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1 Corinthians 6:1-8; Better to be Defrauded

09/29 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 Better To Be Defrauded; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130929_1cor6_1-8.mp3

1Cor 6 [SBLGNT]

6:1 Τολμᾷ τις ὑμῶν πρᾶγμα ἔχων πρὸς τὸν ἕτερον κρίνεσθαι ἐπὶ τῶν ἀδίκων, καὶ οὐχὶ ἐπὶ τῶν ἁγίων; 2 ἢ οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι οἱ ἅγιοι τὸν κόσμον κρινοῦσιν; καὶ εἰ ἐν ὑμῖν κρίνεται ὁ κόσμος, ἀνάξιοί ἐστε κριτηρίων ἐλαχίστων; 3 οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι ἀγγέλους κρινοῦμεν, μήτιγε βιωτικά; 4 βιωτικὰ μὲν οὖν κριτήρια ἐὰν ἔχητε, τοὺς ἐξουθενημένους ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ, τούτους καθίζετε; 5 πρὸς ἐντροπὴν ὑμῖν λέγω. οὕτως οὐκ ἔνι ἐν ὑμῖν οὐδεὶς σοφὸς ὃς δυνήσεται διακρῖναι ἀνὰ μέσον τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ, 6 ἀλλὰ ἀδελφὸς μετὰ ἀδελφοῦ κρίνεται, καὶ τοῦτο ἐπὶ ἀπίστων; 7 ἤδη μὲν οὖν ὅλως ἥττημα ὑμῖν ἐστιν ὅτι κρίματα ἔχετε μεθ’ ἑαυτῶν· διὰ τί οὐχὶ μᾶλλον ἀδικεῖσθε; διὰ τί οὐχὶ μᾶλλον ἀποστερεῖσθε; 8 ἀλλὰ ὑμεῖς ἀδικεῖτε καὶ ἀποστερεῖτε, καὶ τοῦτο ἀδελφούς.

1Cor 6 [ESV2011]

6:1 When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 4 So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? 5 I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, 6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? 7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? 8 But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!

The church in Corinth had a pride problem. They were puffed up, they were arrogant, they thought they were wise and advanced and super-spiritual. They had lost sight of the cross. Paul is bringing them back to a humility appropriate to followers of Jesus. In chapter 5, he addressed the first major evidence that all was not well in Corinth. They were tolerating sexual immorality in the church, of a kind that was not even tolerated among unbelievers. Here in chapter 6, he addresses the next major evidence, lawsuits among believers, and he gives us some clear and practical direction on how to handle issues that come up between people.

How Dare You?

He begins this section by asking ‘How dare you?’ Who has the audacity to do this? What they are doing is totally out of line, and they should know better. It is no surprise that there are issues between people. You borrowed my rake, and haven’t given it back. Your kid threw a ball through my window. You hired me to remodel your kitchen, and it’s now three months later and you still haven’t paid me. I hired you to put a new roof on my house and you didn’t finish, and now it’s snowing in my living room. You backed into my car after church last Sunday, and left a big dent. You dug a hole, and I fell into it, and now I have doctor bills. I lent you money, again, and you still haven’t paid me back. You were rude to me and you never apologized. You dog leaves me presents in my front yard every morning. You didn’t treat me fairly or speak to me kindly. I feel that you have wronged or offended me in some way. You have something that is mine. You owe me. Fill in the blank. People hurt people. People violate the rights of other people. People inconvenience and injure and offend other people. This is no surprise. This is part of life in a fallen world. Paul is not shocked that there are issues between people. He is shocked and appalled at the way they are responding to these offenses. How dare you? When you have an issue, you take your brother to court!

Civil vs. Criminal

It is important to keep this in proper perspective. The language he uses in this passage describe the kind of case he is talking about. He says it is a ‘grievance’, a ‘trivial case’, ‘matters pertaining to this life’, ‘a dispute between brothers’, issues of being ‘wronged and defrauded’. These are not cases of assault, homicide, statutory rape, or the like.

Paul says in Romans 13:

Romans 13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.

He holds up the secular government as established and instituted by God, God’s servant to carry out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. What Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 6 are issues we might categorize as small claims, grievances, civil disputes. If you witness a murder, don’t call the elders of the church; call 911.

Before The UnJustified

Paul says ‘how dare you bring your civil disputes to court. The first problem with this is that the secular judges are ‘unjust’ or ‘unrighteous’. This is another way of saying ‘unbelieving’ (as he does in verse 6), in contrast to the saints, God’s holy ones who have been justified or declared righteous because of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. We have a legal standing before God as not guilty, cleared on all counts, because Jesus suffered the penalty for all our wrongs. Why would you take your petty disputes before unjustified people?

But not only were the Roman courts run by people who had not experienced the transforming grace of Jesus, they also had a reputation for injustice. The courts had a tendency to be unjust, favoring the rich, those with power and influence. James refers to the legal system like this:

James 2:6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

The poor were at a deep disadvantage in the court systems. And the Christians were typically those who were poor, being mistreated through the legal system. But in Corinth, there were rich people in the church who used their wealth and position in society to take their brothers to court, squeezing out of them more than they had to give. We see this in verse 8.

8 But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!

The goal of taking someone to court is usually not just a desire for justice. It is a desire for revenge, or a desire for more and more and more. I don’t want what is fair, I want to take you for all you are worth, every last penny. After all, I have to pay my lawyers, and I only get what is left over.

The Saints will Judge

Paul’s question implies that there is another option when disputes arise. Why don’t you take your case before the saints? Jewish communities in the first century Roman world would never bring their disputes before a Roman court. The Jewish community had their own system of handling disputes. After all, God had given them his word. To go to an outsider for litigation would be to say that God’s word doesn’t have all the answers. Paul is expecting the Christian church in Corinth to do the same. Of course you will have grievances with people, but dare you to go to law before the unrighteous instead of the holy ones? Take your case before your fellow believers.

Twice in this passage, Paul asks the question ‘do you not know’, an insult to those who claim already to know it all. He asks ‘Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?’ Revelation 20 says:

Revelation 20:4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

Paul tells Timothy:

2 Timothy 2:12 if we endure, we will also reign with him…

Paul says here that we, the saints, God’s holy people, will judge the world. He argues from the greater to the lesser. If you can solve advanced algebraic equations, surely you can handle a simple addition problem.

2 …And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?

Again he is poking at their pride. Are you unfit, incapable, incompetent to judge trivial cases? In chapter 4, he mocks their arrogant boasting when he says ‘already you have become kings! And would that you did reign…’ (4:8). One day they will have the weighty responsibility of judging the world, but they can’t arbitrate a petty argument.

He asks a second ‘do you not know’ question, implying that this is common knowledge, something they ought to already know. And this is intriguing.

3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!

We are to judge angels!? The author of Hebrews describes angels as:

Hebrews 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

He goes on to say:

Hebrews 2:5 For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. 6 It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? 7 You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, 8 putting everything in subjection under his feet.” …

The world to come is subjected not to angels, but to a man, the man Jesus Christ. All things will be subject to Jesus. If we are in Jesus, connected to Jesus, then we will reign with him, even over the angelic hosts. If we are destined to rule over angels, the highest order of created spiritual beings, how much more should we be qualified to render justice over matters of this temporal earthly life?

Appoint the Nothings!

Verse 4 is difficult because it is open to varying interpretations. The ESV, and many other translations render it as a question.

4 So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church?

In the original Greek text, there were no punctuation marks, so determining what was a rhetorical question and what was a statement or even a command depends largely on the context, and can be rather difficult to decide. The King James, and many of the commentaries, render verse 4 as a command.

[KJV] 6:4 If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church.

Both interpretations make good sense, but it seems that to take this as a command makes better sense of the grammar. The active verb in the sentence is ‘appoint’, and the church would have no jurisdiction to appoint secular judges. And the word ‘no standing’ or ‘least esteemed’ would be a very derogatory way to refer to secular magistrates. Paul has already used this same word in chapter 1 to refer to the believers.

1 Corinthians 1:28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,

God chose the least esteemed, the nothings. You then, take the nothings and appoint them to judge these trivial matters in the church. Even George the garbage man, who has experienced God’s grace in the cross, is more qualified to judge things dealing with this life.

5 I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers

Remember, Paul has used this word ‘wise’ 10 times in the first three chapters of 1 Corinthians. Wisdom was a big deal to them. They all wanted to be thought wise. He writes this way to shame them, to humble them, to bring them down to the place where they begin to lay aside their status and see one another for who they really are. Look at the person next to you this morning and say ‘You will judge the world! You will judge angels!’

Brother Against Brother

Paul summarizes the sad situation in verse 6:

6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers?

He uses this family term ‘brother’. Surely someone ought to be able to settle a dispute among the brothers. Something has gone radically wrong when members of the same family are suing one another. A relationship that is meant to be characterized by love and protection is now shattered by greed and animosity. Those who ought to be on the same team, who ought to have each others back, are now out to get each other. And this before unbelievers! We are brothers because we believe in Jesus. Our aim is to persuade others to believe in Jesus. How counterproductive for us to take our brother into court before an unbeliever!

The Way of the Cross

Paul now gets to the heart of the issue. He has suggested that when they have disputes, they bring them before members of the community of faith, who are much better equipped to settle these issues. Now he offers them a still more excellent way, the way of the cross.

7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?

No one goes to court to lose. If you think you don’t have a strong case, you might try to settle out of court. The goal of a suit is to win, and to win big. Paul turns this around. The fact that you are taking each other to court is evidence that you have already been defeated. You are not following Jesus. You are not walking in victory. You are not walking in the way of the cross.

Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But my rights have been violated. I have been wronged. Justice has not been done. I should have a voice. I need to be heard. I want to be taken seriously. I deserve better than this. Paul says it would be better to suffer wrong, to be hurt, to be treated unjustly. It would be better to be defrauded, robbed, swindled.

This is what Jesus taught.

Matthew 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven…

This is the example of Jesus.

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

This is the way of the cross.

1 Peter 2:21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree,…

If your brother sins against you, you can go and tell him his fault. You can bring him to court. You can seek justice. Or you can be defrauded. You can be wronged. You do not have to demand your rights. You can follow Jesus.

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

September 29, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 5:9-13; You Are To Judge Those Inside

09/22 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 You Are To Judge Those Inside; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130922_1cor5_9-13.mp3

1Cor 5 [SBLGNT]

9 Ἔγραψα ὑμῖν ἐν τῇ ἐπιστολῇ μὴ συναναμίγνυσθαι πόρνοις, 10 οὐ πάντως τοῖς πόρνοις τοῦ κόσμου τούτου ἢ τοῖς πλεονέκταις καὶ ἅρπαξιν ἢ εἰδωλολάτραις, ἐπεὶ ὠφείλετε ἄρα ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου ἐξελθεῖν. 11 νῦν δὲ ἔγραψα ὑμῖν μὴ συναναμίγνυσθαι ἐάν τις ἀδελφὸς ὀνομαζόμενος ᾖ πόρνος ἢ πλεονέκτης ἢ εἰδωλολάτρης ἢ λοίδορος ἢ μέθυσος ἢ ἅρπαξ, τῷ τοιούτῳ μηδὲ συνεσθίειν. 12 τί γάρ μοι τοὺς ἔξω κρίνειν; οὐχὶ τοὺς ἔσω ὑμεῖς κρίνετε, 13 τοὺς δὲ ἔξω ὁ θεὸς κρίνει ; ἐξάρατε τὸν πονηρὸν ἐξ ὑμῶν αὐτῶν.

1Cor 5 [ESV2011]

5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. 3 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. 4 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

Paul is concerned that the church in Corinth is not being shaped by the cross, not living lives that are in step with the gospel. Their conduct does not match what they believe. Because of Jesus, they have been made new. They have been cleansed by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. All their sins are washed away. Paul is urging them now to be who they are in Christ. And this extends to the corporate level. Because they are a community of believers who are united to one another through faith in Jesus Christ, the sin of one affects the health of the whole. He has used the illustration of old leaven introduced into a new unleavened batch of dough. As a community of followers of Jesus, they are expected to hold one another accountable to standards appropriate for those who claim to be following Jesus.

The Previous Letter

In verses 9-13, Paul is clearing up a misinterpretation of a previous letter he had written. He says “I wrote to you in my letter.” The letter we are studying today is known as 1 Corinthians. From this statement we conclude that Paul had written a previous letter to the church in Corinth that we don’t have. That might freak some people out and send them off on rabbit trails chasing ‘lost’ apostolic writings and conspiracy theories about church councils throwing out perfectly good books because they didn’t like what they said. That simply does not match the facts of history, or the character of the documents we have in our bibles. If someone was trying to grasp power and manipulate the writings to their own advantage, they certainly didn’t do a very good job. The books that were rejected by the early church councils were rejected because they were false writings (pseudapigrapha), teaching things contrary to the rest of Scripture, written under the false name of someone important (like an apostle) in an attempt to gain credibility. Those documents are not lost; they are available to read today so you can judge for yourself.

It is clear from statements like this one that we do not possess every apostolic writing. Paul wrote an earlier letter to the church in Corinth that was not preserved. God in his sovereignty could have preserved it for us, but for whatever reason, he did not. We can be confident that we have everything that God intended us to have, and if you care to study the manuscript evidence, you will see that these writings have been meticulously preserved for us through scores of copies and multiple independent witnesses.

Misunderstood

Not everything that the apostles wrote are easy to understand. The apostle Peter writes about Paul.

2 Peter 3:15 …just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

Not even what an apostle wrote was free from being misinterpreted by its original readers. Some people scour the Scriptures in search of anything they can use to defend their own ideas. The same is true today. If I send you an e-mail, you might read it with a preconceived idea and take what I wrote to mean something completely different than what I intended. When we read the bible, our goal is to hear the author’s intent. We want to be careful to lay aside our preconceived ideas and allow the author to explain for us what he means by what he says. That’s why we often look at many other biblical passages to make sure we are on the right track in how we are understanding a verse or passage. Here Paul spells out what he didn’t mean and what he did mean so there is no question.

Apparently the previous letter did not accomplish its intended goal. Maybe Paul wrote more generally, not naming the specific sins in the body, or maybe the situation with the incestuous man was new information he received after he wrote the first letter. Whatever the case, in this letter, Paul refers to what he had written, and clarifies what he did not mean and what he did mean.

The Previous Statement

First, he reiterates what he had written; ‘not to associate with sexually immoral people’. We don’t know if this is a direct quote from his letter or a summary of the letter, or maybe the entire contents of a quick note. In the original this is a three word statement. We could translate it literally ‘not to mix it up together with porno’s’. This ‘mix up together’ is an interesting word especially in light of his illustration about dough and old leaven. They are not to blend together with sex addicts, pornographers, those who are sexually unrestrained.

The Misunderstanding

Paul then states their misunderstanding of his statement.

1 Corinthians 5:9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.

They thought he meant that they should not associate with the sexually immoral of this world. They thought that somehow they were to withdraw from the world in which they lived and have no contact with any unbelievers ever. Slaves who served unbelieving masters would have to run away. Employees who worked for unbelievers would have to quit their jobs. Employers who employed an unbelieving work force would have to fire them. When they went to the market they could only buy food from other believers. They could not go to any social gatherings that would include unbelievers. They would have to withdraw into a closed Christian commune and have no interaction with the outside world. Paul says ‘that is not at all what I meant.’ That is simply impossible. In order to do that, he says, you would have to leave the planet, you would have to die and go to heaven. He doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t live next door to a pagan or buy groceries from a pagan or pay your water bill to a pagan or eat in a restaurant where other pagans eat. Not at all.

When Jesus prayed for his followers before his crucifixion, he prayed;

John 17:14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

Followers of Jesus must be distinct from the world, but they are sent into the world. Salt cannot have its preserving effect unless it comes in contact with the meat. We are to be in the world but not of the world. We are to be the salt of the earth.

The Correct Understanding

Having made it clear that he did not mean total withdrawal from sinful society, he now spells out what he did mean by what he had said.

11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.

There must be a clear distinction between the church and the world. Anyone who bears the name ‘brother’, anyone who claims to be a brother or sister in Christ must be held to a completely different standard. If you claim to be a follower of Jesus, then you are claiming to represent Jesus in everything you say and do and think and feel. Your attitudes and actions should come into line with what Jesus is like.

None of us are perfect. Where we see that we are out of step with Jesus, we should confess that as sin and cry out to Jesus to change us by the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

The problem Paul is addressing in the church in Corinth is not that they have interaction with sinners in the world. The problem is that they have someone who claims to be a brother who is openly involved in immorality and is not turning away from it. Paul says ‘stop acting like everything is all right!’ This person claims to be a brother, but he is not acting like a brother, so you should stop treating him as a brother. “Let him who has done this be removed from among you.” “Hand such a one over to Satan.” “Cleanse out the old leaven.” “Purge the evil from among you.” Do not mix it up together with anyone who bears the name ‘brother’ if he is guilty of these things. Don’t even eat with such a one.

Does this mean that if anyone in the church has a history or has ever slipped up that we should cut them off and refuse to associate with them? This would be also be a misapplication of this passage. Later in this letter, Paul will say:

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

Many of those in this church had a past. But they were made new. They no longer are what they once were. They have been transformed by the gospel. But they should not pretend to still be what they once were. By the grace of God you are no longer what you once were. Be who you are in Christ!

But what if someone slips up?

Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

Not condemnation or alienation but restoration in a spirit of gentleness and humility for those of us who slip up. Jude says:

Jude 1:22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

Rescue with mercy and fear. But what about those who don’t want to be rescued? What about those who persist in sin and claim to be brothers?

Titus 3:9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

So Paul tells Titus to have nothing to do with a divisive person after two warnings.

2 Thessalonians 3:6 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. …14 If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

Paul tells the Thessalonians to warn and then to keep away from and have nothing to do with a brother who refuses to work.

The Wider Application

Notice that this separation is not exclusively for the sexually immoral. In Titus and Thessalonians it extends to divisiveness and idleness. Here in 1 Corinthians 5, Paul widens the scope as well. In verse 10 he extends this to the greedy, swindlers, and idolaters; in verse 11 he adds revilers and drunkards.

11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.

For someone who claims to be a follower of Jesus, who is led by the Holy Spirit, who has been adopted into the family of God, to be persistently divisive, irresponsible, immoral, possessed by a desire to get more, holding other things as more important than God, abusing others in word or deed, given to alcohol, manipulating situations to his own advantage, these things are totally out of place. These things are not characteristic of someone who has a relationship with Jesus.

Those who are caught in any transgression should be confronted and restored in a spirit of gentleness with humility. Those who are willfully sinning and refuse to repent, we are not to associate with them; not even to eat with them. They are no longer to be treated as if they were fellow believers; they are to be treated as an unbeliever so that they will not continue under false assurance thinking they have a relationship with Jesus when in reality they may not.

Judging Insiders

Paul gives the principle behind treating so-called brothers differently than the world.

12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

What have I to do with judging outsiders? It is not our place to judge them. God judges those outside. The church is responsible for judging those inside the church. So often we get this backward. We want to be the moral police of the world, letting everyone know clearly and loudly what we are against, demanding that the world adopt Christian morals and values, while we turn a blind eye to our own sins like greed and pride and divisiveness.

Paul is warning us to beware of a judgmental attitude toward those outside the church. We should not expect the unbelieving world to adhere to Christian morals or values. We should not be surprised or offended when pagans live like pagans. It should come as no shock that the Christ rejecting world also rejects Christ’s values.

Abortion is wrong. All sexual activity outside the relationship between a man and his wife is wrong. Pornography is wrong. The insatiable desire in our culture for more and more and more is wrong. These are all sins with victims who get injured or destroyed. Out of our love for a humanity created in the image of God, we should stand against what is wrong and do what we can to bring healing and hope to this broken world. But we must remember that the only thing that can truly ever fix what is broken in us is the gospel. We all are sinners. Jesus died for our sins to forgive us and make us new. To put a band-aid on the symptom while ignoring the cancer inside is cruel. To tell someone to stop doing wrong when they have a heart that is twisted and sick with sin is hopeless. We have been given the cure! We must not condemn those with the disease because they are showing symptoms.

If we as the church are responsible for judging those inside, we should be passionate about the purity of the church. We should solicit, seek out, and welcome judgment from our brothers and sisters in Christ out of our desire to be pleasing to Christ.

For the glory of God, for the sake of the reputation of Christ among unbelievers, for the sake of the advance of the gospel, for the sake of the purity of the church Christ’s bride, for the protection of weaker believers; because of the great price paid by Jesus to save us from our sin, for the sake of those who think they are right with God but are not; for the sake of their final salvation, we are to judge those inside the church; “Purge the evil one from among you”

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

September 25, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 4:3-5; Stop Judging!

08/04 1 Corinthians 4:3-5 Stop Judging!; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130804_1cor4_3-5.mp3

1Cor 4 [SBLGNT]

1 Οὕτως ἡμᾶς λογιζέσθω ἄνθρωπος ὡς ὑπηρέτας Χριστοῦ καὶ οἰκονόμους μυστηρίων θεοῦ.2 ὧδε λοιπὸν ζητεῖται ἐν τοῖς οἰκονόμοις ἵνα πιστός τις εὑρεθῇ.3 ἐμοὶ δὲ εἰς ἐλάχιστόν ἐστιν, ἵνα ὑφ’ ὑμῶν ἀνακριθῶ ἢ ὑπὸ ἀνθρωπίνης ἡμέρας· ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ ἐμαυτὸν ἀνακρίνω·4 οὐδὲν γὰρ ἐμαυτῷ σύνοιδα, ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐν τούτῳ δεδικαίωμαι, ὁ δὲ ἀνακρίνων με κύριός ἐστιν.5 ὥστε μὴ πρὸ καιροῦ τι κρίνετε, ἕως ἂν ἔλθῃ ὁ κύριος, ὃς καὶ φωτίσει τὰ κρυπτὰ τοῦ σκότους καὶ φανερώσει τὰς βουλὰς τῶν καρδιῶν, καὶ τότε ὁ ἔπαινος γενήσεται ἑκάστῳ ἀπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ.

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.

The Corinthian believers are involved in quarreling, division, jealousy and strife, much of it centered in groups formed around a favorite teacher or leader. Paul is addressing the true nature of Christian leaders. He describes himself and other leaders as under-rowers, those who labor in unison alongside others on the lowest deck, propelling the ship forward, following the orders of the one Captain, Christ. He describes himself as a steward, or household manager, a custodian of the mysteries of God. He was a slave under the authority of his one Master, given a responsibility, entrusted with the good news of a crucified Messiah, and having been entrusted with this great responsibility, he must prove trustworthy. Faithfulness is a requirement for leaders. The question is, who is qualified to judge faithfulness? The Corinthians are eager to pass judgment on their leaders, choosing one over against another.

Judging is a hot issue today. It seems that none of us want to be judged by anyone else. What I do in my own private life is no one’s business but mine. In many circles, Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that you be not judged” are better known and more often quoted than John 3:16. Just try this: when one of your Christian friends posts something foolish on facebook, gently, humbly, in love, post a reproof. See what kinds of comments are generated. (For that reason, I would recommend getting together for lunch, dropping by their house, calling them on the phone to come along side them and address the issue, rather than commenting on facebook or by e-mail).

And yet, ironically, it seems that everyone has their own opinion about everybody else. Can you believe what so-and-so is doing? The media thrives on digging up the dirt about a public figure. Whole organizations and websites are devoted to exposing and discrediting leaders. Criticism of people in leadership is the common currency of so many of our own conversations.

It is to this issue of judging that Paul turns his attention in verses 3-5, and gives some much needed perspective on this hot topic. He addresses issue of judging others and being judged, of self-examination and issues of conscience, and whose judgment ultimately matters.

Judged by the Church

Paul says that it it a very small thing for him to be judged by the people in the church he planted. He says it is the least. The smallest. He doesn’t say it is nothing, or completely without significance, but only one tiny step up from that. What they think of him means next to nothing to him. He simply doesn’t care very much about people’s opinions of him.

Judged by Human Courts

Then he says that it is a very small thing to be judged by any human court. Paul would stand before many human rulers in his day. He would stand before Jewish authorities and Roman rulers. He would even stand trial before the emperor himself. And he considered this next to nothing. When he stood before the Christian leaders in the Jerusalem church, he refers to them as “those who seemed influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality) (Gal.2:6). He spent time under arrest, in prison, and ultimately surrendered his life as a witness to Jesus. What any human authority decided about him meant next to nothing to him.

Self-Examination and Conscience

Paul says “I do not even judge myself.” Paul knew that it is futile to spend too much energy on introspective self-examination. The word he has been using in this passage for ‘judge’ means a critical examination, a condemning, scrutinizing investigation or examination, an interrogation. Quite honestly, too much introspection is downright discouraging and depressing. How much better to ‘fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith’ (Heb.12:2)

The Failure of Conscience

The conscience can be a helpful guide, but my conscience may be inaccurately calibrated. The Bible says that our conscience can be seared (1Tim4:2) which means that it can be made numb to things it ought to be sensitive to. The conscience of some can be weak, easier to ignore than others with a more robust conscience. The conscience can be wounded by violating it (1Cor.8:7-12). Some may have a hyper-sensitive conscience, that troubles them even when God clearly says that they are in the right (1Jn.3:20)

Your conscience should continually be being shaped and adjusted and corrected by the word of God, but it is never wise to go against your conscience.

The limitations of Self-examination

Paul says ‘I am not aware of anything against myself.’ Not being aware of anything does not mean that there is nothing to be aware of. Paul spoke of his own experience as a Pharisee and said “as to righteousness under the law, blameless” (Phil.3:6), but when Jesus met him and opened his eyes to the truth, he saw himself as foremost of sinners (1Tim1:15), and his own self-righteousness he saw as rubbish (Phil.3:7-8), offensive to the God he was trying to impress. The Psalmist, aware of the limitations of his own self-examination, cried out:

Psalm 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Even if my conscience is clear and I can think of nothing against myself (and most often that is not the case) that does not justify me. I cannot declare myself righteous based on my own clear conscience. To have a healthy self-image is not the primary goal. There is something greater than my own estimation of my self-worth. Justification, the legal standing of righteousness before the Judge of all the earth, comes not through our own efforts, but only through faith in the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 3:28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

The Lord is My Judge

1 Corinthians 4:3 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.

The Lord Jesus is the Judge. The reason Paul puts little stock in what others think of him or even what he thinks of himself is that he has only one Master and only one Judge. There is only one to whom he is ultimately accountable. When you get that – when you really get that in your bones, it will set you free. When you get that in the core of your being that only what Jesus thinks of you matters, it will free you from the slavery of what others think of you. It really doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of me; it only matters what Jesus thinks of me. When you most care about what Jesus thinks of you, you are free to be who you were created to be, free to be the real ‘you’. “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (Jn.8:36). When you know who your Master is, and you know who your Judge is, you no longer have to waste time and energy worrying about what other people think of you. You can focus all your resources on pleasing that one Master.

Stop Judging!

So Paul tells the Corinthians to stop judging! Apparently they were already hard at it, forming opinions about who was more godly than whom, who was the better communicator, who was more right, who was more effective, who had less flaws, who was more worthy to be followed. Paul says ‘stop it! Stop judging!’ And he gives several good reasons why they should not become expert at judging others.

All Human Judgments are Presumptive

The main reason all human judgments are fundamentally flawed is that we are not given that responsibility. We were not appointed as final judges of one another. Paul says in Romans 14

Romans 14:4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Romans 14:10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

God is the judge. God is the one to whom we will all give account.

All Human Judgments are Premature

The second reason Paul gives for not judging each other is that it’s not yet time. It’s not over yet; the time to judge has not yet come. It’s not over ’till it’s over. Some may start this race very slow and falteringly, but end strong. Others who start strong and seem promising may crash and burn somewhere along the path. Faithfulness cannot be judged mid-race. The Lord is coming, and he will judge at the proper time. That time is not yet.

All Human Judgments are Partial

Another reason Paul gives for not judging each other is that we don’t know everything and we don’t see everything. Some things are hidden. Nobody knows everything. Nobody sees everything. Even if someone could see everything, they could not always accurately determine the motives of the heart. God does see everything and he knows everything, and he can without fail determine the hidden purposes of the heart. His is the only judgment that is absolutely accurate and true.

We do not have the right to be constantly critical, critiquing and condemning godly Christian leaders.

It is Our Responsibility to Judge

Does this mean we have no biblical room for judging anyone ever? Keep in mind that the word for judging in this chapter is a critical examination, a condemning, scrutinizing investigation or examination, and the context is weighing one leader against another to see who is more worthy to be followed.

In the very next chapter, Paul hits the issue of someone who claims to be a believer who is persisting in sin. He says ‘I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing’ and it is your responsibility to judge those inside the church. Someone who refuses to listen to correction and persists in sin is a corrupting influence, and they should be removed. So clearly Paul is not saying that we can never pass judgment on a brother or sister in Christ. Rather he says that it is our responsibility, and it is to be done with the goal of repentance and restoration always in view.

But does this mean we can never judge a leader in the church? In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul expresses concern that a teacher who comes preaching a different Jesus or a different gospel might be welcomed by the church. He calls these satanic deceivers disguised as apostles of Christ. So it is clear that he expects the church to be discerning about doctrine and careful to judge between true and false teachers.

Paul even called Peter out publicly when he was acting hypocritically and the truth of the gospel was at stake.

Galatians 2:11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all,…

In 1 Timothy, Paul commends elders who rule well as worthy of double honor, and then he cautions against receiving an accusation against a leader too quickly.

1 Timothy 5:19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. 21 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.

So even church leadership is to be held accountable by the church, but it is to be done cautiously and carefully.

What about judging ourselves? Paul says he does not scrutinize himself. But in chapter 11, he warns about selfishness and division in the celebration of the Lord’s supper.

1 Corinthians 11:28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.

So we are encouraged to do some self-examination and self-judging, not to see who is better than whom, but to make sure we are really remembering Jesus and his death together with our blood-bought brothers and sisters in Christ.

At the end of 2 Corinthians, Paul is warning those who are persisting in sin and resisting his correction. He says

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

For someone who is willfully persisting in sin, it is appropriate for them to question the reality of their relationship with Jesus.

Jesus did say ‘judge not, that you be not judged’ (Mt.7:1) in the context of hypocrites who are attempting to take a speck out of their brother’s eye when they have a log jammed into their own eye. A few verses later he tells us to

Matthew 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?

He also said

John 7:24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

Each One Will Receive His Praise From God

God is the one who brings to light things hidden in darkness and discloses the purposes of the heart. With that sobering reality in mind, it is amazing to see how this passage ends.

1 Corinthians 4:3 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.

We might expect it to say ‘each one will receive his condemnation from God’, because that is what we all deserve. But it says that each one will receive his commendation, each one will receive praise from God! Jesus said that “whoever believes in him is not condemned” (Jn.3:18) and whoever believes …does not come into judgment” (Jn.5:24).

All who have been justified by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ will receive not judgment or condemnation, but praise, much praise, applause, a loud and clear acclaim of commendation; we will hear our Master say to us:

Matthew 25:21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

This is not what I deserve, but by God’s grace, this is what he promises to me!

Jude 1:24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. 

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

August 4, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 3:16-17; The Jealous God of His Temple

06/02 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 The Jealous God of the Temple;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130602_1cor3_16-17.mp3

1Cor 3 [SBLGNT]

10 Κατὰ τὴν χάριν τοῦ θεοῦ τὴν δοθεῖσάν μοι ὡς σοφὸς ἀρχιτέκτων θεμέλιον ἔθηκα, ἄλλος δὲ ἐποικοδομεῖ. ἕκαστος δὲ βλεπέτω πῶς ἐποικοδομεῖ· 11 θεμέλιον γὰρ ἄλλον οὐδεὶς δύναται θεῖναι παρὰ τὸν κείμενον, ὅς ἐστιν Ἰησοῦς Χριστός· 12 εἰ δέ τις ἐποικοδομεῖ ἐπὶ τὸν θεμέλιον χρυσόν, ἄργυρον, λίθους τιμίους, ξύλα, χόρτον, καλάμην, 13 ἑκάστου τὸ ἔργον φανερὸν γενήσεται, ἡ γὰρ ἡμέρα δηλώσει· ὅτι ἐν πυρὶ ἀποκαλύπτεται, καὶ ἑκάστου τὸ ἔργον ὁποῖόν ἐστιν τὸ πῦρ αὐτὸ δοκιμάσει. 14 εἴ τινος τὸ ἔργον μενεῖ ὃ ἐποικοδόμησεν, μισθὸν λήμψεται· 15 εἴ τινος τὸ ἔργον κατακαήσεται, ζημιωθήσεται, αὐτὸς δὲ σωθήσεται, οὕτως δὲ ὡς διὰ πυρός.

16 Οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι ναὸς θεοῦ ἐστε καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ οἰκεῖ ἐν ὑμῖν; 17 εἴ τις τὸν ναὸν τοῦ θεοῦ φθείρει, φθερεῖ τοῦτον ὁ θεός· ὁ γὰρ ναὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ἅγιός ἐστιν, οἵτινές ἐστε ὑμεῖς.

1Cor 3 [ESV2011]

9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

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

16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

Paul is rebuking the Corinthians for their quarreling and divisiveness, and showing them that their attitudes are not in keeping with the gospel. He has compared the work of Christian ministers to field hands in God’s field and builders constructing a building. In both metaphors, unity and cooperation is essential, but competition and division would be disastrous. In verses 16 and 17, he continues the building metaphor, and we find out that there is a very specific building that he has in mind. The reason great care must be taken in how each of us build; the reason that each of our works will be revealed with fire, is that the building he refers to is God’s holy temple. Only the best methods, only the best materials are suitable for building up God’s holy temple.

1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

Do You Not Know

This is the first of 10 times in this letter that Paul uses the phrase ‘do you not know’. To the Corinthians, who prided themselves on their keen insight and intellect, this would come as a biting rebuke. You, who think you have advanced into the deeper things of God, you who claim to have penetrated the secret and hidden wisdom, you who think yourselves mature and spiritual above others, you have lost sight of the plain, clear, simple, obvious, basic truths! Do you not know? Every believer in Jesus should know this. To continue the building metaphor, you think you are building a skyscraper, but you’ve neglected the ground floor! You are shaky on the foundation truths of the gospel. This reminds me of the Far Side cartoon where the scholar with a stack of books is trying to enter the ‘school for the gifted’, and he is pushing with all his might on a door that is clearly labeled ‘pull’. {Far Side Cartoon for PPT}

You are priding yourself in your great wisdom, but you have lost sight of the basics, of common sense.

The ‘You’ is Plural

We need to make a grammatical point here so that we don’t misunderstand or misapply what Paul is saying. Many take this verse to say that each one of us personally and individually is God’s temple. That is true, but that is not what this verse is saying. We could jump over to chapter 6, where Paul says that each of you is responsible for what you do with your own physical body, because your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (6:19), and conclude that each of us individually is a temple of God. But to import that meaning back into chapter 3 would be to deviate from what this text is teaching. Here, the context is clear that each of us individually are being built into a building and that building is the temple of God. When Paul says ‘you’, the ‘you’ is plural. We may be helped by adopting some southern grammar. If I am speaking to an individual, I address him or her as ‘you’. But if I am speaking to a group of people, I address them as ‘y’all’. This verse would read: ‘Do you not know that y’all are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in y’all?’ Paul is speaking to the group as a group, saying that you all together as a group make up the temple of God. He is not saying that you all are a bunch of little temples running around, but that each of you is built together into God’s temple. Peter brings some vivid clarity to this image.

1 Peter 2:5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

A stone on its own is not a temple. A bunch of stones scattered around, each standing on its own looks more like a graveyard. But lots of stones cemented together on the same foundation become a building. Remember, the one foundation, the only possible foundation, for the church is Jesus Christ and him crucified.

ναός not ἱερόν

We together are being built on the one unmovable unshakeable unalterable irreplaceable foundation of Jesus Christ. We are being built into a building. This is not just any building, so it matters how we build and with what we build. We are being built into God’s temple.

This is another place where our English language lacks the clarity to communicate clearly. We can look in the Old Testament and see that it was unlawful for anyone other than a priest, a descendant of Aaron to enter the temple of God. And we might be confused when we turn to the New Testament and see Jesus, who was of the tribe of Judah, entering the temple to teach or heal or throw out the moneychangers. We see the first followers of Jesus meeting daily in the temple (Lk.24:53; Act.2:46; 5:42). This could be confusing if we don’t realize that there are distinct words that are both translated ‘temple’ in English. When Jesus and the disciples entered the temple, it was the ἱερόν, the temple complex, including the courtyard. But when Jesus said ‘destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up’ (Jn.2:19), he used a different word, ναός , which specifically refers to the structure containing the holy place and most holy place, the sanctuary. Jesus and his Jewish disciples could enter the gates of the ἱερόν, the temple grounds, but would not be allowed to enter the ναός, the temple sanctuary.

Jesus identified his own human body as the ναός, the sanctuary. Here, when Paul refers to us being built together into the temple of God, he calls us the ναός, the sanctuary, the very dwelling place of God.

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

The Divinity of the Holy Spirit

This is what makes the sanctuary the sanctuary. It is the special dwelling place of God. Wherever God takes up residence, that is the temple sanctuary. When God’s special presence leaves the building due to his people’s sin, as he did in Ezekiel, that structure may continue to be referred to as the temple in name, but it is no longer the dwelling place of God, and it is subject to being destroyed.

This verse is important because of what it teaches us about God. God’s sanctuary is the place where God dwells. If the Holy Spirit is a different being from God, less than God, an angel or an impersonal force or a created being, then we as the assembly of believers could not be called the dwelling place of God simply because the Spirit inhabits us. But Paul says that being inhabited by the Spirit of God means that we can rightly be called the temple of God. So the Spirit must be fully God, a distinct personality from the Father and the Son, but sharing the very being or existence of God. What makes us, a group of believers, the sanctuary of God, is that God has taken up residence in us. God the Holy Spirit makes his home in us!

1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

Destroyers of God’s Temple

This is a stern warning. Paul has cautioned the builders to take care how they build and with what materials they build. He has warned that we must only ever build on the one foundation which has been once for all laid down. He has warned that the fire of testing is coming and many who build with wood, hay and straw will come away with nothing to show for their labor. But even they will be saved, if only by the skin of their teeth. Some build with enduring materials; some build with worthless combustible materials. Now he moves on to say that some are not building, but destroying. Some, who claim to be part of the building, are actually demolition experts, tearing apart the building from the inside.

Some well meaning Christians feel that it is their spiritual calling to evaluate everyone else’s quality of building and rip it down if it doesn’t meet their own standards. According to this passage, all building will be tested by Jesus Christ on that great day. There is room for variety within the body of Christ, and it is not ours to tear down the building efforts of others. Addressing secondary issues, Paul says:

Romans 14:4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

This does not mean that we should not be vigilant to protect the flock of God from wolves. Paul as a caring shepherd exhorts us to take care how we build; he points out quarreling and division and pride as evidence of unspirituality and indicators that we are building with sub-standard materials. He even encourages restorative church discipline for the health of the body (1Cor.5). He rebukes publicly church leaders who are deviating from the gospel (Gal.2:11-14). He warns the church to beware of those who are building on another foundation (Gal.1:8-9; 5:7-12; Phil.3:2), and he is not afraid to name names (1Tim.1:20; 2Tim.2:17). But he does not come in and tear down the building. That is the job of our Lord Christ alone.

This raises the question, what does it look like to destroy God’s sanctuary? If we as believers gathered together are the dwelling of the Holy Spirit, then anything that causes disunity, division, or harm to other believers could be considered destructive to God’s temple. Is your quarreling, gossip, or strife destroying the temple of God?

Jealous God

Jesus loves his church. He died to purchase the church as his bride and he will present her to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle, holy and without blemish. Jesus nourishes and cherishes his church. Jesus is the one who will build his church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against her. Jesus loves his church and he will make certain that she stands for all time. Understand, the church is not this building or any physical structure, but is made up of people, all true followers of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is passionate about his church. His temple, his people are holy, set apart for him alone, and he will jealously guard his people. If someone dared violate the temple in the Old Testament, he would die. If God so zealously guarded the type and shadow, how much more will he be passionate to defend the reality!

1 Corinthians 3:17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

Examples of Destruction

God is serious about his church. This is a severe warning and it is not meant to be taken lightly. Some examples will be both sobering and encouraging.

Acts chapter 4 ends with the newborn church self-sacrificially caring for each other’s needs. Acts 5 tells of one couple, Ananias and Sapphira, who conspired together to lie to the church about their giving. They were not obligated to give. They were not pressured to give. It seems they were looking for status and recognition in the church by a generous donation. They made themselves out to look more generous than they really were. They were using Christ’s church as a means to gain popularity and praise. Peter said that they were testing the Spirit of the Lord and lying to God. God struck them both dead on the spot.

In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul deals with an incestuous relationship within the church. Rather than grieving over the sin and confronting it; they are proud, flaunting their so-called freedom in Christ. He warns that toleration of those who refuse to repent of sin will taint the purity of the church. He says:

1 Corinthians 5:4 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

He extends this disassociation to any who claim to be brothers who are unrepentantly immoral, greedy, an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or a swindler. Delivering someone to Satan for the destruction of the flesh is a sobering prospect, but the goal is that his spirit would be saved in the end.

In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul confronts divisions and factions in the church that showed up at the Lord’s Supper. At this fellowship meal some went hungry and some were getting drunk. He accuses them of despising the church of God and humiliating those who have nothing. He says that if they eat and drink in an unworthy manner, they are guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. He says that anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. The unworthy manner in which they participated in communion was not that they had unconfessed sin in their lives. They failed to discern the body, they failed to recognize that they all were part of one body, each members of one another, united as sinners saved by God’s grace alone, equal at the foot of the cross. They were allowing social status and popularity and money to divide the church, and in doing this, they were despising the church of God and profaning the body and blood of the Lord. God loves his church and he takes this kind of disunity personally. Paul concludes:

1 Corinthians 11:30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.

God was judging his people and disciplining those who were despising his church with weakness, sickness, even death. God is dead serious about unity in his church!

We will close with one positive example of God destroying someone who is destroying his temple. Saul of Tarsus was ‘ravaging the church’, ‘he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison’. He was ‘breathing out threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord’ (Acts 8:3; 9:1). In Galatians he says ‘I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it’ (Gal.1:13). Saul was attacking the church, and Jesus took this personally. Jesus showed up in blinding light that knocked Saul to the ground. And he confronted him; ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ Not ‘why are you persecuting my church?’ but ‘why are you persecuting me?’ In persecuting the church, he was persecuting Jesus. He had touched the apple of his eye, and Jesus is passionate to defend his bride. He said ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting’ (Acts 9:4-5). Jesus showed up in blazing fire to destroy him.

And Saul was destroyed that day. He was undone. His hard heart was conquered, conquered by God’s grace, by his unfailing mercy, his undeserved, unsought forgiveness. He was no longer Saul the persecutor of the church. He was now Paul, the master builder of the church, madly in love with Jesus and death-defyingly passionate about building up Christ’s church. Jesus conquered his greatest enemy and put him to work ‘preaching the very faith he once tried to destroy’ (Gal.1:23). 

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

June 2, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 3:10-15; The Church’s One Foundation

05/26 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 The Church’s One FoundationAudio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130526_1cor3_10-15.mp3

1Cor 3 [SBLGNT]

10 Κατὰ τὴν χάριν τοῦ θεοῦ τὴν δοθεῖσάν μοι ὡς σοφὸς ἀρχιτέκτων θεμέλιον ἔθηκα, ἄλλος δὲ ἐποικοδομεῖ. ἕκαστος δὲ βλεπέτω πῶς ἐποικοδομεῖ· 11 θεμέλιον γὰρ ἄλλον οὐδεὶς δύναται θεῖναι παρὰ τὸν κείμενον, ὅς ἐστιν Ἰησοῦς Χριστός· 12 εἰ δέ τις ἐποικοδομεῖ ἐπὶ τὸν θεμέλιον χρυσόν, ἄργυρον, λίθους τιμίους, ξύλα, χόρτον, καλάμην, 13 ἑκάστου τὸ ἔργον φανερὸν γενήσεται, ἡ γὰρ ἡμέρα δηλώσει· ὅτι ἐν πυρὶ ἀποκαλύπτεται, καὶ ἑκάστου τὸ ἔργον ὁποῖόν ἐστιν τὸ πῦρ αὐτὸ δοκιμάσει. 14 εἴ τινος τὸ ἔργον μενεῖ ὃ ἐποικοδόμησεν, μισθὸν λήμψεται· 15 εἴ τινος τὸ ἔργον κατακαήσεται, ζημιωθήσεται, αὐτὸς δὲ σωθήσεται, οὕτως δὲ ὡς διὰ πυρός.

1Cor 3 [ESV2011]

1 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?

5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

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

Paul is dealing with the root problem of quarreling and division in the church in Corinth. Much of this seemed to stem from a misunderstanding of the role of Christian ministry. Some had too high a view of Christian ministry, framing their favorite as superstar and pitting one against another. Others wanted to dispense with leaders all together and felt they had attained a spirituality where they had no need for anyone to minister to them.

Christian ministry is neither status nor stardom but service. But that service is not superfluous. It is not just any service, but service to the King of kings and Lord of lords. God alone gives the growth, and he gives it by means of the ministers he has given to his church.

Among ministers there must not be competition but instead cooperation. In his agricultural metaphor of planting and watering, there is interdependence among servants of Christ. None of us can do it singlehandedly, and for maximum fruitfulness, we must work as a team. Reward for Christian ministry is not evaluated by the plants in the field, but by the Master of the field. And he evaluates reward not on fruitfulness, but on faithfulness. Ultimately, all ministry is totally dependent on God who alone is able to give growth. We are nothing; God is everything. It is all about God. In verse 9, he emphasizes the priority of God by starting three phrases with ‘God’. God’s fellow-workers are we; God’s field, God’s building are you. And here he shifts from an agricultural metaphor (a field) to a construction metaphor (a building) because he wants to talk about foundations and quality of workmanship, and rewards or losses for proper or improper construction.

Ministry by the Grace of God

Paul starts this discussion of construction and foundation and workmanship and his own unique role in it all by tying it back to God’s grace. ‘According to the grace of God given to me’. Paul is about to say some things that could be perceived as arrogant and full of himself, but that is the furthest thing from his heart. Paul played a unique and foundational role in the church and in the history of Christianity, but rather than make him proud, it made him profoundly humble. ‘According to the grace of God given to me’. He introduced himself in this letter as ‘Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus.’ In 2 Corinthians he will say ‘having this ministry by the mercy of God’. Here in chapter 3 he says that Paul is a servant through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each. Paul knew that there was nothing in himself to be proud of. He says in chapter 15

1 Corinthians 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.

Unworthy. He had done nothing to deserve this role. In fact, he had done everything to disqualify himself from this role. He was a persecutor of God’s church. Acts describes him as ‘breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord’ (9:1). He obtained authorization from the high priest to pursue and arrest any followers of Jesus he could find, men or women. But by God’s grace, when he deserved the opposite, freely as a gift, Jesus met him where he was, brought him to repentance, forgave him everything, and appointed him apostle. ‘By the grace of God I am what I am.’ Paul said

1 Timothy 1:15 …Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

Grace is favor and kindness shown to someone who doesn’t deserve it, doesn’t want it, isn’t asking for it. Paul never forgot, never lost sight of the fact that ‘by the grace of God I am what I am’. All Christian ministry (if it is truly Christian) is by the grace of God. Not one servant of Christ, not one minister has earned the right to be called a minister. If I am anything at all, it is ‘according to the grace of God given to me’. All I have is a gift, not earned, not deserved, but freely given. It is a treasure, and so I must treasure it. We must never cease to be amazed in wonder at the fact that God calls sinners, sinners like me, sinners like you, into the high calling of service to the living God by sheer unmerited grace.

Skilled Master Builder

1 Corinthians 3:10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation,

Paul compares his apostolic ministry to the role of a skilled master builder, a wise ἀρχιτέκτων. Only this kind of architect is not the one in the tenth floor office behind a drafting table or CAD screen pumping out reams of detailed engineering drawings but never even visiting the job site. He is the chief craftsman on the job, the master builder overseeing that the whole project is carried out with precision and skill according to plan. He personally, hands on, laid the foundation. The foundation is the first and most essential part of the building project. If the foundation is sound and well laid, the building can be strong and stable. If the foundation is faulty, the structure will sink or crack or fall over. The foundation is all-important in constructing a lasting building. The foundation defines the shape of the building. Many ancient cathedrals were built in the shape of a cross. Once that cross-shaped foundation has been laid, the building must take on that cross shape. It cannot be rectangular or square or round. The foundation sets the limit for the size and shape of the structure that will be placed upon it. To change the shape of the building, you must add to or take away from the foundation.

The Church’s One Foundation

Paul, as a skilled, or literally ‘wise’ master builder laid the foundation. That word ‘wise’ connects us back to his discussion on wisdom in chapters 1 and 2. The Corinthians made a big deal about wisdom, and Paul makes it very clear that God’s wisdom is not the same as man’s wisdom. God’s wisdom is perceived by unbelieving people as foolishness, and what seems to be wise in human understanding, God will destroy and turn upside down and bring to nothing. Paul pointed to the secret and hidden wisdom that he taught, wisdom taught by the Spirit of God, the same wisdom with which he laid the foundation of the church.

Jesus contrasted a wise man who built his house on the rock and a foolish man who built his house on the sand. When the storm came, the wise man’s house withstood because it had been founded on the rock. The foolish man’s house fell, and great was the fall of it. Jesus said:

Matthew 7:24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

Paul claims to be a wise master builder. What is that wisdom? How did he lay the foundation for the church of Corinth as a wise master builder? What is the foundation of every true church? He doesn’t leave us guessing. In verse 11, he says

1 Corinthians 3:11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is the foundation of his church. When Jesus questioned his disciples about his own identity,

Matthew 16:16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The Holy Spirit revealed wisdom, the rock on which the church is built is Jesus Christ. The identity of Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, according to prophecy both God’s anointed forever King and suffering servant who would substitute himself for his people.

Matthew 16:21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

The person of Christ as the only Son of the living God, and the work of Christ, what he came to do form the solid rock on which his church is built.

How did Paul, the wise master builder, lay this solid foundation in the church at Corinth? He says

1 Corinthians 2:2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

He preached the gospel, the good news, the cross of Christ, where the wages of our sin met the justice of a holy God in the person of our substitute, Jesus.

Paul pointed the Ephesian church to this same solid rock.

Ephesians 2:19 …you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

With this Peter agrees.

1 Peter 2:4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”

Jesus is the foundation and we are built on him. We as members of the household of God, we as living stones being built up as a spiritual house, are joined together on the one foundation of Jesus Christ and him crucified.

There are many churches, even churches that claim to be Christian, those that bear the name of Christ, that are not built on the foundation of Christ. Imagine a foreman coming up to the job site, and he is impressed with how much progress his workers have made while he has been gone. The building is growing tall. But as he enters the site, he is horrified at what he sees. ‘You morons! The foundation is over there!’ They have been stacking up bricks on the sand. The structure looks impressive, but it is not even on the foundation! All the labor is wasted. We cannot abandon the foundation! We are not at liberty to add to it or take away from it! We cannot add a wing over here to suit our fancy. We cannot dig down and rip out part of the foundation that we aren’t particularly fond of. If we deviate from the foundation of the gospel, the cross, the truth about Jesus, the structure we build might be impressive and draw attention, but it is not the church of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Take Care How You Build

This is not the problem Paul addressed in the church in Corinth. He believes that they are indeed building on the only solid foundation. Otherwise he would not call them ‘saints’ and ‘the church of God’. For them it is not an issue of what they are building on but how they are building on it.

1 Corinthians 3:10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it.

This is not a warning not to build. The whole point of a foundation is to be the foundation for the structure. Have you ever seen an abandoned foundation? The work was started, the foundation laid, but nothing was ever built on it? That is not what a foundation is for. Paul as a skilled master builder laid the foundation with the intent that it would be built on. The problem is not that someone else is building on Paul’s foundation. Paul is not telling them to stop all work until he returns. But he is saying to pay careful attention to how you build. There can be a deep strong solid foundation, and a lazy, sloppy, half-hearted work crew that builds second rate work on a good foundation.

An Unseen Foundation

An interesting thing about most buildings is that you often can’t see the foundation. You see the structure built on the foundation, but the foundation is hidden under ground. Our foundation is not buried in the ground, but risen and seated at the right hand of his Father on high, but he remains unseen. But everyone can see the people who claim to be build on him. When you look at a building and see major cracks, stones separating and falling out, you can draw some conclusions about the building. Probably the foundation is bad. But it could be that the foundation is good but the builders failed to build well, and their work is falling apart. When the world looks at those who claim to be followers of Jesus and sees fractures and splits and divisions and separations, the assumption is that the foundation is faulty and flawed. When that happens, we are lying about Jesus! We are dishonoring Jesus!

Paul warns the church in Corinth, ‘let each one take care how he builds upon it’. In chapters 12-14 where he addresses the issue of spiritual gifts, he says

1 Corinthians 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

And he says that the purpose of the gifts is to build up the church, the body of Christ. Every believer has been gifted by God for the common good, for the building up of the body of Christ (cf. Eph.4:12). Each one is responsible for building up the body of Christ. You are building! Building is not optional for the Christian. Even if you don’t show up, you are building. The question is not if you are building, but how you are building.

1 Corinthians 3:10 …Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

You and I are building. The question is what is the quality of our work, what kind of materials are we using? Remember, you are not building a thatched roof hut for your mother-in-law; wood, hay and stubble might be appropriate for that. We are building a temple for the King of kings, a dwelling place for the most high God. You don’t build a mud hut on a foundation of the most costly stone. Not only the shape of the building but also the quality and value of the building must match the foundation. There are two kinds of materials; combustible and non-combustible, and they will be made known on the day of judgment by fire. We build with gold, silver, and precious stones when our lives and our conversations and our attitudes are shaped by the gospel. We build with wood, hay and straw when our attitudes, actions and interactions are out of sync with the cross. What kind of advice do you give? On what do you base your decisions? Why do you do what you do? What do you do with your money? What kind of character does your interaction with others foster?

In these verses, Paul is not asking the question if you are saved or not. He is assuming that you are being saved because you have a relationship with Jesus. The issue is will you receive rewards or suffer loss. Remember Paul’s confidence in the Corinthians expressed in the opening of the letter.

1 Corinthians 1:7 …as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But there is a real possibility that we who have trusted in Christ, we who have had our sins forgiven at the cross, we who are being sustained guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, that on that day it will be revealed that we have wasted our life. What a tragedy to find that everything we spent our time on and invested our life in does not hold up under the scrutiny of Jesus. We may spend the remainder of our life heaping rubbish on the precious foundation of Jesus Christ, and thankfully all the rubbish will be incinerated, but we will have nothing to show. How shameful to have this ministry given to us by the grace of God, to have gifts and the infinite resources of gospel wisdom and strength supplied to us by the Holy Spirit and to do nothing with them that is of any eternal significance.

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

May 26, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 32:15-29; Wages of Sin and the Mercy of God

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120722_exodus32_15-29.mp3

07/22 Exodus 32:15-29 The Wages of Sin

We pick up the narrative of the covenant treason of God’s people in Exodus 32:15. God had spoken to the people, and they had vowed ‘all that the Lord has spoken we will do’ (19:8; 24:3, 7). The leadership of Israel ate a covenant meal in the presence of God, and then Moses was called up to receive God’s instruction.

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

Moses has been up on mount Sinai for 40 days, receiving God’s instructions for life in his community, and instructions for building a tent where God would dwell with his people, chapters 25-31 of Exodus.

The Greatest Treasure

Exodus 32:15 Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets that were written on both sides; on the front and on the back they were written. 16 The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.

These were two duplicate copies, permanent reminders of the terms of this covenant agreement. When a covenant was made between a conquering king and his subjects, two duplicate copies of the covenant would be made. The king would be given a copy of the agreement, and a copy would be given to his subjects. Because God is going to pitch his tent with his people, both copies would be kept in his tent. These were the most precious artifacts in existence; that the God of the universe would bind himself in covenant agreement with a people, and that he would personally etch the terms of the agreement into stone is an unspeakable treasure. These tablets of stone were the embodiment of the relationship between God and his people. This sets the stage for what is about to happen.

Joshua’s Misunderstanding

17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” 18 But he said, “It is not the sound of shouting for victory, or the sound of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing that I hear.”

Remember, Joshua had accompanied Moses partway up the mountain after the covenant meal in chapter 24; Joshua was the military commander in the battle with Amalek and his people from chapter 17. Joshua, familiar with battle, hears the sound of war – adrenalin filled shouts of warriors in triumph; horrified screams of women and children; desperate cries of panic and pain; clash of sword and shield. Joshua fears that the Israelites are under attack, and they are, but the enemy is not a physical foe.

Moses had been told by God what is going on in the camp.

Exodus 32:7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’”

Moses, having been told by God what is happening, responds to Joshua; this is not the joyous singing of victory; nor is it the lamentable singing of defeat, but the sound of singing. This reminds us of the song Moses in chapter 15 after the display of God’s power at the Red Sea. There they sang the triumph of YHWH who had conquered his enemies. There is nothing inherently wrong with singing – it was an expression of worship to God, but now their singing is directed toward the wrong object; a false god, an idol that did not save them. They turned from worshiping God to worshiping the works of their own hands.

His Anger Burned Hot

19 And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. 20 He took the calf that they had made and burned it with fire and ground it to powder and scattered it on the water and made the people of Israel drink it.

We are told that ‘Moses’ anger burned hot’. We think of anger as sin, and it often is that. We might read this episode as a temper tantrum where Moses lost control and acted irrationally. But anger is not always sin.

Ephesians 4:26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.

This verse tells us that it can be right to be angry. But we must be on guard that our anger not lead to sinful attitudes or actions. Jesus was angry. Passionate zeal for the house of the Lord consumed Jesus (Jn.2:14-17) and he drove people out of the temple courts with a whip. That was not a sinful act that Jesus did. This exact phrase ‘anger burned hot’ is found over 50 times in the Old Testament, and in the majority of them, God is the one who is angry. This is not a lost temper but the righteous response to sin. Moses is reflecting God’s own character here. His action was not a spontaneous outburst of misdirected emotion, but a passionate acting out of what had already happened. God had entered into a covenant relationship with his people, given the gift of himself to his people. This – a relationship with the living God – is the greatest treasure a person could possess. This greatest treasure had been trampled and treated as worthless. It had been shattered, and now the formal documentation of the relationship was destroyed as a demonstration that the relationship had been destroyed. We are at the conclusion of the wedding ceremony, the vows have been taken, the groom has turned with the minister to sign the wedding certificate, and behind them they hear the sounds of the bride giving herself to one of the guests. No wonder the minister turns and rips the wedding certificate to shreds.

Now that the covenant document is destroyed, a graphic illustration of what the people have done by their actions, Moses as God’s representative begins to clean up the mess. He deals with the idol, he deals with the leader he left in charge, and he deals with the people who have brought dishonor on God’s reputation.

Desecrating the Idol

What Moses does with their idol is to permanently and completely desecrate it so that it can never again become an object of worship. He is demonstrating in an unforgettable way that this so-called god is no god at all. The people directed their worship toward this image saying ‘these are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt’ (32:8). Moses is showing that this so-called god cannot even save itself. He burns it with fire, he pulverizes it to powder, and he scatters it in the water supply of the camp of Israel, so that anything that is left of this false god is ingested, digested and passed out in a pile of excrement. There will be no recovery of this idol. The people had worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and in this way Moses demonstrates just how unworthy this inanimate idol was of their worship.

A Leader Rebuked

Moses now addresses his older brother Aaron. Back in chapter 24, before Moses and Joshua ascended the mountain to receive the tablets of stone with the law and the commandment, Moses charged the leaders of Israel to wait for his return and he appointed Aaron and Hur to settle any disputes while he was away. Now he is calling Aaron to give an account of himself.

21 And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?”

The language Moses employs here is strong. The words translated ‘great sin’ can be used to describe the sin of adultery or marital unfaithfulness (Gen.20:9). The people have broken their covenant relationship with God. They have been unfaithful. They have turned from their vows and committed spiritual adultery with an idol. And Moses is holding the leader he left in charge responsible for bringing this great sin upon them.

Excuses

22 And Aaron said, “Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. 23 For they said to me, ‘Make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 24 So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”

The excuses of Aaron remind us of the garden of Eden. This is a great example of how not to confess your sin. Fingers are pointing in every direction. There is no honest taking of responsibility or open confession of wrong done. Aaron first asks Moses not to be angry. Ultimately, he is asking Moses not to be righteous. He is asking that Moses let this sin slide and not be zealous for the reputation of the LORD. This is something a true leader cannot do. Then he shifts blame to the people and appeals to Moses’ prior experience with the people. ‘You know the people, that they are set on evil.’ For a leader to know this should stir him to be all the more vigilant and stand for truth and intercede for them, not cave in and give them what they want and then shift the blame on them. Aaron then repeats to Moses what the people said to him at the beginning of chapter 32, implying that it was Moses’ own fault for not coming back sooner. But his description of how the calf came to be; ‘I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf’ is a less than truthful account of his ‘receiving the gold from their hand, fashioning it with a graving tool, and making a golden calf’ (32:4). Moses doesn’t even honor these excuses with a response.

Consequences of Sin

Moses takes decisive action to put a stop to the situation.

25 And when Moses saw that the people had broken loose (for Aaron had let them break loose, to the derision of their enemies), 26 then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, “Who is on the LORD’s side? Come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. 27 And he said to them, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side each of you, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor.’” 28 And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell. 29 And Moses said, “Today you have been ordained for the service of the LORD, each one at the cost of his son and of his brother, so that he might bestow a blessing upon you this day.”

This is a grisly, bloody scene. When we read this, we tend to be more shocked at the cure than the disease. If so, we fail to see the seriousness of sin. The people had broken loose. They were out of control. The fruit of the Spirit is self-control. God is a God of order and design. This chaos in the camp of God’s people opened them up to the whispers of their enemies. ‘So this is how God’s chosen people act?!’ Israel was to be a blessing to all the nations by pointing them to the truth about God. They were to be an example to everyone of what life lived in relationship with God should look like, and they were to invite others in to that relationship. The exodus of Israel from Egypt was designed to put the glory of God on display for the world to see (14:17-18). Here, they are failing miserably at their calling, and opening God’s name to reproach and dishonor among the nations. They sinned by falling short of giving to God the glory that is his due, and the wages of sin is death.

Evidence of Mercy

This passage, seen in its proper perspective, is a loud testimony to the far reaching mercy of God. Remember, God told Moses to stand aside so that he could wipe out every last one of the Israelites and start fresh with Moses. That would have been righteous. They deserved it. But Moses interceded, and now only 3,000 died. That sounds like a lot, but let’s put it in perspective. In Numbers 1:46 we are told the able bodied males 20 years old and up were numbered at 603,550 men, and that does not include the tribe of Levi. The 3,000 who died was less than half of one percent of the able bodied males from the other 11 tribes; only one out of every 200 men, and they all deserved to die. This is astounding mercy of God. To put this in perspective for us today, in the overall U.S. population, one out of every 2 males risk developing some form of cancer in their lifetime. 1 in 4 males risk dying from cancer. Here in Exodus, one out of 200 die. We are not told how the Levites knew who deserved to die, but in a similar event in Numbers 25, it was those that were blatantly unrepentant and persistent in their idolatry and immorality. They were to show no favoritism, not to brother, son, friend or neighbor. They were to show a passion for the glory of God that ran deeper than the closest human bonds. Jesus requires this kind of allegiance from his followers too. He said

Matthew 10:37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Jesus demands that our love for him take priority over every other relationship. We must be zealous for the glory of Jesus, not by taking up the sword to kill, but by a willingness to even lay down our own lives for the glory of God.

More Evidence of Mercy

One thing to note that the text does not say; the text does not say that the Levites were more righteous than the rest. It does not say that they had not been involved in the idolatry. We are told that all the people, including the Levites were involved to one degree or another in the sin and were guilty. But there was an opportunity to repent. Moses asked ‘who is on the LORD’s side?’ The Levites turned from their wicked ways and responded to the invitation. And they were blessed by the Lord. This is the good news, that sinners who deserve to die are spared by the mercy of God and invited to turn back to God and actually be used in his service. Aaron himself, who was left in charge, the one whose idea it was to collect earrings and make an idol, the one who actually formed the idol, the one who shifted blame and made excuses, this Aaron, in chapter 39 is clothed in the garments of the high priest, and wears on his head the inscription ‘holy to the LORD’. That is amazing grace and undeserved kindness!

Titus 3:3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

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

July 22, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 27; Furniture in God’s Tent – The Grill and The Courtyard

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120401_exodus27.mp3

04/01 Exodus 27 Furniture in God’s Tent: The Grill and The Courtyard

God told his people to “make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst” (Ex.25:8). We have been studying God’s tent, the place where God taught his people what it means to have a holy God living with them. God started by describing the function and the inner beauty of his presence and worked backward, out away from the visible manifestation of his glory. The glory of his presence would be there above and between the golden cherubim, who served as his throne. These angelic creatures formed part of the lid that covered the documents of the covenant, which were contained in a box overlaid with gold. This cover is where sacrificial blood was applied once a year, on the Day of Atonement. This room was made by exquisitely decorated tapestry draped over a gold overlaid framework that provided the structure for the tent, and a curtain of the same tapestry separated this room from the rest of the tent. Outside the curtain, there was a gold table, piled high with an abundance of bread and wine, and there was a gold almond tree with seven olive oil lamps illuminating the room. Over the linen tapestry there were three more protective layers; goats hair, tanned ram’s skins, and the hides of the sea cow. There was another curtain, also ornate, but lacking the cherubim, that served to separate the tent itself from the outer courtyard. It is outside the main tent, to the altar and the courtyard that we turn our attention today. We will start by looking at the altar.

The Altar of Burnt Offering

Exodus 27:1 “You shall make the altar of acacia wood, five cubits long and five cubits broad. The altar shall be square, and its height shall be three cubits. 2 And you shall make horns for it on its four corners; its horns shall be of one piece with it, and you shall overlay it with bronze. 3 You shall make pots for it to receive its ashes, and shovels and basins and forks and fire pans. You shall make all its utensils of bronze. 4 You shall also make for it a grating, a network of bronze, and on the net you shall make four bronze rings at its four corners. 5 And you shall set it under the ledge of the altar so that the net extends halfway down the altar. 6 And you shall make poles for the altar, poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with bronze. 7 And the poles shall be put through the rings, so that the poles are on the two sides of the altar when it is carried. 8 You shall make it hollow, with boards. As it has been shown you on the mountain, so shall it be made.

And we read of the actual construction in chapter 38.

Exodus 38:1 He made the altar of burnt offering of acacia wood. Five cubits was its length, and five cubits its breadth. It was square, and three cubits was its height. 2 He made horns for it on its four corners. Its horns were of one piece with it, and he overlaid it with bronze. 3 And he made all the utensils of the altar, the pots, the shovels, the basins, the forks, and the fire pans. He made all its utensils of bronze. 4 And he made for the altar a grating, a network of bronze, under its ledge, extending halfway down. 5 He cast four rings on the four corners of the bronze grating as holders for the poles. 6 He made the poles of acacia wood and overlaid them with bronze. 7 And he put the poles through the rings on the sides of the altar to carry it with them. He made it hollow, with boards.

God gives us a glimpse into the glory of his presence, and then describes how it is that we, sinners, are to be restored to a right relationship with him. The sacrificial altar is central to the worship of God. Without the altar of sacrifice, there is no way for a sinner to stand in the presence of the holy God. Functionally, it might help to think of the altar as a large barbeque grill. It was 7.5′ square with bronze sides standing 4.5′ tall, an open top and bottom, and a bronze grating suspended halfway down the inside. For a comparison, most large backyard bbq grills have about 300 – 600 square inches of grilling surface area; room to grill 24 – 30 burgers. The bronze altar would have 8,100 square inches of grilling surface; enough room to grill over 500 burgers at once. Along with the altar, the bronze utensils that would be used with it are described; ash pots, shovels, sprinkling basins, meat forks, and fire pans.

God’s Just Judgment

Bronze is a metal that withstands high temperatures well, which is why it is associated with judgment in the bible. In Revelation 20, we see God seated as the final judge.

Revelation 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Notice in this passage that people are judged according to what they have done, and everyone who is judged based on performance is condemned. Only those whose names are in the book of life are exempted from judgment. All who are judged on the basis of their works are thrown into the lake of fire, because as Isaiah tells us “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (64:6); and the author of Hebrews tell us we must repent of our dead works (6:1; 9:14). The Psalmist pleads for mercy rather than justice. In Psalm 143 he says:

Psalm 143:2 Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.

And Paul tells us in Romans that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (3:23); and that the law “speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight” (3:19-20).

Provision of a Substitute

There is no escape for sinners from the just wrath of a holy God; rebels who refuse to respect their Creator, wretches who prefer to run after their own desires rather than worship their God. There is no escape, unless God provides the sacrifice of a substitute. And this is exactly what God did.

Leviticus 17:11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.

“The wages of sin is death” (Rom.6:23), and God allowed the death of an innocent substitute in place of the offending sinner to bring reconciliation. The use of this altar is described in Leviticus 1.

Leviticus 1:3 “If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer a male without blemish. He shall bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD. 4 He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. 5 Then he shall kill the bull before the LORD, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and throw the blood against the sides of the altar that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 6 Then he shall flay the burnt offering and cut it into pieces, 7 and the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. 8 And Aaron’s sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, the head, and the fat, on the wood that is on the fire on the altar; 9 but its entrails and its legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall burn all of it on the altar, as a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

This is a graphic bloody scene, because our sin is a gruesome offense against the honor of our good God who loves us. I must acknowledge that I have offended a holy God, and that my sin warrants the fire of eternal death. I must lay my guilty hands on the head of the innocent substitute, and God accepts that substitute in my place.

A Perpetual Offering

This was an ongoing, perpetual offering, because I am a repeat offender. Continually, I refuse to love and honor God above all else. Continually, I am guilty before him of breaking his greatest commandment.

Leviticus 6:9 “Command Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the law of the burnt offering. The burnt offering shall be on the hearth on the altar all night until the morning, and the fire of the altar shall be kept burning on it. …12 The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not go out. The priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and he shall arrange the burnt offering on it and shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings. 13 Fire shall be kept burning on the altar continually; it shall not go out.

A Celebration

The whole burnt offering was the primary, foundational offering, the one that answered our sin problem. The whole animal went up in smoke to signify the severity of our sin and to satisfy God’s justice. But the whole burnt offering was not the only kind of offering to be placed on this altar. There was the gift offering – a gift of food, part of which was burnt on the altar to God, and the rest given as food to the priests. There was the fellowship offering, a response to the results of the burnt offering, celebrating peace with God. This fellowship offering could express a sacrifice of thanksgiving, a vow, or a freewill offering (Lev.7:11-21). These are some of the offerings listed in Deuteronomy 12.

Deuteronomy 12:6 and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. 7 And there you shall eat before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the LORD your God has blessed you.

…11 then to the place that the LORD your God will choose, to make his name dwell there, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, and all your finest vow offerings that you vow to the LORD. 12 And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your male servants and your female servants, and the Levite that is within your towns, since he has no portion or inheritance with you. (cf. Deut.14:26; 27:7)

These offerings were to be characterized by rejoicing, celebrating the goodness of God in providing salvation and his abundant blessing. A portion of the animal sacrificed was left on the altar as an offering for the Lord, but much of the meat was grilled there and then eaten by the worshipers in the courtyard. Let’s look at the courtyard.

The Courtyard

Exodus 27:9 “You shall make the court of the tabernacle. On the south side the court shall have hangings of fine twined linen a hundred cubits long for one side. 10 Its twenty pillars and their twenty bases shall be of bronze, but the hooks of the pillars and their fillets shall be of silver. 11 And likewise for its length on the north side there shall be hangings a hundred cubits long, its pillars twenty and their bases twenty, of bronze, but the hooks of the pillars and their fillets shall be of silver. 12 And for the breadth of the court on the west side there shall be hangings for fifty cubits, with ten pillars and ten bases. 13 The breadth of the court on the front to the east shall be fifty cubits. 14 The hangings for the one side of the gate shall be fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and three bases. 15 On the other side the hangings shall be fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and three bases. 16 For the gate of the court there shall be a screen twenty cubits long, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, embroidered with needlework. It shall have four pillars and with them four bases. 17 All the pillars around the court shall be filleted with silver. Their hooks shall be of silver, and their bases of bronze. 18 The length of the court shall be a hundred cubits, the breadth fifty, and the height five cubits, with hangings of fine twined linen and bases of bronze. 19 All the utensils of the tabernacle for every use, and all its pegs and all the pegs of the court, shall be of bronze.

And we read of the actual construction in Exodus 38.

Exodus 38:9 And he made the court. For the south side the hangings of the court were of fine twined linen, a hundred cubits; 10 their twenty pillars and their twenty bases were of bronze, but the hooks of the pillars and their fillets were of silver. 11 And for the north side there were hangings of a hundred cubits, their twenty pillars, their twenty bases were of bronze, but the hooks of the pillars and their fillets were of silver. 12 And for the west side were hangings of fifty cubits, their ten pillars, and their ten bases; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets were of silver. 13 And for the front to the east, fifty cubits. 14 The hangings for one side of the gate were fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and three bases. 15 And so for the other side. On both sides of the gate of the court were hangings of fifteen cubits, with their three pillars and their three bases. 16 All the hangings around the court were of fine twined linen. 17 And the bases for the pillars were of bronze, but the hooks of the pillars and their fillets were of silver. The overlaying of their capitals was also of silver, and all the pillars of the court were filleted with silver. 18 And the screen for the gate of the court was embroidered with needlework in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. It was twenty cubits long and five cubits high in its breadth, corresponding to the hangings of the court. 19 And their pillars were four in number. Their four bases were of bronze, their hooks of silver, and the overlaying of their capitals and their fillets of silver. 20 And all the pegs for the tabernacle and for the court all around were of bronze.

This courtyard was created around God’s tent by 7.5′ tall linen curtains hung on silver hooks from pillars set in bronze bases. The courtyard would be 150′ long and 75′ wide, with one 30′ entrance in the center of the east wall. The screen for the gate was made to match the colorful embroidery of the front covering of God’s tent. This was a large courtyard, providing over 10,000 square feet of space for worshipers to come sacrifice and celebrate and eat in God’s presence. All who would come on God’s terms were welcome. Hundreds if not a thousand could gather at one time in God’s courtyard to enjoy his goodness. Outdoor cooking and eating would be the social norm for a tent community; cooking and meals would not happen inside a tent, so God would be perceived as a generous and hospitable king, welcoming all to come and eat with him in his courts. We can see from this that God enjoys his people gathering together to worship him and to celebrate his forgiveness.

Jesus

The first thing a worshiper would see as they enter the courtyard through the gate on the east end was the continual fire burning on the large altar, reminding of their sin and need for sacrifice. Jesus may have had this in mind when he said

John 10:7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. … 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

In 1 Corinthians 10, in warning us against participation in idolatry, Paul parallels Israel eating the Old Testament sacrifices with our taking the bread and the cup in communion.

1 Corinthians 10:16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar?

All of Israel was to come to the one altar. There was one means of dealing with sin. There was only one method of forgiveness that they all had in common. The people of Israel were unified in that they all participated in the one altar, and that altar pointed toward Jesus. We, as God’s new covenant people, are united in that there is only one sacrifice that is sufficient to deal with all our sin; the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. We who are many become one because we have one thing in common, we find full and free forgiveness in Jesus, the Lamb of God. We participate in the blood of Jesus as needy sinners who cling to nothing but the blood of Jesus for salvation. We participate in the broken body of Jesus as we feed on him and draw strength and sustenance from him.

The author of Hebrews points us to Jesus, who is so far superior to the Old Testament system, which was merely a shadow pointing us to him.

Hebrews 13:10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat.

Jesus is our altar.

He goes on to point us to the kind of sacrifices that we, who have been forgiven by Jesus, should offer.

Hebrews 13:15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

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

April 1, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Advent – Immanuel

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20111218_advent-immanuel.mp3

12/18 Advent – Immanuel – God With Us

Jesus is Immanuel – God With Us

Christmas is one week away! In this advent season, I want us to turn our eyes to Jesus. Today, I want to reflect on one of the names given to Jesus. That name is Immanuel. It comes from Isaiah 7:14

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Matthew quotes this prophecy as being fulfilled in Jesus.

Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

Jesus’ conception was supernatural. Jesus had no human father. Mary was a virgin. “That which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” And Matthew tells us that the Hebrew name Immanuel means God with us. Jesus is Immanuel; God with us.

The implications of this stagger the imagination! God with us. God the Creator of the universe, born of a virgin. God in human flesh. Luke puts it this way:

Luke 1:35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy––the Son of God.

Overshadowed by the power of the Most High – God the Father; and God the Holy Spirit – so that the child to be born will be the Son of God. John puts it this way:

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God.

John tells us that ‘the Word’ was in the beginning. ‘The Word’ existed before all creation. ‘The Word was with God’ – distinct from God the Father – a perfect companion of the Father. ‘The Word’ was with God, and ‘The Word’ was God – fully divine, sharing all the attributes and characteristics of God. ‘The Word’ was distinct from the Father, and yet fully divine. John continues by saying that ‘the Word’ became something he was not before.

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

‘The Word’ became flesh. ‘The Word’ became tissue, bone and blood. He who existed from eternity with God and as God, now took on a human body. God became flesh. God dwelt among us, or literally ‘pitched his tent with us’. Immanuel – God with us. John goes on to say:

No One Has Ever Seen God

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

This is an absolute statement. No one has ever seen God. Period. Paul tells us of the Father:

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

No one has ever seen or can see God, because he dwells in unapproachable light. No one can see God the Father, because, as Jesus tells us, “God is Spirit” (Jn.4:24; cf. Jn.5:37, 6:46). No one can see the Father because, as Paul tells us in Colossians, God is invisible. But he says of Jesus, God the Son, that:

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

Jesus is the image of the invisible God. Jesus, the only God who is at the Father’s side has made know to us the Father. The word John uses is interesting. Jesus has made known or literally exegeted the Father. We usually use this word exegete in reference to a biblical text. It is a Greek word that means ‘to lead out’. You take a biblical passage and study it carefully so that you can lead out to make known or put on display the truth that is in it. Jesus exegetes the Father. He puts on display what the invisible God is like. The author of Hebrews says that God’s fullest revelation of himself is in his Son, who is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb.1:3).

Jesus is God. He is fully God. He was with God and he was God. But Jesus is God with us. He became human so that he could make know to us what God is like. Jesus is “the radiance of the glory of God.” He is the shining forth of the excellencies of God. He puts his Father on display. He is the exact imprint of the nature of the Father. Jesus tells us as much in John:

John 5:19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.

John 14:7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” …9 …Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father‘?

Jesus puts the Father’s nature on display so precisely that he can say “whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” To know Jesus is to know God.

So in the time we have left, let’s turn our eyes to our Jesus, Immanuel, God with us, to get a clearer picture of what God is like. Understand, that studying the gospels and the other New Testament documents to see Jesus, to get to know him, to deepen affection and admiration of him, to enjoy relationship with him, is a lifetime project. We will only be able barely to scratch the surface in a broad overview sort of way.

Triune

As we have seen in the verses we have looked at so far, Jesus reveals to us that God, in his very nature and essence, is triune. Jesus speaks of his Father, and the coming Holy Spirit. God is Father, Son, and Spirit, in eternal relationship and fellowship. Three distinct persons, each fully divine, constitute the one sovereign being we refer to as ‘God’.

Omnipotent

Mark 4:39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?”

One thing we learn about God through Jesus is that he is omnipotent, or all-powerful. He is the one who has absolute control over all things. He is the sovereign supreme ruler. All created things must obey him.

Omnipresent

John 1:48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”

Another thing Jesus teaches us about God is that he is omnipresent, or everywhere present. He is not confined to be only in one place at a time. God, who is spirit, fills time and space. There is nowhere that he is not. This is how Jesus can say to twelve men and their followers who would scatter across the globe:

Matthew 28:20 … And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Omniscient

John 6:64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)

Jesus teaches us that God is omniscient. He knows everything. He knows what will happen in the distant future. He knows what is in the hearts of men.

Eternal

John 10:17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

Jesus teaches that God is the Living One. He is eternal. As we saw in the earlier verses, he eternally existed. He has no beginning and will have no end. He is. Jesus said “I AM” (Jn.8:24, 58).

Life Giver

John 5:21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.

Not only is God the eternal Living One, he is the Life Giver. He gives life to whom he will. He is the fountain and source of life. All life comes from him.

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

Holy

Mark 1:24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are––the Holy One of God.”

Jesus taught that God is holy, distinct, separate, set apart, totally other, one-of-a-kind. Even the demons recognized in Jesus a uniqueness – he is in a category by himself.

Perfect

Mark 7:37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Jesus showed us that God is perfect. He lacks no good quality. He is not deficient in any way.

True

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus teaches us that God is truth. God is entirely trustworthy. He never lies. His word is true. He will keep his promises.

Jealous

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

Jesus demonstrates that God is passionate about his own glory. He zealously defends the honor of his own name. He will tolerate no rivals. For the good of his people, he will violently take action against those who misrepresent him.

Wrath

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

Jesus teaches us that God is a God of anger and wrath. But God is not capricious or volatile. He is slow to anger, and his anger is righteous anger, mixed with compassionate sorrow over the effects of sin.

In the well known passage describing the love of God, Jesus also warns of the wrath of God.

John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

God intensely hates sin. God is to be feared, his wrath is terrifying, but his wrath can be escaped. He has provided a way.

Just

When the religious leaders brought a woman to Jesus for judgment,

John 8:7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Jesus taught that God is just. He does not show favoritism. His judgments are true and righteous.

Mercy

But he also taught that God is merciful and compassionate, eager to forgive. To this woman who was clearly guilty, he said:

John 8:11 …And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

Love

John 15:9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.

Jesus taught us that God is love. Before the world was created, God, Father, Son and Spirit, lived in an eternal relationship of genuine love. Jesus also teaches us what love is.

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

God’s love is not a romantic feeling of attraction, but self-sacrificial action for the good of the one loved, regardless of how little they deserve it.

John 13:1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

Jesus went to the cross to demonstrate God’s self-giving love.

Response:

We have merely scratched the surface of what God is like as revealed in the person of Jesus, or Immanuel, God with us. I invite you to make it your life-long pursuit to deepen your affection and devotion for God by becoming a disciple, a follower of Jesus

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

December 18, 2011 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Advent: Prepare To Meet Your God

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20111204_advent-prepare_to_meet_god.mp3

12/04 Advent – God comes in judgment; prepare to meet your God

We are in the season of Advent, traditionally the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Advent is a Latin word that means ‘coming.’ This is a time for reflection, reflection on the First Advent, or the coming of God into the world in the person of Jesus, the baby born of the virgin. It is also a time for us to anticipate and prepare for the Second Advent, the second coming of Christ in power and glory when he returns to rule in righteousness. Last week, Tyrone served you well by turning your eyes toward Jesus in worship. For the next few weeks, I would like to continue to focus our attention on Jesus by looking at different aspects of who he is.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor and martyr under Hitler’s regime, wrote as Christmastime of what he called an un-Christmas-like idea:

When the old Christendom spoke of the coming again of the Lord Jesus, it always thought first of all of a great day of judgment. And as un-Christmas-like as this idea may appear to us, it comes from early Christianity and must be taken with utter seriousness. The coming of God is truly not only a joyous message but is, first, frightful news for anyone who has a conscience. And only when we have felt the frightfulness of the matter can we know the incomparable favor. God comes in the midst of evil, in the midst of death, and judges the evil in us and in the world, and in judging it he loves us, he purifies us, he sanctifies us, he comes to us with his grace and love. He makes us happy as only children can be happy. We have become so accustomed to the idea of divine love and of God’s coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God’s coming should arouse in us. We are indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect: that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us.” [Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Coming of Jesus in our Midst(from God is in the Manger, week 1 day 4; audiobook MP3 track 5)]

In preparation for Christmas, I want to look soberly at this aspect of God’s Advent; the issue of our sin in the light of God’s presence. Christmas is all about Jesus, and Jesus is Emmanuel – God with us, but we are sinners and God is just, so God’s presence with us is a terrifying prospect. If what Bonhoeffer said is true, and I believe it is, that ‘only when we have felt the frightfulness of the matter can we know the incomparable favor’, then a serious look at the terrifying prospect of God’s presence will actually serve to increase our real joy this holiday season.

John and Malachi: Prepare to Meet Your God

Let’s start by looking at the ministry of John. It was prophesied to John’s father Zechariah that:

Luke 1:16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

John’s mission was to prepare people for the coming of the Lord. Our Lord Jesus pointed back to his cousin John as the fulfillment of this Old Testament prophecy:

Luke 7:27 This is he of whom it is written, “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’

John’s role is to prepare people for the coming of God. Jesus is quoting from Malachi 3, the last book of the Old Testament. Let’s look at that passage together to get the big picture:

Malachi 3:1 “Behold, I send my messenger and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years. 5 “Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts. 6 “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.

The God of the Old Testament is speaking in the first person. He says “I send my messenger and he will prepare the way before me.” God is coming to visit his people. His people must be prepared. And he asks the question “who can endure the day of his coming and who can stand when he appears?” Then he says “I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against… [those who] do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts.” John’s message was a message of repentance (Mt.3:2,8,11; Mr.1:4,15; Lk.3:3,8). ‘You are sinners and you need to turn away from your sin and turn back to the Lord.’ John said things like this:

Matthew 3:7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 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. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Those harsh words are about Jesus!

Amos: Prepare to Meet Your God!

As I was reading in Amos, these words caught my attention: “Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!” I stopped to look back at the context, and I found God claiming to send famine and drought and blight and mildew with the repeated refrain “yet you did not return to me declares the LORD” He continues:

Amos 4:10 “I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt; I killed your young men with the sword, and carried away your horses, and I made the stench of your camp go up into your nostrils; yet you did not return to me,” declares the LORD. 11 “I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning; yet you did not return to me,” declares the LORD. 12 “Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!” 13 For behold, he who forms the mountains and creates the wind, and declares to man what is his thought, who makes the morning darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth–– the LORD, the God of hosts, is his name!

Because Israel refused to pay attention to all of God’s warnings and refused to return to him, God would come to them in judgment. This is a terrible prospect: meeting the God who created all things, who has repeatedly threatened and warned and invited, yet you did not return to me; meeting this God in judgment is a terrifying thought.

Making Good News Good

This is what makes the good news so good! Jesus said:

Luke 5:32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

Jesus did not come for those who do not feel the weight of their sin. Those content with their own righteousness will meet the full force of God’s wrath against their arrogant self sufficient pride. Jesus came to bring hope to those who knew how desperately short they fall of God’s perfect standard. This is why the Bible talks about repentance as a gift (Acts 5:31; 11:18; 2Tim.2:25). It is a gift for me to recognize my own self justifying self sufficient pride in my own goodness as sin that I need to repent of (Heb.6:1). It is God the Holy Spirit that convicts me of my sin (Jn.16:8; 1Thess.1:5) and my need for a Savior. When I come like the tax collector in Jesus’ story and cry ‘God be merciful to me, a sinner!’ then I am accepted.

Luke 18:9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The Beauty of the Cross – Justification

Justified. This sinner went down to his house justified. This is a legal declaration. God the judge declares this sinner not guilty. This is a problem – how can God justify the ungodly (Rom.4:5)? How can God justify by his grace as a gift (Rom.3:24); how can God justify apart from works of the law (Rom.3:28); how can God be just and the justifier of him who has faith in Jesus (Rom.3:26)? This is what makes the cross so beautiful! We can be ‘justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood … to show God’s righteousness’ (Rom.3:24-25). Jesus’ death on the cross is my redemption – he paid the debt I owe in full. Jesus’ death on the cross is propitiation – he absorbed and satisfied the just wrath of God against my sin. Jesus’ death on the cross is a staggering display of the righteousness of God. God, who is holy, righteous and just, can be forgiving, merciful and kind to a sinner without compromising his own righteous character because Jesus satisfied all the demands of justice by taking my sin and giving me his righteousness. The sinner who humbles himself, acknowledges his sin before God and throws himself on God’s mercy is fully absolved of all his sin and credited with all of Christ’s righteousness. “Only when we have felt the frightfulness of the matter can we know the incomparable favor.”

Sanctification

But this is not all. It does not end here. It cannot end here. God does not justify sinners and leave us in our sins. God does not declare us righteous and leave us as we are. No. God’s love for us is a transforming love.

Romans 6:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

We who have been justified by grace are now being sanctified by God’s grace as a gift.

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

2 Corithians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

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. …17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

1 Thessalonians 5:23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Prepare to meet your God. Jesus has come. Jesus is coming again. Jesus told us to watch, to stay awake, to be ready (Mt.24:42-44; Lk.12:40; Rev.16:15), to invest what we have been given (Lk.19:23), to hold fast to the truth (Rev.3:11; 22:7). Prepare to meet your God!

1John 2:28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.

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


December 4, 2011 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 21:12-32; Capital Punishment – The Wages of Sin

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20111016_exodus21_12-32.mp3

10/16 Exodus 21:12-32 Capital Punishment; The Wages of Sin

How to Right the Wrong When You Fall Short

We are in Exodus 21, the Book of the Covenant, and today we come to a section of God’s laws where he addresses capital offenses. God has laid out his perfect standard in chapter 20, in his ten words spoken to his people. He said:

Exodus 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

13 “You shall not murder.

15 “You shall not steal.

These are absolute statements. They are commands. The assumption is ‘this is how people in relationship with the living God live. There is no ‘what if’ or ‘what about….’ God has spoken authoritatively to what life should look like in his kingdom.

And remember the response of his people. They were terrified at the presence of God and asked that he speak no more to them directly or they would die. They felt their guilt and inadequacy before God. They knew they didn’t live up to his perfect standards. They requested a mediator, a go-between to keep them safe. God is now speaking to Moses, who will write God’s words and communicate them to the people.

In this section, God tells his people what to do when they violate his perfect standard. He addresses the distinction in consequences between manslaughter and premeditated homicide, consequences for kidnapping, consequences for disrespect of parents, consequences for injuries and disabilities short of death, consequences for harming an innocent bystander, and consequences for negligent homicide.

We Have Wronged God

So God lays down his perfect standard. Then he tells them how to right the wrong when they fall short of his perfect standard. He starts, at the end of chapter 20, by addressing how to right the wrong done to him for violating his rules, because all sin is first of all sin against God the perfect lawgiver. And there is no restitution that can be made. There is nothing we can do to make it right with God. The wages of sin is death. We have dishonored God by not living according to his instructions. But God, in his mercy has allows for substitution. A sacrificial animal can take our place an die. Its blood in place of ours to satisfy justice. God gives us the sacrifice of a substitute to demonstrate the depth of our guilt and the greatness of his honor, and to bring reconciliation when we have wronged him. Through the death of a substitute, we can be brought back into a proper worship relationship with our Creator. This all points forward to Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

God Values Human Life

Now God is addressing the secondary issue that when we violate God’s perfect standards, we not only wrong God, but we also wrong those around us. This section addresses how to right the wrongs we have done to our fellow man. God had told us all the way back in Genesis how much he values life. He told Noah:

Genesis 9:5 And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. 6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.

God values human life because human life uniquely carries his image. It’s as if you see someone’s reflection in a mirror, and you hate that person so much and want to do them harm that you throw a stone at the reflection of their face and shatter the mirror. God takes that personally, because it really is an attack on him. God made man to reflect his own character. To assault a human being is to assault the character of God. The dignity and worth of man as an image-bearer of God is so great that it requires the ultimate protection. To take the life of another is to forfeit your own. That is what he says in Exodus 12:12.

Exodus 21:12 “Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death.

Manslaughter

Death is the consequence for violating the sixth command, ‘you shall not murder’. But he goes on to qualify that there are exceptions to the general rule.

13 But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place to which he may flee. 14 But if a man willfully attacks another to kill him by cunning, you shall take him from my altar, that he may die.

God cares about the intent of your heart. If you intended to kill, if it was a willful or cunning premeditated attack, you are to be granted no sanctuary. Even the most sacred place is no place of refuge for the murderer. This is not to say that all murderers go to hell. A murderer could trust in God’s provision of a substitute to deal with his guilt before God. He would not escape the immediate consequences of his sin against his fellow man, but in God’s mercy he would escape the eternal consequences of his sin against God. An example of this would be the thief – likely a murderer – on the cross, who acknowledged his own guilt and looked to the Lamb of God for mercy. He did not escape the immediate consequences of his sin, but Jesus promised him a place with him after death. King David, a murderer, said:

Psalm 32:1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity…

The exception listed here is when a death occurs that was not premeditated, not willful, not by cunning. There was no intent to kill. We have a word for this that the bible does not use. We would call it an accident. Our word comes from the Latin meaning to fall – it simply fell out this way, it happened, a chance occurrence, the idea of fortune, fate, destiny, or luck. There are no accidents in God’s universe. Nothing just happens. The phrase the bible uses here is a bit startling: “God let him fall into his hand.” The example given in Deuteronomy 19:5 is neighbors cutting wood and an axe head slips from the handle and kills a man. This is not murder. And this is not senseless fate. God let him fall into his hand.

Proverbs 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.

God says:

Isaiah 46:9 …I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

This is a recognition of the sovereign providence of God, who orders all things. There is protection for the one who killed without malicious intent. We see in Numbers 35 the establishment of cities of refuge where the manslayer can flee and find protection for his life.

Kidnapping

In verse 16 we see that kidnapping is a capital offense.

16 “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.

Anyone taking away the freedom of another person is in effect taking away their life, and for that offense, they forfeit their own life.

Dishonoring Parents

In verses 15 and 17 we see that breaking the 5th command was also a capital crime

15 “Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death. … 17 “Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death.

In the 5th command, God told us to “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long…” And here we see just how short your days would be if you didn’t take this command seriously! The role of parent is to be held with such high honor and respect that hitting father or mother would be unthinkable. This drills down to the heart attitude when even cursing is included – to say something like ‘I hate you and I wish you were dead’; this kind of disrespect warrants the death penalty, because it disregards the most basic representation of God’s authority on this earth.

Disability Benefits

Next, God addresses how to make it right on issues that fall short of the death penalty, but where there is injury.

18 “When men quarrel and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist and the man does not die but takes to his bed, 19 then if the man rises again and walks outdoors with his staff, he who struck him shall be clear; only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall have him thoroughly healed. 20 “When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. 21 But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money.

The weapons listed would be those available spontaneously in the heat of the moment. A stone or fist demonstrate a different level of premeditation from a knife or a sword. If the fist does cause death, this would fall under the previous category of a willful attack. Here he addresses the issue of a disabling injury caused by another person. The person who inflicted the injury is responsible to pay for the loss of time and any medical needs. This would be the equivalent of disability and health care coverage. ‘He shall be clear’ means that the death penalty is not to be applied when death does not result. The death penalty is to be inflicted if a master beats his slave to death. As we saw last time, biblical slavery is a very different thing from the slavery we are familiar with. Here, the human rights of the slave are protected just as the free man. This does affirm that a master has the right to inflict discipline to correct an unruly slave. But if he causes his servant to temporarily miss work, the loss of work is a loss to him, so he doesn’t have to compensate himself.

Innocent Bystander and the Life of the Unborn

The next section addresses the wrong done to the ultimate innocent bystander, a woman and her unborn child.

22 “When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

Again we see God’s concern and care for the weakest and most vulnerable members of society. Even when there is no harm, a fine is to be imposed on the careless individual. There is some debate among bible scholars if the harm includes only the woman or also the child, but common sense would make it clear that the miscarriage of a baby to an expecting couple would certainly be considered harm. If there is no harm would indicate that both premature baby and mother are uninjured. If there is harm to mother or child, the one who caused the injury will pay, even the death penalty if he caused death.

Injury to Slaves

The next verses protect slaves from abusive masters.

26 “When a man strikes the eye of his slave, male or female, and destroys it, he shall let the slave go free because of his eye. 27 If he knocks out the tooth of his slave, male or female, he shall let the slave go free because of his tooth.

A master had the right to discipline his servant, but not to abuse. Any abuse – evidenced by a permanent injury – allowed the slave to go free and cost the master his investment.

Dangerous Animals

The final section addresses justice in the situation of dangerous animals

28 “When an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner of the ox shall not be liable. 29 But if the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has been warned but has not kept it in, and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death. 30 If a ransom is imposed on him, then he shall give for the redemption of his life whatever is imposed on him. 31 If it gores a man’s son or daughter, he shall be dealt with according to this same rule. 32 If the ox gores a slave, male or female, the owner shall give to their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.

This in today’s world would be considered negligent homicide. If your brakes unexpectedly go out and you run someone over, you are not considered a murderer, but your car gets impounded. But if you knew your brakes didn’t work and you drove anyway, you have knowingly endangered human life and are held responsible. And here we see the concept of redemption. In differing circumstances, the judges could impose penalties that seemed fair, up to the death penalty. A ransom could be imposed, not a fine, but a ransom to redeem your life. In this case, you acknowledged that you are guilty and deserve to die, but you redeem or purchase your life back.

Conclusion

What can we learn from all of this? First, we learn that sin is serious. All sin is first against God and also wrongs other people. The wages of sin is death. God takes sin seriously. Jesus taught:

Matthew 18:8 And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

God never lets sin slide, but he has provided a way for us to be reconciled to him through the death of a substitute. The author of Hebrews tells us that the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin; this all pointed forward to the God-man Jesus Christ, who became sin for us.

We also learn that God values human life. The life of every human being, whether slave or free, rich or poor, male or female, young, old, or unborn, all are precious to him.

Lex Talionis

God values justice and equity. The lex talionis (or law retaliation) found in this passage is restrictive; it prevents the human inclination to escalate the consequences due to others that have wronged us. If you knock out my tooth, I’d feel justified in knocking you into kingdom come. Here’s what Jesus has to say about this:

Matthew 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven….

Jesus is not negating the strict justice of ‘lex talionis’. God loves justice. The punishment is to fit the crime. You are not allowed to demand greater punishment than what has been done to you. But if you have been wronged you are not required to extract punishment. You can forgive. Jesus calls us to a higher standard – a standard of love. Love your enemies. Be image-bearers; be imitators of God, who is just and righteous, merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.

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. 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.

Christ Jesus demonstrated the ultimate love for his enemies; he laid down his life for us to redeem us and make us his friends

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

October 16, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment