PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

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.

****

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

Advertisements

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,

***

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

The Poverty and Grace of Christ; 2 Corinthians 8:9

12/04 The Poverty and Grace of Christ; 2 Cor.8:9 ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20161204_poverty-grace-christ.mp3

Last week we looked at a great Christmas/Thanksgiving verse at the end of 2 Corinthians 9.

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

This week I want to turn back a chapter to 2 Corinthians 8, where we find another wonderful Christmas text.

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.

Remember, the context of 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 is Paul reminding and encouraging the Corinthians to give generously to the collection for the poor saints that he is taking to Jerusalem. He mentioned this in his first letter to this church (1 Cor.16:1-4) and he also mentions it in Romans 15:25-28, writing from Corinth in AD 57. Here in 2 Corinthians he takes two chapters to exhort the Corinthians toward generosity to their Jewish brothers and sisters who are in need. Paul begins this section in chapter 8 by encouraging them with the example of the churches in Macedonia.

God’s 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.

Paul uses the word ‘grace’ to describe this gift. He uses the word ‘grace’ 18 times in 2 Corinthians. 10 of those times are concentrated in these two chapters on giving. Paul sees generosity and giving as an act of grace, rooted in the grace of God toward us and blossoming into a full display of grace that extends out from us who have experienced God’s grace in acts of grace toward others. Grace, remember, by definition is an undeserved kindness, a gift, unmerited, unearned, freely given. He describes what happened in Macedonia as ‘the grace of God that has been given among the churches.’ The generosity of the believers in the region of Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea Paul recognizes as the grace of God. The fact that they gave, and the way that they gave, was evidence that demonstrated that they were recipients of God’s grace. Later in this chapter Paul refers to their giving to this special project as ‘this act of grace.’ But here, he is talking about God’s grace extended undeservedly to the Macedonian churches that resulted in their wealth of generosity. Remember, we love because he first loved us. We give because to us God has abundantly given. The Macedonians gave because they were first recipients of God’s abundant grace.

Grace Under Pressure

First Paul describes their circumstances. 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 agitated and stirred up the crowds, so Paul was sent off to Athens in Achaia. Although what kind of persecution they were now suffering is not specified, it is described as ‘a severe test of affliction.’ Verse 2 goes on to describe their situation as ‘their extreme poverty.’ We are told in Acts that ‘when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go’ (Acts 17:9). Whatever their specific circumstances, they were ‘in a severe test of affliction’ and they were in the depths of poverty.

Unquenchable Joy

But their circumstances did not define their attitudes or their actions. Do you let your circumstances determine how you respond? How you act? Your attitude? Are your emotions controlled by how others treat you? The Macedonians, in the middle of severe affliction, had a superabundance of joy. This is not natural; this is supernatural joy, joy that is not dampened by any outside influence. This is the joy Jesus promised to bring to his followers.

John 16:22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

Begging for the Grace of Giving

The Macedonians had unquenchable joy in Jesus. And under severe pressure their joy combined with their extreme poverty like vinegar and baking soda to overflow in a wealth of generosity. Do you want that kind of joy? Would you like that kind of single purposed sincerity and bountiful liberality to come out when you are under pressure? When you are pressed and stretched? Verse 3 tells us that

2 Corinthians 8:3 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—

They gave more than they could afford. They gave voluntarily. Willingly. Their abundance of joy had to find an outlet; it had to express itself. They begged for the privilege of giving. Literally, ‘after much urgent request they begged us the grace and the fellowship of the service to the saints’. They considered the privilege of giving beyond their means an undeserved favor from God. It was grace, and it was fellowship. Partnering with God in his care for his own, and partnering with the suffering saints in Jerusalem, sharing in their sorrows and spreading joy. Paul says:

2 Corinthians 8:5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.

This generosity from suffering saints was beyond what they had hoped. They didn’t only give of their finances. They gave of themselves. They didn’t just write a check. They were personally invested. Their gave themselves first to the Lord. They recognized that they had been bought with a price. They understood that they belonged to Jesus. And so they delightfully offfered their very selves to God and to the service of the saints. What an example from the Macedonian churches!

2 Corinthians 8:6 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. 8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.

Paul now encourages the church in Corinth also to abound in this grace. He is careful to make it clear that this gift is voluntary. There is no obligation. This is not a command. It is an invitation; an opportunity. As the Macedonians begged to be involved, you also abound in this act of grace. And then he holds up Jesus as the reason.

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

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.

You know. This is not something new. You already know about the grace of our Lord Jesus. Paul reminds us of the good news we already know. He turns our attention back once more to Jesus. He is encouraging an act of free grace toward those who desperately need the help but didn’t earn it or do anything to deserve it. He reminds us that we can only give like that because we have already been on the receiving end of that kind of gift. Jesus freely extended his favor to those who did nothing to earn it, but desperately need it. Before you can ever hope to extend grace to others, you must first experience the grace that comes from Jesus.

Riches to Poverty for You

This is what that grace looks like. ‘that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor.’ What does it mean that Jesus was rich? Jesus prayed to his Father in John 17

John 17:4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

Jesus had glory in the presence of his Father before the world existed. He was eager to return to that glory. Jesus said in John 6:

John 6:38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Jesus came down from heaven. He left his glory to come down and do the will of his Father. He goes on to say:

John 6:46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.

Jesus claims to be the only one who is from God, the only one who has seen the Father. In John 8 he sets himself apart as the only one who is from above, who is not from this world.

John 8:23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

This is Christmas. Jesus left his glory and came down to this earth. John began his gospel this way:

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

The Word was glorious in the presence of his Father. He is distinct from his Father, in relationship with his Father, and equal to his Father. He possesses all the characteristics of his Father. He is the Creator of all that is. He was rich.

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

He became poor. He became flesh. He became what he was not. He became one of us. As the only Son from the Father he pitched his tent among us. He became poor. This is grace!

Why? Although he was rich, yet he became poor. Why? It was for your sake. For your benefit. For you!

Philippians 2 spells this out.

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus, being rich, existing eternally in the form of God, equal with his Father, became poor. He emptied himself by taking the form of a servant. He was born in the likeness of men, in human form. Being rich, he became poor. He humbled himself even to death, even death on a cross. Because Christmas is really all about Good Friday. Jesus became poor for your sake. He became human for your sake, so as a human he could take your place on the cross.

Bringing You Riches by His Poverty

But it doesn’t stop there!

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.

By his poverty you become rich. This is undeserved grace! How do we become rich by his poverty? The riches may not be what we would think. Jesus, addressing the church in Laodicea in Revelation 3 says:

Revelation 3:15 [to Laodicea] “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

Their opinion of themselves was that they were rich and in need of nothing, but God’s perspective says that they were wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. But to the church in Smyrna he says:

Revelation 2:9 [to Smyrna] “‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) …

Like the churches in Macedonia, you may be in desperate poverty and undergoing persecution, but you are abundantly rich in joy. True riches come from Jesus.

Ephesians 1 says:

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

If we are in Christ, we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. Every spiritual blessing! Paul prays:

Ephesians 1:17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, 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,

Our eyes must be opened to know the riches of his glorious inheritance! The benefits purchased for us by Christ are immeasurably great. Ephesians 2 says:

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Grace immeasurable! Grace rich and free. Resurrecting life transforming grace! Peter says:

1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,

New birth. Born into an inheritance. All the riches of Christ belong to us.

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

Christmas is about grace. The grace of the Lord Jesus. Christmas is about Jesus, who was rich in glory in the presence of his Father, who emptied himself by taking human form; who became poor, humbled even to the point of being executed as a criminal. He did this for me! Christmas is about the greatest gift. God the Son was born in Bethlehem so that he could be crucified outside Jerusalem so that I could experience unshakeable joy in the riches of his grace.

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

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

December 5, 2016 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thanks and Giving; 2 Corinthians 9

11/27 Thanks and Giving; 2 Corinthians 9 ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20161127_thanks-and-giving.mp3

Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 9. Today I want to explore the relationship between thanks and giving. Are you a generous person? Are you a thankful person? 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9 deal with the grace of giving which results in thanksgiving. Paul is writing the church in Corinth to remind them about a special collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem that they had promised to participate in. He is planning to visit them soon, en route to Jerusalem, and wants them to have their gift ready before he arrives.

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. 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 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. 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, 14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. 15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

You see the result of thanksgiving in verses 11 and 12. Generosity in giving produces thanksgiving to God. We can see this thanksgiving produced in multiplied ways. The recipients of the gift will thank God that he provided for their needs. Paul thanks God for the generosity of the churches who give. Those who give freely and cheerfully give thank God for the opportunity to express their love through giving. Other churches that hear about their gift will thank God for their generosity, as well as being stimulated to give themselves, which in turn multiplies thanksgiving to God. So we see thanksgiving multiplied through giving.

You Reap What You Sow

Paul gives them a simple principle;

2 Corinthians 9:6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

The farmer is not stingy when sowing seed in his field. In Jesus’ parable about the seed and the soils, the sower is downright reckless, throwing seed everywhere, on the path, among the thorns, on the rocks, and into good soil. We might be tempted to view this as wasteful. But the sower understands that the more seed that goes into the ground, the greater the harvest. The one who is stingy in sowing his field will reap a scant harvest.

Jesus said

Luke 6:38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

We see this principle in the proverbs.

Proverbs 11:24-25

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.

This seems counter-intuitive. Our proverb goes ‘a penny saved is a penny earned’. But God’s logic is different. The more freely one gives, the more abundantly he will be blessed. Notice the proverb says ‘another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.’ We have an obligation to give. You have so you can give. To stop up the flow out is to constrict the flow in. Jesus calls the man a fool who tears down his barns to build bigger barns to store up more for himself. Instead the one who is blessed with an abundance is expected to give.

It doesn’t make human sense to see one who gives freely grow all the richer. We gain insight into how this works in another proverb.

Proverbs 19:17

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD,

and he will repay him for his deed.

God views generosity as a loan given to him, and he will be faithful to pay back with unbeatable interest.

This is not, contrary to some television extortionists, a way to get rich quick. Give all your money to the guy on the screen, and God will make you filthy rich. Jesus says in Luke 14:14 “you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” Anyone who gives so he can get more money has his heart in the wrong place.

Freely Give

Paul says:

2 Corinthians 9:7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Paul is writing to encourage the church to give. But he makes it clear that he is not twisting arms. He is not interested in guilting anyone into giving. This is a special collection for the poor, outside of the regular support of the local ministry. There is to be no sense of obligation. There is to be no grief or grudging in giving. Giving is a matter of the heart. Giving should be accompanied by joy. God loves a cheerful giver, because God is a cheerful giver.

Abundant Supply

We give freely because we have received freely.

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. 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 in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.

We give, not primarily because we are generous, but because we are believers. To withhold good is to act in unbelief. Paul turns our attention to God. God is able. God is able to make all grace abound to you. Not just a little bit of grace. Not just enough grace. All grace. Grace is the good we do not deserve. God is able to bring all the good we do not deserve our way. And not just all grace, but all grace abundantly. All grace in an overflowing way. God is over the top in his giving. We have all sufficiency, all we need for contentment. All grace, in all, always, all contentment, for all good work. He abounds toward us so that we can abound in every good work. God is abundant in generosity to those who don’t deserve it. He distributes freely. He gives to the poor, those who are desperately needy and can’t come up with it on their own. He gives a righteousness that lasts forever. He not only supplies, but multiplies seed for sowing and generates increasing righteousness in you. Notice the seed he abundantly supplies is not for hoarding, but for sowing. He enriches you in every way so that you can be generous in every way. God’s blessings are not to be hoarded, they are to be shared. Unbelief says ‘I’d better hold on to what I have, because I don’t know if any more will be coming’. Faith says ‘with God there is abundant supply; he will never run short. And his heart is toward me; he will never withhold good from me. He gives abundantly so that I can abundantly give. Now we can begin to understand how this produces thanksgiving to God. I do not receive thanks because of my abundant generosity. Instead God is thanked for his abundant generosity that he extends to others through me.

Surpassing Grace

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

This brings out another aspect of thanksgiving to God. Giving is like a priestly offering, and it not only meets practical needs, but it overflow in thanksgiving to God. The poor Jewish believers in Jerusalem will glorify God because they see by the conduct of believing Gentiles, that you have been truly changed by the grace of Christ. This generosity is designed to bring about a unity and mutual affection in the body of Christ across cultural and geographical boundaries. Jewish believers will recognize the surpassing grace of God that has been poured out on you Gentiles. What undeserved favor, that God would reach outside the boundaries of his chosen people and extend grace to undeserving Gentiles. The affections of God’s people will be turned toward you and they will pray for you because they recognize the surpassing grace of God extended to you.

Superlatives

This chapter is filled with superlative language. Bountiful; cheerful, all grace in all things at all times with all contentment for all good work, freely, supply, multiply, increase, enrich, overflow, surpassing. Paul concludes with this explosion of praise:

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

God deserves the praise because God is the giver of all good. God’s gift is so good, it is beyond words. That he would grant life transforming salvation to those who were not his people, to bring them in and make them his own, is inexpressibly gracious. That God would come to his own people, rebels who had rejected him time and time again, to rescue them, is unspeakably great. This chapter is about giving, but we only can give because God first lavished his unspeakably great gift on us. We can only love because he first loved us.

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

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! God’s gift to us is Jesus, his only Son.

Has God made all his grace abound to you?

Have you found all your contentment, all your supply, all sufficiency, in all things, at all times in him?

Has God’s inexpressibly great and gracious gift enriched your heart in every way to be generous in every way?

Is your life characterized by joyful generosity?

Does your heart overflow with thanksgiving?

Are your giving and your thanksgiving rooted in and motivated by God’s inexpressible gift to you?

Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

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

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

November 27, 2016 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 19:1-10; Practical Holiness

10/30 Leviticus 19:1-10; Practical Holiness; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20161030_leviticus-19_1-10.mp3

Today we come to one of Jesus’ favorite chapters of the Bible; Leviticus 19. Jesus used the teachings of this chapter as the cornerstone of his famous Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5; especially verses 43-48. Jesus referred to it in Matthew 19, talking to the rich young ruler about the commandments he needed to keep.

In Luke 17, Jesus told a story to explain one particular word in Leviticus 19, a story we know as the parable of the good Samaritan.

When asked about the greatest command in Matthew 22, he cited one from Deuteronomy 6 and a second like it from Leviticus 19. Jesus said

Matthew 22:40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Paul took his cue from Jesus. In Romans 13 he said:

Romans 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

And in Galatians 5 he said:

Galatians 5:14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The whole law is fulfilled in one word; all the commandments are summed up in one word. James called this the royal law, the perfect law, the law of liberty.

James 2:8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

In fact, we could argue that the letter of James is an extended New Testament commentary and application of Leviticus 19. At least half a dozen of his statements are lifted directly out of Leviticus 19.

Peter also drew heavily on Leviticus 19 in his first letter, stating:

1 Peter 1:15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Leviticus 19 deals with everything. It deals with family, with farming, with worship, with employment, with business, with personal relationships, with sex, with time. It deals with the occult, with prostitution, with cutting, with justice and legal issues, with the poor, with foreigners. It even addresses how you should look and what you should wear. It touches each of the ten commandments from Exodus 20; we could even look at it as an application and explanation of how the 10 commandments are to be applied. We will look at the first 10 verses today, an illustration of practical holiness.

Be Holy For I Am Holy

Leviticus 19:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.

Remember, as we saw last time, Leviticus 19 is in the last half of Leviticus. It answers the question, ‘now that I have been forgiven of all my sins through the sacrifice, how should I live my life?’ This is addressed to people already in a relationship with the LORD God.

This entire chapter is rooted in who God is, and our relationship with him. God demands that we as his people reflect his character in every area of our lives. At first read, this chapter seems like a jumbled up mess of random unrelated issues all thrown together for lack of a better place to put them. But even in this God is telling us something. God is communicating that in all the various aspects of our daily lives, in every area, we are to consciously, intentionally reflect him.

He calls us to be holy because he is holy. But what does it mean to say that God is holy? He is different. He is unique. He is set apart. We are to be a reflection of who he is. But what does that look like? What does it mean to be holy? We need some practical instruction. And this chapter gives us exactly that. This chapter is more than anything else about God. We are to be holy because God is holy, and this chapter lays out what holiness looks like in various everyday situations.

Authority

Leviticus 19:3 Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, (V)

This chapter on practical holiness begins in the home, because holiness must begin at home. It matters how you treat your parents. Whether you are living under their authority, or caring for them when they are elderly, holiness begins by a proper respect for authority. This is a restatement of the 5th commandment, but here rather than saying that you are to ‘Honor your father and mother,’ we are told literally to ‘fear’ them. This is a word that is usually reserved for the fear of the LORD in the Bible, but here it is applied to the authority of parents. Parenting is a weighty responsibility. Parents carry the delegated authority of God in a child’s life. So even if they are not godly, even if they abuse their authority, even if by their character they are not worthy of respect, their position is to be respected. Notice that mother is listed first here in a place of honor. Parenting is a team sport, and it functions best when mother and father work together as a team.

Time

Leviticus 19:3 …and you shall keep my Sabbaths: I am the LORD your God. (IV)

Honoring sacred time comes next. You shall keep my Sabbaths. This is a restatement of the 4th command.

Exodus 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work,…

Time is something we never seem to have enough of, something we often run out of. Time is a precious commodity that we spend. God is to be honored with our time. We need to be wise with what we spend it on. God demands that we set aside some of our time as holy, set apart for God. We are to rest, we are to remember, we are to worship. We are to be different in the way we use our time.

Idolatry

Leviticus 19:4 Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves any gods of cast metal: I am the LORD your God. (I, II)

This recalls the first two commandments. We are to have no other Gods, and we are to make no images. The word here for idols emphasizes the weak and worthless nature of false gods. We are not to turn to worthless things to put our hope in them. It is futile to look for help from the things our own hands have made. God says “I am the LORD your God.” We have the real thing. Why would we turn away to cheap imitations?

Obedient Worship

Leviticus 19:5 “When you offer a sacrifice of peace offerings to the LORD, you shall offer it so that you may be accepted. 6 It shall be eaten the same day you offer it or on the day after, and anything left over until the third day shall be burned up with fire. 7 If it is eaten at all on the third day, it is tainted; it will not be accepted, 8 and everyone who eats it shall bear his iniquity, because he has profaned what is holy to the LORD, and that person shall be cut off from his people.

This looks back to chapter 7, which gave detailed instructions about peace offerings. This was the one type of sacrifice from which the worshiper was invited to eat. But holiness meant that the God’s instructions were to be followed carefully and exactly. That which is holy, set apart, is not to be treated as common or ordinary. We cannot come to God any way that we like. “When you offer a sacrifice… you shall offer it so that you may be accepted.” God must be obeyed in the way that we approach him.

Care For the Poor

Leviticus 19:9 “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. 10 And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.

Holiness means not taking everything for yourself. Holiness in business means not wringing out every last cent of profit. Holiness must be generous. God’s holiness must be reflected in our care for the poor and for the displaced, those from whom we can expect nothing in return. We are to acknowledge that everything belongs to God, and everything that we have is a gift from him, and that he gives us more than we need so that we can give to those who are in need.

This method of giving retains the dignity of the needy and requires little more from the landowner than a heart of generosity. He was not asked to gather extra grain, process it and package it, then identify the most needy in his community and deliver it to them. He was actually invited to do less work. Don’t go back over your field a second time to pick up what you missed. Just leave it. Take enough and leave the rest and then rest. Enjoy what you have. Resist the urge to relentlessly pursue maximum profit.

The needy person was then required to do the extra work, to go out to the field, to pick up what he needed, to bring it home to feed his family. This provided an opportunity for the dignity of honest work to provide for the needs of one’s own. And the one who benefited would recognize this ultimately not as a gift from the landowner, but as a gift from God, who generously provides for our needs.

Ruth

We see this holiness in action in the story of Ruth. Ruth was a foreigner, a Moabite woman, and a widow. She had married into a Jewish family, and even after the death of her husband, she showed honor to her mother-in-law. Naomi was a bitter woman, and she had lost her hope in God. She even asked to be called ‘Mara’ – Bitter. Naomi was returning to Israel empty handed. Yet Ruth renounced the idolatry of her people, and declared

Ruth 1:16 … where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.

Ruth was honoring her mother-in-law, even if she was not altogether worthy of that honor. And Ruth honored her mother-in-law in very practical ways. She worked hard to provide for her needs.

In chapter 2, we are introduced to Boaz, a worthy man, who is a landowner.

Ruth 2:4 And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem. And he said to the reapers, “The LORD be with you!” And they answered, “The LORD bless you.”

This is a unique relationship between an employer and his employees. This sounds like a pleasant positive encouraging work atmosphere. The boss genuinely cares, and everyone knows it. How often do you hear employees blessing their boss? If you have anyone under you, strive to create this kind of an atmosphere. This is a man who put God first. This is a man who took time to worship God and to serve others.

Ruth 2:14 And at mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. 15 When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. 16 And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.”

This is generosity above and beyond. Boaz had provided generously for the needs of his workers, He ate and had fellowship with them, and he gave to this stranger more than she needed. Then he instructed his employees to be intentionally wasteful and careless in order to provide abundantly for this woman. Boaz is sacrificing his own profitability in order to bless a stranger, from whom he could expect nothing in return.

This is an illustration of what holiness practically looks like. Boaz is obeying Leviticus 19, caring for the needs of his employees, extending love to the stranger, providing generously for the poor. But Boaz is only able to be like this because he is enjoying relationship with a God who is like this.

Jesus

Remember we are commanded to be holy because God is holy. God is the one who demonstrates what it is to love the stranger, the outsider, the foreigner. God is the one who demonstrates lavish generosity to those who can never pay him back.

Romans 5:5 …God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

We love because he first loved us. We can love like this because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. This is all a gracious gift. While we were weak. While we were ungodly. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us! What lavish generosity to strangers, even enemies!

Ephesians 2 says:

Ephesians 2:11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,

Remember. You were separated. You were alienated. You were strangers. You had no hope. But, the boundless riches of his mercy, you who once were far off have been brought near. At what cost? By the blood of Christ! Infinite cost. Unparalleled generosity to those who can never pay back. Now strangers no longer. Aliens no longer. Fellow citizens, saints, members of the house! We have been brought near! He has welcomed the foreigner!

Colossians 1 says:

Colossians 1:21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,

You were once alienated. Not alienated through unfortunate circumstances, but alienated by your own hostility. Your own open rebellion. You chose to be hostile. You made yourself his enemy. And yet he pursued you! Jesus pursued his rebellious creation by entering into the creation he had made, taking on our flesh and becoming one of us, so that he could pay the ultimate price for us, he died for you so that he could present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him. He took away your shame! He took away your indignity. He brings reconciliation to hostile enemies. He brings us in to relationship. Because we have been so loved, we are set free to so love.

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

October 31, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 3; The Peace Offering

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

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

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

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

Occasions for the Peace Offering

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

Structure

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

1-5 offering from the herd

6-11 offering from the flock

12-16a offering from the goats

16b-17 concluding general instructions

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

The Peace Offering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ephesians 2:11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,

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

The Order of the Offerings

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

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

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

Food Offering

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

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

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

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

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

Fat and Entrails, Kidneys and Liver

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*ESV footnote: Hebrew with the kidney fat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Such is the peace offering of the Old Testament.

Application

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

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

Peace is an objective reality.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus gives us peace, his peace.

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

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

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

‘The God of peace’

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

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

1 John 1:3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

Jesus says

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 16:1-4; Generosity to the Brothers

06/21 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 Generosity to the Brothers; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150621_1cor16_1-4.mp3

1 Corinthians 16 [SBLGNT]

1 Περὶ δὲ τῆς λογείας τῆς εἰς τοὺς ἁγίους, ὥσπερ διέταξα ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τῆς Γαλατίας, οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς ποιήσατε. 2 κατὰ μίαν σαββάτου ἕκαστος ὑμῶν παρ’ ἑαυτῷ τιθέτω θησαυρίζων ὅ τι ἐὰν εὐοδῶται, ἵνα μὴ ὅταν ἔλθω τότε λογεῖαι γίνωνται. 3 ὅταν δὲ παραγένωμαι, οὓς ἐὰν δοκιμάσητε δι’ ἐπιστολῶν, τούτους πέμψω ἀπενεγκεῖν τὴν χάριν ὑμῶν εἰς Ἰερουσαλήμ· 4 ἐὰν δὲ ἄξιον ᾖ τοῦ κἀμὲ πορεύεσθαι, σὺν ἐμοὶ πορεύσονται.

1 Corinthians 16 [ESV2011]

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 to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.

Today we are going to talk about giving, about generosity. About what you ought to do with your money. Not because I want your money, but because that is where we are in the text. We are in the last chapter of 1 Corinthians, and Paul says a few brief words here about money.

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 to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.

He starts out with ‘now concerning’. These words show up six times in this letter, and they answer questions the Corinthian church had asked Paul about.

1 Corinthians 7:1 Now concerning the matters about which you wrote:

In 7:1, he answers questions about marriage and in 7:25 about singleness. In 8:1 he answers questions about idolatry. In 12:1 he answers questions about spiritual people. Here in 16:1 he answers questions about the collection for the saints, and in 16:12 he answers questions about Apollos.

Now concerning the collection for the saints. We need to look at this collection, and understand what it was, what it was not, why it was happening, what we can learn from it, what we need to adjust in our own thinking and practice so that we can be conformed to the image of Christ and bring much glory to God.

The Collection for the Saints

First, this was a collection. It was bigger than just one person’s generosity. We find out that the churches in the province of Galatia are participating in this collection. We find out in Romans 15 that the province of Macedonia is participating in this collection, and now Paul is inviting Corinth, in the province of Achaia to join in this collection.

We are told that the collection is a collection for the saints. It is not a collection for humanitarian aid to unbelievers. It is specifically destined for brothers and sisters in Christ.

Paul started this letter out addressing:

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

They were divinely appointed, called to be saints, holy, set apart. This does not mean that they were perfect. Far from it. The church in Corinth was a particularly unloving church. Paul addresses issues of immorality, marital unfaithfulness, greed, pride, self-centeredness, idolatry, disunity, and doctrinal confusion. And yet he addresses them as saints, set apart. They are in the process of being sanctified, being made holy. Christ Jesus would use this letter in the lives of his saints in Corinth to bring about their sanctification. He is using this letter in our lives to bring about our sanctification, to make us holy, set apart for his use.

This collection is specifically for the saints, believers, brothers and sisters in Christ. Galatians 6 says

Galatians 6:6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. …10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Do good especially to the household of faith. And we find in verse 3, and in Romans 15 that this gift is intended for the poor saints in Jerusalem. We know from Acts 8, after the stoning of Stephen,

Acts 8:1 …And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.

Any followers of Jesus in Jerusalem would find it difficult merely to survive. So this collection was for the saints in Jerusalem.

Did you know it is about 817 miles from Corinth to Jerusalem as the crow flies. Google maps says that it takes about 33 hours to drive the 1837 miles via E80. In the first century that would have been a significant journey. And the believers were encouraged to care about what was going on in another part of their world. The believers in Corinth are informed about the situation 800 miles away in Jerusalem. No internet, no cell phones, no radio, but they cared about their brothers and sisters whom they had never met, who lived so far away. Not only were they informed, but they were expected to do something about it. They were expected to take action.

This is not the first collection for the saints in Jerusalem that Paul was involved in. We read in Acts 11

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

Paul and James on the Gospel and the Poor

Paul was passionate about practically meeting the needs of the poor. In Galatians, where Paul is defending the gospel, the truth of his gospel and the freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, he states that although he received the gospel directly from Christ through a revelation, he submitted the gospel he preached to the leaders in Jerusalem to be sure he was not laboring in vain. He says:

Galatians 2:6 And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. 7 On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised 8 (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), 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.

It is quite possible that Paul met with James and Peter and John during the same visit to Jerusalem recorded in Acts 11 (c.47 AD) when he delivered the gift to the brothers in Judea. They preached the very same good news message that forgiveness of sins is through the finished work of Christ as our substitute on the cross, and that eternal life comes through simple faith in Jesus, depending on him and holding fast to him. This James, who writes in his letter that ‘faith without works is dead’, agreed with Paul on the message of good news that all the apostles proclaimed. “Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.” Both James and Paul believed that salvation was by God’s grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone, and both James and Paul agreed that God’s grace would not leave a person as they were, but would so transform them that they would think and feel and act and desire and prioritize in radically different ways.

The Source of Christian Generosity

Christian generosity is rooted in God’s generosity to us.

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.

Our love, our giving, our generosity is all a response to his love for us. James tells us

James 1:16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Every good gift comes from God. He willed to give us new life, to birth us through the good news of Jesus. God is the ultimate giver, giving unmerited gifts to unworthy sinners. Listen to what Romans tells us:

Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

God gave us the ultimate gift, Jesus. He gave us his own Son. If he did not withhold the best, his most precious, most treasured, most beloved only Son, surely there is nothing good he would withhold from us. Romans 11 says:

Romans 11:35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Every good thing comes from God. God is no man’s debtor. No created being will ever indebt God to them. God gets all the glory because God is the limitless source and supply of all gracious gifts. In 1 Corinthians 2 we see:

1 Corinthians 2:12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.

God must give us the gift of his Holy Spirit for us to even begin to be able to comprehend the riches of God’s marvelous grace lavished on undeserving sinners.

All our giving is merely a shallow reflection of the overwhelming abundance of what God has first given to us.

Beyond Local Giving

Notice that this collection for the saints in Jerusalem is above and beyond the regular local giving that goes to support the ministry of the local church. Paul made it very clear back in chapter 9 that

1 Corinthians 9:14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

He says in 1 Timothy:

1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”

So this giving was not to replace or reduce the giving for the needs of the local ministry.

Mechanics of Giving

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 to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.

How did this giving work? We see that Paul gives very specific instruction. He tells them to put something aside on the first day of the week. Why the first day of the week? This is one of the first pieces of evidence that the early church began to meet together on the first day of the week rather than the last. Paul assumes that setting aside the money on Sunday would make sense to his readers and need no further explanation.

He says that each of you are to put something aside. He expected every believer to be involved in this act of generosity. This was not for the few who felt called or led to give. He assumed total involvement, total participation. There were major class distinctions in Corinth, but Paul doesn’t limit the giving to the rich only. He expects rich and poor, upper, middle and lower classes all to participate in the contribution.

He encourages them to begin to accumulate the money over time. This is not a one time special offering; this is a weekly discipline that he expects of his readers. He wants no last minute scramble to scrape together available funds. He expects a sizable amount to be accumulated over a period of time. They are to store it up. The word used here is the word ‘to treasure’. Jesus said

Matthew 6:19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

They are to set aside weekly and treasure up wealth not for themselves but in order to bless others.

The amount a person is to set aside is not specified. He simply says ‘as he may prosper’. Whatever you have is a gift from God. God is the one who provides, who causes you to prosper. There is no stated amount, not even a suggestion. He leaves it entirely up to the individual. He says of this offering in 2 Corinthians 9:

2 Corinthians 9:7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Paul uses no high pressure manipulation tactics. He clearly communicates what he expects, and he leaves it up to them to decide how much they will treasure up.

Paul is careful to set this up in a way that is above reproach. The money is not for him; he won’t even touch it. They are to decide what to give, they are to treasure it up, they are to designate who is to deliver it, and some of them are to actually travel to Jerusalem with or without Paul to deliver it to its intended recipients. The local congregation has total control over their funds and they are to personally see that it goes where it is intended.

Attitude and Motive

Paul expects everyone to participate in this collection for the saints, but he has been clear that the proper motive and attitude are essential. He said in 1 Corinthians 13

1 Corinthians 13:3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

There is a possibility of giving everything for the wrong reasons and it is a big zero. If giving is motivated by a desire to be thought well of by others, to appear generous, to impress, to earn something, if giving comes from any motive other than love, simply desiring to do good to others, it is worthless.

Listen to the attitude of the churches of Macedonia toward giving:

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.

Their giving was evidence of God’s grace that had been given to them. Their giving came out of an abundance of joy. Their giving also came out of extreme poverty. It was sacrificial. But it was not under compulsion. It was voluntary. In fact, they begged for the favor, literally for the grace of fellowship in the service to the saints. This is a whole different way to look at giving. This is not natural, this is supernatural, Spirit wrought. This is love because we have first been incomprehensibly loved.

Let me read to you as we close a passage from Acts that describes the spontaneous and overflowing generosity of the early church. Listen and imagine what this might look like in our communities if we began to love like we have been loved.

Acts 4:32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

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

June 21, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment