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2 Corinthians 5:21; The Theology of Reconciliation

02/24_2 Corinthians 5:21; The Theology of Reconciliation; Ambassadors of Reconciliation; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190224_2cor5_21.mp3

2 Corinthians 5:14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

We have been looking at Paul’s magnificent passage on reconciliation at the end of 2 Corinthians 5. Today we are going to unpack the rich, beautiful statement of verse 21 on the theology underlying reconciliation. This might be the most concise statement of the gospel; a mere 15 words in the original Greek, it packs the powerful life altering truth of the foundation of reconciliation, God’s reconciling us to himself; how he can in fact not count the sins of sinners against them, how salvation works, and the beauty of imputed righteousness.

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.

Practical Theology

This verse is a dense theological statement. Some of you might be thinking ‘oh… theology [yawn] I was hoping for something practical.’ To you I want to say that theology; all theology is practical! Good theology, right theology, a right understanding of God and salvation is eminently practical. This passage shows us how. Verse 14 tells us that ‘the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this’ and he goes on to unpack a specific understanding of the expression of the love of Christ for us. He tells us that we are shaped by it; it affects the way we live, it affects everything! It changes our desires; verse 15, what we believe about Christs death causes us to want to live no longer for ourselves, but for him. If you don’t find yourself moved, compelled to live for Jesus, it probably means you are believing some bad theology.

And theology leads to doxology – to worship; when we learn great truths about God our hearts naturally well up in worship to God. Good theology also leads to life transformation. This passage spells that out. When we begin to understand the extent of Christ’s love for us, that he died for us, and all that that means, we live differently; we want to live for him.

We will just walk through this verse phrase by phrase. As we do, let this truth soak in to your heart and stagger your imagination and amaze you. Allow it to fill you with worship toward this all glorious God who would go to such an extent to rescue you!

Here’s a very literal translation of the Greek (we will work through this one phrase at a time);

21 τὸν μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν

[the one not having known sin]

ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἁμαρτίαν ἐποίησεν,

[on behalf of us sin he made]

ἵνα ἡμεῖς γενώμεθα δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ.

[in order that we become righteousness of God in him]

The Sinless Son

The first phrase is literally ‘the one not having known sin’ [τὸν μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν]. Notice, the verse doesn’t start with us; it starts with Jesus. It’s not all about us. If we start with us, thinking we are at the center, we end up in the wrong place, and we end up with bad theology. It’s never all about us.

Jesus knew no sin. As God from all eternity, the Son had never sinned. At the incarnation he took a human body; he became human. Romans 8:3 tells us that God sent “his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin.” Jesus came not in sinful flesh, but in the likeness of sinful flesh. He became human, but he did not become a sinner. As Hebrews tells us, as a man, he “in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb.4:15). In every respect. Are you tempted by sin? Jesus was tempted in every respect, yet without sin. Jesus never sinned. Not once. Not in thought, word or deed. Think of that for a moment. Not one selfish thought.

Not one sin of commission, and not one sin of omission. 1 Peter 2:22 tells us ‘he committed no sin’, and he also omitted no good he ought to have done; “I always do the things that are pleasing to him” he said in John 8:29. No failure to do what he ought to have done. Ever.

He was affirmed to have no sin by his own enemies. In Matthew 26 “the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward” (59-60). Tried before the governor Pilate, three times he publicly declared “I find no guilt in him” (Jn.18:38; 19:4, 6).

If you were running for public office, do you think someone could dredge up something against you? Jesus even invited his enemies to find fault; “Which one of you convicts me of sin?” (Jn.8:46); “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” (Jn.10:32).

Maybe you have lived a pretty clean life, and you really can’t think of anything serious anyone could accuse you of. But is there anything the all-seeing all knowing God could accuse you of?

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

Twice, Jesus received the audible testimony from his Father once at the beginning and again toward the end of his public ministry; “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Mt.3:17; 17:5).

Another way of saying this is that he was righteous. Perfectly righteous. Not only did he avoid a misstep, avoid doing what was wrong, he always did what was right, what was best in every situation. 1 John 3:5 “in him there is no sin.” He knew no sin.

In Our Place

21 τὸν μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν

[the one not having known sin]

ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἁμαρτίαν ἐποίησεν,

[on behalf of us sin he made]

We already saw this rich word ‘for’; on behalf of, in place of, three times back in verses 14 and 15; one in place of all died. Jesus died for us. In Romans 5,

Romans 5:6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Jesus died for sinners, for the ungodly. The sense is that ungodly sinners deserve to die, and he died for us – in our place. Peter says:

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for [concerning – περὶ] sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God…

Here the idea of substitution is made clear; Christ was executed, put to death, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. He, the righteous one, was executed for the unrighteous, in the place of the unrighteous.

This is the sense of ‘for’ in our verse. ‘For us he made him to be sin.’

Made Sin

What does this mean: ‘He made him to be sin?’ He made the one who knew no sin to be sin for us? Jesus, the sinless one, made sin? ‘He made‘ is the active verb in the sentence;. The Father made sinless Jesus to be sin. It is important to be careful to see what it does not say; it does not say that he was made sinful; Jesus was not made sinful. It does not say he was made a sinner; Jesus was not a sinner; he never sinned. It says he was made sin; he was made the embodiment of sin; Jesus was made to be sin personified. What does it mean that the Father made Jesus to be sin? We find language that expresses this in Isaiah 53:

Isaiah 53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

YHWH has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He has borne our griefs, carried our sorrows. The Father placed my sin on Jesus, and Jesus was pierced for my transgressions, he was crushed for my iniquities, the chastisement that brought reconciliation and peace to me fell on him.

Isaiah 53:10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; …

The burden of my sin was placed on Jesus. The guilt of my sin and shame was counted by the Father as transferred to Jesus and belonging to Jesus. He owned my sin. He took my name.

This is how in verse 19 he could say that he was not counting the sins of sinners against them. “Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin” (Rom.4:8). We are blessed because he was cursed; he became a curse for us (Gal.3:13).

God can no longer count my sins against me because he counted it against Jesus. For me he made him to be sin. This is how salvation works. This is how God can be just and justify the ungodly (Rom.3:23-24, 26; 4:5). The Father made Jesus to be sin, my sin. My price was paid in full; it is finished. I will never be held responsible for those sins; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed my transgressions from me (Ps.103:12). How? By placing them on Jesus.

That We Become Righteousness of God

21 τὸν μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν

[the one not having known sin]

ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἁμαρτίαν ἐποίησεν,

[on behalf of us sin he made]

ἵνα ἡμεῖς γενώμεθα δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ.

[in order that we become righteousness of God in him]

Here we get to the purpose; in order that we become the righteousness of God. The Father made Jesus to be sin in my place so that in him I am caused to be the righteousness of God. This is the other side; God no longer counts my sin against me because he counted it as Christ’s. God now counts me as righteous because he counts Christ’s righteousness as mine. This is known as double imputation; imputing or crediting my sin to Christ, and his righteousness to me. Just as Jesus was made sin in that sin not his own was counted against him, so I am made righteous in that a righteousness not my own is counted as mine.

This is what Paul says in Philippians 3: Paul claimed to have his own flawless righteousness under the law, but he counted that trash in order to

Philippians 3:9 …be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

Paul was eager to trade in his own works righteousness for the righteousness that comes from God, that is counted to those who are in Christ.

The gospel in Romans 1 reveals the righteousness of God. In Romans 3, Paul spells out

Romans 3:22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

In Romans 4, God counts righteousness to sinners apart from works.

In Romans 9, Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness attained it by faith, while in 10 Jews

Romans 10:3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.

The righteousness that God requires is his own perfect righteousness, the very righteousness of Jesus Christ, credited to our account. If we seek to establish our own righteousness, we fall short.

2 Corinthians 5:21 [the Father] made [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin in our place, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.

In Him

This double imputation comes only to those who are in him through faith. This connects back with verses 14-17; we have been identified with him in his death; he took my name and died my death; the sinful me is dead. I am now alive in him, clothed in his righteousness. I stand under his name. If anyone is in Christ, new creation! In Christ we are made into the righteousness of God; God has made all things new!

Conclusion:

This is bedrock foundational theology, and it is so practical! Let this truth wake you up in the morning and encourage your heart throughout your day and allow you to lay down at night in peace and sleep. Let this truth make your heart sing. Let the riches of this reality of Christ’s love for you compel you no longer to live for yourself, but for him who for you died and lives again.

***

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

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February 26, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 5:18-21; God’s Reconciling Work

02/10_2 Corinthians 5:18-21; God’s Reconciling Work ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190210_2cor5_18-21.mp3

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Intro: Regeneration, Justification, Reconciliation

This passage is about reconciliation. Reconciliation is a key biblical concept. In fact this section at the end of 2 Corinthians 5 is rich in the massive bedrock truths of the gospel.

Verse 17, which we looked at last week, points to the new creation, which includes us being part of that new creation through regeneration or new birth.

Verses 14, 19, and 21 point us to substitution; that Christ died for us, in our place, and in him we died, so that he no longer counts our trespasses against us; instead he credits us with his own perfect righteousness. We looked at verse 14 three weeks ago, and I hope to spend more time savoring the truths of verse 21 together next week.

Verses 18-20 is one of the key passages in the bible on reconciliation, and that’s what I hope to unpack and celebrate together today. All these foundation truths are interwoven together in this rich passage.

2 Corinthians 5:17 new creation/new birth/regeneration

2 Corinthians 5:14, 19, 21 justification/substitution/imputation

2 Corinthians 5:18-20 reconciliation

All This is From God

Verse 18 begins ‘now all this is from (lit. out of) God. So we should ask ‘All what?’ This points us back to the previous verses.

2 Corinthians 5:14 …the love of Christ … that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. …17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, …new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

All this is from God. God’s love, that one died for all. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”(Rom.5:8). Substitution, justification, all this is rooted in God’s love, put on display in Christ. Christ died for us, his death was our death; we died in him. All this is from God.

Now those who are in Christ are instances of new creation. The new creation has broken into this old one. We have become part of the “…new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2Pet.3:13). The new birth, regeneration, new creation is all of God. God is the creator, the grand architect. ‘…God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give …light’ (2Cor.4:6).

All this is from God. All this originates in God. All this has its source in God. This is God’s action, God’s activity. God is the one who sent his only Son to take my name and die my death. God is the one who unites me to Christ. God is the one who justifies me, who puts my sin on his Son, who considers the old me to have died with Christ as the wages of my sin. God is the one who creates me new in Christ, who regenerates me, who ‘has caused us to be born again’ (1Pet.1:3). God is the one who brings about substitution, justification, new creation, reconciliation. All this is from God. Paul wants us to know that all this is God’s work, and God’s alone.

Reconciliation is Personal

God has reconciled us to himself through Christ. Reconciliation is a relationship term. Reconciliation assumes the personality of God. It tells us first of all that God is a personal being; he can know and be known; he can enter into relationships, and he desires a relationship with us.

Reconciliation Overcomes Hostility

Reconciliation also assumes that something is wrong in the relationship. The need to be reconciled assumes enemy status; reconciling means changing hostility or animosity or enmity into friendship. In the beginning, God created all things very good, and he walked with man in the garden, enjoying fellowship. But sin destroyed that relationship; we destroyed God’s good created order. We refused to submit to his benevolent rule and took the authority to ourselves. We questioned his character, dishonored his good name, and transgressed his good command. We committed high treason, bringing death and the curse into his good creation. And so we had to be put out of his good presence. No more walks with God in the cool of the day. We deserved to die. We became children of wrath, allied with the serpent. We became God’s enemies. And God became our enemy.

Colossians 1 describes our relationship:

Colossians 1:21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,

Alienated. There was that in us that estranged us from God; that severed our relationship with him, as Isaiah describes our situation:

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

James puts it in even more intimate relational terms; he says we violated our covenant relationship; we slept around.

James 4:4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

To align ourselves with this world system is to become God’s enemy.

Ephesians 2 puts it more in terms of our ejection from God’s presence:

Ephesians 2:11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, … 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

Reconciliation Overcomes Inability

Separated from Christ… alienated… strangers… having no hope and without God in the world. This is the kind of situation that requires reconciliation. But it also describes our powerlessness to remedy the relationship. We had no hope. We couldn’t fix the damage we had created. A simple ‘sorry’ wouldn’t do. Reparations had to be paid, but the wages of sin is death, and if death is defined as separation from God, then that doesn’t leave us any options for reconciling ourselves to God.

There was nothing we could do to effect reconciliation, to actually make it right, to fix the relationship. Only once is this word ‘reconcile’ used in the New Testament to describe something between people, in 1 Corinthians 7, where a wife who separates from her husband is told to remain single or be reconciled to her husband. Every time this word is used in the context of our relationship to God, it is God who is active, bringing about the reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself

God through Christ reconciled us to himself. All this is from God. Reconciliation is rooted in God’s desire to be reconciled to us, his creation. Reconciliation comes about through the finished work of Christ.

Reconciliation is Built on Justification

Romans 5 in many ways overlaps with our passage in 2 Corinthians. Romans 5:6-10 describes us as weak, ungodly, still sinners, enemies. We were God’s enemies.

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Paul in Romans 5 describes the work God performed to accomplish our reconciliation as our being ‘justified by his blood’ and ‘saved by him from God’s wrath’. We transgressed, we slept around, and God is justly angry, his wrath is hot. Justification is the verdict of not guilty. Justification is more than forgiveness. Forgiveness says that the judge finds you guilty but he shows mercy. He releases you from the debt. You are a condemned criminal, and an unpunished criminal. You have been released from your debt. Justification goes further. Justification tries you in court, and there is no evidence to convict you. Your name is cleared. You walk free, not as a forgiven criminal, but as righteous. This can only happen because of the great exchange. Christ stepped forward and took my name. He took my guilt, my punishment. He died in my place. And the guilty me died with him. Now I bear his name, a perfect name. I stand spotless, clean, justified before him, tried and found innocent; fully cleared.

Reconciliation is built on justification and substitution. The adulterous me was executed. That is what we saw in 2 Corinthians 5:14; that because Jesus died in my place, I am considered dead. This is what we see in 2 Corinthians 5:21;

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.

There is so much more to say about that one verse (and I plan to spend more time on it next week), but for now notice that it is the foundation of our reconciliation. It is what God did to reconcile us to himself. It is what God did to remedy our sin problem. He put our sin on Christ, and he puts Christ’s righteousness on us.

Reconciliation Requires Imputation

In verse 19 he puts it this way; God was ‘not counting their trespasses against them.’ The word ‘count’ is an accounting term; to reckon, count, consider, or credit, to impute; its a balancing the books term. Paul uses it this way in Romans 4.

Romans 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.

How does your employer expense payroll? Does he take a tax deduction for your wages, saying it was a charitable donation? No, that would get him in trouble with the IRS. You worked, and he owes you your wages. They have to be counted as wages, not as a gift.

Romans 4:5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

God credits or accounts righteousness to the one who was not righteous as a gift, received by faith. A righteousness that wasn’t earned can’t be counted as wages. It has to be counted as a generous gift. He goes on:

Romans 4:6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

This connects back to 2 Corinthians 5:19

2 Corinthians 5:19 that is, in Christ God was …not counting their trespasses against them,

Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin. But our trespasses do stand against us. They show up on our record. How can God not count our trespasses against us? This is where verse 21 comes in; God reckoned or imputed, credited our sins to Christ’s account.

The transfer of my sins to Christ’s account and the transfer of Christ’s righteousness to my account is what makes it possible for me to be reconciled to God. As Romans 5 puts it ‘being enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son; through him we have now received reconciliation.’ We receive reconciliation as a gift, bought for us by the death of God’s only Son. ‘Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (Rom.5:1). Our reconciliation, our peace with God is rooted in justification, God’s crediting or imputing a righteousness to us that was not ours.

Active and Passive Reconciliation

And notice that this reconciliation is presented to us as a completed action. It came from God, he accomplished it through Christ, he reconciled us to himself.

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;

God through Christ completed the work of reconciliation at the cross.

God is still active in reconciling the world to himself.

2 Corinthians 5:19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

This can’t mean a universal salvation as some attempt to read it. Reconciling the world cannot mean every individual is reconciled whether they like it or not; that makes nonsense of the text. Paul refers to ‘the reconciliation of the world’ in Romans 11:15 in response to the rejection of Israel, meaning that the gospel is now going global, not just among the Jews. It is only those who are in Christ, Jew or Gentile, only those who believe against whom the Lord does not count their trespasses. This is why the word, the message of reconciliation was entrusted to the apostles.

2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

This is a word for the world! God has done the work of reconciliation. All this is from God. It is all of grace. God is active in reconciling. We are commanded here not to reconcile, but to be reconciled; we are passive – receiving by faith God’s reconciling work. Or in the language of Romans 5:11 ‘through Christ we have received reconciliation.’ ‘Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

‘We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.’ Are you? Are you enjoying relationship with this personal God? Have you received by faith his finished reconciling work? Are you blessed, because the Lord no longer counts your sins against you? If you will only acknowledge your need, cry out to him in simple trust, he will reconcile you to himself; and you too will be entrusted with the message of reconciliation for the world! ‘We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.’

***

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

February 11, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 3:17; Freedom in The Lord The Spirit

07/01_2 Corinthians 3:17; Freedom in the LORD the Spirit ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180701_2cor3_17.mp3

Paul is talking about boldness and confidence in ministry; where does his competency come from? Who is sufficient to spread the fragrance of the knowledge of Jesus everywhere, which among those being saved is the aroma of life to life, but among the perishing is the aroma of death to death? ‘Who is sufficient for these things?’ (2:16)

2 Corinthians 3:4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Paul is competent, not in himself, but God has made him sufficient to be a minister of the New Covenant, a minister of the Spirit. He contrasts his ministry with the glorious ministry of Moses

2 Corinthians 3:7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.

Paul has in mind Exodus 34, where Moses came down from the mountain from talking with God, his face shining or glorious.

2 Corinthians 3:12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

Paul’s apostolic ministry is not like Moses’ ministry; it is an unveiled ministry; he is bold, open, plain-speaking. The Old Testament still today remains veiled to those who do not turn to Jesus. Their minds are hardened. A veil lies over their hearts.

Only in Christ is that veil rendered ineffective, abolished, brought to nothing. When one turns to the Lord, the veil is lifted.

Exodus 34 and the New Covenant

Paul takes Exodus 34:34 and applies it to his New Covenant ministry. Exodus 34:34 reads:

Exodus 34:34 Whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would remove the veil, …

Paul continues to contrast the Old Covenant ministry of Moses with Apostolic New Covenant ministry. Notice how he adapts the Exodus wording in 2 Corinthians 3:16 and applies it to the New Covenant:

2 Corinthians 3:16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

Where Exodus 34 has ‘Moses,’ 2 Corinthians has ‘one’ The reference to Moses is generalized and left open. Under the Old Covenant, only Moses had access to the presence of the Lord. Now anyone. Anyone can turn and enter the presence of the Lord.

The verb ‘went in’ is changed to ‘turns’ The implication is that one turns away from something else and turns toward the Lord. This word is used for the conversion of the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 1:9

1 Thessalonians 1:9 … how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,

In the New Covenant there is a turning; a turning away from something, and a turning toward the Lord. What are we to turn away from? We will come back to this question in a minute.

The voice of the verb ‘remove’ is changed from middle; something Moses did to himself, to passive; something that is done to the one turning by someone else. Moses removed his own veil. The unbeliever is not able to remove the veil that lies over his own heart and mind. It must be removed for him by another. Only through Christ is it taken away.

And a conditional element is added; ‘if’. If or when one turns, the veil is removed.

If; Our Righteousness and God’s

Why ‘if’? And if anyone can now turn to the Lord, why don’t more turn? Why is the New Covenant access rejected by so many, especially so many of God’s chosen people? After he came to the city of Corinth:

Acts 18:5 …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.”

Why do so many of the Jews refuse to believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah? This may have been one of the questions raised by those who were critical of Paul’s ministry. If he is really a genuine apostle, why isn’t he more effective, especially among his own people?

Paul’s own testimony gives us a personal illustration of what he is talking about and helps us understand why so many reject the message.

He says in Philippians 3 that he has reason for confidence in the flesh, and he catalogs his resume.

Philippians 3:4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Paul had a righteousness that was under the law. He claimed to be blameless. He had reason for confidence in the flesh. Yet he traded it all in.

Philippians 3:7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish,

Rubbish? A blameless righteousness under the law? A total loss? Why?

Philippians 3:8 …in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

He traded in his own righteousness, law righteousness, for the righteousness of God that comes through faith in Christ. He traded his self-righteousness in for a relationship with Jesus. This is why so many who have the law fail to receive the gift of God. They have confidence in the flesh. They have a righteousness under the law, and are unwilling to let go of what they have worked so hard to attain to receive freely what someone else has earned. In Romans 10 Paul talks about his fellow Israelites:

Romans 10:3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

So in turning to the Lord, what must we turn away from? From confidence in the flesh; from our own self-righteousness. One must turn away from self, from self-confidence, from self-reliance and turn to the Lord. Paul claimed to be blameless according to righteousness under the law, yet he considered that rubbish compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord!

Paul calls it ignorance in Romans 10. He calls it blindness in 2 Corinthians. There is a veil that lies over their hearts. So many are blind and don’t even know it. The veil must be removed. They can’t remove their own blindness; they don’t even know it is there. The veil must be removed through Christ.

The Lord The Spirit Is

He says ‘if one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.’ In Exodus 34, ‘Lord’ is the translation of the Hebrew YHWH, God’s covenant name. In the Septuagint (LXX) this is translated into the Greek as Kurios. In Philippians 3:8, a verse we already looked at, Paul refers to ‘ Christ Jesus my Lord,’ connecting Jesus with YHWH of the Old Testament. In Romans 10 this is even more clear. He says in

Romans 10:9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

…12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

The Christian confession is ‘Jesus is Lord’ or Jesus is YHWH. He backs this up from a quotation of Joel 2:32 that whoever calls on the name of YHWH will be saved. John the Baptist, preparing the way for Jesus, when asked who he was (Jn.1:23) cited Isaiah 40:3 ‘Make straight the way of YHWH, the Lord’. Clearly in the New Testament Jesus is identified as YHWH of the Old Testament.

But in all of Paul’s quotations of the Old Testament, ‘Lord’ refers to God generally, not specifically to any one member of the Trinity. Here in verse 17 he clarifies. YHWH, Lord, in Exodus 34:34 is the Spirit.

Paul has been talking about the ministry of the Spirit in contrast to the ministry of death, of condemnation, of the letter, that which is being done away with. When Moses took off the veil and entered the presence of YHWH, he was in the presence of the Lord, the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who makes alive, who justifies and makes righteous, who remains. It is the Spirit who writes Christ on the tablets of human hearts, hearts that have been made flesh by the regenerating New Covenant work of the Spirit. Spirit in the Hebrew is breath or wind. It is the voice of God that makes God known.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2

1 Corinthians 2:9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

The Spirit is the one who reveals the things of God to us. The Spirit is the Spirit who is God, and he is the Spirit of God. There is identification with distinction. Jesus is YHWH; the Father is YHWH; the Spirit is YHWH. But the Spirit is the Spirit of (indicating possession) God. He is God’s Spirit, the Spirit who belongs to God. The Spirit is YHWH, and he is also the Spirit of YHWH; the Spirit is not the Father or the Son.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is… Freedom!

2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Freedom! This is an exclamation! Where the Spirit of the Lord is …Freedom! What is the freedom he is talking about? This implies there is no freedom outside the Spirit of the Lord. Humankind not free; we need to be set free by his Spirit. We are naturally in bondage. Oh, we do have freedom; we can do whatever we want, and we do, and it does not go well for us. We are in a hole, with a shovel, and we can do whatever we want with our shovel. And that gets us deeper and deeper in the hole.

What is the freedom Paul is talking about here? The context in verse 18 is freedom to enter the presence of the Lord unveiled. In verse 14-15 it is freedom from hardened minds and veiled hearts. It is freedom to see Jesus in the Old Testament. In verse 3 it is the freedom that comes from having stony hearts turned to flesh. In verse 6 it is freedom from death, the freedom of being made alive. In verse 9 it is freedom from condemnation; the freedom of righteousness. In verse 11 it is the freedom of that which is permanent; freedom from that which is doomed to pass away. Freedom is parallel to the confidence of verse 4 and the open-faced boldness of verse 12.

The Spirit of the Lord brings freedom. But not the freedom you might think This is freedom from blindness, the freedom of an imputed righteousness, freedom of access to enter the presence of the Lord, freedom of unhindered boldness, freedom from false pretense, transparency to be who you have been called to be, freedom of integrity. One author writes this freedom is ‘a liberation from a heart turned in on itself’ [Seifrid, p.177 PNTC]

Paul is referring back to Exodus. In that context freedom was freedom from bondage to an oppressive and cruel taskmaster. It was freedom from slavery. But it was also freedom for something. It was freedom to serve the Lord, freedom to obey and follow the Lord; freedom be in the presence of the Lord as the people of the Lord. It was freedom from, but it was also freedom for.

Paul says in Galatians 5

Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

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

The freedom we are called to is freedom of access, freedom to be in the presence of the Lord, freedom of relationship. We are set free to respond to God’s goodness. We are set free to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength, and that will naturally spill over into love and service to others, love for neighbor, even love for enemy.

2 Corinthians 3:16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Freedom! Enjoy your blood-bought freedom. You have been set free by the Holy Spirit to see Jesus for who he is and receive from him life and righteousness, access to the Father. Enjoy freedom of relationship with God. Enjoy your freedom to love God, freedom to love and serve others, openly and plainly share truth with others, freedom to minister to others.

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

July 4, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment