PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Equipping the Saints; Ephesians 4:11-16

01//08 The Church and The Equipping of the Saints [Ephesians 4:11-16]; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170108_equip-the-saints.mp3

Last week we began to look at who we are as the church, what we are to be about. We saw from Ephesians chpaters 1-3 that to understand what is our purpose as the church, we must begin by understanding who we are as the church, our identity in Christ. We are called saints, faithful, blessed, chosen, loved, predestined, adopted, purchased, forgiven, destined for inheritance, we are sealed, made alive, saved. This is our identity in Christ, not because we earned it, not because we did something to deserve it, but only because of the sheer unmerited grace of a good God. We heard the good news of God’s grace, and we responded by depending on the only one who can rescue us.

As a group of saints, the root and foundation of everything we are and do grows out of and is built upon knowing together the manifold love of Christ toward us that surpasses knowledge. There is a corporate aspect of knowing; Paul prays in 3:17

Ephesians 3:17 …that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

We are to comprehend together with all the saints the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. Of course, we should be individually pursuing an understanding of the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ, but this ought to fuel the fire of corporate worship, as we come together to know together the incomprehensible love of Christ. This worshipful comprehending of the love of Christ together is a primary purpose of the church.

In Chapter 4, Paul begins to tells us how to live in light of our identity in Christ. The first thing he points us to is our gospel unity

Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace

We are to be diligent to guard our unity in the gospel. We have unity; we were made one in Christ, we have peace with God and with one another through Jesus; we are indwelt by the same Holy Spirit. We as a church are to be passionate about defending and maintaining our gospel unity.

Paul goes on in Ephesians 4:7-16 to talk about the grace-gifts that have been given to each of us to build up the body. The gifts are given to grow us up in Christ, and to they are to be used in love.

Then in 4:17-6:9 he talks about what the Christian life is to look like. Our lives are to relfect our new identity in Christ.

He concludes in 6:10-20 with the full spiritual armor of gospel realities that belong to us in Christ, to be permeated by prayer.

So we have learned so far from Ephesians that we as the church are to know together our identity in Christ, that we are to diligently defend our unity in Christ, that we are to use our gifts in love to build up one another, that we are to live lives that reflect our new identity in Christ, and that we are to arm ourselves with gospel realities in prayer, so that we can stand our ground as the church against the schemes of the enemy.

Equipping the Saints

This week I want to dig deeper into into the text in Ephesians 4:11

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,

I take this as a clear purpose statement for the leadership of the church. To equip the saints. What does it mean to equip the saints? Our English translation sounds like ‘to equip’ is a verb. But it is actually a noun; ‘to the equipping’, to the compelte furnishing. This word can mean to mend, repair, or complete; to fit out, equip, or prepare; to strengthen, perfect, or complete. This and the following verses list 5 things that the saints are to be equipped for or toward, and then some things they are to be prepared against.

Ephesians 4:12 to equip the saints

for (εἰς) the work of ministry,

for (εἰς) building up the body of Christ,

13 until we all attain to (εἰς) the unity of the faith

and of the knowledge of the Son of God,

to (εἰς) mature manhood,

to (εἰς) the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,

The saints are to be fitted to work of ministry; to building the body of Christ, to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a manture man, to a measure of maturity of the fullness of Christ. These are the things the saints are to be equipped for.

Work of Service

The saints are to be equipped for work of ministry or work of service. Notice, this is every saint; all the saints are to be equipped for ministry. Every believer is a minister. The word ‘diakonia’ is where we get our word deacon. It simply means service. Every saint is to be prepared for service. What that service looks like will be as unique and various as the individuals who make up the body of Christ. Service may be exhorting and encouraging, coming alongside others, it may be teaching and discipling others, it may be acts of mercy, binding up the brokenhearted, it may be practical service in lending a helping hand, it may be financial giving to meet the needs of others. Service takes many shapes. Service by definition is others-centered, because we are serving someone. And service is work. To serve well takes, time, effort, intentionality. There is a choice involved. I can choose to use the gifts I have been given to bless others, or I can miss the opportunity to be involved. It takes will, effort, energy to be involved. The saints are to be equipped for the work of service. This verse echoes back to 2:8-10, where we are saved…

Ephesians 2:9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We are not saved by our works, but we are created new in Christ for good works. These works are prepared ahead of time by God. He intends that we walk in the works he foreordained for us. Here we see that the church plays a role in preparing and strengthening the saints for the work of service.

Building The Body

The saints are to be equipped for building the body of Christ. In a building there is structure, architecture, a plan, a foundation. We each play a role in the structure. This echoes back to 2:19-22.

Ephesians 2:19 …you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

You are a part of the building. You are to be built on the one cornerstone of Christ Jesus. You are to be joined together with other believers into a temple, a dwelling place for God. For a stone to be part of the building, it needs to be on the foundation. A stone not on the foundation is not part of the building. The church plays a role in fitting the saints to be built up on the one foundation, to be joined together with one another, to be holy, to enjoy together the presence of God in us.

Unity of the Faith and Knowledge of the Son

Verse 13 tells us the saints are to be equipped for the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God. As we are built together, serving one another, we are to experience the unity of the faith. This is a oneness that comes from dependence on the same person. The unity of the faith is not merely the unity of having a common set of beliefs. It is that. We must believe in the one God who is Father, Son and Spirit. We must believe that the Son became human, born of a virgin, to die in our place, that he rose from the dead and returned to the right hand of his Father. We must believe that we are set free from our sin by the free act of a sovereign God, by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, ultimately for the glory of God alone. There is concrete content to our faith, but our trust and dependence is not ultimately in a set of facts, but in a person. We are united by a common dependence on the person of the Son of God. We are one because we know the same person. We have a common friend. Have you ever met a stranger only to find out you have a common friend. You may not have met each other, but there is a connection when there is a common bond to the same person. As believers, we have that in Jesus. We have a unity with every other believer because of our common dependence on and relationship with the Son of God. Paul prayed back in 1:17,

Ephesians 1:17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,

We need to be given spiritual wisdom and revelation to know Jesus. The church plays a role in repairing and strengthening this unity in the knowledge of Jesus.

Maturity

The saints are to be equipped toward maturity. To a mature man. This echoes back to 2:15

Ephesians 2:15 … that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,

This one new man, no longer Jew and Gentile, no longer two but one, the church, the united body of Christ.

This one new man is to be a mature man. To completeness, to mental and moral maturity, to fully developed character. There is a goal we are aiming at, a purpose we are pursuing, an end we are moving toward. Some of us just need to grow up. None of us have arrived yet. We all must be patient with one another, because we are all moving toward a goal, and we are all in various stages of growth. God is at work in us to develop character in us. Character is most often developed through trials, so we need extra grace and patience for one another, as navigating a trial is often a messy ordeal. God intends that on the other side we will come out as pure gold, but in the process, all our filth floats up to the surface for all to see. Have you ever been in the room when another parent is disciplining their child? It can be awkward and uncomfortable to observe the process, but it is essential for the child’s growth to maturity. In the body of Christ, we need to understand that we are all under the good hand of the refiner, who will bring us through whatever fires are necessary to purify us; we are all under the gracious hand of the Father, who will be faithful to discipline the children he loves, to develop mature character in us. The church family plays a role in mending and perfecting the saints toward maturity.

The Measure of the Fullness of Christ

The saints are to be equipped toward the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. In 1:23 the church is the fullness of Christ. In 3:19, Paul prays that we would know the love of Christ and be filled with all the fullness of God.

We are to be fitted for the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. The measure of our maturity is Jesus. We are not to be foolish, measuring ourselves against each other; wishing we were as advanced as so-and-so; thankful we are not as immature as what’s-his-name. Our standard is Christ. We as the church are to be filled with Christ. We are to live Jesus to each other. We are to live Jesus to our community. We are to put Jesus on display in every area of our lives. We are to be filled to overflowing with Jesus. The character of Jesus is to permeate our attitudes, our emotions, our thinking, our choices. The church plays a role in perfecting and completing the saints in this Christlike fullness of maturity.

Equipped Against

There is a negative aspect to the equipping. Paul lists these 5 things we are to be equipped for; for the work of ministry; for building the body of Christ, for the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, for a manture man, for the measure of maturity of the fullness of Christ. In verse 14 he moves into the negative; what we are to be equipped against.

Ephesians 4:14 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.

The equipping of the saints is an equipping toward maturity and away from immaturity. We are no longer to be children. Children are characterized by variability. One moment I want that; the next moment I don’t want it any more. One minute I’m throwing a tantrum to get my way, and halfway through I’ve forgotten what I was tantruming about. Truth changes based on whose voice is loudest or most persuasive on the playground. We are no longer to be children fluctuating and carried around by the waves. We are not to be carried about by every wind of teaching. We are to be anchored in sound teaching. We are to have roots that go down deep into the gospel truth of Christ crucified. We are to be enamored by the latest author or speaker. There are lots of doctrinal winds blowing. Everyone has opinions about truth. There is wisdom in reading outside our century. There is wisdom in reading from the 200’s and the 1200’s and the 1600’s. When we see the continuity of the gospel message throughout church history, the foundations of the faith that believers held dear throughout the ages, we are protected from the gimmics of our age that try to sell us something that sounds like the gospel, but is really a plastic immitation. There are those who would deceive us. There are those who would cheat us out of the truth for personal gain. The church is to have a role preparing and strengthening the saints to stand firm in the faith once-for-all delivered.

Grow Up in Truth and Love

Ephesians 4:15 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.

Truth without love is cruel. Love without truth is empty. The church is to be equipped to speak, to live and declare truth. The church is to be equipped to speak truth in love, with a genuine desire to do good to others. The church is to grow up. We are to grow up in every way. Grow up in all things. Grow up into Christ, our head. The head is the one from whom we receive the organization and unity that holds the whole body together. The energy of each part comes from the head. The proper working of each part is directed by the head. The head causes the growth. Jesus is the head of the church. Jesus causes the body to build itself up in love. The church is meant:

Ephesians 4:12 to equip the saints

for (εἰς) the work of ministry,

for (εἰς) building up the body of Christ,

13 until we all attain to (εἰς) the unity of the faith

and of the knowledge of the Son of God,

to (εἰς) mature manhood,

to (εἰς) the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,

The church is to guard against false doctrine. The church is to speak truth in love. To be submitted to Christ our only head. To function properly as unique and varied members of one body. To buld up the body in love.

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

Advertisements

January 11, 2017 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 3:1-4; The Milk and Meat of the Gospel

05/12 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 The Milk and Meat of the Gospel;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130512_1cor3_1-4.mp3

1Cor 3 [SBLGNT]

1 Κἀγώ, ἀδελφοί, οὐκ ἠδυνήθην λαλῆσαι ὑμῖν ὡς πνευματικοῖς ἀλλ’ ὡς σαρκίνοις, ὡς νηπίοις ἐν Χριστῷ.2 γάλα ὑμᾶς ἐπότισα, οὐ βρῶμα, οὔπω γὰρ ἐδύνασθε. ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ ἔτι νῦν δύνασθε,3 ἔτι γὰρ σαρκικοί ἐστε. ὅπου γὰρ ἐν ὑμῖν ζῆλος καὶ ἔρις, οὐχὶ σαρκικοί ἐστε καὶ κατὰ ἄνθρωπον περιπατεῖτε;4 ὅταν γὰρ λέγῃ τις· Ἐγὼ μέν εἰμι Παύλου, ἕτερος δέ· Ἐγὼ Ἀπολλῶ, οὐκ ἄνθρωποί ἐστε;

1Cor 3 [ESV2011]

1 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready,3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?

Paul has been holding up God’s wisdom, the gospel, the message of Christ crucified, and contrasting it with so-called human wisdom, that which gains the applause of the world; that which promotes status and respectability, those who are considered wise, powerful, and noble. Paul says that God is making fools of all those who think themselves wise because human wisdom can never discover the one thing that matters; how to know God; how to enter into a right relationship with the God of the universe. This God chose to reveal to us by his Spirit, otherwise it would have remained unknowable. This is the message of the cross.

1 Corinthians 2:10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Paul has re-defined the categories for his readers. They were in constant competition with one another trying to outdo one another in spirituality, in maturity, in wisdom and godliness. Paul demolishes their categories and their competition. He divides all people into only two categories; those who are perishing and us who are being saved. Those who are spiritual, who have received the gift of the Spirit and those who are natural, who do not have the Spirit and do not accept the things of the Spirit. He says that we, we who are spiritual, we who have received the Spirit of God, we have the mind of Christ.

The Corinthians prided themselves on their wisdom, their spirituality, their strength and maturity in Christ. They desperately wanted to be thought well of, to be thought wise. To think that they were all on the same plane with their fellow church-members, that they had not surpassed those in another group, that they were simply all fellow believers at the foot of the cross, would have come as a crushing blow to their inflated egos. But what Paul says next must have really knocked the wind out of them.

1 Corinthians 3:1 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?

The church in Corinth had become enamored with human wisdom, with popularity and prestige, and they had allowed divisiveness, quarreling, strife, and an undue passion for their favorite teacher to begin to erode their gospel foundation. So Paul says, although there are only two categories of people; those who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and those who are not, based on the attitudes and actions of the Corinthians, he is forced to address them as if they did not have God’s Spirit living within them.

True Believers

It is clear from everything Paul has said so far in this letter that he believes that they are genuine believers and do indeed have God’s Spirit dwelling in them. In the beginning of this letter he addressed them as the church of God, called to be saints, recipients of the grace of God in Christ Jesus, and he is confident that God will sustain them to the end guiltless. He includes them in the ‘us who are being saved’ and the ‘we’ who have the mind of Christ. Here he calls them ‘brothers’ and refers to them as ‘infants in Christ’, which means that they had been born again. In chapter 6 he reminds those involved in sexual immorality:

1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Babes and Milk

So Paul clearly assumes those to whom he is writing are indeed genuine believers, indwelt by the Spirit of God, and therefore spiritual by his definition. But, he says ‘I could not address you as spiritual but as fleshly or carnal’. Because their attitudes and actions did not differ substantially from those who were entirely dominated by the flesh and devoid of the Spirit of God, he was forced to speak to them in baby talk. Because the basic truth of the gospel had not produced fruit in their lives, he had to keep them on the bottle. There is no shame in starting out on milk. That is what we expect of babies. But if someone is still breast fed or bottle fed at five, we may begin to wonder if something is wrong, and we know there are some serious developmental issues if at twelve or at twenty-five they are still carrying around their ba-ba. The problem was not that they were not able to eat solid food as infants. The problem was that some five years after God had birthed the church in Corinth through Paul’s ministry, they are still not able to take solid food.

Milk and Meat

Now we need to think carefully about what Paul is saying. Is he saying that there are milk doctrines and there are meat doctrines? Is he saying that we will graduate from the bottle of the gospel and move on to the deeper things of God? I don’t believe this is what Paul is saying at all.

First, if this is what he is teaching, that there are milk doctrines and meat doctrines, we should be able to go through our New Testaments and figure out which are which. If we were to ask, what are the advanced doctrines, the meat doctrines, the deep things of God that baby Christians might choke on, it would be impossible for us to come to any biblically based agreement on what they are. Paul says here in 1 Corinthians that he cannot address them as spiritual but as babes and that they are still not ready for solid food, so anything we find in 1 Corinthians must be milk and not meat. If we think of the triune nature of God as a meaty doctrine, we see this coming right out in chapters 1 and 2, where he repeatedly refers to God, Jesus Christ, and the Spirit of God as three distinct persons who are each fully God. If we suggest the biblical doctrines of election and predestination as solid food, he refers to that in the second verse of this letter to these immature believers, and again in verse 9, and then goes in to more detail in verses 24-30, and in 2:7. If we think of spiritual gifts, we have his instructions in chapters 12-14. If we suggest the second coming of Jesus and the resurrection, he deals with that at length in chapter 15. There does not seem to be any clear biblical way to differentiate between milk doctrines and meat doctrines.

Paul said to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20

Acts 20:26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.

I don’t think that this was unique to Ephesus. I don’t think Paul would have to say to the leaders in Corinth ‘I am guilty of your blood, because I withheld the deep things of God from you’.

Milk and Meat in Hebrews 5

This is not the only place in scripture that this idea of milk and solid food is put forward. The author of Hebrews in chapter 5 says:

Hebrews 5:11 About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

The author here is saying something very similar to what we see Paul saying in 1 Corinthians. They ought to have become teachers by now, but instead they need someone to teach them the basic principles. They need milk, not solid food. They are children, not mature.

He contrasts for us what it means to be a child and what it means to be mature. Children are ‘unskilled in the word of righteousness.’ The mature are ‘those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.’ So the issue of maturity seems to be the ability to apply the word of righteousness to specific situations and the discernment to distinguish good from evil. This is something that comes with time, training and constant practice. So the mature are those who can take the basic principles of the oracles of God, the milk, and skillfully use the word of righteousness to distinguish good from evil.

The ‘this’ in 5:11 that he has much to say about, that is hard to explain because of their dullness of hearing and spiritual immaturity, would be the solid food. What does the ‘this’ refer back to? The immediate context in chapter 5 is the teaching that Jesus is our great High Priest, who is ‘the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him’ (5:9). If we look back through the first 4 chapters, we see this hard to explain solid food as Jesus who is greater than the prophets, Jesus who is greater than the angels, Jesus who is greater than Moses, Jesus who is the greater Joshua who brings his people into a greater rest. In chapter 5 the author tells us we need to be taught again the basic principles, milk not solid food, but then he says in the very next verses in the beginning of chapter 6:

Hebrews 6:1 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And this we will do if God permits.

Here he says that he is going to take them on to maturity. The elementary milk doctrine is the doctrine of Christ. Although they do need milk and not solid food, he is not going all the way back to re-lay the Old Testament Jewish foundational truths of turning away from their own works and believing in God, washings and laying on of hands, resurrection and eternal judgment. That is not the milk of Christ, that is Old Testament foundation that points forward to the milk of Christ. He is now going to move on with them into maturity. So where does he take them? What is going on to maturity? He takes them to Jesus the greater High Priest who administers a greater covenant in a greater temple through a greater sacrifice, his own blood. We receive the gifts that God promised through faith,and he warns us throughout not to turn back to the law but to press in to God’s grace by faith. And he points us to the fruit of this blood-bought relationship, laying aside sin and fixing our eyes on Jesus, loving our brothers, extending hospitality to strangers, standing with prisoners, honoring marriage, being content with our relationship with Jesus, imitating the faith of your leaders, strengthening your hearts by grace, following Jesus wherever he leads, and continually offering up praise to God. This sounds to me like the simple good news of Jesus Christ and him crucified, skillfully applied to our situation. This is the maturity the author of Hebrews points us to.

Pure Milk in 1 Peter

Peter also talks about milk and growth. He says

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

So Peter is encouraging us that milk is good and to imitate infants and long for milk, but the goal is to grow up into salvation. So what, according to Peter does it look like to grow up into salvation? If we back up in this passage, I think it becomes clear both what the milk is and what maturity looks like. He points us to our having been ransomed by the precious blood of Christ, and believing in God and having faith and hope in God.

1 Peter 1:22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24 for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

1 Peter 2:1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—

So the pure spiritual milk is the truth, the imperishable living and abiding word of God that gave us new birth, the word of the Lord that remains forever, the good news that was preached to you. The growing up into salvation, he says, is loving one another earnestly from the heart and putting away all malice and deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. This seems to fit with what Hebrews says that maturity is skillfully applying the gospel to each situation and discerning good from evil.

Jude

Jude writes something similar when he says

Jude 1:3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

This sounds like he too, as in Hebrews and 1 Corinthians was eager to go deeper into the solid food of our common salvation, but found it necessary to go back to the basics of the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. In this short letter he warns against false teachers who are:

Jude 1:16 These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage… 18 …following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.

The fruit of the worldly false teachers who did not have God’s Spirit was boasting, favoritism, divisions. This sounds a lot like what was going on in Corinth that caused Paul to say that he could not speak to them as spiritual but as worldly.

James

James also deals with worldly wisdom in contrast to God’s wisdom. He says:

James 3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

James draws the contrast between worldly wisdom which is characterized by jealousy, selfish ambition, boasting, disorder, and results in every vile practice. This again reminds us of Corinth. God’s wisdom, in contrast, is characterized by meekness, and is pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, sincere.

Applying the Cross

So putting this all together, I don’t think Paul or Peter or Hebrews or James or Jude is saying that we need to put aside the bottle of the gospel and move on to the deeper things of God. Paul points to their jealousy and strife as evidence that they are failing to skillfully apply the simple truth of the gospel that they already know to their relationships with other believers in the church. Therefore he cannot consider them spiritual or mature, but rather fleshly; although they have the Holy Spirit, they are allowing their flesh to dominate their desires. Throughout this letter, Paul is training them to skillfully apply the good news of the cross to various situations and circumstances.

The Corinthians thought they were spiritual, ready for advanced meat doctrines, the deep things of God. They thought Paul was insulting their intelligence to only sound one note over and over again. He had resolved to know nothing among them but Jesus Christ and him crucified. What they failed to realize was that this simple truth, the truth of the cross, is the power and hidden wisdom of God, the deep things of God, strong meat and nourishing milk. The gospel is the full meal deal – everything we need. We will never outgrow or move beyond the message of Christ crucified. The cross is wisdom, God’s wisdom, the pure milk that brings us to salvation, and the cross is power, the solid food that strengthens us to crucify our pride and love one another with self-sacrificial cross shaped love. The gospel, the message of the cross, of Christ crucified for sinners, is both the hidden wisdom of God to pardon sinners, and the power of God to transform sinners into saints.

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

May 12, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , | Leave a comment

John 14-16; God Glorified in a Life Transformed by the Gospel

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130106_god-glorified-in-transformed-life.mp3

01/06 God Glorified in a Life Transformed by the Gospel (John 14-16)

Glory to God in the highest! Glory to God in the highest! God’s glory is the highest thing, the greatest thing. God’s glory is the focal point of everything. We were created to bring glory to God.

Psalm 86:9 All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.

All heavenly beings were created to bring glory to God.

Psalm 29:1 Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. 2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.

All of creation was designed to bring glory to God.

Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

We are commanded:

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

Am I Living for God’s Glory?

So if bringing glory to God is the purpose of my existence, and if my level of fulfillment and satisfaction is directly linked to doing what I was created to do, then the most important question I could ask myself is

-Am I fulfilling my purpose?

-Am I doing that which I was created to do?

-Am I living a life that brings maximum glory to God?’

-Can I increase the magnitude of the glory I give to God?

-Can I get better at fulfilling my purpose?

-Are there things that detract from God’s glory that I need to put aside?

And in order to answer these questions accurately, we need to find out what it means to bring glory to God, what ways God intends to be glorified in my life, what a life lived for the glory of God looks like. We began to answer that question last time, when we saw that God is glorified in the gospel. God is glorified in the good news message that God is for us. That God loves us. That God sent his only Son to fulfill our purpose of living for the glory of God and to pay the penalty for our God-belittling, God-ignoring sins so that we can be rescued from our self-inflicted destruction. God is glorified when we hear the gospel – that Jesus died for our sins, was raised from the dead, and now reigns on high. God is glorified when we believe the gospel, when we entrust ourselves to Jesus, when we depend on him fully. God is glorified when we reflect on, revel in, and enjoy the gospel. God is glorified when we extend the gospel to others. God is glorified as more and more people come to believe in Jesus, have their sins forgiven, and enjoy a reconciled relationship with their Creator, Redeemer, and Friend.

God Glorified in Lives Transformed by the Gospel

Today I want to focus on a natural outflow of the gospel that brings glory to God. God is glorified when we hear, believe, love, and extend the gospel. God is also glorified when we live lives transformed by the gospel.

Listen to what Jesus says:

John 15:8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

Jesus says that when we bear fruit, it brings glory to God. So we have to ask two questions: what is the fruit that we are to bear? And how do we bear much fruit?

First, what does Jesus mean when he says we glorify God by bearing much fruit? What kind of fruit is he talking about? Is he talking about oranges or apples or grapes? Is he suggesting we all take up gardening? In the context of this statement in John 15, Jesus describes himself as the true vine, his Father as the vinedresser, and us as branches of the vine. He is using an agricultural metaphor to teach a spiritual truth. Healthy branches, when connected to the vine and properly pruned and cared for, bear fruit. If we look at the broader context of this metaphor, specific characteristics of the fruit become clear.

Faith

In the first part of John 14, Jesus mentions knowing him and believing in him and coming to him about 10 times. And then he says to those who believe in him:

John 14:13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

So this coming to Jesus, knowing Jesus, believing in Jesus brings glory to God. This ties in with what we have already seen, that God is glorified when we believe the gospel. Our faith in Jesus, coming to God on the basis of Jesus, asking in faith brings glory to God.

Love

Then Jesus points us to love. Jesus mentions love for Jesus six times in John 14. He says that the evidence of this love for him is keeping his commandments, keeping his words, rejoicing at his words. He holds up his own obedience to his Father as evidence of his love for the Father. After the vine metaphor in John 15, Jesus says:

John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

We bring glory to God by bearing much fruit. Jesus makes the connection between bearing much fruit and abiding in his love. Abiding in his love is keeping his commandments. His commandment is that we love one another as he loved us. So the fruit Jesus is talking about is believing in Jesus, loving Jesus, loving one another. This kind of fruit is evidence that we are truly disciples of Jesus.

Joy

Jesus tells us that this kind of abiding love will result in his joy being in us and our joy being full. Later in chapter 16, as he talks of leaving the disciples, they are sorrowful, but he tells them that their sorrow will turn into joy (16:20). He says:

John 16:22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

This fruit that brings glory to God is characterized by joy, a joy we receive from God, joy that cannot be taken away, joy that is full.

Peace

Look back at John 14:27. Jesus says:

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

And again in John 16:33, Jesus said:

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Jesus gives us his peace. The absence of fear; the absence of anxiety. Peace that passes all understanding (Phil.4:7). This kind of peace is fruit that brings glory to God.

Patience

Jesus said (Jn.14:1-4) that he was going to prepare a place for his followers, so that we can be with him where he is. This creates hope and anticipation. It also requires patience. Patience is fruit that brings glory to God.

Perseverance

Jesus said that the world would hate and persecute his followers.

John 16:1 “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.

Fruit that brings glory to God is perseverance in the face of opposition, or being kept from falling away.

The Holy Spirit

John 14:12 is a verse that staggers the imagination. I vividly remember the very first time I read it in my bible. I remember where I was and who I was with and what I was doing. I remember being humbled and amazed and overwhelmed. I remember grabbing my friend and showing him this verse and being worshipfully amazed together. This is a verse that is unbelievable, but Jesus said it, he said it is true, and I believe it to be true.

John 14:12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.

Whoever believes in Jesus (that’s me!) will do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do!? Jesus caused the deaf to hear and opened the eyes of the blind, he made the crippled whole, he made the lame leap for joy, he even raised the dead. Whoever believes in Jesus will do greater works than these? What can possibly be greater than this? How can this be? The only thing greater than overcoming physical blindness and deafness is overcoming satanic spiritual blindness and hardness of heart to the gospel. The only thing greater than raising the physically dead back to life (who will someday die physically again) is seeing those who are dead in their trespasses and sins raised to newness of eternal life. The only thing greater than seeing the crippled made whole and the lame leaping for joy is to see mangled and twisted sin-sick souls healed and made whole and transformed by the gospel. Friends, you and I, ‘whoever believes in me’ Jesus said, will do greater works than Jesus, to the glory of God, because Jesus went to the Father.

John 14:13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. 15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

How can we possibly bear this kind of fruit to the glory of God? Because we have another Helper, who is with us forever. The Holy Spirit of God dwells in me.

In preparing his disciples for his death, Jesus even told these grief-stricken followers that his physical absence is better for them than his presence.

John 16:7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

Jesus said that the Holy Spirit living in believers is better than the Son of God in the flesh living with believers. It is to your advantage that I go away. It is to the advantage of fulling your purpose, living life for the glory of God.

John 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

The Holy Spirit works for the glory of the Father and the glory of the Son. God is glorified when we bear much fruit. So I think it is safe to say that the Holy Spirit is at work to bring glory to God by producing this kind of fruit in us; supernatural spiritual fruit like faith and love and joy and peace and patience and perseverance and hope. Does this sound familiar?

The Fruit of the Spirit

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Paul gives us the fruit that the Holy Spirit produces in contrast to the works that the flesh produces

Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The works of the flesh are things that detract from the glory of God. If I am involved in things like these, they have to go.

Galatians 5:24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Crucifixion is painful. It is where we get the word ‘excruciating’. Putting to death the flesh with its passions and desires is not easy. But it is essential for those who belong to Christ Jesus. We must live for the glory of God, and everything else must go. But please understand, this is not an oppressive list of do’s and don’ts. The works of the flesh are bondage and they lead to death. The fruit of the spirit is true freedom, freedom to be who you were designed to be, free to live a life liberated from the gnarled twisted malignant lethal virus of sin.

Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. …13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus has set you free to live life to the glory of God, a life of love for God and love for one another, the life you were meant for. If you are a believer in Jesus, God the Holy Spirit is at work in you producing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith (or faithfulness), gentleness, self-control.

These God-glorifying character traits do not come as the result of good old fashioned grit, determination and self-discipline. That is a work of the flesh, not a fruit of the Spirit. Notice that it says ‘the fruit of the Spirit is (singular). It does not say ‘the fruits of the Spirit are (plural). I cannot say that I’ve got a great crop of patience, gentleness and kindness growing over here, but my joy is rather wilted and my self-control hasn’t sprouted yet. That would be evidence that those traits I feel strongest in are not supernatural fruit of the Spirit, but rather natural personality traits or the results of upbringing and self-discipline. I think we can gauge our Christian maturity most accurately by our weakest trait. A chain is as strong as its weakest link. I am as mature as my weakest character trait. Paul says ‘if I …have not love, I am nothing’ (1Cor.13:2). That might be discouraging, but it is often necessary to clear away the weeds that resemble healthy plants to allow room for the Spirit to do his transforming work.

How to Grow

So how do I grow in godly character to the glory of God? How do I bear much fruit to the glory of God?

It is critical to understand that I cannot produce fruit. Jesus said ‘apart from me you can do nothing’ (Jn.15:5).

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Jesus is the source of life. Apart from him we can do nothing. If we are connected to him, abiding in him, his life is in us and we will bear fruit. Spiritual growth comes through believing dependence on Jesus. Jesus gives very practical instruction for abiding in him. He says:

John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

Jesus connects abiding in him with having his words abide in you. God’s word is a powerful tool for transformation in the hand of the Holy Spirit. So fill you heart and your head and your home with scripture. Read and re-read and write and meditate and memorize. Saturate your heart and your head in the bible. Let God’s word shape your thinking, your feeling, and your acting.

Allow the painful process of pruning. Jesus said:

John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

Yield to the pruning process for maximum fruitfulness to the glory of God.

And Jesus repeatedly invites and encourages us to ask (Jn.14:13, 14; 15:7, 16; 16:23, 24, 26). Asking is critical, because asking admits that we need something we don’t have and can’t get on our own. Asking looks away from ourselves and to God who is the source of every good thing. Asking keeps us coming to Jesus, plugged in to Jesus, abiding in Jesus, dependent on Jesus, in relationship with Jesus.

John 14:13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

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

January 8, 2013 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment