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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 5:18-21; God’s Reconciling Work

02/10_2 Corinthians 5:18-21; God’s Reconciling Work ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20190210_2cor5_18-21.mp3

2 Corinthians 5:18 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.

Intro: Regeneration, Justification, Reconciliation

This passage is about reconciliation. Reconciliation is a key biblical concept. In fact this section at the end of 2 Corinthians 5 is rich in the massive bedrock truths of the gospel.

Verse 17, which we looked at last week, points to the new creation, which includes us being part of that new creation through regeneration or new birth.

Verses 14, 19, and 21 point us to substitution; that Christ died for us, in our place, and in him we died, so that he no longer counts our trespasses against us; instead he credits us with his own perfect righteousness. We looked at verse 14 three weeks ago, and I hope to spend more time savoring the truths of verse 21 together next week.

Verses 18-20 is one of the key passages in the bible on reconciliation, and that’s what I hope to unpack and celebrate together today. All these foundation truths are interwoven together in this rich passage.

2 Corinthians 5:17 new creation/new birth/regeneration

2 Corinthians 5:14, 19, 21 justification/substitution/imputation

2 Corinthians 5:18-20 reconciliation

All This is From God

Verse 18 begins ‘now all this is from (lit. out of) God. So we should ask ‘All what?’ This points us back to the previous verses.

2 Corinthians 5:14 …the love of Christ … that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. …17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, …new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

All this is from God. God’s love, that one died for all. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”(Rom.5:8). Substitution, justification, all this is rooted in God’s love, put on display in Christ. Christ died for us, his death was our death; we died in him. All this is from God.

Now those who are in Christ are instances of new creation. The new creation has broken into this old one. We have become part of the “…new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2Pet.3:13). The new birth, regeneration, new creation is all of God. God is the creator, the grand architect. ‘…God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give …light’ (2Cor.4:6).

All this is from God. All this originates in God. All this has its source in God. This is God’s action, God’s activity. God is the one who sent his only Son to take my name and die my death. God is the one who unites me to Christ. God is the one who justifies me, who puts my sin on his Son, who considers the old me to have died with Christ as the wages of my sin. God is the one who creates me new in Christ, who regenerates me, who ‘has caused us to be born again’ (1Pet.1:3). God is the one who brings about substitution, justification, new creation, reconciliation. All this is from God. Paul wants us to know that all this is God’s work, and God’s alone.

Reconciliation is Personal

God has reconciled us to himself through Christ. Reconciliation is a relationship term. Reconciliation assumes the personality of God. It tells us first of all that God is a personal being; he can know and be known; he can enter into relationships, and he desires a relationship with us.

Reconciliation Overcomes Hostility

Reconciliation also assumes that something is wrong in the relationship. The need to be reconciled assumes enemy status; reconciling means changing hostility or animosity or enmity into friendship. In the beginning, God created all things very good, and he walked with man in the garden, enjoying fellowship. But sin destroyed that relationship; we destroyed God’s good created order. We refused to submit to his benevolent rule and took the authority to ourselves. We questioned his character, dishonored his good name, and transgressed his good command. We committed high treason, bringing death and the curse into his good creation. And so we had to be put out of his good presence. No more walks with God in the cool of the day. We deserved to die. We became children of wrath, allied with the serpent. We became God’s enemies. And God became our enemy.

Colossians 1 describes our relationship:

Colossians 1:21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,

Alienated. There was that in us that estranged us from God; that severed our relationship with him, as Isaiah describes our situation:

Isaiah 59:2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

James puts it in even more intimate relational terms; he says we violated our covenant relationship; we slept around.

James 4:4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

To align ourselves with this world system is to become God’s enemy.

Ephesians 2 puts it more in terms of our ejection from God’s presence:

Ephesians 2:11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, … 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

Reconciliation Overcomes Inability

Separated from Christ… alienated… strangers… having no hope and without God in the world. This is the kind of situation that requires reconciliation. But it also describes our powerlessness to remedy the relationship. We had no hope. We couldn’t fix the damage we had created. A simple ‘sorry’ wouldn’t do. Reparations had to be paid, but the wages of sin is death, and if death is defined as separation from God, then that doesn’t leave us any options for reconciling ourselves to God.

There was nothing we could do to effect reconciliation, to actually make it right, to fix the relationship. Only once is this word ‘reconcile’ used in the New Testament to describe something between people, in 1 Corinthians 7, where a wife who separates from her husband is told to remain single or be reconciled to her husband. Every time this word is used in the context of our relationship to God, it is God who is active, bringing about the reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself

God through Christ reconciled us to himself. All this is from God. Reconciliation is rooted in God’s desire to be reconciled to us, his creation. Reconciliation comes about through the finished work of Christ.

Reconciliation is Built on Justification

Romans 5 in many ways overlaps with our passage in 2 Corinthians. Romans 5:6-10 describes us as weak, ungodly, still sinners, enemies. We were God’s enemies.

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Paul in Romans 5 describes the work God performed to accomplish our reconciliation as our being ‘justified by his blood’ and ‘saved by him from God’s wrath’. We transgressed, we slept around, and God is justly angry, his wrath is hot. Justification is the verdict of not guilty. Justification is more than forgiveness. Forgiveness says that the judge finds you guilty but he shows mercy. He releases you from the debt. You are a condemned criminal, and an unpunished criminal. You have been released from your debt. Justification goes further. Justification tries you in court, and there is no evidence to convict you. Your name is cleared. You walk free, not as a forgiven criminal, but as righteous. This can only happen because of the great exchange. Christ stepped forward and took my name. He took my guilt, my punishment. He died in my place. And the guilty me died with him. Now I bear his name, a perfect name. I stand spotless, clean, justified before him, tried and found innocent; fully cleared.

Reconciliation is built on justification and substitution. The adulterous me was executed. That is what we saw in 2 Corinthians 5:14; that because Jesus died in my place, I am considered dead. This is what we see in 2 Corinthians 5:21;

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

There is so much more to say about that one verse (and I plan to spend more time on it next week), but for now notice that it is the foundation of our reconciliation. It is what God did to reconcile us to himself. It is what God did to remedy our sin problem. He put our sin on Christ, and he puts Christ’s righteousness on us.

Reconciliation Requires Imputation

In verse 19 he puts it this way; God was ‘not counting their trespasses against them.’ The word ‘count’ is an accounting term; to reckon, count, consider, or credit, to impute; its a balancing the books term. Paul uses it this way in Romans 4.

Romans 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.

How does your employer expense payroll? Does he take a tax deduction for your wages, saying it was a charitable donation? No, that would get him in trouble with the IRS. You worked, and he owes you your wages. They have to be counted as wages, not as a gift.

Romans 4:5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

God credits or accounts righteousness to the one who was not righteous as a gift, received by faith. A righteousness that wasn’t earned can’t be counted as wages. It has to be counted as a generous gift. He goes on:

Romans 4:6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

This connects back to 2 Corinthians 5:19

2 Corinthians 5:19 that is, in Christ God was …not counting their trespasses against them,

Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin. But our trespasses do stand against us. They show up on our record. How can God not count our trespasses against us? This is where verse 21 comes in; God reckoned or imputed, credited our sins to Christ’s account.

The transfer of my sins to Christ’s account and the transfer of Christ’s righteousness to my account is what makes it possible for me to be reconciled to God. As Romans 5 puts it ‘being enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son; through him we have now received reconciliation.’ We receive reconciliation as a gift, bought for us by the death of God’s only Son. ‘Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (Rom.5:1). Our reconciliation, our peace with God is rooted in justification, God’s crediting or imputing a righteousness to us that was not ours.

Active and Passive Reconciliation

And notice that this reconciliation is presented to us as a completed action. It came from God, he accomplished it through Christ, he reconciled us to himself.

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;

God through Christ completed the work of reconciliation at the cross.

God is still active in reconciling the world to himself.

2 Corinthians 5:19 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.

This can’t mean a universal salvation as some attempt to read it. Reconciling the world cannot mean every individual is reconciled whether they like it or not; that makes nonsense of the text. Paul refers to ‘the reconciliation of the world’ in Romans 11:15 in response to the rejection of Israel, meaning that the gospel is now going global, not just among the Jews. It is only those who are in Christ, Jew or Gentile, only those who believe against whom the Lord does not count their trespasses. This is why the word, the message of reconciliation was entrusted to the apostles.

2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

This is a word for the world! God has done the work of reconciliation. All this is from God. It is all of grace. God is active in reconciling. We are commanded here not to reconcile, but to be reconciled; we are passive – receiving by faith God’s reconciling work. Or in the language of Romans 5:11 ‘through Christ we have received reconciliation.’ ‘Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

‘We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.’ Are you? Are you enjoying relationship with this personal God? Have you received by faith his finished reconciling work? Are you blessed, because the Lord no longer counts your sins against you? If you will only acknowledge your need, cry out to him in simple trust, he will reconcile you to himself; and you too will be entrusted with the message of reconciliation for the world! ‘We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.’

***

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

February 11, 2019 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Darkness Before The Light

12/09 The Darkness Before the Light; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20181209_darkness-before-light.mp3

<<Griswold Christmas Lights (23 sec short clean version)>>

Christmas lights. Why are Christmas lights a thing? Why is there a whole aisle of just Christmas lights? We put them on our houses, on our trees, around our windows and doorways, all down main street, little twinkly Christmas lights everywhere. Why?

Here’s some verses in Luke that help us understand why. Zechariah prophesied over his son John:

Luke 1:76-79 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Matthew, in chapter 4, quotes the prophecy in Isaiah 9:1-2.

Matthew 4:15-16 15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”

We are enamored by lights shining in the darkness, at least in part because it is an echo in our souls of our hope for a light to overcome the darkness. When you see all those twinkly lights this time of year, remember that there is a longing in every human soul for a light that will overcome our darkness.

Jesus came to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death; the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region of the shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.

Deep Darkness in the World

This longing goes all the way back to the beginning

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.

There’s this theme of darkness and light throughout the bible. God overcame the darkness at creation by his Spirit, by his Word. The light, he said, was good.

Already by chapter 3, man sinned and went his own way, and he hid from the light of God’s presence in the shadows of the garden.

Ever since, there has been this tension between the light and the darkness.

Darkness Linked with Death

Did you notice in those verses in Matthew and Luke that ‘darkness’ is synonymous with ‘the shadow of death’?

Luke 1:79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Matthew 4:16 the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”

The wages of sin is death. Because we are sinners, death looms over our entire lives. We live under the shadow of death. You never know. None of us know how long we have. We often distract ourselves from this reality – until some crisis or event crashes in and shatters our delusion, snapping us back to the reality that we are mortal. We are finite. Every moment, every breath is a gift. We live under a dark cloud. We dwell in a land of deep darkness. We sit in the shadow of death. Hence this longing in every heart for the light, to be out from the shadow, to see light overcome the darkness.

Blind To The Darkness

But before the light can be appreciated, welcomed, received, the darkness must be felt. This was the problem of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, and it remains a problem for many in our day.

We live in denial. We refuse to believe that it’s really all that bad. We refuses to see the darkness.

We might agree and say ‘Yeah, it’s a really dark place out there. There’s really bad people doing horrible things and they need Jesus.’ If that’s what your find yourself saying, be careful, you might completely miss the meaning of Christmas. You might completely miss it and miss out. You see, Jesus came to be the light in a dark place. He entered in to the darkness. If you are saying ‘those people over there really need the light of Jesus’ you are putting yourself into a different category. ‘What they are doing over there, that’s really dark. But not me. I’m not in the dark. I can see just fine.’ Be careful, you are saying ‘I don’t need Jesus.’

Jesus was not very kind to hypocrites and finger pointers. He had sharp words for those who looked down on others and thought too highly of themselves.

John 9:39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.

The worst kind of blindness is when you think you can see and refuse the gift of sight that is offered to you. Jesus came to offer sight to the blind, but those that deny that they are blind refuse to receive his healing.

You see, it’s not just dark out there. It’s dark in here. It’s dark inside, in me. My heart is the problem. My heart is dark. I need Jesus.

Reaction to Light; Rejection and Hatred

We don’t often notice just how dark it is until the light gets turned on. Our eyes adjust. We get used to the dark. We get comfortable in the dark. You’ve been in a room that slowly gets darker and darker and you don’t notice it, until someone walks in and flips a light switch and bam! Blazing light! What’s your reaction? Turn it off! Turn it off! It hurts! I was comfortable in the dark.

We all have this deep longing in our hearts for light to overcome the darkness, and Jesus is the light of the world, but there is always a reaction when the light gets turned on.

We looked last time at John 1, where Jesus the eternal Word, who was with God in the beginning and who was God, became human and entered our world. We are told of Jesus in verse 4:

John 1:4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. …7 [John] came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

You see, Jesus coming into the world as light says something about the world. It says something offensive about me. Jesus the light coming into the world says that the world is a dark place. And it is a dark place because it is made up of sinners dwelling in deep darkness. The world is a dark place because my heart is dark. This is offensive. I don’t like to be told that my heart is wicked. That my heart is deceitful. I don’t like to be told that I’m blind, that I’m living in utter darkness. That’s offensive.

We looked last time at John 3:16, where God gave us his only Son. John 3:19 says

John 3:19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

We are not just in the dark. We love the dark. We have this love affair with darkness. We are ashamed and afraid and we don’t want to be exposed, so we hide in the shadows. We don’t want anyone to see what we are really like. We know we don’t measure up.

Do you see what this is saying? The light has come into the world; Jesus has come into the world. And we love the darkness and hate the light. We hate Jesus. ‘Whoa! That sounds harsh. I don’t know if I would say it like that.’ Jesus says it exactly like that. ‘I wouldn’t say I hate Jesus; I respect him as a great man, a great teacher, a prophet.’ You can’t say that. As C.S. Lewis said, ‘he has not left that option open to us.’ He claimed to be God. “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic …or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. …you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” [Mere Christianity]. Jesus divides. You are either for him or against him. You either hate him or you fall at his feet and worship him. You can claim to respect him as a great man, but that’s not being intellectually honest. If you believe in him, you must receive him completely, as he is, everything he says. And that includes some really painful things to swallow. Receiving him as the light of the world means confessing that my heart is dark, wicked, desperately wicked.

Jesus The Exclusive Light of the World

Notice, Jesus says the light has come into the world, the true light.

John 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 12:46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.

Jesus does not claim to be a light in the world, one among many. He is the light – the only true light of the world. Jesus is exclusive. You follow Jesus or you are in darkness.

Jesus Only; Not Jesus Plus

In Matthew 17, some of Jesus’ disciples got a glimpse of his glory.

Matthew 17:1 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail th’ incarnate deity, pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus our Immanuel.” [Hark! the Herald Angels Sing -C.Wesley]. For a moment, as it were, the curtains were drawn back and the pre-incarnate glory of the Son of God blazed out. The light of the world was so bright in that moment, they couldn’t look at his face.

Matthew 17:3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

Moses, the one to whom the Law was given, the author of the Torah, and Elijah, the greatest of the prophets were there speaking with Jesus. Peter thinks this is great. Three of his heroes; Moses, Jesus, Elijah. We should just camp out, get autographs, bask in the glory. Peter wanted to honor these three, enshrine these three. But the Father would have none of it. He thundered from heaven interrupting Peter before he could finish his thought, putting him on his face.

Matthew 17:5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

What was the message that came through crystal clear to the disciples as their faces were pressed against the dirt? God does not share his glory. Jesus is the only Son of the Father. He is not one among the prophets, givers of God’s word; he is the Word. He alone is to be honored. He alone is to be listened to. He alone is the light of the world. The Law and the Prophets, the entire Old Testament, Jesus said, was pointing to him. It is all about him. Jesus did not come to abolish the law or the prophets; he came to fulfill it. All the scriptures find their answer in Jesus. It is not Jesus plus the law, Jesus plus the prophets; It is Jesus only. We do not enshrine three lights, three great teachers; Moses, Elijah and Jesus. Moses and Elijah were anticipating Jesus, pointing to Jesus. Jesus is the only, the unique Son of the Father. Jesus is the light.

He took our Darkness and Night

We all have this deep longing for a light to overcome the darkness. At Jesus’ last supper, when Satan had entered in to the betrayer, when Judas left, John tells us “And it was night” (Jn.13:30). This is more than just a description of what time it was. Jesus had said in John 9

John 9:4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

I am the light of the world. But night is coming. Judas went out. And it was night. Later, in the garden, when Judas kissed Jesus to identify him to the authorities,

Luke 22:52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? 53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”

This is your hour, and the power of darkness. Jesus could have blinded the crowd with a blaze of transfiguration glory, but instead, he allowed himself to be seized, led away, ultimately to be crucified.

Luke 23:44 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.

Jesus, the light of the world, endured darkness for me. Matthew tells us:

Matthew 27:45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Jesus took my darkness, he fell under the shadow of death, he was made to be sin (2Cor.5:21); He bore our sins in his body on the tree (1Pet.2:24). The light of the world conquered the darkness by being extinguished by it. He was swallowed up by the darkness, and in doing so, he swallowed up death forever!

The Necessity of The New Birth to See

The light of the world came, but he was not received. He was hated.

John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of 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.

How is it that we receive him? How is it that we see him for who he is? We are blind to our own darkness and need of him. Those who receive him are those who were born of God by the will of God. God caused us to be born again (1 Peter 1:3).

2 Corinthians 4:6 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.

We sinned. We hid from the light of God’s presence in the darkness. God overcomes the darkness in our hearts by his Spirit, by his Word.

Acts 26:27 …I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

God’s word and his Spirit opens blind eyes.

Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Maybe you see, maybe for the first time, that you are in the dark, and the only light is Jesus. May God open your eyes to the truth of who he is. May God by his Spirit and through his word shine in your heart to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Receive him today. Believe in his name.

December 13, 2018 Posted by | advent, occasional, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 4:6; The Creative Power of Authentic Ministry

08/19_2 Corinthians 4:6; The Creative Power of Authentic Ministry; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180819_2cor4_6.mp3

Paul is describing authentic Christian ministry; giving reason why he does not lose heart, get discouraged, give up, burn out. Ministry, the ability and opportunity to serve others, is a gift. It is God’s mercy to sinners.

2 Corinthians 4:1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

He describes his methods; he does not use shameful hidden methods; he refuses to water down, add to, or distort God’s word. He speaks plainly, openly, with integrity.

He recognizes there is an adversary to the truth, a powerful enemy who seeks our eternal destruction, who would cast a veil over the hearts and minds of people to keep them from seeing the truth.

2 Corinthians 4:3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

He lays out the simple message he does proclaim; the person of Jesus, the Christ, the Lord, and he explains his role as a minister of the gospel.

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

Verse 6, our subject today, he gives us the creative power of authentic ministry, the ultimate ground of his confidence in gospel ministry, why he is content to openly proclaim the truth, to not adjust the message to suit his audience, and why he does not lose heart even in the face of seeming ministry failure. We proclaim Jesus, and God speaks and shines light in hearts that are veiled and blinded. God is powerful to overcome the darkness. Authentic ministry is ministry God speaks through to accomplish his purposes.

God Said

The ministry Paul is talking about is primarily a speaking ministry; he simply and plainly heralds the Lord Jesus Christ. He proclaims. He uses words to communicate truth. He communicates simply, openly, plainly. His ministry is ministry of the word; he administers God’s word to people. He communicates God’s truth. He communicates the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ as Lord. Ministry is speaking, proclaiming, communicating truth, to reflect our God who is a communicating, speaking God. Verse 6 begins ‘because God said.’

Don’t ever let this cease to amaze you. Our God is a speaking God, a communicating God. He could have left us wondering, guessing, groping in the dark. But he spoke. He communicates who he is, what he is like, what he requires, how we can have a relationship with him. Our God is a speaking God. We speak because he has spoken.

The Power of The Word

And his speech has power. When God speaks, things leap into being. That which did not exist comes into existence. Psalm 33 says:

Psalm 33:6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. …9 For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.

By his word, by the breath of his mouth, by his speaking, at his command, everything came into being. The heavens and all their starry hosts, universes, galaxies, all breathed out by him. Hebrews 11 says:

Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

The universe created by the word of God. That which is visible came out of that which is invisible, the spoken word. God’s word is creative! God’s word has power! Romans 4 talks about

Romans 4:17…the God …who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

God calls, God speaks, and things that do not exist come into existence! This is absolute power! Everything God says happens.

This is what we are asking when in the Lord’s prayer we ask that his will be done on earth as it is in heaven. May we respond to your word with unhesitating and absolute obedience, the way your word causes even things that do not exist to be for your pleasure.

Out of Darkness, Light Shine

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”

God commanded ‘out of darkness, light shine!’ Any idea what passage Paul is referring to here?

The first thing that comes to mind is creation, where ‘God said Let light be, and light came into existence’ (Gen.1:3). Darkness was over the face of the deep, and God said “Let there be light.” and there was light. Genesis 1 is clearly in mind here, because God is creating light out of darkness. And he does it with his word. He speaks, and it comes into being. 2 Corinthians 4:6 starts out ‘the God who said’ and Genesis 1:3 starts out ‘and God said’. But in Genesis 1, God says ‘let light be or exist; in 2 Corinthians he says ‘let light shine’ – a different verb. And Genesis 1 takes place at the beginning of creation, before humankind exists; where 2 Corinthians is talking about God shining light into human hearts made flesh. So while Genesis 1 is definitely in mind, there may be other passages in mind as well.

There is another passage that includes darkness, light, and the same verb ‘to shine’ that we find in 2 Corinthians 4. It is Isaiah 9. You are probably familiar with the well-known Christmas passage Isaiah 9:6:

Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9 begins by pointing us to ‘Galilee of the nations,’ and verse 2 says:

Isaiah 9:2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.

Here the subject is people, people walking in darkness, upon whom the light shines. And in the context of Isaiah 9, the light shining is the child born, the son given, whose name is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Matthew 4:13-16 quotes Isaiah 9:1-2 and says that it is fulfilled in Jesus. The light shining in the darkness of human hearts is Jesus!

In Isaiah 60 we see this same theme again of light coming into darkness, and it is the glory of the Lord on people.

Isaiah 60:1 Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. 2 For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. 3 And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.

The light that overcomes the thick darkness is the glory of YHWH rising. What we proclaim is Jesus Christ as Lord; YWHW.

John’s gospel begins this way.

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. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. …9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

Jesus is the true light that shines in the darkness, that gives light, that was coming into the world. Notice in John’s gospel that he names this one ‘the Word.’ The Word gives life and light. It is the speaking one, the communicating one, the one we proclaim; Jesus Christ the Lord.

Paul takes a thread from Genesis 1 where God brings light into existence that did not exist by his powerful word, and ties it together with Isaiah 9, where the promised Son of God shines light into the deep darkness of humankind, and Isaiah 60 where the light is the glory of YHWH.

The Means of Conversion

2 Corinthians 4:6 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.

Paul is talking about confidence in gospel ministry, and he points to his own conversion, and he invites us to think of our own conversion. The God who said ‘out of darkness, light shine!’ has shone in our hearts.

Do you remember? Do you remember when the lights came on for you? I grew up in a Christian family, in a Christian church, attending camp and Sunday School. I knew all about Jesus, and Samson and Delilah and David and Goliath and Adam and Eve and Noah and Abraham and Isaac and Paul and Timothy. I knew all about creation and Babel and the ark and the tabernacle and the disciples and the miracles and the cross and the resurrection. I knew that Jesus died on the cross for my sins. I knew it. I saw it all in living color on Mrs. Dean’s flannel graph. I even believed it. But I remember when I got it. When it came home to me. When the lights turned on. When God shone in my heart to give the light of the knowledge of Jesus. I felt the weight of my sin, and I was a grievous sinner at the ripe age of seven. I had been feeling the weight of my sin, but now I saw that Jesus took that sin – my sin. He died in my place. For me! He loved me and gave himself up for me. He was pursuing me. He wanted a relationship with me! I finally got it, and I wanted it. I wanted him! I embraced his forgiveness. I embraced him. How did it happen for you? When did the lights come on?

Paul invites us to look at our own conversion, our own transformation, our own new birth, as something God did. God the Creator spoke light into existence in our hearts and our blind eyes began to see! People talked ’till they were blue in the face, explained, clarified, answered questions… nothing. But when God said ‘let light be,’ then the lights came on.

The Creator God has shone in our hearts and we saw. We can take confidence in gospel ministry because we experienced God’s illuminating power. And we know he can turn the lights on for anyone!

Paul is confident in proclaiming plainly the simple message of Jesus Christ as Lord; he does not lose heart, because he is confident that God is at work shining in dark and veiled hearts to illuminate Jesus to them.

Romans 10 is helpful here. Romans 10:13 says:

Romans 10:13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

And then he goes on to explain:

Romans 10:14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? …17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Salvation comes through calling on Jesus in faith. Faith comes through hearing the word proclaimed. But not all who hear believe. God must turn the lights on. Proclamation is necessary, but it is not the decisive thing. God must be speaking in our speaking to create light in the hearts of those who are blind. Paul said in 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 1:21 … it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. …23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

How is it that the folly of what we preach becomes the saving power of God and the wisdom of God? Through the God who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness’ shining in our hearts to give light. We can confidently proclaim the simple message of Christ crucified, Jesus Christ as Lord, confident that God will open blind eyes and conquer hard hearts. We cannot ‘claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God’ (2Cor.3:5)

The Glory of God is the Glory of Christ

Let’s look again at what we see when God shines in our hearts.

2 Corinthians 4:6 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.

What is it that we see? It is the illumination of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. Let’s pair this with what our enemy wants to keep us from seeing in verse 4. What the enemy wants to blind us to is what God overcomes by his creative word to give us the light of knowledge. Paul states the same thing in different words, and the pairing of these two verses sheds even more light on Jesus.

2 Corinthians 4:4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

What our adversary wants to keep us from seeing is ‘the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.’

2 Corinthians 4:4——————————–2 Corinthians 4:6

In their case the god of this world————-For God, who said,

——————————————————- “Let light shine out of darkness,”

has blinded the minds of the unbelievers,—-has shone in our hearts

to keep them from seeing———————–to give

the light of the gospel—————————the light of the knowledge

of the glory of Christ,—————————of the glory of God

who is the image of God.———————–in the face of Jesus Christ.

‘The light of the gospel’ is ‘the light of the knowledge.’ what is the content of this knowledge, this good news? ‘The glory of Christ’ is ‘the glory of God’. Paul as plainly as ever identifies Christ with God. The knowledge of the glory of God is the good news of the glory of Christ. The glory of Christ is that he is very image of God. The glory of God is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.

Christ.

O Lord, open our eyes to behold the good news of the glory of Christ the image of God; let us see the glory of God in the face of our Lord

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

August 19, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 14:1-32; Cleansed!

09/04 Leviticus 14:1-32; Cleansed!; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20160904_leviticus-14_1-32.mp3

Completely Leprous and Clean (13:12-13)

Last week we looked at Leviticus 13, a chapter that describes in gross detail different kinds of skin disease, and how to identify if it is the kind of disease that makes one unclean and cuts one off from the community. Common characteristics of skin conditions that were considered unclean were those that appeared to be deeper than the skin, symptoms of a deeper problem, and those that spread, that didn’t go away or continued to get worse over time. One curious case that we didn’t look at in detail is in Leviticus 13:12-13.

Leviticus 13:12 And if the leprous disease breaks out in the skin, so that the leprous disease covers all the skin of the diseased person from head to foot, so far as the priest can see, 13 then the priest shall look, and if the leprous disease has covered all his body, he shall pronounce him clean of the disease; it has all turned white, and he is clean.

How is it that when the disease breaks out and covers every inch of his flesh, he is clean? Isn’t that a clear case of ‘unclean’? Is that a typo? If a person cannot point to even one patch of healthy skin, that would seem to make him wholly unclean, but rather the verdict is ‘clean’ and he is welcomed into the community and into the sanctuary. This seems “a complete paradox to all save those who understand God’s mode of dealing with sinners” [CHM p.363]. C.H.Spurgeon said:

How many there are, who, as they come up here, are ready to confess that they have done many things which are wrong, but they say, “though we have done much which we cannot justify, yet there have been many good actions which might almost counterbalance the sin. Have we not been charitable to the poor, have we not sought to instruct the ignorant, to help those that are out of the way? We have some sins, we do confess, but there is much at the bottom which is still right and good and we therefore hope that we shall be delivered.”

“I do not know,” said Martin Luther, “when men will ever believe that text in which it is written Christ died for our sins. They will think that Christ died for our righteousness, whereas He died for our sins. Christ had no eye to our goodness when He came to save us, but to our badness.” A physician, when he comes to my house, has not an eye to my present health. He does not come there because I am healthy, but because I am sick and the more sick I am, the more call for the physician’s skill and the more argument does my sickness yield why he should exercise all his craft and use his best medicines on my behalf. Your only plea with Christ is your guilt. Use it, Sinner, use it as David did when he said, “Lord have mercy upon my iniquity, for it is great!” If he had said “Have mercy upon my iniquity, for it is little,” he would have been a legalist and would have missed his mark. But when he said, “Have mercy, for it is great!” he understood the Gospel riddle—that strange paradox at which Pharisees always kick and which worldlings always hate—the glorious fact that Jesus Christ came into the world “not to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” [C.H.Spurgeon, The Cleansing of the Leper, no.353, Dec. 30, 1860]

Andrew Bonar writes “Is it not when a soul is fully sensible of entire corruption, …that salvation is nearest? A complete Saviour for a complete sinner?” [Bonar, p.234].

Consequences of Leprous Skin Diseases

Remember, the consequences of being pronounced unclean.

Leviticus 13:45 “The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ 46 He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp.

And remember, there was little hope for the one pronounced unclean. The procedure for making that declaration was not hasty or subjective, but when it happened, it was devastating. Separation from family, from friends, from society, from the worshiping community. It was a living death. That makes it so surprising when we get to chapter 14

Leviticus 14:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “This shall be the law of the leprous person for the day of his cleansing. He shall be brought to the priest, 3 and the priest shall go out of the camp, and the priest shall look. Then, if the case of leprous disease is healed in the leprous person,

Leviticus 14 gives instructions for the day of his cleansing, when he is healed. Wait, what? We skipped a chapter. How did the leper get healed? What did he do? What treatments did he undergo? What medication did he take? Last chapter he is kicked out of the community, forced to live alone, to wear the label and declare himself unclean to anyone who would come near. Now he is healed. Did I miss something? If you are the one being declared unclean, don’t you want to know what you have to do to get healed? Don’t tell me what kind of ceremony I go through after I get healed, I want to know how I get healed. Leviticus has no cure. Leviticus identifies the problem. There is in fact nothing proscribed for the leprous person to do. The only thing a leper can accomplish on his own is making everything he touches unclean. In this passage describing the ceremony for pronouncing the leper clean, he is not the doer. Things are being done to and for him. He shall be brought to the priest. The priest shall go out of the camp. Notice, the diseased person has been excluded from the community, and is not permitted to seek out the priest himself. He is not permitted to enter the camp. The priest must go out to him. Remember, we are Christians, looking for glimpses of Jesus in Leviticus, because it is all about Jesus! Jesus our great High Priest does not remain in glory waiting for us to make our way to him. He comes to us when we are outsiders.

The Ceremony

Leviticus 14:4 the priest shall command them to take for him who is to be cleansed two live clean birds and cedarwood and scarlet yarn and hyssop. 5 And the priest shall command them to kill one of the birds in an earthenware vessel over fresh water. 6 He shall take the live bird with the cedarwood and the scarlet yarn and the hyssop, and dip them and the live bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the fresh water. 7 And he shall sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed of the leprous disease. Then he shall pronounce him clean and shall let the living bird go into the open field.

This is one of the most elaborate rituals in the Old Testament. It has some similarities to Numbers 19, where we find rituals for cleansing those who have come in contact with a grave or a dead body. That ceremony also uses cedarwood, scarlet yarn, hyssop, and living water. This connection to another ritual that purifies from contact with death makes sense, because the diseased person who is declared unclean is living in a state of separation as if he were dead. Why these things?

Possibly cedarwood because it is durable and long lasting. King Solomon “spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall” (1 Ki.4:33) as a way to refer inclusively to all plants from the greatest to the least.

A scarlet cord marked out Rahab and her house for deliverance in the destruction of Jericho. Scarlet yarn was used extensively in the construction of the tabernacle, and the uniforms for the priests, so it would be a connection with the sanctuary.

Hyssop was a plant used in the Passover to paint blood on the doorposts of the Hebrew homes. It was used in the covenant making ceremony at the foot of Mt. Sinai to sprinkle the people with blood (Ex.24; cf. Heb.9:19). In David’s prayer of confession in Psalm 51 he prays:

Psalms 51:7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Hyssop was used as a sponge to extend the sour wine to Jesus on the cross (Jn.19:29).

Fresh water, literally living water was water that had not been stagnant. Jesus referred to himself as the source of living water (Jn.4:10-11, 7:38).

The earthenware vessel, or clay pot was an ordinary container, basically made out of dirt. 2 Corinthians 4:7 speaks of holding a treasure in jars of clay as a way to describe the dust to dust frailty of our human existence.

I find this ceremony a bit funny. It reminds me a bit of some of the things my brother did to me when I was younger. “hey Rodney, hold these two wires… Stand right here on this X and pull this string… Hold this while I light the fuse”. Something tells me this is not going to end well. So you take these two live birds, and some red string, and a piece of wood, and a plant, and a bucked of water. And you kill one of the birds over the bucket and don’t forget to hold on to the live bird. Have you ever killed a bird? That’s messy! But don’t let go of the live bird. Now dip all the stuff in the bloody water. Yes, the live bird too. It’ll be fine. Now use the plant to sprinkle blood all over the guy, but keep holding on to the live bird that you dipped in the blood. Now take the live bird, make sure it’s really wet and bloody and let it go…

But even in this strange ritual we can see a picture of Jesus. Living water in a clay pot. Two birds; one clearly representing death, the other possibly picturing resurrection? Blood applied to a diseased person to declare him whole. Remember, all this is done to for the leper, and to the leper. He is not doing anything. He is passive. At the end of this he is pronounced clean.

Washing and Shaving

After he is declared clean, the person being cleansed becomes more involved in the ceremony. Up to this point he could do nothing. Now that he is declared clean he becomes an active participant in the ceremony.

Leviticus 14:8 And he who is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes and shave off all his hair and bathe himself in water, and he shall be clean. And after that he may come into the camp, but live outside his tent seven days. 9 And on the seventh day he shall shave off all his hair from his head, his beard, and his eyebrows. He shall shave off all his hair, and then he shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and he shall be clean.

There is a seven day process that includes laundry, shaving and bathing, and returning to the camp, but not going home yet. Shaving is often a sign of mourning or humiliation. Have you ever seen someone who shaved – all their hair – even their eyebrows? This would be especially shocking in a culture that is not to trim the corners of your beard. A man who shaved his beard and every bit of hair off his body would look a little like a newborn baby. Could this be a picture of new life after death, a new birth of sorts? Jesus said ‘you must be born again.’

The Eighth Day

Leviticus 14:10 “And on the eighth day he shall take two male lambs without blemish, and one ewe lamb a year old without blemish, and a grain offering of three tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, and one log of oil. 11 And the priest who cleanses him shall set the man who is to be cleansed and these things before the LORD, at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 12 And the priest shall take one of the male lambs and offer it for a guilt offering, along with the log of oil, and wave them for a wave offering before the LORD. 13 And he shall kill the lamb in the place where they kill the sin offering and the burnt offering, in the place of the sanctuary. For the guilt offering, like the sin offering, belongs to the priest; it is most holy.

The eighth day is a day is a day of new beginnings. The former leper is now welcomed back in the camp, but not yet into his own home. First he must come before the Lord. The former leper who was excluded from the community is now brought in before the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting. The first sacrifice is a guilt offering, which we learned from Leviticus 5 makes restitution for an unintentional sin against the holy things of the Lord. We were created to bear the image of God and declare his glory, but the leprous skin disease has distorted the image of God in him. He must offer first a guilt offering. But this guilt offering is unique.

Leviticus 14:14 The priest shall take some of the blood of the guilt offering, and the priest shall put it on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. 15 Then the priest shall take some of the log of oil and pour it into the palm of his own left hand 16 and dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand and sprinkle some oil with his finger seven times before the LORD. 17 And some of the oil that remains in his hand the priest shall put on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot, on top of the blood of the guilt offering. 18 And the rest of the oil that is in the priest’s hand he shall put on the head of him who is to be cleansed.

This is similar to the ordination offering for the priests, from which some of the blood was applied to different body parts to cleanse their ears from listening to lies and slander, to cleanse their hands from doing wrong, to cleanse their feet from walking away from the Lord. The former leper was then anointed with oil on these same body parts, to set apart his ears to hear the words of the Lord, to do what he commands, to walk in his ways. He was anointed with the oil of gladness, free again to enjoy God’s presence.

Leviticus 14:18 …Then the priest shall make atonement for him before the LORD. 19 The priest shall offer the sin offering, to make atonement for him who is to be cleansed from his uncleanness. And afterward he shall kill the burnt offering. 20 And the priest shall offer the burnt offering and the grain offering on the altar. Thus the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be clean.

These are the regular offerings made in the tabernacle or temple. The final 12 verses repeat the eighth day ritual for a leper who cannot afford three lambs. He can substitute pigeons or doves for two of the lambs, but the guilt offering must still be a lamb. The former leper is now fully welcomed back into fellowship with God and with other members of the community. He now no longer carries the stigma of unclean. Atonement has been made and he is clean.

Jesus and Leprosy

Jesus’ interaction with a leper is recorded in Matthew 8, Mark 1 and Luke 5.

Luke 5:12 While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 13 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14 And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” (cf. Matthew 8:2-4; Mark 1:40-45)

Remember, the priests had the responsibility to inspect and determine if a person was clean or unclean. They had no power to heal. This leper, full of leprosy, knowing his desperate need, entered a city to find Jesus. He recognized in Jesus something more than the priests. Jesus could heal. Jesus touched this diseased man, and with a word he immediately healed him. A man full of leprosy was transformed instantly. And then Jesus commands him to go get Leviticus 14 done. Go show yourself to the priests make the offering for your cleansing as a proof to them. As a witness, as a testimony to the unbelieving priests. I can just imagine a priest coming back from this encounter. ‘Where have you been, and what happened to you?’ He’s completely splattered in blood, and has a bit of a stunned look on his face. ‘You know that Leviticus 14 thing? Oh, you mean with the birds and the string and the wood and the water? Yeah… Wait, that’s for cleansing a leper… Yeah…’ They may have never used Leviticus 14 before. What is this a testimony of? When John sent disciples to ask Jesus ‘are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’

Luke 7:22 And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Cleansing of lepers was a sign that God had come down and the messianic age was unfolding. The system that could merely identify problems without offering any cure was coming to an end. The one who could get to the root of the problem and heal was now on the scene. Jesus is both all-powerful and full of compassion. He is both able and willing to heal. If you will come to Jesus acknowledging that ‘in me, that is, in my flesh dwells no good thing’ (Romans 7:18)

If you will repent of your dead works and believe in Jesus (Heb.6:1), if you will fall on your face and beg him ‘Lord, only you can make me clean’, Jesus will stretch out his hand and touch you right where you are, as you are, in all your filth and uncleanness, and even today, based on his finished work, he will say ‘I will, be clean’.

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

September 6, 2016 Posted by | Leviticus | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leviticus 12; Born of Woman

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

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

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

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

←← SACRIFICE ←←

Sanctify             Cleanse

HOLY           COMMON/CLEAN           UNCLEAN

Profane             Pollute

→→ SIN and INFIRMITY →→

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Duration and Severity of Uncleanness

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

Unclean Not Evil

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

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

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

Blood and the Sanctuary

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

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

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

The Snake Crusher and the Curse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All creation has been groaning in the pains of childbirth.

Women in Worship

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

Jesus and the Law

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

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

Luke 2 records the fulfillment of this law in Jesus.

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

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

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

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

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

The staggering truth is how our rescuer claimed the victory

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

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

Jesus told his followers:

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

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

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

John tells us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 7:17-19; Remain as Called; Circumcision is Nothing

11/24 1 Corinthians 7:17-19 Remain As You Were Called; Circumcision is Nothing;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20131124_1cor7_17-19.mp3

1Cor 7 [SBLGNT]

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

1Cor 7 [ESV2011]

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

In chapter 7, Paul has begun to answer questions from the Corinthians. Chapter 7 addresses the hot topics of sex, marriage, divorce, remarriage, and singleness. In verses 17-24 we come to the core of this passage, where Paul gives the underlying principle that he is applying to these various relational situations, and he demonstrates how he is applying it with two extreme scenarios. At first it seems abrupt and out of place to address circumcision and slavery in the middle of a chapter about marriage and singleness, but we will see how this relates to what he is teaching throughout this passage. It will be helpful to look at the broad flow of the passage and see where verses 17-24 form the core of this chapter, where he lays out his guiding principle, remain as you are.

Structure of Chapter 7

In verse 1, he repeats the Corinthian slogan ‘it is good for a man not to touch a woman’ and he begins to apply a different guiding principle to various relational circumstances; ‘each one should remain in the condition in which he was called’.

2-5 mutual obligations of marriage – remain as you are: do not deprive one another (unless temporarily by agreement for prayer)

6-9 to the unmarried and widows; good to remain as they are, (unless not gifted for celibacy then they must marry)

10-11 to the married where both husband and wife are believers; remain as you are (unless separated; then be reconciled)

12-16 to the married where the husband or wife is not a believer; remain as you are (unless the unbeliever leaves; then you are free)

17 principle: as the Lord has gifted and called, so walk

18-19 circumcised or uncircumcised; remain as you are

20 principle: each remain in your calling

21-23 slave or free; remain as you are (unless you can be free)

24 principle: each remain in your calling

25-26 to the virgins; remain as you are

27-28 remain as you are; free from or bound to a wife (unless you desire to marry – it is not a sin)

29-31 temporality of this world

32-35 advantages of singleness

36-38 virgins free to marry (but better to remain)

39-40 widows free to remarry (but better to remain)

Jesus Overcomes All Ethnic, Social and Gender Barriers

Paul widens his discussion from the roles of men and women in singleness and marriage to include other major societal issues of circumcision/uncircumcision and slavery/freedom. This parallels what he taught to the Galatian believers.

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

Our relationship to Jesus tears down all major social and cultural barriers. The major ethnic barrier between Jew and Greek (or circumcised and uncircumcised) is nullified in Christ. The major social status barrier between slave and free is abolished in Christ. The major gender barrier between male and female (including all the various sub-categories of single, married, divorced, widowed, remarried) are all made nothing at the foot of the cross. This does not mean that ethnic, social or gender differences no longer exist; those differences are very real, but that they have no bearing on how one is rescued by Jesus. This is the great truth of Revelation 5 and 7 that people from every tribe and language and people and nation will be worshiping Jesus together around his throne. But a person of Jewish descent and a non-Jewish person both enter into a relationship with Jesus in the same way. A slave and free person, or a social outcast and a CEO must both humbly seek forgiveness for their sins at the cross. A man and a woman both equally must believe the good news about Jesus to be saved. The Corinthians were asking if there was a higher spirituality to celibacy over marriage, if abstinence within marriage earned extra points with God, if asceticism was spiritually beneficial. Paul says no, remain as you are. Whether you are male or female, single, married, widowed, divorced, none of this changes your status with God in the smallest degree. There is no spiritual advantage to any ethnic group, any social standing, or any marital status.

Assigned

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

Paul states the foundation principle for everything he has said in this chapter. He says ‘this is my rule in all the churches’. This is not special instructions for a special situation in Corinth, he is not singling them out for unique treatment. This is the same teaching he would give any other church in any other circumstance, including our church in our society today. The principle is universally applicable. He points them and us to walk in the way that the Lord Jesus has assigned and that God has called. This idea behind the word ‘assigned’ is divided or distributed. This connects back to what he said in verse 7.

1 Corinthians 7: 7 … But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.

God distributes his gifts as he sees fit. God gifts some for singleness and some for marriage. Each one has his own gift from God. We have a natural tendency toward the greener grass syndrome. We are discontent with who we are and where we are and want to be on the other side of the fence. But Paul tells us to enjoy the grass on your own side of the fence! The Lord Jesus is the one who assigns to each his own particular gifting and situation, and Paul advises us to walk in that.

He says ‘let each person lead the life’ Literally that could be translated ‘let each person walk this way’ Walking is a favorite metaphor of biblical authors for steady progress in Christian living. We are to walk in the pasture that God has placed us in and not seek to unnecessarily jump fences. If you are single, divorced, or widowed, be that for the glory of God. If you are married, be married for the glory of Christ. Don’t always seek something different. Learn to enjoy who you are where you are. Learn contentment. We make steady progress in holiness when we embrace what God has allotted to us.

Called

He adds ‘and to which God has called him’. Calling plays a significant role in this passage. A form of the word ‘called’ shows up 9 times in these 8 verses; we saw it once in verse 15; it showed up 5 times in chapter 1. In 1:1, Paul was called by the will of God to be an apostle. In 1:2, the believers in Corinth were called to be saints. In 1:9, God called us into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. In 1:24, it is God’s call that differentiates between those who hear the gospel, believe, and are being saved; and those who hear the gospel, reject, and are perishing.

1 Corinthians 1:23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. …26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, …

God’s call cuts across social and ethnic barriers. God called both Jews and Greeks. God’s call came to the foolish, the weak, the low, the despised, the nothings of the world in order to eliminate human boasting. When we get to chapter 7, we find that God called divorced people. God called widows and widowers. God called single people into a relationship with him. God assigns gifts as he wills, and God calls different people who find themselves in different situations. Paul’s instruction is:

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

Circumcision and Uncircumcision

Paul demonstrates this principle by fleshing out its application to two extreme situations; circumcision and slavery. He starts with circumcision, the outward sign of the Old Covenant people of God. In order to become part of God’s people in the Old Testament, you had to be circumcised. Circumcision was a big deal. When the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah, was extended to the Gentile nations in Acts, this became a big dispute among the believers. Did Gentiles have to undergo circumcision and become Jews in order to become followers of the Jewish Messiah? In Acts 10, God sends Peter to the house of a Gentile with the instructions “what God has made clean, do not call common” (Acts 10:15). By Acts 15 this had become such a major issue that the first church council was formed to answer the question of circumcision for Gentile believers. Peter relays that God “made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:9) and he concludes “…we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will” (Acts 15:11). Paul writes his Galatian letter to adamantly oppose the Judaizers who were insisting on the circumcision of Gentile believers as a requirement for their salvation. He says:

Galatians 5:2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.

Apparently this legalistic Judaizing influence was not a problem in the church in Corinth. He doesn’t attack the issue like he does in Galatians; instead he uses it as an example.

1 Corinthians 7:18 Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision.

This sounds strange, because circumcision is an irreversible procedure. But we find in the writings of Celsus documentation of a surgical procedure that was the equivalent of plastic surgery to reverse the appearance of circumcision. In the time of the Maccabees, there were Jewish men under Roman rule that would have this procedure done to hide their Jewish identity when they participated in the Roman gymnasium (the word ‘gymnasium’ literally means to exercise naked; the original Olympic games were carried out naked). Paul applies the principle that we are to remain as we were called to the issue of circumcision. He says that anyone who was uncircumcised at the time of his call should remain uncircumcised, and anyone already circumcised should not seek to reverse the procedure. In the context, Paul is addressing issues of marriage and singleness. We could take circumcision as a metaphor and apply it to his previous discussion on marriage. In the marriage union, two become one flesh, and we should not seek to reverse the irreversible. ‘What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate’ (Mt.19:6).

Circumcision Counts For Nothing

Paul’s statement in verse 19 is amazing.

1 Corinthians 7:19 For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God.

This is amazing, because we could easily argue from the Old Testament that circumcision is clearly a commandment of God (Gen.17; 21:4; Lev.12:3). The requirement for circumcision even superseded the Sabbath laws if the eighth day fell on a Saturday (John 7:21-24). But Paul here says that in our New Covenant relationship with Jesus, whether you are circumcised or not is irrelevant and meaningless. How can Paul contrast circumcision with keeping the commandments of God, when circumcision was one of the commandments of God?

If we look to Jesus teaching in John 6, we begin to gain some clarity. Some people asked Jesus this question in the context of gaining eternal life.

John 6:28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

Jesus made it clear that going through the motions of obedience to God was worthless without a relationship with Him. Jesus repeatedly teaches that belief in him is the one thing that is required for eternal life.

In 1 John 3, John teaches us what it looks like as believers in Jesus to keep the commandments.

1 John 3:22 …because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.

Jesus taught that the greatest command was to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength (Mt.22:37; Mk.12:30). We cannot truly love God if we do not believe that he is who he says he is. But when we believe in Jesus and experience God’s great love for us which he expressed at the cross of our Lord Jesus, that love can then overflow toward others around us. So love for others becomes the expression and overflow of belief in God and love for him.

God never intended us to view his commandments as a list to check off in order to earn his favor. All the way back in Deuteronomy he says:

Deuteronomy 10:12 “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good? 14 Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. 15 Yet the LORD set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.

What God requires is a genuine love for him, to love and serve him with all your heart and soul in response to his love for us. Real circumcision is circumcision of the heart.

Deuteronomy 30:6 And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

This is fulfilled in the New Testament. Paul says in Romans:

Romans 2:28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

It is in this sense that Paul can say to the Corinthians that what counts is not circumcision or uncircumcision but keeping the commandments of God.

He makes parallel statements to this in his letter to the Galatians.

Galatians 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

Paul is saying just what Jesus is saying. Faith or belief in Jesus powerfully expresses itself in love. The inevitable result of genuine belief in Jesus is love for God and love for other people. A chapter later, in Galatians 6, Paul says:

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

A new creation is what counts with God. He says ‘I don’t boast in circumcision; I only boast in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.’ Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I am now a new creation.

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.

As a new creation, I have new desires, new motives, new loves. My heart has been transformed by God’s love to love God and love others. I no longer seek to earn God’s favor by my performance. Rather I have been transformed by Christ and now naturally do the things that please him. My love for him is a response to his love for me (1Jn.4:19).

When we take these three parallel statements of Paul together and allow them to define each other, we get the full picture of what he is saying. It is not following the letter of the law that gains any standing with God, but becoming a new creation through the new birth. As a new creation we trust Jesus. We believe that Jesus is who he claimed to be, and we believe that at the cross Jesus took all our sins upon himself. Our belief in Jesus expresses itself in love, an overflow of love for God and love for others, which is a genuine keeping of the commandments of God from the heart.

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

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

November 24, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Resurrection Sunday – Colossians – Raised With Him

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110424_resurrection-sunday.mp3 

04/24 Resurrection Sunday

Today is Resurrection Sunday. We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Anticipating his death, Jesus said:

John 12:23 … “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Fruit of the Resurrection

Jesus’ death bears much fruit. Jesus died alone, forsaken by his Father, with the weight of the sins of the world on his shoulders. But Jesus did not stay dead. He sprang back to life, and like his illustration of the seed, his life that bursts up out of the grave is not alone. He bears much fruit. Jesus death and resurrection has massive implications for us.

Today I want to look at some of the fruit of Jesus’ death and resurrection for us today. We will spend most of our time in the New Testament letter to the Colossians. In it, Paul says:

Colossians 1:18 [Jesus is]…the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.

Colossians 2:12 …you were also raised with [Christ] through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead …God made alive together with him,

Colossians 3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ

And he draws practical implications of Christ’s death and resurrection and ours. I want to spend some time this resurrection morning examining the implications of the resurrection for us today

Jesus the Firstborn from the dead

In this passage in Colossians, Paul gives Jesus the title ‘The Firstborn from the Dead.” He receives this title also in Revelation 1:5. What does this mean? Jesus was not the first person ever resurrected; Elijah raised the son of the widow of Zarepha (1Ki.17:22); Elisha raised a Shunammite woman’s son (2Ki.4:35); Jesus interrupted several funerals; he raised the widow of Nain’s only son (Lk7:14); Jairus’ daughter (Mk.5:41; Lk.8:54); and his dear friend Lazarus (Jn.11:43). At Jesus’ crucifixion, Matthew tells us:

Matthew 27:52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

Jesus was not the first in time to rise from the dead. So what does it mean to say that Jesus is the firstborn from the dead? It will help to understand what is meant by the word ‘firstborn’. The position of the firstborn was that of priority and privilege. Several times in the Old Testament, we see the rights and privileges of the firstborn going to a son who was not physically born first, or even to an adopted son who was not physically born into those rights. ‘Firstborn’ implies priority and sovereignty (Wuest, p.183). Jesus has first place among those who rise from the dead. Jesus has authority over all who rise from the dead.

The Preeminence of Jesus

This whole passage is pointing to Jesus as the one who holds first place in everything. Back in verse 15, this same word ‘firstborn’ is used, where it describes Jesus, who is the very image of the invisible God, who possesses sovereign authority and priority over all creation. Verse 16 gives the ground of his sovereign rights in that he is the creator – everything was created by him and for him – everything that exists in heaven and on earth; everything visible and everything invisible, including every authority that exists – they exist because he caused them to exist, and they exist to serve him. Jesus is the firstborn in sovereignty. Verse 17 continues by showing that he is the firstborn in priority – he is before all things. Jesus is eternal. He holds everything together. Hebrews describes Jesus as the one who ‘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’ (1:3). Verse 18 points to Jesus as the head or authority over the church. Jesus is the beginning, the active cause, the architect, he has first place. He has sovereign priority over all who come out of death. He holds first place in everything. His rule and authority is comprehensive. He reigns supreme over everything created and over everything re-created. He is the creator and the regenerator. He is the cause of creation, and he is the cause of the new creation. He gave life to all things, and he gives new life to the dead. In everything Jesus is preeminent. Everything really is all about Jesus!

Verse 19 continues the thought in describing how he gave new life to his body the church. In Jesus, God’s fullness was pleased to dwell, and the blood of his cross made peace and reconciled all things to his Father. Jesus, fully God and fully man, offered an infinite and perfect sacrifice, fully satisfying justice and making peace between God and sinful man.

Diagnosing our Condition

Verse 21 goes on to describe us, for whom the blood of Christ was necessary to purchase peace. It says we were alienated or estranged, we had severed our fellowship with God. It says we were hostile, hateful, or opposed to God in our mind. We were not on God’s side, and we didn’t want to be. Our wills were bent against God. Broken fellowship and determined opposition to God find expression in works that are evil. Down in chapter 2 verse 13, he expands on our condition that made the death of Christ necessary. He says we were dead. We were dead in trespasses – deviations from the right path. Our flesh was uncircumcised, which means that the things that displease God had not yet been cut away and destroyed. Verse 14 tells us that there was a record of debt that stood against us, and attached to that debt were legal demands. We had violated God’s honor and were under the hopeless legal obligation to repay the debt.

Now isn’t this a bit over the top, the way he describes our condition? Isn’t he exaggerating, or maybe describing a worst case scenario? Surely it would not be a fair description of most of us to say that we were hostile to God in our minds and bent on doing evil. But in raising the question we demonstrate the truth of it. I am saying that my estimation of my condition is more accurate than God’s. I am saying that my failure to honor God and give him thanks as he deserves is really not that big a deal. In saying that, I undermine the worth of God and exalt my own opinion. My failure to love God with all my heart and soul and mind and strength is an understandable failure to meet an unrealistic demand that is too high and too hard and surely I shouldn’t be held to it. After all, nobody does that perfectly, and I probably do it better than a lot of people. So I compare myself with others and am self-righteous in my own eyes and disagree with God’s assessment of my condition. God says I am dead.

Only the dead get resurrected

Friends, we need to embrace God’s diagnosis of our condition. We need to see that as part of the good news. Here’s why God saying I am dead in my sins is good news. Only the dead get resurrected! You don’t start CPR on someone who has a pulse and is still breathing. They don’t bring out the paddles to shock your heart until you’ve flatlined. This is a passage about resurrection and the cure for our condition. If we disagree with the Great Physician over his diagnosis, we won’t want to undergo his prescribed cure. Listen to the passage:

Colossians 2:13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Yes, we stand condemned under God’s righteous law with the record of debt that stands against us. And that record of our debt Jesus carried to the cross and he paid our debt in full. Our debt was nailed to his cross! God forgave all our trespasses. Yes, we were dead, and God made us alive together with Christ! Yes, we were hostile toward God and he made peace by the blood of his cross. Yes, our actions were evil because our wills were bent against God, and he has now reconciled us to God in his body of flesh by his death. The good news is only good to those who own God’s diagnosis of their problem. Only the dead get resurrected.

Two Kinds of Dead

Here we need to note that there are two different kinds of dead that this passage talks about. Verse 13 talks about being spiritually dead, dead in sins, being under condemnation, being guilty, and being forgiven and made alive as a result of the finished work of Christ on the cross, where God’s legal demands were satisfied, our debt was canceled, and we were given spiritual life. This is fits the biblical teaching of justification – being exonerated of guilt, and regeneration or new birth.

If we move back to verses 11-12, we see a different kind of dead and a different kind of resurrection.

11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

In these verses, the death is a putting off, a circumcision of the body of the flesh, a burial with him in baptism, and a resurrection in the powerful working of God. Here, death is a process. This is mortification, putting to death the flesh, or sanctification, the process of being made holy. Paul goes into more detail on this subject in Romans. This is how Paul argues in Romans 6 against those who have been justified by faith continuing to embrace sin as a legitimate lifestyle.

Romans 6:2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.

Jesus died as a substitute, bearing our penalty and purchasing our forgiveness. We were spiritually dead and have been given life. That is justification and regeneration. We are now addressing what that new life should look like, and that is based on the other kind of death – not only did Jesus die for us, but we died with him. Our old self, our old way of life was crucified with Christ. That is the basis for our practical day to day battle with and victory over sin. He continues:

Romans 6:7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Hear the continuing action words: you must consider yourselves dead to sin; let not sin reign in your mortal bodies; do not present your members to sin. Those are fighting words. The basis for this fight is my death and resurrection with Christ. The power to live the Christian life is resurrection power. ‘Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Rom.6:4)

When Paul prays for the saints in Ephesus, he asks:

Ephesians 1:18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

Part of our blood bought inheritance is the ‘immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead.’ The power to ‘walk in newness of life’ comes because:

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

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

The resurrected life is the crucified life. In Colossians chapter 3, we are given details of what the resurrected life should look like, and practical instruction on how to live it.

3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.

8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

The assumption is that those who claim to be believers have not only been justified and regenerated or born again, that the death and resurrection of Jesus have been applied to us, but also that we have been crucified with Christ and have been raised to a new kind of life.

That new life is described by what it should and shouldn’t look like. It shouldn’t look like sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. It shouldn’t look like anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscene talk, lying.

It should look like compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving each other as we have been forgiven. It should look like love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. It should look like the peace of Christ ruling in your hearts. It should be characterized by thankfulness, by joyful gratitude, all for the glory of our Lord Jesus.

What are the practical instructions on how to live the resurrection life? Seek the things that are above; set your mind on things that are above. Put to death what is earthly in you. Put them all away. Put off the old self with its practices. Put on the new self which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Put on the fruits of the Spirit. Put on love. With a conscious choice, by an act of the will, based on the crucifixion and empowered with resurrection power, put off and put on. Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus with overwhelming thankfulness to him who loved you and died for you.

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

April 24, 2011 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Church’s One Foundation; Matthew 16:18

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20090104_the_church_1.mp3

1/04 The Church; Community founded on the Identity of Jesus and United by the New Birth

I want to take the next few weeks and look at the church. As we’ve come into the new year I’ve spent some time thinking about what my life looks like, what I want it to look like, and what adjustments I need to make so that I can be who I want to be and do what I want to do. I’d like to encourage us as the church to do the same thing. So I want to look at the church in the bible; who are we supposed to be and what are we called to do. I want you to investigate with me what Jesus says about his church and invite you to imagine with me how we might be the church. Let’s dream together what it would look like for us to be who we are called to be and do what we are called to do.

I want to start today by looking at the identity of the church. The church is a community of people founded on the identity of Jesus of Nazareth, and united by the new birth. We will spend the rest of our time today filling out and understanding this definition.

Next week I’d like to look at the origin and destiny of the church. The church was spoken into existence by the sovereign power of the Lord Jesus Christ, and will overcome.

In the following week, I’d like to look at more of the nuts and bolts of what the church is and does – who we are called to be and what we are called to do in our community and in the world.

Let’s start by looking at the word ‘church’ and define what it is that we are talking about. The Greek word translated ‘church’ in our New Testament is the word [ekklhsia ekklesia] which refers to an assembly or gathering of people. The word comes from the root [ek ek] out of; and [kalew kaleo] to call; literally it means the called out ones; and can be translated congregation or assembly. In classical Greek it was used for the summons to the army to assemble. The church is a group of people who have something in common. As I said earlier, the church is a community of people founded on the identity of Jesus of Nazareth, and united by the new birth.

I want to center our attention on Jesus’ statement in Matthew 16:18

Matthew 16:18 …on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Let’s look at the whole passage:

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar–Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

The identity of Jesus is what’s at stake here. Jesus raises the question- ‘what’s the word on the street? Who do people say that I am?’ And he receives three answers; John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah or one of the prophets. I think it’s worth asking why people identified Jesus with these three figures.

John the Baptist would have been fresh in their memories. John was the cousin of Jesus, and he was a radical who lived in the desert, wore camel’s hair, ate bugs, and got in the face of the religious and political leaders of his day. He called the religious authorities names in front of the people they were supposed to be ministering to, and he sparked a revival in the masses. He meddled in the private sex life of the political leader of his day, telling him that God was displeased with his sexual sin, and this got him thrown in prison and eventually beheaded. Herod, who feared John, was paranoid and thought that Jesus was John raised from the dead. (Mark 6:14ff) Apparently Herod’s paranoia sparked a rumor that Jesus was this greatest of all prophets raised from the dead.

Elijah; [1 Kings 17-2 Kings 2] Elijah was a prophet from the Old Testament around 873-843 BC; about 50 years after King Solomon, at the time of Ahab, the evil king of Israel, and his wicked wife Jezebel. At his word there was a drought in Israel for three years. God supernaturally provided food for him during the drought. Elijah raised a young man from the dead. He challenged the idolatrous worship that was taking place in Israel to a showdown between Baal and Asherah, and YHWH, the true God of Israel. He had all the false priests executed. God took him to heaven in a whirlwind with chariots of fire and horses of fire. There was an expectation that he would reappear at the end times:

Malachi 4:5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.

But why Jeremiah?

Jeremiah was a priest and a prophet who was called by God to speak to rebellious Israel who were unfaithful to the Lord. He preached during the reigns of Josiah, Jehoiachim, and Zedekiah (627-587 BC) until Judah was carried off into captivity in Babylon . He was called to speak against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people (1:18). Jesus quotes this prophet when he says

Luke 19:46 …“It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”

Jeremiah 7:11 ‘Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the Lord… 20 therefore thus says the Lord God: behold, my anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place, upon man and beast, upon the trees of the field and the fruit of the ground; it will burn and not be quenched… 25 From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day. 26 Yet they did not listen to me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers. 27 So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you.

Jeremiah was called to prophesy to the nation of Israel with the advance knowledge that his preaching would not bring repentance and restoration but rather greater accountability and condemnation. Because of this he was know as the weeping prophet. Yet he faithfully preached to the people up to the day they were carried off into captivity, even suffering arrest and abuse at the hands of the leaders of Israel.

I think this gives us some insight into the temperament of Jesus. Jesus was known as ‘a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief’

Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

And we are told that he wept over Jerusalem;

Luke 19:41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” 45 And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, 46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”

John tells us:

John 1:11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

So the people identified Jesus with John, who confronted the evil of his day and sparked a major revival; and Elijah, a fiery prophet who performed miracles, feeding the hungry and even raising the dead; and Jeremiah, the weeping prophet who foretold the fall of Jerusalem and was rejected. There is an element of truth in all these identifications of Jesus, but they all fall short.

Jesus said John was the greatest of men (Matt.11:11). But John was discouraged in prison and sent word to Jesus asking if he was the Christ or if they should look for another. Elijah was afraid of Jezebel and ran into the desert to hide and wanted to die. Jeremiah complained to the Lord. These were all prophets of God, used by God to do mighty works, yet they were all mere men, and they all had their own flaws and shortcomings. No one in Jesus day thought that he was just a good man or a great moral teacher or a really nice guy. They recognized him as a person invested with supernatural power and eloquence. He was a radical prophetic voice in the world. But their analysis fell short of who he really is. Jesus is the great Prophet; he is our great High Priest; he is a mighty worker of supernatural signs. But he is more than a man with faults and flaws. He is messiah, the anointed King of kings, the divine Son of God.

When Peter responded with the right answer, Jesus commended him and called him blessed, but he also clarified the source of this information. Peter did not come up with this on his own. The fact that Peter recognized Jesus for who he is was evidence of divine intervention; supernatural revelation from the Father.

16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar–Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The identity of Jesus is the foundation stone of the church, and the true identity of Jesus comes as a revelation from the Father. Men may conclude that Jesus was a good man or a great moral teacher or even a prophet of God, but God bears witness about his Son that he is God in the flesh, the fulfillment of all the prophecies. There was a Pharisee who came to Jesus at night and had his own perception of who Jesus was. He called him ‘Rabbi’ and identified him as a teacher who came from God doing signs. Jesus challenged him on his need for a spiritual transformation so that he could see Jesus for who he really is:

John 3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Jesus went on to reveal his identity as the only Son of the Father sent to bring eternal life and salvation to a world condemned by sin.

…14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 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. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

The new birth is necessary to see Jesus for who he is, and it is a work of the Spirit of God. Paul describes this as being immersed or baptized by the Spirit into one body – the body of Christ, his church.

1 Corinthians 12:12 …so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body––Jews or Greeks, slaves or free––and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

…27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church…

The church is a community of people founded on the identity of Jesus of Nazareth and united by the new birth. The identity of Jesus is pivotal and foundational.

17 …“Blessed are you, …For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 … on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

We must have our lives built on the rock of Jesus. We must have his identity revealed supernaturally by the Father. We must be born again by the Spirit of God to truly know him for who he is. The identity of Jesus is the foundation of the church.

Jesus, we want to see you; to see you for who you really are. To get a vision of you in all the radiance of your glory; universe Maker, Lion of the tribe of Judah, King of kings and Lord of lords, infinite Word, exalted Son, Love incarnate, the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world, God with us – Jesus. Father, remove the scales from our eyes so that we can see Jesus for who he really is. Lord, if there are any here who have not been transformed by Jesus, I pray that you would cause them to be born again; cause them to come to you, to trust you, to be set free by you, to experience the abundant life in you. Holy Spirit, fall on us and overpower us.

January 4, 2009 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment