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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 3:12-16; Unveiled Boldness

06/03_2Corinthians 3:12-16; Unveiled Boldness ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180603_2cor3_12-16.mp3

Sufficient to Speak God’s Word

Paul has said that through us God in Christ is spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere (2:14); that he is the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing (2:15). To one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. And he asks; ‘Who is sufficient for these things?’ (2:16) He claims to handle God’s word sincerely, from God, in the face of God, speaking in Christ (2:17). And he says:

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

Paul claims to speak God’s word from God in the presence of God in Christ. And he has confidence through Christ toward God, because his sufficiency does not come from himself; his sufficiency comes from God. He is competent to be a minister of the new covenant, a minster of the Spirit, because God has made him competent. He contrasts the glory of these two ministries; the letter and the Spirit

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

Letter vs. Spirit; stone tablets vs. tablets of flesh hearts; that which kills vs. that which makes alive; a ministry of death vs. a ministry of the Spirit; a ministry of condemnation vs. a ministry of righteousness; that which is abolished vs. that which is permanent. Although Moses’ ministry came with great glory, the ministry of the Spirit comes with such surpassingly greater glory that Moses ministry has come to have no glory at all in comparison.

He goes on in verse 12:

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

Such a Hope

Having this kind of hope, we have much boldness. What hope is he talking about? Remember, hope in the Bible is not wishful thinking, but solid confident expectation that God will do what he said. He has hope in the life giving ministry of the Spirit. He has hope in the ministry of righteousness. He has hope in the lasting glory of the transforming power of the new covenant. He has hope in God, who through his ministry spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ everywhere. He has rock-solid expectation that God is leading him and God is at work, even in the middle of afflictions and burdens and despair.

Bold Openness

He says this hope leads to boldness. What does he mean ‘boldness?’ In verse 4 he spoke of his confidence of sufficiency in ministry that comes from from God, confidence that is through Christ, confidence that is toward God. In 2:17 he claims to handle God’s word with sincerity, speaking in Christ in the sight of God. This word ‘boldness’ is the unhindered confidence to speak what is true regardless of the outcome. It refers often, especially in the gospels and Acts to a plainness of speech, a freedom or openness of speech, out in public; in contrast to a self-conscious shyness, secrecy, or a desire to hide or conceal, to speak in riddles or parables. Paul says that genuine apostolic ministry is plain, up front, honest, clear speaking, nothing to hide. This fits right in with what he said in 1 Corinthians

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.

Paul said it straight, told it like it is. The gospel is the gospel; it offends many, it turns many away. The apostles refused to water it down, change it up, repackage it to make it more palatable.

You are a sinner. You deserve hell. But God loves you, he sent his only Son Jesus to become a man to die in your place to rescue you. If you turn away from your pride, from your merit, if you come to him needy, as a taker, to simply receive what he freely gives, he will forgive you and save you and transform you and make you his forever.

The gospel is not about me. It is all about Jesus. It is all about Jesus Christ and him crucified. It is simple. It is so simple a child can receive it. It is so simple you can tell it to your friends.

This is the main point of this passage. Paul goes on to illustrate this from Moses in Exodus, and there is a lot of debate over exactly what he means in the illustration, but I don’t want to miss the main point. Paul is defending his apostolic ministry and he says ‘because we have this kind of hope we are very bold, open, plain.’ We are not like Moses.

Moses’ Veiled Glory

Last time we looked at Exodus 34, the narrative Paul is drawing from. Moses asked to see the glory of God; God said he would make all his goodness pass before him and put on display his grace and his mercy (33:18-19). He proclaimed his name, his character, his mercy, grace, patience, love, faithfulness, forgiveness, and his justice and righteousness. It says Moses ‘was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights’ (34:28). And it says

Exodus 34:29 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.

Paul has already drawn attention to the shining or glorious face of Moses in 3:7.

2 Corinthians 3:7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end,

Now in verse 13 he draws attention to the veil that Moses used to hide his face.

2 Corinthians 3:12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end.

Both verses talk about what was being brought to an end. As we saw last time, this word literally means being abolished, extinguished, destroyed, or done away with. This word shows up in verses 7, 11, 13 and 14. The glory of Moses’ ministry is rendered inoperative or ineffective.

In verse 7 the Israelites were not able to give attention to Moses’ face because of its glory. In verse 13 the veil blocked the Israelites from giving attention to the goal or outcome. So the glory is parallel to the outcome. This word outcome is the point aimed at or the termination. We could think of the finish line of a race. It is the end point where the race concludes; it is also the goal or purpose, the thing aimed at. The veil prevented them from fixing their eyes on the goal of what was being abolished. What was the glory and the finish line of Moses’ ministry?

I think we can find the answer in this passage in Exodus. After the rebellion of Israel with the gold calf, God said depart, go to the land I promised to you, ‘but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people’ (Ex.33:1-6). Exodus 33:7-11 described how Moses would enter the tent to speak with the LORD, and how “the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex.33:11). In verses 12-16 Moses asks God in his grace to go with his people. “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found grace in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” The Greek version of Exodus 33:16 has

Exodus 33:16 (LXXE)“And how shall it be surely known, that both I and this people have found favour with thee, except only if thou go with us? So both I and thy people shall be glorified beyond all the nations, as many as are upon the earth.”

The goal and the glory of Moses’ ministry was the presence of God with his people. This was visibly displayed in the pillar of cloud and fire, and the glory cloud resting on and filling the tabernacle. The goal of Moses’ ministry pointed beyond itself to the greater presence of Immanuel, God with us.

It was this glory that the Israelites, because of their hard hearts, could not bear, but requested that Moses speak to them, “but do not let God speak to us, lest we die” (Ex.20:19). When Moses came down from talking with God, the people were afraid because of the glory of his face. This glory of God, the very presence of God with his people, Moses concealed, hid, blocked with a veil to prevent the Israelites from fixing their attention on the goal of his ministry. They were unable to look past the letter to see who the letter pointed to. They were not able to look, and then they were blocked from looking.

Hardened Minds

Paul says in verse 14 ‘But their minds were hardened.’ The fault was not in Moses. The flaw was in the people. They rebelled. They rejected and fell short of the glory of God. God offered to be with them as their God and take them to be his people, but they refused. And so their minds became like stone.

Jesus, in John 12,

John 12:37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” 41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.

Unbelief in the face of God’s proof becomes an inability to believe, and this is a divine act of judgment to ‘entrap them in their very defiance’ (Seifrid, p.167), to keep them from seeing and understanding and turning.

The Veil Abolished

2 Corinthians 3:14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

Paul says that the same veil conceals the goal of Moses’ ministry today whenever the Old Testament is read. The old covenant, in contrast to the new covenant in Jesus’ blood. The Torah or the books of Moses are equated with the old covenant. Moses pointed beyond his own ministry to the full manifestation of the glory of God in the face of Jesus. Why was Paul run out of so many synagogues? Why was his ministry so ineffective among his own people? Because there is a veil blocking them from seeing the true goal of the Scriptures. There is a hardness of mind, a veil draped over their hearts.

Jesus said to his disciples on the road to Emmaus:

Luke 24:25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Paul says ‘only through Christ is it taken away’. Only in Christ is the veil abolished, destroyed, brought to nothing, made ineffective. It is in relationship with Christ that the veil disintegrates. We can expend a significant amount of effort attempting to lift veils. We can become very clever at dismantling the things that prevent people from seeing. But the problem is they don’t want to see. It is not an eye problem so much as a heart problem. Paul was content to proclaim Christ and him crucified. Because Christ is mighty to save. Jesus destroys veils. He rips open veils top to bottom.

‘When one turns to the LORD, the veil is removed.’ Moses took off the veil when he entered the presence of YHWH, the LORD in the tent in the wilderness. When he turned away from the people and toward the LORD, he removed the veil. Moses is a picture. Moses, the one through whom the law was given, spent time with the Lord, without a veil, and he was transformed. He was able to look beyond himself to the goal, to the purpose of his ministry, to the one his ministry pointed to, he one he wrote about, to Jesus. Only in Christ is the veil abolished. When one turns to the LORD, the veil is removed. Jesus is the LORD, YHWH of the Old Testament. When anyone turns to Jesus Christ as the LORD, the veil is removed.

When Saul, on the road to persecute followers of Jesus, was struck blind by the glory of God, he asked ‘who are you LORD?’ When the LORD answered ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting’ the spiritual blinders fell off and Paul began to really see. This is the ministry of the Spirit, this is the hope that gives us boldness, freedom to speak openly and plainly the simple veil-rending gospel message that Jesus Christ is Lord.

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

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

2 Corinthians 3:7-11; Exceedingly Glorious Ministry

05/27_2 Corinthians 3:7-11; Exceedingly Glorious Ministry ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180527_2cor3_7-11.mp3

In 2 Corinthians Paul is defending the authenticity of his ministry. He says that the church of God in Corinth and the transformed lives of believers is authentication of his ministry.

2 Corinthians 3:1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. 3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

Then he answers the question he raised back in chapter 2, who is sufficient? Who is competent for this ministry, ministry that introduces some to eternal life, but is the stench of death to many. He says:

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

Who is competent? We are, but not in and of ourselves. We cannot claim anything as coming from ourselves. All our competency comes from God who makes us competent. Not ministers of the old , the letter, not ministers of death. Competent to be ministers of a new covenant. Ministers of the life giving Spirit.

Moses and Paul

Then he contrasts the glory of Moses’ ministry with that of his own apostolic ministry.

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

This is absolutely staggering, and it would be startling to anyone with any Jewish background. Paul is commending his apostolic ministry, and arguing that his ministry is more glorious than Moses’ ministry. Moses! The one God raised up to lead Israel out of Egypt, the one who received the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone at Mount Sinai. Moses who led the children of Israel for 40 years in the wilderness. Moses who wrote the first five books of the Old Testament. Moses, who Deuteronomy 34 says there is none like him, whom the Lord knew face to face. Moses, who according to Acts 15:21 has been proclaimed in every city from ancient generations, and who is read every Sabbath in the synagogues. Moses was one of two who appeared on the mount of transfiguration to speak with Jesus. How shocking for Paul to even put himself in the same sentence with Moses.

What is Glory?

Paul tells us some amazing things about his ministry, and consequently about our ministry as well.

He mentions ‘glory’ no less than 10 times in these 5 verses. What is glory? He mentions the glory of Moses’ face, glory the Israelites could not look at, glory that was being done away with; exceeding glory, much more super-abundant glory in the ministry of the Spirit. What is glory?

In this passage Paul is teaching out of the text of Scripture; he is explaining Exodus, specifically chapter 34. In the context of Exodus, we see God get glory over Pharaoh and over the armies of Egypt (14:4, 17-18) by displaying his power and superiority. We see in Exodus 24

Exodus 24:16 The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 17 Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. 18 Moses entered the cloud and went up on the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

God displayed his glory in the cloud and in devouring fire on top of the mountain. And Moses went up into the cloud to meet with God and receive his commands. By the time he came down, the people were involved in idolatry with the golden calf. In Exodus 32, God threatened to destroy the people for their rebellion and sin, but Moses implored the Lord and he turned from his wrath. In Exodus 33, God said he would fulfill all his promises to the people, but he would not personally be with them, because of their rebellion. But Moses prayed that the presence of God would go with them, and God extended grace and granted this request.

Then Moses asked this daring question: “Please show me your glory.”

Exodus 33:18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

God instructed Moses to make a second set of tablets to remake the covenant, and

Exodus 34:5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” 8 And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.

The glory of God is the visible manifestation of his character and attributes, an outward display of his inner characteristics. His name, his goodness, his grace, his mercy, his steadfast love and faithfulness, his justice. The glory of God is who he is.

The Glory of Moses’ Face

This next section in Exodus 34 is the passage Paul is teaching from in 2 Corinthians 3.

Exodus 34:28 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.

The radiant or beaming or shining face of Moses, in the Greek translation the glorious face of Moses, is the transformation that came from spending time with God. He radiated out the absorbed glory of God.

This is the glory of the Old Covenant. Moses’ ministry was glorious. This is the foundation of Paul’s argument. He moves from the lesser to the greater. The ministry of Moses was unquestionably glorious.

We read the account in Exodus and think, wow, I would love to have been there to see that! The triumph over Egypt, the cloud and consuming fire that engulfed the mountain, the beams of glory coming from Moses

skin. I’ve never seen anything like that!

Paul argues: No, you have something better, something greater, you have experienced something supremely more glorious.

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

Contrast The Letter and The Spirit

Look at the contrasts he draws in these verses:

[Old Covenant]- Moses——–New Covenant – Apostles

Ink——————————Spirit of the Living God

Letter—————————Spirit

Letters on Stone Tablets—–Letters on Tablets of Flesh Hearts

Kills—————————-Gives Life

Ministry of Death————Ministry of the Spirit

Ministry of Condemnation–Ministry of Righteousness

Abolished———————-Permanent

We have already looked at how the ministry of the Old Covenant brought death, where the ministry of the Spirit of the Living God makes alive. Let’s look at some of the other contrasts Paul highlights.

Condemnation vs. Righteousness

2 Corinthians 3:9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory.

Paul calls Moses’ ministry a ministry of condemnation, and he calls the apostolic ministry of the Spirit a ministry of righteousness. This is what we see in Romans 3.

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.

Moses’ ministry was a ministry of condemnation, to stop every mouth and hold the whole world accountable to God’s perfect standard. Moses’ ministry was not a ministry of justification or righteousness. These words, justification and righteousness, are the same. One is the noun, one is the verb form. We might make up a new word; righteousness and righteous-ified; to make just or righteous. No person will be justified or righteous-ified by the law, by the ministry of Moses. This word ‘righteousness’ actually shows up in the Greek translation at the beginning of Exodus 34:7

[LXXE] Exodus 34:6 And the Lord passed by before his face, and proclaimed, The Lord God, pitiful and merciful, longsuffering and very compassionate, and true, 7 and keeping justice [δικαιοσύνην] and mercy for thousands, taking away iniquity, and unrighteousness, and sins; and he will not clear the guilty; bringing the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and to the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.

This self-description of God in Exodus causes problems for anyone who thinks carefully about it. God says he is merciful and gracious and that he forgives iniquity, transgression and sin. But in the same breath he says he is righteous or just, and he will by no means clear the guilty. How can God possibly be both gracious and just, merciful and righteous? How can he forgive and yet by no means will he ever clear the guilty? Romans 3 goes on to answer this question.

Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified [righteous-ified] 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…

God’s righteousness is put on display apart from the law. God is righteous, and God declares righteous those who believe in Jesus. God’s righteousness comes to believers as a gift, a grace-gift purchased by the blood of Jesus, who fully satisfied the just wrath of God by taking on himself all my sin, and receiving in himself the just penalty I earned. John 1 says

John 1:17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

If the ministry of Moses that brought condemnation was a glorious ministry, how much more glorious the ministry of the Spirit that makes sinners righteous!

Abolished vs. Permanent

Paul also draws a contrast between the duration of the ministries.

2 Corinthians 3:7 …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? … 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.

The ministry of Moses was being brought to an end, being abolished, extinguished, destroyed, done away with. The ministry of Moses by design was to be superseded. It was glorious, but it was not intended to be the final word. Thank God, condemnation was not the final word. Condemnation was to be swallowed up in righteousness and life. The apostolic ministry of the gospel, however, remains. It stands. It is lasting.

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

Although the ministry of Moses, the ministry of death, the ministry of condemnation came with glory, that which was glorious came to be not glorious because of that which so far surpassed it in glory; the life giving ministry of the Spirit, the ministry of righteousness. The ministry of Moses had an outward glory, but it was utterly overwhelmed and out-shined by the much more super-abundant glory of the ministry of the apostles, the proclamation of the gospel, the seemingly foolish message of the cross. The far-surpassing glory was hidden in a ministry characterized by suffering, by affliction, by persecution. This ministry was not outward; lightning and thunder, fire and cloud, but quiet, even inconspicuous, the inner transformation of people by the Holy Spirit of the Living God through the foolishness of preaching. The ministry of death and condemnation has been swallowed up by the exceedingly more glorious ministry of the Spirit, giving righteousness and life to those who were dead in trespasses and sins.

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

May 29, 2018 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

2 Corinthians 3:1-3; Letters of Recommendation

04/29_2 Corinthians 3:1-3; Letters of Recommendation ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180429_2cor3_1-3.mp3

Paul gets to the heart of the issue here. He lays out his credentials as a minister by pointing to the transformation that has happened in the lives of his readers.

Paul Commends Himself (Again!)

Paul has described the apostolic ministry in 2:14 as ‘ through us God in Christ always …spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.’ In 2:17 he contrasts himself with ‘so many,’ who peddle God’s word for profit. We are not like them; rather we are men of sincerity, our source of authority is God, everything we do is in the presence of God, and it is in Christ that we speak. Back in chapter 1:12, Paul boasted ‘in the testimony of his conscience, that he operated with simplicity and godly sincerity, by the grace of God.’

2 Corinthians 3:1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you?

This first phrase of chapter 3 should probably be read as an exclamation, not a rhetorical question. We are beginning to commend ourselves to you again! Paul is making a case for his integrity; he is laying before them the evidence of his authenticity. He even contrasts his ministry with those who are in it for profit. We, who planted the church, who spent 18 months with you investing in you, who visited you in the past and plan to visit again, who sent letters and messengers to you, we need to go over the formality of introductions all over again!? You, who experienced new life as a result of our ministry among you, now we are forced again to present evidence of our authenticity!

The letter to the Romans is a letter of self-commendation; Paul writes to believers he has never met, introduces himself and his ministry, and lays before them the gospel he preaches. In chapter 15 he outlines his plans to visit them, and his desire to be supported by them in his mission to Spain. In Romans he is commending himself to a church he has never visited.

In Romans 16, he says:

Romans 16:1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, 2 that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.

We call this a letter of reference or a recommendation. A trusted person writes to affirm the character of another. Do you recommend this person as a student in our college? Would you recommend this person as a good fit for this particular job? Paul is not against letters of commendation; he writes them himself. In fact, in Romans 5:8 he says:

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

The death of Christ for sinners is a commendation of God’s love for us.

Paul uses the word ‘commend’ or ‘recommend’ twice in 2 Corinthians 3:1, and 7 more times in the rest this letter. He says in the next chapter

2 Corinthians 4:2 …by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

In chapter 5 he says that his character should be well known to them; he is not really commending himself again, but giving them reasons to defend against those who boast in outward appearances and not in the heart. In chapter 6 he says:

2 Corinthians 6:4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way:

And then he lists not only his positive character traits, but also his hardships, afflictions, persecutions, his weakness. In chapter 10 he clarifies:

2 Corinthians 10:18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

Paul is not against letters of recommendation. He is not even against presenting one’s own credentials to establish credibility. 2 Corinthians could be seen as an extended commendation of authentic apostolic ministry. The issue is not in the necessity of introductions. The problem lies in the ‘again.’ His point here in chapter 3 of 2 Corinthians (in actuality his fourth correspondence to this church) is that they ought to be well beyond the stage in their relationship that requires formal introductions.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 9:1 …Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? 2 If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. 3 This is my defense to those who would examine me.

If I am not to others, at least I am to you! They were believers in Jesus because he had traveled to Achaia and preached the gospel in Corinth. They owed their very existence as a church to his apostolic ministry. In chapter 12 he says:

2 Corinthians 12:11 …I ought to have been commended by you. …

The Corinthians, who ought by this time to be Paul’s loudest fans, now need to be re-acquainted with what genuine Christian ministry is all about.

2 Corinthians 3:1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you?

This second question is rhetorical, and it is framed to demand a negative answer. We do not need letters of recommendation to you, and we do not need letters from you. The Corinthian church had the audacity to place themselves over apostolic ministry as if the final authority to evaluate apostolic ministry was with them. Paul expected them to be able to discern between a true apostle and a false one, but they were flirting with false apostles and rejecting the one they knew to be true.

You Are Our Letter

2 Corinthians 3:2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all.

The Corinthians don’t realize they are the letter. They are the objective evidence of Paul’s apostolic ministry. The fact that there are now followers of the Jewish Messiah gathering as a church in the pagan city of Corinth is evidence of a genuine work of God.

But notice where this is written. It is written on the heart of their Apostle. In this he is like his Master. In a similar metaphor Isaiah looks forward to Jesus “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (49:15). In the Song of Solomon we find this language of love:

Song of Solomon 8:6 Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave.

Paul communicates not only that the Corinthians are a letter of reference, an authentication of his apostolic ministry, but also that he carries them always with him, not in his travel bag, but in his heart. As he says in chapter 11,

2 Corinthians 11:28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches

As we saw at the end of chapter 2, Paul carries the Corinthians so close to his heart, that the relational tension prevented him from taking full advantage of an opportunity to preach the gospel.

And this is no secret. They are written on his heart, but he wears it on his sleeve. His heart is an open book, and anyone can read what is written there. Anyone who knows Paul knows of his affection for his churches. Certainly those in Troas would be aware of his great affection for them.

A Letter From Christ

2 Corinthians 3:3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

‘You show that you are’; this is the same word from 2:14 that the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ is put on display or made manifest through us in every place.

Paul’s primary concern is always making Christ known. The Corinthian church, for better or worse, whether they know it or not, puts Christ on display. They put on display that they are a letter from Christ. This is the highest authority. This letter originates from Christ Jesus himself.

And this letter, Paul says, is ‘delivered;’ literally ‘ministered’ by us; this is ambiguous. It could mean that Paul pictured himself as the one delivering the letter, or it could mean that Paul is the amanuensis or scribe writing down every word Christ dictates to him. Because the Corinthians are the letter, it seems to make more sense to see Paul holding the pen, or possibly Paul is the pen in the hand of the Lord Christ. Either way, Paul is in a subordinate role to Christ. Scribe or errand boy, Paul is in service to Christ, ensuring that the message of Jesus is scrawled in large letters on the hearts of the Corinthians.

Ink / Spirit

Written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God. This is that which is actually applied to the page; not ink but the Spirit of the living God. Paul is instrumental in applying the ink of the Spirit to the page of the Corinthians lives in order to make Christ known.

Here we see the triune God at work in the ministry of the apostle. The letter originates from Christ, it is written with the ink of the Holy Spirit, and that Spirit is the Spirit of the living God, sent out by the Father.

Heart of Stone / Flesh

The next contrast is what is written on. That which is written on is not tablets of stone, but tablets of human (literally ‘fleshly’) hearts. Normally in Paul’s day we would expect ink on papyrus. But Paul mixes metaphors once again; it is ink on stony tablets contrasted with the Spirit on fleshy heart-tablets.

Paul is linking several Old Testament themes; the tablets of the covenant given to Moses on Sinai, tablets of stone written on with the finger of God, and the hard stony hearts of the Israelites. In Deuteronomy 9, when Moses recounts the initial giving of the law, he rebukes Israel for their stubbornness and rebellion against the Lord. While he was on the mountain with God receiving the tablets of stone, the people were provoking God to wrath by their idolatry. God’s law was written on stony tablets corresponding to the stony rebellious hearts of his people.

But Paul also has in mind the promise of the Spirit poured out in the New Covenant, promises we find in Ezekiel and Jeremiah

Ezekiel 11:19-20 says:

Ezekiel 11:19 And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

And again in Ezekiel 36:26

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.

God knows that his people need a heart transplant. The heart of stone must be removed and replaced with a responsive fleshy heart. Ezekiel goes on in verse 27

Ezekiel 36:27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Not only will God remove their hearts of stone and give them a fleshy heart, he will put his own Spirit in them, enabling and empowering them to walk in his ways.

Just as the law written on stony tablets corresponded to the stony hearts of the people, so now the New Covenant work of the Spirit of God corresponds to the new fleshy hearts given to his people.

New Covenant Writing

Another New Covenant passage, Jeremiah 31, is the piece that gives the picture of God writing on the hearts of his people.

Jeremiah 31:31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 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.”

The content of what is written is not different; God writes his law; a law summed up by Christ as

Matthew 22:37 …“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

(love fulfills law: Rom.13:8,10; Gal.5:14; Mt.7:12)

But God has written, no longer on stony tablets, but on the newly given fleshy heart-tablets of the Corinthians, not with ink, but with his own Holy Spirit. As a result, Christ is put on display in the lives of the Corinthians. In this New Covenant transaction, Paul is a minister of Christ, facilitating their transformation. Paul’s evidence of authenticity is this very transformation that has taken place in the hearts of the Corinthians. And this has affected the heart of the apostle as well. These struggling new believers are written on his heart.

Application

What is your heart like? Is it hardened toward God? Ask him for a new heart; a heart that is tender toward him. Has your heart been transformed by love to love? Has God’s own self-sacrificial love written love for him and for others on your heart? Do you have people written on your heart? Is the Spirit of the living God bringing about real heart transformation in you?

2 Corinthians 3:1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. 3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

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

April 30, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 12; Born of Woman

08/14 Leviticus 12; Born of Woman; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160814_leviticus-12.mp3

We are in Leviticus 12. In the context of the judgment of Nadab and Abihu for failing to glorify God in the presence of the people and failing to treat him as holy, God gave the priests this instruction.

Leviticus 10:10 You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, 11 and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the LORD has spoken to them by Moses.”

Chapters 11-15 deal with making distinctions between the unclean and the clean. Chapters 17-26 deal with making distinctions between the holy and the common. To understand this section, we need to understand these categories. That which is holy, the tabernacle, the priests are to touch no unclean thing (Is.52:11; 2Cor.6:17). That which is holy, set apart to the LORD must not come into contact with the unclean. That which is common or clean is neither holy nor unclean, but it can become unclean through pollution, and it can become holy through sacrifice. We could think of the common or clean as a neutral state.

←← SACRIFICE ←←

Sanctify             Cleanse

HOLY           COMMON/CLEAN           UNCLEAN

Profane             Pollute

→→ SIN and INFIRMITY →→

[G.Wenham, NICOT, p.19, 26]

Unclean things are those things that God has declared unclean. Unclean does not mean evil or morally wrong. Everything God created was good, yet under the law God used creatures to teach his people to make distinctions. Chapter 11 deals with clean and unclean creatures, creatures that can make one unclean by eating or by contact with a carcass.

Neutral objects or people that have become contaminated by contact with something unclean can become clean or neutral again through the appropriate cleansing process.

Chapter 11 deals with sources of uncleanness that come from the outside. In this chapter we begin to see another form of uncleanness, this time not from something external to a person, but something within.

Leviticus 12:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If a woman conceives and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days. As at the time of her menstruation, she shall be unclean. 3 And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. 4 Then she shall continue for thirty-three days in the blood of her purifying. She shall not touch anything holy, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying are completed. 5 But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her menstruation. And she shall continue in the blood of her purifying for sixty-six days.

6 “And when the days of her purifying are completed, whether for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting a lamb a year old for a burnt offering, and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering, 7 and he shall offer it before the LORD and make atonement for her. Then she shall be clean from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who bears a child, either male or female.

8 And if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean.”

Duration and Severity of Uncleanness

In chapter 11 we saw uncleanness that would last the remainder of the day. In this chapter we see uncleanness that lasts for months. In the next chapter we will see uncleanness that can last for years. In chapter 11, we saw uncleanness that was dealt with by washing with water. In this chapter we see uncleanness that is cleansed by blood sacrifice. In the last chapter we saw uncleanness that came through contact with something outside of a person. In this chapter we see uncleanness that comes from within.

Unclean Not Evil

To keep the big picture in mind, we need to remember that the problem with uncleanness is that it separates a person from fellowship with God. Uncleanness in itself is not morally evil, as is made clear by this instance. Children are a blessing from the Lord (Ps.127). God blessed the man and the woman and said to them ‘be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth’ (Gen.1:28). In this case as well as in chapter 15 we will see uncleanness is a natural part of human existence. Birth, procreation, death, all brought uncleanness. John Hartley writes:

Among matters classified as common are included some of the most essential aspects of human existence, such as sexual intercourse, parturition, and burial. Participation in any of these activities rendered a person unclean. That does not mean that the purity laws demeaned these practices in any way. Rather, they prevented any of them from taking place in the area of the sanctuary; that is, nothing associated with these vital areas of life could ever be used as an approach to worship. Specifically fertility rites were never to be a means of worshiping Yahweh, and sex could not be deified as it was in polytheism. The potent uncleanness caused by a corpse plus the strict standards for the priests about touching a corpse and mourning the deceased struck a fatal blow against ancestral worship and any veneration of the dead that bordered on worship.” (Hartley, WBC, p.144).

It is not that these normal human activities were sinful or wrong in themselves; it was to make a distinction between God’s elect people and the nations, to prevent them from using fertility and sexuality as a way to connect with God.

Blood and the Sanctuary

The issue that created uncleanness and required atonement was not the new baby. The issue stated in the text is ‘then she shall be clean from the flow of her blood’. Chapter 15 is alluded to and deals with uncleanness associated with the monthly cycle. Childbirth is also bloody. Blood is a big deal in Leviticus. Leviticus 17 God says:

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

Blood indicates a life taken. The wages of sin is death and God provided a substitute victim to die in the place of the sinner. What happens to the blood is always carefully specified in the sacrificial system in Leviticus. The blood of childbirth was never to be confused with the blood of a sacrificial animal. Because of this, those who had a flow of blood were to be kept out of the sanctuary.

The Snake Crusher and the Curse

If you remember last time, we saw that most of the creatures that were considered unclean were those associated with death and decay and the curse. There was a verbal connection back to the curse in the garden with the prohibition against ‘whatever goes on its belly’ (11:42). Here there is another connection back to the garden.

To the serpent who was made to crawl on his belly God said

Genesis 3:15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Here we have the woman who ‘conceives and bears a male child.’ With every male child born there would be anticipation; ‘could this be the promised one, the serpent crusher, the one who will deliver us from the curse?’

But with that anticipation, there would also be a painful reminder of the curse.

Genesis 3:16 To the woman he said,“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

There would be a reminder that this world is not as it once was. This is a reminder that what we consider ‘normal’ is a fallen broken distorted normal. Things are not as they were created to be. It is difficult for us to imagine what the birth experience would have been like before sin and the curse marred it. Even good things have been tainted by the entrance of sin into this world.

Romans 8:22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

All creation has been groaning in the pains of childbirth.

Women in Worship

One interesting thing to note is that this passage assumes the access of women to the tabernacle for worship. This passage deals with a significant interruption of that access due to the birth of a child. This was a momentous occasion in a family, and there was to be a 40 day (or 40 x 2 in the case of a girl baby) period of separation from the tabernacle (ample time for healing and restoration to wholeness) before the woman was required to bring her sacrifice into the courts of the Lord to worship and celebrate the blessing of new life. This is not something the husband could bring for her. She was to come herself. Under the Levitical law, women had access to the tabernacle to worship God. We see this with Hannah in 1 Samuel 1, who poured out her soul before the Lord. We see this with Anna in Luke 2 in the New Testament, who, ‘did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day’ (Lk. 2:37).

Jesus and the Law

It is important to remember that when we come as Christians to Leviticus, we are not looking for rules to obey. We are looking for shadows that point us to Jesus who is the fulfillment of the law. We are looking to catch glimpses of Jesus.

Romans 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

Luke 2 records the fulfillment of this law in Jesus.

Luke 2:21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. 22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” … 27 And he [Simeon] came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

The background for Luke 2 is Exodus 13 for the redemption of the firstborn and Leviticus 12 for the purification of Mary 40 days after childbirth. It is worth noticing that “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons” is what Leviticus 12:8 says is to be offered “if she cannot afford a lamb”. From this we learn that Joseph and Mary were very poor people. They could not afford a lamb. But while they could not afford a lamb for the burnt offering, the one they were presenting at the temple that day was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn.1:29)!

This Lamb born into a family who could afford no lamb was the promised snake crusher.

Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Jesus was the eternal Son of God sent from his Father’s side, and he was born of a woman, born under the law to fulfill all the law and set us free.

The staggering truth is how our rescuer claimed the victory

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—

Christ crushed the head of the serpent by being crushed in our place by his Father. He set us free from the curse by becoming our curse.

Jesus told his followers:

John 16:21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

Jesus had his own joy that allowed him to endure the cross.

Hebrews 12:2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

John tells us

John 19:34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35 He who saw it has borne witness— his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth— that you also may believe.

Jesus had a flow of blood and water when the spear penetrated his heart. Through this flow of blood and water, Jesus birthed for himself a people. Jesus told Nicodemus ‘you must be born again’.

1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

1 Peter 1:23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; … 25… And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

We are cleansed from all sin by the blood of Jesus (1Jn.1:7); and we are sanctified and cleansed, washed in the water of the word (Eph.5:25). By Jesus’ death, he birthed a new people. Peter then invites us:

1 Peter 2:2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—

We are to feed on the word, on the gospel of Christ crucified, so that we grow to maturity. Paul laments the Galatians.

Galatians 4:19 my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!

The goal of our salvation is that Christ be formed in us. Having been born again, we must imitate Christ, we must be conformed to the image of Christ. Oh that Christ would be formed in us!

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

August 17, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 11:1-23; Making Distinctions

07/31 Leviticus 11:1-23; Making Distinctions; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160731_leviticus-11_1-23.mp3

Be Holy for I Am Holy

Peter, in 1 Peter 1:14-16 says:

1 Peter 1:14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Do you know where that is written? That actually shows up twice here in Leviticus 11.

Jesus, in the context of teaching us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, alluded to this passage. He said:

Mathew 5:48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Leviticus 11 is a chapter on various food laws, what can and cannot be eaten, what is clean and what makes one unclean, and how to handle various kinds of contamination. Leviticus 11-15 is a section that deals with all manner of things that make one unclean, in an order of increasing duration of uncleanness; from eating the wrong kinds of animals and contact with dead animals, to childbirth, to various skin diseases, to mold in a garment or a house, to bodily discharges. The reason God gives for these various laws is here in Leviticus 11:44-45

Leviticus 11:44 For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground. 45 For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”

This is a big deal, because we just saw in chapter 10 two guys, newly ordained priests, set apart for the ministry, were torched by the LORD because they failed to distinguish between the clean and the unclean, and to treat God as holy.

Leviticus 10:3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified [or treated as holy], and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron [their father] held his peace.

Making Distinctions

In Leviticus 10, Aaron was instructed:

Leviticus 10:10 You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, 11 and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the LORD has spoken to them by Moses.”

A primary role of the priest was to teach the people, and to help them distinguish between holy and common, clean and unclean. Chapters 11-15 deal with the distinctions between clean and unclean, and chapters 17-22 deal with the distinctions between holy and common. These chapters climax with the great day of atonement in chapter 16, which takes away the defilement of the people.

Holiness and Election

The main point of this section is that God’s character is to be reflected in his people. He his holy, he is separate, he is totally other, unique, in a class by himself, no one is like him; so his people are to be holy, separate, distinct, set apart, in a class by themselves.

Leviticus 11:45 For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”

Deuteronomy 14 also deals with food laws. It starts this way:

Deuteronomy 14:1 “You are the sons of the LORD your God. …

2 For you are a people holy to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 3 “You shall not eat any abomination.

The reason for making distinctions between unclean and clean food is ‘the LORD has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.’ The election of Israel as a distinct people who belong to God is the reason for distinguishing between clean and unclean.

Noah and Clean Animals

This distinction between clean and unclean animals is not new. We see this distinction all the way back in the account of the flood in Genesis 7-9. God commanded:

Genesis 7:2 Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate,

After the flood subsided,

Genesis 8:20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

Only the clean animals were offered to God as sacrifices. But notice that Noah and his descendants were not restricted to eating only the clean animals.

Genesis 9:2 The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.

Noah was allowed to eat bacon, shrimp, lobster, catfish, rabbit, albatross, spotted owl, whatever he wanted. Remember, Genesis 1 tells us that God created everything,

Genesis 1:21 So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

Clean, Unclean, Detestable

Everything God created was good. But now in Leviticus 11, as a reflection of his own holiness, God is restricting the diet of his chosen people. The first 23 verses of Leviticus 11 deal with distinguishing between clean and unclean land animals, aquatic creatures, birds and insects.

Land

Leviticus 11:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, These are the living things that you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth. 3 Whatever parts the hoof and is cloven-footed and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat. 4 Nevertheless, among those that chew the cud or part the hoof, you shall not eat these: The camel, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you. 5 And the rock badger, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you. 6 And the hare, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you. 7 And the pig, because it parts the hoof and is cloven-footed but does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. 8 You shall not eat any of their flesh, and you shall not touch their carcasses; they are unclean to you.

Waters

Leviticus 11:9 “These you may eat, of all that are in the waters. Everything in the waters that has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the rivers, you may eat. 10 But anything in the seas or the rivers that does not have fins and scales, of the swarming creatures in the waters and of the living creatures that are in the waters, is detestable to you. 11 You shall regard them as detestable; you shall not eat any of their flesh, and you shall detest their carcasses. 12 Everything in the waters that does not have fins and scales is detestable to you.

Air

Leviticus 11:13 “And these you shall detest among the birds; they shall not be eaten; they are detestable: the eagle, the bearded vulture, the black vulture, 14 the kite, the falcon of any kind, 15 every raven of any kind, 16 the ostrich, the nighthawk, the sea gull, the hawk of any kind, 17 the little owl, the cormorant, the short-eared owl, 18 the barn owl, the tawny owl, the carrion vulture, 19 the stork, the heron of any kind, the hoopoe, and the bat.

Insects

Leviticus 11:20 “All winged insects that go on all fours are detestable to you. 21 Yet among the winged insects that go on all fours you may eat those that have jointed legs above their feet, with which to hop on the ground. 22 Of them you may eat: the locust of any kind, the bald locust of any kind, the cricket of any kind, and the grasshopper of any kind. 23 But all other winged insects that have four feet are detestable to you.

There is a lot of speculation on why God makes the distinctions he does. Some suggest health reasons and avoiding diseases, but that doesn’t fit with the fact that Noah was permitted to eat any animals after the flood, and that Jesus declares all foods clean in the New Testament. Some suggest creatures that don’t fit well into their environment or class are considered unclean, like water creatures without fins or scales; but this seems to miss the fact that God created all things good, according to their kind. Some think the unclean animals are those used in pagan worship, but if that were the case, the bull should certainly be unclean. Many have tried to find symbolic meaning in the kinds; for instance a divided hoof pictures the ability to distinguish between good and evil; and chewing the cud pictures those who meditate on God’s word. But this can be as creative as the interpreter’s imagination. Some feel the distinctions are purely arbitrary; as God established one tree in the garden as a test; a tree that was pleasing to the eye, good for food, and desirable to make one wise; this tree was off limits because God said so. In the same way, there was nothing inherently bad about the unclean animals; it was merely a test of obedience.

It seems in general, that the creatures which are considered unclean are those that have to do most with death, decay and destruction; results of the fall. God breathed life into his creation; man through his rebellion brought death, decay, and destruction and it tainted all of God’s good creation. Most of the unclean animals are either carnivores, preying on blood and the carcasses of other animals, or they are wilderness animals, associated with wild uninhabited places. The birds listed as unclean are birds of prey. Rodents, lizards, snakes, worms, flies are all associated with death, disease and the grave.

Jesus and the Law

Be holy because I am holy. This is quoted in the New Testament. Does this mean that we should avoid pork and seafood and start eating locust? Jesus was rebuked by the Pharisees for not following the washing traditions of the Jews. Jesus said:

Mark 7:15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”

That is a radically comprehensive statement, and it sets aside the Leviticus distinctions. When his disciples asked him in private about what he said,

Mark 7:18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” ( Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

In Luke 11,

Luke 11:38 The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. 39 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.

Does this mean that Jesus changed God’s law?

Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Jesus came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. These food laws, like the entire Bible, points us to Jesus

Colossians 2:16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.

Jesus is the substance of which the whole levitical system was a foreshadowing. Jesus is what the law was teaching about.

Paul warns Timothy of the danger of those who try to put us back under obligation to follow the

1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

So how did Jesus bring fulfillment to the food laws? In Acts 10, Peter

Acts 10:10 And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance 11 and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” 15 And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” 16 This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.

The context of this event is Cornelius. Cornelius was a Gentile. God sent an angel to tell Cornelius to send for Peter. In Acts 11, responding to criticism, Peter relayed what happened next.

Acts 11:11 And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. 12 And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. …

Peter went to a Gentile’s house

Acts 10:28 And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me.”

Peter shared the good news about Jesus, and the Holy Spirit fell on the Gentiles. In Acts 15, there was debate over the need for Gentile converts to submit to the law. Peter referred back to this incident

Acts 15:8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

Jesus declared all foods clean. He invited Peter to eat all manner of Levitically unclean creatures, and when Peter refused, the Lord said ‘what God has made clean, do not call common.’ This happened three times to make the point clear. Although the surface meaning of this statement is that God has cleansed all creatures for even a Jewish believer like Peter to eat, the point God was making was that the distinction between Jew and Gentile, which was evident in the dietary restrictions, had been erased. The Levitical law made distinctions between clean and unclean. Peter was told to make no distinction, because God made no distinction between Jew and Gentile in salvation. Even Jews can be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus just like Cornelius and other Gentiles had. Paul makes this clear in his letter to the Gentile church in Ephesus.

Ephesians 2:12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.

Galatians 3 says

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

The distinction of Israel as the chosen people of God out of all the peoples of the face of the earth ended at the cross. Jesus broke down the dividing wall of hostility and abolished the law of commandments expressed in ordinances.

Do we tend to build back up the walls that Jesus came to tear down? Do we tend to draw distinctions between people? Not Jew/Gentile distinctions, but distinctions between people we like to be around, and those we just don’t connect with? Do we draw distinctions between social status, appearance, those who are different from us, those we consider unclean? Jesus came to kill the hostility and make peace. He came to bring us near. ‘Do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance.’

We no longer need to be ritually clean by keeping dietary laws in order to draw near to God. Jesus cleansed us once and for all by his shed blood on the cross. Now he is calling to himself people from every nation and tribe and language and people (Rev.5:9; 7:9).

The holiness he demands is not outward conformity to a list of prohibitions, but an inward Holy Spirit transformation of desires. What does your heart love? What does it go after? Jesus wants to change your heart!

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

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

August 2, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

For Freedom; Galatians 5:1-6; Matthew 11:28-30

1/24 For Freedom! ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160124_freedom.mp3

The last two messages I gave were on two of the most important spiritual disciplines; meditation on the Word of God and prayer. If we want to be fruitful, effective in the ministry God has called us to (and we are all called to minister), then we must be listening to God and enjoying our relationship with him. This is what Jesus was talking about when he said in John 15 that we must abide in him. Apart from him we can do nothing. If we abide in him, he promises that we will bear much fruit. It is vital that we as followers of Jesus evaluate and re-evaluate what we are doing to grow in our walk with the Lord, and discipline ourselves to reinforce good habits and form new ones that will enrich our relationship with God. Daily Bible study and constant prayer are essential to the health of the believer, and consequently to the health of the church body.

I want to balance this teaching on the spiritual disciplines with some teaching on Christian freedom, because it is possible to misunderstand Bible meditation and prayer in such a way as to view them as a duty by which we earn favor with God. This would be a terrible misuse of good gifts God has given.

Two Extremes

There are two dangerous extremes to avoid. I’ll tell you my own experience to help illustrate what I mean. When I was very young, I had a well meaning Bible camp counselor give me a little tract on having daily devotions. I think it was titled ‘7 minutes with God’ and I was told how important it was to read my Bible and pray every day. I can still remember what the tract looked like, the big ominous red number 7, and the picture of the hourglass with the sand slipping away. There was probably nothing wrong with the tract itself. I’m sure had some helpful suggestions on how to get started in the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading and prayer. But I felt the weight of the obligation. I needed to pick a special place to have my quiet time. It was strongly suggested, if not explicitly mandated that this be the first thing you do each and every day. It had clear instructions on how to structure and spend your 7 minutes. I acknowledged how important this was to do, and I committed myself to doing it. I did great… for a day or two. Then I would wake up late and have to cut the 7 minutes down to 1 or 2 or skip it altogether so I wouldn’t be late for school, and I would feel like a failure. Sometimes I would try to make it up in the evening, but I wasn’t sure if that really counted, because really spiritual people do it in the morning. Guilt. Shame. You can’t even faithfully give God 7 minutes of your day? God gave his only Son for you! Surely you can afford to give him 7 measly minutes? Did you know that there are 1,440 minutes in each day? 7 minutes is less than half a percent of your day. I just can’t measure up. This thing called the Christian life, I can’t do it. I’m not good enough. Even when I worked really hard and disciplined myself to sit down and dig in, often my 4 minutes of Bible reading landed me in some endless genealogy of the Old Testament, and somehow I’m supposed to feel closer to God by trudging through a long list of names I can’t even pronounce? Or reading about skin diseases and what to do if the hair in a wound turned white or black? I’m clearly not very spiritual, because as I read, I just wasn’t sensing God’s presence (it actually kind of grossed me out). And then, in the 2 ½ minutes of prayer, my mind would wander incessantly. What am I supposed to say? Did you know that you can see little floating specks on the insides of your eyelids when you have your eyes closed for 2 ½ minutes? Do you know how disheartening it is when you open your eyes after what seems an eternity to peek at the clock and only 45 seconds have elapsed? After dutifully plodding along checking off the boxes for a short while, I gave up. I just couldn’t do what was expected of me.

When God got a hold on my heart, I wanted to spend time with him. I began to see things in the Bible I had never seen before. I set my alarm early so I would have time to spend with God, and I enjoyed sweet communion with him, listening to his voice in his Word, pouring out my heart to him in worship and thanksgiving. I was hungry for truth. I would meet with other believers my age and we would sing worship songs together, and we would go out on the streets of the city to tell people about Jesus, just out of a natural overflow of joy in Jesus. Those were some of the sweetest moments of my life.

Then a well-meaning college professor told our first year Bible class that we didn’t need to have quiet times. Nowhere in the Bible are we told to ‘do our devotions’ or to ‘have a quiet time each day with God’. After all, most believers throughout history didn’t even have daily access to a Bible. And I was in Bible college, so all my studies were in the Bible. My reading load for classes was heavy enough. And we are under grace. Some daily religious ritual doesn’t earn you any points with God. So I ditched my habit. Looking back, although I got a lot out of Bible college, my spiritual life suffered. I got distracted. I began to justify sin.

Galatians 5 – For Freedom!

Galatians is a letter written to believers who were in danger of abandoning the gospel by heading back to a form of law-righteousness. Paul warns that by doing this they are deserting Christ. Justification, our right standing before God is not earned by us. That is what it means to believe – we depend on Jesus who substituted himself for us, kept perfectly the law that we could not keep, and died the death that we deserved to die.

Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. 2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

The issues today are different, but the principle is the same. I don’t know of anyone today pushing circumcision as a means of gaining a right standing before God. But there are a lot of people pushing a lot of different things, even good things, as a means of gaining favor with God. Today’s issues range from whether you smoke or drink to how you vote or where you stand on particular issues, or what you wear or don’t wear or what movies you watch or what kind of music you listen to or what you do on Saturdays or Sundays or with your spare time or how often and how long you read your Bible and pray.

I’m not saying that none of these are important questions. A lot depends on how they are asked. If we are investigating to see if someone makes the grade, passes the test, lives up to a standard, there is a problem. Paul contrasts freedom in Christ and a yoke of slavery; the advantage of Christ and obligation to the law. Like oil and water, these two cannot be mixed. The danger of the Galatians, and the danger for us, is that we understand justification by faith alone through the finished work of Christ alone. We understand that we cannot pay the price for our sins, and that Christ alone paid our debt in full. Where we go awry is when we begin look at the Christian life as the obligations of slavery rather than the freedom of sons. He says back in:

Galatians 3:3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

Here is another contrast, between the Holy Spirit and our flesh, between how we began and how we finish. How do we live the Christian life? It is clear that we ‘must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Mt.5:48) and there is ‘holiness without which no one will see the Lord’ (Heb.12:14). The question is how do we come to be righteous? There is the imputed righteousness of Christ which is credited to our account when we believe. But there is also the practical righteousness of a a daily walk of sinning less and loving God more. Of course, we are counted righteous in Christ when we let go of our own efforts toward righteousness and depend on the perfect righteousness of Christ alone. But how do we daily fight the battle with sin and deepen in our affection for God? This is where discipline and structure and clear boundaries and focused effort will help, right? Be careful, you who received the Spirit by hearing with faith, lest you now seek to be perfected by the flesh. To begin by the Spirit and then seek to be perfected by the flesh means submitting to a yoke of slavery, where you are obligated to keep the whole law, where Christ is of no advantage to you, it means falling from grace, being severed from Christ. This is serious stuff! In 4:9, he warns against turning back to weak and worthless elementary principles of the world. He lists the observation of religious rituals – the observation of days and months and seasons and years. He calls this slavery! Knowing God, being known by God, relationship with God, this is freedom! In Colossians 2 Paul uses this same word ‘the elementary principles of the world’ and draws a contrast between captivity to human tradition, to human regulations and self-made religion and asceticism, and on the other hand, walking in Christ.

Colossians 2:6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

…20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 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.

Man-made religious laws like ‘do not handle, do not taste, do not touch’ sound good. They have the ‘appearance of wisdom’, but they are slavery. As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him. Having begun by the Spirit, having received the Spirit by hearing with faith, do not seek to be perfected in the flesh, by observing law.

Paul says in Galatians 5:1 “For freedom Christ has set us free” and he exhorts us to stand firm and not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Christ set us free to be free, to live in freedom.

Yoked Together with Christ

You understand what a yoke is. If you have two oxen and you are going to plow your field, you connect the two oxen together with a wooden beam, a yoke, so that together they can pull the plow. A yoke in the Old Testament was an image of slavery. When God delivered his people from slavery in Egypt, he said:

Leviticus 26:13 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves. And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.

In Numbers 25, when God’s people indulged in immorality and idolatry, God describes it this way:

Numbers 25:1 … 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.

In the early church, in Acts 15, there was debate over the relation of the Old Testament law to non Jewish believers in Jesus. Must they subject themselves to the laws in order to follow Jesus?

Acts 15:7 And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

[James concluded] …19 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.

Notice the argument? God cleanses the hearts of Jew and Gentile alike by faith. The law is a yoke that neither Jew nor Gentile could bear. Both Jew and Gentile alike are saved through the grace of our Lord Jesus. The decision was not to trouble the believers with unnecessary rules or regulations. Simply recognize that following Jesus is inconsistent with idolatry, immorality, or giving unnecessary offense to Jewish brothers. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Jesus says something very interesting about a yoke in Matthew 11.

Matthew 11:28 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 invites us to come to him if we are weary of work, not to work, but to receive rest. And then he invites us to take his yoke on us in order to find that rest! This seems contradictory. Find rest from labor by being yoked with Jesus. How can this be? This picture is powerful. Think of the yoke that has made us weary, labored and heavy ladened? The law was ‘a yoke that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear’. We have been yoked to tablets of stone, and we have been attempting unsuccessfully to drag them around. Jesus invites us to leave the yoke of the law, and join him in his yoke. If I am in a yoke with Jesus, guess who is pulling the weight? Not me! I’m along for the ride, so to speak. Jesus is saying the same thing when he commands us to abide in him.

John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

We can’t pull any weight on our own. But when we are yoked together with Jesus, he pulls all the weight, and we get to walk beside him. In fact the yoke keeps us close to him, in step with him. He works, we rest, we walk by his side, we enjoy his company. And at the end of the day, we receive the reward that he earned, simply because we were in the yoke with him!

Jesus says this at the end of Matthew 11. Halfway through Matthew 11, Jesus says that he came eating and drinking and he is being accused of being a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners (11:19). Right after this teaching, in chapter 12, Jesus’ disciples are plucking heads of grain and eating them, something the religious people said was not lawful to do on the Sabbath. Jesus declares himself Lord of the Sabbath. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Application to Spiritual Disciplines

Let’s bring this back around to where we started and make some application to the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading and prayer. We started with the two extremes of being crushed under the obligation of performing religious duties, and on the other end of neglecting good things that are beneficial to our growth in grace.

Let’s look at the issue of prayer. We are commanded in 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Colossians 4:2 and Romans 12:12 to pray without ceasing, to continue steadfastly in prayer, to be constant in prayer. What does this mean? Does this mean conscious articulate prayer 24/7? Does this mean that we are incessantly verbalizing either audibly or at least mentally our prayers to God? Do you know anyone who is always talking and never shuts up? That is annoying. By saying we should pray without ceasing, does it really mean that we need to run our mouths to God non-stop? Aside from being annoying, it would be difficult to ever read the Bible and really pay attention and listen to what God is saying if we are talking over him the whole time. It would be virtually impossible to do anything at all. I don’t believe this is what it means, and I don’t believe we need to live under the weight of bondage to some religious performance. As believers, we are yoked together with Jesus. He will never leave us or forsake us. Live with a constant awareness of his nearness, of his intimate involvement in all things, knowing that the line of communication is always open. I think that is what it means to pray without ceasing. Live in his presence.

Think of it this way. God is the giver of all good gifts. If I buy my son a bicycle and give it to him as a gift, how should he respond? I hope he would express his gratitude. But do I expect that he stand in front of me saying ‘thank you thank you thank you, you’re the best dad ever. Let me sing you a song – you are the best dad, you gave me a bike, you are so awesome, I’m going to tell all my friends about you, you must be really rich and really smart and really strong, you are the greatest dad ever! I just want to sit in your lap and stare into your awesome face forever and ever and ever’ and all the while, his new bicycle sits in the corner, untouched? Go! Ride the bike! Enjoy the gift! The giver finds pleasure when you take pleasure in his gift. Don’t use the bike to hurt yourself or others or use it to ride off into evil. Later in Galatians 5 Paul says ‘do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh (5:13). But enjoy the good gifts that he gives. Know that he is with you always, enjoy his presence, and enjoy his gifts in his presence.

We could compare prayer and Bible intake to breathing and eating – stop breathing and you will die. Stop eating and you will die. Eat poorly and your health will suffer. Breathing and eating are necessities for life; not obligations. Breathing we often don’t even consciously think about – we just naturally do it. We don’t view it as a duty. If you focus too much attention on your breathing, you will probably hyperventilate. But if we are deprived of air, if we are underwater, we quickly become aware of the urgent necessity of breathing; we become desperate for air. Eating is different. Sometimes we skip a meal. Often we don’t eat as healthy as we should. Sometimes we pay more careful attention to what we eat. But we still don’t view eating as a chore. Normally, we take pleasure in eating. We enjoy a good meal. We get hungry and crave certain things.

We wouldn’t think of being underwater without access to air as freedom. We wouldn’t view being out in the desert without water or food as freedom. Develop good habits where you eat and drink and enjoy God’s presence with you always. Don’t get ritualistic or legalistic about it. Live in freedom! If you are a work weary pilgrim, come to Jesus, abide in Jesus, be yoked together with Jesus, allow him to pull your weight, and enjoy waking side by side in constant fellowship with him.

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

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

January 26, 2016 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 15:50-57; Clothed to Inherit The Kingdom

06/07 1 Corinthians 15:50-57 Clothed to Inherit the Kingdom; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150607_1cor15_50-57.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

50 Τοῦτο δέ φημι, ἀδελφοί, ὅτι σὰρξ καὶ αἷμα βασιλείαν θεοῦ κληρονομῆσαι οὐ δύναται, οὐδὲ ἡ φθορὰ τὴν ἀφθαρσίαν κληρονομεῖ. 51 ἰδοὺ μυστήριον ὑμῖν λέγω· πάντες οὐ κοιμηθησόμεθα πάντες δὲ ἀλλαγησόμεθα, 52 ἐν ἀτόμῳ, ἐν ῥιπῇ ὀφθαλμοῦ, ἐν τῇ ἐσχάτῃ σάλπιγγι· σαλπίσει γάρ, καὶ οἱ νεκροὶ ἐγερθήσονται ἄφθαρτοι, καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀλλαγησόμεθα. 53 δεῖ γὰρ τὸ φθαρτὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσασθαι ἀφθαρσίαν καὶ τὸ θνητὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσασθαι ἀθανασίαν. 54 ὅταν δὲ τὸ φθαρτὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσηται ἀφθαρσίαν καὶ τὸ θνητὸν τοῦτο ἐνδύσηται ἀθανασίαν, τότε γενήσεται ὁ λόγος ὁ γεγραμμένος· Κατεπόθη ὁ θάνατος εἰς νῖκος. 55 ποῦ σου, θάνατε, τὸ νῖκος; ποῦ σου, θάνατε, τὸ κέντρον; 56 τὸ δὲ κέντρον τοῦ θανάτου ἡ ἁμαρτία, ἡ δὲ δύναμις τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὁ νόμος· 57 τῷ δὲ θεῷ χάρις τῷ διδόντι ἡμῖν τὸ νῖκος διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.

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.

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. 42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 ​“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Paul continues to respond to the questions ‘how are the dead raised? With what kind of body to they come?’ (v.35). These were not questions out of curiosity to gain information. They were incredulous statements to make the idea of the resurrection look ridiculous. These were the questions of the fool of the Proverbs, who ‘says in his heart ”there is no God”’ (Ps.14, 53), These questions were rooted in the premise that perishable corruptible flesh is incompatible with eternal life and immortality. Paul agrees with their premise, but their conclusion that belief in the resurrection is absurd does not follow.

So far in verses 36-49 he has looked at the power of God who is the one who gives to everything its body. He has drawn from the creation narrative days 3, 6, 5 and 4, looking at botany, biology and astronomy to demonstrate that whatever the environment, God has proven himself more than capable of providing a body suitable for that environment.

He used the illustration of seeds to demonstrate that although there is organic continuity with what is sown, there is also radical discontinuity. What springs up from the ground is a radically transformed version of what was planted in the ground.

He draws the contrast between what is perishable, dishonorable, weak, and controlled by the soul or natural person, to what is imperishable, glorious, powerful, and controlled by the Spirit. He draws the contrast between the first Adam who was given natural life, is from the earth, made of dust with the last Adam who gives spiritual life, and is from heaven.

Inheriting the Kingdom

1 Corinthians 15:50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

Paul draws our attention to this next phrase by saying ‘this I say to you’, and he addresses us with the endearing term ‘brothers’. He says ‘flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.’ This it seems, together with the Greek belief that matter is evil and the goal is to be freed from a material existence is what the Corinthians were basing their disbelief in the resurrection on. They didn’t seem to question the continuation of the immaterial part of man, but they scoffed at the idea of a physical, material resurrection. Paul says, it is true, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. The phrase ‘flesh and blood’ points to the weakness, the frailty, the fading temporary characteristics of humanity. The kingdom of God is eternal. Our current bodies are not fit for eternity. The kingdom of God is where God is king. These bodies are not designed to handle the revealed presence of God. Our eyes are not designed to be able to look directly at the sun without being irreparably damaged. These mortal bodies are not capable of beholding the glory of the Lord.

Notice, Paul uses terms of inheritance. Flesh and blood cannot inherit. An inheritance cannot be earned. It is not deserved. It is given. It is given by a father to a son. The inheritance goes to the heir, someone in the family. That is why Jesus told Nicodemus:

John 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” …5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

You must be born from above. You must be born of the Spirit, born into the family to become a rightful heir to the kingdom of God. The perishable cannot inherit the imperishable. What good would it do for someone subject to death, decay, disorder, and decomposition to inherit something that lasts forever? Paul agrees, that it is nonsense for the perishable to inherit the perishable. But that does not lead him to the conclusion that there is no bodily resurrection.

We Shall All Be Changed

1 Corinthians 15:51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

Paul says ‘look!’ again emphasizing what he is about to say. This is a mystery; something that was concealed, hidden in ages past, but God has now made it known to us. We shall not all sleep. In verse 6 he mentions that some of the 500 witnesses had fallen asleep, in verse 18 he talks about those who have fallen asleep in Christ, and in verse 20 he points to Jesus as the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. To fall asleep is a metaphor for the death of a believer. Jesus used this metaphor to speak of his dear friend Lazarus. Sleep is temporary, and people wake up from sleep. Here he declares ‘we shall not all sleep.’ Not every believer will die. Paul spells this out in more detail in his letter to the Thessalonian church as he speaks to them about those who have fallen asleep.

1 Thessalonians 4:15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

We shall not all sleep. Some believers will be alive, will be left until the coming of the Lord. Most will fall asleep and will be resurrected, but some will be raptured. Some will still be living when Christ returns, and they will be caught up together with the resurrected in the clouds. Not all will sleep, but whether alive or asleep, we shall all be changed. Flesh and blood is not able to inherit the kingdom of God, so we must undergo a transformation. This transformation will happen instantaneously. This is no gradual slow process over time, like a seed slowly pushing its way up through the earth and developing stem and leaves and flower and fruit. In the smallest amount of time imaginable we will be completely transformed. John says:

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.

We will be transformed by seeing Jesus. We will be like him. We will bear his image. When he appears we will be like him. This will happen to the dead and living at the last trumpet. Trumpets were used to give signals in battle. Leviticus 25 tells us that a loud trumpet was to be sounded throughout the land to signal the year of Jubilee. Zechariah 9:14 speaks of the Lord appearing and sounding the trumpet.

When that trumpet sounds, we will all be instantaneously changed. The dead will be raised imperishable and we shall be changed.

Further Clothed

1 Corinthians 15:53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.

This perishable mortal body cannot come into the presence of the King without being radically transformed. We must put on imperishability and immortality. The word here for ‘put on’ is a word commonly used for putting on clothing. This ties back to verse 37, where he talked about the bare kernel, the naked seed. We are not changed by becoming less than we are, and what we are is not discarded and something new is put in its place, what we are is further clothed. Paul will talk more about this in 2 Corinthians 5.

2 Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

We long, not for some disembodied existence, but to be further clothed. We long to put on our heavenly dwelling. Clothing was a symbol of status and was linked to the inheritance. Remember the special robe that Jacob gave to his favored son Joseph, or think of the prodigal son who was clothed in the Father’s best robe. This was partly to cover his shame and disgrace, but it meant much more. It demonstrated that he was welcomed back, not as a servant, but as a son, with all the rights and privileges of a son, given a right to the inheritance. These concepts of being clothed and being given the inheritance are closely linked. This clothing metaphor continues into the next verse.

Death Swallowed Up

1 Corinthians 15:54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

At the resurrection, at the last trumpet, when the perishable and mortal is clothed in the imperishable and immortal, then the Scripture in Isaiah 25:8 will be fulfilled.

Isaiah 25:6 On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. 7 And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. 9 It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

He will swallow up death forever. Death is swallowed up in victory. This is what verse 24 talked about

1 Corinthians 15:24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” …

The last enemy, death, will be swallowed up by life so that God may be all in all. The miserable consequences of the fall will be undone, engulfed by an unstoppable life.

He quotes Hosea 13 as a taunt

1 Corinthians 15:55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

Death is a powerful force. By a man came death (v.21); in Adam all die (v.22)

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—

Death is painful and death is powerful. Death conquers everyone. But death is being robbed of its victims. The lethal venom is neutralized and the painful stinger is removed. How?

1 Corinthians 15:56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

The wages of sin is death (Rom.6:23). Death is painful and terrifying because of sin. We have sinned against a holy and righteous God and we will stand before him and give an account. The power of sin is the law. The law actually fuels sin. Romans 7 helps us to understand this.

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.

The power of sin is the law. Sin seizes an opportunity through the commandment to bring death. The law is good, but

Romans 7:13 …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.

Sin produced death through the law. Galatians tells us:

Galatians 3:22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, … 23 … we were held captive under the law, imprisoned …

Death stings because of sin, and sin uses the law as a powerful force to capture us and keep us under its power.

Victory Given Through Jesus

How do we escape from under this captivating power? How is it that death has lost its sting and its victory?

1 Corinthians 15:57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is nothing we can do. We are imprisoned, captive, slaves to sin and subject to death and the wrath of God. We cannot escape. We are dead in our trespasses and sins. We are helpless and hopeless. God gives us the victory. It is a gift. It is his prerogative to give. It is free and undeserved. This is the good news that saves us, the good news Paul started this chapter with – ‘that Christ died for our sins’. ‘We preach Christ crucified’ (1:23).

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—

Romans tells us

Romans 3:23 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,

God gives us the victory over sin and death. It is free, unmerited generous kindness. It is the riches of God’s marvelous grace. He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. There is salvation in no one else (Acts 4:12). No one comes to the Father except through Jesus (Jn.14:6).

God freely gives us the victory over sin. Romans tells us

Romans 6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. …14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. …17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. …22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

Thanks be to God that we are no longer slaves to sin. We are no longer under its power, the power of the law.

Romans 7:4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 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. 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 have died to the law. We are released from the law which held us captive. We are set free to bear fruit for God, to belong to Christ.

Because Jesus has taken the sting out of death for us, we can now say with Paul

Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. …23 …My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

Because God has given us the victory, to die is gain. We have boldness to face death with courage.

2 Corinthians 5:8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.

Thanks be to God. All the credit for this rescue from sin and death goes to God. He planned it, he effected it, he brought it about, he gave it to us as a gift. All thanks, all worship, all praise must be directed toward God. He is the one who gives us the victory, victory over death, victory over sin, freedom from the power of the law. And he is the one who will bring us the ultimate victory of the resurrection, where death is swallowed up in eternal life. He will cause this bare kernel to burst out of the ground totally transformed, incorruptible, immortal, glorious.

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

June 7, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 10:23-30; Let No One Seek His Own

06/15 1 Corinthians 10:23-30 Let No One Seek His Own GoodAudio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140615_1cor10_23-30.mp3

 

1 Corinthians 10 [SBLGNT]

23 Πάντα ἔξεστιν· ἀλλ’ οὐ πάντα συμφέρει. πάντα ἔξεστιν· ἀλλ’ οὐ πάντα οἰκοδομεῖ. 24 μηδεὶς τὸ ἑαυτοῦ ζητείτω ἀλλὰ τὸ τοῦ ἑτέρου. 25 πᾶν τὸ ἐν μακέλλῳ πωλούμενον ἐσθίετε μηδὲν ἀνακρίνοντες διὰ τὴν συνείδησιν, 26 τοῦ κυρίου γὰρ ἡ γῆ καὶ τὸ πλήρωμα αὐτῆς. 27 εἴ τις καλεῖ ὑμᾶς τῶν ἀπίστων καὶ θέλετε πορεύεσθαι, πᾶν τὸ παρατιθέμενον ὑμῖν ἐσθίετε μηδὲν ἀνακρίνοντες διὰ τὴν συνείδησιν· 28 ἐὰν δέ τις ὑμῖν εἴπῃ· Τοῦτο ἱερόθυτόν ἐστιν, μὴ ἐσθίετε δι’ ἐκεῖνον τὸν μηνύσαντα καὶ τὴν συνείδησιν· 29 συνείδησιν δὲ λέγω οὐχὶ τὴν ἑαυτοῦ ἀλλὰ τὴν τοῦ ἑτέρου· ἱνατί γὰρ ἡ ἐλευθερία μου κρίνεται ὑπὸ ἄλλης συνειδήσεως; 30 εἰ ἐγὼ χάριτι μετέχω, τί βλασφημοῦμαι ὑπὲρ οὗ ἐγὼ εὐχαριστῶ; 31 Εἴτε οὖν ἐσθίετε εἴτε πίνετε εἴτε τι ποιεῖτε, πάντα εἰς δόξαν θεοῦ ποιεῖτε. 32 ἀπρόσκοποι καὶ Ἰουδαίοις γίνεσθε καὶ Ἕλλησιν καὶ τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ, 33 καθὼς κἀγὼ πάντα πᾶσιν ἀρέσκω, μὴ ζητῶν τὸ ἐμαυτοῦ σύμφορον ἀλλὰ τὸ τῶν πολλῶν, ἵνα σωθῶσιν.

11:1 μιμηταί μου γίνεσθε, καθὼς κἀγὼ Χριστοῦ.

1 Corinthians 10 [ESV2011]

14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— 29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? 31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

11:1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

 

Paul is addressing some serious sin issues in the church in Corinth. They had picked up the slogan ‘all things are lawful’ and used it to justify all manner of abominable practices. Paul gently but firmly leads them on a journey to train them how to think. He could have easily come down hard on them with his authority as apostle. Instead, he reasons with them and teaches them how to think through the issues biblically. Back in 6:12, he quotes their slogan ‘all things are lawful for me’ which they used to justify sexual immorality, and responds “but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be enslaved by anything.” In 6:18 he commands them ‘flee from sexual immorality’ and he concludes “you are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

In chapters 8-10 he has taken up their propensity to indulge in banquets hosted at pagan temples. The knowledge of the Corinthians that ‘an idol has no real existence’ leads them to the freedom to indulge in idolatrous festivities. Paul points out that this so-called knowledge is more akin to the pride of the devil than the God of love. We are called to live in love, and love builds others up. The arrogant and self-centered knowledge of the Corinthians may prove to destroy a brother for whom Christ died, and so sin against Christ. He affirms the fact that they do indeed have rights and freedoms in Christ. But he holds himself up as an example of how a follower of Jesus can forgo legitimate God given rights for the sake of the gospel. He warns that insisting on my liberties may not only endanger a weaker brother or sister in Christ, it may also have a lethal effect on my own relationship with God. He holds himself up as an example of the danger of disqualification, or the danger of being demonstrated phony or false even after fruitful ministry. In chapter 10 he points to the example of Israel in the wilderness, most of whom played too close to the edge in seeking to gratify their desires, and a whole generation was destroyed in the wilderness. He warns them of the grave danger of self-confidence, he reminds them that we all will face temptation, and he encourages them with the absolute faithfulness of God. Then in 10:14 he gives his clear command on the issue of idolatry: ‘Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.’ He warns that participation in communion, which is participation in the body and blood of the Lord Jesus, is mutually exclusive with eating at the table of demons, who in reality are the ones being worshiped at idolatrous pagan celebrations.

Freedom From Self-Seeking

In 10:23-11:1, he concludes this 3 chapter discussion of idolatry with some clear practical advice on how to apply biblical truth in some real life situations. He returns to their slogan ‘all things are lawful,’ and he qualifies ‘but not all things are helpful.’ Not all things are advantageous. Not all things will contribute to your own personal well-being. Some things will not benefit me. Participation in some things will destroy me. Eating at the table of demons, inciting the wrath of almighty God against me will not contribute to my personal happiness or my eternal good.

‘All things are lawful’ but not all things build up. Not all things edify. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Jesus has set us free, free from the slavery of self-seeking, free to seek the good of others. Paul says:

24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

This is a foundational principle for Christian living. Literally, it says ‘let no one seek his own, but that of the other.’ ‘Good’ ‘benefit’ ‘interest’ ‘well-being’ or ‘advantage’ are implied by the context. Seek that which helps, that which builds up, that which benefits the other. Do not seek your own.

This is a command, and, like all God’s commands, it is for our good. If only we can grasp this, this will be so freeing! Do not seek your own. Don’t go after your own advantage. Stop concerning yourself with your own rights. Stop seeking your own. But if I don’t defend my own rights, who will? If I don’t stand up for myself, who will? If I don’t seek my own advantage, who will? God! God will.

Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Seek first the kingdom of God. Let no one seek his own, but that of the other. Jesus links this freedom from seeking our own with the danger of idolatry.

Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

Do not be anxious about your life, about your body, about your own. If you do, it will become your master, and you cannot serve two masters. Seeking your own is idolatry. Do not seek your own, but that of the other. ‘Your heavenly Father feeds’ (6:26); ‘God so clothes’ (6:30); ‘your heavenly Father knows that you need them all’ (6:32); ‘all these things will be added to you’ (6:33). Allow God to liberate you from the bondage of self-seeking. Go after the needs of others with reckless abandon!

Eat Everything in the Market!

Paul demonstrates how God graciously provides with two practical examples from everyday life. Paul has already forbidden any eating in a pagan temple, but now he addresses two other common occurrences that would face a believer in Corinth, and gives some surprisingly liberating counsel on what to do in these situations. Corinth was full of pagan temples, and it would be difficult, if not impossible to find a butcher shop that was not connected in some way with those temples. The word order of the original builds the suspense more than most of our English translations. Everything which is in the butcher shop for sale, devour it, investigating nothing on account of conscience. This is a radical command coming from the lips of a former Pharisee. Pharisaic Judaism required scrupulous investigation into the background of any food, and if there was any question as to the origin of the meat, the rule was ‘when in doubt, don’t!’ Paul here invites the believer to walk into a butcher shop, carts heaping with fish, various cuts of meat on display, whole skinned animals hanging from hooks, maybe cow, lamb, goat, pig, camel, chicken, and he says ‘eat it all!’ Don’t ask any questions. You are free to eat whatever you want.

Everything Belongs to God

And he gives the reason in verse 26.

26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.”

This is a quote from Psalm 24:1. In the beginning God created …everything! And God said ‘be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth’ and God saw that it was good. God created everything, and everything belongs to God. Deuteronomy 10:14 says:

Deuteronomy 10:14 Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it.

God says to Job:

Job 41:11 Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.

God tells his people:

Psalms 50:9 I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. 10 For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. 11 I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. 12 “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine.

God created everything, so everything belongs to God. God gave animals to man for food, so whatever you find in the butcher shop you can buy and eat. But Paul, what if that meat had been sacrificed to a demon before it showed up in the butcher shop? You said just a few versed back that we are to have no fellowship with demons. Paul says ‘The earth and everything in it belongs to the Lord.’ By participating in a demonic feast at a pagan temple, you are involving yourself in worship of that false god. But once the meat has left the demon’s turf, it is just meat, nothing more. It is God’s meat that God created, and God gave it to provide for his people. Regardless of what pagans have done with it to defile it, God is God, and it still belongs to God. So eat up! Ask no questions because of conscience. Don’t fear that a demon might sneak in to possess your body because someone said a voodoo hex over your quarter pounder before they brought it to your table. God is sovereign over the whole earth.

Eat Everything at an Unbeliever’s House!

Paul mentions another scenario as likely for the Corinthians as it is for us today.

27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience.

Recognize how radical this instruction is coming from the pen of a former Pharisee! The list of dietary regulations and sanitary procedures went on and on and on. In Jerusalem, it’s hard to find a cheeseburger or a pizza with cheese and meat on it because in Deuteronomy 14:21 it say not to boil a young goat in its mother’s milk. To be kosher you have to keep separate sinks, counters, ovens, dishes, utensils and dishwashers for milk products and meat products. Hand washing has to be done in a very specific way. And the rules go on and on and on.

When God called Peter to visit Cornelius’ house, Peter said:

Acts 10:28 …“You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.

This was a big deal in Antioch. Paul tells us in Galatians 2 that Peter was eating with the Gentiles, but then caved to Jewish pressure and withdrew from them. Paul confronts him publicly, because ‘their conduct was not in step with the gospel’ (Gal.2:14). Jesus transformed everything! Jesus ate with unwashed hands. Jesus ate with prostitutes and tax collectors and sinners. Because Jesus has come, if an unbeliever invites you to dinner and you choose to go, devour everything that is put in front of you without investigating anything because of conscience. The second half of this sentence is exactly parallel to verse 25 dealing with the meat market. You don’t need to go check their kitchen. You don’t need to ask where the food came from. You don’t need to ask what it is. It doesn’t matter where it came from. Just eat up! Enjoy, because the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.

Exception

Verse 28 introduces an exception to this principle.

28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— 29 I do not mean your conscience, but his.

There is a lot of discussion over who the someone is that says ‘this has been offered in sacrifice’. It could be a fellow believer also invited to the unbeliever’s home for dinner. More likely it may be another unbelieving guest, or possibly even the host. This verse uses a softer word ‘temple sacrifice’ rather than ‘idol sacrifice’ that Paul has used up to this point in the discussion. This would be the word that a pagan would use to refer to their sacrifice, and it would be a less offensive way for a fellow believer to identify the origin of the meat in the presence of unbelievers. It doesn’t really matter who said it, the text says ‘someone’. For the sake of that person, believer or unbeliever, do not eat.

If it was a fellow believer, they have violated what Paul just said ‘eat everything set before you without investigating’. They have been nosing around the kitchen. They are one of those who Paul mentioned in chapter 8, ‘not all possess this knowledge, those whose conscience, being weak, is defiled’. Do not destroy the brother for whom Christ died simply because you desire to indulge.

If it was another guest or even the host, knowing your exclusive devotion to Christ, they may be offering a friendly warning, or even a test to see what is really most important to you. The question has changed the nature of the meal. The one who mentioned it believes (rightly) that followers of Jesus don’t participate in idolatry. To eat now would be to acknowledge the idol to whom the food was sacrificed. For the sake of the gospel, the unbeliever needs to understand that we do not add Jesus to what we already have. ‘We have Apollo and Aphrodite and Zeus, and you say Jesus is a god? Oh, we can honor him too. No, Jesus is exclusive. Turning to Jesus means turning away from everything else you were trusting in. That is what it means to repent. This dinner invitation is an opportunity for the gospel. The steak looks really good. Seek not your own but that of the other. For the sake of the one who informed you, for his conscience sake, do not eat.

Liberty and Conscience

Paul has instructed us to eat everything sold in the market without investigating because everything ultimately belongs to God and he has told us to eat everything served to you by an unbelieving friend without investigating for the sake of conscience. He now returns to further explain this liberty.

29 …For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?

I am bound to follow the guidance of my own conscience. I am not bound to follow yours. My liberty is not judged by your conscience. I am free to partake with thankfulness. 1 Timothy addresses false teachers who:

1 Timothy 4:3 … and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

Everything created by God is good, created to be received with thanksgiving. It is holy or set apart by the word of God and by prayer. I am free, free to eat everything. But to be free to eat does not mean I am bound to eat, for that would not be freedom. I am free to do what I want to do, whether to eat or not eat. What I most want to do no longer has to do with eating or drinking. What I most want to do is advance the gospel. So whether I eat or not depends on what will serve to advance the gospel in the given situation. If for the sake of the gospel it would be advantageous to eat, then I will indulge. If it would benefit others and advance the gospel to decline, then I will not eat. I am not mastered by my appetite. I have been given the freedom to not seek my own, but that of the other.

We have been given amazing freedom in Christ. We are free from Pharisaic regulations and dietary laws. We are free to not worry about where our food came from because “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” We are free to sit down with an unbeliever at a meal and enjoy friendship. And we should. We should seize every opportunity to proclaim the good news that Jesus died for sinners to set them free. Free from sin, free from self seeking, free to recklessly pursue the good of others.

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

June 15, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 9:19-23; By All Means Save Some

03/23 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 By All Means Save Some;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140323_1cor9_19-23.mp3

1 Corinthians 9 [SBLGNT]

19 Ἐλεύθερος γὰρ ὢν ἐκ πάντων πᾶσιν ἐμαυτὸν ἐδούλωσα, ἵνα τοὺς πλείονας κερδήσω· 20 καὶ ἐγενόμην τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις ὡς Ἰουδαῖος, ἵνα Ἰουδαίους κερδήσω· τοῖς ὑπὸ νόμον ὡς ὑπὸ νόμον, μὴ ὢν αὐτὸς ὑπὸ νόμον, ἵνα τοὺς ὑπὸ νόμον κερδήσω· 21 τοῖς ἀνόμοις ὡς ἄνομος, μὴ ὢν ἄνομος θεοῦ ἀλλ’ ἔννομος Χριστοῦ, ἵνα κερδάνω τοὺς ἀνόμους· 22 ἐγενόμην τοῖς ἀσθενέσιν ἀσθενής, ἵνα τοὺς ἀσθενεῖς κερδήσω· τοῖς πᾶσιν γέγονα πάντα, ἵνα πάντως τινὰς σώσω. 23 πάντα δὲ ποιῶ διὰ τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, ἵνα συγκοινωνὸς αὐτοῦ γένωμαι.

1 Corinthians 9 [ESV2011]

19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

In 1 Corinthians 8-10, Paul is tactfully tackling the issue of how far a believer can go in identifying with the culture around him without involving himself in the sin of the culture. Some in Corinth were fighting for their rights to participate in pagan temple festivities, claiming that their knowledge set them free. They know that there is only one true God, and that idols are nothing, so any food dedicated to an idol is untainted by all the pagan hocus-pocus, so they are free to eat. Maybe they felt it would be an opportunity to evangelize family and friends if they attended temple functions. Paul challenges them to think more carefully through the issues. What if a brother whose conscience is not as liberated as yours follows your example and violates his own conscience, participating in the actual worship of idols? By destroying the weak brother for whom Christ died, you sin against Christ.

In chapter 9, Paul carefully builds the case for those who preach the gospel to be supported by those to whom they preach. He builds this case all for the purpose of demonstrating by his own example what it looks like to have legitimate God given rights and to release those rights for the sake of the gospel and for the good of others. Paul has no choice but to preach the gospel. He is required to preach. In verses 15-18, he claims it as his reward to waive his rights to compensation and present the gospel free of charge.

Free from All

In verses 19-23 he returns to the issue of freedom. In verse 1, he began with the rhetorical question “am I not free?” and here he returns to this issue of freedom. In this passage, he asserts his freedom, voluntarily limits his freedom, and gives us his driving principle for self-limiting his freedom.

Paul asserts his freedom in no uncertain terms. He asked the question “am I not free?”, and here he says “I am free from all”. Paul is a free man. He is free from all people. He is free from all things.

Jesus said

John 8:32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” …36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Paul says to the believers in Galatia

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

Paul will not submit again to slavery. He speaks earlier in Galatians

Galatians 2:4 Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— 5 to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

Paul is willing to stand on his rights, insist on his freedom, and demand his rights when the truth of the gospel is at stake. When Peter caved to the pressure of the Judaizers and backed away from eating with Gentile believers, Paul called it hypocrisy and confronted him openly and publicly. He says:

Galatians 2:14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” 15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

Peter, a Jew, who had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised, was living like a Gentile while among the Gentiles. That was right. He was free in Jesus to eat what Gentiles eat. What was wrong and out of line with the good news was when he backed away and separated himself from them out of fear. This conduct flew in the face of the gospel message that the death of Christ had broken down the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile (Eph.2:14). Paul, as a follower of our Lord Jesus Christ, was free from all. And when it came to the truth of the gospel, he would fanatically fight for that freedom.

Slave of All

But this is what Paul does with his freedom when the good news of freedom in Jesus is not under attack. He says

1 Corinthians 9:19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all,

Being free, he freely chose to enslave himself to all. He will describe what this looks like for him in the next verses. But first he lays out the driving principle behind his voluntary enslavement.

1 Corinthians 9:19 …that I might win more of them.

His voluntary slavery was with a gospel purpose. This is the driving force of Paul’s life. This was his prime passion. ‘That I might win more of them’. This is why he suffered imprisonment, countless beatings, five times the 39 lashes at the hands of the Jews, three times beaten with rods. Once they stoned him, dragged him outside the city, and left him for dead. And he got back up and went back in to the city and went right on preaching the gospel (Acts 14:19-20). He endured shipwreck three times. He faced constant danger, toil, hardship, hunger, thirst, sleepless nights, exposure to the elements (2Cor11:23-28). He had counted the cost, and he did it all willingly, that he might win more. The value of one soul for whom Christ died was of far greater worth than his own personal health, safety, comfort or well-being.

It is interesting to note that Paul sometimes opted out of a beating. Sometimes he called on his rights as a Roman citizen. In Acts 22, when the soldiers were stretching him out for a flogging, he appealed to his Roman citizenship. In Acts 25, aware that the Jews were intending to ambush and murder him, Paul appealed to Caesar. With the Romans, Paul stood up for his rights as a citizen, creating legal precedent that would benefit and protect followers of Jesus for future generations.

But with the Jews, five times he accepted the 40 lashes minus one. A Jew, guilty of blaspheming, must be cut off from his people. But in order to avert this punishment, according to the Mishnah, one could submit to flogging. Paul, preaching Jesus as the promised Messiah and God in the flesh was probably accused of blasphemy. He could have shook the dust off his feet and walked away, but in order to maintain his connection to the Jews and access to preach the gospel in the synagogues, he voluntarily submitted to their discipline. During the scourging, someone would read repeatedly the curse from Deuteronomy 28, so in a very literal way, Paul came under the law (BECNT p.430). So passionate was Paul to win his fellow Jews to Jesus, that he said:

Romans 9:2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

Although Paul was free from all, he voluntarily became servant of all, so that he might win more of them. Paul was passionate about captivating as many people as possible with Jesus.

Proverbs 11:30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise.

This word ‘to win’ is usually used in a financial sense of profit or gain. Paul’s reward was to win people for Christ. As he was commissioned by Jesus

Acts 26:17 …from your people and from the Gentiles— to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

Paul’s driving passion and ruling principle in life was to win as many as possible, to open eyes, to rescue from Satan’s kingdom, to offer forgiveness of sins and a place among God’s people.

The Third Category

In the following verses, he describes how he went about this with different groups of people.

20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.

This is a fascinating passage. Paul, a Hebrew of Hebrews, an offspring of Abraham, an Israelite from the tribe of Benjamin, circumcised on the eighth day, Paul a Jew by birth, says ‘to the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. Since becoming a follower of Jesus, Paul no longer considered himself a Jew. Ethnically, he was Jewish. That did not change. He clarifies what he means by his next phrase. Jews were those who are under the law. Paul once was a Jew under the law. He is that no longer.

2 Corinthians 5:16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Paul was no longer a Jew under the law. Neither was he a Gentile. He had become a new creation in Christ. Jesus had created a third category.

1 Corinthians 12:13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

To the Galatians, he says

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Jesus has abolished the old categories of humanity.

Galatians 6:15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

He addresses the Ephesians, formerly Gentiles, separated, alienated, strangers, and he says:

Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,

Jesus abolished the law of commandments expressed in ordinances in order to create one new man in place of the two. Romans chapter 7 tells us how the law was abolished for followers of Jesus.

Romans 7:1 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives?

And he uses the law of marriage to illustrate the principle that we are only bound by the law as long as we are alive.

4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 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. 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 freed from the law because we have died with Christ. We have been released from bondage to the law. We are free from the written code. We now serve God out of a Spirit transformed heart. This is what Paul says in Galatians 2:

Galatians 2:19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

The Law, the Law of God, and the Law of Christ

Let’s look for a minute at how Paul sees himself in relation to the law. He is very careful to clarify so that he is not misunderstood. He became as a Jew, as one under the law, though he himself is no longer a Jew and is not under the law. Paul is not obligated to keep the Jewish law. If we look back at the Jerusalem decree in Acts 15, we see that Gentiles keeping the law of Moses was what was at issue.

Acts 15:5 But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.”

Peter argued that God

Acts 15:9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

Even to those raised Jewish, the law of Moses was ‘a yoke on the neck that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear.’ Paul makes it clear that he is not himself under the law. In relations to the Gentiles to whom the law had not been given, Paul became as one outside the law, but he is careful to clarify ‘not being outside the law of God but inside the law of Christ’. Paul wants to make clear that no longer being under the law does not mean that he is free to sin. He makes a distinction between the law that he is not under and the law that he is not outside of. In verse 20 he says that he is not under the law, and in verse 21 he says that he is not without the law of God but inside the law of Christ. He draws a contrast between the law of Moses and the law of God. One he is no longer under any obligation to fulfill, the law of Moses having been perfectly fulfilled in Christ. The other, the law of God or the law of Christ, is what he is walking in.

Jesus said:

John 1:17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

God gave the law to his people through Moses. The law showed us our sin. In Acts 13, Paul says about Jesus

Acts 13:38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.

The law of Moses did not free. It was a yoke that no one could bear. Galatians (5:23) tells us that we were held captive, imprisoned under the law. The law was our guardian until Christ came.

The 613 commandments of the Old Testament have been completely fulfilled in Jesus. Those who are justified through faith in Jesus are not under that law. We are now in the law of Christ.

So what is the law of Christ? Jesus was asked

Matthew 22:36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Jesus said

Matthew 7:12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Jesus said

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

John wrote

1 John 3:23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.

1 John 4:21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Paul tells the Thessalonians

1 Thessalonians 4:9 Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another,

It is clear that the law of Christ is the law of love. Romans 8 says

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.

We fulfill the law when we walk according to the Spirit.

Romans 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Galatians says

Galatians 5:14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

James says

James 2:8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

All Things to All People

Paul became all things to all people for the advance of the gospel. To the Jews he became as a Jew. In Acts 16 Paul circumcised Timothy in order to remove hindrances to the gospel among the Jews. In Acts 18, Paul cut his hair because of a vow. In Acts 21, Paul was counseled to purify himself along with four men and present the appropriate offering in the temple. Paul demonstrated that, although he was free from the law, this did not mean that he could not observe Jewish laws when it would serve to advance the gospel.

Paul became as one outside in order to win those outside the law. When Paul went up to Jerusalem, he brought Titus the Greek as a test case to demonstrate that Gentiles were not required to keep the law (Gal.2:3). At Antioch, Paul insisted that Peter continue to demonstrate the truth of the gospel by eating with the Gentiles.

There was another category of people that Paul reached out to with the gospel. These were the weak. The text does not say that he became as the weak. It says he became weak. He doesn’t become a Jew or a Gentile, but he does become weak. He does not qualify this with a statement like ‘though not myself being weak’. In the context, we see that Paul took a manual labor job to pay the bills. The sophisticated Corinthians may consider this weak, but Paul says that he gladly became weak in order to win the weak to Christ. He voluntarily placed himself in the lowest social strata to bring the gospel to people who may not otherwise listen. Paul did not merely preach the gospel. Paul lived the gospel. As he says in Ephesians 5

Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

As Christ gave himself up for us, Paul follows the example of his Master and gives up his own rights. He stoops down to identify with the weak so that they know that the gospel is for them. Paul being weak, unable to save himself by his own righteousness, stands with the weak in the gospel blessings that come to the weak. Paul’s life has been transformed by the gospel. Paul now lives a life conformed to the gospel. Paul was transformed by the cross. Paul now lives life shaped by the cross. He lives a life characterized by sacrifice. He is willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to bring the saving good news to people for whom Christ died. His prime passion is the good news of Christ crucified, and he is willing to live out that good news and come alongside anyone to stand with them at the foot of the cross. There is no other Christian life than a life shaped by the cross.

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

March 23, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment