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2 Corinthians 5:18-20; Ambassadors of Reconciliation

02/17_2 Corinthians 5:18-20; Ambassadors of Reconciliation; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190217_2cor5_18-20.mp3

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Intro:

Last time we began to look at 2 Corinthians 5:18-21, this magnificent passage on reconciliation.

What I want to do today is to look back at what we learned last time about reconciliation, and then we will look at the ministry of reconciliation, and what it means for us to be ambassadors for Christ, and some of the implications of that reconciliation.

Recap:

Last time we saw that reconciliation is a personal word; that we were created to enjoy relationship with our personal Creator God.

But a need for reconciliation indicates that the relationship has been broken. Where there ought to be peace and unity, there is enmity and hostility. We are described as enemies; this could refer to our attitudes toward God, that we harbor feelings of resentment and ill will toward him, although he has done nothing to deserve such hostility. But the central focus of the biblical concept of reconciliation is not our subjective feelings of hostility toward God, however real they seem to be to us, though completely unfounded. Rather the focus of reconciliation is on overcoming God’s objective and justly founded hostility toward us. We rebelled. We sinned. And God is rightly angry with us. It is his just anger that must be justly overcome in order to reconcile the relationship.

And this shows us our utter inability to effect reconciliation. We can’t fix our sin problem. We can’t undo or make up for the offense. If God is justly angry, then for reconciliation to take place, my sin must be paid for. This is why we saw that reconciliation is founded on the great truths of justification and imputation; that God justifies sinners through faith in Jesus Christ, and that he imputes or credits our sin to Jesus, and Jesus’ righteousness to our account.

We saw that reconciliation is God’s work; that God is active in reconciliation. ‘All this is from God’ God is the one who sent Jesus to take my name and die my death. God is the one who unites me to Christ. God is the one who justifies me, who puts my sin on his Son, who considers the old me to have died with Christ, paying my price in full. God is the one who creates me new in Christ, who causes regeneration or the new birth. God is the one who brings about substitution, justification, new creation, reconciliation.

Our Role in Reconciliation

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

This is absolutely amazing! Not only has God reconciled us to himself, but he has given us the ministry of reconciliation! He entrusts to us the message of reconciliation! He calls us ambassadors! He makes his appeal through us to the world! I want us to be amazed together at this truth, to feel the weight of this responsibility, and with the power and passion of the indwelling Spirit to step up to the task.

The ‘us’ and the ‘we’ in this passage refers first to Paul and the other apostles, and the ‘you’ refers directly to the church in Corinth, the recipients of this letter. God reconciled Paul and the other apostles to himself and entrusted to them the ministry, the message, and the role of ambassador. And Paul calls those in Corinth to be reconciled. But by extension, now that God has reconciled us, you and me, we too are called to this ministry, entrusted with this message, invested with this authority. We, the reconciled, implore others to be reconciled to God.

The Gift of the Ministry of Reconciliation

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;

First of all, we need to note that this ministry is a gift that God himself gives. Ministry, service to others is a gift, a God given good gift. It is gracious, undeserved. We don’t qualify or merit this great privilege. We are not worthy. It is God’s gracious gift to those he has reconciled to himself. We get to serve others. I get week by week to proclaim the good news of reconciliation. I have the inestimable privilege of calling people to be reconciled to God. Ministry is a gift, and ministry is service. I serve you for your good. You have the great privilege of loving and serving others for their eternal good. This is simply astounding! If you look back to verse 17, the goal of gospel ministry is bringing about the new creation. Everywhere someone comes to Christ, new creation! There is an instance of God’s new creation! This gift, this responsibility to serve others by proclaiming reconciliation is bringing about new creation here and now!

Entrusted with the Message of Reconciliation

2 Corinthians 5:19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

God goes global with the gospel. No longer limited to one tribe or race or ethnicity, God is at work reconciling the world to himself, and he is entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Reconciliation is a ministry, a service to others; and reconciliation primarily consists in a message, a word a declaration. It is the simple message of the gospel.

Romans 10 tells us that:

Romans 10:12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

We proclaim a message, the gospel message; the good news that God is reconciling sinners to himself, not counting their trespasses against them. What amazing news we have to declare. The King you disobeyed, the King you rebelled against, the King whose wrath you deserve – the King no longer counts your trespasses against you; he loves you and has accomplished everything necessary to reconcile you to himself. Call on him! Entrust yourself to him! Believe the good news of reconciliation!

God has placed this message in us. We have been entrusted with the good word of reconciliation. He has placed this message in us by working his reconciliation out in us; through Christ God has reconciled us to himself. We must have experienced the message personally before we are equipped to relay the message to others. And as those who know first hand what it is to be reconciled to God, who have experienced his reconciling love, who enjoy daily the benefits of reconciliation, we are equipped to call others to be reconciled.

2 Corinthians 3:4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

We have been graciously given the ministry of reconciliation. We have been entrusted with the message of reconciliation.

We are Ambassadors for Christ

2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

We carry the authority of an ambassador. We act as ambassadors; the word translated ‘we are ambassadors’ is actually a verb; it is what we do; we serve as ambassadors; we represent in place of Christ. In Luke 14, Jesus describes an outnumbered king who ‘sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace’ (Lk.14:32). This embassy or ‘delegation’ is a noun form of this word. The ambassador carries the king’s authority and speaks on behalf of the king. In 2 Kings 18, while Sennacherib king of Assyria was laying siege to Lachish he sent some of his key military leaders with a great army ahead to king Hezekiah in Jerusalem demanding surrender and laying out his terms for peace.

This is the role of ambassador, to speak on behalf of the king, demanding surrender and declaring terms of peace. Give up. Give up your efforts to make yourself acceptable to God. Accept his terms; that he has already reconciled you to himself in Christ. He is not counting your trespasses against you.

Begging on Behalf of Christ

2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

The language of this verse is startling. Ambassadors speak with the authority of the king, they set terms, make demands. But the language here is to implore, entreat, exhort, call near; even to beg. A weak, powerless, outnumbered king might send an ambassador begging for peace. But we don’t expect the omnipotent King of the universe, at whose disposal are the countless armies of heaven, to appeal, to implore, to beg. But this is the language, and this is the posture.

In Jesus’ parable in Mark 12 a man planted a vineyard and leased it out to tenants. He sent his servant to get his share of the fruit.

Mark 12:3 And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. 6 He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 7 But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ (cf. Luke 20:9-16)

The only Son was sent as a representative. And he was killed. Now the Lord is sending us. We are to come in the same posture. If we represent Christ, we must expect not to be served but to serve, to be willing to lay down our lives for others. If we are following Jesus, we must take up the cross.

The only other place in the New Testament this word ‘ambassador’ shows up is in Ephesians 6; Paul says:

Ephesians 6:19 and [pray] also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

An ambassador in chains. In need of prayer for boldness.

Be Reconciled to God

2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

The content of our message, the summary of our plea is ‘be reconciled to God’. What does it mean to be reconciled?

This is the first time in this passage that the passive form of the verb is used. It does not say reconcile yourself to God; it says ‘be reconciled to God’, meaning that someone else is doing the reconciling. This is consistent with everything we have seen so far. ‘All this is from God.’ In verse 18 ‘reconciled’ is active; God through Christ reconciled us to himself. In verse 19 ‘reconciling’ is active; in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself. Only here in verse 20 is the passive ‘be reconciled’ used, and it is a command directed toward us. Do not attempt to put away your own hostility toward God. Do not attempt to appease God’s hostility toward you. Do not attempt to reconcile yourself to God – that would be active; rather ‘be reconciled to God’. Receive his accomplished reconciliation. Surrender to his terms and take him up on his offer of peace. God has made peace through the blood of his cross (Col.1:20). Will your receive his terms of peace?

Reconciling the Church

There is an important question this text raises. Paul is writing to the church in Corinth, and he says

2 Corinthians 5:20 …We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

‘Be reconciled to God’ is addressed to the church! This would make sense if he were relaying what he preaches to unbelievers; this is what I say to them ‘be reconciled to God.’ But that is not what he is doing. He addresses the church and says ‘we implore you’

Why preach reconciliation to Christians in the church? Why implore believers to be reconciled to God? Aren’t they already reconciled to God? But this is exactly what Paul does. He says you, you whom God in Christ has already reconciled to himself, you be reconciled to God. Why does he talk like this?

I can think of two reasons why he might do this. First, there are some who attach themselves to church who are not believers. I believe this is what Jesus was getting at in some of his parables; (Mt.13) weeds growing up among the wheat; the mustard seed that grows abnormally large so that even the birds, messengers of Satan, roost in its branches.

Paul will say in chapter 13 to the members of the church in Corinth:

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

It would be wrong to assume that because someone attends church regularly, they are a genuine believer. Jesus himself warns:

Matthew 7:22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

There are doubtless many who are connected with the church in some way who are not at peace with God, who are not reconciled; whom the Lord does not know. You today need to hear the gospel and trust. Receive his reconciliation.

The second reason that even genuine believers need to hear the plea ‘be reconciled to God’ is that although we may be reconciled to God, we often don’t act like it. We fail to live consistent with who we are in Christ. God has done all the work of reconciliation; ours is only to receive it by faith and walk in it. It is this walking in it that we struggle with. What does it look like to live consistent with reconciliation? John tells us in 1 John 4 that you can’t say that you love God and hate your brother. That’s not consistent. If you think back to Jesus’ parable of the vineyard rented out to tenants, you can’t claim that you are at peace with the lord of the vineyard while you are rejecting his messengers. That is what was happening in Corinth. Divisive party spirit; I follow Paul, I follow Apollos, I follow Cephas, I follow Christ. They claimed have a right relationship with Jesus, but they were rejecting his appointed ambassador. That’s not consistent. You can’t claim to have accepted God’s terms of peace while you are rejecting the very one who brought you those terms of peace. God has done all the reconciling work. We must receive his terms of peace. Be reconciled to God. Bring everything into submission to him. Surrender fully to his terms of peace. God has reconciled you to himself through Christ; now act like it!

***

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

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

2 Corinthians 5:18-21; God’s Reconciling Work

02/10_2 Corinthians 5:18-21; God’s Reconciling Work ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190210_2cor5_18-21.mp3

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Intro: Regeneration, Justification, Reconciliation

This passage is about reconciliation. Reconciliation is a key biblical concept. In fact this section at the end of 2 Corinthians 5 is rich in the massive bedrock truths of the gospel.

Verse 17, which we looked at last week, points to the new creation, which includes us being part of that new creation through regeneration or new birth.

Verses 14, 19, and 21 point us to substitution; that Christ died for us, in our place, and in him we died, so that he no longer counts our trespasses against us; instead he credits us with his own perfect righteousness. We looked at verse 14 three weeks ago, and I hope to spend more time savoring the truths of verse 21 together next week.

Verses 18-20 is one of the key passages in the bible on reconciliation, and that’s what I hope to unpack and celebrate together today. All these foundation truths are interwoven together in this rich passage.

2 Corinthians 5:17 new creation/new birth/regeneration

2 Corinthians 5:14, 19, 21 justification/substitution/imputation

2 Corinthians 5:18-20 reconciliation

All This is From God

Verse 18 begins ‘now all this is from (lit. out of) God. So we should ask ‘All what?’ This points us back to the previous verses.

2 Corinthians 5:14 …the love of Christ … 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. …17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, …new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

All this is from God. God’s love, that one died for all. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”(Rom.5:8). Substitution, justification, all this is rooted in God’s love, put on display in Christ. Christ died for us, his death was our death; we died in him. All this is from God.

Now those who are in Christ are instances of new creation. The new creation has broken into this old one. We have become part of the “…new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2Pet.3:13). The new birth, regeneration, new creation is all of God. God is the creator, the grand architect. ‘…God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give …light’ (2Cor.4:6).

All this is from God. All this originates in God. All this has its source in God. This is God’s action, God’s activity. God is the one who sent his only Son to take my name and die my death. God is the one who unites me to Christ. God is the one who justifies me, who puts my sin on his Son, who considers the old me to have died with Christ as the wages of my sin. God is the one who creates me new in Christ, who regenerates me, who ‘has caused us to be born again’ (1Pet.1:3). God is the one who brings about substitution, justification, new creation, reconciliation. All this is from God. Paul wants us to know that all this is God’s work, and God’s alone.

Reconciliation is Personal

God has reconciled us to himself through Christ. Reconciliation is a relationship term. Reconciliation assumes the personality of God. It tells us first of all that God is a personal being; he can know and be known; he can enter into relationships, and he desires a relationship with us.

Reconciliation Overcomes Hostility

Reconciliation also assumes that something is wrong in the relationship. The need to be reconciled assumes enemy status; reconciling means changing hostility or animosity or enmity into friendship. In the beginning, God created all things very good, and he walked with man in the garden, enjoying fellowship. But sin destroyed that relationship; we destroyed God’s good created order. We refused to submit to his benevolent rule and took the authority to ourselves. We questioned his character, dishonored his good name, and transgressed his good command. We committed high treason, bringing death and the curse into his good creation. And so we had to be put out of his good presence. No more walks with God in the cool of the day. We deserved to die. We became children of wrath, allied with the serpent. We became God’s enemies. And God became our enemy.

Colossians 1 describes our relationship:

Colossians 1:21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,

Alienated. There was that in us that estranged us from God; that severed our relationship with him, as Isaiah describes our situation:

Isaiah 59:2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

James puts it in even more intimate relational terms; he says we violated our covenant relationship; we slept around.

James 4:4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

To align ourselves with this world system is to become God’s enemy.

Ephesians 2 puts it more in terms of our ejection from God’s presence:

Ephesians 2:11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, … 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

Reconciliation Overcomes Inability

Separated from Christ… alienated… strangers… having no hope and without God in the world. This is the kind of situation that requires reconciliation. But it also describes our powerlessness to remedy the relationship. We had no hope. We couldn’t fix the damage we had created. A simple ‘sorry’ wouldn’t do. Reparations had to be paid, but the wages of sin is death, and if death is defined as separation from God, then that doesn’t leave us any options for reconciling ourselves to God.

There was nothing we could do to effect reconciliation, to actually make it right, to fix the relationship. Only once is this word ‘reconcile’ used in the New Testament to describe something between people, in 1 Corinthians 7, where a wife who separates from her husband is told to remain single or be reconciled to her husband. Every time this word is used in the context of our relationship to God, it is God who is active, bringing about the reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself

God through Christ reconciled us to himself. All this is from God. Reconciliation is rooted in God’s desire to be reconciled to us, his creation. Reconciliation comes about through the finished work of Christ.

Reconciliation is Built on Justification

Romans 5 in many ways overlaps with our passage in 2 Corinthians. Romans 5:6-10 describes us as weak, ungodly, still sinners, enemies. We were God’s enemies.

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Paul in Romans 5 describes the work God performed to accomplish our reconciliation as our being ‘justified by his blood’ and ‘saved by him from God’s wrath’. We transgressed, we slept around, and God is justly angry, his wrath is hot. Justification is the verdict of not guilty. Justification is more than forgiveness. Forgiveness says that the judge finds you guilty but he shows mercy. He releases you from the debt. You are a condemned criminal, and an unpunished criminal. You have been released from your debt. Justification goes further. Justification tries you in court, and there is no evidence to convict you. Your name is cleared. You walk free, not as a forgiven criminal, but as righteous. This can only happen because of the great exchange. Christ stepped forward and took my name. He took my guilt, my punishment. He died in my place. And the guilty me died with him. Now I bear his name, a perfect name. I stand spotless, clean, justified before him, tried and found innocent; fully cleared.

Reconciliation is built on justification and substitution. The adulterous me was executed. That is what we saw in 2 Corinthians 5:14; that because Jesus died in my place, I am considered dead. This is what we see in 2 Corinthians 5:21;

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

There is so much more to say about that one verse (and I plan to spend more time on it next week), but for now notice that it is the foundation of our reconciliation. It is what God did to reconcile us to himself. It is what God did to remedy our sin problem. He put our sin on Christ, and he puts Christ’s righteousness on us.

Reconciliation Requires Imputation

In verse 19 he puts it this way; God was ‘not counting their trespasses against them.’ The word ‘count’ is an accounting term; to reckon, count, consider, or credit, to impute; its a balancing the books term. Paul uses it this way in Romans 4.

Romans 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.

How does your employer expense payroll? Does he take a tax deduction for your wages, saying it was a charitable donation? No, that would get him in trouble with the IRS. You worked, and he owes you your wages. They have to be counted as wages, not as a gift.

Romans 4:5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

God credits or accounts righteousness to the one who was not righteous as a gift, received by faith. A righteousness that wasn’t earned can’t be counted as wages. It has to be counted as a generous gift. He goes on:

Romans 4:6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

This connects back to 2 Corinthians 5:19

2 Corinthians 5:19 that is, in Christ God was …not counting their trespasses against them,

Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin. But our trespasses do stand against us. They show up on our record. How can God not count our trespasses against us? This is where verse 21 comes in; God reckoned or imputed, credited our sins to Christ’s account.

The transfer of my sins to Christ’s account and the transfer of Christ’s righteousness to my account is what makes it possible for me to be reconciled to God. As Romans 5 puts it ‘being enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son; through him we have now received reconciliation.’ We receive reconciliation as a gift, bought for us by the death of God’s only Son. ‘Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (Rom.5:1). Our reconciliation, our peace with God is rooted in justification, God’s crediting or imputing a righteousness to us that was not ours.

Active and Passive Reconciliation

And notice that this reconciliation is presented to us as a completed action. It came from God, he accomplished it through Christ, he reconciled us to himself.

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;

God through Christ completed the work of reconciliation at the cross.

God is still active in reconciling the world to himself.

2 Corinthians 5:19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

This can’t mean a universal salvation as some attempt to read it. Reconciling the world cannot mean every individual is reconciled whether they like it or not; that makes nonsense of the text. Paul refers to ‘the reconciliation of the world’ in Romans 11:15 in response to the rejection of Israel, meaning that the gospel is now going global, not just among the Jews. It is only those who are in Christ, Jew or Gentile, only those who believe against whom the Lord does not count their trespasses. This is why the word, the message of reconciliation was entrusted to the apostles.

2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

This is a word for the world! God has done the work of reconciliation. All this is from God. It is all of grace. God is active in reconciling. We are commanded here not to reconcile, but to be reconciled; we are passive – receiving by faith God’s reconciling work. Or in the language of Romans 5:11 ‘through Christ we have received reconciliation.’ ‘Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

‘We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.’ Are you? Are you enjoying relationship with this personal God? Have you received by faith his finished reconciling work? Are you blessed, because the Lord no longer counts your sins against you? If you will only acknowledge your need, cry out to him in simple trust, he will reconcile you to himself; and you too will be entrusted with the message of reconciliation for the world! ‘We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.’

***

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

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

Leviticus 18; The Gospel and Human Sexuality

10/23 Leviticus 18; The Gospel and Human Sexuality; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20161023_leviticus-18.mp3

We are in Leviticus 18, and to understand what we are studying, we need to understand where we are in the book of Leviticus.

Leviticus 1-7 Sacrifices

Leviticus 8-10 Priests

Leviticus 11-15 Uncleanness

Leviticus 16 Day of Atonement

Leviticus 17-27 Holy Living

The first half of Leviticus gives the sacrificial system, dealing with uncleanness and how to be cleansed from uncleanness. Leviticus 16 brings us to the great Day of Atonement, where we are told:

Leviticus 16:30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins.

No work was to be done by the people on that day; rather work was done for the people by the priest. The people were to be completely cleansed by the work of their high priest.

The remainder of the book deals with the conduct expected of God’s redeemed, cleansed, and forgiven people. What does life in relationship with the holy God look like? Having been decisively forgiven, how do we now live to please him? Notice carefully the sequence. We are forgiven and cleansed so that we can live lives that please the Lord. We must not reverse this order. We cannot attempt to please God with our conduct in order to be forgiven and accepted by him. God’s grace and forgiveness always comes first. The power to live a transformed life comes from being already forgiven by a merciful God.

The Reason for The Rules

Leviticus 18:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, I am the LORD your God. 3 You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. 4 You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God. 5 You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.

Notice, this is based on relationship. God says in chapters 18-20 almost 50 times “I am the LORD your God.” The foundation for these regulations is relationship. Because I am your God and you are my people, this is how you must live. I am the LORD your God, who saved you out of the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God, who is giving you the promised land of Canaan. Therefore, because you are already my people, because we are in relationship, this is how I expect you to conduct yourselves. Because you are my people, your lives must be different from the cultures around you. This is linked to the previous chapter. Other people follow false gods. Other people live with a different world view. Don’t live like those who follow other gods. If I am your God, then you must follow my rules.

There is a promise here of life for obedience. We are tempted to see God’s rules as restrictive, stifling, oppressive, limiting. Rather, God designed his rules to be life giving, protecting, liberating, the path to lasting joy. Obedience to God’s rules leads to life. Abundant life. Disregard of God’s rules leads to pain and heartache, hurt and ultimately death. God gave us rules for our own good, for our happiness, to bless us.

Human Sexuality; Incest

Leviticus 18 is about human sexuality. Our sexuality matters to God. How we live, how we conduct ourselves matters to God. God is not silent on matters of sex. God does not leave us in the dark wondering, trying to find our own way. Graciously, God communicates clearly and openly to us.

Leviticus 18:6 “None of you shall approach any one of his close relatives to uncover nakedness. I am the LORD. 7 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father, which is the nakedness of your mother; she is your mother, you shall not uncover her nakedness. 8 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife; it is your father’s nakedness. 9 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your sister, your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether brought up in the family or in another home. 10 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your son’s daughter or of your daughter’s daughter, for their nakedness is your own nakedness. 11 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife’s daughter, brought up in your father’s family, since she is your sister. 12 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s sister; she is your father’s relative. 13 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother’s sister, for she is your mother’s relative. 14 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s brother, that is, you shall not approach his wife; she is your aunt. 15 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your daughter-in-law; she is your son’s wife, you shall not uncover her nakedness. 16 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother’s wife; it is your brother’s nakedness. 17 You shall not uncover the nakedness of a woman and of her daughter, and you shall not take her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter to uncover her nakedness; they are relatives; it is depravity. 18 And you shall not take a woman as a rival wife to her sister, uncovering her nakedness while her sister is still alive.

Some things ought to go without saying. But praise God, he said them, because our hearts are “deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jer.17:9). We need clear boundaries. Our country today is clear evidence that it needs to be said, or anything and everything will be up for grabs. We see this danger addressed in the church in Corinth.

1 Corinthians 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife.

We see here clearly God’s heart of protection for his people. This section deals in detail with incest. These laws are fences, boundaries to protect his people, to protect those who may be weaker from being victimized. This protection extends to mother, sister, granddaughter, and aunt. Many of these relationships in the culture of the middle east would be found living in the same household in an extended family. These laws were necessary for Israel particularly, because the Israelites were forbidden to marry foreigners, and because the land was to be kept within a tribe marriages were typically within the tribe. These laws would prevent marriages with close relatives that would tend toward defects common to inbreeding.

One Flesh

But this was not the only reason. Inappropriate relationships extend even to in-laws, those related not by blood but by marriage. This included step-mother, step-sister, step-daughter, step-granddaughter, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law and aunt by marriage. In this chapter we find a great honoring of the marriage relationship. Jesus said:

Matthew 19:4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

The one flesh marriage relationship means that to uncover the nakedness of a woman is to uncover the nakedness of her husband, and to dishonor her husband, because the two are one flesh. The marriage relationship is to be honored.

Pornography and Petting

I find it interesting that the phrase this passage uses for the sexual relationship is ‘to uncover the nakedness of.’ This is clearly a euphemism, but I think we can glean some insight from it into our digital age. I’m talking about pornography. Many attempt to justify their sin by saying ‘I’m not hurting anyone. I’m just looking. After all, they are the ones who put the pictures out there.’ This passage says ‘you shall not uncover the nakedness of.’ Although this passage doesn’t directly deal with this issue, Jesus does. He says:

Matthew 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 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.

And I think we also get clear help on the question ‘how far is too far?’ ‘We didn’t actually go all the way.’ But ‘you shall not uncover the nakedness of…’ to have any kind of sexual encounter with anyone who is not your spouse, is not appropriate for the follower of Jesus.

Protection of Women

There is protection here for women. To have relationships with a woman and her daughter or granddaughter or sister would be damaging to that natural relationship. The language of verse 18 forbids the polygamous situation of taking a rival wife while her sister is still alive. We see the damaging results of this kind of rivalry in the story of Jacob with Leah and Rachel in the last half of Genesis.

Leviticus 18:19 “You shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness while she is in her menstrual uncleanness.

There is protection of a woman here even from her own husband at inappropriate times.

Leviticus 18:20 And you shall not lie sexually with your neighbor’s wife and so make yourself unclean with her.

This is a restatement of the seventh commandment “you shall not commit adultery” (Ex.20:14). This whole chapter is a working out in detail the implications of this command, along with the 5th command to honor father and mother, and the 10th to not covet your neighbor’s wife.

Leviticus 18:21 You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.

This command is expanded in chapter 20, so we will deal with it in more detail there.

Leviticus 18:22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. 23 And you shall not lie with any animal and so make yourself unclean with it, neither shall any woman give herself to an animal to lie with it: it is perversion.

Homosexuality and bestiality are condemned here. ‘Abomination’ speaks of something utterly repulsive. ‘Perversion’ speaks of something that violates the created order of things. This is a violation of God’s order in creation. Jesus points us back to God’s design for marriage.

Matthew 19:4 …he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,

And the entire New Testament reinforces this teaching that marriage is to be between one man and one woman for life.

Leviticus 18:24 “Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, 25 and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. 26 But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you 27 (for the people of the land, who were before you, did all of these abominations, so that the land became unclean), 28 lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. 29 For everyone who does any of these abominations, the persons who do them shall be cut off from among their people. 30 So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs that were practiced before you, and never to make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.”

Incest is an abomination, polygamy is an abomination, adultery is an abomination, idolatry is an abomination, homosexuality is an abomination, bestiality is an abomination, pornography, lust of any kind is an abomination. These are not laws merely for Israel; Egypt and Canaan knew better and were being judged for their violation of this universal morality. Centuries earlier, God had said to Abraham,

Genesis 15:16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

God is incredibly patient. But he will punish sin. And we learn from the later prophets that Israel did not listen, and violated these laws, and the land did indeed ‘vomit them out;’ they were conquered by foreign nations and went into captivity.

Application

I have said as we have been going through Leviticus that we are not looking for laws to obey, we are looking for glimpses of Jesus. And in this passage we get a glimpse of the heart of Jesus, the heart of Jesus to protect people, to care for women and children, widows and orphans. To protect people from relational suicide and self-destructive behavior. To protect his people from destructive temptation that will destroy life and steal joy. We get a glimpse of the heart of Jesus, who offers us life and life abundantly, if we will follow him.

1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

We were meant for more than sexual immorality. Our bodies were created for a high purpose, to be a dwelling place for the Most High God, to bring glory and honor to him.

We get a glimpse of the heart of Jesus that is repulsed by the lukewarm church of Revelation 3. He says

Revelation 3:15 “‘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.

Jesus says ‘I am about to vomit you out;’ Jesus has a violent emotional reaction against those that are complacent about him. You might be offended by Jesus, or you might become a passionate follower of Jesus, but to just be ho-hum is not an option. To just be a casual cultural Christian without a real vital relationship with Jesus is violently repulsive to Jesus. Better to be a Saul of Tarsus, vehemently persecuting and imprisoning followers of Jesus, than to be a Pilate, who comes face to face with Jesus and shrugs his shoulders and says ‘what is truth?’

And we get a glimpse of the transformational power of the gospel of our Lord Jesus. Jesus “came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Lk.5:2). About the woman of the street who had a reputation known to all, Jesus said:

Luke 7:47 …her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

To the woman caught in the very act of adultery and dragged out to be judged by Jesus, he said:

John 8:11 …And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

1 Corinthians 6 says:

1 Corinthians 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

This is quite the laundry list of sins that are abominable, detestable, abhorrent to a holy God. But not one of these sinners is beyond hope! Not one of these sinners is too fare gone for the grace of God. Not one is beyond the reach of the transforming power good news that Jesus came to rescue sinners! Jesus came to die for sinners. Not one of these sins defines you. And such were some of you! But you were washed! You were sanctified! You were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God! What you were you are no longer. You can be clean! There is hope in Jesus for the sexually immoral, for the adulterer, for the homosexual, for the thief, for the drunk, for the selfish. Jesus’ love reaches out to such as these. Jesus came for these. Jesus came to give us a new identity! Jesus came to set us free!

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

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

October 24, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Steadfast Love

Steadfast Love ~ 20160214 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

02/14 Steadfast Love; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160214_steadfast_love.mp3

We are looking at the character and nature of God in order to know him, to know him as he is, to increase our affection for God, to love him as we ought, to enjoy his greatness and worth, to admire him, to worship him, to stand in awe of his greatness and majesty.

We have been looking at the goodness of God, his inclination to deal well and bountifully with his creatures. We defined mercy as God’s goodness toward those in misery and distress; grace as God’s goodness toward those who deserve only punishment, and today we will look at God’s love, which is his special favor toward his people (Bavinck, p.206).

Abundant Love

Paul prays for the Ephesian church:

Ephesians 3:16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Paul prays for the saints to be rooted and grounded in love, to be anchored, to stand fast in God’s love. He prays for the power of the Holy Spirit to strengthen them to be able to comprehend the love of God. Today we will endeavor to look at God’s love for his people. God’s love for us is so big, so abundant, so beyond what we can humanly grasp that we are utterly incapable of comprehending it. This is a supernatural task and we need supernatural help. May this be our prayer today, that we would be strengthened by the Holy Spirit to comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth, to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.

One reason we need outside help to understand God’s love is that the concept of love carries so much preconceived baggage that we assume we know what it means, and we try to impose our understanding and experiences and expectations on to the concept of God’s love. As has been true with our whole study of the nature of God, we need to dump our preconceived notions and allow God to define for us what he is like through his word. It may feel like we are giving up ground and letting go of something we treasure, but we will find, if we are willing, that the truth of God’s love for us is so much richer and deeper and stronger and greater than what we could possibly have imagined.

Romans 5:5 tells us

Romans 5:5 … God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

God’s love has been poured out, spilled, dumped over, gushed, into our hearts, through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. We experience the overwhelming overflowing love of God through the work of the Spirit of God in us.

How We Know What Love Is

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.

By this we know love. We are only able to know what love is because God has shown love to us. We know what love is because of the love God has extended to us.

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Love is from God. Real love is evidence that we know God, that we have been born of God, that we belong to him. Although we see traces of love reflected in the world, even sacrificial love, the love of a mother for her child, the highest love is a result of being born of God, a result of God’s love in the gospel taking root and bearing fruit in our lives. 1 John 4 tells us that unbelievers cannot love in the same way that those who have been transformed by the gospel are equipped to love. God is love, and this kind of love comes from God. Love is produced in us as an overflow of experiencing God’s love for us in the gospel.

1 John 4:16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

We must come to know the love God has for us. We must believe the unbelievable love God has for us.

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

We can only love because we have been loved.

Distinguishing Love

As Moses rehearses the ten commandments to the generation about to enter the land, he gives the reason for loving God above all else, having no other gods or no images:

Deuteronomy 5:9 You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 10 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

God’s love is steadfast love, and he shows it to thousands. Back in Exodus 34, the passage we have looked at for the past few weeks where God displays his goodness, God says he is ‘abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands.’ God’s love is abundant. He abounds, he overflows with steadfast love. But God’s love is not for everyone. Notice, this love is extended to ‘those who love me and keep my commandments’. God’s love is a discriminating love. In fact, this verse states that God is jealous and will punish those who hate him. God’s love is not indiscriminate. He chooses to love. He is free to love whom he will. God insists on establishing his own freedom to love. His love does not come from duty or obligation. He does not love because he ought to love, but because he wants to love, he freely chooses to love. He says in Exodus 33:19 “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy”

We established last time, when we looked at God’s mercy and grace, that God is inclined to show mercy and grace to all his creatures, but God is in no way obligated to show mercy or grace to any of his creatures. He would be just and right and good to punish all evil and give to every person exactly what they deserve. But instead he gives to everyone better than they deserve.

God’s love is not an impersonal force like electricity, when the breaker is on, the juice is flowing to whatever is out there, whether it be a light bulb or a computer downloading porn, a hair dryer or a child’s finger in the light socket. God’s love is a distinguishing love, treating different individuals differently.

The Reason For Love

What we want to know is how does God distinguish? How does he choose? On what basis does God choose to set his love on someone?

In Deuteronomy 7, Moses warns the people when God brings them in to the promised land, not to make a covenant with the people of the land, not to show mercy to them, not to intermarry with them, because they will turn your hearts away from the Lord to serve other gods. He gives the reason:

Deuteronomy 7:6 “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, 10 and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them. …

Out of all the peoples on the earth, God chose you to be his treasured possession. Why? Why did God choose to set his love on this people? Not because of anything in them. It is simply because the Lord your God loves you. God chose to set his love on you because he loves you.

Of course, this is the nation of Israel, chosen to be God’s people, to be the ones through whom the Messiah would come, and ultimately to be a blessing to all peoples. But what about us?

Paul speaks to individual believers in the church in 1 Corinthians 1.

1 Corinthians 1:26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

God’s calling, God’s choosing is designed to eliminate boasting. God chose to set his love on unlikely candidates so that no one could ever take credit for something within them that was the reason God chose them. Whatever the reason for God setting his love on a person, it has nothing to do with some foreseen good in that person. In fact, Ephesians 2 describes us as dead, walking in sins, following Satan, doing what pleases us with total disregard to what pleases God.

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. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Again, the goal is to eliminate boasting. God saved us because of the great love with which he loved us. And this was not because of something he saw in us; all that was in us was distasteful, displeasing, detestable to him. It was to display the immeasurable riches of his grace – being good to those who deserve only punishment.

Initiating Love

In Ephesians 1, we are told that

Ephesians 1:4 …In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

He adopted us because he loved us. Why? It was according to the purpose of his will. And it served to bring praise to his glorious grace – highlighting his goodness to those who did nothing to deserve it. We struggle to understand this because our love tends to be called out by something we see in the one we love. Something catches our eye. We are attracted in some way. There is something that stirs up our affections. A character trait, a quality, unrealized potential. Our love is a reaction, a response awakened by something in the one we are attracted to. God’s love is not like that. God’s love is free. God initiates. There is nothing we could do to attract his love, and we have already done everything we could do to repel him and make ourselves unlovable. Romans 5 says:

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

God poured out his love on us while we were weak, ungodly, sinners, his enemies. His love is not dependent on something in us.

Costly Love

It could go without saying, but we must say it, that God’s love is a costly love. For God to give us exactly what we deserve would cost him nothing. But to choose to set his love on his enemies, that is an infinitely expensive venture for a righteous God. For God to show his love to sinners meant the death of his only Son.

1 John 3:16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, …

The wages of our sin is death, and by choosing to love us, he chose to pay the price himself.

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

God is love. God’s love was shown to us by his sending his only Son into the world to be the propitiation for our sins. Jesus came to lay down his life for his wayward sheep. He came to drink the cup of the wrath of almighty God against rebels who abused his good gifts and spat in his face. He came to die so that we might live. Colossians (2:14) tells us that the record of debt that stood against us was nailed to his cross. God liberally, generously, freely pours out his love on us, but it was deeply costly to him.

Covenant Love

The word [חֵסֵד] checed (kheh’-sed) which appears well over 200 times in the Hebrew Bible is most often translated ‘steadfast love’. This term appears frequently in the context of a covenant relationship. God of his own free will entered into a binding relationship with his people. This is also closely tied to the concept of faithfulness. God commits himself to a relationship, and he will not go back on his word. God’s steadfast love is a ground for many prayers.

Psalm 25:6 Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. 7 Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O LORD! …11 For your name’s sake, O LORD, pardon my guilt, for it is great.

Psalm 51:1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 ​Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

Psalm 86:5 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.

The Psalmist calls on God to forgive because of his steadfast love. God’s covenant keeping love is also the basis for much praise.

Psalm 36:5 Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. 6 ​Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O LORD. 7 How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. 3 Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. 4 So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. 5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,

Psalm 90:14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

God’s steadfast covenant keeping faithful love is a frequent ground for worship in the Psalms. “For his steadfast love endures forever” is the refrain repeated 26 times in Psalm 136 alone.

Individual Love

Listen to Galatians 2:20.

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Can you say this? The Son of God loved me and gave himself for me? This is individual, this is personal. It is one thing to say ‘God so loved the world‘ or even to talk about ‘the great love with which he loved us‘. But it is another thing altogether to say that ‘the Son of God loved me and gave himself for me‘. This brings the love of God home. Can you say that when Christ hung on that cross, that he had me specifically, personally in mind? Did you know that he knows you by name? This, I believe, is what it means to ‘know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge.’ He took my place. His death was an expression of the love of God for me.

Transforming Love

This love of God, this costly, self-sacrificial, freely given covenant keeping love, this intimately personal love expressed by Christ to us, when we get it, when we are given capacity by the Spirit to see it, when we begin to grasp what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, it changes us. When the good news of God’s love penetrates down into the hardened soil of our hearts, it will germinate and grow and begin to break up the rocky ground and burst out and overflow with life and fruit, hope and peace and joy.

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

God is love. Whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. The gospel has taken root and is bearing fruit.

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

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

February 14, 2016 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 15:1-8; Resurrection Good News!

04/05 1 Corinthians 15:4-8 Resurrection Good News; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150405_1cor15_1-8.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

1 Γνωρίζω δὲ ὑμῖν, ἀδελφοί, τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ὃ εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖν, ὃ καὶ παρελάβετε, ἐν ᾧ καὶ ἑστήκατε, 2 δι’ οὗ καὶ σῴζεσθε, τίνι λόγῳ εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖν, εἰ κατέχετε, ἐκτὸς εἰ μὴ εἰκῇ ἐπιστεύσατε. 3 Παρέδωκα γὰρ ὑμῖν ἐν πρώτοις, ὃ καὶ παρέλαβον, ὅτι Χριστὸς ἀπέθανεν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν κατὰ τὰς γραφάς, 4 καὶ ὅτι ἐτάφη, καὶ ὅτι ἐγήγερται τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ κατὰ τὰς γραφάς, 5 καὶ ὅτι ὤφθη Κηφᾷ, εἶτα τοῖς δώδεκα· 6 ἔπειτα ὤφθη ἐπάνω πεντακοσίοις ἀδελφοῖς ἐφάπαξ, ἐξ ὧν οἱ πλείονες μένουσιν ἕως ἄρτι, τινὲς δὲ ἐκοιμήθησαν· 7 ἔπειτα ὤφθη Ἰακώβῳ, εἶτα τοῖς ἀποστόλοις πᾶσιν· 8 ἔσχατον δὲ πάντων ὡσπερεὶ τῷ ἐκτρώματι ὤφθη κἀμοί.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

We are being reminded today of the gospel. We celebrate the gospel. We are standing in, holding fast to the gospel. We are being transformed by the gospel. The gospel is a message of good news. The gospel is the message by which we are being saved, so we need to know the gospel and remind ourselves of the gospel. This message is of first importance. So whatever else is on your mind or on your heart, whatever else there is that seems so important, you can safely set aside as second. This is of first importance and demands your immediate attention. This is the priority that displaces every other priority.

For those of you who were here two weeks ago, I want to ask you, how are you doing on your homework? In case you missed the homework, I will give it to you up front today, so that you can be thinking about it throughout the message. I want you all to know the gospel so well that you are able to proclaim the gospel to anyone you meet. These first 8 verses of 1 Corinthians 15 are such a clear summary of the gospel that they are worth memorizing, and being able to unpack the meaning to anyone you meet. And not merely being able to, but actually doing it – actually telling someone the good news contained in these verses. These verses contain the facts of the gospel, the meaning of the facts, and the necessary response to that truth.

That will be my outline for the sermon this morning: The facts of the gospel, the meaning of those facts, and our necessary response.

Christ Died

I’m not great at memorizing things, so I want to keep this simple, and thank God, Paul kept it simple for us. He gave us two facts to hold on to. That Christ died (that’s what Good Friday was all about) and that he was raised (that’s what resurrection Sunday celebrates). Those are the two facts. Do you think you can remember those? If the two holidays that commemorate those events aren’t enough to cement them in your memory, maybe you are a visual learner and you need an image to hold on to. The cross and the empty tomb – Christ died and he was raised. Paul gives us one sub-point for each of these two main facts. All four start with the word ‘that’ – they are events. These are thing that happened in history. That Christ died, that he was buried, that he was raised, and that he appeared. The burial and the appearances are authentication for the two main facts. Christ died, and he was buried to demonstrate that he was really and truly dead. You don’t bury live people. You don’t bury sick people. You don’t bury severely injured people. You don’t bury mostly dead people. You take them to the hospital, or you take them home and try to care for them and help them get better. Jesus was really dead. The expert Roman executioners were absolutely convinced that he was completely dead. But their lives would be on the line if they were responsible for executing a prisoner and they let him go alive. So they made sure. A soldier thrust his spear up under the rib cage and into the chest cavity, and out came blood and water, evidence that fluid had already gathered in the pericardial area. Pilate allowed the corpse to be handed over to Joseph of Arimathea who, together with Nicodemus, wrapped the body in linen cloths with 75 pounds of spices and laid him in a new empty tomb. The tomb was sealed with a large stone, and at the request of the Jews, a guard of soldiers was posted to keep anyone from stealing the body. Jesus died and he was buried to demonstrate that he was really and truly dead.

He Was Raised

The second major fact is that Jesus was raised. Jesus didn’t stay dead. His corpse didn’t stay in the tomb. The linens were there but the body was gone. The Roman soldiers responsible for guarding the tomb were unable to produce the body. The Jews, who feared the body would be stolen could not produce the body. The disciples had gone into hiding for fear of the Jews. Jesus had been raised and was really and truly alive, evidenced by multiple appearances to different individuals and groups at different times.

He Appeared to Cephas, Then to The Twelve

He presented himself to Cephas (or Peter), the leader of the twelve. Then he presented himself to the twelve – which was still used as a title for the original twelve apostles even though Judas was no longer with them. Thomas was not with the other ten the first time, so eight days later Jesus presented himself to them again and invited Thomas to inspect the crucifixion wounds to verify that it was really and truly the same Jesus who had been killed that was now really and truly alive.

Then He Appeared to More Than 500

6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.

We aren’t told exactly when this happened. It could have been in the upper room in Jerusalem, when he appeared to the eleven and those who were with them. Probably it refers to his appearance in Galilee before he ascended. The women who saw him first were instructed to tell his followers to go to Galilee and he would meet them there. If you had heard that news, would you have stayed home? Paul is explicit that there were more than five hundred who saw him all at one time. Paul, writing 1 Corinthians in the spring of AD 55, a mere 22 years after the event, could say that the majority of those five hundred were still around. At least 251 of them, along with Peter and the majority of the eleven were still alive and could be interviewed. That is a substantial amount of eye-witnesses.

Then He Appeared to James, Then to All the Apostles

Then he appeared to James. There were several James’s in the New Testament. James the son of Zebedee and James the son of Alphaeus were both disciples, but why would they be mentioned separately? James was also the name of one of Jesus’ brothers, who we are told in John 7:5 did not believe in Jesus prior to his death. This James became a leader in the Jerusalem church, and wrote the New Testament letter that bears his name. It was apparently the resurrection appearance of Jesus to his brother James that persuaded him that his brother Jesus was in fact the Lord.

Then to all the apostles. This is a wider group than the twelve. Paul refers to James the Lord’s brother as an apostle in Galatians 1:19. Others, like Barnabas and Paul (Acts 14:14), and possibly Andronicus and Junias (Rom.16:7) were also called apostles who were not part of the original twelve. Jesus appeared to this wider group of apostles, making them eye-witnesses of his resurrection.

Last of All He Appeared to Me

Last of all, he appeared also to me. Paul, at that time Saul, vehement persecutor of Jesus’ followers, was confronted by the risen Lord on the road to Damascus and was made the final member of this wider apostolic group.

These are the facts of history. Christ died, and he was really dead – they buried him. Christ rose from the dead and he was really alive – he appeared to many different individuals and groups on different occasions, several of whom were not believers in him at the time of his appearance. As we are told in Acts,

Acts 1:3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

These are simply the facts of history, attested to by many ancient documents. But that is only part of the good news. What do those events mean? What is their significance?

The Meaning: Christ

Christ died. Christ is not a name, it is a title. The man from Nazareth, Jesus son of Mary, was the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one, the promised coming King, the eternal one. The Christ died. But why? The Christ was expected to conquer, rule and reign. Why did he die at the hands of the Romans?

Died For Our Sins

Christ died for our sins. He did not die for his own sins – he had none. He did not die because he was defeated – his death was a victory, in fact he came to die. He came to be the substitute sacrificial lamb, to die in our place, to pay our debt, to suffer the wrath of God against our sins. The wages of sin is death and Christ died for our sins. Our sins separate us from God, and Christ was forsaken by the Father so that we could be reconciled to the Father.

According To The Scriptures

This death for our sins was not some new idea. This was in accordance with the Scriptures. This is what the entire Bible is about. Genesis to Malachi points to the one who would come to pay for our sins. We looked at some of those scriptures a few weeks ago. Isaiah 53, for instance, paints a vivid picture of the one who would suffer as a substitute and bear the sins of many, written 700 years before Christ came.

He was Raised on the Third Day According to the Scriptures

The fact that he was raised from the dead was also according to the scriptures. Psalm 16:10 is pointed to in the preaching of the Apostles in Acts 2 and Acts 13 as a promise of the resurrection.

Psalm 16:9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. 10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. 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.

Jesus himself pointed to the sign of the prophet Jonah,

Matthew 12:40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

We could look at Genesis 22, where Abraham comes to them mount of sacrifice on the third day, where he would receive the son of promise back as from the dead.

We could look at Exodus 19, where God came down to reveal himself to his people on the mountain on the third day.

We could look at the feast of firstfruits in Leviticus 23, to be held after the Passover on the Sunday after the Sabbath.

We could look at the prophecy about the nation of Israel in Hosea 6

Hosea 6:1 “Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. 2 After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. 3 Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”

Jesus’ own words were clear predicting what would happen to him

Luke 9:22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

In John 2:

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

The Father raised Jesus from the dead as a confirmation that Jesus was indeed who he claimed to be. In Romans 4, we are told that Jesus

Romans 1:4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,

In Acts 17,

Acts 17:30 God… commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

The Response

We understand the historical facts; Christ died, and he was really dead; he was raised and he is really alive. We understand the meaning; Christ the Messiah died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; he was raised according to the Scriptures, authenticating his claims to be equal to and one with the Father. That is the gospel message. That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures and that he was raised. That is good news – forgiveness of sins through Jesus’ death; the promise of new life through his resurrection. That is good news indeed. But that good news demands a response from us. That greatest of all news, that message of first importance does us no good if we do not respond. What kind of response must we make? The first two verses of this chapter tell us.

1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain.

This is a message that must be believed. Jesus said ‘whoever believes has eternal life.’ But what does it mean to believe? Paul tells us that there is a way to believe in vain. James tells us that even the demons believe (2:19). So what does it mean to believe in such a way that the good news benefits me? Does it mean to agree that the historical facts of the gospel message are indeed historical? The demons know that to be true. Does it mean to agree with the theological significance of those events, that Christ died for our sins? I think the demons believe that too.

Paul spells out what the kind of believing looks like that brings with it all the benefits of the gospel. He says you received it. You took it to be your own. The good news is that God offers you a gift. A gift cannot be earned. You insult the giver if you attempt to pay off a gift as if it were a debt. Gifts must be received. Humbly take what is offered.

He says for the gospel to benefit you, you must stand in it, you must hold fast to it. The good news that Jesus died for your sins is not something to enjoy for a moment and then move on to the next thing. The gospel is where the true believer stays. The gospel is my only hope, so I cling to it, I take my stand in it. I never depart from it. I live daily in the gospel. I breathe gospel air. I move in gospel truth.

And the gospel does something to me. Paul says that I am being saved by this amazing good news message. I am being acted upon by this message. It is a powerful message that is at work in me, changing me, making me new. It is a message that heals what is sick in me, that fixes what is broken in me, that rescues and redeems what is lost and gone astray in me. As I live and breathe in the gospel, as I cling to the gospel it is in the process of shaping and transforming me.

I would invite you today to believe the good news that Christ died for your sins and that he rose again. Believe it in such a way that you receive it as a gift and take it to be your own, in such a way that you cling to it and live in it, in such a way that it begins to work on you, to transform your thoughts and your desires and your attitudes, that it so transforms your heart that you begin to live like Christ, you begin to really live, in intimate fellowship with Jesus. You begin to live a resurrection kind of life.

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

April 5, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment