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

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

Tension of Sorrow and Joy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joy of Fellowship with Other Believers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Joy is Your Joy

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

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

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

Do you hear his heart of tender affection toward them?

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

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

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

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

Paul derived much joy from Philemon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He says it most clearly in 1 John.

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

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

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

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

Joy and Grief Shared in the Body

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

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

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

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

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

The Way of the Cross

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

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

Paul had mentioned his affliction in Asia in chapter 1.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advent: Jesus is Greater! Greater King

12/17 Advent: Jesus is Greater! Greater King ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20171217_advent-greater-king.mp3

Jesus is greater! ‘All the promises of God find their Yes in Jesus’ (2Cor.1:20) Jesus is the greater fulfillment all the promises. Jesus is the one who could say ‘in the scroll of the book it is written of me’ (Ps.40:7; Heb.10:7). The whole Old Testament points us to Jesus. This Christmas season we are looking at some of the sweeping themes of the Old Testament and how Jesus is the Yes to all the promises of God.

Jesus is the greater Prophet, the greater Priest, the greater King, Jesus is the greater Man, the greater Israel. Jesus is the greater Prophet, the one who faithfully speaks God’s words to his people; the one who is the Word made flesh! Jesus is our great High Priest who “offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins,” and then “he sat down at the right hand of God” (Heb.10:12). He is the greater Mediator who brings us in behind the curtain, to God.

Today we look at Jesus, the greater King, greater than David, greater than Solomon, the one who triumphs over his enemies, who brings peace and justice and righteousness, who establishes the rule of God.

God’s Rejected Rule

This too is a theme that goes all the way back to Genesis. In the beginning, God created everything, God ruled over everything he had made, and he shared some of his authority with the man and woman created in his image. He gave them everything good to enjoy, and he gave them one command to keep them safe. But we chose to rebel against God’s good authority. We chose to listen to a competing voice that undermined the goodness of God, that rejected his good rule, that invited us to be our own gods. We rejected God’s good authority and stepped out from under his loving protection and care. And human history has been a long sequence of failed attempts to rule ourselves. ‘Every intention of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually’ and ‘the earth was filled with violence through them’ (Gen.6:5, 13), so God washed the planet clean of them and started over with Noah and his family. But soon mankind had once again united in rebellion against God, ‘building a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, making a name for ourselves’ (Gen.11:4). God dispersed them, confusing their languages, and called one man to submit to his authority and to obey him, and ‘through him to bless all the families of the earth’ (Gen.12:1-3). God brought Abraham’s descendants out of slavery in Egypt to serve and obey him, and he gave them his good rules at Sinai, which they promised to obey, but then repeatedly rejected God’s good authority and chose to go their own way. After that generation died in the wilderness, God brought his people in to the land of promise under Joshua, but after they were in the land, ‘the people did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served false gods’ (Jdgs.2:11-13). ‘God raised up judges to rescue them, but they did not listen to the judges, they refused to obey the Lord, they continually bowed to other gods’ (Jdgs.2:16-17). ‘Everyone did what was right in his own eyes’ (Jdgs.17:6; 21:25). Under Samuel, the people ‘rejected the Lord from being king over them,’ and demanded a human king like the nations around them (1Sam.8:5-8).

Samuel warned the people:

1 Samuel 8:11 He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. … 13 He will take your daughters ….14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards … 15 He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards …. 16 He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18 And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.” 19 But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

Samuel appointed Saul, but Saul ‘rejected the word of the LORD, he did not keep the command of the LORD God, so God rejected him from being king; his kingdom would not continue. So the LORD sought out a man after his own heart to be prince over his people’ (1Sam.13:13-14; 15:26).

David’s House and Offspring

Psalm 78:70 He chose David his servant and took him from the sheepfolds; 71 from following the nursing ewes he brought him to shepherd Jacob his people, Israel his inheritance. 72 With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand.

David had been a shepherd, and God took him to shepherd his people. God said to David,

2 Samuel 7:8 Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel.

11 …And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’”

God promised David a dynasty, a house that would be established forever. But David, man after God’s own heart, Israel’s greatest king, failed. He stayed back instead of leading Israel into war. He committed adultery and attempted to cover it up with murder (2Sam.11). David the shepherd-king failed to shepherd Israel well. His son Solomon became the most wise and wealthy king over Israel, but ‘his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, and his foreign wives turned away his heart after other gods’ (1Ki.11:1-8). So ‘the Lord tore the kingdom from him and gave it to his servant’ (1Ki.11:11). The kingdom was divided, and under a long sequence of kings the nation declined until God sent Assyria to conquer Israel, and Babylon to punish Judah.

The Shepherd-King

Through the prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah) who spoke out against some of these kings, God rebukes the worthless shepherds of his people, who feed only themselves.

Ezekiel 34:3 …but you do not feed the sheep. 4 The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

God is against the kings and leaders of his people who fail to care for those under their watch. But he holds out hope.

Jeremiah 3:15 “‘And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.

God looks to a future time and a future king like David, a shepherd after God’s own heart. In Ezekiel:

Ezekiel 34:11 “For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14 I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.

God himself promises to come and shepherd his people. This coming shepherd-king he calls ‘my servant David.’

Ezekiel 34:23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the LORD; I have spoken.30 And they shall know that I am the LORD their God with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Lord GOD. 31 And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord GOD.”

God is their shepherd who comes to be with them, and he establishes his shepherd-king to shepherd them. The flawed kings of Israel and Judah left a deep longing for a greater king who would not serve himself but others.

King Jesus

400 years later, Jerusalem is under Roman occupation.

Luke 2:1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

Enter Jesus. Both Matthew and Luke trace his lineage back to David, although through differing routes, establishing his right to the throne of David.

Matthew records:

Matthew 2:1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

Herod was appointed by Rome. But now foreign ambassadors had come looking for the one born king of the Jews.

Isaiah 60:1 Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. 2 For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. 3 And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.

6 …They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of the LORD.

Foreign nations and kings came to honor this new king.

Matthew 2:3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: 6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” [Micah 5:2]

The promised shepherd-king was to come from Bethlehem, David’s hometown.

Jesus proclaimed the good news of God; “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk.1:14-15). God’s kingdom was at hand because the promised King had arrived!

Servant-King

But Jesus was a different kind of king. When people tried to make him king, he withdrew (Jn.6:15).

John 12:12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” [Zech.9:9]

This is how Jesus used his authority.

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

Jesus redefined leadership. When Jesus’ followers were pursuing position and seeking status,

Matthew 20:25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus came as God’s appointed King, but there was no room for him in the inn. He had nowhere to lay his head. He did not come to be served. He came to serve others. He came to the sick, to the outcasts. He came to seek and to save the lost. He came to lay down his life for others.

David’s mighty men were willing to risk their lives to fulfill a request of the king. Jesus laid down his own life for his followers.

John 19:2 And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. 3 They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands.

Pilate presented him to them ‘Behold your King!’ (Jn.19:14).

John 19:19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

Jesus came to dethrone the ruler of this world. He said:

John 12:31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

But the way he dethroned the ruler was to die. His royal throne was a cross of wood, to which he was nailed. In the tabernacle, God’s throne was overshadowed by two cherubim. Jesus’ throne was overshadowed by two criminals. He was hailed by the religious leaders this way:

Matthew 27:42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.

They failed to understand the nature of his kingship. They failed to understand that if he came down from the cross, they could not believe in him. He saved others precicely by not saving himself.

Jesus said:

John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Jesus is greater! Jesus is the greater King, the greater Shepherd, the greater Leader, the triumphant victor. But he is greater in ways that we would not anticipate.

The way he conquered his enemies was not what we would expect.

Colossians 2:13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Jesus conquered death by dying. He gained the victory over his enemies by being nailed to a cross.

And his path to glory was much different than we would expect. Philippians 2 sums it up:

Philippians 2:5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Every knee will bow to King Jesus. May our knees bend gladly now to our gracious King!

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

January 9, 2018 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians Introduction

10/01 2 Corinthians Introduction; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20171001_2cor-intro.mp3

Lost Books

Turn with me to 4th Corinthians… You will find it in your Bibles as 2 Corinthians, but it was likely the fourth letter Paul wrote to this church. 1 Corinthians 5:9 refers back to a previous letter that the Corinthians had misunderstood, so that would make our 1 Corinthians Paul’s second letter. Then 2 Corinthians 2 and 7 refers back to a painful letter that grieved the Corinthians, making 2 Corinthians his fourth letter to this tumultuous church.

So if you’ve ever heard of the lost books of the Bible, those are them. In the sovereign wisdom of God they were not preserved for us. God preserved his word exactly as he intended for us to benefit by it. If you hear people claiming that they have discovered some of the lost books of the bible, examine the evidence carefully. The ‘lost’ books that people often claim are not lost at all; rather they have been known throughout the history of Christianity and have been rejected by believers as false writings.

What we know as 2 Corinthians is a passionate letter, sometimes sarcastic, intimately personal and transparent, even raw. In it we see the heart of the apostle, and the depth of his love for a broken church. We get a glimpse into the emotional struggles of ministry, and how Paul handles conflict and tension in relationships. Most of all, we see ministry shaped by the cross; that the gospel message of Christ crucified shapes all authentic ministry.

History of the Church in Corinth

It will be helpful as we launch into a study of 2 Corinthians to sketch out a rough sequence of the history of this church and where this letter fits. On what is known as Paul’s second missionary journey, when Paul was forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia (Acts 16:6), he had a vision in which God called him to preach in Macedonia (Acts 16:9-10). They preached and were imprisoned in the Macedonian city of Philippi, and then after being released, they preached and were persecuted in Thessalonica and Berea. Paul was brought alone to Athens to escape the riots and preached there while he waited for Silas and Timothy to rejoin him. Listen to the birth of this church as Luke tells it in Acts 18:

Acts 18:1 After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, 3 and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. 4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks. 5 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. 6 And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7 And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue. 8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. 9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” 11 And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. 12 But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal, 13 saying, “This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.” 14 But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, O Jews, I would have reason to accept your complaint. 15 But since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of these things.” 16 And he drove them from the tribunal. 17 And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of this. 18 After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. …

After over a year and a half in Corinth, Paul sailed for a brief stop in Ephesus, where he left Priscilla and Aquila, then on to the port of Caesarea. From there he visited the Jerusalem church, and then traveled back to his home church in Syrian Antioch. This ended his second missionary journey. Sometime after he left Ephesus, the eloquent Apollos came to Ephesus and was discipled briefly by Priscilla and Aquila before being sent with a letter of recommendation to the church in Corinth.

In the spring of the next year, Paul traveled by land north from Antioch through the regions of Galatia and into Asia, arriving at Ephesus and spending over 2 years there.

It was early during his first year in Ephesus that Paul received news of trouble in the church in Corinth, and wrote them the ‘previous letter,’ “not to associate with sexually immoral people” (1Cor.5:9).

Later, he received correspondence from the church in Corinth asking a number of questions, along with a report of more trouble in the church there, brought by Chloe’s people, possibly Sosthenes (1:1), Stephanas, Fortunatus, Achaicus (16:17); he was also joined by Timothy and Erastus (Acts 19:22). At some point Apollos also returned to Ephesus with Paul (1Cor.16:12).

It was in response to their letter and the reports he was receiving that he wrote what we know as 1 Corinthians, and sent it with believers sailing to Corinth, possibly with Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus, or maybe with Timothy or Titus. In 1 Corinthians, he addressed the issues of divisiveness and party spirit, immorality, idolatry, disorderly worship, and confusion over the resurrection.

Paul’s plan as stated at the end of 1 Corinthians, was to leave Ephesus the following spring and travel through Macedonia to visit them, and spend some time with them, and then the following spring to carry their gift to the church in Jerusalem.

1 Corinthians 16:3 And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me. 5 I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, 6 and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go. 7 For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. 8 But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

But after Timothy arrived in Corinth and saw that the Corinthians did not respond well to Paul’s instructions, he sent word to Paul and Paul changed his plans and made an emergency visit to Corinth. This proved to be a difficult confrontation, a ‘painful visit’ (2Cor.2:1). After Paul returned to Ephesus, he was personally attacked and his authority rejected and undermined by the individual.

He apparently planned to complete his ministry in Ephesus, sail to Corinth, continue up through Macedonia to receive their collection, then stop again in Corinth on his way back to Jerusalem with the collection (2Cor.1:15-16). Instead, when he received news that things only got worse in Corinth after his painful visit, he sent Titus with a ‘painful letter’ (2Cor.2:3-4)

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

Paul sent this third painful letter with Titus, and he sent Timothy and Erastus ahead into Macedonia to prepare for the collection (Acts 19:21-22). After a riot in Ephesus, Paul traveled north through Asia to the port at Troas. He says

2 Corinthians 2:12 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, 13 my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.

Paul expected that Titus would sail from Corinth to Troas with news. Finding no sign of Titus, Paul traveled on to Macedonia, where he says:

2 Corinthians 7:5 For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn— fighting without and fear within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more. 8 For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. 9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. …

The painful letter had accomplished its desired response from the Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 7:13 Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all. 14 For whatever boasts I made to him about you, I was not put to shame. But just as everything we said to you was true, so also our boasting before Titus has proved true. 15 And his affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling. 16 I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you.

It was in response to Titus’ report on Corinth that Paul together with Timothy wrote what we know as 2 Corinthians from Macedonia. He sent Titus ahead of him to deliver the letter, as he continued to minister in Macedonia and make his way down to Corinth.

Although Titus and the painful letter had accomplished much to mend the relationship between the Apostle and this church, there was still much work to be done, and 2 Corinthians attempts to move this work forward and prepare them for his visit. About a year later, Paul arrives in Corinth and stays with them for 3 months. Paul wrote his letter to the Romans during his stay at Gaius’ house in Corinth (1Cor.1:14; Rom.16:23). From there, he had to return through Macedonia because of a plot (Acts 20:3), and eventually returned to Jerusalem with the gift, where he was taken into Roman custody and eventually to Rome. Paul’s outlook in Romans is that

Romans 15:18 …Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, 19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; …23 But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, 24 I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.

Apparently 2 Corinthians also accomplished its purpose.

Counter-Cultural

Corinth was a city where social status was a big deal; eloquent wisdom was prized, and pursuit of prosperity and power was the main goal. We already saw in 1 Corinthians that Paul took a totally counter-cultural approach. He refused to come with lofty speech or wisdom, but determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified. He came in weakness and fear and much trembling (1Cor.2:1-5). God had turned the ideas of status and honor upside down by choosing the foolish, the weak, the low, the despised, the nothings, to shame the wise, powerful, noble, and strong, to eradicate boasting and pride (1Cor.1:26-31). Paul had offended them by working for his living with menial hands-on labor, refusing to take money from them (1Cor.9). He refused to put himself on a pedestal to be honored, rather identifying himself as a servant.

The Corinthians continued to struggle with these concepts that are really at the heart of the gospel. The gospel is a message of grace – being given something you don’t deserve.

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Jesus gave us what we didn’t earn. Jesus shows us that true greatness is not being served, but serving; humbly serving others for their good. The gospel is a message about a King who laid aside his royal robes and stooped down to serve in the filth and grime, in the lowest, most menial way.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Paul takes this very seriously; to seek honor is to abandon the gospel.

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

The Corinthians wanted an apostle that was powerful, eloquent, triumphant; but Paul’s ministry was characterized by suffering, affliction, shame, dishonor. He was weak, plain, poor, unimpressive. Instead of being served, he chose to serve others. Instead of accepting honor, he directed all honor to Jesus.

2 Corinthians 4:5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.

Outline

Chapters 1-7 explain the characteristics of genuine ministry; gospel ministry is ministry that looks like the gospel and is shaped by the gospel. Real ministry is service that embraces suffering for the good of others.

Chapters 8-9 encourage an experience of God’s grace to overflow in practical generosity to others.

Chapters 11-13 confront the false apostles who proclaim a false Jesus, a false Spirit, and a false gospel.

***

Timeline (approximate):

AD 50-51 Paul’s first visit to Corinth (1.5+ years) (Acts 18)

AD 52-55 Paul in Ephesus (2+ years) (Acts 19)

52 Writes ‘previous letter’ (1Cor.5:9)

53 Writes 1 Corinthians (1Cor.16)

54 Second ‘painful visit’ (2Cor.2:1)

54 Writes ‘painful letter’ (2Cor.2:3-4)

AD 55-56 Paul ministers in Troas and Macedonia (Acts 20:1; 2 Cor.7:5-7)

55 Writes 2 Corinthians from Macedonia (2Cor.7-9)

AD 57 Paul’s 3rd visit to Corinth (3 months) (2Cor.13:1; Acts 20:2-3)

57 Writes Romans from Corinth (Rom.16)

2 Corinthians Outline:

1-7 Gospel ministry is ministry shaped by the gospel

8-9 God’s grace overflows in practical generosity

10-13 False apostles proclaim a false jesus, false spirit, false gospel

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

October 1, 2017 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Spirit’s Fruit; Gentleness Like Jesus

07/30 The Spirit’s Fruit; Gentleness Like Jesus Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170730_gentleness-like-jesus.mp3

Fruitfulness and the Knowledge of God

In Colossians 1, Paul prays for the believers.

Colossians 1:9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

He prays that the fruit of the Spirit would be produced in them. He prays that they would “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work.” When we bear fruit, we are pleasing to God. It’s not just that we do good works; it’s that we bear fruit in every good work. It’s not enough that we do good; it matters how we do the good we do, what our attitudes, what our motivations are. He prays for attitude and motivation, because he knows that we can’t bear fruit, we can’t be fully pleasing to him in our heart attitudes without supernatural help. Remember, this is the fruit that God the Holy Spirit produces in us. We are incapable of producing this fruit.

Notice in his prayer that he sandwiches bearing fruit between the knowledge of God. He starts by asking that we “may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” and he follows the request for fruitbearing by asking that we would be “increasing in the knowledge of God.” I don’t believe this is coincidental. He asks this way because fruitfulness is directly connected to the knowledge of God. The Spirit produces the character of Jesus in us as we get to know him. He produces the attributes of God in us as we begin to know his will, his desires, as we begin to know him, who he is. Bearing fruit is directly linked to increasing in the knowledge of God. As we know God, as we look to God, as we see and experience and taste what God is like, we begin to imitate him, to be like him, to live lives shaped by him.

He goes on to ask for divine power to enable us to produce the Spirit’s fruit. He prays that we would “be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.” God’s power is necessary if we are to have joy and peace and patience and all the fruit. All this is saturated in thanksgiving, because all of it is a gift from God.

The fruit grows out of our identity in Christ. It grows out of his finished work. “The Father… has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” He has done it. “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” He has done it! “In [Jesus] we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” We have it. It is not something we are hoping for, something we are attempting to attain; it is ours! We have been qualified to share the inheritance; we have been delivered from the domain of darkness. We have been transferred into the kingdom of Jesus. We have redemption. We have the forgiveness of sins. It is all ours. It is our identity in Christ. As we increase in the knowledge of God, with thanksgiving, the fruit that is fully pleasing to the Lord will be produced in us by his supernatural power.

What Meekness Is

Today we look at the 8th in the description of the fruit of the Spirit, possibly the most misunderstood of all. It is gentleness, or in the older translations meekness. The Greek word is [πραΰτης]. What does this word mean? The fruit of the Spirit, remember, is the character of God produced in his people; it is Christlikeness. So whatever this word means, it is something that is true of God, and it will become increasingly true in the lives of the followers of Jesus.

Here’s a passage from the Psalms speaking about the Messianic King:that helps us see that meekness or gentleness might not be exactly what we assumed it to be.

Psalm 45:3 Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one, in your splendor and majesty! 4 In your majesty ride out victoriously for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness; let your right hand teach you awesome deeds! 5 Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; the peoples fall under you. 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 mighty Messianic King rides out victoriously with sword and bow for the cause of truth and righteousness and meekness. Truth is victorious over falsehood and deceit. Righteousness triumphs over injustice and all evil. But meekness seems out of place in this list. Meekness in the Old Testament often refers to the poor, ‘the defenseless, those without rights, the oppressed, those who are cheated, exploited and cursed.’ (DNTT vol.2, p.257, humility). Truth and righteousness we recognize as virtues, but being without rights, oppressed and exploited is not something we would think of as a noble cause to be defended. We would think that people in that situation need to be delivered from that state.

Gentleness or meekness is connected with humility, being low, even pushed down and afflicted. It can carry the idea of consideration or courtesy. It came to designate ‘those who in deep need and difficulty humbly seek help from Yahweh alone’ (DNTT vol.2, p.257, humility)

In defense of Moses’ leadership, we are told:

Numbers 12:3 Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.

This is Moses, who repeatedly confronted the Pharaoh of Egypt, demanding the release of his slaves, Moses who led Israel out of Egypt through the Red Sea and through the wilderness; Moses who spoke with God on Mount Sinai, Moses who interceded with God to spare the rebellious people, who even offered himself in place of them, Moses is called the meekest man on the face of the earth. What does it mean that he was meek?

Moses was acutely aware of his limitations. He was not up to the task God assigned to him. He argued with God over his inability and lack of giftedness for the monumental task. He said, ‘Oh my Lord, please send someone else’ (Ex.4:13). Yet God said ‘I will be with you.’ Moses recognized his inability, his deep need and his utter dependence on God alone. Out of his humility and meekness, he was able to shepherd God’s people.

Meekness Necessary in All Relationships

In the New Testament, we are told that this humble gentleness or meekness is necessary in all our relationships, both within and outside the church.

In 1 Corinthians 4:21, Paul desires to come to this wayward church ‘with love in a spirit of gentleness’ but he is concerned he may need to come with a rod of discipline. In Galatians 6:1, we are to restore those who are trapped in sin with a spirit of gentleness, and the humble awareness that we too could be ensnared. 2 Timothy 2:24-25 tells us

2 Timothy 2:24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,

Gentleness or meekness is contrasted to being quarrelsome. All correction of opponents is to be done with kindness, patient endurance, teaching, and gentle humble meekness. The heart and goal of this correction is that God would give repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth. Proud or harsh correction is not likely to lead to repentance. Peter tells us that we are always be in readiness to give reason for our hope, but this must be done with meekness and fear.

1 Peter 3:15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect [φόβος ],

Here in Galatians 5, meekness or gentleness is listed as fruit of the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 4 tells us to live the Christian life

Ephesians 4:2 with all humility [ταπεινοφροσύνη] and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

It takes all humility, meekness and patience to put up with one another and pursue gospel unity.

Colossians 3 tells us to

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility [ταπεινοφροσύνη], meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

In our relationships with one another, especially in our relationships with those who have wronged us, with those we may have a complaint against, we are to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience. Anger, wrath, malice, slander, lies are to have no place in the church. We are to bear with one another and to forgive one another in love. This humble meekness, aware that I too am a sinner forgiven by the riches of God’s undeserved grace enables me to forgive as I have been forgiven.

Titus encourages us:

Titus 3:1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle [ἐπιεικής appropriate, mild], and to show perfect courtesy [πραΰτης] toward all people. 3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.

Obedience, submission to authority, eagerness to do good accompanies gentleness and meekness (here translated courtesy). Gentleness and meekness is the polar opposite of quarreling and speaking evil of others. Notice the motive for this humble meekness; we ourselves were once a mess. We can treat others who are haters, envious, spiteful, addicts, straying, disobedient, foolish, because we were there. In humble gentleness we remember we were once all that.

Titus 3:4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 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, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

We can be humbly gentle toward sinners, even those who sin against us, because God treated us with goodness and loving kindness when we were sinners against him. We can extend gentleness that others don’t deserve, because we have been rescued by God’s grace and mercy.

James helps us see how this works.

James 1:19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

When there is conflict, we need to learn to be good listeners. We need to listen well before we speak. Not hasty to jump to conclusions. Not quick to pick sides and get angry. With a humble meekness we are to receive God’s word. We receive the word, not thinking we are better than others, but aware of our deep need for the gospel just as much as the next sinner. We receive the word that was planted in us as God’s tool that has the power to change us. I can’t be better by trying. God’s word has the power to change me and heal my sin sick soul.

The Meek Shall Inherit The Earth

We begin to understand why Jesus said that it is the meek who shall inherit the earth (Mt.5:5). When we understand meekness, humble gentleness, this is the kind of person we want to rule. It is the one who has a genuine humility, who doesn’t think of himself as better, who recognizes his own deep need and looks to God alone for help, this is the one we want to lead us.

Meekness in Jesus

This is the amazing thing about Jesus. Jesus, the promised Messiah king not only comes to deliver those who find themselves in deep need, those who are oppressed and exploited, those who are defenseless and without rights, but he also identifies with them, comes along side them, becomes one of them.

Matthew 21:5 “Say to the daughter of Zion,‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey,on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” (Zech.9:9)

Jesus our King comes in meek humility. He comes, not as a conquering king delivering from oppression, but as one oppressed and afflicted, a man of sorrows, despised and rejected, acquainted with grief (Is.53:7, 3). The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. He invites us: take up your cross and follow me. He says

Matthew 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly [ταπεινός] in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Jesus comes to us and meets us in our need. He experiences what we experience. He enters in to our suffering. He is meek and humble.

Philippians 2 says:

Philippians 2:1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus, who for all eternity existed in the very form of God, humbled himself, emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, one oppressed, one despised, rejected. Being God, he surrendered his rights as God. He stooped down to become one of us, to identify with us, to rescue us. Jesus is gentle, meek. He surrendered his rights. If Jesus did this for us, we can lay aside our selfish ambition, our conceit, our pursuit of significance. In humility, with meekness and gentleness, we can count others as more important than ourselves.

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

August 1, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Spirit’s Fruit; Patience Like Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

Patience and Anger

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patience with Circumstances and Patience with People

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

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

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

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

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

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

We see some of this in Ephesians 4.

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

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

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

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

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

Colossians 3; Patience and Forgiveness

We see this same thing in Colossians 3:12.

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

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

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

God’s Immense Patience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul says in Romans 2:

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

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

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

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

The Anger of Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

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

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

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

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

The Poverty and Grace of Christ; 2 Corinthians 8:9

12/04 The Poverty and Grace of Christ; 2 Cor.8:9 ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20161204_poverty-grace-christ.mp3

Last week we looked at a great Christmas/Thanksgiving verse at the end of 2 Corinthians 9.

2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

This week I want to turn back a chapter to 2 Corinthians 8, where we find another wonderful Christmas text.

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Remember, the context of 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 is Paul reminding and encouraging the Corinthians to give generously to the collection for the poor saints that he is taking to Jerusalem. He mentioned this in his first letter to this church (1 Cor.16:1-4) and he also mentions it in Romans 15:25-28, writing from Corinth in AD 57. Here in 2 Corinthians he takes two chapters to exhort the Corinthians toward generosity to their Jewish brothers and sisters who are in need. Paul begins this section in chapter 8 by encouraging them with the example of the churches in Macedonia.

God’s Grace Given

2 Corinthians 8:1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.

Paul uses the word ‘grace’ to describe this gift. He uses the word ‘grace’ 18 times in 2 Corinthians. 10 of those times are concentrated in these two chapters on giving. Paul sees generosity and giving as an act of grace, rooted in the grace of God toward us and blossoming into a full display of grace that extends out from us who have experienced God’s grace in acts of grace toward others. Grace, remember, by definition is an undeserved kindness, a gift, unmerited, unearned, freely given. He describes what happened in Macedonia as ‘the grace of God that has been given among the churches.’ The generosity of the believers in the region of Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea Paul recognizes as the grace of God. The fact that they gave, and the way that they gave, was evidence that demonstrated that they were recipients of God’s grace. Later in this chapter Paul refers to their giving to this special project as ‘this act of grace.’ But here, he is talking about God’s grace extended undeservedly to the Macedonian churches that resulted in their wealth of generosity. Remember, we love because he first loved us. We give because to us God has abundantly given. The Macedonians gave because they were first recipients of God’s abundant grace.

Grace Under Pressure

First Paul describes their circumstances. He says they were ‘in a severe test of affliction.’ They were undergoing persecution. They were in the middle of a trial. On Paul’s first visit to Macedonia (Acts 16-17), he and Silas were imprisoned in Philippi and then asked to leave. In Thessalonica, the jealous Jews incited a mob and set the city in an uproar. Not finding Paul, they dragged Jason and some other local believers before the city authorities, accusing them of treason against Caesar, and proclaiming another king, Jesus. Paul and Silas were sent off by night to Berea, but the Jews from Thessalonica followed them there and agitated and stirred up the crowds, so Paul was sent off to Athens in Achaia. Although what kind of persecution they were now suffering is not specified, it is described as ‘a severe test of affliction.’ Verse 2 goes on to describe their situation as ‘their extreme poverty.’ We are told in Acts that ‘when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go’ (Acts 17:9). Whatever their specific circumstances, they were ‘in a severe test of affliction’ and they were in the depths of poverty.

Unquenchable Joy

But their circumstances did not define their attitudes or their actions. Do you let your circumstances determine how you respond? How you act? Your attitude? Are your emotions controlled by how others treat you? The Macedonians, in the middle of severe affliction, had a superabundance of joy. This is not natural; this is supernatural joy, joy that is not dampened by any outside influence. This is the joy Jesus promised to bring to his followers.

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.

Begging for the Grace of Giving

The Macedonians had unquenchable joy in Jesus. And under severe pressure their joy combined with their extreme poverty like vinegar and baking soda to overflow in a wealth of generosity. Do you want that kind of joy? Would you like that kind of single purposed sincerity and bountiful liberality to come out when you are under pressure? When you are pressed and stretched? Verse 3 tells us that

2 Corinthians 8:3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—

They gave more than they could afford. They gave voluntarily. Willingly. Their abundance of joy had to find an outlet; it had to express itself. They begged for the privilege of giving. Literally, ‘after much urgent request they begged us the grace and the fellowship of the service to the saints’. They considered the privilege of giving beyond their means an undeserved favor from God. It was grace, and it was fellowship. Partnering with God in his care for his own, and partnering with the suffering saints in Jerusalem, sharing in their sorrows and spreading joy. Paul says:

2 Corinthians 8:5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.

This generosity from suffering saints was beyond what they had hoped. They didn’t only give of their finances. They gave of themselves. They didn’t just write a check. They were personally invested. Their gave themselves first to the Lord. They recognized that they had been bought with a price. They understood that they belonged to Jesus. And so they delightfully offfered their very selves to God and to the service of the saints. What an example from the Macedonian churches!

2 Corinthians 8:6 Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. 7 But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you— see that you excel in this act of grace also. 8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.

Paul now encourages the church in Corinth also to abound in this grace. He is careful to make it clear that this gift is voluntary. There is no obligation. This is not a command. It is an invitation; an opportunity. As the Macedonians begged to be involved, you also abound in this act of grace. And then he holds up Jesus as the reason.

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

You know. This is not something new. You already know about the grace of our Lord Jesus. Paul reminds us of the good news we already know. He turns our attention back once more to Jesus. He is encouraging an act of free grace toward those who desperately need the help but didn’t earn it or do anything to deserve it. He reminds us that we can only give like that because we have already been on the receiving end of that kind of gift. Jesus freely extended his favor to those who did nothing to earn it, but desperately need it. Before you can ever hope to extend grace to others, you must first experience the grace that comes from Jesus.

Riches to Poverty for You

This is what that grace looks like. ‘that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor.’ What does it mean that Jesus was rich? Jesus prayed to his Father in John 17

John 17:4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

Jesus had glory in the presence of his Father before the world existed. He was eager to return to that glory. Jesus said in John 6:

John 6:38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Jesus came down from heaven. He left his glory to come down and do the will of his Father. He goes on to say:

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

Jesus claims to be the only one who is from God, the only one who has seen the Father. In John 8 he sets himself apart as the only one who is from above, who is not from this world.

John 8:23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

This is Christmas. Jesus left his glory and came down to this earth. John began his gospel this way:

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 was glorious in the presence of his Father. He is distinct from his Father, in relationship with his Father, and equal to his Father. He possesses all the characteristics of his Father. He is the Creator of all that is. He was rich.

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.

He became poor. He became flesh. He became what he was not. He became one of us. As the only Son from the Father he pitched his tent among us. He became poor. This is grace!

Why? Although he was rich, yet he became poor. Why? It was for your sake. For your benefit. For you!

Philippians 2 spells this out.

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus, being rich, existing eternally in the form of God, equal with his Father, became poor. He emptied himself by taking the form of a servant. He was born in the likeness of men, in human form. Being rich, he became poor. He humbled himself even to death, even death on a cross. Because Christmas is really all about Good Friday. Jesus became poor for your sake. He became human for your sake, so as a human he could take your place on the cross.

Bringing You Riches by His Poverty

But it doesn’t stop there!

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

By his poverty you become rich. This is undeserved grace! How do we become rich by his poverty? The riches may not be what we would think. Jesus, addressing the church in Laodicea in Revelation 3 says:

Revelation 3:15 [to Laodicea] “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

Their opinion of themselves was that they were rich and in need of nothing, but God’s perspective says that they were wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. But to the church in Smyrna he says:

Revelation 2:9 [to Smyrna] “‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) …

Like the churches in Macedonia, you may be in desperate poverty and undergoing persecution, but you are abundantly rich in joy. True riches come from Jesus.

Ephesians 1 says:

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,

If we are in Christ, we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. Every spiritual blessing! Paul prays:

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 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,

Our eyes must be opened to know the riches of his glorious inheritance! The benefits purchased for us by Christ are immeasurably great. Ephesians 2 says:

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Grace immeasurable! Grace rich and free. Resurrecting life transforming grace! Peter says:

1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,

New birth. Born into an inheritance. All the riches of Christ belong to us.

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Christmas is about grace. The grace of the Lord Jesus. Christmas is about Jesus, who was rich in glory in the presence of his Father, who emptied himself by taking human form; who became poor, humbled even to the point of being executed as a criminal. He did this for me! Christmas is about the greatest gift. God the Son was born in Bethlehem so that he could be crucified outside Jerusalem so that I could experience unshakeable joy in the riches of his grace.

2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

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

December 5, 2016 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 16; Day of Atonement

09/25 Leviticus 16; Day of Atonement; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160925_leviticus-16.mp3

Overview & Purpose

We are in Leviticus 16, the centerpiece of Leviticus, which is the centerpiece of the Torah, the first five books of Moses. This was a most solemn day for Israel. It was to be kept annually on the 10th day of the 7th month, the month of Tishri in the Hebrew calendar, which usually falls in our September / October. In Acts 27:9 this great day is simply referred to as ‘the Fast’. We know it as the great Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur. The conclusion of this chapter gives us the summary purpose of this day.

Leviticus 16:30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins. … 33 He shall make atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. 34 And this shall be a statute forever for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins.” And Aaron did as the LORD commanded Moses.

This is a day to make atonement for the holy sanctuary, for the tent of meeting, for the altar, for the priests, for the people. Atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins. What a promise! What a day!

This is a refreshing word after the burdens of the book of Leviticus.

Chapters 1-7 outline the major types of sacrifices to be offered for the different kinds of offenses against God and one another. There are sins of commission, sins of omission, and unintentional sins. It is mostly blood, death, sacrifice, blood, innards, more blood, fire, smoke, blood sprinkled, blood splattered, blood poured out, blood smeared. Animals butchered, animals gutted, animals washed, animals burned up.

Then chapters 8-10 institute the priests who are to offer these sacrifices. In chapter 8 they are dressed up and set apart with a bunch of blood sacrifices and blood smearing and blood sprinkling. In chapter 9 they begin to offer the bloody sacrifices, and in chapter 10 two of the sons of Aaron are torched because they disobeyed the procedures.

Then we get to chapters 11-15, which deal with different kinds of uncleanness and the consequences of uncleanness. Uncleanness from foods, uncleanness from dead things, uncleanness from childbirth, uncleanness from diseases, uncleanness in your clothes, uncleanness in your house, uncleanness in household items, uncleanness from normal and abnormal bodily discharges. Uncleanness that separates you from God and from the community for a day, a week, a month, months at a time, possibly the rest of your life. Toward the end of chapter 15 we find these words:

Leviticus 15:31 “Thus you shall keep the people of Israel separate from their uncleanness, lest they die in their uncleanness by defiling my tabernacle that is in their midst.”

The presence of a Holy God living in the middle of sinful people is dangerous and he is to be approached with great care and humility.

If you have missed any of the messages on Leviticus so far, you are now caught up. And you can see what good news this chapter brings when it says:

Leviticus 16:30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins.

The word ‘atone’ or ‘atonement’ means to cover, cover over, hide, wipe away, and carries the ideas of cleansing and forgiveness. Atonement is necessary because of sin and uncleanness. Sin separates from a holy God. Sin needs to be removed so that the relationship between the sinner and God can be reconciled. This chapter is full of good news!

The remainder of Leviticus, chapters 17-27 deal primarily with holy living. Now that I am clean and my sins have been atoned for, what does it look like to live in relationship with a holy God? The motive and power for holy living grows out of this decisive act of atonement in chapter 16.

Humble and with His Own Offering

Leviticus 16:1 The LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before the LORD and died, 2 and the LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat.

Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu died because they approached God in a way he had not commanded. Aaron is now warned that even he, as the high priest of Israel, does not have unrestricted access to the most holy place. God is to be honored as holy.

3 But in this way Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: with a bull from the herd for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. 4 He shall put on the holy linen coat and shall have the linen undergarment on his body, and he shall tie the linen sash around his waist, and wear the linen turban; these are the holy garments. He shall bathe his body in water and then put them on.

The high priest is not to approach the Holy Place empty handed. He is to bring his own offerings, a bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering, because he himself is a sinner.

And he is to dress appropriately for his task. There is a specific outfit designated for this once-a-year task. It is much more simple and plain than the extravagant and colorful garments usually worn by the high priest. This is a simple linen outfit that does not include the colorful ephod of gold, blue, purple an scarlet yarns nor the breastplate set with twelve gems, nor the pure gold nameplate on his head, all described in Exodus 28. He changes into this simple outfit in verse 4, and he changes back into his more ornate high priestly outfit in verses 23-24. Future high priests mentioned in verse 32 are also to wear these holy linen garments which are kept in the holy place. This simple linen outfit would look less like a royal outfit and more like the clothing of a servant.

The Congregation’s Offering

5 And he shall take from the congregation of the people of Israel two male goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering. 6 “Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering for himself and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. 7 Then he shall take the two goats and set them before the LORD at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 8 And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the LORD and the other lot for Azazel. 9 And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the LORD and use it as a sin offering, 10 but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the LORD to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.

It is restated a second time in verse 6 that Aaron is to offer a bull for himself to make atonement for himself and his house.

The congregation is to bring two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. The destiny of each of the two goats is determined by lot. One goat will be sacrificed on the altar and its blood presented in the most holy place; the other will be sent away bearing the sins of the congregation into the wilderness. These are two parts to the picture of atonement, one securing forgiveness through blood sacrifice, the other bearing away the burden guilt never to be seen again. We are going to look primarily at the first part today, and we will take up this second part next week.

Entering the Holy of Holies

11 “Aaron shall present the bull as a sin offering for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. He shall kill the bull as a sin offering for himself. 12 And he shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the LORD, and two handfuls of sweet incense beaten small, and he shall bring it inside the veil 13 and put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is over the testimony, so that he does not die. 14 And he shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the mercy seat on the east side, and in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times.

This is the third mention of the bull for a sin offering that Aaron must offer for himself. He takes the blood of this bull into the most holy place. But he must also bring live coals from the altar and incense to create a cloud that obscures his view of the presence of God in the holiest place. Again the reason is given ‘so that he does not die’. The mercy seat or atonement cover is the solid gold cover of the ark of the covenant, which resembles a throne overshadowed by angelic figures. This is where God said in Exodus 25

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

This atonement cover is to be sprinkled with blood from Aaron’s sin offering.

Cleansing the Congregation

Now that sacrifice has been made to atone for Aaron’s sin, the sacrifice of the congregation can be made.

15 “Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it over the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. 16 Thus he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins. And so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which dwells with them in the midst of their uncleannesses. 17 No one may be in the tent of meeting from the time he enters to make atonement in the Holy Place until he comes out and has made atonement for himself and for his house and for all the assembly of Israel. 18 Then he shall go out to the altar that is before the LORD and make atonement for it, and shall take some of the blood of the bull and some of the blood of the goat, and put it on the horns of the altar all around. 19 And he shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it and consecrate it from the uncleannesses of the people of Israel.

Aaron comes out from presenting the blood of his sin offering and now kills the goat selected as the sin offering for the people. This blood is also splattered on and in front of the atonement cover, making atonement for the holy place. The mercy seat or atonement cover served as a lid for the box called the ark. The ark contained the second set of stone tablets, God’s covenant contract with his people, his ten words. The second set of tablets, remember, because the first set of tablets were destroyed because the people had violated them while they were being given. Later this box would contain Aaron’s staff that budded because his authority was challenged by the rebellious people; and a jar of manna, a reminder of God’s provision for the needs of his people in spite of their grumbling and discontent. If God is understood as dwelling above the mercy seat between the cherubim, he would be looking down on his broken law, and reminders of the rebellion and discontent of his people. These contents were covered by the golden mercy seat, which was now splattered with sacrificial blood, reminding God to respond to his people with mercy and forgiveness rather than the judgment they deserved.

The blood splattered in the holiest place made “atonement for the holy place because of the uncleanness of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins.” Chapters 11-15 specify the things that make the people of Israel ceremonially unclean. ‘Transgressions’ is a word that means revolt or rebellion, intentional, willful covenant violations. ‘Sins’ is a more general word including any type of offense against God. The sins of the people (and of the priests) are pervasive and penetrating, even contaminating the most holy place. This place is cleansed from contamination by blood, as is the holy place, the tent of meeting, with its golden altar of incense, lampstand, and table of the bread of the presence.

The high priest is to do his work alone. Priests regularly entered the holy place to tend the lamps, replace the bread, and offer incense, but on this day no one was to enter except the high priest.

When he has made atonement for himself and for the people, then he must use blood from the two animals to cleanse the altar of burnt offering in the courtyard.

[we will take up verses 20-22 next week]

Conclusion of Ceremonies

23 “Then Aaron shall come into the tent of meeting and shall take off the linen garments that he put on when he went into the Holy Place and shall leave them there. 24 And he shall bathe his body in water in a holy place and put on his garments and come out and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people and make atonement for himself and for the people. 25 And the fat of the sin offering he shall burn on the altar. 26 And he who lets the goat go to Azazel shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp. 27 And the bull for the sin offering and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the Holy Place, shall be carried outside the camp. Their skin and their flesh and their dung shall be burned up with fire. 28 And he who burns them shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp.

This gives the details of concluding the ceremony. Aaron is to bathe and change back into his high priestly garments and offer the burnt offerings that confirm his and his peoples entire commitment to God. The fat of the sin offerings is to be burnt on top of the burnt offerings. The remains of the sin offerings are to be burned outside the camp. The man who led the goat away and the man who burned the remains of the sin offering are to wash their clothes and bathe before returning.

Summary Statement

29 “And it shall be a statute to you forever that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict yourselves and shall do no work, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you. 30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins. 31 It is a Sabbath of solemn rest to you, and you shall afflict yourselves; it is a statute forever. 32 And the priest who is anointed and consecrated as priest in his father’s place shall make atonement, wearing the holy linen garments. 33 He shall make atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. 34 And this shall be a statute forever for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins.” And Aaron did as the LORD commanded Moses.

This is to be an annual event, with priests anointed in his father’s place to carry on the tradition from generation to generation. All this, of course points us to Jesus.

Humbled Himself

Jesus our great High Priest, laid aside his royal robes and humbled himself.

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

Propitiation

The great heart of the gospel presentation in Romans 3 says

Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

This word ‘propitiation’ comes from the Old Testament word for ‘mercy seat’. Jesus is the atonement cover, the mercy seat, the place where God and man meet. Jesus is the one who covers our rebellion, our discontent, all our sin, and hides it from God’s view. It is Jesus’ blood that satisfies the holy wrath of God against our sins so that we die not.

The Greater High Priest

Almost all of this points to Jesus. Seven times in this chapter Aaron is said to make an offering ‘for himself’ – 16:6 (2x), 11 (3x), 17, 24.

Hebrews 7:26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.

There is a stark contrast here between Aaron and Jesus. Unlike Aaron and the other high priests, Jesus had no sin of his own to atone for. His offering was completely for others.

Hebrews 9 specifically has this annual Day of Atonement in view.

Hebrews 9:11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent ( not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

Jesus our great High Priest offered a better sacrifice once for all in the greater tabernacle and secured eternal redemption

Hebrews 9:22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. 23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Jesus offered himself once for all to permanently put away sin. It is finished! But as Aaron entered the tabernacle with blood, the people anxiously awaited his emergence from the holy place. We too wait for our great High Priest to re-appear from the holy place to take us to be with himself.

Access to God

In the mean time, we have a way opened to us. When Jesus died, “the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” (Mt.27:51; Mk.15:38; Lk.23:45)

Hebrews 6:19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

We have a hope that enters behind the curtain.

Hebrews 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

We now at all times have access to enter the holy places. We can enter boldly, with confidence, not shrinking back with fear, because we enter by the blood of Jesus. We can draw near with full assurance of faith. We can draw near at any time. Let us then draw near!

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

September 27, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holy Holy Holy God

12/06 Holy, Holy, Holy God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151206_holy-holy-holy-god.mp3

What is God like? When we think of God, what characteristic defines him? How does he define himself? If we could say only one thing about God, what would most capture his nature? Think for a moment, what word would you choose? This is really an unfair question, because God’s attributes cannot be separated or isolated from one another, and God’s characteristics are not in conflict with one another. Everything God does is an expression of all his attributes. I think many people today would say ‘God is love’ or ‘God is grace’, and that is true. We might choose love because we can think of a Bible verse that says ‘God is love’ (1Jn.4:8). And we might choose love or grace because that is how we want God to respond to us. We are rightly grateful that he is loving and gracious toward us. But at the root we want to elevate these characteristics of God because we are really all about ourselves. We know he is just and righteous, but we would rather experience his love and grace. That is what we want from him. But what is the emphasis in the Scriptures? What does God highlight for us about himself?

There is only one characteristic of God that is repeated three times consecutively in worship and praise to him. In Isaiah 6, the prophet is given a vision of the presence of God.

Isaiah 6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. I3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

These six-winged seraphs surrounding God’s throne are continually crying out ‘holy, holy, holy’. They are not crying out ‘love, love love’ or ‘gracious, gracious, gracious’. God is not heralded as ‘righteous, righteous, righteous’ or ‘eternal, eternal, eternal’ or ‘almighty, almighty, almighty’.

John, in his revelation of the presence of God, witnessed a similar scene around God’s throne.

Revelation 4:2 At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. 3 And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. 4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. 5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, 6 and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: 7 the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. 8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”

Holy, holy, holy. They never cease to say ‘holy, holy holy’! Throughout eternity, the praise of God’s holiness reverberates around his throne.

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he began by teaching them:

Luke 11:2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name…

The first thing we are to pray is that the Father’s name be hallowed, or treated as holy… on earth as it is in heaven. The third commandment is:

Exodus 20:7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

God’s name is to be treated as holy. It is not to be used in vain, in a worthless or common or ordinary manner.

God says in Leviticus 22:

Leviticus 22:32 And you shall not profane my holy name, that I may be sanctified among the people of Israel. I am the LORD who sanctifies you,

And in Ezekiel 39:

Ezekiel 39:7 “And my holy name I will make known in the midst of my people Israel, and I will not let my holy name be profaned anymore. And the nations shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel.

God’s name is holy, and his name is not to be profaned or made common. He calls himself the Holy One.

What does Holy Mean?

God declares that he is holy, and demands to be recognized as holy. What does it mean to be holy? Fortunately, the Bible gives us quite a clear picture of what it means to be holy. In these verses in Leviticus and Ezekiel, we see that to be holy or to sanctify, is contrasted with to profane or treat as common. The basic meaning of holy is that which is set apart. To sanctify is to set apart. There are clear instructions in the Old Testament law about how to set things apart to God. Something or someone who was to be holy was cleansed and removed from common or ordinary use, and through some ritual or process was dedicated or consecrated to be used in the worship or service of God. There was a negative and positive aspect to holiness or sanctification. Negatively, it was cleansed and removed from circulation in its ordinary use. Positively, it was dedicated or consecrated to be exclusively used in the service of God and to bring him glory. So when a priest was sanctified or made holy, he left his ordinary daily routine, came to the tabernacle, he was washed, clothed with different clothes, and anointed to serve as priest. He was set apart to the service of the Lord. He was not allowed to participate in common activities for the time he was appointed to serve. When someone dedicated a gold bracelet or earring to the Lord, it would be melted down, reshaped into something for the worship and service of the Lord, and then washed and anointed, never to be used for common purposes again. Whatever it came in contact with would also become holy, set apart exclusively to the Lord’s use. The specific blend of spices used as anointing oil and incense to the Lord (Ex.30:22-38) was to be holy. No one was to make any like it or to use it for any common purpose.

I The Lord Am Holy

Leviticus 19:2 “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.

Leviticus 20:26 You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.

We understand what it means for us to be holy. We are no longer to be involved in that which is common, ordinary, we are to be cleansed and set apart exclusively for the service and worship of God. We are to do all that we do to the glory of God (1Cor.10:31) But what does it mean for God to be holy? If holiness is being set apart, what is God set apart to or for? What is higher or more worthy that God must dedicate himself exclusively to?

What if what it means for God to be holy is very similar to what it means for us to be holy? For us to be holy is to turn from that which is common, and be dedicated exclusively to that which is most valuable and worthy of praise, which is God. For God to be holy means that he is exclusively dedicated to valuing that which is most valuable and worthy of praise, which is himself. Holiness in us is to seek the glory of God above all else. Holiness in God is to seek his own glory above all else. Might this be what God means when he says that he will not share his glory?

Isaiah 42:8 I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.

Isaiah 48:11 ​For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.

If God were to dedicate himself to anything other than himself, he would become an idolater, worshiping and serving something that is less than God, and by that act he would communicate falsely that there is something higher and more worthy of worship than God.

Isaiah 6:13 …Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

God’s holiness is his utter separation from valuing anything above himself, and his complete dedication to promoting the praise of his own glory.

We are to be holy because God is holy. We are to treasure God above all else, because he values himself above all else. We are to have no other gods beside him, because he honors no gods outside himself. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, because God loves himself completely.

This idea that holiness in God means that he loves himself above all and seeks his own glory at first sounds uncomfortable, and we might even recoil from it, because it seems we are attributing to God something that is sinful. For me to love myself and seek my own glory would be arrogant, narcissistic and sinful, because I would be robbing God of the honor due to him and taking it for myself, when I do not deserve it. But for God to fail to love himself and seek his own glory would be sinful. For God to love or seek the glory of anyone above himself would be for God to become a liar and an idolater. It is right for God to treasure that which is most valuable, which is himself.

Delighting in God’s Holiness

I think this will become clearer as we look at some of the passages that talk about God’s holiness. Exodus 15 speaks of the incomparable holiness of God.

Exodus 15:11“Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?

God is unique in his holiness. God does wonders, he is awesome in glorious deeds to demonstrate that he is most worthy to be praised. David’s song of praise when the Ark was brought to Jerusalem in 1 Chronicles 16 says

1 Chronicles 16:8 Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! 9 Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! 10 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!

We are called to delight, to rejoice, to glory in the holy name of God. We seek the Lord and delight ourselves in him because he delights in himself.

1 Chronicles 16:23 Sing to the LORD, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day. 24 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! 25 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be feared above all gods.

God’s salvation, his marvelous works, his glory is great and worthy of praise.

1 Chronicles 16:28 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength! 29 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness;

God’s name deserves glory. The splendor of his holiness deserves to be worshiped. God is right and good to display his greatness and worth so that we will respond with appropriate worship.

1 Chronicles 16:35 Say also: “Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather and deliver us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.

We glory in his praise. We give thanks to his holy name. God is worthy to be praised, and he holds up his own name and his glory to be adored.

Psalm 29 says:

Psalm 29:1 Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. 2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.

Psalm 96 says:

Psalm 96:8 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts! 9 Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!

We owe it to God to glorify his name. Angels owe glory to God. His holiness is splendid!

Psalm 33:20 Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. 21 For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.

His holiness of putting himself first in everything increases our gladness in him. He is our everything. We wait for his help and protection. We trust in his holiness, because he values what is most valuable. Our hearts are glad in him, because he is delightful!

Psalm 138:2 I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word

God exalts his own name and his own word above all things. He is holy. He puts that which is most worthy of praise first, namely himself.

In Psalm 89 (and also in Amos 4:2) God swears by his holiness.

Psalm 89:35 Once for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David. (cf. Amos 4:2)

God can use his own holiness as the basis of his oath to bind himself because he will consistently uphold his own worth. He swears by something he holds dear, something that will require him to keep his word.

Holiness Inclines Toward Humility

Proverbs 9:10 ​The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

We gain insight, wisdom by fearing the LORD, by knowing the Holy One. To know God as holy, zealous for the honor of his own fame is wisdom.

Listen to Isaiah 57:

Isaiah 57:15 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, …

His name is Holy, and he dwells in the high and holy place. This seems to put him out of reach. He is entirely separate, other, inaccessible. But listen to what God says:

I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.

God’s holiness inclines toward humility. The holiness of God must crush the proud, to demonstrate that he alone is worthy, but to those who are contrite and lowly, he is favorable.

After the angel announced to Mary that she would carry the coming King,

Luke 1:46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 ​and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

His name is holy, and he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.

We can join in praise to God that he treasures that which is most valuable, himself. We must humble ourselves and acknowledge his surpassing greatness and delight ourselves in the splendor of his holiness. May we glory in his holy name!

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

December 6, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 3:11-15; The Being of God

09/06 The Being of God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150906_being-of-god.mp3

In the beginning God

The opening words of the scripture narrative are staggering.

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created…

Beresit bara elohim; ἐν ἀρχῇ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς

Today we will look at the being of God, the existence of God. We are not arguing for the existence of God. We are told that

Romans 1:20 …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.

We are on a quest to know God. To know him as he is, as he has revealed himself to us, as he intends to be known. We are setting out to know him, to respond to him in ways appropriate to his nature and character. We intend to give to him the honor due to God, to acknowledge him as God, to give him thanks, to worship, to serve him.

The opening words of Genesis point to the existence of God. “In the beginning, God…” In the beginning – the beginning of this world, at the coming into existence of the heavens and the earth, before this world was formed, before the sun, the moon, the stars, the planets existed, God was. He was. He existed.

Cause and Effect

A common conversation between parents and children often runs something like this:

Wow! Look at all those stars! Where did all the stars come from?

The Bible says that God made the stars. The Bible says that God made everything.

Wow! God made everything? Did he make the trees and the grass?

Yes, the Bible tells us that God made all the plants.

Did he make all the animals too?

Yes, the Bible tells us that God made all the living creatures.

Wow! What about me? Did God make me?

Yes, the Bible tells us that God knit you together in your mother’s womb.

So God made the stars and the trees and the grass and the zebras and the giraffes and the whales, and God even made me?

Yes, that’s right.

Then who made God?

Where do you go with that? How do you answer this question? Who made God? Where did God come from?

Every effect must have an adequate cause. Because the stars are there, we ask what caused them. Because plants and animals and humans exist, we wonder where they came from. If we accept that God exists and the answer ‘God created them’, then we might naturally wonder, if God exists, where did God come from? Who created God? What is God’s cause? But this question is based on a false assumption. Because the tree and the zebra and the stars exist, and because we believe that God exists, we assume that God, along with the stars and zebras and trees, is an effect that requires an adequate cause. But God is not an effect. He is The Cause. In the beginning God existed and he created. He is not like us. We are effects and he is the Cause. We are created, and he is the Creator. When your son or daughter or college professor asks you ‘who made God?’ the proper answer is ‘No one. God is.’

Exodus 3

When God interrupted a displaced nomadic shepherd in the desert of Sinai and told him that he was his chosen instrument to liberate his people from Egypt, Moses asked a question.

Exodus 3:11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

Moses asked the wrong question. Moses’ eyes were in the wrong place. He was an exile from the royal court in Egypt. He was a murderer. He had been rejected by his own people. He had spent the last 40 years wandering around in the desert looking after sheep. God says ‘Who are you? Who are you? It doesn’t matter who you are, it matters who I am. I will be with you.’ So Moses rephrases his question. ‘Who are you, God?’

Exodus 3:13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”

Moses is on the right track. He is turning his attention away from his own identity and focusing on God’s identity. What is your name? What is your character? What are you like?

14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.

This is my name. This is how I am to be remembered. Who am I? I AM! God answers with a form of the verb ‘to be’. I am. I exist. YHWH; the LORD. I AM that I AM. Tell them the one who is has sent you. The one who has being.

This is a strange way to describe oneself. The way we usually talk about ourselves is to say ‘I am’ and follow it with some description of who we are. I am a Zedicher. I am a pastor. I am a husband. I am a father. I am honest. I am humble…

To say ‘I am what I am’ sounds aloof – I’m not going to tell you anything about myself. I am what I am and you can figure it out. But in the context of this passage it is clear that this is not God’s intent. He tells Moses much about himself. He tells him that he is holy, unapproachable, the God who has made promises to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, the God who listens to the cry of his people, the God who cares, the God who comes down to deliver them, the God who is mighty to save, the God who promises abundant blessings to his people.

‘I am what I am’ could sound like an ultimatum; I am what I am and I’m not going to change, so you can take it or leave it. Maybe there is a little bit of this in this statement. God is unchanging in his being, perfections and attributes. What he is he is and he will never be different. He will never act contrary to his own nature.

God’s Being and Ours

But the primary meaning of “I AM” is being, existence. That is something we cannot say absolutely. I am a pastor, a father, a husband, but rewind 22 years and I was none of those things. Those are things I became. I have changed. My experiences have shaped me. I am not what I once was, and I am not yet what I will be. Every day I am changing. I am becoming. I am not being. Some changes are for the better; others are for the worse. But God is. He is absolute in his perfections. He cannot improve. If he were improving, we could never say he was perfect. And he will not decline in his perfections. He is. He is what he is.

God exists. He is. There was never a time when he wasn’t who he is now. There was a time when I didn’t exist. Before I was conceived by my parents, I had no being. I wasn’t. I didn’t exist. I was brought into existence. I was given being. I did nothing to bring about my own being. And my being, my existing, now that I do exist, is dependent on a lot of outside factors. To find that out, just go camping. I spent Friday night on the mountain with our youth group. You have to think through what you need to exist. And you need to see if you can fit it all into a backpack that you can carry. You can’t live without water. You need food for energy. You need a way to prepare the food, and you need a way to preserve the food so it doesn’t go bad. You need a way to stay warm at night. And those are just some of the bare minimums for a summer overnight. If we were traveling to the moon, we would need to bring our own supply of oxygen to breathe, and our own atmosphere in the form of a pressurized suit or cabin. Our being, our existence, is dependent on a multitude of outside factors. We are dependent beings. God is. He exists in and of himself.

There is a word theologians use to describe this; aseity. It means ‘existence originating from and having no source other than itself’ (dictionary.reference.com). Aseity comes from the Latin ‘from oneself’. God is needs nothing outside of himself to exist. He is not dependent on anyone or anything. He is. He exists. He doesn’t need air, atmosphere, water, food, shelter. He is. He is self-existent.

Paul says in Acts 17:

Acts 17:24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. …28 for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, …

He needs nothing from anyone, but we are dependent on him for life and breath and everything. In him we have our being. He is the self-existent one.

God says in Isaiah:

Isaiah 43:10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. 11 I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior. 12 I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and I am God. 13 Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?”

Isaiah 44:6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. 7 Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me,…

We are to know, to believe, to understand that I AM. God is. No one is like God. No one can be compared to him. He is utterly unique in his self-existence.

This is what makes the claims of Jesus so startling. Jesus said in John 8:

John 8:23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

Jesus claimed an unique origin. He came from above, from outside this world. And he claimed that belief in his identity changes our destiny. We must believe that Jesus is the I AM. His continued conversation with the Jews makes his meaning clear.

John 8:57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

Jesus, who was born more than 1500 years after Abraham, claims to have existed before Abraham. In fact, Jesus claims to be the I AM, the self-existent one, taking the very name of God for his own. The Jews emphasize the severity of his claim. They recognized it as blasphemy and planned to stone him to death. “Unless you believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.’

John’s gospel begins with these words:

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.

In the beginning the Word was. The Word existed. The Word was already there. The Word was God. Everything that was made was made through him. He is the unmade, uncreated Creator of all that is. He is the one who is.

Hebrews tells us

Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

The universe was created by the word of the God who is. That which is visible came out of that which is invisible. He goes on to say:

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

In order to draw near to God, in order to please God, we must believe that he is. We must recognize him as the one who is, the self-existent one.

We want to please God. We want to draw near to God. We want to enjoy his presence forever. We must know, believe, and understand that he IS. He exists in and of himself, and he rewards those who seek to know him as he is.

Paul tells us in Romans 4 that Abraham’s faith, the faith which was counted to him as righteousness, was a faith that ‘gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised’ (Rom.4:20-21). Abraham’s faith was:

Romans 4:17 …—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

The God Abraham trusted in is the God who has life and existence in himself, who is the source of existence, who calls into existence things that do not exist.

If we want to please God, to know God, to enjoy God, unless we want to die in our sins, we must believe that God is, that he is the I AM, the self-existent one, the one who exists independent of anything outside of himself.

Knowing this about God should serve to humble us. God does not need us. We can contribute nothing to his being. He is who he is and he cannot change. Our life is compared to a mist, a vapor, a blade of grass, a fading flower. Knowing this about God and about ourselves should humble us and amaze us.

Psalm 8:4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

The Psalmist cries as he considers the grandeur of God. What is man in comparison with the God who is?

Psalm 8:5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet,

Man is a breath, a shadow, less than dust and nothing, yet the God who is existence, who brought us into existence, has chosen to love us, to so love us that he gave his only Son to rescue us from our self-absorbed pride and open our eyes to something greater; someone greater, to the God who IS.

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

September 6, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, Theology | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 16:15-18; Refreshing Saints and Apostles

07/12 1 Corinthians 16:15-18 Refreshing Saints and Apostles ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150712_1cor16_15-18.mp3

1 Corinthians 16 [SBLGNT]

15 Παρακαλῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί· οἴδατε τὴν οἰκίαν Στεφανᾶ, ὅτι ἐστὶν ἀπαρχὴ τῆς Ἀχαΐας καὶ εἰς διακονίαν τοῖς ἁγίοις ἔταξαν ἑαυτούς· 16 ἵνα καὶ ὑμεῖς ὑποτάσσησθε τοῖς τοιούτοις καὶ παντὶ τῷ συνεργοῦντι καὶ κοπιῶντι. 17 χαίρω δὲ ἐπὶ τῇ παρουσίᾳ Στεφανᾶ καὶ Φορτουνάτου καὶ Ἀχαϊκοῦ, ὅτι τὸ ὑμέτερον ὑστέρημα οὗτοι ἀνεπλήρωσαν, 18 ἀνέπαυσαν γὰρ τὸ ἐμὸν πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὑμῶν. ἐπιγινώσκετε οὖν τοὺς τοιούτους.

1 Corinthians 16 [ESV2011]

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

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

Paul is giving his closing exhortations to the Corinthians church. Back in chapters 9 and 10, Paul held himself up as an example to the believers in surrendering rights and seeking the good of others above one’s own good, and in 11:1 Paul says ‘be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. Here at the close of this letter, he holds a member of their own congregation up as worthy of honor and imitation. He points to the household of Stephanas.

Firstfruits

Here he says that the household of Stephanas was the firstfruits of the region of Achaia. This is the same word ‘firstfruits’ that he used in 15:20 of Christ as the firstfruits of the resurrection of believers who have fallen asleep. The firstfruits was an Old Testament offering, a sample from the harvest, it shares continuity with the rest of the harvest, it was a part of the harvest, and it was a promise of more good things to come. In 1:16, he said that he had baptized the household of Stephanas. The household of Stephanas were some of the first to believe the gospel in that region, and Paul looked at them as a promise of more to come. The good news of Jesus Christ crucified for sinners and risen from the dead had penetrated into a dark place, had created new life, and had begun to transform sinners, and he expected that to spread.

Devoted Themselves

Listen to how Paul describes these believers. He says that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints. This is not something that was pushed on them. This is not something they did unwillingly or half-heartedly. They devoted themselves. This word can be translated ‘to addict, to appoint, to determine, to ordain, to set.’ They addicted themselves to the service of the saints. They set themselves apart to this purpose. They were determined to serve. This was voluntary, eager service. This was not under compulsion, these were cheerful givers. They delighted themselves in serving others. They set themselves aside to be useful to the believers. Do you know anyone like this? We need people like this in our churches, people who are not looking for position or recognition, people who simply want to be useful to God by serving his people. This word service is where we get our word ‘deacon’ – it simply means a servant.

These are often behind the scenes people, people who are not interested in the limelight, selfless people who prefer to remain unknown and unrecognized. People who simply see a need and do whatever is within their power to care for that need. These are people who recognize their gifts and without drawing attention to themselves, simply get busy using their gifts to love and serve and build up others. These are truly selfless people, who genuinely care about others more than they care about themselves.

Household

Notice that Paul is not referring to one particular individual. He says ‘you know the household of Stephanas’. This was a family that served together. We aren’t told details, but a household would likely include Stephanas and his wife, his children, and possibly any servants he employed, possibly others who lived with them, who were under his care, who together found joy in serving the saints. This is family ministry. A whole family that was united to serve others. The family unit is a powerful thing.

Sometimes the gospel divides families. When an individual hears the gospel, he may have to choose to follow Jesus, knowing that following Jesus could destroy his relationship with his wife, with his children, with his family. Paul understands the dynamic where a family is divided over the gospel, and he gave practical instructions on how to handle these kinds of situations in chapter 7. But here he is looking at a family that is united by the gospel and transformed by the gospel with a passion to serve the people of God.

Joshua said ‘choose this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD’. This is a household that has recognized the many different things that families are all about, the many different things families are passionate about and centered around, and they have chosen to center family life around service to the believers. They have prioritized in a radically different way than the culture around them and given themselves over to Christian service. Mother, father, children old and young, all looking away from themselves and their own wants and needs at how to love and serve and care for the body of Christ.

This is a radically different model for life and ministry. This is not the family making sacrifices so dad or mom can go off and serve in this or that ministry. This is the family together as a team loving and serving in ways that can only be done by a household. Certainly this includes hospitality, where the home is an environment defined by loving service to others, where others can be welcomed in and cared for and nurtured. Quite possibly, the church used the home of this family for their meetings, which would mean that the family took on the responsibility of preparing for and cleaning up after the meeting of the church. This doesn’t necessarily mean an immaculate showroom house, but it would include essential things like making sure the bathroom is clean and functioning, providing appropriate space for guests to feel welcomed and cared for, creating an atmosphere of others-focused selfless welcoming love.

What is your household like? Is your home a Christ centered home? Is your primary aim to advance the gospel? Is your home a place where believers can feel safe and loved and cared for and built up?

Servant Leadership

Paul holds up the household of Stephanas as an an example of what devotion to Christ can look like in a household. He encourages the believers to ‘be subject to such as these’. We often want leaders who are in control, who are determined, aggressive, forceful, who speak well and look good out front. But Paul has a different perspective. And this is in line with what Jesus taught. In Luke 22 we see:

Luke 22:24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.

It is startling to remember the context of this conversation. Jesus had just taken bread and said ‘this is my body broken for you’ and ‘this cup is my blood which is poured out for the forgiveness of your sins’. He had told them that he was about to be betrayed and crucified. And they around the table are disputing about who is the greatest.

Luke 22:25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

Jesus initiated a different kind of leadership. His authority is not a top down controlling authoritarian you-serve-me kind of leadership. His leadership is a humble-hearted others-centered loving service. The household of Stephanas was a real life example of what this looks like, and Paul exhorts the Corinthians to voluntarily submit to such as these. These and every fellow worker and laborer.

We see Paul hold up another example of a fellow-worker who gave him joy, ministered to his needs, and is to be honored and imitated. He writes to the church in Philippi:

Philippians 2:25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, 30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.

Epaphras, like Stephanas, was a selfless servant who put other before himself, who filled up the lack and brought joy to those he served. He was a brother, a fellow-worker, a fellow soldier.

Some people talk about going into the ministry as if it were a glamorous career choice. Ministry simply means service, and service to people can be painful and messy and just plain hard. Paul says to be subject to every fellow-worker and laborer. This word laborer literally means to be weary or feel fatigue. Serving others, especially serving those who are disgruntled or opinionated or easily offended can be draining and exhausting. Ministry is eternally rewarding, but it can be just plain fatiguing.

Refreshing the Spirit

Listen to what the Apostle Paul says.

1 Corinthians 16:17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.

It seems the letter the Corinthian church wrote to Paul was delivered by these men. He says that these three filled up what was lacking on their part. Paul had strong affection for the Corinthians. These were people he led to Christ, people he had invested his life in. He walked life with them. He missed them. He truly enjoyed their company. The visit from these three brought the apostle much joy. They refreshed his spirit. We don’t often think of the great Apostle to the Gentiles as needing to be refreshed, maybe even becoming depressed and discouraged. But he says in 2 Corinthians 1:8 that ‘we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.’ In two of his letters, Paul describes himself as being ‘poured out as a drink offering’ (Phil.2:17; 2Tim.4:6). Even in the midst of fruitful ministry where many were believing the gospel and being baptized, Paul needed encouragement from the Lord.

Acts 18:9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”

Paul, afraid? Paul silent? Paul was human. He had needs. Emotional, spiritual, physical needs. He felt a poverty of spirit in being away from his beloved friends at this church. It brought him joy when dear friends came to visit.

Even leaders in ministry need other co-workers who will come along side them, others who understand the unique challenges and hardships of ministry, others who will bring refreshment to their spirits. This is what the coming of these three friends did for Paul, in the midst of something he describes as ‘fighting wild beasts at Ephesus’.

I have a dear friend and co-worker in the gospel who was so deeply hurt in the course of pastoral ministry that he describes it as if something deep inside him broke. He went into a deep depression, to the point where he had to take an extended break from ministry. God is healing him and giving him a renewed sense of vision and passion for ministry. I enjoyed the privilege of spending some time with him over the past week, and he was an encouragement to my soul.

There are some people who sap the spiritual energy out of you; who drain you of life and vitality. There are others whose love for Jesus and love for other people is a contagious overflow that refreshes your soul. Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus were that kind of friends, co-laborers in service to Christ, selfless servants who brought refreshment to everyone they were around. We need those kinds of people in our lives, people who are filled with the love of Christ, those who will just be a friend, who will love us as we are, who will be patient with our flaws and shortcomings, who will laugh with us, cry with us, hurt with us, just be with us, who will lay aside expectations and care for us.

1 Corinthians 16:17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.

May we be those kind of people for others. May we refresh the spirit of those who are downcast. May we bring joy to those we are around. May we develop households who addict themselves to the selfless service of the saints. May we create places of refuge where broken sinners can be loved and nurtured and find healing and hope. May we be people who bring joy to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

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

July 12, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment