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2 Corinthians 8:13-15; Abundance, Need and Equity

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

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

2 Corinthians 8:7 But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you— see that you excel in this act of grace also. 8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. 10 And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. 11 So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. 12 For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.

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

Abundance and Need

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abundance and Contentment

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

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

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

The Old Testament and the Rule of Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the Jerusalem Abundance?

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

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

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

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

Again in Romans, Paul said this about the collection:

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

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

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

Paul said the same thing to the Corinthians:

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

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

Miracle Manna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

****

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

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

2 Corinthians 8:10-12; The Benefit of Doing What You Want to Do

09/08_2 Corinthians 8:10-12; The Benefit of Doing What You Want to Do; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190908_2cor8_10-12.mp3

Grace-Giving and Jesus

2 Corinthians 8 is about grace. God’s grace was given to the Macedonian believers and it overflowed in joyful single-hearted simplicity of devotion toward Jesus, which found expression in an earnest eagerness for the grace and fellowship of service to the saints.

All service must be rooted in God’s grace received and experienced.

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

This is grace, that on our account Christ, the eternal Son of God, entered in to our poverty, took to himself out human nature, humbled himself to the point of death, even death on a cross, so that we might enjoy the riches of his glory forever. This is grace, and an experience of this grace changes us. An experience of God’s grace toward us in Christ overflows in simplicity of joy in Jesus and expresses itself in earnest eagerness for the grace and fellowship of service to the saints.

Paul exhorts – he does not command, but invites and encourages – the Corinthians to demonstrate the genuineness of their love.

2 Corinthians 8:10 And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. 11 So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. 12 For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.

This Benefits You

Paul gives his judgment or counsel to them; his advice, his mind. He says ‘this benefits you. This is to your advantage.’

Every good salesman knows how to sell his product by showing you why you need it, what it will benefit you, how it would be to your advantage to have it, and why it will be worth more than its cost to you. Paul is no salesman; he is a herald; a proclaimer of the good news of the King. He has been given a message, gospel, good news. Paul, as apostle of the good news of Jesus Christ, knows what is good for you.

Paul says ‘I give my counsel.’ In this chapter on giving, we see the grace of God given in verse 1, and the Macedonians who gave themselves first to the Lord in verse 5, and now Paul giving his judgment, his counsel. This is important, and we ought to receive what is given.

Bring it to Completion

What is it that would benefit them? What is it that would be to their own advantage? Paul gives the only imperative verb, the only command in all of chapters 8 and 9, right here in verse 11. he says ‘finish,’ complete, perfect, bring it to its desired end.

In verse 6 Paul encouraged Titus to bring to completion this act of grace; here the Corinthians are told to bring to completion what they had purposed to do. They set out to do it, now it is to their advantage to bring it to completion. He says:

2 Corinthians 8:10 And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. 11 So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have.

His language is roundabout, but his point is clear. They began not only the doing but also the willing from last year. But now also bring to completion the doing, so that just as the advance desire of the willing, thus also the bringing to completion out of the having.

In 1 Corinthians 16 he said:

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.

Do What You Want

A year ago you started doing this; more than that you wanted to do it. The desire was there. You had the will to do it; you purposed to make this collection. Paul is now saying ‘it is to your advantage to do what you wanted to do.’ You willed it, it is what you wanted to do. Now do it!’

Notice – and I think it is essential to notice – Paul’s focus on desire and willing. He uses the language of desire, of want. You had the desire to do it. You didn’t just start to do it, you desired to do it. It wasn’t arm twisting. It wasn’t compulsion or pressure. It was what you chose. It was what you wanted. Paul affirms their desire; that it was good. Desire has to be awakened.

It’s no good to do good grudgingly, half-heartedly, out of obligation. Paul wants more than that. That might benefit others to some extent, the ones you are serving. But that doesn’t benefit you. That is not to your advantage. He’s going to say in the next chapter ‘God loves a cheerful giver’ (9:7). God cares about your heart, your attitude, your desires. He cares not only about the action, but also about the motive behind the action. Why are you doing what you are doing? What do you want to do? It matters.

Think of it this way. There’s sin. There’s temptation. You know it’s wrong. But it’s tempting. You want to give in. You want it because you believe it will give you fulfillment or satisfy some need you have. You want to but you are afraid of the consequences or getting caught or what people will think, so you don’t. But you still have the desire. You see what’s going on here? O you of little faith! You lack faith. You are believing the wrong things. You believe that sin will satisfy, will bring fulfillment. That’s a lie. And it’s a lie that dishonors God. God is the all-satisfying source of every good, and in your desire you are saying that God is not good enough. I need something more, something different. You are saying there is good out there apart from God; in fact God is withholding good from you. That’s how Satan deceived Eve in the garden. There is something good that God is withholding from you.

But Psalm 34:9-10 says:

Psalm 34:9 …those who fear him have no lack! 10 …those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

And Psalm 84:11 assures us:

Psalm 84:11 …the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.

No good thing does he withhold. Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. God is not looking merely for outward conformity to his standard. He is not looking for half-hearted grudging obedience, as if he were some bitter pill that we know is good for us, but we throw a fit and pinch our nose and gag as we choke him down.

Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Taste! Take pleasure. Enjoy him. Happy are you if you take refuge in him.

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

In his presence is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore because he is infinitely pleasing and ultimately fulfilling. Do you believe that? Taste and see. Desire him. Long for him. Our desires matter.

Psalm 42:1 As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.

To Will and To Work

It’s no good to do good grudgingly, as if God weren’t your greatest treasure. It’s also no good to have the right desires and do nothing about them. This is where the Corinthians were. Paul affirms their desires.

2 Corinthians 8:10 …this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. 11 So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have.

You want the right thing, now do what you want. This will benefit you. Jesus said:

John 13:17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Jesus had just washed the feet of his disciples. He is inviting them to love and serve others as he served them. And he went on to tell them that one of them would betray him. Knowing is not enough. You will be happy, you will find joy, if you love others as I have loved you. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Jesus said in Luke 6:

Luke 6:43 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. 46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?

It is inconsistent to say one thing and do another. It is inconsistent to call Jesus ‘Master’ and not do what he says. It matters where your heart is, because where your affections truly are will eventually become manifest. What is in your heart will come out in your actions.

Luke 6:47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

A bad foundation is hearing and not doing. A good foundation that will weather the storm is hearing and responding. Listen and then do. And a lot of what Jesus said addressed issues of what we love.

Paul is exhorting the Corinthians to follow through and do what they desired to do.

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

Excuses Eliminated

Paul motivates them to follow through with their desire, and he eliminates some excuses we so naturally come up with.

2 Corinthians 8:10 And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. 11 So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. 12 For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.

One excuse we use is delay. We want to help, but it’s just bad timing. It’s not convenient. Maybe another time, but not now. It seems the Corinthians had been delaying, putting it off. They wanted to do it, but they were waiting for a more opportune time.

Another excuse (and it is related to the first) is lack. I really want to help out, but I am just not in a position to do much right now. I might be able to do more later, but right now things are tight. I have other obligations and just can’t spare much. Because I can’t do much, I don’t do anything. This is really pride at its root. If I give, I want it to be impressive. I don’t want to be embarrassed by how little I can give, so I won’t give anything. I am waiting until a time when I can really do it right.

Paul tells them to complete their desire ‘out of what you have.’ He tells them ‘For if the desire is present, it is acceptable according to what you have, not according to what you do not have.’ This is simple. God doesn’t fault you for not giving what you don’t have. Give out of what you do have. There are some great practical principles here. If God is telling us that we ought to give within our means, that would imply that we also ought to live within our means. You are not faulted for not giving what you don’t have. You probably should not take what you don’t have and spend it on your pleasures. This is practical.

Acceptable Priestly Offerings

Use what you do have to love and serve others. Don’t delay, and don’t think its not enough. Remember, what you do is ultimately not judged by other people, and it is not meant to impress other people (otherwise, you already have your reward in full). If you have the simplicity of devotion to Jesus because of the grace you have received from him, and you are joyfully eager for the grace and fellowship of service to the saints, then complete that desire out of what you have, not out of what you don’t have.

That is acceptable. Acceptable to who? This is the language of sacrifice and temple. If an offering was acceptable, it was received by the Lord. Paul uses this language in Romans 15

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

He pictures himself a priest presenting an offering, and his desire is that it be received. Peter uses the same imagery

1 Peter 2:5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

We all are priests, offering spiritual sacrifices, and our sacrifices are made acceptable only through Jesus Christ. If we love and serve others out of what we have, out of the grace we have been given, that is acceptable; it is well received by God. Remember, it is God and God alone we seek to please. What others think matters not if we are accepted by him.

Matthew 25:34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ …40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

***

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

September 9, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

6 Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. 7 But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you— see that you excel in this act of grace also.

Encouragement / Comfort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[MAP]

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

The Collection

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

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

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

Acts 11:28 …a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). 29 So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. 30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.

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

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

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

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

Superabounding

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

2 Corinthians 8:7 But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you— see that you excel in this act of grace also.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Grace

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

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

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

Not About Amount

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

Grace and Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

August 19, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

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

Review

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

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

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

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

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

Given to the Lord

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

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

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

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

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

You Are Not Your Own

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

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

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

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

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

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

All You Have Is Not Yours

In 1 Corinthians 4 Paul says:

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

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

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

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

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

Then it says in verse 9:

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

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

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

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

He continues:

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

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

And then David prays:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Application

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

In the words of Romans 12,

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

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

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

Paul said to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20

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

Jesus said:

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

The Collection For Jerusalem

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

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

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

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

Grace Given

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

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

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

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

Reciprocal Joy

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

God’s Grace

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

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

Grace in Affliction

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

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

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

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

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

Transforming Grace

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

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

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

Simplicity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out-Giving God?

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

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

Grace Expressed

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

2 Corinthians 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

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