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The Necessity of Thanksgiving

11/18 Necessity of Thanksgiving ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20181118_thanksgiving-necessity.mp3

The History of Thanksgiving

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s a great holiday, and not just because I like turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry jelly and pumpkin pie.

Our thanksgiving holiday has a rich history. After the surrender of the British army at Saratoga in October of 1777, the Continental Congress recommended that a national day of thanksgiving be observed. This is the text of that proclamation.

For as much as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for Benefits received, and to implore such farther Blessings as they stand in Need of: And it having pleased him in his abundant Mercy, not only to continue to us the innumerable Bounties of his common Providence; but also to smile upon us in the Prosecution of a just and necessary War, for the Defense and Establishment of our unalienable Rights and Liberties; particularly in that he hath been pleased, in so great a Measure, to prosper the Means used for the Support of our Troops, and to crown our Arms with most signal success:

It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive Powers of these United States to set apart Thursday, the eighteenth Day of December next, for Solemn Thanksgiving and Praise: That at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; and that, together with their sincere Acknowledgments and Offerings, they may join the penitent Confession of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favor; and their humble and earnest Supplication that it may please God through the Merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance; That it may please him graciously to afford his Blessing on the Governments of these States respectively, and prosper the public Council of the whole: To inspire our Commanders, both by Land and Sea, and all under them, with that Wisdom and Fortitude which may render them fit Instruments, under the Providence of Almighty God, to secure for these United States, the greatest of all human Blessings, Independence and Peace: That it may please him, to prosper the Trade and Manufactures of the People, and the Labor of the Husbandman, that our Land may yield its Increase: To take Schools and Seminaries of Education, so necessary for cultivating the Principles of true Liberty, Virtue and Piety, under his nurturing Hand; and to prosper the Means of Religion, for the promotion and enlargement of that Kingdom, which consisteth “in Righteousness, Peace and Joy in the Holy Ghost.

And it is further recommended, That servile Labor, and such Recreation, as, though at other Times innocent, may be unbecoming the Purpose of this Appointment, be omitted on so solemn an Occasion.”

It was Abraham Lincoln’s thanksgiving proclamation in 1863 during the civil war that was the beginning of our annual thanksgiving holiday.

His proclamation points us to “the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the everwatchful providence of Almighty God.

He invites us to observe it “as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. …offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings…”

Thanksgiving and praise is “justly due to Him.” The earlier proclamation began by stating that “it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for Benefits received.”

The authors of these proclamations recognized something very important. Thanksgiving is justly due to God. It is our indispensable duty to give thanks for benefits received. It is wrong to fail to give thanks to him.

Thanksgiving is Serious Business

You see, there are sins of commission and sins of omission. We commit sins like lying and stealing and cheating, slander and hatred and lust. But we also sin by omitting what we ought to do.

Romans 1 shows us just how serious this is.

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

…21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Do you hear in these verses why the wrath of God is revealed from heaven? A failure to acknowledge God and give him thanks unleashes the wrath of God against humanity! Thanksgiving is our duty. And we are so prone to forget the source from which our blessings come. We are “habitually insensible to the everwatchful providence of Almighty God.”

Official Thanksgiving

Because giving thanks to God is such an important duty, and because we are so prone to negligence in it, at pivotal moments in the history of the nation of Israel, its leaders appointed people to give thanks as their full time job.

When David brought the ark of the covenant in to Jerusalem, we are told:

1 Chronicles 16:4 Then he appointed some of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the LORD, to invoke, to thank, and to praise the LORD, the God of Israel. 5 Asaph was the chief, and second to him were Zechariah, Jeiel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obed-edom, and Jeiel, who were to play harps and lyres; Asaph was to sound the cymbals, 6 and Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests were to blow trumpets regularly before the ark of the covenant of God. 7 Then on that day David first appointed that thanksgiving be sung to the LORD by Asaph and his brothers. 8 Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! 9 Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! 10 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!

…36 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting!” Then all the people said, “Amen!” and praised the LORD. 37 So David left Asaph and his brothers there before the ark of the covenant of the LORD to minister regularly before the ark as each day required,

…41 With them were Heman and Jeduthun and the rest of those chosen and expressly named to give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, whose ‘heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord,’ (2Chr.17:6) when a great multitude came against him in battle, he sought the Lord for help, and

2 Chronicles 20:21 …he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, “Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

Hezekiah, king of Judah, who ‘did what was right in the eyes of the LORD’ (2Chr.29:2) restored the worship of God to the temple in Jerusalem.

2 Chronicles 31:2 And Hezekiah appointed the divisions of the priests and of the Levites, division by division, each according to his service, the priests and the Levites, for burnt offerings and peace offerings, to minister in the gates of the camp of the LORD and to give thanks and praise.

After the Babylonian captivity, Ezra and Nehemiah were sent to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple.

Ezra 3:10 And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD, according to the directions of David king of Israel. 11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.

When the walls of the city were rebuilt, Nehemiah appointed:

Nehemiah 12:24 And the chiefs of the Levites: Hashabiah, Sherebiah, and Jeshua the son of Kadmiel, with their brothers who stood opposite them, to praise and to give thanks, according to the commandment of David the man of God, watch by watch.

…27 And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres.

…31 Then I brought the leaders of Judah up onto the wall and appointed two great choirs that gave thanks. …

Thanksgiving was serious business, and it was taken seriously. But why the official appointment of people to thanksgiving? Shouldn’t all the people give thanks from the heart? Are they hiring paid professionals to do the thanksgiving for them so they don’t have to worry about it?

Clearly that was not the intent. They served as worship leaders, to lead all the people in giving thanks. This was a strategic way to ensure that the giving of thanks to God was never neglected. This was set in place as a reminder for all the people, because we are prone to forget.

Are there any reminders you have established in your life and routine to encourage you to give thanks? The weekly rhythm of gathering for worship is one simple way. Gather with God’s people week by week to acknowledge him, to give him thanks. Establish daily rhythms of thanksgiving together at meals, in the mornings, at bedtime. Write a note on the bathroom mirror. Set a reminder on your phone, or get a prayer app. Recognize the importance of giving thanks to God for all his good gifts, and find something that works for you to remind you regularly.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 is a command.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

God’s will for you is that you give thanks. ‘But you don’t know what’s going on in my life right now. You don’t understand my struggles. I really don’t know if I have anything to be thankful for.’ Give thanks in all circumstances. In all circumstances. Regardless of your circumstances or mine, God is still God, and he deserves to be praised.

Psalm 9 says:

Psalm 9:1 I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.

This is a choice, a decision. I choose to give thanks. God has given me the ability to determine to give thanks or to neglect giving thanks. I will give thanks.

I will give thanks with my whole heart. Not merely out of a sense of duty or obligation; it is that, but it must be more. My heart must be in it. Thanksgiving must flow out of a heart captured by the great beauty and worth of God. Thanksgiving is not to be half hearted, but whole hearted. Half hearted praise is not praise. I am to love the Lord with heart and soul and mind and strength. Understand, this is not something we can muster. ‘I’m not really feeling it, but it is my duty, so I will try really hard to give thanks with my whole heart.’ That doesn’t work. Stop looking at yourself. Remember, we are ‘habitually insensible; we are prone to forget’. Thanksgiving is the natural and normal response to perceiving the goodness of God to us. If you don’t see it, you won’t feel thankful. When you see it, when you perceive it, thanksgiving naturally and authentically flows out. More on how to to this in just a minute.

I will give thanks to the LORD. It matters who we direct our thanks to. It is not fate or fortune, it is not my lucky stars. There is a personal being, YHWH, who is sovereign over all circumstances. He is eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful, good. He is love. He is pursuing relationship with me. If I give you a gift, and you go thank Suzie, than just isn’t right. God is the giver of all good gifts, and he is the one we ought to thank.

Recounting God’s Wonderful Deeds

Here comes some really practical help: I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. It helps to count and recount. This is a simple discipline to increase our thanksgiving. If you want to grow in gratitude, try this.

I woke up. I am breathing. My heart is beating. Thank you Lord! I can get out of bed. I have food to eat. I had a safe place to sleep. I have friends, family, a community.

I have a relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. He died for me. My sins are all forgiven. He has given me his Spirit. He has given me new life, a new heart, new desires. I can walk with him today. I can talk to him. He listens. I can please him. I can enjoy his presence. All this is a gracious gift. Thank you Lord!

I have five senses through which I experience this world God created. Everything I see, hear, smell, taste, feel is a gift. Every sunrise, every symphony, every fragrance, every flavor, every sensation is a gift. Thank you Lord!

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

You could easily spend an hour just pausing to pay attention to the details that you have to be thankful for. And it will change your life. It will change your attitude! I will recount all your wonderful deeds.

And I don’t know about you, but I tend to be so self-focused. What do I personally have to be thankful for right now? But for the Israelite, they would start with creation. God made everything good for our enjoyment. He blessed us. But we rebelled against him, and in his great mercy he did not destroy us. He promised to rescue us. He promised to crush our enemy. When he destroyed the world with a flood he preserved Noah and his family. He chose Abraham. He was faithful to all his promises. Even after 400 years of slavery in Egypt, he did not forget his promises. He rescued his people with mighty acts of judgment. Even after 40 years of disobedience in the wilderness, he brought Joshua and his people into the promised land. He established his servant David and conquered their enemies. After their persistent disobedience, he sent them into captivity in Babylon, but even there he cared for them and preserved them, and brought them back to the land.

When you recount all the wonderful deeds of the Lord, you don’t have to limit it to only your experience or your lifetime. Thank you Lord that you have been faithful to your people and to your promises throughout history. Thank you that you have demonstrated yourself trustworthy and true, generous and good, slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness.

Of course the gospel is our greatest source of gratitude.

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

That God himself would come in the flesh to take my sin and guilt and die in my place is unfathomable, unthinkable, incredible, overwhelmingly good. Thank you Father, for sending Jesus. Thank you that you pursued me even in my rebellion. Thank you that your Holy Spirit conquered my hard heart.

And think of what has been promised to us that is yet to come! God has given to us his precious and very great promises (2Pet.1:4). He has given us every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies, and he has made us co-heirs with Jesus Christ our Lord. You have an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you (1Pet.1:4).

1 Chronicles 16:34 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

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

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November 19, 2018 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 5:9-10; Our Pleasure -His Pleasure

11/11_2 Corinthians 5:9-10; Our Pleasure – His Pleasure; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20181111_2cor5_9-10.mp3

Paul is staring death in the face. Or rather he is looking through death fixing his eyes on the unseen. He is looking at the ultimate result of his suffering and sees that his present sufferings are preparing for him an exceedingly exceeding eternal weight of glory. He looks at death and says his first choice is to be alive at the coming of the Lord Jesus and be overclothed in his glorified resurrection body. His second choice is to depart and be with Christ even if that means being temporarily unclothed, without a body. And his last choice, he is willing if needed to continue on in the body in fruitful labor for others.

Paul’s desire, his groaning, his longing, is to be at home with the Lord, to be in the presence of Jesus. God has made him for this, and has given his Spirit as a guarantee. But part of being in the presence of Jesus for Paul brings up the issue of judgment.

2 Corinthians 5:6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Is this a category you think in? When you think of heaven, do you think of judgment? Most of the jokes I’ve heard picture Peter at the pearly gates, and if you answer the questions right, you get in. (It is wise to evaluate where you pick up your theology. If it comes mostly from jokes or cartoons, that’s probably not a reliable source.) Paul here tells us that we must all appear before the Lord to give account of what we have done in the body. Is this your expectation? Paul is leaning forward, longing to be in the presence of the Lord, and he knows that that means to appear before the judgment seat of Christ.

Hebrews 9:27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,

Is your primary desire to be with the Lord? And are you eagerly awaiting the judgment? Paul is.

How? How can the prospect of judgment be a desirable thing and not a fearful thing? Or can it be both? Today I want to explore what the bible says about this coming judgment, how it can be both an eager expectation and a fearful thing, and how we should live in light of this coming judgment.

The Gospel: No Condemnation

I want to start by looking at the gospel, because the gospel keeps everything in perspective. The good news of Jesus is that we are unworthy, lost in sin, enemies of God, hopeless. We cannot earn God’s favor no matter what we do. We deserve God’s wrath. Jesus, God the Son, came down to us to live as one of us. He came to take our sin, our our guilt, our condemnation, into himself and pay the price in full on the cross. Jesus said:

John 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Whoever believes in Jesus is not condemned.

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Romans lays out the good news message, that none are righteous, all have sinned and have earned God’s wrath (ch.1-3). But we are made righteous by grace as a gift through the wrath-satisfying sacrifice of Jesus (ch.3). This gift of forgiveness and righteousness comes not to those who work for it but who simply receive it, by faith; believing, trusting, depending (ch.4). We now have peace with God and strong hope for the future (ch.5). Even the continuing struggle with sin we experience will not win in the end (ch.6-7). In chapter 8 he reaches the climax: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” No condemnation!

Romans 8:33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? …37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that …[nothing, nothing, nothing!] 39 …will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We are in Christ through faith, depending on him alone. The Scripture clearly teaches that we are justified by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone to the glory of God alone. All who are in Christ through faith have no need to fear condemnation on judgment day.

Judging our Works and the Fear of the Lord

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

There is scholarly debate over who this passage applies to. Does ‘we all’ include all humanity or only believers? In the context Paul is talking about ‘we’ believers, we who have been given the Spirit as a guarantee, ‘we’ who have confidence in the face of death because we will be with the Lord. So whether he broadens the ‘we all’ here to include all humanity, or keeps his focus only on believers, there is no dispute that believers are not excluded. ‘We all’ either is believers or includes believers. We all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Each one will receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Paul says in Romans 14, clearly talking to believers:

Romans 14:10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Each of us believers will stand before the judgment seat of God and give an account of himself to God. Each of us will receive what is due for what we have done in the body, good or bad.

Jesus said:

Matthew 12:36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

People will give account for every careless word they speak.” Let that sink in. You will give account for every careless word you speak.

I’ll conceal the names to protect the guilty, but recently one of my children accidentally recorded themselves on my phone telling a friend that they had lied to their parents. I know some of you may be shocked to discover that my kids aren’t perfect. Let me shatter more of your imaginary world; neither are their parents.

I think Numbers 32:23 was one of my parent’s favorite verses:

Numbers 32:23 …be sure your sin will find you out.

We had some fun with that recording. I am tempted to play it back for you right now, but that would expose the guilty party. But imagine if someone was recording your entire life, every careless word you speak. (Some of you do that to yourselves already on Facebook!) But imagine every careless word recorded, and someone could play it back to you, so that ‘by your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned.’ That is a terrifying prospect. Remember, for the believer, there is now no condemnation because Jesus paid for it with his blood.

Jesus said:

Luke 12:2 Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops. 4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!

Jesus is telling us to fear God, the judge of all the earth. Paul in the next verse (2Cor.5:11), concluding his thought on the judgment seat of Christ says “therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord.” In verse 1 he said ‘we know we have an eternal home in the heavens.’ In verse 6 ‘we know that to be at home in this body is to be away from the Lord.’ In verse 11 he says that we know the fear of the Lord, and it motivates us to action. ‘For we all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ.’ It is necessary, mandatory that we appear, that we are exposed, made manifest, laid bare. This awareness of the coming judgment is meant to put the fear of God into us.

Jesus told a story in Matthew 25 describing the kingdom of God.

Matthew 25:14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’

In Luke’s version of this story the master answers:

Luke 19:22 He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! …

Continuing in Matthew,

Matthew 25:26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Jesus in this story holds out both the hope of reward and eternal joy, and the warning of eternal judgment. Many people struggle with passages of warning in the Bible because they sound like they contradict justification by faith alone. When we run into warnings in scripture, we shouldn’t try to explain them away. They are there to warn us. We should heed the warning. The scripture is clear that our works do not contribute to our salvation; that justification is a gift received by faith alone. But the scripture is also clear that the faith which justifies is never alone.

1 John 4:20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

Works are never the grounds for justification. But works naturally flow out of the life of one who is forgiven by grace alone. Even in the story of the talents, it begins with the gift of the master, entrusting his own property to each one. I believe the warnings are there because there are some who claim to believe, but who will be revealed to be false on the final day. The possibility of hearing “I never knew you, depart from me” (Mt.7:23) is meant to put the fear of God in us. Jesus, and Peter and John and Paul and James and the author of Hebrews are warning us to “examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith” (2Cor.13:5), and they urge us to make adjustments now, before it is too late.

In Matthew 12, where Jesus says that “on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” he says that “a tree is known by its fruit,” (v.33) and it is “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (v.34). Bearing fruit does not change the nature of the tree; it demonstrates the nature of the tree. Actions and words do not change the heart, they demonstrate what is in the heart. If the fruit is bad, we should take a careful look at the root and ask God by his grace to change our hearts.

When Our Pleasure is His Pleasure

2 Corinthians 5:9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Paul is energized by the prospect of the judgment seat of Christ and being forever in the presence of the Lord, so that whether at home or away, he makes it his aim to please him. What he is most eager for, what he pursues with all his heart, what is of highest value for him is to please the Lord. This is truly amazing – did you know that we CAN please him? Now, in these fragile earthy bodies, we can bring pleasure to God! We know that ‘all our righteous deeds (when by them we seek to earn favor with God) are filthy rags’ (Is.64:6). ‘Anything that is not of faith is sin’ (Rom.14:23). But there are good works that flow out of faith that are pleasing to the Lord.

Colossians 1:9 …we …pray …that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will… 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

We can be fully pleasing to him. We can bear fruit that corresponds to the Spirit who lives inside us!

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

How do we do this?

1 Peter 4:11 …whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ….

When our good works are a response of faith to the grace we have been freely given, they bring glory to the Father. When we serve in faith, in dependence on God who gives the strength, then God gets the glory.

1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

Because we have been freely forgiven, promised eternity with him, sealed with his Holy Spirit, our hearts naturally overflow with a desire to please him. We want to please him, not in order to get something from him, but because we have been freely given so much.

2 Thessalonians 1:11 To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

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

November 12, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 4:15; Missions Fuels Worship

09/23_2 Corinthians 4:15; Missions Fuels Worship; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180923_2cor4_15.mp3

Paul is teaching the essence of authentic ministry. Here in 2 Corinthians 4 verse 15, Paul climaxes with his ultimate passion and aim; worship. The aim of christian ministry is worship.

Earthen Vessels Display Resurrection Power

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Paul is highlighting his own human frailty to put on display the superabundant resurrection power of God. He is a fragile earthenware container, carrying around in his death-susceptible body the glorious light of the good news of Jesus Christ. His suffering, his afflictions, his persecution puts on display the supreme power of God who accomplishes his purposes through the unlikely and unqualified. Death is at work in the messenger to bring about life in the ones to whom he brings the message.

Theology Fuels Missions

2 Corinthians 4:13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.

He speaks out of a deep-rooted confidence in, a dependence on God who raises the dead. It is God who must give life, who must shine light in the sin-blinded hearts of unbelievers who cannot see Jesus for who he is. The god of this world has blinded minds, and the Lord of the universe must unblind them. Theology fuels his evangelism, his mission, his ministry. Knowing the truth of the resurrection, confident that the crucifixion of Jesus was a sufficient sacrifice to cleanse our sin-stained consciences and make us stand faultless in the presence of absolute holiness with great joy, dependent on the gospel to bring both he and those who receive his message into the very presence of almighty God, he speaks.

His confidence is not in his approach, his logic, his presentation. His confidence is not in his capable communication or his winsome wit and personality. His confidence is in God who raises the dead. He believes, so he speaks. Theology fuels missions.

And missions fuels worship. This is the goal of all Christian ministry.

Competing or Complementary?

2 Corinthians 4:15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

It seems in this one verse he offers two competing goals; for your sake, and to the glory of God. Is his ultimate ministry aim to benefit believers or to bless God?

All this suffering, all this daily dying, all this carrying around in my body the dying of Jesus is on account of you; it is for your benefit. Death is at work in us, but life in you! Through my suffering, through my affliction, I am making plain that Jesus is more precious than any earthly comfort. See, Paul didn’t have to suffer. As we saw last time, his persecution was a direct result of his speaking. If he would just shut his mouth and stop talking about Jesus Christ and him crucified, he would not have to suffer. But he looked at the believers in Corinth, he looked at and Crispus and Gaius and Fortunatus and Achaicus and Stephanas and their families (1Cor.1:14-16; 16:17), and he said it is all for your sake. He looked forward through generations of believers who would believe because of his testimony, and he said it is worth it. You are worth it. It is a small price to pay for your eternal joy. He said back in 1:24 ‘we don’t lord it over your faith; we work with you for your joy’. Paul is eager to see people blessed. He is eager to see grace abound through the many. He said in 1 Corinthians 9 that he presents the gospel free of charge; he made himself a servant to all that he might win the many. He was eager to win Jews and Gentiles; he met people where they were ‘that by all means I might save some’. All this is for your sake.

But we have to take ‘all this is for your sake’ in light of verse 11, which says that we ‘are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake’ and verse 5 where he says we proclaim Christ Jesus as Lord with ourselves as servants of the church ‘for Jesus’ sake’. How is he serving churches in his speaking and in his sacrifices ‘for Jesus’ sake’, and also all this is ‘for your sake’? Is he contradicting himself? Are these two competing goals, or are they somehow complementary?

Through and To

Grace superabounds through the many. Literally translated this verse reads ‘for all these things for your sake in order that the grace increases through the many the gratitude abounds to the glory of God. It is not to the many; as if they were the end goal and final recipients; it is through the many; through their agency gratitude abounds to the glory of God. Paul is passionate to see the gospel reach more and more people, and it is genuinely for their benefit. But he has a greater end in view. It is to the glory of God.

The Glory of God

We see this passion for God’s glory throughout the scriptures, from Psalm 8 where God set his name and his glory above the heavens; Psalm 19 where the heavens were created to declare the glory of God; Psalm 24, where he is called ‘the King of glory’; Psalm 29, where glory is due to his name, where the heavenly beings ascribe glory to the Lord; and ‘all in his temple cry ‘Glory!’; Psalm 86 where ‘all the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name’. Isaiah 6 where the angelic beings cry ‘the whole earth is full of his glory’; Isaiah 43, where he created everyone ‘for his glory’; In Isaiah 42 and 48 God says that he does not give his glory to another, nor his praise to carved idols.

In Romans 1 and 3 our sin is exchanging the glory of God for images, and we fall short of glorifying God. In Romans 5 we ‘obtain access by faith into grace and rejoice in hope of the glory of God’. In Romans 15 we are to welcome one another ‘for the glory of God’ and ‘with one voice glorify God’; the Gentiles will ‘glorify God for his mercy’.

1 Corinthians 6 tells us we are to glorify God in our bodies; 1 Corinthians 10 tells us that eating, drinking, whatever we do is to be done to the glory of God. In 2 Corinthians 1 in response to the faithfulness of God ‘we utter our Amen to the glory of God.’ In chapter 3, our beholding the glory of the Lord brings transformation. In chapter 4 Satan wants to keep us from seeing the glory of Christ, but God shines in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. In chapters 8 and 9, their gospel generosity is meant to cause the recipients to glorify God.

3 times in Ephesians 1, our manifold salvation is ‘to the praise of his glory’. In Philippians 1 our righteousness through Christ is to the glory and praise of God. In Philippians 2 we confess Jesus Christ as Lord ‘to the glory of God the Father’.

In 1 Peter 2 our good deeds are to cause even evildoers to glorify God. In 1 Peter 4 we are to ‘serve in the strength that God supplies so that God gets the glory’ and even when we suffer for the name of Christ ‘we glorify God in that name’.

In 1 Thessalonians 2, 1 Peter 5 and 2 Peter 1 we are ‘called to his own glory.’

In 1 Timothy 1 the good news is described as ‘the gospel of the glory of the blessed God’

The glory of God is the central theme of the Bible. The Westminster Shorter Catechism got it right in declaring that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

God Glorified by Gratitude

We get that. We want to bring God glory. But how? What does that look like? What does that even mean? This verse helps.

2 Corinthians 4:15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

Paul endures suffering in gospel ministry so that as the grace increases through the many the gratitude abounds to the glory of God. Grace abounds. Grace is multiplied through the many. Grace is God’s kindness, God’s favor that is unearned, undeserved. It is God’s gift given freely. Salvation is a gift; forgiveness, a right standing with God, inner transformation; all gifts of God’s grace. As Paul proclaims Jesus, God’s grace is abounds to more people. As Paul suffers for the gospel, more people take notice, pay attention, and receive God’s grace. God is infinitely gracious. But the experience of God’s grace is multiplied as more people lean into God’s grace, depend on his grace, receive it.

And what is the natural response when you experience grace? I ran in to the grocery store the other day just to get a handful of things for dinner. I get to the checkout, and the lady in front of me has about half a shopping cart of groceries. She looks up and says, ‘you go ahead’. She didn’t have to do that. I don’t deserve special treatment at the grocery store. I am not more important than her. She was there first. And it will cost her; if she lets me go first, it will take her longer. That is grace. How do you respond? My first inclination is not to receive the grace. No, it’s OK. I don’t need it. I can wait. Of course I only came to get three things, so I didn’t get a cart, but there were a couple other things on a good sale, so I ended up with five things, and I should have got a cart, but I’m trying to manage to hold on to them all. She smiles and says, no really, you go ahead. What is the response to grace? I feel humbled and grateful. She noticed my situation and extended a small kindness to me that I didn’t deserve.

God’s grace is infinitely greater, deeper, richer.

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

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—

Colossians 1:21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,

Grace results in gratitude. These words are connected. The Greek word for grace is charis [χάρις]; the word for thanksgiving is eucharistian [εὐχαριστίαν]. Eu-charis-tian is built on the root charis. John Piper suggests an English translation that retains this root word connection; grace and gratitude. Gratitude is a response to grace; gratis. As grace extends to more people, more people are moved to be profoundly grateful.

So how does this help us understand what it means to glorify God? An increase in gratitude gives glory to God. God is recognized as the giver. The gift he gives is a gift; it is unearned, undeserved. He is under no obligation; he is free to give or to not give, and he chooses to give. When I receive his gifts, the normal response of a healthy soul is gratitude. I am humbled (because I did nothing to deserve it) and I feel grateful (because I see his character that he is gracious and generous and kind). This brings glory to God, because I am seeing and enjoying him, who he is. I am recognizing his character, and I am blessed by him. He is the kind of person I want to be around.

These two things, gratitude and glorifying God are linked in Romans 1, where our healthy response is broken.

Romans 1:21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him,

Although God had revealed his character, we did not honor, literally glorify him as God, and we were not grateful. This is what sin is. A failure to respond to God’s gracious character with gratitude; a failure to glorify him.

When we fail to receive his grace, when we reject his generosity we don’t enjoy him and we won’t be grateful; we won’t glorify God.

This is how ‘all this is for your sake’ and it is ‘for Jesus’ sake’ to the glory of God. The experience of God’s grace that overflows in gratitude is the enjoyment of God as good and it is this that glorifies God. We are benefited, and God is glorified as the giver.

Our theology, what we believe, fuels missions. What we believe ignites us to go, to love, to serve others in the name of Jesus, even in the face of persecution and death, because we believe in the God who raises the dead. We believe, therefore we speak. And missions fuels worship. As we risk to proclaim Jesus to more and more people, as we invite more people to experience God’s grace, we multiply gratitude, and gratitude overflows in worship. Paul is looking forward to that day when God will ‘raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.’ He is looking to that day when those he has proclaimed Jesus to are gathered with him to enjoy the presence of God.

So what about you? Are you experiencing God’s grace? Are you enjoying him as the ultimate giver of every good? Are you getting to know him? Are you humbled and overwhelmed with joy that he would give you what you don’t deserve? Can you say that God is enjoyable? That is what glorifies God.

And are you passionately pursuing the advance of God’s glory? This too is the natural response of a healthy soul to God’s grace. When we truly enjoy something, we want others to enjoy it with us. I will go out of my way to get you to see how good it is, to try it, to enjoy it. I may even make sacrifices to get you to experience it for yourself. What are you willing to endure to see others experiencing God’s grace?

2 Corinthians 4:15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

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

September 24, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 3:1-3; Letters of Recommendation

04/29_2 Corinthians 3:1-3; Letters of Recommendation ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180429_2cor3_1-3.mp3

Paul gets to the heart of the issue here. He lays out his credentials as a minister by pointing to the transformation that has happened in the lives of his readers.

Paul Commends Himself (Again!)

Paul has described the apostolic ministry in 2:14 as ‘ through us God in Christ always …spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.’ In 2:17 he contrasts himself with ‘so many,’ who peddle God’s word for profit. We are not like them; rather we are men of sincerity, our source of authority is God, everything we do is in the presence of God, and it is in Christ that we speak. Back in chapter 1:12, Paul boasted ‘in the testimony of his conscience, that he operated with simplicity and godly sincerity, by the grace of God.’

2 Corinthians 3:1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you?

This first phrase of chapter 3 should probably be read as an exclamation, not a rhetorical question. We are beginning to commend ourselves to you again! Paul is making a case for his integrity; he is laying before them the evidence of his authenticity. He even contrasts his ministry with those who are in it for profit. We, who planted the church, who spent 18 months with you investing in you, who visited you in the past and plan to visit again, who sent letters and messengers to you, we need to go over the formality of introductions all over again!? You, who experienced new life as a result of our ministry among you, now we are forced again to present evidence of our authenticity!

The letter to the Romans is a letter of self-commendation; Paul writes to believers he has never met, introduces himself and his ministry, and lays before them the gospel he preaches. In chapter 15 he outlines his plans to visit them, and his desire to be supported by them in his mission to Spain. In Romans he is commending himself to a church he has never visited.

In Romans 16, he says:

Romans 16:1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, 2 that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.

We call this a letter of reference or a recommendation. A trusted person writes to affirm the character of another. Do you recommend this person as a student in our college? Would you recommend this person as a good fit for this particular job? Paul is not against letters of commendation; he writes them himself. In fact, in Romans 5:8 he says:

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

The death of Christ for sinners is a commendation of God’s love for us.

Paul uses the word ‘commend’ or ‘recommend’ twice in 2 Corinthians 3:1, and 7 more times in the rest this letter. He says in the next chapter

2 Corinthians 4:2 …by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

In chapter 5 he says that his character should be well known to them; he is not really commending himself again, but giving them reasons to defend against those who boast in outward appearances and not in the heart. In chapter 6 he says:

2 Corinthians 6:4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:

And then he lists not only his positive character traits, but also his hardships, afflictions, persecutions, his weakness. In chapter 10 he clarifies:

2 Corinthians 10:18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

Paul is not against letters of recommendation. He is not even against presenting one’s own credentials to establish credibility. 2 Corinthians could be seen as an extended commendation of authentic apostolic ministry. The issue is not in the necessity of introductions. The problem lies in the ‘again.’ His point here in chapter 3 of 2 Corinthians (in actuality his fourth correspondence to this church) is that they ought to be well beyond the stage in their relationship that requires formal introductions.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 9:1 …Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? 2 If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. 3 This is my defense to those who would examine me.

If I am not to others, at least I am to you! They were believers in Jesus because he had traveled to Achaia and preached the gospel in Corinth. They owed their very existence as a church to his apostolic ministry. In chapter 12 he says:

2 Corinthians 12:11 …I ought to have been commended by you. …

The Corinthians, who ought by this time to be Paul’s loudest fans, now need to be re-acquainted with what genuine Christian ministry is all about.

2 Corinthians 3:1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you?

This second question is rhetorical, and it is framed to demand a negative answer. We do not need letters of recommendation to you, and we do not need letters from you. The Corinthian church had the audacity to place themselves over apostolic ministry as if the final authority to evaluate apostolic ministry was with them. Paul expected them to be able to discern between a true apostle and a false one, but they were flirting with false apostles and rejecting the one they knew to be true.

You Are Our Letter

2 Corinthians 3:2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all.

The Corinthians don’t realize they are the letter. They are the objective evidence of Paul’s apostolic ministry. The fact that there are now followers of the Jewish Messiah gathering as a church in the pagan city of Corinth is evidence of a genuine work of God.

But notice where this is written. It is written on the heart of their Apostle. In this he is like his Master. In a similar metaphor Isaiah looks forward to Jesus “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (49:15). In the Song of Solomon we find this language of love:

Song of Solomon 8:6 Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave.

Paul communicates not only that the Corinthians are a letter of reference, an authentication of his apostolic ministry, but also that he carries them always with him, not in his travel bag, but in his heart. As he says in chapter 11,

2 Corinthians 11:28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches

As we saw at the end of chapter 2, Paul carries the Corinthians so close to his heart, that the relational tension prevented him from taking full advantage of an opportunity to preach the gospel.

And this is no secret. They are written on his heart, but he wears it on his sleeve. His heart is an open book, and anyone can read what is written there. Anyone who knows Paul knows of his affection for his churches. Certainly those in Troas would be aware of his great affection for them.

A Letter From Christ

2 Corinthians 3:3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

‘You show that you are’; this is the same word from 2:14 that the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ is put on display or made manifest through us in every place.

Paul’s primary concern is always making Christ known. The Corinthian church, for better or worse, whether they know it or not, puts Christ on display. They put on display that they are a letter from Christ. This is the highest authority. This letter originates from Christ Jesus himself.

And this letter, Paul says, is ‘delivered;’ literally ‘ministered’ by us; this is ambiguous. It could mean that Paul pictured himself as the one delivering the letter, or it could mean that Paul is the amanuensis or scribe writing down every word Christ dictates to him. Because the Corinthians are the letter, it seems to make more sense to see Paul holding the pen, or possibly Paul is the pen in the hand of the Lord Christ. Either way, Paul is in a subordinate role to Christ. Scribe or errand boy, Paul is in service to Christ, ensuring that the message of Jesus is scrawled in large letters on the hearts of the Corinthians.

Ink / Spirit

Written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God. This is that which is actually applied to the page; not ink but the Spirit of the living God. Paul is instrumental in applying the ink of the Spirit to the page of the Corinthians lives in order to make Christ known.

Here we see the triune God at work in the ministry of the apostle. The letter originates from Christ, it is written with the ink of the Holy Spirit, and that Spirit is the Spirit of the living God, sent out by the Father.

Heart of Stone / Flesh

The next contrast is what is written on. That which is written on is not tablets of stone, but tablets of human (literally ‘fleshly’) hearts. Normally in Paul’s day we would expect ink on papyrus. But Paul mixes metaphors once again; it is ink on stony tablets contrasted with the Spirit on fleshy heart-tablets.

Paul is linking several Old Testament themes; the tablets of the covenant given to Moses on Sinai, tablets of stone written on with the finger of God, and the hard stony hearts of the Israelites. In Deuteronomy 9, when Moses recounts the initial giving of the law, he rebukes Israel for their stubbornness and rebellion against the Lord. While he was on the mountain with God receiving the tablets of stone, the people were provoking God to wrath by their idolatry. God’s law was written on stony tablets corresponding to the stony rebellious hearts of his people.

But Paul also has in mind the promise of the Spirit poured out in the New Covenant, promises we find in Ezekiel and Jeremiah

Ezekiel 11:19-20 says:

Ezekiel 11:19 And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

And again in Ezekiel 36:26

Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

God knows that his people need a heart transplant. The heart of stone must be removed and replaced with a responsive fleshy heart. Ezekiel goes on in verse 27

Ezekiel 36:27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Not only will God remove their hearts of stone and give them a fleshy heart, he will put his own Spirit in them, enabling and empowering them to walk in his ways.

Just as the law written on stony tablets corresponded to the stony hearts of the people, so now the New Covenant work of the Spirit of God corresponds to the new fleshy hearts given to his people.

New Covenant Writing

Another New Covenant passage, Jeremiah 31, is the piece that gives the picture of God writing on the hearts of his people.

Jeremiah 31:31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

The content of what is written is not different; God writes his law; a law summed up by Christ as

Matthew 22:37 …“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

(love fulfills law: Rom.13:8,10; Gal.5:14; Mt.7:12)

But God has written, no longer on stony tablets, but on the newly given fleshy heart-tablets of the Corinthians, not with ink, but with his own Holy Spirit. As a result, Christ is put on display in the lives of the Corinthians. In this New Covenant transaction, Paul is a minister of Christ, facilitating their transformation. Paul’s evidence of authenticity is this very transformation that has taken place in the hearts of the Corinthians. And this has affected the heart of the apostle as well. These struggling new believers are written on his heart.

Application

What is your heart like? Is it hardened toward God? Ask him for a new heart; a heart that is tender toward him. Has your heart been transformed by love to love? Has God’s own self-sacrificial love written love for him and for others on your heart? Do you have people written on your heart? Is the Spirit of the living God bringing about real heart transformation in you?

2 Corinthians 3:1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. 3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

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

April 30, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 2:10-11; How Not To Be Outsmarted By Satan

03/11_2Corinthians 2:10-11; How Not To Be Outsmarted by Satan ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180311_2cor2_10-11.mp3

We are in 2 Corinthians 2:10-11. Paul is talking about why he did not come as planned, why he wrote them a letter instead. He defends his clear conscience, how he is working with them in everything to pursue their joy. He wrote a letter that caused them sorrow, but even in that he is pursing their joy, and it was an expression of his abundant love for them. The context here is an issue of church discipline. Back in 1 Corinthians 5, he addressed a situation of immorality in the church that rather than dealing with the church was priding itself in. He demanded that the guilty party who refused to receive correction be expelled from the church.

Last time we looked at church discipline for your joy; we looked at Jesus’ teaching on church discipline, the process of, the heart behind and the goal of church discipline. Jesus and Paul both teach that church discipline is for joy; for the joy of the one disciplined, for the joy of the church, for the joy of God. He is pursuing our greatest good; so that we will find joy not in the counterfeit pleasures of sin, but in the genuine and eternal enjoyment of God himself.

In this passage we will see that we have an enemy, an enemy to our joy.

2 Corinthians 2:5 Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 6 For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

This passage tells us some really important things. It tells us that we have an enemy. It tells us that he has an agenda. And it tells us how to defeat him.

We Have an Enemy

Jesus warned of an enemy. He told Peter “behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat” (Lk.22:31). Jesus warned his disciples to watch and “pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Lk.22.40, cf. Mt.26:41). Later, Peter wrote

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Peter understood he had an adversary. And this adversary is bent on our destruction. He demanded to have Peter, to thresh him out. Peter knew from first hand experience that he had an enemy, the power of his enemy, the ferocity and intent of his enemy. The name Satan is a Hebrew word that means adversary; and devil means accuser or slanderer. Revelation 12:10 celebrates the day when “the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.” Satan, the chief prosecuting attorney, stands day and night accusing us before the throne of God. He seeks our eternal destruction. Jesus thought it was important for Peter to know that he had an enemy, and who his enemy was.

We understand from places like Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14, that Satan was an angel, a personal created being of the highest order, who became proud and rebelled against God, seeking to become equal to God. From places like Revelation 12 we understand that he led a third of God’s angels astray in his rebellion, who are commonly referred to as demons.

It is important to keep in mind that while God is the triune uncreated creator of everything, all powerful and unrestrained by time or place, Satan is a single created being, who is limited by both time and space, and who is limited in knowledge. Charles Simeon, who served Trinity Church in Cambridge, England for 49 years until his death in 1836, put it this way; “It must not be forgotten, that, though we speak of Satan as one, he has millions of other spirits at his command, all cooperating with him with an activity inconceivable, and an energy incessant. …Hence, though Satan is limited both as to space and knowledge, he is, by his agents, in every part of the globe, receiving information from them, and exercising rule by means of them: and hence his devices, founded on such a combination of wisdom, and carried into effect by such an union of power, become so manifold as to exceed what on any other supposition would have been within the power of any finite creature to devise and execute.” [Charles Simeon, Horae Homiliticae; Vol.16, Disc.2003]

We have an enemy; an enemy so powerful that even “the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, …did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” (Jude 9).

Satan’s Designs

And this enemy is bent on our destruction. Paul’s goal in naming our adversary in this passage is ‘so that we would not be outwitted by Satan’ This word translated ‘outwitted‘ is a verb derived from the noun ‘covetousness‘ or ‘greed.’ This word shows up 4 other times in the New Testament, three in 2 Corinthians (2Cor.7:2; 12:17,18), each translated ‘take advantage of,’ in the sense of financial defrauding or ripping someone off. This word also shows up in 1 Thessalonians 4:6 in the context of sexual immorality; that we are not to sin against or take advantage of a brother. We are not to use one another as objects to satisfy our cravings. This is what Satan seeks to do; to defraud us, to rip us off, to take advantage of us, to use us at our expense for his own pleasure.

Jesus warned in John 10, in the context of vulnerable sheep and the danger of false shepherds and wolves and thieves, himself being the good shepherd,

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Jesus came for our joy, to give us life, abundant life. He came to give us life at the cost of his own. The enemy comes to rip us off, to defraud us, to take advantage of us, to use us and then throw us away.

The word in 1 Peter 5:8 translated ‘devour,’ “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour,” is the same word used in 2 Corinthians 2:7 “or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.” This is a graphic word; literally it means to drink down, to gulp down, to be swallowed up by. We see a vivid illustration of this in Korah’s rebellion against Moses’ authority.

Numbers 16:31 And as soon as he had finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split apart. 32 And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. 33 So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. 34 And all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up!”

This is what our enemy is out to do. He is out to swallow us up. And Paul warns that if the congregation doesn’t turn and forgive and comfort the repentant sinner, he might be swallowed up by excessive sorrow.

Satan is crafty. Later in this book (11:14) we learn that “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” He tricks us into thinking we are doing what is best. The church was reluctant to take action on this matter of sin in the church. No doubt they were celebrating God’s amazing grace, which has the power to overcome even the darkest sin. They had been tricked into thinking that by tolerating sin they were highlighting God’s grace. Now finally, they had zealously obeyed. They were displaying God’s justice. And they were looking for Paul’s confirmation or affirmation of their disciplinary action. Rather Paul says ‘confirm’ or ‘reaffirm’ your love for him.

Simeon again says: “whole Churches are often grievously distracted by this powerful adversary. Where Christ is sowing wheat, he will be active in sowing tares. …If we neglect to purge out the old leaven, the whole lump will soon be leavened: and if with too indiscriminate a hand we attempt to pluck up the tares, we may root up also much of the wheat along with it. We are in danger on every side… ” [Charles Simeon, Horae Homiliticae; Vol.16, Disc.2003]

How Not to Be Defrauded by Satan

We have an enemy. He is real, he is personal, he is powerful. And he is out to swallow us up, to steal our joy, to destroy us. What do we do? How can we guard against being ripped off and taken advantage of by our accuser and adversary? Look at Paul’s instruction here.

2 Corinthians 2:5 Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. 6 For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, 7 so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. 9 For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. 10 Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

How are we not outsmarted by Satan? There are two extremes to avoid. The first, which he addresses in 1 Corinthians 5, is to not take sin seriously. He confronts them over their boast of being accepting and non-judgmental; their tolerance of sin; their failure to call sin sin and confront it. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. Are we willing to confess, to say what God says about our sin? Are we willing to take it seriously? Sin will send you to hell; sin is why Jesus had to die; sin is what Jesus came to rescue us out of. To say to Jesus, ‘no, we actually like it here’ is to reject his salvation.

The second extreme is what he deals with here in 2 Corinthians. Do we uproot the wheat with the tares? We may come down hard on sin, but is it with the Shepherd’s heart of restoration? Do we know how to forgive? To reaffirm our love?

In 1 Corinthians 5 Paul says to hand the unrepentant sinner over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. Satan there is instrument of judgment to bring about his ultimate salvation on the day of the Lord.

Here in 2 Corinthians, unforgiveness allows Satan to rip off the body of Christ. The one who is being corrected is in danger of being swallowed up by excessive sorrow if he is not welcomed back in.

I have to ask here, what does this tell us about the body of Christ? Is this an understanding we have? Would it be devastating for you if you were disconnected from the body of believers? Are you overwhelmed by excessive sorrow if you are unable to gather with the saints for a few Sundays? Is your connection with your brothers and sisters your lifeline? This whole passage seems a bit foreign and obscure to us because of how so many view the church. It’s just a casual take it or leave it acquaintance. ‘I was up a little late last night; I had a busy week; I needed a down day; I just wasn’t feeling it.’

If you were told that because of your persistence in sin and refusal to listen to loving correction that you couldn’t come to church, would you be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow? Or would you say ‘good riddance, I don’t want to be around you judgmental types anyway’ and after a few scathing posts on social media you go find a church that is more ‘accepting’?

Why are we not desperate for fellowship, hungry to hear God’s word, longing to worship together with the saints, eager to be reconciled with our brothers and sisters? What are we missing?

There is danger of being defrauded by Satan. There is danger for the one being corrected. The danger of being swallowed up by excessive sorrow.

There is danger for the Apostle and each individual in the church. If anyone refuses to forgive, if anyone harbors bitterness, that bitterness will eat you alive, and Satan wins.

There is danger for the entire church body. Satan seeks to divide and conquer. We wrestle not against flesh and blood. If we make the sinner out to be the enemy, we lose.

And there is danger for our community, that they would miss hearing the message of the gospel. That comes up in the next verses, and I plan to look at that next week.

Forgiveness and Grace

What is Paul’s remedy? How do we avoid being taken advantage of by Satan? Forgive. This is fascinating. There are two main word groups for forgiveness in the New Testament. The most common word group is ἀφίημι (v.) or ἄφεσις (n.). This word group has a range of meanings from ‘release, allow, permit, let’ (35x) to ‘leave’ (58x), even ‘divorce, forsake, abandon’ (5x), and ‘forgive’ (62x). From this range of meanings, we see it carries the meaning of forgiveness in the sense of releasing from a debt or obligation. It is a more passive term; let it go. That is not the term used here.

The word for forgiveness here in 2 Corinthians 2 is the word χαρίζομαι (v.) from the noun χάρις which is the common New Testament word for grace. This word is used 11 times for ‘give, grant, freely give’ and a dozen times for ‘forgive’. It is a much more active, positive term; extend grace, positive favor. One commentator says: “forgiveness must give, not merely take away. God has extended grace toward us, so forgiveness must be a fundamental aspect of our relationships with one another in the body of Christ, the extension of grace to one another” [Guthrie, BECNT, p.134].

Back in 1 Corinthians 5, Paul said he had already passed judgment as if he were present. Here in 2 Corinthians, Paul says that he had already forgiven; that he had already extended grace.

How do we escape being ripped off by Satan? Forgive. Extend God’s grace, undeserved grace toward others, even toward those who have wronged you.

Do we have the heart of the Father toward his prodigal son? Are we watching, eagerly looking for, expectantly and prayerfully awaiting his return? Do we run out to meet him and embrace him with forgiveness, with God’s grace? Are we quick to clothe him, restore him, kill the fatted calf and celebrate? When that which is lost is found it is a time for rejoicing!

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

March 12, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 1:17-19; Making Plans and the Promises of God

11/19 2 Corinthians 1:17-19; Making Plans and the Promises of God ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20171119_2cor1_17-19.mp3

2 Corinthians 1:14 …—that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you.

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

Paul had changed his travel plans more than once. Paul is answering the accusation that he makes his plans lightly, according to the flesh. How does Paul make his plans? How should we make plans? And how ought we to answer those who seek to discredit us?

How Paul Makes Plans

In verse 15, Paul speaks of his will or his purpose; ‘I wanted,’ or ‘I purposed to come to you first.’ Here in verse 17, he uses forms of this word purpose three more times; ‘This my purpose therefore was not in lightness or fickleness toward you; or what I purpose is it according to the flesh that I purpose?’ Paul’s purpose, his will, his resolve is being questioned. He answers that his purpose was not by the lightness toward you. He uses the definite article ‘the‘ probably referring to the word he had heard they had used of him. Paul is fickle; he vacillates. My plans toward you are not by the vacillation you accuse me of. This word translated ‘vacillating’ literally means light as opposed to weighty. We might say his plans are up in the air, being tossed back and forth. Paul starts by addressing the alleged lightness of his plans, and he brings us back around at the end of verse 20 to the glory of God, glory in the Old Testament being weightiness or heaviness; gravity. Paul’s plans are not unsubstantial or fluffy; rather they are designed to draw attention to the weightiness of God.

Jesus and James and Oaths

‘Or what I purpose is it according to the flesh that I purpose?’ In Paul, the flesh is frequently contrasted to the Spirit. Are plans made according to fleshly human wisdom, or are they made by the guidance of God’s Spirit? Numbers 23 says:

Numbers 23:19 God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

It would be merely human wisdom that would make plans and say yes, yes, and then change to no, no.

Why the double yes and the double no? This is actually an echo of what Jesus said in Matthew 5.

Matthew 5:33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

Literally, Jesus says ‘let your word be Yes, yes; No, no.’ Jesus is not teaching that we can never take oaths; rather he is saying we ought to be plain and straightforward with what we say. In Matthew 23:16-22 Jesus gives us a clue as to the background of what he says. He lets us know that the Pharisees were saying:

Matthew 23:16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’

This was a way to make it sound like you were taking an oath but to leave yourself an out. It is this kind of oath taking that was intended to deceive that Jesus is against. A simple yes should suffice. To make it emphatic, he allows a ‘yes, yes.’ James picks this up.

James 5:12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

Paul’s words match James here exactly; ‘the yes, yes and the no, no.’ It seems that Paul is being accused of making a firm promise, He spoke the ‘yes, yes I am coming to visit’ and turned that into the ‘no no.’ ‘Yes, yes I care about you; No, no you’re not important to me.’ Paul says the Yes, yes and the No, no. His words sound strong, but they are wind. He doesn’t mean what he says. We can’t believe what he says. He’s not to be trusted. He’s fleshly.

How do you answer an accusation like that? His character is being undermined. It was true that he changed his plans. How do you defend the sincerity of your words, in a letter, with words?

God’s Faithfulness and God’s Son

Paul points them to the faithfulness of God. ‘As surely as God is faithful.’ Paul swears by the faithfulness of God; he draws attention to God’s faithfulness, he puts God’s faithfulness on center stage. His own faithfulness is derivative and dependent on God’s own prior faithfulness. He can be faithful only because God has been unwaveringly faithful to him.

‘But faithful is God, because the word of us to you is not yes and no.’ Paul here makes a play on words. He refers to the Logos, the Word from John 1:1. The content of Paul’s preaching, Paul’s word is the Word made flesh; Jesus Christ and him crucified. ‘The word from us to you is not yes and no, because Jesus was not yes and no’

He makes this explicit in the next verse; ‘For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed.’ Our word is not yes and no, because Jesus, the incarnate Word is not yes and no. Our proclamation, our word is the Word, and our proclamation of the Word must match the character of the divine Word made flesh.

‘For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed.’ The emphasis here is on God; ‘For the of God Son Jesus Christ.’ Jesus is God’s Son.

This is the only time in 2 Corinthians that Jesus is referred to as the Son of God. And packed into this little phrase is the gospel. In Romans 1:9, Paul can summarize the gospel as ‘the gospel of his Son.’ When Saul was converted, according to Acts 9,

Acts 9:20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”

God made this promise to David:

2 Samuel 7:12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.

God promised David that he would be a Father to one of David’s sons, who would be a king forever. Jesus, son of David is the only begotten Son of God. God loved the world in this way, that he gave his only Son; he sent his preexistent Son into the world; we must believe in the only Son of God (Jn.3:16-18)

Romans 8:3 For God … By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,

Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

This identity as the Son, we see is connected with something troubling if we look back to 2 Samuel 7

2 Samuel 7:14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you.

This coming Son of God is a suffering servant, we learn from Isaiah, who suffers for our iniquities, not his own. Jesus was the Son who always did what pleased the Father (Jn.8:29); “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt.17:5; cf.3:17). The beloved son imagery is a thread that runs through the story of the Old Testament, from the righteous Abel killed by his brother, the promised son Isaac to be offered as a sacrifice, Jacob who must flee for his life, the favored son Joseph sold by his brothers into slavery, even to chosen Israel, who suffered in bondage before being rescued. This all points to Jesus, the beloved Son, well pleasing to his Father, who is betrayed, rejected, crucified, made to be sin for us. In Corinth, Paul determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1Cor.2:2).

Paul’s Plans and the Grace of God

Paul had said back in verse 12 that he conducted himself with the simplicity and sincerity that comes from God; that he conducted himself not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God. Here he unpacks what it means to live and make plans by the grace of God.

2 Corinthians 1:18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes.

‘God’s Son Jesus Christ, who in you through us was proclaimed, through me and Silvanus and Timothy’. The Corinthians heard the message of the Son of God through the testimony of these three witnesses; Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy. Christ came to be in them, dwelling in their hearts through faith because Christ was proclaimed through these faithful servants. They did not come in power and persuasive speech, but their lives were shaped like Jesus, suffering, rejected, imprisoned, mistreated, beaten. This is what it looked like to live by the grace of God. God’s grace comes to us in the form of a crucified Jesus. God’s grace is communicated to us through the proclamation of his suffering servants.

1 Corinthians 1:20 …Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. …23 but we preach Christ crucified, …25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

The Corinthians wanted strength and poise. But God’s grace comes in apparent weakness and foolishness. Yes I am coming to you in strength; no I am weak; yes I have a powerful message; no it is the foolishness of Christ crucified.

The Yes of God

2 Corinthians 1:18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him.

Jesus did not become yes and no. In him the Yes has come to be. God’s yes has come into existence in Jesus. Things are not always as they seem. Jesus was despised and rejected. He came to his own, but his own did not receive him (Jn.1:11). Is there any room for him in the inn? No. He was betrayed by a friend, arrested, falsely accused, mistreated, condemned, crucified. Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews? NO! My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? A resounding ‘NO!’ But it is in this No that God’s yes to us is concealed. God said no to Jesus so he could say yes to us. Father, if it is possible let this cup pass from me. God said No to Jesus, so he would never have to say No to us! Jesus took the no, the disapproval, the wrath of God for us. Jesus endured the no of his Father so that we could enjoy his yes. In him the Yes has come to be! As many promises of God as there are, the Yes is in him!

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

November 19, 2017 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

Change in Plans

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

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

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

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

Confidence

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

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

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

Second Grace; Help on the Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Obstacle to the Gospel

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

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

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

In 1 Corinthians 9, he said:

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

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

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

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

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

Double Grace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Grace of Giving

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

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

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

In 2 Corinthians 8 Paul talks more about this grace of giving.

2 Corinthians 8:1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor [grace] of taking part [fellowship] in the relief of the saints—

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

2 Corinthians 8:6 Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. 7 But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you— see that you excel in this act of grace also. …9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

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

Giving for the Glory of God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Corinthians 1:1-2; Authority, Identity, Community

10/08 2 Corinthians 1:1-2; Authority and Identity; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20171008_2cor1_1-2.mp3

Paul makes his words count. Every word is significant. I want to invite you to read with me, to meditate with me on the words of holy scripture.

2 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul begins even in the greeting to address some of the issues he will take up in more detail in the remainder of his letter.

Paul, Apostle

2 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, an apostle [1 Παῦλος ἀπόστολος]

As we will see later in this letter, Paul’s role as apostle was under attack in Corinth. Here in the introduction he simply states the facts as they stand. In other letters he refers to himself as a bond-servant or slave of Jesus Christ; here an apostle. The first word is ‘Paul’; the second ‘apostle.’ Apostle means sent; one sent out as a witness and representative carrying the authority of the one who sent him.

The office of Apostle was one who bore witness to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. When the 11 apostles in Acts 1 decided to select someone to fill Judas’ place, they gave these criteria for who was qualified:

Acts 1:21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.”

So an Apostle, one of the 12, had to be an eye witness of Jesus’ ministry, from his baptism through his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. Paul was not one of these original 12, but he was uniquely appointed by the Lord Jesus as:

Acts 9:15 …a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.

Paul was personally sent by Jesus himself. In 1 Corinthians 15, in defense of the physical resurrection of Jesus, Paul lists the eyewitnesses; Peter, the 12, a group of 500, James, all the apostles, and then he says:

1 Corinthians 15:8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

Paul did not consider himself worthy to be called an apostle. He was not worthy. (None of them were!) But he was called to serve as an apostle by God’s grace. God is a God who gives good gifts to those who do not deserve them. God’s grace made him what he was.

Of Christ Jesus

2 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus [ἀπόστολος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ]

Paul was an apostle of Christ Jesus; the Messiah Jesus. Christ is the Old Testament title of the anointed one, the promised, long awaited, hoped for King. In Corinth in Acts 18:

Acts 18:5 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus.

The fulfillment of the whole Old Testament, the long awaited Messiah was Jesus.

By The Will of God

2 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, [διὰ θελήματος θεοῦ]

Paul was apostle of Christ Jesus through or on account of the will of God. Paul traces his apostleship back to God’s will, not his own. He was no self-appointed apostle; actually it was against his own will; he was, in his own words ‘a persecutor and an insolent opponent’ (1Tim.1:13) of the followers of Jesus, but Jesus apprehended him on the Damascus road and enlisted him in his service. Paul was ‘convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth …in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities’ (Acts 26:9-11). Jesus took this one, chose this one, appointed this one to be his witness. Paul didn’t sign up for this. His conversion was, in the words of John 1:13 ‘not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.’ God blazed from heaven and knocked Saul down to the ground, blinded him, and when he had his full attention asked “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul asked “Who are you, Lord?” to which the Lord responded “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:3-6; 22:6-8; 26:13-15). Paul was an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.

Timothy Our Brother

2 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, [καὶ Τιμόθεος ὁ ἀδελφὸς]

Timothy was a partner in ministry. Paul and Silas recruited him on the second missionary journey in Lystra, a city in Galatia (Acts 16:1). Timothy rejoined Paul shortly after he came to Corinth (Acts 18:5). Later he sent Timothy and Erastus from Ephesus into Macedonia (Acts 19:22). In the writing of 1 Corinthians, Paul expected Timothy to visit Corinth (4:17; 16:10), probably from Macedonia. He refers to him as

1 Corinthians 4:17 That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.

He considered Timothy as almost equivalent to himself. If Timothy were there, he would remind them of Paul, Paul’s ways, Paul’s methods in ministry. Timothy was his co-worker. Paul wrote two New Testament letters to Timothy to encourage him. Here, to the Corinthians who knew him well, he is simply referred to as ‘Timothy the brother.’

It is worth noting that Paul included others in ministry. He did not often work alone, in fact it seems he did not like to work alone. When he escaped from persecution in Berea and was brought to Athens alone, he gave a ‘command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible’ (Acts 17:15). It says ‘Paul was waiting for them in Athens.’ When he came to Corinth, he quickly connected with Aquila and Priscilla, while he continued to wait for Silas and Timothy. Paul writes in this letter about his travel to Troas to preach the gospel, but ‘my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them…’ (2Cor.2:13).

Paul did not fly solo. He strategically included others in ministry with him. He used life and ministry as an opportunity to disciple, to pour into others, to encourage them in the faith, to equip them for ministry. He gave them opportunity to step out and do ministry. He entrusted to them significant responsibilities. He multiplied his own ministry by investing in his co-workers. Timothy was well known to this church, and he is with Paul as he writes to this church.

To The Church of God Existing in Corinth

2 Corinthians 1:1 …To the church of God that is at Corinth, [τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ τῇ οὔσῃ ἐν Κορίνθῳ]

Paul writes to the church of God that is at Corinth. Paul is careful to identify who this church belongs to. It is not his church, even though he planted it. It is not Apollos’ church, even though he watered it. It is not Gaius’ church, even though it appears to have met in his home (Rom.16:23). It does not belong to any prominent local leader. It is the church of God. It is God’s church, God’s gathering, God’s assembly. God owns it. It belongs to him. It exists for God, to bring pleasure to God. The church exists primarily to honor God. The church is to meet together to glorify God.

This is the church of God that is at Corinth. The church of God which exists in Corinth; which has has its being in Corinth. God’s church is a global church that includes every true Jesus follower throughout history. That is the universal church. Here he is looking at God’s church as it exists in Corinth. This is a local geographical temporal expression of the broader church of God. God’s church is made up of local churches in specific places. It should have been a stunning evidence of grace that God’s church took root and began to have a local existence in a wicked city like Corinth. God encouraged Paul through a vision when he was at Corinth, telling him ‘I have many in this city who are my people’ (Acts 18:10). It is a beautiful thing when God’s universal church expresses itself in a new location. Do not cease to be amazed at God’s glorious grace that we can say that God’s church exists in Ephraim; God’s church exists in Gunnision Utah.

With All the Saints Who Exist in the Whole of Achaia

2 Corinthians 1:1 …To the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia: [σὺν τοῖς ἁγίοις πᾶσιν τοῖς οὖσιν ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ Ἀχαΐᾳ·]

Achaia included the entire isthmus and the nearby city of Cenchrea where a church in mentioned in Romans 16:1; doubtless there were many believers and even home churches scattered around this Roman province whose capital city was Corinth. Paul addresses not only the church in the capital city, but all the believers in the whole region.

Notice how he addresses them. The saints; literally the holy ones; the set-apart ones. Paul is not now addressing a subset of the church, the really spiritual ones. No, each and every born again believer in Jesus is referred to here as holy, set apart. Remember, it is all of grace. It is not through effort and sacrifice that we attain to the level of saint. It is God”s free gift to those who don’t deserve anything, and yet he says ‘you belong to me; you are set apart as my own prized possession.’ This is not based on performance or personal righteousness. This is grace. We find this beautifully expressed in 1 Corinthians 9:

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.

‘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.’ Notice the personal effort in that verse? It’s not there! It says nothing about what they did. It says everything about what God did to them. God takes a sinner and washes him and sets him apart and clothes him in Christ’s own perfect righteousness; he takes a sinner and makes him a saint.

From the two letters we have that he wrote to this church in Corinth, we learn that this church was a mess. There was sin in the church. There was division. There was immorality, idolatry, pride, greed. He says in 1 Corinthians that ‘when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse (1Cor.11:17). It would be better if you didn’t gather as the church at all! And yet Paul does not address his letter ‘to all you messed up sinful wretches in Corinth’. No, he calls them by their true identity. You are saints. You may not be acting like saints right now, but you are holy. You have been made holy by the precious blood of Jesus. And I am going to write to you so that by God’s grace you will grow in holiness. He writes to the church of God; to the saints.

Grace to you and Peace

2 Corinthians 1:2 Grace to you and peace [2 χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη]

This is standard letter writing form in the ancient world. From; to; greeting. The usual Greek greeting was χαίρειν (Acts15:23) – be well; be glad; the equivalent of our ‘hello’. Paul takes χαίρειν and makes it χάρις ὑμῖν; grace to you. Grace – all God’s good gifts freely given to undeserving sinners. He takes the usual greeting and infuses it with precious gospel truth.

Grace; all the good from God you don’t deserve, and peace. Shalom is the typical Hebrew greeting. But it is much more rich and deep than our word peace. It means so much more than the absence of hostility. It carries the ideas of wholeness, well-being. It is the positive experience of all is well. God’s peace comes as a result of God’s grace extended to sinners who have no hope outside of him.

From God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

2 Corinthians 1:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. [2 χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.]

Grace, this good gift freely given; and peace, a right relationship with God comes to us from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. God is our Father; Jesus taught us to pray ‘Our Father…’ Because, as Romans 8 and Galatians 4 and Ephesians 1 teach us that through the new birth we have been adopted into his family. We can now legitimately call him Father. He chose us to be his own children. God is personal, he cares deeply about us, we can enjoy relationship with him.

Grace and peace come as good gifts from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord – κύριος in the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament translates the Hebrew YHWH, the personal name of God, the self-existent one; the one who is. Jesus is Lord; YHWH, fully God, equal to his Father, yet distinct from his Father.

Jesus is here identified intimately with his Father; God’s free gift of grace, and the subsequent peace with God we enjoy are given to us by both the Father and the Son. They together are the givers of these precious gifts we enjoy. Paul asks God to pour out his grace and subsequent peace on this church, who, like us is in desperate need of it.

What greater gifts could we desire than a restored relationship with God, a new identity, a new purpose, a new community,

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

October 8, 2017 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Spirit’s Fruit; Patience Like Jesus

06/25 The Spirit’s Fruit; Patience like Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170625_patience-like-jesus.mp3

We are studying the fruit of the Spirit. Notice, fruit is singular. These nine characteristics describe one whole fruit. This is not a buffet line – a little bit of this, a lot of that, I’ll pass on that. No, for the fruit to be present, all of these characteristics must be there and growing. And remember, this is the Spirit’s fruit, and it is in contrast to the works of the flesh. You cannot produce this fruit on your own. God the Holy Spirit must come inside and make this happen in you. It is evidence that he is there. There are counterfeits. Things that we might call love and joy and peace and patience, in our lives or the life of an unbeliever, but they are not Spirit produced. What we are talking about is what the Old Testament pointed forward to in the promise of the New Covenant.

Ezekiel 36:25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

So take heart! Notice who is doing the work. God says ‘I will.’ I will cleanse you. Because of the blood of Jesus, because of his crucifixion in your place, I will cleanse you. I will set you free from all your idols. Idols like enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy (Gal.5:20-21). I will give you a new heart. I will put a new spirit within you. I will remove your hard stony heart. I will put my Holy Spirit within you. I will cause you to walk in my statutes. I will cause you to be careful to obey my rules. This is fruit. This is New Covenant fruit. This is God the Father, founded on the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ, through his Holy Spirit working transformation in us for his glory. I will sprinkle, I will cleanse, I will give, I will put, I will remove, I will put I will cause.

We need this confidence. We need this encouragement, because today we are looking at patience. Love, joy, peace, patience. Love is willing, costly self-giving for the good of others. Joy is a weighty delight in God that is unaffected by outward circumstances. Peace is God’s own quiet confidence and restful awareness that all is under his control, and all is well. What is patience?

Patience and Anger

There are some things that go under the name of patience which are not the real fruit of patience. I tend to have a patient temperament. In high school I had friends try to make me angry just to see if it was possible. Where my friends failed, somehow my children have succeeded! That is not what we are talking about. You can act patience and put up with a lot because you just don’t care that much. Patience is not being passive, indifferent, or tolerant of wrongs (Powilson, p.78). It is not merely a stoic resolution to not be ruffled by circumstances.

The Greek New Testament word for patience here is: μακροθυμία macro as opposed to micro. Micro when you are near, step in close, zoom in like a microscope. Macro is when you step back, far far back, and take in the big picture. It can mean distant or long. Μακροθυμία; θυμός is where we get thermal; heat. It means fury, wrath, indignation.

Romans 2:8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath [ὀργὴ] and fury [θυμός].

In Galatians 5:20 the works of the flesh include (θυμοί) fits of anger.

The idea of this word μακροθυμία is that it takes a long time to get angry; anger is distant, far off. It takes a long time to get hot. We say someone is hot tempered and has a short fuse. This is the opposite; a long fuse. Slow to anger. The Old English word is longsuffering. Love suffers long.

Notice this passage does not say that the fruit of the Spirit is ‘never angered’ but ‘slow to anger’. There is a place for anger. Anger is a good God given emotion. Anger is the passionate response to what is evil that does something to bring about good. Anger often goes bad in us, but that does not mean that anger itself is bad.

Patience with Circumstances and Patience with People

There is another Greek New Testament word that is also on occasion translated ‘patience’. It is ὑπομονή. We see both in Colossians 1:11.

Colossians 1:11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance [ὑπομονήν] and patience [μακροθυμίαν] with joy,

Notice God’s power is supplied to bring about both endurance and patience with joy. The description of love in 1 Corinthians 13 begins with μακροθυμία and ends with ὑπομονή

1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient [μακροθυμεῖ] and kind; … 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures [ὑπομένει] all things.

ὑπομονή patience leans in the direction of patience under adverse circumstances, patience with outward pressures. Μακροθυμία patience is more patience with adverse people. What do you do when someone wrongs you? How do you respond to irritating people? People who impose on you, inconvenience you, offend you?

Ephesians 4; Unity, Humility, and Putting Up with Crap

We see some of this in Ephesians 4.

Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Notice how patience is here, but it is not alone? It is connected with humility, gentleness, love. It is rooted in an eagerness. There is an eagerness to maintain the unity of the Spirit. There is a diligent labor toward unity. Not superficial unity, but real, genuine unity, unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Patience is a tool toward this kind of unity. Not being easily angered by my brother or sister but bearing with one another is a powerful tool toward unity. This striving toward unity with patience grows out of humility. This verse uses two words that can both be translated humility; modesty and meekness. Patience comes when I don’t think that I’m better, more important, more worthy than someone else. Patience comes with a proper view of who I am. I become impatient, even hot tempered when I feel that my schedule is more important than yours. My need for that parking spot is greater than yours. ‘I was here first!’ My comfort, my agenda ranks higher than yours. ‘Why are you getting in my way? Don’t you know who I am? Don’t you understand what I have to accomplish? You are hindering me. Me!’

Jesus initiates an upside down kingdom. He says it is the one who puts others first, who cares for the least of these who is truly great (Mt.25).

Matthew 18:4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

This humility of considering the needs of others as more important than our own is what allows us to patiently bear with one another in love. There is stuff we will have to put up with. There are misunderstandings. There are unintentional insensitivities. There are also legitimate wrongs. But because we are actively pursuing spiritual unity, because we are walking in genuine humility, we can genuinely love the other person by patiently putting up with the crap they throw our way.

Colossians 3; Patience and Forgiveness

We see this same thing in Colossians 3:12.

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

Again, we see patience does not stand alone. Patience is coupled with compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness. Patience puts up with the junk people knowingly or unknowingly throw at us. It is intentionally moving toward love and harmony and peace and unity in the body. Patience moves in this direction by bearing with and forgiving. Not everything has to be confronted. Some things we can choose to let go. Was it really that big of a deal? Can I just let it go? Can I assume the best, assume it was unintentional, assume you meant well, give you the benefit of the doubt and just let it go? Have I ever wronged or offended someone unintentionally? Can I in humility bear with them?

But maybe my complaint is genuine (or at least I have convinced myself that it is genuine). Then for the sake of unity, for the sake of harmony, for the sake of the peace of my own heart, in thanksgiving, because Christ Jesus has forgiven all my legitimate wrongs, I must forgive. Here we see patience and putting up with one another linked to forgiveness. The word in this verse for forgiving is χαρίζομαι from the root χάρις -grace. It means to grant as an undeserved favor, to gratuitously pardon or rescue. What you did was wrong. I have a legitimate complaint against you. I have a valid reason to be angry. You don’t deserve to receive my patience. But because Jesus has freely and undeservedly extended his gracious forgiveness to me, I must freely, graciously forgive you.

God’s Immense Patience

Do you see where we get this kind of patience? It comes from the same place all the other facets of the fruit of the Spirit come from. It comes from God. It is produced by the Spirit in us. It comes through looking. Looking in faith to God. Looking to who God is, to God’s character, as we long for God’s character to be reproduced in us. It comes through looking to Jesus. Our patience, our slowness to anger grows out of a relationship with God who is slow to anger.

Back in Exodus, shortly after God had rescued his people out of their slavery in Egypt, and he had called Moses up to the mountain to receive his laws, and the people grew impatient and made for themselves idols to worship. God was rightly angry, but Moses prayed, and God relented from the disaster he had spoken of bringing on the people (Ex.32). Because of this, Moses is emboldened to ask to see the glory of God.

Exodus 34:5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Our God is a God who is immensely slow to anger. He has a long fuse. He is abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. He is eager to forgive iniquity and transgression and sin. Yet he is also just. He will right every wrong, and punish every sin. This understanding of the nature of God should cause us to be cautious in condemning God for seemingly excessive acts of violence. We read things like ‘The Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven’ (Gen.19:24).

Numbers 16:31 …the ground under them split apart. 32 And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. 33 So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly.

Or in the conquest, at the command of the LORD, ‘we … devoted to destruction every city, men, women, and children. We left no survivors’ (Deut 2:34, 7:2). Our inclination is to say ‘that’s too harsh’. But we must remember the patience of God. As Peter says,

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

God is longsuffering toward all, eager for all to turn and find repentance. We are to

2 Peter 3:15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him,

Paul says in Romans 2:

Romans 2:3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

God is slow to anger, immensely slow to anger, but his anger will come at the proper time. He is absolutely just. God’s anger is not quick and reactionary, it is not intended for his own convenience. God’s anger is cautious and constructive, slowly bringing about his own good purposes. God’s judgment is inescapable. But he is rich in kindness and forbearance. He is rich in longsuffering.

James 1:19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

So where does this kind of patience come from? The kind that is legitimately wronged and does not demand payment? The kind that does not say ‘you have wronged me, and I will make sure you wish you hadn’t. I’m going to hold you in my debt (which is bitterness) and make sure you feel the weight of what you did to me. The kind that freely, graciously, undeservedly reaches out and rescues my offender from what they deserve, at great personal cost? This kind of slow to anger patience only comes from looking to Jesus.

The Anger of Jesus

Let’s look at an instance of the anger of Jesus. In Mark 3,

Mark 3:1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. 2 And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” 4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, …

This is a set-up. The religious leaders are against him. Jesus is doing good, and exposing the religious people in their predatory and self-serving ways. He describes them in another passage

Matthew 23:4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others….

Jesus knows this is a setup. He knows they are out to kill him. So he asks them a diagnostic question; is it lawful to do good or to do harm? To save a life or to kill? They are seeking his harm, they are seeking occasion against him. He holds up a mirror to reveal their own hearts. But they were silent. They were resolute in their determined opposition to him. They refused to look at their own hearts, their own need. Jesus looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart. Jesus was angry, but his anger was mixed with sorrow. He understood what they would do. He understood their need. He loved his enemies. He was grieved that they didn’t care about this person with a withered hand; they were willing to use him as bait. He was grieved that they couldn’t see their own shriveled hearts, and that one who with the power to make them new on the inside was standing among them.

Mark 3:5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

Jesus was angry and grieved, but he acted in love. And he sealed his own fate. His enemies went out and held counsel against him, how to destroy him. Jesus’ anger was not moved by what would benefit himself. It moved out to do real good for those in need. It saw the real problem and moved decisively to fix it.

Jesus’ lovingly patient anger led him to the cross. Jesus was angry and grieved at their hardness of heart. And he took my hard heart on himself, he took my selfish pride, my callous indifference to the needs of others, my blindness to who he was, ‘He himself bore my sins in his body on the tree’ (1Pet.2:24).

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.

The cross of Jesus the display of the patient anger of God against all that is wrong and hurtful and broken in his world. The cross fully displayed his perfect love of justice and righteousness; his incomprehensible love toward those who wronged him, by acting in anger for their eternal joy.

I can be slow to anger with those who have wronged me, because Jesus endured the full heat of the fury of Almighty God against all my sin. ‘It was the will of the LORD to crush him’ (Is.53:10). I can bear with the wrongs of others against me, I can act in love, because he bore all my wrongs, because when I was his enemy, he laid down his life in love for me.

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

June 26, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 27; Better Not to Vow

05/14 Leviticus 27; Better Not to Vow;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170514_leviticus-27.mp3

Leviticus 27 is the last chapter of the book. Many scholars feel that this chapter is out of place, an appendix that doesn’t really fit. Chapter 26 with the covenant blessings and curses and the promise of restoration seems like a more fitting end to the book.

This chapter gives specific instructions on vows to the LORD. The vow offering was mentioned but not explained back in Leviticus 7:16; 22:18, 21, 23; 23:38, which left us wondering what a vow offering is all about. This chapter talks about the proper value of things, something that ties back to Leviticus 5:15, 18; 6:6. The adjustment of the value of land in relation to the year of jubilee connects back to chapter 25. The concept of redemption also connects this chapter with chapter 25.

Leviticus 26 was a promise or vow from the LORD; a promise of blessing for obedience and a promise of discipline for rebellion and disobedience. It is common when we have experienced great blessing, out of abundant gratitude to make some kind of promise to the LORD. It is also common in times of great distress, like those described in chapter 26, to promise to the LORD if he will get you out of the desperate situation you are in. Jacob, fleeing from his murderous brother in Genesis 28, made a vow to the LORD if he would protect him and provide for him and return him to his home in peace, then the LORD would be his God and he would give a tenth of everything back to the LORD. So it is fitting to find a chapter regulating vows right after the chapter on blessings and curses.

-Leviticus 1-7 Sacrifices

–Leviticus 8-10 Priests

—Leviticus 11-15 Uncleanness

—-Leviticus 16 Day of Atonement

—Leviticus 17-27 Holy Living

It is appropriate in this section on holy living, that we would find instructions on vows and dedication to the LORD.

Outline / Structure

This chapter moves from vows of persons and animals to dedication of houses and land and back through restrictions of vows on animals and persons and tithes.

Leviticus 27

1 introduction

–2-8 vows of valuation of persons

—-9-13 animals

——14-15 dedicated house

——16-25 dedicated land

—-26-27 firsborn belong to the LORD

–28-29 no redemption or ransom for devoted things

–30-33 tithe belongs to the LORD

34 conclusion

This chapter places an emphasis on a fair valuation of things, and requires an additional 20% to be added to something dedicated that is then bought back by the one who gave it.

The main point of this chapter is ‘be careful what you vow, because God will hold you to it.’

Vows of Valuation of Persons

Leviticus 27:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, If anyone makes a special vow to the LORD involving the valuation of persons, 3 then the valuation of a male from twenty years old up to sixty years old shall be fifty shekels of silver, according to the shekel of the sanctuary. 4 If the person is a female, the valuation shall be thirty shekels. 5 If the person is from five years old up to twenty years old, the valuation shall be for a male twenty shekels, and for a female ten shekels. 6 If the person is from a month old up to five years old, the valuation shall be for a male five shekels of silver, and for a female the valuation shall be three shekels of silver. 7 And if the person is sixty years old or over, then the valuation for a male shall be fifteen shekels, and for a female ten shekels. 8 And if someone is too poor to pay the valuation, then he shall be made to stand before the priest, and the priest shall value him; the priest shall value him according to what the vower can afford.

A vow of a person to the LORD seems unusual, but this is what Hannah prayed in 1 Samuel 1

1 Samuel 1:11 And she vowed a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”

In her case, her son Samuel was given into the service of the tabernacle. But according to Leviticus, many people would be restricted from service in the tabernacle or temple. This passage sets a standard monetary equivalent for persons of differing capacity for work.

Age Male Female

20-60yrs. 50 shekels 30 shekels

5-20yrs. 20 shekels 10 shekels

1mo.-5yrs. 5 shekels 3 shekels

60+ yrs. 15 shekels 10 shekels

As some estimate the wages of a laborer were about a shekel a month (Hartley, p.481, citing Wenham) these prices were high. But even in this, there was provision for the poor.

Animals

Leviticus 27:9 “If the vow is an animal that may be offered as an offering to the LORD, all of it that he gives to the LORD is holy. 10 He shall not exchange it or make a substitute for it, good for bad, or bad for good; and if he does in fact substitute one animal for another, then both it and the substitute shall be holy. 11 And if it is any unclean animal that may not be offered as an offering to the LORD, then he shall stand the animal before the priest, 12 and the priest shall value it as either good or bad; as the priest values it, so it shall be. 13 But if he wishes to redeem it, he shall add a fifth to the valuation.

Animals could be vowed to the Lord. In Judges 11 when Jephtha vowed:

Judges 11:30 And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, 31 then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.”

Perhaps he envisioned one of his flock or herd coming to meet him. The animal could have been clean or unclean; if it were clean, it could not be substituted; if it were unclean, it must be either sold or redeemed. What came to meet Jephtha from his door was his daughter, his only child. If Jephtha had known the law, according to Leviticus 5, he could have confessed the sin of his rash oath and offered an animal sacrifice to the LORD. But this story illustrates how seriously the people took vows.

Judges 11:35 And as soon as he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the LORD, and I cannot take back my vow.” …39 And at the end of two months, she returned to her father, who did with her according to his vow that he had made…

Ignorance of the Scriptures can have appalling consequences. This was a time when Israel ‘abandoned the LORD and served’ false gods; a time when ‘everyone did what was right in his own eyes.’ Attempting to manipulate God with a vow or a promise is a dangerous venture.

Houses and Land

Leviticus 27:14 “When a man dedicates his house as a holy gift to the LORD, the priest shall value it as either good or bad; as the priest values it, so it shall stand. 15 And if the donor wishes to redeem his house, he shall add a fifth to the valuation price, and it shall be his. 16 “If a man dedicates to the LORD part of the land that is his possession, then the valuation shall be in proportion to its seed. A homer of barley seed shall be valued at fifty shekels of silver. 17 If he dedicates his field from the year of jubilee, the valuation shall stand, 18 but if he dedicates his field after the jubilee, then the priest shall calculate the price according to the years that remain until the year of jubilee, and a deduction shall be made from the valuation. 19 And if he who dedicates the field wishes to redeem it, then he shall add a fifth to its valuation price, and it shall remain his. 20 But if he does not wish to redeem the field, or if he has sold the field to another man, it shall not be redeemed anymore. 21 But the field, when it is released in the jubilee, shall be a holy gift to the LORD, like a field that has been devoted. The priest shall be in possession of it. 22 If he dedicates to the LORD a field that he has bought, which is not a part of his possession, 23 then the priest shall calculate the amount of the valuation for it up to the year of jubilee, and the man shall give the valuation on that day as a holy gift to the LORD. 24 In the year of jubilee the field shall return to him from whom it was bought, to whom the land belongs as a possession. 25 Every valuation shall be according to the shekel of the sanctuary: twenty gerahs shall make a shekel.

Houses and land can be dedicated to the LORD. There was to be a fair and standard valuation, based on its potential productivity and years of availability. As with other things, a house or field can be redeemed by the donor with an added 20%.

Restrictions: Firstborn

But there were restrictions on what could or could not be donated.

Leviticus 27:26 “But a firstborn of animals, which as a firstborn belongs to the LORD, no man may dedicate; whether ox or sheep, it is the LORD’s. 27 And if it is an unclean animal, then he shall buy it back at the valuation, and add a fifth to it; or, if it is not redeemed, it shall be sold at the valuation.

According to Exodus 13, God laid claim to all firstborn animals. So a person could not attempt to claim double credit for one animal. A firstborn animal already belongs to the LORD, so he could not also pledge it as the fulfillment of a vow.

Restrictions: Devoted Things and People

Many of the laws here specify values and what is to be paid to redeem something back after having vowed it. The assumption is that a person after vowing then reconsiders and wants to reclaim what they pledged in a vow. There is provision in some cases for an additional fee to redeem something back.

Leviticus 27:28 “But no devoted thing that a man devotes to the LORD, of anything that he has, whether man or beast, or of his inherited field, shall be sold or redeemed; every devoted thing is most holy to the LORD. 29 No one devoted, who is to be devoted for destruction from mankind, shall be ransomed; he shall surely be put to death.

A devoted thing is a category from which there is no recourse. A devoted thing is most holy to the LORD, and cannot be sold or redeemed. It must be used exclusively in service to YHWH. Some cities during the conquest, like Jericho, were devoted to destruction. Some people, like those guilty of premeditated murder, were devoted to destruction and could not be freed by any payment.

Restrictions: Tithes

The final section deals with tithes. Tithes already belong to the LORD, so a tithe cannot also be offered in fulfillment of a vow.

Leviticus 27:30 “Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the LORD’s; it is holy to the LORD. 31 If a man wishes to redeem some of his tithe, he shall add a fifth to it. 32 And every tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman’s staff, shall be holy to the LORD. 33 One shall not differentiate between good or bad, neither shall he make a substitute for it; and if he does substitute for it, then both it and the substitute shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.” 34 These are the commandments that the LORD commanded Moses for the people of Israel on Mount Sinai.

Better Not To Vow

God will not be cheated. As he says in Malachi,

Malachi 1:14 Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the LORD of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.

Deuteronomy 23 says

Deuteronomy 23:21 “If you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay fulfilling it, for the LORD your God will surely require it of you, and you will be guilty of sin. 22 But if you refrain from vowing, you will not be guilty of sin. 23 You shall be careful to do what has passed your lips, for you have voluntarily vowed to the LORD your God what you have promised with your mouth.

By definition, vows are freely made. There is no expectation, no obligation, no consequence for not making the vow. A vow can be a beautiful expression of thanksgiving and worship to our gracious God. But vows are never to be used to gain advantage or to manipulate God to do our will.

In the early church, in an atmosphere of unity and generosity, where the believers, amazed by God’s graceto them in Jesus, were eager to extend his grace and generosity to one another.

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

It is clear, they were under no obligation to give anything. They sought to appear more generous than they were. They lied to the Holy Spirit. That proved to be very costly.

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes says:

Ecclesiastes 5:1 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. 2 Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. 3 For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words. 4 When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. 5 It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. 6 Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? 7 For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear.

Proverbs gives this wisdom:

Proverbs 20:24 A man’s steps are from the LORD; how then can man understand his way? 25 It is a snare to say rashly, “It is holy,” and to reflect only after making vows.

That is a good summary of what this concluding chapter of Leviticus is about. Do not vow rashly. Our tendency is to speak before we think. We are inclined to think we can manipulate the situation.

Vows like Jacob’s and Jephtha’s come from a lack of faith. God had just unconditionally promised to Jacob that he would be with him and would bless him and return him home in peace. Jephtha had been empowered by God’s Spirit and God was already moving to give the Ammonites into his hand. But Jephtha felt he had to bribe God to get him to do what he wanted. Jacob responded to God’s unconditional promises with a condition promise – ‘if you do what you say, then I will give you something back’. These vows were rooted in doubt. They attempted to leverage God to do what they wished with a bribe. They undermined God’s gracious character and promises.

Our God is a Father who loves to give good gifts to his children. God has given to us his precious and very great promises in the gospel (2Pet.1:4). What God gives is grace – freely given.

Isaiah 30:18 Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you… 19 …He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you.

Ephesians 2 says:

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— … 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…

We experience the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. It is all of grace. God will be no man’s debtor.

Romans 11:35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

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

May 15, 2017 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment