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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

2 Corinthians 3:6; The Letter Kills, The Spirit Makes Alive

05/20_2 Corinthians 3:6; The Letter Kills; The Spirit Makes Alive ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20180520_2cor3_6.mp3

What we want to be about, what we must be about as followers of Jesus, is spreading the knowledge of Jesus everywhere. We have seen in 2 Corinthians 3 that the sufficiency, the competence for this kind of ministry comes through Christ and toward or in the presence of God. We must recognize we are not competent in ourselves. We cannot claim anything as coming from ourselves. Anything. Jesus said ‘apart from me you can do nothing.’ But then Paul says we are competent, because of God,

2 Corinthians 3:6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

This raises some questions. What does it mean to be a minister? What is the new covenant? How do we minister not by the letter, but by the Spirit? What is the role of the letter and the role of the Spirit?

Ministers

As we saw last time, a minister is simply a servant. One who serves others for their good. If we are all called to be ministers of a new covenant, we need to know what this means.

Covenant

Paul introduces this concept of a new covenant here. He says that he has been made sufficient to be a minister of a new covenant. What is the new covenant? We began to look at this when we were exploring the contrast between letters on tablets of stone with letters written with the Spirit of the living God on tablets of fleshly hearts.

A covenant is a binding contract, an agreement between two parties. God made a covenant with his people at Mount Sinai, after he freed them out of slavery in Egypt.

Exodus 24:3 Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.”

Deuteronomy says:

Deuteronomy 4:13 And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments, and he wrote them on two tablets of stone.

God gave Israel his covenant, his commands, his requirements. This was a binding agreement written on stone. He says in Leviticus:

Leviticus 18:5 You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.

If a person does them, by them he shall live. Obedience equals life. Jesus affirmed this. When he was asked by a lawyer ‘what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus responds ‘What is written in the law? How do you read it? The lawyer summarized the law by the two great commands; love God and love neighbor as yourself. Jesus said:

Luke 10:28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

Do this and you will live. The lawyer, wanting to justify himself, asked ‘and who is my neighbor?’ He wanted to check off a box to show that he was good enough. Jesus gave him the parable of the good Samaritan. Everyone you come in contact with is your neighbor. Keep the law and you will live. Obedience to the law equals life.

The Letter Kills

The flip side of that, of course, is disobedience equals death. And that’s what we see if we look back to the giving of the law. Exodus 19-31 record the giving of the law to Moses. It is interesting to look back and see the difference before and after the giving of the law.

-In Exodus 14:6-14, at the Red Sea, before Sinai, Israel cried out to the Lord and complained that they would die in the wilderness; God parted the sea and rescued them. In Numbers 11:1-3, immediately after leaving Sinai, the people complained about misfortunes and the fire of the Lord burned among them. In Numbers 16:41-50 the people grumbled against their leaders, and 14,700 died in plague. In Numbers 21:4-9 the people become impatient and discontent; and the LORD sent fiery serpents to kill many.

-In Exodus 15:22-27, before the law, the people grumbled because the water was bitter; and the bitter water was made sweet. In Exodus 17:1-7 people grumbled and quarreled because they had no water; God instructed Moses to strike the rock and water came out from the rock for the people. But in Numbers 20:2-13, after the law was given, when there was no water and people quarreled, God instructed Moses to speak to the rock. Instead, he disobeyed and struck the rock. Water came out, but because of their disobedience, Moses and Aaron would die in the wilderness and not enter the land.

-In Exodus 16:1-18, before the law, the people grumbled because of hunger; God provides manna and quail for them to eat. But in Numbers 11, after the law came, the people grumble about no meat, and God sent quail until it came out their nostrils, and he sent a very great plague to destroy them.

– In Exodus 16:19-30, before the law, the people are instructed to rest and not go out looking for manna on the Sabbath, but they disobey. Nothing happens. But in Numbers 15:32-36, a person caught gathering sticks on the sabbath is stoned to death for breaking the law.

– In Exodus 17:8-14, before Sinai, God defeats Amalek before Israel. In Numbers 14:39-45, after Sinai, Israel is defeated before the Amalekites and Canaanites.

Some of the very same things that had no consequences before the law, after the law brought death. The history of Israel after the giving of the law is a chronicle of disobedience and death. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:6 that the letter kills. This is very literally true.

Romans and the Law/Letter

Paul gives us more systematic teaching on the role and purpose of the law in the book of Romans. It will serve us well to look there to fill out our understanding of what he means when he says that ‘the letter kills but the Spirit gives life.’

Romans 2:13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

The Jews prided themselves on having the law. But as we have seen, unless the law is obeyed, it brings death.

Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

The law was given to shut every mouth and hold all people accountable to God. The law shows us our sin; it does not make us righteous. This is made even more clear in chapter 4.

Romans 4:15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.

The law brings wrath. We see this graphically displayed in the history of Israel after Sinai. Romans 5 tells us

Romans 5:20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass…

The law did not create righteousness; it actually did the opposite; it served to increase trespass. Romans 7 tells us how.

Romans 7:5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.

The law actually stirred up our sinful passions. Paul gives a personal example:

Romans 7:7 … if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.

He is describing what he said in 3:20 that ‘through the law comes the knowledge of sin.’ The commandment that promised life; the law says ‘do this and you shall live’ proved in his own experience to deliver death.

If the law produces death, does this mean that the law is bad? Paul answers:

Romans 7:12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. 13 … It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.

The law is holy, righteous, good, even spiritual. But the law puts on display the sinfulness of sin. The law’s good purpose is to show us our sin, to stop our mouths, to hold us accountable to God, and to put us to death. I said that is the law’s good purpose. How is that good? Good is not determined by what is good for me. It’s not all about me! Good is what is good absolutely. It is good and right for God to display his justice and to punish sin. But this is good for me. It is good for the law to show me my sin, because only sinners who confess their sin can be forgiven. It is good for the law to put me to death, because only those who are dead can be raised to newness of life. Only those who are shown their desperate need will cry out to God for rescue. Jesus said

Mark 2:17 …“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The law plays a vital role in showing us God’s justice and our need. This is what makes the good news so very very good! The law brings us to the end of ourselves, and that is very good. The letter kills but the Spirit makes alive.

A New Covenant

This is where the new covenant promises come in. As we looked a few weeks ago, God promises in Jeremiah and Ezekiel to make a new covenant with his people, a covenant different from the covenant he made with the fathers, not like the covenant that they broke.

Jeremiah 31:33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

This is the contrast Paul draws in 2 Corinthians; They old covenant was written on tablets of stone, and the result was disobedience and death. The new covenant of which he is a minster, is a heart agreement. No longer is it an external standard, which we may even agree is good, but our competing desires and inclination to disobedience thwart our best efforts to keep it. Now in the new covenant God writes his instruction on our hearts. It is part of us. It is internalized. It is who we are. It now defines us.

forgiveness

A critical component of this new covenant that God works in us is that he says ‘I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sins no more. This is powerful. This is so powerful for obedience. If we feel like a failure, if we feel like we have already disappointed him, we feel defeated. The guilt and shame are disabling. It’s like an overwhelming record of debt that stands against us. When you’re in debt and really see no way out, it’s easy to just give up and spend even more, run the credit card again, dig the hole deeper, We feel crippled to ever be good enough, to ever measure up. But in the context of forgiveness; this is so beautiful, so powerful, let this sink in an saturate your soul and transform everything; God says he remembers your sin no more. If you are in Christ, you always, always have a clean slate. You are always accepted. You are always good enough. You can’t sin fast enough to make the record stick. Do you see how powerful this is? Try to fight when you are all tied up and ensnared and weighed down. You can hardly even move. But God cuts the cords and sets you free and keeps you free so that you can fight.

This is so powerful, and I pray it shapes the way we relate to each other, to our spouse, to our children. Shame and guilt can be a motivating factor, but it is disabling. Forgiveness is so much more powerful.

they shall all know me

Notice another key aspect of this new covenant in Jeremiah 31. it says ‘they shall all know me.’ Paul is spreading the knowledge of Jesus everywhere. The new covenant is built on relationship. Intimacy. This is not second-hand knowledge. I know God and I have to tell you, God says what you’re doing is wrong. Someone stands between. You’re not hearing it first hand. It’s not direct. Someone is in between. That’s exactly the way it was at Sinai with the law. The people said ‘don’t let God speak to us directly. Moses, you go listen to God and then come tell us what he said.’ When I send one of my kids to pass along instruction to one of their siblings (and this happens a lot in our house) it doesn’t carry much weight. They say ‘hey, you need to do this’ and it’s easy to ignore. They might even say ‘hey, dad said you should do this’ and that carries a little more weight, but it’s still easy to ignore. Sometimes something gets lost in the delivery. The messenger got sidetracked and never delivered my message. Something got lost in the communication and something different than what I asked gets done. Is it the messenger who failed or the one who was supposed to receive the message who didn’t listen? It’s easy to shift blame. But when I show up personally, that’s completely different. It’s no longer someone passing along second hand information about what I said. Now it’s me, in relationship, really present, it’s direct. That’s what the new covenant does. It brings each of us into direct relationship with God. It’s no longer someone else telling you what you ought to be doing. It’s no longer mediated. It’s God himself communicating directly.

And it’s within the context of loving relationship. It can try to tell someone else’s kids what to do, but if the relationship isn’t there, if the accountability and love and respect in relationship hasn’t been established, it isn’t very effective. They run to mom or dad and say ‘that weird guy just told me what to do.’ In the new covenant, God brings us into relationship with himself. They shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.

a new heart and God’s Spirit

Another piece of this transforming power of the new covenant we see in Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

God gives us a heart transplant. Our hard rebellious heart needs to be removed, and replaced by a soft, tender heart, a heart capable of love, a heart receptive to the Lord. But he doesn’t stop there. In the New covenant he puts his Holy Spirit in us. This is the aspect that Paul highlights in 2 Corinthians. The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. O hear this! Let the truth of this sink in! The Holy Spirit of the living God; God the Holy Spirit, comes in, takes up residence in us. He lives in us and makes us alive. He transforms us from the inside. He will never leave!

Romans 7:6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

We are released from the law to serve in the new way of the Spirit.

Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

This is the message we are called to minister! This is the good news of the gospel! Through the cross there is forgiveness, no matter what you have done. You can know God yourself, you can enjoy relationship. God the Spirit comes to live inside and make you alive, truly alive, eternally alive! So walk in the Spirit and spread the knowledge of Jesus everywhere!

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

May 23, 2018 Posted by | 2 Corinthians, podcast, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Advent: Jesus is Greater! Greater Israel

12/31 Advent; Jesus is Greater! Greater Israel / Greater Covenant ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20171231_advent-greater-israel.mp3

We have been looking this season at Jesus. Jesus is greater! The greater prophet than Moses, Jesus is God’s Word to us; The greater priest than Aaron, Jesus is the one Mediator between God and man, the Lamb of God who takes away our sins, the place where we meet with God. The greater king than David, Jesus rules and shepherds us for our good. The greater man than Adam, Jesus as our representative obeyed his Father perfectly, and Jesus puts the image of God on perfect display to all creation.

Today I want to look at Jesus from another aspect; Jesus the greater Isreal. What the nation of Israel was meant to be and do but failed, Jesus does perfectly.

Creation to Israel; Failure

As we saw last time, God made man for relationship, to put God on display, to rule and be a blessing to all creation. But our first parents rebelled and brought death and destruction instead of life and blessing.

Genesis 6:5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.’

The human race strayed so far from God’s ideal, that in his justice he wiped creation clean with a flood, and started over, extending grace to one man and his family and a boat load of animals. But this man too rebelled and strayed. Still,

Genesis 8:21 …the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.

God promised to never again destroy the earth with a flood. Instead, when mankind united in rebellion against him, he confused their languages and scattered them over the face of the earth (Gen.11) and selected one man to work with.

Genesis 12:2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Abraham was to become a great nation and to be a blessing to all the families of the earth. But Abraham’s family was a mess. God chose Isaac instead of Ishmael, Jacob instead of Esau, and God renamed Jacob Israel, who fathered 12 sons by four different women who became the 12 tribes of Israel. There was favoritism and fighting, and instead of being a blessing, they made many enemies. They sold their brother into slavery, and ended up moving to Egypt because of famine. 400 years later they had become slaves in Egypt, and they were still fighting amongst themselves, but God heard their cry and rescued them out of slavery and took them to be his people. Their whole history is punctuated by sin, rebellion, idolatry, disobedience, and failure. Israel ends up divided, conquered, exiled, scattered, failing to be who God called them to be.

True Seed of Abraham

Matthew begins his gospel with these words:

Matthew 1:1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers

Matthew traces Jesus’ line back through King David to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Jesus is the true Israel, the true seed of Abraham. God promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob:

Genesis 12:2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

The blessing of Abraham, to be a blessing to the nations, confirmed to Isaac, and then to Jacob:

Genesis 26:3 … I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. 4 I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed,

Paul looks at these promises to Abraham in Galatians 3:16

Galatians 3:16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.

Jesus is the singular offspring of Abraham in whom all the families of the earth will be blessed. Jesus is the greater Israel.

Called Out of Egypt

In Matthew 2, after the Magi from east came to worship Jesus, we read

Matthew 2:13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” (cf. Hosea 11:1)

Matthew is tuned in to this connection between Jesus and Israel. Like Israel, Jesus was forced to flee to Egypt. Like Moses, Jesus narrowly escaped the massacre of male Israelite children by a hostile king (Ex.2)

In 1 Corinthains 10, Paul refers to the Israelites passing through the sea as a baptism. Jesus was baptized in the Jordan river by John.

God spoke to Israel from the mountain after they had come up from the water (Ex.19).

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

Tested in the Wilderness

Israel was tested in the wilderness for 40 years, and they failed.

Test 1: Lust of the Flesh / Live by the Word of God

Exodus 16:2 And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, 3 and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

Israel was hungry and they grumbled. They complained. They accused God of evil intent. They failed to believe God. They longed to go back into slavery.

Matthew 4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Jesus was tested in the wilderness 40 days. He was hungry. But he depended completely on the word of God. Moses in Deuteronomy 8 reminded Israel:

Deuteronomy 8:2 And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. 3 And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

God tested Israel in the wilderness to know what was in their heart, and they failed. Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by the devil and submitted completely to God’s word.

Test 2: Lust of the Eyes / Do not put God to the Test

Psalm 78:17 Yet they sinned still more against him, rebelling against the Most High in the desert. 18 They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved. 19 They spoke against God, saying, “Can God spread a table in the wilderness?

This refers back to the incident in Exodus 17

Exodus 17:2 Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” …7 And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the LORD by saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”

God had already proven his presence and provision with his people. God was testing his people to see if they would be faithful; they were attempting to turn the tables and put God on trial to see if he met up to their expectations. They were attempting to force God’s hand to give them what they wanted.

Matthew 4:5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” 7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Where Israel doubted in unbelief, “is the LORD among us or not?” Jesus refused to test God. He quoted Deuteronomy 6:16.

Deuteronomy 6:16 “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah.

Test 3: Pride of Life / Worship God Only

Throughout the history of Israel, from the golden calf, to the Baals and Ashtoreths, God’s people demonstrated that their hearts were prone to wander. Deuteronomy 6 warns:

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

But where Israel failed again and again and again, Jesus’ heart was true to his Father alone.

Matthew 4:8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”

Where Israel was tested and failed, Jesus was in the wilderness 40 days and remained faithful. He refused to be led astray by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life (1 Jn.2:16). He remained faithful to God, bowing to God alone, trusting God’s timing, presence, and provision, depending on God’s word. Jesus is the greater Israel.

Fulfilled the Terms of the Covenant

God made a covenant with his people Israel.

Exodus 19:4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation….

A covenant is a binding contract. With the covenant there were associated blessings and curses; blessings for keeping the terms of the covenant, curses as consequence of breaking the covenant (Deut.28-29). Jeremiah 31 refers to

Jeremiah 31:32 …the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD.

Israel broke the covenant. Israel was unfaithful. They brought the curses of the covenant on themselves. Jesus said:

John 8:29 …I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”

Jesus obeyed his Father perfectly. He said:

Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Jesus fulfilled the terms of the covenant perfectly. Not only did Jesus fully meet the requirements of the law, and earn its blessings, but we are told in Galatians 3

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”—

Jesus deserved all the blessings, but he took on himself the curse that Israel earned.

Hebrews 9 tells us Jesus is

Hebrews 9:15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

The consequence for covenant treason is death, and Jesus died to free us from the consequences of our transgression. Jesus gets us out from under the old covenant, and he mediates a better covenant, a new covenant to us. Jeremiah 31 says:

Jeremiah 31:31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 … For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Jesus mediates a better covenant; he transforms us on the inside. He changes our desires. He gives us a new heart. He puts his own Spirit inside us.

A Blessing to the Nations

Jesus is the greater Israel, the true seed of Abraham, called out of Egypt, tested in the wilderness, perfectly fulfilled the terms of the covenant, both earning the blessing, and taking the curse on himself. So Jesus becomes what Israel was meant to be; a blessing to the nations. Galatians tells us:

Galatians 3:8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

What a treasure we have! Good news to the nations! To all who believe! All who believe in Jesus! Christ became a curse for us:

Galatians 3:14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

When Simeon took the infant Jesus in his arms in Luke 2, he quoted Isaiah.

Luke 2:30 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.” (cf. Isaiah 42:6; 49:6; 52:10)

Jesus the greater Israel brings the blessings of salvation to all the nations. Jesus is worthy of worship, because Jesus is greater!

Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

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

January 9, 2018 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 9:19-23; By All Means Save Some

03/23 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 By All Means Save Some;Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140323_1cor9_19-23.mp3

1 Corinthians 9 [SBLGNT]

19 Ἐλεύθερος γὰρ ὢν ἐκ πάντων πᾶσιν ἐμαυτὸν ἐδούλωσα, ἵνα τοὺς πλείονας κερδήσω· 20 καὶ ἐγενόμην τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις ὡς Ἰουδαῖος, ἵνα Ἰουδαίους κερδήσω· τοῖς ὑπὸ νόμον ὡς ὑπὸ νόμον, μὴ ὢν αὐτὸς ὑπὸ νόμον, ἵνα τοὺς ὑπὸ νόμον κερδήσω· 21 τοῖς ἀνόμοις ὡς ἄνομος, μὴ ὢν ἄνομος θεοῦ ἀλλ’ ἔννομος Χριστοῦ, ἵνα κερδάνω τοὺς ἀνόμους· 22 ἐγενόμην τοῖς ἀσθενέσιν ἀσθενής, ἵνα τοὺς ἀσθενεῖς κερδήσω· τοῖς πᾶσιν γέγονα πάντα, ἵνα πάντως τινὰς σώσω. 23 πάντα δὲ ποιῶ διὰ τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, ἵνα συγκοινωνὸς αὐτοῦ γένωμαι.

1 Corinthians 9 [ESV2011]

19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

In 1 Corinthians 8-10, Paul is tactfully tackling the issue of how far a believer can go in identifying with the culture around him without involving himself in the sin of the culture. Some in Corinth were fighting for their rights to participate in pagan temple festivities, claiming that their knowledge set them free. They know that there is only one true God, and that idols are nothing, so any food dedicated to an idol is untainted by all the pagan hocus-pocus, so they are free to eat. Maybe they felt it would be an opportunity to evangelize family and friends if they attended temple functions. Paul challenges them to think more carefully through the issues. What if a brother whose conscience is not as liberated as yours follows your example and violates his own conscience, participating in the actual worship of idols? By destroying the weak brother for whom Christ died, you sin against Christ.

In chapter 9, Paul carefully builds the case for those who preach the gospel to be supported by those to whom they preach. He builds this case all for the purpose of demonstrating by his own example what it looks like to have legitimate God given rights and to release those rights for the sake of the gospel and for the good of others. Paul has no choice but to preach the gospel. He is required to preach. In verses 15-18, he claims it as his reward to waive his rights to compensation and present the gospel free of charge.

Free from All

In verses 19-23 he returns to the issue of freedom. In verse 1, he began with the rhetorical question “am I not free?” and here he returns to this issue of freedom. In this passage, he asserts his freedom, voluntarily limits his freedom, and gives us his driving principle for self-limiting his freedom.

Paul asserts his freedom in no uncertain terms. He asked the question “am I not free?”, and here he says “I am free from all”. Paul is a free man. He is free from all people. He is free from all things.

Jesus said

John 8:32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” …36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Paul says to the believers in Galatia

Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Paul will not submit again to slavery. He speaks earlier in Galatians

Galatians 2:4 Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— 5 to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

Paul is willing to stand on his rights, insist on his freedom, and demand his rights when the truth of the gospel is at stake. When Peter caved to the pressure of the Judaizers and backed away from eating with Gentile believers, Paul called it hypocrisy and confronted him openly and publicly. He says:

Galatians 2:14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” 15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

Peter, a Jew, who had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised, was living like a Gentile while among the Gentiles. That was right. He was free in Jesus to eat what Gentiles eat. What was wrong and out of line with the good news was when he backed away and separated himself from them out of fear. This conduct flew in the face of the gospel message that the death of Christ had broken down the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile (Eph.2:14). Paul, as a follower of our Lord Jesus Christ, was free from all. And when it came to the truth of the gospel, he would fanatically fight for that freedom.

Slave of All

But this is what Paul does with his freedom when the good news of freedom in Jesus is not under attack. He says

1 Corinthians 9:19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all,

Being free, he freely chose to enslave himself to all. He will describe what this looks like for him in the next verses. But first he lays out the driving principle behind his voluntary enslavement.

1 Corinthians 9:19 …that I might win more of them.

His voluntary slavery was with a gospel purpose. This is the driving force of Paul’s life. This was his prime passion. ‘That I might win more of them’. This is why he suffered imprisonment, countless beatings, five times the 39 lashes at the hands of the Jews, three times beaten with rods. Once they stoned him, dragged him outside the city, and left him for dead. And he got back up and went back in to the city and went right on preaching the gospel (Acts 14:19-20). He endured shipwreck three times. He faced constant danger, toil, hardship, hunger, thirst, sleepless nights, exposure to the elements (2Cor11:23-28). He had counted the cost, and he did it all willingly, that he might win more. The value of one soul for whom Christ died was of far greater worth than his own personal health, safety, comfort or well-being.

It is interesting to note that Paul sometimes opted out of a beating. Sometimes he called on his rights as a Roman citizen. In Acts 22, when the soldiers were stretching him out for a flogging, he appealed to his Roman citizenship. In Acts 25, aware that the Jews were intending to ambush and murder him, Paul appealed to Caesar. With the Romans, Paul stood up for his rights as a citizen, creating legal precedent that would benefit and protect followers of Jesus for future generations.

But with the Jews, five times he accepted the 40 lashes minus one. A Jew, guilty of blaspheming, must be cut off from his people. But in order to avert this punishment, according to the Mishnah, one could submit to flogging. Paul, preaching Jesus as the promised Messiah and God in the flesh was probably accused of blasphemy. He could have shook the dust off his feet and walked away, but in order to maintain his connection to the Jews and access to preach the gospel in the synagogues, he voluntarily submitted to their discipline. During the scourging, someone would read repeatedly the curse from Deuteronomy 28, so in a very literal way, Paul came under the law (BECNT p.430). So passionate was Paul to win his fellow Jews to Jesus, that he said:

Romans 9:2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

Although Paul was free from all, he voluntarily became servant of all, so that he might win more of them. Paul was passionate about captivating as many people as possible with Jesus.

Proverbs 11:30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise.

This word ‘to win’ is usually used in a financial sense of profit or gain. Paul’s reward was to win people for Christ. As he was commissioned by Jesus

Acts 26:17 …from your people and from the Gentiles— to whom 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.’

Paul’s driving passion and ruling principle in life was to win as many as possible, to open eyes, to rescue from Satan’s kingdom, to offer forgiveness of sins and a place among God’s people.

The Third Category

In the following verses, he describes how he went about this with different groups of people.

20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.

This is a fascinating passage. Paul, a Hebrew of Hebrews, an offspring of Abraham, an Israelite from the tribe of Benjamin, circumcised on the eighth day, Paul a Jew by birth, says ‘to the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. Since becoming a follower of Jesus, Paul no longer considered himself a Jew. Ethnically, he was Jewish. That did not change. He clarifies what he means by his next phrase. Jews were those who are under the law. Paul once was a Jew under the law. He is that no longer.

2 Corinthians 5:16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Paul was no longer a Jew under the law. Neither was he a Gentile. He had become a new creation in Christ. Jesus had created a third category.

1 Corinthians 12:13 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.

To the Galatians, he says

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.

Jesus has abolished the old categories of humanity.

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

He addresses the Ephesians, formerly Gentiles, separated, alienated, strangers, and he says:

Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,

Jesus abolished the law of commandments expressed in ordinances in order to create one new man in place of the two. Romans chapter 7 tells us how the law was abolished for followers of Jesus.

Romans 7:1 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives?

And he uses the law of marriage to illustrate the principle that we are only bound by the law as long as we are alive.

4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

We are freed from the law because we have died with Christ. We have been released from bondage to the law. We are free from the written code. We now serve God out of a Spirit transformed heart. This is what Paul says in Galatians 2:

Galatians 2:19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 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.

The Law, the Law of God, and the Law of Christ

Let’s look for a minute at how Paul sees himself in relation to the law. He is very careful to clarify so that he is not misunderstood. He became as a Jew, as one under the law, though he himself is no longer a Jew and is not under the law. Paul is not obligated to keep the Jewish law. If we look back at the Jerusalem decree in Acts 15, we see that Gentiles keeping the law of Moses was what was at issue.

Acts 15:5 But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.”

Peter argued that God

Acts 15:9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

Even to those raised Jewish, the law of Moses was ‘a yoke on the neck that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear.’ Paul makes it clear that he is not himself under the law. In relations to the Gentiles to whom the law had not been given, Paul became as one outside the law, but he is careful to clarify ‘not being outside the law of God but inside the law of Christ’. Paul wants to make clear that no longer being under the law does not mean that he is free to sin. He makes a distinction between the law that he is not under and the law that he is not outside of. In verse 20 he says that he is not under the law, and in verse 21 he says that he is not without the law of God but inside the law of Christ. He draws a contrast between the law of Moses and the law of God. One he is no longer under any obligation to fulfill, the law of Moses having been perfectly fulfilled in Christ. The other, the law of God or the law of Christ, is what he is walking in.

Jesus said:

John 1:17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

God gave the law to his people through Moses. The law showed us our sin. In Acts 13, Paul says about Jesus

Acts 13:38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.

The law of Moses did not free. It was a yoke that no one could bear. Galatians (5:23) tells us that we were held captive, imprisoned under the law. The law was our guardian until Christ came.

The 613 commandments of the Old Testament have been completely fulfilled in Jesus. Those who are justified through faith in Jesus are not under that law. We are now in the law of Christ.

So what is the law of Christ? Jesus was asked

Matthew 22:36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Jesus said

Matthew 7:12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Jesus said

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

John wrote

1 John 3:23 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.

1 John 4:21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Paul tells the Thessalonians

1 Thessalonians 4:9 Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another,

It is clear that the law of Christ is the law of love. Romans 8 says

Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

We fulfill the law when we walk according to the Spirit.

Romans 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Galatians says

Galatians 5:14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

James says

James 2:8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

All Things to All People

Paul became all things to all people for the advance of the gospel. To the Jews he became as a Jew. In Acts 16 Paul circumcised Timothy in order to remove hindrances to the gospel among the Jews. In Acts 18, Paul cut his hair because of a vow. In Acts 21, Paul was counseled to purify himself along with four men and present the appropriate offering in the temple. Paul demonstrated that, although he was free from the law, this did not mean that he could not observe Jewish laws when it would serve to advance the gospel.

Paul became as one outside in order to win those outside the law. When Paul went up to Jerusalem, he brought Titus the Greek as a test case to demonstrate that Gentiles were not required to keep the law (Gal.2:3). At Antioch, Paul insisted that Peter continue to demonstrate the truth of the gospel by eating with the Gentiles.

There was another category of people that Paul reached out to with the gospel. These were the weak. The text does not say that he became as the weak. It says he became weak. He doesn’t become a Jew or a Gentile, but he does become weak. He does not qualify this with a statement like ‘though not myself being weak’. In the context, we see that Paul took a manual labor job to pay the bills. The sophisticated Corinthians may consider this weak, but Paul says that he gladly became weak in order to win the weak to Christ. He voluntarily placed himself in the lowest social strata to bring the gospel to people who may not otherwise listen. Paul did not merely preach the gospel. Paul lived the gospel. As he says in Ephesians 5

Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

As Christ gave himself up for us, Paul follows the example of his Master and gives up his own rights. He stoops down to identify with the weak so that they know that the gospel is for them. Paul being weak, unable to save himself by his own righteousness, stands with the weak in the gospel blessings that come to the weak. Paul’s life has been transformed by the gospel. Paul now lives a life conformed to the gospel. Paul was transformed by the cross. Paul now lives life shaped by the cross. He lives a life characterized by sacrifice. He is willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to bring the saving good news to people for whom Christ died. His prime passion is the good news of Christ crucified, and he is willing to live out that good news and come alongside anyone to stand with them at the foot of the cross. There is no other Christian life than a life shaped by the cross.

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

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

Church Functions; What The Church Does

01/12/14 Church Functions; what the church does Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140112_church-functions.mp3

Last time we looked at what it means to be a church member. We defined church as an assembly of Jesus-followers; the church is the blood-bought people of God who gather together. When we talk about church membership, we are not talking about membership in a society or club where there are member benefits, perks and privileges. Being a member of the church is language taken from the body metaphor in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians. As members of the body of Christ, we are to be connected, functional parts of the whole, each uniquely equipped to fulfill the role God has assigned to us.

Today I would like to explore some of the functions the church is meant to carry out. If we are to be functional parts of the whole, it is essential that we all have a clear vision of the goal. What is the purpose of the church? If each part has a clear understanding of the mission, we can move in unity toward the common goal, valuing the contribution of each member.

Last time we said that the clear objective of the church in encapsulated in the great commandment and the great commission. The purpose of the church and of every member is to glorify God by loving God, loving people, and making disciples who glorify God by loving God, loving people and making disciples.

Evangelism and Baptism

Let’s see how this played out in the formation of the new covenant church in Acts 2. Jesus had presented himself alive to his disciples, and commissioned them as eye-witnesses to testify to his death and resurrection. He charged them with the task of making disciples of all nations, and then he told them to wait. Wait until you are clothed with power from on high. Wait for the promise of the Father, the promised Holy Spirit. In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit filled them and they began to proclaim the mighty works of God to the crowds in Jerusalem. They were supernaturally enabled to communicate with the crowd in all the languages that were represented. All were amazed, but some mocked. Peter explained what was happening by referring to the prophesy in Joel:

Acts 2:17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.

Peter connects this proclamation of the mighty works of God by the apostles to the promised outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit. He concludes his quotation with these words from the prophet Joel:

Acts 2:21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

Everyone. Everyone who calls on the name of YHWH will be saved.

We get a taste of the content of this gospel proclamation of the mighty works of God in the following verses.

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

Then he gives some Old Testament evidence to prove his point.

…32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. … 36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Everyone who calls on the name of YHWH will be saved. This Jesus, the one who did mighty works, this Jesus whom you crucified, this Jesus, whom God raised from the dead, this Jesus is YHWH, Lord and Christ, Messiah. Call on this Jesus as Lord and Christ, Jesus who died for you and was raised and you will be saved.

Notice carefully the response of his hearers:

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

They were cut to the heart. They were convicted of their sin. They were responsible for the crucifixion of God’s Messiah. They felt the weight of their guilt. They had crucified the Lord of glory! “Brothers, what shall we do?” This was broken-hearted recognition of their offense before God. We too are responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus; it was our sin that made it necessary for him to suffer and die, it was my sin that he came to pay for.

38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

Repent simply means to have a change of heart and mind. Turn from your hostility toward God, turn from your rebellion, turn from your sin which nailed Christ to the cross. Turn away from whatever false religious hopes you were holding on to, and turn to Jesus. Demonstrate this turning by baptism, the outward sign of the inward truth, confessing Christ Jesus as Lord, declaring publicly that your heart and mind have been transformed, that you have become a follower of Jesus. There is hope for you who by your rebellion have crucified the Lord of glory. There is forgiveness for your sins. You can never do anything to earn it. You must receive it as a gift. Turn to Jesus and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is God’s promise for you, no matter how far you have strayed. God is calling you to himself.

40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Peter proclaimed the good news that Jesus is God, that he is the promised Messiah, that the Father authenticated his identity with supernatural signs, that Jesus was crucified, and that he rose from the dead. They were cut to the heart, convicted of their sinfulness, and asked what they should do. Peter told them to repent, to change their minds, to turn to Jesus, and they would be forgiven and given the gift of the Holy Spirit. Those who received his word, those who believed, who turned to Jesus, were baptized, publicly demonstrating their faith. 3,000 were added that day to the church through belief and baptism. The church grew from 120 to over 3,000. Let’s look at what the early church did.

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Acts 2:42 is very instructive. It tells us what the early church emphasized, what they were devoted to, what they were diligent in and earnest about. Four definite things the early church was committed to. Apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayers. Two things we have already seen in this passage that the early church did and we see them doing throughout the book of Acts: evangelism and baptism. They were proclaiming the good news about Jesus, making disciples, and baptizing into the church those who were believing.

The Apostles’ Teaching

Those who became followers of Jesus were devoted to the apostle’s teaching. Jesus commissioned his 12 disciples to be his eye-witnesses in a unique and unrepeatable way. He spent 40 days with them after his resurrection. He promised them the Holy Spirit who would continue to teach and guide them.

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

The apostle’s teaching formed the foundation of the church, centered around Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 4:11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, …14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

God gave the apostles to the church to equip them for ministry and to give them a stable foundation of doctrine so they would not be led astray. The apostle’s teaching was a big deal. The early church was warned against any deviation or distortion of the apostle’s teaching.

Romans 16:17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.

The apostle Paul warned young pastor Timothy:

1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, …6 If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.

…13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to [the] exhortation, to [the] teaching. …16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Do not depart from the faith. You have been trained in the words of the faith, in the good doctrine that you have followed, so devote yourself to the teaching.

1 Timothy 6:3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul exhorted him to:

2 Timothy 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

Titus was left in Crete to appoint elders in every town. One of the necessary characteristics of a church leader was:

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

The apostle John wrote:

2 John 1:8 Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. 9 Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting,

We must abide in the teaching of Christ. The apostle Peter, aware that he would soon die, wrote a letter. He said:

2 Peter 1:12 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. 13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

Because of the diligence of the Lord’s apostles, we have their teaching today in written form. We as the church must be devoted to the apostle’s teaching.

The Fellowship

Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

The second thing that the early church was devoted to is the fellowship. Fellowship is a broad word that can mean partnership, sharing, participation, communion. It comes from a root word that means common. In some contexts it means sharing financially (Rom.15:26; 2Cor.8:4, 9:13; Phil.1:5; Heb.13:16; root word in Acts 2:44, 4:32); it can mean oneness of spirit with God or with people (1 Cor.1:9; 2Cor.6:14, 13:14; Gal.2:9; Phil.2:1; 1Jn.1:3,6,7); or it can mean participation or sharing in something (suffering: Phil.3:10; blood and body of Christ in communion 1Cor.10:16; faith Philemon 6; root word: faith Tit.1:4; salvation Jude3).

John writes:

1 John 1:3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. …6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

The fellowship of believers took sin seriously. They confronted each other, exhorted, admonished and encouraged one another, confessed to one another, and were quick to forgive one another. The early church was devoted to fellowship, partnership, relationship, unity of spirit with God and one another. They shared life together. They sang together. They ate together. They enjoyed a common relationship with God and with one another. They fought sin together. They shared financially with one another as people had needs. They partnered in gospel missions with their money and their prayers. There was a true sense of community spiritually, socially, and financially. They cared for one another in practical ways. The early church was committed to the fellowship.

The Breaking of Bread

Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

The third thing the early church was devoted to was the breaking of bread. To break bread together simply mean to have a meal together. When Jesus fed the multitudes with a few loaves, he gave thanks to his Father and broke the bread so that it could be distributed it to each person (Mt.14:19; 15:36). This common form of eating together took on special significance at his final passover meal with his disciples before the crucifixion.

Matthew 26:26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

After his resurrection, Jesus joined some of the disciples who were on the road to Emmaus.

Luke 24:30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. …35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

We find in 1 Corinthians that breaking bread was something the church did when they met together. Paul writes to correct the abuses of this meal that was intended to remind them of Jesus. They called it the Lord’s supper.

1 Corinthians 11:18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not. 23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

1 Corinthians 10:16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.

The early church was diligent to remember Jesus through the breaking of bread.

The Prayers

Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

The fourth thing that this passage tells us the early church devoted themselves to were the prayers. Prayer is communication with God. Jesus, by his example taught us the importance of intimacy with God. He taught his followers to pray for God’s name to be worshiped, God’s rule to be realized, for God’s purposes to be accomplished. He taught us to ask in dependence for our basic physical and spiritual needs, and for rescue from temptation (Mt.6:9-13). Jesus taught us to pray for our enemies (Mt.5:44).

The church in Acts gathered together to pray for their leaders.

Acts 12:5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. …12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.

In fact, I counted at least 10 places in the New Testament where the author either referred to or specifically asked for the people to pray for him. Prayer for rescue, for freedom, prayer for effective ministry, prayer for gospel opportunities and clarity in declaring the gospel, prayer for boldness. That’s about the same frequency of the author saying that he was praying for the people he was writing to.

Jesus prayed when he selected his 12 apostles (Lk.6:12). The early church prayed when they appointed leaders in the churches.

Acts 13:2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

Acts 14:23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

We are instructed to pray for gospel opportunities and salvation for all people:

1 Timothy 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. …8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;

We are to pray for the needs of one another:

James 5:13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Ephesians 6:18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Conclusion

Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

The early church was active in proclaiming the good news about Jesus. They were active in making disciples. They were serious about preserving, proclaiming, and living out the truth once for all delivered to the saints. They were connected in community with one another. They were committed to keeping Jesus central to everything, remembering and reminding one another what Jesus did for them. They were characterized by their relationship with God, constantly communicating with him and depending on him in everything. The early church brought much glory to God by loving him, loving one another, and making disciples. This is how the church functioned. We would do well to follow their example.

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

January 12, 2014 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Church Members

01/05/14 Church Members Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20140105_church-member.mp3

It has been suggested to me that it might be useful for us as we begin a new year together and as we approach our annual meeting and as we are encouraging you to apply for membership in this local church, to study together what it means to be a church member. In order to understand church membership, we first need to understand what the church is, and then what the bible means when it talks about members, and let that shape how we think about church membership.

Church

First, what is a church? According to the dictionary,

http://dictionary.reference.com

church [church] noun

1.  a building for public Christian worship.

2. public worship of God or a religious service in such a building: to attend church regularly.

That is how the modern English dictionary defines ‘church’ But in the New Testament, the word church never once refers to a building or a location. The New Testament word is [ἐκκλησία] ekklesia; it means a called out assembly of people. In Acts 19 this word usually translated ‘church’ is translated ‘assembly’ referring to the riotous crowd that gathered in the theater in Ephesus shouting “great is Artemis of the Ephesians”. The town clerk quieted the crowd and told them that if they have any legitimate issues they should be settled in the legal assembly (again the same word usually translated ‘church’). The Greek word ekklesia simply means a gathering or assembly of people. The church or gathering is made up of individuals. After Stephen was martyred, Saul persecuted the church by going after individuals.

Acts 8:3 But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.

After Saul met Jesus, we are told:

Acts 9:31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.

Here we see that individual followers of Jesus in different geographic regions, who would not typically meet together, are all collectively called ‘the church’, singular. Jesus spoke this way when he said “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt.16:18). Jesus is building an unstoppable assembly of people. Acts 20:28 tells us that God obtained the church with his own blood. So the assembly, the church that we are talking about is the blood-bought people of God, made up of believers who follow Jesus.

In Acts 14, as Paul and Barnabas visited cities, they preached the gospel and made disciples of Jesus. As they passed through these areas again, they strengthened and encouraged these followers of Jesus.

Acts 14:23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

So they established assemblies of believers or churches in each city, each with their own local leadership. After they returned to Antioch from this missionary journey we are told:

Acts 14:27 And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.

Pay close attention to how they talk about the church. It does not say they showed up at an address. It says that they ‘gathered the church together’. It does not say where. Where is irrelevant. The church is not a location. The church is not a building. The church is the blood-bought people of God who gather together. Notice also that church is not something we do. We do not do church, have church, or attend a church service. Church is not an event or a religious service of one form or another. Church is not where. Church is not what. Church is who. Church is our identity as a collective group of Jesus-followers. In Acts 15 Paul returned to many of the cities where he had made disciples:

Acts 15:41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Acts 16:5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.

Here he refers to churches plural. There were multiple assemblies of Jesus-followers in different locations. The churches were strengthened in the faith by strengthening the people who made up those churches. The churches increased as disciples were making more disciples.

So we can talk about the church, the assembly of people that Jesus bought with his blood and will take from every tribe and language and people and nation. And we can talk about churches, local gatherings of Jesus-followers with their own local leadership.

Members

This brings us to the next question; What is a member? I thought it might be informative to start with a dictionary definition.

http://dictionary.reference.com

mem·ber·ship [mem-ber-ship] noun

1. the state of being a member, as of a society or club.

2. the status of a member.

3. the total number of members belonging to an organization,society, etc.

Notice some of the key words in this definition: state, status, number; society or club; belonging.

A quick google search was revealing. Here are some of the first things that pop up for ‘membership’:

Membership Saves You Money On The Things You Love To Buy. Learn More!

Investigate the benefits of basic and society memberships. Explore member and visitor resources and services. Renew or elevate a current membership.

Members can get it all! Members can express their unique style … explore member-only areas

The focus is on you, the member; membership saves you money on the things you love! Membership has benefits. Membership has perks and privileges. Membership grants you exclusive access to resources and services that you wouldn’t have if you weren’t a member. We are encouraged to ask questions like ‘why should I become a member? What’s in it for me? Why is this membership better than that one? What will I get out if it?’ This understanding of membership is shaped and influenced by the individualistic consumer mentality of this present age in which we live. I am the center. I will shop around for a membership that suits me, that serves me well, that meets my needs and fulfills my expectations.

Did you know that church membership is a biblical concept? But if we take what our culture tells us about membership and apply it to the church, we will end up with a disastrous mess. We should not be surprised that the Bible re-defines what membership means and re-calibrates our thinking on what it is to be a member. So buckle up, hold on to your brains, we are going to look at what the Bible has to say about being a member. Let’s start with something Jesus says.

Matthew 5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

The word ‘member’ that Jesus uses is [μέλος] melos; it means a limb or a part of the body, like an eye or a hand. Think for a moment on how this re-shapes the idea of membership. A member is not an individual with rights and privileges; instead a member is a connected functional part of the whole. This how the Bible talks about church membership. This is what Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 12.

1 Corinthians 12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many.

Membership is a body analogy. The human body is made up of a bunch of connected functional parts. The many members make up one body. When someone puts faith in Jesus and becomes a follower of Jesus, that person is baptized with the Holy Spirit and made a part of the body of Christ. Paul goes on to ‘flesh out’ this body membership analogy:

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

Notice that there is necessary diversity of function among the members of the body. One member has one function, another has another function. All members are dependent on one another.

Paul warns us against member envy. There is a tendency among the members of the body to be discontent. We often wish we were something other than what we are. Imagine a ligament in the left knee noticing how eloquently the mouth speaks and trying to yell out in competition!

Notice too how serious it is to have a disconnected member. One member cannot say to another member “I have no need of you”. That is not true. We are designed to be incomplete parts connected to the whole, incomplete without each other. No member stands alone. No member can say ‘I am so important that I don’t need the rest of the body. I am the hand. This sluggish body is holding me back. I think I am going to go it alone for a while’. Neither can any member say ‘I am so insignificant, so unimportant, so unnoticed that the body will be just as well without me. I am only one vertebrae in the spine, I will just quietly disappear and no one will even notice.’ Paul says ‘indispensable!’

In this body analogy, there is no room for retirement. One day the kneecap says ‘I’ve been filling this role for so many years. I’m tired of it. It’s time for me to retire and make room for someone else to step up. When your kneecap gives out, that’s called an injury, and it causes the whole body to suffer.

There may be a time when amputation is necessary, when a member has become so infected with the disease of willful unconfessed sin that for the protection of the rest of the members, they must be severed from the body, but this is a drastic measure, a messy last resort when every other effort has failed, and always with the goal of restoration. The consequences of this action must be carefully weighed, as the body will be handicapped without this member. This highlights the seriousness of membership. For someone to simply choose to dismember themselves from the body for whatever reason is reckless and irresponsible. It handicaps the body and is lethal for that body part.

Some might say ‘oh, I am staying connected to Jesus, the Head, but I just don’t want to be connected to the body’; that is sheer nonsense.

Every member in the body is to be a connected functional part of the whole. This is by God’s design. If we look back at verse 11, we see that it is the “Spirit who apportions to each one individually as he wills.” Verse 18 tells us “God arranged the members of the body, each one of them, as he chose.” Verse 24 tells us that “God has so composed the body …that there may be no division in the body.” God designed you individually to be connected and play a vital, indispensable role in the body, for the good of the whole body. God intends “that there be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” In humility, we are neither to overestimate or underestimate our value in the body. Neither are we to overestimate or underestimate the role of anyone else in the body. No division. “Have the same care for one another.”

26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

You all together are the body of Christ. Each one is to be a connected functional part of the whole. The New Testament assumes that every Jesus-follower is a connected functional member of the body of Christ. When the apostle wrote a letter to the church in Ephesus, it is clear that there was a real assembly of believers in that city to whom the letter would be delivered. When Paul wrote to the church of God that is in Corinth and told them that they were not to judge outsiders but those inside the church, and that they should ‘purge the evil person from among you’ (1Cor.5:13), he assumes that they knew who was outside the church and who was inside, whether that was on a paper member list or a mental one. The bible doesn’t specify how we should keep track, but it is imperative that we know.

Who Should Be A Church Member?

So if we ask the question ‘who should be a member of the church?’ we can answer ‘all those and only those who are genuine followers of Jesus.’ The church is a family that you must be born into. You cannot be a member of the church unless you have experienced the new birth. Those who have experienced the regeneration of the Holy Spirit have been made members of the body of Christ. They are those who experience forgiveness of sins through faith in the Lord Jesus. They make a public profession of that faith through baptism, which is an outward picture of the inward reality. You are not a member of the body of Christ and should not be one on paper if you do not embrace the good news of Jesus. If you do belong to Jesus, then you are a member of his body, and it is essential that you connect with a local body of believers.

What is My Part In the Body?

Here is another question. I am a member of the church. How do I know what my part is? I want to be a connected, functional part of the whole. What part am I? How do I know? You could take a spiritual gifts inventory and that might help a little bit. Let me give you 4 simple things that I think will help you see what part you are to play in the body of Christ.

1. Clearly understand the goal. What is the purpose of the church? What is our mission, our objective? If we clearly see the destination, we can more easily see if we are moving in the right direction or if we are getting sidetracked. The purpose of the church and of every member is to glorify God by loving God, loving people, and making disciples who glorify God by loving God, loving people and making disciples. The great commandment and the great commission encapsulate the purpose of the church. If what I am doing does not advance the great commission and embody the great commandment, then I am probably not functioning in the church in the way that God intended.

2. Be a healthy member. A body part that is diseased, disconnected or sick cannot function properly in the body. Stay connected to the members around you. Value them. Seek unity in the body. Stay connected to the Head; abide in Christ. Turn away from your sin.

3. Be obedient; when the Head (who is our Lord Jesus Christ) calls you to do something; do it! But that’s the problem, how do I know what Jesus wants me to do? Many people say ‘I just don’t feel called to that’. I’m not sure what feelings have to do with it. Calling is not a feeling, it is not often a message in the clouds or a still small voice. Here’s how this might look.

If you notice something that would glorify God, love people and make disciples that is not happening, then you should complain to the leadership and demand that they appoint a committee to investigate and address the problem… no really, if you notice something that is not being done and it needs to be happening, very likely that is the Holy Spirit pointing you to exactly what part you are to play in the body. There are more good gospel opportunities in our community than we could ever fully exhaust. But if you have a clear understanding of the goal, if you are a healthy connected member, and if God has opened your eyes to a need, if God has given you a passion for something, then get busy! By all means seek wisdom and godly counsel from leaders, get equipped, but go do it. Be an active member. Step up. Take responsibility. Function. Engage. Enjoy. Be who you were created to be. Do something!

4. Don’t be so self-conscious. What I mean is this. A guitarist who has to consciously thing about where each finger goes to make a chord is still learning how to play. Try running up the stairs sometime while paying careful attention to how each muscle and ligament in your foot and leg move. Actually, don’t. You would probably fall down and hurt yourself. But if your son is crying upstairs and you need to get up there to see if he’s all right, if your body is functioning properly, you don’t need to think about which part does what, you just go. Your body naturally, almost unconsciously does what it was meant to do. Don’t over-analyze your every move. Clearly understand the gospel goal, be a healthy, holy, connected member, and respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

If you are a believer in Jesus, you have been made a member; not of a social club, but of the body of Christ. Our all-wise God has carefully placed you in the body exactly as he intended. Think about the implications! Church is not where I insist on my own way. Church is an assembly of people with whom I voluntarily give up my own preferences for the good of the body. The body is only as healthy as its sickest member. I will seek to stay connected, to seek unity, to put to death my pride. As a member of the church, I look for ways to function that contribute to the overall purpose. As part of the church, I come not to be served, but to serve, and to give my life, my gifts, my talents, my passions for the benefit of the others. As a church submitting to Jesus our Head, we show the world that it is good to live under God’s authority.

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

January 5, 2014 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 5:9-13; You Are To Judge Those Inside

09/22 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 You Are To Judge Those Inside; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130922_1cor5_9-13.mp3

1Cor 5 [SBLGNT]

9 Ἔγραψα ὑμῖν ἐν τῇ ἐπιστολῇ μὴ συναναμίγνυσθαι πόρνοις, 10 οὐ πάντως τοῖς πόρνοις τοῦ κόσμου τούτου ἢ τοῖς πλεονέκταις καὶ ἅρπαξιν ἢ εἰδωλολάτραις, ἐπεὶ ὠφείλετε ἄρα ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου ἐξελθεῖν. 11 νῦν δὲ ἔγραψα ὑμῖν μὴ συναναμίγνυσθαι ἐάν τις ἀδελφὸς ὀνομαζόμενος ᾖ πόρνος ἢ πλεονέκτης ἢ εἰδωλολάτρης ἢ λοίδορος ἢ μέθυσος ἢ ἅρπαξ, τῷ τοιούτῳ μηδὲ συνεσθίειν. 12 τί γάρ μοι τοὺς ἔξω κρίνειν; οὐχὶ τοὺς ἔσω ὑμεῖς κρίνετε, 13 τοὺς δὲ ἔξω ὁ θεὸς κρίνει ; ἐξάρατε τὸν πονηρὸν ἐξ ὑμῶν αὐτῶν.

1Cor 5 [ESV2011]

5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. 3 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. 4 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

Paul is concerned that the church in Corinth is not being shaped by the cross, not living lives that are in step with the gospel. Their conduct does not match what they believe. Because of Jesus, they have been made new. They have been cleansed by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. All their sins are washed away. Paul is urging them now to be who they are in Christ. And this extends to the corporate level. Because they are a community of believers who are united to one another through faith in Jesus Christ, the sin of one affects the health of the whole. He has used the illustration of old leaven introduced into a new unleavened batch of dough. As a community of followers of Jesus, they are expected to hold one another accountable to standards appropriate for those who claim to be following Jesus.

The Previous Letter

In verses 9-13, Paul is clearing up a misinterpretation of a previous letter he had written. He says “I wrote to you in my letter.” The letter we are studying today is known as 1 Corinthians. From this statement we conclude that Paul had written a previous letter to the church in Corinth that we don’t have. That might freak some people out and send them off on rabbit trails chasing ‘lost’ apostolic writings and conspiracy theories about church councils throwing out perfectly good books because they didn’t like what they said. That simply does not match the facts of history, or the character of the documents we have in our bibles. If someone was trying to grasp power and manipulate the writings to their own advantage, they certainly didn’t do a very good job. The books that were rejected by the early church councils were rejected because they were false writings (pseudapigrapha), teaching things contrary to the rest of Scripture, written under the false name of someone important (like an apostle) in an attempt to gain credibility. Those documents are not lost; they are available to read today so you can judge for yourself.

It is clear from statements like this one that we do not possess every apostolic writing. Paul wrote an earlier letter to the church in Corinth that was not preserved. God in his sovereignty could have preserved it for us, but for whatever reason, he did not. We can be confident that we have everything that God intended us to have, and if you care to study the manuscript evidence, you will see that these writings have been meticulously preserved for us through scores of copies and multiple independent witnesses.

Misunderstood

Not everything that the apostles wrote are easy to understand. The apostle Peter writes about Paul.

2 Peter 3:15 …just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

Not even what an apostle wrote was free from being misinterpreted by its original readers. Some people scour the Scriptures in search of anything they can use to defend their own ideas. The same is true today. If I send you an e-mail, you might read it with a preconceived idea and take what I wrote to mean something completely different than what I intended. When we read the bible, our goal is to hear the author’s intent. We want to be careful to lay aside our preconceived ideas and allow the author to explain for us what he means by what he says. That’s why we often look at many other biblical passages to make sure we are on the right track in how we are understanding a verse or passage. Here Paul spells out what he didn’t mean and what he did mean so there is no question.

Apparently the previous letter did not accomplish its intended goal. Maybe Paul wrote more generally, not naming the specific sins in the body, or maybe the situation with the incestuous man was new information he received after he wrote the first letter. Whatever the case, in this letter, Paul refers to what he had written, and clarifies what he did not mean and what he did mean.

The Previous Statement

First, he reiterates what he had written; ‘not to associate with sexually immoral people’. We don’t know if this is a direct quote from his letter or a summary of the letter, or maybe the entire contents of a quick note. In the original this is a three word statement. We could translate it literally ‘not to mix it up together with porno’s’. This ‘mix up together’ is an interesting word especially in light of his illustration about dough and old leaven. They are not to blend together with sex addicts, pornographers, those who are sexually unrestrained.

The Misunderstanding

Paul then states their misunderstanding of his statement.

1 Corinthians 5:9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.

They thought he meant that they should not associate with the sexually immoral of this world. They thought that somehow they were to withdraw from the world in which they lived and have no contact with any unbelievers ever. Slaves who served unbelieving masters would have to run away. Employees who worked for unbelievers would have to quit their jobs. Employers who employed an unbelieving work force would have to fire them. When they went to the market they could only buy food from other believers. They could not go to any social gatherings that would include unbelievers. They would have to withdraw into a closed Christian commune and have no interaction with the outside world. Paul says ‘that is not at all what I meant.’ That is simply impossible. In order to do that, he says, you would have to leave the planet, you would have to die and go to heaven. He doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t live next door to a pagan or buy groceries from a pagan or pay your water bill to a pagan or eat in a restaurant where other pagans eat. Not at all.

When Jesus prayed for his followers before his crucifixion, he prayed;

John 17:14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

Followers of Jesus must be distinct from the world, but they are sent into the world. Salt cannot have its preserving effect unless it comes in contact with the meat. We are to be in the world but not of the world. We are to be the salt of the earth.

The Correct Understanding

Having made it clear that he did not mean total withdrawal from sinful society, he now spells out what he did mean by what he had said.

11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.

There must be a clear distinction between the church and the world. Anyone who bears the name ‘brother’, anyone who claims to be a brother or sister in Christ must be held to a completely different standard. If you claim to be a follower of Jesus, then you are claiming to represent Jesus in everything you say and do and think and feel. Your attitudes and actions should come into line with what Jesus is like.

None of us are perfect. Where we see that we are out of step with Jesus, we should confess that as sin and cry out to Jesus to change us by the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

The problem Paul is addressing in the church in Corinth is not that they have interaction with sinners in the world. The problem is that they have someone who claims to be a brother who is openly involved in immorality and is not turning away from it. Paul says ‘stop acting like everything is all right!’ This person claims to be a brother, but he is not acting like a brother, so you should stop treating him as a brother. “Let him who has done this be removed from among you.” “Hand such a one over to Satan.” “Cleanse out the old leaven.” “Purge the evil from among you.” Do not mix it up together with anyone who bears the name ‘brother’ if he is guilty of these things. Don’t even eat with such a one.

Does this mean that if anyone in the church has a history or has ever slipped up that we should cut them off and refuse to associate with them? This would be also be a misapplication of this passage. Later in this letter, Paul will say:

1 Corinthians 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Many of those in this church had a past. But they were made new. They no longer are what they once were. They have been transformed by the gospel. But they should not pretend to still be what they once were. By the grace of God you are no longer what you once were. Be who you are in Christ!

But what if someone slips up?

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

Not condemnation or alienation but restoration in a spirit of gentleness and humility for those of us who slip up. Jude says:

Jude 1:22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

Rescue with mercy and fear. But what about those who don’t want to be rescued? What about those who persist in sin and claim to be brothers?

Titus 3:9 But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

So Paul tells Titus to have nothing to do with a divisive person after two warnings.

2 Thessalonians 3:6 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. …14 If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. 15 Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

Paul tells the Thessalonians to warn and then to keep away from and have nothing to do with a brother who refuses to work.

The Wider Application

Notice that this separation is not exclusively for the sexually immoral. In Titus and Thessalonians it extends to divisiveness and idleness. Here in 1 Corinthians 5, Paul widens the scope as well. In verse 10 he extends this to the greedy, swindlers, and idolaters; in verse 11 he adds revilers and drunkards.

11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.

For someone who claims to be a follower of Jesus, who is led by the Holy Spirit, who has been adopted into the family of God, to be persistently divisive, irresponsible, immoral, possessed by a desire to get more, holding other things as more important than God, abusing others in word or deed, given to alcohol, manipulating situations to his own advantage, these things are totally out of place. These things are not characteristic of someone who has a relationship with Jesus.

Those who are caught in any transgression should be confronted and restored in a spirit of gentleness with humility. Those who are willfully sinning and refuse to repent, we are not to associate with them; not even to eat with them. They are no longer to be treated as if they were fellow believers; they are to be treated as an unbeliever so that they will not continue under false assurance thinking they have a relationship with Jesus when in reality they may not.

Judging Insiders

Paul gives the principle behind treating so-called brothers differently than the world.

12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

What have I to do with judging outsiders? It is not our place to judge them. God judges those outside. The church is responsible for judging those inside the church. So often we get this backward. We want to be the moral police of the world, letting everyone know clearly and loudly what we are against, demanding that the world adopt Christian morals and values, while we turn a blind eye to our own sins like greed and pride and divisiveness.

Paul is warning us to beware of a judgmental attitude toward those outside the church. We should not expect the unbelieving world to adhere to Christian morals or values. We should not be surprised or offended when pagans live like pagans. It should come as no shock that the Christ rejecting world also rejects Christ’s values.

Abortion is wrong. All sexual activity outside the relationship between a man and his wife is wrong. Pornography is wrong. The insatiable desire in our culture for more and more and more is wrong. These are all sins with victims who get injured or destroyed. Out of our love for a humanity created in the image of God, we should stand against what is wrong and do what we can to bring healing and hope to this broken world. But we must remember that the only thing that can truly ever fix what is broken in us is the gospel. We all are sinners. Jesus died for our sins to forgive us and make us new. To put a band-aid on the symptom while ignoring the cancer inside is cruel. To tell someone to stop doing wrong when they have a heart that is twisted and sick with sin is hopeless. We have been given the cure! We must not condemn those with the disease because they are showing symptoms.

If we as the church are responsible for judging those inside, we should be passionate about the purity of the church. We should solicit, seek out, and welcome judgment from our brothers and sisters in Christ out of our desire to be pleasing to Christ.

For the glory of God, for the sake of the reputation of Christ among unbelievers, for the sake of the advance of the gospel, for the sake of the purity of the church Christ’s bride, for the protection of weaker believers; because of the great price paid by Jesus to save us from our sin, for the sake of those who think they are right with God but are not; for the sake of their final salvation, we are to judge those inside the church; “Purge the evil one from among you”

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

September 25, 2013 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 24:1-8; The Blood of the Covenant

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120212_exodus24_1-8.mp3

2/12 Exodus 24:1-8 The Blood of the Covenant

We are in Exodus chapter 24. This is the hinge pin of the book, linking the two halves of Exodus together. The first half of Exodus is the narrative of God rescuing his people from slavery in Egypt, bringing them into relationship with him. The second half of the book is primarily taken up with God’s instructions for the construction of a portable worship center for his people, known as the Tabernacle. This chapter brings to a climax the giving of the Law and the people’s response to God’s revelation, formally entering into a covenant relationship with him.

Foreshadow of the Tabernacle

Exodus 24:1 Then he said to Moses, “Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar. 2 Moses alone shall come near to the LORD, but the others shall not come near, and the people shall not come up with him.”

This three-tiered arrangement, that we will see unfold in greater detail, foreshadows the Tabernacle, with its outer court, holy place, and most holy place. Or, more accurately, the Tabernacle was intended to replicate what God’s presence, as experienced here on the mountain, was like. The author of Hebrews makes this clear to us:

Hebrews 8:5 They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.”

Hebrews 9:11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation)

…23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.

This is why the construction of the Tabernacle is so significant that it takes up the majority of the remainder of Exodus. This structure was patterned after God’s presence, and was designed to communicate what he is like to his people. What is happening here on the mountain will be memorialized in the design of the tabernacle, showing that God is holy, and is to be approached only by those who are authorized by him, and only when and in the way that he defines. More on this later.

Covenant Commitment

In the next verses we see the formal covenant ceremony unfold. Lets step back and take in the big picture. God rescued his people out of slavery. He has demonstrated his love toward them. He chose them, he has cared for them, and he is forming them into a community of people who will be what they were created to be, to live in relationship with him, to be in his presence, to follow him and obey him and enjoy him forever. He put his fear in them as he thundered out his ten words to them from the mountain. He has given clear and practical instructions on what life lived in the community of faith should look like. God has given his people promises, promises to be with them, to lead them and provide for them, promises to fight their battles, promises of abundant blessings. And he has warned them of the dangers of straying from him, the dangers of rebelling against him, the dangers of neglecting to follow him.

Chapter 24 is the culmination of this covenant relationship between God and his people. Back in chapter 19, God brought his people to the foot of the mountain.

Exodus 19:2 …There Israel encamped before the mountain, 3 while Moses went up to God. The LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” 7 So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the LORD had commanded him. 8 All the people answered together and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD.

That was before God had laid out all the details of what this relationship would look like. After this God revealed himself to the people directly when he thundered out his ten words, and they were terrified and requested that Moses mediate for them so that they would not die in God’s presence. God then communicated the book of the covenant to Moses, and now in chapter 24, Moses is relaying its contents to the people.

Exodus 24:3 Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.”

The initial response of the people, when God had invited them into a covenant relationship with himself, before they knew all the details of this agreement, was:

Exodus 19:8 All the people answered together and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD.

Now, having heard 5 chapters worth of detail spelling out exactly what this covenant would look like and what was expected of them,

Exodus 24:3 Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.”

Covenant Ratified in Blood

And now the covenant ratification ceremony began. God had initiated and offered to enter in to relationship with them. They responded positively. God then communicated to them all the details of the relationship, and they reaffirm their commitment to this relationship. Now, it is put in writing. Verse 4 says:

Exodus 24:4 And Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. …

A verbal agreement leaves room for dispute over what exactly was agreed to. A written contract removes much of this.

Exodus 24:4 And Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. 6 And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. 7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” 8 And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

Now, having heard the written copy read to all the people, for the third time the people respond by saying “all that the LORD has spoken we will do, and be obedient.” Three times God’s people respond with their commitment to obedience.

But this is not just a covenant entered with a handshake or by signing on the dotted line. Moses built an altar, a place to interact with God. He erected 12 pillars, symbolizing the 12 tribes of Israel. He had a bunch of animals slaughtered. He got the young men involved. They offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings. They caught the blood in basins. They splattered it all over. This was a bloody scene. All this bloody mess is because the people God is entering into a relationship with are sinners who have rebelled against their Creator. God is holy. He hates sin. His response to sinful people is holy hatred (Ps.5:5; 11:5; 139:21-22) and just punishment. So their sin must be addressed. First, burnt offerings were offered, then peace offerings were sacrificed. The burnt offering (Lev.1:4) was given to atone for or to cover sin. The offerer would lay his hand on the head of the animal, symbolically transferring guilt to the animal, and the animal would die in his place, because the wages of sin is death. The whole animal would then be burnt on the altar to appease God’s wrath against sin. The peace offering (Deut.27:7), or fellowship offering, was a celebration of reconciliation with God, produced by having sins atoned for. Hebrews highlights the importance of the blood.

Hebrews 9:18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

In order for a holy God to enter into any kind of relationship with sinful people other than judgment, the blood of a substitute had to be shed. Moses’ words are “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.” The blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you. The blood was applied to the people, splattered on the people. They had entered into a covenant with God. The people promised, but they did not follow through. A mere 40 days later, as we will see in chapter 32, the people are already violating their covenant, turning away from God and his commands, running after other gods. They promised obedience, but their hearts were not changed. They broke this covenant. This makes room for a new covenant. In Hebrews 8, the author quotes Jeremiah 31 and compares these covenants.

Hebrews 8:6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. 8 For he finds fault with them when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” 13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34)

The New Covenant

The old covenant was broken. The people promised, but they could not follow through. God promises a new covenant, and he says “I will put my laws into their minds and write them on their hearts.” No longer written externally in a book or on tablets of stone, but now inscribed in the transformed hearts of his people. Ezekiel puts it this way:

Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

This is the promise of the New Covenant; inward transformation by the Spirit of God. We hear Moses’ words “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you” taken up on the lips of another.

Matthew 26:26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (cf. Mk.14:24; Lk.22:20; 1Cor.11:25)

Luke records “this …is the new covenant in my blood” (Lk.22:20). Moses said “this is the blood of the covenant”; Jesus said “this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” The blood Moses sprinkled on the people was the blood of animals. Hebrews tells us “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb.10:4). Jesus said “this is my blood”; the blood of the only Son of God, the God-man. The blood of Jesus, poured out once for all is infinitely precious and does indeed take away sin.

God had said:

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.

God had given the blood of animals as a substitution; life for life. But the life blood of animals applied externally was never sufficient to cleanse the conscience. Moses put the blood in basins and sprinkled it on the people, but Jesus said “Drink of it, all of you.” Under the old covenant, the blood was applied externally. In the new covenant, the life of Jesus is transferred inside of his people. Paul says:

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.

This is the new covenant! It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me! This is limitless power for a life of obedience! The book of Hebrews concludes with this blessing:

Hebrews 13:20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

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

February 12, 2012 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Disciple-Making Disciples; How Did Jesus Teach?

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20110116_how_did_jesus_teach.mp3

01/16 What did Jesus teach – about the Scriptures? (how did Jesus teach?)

We’ve been looking at Jesus’ final command to his followers before he left the planet, with a view to how we can carry it out.

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

Jesus commanded that we all be disciple-making disciples of him. We are to pass on information, character and passion that results in a transformed life. We are to have content, character and conviction that is contagious to those around us. We’ve been looking at what that means. We’ve looked a little at what some of the content is. We looked at what Jesus taught us about God. We examined some of the things Jesus told us about his Father. We looked at what Jesus taught us about himself. And we looked at what Jesus had to say about the Holy Spirit. If we are going to be followers of Jesus, we must embrace everything he taught. If we are going to make disciples of all nations, we need to know what to teach them about God.

All Disciples are called to Teach

But we also need to know how to teach. If the primary method of disciple-making is teaching, and if we are all called to be disciple-making disciples, then we all need to be equipped by Jesus to teach. I want you to feel the weight of this. I come over to you this morning during the last song and lean over and whisper in your ear ‘I’m feeling really sick and I need to leave. Will you teach God’s people this morning?’ What are you feeling? What’s going through your head? Now some of you might be secretly thinking ‘oh, I wish that would happen! I would love to have the opportunity to get up in front…’ Those of you who think that way – you scare me. You’re probably the ones I would not ask – for that very reason. Most of you however, would probably be thinking ‘I’m not feeling too well either. Where’s the nearest exit?’. That may not be a very plausible illustration. So lets get more down to earth.

*A member of a religious organization comes to your door wanting to indoctrinate you with their religious beliefs. How do you talk to them?

*A co-worker has been observing your character for the last 10 years and they come to you and say ‘okay, you’ve earned the right to speak. Tell me about this Jesus stuff’. Where do you start?

*A friend from church is facing some painful circumstances and they call you and ask ‘why is God letting this happen in my life?’ What do you say?

*Or one of your kids comes to you and says ‘Dad, I’ve been talking to some of my friends at school. How can we be so sure that what we believe is right?’. How do you instruct them?

Those are all real examples that I have faced personally, and I expect that you could add to the list of daily opportunities we are all given to teach and to make disciples. In Colossians 3:16, we are instructed to:

Colossians 3:16 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.

Whether we have a specific role that requires teaching or not, we are all called to teach one another. I take the time to say this, because I don’t want anyone tuning out at this point saying ‘this is about teaching and I’m not a teacher so it doesn’t apply to me.’ Every follower of Jesus is to be a disciple-making disciple, and teaching is essential to the disciple-making process.

How Did Jesus Teach?

So this morning I want to look at how Jesus taught. My focus today is not on the content of what Jesus taught, but his method of teaching. Now we might be tempted to look at Jesus’ use of parables and stories, object lessons and illustrations, probing questions and in your face rebuke and confrontation, and that might be helpful and instructive, but I want to go even deeper than method. I want to try to get behind how he taught. I want to try to get inside his head and his heart and see how he thought that motivated how he taught. Or to ask it another way, what was the foundation of his teaching?

Scripture the final authority in personal moral decisions

To give us some help seeing what was foundational to his life and teaching, we’ll start with his private conversation with the devil at the outset of his public ministry. Turn in your bibles with me to Matthew.

Matthew 4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”’ 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”’ 7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”’ 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.”’ 11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

Although Jesus was not intending to disciple the devil and make him his follower, this passage has huge implications for teaching. Disciple making is training in making life decisions as well as training in truth and doctrine. In fact the two must be one. Our life choices must flow naturally from the truth we embrace. And we see this in Jesus’ personal life as he faced temptation from the devil. He was faced with moral decisions and he made those in light of the written word of God. Three times in this passage, Jesus replies with the phrase ‘it is written’, and he quotes the Old Testament Scriptures. In fact, quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3, he articulates our utter dependence on God’s words in all of life. “It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Jesus based his every life decision on God’s word.

Now I may be making an assumption, but I don’t think that when he was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness he stopped by the local synagogue to grab a Torah scroll. In the moment of temptation he didn’t whip out his pocket scroll and start spinning through it to find where it was written. This seems to indicate that he was deeply familiar with the words of scripture, that he had listened intently to God’s words read in synagogue each week, that he had studied and meditated on God’s words, that he had followed the advice of the Psalmist, when he says:

Psalm 119:11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

There are implications we could draw from this passage about memorization and church attendance and personal study, but we will leave that for another time. It is clear from the way our Lord responded to the devil, that he appealed to the written word of God as his final authority in his own moral decision making.

Every little Word

Because of Jesus’ radical new teaching, many thought that he contradicted and discarded the scriptures, but he made it clear that this was not so. He says in Matthew 5:17:

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

In Jesus’ day ‘the Law’ or ‘the Law and the Prophets’ were ways of referring to what we now know as the Old Testament. Jesus explicitly states that he does not intend to abolish the Scriptures, but to fulfill them. He points us to the least stroke of a pen and says that it will not pass from the written word until all is accomplished. Jesus tells us that even the smallest parts of the letters that make up the words are significant. Not one part of God’s written word is trivial or unimportant. If God bothered to say it and have it written down and preserved for us, then every bit of it deserves our careful attention and study. Jesus tells us there are deep consequences for disregarding God’s word, but there is great reward for all who obey it and teach others to do the same.

Scripture the foundation of his own teaching.

Jesus then goes on to base his moral teaching on the precepts of the Old Testament Law, pointing us beyond the external keeping of the letter of the law, to the true goal of transformation of heart and desires. Six times in this passage on issues of anger and insult, lust, divorce, taking oaths, retribution and hatred, Jesus says “You have heard that it was said to those of old… But I say to you…” (Matt.5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43)

So we see that Jesus used the scriptures as the basis for his own moral decisions and as the foundation of his moral teaching. He explicitly says that he did not come to do away with the written word, but rather to bring it to fruition.

Scripture the final authority in controversy with religious leaders

Let’s look at how Jesus handled the scriptures when he was in conflict with the religious leaders of his day.

Matthew 15:1 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” 3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 5 But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is given to God, 6 he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. 7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: 8 “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”’

Jesus held up the commandment of God over against the tradition of men. He quotes the scriptures and says ‘God commanded… but you say’. He accuses them of making void the word of God for the sake of human tradition and he says their worship is worthless.

Listen to how Jesus talks. Jesus said things like:

Matthew 12:3 … “Have you not read …

Matthew 12:5 Or have you not read in the Law …

Matthew 19:4 …“Have you not read …

Matthew 21:16 … have you never read,

Matthew 21:42 …“Have you never read in the Scriptures…

Matthew 22:29 … “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.

Matthew 22:31 … have you not read what was said to you by God:

Mark 12:26 …have you not read in the book of Moses,

John 5:39 You search the Scriptures …and it is they that bear witness about me,

John 7:38 …as the Scripture has said, …

John 10:35 …––and Scripture cannot be broken––

John 13:18 …But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘…

Luke 11:28 …Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

John 8:55 … I keep his word.

John 17:14 I have given them your word,…

John 17:17 …your word is truth.

Mark 2:2 …And he was preaching the word to them.

Mark 4:33 …he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it.

Luke 24:45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,…

Jesus appealed to the scriptures as the final authority in his controversy with the religious leaders of his day.

Scripture is historically reliable

I think it’s appropriate to ask a question here. We’ve seen that Jesus used the Scriptures as his rule for faith and practice. He anchored his own moral decisions and his teaching in the Scripture. He argued from the scriptures with the religious leaders of his day. But did he believe the scriptures? Let me clarify what I mean by the question: Did he view the bible accounts as true history, or as religious myth and fable designed to teach a spiritual truth? Jesus himself spoke sometimes in parables – fictitious stories that he used to communicate a moral or spiritual truth. In what category did Jesus place the Old Testament? Let’s look at a few examples.

Jesus refers to the Genesis account of the creation of mankind by God and the first marriage and assumes that it is true and factual (Matt.19:4-6). He refers to the prophet Jonah being swallowed by a great fish, (Mat.12:38-41) and to the wisdom of Solomon (Mat.12:41-42). He refers to Noah and the ark and the destruction of the world by the flood (Lk.17:26-27) and to Lot and his wife who turned into a pillar of salt and the fire and sulfur that God rained down in judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah (Lk.17:28-29, 32) as if they were real people and actual historical accounts. Jesus anchored his arguments on the historical events.

So Jesus took the bible to be true history, he took it as the final authority in religious controversy, as the basis for his teaching and as the compass to guide moral decisions.

Scripture a guide to Jesus’ Messianic office

Jesus also claimed the prophetic scriptures must be fulfilled, and that they were fulfilled in him.

John 5:39 You search the Scriptures …and it is they that bear witness about me,

Luke 4:21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

John 7:38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”’

Joh 12:14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,

Mr 14:27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’

Mt 26:24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him,…

Matthew 26:54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”

Matthew 26:56 But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.

Mark 14:49 … But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.”

Luke 22:37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.”

John 10:35 …––and Scripture cannot be broken––

John 13:18 But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’

John 15:25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’

John 17:12 … not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

John 19:28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.”

Jesus believed himself to be the fulfillment of prophetic scriptures. He took the bible not only as a guide in his moral decisions, but also as a guide in his Messianic role.

Jesus’ view of his own teaching

So Jesus believed the stories of the bible to be true and factual, and that it was the final authority in moral and religious issues. But Jesus’ bible was what we know as the Old Testament. Can we say anything about what Jesus thought about the New Testament?

We do know what Jesus said about his own teaching, and that he claimed to speak God’s words. He claimed that his teaching was absolutely true. He frequently said things like:

John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

John 5:25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.

John 6:47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.

Those who heard him were amazed at his teaching.

Mark 1:27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”

Luke 4:36 And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!”

Matthew 7:28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.

Jesus even claimed the same kid of Old Testament permanence for his own teaching.

Matthew 24:35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Jesus’ view of the New Testament

But Jesus didn’t write any books. How do we know that his followers got it right? We know from any honest historian that the four gospels are considered to be accurate and reliable historical documents. But does Jesus have anything to say about what his apostles would write? Jesus told his disciples that they would bear witness because they had been with him.

John 15:27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

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

He promised them supernatural power to be his witnesses, in fact he promised the Holy Spirit to be their constant teacher and to remind them of what he had taught.

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

John 16:12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

So Jesus believed that the Old Testament was reliable and authoritative, and he believed his own teaching was on the same level, and he ensured by the power of the Holy Spirit that his disciples would accurately bear witness of him and speak with his authority.

If we want to be followers of Jesus, we will embrace what he taught us about the bible. We will embrace the bible as true and trustworthy, as the authority for life and faith, and what we speak and teach will be rooted in and saturated by the very words of God. As Paul said to Timothy:

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Colossians 3:16 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.

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

January 16, 2011 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

2 Peter 3:14-16; Diligent Waiting

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100321_2peter3_14-16.mp3

03/21 2 Peter 3:14-16 Diligent Waiting

3:1 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, 3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. 8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Peter addresses us four times in this closing section as ‘beloved’. He knows he is soon to die and wants to give us a permanent written record as a constant reminder of the good news of the life-transforming grace of God toward rebellious sinners like us. He wants to communicate his love for us by reminding us and informing us and encouraging us and warning us. He reminds us of the predictions of the holy prophets (which we now know as the Old Testament) and the commandment of our Lord and Savior through your apostles (which would come to be known as the New Testament). The prophetic writings and the apostolic record of the teaching of Jesus both warn of scoffers that will come in the last days. We were amply warned – it should not take us by surprise when people mock or challenge or question or doubt our Christian worldview. Peter records their unbelieving question ‘Where is the promise of his coming?’

And his first response to this accusation is that these ones who are seeking to make room in their religion to follow their own lust are ignorant. They are ignorant of their bibles, of world history and geology. They think God won’t judge the world because things have gone on without interruption as long as anyone can remember. They miss the fact that there are marine fossils on the tops of the highest mountains. If they study their geology or read their history they will realize that God once before wiped out life on the planet because of sin, and he promises he will do it again.

The second line of argument Peter lays out is challenging their interpretation of the apparent delay. We cannot demand that God abide by our time schedule, and it is a dreadful misinterpretation of the delay to assume that God is lazy, doesn’t care, and lacks the power to fulfill his promises. Instead, God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in loving-kindness. He is not willing that any should perish but that all should reach repentance. God is merciful even toward these false teachers, giving them time to repent and turn back to the Master who bought them, the Master they have denied by their rebellious lifestyles.

Then Peter points us to the coming destruction. God is merciful to postpone his wrath, but he will not do so forever. Judgment is coming and those who presume on his mercy are storing up wrath for themselves on the day of his wrath. He challenges us to reverse-engineer our lives in light of the coming destruction.

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

If everything will burn up and everything we have ever thought or felt or done will be made public then what kind of life should I live? The question is not ‘what should I do?’; the question he asks is ‘what sort of people ought we to be?’ We are so eager to define ourselves by what we do. I’ve got a good job, I’m involved in the community, I serve in the church, I play this, I do this, I work here, I am advancing in… God is not at all impressed with what you do. God is interested in who you are. God is interested in character. God is interested in holiness. Not a list of do’s and don’ts, but a life set apart to follow Jesus. God is interested in godliness – a life characterized by worship, putting God first in everything.

In the next verses, Peter encourages us to diligent waiting. He says that our lives should be characterized by waiting. Waiting, waiting, waiting. He says it three times. The Christian life is a life of waiting. “Waiting for the day of God… waiting for a new heavens and a new earth… therefore beloved, since you are waiting for these…” We wait because God has made promises and not all of them have been fleshed out yet. God has promised that he will wipe away every tear and heal every disease and make all wrongs right and put a stop to evil and bring perfect peace and harmony and uninterrupted intimacy with him. But we live in a place with pain and sickness and separation and despair and violence and greed and pride. Beloved, we are not home yet! Peter told us in his first letter that we are strangers and aliens. We shouldn’t feel comfortable, we don’t fit in, we are not home yet. All those blessings are coming to believers, justice will roll down like a river, and all evil will be put to an end. But we are not there yet! We are waiting for and hastening the day of God. We are waiting for the new heavens and new earth. Beloved, this is not all there is! It gets better than this. Paul said:

Romans 8:18-22 For I consider that the sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

Jesus promised “I go to prepare a place for you” “and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (Jn.14:2-3). Beloved, we get to be with Jesus!

1 Corinthians 2:9 But, as it is written, “what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”

What God has promised us is beyond our ability to comprehend. The Christian life is a life characterized by waiting, but we are not called to passive waiting. Waiting does not mean ‘I’m just going to sit here on this couch and push this button on the remote and while away the meanwhile passing the time until Jesus comes back. We are not called to passive, inactive, complacency in waiting. This word describes eager expectation, hope, anticipation, longing. This is not the tedious waiting in the dentist’s office; this is the eager anticipation of the child on Christmas eve.

Peter says that because we are waiting for a place where righteousness is at home, our waiting is to be characterized by diligence. This is now the third time Peter has used this word ‘diligence’.

1:10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.

1:15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

3:14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.

Peter had described the false teachers as ‘blots and blemishes’ (2:13), and in his first letter he points us to our ransom which came through ” …the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1Pet.1:19). Now, our waiting for Jesus’ return is to be characterized by a passionate pursuit of holiness and godliness, or to put it another way, we are to be diligent to put Jesus on display with our lives, Jesus who is our hope and peace and righteousness, Jesus who is without blemish or spot.

14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, …

Diligent waiting requires proper accounting. The false teachers who followed their own desires assumed that the delay in the fulfillment of God’s promises meant that God was not faithful to his promises, not powerful enough to carry them out, not just to punish sin. So they encouraged a pursuit of passion and pleasure because they interpreted the delay as evidence that there would be no final accountability for our actions. But we are to wait differently. We are to wait diligently pursuing righteousness, because we count the delay a different way. We count it not as a delay due to slackness, but as God’s patience which is salvation. This is what Peter was telling us in verse 9, that God:

“is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2Pet.3:9

The patience of the Lord is salvation. God is not slack, lazy, uninvolved. God is at work pouring out mercy on sinners. God is at work saving people. God is right now rescuing sinners from their sin and transforming them into new creations that find joy in his righteousness.

And Peter here supports his interpretation of the delay of the promise by pointing to his unity with the apostle Paul. Apparently, Peter knew that Paul had written a letter to his readers, in which he had also addressed some of these same issues. I thank God for this sentence.

15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

This is an amazing sentence. Here we are given insight into how we are to think about our bible. And even more than that it gives us insight into the relationship between two of the foundational people in the Christian church.

Before Jesus was born, the Jews had their collection of scriptures, which included the same books that we now have in our Old Testament. Jesus quoted out of it on many occasions and referred to it as a whole as authoritative. It was the authoritative witness to who he is. “It is written” would settle any argument. Before Jesus went to his death, he promised his disciples the Holy Spirit, who would “teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (Jn.14:26). Jesus sent his disciples out to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (Mat.28:19-20). The apostles believed that their teaching was God’s very word (1Thess2:13). As the disciples spread the gospel and planted churches in the different communities, they would write letters to encourage and teach and correct these churches. Some of these letters were expressly intended to be passed around to the different churches so that all could benefit from them (Col.4:16). Peter told us in chapter 1 that he was writing in order to leave a written record to remind future believers of the truth. These apostolic letters were highly valued and copied and shared among the churches. Peter had read several of Paul’s letters and probably had access to a growing collection of his letters there in Rome. He here makes reference to how Paul writes in all his letters. And Peter classifies Paul’s writings as Scripture. He says that Paul is a beloved brother and that he wrote according to the wisdom given him. Peter recognized a God given gift of wisdom in the writings of the Apostle Paul. What he says here about Paul is very similar to what he says about the Old Testament prophets.

2 Peter 1:20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

He says the way the false teachers distort Paul’s writings is like the way they handle the other Scriptures, equating Paul’s writings with the rest of the God-breathed Old Testament Scriptures.

This is even more fascinating when we remember that there was a serious dispute between Peter and Paul. Paul records it in his letter to the Galatians:

Galatians 2:11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” 15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

So Paul publicly confronted Peter – to his face – in front of everybody. He accused him of fear, hypocrisy, and a serious deviation from the truth of the Gospel. And then he recorded the whole thing in a letter – likely one of the letters that Peter had read and referred to when he spoke of ‘all his letters’ – a letter that would be circulated and preserved for all to see.

How does Peter respond to this? The apostle Peter was teachable. He received a rebuke from Paul, learned from it, and loved him for it. He rejoiced in their unity. He read Paul’s stuff. He read it not to critique it, but to learn from it. He studied it. He acknowledged that some of it was difficult to understand. The apostle Peter, who walked with Jesus, had difficulty understanding some of the things that Paul had written. He did not say that they were impossible to understand. That should encourage us in our study of scripture. We must maintain humility in acknowledging that we do not have everything figured out. But we don’t throw up our hands in despair and quit. You study to ‘present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2Tim.2:15). He also did not say that all things are hard to understand. Some things are easy. As Alistair Begg likes to say ‘the main things are the plain things, and the plain things are the main things’. The core message of the bible is plain and clear. Salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone for the glory of God alone is the good news proclaimed throughout the scriptures. Some things are hard to understand, but the most important things are plain and clear.

Peter is not here talking about things in the scriptures that are hard to swallow. Have you ever been reading your bible and you get to a verse or phrase and your heart says ‘I understand it, but I don’t like it’. Some things are clear in scripture but we’d prefer they weren’t there. We’d like to find a way around them. Our job in handling the bible is to do our best to understand it and obey it. We are not at liberty to attempt to explain it away. Peter tells us that ‘the ignorant and unstable twist the scriptures to their own destruction’. Ignorant does not mean stupid – it means that they were untaught – not trained or discipled in how to rightly understand the bible. And he calls them ‘unstable’. This is what Peter is fighting against throughout the letter – he wants us to be well-grounded, stable,

1 Peter 5:10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

2 Peter 1:12 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.

2 Peter 2:14 They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children!

2 Peter 3:16 …There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

2 Peter 3:17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.

The word ‘twist’ is a word commonly used for torture on the rack – false teachers torture the words of the bible to get them to say things they do not say. One of the most basic rules of biblical interpretation is ‘if the common sense interpretation makes sense, seek no other sense, lest you create nonsense’. And there are consequences to twisting the scriptures. Distorting God’s word to condone lifestyles that are condemned in the scripture will result in destruction. Exchanging God’s grace for works or changing God’s grace into license to sin both will bring eternal ruin to those that reject God’s transforming grace for what it is. We are called to listen to the scriptures, to humbly study and learn from the scriptures, to hear God’s word, to embrace it, to love it, meditate on it, memorize it, to obey it, to be transformed by it. We are to be stable or established by growing in grace and the knowledge of our King and Savior Jesus Christ.

14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

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

March 21, 2010 Posted by | 2 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2Peter1:4; Precious and Very Great Promises

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20091011_2peter1_4.mp3

10/11 2Peter 1:4 Precious and Very Great Promises

2Peter 1:1 Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: 2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

Intro

Peter is writing to strengthen believers in churches who are in danger of being led astray by false teachers. He writes to ground us in the truth of the gospel, to ‘stir us up by way of reminder’ [1:13]. ‘Knowing this beforehand, we are to take care that we are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose our own stability’ [3:17]. Peter knows if we are to stand our ground, we must ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’ [3:18]. So he begins his letter pointing us to the riches of God’s grace toward us and the truth of who Jesus is. He draws our attention to the great value of our faith – our faith was not our great accomplishment, it was allotted to us by God. And he points us to the source of our faith – it comes to us through the righteousness of God. God’s love for what is right is expressed not only in the just condemnation of unrepentant sinners, but overflows in the gracious justifying of sinners on the basis of our trust in the finished work of Jesus for us. Peter describes Jesus as both our God and our Savior. Peter prays that God’s grace and the resulting peace would be multiplied to us by means of our relationship with the Father and with Jesus. Jesus, in a supreme act of heavenly generosity, freely gave us everything – everything – everything that connects us to eternal life; a life of holiness, because we cannot enjoy the presence of a holy God without ourselves becoming godly. Peter tells that every necessary resource and ability has been freely given to us by the one who called us to this eternal life of holiness. Nothing short of his divine power is at work for us securing our eternal salvation. This gracious divine power comes through the knowledge of him who called us. John speaks of the transforming power of knowing Jesus when he says, ‘when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is’ [1Jn.3:2]. It is the excellence and glory of Jesus that is inviting and breathtaking and compelling.

Peter goes on in verse 4 to tell us that it is through the excellence of Jesus that we are freely given promises – great and precious promises – promises that bring us participation in the divine nature and escape from the corruption of this world.

4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

The first words of this verse express the means by which we receive the promises. The promises come to us through ‘his own glory and excellence’. It is the manifestation of Jesus’ divine nature and his inner moral beauty that secure for us the promises.

4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

The promises are not presented as a reward for good behavior. The promises are bestowed as a royal gift. This word only appears three times in the New Testament. This is a royal act of lavish generosity that staggers the imagination. In verse 3, his divine power has freely given to us all things pertaining to life and godliness. Now on top of that, he has freely given the promises to us.

4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

Peter again uses a word unique in the New Testament for ‘promises’, a word that occurs only here and at the end of this letter in 3:13, where it refers to the end times promise of a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

These are no ordinary promises. They are ‘precious’ and ‘very great’ promises. The word ‘precious’ carries the idea of value, worth, or honor. In 1 Peter 1:7, he called our genuine faith ‘more precious than gold’ and in 2 Peter 1:1 he calls our faith equally precious or honorable to that of the apostles. In 1 Peter 1:19, he refers to the blood of Christ that ransoms us as ‘precious’, and here he refers to the promises as ‘precious’ or valuable. Not only are the promises valuable, but they are ‘very great’. Peter is stacking adjectives to communicate to us the magnificence of his subject. He uses grand language to relay to us the grand nature of the promises that have been regally furnished for us.

What promises would Peter have in mind? Possibly the promises of the new covenant that Jesus referenced when he said ‘this cup is the new covenant in my blood’ [Lk.22:20; 1Cor.11:25]; promises like:

Jeremiah 31:31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,… 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Ezekiel 11:19 And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

He could have had in mind promises of Jesus like:

John 3:15 …whoever believes in him may have eternal life

John 4:14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment but has passed from death to life.

John 6:35 …I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

John 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

John 6:47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.

John 8:12 …I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

John 8:31 …If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.

John 10:9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture…. 10 I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

John 11:25 …I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.

John 14:2 …I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth…

John 14:18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you… 19 Because I live, you also will live.

John 16:22 …I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

Precious promises! Very great promises! Promises worth memorizing and meditating on. But Peter’s focus is not on the promises themselves. He expects that the mere mention of promises will bring to mind some of these valuable and immeasurably great promises. Peter’s focus is on what the promises accomplish for us:

4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

Peter’s focus is on the goal of the promises, the benefits gained through the promises. And he states that through the promises we may become partakers in the divine nature. In Greek thought, there was much discussion about the divine nature. The philosophers would say that there is a divine spark within us all that simply needs to be recognized. Or it is locked inside each of us and just needs to be let out. Or we can attain to the divine nature and immortality by great effort. Peter says no, we are not innately divine, but we become partakers of the divine nature through the promises freely given to us in Christ. The word is to partner, participate or share, to fellowship or have in common. Peter is not blurring the distinction between the uncreated creator and his creatures; he is not embracing pantheism suggesting that we are absorbed into the divine or polytheism saying that we become little gods. He is using the vocabulary of the philosophers to describe what he described in his first letter as being ‘born again… of imperishable seed’ [1:23]. John in his gospel says that Jesus gave the right to become children of God, to those who were born…of God [Jn1:12-13]. Paul tells us to ‘put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness [Eph.4:24]. Through the new birth, we are returned to a condition where we can more accurately bear the image of God that we were created to display, an image that was badly marred at the fall by rebellion and sin. By his divine power we are enabled to be godly, to exhibit holiness and purity and goodness and love.

That’s the positive result of the promises – we become participants in the divine nature. The negative is expressed by the next phrase:

4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

The world is morally bankrupt. Greek philosophers concluded that it is because the world is material and the material is evil. To escape from corruption is to transcend the material. Peter’s view is different. He says the world is messed up because we’re a bunch of selfish sinners. God created the material universe and said it was good – very good. We, by our rebellious self will did a very good job of messing things up. Paul says it this way:

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned

Romans 8:20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

It is this moral and spiritual decay that is at the root of the external physical and societal decay. “It is a degenerative power that pervades all of unredeemed life and exercises a tyranny from which human effort knows no effective escape” [Hiebert, p.49]. And it is this that we have escaped through the precious and very great promises of the gospel. Through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord we receive unmerited grace. We have obtained a faith of equal standing, we have been freely given all things that pertain to life and godliness, and we have been granted very great and valuable promises. We were called out of darkness and into his marvelous light so that we would proclaim the excellencies of him who called us [1Pet.2:9].

Three things are at work in us who believe; the promises, the power and the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. In verse three it is ‘his divine power’ that gives us everything we need. That comes ‘through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence’. And it is by his own personal excellence that he gives us the very great and precious promises. The person of Christ attracts us, his divine power enables us to respond, and his promises secure for us participation in his divine nature.

How do we respond to all of this?

1. We must seek to know Jesus better. Peter says that the promises come to us through his own glory and excellence. I want to indulge myself in an exploration of the excellence of his character and the glory of his nature.

2. We must get to know his promises. Life transforming power comes through the promises, so I want to know what these promises are and bank on them day by day, cash them in and use them in my battle with my own corruption and sinful desire.

3. We must never turn it around. Peter lays for us the theological foundation for godly living in the gracious gift of our God. He goes on in the subsequent verses to describe what that life looks like. I never want to be guilty of turning the bible on its head and using it as a list of moral commands to keep in order to gain favor with God and merit eternal life. Rather, the power for a godly life comes as a gift through knowledge of Jesus – his finished work on the cross – and from the divine promises that are freely given to me.

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

October 11, 2009 Posted by | 2 Peter, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment