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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 6:6-7; The Essential Means of Ministry

03/24_2 Corinthians 6:6-7; The Essential Means of Ministry; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190324_2cor6_6-7.mp3

Paul is giving his resume for authentic ministry. The Corinthians were looking for outward evidence of God’s blessing on his ministry, and they were beginning to question his authenticity. They were looking for power, prosperity, praise, eloquence, something flashy. Paul commends his ministry as a ministry that gives obstacles in nothing and to no one. Paul’s goal is that no fault could be found with the ministry. In all things he commends himself as God’s minister. He cares much more about what God thinks of his ministry than what anyone else thinks.

And the way he commends himself is not what anyone would have expected. What he includes in his resume is in the way he responds to adversity: ‘in much endurance’. And he lists three general hardships: ‘in afflictions, in hardships, in calamities’; then three specific types of persecution: ‘in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots’; then three hardships he willingly endures for the sake of the advance of the gospel: ‘in labors, in sleeplessnesses, in hungers.’ Nine hardships, faced with much endurance.

The Manner; Four Essential Characteristics for Ministry

Now beginning in verse 6 he lists eight means of ministry; four essential character traits for effective ministry, followed by four enablements for effective ministry.

He started the list in verse 4 with the character trait ‘much endurance’; remaining under these nine different types of hardships. Now he gives four more character traits; in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness. These describe the manner of his ministry, not so much what he does as much as how he does it, and ultimately who he is. Character. When hiring for a position, many companies are looking for skills, abilities, experience. Have you been trained in this field? Do you have the knowledge necessary to carry out the task? How much experience do you have in this field? What are your accomplishments, successes, abilities? Paul emphasizes not so much what he does as how he does it, who he is.

Who are you? Are you a butcher, a baker, a candle-stick maker? That is not who you are; that is what you do. I am a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a pastor. Those are roles, hats I wear. They define my relationships to other people. I was born in a Christian home, raised in a healthy two parent family in Minnesota, the youngest of five. That is some of my history, my background, where I come from. That is not who I am. I like to hike, canoe, to be outdoors, to be creative, build things, fix things. Those are hobbies, likes, preferences. But who are you? Strip all that away, who are you when no one is looking? What is your character?

6 In Purity [ἐν ἁγνότητι]

Paul starts with purity. This word shows up only here and in chapter 11. The verb shows up in the gospels and Acts referring to ceremonial purification, and in James, Peter and 1 John it shows up in reference to heart and soul purified through the new birth. The adjective shows up a little more frequently in contexts of moral purity, blamelessness, innocence, integrity. In 11:2 the adjective is used in the metaphor of betrothing a pure virgin to her husband, and in 11:3 this noun shows up alongside sincerity, and in contrast to being seduced or beguiled with trickery or cunning, being defiled, spoiled or corrupted.

In 1 John 3:3 the adjective describes the character of God;

1 John 3:2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

We become like God as we see him as he is; through our hope in him, in looking to him, we purify ourselves as he is pure.

Paul points us to his innocence, blamelessness, integrity, moral purity. This purity is not because he always had clean hands and a pure heart; rather his blood-stained hands were washed clean by the blood of Jesus, and through the new birth he stands pure and holy, a new creation in Christ.

In Knowledge [ἐν γνώσει]

Next he lists knowledge. Knowledge was a big deal in Corinth. He recognized that they were ‘enriched in all knowledge’ (1Cor.1:5). But he drew a contrast between the knowledge they claimed and love for brother and sister (1Cor.8:1,7,10,11; 12:8; 13:2,8). They prided themselves in their knowledge.

But as Paul had already made clear,

1 Corinthians 2:1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

For Paul it was not about what you know, but it had everything to do with who you know. He was in everything pursuing and advancing the ‘knowledge of God’ (2Cor.10:5).

2 Corinthians 2:14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.

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.

Paul was spreading the knowledge of God, the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus, knowing Jesus Christ and him crucified. For Paul everything else was worthless, except “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord … that I may know him” (Phil.3:8,10).

In Patience, In Kindness [ἐν μακροθυμίᾳ] [ἐν χρηστότητι]

Next he mentions patience and kindness. The word translated patience is literally ‘slow to anger’. These two words are listed side by side in Galatians 5:22 as the fruit of the Spirit.

Both patience and kindness are attributed to God in Romans 2

Romans 2:4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

Where patience or slowness to anger is negative, refraining from responding immediately in anger even when there is something to be rightly angry about; kindness is its positive counterpart, actively doing good to those who have wronged you. God not only refrains from immediately punishing our sin; he also shows us his undeserved kindness. As Jesus instructs in Luke 6,

Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.

We are to extend kindness even to our enemies; in doing so, we reflect the character of God. In being patient and kind, we are living out the gospel; we are conducting ourselves toward others how God has been toward us.

It is clear that these character traits are not natural. Who joyfully endures afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleeplessnesses, hungers? Who extends patience and kindness to enemies? These are supernatural character traits. In Colossians 1 Paul prays:

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

He combines endurance, the first on his list, and patience, and he says that we need God’s strength; we need the glorious might of divine enablement to respond to circumstances with endurance, slowness to anger, and joy. He says in Colossians 3:

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,

He tells us that because we have been raised with Christ (3:1), because we are his chosen ones, because we are holy and beloved, because we have been strengthened with his mighty power, we can clothe ourselves with kindness and patience.

The Means; Four Divine Enablements for Ministry

When we understand how Paul uses these words, it makes complete sense where he goes next in this list. He gives four divine enablements for ministry. The character, endurance, purity, knowledge, slowness to anger and kindness is fruit. It is not Paul as he is naturally; this is Paul as he is empowered by God through his Holy Spirit for the ministry to which he has been called.

In Holy Spirit [ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ]

After four character traits, fruit necessary for ministry, Paul turns to the source. In the Holy Spirit. This is not the first time he has brought up the essential ministry of the Holy Spirit in this letter.

In 1:21 he mentions God in Christ by the Spirit who establishes, anoints, seals and guarantees us, by the gift of the Holy Spirit in our hearts (and then again in 5:5). In chapter 3 He announces the new covenant ministry which has everything to do with the Holy Spirit, who writes on tablets of human hearts (3:3); who gives life (3:6); who brings freedom (3:17); who effects transformation in us (3:18). He said

2 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. …

His competency is not from himself but from God through the enabling ministry of the Holy Spirit. God has made Paul competent for the ministry. This is God a ordained, God empowered, God initiated, God sustained task.

In Love Unhypocritical [ἐν ἀγάπῃ ἀνυποκρίτῳ]

In love unhypocritical. Paul seems to have shifted gears when he mentioned the Spirit from a list of four character traits or fruit to the means or divine enablements for ministry. Is he switching back to character traits here when he mentions sincere love? Is this his love for others, or God’s love for him that enables him for ministry. To see this as God’s love for him seems to fit his flow of thought, as well as the context. He has just said (in 5:14) that ‘the love of Christ compels us’ and there he defines that love concretely as Christ dying for us; that God made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. God’s love is a compelling force for ministry. It is when I know that I am loved, sincerely loved, loved without a mask, that I am freed to love others as I have been loved. It is seeing the gospel in action, that God so loved me that he sent his only Son to die for me, that I am freed from the need to seek love, freed and empowered to give love freely away. Love without a mask.

7 In Word of Truth [ἐν λόγῳ ἀληθείας]

In the word of truth. Here again we could ask, is he referring to his own integrity? Should this be translated ‘in truthful speech’ (NIV, ESV) or ‘in the word of truth’ (NASB, KJV)?

So far in 2 Corinthians, Paul has referred to how he handles God’s word, speaking in Christ (2:17); he refuses to tamper with God’s word but openly proclaims the truth (4:2). God has entrusted to him the word of reconciliation. If we turn to Ephesians we see that he refers to ‘the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation’ (1:13). And in Colossians he points them to ‘the word of the truth, the gospel, which… is bearing fruit and increasing,… since … you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth’ (1:5-6). Paul encourages Timothy to ‘rightly handle the word of truth’ (2Tim.2:15). Peter says that we were born again ‘ through the living and abiding word of God’ (1Pet.1:23), and James says that God ‘brought us forth by the word of truth’ and that we are to ‘receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls’ (Jam.1:18,21).

What ultimately authenticates Paul’s ministry is the content of the gospel he proclaims. It is not a mere human message. It is not his own message; it is God’s word, a word that causes new birth, that is able to save your souls, a word that is bearing fruit and increasing. As he commends the Thessalonians:

1 Thessalonians 2:13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

This word is at work. It is a powerful word.

In Power of God [ἐν δυνάμει θεοῦ]

In the power of God. Paul opens the letter to the Romans by saying

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…

The gospel is the power of God for salvation. He says in 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

The word of truth, the word of the cross, the gospel is the power of God for salvation.

Throughout 2 Corinthians Paul contrasts God’s power with human weakness.

2 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant,

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

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

His competency for ministry, even his character is not from himself. It is from God. It is God’s Spirit at work in him and through him. His endurance of hardships, his purity, his knowledge, his slowness to anger, his kindness, is all of God worked in him by the Spirit.

May we too reflect the character of God in our conduct by the power of the Spirit of God living in us, through the transforming word of truth, the gospel.

***

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

March 25, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 3:6; The Letter Kills, The Spirit Makes Alive

05/20_2 Corinthians 3:6; The Letter Kills; The Spirit Makes Alive ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180520_2cor3_6.mp3

What we want to be about, what we must be about as followers of Jesus, is spreading the knowledge of Jesus everywhere. We have seen in 2 Corinthians 3 that the sufficiency, the competence for this kind of ministry comes through Christ and toward or in the presence of God. We must recognize we are not competent in ourselves. We cannot claim anything as coming from ourselves. Anything. Jesus said ‘apart from me you can do nothing.’ But then Paul says we are competent, because of God,

2 Corinthians 3:6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

This raises some questions. What does it mean to be a minister? What is the new covenant? How do we minister not by the letter, but by the Spirit? What is the role of the letter and the role of the Spirit?

Ministers

As we saw last time, a minister is simply a servant. One who serves others for their good. If we are all called to be ministers of a new covenant, we need to know what this means.

Covenant

Paul introduces this concept of a new covenant here. He says that he has been made sufficient to be a minister of a new covenant. What is the new covenant? We began to look at this when we were exploring the contrast between letters on tablets of stone with letters written with the Spirit of the living God on tablets of fleshly hearts.

A covenant is a binding contract, an agreement between two parties. God made a covenant with his people at Mount Sinai, after he freed them out of slavery in Egypt.

Exodus 24:3 Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.”

Deuteronomy says:

Deuteronomy 4:13 And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments, and he wrote them on two tablets of stone.

God gave Israel his covenant, his commands, his requirements. This was a binding agreement written on stone. He says in Leviticus:

Leviticus 18:5 You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.

If a person does them, by them he shall live. Obedience equals life. Jesus affirmed this. When he was asked by a lawyer ‘what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus responds ‘What is written in the law? How do you read it? The lawyer summarized the law by the two great commands; love God and love neighbor as yourself. Jesus said:

Luke 10:28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

Do this and you will live. The lawyer, wanting to justify himself, asked ‘and who is my neighbor?’ He wanted to check off a box to show that he was good enough. Jesus gave him the parable of the good Samaritan. Everyone you come in contact with is your neighbor. Keep the law and you will live. Obedience to the law equals life.

The Letter Kills

The flip side of that, of course, is disobedience equals death. And that’s what we see if we look back to the giving of the law. Exodus 19-31 record the giving of the law to Moses. It is interesting to look back and see the difference before and after the giving of the law.

-In Exodus 14:6-14, at the Red Sea, before Sinai, Israel cried out to the Lord and complained that they would die in the wilderness; God parted the sea and rescued them. In Numbers 11:1-3, immediately after leaving Sinai, the people complained about misfortunes and the fire of the Lord burned among them. In Numbers 16:41-50 the people grumbled against their leaders, and 14,700 died in plague. In Numbers 21:4-9 the people become impatient and discontent; and the LORD sent fiery serpents to kill many.

-In Exodus 15:22-27, before the law, the people grumbled because the water was bitter; and the bitter water was made sweet. In Exodus 17:1-7 people grumbled and quarreled because they had no water; God instructed Moses to strike the rock and water came out from the rock for the people. But in Numbers 20:2-13, after the law was given, when there was no water and people quarreled, God instructed Moses to speak to the rock. Instead, he disobeyed and struck the rock. Water came out, but because of their disobedience, Moses and Aaron would die in the wilderness and not enter the land.

-In Exodus 16:1-18, before the law, the people grumbled because of hunger; God provides manna and quail for them to eat. But in Numbers 11, after the law came, the people grumble about no meat, and God sent quail until it came out their nostrils, and he sent a very great plague to destroy them.

– In Exodus 16:19-30, before the law, the people are instructed to rest and not go out looking for manna on the Sabbath, but they disobey. Nothing happens. But in Numbers 15:32-36, a person caught gathering sticks on the sabbath is stoned to death for breaking the law.

– In Exodus 17:8-14, before Sinai, God defeats Amalek before Israel. In Numbers 14:39-45, after Sinai, Israel is defeated before the Amalekites and Canaanites.

Some of the very same things that had no consequences before the law, after the law brought death. The history of Israel after the giving of the law is a chronicle of disobedience and death. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:6 that the letter kills. This is very literally true.

Romans and the Law/Letter

Paul gives us more systematic teaching on the role and purpose of the law in the book of Romans. It will serve us well to look there to fill out our understanding of what he means when he says that ‘the letter kills but the Spirit gives life.’

Romans 2:13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

The Jews prided themselves on having the law. But as we have seen, unless the law is obeyed, it brings death.

Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

The law was given to shut every mouth and hold all people accountable to God. The law shows us our sin; it does not make us righteous. This is made even more clear in chapter 4.

Romans 4:15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.

The law brings wrath. We see this graphically displayed in the history of Israel after Sinai. Romans 5 tells us

Romans 5:20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass…

The law did not create righteousness; it actually did the opposite; it served to increase trespass. Romans 7 tells us how.

Romans 7:5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.

The law actually stirred up our sinful passions. Paul gives a personal example:

Romans 7:7 … if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.

He is describing what he said in 3:20 that ‘through the law comes the knowledge of sin.’ The commandment that promised life; the law says ‘do this and you shall live’ proved in his own experience to deliver death.

If the law produces death, does this mean that the law is bad? Paul answers:

Romans 7:12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. 13 … It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.

The law is holy, righteous, good, even spiritual. But the law puts on display the sinfulness of sin. The law’s good purpose is to show us our sin, to stop our mouths, to hold us accountable to God, and to put us to death. I said that is the law’s good purpose. How is that good? Good is not determined by what is good for me. It’s not all about me! Good is what is good absolutely. It is good and right for God to display his justice and to punish sin. But this is good for me. It is good for the law to show me my sin, because only sinners who confess their sin can be forgiven. It is good for the law to put me to death, because only those who are dead can be raised to newness of life. Only those who are shown their desperate need will cry out to God for rescue. Jesus said

Mark 2:17 …“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The law plays a vital role in showing us God’s justice and our need. This is what makes the good news so very very good! The law brings us to the end of ourselves, and that is very good. The letter kills but the Spirit makes alive.

A New Covenant

This is where the new covenant promises come in. As we looked a few weeks ago, God promises in Jeremiah and Ezekiel to make a new covenant with his people, a covenant different from the covenant he made with the fathers, not like the covenant that they broke.

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.”

This is the contrast Paul draws in 2 Corinthians; They old covenant was written on tablets of stone, and the result was disobedience and death. The new covenant of which he is a minster, is a heart agreement. No longer is it an external standard, which we may even agree is good, but our competing desires and inclination to disobedience thwart our best efforts to keep it. Now in the new covenant God writes his instruction on our hearts. It is part of us. It is internalized. It is who we are. It now defines us.

forgiveness

A critical component of this new covenant that God works in us is that he says ‘I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sins no more. This is powerful. This is so powerful for obedience. If we feel like a failure, if we feel like we have already disappointed him, we feel defeated. The guilt and shame are disabling. It’s like an overwhelming record of debt that stands against us. When you’re in debt and really see no way out, it’s easy to just give up and spend even more, run the credit card again, dig the hole deeper, We feel crippled to ever be good enough, to ever measure up. But in the context of forgiveness; this is so beautiful, so powerful, let this sink in an saturate your soul and transform everything; God says he remembers your sin no more. If you are in Christ, you always, always have a clean slate. You are always accepted. You are always good enough. You can’t sin fast enough to make the record stick. Do you see how powerful this is? Try to fight when you are all tied up and ensnared and weighed down. You can hardly even move. But God cuts the cords and sets you free and keeps you free so that you can fight.

This is so powerful, and I pray it shapes the way we relate to each other, to our spouse, to our children. Shame and guilt can be a motivating factor, but it is disabling. Forgiveness is so much more powerful.

they shall all know me

Notice another key aspect of this new covenant in Jeremiah 31. it says ‘they shall all know me.’ Paul is spreading the knowledge of Jesus everywhere. The new covenant is built on relationship. Intimacy. This is not second-hand knowledge. I know God and I have to tell you, God says what you’re doing is wrong. Someone stands between. You’re not hearing it first hand. It’s not direct. Someone is in between. That’s exactly the way it was at Sinai with the law. The people said ‘don’t let God speak to us directly. Moses, you go listen to God and then come tell us what he said.’ When I send one of my kids to pass along instruction to one of their siblings (and this happens a lot in our house) it doesn’t carry much weight. They say ‘hey, you need to do this’ and it’s easy to ignore. They might even say ‘hey, dad said you should do this’ and that carries a little more weight, but it’s still easy to ignore. Sometimes something gets lost in the delivery. The messenger got sidetracked and never delivered my message. Something got lost in the communication and something different than what I asked gets done. Is it the messenger who failed or the one who was supposed to receive the message who didn’t listen? It’s easy to shift blame. But when I show up personally, that’s completely different. It’s no longer someone passing along second hand information about what I said. Now it’s me, in relationship, really present, it’s direct. That’s what the new covenant does. It brings each of us into direct relationship with God. It’s no longer someone else telling you what you ought to be doing. It’s no longer mediated. It’s God himself communicating directly.

And it’s within the context of loving relationship. It can try to tell someone else’s kids what to do, but if the relationship isn’t there, if the accountability and love and respect in relationship hasn’t been established, it isn’t very effective. They run to mom or dad and say ‘that weird guy just told me what to do.’ In the new covenant, God brings us into relationship with himself. They shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.

a new heart and God’s Spirit

Another piece of this transforming power of the new covenant we see in Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

God gives us a heart transplant. Our hard rebellious heart needs to be removed, and replaced by a soft, tender heart, a heart capable of love, a heart receptive to the Lord. But he doesn’t stop there. In the New covenant he puts his Holy Spirit in us. This is the aspect that Paul highlights in 2 Corinthians. The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. O hear this! Let the truth of this sink in! The Holy Spirit of the living God; God the Holy Spirit, comes in, takes up residence in us. He lives in us and makes us alive. He transforms us from the inside. He will never leave!

Romans 7:6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

We are released from the law to serve in the new way of the Spirit.

Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

This is the message we are called to minister! This is the good news of the gospel! Through the cross there is forgiveness, no matter what you have done. You can know God yourself, you can enjoy relationship. God the Spirit comes to live inside and make you alive, truly alive, eternally alive! So walk in the Spirit and spread the knowledge of Jesus everywhere!

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

May 23, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God All Knowing and Wise

11/29 God All-Knowing and Wise [omniscience] ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151129_god-all-knowing-wise.mp3

We are spending some time savoring together what God tells us about himself. He is the most perfect being, and to know him is to know true joy and fulfillment. We have the pleasure of enjoying a blood-bought relationship with this God who is Father, Son and Spirit. Throughout Scripture, we are pointed back to the character and nature of God as the foundation for our lives, for hope in troubled times, as an anchor for our souls. We are warned of the dangers and consequences of believing false things about God or imagining him to be other than he is. We want to know God, to see what he has said about himself, to worship him in truth.

The Good News of Omniscience

Last time we looked at the power of God, the freedom and authority of God. God is sovereign. God has the right and ability to rule over his creation however he sees fit, and that is good news because he is good and only does what is best.

Today we will look at the wisdom and knowledge of God. The Bible teaches us that God ‘is perfect in knowledge’ (Job37:16); that ‘he knows everything’ (1Jn.3:20); Peter told Jesus ‘Lord, you know everything’ (Jn.21:17); Solomon addresses God ‘you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind’ (1Ki.8:39); the Psalmist declares:

Psalm 147:4 He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. 5 ​Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.

The author of Hebrews says:

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

This is terrifying to those who do not know the forgiveness that comes only through a relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. He knows my heart, and my heart is ‘deceitful and desperately sick’ (Jer.17:9-10). I must ‘give account for every careless word’ I speak (Mt.12:36). But to those who do know him, this is good news indeed! He knows everything about me, and he loves me anyway?! He will never find out something about me that he doesn’t already know, that would cause him to turn away from me? There is nothing I will do in the future that he doesn’t already know, that would change his heart toward me? Truly, as David said:

Psalm 32:1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity… (Romans 4:7-8)

God who Cannot Learn

We stand amazed at a God who is ‘perfect in knowledge’. There is nothing God does not fully know. God cannot increase in knowledge, because he is ‘perfect in knowledge’. There is nothing God must learn. God will never be surprised, or caught off guard by new information.

So often our decisions are just plain bad. Have you ever made a bad decision? We make the best decisions we can based on the information we have, but we never have all the information. And the information we do have, we do not always know how to best utilize it. Have you ever said after the fact, ‘well that would have been really helpful to know’?

When I was younger, my mom used to make homemade frosting, and put it in these little orange Tupperware containers in the fridge. I would often spread some on a graham cracker for an after school snack. One day I remember coming home from school, opening the fridge, grabbing the little orange container, scooping up a finger full of the ‘frosting’ and popping it in my mouth, only to learn too late that this little orange container did not contain frosting, it was lard! That would have been nice to know before I stuck some in my mouth!

God never makes a bad decision based on incomplete information.

Sometimes our decisions are based on bad information. Did you know that sometimes people will tell you only part of the story in hopes that you will make the decision they want you to make? We have learned this through the challenging process of raising kids. ‘Dad, my brother sat on me and tried to scratch my eyes out! Look what he did to me!’ Your sense of justice is roused and you let the gavel fall. Then, through the tears, you come to find out that there is another side to this story. The ‘victim’ had been ruthlessly taunting and provoking her brother to the point where out of sheer frustration he responded the way he did. There is guilt on both sides. Sometimes people are less than truthful. How do you know who is telling you the truth? How do you know if it is the whole truth? God is never left to wonder. God knows the truth. God sees the thoughts and intents of the heart. God is never duped into making a judgment based on false information. God is perfect in knowledge.

God and ‘Chance’

But even if we had access to all the information, even if we had all the facts, we still can’t know what will happen in the future. Companies spend lots of money on surveys and statistical studies and analyzing trends and data and probabilities, but in the end, they have to roll the dice and take a chance. God never takes a chance. God ‘declares the end from the beginning’ (Is.41:22-26; 46:9-10).

It is true that the Bible talks of God as ‘regretting’ or ‘repenting’ or ‘changing his mind’ (Gen.6:5-7); but should we understand this to mean that God didn’t know what would happen before it happened? Should we understand that God took a chance and was surprised and caught off guard by what happened, and through the experience learned some things, and needed to quickly come up with plan B? God is grieved by the sinful choices of his creatures; he responds differently to disobedience than he does to obedience, but he is not surprised. He does not regret in the sense that he wishes he had had access to better information on which to base his actions.

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

In fact, there is no such thing as chance. God’s providence rules the world, he determines the outcome of every roll of the dice. ‘Not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from your Father’ Jesus said (Mt.10:29). We can take comfort that the things we view as chance are in the omnipotent hand of an all wise God who loves us.

Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Even tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, even death, even the uncertainties of the future, (Rom.8:35-39) God will work even these things together for our good.

God Aloof or Involved?

In Psalm 139, the Psalmist expresses amazement at the wisdom and knowledge of God.

Psalm 139:1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me! 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.

God knows all my actions, even insignificant ones. God knows all my thoughts. God knows my plans, my habits. God knows how I will respond to any given situation. God knows everything I will ever say before I ever say it.

But is God a passive spectator? An all-wise sideline observer? He never interferes, right?

5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. 6 ​Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.

This word ‘to hem in’ means to bind, confine, cramp, enclose, shut in, secure. This seems to indicate that God is not passively watching, but is actively involved. And the Psalmist responds that this knowledge is wonderful.

7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 ​If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.

God is present to lead, guide, or govern; and to hold, grasp, seize, take possession of, or enclose.

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” 12 ​even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. 13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15 ​My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 ​If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.

Every day of my life was written in God’s book before I existed! Every one of my days was formed as a potter forms the clay. There is no room here for the god of the deist, who set creation in motion, and then passively observes from a distance, aloof and uninvolved. God is intimately involved in our lives, leading, holding, hemming in, forming. And this is a good thing. God’s thoughts are incalculably great and precious, treasured, valuable.

The Psalmist concludes with a glad invitation to God’s interference in his life.

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

God’s knowing is not a mere distant awareness of facts, but an involved nurturing protecting directing care.

Knowledge of what Might Have Been

God knows all things, even what might have been, had things been different than they are. In Jeremiah 38:14-23, God reveals to King Zedekiah what will happen if he surrenders to the King of Babylon, and warns of what will happen if he does not surrender. In 1 Samuel 23:10-13, God tells David what Saul will do, and how the people of the city he is hiding in will respond when Saul comes to seek him, so David and his men escape from the city.

In Matthew 11, Jesus:

Matthew 11:20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

Jesus tells us what might have been if things had been different. If Jesus had done his mighty works in Tyre and Sidon, or in Sodom, they would have repented, and they would not have been destroyed. We are left to ask why? Why, if God knew that they would have repented, did he not send Jesus to them? God did not lack the power to act differently than he did. Jesus could have done his mighty works in Tyre and Sidon, and Sodom. God could have acted differently to bring about different results; however for his own wise and good purposes, he always chooses to bring about the highest good. It is right and good and wise to punish evil, and although God did not do all he could do to bring about their salvation, he also did not leave them without a witness. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel, Amos, and Zechariah prophesied against Tyre and Sidon. Peter says:

2 Peter 2:6 …by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;

Peter holds up ‘righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard)’ (2Pet.2:7-8); Lot who was rescued from Sodom as an example that ‘the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment’ (2Pet.4:9)

This is a sobering reminder that God is not obligated to save anyone. God is able to save, but he is wise and just to punish evildoers, and we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We should thank God that he does not give us what we deserve.

Jesus in the next verses of Matthew 11 responds to this with praise to God:

Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Jesus rejoices (Lk.10:21) at his Father’s gracious will to hide these things from some and reveal them to others. In the same breath he invites all who recognize their need to come to him and find rest for their souls.

Foolish Wisdom of the Cross

In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul speaks of the seeming foolishness of the message of the cross, which is in reality the power and wisdom of God.

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

The good news of the cross seems foolish to the perishing, but God uses this foolish message to confound the wise and save all who humbly believe. God in his wisdom saves in this way ‘so that no human being might boast in the presence of God’.

Wisdom to the Praise of His Glory

In Romans 11, Paul responds to the wisdom of God’s plan with a shout of praise, his wisdom to show mercy to both Jew and Gentile, even when this means that many Jews will reject Jesus for a time in order to open a door of salvation to the Gentiles, so that God may show mercy to all.

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.

God is deep and rich in wisdom and knowledge. He does not need advice. His ways and judgments are inscrutable and unsearchable. Everything he does wisely moves toward the one overarching purpose of bringing him glory. From him and through him and to him are all things.

Ephesians 1 talks about God’s wise purpose to bring praise to his glorious grace.

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

God works all things according to the purpose of his will, in all wisdom and insight, to the praise of his glory. Our salvation is according to his wise purpose, according to his wise counsel, to bring praise to his glory. Paul goes on to pray that we might have eyes enlightened to know the riches of our hope, our inheritance, his power toward us who believe; that we might know him.

In chapter 3 of Ephesians, Paul spells out for us what is the mystery of his will, that Jews and Gentiles together are partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel (3:6). The many faceted wisdom of God is made know to everyone through the church according to God’s eternal purpose (3:10-11). Paul uses this as motive to not be discouraged in the face of suffering, and he prays that we would have strength to comprehend what is the immeasurable love of Christ to us (3:13-19). He prays:

Ephesians 3:16 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.

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

November 29, 2015 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

1 Corinthians 15:29-34; Suffering in Light of the Resurrection

05/24 1 Corinthians 15:29-34 Suffering in Light of the Resurrection; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150524_1cor15_29-34.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

29 Ἐπεὶ τί ποιήσουσιν οἱ βαπτιζόμενοι ὑπὲρ τῶν νεκρῶν; εἰ ὅλως νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται, τί καὶ βαπτίζονται ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν; 30 τί καὶ ἡμεῖς κινδυνεύομεν πᾶσαν ὥραν; 31 καθ’ ἡμέραν ἀποθνῄσκω, νὴ τὴν ὑμετέραν καύχησιν, ἣν ἔχω ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν. 32 εἰ κατὰ ἄνθρωπον ἐθηριομάχησα ἐν Ἐφέσῳ, τί μοι τὸ ὄφελος; εἰ νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται, Φάγωμεν καὶ πίωμεν, αὔριον γὰρ ἀποθνῄσκομεν. 33 μὴ πλανᾶσθε· φθείρουσιν ἤθη χρηστὰ ὁμιλίαι κακαί. 34 ἐκνήψατε δικαίως καὶ μὴ ἁμαρτάνετε, ἀγνωσίαν γὰρ θεοῦ τινες ἔχουσιν· πρὸς ἐντροπὴν ὑμῖν λαλῶ.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf? 30 Why are we in danger every hour? 31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! 32 What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.

Paul is defending the resurrection. He asks the question:

1 Corinthians 15:12 …how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

And this chapter is a careful and logical defense of the resurrection. In verses 1-7, he demonstrates that the resurrection is an essential part of the gospel message. In verses 8-11, he holds up himself up as a life radically transformed by God’s resurrecting grace. In verses 12-19 he lays out devastating consequences on believers if the resurrection were not historical. In verses 20-28, he parallels Christ with Adam; where Adam brought death, Christ brings life. In verse 29 he points to the incoherence of baptism if there is no resurrection. In verses 30-32 he points to the incoherence of suffering in Christian service if there is no resurrection. In verses 32-34, he warns of the moral dangers of unbelief in the resurrection.

Baptism

That is where we are today in Paul’s defense of the resurrection. Last week we looked in detail at verse 29, at what it can and cannot mean, but the main point is clear from the context. Baptism makes no sense if there is no resurrection. Baptism pictures and foreshadows the resurrection. And Christian baptism identifies you with a group who are known for their suffering.

In Danger Every Hour

In verses 30-32 Paul again holds himself and the other eyewitnesses up as examples. At the beginning of the chapter he lists Cephas, the twelve, the five hundred, James, all the apostles, and finally himself. Continuing to rebut their proposition ‘if the dead are not raised at all’, he answers ‘Why are we in danger every hour?’ If the dead are not raised, if we are not looking forward to a better future life, then ‘why are we in danger every hour?’ Paul is picking up the thought he expressed back in verse 19 and fleshing it out.

1 Corinthians 15:19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

If this life is all there is, if there is no physical existence beyond the grave, then why? Why are we in danger every hour? Certainly we could think of others more to be pitied than Paul and the other apostles. There are many people we can think of who subsist in very pitiable circumstances. Wouldn’t they be more to be pitied than the followers of Jesus? Surely there are benefits to following Christ in this life, even if it turns out not to be true. But that is not the view of the apostle. He asks ‘why?’ “Why are we in danger every hour?”

This may sound like an exaggeration until we look at some of what we know about Paul’s life.

2 Corinthians 11:23 …—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.

He says 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? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” This was the experience of early believers.

Jesus said:

Luke 9:22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” 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? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

Jesus did not invite us to follow him into a life of comfort and ease. He invited us to a life of sacrifice for the sake of his name and for the gospel. He said we would embrace our means of execution daily.

Paul rebuked the Corinthians in chapter 4 because:

1 Corinthians 4:8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! 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, but we in disrepute. 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, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

Still True Today

Loved ones, nothing has changed. This is as true of followers of Jesus today as it was when Paul penned those words. Allow me to read a few current statistics:

Christian persecution reached historic levels in 2014, with approximately 100 million Christians around the world facing possible dire consequences for merely practicing their religion, according to the report. If current trends persist, many believe 2015 could be even worse.”

http://www.sltrib.com/lifestyle/faith/2038782-155/persecution-of-christians-reached-historic-levels

4,344 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons between Dec. 1, 2013 and Nov. 30, 2014 – more than twice the number killed during the same period the previous year. …those numbers are a low estimate, as the group only counts incidents in which the victim can be identified by name and an exact cause has been attributed.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/04/07/has-the-world-looked-the-other-way-while-christians-are-killed/

Each month 322 Christians are killed for their faith; 214 churches and Christian properties are destroyed; 772 forms of violence are committed against Christians (such as beatings, abductions, rapes, arrests, and forced marriages).”

https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/

nearly 75 percent of the world’s population now lives in countries with high levels of social hostility involving religion”

more than 70 percent of Christians have left Iraq since 2003, and more than 700,000 Christians have fled from Syria since 2011.” In “North Korea,… up to 70,000 Christians are held in prison camps for their faith.”

http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2015/january/not-forgotten-top-50-countries-world-watch-list-open-doors.html

Christians are the most persecuted religious group worldwide. An average of at least 180 Christians around the world are killed each month for their faith. (Source: Open Doors USA)

Christians in more than 60 countries face persecution from their governments or surrounding neighbors simply because of their belief in Christ. (Source: U.S. Department of State)”

http://erlc.com/issues/quick-facts/persecution/

Islamic militants have eradicated virtually every trace of Christianity from Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. …There are no Christians left in Mosul. …They have all been driven out. They have been told to convert to Islam or die, or to leave.

…and they left empty handed. Militants confiscated all of their possessions, including homes, cars, clothes, ‘and even their wedding rings, sometimes with the finger attached if it would not come off.’” (Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, July 23, 2014)

http://erlc.com/documents/pdf/20140803-SIS-FINAL.pdf

Paul asks, “if the dead are not raised… why? Why are we in danger every hour?’ What is the point of sacrifice in following Jesus if there is no resurrection? As he has stated earlier, if there is no resurrection, then Christ is not raised, and if Christ is not raised, then our faith is worthless and we are still in our sins. Why risk everything for the sake of Christ if it is not true?

By My Pride In You

1 Corinthians 15:30 Why are we in danger every hour? 31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! 32 What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

The way Paul talks about this church might make us forget all the serious problems they had. So far in the letter he has addressed issues of division, issues if immorality, issues of idolatry, issues of pride and insistence on personal rights, doctrinal issues, and a serious lack of love. Here he makes them the subject of his boast. He began the letter by thanking God always for them. And here he swears by his boast in them that he has in Christ Jesus our Lord. Although this letter from start to finish is filled with severe rebukes and strong corrections, we sense that Paul had a deep love and fond affection for these people. He refers to them as brothers about 20 times through the course of this letter. He loves them enough to tell them the hard truth, to rebuke them, to correct them. Here he uses this strong oath to affirm that he dies daily.

Wild Beasts at Ephesus

He says “What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus?” Some think this is a reference to his being put in the arena, but this is unlikely because 1. Roman citizens were not normally subject to being fed to wild beasts, 2. He survived, which would be unusual, and 3. he doesn’t mention this in any of the places where he lists his sufferings. But this wording is often used in a figurative sense, and that is most likely his meaning here. He mentions in chapter 16:

1 Corinthians 16:8 But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

There are many adversaries. Paul warns the Galatian believers:

Galatians 5:15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

James says:

James 4:1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. …

Paul shared in the sufferings of Christ. The Psalmist paints the portrait of Christ on the cross in Psalm 22.

Psalm 22:12 Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; 13 they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion.

But often the attacks of the enemy are nothing compared to the wounds inflicted by our brothers. Psalm 41 says:

Psalm 41:9 Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.

The deepest hurts come from those who are closest to us. In 2 Corinthians 11:26 he mentions ‘danger from false brothers.’ This may be what Paul refers to in 2 Corinthians. Hear his heart:

2 Corinthians 1:8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

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.

Nobody likes to suffer. Nobody likes to be hurt. What is the point of suffering for the sake of Christ if the dead are not raised? What is the profit, what is the use? If the dead are not raised, if Christ was not raised, if Jesus was not who he claimed to be, we are of all people most to be pitied. We have wasted our lives.

Moral Consequences of Beliefs

1 Corinthians 15:32 What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.

You hear a lot of people say ‘it really doesn’t matter what you believe’. Paul tells us that it very much matters what we believe. Our actions are rooted in our beliefs, and our beliefs will come out in our actions. That is why James says ‘what good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works’ (2:14). That is why John says “whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar” (1Jn.2:4). Jesus said:

Matthew 7:17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.

Right belief will produce healthy fruit. A diseased root of belief will manifest itself in attitudes and behavior. The diseased root of disbelief in the resurrection will show itself in actions that take no account of eternity. In Isaiah 22, God is bringing enemies against Jerusalem, but they fail to respond with repentance by turning back to God.

Isaiah 22:11 … But you did not look to him who did it, or see him who planned it long ago. 12 In that day the Lord GOD of hosts called for weeping and mourning, for baldness and wearing sackcloth; 13 and behold, joy and gladness, killing oxen and slaughtering sheep, eating flesh and drinking wine. “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

If we believe there is nothing beyond the grave, no one to whom we will give an account, we will live for our pleasures. Many who claim to believe in God live as if he doesn’t exist.

Bad Company

Paul is warning the Corinthians. They are in danger of being deceived. “Bad company corrupts good morals” was a well known saying in Paul’s day, possibly from Meander. This is similar to what he said back in chapter 5:

1 Corinthians 5:6 …Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?

But we could take this the wrong way. We could assume that he meant never to associate with sinners or unbelievers. But he made it clear in chapter 5 that he did not mean that.

1 Corinthians 5:9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

In chapter 5, the context was a person who claimed to be a believer who was refusing to turn from his sin. In chapter 15, the context is some who claims to believe the gospel but says there is no resurrection. Do not be deceived. Bad doctrine will bear bad fruit. It matters what you believe. Paul tells them to wake up from their drunken stupor and stop sinning. Unbelief will have moral consequences. Do not be deceived.

No Knowledge of God

Some have no knowledge of God. Paul is not talking here about unbelievers. Of course they have no knowledge of God! It is our privilege and responsibility to introduce them to him. Paul is talking about those in the church who claim to be believers, but who have bad doctrine and say there is no resurrection. The Corinthians prided themselves on their wisdom. To say they have no knowledge of God is a stinging rebuke. Paul’s logic here follows Jesus own teaching. When the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection, questioned Jesus, he answered them

Mark 12:24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?

You disbelieve the resurrection because you don’t know God. Right doctrine comes ultimately from a right understanding of who God is as he has revealed himself in his word.

Those who know God, who truly follow Jesus, who believe he is who he claimed to be and will keep all his good promises, those people are willing to suffer for the sake of the name of Jesus. They are willing to be regarded as sheep to be slaughtered, they are willing to be in danger every hour, to die every day. They are willing to risk everything to bring the gospel to the nations, because they have a hope beyond the grave. Those who have confidence in the resurrection talk like this:

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Those who know Jesus talk like this:

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Christ is raised. He died for our sins and he is now alive. In him we find forgiveness and the strong assurance that we who are trusting in him will be with him forever. Because we are confident of our resurrection, if we know Jesus, if we really know him, we can fearlessly take up our cross daily and follow him.

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

May 24, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 12:7-11; To Each a Manifestation of the Spirit

09/07 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 To Each the Manifestation of the Spirit ;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140907_1cor12_7-11.mp3

1 Corinthians 12 [SBLGNT]

1 Περὶ δὲ τῶν πνευματικῶν, ἀδελφοί, οὐ θέλω ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν. 2 οἴδατε ὅτι ὅτε ἔθνη ἦτε πρὸς τὰ εἴδωλα τὰ ἄφωνα ὡς ἂν ἤγεσθε ἀπαγόμενοι. 3 διὸ γνωρίζω ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐδεὶς ἐν πνεύματι θεοῦ λαλῶν λέγει· Ἀνάθεμα Ἰησοῦς, καὶ οὐδεὶς δύναται εἰπεῖν· Κύριος Ἰησοῦς εἰ μὴ ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ.

4 Διαιρέσεις δὲ χαρισμάτων εἰσίν, τὸ δὲ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα· 5 καὶ διαιρέσεις διακονιῶν εἰσιν, καὶ ὁ αὐτὸς κύριος· 6 καὶ διαιρέσεις ἐνεργημάτων εἰσίν, ὁ δὲ αὐτὸς θεός, ὁ ἐνεργῶν τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν. 7 ἑκάστῳ δὲ δίδοται ἡ φανέρωσις τοῦ πνεύματος πρὸς τὸ συμφέρον. 8 ᾧ μὲν γὰρ διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος δίδοται λόγος σοφίας, ἄλλῳ δὲ λόγος γνώσεως κατὰ τὸ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα, 9 ἑτέρῳ πίστις ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ πνεύματι, ἄλλῳ χαρίσματα ἰαμάτων ἐν τῷ ἑνὶ πνεύματι, 10 ἄλλῳ ἐνεργήματα δυνάμεων, ἄλλῳ προφητεία, 1 ἄλλῳ διακρίσεις πνευμάτων, ἑτέρῳ γένη γλωσσῶν, 2 ἄλλῳ ἑρμηνεία γλωσσῶν· 11 πάντα δὲ ταῦτα ἐνεργεῖ τὸ ἓν καὶ τὸ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα, διαιροῦν ἰδίᾳ ἑκάστῳ καθὼς βούλεται.

1 Corinthians 12 [ESV2011]

1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

We are dealing with a very controversial topic in this section of Scripture. Paul is answering a question about what it is that makes someone ‘spiritual’ and teaching about the distributions of various grace-gifts by the Holy Spirit. Paul lists gifts like healing, faith, miracles, tongues, interpretation, distinguishing of spirits, prophecies, and words of wisdom and knowledge. Some people believe that many if not all of these gifts have ceased and are no longer relevant or given in the church today. Others believe that they are fully in operation in the church, and that they personally possess one or more of these gifts. I am guessing that we have both positions represented here today. These issues were divisive in the church in Corinth, and they are divisive in many churches today. Much of this letter is written to confront the issues over which they were dividing, and to bring greater unity. Paul has some important things to say to us, if we are willing to listen.

Some of you may be clueless, this is the first you have ever heard that there are gifts that the Spirit gives to believers, wondering if you have any or where you can get some. Some of you may be curious, wondering which side I take on the issues. Some may be cautious, concerned that we are heading off the deep end and into craziness.

My goal is to submit myself to the text of Scripture, listening to what it says, believing it, and making an effort to adjust my life and practices accordingly. I want to keep the main thing the main thing, focusing on the clear things and admitting there are things that we just don’t know. I want to be honest about what is clear and about what is not so clear in the text, not overstating one side or the other. I want to be teachable, not with a head set in cement, thinking I know everything already, but eager to learn what God wants to teach us through his word. I hope you are eager to learn along with me.

In order to understand any passage of Scripture, we need to see it in its proper context. The context of 1 Corinthians is a church that is divided, and many of the issues they divided over centered around pride and self-seeking. They wanted to be thought well of, to seek status and to impress others. Paul tackles the issue of what makes one spiritual by starting with the basic biblical fact that no one believes in Jesus as Lord except the Holy Spirit has done a work in him first. Everyone who confesses Christ as Lord has been born of the Spirit, has God the Holy Spirit residing in him, and is therefore spiritual.

He then highlights the nature of the spiritual by pointing us to the character of the gifts as grace-gifts. They are unearned, undeserved freely given by a generous God. The gifts are sovereignly distributed by the one triune God. They are services, intended for the good of others, they are powerful workings energized by the power of almighty God.

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

We could summarize what has been said so far this way:

Every believer is spiritual / indwelt by God the Holy Spirit.

Every believer is given the manifestation of the Spirit.

Every grace-gift is undeserved; no credit to the one who receives it.

Every grace-gift is intended for the common good.

Paul now goes on to enumerate 9 various gifts, redundantly stating that they all come from one and the same Spirit. Grace-gifts are manifestations of the Spirit, given through the Spirit, according to the same Spirit, by the same Spirit, by the one Spirit. They are all empowered and apportioned by one and the same Spirit. Paul’s emphasis is on the divine Giver who gives gifts to each just as he chooses. He lists 9 gifts here, a sampling of gifts to make his point that whatever gifts believers have all came from one and the same Spirit. This is the main point, and we would do well not to lose sight of the main point as we look at some of the other details of this passage.

Lists of the Gifts

Paul lists 9 gifts here, and another 9 at the end of this chapter. 5 of the gifts are common to both lists, and the other 4 are unique to each list, so in the chapter he gives us 13 gifts in all. As we look around the New Testament at some other listings of the gifts, we realize that of the 13, only 2 show up in the other lists. Word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, powers healings, miracles, distinguishing of spirits, helping, administrating, tongues, and interpretation of tongues do not show up in any of the other lists. Other things, like evangelists, shepherds, exhortation, generosity, leading, and mercy are not mentioned in 1 Corinthians. This should caution us against thinking that we have an exhaustive list of all the gifts. The gifts listed are merely examples held up to make a point, not intended for us to create a comprehensive list and then administer tests to see who has which gifts. Whose list do we use? Which gifts do we include? Which gifts are describing the same thing using different terms? It is at least possible that there are some grace-gifts that are not mentioned in any of the biblical lists. There is nothing wrong with taking a test to help you understand what gifts you might have, but realize that the unique equipping God has gifted you with may not fit into the neat categories the maker of the test came up with. And don’t think that until you can list which gifts you possess, you are useless and have no purpose in the church. Every believer has been gifted exactly as God intended, and countless believers use their various gifts very effectively and regularly to strengthen the church without having a clue what gifts they have or even that they are using gifts at all. This is Paul’s point in inserting some seemingly ordinary non-exciting gifts like helps and administration in amongst the more obviously supernatural and dramatic gifts. These plain everyday activities that are essential to the healthy functioning of the church are no less supernatural and Holy Spirit empowered than the flashy attention grabbing manifestations of the Spirit.

What Are The Gifts?

Another challenge we face in studying the gifts is that we don’t know exactly what they are or how they were used. We can try to piece together the data we are given in the text to better understand what the gifts were, but the truth is we don’t know for sure. John Chrysostom, who lived AD 347-404 in his comments on this passage wrote:

This whole place is very obscure: but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to and by their cessation, being such as then used to occur but now no longer take place. And why do they not happen now? Why look now, the cause too of the obscurity hath produced us again another question: namely, why did they then happen, and now do so no more? [Homilies on First Corinthians. Homily XXIX, 1]

Chrysostom lamented that this passage is obscure because the things it describes were no longer happening in the church. If one who lived within 300 years of the apostles was aware of his own ignorance in understanding the gifts, how can we who live some 2000 years later assume that we know what they mean? We can look at what modern day Christians practice and identify by these biblical names, but it is not certain that what some today call prophecy or tongues or healing is necessarily the same thing that Paul referred to when he used those words to describe gifts in the early church.

Structure of the Passage

What can we say about these gifts? First, we can see some structure to the list that he gives. There are two different Greek words that are all translated ‘to another’ in this passage. One tends to mean another of the same kind, and the other can mean another of a different kind. The first two are paired, the next 5 are connected, and the last two are paired. The utterance of wisdom is paired with the utterance of knowledge, both speaking gifts, and the final two, various kinds of languages and interpretation of languages, are also speaking gifts. The middle 5 are all lumped together, with faith as a more general gift that may find expression in some of the other gifts, and then the two pairs, healings and miracles, and prophecy and distinguishing of spirits.

Word of Wisdom

What is the grace-gift identified as the word of wisdom? We can guess, or we can look around at current practice, but I believe we will be better served to look in the text to find our answers. Both wisdom and knowledge were buzzwords in Corinth. The word ‘wisdom occurs 17 times in 1 Corinthians; 16 times in the first three chapters, and then once in this verse. Looking back to the first section of this book, we see that ‘words of eloquent wisdom’ were prized in Corinth, and Paul draws a contrast between the so-called wisdom of the world that God will destroy, and the true wisdom of God in the seemingly foolish message of the cross. The message of Christ crucified is the power of God and the wisdom of God (1:23-24). In chapter 2, Paul claims to impart to them a secret and hidden wisdom of God, things God has revealed to us through his Spirit (2:7-10). He says:

1 Corinthians 2:12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

The things freely given us by God, the secret and hidden wisdom that we understand through the Spirit, is that the Lord of glory was crucified. The word of wisdom is to ‘know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified’ (2:2). Paul claims to impart this wisdom of God in words taught by the Spirit, which fits perfectly with what he says here about the grace-gift/service/working of the Holy Spirit in the utterance or word of wisdom. When Paul says in chapter 15 “I would remind you of the gospel …that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared…”, he is exercising the grace-gift of an utterance of wisdom. We could say that the word of wisdom is the God-given ability to understand and communicate the good news of Christ crucified so that Christ is perceived as the power and wisdom of God among those who are called.

Word of Knowledge

What is the grace-gift called the word of knowledge? Paul begins this letter:

1 Corinthians 1:4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge

This seems to be an affirmation that they possessed this grace-gift of the word of knowledge. This word ‘knowledge’ shows up 5 times in chapter 8, and then 4 times in the chapters dealing with grace-gifts. In chapter 8, Paul says:

1 Corinthians 8:1 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

Paul points to their so-called knowledge which puffs up, knowledge of theological truth which frees the one with that knowledge to eat at an idol’s temple, thus by that knowledge destroying a brother for whom Christ died (8:11), and contrasts it with the way we ought to know, which is in truth being known by God, loving God, and building others up in love. We could conclude that the grace-gift of the word of knowledge is the God given ability to properly understand theological truth and humbly apply it in a way that others are built up in their relationship with God and their love for God.

Faith

What is the gift of faith? We can see from the entire New Testament that faith is believing in, trusting in and depending on God’s promises. We are saved by God’s grace as a gift, and we are saved through faith or relying on God, which itself is a gift from God (Eph.2:8-9). But that cannot be what Paul means here, because here he is looking at a specific grace-gift that is given only to some believers. He has already said in verse 3 that “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit”, which is looking at the gift of faith given to ever believer. Here he is talking about distributions of various gifts, services, or activities, different manifestations of the Spirit given to different believers. So what is this additional gift of faith that goes beyond saving faith? Chapter 13 gives us a clue.

1 Corinthians 13:2 …and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

This seems to be an extraordinary Spirit enabled capacity to depend on God to remove major obstacles to the gospel. When we look at this in the context of manifestations of the Spirit given to each for the common good, we can see that the unshakeable confidence in God of one individual can be an encouragement and support to the entire body, stimulating the group to move forward with boldness and confidence.

Gifts of Healings

What are gifts of healings? Both words are in the plural, indicating that there may be multiple grace-gifts for different kinds of healings. Clearly in much of Jesus’ ministry and the ministry of the apostles recorded in Acts, physical healing of diseases, and healing of those oppressed by demons were central. We also see Matthew 13:15, John 12:40, and Acts 28:27 all citing Isaiah 6:9-10, which says:

Isaiah 6:9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people: “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ 10 Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”

This indicates that one aspect of healing is healing of unbelief, where blind eyes see, heavy ears hear, and dull hearts understand, turn and believe in Jesus. Peter says:

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.

This healing is comprehensive healing, spiritual and ultimately physical. There were occasions where Paul told a man crippled from birth to ‘stand upright on your feet’ and he was healed (Acts 14:10), there were occasions where handkerchiefs that had touched Paul were brought to the sick and ‘their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them’ (Acts 19:12); There was also occasion when Paul instructed Timothy to “use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments” (1 Tim.5:23) and when Paul “left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus” (2 Tim.4:20). It seems clear that the gifts of healings did not ensure that everyone was always physically healed. So the gifts of healings may be diverse, including physical healings, healings from demonic oppression, healings from spiritual blindness, healings with a word, and healings through more natural means like medicines.

Workings of Powers

In workings of powers, both words are plural, again indicating that there may be varieties of powerful workings within this one classification of Spirit-gifting. The grammar of this phrase could be read as workings of powers in the sense of doing miraculous deeds, or it could be read as workings over powers in the sense of exercising authority over demonic powers. We could look to Ananias and Sapphira who fell dead at the apostles’ feet when they lied to the Holy Spirit, (Acts 5:1-11) or when Elymas the magician was seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith, and Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit rebuked him and he was struck blind (Acts 13:8-12)

Here in 1 Corinthians, where the people were seeking power and status, power primarily refers to the power of the gospel to save sinners. So workings of powers could include authority over hostile spiritual forces, workings of miracles, and a demonstration of the power of the gospel of Christ crucified to rescue sinners.

Prophecy and Discerning of Spirits

Prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, kinds of tongues and interpretation of tongues are the main subjects of the next chapters, so we will explore them more fully when we come to them, but for now we can say that prophecy is speaking something that God has brought to mind for the purpose of building up, encouraging or consoling others (14:3), and is to be subject to those with the gift of discerning the spirits. Paul says in 14:29, ‘let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said’. In 1 Thessalonians Paul instructs:

1 Thessalonians 5:19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good.

Various Languages and Interpretation of Languages

Again, there will be much more to say on the issue of tongues, but we can preliminarily define tongues as words of prayer or praise spoken to God, not always understood by the speaker, and requiring explanation to be understood by others. Paul defines it for us in 14:2

1 Corinthians 14:2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.

Empowered, Apportioned, Willed

11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

Paul brings us back to the main point; there are various distributions of grace-gifts to different believers, but it is the same Spirit who powers them, and distributes them to individuals according to his own good purpose. There is a tendency to champion one gift above others, to claim a particular gift or type of gifts as evidence of advanced spirituality. Paul claims that every believer is energized by the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit gives different gifts to each individual exactly as he intends. They are given to us but not for us, they are given for his good purpose, and that purpose is for the common good. He does not grant gifts based on capability or performance, they are freely given, and they are given to whoever he wants to give them. We can claim no credit or status based on what we have been freely given, because grace is directly opposite to merit. We must rejoice in the unity of the one Spirit displayed in the diversity of gifts.

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

11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

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

September 7, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 8:7-13; Obligation to Love

03/02 1 Corinthians 8:7-13 – Obligation to Love; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140302_1cor8_7-13.mp3

1 Corinthians 8 [SBLGNT]

7 Ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐν πᾶσιν ἡ γνῶσις· τινὲς δὲ τῇ συνηθείᾳ ἕως ἄρτι τοῦ εἰδώλου ὡς εἰδωλόθυτον ἐσθίουσιν, καὶ ἡ συνείδησις αὐτῶν ἀσθενὴς οὖσα μολύνεται. 8 βρῶμα δὲ ἡμᾶς οὐ παραστήσει τῷ θεῷ· οὔτε γὰρ ἐὰν φάγωμεν, περισσεύομεν, οὔτε ἐὰν μὴ φάγωμεν, ὑστερούμεθα. 9 βλέπετε δὲ μή πως ἡ ἐξουσία ὑμῶν αὕτη πρόσκομμα γένηται τοῖς ἀσθενέσιν. 10 ἐὰν γάρ τις ἴδῃ σὲ τὸν ἔχοντα γνῶσιν ἐν εἰδωλείῳ κατακείμενον, οὐχὶ ἡ συνείδησις αὐτοῦ ἀσθενοῦς ὄντος οἰκοδομηθήσεται εἰς τὸ τὰ εἰδωλόθυτα ἐσθίειν; 11 ἀπόλλυται γὰρ ὁ ἀσθενῶν ἐν τῇ σῇ γνώσει, ὁ ἀδελφὸς δι’ ὃν Χριστὸς ἀπέθανεν. 12 οὕτως δὲ ἁμαρτάνοντες εἰς τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς καὶ τύπτοντες αὐτῶν τὴν συνείδησιν ἀσθενοῦσαν εἰς Χριστὸν ἁμαρτάνετε. 13 διόπερ εἰ βρῶμα σκανδαλίζει τὸν ἀδελφόν μου, οὐ μὴ φάγω κρέα εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, ἵνα μὴ τὸν ἀδελφόν μου σκανδαλίσω.

1 Corinthians 8 [ESV2011]

1 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. 4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

7 However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

In chapters 8-11, Paul is addressing the issue of a Christian’s interaction with pagan society. In the pagan culture of Corinth, idolatry permeated every area of life; politics, sports, employment, family, even eating. Almost all meat would have some connection with pagan idolatry. Meat at a friend’s house may be the leftovers from a pagan sacrifice. Meat sold in the market often came from the priest’s portion of the pagan sacrifice. Pagan temples had dining rooms that were rented to celebrate special occasions. Some of the believers in Corinth were claiming the right to eat food that came from the temple, even the right to attend banquets held at the temple, arguing that because there is only one true God, and since food cannot earn for us favor with God, then we have freedom to eat whatever we want wherever we want.

We may think we can safely tune out this whole section as irrelevant because I can’t remember the last time I was invited to a temple for a banquet, or when my neighbor invited me to a barbeque that was dedicated to Asclepius or Aphrodite or Zeus. But if you find yourself in another country or another culture, you may quickly realize how important it is to think carefully through these issues. And when we put these instructions in the context of the broader issues of idolatry as being anything we love or honor or elevate alongside the one true God, then this becomes massively relevant and intensely practical.

The Principles behind the Decree

And we are greatly helped by the way the apostle deals with this issue. This was a settled issue. Paul could have simply laid down the law, cited the Jerusalem decree, and moved on. And that may be what he had done in earlier correspondence or in person with this church. Paul was there at the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15. Paul was one of those entrusted with the responsibility to deliver the decision to the Gentile churches. For a non-Jew to become a follower of Jesus, they did not have to become Jewish or come under the burden of Jewish law. But they must turn away from their false gods to the one true God. They cannot add Jesus to the list of gods they worship and serve. In turning to Jesus they must turn away from the worship of false gods, from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from things strangled, from sexual immorality. Paul could have laid down the law. But instead he lays out the reasons behind the decision to help them (and us) to think more carefully through the issue and lead them to the proper conclusion.

Paul brings them back to first principles. There is only one God, and that one God requires that we love him with all heart and soul and mind and strength, and that we love our neighbor as ourselves. Love seeks the genuine good of the other, even if it is costly to us. The Corinthians boasted in a kind of knowledge that set them apart from everyone else; Paul points out that this knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.

He points them back to first principles of monotheism; there is no God but one. By saying there is one Lord and God we confess that we owe our undivided allegiance and obedience to this one God. God reveals himself as a jealous God, and demands that we have no other gods besides him. Paul clarifies that this one God is God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, distinct persons with different roles, but God, one eternal being.

The double command of love must govern all of life. Love for God must come first. And this humbles us, because we only love because he first loved us. In verses 7-13, he spells out what love for our brother should look like. Paul does not confront their idolatrous behavior head on, but rather seeks to persuade them. In chapter 10, he will lay out clear conclusions, like 10:14 “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” and that eating idol food is eating at the table of demons (10:16-22). In this chapter Paul assumes for the sake of argument that what they are saying is true, and that their knowledge is accurate. Even if it were true that Christians have legitimate liberty to join in pagan feasts, love would require a different path.

This Knowledge is Not In All

The Corinthians were claiming to have knowledge. They said ‘we know that all of us possess knowledge’. Paul here clarifies ‘but not all possess this knowledge’. This ‘knowledge’ that it is acceptable to participate in pagan feasts because the gods honored are false empty nothings, this is not in everyone.

7 However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.

Before they heard the gospel and believed in Jesus as God, many Corinthians would have regularly participated in these celebrations in honor of the various gods, and upon entering their former place of worship would feel soiled, dirty, defiled. Their conscience is weak, not because they are too easily offended and over-sensitive, but because they cave to the example of those who claim to be wise and eat, even though they don’t themselves have this so-called wisdom that would free them to participate. The weak conscience is a conscience that isn’t sure of itself, that doesn’t have the strength to stand on its own two feet, the moral consciousness that questions if it is permissible but does it anyway. This is a moral consciousness that is swayed by the opinion and example of others. Notice that Paul doesn’t say that they merely feel defiled. He says that their conscience, their moral consciousness is defiled. He says in Romans 14:23

Romans 14:23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

Subjective Sin

These verses tell us that there is a subjective reality to sin. Something may not be forbidden by God, let’s stay (to be culturally relevant) drinking a particular beverage. If you have been raised to believe that it is sin to partake, even though you can’t produce the verse that says it is wrong, you are convinced that it is a sin against God. Objectively it is not wrong. No specific command, no general principle in the bible says it is wrong. Your conscience has been misinformed. But if you fill up your cup and drink, believing it is wrong, you are saying in your heart ‘I believe this to be a sin against God, but I am going to do it anyway’. God looks on the heart, and in your heart you have sinned against God. The act is not objectively sinful. It is not sinful in and of itself. But it becomes sin for you when, thinking it is sin, you do it anyway.

There is also an objective reality to sin. If you were not raised to believe that any sexual intimacy outside of a marriage relationship is sin, you may feel no guilt in fornicating with your girlfriend. It may feel so right. But it is still really, objectively, according to God’s absolute standard, wrong. Idolatry is on that list, putting any thing, any tradition, any relationship equal in importance with God is sin, whether it feels sinful or not. Much that we don’t feel guilty about is objectively sin against God. One reason the Holy Spirit is given to believers is to convict us of sin that we are not aware is sin.

Food Does Not Bring Us Before God

The Corinthians argument is that ‘Food does not bring us near to God’. We are presented blameless before God through the shed blood of Jesus on the cross. Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial law. In a vision God offered to Peter all kinds of ceremonially unclean things to eat, and God said ‘what God has made clean, do not call common’ (Acts10:15). Jesus declared all foods clean (Mk.7:19). He said that it is not the stuff that goes in, but what comes out that defiles a person. Stuff like evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness that come out of a person’s heart. That is what defiles, not food. Food does not bring us near to God. Keeping various rules like:

Colossians 2:21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 ( referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Food does not bring us near to God. No list of do’s and dont’s will earn favor with God. Only Jesus can bring us near to the all-holy God. Food has no importance. Notice how Paul frames this: ‘We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do’. I find it interesting that he doesn’t say the opposite. He could have said ‘We are no better off if we do not eat, and no worse off if we do’, but he didn’t because that may not be true. Based on his conclusions in chapter 10, we may be better off not to eat food sacrificed to idols, and we may be worse of if we do. He says forfeiting your liberty to eat the steak does not separate you from God, neither does eating the steak bring you closer to God. Since food does not bring us nearer to God by eating or alienate us by not eating, we can safely forgo our right to eat for the sake of a brother.

Stumbling Block

This is what he says in verse 9

9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.

Paul’s language borders on condescending. Paul distances himself from ‘this right of yours’. They are demanding their rights. They have this knowledge. Paul says ‘look out!’ When you start demanding and defending your own rights, you are already on dangerous territory. The problem when I begin to demand my rights, I often end up trampling on the rights of others. Paul alerts them to the existence of others for whom they must be concerned. Watch out that this right you claim does not become a stumbling block to the weak. You who claim to have ‘wisdom’ have an obligation to the weak.

This word ‘stumbling block’ has a clear Old Testament connection to idolatry. God warned in Exodus 34:

Exodus 34:12 Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. 13 You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim 14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), 15 lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they whore after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and you are invited, you eat of his sacrifice, 16 and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods and make your sons whore after their gods. 17 “You shall not make for yourself any gods of cast metal.

This is exactly what happened to Israel in the wilderness.

Numbers 25:1 While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. 2 These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel.

Jesus references this when he rebukes the New Testament church in Pergamum and calls them to repentance:

Revelation 2:14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.

To draw someone into worship of anything besides the one true God is a stumbling block.

Build Up to Destruction

To put a stumbling block before the weak is a serious issue.

10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols?

Paul is somewhat sarcastic here. The word translated ‘encouraged’ is the word usually translated ‘edified’ or ‘built up’. To ‘build up’ a weaker brother so that he participates in idolatry – some kind of building up that is! The conscience is a valuable tool. It is not infallible. The conscience is a delicate instrument, like a compass. Compasses sometimes need to be calibrated. But you do not calibrate the compass of conscience with the sledgehammer of my knowledge and rights, sending it spinning in every direction and rendering it useless to guide. You calibrate the compass of conscience with the precision screwdriver of love.

Listen to how Paul confronts the puffed-up Corinthians.

11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died.

Destroyed. Perished. Lost. Who would want that on their hands? Not anyone, but a weak person. You would trip up and destroy someone who can’t even stand on their own? A brother! Not an enemy, not an outsider, a brother, a sibling, part of the family! There ought to be some tender affection in you toward your own brother. And if not for my brother, then surely for Christ. This one who through my supposed knowledge I am leading back into bondage to sin, and into destruction, is one for whom Christ died. To think that I would attempt to nullify the effect of the cross of Jesus! I am a sinner saved only by God’s undeserved grace through the cross. To lead another for whom Christ died back into the sin out of which he was snatched and from which he is set free is unthinkable. Jesus loved that person and gave himself up for them. He made the ultimate sacrifice out of love. But I am so puffed up in my knowledge and concerned about my rights that I cannot sacrifice something so insignificant to love them.

12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.

Paul applies this principle of love to his readers. To wound a weak conscience, to lead a weak brother into sin, is to sin against them, and to sin against someone for whom Christ died is to sin against Christ Jesus himself. This lesson would be vivid for Paul, formerly Saul, persecutor of the church. When Jesus confronted him on the road, he asked “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts9:4). To persecute the church is to persecute Jesus. Jesus said ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’ (Mt.25:40). Jesus taught

Matthew 18:6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Jesus takes great offense if we do not love those whom he so loved that he gave up his own life as a substitute for.

Paul concludes with his own personal application.

13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

Food, something so insignificant in the context of the substitutionary death of Christ for sinners; my right becomes so trivial in light of Christ Jesus, being in the form of God, who made himself nothing, and died on a cross for sinners like me (Phil.2:5-8). Paul says if food leads a brother for whom Christ died back into idolatry and away from Jesus, I will give up my right to eat meat altogether. I have no right to be rescued from my own sin. That is pure undeserved grace. It is a gift, not a right. I surely have no right to interfere or tamper with the undeserved grace God chooses to extend to another sinner. Rather, I have an obligation to love those whom Christ loved.

March 2, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

1 Corinthians 8:1-3; Love and Knowledge

02/16 1 Corinthians 8:1-3 Love and Knowledge; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140216_1cor8_1-3.mp3

1 Corinthians 8 [SBLGNT]

1 Περὶ δὲ τῶν εἰδωλοθύτων, οἴδαμεν ὅτι πάντες γνῶσιν ἔχομεν. ἡ γνῶσις φυσιοῖ, ἡ δὲ ἀγάπη οἰκοδομεῖ. 2 εἴ τις δοκεῖ ἐγνωκέναι τι, οὔπω ἔγνω καθὼς δεῖ γνῶναι· 3 εἰ δέ τις ἀγαπᾷ τὸν θεόν, οὗτος ἔγνωσται ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ.

1 Corinthians 8 [ESV2011]

1 Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. 4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

In chapters 8-10, Paul tackles another issue brought to him by the church in Corinth. In chapter 7, he says ‘now concerning the matters about which you wrote’, and he addresses issues of relationships, marriage, celibacy, the divorced and widowed, remarriage and betrothal. Here in chapter 8, he begins ‘now concerning food offered to idols’, and he engages this topic at length through the next three chapters. In our effort to understand the details of the passage before us, it will be helpful to look at the background of this issue culturally, theologically, and historically, and to look at some of the conclusions Paul draws in chapter 10, so we can understand where he is going with his logic.

Cultural Background

First of all, the cultural background. Corinth, like much of the Graeco-Roman world, was a culture immersed in idolatry. Some of the deities that were revered in Corinth would include Chronos, Poseidon, the Sun, the Calm, the Sea, Aphrodite, Artemis, Isis, Dionysus, a tree, Fortune, Apollo, Hermes, Zeus, Asclepius, Bunaea, and others (R.Collins, 1999: 314, cited in BECNT, p.373).

Three distinct issues would face a resident in Corinth, and Paul addresses each of these: eating in the temple of an idol (8:7-13; 10:1-22); eating food bought in the market (10:23-27); and eating food in private homes of unbelievers (10:28-31).

The problem of idolatry was pervasive, because pagan religion was inextricably linked to every area of life. Civic and political life included emperor worship and idolatry. Each trade guild would typically be associated with a pagan deity, company parties would be held in the idol’s temple, and everyone employed in this trade would be expected to participate. Excavations at the Asclepion revealed multiple dining rooms and a large courtyard that could be used to host large banquets. Temple dining rooms could be rented out to commemorate weddings, birthdays, the birth of a child, coming of age parties, election victories, funerals, and the like (Kim, 1975, cited in BECNT p.348). Idolatry was even linked to sports; the Isthmian games hosted by Corinth included pagan sacrifices. If you went to the market to buy meat, it was likely to have been sacrificed to or dedicated to some pagan god. There was a fear that bad spirits would enter the body through food, so food was dedicated to a deity in hopes that that deity would protect the consumer from harmful spirits. Animals that were offered in these temples would end up in three places. Some of the meat was burned to the god. Some was given to the priests as their portion. If they had more than they could consume, they would sell it in the market. A portion was given to the person who offered the sacrifice, either to be eaten in one of the temple dining rooms for a celebration, or to be taken home and consumed with family and friends. This was a major issue for someone who believed in Christ, because a refusal to participate in a work party could cost you your job. A refusal to eat food served at an unbelieving friend’s home could end the relationship. A refusal to attend family celebrations would alienate you from your unbelieving family. This is the kind of dilemma facing the church in Corinth.

Theological Background

Now let’s look at the theological and historical background of this issue. The whole bible is clear that there is only one true God. The bible opens with the declaration that in the beginning God created all that exists.

Psalm 96:4 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. 5 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens.

When God gave his commandments to his people he said:

Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Throughout the history of Israel, idolatry was a problem. We might not realize how relevant this issue is to us today. I would guess that not many of us have an image that we worship or a temple that we visit. But idolatry extends beyond images to anything that takes priority over God’s absolute right to first place, whether family or pleasure or work or power or pride. God described his people as “They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways” (Heb.3:10).

Historical Background

When we come to the historical background of this issue in the church in Corinth, we find that it had already been settled. When the good news of Jesus was believed by non-Jewish people, the question arose as to what parts of the Jewish law must be followed for a Gentile to become a genuine follower of Jesus, particularly, must they be circumcised. The early church discussed this issue and affirmed that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. They wrote a letter to the Gentile churches stating:

Acts 15:28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”

This decision was delivered to the churches in Gentile regions by Paul and Barnabas. That was Acts 15. In Acts 18, Paul arrives in Corinth and spends a year and a half preaching the gospel and establishing the church there. Certainly the issue of idolatry would have come up in a city like Corinth, and the Apostle certainly would not have withheld this decision from the Jerusalem church about this important issue. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians while he was in Corinth, and he wrote this:

1 Thessalonians 1:7 …you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,

Corinth is in the region of Achaia. Paul, writing from Corinth, commends the believers in Thessalonica that they turned to God from idols. There is no such thing as turning to the one living and true God and continuing to worship idols. This is not a gray area, this is black and white. They had the decision of the Jerusalem church on it. It appears that the believers in Corinth were feeling the pressure of their culture and questioning this decision. They wrote to Paul giving their reasons why they felt that they could as Christians partake of food sacrificed to idols and attend social functions in the pagan temples. Paul could have simply hammered them with the Jerusalem edict and demanded that they comply. Instead he lays out careful reasoning to to lead them to the proper conclusion. We can see some of his conclusions if we jump ahead to chapter 10. He says in 10:7 “Do not be idolaters as some of them were…” and in verse 14 “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” He equates idolatry with making sacrifices to demons and says in verse 20 “..I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” Addressing the question of meat of unknown origin, he says in verse 28 “But if someone says to you, ‘This has been offered in sacrifice,’ then do not eat it…”

Flow of Argument

Seeing the conclusions Paul draws, let’s back up and follow his argumentation through these chapters. Apparently the Corinthian logic ran something like this: “all of us possess knowledge” (v.1) that “an idol has no real existence” because “there is no God but one” (v.4), and we know that “food will not commend us to God” (v.8), therefore “all things are lawful” (10:23) so we have the right to eat whatever we want wherever we want. Paul starts by pointing out the inadequacy of knowledge without love (8:1-3). He reminds them that because there is truly only one God, we exist for him and must obey him (8:4-6). He warns that their behavior may destroy a brother for whom Christ died (8:7-13). In chapter 9, he uses himself as an example of what it looks like to lay down your own rights for the sake of the gospel and the good of others. In chapter 10, he illustrates the danger of idolatry from the Old Testament example of Israel in the wilderness (10:1-13). He shows the incompatibility of idolatry and the Lord’s supper (10:14-22), and he concludes with some practical instructions on how to handle different situations in pagan society (10:23-11:1).

Knowledge

Now that we seeing where he is going with his flow of thought, let’s back up and examine his first point about knowledge and love. He introduces the topic ‘now concerning food offered to idols’ and then he quotes the Corinthians, possibly a line from their letter: ‘we know that all of us possess knowledge’, and then he begins to interact with their assertion. The kind of ‘knowledge’ they claim to have may cause more harm than good. He says ‘this knowledge puffs up’. He has talked quite a bit about knowledge already in this letter. At the opening of the letter, he:

1 Corinthians 1:4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—

He reminds them that any knowledge they do have is an undeserved gift from God. In chapters 1-3 he contrasts the foolish wisdom of this world with the powerful foolishness of the message of the cross. He points out that this is supernatural wisdom, revealed by God to the foolish, weak, low, despised nothings. God’s true wisdom is meant to humble us, not to puff us up. This word ‘puffed up’ is found in the New Testament 7 times, 6 of them in this letter (4:6, 18, 19; 5:2; 8:1; 13:4). The Corinthians had a problem with pride. Their egos were over-inflated.

Paul says here that ‘knowledge puffs up, but love builds up’. Is Paul pitting love against knowledge? Is he promoting anti-intellectual ignorance? Love without knowledge? Heavens NO! You have to pay attention and think clearly and carefully to follow Paul’s logic in these chapters. In writing this letter he assumes that they will have to use knowledge. When Paul thanked God for their being enriched in knowledge, he was not joking. Knowledge is a gift from God. In verse 2, he says:

8:2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.

There is a way that we ought to know. He does not say ‘you should just turn off your brains and start loving people.’ No, the Corinthians ought to know, but in a different way than they did. Ten times in this letter, Paul asks the question ‘do you not know?’ and each time he is rebuking them for their ignorance of a basic truth of Christianity that they ought to know. In Ephesians 1:8, Paul says that God lavishes the riches of his grace on us ‘in all wisdom and insight’. When Paul prays for the Colossians, he says:

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.

Fruitfulness comes in connection with an increase in the knowledge of God, not a decrease in knowledge. Paul’s concern for his unbelieving Jewish brothers is that:

Romans 10:2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.

Their danger was that they had a passionate love for God, but it was not according to knowledge. They were ignorant of the righteousness of God that comes through faith in Christ. Love without knowledge does not save. Paul tells Timothy that God

1 Timothy 2:4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Coming to the knowledge of the truth is equated with being saved. In Romans 1, the wrath of God comes on those who ‘exchange the truth about God for a lie’ (1:25). In the Old Testament, God says ‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge’ (Hosea 4:6; Is.5:13) and they have ‘rejected knowledge’.

Jesus was clear on this. He said:

John 8:31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

In knowing the truth, there is freedom. Knowing the truth comes from abiding in the word of Jesus.

Inflating Self or Building Others

Paul is not arguing for less knowledge and more love. It is not that they know too much, but they don’t know in the right way. Paul rebukes this knowledge that is characterized by pride. This kind of knowledge shows itself by an inflated ego, by a feeling of superiority, looking down on others. The goal of true knowledge is not inflating self but building others up. Paul will have more to say in chapters 12 and 14 about using our gifts, even gifts like knowledge, to build up others, to build up the body of Christ. He will have more to say about the essential nature of love, real selfless love that the Corinthians lacked, in chapter 13. In the issue of idolatry, Paul is bringing the Corinthian church back to first principles. The first and greatest commandment, according to Jesus, is to love God and love neighbor. Any participation in idolatry is a blatant failure to love God above all else, and as he will show in the rest of this chapter, participation in idolatry is a failure to love our neighbor for whom Christ died.

Know that You Don’t Know

The Corinthians asserted ‘all of us possess knowledge’; Paul warns

8:1 … This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.

The one who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. There is a self-confident knowing that Paul says is not yet knowing, and there is the way we ought to know, which is characterized by a humble awareness of our own weakness and limitations. Socrates said “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Paul warned in chapter 3:

1 Corinthians 3:18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.

In Romans 11, he pushes us beyond the human limits of knowledge:

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?”

True knowledge is beginning to comprehend that God is incomprehensible, unsearchable, inscrutable. God is infinitely beyond what a finite human being could ever know.

Ephesians 3:17 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.

When we begin to know that the love of Christ goes beyond measurable dimensions, goes far beyond our knowledge, we begin to know as we ought to know.

8:2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

Here again we see true knowledge defined by love. Loving God is set in contrast to thinking you know something. Paul is bringing them back to first principles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with heart and soul and mind and strength. Wisdom would be to start with the greatest command, the command to love God. To love God is to put him first in everything. So if the ‘knowledge’ of the Corinthians is allowing them to participate in idolatry, then that knowledge is really foolishness.

Known By God

The one who thinks he knows is contrasted with the one who loves God. This one is said, not to know God, but to be known by God. Why does he turn this around? Paul could have said ‘the one who loves God is the one who truly knows him’; but instead he says ‘the one who loves God is the one who is known by him.’ To be known by God is to belong to God, to experience his unmerited grace, to be chosen by him. In Amos 3, God says of Israel “You only have I known of all the families of the earth”.

Exodus 33:17 And the LORD said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.”

All the people in a kingdom know their king. Some may love him and some may hate him, but they all know him. But to say that the king knows me is to say much more. In most kingdoms, very few could claim that they are known by the king.

Galatians 4:9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, …

The greatest thing is not that we know God. The greatest think is that he knows us.

2 Timothy 2:19 But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” …

For God to know us is sheer undeserved mercy.

Ephesians 2:3 … were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 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—

God loves us not because of, but in spite of what we are. It is undeserved favor. If anyone loves God, it is because he is first known and loved by God.

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.

This is a powerful antidote for idolatry. To know that the incomprehensible love of Christ has been lavished on me, to know that Christ loved me and gave himself for me, to know that I am known, intimately known and loved by the King of kings, stirs in my heart an affection for God, a deep love for God, a desire to put him first over everything else. This is not ‘I am under the authority of the Jerusalem decree, I am prohibited from eating food sacrificed to idols’; this is ‘I am known by God, loved by God! Wonder of wonders! How could I possibly give any hint that my allegiance or my affections are toward anything else besides God? Come what may, I will worship the Lord my God and him only will I serve.

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

February 16, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 34:28-35; The Fading Glory of the Old Covenant

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20121014_exodus34_28-35.mp3

10/14 Exodus 34:28-35 The Fading Glory of the Old Covenant

28 So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments. 29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. 30 Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. 32 Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the LORD had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. 33 And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. 34 Whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, 35 the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

Let’s find our place in the story. The people had sinned. They had broken God’s covenant while Moses was up on the mountain receiving the written terms of the covenant. God was ready to destroy them, but Moses interceded, asking God to show mercy to his people. God relented from his intention to consume them all, but when Moses came down the mountain and saw with his own eyes what had happened, he did what he could to clean up the mess and purge the evil from the camp. About 3,000 men of the people were killed. The LORD announced a disastrous word, that he would no longer go with the people. They would enter the promised land, but without his presence. God is holy and he would be provoked to destroy this persistently rebellious people. The people mourned and took off their ornaments and waited to see what God would do with them. Moses went outside the camp to a temporary tent of meeting, where God met with him. Moses begged that God restore the people to their privileged position and restore his presence to the people. God agreed, and invited Moses up on the mountain to remake the covenant and reveal himself to Moses. According to our text, Moses has now been on the mountain another 40 days, a repeat of the first time, when Israel under Aaron’s leadership made a golden bull idol and held a feast to it and gave their worship to it. But this time, the people are not celebrating the works of their hands; they are mourning, repentant, waiting to hear what God would do with them. We have been in on what has gone on at the top of the mountain, that God revealed his character as a God gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness and covenant faithfulness, eager to forgive all kinds of sin. But the people have not heard this yet. They await Moses’ return.

Horns of Moses

Last time Moses returned, his authority was undermined, there was a coup in the camp; the people had broken loose. He brought down two stone tablets, publicly shattered them, ordered the cleansing of the camp, pulverized their idol and made them drink it. This time he is coming down the mountain carrying new tablets, but this time something bizarre is happening. Everyone is terrified and all keep their distance. Something is happening with the skin of Moses’ face. Most of our English translations use words like ‘shining’ or ‘radiant’ to describe what the Israelites saw. The word translated ‘shone’ in verses 29, 30 and 35 is a word that only shows up one other time in the Old Testament; in Psalm 69 it is a verbal noun that means ‘horns’.

Psalm 69:31 This will please the LORD more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs.

Jerome’s Latin Vulgate (completed around AD 400) translated this as ‘his face was horned’. Because of this, much of the Medieval and Renaissance artwork portrayed Moses with horns.

This word seems to be the root of the word commonly translated as ‘horns’. Horns in biblical times represented strength, power or authority. So whatever the actual physical or visual phenomena, the word used to describe it carried the idea of authority, God restoring his authority to his mediator Moses. Habakkuk uses the related word for horns in what seems to be a very figurative way.

Habakkuk 3:3 God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran. His splendor covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. Selah 4 His brightness was like the light; rays flashed from his hand; and there he veiled his power.

(AV Habakkuk 3:4 And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power)

Whatever this looked like, it was God’s way of displaying ‘this is my servant Moses – listen to him. He is my chosen mediator. He carries my authority’. They were terrified.

True Humility

A very interesting note is that Moses had no idea what was going on. Everyone is freaking out because of what’s going on with Moses’ face, and he is totally unaware that his appearance is altered.

29 …Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.

Moses had spent 40 days in the presence of God. He was changed. He didn’t eat or drink in 40 days. But he didn’t come down the mountain saying ‘look at me! Isn’t this cool? Do you notice something different about me? I’ve been in the presence of God!’ Moses is so fixated on the glory of God, on seeing and knowing God for who he is, that he’s lost sight of himself. This is true greatness. This is true humility. Not drawing attention to the evidence of God’s work in my life, and not drawing negative attention to how low and miserable and humble I am. True humility is simply not putting self on display at all. Self-awareness is lost as God takes center stage. This is the freedom that comes from focusing on God, enjoying God, being in awe of God so much that although I am being changed in the process, I am blissfully unaware of myself at all.

Good News

The people are mourning and afraid, waiting to find out what God will do with them, and their mediator comes down the mountain with a terrifying appearance. Moses has to call Aaron and the leaders of Israel to come back to him so he can talk with them, and they have to convince the people that it is safe to come near Moses. Once they are finally gathered, he can communicate what God had told him on the mountain

30 Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. 32 Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the LORD had spoken with him in Mount Sinai.

This would include the re-iteration of God’s ten words. This would include God’s self revelation:

Exodus 34:6 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.”

This would include God’s promise:

Exodus 34:10 And he said, “Behold, I am making a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.

Finally, the people hear God’s answer to their question. Could they be forgiven? Would God abandon them? This was a repeat in miniature of the terror they had experienced when the mountain was on fire and God thundered out his expectations to them. Now Moses’ face was on fire and they were terrified with overflowing joy as he repeated the words of God’s covenant with them.

Transfigured

It is interesting that Moses shows up again centuries later on another mountain with another mediator whose appearance was altered after spending time with God. Jesus, who

Isaiah 53:2 …he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 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.

This Jesus

Luke 9:28 … took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure [exodus], which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”––not knowing what he said. 34 As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” 36 And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen. (cf. Matthew 17:1-9; Mark 9:1-9)

The skin of Moses’ face shone because he had been talking with God. But John said of Jesus:

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 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Moses reflected the glory of God. Jesus revealed the glory of God, because Jesus is God. When Peter suggested that they make three tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah, He was silenced by the voice “this is my beloved Son, listen to him.” Moses and Elijah and James and John and Peter were all there to see Jesus, to testify to Jesus. Jesus is the one who Moses and all the prophets were pointing to. Jesus said:

Luke 24:44 … that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

Moses, Elijah, the entire Old Testament was written about Jesus. Jesus said:

John 5:39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

The author of Hebrews points how Jesus is superior in every way to angels, to Moses, to the law, the temple, the priests, the sacrifices, Jesus is the reality of which everything else was foreshadow and type.

Hebrews 1:1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

Moses reflected the glory of God. This was only a dim foretaste of what would be seen in Jesus. Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God, the exact imprint of his nature.

The Glory Fades

33 And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. 34 Whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, 35 the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

According to the text, Moses would veil his face after he spoke to the people. He would remove the veil when he went into the presence of the LORD. He would deliver the message to the people so that they could see the skin of his face shining. Then he would cover himself with the veil until he went again into the presence of the LORD. Paul in 2 Corinthians points to the veiling of Moses’ shining face, and draws a contrast between the Old Covenant and the New. Paul says

2 Corinthians 3:5 …our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory. 12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 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.

Paul points out that Moses veiled his face because the glory of the Old Covenant, as brilliant as that was, was a fading glory. It did not last. He draws a number of contrasts between the Old Covenant and the New:

Old Covenant / New Covenant

Of The Letter / Of The Spirit

Kills / Gives Life

Ministry of Death Ministry of Spirit

Carved in Stone / Written in Hearts

Fading Glory / Surpassing Glory

Hidden / Revealed

Ministry of Condemnation / Ministry of Righteousness

Ending / Permanent

Minds Hardened / Veil Removed Through Christ

We look at what happened to Moses and are intrigued. Wouldn’t that be cool if we all left church each Sunday with radiating faces? But Paul’s point is that what Moses experienced under the Old Covenant was as nothing compared to what what we now have in the New Covenant. Moses, a man, was their mediator. Jesus, the God-man is our one mediator. Moses was the only one invited in to God’s presence. We all have the opportunity to behold the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. We get to look, not at Moses, but at Jesus, God the Son, and we get to look with unveiled faces. We are not hid in a cleft of the rock and covered with his hand, able to see only his back side. We experience the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Transformed by Beholding

We, like Moses are altered from the experience. But for Moses it faded away. For us it is permanent. Are you hungry for lasting transformation in you life? In your character? In your relationships? In your attitudes? In your thoughts and desires? Here is the answer for permanent transformation. It is not something we do; transformation is something that is done to us; we are ‘being transformed’. What is the mechanism of transformation? How does it happen? ‘Beholding the glory of the Lord’, we look, we gaze, we see, and we are being transformed. We turn to the Lord, the veil is removed, and we take in who Jesus is. We enjoy him in all his glory, full of grace and truth. As we look God transforms us. We may not be aware that anything is happening. We can lose ourselves in the glory of his majesty. But those around us will know. They will see it in our lives.

Exodus 34:10 …And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.

They will recognize that we have been with Jesus (Acts 4:13).

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

October 14, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment