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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

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

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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

1 Corinthians 13:4b; A Not Jealous Kind of Jealous Love

11/09 1 Corinthians 13:4b A Not Jealous Kind of Jealous Love; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20141109_1cor13_4b.mp3

1 Corinthians 13 [SBLGNT]

4 Ἡ ἀγάπη μακροθυμεῖ, χρηστεύεται ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ ζηλοῖ ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ περπερεύεται, οὐ φυσιοῦται, 5 οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ, οὐ ζητεῖ τὰ ἑαυτῆς, οὐ παροξύνεται, οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν,

1 Corinthians 13 [ESV2011]

12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

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. 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. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Paul swings the wrecking ball of God’s love toward the Corinthians. Their attitudes and conduct toward one another were incongruent with love, inconsistent with the God who is love, out of step with the Holy Spirit, who produces the fruit of love in the heart of the believer. He intends to hold up a mirror so that we can see how far short we fall of the divine standard, and in broken-hearted humility cry out to God for his transforming work in us.

The love that Paul is talking about is a distinctly Christian sort of love, a response in the heart of the believer to having been perfectly and completely loved by God. We love (says 1 John 4:19) because he first loved us. This love is an overflow of joy in the satisfaction of being perfectly loved by God. Many people do many good things, many charitable deeds, but Paul says in the opening verses, without this distinctly Christian love, those who do these things become nothing, are nothing, and attain nothing. Even someone who in self-sacrificial generosity to the poor gives away literally every possession, even health, even life itself without this love that is rooted in God’s love for us, gains zero.

Paul gives us 15 verbs to describe this love; 2 positive, 8 negative, one contrast; and 4 always, actions that love either does or does not do. Love is patient, or long-tempered like our God who is slow to anger. Thank God he is slow to anger! Love is kind, generously good to the ungrateful and evil. God’s patience delays justice to make room for his kindness to lead us to repentance.

The first negative in the string of 8 is ‘love envieth not, or is not jealous. This is curious, because at the very last verse of chapter 12 was a command that we be jealous, and in the first verse of chapter 14 we are again commanded to be jealous. We have noted that these characteristics of love can be most clearly seen in God, but when we look at jealousy, God repeatedly in the Old Testament claims to be a jealous God, even claiming that his very name is ‘Jealous’, and in the New Testament we see Jesus acting jealously. What do we make of this assertion that love is not jealous, framed by two commands to be jealous on the backdrop of a God whose name is Jealous?

ζηλόω

Let’s begin with a definition. The word is [ζηλόω] zelo-o. It is where we get our English word ‘zeal’. Literally it means to be heated or to boil. It means to desire earnestly, to strive after or pursue something or someone. This word is used in both positive and negative ways. The context determines whether zeal is a good thing or a bad thing.

Evil Jealousy

For instance, 1 Corinthians 3:3 Paul rebukes the Corinthians for not being spiritual but of the flesh, mere infants in Christ.

1 Corinthians 3:3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?

In this context the burning zeal is a typically human zeal for this or that favorite leader, pitting one against another and causing contention between the differing groups.

In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul says:

2 Corinthians 12:20 For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.

Galatians 5 lists zeal or jealousy among the works of the flesh, contrasted with the fruit of the Spirit.

Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

In Stephen’s sermon in Acts, the patriarchs are accused of jealousy toward Joseph.

Acts 7:9 “And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him

Back in Genesis 37, we are told that Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons (v.3). Joseph had a dream that he would rule over his brothers and that his mother and father and all his brothers would bow down to him. His brothers were jealous of him (v.11). They hated him because his father treated him with special favor. They attempted to do away with him in a vain attempt to thwart his God given prophetic dreams. They didn’t want to bow down to their little brother; they wanted to be the one in charge to whom others would bow down. His dreams were a threat to their own self-importance.

In Acts 5, we are told that many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles (v.12), that the people held them in high esteem (v.13), that more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women (v.14), and that people were gathering from the towns around Jerusalem (v.16), and we are told that the high priest and the Sadducees were filled with jealousy and arrested the apostles. They were threatened by their power, their respect, and their popularity. They wanted the power the respect, the popularity for themselves.

In Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas are invited by the rulers of the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch to preaching the gospel. They said things like “God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised” (v.23). They accused the rulers of the Jews in Jerusalem of “not understanding the utterances of the prophets which are read every Sabbath” and “not recognizing him” (v.27). They accused the leaders of fulfilling the prophecies by condemning him (v.26-29). They proclaimed that God raised Jesus from the dead (v.30). They proclaimed Jesus as the only begotten Son of God (v.33). They proclaimed the impotency of the law of Moses to free anyone from their sins, and they proclaimed forgiveness of sins to everyone who believes in Jesus (v.38-39). They warned against the danger of unbelief (v.41). They preached all this in the Jewish synagogue, and there was no opposition! They were not kicked out. No one complained. No on argued. Instead people begged them to teach again the next Sabbath. There was no opposition for the whole week.

Acts 13:44 The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him.

Notice, the leaders of the synagogue did not dispute the doctrine of the apostles. Not until they saw the crowds did they begin to contradict what was spoken by Paul. They were filled with jealousy because they saw the crowds. Imagine, religious leaders upset at a whole city gathering to listen to the word of the Lord! They should be rejoicing! Instead, they are jealous. They want the attention, they want the popularity, they want the crowds for themselves.

The same thing happened in Acts 17, where Paul and Silas came to the Jewish synagogue in Thessalonica,

Acts 17:2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.”

For three weeks Paul proclaimed Jesus as the promised Messiah, and proclaimed the cross and the resurrection in a Jewish synagogue, and he was unchallenged! It wasn’t until some of the Jews were persuaded, a great many of the devout Greeks, and many prominent women, that the Jews became jealous. They perceived they were losing something that belonged to them, and so they incited a mob to riot. In their jealousy, they even followed Paul to the next town and stirred up the crowds there.

Jesus told a parable in Matthew 20 about a master who hired laborers early in the morning to work in his vineyard. He agreed with them for a fair day’s wage. He hired more workers at 9am, more at noon, more at 3pm, and more at 5pm, and when evening came he paid all of them a full day’s wages. Those who were hired first grumbled,

Matthew 20:12 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.’

They were jealous of those who worked only one hour and received a full day’s wage. That’s not fair! The master responded:

Matthew 20:15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’

Do you begrudge my generosity? Literally, is your eye evil because I am good? They grumbled because they were treated differently than others. They looked with an evil eye on the generosity of the master, rather than celebrating his generosity toward others. We see the same in the parable of the prodigal son. The older brother hears the music and dancing from the celebration and “he was angry and refused to go in” (Lk.15:28). He compared himself and his performance with his brother and was envious of the extravagant love and generosity shown by his father toward his repentant brother. These are examples of a passionate response to something good being given to someone else, wanting it for self. This is the evil kind of zeal, and love is not jealous.

God’s Jealousy

There is a jealousy or zeal that is attributed to God. In Exodus 20, God warns:

Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me…

God demands first place. God demands that we bow down to and serve him alone. In Exodus 34 he says:

Exodus 34:14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God),

God identifies himself with jealousy as a name, demanding that our worship go exclusively to him.

In Ezekiel 16, God describes in graphic terms how he took Israel to be his own when there was nothing desirable in her. He took her in, cared for her, entered into a marriage covenant with her, cleansed her, made her beautiful, and blessed her with everything good. But she was unfaithful to him. He calls her:

Ezekiel 16:32 Adulterous wife, who receives strangers instead of her husband!

…35 “Therefore, O prostitute, hear the word of the LORD:

He accuses her of slaughtering his own children as offering to false gods. And then he says:

Ezekiel 16:38 And I will judge you as women who commit adultery and shed blood are judged, and bring upon you the blood of wrath and jealousy. …41 And they shall burn your houses and execute judgments upon you in the sight of many women. I will make you stop playing the whore, and you shall also give payment no more. 42 So will I satisfy my wrath on you, and my jealousy shall depart from you. I will be calm and will no more be angry.

God’s jealousy is the jealousy that a husband ought to have for his own wife, demanding the exclusive faithfulness from her that she promised in her covenant vows. Song of Solomon brings together love and jealousy.

Song of Solomon 8:6 Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD.

Jealousy of Jesus

Jesus who is the image of the invisible God, showed his jealousy.

John 2:13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

The religious leaders had prostituted the purpose of the temple. It was meant to be a house of prayer for all the nations. Instead they used it as an opportunity to oppress the poor and make a profit. Jesus passionately defended the honor of his Father’s house.

Clarifying the Difference

God is jealous, and God is love, but love is not jealous. In what way is God’s jealousy a loving jealousy, where our jealousy would be contrary to love? What is the difference between the good kind of jealousy and the evil kind of jealousy? In the examples we looked at, human jealousy was a heated response to something good that we desire being given to someone else. We could look at God’s jealousy and say that it too is a heated response to something good that he desired being given to someone else. God demands the undivided affection, devotion, worship and love of his people. When we give that to someone else it is considered adultery. But if we jealously desire equal respect, honor, attention, popularity, and praise to be given to us, it is sin. What makes the difference? We could add one phrase that makes the difference. God demands the affection, love and worship that rightfully belongs to him. When we are jealous, we make demands for things that do not rightfully belong to us. We demand of God’s generosity, that he not extend more generosity to others than he has to us. God is not obligated to extend any generosity to anyone. When we are jealous, we are looking sideways at others and asking ‘how come he got treated better than I did?’

This points us to an element in our jealous that distinguishes it from God’s jealousy. Our jealousy comes from our lack and our need. We desperately want to feel loved. We are jealous of others we perceive are being loved more than us, because we feel that takes away love from us. God’s jealousy has no connection to any need he feels. He makes it explicitly clear that he has no need that we could meet. He is complete in himself, lacking nothing.

Psalm 50:9 I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. 10 For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. 11 ​I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. 12 “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine.

There is another difference. God’s jealousy is loving because it passionately pursues the good of the beloved. When a loving husband goes after his wayward wife to bring her home, and demands that she give her affection exclusively to him, he is doing a very loving thing. He is seeking her happiness, even at great cost to himself. Genuine happiness comes within the covenant relationship, not by violating the covenant relationship. God demands that we ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength’ because that is what will bring us true joy. He seeks our best, and he is our best.

My jealousy is not loving because it passionately pursues my own good, often to the harm of the other. And in my jealousy I am turning my affections away from God and toward other people or things, hoping to find satisfaction in them and outside of God, so my jealousy is adulterous and self destructive.

Commendable Jealousy

When we jealously defend the honor of God and point others toward him as the only source of true satisfaction, we act lovingly. Paul has the good kind of jealousy for the Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 11:2 For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 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. 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.

He is jealous with the jealousy of God. He is passionately fired up that they not be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. There is no hint of self-seeking in this. He passionately pursues their purity to present them as a pure virgin to Christ.

John the baptizer spoke in the same kind of way.

John 3:26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.”

This is an opportunity for human jealousy. John, you are losing popularity. You are losing followers. You are losing attention. The crowds are going to someone else.

John 3:27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

None of the attention, none of the praise, none of the respect, none of the followers belong to me. He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The joy of the friend is to step out of the way and see the bride united with her bridegroom.

This helps us understand how Paul can say that love is not jealous, but then command the Corinthians to be jealous of the higher gifts. He says:

1 Corinthians 12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

1 Corinthians 14:1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.

1 Corinthians 14:39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.

The Corinthians had been jealous of the more spectacular gifts, because those gifts brought status and attention and praise and applause. Paul rebukes their selfish status seeking and points them to the higher way of love. Out of the more excellent way of love, without an evil jealousy of wanting something for myself that you have been given, in the pursuit of love, we are to be zealous for the higher gifts, gifts that build others up. I am to passionately eagerly pursue being of service to you. I am to zealously desire to be poured out as a blessing to you. I am to find my joy in becoming more useful to you, not because I want the attention, but because my joy is complete as I fade into the background and your sincere and pure devotion to Christ increases.

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

November 9, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 13:1-3; Nothingness of Life Without Love

10/26 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 The Nothingness of Life Without Love; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20141026_1cor13_1-3.mp3

1 Corinthians 13 [SBLGNT]

12:31 ζηλοῦτε δὲ τὰ χαρίσματα τὰ μείζονα. καὶ ἔτι καθ’ ὑπερβολὴν ὁδὸν ὑμῖν δείκνυμι.

13:1 Ἐὰν ταῖς γλώσσαις τῶν ἀνθρώπων λαλῶ καὶ τῶν ἀγγέλων, ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω, γέγονα χαλκὸς ἠχῶν ἢ κύμβαλον ἀλαλάζον. 2 καὶ ἐὰν ἔχω προφητείαν καὶ εἰδῶ τὰ μυστήρια πάντα καὶ πᾶσαν τὴν γνῶσιν, καὶ ἐὰν ἔχω πᾶσαν τὴν πίστιν ὥστε ὄρη μεθιστάναι, ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω, οὐθέν εἰμι. 3 καὶ ἐὰν ψωμίσω πάντα τὰ ὑπάρχοντά μου, καὶ ἐὰν παραδῶ τὸ σῶμά μου, ἵνα καυθήσομαι, ἀγάπην δὲ μὴ ἔχω, οὐδὲν ὠφελοῦμαι.

1 Corinthians 13 [ESV2011]

12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

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. 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. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

We are in 1 Corinthians 13, the famous love chapter. If you haven’t read it in your bible, you’ve probably seen it on the back of a wedding program or in a valentines day card or heard it read in a marriage ceremony. It is a soaring piece of poetry, beautiful and moving. It is one of the most widely know and best loved pieces of scripture that has been ripped from its context and plastered all over lover’s lane. I want to tell you something maybe you didn’t already know. 1 Corinthians 13 comes between chapters 12 and 14! It comes between those chapters much the same way as chapter 9 comes between 8 and 10. 1 Corinthians 13 has a context, and that context helps us to understand what its author intended it to mean. We can pull out some verses and post them on our facebook page with some little hearts and balloons and roses that sound all sweet and sentimental, but I submit to you that 1 Corinthians 13 is a wrecking ball that will level you and I if we are really listening. I am being wrecked as I study it, and I intend to share the experience with you, dearly loved ones. Understand, it is a necessary wrecking and leveling. It is a constructive and healthy leveling, the way a deserted lot with dangerously crumbling buildings all overgrown with weeds and crawling with varmints needs to be bulldozed and burned and excavated to prepare it for a useful structure.

The Corinthians, much like us, were self-focused. They were proud, they were self-seeking, They loved status, they wanted priority and position. They had asked Paul a question that he is responding to in these three chapters. Their question, as we reconstruct it from Paul’s answer to them went something like this: ‘What is the mark of true spirituality? What are the evidences of a truly spiritual person? Are there specific manifestations of the Spirit that mark one out as advanced above others?’ And behind these questions was the desire to be thought well of, to be known and acknowledged as spiritual, to have a reputation for advanced spirituality. Paul begins his answer in chapter 12 by telling us that the truly spiritual people are those who confess Jesus as Lord. The Holy Spirit is at work in every person who comes to genuine faith in Christ, so every believer is ‘spiritual’. He highlights the diversity of the workings of the Spirit, and the interconnected interdependence of every part of the body with every other part. He reverses their status seeking, ranking the most despised gifts as most essential to the building up of the body, and lists the more sensational gifts that they were focused on last. He exhorts us to earnestly desire the higher gifts. And then he says ‘I will show you a still more excellent way.’ Chapter 13 is the superabundantly excellent way, more essential than any of the gifts. Chapter 14 continues his exhortation to pursue love and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts.

Tongues

In every list of gifts in this section, in 12:8-10, in 12:28, and in 12:29-30, tongues is listed last. In chapter 14 he illustrates the greater value of prophecy over tongues and carefully regulates the use of the gift of tongues in the meetings of the church. But here in chapter 13, this order is reversed and tongues comes first.

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. 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.

Paul is pointing to the utter worthlessness of all the gifts of the Spirit if the person exercising them lacks love. He lists several ‘if’ statements, possessing spiritual gifts taken to the extreme, each conditioned by the repeated phrase ‘but have not love’ and draws the conclusion of utter valuelessness. He starts with their favorite, tongues. The gift of tongues is the God given ability to speak praises to God in a language not known by the speaker and usually needing interpretation to be understood by the hearers. That is sensational and attention grabbing, and we see something like this attracting huge crowds in Acts 2. Speaking in the tongues of men could be more simply translated speaking in human languages. Speaking in tongues of angels, then, refers to angelic languages. In the context of this passage, it may be that Paul is referring to actual angelic languages, or it may be that he is simply using hyperbole, going beyond what any of the Corinthians would claim. You speak in all kinds of human languages, what if I spoke in exalted angelic languages (if there even is such a thing)? The point is that even the most amazing gift of languages imaginable is nothing without love. If I have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. Imagine your toddler has gotten into the pots and pans in the kitchen and has discovered that by banging the lid down on the pan, he can make noise. Repeated noise. Continual noise. Ceaseless noise. Incessant noise. No rhythm, just loud banging over and over and over and over and over again. It was cute. At first. But then you are sitting at your computer trying to concentrate, and your little angel comes up right next to your ear and begins to bang and clang the pot lids together. Or imagine your sweet little 8 year old in the back seat at the beginning of a very long car ride asks you this question: ‘Do you want to hear the most annoying sound in the universe?’ Even if you answer ‘No’, she still feels compelled to bless you with this sound. It is not the sound itself, but the duration. If you think that’s bad, imagine when you ask her to please stop, suddenly all her siblings join in making the same noise!

Paul says that if I have been given the most spectacular manifestation of the spiritual gift of tongues, but I do not have love, I am, literally I have become; I have turned into a chunk of clanging brass. I am reduced to nothing more than a painfully repetitive loud noise. This is a scathing indictment on the status seeking tongues speaking Corinthians. They want to impress their friends with their giftedness. Instead, Paul says, you have turned into clanging banging irritating chunks of noisy metal.

Prophecy, Knowledge, Faith

Next, he takes the gift that he is encouraging them to pursue, a gift that is useful in building up the church.

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. 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.

If I have prophecy and know all mysteries and all the knowledge. Again, Paul is using hyperbole. He is imagining the greatest possible manifestation of the gift of prophecy. Paul has said in chapter 4 that the apostles have been entrusted with the mysteries of God. Mysteries in this context are things that were hidden in ages past and have now been revealed. The primary mystery, as he talked about in chapter 2, is the gospel, the good news that through the crucifixion of Jesus, God is extending his love to sinners.

He invites them to imagine that his prophetic gift is such that he understands all mysteries and possesses all knowledge. Knowledge was a big deal in Corinth. They prided themselves in their knowledge. Paul addressed their knowledge back in chapter 8.

1 Corinthians 8:1 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

Already in chapter 8, he has held up love as superior to knowledge. Knowledge tends to puff self up. Love builds others up. He warns that by your so called knowledge, you destroy a brother for whom Christ died.

1 Corinthians 8:11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died.

For the Corinthians, understanding all mysteries and all knowledge would make for a very impressive spiritual resume. He adds to this the gift of faith. The spiritual gift of faith is an extraordinary Spirit enabled capacity to depend on God to remove major obstacles to the gospel. Here he draws on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 17:20

Matthew 17:20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Jesus’ point is that it does not depend on the size of your faith. Even the tiniest grain of faith placed in the proper object can remove the biggest obstacles. Paul speaks larger than life and imagines that he has all faith. Again hyperbole; faith so as to relocate mountains.

If he has the gift of prophecy and understands all mysteries and all knowledge and if he has the gift of faith to the maximum imaginable extent, but he does not have love, he says ‘I am nothing’.

Mercy, Generosity, Helps

Now he takes up the mercy gifts, gifts like helps or relief, and generosity.

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. 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.

If I give away all that I have; the idea is turning every possession into morsels of food to nourish the hungry. This takes generosity to the extreme. Not stopping with every possession, but even surrendering up my very body takes it to the next level. There is a textual issue here, and you may have a footnote in your bible, whether the word is burned or boast. The difference is just two letters in the original. Either way it is a picture of the ultimate sacrifice, surrendering ones own body up for the good of others. Paul says, even if I have the gift of mercy, bringing relief to the poor and if I do that to the absolute maximum imaginable extent, laying down my own life for others, but have not love, I gain nothing.

There is a progression here. If I have not love, I become empty noise. If I have not love, I am nothing. If I have not love, I gain nothing. I become nothing, I am nothing, I gain nothing.

What Is Love?

This raises a question. How can one give all that they have and even surrender their own body without love? Isn’t that the definition of love? Isn’t biblical love self sacrifice for the good of the other? Jesus said in John 15

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

If we look around, we find examples of people sacrificing themselves for others. Movies are made in praise of these selfless acts. On the battlefield, in the hospital, in the streets, we see examples of people laying down their lives for others. And not all of these people claim to be followers of Jesus. What can we say about this? Jesus said:

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Does this mean that when we see self sacrificial love for others in someone who rejects Jesus as King and rescuer, we must conclude, in spite of their unbelief, that they must be OK? To a lesser degree, there are many selfless acts of generosity, mercy, care for the poor and needy carried out by good people all around us.

What Paul describes seems to be the greatest possible expression of love according to Jesus; laying down your life for others. But he indicates that it is possible to do these things and not have love. And he indicates the outcome; that it profits me nothing. How is it possible to do what we would consider loving acts and not have love?

It may be helpful to understand that in the Greek there are multiple words for love. In English our one word ‘love’ covers them all. There is storge, the affection of a parent for a child and a child for their parents; there is phileo, the love of friendship; there is eros, romantic love, what we might call ‘being in love’; and there is agape, something almost unique to the New Testament writers, and used to describe God’s love. We can easily see how the affection of a parent for a child or for another needy or helpless individual could express itself in the ultimate self-sacrifice. We can see how a robust friendship love could lead one to make the ultimate sacrifice for a friend, and we could see how impassioned lovers might make the ultimate expression of love to one another.

These generous self-sacrificial deeds of love are noble and admirable. They are a reflection of the image of God in his creation. But they are not saving acts. They profit nothing. They earn nothing.

Agape Love

What is it that distinguishes this God kind of love from other loves, without which we gain nothing? What is it that the unbeliever who takes a bullet for a friend does not have? I think we find help in the simple statement of 1 John 4:19.

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

The love Paul and Jesus and John are talking about is a response that flows from divine love. We love because we have been loved by God.

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.

The love we are talking about is from God. It has its source in God who is love. It comes from the new birth. It is founded on a testimony that Jesus is the Son of God who came and paid the price for our sins. It is a love produced in us by the Holy Spirit. We see in Galatians 5 that this kind of love is a fruit of the Spirit.

If we look at the context of Jesus’ statement that the greatest love is laying down one’s life for a friend, we see where this kind of love comes from.

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

…8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

…11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

This fruit of love comes from abiding in Jesus. Abiding in his love for us. This love is an overflow of joy in the satisfaction of being perfectly loved. We love because he first loved us. We are loved by God, not because there is something loveable in us, something in us that attracts his affection, but out of the overflow of his own satisfaction in loving and being perfectly loved. God is love. The Father loves the Son, the Son loves his Father, and the Spirit loves the Father and the Son. This complete and perfect trinitarian love, this perfect joy and delight in the beloved, spills over and finds joy in extending this love to others. This is a love that comes not out of need but out of overflowing fullness. God is love, and we love because he first loved us.

We love because

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son…

We love because

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

We love because

1 John 4:9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.

We love because

1 John 4:10 …he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

We love because

Galatians 2:20 …the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

We love because

Ephesians 5:2 …Christ loved us and gave himself up for us….

We love because

Ephesians 5:25 … Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

When our love is a work of the Spirit in us, rooted in God’s grace to us in the cross, when our love is the overflow of satisfaction in being perfectly loved by God, when our joy and delight in God spills over and finds joy in extending this love with which we have been loved to others, this is the love that is the superabundant more excellent way. Without this love I have become nothing, I am nothing, and I gain nothing. This kind of love is evidence of true spirituality.

If you want to become more loving, the solution is not to make an effort to do more loving things, the solution is to fix your eyes on Jesus. Allow him to love you with his unquenchable love. Invite him to fill you to overflowing with his all-sufficient love. That love will inevitably spill over to those around you.

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

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

October 26, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 25:1-9; 35:4-36:7 – The Gift of Giving

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120226_exodus25_1-9.mp3

2/26 Exodus 25:1-9 The Gift of Giving (Ex.35:4-36:7)

God has rescued his people. He has saved them by a mighty demonstration of his power. He has redeemed them. He has brought them to himself. He has instructed and taught them what it means to be in a relationship with him. God now gives them the gift of his presence. God will take up residence and dwell among his people. God here instructs his people to build the tabernacle, a sanctuary, a holy place, not because he needs a home, but so that they will understand what it means to have a holy God living among them, and so that they will know that he indeed is dwelling with them. If I were to ask you what the book of Exodus is about, what would you say? I would expect to hear things like ‘God rescuing his people from Egypt’ or ‘the ten plagues’ or ‘the ten commandments’; but if we look at what is most important based simply on what gets the most pages of text devoted to it, we would have to say that Exodus is about the tabernacle; about God dwelling with his people. In the next seven chapters, we have detailed instructions as to how this structure is to be constructed. Then we have two chapters narrating how the Israelites made up their own way to worship and in the process violated their covenant with God. God mercifully forgives their transgression and renews his covenant with them, and the rest of the book details how they faithfully constructed the tabernacle according to the divine specifications. The book concludes with God’s awesome presence coming to dwell with his people. So Exodus is about salvation and rescue and deliverance, and Exodus is about the giving of God’s law, but a major focus of Exodus is God’s gracious presence with his people. God’s stated purpose for the Exodus was ‘that they may serve me’ or ‘worship me’ (Ex.4:23; 7:16; 8:1,20; 9:1,13; 10:3). So we have come to the focal point of the book.

Exodus 25:1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me. 3 And this is the contribution that you shall receive from them: gold, silver, and bronze, 4 blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, goats’ hair, 5 tanned rams’ skins, goatskins, acacia wood, 6 oil for the lamps, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, 7 onyx stones, and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece. 8 And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. 9 Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it.

This section (25-31) starts with the invitation to give to supply the materials for the construction, and then moves through the construction from the most important things that are closest to God’s presence and works its way outward away from the presence of God. The section that records the actual building of the tabernacle (35-40) also starts with the collection of the materials, but then proceeds in the sequence of actual construction. This is God’s invitation to give.

Notice a few things about this invitation to give. First it is entirely voluntary. There are other places where giving is commanded, like the tenth that goes to support those who labor in service to the Lord (Num.18:24), but here all are given the opportunity to contribute, but it is to be purely voluntary. ‘From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me’. If your heart doesn’t move you to give, then don’t give. When Paul was talking about collecting a special offering to help the destitute saints in Jerusalem, he said:

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

Paul highlights the abundant generosity of those in Macedonia:

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 free will, 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.

“Begging earnestly for the favor of taking part” in this offering!

Flip over to Exodus 35 and we’ll see how the people responded to God’s invitation to give:

Exodus 35:4 Moses said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “This is the thing that the LORD has commanded. 5 Take from among you a contribution to the LORD. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the LORD’s contribution: gold, silver, and bronze; 6 blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen; goats’ hair, 7 tanned rams’ skins, and goatskins; acacia wood, 8 oil for the light, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, 9 and onyx stones and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece. …

20 Then all the congregation of the people of Israel departed from the presence of Moses. 21 And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the LORD’s contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. 22 So they came, both men and women. All who were of a willing heart brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and armlets, all sorts of gold objects, every man dedicating an offering of gold to the LORD. 23 And every one who possessed blue or purple or scarlet yarns or fine linen or goats’ hair or tanned rams’ skins or goatskins brought them. 24 Everyone who could make a contribution of silver or bronze brought it as the LORD’s contribution. And every one who possessed acacia wood of any use in the work brought it. 25 And every skillful woman spun with her hands, and they all brought what they had spun in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. 26 All the women whose hearts stirred them to use their skill spun the goats’ hair. 27 And the leaders brought onyx stones and stones to be set, for the ephod and for the breastpiece, 28 and spices and oil for the light, and for the anointing oil, and for the fragrant incense. 29 All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the LORD had commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the LORD.

…36:3 And they received from Moses all the contribution that the people of Israel had brought for doing the work on the sanctuary. They still kept bringing him freewill offerings every morning, 4 so that all the craftsmen who were doing every sort of task on the sanctuary came, each from the task that he was doing, 5 and said to Moses, “The people bring much more than enough for doing the work that the LORD has commanded us to do.” 6 So Moses gave command, and word was proclaimed throughout the camp, “Let no man or woman do anything more for the contribution for the sanctuary.” So the people were restrained from bringing, 7 for the material they had was sufficient to do all the work, and more.

We see such an overwhelming response of eager participation that Moses had to restrain the people from giving by a command, because they brought too much. “Whoever is of a generous heart; everyone whose heart stirred him, everyone whose spirit moved him; all who were of a willing heart; all the women whose heart stirred them to use their skill; all the men and women, whose heart moved them to bring anything brought it as a freewill offering; they still kept bringing him freewill offerings every morning; the people bring much more than enough!”

So this offering was to be voluntary and joyfully given. We also see that this offering was specific. God stated exactly what was to be given. Not your worn-out couch and your jeans that don’t fit, not the winter boots you never wear and that big old television that you replaced with the latest technology wide-screen. God specified exactly what was needed, and it was to be the very best. Gold, silver, bronze, precious stones, the finest dyed fabrics and skins, oils and wood products. The people were to worship God in the way he specified, not in whatever way they chose.

So the offering was to be joyful and voluntary, it was to be only what God specified, and it was given to God. God told Moses ‘you shall receive a contribution for me‘. Moses was to facilitate the giving, the materials went to God’s appointed Spirit-filled craftsmen to do the actual building, but the giving was giving to God. God was the one who asked, and God was the one who ultimately received the offering.

But let’s remember, lest we have the attitude when we give that we are helping God out and meeting some deficiency in him, Paul reminds us in Romans:

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.

And James reminds us:

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

So anything we give belonged to God already, he entrusted it to us to use as wise stewards of his resources, and we are simply returning a portion of it at his request. Jesus told a parable about the wicked tenants of his vineyard who acted as if what they were entrusted with belonged to him (Mt.21; Mk.12; Lk.20). It didn’t end so well for them. Here in Exodus, we could ask, where did the people get all this stuff that they donated? After all, they fled as fugitive slaves from Egypt. Remember back in chapter 3, God said:

Exodus 3:21 And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, 22 but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.”

And we see this fulfilled in Exodus 12:

Exodus 12:35 The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. 36 And the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.

Now God is asking for a portion of what he had given them to be freely and voluntarily given back to him.

To Dwell In Their Midst

Let’s look again at the purpose for all this giving.

Exodus 25:8 And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. 9 Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it.

God’s intention was to create a holy space in which he would bless the people with the gift of his presence. That is why precision had to be taken in following his instructions. This, remember, is to be a replica of the heavenly presence of God, literally a piece of heaven on earth. Soldiers on the move would camp around the tent of their king. God himself is coming as King to pitch his tent in the middle of his people. The Commander of his army comes to sit enthroned in the center of the war-camp of Israel. The purpose of the tabernacle was the presence of God with his people. This points us to the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14, quoted in the gospel according to Matthew:

Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

The tabernacle was a picture of God dwelling with his people that finds its fulfillment in Jesus. This portable sanctuary was replaced in the time of Solomon by a more permanent structure, the temple. Jesus said:

Matthew 12:6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.

Something greater than the temple! What was Jesus claiming? In the beginning of the gospel of John, we are told of Jesus:

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

This word ‘dwelt’ is directly connected back to the tabernacle. We could translate it ‘the Word became flesh and pitched his tent, or tabernacled among us. In John 2, when questioned about proof of his authority for cleansing the temple:

John 2:19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” …21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

Jesus referred to his human body as a temple. He became flesh and tabernacled among us. Jesus is Immanuel – God with us. Something greater than the temple is here! This is indeed good news.

But it doesn’t stop here! Biblically, we can take this concept of God dwelling with his people one step further. Jesus said

John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, … for he dwells with you and will be in you.

Then Jesus says:

John 14:18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

Paul pointed us in Colossians1:27 to “the hope of glory, which is Christ in you.” He tells us in Ephesians 3:17 “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” Jesus went on to say:

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

God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, taking up residence in you! Paul in Ephesians 2 describes the the people who make up Christ’s church as:

Ephesians 2:19 …fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

Paul in 1 Corinthians 3 describes himself as a skilled master builder laying the one foundation – and that one foundation is Jesus Christ. He warns us not to lay any other foundation, and he warns us to take care how we build on that foundation. He goes on to say:

1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you [corporately] are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

You, the people in whom God resides, you all, who as a group make up the church, are God’s temple. In 1 Corinthians 6, he applies this to the individual believer who is tempted with sexual immorality. He says:

1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body [individually] is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

In 2 Corinthians 6, arguing for purity and separation from partnership with that which is not of God, he says:

2 Corinthians 6:16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

We are the temple of the living God. God has made his dwelling in us, the church, in us, believers.

Contributions for the New Covenant Temple

Now let’s bring this back around to the invitation to contribute, and ask, in light of the temple now being us, those in whom God dwells, in what way can we contribute to the construction efforts today. How can we contribute to the building of God’s church today? And when you hear the word ‘church’, please try to retrain yourself to think, not of a building, but of people. God’s church is made up of people. How can we be a part of building a dwelling place for God in the hearts of people of every tribe and tongue and nation (Rev.5:9)?

First, as Jesus commissioned us, we can go:

Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

And second, we can send. Paul points us to the good news for every nation:

Romans 10:9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. …13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

And then he asks the question:

Romans 10:14 But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

May our giving and our going be glad, voluntary, joyful, eager participation in the privilege of giving and of serving. In our giving and our serving, may it be to God and not to man. May our giving be a giving back to God out of the abundance of grace that has been poured into our hearts. And may we savor the awesome presence of God, Father, Son and Spirit, who makes his home in us today. 

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

February 26, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 20:15 Word #8 – Abundant Generosity

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110904_exodus20_15.mp3

09/04 Exodus 20:15 Word #8 Abundant Generosity

God is giving to us his expectations of how we, who have been purchased by him and brought into a relationship with him, should conduct ourselves, in relation to him and to other people. We must honor God above all, and we must honor others as a concrete expression of how we honor God in our hearts. We are to only worship the one true God; we must worship him in spirit and truth; we must honor his name; we must take time to enjoy his presence. In relationship with others, we are to honor those he has placed in authority over us; we are to value and preserve the gift of life; we are to reflect his covenant faithfulness in our own covenant relationships.

And then comes commandment #8:

Exodus 20:15 “You shall not steal.

This, like the last two, is a terse, abrupt two word prohibition in the original: no murder; no adultery; no stealing. For this to make any sense at all, we need to understand how God views the rights of individuals to own personal property, and then we can look at some examples of the application of this prohibition to some actual scenarios, we will look at the reason behind the command, then we will look to Jesus for some guidance, not only on what we are forbidden to do, but also on what we must do in relation to personal property as followers of him.

Personal Property

You must not steal; you must not take without permission that which belongs to someone else. Inherent in this command is the understanding that something can belong to someone. We have the right to personally own things. This is my pocketknife. It belongs to me. To take it from me without my permission is theft. Some wrongly assume that the bible mandates some sort of communistic society on its followers. The book of Acts does say on several occasions that “they had everything in common” (Acts 2:44; 4:32). We will come back to those passages and look at what they teach before we are through, but to assume that the bible denies any private ownership is to rob commandment 8 of any coherent meaning. How can you steal anything if nothing belongs to anyone? Communism is often a mechanism for the strong to say that what is yours is mine and what is mine is also mine.

God’s Ownership and our Stewardship

The fact is that God owns everything. He says:

Psalm 50:12 “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine.

Paul said to the Athenians:

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.

And to the Romans he said:

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.

John who baptized said:

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

God’s ownership of all things extends even to people.

1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

God owns it all! This is why Malachi can say that to withhold tithes and offerings is equivalent to robbing God.

Malachi 3:7 From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ 8 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. 10 Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. 11 I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts. 12 Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts.

God owns everything. Whatever we have he has entrusted into our care. When he requires that we give a portion back to him, it is theft to keep it for ourselves.

Personal Property in the New Testament

God owns everything, and he entrusts it to us to manage wisely for his glory. So to appropriate for myself what God has entrusted to someone else is doubly wrong. Let’s look at one of those passages in Acts to see this concept of personal property.

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. 36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

This passage, which says that the early believers had everything in common, clearly affirms the right to personal property. The things that were shared in common were things that belonged to an individual. It says “no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.” The things legitimately belonged to their owner. The owner voluntarily shared with other believers. Some were even selling their property and giving substantial amounts so that their needy brothers were well cared for.

That this was voluntary is confirmed by what Peter says to Ananias and Sapphira in the very next verses in Acts 5

Acts 5:1 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”

Peter affirms that the field legitimately belonged to the couple. He affirms that even after they sold it, the money belonged to them to do with as they saw fit. They were not judged because they only gave part of the money and kept some back for themselves. That would have been totally proper for them to do. What was wrong was that they lied by pretending to be more generous than they really were. Peter is very clear that the sharing of personal property was voluntary and not in any way compulsory.

Examples of Stealing

Let’s look quickly at some of the concrete examples of stealing that the Old Testament gives, so that we understand what is included in this prohibition. In the next chapters of Exodus, we are told that stealing a person, or kidnapping, or being in possession of a stolen person was a capital offense. We must not steal freedom from anyone. Keep this in mind, by the way, when you are troubled over the bible’s seeming acceptance of slavery – slavery in the bible is something altogether different from what we with our American history think of as slavery. We will have opportunity to deal more with that subject later in Exodus.

Stealing of livestock carried the penalty of repaying 4 or 5 times as much; if the stolen animal was returned, the thief still had to repay double. A thief who would break and enter took his life into his own hands, as the owner was authorized to defend himself with lethal force. It was considered stealing to allow your animal to graze in another man’s field – you had to pay him back. If you started a fire and it got out of control and burned your neighbor’s property, you were required to pay him back. If you borrowed someone’s property, you were required to guard their property and keep it safe. If borrowed property was stolen from you and the thief was not caught, then you had to pay it back. If you owe someone money and you are able to pay, but you choose not to, that is considered stealing.

Stealing someone’s virginity was considered theft, and the penalty, in addition to paying the bride price, was to be marriage.

What is Wrong with Theft?

So what is wrong with taking something that belongs to someone else? First of all, it violates God’s right to do what he wants with what he owns. If he wants to give one person an abundance of stuff and to me next to nothing, that is God’s prerogative. It is not mine to fix the apparent inequality by taking for myself what God has entrusted to someone else. As much as our hearts resonate with a Robin-Hood, it is wrong to steal from the rich and give to the poor. It is wrong to cheat on your taxes. It is wrong to steal from your employer, either by taking goods and equipment or by stealing time – not actually working during the time you are paid to work. Stealing violates God’s right to distribute his own resources as he sees fit.

Stealing is wrong because it violates the basic rights of people who are created in the image of God. Whether we steal freedom or property or livelihood, we are saying that my needs or my desires are greater than your God-given rights.

When we steal, we are demonstrating our unbelief. We tell God that we don’t believe him. We don’t believe in him as our provider. We are telling him that he is doing a lousy job at running his universe. We have to take things into our own hands (quite literally!) to get what we think we need. By stealing we demonstrate that we refuse to trust God to provide for our needs.

Stealing violates God’s right to distribute his own resources as he sees fit, it puts my desires above the desires of anyone else, and it rejects God as provider.

Jesus teaching on Stealing

Jesus has taken all the other commands to a higher level. Let’s see what he has to say about the 8th command. Jesus doesn’t say, as he has on some of the other commands ‘you have heard that it was said do not steal, but I say to you…’ But Jesus does have a lot to say on how we handle personal property. He even gives advice on how to protect your valuables from being broken in to. Here’s what he says:

Matthew 6:19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Every earthly investment opportunity comes with risk. Read the fine print. ‘Evidence of past performance is no guarantee of future result.’ Jesus offers a fail-safe investment plan that is totally secure. Jesus says:

Luke 12:33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.

He goes on to tell us not to worry or be anxious about present needs or future trouble, because

Matthew 6:32 …your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Jesus addresses being stolen from this way:

Luke 6:30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.

When a rich man came to Jesus asking how he could gain eternal life, Jesus pointed him to the commandments, including ‘Do not steal.’ The man claimed:

Luke 18:21 … “All these I have kept from my youth.” 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.” (cf. Mt.19:21; Mk.10:21)

If the command is not to steal, and Jesus makes it clear that theft is a sin that comes from the heart of a person (Mt.15:19), then what Jesus commands is not merely negative; not merely a heart devoid of the desire to take what someone else has, but a heart that is positively content with what it has and overflows with generosity to others. I think we can see this if we go to what the apostles taught about stealing. Paul told the believers in Thessalonika that those that refuse to work to meet their own needs and instead presume on your generosity are stealing.

2 Thessalonians 3:10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.

To the Ephesians, he says:

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

Here the connection is explicit. Stop stealing, and instead do honest work so that you can practice generosity. Whatever we have has been entrusted to us by God. God requires that we use our God-given resources first to honor him, and then to bless others who are created in his image. If we develop a God-centered outlook on life, where he takes first place in all things, and learn to find our satisfaction in him, we will be content with what we have and be eager to give and bless others. We will begin to live crucified, Christlike lives, as we are taught in Philippians 2:

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from rivalry 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.

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

September 4, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , | Leave a comment