PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 1:15-16; Confidence and Double Grace

11/12 2 Corinthians 1:15-16; Confidence and Double Grace ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20171112_2cor1_15-16.mp3

2 Corinthians 1:12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. 13 For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and understand and I hope you will fully understand— 14 just as you did partially understand us—that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you.

15 Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace. 16 I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea. 17 Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? 18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.

Change in Plans

Paul’s travel plans had changed. In 1 Corinthians 4:19, he mentioned sending Timothy to Corinth, and he says “But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills.” At the end of 1 Corinthians, he says

1 Corinthians 16:5 I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, 6 and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go. 7 For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits.

This plan didn’t happen. Timothy sent word to Paul that the Corinthians didn’t respond well to 1 Corinthians. Paul changed his plans and made an emergency visit to Corinth. This proved to be a difficult confrontation, a ‘painful visit’ (2Cor.2:1). Paul then returned from Corinth to Ephesus.

His plan, as he states here, was to complete his ministry in Ephesus, sail to Corinth, continue up through Macedonia to receive their collection, then stop again in Corinth on his way back to Jerusalem with the collection. Instead, when he received news that things only got worse in Corinth after his painful visit, he sent Titus with a ‘severe letter’ (2Cor.2:3-4). Now, writing to them from Macedonia after meeting Titus, he is aware that some are questioning his integrity and his spirituality. How can he really be spiritual if he’s not in tune enough to lay out godly travel plans? Paul here communicates his heart, what he wanted to do, and why he changed his plans and did what he did. The specifics of why he changed his plans don’t come until the beginning of chapter 2, but he begins by grounding their confidence in the faithful character of God in the gospel.

Confidence

Paul begins by saying ‘Because I was sure of this.’ Sure of what? ‘And persuaded by this’ or ‘and in this confidence.’ What was Paul confident of? Look back at verses 12-14.

2 Corinthians 1:12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. 13 For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and understand and I hope you will fully understand— 14 just as you did partially understand us—that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you.

Paul is confident in the testimony of his own conscience. He is sure that he lived with simplicity and sincerity, that he lived by the grace of God. He is supremely confident in the gospel, that it will accomplish its intended purpose, both in him and in the Corinthians, ‘that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you.’ The gospel will bring both he and they into the presence of the Lord, where their only boast will be a boast in the amazing grace and faithfulness of God. Paul’s confidence is not in the fickle Corinthians, nor on his own personal reliability in making his plans under the sovereign purposes of God. Paul’s confidence is squarely on the power of the gospel and the faithful character of God.

Second Grace; Help on the Journey

2 Corinthians 1:15 Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace. 16 I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea.

Paul’s purpose, based on his confidence in the gospel, was to come to Corinth first in order that they might have a second grace. What does this mean, ‘in order that you might have a second grace?’ Clearly, this second grace is related to the two proposed visits, the first on the way to Macedonia, and the second returning from Macedonia. This language sounds similar to Romans 1

Romans 1:9 …I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.

We might read 2 Corinthians in light of this passage in Romans, and read into it a desire to impart grace to them to strengthen them by an apostolic visit. But the language of Romans is quite different from the language here in 2 Corinthians. Actually, the language of Romans 15 is closer to the language of 2 Corinthians than Romans 1.

Romans 15:23 …since I have longed for many years to come to you, 24 I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.

This word ‘to be helped on my journey there’ is the same word translated ‘have you send me on my way’ in 2 Corinthians 1:16. This is also what we saw in 1 Corinthians 16:6 of ‘helping me on my journey, wherever I go,’ as well as 1 Corinthians 16:11, of ‘helping Timothy on his way in peace, that he may return to me.’ It seems there was a practice of churches partnering with the apostle or his co-workers in his ministry by sending them forward on their way, funding their travel and providing for their needs as they went out to advance the gospel.

No Obstacle to the Gospel

We also understand that Paul did not receive payment from the Corinthians. In 2 Corinthians 11 he says:

2 Corinthians 11:7 Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God’s gospel to you free of charge? 8 I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. 9 And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way. 10 As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be silenced in the regions of Achaia. 11 And why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do!

Paul refused to allow the Corinthians to pay him. The culture in Corinth was a patronage culture, where a wealthy benefactor could sponsor a slave and grant him his freedom, but that freedman would now be obligated to his patron to give honor. A wealthy patron could also hire a scholar to teach, and the more he paid, the more prestigious an education he could claim. Paul refused to play into this cultural climate, refusing to take any payment for his teaching, refusing to become indebted to anyone.

In 1 Corinthians 9, he said:

1 Corinthians 9:11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.

Paul refused to put an obstacle in the way of the gospel. In Corinth, receiving payment for preaching the gospel would imply that it was a message only for the wealthy who could afford to pay, and would put the gospel out of reach of the average Corinthian. He went on:

1 Corinthians 9:14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. 15 But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting.

…18 What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.

Many in Corinth took offense at his refusal to allow them to support him. But here Paul desired to offering them double grace.

Double Grace

What does Paul mean by this second grace? They had experienced God’s grace when they received the gospel. Grace is the polar opposite of earning, as we learned in Romans 4.

Romans 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

Wages are not reckoned according to grace but according to debt. Grace and wages have nothing to do with one another. Wages are earned. Grace is undeserved, freely given. The gospel is the message that God’s favor cannot be earned. No amount of good works can indebt God to us that he must pay us back. God’s righteousness comes only as a gift freely given to those who are unrighteous and undeserving. We cannot merit it; another paid the price in full. Grace is God’s loving and God’s freely giving. When we begin to understand grace, when we begin to see God for who he is, when we see ourselves as we are, we begin to recognize that all of life is grace. Every breath is a gift we do not deserve.

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

Our salvation from the wages of our sin is all of grace, and every moment is grace, but what does Paul mean here by a second grace linked to a double visit? It cannot be that they experience salvation a second time.

This second grace must be linked to the sending forward of the apostle. Verse 16 spells this out in three movements. Paul’s desire was that ‘through you he would travel through to Macedonia’ His language indicates that his travel to Macedonia would happen through or by means of the generosity of the Corinthians. This was to be his first coming to them and their first grace. ‘And again from Macedonia to come to you.’ This was the second movement. ‘And by you to be sent forward to Judea.’ This was the third movement, and the second grace, to send him forward.

Paul did not allow churches to pay him for his services, but he did allow them the grace of providing for the advance of the gospel as he left them to travel on. This understanding sees grace not as grace to be received, but grace to be given. The Corinthians had received all of God’s grace toward them in the gospel. Now they had been set free from the earning – obligation – debt cycle to freely give.

The Grace of Giving

Paul uses this word ‘grace’ in this sense unmistakably in reference to the collection for Jerusalem in 1 Corinthians 16.

1 Corinthians 16:3 And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift [grace] to Jerusalem.

The collection the Corinthians make for the poor saints in Jerusalem in called ‘your grace’. They will carry your grace to Jerusalem.’

In 2 Corinthians 8 Paul talks more about this grace of 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 [grace] of taking part [fellowship] in the relief of the saints—

God’s grace was given and they begged for the grace of fellowship in the service to the saints. Notice this grace of giving is an expression of God’s grace given to them.

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. …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.

The collection of money is referred to as ‘this grace.’ And it is grounded on knowing the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. God’s grace is the initiating grace that births in us a grace toward others. We have received freely that which we did not deserve at great cost to Jesus. We then are set free to freely give, not in order to earn anything, but out of the eager overflow of what we have freely received. We are ‘set free to meet the needs of others, because God has met our needs in Christ’ [ESVSB note]. God’s grace is a transforming grace. It births grace in us toward others. This is the confidence Paul had in the gospel, that it creates grace in the lives of those who have been transformed by God’s free and undeserved grace. Paul’s confidence was not in the Corinthians, but in God’s transforming grace, that creates grace in all who have truly received his grace, to see his grace freely proclaimed to more and more and more people.

Giving for the Glory of God

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

This grace is ultimately for the glory of the Lord himself. We do not give to get. We do not give to get recognition or praise. We do not give to get rewards or status. We give only, exclusively to give glory to God. Our giving brings glory to God because our grace in giving is birthed in us in response to his grace freely given to us. Freely you have received, freely give (Mt.10:8 KJV).

2 Corinthians 1:15 Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace. 16 I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea.

What is your confidence in? Your faithfulness? Someone else’s faithfulness? Or is it in the gospel alone?

Do you consider giving to advance the gospel an obligation? A burden? Or a grace?

Have you been set free to give to the needs of others because God has met all your needs in Christ?

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

Advertisements

November 14, 2017 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 22; Perfect Priest; Perfect Sacrifice

02/19 Leviticus22; Perfect Priest; Perfect Sacrifices ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170219_leviticus-22.mp3

God’s Work and Our Response; YHWH Sanctifies

Leviticus 21 and 22 are a section of the holiness code in Leviticus that specifically addresses the priests. This section is a reminder, as we hear 6 times in these two chapters, I am YHWH who sanctifies you. It is God who makes holy, who sets apart, who cleanses. We are to refrain from profaning or treating as common his name, his reputation, because he has set us apart. Our motive for living set apart lives, lives that are different from the world around us, is that we have been set apart by a holy God. We have been called to a greater purpose! We do not attempt to live holy lives in order to gain God’s favor; rather we respond to God’s gracious acceptance of us by making it our aim in all things to please the one who has so freely loved us. These chapters are addressed to priests who have been set apart for service to God. They are now exhorted not to smear God’s name by their conduct, because it is YHWH who sanctifies them.

Romans 5 makes this clear that

Romans 5:6 For while we were still weak… Christ died for the ungodly. … 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. … 10…while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son…

We were still weak, ungodly, still sinners, enemies when Jesus died for us. Now that we have been made holy by his sheer unmerited grace, we respond with love to him, living lives which honor him.

Unclean Priests

Lev.22:1-9 priests to abstain from holy things while unclean

Leviticus 22:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to Aaron and his sons so that they abstain from the holy things of the people of Israel, which they dedicate to me, so that they do not profane my holy name: I am the LORD. 3 Say to them, ‘If any one of all your offspring throughout your generations approaches the holy things that the people of Israel dedicate to the LORD, while he has an uncleanness, that person shall be cut off from my presence: I am the LORD. 4 None of the offspring of Aaron who has a leprous disease or a discharge may eat of the holy things until he is clean. Whoever touches anything that is unclean through contact with the dead or a man who has had an emission of semen, 5 and whoever touches a swarming thing by which he may be made unclean or a person from whom he may take uncleanness, whatever his uncleanness may be— 6 the person who touches such a thing shall be unclean until the evening and shall not eat of the holy things unless he has bathed his body in water. 7 When the sun goes down he shall be clean, and afterward he may eat of the holy things, because they are his food. 8 He shall not eat what dies of itself or is torn by beasts, and so make himself unclean by it: I am the LORD.’ 9 They shall therefore keep my charge, lest they bear sin for it and die thereby when they profane it: I am the LORD who sanctifies them.

God is serious about uncleanness. Remember our diagram that illustrated the necessary separation of the unclean from the holy.

———————————————————————————

←← SACRIFICE ←←

Sanctify ← Cleanse

[holy] [clean/common] [unclean]

Profane → Pollute →

→→ SIN and INFIRMITY →→

[G.Wenham, NICOT, p.19, 26]

———————————————————————————

Anything that had become unclean though any of the various means of uncleanness must be first cleansed through sacrifice before it can come into contact with that which is holy. Remember, a primary role of the priest in Israel was to be the inspector who declared a person or an object clean or unclean.

If you look back to our outline of these two chapters, you will notice that the first section of chapter 21 forbade any priest from making himself unclean by burying the dead except for close relatives of his immediate family. The second section narrowed this for the high priest, who could not even become unclean by burying his mother or father.

Lev.21:1-9 priests not to make themselves unclean

Lev.21:10-15 high priest not to make himself unclean

Lev.21:16-24 blemished priests not to draw near

Lev.22:1-9 priests to abstain from holy things while unclean

Lev.22:10-16 common people to abstain from holy things

Lev.22:17-33 blemished animals not accepted for you

Now, the first section of chapter 22 deals with priests who have become unclean, either by contact with the dead, or a disease, or any of the other ordinary ways someone could become unclean through daily life. So chapter 21 commanded the priests to avoid uncleanness except on very rare occasions, but chapter 22 deals with the all-too common circumstance when a priest would become unclean. Priests were to guard the holiness of God. They were not to allow an unclean person to come into contact with the holy things. If a priest himself was unclean, this is a warning that he too was excluded from the holy things, because God’s holiness was to be guarded. A portion of some of the offerings of the people, we saw especially in chapters 6 and 7, belonged to the priests as their income. Meat and grain from these offerings was holy, dedicated to the LORD, and was to be treated as holy. So the priests who were clean were allowed to eat of the holy things, but priests who were unclean were not allowed to eat. Notice the severity of the consequences; verse 3 says that any priest who treats lightly his uncleanness and approaches the holy things while in an unclean state, ‘that person shall be cut off from my presence.’ To be banned, literally ‘cut off’ from God’s presence is the most serious consequence. God takes his own holiness seriously. After the high priest’s sons Nadab and Abihu were consumed by fire in the presence of the LORD in chapter 10, The LORD said:

Leviticus 10:3 … “This is what the LORD has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’”…

Here in verse 9 the priests are warned to keep God’s command, ‘lest they bear sin for it and die thereby when they profane it.’

You may have heard Christians use this phrase: ‘I’d rather err on the side of grace.’ Usually I have heard that said in reference to Christians coming down hard on others, demanding that they be held accountable for their questionable actions. That is legitimate; we who have been shown incalculable grace by our overwhelmingly gracious God to not be quick to judge but rather quick to extend grace to others. But this is dangerous if we use it as an excuse to not examine our own hearts and behavior in the light of God’s revealed truth. If we treat lightly our own sins, if we presume on God’s grace toward us, if we claim God’s grace as a license to sin, that is dangerous. Jesus said:

Matthew 5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.

Jesus teaches us extend God’s grace toward sinners to others, but he also teaches us to address our own sins with severity. Jesus died to free us from sin. It is unthinkable for one purchased with the precious blood of Jesus to treat sin as no big deal.

Commoners to Abstain from Holy Things

Lev.22:10-16 common people to abstain from holy things

Leviticus 22:10 “A lay person shall not eat of a holy thing; no foreign guest of the priest or hired worker shall eat of a holy thing, 11 but if a priest buys a slave as his property for money, the slave may eat of it, and anyone born in his house may eat of his food. 12 If a priest’s daughter marries a layman, she shall not eat of the contribution of the holy things. 13 But if a priest’s daughter is widowed or divorced and has no child and returns to her father’s house, as in her youth, she may eat of her father’s food; yet no lay person shall eat of it. 14 And if anyone eats of a holy thing unintentionally, he shall add the fifth of its value to it and give the holy thing to the priest. 15 They shall not profane the holy things of the people of Israel, which they contribute to the LORD, 16 and so cause them to bear iniquity and guilt, by eating their holy things: for I am the LORD who sanctifies them.”

This section is necessary to define who is included in a priest’s household, and who can legitimately benefit from that which is set apart for the priests. Graciously, God allows restitution to be made for someone who unwittingly eats of that which he is not eligible to eat. Only holy people can eat holy things.

It is interesting to note, that in 1 Samuel 21, when David was fleeing for his life from Saul, and he and those with him were hungry and in need, he came to the priest and was given the holy bread to eat. When Jesus’ disciples were hungry and eating grain on the Sabbath in Mark 2

Mark 2:24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” (cf. Matthew 12:2-8; Luke 6:2-5)

Jesus affirmed this law in Leviticus, that it was not lawful for any but the priests to eat the holy bread, but he also affirmed that the ceremonial law was made for man to bless him, and that mercy toward those in need supersedes the strict adherence to the letter of the law. Jesus affirms that one greater than even King David is here, and that he himself is lord of the Sabbath.

Blemished Sacrifices

Lev.22:17-33 blemished animals not accepted for you

Leviticus 22:17 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 18 “Speak to Aaron and his sons and all the people of Israel and say to them, When any one of the house of Israel or of the sojourners in Israel presents a burnt offering as his offering, for any of their vows or freewill offerings that they offer to the LORD, 19 if it is to be accepted for you it shall be a male without blemish, of the bulls or the sheep or the goats. 20 You shall not offer anything that has a blemish, for it will not be acceptable for you. 21 And when anyone offers a sacrifice of peace offerings to the LORD to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering from the herd or from the flock, to be accepted it must be perfect; there shall be no blemish in it. 22 Animals blind or disabled or mutilated or having a discharge or an itch or scabs you shall not offer to the LORD or give them to the LORD as a food offering on the altar. 23 You may present a bull or a lamb that has a part too long or too short for a freewill offering, but for a vow offering it cannot be accepted. 24 Any animal that has its testicles bruised or crushed or torn or cut you shall not offer to the LORD; you shall not do it within your land, 25 neither shall you offer as the bread of your God any such animals gotten from a foreigner. Since there is a blemish in them, because of their mutilation, they will not be accepted for you.” 26 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 27 “When an ox or sheep or goat is born, it shall remain seven days with its mother, and from the eighth day on it shall be acceptable as a food offering to the LORD. 28 But you shall not kill an ox or a sheep and her young in one day. 29 And when you sacrifice a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the LORD, you shall sacrifice it so that you may be accepted. 30 It shall be eaten on the same day; you shall leave none of it until morning: I am the LORD. 31 “So you shall keep my commandments and do them: I am the LORD. 32 And you shall not profane my holy name, that I may be sanctified among the people of Israel. I am the LORD who sanctifies you, 33 who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the LORD.”

This section deals with what constitutes an acceptable sacrifice. Starting from verse 3 of chapter 1 of Leviticus, is was made clear that offerings were to be animals without blemish. Here in chapter 22, addressed to the priests who would oversee the offerings of the people, it is spelled out in more detail what constitutes an acceptable sacrifice, and what kinds of blemishes would disqualify an animal from being offered to the Lord.

In the second temple period the prophet Malachi rebukes the priests for despising his name and his table. He says in Malachi 1

Malachi 1:6 “…If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’

…8 When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts.

…12 But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised. 13 But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the LORD of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the LORD. 14 Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the LORD of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.

God is dishonored when his people offer to him less than the best. Is he not worthy of the best, the first? If a great king came to visit, would you pull out the week-old leftovers from the back of the fridge to set before him, or do you kill the fatted calf and prepare a great feast? It is not that God needs something from you. “If I were hungry, I would not tell you” God says in Psalm 50. The goal of the offering is ‘that you may be accepted’ (verses 19, 20, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29); for God to be pleased with, to delight in, to approve of, to satisfy. God does not need your offering; but the quality of your offering is evidence of your heart attitude toward God. Where does he rank in your priorities, in your desires? Does he have first place in your heart? In your finances? Jesus said:

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

Perfect Priest, Perfect Sacrifice

It is interesting if we look back at the outline of these two chapters, we see that the last section of chapter 21 prevented any priest who had a blemish from approaching God or drawing near (21:17, 18, 21 twice, 23), and the last section of chapter 22 prevents any animals with a blemish from being accepted as an offering. Chapter 21:18-20 lists twelve blemishes that prevent a priest from drawing near. Chapter 22:22-24 lists twelve blemishes that prevent an animal from being accepted as a sacrifice. Almost half of the list of blemishes are identical between chapters 21 and 22. There is a symmetry between these chapters that highlights the fact that as a priest must be without blemish to draw near, so must the sacrifice be without blemish to be acceptable. And even a priest without blemish would often be temporarily unclean and excluded so as not to profane God’s name or his sanctuary. We all know that there is no perfect animal, and there is no perfect person. We are all flawed in various ways. All this would leave the worshiper longing for a more perfect priest and a more perfect sacrifice, by which to draw near and be accepted.

Hebrews 5 tells us

Hebrews 5:1 For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. 2 He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. 3 Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people.

This leaves us aching for a priest who is not ignorant, wayward, beset with weakness. This leaves us thirsty for “one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb.4:15). We understand that there is no perfect animal, and that “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb.10:4). This leaves us desperate for a better sacrifice. Leviticus leaves us hungry and thirsty for Jesus! Hebrews 7:26 says:

Hebrews 7:26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. 28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

In Jesus the perfect priest and the perfect sacrifice become one! Jesus is the perfect priest, holy, innocent, unstained, without weakness, without sin. Jesus is the perfect “lamb without blemish or spot” (1Pet.1:19), who “committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth” (1Pet.2:22); who “offered himself without blemish to God” (Heb.9:14). Jesus is the hope that Leviticus leaves us longing for.

Jesus,

Hebrews 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

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

February 19, 2017 Posted by | Leviticus, 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 2; The Grain Offering

04/24 Leviticus 2; The Grain Offering; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160424_leviticus-2.mp3

We are in Leviticus 2, the second of the 5 offerings. The first three offerings, the burnt offering, the grain offering, and the peace offering, are voluntary offerings, and they are each said to be “a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD”. The last two, the sin and the guilt offering, are required to be offered when anyone sins. The whole burnt offering, we saw, was a foundational offering, dealing not with specific sins, but with our sinful nature. It was a costly offering, and it was a completely Godward offering, the entire animal (except for the hide) going up in smoke as a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

Jesus said to the religious leaders in John 5

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

All these offerings together, the whole sacrificial system, points us to Jesus, and his once-for-all sacrifice for us.

Tribute

This second offering is unique among the offerings, in that it is not a bloody offering. No animal is involved. It is a grain offering. This offering is called in Hebrew a ‘Minhah’, simply a gift. This kind of gift often expresses gratitude, reverence, homage, or allegiance. This was often a tribute offering. In Genesis 32, when Jacob was returning to his homeland and his brother Esau, from whom he had stolen both birthright and blessing, who had wanted to kill him, was coming out to meet him with 400 men, he sent a ‘minhah’ ahead of him

Genesis 32:20 …For he thought, “I may appease him with the present that goes ahead of me, and afterward I shall see his face. Perhaps he will accept me.”

This was a gift intended to appease, to gain acceptance. In Genesis 43, when Jacob reluctantly agreed to send his youngest son to the leader of Egypt who had interrogated his other sons and was holding one prisoner,

Genesis 43:11 Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry a present down to the man, a little balm and a little honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds. …14 May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brother and Benjamin.

This was a gift to a powerful leader intended to gain a favorable outcome.

When we come to the time of the Judges, we see Israel subservient to other nations, and in Judges 3 a ‘minhah’ is sent from Israel to the king of Moab. In 2 Samuel 8, when David conquered the Moabites, they became David’s servants and brought him ‘minhah’.

It was common for a defeated king to enter into a treaty with the conquering king where he would bring a regular gift of grain or produce to express loyalty, allegiance, and fidelity to the king, and to acknowledge his debt to the king for their very life and existence. We might think of it as a sort of tax; in exchange for peace and security, they offer a percentage of their income to the king who rules over them. This is a good way to think of this offering, but this grain offering is not mandatory, it is voluntary.

Leviticus 2:1 “When anyone brings a grain offering as an offering to the LORD, his offering shall be of fine flour. He shall pour oil on it and put frankincense on it 2 and bring it to Aaron’s sons the priests. And he shall take from it a handful of the fine flour and oil, with all of its frankincense, and the priest shall burn this as its memorial portion on the altar, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD. 3 But the rest of the grain offering shall be for Aaron and his sons; it is a most holy part of the LORD’s food offerings.

This was a tribute to the conquering King. This was a gift to express loyalty, allegiance, faithfulness to the King. This was a recognition that we owe our very life and existence to the King. God has conquered our enemies, he has broken our own rebellion and resistance, he rules over us with peace and justice. God owns all, but he allows us to keep a portion of what we produce for our own needs. God demands our allegiance. Yet this offering is voluntary. It is a way to freely express our loyalty to our King.

How and How Much?

There were different ways that were acceptable to make this offering. All used fine flour, the best of the best, the choicest of the grain, consistently and carefully ground very fine. The fine flour could be brought raw, as flour. Verses 1-3 give instructions for an uncooked grain offering. The fine flour could be prepared as bread. Verses 4-10 give instructions for three categories of cooked grain offerings; verse 4 says “When you bring a grain offering baked in the oven as an offering” it can be brought as loaves or wafers. Verse 5 says “And if your offering is a grain offering baked on a griddle”; verse 7 says “And if your offering is a grain offering cooked in a pan.” There is no requirement given of what kind of grain offering to bring when. There is freedom for the preference of the worshiper, and for the means of preparation available to the worshiper.

Notice also, no quantity is specified. Should I bring a quart? A bushel? A truckload? Two loaves? Ten? A thousand? Bring as much as you wish. 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.”

As Paul says in 2 Corinthians

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.

I know this can be frustrating for some. How much should I give? Am I giving enough? How much do most people give? Is it still ten percent? Gross or net? I want to know where I stand. You are not under compulsion. You are to give freely, cheerfully, liberally. When we recognize how much, how very very much we owe to God, how much we have been freely graciously given, giving back to him becomes not an obligation or a debt but a delight.

Where Does It Go?

But where does my gift go? It is brought to the priests, and they offer a handful of it as a memorial portion to be burned on the altar as a pleasing aroma to the Lord. The remainder belongs to the priests. This was God’s way of providing for the needs of the priests. It is called most holy, or literally ‘a holy of holies’, which meant that it was set apart, and only for the priests to be eaten only by them, only in a holy place. Your offering is given to God, and God in turn uses that offering to care for those who are in his service. Paul applies this principle to Christian workers in 1 Corinthians 9.

1 Corinthians 9:13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 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 5:

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.”

It is quite flattering, by the way, to be likened to an ox treading grain.

What to Bring and What to Leave Out

Although there was freedom in the quantity and method of preparation, there is also very specific instructions on what is to be brought and what must be left out. As we said, this was a grain offering, and it was to be the best of the best, fine flour. Regardless of the preparation, it was always to be offered with oil, and it was always to include frankincense. Never was it to include leaven of any kind, or honey, and it was always to include salt.

Oil in the Scripture is symbolic of the Holy Spirit, and joy. This is to be a Spirit filled offering, not a fleshly offering. It is to be a joyful offering, not a reluctant offering.

Frankincense is an aromatic resin. It was an ingredient of the incense that was to be burned on the altar of incense in the holy place every morning and every evening. No incense for common use was to be made like it. It was set apart for God. All the frankincense on the grain offering was set apart to God. The portion of the grain offering that was burnt on the altar of burnt offering included all the frankincense. It was wholly set apart and devoted to God. Frankincense, you will remember was among the gifts the Magi brought to honor the child Jesus. Frankincense was symbolic of holiness, total Godward devotion.

In chapter 5, we will see that for the sin offering, no oil or frankincense is to be included. A sin offering was not a joyous occasion, sin had been committed, and an offering had to be made to deal with the consequences of sin.

Never was the grain offering to include leaven or honey. In Matthew 16 Jesus warns his disciples to watch out for the leaven of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees, and Herod, which he says in Luke 12 is hypocrisy, to appear different than you are.

In Matthew 13, Jesus:

Matthew 13:33 He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”

This is in the context of parables about weeds sown by an enemy among good seed that is then allowed to grow together until the harvest, about a mustard seed that grows so large it even provides a nesting place for the evil birds who snatch away gospel seeds, and a net in the sea that gathered fish of every kind, to be sorted in the end good from bad.

Leaven is what we would think of as a sourdough start, a piece of the old dough that contains microorganisms that eat the sugars and convert them into bubbly gasses which puff up the bread. Leaven is that which inflates or puffs up, it is pervasive and affects all it touches. Honey refers not only to honey from bees, but to any sweet nectar, like that from fruits. This too can have a leavening effect. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:

1 Corinthians 5:6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Leaven is boasting, malice, evil, in contrast to sincerity and truth. No leaven is ever to be burnt on the altar. Verse 12 clarifies, because the offering of firstfruits in Leviticus 23 allows leaven. Leaven is allowed in that offering, but the leavened bread is never to be burned on the altar.

Salt is a required part of all grain offerings. Three times in three different ways in verse 13, salt is emphatically not to be left out of the offerings. Salt has the opposite effect of leaven, actually counteracting leavening influences, stopping the fermentation process and acting as a preservative. Salt was also used in judgment, placed in the ground it would prevent anything from growing. It is called ‘the salt of the covenant with your God’. Salt pointed to the permanent, lasting, eternal character of the covenant.

In Matthew 5:13, Jesus calls his followers ‘the salt of the earth’. In Mark 9, in the context of warning against the dangers of sin and encouraging us to take drastic action against sin in our lives, he says

Mark 9:49 For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

We are told in Colossians 4:

Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

All our conversations are to have a preserving, not a corrupting effect. All our conversations are to be gracious.

The Work of Our Hands

So what is the grain offering? The grain offering is the work of our hands. The soil is worked, grain is planted, watered, harvested, threshed, ground fine, cooked or prepared in various ways, presented. In this we acknowledge that God has rights over all, that all that we have is only that which he first gave to us.

Jesus in the Grain Offering

But is there more here? How does this offering point us to Jesus? This is not a bloody offering; it is a bread offering. In John 6, Jesus said:

John 6:48 I am the bread of life.

Jesus said:

John 6:32 …my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

Some have seen in the grain offering a picture of Jesus in his humanity. Jesus humbled himself. Jesus in his humanity is perfectly humble. There is no trace of leaven of pride or hypocrisy, no trace of malice or evil. Jesus is full of grace and truth. Everything he said was seasoned with salt. His whole life was a pleasing aroma to his Father. It is interesting to note that in verse 4, it is to be loaves mixed with oil or wafers smeared with oil. Oil is to be mixed in with the grain to form the dough. Jesus’ human body was prepared for him by the Holy Spirit. But at Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit came to rest on him. Jesus said:

Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit for ministry. The word for ‘smear’ is ‘mashak’, literally ‘anointed’; the verb from which we get ‘messiah’. Jesus was tested by the devil, as if in an oven, and he refused to do anything to please himself. In John 6, where he claimed to be bread from heaven he said:

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, as the perfect man, submitted himself in perfect obedience in all things to the will of his Father. And all his works were perfectly pleasing to the Father. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt.3:17; 17:5). Where Adam, when tested, brought sin and corruption into this world, Jesus perfectly obeyed in all things.

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

But why, in verse 6 is the grain offering to be broken in pieces? Some suggest this would allow the bread to burn better in the fire. Jesus, on the night he was betrayed,

Luke 22:19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

The grain offering that is burned on the altar is called a ‘memorial’, literally a reminder or a remembrance offering. The grain offering was a reminder that God is the provider of all, and it was an offering to remind God to be faithful to his covenants and treat the worshiper with grace. Breaking bread was a normal daily activity that ministered to both physical and social needs within the context of a meal. May we come to know him more fully in the breaking of the bread (Lk.24:35).

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

April 27, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 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 9:1-14; kNOw your Rights!

03/09 1 Corinthians 9:1-14 kNOw Your Rights!; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140309_1cor9_1-14.mp3

1 Corinthians 9 [SBLGNT]

1 Οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐλεύθερος; οὐκ εἰμὶ ἀπόστολος; οὐχὶ Ἰησοῦν τὸν κύριον ἡμῶν ἑόρακα; οὐ τὸ ἔργον μου ὑμεῖς ἐστε ἐν κυρίῳ; 2 εἰ ἄλλοις οὐκ εἰμὶ ἀπόστολος, ἀλλά γε ὑμῖν εἰμι, ἡ γὰρ σφραγίς μου τῆς ἀποστολῆς ὑμεῖς ἐστε ἐν κυρίῳ. 3 Ἡ ἐμὴ ἀπολογία τοῖς ἐμὲ ἀνακρίνουσίν ἐστιν αὕτη. 4 μὴ οὐκ ἔχομεν ἐξουσίαν φαγεῖν καὶ πεῖν; 5 μὴ οὐκ ἔχομεν ἐξουσίαν ἀδελφὴν γυναῖκα περιάγειν, ὡς καὶ οἱ λοιποὶ ἀπόστολοι καὶ οἱ ἀδελφοὶ τοῦ κυρίου καὶ Κηφᾶς; 6 ἢ μόνος ἐγὼ καὶ Βαρναβᾶς οὐκ ἔχομεν ἐξουσίαν μὴ ἐργάζεσθαι; 7 τίς στρατεύεται ἰδίοις ὀψωνίοις ποτέ; τίς φυτεύει ἀμπελῶνα καὶ τὸν καρπὸν αὐτοῦ οὐκ ἐσθίει; τίς ποιμαίνει ποίμνην καὶ ἐκ τοῦ γάλακτος τῆς ποίμνης οὐκ ἐσθίει; 8 Μὴ κατὰ ἄνθρωπον ταῦτα λαλῶ ἢ καὶ ὁ νόμος ταῦτα οὐ λέγει; 9 ἐν γὰρ τῷ Μωϋσέως νόμῳ γέγραπται· Οὐ κημώσεις βοῦν ἀλοῶντα. μὴ τῶν βοῶν μέλει τῷ θεῷ, 10 ἢ δι’ ἡμᾶς πάντως λέγει; δι’ ἡμᾶς γὰρ ἐγράφη, ὅτι ὀφείλει ἐπ’ ἐλπίδι ὁ ἀροτριῶν ἀροτριᾶν, καὶ ὁ ἀλοῶν ἐπ’ ἐλπίδι τοῦ μετέχειν. 11 εἰ ἡμεῖς ὑμῖν τὰ πνευματικὰ ἐσπείραμεν, μέγα εἰ ἡμεῖς ὑμῶν τὰ σαρκικὰ θερίσομεν; 12 εἰ ἄλλοι τῆς ὑμῶν ἐξουσίας μετέχουσιν, οὐ μᾶλλον ἡμεῖς; Ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐχρησάμεθα τῇ ἐξουσίᾳ ταύτῃ, ἀλλὰ πάντα στέγομεν ἵνα μή τινα ἐγκοπὴν δῶμεν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ τοῦ Χριστοῦ. 13 οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι οἱ τὰ ἱερὰ ἐργαζόμενοι τὰ ἐκ τοῦ ἱεροῦ ἐσθίουσιν, οἱ τῷ θυσιαστηρίῳ παρεδρεύοντες τῷ θυσιαστηρίῳ συμμερίζονται; 14 οὕτως καὶ ὁ κύριος διέταξεν τοῖς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον καταγγέλλουσιν ἐκ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου ζῆν.

1 Corinthians 9 [ESV2011]

1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? 2 If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. 3 This is my defense to those who would examine me. 4 Do we not have the right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? 7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? 8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. 11 If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

In 1 Corinthians 9:1-14, Paul overbuilds the case that he as an apostle has the legitimate right to be supported by the churches that he serves. He builds this case so thoroughly that no one would dare to dispute that he has this right. He musters evidence from the example of the other apostles, from the example of basic principles common to all society, from Old Testament law, from the precedent of priestly shares in temple offerings, and from the command of the Lord Jesus himself. He does all this in the context of the Corinthians insisting on their so-called rights that were really not legitimate rights, as he will show in the next chapter. He builds this bulletproof case for his rights so that he can stagger them with the concept that even when you do have legitimate rights, the path of love may be to voluntarily forgo those rights for the good of others.

Paul asks a lot of questions in this section. Rhetorical questions, to which the answers are obvious. He expects his readers to be able to fill in the correct answers and in doing so powerfully affirm his rights. He begins with this: ‘Am I not free?’ Paul is passionate about freedom. He wrote to the churches in Galatia passionately defending the freedom that we have in Christ. He says

Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

He will come back to this issue of freedom and how to use it in the second half of this chapter (v.19).

His second question is “Am I not an apostle?” and he follows this with two more questions that affirm his calling as apostle. “Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?” A primary prerequisite of an apostle, one sent by the Lord Jesus was to have actually seen Jesus. Jesus blinded Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9) and personally commissioned him to bring the good news about him to the Gentile nations (Acts 26:14-18). “Are you not my workmanship in the Lord?” Paul points to the existence of a church of God in Corinth as evidence of the authenticity of his apostleship. He begins this letter by 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:

And he gives thanks to God

1 Corinthians 1:4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—

The very fact of their existence as followers of Jesus in the pagan city of Corinth is proof positive that Paul was sent by Jesus to bring the good news to the people there. Their existence as believers was dependent on the fact that the apostle Paul preached the good news to them. So he says:

2 If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. 3 This is my defense to those who would examine me.

God’s grace was extended to the pagan city of Corinth through Paul, and many who were entrenched in the false beliefs of that culture were supernaturally transformed into Jesus followers through his preaching. Paul claims in chapter 3:

1 Corinthians 3:6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

The church in Corinth was the evidence that Paul was sent out by Jesus. Even if no one else in the whole world acknowledged Paul as an apostle of Jesus, the followers of Jesus in Corinth must acknowledge him. This is his defense to anyone who would challenge his calling.

Apostles’ Rights

Then starting in verse 4 he unleashes a tirade of rhetorical questions defending his rights.

4 Do we not have the right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living?

Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Who would deny someone the right to eat and drink? But in the context, he is saying that if someone receives services from someone without paying for those services, that is to deny them the right to eat and drink. In chapter 8 we see that the Corinthians were defending their purported right to participate in idol feasts and eat food sacrificed to idols. Paul asks the question ‘don’t we have the right to eat at all?’ The question here is not food connected with idolatry; the issue here is the right to basic subsistence. Paul has the legitimate right to be compensated from those he serves in preaching the gospel.

That right goes beyond himself.

5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?

Paul is not claiming the right to be married. That is a given. When he laid out the advantages of singleness in chapter 7, he was careful to make it clear that marriage is good and a legitimate option. Paul claims here that the church is obligated not only to pay his own personal expenses, but also the expenses of his family if he had one. If he comes to preach the gospel, those to whom he preaches are obligated to provide for his needs and the needs of his wife. He points to the other apostles as examples of this. We don’t know much about the family lives of the other apostles. We are told in the gospels that Peter (or Cephas) had a mother-in-law (Mt.8:14), which would imply that he was married. The brothers of the Lord, James and Joses and Judas and Simon (Mk.6:3) apparently were also married. James, we know from the book of Acts, became a leader in the church in Jerusalem. According to Paul, most of the other apostles and the brothers of Jesus who were serving the church were married, and they and their wives were supported by the churches. For Paul’s original readers, this was common knowledge that did not need to be defended; it was the basis of Paul’s defense of his rights.

6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living?

Paul is asking if he and Barnabas were the only exceptions to the rule. All the other apostles and leaders of the churches were supported by the churches they served. Andrew, Simon Peter, James and John left their fishing to follow Jesus. Matthew left collecting taxes to follow Jesus. Why were Paul and Barnabas not allowed to stop making tents and be provided for by the churches?

Soldier, Vinedresser, Shepherd

Paul continues to build his case. He asks three more rhetorical questions that point to the normal expectation in society for one’s occupation to provide for one’s own needs.

7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?

Soldiers don’t go to serve their country and pack a sack lunch for battle. It may be simple and basic, but their needs are taken care of. And in that day, the soldier was entitled to share in the spoils of war. The one who plants the vineyard does so expecting to enjoy the fruit that the vineyard produces. The shepherd who tends the flock enjoys the dairy products that come from the flock. In our day we could ask ‘who goes to work and expects never to get a paycheck?’ This is absurd. A principle so basic and so common sense that someone who works for a living expects to make his living by his work must certainly be applied to someone who gives his life to proclaiming the gospel.

Interestingly, all three of these illustrations, the army, the vine, and the flock are all used in the bible to describe the people of God. The soldier, the vinedresser, and the shepherd or pastor all are occupations used to describe those who are entrusted with the leadership of God’s people. Paul says to the elders in Ephesus:

Acts 20:28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for (shepherd) the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

And Peter exhorts the elders:

1 Peter 5:2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

In Matthew 20, Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to the master of a house who hired laborers for his vineyard. In Matthew 21, he told a parable about a master of a house who planted a vineyard and leased it to those who would tend it, and went on a journey expecting to come back and enjoy its fruits. Jesus said in John 15

John 15:5 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.

Paul viewed his own work as a field hand. He says in 1 Corinthians 3

1 Corinthians 3:6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

Paul told Timothy:

1 Timothy 1:18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience….

and

1 Timothy 6:11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

In 2 Timothy, he says:

2 Timothy 2:3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.

Jude says

Jude 3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

His point in all of this is that those who serve as a soldier, those who work in the vineyard, those who tend the flock all expect to have their needs met through that work. How much more those who defend and advance the truth, feed the sheep and tend the branches so they stay connected to the vine and produce fruit?

The Law

Paul moves now from common-sense human illustrations to a biblical defense of his right to make a living by the gospel.

8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop.

Deuteronomy 25:4 says “You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain.” Paul takes this and applies it to himself and others who preach the good news. This may seem a bit of a stretch, until we actually turn back to Deuteronomy and find that this one statement about oxen is sandwiched in a whole section where everything else is dealing with protecting the rights of laborers, hired servants, the poor and needy, widows, orphans, foreigners, those in debt and those found guilty of minor offenses, making sure that they are protected, cared for, clothed and fed. In that context, if a beast of burden has the right to eat some of the produce while it is working, how much greater the obligation to care for a human person created in the image of God. Paul takes this scripture and says that it was written for our sake. As Luther said, God did not have this written for oxen because oxen cannot read. This was written for rational humans, because we labor in hope of sharing in the produce. Again, these farming metaphors are directly applicable to gospel ministry. Paul uses this scripture also in 1 Timothy 5 as a basis for caring for those who preach and teach in the church.

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.”

Paul argues from the greater to the lesser. If an ox is entitled to eat of the good grain that he is threshing, surely he would be entitled to eat of his regular feed. Paul says:

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

If we have invested in you things of greater eternal value, is it too much to ask that we share in the lesser temporary material benefits?

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

Paul argues that the Corinthians were financially supporting other workers.

12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.

Surely the apostle who brought to them the good news in the first place has a rightful claim to be supported by them. He says in

2 Corinthians 11:8 I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. 9 And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way.

If he is serving in a church, he has the right to be supported by that church. Paul tips his hand to where he is going with all this talk about his rights. He has not made use of these legitimate rights in order to remove every possible obstacle to the gospel of Christ. The good news message that forgiveness of sins comes through the sacrifice of Jesus to all who believe is primary. If my rights hinder that message in any way, then it is time to forfeit my rights for the sake of the gospel. This is the whole point of this passage. Paul is compounding his defense of the legitimacy of his rights not so that he can finally get what he deserves, but so that he can demonstrate that it is right to surrender your rights out of love for others and for the sake of the gospel.

The Temple

But he is not done yet. He brings up another Old Testament principle and applies it to the New Testament church.

13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

Paul includes a gentle rebuke here. He asks the Corinthians, who claim to know so much ‘do you not know?’ This is something he expects them to know. Numbers 18 outlines in detail the things that were given to those who served in the Old Testament sanctuary. The contributions, the consecrated things, the grain offerings, the sin offerings, the guilt offerings, the wave offerings, the best of the oil, the best of the wine, the grain, the firstfruits, all the devoted things, all the holy contributions, and every tithe were given to those who served in the Lord’s temple as their portion to provide for their needs and the needs of their families. The contributions that came to the Lord in the temple were given to those who served in the temple to free them up to serve. Paul connects this Old Testament practice directly to the New Testament church. He says:

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

In the same way. Just as the Old Testament priests were cared for by the donations of the people, so those who proclaim the gospel should earn their living by the gospel. This, Paul says, is no less than a command of the Lord Jesus himself.

When Jesus sent out the seventy, in Luke 10,

Luke 10:2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, …7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. … (cf. Matthew 10:7-10)

When Jesus sent out the twelve in Matthew 10, he said

Matthew 10:7 And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. 9 Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food.

Jesus sent his followers out without provisions, expecting them to be provided for by those they ministered to. Those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

Paul is free. He is an apostle. He has the right to eat and drink. He has the right not only to have his own needs met, but also the needs of a family through the support of the church. He has the right to stop supporting himself through manual labor and be cared for by the church. Those in common occupations expect to earn a living through their work, how much more those who defend the faith, tend God’s vineyard, and pastor his flock? Those who invest in others eternal good surely have the right to have their temporal needs met. The Scriptures confirm that those who serve God have the right to be provided for thorough the donations of God’s people. The command of the Lord Jesus is that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. And yet in full possession of these inalienable God-given rights, Paul has the radical right to let go of his rights out of love for others and for the sake of the advance of the gospel. 

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

March 9, 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