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Leviticus 26:14-39; Curses for Disobedience

04/30 Leviticus 26:14-39; Curses for Disobedience; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170430_leviticus-26_14-39.mp3

Leviticus is a covenant document between God and his people. Leviticus 26 gives the terms of the covenant agreement. Verses 1-2 are a reminder of the central demand of the covenant, that by entering into this covenant, Israel is promising to have no other gods but the one LORD. They are to trust him by honoring his time and his place. God’s instructions are to be kept and his presence is to be feared. Verses 3-13 list the blessings that accompany obedience; blessings of produce and peace and progeny and most importantly the gift of God’s presence with his people.

But the blessings of the covenant are conditional:

Leviticus 26:3 “If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, 4 then I will give you …

Verses 14-39 are the consequences of a refusal to follow the terms of the agreement.

Leviticus 26:14 “But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, 15 if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, 16 then I will do this to you:

Notice in both cases, it is God himself who is active in fulfilling the terms of the covenant. If you do what I command, I will give you… If you will not listen to me and do… then I will do this to you. God takes his covenant seriously, and will personally bring about either blessings or the curses.

Notice the blatant disobedience that is warned against in these verses; “if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant” A refusal to listen to God’s instructions, a refusal to do what he commands, is followed by an emotional reaction against God’s truth; ‘if your spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules’. This revulsion at God’s commands results in a refusal to obey, and a violation of the covenant contract.

This chapter is essential for understanding the rest of the Bible. This passage provides essential context for the rest of the Bible. It gives the covenant context for the history of God’s judgment on Israel. What happened under Joshua, and then in Judges when ‘everyone did what was right in his own eyes’ and ‘the LORD gave them into the hand of’ their enemies, and ‘they cried out to the LORD and he sent’ a deliverer; what happened under the kings who disobeyed and under those who tried to turn the people back to the LORD, what was spoken by the prophets who were sent to confront idolatry and turn the hearts of the people back to the LORD, what happened in the Assyrian and Babylonian conquests and captivities, what was said in the prayers of the captives like Daniel and Nehemiah, even what we today enjoy as New Covenant believers, all find their root in the terms of this covenant agreement between God and his people.

This section of consequences for covenant treason is structured in 5 cycles of escalating discipline. Each section begins with ‘if you will not listen; then I will…’

14-17 general curses – illness, famine, defeat

18-20 Drought and bad harvest

21-22 Wild animals

23-26 War, leading to plague and famine

27-39 War, leading to cannibalism, devastation and deportation

First Stage

Leviticus 26:14 “But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, 15 if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, 16 then I will do this to you: I will visit you with panic, with wasting disease and fever that consume the eyes and make the heart ache. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. 17 I will set my face against you, and you shall be struck down before your enemies. Those who hate you shall rule over you, and you shall flee when none pursues you.

God promises to visit the covenant breaker with panic, disease and fever, with stolen productivity, with defeat and oppression, with paranoid fear. God says ‘I will visit you …I will set my face against you.’ God is not absent in the sense that he has merely withdrawn his hand of protection and is allowing bad things to happen; no, he promises to be actively engaged in bringing about these consequences. Hell is not the absence of God; God is everywhere present. Hell will be the presence of God in righteous anger and punishment against those who have rejected him.

Second Stage

Leviticus 26:18 And if in spite of this you will not listen to me, then I will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins, 19 and I will break the pride of your power, and I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. 20 And your strength shall be spent in vain, for your land shall not yield its increase, and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit.

God here promises to escalate the punishment for continued disobedience. Notice, ‘If in spite of this you will not listen to me.’ There is a hope held out here. At any stage in this discipline, if his people will turn to him and listen to him, the discipline does not have to go any further.

Discipline

This is discipline; discipline is meant to teach, to train, to correct. Discipline is meant to confront, to protect, to restore, to bless. God is saying ‘I want to bless you, but I cannot bless your disobedience, so I promise to do whatever is necessary to bring you around and create in you a heart attitude that I can bless.’ Remember, God loved Israel. God chose Israel. Not because of anything in her, but rather because he loved her (Deut.7:6-8; 9:6). Proverbs reminds us:

Proverbs 3:11 My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, 12 for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.

Discipline is rooted in love. Moses tells the generation about to enter the land that God:

Deuteronomy 8:3 And he humbled you …that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. …5 Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you. 6 So you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him.

Psalm 94 tells us:

Psalm 94:12 Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O LORD, and whom you teach out of your law,

Blessed, happy, is the one you discipline; because discipline is for our greatest good. Hebrews 12 lays this all out.

Hebrews 12:5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Discipline is not pleasant, but it is for our good. The things in this chapter are horrific, but that is intended to teach us that there is something worse. A slap on the child’s wrist is painful, but it is nothing compared to the pain of the emergency room visit that it is intended to prevent. The things in this chapter; disease and death and cannibalism and captivity are nothing compared to what they are meant to keep you from; an eternity separated from a good God who loves you.

Greater Accountability

Notice, the discipline of this chapter is promised to God’s covenant people, not to the nations. God has a special relationship with his own people, and these are the consequences for treating carelessly that relationship. Those who have experienced grace; those who have seen the truth and rejected it are judged much more severely than those who have not; Peter warns:

2 Peter 2:21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.

Because those who have been offered grace will be held more accountable, God relentlessly pursues us with his discipline in order to bring us back.

Pride

In this second section, to those who have refused to respond to the first stage of discipline, God promises to ‘discipline you again sevenfold for your sins’. This is an escalation of discipline toward those who refuse to listen. God says ‘I will break the pride of your power’. He will prevent the land from producing. So often our hardness toward God is a result of pride. The prayerless person is a proud person. I will not cry out to God for help, because I can handle this without him! God did not create us to be independent, but dependent. We are not to stand on our own; we are to rely on him, to depend on him, to lean into him, to trust him. We are not self-sufficient; he alone is self-sufficient. We are to lean on his all-sufficiency. Repeatedly we hear the warning, when things go well for you, do not thing it is because of your own greatness, but because God has blessed you. Do not become proud, but recognize that every good thing is a gift from God.

O Lord, whatever it takes, break our foolish pride!

Third Stage

Leviticus 26:21 “Then if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me, I will continue striking you, sevenfold for your sins. 22 And I will let loose the wild beasts against you, which shall bereave you of your children and destroy your livestock and make you few in number, so that your roads shall be deserted.

The third stage is an escalating progression in disipline. If you will listen, I will use the least severe means of discipline available. If you choose to harden your heart, I will be required to use more severe forms of discipline. ‘Then,’ after the first two stages, ‘if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me.’ I will let loose the wild beasts against you’ bereave you of your children. This is opposite of the blessing in verse 6 ‘I will remove harmful beasts from your land’.

‘Wild beasts which shall bereave you of your children’ seems severe, but remember, this is the third stage of rebellion, having refused to listen to the first two rounds of discipline.

Fourth Stage

Leviticus 26:23 “And if by this discipline you are not turned to me but walk contrary to me, 24 then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins. 25 And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall execute vengeance for the covenant. And if you gather within your cities, I will send pestilence among you, and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy. 26 When I break your supply of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in a single oven and shall dole out your bread again by weight, and you shall eat and not be satisfied.

Here the goal of all this is clearly stated; ‘if by this discipline you are not turned to me.’ Hear God’s heart in all of this. His heart is toward you, not against you. He knows that there is no good apart from himself. So he intends to turn your heart back to him, whatever it takes.

This is a response to active disobedience. ‘If you walk contrary to me, the I also will walk contrary to you. I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins.’ ‘I will …execute vengeance for the covenant’. This is a breach of a covenant that they agreed to. Going after false gods is both foolish and treasonous. God must defend the honor of his glorious name. He will execute vengeance for the covenant. Sword, pestilence, famine. Ten women shall bake your bread in a single oven. It seems polygamy is a curse, not a blessing. You shall eat and not be satisfied. True satisfaction comes only through walking with God, enjoying the good of his presence. Seeking satisfaction anywhere else will leave us eating without ever experiencing satisfaction.

Fifth Stage

Leviticus 26:27 “But if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me, 28 then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins. 29 You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters. 30 And I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars and cast your dead bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols, and my soul will abhor you. 31 And I will lay your cities waste and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your pleasing aromas. 32 And I myself will devastate the land, so that your enemies who settle in it shall be appalled at it. 33 And I will scatter you among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword after you, and your land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste.

‘If in spite of this,’ having hardened your hearts through the first four stages of discipline ‘you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me, then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins.’ This is escalating discipline due to the callousness of the people’s hearts. It takes severe consequences to rip the callouses off and expose their hard hearts to the gravity of their situation. Cannibalism. When Syrian king Ben-Hadad beseiged Samaria and caused a great famine,

2 Kings 6:26 Now as the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried out to him, saying, “Help, my lord, O king!” … 28 And the king asked her, “What is your trouble?” She answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.’ 29 So we boiled my son and ate him. And on the next day I said to her, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him.’ But she has hidden her son.” 30 When the king heard the words of the woman, he tore his clothes—now he was passing by on the wall—and the people looked, and behold, he had sackcloth beneath on his body—

This is a heart-wrenching story, and the king tore his clothes. Tearing clothes is a sign of repentance and mourning. But even this horrific event did not turn the kings heart back to the LORD. Instead he sent messengers to kill the LORD’s prophet Elisha, who had been calling Israel to repentance.

God says ‘I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars and cast your dead bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols, and my soul will abhor you.’ The way to desecrate a place of worship was to scatter it with bones. This is an ironic promise that God will desecrate the false worship of his people with the corpses of those who trusted in these false gods. And he says ‘my soul will abhor you’. We often hear it said that ‘God hates the sin but loves the sinner.’ But here God himself says to the one who persistently violates the terms of the covenant and refuses to repent after extended discipline ‘my soul will abhor you’.

All this sounds horrific, but remember, the punishment fits the crime. The level of horror we have at these punishments, should alert us to the gravity of disregarding the word of the LORD, and turning away from God, spurning his patience and discipline that is meant to bring us to repentance.

Sabbath Rest and Hope

Leviticus 26:34 “Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its Sabbaths. 35 As long as it lies desolate it shall have rest, the rest that it did not have on your Sabbaths when you were dwelling in it. 36 And as for those of you who are left, I will send faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. The sound of a driven leaf shall put them to flight, and they shall flee as one flees from the sword, and they shall fall when none pursues. 37 They shall stumble over one another, as if to escape a sword, though none pursues. And you shall have no power to stand before your enemies. 38 And you shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up. 39 And those of you who are left shall rot away in your enemies’ lands because of their iniquity, and also because of the iniquities of their fathers they shall rot away like them.

God promised that the land would enjoy its Sabbaths while his people are in captivity. God’s people ought to have enjoyed the Sabbath rest God provided for them. Instead the land would enjoy that rest without them. We read in 2 Chronicles

2 Chronicles 36:15 The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. 16 But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD rose against his people, until there was no remedy.

…20 He took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and to his sons until the establishment of the kingdom of Persia, 21 to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.

But even in this there is hope. There is an end in sight. The prophet Isaiah writes:

Isaiah 54:7 For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you. 8 In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD, your Redeemer.

Law and Gospel

God’s heart is to turn the hearts of his people back to himself. In the Old Testament this was rare. Except for a small remnant, the people persisted in their disobedience, hardened their hearts, and refused to respond to his loving discipline. Although there were amazing blessings promised, the law brought a curse. We read in Galatians 3:

Galatians 3:10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.”

The law is based on performance, perfect performance, and because no one can ever keep the law perfectly, we are all under the curse. Everything written in this chapter addressed to covenant breakers belongs to us, because we are covenant breakers. None of the promises belong to us, because we have failed to walk in obedience. But once we feel the weight of this, there is amazingly good news here for us!

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

On the cross, Jesus experienced the curses of Leviticus 26 for us. God executed vengeance for the broken covenant on Jesus; The Father turned in abhorrence from the one who had been made sin for us. Why? So that all the promised blessings might come to us who believe in Jesus!

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

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May 2, 2017 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 6:8-13; The Daily Burnt Offering

05/29 Leviticus 6:8-13; The Daily Burnt Offerings; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160529_leviticus-6_8-13.mp3

We are in Leviticus 6, a section which deals again with the five sacrifices introduced in chapters 1-5.

Leviticus 1-7

A. Instructions for the People          B. Instructions for the Priests

The Burnt Offering (ch.1)                    The Burnt Offering (6:8-13)

The Grain Offering (ch. 2)                   The Grain Offering (6:14-18)

                                                             The Priest’s Grain Offering (6:19-23)

The Peace Offering (ch.3)

The Sin Offering (4:1-5:13)                 The Sin Offering (6:24-30)

The Guilt Offering (5:14-6:7)              The Guilt Offering (7:1-10)

                                                             The Peace Offering (7:11-36)

                                Summary (7:37-38)

Where chapters 1-5 deal with the five offerings primarily from the perspective of a worshiper who brings his offering to the tabernacle, chapters 6 and 7 deal with these same offerings (with the addition of one) primarily from the perspective of the priest who is making the offering. Chapter 1 begins ‘with the Lord speaking to Moses saying ‘speak to the people of Israel and say to then, when any one of you brings an offering to the Lord…’ This section in chapter 6 begins with the Lord speaking to Moses saying ‘command Aaron and his sons, saying…’

The Burnt Offering

Leviticus 6:8 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 9 “Command Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the law of the burnt offering. The burnt offering shall be on the hearth on the altar all night until the morning, and the fire of the altar shall be kept burning on it. 10 And the priest shall put on his linen garment and put his linen undergarment on his body, and he shall take up the ashes to which the fire has reduced the burnt offering on the altar and put them beside the altar. 11 Then he shall take off his garments and put on other garments and carry the ashes outside the camp to a clean place. 12 The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not go out. The priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and he shall arrange the burnt offering on it and shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings. 13 Fire shall be kept burning on the altar continually; it shall not go out.

Ministry is Messy

There are several things to take note of here. First, notice the care taken in the disposal of the ashes. If you’ve ever barbecued, you know you have to deal with the ashes. If you don’t, your grill will get clogged and no longer function. This is in regard to the whole burnt offering, reminding us that this particular offering went entirely up in smoke. Nothing was left but ashes. And even those ashes had to be cared for properly. It would be easiest and most efficient if the janitor just came in and cleaned the ashes out of the altar and disposed of them. But I haven’t read anything about janitors in Leviticus. It is the anointed priest who is doing the cleaning out of the altar. Maybe there is a lesson for us here. We might be tempted to think that with a title and honor comes exemption from menial tasks. Someone called to serve in the ministry shouldn’t have to do the menial things. Some things are simply beneath the dignity of my office. God is faithful to keep us humble. I will spare you the gory details, but guess who people come to when the toilet in the restroom is clogged and overflowing? Ministry is messy. In ministry we deal with people, and people are messy and hurting and broken. Life is messy. If you are called to ministry, be aware that you will have to wear different hats and fill different roles. And remember, we are all called to ministry!

God is Holy

Notice the change of clothing. The priest starts out wearing his linen garments. This priestly uniform is described in detail in Exodus 28, and it is designed for modesty. It is to cover well. Even the altar is designed without steps, according to Exodus 20:26, ‘that your nakedness be not exposed on it.’ This is designed to draw a clear distinction between the worship of the one true God and the pagan worship of false gods, which often included sexual immorality as part of the worship. The priest in uniform has to clean out the ashes from the altar and put them beside the altar. Then he has to go change out of his uniform and put on other clothes. The priestly uniform is not to leave God’s court. It is holy. The priest is to put on other clothes in order to take the ashes outside the camp. We might think of this in terms of someone who works with hazardous radioactive material. There is a specific uniform designed to protect him, and there is a specific procedure for changing clothes to avoid contamination, to keep from transferring radioactive material out where it will harm other people. God is holy. God is dangerous. To come in contact with a holy God is dangerous. God is to be treated as holy, and even the uniform in which the priest approaches God is to be kept holy, separate, set apart. When he left the courtyard, he was to lay aside his holy clothes.

This reminds me of another who laid aside his clothes.

John 13:3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Jesus, who was God from all eternity, stooped down to do for us what we were too proud to do.

Philippians 2:5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus laid aside his glory to come and serve us. He did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many. This is a reminder to us that we are not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think.

The Fire is Not Quenched

Notice also that the fire on the altar is to be kept burning continually. This is restated multiple times in multiple ways in this passage.

9 …The burnt offering shall be on the hearth on the altar all night until the morning,

and the fire of the altar shall be kept burning on it.

…12 The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not go out.

The priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and he shall arrange the burnt offering on it and shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings.

13 Fire shall be kept burning on the altar continually; it shall not go out.

Where the burnt offering of chapter 1 dealt with a voluntary offering brought at will by a worshiper, here chapter 6 is dealing more specifically with the regular daily burnt offering proscribed in Exodus 29 and Numbers 28 which was the regular duty of the priests.

Exodus 29:38 “Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two lambs a year old day by day regularly. 39 One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight. 40 And with the first lamb a tenth measure of fine flour mingled with a fourth of a hin of beaten oil, and a fourth of a hin of wine for a drink offering. 41 The other lamb you shall offer at twilight, and shall offer with it a grain offering and its drink offering, as in the morning, for a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the LORD. 42 It shall be a regular burnt offering throughout your generations at the entrance of the tent of meeting before the LORD, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. (cf. Num.28:3-8)

The Fire of God’s Wrath

There was to be a burnt offering every morning and every night, and in between it was the responsibility of the priests to keep the fire burning continually.

This is a graphic and gruesome reminder of our sin. There was around the clock an animal going up in smoke. This is a reminder that ‘our God is a consuming fire’ (Heb.12:29). Jesus talked about ‘hell, the unquenchable fire, where there worm does not die and the fire is not quenched’ (Mk.9:43-48). God is just. He will punish all sin. My sin deserves death. If you are in Jesus, the full fury of God’s wrath was poured out on Jesus in your place. But if you are found apart from Jesus, you will be sent ‘into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’ (Mt.25:41). Fire most frequently in Scripture is a picture of judgment. The perpetual fire burning on the altar would be a constant reminder of my sinfulness, of God’s absolute justice, and of my desperate need for a substitute.

A Reminder of Grace

But it would also be a reminder that I do have a substitute! This constant flame on the altar would be a reminder that God has provided a way for this sinner to be forgiven. God has made a way for my guilt to be transferred to another, and for a substitute to die in my place. This would be a constant reminder not only of God’s absolute justice, but also of his unfailing love! God is merciful and gracious. He does not give me what my sins deserve. He poured that out on Jesus! He freely gives me what I did not earn; he credits me with the perfect righteousness of my Lord Jesus! What a treasure, to look at the flame, a means of judgment, and be reminded that God’s just judgment does not fall on me! What a treasure to look to the cross, a cruel instrument of torture, and be reminded that Jesus bore my sins in his body on that cursed tree.

Peace With God

Notice also, verse 12 tells us that the fat from the peace offering is to be placed on top of the burnt offering. The burnt offering is first. Remember from chapter 1 that the offerer laid his hand on the head of the animal, leaning on the animal, confessing his sins.

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

The whole animal was burnt on the altar. On top of this offering, the fat from the peace or fellowship offering would be placed. Peace with God, fellowship with him must be founded on sacrifice. There is no other way. Jesus said “no one comes to the Father except through me” Jn.14:6).

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand…

Peace with God, access to God, fellowship with God only comes through the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The fire of God’s judgment for my sin must fall on Christ so that I can now experience peace.

Maintain the Flame

I think we can find another picture here. The priests were not responsible to initiate the fire, but only to maintain the fire. We will see at the end of chapter 9, after the consecration of the priests, that:

Leviticus 9:24 And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.

The fire was divine fire. It came out from before the Lord. It was the responsibility of the priests to tend this fire, to maintain this fire, to feed this fire, but they did not initiate the fire. Outside fire was not allowed. We have a picture here we can learn from.

John the baptist said:

Matthew 3:11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

It is not our responsibility to light the fire. This is a divine fire only God can ignite. It is our responsibility to tend the fire, remove the things that would eventually quench the fire, to feed the fire. We are told:

1 Thessalonians 5:19 Do not quench the Spirit.

Paul tells Timothy:

2 Timothy 1:6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands,

Think for a minute. What are some practical ways you can maintain the fire, avoid quenching the fire, fuel God’s holy fire in your own life? What are some ways you can fuel the fire in other and seek to build them up?

A Royal Priesthood

You may be thinking ‘this all sounds good, but I am not in ministry, so this does not apply to me. I am not a priest, I am just a worshiper. I identify with the first chapters, where the average worshiper brings his offering, but this section with instructions for the priests is not for me.’ If that is what you are thinking, you could not be more wrong. The Apostle Peter addresses believers, those who are born again, and says:

1 Peter 2:5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. …9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

We are all priests to God! Men, women, children, all who are believers in Jesus, are called ‘a holy priesthood, a royal priesthood.’

In Revelation, John addresses the saints. He says:

Revelation 1:5 …To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Notice who the ‘us’ is. Are you loved by Jesus? Have you been freed from your sins by his blood? Then you are part of the ‘us’, and he has made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father.

Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” (cf.20:6)

Notice, the priests in Revelation are no longer from a particular tribe and a particular lineage. They are those who are ransomed by the blood of Jesus, people from every tribe and language and people and nation, priests to God.

So this priestly instruction is for you, for me. As a holy priesthood, we can offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. You can proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light!

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

May 29, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God Everywhere and Nowhere; Psalm 139

09/27 God Everywhere and Nowhere; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150927_god-everywhere.mp3

We are studying God, what he says about himself in his word. We are seeking to know him, to enjoy the relationship with him that he purchased for us with the blood of his only Son our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Prayer

Psalm 22

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? 2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.

…11 Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help.

…19 But you, O LORD, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! 20 Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! 21 Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

Isaiah 64

1 Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence— 2 as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil— to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence! 3 When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. 4 From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him.

We want to know you God. We long to be near you, to enjoy your presence, to be with you. We want to believe truth about you and flee from the idolatry of imagining that you are like us, from the sin of bringing you down to our level. We want to listen to what you say about yourself. To believe you. To stand in awe and wonder at a being so supreme, so awesome, so uniquely other. We were made to worship. To worship you alone. Guide our thoughts. Stir our hearts. Capture our affections. In Jesus’ name and for his glory we ask, Amen.

Do you sometimes feel like God is far off, he is not listening, like he is not even there? Do you sometimes experience the nearness of God, and other times feel abandoned?

God Unlimited by Time or Space

Last time we looked at the infinity of God in relation to time. God is unlimited, unconstrained by time, or by the sequence of events. He is not a temporal being, he has no beginning and no end, he is, he exists independent of anything outside of himself. Yet he interacts with us, his creatures, in time.

Today we will look at God’s infinity as it relates to space. Just as God is not limited or constrained by time as we understand it, so God is not limited by the material universe, by space or distance or size. Sometimes this is referred to as the immensity of God, the ubiquity of God, or the omnipresence of God.

If we ask ‘What is God like?’ we could look to the tabernacle. God gave Moses specific instructions on building him a sanctuary.

Exodus 25:8 And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. 9 Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it. 10 “They shall make an ark of acacia wood. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height.

If we understand the ark to be a kind of a throne, it is a box about 27 inches high by 27 inches deep by 45 inches wide. You would have to be a bit taller than me to sit on a throne that tall without your feet dangling awkwardly. If we keep reading, we see that the cover of this golden throne is complete with angelic figures ;

Exodus 25:22 There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.

God would meet with his people in most holy place, which was about a 15 foot cube. If God were 10 feet tall, he could safely hover above the cherubim without bumping his head on the ceiling. Is this how we are to think about God?

God Uncontainable

If we jump ahead to the time of the kings, David made preparations for his son Solomon to build a temple in Jerusalem to replace the portable tabernacle, now that God had given them the land. In 2 Chronicles 2, Solomon wrote to make arrangements with the king of Tyre, who would supply skilled laborers and materials. He said:

2 Chronicles 2:4 Behold, I am about to build a house for the name of the LORD my God and dedicate it to him for the burning of incense of sweet spices before him, and for the regular arrangement of the showbread, and for burnt offerings morning and evening, on the Sabbaths and the new moons and the appointed feasts of the LORD our God, as ordained forever for Israel. 5 The house that I am to build will be great, for our God is greater than all gods. 6 But who is able to build him a house, since heaven, even highest heaven, cannot contain him? Who am I to build a house for him, except as a place to make offerings before him?

Listen to parts of Solomon’s prayer of dedication in chapter 6.

2 Chronicles 6:14 and said, “O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven or on earth, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart,

…17 Now therefore, O LORD, God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you have spoken to your servant David. 18 “But will God indeed dwell with man on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built! 19 Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O LORD my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you, 20 that your eyes may be open day and night toward this house, the place where you have promised to set your name, that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place. 21 And listen to the pleas of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen from heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.

Solomon understood that heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain God. So just how big is God? Solomon speaks as large as he can. Heaven cannot contain him; the sky above cannot contain him. The highest heaven cannot contain him – what we think of as outer space cannot contain him. The biggest space you can imagine cannot contain him. God is uncontainable. The God who made the universe cannot be contained in the universe. Some scientists conjecture this universe is at least 28 billion light years in diameter. Remember that one light year is the distance that light can travel in one year, which is about 5.8 x 1012 miles (that’s twelve zero’s), or 5.8 trillion miles. And then times that by 28 billion light years. Heaven, even the highest heaven cannot contain him. God existed before the universe existed. God spoke the universe into existence. God created space, and space cannot contain God.

The Lord asks Isaiah’s generation in Isaiah 66:

Isaiah 66:1 Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? 2 All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. …

Heaven is what I sit on. Planet Earth is the little thing I pull up to rest my feet on. Heaven and Earth exist because I brought them into existence. I am not contained by them. Paul says in Acts 17:

Acts 17:24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

God made everything and cannot be contained by anything he has made. This is the danger of sacred places. They tend to give us the impression that there are places we can go to be in God’s presence, and there are other places that are exempt from God’s presence. We come to church to meet with God, and then we leave God in the church building and go do other things.

God in Heaven and Hell

Look with me at Psalm 139. The Psalmist cries out in amazed worship:

Psalm 139:1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me! 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. 5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. 7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” 12 even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.

You Lord know everything about me. You are ahead of me, behind me, all around me. Your hand is always on me. The Psalmist asks ‘where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?’ Is there anywhere that God is not? Of course, we expect we would find God in heaven. That is what makes heaven heaven. ‘In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore’ says the Psalmist (16:11). But what about hell? Isn’t hell the absence of God? Isn’t that what makes hell hell? Isaiah says

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

But the Psalmist says ‘If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!’ No one can hide from the presence of God, not even in hell. Sin separates us from God, not spatially, not by distance, because God is everywhere. Sin separates us relationally from God’s favor. I might be in the same room, looking one of my daughters in the eye and say ‘I feel like there is a huge distance between us’. I don’t mean that she is on a different continent. I mean that there is something that has driven a wedge in our relationship. Heaven is not so much a location as an experience of God’s pleasure, God’s favor, enjoying the intimacy of relationship. Hell is not so much a place as the experience of a relationship with our good Creator broken, the experience of his displeasure, his anger. God is eternally present in hell to ensure every sin is justly and fairly punished.

If I fly across the sea, if I attempt to hide in darkness, you are there. There is no place we can go that God is not already there.

God Filling Space

God says to the prophet Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 23:23 “Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God far away?

24 Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD.

God is both near and far. There is no place that he is not. He fills heaven and earth. How does he fill all space? Is he like that expanding foam that when you spray it in a crack it expands to fill whatever space is there? Or should we think of him as so incredibly huge that his big toe is in Canada and his heel is in South America? He is present here in Utah, but only by the sole of his foot? These are all flawed ways of thinking about God that are limited to the material universe. God is not a man. God is not like us. God is spirit. He is immaterial. He is. And there is nowhere that he is not. His being is fully present everywhere. He is fully present in this room with us today, giving us his undivided attention, and he is fully present in Provo and Payson and Salt Lake City. He is fully present in Thailand and Azerbaijan and South Africa, and he is fully present with the believer praying in secret in Iraq. He is not more present in one place than another, he is not limited to being in one place at one time. His being is unlimited by space or time. It would be just as correct to say that God is everywhere as to say that God is nowhere, because where is the wrong question. In asking about the whereness of God, we are looking for physical boundaries. God has no physical boundaries. He is not physical or material. Just as God is not a creature of time but the Creator of time, independent of time and outside of time, God is not a creature in space but the Creator of space, independent of space and outside of space. He contains all space and yet is fully present in every point of space.

Immensity and Incarnation

What do we do with this when we look to Jesus and the incarnation? Jesus, eternal God, who possesses all the characteristics of God, took on flesh and became human. Did God the Son become confined in time and space to a limited human body? Did he cease to be unlimited during his time on this planet? And we believe that his humanity continues on forever, so is he still limited now? There are many hints throughout the Gospels that although Jesus really and truly took on a real human nature, and in that human nature he was confined to be in one place at each moment, that he never ceased to be fully God, and as God he continued to fill heaven and earth. Speaking of the incarnation, one of the old theologians said ‘remaining what he was, he became what he was not’. Continuing as infinite eternal measureless God, he took on an additional nature, a human nature. In his humanity he is limited; in his divinity he is unconfined.

Speaking of the Son of God in his incarnation, the author of Hebrews writes:

Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

Jesus, while in his humanity he was confined to his mother’s womb, was all the while upholding the universe. Colossians tells us:

Colossians 1:17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

While asleep in a boat from exhaustion on the sea of Galilee, he was holding every molecule of the universe together. Jesus said to his disciples, before his human body ascended into heaven,

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

Jesus, physically, bodily, is seated at the right hand of his Father’s throne, as eternal God Jesus is ever present with every one of his followers to bless and care for us. Hebrews says:

Hebrews 13:5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Use of Doctrine

What are the implications of this truth for us? What does it matter? All biblical truth is intensely practical. It affects how we live, it affects our attitudes, our actions, our responses to difficult circumstances.

The truth of God’s omnipresence is a great comfort to believers. This means we are never alone. God is always with us. Jesus will never leave us or forsake us. Whatever we are going through, whatever trials we face, God is with us. He is for us. He will see us through.

This truth has implications on how we pray. We don’t have to take a number and wait in line for someone else to finish before we can talk to God. We don’t have to wait for God to make the rounds to our neighborhood before we can talk to him. Whenever we want, as often as we like, for as long as we desire, we have God’s full and undivided attention. Take a moment for that to sink in. The God of the universe, the God who spoke all creation into existence, the God who governs every king and president and ruler, the God who is sovereign and supreme over all spiritual forces good and evil, is eager to listen to you. He counts your prayers as significant.

This gives us great confidence when we pray for others. God is fully present with us to hear our prayers here for our brothers and sisters who are in a different town or on the other side of the planet, and at the same time (or even before we ask) is fully present there to answer that prayer wherever they are.

The infinite presence of God is a great comfort to believers, but a great terror to unbelievers. In Revelation 6, we are told:

Revelation 6:15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?

Hebrews 4:13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

There is no place we can flee from his presence. Not heaven, not hell, not the depths of the sea, not the farthest reaches of space. Augustine writes “there is no place whither thou mayest flee from God angry but to God reconciled. There is no place at all whither thou mayest flee. Wilt thou flee from him? Flee unto him.” The only safe place to flee from the wrath of God is to flee into the outstretched arms of Jesus. “No one comes to the Father except through me” Jesus said (Jn.14:6). Herman Bavinck writes “approaching God and seeking his countenance does not require pilgrimage but penitence and humiliation.” [Bavinck, p.163]

Isaiah 66:1 Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? 2 All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

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

September 27, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 16:19-24; The Love and Grace of Jesus

07/19 1 Corinthians 16:19-24 The Love and Grace of Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150719_1cor16_19-24.mp3

1 Corinthians 16 [SBLGNT]

19 Ἀσπάζονται ὑμᾶς αἱ ἐκκλησίαι τῆς Ἀσίας. ἀσπάζεται ὑμᾶς ἐν κυρίῳ πολλὰ Ἀκύλας καὶ Πρίσκα σὺν τῇ κατ’ οἶκον αὐτῶν ἐκκλησίᾳ. 20 ἀσπάζονται ὑμᾶς οἱ ἀδελφοὶ πάντες. ἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους ἐν φιλήματι ἁγίῳ. 21 Ὁ ἀσπασμὸς τῇ ἐμῇ χειρὶ Παύλου. 22 εἴ τις οὐ φιλεῖ τὸν κύριον, ἤτω ἀνάθεμα. Μαράνα θά. 23 ἡ χάρις τοῦ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ μεθ’ ὑμῶν. 24 ἡ ἀγάπη μου μετὰ πάντων ὑμῶν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ.

1 Corinthians 16 [ESV2011]

13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.

15 Now I urge you, brothers—you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints— 16 be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer. 17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.

19 The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord. 20 All the brothers send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss. 21 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. 22 If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come! 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Greetings

Paul is giving final greetings to the Corinthian church. He passes along personal greetings from three different groups, he admonishes them to greet one another, and he gives them his own greeting. This word ‘greeting’ means to embrace, to salute, to wish well, to welcome, to receive joyfully. Literally it means to draw to oneself. This is a personal relational concept. If a friend is traveling to a place where you once lived, you might ask them to say hello to your friends there or to give them a hug for you.

The first greeting is from the churches of Asia. This would include the churches in Pergamum, Thyatira; Sardis, Smyrna; Philadelphia, Laodicea; Colossae; and the church in Ephesus, where he is writing from. With the exception of Ephesus, the majority of the believers in these other churches had likely never been to or met anyone in the church in Corinth. But their faith in Jesus had made them brothers and sisters. There is a fellowship, a camaraderie even among Jesus followers who have never met one another. United by a common love for the Lord, they find themselves in a close knit family, many of whom they will never meet this side of eternity. Paul began this letter by addressing ‘the church of God in Corinth, …those called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (1:2). Here he is sending a brotherly greeting from many of these fellow saints in Asia.

He also sends greetings from Aquila and Prisca and the church in their house. Unlike many in Asia, Aquila and Prisca knew personally those in the church in Corinth. In Acts 18, when Paul first came to Corinth, he met this couple, who had recently relocated to Corinth because they had been evicted from Rome. They shared the same tent making trade with Paul. After 18 months, they left with Paul and traveled to Ephesus. It was in Ephesus that they met Apollos, and it was Priscilla and Aquila who took Apollos aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. Apollos was then sent off to Achaia and taught the believers in Corinth. So there was a close connection and relationship between the Corinthians believers and Priscilla and Aquila. Paul says in his greeting in Romans 16:3-4 that Prisca and Aquila are fellow-workers who risked their necks for his life. Aquila and Prisca, now living in Ephesus, used their home to host the believers. They must have had some wealth, to be able to have a home suitable for hosting the gatherings of the church. The church that met in their home also sent sent much greetings in the Lord. It is the Lord Jesus who unites believers and brings them into relationship with himself and with one another.

The third greeting comes from ‘all the brothers’. This is a greeting from Paul’s co-workers, which would include Apollos and Timothy, among others.

Christian Unity

Then Paul exhorts them to greet one another with a holy kiss. A holy kiss was an appropriate greeting for holy people, or saints. Culturally the kiss was a way to show honor and respect, a way to demonstrate friendship and reconciliation. In that culture it was a kiss on the cheek, a way of greeting that is still practiced in middle eastern countries today. We might bring this into our culture as a holy handshake or a brotherly embrace.

This would have been a difficult command for the Corinthians to obey. Most of this letter is addressing divisions in the church, divisions of a party spirit over this or that teacher, divisions on issues of morality, divisions over issues of conscience, division between those of different social status and wealth, divisions over what was culturally appropriate behavior, divisions over what gifts marked them out as more spiritual, even doctrinal divisions over such a central issue as the resurrection. Paul says, regardless of race, regardless of ethnic background, regardless of social status or class boundaries, regardless of what party you belonged to, regardless of gifting, you are to warmly and affectionately greet one another.

This is a practical expression of good theology. Paul preached Christ crucified for sinners. So whether wise or foolish, whether powerful or weak, whether of noble birth or of lower class, despised, or nothing, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. All together deserve death, and all alike need a rescuer who will pay the price for sin and bring them into a right relationship with God. At the cross, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal.3:28); “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Col.3:11). As Paul said in chapter 12

1 Corinthians 12:13 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.

There is one body, and it has many members. Whatever lines we may have divided along before, we are now one in Christ. We have received the same Spirit and we have been made one in Christ.

Colossians 1:20 and through [the Son] to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Paul’s Signature and the Pseudapigrapha

Paul then gives them his own greeting.

1 Corinthians 16:21 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand.

If we had the original letter to look at, we would notice a change in the handwriting in these last lines. Most letter writing was done as dictation to a trained writer or amanuensis. We find this at the end of Paul’s letter to the Romans:

Romans 16:22 I Tertius, who wrote this letter, greet you in the Lord.

Tertius served as Paul’s writer for his letter to the Romans. But the final greetings were in the distinctive personal handwriting of the apostle, and by this he gave his approval to the final draft of the letter. Paul said to the Galatian churches:

Galatians 6:11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.

Already, deceivers had attempted to lead the believers astray, even writing letters in the name of Paul. Paul writes to the Thessalonians:

2 Thessalonians 2:1 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.

He closes that letter with

2 Thessalonians 3:17 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write.

You have probably heard some of the nonsense about writings being removed from our New Testament at a council by a Roman emperor. There are other writings in existence from the early centuries, claiming to be Scripture. They are known as pseudapigrapha, a term that means false writing, because they were heretical writings that falsely claimed to be written by an apostle or an important person in order to gain a wide acceptance. The church recognized these as forgeries attempting to lead astray, and the church never accepted these. The church didn’t need the help of an emperor to discern the genuine from the false. Paul warns the church to be on guard against these forgeries, and he takes the practical measure of giving them a sign of genuineness in his own hand.

Love Jesus or Go To Hell

Paul’s personal greeting at first seems a bit shocking.

1 Corinthians 16:22 If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!

He uses the word ‘anathema’. In Romans 9:3 he says that if possible, he would wish himself to be accursed if that could bring about the salvation of his fellow Jews. In 1 Corinthians 12:3 he says that no one who has God’s Spirit can call Jesus accursed. To the Galatians he says:

Galatians 1:7 …there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Here he says ‘if anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed.’ Love is the greatest command.

Mark 12:29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Love for God is the greatest command. Love is the more excellent way.

1 Corinthians 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is the more excellent way, and love is what the Corinthian church lacked. They were divisive. They were proud. They thought themselves better than others. They did not love enough to discipline a wayward brother. They loved gain and pleasure more than they loved other people. They cherished their own rights over the eternal well-being of other believers. Paul warns them to flee from sexual immorality (6:18). He reminds them

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

He says that although I have rights, and

1 Corinthians 9:19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. …22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

Paul warns ‘flee from idolatry’ (10:14). He warns that we cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons and that we dare not provoke the Lord to jealousy (10:21-22). He says:

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

Love for God seeks to bring glory to God and to seek the good of others as higher than ones own good.

Here he does not use the great word ‘agape’. Here he uses what is in some contexts synonymous, what is in other contexts a lesser word ‘phileo’, the word for friendship love, for warm affection. At the end of the gospel of John, after Peter said that he was willing to die with Jesus and then after he denied even knowing Jesus three times, the risen Lord came to Peter and asked ‘Simon do you love me sacrificially more than these?’ Peter said ‘yes Lord, you know that I love you affectionately. Jesus said to him a second time ‘Simon, do you love me sacrificially?’ Peter replied ‘yes, Lord, you know that I love you affectionately’. Jesus said to him a third time ‘Simon, do you love me affectionately? Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time ‘do you love me affectionately?’. Peter responded ‘Lord you know everything. You know that I love you affectionately’.

We aspire to love the Lord our God selflessly, sacrificially, with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. But we so often fall short. Peter was made excruciatingly aware of his own shortcomings. But he had a strong affection for Jesus. Paul says here, ‘If you don’t have a strong affection for Jesus, you will go to hell’. In chapter 15 he warned them of the danger of not standing firm in the gospel, of not holding fast to it, of believing in vain. This is a strong wake up call. If we do not have a love and affection for Christ that begins to overrule our other desires, then we may be accursed.

Maranatha!

1 Corinthians 16:22 If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!

Paul pronounces an anathema, then Paul says ‘Maranatha!’. Maranatha is an Aramaic word that means ‘come Lord!’ Throughout this letter Paul has reminded the Corinthians that God is the ultimate judge, and we will all stand before him on that day. This is an exclamation, a prayer full of hope. Maranatha! The Lord is coming and he is the great judge, he will bring justice, but his coming is salvation to all who are trusting in him.

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.

The Psalmist warns:

Psalm 2:12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

The coming of Jesus is both a curse and a blessing. It is a curse to those who have rejected him, to those who are perishing, but it brings abundant blessing to those who are trusting in him, to those who are being saved by him.

Grace of the Lord Jesus

1 Corinthians 16:23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.

Paul reminds them of grace. His prayer is that the grace of the Lord Jesus would be with them. Grace is God’s undeserved favor and kindness. Grace by definition is unearned and freely given. The fact that we are not accursed, the fact that the coming of the Lord is something we long for, the fact that we have a strong affection for Jesus, all this is evidence of God’s rich and powerful grace. God gives us what we don’t deserve. God extends his transforming grace to his enemies, and it changes us. The gospel is a message of grace. It has nothing to do with earning or deserving. It is simply and totally God’s freedom to give good gifts to those who could never earn it.

Usually, we think of grace as coming from God the Father. But here Paul specifically says that this is the grace that comes from the Lord Jesus. Jesus is continually giving us his grace.

Paul prays for the believers in Corinth that the grace of Jesus would be with them. As a believer we need his grace with us every moment. We are never done with grace. We never outgrow his grace. We never come to a point when we begin to deserve. We never earn. We are eternally dependent on his grace. We are forever those who receive. Salvation and the Christian life are all of grace.

Love

1 Corinthians 16:24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Paul’s closing word to them is a reminder of his love for them. This is a church that he loves. These are people he cares deeply for. He has confronted sin, he has corrected error, he has challenged their thinking, he has commanded them to run from sin and pursue holiness. He has rebuked and even insulted and shamed the Corinthians. But throughout he has affirmed his love for them. All this is seeking their good. He is laboring for their eternal joy. He loves them. His love is with them in Christ Jesus. It is all because of Jesus. His love for them is an expression of the grace of Jesus. We love because he first loved us. The final word is Jesus.

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

July 19, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment