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2 Corinthians 2:1-4; Sorrow and Joy in the Body of Christ

02/25_2 Corinthians 2:1-4; Joy and Sorrow in the Body of Christ ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180225_2cor2_1-4.mp3

Tension of Sorrow and Joy

Paul begins 2 Corinthians by pointing us to the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. …if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort. (1:3-6). He points us to a God who brings comfort out of affliction; and here in chapter 2 he points us to a God who can even bring joy out of a painful relationship.

This passage uses the language of pain, or sorrow or grief. In all of Paul’s letters, he uses the noun and the verb form of this word ‘sorrow’ 24 times; 18 of those, a full ¾ are here in 2 Corinthians. And 16 of those show up between the first verses of chapter 2, and where he picks this narrative back up in chapter 7.

In chapter 2, he uses the word grief or sorrow or pain 8 times, and when he picks back up in chapter 7, he uses it another 8 times. He also uses words like affliction, anguish of heart, tears. Some have said ‘If Philippians is known for the predominance of the word “joy” in the letter, 2 Corinthians should be known for the predominance of the word “pain.” The Corinthians were his problem children’ [Garland, p.113].

Indeed the letter to the church in Philippi is characterized by joy. But when I looked, the words joy or rejoice show up 14 times in Philippians and 13 times in 2 Corinthians. The next closest concentration of ‘joy’ is 6 times in 1 Thessalonians. Although 2 Corinthians is a letter characterized by sorrow, there is a real tension and interplay here between sorrow and joy.

At the end of chapter 1, Paul made it clear that he is not attempting to lord it over their faith; rather he is pursuing their joy; laboring along side them for their eternal happiness. Paul is working for their joy, and there is a tug-of-war going on in these verses, and in his heart, between joy and sorrow.

Last time we saw that God actually commands our joy in him, that Christianity is not a religion of duty but a relationship of delight, God delighting in us, and our responding to him with delight. We can rejoice in God himself with deep unquenchable joy, because God himself is full of joy. But this joy doesn’t stop with our vertical relationship with God; it extends to horizontal relationships with other people. And that’s where it gets really messy.

Joy of Fellowship with Other Believers:

2 Corinthians 2:1 For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you. 2 For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? 3 And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. 4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

Paul is working with them for their joy. He is pursuing their eternal joy. He is making his travel plans with their joy in mind. His last emergency visit was painful for him. If he visited again now, the visit would be painful for them. Instead he wrote a painful letter, not to cause them pain, but to change their hearts, so that when he did visit, it would be an occasion of rejoicing.

Paul is saying in this passage that his joy is all intertwined and wrapped up in their joy, and that their joy ought to be interconnected with his joy.

2 Corinthians 2:2 For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? 3 And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all.

I caused you pain; you should make me glad; I might suffer pain from you; you are my joy; my joy is your joy.

Last time we looked at unquenchable joy, Jesus’ own joy that no one could take from you. Now is Paul saying here that his joy is dependent on the Corinthians? That his joy is circumstantial? How do these go together? What is the relation between our unquenchable joy in Jesus, and our joy or sorrow in our brothers and sisters?

My Joy is Your Joy

This is not the only place he talks like this. Let’s take a minute to look around at some of the things that touch on this subject of horizontal joy in other believers.

In Philippians 4:1 and 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20, he calls his readers ‘my joy and crown of boasting’; ‘you are our glory and joy.’

Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

Do you hear his heart of tender affection toward them?

1 Thessalonians 2:19 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20 For you are our glory and joy.

In Philippians 2:2 he asks them to complete his joy.

Philippians 2:2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

They unity of the believers, their Christ-like others-focused sacrificial humility and love fills up and completes the joy of the apostle.

Paul derived much joy from Philemon.

Philemon 1:7 For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.

Springing out of the love of Christ, Philemon’s love overflowed to refresh the hearts of the saints. Hearing of this outworking of the gospel in the life of a brother brought Paul much joy and comfort.

In 1 Thessalonians 3 we see something like what Paul longed for and was working toward with the Corinthians.

1 Thessalonians 3:6 But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— 7 for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. 8 For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. 9 For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God,

Do you hear what he says? The good news of their faith and love brought the apostle joy. The gospel had taken root, and they were standing firm in believing. The gospel had taken root and was producing the fruit of love among them. Their belief in the gospel had created warm affections for the one who came and preached to them; they longed to see him again. There was mutual affection and mutual joy. Paul, in the midst of distress and affliction, says ‘now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.’ You see this triangular relationship. Paul is loving Jesus and finding joy in Jesus. That love and joy overflows horizontally and he brings that good news to the Thessalonians, so that they can find love and joy in relationship with Jesus. As he sees them enjoying God together, it increases his joy. He finds joy in their joy, and his joy is their joy.

Paul is not the only one who talks like this. John makes it clear what brings him joy.

2 John 1:4 I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father.

…12 Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

3 John 1:3 For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

His greatest joy is to see other believers enjoying Jesus, walking in the truth.

He says it most clearly in 1 John.

1 John 1:3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

We (the apostles) proclaim what we have seen and heard (the gospel of Jesus Christ) so that you may enter into our fellowship with the Father and the Son; as we have a reconciled relationship with God and enjoy intimacy with Jesus, when you believe the gospel you also enter in to fellowship with God. And when you enter into that fellowship, our joy is complete. There is vertical fellowship with God, and there is horizontal fellowship with other believers. When that triangle is complete; when I am enjoying God, and you are enjoying God, and I see you enjoying God, I rejoice in your joy in God, and my joy is your joy; then our joy is complete.

C.S. Lewis writes “It is frustrating …to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch…” Our joy is fulfilled when it is shared.

This is the joy of the triune God. Last time we said that we can enjoy God because God is joy. For God’s joy to be full, it must be joy in another; and yet for the joy to not be idolatrous joy, it must be joy in God. The Father delights in his only Son, and the Son delights in the Father. The Spirit delights in the Father and the Son, and the Son delights in the Spirit’s delighting in the Father and the Son, and so on, and so the joy of God in God is shared, and is complete. This is joy in relationship; shared joy.

Joy and Grief Shared in the Body

Paul has pointed to this shared joy already in 1 Corinthians 12 with the metaphor of the church as the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many.

24 … But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

The members of the body are meant to be unified, to care for one another. Because we are part of a body, when one member is pained, the whole body experiences the pain. When on member experiences joy, the whole body rejoices together. This is God’s design. God has so composed the body. Paul is working for their joy, because they are connected. Their joy is his joy, and his joy is theirs.

Listen to Paul’s confidence in verse 3; ‘for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all.’ Paul is confidently pursuing their joy, even by bringing them pain, because he is persuaded that when his children are walking in the truth, he can rejoice, and this will also bring them the greatest joy. Paul has a theological confidence in the way God designed the body that frees him to seek their greatest good even when it causes him pain, because he knows that pursuing their joy will bring him the most joy in the end.

The Way of the Cross

Paul would have been tempted to come, to clear his name, to defend his honor, to set things straight. Instead, he chose the way of the cross. He chose to be wronged rather than to demand his own way. He chose to spare them, to extend mercy, to give them time to repent. He himself bore the pain.

2 Corinthians 2:4 For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

Paul had mentioned his affliction in Asia in chapter 1.

2 Corinthians 1:8 … the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death….

Now he says he wrote out of much affliction and anguish of heart. In chapter 7 he mentions:

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

Here he may be talking about his fears within. Much affliction and anguish of heart heaped on top of the burden beyond strength despairing of life itself. Anyone who has experienced relational conflict and tension understands the soul draining energy sapping fatigue of being emotionally spent. Paul writes through his tears, not to cause pain, but out of pain. He writes to open his heart to them.

In verse 4 the word order is emphatic; but the love, in order that you might know that I have abundantly to you. Paul has to let them know right up front that it is love, not in order to grieve, but his abundant love for them, in order that they know that he has abundantly toward them. Paul did not write to hurt them, to spite them, because he was angry with them; it was love. He doesn’t even directly say that they hurt him; he wrote out of affliction and anguish of heart, but he doesn’t blame. Instead he seeks to avoid causing them unnecessary sorrow. He wants to spare them. He loves them. His decision making, his life, his ministry is modeled after the cross. Jesus doesn’t say ‘wow, look how much you hurt me, look how terrible you are.’ No, he says ‘I want you to know how abundantly much I love you. I want you to experience joy. I want a relationship with you.’

Hebrews 12:2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

We worship a God who brings comfort to us in all our affliction, and who can bring joy even through the pain of relationships. God is working with us for our multiplied joy.

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

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February 25, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 25:1-22; Jubilee and Rest for the Land

03/26 Leviticus 25:1-22; Jubilee and Rest for the Land; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170326_leviticus-25_1-22.mp3

Sabbath Structure; Outline

Leviticus 25 connects back to Leviticus 23 on the subject of holy time, and it connects the concepts of holy land and holy people. The chapter divides into three sections, each concluding with the phrase “I am YHWH your God.” The first section of this chapter deals with the holy times of a sabbath rest for the land, and the year of jubilee. This first section concludes at verse 17 with the phrase ‘I am the LORD your God,’ which is followed by a sort of appendix, answering an objection and encouraging faith in God. The second section, verses 23-38, deals with the possession, sale and redemption or release of land, and concludes with ‘I am the LORD your God.’ Verses 39-55 address the possession, sale, and redemption or release of people, and conclude with the phrase ‘I am the LORD your God.’

Leviticus 23 began:

Leviticus 23:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of the LORD that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts. 3 “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the LORD in all your dwelling places. 4 “These are the appointed feasts of the LORD, the holy convocations, which you shall proclaim at the time appointed for them.

The chapter began with weekly sabbaths, and continued to describe the feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread, the Firstfruits and Pentecost, the feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the feast of Booths. Chapter 25 picks up on the concept of a Sabbath rest and moves from a weekly Sabbath of rest for living creatures, to a seventh year Sabbath of rest for the land, to a great release year after a cycle of seven Sabbath years.

Jubilee: Sabbath for the Land

Leviticus 25:1 The LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the LORD. 3 For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, 4 but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. 5 You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land. 6 The Sabbath of the land shall provide food for you, for yourself and for your male and female slaves and for your hired worker and the sojourner who lives with you, 7 and for your cattle and for the wild animals that are in your land: all its yield shall be for food.

This chapter begins with the phrase we have heard repeatedly in Leviticus ‘The LORD spoke to Moses’. This book is a collection of words from the LORD. This is God’s very word to his people; divine revelation. Living and active and powerful. This particular word of the LORD was spoken on Mount Sinai. This is the first mention of Sinai since the conclusion of the instructions for sacrifices at the end of chapter 7. The book begins with the LORD speaking to Moses from the tent of meeting. Here we have a reminder that Israel is still camped at Sinai, and God is authoritatively instructing his people.

In Chapter 23, he commanded that“Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest.” Here in chapter 25, he declares “the land shall keep a Sabbath to the LORD, …in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD.” In 23, people and animals rested every seventh day. Here in 25, the land is to rest every seventh year. Like the weekly Sabbath, the Sabbath year was ‘a Sabbath of solemn rest.’ In the weekly Sabbath, “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work.” In the Sabbath year, the land was not to be worked.

Leviticus 25:3 For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, 4 but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the LORD. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. 5 You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land.

There was to be no sowing, no pruning, no mass harvesting. The land was to be allowed to rest. This is restorative to the soil. Allowing the earth to rest reduces the sodium content of the soil. Modern farming rotates crops in different years for the same reason.

God’s Detailed Care

God cares for every part of his creation. We saw in the Sabbath day that every person, slave and free was to rest. We also saw that this weekly rest even extended to work animals. They were to be cared for and given a weekly day off. Here we see God’s care for the land itself. Every seventh year the land was not to be worked.

We see creation personified in Romans 8

Romans 8:22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

We actually see a lot of personification of creation in the Psalms and the prophets, anticipating the coming of the King.

Psalm 96:11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; 12 let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy

We tend to skim over these kind of passages because of their familiarity, but pause to think about what this looks like. The earth is spoken of as rejoicing, fields exulting, language of emotion; language of worship. I don’t know if this is merely figurative language or something more, but what is clear is that everything the LORD made he made for himself, for his glory, to worship him. Creation was meant to bring him glory and praise. When the land is managed wisely, in obedience to him, it receives his blessing, it becomes more fruitful, it brings glory to the great Creator who cares for all of his creation.

Sabbath Provision

Leviticus 25:6 The Sabbath of the land shall provide food for you, for yourself and for your male and female slaves and for your hired worker and the sojourner who lives with you, 7 and for your cattle and for the wild animals that are in your land: all its yield shall be for food.

The people were not permitted to sow their fields and they were not allowed to engage in normal harvesting operations, but they were allowed to go into the fields an take what they needed for their families. They were allowed to glean as if they were all sojourners in the land. Leviticus 19 and 23 require the landowner to leave gleanings in the field to care for the poor and the sojourner. Every seventh year, every land owner was to act as if he had no land of his own, but was allowed to glean in the field of another. This would serve several purposes. This would help the landowners to identify and empathize with the poor and the foreigners living among them. Every seventh year they were required to live like them. It would also force them to relax. Farming and agriculture is hard, stressful work, as our farmers would attest. Rise early, plan wisely, watch the seasons, is it too early?, will it freeze?, will we get enough rain? or too much?, will the weather cooperate? and pray a lot. God says ‘relax! Take a year off. Rest. Stop worrying. Enjoy. Set aside the normal tasks of agriculture. Let the land do its thing. The Sabbath of the land shall provide food for you. God promises that it will be enough for yourself, for your servants, for your hired workers, for the sojourners who live among you, for your livestock, and even enough for the wild animals. God holds himself up as the abundant provider, the one who cares for all his creatures

Jubilee (Yobel)

Verse 8 begins a section on what is known as the year of Jubilee.

Leviticus 25:8 “You shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall give you forty-nine years. 9 Then you shall sound the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month. On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land. 10 And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan. 11 That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of itself nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines. 12 For it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you. You may eat the produce of the field. 13 “In this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his property.

The pattern of sevens is extended here. Every seventh day is a holy Sabbath day Every seventh year is a Sabbath year. The seventh Sabbath year, or the 49th year, introduces the year of jubilee. God built a cycle of work and rest into his creation. Even in Eden, his perfect creation, there was a cycle of fruitful labor for six days and a day to enjoy God and his good gifts. He built into creation a sense of expectation, longing, anticipation, hope. The Jubilee was the fiftieth year. For most Israelites, this would be a once in a lifetime event.

The Jubilee was announced on the Day of Atonement, the day of national mourning over sin and its consequences.

Leviticus 16:29 “And it shall be a statute to you forever that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict yourselves and shall do no work, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you. 30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins. 31 It is a Sabbath of solemn rest to you, and you shall afflict yourselves; it is a statute forever.

Think of this; on the day when the nation was grieving over their sin, on the one day when the great high priest brought the sacrificial blood in to the holiest place,the one day blood was splattered in front of the mercy seat, the day the nation saw what it took to be clean before the LORD from all their sins, a trumpet would sound throughout the land announcing liberty, release, restoration. Do you see this connection? This one day that the nation was acutely aware of its sin, and a trumpet would sound throughout all the land announcing liberty!

This may provide the background of the trumpet blast we see in a few passages in the New Testament.

When Jesus’ disciples asked him “what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus responded:

Matthew 24:30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Paul taught on the resurrection:

1 Corinthians 15:50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

The Jubilee was a time of liberty to slaves, a restoration of the inheritance. It was a time of return and of rest. The jubilee was another year like the Sabbath year with no sowing or reaping.

Jubilee and Sin Nature

Because the Jubilee was a year of release, it would create a unique opportunity to abuse the system. God understands our inclination to greed and self advancement, and so he gave rules for the protection of his people.

Leviticus 25:14 And if you make a sale to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor, you shall not wrong one another. 15 You shall pay your neighbor according to the number of years after the jubilee, and he shall sell to you according to the number of years for crops. 16 If the years are many, you shall increase the price, and if the years are few, you shall reduce the price, for it is the number of the crops that he is selling to you. 17 You shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God, for I am the LORD your God. 18 “Therefore you shall do my statutes and keep my rules and perform them, and then you will dwell in the land securely.

It is sad that something so glorious as the Jubilee, liberty and restoration, has to be guarded against misuse to wrong another. But such is the sobering reality of our fallen condition. Left to ourselves, we will take a great blessing, given by God for our good, and twist it around and use it to injure another person. The promised release must be taken into account for fair business dealings. What is being bought or sold is not the land itself, because the land belongs to the LORD, but the produce of the land for a given number of years.

The reasons given here for not wronging one another is fear and promise. Do not take advantage of others, because God is to be feared. Remember what the LORD did to Egypt when they took advantage of you. Do not think that God will not stand up against you if you take advantage of his people. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. Fear of the LORD is a motive for obedience.

Promise is also a motive for obedience. God promised that if they would do his statutes and keep his rules and perform them, “then you will dwell in the land securely.” Safety, security, peace is promised as a reward for obedience. It is amazing that God gives us rules that are for our good and for our happiness, and then he promises to heap up reward on us when we obey!

Jubilee and Unbelief

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

This appendix to the Jubilee instruction alerts us to another tendency of our nature. We are inclined toward unbelief. We have a tendency toward worry and doubt and fear. God proclaims liberty and we say ‘but how is this going to work?’ The Jubilee would be a second year of no sowing and no reaping, following the seventh Sabbath year. If we don’t sow or reap for two years, how will we survive? What will we eat? One year of no sowing or reaping is enough to cause doubt and anxiety and fear. God meets us where we are, in our unbelief at his promises. If we say ‘What shall we eat?’ God answers ‘I will send my blessing.’ And God meets us where we are in our doubt and fear and tells us how he will provide. He will bless the produce of the sixth year such that it will sustain you for three years. God promises to provide not just the bare minimum necessary, but he provides abundantly. He says “you will eat your fill.” Our abundant God promises to satisfy us abundantly. Our happiness does not come from what we can store up for ourselves in bigger barns.

Jesus warned:

Luke 12:15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

He continues:

Luke 12:21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” 22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.

Jesus addressed those with little faith.

Luke 12:28 …O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. 32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Jesus invites us to treasure God above all this world has to offer. He invites us to rest, to trust, to obey, to depend.

As we will see more clearly in the coming weeks, Jesus is our Jubilee. Jesus is our Sabbath rest. Jesus is our sufficiency. Jesus is liberty to the slave. Jesus is freedom from anxiety.

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

March 27, 2017 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 5:1-5; Sexual Immorality in the Church

09/08 I Corinthians 5:1-5 Sexual Immorality in the Church; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130908_1cor5_1-5.mp3

1Cor 4-5 [ESV2011]

18 Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. 21 What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?

5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. 3 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. 4 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

Paul has brought the believers in Corinth back to the cross. Central to all of Christian life is the gospel of Jesus Christ and him crucified. This is a message that creates humility, because we are all so bad that the Son of God had to die in our place to pay the debt that we owe, and yet we are so loved that he gladly laid down his life in our place. There is no room in the life of the follower of Jesus for boasting or pride. And yet this had crept in to the church in Corinth. They thought they were wise, they thought they were spiritual, they thought they were powerful, they though they were advanced, they thought they had arrived. Paul has laid out the gospel again for them to remind them that boasting is totally inappropriate for a beggar who has received a gift. He has held up himself as an example to follow, an example characterized by persecution, suffering, dishonor, and a lack of basic needs. He warns them, that, as their father, he intends to return, and if necessary he will come with a rod of discipline to drive the foolishness out of the hearts of his children.

In this passage, he brings forward the first major piece of evidence to show that this church really does not have anything to boast about.

1 Corinthians 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. 3 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. 4 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

In this passage the apostle teaches us much about the responsibilities and expectations on the local church.

Sexual Immorality in the Church

Paul expresses his shock and outrage at what was going on in the church in Corinth.

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

Sexual immorality of any kind is not appropriate in the church of God. God is very clear in his word that there is one appropriate place for sexual enjoyment, and that is in the context of marriage between one man and his one wife. Any sexual experience or experimentation outside of that exclusive relationship is a violation of God’s command.

This is not because God is a lonely deprived grump who wants to spoil our fun. God invented sex and pleasure and intimacy and beauty and joy. God designed the human body, he created male and female, and he placed them in an exotic garden without clothes, and commanded them to be fruitful and multiply. That was his idea. Sexual intimacy was designed to bring glory to God as we enjoy God’s good gift and give him thanks for it (Heb.13:4). Sexual intimacy is so powerful and so sacred that misusing it will spoil it, and will lessen our joy in it. Jesus said that

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

And this applies to all of life, including our sexuality. Satan tempts and twists and distorts and destroys what God meant for our abundant joy. Jesus came to restore us, every part of us, to what we were designed for. Jesus came to reclaim the ground the enemy had stolen. Jesus said about the woman of the city known to be a sinner, who washed his feet with her tears, ‘your sins are forgiven …your faith has saved you; go in peace’ (Lk.7:47-50). To the woman at the well, who had five husbands and was living with someone who was not her husband, Jesus offered the gift of living water (Jn.4:10-18). Jesus said to the woman caught in the act of adultery and brought out for public execution, ‘neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more’ (Jn.8:11). Jesus came to heal what is sick and restore what is broken and give life to what is dead.

In Galatians 5, Paul contrasts the fruit of the Spirit with the works of the flesh. A follower of Jesus, who has experienced the new birth, in whom the Spirit of God now lives, should be characterized by ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control’; not by ‘sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these’ (Gal.5:19-26). Paul says in Ephesians 5

Ephesians 5:3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.

Followers of Jesus must be different than the rest of the world in every area of life.

A Hindrance to the Gospel

Paul is outraged, because the Corinthian church was tolerating a form of sexual perversion that was even offensive to the morally lax Greek culture in which they lived.

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

The word translated ‘pagans’ is the word for Gentiles, which is predominantly who made up the church in Corinth. But Paul considers them Gentiles no longer. They are the church of God, a new people. And they ought to be different. Instead, their standards of morality seem to be lower than the unbelieving world around them. Apparently, a man in their fellowship married his step-mother. This is explicitly condemned in the Old Testament (Lev.18:8; Deut.27:20), and it was condemned by Greek culture. At this time, Christianity was looked on with suspicion, and rumors circulated about what these followers of Jesus did when they met together. It was imagined that they practiced cannibalism (because they were said to eat the body and blood of their Lord), and that they practiced incest (because married couples would refer to each other as brother and sister) [Minucius Felix, Octavius, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. 4, pp. 177-178]. The fact that an incestuous relationship was actually going on would add substance to the suspicions of unbelievers and give them legitimate grounds for rejecting their message. The fact that rumors were circulating was inevitable, but for believers to conduct themselves in a way that undermined the gospel was unthinkable. The message of the cross is foolishness to unbelievers, but now the moral misconduct of those who claimed to follow Jesus offended people in their community. This would be an unacceptable hindrance to the advance of the gospel.

Pride in the Face of Sin

2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.

In light of this sin, the attitude of the Corinthians was totally unjustified. They were puffed up, arrogant, boasting. It could be that they were flaunting this situation as an example of their new found Christian liberty. Some have suggested because ‘in Christ the old has passed away and all things have become new’ (2Cor.5:17), they thought that the person who was your step-mom is no longer your step-mom and is now fair game for pursuit in marriage. Because Paul doesn’t address any flawed theology underlying their behavior, it is more likely that this was simply a situation that the church knew about but neglected to deal with. They were boasting about their advanced spirituality and wisdom, while turning a blind eye to this major blemish in the mirror. Possibly the man was a wealthy donor to the church, and addressing his sin would jeopardize the community.

Whatever the situation, their response was inappropriate. The needed response was clear. Mourning, grief, penitent sorrow would be suitable to the situation. It is important to note that Paul is not rebuking the man who sinned. Neither is he rebuking the leadership of the church for not dealing with the situation. He is rebuking the church as a whole for not responding appropriately to the sin of one of their members. The sin of the individual affects the rest of the body. It was the responsibility of the church body to respond. There is a corporate identity and responsibility of the people of God. In chapter 3, he reminded the entire church of their corporate identity.

1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

When the ten spies gave a bad report of the promised land to the children of Israel, they all wandered in the desert for 40 years, including Joshua and Caleb (Num.13-14). When Achan sinned and took for himself the items from Jericho which were devoted to destruction, the armies of Israel were defeated in battle (Josh.7). The sin of the individual brought punishment from the Lord on the community. Daniel is a positive example. Daniel was taken captive to Babylon because God had handed Jerusalem over to Nebuchadnezzar due to the persistent sin of the Israelites. No sin of Daniel is recorded in the Bible. In fact, when his enemies were seeking something against him, the only fault they could find was that he scrupulously followed his God. But listen to how Daniel prays in chapter 9

Daniel 9:3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, … 5 we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name… 8 To us, O LORD, belongs open shame, …because we have sinned against you. 9 …for we have rebelled against him 10 and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God by walking in his laws, …11 …we have sinned against him. 14 …we have not obeyed his voice. 15 …we have sinned, we have done wickedly. 17 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.”

There is no boasting here. There is no ‘God I thank you that I am not like other men’ (Lk.18:11). Daniel owned the sins of his people. He grieved and mourned and confessed them as his own. Paul is demanding that church discipline be carried out on the immoral man, but church discipline must be done with the heart of Daniel. There is no room for discipline to be done with a proud heart. There must be broken-hearted humility and sympathetic grieving. We are one body, each individually members of one another, and in the exercise of discipline we should feel as though we were cutting off our own hand due to gangrene.

Let The One Be Removed From Among You

1 Corinthians 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. 3 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. 4 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

Although the exercise of discipline must be done with humility and grief, it must be done. And it must be done immediately. When this letter was delivered to the church, the church would be gathered to hear it read. Paul is demanding immediate action. ‘Let him who has done this be removed from among you’. Stop reading and take action! The reputation of the gospel and the purity of Christ’s church is at stake. The Corinthian church should have responded as soon as they knew about the situation. Paul responded as soon as he heard. He has already pronounced judgment. He wasn’t physically present. He didn’t know all the details. He hadn’t heard the excuses. He hadn’t heard both sides of the story. Sin is sin, and some issues are black and white. He didn’t need to come to town and conduct a thorough investigation. There was no explaining to be done. His authority was present in spirit, through his letter. But he was not pulling his apostle card and performing a long-distance excommunication. He was calling for the local church to take action. ‘When you are assembled … you are to deliver this man to Satan.’

Deliver This One To Satan

That sounds harsh. Deliver this one to Satan? In Ephesus, there were some who were teaching different doctrine, wandering off into vain discussion and speculation. Paul charges Timothy to

1 Timothy 1:18 …wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

This is strong language. According to Colossians 1, God has

Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Paul placed these two false teachers back into the domain of Satan to be taught not to blaspheme. Paul is calling for the church in Corinth to transfer the immoral brother to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. They were to put him out of the church. The destruction of the flesh could mean that his physical body would be destroyed, or it could mean that his fleshly desires and inclinations would be destroyed. Whether by bodily affliction or otherwise, the end goal is that his spirit would be saved in the day of the Lord.

Paul is confident that God can use even the enemy of our souls to bring about our ultimate good. Paul was personally experiencing this in his own life. He writes in 2 Corinthians:

2 Corinthians 12:7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

In God’s infinite wisdom, Paul was given a messenger of Satan to harass him, to keep him from becoming conceited. The goal of this demonic emissary was certainly not Paul’s spiritual good; he was seeking to steal and kill and destroy, but our sovereign God can employ even the ruthless enemy to unwittingly accomplish his wise purposes. That is the goal here, to see this immoral sinner saved on judgment day.

The Heart and Process of Discipline

Paul is following both the heart and the process of Jesus’ instructions to his disciples on the matter of church discipline found in Matthew 18. Jesus prefaces his instructions with a story about sheep.

Matthew 18:12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

The heart of the Father is going after and restoring the sheep that goes astray. That is the heart behind the process. Then Jesus gives the process:

Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

In the case in Corinth, the man had not sinned against an individual. He had sinned publicly, and brought disgrace on the entire church. They were to treat him as an outsider. Although he claimed to be a believer, he was not acting like a believer, so they were to stop treating him as a believer. They were to assume that he needed to repent and believe the gospel. They were to treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector. And keep in mind how Jesus treated Gentiles and tax collectors. He extended to them the good news and invited them to trust him for rescue from their sin.

Matthew 18:18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

When the church gathers to go after stray sheep with the attitude and heart of Jesus, Jesus promises to be present with them. His power and authority are at work. Paul applies this to the situation in Corinth. In the name of the Lord Jesus they are to pronounce judgment. When the church is gathered they are to deliver this one to Satan with the power of the Lord Jesus.

Peter responded to this teaching of Jesus with a question.

Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

How many times can the sheep go astray before we just shoot them down? Jesus illustrated with a story. He told of a king who wished to settle accounts and a slave who owed an enormous debt he could not pay. His master released him and forgave him the debt. This servant then went and found a fellow servant who owed him a trivial amount and demanded payment and refused to show mercy. When approaching this sensitive issue of confronting a brother in sin, we must not be like that servant. We must keep in front of us a keen awareness of how great a debt we have been forgiven by God. We must be passionate for the honor of Christ and the purity of his church, and we must be eager to extend his forgiveness to our fellow servants. We must plead and ache and long for restoration. 

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

September 8, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 2:18-21; God Honoring Conduct While Suffering Unjustly

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090208_1peter_2_18-21.mp3

02/08 1 Peter 2:18-21 God honoring Conduct; subjection to crooked masters

Peter is writing to believers scattered across Asia Minor, who have become outsiders in their own communities because they are now followers of Jesus. They are aliens and exiles to society, but to God they are elect and precious. They have been selected by God for obedience (upakohn) to Jesus Christ. They have been birthed by God into a new inheritance that is kept for them in heaven. They are looking forward to a future salvation and their trials here are only temporary. They are to fix their hope fully on this future grace. They are no longer to conform to the foolish passions from which they came, but they are to live distinctly, set apart from those around them. They are to fear only God. They were ransomed from the futile ways of their forefathers and set free to hope in God. They are to love the community of believers. Everything else will wear out and fade away, but they have been born again of imperishable seed. Jesus, their cornerstone, was also rejected by men, but in the sight of God chosen and precious. They are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God. They will be honored by God when others are put to shame. They are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, and their ultimate purpose and destiny is to bring glory to God.

Based on the facts of who they are in Christ, these believers who find themselves in a hostile society, could draw some wrong conclusions, and Peter warns against these. One danger is that they would use their freedom and position in Christ and say “I’m a king’s kid and I have a royal inheritance. As a child of the king I’m entitled to a life of pleasure and ease.” In 2:11 he warns us to ‘abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul’ and in 2:16 he tells us to ‘live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God’.

The other danger is to take their position in Christ and say “I am an alien to your society and I am no longer under its laws. I fear only God and I obey a new master, the Lord Jesus Christ. My citizenship is in heaven and I am no longer obliged to obey you or your laws or customs.” In 2:12 Peter says ‘Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that … they may see your good deeds and glorify God’. And in 2:13 he says ‘be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution’ particularly the government under which you live.

Peter has laid out our freedom and privileged position in Christ very clearly, and now he gives some very practical instructions on how to flesh this out in society. In relation to the state, we are to give honor and live in obedience in so far as our conscience and respect for God’s ultimate authority allow. In the remainder of chapter 2, he addresses our relation to unjust masters or employers and he points to Jesus as our example; in chapter 3 he addresses our relationships within the family. Let’s read the passage in its context, then we’ll focus our attention on verses 18-21

11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover–up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

In this section Peter is addressing servants or slaves. We might be inclined to think that since we have abolished slavery in our country, what he says here has no relevance to us today. We need to understand who he is addressing, so that we don’t make the mistake of tuning him out. The word is (oikethv), a household servant or domestic slave. This was a semi-permanent employee without legal or economic freedom. Peter probably doesn’t use the more common New Testament word (doulov) for ‘slave’ because he just used that in verse 16 where he commanded all believers to live as slaves of God. Here he’s focusing on those who serve a human master. Although we don’t have the same social structures, what he says is applicable to our employer/ employee relationship. He is specifically addressing servants, but in verse 19 he says ‘when one endures’, widening his application to anyone who ‘endures sorrows while suffering unjustly’. The master/ servant relationship is just one example of where unjust suffering can take place.

Peter is putting his practical instruction in the context of our ultimate purpose: we are

1 Peter 2:9 …a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Last time we saw that our submission to the state is not so that we might live peaceful comfortable lives but that ‘they may see your good deeds and and glorify God’. We are not to be submissive for our own sake, but ‘for the Lord’s sake… that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Our obedience is to be a God centered God honoring obedience. By our actions we seek to proclaim the excellencies of God.

The same is true as he talks about our submission to unjust masters. He says ‘Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect…’ The word translated ‘respect’ is literally the word ‘fear’. It’s the same word that he used in verse 17 when he told us that we are to fear God alone. I don’t think he’s telling us in one breath not to fear the emperor and in the next telling us to fear our earthly masters or employers. Literally he says ‘servants, be subject to your masters in all fear’ He’s referring us back to what he just said. Fear God. In all fear of God, be subject to your masters. And look at verse 19: he doesn’t say that you are blessed simply because you tough it out and endure while suffering unjustly. We can endure unjust sufferings for many wrong reasons. We might put up with mistreatment because we feel like we have no choice and are powerless to do anything about it. We might put up with unjust suffering because we feel like it is the noble thing to do. Or we might put up with it simply because we are too lazy to do anything about it. None of these reasons in and of themselves has any virtue with God. He says ‘when, mindful of God you endure – that is a gracious thing’. It is a conscious intentional seeking to show the surpassing worth of God in our suffering that has merit with God.

He tells us that we are to be subject, not only when it’s convenient and easy, but especially when it’s hard. He describes masters as ‘unjust’; the word is (skoliov) from which we get our word scoliosis. It literally means ‘crooked or perverse’. Peter goes on:

19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.

He says ‘this is a gracious thing’; literally ‘this is grace (cariv) … this is grace in the sight of God.’ Enduring sorrows – emotional grief or mental anguish as a result of unjust treatment – is reason for God to show favor. Peter draws the contrast in verse 20: ‘what credit is it if you sin and endure a beating?’ That’s not something that deserves honor or fame, and it certainly doesn’t bring glory to God. But if you do good and endure suffering, that is grace before God.

This is the same teaching in the same language Jesus used in Luke 6:

Luke 6:32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit (cariv -grace) is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit (cariv -grace) is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit (cariv -grace) is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

If we only do what is normal and common and expected, it requires no grace and merits no reward. But to do what is extraordinary and noteworthy, we need God’s gracious help, and we bring pleasure to God and praise to him as people see our good deeds and give glory to God. If we endure sorrow and patiently bear injustice, this proclaims the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light. When, mindful of God; in trusting awareness of God’s presence and never failing care; we endure sorrow while suffering unjustly; having confidence that God will ultimately right all wrongs and do justice, we can in fear of God submit to an unjust master without resentment, rebelliousness, self-pity or despair.

Notice the next verse:

21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

Because to this you have been called. Did you know that you and I have been called to suffer unjustly in order to bring glory to God? That is our calling. We are called to be saints (Rom.1:7); we are called to belong to Jesus (Rom.1:6); we are called according to his purpose Rom.8:28); we are called ‘beloved’ (Rom.9:25); we are called ‘sons of the living God’ (Rom.9:26); we are called into the fellowship of his Son (1Cor.1:9); we are called in the grace of Christ (Gal.1:6,15); we are called to freedom (Gal.5:13); we are called to hope (Eph.4:4); we are called to into his own kingdom and glory (1Thess.2:12); we are called in holiness (1Thess.4:7); we are called to eternal life (1Tim.6:12); we are called to his eternal glory in Christ (1Pet.5:10); we are called to his own glory and excellence (2Pet.1:3); we are called children of God (1John3:1); but did you know we are called to suffer? Listen to what Jesus said to his disciples:

John 15:18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. …

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Paul and Barnabas taught

Acts 14:22 … that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.

Paul encouraged the Thessalonian believers:

1 Thessalonians 3:3 that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4 For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know.

Paul told Timothy:

2 Timothy 3:12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,

Friends, we are called to be aliens in our culture. And we are called to suffer for doing good if that should be God’s will (1Pet.3:17). We have been called out of darkness and into his marvelous light, and we have been called to proclaim the excellencies of him who called us.

1 Peter 2:9 …a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

One of the main ways we proclaim his excellencies is by suffering well even under unjust circumstances:

1 Peter 2:12 …so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Suffering is not a sidebar in the Christian life. Suffering is the main way through which God brings us to possess the promised inheritance, and in the process we bring him glory and praise.

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

February 8, 2009 Posted by | 1 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Peter 1:6-9

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20080921_1peter_1_6-9.mp3

9/21 1 Peter 1:6-9 trials; necessity, purpose and outcome

1: 1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith––more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire––may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

1: 6 en w agalliasye oligon arti ei deon luphyentev en poikiloiv peirasmoiv 7 ina to dokimion umwn thv pistewv polutimoteron crusiou tou apollumenou dia purov de dokimazomenou eureyh eiv epainon kai doxan kai timhn en apokaluqei ihsou cristou 8 on ouk idontev agapate eiv on arti mh orwntev pisteuontev de agalliate cara aneklalhtw kai dedoxasmenh 9 komizomenoi to telov thv pistewv swthrian qucwn

Peter is addressing the suffering saints in Asia Minor. He recognizes their situation as aliens – exiles in their own hometowns because of their decision to follow Jesus. But he points them to their position before God – they are elect, chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, and for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling with his blood.

And then he leads them in worship. He points them to the work of God in their new birth. Their new life in Jesus is rooted in the great mercy of God the Father. He caused them to be born again, and they were born into a living hope. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead secures their hope in the inheritance that they have been born into. That inheritance is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, it is kept safe in heaven for us and God’s power is at work to keep us believing so that we indeed will receive the promised inheritance. God’s power is guarding us right now through our faith for the final salvation that we look forward to. This is foundation for worship, and it is a cause to rejoice. Peter points his struggling readers to their source of joy so that they can stand firm even in the middle of trials.

In this you rejoice; this, that God fathered you into a new life of hope in an incredible inheritance, and that God is keeping the inheritance safe for you and is keeping you for the inheritance. Peter goes out on a limb here and assumes that his readers are indeed rejoicing in their salvation. These are people who are suffering for their faith. They are aliens in their own communities. They certainly have a lot on their minds, but he confidently says ‘in this you rejoice’. He is certain that any true believer will resonate with joy over what he has said. I am filled with joy when I think of how rich in mercy God is toward a hell deserving sinner like me. My joy overflows when I reflect on the new life that God has created in me. I am engulfed in delight when I think of the inheritance that awaits me, secured by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. I am flooded with a sense of awe and thanksgiving when I think that God by his awesome power is at work to keep me believing so that I will receive the inheritance. Joy is a ‘given’ in the Christian life. Rejoicing over God at work in our salvation is something we Christians do. As Peter begins to address the issue of suffering as a Christian, he first points them to this overarching joy that spans the chasm of suffering and keeps us looking toward the goal of our salvation in spite of the trials. Peter says a few things here about the trials we face, that are essential to preserve the proper outlook.

  1. The Necessity of Trials

  2. The Character, Variety and Duration of Trials

  3. The Purpose of Trials

  4. The Certain Outcome of Trials

First, the necessity of trials. Trials are necessary. But he’s not talking about circumstantial necessity or inevitability – fate. Bad things are bound to happen and there’s nothing anybody (even God) can do about it. No, he is saying they are necessary, in that they are designed to serve an essential purpose in your salvation. This is not the necessity of chance, this is the necessity of the plan of God being worked out. What God plans he will do (Is. 46:11). This is the kind of necessity Jesus spoke of when he said:

Luke 24:7 …that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”

Peter makes it explicit that this is what he means in:

1 Peter 4:19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

So we can take comfort that whatever trials we face today, they are not meaningless or senseless or random. They are designed by our merciful Father to play an essential part in our salvation. We can trust him that they are for our good.

The second thing we learn about trials is their character, variety and duration. He says ‘you have been grieved by various trials’. Peter does not make light of their trials. He acknowledges that they are weighty – heavy. Grief is real and it is painful. He uses the same word that is used of Jesus’ sorrow in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Matthew 26:37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.

Peter is not asking us to just put on a happy face. Christians do grieve, but we do not grieve as others who have no hope (1Thes.4:13)

And Peter is not quick to say ‘oh, I’ve been through that. I know exactly how you feel’, because he knows that the experience of trials is different for everyone. He says ‘you have been grieved by various trials’. The word literally means ‘many colored or variegated ‘.

Their trials are unique and they are grievous, but they are also short. He says ‘though now for a little while‘. Peter is not saying that he knows their trials will soon come to an end. Some of his readers may suffer their whole life. Some may die suffering. He is not saying that their suffering is short in comparison to other people’s suffering. He is saying that their grief will be short in comparison with eternal joy. We see that this eternal perspective is his frame of reference from verse 7, where he points to ‘the revelation of Jesus Christ’. Paul puts it this way:

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

2 Corinthians 4:8 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,… 16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,

So trials are temporal, they are necessary, they are grievous, and they come in many colors, but what is their purpose? In verse 7 he says ‘so that’; that indicates purpose.

7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith––more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire––may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

God has a purpose in your trials. Satan has a purpose in your trials too. Satan would like to destroy your faith and cause you to walk away from Jesus. He seeks to devour you and steal your joy. God’s purpose for trials is different. Jesus said:

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Luke 22:31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

While Satan’s purpose is to destroy, God’s purpose is to test your faith in order to prove it genuine. Muscles, if they are not used, will atrophy. Muscles need to be exercised to stay healthy and grow. God has given you the muscle of faith. Now God is bringing into your life circumstances and experiences that will cause you to get up out of the easy chair of complacency and apathy and fight the good fight to believe (1Tim.6:12).

1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called …

Remember, we learned in verse 5 that God, by his power, is guarding or keeping you for salvation through faith. I think this verse explains the phrase ‘through faith‘ in that verse. How is God in his power using my faith as a means to preserve me for salvation? One answer is that God is bringing the exercise of adversity against the muscle of my faith so that my faith will be vital and thrive rather than atrophy and die. Trials prove faith. Anyone can say they believe in Jesus. Anyone can say a prayer. But when adversity comes, it reveals the true nature of that faith. If it was mere lip service to please a person, testing will reveal it for what it is. Genuine faith, when it meets adversity will cling all the more closely to Jesus. But the trials serve a good purpose even if your faith is proved fake. When trials come and you let go of Jesus and cling to other things, that should awaken you to what you are truly trusting in and cause you to turn from that to Jesus.

Peter compares the tested genuine faith that trials produce to the most precious and enduring thing that we know – gold. Gold for thousands of years has not lost its value. Gold when it is refined does not perish but becomes more pure and more valuable. But Peter tells us that compared to gold, genuine faith is more valuable and less perishable. Tested faith is worth more and will last longer than gold! That’s amazing, because I think of my faith as fickle and unreliable.

Think of Peter. Peter saw Jesus walking on the water in the storm, and Peter believed that if Jesus commanded, he could come. But when he saw the wind he was afraid and began to sink (Mat.14:28-31). If my faith were solely up to me, I would be sunk and give up hope. But when I realize that my faith is a gift of God, and God is using his power to sustain my faith, then I begin to see how my faith could be more precious and less perishable than gold.

And the next phrase boggles the imagination!

7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith––more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire––may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

At the revelation of Jesus Christ, when my faith has proved genuine because God gave it to me and sustained me in it, God is going to praise and honor and glory in me! God will sustain your faith through the trial, and then when you arrive safely in heaven, God will crown you because your faith stood through the trial!

But we might ask ‘how can I know if my faith is the genuine kind that will last or if it is fake and will be destroyed by the fire? What will be the outcome of the trial?’ I think the next verse answers this question. Peter observes the new affections and the new delights of the believing community, and points to this as evidence of tested genuine faith.

8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Jesus is not yet revealed. We can’t see him. We can’t sit down with him and talk over a glass of wine and a loaf of bread. We don’t see him walking our streets, healing the sick and raising the dead. We can’t hear him speaking with infinite wisdom and authority, confounding his enemies and comforting the downcast. How do you love someone that you have never met? Peter points his readers to their love for Jesus as evidence of the genuineness of their faith. In spite of not having seen him, you love him. Even though you don’t now see him, you believe in him.

Notice how belief and love are parallel ideas? The kind of belief or genuine faith we are talking about is not an intellectual agreement with certain facts. Genuine faith does include an appreciation for certain foundational truths, but it also necessitates an emotional response. Jesus is not the distasteful firefighter with awful body odor and annoying mannerisms that you tolerate as he carries you down the ladder simply because the fire is worse than his smell and once you are safe, other than a polite thank you card, you will never have to see him again. No, Jesus is the one, fire or no fire, I just want to be near him, to know him and be known by him, to admire him, to enjoy his presence.

Notice, too, that joy is characteristic of the Christian life. Peter is not telling the believers what they should be doing, he is simply stating what they are already naturally doing. They love Jesus, they believe into Jesus, they rejoice with a joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory. This is a joy that simply cannot be put into words. This is a doxological joy – a joy that is full of glory; full of praise. It cannot be communicated except by the common experience of it. This is a joy that is known by anyone that has a healthy understanding of their own hopeless undeserving condition, who has experienced the limitless mercy of our good God, who so loved us that he gave his only Son, who has given us new birth and adopted us into his own family, made us participants in an unfathomable inheritance. I am loved by God the Father, I am being set apart by the Holy Spirit, I am washed clean by the blood of Jesus, one day I will receive praise and honor and glory in his presence when he says ‘well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your master (Mat.25:21)’ not because I have been able to pull it off, but because he has been at work in me sovereignly empowering me to persevere to the end.

Joy is not an optional extra in the Christian life like the way you order your salad – I’d like lots of peace sprinkled all over it. Can I have the joy on the side? Hold the longsuffering. No. Joy is the fruit of the Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is in you, he is producing joy. Jesus said:

Luke 6:22-23 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven;

It is interesting that the context of Jesus command to rejoice and leap for joy is the similar circumstance of being hated and excluded and reviled and spurned. Jesus is saying that you are blessed or joy-filled, in fact you can leap for joy when you face trials because, look, your reward is great in heaven! You are the elected rejected and your inheritance is certain. Your loving and believing and joying in Jesus is evidence that you are obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

So we can rejoice and praise God even in the midst of trials because we can see that trials are necessary; they are not senseless and random, but they are ordained by God for a good purpose. And the purpose of trials is to prove our faith genuine, to force us to flex the muscle of faith so that it does not atrophy. And we can have confidence that the outcome of the trials is certain. When we see love for Jesus and believing into Jesus and joy in Jesus welling up in our hearts even in the midst of adversity, we are seeing evidence of the Spirit of God at work in us creating new affections and new desires. We are obtaining the outcome of our faith, the salvation of our souls.

September 21, 2008 Posted by | 1 Peter | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment