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2 Corinthians 8:9; The Grace of Our Lord Jesus

09/01_2 Corinthians 8:9; The Grace of our Lord Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190901_2cor8_9.mp3

Paul in 2 Corinthians 8 is talking about grace. Grace, God’s lavishly generous giving, his bestowing favor and kindness to those who did nothing to earn or deserve it. Grace, favor freely given. He uses the word for ‘grace’ 10 times in these two chapters on giving.

The heart of this passage about grace giving is verse 9. It is the root of grace from which all fruitful grace giving grows. It is the ultimate motive and source of all our giving. It is Jesus. It is the gospel. Paul can’t talk about grace and giving without centering on the cross. Look at verse 9 with me.

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

This verse is concise, it is clear, it is memorizable, and it is packed with profound theology and gospel beauty. I am eager to unpack it together today, and I hope we can all hide it in our hearts and live it out in our lives.

For You Know

It starts with a connection. It is a great verse to memorize, but it is a verse with a context. It starts with ‘for’ connecting it to the flow of thought in the section. This chapter is about grace, and our response of simplicity of affection. We have been given grace by God, and we respond with an overflow of love, giving ourselves first to the Lord, and then to what he is doing in the world. His grace creates an eagerness in us to extend the grace we have received to others. Paul is giving this opportunity to demonstrate that their love is genuine. This grace extended is a response to grace received.

He says ‘for you know’. What he is about to say in this verse is something he expects them to already know, to already have experienced. This is something essential to know, and because you know it, it should impact how you live; what you do. We will come back to this again at the end.

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, …

What you know is Jesus. The Lord of us, Jesus Christ. This is his full title; Our Lord, our Master, King, Sovereign, YHWH of the Scriptures. Jesus, the name given him at his birth, because ‘he will save his people from their sins’ (Mt.1:21); YHWH is salvation. Christ, Messiah, the Anointed Prophet, Priest, and King, the long expected promised one, the fulfillment of all our hopes. Our Lord Jesus Christ.

You know his grace. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. As John said,

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. …16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

Jesus, the eternal Word, God from all eternity, became flesh, pitched his tent among us. And we saw that he is full; full of grace and truth. He is full of every grace, every beauty, every perfection, everything attractive and desirable and deserving of praise. Not outwardly, physically, in his appearance (he had no form or majesty, …no beauty that we should desire him, Is.53:2), but his character, his inner nature, who he is. He is full of every grace, and he is full to overflowing of freely giving generous undeserved grace. Every interaction with every sinner was saturated with grace and truth.

From his fullness we have received, grace upon grace. Have you received? Do you know his grace? Not just know about, not merely aware of the fact of who he is and how generous he is, but do you know him? Have you experienced his grace? Can you say that you know, from personal experience? This is the essential thing, that we know him, that we know his grace, that we have tasted his grace.

That on Account of You He Became Poor

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, …

You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; who on account of you became poor. It was on your account, for your sake. It was your brokenness that brought him low. It was your sin, your rebellion, your depravity, your poverty of spirit, your desperate need and lack, which caused him to leave the untold riches of glory to enter in to our humiliation. Jesus did not have to come, did not have to become human, did not have to endure humility, except for you, to bring you hope. It was on your account, for your sake that he became poor.

Being Rich

This is his grace. That on your account he became poor, being rich. Our Lord Jesus is rich beyond comprehension. Let’s look for a moment at the riches of his person. The fact that here we are told that Jesus became poor points us back to who he was before he came, points us back to his eternal identity as the only Son of the Father. John, at the beginning of his gospel said that the Word was in existence at the beginning; he was with God, and is himself God. Jesus, the only Son from the Father, very God of very God, by his very nature existing as God is rich beyond compare. This is the riches of his person, his nature. Existing as God, he is the most glorious, most blessed being, most worthy to be treasured above all others.

Then John tells us that

John 1:3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Jesus, as Creator of all things, has right and ownership over all things. As Albert Barnes (1872) put it “as Creator he had a right to all things, and had the disposal of all things. The most absolute right which can exist is that acquired by the act of creation, and this right the Son of God possessed over all gold, and silver, and diamonds, and pearls; over all seas, and islands, and continents; over all the treasures of the ocean, and over all worlds” (p.163). Jesus made everything that exists, and it all belongs to him.

Colossians 1:16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

In Order That You by That Poverty

Him for whom it was not robbery, not a grasping to claim equality with his Father, because he was from all eternity equal, emptied himself, became poor.

Philippians 2:5 …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.

He who eternally exists in his very being as God, rich beyond compare, took on a human nature. He entered into our poverty. Remaining what he was, he became what he was not. Being rich he became poor. Continuing to be what he forever is, he became poor by taking our nature, being born as a human, experiencing the humiliation of the cross.

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

Isaiah 53. O the height of glory! O the depth of humiliation.

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

2 Corinthians 5:21;

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

It was on our account, for our sake, he became poor. This is what he did for us. And by his voluntarily embracing our poverty he accomplished something for us.

That You …Might Become Rich

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

He made us rich. What does that mean? In what way do we become rich through the poverty of Christ? Ephesians picks up this theme.

Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,

The riches of his grace purchases our forgiveness, our redemption. Forgiveness cancels our debt and in effect brings us out of debt, out of a negative, to zero. But that is only the beginning.

Ephesians 1:18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,

We have been called into the riches of his glorious inheritance. His inheritance! What Jesus, the one and only Son of the Father, the possessor of all that is, has for his inheritance! We are included in his glorious inheritance! The Spirit must enlighten our eyes to enable us to comprehend the riches of this glorious inheritance.

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

Saved by his grace. Made alive with Christ. Raised with Christ. Enthroned with Christ. God intends for eternity to show off the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us. Let that soak in for a moment. God’s purpose, the infinite eternal God who created all things, his intention is to put on display the magnificent bounty of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. God intends to display the extravagance of his generosity, and he intends us as the recipients of that overflow of his gracious kindness.

By God’s grace, it was given to Paul, he says in chapter 3, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. Unsearchable riches. Riches so vast that we will never through the endless ages of eternity ever get to the bottom of them.

So Paul prays for us. He prays that we would be given strength, power, strength to comprehend.

Ephesians 3:14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

We need supernatural help to comprehend, to know the immeasurable riches of Christ, to know that which surpasses knowledge. Now you may be able to recite some of the riches of Christ toward you. We have just scratched the surface of some of them today; forgiveness, redemption, we have been made alive, raised to new life, we have been made co-heirs with Christ in his inheritance. We might be able to name some of the marvelous riches that belong to us in Christ, but do we know them? Do we treasure them properly?

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Do you know his grace? If you do, if you have truly tasted his grace, it will overflow in simplicity of devotion to Christ. You will give yourself completely to him. Nothing he could ask would be too much.

Application;

This puts in a clearer light what Jesus did in John 13. Listen.

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

Jesus, assured of his own identity, knowing who he was, was freed to set aside his rights and stoop low to serve others.

John 13:12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. You have experienced his grace. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. Enter in to the poverty of others. Give yourself completely to him who gave himself up for you, and give yourself by the will of God to others.

***

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

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September 4, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 8:8; Proof of Genuine Love

08/25_2 Corinthians 8:8; Proof of Genuine Love; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190825_2cor8_8.mp3

We are in 2 Corinthians 8, where Paul is exhorting the Corinthians to give generously to the collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem. He encouraged them with the example of the Macedonians, who begged for the grace and the fellowship of service to the saints. They gave beyond what they were able, out of their extreme poverty in a severe test of affliction their abundance of joy overflowed in a wealth of single-hearted devotion.

He encouraged Titus to return to Corinth to bring to completion this grace in them that he had begun.

He encourages them that as they super-abound in many spiritual gifts, that they should super-abound in this grace also.

Not A Command

In verse 8 he tells them that he is not commanding them.

2 Corinthians 8:8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.

Paul wants to make it clear that they are not under compulsion. He is not demanding, he is not commanding. He cannot require of them an act of grace and love or it would no longer be grace. Grace by definition is undeserved, under no obligation or compulsion; freely given. For Paul to command or require them to give would be to move this from an act of grace into a debt or obligation. Paul wants to be clear that this must be from the heart, a true act of grace. As the Macedonians gave of their own accord, so it must also be for the Corinthians; this must be something that they want to do, not something they are feeling pressured into.

Motivated by the Earnestness of Others

It must come from their own heart, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t say anything to them about giving. He is exhorting and encouraging them to participate in this act of grace. But it must remain an act of grace, not turn into guilt or debt or obligation.

Paul is clear this is not a command, but he is using the eagerness of others to motivate them.

2 Corinthians 8:8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.

Through the eagerness of others. This is part of the fellowship, part of being in the body of Christ. We are to encourage one another. And when we see the passion, the earnestness of our sisters and brothers, God can use that to ignite an eagerness in us. That is the effect Paul hopes the Macedonians will have on the believers at Corinth. He hopes their joy in the midst of affliction and poverty will spark a similar joy in Jesus and simplicity of affections for him that overflows in extending grace to others.

This is one reason to be involved in missions; whether that means praying or giving or going; when we are connected to others in the body of Christ who are in different places and in different circumstances, their examples can ignite in us a desire to be more singly devoted to Jesus, to be more eager to overflow in spite of our circumstances in joyful generosity, and our joy in Jesus can encourage others.

It is so essential for us to stay connected with others in the body, both near and far, for our spiritual growth, and for theirs.

Proof and Confidence

2 Corinthians 8:8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.

This word ‘prove’ means to test and demonstrate genuineness, demonstrate authenticity. It means ‘to prove by testing.’ We read in one of Jesus’ parables (Lk.14:19) that a man had purchased five yoke of oxen, and he said ‘I go to examine them’ or ‘prove them’. He purchased them because he believed they were useful and worth the price. But putting them to the test would demonstrate what they were actually capable of. This is the kind of thing that would be done with precious metals to prove genuineness. It says in 1 Corinthians 3

1 Corinthians 3:12 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.

This does not mean that Paul wasn’t sure if they would past the test or not. He doesn’t say ‘to prove whether or not your love is genuine.’ He has already said:

2 Corinthians 7:16 I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you.

Knowing and Showing

Paul is confident that they will pass the test, but it needs to be shown. He said in verse 7 that they abound in his love for them. But the genuineness of their love for others needs to be demonstrated.

Jesus said:

John 13:35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This is about knowing and showing. Performing acts of love does not make a person genuine; acts of love demonstrate the character of the person, just as apples don’t make the tree an apple tree; apples demonstrate the nature of the tree. Tying apples on a Chinese elm tree would be a lot of work, and may fool some, but it doesn’t change the nature of the tree.

This is about testing, about proving or demonstrating genuineness. Back in 8:2, he said of the Macedonians:

2 Corinthians 8:2 for in a severe test [δοκιμῇ – that’s the root of the word ‘prove’ here] of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.

The Macedonians had been tested with affliction, and they passed the test. This is not the only place we see trials linked with proof or tested genuineness.

James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials [πειρασμοῖς] of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing [δοκίμιον] of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

1 Peter 1:6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials [πειρασμοῖς], 7 so that the tested genuineness [δοκίμιον]of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested [δοκιμαζομένου] by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

The Macedonians passed a test of severe affliction and they came through like gold; they put on display the greatness of the grace of God.

Can the Corinthians pass the test in their affluence, in their abundance? That is a different kind of a test, maybe a more difficult test. It seems that those who are destitute can more acutely evaluate what is of greatest worth. Sometimes it is the poorest that are the happiest.

Genuine/Legitimate Love

2 Corinthians 8:8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.

What Paul aims to prove is the genuineness of their love. ‘Genuine’ is a word that speaks of legitimacy, specifically in birth. In 1 Timothy 1 and in Titus 1 Paul refers to both Timothy and Titus as his ‘true child in the faith. He is using a term that distinguishes between legitimate and illegitimate children. They are authentic, legitimate children born again through Paul’s proclamation of the gospel. Here in 2 Corinthians 8, he is eager that the Corinthians demonstrate the legitimacy of their love; that their love is not phony; that it is not produced in an illegitimate way, but that it is the genuine fruit of the Spirit of the living God.

Proof of Genuineness in 1 John

2 Corinthians 8:8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.

Paul is eager for the Corinthians to prove the legitimacy of their love. How do they do this? He doesn’t command them to obedience; rather he exhorts them to a free act of love. Love, the evidence on display of a genuinely transformed heart.

I want to tie this together with what some other authors of the New Testament are teaching us so we see it clearly.

We started by looking at Jesus’ words recorded in John’s gospel, where he says:

John 13:35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Love is the evidence that makes all our speaking, all our serving, all our giving more than just noisy nothingness and clanging emptiness.

John in his first short letter talks about how we know that we know him. He is talking about proof, evidence. Do you want to know that you know him? That’s an important thing, because Jesus himself said that “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord …did we not do many mighty works in your name?’” and he will respond ‘I never knew you; depart from me….’ (Mt.7:22-23). We want to know that we know him. How do we know? What is the evidence? What is the proof? 1 John is talking about proof.

1 John 2:3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. …

John says the evidence of relationship is doing what he says; keeping his commandments, his word. And notice, he says God’s love is perfected in him; it is God’s love in him, not his own love. This love, God’s love, works itself out in keeping his word. It is evidence that we are in him.

He continues:

1 John 2:5…By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 7 Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. 8 At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

The one commandment that is both an old commandment and an new commandment is love. Love your brother. If you claim to know him, if you claim to be walking in the light, and you don’t keep his commandments, if you don’t love your brother, you’re lying; you’re blind; you don’t know where you’re going. This command, to love, is true in him and in you. First it must be true in him. God shows his love for us in this; that Christ died for us (Rom.5:8). And because it is true in him, because we have been loved by him, it can be true in us; he has given us his love so that we can love.

John goes on in chapter 3 to talk about legitimacy:

1 John 3:10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. 11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.

1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.

Evidence of being children of God; the legitimacy of our new birth; we know because we love the brothers. And here the rubber meets the road.

1 John 3:16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

This is personal. This is individual. Do you see how he switches from the plural ‘we’ in verse 16 to the singular ‘any one’? This is personal. If you see a real need in your brother, you are not to close your heart against him. Notice again, the focus is on the heart, the affections. This is not guilt and duty. There should be in us as new creations in Christ an inclination to love and serve our brothers or sisters. We are not to selfishly shut that off and close them out of our hearts. The proof happens when I see a brother or sister in need and my heart just naturally (or I should say supernaturally) goes out to them, I want to do something to help them. Not just love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth.

James says it this way:

James 2:15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?

That is where the Corinthians were at. They had been talking about the collection for some time now. They had at first been eager to fellowship in the service to the saints. Now it was time to turn talk into action.

God’s Love In Us

We looked at Jesus’ statement that it will show; that all people will know that we are following him if we love one another. If we look ahead to John 17, we hear Jesus praying for us in his great high priestly prayer to his Father. He prays for our unity, that we would be one so that the world would believe (v.21). At the end of his prayer, he says:

John 17:26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

This is amazing! Jesus tells us where this love comes from. Jesus prays that God the Father’s trinitarian love for his one and only Son would be in us! This is stunning! He doesn’t ask us to love others out of our own resources. God puts his own love in us so that we can love others with his love, not our own. This is grace!

Remember, it’s grace; it’s the grace of God given to us that creates in us this single-hearted devotion.

2 Corinthians 8:1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia,

***

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

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

2 Corinthians 6:7-10; The Paradox of Ministry

03/31_2 Corinthians 6:7-10; The Paradox of Ministry; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190331_2cor6_7-10.mp3

In 2 Corinthians 6, Paul is giving his resume for authentic ministry. He is commending himself in everything as God’s minister. He purposes that no fault may be found with the ministry. He refuses to create stumbling blocks for anyone in anything. He will allow no stumbling block but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In verses 4-7 he gives a bullet-point list of 18 ways he commends himself, each introduced by the word ‘in’. He introduces the list by the way he faced adversity; in much endurance. Then he gives three general hardships, three specific forms of persecution, and three voluntary hardships, all in the plural.

Starting in verse 6 he lists four character qualities, fruit of the Spirit in his life: purity, knowledge, patience, kindness; followed by four divine enablements for the ministry: in the Holy Spirit, in love unhypocritical, in the word of truth, in the power of God.

The Means of Ministry

Now after 18 bullet points of adversity and how he responds to it, all beginning with ‘in’, he switches prepositions; starting at the end of verse 7 he uses ‘through’ three times, followed by seven uses of ‘as’, introducing contrasts or paradoxes.

We are all called to minister, to serve others in love for their good. Ministry is conflict. Ministry is tension. Ministry is war!

You cannot please everyone ever. Jesus said ‘Woe to you when all people speak well of you’ (Lk.6:26). There will always be something someone doesn’t like about something you do. Expect it! Expect tension in ministry.

7… through weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; [διὰ τῶν ὅπλων τῆς δικαιοσύνης τῶν δεξιῶν καὶ ἀριστερῶν,]

Paul uses a military metaphor here. Ministry is war. He endures hardships in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness. He is equipped to respond this way in or by means of the Holy Spirit, God’s unhypocritical love, the word of truth, the power of God. He is equipped for war!

He uses this word ‘weapons’ in 2 Corinthians 10:4 also in the context of the power of God.

2 Corinthians 10:4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.

He is thoroughly equipped from right to left, for the battle. His weaponry consists in righteousness or justification. ‘The one who knew no sin, on our behalf was made to be sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him’ (2Cor.5:21). In Ephesians 6, righteousness is mentioned as the breastplate. Clothed with God’s righteousness in Christ he now stands ready, both for offensive and defensive, as with sword and shield. God’s righteousness is a weapon both offensive and defensive.

The next two contrasts are also introduced by ‘through’, indicating that all four of these nouns could be seen as part of his weaponry.

8 through glory and shame, [διὰ δόξης καὶ ἀτιμίας,]

through slander and praise. [διὰ δυσφημίας καὶ εὐφημίας·]

Paul’s sequence is positive-negative, negative-positive; sandwiching the negative inside the positive.

Glory is how he describes the new covenant ministry in chapter 3; the far-surpassing glory of the ministry of the Spirit; the lasting ministry of righteousness and life. It is a glorious ministry, but there is little glory in it. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:

1 Corinthians 4:9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor [in-glory], but we in disrepute [ὑμεῖς ἔνδοξοι, ἡμεῖς δὲ ἄτιμοι. (adj)].

It is a glorious ministry, but its ministers are held in disrepute or shame. We understand how glory or honor could be considered a weapon, part of our equipping for ministry, but shame or dishonor?

In Acts 5,

Acts 5:40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor [ἀτιμασθῆνα (v)] for the name.

Did you hear that? They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonored in the name of Jesus! Worthy to be shamed! They counted it an honor to be publicly dishonored. They remembered what Jesus had said in Matthew 10:

Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, …17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Look at what Jesus is saying. You will be dishonored. You will be shamed. But in the midst of betrayals, even beatings and arrests is an opportunity to testify; to give Spirit empowered witness to Jesus. They saw slander and shame as an opportunity; an offensive weapon to bring glory and praise to Jesus!

Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 4 to describe his role as a spectacle to the world, as fools for Christ.

1 Corinthians 4:11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered [δυσφημούμενοι (v)], we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

Paul is slandered, treated as scum and refuse, yet through it all he implores all to be reconciled to God. Shame and slander, glory and praise, in it all his desire is to make Christ known; to spread the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere (2:14).

It is particularly in the slander and shame that we become like Christ.

John 1:11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Matthew 27:27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. 28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

1 Corinthians 2:8 …they …crucified the Lord of glory .

Peter says:

1 Peter 4:13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

Seven Paradoxes in Ministry

Paul switches in the next seven pairs to ‘as’ to introduce contrasts or paradoxes in ministry. Ministry is paradoxical. It is not always what it seems. Paul has already described gospel ministry as paradoxical; there are differing responses to the gospel between different groups of people; to those who are perishing and to us who are being saved. The same message of the cross sounds stupid to some and comes with power to others (1Cor.1:18). The same aroma of knowing God stinks like death to some and smells alive and beautiful to others (2Cor.2:14-16).

as deceivers, and yet true; [ὡς πλάνοι καὶ ἀληθεῖς,]

Paul himself said in 1 Corinthians (15:15) that ‘if Christ has not been raised… We are even found to be misrepresenting God’. Jesus was accused of being a deceiver in speaking about his own resurrection (Mt.27:63). Some perceive him to be a deceiver, yet

2 Corinthians 4:2 …we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

9 as unknown, and yet well known; [ὡς ἀγνοούμενοι καὶ ἐπιγινωσκόμενοι,]

Paul was unknown in the sense of being unrecognized, not considered authentic. His character was being questioned. Yet…

2 Corinthians 5:11 … what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.

Even if you don’t know me, don’t recognize me, God knows me fully, and that is all that matters.

1 Corinthians 13:12 …Now I know [γινώσκω] in part; then I shall know fully [ἐπιγνώσομαι], even as I have been fully known [ἐπεγνώσθην].

as dying, and behold, we live; [ὡς ἀποθνῄσκοντες καὶ ἰδοὺ ζῶμεν,]

Paul was all to familiar with death. He said in chapter 4 that we are…

2 Corinthians 4:10 always carrying in the body the [dying] of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

Paul faced death daily (1Cor.15:31). Yet he interjects an exclamation Look! Behold! We live!

2 Corinthians 5:14 …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.

We died with Christ, and his resurrection life is now at work in us!

as punished, and yet not killed; [ὡς παιδευόμενοι καὶ μὴ θανατούμενοι,]

These two statements echo the language of Psalm 118.

Psalm 118:17 I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD. 18 The LORD has disciplined me severely, but he has not given me over to death.

If we look at the content, we see the Psalmist in his affliction, surrounded by the nations, crying out to the Lord, and the Lord as a valiant warrior bringing victory with his right hand. Then the gates of righteousness are opened so that the righteous may inter in. Psalm 113-118 were traditionally sung at Passover, and these Psalms were likely sung by Jesus and his disciples at the last supper. Only a few verses later we find this familiar paradox:

Psalm 118:22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. 23 This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. 24 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. 25 Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success! 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD.

The rejected stone is the cornerstone. Hosanna! Save us we pray! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

Paul is embracing the paradox of ministry shaped by his Master. “As dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed.”

Isaiah 53:4 …we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,…

The punishment that brought us peace was on him.

Throughout this Paul is identifying with the suffering servant. He is willing to take up his cross and follow Jesus.

10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; [ὡς λυπούμενοι ἀεὶ δὲ χαίροντες,]

In a life of ministry, there is sorrow, but there is always joy. Paul writes from prison to Philippi:

Philippians 2:17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

There is sorrow, mingled with joy. Like Jesus,

Hebrews 12:2 …who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Paul writes also to the Colossians:

Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,

I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake. There is joy in the midst of sorrow when in our service we sacrifice for the good of others.

as poor, yet making many rich; [ὡς πτωχοὶ πολλοὺς δὲ πλουτίζοντες,]

How does someone who is poor make others rich? When Peter and John encountered the lame beggar, Peter said “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you” (Acts3:6). He gave him something of greater value than what he was seeking.

Paul fleshes this out most clearly in 2 Corinthians 8

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

Matthew 8:20 …the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

Paul voluntarily embraces a life of poverty in order to open the riches of eternal wealth to them.

as having nothing, yet possessing everything. [ὡς μηδὲν ἔχοντες καὶ πάντα κατέχοντες.]

How does someone have nothing while at the same time fully have all things? In Mark 10 Jesus asked the rich young ruler to give away all that he had and come follow me.

Mark 10:28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.

This is the paradox of the Christian life and ministry. You can give up everything and find that you have lost nothing. If you seek to preserve you life, you will lose it; you must lay down your life to truly find it (Mk.18:35)

This is the way of the cross; are you willing to take up your cross and follow Jesus? Are you willing to risk everything to experience the joy he promises in following him? Do I “ count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”? Am I willing to “suffer the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ”? Is my supreme desire

Philippians 3:10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

?

***

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

April 1, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 4:10-12; Death and Life Ministry

09/09_2 Corinthians 4:10-12; Death and Life Ministry; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180909_2cor4_10-12.mp3

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

We have this treasure; the treasure of the light of the good news of the glory Christ, who is the image of God; the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

We hold this treasure in fragile earthenware vessels so that the abundance of power is of God and not from us.

In everything we are severely cramped but not cornered; we are confused but not confounded, we are pursued by our enemies, but not abandoned by our God; we are even struck down to death but not eternally perishing.

Last time we looked at Jesus’ teaching in John 12

John 12:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Much fruit comes from dying. Resurrection life bursts up out of the grave. This is the way of Jesus, and this is the way of following Jesus.

The Corinthians were looking for something different in their leaders. They wanted power, prominence, popularity, persuasive speech. Paul was pressed down, perplexed, persecuted, and plain speaking. The Corinthians wanted honor but their apostle was shamefully treated. They wanted already to be treated as royalty, to live in comfort and ease (1Cor.4:8ff.). They wanted a Christianity sanitized of the cross. Paul wouldn’t comply. Instead he openly displayed his suffering. He embraced hardship. He gloried in his weakness.

Death and Life Ministry

He said ‘we are:

2 Corinthians 4:10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

We are in a death and life ministry. Ministry is characterized by affliction, persecution, inner turmoil, even death. He says it four different ways. In verse 10 he doesn’t use the usual word for death. Nekrosis; deadness or dying. The dying of Jesus. In verse 11 and 12 he uses the more typical word for death. And at the end of verse 11, he uses a derivative ‘mortal’; subject to death. We always carry around in these fragile containers the dying of Jesus.

Paul asks in Romans 8

Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

Paul is not throwing out hyperbole or hypothetical circumstances. Tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword; these are things he faced daily. He quotes Psalm 44

Romans 8:36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

Psalm 44 is a plea to God to remember his people. It is full of all the things the Corinthians would find objectionable.

Psalm 44:9 But you have rejected us and disgraced us and have not gone out with our armies. 10 You have made us turn back from the foe, and those who hate us have gotten spoil. 11 You have made us like sheep for slaughter and have scattered us among the nations. 12 You have sold your people for a trifle, demanding no high price for them. 13 You have made us the taunt of our neighbors, the derision and scorn of those around us. 14 You have made us a byword among the nations, a laughingstock among the peoples. 15 All day long my disgrace is before me, and shame has covered my face 16 at the sound of the taunter and reviler, at the sight of the enemy and the avenger.

…19 yet you have broken us in the place of jackals and covered us with the shadow of death.

…22 Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.

…24 Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? 25 For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly clings to the ground.

Rejection, disgrace, defeat, taunting, derision, scorn, a byword and a laughingstock, affliction, oppression, brokenness, death. Sheep to be slaughtered. We are killed all the day long. This is distasteful. Yet this is precisely what Jesus endured for us.

Knowing Christ Crucified

Paul had already told the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 2:2

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

Knowing Jesus crucified is more than knowing about the crucifixion and why he had to die. Knowing Christ crucified is identifying with him, becoming like him in his dying.

In Philippians 3, where Paul talks about the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus, he says:

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

Paul says to Timothy

2 Timothy 2:11 The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him;

Peter says

1 Peter 4:13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

After the apostles were physically beaten by the religious leaders for proclaiming Jesus in Acts,

Acts 5:41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.

Paul had told the Corinthians already in chapter 1

2 Corinthians 1:5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

We share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings. The mental anguish. The emotional abuse. The physical pain. We are always carrying around in the body the dying of Jesus. We are always being given over to death. Death is at work in us. The communion of his sufferings. Take up your cross and follow me.

Purposeful Suffering

We are

2 Corinthians 4:10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

This is not meaningless suffering. This is meaningful suffering, purposeful dying. It is ‘so that.’

2 Corinthians 4:10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

Our fellowship in his sufferings is so that the life of Jesus may also be put on display in our fragile earthen bodies. Resurrection power comes out of death. The life of Jesus is shown, made manifest, made apparent, put on display. Nothing billboards the resurrection power of Jesus like suffering. When it costs nothing to follow Jesus, it can be ignored. But when someone like Darweshi, a former Imam in Uganda who gave his life to Christ, receives threats from men in his former mosque, and can no longer return home, he puts the life of Jesus on display. Someone like Ma’ruf in Pakistan, whose family has tried repeatedly to persuade him to return to Islam, even holding his wife and two children captive for 8 days, threatening to kill them; who has lost two jobs because of his Christian faith, whose heart is overflowing with gratitude for God’s care for him. Or someone who sat in my office counting the cost of following Jesus, and considered that he might end his career and lose his wife, and concluded ‘I have to follow Jesus, because Jesus is worth it.’ That puts the fact that Jesus is real, that he is alive, that he is powerful on full display. For many of you, there is a real cost for following Jesus, and that puts the life of Jesus on display in your life.

For Jesus’ Sake

2 Corinthians 4:11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

We who live; we, in whom the resurrection life of Jesus is at work, are being given over to death. This word ‘given over’ is the familiar word from the Gospels for Jesus being given over or betrayed. We are betrayed to death for Jesus’ sake.

In verse 5, we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake; serving others for Jesus’ sake. Here, ‘given over to death for Jesus’ sake.’ It is for the glory of Jesus that we proclaim Jesus, that we suffer, that we serve others.

Our intermediate aim is for the good of others, we proclaim and serve and suffer to see more people saved from their sins and enjoying relationship with Jesus. But our ultimate aim is for the sake of Jesus. We proclaim and serve and suffer ultimately to bring honor and glory to Jesus, to display the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. It is all for the sake of Jesus.

Energizing Death

Paul concludes:

2 Corinthians 4:12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Death working. Death active. Death energizing. Death the operative principle at work in us. This is a paradox. Death is the great un-doer, the final end of all work, it lays to rest, death causes all activity to cease. But here, death is working in us. Death is displaying. Death is making visible. Carrying about the dying of Jesus is putting on display the life of Jesus. Being betrayed over to death shows off the resurrection life of Jesus in these fragile earthen vessels. Death is purposeful. Suffering, affliction, death, is doing something. Death is working.

One of the unbelieving theories to explain away the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is know as the swoon theory. According to this, Jesus didn’t really die on the cross, he merely swooned or passed out and everybody thought he was dead (never mind the expert Roman executioner who thrust a spear up under his rib cage and into his heart so that blood and water gushed out). According to this theory Jesus was placed unconscious in the tomb, and the cool tomb revived him and he got up and left (never mind the 75 pounds of spices together with the linen cloths he was bound with, the several thousand pound stone rolled in place to seal the tomb, and the Roman guard standing watch). The point of this theory is to gut the resurrection of its significance. If Jesus wasn’t really dead, then he didn’t really rise from the dead. That’s what resurrection is. Only dead people can be resurrected.

That’s why Jesus waited until Lazarus was dead to come visit. It wouldn’t have been a resurrection if he came and healed him to prevent him from dying. That’s healing, but not resurrection. He said it was ‘for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it’ (Jn.11:4). It was ‘so that you may believe (Jn.11:15).

Death is working in us to display Jesus, because it is only in the context of death that resurrection life can be meaningful. So our suffering, affliction, our brokenness is producing the context in which the resurrection life of Jesus can shine most brightly.

Life in You

2 Corinthians 4:12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Paul, who shared in the sufferings of Christ and ‘count[ed] everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord’ puts the supreme value and worth of Jesus on display for all to see.

He says we are afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down. We get death; but you get the life! The resurrection power of Jesus that brings life out of death was shining through Paul’s weakness, and that light created life in the Corinthians. The staggering address of this letter: ‘to the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia’, attests to the resurrection power of Jesus at work through the hurting and broken Paul. The dying of Jesus being carried around in the frail earthen vessel that was Paul, and those who were dead in trespasses and sins, God made alive by his grace. God through the foolishness of what Paul preached, saved those who believed. Paul proclaimed Christ crucified, and his life matched his message.

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

September 12, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Baptism and Newness of Life (Romans 6)

01/14 Baptism and Walking in Newness of Life (Romans 6); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180114_baptism-new-life.mp3

We had some baptisms last Sunday, and we have a baptism today. I thought it might be helpful today to look at one of the key passages on baptism, Romans 6, to see what baptism is about, and really, this is much bigger than baptism, to see what our new life in Christ is all about, what we are to be all about.

The Strange Symbol of Baptism

If you think about baptism for a minute, it’s a weird thing. We don’t even have an English word for it; we’ve borrowed ‘baptizo’ from the Greek. It’s really a foreign thing. We have this giant bathtub in a public place (or sometimes we us a lake) where someone else bathes you in front of a bunch of other people. I can bathe myself, thank you. And I can do a better job of it too. And bathing is meant to be private. But the point is not really to get clean. Of course, we keep our clothes on, because we want it to be modest. And that’s another strange thing about it; we wear clothes to get dunked in water. If I’m going swimming, I wear a swimsuit, not my everyday clothes. And when we’re swimming together, the goal is usually not to get dunked by someone else. I don’t like it when someone pushes me under the water. But in baptism, we voluntarily let someone else dunk us.

When I was serving as a youth pastor back in Washington, our church was doing baptisms out at a beach. The pastor was out in the water, and I was on the rocky beach with my clothes on, carrying the video camera in its case, and I think a diaper bag in the other. One of the other leadership guys came up behind me and bearhugged me and picked me up and started walking toward the water. He’s a bit bigger than me. I thought he was just joking around, but I let the bags drop on the beach just in case. By the time he had me out a little more than knee deep, somehow I was able to get my leg behind his, and to both our suprise, I ended up baptizing him. It was a total immersion. The only thing that didn’t survive the incident was my cell phone.

Baptism Symbolism

Baptism is primarily a symbol; it’s an acted out picture. It is a picture of bathing or cleansing, but not dirt from the body, as 1 Peter 3:21 says, but a clean conscience before God. When we trust Jesus and his finished work for us on the cross, our sins are washed away. Baptism is an acted out picture of what happened when we believed in Jesus.

Baptism is not something we do, someone else does it to us. The one being baptized is passive. They receive baptism. They are really at the mercy of someone else. That is part of the picture too; we ‘were dead in our trespasses and sins,’ (Eph.2:1)

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him…

Titus 3:5 tells us ‘he saved us.’ Salvation is not something we do, it is something God does. He saves us.

When someone gets baptized, literally dunked in water, they come out looking different. There’s a change. If you had your hair all done up, it is going to look different coming up out of the water. Your clothes will be all wet. When Jesus comes in to a person’s life, there’s a change. It may not be as visible, but he begins to change us from the inside. And it will become visible to those around us. Baptism is a picture of that.

Romans 6

Let’s look at the text. In Romans 5 Paul is arguing that God gives those who depend on Jesus a gift they didn’t earn and don’t deserve. Jesus earned the gift, and he gives it to us freely. Adam by his disobedience earned death, and he passed that on to us. Jesus by his obedience earned justification (the verdict of ‘not guilty’) and life, and he gives that as a gift to all those who believe or trust him. The greater our sin, the more it shows off how great his grace is to cover all that sin.

In chapter 6 Paul sees a logical conclusion from this coming; ‘So if all my sin shows off the power of God’s amazing grace, then I should keep on sinning so that God’s grace is put on display even more, right?’

Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?

Pau’s answer is strong and decisive. Their premise is sound; but the conclusion does not follow.

Romans 6:2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Where sin increased, grace abounded (5:20). But it does not follow that we should increase our sinning so that grace will abound all the more. That kind of thinking overlooks the fact that if we are truly in Christ, we have died to sin. Dead people don’t do the things they used to do. Dead people don’t feel the way they used to feel, they don’t desire what they used to desire, they don’t think the way they used to think. Dead people are, well, dead. Dead people don’t get up in the morning and get dressed and brush their teeth and enjoy a cup of coffee and drive to work. Dead people stop doing what they have always done. That life is over. That’s what dead means. Paul describes us as dead and says ‘how can we?’ How can we still live in sin? ‘How can we continue in sin?’

Not Sinless Perfection

Understand he is not saying that Christians never sin. 1 John, talking to Christians, says

1 John 1:6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

Walking in darkness while claiming to have a relationship with the one who is light is inconsistent. But then he goes on to say:

1 John 1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. …10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

He goes on to say:

1 John 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

We are not to walk in darkness. We are to put to death the deeds of the darkness. We are not to make peace with the sin in our lives. But neither are we to pretend that we don’t sin. James tells us

James 3:2 For we all stumble in many ways…

By saying that we died to sin, Paul is not saying that followers of Jesus never sin again. He is saying that it is inconsistent for us to live in sin, to continue in sin, to make peace with our sin and walk in it as a lifestyle.

Thinking and Acting

Paul goes on to give us the doctrinal foundation we are to stand on. There is biblical teaching we ought to know, and it ought to impact the way we live. As followers of Jesus we are to be taught. When Jesus told his disciples to make disciples, he said they were to baptize them and teach ”them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt.28:20). There is truth we ought to know. We need to be learning, listening, reading, thinking, studying. But the goal is not just facts to fill our head. The goal is a renewed mind; new patterns of thinking that begin to shape new patterns of action. We can attempt to fight the battle against sin with our own willpower, and we will fail. Or worse yet, we will have a measure of success and become proud of ourselves. That is not God’s way. We are to be armed with truth and the word of God.

An example: The bully on the playground bulllies because it makes him feel powerful and in control. It makes him feel strong and superior to others. It makes him feel good about himself. His patterns of behavior are shaped by his beliefs. He must bully to continue to feel good about himself. His actions may make him feel good, but it is at the expense of others, and it doesn’t last. The bully might demand respect, but he never experiences love.

Jesus teaches us that true greatness is using our strength and resources to love and serve others for their good. If the bully learns that there is a deeper and richer and lasting satisfaction in selflessly serving for the good of others, if he begins to experience the joy of selflessness; not serving to feed his own ego and make himself feel better (this is subtle and dangerous), but ultimately serving to please God, really and truly loving God and loving others, this new truth will begin to shape new actions.

Paul says there is truth you must know that will begin to shape who you are.

United with Christ in Death

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

Paul is pointing to the picture of baptism and the truth it displays. The word ‘baptize’ means ‘to immerse in, to plunge or dunk.’ When you are immersed in water, you are connected with the water. You are surrounded by and covered with the water. Water is a good conductor of electricity. If things aren’t wired properly and a microphone is dropped in the water, the electricity will pass through the water and through you if you are in the water. By believing in Jesus, we are immersed into Jesus, we become connected with Jesus, covered by Jesus, surrounded by Jesus. When we are dunked in water, we get wet. When we are plunged into Jesus by faith, we get Jesus all over. We are united with Jesus. There is a real connection with Jesus. And part of that connection is a connection with his death and resurrection. Because he died, and we are united with him, ‘we were buried with him by baptism into death. Because he didn’t stay dead, and we are connected to him, ‘just as Christ was raised from the dead, …we too might walk in newness of life.’

He goes on to point to this unity:

Romans 6:5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.

Here he gets explicit. We were crucifed. Crucified with Christ. Jesus died a real death. A shameful death. He didn’t die of natural causes; he was executed publicly as a criminal. They buried him because he was dead. The soldiers made certain of that. We are united with him in death; our old self was crucified with him. The guilty sinful you was executed. If the old you was executed as a criminal, then it is dead. Buried. Gone. ‘Brought to nothing.’ Powerless. And if the sinful you is dead, then you are set free from sin.

You see how this works? The wages of sin is death, and God’s law requires your death. If you have really been united with Christ in his death, crucified with Christ, if the sinful you has been executed, then that legal demand has been satisfied. The greatest penalty a human court can issue is the death penalty. Someone sentenced to 30 years who dies two years into his sentence is not forced to serve the remaining 28. He is released. The law has been satisfied. The word in verse 7 translated ‘set free’ is really the word ‘justified’. He is released from his sins’ legal demands. The penalty has been paid.

United with Christ in Life

Romans 6:8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.

This connection with Jesus is not limited to his death, but it extends to his resurrection. Our old self is dead. The penalty has been paid. But Jesus didn’t stay dead. He rose! He will never die again. Death has no claim on him. He died to sin, and in him we died. He lives to God, and in him we live. We no longer live to sin, we are dead to that. We live to God, to please God, to enjoy God, to be in the presence of God.

Here he brings us back around to his original question. “How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

Truth That Shapes Us

This is the truth you must know. Baptism is a picture of this. Believing in Jesus connects us with Jesus, immerses us into Jesus. His death becomes our death. We enter in to his resurrection life.

This is the truth we must know, and it must shape who we are.

Romans 6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Truth, teaching, new patterns of thinking and believing lead to new patterns of living. This is what is true of you in Jesus. Consider it so! When temptation comes, I don’t feel very dead to sin. I actually feel quite alive to it! I think I could get a great deal of satisfaction out of that. This is when I need to preach the gospel to myself. Rodney, you’re dead to that! Jesus died for that, and you died with him. Picture the granite with my name chiseled into it. Picture the dirt, hear the flies buzzing, smell the stench. Dead, buried, rotting, decayed, I am dead to that! I can get no pleasure out of that. That guy that used to enjoy that was executed, nailed to a cross!

Truth requires a response from me. I am alive to God in Christ Jesus. Sin’s power is broken. I am under no obligation to be controlled by its desires. My body is a tool. My hands, my eyes, my mouth, a tool. I can do great harm with my words. I can allow my eyes to lead me into sin. But that is not what I was made for. I am dead to that. I am alive to God. My body is a tool to glorify God., to enjoy God. I am united with Christ; I am alive to God. I can enjoy intimacy with God. I can walk in the light, sins forgiven, in the presence of God. I can walk in a new kind of life, the abundant life. A resurrection kind of life.

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

January 22, 2018 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Spirit’s Fruit; Gentleness Like Jesus

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

Fruitfulness and the Knowledge of God

In Colossians 1, Paul prays for the believers.

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

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

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

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

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

What Meekness Is

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

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

Psalm 45:3 Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one, in your splendor and majesty! 4 In your majesty ride out victoriously for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness; let your right hand teach you awesome deeds! 5 Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; the peoples fall under you. 6 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness; 7 you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions;

The mighty Messianic King rides out victoriously with sword and bow for the cause of truth and righteousness and meekness. Truth is victorious over falsehood and deceit. Righteousness triumphs over injustice and all evil. But meekness seems out of place in this list. Meekness in the Old Testament often refers to the poor, ‘the defenseless, those without rights, the oppressed, those who are cheated, exploited and cursed.’ (DNTT vol.2, p.257, humility). Truth and righteousness we recognize as virtues, but being without rights, oppressed and exploited is not something we would think of as a noble cause to be defended. We would think that people in that situation need to be delivered from that state.

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

In defense of Moses’ leadership, we are told:

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

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

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

Meekness Necessary in All Relationships

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colossians 3 tells us to

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

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

Titus encourages us:

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

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

Titus 3:4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

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

James helps us see how this works.

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

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

The Meek Shall Inherit The Earth

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

Meekness in Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

Philippians 2 says:

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

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

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

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

Good Good God

01/31 Good Good God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160131_good-good-god.mp3

Review of Attributes

We are going to jump back into a study of who God is for the next weeks. We have been studying what God is like, what he says about himself in his word, not merely to satisfy our curiosity or to promote our own wisdom because we know more about him, but because we want to know him, to enjoy relationship with him, so that we can worship him in truth, as he is, not as we imagine him to be. We have seen that God is incomprehensible, yet knowable. He is infinitely far beyond our ability to know exhaustively, yet he is a God who desires to be known, and has made himself known. He is self-existent, not dependent on anything outside of himself for his own existence. He had no beginning and will have no end, he is eternal. He is unchangeable, consistent, he will not be different tomorrow than he is today, he is perfect and cannot improve. He is unlimited by time and space, fully present everywhere. He is spirit, not subject to the limitations of the material universe which he brought into existence with his word. He is unlimited in power; nothing is too hard for him. He is the absolute authority over all things, he is free to do what pleases him, he is unlimited in knowledge and wisdom. He is utterly unique, there is no other being like him, he is in a class by himself, yet he reveals that he eternally exists in the three distinct persons of Father, Son and Spirit, in satisfying relationship with one another.

These are some of the things God has revealed to us about himself. This is a terrifying being. He possesses all authority, all power, he is the uncaused cause of all things, he knows all, sees all, is invisible yet present everywhere, and answers to no one outside himself. If the maxim is true without exception that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, then God would be the most unfathomably terrifying tyrannical despot, a sheer horror, a monster. But this is not how he reveals himself to us.

God is Good

The Bible tells us that God is good. In Exodus 33, Moses made a bold and startling request.

Exodus 33:18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”

Moses asked to see God’s glory. A full revelation of all that God is would undo any mortal man, but God offers to give him a glimpse of his name, his character, who he is. He says ‘I will make all my goodness pass before you’. God defines himself as good. In the next chapter we see God’s goodness declared:

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

God’s goodness, his very nature is described as the perfect blend of mercy, grace, patience, steadfast love, faithfulness, and justice. God is good. Psalm 25:8 says:

Psalm 25:8 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.

Psalm 100 says:

Psalm 100:4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! 5 For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

God’s goodness is worthy of praise. Psalm 106 says:

Psalm 106:1 Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! (cf. 107:1; 118:1, 29; 136:1)

God is good, and his goodness is cause for worship and thanksgiving.

Jesus, in Mark 10, was approached by a rich young man.

Mark 10:17 …a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. (cf. Luke 18:18-19)

Jesus claims that God is exclusively good. He is challenging this man to consider what goodness is and the true identity of Jesus.

Defining Good

But what does it mean that God is good? That might sound like a silly question at first. Of course, everyone knows what good means. Until you try to articulate a definition. What exactly do we mean when we say ‘God is good?’ Stephen Charnock, a puritan minister who died in 1680, citing an older work, defined God’s goodness this way “the goodness of God is his inclination to deal well and bountifully with his creatures” (Stephen Charnock 1628-1680, vol.2, p.219, cited from Coccei, sum. p.50)

God’s goodness is his inclination to deal well and bountifully with us. He deals well with us. He deals abundantly, bountifully with us. And he is inclined to do so. He prefers to be so with us.

Romans 5:7 helps clarify for us what good means. In this verse, a contrast is drawn between a good person and and a righteous person.

Romans 5:7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—

It is more likely that a person would voluntarily die for a good person than for a righteous person. A righteous person is just, keeps the law, does what is right. The righteous person is self-focused, making sure they do everything right and are perceived as righteous. A good person, on the other hand, may not be quite so conscientious about his own righteousness, but he is others focused. He is generous and kind, goes out of his way to bless others. Someone might dare to die for a good person. Of course the real contrast shows up in verse 8,

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Our God is the kind of God who lays down his life for his enemies.

A. W. Tozer, in his ‘Knowledge of the Holy’, expands on Charnock’s definition. He writes: “The goodness of God is that which disposes Him to be kind, cordial, benevolent, and full of good will toward men. He is tenderhearted and of quick sympathy, and His unfailing attitude toward all moral beings is open, frank, and friendly. By His nature He is inclined to bestow blessedness and He takes holy pleasure in the happiness of His people.”

He goes on to say: “The whole outlook of mankind might be changed if we could all believe that we dwell under a friendly sky and that the God of heaven, though exalted in power and majesty is eager to be friends with us. But sin has made us timid and self-conscious, as well it might. Years of rebellion against God have bred in us, a fear that cannot be overcome in a day. The captured rebel does not enter willingly the presence of the king he has so long fought unsuccessfully to overthrow. But if he is truly penitent he may come, trusting only in the loving-kindness of his Lord, and the past will not be held against him.” (Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy, p.57-58)

Mark 10:17 … “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.

If God is truly inclined to deal well and bountifully with us, is it too much to imagine that God would be inclined to give us the free gift of eternal life, rather than require us to earn it? Is it even possible for us to earn it? Jesus, like the Psalmist in Psalm 14 and Psalm 53, encourages this man to re-evaluate his standard of goodness. “There is none who does good, not even one” (Ps.14:1, 3; cf. 53:1, 3) Could it be that Jesus might himself be God’s ultimate expression of his inclination to deal bountifully with us, paying a price we could never pay, in full?

God is Good to All

Psalm 145:9 The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.

God is good to all. There is no part of his creation that escapes his inclination to do good. The context of this statement in Psalm 145 spells this out.

Psalm 145:5 On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. 6 They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness. 7 They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness. 8 The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 9 The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made. 10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your saints shall bless you! …13 ​…[The LORD is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works.] 14 The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. 15 The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. 16 You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. 17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. 18 The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. 19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. 20 The LORD preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy. 21 My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.

God is not obliged to extend the same level of goodness to each of his creatures. We tend to suffer from the disease of entitlement. We assume that God owes us all equal benefit and privilege. God is free.

Matthew 20:15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’

He is not obligated to extend his generosity to any. But he does give to each one better than they deserve. He could have sent Jesus to Sodom and Gomorrah, and they would have repented. But instead he sent righteous Lot. And it will be more tolerable in the day of judgment for Sodom and Gomorrah than for those to whom Jesus came. (Mt.11:24).

Jesus said in Matthew 5:

Matthew 5:43 “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. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

God is good even to his enemies, to the evil and unjust. Listen to the abundant bounty of God poured out on his creation in Psalm 104.

Psalm 104:10 You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills; 11 they give drink to every beast of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. 12 Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell; they sing among the branches. 13 ​From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work. 14 You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth 15 and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.

God is indeed good to all.

God is the Source of All good

All good comes from God.

Genesis 1:31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

In the beginning, God made all that is, and all that he made was very good. His inclination to deal bountifully was expressed in his creative acts. He gave existence to that which did not exist. And he blessed everything he made.

James tells us that

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

God is the source of all good. All good that we experience ultimately comes from God. Any goodness in us or in our fellow man does not originate within us. It is a reflection of his image in us. It is a gift.

God is the one who equips us for every good work. In 2 Corinthians 9:8, God makes all grace about to us, so that we may abound in every good work. In Ephesians 2:10, we are God’s workmanship, created to walk in the good works he prepared in advance for us. In Colossians 1:9-10, we are filled with the knowledge of his will so that we can bear fruit in every good work. In 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, we are given good hope through grace to establish us in every good work and word. In 2 Timothy 3:17, we are given God’s word so that we may be equipped for every good work. In Hebrews 13:20-21, we are equipped with everything good that we might do his will, and he works in us that which is pleasing in his sight. God’s goodness is the source of any goodness in us.

God is Good In and Of Himself

Psalm 119:68 says:

Psalm 119:68 You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.

We defined God’s goodness as his inclination to deal well and bountifully with his creatures. God does good because God is good. God is good in and of himself. God would be good if he had never expressed the overflow of his goodness in creation. God would remain good if he never demonstrated his goodness in redemption. Any goodness we experience from God is a free and unnecessary overflow of his goodness. Because God is inclined to deal bountifully, it does not necessarily follow that he must deal bountifully. For his own wise and good purposes, he is free to restrain his inclination to deal bountifully and instead give us what we have asked for. Hebrews 2:16 tells us that he chose not to rescue the angels who sinned. God makes it clear that his inclination is to forgive. Ezekiel 18:23 says:

Ezekiel 18:23 Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? (cf. Ez.18:32; 33:11)

2 Peter 3 says:

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

God’s inclination is that we turn and find forgiveness. Salvation belongs to the Lord, and our God is mighty to save. But we know that not all people will be saved. God is free to restrain his inclination to deal bountifully with us for his own good purposes.

The prodigal’s father was clearly inclined to deal bountifully with his son, and he could have pursued his son into the far country, but he restrained his inclination and waited for his son to come to his senses and return. He was inclined to deal bountifully with his older son, and could have given him a calf to kill and make merry with his friends in spite of his hardness of heart toward his younger brother, but this inclination was restrained by a greater purpose. The son must come in to experience his bounty.

God is the Ultimate Good we Seek

God does good to all, he is the source of all good, God is good in and of himself, and God is the supreme good of every creature.

Psalm 16:2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” …5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. …11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

The Psalmist cries out that there is no good apart from God. God is our supreme good. To be contented with God’s good gifts and not pursue him, a relationship with him, is to settle for something fleeting and temporary. At the end of Psalm 17, the psalmist prays for deliverance from the wicked men of the world.

Psalm 17:14 … from men of the world whose portion is in this life. You fill their womb with treasure; they are satisfied with children, and they leave their abundance to their infants. 15 As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.

Their portion is in this life. They, like the rich man in Jesus’ story, received their good things in this life. But far better to accept hardship and persecution in this life, with our eyes fixed on he alone who can eternally satisfy. Jesus said in Luke 9,

Luke 9:23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?

Psalm 73 says:

Psalms 73:25 ​Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. …28 But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.

What is your greatest good? What is it that you are pursuing? Psalm 34 is an invitation … to you!

Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

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

January 31, 2016 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Knowing the Incomprehensible

08/23 Knowing the Incomprehensible; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150823_knowing-the-incomprehensible.mp3

We are seeking God, seeking to know God, to see what the Bible has to say about who God is, what he is like. As we seek his face, see him for who he is, we must learn to respond to him in worship and service and thanksgiving. It is not enough just to know what he is like. We must respond to him, interact with him. We must know him.

Last time we ended with a prayer of longing for God from Psalm 63.

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. 3 Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. 4 So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. 5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, 6 when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; 7 for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. 8 My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

We long to know God, but we need to ask the question, is this even possible? If God is the all satisfying source of every good thing, if to know him is to know true joy and fulfillment, can we know him? Is he knowable?

Meant to Know God

As we saw last time, the answer to this must be yes, at least in some sense. According to Romans 1, we are expected to know him, and held accountable for how we respond to what we know of him. We are under God’s wrath because we have irreverently and falsely suppressed the truth about God.

Romans 1:19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images … 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. …28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, …

God can be known, indeed he is known, because he has made himself known. Here is a key principle that will help us throughout our endeavor to know God. What we know of God is what God has made known to us. What can be known is plain because God has shown it to us. What we know, we know because of the self-revelation of God. Romans 1 is specifically talking about what we can know about the Creator from looking at his creation. His invisible attributes, his eternal power, his divine nature are clearly perceived in the things that have been made. How much clearer will our perception be if God has communicated directly, in words, telling us what he is like! This is an amazing truth, as Francis Schaeffer reminded us, ‘he is there and he is not silent. God has spoken. He wants to be known. He is a God who communicates, who makes himself known.

Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

God says in the new covenant

Jeremiah 31:33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

God intends for a relationship with his people. I will be there God and they will be my people. They will know me. Paul prays for the church in Colossae.

Colossians1:9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

We were meant to know God, to be in relationship with God. From creation we were intended to walk with God, to enjoy fellowship with him. That relationship was severed when we rebelled against his good rule. But now, because of the cross of Jesus, we can be always increasing in the knowledge of God.

Obstacles to Knowing God

We are meant to know God, but there are some obstacles to knowing him. Some of those obstacles are on our side, and some are on his.

Sin

On our side, we have a sin problem. Sin has damaged everything.

Isaiah 59:1 Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; 2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

Our sin has severed our relationship with God. If God seems distant, it is because we have pushed him away. We were meant to know God, but we rejected his rule and questioned his goodness and love. We usurped his authority and attempt to rule in his place, to run our own lives. Our sin has hidden his face from us. The good news is that through Jesus Christ, our sin can be taken away so that we can be reconciled to God. But sin has left its mark on every part of our being. Humanity is twisted, distorted because of the fall. We are not as God intended us to be.

Romans 1:21 …but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,

Sin has tainted our thinking and our feeling. We do not think as we ought to think. Our ability to reason correctly has been affected.

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.

What seems right and reasonable to us may be very distant from what is truly right. We need to maintain a healthy distrust of our own ability to think clearly, especially when it comes to such a high subject as God. Romans 1 tells us that we have a tendency to suppress the truth. Our desires influence our perception. What we want God to be like influences what we think of him. We need to remember that what can be known about God is plain because God has made it known. The only safe path is to let God define himself, and allow him to critique and correct our inadequate views of him.

Our thinking is distorted by sin, but also our desires.

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Our hearts are twisted and sick. We cannot trust our own desires. Our desires are deceitful, they lie to us. The things we want the most are not the things that will truly satisfy. There is in our world a desperate lack of desire to know God. If you look around at the people you know, very few of them are interested in God at all. Very few are interested in really knowing him. Some are interested in going to heaven, or in doing something to gain his favor so that he will give them some good thing, but very few are interested in knowing God. In fact, the bible says that no one seeks God. No, not one (Rom.3:11). If you find in your heart a hunger to know God, thank him for that! God placed that desire for him in you. God is the author of that desire.

Many people want God to be different than he is. They want to re-define God in a way that suits their fancy. They hold self up as the ultimate good, and require God to submit to their ideas. They want to conform God to their own image.

Our hearts and our minds are distorted by sin. The gospel is the remedy!

Ephesians 4:17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Our hearts are softened and our minds are renewed as we are taught the truth that is in Jesus. Sin is a major obstacle to knowing God. It is an obstacle that has been overcome by the sacrifice of Jesus, but its effect lingers, and we must continue to battle against it. But this is all on our side. There are obstacles to knowing God that come from God’s side.

Incomprehensibility

Even if we had no sin, there would still be an enormous obstacle to knowing God. Even when we are ultimately set free from our sin and see him face to face, this obstacle will remain. And it is an obstacle rooted in the very nature of God. It is the difficulty of the creature attempting to understand the Creator; of the finite attempting to grasp the Infinite; the temporal grappling with the Eternal; the eye attempting to perceive the Invisible.

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

Immortal, invisible, unapproachable. That certainly does put a damper on our relationship!

Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Deep, unsearchable, inscrutable. Who has known his mind? It is past finding out.

Psalm 145:1 I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. 2 Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. 3 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.

Psalm 147:1 Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting. …5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.

Beyond measure. Abundant. Words fall short to describe him. Moses described his appearance on Mount Sinai.

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

Fire wrapped in darkness, cloud, and gloom. No visible form. Unapproachable light. We have a big word to describe an even bigger concept. Incomprehensibility. How many other 8 syllable words do you know? God is incomprehensible. He is far beyond our ability to understand.

A.W. Tozer in his book ‘Knowledge of the Holy’ points to our difficulty in grasping God.

We learn by using what we already know as a bridge over which we pass to the unknown. It is not possible for the mind to crash suddenly past the familiar into the totally unfamiliar. Even the most vigorous and daring mind is unable to create something out of nothing by a spontaneous act of imagination. …

The effort of inspired men to express the ineffable has placed a great strain upon both thought and language in the Holy Scriptures. These being often a revelation of a world above nature, and the minds for which they were written being a part of nature, the writers are compelled to use a great many “like” words to make themselves understood. When the Spirit would acquaint us with something that lies beyond the field of our knowledge, He tells us that this thing is like something we already know, but He is always careful to phrase His description so as to save us from slavish literalism. For example, when the prophet Ezekiel saw heaven opened and beheld visions of God, he found himself looking at that which he had no language to describe. What he was seeing was wholly different from anything he had ever known before, so he fell back upon the language of resemblance. “As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire.” The nearer he approaches to the burning throne the less sure his words become: “And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it. And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it…. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.” (Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy, p.7-8)

The other way we seek to describe what God is like is by way of negation. We can only describe what he is by comparing him with things we are familiar with, and he is utterly unlike anything else. So we must resort to using negatives to trim away the things that he is not, leaving what he is somewhat undefined. We have a number of words that begin with ‘in-‘ or ‘im-‘ or ‘un-‘ to narrow down what God is not. When we say he is uncreated, we mean that he was not brought into being by something else. Immortal means that he is not subject to death. When we say he is ‘invisible’ we mean he is something that is not visible, but he is still something. What it is exactly, we can’t be sure. Infinite means that he has no limit.

A poem might help us feel the weight of our difficulty.

The Blind Men and the Elephant

John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887)

It was six men of Indostan

To learning much inclined,

Who went to see the Elephant

(Though all of them were blind),

That each by observation

Might satisfy his mind.

The First approached the Elephant,

And happening to fall

Against his broad and sturdy side,

At once began to bawl:

“God bless me! but the Elephant

Is very like a WALL!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,

Cried, “Ho, what have we here,

So very round and smooth and sharp?

To me ’tis mighty clear

This wonder of an Elephant

Is very like a SPEAR!”

The Third approached the animal,

And happening to take

The squirming trunk within his hands,

Thus boldly up and spake:

“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant

Is very like a SNAKE!”

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,

And felt about the knee

“What most this wondrous beast is like

Is mighty plain,” quoth he:

“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant

Is very like a TREE!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,

Said: “E’en the blindest man

Can tell what this resembles most;

Deny the fact who can,

This marvel of an Elephant

Is very like a FAN!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun

About the beast to grope,

Than seizing on the swinging tail

That fell within his scope,

“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant

Is very like a ROPE!”

And so these men of Indostan

Disputed loud and long,

Each in his own opinion

Exceeding stiff and strong,

Though each was partly in the right,

And all were in the wrong!

Incomprehensible yet Knowable

To say that God is incomprehensible is not to say that God is unknowable. We can know true things about him. Real things about him. But we must recognize that we cannot know everything about him. We will never have an exhaustive knowledge of God. I don’t fully understand everything about myself, and I certainly don’t understand a lot of things about my wife. But I do know some things about her. And I can enjoy a relationship with her. I can do things that I know will make her angry. And I can do things that I know will make her smile. And I know I ought to do more of the one and less of the other. The fact that God is incomprehensible yet knowable allows us to enjoy our relationship with him, yet continually long for more of him. We can continually behold him – we can perceive true things about him, what he has made known to us, and respond in worshipful reverence and awe.

Psalm 27:4 One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.

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

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

August 23, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Knowing God; Romans 1:15-32

08/16 Knowing God

Today I want to launch us on a study of God. Who God is, what he is like,

I want to spend some time together looking at what the Bible says about who God is. I believe it will be beneficial to our minds and our hearts to open God’s word and to seek him there. As we seek his face, we must learn to respond to him rightly, in worship and service and thanksgiving. It is not enough just to know what he is like, to know facts about him, to gain an understanding of his character. We must respond to him, interact with him. We must know him.

Romans 1:15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

In Romans 1, Paul tells us he is eager to preach the gospel to the believers of Rome. He is eager to preach the gospel because it is the power of God for salvation to believers. But salvation from what? What do we need to be rescued from? Verse 18 tells us – the wrath of God is revealed from heaven. That sounds pretty serious. If you were entering a courtroom because you had been charged with a serious crime which you had in fact committed, that would be cause for great concern. But if, as you were being escorted into the courtroom, the guard leaned over to you and said ‘watch out, the wrath of the judge toward you is about to be revealed’, what would you be feeling? That sounds personal! What is God so angry about? Why is he preparing to unleash the full fury of his wrath from heaven?

It is against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. Ungodliness [ἀσέβεια] is a lack of reverence or awe toward God, a lack of reverential fear. Unrighteousness [ἀδικία] is injustice, violating what is right, dealing fraudulently with others. In what way are we unjust, going against what is right? We are not left to wonder. By our unrighteousness we suppress the truth. It is wrong to hold back, to restrain, to hinder truth. But what truth? Is it truth in general? Or is it a specific kind of truth that God is enraged when we suppress it?

It is ‘the truth’. He tells us in verse 19 that the truth we are condemned for suppressing is ‘what can be known about God’. This implies that there are some things that cannot be known about God. We will never know everything about our infinite Creator. There are some things that are past finding out. We are not held responsible for what we cannot know. But this also tells us that there are things that we can know, that we must know, and that we will be held accountable for knowing. What can be known is plain. God has shown us what we can know about him, what he wants us to know about him, what he expects us to know about him. And he will hold us accountable for what we do with what he has made known. He lists his ‘invisible attributes, his eternal power and divine nature’ as things we must know about him. His divine wrath is revealed against those who suppress this knowledge of him.

He warns in verse 21 of those who know God but do not honor him as God or give him thanks. So not only is it essential that we know about him, but that we respond to him in ways appropriate to his character and nature. The consequences of not responding to him in ways appropriate to his majesty and greatness are grave. Our thinking will become futile, empty, worthless, and our hearts will become foolish and dark.

In verse 23 he says we exchange the glory of the immortal God for images of things he has made. In verse 25 he says we exchange the truth about God for a lie and worship and serve created things rather than the Creator. In verse 28, we do not see fit to acknowledge God. So the right response to knowing God as he really is must be to acknowledge him for who he is, to give him the honor and thanks that is due, to worship and serve him. In other words, we are to know God as he really is and to live in a manner consistent with what we know. Right knowledge of God must lead to right humble worship. If we truly see him for who he is, our hearts will be overwhelmed and overflow in genuine worship of him.

Practical Atheism

Stephen Charnock in the 1600’s spent a good deal of time talking about what he called ‘practical atheism’ in reference to the knowledge of God. True, all who claim to be Christians would agree that God exists and most would even be able to tell you quite a bit about what they believe he is like. But many who claim to be followers of Jesus live the better part of each week as if God did not exist. Charnock wrote:

Actions are a greater discovery of a principle than words. The testimony of works is louder and clearer than that of words; and the frame of men’s hearts must be measured rather by what they do than by what they say. There may be a mighty distance between the tongue and the heart …Who can deny an atheism in the heart, when so much is visible in the life ? [1682; Charnock, Existence & Attributes, Discourse 2]

We honor him with our lips, but our hearts are far from him (Is.29:13). We claim to believe in God, but we live as if he were not there.

Look at what this refusal to practically acknowledge God leads to. Romans 1:29-31 says:

Romans 1:29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

The gospel is the remedy. Paul was eager to preach the gospel because it is the power of God for salvation – salvation from the lack of reverential fear toward God; salvation from our fraudulent dealing with God; salvation from suppressing the truth about him by our actions and incurring his just wrath.

Good News About God

The gospel is more than a message about forgiveness of sins. It is that indeed, but it is more. Forgiveness of sins is a means to a greater end. The gospel is not merely good news about how to escape from hell, although that is very good news. The gospel is more than a message. The gospel is a person. The gospel is about God. Paul speaks in 1 Timothy about

1 Timothy 1:11 …the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

The gospel of the glory of the blessed God. We could rephrase that ‘the good news of the radiance of the happy God.’ The good news is about the glory of God. The good news is that God is glorious beyond our comprehension, and God is overflowing with delight. He is blessed or happy.

In Romans 3:21-26, at the very heart of the gospel is a display of the righteous character of God.

Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested… 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. … 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, … 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

The gospel at its core is a message about God, God’s glory, God’s righteousness, how we as sinners can be changed so that we may enjoy God without God compromising his own character.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about our great enemy seeking to blind people to the gospel.

2 Corinthians 4:4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Notice how he describes the gospel: it is light, and it is good news of the glory of Christ, and Christ is the perfect representation of God. The gospel is light about the character and nature, the glory of God. Our enemy wants to prevent us from seeing God for who he is. He goes on to describe how God himself overcomes this satanic blindness.

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

In the gospel, God gives us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God as seen most clearly through Christ. The gospel shows us who God is.

Peter puts God at the center of the gospel.

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,

Christ’s suffering was for a purpose. He suffered for our sins, but the purpose was ‘that he might bring us to God’. The goal of the gospel is not to have a better life now or to escape from our sins or to go to heaven when we die, but ‘that he might bring us to God’. The goal of the gospel is that everything that prevents us from enjoying God is taken out of the way so that we can have a right relationship with him.

We are told in the gospels that Jesus proclaimed ‘the gospel of the kingdom’; good news about the domain of the King. He said:

Mark 1:15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

The climax of history has arrived, the rule of God is here; turn and embrace the good news. The good news about the reign of God. The good news is that God has made a way so that we will not be destroyed when God establishes his rightful rule, but rather that we can enjoy him forever.

Jesus defined eternal life this way:

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

Eternal life, the gift that God gives to all who trust Jesus, is a relationship. Eternal life is defined by knowing God and knowing Jesus. This is really what the whole Bible is about. The Bible is God’s revelation; it is him revealing himself to us, telling us who he is, showing us through his historical interactions with people, what he is like.

Becoming by Beholding

We desperately need to see God for who he is. We need to respond to him in ways appropriate to his majesty and glory. We need to allow God to open our eyes to see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God. We need to take time to look. Take time to perceive the glory of the Lord. Take time to enjoy him. And this will change us.

2 Corinthians 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.

This beholding the glory of the Lord will begin to transform us. It has been said that you become like the person you most admire. When we spend time admiring God, standing in awe of God, enjoying God, we begin to reflect his image. We begin to be who we were created to be, to enjoy and display his glory. Slightly, imperfectly, little by little, as we spend time in his presence, we are transformed. We all fall short of the glory of God. We fall short of bearing his image, the glory of his infinite perfections. But as we stand in his presence, we begin to bear his image once again.

A Prayer of Longing

May our souls resonate with Psalm 63.

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. 3 Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. 4 So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. 5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, 6 when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; 7 for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. 8 My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

Create in us a hunger for knowing you God! Give us a desperate passion to know you. Let us not be satisfied with knowing about you, but really knowing you; enjoying intimacy with you; standing in awe of you, worshiping you! Give us an insatiable appetite to behold your glory. Open our minds to grasp the truths about you that you have revealed to us, and open our hearts to love what we see. May you be to us the sweetest of pleasures. Let us taste and see that you are indeed good. Give us an acute awareness of your nearness, your presence. Let us live every moment of every day with a consciousness of you, and an eager desire in everything to please you.

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

August 17, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment