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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

1 Corinthians 7:10-16; Marriage and Divorce

11/17 1 Corinthians 7:10-16 Marriage and Divorce; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131117_1cor7_10-16.mp3

1Cor 7 [SBLGNT]

10 Τοῖς δὲ γεγαμηκόσινπαραγγέλλω, οὐκ ἐγὼ ἀλλὰ ὁ κύριος, γυναῖκα ἀπὸ ἀνδρὸς μὴ χωρισθῆναι —11 ἐὰν δὲ καὶ χωρισθῇ, μενέτω ἄγαμοςἢ τῷ ἀνδρὶ καταλλαγήτω — καὶ ἄνδρα γυναῖκα μὴ ἀφιέναι.12 Τοῖς δὲ λοιποῖςλέγω ἐγώ, οὐχ ὁ κύριος· εἴ τις ἀδελφὸς γυναῖκα ἔχει ἄπιστον, καὶ αὕτη συνευδοκεῖ οἰκεῖν μετ’ αὐτοῦ, μὴ ἀφιέτω αὐτήν·13 καὶ γυνὴ εἴ τις ἔχει ἄνδρα ἄπιστον, καὶ οὗτος συνευδοκεῖ οἰκεῖν μετ’ αὐτῆς, μὴ ἀφιέτω τὸν ἄνδρα.14 ἡγίασται γὰρ ὁ ἀνὴρ ὁ ἄπιστος ἐν τῇ γυναικί, καὶ ἡγίασται ἡ γυνὴ ἡ ἄπιστος ἐν τῷ ἀδελφῷ· ἐπεὶ ἄρα τὰ τέκνα ὑμῶν ἀκάθαρτά ἐστιν, νῦν δὲ ἅγιά ἐστιν.15 εἰ δὲ ὁ ἄπιστος χωρίζεται, χωριζέσθω· οὐ δεδούλωται ὁ ἀδελφὸς ἢ ἡ ἀδελφὴ ἐν τοῖς τοιούτοις, ἐν δὲ εἰρήνῃ κέκληκεν ἡμᾶς ὁ θεός.16 τί γὰρ οἶδας, γύναι, εἰ τὸν ἄνδρα σώσεις; ἢ τί οἶδας, ἄνερ, εἰ τὴν γυναῖκα σώσεις;

1Cor 7 [ESV2011]

7:6 Now as a concession, not a command, I say this.7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband11 (but if she does, she should remainunmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

12 To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her.13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him.14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

Today we find ourselves in a challenging passage of 1 Corinthians. Paul is answering questions he had received from his church plant in Corinth. The verses we are studying address issues of marriage, divorce, and re-marriage. There was a teaching that had become popular in Corinth that Paul refers to in verse 1; “it is good for a man not to touch a woman”. Paul, as a good shepherd, responds ‘it depends’.

In verses 2-5 he addresses married people, and he says that if you are married, it is good for you to enjoy sexual intimacy. Coming to Christ does not mean that you abandon your existing relationships in a pursuit for greater spirituality. In fact, depriving one another within marriage is sin.

In verses 6-7 he holds up his desire that, in light of the present distress, all would be content in singleness with its advantages for gospel ministry that he will outline later in this chapter. But he acknowledges that not all have received the same gifting, and God’s gifting is decisive rather than his preference.

In verses 8-9 he addresses the unmarried and widows. He may have in mind specifically widows and widowers, or he may be addressing more broadly those who are presently not married, whether single, widowed or divorced. His advice to them is that it is good to remain as they are, but if they are not gifted for celibacy then they must marry.

In verses 10-11 he addresses the married, specifically marriages where both husband and wife are believers.

In verses 12-16 he addresses another category of married people, those marriages where the husband or wife has come to Christ, but the spouse has not.

In verse 25 and following he will take up issues concerning virgins, those who have never married.

The Teaching of the Lord and of Paul

Let’s look at what Paul has to say to believers who are married to believers.

1 Corinthians 7:10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

We know that he is addressing marriages where both husband and wife are believers in these verses, because in the next verse, he addresses a different group (the rest), specifically those who are married to an unbeliever.

He differentiates his instructions to the two groups by saying to the first that the charge comes not from him but from the Lord; where to the rest he says ‘I, not the Lord’. It is very important that we do not misunderstand what he is saying. Down in verse 25 he will say:

1 Corinthians 7:25 Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.

Some have wrongly interpreted these statements to mean that Paul is differentiating between divine revelation and his own personal opinion, between inspired and uninspired Scripture. There is no such thing as uninspired Scripture! All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable. As God’s word, all Scripture is authoritative. Paul, as an apostle of our Lord Jesus, was commissioned by our Lord Jesus to instruct his church, and what Paul, controlled by the Holy Spirit, taught was no less authoritative than what Jesus himself taught. Peter (2 Peter 3:15-16) categorizes Paul’s letters as Scripture. In verse 17, Paul will say of his instructions:

1 Corinthians 7:17 …This is my rule in all the churches.

Jesus’ teaching is authoritative in all the churches. Paul’s teaching is also authoritative in all the churches. What he is doing is simply distinguishing between things that Jesus himself spoke to directly, and things that Jesus did not speak to, but by the Holy Spirit equipped his Apostles to address. At the time of the writing of 1 Corinthians, the gospels had not yet been compiled, but there was a body of memorized sayings of Jesus that the churches held dear, to which Paul would be referring here.

The Command of the Lord to the Married

1 Corinthians 7:10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

Paul is saying, in the context of the question of the Corinthians about it being good for a man not to touch a woman, that his command, based on Jesus’ own command was that the wife should not separate from her husband and the husband should not divorce his wife. It is not spiritual for a husband and wife to abstain from sexual intimacy in marriage, and it is not spiritual for them to terminate the marriage by separation or divorce. To do so would be to disobey the clear command of Jesus. Jesus’ clearly brought us back to the original intent of marriage as one man and one woman made one flesh by God for life. Jesus taught:

Matthew 19:6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (cf. Mark 10:8-9)

Jesus taught that divorce was allowed and regulated because of the hardness of our hearts (Mt.19:8; Mk.10:5). Sadly, that hardness of heart still exists. Paul is aware that wrongful divorce among believers does happen. His instruction to believers divorced from believers is clear. Remain unmarried or be reconciled. The background for Jesus’ teaching is Deuteronomy 24. This is the passage the Pharisees appealed to as their scriptural basis for divorce. It will be helpful to look back at that passage to help us understand the context of Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching.

Deuteronomy 24:1 “When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, 2 and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, 3 and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, 4 then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the LORD. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.

Much of the debate in Jesus’ day revolved around the meaning of the phrase ‘some indecency’. The rabbi Shammai taught that ‘some indecency’ was limited to fornication or immorality. That is the only legitimate ground for divorce. The rabbi Hillel, on the other hand, taught that ‘some indecency’ meant that a man could divorce his wife for anything that displeased him, like if she burned his meal or if he found another woman more attractive than his wife (Adams, p.64). Rabbi Hillel with his broad understanding of ‘some indecency’ was closer to the actual meaning of the phrase. In the chapter immediately preceding, instructions are given to the Israelites to go outside the camp and bury their excrement, so that the Lord would “not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you” (Deut.23:14). This is the same phrase used in chapter 24 of the grounds used for divorce. So the immediate context demonstrates that ‘some indecency’ is much wider than sexual immorality. But both of these rabbis and their schools of thought missed the point. Deuteronomy 24 is not about what constitutes legitimate grounds for divorce, but rather regulates a current practice that was out of control for the protection of the woman. If a man divorced his wife for ‘some indecency’ and she remarried, he could never have her back again, even if her second husband died. Protection and restraints are put in place because of the hardness of human hearts. The passage says that she is defiled by the second marriage, which implies that the reason for the divorce was not legitimate. This fits Jesus comments on this passage in the gospels.

Jesus’ teaching was that divorce on illegitimate grounds did not free a person for remarriage. He clearly states in the gospels that the husband who divorces and remarries commits adultery (Mt.19:9; Mk.10:11; Lk.16:18); the divorcing husband causes the wife to commit adultery (Mt.5:32); that whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery (Mt.5:32; Lk.16:18); that the woman who divorces and remarries commits adultery (Mk.10:12). However, in Matthew’s account, Jesus states that the only legitimate exception was sexual immorality, in which case the divorce would be legitimate (5:32; 19:9).

Paul’s reiteration of Jesus’ teaching is crystal clear.

1 Corinthians 7:10 To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

Believers must not divorce. If, due to hardness of heart, they do separate, they have only two options open to them: remain unmarried, or be reconciled to their original spouse. Even in the exceptional case of adultery, (which Paul doesn’t address here) believers are permitted, but never required, to divorce; rather the goal is repentance and forgiveness and reconciliation. Believers have God’s word to guide them, God’s Holy Spirit living inside them, and God’s church to counsel and correct them. They have everything they need to find healing and hope and help for difficult circumstances and broken relationships. Because our broken relationship with God was reconciled through the blood of Jesus, we now have access to the power of the gospel to reconcile our relationships with one another.

Remain with the Unbelieving Spouse

Paul goes on to address a situation created by the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles. As the good news penetrates the darkness of this world, it reaches into homes. Sometimes a husband and wife will hear the gospel and they will both reject it. Sometimes they will both embrace the gospel and together become followers of Jesus. But sometimes one will reject the gospel and one will become a follower of Jesus. What is to be done in these situations? It seems the counsel in Corinth was ‘it is good for a man not to touch a woman’. If the higher spirituality was celibacy, and even married believers were being encouraged to abstain or divorce, then for a believer to have intimacy with an unbeliever would certainly defile them. In chapter 6, Paul warned against a believer joining with a prostitute.

1 Corinthians 6:15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.”

Paul will warn in 2 Corinthians:

2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

This clearly forbids a believer from entering into a marriage relationship with an unbeliever, or even dating an unbeliever. But if we apply this to existing marriages where one spouse becomes a follower of Jesus and the other does not, we might wrongly conclude that the best thing for the believer to do is to terminate the marriage. This is not Paul’s counsel. Instead he says, if possible, remain as you are.

1 Corinthians 7:12 To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13 If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him.

The gospel transforms us. A believer is a new creation. The old is gone and the new has come. New ways of thinking and feeling and acting. A new heart, new desires. New convictions. This total transformation can cause tension in a marriage. The believer is never to sin, compromise conduct or violate conscience to keep a marriage together. However, the believer is never to use the gospel as an excuse to get out of a marriage. If the unbeliever is willing to put up with the gospel transformation in their spouse, and consents to continue the marriage, the marriage must continue. Paul’s reason goes like this:

Because They are Made Holy

1 Corinthians 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

This seems confusing at first read. We know that salvation is not transmitted from one person to another. Christianity is not genetic. A child is not a Christian because he is born to Christian parents. A child becomes a Christian when he puts his faith in Jesus and becomes a follower of Jesus. A husband does not become a Christian because his wife converts to Christianity. He must himself trust Jesus and be born again. If we read ahead it becomes clear that Paul is not talking about salvation here. In verse 16 he asks:

1 Corinthians 7:16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

So the salvation of the spouse is desired, but in no way assured. The holiness he is talking about is not the holiness that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. This holiness is holiness in the sense of ceremonial cleanness or uncleanness. In the Levitical laws, if an Israelite, who is part of God’s people, came in contact with a dead body, they would become unclean (or contaminated), and they would have to go through the appropriate process to become clean or holy again (Lev.21:1). The thinking would go like this: If I, a believer who has been cleansed by the blood of Christ, come into intimate contact with my unbelieving spouse, whom the Bible says is dead in their trespasses and sins, wouldn’t I become contaminated or defiled? No, Paul says, it is more like the altar in the tabernacle; whatever touched the altar became holy or set apart to God (Ex.29:37). He uses children as an example. If your children have not yet become followers of Jesus, do you cut off relationship with your unbelieving children because they may contaminate you? Or do you invest in them with the longing to see them become followers of Jesus? How much more should you invest in your unbelieving spouse! Because of their relationship with you, they are set apart, and God is at work! Peter gives instruction to wives with unbelieving husbands.

1 Peter 3:1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

If the Unbelieving Spouse Separates

Paul’s instruction to those with an unbelieving spouse is ‘if at all possible, remain as you are’. But that is not always possible.

15 But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. 16 For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

So here Paul deals with real life situations. The believing spouse is to do everything in his or her power to make the marriage work, short of sinning. But in this case both parties do not have everything they need to resolve difficulties. The unbeliever may not be willing to listen to the word of God or the counsel of the church, and the unbeliever does not have the transforming power of the Holy Spirit at work within. The unbeliever may choose to end the marriage. In this case, Paul commands the believer to cooperate with the divorce. In this situation, the believer is not enslaved. This would imply that the divorce is legitimate and the believer now has the freedom to marry a believer. This does not mean that they should remarry, but only that they may. Paul’s counsel in this entire chapter is that, if possible, it is best to remain as you are. His instruction to the separated believers in verse 11, that they must remain unmarried or be reconciled, is not repeated here. Instead he says that the believer divorced from the unbeliever is not enslaved. Paul has told us that this new situation is outside the scope of Jesus’ teaching on divorce in the gospels. His instructions are an application of the principle of peace found in Romans.

Romans 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

If you are married to an unbeliever and they are willing to live at peace with you, then stay. If they are hostile toward you and toward the gospel, let them leave.

His last statement brings hope as well as freedom. How do you know if you will save your spouse? If the unbeliever is willing to stay, they may very well, as Peter indicates, be influenced by the gospel transformation they see in you, and ‘be won without a word’. There is hope. But ultimately there is freedom. How do you know if you will save your spouse? Salvation is from the Lord. None of us can save anyone. We may be used by God as instruments in the salvation of another, but God alone is the one who saves. We as followers of Jesus are under obligation to live lives consistent with the gospel. We are called to communicate the gospel. But we are not held accountable for anyone’s response to the gospel. And I should not be so arrogant to think that I am the only instrument God has at his disposal to reach any particular lost person. God is in control and I can trust him. 

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

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November 17, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 4:6-7; Not Beyond What is Written and No Boasting in Grace!

08/11 1 Corinthians 4:6-7 Not Beyond What is Written and No Boasting in Grace! Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130811_1cor4_6-7.mp3

1Cor 4 [SBLGNT]

6 Ταῦτα δέ, ἀδελφοί, μετεσχημάτισα εἰς ἐμαυτὸν καὶ Ἀπολλῶν δι’ ὑμᾶς, ἵνα ἐν ἡμῖν μάθητε τό· Μὴ ὑπὲρ ἃ γέγραπται, ἵνα μὴ εἷς ὑπὲρ τοῦ ἑνὸς φυσιοῦσθε κατὰ τοῦ ἑτέρου. 7 τίς γάρ σε διακρίνει; τί δὲ ἔχεις ὃ οὐκ ἔλαβες; εἰ δὲ καὶ ἔλαβες, τί καυχᾶσαι ὡς μὴ λαβών;

1Cor 4 [ESV2011]

1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. 6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

Today we look at a passage where Paul deals head on with the sin of pride, and gives us some helpful teaching about the proper use of the Scriptures.

1 Corinthians 4:6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

That You May Learn By Us

Paul is re-framing the concept of Christian leadership in the Corinthian church. They had a rock star celebrity mentality, finding their identity in their favorite leader or teacher, boasting in who they belonged to, causing quarreling, division, jealousy and strife within the church, critiquing and criticizing other leaders, boasting that they were wise to follow the superior leader. They felt they had become true connoisseurs of Christian teaching. Paul reshapes their thinking around several illustrations of what true leadership should look like, and he uses himself and Apollos as examples. He says we are servants, field-hands in God’s garden, one planting and another watering, with all the growth coming from God. He says that he acted as a skilled master architect, having laid the only possible foundation for the church, which is Jesus Christ. Others are continuing to build upon it, and each will be held accountable for his workmanship. He says that leaders are servants, under-rowers, bottom deckers, laboring in unison with others under the direction of the Captain, propelling the ship forward. Teachers are stewards, estate managers, custodians entrusted with the preservation and propagation of the gospel message. They are ultimately accountable to the one and only Master, our Lord Jesus Christ, and each will be examined by him on that day. Paul now says that he transferred these things to himself and Apollos for your benefit. He held himself up as an example so they could look in the mirror and see where they stood. Paul addresses them again as brothers, a term of affection. He truly wants the best for them. He approaches the issues carefully, applying the lessons first to himself, so they will more readily receive his correction. All this is ultimately for your benefit.

Not Beyond What is Written

In verse 6, Paul lays out a principle that is familiar to the Corinthians. The grammar here is awkward, it could literally read ‘the not above what is written’. Apparently, this was a catch phrase that was common currency with them. He is modeling this maxim ‘not above what is written’. This verb ‘γέγραπται‘, it is written, is used by Paul 30 other times in the New Testament, every one of them introducing a citation from the Old Testament. In the first three chapters of this letter, Paul has already quoted six biblical passages, five of those being introduced by ‘it is written’. Paul is continually punctuating his teaching with Scripture. He is careful to demonstrate that what he teaches is not new and different, but in perfect harmony with the Scriptures already received. He is modeling for us the absolute authority and sufficiency of the Scriptures. We are never to go beyond what is written.

He said in:

Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

1 Corinthians 10:11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

The second question in the historic Westminster Shorter Catechism reads like this:

Q. 2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
A. The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.

Article 6 of the Westminster Confession (1646) says:

VI. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.

One of the five ‘Solas’ of the reformation was ‘sola scriptura’; the authority of scripture alone.

Deuteronomy 4:2 says:

Deuteronomy 4:2You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.

Paul is teaching this principle ‘not beyond what is written’ to the church, to guard them from danger, to keep them within the bounds of God’s revealed truth, to prevent them from wandering into the error of speculation. It is a great danger to move beyond what the Bible clearly teaches.

That None of You May Be Puffed Up

Specifically, in this passage, Paul is warning them not to go beyond what is written by being puffed up in favor of one against another. Here he gets at the root of the problem in the church in Corinth. Pride, being puffed up or inflated, haughty, arrogant. Six out of seven times this word puffed up is used in the New Testament are right here in 1 Corinthians. They were going beyond what is written by thinking more highly of themselves than they ought to think. All the problems he mentions, quarreling, division, jealousy and strife are rooted in pride. Self-focus, self-centeredness, a preoccupation with my own reputation and identity leads to all kinds of problems in the church. And Paul is saying that being puffed up one against another is a violation of the teaching of Scripture.

It Is Written

Let’s look back over the six quotations from Scripture that Paul has made so far in 1 Corinthians to see how this addresses the issue of pride.

In 1:19, he quotes Isaiah 29:14 to support his statement that the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.

1 Corinthians 1:19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” (Isaiah 29:14)

God sets himself against the proud who think themselves wise. After declaring that God is the one who calls and chooses and gives life in order to eliminate all human boasting, he quotes Jeremiah 9:24.

1 Corinthians 1:31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:24)

There is no legitimate grounds for boasting outside the Lord. To defend his point that the gospel message, that God would become man and die on a cross in our place, was totally unexpected by the wise and powerful of this world, he quotes Isaiah 64:4.

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”— (Isaiah 64:4)

Then in 2:16 he quotes Isaiah 40:13 to show that no one understands the gospel unless God reveals it to him.

1 Corinthians 2:16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (Isaiah 40:13)

In 3:19 and 20 he returns to the issue of the futility and utter worthlessness of so-called human wisdom. He quotes Job 5:13

1 Corinthians 3:19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” (Job 5:13)

And then Psalm 94:11

1 Corinthians 3:20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” (Psalm 94:11)

And then he concludes:

1 Corinthians 3:21 So let no one boast in men…

Boasting in men, whether ourselves or someone else, is contrary to the consistent teaching of Scripture. Man’s wisdom is folly. God’s grace is so far beyond our wisdom that we could never figure it out unless he revealed it to us. The only appropriate boasting is boasting in the Lord, the source and giver of every good thing. Quarreling, division, jealousy, strife, being puffed up one against another has no place among those who claim to be people of the Book. The Scripture leaves no place for human pride. Not unless we stray beyond what is written.

Who? What? Why?

Paul now asks three rhetorical questions of his readers to bring this point home to them. Who, what, and why?

1 Corinthians 4:6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

Who sees anything different in you? Who makes a distinction between you and others? Who puts you on a different plane than anyone else? The answer is that you are puffing yourself up, so it is only so much hot air. There is no substance to your over-inflated ego. The apostles are servants, farm-hands, custodians, under-rowers. Just who do you think you are?

What do you have that you did not receive? This is the second rhetorical question. We could look many places for the answer.

Job 2:10 …Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Ecclesiastes 5:19 Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God.

Matthew 5:45 …your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

John 3:27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.

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.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

What do you have that you did not receive? Can you think of anything? Anything at all? The only thing I can take credit for is my sin.

So if everything that you have is a gift, then why are you boasting in grace? How can you take credit for any good that has come to you? How can you possibly act as if you have earned anything? If you can get a hold of this truth, it will be a powerful pride leveling force in your life. You have nothing, nothing, nothing good that you can take credit for. Everything good that you receive you don’t deserve. Any bad you will ever experience is infinitely less than you deserve. Every breath you breathe is a free and undeserved gift. Every drop of rain, every ray of sun is a lavish gift that you have no right to enjoy. The fact that you exist is not your own doing. And if you have experienced the abundant grace of God expressed in the gospel, if you have experienced the forgiveness of sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, if you have experienced sweet fellowship with a holy God, you have experienced grace upon grace. Every bit is all grace.

If we get this, and I pray that we can receive it, it will produce in us a radically humble gratitude. This truth tears pride out by its roots and leaves us wrecked in humble worshipful adoration of an awesomely gracious God who is extravagantly over the top in the riches of his grace which he lavishes on us in Christ Jesus. 

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

August 11, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 2:10-13; Spirit Revealed Wisdom

04/28 I Corinthians 2:10-13 Spirit Revealed Wisdom; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130428_1cor2_10-13.mp3

1Cor 2 [SBLGNT]

6 Σοφίαν δὲ λαλοῦμεν ἐν τοῖς τελείοις, σοφίαν δὲ οὐ τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου οὐδὲ τῶν ἀρχόντων τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου τῶν καταργουμένων· 7 ἀλλὰ λαλοῦμεν θεοῦ σοφίαν ἐν μυστηρίῳ, τὴν ἀποκεκρυμμένην, ἣν προώρισεν ὁ θεὸς πρὸ τῶν αἰώνων εἰς δόξαν ἡμῶν· 8 ἣν οὐδεὶς τῶν ἀρχόντων τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου ἔγνωκεν, εἰ γὰρ ἔγνωσαν, οὐκ ἂν τὸν κύριον τῆς δόξης ἐσταύρωσαν· 9 ἀλλὰ καθὼς γέγραπται· Ἃ ὀφθαλμὸς οὐκ εἶδεν καὶ οὖς οὐκ ἤκουσεν καὶ ἐπὶ καρδίαν ἀνθρώπου οὐκ ἀνέβη, ὅσα ἡτοίμασεν ὁ θεὸς τοῖς ἀγαπῶσιν αὐτόν.

10 ἡμῖν γὰρ ἀπεκάλυψεν ὁ θεὸς διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος, τὸ γὰρ πνεῦμα πάντα ἐραυνᾷ, καὶ τὰ βάθη τοῦ θεοῦ. 11 τίς γὰρ οἶδεν ἀνθρώπων τὰ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου εἰ μὴ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ ἀνθρώπου τὸ ἐν αὐτῷ; οὕτως καὶ τὰ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐδεὶς ἔγνωκεν εἰ μὴ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ. 12 ἡμεῖς δὲ οὐ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ κόσμου ἐλάβομεν ἀλλὰ τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ, ἵνα εἰδῶμεν τὰ ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ χαρισθέντα ἡμῖν· 13 ἃ καὶ λαλοῦμεν οὐκ ἐν διδακτοῖς ἀνθρωπίνης σοφίας λόγοις, ἀλλ’ ἐν διδακτοῖς πνεύματος, πνευματικοῖς πνευματικὰ συγκρίνοντες.

1Cor 2 [ESV2011]

6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 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.

Paul is addressing problems in the church in Corinth. Primary among their problems was their divisiveness over who followed whom. This divisiveness was rooted in a prideful desire to be thought wise, so Paul addresses head on the issue of wisdom. This word ‘wisdom’ appears 51 times in the New Testament, 16 of those are in these first three chapters of 1 Corinthians. That is over 31% of the usage of this word ‘wisdom’ concentrated into this section. Out of the 20 times the adjective ‘wise’ is used, half of them are right here in these first three chapters. The Corinthian believers are enamored by what is popular, what is fashionable, what is considered wisdom in the world. Who, after all, wants to be thought a fool? Who wants to be set aside, rejected, considered irrelevant? We all naturally seek the approval of others. But Paul puts this wisdom in an eternal context. What the world considers wise and sophisticated when viewed from the eternal perspective is only so much rubbish on the trash heap of yesterday’s news. From God’s perspective man’s wisdom is doomed to pass away. Worse yet, the rulers of this age who are pushing their wisdom are doomed to pass away (2:6). God has set himself against man’s wisdom. He says ‘I will destroy; I will thwart (1:19); I will make it foolish (1:20); I will shame the wise (1:27); I will bring it to nothing (1:28) so that no human being might boast in the presence of God (1:29).

God’s Hidden Wisdom

God says that man’s wisdom has failed to know the one thing that is most important. Man’s wisdom is bankrupt in achieving the one thing that really matters; the one thing that will matter for all eternity. The world did not know God through wisdom (1:21). Man’s wisdom can never lead to a right relationship with our Creator. So the foolishness of God is wiser than men. God’s wisdom has not been discovered by the investigation of man; eye has not seen. God’s wisdom has not been discovered by paying careful attention to what can be known in the world; ear has not heard. God’s wisdom cannot be uncovered by the power of human reason; it has not entered into the heart of man. God’s wisdom is beyond all human capacity to find out. Not because it is too tricky or complex or confusing; but because it is too foolish, too simple, to basic for it to possibly be the thing that leads us into a right relationship with our Creator. What is this secret wisdom that God decreed before the ages, that God prepared for those who love him? What is this divine wisdom that shames the wise and brings to nothing the things that exist so that no one may boast in the presence of God? It is the folly of what we preach. It is the message of the cross, of Christ crucified, the gospel. The thing that no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, the thing that God decreed before the ages for our glory and has prepared for those who love him is the cross where his own Son was sacrificed as a substitute. The wisdom of God is the scandalous message of a crucified King.

Hidden Wisdom Revealed

This was hidden in the Old Testament. God had revealed enough so that Adam or Abraham or Aaron could understand that they were sinful and separated from God, and that God was the only one who could save, and trust that God would somehow provide a substitute that could make satisfaction for sins. But now the cross is a historical event. The apostolic preaching of Christ crucified for sinners is recorded for us clearly in the New Testament. And yet many still do not believe. The cross of Christ is still hidden wisdom. There may be some here this morning to whom the bible is still a closed book. It is just another piece of religious literature that teaches moral principles of being nice to others and obeying the golden rule. It is a religious rule book of things God expects his people to do. They miss the good news of the gospel. Others understand clearly the facts of the gospel and could even communicate them clearly to others. But to them Christ crucified is not attractive, not compelling, it holds no power. How can this be? It is because ‘to us God has revealed them through the Spirit’. How is it that the foolish message of a crucified Messiah suddenly becomes the power and wisdom of God that saves believers? How is it that the gospel becomes to us the best news we have ever heard or will ever hear? How is it that the cross becomes not just a historical event that we believe took place long ago, but a power that begins to transform us from the inside out? No credit can go to us for our superior wisdom or insight, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. To us, us who are being saved as opposed to those who are perishing, to us whom God chose in order to shame the wise, to us who are mature or perfect, who have been given God’s wisdom, in contrast to the rulers of this age who in their ignorance crucified the Lord of glory. To us God has revealed; God took the initiative. I would never have experienced the power of the gospel unless God had unleashed it on me. This is something hidden that only God could make known. How does this happen? How does God reveal the gospel to us? Verse 10 tells us that God reveals the good news of the gospel to us through the Spirit.

The Spirit

So far in this letter, Paul has said much about God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. In the 31 verses of chapter 1, Paul has mentioned ‘God’ 20 times and ‘Christ’ or ‘Christ Jesus’ 17 times. In 2:4 Paul turns our attention to the work of the Spirit, and in 2:10-14, he mentions God’s Spirit 6 times in 5 verses. The way Paul preached the gospel in Corinth was in demonstration of the Spirit. God revealed the wisdom of the cross through the Spirit.

Called by the Spirit

This answers a question that has been developing from the beginning of the book. Back in 1:2, Paul said that we were called to be saints. In 1:9 he said that God called us into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. In 1:24, the foolish message becomes to those who are called Christ the power and wisdom of God. In 1:26 we are instructed to consider our calling. How were we called? In what way do we receive the divine summons to be saints? How does the Father call us into the fellowship of his Son? Here we see the answer. God calls us into fellowship, into a relationship with himself through the revelatory work of the Spirit. The difference between those who are perishing and us who are being saved is that we were those who were perishing until God revealed to us the gospel through his Spirit. In 1:21, we are told that ‘it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.’ How did I come to believe a message I considered foolish? The message of Christ crucified, that which we once perceived as foolish, offensive, even scandalous, now we see as God’s power to save us. This is the work of God the Spirit. So we begin to see that God the Father, Son, and Spirit were at work to bring about our salvation. God the Son was crucified as a substitute for my sin, carrying out the wise plan that his Father decreed before the ages. God the Holy Spirit opens my blind eyes and renews my dead heart so that Christ crucified becomes the source of life, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption (1:30). D.A. Carson, in his excellent little book on 1 Corinthians, writes “if we should express unqualified gratitude to God for the gift of his Son, we should express no less gratitude to God for the gift of the Spirit who enables us to grasp the gospel of his Son” (p.52).

The Depths of God

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.

Paul gives us a human analogy to help us understand. I wonder what some of you are thinking right now. As far as I can tell, you are fully engaged with the text of scripture that we are studying, eager to grow in your relationship with Jesus. But only you know what you are really thinking about. Your body might be here, but your spirit might be planning out lunch, more interested in the game this afternoon, hoping that by God’s grace we might finish early today. Only your spirit can know your own thoughts, unless you choose to reveal them. In a similar way, God’s Spirit is the only one who can fully comprehend God’s thoughts. This analogy only goes so far, though, because our human spirit is a subset of our being, a part of us that makes up the whole. God’s Spirit is not a subset or part of who he is; God’s Spirit is a person in his own right, as this passage shows, a thinking, feeling, willing person distinct from the Father. He comprehends, searches, and reveals. He interacts with the Father and the Son, and with us. He is not to be confused with the Father or the Son, yet he is fully divine, God the Holy Spirit. As God, he fully shares the Father’s thoughts, even the depths of God. The depths of God, in this passage, refers to the hidden, secret, mystery wisdom of God, the wisdom that God decreed before the ages, what has not entered into the heart of man, what none of the rulers of this age understood, what God had prepared for us, this God has revealed to us through his Spirit. The depths of God, that he would crush his only Son, who would bear our sins in his body on the tree, who would become sin for us, whom the Father put forward as a propitiation by his blood. The depths of the hidden wisdom of God, God has revealed to us through his Spirit.

We have Received the Spirit

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.

We have received. We, us who are being saved, us to whom God has revealed his hidden plan to rescue us through the crucifixion of his Son, we who are called by God’s Spirit into fellowship with his Son, we have received the gift of the promised Holy Spirit. There is no such thing as a believer in Jesus, a follower of Jesus who has not received the Holy Spirit. Romans 8 makes this abundantly clear.

Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. …14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

If we belong to Christ, we have received the Spirit of God. Ephesians tells us:

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

We have received, as a gift, not the spirit of this world, not the spirit of the rulers of this age who are doomed to pass away, but the Spirit who is from God.

Understand the Things Freely Given

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.

‘That we might’ is a purpose statement. The purpose of the Spirit being given is ‘in order that we understand’. The implication is clear. Had we not received the Spirit of God, we would never comprehend the things freely given us by God. What are the things freely given us by God? Jesus. God gave us his only Son. And in him we have forgiveness, redemption, reconciliation, justification, all the good gifts of grace freely given to us. Without the gift of the Spirit, we would never understand the death of Jesus as our Lamb offered by the Father to take away our sin.

Spiritual with Spiritual

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.

Paul is coming back around to defend his manner of preaching. If God is destroying and thwarting and bringing to nothing the wisdom of this world, then it would be utterly foolish to try to imitate the wisdom of this age or employ the methods of this age or to emulate the popular and powerful of this age who are being brought to nothing. They are all ignorant of the one thing that really matters, the one thing of eternal significance, the only way to have a right relationship with the Lord of glory. So let go of the world’s methods, the world’s approval. Embrace the rich depth of the wisdom of God in the offensive message of a Messiah crucified for our sins. Speak it simply, speak it plainly, allow room for a demonstration of the Spirit and of power. Refuse to employ manipulation of any kind. Refuse to tamper with or adjust the message in any way.

How do I know that I am using words taught by the Spirit? Is this some mystical experience where God’s Spirit takes control of my mouth and supernaturally communicates through me? It could be that, but I think there is a simpler way to understand it. The Spirit that we have received is the same Spirit that breathed out the Scriptures and carried along the biblical authors. The sure way to use words taught by the Spirit is to use his words written in the Scriptures. We see Paul giving us an example of that in this passage. He quotes the prophets, he refers to the writings, his mind is so saturated with scripture, that he thinks and speaks in biblical categories. And if all of Spirit inspired Scripture points to Jesus Christ and him crucified, then our speaking should be saturated with Jesus and centered on the cross, and it should be spoken with a deep humility and gratitude knowing that I was a lost, ignorant sinner, and God’s Spirit awakened my dead heart to experience the transforming power of the gospel.

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

April 28, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 1:13-17; The [Secondary] Importance of Baptism

02/10 1 Corinthians 1:13-17 The [Secondary] Importance of Baptism; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130210_1cor1_13-17.mp3

10 Παρακαλῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, διὰ τοῦ ὀνόματος τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἵνα τὸ αὐτὸ λέγητε πάντες, καὶ μὴ ᾖ ἐν ὑμῖν σχίσματα, ἦτε δὲ κατηρτισμένοι ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ νοῒ καὶ ἐν τῇ αὐτῇ γνώμῃ. 11 ἐδηλώθη γάρ μοι περὶ ὑμῶν, ἀδελφοί μου, ὑπὸ τῶν Χλόης ὅτι ἔριδες ἐν ὑμῖν εἰσιν. 12 λέγω δὲ τοῦτο ὅτι ἕκαστος ὑμῶν λέγει· Ἐγὼ μέν εἰμι Παύλου, Ἐγὼ δὲ Ἀπολλῶ, Ἐγὼ δὲ Κηφᾶ, Ἐγὼ δὲ Χριστοῦ. 13 μεμέρισται ὁ Χριστός; μὴ Παῦλος ἐσταυρώθη ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν, ἢ εἰς τὸ ὄνομα Παύλου ἐβαπτίσθητε; 14 εὐχαριστῶ ὅτι οὐδένα ὑμῶν ἐβάπτισα εἰ μὴ Κρίσπον καὶ Γάϊον, 15 ἵνα μή τις εἴπῃ ὅτι εἰς τὸ ἐμὸν ὄνομα ἐβαπτίσθητε· 16 ἐβάπτισα δὲ καὶ τὸν Στεφανᾶ οἶκον· λοιπὸν οὐκ οἶδα εἴ τινα ἄλλον ἐβάπτισα. 17 οὐ γὰρ ἀπέστειλέν με Χριστὸς βαπτίζειν ἀλλὰ εὐαγγελίζεσθαι, οὐκ ἐν σοφίᾳ λόγου, ἵνα μὴ κενωθῇ ὁ σταυρὸς τοῦ Χριστοῦ.

After giving thanks to God for the evidences of grace that he sees at work in the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul begins to address their problems. The first issue on his list is quarreling. It had been reported to him that the Corinthians were dividing over non-essentials, aligning themselves behind their favorite teacher, creating competing fan clubs. Paul would have none of this. He points them back to Jesus and the the centrality of the cross.

1 Corinthians 1:13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

Christ is not divided. When we divide up those who belong to Christ over trivial matters, we lie about Jesus and are not telling the truth. Jesus is one. His body is one. If you belong to Jesus, if you have been bought by his blood and transformed by trusting in him, then you are part of his one body, the church. If you belong to Christ, if you have been called by God into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, then you are a part of the larger body of Christ, in fellowship with his people, the church. We are one. Paul is not sacrificing truth on the altar of unity. Jesus prayed that his followers would be one, but he also taught that there would be some who claimed to follow him but in reality had no relationship with him. The people Paul is addressing knew and loved and believed the true gospel, or he would have attacked and dismantled their false teaching, as he does in other letters. But their conduct was not in line with the truth they believed. This is often our problem. We know the truth; we believe the truth, but so often our conduct, our daily life, our Christian walk is not in step with the truth of the gospel. We need daily to be reminded of the gospel, challenged by the gospel, transformed by the gospel. Moment by moment our conduct needs to be brought in step with what we believe. Paul takes their conduct and describes the belief that would go behind that conduct to help them see how incongruous their lives had become. You are acting like Jesus is chopped up into little pieces and each group clings to a piece over against the other group. Jesus is not divided! Don’t act like he is!

You are acting like your favorite teacher died on the cross for your sins. None of them believed this. But it was how they were acting. They were clinging so tenaciously to their preference, their favorite that you would think that Paul or Apollos or Cephas was their savior. The cross is central to all of the Christian life. Our life finds its source in Jesus Christ crucified for sinners. Jesus took our place, died in our place, bore our guilt and shame, so that we can now enjoy a healed relationship with the all-holy God. Focus on the one who was crucified in your place, not on your style or preference or favorite.

Baptism

His third question introduces the subject of our study today. Were you baptized into the name of Paul? Today we will look at verses 14 – 17, where Paul gives us some insight on the significance of baptism.

This question, like the others is intended to show the readers how out of step their conduct is with what they believe. It is ludicrous to think that we were baptized into the name of Paul, because that is not what baptism is about. What is baptism about? What does baptism mean? It might be helpful to start with a simple definition of the word itself. Our English word ‘baptize’ comes straight over from the Greek word [βαπτιζω] ‘baptizo’. It is a transliteration, where Greek letters are replaced by English letters. The word ‘baptizo’ means to submerge or immerse, to soak. Around 200 BC Nicander used this word and a related word in a recipe for making pickles. He said the vegetable should first be dipped [bapto] into boiling water, then baptized [baptizo] or soaked in the vinegar solution. Both words refer to dipping or immersing into liquid, but the first is temporary, where the second, baptizing, produces a permanent change [Bible Study Magazine, James Montgomery Boice, May 1989; cited in Online Bible note on Strongs #907] What kind of change is produced will depend on what you are immersed into. Paul is outraged that some are acting like they have been immersed into Paul. Christian baptism is being immersed into Jesus, being saturated with Jesus, being changed and transformed by Jesus. Paul is saying ‘I don’t have the power to transform anyone. Don’t get immersed into who I am; get immersed into who Jesus is!’

John’s Baptism

John the baptizer pointed to the essential difference between his baptism and Jesus. He said:

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

John’s baptism consisted in immersing people in water. John pointed to Jesus, who would immerse us in the Holy Spirit. John’s baptism was to prepare the way for Jesus, pointing people to Jesus. John’s baptism was for repentance; those who came to John to be baptized came confessing their sins, turning from their old way of living, from what they had been trusting in, from their dead works, and turning to the coming Messiah.

John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

John’s whole ministry was to prepare people for Jesus, to point people to Jesus. Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is the one who would take away sins. Jesus is the one who would baptize us with the Holy Spirit. Paul highlighted this when he came across some disciples of John in Ephesus.

Acts 19:2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Who Baptized Whom?

Notice in this text that it doesn’t say that Paul baptized them into the name of the Lord Jesus. It doesn’t say who baptized them at all. It simply says that they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. That may seem like I’m making a big deal out of nothing, but that is the very thing Paul highlights in the next verses in 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 1:13 … Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Reflecting on his experience in Corinth, Paul gives thanks that in the providence of God he only baptized a very few of the first converts, probably before his co-workers Silas and Timothy arrived (Acts 18:5). Paul was eager to clear himself from the potential allegation that he was making disciples of Paul, baptizing converts into his own distinct form of Christianity. The point is it doesn’t make a hill of beans of difference who did the baptizing. What matters is who your were baptized into. We can see how people could make a big deal out of this. ‘I was baptized by the hands of the Apostle Paul himself. Oh yeah, well I was baptized by Peter, the first Pope! I don’t feel very special; I was only baptized by deacon Dan’. From this passage we see that Paul intentionally avoided baptizing people himself and delegated this responsibility to others, in order to avoid this very thing. This seems to be the practice of the early church. When Peter went to the home of the Gentile Cornelius and preached the gospel, proclaiming that everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins, and while he was still speaking the Holy Spirit fell on them, he said

Acts 10:47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.

These Gentiles had believed in Jesus and had received the gift of the Holy Spirit. They had been baptized by Jesus with the Holy Spirit. Since they had already experienced the inward reality, they should also be allowed the outward sign. Baptism with water was the outward picture of what was an inward reality. And Peter commanded them to be baptized. He didn’t do the baptizing. Apparently, some of the brothers from Joppa who were with him did the baptizing. In John 4, we see that this was Jesus’ practice as well.

John 4:1 …Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples),

Believers are baptized into Jesus, immersed into a relationship with Jesus, saturated with, permeated by Jesus. Jesus makes all the difference. Who does the baptizing makes no difference. Paul is thankful to God that he didn’t baptize many in Corinth, so there would be no room for people running around with t-shirts that said ‘I was baptized by the Apostle Paul’.

Inspiration

From this passage, we can glean a beautiful insight into the process of the inspiration of scripture.

1 Corinthians 1:14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.)

Paul is dictating this letter, as is his usual practice, maybe to Sosthenes, the former synagogue ruler. Paul dictates that he baptized no one but Crispus and Gaius, and Stephanus, who we know is with Paul at the end of the letter (16:17), starts waving his hands and says ‘Hey Paul, what about me? Have you forgotten?’ Or maybe Sosthenes politely reminded him. The bible tells us that all scripture is breathed out by God and that means it is without error. We do not believe that the authors of scripture were granted infallibility or omniscience or even fully understood everything they were writing (1Pet.1:10-12). But we believe that God was sovereignly at work in the writing of scripture, so that what was written was protected from error. God may have very naturally used one of the guys in the room to remind Paul of something he had forgotten and so preserve the text from error.

The (secondary) importance of Baptism

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Paul goes back to his commission as an apostle, and claims that Jesus sent him to evangelize, not to baptize. Paul recounts this in Acts 26

Acts 26:15 … the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles–to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

Paul was appointed to be a witness, to open people’s eyes to the truth, so that they might believe, receive forgiveness of sins and enter the kingdom of God. There is no mention of baptism. In the commissioning of the twelve apostles at the end of Luke’s gospel, there is likewise no mention of baptism.

Luke 24:46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

The focus is on the message proclaimed; repentance and forgiveness of sins. The primary role of Apostle was that of eye-witness. That is why when they chose a replacement for Judas, the requirement was someone who had been an eye-witness with them from Jesus’ baptism by John up through his ascension (Acts 1:21-22).

Matthew’s account makes baptism an explicit part of their charge, but a secondary part.

Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The primary command in this text is ‘make disciples’. ‘Going, baptizing, and teaching’ are all things that go along with the primary call to make disciples.

Baptism is important, but it is of secondary importance. Baptism is not essential to salvation, but the New Testament does not imagine an unbaptized believer. Jesus taught that whoever believes has eternal life. He never said ‘whoever believes and is baptized’. But when someone believed in Jesus, they were baptized. That was their public pledge of allegiance to Jesus Christ, and their public reception into the family of believers. Believing and being baptized went together. Baptism was looked at as a privilege, even a right for those who believed in Jesus. When Philip explained the good news about Jesus from Isaiah to the Ethiopian eunuch,

Acts 8:36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”

When Peter visited a Gentile’s house and proclaimed forgiveness of sins to all who believe in Jesus, when these Gentiles believed, Peter responded:

Acts 10:47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ….

The physical sign should follow the spiritual reality. Paul taught in Romans:

Romans 6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Paul doesn’t undermine the importance of baptism; rather he brings our focus back to where it should be. The picture means nothing without the spiritual reality it is intended to represent.

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

The proclamation of the gospel is primary. The cross is central. Forgiveness of sins comes through the sacrifice of Christ as my substitute on the cross. Eternal life is given to everyone who believes, everyone who repents, turning from what they were trusting in, and clinging to Christ as their only hope for rescue from hell. Everyone who comes to Jesus, Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit. We are saturated with Jesus, who he is, everything he is. We are immersed into his death, burial, and resurrection. Water baptism is a beautiful picture of being immersed into all that Jesus is, being connected with Jesus. But it is a symbol that means nothing and accomplishes nothing apart from this spiritual reality. Don’t come to the symbol hoping to gain any spiritual benefit. Use the symbol to point to Jesus. The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom.1:16). Come to Jesus, trust Jesus, be united to Jesus, immersed into Jesus, pledge your allegiance to Jesus, follow Jesus.

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

February 10, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment