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Daniel 5:1-6; Divine Graffiti and Profane Incontinence

10/10_Daniel 05:1-6; Divine Graffiti and Profane Incontinence; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20211010_dan05_1-6.mp3

History of Babylon

Nebuchadnezzar reigned in Babylon for 43 years. He died in 562, and was succeeded by his son Amel-Marduk (Evil-Merodach; 2Ki.25:27-30). After an arbitrary and licentious reign of only 2 years, he was assassinated by his brother-in-law Neriglissar, (Nergal-Sharezer; Jer.39:3,13), who reigned for three years eight months. When he died in 556 BC, his son Labashi-Marduk took the throne. He was young and inexperienced, and was assassinated after only a few months, and Nabonidus, part of the coup to overthrow him, was appointed to rule. History tells us that Nabonidus was the final ruler of the Babylonian empire, until it fell in 539 BC to Cyrus the Persian.

Belshazzar and the Nabonidus Cylinder

Daniel chapter 5 records Belshazzar as the final ruler of Babylon at its fall to Cyrus, and critics of the Bible were quick to point out this historical ‘inaccuracy,’ and the fact that a king named Belshazzar was unknown to history outside of the biblical record.

That is, until 1853. The Nabonidus cylinder was discoved in a ziggurat in Ur in, which contains a prayer of Nabonidus to the moon god Sin:

ii 3–16) O Sîn, lord of the gods, king of the gods of heaven and earth, god of the gods, the one who resides in the great heavens…

ii 18–22) (As for) me, Nabonidus, king of Babylon, save me from sinning against your great divinity and grant me a long life (lit. “a life of long days”)

“ii 23–26) Moreover, with regard to Belshazzar, (my) first-born son, my own offspring, have the fear of your great divinity placed in his heart so that he does not commit a(ny) sin. May he be sated with happiness in life.” [RINBE 2, p.163]

Since that time, several other inscriptions on cuneiform cylinders and tablets have been found in the ruins of Ur, Sippar, and Borsippa attesting to the historicity of Belshazzar (or Bēl-šarru-uṣur – Bel protect the king).

Even Babylonian administrative documents recording business transactions naming Belshazzar as the crown prince have been discovered. This clay tablets is dated to the ‘24th day of Kislimu in the 11th year of Nabonidus, King of Babylon’. It mentions a ‘slave of Bel-sharra-utsur (Belshazzar), son of the king.’ [https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/W_1898-0514-558]

Things like this are still being found. In July of this year, a 26 line inscription depicting Nabonidus was discovered in northern Saudi Arabia. This inscription has not been published, so we don’t yet know what it says.

No one today can question the existence of Belshazzar son of Nabonidus.

Proverbs 30:5 Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

We learn from the Verse Account of Nabonidus that:

… -when the third year was about to begin- he entrusted the army [?] to his oldest son, his first born, the troops in the country he ordered under his command.

He let everything go, entrusted the kingship to him, and, himself, he started out for a long journey. The military forces of Akkad marching with him, he turned to Tema deep in the west.

He started out the expedition on a path leading to a distant region. When he arrived there, he killed in battle the prince of Tema, slaughtered the flocks of those who dwell in the city as well as in the countryside. And he, himself, took residence in Tema, the forces of Akkad were also stationed there.

He made the town beautiful, built there a palace like the palace in Babylon. He also built walls for the fortification of the town and he surrounded the town with sentinels.

Nabonidus spent most of his 17 year reign in Tema in Arabia, 500 miles south of Babylon, entrusting his son Belshazzar with the responsibilities of overseeing the affairs of Babylon. Although Belshazzar does not refer to himself as king of Babylon in any of the known inscriptions, he was indeed entrusted with the kingship by his father, and it would be natural for Daniel to refer to him as king.

Cyrus’ Siege of Babylon

Nabonidus had returned to Babylon around 543 BC, so he was in the province when Cyrus attacked in 539 BC.

Josephus records for us what the ancient historian Berosus said about the attack of Cyrus on Babylon:

…but when he was come to the seventeenth year of his reign, Cyrus came out of Persia with a great army; and having already conquered all the rest of Asia, he came hastily to Babylonia. When Nabonnedus perceived he was coming to attack him, he met him with his forces, and joining battle with him was beaten, and fled away with a few of his troops with him, and was shut up within the city Borsippus. [Josephus c. Ap. 1:151-153 (1:20)]

This is the historical backdrop of Daniel 5.

Why Feast?

The night was the 16th of Tishri (October 12) 539BC, and the army of Cyrus was camped outside the walls of Babylon. Two days earlier, Belshazzar’s father Nabonidus, had led his troops to battle at Sippar, less than 40 miles north of Babylon on the Euphrates river. Nabonidus was defeated and fled.

Daniel 5:1 King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand.

When we put the historical details together, we must ask why? Why was Belshazzar making a feast in Babylon after the defeat of his father two days earlier, and with Cyrus encamped on his doorstep, preparing to lay siege?

It could be that news of his father’s defeat and of the Persian army had not reached him. It could be that he was oblivious to the threat. Or it could be that he was well aware of the imminent demise of Babylon, and he chose to ‘eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’ But it seems from his actions that he was proud and defiant, thinking he was safe within the city’s walls. The feast could be a way to rally the leaders and demonstrate to them that they had nothing to fear.

Herodotus in his Histories gives us a possible explanation;

…Cyrus …when the next spring was just beginning, then at length he continued his advance upon Babylon: and the men of Babylon had marched forth out of their city and were awaiting him. So when in his advance he came near to the city, the Babylonians joined battle with him, and having been worsted in the fight they were shut up close within their city. But knowing well even before this that Cyrus was not apt to remain still, and seeing him lay hands on every nation equally, they had brought in provisions beforehand for very many years. So while these made no account of the siege, Cyrus was in straits what to do, for much time went by and his affairs made no progress onwards. [Herodotus Histories 1:190]

The walls of Babylon were massive, impenetrable. The city was built around the river Euphrates, so they had a constant supply of water. If they had stored up many years worth of supplies, they may have been confident that they could outlast any siege.

Belshazzar’s Profanity

Daniel 5:1 King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand. 2 Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. 3 Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. 4 They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

This is a bold act. Belshazzar is saying that he is greater than the God of Israel. He is greater than his predecessor Nebuchadnezzar.

Nebuchadnezzar had taken the sacred vessels of the Jerusalem temple and placed them in the temple of his god (1:2). There was an understanding that if I conquer you, that means that the gods I serve are greater than the gods you serve, so I take the treasures that belong to your god and put them in the temple of my god, because my god is greater. Nebuchadnezzar was great, and Nebuchadnezzar was proud, but he dared not touch the sacred vessels or use them for any common use. They were dedicated to his god, and they remained in the temples of his god.

In Numbers 18, after the rebellion of Korah, God set aside the Levites to serve alongside Aaron and his sons the priests, but he made a distinction.

Numbers 18:3 They shall keep guard over you and over the whole tent, but shall not come near to the vessels of the sanctuary or to the altar lest they, and you, die. …7 And you and your sons with you shall guard your priesthood for all that concerns the altar and that is within the veil; and you shall serve. I give your priesthood as a gift, and any outsider who comes near shall be put to death.”

Not even the Levites were allowed to come near or touch the holy vessels, or they would die. Belshazzar, under the influence of wine, orders that the holy vessels be brought to his immoral feast so they can use them to get drunk. ‘The king, and his lords, his wives, and his concubines’ is repeated to emphasize the audacity of this act.

Saying that they ‘praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone’ is a long list declining in value that may be intended to mock the inanimate and worthless gods that the Babylonians worshiped.

But Belshazzar may be saying ‘I don’t believe in any god I can’t see. I put my trust in tangible things like gold and silver; I can buy my way out of any situation. I trust in bronze and iron, tools of war. I trust in wood and stone, physical defenses, walls. I trust in what I can see, in what is real, tangible, solid, strong. I’m not superstitious. I don’t believe in any gods. I don’t believe in the supernatural.’

Divine Graffiti and the Incontinence of the King

This is when God shows up to crash his little party.

Daniel 5:5 Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. 6 Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together.

In the excavations of the palace of Babylon, there is ruins of a room 165 feet long by 55 feet wide, and the walls were plastered. There is a recess in the middle of one of the longer walls, opposite the entrance to the room, where the king would have sat on a raised platform, illuminated by the lampstand. In the plastered wall of his party room, the king was confronted by the supernatural. His confidence crumbled in an instant. He went from proud to pale, from cocky to coward, from arrogant to incontinent, from defiant to debilitated. The ruddy color of fine wine drained from his face. The phrase translated ‘his limbs gave way’ can be literally translated ‘the knots of his loins were loosed’; very likely this means that he lost all control of his bodily functions. This one who was so self assured to defy the living God publicly soiled himself in front of his thousand party guests. God has a way of humbling the proud. And God has a sense of humor!

Back in Genesis, when all the people gathered against the Lord on the plains of Shinar to make a name for themselves, and to make a tower whose top reached to heaven, the Lord stooped down to see what it was they were building. This one who asserted his power over YHWH’s bowls lost control of his own bowels (Schwab). As Nebuchadnezzar said at the close of the last chapter, “…all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” (4:37).

God will not be mocked (Gal.6:7). Biblical ‘scholars’ who accused Daniel of historical inaccuracy in fabricating a Belshazzar character are now shown to be the fools who disbelieved God’s word. Belshazzar who defied the living God and trusted in the things that were solid and reliable now has the knots of his own loins untied.

Application

What are your idols? What do you praise? What do you treasure? Delight in? What is it you value most?

Proverbs 17:3 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts.

Proverbs 27:21 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and a man is tested by his praise.

What are your idols? What do you praise? What are you trusting in? Gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone? In what does your confidence lie? Who or what do you rely on, depend on?

1 Peter 1:6 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.

Take a moment to evaluate your affections. What do you love? What do you rejoice in? That which you can see, or the unseen realities? If Jesus is not supreme in your affections, your faith is misplaced.

***

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

October 11, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 8; Ordaining The Priests

07/10 Leviticus 8; Ordaining the Priests; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160710_leviticus-8.mp3

Historical Narrative

We’ve come to Leviticus 8, which resumes a historical narrative after seven chapters of instructions for the different types of offerings. Leviticus 7 concludes this section:

Leviticus 7:37 This is the law of the burnt offering, of the grain offering, of the sin offering, of the guilt offering, of the ordination offering, and of the peace offering, 38 which the LORD commanded Moses on Mount Sinai, on the day that he commanded the people of Israel to bring their offerings to the LORD, in the wilderness of Sinai.

This is the historical setting. This is God’s word to his people. God is speaking to Moses from the newly constructed tabernacle at Mount Sinai. God is giving instructions on what is to be done in his holy tabernacle. He has given instructions on the burnt offering, the grain offering, the sin offering, the guilt offering, and the peace offering. And now he will give instructions in this next section on the ordination offering. In Exodus we have detailed instructions on how to build the tabernacle. In Leviticus 1-7 we have detailed instructions on what kind of offerings are acceptable in the tabernacle. Chapter 8 now answers the question ‘who is authorized to serve in the tabernacle and to officiate these sacrifices?’ What good is a place to meet with God, a sacrificial system that offers forgiveness of sins and communion with God, if no one is qualified to offer these sacrifices?

Leviticus 8:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Take Aaron and his sons with him, and the garments and the anointing oil and the bull of the sin offering and the two rams and the basket of unleavened bread. 3 And assemble all the congregation at the entrance of the tent of meeting.” 4 And Moses did as the LORD commanded him, and the congregation was assembled at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 5 And Moses said to the congregation, “This is the thing that the LORD has commanded to be done.”

Leviticus 8 is the public installation of Aaron and his sons in the role of priests for the nation. A priest is one who is responsible to guard the honor and glory of God, to instruct people on how God is to be approached, and to intercede in the presence of God for the people.

Exodus Context

God tells Moses ‘take Aaron and his sons’. To fully appreciate this chapter, we need to step back and see it in the broader context of the book of Exodus. Leviticus really continues the story where Exodus left off. We could even consider Leviticus 8 as the chapter that is missing from the book of Exodus. Exodus 1-18 covers the divine rescue of God’s people from their oppression in Egypt. Chapters 19-40 are God’s covenant instructions to his people so that he can be their God and live in their midst. After the covenant is made, chapters 25-31 deal primarily with the instructions for the construction of the tabernacle. Chapter 28 gives detailed instructions for making the priestly garments, and chapter 29 gives instructions on how the priests are to be consecrated or set apart. But then we hit Exodus chapter 32 and everything comes unraveled.

Aaron’s Record

Let me remind you of the events of that chapter. In chapter 24, the people agree to the ten terms of God’s covenant. “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do” (24:3). God calls Moses up to the mountain.

Exodus 24:12 The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and wait there, that I may give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.” 13 So Moses rose with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. 14 And he said to the elders, “Wait here for us until we return to you. And behold, Aaron and Hur are with you. Whoever has a dispute, let him go to them.”

So Moses leaves Aaron and Hur in charge, and the LORD is speaking to him 40 days and 40 nights. Then in chapter 32,

Exodus 32:1 When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” 2 So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” 5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.” 6 And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play. 7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” 9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

Aaron is in charge. The people go to Aaron. Aaron takes a collection and makes an idol. Aaron was there affirming ‘all the words that the LORD has spoken we will do’, and this was in response to “I am the LORD your God… You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything…” (Ex.20:2-4). And now Aaron fashions a golden calf, builds an altar before it and proclaims a feast in its honor. The LORD is ready to destroy this people.

Exodus 32:21 And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?” 22 And Aaron said, “Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. 23 For they said to me, ‘Make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 24 So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.” 25 And when Moses saw that the people had broken loose (for Aaron had let them break loose, to the derision of their enemies),

…35 Then the LORD sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf, the one that Aaron made.

Aaron was left in charge. Aaron is held responsible for bringing ‘such a great sin upon them’. Aaron makes excuses. Aaron let the people break loose. Chapters 28 and 29 gave instructions on making garments for Aaron and his sons to serve as priests, and instructions on consecrating Aaron and his sons as priests, but in chapter 32, Aaron made a golden bull idol and promoted its worship. In chapter 33, Moses intercedes for the people, and in 34, God renews his covenant with his people. Chapters 35 -38 the tabernacle is constructed exactly according to the command of the LORD. Chapter 39 the priests garments are made exactly according to the LORD’s commands. Chapter 40 the book closes with the tabernacle being assembled, and the glory cloud filling the tabernacle. But chapter 29 has no fulfillment in Exodus. The tabernacle is built and the priests garments are made, but there are no priests consecrated to serve in that tabernacle. Leviticus 1-7 outline the duties of the people and the priests in the sacrifices, but still there are no priests to officiate. Will there be? Will another family be chosen? Has Aaron utterly disqualified himself and his children from serving? Leviticus 8 answers this question.

Aaron Washed and Clothed

And it is clear this is not Moses taking the initiative. “Moses did as the LORD commanded him”. “This is the thing that the LORD has commanded to be done.”

Leviticus 8:6 And Moses brought Aaron and his sons and washed them with water. 7 And he put the coat on him and tied the sash around his waist and clothed him with the robe and put the ephod on him and tied the skillfully woven band of the ephod around him, binding it to him with the band. 8 And he placed the breastpiece on him, and in the breastpiece he put the Urim and the Thummim. 9 And he set the turban on his head, and on the turban, in front, he set the golden plate, the holy crown, as the LORD commanded Moses.

Aaron is washed with water and then clothed with the high priests garments that were detailed in Exodus 28 and 39. This is amazing! What did Aaron do? He broke the LORD’s commands, led the people into great sin, and then made excuses. He was responsible for the death of 3000 people. But here in Leviticus 8, it is as if nothing had happened. In Exodus 33 the people mourned. And Moses prayed. No sacrifice was made. In Exodus 34, God revealed his character “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love… forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…” (Ex.34:6-7). Here in Leviticus 8, Aaron stands washed and clothed in holy garments. No record of wrongs is remembered! No sacrifices have yet been offered. How can this be?

Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, …the Lord has anointed me… 3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.

…10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.

Anointing Oil

Leviticus 8:10 Then Moses took the anointing oil and anointed the tabernacle and all that was in it, and consecrated them. 11 And he sprinkled some of it on the altar seven times, and anointed the altar and all its utensils and the basin and its stand, to consecrate them. 12 And he poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron’s head and anointed him to consecrate him. 13 And Moses brought Aaron’s sons and clothed them with coats and tied sashes around their waists and bound caps on them, as the LORD commanded Moses.

The tabernacle and all that was in it is anointed with oil, setting it apart to be exclusively for God. Aaron was anointed with oil, setting him apart exclusively for God. Aaron’s sons were also clothed in holy garments.

Sin Offering

Leviticus 8:14 Then he brought the bull of the sin offering, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the bull of the sin offering. 15 And he killed it, and Moses took the blood, and with his finger put it on the horns of the altar around it and purified the altar and poured out the blood at the base of the altar and consecrated it to make atonement for it. 16 And he took all the fat that was on the entrails and the long lobe of the liver and the two kidneys with their fat, and Moses burned them on the altar. 17 But the bull and its skin and its flesh and its dung he burned up with fire outside the camp, as the LORD commanded Moses.

Put yourself for a moment in Aaron’s bare feet (shoes were not part of the priests garments; they were on holy ground). What would be going through your heart and your head, if Aaron’s history were your history, as you led that bull near the altar, and laid your hands on its head? What would you be saying in silent prayer to the LORD? What would you feel as you took the knife and reached down and slit the throat of that animal? This was the first blood to be shed in the tabernacle. This was the first animal to be sacrificed. Shame, guilt, fear, a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, ‘I don’t deserve to be here,’ ‘I don’t deserve to be dressed like this,’ ‘I deserve what this animal is getting,’ confession, humble awe, wonder, amazement, relief, release, freedom. There is forgiveness for sins.

Whole Burnt Offering

Leviticus 8:18 Then he presented the ram of the burnt offering, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram. 19 And he killed it, and Moses threw the blood against the sides of the altar. 20 He cut the ram into pieces, and Moses burned the head and the pieces and the fat. 21 He washed the entrails and the legs with water, and Moses burned the whole ram on the altar. It was a burnt offering with a pleasing aroma, a food offering for the LORD, as the LORD commanded Moses.

First a bull for the sin offering of the anointed priest, then a ram for a whole burnt offering

Ordination Peace Offering

Leviticus 8:22 Then he presented the other ram, the ram of ordination, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram. 23 And he killed it, and Moses took some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. 24 Then he presented Aaron’s sons, and Moses put some of the blood on the lobes of their right ears and on the thumbs of their right hands and on the big toes of their right feet. And Moses threw the blood against the sides of the altar. 25 Then he took the fat and the fat tail and all the fat that was on the entrails and the long lobe of the liver and the two kidneys with their fat and the right thigh, 26 and out of the basket of unleavened bread that was before the LORD he took one unleavened loaf and one loaf of bread with oil and one wafer and placed them on the pieces of fat and on the right thigh. 27 And he put all these in the hands of Aaron and in the hands of his sons and waved them as a wave offering before the LORD. 28 Then Moses took them from their hands and burned them on the altar with the burnt offering. This was an ordination offering with a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the LORD. 29 And Moses took the breast and waved it for a wave offering before the LORD. It was Moses’ portion of the ram of ordination, as the LORD commanded Moses.

The ram of the ordination peace offering was killed and blood was applied to Aaron’s right ear, right thumb, and right toe. His ears were set apart to hear the word of the LORD. His hands were set apart to do acts of grace and mercy. His feet were set apart to walk in the ways of the Lord and follow his path. His hands were then filled with an offering to the LORD that was a pleasing aroma.

Consecrated with Oil and Blood

30 Then Moses took some of the anointing oil and of the blood that was on the altar and sprinkled it on Aaron and his garments, and also on his sons and his sons’ garments. So he consecrated Aaron and his garments, and his sons and his sons’ garments with him. 31 And Moses said to Aaron and his sons, “Boil the flesh at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and there eat it and the bread that is in the basket of ordination offerings, as I commanded, saying, ‘Aaron and his sons shall eat it.’ 32 And what remains of the flesh and the bread you shall burn up with fire. 33 And you shall not go outside the entrance of the tent of meeting for seven days, until the days of your ordination are completed, for it will take seven days to ordain you. 34 As has been done today, the LORD has commanded to be done to make atonement for you. 35 At the entrance of the tent of meeting you shall remain day and night for seven days, performing what the LORD has charged, so that you do not die, for so I have been commanded.” 36 And Aaron and his sons did all the things that the LORD commanded by Moses.

Aaron was consecrated with oil and blood. Anointed with oil which represents joy in the Holy Spirit, and the blood of Jesus Christ which cleanses us from all sin. Made fit to enter God’s presence. Allowed to enjoy fellowship with God. Does this amaze you? That someone with a record like Aaron’s could have his sins forgiven, forgotten, washed away? Do you think that what you have done is worse, and can never be forgiven? You are wrong! Do you know someone who you think has gone too far and is beyond the reach of God’s grace? You are wrong!

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

Such were some of you! Have you been washed, set apart, clothed in his righteousness by the blood of Jesus and by the Spirit of God?

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

July 17, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Train Up A Child; 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14-15

05/10/15 Train Up A Child: 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14-15; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150510_train-up-a-child.mp3

Proverbs 22:6 tells us:

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Historical Sketch of Timothy

I want to look this morning, this mother’s day at Timothy as an example of this. Paul met Timothy in Lystra on his first missionary journey around AD 47-49, where Timothy and his mother became followers of Jesus. When Paul returned to the area on his second journey around AD 49-51, he took Timothy with him as a co-worker in the gospel, strengthening the churches.

Acts 16:1 Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.

Timothy was a young man from a divided home. His mother was a believer. His father was not. Timothy became Paul’s companion as he traveled through the regions of Phrygia and Galatia, then to Troas in Mysia, then to Phillipi in Macedonia, where Paul and Silas were beaten and imprisoned. Upon release, they went to Thessalonica, then to Berea. Paul was sent from Berea to Athens alone to escape the hostility that followed him there. Silas and Timothy joined Paul briefly in Athens, and then, because Paul was prevented from going back himself, he sent them back to Thessalonica to encourage the believers there.

1 Thessalonians 3:1 Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, 2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, 3 that no one be moved by these afflictions. …

Paul traveled alone from Athens to Corinth, and Timothy and Silas rejoined him there (Acts 18:5). They spent a year and a half in Corinth, and in AD 51 Paul together with Silas and Timothy wrote two letters to the church in Thessalonica. They traveled from Corinth to Ephesus, then to Caesarea in Syria and then to Antioch. In AD 52, Paul took Timothy with on his third journey, and they visited the churches in Galatia and Phrygia, and then came to Ephesus. Paul spent 2 years in Ephesus, and around AD 56, he wrote 1 Corinthians. Around that time he also sent Timothy as his delegate to Corinth.

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

1 Corinthians 16:10 When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am. 11 So let no one despise him. Help him on his way in peace, that he may return to me, for I am expecting him with the brothers.

Toward the end of his stay in Ephesus, Paul sent Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia (Acts 19:22), then joined them there. From Macedonia, Paul wrote his second letter to Corinth, and sends greetings from ‘Timothy our brother’ (2Cor.1:1, 19). They traveled from there to Greece, where they spent 3 months, during which, around AD 57, Paul wrote his letter to Rome, and sent greetings from ‘Timothy, my fellow worker’ (Rom.16:21). Paul traveled from there up to Phillipi in Macedonia, but sent Timothy along with others to Troas to wait for him. Timothy accompanied him on several other stops in route to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, Paul was arrested, and spent two years imprisoned in Caesarea, before being sent to Rome. In Rome, again Paul was joined by Timothy, and from prison in Rome he wrote Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon, in which he mentions Timothy as co-author. He says to the church in Philippi,

Philippians 2:19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.

Paul was released and traveled to Philippi in Macedonia, and at some point he sent Timothy to Ephesus to keep the church there on track. He wrote to Timothy from Macedonia around AD 62/63

1 Timothy 1:2 To Timothy, my true child in the faith: … 3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine,

By AD 67, Paul, now an old man awaiting execution, was again in Rome, and wrote a final letter to Timothy. He contrasted Timothy with unfaithful and ungodly people.

2 Timothy 3:10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me.

At the end of this final letter, Paul asks Timothy to come to him in Rome.

2 Timothy 4:9 Do your best to come to me soon. …11 Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. …13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. …21 Do your best to come before winter.

Character of Timothy

Timothy was a brother, a co-worker, a true child in the faith, a man of proven worth. He was trustworthy, competent, sacrificial, well trained in the scriptures, capable of leadership, a true man of of character. Timothy would be a great role model. We should want to be like Timothy, and we should want our children to grow up to be like Timothy. So often our desires as parents are for our children to grow up protected from the evils of this world, to go to a good school, to find a good spouse, to get a good job, to live in a good house, to have good children, and to visit a lot. That is such a small dream for our children. Such a nearsighted dream. We should want more than a good middle-class life for our children. We should long for them to live lives that matter, that count for eternity, lives of integrity and character over the long haul, lives that bring pleasure to the heart of God. That is the kind of life Timothy’s mother launched him on. What do we know about Timothy?

The Training of Timothy

2 Timothy 1:5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.

Timothy didn’t grow up in ideal circumstances. Not much is said of his father other than that he was a Greek. It is implied that his father was either not a believer, or just not around. But his mother and his grandmother had a sincere faith. They invested in this young man and passed on their faith to him.

I’ve heard some nonsense of parents not wanting to force kids to believe what they believe, but laying out the options and letting the kids decide for themselves. I believe that is foolish and irresponsible. Think of it this way: when your two year old has a fever, you don’t empty the medicine cabinet onto the kitchen table and say ‘here are the options, you decide’. And it’s a lazy attitude, because what it means is ‘I know raising children to fear and love the one true God is hard work, and I’d rather not put in the effort’. And it’s an arrogant statement, because it presumes that you can persuade them to follow what you believe. You can’t. Only God can create new life in your child, but he has given you the responsibility and the privilege of teaching your kids the truth and leading them in the way they should go and praying earnestly for that work of God in their heart.

Unhypocritical

One thing is clear, you can’t pass on a faith you do not own yourself. It was a sincere faith, an unhypocritical faith. You can’t point your kids in the direction you think is right but you are unwilling to go, and expect them to go there. Their faith dwelt in them. It was at home in them. Theirs was not a Sunday faith. It was a Sunday through Saturday faith. It was a faith that was at home in them 24/7. It was a faith that shaped their actions and attitudes and words when they were in public and private, when others were around and when no one was looking. Paul had seen evidence that Timothy didn’t just inherit this faith, he owned it. It was not just what his family had taught to him; it was what he clung to and what he built his life on and what had proved strong enough to carry him through the storms and trials of life. Timothy’s was a faith without hypocrisy. It was genuine. It was the real deal. It had been modeled faithfully by his mother and by his grandmother. They lived it, and that had a lasting impression on this young man.

The Sacred Writings

Paul says to Timothy in chapter 3

2 Timothy 3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Timothy had been trained up in the scriptures. He had been taught the truth. From infancy, literally from before birth he had been exposed to God’s written word. That is life shaping! What powerful training for a life of usefulness. To know the scriptures, to know the grand story of which all the stories play a part, the story of a God who always was, a God all powerful, a God who creates, a God who cares for his rebellious creation, a God who is just and holy, but a God who is merciful and compassionate, a God who comes down to provide a way for his wayward creation to be restored to him, a God who sacrifices of himself to heal our hurts and make us whole.

The sacred writings are able. They are powerful. Hebrews tells us ‘the word of God is living and active’ (Heb.4:12). God told Isaiah

Isaiah 55:11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Timothy had been placed under the powerful influence of the word of God. He had learned, and he had come to firmly believe the truth of God’s word. He was persuaded, he was convinced. He had weighed the evidence and had been won over. It mattered from whom he learned it. His mother, and his grandmother had not just taught it to him or shoved it down his throat. They had lived it before him. They had immersed themselves in the sacred writings. The truth was in them and it had shaped them. They were genuine, without hypocrisy.

The sacred writings, in Timothy’s case, the Old Testament, is powerful to make one wise for salvation. The entire Old Testament is a story of a sovereign God with a good creation gone tragically wrong, and in desperate need of rescue. It is a story of the darkness of human hearts living out from under God’s good rule. It is a story of the devastating consequences of doing that which is right in our own eyes. Even the most well meaning well intentioned people, even the heroes were tragically flawed and broken characters, unable to get it right, in urgent need of forgiveness and healing and help. The scriptures are able to make us wise for salvation by teaching us that

Psalm 14:3 …there is none who does good, not even one.

And

Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way…

The scriptures make us wise to our need for a Savior. And the scriptures point us to that Savior. The one who is fully man, but so much more than a mere man, the God-man who as man was able to stand in our place and pay our debt, but who being fully divine was able to bear the full fury of God’s infinite wrath against the sins of mankind, Christ Jesus, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn.1:29)

The scriptures point us to faith, utter and complete dependence and trust on the finished work of another, a champion, one who would fight our battles, conquer our enemies, in whom we have the victory. Trust in the character and nature of God, the one who keeps his word and fulfills all his promises. The one who brings something out of nothing and makes all things new.

2 Timothy 3:15 …the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Paul exhorts Timothy to continue in, to remain in, to abide in the truth of the scriptures. This would enable him to discern truth from error, to set the example, to stand firmly in grace, and to boldly proclaim the truth.

Do we want any less for our kids? Are we willing to expend the energy to train our children, to discipline them, to invest in them, to live unhypocritically before them, to saturate our own souls in the scriptures, to be real with them, and to point them to something so much bigger than ourselves, to encourage them to live for something bigger than themselves, to live to the glory of God, to be useful in the service of Christ?

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

May 10, 2015 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 15:12-19; Objective Truth

04/19 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 Objective Truth; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150419_1cor15_12-19.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

12 Εἰ δὲ Χριστὸς κηρύσσεται ὅτι ἐκ νεκρῶν ἐγήγερται, πῶς λέγουσιν ἐν ὑμῖν τινες ὅτι ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν οὐκ ἔστιν; 13 εἰ δὲ ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν οὐκ ἔστιν, οὐδὲ Χριστὸς ἐγήγερται· 14 εἰ δὲ Χριστὸς οὐκ ἐγήγερται, κενὸν ἄρα τὸ κήρυγμα ἡμῶν, κενὴ καὶ ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν, 15 εὑρισκόμεθα δὲ καὶ ψευδομάρτυρες τοῦ θεοῦ, ὅτι ἐμαρτυρήσαμεν κατὰ τοῦ θεοῦ ὅτι ἤγειρεν τὸν Χριστόν, ὃν οὐκ ἤγειρεν εἴπερ ἄρα νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται. 16 εἰ γὰρ νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται, οὐδὲ Χριστὸς ἐγήγερται· 17 εἰ δὲ Χριστὸς οὐκ ἐγήγερται, ματαία ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν, ἔτι ἐστὲ ἐν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν. 18 ἄρα καὶ οἱ κοιμηθέντες ἐν Χριστῷ ἀπώλοντο. 19 εἰ ἐν τῇ ζωῇ ταύτῃ ἐν Χριστῷ ἠλπικότες ἐσμὲν μόνον, ἐλεεινότεροι πάντων ἀνθρώπων ἐσμέν.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

I have recently talked to two different people who said very nearly the same thing. What they said went something like this. It doesn’t really matter what you believe or what faith you belong to, as long as you believe it and live by it and you are a better person for it. If everybody would really live and truly follow what they believe, we all would be better for it, and the world would be a better place. It doesn’t really matter what you believe, as long as whatever you believe makes you a better person.

This is appealing, this sounds inclusive, and there is even an element of truth to it. If the common denominator of all belief systems were love and being nice, that would make for a much more pleasant and peaceful coexistence on the planet. A major problem with this way of thinking is that this is simply not true. Many belief systems are openly hostile and hateful toward others who do not embrace their teachings. But even if it were true, this is a view that is limited to this life only. If life on this planet is all there is, and whatever you believe helps you to be a better world citizen, then this makes some sense. But if there is a God, and if there is existence beyond death, then it matters a great deal if what you believe is right or wrong, true or false. What if God has a dearly loved Son, whom he sent to die in my place for my sins, and he raised him from the dead as proof that he was who he claimed to be and accomplished what he set out to do, and what if I live a life that is good and I treat others with kindness, but give no regard to God or his Son? It matters not only that what I believe makes me a better person, but that what I believe is true. Really, objectively true.

This is what Paul deals with in our text today. He has built the historical case for the gospel – the good news that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was really and truly dead, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures and that he was really and truly alive, as attested to by many trustworthy eye-witnesses. These are the historical facts with theological meaning. Paul has given us himself as an example of a life radically transformed by the power of God’s resurrecting grace. And now he gives us some logic. He challenges us to use our brains. He reasons with us. He invites us to think clearly and carefully. Ideas have consequences. Some truth claims lead us to conclusions that are contrary to the evidence, so they must not be true. In verse 12, Paul states the problem. In verses 13-15 and in verses 16-18 he lays out two parallel lines of logical reasoning demonstrating by the necessary conclusions that their belief in verse 12 must be false. Then in verse 19, he gives a concluding logical argument.

Problem Stated

1 Corinthians 15:12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

Paul has just declared the united preaching of all the apostolic witnesses of the resurrection. So we preached and so you believed. All the eye-witness agree and proclaim Christ as raised from the dead. That is the gospel message that was preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to it, unless you believed in vain. Some in Corinth were questioning the resurrection. It appears they were not specifically doubting the resurrection of Jesus, but rather questioning any kind of physical resurrection at all. Some were saying ‘the dead are not raised’ and ‘there is no resurrection of the dead.’ What happens when a person dies? We know physiologically, that the body decays, decomposes, is eaten by worms, and returns to dust. But is that all? We know that the Sadducees believed that there is no resurrection, and they came to Jesus with their own logical argument to try to prove the absurdity of the idea of resurrection (Mt.22:23; Mk.12:18; Lk.20:27). There was much in Greek and Roman thought that also doubted the idea of a resurrection. When Paul proclaimed the good news of the resurrection in the Areopagus at Athens, some mocked, but others were curious (Acts17:32). It seems some at Corinth had begun to question and doubt that resurrection was possible. Their issue was not what happens to your soul or spirit or consciousness after you die; their question had to do with what happens to your body. What happens to your person, to all of you? Does your decomposing rotting worm eaten flesh actually come back to life? That sounds impossible, that sounds creepy and gross. Paul challenges the logic of their thinking. If Christ is preached as raised from the dead, then how can you say there is no resurrection of the dead? You can’t have one without the other. Christ died for our sins. He was buried. Christ was one individual who died. If none of the dead are ever raised, then it follows that Christ was not raised, and Paul will now point out the tragic consequences of this idea.

Round One

1 Corinthians 15:13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.

Paul starts with their premise, that he will restate in verse 16, that ‘there is no resurrection of the dead.’ If this premise is absolutely true, then it follows that not even Christ has been raised. This leads to three unacceptable consequences.

Consequence one: our preaching is in vain. In verses 8-11, Paul used himself as an example of God’s resurrecting grace at work in someone who was once vehemently opposed to the gospel. If Christ has not been raised, all my missionary labors, all my hardships, all my pain and heartache and sacrifice, all the abuse and persecution I have suffered has been for nothing. It is empty, fruitless, worthless. There was no point. And not only Paul. Stephen had been stoned to death. James had been beheaded. All the preaching of all the eye-witness was empty, vain, useless, for nothing. A complete waste of time and energy and resources. Because if Christ has not been raised then there is no good news to bring, which leads to the second tragic consequence.

Consequence two: your faith is in vain. Paul had cautioned in verse 2 that they not believe in a way that is empty, fruitless, worthless, pointless. He encourages them to receive the gospel, to stand firm in the gospel, to hold fast to the gospel, to be transformed by the gospel. He will encourage them in verse 58 that their labor is not in vain in the Lord. But if Christ has not been raised from the dead, then all their believing, all their standing firm, all their holding fast is in vain. It accomplishes nothing. It is worthless, futile, empty. If Christ is not raised, your belief gets you nothing. Nothing. Zero.

Consequence three: We are shown to be false witnesses.

1 Corinthians 15:14 And if Christ has not been raised, …15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.

Not only did we who proclaimed the gospel of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus waste our time and accomplish nothing, but worse, we misrepresented God, we bore false testimony about God. We broke the ninth commandment, and probably also the third, to not take the name of the Lord in vain. We bore witness that God the Father raised Jesus Christ from the dead. If it is true, as you say that the dead are not raised, then God did not raise Christ from the dead, and we all, Peter and the twelve, the five hundred, James the Lord’s brother, and all the apostles together are demonstrated to be false witnesses. This is a grave accusation. They apparently did not think through the consequences of their assertions very carefully. Paul challenges them to think.

Round Two

1 Corinthians 15:16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

Paul again revisits their premise, that ‘the dead are not raised,’ and again points them to the necessary logical conclusion that if that is true, not even Christ has been raised, and points them to three more devastating consequences of their truth claim.

Consequence one: Your faith is futile. He is picking up the middle of his first three consequences and fleshing it out. Their believing in vain was sandwiched between the vain preaching and false testimony of the eye-witnesses. Here he uses a synonym to the word ‘vain’ that he used there in verse 14. Worthless, empty, devoid of truth, bringing no results. Your belief in the gospel is futile.

Consequence two: you are still in your sins. This gets to the root of the gospel and the reason for the vain futility of their faith if the resurrection didn’t happen. The good news proclaims that Christ died for our sins. If Jesus claimed to die for our sins, and then he stayed dead, his claim is empty. He didn’t accomplish what he set out to do. Romans 1 tells us that the resurrection validated that Jesus was who he claimed to be.

Romans 1:4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, (cf. Acts 17:31)

And Romans 4 tells us:

Romans 4:25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

If Jesus stayed dead, then he was a fraud and his death accomplished nothing for us. This highlights the absolute centrality and necessity of Jesus. If Jesus wasn’t who he claimed to be, as evidenced by the resurrection, then you are still in your sins. There is no other way for sins to be dealt with. Jesus claimed to be the way; the only way to God (Jn. 14:6). If Jesus’ sacrifice was not accepted by the Father, there is no way to be delivered from our sins. We are finally and forever lost. Our salvation, our justification, our forgiveness is contingent on the resurrection.

Consequence three: those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. To fall asleep is a gentle euphemism for the death of a believer. To die is merely to fall asleep, with the confidence that you will wake refreshed. But if the dead are not raised, and the resurrection of Jesus did not happen, then those who put their confidence in Christ, those who were depending on Jesus, holding fast to the gospel, they have perished. He is not saying that they simply died and ceased to exist. That is not how Paul uses the word ‘perish’. In chapter 1:18-19, he uses this word to contrast those who are being saved with those who are perishing, who are being completely destroyed, whom God is opposing, shaming, bringing to nothing. God’s justice demands that if our sins are not paid for by another, we will pay for them through eternity.

Conclusion

Paul now brings this part of his argument to a conclusion. If the dead are not raised, then Christ is not raised. If Christ is not raised, the gospel is false, preaching is worthless, believing the gospel will profit nothing, you are still in your sins. All we have left then is whatever benefit we have in this life.

1 Corinthians 15:19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

What if it’s not true? What if there is no resurrection? What if the gospel we believed turns out to be a lie? At least we were sincere and it gave us hope and we were better citizens, right? It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere and it makes you a better person, right? Paul’s answer is No! If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. Pathetic. Miserable. Pitiable. How can Paul say this? Isn’t the Christian lifestyle better, even if it is not true? Doesn’t it make you a better person, a better citizen?

Paul does say in 1 Timothy 4:8 that

1 Timothy 4:8 godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come

He exhorts us to be good fathers, husbands, citizens, good employees and employers. But if what we believe is not true, we are pitiable, miserable. Why?

As followers of Jesus, we are to be good citizens and live in submission to the authorities, but we are citizens of a different country and submit first to a higher authority. We are to be good husbands and parents, but we are to be devoted to our first love that takes precedence over all earthly loves. We are to serve our employers well, but all our service answers ultimately to the supreme Master.

Look at Paul, for example. It seems that in almost every city Paul visited a riot broke out. The authorities had to work overtime to try to keep the peace. He often required a military escort and protection. He moved around a lot, sometimes picking up jobs, sometimes taking donations to cover his expenses. He spent a lot of time in prison. Whenever he opened his mouth he was offending someone. Sometimes what he said hurt local businesses and they ran him out of town. He got himself beat up and almost killed on multiple occasions. He was successful in persuading many people to leave their long held religious beliefs and follow his teaching. He stirred things up so much that people were taking vows to assassinate him. Paul the model citizen!

Paul was passionate about one thing; making Jesus known. If the resurrection was not an historical reality, Paul wasted his life. We should feel sorry for him.

What about you? What about me? Do we live this life in such a way that if the resurrection were not true, if Jesus were not who he claimed to be, our lives would be viewed as a colossal waste? Have you sacrificed? Have you suffered for the sake of Christ? Is it true of you that if you have hope in Christ in this life only, you would be of all people most to be pitied? Or is your best life now? Is life comfortable and safe and happy and not too much is risked for the gospel? Do people view you as a good person, a respectable citizen, a responsible neighbor, or do they see a life so transformed by God’s resurrecting grace, so centered on Jesus, that there is tangible evidence that Jesus is really alive today?

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

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