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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

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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

2 Corinthians 1:3-7; Comfort in Affliction

10/15 2 Corinthians 1:3-7; Comfort in Affliction ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20171015_2cor1_3-7.mp3

2 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

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.

Missing Thanksgiving

This letter even in its greeting is rich and deep with gospel truth. But to one familiar with Paul and his letters, and even with how letters were commonly written in Paul’s day, this letter is startling in what it does not say. The normal letter writing structure is: author, readers, greeting, thanksgiving, prayer, body, closing greetings.

This is one of only two New Testament letters that lack the thanksgiving. In Paul’s letter to the Galatian churches, who were abandoning the grace of Christ and turning to another gospel, Paul attacks the problem head on. In Corinth, Paul laments that they are inclined to turn to another Jesus, another Spirit, another gospel (11:4).

Compare this even with 1 Corinthians, where he addresses many serious issues in the church. He begins:

1 Corinthians 1:3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Instead of a section of thanksgiving for what God is doing in the lives of his readers, he blesses God directly; his thanksgiving is about what God is doing in his own life. This omission of a thanksgiving may have communicated to his readers that all was not well in their relationship.

He offers no thanksgiving; but invites the Corinthians to give thanks for God’s work in their apostle. He also offers no prayer for his readers; but he invites them to pray for their apostle (v.11).

Even in this opening benediction Paul confronts the misunderstanding of the Corinthians; they thought that Paul’s weakness and sufferings were a sign that God was not pleased with him; that he was not a genuine apostle. They were misunderstanding the gospel. Instead he holds up his weakness and sufferings as evidence that he is following in the very footsteps of the real Jesus, who came not as a reigning King, but as a suffering servant.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul made it clear that he preached the cross; he proclaimed Jesus Christ and him crucified (1Cor.1:18, 23), which seemed foolish to many, but the cross is in fact the power of God for salvation.

The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ

2 Corinthians 1:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,

He begins by drawing their attention not to what God had done in them, but to God himself. In his greeting, he asked that the twin gifts of grace and peace be extended together from the two united givers; God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Here he declares God blessed; blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The titles God, Father, and Lord Jesus Christ are repeated, but in the greeting God is our Father; where in this blessing God is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In his humanity Jesus prayed to and referred to his Father as his God. This in no way undermines the clear fact that Jesus recognized himself as fully God, equal to his Father, sharing the same divine nature with his Father. Yet as a distinct person from his Father, he was in conversation and relationship with his Father, and he gladly submitted to the authority of his Father as his God.

God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; the eternal Father who sent his one and only eternal Son into the world out of his great love to rescue sinners.

The Father of Mercies

God is the Father of mercies. In Nehemiah the people prayed and confessed their sins, recounting the repetitive mercies of God

Nehemiah 9:17 They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them. …19 you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. … …27 Therefore you gave them into the hand of their enemies, who made them suffer. And in the time of their suffering they cried out to you and you heard them from heaven, and according to your great mercies you gave them saviors who saved them from the hand of their enemies. 28 But after they had rest they did evil again before you, and you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they had dominion over them. Yet when they turned and cried to you, you heard from heaven, and many times you delivered them according to your mercies. …31 Nevertheless, in your great mercies you did not make an end of them or forsake them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.

Mercy is pity, feeling sorry for one who by their own foolishness and rebellion has got himself into great trouble. Mercy is granting escape from the punishment one rightly deserves. Where grace is enjoying the benefit you did not earn; mercy is avoiding the consequences you did earn.

God is the Father of mercies; he gives birth to mercies. God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; it is only through Jesus that we can experience mercy. God fathered mercy when he sent his only Son into the world. We escape the punishment we deserve only because Jesus paid in full for my every sin on the cross.

The God of All Comfort

2 Corinthians 1:3 …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.

God is the God of all comfort; God is sovereign over all comfort, he is the source of all comfort.

We tend to have a very Corinthian problem. We might say ‘God is not doing his job of comforting me, because I am not feeling very comfortable.’ We have softened this word; we think of comfort food and a comfy recliner that makes you feel all warm and cuddly.

We need to redefine comfort. Dictionary.com defines

the noun as ‘a state of ease and satisfaction of bodily wants, with freedom from pain and anxiety. Something that promotes such a state.’ They define the verb comfort as 1. to soothe, console, or reassure; bring cheer to. 2. to make physically comfortable. And then they list 3. Obsolete. To aid; support or encouragement. This obsolete sense is the sense we are after. The ‘fort‘ in the word comfort comes from the Latin fortis (fortare) – which means ‘strong’. From it we get fortitude; mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger, or temptation courageously. We could translate this ‘encouragement;’ notice the root ‘courage‘ in encouragement?

The word literally means to call near or to call alongside. Jesus promised that he would not leave us alone, but he would send another comforter, the Holy Spirit, to be with us (Jn.14:16-18). There is amazing courage that comes when someone is by your side. One day in grade school a bully that had been harassing me made the grave mistake of following me home. My big brother happened to be outside, and this bully was much less intimidating when his feet were dangling about six inches off the ground as my brother picked him up by his coat and breathed into him some words of life; ‘if you want to live, you’ll leave my brother alone!’ There is strong comfort in knowing someone has your back. God promises ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’ (Heb.13:5). This is the kind of comfort we are talking about. The comfort that he is with me.

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.

Comfort in All Our Affliction

The God of all comfort comforts us in all our affliction. The word affliction means pressure; a crushing burden; picture a donkey weighed down by a burden so great it can no longer stand. Are you experiencing great pressure? A crushing weight? God comforts us in all our affliction. No affliction is excluded from the comfort of the God of all comfort.

Purpose In Afflictions

And there is great purpose in this. Notice the purpose words ‘so that‘. So often affliction seems random, meaningless, and therefore hopeless.

2 Corinthians 1:3 …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.

So that; there is design in affliction; the afflictions we experience are not meaningless; this alone gives great encouragement to persevere. It is not random chance; it is not that God is angry with me, or I have done something wrong that I am now paying for; that is a non-Christian idea; more along the lines of karma. The Bible says ‘there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom.8:1). God is not against us; in Christ he is for us. Even in the midst of affliction we can be gospel confident that God is for us. Every affliction that comes our way is purposeful, designed and crafted by the good hand of a loving Father to be exactly what we need to accomplish in us his perfect purposes.

What happens when you are under pressure? How do you respond when you are facing affliction and opposition? We tend to pull in, to withdraw, to be on the defensive; if the affliction is severe we might curl up in the fetal position. Our focus is all within. In the midst of our pain, we might reach out to others in desperation for help, but we don’t reach out to others to help them. We focus on the pain, the pressure, and we do anything we can to make it stop.

Paul, one who had endured much affliction, teaches us something about suffering. He says it is not all about you. It is not primarily for you. Paul tells us that our affliction, and even God’s comfort in our affliction is not for us. ‘God comforts us not to make us comfortable but to make us comforters.’ His purpose is that our focus would turn outward, that we would reach out to others in all affliction, that we would become a conduit of God’s comforting mercies to others. In our affliction, God intends that our arms stretch outward to others.

Philippians 3:10b

Do any of you have a favorite verse but when you look it up, you don’t like the context? Philippians 3:7-10a has been a passage like that for me. It is an amazing section, but I’d prefer to omit verse 10b.

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, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

This is great stuff! ‘the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord; …that I may gain Christ and be found in him; …that I may know him.’ I’d prefer that the verse stopped after ‘that I may know him and the power of his resurrection.’ Who likes suffering? Who wants to sign up for sufferings? But if I want to know him, really connect with him and identify with him, to really experience the surpassing worth of ‘knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,’ I must enter in to his sufferings; sufferings on behalf of others. Knowing him corresponds to sharing in his sufferings just like the power of his resurrection corresponds to becoming like him in his death.

You see, it’s only dead people who get resurrected. It’s only suffering people who can be comforted. The surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord comes through suffering the loss of all things to gain Christ and be found in him.

Sharing Abundantly in Christ’s Sufferings

This comfort is purposeful, and it is others focused. We are comforted so that we are then able to comfort others with the comfort with which we are comforted by God.

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

We share in the sufferings of Christ; the sufferings of Christ were not for him. They were not at all about him. They were not his sufferings; they were ours. As our substitute, he took our sufferings. He suffered not for himself, but for us. If we are suffering for our sins, then we deserve it. But if we are suffering on account of Christ, in so far as our suffering is for the benefit of others, we share in the sufferings of Christ.

Understand, our sufferings are not like Christ’s sufferings, in that we can’t pay the price for the sins of anyone. But they are sharing in the sufferings of Christ in that they are for the benefit of others.

Paul says ‘we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings’. There is an overflow, a superabundance of suffering.

Do you want to experience abundant comfort? Embrace suffering. God’s comfort is in direct proportion to the suffering you experience. I am not saying you should seek suffering or pray for suffering. Don’t look for affliction; look to Jesus. Keep your eyes on Jesus, obey Jesus, and affliction will find you. But don’t hide from it. Don’t run from it. Embrace it. Open yourself to it. Allow Jesus to meet you in it. Savor the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. It is only through abundant suffering that we experience abundant comfort.

We and You

Paul has been talking about ‘we’ and ‘us’. A reader might assume that he is included in the ‘we’ until he gets to verse 6, where he says ‘If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation.’ Then we find out that the ‘we’ here is Paul and the other apostles, Paul and his co-laborers in contrast to the readers. The Corinthians are not part of the ‘we;’ they are the ‘you’. They had rejected suffering. They did not want to take up their cross and follow Jesus. They looked down on Paul because of how much he seemed to suffer. But Paul is not alone in his affliction. ‘We’ the apostles experience overflowing sufferings; and we experience overflowing comfort.

Paul had already pointed out this contrast between we and you in 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 4:8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! 9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. 14 I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me.

Paul is gently rebuking his readers. He is showing them that they are not part of the ‘we;’ but he is inviting them to become part of the ‘we.’

All for your comfort

2 Corinthians 1:6 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.

Paul gives a two part sentence here. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation. The afflictions of the apostles, the afflictions of Paul and his co-workers were for the comfort and salvation of the Corinthian church. Indeed, they heard the gospel and experienced salvation because Paul did not shy away from suffering. His current persecution is meant to bring them encouragement. They ought to be emboldened by his example to stand up for Christ even if it costs social standing and opposition. Instead, they are embarrassed of Paul and his sufferings.

We would expect the pairing of this sentence to go something like this: If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is because of your affliction. Instead he gives a lopsided picture. Our affliction is to bring you comfort. Our comfort is also to bring you comfort. Both the affliction and the comfort we experience is meant to give you courage.

There is space for the Corinthians to share in the sufferings. Paul understands, they will only experience the comfort when they patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.

2 Corinthians 1:7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

Our hope for you is confirmed; it is steadfast. Listen to Paul’s confidence! Paul’s confidence rests not on the character of the Corinthians, but on the faithfulness of God. He is certain that as followers of Jesus, they will face affliction. They will share in his sufferings. Not if but when. When you have fellowship in the sufferings, you will also have fellowship in the comfort.

Paul is gently inviting them into the cross shaped life of suffering for others. Not only is it to be expected that an apostle of Christ Jesus should suffer, but it is normal for every follower of Jesus to experience suffering. And it is only in the midst of the pressure and the abundant sufferings that we will experience the abundant comfort from the God of all comfort.

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

October 16, 2017 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 16; Day of Atonement

09/25 Leviticus 16; Day of Atonement; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160925_leviticus-16.mp3

Overview & Purpose

We are in Leviticus 16, the centerpiece of Leviticus, which is the centerpiece of the Torah, the first five books of Moses. This was a most solemn day for Israel. It was to be kept annually on the 10th day of the 7th month, the month of Tishri in the Hebrew calendar, which usually falls in our September / October. In Acts 27:9 this great day is simply referred to as ‘the Fast’. We know it as the great Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur. The conclusion of this chapter gives us the summary purpose of this day.

Leviticus 16:30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins. … 33 He shall make atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. 34 And this shall be a statute forever for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins.” And Aaron did as the LORD commanded Moses.

This is a day to make atonement for the holy sanctuary, for the tent of meeting, for the altar, for the priests, for the people. Atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins. What a promise! What a day!

This is a refreshing word after the burdens of the book of Leviticus.

Chapters 1-7 outline the major types of sacrifices to be offered for the different kinds of offenses against God and one another. There are sins of commission, sins of omission, and unintentional sins. It is mostly blood, death, sacrifice, blood, innards, more blood, fire, smoke, blood sprinkled, blood splattered, blood poured out, blood smeared. Animals butchered, animals gutted, animals washed, animals burned up.

Then chapters 8-10 institute the priests who are to offer these sacrifices. In chapter 8 they are dressed up and set apart with a bunch of blood sacrifices and blood smearing and blood sprinkling. In chapter 9 they begin to offer the bloody sacrifices, and in chapter 10 two of the sons of Aaron are torched because they disobeyed the procedures.

Then we get to chapters 11-15, which deal with different kinds of uncleanness and the consequences of uncleanness. Uncleanness from foods, uncleanness from dead things, uncleanness from childbirth, uncleanness from diseases, uncleanness in your clothes, uncleanness in your house, uncleanness in household items, uncleanness from normal and abnormal bodily discharges. Uncleanness that separates you from God and from the community for a day, a week, a month, months at a time, possibly the rest of your life. Toward the end of chapter 15 we find these words:

Leviticus 15:31 “Thus you shall keep the people of Israel separate from their uncleanness, lest they die in their uncleanness by defiling my tabernacle that is in their midst.”

The presence of a Holy God living in the middle of sinful people is dangerous and he is to be approached with great care and humility.

If you have missed any of the messages on Leviticus so far, you are now caught up. And you can see what good news this chapter brings when it says:

Leviticus 16:30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins.

The word ‘atone’ or ‘atonement’ means to cover, cover over, hide, wipe away, and carries the ideas of cleansing and forgiveness. Atonement is necessary because of sin and uncleanness. Sin separates from a holy God. Sin needs to be removed so that the relationship between the sinner and God can be reconciled. This chapter is full of good news!

The remainder of Leviticus, chapters 17-27 deal primarily with holy living. Now that I am clean and my sins have been atoned for, what does it look like to live in relationship with a holy God? The motive and power for holy living grows out of this decisive act of atonement in chapter 16.

Humble and with His Own Offering

Leviticus 16:1 The LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before the LORD and died, 2 and the LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat.

Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu died because they approached God in a way he had not commanded. Aaron is now warned that even he, as the high priest of Israel, does not have unrestricted access to the most holy place. God is to be honored as holy.

3 But in this way Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: with a bull from the herd for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. 4 He shall put on the holy linen coat and shall have the linen undergarment on his body, and he shall tie the linen sash around his waist, and wear the linen turban; these are the holy garments. He shall bathe his body in water and then put them on.

The high priest is not to approach the Holy Place empty handed. He is to bring his own offerings, a bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering, because he himself is a sinner.

And he is to dress appropriately for his task. There is a specific outfit designated for this once-a-year task. It is much more simple and plain than the extravagant and colorful garments usually worn by the high priest. This is a simple linen outfit that does not include the colorful ephod of gold, blue, purple an scarlet yarns nor the breastplate set with twelve gems, nor the pure gold nameplate on his head, all described in Exodus 28. He changes into this simple outfit in verse 4, and he changes back into his more ornate high priestly outfit in verses 23-24. Future high priests mentioned in verse 32 are also to wear these holy linen garments which are kept in the holy place. This simple linen outfit would look less like a royal outfit and more like the clothing of a servant.

The Congregation’s Offering

5 And he shall take from the congregation of the people of Israel two male goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering. 6 “Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering for himself and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. 7 Then he shall take the two goats and set them before the LORD at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 8 And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the LORD and the other lot for Azazel. 9 And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the LORD and use it as a sin offering, 10 but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the LORD to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.

It is restated a second time in verse 6 that Aaron is to offer a bull for himself to make atonement for himself and his house.

The congregation is to bring two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. The destiny of each of the two goats is determined by lot. One goat will be sacrificed on the altar and its blood presented in the most holy place; the other will be sent away bearing the sins of the congregation into the wilderness. These are two parts to the picture of atonement, one securing forgiveness through blood sacrifice, the other bearing away the burden guilt never to be seen again. We are going to look primarily at the first part today, and we will take up this second part next week.

Entering the Holy of Holies

11 “Aaron shall present the bull as a sin offering for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. He shall kill the bull as a sin offering for himself. 12 And he shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the LORD, and two handfuls of sweet incense beaten small, and he shall bring it inside the veil 13 and put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is over the testimony, so that he does not die. 14 And he shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the mercy seat on the east side, and in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times.

This is the third mention of the bull for a sin offering that Aaron must offer for himself. He takes the blood of this bull into the most holy place. But he must also bring live coals from the altar and incense to create a cloud that obscures his view of the presence of God in the holiest place. Again the reason is given ‘so that he does not die’. The mercy seat or atonement cover is the solid gold cover of the ark of the covenant, which resembles a throne overshadowed by angelic figures. This is where God said in Exodus 25

Exodus 25:22 There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.

This atonement cover is to be sprinkled with blood from Aaron’s sin offering.

Cleansing the Congregation

Now that sacrifice has been made to atone for Aaron’s sin, the sacrifice of the congregation can be made.

15 “Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it over the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. 16 Thus he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins. And so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which dwells with them in the midst of their uncleannesses. 17 No one may be in the tent of meeting from the time he enters to make atonement in the Holy Place until he comes out and has made atonement for himself and for his house and for all the assembly of Israel. 18 Then he shall go out to the altar that is before the LORD and make atonement for it, and shall take some of the blood of the bull and some of the blood of the goat, and put it on the horns of the altar all around. 19 And he shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it and consecrate it from the uncleannesses of the people of Israel.

Aaron comes out from presenting the blood of his sin offering and now kills the goat selected as the sin offering for the people. This blood is also splattered on and in front of the atonement cover, making atonement for the holy place. The mercy seat or atonement cover served as a lid for the box called the ark. The ark contained the second set of stone tablets, God’s covenant contract with his people, his ten words. The second set of tablets, remember, because the first set of tablets were destroyed because the people had violated them while they were being given. Later this box would contain Aaron’s staff that budded because his authority was challenged by the rebellious people; and a jar of manna, a reminder of God’s provision for the needs of his people in spite of their grumbling and discontent. If God is understood as dwelling above the mercy seat between the cherubim, he would be looking down on his broken law, and reminders of the rebellion and discontent of his people. These contents were covered by the golden mercy seat, which was now splattered with sacrificial blood, reminding God to respond to his people with mercy and forgiveness rather than the judgment they deserved.

The blood splattered in the holiest place made “atonement for the holy place because of the uncleanness of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins.” Chapters 11-15 specify the things that make the people of Israel ceremonially unclean. ‘Transgressions’ is a word that means revolt or rebellion, intentional, willful covenant violations. ‘Sins’ is a more general word including any type of offense against God. The sins of the people (and of the priests) are pervasive and penetrating, even contaminating the most holy place. This place is cleansed from contamination by blood, as is the holy place, the tent of meeting, with its golden altar of incense, lampstand, and table of the bread of the presence.

The high priest is to do his work alone. Priests regularly entered the holy place to tend the lamps, replace the bread, and offer incense, but on this day no one was to enter except the high priest.

When he has made atonement for himself and for the people, then he must use blood from the two animals to cleanse the altar of burnt offering in the courtyard.

[we will take up verses 20-22 next week]

Conclusion of Ceremonies

23 “Then Aaron shall come into the tent of meeting and shall take off the linen garments that he put on when he went into the Holy Place and shall leave them there. 24 And he shall bathe his body in water in a holy place and put on his garments and come out and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people and make atonement for himself and for the people. 25 And the fat of the sin offering he shall burn on the altar. 26 And he who lets the goat go to Azazel shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp. 27 And the bull for the sin offering and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the Holy Place, shall be carried outside the camp. Their skin and their flesh and their dung shall be burned up with fire. 28 And he who burns them shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp.

This gives the details of concluding the ceremony. Aaron is to bathe and change back into his high priestly garments and offer the burnt offerings that confirm his and his peoples entire commitment to God. The fat of the sin offerings is to be burnt on top of the burnt offerings. The remains of the sin offerings are to be burned outside the camp. The man who led the goat away and the man who burned the remains of the sin offering are to wash their clothes and bathe before returning.

Summary Statement

29 “And it shall be a statute to you forever that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict yourselves and shall do no work, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you. 30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins. 31 It is a Sabbath of solemn rest to you, and you shall afflict yourselves; it is a statute forever. 32 And the priest who is anointed and consecrated as priest in his father’s place shall make atonement, wearing the holy linen garments. 33 He shall make atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. 34 And this shall be a statute forever for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins.” And Aaron did as the LORD commanded Moses.

This is to be an annual event, with priests anointed in his father’s place to carry on the tradition from generation to generation. All this, of course points us to Jesus.

Humbled Himself

Jesus our great High Priest, laid aside his royal robes and humbled himself.

Philippians 2:6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Propitiation

The great heart of the gospel presentation in Romans 3 says

Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

This word ‘propitiation’ comes from the Old Testament word for ‘mercy seat’. Jesus is the atonement cover, the mercy seat, the place where God and man meet. Jesus is the one who covers our rebellion, our discontent, all our sin, and hides it from God’s view. It is Jesus’ blood that satisfies the holy wrath of God against our sins so that we die not.

The Greater High Priest

Almost all of this points to Jesus. Seven times in this chapter Aaron is said to make an offering ‘for himself’ – 16:6 (2x), 11 (3x), 17, 24.

Hebrews 7:26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.

There is a stark contrast here between Aaron and Jesus. Unlike Aaron and the other high priests, Jesus had no sin of his own to atone for. His offering was completely for others.

Hebrews 9 specifically has this annual Day of Atonement in view.

Hebrews 9:11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent ( not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

Jesus our great High Priest offered a better sacrifice once for all in the greater tabernacle and secured eternal redemption

Hebrews 9:22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. 23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Jesus offered himself once for all to permanently put away sin. It is finished! But as Aaron entered the tabernacle with blood, the people anxiously awaited his emergence from the holy place. We too wait for our great High Priest to re-appear from the holy place to take us to be with himself.

Access to God

In the mean time, we have a way opened to us. When Jesus died, “the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” (Mt.27:51; Mk.15:38; Lk.23:45)

Hebrews 6:19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

We have a hope that enters behind the curtain.

Hebrews 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

We now at all times have access to enter the holy places. We can enter boldly, with confidence, not shrinking back with fear, because we enter by the blood of Jesus. We can draw near with full assurance of faith. We can draw near at any time. Let us then draw near!

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

September 27, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 7:11-38; Eating The Peace Offering

07/03 Leviticus 7:11-38; Eating The Peace Offering; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160703_leviticus-7_11-38.mp3

Leviticus chapter 7 deals again with the peace or fellowship offering that was introduced in chapter 3. In chapter 3, it was the third of the 5 offerings, listed as the last of the three voluntary offerings which were a pleasing aroma to the Lord. Here in chapter 7, the peace offering is moved to the final place, and other general instructions are included. Leviticus 3 gave detailed instructions to the worshiper on the peace offering. It gave instructions on which animals were acceptable, how they were to be prepared, what was to be done with the blood, and what parts were to be offered on the altar. The peace offering was an offering ‘to the LORD’ (3:3, 5, 6, 9, 11, 14), and Chapter 3 said that it was a ‘pleasing aroma to the LORD’ (3:5, 16). This language of ‘pleasing aroma’ is missing from chapter 7. Chapter 3 was entirely Godward, it focused on this offering as an offering to please the LORD. Chapter 7 comes at it from the perspective of the offerer and the priests. What is to be done with the rest of the offering? What accompanies the offering? What occasions might prompt a peace or fellowship offering?

Lord, surprise us once again with the relevance of your Word. May our hearts be penetrated by the power of your truth. Let us learn and grow from this ancient book that was breathed out by you, which you promised that not the smallest part of a letter would pass away until all of it is fulfilled. Open our eyes to see the fulfillment of your law in Jesus!

Eating the Offering

Leviticus 7:11 “And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings that one may offer to the LORD. 12 If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the thanksgiving sacrifice unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and loaves of fine flour well mixed with oil. 13 With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving he shall bring his offering with loaves of leavened bread. 14 And from it he shall offer one loaf from each offering, as a gift to the LORD. It shall belong to the priest who throws the blood of the peace offerings. 15 And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten on the day of his offering. He shall not leave any of it until the morning. 16 But if the sacrifice of his offering is a vow offering or a freewill offering, it shall be eaten on the day that he offers his sacrifice, and on the next day what remains of it shall be eaten. 17 But what remains of the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day shall be burned up with fire. 18 If any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offering is eaten on the third day, he who offers it shall not be accepted, neither shall it be credited to him. It is tainted, and he who eats of it shall bear his iniquity. 19 “Flesh that touches any unclean thing shall not be eaten. It shall be burned up with fire. All who are clean may eat flesh, 20 but the person who eats of the flesh of the sacrifice of the LORD’s peace offerings while an uncleanness is on him, that person shall be cut off from his people. 21 And if anyone touches an unclean thing, whether human uncleanness or an unclean beast or any unclean detestable creature, and then eats some flesh from the sacrifice of the LORD’s peace offerings, that person shall be cut off from his people.”

One of the main things we notice about this offering is how much of this sacrifice was to be eaten. In chapter 3 there was no mention of any bread products. Remember, the peace offering was an animal sacrifice. But here we see that it is to be accompanied by three different kinds of bread; unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and leavened loaves of fine flour well mixed with oil. This also is surprising, because in 2:11 we were told that “no grain offering that you bring to the Lord shall be made with leaven”. In chapter 2 leaven is allowed in the offering of firstfruits, but it is never to be burnt on the altar (2:12). But this is the peace or fellowship offering. Why is leaven specifically commanded to be included here? I’m going to leave this question hanging for now, and we will come back to it later.

One loaf from each offering was to be brought as a gift to the LORD, but it went to the priest who was officiating to supply his need. We are not told what was to be done with the rest of the loaves, but we could speculate, based on the rest of the passage, that they were given back to the worshiper as food.

The Third Day

It is carefully specified what happens to the rest of the animal. Its flesh is to be eaten by the worshiper. If the peace offering is an offering of thanksgiving, the animal is to be eaten the same day; none of it is to be left until morning. If the peace offering is a vow or freewill offering, it is to be eaten on the same day or the next day, but any meat left until the third day must be burned. This of course had a simple health reason; without refrigeration, meat would begin to spoil and not be safe to eat on the third day. But there may also be a picture here. We are told in Paul’s presentation of the gospel message in 1 Corinthians 15 that Jesus

1 Corinthians 15:4 …that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

But you will not find a clear prophecy in the Old Testament that the Messiah would be raised on the third day. But it is said that his third day resurrection is ‘in accordance with the Scriptures. Psalm 16 is quoted twice by the Apostles in Acts (2:27; 13:35) and applied to the resurrection of Jesus .

Psalm 16:10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. 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.

If we link this statement by the Psalmist that the Father would not let his holy one see corruption with this statement that flesh left till the third day is tainted or becomes an abomination, we could draw the conclusion that Jesus must be raised on the third day. We learn from John 11 that Lazarus was expected to stink because he had been dead four days.

Offerings Taken Home

It is also worth noting what is missing from the instructions here. It was stated about the priests portion of the grain, the sin and the guilt offerings that it must be eaten in a holy place. This is not said of the peace offering. Apparently the peace offering may be taken outside the Lord’s courtyard. Meat from a vow or freewill offering that is eaten the second day would likely be eaten on the journey or at home. This explains the further regulations about sacrificial meat not coming in contact with anything unclean. Nothing unclean was allowed in the tabernacle. But if meat that had been offered as a sacrifice was brought outside, it must be carefully handled so that which is holy would not come into contact with that which is unclean. An unclean person can be cleansed by the appropriate sacrifice, and then have access to the holy, but for someone who is unclean to come uncleansed in to contact with the holy would mean death. But anyone who is clean, even those who did not participate in the offering, may eat of it.

The Severity of Holiness

There is serious consequences for not treating the holy things as holy. The language is severe. ‘He shall not be accepted,’ ‘it shall not be credited to him,’ ‘he shall bear his iniquity,’ ‘that person shall be cut off from his people.’ God is merciful. He desires to dwell with his people. But he must be treated as holy. His instructions must be heeded. For anyone to say ‘I know God says this, but…’ is a very dangerous thing.

Eat No Fat or Blood

Leviticus 7:22 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 23 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, You shall eat no fat, of ox or sheep or goat. 24 The fat of an animal that dies of itself and the fat of one that is torn by beasts may be put to any other use, but on no account shall you eat it. 25 For every person who eats of the fat of an animal of which a food offering may be made to the LORD shall be cut off from his people. 26 Moreover, you shall eat no blood whatever, whether of fowl or of animal, in any of your dwelling places. 27 Whoever eats any blood, that person shall be cut off from his people.”

It makes sense in the context of what portion of the sacrifice may be eaten by the worshiper to include this general prohibition against eating any fat or blood. “All the fat is the LORD’s” (Lev.3:16). The fat of animals that were not offered in sacrifice may be used for other purposes, but it may not be eaten. No blood is to be eaten, because “I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls” (Lev.17:11). The consequences for disobedience is severe.

The Priests Portion

Leviticus 7:28 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 29 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever offers the sacrifice of his peace offerings to the LORD shall bring his offering to the LORD from the sacrifice of his peace offerings. 30 His own hands shall bring the LORD’s food offerings. He shall bring the fat with the breast, that the breast may be waved as a wave offering before the LORD. 31 The priest shall burn the fat on the altar, but the breast shall be for Aaron and his sons. 32 And the right thigh you shall give to the priest as a contribution from the sacrifice of your peace offerings. 33 Whoever among the sons of Aaron offers the blood of the peace offerings and the fat shall have the right thigh for a portion. 34 For the breast that is waved and the thigh that is contributed I have taken from the people of Israel, out of the sacrifices of their peace offerings, and have given them to Aaron the priest and to his sons, as a perpetual due from the people of Israel. 35 This is the portion of Aaron and of his sons from the LORD’s food offerings, from the day they were presented to serve as priests of the LORD. 36 The LORD commanded this to be given them by the people of Israel, from the day that he anointed them. It is a perpetual due throughout their generations.”

Notice in this section the necessity for hands-on personal worship. A wealthy person cannot send his servant to bring an offering on his behalf to the tabernacle. He must go himself. His own hands shall bring it. And this is a messy labor intensive operation, slaughtering, cleaning, and butchering an animal. The fat is burned on the altar. The breast is shared among the priests for food. The right thigh goes to the officiating priest. God is emphatic “that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings” (1 Cor. 9:13). God uses the first person “I,”

34 …I have taken from the people of Israel, out of the sacrifices of their peace offerings, and have given them to Aaron the priest and to his sons, as a perpetual due from the people of Israel. 35 This is the portion of Aaron and of his sons from the LORD’s food offerings, from the day they were presented to serve as priests of the LORD. 36 The LORD commanded this to be given them by the people of Israel, from the day that he anointed them. It is a perpetual due throughout their generations.”

This is strong emphatic repetitive language. God is serious about ‘the laborer deserving his wages’ (Luke 10:7). The worker is worthy of his hire, but do not give your minister your heart, your deepest affections. Chapter 3 was very specific. The fat covering the entrails, the two kidneys and the fat that is on them, the long lobe of the liver, the choicest and best parts, the seat of one’s very self, the mind, emotions and will, belong to God alone. Your innermost being must be devoted to God alone. Too often the middle-man becomes the focal point. People talk too much about their favorite preacher and too little about Jesus!

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

2 Corinthians 4:5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.

Yes support your local church! By all means pray for your pastor. He needs it! But keep your focus on Jesus! Give all your affections to Jesus!

Summary Statement

Leviticus 7:37 This is the law of the burnt offering, of the grain offering, of the sin offering, of the guilt offering, of the ordination offering, and of the peace offering, 38 which the LORD commanded Moses on Mount Sinai, on the day that he commanded the people of Israel to bring their offerings to the LORD, in the wilderness of Sinai.

This is a concluding statement of the first seven chapters of Leviticus. This connects the regulations here to the historical context. God delivered this directly to Moses on Mount Sinai after the Exodus out of Egypt. These are the very words of God. One thing interesting to note is that we have looked at the burnt, grain, sin,guilt and peace offerings, but the ordination offering is mentioned here for the first time in Leviticus. It will appear 5 times in the next chapter, and it appeared five times in Exodus 29, another chapter dealing with the consecration of the priests. The ordination was hinted at in the special grain offering of the priests in 6:19-23. So these verses bring to a close the section dealing with the offerings and they introduce the next section of Leviticus, dealing with the ordination of the priests.

Fellowship

As we wrap up today, I want to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of the peace or fellowship offering. Each offering points to Jesus in a specific way. The peace offering does not take away our guilt over specific sins; the sin and guilt offerings do that. The peace offering does not deal with our sin nature and present ourselves completely to God; the whole burnt offering does that. Now that we have received forgiveness, the peace offering does not make acceptable to God the work of our hands; that is the picture of the grain offering. What does the peace or fellowship offering teach us?

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The peace offering is a voluntary response to grace. We have experienced something we did not earn, something we do not deserve. We have been forgiven! Our debt has been paid! We are released from guilt and shame. We have been declared righteous by the Judge of all the earth. Our most inward affections are now directed toward God the source of all grace. This is the only sacrifice in which the worshiper partakes of the sacrifice. This offering is a shared meal in God’s presence. It is a feast in the courtyard of the LORD who has done great things for me!

Psalm 69:30 I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.

Psalm 100:4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!

Psalm 107:21 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! 22 And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!

Why is leaven included in this offering? Leaven puffs up, and it is usually a symbol of sin and pride that puffs up. But in the sin and guilt offerings our sin has been decisively dealt with. In the whole burnt offering all of self has been placed on the altar. Our works are now motivated and sanctified by the Holy Spirit, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. And in response, we are filled to overflowing, puffed up, not with pride, but filled with a fullness of joy that is uncontainable! In Deuteronomy 16, unleavened bread is called ‘bread of affliction’. Leaven is that which ferments and bubbles up and overflows.

Jesus came eating and drinking, and when he was questioned,

Luke 5:34 And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?

… 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.

Are you today enjoying your blood-bought fellowship with God? Are your deepest affections fixed on God? Does your heart uncontainably overflow as you enter his courts with praise and thanksgiving?

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

July 5, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 3; The Peace Offering

05/01 Leviticus 3; The Peace Offering; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160501_leviticus-3.mp3

So far in Leviticus, we have looked at the whole burnt offering and the grain offering. The whole burnt offering was a complete animal, skinned and cut up in pieces, that went up in smoke as a pleasing aroma to God. The whole burnt offering was intended to ‘be accepted for him to make atonement’ (1:4) ‘that he may be accepted before the LORD’ (1:3). The whole burnt offering pointed not to specific sins (that will be seen in the next two offerings, the sin and guilt offerings); but for the general sinfulness of mankind.

The grain offering was a kind of tribute offering, bringing the best of the labor of our hands, now sanctified by the Spirit, free of the leaven that takes pride in our own accomplishments, recognizing all that we have is first a gift to us from a gracious God, given back to God as a joyful tribute to our great King.

The third offering, in Leviticus 3, is called the peace offering, or sometimes it is referred to as the fellowship offering. These first three offerings are all voluntary offerings, given when the worshiper desires, and they are all said to be offerings ‘with a pleasing aroma to the LORD’. All three are called ‘offerings’ [qorban]; but only this one is called a ‘sacrifice’ [zebak]. The word ‘sacrifice’ means ‘a slaughter’ referring to an animal that is butchered in order to be eaten. This word ‘sacrifice’ is not used for the other five types of offerings in Leviticus.

Occasions for the Peace Offering

The peace offering would be given on three types of occasions, as we will see later on in Leviticus (7:11-12, 16). It could be a thanksgiving offering, a vow offering, or a freewill offering. The thanksgiving peace offering was made in response to a particular blessing that had been experienced. The vow peace offering was made to keep a promise to God after God had helped in the requested way. The freewill peace offering was a spontaneous act of generosity of the worshiper, prompted by God’s goodness, God’s unexpected and unasked for generosity.

Structure

Leviticus 3 is structured similarly to the other chapters, where the instructions are repeated depending on what type of animal is offered.

1-5 offering from the herd

6-11 offering from the flock

12-16a offering from the goats

16b-17 concluding general instructions

Leviticus 3:1 “If his offering is a sacrifice of peace offering, if he offers an animal from the herd, male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the LORD. 2 And he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering and kill it at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall throw the blood against the sides of the altar. 3 And from the sacrifice of the peace offering, as a food offering to the LORD, he shall offer the fat covering the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, 4 and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins, and the long lobe of the liver that he shall remove with the kidneys. 5 Then Aaron’s sons shall burn it on the altar on top of the burnt offering, which is on the wood on the fire; it is a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

The Peace Offering

The [shelem] peace offering, is a noun from the verb [shalam]; which means to restore, pay back, make good (as a debt, often after a theft), as in David’s response to the prophet Nathan’s story about a rich man who stole a poor man’s pet lamb to feed his guest.

2 Samuel 12:5 Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, 6 and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”

To restore, make restitution, make amends, or pay back. It can also mean to reward, to make peace, to complete, to prosper. It is likely connected to the Hebrew word [shalom] well-being, wholeness, peace. In the book of Romans, the first 2 ½ chapters establish the universal guilt and condemnation of all mankind before God. Then chapters 3 and 4 declare a righteousness that is a gift of God that is opposite what we deserve, that comes to us through faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross. We are justified, our sins are not counted against us; rather, the perfect righteousness of Christ is counted as ours through faith. Then Romans 5 declares:

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Peace with God comes through Jesus. Peace with God is a result of being justified by faith. Romans 5 goes on to say:

Romans 5:10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

We were enemies of God. But through the death of Jesus we were reconciled. We are now at peace. Colossians 1, speaking of the awesomeness of Jesus, the Father was pleased:

Colossians 1:20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Reconciliation to those who were alienated and hostile. Reconciliation in his body of flesh by his death. Jesus made peace by the blood of his cross. He now presents us holy and blameless and above reproach, at peace with God. Ephesians 2 says

Ephesians 2:11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 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 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,

Separated, alienated, strangers, without hope and without God, far off. But now we have been brought near by the blood of Christ. He has made peace. He preached peace. He reconciled us to God through the cross. Jesus is our peace.

The Order of the Offerings

Notice, the peace offering does not come first. The offerings in Leviticus are not listed in the strict sequence in which they would be offered; the first three are listed together because they are voluntary offerings that are a pleasing aroma to the LORD. The sin and guilt offerings are grouped together because they are ways of securing forgiveness before God for specific offenses. But we see in Leviticus 3:5 that the peace offering always followed a whole burnt offering.

Leviticus 3:5 Then Aaron’s sons shall burn it on the altar on top of the burnt offering, which is on the wood on the fire; it is a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

This is theologically significant. Peace with God and fellowship with God only comes after sacrifice. In chapter 9, we see a sin offering and a burnt offering given for the priests, then a sin offering and a burnt offering given for the people, then a grain offering, then finally the peace offering. Sin must be dealt with first; specific sins and our sin nature, before we can have peace and fellowship with God. The peace offering is offered on top of the burnt offering.

Food Offering

The procedure for the peace offering is very similar to that of the whole burnt offering. An animal without blemish is selected by the worshiper. The worshiper identifies with the animal, laying his hand on, or leaning into the head of the animal. Then the worshiper slaughters the animal at the entrance to God’s tent. The blood is caught in a container and applied by the priests to the sides of the altar. Even the peace offering is a bloody offering, reminding the worshiper that access to a holy God comes at a great cost.

But here is where the peace offering differs. In the whole burnt offering, everything but the skin goes up in smoke on the altar. In the peace offering, only specific parts of the animal are burnt on the altar.

Although it is not the focus of Leviticus chapter 3, this sacrifice was to be eaten as a shared meal. It is called a ‘food offering to the Lord’ (v.3, 11, 16); not in the pagan sense that God needs to be given sustenance from his people.

Acts 17:24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

It is a food offering in the sense that it is a shared meal between God, the priest (ch.7:31-36); and the worshiper (7:15-18). This is why it is often called a fellowship offering, because it was an offering that enjoyed fellowship with God. Specific parts of the animal are burned on the altar to God, specific parts (outlined in chapter 7) are given to the priests to eat, and the remainder of the animal is returned to the worshiper to eat. This is truly a fellowship offering, a communal meal, where God, the priests and the worshiper all enjoy a feast together.

Fat and Entrails, Kidneys and Liver

The focus of this chapter is on what parts of the peace offering are burned on the altar to the Lord. We are told

Leviticus 3:3 And from the sacrifice of the peace offering, as a food offering to the LORD, he shall offer the fat covering the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, 4 and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins, and the long lobe of the liver that he shall remove with the kidneys.

Why these parts? The guts or innards; the bowels or intestines, the kidneys, the liver, and all the associated fatty tissue was to be offered on the altar to the Lord. Why? The bowels, the inward parts, were understood to be the center of thought and emotion. Psalm 94 says:

Psalm 94:19 When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.

‘Inward parts’ is translated ‘heart’ because we use the word ‘heart’ the way the ancients used ‘inward parts’. When we are told that Jesus ‘had compassion’, it could literally be translated ‘he was moved in his bowels’.

Matthew 9:36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (cf. Matt.14:14; 15:32; 18:27; 20:34; Mk. 1:41; 6:34)

The liver kidneys are a vital organs that were believed to be the centers of emotional life.

Psalm 26:2 Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and my mind.

Psalm 26:2 literally reads ‘test my heart and my kidneys’

Proverbs 23:16 My inmost being will exult when your lips speak what is right.

Proverbs 23:16 literally reads ‘my kidneys will rejoice’

Lamentations 2:11 My eyes are spent with weeping; my stomach churns; my bile [liver] is poured out to the ground because of the destruction of the daughter of my people, because infants and babies faint in the streets of the city.

These parts are the core of emotional life, and they are to be given completely to the Lord. The fat, kidneys and liver were also considered a delicacy.

Psalm 63:5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,

In Deuteronomy 32, we are told how God cared for his people with the very best of the best, suckled with honey and oil,

Deuteronomy 32:14 Curds from the herd, and milk from the flock, with fat of lambs, rams of Bashan and goats, with the very finest* of the wheat— and you drank foaming wine made from the blood of the grape.

*ESV footnote: Hebrew with the kidney fat

The Hebrew text reads ‘fat of lambs … with the kidney fat of the wheat’, referring to the very finest of the best. The best of the best is to be given to the Lord.

In addition to this, if the peace offering is from the sheep:

Leviticus 3:9 …he shall offer as a food offering to the LORD its fat; he shall remove the whole fat tail, cut off close to the backbone,

The broad fat tail is a special feature of the species of sheep bred in Palestine, often weighing 15 pounds or more [Hartley WBC p.40], and also considered a delicacy. The richest best portion belongs to the Lord.

At the end of this passage, we find a general statement:

Leviticus 3:16 …All fat is the LORD’s. 17 It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, in all your dwelling places, that you eat neither fat nor blood.”

All the fat is the Lord’s. The richest and best portions are to belong to God. This is put in the strongest terms. There are to be no exceptions. This is carved in stone. There are to be no exceptions because of the circumstances of a specific time or location. The best belongs to the Lord. Later in Leviticus we will learn that the life of the flesh is in the blood, which God has given to make atonement on the altar.

Leviticus 17:11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.

Such is the peace offering of the Old Testament.

Application

What does this mean for us today? Do you have peace with God? Are you experiencing peace with God? Is peace your present experience?

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Peace is an objective reality.

The common greeting in the New Testament letters is ‘grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’ There is a consistent order. Grace, God’s free undeserved gift always comes first. Peace comes as a response to the experience of God’s grace to us in Jesus Christ.

‘grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’

Rom.1:7; 1 Cor.1:3; 2Cor.1:2; Gal.1:3; Eph.1:2; Phil.1:2; Col.1:2; 1Thes.1:1; 2Thes.1:2; 1Tim.1:2; 2Tim.1:2; Tit.1:4; Phm.1:3; 1Pet.1:2; 2Pet.1:2; 2Jn.1:3; Jud.1:2; Rev.1:4

If you have trusted Jesus, depended on the blood of his cross to remove your sin, you have peace with God. Regardless of how you feel, you have peace with God as an objective reality. But peace can also be an inward experience for you.

Isaiah 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

Peace, perfect peace, belongs to those who trust in Jesus. Is your mind stayed on Jesus? Are you trusting in Jesus, clinging to Jesus? Jesus told his disciples:

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Jesus gives us peace, his peace.

Paul tells us in Philippians 4 to be anxious for nothing but to pray about everything, with thanksgiving,

Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Stop being anxious. Instead, take it all to God in prayer, with thanksgiving. And God’s peace will guard your inward being. The peace of God will guard you because the God of peace will be with you. You can experience true peace because the God of peace is with you.

‘The God of peace’

Rom.15:33; 16:20; Phil.4:9; 1Thess.5:23; Heb.13:20; cf. 2 Thess.3:16

Is peace with God your present experience? Are you enjoying intimate fellowship with the living God?

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.

Jesus says

Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

Are you experiencing communion with God? He desires to have fellowship with you.

Are you giving your best to God? Have you surrendered your emotional life to God? Have you offered him your deepest longings and affections and desires? Christ Jesus laid his own inner desires on the altar to God.

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

He withheld nothing. When we surrender our inner selves, or affections, our emotions to God, it it a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. It is a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

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

May 2, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nativity-God With Us

12/27 Don’t put Jesus Away with your Nativity!; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151227_god-with-us.mp3

So Christmas is over. For some of us, that is a relief. The preparation and shopping and traveling and decorating and baking and busyness are behind us. We can take a deep breath, clean up the mess, eat through the leftovers, pack up the decorations and store them away for another year. Many of us have a nativity scene, a set with figures of Mary and Joseph and shepherds and wise men and sheep and a donkey and the baby Jesus in a manger. We set this up in our homes, not as an object to be worshiped, but as a visible reminder of what we celebrate, something we can use to teach our children, a reminder to keep Jesus central. In the coming weeks, we will be packing that up, along with all the other Christmas decorations and putting it in a box in the basement or attic for another year. I want to caution you; Don’t put Jesus away! Don’t put him in a box and store him out of sight and out of mind for another year! Don’t wrap Jesus up in tissue paper and bubble wrap and put him on a shelf!

I’m not saying that you can’t put away your nativity set. I’m not saying that you can pack up all the sheep and wise men and even Mary, but you must keep the baby Jesus out all year. No. Put it away. But Jesus is not the porcelain or wooden figure laying in the hay. Jesus is Immanuel, God with us! Don’t set Jesus aside as if he were a holiday decoration.

The nativity doesn’t tell the whole story. Jesus was a born in a stable to a young virgin mother, placed in a manger, a real baby. But Jesus was so much more. Jesus is the Eternal Creator God, the only Son of his Father, the great I AM. I’ve not seen a nativity display that can capture that! Jesus was born in humble circumstances, but Jesus didn’t stay a baby. He grew to be a man. He became an itinerant preacher. People left their jobs to follow him. He got himself in trouble with the religious authorities, and got himself crucified. In that act, he took my sin upon him and before God the Father he paid my price in full. I’ve never seen a nativity set that can communicate the whole story of who Jesus is or why he came.

Matthew 1:18-23 says:

Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

Jesus is the Only Begotten Son of God

Jesus is the only begotten Son of God. Joseph was understandably troubled that his betrothed bride to be was pregnant. But the angel assured him ‘that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit’. The angel told Mary:

Luke 1:31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. …

…35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy— the Son of God.

John’s gospel says that Jesus, the Word, was with God and was God, and

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.

This is no ordinary baby. Jesus is Eternal God become flesh, the only begotten, unique, one-and-only son of the Father. Jesus, who is fully God, who eternally existed with his Father, at a moment in history his divine nature was united to human flesh. He became a human embryo. The Creator God was born a human baby. This is something no manger scene can convey.

Jesus is the Savior

The angel told Joseph ‘you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins’ (Mt.1:21). John introduces Jesus

John 1:29 … and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’

Jesus is the sin-bearing substitute. Jesus himself said:

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Peter teaches that ‘you were ransomed …with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1Pet.1:18-19). And he says:

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Jesus paid the price for our sins. He died in our place. He took the punishment we deserved. He came to save his people from their sins. He came to give his life a ransom for many.

To look no further than the manger is to miss the meaning of the coming of the Son of God.

Jesus is Immanuel, God with us.

Matthew 1: 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

The baby in the manger is to be called Immanuel. God with us. Take note of this. Jesus is God, fully God, eternal God, omnipotent sovereign creator God, the great I AM. Jesus said

John 8:58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him…

The author of Hebrews says of Jesus:

Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

Colossians says of Jesus:

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Jesus is God. And he is God with us. Not God against us. Not God distant, afar off.

Isaiah 59:2 ​but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

We sinned. We rebelled. We caused a rift in our relationship. We became his enemies. We deserve just retribution for our willful disobedience. But God came down.

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

Jesus said:

John 12:46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. 47 …for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.

Jesus did not come as judge to punish, but as a lamb to bear a punishment not his own. Jesus died to bring us near.

Job lamented:

Job 9:33 There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both.

He longed for a mediator who could go between a holy God and sinful man. Jesus is that longed for mediator. He lays his hand on us both. He died to bring us near.

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

That he might bring us to God. Jesus is Immanuel. Jesus made a way for us to be with God and experience his affection rather than his retribution. Jesus said:

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

Jesus is the only way for us to be reconciled to the Father. Jesus is Immanuel – God with us. Jesus came to bring us to God, to reconcile us to God, to restore our relationship with God.

So don’t put Jesus in a box! Don’t put Jesus away in storage! Let every heart prepare him room! Enjoy your blood bought relationship with Jesus. Savor him every day. Enjoy his presence with you!

At the close of Matthew’s gospel, after the resurrection, as Jesus appeared to his followers,

Matthew 28:17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

He commissions his disciples to make disciples, and he gives them his promise. I am with you always, to the end of the age. Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. He promises to be with us, to never leave us. Jesus said in John 14:

John 14:23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

Jesus and his Father love us and come to make their home with us! Don’t put Jesus away after the holidays are past. Seek to foster an awareness of his presence with you every moment of every day. Allow his presence to shape your attitudes, your your actions, your reactions, your identity. Hebrews says:

Hebrews 13:5 …be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Enjoy the presence of the God who has made a way to be with you forever!

Jesus is not Fragile

As a wedding gift, we were given a white porcelain nativity set that was made at the Carmelite Monestary in Seattle. It is fragile, so we wrap it up carefully each year and pack it away. Both horns on the ox have broken off and are missing, and one year, one of the wise men tipped over and lost his head, so I had to glue it back on. We have since bought a little plastic resin nativity set that is more durable so the younger kids can play with it without having to worry. Even on that most of the points on the kings crowns have broken off.

Jesus is not fragile. Jesus does not need to be packed away, insulated from the real world. Jesus does not need to be protected like a fragile decoration. He is durable, resilient, you can interact with him, bring him in to the dirty messy situations. We don’t need to worry that we will break him or tarnish him. Jesus wants to interact with us. Jesus wants to be accessible.

He is real. He understands what real life is like. He knows what we are like. He is not surprised by our sin. Jesus did not hesitate to interact with the worst sinners. Prostitutes, tax collectors, adulterers, demon possessed. In fact he says

Mark 2:17 …“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus came specifically for sinners, for the broken, for the hurting, for those who knew they were helpless and needed his help. He shocked the religious leaders by pronouncing sins forgiven.

1 John 1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Jesus does not get stained by sin.

Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

Jesus is not defiled by contact with sinners. Instead the sinner is cleansed, washed, transformed, made new!

In Matthew 8,

Matthew 8:2 And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 3 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

Jesus did not hesitate to touch lepers and the unclean. He did not get infected; they were made whole!

Jesus is the lion of the tribe of Judah! He is strong and fierce. Don’t pack him away, turn him loose! Don’t shield him from evil, allow him to overcome evil with good! Turn him loose in your neighborhood! Turn him loose among the broken, the hurting, sinners.

Jesus has strong shoulders. He invites us to come weary, come heavy laden, come burdened and find rest. He invites us to cast our anxieties on him, because he cares for us.

Matthew 6:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

I invite you to open the box. Experience Jesus all year round. Acknowledge his presence, because he promised to never leave or forsake you. I invite you to enjoy his presence, for he is Immanuel, God with us. He is with you in your joys and in the deepest sorrows of life. He is strong enough to overcome your failures and flaws. He will carry you through the most trying times. Treasure his presence with you. He will clothe you with boldness to advance his gospel in spite of your fears and inadequacies.

Isaiah 41:10 fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

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

December 28, 2015 Posted by | occasional, podcast, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Communion With The Father; John, 1 John

11/01 Communion With The Father; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151101_communion-with-father.mp3

We have seen that the clear teaching of the Bible is that the Father, Son and Spirit are distinct someones, that Father is God, the Son is God, the Spirit is God, yet there is only one true God. This is what we mean when we use the word ‘trinity’ or tri-unity. The one God eternally exists in three distinct someones in relationship with one another. The amazing thing for us is that through Christ we are invited in to this eternal fellowship! We can have fellowship with this triune God! Listen to the opening of John’s first letter:

1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

John tells us that we as followers of Jesus have fellowship with one another, and fellowship with the Father and fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ. We are invited in to communion, fellowship, intimacy of relationship with the Father and with his Son, and in this is fullness of joy! Jesus said as much in his prayer to his Father in John 17

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

Eternal life consists in relationship with the Father and his Son. These are distinct relationships; we know the Father, we have fellowship with the Father, and we have fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ, we know Jesus. We know Jesus in a different way than we know the Father. We have fellowship separately with the Father and with his Son.

In the benediction or pronouncement of blessing at the end of 2 Corinthians we see we have fellowship also with the Holy Spirit.

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

This is a fascinating passage. Separate activities are ascribed to the separate persons of the Godhead. Grace is ascribed to Jesus, love to the Father and fellowship to the Holy Spirit. This is not to say that the Jesus and the Spirit do not love or that the Father and the Spirit are not gracious, because there is one God and the three persons each fully share the divine essence, so when we are told that God is love, this characteristic of love equally applies to the Father, Son and Spirit. But love comes from the Father in a particular way, and grace flows particularly through our Lord Jesus Christ. If this blessing is modeled after the Old Testament blessing found in Numbers 6:24, some interesting parallels emerge:

Numbers 6:24-27   –  2 Corinthians 13:14

The LORD bless you and keep you – The love of God

 

The LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you – The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

The LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace – The fellowship of the Holy Spirit

 

The Father’s love is seen in his blessing and keeping; God’s grace is seen in the face of our Lord Jesus Christ; the Holy Spirit brings peace as God turns his countenance toward us in reconciled fellowship.

The old creed puts it this way:

That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence.” [Athanasian Creed]

We as Christians worship God in trinity and trinity in unity. We do not want to divide the essence; there is only one God; his essential nature is indivisible. Neither do we want to confuse the persons. The Father is not the Son or the Spirit. The Son is not the Spirit or the Father. Our worship is directed to the triune God, to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

I would like to take these each in turn. Today we will examine our fellowship with the Father. In what way or ways is he Father? Why does he carry that title? What is his primary role in distinction from the Son and the Spirit? What does it mean to have communion with the Father? Then, in the coming weeks we will turn our attention to the Son and the Spirit.

The Father of Creation

What do we mean when we call God ‘Father’? Jesus frequently addressed God as ‘Father’. He taught his followers to pray to God as ‘Our Father’ (Matt.6:9).

In a sense, because God as Creator brought all things into existence, he can be referred to as ‘Father’. Paul teaches in Acts 17:

Acts 17:24 The God who made the world and everything in it, … 25 … he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, … 28 for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ 29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.

God is the Father of all mankind in the sense that he brought mankind into existence. Paul seems to be speaking in this sense in Ephesians 3:

Ephesians 3:14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,

So there is a sense in which all creation can look to God as Father.

The Father of the Son

But Jesus indicates that his relation to the Father is different from all others. In John 3, in his conversation with Nicodemus, he says:

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

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 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.

Jesus is the only Son of God, the only one who descended from heaven, sent by the Father to save the world. Jesus is the only Son of God in a way that sets him apart from the rest of creation.
Later in John 3, John the Baptist is pointing to Jesus as one who in every way is so much greater than himself. He says:

John 3:31 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. …34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

John is from the earth. Jesus is from heaven. Jesus is sent by God. The Father loves the Son in a unique way. “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.” Two chapters later, Jesus says:

John 5:19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel.

The Father loves the Son. There is a unique inter-trinitarian relationship between the Father and the Son. But someone may say that the Father became the Father and the Son became the Son at the incarnation, when Jesus was born of a virgin. But if we look at Jesus’ prayer to his Father in John 17, we see that this relationship between the Father and his only Son predates the incarnation. Jesus says:

John 17:24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

The Father loved the Son before the foundation of the world. Before anything existed there was the eternal relationship of the Father loving the Son and the Son loving his Father. Isaiah 9:6 hints at this. The one who is called ‘Mighty God’ is ‘a child born’. That refers to the incarnation, when Jesus became human and was born of a virgin. But he is also said to be ‘a son given’. He was already the Son, and he was given by his Father to rescue sinners.

I was not always a father. I became a father when I was 27 years old, when I fathered my first child. Before God created anything, he was the Father. He has always existed as Father. His role as Father did not come about when he created. The Father is the Father because of his relationship with his Son. God is unchanging, so there is no time before he was Father, and there is no time before the existence of the Son. This is an eternal relationship. Theologians refer to this as the eternal generation of the Son. By this they do not mean that the Son is eternally being generated by the Father, but that the relationship between the Father and the Son has always existed.

God’s Fatherhood is different from ours in at least four ways. God the Father’s Fatherhood is absolute. I was a son before I became a father. The Father was never a son. The Father is always and only ever Father. God’s fatherhood is efficient. To become a father, I needed the participation of my firstborn’s mother. I could not have become a father without her. The bible says nothing of a heavenly mother (other than to condemn this idea as a particularly detestable form of pagan idolatry, cf. Jer.44:17-25). The Son is generated of and by the Father alone. God’s fatherhood is an essential relationship. I was by nature human before I became a Father. God in his very nature or essence eternally existed as Father, Son and Spirit. We cannot think of the true God without thinking in terms of Father, Son and Spirit. And it is an eternal relationship. There was never a time before this relationship existed. There was never a time when this relationship between Father and Son came into being (Bavinck, p.305 ff.).

The Father of Adopted Heirs

There is one other sense in which God is Father, and this leads us in to how we have communion specifically with the Father. Galatians 4 tells us:

Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

God sent his Son and gave us his Spirit so that we could relate to him not as slaves but as adopted sons. By the Spirit, through the redemption of Jesus Christ, we can call God “Abba! Father!”. Romans 8 says:

Romans 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

We who have been justified by faith as a gift through the propitiation of Jesus Christ have received the Spirit of adoption as sons. We are adopted children of God. We no longer have the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Our relationship to the Father should not be one characterized by fear.

It was the purpose of Jesus not only to bring us into a relationship with himself, but also into a right relationship with the Father.

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

The goal of the gospel is to bring us to God. Peter tells us:

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

Many people falsely caricature God the Father as a grumpy irritable old man who is angry and frequently flies into a rage. But thanks be to Jesus, a much kinder and gentler personality, who persuades his Father, against his will and better judgment, to accept his sacrifice, so the Father is forced to begrudgingly extend mercy to irritating sinners. This caricature is totally contrary to the biblical teaching on the Father, it violates the essential unity of the distinct persons of the Godhead who have one will and purpose, and it is certainly offensive to the Father. Notice who is said to initiate the salvation of sinful mankind. God so love the world that he gave his only Son. God sent forth his Son …to redeem those who were under the law. Ephesians 1 shows us how we are to think of the Father.

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, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

God the Father blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing. He chose us. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ. This was according to the purpose of the Father’s will. It was to the praise of the Father’s glorious grace. The Father has blessed us in his Beloved Son. Our response should be ‘blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He has chosen us and predestined our adoption and purposed our salvation and carried it out by sending his only Son! He did it all in love. What amazing grace the Father has for us!

Listen to what Jesus says in John 16 about his Father:

John 16:23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. … 26 In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”

The Father himself loves you! You can ask the Father directly in my name. The situation is not that you ask me and I pick the best time when the Father is in a good mood and is more apt to respond favorably. No, I do not need to ask the Father on your behalf. The Father himself loves you! The Father loves to give good gifts to his children. Oh how we need to get this. Our fellowship with the Father should be sweet! We come to him as one who of his own free will chose us! He adopted us! He was under no obligation, no compulsion, but he loved us!

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Whose love is demonstrated in the death of Christ? God shows his love for us!

Look at a sampling of some other passages that distinguish between the persons of the triune God and their role in our salvation. We already looked at the benediction in 2 Corinthians 13:14

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

Look also at 2 Thessalonians 2:

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

God chose you to be saved. He called you to belief through our gospel. He destines you for glory. Look also at verses 16-17.

2 Thessalonians 2:16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

God our Father loved us. He gave us eternal comfort and good hope. Look at the opening of 1 Peter

1 Peter 1:1 … To those who are elect exiles … 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

We are elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. It is his purpose and plan to set us apart by the Spirit and save us through the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus. Or look at Jude’s short letter.

Jude :1 … To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:

Called, beloved, kept in God the Father. Jude closes his letter this way:

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

Keep yourselves in the love of God. The Father himself loves you! We will close where we began, 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.

Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. In this fellowship, in this communion with the triune God our joy will be complete. Behold the love of the Father!

1 John 3:1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are….

Now may the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead… (Ephesians 1:17-20)

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

November 1, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Devoted To Prayer

01/04 Devoted To Prayer; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150104_devoted-to-prayer.mp3

As I began my readings for the new year, a word in Acts 1 intrigued me. It is translated ‘were devoting themselves to’

The Greek word behind the English ‘devoted to’ is [προσκαρτερέω proskartereo]. Here is how some of the dictionaries define it:

[Mickelson’s Enhanced Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Dictionaries]

G4342 προσκαρτερέω proskartereo (pros-kar-ter-eh’-o) v.

1. to be earnest towards

2. (to a thing) to persevere, be constantly diligent

3. (in a place) to attend assiduously all the exercises

4. (to a person) to adhere closely to (as a servitor)

[from G4314πρός pros (pros’) prep.1. forward to, i.e. toward and G2594 καρτερέω kartereo (kar-ter-eh’-o) v.1. to be strong 2. (figuratively) to endure]

[Thayer] – Original: προσκαρτερέω; Transliteration: Proskartereo; Phonetic: pros-kar-ter-eh’-o

– Definition:

1. to adhere to one, be his adherent, to be devoted or constant to one

2. to be steadfastly attentive unto, to give unremitting care to a thing

3. to continue all the time in a place

4. to persevere and not to faint

5. to show one’s self courageous for

6. to be in constant readiness for one, wait on constantly

This is a strong word. It appears only 10 times in the New Testament. What is it that the early believers were devoted to, what were they earnest toward or constantly diligent or steadfastly attentive to; what is it they gave their unremitting care to? As we evaluate the successes and failures of a past year and look forward to a new year and seek to re-prioritize and re-purpose for the new year, it would do us well to look to what the early church was passionately committed to. Twice we find this word connected to another word. In Acts 1:14 and in Acts 2:46 we find the word translated ‘devoted to’ with the word [ὁμοθυμαδόν homothumadon], which is translated ‘together’ or ‘with one accord’ or ‘with one mind’

[Mickelson’s Enhanced Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Dictionaries]

G3661 ὁμοθυμαδόν homothumadon (hom-oth-oo-mad-on’) adv.

1. unanimously

[adverb from a compound of the base of G3674 and G2372]

Whatever it is that the early church was unanimously constantly diligent and steadfastly attentive to, is probably important for us to resolve to devote ourselves to as well.

Let’s look at some of the verses, see if we can pick up some themes, and think together about what we should do about it.

Acts 1:14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

The early believers unanimously constantly diligent in prayer. Acts 2:42 adds three things to prayer.

Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

They were earnest towards the apostles teaching, fellowship, breaking bread and prayers.

Acts 2:46 has both of these words together.

[ESV] Acts 2:46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,

It comes through more clearly in the Lexham English Bible, another literal translation.

[LEB] Acts 2:46 And every day, devoting themselves to meeting with one purpose in the temple courts and breaking bread from house to house, they were eating their food with joy and simplicity of heart,

They unanimously gathered to meet together in public, and they gathered in homes to break bread and to eat together. The next verse is telling.

Acts 2:47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

As the early church was passionately committed to these things, God was saving people and connecting them with the growing church. There seems to be a connection between the unanimous devotion of the believers and the fruitfulness of the gospel in their communities.

Here is why the Apostles appointed others to oversee the charitable activities of the church:

Acts 6:2 …“It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. …4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

The same word is used in Romans 12 and Colossians 4.

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

Colossians 4:2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

So we see repeatedly that the early church devoted themselves to prayer. We also see that they devoted themselves to preaching and hearing the word, to breaking bread, to fellowship, to eating together. If these are things the early Christians were earnestly and unanimously devoted to, these are things we to ought to be faithfully passionate about.

Why These Things?

But why have the followers of Jesus throughout history been committed to hearing and teaching the word, to table fellowship with the believers, to remembering Jesus in the breaking of bread, and primarily to prayer? What is it about these things that captured the heart and the attention of the church? What is it about prayer that is so clearly foundational and central to the Christian life?

Prayer

First, what is prayer? Simply put, prayer is our communication with God. When we address God with worship, with thanksgiving, with confession, with requests, that is prayer. Prayer is our side of communication with God. Jesus had much to say about prayer. He exhorted his disciples to pray, he taught them how to pray (and how not to pray), he told them parables about prayer, and he modeled for them a life devoted to prayer.

Prayer, the way Jesus taught it, is humbling. If you think of the four aspects of prayer, worship is telling God how awesome he is, that he is greater than all else, including me. Worship is telling God all the things I admire about him, most of which are not true of me, and those things that are true of me in some degree are true in me only in an imperfect and flawed reflection of who he is. Worship is turning my attention away from me an to God, paying attention to him, celebrating and enjoying him for who he is. Confession is agreeing with God about the perfect standard and acknowledging how far I fall short of that standard. Thanksgiving is looking at the good things he gives that I don’t deserve and couldn’t earn and expressing gratitude as a humble recipient of great and glorious gifts. Requests are an expression of my need and his overwhelming generosity, of my emptiness and his fullness, of my brokenness and his wholeness, of my lack and his infinite supply. Being devoted to prayer means being constantly humbled in his presence.

And yet the privilege of prayer is amazing beyond comprehension. I can approach the all holy God in prayer because he so loved me that he gave his only Son to die in my place, pay my price, and purchase me as his own prized possession. Jesus opened to me the way of prayer through his own blood. I have been forgiven and cleansed and made new, and I can stand before him as a saint, a holy one. I have been adopted into the family of God, and can now address him as Father. He has taken me into his confidence, and I can address him as Friend. I have been granted bold access to the throne of grace. That is a humbling amazing reality that I am reminded of when I pray.

Prayer is our necessary connection to Jesus. Jesus used the metaphor of a vine with branches. He said:

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

We must stay constantly connected to Jesus in order to be alive and to bear fruit. The circulatory system must carry away waste and deliver nutrients to the branch and or the branch will die. We are to pray as if our life depended on it, because it does! We are to be devoted to prayer. A branch disconnected from the root will not last long. Prayer is to be as natural and constant as breathing; taking in life giving oxygen, exhaling to carry away dangerous waste. Our connection with Jesus is directly related to our life and fruitfulness. A Christian who is not constantly connected with Jesus will not grow or produce fruit.

The Apostles,

Acts 1:13 …Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

These men had been with Jesus. When Jesus had called them to follow him, they gladly left everything. They enjoyed being with him. They had spent time with Jesus. Jesus had poured into them, invested in them, spent time with them. He taught them, trained them, answered their questions, calmed their fears, assuaged their doubts, prepared them for the future. When Jesus told them that he was going away, ‘sorrow filled their hearts’ (Jn.16:6). They wanted nothing more than to be with Jesus. They longed to spend time in his company, being part of what he was doing, remaining connected. Jesus said:

John 16:22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. …24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

Jesus was crucified and his disciples scattered. But he rose from the dead and appeared to his disciples. Their hearts rejoiced and no one could take their joy. Before Jesus ascended bodily to the right hand of his Father, he said

Matthew 28:20 …And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

We abide in Jesus, we maintain that intimate connection with Jesus through prayer, through worship, confession, thanksgiving and requests. We depend on him. Apart from him we can do nothing. If we abide in him and his word abides in us, we will bear much fruit.

The Word

Our side of the communication is called prayer. God’s side of the communication is called divine revelation, and this happens primarily through the preaching and hearing of the word. This is why we see an unswerving commitment to the proclamation of biblical truth among the followers of Jesus. We want his word to abide in us. Jesus said to the religious leaders,

John 5:39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

The Apostles were Jews who had heard the Scriptures read all their lives. But they had met Jesus, and he created in them a new appetite for God’s word. When Jesus appeared to his disciples,

Luke 24:27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Luke 24:45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,

Because we have been with Jesus, because we have experienced him as the Word made flesh, we have a new appetite for Jesus, a hunger for his words. We want to hear him speak. His words are life and they are light. We are to be devoted to, steadfastly attentive to the Apostles’ teaching.

The Gospel

The early followers were devoted to the breaking of bread. Jesus broke bread and said ‘do this in remembrance of me’ (Lk.22:19). Remembering Jesus by breaking bread is a way to keep our eyes fixed on the gospel. We must not lose sight of the gospel, the good news that Jesus died to save sinners. Jesus took bread.

1 Corinthians 11:24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Jesus intended for us to remember him by breaking bread together. The early church was constantly diligent to break bread together. We too, should be devoted to the breaking of bread whereby we remember Jesus and keep our focus on the gospel.

Table Fellowship

The early church was devoted to fellowship. They ate together. They took food with joy and simplicity of heart. They ate at one another’s homes. Why eating together? The Corinthian church was rebuked for the way they ate together, each one going ahead with his own meal, not sharing and not waiting for one another. The purpose is not food, the purpose is building relationships. Eating together with joy and thankfulness is a way to build relationships. Having a meal together is a way of loving one another, and it can be a way to care for the needy. Discipleship, as Jesus did it, happened through the daily routines of life, walking, talking, traveling, fishing, eating, spending time caring for broken hurting people. The early church was devoted to table fellowship because our vertical relationship with God must bend outward to other people. Jesus said:

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

The early disciples were earnest toward eating together as an expression of love. We too must be devoted to fellowship with other believers.

Devoted to Unity in Community

The early church was unanimous in their devotion to fellowship, breaking bread, the word and prayer. These were not only individual exercises. They were together devoted – praying together, listening together ‘with one accord’, eating together, ‘house to house’. The early church was devoted to unity in the context of community. They were together in public, and they were together in their homes. The early church valued one another. Their relationship with Jesus found expression in their attitudes and actions toward one another.

Hindrances to Unanimous Devotion

Why aren’t we devoted to the same things that the followers of Jesus passionately committed themselves to? What keeps us from being earnest toward the things of Christ? If we can identify some of the things that prevent our devotion to Christ, we can begin to weed them out and cultivate a deeper devotion to the things that we are called to be devoted to.

We live in an individualistic society. Our culture does not encourage us to spend time face to face with other human beings, interacting, doing things together, caring for one another, being involved in the lives of others. We have been trained with a consumer worldview, where we ask the question ‘what can I get out of this’ and ‘how does this benefit me’ rather than, ‘what can I give’ and ‘how can I benefit others?’ If we can root out the individualism and self-focus that prevents us from living in genuine community with others, we will be more free to devote ourselves to these things.

Sin clearly will hinder us from being devoted to the things of Christ. When we fill our souls with counterfeit food, we ruin our appetites for that which gives life. Our desires need to be transformed. We have an empty gaping hole in our souls, and we seek to cram it full of stuff to satisfy our longings. We need to unpack the junk so that we can recognize that our true longings can only be satisfied by a relationship with God. When we crowd our lives with busyness we are simply being pulled in too many directions to be devoted to anything. When we fill our lives with noise, it drowns out any opportunity to listen to his voice. We need to take a hard look. Some things may have to go so that we can devote ourselves to prayer, to the word, to the gospel, to love.

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

January 4, 2015 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment