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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

The Spirit’s Fruit: Joy Like Jesus

06/04 The Spirit’s Fruit: Joy Like Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170604_joy-like-jesus.mp3

The fruit of the Spirit is joy. It is interesting that joy is mentioned second. In a list of nine aspects of the Christian life, love tops the list and joy comes right after it. I don’t want to make too big a deal about the order, because as we’ve seen, every aspect is essential. This is one indivisible fruit produced by the Holy Spirit. All these characteristics together make up the genuine fruit. I think people would agree that the most important character trait of a Christian is love. But what would you choose next? After love, what is the next attribute or characteristic you think of when you think of a Jesus follower? Do you think of someone who is patient or kind? Someone who is faithful? Self-controlled? What do you see most evident in the followers of Jesus you know? What do you see being produced in your own heart? Do you see joy? Would others look at you and say ‘I see love there, and I see joy’?

Remember, this is not a list of moral virtues like those other lists we find in ancient Greek literature, where it is agreed that a good citizen will be upright and honest and generous and chaste, because that is what is best for society. It is true, a Christian who has the fruit of the Spirit growing in his life will be the best citizen, and will do what is best for society, but that is not the point here. The point is not to produce outward conformity to a standard that is agreed upon as best for everyone. No, this is fruit, changed heart, changed desires, transformed affections. This is not ‘look at the areas where you fall short and with self-discipline and force of will improve yourself so that you can stay out of jail and make a positive contribution to society.’ No. this is fruit. Paul says it comes by faith; by believing; It is organically produced by God the Holy Spirit living in you. It comes by looking with faith to Jesus, falling in love with Jesus. It is a change at the very core of your being. It is a change of your identity. It is a change in who you are. You were a selfish person; now you are a loving person. You were a grumpy irritable angry sour dour down person; now you are joyful. This is something that can’t be explained naturally; this is supernatural change – Holy Spirit change. This is something you can’t change by trying. This happens by faith; trusting God to work this in you by his power. This is what we mean when we talk about being ‘born again.’ The Holy Spirit of God comes in and begins to change and re-arrange things, he creates new things and puts to death old things. The new birth is inward transformation that results in a changed way of viewing life, changed attitudes, changed patterns of thinking, changed responses to circumstances.

Now remember, this is fruit; it grows. Organically. Slowly. Often imperceptibly. But inevitably.

Joy Defined

So what is this joy we are after? What does it look like? What does it act like? To define biblical joy, which is Spirit produced supernatural fruit, I want to look at something Jesus said in the beatitudes in Luke 6. Typically when we talk about the beatitudes of Jesus you might turn to Matthew 5, where Jesus says ‘blessed are the poor in spirit… blessed are those who mourn… blessed are the meek…’ But did you know Luke also records Jesus’ beatitudes?

What Joy is Not

In Luke 6, Jesus is declaring blessings on his followers. Actually blessings and curses. There are two ways to live. There is the way of blessing, the way of happiness, the way of joy; and there is the way of woe, the way of cursing, the way of pain, the wide road that leads to destruction. Jesus is warning us that there is a counterfeit happiness that is temporary and leads to destruction. We need to hear this, because there are so many false teachers selling a false gospel that if you follow Jesus he will bless you and prosper you and meet all your needs. You are a child of the king; so you should live like a king. Circumstances will go well for you. You will be healthy and wealthy and wise, and people will like you.

I want to start down in verse 24 with the curses, and then we will go back to the blessings to see what real joy looks like. We need to hear these warnings and guard ourselves against the counterfeit.

Luke 6:24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. 26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

Notice the temporary nature of the counterfeit. There is the ‘now’ and the ‘you shall’. Woe to you who are rich now, who are full now, who laugh now, who are well spoken of by all now. As followers of Jesus, there is no promise of those things now. Those who have it all now have all the comfort they will ever have now. They shall not be comforted then. They shall be hungry, they shall mourn and weep. They will be condemned like the false prophets.

Joy that Coexists with Suffering

So true joy is not connected with popularity or prosperity or plenty. Let’s look back at verse 20 to see what Jesus says about real joy.

Luke 6:20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. 22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.

Happy are the poor. Happy are the hungry. Happy are the sorrowful. Happy are the hated. This sounds contradictory. Remember this is not natural joy; this is fruit – supernatural joy. Notice there is an enduring character to the blessedness. There is a present circumstance; poverty, hunger, sorrow, persecution. There is a future hope; the kingdom, satisfaction, laughter, reward in heaven. But there is a permanent blessedness. They are blessed. There is a future hope, but there is a present and enduring blessedness. There is definitely a future aspect of joy, but this joy overlaps with the present persecution and suffering. In the day that you are excluded and slandered and hated, in that very day leap for joy! The future hope bleeds over into a present experience of joy.

So does this passage mean that we should we bankrupt ourselves and starve ourselves and become obnoxious so people hate us? Is that the path to blessing? Jesus did not tell everyone with possessions to give away all that they have, but he did tell the rich young man “go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Mk.10:21) because Jesus loved him and perceived he was treasuring temporal things more than God himself. In Matthew 5 Jesus says “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Happy are the ones who are aware of their poverty, their own spiritual need, and look to Jesus to rescue them. This rich man came to Jesus asking ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life’ (Mk.10:17). Jesus was showing him that it wasn’t what he could do; he had a heart problem. He loved the wrong things. He needed someone to transform his desires.

How is hunger a blessing? The Matthew passage says “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” The ones who are happy are those who understand their desperate lack of the righteousness that God requires and turn to him alone to meet their need.

What about persecution? We are not excluded and slandered and hated because we are obnoxious and rude and socially inappropriate; Matthew 5 says ‘blessed are the meek; blessed are the merciful; blessed are the pure in heart; blessed are the peacemakers; blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” We are hated only because of our relationship with Jesus.

Joy Untouched by Circumstances

Notice this joy is a joy that is untouched by circumstances. How often is our joy a product of circumstances. Things are going well at work or in my relationships or with my finances and I have joy. But when money is tight and things are out of control and I’m facing frustrations, I experience fear and anxiety and become irritable. That is natural. But this joy is unaffected by circumstances. It actually thrives in adversity. It can coexist with grief and pain and loss.

In John 15, Jesus tells his disciples to stay connected to him, to abide in him. He says in verse 11:

John 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Then he commands them to love, and goes on to warn them that the world will hate you like it hated me. In chapter 16 he informs them that he is leaving, but promises the presence of the Holy Spirit. In 16:20 he says:

John 16:20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.

Notice what he does not say. He does not say ‘you will be sorrowful but your sorrow will be removed and replaced by joy.’ He does not say that when you are done being sorrowful and circumstances change, then you will have joy.’ What he says is ‘your sorrow will turn into joy.’ Then he gives an illustration of what he is talking about.

John 16:21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.

Childbirth, I have been told, is painful. There is sorrow. You might even say anguish. Unless she has been medicated enough so that she cannot feel. The word there is affliction, persecution, tribulation; literally it means pressure. When the hour comes, there is pressure. So much pressure it is extremely painful. Then the birth happens. If all goes well, the room that was just moments ago a place of great agony is suddenly filled with joy. But the pain is not gone. She still hurts, and she will continue to experience pain for a long time after. But that pain is now overwhelmed by something else, something greater than the pain. The pain had purpose. The pain was worth it. The pain is overcome by the joy. It is not that the sorrow is removed and replaced with joy; the sorrow remains, but it is overwhelmed by joy. Jesus says:

John 16:22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

This is a joy that is unconquerable. This is a joy that is greater than all the sorrows we could face. This is not joy because you get to escape from sorrow. Remember, Jesus is saying this to his apostles. Have you ever read some of the stories of how the apostles were martyred? Jesus knew exactly what his followers would experience, the suffering they would endure, and yet he promises that no one could take their joy from them. He tells them ‘Your joy will be full, because it is my joy in you. No one will take your joy from you.’ This is Jesus’ joy in us.

Hebrews 12:2 looking to Jesus… who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame…

Joy in Trials

This joy is a joy that can even rejoice in trials and suffering. James 1 says:

James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.

We see this also in 1 Peter and many other places. Romans 5 says

Romans 5:3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings…

C.H. Spurgeon commented about trials

trials make more room for consolation. Great hearts can only be made by great troubles. The spade of trouble digs the reservoir of comfort deeper, and makes more room for consolation. God comes into our heart—he finds it full—he begins to break our comforts and to make it empty; then there is more room for grace. The humbler a man lies, the more comfort he will always have, because he will be more fitted to receive it.” [C.H.Spurgeon, M&E, Morning Feb 12, 2 Cor.1:5]

In 2 Corinthians 4, where Paul speaks of his affliction and persecution, he says:

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Paul says that the affliction we endure is actually working in us, preparing for us an eternal weight of glory. He says in Romans 8:

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

Paul also uses the metaphor of labor pains. He calls them light and momentary. Not worth comparing. Really Paul? Countless beatings? Scourgings? Being stoned and left for dead? Shipwreck? Abandoned? Betrayal? Lack of basic needs? Light momentary affliction that is working in us an eternal weight of glory; not affliction that will be replaced by glory; but affliction that is accomplishing for us – that is digging deep my capacity for joy. In proper perspective the affliction is seen as light, momentary, transient. The glory, the joy is weighty beyond all comparison. The joy will overwhelm any sorrow and make it as if it were nothing at all.

But you don’t know what I’ve been through. You don’t know what has been done to me. No, I don’t. And I don’t want to undermine or invalidate anything you have experienced. What I do want you to see, is that this is true for you. The joy promised us is greater, more immense, more weighty, more substantial than any suffering you have experienced. The wrongs done to you can be swallowed up in unquenchable joy.

I have tried to show you from the scripture that this joy is an enjoyment, a deep satisfying happiness, a weighty delight that is not grounded in outward circumstances. A joy that is not only not affected by circumstances, but can even thrive in the midst of and even because of adverse circumstances. A joy that is so weighty it can swallow up all sorrow. What is this joy and how do we get it?

Joy Linked to Love

Back in Luke 6, our passage on rejoicing and leaping for joy, even in the midst of suffering, Jesus links this kind of joy to love.

Luke 6:27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

Every aspect of the fruit is linked to all the others. Rejoicing and leaping for joy while being persecuted is linked to love for enemies. Love is willingly, even joyfully self-giving for the good of the other. Joy accompanies this kind of love.

Jesus loved the rich man. He wanted him to experience real lasting joy. He wanted him to have the joy that moth and rust could not destroy, that thieves could not break in and steal. He wanted him to have joy in following Jesus. This man went away sorrowful, because of unbelief. He did not believe that the treasure in heaven was greater than his treasure on earth.

Fight for Joy with Joy

In love, Jesus calls us to make war against our fleshly desires. Do not settle for all those things that do not satisfy; insist on having the true joy that Jesus offers. We must fight for joy and we must fight with joy. We can overcome temptation only because we have something better. Are you enticed by the dollar store trinket when you are already in possession of the real thing? Yes! Yes we are, because our desires are deceitful (Eph.4:22). They lie to us and tell us that the plastic imitation is better than the genuine article. The rich fool went away sorrowful because he felt the change in his pocket was more weighty than an eternity following Jesus.

Joy in the Giver above the Gift

Contrast him to the man in Jesus’ story who found treasure hidden in a field and for joy sold all that he had and went and bought that field (Mt.13:44). He was not sorrowful over all he was losing. He was filled with joy because he knew that what he was giving up was nothing compared to what he was gaining. This is the joy of the Christian.

What is the treasure? What is the substance of our joy? What is it that overwhelms all our sorrows and outweighs all our treasures? Paul says

Philippians 3:7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him… 10 that I may know him…

The thing that is better than all the gifts we could possibly enjoy is the giver himself. That I may know him. The surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Being found in him. Abiding in him. Fullness of joy in relationship with him.

Psalm 16:2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” …5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; …8 I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. … 11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

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

June 5, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Works vs Fruit; Galatians 5

05/21 The Work of the Spirit and the War Against the Flesh [Galatians 5:13-21; 24-26]; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170521_works-vs-fruit.mp3

Today we begin a series on the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5. I believe this will be very practical and helpful, and I would invite you to be praying with me that God the Holy Spirit would be at work through his word to produce his fruit in the lives of his people for his glory.

~prayer~

Paul is in anguish over the Galatians. He is astonished that they are deserting Jesus and turning to a different gospel. These Gentiles are being pressured to submit to the Jewish law. Paul is fighting to preserve the truth of the gospel, the good news that we are declared right before God not by keeping the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ. The Christian life is not me attempting to live up to some standard, but Christ living in me, a life lived “by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal.2:20). Paul is eager to embrace the freely given grace of God, and he understands that if righteousness could come through the law then Christ was crucified in vain.

Justification by Grace through Faith in Christ

He says in chapter 3

Galatians 3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—

The Christian life is begun by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone. I hear with desperate dependence the good news proclaimed that Christ was crucified for me. The Holy Spirit is at work in me so that as I hear the gospel I trust not my abilities but Christ alone. The Spirit works this in me. Having freely received the Spirit through faith, is it now up to my flesh to finish the work he began in me? Of course not! If the beginning of the Christian life is a work of the Spirit, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, so the continuance and completion of the Christian life is all a work of the Holy Spirit, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

Sanctification by Grace through Faith in Christ

Paul says in Galatians 4

Galatians 4:19 my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!

Paul’s longing is that Christ would be formed in them. Christ – himself – formed in you. Christ – who lives in me. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. This is no human effort. Paul’s heart is that they would live in complete daily dependence on the Spirit in them to produce the character of Christ in them.

In chapter 5 he warns not to fall away from grace, to turn from the freely given gift of God who is at work in us by his Spirit, in order to attempt to obtain righteousness by our own effort.

Galatians 5:5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.

We do not work, we eagerly wait. We wait for the hope of righteousness; a confident assurance of a righteousness that God will bring about in us. We trust. We depend. We believe. Through the Spirit. By faith. We wait. It is not our effort. Not what we do or don’t do that “counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” It is not me working, but faith working. Dependence on God is at work, and it expresses itself in love.

Freedom to Want

In verse 13, Paul warns against misusing this freedom we have in Christ, our freedom from the law, in a way that allows the flesh to gain traction.

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

We are set free in Christ to fulfill the law by serving one another through love. So many misunderstand freedom as a freedom from any authority. Rather freedom in Christ is freedom from the tyranny of a cruel slave-master to be back under the good and right authority of the God who is love. It is a freedom at the heart level. We are no longer under debt and an obligation to live up to the standards of the law. Instead we are freed to do what we want. We are set free at the level of our desires. We are set free from the suicidal desires that compelled us to pursue things that destroy; we are set free at the heart level to hunger and thirst after the things that truly satisfy.

War of Desires

Paul warns:

Galatians 5:15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Life by the Spirit is war. There is war outside and war within. Paul warns; if you bite and devour one another, watch out; our fleshly desires stir us up against one another. If we follow the flesh (and often we do) we will be biting and devouring each other.

But as believers in Jesus, we have been given the Holy Spirit of God. We still have the old nature, the flesh. And our sinful flesh will not just roll over and admit defeat. It will not go down without a fight. So we have a war on our hands; a war within. It will be long – lifelong. It will be messy – there will be casualties. But we are assured of victory – the outcome is certain. We battle a decisively defeated foe. The flesh was defeated at the cross. If we are in Christ, if we have identified with him in his death and resurrection, the victory has already been won. Jesus conquered sin and death and hell on the cross. And my flesh was crucified with him on that cross.

By flesh the Bible doesn’t mean physical bodies. Our bodies are not inherently evil. Our physical bodies will be resurrected glorified. We will enjoy a sinless existence in our physical bodies in the presence of God for eternity. God created Adam and Eve with physical bodies in the garden and he said it was all very good. Our bodies are not the problem. The flesh is the problem. By the flesh, the Bible means that fallen part of us that desires other things more than God. It is that part of us that wants to be our own master, determine our own destiny, live for our own glory, be our own god. As believers, we now have the Holy Spirit living within, and we now have competing desires. The flesh has its desires, and the Holy Spirit brings with him his desires, and these two are in conflict. The Holy Spirit desires to magnify Jesus above all.

These competing desires ‘keep you from doing the things you want to do.’ We are in a battle. But who is the you? You are either giving in to the flesh, biting and devouring one another, or you are led by the Holy Spirit, free from the law, through love serving one another. So who is the you? What is your identity? Do you embrace the flesh, with its passions and desires, or do you embrace the Spirit, and allow him to transform you? This is a big deal.

Works of the Flesh

In verse 19, he moves from talking about the desires of the flesh to the works of the flesh.

Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The flesh manifests itself. There are fifteen words that divide into four categories here. The first three words have to do with sexual sin; sexual immorality, sexual impurity, uncontrolled lust. Then there are two words dealing with religious pursuits; idolatry and sorcery. The flesh makes an idol out of just about anything; family, relationships, work, success, kids, power, reputation. Sorcery is an attempt to gain control by manipulating the spiritual realm. The next 8 are relationship words. And most of these are in the plural; they have multiple manifestations, they may take multiple forms. Enmity – hostile feelings and actions; strife- contention and discord; jealousy – an envious rivalry; fits of anger – bursts of temper; rivalries – selfish ambitions; dissensions – uprisings or controversies; divisions – creating factions; envy – ill will or spite. Most of these are inward attitudes and feelings, attitudes of the heart. The last two, drunkenness and orgies, have to do with excess; excessive drinking, excessive feasting or partying. The desires of the flesh display themselves in works of deviant and destructive sexuality, dark religious practices, self-centered and damaging relational dynamics, and excessive overindulgence.

Recognize, this is a big deal. This is a warning. Paul says ‘I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.’ So this is a salvation issue. If you have embraced the desires of the flesh, if your life is characterized by the works of the flesh, if there is no battle between flesh and Spirit, then you may not know Jesus. But don’t be discouraged; if you are not winning the battle all the time, if you are still struggling against the same sins. The fact that there is a battle going on and you are convicted over your sins is a good sign.

We could look at Jesus’ story of the prodigal and see these fleshly desires manifesting themselves in the works of the flesh. The prodigal idolized money and freedom from all authority and sinful pleasure. He indulged in sexual immorality, excessive drinking and partying.

We could look at his unforgiving older brother and see enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy.

These are the normal outworkings of the flesh. But when the Spirit comes in, then there is war.

Of course we could look at the father in the story and see the fruit of the Spirit on display; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. We will look at these characteristics in the coming weeks.

How is the Fruit of the Spirit not a list of moral virtues? (070218)

We need to understand how the lifestyle of the morally upright around us fits in to this overall picture. We acknowledge that many that don’t know Christ personally live lives that we would describe as ‘good’; they are kind, patient, faithful, gentle, self-controlled, they exercise patience, they are peace loving, they show love to others, and they seem happy. Does this mean that the Spirit is at work in their lives? Is this evidence of the Holy Spirit, and should we conclude that people who live this way must be justified believers, because Jesus says ‘by their fruits you shall know them’? In fact we probably can think of people we know that do not follow Jesus that we would say have more of the fruit of the Spirit in their lives than we do. Do we have biblical categories in our minds to fit these facts into? Or does this confuse us and cause us to question and doubt?

Let’s look at what Jesus said:

Matthew 7:16-20 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

Now that sounds pretty clear-cut. If you can see the fruit of the Spirit in a person’s life, then they must be O.K. with God, right? If they are loving, kind, good, gentle, patient and self-controlled, then they must be on the right track. Be careful not to jump to conclusions before you’ve read the whole passage. Let’s keep reading and see what Jesus says next:

Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

So, apparently there will be people who on the surface appear to have it all together; even people who sincerely feel that they have it all together, who will be very surprised on judgment day. They will say things like ‘but Jesus, we acknowledge you as Lord; we believe in you’. And Jesus says, ‘no, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven’. They will say ‘but we did that; we prophesied, we even cast out demons in your name; we did many mighty works in your name’. So they were doing good works. They were performing great acts of love. And not just that; there were supernatural things going on. Prophecies were being given; people were being delivered from evil spirits. Obviously the Spirit was at work in their lives. But on this ground they were not welcome in heaven. What was it that they lacked? Jesus says the critical thing is not what you do; it’s who you know. Jesus says ‘I never knew you. You may have done some amazing things. You may be the most loving, kind, generous person around, you might have even done these things in the name of Jesus, but we had no relationship. I never knew you.’ And Jesus sends them away and calls them ‘workers of lawlessness’. How can he say that when they were doing good works? In God’s eyes all their love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and faithfulness and gentleness and self-control were filthy rags in his sight. Their good works were valueless because they didn’t stem from a relationship with Jesus.

Isaiah 64:6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Contrast Works and Fruit

Notice the flesh is always working, striving, exerting effort to attain its unwholesome desires. The Spirit grows fruit. It is an organic thing. It is not manufactured. If the right seed is planted, the right plant sprouts up. Whatever kind of tree it is, that is the kind of fruit that will be produced. There are ways to encourage and enhance fruitfulness; preparing the soil, watering, fertilizing, pruning. But ultimately the fruit is determined by the nature of the tree. The Holy Spirit produces fruit in keeping with his nature.

Notice also, the fruit of the Spirit is singular, where the works of the flesh are plural. There are various and disjointed manifestations of the fleshly desires. But the Spirit produces wholeness, integration, integrity. This is one fruit. It has different sides, different aspects; but it is one. It is one multifaceted fruit.

And take encouragement here. If you belong to Christ, you have the Spirit of the living God living within you.

Romans 8 tells us

Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

And he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1Jn.4:4). And he who is in you is greater than your flesh. God wins! He will be victorious in your life. If the Spirit is there, he will produce his fruit in your life. He will not fail. If God could take the one who was crushed down under the weight of the sin of the world and raise him up to life again, he is fully able to overcome your fleshly desires and produce the satisfying fruit of the Spirit. Christ will be formed in you!

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

May 22, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Church and the Glory of God; Ephesians 1

01/15 The Church and the Glory of God [Ephesians 1]; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170115_church-glory-of-god.mp3

We have been looking for the last two weeks at the purpose of the church. We have seen from the book of Ephesians that the church is meant to be rooted and built on the astounding truths of our identity in Christ as believers totally dependent on the mercy and undeserved grace of a good God. We are to know together, “to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Eph.3:17-19).

We as the church are to live in a manner consistent with the gospel and with our new identity as saints in Christ Jesus. We are to put off the old ways that are inconsistent with that, and to put on the new attitudes, new ways of thinking, new ways of feeling and living that are consistent with who we are in Christ Jesus. (Eph.4:17-6:9)

We as the church are to be diligent to guard our unity in the gospel (Eph.4:1-6).

We as the church are to use what we have been given in love to build one another up (Eph.4:7-16).

We are to be equipped for works of service. For building one another up. For unity in the faith and knowledge of the Son of God. For maturity. For the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. We are to be equipped against immaturity, against false doctrine, against human cunning and deceitful schemes (Eph.4:12-13).

We as the church are to stand firm, with prayer, in the gospel realities that belong to us in Christ (Eph.6:10-20)

Our focus for the last two weeks has been on who we are as the church, and what we are to be about. Today, I would like to take several long steps back and look at the big picture of why.

What is to be our ultimate goal? What is the reason we do everything we do? Through what lens should we view everything?

We find the answer in Ephesians 1. The very first thing Paul says after greeting the Ephesians is ‘Blessed be God.’ He begins with a benediction or eulogy. Literally a good word; eu means good and logos means word; to speak a good word of God, to praise, to adore. God is to be blessed. God is to be spoken well of. God is to be blessed because he has blessed us with every blessing. God is to be spoken well of because he has spoken well of us when there was nothing at all good to say, because in Christ he has made us good. God is to be blessed. God is to be glorified. Blessed be God.

To the Praise of his Glorious Grace

We could ask the question of our ultimate goal from a different perspective. Why does God do what he does? What is his ultimate goal? If we can understand what motivates God to do what he does, we would do well in adopting the same motive.What is the reason God does everything he does?

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

Why does God do what he does? We bless God in response to his blessing us. He chose us so that we would be holy and blameless before him. He predestined us for adoption according to the purpose of his will. What was the purpose of his will? To the praise of his glorious grace. God chose us, God adopted us, God blesses us, not because we did anything to deserve it, but to the praise of his glorious grace. His grace, the outpouring of unmerited blessing and favor is astounding and worthy of all praise. His grace, the freely given unearned riches of goodness in Christ Jesus is glorious. God does what he does according to the good pleasure of his will, to put his own marvelous character on display. God’s choice of you, his purpose to make you holy and blameless in his presence, his adoption of you as his own sons and daughters through Jesus Christ, is moving toward a bigger purpose. It is all ‘to the praise of his glorious grace!’ It is not about me. It is not about you. We are blessed beyond measure in the process, we receive inestimable benefits; but it is all about God! We are trophies of his grace, ultimately to put his gracious character on display. It is all ‘to the praise of his glorious grace with which he has blessed us; literally ‘with which he has graced us in the Beloved’.

Grace Lavished

Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

Jesus, God’s only Beloved Son, purchased us with his own blood, Jesus secured forgiveness for all our trespasses with his own precious blood. Our forgiveness, our redemption was “according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us.” God is rich in grace.

His love has no limits,

His grace has no measure,

His power no boundary known unto men;

For out of his infinite riches in Jesus,

He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again. [Annie J. Flint, 1866-1932]

God’s grace is rich enough to forgive all our collective trespasses. God’s grace is made to superabound to us, the saints, the church, to put on display his great great grace. We live as forgiven, redeemed people to display his excessive grace.

To Unite All In Him

God makes to abound to us his grace,

Ephesians 1:8 …in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

What is the mystery of his will? What is his wise purpose? What is his plan for the fullness of time? To unite all things in him. It is not about us! It is all about Jesus! God’s good pleasure that he purposed in Christ, the mystery of his will made known is to sum up all things; heavenly things, earthly things, all things; nothing is excluded; his purpose is to bring all things together in Christ the head. All things without exception are purposed to bring Jesus glory.

To the Praise of The Glory of the Son

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

Our inheritance, our destiny is worked together by the one who works all things according to the purpose of his will. God’s will, God’s purpose, God’s counsel is that we be to the praise of his glory. We exist to the praise of his glory. We whose only hope is Christ, we the saints, we the church, exist to magnify his glory. This is a clear purpose statement. ‘So that we might be to the praise of his glory.’ God’s purpose for us is that we ultimately exist for the praise of his glory. Our purpose as a church must fall in line with God’s purpose for us; we exist for the praise of his glory.

To the Praise of The Glory of the Spirit

Ephesians 1:13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

We heard the truth, the good news proclamation of our salvation. We believed in Jesus. Hearing and believing we were sealed. God placed his mark on us, he marked us out as belonging to him. The seal is no ouward mark, but he sent his Holy Spirit to live inside us. God the Holy Spirit is our security deposit guaranteeing the full possession of our inheritance. This Holy Spirit deposit guaranteeing the full possession our graciously promised inheritance is to the praise of his glory. God is praised as God who makes fully good on all his staggering promises.

Triune Glory

Look back over this passage. Three times we have seen this phrase ‘to the praise of his glory.’ God the Father has blessed us and purposed us to be in his presence, to the praise of his glorious grace. Our purpose as those who hope in Christ is that we might be to the praise of the glory of Jesus. We who believed were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit as we wait to take possession of our inheritance, to the praise of the glory of the Holy Spirit. This is trinitarian praise to the glory of our triune God!

The Glory of God in Ephesians

Look down at verses 15-23. Paul gives thanks and prays for the saints, that ‘the Father of glory’ would give us wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, that we would know the hope to which we are called, the riches of his glorious inheritance in us, the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us. And then he points us to Christ, whom God exalted far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named. God gave Jesus as head over all things to the church, his body. We need spiritual strength to perceive the immeasurable greatness of God toward us who believe. The goal of it all is that Jesus be exalted over everything.

Look at chapter 2 verse 7. Paul lays out our utterly hopeless condition and God’s rich mercy, great love, and amazing grace,

Ephesians 2:7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

God saved us in the way that he did, in order to eliminate any potential of boasting on our part, and in order to display for eternity the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us. God brought about our salvation in the way that he did, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, in order that all glory would go to God alone. We are indeed put on display as his workmanship!

He goes on in chapter 2 to describe the unity that God brought about through the gospel of the cross between Jews and Gentiles. We grow up in Christ Jesus, joined together as a holy temple to the Lord, a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. God is glorified in his temple, as we the temple are knit together in unexpected unity.

In chapter 3, Paul speaks of his being a minister of the gospel as the gift of God’s grace, given to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light this mystery that Gentiles are members of the same body, partakers of the promise in Christ through the gospel. The purpose of displaying the inexplicable unity of Jews and Gentiles in the body of Christ is given in verse 10.

Ephesians 3:10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,

In the church, the many faceted wisdom of God is put on display for all the angelic hosts to see. In 3:14-19 he again prays to the Father that we would be strengthend by the Spirit to comprehend together the immeasurable love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, and he closes his prayer with a doxology;

Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

To God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever. The glory of God is the church’s great aim.

In chapter 4, he encourages our unity, humility and love, and points us to the “one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (v.6) and to Jesus, “the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things” (v.10). We as the church are to grow up to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, grow up into Christ the head who joins us all together in love.

He concludes some practical exhortation in chapter 5 the will of the Lord, being filled with the Spirit,

Ephesians 5:19 …singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

The will of God for the church is Spirit filled worship and thanksgiving. At the end of chapter 5, he talks about marriage, but his attention is still on Christ and the church. Christ’s goal in the salvation of the church is

Ephesians 5:27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Jesus is looking to that great day when we the church will be presented as a pure virgin to Christ.

In chapter 6, we are to fight the good fight of faith in the strength of the Lord with the power he gives, and in all dependence of prayer, to demonstrate that the victory belongs to the Lord, so that the Lord alone gets the glory.

Romans 15; Glorify with One Voice

I’d like to look as we close at a very practical passage in Romans 15. Paul is dealing with our tendency to pass judgment on others in the body over secondary issues. He says:

Romans 15:1 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” 4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

We are not to please ourselves. We are to bear with the failings of others. We are to seek to please others for their good, to build them up. We are to live in harmony with one another, in tune with Christ. Our ultimate purpose?

Romans 15:6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

This is a gift of God. God grant us encurance and encouragement to live in such harmony with one another. Glorifying God together with one voice. Not in monotone unity all singing the same note, but in a beautiful multifaceted harmony, all in tune with our one Lord Jesus Christ.

God’s glory is primary. God’s glory is the ultimate purpose of the church. Why do we as the church do what we do? To the praise of his gloryious grace. Why do we not do what we don’t do? To the praise of his glory. The glory of God must define all that we do. What can we use to filter every decision? Will this bring glory to God in the church? God’s glory is the purpose of creation, of redemption, of everything. We as the church must seek to fulfill God’s purpose that we sing his praises and enjoy the supreme glory of our triune God in his presence for all eternity.

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

January 16, 2017 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Communion With the Spirit

11/15 Communion With The Spirit ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151115_communion-with-spirit.mp3

We are looking at the primary thing that sets Christianity apart from all other religions, and that is who God is. God in the Bible reveals himself as Father, Son and Spirit, three distinct someones; yet the Bible is just as clear that there is only one true God who eternally exists. Christians have coined the word ‘trinity’ or ‘tri-unity’ to summarize this biblical teaching.

1 John 1:3 tells us:

1 John 1:3 …and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

And the benediction of 2 Corinthians 13 prays that:

2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

We have looked at our fellowship with the person of the Father, the person of Jesus the Son, and today we will be looking at our particular communion or fellowship with the Holy Spirit. Who is the Holy Spirit, why is he called that, and what is our unique relationship with him?

Again, this will be a broad overview. Entire volumes have been written on this subject, so think of this as a kind of primer to stimulate you to do your own study as you enjoy your relationship with this third person of the triune God.

The Holy Spirit

Why is the third person of the triune God called the Holy Spirit? First, we must say that the name ‘Spirit’ does not refer to his essence. The Spirit is not spirit in contrast to the Father and Son, who are material beings. No, the Bible teaches that God in his essence is spiritual, he is not physical, not subject to the limitations and confines of matter. The name ‘Spirit’ applied to the third person refers not to his essence (because all three share the same spiritual essence), but to his relation to the Father and the Son. The word ‘Spirit’ comes from the term ‘spirare’ to breathe; we recognize the root in the words ‘aspirate’ or ‘respiration’. The Old Testament Hebrew word Ruach means breath or wind. The New Testament Greek word for Spirit is Pneuma, which also means breath or wind. Jesus symbolized this when in John 20 he breathed on his disciples and said ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’

John 20:22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

Just as we say that the Son is begotten or eternally generated by the Father, so the Spirit is eternally spirated or breathed out or proceeds from the Father and the Son. More on this later.

In a similar way, the Spirit is called Holy, not because he is holy and the Father and the Son are not (because God in his essence is perfectly holy), but the Spirit is called Holy because his person is particularly responsible for producing holiness in us. Again, more on that later.

A Distinct Divine Person

In the Bible, the Spirit is called the Spirit of God (Gen.1:2; Mt.3:16), the Spirit of the Father (Mt.10:20), the Spirit of Christ (Rom.8:9, Gal.4:6; Phil.1:19), and the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7). Why do we believe that he is his own distinct person and not merely the spirit of another person?

There are several passages where the Holy Spirit is listed alongside the Father and the Son in a way that would be awkward and misleading if they were not three distinct but equal persons. We already looked at the benediction in 2 Corinthians 13:14, which lists the Lord Jesus Christ, God, and the Holy Spirit. Look also at the baptismal formula Jesus gives us in Matthew 28.

Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

This is one singular name, yet it is the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. We can illustrate how significant this is by trying to insert something else in the place of one of the three. ‘Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the archangel Michael and of the Holy Spirit’, as the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach. Or ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the force or the power of God’. No, an angel or an impersonal force would be entirely out of place in this threefold name. The Holy Spirit is just as personally distinct and fully divine as are the Father and the Son. We see the same think at Jesus’ baptism, where the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, and a voice came from heaven addressing Jesus as ‘my beloved Son’.

Luke 3:21 …when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

In Luke 4, we see Jesus full of the Holy Spirit, and in verse 14

Luke 4:14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee..

If the Spirit is merely the impersonal power of God, this statement is redundant. He is not saying that Jesus returned in the power of the power.

When Ananias and Sapphira lied to the apostles about their giving, Peter confronted them.

Acts 5:3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit … 4 …You have not lied to man but to God.” …9 But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? …

The Holy Spirit is a person who can be lied to, and to lie to the Holy Spirit is to lie to God. The Holy Spirit is God. Throughout the book of Acts we see the Spirit active in the daily life of the believers. In Acts 13,

Acts 13:2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

…4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.

The Holy Spirit responds to the worship of the Lord, and gives direction. He speaks, and he refers to himself as ‘me’ and ‘I’. He calls. He sends. He is a person.

John 14-16; The Spirit Sent

When we look at what Jesus says in John 14-16, we begin to see his relationship with the Holy Spirit.

John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

Here we see Jesus asking his Father to send the Helper, the Comforter or Advocate, the Holy Spirit. Jesus calls him another Helper. Jesus is about to leave his disciples. But he promises another Comforter, another of the same kind as himself. Jesus tells his followers that they know the Holy Spirit because he dwells with them. He will dwell in them.

John 14:24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. 25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

Jesus has taught his followers the words his Father gave him to teach. The Father sent Jesus, and the Father will send the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ name. The Spirit will bring Jesus’ words to remembrance. And the Holy Spirit will teach you all things. As Jesus was a teacher, so the Spirit will be a teacher.

John 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

When we get to chapter 15, we see something different. Where in chapter 14, Jesus asked his Father to send the Spirit, Here in chapter 15 Jesus says ‘I will send the Spirit to you from the Father’. The Spirit proceeds from the Father. The Spirit is sent by both Jesus and his Father. The Spirit is here called the Spirit of truth, and he will testify or bear witness about Jesus.

In John 16 Jesus says:

John 16:5 But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

Jesus again claims that he will send the Spirit to his followers. But they are filled with sorrow because Jesus is leaving them. Most followers of Jesus would trade anything to have the physical presence of their Lord Jesus with them. But Jesus says ‘it is to your advantage that I go away’. It is better, it is more profitable, it is preferable that Jesus go away. It is to your advantage. How can this be? The way Jesus would go away is to die on the cross as a substitute for our sins. As a result of his finished work for us, he would send the Spirit into his followers, not just to be with them, but to be in them. It was prophesied of Jesus that he would baptize his followers with the Holy Spirit (Jn.1:33). Listen to how Jesus describes the work of the Spirit.

John 16:8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

The Spirit will convict the world. Jesus taught the multitudes, but very few believed in him. There will be an inward work of the Spirit that far surpasses even the preaching of Jesus himself. In the book of Acts, after the Spirit had come, Peter preached to the crowds, and ‘they were cut to the heart’ (Acts 2:37). They responded ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ and about three thousand received his word and were added to the church.

Jesus goes on:

John 16:12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

The Spirit will guide the apostles into all the truth. Just as Jesus claimed to speak not on his own authority, but only what the Father told him to speak, so he says the Spirit will not speak on his own authority, but only what he hears. He will declare things that are to come. He will glorify Jesus, by taking what belongs to Jesus and declaring it to you.

So we learn from John 14-16 that the Spirit is a Comforter or Advocate, he will dwell in believers forever. He is the Spirit of truth, who will teach us all things, remind us of what Jesus taught, and guide us into truth. He will bring inward conviction to the world. He will bear witness to Jesus and glorify Jesus.

Communion With the Spirit

What else does the bible tell us about our particular relationship with the Holy Spirit?

We are invited to ask for the Holy Spirit.

Luke 11:13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

The Spirit is given to us freely.

John 3:34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.

The Spirit is poured out on us richly.

Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,

The Spirit sanctifies or sets us apart to belong to God.

2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.

1 Peter 1:1 …elect … 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

The Spirit gives life

John 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” … 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

John 6:63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

2 Corinthians 3:6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

The Spirit seals every believer in Jesus as his own.

2 Corinthians 1:21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

2 Corinthians 5:5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

Ephesians 1:13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

The Spirit communicates God’s love to us

Romans 5:5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 8 is packed with precious truth about the Spirit. The Spirit brings life and freedom.

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.

Believers walk according to the Spirit, live according to the Spirit, set their minds on the things of the Spirit, and life in the Spirit brings about life and peace.

The Spirit dwells in every believer.

Romans 8:8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

By the Spirit we are able to put to death the deeds of the body.

Romans 8:12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

We are led by the Spirit.

Romans 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

We have received the Spirit of adoption as sons. The Spirit bears witness that we are children of God. God’s glory is about to be revealed in us!

Romans 8:22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

We have the firstfruits of the Spirit. We have a deep inward longing for the consummation of our adoption, when our bodies are redeemed.

Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

The Spirit helps us to pray. The Spirit himself prays for us.

The Spirit illumines God’s truth to us.

1 Corinthians 2:10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.

Ephesians 1:17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might

The Spirit gives gifts to the church.

1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. …11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

The Spirit produces fruit in our lives and makes us holy.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Resisting, Quenching and Grieving

Although as believers the Holy Spirit will never leave us, there are some clear warnings against thwarting his work in our lives. Acts 7 is actually addressed to unbelievers.

Acts 7:51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.

Unbelievers resist the Holy Spirit by not taking to heart the Spirit breathed words of Scripture.

1 Thessalonians is addressed to believers.

1 Thessalonians 5:19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good.

We can quench the Spirit by despising his truth. With that there is a warning to test the spirits to see if they are from God.

Ephesians 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Ephesians 4:30 comes in the context of corrupting talk and bitterness among believers. These things grieve the Holy Spirit.

Worshiping the Spirit

Should we direct our worship toward the Holy Spirit? Is it appropriate to pray to the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit is fully God, and therefore worthy of our worship and adoration. He is no less God than the Father or the Son, and no less worthy of honor and praise. We ought to recognize his unique work in us and thank him for it. We should take to heart warning from Jesus that we not blaspheme or speak against the Holy Spirit (Mt.12:31-32). This would imply that we are to honor the Holy Spirit just as we honor Christ. However, we should also take caution from the fact that nowhere in Scripture do we see worship clearly directed toward the Spirit. This is likely because the role of the Spirit is to bring us to Christ and to glorify Christ.

Philippians 3:3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—

We worship by the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God sets us apart and makes us new and regenerates us and awakens in us a heart to worship God. We most honor the Spirit by responding to his conviction, by believing in Jesus, by putting to death the deeds of the flesh and walking with him in the freedom of righteousness that Jesus has purchased for us, by following his desire to draw attention to Jesus and glorify Jesus.

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

November 15, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trinity in the Old Testament

10/25 Trinity in the Old Testament; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151025_trinity-old-testament.mp3

We saw last time that the clear teaching of the New Testament is that the Father, Son and Spirit are distinct someones, that Father is God, the Son is God, the Spirit is God, yet there is only one true God. This is what we mean when we use the word ‘trinity’ or tri-unity. The one God eternally exists in three distinct someones in relationship with one another. One common accusation is that the trinity is an invention of the church councils. While the word ‘trinity’ is not found in Scripture, the understanding that there are three distinct persons who are each fully divine, yet there is only one God is the only thing that makes sense of a multitude of New Testament passages. Another accusation is that the doctrine of the trinity is a deviation of the New Testament authors from strict monotheism of the Old Testament.

What can we say to this? Does the understanding of God as triune contradict the teaching of the Old Testament? While there is much in the New Testament that unfolds things that were hidden and brings into focus things that were not clear in the Old Testament, if something taught by the apostles flat out contradicts what the Old Testament teaches, we must not accept it.

One thing we should make clear at the outset is that when the New Testament teaches that the Father is God, the Son is God and the Spirit is God, it does not ever teach that there are consequently three Gods. That would be a flat contradiction. Instead the fact that there is exactly and only one true God is affirmed right alongside the teaching that there are three distinct someones in relationship with one another who equally share the divine essence.

What we will look at today, we should not call proofs of the trinity in the Old Testament. Rather, the consistent teaching of the Old Testament leaves open the possibility of understanding the one God as a triune being. Throughout the Old Testament, there are clues, hints, foreshadowings, pointers that there is more to be said about God than merely that he is one solitary being. Some of these pointers are understood differently by different interpreters, but taken together we can at minimum say with confidence that the Old Testament makes good sense when read with a New Testament understanding of the triune God in mind, and indeed Jesus invites us to see him throughout the Old Testament.

John 5:39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,

Luke 24:27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Creation

We will begin at the beginning. The opening words of Scripture state:

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Here in the creation narrative, we see the one God creating. But we also see the Spirit of God brooding over the formless deep. Is the Spirit of God another way of describing the divine essence, or is the Spirit spoken of as a distinct someone? We also see the Word of God. God spoke. “The Word spoken by God is not a mere sound but a power so great that the universe is thereby created and upheld” [H.Bavinck].

Psalm 33 tells us:

Psalm 33:6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.

We see the LORD, his Word, and his breath or Spirit. John’s gospel teaches that this Word was not mere sound but someone distinct who was both fully divine, and also in relationship with God.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

The Word is a ‘he, a ‘him’, a someone.

Elohim

Notice what the text of Genesis 1:26 says.

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

This is a fascinating passage. The word translated ‘God’ is the Hebrew ‘Elohim’. Elohim is the plural form of which Eloah is the singular. Eloah is used in some passages to refer to God. But violating the standard rules of grammar, the plural noun Elohim is most often used in the bible with a singular verb. Singular pronouns are most frequently used with this plural noun, also violating the rules of grammar, so our translators have chosen to use the singular ‘God’ rather than the plural ‘Gods’ to make it agree with the singular verbs and pronouns. It would be awkward to say that ‘the LORD he is Gods; there is no other besides him’ (Deut.4:35) or ‘the LORD our Gods is one LORD’ (Deut.6:4). Some scholars believe that the plural form is a plural of majesty, indicating the richness and fullness of the divine being. And this is probably correct. Although the use of the plural ‘Elohim’ with singular pronouns and verbs may not clearly teach the plurality of someones in the one divine essence, the awkward grammar seems to intentionally leave itself open to that possibility.

Let Us

But the honorific plural is seen only with nouns, not with verbs or pronouns. Here in Genesis 1, and also in chapters 3 and 11 and Isaiah 6 we have the plural pronouns ‘we’ and ‘us’ used with ‘Elohim’. The question is who is the ‘we’? To whom does the ‘us’ refer?

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.

One suggestion that has been proposed is that he refers to himself and the creation he has just made, but this would make man in the image of God and the earth, and it would include the earth in the creative process. Another is that God refers to the angels or the heavenly court, but this would leave man in the image of God and the angels, and employ the help of the angels in creation, when we are explicitly told that God alone by himself created (Is.44:24). Some have suggested that this is an inner deliberation of God, a kind of self talk, as one might say to himself ‘now what am I going to do?’ This may come closer to the truth. Developing this idea in the context of Genesis 1, we could envision this inner dialogue of God between himself and his Spirit, who in verse 2 was brooding over the face of the deep. It is interesting to note that where in Genesis 1:26 God says:

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. …

In verse 27 he switches to singular pronouns:

Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Collective Singular

It is also interesting to note that ‘man’, ‘adahm’ is a collective singular, including both male and female, referring to both ‘him’ and ‘them’. ‘Let us make man …let them have dominion’. The image of God in man seems to include plurality within unity.

Echad

Chapter 2, which focuses on the relationship between man and woman, closes with this statement which forms the basis for marriage.

Genesis 2:24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

The man and his wife are said to become one flesh. The Hebrew word for ‘one’ is ‘echad’, which is the same word used in the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4:

Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

Could it be that ‘YHWH our Elohim, YHWH is echad’, YHWH is one in a similar sense that the man and his wife are said to be ‘one‘, an essential unity within which there can be us and our?

Mal’akh YHWH

Moving on from the creation narrative, there is a curious character in the Old Testament that appears on several different occasions. He is called the Mal’akh YHWH or Mal’akh Elohim; the angel of the LORD or the angel of God. The word ‘mal’akh’ translated ‘angel’ simply means a messenger or ambassador. Often this word refers to what we would think of as a created heavenly being who serves God, often in the role of a messenger. But what is said about the Angel of the LORD causes us to wonder if he might be something more. In Genesis 16, after Abraham allows Sarai to treat Hagar harshly, the servant girl who was pregnant with his son Ishmael, and she flees into the wilderness, we are told:

Genesis 16:7 The angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. 8 And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.” 9 The angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.”

This seems like it could be a created angel, but listen closely to what he says:

Genesis 16:10 The angel of the LORD also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.”

The angel of the LORD does not say ‘God will multiply your offspring’; he says ‘I will multiply your offspring’. This seems to be claiming more than a mere created angel can claim. Yet he goes on to distinguish himself from the LORD.

Genesis 16:11 And the angel of the LORD said to her, “Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has listened to your affliction. …

He does not say ‘I have listened to your affliction, but ‘the LORD has listened. The angel of the LORD speaks of the LORD as a distinct person, yet takes credit for multiplying your offspring, something only God can do. What do we make of this? Listen to Hagar’s response:

Genesis 16:13 So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.”

Hagar refers to the angel of the LORD as ‘the LORD who spoke to her’ and says ‘You are a God of seeing’. She seems to identify the angel of the LORD with the LORD and with God.

In Judges 13, the angel of the LORD appeared to the wife of Manoah, to promise the birth of Samson. There seems to be distinction between the LORD and the angel of God

Judges 13:8 Then Manoah prayed to the LORD and said, “O Lord, please let the man of God whom you sent come again to us and teach us what we are to do with the child who will be born.” 9 And God listened to the voice of Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman as she sat in the field….

God listened to his prayer and sent the angel of God.

Judges 13:15 Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, “Please let us detain you and prepare a young goat for you.” 16 And the angel of the LORD said to Manoah, “If you detain me, I will not eat of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to the LORD.” (For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of the LORD.) 17 And Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, “What is your name, so that, when your words come true, we may honor you?” 18 And the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?” 19 So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it on the rock to the LORD, to the one who works wonders, and Manoah and his wife were watching. 20 And when the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of the LORD went up in the flame of the altar. Now Manoah and his wife were watching, and they fell on their faces to the ground. 21 The angel of the LORD appeared no more to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the LORD. 22 And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.”

The angel of the Lord distinguished between himself and the LORD. But Manoah recognized that to see the angel of the LORD was to see God.

Judges 13:24 And the woman bore a son and called his name Samson. And the young man grew, and the LORD blessed him. 25 And the Spirit of the LORD began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.

We see the angel of the LORD, the LORD and the Spirit of the LORD in this passage. In many Old Testament passages we see the angel or messenger of the LORD who seems to be differentiated from the LORD, yet who is identified as God and given the honor and worship due only to God.

God The Son

There are also passages in the Old Testament that indicate that God has a Son. A son shares the same nature as his father. Psalm 2 speaks of the LORD and his Anointed (or Messiah), the LORD’s established King, who is YHWH’s begotten Son.

In Psalm 45 we see the triumphant king spoken of.

Psalm 45:6 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness; 7 you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions;

The King is addressed as God, yet, God, the God of the king is seen as anointing the divine king. This is said to be speaking of the Son in Hebrews 1.

Micah 5 speaks of a coming ruler:

Micah 5:2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

This is a ruler that is promised to come, but whose coming forth is from ancient days. This is an eternal one, but one who will come in time, and who will shepherd his people in the strength of the LORD. The coming one is eternal, yet distinguished from the LORD.

Isaiah 9:6 describes the coming king:

Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

This king is a Son, who is called Mighty God and Everlasting Father.

The Divine Spirit

The Spirit is also seen to be a distinct someone.

Exodus 31:1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, (cf. Ex.35:30-31)

The LORD is said to fill someone with the Spirit of God.

Isaiah 63 speaks of the LORD, the angel of his presence, and his Holy Spirit. His Holy Spirit is said to be grieved by rebellious people, something that can be said only of a someone, not a something. The Spirit of the LORD is the one who is said to have given them rest.

Isaiah 11 speaks of the Spirit.

Isaiah 11:1 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. 2 And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. 3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear,

Here we see the sevenfold Spirit spoken of in Revelation. We see the branch, who is the Messiah who comes forth from David, and the Spirit of the LORD, and the LORD.

Divine Three in One

Isaiah 42 says:

Isaiah 42:1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.

Notice the three characters in this passage. My Spirit is distinct from both I and him. Matthew 12 tells us that this passage is fulfilled in Jesus. God the Father put the Holy Spirit on Jesus.

Look at Isaiah 48.

Isaiah 48:16 Draw near to me, hear this: from the beginning I have not spoken in secret, from the time it came to be I have been there.” And now the Lord GOD has sent me, and his Spirit. 17 Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go.

Notice again the three characters The Lord GOD, me, and his Spirit; or The LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One. If we as who is the ‘me’ who is speaking, verses 12-13 clear this up.

Isaiah 48:12 “Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called! I am he; I am the first, and I am the last. 13 My hand laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand forth together.

Me, the one the Lord GOD sent with his Spirit, I am the first and the last, the Creator of the heavens and the earth.

Isaiah 61 says:

Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;

Again we see the three someones. The Spirit of the Lord GOD, me, and the LORD. Jesus applied this passage to himself in Luke 4.

This is a brief sampling of the many many passages in the Old Testament that seem to indicate that the one true God may eternally exist in more than one person. This one God eternally existed as Father, Son and Spirit, in community, in relationship, in conversation, in cooperation, in love. It is this God who says ‘I will put my Spirit within you …and you shall be be my people and I will be your God” (Ezekiel 36:27-28). ‘Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ …that our joy may be complete’ (1 John 1:3-4)

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

October 25, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Triune God

10/18 Triune God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151018_triune-god.mp3

We are seeking to know God, to know what he has revealed to us about himself. We desire to worship him as he is. We seek to honor him. We want to worship him in truth.

One of the old creeds, a creed that has been recited and memorized by Christians for centuries, starts out like this:

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this:”

Catholic (small ‘c’) simply means universal, the faith that all Christians believe. We could substitute the word ‘universal’. What do you think is so essential to salvation that ‘before all things it is necessary that he hold’? What point of truth is so essential that ‘except we keep it whole and undefiled, without doubt we shall perish everlastingly’? How would you finish the statement ‘the universal faith of the Christian church is this:’?

This is how the historic Athanasian creed begins:

And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence.

Lots of religious groups attack the Christian belief in the trinity. Judaism, Islam, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witness, all scoff at the idea of the trinity. Some say that it was a belief pushed on the church by a pagan emperor. Others say it is just plain nonsense.

Where do we get this concept of trinity? What do we mean by it? Should we believe it? Does it really matter?

Let me give you five statements that are clearly taught in the Bible.

  1. There is only one God

  2. The Father is God

  3. The Son is God

  4. The Spirit is God

  5. The Father, Son and Spirit are each someone distinct from the other two

The word ‘trinity’ is an abbreviation of tri-unity; describing that God is a unity, that there is oneness in God, and there is also threeness in God.

There is Only One God

Last time we looked at some of the biblical evidence for monotheism in contrast to polytheism or tritheism. The Bible is clear and emphatic that there is only one true God, not three separate gods. Remember when Jesus was questioned about the greatest commandment:

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.’

The first and greatest command is that there is only one true God, and he alone is worthy of worship. We are to have no other gods in his presence. “Besides me there is no god. Who is like me?”(Is.44:6-7)

The Father is God

That the one we call Father is God hardly needs to be defended. Ephesians 4:6 refers to the

Ephesians 4: 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Jesus teaches us to address God as Father.

Matthew 6:9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

Matthew 23:9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.

Jesus himself, praying to his Father, says:

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

The Son is God

We see clearly that the Son Jesus is God. In Romans 9, Paul refers to Jesus the Messiah as:

Romans 9:5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

In Titus 2 he refers to him as

Titus 2:13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

2 Peter 1:1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

The author of Hebrews, quoting the Old Testament

Hebrews 1:8 But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.

The Son is clearly called God. Matthew 3 quotes Isaiah 40 about John, whose role was to prepare the way for Jesus.

Isaiah 40:3 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (with Matthew 3:3)

In John 8, Jesus identifies himself with the self-existent one, YHWH, from Exodus 3

John 8:58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

The Jews understood what he was claiming, and picked up stones to stone him. Then in John 10, Jesus said:

John 10:30 I and the Father are one.” 31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.

At the close of John’s gospel, we see the risen Christ appear to doubting Thomas.

John 20:27-31 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Thomas believes in response to the evidence, and calls Jesus ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus commends his belief. John explains the goal of his writing: ‘that you may believe that Jesus is… the Son of God.’ We are encouraged, like Thomas, on the basis of the evidence given, to believe in Jesus as ‘my Lord and my God!’

The Spirit is God

The Scriptures clearly teach that the Spirit is God.

Acts 5:3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”

Peter understands that to lie to the Holy Spirit is to lie to God.

I Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

God is the only one who can rightly dwell in God’s temple, and we are told that God’s Spirit dwells in us.

Psalm 139:7 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!

To flee from the presence of God’s Spirit is to flee from the presence of God himself.

We see clear evidence in the scripture that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Spirit is God, and there is only one true God.

The Father, Son and Spirit are Distinct Someones

The Scripture is also clear that the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Father, the Spirit is not the Father or the Son.

In John 3, where Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be born of the Spirit, he says:

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 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.

God the Father is distinguished from the Son. The Father sends his only Son to save the world. The Son is the one who is sent.

Jesus’ teaching in John 14 about the Holy Spirit brings this out clearly:

John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, …26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

Notice the personal pronouns. Jesus refers to himself as ‘I’, he refers to the Father as ‘he’ and he refers to the Holy Spirit as ‘another’ and ‘he’.

Jesus continues to speak of the Holy Spirit in chapter 15.

John 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

The Father sent Jesus, Jesus and his Father send the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will be with you forever. The Spirit will testify of Jesus.

Jesus frequently prayed to his Father. He did not pray to himself. Jesus is someone distinct from the Father, who can refer to himself as ‘I’ and address the Father as ‘you’. In his prayer in John 17, he says:

John 17:5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. …24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

[God is Love]

This is a stunningly beautiful truth. Don’t miss the significance of this! We are told in 1 John 4:8 and 16 that God is love. Not only that God loves, but that God is love. Not that God began to love or became love. The eternal essence of God is love. Before God created anything, before anything existed outside of God alone, God is love. For God to be love there must be an object for him to love. Love is a relationship word. It requires a subject that loves and an object that is loved. Jesus is conversing with his Father in John 17. He says that he was with his Father before the world existed. He says ‘you loved me before the foundation of the world.’ Before anything existed, there was a you and a me who loved. Notice also that John does not say ‘the gods are love’. Belief in the triune God who eternally exists as Father, Son and Spirit is the only thing that makes sense of the absolute statement that ‘God is love’.

When we are told that God loves us, we understand this as the overflow of the love of an inherently relational God. God eternally exists in relationship, and he invites us in to enjoy that relationship!

God With God

John launched his gospel with this statement:

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. …18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

The Son, the Word, existed in the beginning. The Son was with his Father. The Son and the Father are one essence or one divine existence. The Son is God at the Father’s side. A distinct someone, who can be said to be ‘with’ the Father enjoying relationship with the Father, yet who shares with the Father the divine essence.

Three In One

We see throughout the New Testament statements that make sense only if there is one God who eternally exists in three distinct persons.

Matthew 3:16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

At the baptism we see the beloved Son Jesus, the voice of the Father, and the Spirit of God

Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

We are told by Jesus to make disciples and to baptize them in the one singular name of the three equal and distinct persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Romans 8:16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs––heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, …

The Spirit, God and Christ are each separately mentioned.

I Corinthians 12:4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.

In these verses, the varieties of gifts, service and activities are parallel statements that are said to come from the same Spirit, the same Lord and the same God.

At the end of 2 Corinthians we find this trinitarian benediction:

2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

This may be a conscious echo of the threefold name of the LORD in the Old Testament benediction in Numbers 6.

Numbers 6:24 The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. 27 “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”

Ephesians 2, speaking of Jesus, says:

Ephesians 2:18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Ephesians 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit––just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call–– 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

One Spirit, One Lord, One God and Father of all.

2 Thessalonians shows the three persons at work in the gospel.

2 Thessalonians 2:13 …because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the work of salvation in Hebrews 9 we see three divine actors.

Hebrews 9:14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

In Hebrews 10 we are warned of the danger of offending the three who are one.

Hebrews 10:29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Peter begins his first letter pointing to our salvation that is the collaborative effort of the triune God.

I Peter 1:2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

Jude challenges us to walk the Christian life in conscious communion with the triune God.

Jude :20 But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

The Revelation given to John begins with a greeting from the three persons.

Revelation 1:4 … Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. …

The eternal Father, and in the numerical symbolism the fullness of the Spirit and Jesus Christ. In Revelation 4 – 5 we see worship in the heavenly throne room directed toward the One seated on the throne and to the Lamb and the sevenfold Spirit of God.

Nonsense?

There is only one God, the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Spirit is God, and each one is someone distinct from the other two. This is the clear teaching of Scripture.

It is often said that this is nonsense and contradictory. We are saying that 1+1+1=1 when everyone knows that it equals 3. It would be contradictory if we were saying that there is one God and there are three gods, or if we were saying that there are three persons but there is only one person. But it is not contradictory to say that God is one divine existence, and he eternally exists in three distinct persons. God is one as to his essence or divine nature; God is three as to his centers of consciousness or personalities in relationship with each other. The Athanasian creed puts it this way:

That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite. So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.

This is practical. This is worship. We worship a God who is in his own very being a relational God. We worship the Father in spirit and in truth. We honor the Son just as we honor the Father. We give praise to the Spirit who is himself fully and truly God. We are loved by a God who is himself love.

Men cannot and do not love, pray to, and adore a mere abstract infinite nature. They love, address, and worship certain persons in that nature.” (W.G.T.Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, vol.1, p.495)

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

October 18, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Invisible God; John 4:19-24

10/04 Invisible God Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151004_invisible-god.mp3

We are seeking God, seeking to know God, digging in to his word to see what he says about himself. We want to worship him as he is, not as we imagine him to be. We want to offer him true worship.

We have learned that God is incomprehensible – a being beyond our ability to fully understand, yet we can know true things about him, the things he has revealed to us. Indeed, he intends to be known and worshiped as he really is. We have learned that God is, that he exists, independent of anything outside of himself. He is the uncaused cause of everything that is. He is unchanging and unchangeable. He is a God who is beyond all time and space but fills all time and space with his immediate presence. He is eternal, inescapable, uncontainable.

Sadducees and Materialism

We live in a materialistic society. Most people live as if what we see is all there is. We store up for ourselves treasure where moth and rust can destroy, where thieves can break in and steal. But the Bible opens our eyes to a greater reality, an unseen reality. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenlies. Jesus teaches us to store up treasure in heaven, where moth and rust cannot destroy, where thieves cannot break in and steal. Christians have hope beyond the grave. In Philippians 1, Paul, in prison, is wondering what will happen to him. Will he remain in the flesh, or will he depart and be with Christ? Paul is confident that when his body dies, he will be in the presence of God. In 2 Corinthians 5 he talks about the earthly body as a tent that will be destroyed, and that we will put on a heavenly dwelling. There is part of us that lives on even when our material bodies wear out and decay. In Acts 23, when Paul was on trial before the Jewish council, he nearly started a riot between the Pharisees and Sadducees when he cried out that he was on trial because of the hope and the resurrection of the dead, because, we are told,

Acts 23:8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.

It appears the Sadducees were materialists. Don’t tell me all this nonsense about things I can’t see or touch or smell. No resurrection. No angel. No spirit. Paul would say ‘no hope!’

Spirit and Matter

Jesus clearly believed in spirits and the resurrection. Jesus said:

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

In Mark 5, Jesus commanded an unclean spirit to come out of a man. When Jesus asked his name, the response was ‘My name is Legion, for we are many’. A Roman legion was 3,000 – 6,000 men. When Jesus gave his permission, the unclean spirits came out of the man and entered into about 2,000 pigs who rushed into the sea and were drowned. A spirit is not made up of matter, and therefore takes up no space. We aren’t told exactly how many demons tormented this man, but somehow there were many who were able to inhabit the same space.

When the resurrected Jesus appeared to his disciples in Luke 24, they were terrified.

Luke 24:36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.

The disciples thought they saw a spirit. Jesus invites them to touch him to prove that he is not an apparition, but is indeed a material being. He even eats something in front of them, and he says ‘a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have’. Jesus tells us that spirits are not material. Jesus demonstrates that his resurrected body is a real physical material body and not a ghostly apparition.

In the Old Testament, in 2 Kings 6, when the Syrian king’s military plans were repeatedly foiled, he assumed he had a spy who was leaking information to the king of Israel

2 Kings 6:11 And the mind of the king of Syria was greatly troubled because of this thing, and he called his servants and said to them, “Will you not show me who of us is for the king of Israel?” 12 And one of his servants said, “None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.” 13 And he said, “Go and see where he is, that I may send and seize him.” It was told him, “Behold, he is in Dothan.” 14 So he sent there horses and chariots and a great army, and they came by night and surrounded the city. 15 When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 16 He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

Elisha and Gehazi are surrounded by Syrian horses and chariots and a great army. Elisha tells his servant not to be afraid because the Syrian army is greatly outnumbered. The unseen angelic legions were on their side. They were unseen, unheard, unfelt, but they were real. God opened his eyes so that he could see his invisible armies.

Note, by the way, that while we learned last time that God is unlimited by space or time, angels, although they are spirit, are spatially limited. In Daniel 9 and 10, we see Gabriel being sent and coming in swift flight, even being delayed by demonic forces. God is a spirit who is everywhere present, angels are spirits who can only be in one place at a time.

God is Spirit

In Isaiah 31, God is rebuking those who run to Egypt and rely on horses and chariots but do not look to the Holy One of Israel. He draws this contrast:

Isaiah 31:3 The Egyptians are man, and not God, and their horses are flesh, and not spirit.

God is not a man. Both man and horses are flesh. God is spirit. God is immaterial. God is invisible. This is the clear teaching of the Bible.

Romans 1:20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

God’s divine nature is invisible, yet is clearly evident in the things he has made.

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

God is invisible. Jesus is the image of the invisible God. All created things, all created beings, whether physical or spiritual were created by Jesus.

1 Timothy 1:17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

God is King of eternity, immortal, invisible.

1 Timothy 6:15 …—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

God dwells in unapproachable light. No one has ever seen God. No one can see God.

Hebrews 11:27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.

God is invisible.

1 John 4:12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

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

God has not been seen. No one has ever seen God.

No One Has Ever Seen God?

But wait a minute! Doesn’t the Bible talk about people who saw God? The LORD God walked in the garden with Adam and Eve. The LORD appeared to Abram by the oaks of Mamre. Three strangers came to visit Abraham’s tent. The men departed, but Abraham still stood before the presence of the LORD (Gen.18). The LORD appeared to Moses in a bush that was on fire but not consumed. He made his presence known to Israel in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He appeared to 70 elders of Israel on Mount Sinai, who ate and drank in his presence. They describe what they saw as

Exodus 24:10 and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness.

They saw the God of Israel. But all that they describe is the pavement under his feet.

When Moses requested to see the glory of God, God replied:

Exodus 33:18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

God says ‘you cannot see my face. Man shall not see me and live.’ In the next chapter God makes his presence known to Moses.

Exodus 34:5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” 8 And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.

It seems what Moses saw was cloud. The way God revealed himself was verbal. He described his character.

When Isaiah saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, what he describes is that the train of his robe filled the temple. And he describes the seraphim above him, and he says that the house was filled with smoke.

The closest we get to an actual physical description of God is in Daniel 7, where he describes Ancient of Days taking his seat with clothing white as snow and hair like pure wool.

How do we fit these statements that Old Testament people saw God with the clear New Testament teaching that God is invisible and ‘no one has ever seen God’?

God cannot be seen in his essence, because he is spirit, he is immaterial; being immaterial there is nothing physical to see. However God, being Creator of all things visible and invisible, is fully able to manifest himself and make his presence known in different ways to different people.

Spirit and Idolatry

In Deuteronomy 4, Moses reminds the generation who would enter the promised land

Deuteronomy 4:11 And you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, while the mountain burned with fire to the heart of heaven, wrapped in darkness, cloud, and gloom. 12 Then the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice.

Moses uses this as the ground for an admonition against idolatry.

Deuteronomy 4:15 “Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, 16 beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, 17 the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, 18 the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth. 19 And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.

Since you saw no form but heard only a voice, make no form, no image. Because God is spirit, immaterial, no created thing can adequately represent him. Every form will grossly misrepresent him. There is only one image God approves of.

Jesus the Image of God

John’s gospel opens:

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The Word exists before the beginning. The Word IS. The Word was with God, a distinct personality, but the Word was God, fully divine. He is personal, and he is the Creator of all that is. Verse 14 tells us

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.

The Word became flesh. The Word, who always existed as God, the only Son from the Father, became something that he was not. He became flesh. He dwelt among us. He became man. Verse 18 says:

John 1:18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

God’s essential essence has never been seen. God has made his presence known in different visible manifestations, but no one has ever seen God. God the Son has made him known. The only image of God that God approves of is Jesus.

Jesus taught:

John 5:37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent.

John 6:46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.

John 12:45 And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.

John 14:7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

Colossians calls Jesus “the image of the invisible God’. Hebrews calls him “the exact imprint of his nature”. Not that we should make pictures of Jesus. We don’t know what Jesus looked like. It is not about what he looked like. The apostles who knew what he looked like left us no physical descriptions. What they handed down to us are his teachings, his interactions with people, his character, his identity.

Spiritual Worship

Jesus had a conversation with a woman at a well in Samaria. He revealed that he knew some uncomfortable details about her personal life, so she asked him a question about the proper place of worship.

John 4:19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

In answer to her question about the proper place of worship, Jesus’ answer is no, it is not about place, not about here or there. It is about worship in spirit and truth, because God is spirit. The nature of God has implications on how we are to worship him. He is not material, so the externals of worship are of little importance. Because God is spirit worship of him must be spiritual. God is most interested in our heart, in what nobody can see. Spiritual worship is worship that is brought about by the Spirit. We must come to the Father through the finished work of the Son, having been transformed and made new by the Spirit. He is pleased when we stand in awe of him as he really is, not as we imagine him to be. He must be worshiped in truth. We must embrace the truth of what he says about himself. Our spirits must engage him. The Spirit gives us a new taste for the goodness of God. He must be enjoyed, delighted in, savored. He is our greatest pleasure, our greatest treasure.

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

October 4, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 14:26-40; The God of Peace and Order

03/15 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 The God of Peace and Order; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150315_1cor14_26-40.mp3

1 Corinthians 14 [SBLGNT]

26 Τί οὖν ἐστιν, ἀδελφοί; ὅταν συνέρχησθε, ἕκαστος ψαλμὸν ἔχει, διδαχὴν ἔχει, ἀποκάλυψιν ἔχει, γλῶσσαν ἔχει, ἑρμηνείαν ἔχει· πάντα πρὸς οἰκοδομὴν γινέσθω. 27 εἴτε γλώσσῃ τις λαλεῖ, κατὰ δύο ἢ τὸ πλεῖστον τρεῖς, καὶ ἀνὰ μέρος, καὶ εἷς διερμηνευέτω· 28 ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ᾖ διερμηνευτής, σιγάτω ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ, ἑαυτῷ δὲ λαλείτω καὶ τῷ θεῷ. 29 προφῆται δὲ δύο ἢ τρεῖς λαλείτωσαν, καὶ οἱ ἄλλοι διακρινέτωσαν· 30 ἐὰν δὲ ἄλλῳ ἀποκαλυφθῇ καθημένῳ, ὁ πρῶτος σιγάτω. 31 δύνασθε γὰρ καθ’ ἕνα πάντες προφητεύειν, ἵνα πάντες μανθάνωσιν καὶ πάντες παρακαλῶνται 32 ( καὶ πνεύματα προφητῶν προφήταις ὑποτάσσεται, 33 οὐ γάρ ἐστιν ἀκαταστασίας ὁ θεὸς ἀλλὰ εἰρήνης ), ὡς ἐν πάσαις ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τῶν ἁγίων. 34 Αἱ γυναῖκες ἐν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις σιγάτωσαν, οὐ γὰρ ἐπιτρέπεται αὐταῖς λαλεῖν· ἀλλὰ ὑποτασσέσθωσαν, καθὼς καὶ ὁ νόμος λέγει. 35 εἰ δέ τι μαθεῖν θέλουσιν, ἐν οἴκῳ τοὺς ἰδίους ἄνδρας ἐπερωτάτωσαν, αἰσχρὸν γάρ ἐστιν γυναικὶ λαλεῖν ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ. 36 ἢ ἀφ’ ὑμῶν ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ ἐξῆλθεν, ἢ εἰς ὑμᾶς μόνους κατήντησεν; 37 Εἴ τις δοκεῖ προφήτης εἶναι ἢ πνευματικός, ἐπιγινωσκέτω ἃ γράφω ὑμῖν ὅτι κυρίου ἐστὶν· 38 εἰ δέ τις ἀγνοεῖ, ἀγνοεῖται. 39 ὥστε, ἀδελφοί μου, ζηλοῦτε τὸ προφητεύειν, καὶ τὸ λαλεῖν μὴ κωλύετε γλώσσαις· 40 πάντα δὲ εὐσχημόνως καὶ κατὰ τάξιν γινέσθω.

1 Corinthians 14 [ESV2011]

26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. 36 Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. 38 If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. 39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But all things should be done decently and in order.

Definition of Tongues and Prophecy

So far, in this chapter, Paul has argued for the advantages of prophecy over tongues. We have taken our definition of tongues and prophecy from the beginning of this chapter. Tongues, Paul says in verse 2, is speaking mysteries in the Spirit, and no one but God understands. In verses 14-16, we see that tongues can take the form of praying, singing praise, or giving thanks. Prophecy, on the other hand, as defined in verse 3, is speaking intelligibly to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.

Overview

Paul has argued that the one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues because prophecy builds up the church while tongues builds only the self. He has asked the question “how will I benefit you” and said that there is much greater benefit to others in bringing revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching than in speaking in unknown languages. He illustrated the unintelligibility of tongues and demonstrated its failure to communicate but rather to produce irritation and alienation inside the family of faith. He points to the advantage of engaging one’s own mind in worship of God, and says “I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others than a myriad of words in a tongue”. He indicates that eagerness to speak in uninterpreted tongues as a sign of immaturity. Then he points to foreign tongues in the Old Testament as a sign of God’s judgment and rejection of his unbelieving people. He highlights the evangelistic advantages of prophecy over tongues toward visitors and unbelievers in the worship gathering of the church.

Now in the last section of this chapter, he reiterates the underlying principles he has taught and lays down some very specific clear practical apostolic instruction for the church.

Silence and Speaking

What is verbalized in the context of the church gathering is the focus of this chapter. The verb ‘to speak’ [λαλέω] occurs 24 times in this chapter alone. Paul has argued for the advantages of speaking prophecy over speaking in unknown tongues. But this passage is punctuated by silence. There are times when the best thing to build up the body is to refrain from speaking. There are three categories of people discussed in these verses, and each of them are told to be silent at different times for the common good. In verse 28, the tongues speakers are told to be silent. In verse 30 the prophets are told when to be silent. In verse 34 the women or wives are told to be silent.

Coming Together as the Church

What Paul says here is in the context of the gathering of the local church. See it in verse 26? ‘When you come together’. It is good to remind ourselves that the church is not a location that we attend but a people who gathers. Even the word translated ‘church’ [ἐκκλησία] means a called out people, those who have been called out to assemble. This word ‘come together’ [συνέρχομαι] is used here twice and five times in chapter 11 addressing issues when the church gathers to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

Building Up

The goal for coming together is to build one another up. Paul said in chapter 3:

1 Corinthians 3:9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

In chapter 8 he said:

1 Corinthians 8:1 …This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.

And in chapter 10,

1 Corinthians 10:23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

Here in chapter 14, he says:

1 Corinthians 14:3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 …unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

12 …strive to excel in building up the church.

17 …but the other person is not being built up.

Here he reminds them of the underlying motivation for gathering:

1 Corinthians 14:26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.

Each one bringing his gifts to the gathering could be a good or a bad thing. If as a gifted musician I bring a hymn or song I have prepared, and my desire is that everyone is amazed at how talented I am, then my goal is to puff myself up in the eyes of the church. Instead I should come with my song in order to encourage and comfort and strengthen others, to serve them, to deepen their affections for Christ. If as a gifted teacher I bring a teaching I have prepared, and my desire is to impress everyone with my superior insight and eloquence and wisdom and wit, then my goal is to puff myself up in the eyes of the congregation. Instead I ought to bring my teaching with a humble desire to encourage and comfort and strengthen others, to build them up in the most holy faith. Everything that we do is to be done with the clear intent to build others up. Paul is crystal clear; ‘let all things be done for building up.’

Restrictions for Tongues

Paul now gives very specific rules for the vocalization of tongues in the gathering of the local church.

1 Corinthians 14:27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God.

He starts this requirement out with ‘if’; ‘if any speak in a tongue’. This may not happen at all. But if it does, there are to be only two, or at the most three. There is never to be someone talking when someone else is talking. Each in turn. Love is not rude, and to talk when someone else is talking is rude. Tongues are never to be uttered without interpretation or explanation. Uninterpreted tongues do not build others up, rather they build walls of alienation. We are not told how the tongues speaker is to know that there will be someone to explain (unless he himself is able to put it into intelligible speech), but before speaking, the tongues speaker is to be certain that his speech will be explained so that others can be built up. Otherwise he is to keep silent in the gathering. The tongues speaker is not at the mercy of his gift. This is not uncontrollable spiritual urges. Paul assumes the speaker has the ability and the good judgment to refrain from speaking if the specific conditions are not met. The tongues speaker can speak to himself and to God. He does not have to have the floor and be heard. He can refrain from exercising his gift for the common good.

Restrictions for Prophecy

Next, Paul gives specific restrictions for prophecy in the church.

1 Corinthians 14:29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints,

Paul limits prophecy to two or three as well, but he leaves out the ‘if’ and ‘at most’. Where tongues require interpretation, prophecy requires discernment. The others are to weigh what is said. This applies even to the teaching of the Apostle himself. In Acts 17 the Bereans are commended as

Acts 17:11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

They were listening to Paul’s teaching with eagerness, but they were checking what he said with their Scriptures to be sure it was true. Paul invites the Corinthians to do the same.

1 Corinthians 10:15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. (cf. 11:13)

The Thessalonians are told:

1 Thessalonians 5:19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good.

Prophecies are to be weighed. If something is revealed to another who is not speaking, the first is to be silent and give room for another to speak. While one with tongues are to keep silent unless they know the tongue will be interpreted, prophecy is to be spoken unless another has something to say. No one is to monopolize the time or refuse to allow what they have said to be tested. Like tongues, prophecies are to be given one at a time, so no one is speaking over anyone else. This would assume that the one seated would also wait for the first to conclude before interjecting. The goal of edification is again kept in view; so that all may learn and all may be encouraged.

This is possible because of the nature of Christian prophecy. The spirits of prophets are in submission to the prophets. Prophecy, like tongues, is controllable. This is not some ecstatic trance like state where the speaker is overcome by a power that compels him to speak. This may happen in some pagan religions, but that has nothing to do with Christian prophecy or tongues. The speaker is in complete control and able to use wisdom in how and when to speak, and is fully capable of refraining from speaking altogether. There is appropriate obedience and submission of the human spirit to the mind.

This is rooted in the nature of God. We worship the way we worship because God is the way God is. What we do, how we conduct ourselves, should be a reflection of the character of God. God is not a God of chaos, confusion, instability, disorder. Our God is a God who speaks order into the chaos and makes distinctions. God separates light from darkness, separates water from sky and land, separates day from night, distinguishes that everything bears fruit according to its own kind. God is a God of peace, harmony, concord. This is the case in all the churches of the saints.

Restrictions for Wives

1 Corinthians 14:34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

This is a challenging subject, and it probably deserves its own sermon. But I believe it will help us understand it if we keep it in its proper context. Women or wives are not singled out; everyone is to keep silent in the assembly at the appropriate times. Tongues speakers and prophets are to keep silent when it serves to keep proper order and promote building others up. The spirits of the prophets are to be in submission to the prophets. That is the same word here used for the submission of the woman.

To make sure we get the whole picture, we need to recall what Paul said back in chapter 11 concerning the issue of women covering or uncovering their heads in the church meeting.

1 Corinthians 11:5 but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven.

…13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered?

In chapter 11, Paul has a wife praying or prophesying in the church meeting. He is merely concerned that she do it in a way that will not bring shame to God or to her husband. The issue is what is proper and what is shameful, what brings honor and what brings dishonor.

It is unlikely that Paul pictures a wife praying or prophesying in the congregation with her head covered in chapter 11, then in chapter 14 makes a blanket statement mandating that all women keep silent whenever the church is gathered. The main issue is the issue of submission, being under proper authority, which is taught throughout the New Testament in reference to the creation order. Paul affirms this in 1 Timothy, where he says:

1 Timothy 2:11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.

The Law doesn’t say that women must be silent in the assembly; the law teaches that they are to be in proper submission; just like everyone else. Children are to be in submission to their parents, employees are to be in submission to their employers, men are to be in submission to God, Christ is in perfect submission to the Father, and wives are to be in submission to their own husbands. Our tongues are to be in submission to our minds and good judgment. The reason given for the silence of women or wives is that it is shameful for a woman to speak in the assembly. Ciampa and Rosner cite some ancient sources that shed light on the culture of the day.

Writing in the first century, “Plutarch tells us of a woman who accidentally exposed her arm when putting on her cloak: “Somebody exclaimed, ‘A lovely arm.’ ‘But not for the public,’ said she. Not only the arm of the virtuous woman, but her speech as well, ought to be not for the public, and she ought to be modest and guarded about saying anything in the hearing of outsiders, since it is an exposure of herself; for in her talk can be seen her feelings, character, and disposition.… For a woman ought to do her talking either to her husband or through her husband…” [Plutarch, Advice to Bride and Groom, 142 C-D, cited in PNTC, p726]

They also cite the words of Cato (c.195 BC) recorded in Livy’s History of Rome: “Indeed, I blushed when, a short while ago, I walked through the midst of a band of women. Had not respect for the dignity and modesty of certain ones (not them all!) restrained me (so they would not be seen being scolded by a consul), I should have said, ‘What kind of behaviour is this? Running around in public, blocking streets, and speaking to other women’s husbands! Could you not have asked your own husbands the same thing at home? Are you more charming in public with others’ husbands than at home with your own?” [Livy, History of Rome, 34.1, cited in PNTC p.726]

Against this cultural backdrop, Paul’s words make perfect sense.

1 Corinthians 14:34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

It would be considered indecent and disgraceful, and bring reproach on the name of Christ, for a woman in that culture to ask questions of another man in public. While not prohibiting them from praying or prophesying in a way that is culturally appropriate, Paul requires women to show appropriate honor and submission to their husbands, and to God.

Concluding Rebuke

Paul concludes with a rebuke to any who may feel they are exempt from correction or that Paul is out of touch with what he says.

1 Corinthians 14:36 Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. 38 If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. 39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But all things should be done decently and in order.

Did God’s word come from you or go only to you? Do you have the arrogance to claim that you are the beginning and then end? Or are you a small part of a bigger story, a small dot on the time-line of God’s history, having inherited a rich heritage from others, with the mission to pass on what you have received to others? The Corinthians were proud, puffed up, and they thought they were spiritual. Paul challenges their claims. If you think you have a prophetic gift or spiritual insight, you ought to at least be able to recognize that the apostolic writings are a command of the Lord. Paul speaks for Jesus, Jesus is speaking through Paul. What Paul writes is not helpful suggestions. It carries the weight of the authority of the Lord Jesus himself. So to disregard this is to be disregarded. To not know this is to give evidence that you are not known by the Lord; ‘depart from me, I never knew you’. This is serious. But Paul believes better about them. He calls them brothers. And he gives one final exhortation on the subject of worship; earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. This is the third time Paul has exhorted them to earnestly desire the best gifts, the most useful to others gifts – especially to prophesy. But to keep them from overreacting to his teaching on the issue, he makes it clear that tongues are to be carefully regulated, but not entirely forbidden. ‘Do not forbid speaking in tongues.’ All things in the worship of the church must be done decently, with propriety, with good form, and in order, with proper arrangement and sequence, so that we reflect in all things the character of our great God.

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

March 15, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

1 Corinthians 13:7; Love Believes, Hopes, Bears, Endures

02/01 1 Corinthians 13:7 Love Believes, Hopes, Bears, Endures; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150201_1cor13_7.mp3

1 Corinthians 13 [SBLGNT]

4 Ἡ ἀγάπη μακροθυμεῖ, χρηστεύεται ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ ζηλοῖ ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ περπερεύεται, οὐ φυσιοῦται, 5 οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ, οὐ ζητεῖ τὰ ἑαυτῆς, οὐ παροξύνεται, οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν, 6 οὐ χαίρει ἐπὶ τῇ ἀδικίᾳ συγχαίρει δὲ τῇ ἀληθείᾳ· 7 πάντα στέγει, πάντα πιστεύει, πάντα ἐλπίζει, πάντα ὑπομένει. 8 Ἡ ἀγάπη οὐδέποτε πίπτει.

1 Corinthians 13 [ESV2011]

12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

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. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends...

Paul is painting the picture for us of what love looks like, what God’s love looks like, how Jesus loves us, and how we are to follow in his footsteps and love others. The Corinthians may have been spiritually gifted, but they lacked the essential characteristic of love. They wanted to know what is the primary evidence of being spiritual; Paul tells them it is not supernatural manifestations like tongues speaking or prophesy, but the supernatural manifestation of love.

This verse is concise and powerful. It consists of eight words, four verbs and the direct object ‘all’ repeated with each verb. It is structured in what is called a chaism or X shaped structure, where the first verb is parallel to the last, and the middle two verbs are paired together. At the center love believes and hopes. On the outside, love bears and endures. Each verb is has its object in the word ‘all’. What does love bear? What does love endure? What does love believe? What does love hope? All. Love bears all, believes all, hopes all, endures all.

All – Love Never Stops

How do we understand this ‘all’? Does it mean that love puts up with all offenses without complaining, love believes whatever it is told -true or not, love hopes for things that most likely will not come true, love endures even the worst abuses without doing anything about it? Remember, this phrase comes right on the heels of ‘love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth’. Would Paul then contradict himself and say that love willingly tolerates wrongdoing and is naïve and gullible, believing all things, even false teaching and lies, without discernment or discrimination? Certainly not! So what is the best way to understand this ‘all’? Translators have suggested that the ‘all’ here means the ‘absence of all limits’, and the best way to convey this meaning into English is with double negatives. So, where the ESV has:

7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.(ESV)

And where the NIV takes the direct object adverbially:

7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (NIV)

Some other translations use a negative construction to convey the idea of removing all limits to love.

7 Love never gives up on people. It never stops trusting, never loses hope, and never quits. (ERV)

7 Love never stops being patient, never stops believing, never stops hoping, never gives up. (GW)

7 Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. (Phillips)

There are no limits to the endurance of love. Love never gives up. Love bears and endures all. When Peter asked Jesus how often he should forgive a brother who keeps on sinning against him, Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven’ (Mt.18:22). Remove the limits to love. How? How does love put up with so much? We have learned that love has a long fuse, love extends kindness to those who don’t deserve it, love is not offended when good comes to others instead of self, love exhibits humility, love is not indecent, self-seeking, or irritable even when provoked, love does not keep records of offenses, love does not celebrate when others fail but rejoices with the advance of truth. How does love act this way? Because the foundation of love is faith and hope. Its faith and hope are in God.

Bears All Things

Lets start from the outside and work our way inward. Love bears all things. This word is differently translated. The ESV has ‘bears all things’; then NIV has ‘always protects’; The CEB has ‘puts up with all things’; the OJB has ‘covers all things’. This word comes from a root which means ‘roof’ – the roof on a house or building. A roof covers and protects, which is one possible meaning of the word, in the sense of covering, passing over in silence, keeping confidential.

If this is what the word means here, Paul would be saying something like what the Proverbs say (using a different word)

Proverbs 10:11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. 12 Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.

And similar to what Peter (also using a different word) says in

1 Peter 4:8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

So if this is how Paul is using the word, he is saying that love hides from view the sins of others, covering them over, protecting them from view, and thus protecting the sinner from some of the consequences of his sin.

This is how the word is used in the apocryphal book of Sirach

[apocrypha] Sirach 8:17 with a foolish one do not consult, for he cannot cover up a secret

While this is what the proverbs and Peter teach, that love does not parade around the sins of others, putting them on display, humiliating the sinner, (and this would fit the context here that love ‘does not rejoice at wrongdoing’), this is not the way Paul uses this word. The only other occurrences of this verb in the New Testament are 1 Thessalonians 3:1 and 5, and 1 Corinthians 9:12.

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. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4 For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. 5 For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.

Paul uses the word here in the sense of carrying a load or bearing up under difficulties. He could carry the burden no longer; we might say ‘he could stand it no longer’. The other place Paul uses this word is in 1 Corinthians 9, and there it has the same direct object ‘all things’ as it has here in chapter 13.

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

He says we voluntarily give up our rights and we carry any load, we bear any burden, we endure any hardship rather than hindering the gospel. Paul is holding up his own conduct as an example of how he wants the Corinthians also to put the advance of the gospel in first place, so much so that they become willing to endure anything, even the violation of their own rights, to see the lost come to Christ. Paul has said, in 4:16 and again in 11:1 ‘be imitators of me’. He has held himself up as an example of what enduring anything for the sake of love looks like, and now he tells us that love is willing to bear any load for the good of the one loved.

Endures All Things

The other end of the parallel is love ‘endures all things’. This is a very similar concept to ‘bears all things’. This word carries the idea of patience, and means to remain behind. In Luke 2:43, the young boy Jesus ‘remained behind’ in Jerusalem. In Acts 17:14, Silas and Timothy ‘remained behind’ in Berea while Paul went on ahead to Athens. The idea of ‘staying behind’ does not mean being left home when everyone else goes off to battle. Quite the opposite, they shipped Paul off for his own protection, because the Jews from Thessalonica had followed them to Berea and were ‘agitating and stirring up the crowds’ against them. So to stay behind means to stand and fight, to hold your ground, to be steadfast, to persevere. In classical Greek it was often used in military contexts. Jesus points his followers to the need for this kind of perseverance

Matthew 24:9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Endurance here is in the context of hatred, persecution, betrayal, execution, false teaching, lawlessness and a love that had grown cold. Endurance means remaining faithful to Jesus whatever the cost, holding steadfastly to the truth of the gospel as Jesus taught it, tenaciously persisting to love others even when that seems irrational and dangerous.

The author of Hebrews holds Jesus up to us as the example of patient endurance.

Hebrews 12:2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

Jesus endured the cross. He endured hostility from sinners. We can take heart and stand our ground steadfast in love.

If there is a subtle difference between bearing all things and enduring all things, we could say that bearing all is like a roof that supports a limitless load, where endurance puts up with abuse for a limitless duration.

Never Stops Trusting

How do we do this? How can we love like this? What motivates a love that supports a limitless load and endures for a limitless duration? A love that remains steadfast in the face of hatred, betrayal, false teaching, even the threat of death? This is love that is beyond my capability. This is supernatural love. Where does it come from? I think the text answers our questions as we move from the outer pair to the inner pair. Love is able to bear all and endure all today because love looks forward to eternity believing all and hoping all.

What does it mean to believe all things? Or maybe it would be less easily misunderstood to translate it negatively ‘love never stops believing’. What does it mean to believe? The ‘believe’ word group in the bible means to trust in, depend on, or rely on. The noun form is often translated ‘faith’. We are told in Romans 4 that Abraham’s faith was credited to him for righteousness. His faith was believing the promise of God.

Romans 4:20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

His faith, or his believing, was an unwavering conviction that God is who he claims to be and he will do what he has promised to do. Jesus promises eternal life to all who believe in him. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul reminds us of the good news that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the grave.

1 Corinthians 15:1 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.

Paul tells us that the believing that is not worthless and empty consists in receiving the good news, standing in the good news, allowing the good news to rescue us, and holding fast to the good news. How does this enable us to love, to bear all things and endure all things? Because we are taking our stand in the good news. Good news that promises us eternal life even if someone destroys our body. Good news that God is working all things, even the painful things, together for our ultimate good (Rom.8:28). Because we are believers, because we never stop believing in God, trusting him, depending on him, we can take the risk of loving others.

Never Stops Hoping

Love never stops believing, love never stops hoping. What is hope? We often use the word ‘hope’ to describe things that we wish might happen but have no reason to believe will actually happen. It is almost synonymous with ‘wish’. And sometimes it is used that way in the bible. Paul talks about his plans to visit churches using the word hope to describe something he desires to do and plans to do but is not confident that it will come to pass. But hope in the bible is often used as synonymous with believe. The prophecy pointing to Jesus Isaiah 42 says:

Matthew 12:21 and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

To hope in the name of Jesus and to believe or trust in Jesus are saying that we put our confidence in Jesus. Hope brings out the aspect of desire and longing and eager expectation.

Hebrews speaks of forgiveness of sins through the sacrifice of Jesus, and confidence to enter the presence of God through the blood of Jesus. He says

Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

We might expect him to say ‘the confession of our faith‘. But hope expresses the confidence of believing in a God who is faithful to keep his promises.

Timothy helps clarify what is meant by hope. It says

1 Timothy 6:17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.

There is a contrast between the different objects we hope in, we trust in, we place our confidence in, we look to with eager expectation. Many put confidence in riches. Paul warns ‘do not set your hope on riches, because they are uncertain. They will fail to deliver what they appear to promise. The big bank account might appear trustworthy, but it can be gone in an instant. Instead, hope in God. Place your confidence in God. God cannot fail to deliver what he promises. God is the one who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. God is the only risk-free place to put your hope.’

Love never stops hoping in God. Love does not hope for a return from the one it shows love to. That will let you down. Love always hopes or hopes in all things, because the hope is not short term return on the investment of love here and now, but a hope that reaches into eternity, a hope that is fixed on God himself. That is the only hope that will never disappoint.

Romans 5 connects faith with hope, and links it to endurance and love.

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, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

We stand in grace – God’s good gift, by faith in Jesus, who grants us peace with God and access to him, and we rejoice in hope, confident that he will make good on all his promises. And then we see the link between suffering, which provides opportunity to bear up and endure, which produces tested character, which enhances our confidence in God, because we begin to see God’s supernatural love manifest in our lives, a result of the gift of the Holy Spirit at work in us to produce this love for others.

We never stop trusting in God, depending on him, relying on him; we never stop hoping in God, having confidence in him, with eagerly expectant longing for him, and this confidence and dependence in God flows out of us in risk taking love for people, people who will never be able to repay, who are needy, broken, hurting, and who will hurt us. We persevere in loving them, in bringing the good news about Jesus to them, we bear the insults, the abuse, the scorn, the disappointments, because our faith and hope are fixed not on temporary short term rewards, but on God who is love, who richly rewards all who hope in him, all who love with his love. Love moves out and puts itself out for the sake of the advance of the gospel and for the glory of Christ. Love bears all, believes all, hopes all, endures all.

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

February 2, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 13:5c; Love is Not Irritable

01/11 1 Corinthians 13:5c Love is Not Irritable; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150111_1cor13_5c.mp3

1 Corinthians 13 [SBLGNT]

4 Ἡ ἀγάπη μακροθυμεῖ, χρηστεύεται ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ ζηλοῖ ἡ ἀγάπη, οὐ περπερεύεται, οὐ φυσιοῦται, 5 οὐκ ἀσχημονεῖ, οὐ ζητεῖ τὰ ἑαυτῆς, οὐ παροξύνεται, οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν,

1 Corinthians 13 [ESV2011]

12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

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. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends...

We are in the middle of 1 Corinthians 13, the ‘Love Chapter’. We are looking at what love is, what God’s love is, and learning together about the God who is love. We see this love perfectly displayed in our Lord Jesus Christ, and we also ought to see evidence of this love growing in the lives of the followers of Jesus. That is what this chapter is about. In the context of a church full of people who were all about status, position, importance, thinking each was better than the other, or feeling they were of no significance and didn’t belong, asking what gifts or manifestations were true evidence of advanced spirituality, Paul answers by saying that all the tongues speaking, all the prophesying, all the faith in the world amounts to nothing, reduces the speaker to nothing, and will gain us nothing of eternal significance without love. Love is long-tempered. Love is kind. Love is not jealous. Love does not boast or puff up self. Love is not rude. Love does not seek its own. Love is not irritable. Love does not keep records of wrongs done. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoings, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears and believes and hopes and endures. This is the kind of love God has, the kind of love Jesus displayed as the image of the invisible God, and this is the kind of love that the Holy Spirit produces in the life of the follower of Jesus. The fruit of the Spirit is love. This kind of love is the primary evidence for those who are truly spiritual.

So this chapter is a rebuke. The Corinthians lacked love. They were the opposite of all these things. The Corinthians were impatient, unkind, envious, braggarts, puffed up, indecent, self-seeking, irritable, and they held grudges. Paul was humbling them, pointing them to the way of love, pointing them to the utter worthlessness of their spiritual giftedness without God’s love at work among them.

Today we look at the sixth in a list of eight negatives, describing what love is not. The ESV translates this ‘not irritable’; (NIV) ‘not easily angered’; (KJV) ‘not easily provoked’; (ISV) ‘never …gets annoyed’; (Phillips) ‘not touchy’.

Passive

This is a passive verb, indicating not something that I do (that would be an active verb), but how I respond when someone does something to me. This does not have to do with if I provoke others, but how I respond when others provoke or irritate me. ‘If only people would stop irritating me, I wouldn’t get so angry!’ I am on the receiving end of provocation. This assumes that there will be provocation. People will provoke me. Circumstances will irritate me. Things will annoy me. That is not the problem, and the solution is not to eliminate the annoyances. The problem is in me. The problem is with how I respond. Jesus promised his followers “in the world you will have tribulation [pressure, affliction, distress]” (Jn.16:33). That is unavoidable. But Jesus offers in the midst of the pressure “that in me you may have peace.”

Irritable Corinthians

So what does it mean that love is not irritable? How were the Corinthians acting irritably? How is God who is love not irritable? What can we learn from Jesus about not being irritable?

1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;

The Corinthians were irritable. They were easily provoked. We see that from how they conducted themselves. There was quarreling, dissension, disputes, jealousy, strife. There was boasting, some thought more highly of themselves than they ought to think, puffed up, thinking they were wise and powerful and important, who didn’t think they needed anyone else. Others felt pushed down, trampled, unimportant, undervalued, they were easily offended. They were all eager to insist on their own rights, demanding what was their due, even if that meant taking one another to the courts of law to settle disputes. This is not the way of love.

God’s Righteous Provocation

If love is not irritable, not provoked, then we should be able to look at the God who defines love to see more clearly what this does and doesn’t mean. When we look to the Old Testament, we find something interesting.

Psalm 7:11 God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day. 12 If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; 13 he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts.

God feels indignation every day. This does not sound like a God who is not provoked. In fact, we find God provoked frequently through the scriptures. Listen to Deuteronomy 9, where Moses warns the people against provoking the Lord.

Deuteronomy 9:6 “Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people. 7 Remember and do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD. 8 Even at Horeb you provoked the LORD to wrath, and the LORD was so angry with you that he was ready to destroy you.

…12 Then the LORD said to me, ‘Arise, go down quickly from here, for your people whom you have brought from Egypt have acted corruptly. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them; they have made themselves a metal image.’ 13 “Furthermore, the LORD said to me, ‘I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stubborn people. 14 Let me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven. And I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they.’

…18 Then I lay prostrate before the LORD as before, forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all the sin that you had committed, in doing what was evil in the sight of the LORD to provoke him to anger. 19 For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure that the LORD bore against you, so that he was ready to destroy you. But the LORD listened to me that time also.

…22 “At Taberah also, and at Massah and at Kibroth-hattaavah you provoked the LORD to wrath.

It sounds like the God who is love is at times provoked to anger and wrath. If God is love, then there must be a righteous and loving kind of provocation as well as an evil and unloving kind of provocation.

Deuteronomy 32:16 They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods; with abominations they provoked him to anger. 17 They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently, whom your fathers had never dreaded. 18 You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth.

God is provoked to anger when his people whom he loves and cares for turn away from him, the only source of life and joy and run after false hopes that will fail to satisfy. He is provoked to anger because he loves his people, he wants what is best for them, and he knows that he alone is best for them. Even at the disobedience of his people, God is patient. Nehemiah prays:

Nehemiah 9:17 They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them. 18 Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies, 19 you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go. 20 You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst. 21 Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.

God can be provoked, but he is slow to anger. He is patient, he is great in mercy, he is abounding in steadfast love.

Provocation of Jesus

When we look to Jesus, who is the image of the invisible God, we see him reflect the same kinds of things. In John 2,

John 2:14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

Jesus was provoked. He was passionate. He was rightly irritated and offended by people seeking to make a profit off of those who had come to seek God.

In Mark 3, the Pharisees had set Jesus up. They were using a crippled person – using him to test Jesus.

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

Notice Jesus’ response. He was provoked. He attempted to reason with them. They were callous. He was provoked to wrath. Wrath and sorrow. He was grieved and angry. Angry at their insensitivity to the needs of a person. Grieved at their callousness to the truth of God, their hardened refusal to consider that he might indeed be who he claimed to be. They set him up, and Jesus was angry and grieved, and he healed the man. And the Pharisees conspired to kill him.

His Provocation and Ours

When we look at Jesus, we begin to see some of the differences between God’s perfect, loving provocation, and our sinful selfish provocation. God is provoked when we seek satisfaction in things that will bring only harm and heartache. Jesus was provoked when God was dishonored and people were hurt. Jesus was provoked when people were more interested in self-preservation and their own agenda than the good of hurting people and the glory of God.

We are irritated when things don’t go our way, when we are inconvenienced, when we are hurt, when our plans are thwarted. We are provoked when people are thoughtless or unkind toward us. We want to defend ourselves, our ideas, our reputation, our honor. Anthony Thiselton describes our irritability as a “readiness to overreact on one’s own behalf.” He describes a provocation that “takes offense because one’s self-regard has been dented, wounded, or punctured by some sharp point” (NIGTC, p.1052). Our irritability is rooted in selfishness, which is the opposite of love. He also points out how these characteristics of love work together. Love is patient, or long-tempered. Love does not seek its own. “patience delays exasperation … and …lack of self-interest diverts a sense of self-importance away from reacting on the grounds of wounded pride” (NIGTC, p.1052).

Jesus is Not Irritable

We look to Jesus for an example of a selfless life surrendered to pursuing passionately the purposes of God, and how to respond to people and circumstances and things that bring irritation and provocation.

Interruptions

How do you respond when you have purpose, when you are on mission, when you are doing what you are supposed to be doing, when you are moving forward, going in the right direction, and someone comes along with an interruption and derails you? How do you respond to interruption? Do you respond with irritation, with frustration, with anger? In Mark 5, Jesus was on mission. He had been summoned by a desperate father whose daughter was dying. He was going to help someone. What he was doing was very important. But he was rudely and inappropriately interrupted.

Mark 5:22 Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet 23 and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” 24 And he went with him. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” 35 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?”

This delay was not only inconvenient, poorly timed, and inappropriate, but the delay caused the death of the girl he had set out to heal. He was derailed. How would you respond to this kind of interruption? How did Jesus respond to it? He allowed the interruption. He embraced it. He stopped. He turned. He took the time to identify the one who had interrupted him, to address her. He treated her with kindness and compassion. He cared for her needs. This unplanned interruption served to exaggerate the glory of God as the planned healing escalated into a full-on resurrection from the dead!

Distractions

How do you respond when you have been called to big things, when you are doing important things, and something small and trivial gets in your way? Distractions, diversions, inconsequential things, inconveniences that steal precious time away from the great task at hand. How do you respond to the trivial interruptions of life? In Mark 10, Jesus’ disciples were trying to do a good thing. They were trying to protect Jesus’ time. He had come for great things, he was teaching the multitudes, so they attempted to intercept the insignificant distractions so that he could focus on the more important things.

Mark 10:13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

Jesus was indignant, not that people would be so trivial as to bring their little kids to him to get him to touch them, but because the disciples were turning them away. He embraced these distractions. These distractions were people, and he took time to show them love and affection, to bless them.

Impositions

How do you respond to impositions? You have been going and going, serving and pouring out, to the point that you are exhausted, even neglecting your own basic needs. You need to get away. You need time alone. You need rest. You just need a break. And just as you are about to take some precious time to yourself, someone drops in on you. Someone who is needy. Someone who is self-centered. Someone who wants to take from you. Uninvited, unwelcome impositions. How do you respond? In Mark 6, Jesus responds to uninvited impositions.

Mark 6:30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. 35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?”

Jesus was looking for private time, isolated time, time away from the crowds, time by themselves, time to rest. But the crowds chased him down. They horned their way in on what was supposed to be rest and leisure. How did Jesus respond? He had compassion on them. He saw their hurts, their needs. They were like sheep without a shepherd. He embraced the imposition. He invested in them. And he refused to send them away hungry. He poured into them spiritually, and he cared for them physically. He fed them as much as they could eat. And there was still plenty left over for his disciples. They were satisfied, and God was glorified.

Irresponsibility

How do you respond when you give a trusted friend a simple task and they utterly fail you? A small thing, an easy thing, but an important thing. And they drop the ball and leave you hanging? Do you cut them off? One time and that’s it. I’ll never trust you again. In Mark 14, Jesus gave some of his closest friends a very simple but important job.

Mark 14:32 And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” 35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. 41 And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

Watch. Pray. Simple things in his hour of greatest need, and they failed him. They fell asleep. He gave them three opportunities. They failed every time. He didn’t become angry. He didn’t write them off. In his hour of need, he challenged them, he instructed them, he cared for their needs. After his resurrection he pursued them and entrusted them with the greatest commission of being his witnesses and changing the world.

Intentional Offense

But what about intentional offenses? What if someone is really out to hurt you, out to injure you, out to do you harm? What do you do when you know that there is malicious intent? How do you react? How did Jesus react? The prophet Isaiah foretells it this way:

Isaiah 50:6 I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.

Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

Peter holds Jesus up as an example for us:

1 Peter 2:21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

Jesus instructs us:

Luke 6:27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

What kind of love is this? What kind of love is so selfless that it is not irritable, not resentful, not provoked to anger? What kind of love loves enemies? God’s love. While we were his enemies, God demonstrated his love for us (Rom.5:8-10). Having been loved like this, the Holy Spirit now works this kind of love in us. We can only love like this when we have first been filled to overflowing with his love.

I am not my own. I have been bought with a price. I am a slave sent to do my Master’s bidding. So I love because he first loved me.

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

January 11, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment