PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

1 Corinthians 10:30-11:1; Stand Firm or Surrender?

06/29 1 Corinthians 10:30-11:1 Stand Firm or Surrender?Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140629_1cor10_30-11_1.mp3

 

1 Corinthians 10-11 [SBLGNT]

10:30 εἰ ἐγὼ χάριτι μετέχω, τί βλασφημοῦμαι ὑπὲρ οὗ ἐγὼ εὐχαριστῶ; 31 Εἴτε οὖν ἐσθίετε εἴτε πίνετε εἴτε τι ποιεῖτε, πάντα εἰς δόξαν θεοῦ ποιεῖτε. 32 ἀπρόσκοποι καὶ Ἰουδαίοις γίνεσθε καὶ Ἕλλησιν καὶ τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ, 33 καθὼς κἀγὼ πάντα πᾶσιν ἀρέσκω, μὴ ζητῶν τὸ ἐμαυτοῦ σύμφορον ἀλλὰ τὸ τῶν πολλῶν, ἵνα σωθῶσιν.

11:1 μιμηταί μου γίνεσθε, καθὼς κἀγὼ Χριστοῦ.

1 Corinthians 10-11 [ESV2011]

10:23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— 29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? 31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

11:1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

 

We are a the end of 1 Corinthians 10, where Paul is concluding three chapters worth of teaching on idolatry. Chapters 8-10 lay out guidelines for the follower of Jesus in deciding what to eat or drink, especially relating to food sacrificed to idols.

Let me summarize his teaching. First his conclusion, the same as in chapter 6 dealing with sexual immorality: flee from idolatry (10:14). Just as the follower of Jesus is to have nothing to do with sexual immorality, so we are to have nothing at all to do with idolatry. Idolatry of any kind is dangerous and destructive, absolutely incompatible with the Christian life. Then his three guidelines: 1. Do not ever eat in a pagan temple (8:7-13, 10:7, 14-22). 2. Eat everything for sale in the market without asking any questions (10:25). 3. Eat everything served to you at an unbeliever’s house without asking any questions (10:27). But woven under and around and through these guidelines, is this basic principle for every follower of Jesus: do not seek your own, but that of the other (9:15-23, 10:24, 33). He gives some exceptions to the general rules, for instance, when someone informs you that the food being served by an unbelieving friend had been part of a pagan ceremony, then, for the sake of their conscience do not eat (10:28).

It can be very difficult to know how to apply biblical principles. When, for the sake of the truth of the gospel and for the freedom that Christ purchased with his own blood, do we stand firm in and insist on our freedoms? When, for the sake of the advance of the gospel and the good of others do we joyfully relinquish our rights? How do we decide when to stand firm and when to surrender? If we were able to watch someone live this out in real life, that would be priceless. Understanding the underlying principles is essential, but seeing those principles lived out and practically applied is extremely helpful. Paul is that for us. He offers himself to us as an example of what the Christian life should look like. He tells us in 11:1 (which should be the last verse of this section), “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.”

Negative Example: Unbelieving Israel

He gave us the negative example of Israel in the wilderness in 10:1-11.

1 Corinthians 10:6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.

11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.

The Israelites desired evil. Their desires led them into sin, sins like idolatry, adultery, testing Christ, and even grumbling. Because that generation went astray in their heart, we are told they provoked God, he loathed them, and he destroyed them. Their corpses were strewn in the wilderness. That is a warning to us.

Our actions have consequences. Our actions flow out of our desires. Do not desire evil as they did. Do not follow the example of unbelieving Israel and their self-focused desires. Instead, allow God’s Spirit to so transform your desires that you become an imitator of Christ.

Positive Example: Paul

In contrast to the negative example of unbelieving Israel, Paul invites us to imitate him. Mimic me. Become an imitator of me as I am of Christ. Looking at the example of Paul will help us navigate through the complexities of life as a follower of Jesus.

Stand Fast in Liberty

So, what did Paul’s example look like? There is a time for the follower of Jesus to stand firm in his liberty and fight for his rights. In chapter 9, Paul adamantly defends the right of the one who preaches the gospel to make his living by the gospel. He makes his case from common sense, from logic, and from the Scriptures. But he defends this right in order to say that although it is a legitimate God given right, he is free not to make use of that right for the sake of the advance of the gospel, with the goal of removing obstacles to the gospel.

In chapter 10 he defends the right to eat whatever is sold in the market, to eat whatever is set before you at an unbelievers home, without asking any question on the ground of conscience, because “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (10:26). Everything belongs to God, every good thing comes from God, everything is a gift from God to be received with thanksgiving. He defends his liberty, asking “why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?” (10:29-30). In eating, in drinking, in everything we are to participate with thankfulness, we are to enjoy God’s good gifts and glorify the giver. There is a time to stand on our liberty and eat and drink to the glory of God. Galatians gives a clear example of Paul insisting on his rights for the glory of God.

Galatians 2:11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” 15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. …21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

In Antioch, the issue was an issue of eating and drinking. Should Peter eat with non-Jews or not? Eating with Gentiles would be offensive to those of a Jewish background. For the sake of the Jews who did not understand the freedom that the gospel brings, for the sake of their consciences, should he voluntarily limit his liberties and withdraw? It seems Peter could take Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 10 and apply it to this situation.

32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

Peter could argue, ‘I am seeking to give no offense to the Jews. I am not seeking my own advantage. I am trying to please everyone in everything I do.’ But these were not new believers with weak consciences. These were Pharisaic false teachers who secretly slipped in to spy out the liberty we have in Christ Jesus so that they could bring us back into slavery (Gal.2:4). The very good news of salvation by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus alone was at stake. Paul was willing to fight so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for everyone (Gal.2:5). Peter’s withdrawal from table fellowship with Gentiles, his choice to limit his liberty and not eat and drink was not in step with the gospel. His actions sent a message that contradicted the message of justification by faith in Jesus Christ and not by works of the law. Peter’s actions served to nullify the grace of God and undermine the work of the cross, pointing instead to the necessity of attaining righteousness through the works of the law. Paul says ‘bring out the bacon!’ We will eat and drink to the glory of Christ, who was crucified to set us free from the law! “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal.5:1). There is a time to stand on our liberty and partake with thankfulness and eat and drink to the glory of God.

Paul said ‘become imitators of me, as I am of Christ. We can look beyond Paul to the example of Jesus our King to see when to eat and drink to the glory of God. Jesus said:

Luke 7:33 For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’

Jesus our King ate and drank with thanksgiving in his heart to the Father. He was a friend to prostitutes, tax collectors, and sinners.

Luke 5:30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

Jesus came to bring salvation to those who knew they needed it.

Luke 19:7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” …9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Sometimes seeking the advantage of the many that they might be saved means insisting on my rights, eating and drinking with, being a friend to those who have none, so that they might understand that the grace of God is extended to them.

As Paul affirms our freedom in Christ in Galatians, he cautions:

Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Do not use your liberty as an occasion for the flesh. Through love serve one another. Use your liberty for the good of your neighbor, that they might be saved.

Surrender Your Rights

There is a time, for the glory of Christ and the salvation of the lost, to stand firm in our freedom. There is a time, for the glory of God and the good of the many to surrender our rights. When is it that we joyfully choose not to eat for the good of our neighbor and the glory of Christ? Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:

24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

Back in 1 Corinthians 8 he warned:

1 Corinthians 8:9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

It is never right to insist on my so-called rights and destroy a brother for whom Christ died. Some things we attempt to claim as rights are not rights at all. Participating in idolatry is never a legitimate right for a follower of Jesus.

In chapter 9, Paul addresses legitimate, God given rights. He uses his right to be supported by the churches he serves as an example.

1 Corinthians 9:12 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.

…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.

In Corinth, where there was an abundance of scholars for hire, where the one who received pay was obligated to the one paying, where status was tied up in how much you were able to pay for the best teacher, Paul refused to make use of his right to be supported because it would put an obstacle in the way of the gospel. He preached the gospel free of charge. He says in 2 Corinthians:

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

The advance of the gospel for the glory of God was all important. To see more and more people, poor and rich alike, depend on Jesus alone for rescue and become worshipers of the one true God was the goal.

1 Corinthians 9:19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

To win souls for Christ is the aim. Serve people to win people. Identify with Jews to win Jews. Identify with Gentiles to win Gentiles. Become weak to win weak. Become all things to all people to save some. Never compromise the gospel. Do everything you do for the sake of the gospel.

32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

Confront Pharisees. Confront religious hypocrites. Confront false teachers who lead others astray, for the glory of God and for the good of many, that they might not be led astray, that they might believe the true gospel and be saved. Give no offense to the lost, Jew or Greek. Give no offense to your brothers and sisters in Christ. Do not, by insisting on your rights, trip others up. Seek to please everyone in everything. Seek the good, not the temporary fleeting pleasure, but the real lasting eternal pleasure of everyone. Seek their eternal advantage, that they might be saved.

We can follow the example of our Lord Jesus in this.

Romans 15:1 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”

Jesus was the ultimate example of not pleasing self, but instead passionately pursuing the eternal good of the other. He willingly became “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn.1:29).

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree…

We are told in Philippians 2:

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, God from all eternity, stooped down and took on the form of a servant. He was born in the likeness of men. He looked to the interests of others so much that he went to the cross for us.

Eat and drink and do whatever you do for the sake of the gospel, for the good of your neighbor that they might be saved. Eat and drink and do whatever you with thanksgiving in your heart, bringing glory to God. For the sake of the truth of the gospel and for the freedom that Christ purchased with his own blood, stand firm in and insist on your freedom. For the sake of the advance of the gospel and the eternal good of others, joyfully relinquish your rights.

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

Advertisements

June 29, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 7:17-19; Remain as Called; Circumcision is Nothing

11/24 1 Corinthians 7:17-19 Remain As You Were Called; Circumcision is Nothing;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131124_1cor7_17-19.mp3

1Cor 7 [SBLGNT]

17 Εἰ μὴ ἑκάστῳ ὡς ἐμέρισεν ὁ κύριος, ἕκαστον ὡς κέκληκεν ὁ θεός, οὕτως περιπατείτω· καὶ οὕτως ἐν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις πάσαις διατάσσομαι. 18 περιτετμημένος τις ἐκλήθη ; μὴ ἐπισπάσθω· ἐν ἀκροβυστίᾳ κέκληταί τις; μὴ περιτεμνέσθω. 19 ἡ περιτομὴ οὐδέν ἐστιν, καὶ ἡ ἀκροβυστία οὐδέν ἐστιν, ἀλλὰ τήρησις ἐντολῶν θεοῦ. 20 ἕκαστος ἐν τῇ κλήσει ᾗ ἐκλήθη ἐν ταύτῃ μενέτω. 21 Δοῦλος ἐκλήθης ; μή σοι μελέτω· ἀλλ’ εἰ καὶ δύνασαι ἐλεύθερος γενέσθαι, μᾶλλον χρῆσαι. 22 ὁ γὰρ ἐν κυρίῳ κληθεὶς δοῦλος ἀπελεύθερος κυρίου ἐστίν· ὁμοίως ὁ ἐλεύθερος κληθεὶς δοῦλός ἐστιν Χριστοῦ. 23 τιμῆς ἠγοράσθητε· μὴ γίνεσθε δοῦλοι ἀνθρώπων. 24 ἕκαστος ἐν ᾧ ἐκλήθη, ἀδελφοί, ἐν τούτῳ μενέτω παρὰ θεῷ.

1Cor 7 [ESV2011]

7:17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. 18 Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. 19 For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. 20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. 21 Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. 24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.

In chapter 7, Paul has begun to answer questions from the Corinthians. Chapter 7 addresses the hot topics of sex, marriage, divorce, remarriage, and singleness. In verses 17-24 we come to the core of this passage, where Paul gives the underlying principle that he is applying to these various relational situations, and he demonstrates how he is applying it with two extreme scenarios. At first it seems abrupt and out of place to address circumcision and slavery in the middle of a chapter about marriage and singleness, but we will see how this relates to what he is teaching throughout this passage. It will be helpful to look at the broad flow of the passage and see where verses 17-24 form the core of this chapter, where he lays out his guiding principle, remain as you are.

Structure of Chapter 7

In verse 1, he repeats the Corinthian slogan ‘it is good for a man not to touch a woman’ and he begins to apply a different guiding principle to various relational circumstances; ‘each one should remain in the condition in which he was called’.

2-5 mutual obligations of marriage – remain as you are: do not deprive one another (unless temporarily by agreement for prayer)

6-9 to the unmarried and widows; good to remain as they are, (unless not gifted for celibacy then they must marry)

10-11 to the married where both husband and wife are believers; remain as you are (unless separated; then be reconciled)

12-16 to the married where the husband or wife is not a believer; remain as you are (unless the unbeliever leaves; then you are free)

17 principle: as the Lord has gifted and called, so walk

18-19 circumcised or uncircumcised; remain as you are

20 principle: each remain in your calling

21-23 slave or free; remain as you are (unless you can be free)

24 principle: each remain in your calling

25-26 to the virgins; remain as you are

27-28 remain as you are; free from or bound to a wife (unless you desire to marry – it is not a sin)

29-31 temporality of this world

32-35 advantages of singleness

36-38 virgins free to marry (but better to remain)

39-40 widows free to remarry (but better to remain)

Jesus Overcomes All Ethnic, Social and Gender Barriers

Paul widens his discussion from the roles of men and women in singleness and marriage to include other major societal issues of circumcision/uncircumcision and slavery/freedom. This parallels what he taught to the Galatian believers.

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Our relationship to Jesus tears down all major social and cultural barriers. The major ethnic barrier between Jew and Greek (or circumcised and uncircumcised) is nullified in Christ. The major social status barrier between slave and free is abolished in Christ. The major gender barrier between male and female (including all the various sub-categories of single, married, divorced, widowed, remarried) are all made nothing at the foot of the cross. This does not mean that ethnic, social or gender differences no longer exist; those differences are very real, but that they have no bearing on how one is rescued by Jesus. This is the great truth of Revelation 5 and 7 that people from every tribe and language and people and nation will be worshiping Jesus together around his throne. But a person of Jewish descent and a non-Jewish person both enter into a relationship with Jesus in the same way. A slave and free person, or a social outcast and a CEO must both humbly seek forgiveness for their sins at the cross. A man and a woman both equally must believe the good news about Jesus to be saved. The Corinthians were asking if there was a higher spirituality to celibacy over marriage, if abstinence within marriage earned extra points with God, if asceticism was spiritually beneficial. Paul says no, remain as you are. Whether you are male or female, single, married, widowed, divorced, none of this changes your status with God in the smallest degree. There is no spiritual advantage to any ethnic group, any social standing, or any marital status.

Assigned

1 Corinthians 7:17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.

Paul states the foundation principle for everything he has said in this chapter. He says ‘this is my rule in all the churches’. This is not special instructions for a special situation in Corinth, he is not singling them out for unique treatment. This is the same teaching he would give any other church in any other circumstance, including our church in our society today. The principle is universally applicable. He points them and us to walk in the way that the Lord Jesus has assigned and that God has called. This idea behind the word ‘assigned’ is divided or distributed. This connects back to what he said in verse 7.

1 Corinthians 7: 7 … But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.

God distributes his gifts as he sees fit. God gifts some for singleness and some for marriage. Each one has his own gift from God. We have a natural tendency toward the greener grass syndrome. We are discontent with who we are and where we are and want to be on the other side of the fence. But Paul tells us to enjoy the grass on your own side of the fence! The Lord Jesus is the one who assigns to each his own particular gifting and situation, and Paul advises us to walk in that.

He says ‘let each person lead the life’ Literally that could be translated ‘let each person walk this way’ Walking is a favorite metaphor of biblical authors for steady progress in Christian living. We are to walk in the pasture that God has placed us in and not seek to unnecessarily jump fences. If you are single, divorced, or widowed, be that for the glory of God. If you are married, be married for the glory of Christ. Don’t always seek something different. Learn to enjoy who you are where you are. Learn contentment. We make steady progress in holiness when we embrace what God has allotted to us.

Called

He adds ‘and to which God has called him’. Calling plays a significant role in this passage. A form of the word ‘called’ shows up 9 times in these 8 verses; we saw it once in verse 15; it showed up 5 times in chapter 1. In 1:1, Paul was called by the will of God to be an apostle. In 1:2, the believers in Corinth were called to be saints. In 1:9, God called us into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. In 1:24, it is God’s call that differentiates between those who hear the gospel, believe, and are being saved; and those who hear the gospel, reject, and are perishing.

1 Corinthians 1:23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. …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. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, …

God’s call cuts across social and ethnic barriers. God called both Jews and Greeks. God’s call came to the foolish, the weak, the low, the despised, the nothings of the world in order to eliminate human boasting. When we get to chapter 7, we find that God called divorced people. God called widows and widowers. God called single people into a relationship with him. God assigns gifts as he wills, and God calls different people who find themselves in different situations. Paul’s instruction is:

1 Corinthians 7:17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.

Circumcision and Uncircumcision

Paul demonstrates this principle by fleshing out its application to two extreme situations; circumcision and slavery. He starts with circumcision, the outward sign of the Old Covenant people of God. In order to become part of God’s people in the Old Testament, you had to be circumcised. Circumcision was a big deal. When the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah, was extended to the Gentile nations in Acts, this became a big dispute among the believers. Did Gentiles have to undergo circumcision and become Jews in order to become followers of the Jewish Messiah? In Acts 10, God sends Peter to the house of a Gentile with the instructions “what God has made clean, do not call common” (Acts 10:15). By Acts 15 this had become such a major issue that the first church council was formed to answer the question of circumcision for Gentile believers. Peter relays that God “made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:9) and he concludes “…we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will” (Acts 15:11). Paul writes his Galatian letter to adamantly oppose the Judaizers who were insisting on the circumcision of Gentile believers as a requirement for their salvation. He says:

Galatians 5:2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.

Apparently this legalistic Judaizing influence was not a problem in the church in Corinth. He doesn’t attack the issue like he does in Galatians; instead he uses it as an example.

1 Corinthians 7:18 Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision.

This sounds strange, because circumcision is an irreversible procedure. But we find in the writings of Celsus documentation of a surgical procedure that was the equivalent of plastic surgery to reverse the appearance of circumcision. In the time of the Maccabees, there were Jewish men under Roman rule that would have this procedure done to hide their Jewish identity when they participated in the Roman gymnasium (the word ‘gymnasium’ literally means to exercise naked; the original Olympic games were carried out naked). Paul applies the principle that we are to remain as we were called to the issue of circumcision. He says that anyone who was uncircumcised at the time of his call should remain uncircumcised, and anyone already circumcised should not seek to reverse the procedure. In the context, Paul is addressing issues of marriage and singleness. We could take circumcision as a metaphor and apply it to his previous discussion on marriage. In the marriage union, two become one flesh, and we should not seek to reverse the irreversible. ‘What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate’ (Mt.19:6).

Circumcision Counts For Nothing

Paul’s statement in verse 19 is amazing.

1 Corinthians 7:19 For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God.

This is amazing, because we could easily argue from the Old Testament that circumcision is clearly a commandment of God (Gen.17; 21:4; Lev.12:3). The requirement for circumcision even superseded the Sabbath laws if the eighth day fell on a Saturday (John 7:21-24). But Paul here says that in our New Covenant relationship with Jesus, whether you are circumcised or not is irrelevant and meaningless. How can Paul contrast circumcision with keeping the commandments of God, when circumcision was one of the commandments of God?

If we look to Jesus teaching in John 6, we begin to gain some clarity. Some people asked Jesus this question in the context of gaining eternal life.

John 6:28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

Jesus made it clear that going through the motions of obedience to God was worthless without a relationship with Him. Jesus repeatedly teaches that belief in him is the one thing that is required for eternal life.

In 1 John 3, John teaches us what it looks like as believers in Jesus to keep the commandments.

1 John 3:22 …because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.

Jesus taught that the greatest command was to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength (Mt.22:37; Mk.12:30). We cannot truly love God if we do not believe that he is who he says he is. But when we believe in Jesus and experience God’s great love for us which he expressed at the cross of our Lord Jesus, that love can then overflow toward others around us. So love for others becomes the expression and overflow of belief in God and love for him.

God never intended us to view his commandments as a list to check off in order to earn his favor. All the way back in Deuteronomy he says:

Deuteronomy 10:12 “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good? 14 Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. 15 Yet the LORD set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.

What God requires is a genuine love for him, to love and serve him with all your heart and soul in response to his love for us. Real circumcision is circumcision of the heart.

Deuteronomy 30:6 And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

This is fulfilled in the New Testament. Paul says in Romans:

Romans 2:28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

It is in this sense that Paul can say to the Corinthians that what counts is not circumcision or uncircumcision but keeping the commandments of God.

He makes parallel statements to this in his letter to the Galatians.

Galatians 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

Paul is saying just what Jesus is saying. Faith or belief in Jesus powerfully expresses itself in love. The inevitable result of genuine belief in Jesus is love for God and love for other people. A chapter later, in Galatians 6, Paul says:

Galatians 6:15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

A new creation is what counts with God. He says ‘I don’t boast in circumcision; I only boast in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.’ Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I am now a new creation.

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.

As a new creation, I have new desires, new motives, new loves. My heart has been transformed by God’s love to love God and love others. I no longer seek to earn God’s favor by my performance. Rather I have been transformed by Christ and now naturally do the things that please him. My love for him is a response to his love for me (1Jn.4:19).

When we take these three parallel statements of Paul together and allow them to define each other, we get the full picture of what he is saying. It is not following the letter of the law that gains any standing with God, but becoming a new creation through the new birth. As a new creation we trust Jesus. We believe that Jesus is who he claimed to be, and we believe that at the cross Jesus took all our sins upon himself. Our belief in Jesus expresses itself in love, an overflow of love for God and love for others, which is a genuine keeping of the commandments of God from the heart.

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

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

November 24, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 23:10-12; Refreshment and Rest

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20111113_exodus23_10-12.mp3

11/13 Exodus 23:10-12 Refreshment and Rest

We are studying the Book of the Covenant, God’s expansion and application of his Ten Words to his people. He is communicating his expectations for those who are in relationship with him. These are the principles on which you must base your life, and this is what that will look like in the life of the the Hebrew people, now set free from bondage so that they can worship the one true God. Keep in mind, God’s principles for life are for the good of his people. Do you want to enjoy life, to get the maximum pleasure out of your existence? Do you want to live life to the full, sucking the marrow out of your brief existence on this planet? Then heed the instruction of your Creator. As the Psalmist says:

Psalm 119:37 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.

What we find in this passage is instruction for the good of his people, for the good of the poor, for the good of animals, and even for the good of the land, and it all points us to seek our ultimate eternal good in the presence of God.

Exodus 23:10 “For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield, 11 but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the beasts of the field may eat. You shall do likewise with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard. 12 “Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; that your ox and your donkey may have rest, and the son of your servant woman, and the alien, may be refreshed.

Verse 12 is basically a restatement of the fourth command; back in Exodus 20, he said:

Exodus 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Sabbath as Refreshment and Worship

As we have seen, God set his people free from slavery in Egypt. Right up front, he tells them that life in his service will be different. He will give them a regular day off. He requires that they stop and take time to enjoy him. This is a set-apart day, a day to the LORD. This is a day for worship. Now in chapter 23, God says it is a day for rest and refreshment, especially for those who most need it. Literally, it is a chance for them to catch their breath. Do you ever feel that in the pace of life, with work and school and home and family and all the other obligations and activities we pile on top, that you just need a moment to catch your breath? God here gives his permission, or rather his command, that we take time to catch our breath. Here in chapter 23 he focuses on the aspect of refreshment. But to say that this is time for refreshment and rest is not different than what he said in chapter 20 when he focused our attention on time set aside for worship, time to stop and remember, fix our eyes on who God is and what he has done. God tells us to:

Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

True rest and enjoyment, real genuine lasting refreshment comes from God.

Psalm 23:3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Three times in Psalm 80 (v.3,7,19) the psalmist asks that God would restore us by letting his face shine on us.

Psalm 80:3 Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved!

Psalm 80:7 Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved!

Psalm 80:19 Restore us, O LORD God of hosts! let your face shine, that we may be saved!

Acts 3:20 talks about ‘times of refreshing’ that ‘come from the presence of the Lord.’

Acts 3:20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…

God demands that we take time to be refreshed by his presence. This is not at all a heavy duty to be grudgingly done if we understand and really believe that genuine refreshment comes from the presence of the Lord. When we really grasp that God is the source of true joy, we will run to him and not away from him.

And God intends that his refreshment not be withheld from anyone. He demands that we extend rest even to ox and donkey, and refreshment even to the son of the servant girl and to the sojourner with you. In other words, the door to rest and refreshment is open to all. All are invited. No-one is excluded. That is verse 12, a restatement of the fourth command – time set aside each week for worship and refreshment.

Sabbath Year

Verses 10 and 11 are interesting. Rest for ox and donkey, for the alien and the son of the servant woman. Here rest is extended even to the land. You thought militant environmentalist were extreme and ‘earth day’ was a big deal; look at what God told his people thousands of years ago:

Exodus 23:10 “For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield, 11 but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the beasts of the field may eat. You shall do likewise with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard.

God required rest not only for people, not only for work animals, but even for the land. Farm the land for six years, let it rest for one. We now know that this is wise farming to prevent the soil from being depleted of nutrients, but this is not the reason God gives. His reason is that the poor may eat, and the wild animals may eat. This is a wise welfare program. You don’t own property? You don’t have money? Go out into the fields and gather food. Paul tells the Thessalonian believers “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2Thess.3:10). It is not clear if this was to be the same year of rest for all land across Israel, or if this was to be six years from whenever you started farming a particular piece of land. If that was the case, there would always be some land being actively farmed and some land lying fallow, available for the poor and the animals to feed in. This would require great faith in God as provider. This year’s produce is usually stored up for food and for seed for next year. If I don’t work the land this year, then next year I will have nothing to eat and the following year I will have no seed to plant. If I don’t work the land, I and my family won’t eat. God answers this concern directly in Leviticus 25:

Leviticus 25:18 “Therefore you shall do my statutes and keep my rules and perform them, and then you will dwell in the land securely. 19 The land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and dwell in it securely. 20 And if you say, ‘What shall we eat in the seventh year, if we may not sow or gather in our crop?’ 21 I will command my blessing on you in the sixth year, so that it will produce a crop sufficient for three years. 22 When you sow in the eighth year, you will be eating some of the old crop; you shall eat the old until the ninth year, when its crop arrives.

Belief Results in Obedience

Obedience to this command was directly related to the people’s trust in God to provide. God promised to take care of you. Will you do what might seem on the surface to be financially reckless and irresponsible in obedience to him and trust that he will take care of you, or will you do what appears to be wise on a human level and demonstrate that you aren’t depending on him. God took this very seriously. In response to his people’s obedience God promised:

Leviticus 26:12 And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. 13 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves. And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.

14 “But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, 15 if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, 16 then I will do this to you: …

33 And I will scatter you among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword after you, and your land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste. 34 “Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its Sabbaths. 35 As long as it lies desolate it shall have rest, the rest that it did not have on your Sabbaths when you were dwelling in it. …43 But the land shall be abandoned by them and enjoy its Sabbaths while it lies desolate without them, and they shall make amends for their iniquity, because they spurned my rules and their soul abhorred my statutes.

The people did not do what God had said, so God kept his promise, as is recorded in the last chapter of 2 Chronicles:

2 Chronicles 36:15 The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. 16 But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD rose against his people, until there was no remedy. 17 Therefore he brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans, … 20 He took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and to his sons until the establishment of the kingdom of Persia, 21 to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.

Restoration of All Things

It’s as if God is standing up for the rights of the land to not be deprived of rest. He ensures, by the exile of his disobedient people, that the land gets its appointed rest. This is intriguing language – the land is said to enjoy its Sabbaths. God provides rest even for the dirt! Jesus told us that not one sparrow is forgotten before God (Lk.12:6). Jesus also said:

Luke 19:40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

Paul tells us in Romans 8 that:

Romans 8:19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

The whole creation is described as groaning and waiting with eager longing and hope. In some way the freedom that God’s creation will experience is linked to our future hope. This world is a mess. There is pain and suffering and death and decay – all brought on by our sin. But all this points to something better. God created the world and it was good. He created everything to display his glory. The pains of this world are pains of childbirth – it is not pointless suffering – it is hope-filled suffering. New life will come out of death. Freedom, hope, refreshment, joy! Longings satisfied!

Our Future Rest

The author of Hebrews picks up this thread of Sabbath rest and points us to an as yet unrealized rest that we who hope in Jesus Christ have to look forward to. In the end of chapter 3 he says that Moses’ generation did not enter in to God’s rest because of their unbelief and he warns us to take action so that we do not miss out in God’s rest because of our own unbelief and hardness of heart. In the beginning of chapter 4 he reminds us that God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, because God finished his work in six days and then rested from his work of creation. Then he points to King David, who in Psalm 95, writing well after the conquest of the land under Joshua, tells us that we can still enter in.

Hebrews 4:7 again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. 9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

How do we enter God’s rest? We enter this rest through faith in the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are told to:

Hebrews 3:1 … consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession,

We are told to

Hebrews 3:6 …hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. …14 For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

Our confidence is in the good news message of salvation.

Hebrews 4:2 For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest…

The message of good news is preached, but we must enter in by faith. We put our trust, our hope, our confidence in the truth of the gospel, in the person of Jesus, the Son of God, our great High Priest (4:14). We can rest from our work because Jesus finished his work for us.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

We have confidence to enter in because the work has been finished. We can approach the throne of grace. We are sinners in need of mercy and grace – gifts that we didn’t earn and don’t deserve. We rest from our works and enter in to enjoy his rest. Hebrews goes on to tell us that “repentance from dead works” is a foundational doctrine (6:1).

Hebrews 6:1 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,

We must turn away from what we can accomplish, we must abandon our good works as a way of earning God’s favor and we must put our trust in God who justifies the ungodly.

Jesus invites us to find true rest in him.

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

John 7:37 …Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”’

John 8:31 … “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Revelation 22:17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

Come! Come! Come to Jesus and be refreshed!

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

November 13, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 20:22-26; The Need for Sacrifice

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20111002_exodus20_22-26.mp3

10/02 Exodus 20:22-26 Worship and Sacrifice in Response to God’s Law

We are in Exodus 20:22-26. God has saved his people and brought them to himself. He has thundered from heaven and given them his expectations for life in relationship with him. The people responded with terror and begged Moses to intercede for them. The next section, roughly the next 3 chapters, is referred to as the Book of the Covenant, a name that comes from 24:7. This is a collection of case laws or examples of how to apply the ten commandments to specific circumstances in Israelite society. These examples are not exhaustive, covering every possible scenario, but instead give a broad sampling of issues so that anyone with a good portion of common sense could reason from the examples to the specific issue in question and apply the principles found here to render a judgment. We will see how this works as we go along.

Begins and Ends with God

This Book of the Covenant covers issues of social responsibility; how to live in community with other people, but it is instructive to note where God begins in these instructions. He begins and ends with worship. Worship is central. How we treat others flows out of a life lived in relationship with God.

Exodus 20:22 And the LORD said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the people of Israel: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have talked with you from heaven. 23 You shall not make gods of silver to be with me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold. 24 An altar of earth you shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you. 25 If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it you profane it. 26 And you shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed on it.’

In the context, these are God’s first words spoken to Moses privately after he thundered his ten words to all the people and they begged for Moses to serve as intermediary. God is speaking now to Moses and Moses is to relay God’s words to the people.

Right up front in the application of God’s standard is provision for failure. It’s as if God is saying ‘here is my perfect standard, and I know you can’t live up to it, so I’m letting you know up front that I have planned for your failure.’ What a merciful God we worship! What a great God, who understands the weakness of his people. What a compassionate God, eager to provide forgiveness for the failings of his people. Here is my perfect standard, and here is what to do when you blow it.

He is There and He is Not Silent

The first thing God highlights for us is that he is a speaking God. ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have talked with you from heaven.’ They saw lightning and fire and smoke and thick darkness, they heard the thunder and they felt the earth shake. But what God wants them to take away from this experience is ‘you have seen that I have spoken.’ That is a funny way to put it. Not ‘you heard me speak’ but ‘you saw me speak.’ Your perception of me was that I have spoken to you. Our God is a speaking God. God reveals himself in words. Do we have any sense of appreciation for what a blessing this is? God could have been content to wrap himself in mystery and leave us guessing as to how we must please him. Throw our virgin daughters into the volcano, walk on fire and cut ourselves, cast our sons in the ocean, trial and error, see what seems to appease him and what has no effect. How do we know where we stand, what are the standards, what happens next, how good is good enough, have we measured up? Praise God, he has not left us guessing! ‘I have talked with you!’ Our God is a God who reveals himself to us in words.

The First Two Revisited

God goes on to reiterate the first two commands. The original reads like this:

Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Here by way of reminder he simply says:

23 You shall not make gods of silver to be with me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold.

No matter how expensive or elaborate, you must not make physical representations of God. You must not give your worship to anything or anyone but me. I think we could turn this around and say ‘you must not make silver your god, nor shall you make gold your god. We are to worship only, exclusively, the one true God.

Sacrificial Altars

After this introduction and reminder to keep God first, God gives instructions on the construction of altars. ‘Here is my character and my expectations for life in relationship with me. You will fall short of my perfect standard. When you do, I have provided a way for you to demonstrate both the severity of your guilt and the greatness of my honor; I will accept the sacrifice of a substitute.’ An innocent animal must die in the place of the guilty person. Blood must be shed. The wages of sin is death. Listen to God’s gracious provision:

24 An altar of earth you shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you. 25 If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it you profane it. 26 And you shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed on it.’

Burnt Offerings and Peace Offerings

Right after the giving of the ten commandments, God points to the sacrificial system. Remember, this was the reason for leaving Egypt in the first place. They were to tell Pharaoh:

Exodus 3:18 … go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.’ (cf. Exodus 5:3,8,17; 8:8,25-29)

For those who have fallen short of God’s perfect standard, sacrifice is God’s provision to cover our sins and allow us back into his presence. Two of the primary types of sacrifice are mentioned here: burnt offerings and peace offerings. There are 5 types of sacrifice listed in Leviticus 1-7, the burnt offering being the first and foundational. This sacrifice didn’t start here, it was offered by Noah, Abraham, and Job, and although the word is not used, this was probably the sacrifice of Abel and originated after our first parents rebelled in the garden. The burnt offering is foundational, because it is designed to address our sin problem.

Leviticus 1:4 He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.

The purpose of the burnt offering was to make atonement. The animal was accepted by God as a substitute, dying in the place of the sinner and making atonement, or covering guilt and bringing reconciliation. The procedure was to acknowledge guilt and symbolically transfer sin by laying the hand on the head of the animal, and then slaughter the animal and burn the whole thing (except for the hide) on the altar. This sacrifice is sometimes referred to as the whole burnt offering. The whole animal went up in smoke to God.

None of the other offerings happened on their own; they had to follow the burnt offering. The peace offering was to be placed on top of the whole burnt offering. The peace offering takes its name from the Hebrew word shalom. It is sometimes referred to as the fellowship offering or even the communion meal, because it celebrates the shalom that results from having sins atoned for. A portion of the sacrificial animal was burnt on the altar, and the rest was barbecued and eaten by the worshipers in the presence of God.

Deuteronomy 27:7 and you shall sacrifice peace offerings and shall eat there, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God.

The peace offering was a celebration of fellowship with God, that had been restored through the whole burnt offering.

Simplicity of Altars

God here gives clear instructions on how an altar for sacrifice is to be constructed. Make it out of dirt. If you use stones, use natural stones. No steps. Simplicity. The altar is not to attract attention. Dirt, rocks, nothing fancy. The altar is not what is important. What happens on the altar is what is significant. The blood shed, the death of the animal as a substitute sacrifice for sin – that is what is important. Two things in altar construction are expressly prohibited; if you wield your tool on it you profane it and if you use steps to go up to it your nakedness will be exposed on it.

First, use only stones as found in their natural state. Don’t use cut stones. Why would God say that using a tool defiles or profanes the altar? There was to be nothing about the altar that showed man’s skill or workmanship. We could argue ‘no, I’m making it ornate and beautiful, something worthy of God.’ God says, ‘no, your work pollutes and defiles it, makes it common and unfit for spiritual use.’

Isaiah 64:6 …all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. …

Even our best effort is offensive in God’s sight. It is God who accepts the offering to make atonement. It is God who saves.

Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy,…

Salvation is:

Ephesians 2:8 … not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Works will follow, but if we attempt to apply any of our own workmanship to God’s finished work of salvation, we pollute and defile it. Our good works are in response to God’s finished work of salvation and put on display that we are indeed God’s workmanship.

The second prohibition is ‘you shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed on it.’ Steps were something the Canaanites used for their altars, and the Canaanites included sexually perverted practices as part of their worship. There was not to be even a hint of this among God’s people.

Also, steps would require human effort to ascend. God would allow no human effort in the way he was approached. There are no steps to climb up in our relationship with God. There is nothing we can do to bring ourselves closer to God. We cannot elevate ourselves. Steps would only expose our vulnerabilities and shame us. So there is to be no human workmanship and no human effort allowed when dealing with our sin problem, because our skill would only defile and our effort would only expose our shame. We are to acknowledge our guilt and our need for a substitute, and trust God to transfer our guilt to the sin-bearing substitute who is consumed in our place, restoring peace with God and opening the door to sweet communion with him.

The Blessing

Did you notice the gracious promise of God in this passage?

24 ..In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you.

When we approach God on his terms, humbly confessing our sin before him, refraining from applying the tool of human ingenuity or taking even a step of human energy, when we approach him by means of the appointed substitute, we can know that he is causing his name to be memorialized. He is putting his character on display. The fame of his name is being proclaimed. And that name is Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, God’s only Son put forward as the propitiation for our sin. The whole sacrificial system, the altar, the offerings, all point to Jesus! God says ‘I will come to you;’ this is the greatest blessing we could possibly hope for – God’s presence with us! The name ‘Immanuel’ means God with us. This is applied to Jesus in Matthew 1:23 (Isa.7:14), who is God with us, God in the flesh, God come down to us, to seek and to save that which was lost. I will come to you and bless you. We have this promise

Hebrews 13:5 … “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Jesus said:

Matthew 28:20 …And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Isaiah 41:10 fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

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

October 2, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Peter 1:5-9; The Fruitful Life of Divine Effort

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20091018_2peter1_5-9.mp3

10/18 2 Peter 1:5-9 The Fruitful Life of Divine Effort

2Peter 1:1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: 2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

5 ¶ For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self–control, and self–control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Intro/connection:

Peter is going to lay out for us a description of the fruitful Christian life, and the dangerous consequences of a fruitless life. But first, he’s taken great care to lay for us the theological foundation for our good works. Faith is a precious gift originating in the righteousness of God. Grace and peace are multiplied to us as gifts of divine favor. The omnipotent power of Jesus richly imparts to us everything we need for life and godliness. We have been called to enjoy his own glory and excellence. Very great and precious promises have been richly supplied to us. It is through promises, not effort, that we become participants in the divine nature and escape from the sinful desires that lead to moral decay.

For this very reason

Peter now goes on to draw the connection between the root of God’s unmerited grace and the fruit of our transformed lives. He is going to call on us to exert every effort. But this effort is not conjured up from the recesses of our own resourcefulness. This effort is ‘for this very reason’; because of this; our effort comes because we are the recipients of his very great and precious promises, recipients of his grace, recipients of faith, recipients of knowledge, recipients of the divine nature, recipients of everything we need. Because we have escaped from corruption, because we participate in the divine nature; because we have been given promises yet to be fulfilled, we must grow in these graces. It is essential that we see the connection between verses 5-7 and verses 1-4. We sin greatly if we hack down the tree from its theological root structure in the rich soil of divine grace and expect a dead tree to bear good fruit. The life that Peter describes is produced ‘for this very reason’.

Make every effort

Some have falsely taught that because God by his grace has done everything to secure for us our eternal salvation, we can stop swimming and drift with the currents of life and still reach the goal. Not so! Peter commands us to ‘make every effort’. ‘We cannot expect to escape the consequences due to sin unless we avoid sin and make moral progress using the spiritual resources that are available to every Christian through the knowledge of Christ’ [Baucham, p.184]. We are called to make every effort – our diligence must not be half-hearted or selective.

God created the bird with wings. He supplies the bird with life and wings and food and metabolism and energy and atmosphere and wind currents. But that bird must will to move its wings in order to lift off the ground and soar.

God created the eye. He gave us the optic nerve and the cerebral cortex and the capacity to translate patterns of light into visual perceptions of our surroundings. God gave us a visually stimulating world of shapes and textures and colors, mountain ranges and oceans and sunrises, but we must choose to open our eyes and enjoy it.

make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue

Faith is not the first virtue in the list. Faith is the starting point without which we have no Christian life. And we learned from verse 1 our faith is allotted to us by God. In verse 3 he said that we have been given everything we need for a godly life through the knowledge of him who called us, and that knowledge of Christ is received by faith. Trust in God is the root from which the Christian life grows. Those who rely on God begin to live life in a new way.

We are to take the faith that we have been given, and by God’s divine power we are to supplement it with virtue. Literally, the original reads something like ‘make abundant provision with all effort, bringing in alongside, ‘ The abundant provision is usually attributed to God as it is in verse 11. Here we are called to reflect the character of God in making great investments in moral virtue [G.Green, p.190]. We are called to great expense and effort in the pursuit of these graces. We must contribute what God rightly demands of us. But what we contribute is brought in alongside what God has already done, and is subordinate and dependent on it.

‘Virtue’ means excellence – the proper fulfillment of anything. The excellence of a knife is to cut; the excellence of a horse is to run; the excellence of a man is to reflect the attractive character of his Creator. [M.Green, p.67]. In verse 3, we have been called to his own glory and excellence’; that does not only mean that we are to admire his excellence. We are also called to display his glory and excellence in our own lives [G.Green, p.189];

Virtue does not merely refer to the inner character of the heart; virtue will be demonstrated socially in excellence of character, in generosity toward others, surpassing the normal constraints of what duty demands [Danker, cited G.Green, p.192];

And virtue with knowledge

This knowledge is not the theoretical knowledge of philosophers nor the esoteric knowledge of hidden mysteries; it is the personal knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ which results in salvation. This will contrast with the ignorance and irrationality of the heretics, whose error led to immorality (2:12, 3:16). The cure for false knowledge is not less knowledge but a knowledge characterized by moral insight. ‘Knowing right does not mean doing right, but knowing God results in righteous conduct’ [G.Green, p.193]

6 And knowledge with self-control

Self-control is the grace whereby passions and affections are held under the dominion of sanctified reason. This refers specifically to self-control in the consumption of food, in sexual desire, and in the use of the tongue. Self control is the grace, guided by knowledge, which disciplines desire to make it the servant instead of the master of life. [Barnett, in Hiebert, p.53]

The false teachers that Peter writes against were characterized by sensuality (2:2), inflamed by sinful desires (2:10), they never stop thinking of adultery (2:14), and are enslaved to corruption (2:19). Self-control was clearly not something they indulged in.

and self-control with steadfastness

Steadfastness is the ability to hold out or bear up in the face of difficulty. This is a military virtue – endurance in battle; but in this context it refers to moral endurance amid the pressures of temptation. The heretics were seeking to draw the church in to their error and immorality, This is the grace needed to stand firm in one’s commitment to Jesus over the long haul in the face of the enticements of the false teachers. Steadfastness is rooted in the believer’s trust in God and hope for fulfillment of God’s promises, in the knowledge of Christ and experience of his divine power. Peter warns that some who began in the way of the gospel had since abandoned it (2:2, 20-22)

and steadfastness with godliness

Godliness is a demonstration of due reverence and loyalty to God; an attitude of reverence that seeks to please God in all things. It is a practical awareness of God in all of life. Verse 3 told us that everything necessary for godliness has been provided to us by God’s grace.

7 and godliness with brotherly affection

Brotherly affection stresses solidarity and collaboration between siblings. Families share goods, bear one another’s burdens, and forgive shortcomings and failures. We have become siblings through the new birth;

1 Peter 1:22-23 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again,…

So this exclusive family love is now extended to the whole Christian family.

and brotherly affection with love

Love is the climax of all Christian virtue. Christian love finds its source and model in the love that God demonstrated to humanity, even in their hostility against him;

Matthew 5:43-45 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven…

Romans 5:6-8 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.

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

This kind of love has its origin not in the desirability of the object but in the character of the one who loves. God’s agape is evoked not by what we are but by what he is. It is not that we are loveable, but that he is love. This love is a deliberate desire for the highest good of the one loved, which shows itself in sacrificial action for that person’s good [M.Green, p.71]

8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We should have these graces evident in our lives. Virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. They should be there, and they should be abounding; increasing to a point of excess. The assumption is that they are ours and they are abounding in our lives.

A reason for desiring to pursue these qualities is preventative. They keep us from being ineffective or unfruitful. ‘Ineffective’ or ‘idle’ refers to those who are lazy and do not work. In James 2:20 it describes faith without works as without effect or useless.

James 2:20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?

‘Unfruitful’ is uselessness in an agricultural metaphor – the tree that does not bear fruit is cursed or cut down.

John 15: 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

We must abide in Jesus in order to bear fruit; apart from him we can do nothing. Peter tells us that grace comes to us in the knowledge of God. Power for life and godliness comes through the knowledge of him. A personal relationship with Christ is the foundation of salvation, and this results in a participation in the moral character of God; But here Peter tells us that pursuit of moral virtue results in an increasing knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

‘whoever lacks’ stands in contrast to ‘are yours and are increasing’ in verse 8. If possession and abundance of these characteristics cause effectiveness and fruitfulness, a lack of these qualities is evidence of blindness. Those who reject Christian virtue become spiritually blind. The cause is the disease and the effect is blindness. Someone who is shortsighted is so focused on the present and their present desires that they cannot see the past and are blind to future judgment. They are blind in that they fail to see what they should see. They have forgotten the most important reality of all. They have forgotten that they have been cleansed from former sins. This is a reference to baptism as a picture of the cleansing that we receive when we place our trust in Jesus. Baptism is a decisive and public identification with Jesus, a commitment to follow Jesus, and a picture of our cleansing from sin. It should be a memorable event – not that it accomplishes anything itself, but that it points to what Jesus does when we come to him. Someone who has forgotten their forgiveness has forgotten that they are sinners in need of God’s grace. They have forgotten the main thing, and if they no longer feel the need for God’s grace in forgiveness, they will not pursue God’s grace to supply what they need for a godly life. Peter is as clear as he can be here. If you are not growing in virtue, in knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love, then your faith was a sham and you are still in your sins. Growth in these qualities is evidence of a genuine God-given faith that is alive and effective.

Conclusion:

Peter commands us to make every effort to abound in the godly life. Is Peter teaching salvation by works? He concludes this section by saying that in this way we will have entrance into the eternal kingdom. Peter is definitely talking about salvation and our eternal destiny, and he is telling us that it is necessary that we make every effort. But Peter is not telling us to make every effort in order to merit eternal life. Instead he is telling us to make every effort because God has already multiplied undeserved grace to us and granted to us divine power and unalterable promises. We have been given grace; we must be active and diligent to utilize and exercise that grace. The difference is that of a husband who is unsure of his wife’s love for him and does everything within his power to try to earn and win her love compared with a husband who is confident of his wife’s unconditional love for him and does everything within his power to act consistently with that love. We cannot earn God’s love. It is freely given. But we must stand confidently in that love and strive to act in a manner consistent with that unconditional love.

Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

We must cling to his promises like:

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

And take up the life giving divine resurrection power that has been richly provided for us:

Romans 8:11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

And we must:

1Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

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

October 18, 2009 Posted by | 2 Peter, podcast | , , , , | Leave a comment