PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 13:12-14; Trinitarian Blessing

04/18_2 Corinthians 13:12-14; Trinitarian Blessing; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210418_2cor13_12-14.mp3

Paul has shown the Corinthians what authentic ministry is. By his life and teaching he has marked out for them and for us the way of the cross. He leaves them with this final exhortation.

2 Corinthians 13:11 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

Paul addresses the wayward Corinthians affectionately as brothers. He gives five commands: rejoice, be restored, be comforted, think the same, make peace; and he follows these commands with a promise, the promise of the presence of God, that the God of love and of peace will be with us. God with us – the motive and power to live in unity, to reconcile, to be courageous, to find true joy.

The Holy Kiss

Then he gives us another command.

2 Corinthians 13:12 Greet one another with a holy kiss.

We firmly believe that all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable, and we want to heed James’ instruction:

James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

So greet one another with a holy kiss. What do we do with a command like this? Here’s what we don’t do. This is the word of God. We don’t just squirm for a moment because it sounds uncomfortable and then move on and forget about it. We want the word of Christ to dwell in us, to change us, to change our behavior, to change how we relate to one another.

Here’s what else we don’t do. We don’t lift this out of its context and take it as biblical license to pursue our passions and make moves on someone we might be interested in. Note it says ‘one another’; that means everyone, no exclusions. Note, it also says it is to be ‘holy’; not impure, not selfish.

Here’s what we do. We need to look at a command like this in its context; its historical context, its cultural context, and the context of the letter in which it appears. This is a letter that is almost 2,000 years old, it was written by a Jew who became a follower of Jesus and it was written to a church planted in a Roman colony on the Achaian peninsula.

This is not the Song of Solomon (1:2) kind of kissing (there is a place for that, and God takes pleasure in our enjoyment of his good gifts to us). The holy kiss is commanded in 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans, 1 Thessalonians, and also in 1 Peter.

Jesus, in Luke 7 rebuked the Pharisee Simon who invited him over, for failing to give him a kiss.

Luke 7:44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.

Jesus points to a number of cultural customs that are foreign to us in the West today. It was appropriate hospitality to offer water for washing the feet, and to welcome with a kiss. Simon was rebuked for being inhospitable and rude to his guest. The kiss, on alternating cheeks, even today in the middle east, is used as a greeting, an expression of welcome and respect.

In Corinth, the culture was stratified. There were wealthy patrons and those who were indebted to them. There were slaves and those who had gained their freedom. There were rich and poor. And in 1 Corinthians Paul rebuked the divisions among them, especially at the Lord’s Supper:

1 Corinthians 11:21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

Those kind of divisions are eradicated at the cross. They do not belong in the church. We are to welcome one another. No one is to be excluded because of social or economic status. Because of Jesus we can ‘in humility count others as more significant than ourselves’ (Phil.2:3). We are commanded to extend welcome, extend hospitality to those we might naturally be uncomfortable with, because we are really no different; we are sinners saved by the undeserved kindness of an extravagantly merciful God.

All The Saints

2 Corinthians 13:13 All the saints greet you.

Often Paul sent greetings from specific individuals or groups. But here he makes the greeting universal, reminding this church that they are not on their own or in a class by themselves; rather he connects this church to the wider body of Christ. You are part of something bigger than you.

The word ‘saints’ is the same adjective translated in the previous phrase as ‘holy’; they are to greet one another with a holy kiss, and all the holy ones greet you. We enjoy a holy unity with every other believer made holy by the blood of Christ, ‘Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God’ (Rom.15:7).

And we are to express that unity in a tangible way.

Trinitarian Blessing

Paul concludes the letter with this blessing:

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.

As Paul opens every one of his letters with some variation of ‘grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’, he closes every one of his letters with some form of the benediction ‘grace be with you’, or ‘the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you’. But here in 2 Corinthians he expands this to include a blessing from God the Father and from the Holy Spirit.

This is a rich trinitarian blessing. He places the Lord Jesus Christ, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit in parallel phrases, on an equal level, and he attributes each respectively as the source of grace, of love and of fellowship. God is the source of every blessing, and he asks specifically that God’s undeserved grace would flow to them through Jesus, that God’s love would be poured out from the Father, and that fellowship would be experienced as a gift of the Holy Spirit.

There is Only One God

It was in light of plain statements like these, and in response to false teachers who began to teach things about God that contradicted the plain teaching of God’s word that the early church formulated the doctrine of the trinity.

The Scriptures clearly teach that there is only one God, that he has always existed, that there were no Gods before him and there will be no Gods after him. God will not share his glory with another (Is.42:8; 48:11). When Jesus was asked about the great commandment,

Mark 12:29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

The Lord our God, the Lord is one. There is not two Gods or three or many; there is one. You shall have no other gods before him (Ex.20:3).

Three Persons are God

And yet it is clear from the Scriptures that Jesus claimed to be God; in John 10, when Jesus said ‘I and the Father are one’, ‘the Jews picked up stones again to stone him.’

John 10:32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”

The Jews understood what he was claiming, and they considered it blasphemy. Jesus in many ways on many occasions claimed to be God, did things only God can do, and received worship as God.

The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of the Lord or the Spirit of God. In 1 Corinthians we are told:

1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

God’s temple is inhabited by God the Spirit. In Acts 5, Peter accused Ananias of lying to the Holy Spirit, and in the next breath he said that he lied to God (5:3-4, 9).

The Father is God, Jesus claims to be God, and the Spirit is God.

The Father is not the Son is not the Spirit

But it is also clear from the Scriptures that Jesus is not the Father or the Spirit, and the Spirit is not the Father or Jesus.

Jesus regularly prayed to his Father. He was filled with the Holy Spirit. When Jesus was baptized, the Spirit descended on him like a dove, and the Father spoke from heaven.

These are the Scriptural data which must be held together; there is only one God; the Father is God, the Son is God, the Spirit is God; but the Spirit is not Jesus or the Father, and Jesus is not the Spirit or the Father. There is one God who eternally exists in the three distinct and unconfused persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. No confusion of persons, no division of substance. Three in person, one in essence or being, they three share the God-ness of God.

John begins his gospel:

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

The Word, who at a point in time became flesh, had eternally existed both with God and as God. He is and always was himself fully deity, and he is and always was in fellowship with his Father, in a relationship of one person with another. Jesus said:

John 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as ‘the helper, whom’ – note the Holy Spirit is a whom not a what; a he not an it. The Father will send the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus. Three divine persons; one eternal God.

Enjoy the Truth

The truth of the one who is three is not esoteric and theoretical, not something for academics alone to ponder and defend. This is a truth to be enjoyed. By the church. By everyone. Paul calls down a blessing on the church from these three who are one.

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.

Grace, God’s undeserved unearned favor and kindness, when we justly deserve his wrath and hell, finds its source in the once-for-all wrath propitiating substitution of Jesus, the Christ, the Lord in my place, paying the debt I own and crediting me with his own perfect righteousness.

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

Grace, the grace of the Lord Jesus extended to me, undeserving sinner. We are given ‘the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’ (4:6). ‘Beholding the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed into the same image’ (3:18).

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

Jesus said ‘My grace is sufficient for you’ (12:9).

Love, the infinite love of the Father, ‘the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction’ (1:3-4). It is God in whom we hope, the God who raises the dead (1:9-10); God who is faithful to all his promises (1:18, 20). God commanded light to shine in the darkness of our hearts (4:6). God through Christ reconciled us to himself (5:18). It is God who said

2 Corinthians 6:16 …as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

God desires to dwell among us, to be with us.

2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

God is the God of love (13:11) and the love of God is extended to you!

Fellowship, intimacy, communion, union with God and one another brought about by the Holy Spirit of God. It is the Spirit who gives life (3:6). The Spirit of the Lord brings freedom and transformation (3:17-18).

2 Corinthians 1:21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

We are given the gift of the Spirit who lives in our hearts; we are established, anointed, sealed. The Spirit is given as the guarantee (5:5) of one day being at home with the Lord.

It is ours to enjoy the present fellowship we have with the Spirit, and the fellowship created among us because the same Spirit lives in each of us.

In the Old Testament, God commanded that his threefold name be placed on the people of Israel in blessing:

Numbers 6:24 YHWH bless you and keep you;

25 YHWH make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;

26 YHWH lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Let us make this our prayer: may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

***

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

April 23, 2021 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obey Jesus: Hospitality

07/19 Hospitality (Lk.10, 19, 14, 7; Eph.2; Mt.25); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20200719_hospitality.mp3

Last time we looked at the sabbath; God’s day of rest that commemorates both creation and redemption. Jesus invites us to come to him and find rest in him, and he will give us rest for our souls. He taught that we are to use his day to do good not evil, to save life, not to kill, to heal, to restore, to bless others. New Testament believers began to gather for worship on the first day of the week, resurrection day, the Lord’s day. We explored what it might look like and how we might benefit from setting aside time to worship and find rest for our souls.

Today I want to focus in on one way we could use our time to glorify God and love and serve others. I’d like to look at what Jesus taught about hospitality.

Love and Lodging for the Stranger [ξενία, ξενίζω, ξενοδοχέω, φιλονεξία, φιλόξενος]

The word group in the New Testament for hospitality is built around the word for ‘stranger, foreigner, or alien’; someone you don’t know. Hebrews 13:2 encourages us to show hospitality to strangers; Romans 12:13 tells us ‘Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.’ 1 Peter 4:8-9 tells us to keep loving one another even when we are sinned against, and to show hospitality without grumbling. 1 Timothy (3:2) and Titus (1:8) include ‘hospitable’ in the list of character qualities required of an overseer in the church. 1 Timothy (5:10) also lists ‘hospitable’ as a necessary quality of a widow eligible to be supported by the church. The words literally mean ‘to lodge or provide housing to a stranger’; ‘to receive a stranger’; or ‘to love the stranger’.

These words do not show up even once in the gospels. So did Jesus have nothing to say about hospitality? One way to answer that question would be to recognize the New Testament authors as fulfilling Jesus’ command to make disciples, ‘teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you’ (Mt.28:20). Jesus said and did much that is not recorded for us in the four gospels (as John tells us; Jn.20:30-31; 21:25), so what we have in the non red letters of the New Testament is just as much Jesus’ teaching as the red letters.

Another way to answer this question is to look not just for the specific word but also for the concept or idea in Jesus’ teaching. And if we do that, we have plenty to work with.

Hospitality Away From Home

Jesus summarized the commandments of God by the vertical and the horizontal; love for God and love for neighbor. When pressed to define ‘neighbor’ by a religious person who was wanting to justify himself, Jesus told the parable of the good Samaritan (Lk.10:33-37). The despised Samaritan was the one who proved to be a neighbor to the man in need. This traveling Samaritan was not able to bring the man into his own home, but he still extended hospitality; “when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’” We tend to limit hospitality to having someone over to our home; Jesus shows us that hospitality can be practiced even when you are away from home, even if you don’t have a home.

Depending On Hospitality

When Jesus sent out his disciples, he instructed them to depend on the hospitality of others.

Luke 9:2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. 3 And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. 4 And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. 5 And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.”

Then in chapter 10, when he sent 72 ahead of him,

Luke 10:2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ 6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. 7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. 9 Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’

Jesus instructs his followers that those to whom they bring the good news are to provide for their needs through their generous hospitality. To extend hospitality was to receive a stranger into their home, to provide food and lodging, to care for his needs. For their hospitality, Jesus says, they will be blessed.

Luke 10:10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

There was blessing for those who showed hospitality, and there were dire consequences for those who failed to show hospitality. Jesus took hospitality seriously!

Pride and Hospitality

Something we ought to note from this passage is that hospitality is a two-way street. Jesus was not talking to the people who would show hospitality; he was addressing his disciples who would be the recipients of hospitality. There is something important we need to learn here. Jesus is commanding his followers to graciously receive the hospitality that others extend to them.

In our pride, we want to be always on the giving end. It is humbling to receive hospitality from others. But Jesus instructs his followers how to be on the receiving end of hospitality.

In fact, Jesus led them in this by his own example. He told one would-be follower “the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Lk.9:58). Luke 8 lists several women ‘who provided for them out of their means (8:2-3). Jesus graciously received hospitality from others.

Did you know that Jesus even invited himself over?

Luke 19:5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”

Did you notice that Jesus invited himself over for a meal and to stay? Zacchaeus extended hospitality to him at Jesus’ request. Jesus was not only willing to associate with sinners, he was willing to receive hospitality from them. Jesus became the guest of a sinner, and was criticized for it. Notice also that his purpose was evangelistic.

Luke 19:9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Jesus brought good news, and his access to this house was humbling himself to receive hospitality from this house. Receiving hospitality was a way to seek and to save the lost.

Invite the Outcasts

On another occasion, when Jesus was invited to dinner by a ruler of the Pharisees,

Luke 14:12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

Our hospitality often can be an expression of pride. We attempt to impress others by the party we can throw, and the guests we invite. It is a way to show off status. Jesus tells us not to use hospitality that way. Invite the outcasts, the needy. We might say ‘I don’t want to invite them; my house is nice and they might mess it up.’ That’s pride.

On the flip side, it is often pride that keeps us from extending hospitality. Here are some common excuses we use for not showing hospitality; ‘I’m not sure I have enough’, or ‘I don’t want to invite anyone in; they will see that I don’t have it all together. I don’t have a very nice house.’ or ‘My house is a mess.’ The common root is pride; we think much of ourselves, and we want others to think much of us. But this kind of pride has no place in the heart of a follower of Jesus.

The point is people. Jesus doesn’t even comment on the dinner or the environment. It was an appointment with a person he came to seek and to save. Have you ever noticed how much in the gospels happens over a meal, around a table? The Last Supper is a meal.

Pharisaic Hospitality vs. Prostitute Hospitality

Look at Luke 7. Here is another occasion where Jesus is invited over for a meal, this time to the house of Simon, a Pharisee.

Luke 7:36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.

The custom of the day was a low table in the center of the room, surrounded by mats or cushions, where guests could recline on one elbow with feet extending out away from the table. This often took place in a semi-public courtyard. What happens next is scandalous.

Luke 7:37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.

This is an embarrassment to the host and his guests. This is a woman of the city, a woman with a bad reputation, a prostitute. She shouldn’t be there, and it is improper for her to approach the guests. This is a respectable dinner party. But she loses her composure, weeping at Jesus’ feet, lets down her hair and begins to massage his feet with her tears and her hair and kiss them earnestly and anoint them with her perfumed oil. This is sensual and unexpected and couldn’t be more awkward.

Luke 7:39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”

Simon knows what kind of a woman this is who is attaching herself to his guest. And he begins to question his character. Simon is silently questioning to himself Jesus’ identity as a prophet. Jesus responds, ironically, by reading his thoughts and answering his unasked question with a story.

Luke 7:40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” 41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”

This pharisee had shown Jesus hospitality. He had invited him for a meal. But it wasn’t because he loved Jesus. And he wasn’t looking to Jesus to meet his need. He didn’t acknowledge his own need. He didn’t think he had a debt, if anything he thought he was putting Jesus in his debt by having him over. Likely he was looking to test Jesus, to trap him, or at least to engage him in a lively theological debate. He didn’t care about Jesus. Jesus contrasts this pharisaic hospitality with prostitute hospitality.

Luke 7:44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

She came as a sinner, needy, broken, seeking forgiveness from the only one she believed could give it, and she found it. She was extending Jesus hospitality in the only way she knew how. She was honoring, she was worshiping. Rosaria Butterfield writes, “When Jesus receives the repentance of a sinner, he alone untwists that love from the bidding it has done in sin. Jesus receives her touch in purity, because he transforms what she gives.” Her love is a response to his forgiveness. The one whose greater debt was canceled loves more.

God’s Gospel Hospitality

So too with us. Our love, expressed horizontally in loving hospitality toward others, is an outflow of the welcome and hospitality which has been extended to us by God.

Ephesians 2 uses this term ‘strangers’ [ξένος] to describe us.

Ephesians 2:12 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,

God exercised hospitality. God loved the stranger and took us in. At infinite cost to himself, he paid the price to bring us near.

Hospitality Horizontal and Vertical

Although the words for hospitality do not show up in Jesus’ teaching, the root of the ‘hospitality’ word group, the word ‘stranger’, [ξένος] does occur four times in one passage, Matthew 25, clearly in context dealing with this issue of hospitality. It is a context of final judgment, separating the righteous from the wicked.

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

Hospitality is receiving or taking in or welcoming the stranger.

Matthew 25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Jesus makes our horizontal hospitality, welcoming the stranger, one of the prime evidences that separates someone who knows him from someone who does not. In fact, all the things Jesus mentions here, feeding the hungry, giving a drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned could all fall under the category of showing hospitality.

Both groups are bewildered. When did we ever do or not do these things to you? This is stunning! Our horizontal expressions of hospitality toward others our King receives as hospitality to himself. ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

***

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

July 21, 2020 Posted by | discipleship, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 9:13-14; God Glorified in Gospel Communion

11/24_2 Corinthians 9:13-14; God Glorified in Gospel Communion ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191124_2cor9_13-14.mp3

The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

1 Corinthians 6:20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

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

The question we have is ‘How do we glorify God? What does it mean to glorify God? What does that look like in practical daily life?’ This passage in 2 Corinthians 9 gives us one clear way we can produce thanksgiving and bring glory to God.

Glorify God by Loving God and Neighbor

2 Corinthians 9:7 …God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 9 As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous (single-hearted) in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

God is able to make all grace abound to you for all simplicity, for abounding in every good work. When we use what God has freely given us to extend his grace to bless others, it does more than just meeting that need. It produces thanksgiving to God.

We want to live for the glory of God. We long for the Lord alone to be glorified. We want him to get the thanks he deserves. Paul tells us in these verses how to produce thanksgiving to God. He tells us that our unmixed devotion and love for the Lord will produce thanksgiving to God. For the Corinthians, this was specifically in the context of the collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem. Our context will be different, but the results can be the same. This will look different for each of us. There are myriads of ways we can produce thanksgiving and bring glory to God in daily life. Whenever we in simplicity love God and love neighbor, we glorify God.

Approval and Authenticity

Paul goes on in the next verses to tell us how this works. How does our love for God and practical expression of love for neighbor bring glory to God? He says of the saints in Jerusalem:

2 Corinthians 9:13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity (simplicity) of your contribution (fellowship) for them and for all others, 14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.

By the approval (δοκιμή) of this service they will glorify God. It is through their approval of this service or ministry. The service of cheerful giving is proved or tested and approved by them. Paul used a related word to this word ‘approval’ in 8:8.

2 Corinthians 8:7 But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you— see that you excel in this act of grace also. 8 I say this not as a command, but to prove (δοκιμάζω) by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.

Prove that your love is genuine. Proving demonstrates the genuineness of a thing. A thing is approved when it is proved to be what it claims to be. It is by the approval of this service that they glorify God. There is such a thing as service that is not really service, ministry that is not really ministry. It appears to be, but it is not genuine. The outward thing might look identical, but it is intrinsically different. Fools gold might appear to be gold, but in the furnace it is proved to be a different thing altogether. In this context, cheerful giving is the service. There might be two givers who give, and the amount might be identical. The outward act is the same. But what is the heart and attitude behind the gifts? The one might be out of a simple affection for Jesus and a desire to honor him with what he has given. The other might be mixed with a desire to be noticed, to be perceived as generous, to gain the status and respect of a generous giver. It might be out of a sense of pressure or obligation, or out of a desire to repay a debt. It might be a way to relieve guilt. Both gifts might meet the need, but as we’ve seen throughout these chapters, the heart of the giver is most important. One is proved genuine, the other proves to be fools gold.

Which is it? Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference. What is the ultimate result? Who gets glory? Jesus said:

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Let your light shine before men. Do good works. But do them in such a way that God gets the glory. The giver gets the glory. If the giver is God and it is clear that I am merely a conduit or channel through which God’s good gifts flow, then God gets the glory. If I attempt to share his glory, to claim credit for myself, I obscure where the gift comes from, and I attempt to steal glory for myself, glory that rightly belongs to God alone.

Remember Annanias and Sapphira in the early church (Acts 5)? Many of the believers were selling their possessions and sharing what they had. They sold a piece of land, and presented part of the sale price as a gift, but secretly withheld part for themselves. It was not wrong to keep some of the proceeds. It would not have been wrong to keep the entire amount. The apostles make this clear. What they were accused of was lying to God. They were not genuine. They were trying to deceive, trying to be perceived as something they were not. Their hearts were wrong. They were seeking to impress others, to be perceived as generous, to gain status and approval. Instead they were exposed for what they were, and they dropped dead on the spot. Our hearts matter greatly to God.

People may be deceived. People may misread motives, but God knows our hearts.

Gentile Submission to the Gospel

2 Corinthians 9:13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,

They will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ.

This word ‘submission’ is used in contexts of submission to authority, submission of children to parents, of a wife to her husband, of slaves to their masters, of citizens to their governing authorities. It is used of the submission of Jesus to his Father. It is used of the submission of demons to Jesus, and ultimately of all things under God. This is an interesting use of this word here in this context. What is ‘the submission of your confession to the gospel of Christ’?

This word submission seems to have a large overlap with another word, often translated ‘obedience’. Both are used for submission to or obedience to parents, to masters, of demons to Jesus. The obedience word has more to do with hearing and obeying; as the wind and waves obeyed Jesus’ voice. This submission word has more to do with being subject to authority. The obedience word is used several times in the context of obeying the gospel, as almost synonymous with believing. To hear his voice and respond to him is to believe. This is the only place that this submission word seems to be connected with the gospel. But it is not just submission to the gospel, but the submission of your confession to the gospel of Christ.

This idea of submission points to something bigger. There are some verses that use this submission word to speak in a cosmic context of all authorities and powers and everything being put under the authority of Jesus, and ultimately of his Father. Here’s just one example:

Ephesians 1:19 …according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things [in subjection] under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,

This points to a time when the whole universe will be under the dominion of Jesus. That there are non-Jewish people who are trusting in the Jewish Messiah, that there is a church of Jesus followers in Corinth and in Philippi and in Ephraim Utah is a big deal! This is a foretaste of everything in the universe being in subjection under King Jesus! For the Jewish believers in Jerusalem to see that there were genuine followers of Jesus from every tribe and nation was a big deal.

Confessing The Gospel

2 Corinthians 9:13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,

The submission of your confession to the gospel of Christ. What does it mean to confess to the gospel of Christ? Gospel means good news. To confess is the compound word ὁμολογία from homo – the same and logia or logos – word or reasoning. Literally it is to say the same thing. We confess or profess the gospel when we say the same thing. What the gospel says is what I say. If the good news is that whoever believes in Jesus is not condemned but has eternal life (Jn.3:36) then I say the same thing. I trust in Jesus so I am no longer under condemnation but I have eternal life. If the good news is that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Eph.2:8), then I say the same thing. There is nothing I can do to rescue myself. I am depending on Jesus, I receive his free and undeserved gift. I confess the gospel. What the gospel says, what God says is true, I say is true.

The good news is Christ. The good news is a person. In confessing the gospel of Christ I am submitting to a person. I surrender. I place myself under his good authority. I trust him and entrust myself to him.

Communion and Community

2 Corinthians 9:13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others,

They give praise and honor to God because you are believing the gospel. You are confessing the gospel of Christ. You are placing yourself under the rule and authority of Jesus.

And they glorify God because of the generosity (literally simplicity or sincerity, openness) of your fellowship. When they see your single hearted love for God and neighbor, they see the genuineness of your faith, and they glorify God.

The gospel creates communion, fellowship, something in common. People who had nothing at all in common, when they belong to Jesus, now they have a common bond, a connection, something in common. The most important thing in common. People of different language and culture and ethnic background, when they belong to Jesus, have the most important thing in common. And this creates a bond, a connection. Have you experienced this? You meet a total stranger, someone you have nothing in common with, and you discover that they too are a lover of Jesus, and you suddenly have this unity, this connection, you can enjoy communion. The opposite is true. You might have so many shared interests, so much shared life experience, you might have so much in common, but if the other person is not a believer, you can’t have true fellowship, true communion. Not at the deepest, most important level. They see the simplicity of your communion to them and to all. There is a connection with every other believer, and that brings glory to God.

Passion and Prayer

This communion is reciprocal. What this looks like is described in the next verse.

2 Corinthians 9:14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.

Have you ever had someone tell you that they have been praying for you? Maybe someone you’re not really all that close to? Yet they are invested in you enough to take you into the very presence of God and speak to him about you. That is humbling and amazing. They long for you and pray for you. Their affections are involved. They care about you. They care enough to pray for you. They are bringing you into the presence of God as a praise. They are thanking God for you, for the work God has done in you. You are loving God and loving neighbor, and maybe you don’t even feel like you’re really doing that much. But they recognize the grace of God on you, that you are a trophy of God’s unmerited grace. And they glorify God because of you. That is a humbling, encouraging experience. That creates a connection. That is communion.

Surpassing Grace

And this brings us full circle. Your ministry, your simplicity of service to others is evidence of the tested genuineness of the submission of your confession of the gospel of Christ. This is evidence of the surpassing grace of God on you. Paul started this section encouraging simplicity and generosity by pointing to the grace of God,

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

The grace of God had been given, and it overflowed in a wealth of single-hearted simplicity, love first for God and then for neighbor. Now he comes full circle. He began with the grace of God given to them, and he ends with the surpassing grace of God on you, recognized by others.

2 Corinthians 9:14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you.

This generosity, this love, this openness and simplicity, this ability to increase thanksgivings and glorify God is all of grace from beginning to end.

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

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

2 Corinthians 9:7; God Is a Cheerful Giver

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

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

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

Proverbs 22:8-9 [LXX]

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

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

Then in verse 11 it says:

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

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

A Single Eye

Proverbs 22:8-9 in the ESV reads:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Jesus said the most important thing is:

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

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

A Cheerful Giver

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

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

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

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

Upon Blessings

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

God’s Unconditional Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consequences of Not Giving Cheerfully

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Is a Cheerful Giver

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

Look to God the cheerful giver!

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was his joy to give himself up for us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prove the Proof of Your Love

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

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

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

Accountability Among the Churches

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

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

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

Unity and Diversity in the Body

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Connections with Other Churches

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

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

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

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

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

Paul’s Gospel Boasting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessing not Greed

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul’s Willingness

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

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

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

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

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

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

To The Glory of the Lord Himself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then he says in

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

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

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

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

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

What God’s Glory Looks Like

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

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

The Nations Bringing Glory to God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Romans 15 he says:

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

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

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

It looks to the time,

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

God will send to the nations

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

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

The glory of the Lord himself is displayed;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review

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

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

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

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

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

Given to the Lord

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

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

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

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

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

You Are Not Your Own

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

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

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

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

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

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

All You Have Is Not Yours

In 1 Corinthians 4 Paul says:

1 Corinthians 4:7 …What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

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

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

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

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

Then it says in verse 9:

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

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

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

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

He continues:

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

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

And then David prays:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Application

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

In the words of Romans 12,

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

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

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

Paul said to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20

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

Jesus said:

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

The Collection For Jerusalem

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

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

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

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

Grace Given

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

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

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

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

Reciprocal Joy

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

God’s Grace

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

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

Grace in Affliction

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

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

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

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

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

Transforming Grace

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

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

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

Simplicity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out-Giving God?

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

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

Grace Expressed

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

2:14-7:4; Authentic Ministry

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

Resolution with Depression

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

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

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

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

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

Paul’s Inner Anxiety

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But …God

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

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

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

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

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

The God of All Comfort

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

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

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

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

Paul began this letter pointing us to

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

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

Mediated Comfort

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

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

Reciprocal Comfort; Reciprocal Joy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul said in:

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

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

***

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

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

The Son Before The Manger

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

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

<<Video>>

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

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

John 3:16

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

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

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

Only Begotten

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

God Gave and Sent

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

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

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

The Only One Who Came Down

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Child Born, A Son Given

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

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

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

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

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

We see this also in the prophecy in Micah 5.

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

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

In The Beginning He Was

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

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

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

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

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

Verse 9 says:

John 1:9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

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

Verse 14 tells us how.

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

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

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

What Does It Matter?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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