PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 11:16-21; The Character of False Teachers

11/15_2 Corinthians 11:16-21; The Character of False Teachers; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20201115_2cor11_16-21.mp3

Paul is confronting the false apostles head on. And he is confronting the church for following them. He’s said (11:4) that they proclaim another Jesus, a different spirit, a different gospel, and the church is bearing with it well! He labels the so-called super-apostles as false apostles, deceitful workers, servants of Satan who disguise themselves as genuine but their works and their future judgment expose them as false. He warns the church that he fears for them, that they are in danger of being deceived by Satan to forfeit a simple relationship with Jesus for a counterfeit.

But some in this church have already been taken. They believe everything the false teachers tell them, which means that they question Paul’s authenticity and doubt his integrity. Paul is willing to ‘become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some’ (1Cor.9:22).

A Lamb in Wolves Clothing

The wisdom of Proverbs says:

Proverbs 26:4 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. 5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.

Paul is willing to be thought a fool if that is what it takes to get their attention, to point out their folly and call them back to single-hearted devotion to the real Jesus. The Corinthians are wise in their own eyes, and need a little humbling.

He said in verse 1 of this chapter:

2 Corinthians 11:1 I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me!

And then (11:7-15) he boasted about humbling himself by serving them free of charge. Here in verse 16, he comes back to ask permission to do some foolish boasting.

2 Corinthians 11:16 I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. 17 What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not as the Lord would but as a fool. 18 Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast. 19 For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! 20 For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. 21 To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that! But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that.

Paul is willing to be considered a fool for Christ’s sake (1Cor.4:10), to let them think they are wise, if that is what it takes to reach them.

Paul has just exposed the false teachers for who they are, wolves in sheep’s clothing. Paul is now willing to be a lamb in wolves clothing if they will put up with him that way, but he lifts up the disguise and tells them in advance that is what he is doing.

According to the Flesh, Not the Lord

Paul is about to launch into what he considers foolish boasting, and he makes it clear that what he says, he says ‘not according to the Lord’, because many are boasting according to the flesh. Back in 1:17 they were accusing Paul of making his plans according to the flesh, and in 10:2 some suspect him of walking according to the flesh. But, he says

2 Corinthians 10:3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.

Here he contrasts boasting according to the flesh with speaking according to the Lord. More often (Rom.8:4-5, 12-13; Gal.4:23, 29) Paul juxtaposes living or walking according to the flesh with living or walking according to the Spirit. But here he contrasts speaking in line with the way the Lord would speak against boasting after the manner of the flesh, after a merely human, worldly pattern. This is the way unbelieving people boast, and it is foolish. It is not the way Jesus taught me to speak. “Our Lord was no boaster, and his Spirit does not lead any one to boast” [Hodge, p.266]. Carson writes: “Although no one ever made higher claims for himself than did Jesus, he uttered those claims not as a mortal vainly striving for equality with God, but as the self-emptied Son bent on the business of bringing salvation to condemned sinners” (Carson, p.109-110]. Jesus taught us wisdom that is not of this world, indeed contrary to the principles of this world.

In chapter 10, Paul refused to boast beyond limits, but only in what the Lord had assigned to him. He says

2 Corinthians 10:17 “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (cf. 1Cor.1:31)

Citing Jeremiah 9

Jeremiah 9:23 Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

Speaking according to the Lord is boasting in the Lord. Alone. He is about to boast in verse 22 in his own ethnic heritage, language, culture and religious upbringing. But this is foolish fleshly boasting, and he wants us all to know that it is not speaking as the Lord would speak. It is not boasting only in the cross. It is according to the flesh, and it is folly.

Bearing With Abusive Leadership

Verses 19-20 are in several ways parallel to verse 4. He frames both sections with an ‘if’; if one comes, if someone does these things, as is actually happening, you put up with it. You bear it well, even gladly.

Verse 4 exposes the false teaching of the false apostles. He pulls back the disguise and shows them that they come preaching another Jesus, not the Jesus the apostles proclaimed, a different spirit, one you did not receive, a different gospel which you did not accept.

Verse 19 is a slap in the face, saying sarcastically that you are so wise that you gladly bear with fools. And in verse 20 he exposes the corrosive character of the false apostles. You put up with it if someone enslaves you, if someone devours, if someone takes, if someone self-exalts, if someone strikes your face. This is the abuse they were gladly bearing with.

Notice, Paul is not directly rebuking the false apostles. He is rebuking the church for embracing and following and supporting bad leaders. Bad leaders can’t lead if no one will follow them, if no one will support them. He already said in verse 15 ‘Their end will correspond to their deeds’, both the end of the false teachers and those who follow them. God will judge the false apostles. But the Corinthians should know better than to follow them. They should recognize them by their fruits, and their character is rotten to the core. They are enslaving you, devouring, taking, self-exalting, striking you the face. And you are putting up with it!

Enslaving You

No one can serve two masters (Mt.6:24). Paul says in Romans 6 that you are slaves to the one you obey. He said:

2 Corinthians 1:24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.

Paul stands in stark contrast to these servants of Satan who are taking them captive to serve themselves. Paul will not bully or domineer them, but instead he pursues their genuine joy as he has betrothed them to one husband, to Christ (11:2). He said:

2 Corinthians 4:5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.

Where the false teachers fight for the position of lord over them, Paul is glad to humble himself to serve them for the Lord’s sake.

Devouring

False teachers devour. Fire devours. The satanic birds in Jesus’ parable devour the gospel seed so it can’t take root (Lk.8:5) The hypocritical scribes and Pharisees devour widow’s houses (Lk.20:47), and the prodigal son devoured his father’s property with prostitutes (Lk.15:30). The false teachers make a practice of parasitic violence and exploitation. Sam Storms writes:

“True, godly, Spirit-filled leaders don’t exist for you to serve them. They exist to serve you! This was the precedent set by Jesus who said of himself that he ‘came not to be served but to serve’ (Matt.28:20). Leaders aren’t placed in the body of Christ so that their reputation, lifestyle, and bank account can increase at the expense of those who are led. Leaders lead so that those led might be ever more conformed to the image of Christ. And if such comes only at great cost to those in authority, so be it, for Jesus served his own by giving ‘his life as a ransom for many’ (Matt.28:20).” [Storms, p.164];

Taking

False teachers take advantage. To take or to receive is a very common word used in lots of positive and neutral contexts. But it can also be used in negative contexts for a violent seizing, as in Jesus’ parable of the tenants who took the master’s servants

Mattthew 21:35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another.

And when he sent his own son,

Matthew 21:39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

Here it is used in the context of the false apostles seizing or laying hands on or taking advantage of. Paul used this word in verse 8 of robbing other churches by taking support from them. In 12:16 it is translated ‘got the better of you’; he is accused of cunning, taking them by deceit.

2 Corinthians 12:16 But granting that I myself did not burden you, I was crafty, you say, and got the better of you by deceit.

Self-exalting

The false apostles lift themselves up. They put on airs, they arrogantly boast. In the last chapter (10:5) Paul said he wages spiritual warfare tearing down every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.

Isaiah 2:11 The haughty looks of man shall be brought low, and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled, and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day. 12 For the LORD of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up—and it shall be brought low;

Striking You in the Face

Paul says they even go so far as to strike you in the face. Jesus used this word when one of the officers of the high priest struck him with his hand (Jn.18:23), and those holding Jesus in Jewish custody were mocking and beating him (Lk.22:63).

Most today take this as “almost certainly metaphorical language to refer to any kind of humiliating treatment” [Carson, p.111]. Except we know ‘religious leaders of the day at times punished offenders by slapping them’ [Guthrie, BECNT p.541] (cf. Acts 23:2).

And we see today’s false teachers who have people come forward so they can strike them on the face or push them to knock them down, allegedly ‘slaying them with the spirit’.

This puts what Paul said back in chapter 7 in context;

2 Corinthians 7:2 Make room in your hearts for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one.

You gladly bear with fools who enslave you, who devour, who seize, who self-exalt, who strike you in the face. This is a ‘stunning disclosure of the aggressive authoritarianism and overbearing leadership tactics of the intruders.’ [Storms, p.163]

Shame and Weakness

2 Corinthians 11:16 I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. 17 What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not as the Lord would but as a fool. 18 Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast. 19 For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! 20 For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. 21 To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!

Paul has exposed the corrupt character of the false apostles. The Corinthians should be ashamed that they had been duped and taken advantage of, abused and shamefully treated. But Paul takes the shame on himself. It is his to his shame, he says sarcastically, that he was too weak to take advantage of them in that way. He was too weak to bully them, to lord it over them, to forcefully domineer. He was weak with the meekness and gentleness, the humility of Christ (10:1). He shows by his example that weakness is the way.

Matthew 20:28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Paul is weak, and he will go on to boast in his weakness, because it is the path of following Jesus.

Fool’s Boldness

2 Corinthians 11:21 …But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that.

Even in Paul’s weakness and dishonor, he is bold. In whatever someone is bold he is also bold. And he qualifies this; he is speaking foolishness. He said back in

2 Corinthians 10:2 I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh.

Paul is weak, he begs that he will not have to show the boldness he fears he will have to show when he visits. He says in 10:12

2 Corinthians 10:12 Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.

He isn’t bold enough, he doesn’t dare to measure himself by others. Those who do, he says, are without understanding. Here he foolishly dares to boast of whatever another dares to boast of. He is willing to put on the wolf’s clothing in order to show that he is not in the least inferior (11:5), yet in his heart he is harmless as a dove (Mt.10:16).

Paul puts on the wolf’s clothing to caricature the wolves, to expose their character and wake up the sheep to set them free from their clutches.

Matthew 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

***

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

November 18, 2020 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 10:12-18; Leadership and the Lord’s Approval

10/04_2 Corinthians 10:12-18; Leadership and the Lord’s Approval; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20201004_2cor10_12-18.mp3

Who won the debate? By what standard? Who had better arguments? Who had greater eloquence? Who made a better show? Who listened well and followed the rules of etiquette? Who showed greater kindness to his opponent? By what standard do you judge? (I didn’t watch it.)

2 Corinthians 10:12 Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding. 13 But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you. 14 For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. For we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ. 15 We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, 16 so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence. 17 “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

You’ve seen kids on the playground who are told to line up smallest to tallest. They stand back to back to measure themselves against each other and stretch to their full height and re-order themselves and argue about who is taller and who was standing on tippie-toes and who has shoes that give an unfair advantage. Someone establishes themselves as judge to evaluate, but then they have to be evaluated by others to find their place in the line. That is the kind of thing that is going on in this passage, and Paul calls it foolishness. He says ‘I wouldn’t dare to even play your silly game.’

Let me give you a rough literal translation; it’s not good English, but it brings out some of the repetition and verbal links that are there in the original.

12. For we don’t dare judge in or judge with those who commend themselves; but those who by themselves with themselves measure and judge themselves with themselves do not understand.

13. But we will not boast to that without measure; but according to the measure of the rule which God measured to us; which measure extended even as far as you.

14. For not as not extending to you do we hyper-extend ourselves, for even as far as you we arrived before in the gospel of Christ –

15. Not into that without measure do we boast in another’s toils; but we hold hope by the growth of your faith, by you to be magnified according to our rule to super-abound 16. into the still farther parts beyond you to evangelize; not to boast in another rule to that which is prepared;

17. but the one who boasts must boast in the Lord

18. for not the one who commends himself is that one approved, but whom the Lord commends.

Paul is under attack. His authority and credibility in the church in Corinth is being undermined by those he later calls

2 Corinthians 11:13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.

Paul is not ashamed to boast excessively of his authority, which he received from the Lord for building up the church (2Cor.10:8). He calls them sarcastically ‘super-apostles’ who are preaching a different Jesus, a different spirit, and a different gospel (2Cor.11:4).

Paul and Delegating Leadership

Paul has no problem turning over the local leadership of a church to another. He left Titus in Crete

Titus 1:5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—

Paul was eager to establish others, men of character, in leadership. But, along with personal integrity,

Titus 1:9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

He must hold firm the trustworthy word as taught. There are deceivers who must be rebuked and silenced.

According to Philippians 1, Paul can rejoice even over the preaching of those with impure motives, when they are preaching Christ.

Paul has no problem with someone like Apollos coming in behind him to follow up his ministry and serve in the churches he planted.

1 Corinthians 3:5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, …

The Corinthians tried to pit Paul against Apollos. Paul says no, we are on the same team. We are one. We are fulfilling different roles that God has given to each of us.

False Apostles and Usurped Authority

So what is different between Apollos or the elders appointed by Titus and these ‘super-apostles’?

1 Corinthians 3:10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

The false apostles are seeking to dig up the foundation of Jesus and under their authority transplant the church on to a different foundation of a different Jesus and a different gospel. This is what Paul is up against in this passage.

Subjective Comparison

Paul’s sarcasm is biting, and this passage drips with irony.

2 Corinthians 10:12 Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.

The false apostles are commending themselves. Back in chapter 3, we see that apparently they were coming in with letters of recommendation, seeking to establish their own authority. Paul says ‘you are our letter of recommendation.’ In Chapter 4, Paul says that he does not tamper with God’s word, but commends himself to all by the open statement of the truth. In chapter 5 he says that he is not seeking to commend himself, but rather to give them an answer to use with those who boast merely in outward appearances. In chapter 6 Paul commends himself by cataloging his sufferings that demonstrate he is following in the footsteps of his Master.

The false apostles are commending themselves, by judging themselves with themselves. This is a danger today. We are a competitive culture. How successful is your ministry? How big is your church? Your bible study? How many have you led to Christ? How many followers do you have, how many views, how many hits, how many likes? Or in some circles, how much opposition do you have? How many are criticizing your ministry? Because if you’re being attacked, you must be doing something right (it couldn’t mean that you are just rude, or being a jerk).

How do you measure ministry success? This is a case of the seven dwarves bickering over who is the tallest. Snow White smiles and stoops down to pat them on the head. At Babel (Gen.11) mankind came together to make a name for themselves and a tower to compete with heaven. The Lord came down to get a better look at the puny little tower they had built.

We like to look sideways to see how we are doing. Am I keeping up? Am I doing better than the other guy? If I am ahead, I can ease up and relax a little. If I am behind I need to push hard to catch up. How are you doing? ‘Well, I’m faster than him, but I’m way behind her.’ Paul says ‘when you measure yourselves by one another and compare yourselves with one another, you are without understanding.’ You lack spiritual insight. You don’t have an external standard, an absolute standard.

The Standard and Measure

2 Corinthians 10:13 But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you. 14 For we are not overextending ourselves, as though we did not reach you. For we were the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ.

What is the standard? ‘We will not boast without measure; but according to the measure of the rule which God measured to us; which measure extended even as far as you. For not as not extending to you do we hyper-extend ourselves, for even as far as you we arrived before in the gospel of Christ.’ What is the measure of the rule that God measured to Paul? What is the limit of the area of influence that God assigned to Paul and his co-workers?

Acts 9:15 …“…he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

Paul is to bear the name of Jesus everywhere he goes. And, by the way, his ministry will be accompanied by suffering. In his letter to the Romans (a church he hadn’t yet visited and didn’t establish)

Romans 1:1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, …5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,

Paul is set apart for the gospel of God. In Romans 11 and in Galatians he claims to be an apostle to the Gentiles, but that does not seem to be the primary thing he has in mind here. What he says here is that he was ‘the first to come all the way to you with the gospel of Christ.’ The standard is the gospel. It was by his open statement of the truth that he commended himself. He proclaimed Christ and him crucified. He preached the cross.

The false apostles are seeking to build themselves up by attacking Paul’s character and undermining his authority. His defense? On his second missionary journey in Acts 18, he made it all the way to Corinth. He spent 18 months preaching Jesus, and a church was birthed. They exist as a church because he brought the gospel to them, because the message of Christ crucified had life transforming power. He says ‘you are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts’

Hopes for Evangelism Beyond

And here he wants them to know that he is looking beyond them. It’s not all about them. The mission is bigger than them. But they are part of it.

2 Corinthians 10:15 We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you [by you] may be greatly enlarged, 16 so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence.

The Corinthians are Paul’s labor. And they have been a painful labor to him. But his hope is as their faith grows, they will be instrumental in expanding the mission beyond them. A short time later, in the letter to the Romans, writing from Corinth he says

Romans 15:17 In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. 18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, 19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; 20 and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, 21 but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.” 22 This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. 23 But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, 24 I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.

Paul is eager to preach to those who have never heard. He hopes that when the faith of the Corinthians grows, they will be a launching pad to send him out to Rome, and then on to Spain. This is Paul’s heart. Do you know that there are still today places and peoples who have never heard the good news, who have never heard the name of Jesus?

Boasting in Knowing the Lord

Paul doesn’t commend himself by comparing himself with others. He measures himself by the objective standard of the gospel that he was called to proclaim. He doesn’t boast in someone else’s labors; he boasts in the work prepared for him by God. He boasts only in what God has accomplished through him, so his boasting is ultimately boasting in the Lord.

2 Corinthians 10:17 “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Paul paraphrases Jeremiah 9:24

Jeremiah 9:24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

Boast only in the Lord. This is an echo back to verse 12, where Paul accuses the false teachers who compare themselves with one another of being without understanding. The understanding they lack is understanding and knowing the Lord. They were boasting in outward metrics and measurables. They were hyper-extending themselves and boasting about the labors of another as if it were their own.

Paul says it comes down to this. Accomplishments are great, and he hopes to be used by God to reach more and more people with the good news, but what really matters is boasting in the Lord, knowing the Lord, having real understanding, a real relationship with Jesus.

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

Self-commendation doesn’t mean anything. The commendation of others doesn’t mean anything. What you think of yourself doesn’t matter. What others think of you or your ministry doesn’t really matter. It is what Jesus thinks of you that matters.

The false apostles are in danger of hearing these fateful words from the Lord:

Matthew 7:23 …‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Paul knows it is only what Jesus thinks of him that matters, and he looks forward to hearing these words:

Matthew 25:21 …‘Well done, good and faithful servant. … Enter into the joy of your master.’

Paul didn’t lose heart, he didn’t despair even when everything seemed to be falling apart, because he was looking not to the things that are seen, but to the unseen eternal realities (2Cor.4:16,18). He had his eyes fixed on Jesus, and the only approval he was seeking was the approval of Jesus.

***

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

October 8, 2020 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 1:23-24; Christ-Like Leadership for Your Joy

02/11_2 Corinthians 1:23-24; Christ-like Leadership for your Joy ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180211_2cor1_23-24.mp3

We are going to be looking at 2 Corinthians 1:23-24 to see what godly leadership ought to look like, to see the purpose and posture of godly leadership, the overarching goal of Christlike leadership to serve others for their joy.

Paul’s Changing Travel Plans

There is a backstory to this book we know as 2 Corinthians. Paul came to the city of Corinth, proclaimed the gospel, and spent over a year and a half establishing a church there. He continued on across the Agean Sea to the city of Ephesus, and then on to Jerusalem. He returned by land through Asia to Ephesus, where he spent over 2 years.

Piecing the details together, we find that during his time in Ephesus, he received word that all was not well in in the church in Corinth. He wrote a letter to Corinth that was misunderstood, and then he wrote what we have as 1 Corinthians, addressing problems in the church, answering questions, and clarifying issues. His plan, as stated at the end of 1 Corinthians, was to leave Ephesus the following spring and travel up through Asia and then down through Macedonia to visit them, and spend some significant time with them, and then the following spring to carry their gift to the church in Jerusalem. We could call this ‘plan A’.

But Timothy sent word to Paul that the Corinthians did not respond well to his letter, so Paul changed his plans and made an emergency visit to Corinth to address the problems face to face. This proved to be a difficult confrontation, a ‘painful visit’. Paul returned to Ephesus, having been personally attacked, his authority rejected. This was an unplanned emergency visit.

He then planned to complete his ministry in Ephesus, sail to Corinth for a brief visit, continue up through Macedonia to receive their collection, then stop again in Corinth on his way back to Jerusalem with the collection. He may have communicated these plans to them during his painful visit. We’ll call this ‘plan B’.

Instead, when he received news that things only got worse in Corinth after his visit, he sent Titus with a ‘painful letter.’ Paul then traveled north to Troas, hoping to meet Titus there with word of how they responded to his letter, but not finding Titus, he continued on by land over into Macedonia, where he connected with Titus. It is from Macedonia that he writes the letter we know as 2 Corinthians. We could call this ‘plan C,’ which was in substance a return to ‘plan A’.

Paul’s Defense of His Changing Plans

In this letter, there is an undercurrent of 4-5 years worth of relational turmoil and tension with this church. They are questioning his authority, his credibility, his character. They are not following his instructions. In 2 Corinthians, Paul is communicating his heart, and why his plans changed:

In verses 8-11 he wants them to know that he experienced a deadly peril in Asia that disrupted some of his plans. In 12-14 he boasts in the testimony of his clear conscience; he always only operated with simplicity and godly sincerity; he based his decisions on the grace of God and not fleshly wisdom. In verses 15-17 he communicates that his desire to visit them twice was to give them a double opportunity to participate in the grace of giving. In 18-22 he takes an oath on the faithfulness of God; God’s promises are always Yes & Amen in Jesus, and Paul’s own heart is always Yes toward them.

But the Yes in God’s actions is not always transparent. Often God’s Yes is hidden in a No. God said No to his Son Jesus so that he could say Yes to us. God’s promise of rescue came to us in the form of the crucifixion of God the Son. So too, Paul’s Yes is sometimes concealed in what seems to be a No. His painful visit and painful letter may have seemed to them to be a No, that he is against them, but in fact, it was a Yes, that he loves them, he is all in, and he is for them.

Here in verse 23, Paul begins to hit head on the issue of his travel plans, and why they changed. In 1:23-2:2 he calls God as his witness; he did not come as he had planned in order to spare the Corinthians another painful visit. Instead he sent a painful letter by the hand of Titus. In chapter 2:3-4 he lets them know that this painful letter was to demonstrate his abundant love for them. In 2:5-11 he says that the painful letter was to give them an opportunity to demonstrate their obedience. In 2:12-13 he lets them know that he even walked away from an open door for the gospel out of a troubled spirit and deep concern for them.

Then from 2:14-7:4 he takes over 4 chapters to lay out the characteristics of cross-shaped gospel ministry, before he picks back up this thread of his travel plans and communicates in 7:5-16 that he indeed met Titus in Macedonia and received word that they had responded favorably to his painful letter.

God Is My Witness

With this background in mind, let’s look at some profound truths in his answer in 1:23-24.

2 Corinthians 1:23 But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth. 24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.

Paul is under attack. It is as if he were standing trial, with the Corinthians as the prosecuting attorney. He has communicated his tumultuous circumstances, he has produced the testimony of his own conscience, he has communicated that his motive was to do them good and not harm, and that as surely as God is faithful to his promises, so Paul is consistently for them. It was through Paul’s preaching that Christ came to live among them through the gospel. He is with them being established by God in Christ through the Spirit. Here in verse 23, he calls God himself to take the witness stand. I call God to witness against my soul. He can appeal to no higher authority to establish his integrity.

It Was To Spare You

2 Corinthians 1:23 But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth.

What does Paul mean ‘it was to spare you’? If we look back to 1 Corinthians, he warned

1 Corinthians 4:18 Some are arrogant, as though I were not coming to you. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. 21 What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?

As an Apostle of the Lord Christ, Paul carries God’s power and authority. Paul bears the burden of parenting the churches that he planted, and part of the responsibility of a parent is to discipline his children. This church was out of line, and he has the authority to come with a rod. But as a good parent, he doesn’t want to come at them with discipline. He wants to win their hearts. He says at the end of this letter,

2 Corinthians 13:2 I warned those who sinned before and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again I will not spare them—

He refrained from coming again to Corinth to spare them. But he will come again, and then if they are still unrepentant, he will not spare them. He goes on:

2 Corinthians 13:9 For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for. 10 For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.

Paul was accused of being weak. Paul here says that it makes him happy to be able to be weak among them. His heart is not to be heavy-handed, but he prays for their restoration. His heart and his authority is to build up and not to tear down.

When It Is Better Not To Confront

We can learn something from Paul’s approach. Sometimes it is better not to come. Sometimes it is better to stay away, to change plans, to postpone a visit.

Now Jesus is clear,

Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.

We are to keep sins private. We are never to gossip or slander. “You know, I’m really concerned about Bill. I think he might be slipping back into sin. Would you pray for him with me?” No, Jesus says go, between you and him alone. And the goal is always restoration. To win your brother back.

But Paul shows some fatherly wisdom here. Kids are different. They respond differently to different approaches. A wise father is sensitive to that, and if his goal is to win the hearts of his children, he will approach his children differently. Paul had written two letters. They didn’t respond well. So he showed up. An emergency visit to deal with the problems head on, face to face. It was a painful confrontation. It didn’t go well. They didn’t respond well. So he backs off. He gives them space. He writes them another letter through his tears. He is brokenhearted, and he is on his knees. He sends someone else.

Kids are different, and relationships are messy. We would like for it to be clean cut. I followed the steps. Step one, step two, step three, you’re out! But relationships are not like that. Embrace the messiness. Enter in with your whole heart. Allow God’s pattern of grace to determine how best to move forward. Remember, in verse 12, Paul says ‘I make my plans, I behave in the world …by the grace of God.’ How does God’s grace come to you? What does God’s grace look like in this situation? How can I extend God’s undeserved grace toward you? How can I demonstrate love to you, to communicate that I am for you? How can I win your heart?

You think I didn’t come because I don’t care about you. But it was to spare you that I didn’t come, to give you space. God is my witness, I didn’t come because I love you.

Not Lording Over You

Now this is open to some misunderstanding. This might come across as heavy-handed; ‘it was to spare you that I didn’t come.’ My sole purpose is to keep you in line. And if you don’t listen up, watch out! So Paul clarifies:

2 Corinthians 1:24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.

Paul gives us huge insight into godly leadership. This is built on Jesus’ teaching on leadership.

Luke 22:24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors.

This is the same word as in 2 Corinthians 1:24; exercise lordship over. The disciples wanted to know who was top dog. Who is in authority. Who gets to have it his way. Who gets to call the shots. Who gets to dominate everyone else. Who gets titles of honor and respect. Jesus says this is how Gentile leadership looks,

Luke 22:26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

Jesus turns leadership upside down. Jesus says that true greatness is serving others, not being served. Jesus says:

Matthew 20:28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

True leadership is sacrificial service for the good of others. Peter exhorts elders as a fellow elder,

1 Peter 5:2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

Shepherd willingly, eagerly, as an example, not as an overlord. Peter says:

1 Peter 5:4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 …Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another…

Shepherd. Not to be served, but to serve the needs of the sheep. Willingly, eagerly, clothed with humility.

By Faith you Stand Firm

2 Corinthians 1:24 Not that we lord it over your faith, … for you stand firm in your faith.

Those in authority are not to domineer over anyone’s faith, because, well, they can’t. It is by faith you stand firm. Calvin (p.145) observes that this is a curious phrase; that “he argues from contraries. …the nature and effect of faith [is] such that we lean, in order that we may stand”. Faith is by definition dependence upon another; we stand firm by our leaning on or trusting in another. And that another is not any church leader. If our faith is to stand, it must be on the Lord Jesus Christ alone. Paul is eager to say that he is not the Lord in whom anyone ought to trust. He together with the Corinthians is trusting in Jesus. God is establishing them both in Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Peter stated it clearly during the Jerusalem council of Acts 15, discussing how the Gentiles would be saved:

Acts 15:11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

Peter the Apostle stands alongside every Gentile believer as one saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone and not by works of the Law.

No man can stand over another man’s faith. There is one Lord in whom we must believe and that is Jesus Christ (1Cor.8:6).

Fellow-Workers for your Joy

2 Corinthians 1:24 Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.

Paul had an exclusive list of co-workers that included Priscilla, Aquila (Rom.16:3); Urbanus (Rom.16:9); Timothy (Rom.16:21, 1Thes.3:2); Apollos (1Cor.3:9); Titus (2Cor.8:23); Epaphroditus (Phil.2:25); Clement (Phil.4:3); Aristarchus, Mark, Jesus Justus (Col.4:11); Philemon (1:1); Demas, Luke (Phlm.1:24). This would have been something (if you were looking for status) to be able to say ‘I made the list; I am a fellow-worker of the Apostle Paul.’ Here he says ‘I am your fellow-worker.’ Paul and the other apostles come alongside me, labor together with me? He puts himself under and alongside us.

What is the aim? What are we working toward? What is it that Paul and the other Apostles come up under and alongside each one of us to accomplish? I could think of some great fill in the blanks; we are working together with you to bring the gospel to the whole world; We are working together with you for your holiness and sanctification. To establish churches in every city. To accomplish the great commission, to make disciples of all nations. To advance the glory of God and his kingdom in all the earth. Those would all be great biblical ways to finish the sentence, but that’s not how Paul finishes the sentence. He says ‘we are co-workers with you for your joy.’ For your joy! Joy! Paul is working together with us for our joy! Even in the painful hard things, even in discipline, he is working with us for our joy. For your joy. Godly leadership is not domineering; godly leadership serves. Godly leadership works under and alongside you for your joy. For your joy! Oh I want to get into this, but it’s going to have to wait until next week.

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

February 14, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 21; YHWH Who Sanctifies You

02/05 Leviticus 21-22; I Am YHWH Who Sanctifies You ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170205_leviticus-21.mp3

Leviticus 17-27 is known as the holiness code; how does a redeemed and rescued Israel, taken by God to live in his holy presence, now live as a new community under God?

Lev.17 The importance of blood in sacrifice

Lev.18 Avoiding pagan practices

Lev.19 Practical holiness and love for neighbors

Lev.20 Consequences of disobedience

Lev.21 Holiness of the Priests

Lev.22 Holiness of the Sacrifices

As is explicitly clear in this section, no one can accomplish their own sanctification; holiness and purity in the life of the believer can be attributed only to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Six times in chapters 21-22 we read the phrase ‘I am the LORD who sanctifies. This phrase breaks the material into 6 distinct sections, each section concluding with this phrase ‘I am the LORD who sanctifies you’. The four main sections begin with ‘the LORD spoke to Moses’

This is the big idea of the passage: I AM YHWH who Sanctifies you.

Outline of Leviticus 21-22

Lev.21:1-9 priests not to make themselves unclean

Lev.21:10-15 high priest not to make himself unclean

Lev.21:16-24 blemished priests not to draw near

Lev.22:1-9 priests to abstain from holy things while unclean

Lev.22:10-16 common people to abstain from holy things

Lev.22:17-33 blemished animals not accepted for you

The positive reason for each of these is because “I am the LORD who sanctifies you.” There is also a negative reason, a warning in each of these. The danger and warning is:

Lev.21:6 …and not profane the name of their God.

Lev.21:12 …lest he profane the sanctuary of his God,

Lev.21:23 …that he may not profane my sanctuaries,

Lev.22:2 …so that they do not profane my holy name:

Lev.22:15 …They shall not profane the holy things of the people

Lev.22:32 …And you shall not profane my holy name,

God’s people are to live in holy ways because he is the one who has sanctified them, made them holy; and in order that they not profane his holy name, his holy place, his holy things.

Remember the three main categories of thinking in Leviticus of holy, clean or common, and unclean. We used a diagram to help understand the movement between these categories. Sin and infirmity profane from holy to common and pollute from clean to unclean. Sacrifice can cleanse from unclean to clean and sanctify from common to holy.

———————————————————————————

←← SACRIFICE ←←

Sanctify ← Cleanse

[holy] [clean/common] [unclean]

Profane → Pollute →

→→ SIN and INFIRMITY →→

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

———————————————————————————

God is saying that he is the one who sanctifies you; therefore do not treat that which is holy as common or profane. It is not the sacrifice which sanctifies you; it is God who sanctifies you by means of sacrifice. Because you have been sanctified, set apart as holy, do not profane the name of your God by your sin and infirmity.

Lev.21:1-9 Priests Not To Make Themselves Unclean

The first section addresses the priests.

Leviticus 21:1 And the LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them, No one shall make himself unclean for the dead among his people, 2 except for his closest relatives, his mother, his father, his son, his daughter, his brother, 3 or his virgin sister (who is near to him because she has had no husband; for her he may make himself unclean). 4 He shall not make himself unclean as a husband among his people and so profane himself. 5 They shall not make bald patches on their heads, nor shave off the edges of their beards, nor make any cuts on their body. 6 They shall be holy to their God and not profane the name of their God. For they offer the LORD’s food offerings, the bread of their God; therefore they shall be holy. 7 They shall not marry a prostitute or a woman who has been defiled, neither shall they marry a woman divorced from her husband, for the priest is holy to his God. 8 You shall sanctify him, for he offers the bread of your God. He shall be holy to you, for I, the LORD, who sanctify you, am holy. 9 And the daughter of any priest, if she profanes herself by whoring, profanes her father; she shall be burned with fire.

The priests were cleansed and set apart to enter the presence of God, to offer sacrifices, and to lead the people in worship of God. There is to be a wide separation between the gift of life in the presence of God, and the wages of sin, which is the curse and death. Contact with the dead makes one unclean. The pagan cultures around Israel were involved in ancestor worship and interaction with the dead. God demanded a clear separation between his true worship and the false worship of the pagans. Rituals for the dead were to have no place in his holy sanctuary, or among his holy people. Any contact with the dead made one unclean, so priests were forbidden to be involved in funerals, except for very close relatives. Not even for his wife’s close relatives was he to defile himself. And in mourning for the close relative, no pagan practices were to be used. Making bald patches, shaving parts of the beard, making cuts on their body, these were pagan ways of mourning, and were not to be adopted by God’s holy people. What was forbidden for the people in general in Leviticus 19:27-28 is now forbidden explicitly for the priests.

This sheds light on the priest in Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan. If you remember Jesus’ story in Luke 10:25-37, a priest and then a Levite passed by the injured man on the other side of the street. They were avoiding contact with someone who would defile them and make them unclean. Jesus, clarifying the passage in Leviticus 19 that teaches love for neighbor as self, teaches that the one who showed mercy proved to be a neighbor to the man in need, and Jesus said ‘go and do likewise.’

Priests were to be holy by avoiding contact with the dead. They were also to be holy in their relationships. They were held to a higher standard in marriage, required to marry a woman of character and integrity. Their children were to maintain that same integrity, or the consequences were grave.

This is similar to the New Testament teaching in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 that a deacon, an elder, a pastor in the church is held to a higher standard of integrity. He is to be above reproach. His wife is to be a woman of character. They are to manage their children well.

Lev.21:10-15 High Priest Not To Make Himself Unclean

The great high priest is held to an even higher standard.

Leviticus 21:10 “The priest who is chief among his brothers, on whose head the anointing oil is poured and who has been consecrated to wear the garments, shall not let the hair of his head hang loose nor tear his clothes. 11 He shall not go in to any dead bodies nor make himself unclean, even for his father or for his mother. 12 He shall not go out of the sanctuary, lest he profane the sanctuary of his God, for the consecration of the anointing oil of his God is on him: I am the LORD. 13 And he shall take a wife in her virginity. 14 A widow, or a divorced woman, or a woman who has been defiled, or a prostitute, these he shall not marry. But he shall take as his wife a virgin of his own people, 15 that he may not profane his offspring among his people, for I am the LORD who sanctifies him.”

The high priest is not to make himself unclean or show outward signs of mourning, even for father or mother. This is heavy, but to be called to serve as the great High Priest of the nation is even more weighty, and duties to God take precedence over family ties. When a would-be follower asked:

Matthew 8:21 Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”

Jesus teaches again in Matthew 10

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

Yes. By all means care for your own family. 1 Timothy 5 says

1 Timothy 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

But Jesus is saying that he must take precedence over family relationships. He must be first place in our affections and in our devotion. “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.”

Lev.21:16-24 Blemished Priests Not To Draw Near

The last section of chapter 21 deals with physical blemishes in the priests.

Leviticus 21:16 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 17 “Speak to Aaron, saying, None of your offspring throughout their generations who has a blemish may approach to offer the bread of his God. 18 For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, a man blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, 19 or a man who has an injured foot or an injured hand, 20 or a hunchback or a dwarf or a man with a defect in his sight or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles. 21 No man of the offspring of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come near to offer the LORD’s food offerings; since he has a blemish, he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God. 22 He may eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy and of the holy things, 23 but he shall not go through the veil or approach the altar, because he has a blemish, that he may not profane my sanctuaries, for I am the LORD who sanctifies them.” 24 So Moses spoke to Aaron and to his sons and to all the people of Israel.

Twelve physical defects are listed, ranging from physical deformities, to injuries, to diseases. Any blemish disqualified a priest from drawing near to God.

Under the old covenant, holiness found outward expression in wholeness. Physical integrity served as a picture of integrity of character. This understanding led to the false conclusion that all imperfections were evidence of sin. “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (Lk.9:2). But the use of a physical impairment to illustrate a spiritual truth is powerful. Jesus accused the religious leaders of his day of being blind guides.

Luke 6:39 He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. 41 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

Physical blindness served as an illustration of the inability to perceive spiritual truth. Someone who cannot see clearly is unfit to lead others. For a blemished priest to draw near would be to ‘profane my sanctuaries’.

Distinction between Identity and Enjoyment

In this we see the amazing care and compassion of God. The priest with a blemish is a priest, he is a priest by birth, he was born into the priestly line, he was anointed as a priest, and he is entitled to the sustenance of the priests. But he may not approach to offer the bread of his God; he shall not draw near; he shall not come near to offer the LORD’s food offerings; he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God; he shall not go through the veil or approach the altar, that he may not profane my sanctuaries. His identity is a priest; his provision comes as a priest; he is entitled to “eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy and of the holy things.” but he is restricted from performing the highest duties of a priest. He may not draw near.

Under the New Covenant we see that every believer is a priest of God.

1 Peter 2:5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. …9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

This is who we are in Christ. This is our position. We are kings and priests. It is this holy priesthood that Peter addresses in verse 11

1 Peter 2:11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

As priests of God, we are exhorted to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. As priests, we are intended to ‘offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.’ As priests, we are meant to ‘proclaim the excellencies of him who called you.’ But when we give in to the passions of the flesh, we forfeit the full enjoyment of our privileges as priests. We are still sustained by his sovereign grace, but we miss out on the fullness of fellowship. We cannot forfeit our place as adopted children around his table, but we can fail to taste the delight of ‘presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship’ (Rom.12:1). We cannot be excluded from the table, but we will experience his discipline, ‘for the Lord disciplines the one he loves’ and ‘he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness’ (Heb.12:6,10).

This is truly good news. It is God who sanctifies us!

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

God sanctifies. He is able.

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

Our holiness can only be attributed to the sanctifying work of God’s Holy Spirit in us.

C.H. Mackintosh, an Irish minister,wrote in 1881 “The believer is ‘washed, sanctified, and justified’ (1Cor.6:11); he is ‘accepted in the Beloved’ (Eph.1:6); he can never come into judgment, as regards his person (John 5:24 …); death and judgment are behind him, because he is united to Christ, who has passed through them both on his behalf and in his stead. All these things are divinely true of the very weakest, most unlettered, and inexperienced member of the family of God; but yet, inasmuch as he carries about with him a nature so incorrigibly bad and so irremediably ruined that no discipline can correct it and no medicine cure it, inasmuch as he is the tenant of a body of sin and death – as he is surrounded on all sides by hostile influences – as he is called to cope perpetually with the combined forces of the world, the flesh, and the devil, he could never keep his ground, much less make progress, were he not upheld by the all-prevailing intercession of his great High-Priest, who bears the names of His people upon His breast and upon His shoulder.” (p.397).

I am the LORD who sanctifies them.”

Leviticus 21:17 … None of your offspring throughout their generations who has a blemish may approach to offer the bread of his God. 18 For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, a man blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, 19 or a man who has an injured foot or an injured hand, 20 or a hunchback or a dwarf or a man with a defect in his sight or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles. 21 No man of the offspring of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come near to offer the LORD’s food offerings; since he has a blemish, he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God. 22 He may eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy and of the holy things, 23 but he shall not go through the veil or approach the altar, because he has a blemish, that he may not profane my sanctuaries, for I am the LORD who sanctifies them.”

It is YHWH who sanctifies; makes them holy; in the Old Testament the LORD sanctified by separation and exclusion. No one who has a blemish shall draw near. But in the New Covenant, YHWH sanctifies by making whole, by healing, by transformation.

Jesus told a story about a master who prepared a great feast.

Luke 14:21 …Then the master of the house … said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’

These are the kind of people King Jesus invites in! These are the kind of people Jesus makes whole.

No one who has a blemish shall come near. But these are precicely the kinds of blemishes Jesus healed!

Matthew 11:4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Matthew 12:10 And a man was there with a withered hand. … 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other.

Matthew 15:30 And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, 31 so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel.

I am the LORD who sanctifies them.” Jesus opens blind eyes, causes the deaf to hear, gives life to the dead, causes the paralyzed to leap for joy. Jesus is the one who brings us near. Jesus is the one who makes us holy.

Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

***

What is hindering you from presenting your body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God? Are you paralyzed by fear? A prisoner to the passions of the flesh? Crippled by lust? Blinded by the cares of this world? Led astray by the deceitfulness of riches? Deaf to the needs of others? Allow Jesus to set you free and draw you near. Allow him to touch the broken places in you and bring life and wholeness and fruitfulness. I am the LORD who sanctifies you. Allow him to bring you near.

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

February 8, 2017 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 4; The Sin Offering

05/08 Leviticus 4; The Sin Offering; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160508_leviticus-4.mp3

We are not under law; we are under grace. Praise God we are under grace! ‘The law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death’ (Rom.8:2). But the law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ (Gal.3:24), and ‘whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope’ (Rom.15:4). The Scriptures give us instruction, give us encouragement, give us hope, hope in Christ! We are not under law, but we can learn from the law. ‘All Scripture is …profitable …for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness (2Tim.3:16). We can benefit greatly from this training in righteousness that the law offers us.

Overview

We are in Leviticus 4, which deals with a new category of sacrificial offering to the Lord. The first three offerings were voluntary offerings, said to be offerings ‘with a pleasing aroma to the Lord’. The whole burnt offering was an entire animal that went up in smoke to the Lord, addressing our sin nature. The grain offering was a tribute offering of the work of our hands, given in tribute to our new King. The peace or fellowship offering was a shared meal that celebrated our reconciled relationship of peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Leviticus 4 begins with the words ‘And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘speak to the people of Israel, saying’. These words, similar to the words which open the book, indicate that this is a new section dealing with different issues. Chapter 4:1 – 5:13 deals with the sin offering, and Chapter 5:14 – 6:7 deals with the guilt offering. These are both required offerings when any person sins.

Chapter 4 begins with an introductory statement of the sin offering, then lists four categories of people, and the procedure for making atonement for that person. Verses 3-12 deal with the anointed priest; verses 13-21 deal with sins of the whole congregation; verses 22-26 deal with sins of a leader; and verses 27-35 deal with the atonement for the common people. Chapter 5:1-13 lists four specific occasions in which a person would incur guilt and gives three different types of offering dependent on what the worshiper can afford.

Unintentional Sins

Leviticus 4:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If anyone sins unintentionally in any of the LORD’s commandments about things not to be done, and does any one of them,

One startling thing to notice right up front in this chapter is that this offering makes atonement and brings forgiveness for unintentional sins. Did you even know there was a category for that? Verses 13, 22, and 27 clarify that if he “sins unintentionally in doing any one of the things that by the LORD’s commandments ought not to be done, and realizes his guilt, or the sin which he has committed is made known to him”. These could be sins of ignorance, ‘I didn’t know that God considers this a sin’; they could be sins of carelessness, ‘I was not paying attention or thinking and I did this’; or they could be accidental sins, ‘I didn’t mean to do this but it happened’. What is startling about all of these is that they all require the death penalty. The bull or goat or lamb doesn’t get a spanking or a time-out. It is killed. Even unintentional sins miss the mark of God’s perfect standard, and the wages of sin is death. Sin is serious. Deadly serious.

Numbers 15 helps us understand this category of unintentional sins. Verses 22-29 form a rough parallel to Leviticus 4. Verses 24-26 deal with atonement for unintentional sins of the whole congregation; and verses 27-29 deal with atonement for unintentional sins of the individual in very similar terms to what we have here in Leviticus 4. But verses 30-31 draw a distinction between unintentional sins and sins done with a high hand, and then verses 32-36 give an incident as an application of this principle.

Numbers 15:28 And the priest shall make atonement before the LORD for the person who makes a mistake, when he sins unintentionally, to make atonement for him, and he shall be forgiven. …30 But the person who does anything with a high hand, whether he is native or a sojourner, reviles the LORD, and that person shall be cut off from among his people. 31 Because he has despised the word of the LORD and has broken his commandment, that person shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be on him.”

There is no sacrifice, no atonement, no forgiveness for sins done intentionally, in willful disobedience, with a high hand. The person who does this is said to revile the LORD, to despise the word of the LORD, and breaks his commandment. Have you ever heard someone say, maybe you’ve said it yourself ‘I know this is wrong, but God is gracious, he will forgive me. After all, I’m not under law, I’m under grace.’ This is dangerous thinking. Paul answers this in Romans 6.

Romans 6:14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?

Here’s the event that illustrates the principle in Numbers 15:

Numbers 15:32 While the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. 33 And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation. 34 They put him in custody, because it had not been made clear what should be done to him.

Gathering sticks. Maybe he and his family were cold. He needed to build a fire to stay warm or to cook over. What’s the big deal? God said:

Exodus 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.

This man was despising the word of the LORD. He was reviling the Lord. He was deliberately breaking the commandment.

Numbers 15:35 And the LORD said to Moses, “The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” 36 And all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, as the LORD commanded Moses.

There was no sacrifice, no atonement, no forgiveness for a high-handed intentional sin.

We tend to categorize sins; ‘all I did was tell one little white lie’. Only one, it was little, and it was white; I meant no harm, it didn’t hurt anybody. What category would God put this sin under? It is a lie, intended to deceive, an intentional, a willful, a high handed sin. ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness’ (Ex.20:16).

Numbers 35 helps us to understand what is meant by an unintentional sin.

Numbers 35:11 then you shall select cities to be cities of refuge for you, that the manslayer who kills any person without intent may flee there. …15 These six cities shall be for refuge for the people of Israel, and for the stranger and for the sojourner among them, that anyone who kills any person without intent may flee there.

Without intent. This is the same word we have in Leviticus 4. Killing can be unintentional, and if it is unintentional, there is protection provided for the one guilty of manslaughter. There is a distinction drawn. If he used and iron, stone, or wooden tool that could cause death, he is a murderer.

Numbers 35:20 And if he pushed him out of hatred or hurled something at him, lying in wait, so that he died, 21 or in enmity struck him down with his hand, so that he died, then he who struck the blow shall be put to death. He is a murderer. The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death when he meets him.

22 “But if he pushed him suddenly without enmity, or hurled anything on him without lying in wait 23 or used a stone that could cause death, and without seeing him dropped it on him, so that he died, though he was not his enemy and did not seek his harm, 24 then the congregation shall judge between the manslayer and the avenger of blood, in accordance with these rules.

The motive is considered. If it was a sudden reaction, if it was not premeditated, if he did not intend to do harm, if it was an accident, these were considered unintentional. They were still sin, the taking of a life in God’s image, but they were unintentional, and forgivable.

Go and Tell Him His Fault

So much of our sin is unintentional. We simply have no idea. Often an unintentional sin is a sin you don’t know you committed. Verse 13 says ‘the thing is hidden from the eyes of the assembly’. We are often blind to our unintentional sins. Verse 14 says ‘when the sin which they have committed becomes known’. I can’t seek forgiveness if I don’t know I have sinned. We are not told how the sin becomes known. It could be conviction from the Holy Spirit, or a feeling of guilt. Verses 23 and 28 say ‘the sin which he has committed is made known to him’. We need each other to help with blind spots. This does not authorize you to become the sin police, eagerly finding fault with your neighbor and relishing every opportunity to point it out. But it is helpful to know that often the sins of our brothers and sisters are unintentional sins. We feel hurt, offended, slighted, mistreated. That passing comment really cut deep. This is why Jesus tells us:

Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.

Note well, Jesus does not say ‘if your brother sins against you, give him the cold shoulder until he realizes what evil he has done’; He does not say ‘if your brother sins against you, bitterly rehearse in your heart how hurtful it was over and over again while you wait for him to crawl back to you in contrite penance’. He does not say ‘go talk to your other brothers and sisters to see if they have also been hurt in similar ways by the offending party’. Notice also that Jesus does not say ‘if you sin against your brother, go apologize to him’, because this kind of sin we are often blind to. Jesus tells us to go directly and privately to our brother or sister who sinned against us, and tell them their fault, because they probably have no idea that they hurt you! If you go to them directly, that gives them the opportunity to say ‘I am so sorry you took it that way! That is not at all what I meant’.

Sometimes the issue is more serious. We need to be watching out for one another, encouraging one another. We need to have the humility to be aware that we have blind spots, and be thankful that we have brothers and sisters who love us.

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

When we realize our guilt, then we lay our hand on the head of the animal. We identify with the animal, that we deserve to die, and it will die in our place. We confess our sins, agreeing with God that even our unintentional sin is worthy of punishment.

All Have Sinned

Who is it that the sin offering is meant for? The first instance is ‘if it is the anointed priest who sins’ (3); then ‘if the whole congregation of Israel sins’ (13) ; then ‘when a leader sins’ (22); finally, ‘if anyone of the common people sins’ (27). Who is left out of this chapter? This covers absolutely everyone. We know the verses ‘none is righteous, no not one’ and ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Rom.3:10, 23), but do we really believe this? God is communicating to his people that everyone sins. Religious leaders, national leaders, everyone. We tend to hold religious leaders to a different standard. Religious leaders should never sin. And if they do sin, their sin is unforgivable. Your pastor is human. He is a sinner in need of forgiveness. If you expect sinless perfection, your expectations are misplaced. Jesus is the only one who has never sinned and will never sin.

Some might think, ‘well, I’m no one of significance, so it doesn’t matter what I do’. Not true! From the great high priest to the national leader to the common person, sin brings guilt and requires forgiveness through an atoning sacrifice.

It is interesting to see that there is such a thing as corporate guilt. A group of people, the whole congregation, can sin. We tend to think of sin as exclusively an individual matter. But this text is clear that whole groups of people, just like individuals, can have blind spots and can sin unintentionally. Whole congregations can be guilty and in need of forgiveness. Often in Israel’s history we see the congregation grumbling against God or its leaders, and the Lord was displeased.

Not Many Should Become Teachers

While all sin is sin against God that brings guilt and requires atoning sacrifice to be forgiven, the sins of some are more weighty and require a greater offering. The sins of the national leader requires a male goat, while the sins of a common person requires a female goat or lamb. For both of these, the blood is smeared on the horns of the bronze altar of burnt offering in the courtyard of the tabernacle. But for the sin of the anointed priest or the whole congregation, a bull is required, and the blood must be presented in the holy place, applied to the curtain and to the horns of the golden altar of incense.

Leviticus 4:3 if it is the anointed priest who sins, thus bringing guilt on the people, then he shall offer for the sin that he has committed a bull from the herd without blemish to the LORD for a sin offering. 4 He shall bring the bull to the entrance of the tent of meeting before the LORD and lay his hand on the head of the bull and kill the bull before the LORD. 5 And the anointed priest shall take some of the blood of the bull and bring it into the tent of meeting, 6 and the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle part of the blood seven times before the LORD in front of the veil of the sanctuary. 7 And the priest shall put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense before the LORD that is in the tent of meeting, and all the rest of the blood of the bull he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 8 And all the fat of the bull of the sin offering he shall remove from it, the fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails 9 and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them at the loins and the long lobe of the liver that he shall remove with the kidneys 10 (just as these are taken from the ox of the sacrifice of the peace offerings); and the priest shall burn them on the altar of burnt offering. 11 But the skin of the bull and all its flesh, with its head, its legs, its entrails, and its dung— 12 all the rest of the bull—he shall carry outside the camp to a clean place, to the ash heap, and shall burn it up on a fire of wood. On the ash heap it shall be burned up.

The sin of the leader and the individual remain in the outer court, but the sin of the priest and of the whole congregation penetrate into the very presence of God. This is why James tells us:

James 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

The blood needed to be splattered seven times on the heavy curtain that separates the most holy place from the holy place. Imagine the priest, who daily entered the holy place to tend the lamps, replace the bread of the presence, and burn incense, who would daily see the blood splattered on the curtain, a reminder of his own sinfulness before God. A reminder of his weighty responsibility. But also a reminder of God’s provision of forgiveness. He was able to enter into the holy place by means of blood. Repeated four times in this chapter we find the affirmation ‘and the priest shall make atonement for him and he shall be forgiven’ (20, 26, 31, 35). What good news this is! The priest makes atonement, but it is God who forgives. This is why the statement of Jesus to the paralyzed man that ‘your sins are forgiven’ (Mk.2:5) was so shocking. Only God can forgive sins!

Jesus the Better Priest

This of course, like all the offerings, points us to Jesus.

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Jesus had no sin of his own that required a sacrifice.

Hebrews 7:27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.

Hebrews 10 specifically mentions the sin offering as being obsolete because of Jesus.

Hebrews 10:8 When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), 9 then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,

We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus once for all!

Hebrews 13 refers to the sin offering being burnt outside the camp. Lepers and the unclean were forced to reside outside the camp.

Hebrews 13:11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. 13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.

Praise God forgiveness through Jesus is not limited to unintentional sins.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

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

May 9, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 16:15-18; Refreshing Saints and Apostles

07/12 1 Corinthians 16:15-18 Refreshing Saints and Apostles ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150712_1cor16_15-18.mp3

1 Corinthians 16 [SBLGNT]

15 Παρακαλῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί· οἴδατε τὴν οἰκίαν Στεφανᾶ, ὅτι ἐστὶν ἀπαρχὴ τῆς Ἀχαΐας καὶ εἰς διακονίαν τοῖς ἁγίοις ἔταξαν ἑαυτούς· 16 ἵνα καὶ ὑμεῖς ὑποτάσσησθε τοῖς τοιούτοις καὶ παντὶ τῷ συνεργοῦντι καὶ κοπιῶντι. 17 χαίρω δὲ ἐπὶ τῇ παρουσίᾳ Στεφανᾶ καὶ Φορτουνάτου καὶ Ἀχαϊκοῦ, ὅτι τὸ ὑμέτερον ὑστέρημα οὗτοι ἀνεπλήρωσαν, 18 ἀνέπαυσαν γὰρ τὸ ἐμὸν πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ ὑμῶν. ἐπιγινώσκετε οὖν τοὺς τοιούτους.

1 Corinthians 16 [ESV2011]

13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.

15 Now I urge you, brothers—you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints— 16 be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer. 17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.

Paul is giving his closing exhortations to the Corinthians church. Back in chapters 9 and 10, Paul held himself up as an example to the believers in surrendering rights and seeking the good of others above one’s own good, and in 11:1 Paul says ‘be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. Here at the close of this letter, he holds a member of their own congregation up as worthy of honor and imitation. He points to the household of Stephanas.

Firstfruits

Here he says that the household of Stephanas was the firstfruits of the region of Achaia. This is the same word ‘firstfruits’ that he used in 15:20 of Christ as the firstfruits of the resurrection of believers who have fallen asleep. The firstfruits was an Old Testament offering, a sample from the harvest, it shares continuity with the rest of the harvest, it was a part of the harvest, and it was a promise of more good things to come. In 1:16, he said that he had baptized the household of Stephanas. The household of Stephanas were some of the first to believe the gospel in that region, and Paul looked at them as a promise of more to come. The good news of Jesus Christ crucified for sinners and risen from the dead had penetrated into a dark place, had created new life, and had begun to transform sinners, and he expected that to spread.

Devoted Themselves

Listen to how Paul describes these believers. He says that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints. This is not something that was pushed on them. This is not something they did unwillingly or half-heartedly. They devoted themselves. This word can be translated ‘to addict, to appoint, to determine, to ordain, to set.’ They addicted themselves to the service of the saints. They set themselves apart to this purpose. They were determined to serve. This was voluntary, eager service. This was not under compulsion, these were cheerful givers. They delighted themselves in serving others. They set themselves aside to be useful to the believers. Do you know anyone like this? We need people like this in our churches, people who are not looking for position or recognition, people who simply want to be useful to God by serving his people. This word service is where we get our word ‘deacon’ – it simply means a servant.

These are often behind the scenes people, people who are not interested in the limelight, selfless people who prefer to remain unknown and unrecognized. People who simply see a need and do whatever is within their power to care for that need. These are people who recognize their gifts and without drawing attention to themselves, simply get busy using their gifts to love and serve and build up others. These are truly selfless people, who genuinely care about others more than they care about themselves.

Household

Notice that Paul is not referring to one particular individual. He says ‘you know the household of Stephanas’. This was a family that served together. We aren’t told details, but a household would likely include Stephanas and his wife, his children, and possibly any servants he employed, possibly others who lived with them, who were under his care, who together found joy in serving the saints. This is family ministry. A whole family that was united to serve others. The family unit is a powerful thing.

Sometimes the gospel divides families. When an individual hears the gospel, he may have to choose to follow Jesus, knowing that following Jesus could destroy his relationship with his wife, with his children, with his family. Paul understands the dynamic where a family is divided over the gospel, and he gave practical instructions on how to handle these kinds of situations in chapter 7. But here he is looking at a family that is united by the gospel and transformed by the gospel with a passion to serve the people of God.

Joshua said ‘choose this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD’. This is a household that has recognized the many different things that families are all about, the many different things families are passionate about and centered around, and they have chosen to center family life around service to the believers. They have prioritized in a radically different way than the culture around them and given themselves over to Christian service. Mother, father, children old and young, all looking away from themselves and their own wants and needs at how to love and serve and care for the body of Christ.

This is a radically different model for life and ministry. This is not the family making sacrifices so dad or mom can go off and serve in this or that ministry. This is the family together as a team loving and serving in ways that can only be done by a household. Certainly this includes hospitality, where the home is an environment defined by loving service to others, where others can be welcomed in and cared for and nurtured. Quite possibly, the church used the home of this family for their meetings, which would mean that the family took on the responsibility of preparing for and cleaning up after the meeting of the church. This doesn’t necessarily mean an immaculate showroom house, but it would include essential things like making sure the bathroom is clean and functioning, providing appropriate space for guests to feel welcomed and cared for, creating an atmosphere of others-focused selfless welcoming love.

What is your household like? Is your home a Christ centered home? Is your primary aim to advance the gospel? Is your home a place where believers can feel safe and loved and cared for and built up?

Servant Leadership

Paul holds up the household of Stephanas as an an example of what devotion to Christ can look like in a household. He encourages the believers to ‘be subject to such as these’. We often want leaders who are in control, who are determined, aggressive, forceful, who speak well and look good out front. But Paul has a different perspective. And this is in line with what Jesus taught. In Luke 22 we see:

Luke 22:24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest.

It is startling to remember the context of this conversation. Jesus had just taken bread and said ‘this is my body broken for you’ and ‘this cup is my blood which is poured out for the forgiveness of your sins’. He had told them that he was about to be betrayed and crucified. And they around the table are disputing about who is the greatest.

Luke 22:25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

Jesus initiated a different kind of leadership. His authority is not a top down controlling authoritarian you-serve-me kind of leadership. His leadership is a humble-hearted others-centered loving service. The household of Stephanas was a real life example of what this looks like, and Paul exhorts the Corinthians to voluntarily submit to such as these. These and every fellow worker and laborer.

We see Paul hold up another example of a fellow-worker who gave him joy, ministered to his needs, and is to be honored and imitated. He writes to the church in Philippi:

Philippians 2:25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, 30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.

Epaphras, like Stephanas, was a selfless servant who put other before himself, who filled up the lack and brought joy to those he served. He was a brother, a fellow-worker, a fellow soldier.

Some people talk about going into the ministry as if it were a glamorous career choice. Ministry simply means service, and service to people can be painful and messy and just plain hard. Paul says to be subject to every fellow-worker and laborer. This word laborer literally means to be weary or feel fatigue. Serving others, especially serving those who are disgruntled or opinionated or easily offended can be draining and exhausting. Ministry is eternally rewarding, but it can be just plain fatiguing.

Refreshing the Spirit

Listen to what the Apostle Paul says.

1 Corinthians 16:17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.

It seems the letter the Corinthian church wrote to Paul was delivered by these men. He says that these three filled up what was lacking on their part. Paul had strong affection for the Corinthians. These were people he led to Christ, people he had invested his life in. He walked life with them. He missed them. He truly enjoyed their company. The visit from these three brought the apostle much joy. They refreshed his spirit. We don’t often think of the great Apostle to the Gentiles as needing to be refreshed, maybe even becoming depressed and discouraged. But he says in 2 Corinthians 1:8 that ‘we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.’ In two of his letters, Paul describes himself as being ‘poured out as a drink offering’ (Phil.2:17; 2Tim.4:6). Even in the midst of fruitful ministry where many were believing the gospel and being baptized, Paul needed encouragement from the Lord.

Acts 18:9 And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”

Paul, afraid? Paul silent? Paul was human. He had needs. Emotional, spiritual, physical needs. He felt a poverty of spirit in being away from his beloved friends at this church. It brought him joy when dear friends came to visit.

Even leaders in ministry need other co-workers who will come along side them, others who understand the unique challenges and hardships of ministry, others who will bring refreshment to their spirits. This is what the coming of these three friends did for Paul, in the midst of something he describes as ‘fighting wild beasts at Ephesus’.

I have a dear friend and co-worker in the gospel who was so deeply hurt in the course of pastoral ministry that he describes it as if something deep inside him broke. He went into a deep depression, to the point where he had to take an extended break from ministry. God is healing him and giving him a renewed sense of vision and passion for ministry. I enjoyed the privilege of spending some time with him over the past week, and he was an encouragement to my soul.

There are some people who sap the spiritual energy out of you; who drain you of life and vitality. There are others whose love for Jesus and love for other people is a contagious overflow that refreshes your soul. Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus were that kind of friends, co-laborers in service to Christ, selfless servants who brought refreshment to everyone they were around. We need those kinds of people in our lives, people who are filled with the love of Christ, those who will just be a friend, who will love us as we are, who will be patient with our flaws and shortcomings, who will laugh with us, cry with us, hurt with us, just be with us, who will lay aside expectations and care for us.

1 Corinthians 16:17 I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, 18 for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people.

May we be those kind of people for others. May we refresh the spirit of those who are downcast. May we bring joy to those we are around. May we develop households who addict themselves to the selfless service of the saints. May we create places of refuge where broken sinners can be loved and nurtured and find healing and hope. May we be people who bring joy to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

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

July 12, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 12:28-31; Jealously Desire Greater Gifts

10/12 1 Corinthians 12:28-31 Jealously Desire Greater Gifts; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20141012_1cor12_28-31.mp3

1 Corinthians 12 [SBLGNT]

27 Ὑμεῖς δέ ἐστε σῶμα Χριστοῦ καὶ μέλη ἐκ μέρους. 28 καὶ οὓς μὲν ἔθετο ὁ θεὸς ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ πρῶτον ἀποστόλους, δεύτερον προφήτας, τρίτον διδασκάλους, ἔπειτα δυνάμεις, ἔπειτα χαρίσματα ἰαμάτων, ἀντιλήμψεις, κυβερνήσεις, γένη γλωσσῶν. 29 μὴ πάντες ἀπόστολοι; μὴ πάντες προφῆται; μὴ πάντες διδάσκαλοι; μὴ πάντες δυνάμεις; 30 μὴ πάντες χαρίσματα ἔχουσιν ἰαμάτων; μὴ πάντες γλώσσαις λαλοῦσιν; μὴ πάντες διερμηνεύουσιν; 31 ζηλοῦτε δὲ τὰ χαρίσματα τὰ μείζονα. καὶ ἔτι καθ’ ὑπερβολὴν ὁδὸν ὑμῖν δείκνυμι.

1 Corinthians 12 [ESV2011]

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

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 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.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

Paul is listing some of the diverse grace-gifts, services and workings of the Spirit in the lives of followers of Jesus. Distinct and different manifestations of the same Spirit are given to each believer for the common good. The Corinthians are striving for the more showy and supernatural manifestations as signs of elevated spirituality. Paul turns this status seeking upside down and lists their more sensational gifts last and the least exciting or impressive gifts first.

The Last Shall Be First

This fits with what Jesus taught his status seeking disciples.

Mark 9:34 …on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

The disciples, just like the Corinthians, just like all of us, wanted to be first. They wanted to be served. Jesus turned that expectation on its head. The most important is the last of all and servant of all. That is exactly how Paul described the role of Apostles in 1 Corinthians 4:9-13. He said they had been put on display as a public spectacle, they were foolish, weak, held in disrepute, hungry, thirsty, poorly dressed, beat up, homeless, manual laborers, reviled, persecuted, slandered, scum and refuse. Those who were the least had become the greatest. Those who lacked honor have been clothed in special honor. The apostles, those who served as the foundational eye-witnesses to the life, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus had become first in the church.

Prophets, those who spoke on behalf of God to his people, those who prepared the way and pointed to Jesus, those who convict and convert, those who build up, encourage, teach, and console. In the list of gifts at the beginning of this chapter, prophecy is paired with distinguishing between spirits, the ability to evaluate the genuineness and accuracy of prophecy. 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 tells us not to despise prophesies, but to test everything, which may indicate that there was a tendency in the church to despise prophets or prophecies. Prophets had become second in the church.

Teachers, those who make disciples, those who teach truth and encourage obedience to Jesus, those who bring unity to the body, who protect from error, who mature and equip the body for works of service, the teachers are third in the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.

The rest of the list does not come in a specific order. It is first, second, third, then, then, and three others. First apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. This is how God sovereignly appointed his church to function.

Then Miracles

Then miracles. When we looked at the list at the beginning of this chapter, we saw that miracles, or workings can be power to do mighty deeds, authority over demonic powers, or the power of the gospel to rescue sinners.

Then Grace-Gifts of Healings

Here, as in the first list, miracles or workings of power is paired with healing. Grace-gifts of healings. Both words, gifts and healings, are plural, indicating that there may be multiple gifts of different kinds of healings. Healings can be spiritual or physical, and can be supernatural or medical. Jesus opened the eyes of those who were born blind, and he opened the eyes of those who were blind to the beauty and truth of the gospel. He raised the dead, and he gave life to those who were dead in their trespasses and sins. Various grace-gifts of healings.

Helping

1 Corinthians 12:28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.

The next two gifts, helping and administration, are new, not mentioned in the other lists. In fact, these two gifts aren’t mentioned anywhere else in the New Testament.

This idea of helping can mean ‘taking hold’ in the sense of plants taking root; it can mean physical support in the sense of bandages or splints applied to injuries, it can mean administrative assistance in the sense of carrying out official duties. The word is in the plural, implying that there are different kinds of help. The verb form of this word in found in Acts 20:35. Paul says:

Acts 20:33 I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Here we see helping in the sense of caring for basic necessities, giving assistance to those in need. It is also used in the context of serving a master in 1 Timothy 6.

1 Timothy 6:2 Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved. Teach and urge these things.

The master is helped or benefited by the good service of a servant. Some servants were put in charge of the finances and investments of a master. Some servants were put in charge of other servants, managing the affairs of the household. Other servants were simply available to help in whatever capacity needed. This is a broad term that can include many different types of service.

This seems to be the idea behind the appointing of deacons in Acts 6.

Acts 6:1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

The deacons were selected to come alongside the Apostles, to assist them in the administration of the daily distribution, to free them up to focus on the activities and responsibilities that they were uniquely gifted and equipped for. They supported and assisted the Apostles both in the mission of advancing the gospel and in administration of the care for the needy.

This gift may overlap with the gifts listed in Romans 12 as the one who serves, one who exhorts or comes alongside, one who contributes, or one who does acts of mercy. It may overlap with the gift listed in 1 Peter 4 as the one who serves.

Administrating

1 Corinthians 12:28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.

Helping is paired with administrating. This word is also in the plural; indicating that there are different forms of administrating. A closely related word is translated in Acts 27:11 and Revelation 18:17 as ‘pilot’ or ‘shipmaster’. Both forms of this word are derived from a Latin word meaning ‘to steer’. This word paints the picture of a pilot or helmsman, one who wisely navigates a ship through dangerous waters, carefully avoiding the rocks of false teaching, faithfully holding her steady through the winds of dissension and division, and the waves strife and status seeking, wisely able to see the big picture, keep the destination in mind, and keep the ship from veering off course.

This gift may overlap with the gift listed in Romans 12 as ‘one who leads’. It seems this concept of piloting fits the picture of the leadership gifts painted in Ephesians 4.

Ephesians 4:11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

We need leaders, those who can steer, those with steadfastness, vision, and wisdom to keep us on course.

We need helpers, those who come alongside, those who help others to take root, those who are a support to the broken, those who serve, those who assist others, who free others up to do what they were meant to do.

These gifts may seem plain, ordinary, unspectacular, even natural, but these gifts are just as necessary, (arguably much more necessary) than the more showy gifts, they are a free gift of God’s grace to the church. Helping, administrating, coming alongside, steering are just as supernatural, just as Spirit wrought, just as as originated in the triune God, just as empowered by God, just as divinely ordained and purposed for the good of the body and the glory of Christ as any of the other gifts. As Paul has said, those who seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those we think less honorable, we give greater honor.

Various Kinds of Tongues

1 Corinthians 12:28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.

Last on the list, the favorite of the Corinthians, is tongues. Tongues or languages, as we saw before and will look at more carefully in chapter 14, are words of prayer or praise spoken to God, in languages not always understood by the speaker, requiring explanation to be understood by others.

Not Anyone is Everything

1 Corinthians 12:29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?

The structure of these sentences in the original makes it clear that the answer to each question is no. Clearly, not all are apostles. Not everyone was an eye-witness to the life and ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. Obviously not all are apostles.

Not all are prophets. In the broad sense, many may speak on behalf of God to the people. Many may convict, convert, console, build up, and encourage. Paul tells us that we should all desire to prophesy, but not everyone is a prophet.

Not all are teachers. All believers may teach truth, encourage obedience and make disciples of Jesus, but James warns that not everyone will be a teacher.

James 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

Not all work miracles or possess grace-gifts of healings. Not all speak in languages or interpret.

Some groups even today make speaking in tongues the necessary evidence of salvation or of Spirit baptism, or a mark of a higher plane of spirituality. This passage expressly prohibits that kind of nonsense. Not all speak with tongues. None of these grace-gifts can be the infallible sign of spirituality, because not every Spirit baptized divinely equipped follower of Jesus has all the gifts. These are gifts freely given by God’s grace to be used for the common good. Each one is a body part, a limb or an organ. If I had all the gifts, I would be a complete body and I would have no need of you. But no one does. I need you. We need each other. No one can say they do not belong.

Covet Earnestly the Greater Gifts

Paul says something startling to transition into chapter 13. He tells us to covet the greater grace-gifts.

1 Corinthians 12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

This word is translated here and three times in chapter 14 as ‘earnestly desire’ or be ‘eager for’, but often this word is used in the negative sense of covetousness or envy, as it is in 13:4, ‘love does not envy’. This is where we get our word zeal, zealous or zealot. It is a powerful emotional word, and communicates passion and strong desire.

1 Corinthians 12:31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. …

14:1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.

14:12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.

14:39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.

The Corinthians were eager for gifts that granted them high social or spiritual status. Paul exhorts them with a touch of irony to be zealous for the greater gifts, but to allow him to redefine the greater gifts as those that build up others rather than self, those that they had despised, those they considered the lowest, the most menial or ordinary. Zealously pursue self-sacrificial service to others.

Mark 9:35 … “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

If one member is honored, all rejoice together; Paul holds up the greater gifts for honor, so that the whole body can rejoice. He exhorts us to long for the greater gifts to be in full effect and power in our local congregation; that the greater gifts, the gifts that build up, would be manifest. Not that I would seek any gift for myself, but genuinely seek the health of the whole body, of which I am a part, and in which I suffer if the greater gifts are absent.

And he will show us a superabundant far surpassing exceedingly better way, something even greater than all the greatest gifts, the way of love.

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

October 12, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 11:1

07/06 1 Corinthians 11:1 Imitate Me; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140706_1cor11_1.mp3

 

1 Corinthians 11 [SBLGNT]

11:1 μιμηταί μου γίνεσθε, καθὼς κἀγὼ Χριστοῦ.

1 Corinthians 11 [ESV2011]

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

 

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.

 

Imitate Me

Paul makes a bold statement at the end of this three chapter long section on idolatry. He invites us to become imitators of him. “Become imitators of me as I am of Christ.” In these chapters, Paul has held himself out as an example of Christian conduct multiple times. Paul has presented his clear teaching on biblical principles, but to see those biblical principles in action in the life of a follower of Jesus is immensely helpful.

I worked for a time at an engineering and manufacturing facility building marine controls. After some time on the assembly floor, hey recruited me to update their assembly procedures. My challenge was to put instructions into writing so that anyone could read and follow and successfully build each part. It is much easier to show someone than it is to try to describe the process. Watch me do it and do what I do. Imitate me. Today, you can go on YouTube and find a video of someone showing you how to build or fix or take apart just about anything. A picture, or a video, is worth a thousand words.

John MacArthur wrote “teaching sets the nails into the mind, but example is the hammer that drives them in deep” (Commentary on 1Tim.3:4-7, p.114, cited by Steve Lawson on 1 Cor.11:1 audio)

Paul’s Example

Paul holds himself out as an example for us to imitate. At the end of chapter 8, Paul tells us that “if food causes my brother to stumble I will never eat meat so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.” In chapter 9, Paul makes a case for his legitimate rights as an apostle, and then he says “but I have used none of these” (9:12,15). He was willing to sacrifice anything, to endure anything, to let go of anything, if it was for the good of a brother for whom Christ died.

He says in 9:19

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.

For Paul, the primary purpose was the glory of God in the gospel by winning as many as possible. His aim was bringing glory to God by winning souls to Christ and seeing them transformed by the gospel. Paul was willing to sacrifice, to inconvenience himself, to adjust his lifestyle so that the lost would be saved.

Then he warns of the danger of pride and self-sufficiency even to himself.

9:26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Paul humbly recognizes that he is not beyond faltering and failure in his walk with the Lord.

At the end of chapter 10, he says:

10:31 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.

Paul’s goal is the glory of God in the salvation of many. He seeks not his own advantage, but the advantage of many. He is willing to let go of whatever might profit him if it means that it would remove an obstacle from anyone believing the gospel and being saved. “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.”

Imitation and Example

Paul has said already in 1 Corinthians 4:

1 Corinthians 4:14 I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. 16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me. 17 That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.

Paul identifies himself as their father in the faith, and children love to imitate their fathers. There are things I didn’t realize I said until I heard them come out of the mouths of my children. Children imitate their parents, for good or for ill. Paul invites them, he urges them, to become imitators of him. He sent Timothy, in his own absence, to be a reflection of his ‘ways in Christ’.

Having a model to imitate is so important in the Christian life. Christianity is not merely a system of belief. Christianity is a lifestyle. It is following Jesus. That is why there is an emphasis on discipleship in the Bible. Jesus called 12 men to be his disciples, to be with him, to walk life with him, to minister along side him. He commissioned them to make disciples, who would make disciples, and we in turn are called to make disciples, to make followers of Jesus.

Jesus said to Peter, Andrew, James and John:

Matthew 4:19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

He said to Philip ‘follow me’ (Jn.1:43), and Philip went and found Nathaniel and brought him to Jesus. Jesus said to Matthew, the tax collector ‘follow me’ (Mt.9:9). He said to would-be disciples with excuses ‘follow me (Mt.8:22). He said to the rich young ruler ‘follow me’ (Mt.19:21). He said to his disciples on multiple occasions ‘follow me’ (Mt.10:38; 16:24; Jn.10:27; 12:26). He found Peter and John, back to fishing after the resurrection, and he said to each of them ‘follow me’ (Jn.21:19, 22).

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

(Which, by definition would include this command)

And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Go make disciples who will make disciples. Teach them to imitate you as you imitate me.

Follow Jesus

It might sound redundant, but every follower of Jesus must follow Jesus, or you are not a follower of Jesus. Every follower of Jesus is to be an imitator of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We are either following Jesus or we are not. There is no sort of following Jesus. When Jesus invited his rag-tag band of misfits to follow him, he said literally ‘come in back of me’. We either get behind Jesus and allow him to lead us or we deviate from the path and go astray in our hearts.

So many Christians point away from themselves as not worthy of imitation. This may seem like humility, but if you are aware that you are not following Jesus and if anyone imitated you they would be led astray, then either fall in behind Jesus and imitate him or stop claiming to be his follower! Do not claim the name of Jesus, do not claim to be a follower of Jesus if you are unwilling to follow Jesus! Every believer is to live a life worthy of imitation.

Follow Followers of Jesus

Paul said to the Ephesians

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. 3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.

As children born into God’s family through the new birth, imitate God. Walk in love like Christ loved us. Overflow with thanksgiving.

Paul says to the Philippians:

Philippians 3:17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.

Become fellow imitators of me, follow Jesus together with me, and follow those who are following us. Keep your eyes on those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. We are to become imitators of Paul as Paul is of Jesus, and we are to follow those who are following the disciples as they follow Jesus, and we are to be those who, walking according to the example we have, are also worthy of imitation. In Philippians 4 Paul concludes:

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Practice what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Not just what you have learned, not just what you have heard, but what you have seen, what you have received. Practice these things. Be imitators of me.

Paul was a real live follower of Jesus, a regular human with faults and flaws, a forgiven sinner who had been transformed and empowered by the same Holy Spirit that lives in each follower of Jesus today.

Listen to how he talks to the Thessalonian believers:

1 Thessalonians 1:4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

You, ordinary believers, simple followers of Jesus, became imitators of us and of the Lord. And you, ordinary followers of Jesus, became examples to all the believers!

1 Thessalonians 2:10 You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. 14 For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind 16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them at last!

The Thessalonian believers became imitators not only of Jesus, not only of Paul, but of the churches of God in Christ Jesus in Judea. As a father with his children, we exhorted, encouraged, and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God.

Every instrument tuned to the same tuning fork will ring out in beautiful harmony with one another. As we follow Jesus, learning from the example of the heroes of the faith and from one another, our lives will resound to the glory of God.

Sacrifice a Key Component of Imitation

Did you notice a theme in many of the passages we looked at concerning imitation? Ephesians 5 tells us to

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.

1 Thessalonians 1 says that

1 Thessalonians 1:6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,

1 Thessalonians 2 says:

1 Thessalonians 2:14 For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind 16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved…

Paul invites us to imitate him as he seeks not his own advantage, but that of the many that they might be saved. This will involve laying aside our rights, letting go of our preferences, loving others like Jesus loved us, while we were his enemies, he died for us. Imitating Jesus involves sacrifice, suffering, stooping to serve, seeking at all cost the good of our neighbor that they might be saved, seeking to remove every obstacle to the gospel, seeking the good of our brothers and sisters for whom Christ died, seeking the glory of God as more and more people are transformed by believing the simple gospel message that Jesus died for sinners.

 

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

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

July 6, 2014 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Church Leaders

01/19/14 Church Leaders Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140119_church-leaders.mp3

We have been looking at the church, the assembly of Jesus-followers, the blood-bought possession of our Lord Jesus, those who acknowledge him as King, who proclaim the good news that Jesus was crucified for sinners, those who make disciples, those who gather together to devote themselves to the apostolic teaching, to the fellowship, to remembering Jesus through the breaking of bread, and to the prayers.

We looked at church members; that every believer is a member who belongs to the body of Christ, a body part intended to be a connected, healthy, functioning part of the body, each uniquely equipped and enabled to function as a vital part of the body of Christ.

Today I would like to look at those parts of the church body who have leadership responsibilities. What is the relationship between leaders and the rest of the body, and what are the responsibilities of the body to their leaders? What does God expect of leaders in his church, and what should we expect of them? We will look at a number of biblical passages to piece together what it should look like to be a leader in the church.

Pay Careful Attention

Paul addresses the elders of the church in Ephesus in Acts 20. He prepares them for his absence, and charges them:

Acts 20:28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

Feel the weight of responsibility laid on the leadership of the church. Wolves are coming. Fierce wolves who will not spare the flock. The responsibility of the leaders of the church is that of a shepherd with a flock. It is imperative that they be alert, diligently persevering in watchfulness. Pay careful attention. First, pay careful attention to yourselves, because he says that it is from among your own selves that men will arise distorting and dragging disciples away. I must keep vigilant watch first over my own heart so that I am not veering off course. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to the flock. Leaders are to watch over the sheep that have been entrusted to their care. Notice the gravity of this responsibility: care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. If God paid the ultimate price for his church, he would expect us to guard his bride with no less passion and commitment. Notice also where this responsibility comes from. This is no man-made authority; there are no self-appointed leaders. The Holy Spirit has made you overseers. This is a responsibility given by God, and recognized by his church. In this verse we see the care of the triune God for his church. The church was purchased with the blood of the Son, the church belongs to the Father, and the Holy Spirit establishes and enables leaders to care for and protect the church.

Feed my Sheep

After his resurrection, Jesus entrusted Peter with responsibility over the sheep.

John 21:15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

Notice well, the sheep do not belong to Peter. Jesus claims them as his own. Jesus says they are ‘my sheep, my lambs’. Jesus entrusts Peter with their care; feeding and tending. The leader who loves Jesus first of all will be sure to keep his sheep well fed.

The Priority of Prayer and the Word over Physical Needs

As the early church grew, tension arose between the physical and spiritual needs of the followers of Jesus. Acts 6 records how they addressed some of these issues.

Acts 6:1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

People began to complain, to grumble, to murmur, and the focus of attention of the leaders was being diverted to address their grievances. Notice, by the way, that it was not the widows themselves who were doing the grumbling. Others complained on their behalf. The apostles said ‘it is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.’ Pure religion, James tells us, is to visit orphans and widows (James 1:27). But here we see the priority of the spiritual over physical needs. Prayer and the preaching of the word must not be neglected or interrupted. So they appointed deacons to address complaints and meet physical needs, Spirit-filled men, wise men, men of good reputation. This freed the apostles to devote themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.

Paul tells Timothy:

1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.

Preaching and teaching is hard work. It is critical work. It must be a priority in the church. In 1 Timothy 3, a passage we will look at later that outlines the necessary character of church leadership, Paul refers to “the church of the living God” as “a pillar and buttress of the truth”. Truth must be defined, defended, and held to tenaciously. The word must be taught.

Equipping the Saints

Look with me at Ephesians 4. God poured out his undeserved grace on each part of his body to fulfill the purpose he designed for each one.

Ephesians 4:7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

…11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Here he clearly defines the goal of church leaders. The purpose of gifted leadership in the church body is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. Pay close attention to what this is saying: who is doing the work of the ministry? The saints, the body of Christ, every believer is doing the work of the ministry. The work of the ministry is not delegated to a few professionals. The work of the ministry is the work of the body of Christ, functioning together in unity, each member doing its unique part.

By his grace, God has given gifted leadership to his church to equip the saints. The role of leadership is primarily one of equipping. Equipping the saints for the work of ministry. This word means to mend, to restore, to perfect, to fit or frame together, to prepare, to perfectly join together. Equipping for growth in the body, equipping for unity, equipping to know Jesus better, equipping for maturity, equipping in Christ-likeness, equipping to detect and resist false teaching, equipping for love. Equipping for the work of the ministry. Every saint, every follower of Jesus is a minister, called to do the work of the ministry. You and I are ministers, servants, intended to serve others for the glory of Christ. The main purpose of those gifted to lead is to equip every believer for the work that they as a part of the body of Christ are called and gifted to do. Think of this as the base where you are issued equipment, where you assemble for tactical training, where you receive marching orders, where you are prepared to be sent out on mission. Equip the saints for the work of the ministry.

In 1 Corinthians 14 as Paul lists the gifts, he repeatedly emphasizes that the gifts are given for the building up of the church.

1 Corinthians 14:3 …one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 …one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 … so that the church may be built up. 6 … how will I benefit you …? …12 …strive to excel in building up the church. …17 … but the other person is not being built up. …19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others …26 … Let all things be done for building up. …31 … so that all may learn and all be encouraged, …40 But all things should be done decently and in order.

Each part of the body is functioning properly when each part is all about building up the whole body in love.

Selfish Shepherds of Israel

In the Old Testament,God incriminated the selfish leaders of Israel for not doing what they were called to do.

Ezekiel 34:1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. 4 The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

Notice on what grounds he accuses these greedy shepherds. They do not feed the sheep. They feed only themselves, they eat the sheep, they use the sheep for their own benefit. They fail to strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind up the injured, bring back the strayed, or seek the lost. They have failed to protect the sheep from predators, becoming predators themselves. They rule with force and harshness. God will judge these shepherds. They will be held accountable.

10 Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them.

God himself will shepherd his people

11 “For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 And I will bring them out … and gather them… And I will feed them … 14 I will feed them with good pasture,… There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice. …19 And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet? …22 I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. …23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the LORD; I have spoken. …

27 …And they shall know that I am the LORD, when I break the bars of their yoke, and deliver them from the hand of those who enslaved them. 28 They shall no more be a prey to the nations, nor shall the beasts of the land devour them. They shall dwell securely, and none shall make them afraid. 29 … they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land, … 30 And they shall know that I am the LORD their God with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Lord GOD. 31 And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord GOD.”

God will seek for and rescue, gather and feed, give rest, bind up, strengthen, bring back, deliver, protect.

Servant Leadership

Jesus is the good shepherd. Jesus is the fulfillment of everything a shepherd was meant to be. Jesus is the good shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep (John 10:11). Jesus instructs his disciples to follow his example.

Mark 10:42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Leadership in the church is not about position or power or prestige. Leadership in the church is not about being served; leadership in the church is defined by self-sacrificial service for the good of others.

Qualifications for Leaders

That is why we find the character qualifications for leadership in Christ’s church.

1 Timothy 3:1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

In his instructions to Titus, he adds:

Titus 1:7 … He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

1 Timothy 3:8 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 9 They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

Leaders in the church must be men of character, men who have proven themselves responsible, men who are sound in doctrine, men who are selfless, eager to serve. Leadership in the church is not at all about what you can get; rather it is all about what you can give.

Shepherd the Flock

Peter says this to the leadership in the churches.

1 Peter 5:1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Peter tells the leaders to shepherd willingly, eagerly, as examples; not under compulsion, not for shameful gain, not in a domineering way.

He tells those who are younger be subject to the elders; and he tells everyone to be clothed with humility toward one another. Church leaders are to shepherd God’s flock as under-shepherds responsible to the chief Shepherd, the one to whom they will ultimately give account.

Obey, Submit to, and Pray for your Leaders

The author of Hebrews gives instruction to the church.

Hebrews 13:15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. 18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. 19 I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner. 20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

In this passage he points to the responsibility of the leaders to keep watch over your souls, and he reminds that they will have to give an account. In light of this weight of responsibility of leadership, He commands all of us to be continual in worship, to do good, to share, to obey our leaders, to submit to them, and to pray for them; to make their job pleasant and not painful. He reminds us that God is the great shepherd of the sheep; and God is the one who ultimately will equip you with everything good so that you can do his will. By his unmerited grace, he sees fit to equip the saints for the work of the ministry through the instrumentality of church leaders. God himself is the one who through Jesus Christ will work in each one of us that which is pleasing in his sight. 

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

January 19, 2014 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 7:20-24; Slavery and Contentment

12/01 1 Corinthians 7:20-24 Remain As You Were Called; Slavery and Contentment; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131201_1cor7_20-24.mp3

1Cor 7 [SBLGNT]

17 Εἰ μὴ ἑκάστῳ ὡς ἐμέρισεν ὁ κύριος, ἕκαστον ὡς κέκληκεν ὁ θεός, οὕτως περιπατείτω· καὶ οὕτως ἐν ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις πάσαις διατάσσομαι. 18 περιτετμημένος τις ἐκλήθη ; μὴ ἐπισπάσθω· ἐν ἀκροβυστίᾳ κέκληταί τις; μὴ περιτεμνέσθω. 19 ἡ περιτομὴ οὐδέν ἐστιν, καὶ ἡ ἀκροβυστία οὐδέν ἐστιν, ἀλλὰ τήρησις ἐντολῶν θεοῦ. 20 ἕκαστος ἐν τῇ κλήσει ᾗ ἐκλήθη ἐν ταύτῃ μενέτω. 21 Δοῦλος ἐκλήθης ; μή σοι μελέτω· ἀλλ’ εἰ καὶ δύνασαι ἐλεύθερος γενέσθαι, μᾶλλον χρῆσαι. 22 ὁ γὰρ ἐν κυρίῳ κληθεὶς δοῦλος ἀπελεύθερος κυρίου ἐστίν· ὁμοίως ὁ ἐλεύθερος κληθεὶς δοῦλός ἐστιν Χριστοῦ. 23 τιμῆς ἠγοράσθητε· μὴ γίνεσθε δοῦλοι ἀνθρώπων. 24 ἕκαστος ἐν ᾧ ἐκλήθη, ἀδελφοί, ἐν τούτῳ μενέτω παρὰ θεῷ.

1Cor 7 [ESV2011]

7:17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. 18 Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. 19 For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. 20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. 21 Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. 24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.

We find in this passage strong encouragement from the apostle to enjoy the status God has given to each one of us in Christ Jesus. These verses give the core principle that Paul applies to the different circumstances he addresses in this chapter: married, widowed, divorced, and single. In verse 17 he states the principle:

1 Corinthians 7:17 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.

Then in verses 18 – 19 he illustrates this principle with the racial issue of circumcision. Jews prided themselves in being God’s chosen people. Gentiles were excluded from a relationship with God unless they became Jews. But in Graeco-Roman society being a Jew could be detrimental to social advancement. Paul says that it doesn’t matter what your racial background is. God’s call cuts across all ethnic barriers. Jesus sent his disciples not only to Jerusalem and Judea, but into Samaria and to the ends of the earth to make disciples. God will bring people from every tribe and language and people and nation to worship around his throne. Racial background has no effect on one’s relationship with Jesus. In verse 20, Paul restates his guiding principle.

1 Corinthians 7:20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called.

And in verses 21-23 he applies this principle to the difficult social issue of slavery. Then in verse 24, he repeats the principle again.

1 Corinthians 7:24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.

Bondservants and Freedmen

In order to better understand this passage, we need to gain a proper understanding about the background of slavery in the Graeco-Roman world that Paul was writing to. Set aside for a moment the American and European ideas of ethnic based slavery. Slavery in the ancient world was an issue of social status. One became a slave by being on the losing side of a battle, by being born to slave parents, or by entering into a contract of slavery, often to pay off a debt. The kidnapping and sale of adults and children as slaves was illegal, but did happen. Slavery was typically not lifelong; slaves were often manumitted (or granted freedom) when they were in their early 30’s or after around seven years of service (NIGTC, p.564-5). A former slave who had been released gained the status of ‘freedman’. The status of a slave or a freedman depended greatly on whom he served as slave. Slaves were sometimes cruelly abused and mistreated, and sometimes released when they had passed their prime as a way for the owner to escape the obligations of providing for them. But it was a matter of public honor to provide well for the needs of the slave, and to reward loyal service with manumission. Some slaves were menial laborers, but a wealthy patron would often delegate great responsibility to a trusted slave to carry out business and manage affairs in his name, and that slave would be given the respect that was due their patron. When a slave was released, they continued to be indebted to their patron, owing them honor, respect, gifts, and often a set number of days’ work per week or month or year (BECNT, p.314-5). Some estimate that about one third of the population of ancient Corinth were slaves, and another third were freedmen. Freedmen took great pride in their patrons. Common tombstone inscriptions have been discovered that read (so-and-so) the freedman of (patron’s name).

Circumstances and Attitudes

Paul restates his governing principle of living the life the Lord has assigned and to which God has called in verse 20, and he now applies this principle to slavery and freedom.

1 Corinthians 7:20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. 21 Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. 24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.

Literally verse 20 reads ‘remain in the calling in which you were called’. It is not social standing that counts for anything, it is God’s call.

This is intentionally an extreme application of the principle, and it helps to clarify what he does and doesn’t mean by it. It is one thing to apply ‘each one should remain in the calling in which he was called’ to circumcision; don’t reverse the irreversible. But to say ‘if God called you as a slave, remain as a slave’ is more difficult to swallow. But he doesn’t exactly say that. He doesn’t say ‘you must remain a slave’ Instead he says ‘don’t worry about it.’ He turns our focus from the circumstance to our attitude toward the circumstance. If you are a slave, don’t let it concern you. You can be so focused on your circumstance, so controlled by an all-consuming desire to escape your situation, that you become a slave to your desire. You don’t have to become a Jew to follow Jesus, and you don’t have to become free to follow Jesus. A slave can be just as faithful a follower of Jesus as a free man can. This is radical contentment irrespective of circumstances.

This is not just talk. Paul modeled this radical contentment for us in his own life. He wrote in Philippians:

Philippians 4:11 …I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

He wrote these words from a Roman prison, probably chained to Roman guards. He did not pout and whine and complain. He was not consumed with self-pity. Instead he viewed his circumstances as ordained by God and took advantage of his situation for the glory of God and for the advance of the gospel. He writes in the beginning of the letter:

Philippians 1:12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Throughout the Philippian letter Paul is overflowing with joy. Joy is not contingent on circumstances; joy is fruit of the Holy Spirit, who resides in every believer. Paul views his imprisonment not as a hindrance to the gospel, but as brought about by God to advance the gospel throughout the whole Roman guard. His imprisonment has given confidence to many brothers to speak the word more boldly. Paul is content in his God-given circumstances and finds multiple reasons for joy and thanksgiving to his all-wise God. Paul gives us his recipe for contentment in Philippians 4:6.

Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Or as Peter says it:

1 Peter 5:7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Remain as you are. Bring your concerns to God. Be content in whatever circumstance God called you.

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

We can easily apply this principle to our situation today. Often when someone becomes a follower of Jesus, they feel a strong inclination to really make their lives count for the Lord. They mistakenly think that the best way to do this is to quit their day job and go into ‘full time Christian ministry’. This is right and wrong. They definitely should seek to make their lives count for God and they should go into full time Christian ministry. But that does not require a change of occupation. Paul’s advice here is ‘remain as you are called’. Don’t quit your day job. You are called to be an ambassador for Jesus where ever you are. Are you presently serving someone? Employed by someone? Be faithful to use those relationships for the advance of the gospel and the glory of God. Are you in a position of authority over someone? A business owner or employer? Recognize that you are a slave of Jesus, you belong to Jesus, and he determines how you conduct yourself and how you relate to other people.

Make Use Of…

We could take Paul’s principle that ‘each one should remain in the condition in which he was called’ as an absolute rule in every circumstance. But Paul is not so simplistic. He adds a ‘but if’ clause; ‘but if you can gain your freedom, rather make use…’ But he leaves the sentence hanging. Make use of what? This has led to a debate among biblical scholars. Does he mean that if you have the opportunity to become free, you should rather make use of your slavery to the glory of God and remain a slave? Does he mean that if you have the opportunity to become free, you should use your new status as a freedman to bring glory to God? More likely he is allowing for the exception and turning our focus from our circumstances to our calling. If you were called by God as a slave, don’t let it concern you, serve your earthly master to the glory of God. If God opens the door to freedom, make use of that freedom for the glory of God.

Upside Down Kingdom

He finds the reason in the gospel, where the calling of God shames the wise and chooses the nothings of this world, where the first will be last and the last first.

1 Corinthians 7:22 For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ.

The cross of our Lord Jesus turns all social status on its head. If God called you when you were a slave, you become a freedman of the Lord. Still a slave of a human master, the Lord Jesus has become your patron and you enjoy true freedom from the power and consequences of sin, a freedom greater than any earthly liberty. You now owe your primary allegiance to Jesus. You can claim the identity of the King of kings and Lord of lords. If on the other hand God called you when you were free, you have become a slave of Christ. You have come under the control of a Master who has the absolute right to make use of you, your time and talents and resources, as he alone sees fit (Thrall, p.56). So the slave moves up in social status, and the free man moves to the bottom.

Jesus taught his disciples:

Matthew 20:25 … “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The greatest one in God’s kingdom is the one who serves others. Jesus, our example, did not come to be served but to sacrifice himself for others.

John 13:3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. …12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Jesus

Philippians 2:6 …did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

The God who created the universe became part of his creation in order to serve us by dying in our place. Because of the cross, we who were slaves are set free from sin to live lives that bring glory to God. We who were free are now owned by Jesus.

Bought

Paul’s instruction to slaves is not to worry about it. If you can become free, use that for the glory of God. More important than your circumstances is your attitude. Your station in life does not define you. Your relation to Christ is what defines you.

He now instructs those who are free.

1 Corinthians 7:23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men.

In that culture, becoming a slave of an affluent and important patron could be a way to climb the ladder of social status. Paul warns them against the foolish wisdom of this world’s status seeking hunger. He takes them back to the cross. You were bought with a price. Jesus paid the price for your freedom at the infinite cost of his own precious blood. You are owned by the King of kings. It would be incongruent for a possession of Christ to sell himself into slavery to another master. At the end of chapter 6 in a warning against sexual immorality, he said

1 Corinthians 6:19 …You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Here, in the context of social relationships, he repeats this theological truth. You were bought with a price. You are owned. You belong to Jesus. You must live consistent with your new identity in Christ.

Content in Any Relationship

1 Corinthians 7:24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.

Paul is saying all this to illustrate his principle governing marriage, divorce, remarriage, and celibacy. His principle is ‘remain as you were called’. If you are married, you must not seek to change your status. Enjoy your marriage and use it to bring glory to God. If you are single, divorced, or widowed, take advantage of the freedoms of singleness to bring glory to God. But his illustration of slavery introduces possible exceptions to the principle. You are not required to remain in that state. Interestingly, he parallels marriage with slavery and singleness with freedom. But whatever your situation, don’t be concerned about it. More important than your circumstances is your attitude toward those circumstances. Are you bitter, frustrated, depressed, suffering from the greener grass syndrome, wishing to be on the other side of the fence? Or have you learned the secret for contentment in whatever circumstances you find yourself in? In whatever condition each was called, there let him remain, but you are not to remain there alone, in your own strength. You belong to Jesus, you are with God, and in that relationship there is ample strength. The power of the Holy Spirit is at work in you to produce the fruit of joy regardless of outward status or standing, to produce peace and confidence in your identity in Christ as belonging to him. You were bought with a price. You are a bondservant of Christ, a freedman of Christ. You are with God, and that relationship must define you.

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

December 1, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment