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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

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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

1 Corinthians 4:14-21; The Relation of Fathers to Children

09/01 1 Corinthians 4:14-21 The Relation of Fathers to Children; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130901_1cor4_14-21.mp3

1Cor 4 [SBLGNT]

14 Οὐκ ἐντρέπων ὑμᾶς γράφω ταῦτα, ἀλλ’ ὡς τέκνα μου ἀγαπητὰ νουθετῶν· 15 ἐὰν γὰρ μυρίους παιδαγωγοὺς ἔχητε ἐν Χριστῷ, ἀλλ’ οὐ πολλοὺς πατέρας, ἐν γὰρ Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ διὰ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου ἐγὼ ὑμᾶς ἐγέννησα. 16 παρακαλῶ οὖν ὑμᾶς, μιμηταί μου γίνεσθε. 17 διὰ τοῦτο ἔπεμψα ὑμῖν Τιμόθεον, ὅς ἐστίν μου τέκνον ἀγαπητὸν καὶ πιστὸν ἐν κυρίῳ, ὃς ὑμᾶς ἀναμνήσει τὰς ὁδούς μου τὰς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, καθὼς πανταχοῦ ἐν πάσῃ ἐκκλησίᾳ διδάσκω. 18 ὡς μὴ ἐρχομένου δέ μου πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἐφυσιώθησάν τινες· 19 ἐλεύσομαι δὲ ταχέως πρὸς ὑμᾶς, ἐὰν ὁ κύριος θελήσῃ, καὶ γνώσομαι οὐ τὸν λόγον τῶν πεφυσιωμένων ἀλλὰ τὴν δύναμιν, 20 οὐ γὰρ ἐν λόγῳ ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ ἀλλ’ ἐν δυνάμει. 21 τί θέλετε; ἐν ῥάβδῳ ἔλθω πρὸς ὑμᾶς, ἢ ἐν ἀγάπῃ πνεύματί τε πραΰτητος;

1Cor 4 [ESV2011]

6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! 9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

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. 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?

The Corinthian believers are proud, puffed up, arrogant. They really think they are something. They are full of themselves. They are boasting. Their pride has manifested itself in divisions, quarreling, jealousy, and strife. Paul will not tolerate this in the church. So he uses harsh words, biting sarcasm, to take them down a few notches. Then he softens his tone and makes a fatherly appeal. And here we find yet another metaphor describing and defining the relationship between Christian leaders and those they are called to lead. So far, he has used the metaphor of a field-hand, planting and watering seed; of an architect, building on a firm foundation; of an under-rower, rowing alongside other servants below deck; of a custodian, entrusted with the care and proper distribution of a great treasure. Here, in verse 14-21, he adds the powerful metaphor of a father to his beloved children.

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.

Not to Shame

Paul is clarifying why he is writing the way he is writing. His sharp sarcasm was not meant to shame. He was admonishing, gently reproving, correcting. His goal was not to berate, shame or humiliate. We might take this passage and think that it would never be appropriate to shame someone, but if we think that, we need to read more widely. When Paul is dealing with the issue of believers taking other believers to court in chapter 6, he says:

1 Corinthians 6:5 I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers,

When addressing their questions about the resurrection in chapter 15, he says:

1 Corinthians 15:34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.

So there are times when the apostle does intend to shame his readers on serious issues. But here, although what he has said could be perceived as shaming, he is intending to correct without shame.

My Beloved Children

He addresses them as ‘my beloved children’. So far in this letter, he has addressed his readers as the church, as saints, those set apart, and six times as brothers. We might perceive it as an insult to be called children, but that is not the idea here. ‘Brothers’ is a strong family relationship term. My beloved children is even stronger and more intimate. This is the closest of biological relationships, it involves dependence and responsibility, as well as tender affection.

I Begat You

Paul claims a unique relationship to the Corinthians, and he contrasts it to their relationship with other teachers and leaders. The term he uses is ‘pedagogue’ a servant hired to make sure that the child made it to school and behaved properly. You might have a million babysitters, but you only have one dad.

‘I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.’ Paul says that he begat or sired them, he was responsible for their conception and new life. But Paul is careful to give credit where credit is due. He conditions his statement with two qualifiers, in and through. It was ‘in Christ Jesus’ that he fathered them, and ‘through the gospel’. Paul himself was in Christ Jesus, and Jesus was in him, living through him when he became their father, so the real credit goes not to the one who plants the seed, but to God who gives the growth. He fathered them in Christ Jesus, and through the gospel. This was no original message that Paul came up with. This is the message he was entrusted with and commanded to proclaim. This is the good news that he defines early in this letter as ‘the word of the cross’ and ‘Christ crucified’. Paul became their father through the gospel, because as he sowed gospel seed in their hearts, it took root and began to grow. Any other seed would lack this transformational power. Charles Hodge sees three causes or agencies in this spiritual generation. Think of a defibrillator. There is the electric current that is the effective cause, the paddles are the instrument, and the administrative agent is the person who applies the paddles to the patient. Hodge says:

There are three agencies in the conversion of men. The efficiency is in Christ by his Spirit; the administrative agency is in preachers; the instrumental in the word. What God has joined together, let not man put asunder. We cannot do without the first and the third, and ought not to attempt to do without the second. For though multitudes are converted by the Spirit through the word, without any ministerial intervention, just as grain springs up here and there without a husbandman, yet it is the ordinance of God that the harvest of souls should be gathered by workmen appointed for that purpose.” (C.Hodge, on 4:15)

Paul was the one who brought the gospel to the city of Corinth. In Christ, through the gospel, he begat them to spiritual life.

So Imitate Me

He says in verse 16 ‘therefore’ or ‘then’, because of this, as a result of this. Because it is true that in Christ, through the gospel I begat you, I now urge you to imitate me. Because you are my spiritual children and not another’s, you should look like your father and act like your father. You have shared DNA, character traits have been passed on. There should be a resemblance between father and son. In the ancient world there was even more of a connection between father and son. If your father was a watchmaker or a carpenter or a fisherman, you would imitate him and apprentice under him, learning his skills and methods, his style and character. You would follow him, becoming like him, and eventually replacing him. Paul says that because I am your father in Christ, you should be imitating me.

What does he mean by imitating him? What should that look like? I think he has done a good job of spelling that out in his sarcastic tirade. He has described himself as slandered, persecuted, reviled, exhausted, homeless, beaten, naked, hungry, thirsty, dishonored, weak, on exhibit as scum and refuse, condemned to die, fools for Christ. This is what it looked like to imitate Paul, not always to suffer in the same ways he suffered, but to place an absolute priority on the gospel, no matter what it cost. It was the polar opposite of pride and selfish ambition. It was his aim that Christ be magnified in his body, that he would please him, whether by life or by death (Phil.1:20; 2Cor.5:9)). Paul was a man under authority, a servant of the Master, a subject of the King. He was a follower of Jesus, and Jesus was “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Is.53:3).

The Example of a Faithful Follower

1 Corinthians 4:17 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 tells the Corinthians (and us) to imitate him, and then he explains ‘that is why I sent you Timothy’. At first glance, this doesn’t seem to make sense. I want you to imitate me; that is why I sent Timothy to you. He can say this because Paul had discipled Timothy. Paul encourages Timothy in disciple making in 2 Timothy:

2 Timothy 2:1 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

Paul was so accurately reproduced in the life of Timothy that to be in the presence of Timothy was to be reminded of Paul’s ways in Christ. Paul was sending a letter. But he was also sending a person. It is not enough just to have correct doctrine. That is essential. But it is equally essential to know what to do with that doctrine. It is essential to be able to live out the implications of the gospel. And that is where the Corinthians went wrong. They were living below what they knew. They had the gospel, they understood the gospel, they believed the gospel, but they weren’t living in light of the gospel. They needed to be reminded of Paul’s ways. How he lived was radically altered because of what he believed. What he was willing to risk and sacrifice and suffer was profoundly impacted by the surpassing worth of the gospel. As we read our bibles, we may be amazed to see how much is biographical and not doctrinal. The bible is filled with stories of people. We learn what the gospel looks like when we see it in the lives of people. We see what it should not look like when we see failures and shortcomings and negative examples. Paul tells the Philippians:

Philippians 4:9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Paul sends Timothy because he knows the Corinthians need to see it.

Paul calls Timothy his beloved and faithful child in the Lord. He had just referred to the Corinthians as his beloved children. But apparently faithfulness was missing. He just said a the beginning of this chapter:

1 Corinthians 4:2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.

In the introduction of the letter he thanks God for many things about the Corinthians, but not for their faithfulness. But he highlights the fact that God is faithful. Timothy is faithful. So he sends faithful Timothy to remind them of his ways in Christ.

The Corinthians prided themselves on their uniqueness and individuality. Paul brings them back to consistency and sameness. In the introduction to this letter, he highlighted their unity with every other believer.

1 Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Here he holds up his ways in Christ, which are what he teaches everywhere in every church. In other words, if you refuse to follow the ways of Paul, then you would cease to qualify as a legitimate church. There is consistency among the followers of Jesus. Not uniformity, but consistency. You don’t have to be a tent-maker to follow Paul. You may be a policeman or a garbage man or a stay at home mom, but your lifestyle, how you spend your time and your money and what you love should demonstrate that you are a follower of Jesus and that the cross is central to your way of thinking. Our ways should be in Christ, and they should make us distinguishable from the rest of the world.

Puffed Up

Now he speaks directly to his opponents in Corinth.

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.

Pride was a problem in Corinth, as it is in us today. We tend to be puffed up, inflated, thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. We think our ways are best and our opinions are right. Apparently there were some of these people in Corinth. They understood Paul’s ways, and despised them. They thought they had figured out better ways. They thought Paul had abandoned this church, and they could talk as if he were out of the picture. This comes back to Paul’s avoidance of words of eloquent wisdom, which could empty the cross of power. These people were puffed up and they talked a big talk. Anybody can talk. Paul says, I am coming, and don’t want to hear talk, I want to see power. I want to see the power of the gospel at work transforming rebels into worshipers, opening blind eyes, setting captives free, conquering sin in the lives of believers, destroying wicked desires and creating new godly desires. I want to see a demonstration of the Spirit at work. The kingdom of God, the rule of God, God ruling and reigning over his people is God’s awesome power unleashed in the lives of his followers. Jesus said ‘I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’ (Mt.16:18).

Of course, as a servant under God’s reign, Paul subjects his own plans and desires to the omnipotent will of God. His plan is to come soon, but he will come only if the Lord wills. Paul himself was not free to make his own plans and go where he wanted to go when he wanted to go there. He did make plans, and he did go where he thought was best, but he was always aware that God was able at any moment to sovereignly override his plans.

Fatherly Discipline

Paul concludes this section with a fatherly question.

1 Corinthians 4:21 What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?

The Corinthians are Paul’s beloved children in the Lord. He cares deeply for them. His heart is not to shame but to correct. He has brought them back to the simple truth of the gospel. He has reasoned with them, he has used persuasive rhetoric, even sharp sarcasm. But as a good father, he was not afraid to exercise his authority in a painful way. The author of Hebrews asks:

Hebrews 12:5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

‘What son is there whom his father does not discipline?’ This is a rhetorical question, and the answer is supposed to be ‘there is none!’. Unfortunately this is not true in our day. Proverbs says:

Proverbs 13:24 Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.

As a good parent, Paul is offering them a choice. They can submit to his authority and enjoy his presence in love and a spirit of gentleness, (which is what every good parent would prefer) or they can continue to be puffed up and go their own way, and they will get a spanking and it will be painful. If the character and conduct of the child is not in line with the character and conduct of the father, then discipline should be used to train up the child in the way that they should go. Paul demonstrates that this is also the case in good Christian leadership. It is the responsibility of the leadership of the church to oversee that conduct and character of the church is shaped by the cross. Hebrews says:

Hebrews 13:17 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.

When conduct and character is out of step with the gospel, it is their responsibility to gently admonish, and when necessary, to firmly discipline.

We are all to become faithful children, imitating Jesus, walking in the gospel, shaping our lives around the cross. And we all are to become spiritual fathers, making disciples, inviting them to imitate us as we imitate our Lord Jesus.

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

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

1 Corinthians 4:3-5; Stop Judging!

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

1Cor 4 [SBLGNT]

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

1Cor 4 [ESV2011]

1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself.4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

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

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

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

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

Judged by the Church

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

Judged by Human Courts

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

Self-Examination and Conscience

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

The Failure of Conscience

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

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

The limitations of Self-examination

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

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

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

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

The Lord is My Judge

1 Corinthians 4:3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

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

Stop Judging!

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

All Human Judgments are Presumptive

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

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

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

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

All Human Judgments are Premature

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

All Human Judgments are Partial

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

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

It is Our Responsibility to Judge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He also said

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

Each One Will Receive His Praise From God

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

1 Corinthians 4:3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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