instead he seeks to avoid causing them unnecessary sorrow. He wants to spare them. He loves them. His decision making, his life, his ministry is modeled after the cross. Jesus doesn’t say ‘wow, look how much you hurt me, look how terrible you are.’ No, he says ‘I want you to know how abundantly much I love you. I want you to experience joy. I want a relationship with you.’

Hebrews 12:2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

We worship a God who brings comfort to us in all our affliction, and who can bring joy even through the pain of relationships. God is working with us for our multiplied joy.

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

February 25, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 1:11; Multiplied Prayer for Multiplied Thanksgiving

10/29 2 Corinthians 1:11; Multiplied Prayer and Multiplied Thanksgiving; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20171029_2cor1_11.mp3

Today we look at the subject of prayer. In 2 Corinthians Paul offers no thanksgiving for the Corinthian church; but invites the Corinthians to bless God with him for God’s work in their apostle. He also offers no prayer for his readers; but he invites them to pray for the deliverance of their apostle.

2 Corinthians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. 8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

To make this passage read more smoothly in English, the translators have broken it up into shorter sentences, but in the original verse 11 is not an independent sentence. It continues the thought of the previous. It begins with a participle; some translations render it ‘as’ [NET] or ‘while you (also) join in helping…’ [LEB, HCSB].

Working Together With God

This is an amazing statement. Paul has just said that the affliction that so utterly burdened them beyond their ability to cope and caused them to despair even of life was so that they would rely not on themselves but on God who raises the dead. This resurrecting God delivered them from a deadly peril, and he will deliver. They have set their hope on God alone that he will deliver. No dependence on self. All dependence completely, exclusively on God alone, and you also. Even you, working together (with God) on our behalf by prayer. What in the world is Paul saying? God alone is their hope. God alone rescues. And the Corinthian church works together with God to bring about this rescue?! This is staggering. This seems contradictory. God alone saves. God alone brings deliverance. And you work together with God to bring about this deliverance. God works alone, but he often works in answer to prayer.

This word translated ‘help’ is a big word. It is a compound word. The first prefix of this word means ‘with or together’. The second prefix means ‘under, beneath, or through’. The root of the word is ‘toil or work’. Working together under; laboring or toiling underneath with. When I look at this word, I get the picture of Moses in Exodus 17.

Exodus 17:8 Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. 9 So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” 10 So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13 And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.

Aaron and Hur labored underneath with Moses. In another sense, Moses labored underneath with Aaron in and all the fighting men. This story gives us an insight into prayer. Prayer is hard work. What is more exhausting, what is more draining, what is more difficult? Standing, holding a stick in the air; or wielding a sword in battle against an enemy all day? I think it is fair to say that Joshua or any one of his fighting men burned more calories that day than Moses, Aaron and Hur combined. But we don’t read of Joshua growing weary. We read of Moses growing weary. You see, prayer is hard work. It is wearying work. It requires help from others who come alongside. If you have ever entered into the serious work of prayer, you understand. Think about it. How many of you have fallen asleep while doing manual physical labor? How many have fallen asleep while attempting to pray? Prayer is labor.

C.H. Spurgeon writes about this passage “I find that in the original, the word for, “helping together,” implies very earnest WORK. Some people’s prayers have no work in them, but the only prayer which prevails with God is a real workingman’s prayer—where the petitioner, like a Samson, shakes the gates of mercy, and labors to pull them up rather than be denied an entrance! We do not want fingertip prayers, which only touch the burden— we need shoulder prayers—which bear a load of earnestness, and are not to be denied their desire. We do not want those dainty runaway knocks at the door of mercy, which professors give when they show off at prayer meetings, but we ask for the knocking of a man who means to have, and means to stop at mercy’s gate till it opens and all his needs shall be supplied! The energetic, vehement violence of the man who is not to be denied, but intends to carry heaven by storm until he wins his heart’s desire—this is the prayer which ministers covet of their people!” [Sermon No. 507, May 3, 1863]

We see Jacob, in weakness, his hip dislocated, clinging to God.

Genesis 32:26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

Jesus taught his followers

Luke 18:1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Jesus invites us to ‘keep bothering him’, to ‘beat him down by our continual coming’, to ‘cry out to him day and night.’

Jesus tells another parable in Luke 11

Luke 11:5 And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.

Jesus invites us to impudence, to persistence in prayer.

Luke 11:9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

An Example of Earnest Prayer

Paul tells the Corinthians that they also are laboring together under God on our behalf by prayer. God’s deliverance and future deliverance come to him by means of the prayer of the churches. We see this very thing happen in Acts 12.

Acts 12:1 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. 2 He killed James the brother of John with the sword, 3 and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 4 And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people.

Peter is in trouble. James had already been beheaded. Peter was next.

Acts 12:5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.

Earnest prayer. Fervent prayer. Intent prayer. The feast of unleavened bread lasted seven days. We don’t know how many of those days Peter was imprisoned. This might have been a seven day prayer meeting. The church had something serious to pray about.

Acts 12:6 Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison.

God waited until the last possible moment.

Acts 12:11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” 12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.

These believers were gathered together laboring together under God in prayer on behalf of Peter. God rescued Peter in response to their prayers. This resulted in great joy. The servant girl Rhoda was so overjoyed, she left Peter locked outside while she ran in to tell the others.

Prayer and Need

This is what Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 1:11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

When whole churches labor together under God in prayer on our behalf, it results in many giving thanks on our behalf for the grace granted through many.

There is a request that goes out horizontally. Pray for us. This is not the only place that Paul asks for prayer. In Romans 15 Paul says:

Romans 15:30 I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, 31 that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32 so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company.

To the Thessalonians:

1 Thessalonians 5:25 Brothers, pray for us.

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,

And to the Ephesians:

Ephesians 6:18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

To the church at Philippi,

Philippians 1:19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance,

And to the church in Colossae:

Colossians 4:3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—

And to Philemon

Philemon 1:22 At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.

Paul was not ashamed to ask for prayer. He knew his own weakness and his need for help. This was the primary evidence of his own salvation. In Acts 9, when God humbled Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, when God sent Ananias to heal him, the main evidence of his transformation was ‘for behold, he is praying’ (Acts 9:11). Paul was praying; he began to acknowledge his dependence on God alone. He was no longer relying on himself.

Allow me to quote Spurgeon again: “Why God has been pleased to command us to pray at all it is not difficult to discover, for prayer glorifies God, by putting man in the most humble posture of worship! The creature in prayer acknowledges his Creator with reverence, and confesses Him to be the giver of every good and perfect gift; the eyes are lifted up to behold the glory of the Lord, while the knees are bent to the earth in the lowliness of acknowledged weakness. …prayer… is the most humble, and so the most fitting to set forth the glory of the perfect One as it is beheld by imperfect flesh and blood. …in their very essence, all truthful confessions of personal fault are but homage paid to the infinite perfections of the Lord of hosts. …Moreover, the act of prayer teaches us our unworthiness, which is no small blessing to such proud beings as we are. If God gave us favors without compelling us to pray for them, we would never know how poor we are, but a true prayer is an inventory of needs, a catalog of necessities, a request in forma pauperis, an exposure of secret wounds, a revelation of hidden poverty. While it is an application to divine wealth, it is a confession of human emptiness. I believe that the most healthy state of a Christian is to be always empty, and always depending upon the Lord for supplies; to be always poor in self and rich in Jesus; weak as water personally, but mighty through God to do great exploits; and therefore the use of prayer, because while it adores God, it lays the creature where he should be—in the very dust. ” [Sermon No. 507, May 3, 1863]

Multiplied Thanksgiving

To the proud Corinthian church, who were looking for a celebrity to follow, someone who had it all together, Paul holds up his weakness and need. Paul wants the Corinthians to know that it is not him who is strong, but Jesus. It is not him who is self-sufficient, but all sufficiency is in Jesus. He is not independent, but dependent, utterly, hopelessly, helplessly dependent on God alone. For righteousness, he depended on God alone. For rescue from present circumstances, his hope was in God alone. For future resurrection and eternal life, he depended on God alone. It is not his strength, his credentials, his capabilities he holds up, but his weakness. He is dependent on God, and he is dependent on their prayers for him.

Pray for me. The request goes out to many. Many prayers go up to God for him. The grace comes down to rescue him. The report goes out that God has delivered him. Now many faces are turned to God in thanksgiving for him.

Thanksgiving reverses the degeneration of sin described in Romans 1

Romans 1:21 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.

Paul invites the Corinthians to give evidence of their own transformation in thanksgiving to God. He invites them to partner with him in his dependence on God as they labor together for him in prayer so they can join him in blessing God as they see and experience the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our affliction so that we are able to comfort those who are in all affliction. Through his abundant affliction, Paul seeks to multiply prayer so that thanksgiving is multiplied, to the glory of God.

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

October 30, 2017 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, occasional, podcast, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment