PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Triune God

10/18 Triune God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151018_triune-god.mp3

We are seeking to know God, to know what he has revealed to us about himself. We desire to worship him as he is. We seek to honor him. We want to worship him in truth.

One of the old creeds, a creed that has been recited and memorized by Christians for centuries, starts out like this:

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this:”

Catholic (small ‘c’) simply means universal, the faith that all Christians believe. We could substitute the word ‘universal’. What do you think is so essential to salvation that ‘before all things it is necessary that he hold’? What point of truth is so essential that ‘except we keep it whole and undefiled, without doubt we shall perish everlastingly’? How would you finish the statement ‘the universal faith of the Christian church is this:’?

This is how the historic Athanasian creed begins:

And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence.

Lots of religious groups attack the Christian belief in the trinity. Judaism, Islam, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witness, all scoff at the idea of the trinity. Some say that it was a belief pushed on the church by a pagan emperor. Others say it is just plain nonsense.

Where do we get this concept of trinity? What do we mean by it? Should we believe it? Does it really matter?

Let me give you five statements that are clearly taught in the Bible.

  1. There is only one God

  2. The Father is God

  3. The Son is God

  4. The Spirit is God

  5. The Father, Son and Spirit are each someone distinct from the other two

The word ‘trinity’ is an abbreviation of tri-unity; describing that God is a unity, that there is oneness in God, and there is also threeness in God.

There is Only One God

Last time we looked at some of the biblical evidence for monotheism in contrast to polytheism or tritheism. The Bible is clear and emphatic that there is only one true God, not three separate gods. Remember when Jesus was questioned about the greatest commandment:

Mark 12:29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

The first and greatest command is that there is only one true God, and he alone is worthy of worship. We are to have no other gods in his presence. “Besides me there is no god. Who is like me?”(Is.44:6-7)

The Father is God

That the one we call Father is God hardly needs to be defended. Ephesians 4:6 refers to the

Ephesians 4: 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Jesus teaches us to address God as Father.

Matthew 6:9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

Matthew 23:9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.

Jesus himself, praying to his Father, says:

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

The Son is God

We see clearly that the Son Jesus is God. In Romans 9, Paul refers to Jesus the Messiah as:

Romans 9:5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

In Titus 2 he refers to him as

Titus 2:13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

2 Peter 1:1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

The author of Hebrews, quoting the Old Testament

Hebrews 1:8 But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.

The Son is clearly called God. Matthew 3 quotes Isaiah 40 about John, whose role was to prepare the way for Jesus.

Isaiah 40:3 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (with Matthew 3:3)

In John 8, Jesus identifies himself with the self-existent one, YHWH, from Exodus 3

John 8:58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

The Jews understood what he was claiming, and picked up stones to stone him. Then in John 10, Jesus said:

John 10:30 I and the Father are one.” 31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.

At the close of John’s gospel, we see the risen Christ appear to doubting Thomas.

John 20:27-31 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Thomas believes in response to the evidence, and calls Jesus ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus commends his belief. John explains the goal of his writing: ‘that you may believe that Jesus is… the Son of God.’ We are encouraged, like Thomas, on the basis of the evidence given, to believe in Jesus as ‘my Lord and my God!’

The Spirit is God

The Scriptures clearly teach that the Spirit is God.

Acts 5:3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”

Peter understands that to lie to the Holy Spirit is to lie to God.

I Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

God is the only one who can rightly dwell in God’s temple, and we are told that God’s Spirit dwells in us.

Psalm 139:7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

To flee from the presence of God’s Spirit is to flee from the presence of God himself.

We see clear evidence in the scripture that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Spirit is God, and there is only one true God.

The Father, Son and Spirit are Distinct Someones

The Scripture is also clear that the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Father, the Spirit is not the Father or the Son.

In John 3, where Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be born of the Spirit, he says:

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

God the Father is distinguished from the Son. The Father sends his only Son to save the world. The Son is the one who is sent.

Jesus’ teaching in John 14 about the Holy Spirit brings this out clearly:

John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, …26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

Notice the personal pronouns. Jesus refers to himself as ‘I’, he refers to the Father as ‘he’ and he refers to the Holy Spirit as ‘another’ and ‘he’.

Jesus continues to speak of the Holy Spirit in chapter 15.

John 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

The Father sent Jesus, Jesus and his Father send the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will be with you forever. The Spirit will testify of Jesus.

Jesus frequently prayed to his Father. He did not pray to himself. Jesus is someone distinct from the Father, who can refer to himself as ‘I’ and address the Father as ‘you’. In his prayer in John 17, he says:

John 17:5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. …24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

[God is Love]

This is a stunningly beautiful truth. Don’t miss the significance of this! We are told in 1 John 4:8 and 16 that God is love. Not only that God loves, but that God is love. Not that God began to love or became love. The eternal essence of God is love. Before God created anything, before anything existed outside of God alone, God is love. For God to be love there must be an object for him to love. Love is a relationship word. It requires a subject that loves and an object that is loved. Jesus is conversing with his Father in John 17. He says that he was with his Father before the world existed. He says ‘you loved me before the foundation of the world.’ Before anything existed, there was a you and a me who loved. Notice also that John does not say ‘the gods are love’. Belief in the triune God who eternally exists as Father, Son and Spirit is the only thing that makes sense of the absolute statement that ‘God is love’.

When we are told that God loves us, we understand this as the overflow of the love of an inherently relational God. God eternally exists in relationship, and he invites us in to enjoy that relationship!

God With God

John launched his gospel with this statement:

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. …18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

The Son, the Word, existed in the beginning. The Son was with his Father. The Son and the Father are one essence or one divine existence. The Son is God at the Father’s side. A distinct someone, who can be said to be ‘with’ the Father enjoying relationship with the Father, yet who shares with the Father the divine essence.

Three In One

We see throughout the New Testament statements that make sense only if there is one God who eternally exists in three distinct persons.

Matthew 3:16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

At the baptism we see the beloved Son Jesus, the voice of the Father, and the Spirit of God

Matthew 28:19 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,

We are told by Jesus to make disciples and to baptize them in the one singular name of the three equal and distinct persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Romans 8:16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs––heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, …

The Spirit, God and Christ are each separately mentioned.

I Corinthians 12:4 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.

In these verses, the varieties of gifts, service and activities are parallel statements that are said to come from the same Spirit, the same Lord and the same God.

At the end of 2 Corinthians we find this trinitarian benediction:

2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

This may be a conscious echo of the threefold name of the LORD in the Old Testament benediction in Numbers 6.

Numbers 6:24 The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. 27 “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”

Ephesians 2, speaking of Jesus, says:

Ephesians 2:18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Ephesians 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit––just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call–– 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

One Spirit, One Lord, One God and Father of all.

2 Thessalonians shows the three persons at work in the gospel.

2 Thessalonians 2:13 …because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the work of salvation in Hebrews 9 we see three divine actors.

Hebrews 9:14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

In Hebrews 10 we are warned of the danger of offending the three who are one.

Hebrews 10:29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Peter begins his first letter pointing to our salvation that is the collaborative effort of the triune God.

I Peter 1:2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

Jude challenges us to walk the Christian life in conscious communion with the triune God.

Jude :20 But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

The Revelation given to John begins with a greeting from the three persons.

Revelation 1:4 … Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. …

The eternal Father, and in the numerical symbolism the fullness of the Spirit and Jesus Christ. In Revelation 4 – 5 we see worship in the heavenly throne room directed toward the One seated on the throne and to the Lamb and the sevenfold Spirit of God.

Nonsense?

There is only one God, the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Spirit is God, and each one is someone distinct from the other two. This is the clear teaching of Scripture.

It is often said that this is nonsense and contradictory. We are saying that 1+1+1=1 when everyone knows that it equals 3. It would be contradictory if we were saying that there is one God and there are three gods, or if we were saying that there are three persons but there is only one person. But it is not contradictory to say that God is one divine existence, and he eternally exists in three distinct persons. God is one as to his essence or divine nature; God is three as to his centers of consciousness or personalities in relationship with each other. The Athanasian creed puts it this way:

That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite. So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.

This is practical. This is worship. We worship a God who is in his own very being a relational God. We worship the Father in spirit and in truth. We honor the Son just as we honor the Father. We give praise to the Spirit who is himself fully and truly God. We are loved by a God who is himself love.

Men cannot and do not love, pray to, and adore a mere abstract infinite nature. They love, address, and worship certain persons in that nature.” (W.G.T.Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, vol.1, p.495)

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

October 18, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God Alone; Deuteronomy 4-6, 32

10/11 God Alone; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151011_god-alone.mp3

We have been studying what God says about himself in his word. God wants to make himself known to us. He wants us to enjoy him, to enjoy relationship with him. He knows the one thing that will satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart and that is himself. Because he loves us he wants what is best for us, and he is pursuing our happiness in him.

~ Prayer ~

Other Attributes Indicate Uniqueness

Today we will look at the uniqueness of God, at the fact that there is exactly one God. The things we have looked at this far all point us in that direction. That God is self-existent, that he is dependent on nothing outside of himself, that he is independent of everything outside of himself points us to his uniqueness. There is no other being that exists that was not created by this God. There is no other being that is truly independent, that has being in himself. God alone can say ‘I AM.’

The absolute perfection of God, the fact that he cannot improve and that he will never decline in his perfections, that he is unchanging and unchangeable is utterly unique. There is no other being that is not either growing or declining. God is the only one who can say ‘I am the same yesterday and today and forever.’

This being who created time, who is himself outside of and independent of time, is absolutely unlike any other being. Of everything else, we can think back to a time before it existed and think forward to a time when it will pass away and be no more. Of none other can it be said ‘from everlasting to everlasting you are God.’

God, the infinite Creator of all space, who spoke the universe into existence, who is outside of space, who contains all space within himself, who is fully present at every point of the space he created, excludes the possibility of any other being who is present everywhere.

The one who spoke matter into existence, who created all things visible and invisible, who is himself invisible; there is no material being or spirit being that exist that he did not bring into existence. He is unique in that he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

These and many of his other attributes indicate that there is no one like him. He is utterly unique, separate, distinct, alone in his absolute perfections.

I Am God Alone

The Bible is explicitly clear on this issue. God is passionate about this issue, we could say even jealous. In the passage in Deuteronomy 4, where Moses speaks of the invisible, immaterial nature of God,

Deuteronomy 4:12 Then the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice.

And where Moses uses this as the ground for an admonition against idolatry.

Deuteronomy 4:15 “Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, 16 beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, …

He goes on to say:

Deuteronomy 4:35 To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him.

Deuteronomy 4:39 know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.

YHWH is God, there is no other besides him. Absolutely, comprehensively, there is no other God. In heaven above, on the earth beneath, anywhere you can imagine, there is no other.

In Deuteronomy 5 the commandments are rehearsed, the first of which is:

Deuteronomy 5:6 “‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 7 “‘You shall have no other gods before me.

No other gods are to be tolerated in the presence of the one true God, whose presence is everywhere. Then in chapter 6 we are told:

Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

YHWH is God alone. Therefore your love and affections must go to YHWH alone. No other god is worthy of your affections.

No Other God But One

The whole of scripture concurs that there is only one God.

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

From the very beginning, there is only one God. As we have seen, this is clear throughout the Torah. We see the same when we get to the time of the kings.

1 Samuel 2:2 “There is none holy like the LORD: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.

2 Samuel 22:32 “For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?

Solomon concludes his prayer dedicating the temple

1 Kings 8:60 that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God; there is no other. 61 Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the LORD our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day.”

2 Kings 19:15 And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD and said: “O LORD, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth.

When we get to the Psalms we see

Psalm 18:31 For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?

Psalm 86:8 There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours. …10 For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.

Psalm 95:3 For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.

The point is hammered home most persistently by the prophet Isaiah, who is warning God’s people, because their hearts are going astray after false gods.

Isaiah 42:8 I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.

Isaiah 43:10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. 11 I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior. 12 I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and I am God. 13 Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?”

God is the I AM, the self-existent one. He has no competitors. There is no god before him, and there will be no god after him.

Isaiah 44:6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. 7 Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. 8 Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.” 9 All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame.

There is no God besides the LORD. God asks ‘who is like me?’ There is no other being who shares his characteristics, who comes close to his perfections, who compares with his attributes. Who is like the LORD our God?

Isaiah 45:5 I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, 6 that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other. 7 I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.

Isaiah 45:18 For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): “I am the LORD, and there is no other.

…21 Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. 22 “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.

Isaiah 46:9 (remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me,

Even the great Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar recognized the uniqueness of Israel’s God.

Daniel 2:47 The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.”

Daniel 3:29 Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.”

The prophet Zechariah looks forward to the final days when:

Zechariah 14:9 And the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be one and his name one.

Our God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and no one compares to him.

One God in the New Testament

This is also the clear teaching of the New Testament. When Jesus was questioned about the greatest command, he responded:

Mark 12:29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

God is God alone, and the one God must be adored. Jesus said:

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

There is only one true God. There is exactly one God.

Paul teaches in Romans 3 that both Jews and non-Jews will be saved in exactly the same way. He argues from the universality of God.

Romans 3:29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.

Romans 10:12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.

Romans 16:27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

In Galatians 3 he says;

Galatians 3:20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.

Ephesians 4:5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

1 Timothy 1:17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

1 Timothy 6:15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

James 2:19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!

Jude :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.

There is exactly one God. No more, no less.

Other Gods?

Look back at Deuteronomy 6

Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

God says it often, that he alone is God. This is eminently practical, because it affects the way we live. We are warned in verse 12:

Deuteronomy 6:12 then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 13 It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. 14 You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— 15 for the LORD your God in your midst is a jealous God— lest the anger of the LORD your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.

No other gods are to be feared. No other gods are to be served. No other gods are to be followed. No other gods are worthy of any respect. YHWH is a jealous God. He will not tolerate divided allegiance. He alone must have our undivided devotion.

But what of these other gods? Isn’t there only one God? Why does it mention other gods if no other gods exist but one? What is there to be jealous of if there are no competitors?

Toward the end of Deuteronomy, in chapter 32, we are told

Deuteronomy 32:12 the LORD alone guided him, no foreign god was with him.

…15 “But Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked; you grew fat, stout, and sleek; then he forsook God who made him and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation. 16 They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods; with abominations they provoked him to anger. 17 They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently, whom your fathers had never dreaded. 18 You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth.

…21 They have made me jealous with what is no god; they have provoked me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are no people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.

…39 “‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

Here God contrasts himself with foreign gods, strange gods, which he calls ‘abominations’, ‘idols’ and ‘demons that were no gods’. Here we gain some insight that clears up the confusion of saying that there is no other God and yet referring to other gods. Those other gods are false gods, empowered by demons. With this Paul agrees. In 1 Corinthians 8-10, where he wrestles through the complex issue of whether it is permissible for a believer to eat food that had been sacrificed to idols.

1 Corinthians 8:4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

Idols are so-called gods. There is no God but one. Other gods have no real existence. But in chapter 10, at the conclusion of his argument, he says:

1 Corinthians 10:19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.

When people worship anyone or anything other than the one true God, they are participating with demons.

God is not jealous in the sense that he feels threatened. He is not afraid that another god will prove to be better that he and so he will lose his followers. God is jealous in that he loves us and knows what is best for us. If we are led astray to give our affections to another god who proves in the end to be a false god, our hopes are misplaced, and we will lose out in the end. God is jealous for us. He wants to protect us. This passage in Deuteronomy closes with this:

Deuteronomy 32:47 For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”

This issue is not merely academic. This is not an irrelevant piece of theology. This is intensely practical. This has implications for all of life, for what we do, for how we spend our time, for how we spend our money. We are worshiping beings. We were made to worship, and we worship all the time. Not merely Sunday mornings, but every day. The question is not if we will worship, but what we will worship, who we will worship. Is our worship directed toward the one true God, the eternal, immortal, invisible, self-existent one, or is it toward an image that we have created in our imagination, is it toward a created thing rather than the Creator of all things, who is blessed forever? That we understand God properly, that we recognize him for who he says he is, that we worship him alone, is no empty word, but our very life.

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

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

October 11, 2015 Posted by | Knowing God, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 8:4-6; One God and One Lord

02/23 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 One God and One Lord; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140223_1cor8_4-6.mp3

1 Corinthians 8 [SBLGNT]

1 Περὶ δὲ τῶν εἰδωλοθύτων, οἴδαμεν ὅτι πάντες γνῶσιν ἔχομεν. ἡ γνῶσις φυσιοῖ, ἡ δὲ ἀγάπη οἰκοδομεῖ. 2 εἴ τις δοκεῖ ἐγνωκέναι τι, οὔπω ἔγνω καθὼς δεῖ γνῶναι· 3 εἰ δέ τις ἀγαπᾷ τὸν θεόν, οὗτος ἔγνωσται ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ. 4 Περὶ τῆς βρώσεως οὖν τῶν εἰδωλοθύτων οἴδαμεν ὅτι οὐδὲν εἴδωλον ἐν κόσμῳ, καὶ ὅτι οὐδεὶς θεὸς εἰ μὴ εἷς. 5 καὶ γὰρ εἴπερ εἰσὶν λεγόμενοι θεοὶ εἴτε ἐν οὐρανῷ εἴτε ἐπὶ γῆς, ὥσπερ εἰσὶν θεοὶ πολλοὶ καὶ κύριοι πολλοί, 6 ἀλλ’ ἡμῖν εἷς θεὸς ὁ πατήρ, ἐξ οὗ τὰ πάντα καὶ ἡμεῖς εἰς αὐτόν, καὶ εἷς κύριος Ἰησοῦς Χριστός, δι’ οὗ τὰ πάντα καὶ ἡμεῖς δι’ αὐτοῦ.

1 Corinthians 8 [ESV2011]

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

Paul is building his case in chapters 8-10 against any participation in idolatry for the follower of Jesus. The Jerusalem decree was clear; Gentile believers were not obligated to conform to Jewish laws. They wrote:

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

Paul has already confronted issues of sexual immorality in this church. Now he delicately handles the issue of involvement in pagan idolatry. The Corinthians had built their case for Christian liberty something like this: “all of us possess knowledge” (v.1); and “an idol has no real existence” because “there is no God but one” (v.4), and we know that “food will not commend us to God” (v.8), therefore “all things are lawful” (10:23) so we have the right to eat whatever we want wherever we want.

Paul starts by pointing out the inadequacy of knowledge without love (8:1-3). Those who think they have arrived at complete knowledge have not yet even begun on the path to real knowledge. ‘Where pride is, is ignorance of God’ [Calvin]. In true knowledge, it is God who takes the first step. He knew us. He loved us and gave himself up for us. We respond in humility to his love by turning from self to love him and to love others.

No God But One

In verses 4-6 he affirms their claim that ‘an idol has no real existence’ and ‘there is no God but one’. In chapter 10 he will come back around to this issue, and point to the fact that although an idol is nothing, there are real demonic powers behind the pagan idols that we must not involve ourselves with. But at this point in his argument, he is willing to assent that an idol is nothing.

When Paul came to Athens,

Acts 17:16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.

…22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

…29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

Paul was clear to communicate that the true God who made everything is not like any image that anyone could ever dream up. He cannot be accurately represented by anything. He does not live in temples and he does not need anything. This is what got Paul in trouble in Ephesus.

Acts 19:24 For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. 25 These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. 26 And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. 27 And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.”

Paul’s reputation preceded him; that he turned people away from images saying that gods made with hands are no gods. The gods that people worshiped he counted as nothing.

This is in line with what God said repeatedly in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 41, God challenges the idols of the people

Isaiah 41:23 Tell us what is to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods; do good, or do harm, that we may be dismayed and terrified. 24 Behold, you are nothing, and your work is less than nothing; an abomination is he who chooses you.

God says to the idols ‘you are nothing, and your work is less than nothing.’ He displays their total inability to do good or to do harm. They are nothing. In chapter 44 he declares:

Isaiah 44:6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. 7 Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. 8 Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.” 9 All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. 10 Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? 11 Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. Let them all assemble, let them stand forth. They shall be terrified; they shall be put to shame together.

Besides me there is no god. Idols are profitable for nothing. He goes further to talk about the ones who fashion the idols and says they are nothing, and will be put to shame. In chapter 46, he says an idol is a heavy burden that cannot save itself or the one who carries it.

Isaiah 46:1 Bel bows down; Nebo stoops; their idols are on beasts and livestock; these things you carry are borne as burdens on weary beasts. 2 They stoop; they bow down together; they cannot save the burden, but themselves go into captivity. 3 “Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; 4 even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save. 5 “To whom will you liken me and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be alike? 6 Those who lavish gold from the purse, and weigh out silver in the scales, hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god; then they fall down and worship! 7 They lift it to their shoulders, they carry it, they set it in its place, and it stands there; it cannot move from its place. If one cries to it, it does not answer or save him from his trouble.

God is the one who made his people, who is faithful to carry his people, who will save his people. Idols are incapable of helping others or even moving themselves. Jeremiah says the same:

Jeremiah 10:3 for the customs of the peoples are vanity. A tree from the forest is cut down and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman. 4 They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so that it cannot move. 5 Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried, for they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, neither is it in them to do good.” 6 There is none like you, O LORD; you are great, and your name is great in might. 7 Who would not fear you, O King of the nations? For this is your due; for among all the wise ones of the nations and in all their kingdoms there is none like you.

Jeremiah tells us not to fear idols for they cannot do evil, and it is not in them to do good. Only the true God is to be feared. All glory belongs to God alone. Psalm 115 says:

Psalm 115:1 Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! 2 Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” 3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. 4 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. 5 They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. 6 They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. 7 They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. 8 Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.

The psalmist paints a picture of total nothingness, total inability. Idols cannot speak, cannot see, cannot hear, cannot smell, cannot feel, cannot walk, they cannot even make a sound. And he insults those who make them and those who trust in them. Those who make them, anyone who trusts in them will become like them, incompetent, impotent, worthless, useless.

Mocking The False Gods and their Prophets

Did you notice the tone of these passages? We have this mistaken notion that we owe it to everyone to be nice to them and to not offend anyone. What God says in these passages is downright offensive. God calls all who fashion idols ‘nothing’, and he calls anyone who chooses to worship a false god an ‘abomination’. That’s not very nice. Demetrius didn’t think it was nice when Paul said that the idols he made his living by were no gods. He was offended, his business was hurt, and he started a riot. I don’t know of anywhere in the bible that we are told to be nice to everybody and not to offend anyone. We are told to love. We are told to do to others what we would have them do to us. And if my house is on fire, I would have you yell and scream and throw rocks through my window and break down my door and wake me up and get me out of there. I don’t think it is loving to see someone who is following a false god that will lead them to hell and not try to wake them up and tell them that their house is on fire. Elijah was not very gentle with the people who were following false gods in his day.

1 Kings 18:21 And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.

Elijah challenged the false prophets to prove their claims.

26 And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. 27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” 28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.

Elijah mocked the false gods and the false prophets of that false god. He asked them if their god was sleeping and they should shout louder to wake him, maybe he was busy thinking, maybe he took a vacation, maybe he was on the toilet. That’s not very respectful, but a false god who is no god but leads people astray from the true God does not deserve any respect. Paul refers to the things people follow and calls them ‘so called’ gods, things people give devotion to that are not worthy of it, things people trust in and serve and pursue that are impotent to give anything back.

Christian Monotheism

There are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’ so called, yet for us there is only one God. Deuteronomy 6 says:

Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

…13 It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. 14 You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— 15 for the LORD your God in your midst is a jealous God— lest the anger of the LORD your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.

Deuteronomy 6:4; the ‘Shema’ was what every good Jewish girl and boy was brought up on. Sh’ma Yis’ra’eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad. Hear, Israel, YHWH is our God, YHWH is One. Saul was passionately monotheistic. Saul was persecuting followers of Jesus because they claimed that Jesus was God and there is only one God. That is until Saul was knocked to the ground by a blazing light from heaven.

Acts 9:5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

Saul, now Paul, still unwaveringly monotheistic, learns that Jesus is YHWH, the Lord. Here, writing to the Corinthians, Paul interprets the Shema with a Christian lens. ‘The Lord our God, the Lord is one’; he says ‘for us there is one God, the Father and one Lord, Jesus Christ’. There is no question that in Paul’s understanding, there is no other God but one. There is only one supreme being in the universe. The Father is that supreme being, and Jesus Christ is that supreme being. Two distinct persons, not confusing the Father with the Son, yet not two gods but one Supreme self-existent God. ‘For us there is one God, the Father and one Lord, Jesus Christ’. This reminds us of Isaiah 44:6

Isaiah 44:6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.

YHWH the King and YHWH his Redeemer. The King and his Redeemer together say ‘besides me there is no god’.

Jesus himself pushed the Jews to examine their conception of God, challenging them from their own scriptures.

Matthew 22:41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, 44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’ [Ps.110:1]? 45 If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” 46 And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

Jesus asks, ‘if the promised Messiah is merely a human son of David, then why does King David call him ‘my Lord’? This promised Messiah is to be more than a man; he is the Son of God. Notice Jesus brings in the Spirit. David, in the Spirit calls him Lord. The Psalmist, inspired by God the Holy Spirit, writes YHWH [the Father] said to Adon [the Son] ‘sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet’.

Ephesians 4 says:

Ephesians 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

One Spirit, one Lord, one God and Father of all.

1 Corinthians 12:4 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.

Out Of, Into, Through

The Father, the Son, and the Spirit, eternally distinct personalities within the one being of God. One God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ. Paul describes unique and distinct roles to the Father and the Son. Literally it reads ‘one God, the Father, out of whom all things and we into him, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things and we through him.’

The Father is the origin and destiny of all things. He is the source and goal. All things, all things, everything that exists finds its cause, finds its design in God the Father, and we find our purpose in him. We are to him. We exist for him. We belong in him. All things flow out of him, and our purpose is in him.

The Son is the means through whom all creation and redemption come. All things are through our Lord Jesus Christ. Colossians 1 says of the beloved Son

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

All things seen and unseen, physical and spiritual, were brought into being through him and to him. He is the agent through whom all things were made. Jesus is the means of all creation, and Jesus is the means of our redemption. We through him. Colossians again puts it this way:

Colossians 1:14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. …19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,

Jesus, the Son, is the one who made all things, and who rescues his sheep. It is distinctly the work of the Son to be the substitute for sinners. It is through the blood of his cross that Jesus brings us stray sheep back into a right relationship with his Father.

Of the triune God, Paul says in Romans

Romans 11:36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

There is only one God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ. Everything finds its origin and destiny in this one God. All creation and our redemption come through our one Lord Jesus. It is to this one God that we owe all our allegiance. This one God is a jealous God who will not share his glory with another. For our authentic happiness, for our eternal good, for our unquenchable joy, he demands that we not go after idols which are empty and worthless nothings, burdens that cannot save, false gods that will take and take and give nothing back. Our God is the one who needs nothing and offers us everything freely to enjoy. Outside of him is nothing. Everything, everything we need originates in him, comes through him, and resounds back to him in glorious praise. 

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

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

1 Corinthians 8:1-3; Love and Knowledge

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

1 Corinthians 8 [SBLGNT]

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

1 Corinthians 8 [ESV2011]

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

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

Cultural Background

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

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

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

Theological Background

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

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

When God gave his commandments to his people he said:

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

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

Historical Background

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

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

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

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

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

Flow of Argument

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

Knowledge

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colossians 1:9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus was clear on this. He said:

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

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

Inflating Self or Building Others

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

Know that You Don’t Know

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

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

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

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

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

Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”

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

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

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

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

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

Known By God

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

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

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

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

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

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

For God to know us is sheer undeserved mercy.

Ephesians 2:3 … were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—

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

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

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

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

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

Disciple-Making Disciples: Teach about God

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110109_teach_about_god

01/09 Make Disciples: Teach about God

Jesus made some astonishing claims. He claimed that everything was all about him. He claimed to be the fulfillment of all prophetic scripture, that all history revolved around him. He claimed an unique relationship to God as one of a kind Son of the Father. He claimed a kind of authority that only God could possess. He claimed to be distinct from the rest of humanity, in a class absolutely by himself

And he demanded unquestioning allegiance from his followers. He demanded that we put him in first place far above every other priority or responsibility. He demanded to be loved and honored as God. And he entrusted to us the great privilege and responsibility of calling others to follow him. He puts it this way:

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

We – all of us who claim to follow Jesus – are called by Jesus to be disciple-making disciples. What does that mean? What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? According to Jesus, a disciple is one who is immersed into the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and taught to obey everything Jesus commanded. If I am to be a disciple-making disciple of our Lord Jesus, then I am to pass on information, character and passion that will translate into a transformed life. So here’s the question: What exactly am I to pass on? What is the information, what is the character, what is the passion that I am to have and to pass on to other would-be followers of Jesus? What is the conviction, the character and the content that needs to be contagious in my life? Today we will focus on the bedrock foundation in the life of a disciple of Jesus that will provide the unshakeable basis for everything else that we will build on it.

So what did Jesus command his disciples? What is the content of the teaching that we are to pass on to future generations of disciples?

A Word to Superficial Religious People

Much of what Jesus taught was to correct distorted views of God. The religious people of his day thought they understood God and related to him in a proper way. They thought the were following the scriptures, but Jesus challenged their thinking and confronted their hypocrisy. He said:

Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus then proceeded to tell the people in what ways the religious leaders fell short. Keeping the letter of the outward commands like ‘thou shalt not murder’ and ‘thou shalt not commit adultery’ was not enough; these commands were not merely prohibiting the external act, but had implications on the heart – the thoughts and intents like hatred and lust. Jesus demands that we love not only our neighbor, but even our enemy and those who persecute us because it is the character of God to extend his common grace to both the good and the wicked. Jesus cautions about practicing righteousness publicly – giving and praying and fasting in such a way that we seek to impress those around us. He warns about the spiritual dangers of treasuring anything outside of God and having divided affections. He warns us not to point out flaws in others while overlooking our own character defects. He invites us to ask because God is good and loves to give good gifts to whoever asks. Jesus warns that the way to destruction is wide and easy and many go there. The way to life is hard and narrow and few go there. He warns of the diseased fruit of false teachers who pretend at outward religion but have no heart transformation. He warns that many who claim the name of Jesus and do great deeds in his name have no real relationship with him and will be told ‘I never knew you; depart from me you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matt.7:23). In fact, Jesus not only warned his followers of the dangers of superficial religion, but he confronted those who were involved in it. He said some severe things like:

Matthew 23:13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. 16 “Woe to you, blind guides, … 17 You blind fools! … 19 You blind men! … 23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! 25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self–indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. … 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?

Harsh, huh? That’s Jesus. He had some severe things to say to those who pretended to be religious leaders and didn’t have any real relationship with God. The stakes were too high to be soft with them. They misrepresented God for their own personal gain and led others down the path to destruction. So Jesus frankly tells them where they are headed and calls them to repent and warns us not to be deceived by them. Jesus steers us back to the path by telling us what God is really like. He is not impressed with outward show. He sees the heart. Jesus tells us that a real relationship – knowing the only true God – is the only path to eternal life.

Knowing God

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

So if knowing God is the definition of eternal life, then it is critical that we have a true understanding of who God is. And Jesus has a lot to say about his Father. In fact, Jesus claims exclusive right to tell us what the Father is like.

Matthew 11:27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Luke 10:22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

John 1:18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father‘s side, he has made him known.

John 5:37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen,

John 6:46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.

Here are some of the things that Jesus tells us about his Father. Jesus said that God is the Creator (Mk.10:6; 13:19). God is the one who controls the solar system and the weather (Mt.5:45). God is the giver of life (Jn.5:21, 26). God deserves all the glory and worship (Mt.4;10; 5:16; 6:9; Lk.4:8; 11:2; Jn.4:21-23, 5:23; 12:28; 13:31-32; 14:13; 15:8; 17:1). He is to be loved with all the heart, soul, mind and strength (Mk.12:30; Lk.10:27). God is eternal (Jn.17:5, 24). God is spirit and by nature invisible (Jn.1:18; 4:24; 5:37; 6:46). He sees everything – even what is done in secret (Mt.6:4-6, 18). He knows everything (Mt.6:8, 32; Lk.12:30 16:15). He is Lord of heaven and earth (Mt.11:25, Lk.10:21). He commands all the angels (Mt.26:53). God owns everything (Mt.22:21). He is able to do everything (Mk.14:36; Lk.3:8). He is all-powerful (Mt.22:29; Lk.1:37; 18:27). He is even concerned with little birds (Mt.10:29; Lk.12:6, 24). God is true (Jn.3:33). He is righteous and just (Mt.6:33; Lk.7:29). He is perfect (Mt.5:48). He is merciful (Lk.6:36). He is the giver of all good things (Lk.11:13; 12:32; Jn.4:10; 6:32;). He is full of compassion and forgiveness (Lk.15:20-22). God is love (Jn.3:16; 5:20; 15:9; 16:27; 17:24). God alone is good (Mk.10:18; Lk.18:19).

These are some of the things Jesus said about his Father. If eternal life is all about knowing God, and Jesus claims to be the exclusive authority on God, then we should listen to what he says.

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

What Jesus Says About Himself

The stunning thing here is Jesus includes himself. Eternal life is knowing God and knowing Jesus Christ. For any mere man to put himself on that level would sound absurd. If I were to say ‘This is what eternal life is all about – you need to know the only true God, and you need to know me, Rodney, the anointed one, sent by God’ – I hope you would do more than squirm in your seats. I hope you wouldn’t all nod politely and drift off back to sleep. To put yourself in the same sentence with God is startling, offensive and blasphemous. But that’s what Jesus did. You need to know God and you need to know me.

But Jesus goes even farther than this. He identifies himself completely with the Father.

John 14:7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? …11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

In fact he went so far as to say:

John 10:30 I and the Father are one.”

The Jews perceived in John 5:18 that he was ‘making himself equal with God’. In verse 23 He demanded the same honor that was to be given to God.

John 5:23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.

Jesus put himself on the same level with God, he claimed to be equal with God, he demanded the same honor as God, and he demanded that we believe that he is all that.

John 8:23 He said to them, “… I am from above. … I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

What Jesus Says About The Holy Spirit:

If we stopped here, the picture we have of what Jesus taught us about God would be incomplete. Jesus talked much about his Father. He talked much about himself. And he talked much about the Spirit of God. Jesus was said to have been conceived by the Holy Spirit (Mt.1:18-20; Lk.1:35 ). John said Jesus would baptize us with the Holy Spirit (Mt.3:11; Mk.1:8; Lk.3:16; Jn.1:33). God’s Spirit descended upon Jesus at his baptism (Mt.3:16, 12:18; Mk.1:10; Lk.3:22; Jn.1:32). Jesus was led by the Spirit (Mt.4:1; Mk.1:12; Lk.4:1, 14, 18) and claimed to do miracles by the Spirit of God (Mt.12:28) and he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit (Lk.10:21).

Jesus considered the Holy Spirit to be God. Speaking against the Holy Spirit was blasphemy (Mt.12:31-32; Mk.3:29; Lk.12:10). Jesus considered the Holy Spirit to be the one who authored the Scriptures (Mk.12:36), and he would be the one to speak through the apostles (Mk.13:11; Lk.12:12). Jesus taught that the Spirit would give new birth. (Jn.3:5-8, 6:63). Jesus said that the Father would give the Holy Spirit to those who asked (Lk.11:13; Jn.7:39, 20:22)

When Jesus told his disciples that he would not be with them much longer, they were grieved. He encouraged them by pointing them to the Holy Spirit.

John 14:15 “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. 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

John 14:25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

John 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

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. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. 12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 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.

Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would be the one who would equip his disciples with the ability to make disciples.

Luke 24:49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Acts 1:4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” …8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Jesus Taught that there is only One God

Jesus clearly taught that there is only one God. When asked what is the first and greatest commandment, Jesus answered:

Mark 12:29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

When Jesus claimed to be God, we don’t hear him say ‘I and the Father are the two’. Rather, he says ‘I and the Father are one’ (Jn.10:30)

Jesus commanded that we immerse in the one Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Mt.28:19)

Conclusion

If we call ourselves disciples of Jesus, and we want to teach others to follow Jesus, then we need to understand what Jesus taught, especially about God. Jesus taught that God is by nature spirit – invisible. He taught that God is eternal, that he is the Creator and life-giver, that he has all power, is present everywhere, knows everything, that he is worthy of all our affections and all our worship. Jesus taught that there is only one God, and that God exists in the person of the Father, the person of the Son, and the person of the Holy Spirit.

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


January 9, 2011 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 7:1-7; See, I Have Made You God

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20101010_exodus07_1-7.mp3

10/10 Exodus 7:1-7 God to Pharaoh

Introduction

We are at the climax of the exodus story. God is about to unleash his mighty acts of judgment against the gods of Egypt. And just before this most intense action sequence unfolds, we have a genealogy outlining who Aaron was, where he came from, and where his descendants were going. He was from the tribe of Levi, the tribe who would serve as priests of God, and his grandson Phinehas would be zealous for the honor of the Lord and take action when others were standing idly by.

6:26 These are the Aaron and Moses to whom the LORD said: “Bring out the people of Israel from the land of Egypt by their hosts.” 27 It was they who spoke to Pharaoh king of Egypt about bringing out the people of Israel from Egypt, this Moses and this Aaron. 28 On the day when the LORD spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt, 29 the LORD said to Moses, “I am the LORD; tell Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I say to you.” 30 But Moses said to the LORD, “Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips. How will Pharaoh listen to me?”

7:1 And the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. 2 You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land. 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, 4 Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. 5 The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” 6 Moses and Aaron did so; they did just as the LORD commanded them. 7 Now Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron eighty-three years old, when they spoke to Pharaoh.

See I have made you God to Pharaoh

Moses is sniveling again, questioning God, complaining that the plan won’t work, that he is inadequate for the task. So far he’s been a failure. God’s own people won’t even listen to him. Pharaoh will have no reason to pay any attention to what he says. Moses confesses that he is morally unqualified to speak God’s words. This is when God announces: ‘look, I have made you God to Pharaoh’. This is an amazing declaration. You have asked ‘who am I that I should go?’ You feel inadequate and incompetent and unqualified? God says ‘I will grant you to be God to Pharaoh’. Our translators have softened this by inserting the word ‘like’. But there is no ‘like’ or ‘as’ in the original. Our translators are afraid we might run with a passage like this and use it to argue that men can become gods.

Only One God

The bible is clear as can be that there is only one God, one uncreated Creator, independent and sovereign over all that is.

Deuteronomy 4:35 To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him. …39 know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.

Isaiah 45:5 I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, 6 that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other. 7 I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.

Isaiah 45:18 For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): “I am the LORD, and there is no other.

Isaiah 45:21 …And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. 22 “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.

Isaiah 46:9 remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

1 Corinthians 8:6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

Ephesians 4:6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

These are just a few of the very clear statements in scripture plainly stating that there is only one God. The bible is monotheistic from cover to cover. There is and can be only one supreme being. Then what do we do with a passage like this, where God says ‘I will make you God to Pharaoh’? Certainly we can’t make the leap to say that Moses suddenly became an eternal sinless independent supreme being. That is nonsense. To understand this passage correctly we need to put it in the context of the whole bible. We need to look backward and forward.

God’s Purpose in Creation

We need to look all the way back to God’s purpose in creation.

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Man is unique in creation. Of no other created being is it said that they were created in his image and likeness. We were created to be a reflection of the invisible God, to put the unseen creator on display to his creation. Man was created in the God-like image of ruling – having dominion over every other created thing. We are designed to display God’s character and nature to the rest of creation.

Psalm 8: 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? 5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. 6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, 7 all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, 8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

This is the reason given for the severe consequence for killing a man as opposed to killing a plant or an animal or a bird or a fish.

Genesis 9:6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.

Murder (and James 3:9 says even slander) defaces God’s image. We have been crowned with glory and honor and given dominion. And from the garden on we have done a stupendous job of botching our purpose as image-bearers. Rather than being content with reflecting God to others, we wanted to be out from under the sovereign thumb of our Creator and be the master of our own destiny. We wanted to be autonomous like God. We wanted to create our own reality and take up the right to decide for ourselves what was good and what was evil, rather than submitting to God’s right to rule and reflecting his good and wise and loving care for his creation.

We look back to God’s purpose in creating us as image-bearers of his character and nature, ruling everything entrusted to us with wisdom and love and care, and we see how we have distorted this image by our rebellion against him.

Man’s Purpose Fulfilled in Jesus

Now we need to look forward to Jesus, to see how our purpose is perfectly fulfilled and ultimately restored in the one God-man.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. …14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,

2 Corinthians 4:4 … seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. …6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

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

Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, has put the nature and character of his own essence as God on display in a visible tangible way that is the crowning pinnacle of God’s revelation to us.

Jesus Restores Image-bearing role to Fallen Humanity

But not only did Jesus perfectly fulfill the role of man as image-bearer of God, but he restores that role to fallen humanity.

1 Corinthians 15:49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Romans 8:29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Colossians 3:10 …put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

In Jesus we become a new creation and are restored to our original image-bearing purpose.

How does this all relate to Moses? God said “see, I have made you God to Pharaoh”. God has placed Moses in a role as his image-bearer to this pagan king. Moses is to represent God to Pharaoh. Indeed, Moses is the voice of God to Pharaoh. Moses speaks with the authority of God. Moses will bring God’s mighty acts of judgment crashing down on Pharaoh’s head, and through this interaction, Pharaoh will get a taste of what God is like. Ironically, Pharaoh believed himself to be the incarnation of some of the most powerful gods of Egypt. Moses, the shepherd from the wilderness, and leader of the slave-people, armed with nothing but his shepherd’s staff, would beat the Pharaoh at his own game. The humble shepherd shows himself a more powerful god than the most powerful monarch in the world.

In this way, Moses foreshadowed Jesus, the true God-man, who faithfully represented God to man. Moses also foreshadows our role as Christians, restored by Jesus’ work on the cross to our created role as image-bearers of God. We are to put God on display to those around us.

Our Image-bearing Role

Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 5:17 to see this role spelled out for the believer:

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

6:1 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 3 We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; 7 by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8 through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

We all are new creations in Christ. God has restored in us the creation mandate to be his representatives to the watching world. God has reconciled us to himself through the cross of Christ, and has entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation. We have been commissioned as ambassadors for Christ. You and I are to be God to the world around us. We are to be living reflections of God’s holy character and nature. We are to speak with God’s absolute authority. We are to warn of the dangers of neglecting God’s grace. We are to remove any obstacles out of the way and by our own character put the glory of God on display.

The exodus was a lesson to Moses that he could not accomplish anything in his own strength. God did not expect him to accomplish anything. God is the main actor – God will harden Pharaoh’s heart. God will multiply his signs and wonders. God will lay his hand on Egypt and bring his people out by great acts of judgment. God will stretch out his hand against Egypt. What God required of Moses was simply to ‘speak all that I command you’.

7:1 And the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. 2 You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land. 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, 4 Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. 5 The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” 6 Moses and Aaron did so; they did just as the LORD commanded them. 7 Now Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron eighty-three years old, when they spoke to Pharaoh.

You shall speak all that I command you. Moses and Aaron did so. They did just as the LORD commanded them. Simple trust. Simple obedience. It was God’s promise that through this the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD. This is what Jesus demanded of his followers. Do not act in your own strength. Wait for the promise of the Father.

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

The Apostle John sums up our role as ambassadors this way:

1 John 4:12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

By our love, and we love because he first loved us, we put the unseen God of love on display. God is making his appeal through us to the world – be reconciled to God.

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

October 10, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment