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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

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 9:11-12; Producing Thanksgiving

11/17_2 Corinthians 9:11-12; Producing Thanksgiving ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191117_2cor9_11-12.mp3

What are you thankful for? What should we be thankful for that we may not be? Is your heart characterized by gratitude? How is thankfulness developed? What can we do to grow our gratitude? Here’s another question: Is there anything that we can do to affect the thankfulness of someone else?

In Paul’s instructions on generosity and cheerful giving in 2 Corinthians 8-9 he gives some important insight into thanksgiving.

2 Corinthians 9:11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous 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.

Paul says that there is a way to produce thanksgiving to God. He says that what we do can overflow in many thanksgivings to God. If we want God to be glorified through our lives, then we should be very interested in what he has to say here.

Paul is talking about giving. He builds everything he says on God’s grace, God’s undeserved gift to us in Jesus. He looks to God as the ultimate giver, the source of every good thing. Anything we give to others is actually a re-gifting of what God has first given to us, and that is what he intends for us to do.

Simpleness or Generosity

He says in 2 Corinthians 9:11 “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way.” This word translated ‘generous’ is a word we saw before in 8:2. Some interpretation has to happen in translation, and most English translations use the word ‘generosity’ because the context is clearly one of financial giving. But the word itself means simplicity, singleness or sincerity; free from pretense or hypocrisy; not self-seeking; an openness of heart. In Ephesians 6 and in Colossians 3 it is used in the context of a servant’s obedience to his master.

Ephesians 6:5 Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ,

Colossians 3:22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.

It is with an undivided heart, as to the Lord, not only while they are watching, but at all times eager to please the Lord. There is to be openness, integrity. Paul used this word to point to his own integrity in 2 Corinthians 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…

Simplicity, transparent openness and integrity.

The first translation of the Bible into English, the Wycliffe Bible in 1382 translates like this: “that in all things ye made rich wax plenteous into all simpleness”

A more modern literal translation might read something like this: ‘in all enriched to all simplicity, which works through us thanksgiving to God.’ That doesn’t make great sense in English, so a good translation will put the words in an order that makes sense in the target language, and will pick up clues from the context as to how a word is being used. Paul is talking about an undivided heart, single or simple, seeking in all things to please the Lord, loving the Lord with a whole heart, and your neighbor as yourself. This includes generosity, but it is bigger than generosity.

Enriched to Simplicity

‘In all things enriched to all simplicity.’ You will be enriched in every way to be single-hearted in every way. What does it mean that we will be enriched in everything or in every way? This is defined by the context.

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

God will supply everything needed so that we can abound in every good work. He will give us what we need to live a righteously, to distribute freely and give to the poor; he will supply and multiply our seed for sowing and increase our harvest of righteousness. We will be enriched in every way for a simple whole-hearted love for God and neighbor.

What About Poor Christians?

Do you believe this? Do you believe that God will supply all your needs? Does this mean that no Christian will ever be poor? Paul himself said he knew how to be content in plenty and in want. At times he went hungry. The Macedonian believers were in the depths of poverty. The collection was for the poor saints in Jerusalem, because they were poor. Our brothers and sisters are beaten and imprisoned and even killed because of their love for God. How do we account for this?

God doesn’t here promise exemption from poverty. He doesn’t say that as long as you’re following him, you will have enough money for your own needs and extra to give away. Apparently the Macedonians didn’t have enough for their own needs, but they gave anyway. If we view this as a financial formula, we will have to turn a blind eye to all of church history right up through our present day, or we will have to write them all off as not having enough faith.

But if we understand that God will give you all his grace so that you can stand firm in your faith and continue to love God and neighbor even in the worst of circumstances, then this is realistic and reliable encouragement for us.

Bigger Than Humanitarian

2 Corinthians 9:11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous 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 gives us everything we need so that in every circumstance we can love God and neighbor which will produce thanksgiving to God. Do you believe this? Do you believe that you can live to the glory of God regardless of your circumstances? Do you believe that you can stay faithful to God and serve others even if you have nothing? This is the word of God! This is the promise of God to us. Do we live this way? Do we step out in love and serve, trusting that God will be enough?

Paul says that through us this will produce thanksgiving to God. Paul was involved in the transaction. He was orchestrating the collection for the saints in Jerusalem. He understood that God would use him and his companions to deliver this gift, to be the connecting link between Jew and Gentile churches. He believed that this would produce thanksgiving to God. Paul’s goal was bigger than a humanitarian mission. He was all for alleviating suffering where possible, but his purpose was bigger than that. Paul’s ultimate goal in everything was to bring glory to God. And he shows us how this humanitarian collection will produce thanksgiving to God in verse 12.

2 Corinthians 9:12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

The ministry of this service not only does this, but also does that. Not only does it supply what is lacking in the saints; it does that, as he said back in 8:14 that your abundance will supply their need. It does meet a real need, but it is bigger than that. It is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.

Service and Worship

How does it do this? Paul uses an interesting word to describe this ministry. He uses two different words that have a large area of overlap to describe the collection. Both words could be translated ‘ministry’ or ‘service’. It is ‘the ministry of this ministry’ or ‘the service of this service’. The first word has a more a sense of administration or stewardship. It is where we get the word ‘deacon’. It is ministering or administering practical service or help.

The second word is less common, and it comes from the context of the Old Testament priest. John the Baptist’s father Zechariah was a priest, and we are told in Luke 1

Luke 1:8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.

And then it says:

Luke 1:23 And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

That’s our word; his time of priestly service. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, this word shows up often in connection with the tabernacle and then the temple. It has to do with approaching God in worship. It is where we get our English word liturgy.

Paul describes giving to the poor out of a single heart a service or ministry of priestly worship. Paul refers to this collection as a priestly service in Romans 15.

Romans 15:25 …I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. 27 For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings.

Giving is an act of worship. Paul describes his own ministry in these terms.

Romans 15:15 …because of the grace given me by God 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

His language pictures himself in terms of a priest at the altar, presenting a holy sacrifice pleasing to God, only his service is not at the temple, but in the gospel; and his offering is not an animal sacrifice or a grain offering, but people, Gentile people made holy by the Spirit of God.

He uses similar priestly imagery in Philippians 2

Philippians 2:17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.

Here he describes his own life as the offering being poured out on the sacrifice and priestly service of their faith.

Paul has told the Corinthians

1 Corinthians 3:16 …that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 …For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? …

2 Corinthians 6:16 …For we are the temple of the living God; 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.

We are the temple. We are the place of meeting with God. Peter fleshes out this imagery when he says:

1 Peter 2:5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. …9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

You are the temple. You are a holy priesthood. You are to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. You get to proclaim the excellencies of him! This is worship. To proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Paul tells the Romans

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

Our bodies are the sacrifice, made holy by the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus for us. He goes on to tell us more specifically how:

Romans 12:5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity (or simplicity); the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Use your gifts to the glory of God. Through love serve one another.

The book of Hebrews, which focuses on Jesus as our greater High Priest, also exhorts us:

Hebrews 13:15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

A sacrifice of praise; lips that acknowledge his name. Do good and share what you have. In single simplicity love God with all your heart and love and serve your neighbor as yourself.

2 Corinthians 9:11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous 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.

The ultimate motive is always God centered. We are always to pursue the glory of God in all things. God the giver deserves to receive the overflow of gratitude for the gifts he has given. When we love and serve others in the strength that he supplies, he gets the glory; we produce thanksgiving; many will overflow in thanksgiving to God.

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

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

2 Corinthians 9:8; Abounding Grace for Abounding Generosity

11/03_2 Corinthians 9:8; I Shall Not Want; Abounding Grace for Abounding Generosity; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191103_2cor9_8.mp3

Abounding Grace for Abounding Generosity

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. 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.

Abounding grace for abounding generosity. God will freely give you what you need so that you can freely give. Notice the ‘abound’ word – twice in this verse. It starts with all grace abounding, and it ends with all good work abounding. And notice the comprehensive ‘all’ words three times in the middle; all, always, all. This verse is symmetrical and comprehensive. It begins with an overflow of God’s grace to us, and it flows out in our good works.

Here’s a rough literal translation to help you see the symmetry and repetition in the verse:

‘Now mighty/able [is] God, all grace to cause to abound to you,

in order that in all,

always,

all self sufficiency having,

you will abound in all good work.’

God’s Ability

This verse begins with God’s ability, God’s abundant grace. God is able to make all grace abound to you. Let’s just soak in that statement for a moment. God is mighty. God is strong. God is able. He is powerful. He is fully capable. Omnipotent is the theological word – all powerful. Nothing is too difficult for the Lord. Nothing is beyond his ability. He is able to do all that he wants to do.

God’s Eagerness

And God loves a cheerful giver. The one who scatters seed bountifully will also reap bountifully. God loves a cheerful giver because he is a cheerful giver. And he loves to create cheerful giving in us. What he wants to do is to make all his grace abound to you. So that you will overflow with cheerful giving. Paul held up the Macedonians as an example of this in the beginning of chapter 8.

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 [abounded] in a wealth of generosity [simplicity] 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 [grace] of taking part [fellowship] in the relief [service] of the saints—

God gave the Macedonian believers his grace, and it created abundant joy and overflowed in abundant single-hearted simplicity. God gave his grace to them, and God will give his abundant grace to you too.

God is able, and he is willing. He gave us the ultimate proof of his willingness.

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.

This is abundant grace indeed! That God himself, God the Son, being eternally rich, would enter into our poverty in order to make us rich with his presence forever! If you ever doubt his goodness, his grace, you need only look to the cross.

All Grace Abounding

Look carefully at what this says. Savor this! God is able to make all grace abound to you. It does not say that he will merely give you grace (as if that would not be enough). Not just sufficient grace, not some grace, but all grace. All grace! God holds nothing back! He gives us “the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph.2:7)! All grace, every good gift we don’t deserve and didn’t earn is ours in Christ Jesus!

But he doesn’t even stop there, in giving us all his grace. He is able to cause all grace to abound, to overflow to you! All his grace in unending, overwhelming, abundant supply.

Ephesians 3:14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, …16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Glory! We need his supernatural strength to comprehend the depth of his goodness toward us! All his undeserved grace in abundant supply! Worship!

The Purpose of Abundance

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

There is a purpose statement here. ‘So that’ or ‘in order that’. God’s grace is abundantly given to us for a purpose. It is so that in all things, at all times, we would have all sufficiency to abound in all good work. God’s abundant giving is to be mirrored in us. God gives abundantly to us so that we will become abundant givers like he is.

God’s purpose in causing all his grace to abound to you is not for you to store it up and horde it. It is not for you to become a a septic tank, where everything goes in and nothing out, where the good water flowing from the kitchen sink gets stagnant and smelly, until it gets too full and too foul and needs to be pumped out.

God’s design is that you be a fresh mountain reservoir, with direct access to the ever flowing springs and streams of God’s goodness, filled to overflowing so that it can freely flow out to bless others.

Paul tells the elders from Ephesus:

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.’”

We are blessed in order to bless others. By working hard we must help the weak. He writes to the Ephesians:

Ephesians 4:28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.

The contrast here between stealing and working is not merely a contrast of how wealth is gotten. It is also a contrast of purposes. Not stealing to have more to spend, not stealing to supply his own needs, but working hard in order to have something to share with anyone in need. The heart of the thief is transformed. His goal for his income honestly gotten is radically different.

Paul writes Timothy:

1 Timothy 6:17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

The rich are not condemned for being rich, but rather are exhorted to not believe in, trust in, set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches. They are exhorted to use what they have been blessed with to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share. This is how to truly enjoy wealth. This is truly living!

The author of Hebrews says

Hebrews 13:5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Free! Freedom to be content with what you have. Content with the promise of God’s presence. He goes on to say:

Hebrews 13:16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

The privilege of pleasing God. We have the awesome privilege of pleasing God with what he has given freely to us.

Abundant Supply for Every Good Work

God’s purpose in causing all his grace to abound to you is that you might reflect him by abounding in all good work. We might ask ‘What good work? Which good work am I supposed to abound in? I certainly can’t do everything.’ This is similar to the lawyer’s question when Jesus affirmed that the law requires that we love God and love neighbor as oneself.

Luke 10:29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

We want off the hook. So we say ‘Which good work?’ Jesus told a story about a man who had been beaten and robbed and left half dead, and three different people’s responses to seeing this man in need. Jesus’ question was:

Luke 10:36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”

Jesus turns the question around from ‘who is my neighbor’ to ‘where is your heart?’ What kind of a neighbor are you to the people in your life who have need? Are you miserly, eager to protect what you have, focusing on your own potential loss, or is your heart overflowing, seeing the need around you and leaping at the opportunity to bless as you have been so abundantly blessed?

This passage simply and clearly answers this question with one simple word; all. Every. So that you may abound in all good work. Every good work.

In fact James goes so far as to say

James 4:17 (KJV) Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

If you’re anything like me, you hear this and you say ‘but I don’t have sufficient resources to do it all! Every good work? This surely must be hyperbole. It can’t mean literally every good work, can it?

Sandwiched in the middle of this purpose statement are three more ‘all’ words. Inside the ‘In order that …you may abound in every good work’ are these six words: ‘in all, always, all sufficiency having.’ To our ‘but I don’t have enough, I won’t have enough’ God says ‘you will have all you need, all the time, in everything.’

In another passage where Paul is thanking a church family for sending him support, he says:

Philippians 4:19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

When I am focused on my lack and begin to doubt, I need to ask myself ‘Is Jesus enough?’ What is it that I really need?

Our thinking tends to be stuck in categories of giving monetarily. And that is a valid category. But we need to be open to thinking outside our boxes, as Peter and John teach us in Acts 3. They were on their way to the temple to pray when they were interrupted by a lame beggar asking for money. Here it is in the old King James, the way I first heard it:

Acts 3:6 (KJV) Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.

He was asking for money. Not many of us can honestly say ‘Silver and gold have I none.’ But we do hold the life-transforming treasure of the gospel in these jars of clay. Peter and John could have said ‘Silver and gold have I none’ and felt off the hook to walk by and do nothing. But instead their time with Jesus had transformed their vision to see beyond what he was asking for to his real need, to the hope of all things made new. What has Jesus freely given you that you can share freely with others?

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

Let’s end by savoring these familiar words together:

Psalm 23 (KJV) 1 A Psalm of David.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:

he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3 He restoreth my soul:

he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:

for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:

thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:

and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

****

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

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

2 Corinthians 9:6-7; Sowing and Planning

10/20_2 Corinthians 9:6-7; Sowing and Planning; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20191020_2cor9_6-7.mp3

Paul takes two chapters in this letter to encourage generosity in the collection for the saints in Jerusalem that he is overseeing. He wants them to know about he grace of God given in Macedonia, where the believers joyfully gave beyond their ability, eager to participate in this act of grace. He encourages them that as they excel in so many areas, they ought to excel in this grace also. He refuses to command them, but rather gives them an opportunity to prove that their love is genuine. He holds up Jesus as the ultimate source of grace and generosity. He exhorts them to do what they wanted to do, to use their own abundance to make up for the lack others are experiencing; this is the very reason why God supplied them with an abundance. He commends the delegates from the other churches, sent to ensure the integrity of the mission, who are eager to serve and have great confidence in them. This is an opportunity for connection and accountability between the churches. Paul had boasted about them to the Macedonians, and the Corinthians’ previous zeal stirred them up to generosity. Paul is now sending the brothers ahead to avoid embarrassment, to ensure they are ready as they promised when he arrives.

2 Corinthians 9:4 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.

This last phrase can be literally translated ‘your before promised blessing, that this be ready thus as a blessing and not as greed.’ Paul is after their hearts. Motives matter. Why are they giving? Are their hearts overflowing with blessing? Or will it be an expression of their greed, their stinginess?

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.

Paul uses an agricultural analogy to encourage generosity. This word ‘sparingly’ means ‘to refrain, to spare, to save from loss of some kind’ [BDAG 1051]. The idea is that a farmer goes out to sow seed in his field and he looks in his bag of seed and thinks ‘This grain could feed my family. This grain is valuable. I could sell it. If I just throw it on the ground I might not have enough. To throw good seed in the dirt seems such a waste. It’s just going to fall into the ground and die.’

Anyone at all familiar with farming understands how ridiculous this kind of thinking is. If a farmer is stingy with his seed, worried about the waste of throwing seed into the ground, he doesn’t understand farming.

Jesus and Sowing

Jesus talked a lot about farming. In Matthew 13 he said:

Matthew 13:3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.”

Here we see what the stingy farmer is afraid of. Birds might devour all the seed. The sun will scorch the young plants. Weeds will choke them out. What waste! But in Jesus’ parable, the sower sowed anyway. He scattered seed widely, we might say even recklessly, wastefully. But when harvest time came, the seed that fell on good soil produced bountifully. The more seed he scattered, the more landed on good soil, and his harvest would be exponentially greater.

Jesus went on in Matthew 13 to describe another hazard to farming.

Matthew 13:24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also.

The crop is ruined! Weeds are growing with the wheat! What should we do? The Master said:

Matthew 13:30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

Jesus is confident in the power of the seed to produce fruit in spite of obstacles. There was still ample harvest, regardless of the enemy’s efforts. Peter says:

1 Peter 1:23 …you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 …The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

God sows with imperishable seed. His word will stand. The power of the gospel, the power of his grace will overcome.

Jesus said in Mark 4

Mark 4:26 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

Notice what this farmer did. He scattered seed on the ground, and he went to sleep. You can lose a lot of sleep worrying about tomorrow. But this farmer believed. He trusted that something bigger than him was at work. He scattered the seed and he slept soundly.

The Way Of The Cross

Jesus said in John 12:

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

It seems that throwing seed into the ground is a waste. It is just going to die. It is a loss. But that is the way of fruitfulness. That is the way of growth.

Mark 8:34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

This is the way of the cross. This is the way of death that leads to resurrection and new life. This is the way that seems foolish and yet reveals the power of God.

Giving and Blessing

Proverbs 11 shows this way that seems contrary to wisdom.

Proverbs 11:24 One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. 25 Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. …28 Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.

Giving does not seem to our wisdom to be the way to security. You may be familiar with the proverbial sounding wisdom of an older generation: ‘waste not, want not’ and ‘a penny saved is a penny earned’. There is of course some truth to that, but we must understand that giving is not wasting. We must be on our guard against greed.

Jesus said:

Luke 12:15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness [πλεονεξίας], for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

This word ‘covetousness’ is the same word at the end of 2 Corinthians 9:5 ‘ your before promised blessing, that this be ready thus as a blessing and not as greed

Luke 12:16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

God says it is the fool who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.

Proverbs 19:17 Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed.

Proverbs 28:27 Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.

Not Prosperity Gospel

I want to give a caution here. Many people today use some of these passages to preach a prosperity gospel. ‘Give to our ministry so that God will bless you financially. Send us your seed faith offering. Send $10 and it will become $100. Send $100 and it will become $1,000.’ This is nothing more than thinly veiled greed in church clothes. It is a get rich quick scheme that gives false hope and preys on the poor. Paul is talking about motives here, and if your motive in giving is to get back from God with compounded interest, then your motive is dead wrong. If you are trying to manipulate God by his promises to amass financial wealth for yourself, then money is the god you are really worshiping. That kind of thinking ignores the context and twists these passages to say something they do not say. The Macedonian Christians gave out of the depth of their poverty beyond what they could afford, not at all expecting anything in return. Paul wants to be sure the Corinthians are not stingy or motivated by greed.

Burden, Grief, Necessity

What Paul said in chapter 8 demonstrates what he perceives as one of the things holding them back from extravagant generosity:

2 Corinthians 8:12 For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. 13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness 14 your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness.

The Corinthians are looking at this as a burden, not a blessing. They are concerned that if they bring relief to the pressure of others, then it will put them in a position of need themselves. Paul re-frames their thinking, showing them that they have a current spiritual lack that will be met by the joy of giving to those who are materially lacking. This ought not to be viewed as a burden, but as a God given grace. It is a gift of God, it is grace to be stirred to give, as the Macedonians teach us, begging earnestly for the grace and communion or fellowship of service to the saints.

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.

Paul here emphasizes the importance of motive. He gives two more descriptions of wrong motives to be avoided. Not reluctantly, not out of grief or sadness, not grudgingly. It is an occasion of sadness for someone who loves his money too much to be parted from it. ‘No, no, I do want you to have it, just let me say goodbye one last time.’ it ought not to cause us grief to be parted from that which has been freely given to us.

And not under compulsion; not out of distress, constraint, or necessity. Giving is not to be out of guilt or high pressure. Paul makes it clear he is not commanding them. He is urging and encouraging and exhorting them, but it must be of their own accord, what they want to do.

Giving and Planning

So he says “each one as he has in advance decided or chosen in his heart’. It is to be from the heart. Paul gives us a principle here. He says it is to be what was chosen or decided in advance, ahead of time. We tend to value spontaneity. Paul valued clear headed advanced planning and intentionality. This word is a compound with the ‘pro’ prefix, meaning before or in advance, and the word for to choose, decide, determine or intend. We saw this ‘pro’ prefix three times in verse 5. Paul encouraged the brothers to go in advance, to arrange in advance your promised in advance blessing. Paul is not now pleading with them to do something new, spontaneous, spur of the moment. He is exhorting them to follow through on what they had desired to do and determined to do and promised to do. He is honoring their advance planning.

He had instructed them in 1 Corinthians concerning the collection for the saints:

1 Corinthians 16:2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.

Paul doesn’t want them to feel the pressure when he is present and in the moment go beyond what they really wanted to do. Get it ready ahead of time. Plan. Pray. Purpose.

Conclusion

We’ve looked at some unhealthy motives for giving; greed, grief, pressure, burden. Not stingy or sparingly, as if to give will entail great personal loss. Examine your own heart before the Lord. Confess those negative attitudes to God as sin. Ask him to change your heart. We are going to look more closely next week at the right motives for giving; cheerfully, upon blessings.

I have left you some homework. I am not going to tell you specifically how you ought to apply what this passage teaches us. I want you to ask God to show you what he wants you to do with this. Go home, get out your budget, look at where your money goes, remembering that:

Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

And make a plan. Make sure your budget, what you do with your money, reflects your heart, what you love, what you treasure most.

A farmer plans. He looks at how big the fields in front of him are, how much seed he will need to plant those fields. He may see that he has to make some present sacrifices, tighten the belt, so he will have enough seed to fully take advantage of the opportunity in front of him.

Prayerfully, in the presence of God, make those decisions.

****

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

October 20, 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 8:13-15; Abundance, Need and Equity

09/15_2 Corinthians 8:13-15; Abundance, Need and Equity; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190915_2cor8_13-15.mp3

Grace. The grace and fellowship of service to the saints.

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 by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. 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. 10 And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. 11 So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. 12 For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.

Paul holds up the joyful eagerness of the Macedonians for the grace and fellowship of service to the saints as an illustration of God’s grace in action. He encourages the Corinthians to excel in this act of grace also. He points to the grace of our Lord Jesus, who, being rich became poor so that we might through his poverty become rich. He encourages them that it will be to their advantage to do what they wanted to do, to follow through on their desire and bring to completion what they had started. Not out of what they don’t have, not beyond their means, not waiting until they have more, but out of what they do have.

Abundance and Need

In verses 13-14 he continues to clarify what he means in order to eliminate any possibility for misunderstanding, and in verse 15 he quotes a passage from God’s provision for his people in the Exodus to support his point. He is giving us more practical instructions for generosity, principles of equity, God’s purposes in blessing, what to do with our abundance.

2 Corinthians 8:13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness 14 your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. 15 As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.”

Paul is giving the Corinthians an opportunity to demonstrate the genuineness of their love. He is inviting them to participate in this act of grace, freely serving the saints out of their abundance. In Romans 15 Paul says that he is

Romans 15:25 …going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia [that’s Corinth; he’s writing Romans from Corinth] have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem

This contribution is for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. But Paul wants to make it clear, the goal is not to alleviate their suffering by causing undue hardship for the Corinthians. “I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened.”

The words he uses here, eased and burdened, are words he has used already in this letter. In 2:13 and 7:5 he mentions that neither body nor spirit found rest or was eased, because he could not find his brother Titus. In 1:8 he mentions his affliction in Asia, and in 2:4 he says he wrote the previous letter out of much affliction. He mentions in 8:2 the severe test of affliction that the Macedonians were experiencing. He is not asking them to imitate the Macedonians, who out of their extreme poverty gave beyond their means. This was a special grace that God gave the Macedonians, that he may not have given the Corinthians.

The goal, Paul says, is not to impoverish them to relieve others. Rather the goal is fairness or equality. There was a current imbalance of abundance and lack. Your abundance should supply their lack. The implication is that the Corinthians had an abundance and the poor saints in Jerusalem were experiencing lack. In Mark 8, this word for abundance is used to describe the seven baskets full of left over bread after the four thousand ate and were satisfied. It was abundance, it was left over after they all ate and were satisfied.

Abundance and Contentment

This brings up the question of what abundance is, how much is enough? Our standard of living tends to expand to absorb any increase. Contentment seems to be a foreign word in our culture, even a bad word. Marketing seeks to destroy our contentment and awaken desires for things we never knew we needed. Paul’s instructions run contrary to this. He says to Timothy:

2 Timothy 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.

If we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. What a simple life! When is the last time you said something like that? If I have something to eat and something to wear, that is enough. Abundance is anything beyond meeting your most basic needs. When we think in those terms, we have exceeding abundance, super-abounding abundance! We have been given abundance so that we can supply it to those who lack so that there can be equality.

The Old Testament and the Rule of Love

So that there can be equality, fairness. What is Paul getting at here? Is he teaching some kind of communism? Some Robin Hood socialism that steals from the rich and gives to the poor? Remember, this is voluntary, it is what we want to do. This is not a command. This is the rule of love. Even in the Old Testament this was expected.

Deuteronomy 15:7 “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, 8 but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. 9 Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the LORD against you, and you be guilty of sin. 10 You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. 11 For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’

Notice the emphasis on the attitude of the heart. Do not harden your heart. Your heart shall not be grudging when you give. Open wide your hand. God cares about our attitude, our heart. And he gives us more than enough so that we can give to those who have less than enough.

Back in 1 Corinthians 4:8 Paul said to the Corinthians “Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich!”

James tells his readers that their prayers may not be answered “because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:3).

We want the better job, to make more, so that we can have more and spend more. That is natural. But Paul is calling us to something higher, something supernatural, something Spirit wrought.

What is the Jerusalem Abundance?

2 Corinthians 8:13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness 14 your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness.

Notice something in these verses. He says that your abundance should supply their need at the present time, so that their abundance may supply your need. This is no one direction transaction. This is not you are rich and you are the givers; they are poor and they are the receivers, and they become indebted to you. No, this goes in both directions. Many who read this assume that he is thinking of a potential future time when the tables turn and the Jerusalem church is materially wealthy and the Gentile churches are struggling and they can pay them back. They assume that ‘at the present time’ goes with the first side, and that there is an implied ‘so that at some hypothetical future date’ that is understood with the other side. I don’t believe this is what Paul is saying. Could it be that at the present time the Jerusalem church has an abundance and the Corinthian church has a lack? Clearly there is a material prosperity in Corinth that can serve the material struggles of Jerusalem. But is there also a present lack in Corinth that the Jerusalem saints could supply out of their present abundance? Could it be that although the Corinthians were materially prosperous, that they were missing something? Could this be why Jesus said to the rich young ruler

Luke 18:22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Could it be that the value the Corinthians put on their status and wealth was preventing them from valuing most that which truly matters? Could it be that in the very act of giving to the poor, they would be gaining a treasure that could not be taken away?

Again in Romans, Paul said this about the collection:

Romans 15:27 For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings

The Gentile churches have come to share in the spiritual blessings of Israel, and so they ought to share their material blessings. We see this principle again in Galatians 6

Galatians 6:6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.

Paul said the same thing to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 9:11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?

There is to be equality, but this does not mean sameness. We don’t have the same gifts, and we are not in the same circumstances. In whatever way God has caused us to abound, we are to share with those who lack, and we are also to receive from others in the ways that we lack.

Miracle Manna

Paul quotes Exodus 16 to support his pursuit of equality through love.

2 Corinthians 8:15 As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.”

Here’s the story from Exodus. The people grumbled because they had nothing to eat, and God promised bread from heaven.

Exodus 16:15 When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat. 16 This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Gather of it, each one of you, as much as he can eat. You shall each take an omer, according to the number of the persons that each of you has in his tent.’”

God provided bread to eat. They were to gather an omer, about two quarts for the daily need of each person they were responsible for.

Exodus 16:17 And the people of Israel did so. They gathered, some more, some less. 18 But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat.

We don’t know exactly what happened here. It sounds like a miraculous leveling of what was gathered, that one gathered more and another gathered less, but when they measured it each had exactly the same amount. Or it could be that the ones who gathered more gathered for those in their family who were not able to gather themselves, or they shared their excess with those who had not gathered enough. Whatever the case, there was equality. One thing we learn from reading the Exodus story, this was a test.

Exodus 16:4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.

God was testing them. This may be another reason Paul chose this passage as an illustration; if you remember back to verse 8 he said

2 Corinthians 8:8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.

He was proving or testing the genuineness of their love. In Exodus 16, shortly after leaving Egypt, and before arriving at Mt. Sinai, God was testing his people, to see if they would walk in his ways, the ways of love. If we keep reading in Exodus, we see one way this worked.

Exodus 16:19 And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over till the morning.” 20 But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them.

Leave none of it over until the morning (except in preparation for the Sabbath, they were required to gather double and save half). This was a test, and they failed. If we connect this test with the limit of collecting only what you need, an omer each, then those who tried out of their lack of faith to save some for the next day must have refrained from eating their whole omer and gone hungry. That backfired, as what they tried to save was full of maggots the next day. It may be that the same thing happened in the gathering, that those who worked hard to gather extra to hoard it for themselves found, when they measured it, that they had exactly the same amount as those who only gathered what they were told to gather. God equaled the amounts. God intended any abundance to supply the lack of others. Remember, it is all a gift; it is all grace.

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?

God’s gracious provision, when abundant, is meant to supply the needs of others. When we understand this Exodus background, it sheds light on the Lord’s prayer.

Matthew 6:11 Give us this day our daily bread,

Jesus meant it quite literally. Give us what we need for today, no more, no less. If we have food and clothing, with that we will be content. If you give us more, loved demands that we share it with those who don’t have enough.

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

September 15, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 8:8; Proof of Genuine Love

08/25_2 Corinthians 8:8; Proof of Genuine Love; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190825_2cor8_8.mp3

We are in 2 Corinthians 8, where Paul is exhorting the Corinthians to give generously to the collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem. He encouraged them with the example of the Macedonians, who begged for the grace and the fellowship of service to the saints. They gave beyond what they were able, out of their extreme poverty in a severe test of affliction their abundance of joy overflowed in a wealth of single-hearted devotion.

He encouraged Titus to return to Corinth to bring to completion this grace in them that he had begun.

He encourages them that as they super-abound in many spiritual gifts, that they should super-abound in this grace also.

Not A Command

In verse 8 he tells them that he is not commanding them.

2 Corinthians 8:8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.

Paul wants to make it clear that they are not under compulsion. He is not demanding, he is not commanding. He cannot require of them an act of grace and love or it would no longer be grace. Grace by definition is undeserved, under no obligation or compulsion; freely given. For Paul to command or require them to give would be to move this from an act of grace into a debt or obligation. Paul wants to be clear that this must be from the heart, a true act of grace. As the Macedonians gave of their own accord, so it must also be for the Corinthians; this must be something that they want to do, not something they are feeling pressured into.

Motivated by the Earnestness of Others

It must come from their own heart, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t say anything to them about giving. He is exhorting and encouraging them to participate in this act of grace. But it must remain an act of grace, not turn into guilt or debt or obligation.

Paul is clear this is not a command, but he is using the eagerness of others to motivate them.

2 Corinthians 8:8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.

Through the eagerness of others. This is part of the fellowship, part of being in the body of Christ. We are to encourage one another. And when we see the passion, the earnestness of our sisters and brothers, God can use that to ignite an eagerness in us. That is the effect Paul hopes the Macedonians will have on the believers at Corinth. He hopes their joy in the midst of affliction and poverty will spark a similar joy in Jesus and simplicity of affections for him that overflows in extending grace to others.

This is one reason to be involved in missions; whether that means praying or giving or going; when we are connected to others in the body of Christ who are in different places and in different circumstances, their examples can ignite in us a desire to be more singly devoted to Jesus, to be more eager to overflow in spite of our circumstances in joyful generosity, and our joy in Jesus can encourage others.

It is so essential for us to stay connected with others in the body, both near and far, for our spiritual growth, and for theirs.

Proof and Confidence

2 Corinthians 8:8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.

This word ‘prove’ means to test and demonstrate genuineness, demonstrate authenticity. It means ‘to prove by testing.’ We read in one of Jesus’ parables (Lk.14:19) that a man had purchased five yoke of oxen, and he said ‘I go to examine them’ or ‘prove them’. He purchased them because he believed they were useful and worth the price. But putting them to the test would demonstrate what they were actually capable of. This is the kind of thing that would be done with precious metals to prove genuineness. It says in 1 Corinthians 3

1 Corinthians 3:12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.

This does not mean that Paul wasn’t sure if they would past the test or not. He doesn’t say ‘to prove whether or not your love is genuine.’ He has already said:

2 Corinthians 7:16 I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you.

Knowing and Showing

Paul is confident that they will pass the test, but it needs to be shown. He said in verse 7 that they abound in his love for them. But the genuineness of their love for others needs to be demonstrated.

Jesus said:

John 13:35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This is about knowing and showing. Performing acts of love does not make a person genuine; acts of love demonstrate the character of the person, just as apples don’t make the tree an apple tree; apples demonstrate the nature of the tree. Tying apples on a Chinese elm tree would be a lot of work, and may fool some, but it doesn’t change the nature of the tree.

This is about testing, about proving or demonstrating genuineness. Back in 8:2, he said of the Macedonians:

2 Corinthians 8:2 for in a severe test [δοκιμῇ – that’s the root of the word ‘prove’ here] 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.

The Macedonians had been tested with affliction, and they passed the test. This is not the only place we see trials linked with proof or tested genuineness.

James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials [πειρασμοῖς] of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing [δοκίμιον] of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

1 Peter 1:6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials [πειρασμοῖς], 7 so that the tested genuineness [δοκίμιον]of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested [δοκιμαζομένου] by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

The Macedonians passed a test of severe affliction and they came through like gold; they put on display the greatness of the grace of God.

Can the Corinthians pass the test in their affluence, in their abundance? That is a different kind of a test, maybe a more difficult test. It seems that those who are destitute can more acutely evaluate what is of greatest worth. Sometimes it is the poorest that are the happiest.

Genuine/Legitimate Love

2 Corinthians 8:8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.

What Paul aims to prove is the genuineness of their love. ‘Genuine’ is a word that speaks of legitimacy, specifically in birth. In 1 Timothy 1 and in Titus 1 Paul refers to both Timothy and Titus as his ‘true child in the faith. He is using a term that distinguishes between legitimate and illegitimate children. They are authentic, legitimate children born again through Paul’s proclamation of the gospel. Here in 2 Corinthians 8, he is eager that the Corinthians demonstrate the legitimacy of their love; that their love is not phony; that it is not produced in an illegitimate way, but that it is the genuine fruit of the Spirit of the living God.

Proof of Genuineness in 1 John

2 Corinthians 8:8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.

Paul is eager for the Corinthians to prove the legitimacy of their love. How do they do this? He doesn’t command them to obedience; rather he exhorts them to a free act of love. Love, the evidence on display of a genuinely transformed heart.

I want to tie this together with what some other authors of the New Testament are teaching us so we see it clearly.

We started by looking at Jesus’ words recorded in John’s gospel, where he says:

John 13:35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Love is the evidence that makes all our speaking, all our serving, all our giving more than just noisy nothingness and clanging emptiness.

John in his first short letter talks about how we know that we know him. He is talking about proof, evidence. Do you want to know that you know him? That’s an important thing, because Jesus himself said that “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord …did we not do many mighty works in your name?’” and he will respond ‘I never knew you; depart from me….’ (Mt.7:22-23). We want to know that we know him. How do we know? What is the evidence? What is the proof? 1 John is talking about proof.

1 John 2:3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. …

John says the evidence of relationship is doing what he says; keeping his commandments, his word. And notice, he says God’s love is perfected in him; it is God’s love in him, not his own love. This love, God’s love, works itself out in keeping his word. It is evidence that we are in him.

He continues:

1 John 2:5…By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 7 Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. 8 At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

The one commandment that is both an old commandment and an new commandment is love. Love your brother. If you claim to know him, if you claim to be walking in the light, and you don’t keep his commandments, if you don’t love your brother, you’re lying; you’re blind; you don’t know where you’re going. This command, to love, is true in him and in you. First it must be true in him. God shows his love for us in this; that Christ died for us (Rom.5:8). And because it is true in him, because we have been loved by him, it can be true in us; he has given us his love so that we can love.

John goes on in chapter 3 to talk about legitimacy:

1 John 3:10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. 11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.

1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.

Evidence of being children of God; the legitimacy of our new birth; we know because we love the brothers. And here the rubber meets the road.

1 John 3:16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

This is personal. This is individual. Do you see how he switches from the plural ‘we’ in verse 16 to the singular ‘any one’? This is personal. If you see a real need in your brother, you are not to close your heart against him. Notice again, the focus is on the heart, the affections. This is not guilt and duty. There should be in us as new creations in Christ an inclination to love and serve our brothers or sisters. We are not to selfishly shut that off and close them out of our hearts. The proof happens when I see a brother or sister in need and my heart just naturally (or I should say supernaturally) goes out to them, I want to do something to help them. Not just love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth.

James says it this way:

James 2:15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?

That is where the Corinthians were at. They had been talking about the collection for some time now. They had at first been eager to fellowship in the service to the saints. Now it was time to turn talk into action.

God’s Love In Us

We looked at Jesus’ statement that it will show; that all people will know that we are following him if we love one another. If we look ahead to John 17, we hear Jesus praying for us in his great high priestly prayer to his Father. He prays for our unity, that we would be one so that the world would believe (v.21). At the end of his prayer, he says:

John 17:26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

This is amazing! Jesus tells us where this love comes from. Jesus prays that God the Father’s trinitarian love for his one and only Son would be in us! This is stunning! He doesn’t ask us to love others out of our own resources. God puts his own love in us so that we can love others with his love, not our own. This is grace!

Remember, it’s grace; it’s the grace of God given to us that creates in us this single-hearted devotion.

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

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

August 26, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 8:6-7; Super-Abound in This Grace

08/18_2 Corinthians 8:6-7; Superabound in this Grace; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190818_2cor8_6-7.mp3

Paul in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 is talking about giving, about generosity; he is encouraging generosity toward a collection for the poor saints; but he is talking about grace. He frames everything he says about generosity around God’s generosity toward us, about God’s undeserved grace toward sinners through Jesus. This first act of giving, God’s grace toward us grounds and motivates our gracious generosity.

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 [simplicity] 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 [grace] of taking part [fellowship] in the relief [service] 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.

6 Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. 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.

Encouragement / Comfort

This passage is full of grace, and it is saturated with encouragement. When Paul says that ‘we urged Titus,’ he uses the same word ‘encourage’ or ‘comfort’ that has been a major theme of this letter.

The opening of the letter points to God’s comfort, God’s encouragement in affliction.

2 Corinthians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Just in the last chapter (chapter 7) he said:

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.

…13 Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.

Paul was comforted, encouraged by Titus, as Titus was encouraged by the Corinthians. Now Paul encourages Titus to go back to Corinth and finish what he had started there.

[MAP]

Titus has just met Paul in Macedonia. It is sometime around AD 55 or 56. There had trouble in Corinth, so Paul had left Ephesus to cross the Agean and deal with the issues, but his visit was not received well, so he retreated to Ephesus and wrote a painful letter and sent it with Titus to Corinth. He then traveled by land North from Ephesus to Troas, where he expected to meet Titus with news. But Titus didn’t show, so he abandoned an open door for ministry and traveled over to Macedonia, to visit the churches of Philippi and Thessalonica and Berea. There Titus met him and gave him a good report of the grief and repentance of the Corinthians in response to the painful letter. Now he is writing the letter we know as 2 Corinthians and encouraging Titus to take it back to Corinth and to finish what he had started. He wants him to bring to its fulfillment this grace.

The Collection

Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians (AD48) of his meeting with James

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.

James and Paul and Peter and John were all proclaiming the same message, the same good news about Jesus, Jesus Christ and him crucified. That is the right gospel, only be sure the gospel moves out from what you say into what you do. Belief must work itself out in action. Only they asked us to remember the poor, and that Paul was already eager to do. Around this time, in Acts 11 [AD 45-47] there was:

Acts 11:28 …a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). 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.

Some years later Paul is taking another collection. Paul gives instructions for this collection in 1 Corinthians 16 [AD 53-55]. Apparently he had already made them aware of this before the writing of 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 16:1 Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. 3 And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift [grace] to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.

It appears that Titus during his recent visit had made a beginning at this collection. Paul is now encouraging him, just as you began before, thus also bring it to completion. Notice what he calls it; this grace. The ability to give is a gift; it is grace. It is not deserved or earned.

We are first and fundamentally receivers. Every good thing comes from God. He is the source of all good. To give is a gift, it is grace.

Superabounding

Paul has encouraged Titus to complete among them this grace, and now gives a word of encouragement to the Corinthians.

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.

Just as in all things you superabound. Faith, speech, knowledge. Back in the beginning of 1 Corinthians 1 he says:

1 Corinthians 1:4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—

Paul thanked God that by God’s grace, they had been enriched in all speech and all knowledge. Speech and knowledge are gifts of God’s grace. But he also warns them in 1 Corinthians 13

1 Corinthians 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

All speech and all knowledge are good gifts, so long as they are exercised in love. Here he also commends their faith. He commends their eagerness or earnestness. He said in

2 Corinthians 7:11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you,…

12 …I wrote to you, …in order that your earnestness for us might be revealed to you in the sight of God.

His sorrowful letter produced in them an earnestness for the apostle just as he had hoped. And now he commends them for it.

You superabound in our love for you. It seems odd to include in a list of their excellencies the apostle’s love for the Corinthians, and this unusual expression has likely led to the variant reading in the manuscripts which reads ‘your love for us,’ which would seem to fit the context better. Literally the phrase reads ‘the out of us into you love’; and some have translated this ‘the love we aroused or inspired among you’ [WBC, p.259; BECNT, p.403]. Paul had said in 6:11-12 that ‘our heart is wide open …you are restricted in your own affections’. It could be that Paul is acknowledging and praising an opening of their hearts to him in response to his severe letter, or it could be that he is highlighting the fact that they hold a special place in his own heart, as he has communicated to them many times already in this letter.

Regardless of how we read it, the point he is making is clear. You are extraordinarily gifted by God; you superabound in everything; be sure you superabound also in this grace.

This Grace

God’s grace produced in the Macedonians a superabundance of joy in the midst of their afflictions, according to verse 2. Paul is inviting the Corinthians to superabound in this grace also. It is worth looking back at these verses, at this grace.

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 [simplicity] 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 [grace] of taking part [fellowship] in the relief [service] 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.

God’s grace created an abundance of joy in spite of affliction and deep poverty, and their joy overflowed in a wealth of single-hearted devotion to Christ; they begged for the grace and fellowship of service to the saints. God’s grace came in, and it created a simplicity of affections for Jesus that overflowed in joyful eagerness to serve others. Ministering to others is gift, it is grace; and it is communion, fellowship.

Not About Amount

It is important to see that Paul is not telling the Corinthians to compete with the Macedonians in how much they give. The Corinthians were much more affluent, so they likely could have easily outgiven them in amount. But that is not the focus, so he carefully chooses his language to make sure they don’t fall into that trap. He is looking at their hearts. He wants the grace of God to be experienced by them in such a way that it wells up in a joy in Jesus which spontaneously overflows in service to others. Paul’s aim is never simply to raise more money for his project regardless of where it comes from or how it is given. He cares more about the hearts of the givers than he does about the gift itself.

Grace and Love

This is not much different from what he says in 1 Corinthians 13. You can have all wisdom, all knowledge, all faith, you might even give away all that you have, but without love, it is all nothing. Nothing! Love is essential. First, love from God. We only can love because he first loved us. And love freely received from God spills over into love toward others. Do you see how this is the same? After describing love in 1 Corinthians 13, he says

1 Corinthians 14:1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts…
…12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.

He exhorts them to excel, to strive to superabound in building up the church; overflow in loving service to others. It is not only what you do, but why you do it. Is the motive to build yourself up, to make yourself look good, to impress others? Or is it to stoop low so you can build others up, to use your gifts to serve others for their good? To build up the church?

In the very next verse here in 2 Corinthians 8:8 he will connect this overflow of grace with love for others; as an expression and a proof of love.

Do you love? Have you experienced grace? This is rubber meets the road Christianity. This is what following Jesus looks like. It looks like God’s gift of grace poured out into a person that so transforms them that they are eager to serve others, to extend grace to others, to freely give of themselves, first to the Lord, and then to the Lord’s work in the lives of people. Is this what your life is shaped like? Does the love of Christ compel you? Constrain you to live no longer for self, but for others?

2 Corinthians 5:14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

***

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

August 19, 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

The Spirit’s Fruit; Goodness Like Jesus

07/09 The Spirit’s Fruit; Goodness Like Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170709_goodness-like-jesus.mp3

Goodness and Kindness

We are looking at the fruitful Christian life; the fruit produced in us by the Holy Spirit.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control…

Today we come to goodness. What is goodness? What does it look like? How is it different from kindness?

All these characteristics are interrelated and overlapping. Remember it is one whole fruit described by its different aspects or characteristics. Last week we defined kindness as smooth, mellow, palatable, functional, comfortable, fitting. It is not severe, biting, harsh, chafing, or abrasive.

Where kindness is an inner attitude or disposition, goodness is the outward action; goodness is real tangible expressions of kindness.

In Luke 6, a passage we looked at last time, we are told to ‘do good’ because ‘God is kind’.

Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good [ἀγαθοποιέω], and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind [χρηστός] to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

Doing good, if we look through the context of this passage, includes, loving, lending, blessing, praying, giving; to haters, to abusers, to persecutors, to enemies, to the ungrateful and the evil. We are to do good, and be merciful because God is kind.

In Matthew 7, Jesus talks about giving good gifts to your children, about a healthy tree bearing good fruit. In Matthew 12, Jesus challenges the corrupt religious leaders for speaking good when they are evil. He says:

Matthew 12:35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.

Good Generosity

In Matthew 20, Jesus tells a story about what the kingdom of heaven is like. He said:

Matthew 20:1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ 5 So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ 8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ 9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity [ἀγαθός]?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”

We are not told about the response of those who had only worked one hour and received the full day’s wages. You can imagine their response. The focus of this story is on the response of those who agreed to work for a days wages, and when they were given their full days wages, they grumbled because they thought they ought to receive more. They were angry that the master had given equal pay to all regardless of how long they had labored. It’s not fair! The response of the master? ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. I gave you what we agreed on. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is mine? His final question in verse 15 literally reads ‘is your eye evil because I am good?’ The master is good because he does what he promised. He pays what he owes. He also goes beyond and looks for those who are needy and gives them more than they deserve. He is generous. He is charitable. He is benevolent. He is good. He is good even to those who didn’t earn it. Goodness in this story is contrasted with being stingy; it is also contrasted with being exactly just or fair. Goodness is generosity.

Good Works

In Acts 9:36 we have a disciple named Tabitha; it is said “She was full of good works and acts of charity.” Tabitha made clothes for many.

In 1 Timothy 5, Paul outlines the requirements for a widow to be cared for by the church:

1 Timothy 5:5 She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, …10 and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.

Works considered good include a hope set on God, not in some other reward. She is focused on the needs of others with a faithful and persistent prayer life, praying and interceding for others. Bringing up children is selflessly sacrificial. Showing hospitality is practically serving the needs of others, often strangers. Washing feet is a menial, humble, practical way to serve others. Caring for the afflicted is selfless service to others in need.

She has a reputation for good works and a devotion to good works. What is considered good is practical, tangible acts of caring for the needs of others, serving others. What is good is a kind generosity, giving to those in need regardless of if they deserve it. It is selfless, humble, practical generosity.

But I Can’t Do Good

But we have a problem. Remember what Paul say in Romans 7?

Romans 7:18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. …24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

Paul knows what good is. He knows what he ought to do. He wants to do it. But he struggles with carrying it out. He confesses that there is no good in him. I think most of us resonate with Paul’s frustration.

Only God is Good

Jesus had someone run up to him and ask him a question.

Mark 10:17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Matthew records him asking:

Matthew 19:16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”

Good teacher, what good deed must I do? This man is throwing around the concept of ‘good’. Jesus confronts him on what he means by what he is saying.

Mark 10:18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.

He had addressed Jesus as ‘good teacher’. And he claimed the ability to do good works. Jesus confronts his understanding of who Jesus is, and he exposes his inability to do any good. Jesus says ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.’ In effect, he is asking, do you really know who it is you are talking to? Do you know who I am? You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. No one but God truly acts selflessly and completely for the good of others. Jesus invites this man to be good like God is good; dispose of all that you have, and use it to bless others.

Jesus says to this man, there is no one good except God alone; if you truly believe that I am good, if you acknowledge that I am God, then you must obey me completely, follow me without looking back. Go, liquidate your assets, give to the poor, change where your treasure is, come follow me. God alone is good. And this good God must be followed. Nothing else is good next to him. As the Psalmist said:

Psalm 16:2 say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”

This man should have said to Jesus, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.’ This man should have, like the man in Jesus’ parable (Mt.13:44), went out with joy and sold all that he had and went after that which was of infinitely more value than anything he possessed. Instead, “he went away sorrowful because he had great possessions.” This man failed to value properly what is good. He failed to see Jesus as truly good, better than all his great possessions.

Jesus was teaching that in order to be good, you must pursue with abandon the one who is good. Get rid of whatever is in the way, and go after the one who is good. Go after Jesus. As you begin to look to him, watch him, get close to him, follow him, you will begin to become good like him. You will begin to become generous like him.

You see, Jesus was not asking this man to do anything he himself was not willing to do. Jesus understood what it means to give up all your great possessions. In the wording of Philippians 2, Jesus knew what it is to have it all and then empty yourself, make yourself nothing. To take the form of a servant, to be obedient, to serve others for their good, even to the point of dying on a cross for them. Jesus is truly good. He was inviting this man to follow him. To learn from him. To become good like him.

How To Be Good and Do Good

Ephesians 2 tells us that we were meant for this; we were created for good works; we were saved by God’s unearned grace to be good and to do good.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

The good works we walk in are good works prepared by God in advance for us. And Ephesians 6 tells us that we will be rewarded for these good works that he prepared in advance for us, good works that we walk in: we can’t out-give God

Ephesians 6:8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord…

This is stunning. God alone is good. God is good toward us even when we are his enemies. He works in us by his grace, and prepares good for us to walk in, and then he rewards us for the good that he enabled us to do!

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.

God can make every good thing we don’t deserve abound to us. He will equip us with all sufficiency in all things at all times so that we may abound in every good work that he prepared in advance for us to walk in.

Hebrews 13 says:

Hebrews 13:20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

God did it all! The God who raised Jesus from the dead equips us with everything good that we may do his will. By the blood of Jesus, by the blood of the eternal covenant, he equips us with everything good that we need. He works in us that which is pleasing in his sight. He works it in us through Jesus Christ, and for his glory. All good is anchored in the person and finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 2 tells us that we need God’s love and good hope through grace to do good works:

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

Our hearts must be comforted and established by God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ for every good work and for every good word. Good words must flow from a good heart that is transformed by God’s love and comfort and hope. Good works must be produced out of a heart amazed by God’s gracious good toward us.

2 Timothy 3 tells us that truly good works are rooted in Biblical truth:

2 Timothy 3:15 … you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Good works that are truly good are tangibly and practically caring for the needs of others. Sometimes that looks like charitable giving, acts of selfless generosity, sometimes selflessly caring for others looks like reproof, correction, teaching, training in righteousness. In love exhorting others for their good.

Paul’s cry in Romans 7, seeing that there is no good in him and that he fails to do the good he desires to do; Paul’s cry ‘who will deliver me from this body of death?’ He answers:

Romans 7:25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! …

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

We are set free from condemnation by the cross. We are set free from the law by the Spirit of life. We are now enabled by the Holy Spirit to fulfill the righteous requirement of the law as we walk according to the Spirit. Only God is good. And when the Spirit of the good God lives in us, he changes our heart to be good like Jesus, and to do good like Jesus.

2 Thessalonians 1:11 To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

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

July 15, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment